Thursday 18 September 2008

St Mary Magdalen's Church, Brighton

My Parish Priest

This is my Parish Priest. We are very fond of him because he is generous and merciful. He's just come back from Germany. He too has written something on his blog at St Mary Magdalen's about the potential tragedies of economic depression. Good to know me and a holy priest are thinking along the same lines.

Funny Film


A friend of mine has helped at least two teenagers who were kicked out of their family homes when they were honest about their sexual orientation. One of them is Catholic. How could a Catholic father do that?

Blair to Lecture Students at Yale on Faith and Education

Crikey! The former Prime Minister who during his tenancy of Number 10 was a leading pro-abortionist, war criminal and champion of civil partnerships for gays, became Catholic last year. Suddenly he is cleaning up on the lecturing circuit. Wonder how much he is getting for this latest speech to Yale students in the US. He is expected to get a mixed reaction. I know we are bound to forgive our brothers and sisters when they make mistakes. What annoys me about him is that, publicly, he doesn't seem to have changed his mind about anything he did while he was in office. Secondly, he's making a bomb (excuse the pun) out of what, aside from the massive achievement of Northern Ireland, was a disasterous period in UK political history, for the Pro-Life movement, global peace and stability and important rights and liberties which he undermined. Thirdly, he's lecturing young people on faith, while when he was PM, he seemed to indicate that the war in Iraq was a decision which was based on his faith. Not sure how well that would go down with the Chaldean Christians in Iraq who have faced persecution and an assault on their freedom to worship ever since the calamitous invasion.

Of course he is expected to give all the money to the Tony Blair Faith Foundation. I'm assuming that when Cardinal Cormac received him into the Church, that the aforementioned issues were discussed at length. For his sake I hope they were. By rights the man should be facing temporal justice for war crimes in the Hague. Given that he is not and is doing very nicely thank you very much, perhaps he could give St Mary Magdalen's Building Fund a little cash. Charity covers a multitude of sins. Perhaps we should give him the benefit of the doubt and assume his Faith Foundation is a sign of his public penitence.

Chess is Cool

Err...We knew that already. My friend and sister, Vanessa taught me to play chess a couple of years ago. I am eternally grateful to her. It is a great game! And clearly this rather glamorous young Russian lady is raising the profile.

Many male chess players on seeing this picture will be thinking, "Crikey, she can bash my bishop anyday!" Chess is dead sexy. All that tension! Will he? Won't he? Will she, won't she? Oh bollock's, I've lost my knight.

From The Telegraph:

Alexandra Kosteniuk, 23, has worked as a catwalk and swimsuit model to raise the profile of the game.

She also sells sultry semi-clad photographs of herself, and has made a 36-minute video which shows her "doing exercises on Miami beach".

The modelling exploits have raised eyebrows among critics, who believe it distracts from the intellectual importance of chess.

But Miss Kosteniuk has more than proved her talent for the game after being crowned "Queen of Chess" at the women's championships held in Russia.

She said: "Modelling is not a job. It is just a hobby, like reading books.

At 14 years old, Miss Kosteniuk became a chess grandmaster, the youngest woman in the world to attain the title.

She quickly made a name for herself on the international stage by reaching the final of the world championship in 2001, aged 17, and becoming the European champion in 2004.

And at the age of 20 she achieved the International Grandmaster title, becoming the tenth women to have received the highest title awarded by the World Chess Federation (FIDE).

Last Wednesday, Miss Kosteniuk won the Women's World Chess Championship 2008, after beating the Chinese prodigy Hou Yifan in the final.

But her fans say her greatest achievement has been to give the game of chess a sexy image, which has attracted a new young following.

She is the host of a popular podcast "Chess is Cool" which informs listeners about current chess events, and has adopted the motto "beauty and intelligence can go together" and proved her worth as a model.

Miss Kosteniuk's career began after her father Konstantin left his army job when she was young, to devote his time to training her.

She said: "I can remember when my father introduced me to exercises.

"He wrote on little cards the squares of the chessboard, like E4, A1 - or even false ones like E9 to test me. Then he would show me cards, one quickly after the other, and I'd have to say whether the square was white or black on the board."

Mr Kosteniuk even taught his daughter to win a chess game blindfolded in three moves when she was just five, in a bid to "exercise her brain".

Miss Kosteniuk is married to Swiss-born Diego Garces, who is 25 years her elder. In April last year she gave birth to her daughter Francesca Maria. The baby was two-and-a-half months premature and stayed in hospital for eight weeks, but has since made a full recovery.

Novena to the Sacred Heart of Jesus

Padre Pio recited this novena every day for all those who requested his prayers.

My good friend and brother in the US, Joseph and I are going to pray this for a Catholic friend of his who is very, very ill and for one or two others who I know.

There are many acts of kindness and generosity we can do for others, but the kindest and most generous thing you can do for someone is to pray for them, because Our Lord has the power to bless, heal and bring peace. Our Lord, in His Heart, has treasures and gifts of which we can only dream.

Efficacious Novena to the Sacred Heart of Jesus

I. O my Jesus, you have said: "Truly I say to you, ask and you will receive, seek and you will find, knock and it will be opened to you." Behold I knock, I seek and ask for the grace of...... (here name your request)
Our Father....Hail Mary....Glory Be to the Father....Sacred Heart of Jesus, I place all my trust in you.

II. O my Jesus, you have said: "Truly I say to you, if you ask anything of the Father in my name, he will give it to you." Behold, in your name, I ask the Father for the grace of.......(here name your request) Our Father...Hail Mary....Glory Be To the Father....Sacred Heart of Jesus, I place all my trust in you.

III. O my Jesus, you have said: "Truly I say to you, heaven and earth will pass away but my words will not pass away." Encouraged by your infallible words I now ask for the grace of.....(here name your request) Our Father....Hail Mary....Glory Be to the Father...Sacred Heart of Jesus, I place all my trust in you.

O Sacred Heart of Jesus, for whom it is impossible not to have compassion on the afflicted, have pity on us miserable sinners and grant us the grace which we ask of you, through the Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of Mary, your tender Mother and ours.
Say the Hail, Holy Queen and add: St. Joseph, foster father of Jesus, pray for us.
-- St. Margaret Mary Alacoque


Apparently, the character of Dr Strangelove was based on Henry Kissenger. LMAO!

New Conspiracy Theory on Large Hadron Collider

A new conspiracy theory has emerged that the Large Hadron Collider, officially designed and built to discover what happened a billionth of a second after the Big Bang, is, in fact, a gigantic washing machine and tumble dryer for Europe's clothing, should the worst case scenario occur and everyone's washing machines break in a freak lightning storm.

An offical speaking on behalf of the LHC project refuted the claim, saying, "There is no basis to the allegations that the LHC is a giant washer/dryer. I mean, how could we create a mini-black hole which could swallow the Universe and turn everyone into goo in an overblown and ridiculous attempt to solve the most important questions which have fascinated mankind since the beginning of time, if it were being used for...I mean, cut! Err, can we run the interview again? I, I, gosh is that the time? I've got to dash, I've got to go to a meeting..."

Gianna Jessen: Abortion Survivor

If Obama had got his way, ladies such as Gianna Jessen in the future would not have survived to tell their story.

Obamessiah? My Arse!

Johnny Cash R.I.P

The Majestic Neil Young

Why is the Church Against the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill?

The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill will see its final debate in October. Now is the time for all those concerned with the sanctity of human life, religious or not, to write to their MPs while the Pro-Life All Parliamentary Party Group lobbies as much as it can to have this bill scrapped. No potential cure, for which there is no evidence, is worth the harvesting, mutilation of and destruction of countless human embryos. You can write to your MP at the above link.

If you feel passionately against this Bill you can sign an e-petition to Downing Street here:

You can also sign and e-petition to Her Royal Highness, the Queen, to ask her to stop Royal Assent to the Bill, should it get through Parliament:

Brown to Clean Up the City

Gordon Brown has pledged to "clean-up" the financial system following the rescue of Britain's biggest mortgage lender HBOS by Lloyds TSB.

Well, I suppose that's one job he could do once voters have whipped his sorry, power-crazed, anti-Life arse out of Downing Street.

"Here's the mop, here's the bucket. Oh, yes, you're much better at this job. You're a natural!"

Yes, the Church Respects Science

With thanks to Independent Catholic News

Vatican to Host Congress on Evolution

An international conference entitled: "Biological Evolution: Facts and Theories. A Critical Appraisal 150 years after 'The Origin of Species'". is conference idue to be held in Rome from 3 to 7 March 2009.

The congress has been jointly organised by the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome and the University of Notre Dame in Indiana, U.S.A., under the patronage of the Pontifical Council for Culture and as part of the STOQ Project (Science, Theology and the Ontological Quest).

The news was announced yesterday by Archbishop Gianfranco Ravasi, president of the Pontifical Council for Culture; Fr Marc Leclerc SJ, professor of the philosophy of nature at the Pontifical Gregorian University; Gennaro Auletta, scientific director of the STOQ Project and professor of the philosophy of science at the Pontifical Gregorian University, and Alessandro Minelli, professor of zoology at the University of Padua, Italy.

"Debates on the theory of evolution are becoming ever more heated, both among Christians and in specifically evolutionist circles", Fr Leclerc explained. "In particular, with the approach of the ... 150th anniversary of the publication of 'The Origin of Species', Charles Darwin's work is still too often discussed more in ideological terms than in the scientific ones which were his true intention".

"In such circumstances - as Christian scientists, philosophers and theologians directly involved in the debate alongside colleagues from other confessions or of no confession at all - we felt it incumbent upon us to bring some clarification. The aim is to generate wide-ranging rational discussion in order to favour fruitful dialogue among scholars from various fields and areas of expertise. The Church has profound interest in such dialogue, while fully respecting the competencies of each and all. This is, however, an academic congress, organised by two Catholic universities, the Gregorian University in Rome and Notre Dame in the United States, and as such is not an ecclesial event. Yet the patronage of the Pontifical Council for Culture serves to underline the Church's interest in such questions".

Land of the Free?

O Mother, I Can Feel The Soil Falling Over My Head

The numbers have gone green and the arrows are pointing up!


FTSE 100
79.90 1.63%
71.60 1.22%
Cac 40
46.48 1.16%

Gosh, what a rollercoaster ride market trading is! I'm off to Seville to buy a nice pair of slacks!

Morrissey on Objective Moral Disorders

Objective Moral Disorders

I've recently thought that Objective Moral Disorders would potentially be a good name for a punk band. I mean, Laurence England and the Objective Moral Disorders has potential as a band name. God knows, I've got a few!

However, I was thinking, that with regard to the gay community, one phrase the Church uses that really riles them is 'objective moral disorder' with regard to homosexuality. I don't mind the phrase myself because really all that means is that I am a sinner dependent on God's mercy. But, I think, that if you were an alien observing Earth (above is a picture of what an alien looks like), you would begin to wonder what on earth we are doing here.

Let's assume that the alien species in question did all they could to maintain life on their planet and ensure that the survival of the species was their raison d'etre. Then they observe us.

So calling back to Planet Zorg, alien says:

"This is Alfred calling Planet Zorg, over."
"Hearing you Alfred, what news?"
"Well this is a strange breed. The men are doing it with the men. What is the point of that? That will not create new life. This race are killing their young in the womb. Why are they killing their own? Why don't they want children? Do they want to destroy their own species? Even the ones who are married. They have a special pill to stop babies being born. Also, the men use rubber sheaths designed to stop babies being born, over."
"They must be on a suicide mission. Cheers for that, come back home, over."
"Err, okay, over."

The Church does understand the complexities of human nature and the myriad, objective moral disorders therein. However, objectively speaking, new life does not develop from homosexual partnerships, therefore, objectively speaking, homosexual partnerships are morally disordered.

Off for the Weekend to San Lorenzo in Seville

I was hoping there might be some relics of my patron, St Lawrence, Martyr of the Church, in Seville, but no. I am going there for the weekend with a beautiful friend who I love dearly.

Sex Education For 6 Year Olds

I'm not easily shocked or outraged. However, I am not sure the Government's efforts to halt teenage pregnancies will be greatly improved by introducing sex education for 6 year olds. As I said in the article below, let children be children! For the full article see the link.

Song for AIG Insurance Bank

News Just In!


FTSE 100
-113.20 -2.25%

Dow Jones
-449.36 -4.06%

-109.05 -4.94%

Can anyone explain to me why news websites, TV news and radio news all give us these figures? I mean, do the newscasters think that on hearing it we are all scrambling around checking our shares kept neatly in filing cabinets? I would like to know the percentage of the population who take notice of any of these figures!

If the economy is good, why can't they just say, "Well, the economy is doing alright, so why not treat yourself to a nice dress or a good pair of slacks tomorrow," and give us a little wink. If the economy is bad, they could say, "Markets are a bit screwy at the moment, its what we call in the trading industry a funny turn." And then, if billions of dollars or pounds are being wiped off day by day and huge investment banks go under, depriving thousands of their livelihoods they could just say, "The economic outlook is shafted. We're all shafted. Repeat, shafted." Really would make economic outlook reporting much easier and more easy on the eyes and ears!

On BBC the numbers are red and have little arrows pointing down. All of the figures have this. This must be bad! Sometimes I think these red figures with down pointy arrows are just put on the BBC website to make us crap our pants for the sake of it. I feel sorry for the people who are going to take a hard fall from all this. As for me, I'm not in a position to lose much as I don't have much. I guess that's one of the perks of being a 30 year old waster.

Wednesday 17 September 2008

Money Can't Buy You Love. But It Can Buy You a Giant Shark in Formaldehyde

"What a snip at just £9.6 million pounds. I like it! I mean this is the kind of thing that could really liven up the front room. No, it doesn't go with the curtains. No, the bathroom. Ouch, no, that would really awaken those childhood 'Jaws' fears of the Great White coming out of the plug hole. Okay, the bedroom, yes, perfect! Oh no, hang on, do I really want to wake up to that every day? God that thing could give me nightmares no end! Okay the dining room. Oh, but it might put me off my food. Tell, you what, lets put it in the garage for a while and just be content and smug that its famous and I own it and its mine! All mine! Mua-hah-hah!"

Modern art doesn't make me angry. I mean, give the guy credit, he thought of it first. I suppose the really annoying thing about Damien Hirst's fish/mammals in formaldehyde in tanks lark is that very little of the creation is actually his. In truth, if you're going to put one of God's most fearsome and ferocious creations into a tank of liquid which sustains it mid-tank, you really can't claim that you made it at all. God made the shark, so He should get a cut of the £9.6 million Damien made from God's glorious and intimidating design. If he would like to give the Church a cut, St Mary Magdalen's Building Fund needs plenty of cash to restore the roof.

Songs to Sing in Economic Meltdown III

Songs to Sing in Economic Meltdown II

Songs to Sing in Economic Meltdown I

St Francis before the Pope II

St Francis before the Pope I


"Tell me Loz, do you think that if the carpenter who delivered the Sermon on the Mount returned to Earth, would He recognise His church? I think that St Francis of Assisi summed it up beatifically when he declared that 'for evil to work requires not active assistance by Man, but mere acquiescence'."

"I have a friend who i went to law school with, who is currently representing a client's claim against the Church. I have no problem in forgiving the sinful priest, I have serious problems with forgiving the Church which has repeatedly tried to buy off my friend and his client."

On the whole I want friends and relatives and strangers to comment in the comments section, because the good thing about a blog is that it can be a forum for differing views to be shared. Even though I enjoy having the final say (who doesn't?) I enjoy debate and hearing what other people think.

And talking of the final say, above I have posted Michaelangelo's 'The Last Judgement'. It depicts the Resurrection that will take place at the End of Time. Our Blessed Lord promised He would be with His Church even unto the End of Time, and so Catholics do believe that Our Lord shall return and we say this in the Creed at Mass when we say, "...We believe in One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, the Communion of Saints, the Resurrection of the dead and the life everlasting."

We believe therefore that when Our Lord returns in Glory that He shall recognise His Church simply because She is His Bride and He is the Bridegroom. Christ is united to His Church and the Church, though full of men and women who err and who sin, is united to Christ and the whole Court of Heaven.

St Francis of Assisi loved the Church, was faithful to the Magisterium and although he was faithful to the Gospel, took a compassionate view on those who erred simply because he took literally the words of Our Lord who in the Sermon of the Mount said, "Blessed are the merciful, they shall be shown mercy." At the end of 'Brother Sun, Sister Moon', it is Pope Honorius III (played by the late, great Alec Guinness) who descends from his throne, approaches the poor man of Assisi, and kisses his hands, and his feet. Great film, I'll post some of it in a mo'.

Ultimately, my personal feelings on the abuse crisis is that for every priest or clergyman who abused his authority, there are many, many others who serve Christ lovingly. While it is not a bad thing to ask for holiness from the Church, it would be naive to think that the Church would be immune to the scandal of child abuse, when it has infected every sector of society from care homes, to schools to scouts groups and even families themselves. I couldn't say why the Church is trying to "buy off a client" and if that's true that doesn't sound good. At a guess I would imagine that the Diocese is trying to limit the scandal. From an apologetics point of view, that Diocese is clearly not awaiting a 'verdict', has admitted the depth of the scandal and the sorrow caused and is already offering compensation. The whole affair is very sad.

For Catholics however, the question is not, will Christ recognise His Church when He returns to judge the living and the dead? The question is; Will He recognise me? We don't believe in a rapture that takes believers into Heaven and non-believers to Hell. When it comes to the Four Last Things, of Death, Judgement, Heaven and Hell, these are salutary things to think upon for us all, Catholic or not. For Catholics, the question is not, is the Church faithfully witnessing to the Gospel? The question is, am I faithfully witnessing to the Gospel? The question is not, is the Church abusing its responsibilities? The question is, am I abusing my responsibilities? The question is not, is the Church feeding and loving the poor and hungry, visiting the sick and the imprisoned? The question is, am I?

The Saint of the Day After Tomorrow

Today's Saint is St Robert Bellarmine, who was a great Saint. However, because I am shallow I am moving straight onto the Saint of the day after tomorrow, St Joseph Cupertino, simply for the reason that he could fly.

Not only am I shallow but lazy, so here is the info on St Joseph Cupertino, which again, I have shamelessly nicked from someone else's blog. He is a Priest, so I believe he will not sue.

Born in a stable in 1603, he was mocked for walking about somewhat spacey. It was not thought that he was very bright or as we would say today, all there.

Later, it was discovered that this was not due to mental dullness but because, even as a child, he received ecstatic visions that left him in speechless wonder.

He applied at 17 for admittance to the Friars Minor Conventuals but was rejected because of his lack or learning. However, the Capuchins accepted him as lay brother. When it became evident that his spiritual ecstasies made him unsuitable for work, and he seem incompetent in everything he was given to do, they dismissed him.

His mean mother did not want him around but he was not discouraged and remained prayerful and devout. Eventually he was accepted as a servant and then as an oblate at the Franciscan monastery of Cupertino. He worked in the stables, which seemed all that he was good for doing. Filled with humility, he gave himself to the work. A high ranking clerical visitor remarked about his cheerfulness and then was shocked to find out that his sole work was the stables, considered among the worse jobs in the community. Discovering that he wanted to be a cleric, the Franciscans relented and he was given a habit and admitted to priestly formation. Joseph found his studies very difficult, and yet his examiners found that he could give intricate answers to questions. Virtually illiterate, he had been given the gift of spiritual knowledge and discernment to explain eternal truths.

As a priest, this humble man was seen to levitate during the celebration of the Mass seventy times. It was reported by observers that he once rose some thirty feet into the air during the singing of Christmas hymns, and remained kneeling there in prayer. His ecstatic trances could be triggered by God’s name, sacred music, worship bells, the mention of the Virgin Mary or other saints, pondering the life of Christ, holy images, reflecting upon heaven, etc. He would then enter a rapture and rise physically heavenward.

It became somewhat of a problem. People shouted, pinched, burned, stuck, and beat him but he could not be awakened from these trances. However, in holy obedience, he would immediately awaken from them when his superior commanded.

People came in droves to see him and to receive his blessing and go to confession to him. The community did not like the attention and so for 35 years he was kept hidden. He was forbidden to attend choir, go to the common refectory, walk in procession, or say Mass in the church. He was given a private chapel in his room.

Eventually he was brought before the Inquisition and moved from religious house to house, exchanged between the Capuchins and the Franciscans. While the faithful were drawn to him, Church leaders were uncertain what to make of him. He died in 1663.

The other monks became so desperate to keep his peculiar traits under control that early on lead weights were chained to his ankles to try to keep him from levitating during Mass.

He is the patron saint of pilots and all who take air transportation.

Two Healthy Babies are Miscarried for Every Three Down's Syndrome Babies Detected and Prevented from Being Born

With thanks to Fr Tim Finegan

Do I have a death wish? Possibly, but frankly it is worth it.

Let us call the recent drive to encourage a method of "search and destroy" for unborn children with Down's Syndrome what it is. Eugenics. When it was discovered in the post-war period that Hitler wanted to do something akin to this, namely, creating a super race (let us remember that he even saw merely being of Jewish blood as a disease, such was his murderous delusion) everyone condemned his motives outright.

So, let's get this straight. For every three Down's Syndrome babies detected and "prevented from being born," there is now "concern" that healthy babies may mistakenly being "prevented from being born," as a result of the tests. So, this "concern" does not extend to the babies with Downs Syndrome, because they are not, what? Human? The "concern" does not extend to the babies with Downs Syndrome because they somehow, what? Don't matter? But healthy babies do?!

How insulting that is to people who suffer from Down's Syndrome, alive today in the flesh, all of whom live valuable human lives!

Try telling that to the boy pictured above, who apparently goes to Mass every week at the Birmingham Oratory! When it comes to this child's right to life, Fr Tim says, "You could tell me that Damien's life is not worth living or you could start trying to chew a brick. Either way you will lose some teeth."

From the Daily Telegraph. Here is the full article.

For more information on the truth about Down's Syndrome, rather than the falsehoods which are so easily spread by ignorance, see this link.

Tuesday 16 September 2008

Mozzer's Hero: Cracking Article on Oscar Wilde

With thanks to the Catholic Education Resource Center

The Long Conversion of Oscar Wilde

Oscar Wilde is widely celebrated as an artist persecuted for his homosexuality, a sort of protomartyr for the cause of gay rights. The current celebration of Wilde as gay martyr is certainly one legitimate interpretation of his life, but it oversimplifies his complexity; indeed, it ignores the major movement of his life, a life that may also be seen as a long and difficult conversion to the Roman Catholic Church.

"I am not a Catholic," said Oscar Wilde. "I am simply a violent Papist." This statement, like so many of Wilde's outrageous paradoxes, conceals a sober truth beneath its blithe wit. Another example would be his jest that, of all religions, Catholicism is the only one worth dying in. Looking back over his life more than a hundred years later, we can be forgiven for seeing the irony in such statements, for Wilde's fascination with Catholicism, its mysteries and rituals, did set the stage for his death-bed conversion. And we can certainly perceive justice in the fact that the man who cracked such jokes also believed that life imitated art: ultimately, then, the joke was on him.

Many of these recent works do tell part of Wilde's story well. He was homosexual, promiscuously so, and his downfall was precipitated by his passion for a younger man. It was this young man, Lord Alfred Douglas, who in one of his poems called their desire "the love that dare not speak its name." The tale of their romance has classic, even operatic, features — objections by the beloved's family, separation and exile, brief reunion before the lover's death. The heart left unmoved by their story would be hard indeed.

Yet this sad accounting fails to give us the whole of Oscar Wilde. He was prosecuted for "acts of gross indecency with other male persons, " found guilty, and sentenced to two years in prison at hard labor. But his reading during his imprisonment included works by St. Augustine, Dante, and Newman. When he emerged from prison, injured and in poor health, he fled across the channel to France to reunite with his lover. But his first act on his release had been to write to the Jesuits begging to make a six-month retreat at one of their London houses. Wilde is celebrated as the center of a circle of unconventional poets and artists known as decadents and aesthetes. But looking a little past these labels we find that many of these men became sincere converts to Catholicism — Wilde being among the last of them, and entering the Church only in his final moments of life.

So the current celebration of Wilde as gay martyr dilutes his complexity and ignores the major movement of his life, a life that may more accurately be seen as a long and difficult conversion. But why this long conversion, and in what larger context?

Catholicism had held Wilde's interest all his adult life. Born in Dublin in 1854 to a Protestant Anglo-Irish family, Wilde came at age 20 to Oxford University in England, where he was taught by the critic and novelist Walter Pater. Under Pater's influence Wilde became fascinated — aesthetically, at least — by the mystery of Catholic ritual, and took to attending Mass regularly. One of Wilde's friends was David Hunter-Blair, a recent convert, who paid Wilde's way on a sojourn in Rome that included an audience with Pope Pius IX. Hunter-Blair had hopes of converting Wilde, but Wilde was apparently moved only to a kind of romantic excitement at this close brush with the dangerous Catholic Church.

Dangerous? Roman Catholicism was to poetic souls a sort of aesthetic temptation, while to many proper Englishmen the Roman Church was still the Whore of Babylon, the Anti-Christ. (It is well to remember that it had been less than fifty years since the Emancipation Bill that allowed Roman Catholics to hold public office in England, only thirty years since the defection to Rome of John Henry Newman and other prominent Anglicans, and just a few years since the First Vatican Council under Pius IX had debated and defined the dogma of papal infallibility — a dogma that must have seemed to many an outbreak of medievalism at the very birth of the Age of Darwin.)

Hunter-Blair's evangelizing efforts had no immediate effect, and the two men parted, Hunter-Blair taking Holy Orders and Wilde turning to the literary world of London. Wilde was forthright about his motives: "To go over to Rome would be to sacrifice and give up my two great Gods: Money and Ambition." His entrance into London society was spectacular: his dandified dress, pronouncements on fashion, and opinions on art were exquisite and sensational. He published poems and stories and made a lecture tour of America in 1882. (The story goes that when asked by a U.S. customs agent if he had anything to declare, Wilde replied, "Only my genius"). In the 1880s he married, fathered two sons in two years, and published several books of stories for children (truly moving fairy tales of sacrifice and death and life beyond the grave that are well worth reading today). But the 1890s were to see Wilde's great rise and sudden fall.

His novel of 1891, The Picture of Dorian Gray, was a tremendous success. The "hysterical" reaction of the critics, as one modern editor calls it, only served to intensify the sensation and the sales. A typical review condemned it as "a poisonous book" full of "moral and spiritual putrefaction," which "constantly hints, not obscurely, at disgusting sins and abominable crimes." The device at the book's center sounds as if it might be simply a bit of cleverness. A beautiful young man exclaims to a painter: "I am jealous of the portrait you have painted of me. Why should it keep what I must lose?... Oh, if it were only the other way! If the picture could change, and I could be always what I am now!" Of course, the wish comes true. But what makes the fable frightening, what makes it more than a neat trick, is Wilde's careful portrayal of a sensitive man numbing himself to all feeling for others, of an ego turning monstrous, of a soul choosing evil. In Dorian Gray, Wilde is still a wit and an aphorist, but in the service of a profound theme, a theme that lies at the heart of Catholicism: the ruin of the soul brought about by sin.

There are hints in the novel at elements we now see as autobiographical. The young man, Dorian Gray, frequents opium dens and has furtive relationships that are clearly homosexual, all the while maintaining his mask of youthful purity. There is a young woman, driven to suicide by Dorian's betrayal of her — we can't help but wonder whether she represents Wilde's wife, Constance, raising two children and managing the house while her husband lived out his hidden life. Dorian even attends Mass, drawn (as Wilde was) by the "eternal pathos of human tragedy" represented in the sacred rite. But all the while, up in a locked room of his home, behind a curtain that Dorian now and again pulls aside in fascinated horror, the face in the portrait grows more malevolent. Dorian realizes that "it had been like conscience to him. Yes, it had been conscience. He would destroy it." But when Dorian takes up a knife to stab the picture, he himself dies.

As for Dorian Gray and its connection to Wilde's eventual conversion, the novel sits at the intersection of several fictional and actual spiritual paths. The fictional Dorian is partly coaxed into his amoral aestheticism and self-regard by reading a "poison book," a yellow-backed novel written by a Frenchman. The book he had in mind, Wilde later affirmed, was a novel of the French Decadence published in 1884 entitled A Rebours (in English, "Against the Grain" or "Against Nature"). A Rebours chronicles the life of a fictional aristocrat who gives himself over to the most perverse pleasures he can dream of. A Rebours was a daringly new sort of fiction and worked powerfully on Wilde's literary imagination. He wrote, "the heavy odor of incense seemed to cling about its pages and to trouble the brain." The fictional hero of A Rebours , as Wilde well knew, ends contemptuous of everything and unable to have faith in anything except — perhaps — "the terrible God of Genesis and the pale martyr of Golgotha...." The novel ends with his prayer, "Lord, take pity on the Christian who doubts, on the unbeliever who would fain believe...." Seven years after A Rebours was published, its author, J.-K. Huysmans, sought out a priest. In 1892 he returned to the Church and in 1900 became an oblate at a Benedictine monastery. His last three works were religious novels with Catholic settings. As for the sincerity of his religious faith, a modern editor of his work attests that he "put the doctrine into effect... in six months of atrocious agony, heroically borne, that preceded his death from cancer."

So in many respects we see that Wilde was thinking like a Catholic about sin and conscience, and even (judging by his fairy tales for children) about love and redemption. And we see too that many of Wilde's acquaintances and peers had converted to Catholicism: the list would eventually include Robbie Ross, a young Canadian who claimed that Wilde had introduced him to homosexuality, and who was later to play the role of loyal friend in Wilde's darkest moments. But at this point Wilde's personal life was caught up in its "morbid intensity," far too much an imitation of his art. Just as Dorian Gray was being published, Wilde met a young man who was to excite in him the greatest passion of his life, one that would speed him down the path to ruin and disgrace. Lord Alfred Douglas was a beautiful youth, an Oxford poet, the son of Sir John Sholto Douglas, the Eighth Marquess of Queensberry (the same Marquess who in 1867 had established the modern rules of boxing). Like Dorian, Alfred let his beauty and good name mask a secret life that Wilde only too willingly shared. Together they explored the unseen side of Victorian London — the haunts of male prostitutes, blackmailers, and opium addicts. As time passed, they allowed themselves more and more public displays of outrageous behavior.

The sportsman father of the handsome son spoke out against them and badgered them, on one occasion even bursting into Wilde's home. Early in 1895 he left a calling card at a London club addressed to "Oscar Wilde posing as a somdomite [sic]." Whatever his prowess in the boxing ring, the athletic Marquess was clearly no match for Wilde in a war of words, so Wilde (against good advice) decided to bring an action for libel against him. Wilde had at the time two hit plays running in London. He had everything to lose — and he lost it. Why, then, did he take the Marquess to court? Perhaps his fatal flaw lay in desiring attention for himself, no matter what the venue. Perhaps he was so confident in his ability to give a very public verbal thrashing to a philistine like the Marquess that he couldn't resist. Or perhaps he was remembering the celebrated libel trial of 1878 between his friend, the painter James McNeill Whistler, and the art critic John Ruskin. That trial had been a sensation, pitting as it did the the champion of new art against the voice of the English art establishment.

Whatever the reason behind it, the trial of the Marquess for libel lasted only two days, for on the third day Wilde's counsel, realizing that the defendant had abundant evidence of the fact of Wilde's sodomy, withdrew the action. That very afternoon the Crown issued a warrant for Wilde's arrest on charges of gross indecency. His first trial ended when the jury returned an undecided vote. Wilde was released on bail but refused to follow his friends' advice to flee to France (Lord Alfred had already fled). A new trial was begun, and on May 25, 1895, Oscar Wilde was found guilty of sodomy. In September of the same year he appeared again in court and was declared bankrupt. A single episode from this time illustrates how broken-hearted he was: as he emerged from his bankruptcy trial, Wilde was exposed to the insults of a sizable crowd. In the midst of this mayhem, Wilde's young Catholic friend, Robbie Ross, stepped out of the crowd and with deliberate politeness tipped his hat to the fallen man. Wilde was deeply moved by this one small gesture of sympathy: "Men have gone to heaven for less."

Oscar Wilde, convicted of sodomy, was sentenced under the Criminal Law Amendment Act of 1885 to serve two years of hard labor at Reading Gaol, and his time in prison brought Wilde once again face to face with the Catholic themes of sin and suffering. Now they were purged of any tinge of romanticism and exoticism — they were facts of daily life. Wilde's sensitive nature was tortured by the cruelties he witnessed in prison: the anonymous shame of the inmates, the frightened faces of children torn from their parents, the execution of a young soldier convicted of murder. He spent his free time reading and writing. The writing was to result in two works quite different from what he had done before: The Ballad of Reading Gaol and De Profundis. Wilde's need to find meaning in the midst of suffering was acute. Perhaps it was from reading Augustine or Dante or Newman in his cell that he began to write in a new voice and on a new theme.

Was Wilde ready for conversion at this point? On his release from jail in May of 1897 his request to the Jesuits of Farm Street for a six-month retreat was refused. Wilde wept at the news. No doubt the Jesuit Fathers had reservations about accepting a man of Wilde's notoriety, but we can't help but wonder what effect six months of traditional Ignatian spirituality would have had on this sensitive man. Whatever might have happened at Farm Street did not happen, and Wilde's conversion was again postponed. He left for France, where for a time he was reunited with Lord Alfred, until lack of money and threats from both their families (the Marquess threatening Alfred with exclusion from his will, Constance Wilde threatening Oscar with exclusion from his two sons) separated them once and for all.

The year 1898 saw the publication of The Ballad of Reading Gaol. Wilde's imprisonment and his alienation from friends and society are clearly at the root of this poem, but while the author's experiences were bitter, the poem is not. Gone are the arch aphorisms and mocking paradoxes of his earlier work; gone is the hopeless sense of sin that finds no redemption. The Ballad tells of the execution that Wilde witnessed at Reading Gaol, and conveys the inhuman isolation that the condemned man felt as he awaited his death. Here Wilde's latent Catholic sentiments reveal themselves unequivocally. The poem condemns the petty censoriousness and miserly justice of this world, but not from the pose of anti-bourgeois snobbery that might be expected of an artist, nor in a fit of vindictiveness over society's harsh treatment of the author. Rather, he returns to a tone that he used to good effect in his fairy tales for children, one of compassion:

Ah! Happy they whose hearts can break And peace of pardon win! How else may man make straight his plan And cleanse his soul from Sin? How else but through a broken heart May Lord Christ enter in?"

In 1899 Wilde traveled in Europe, an exile. In 1900 he was briefly in Rome with his companion Robbie Ross. They attended Masses and papal audiences, and Wilde received a blessing from Leo XIII that, he thought, even had a physically curative effect on him. As he joked to Ross, he was "a violent Papist," but he left Rome as he had come, still an admirer of sacred art and sacred ritual, of piety and the papacy, but not yet a Catholic. His health deteriorating and his drinking excessive, Wilde left Rome for Paris, where the final scene of his long conversion would be played.

On November 28,1900, as Wilde lay dying on his bed in Paris, Robbie Ross called in a priest, an English Passionist, Father Dunne. Wilde was given conditional Baptism and was anointed. For a short time he emerged from delirium into lucidity, and Father Dunne, examining him, was satisfied that Wilde freely desired reception into the Church. Wilde died a Catholic on November 30.

The poet's great antagonist, the Marquis of Queensberry, died in the same year. On his deathbed he too was received into the Catholic Church. And the object of the poet's self-destructive passion, Lord Alfred Douglas, became a Catholic in 1911 and remained firm in the Faith until his death, though his later writings betray a conservatism that is distasteful and uncharitable.

Does life, then, imitate art? There is a satisfying symmetry to the story of Wilde's celebrity, his arrogance, his fall, and his humble acceptance of redemption, but we should resist the temptation to turn his life into a moral allegory. There is but a little room here for Catholic triumphalism, just as there is but a little room for an interpretation of Wilde's life that canonizes him as a gay saint. Unfortunately, most recent treatments of Wilde's life reduce him to the latter category: Stephen Fry's recent movie makes but one mention of Catholicism (and that entirely unconnected to Wilde himself). But if we can't simplify Oscar Wilde for our own convenience we are left asking — what was he then?

All of these: writer, wit, voluptuary, gay man, failed father and husband, sensitive soul, laughing stock, broken heart, eleventh hour Catholic convert.


McCracken, Andrew. "The Long Conversion of Oscar Wilde." (April 2003).

Reprinted with permission of the author, Andrew McCracken.


Abortion and the UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights

I have just received an email complaint from somebody who I still regard as a good friend with whom I once worked at an international charity. Together, based on a principle espoused by the organisation which is enshrined in the UN International Convenant of Human Rights, we campaigned against poverty. Poverty, we agreed, is a denial of fundamental human rights.

Now, leaving aside the fact that the law of God (Do not kill) is above the law of Man, regardless of the political thought of the day, the only other reasonable, legally-based argument against current abortion law is one that is entrenched in human rights law.

Here are three very poignant articles of the UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights on which we can all agree.

Part III Article 6
1. "Every human being has the inherent right to life. This right shall be protected by law. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his life."

Part III Article 6
3. "No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. In particular, no one shall be subjected without his free consent to medical or scientific experimentation."

Part III Article 7
"When deprivation of life constitutes the crime of genocide, it is understood that nothing in this article shall authorize any State Party to the present Covenant to derogate in any way from any obligation assumed under the provisions of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.

We all agree with this. Right? Well, clearly not. For when it comes to the unborn child in the womb these rights no longer apply. The right to terminate or kill human life has never been one espoused by the UN and not one overtly espoused by the UK Government. But that all depends on when you believe life starts. Does life start after 3 months? 4 months? 8 months? Just before the child is born? Just after the child is born? Well, the problem is that any week or month one man suggests is certainly open to debate from the next man who can say it is earlier or later, by weeks or months. It is arbitrary for man to decide when life starts. Human life, most assuredly starts in the womb. That's why people tell other people not to smoke when they are pregnant. When is the only real and universal time to say that human life begins? Well, it is the moment of conception, of course.

Therefore, if there were in England and Wales 193,700 abortions last year, and there were, that amounts to 193,700 human beings who were denied the fundamental right to human life. All three of the articles mentioned above, which we all agree with with regard to ourselves and others, have been broken to the degree that yes, all of these human beings were denied the inherent right to life, all of them were subject to
torture, to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, and all of them, year upon year, amount to genocide.

Current UK law on abortion, and the threat to extend this to Northern Ireland, a country still dead set against it because of its vibrant Christian faith, makes an ass of the UN Convention of Human Rights. As the friend in question will know, the charity we worked with campaigned against poverty because we all saw it as the denial of the human right to live as a family. Many of the families with whom we were in contact together were unable to live as a family, because, often due to the poverty in which they lived, many children were removed from parents by social services.

Now, the fact that poverty still exists (and one can only assume it is getting worse in the current financial crisis, with the cost of living going up so much, and wages and benefits staying pretty low) never deterred us from campaigning to help raise awareness of it and to ensure that it remained a hot political issue, while showing love to those we met who were forced to endure the scourge of poverty.

Likewise, as a Catholic, just because the number of abortions are still going through the roof, that does not deter me, or my brothers and sisters who are pro-life from still campaigning against it, raising awareness of it and making it a hot political issue, while still showing love to those we know who have had an abortion because many of those women we know who have, still unto this very day, regret their choice more than we can ever know. Not only do abortions lead obviously to the end of a human life, but from what I know of people who have had them, lead to immense suffering for the individual, immense pain, regret and of course, guilt.

As Catholics we believe that God is Compassion and Love and no human sin, however grave can separate a human being from God's love and mercy, if we would but go to Him and seek His forgiveness. We do not judge, and we do not condemn, for we know we have sinned.

However, we must be allowed to campaign for the protection of human life, from conception until death, even were the whole World to be offended.

More on SPUC

Please visit SPUC and read their new leaflet "Under pressure", which explains the latest proposed pro-abortion amendments to the Abortion Act. These amendments are due to be considered (if selected for debate by the Speaker) by MPs in October at the Report stage of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology bill. October's parliamentary debate on these pro-abortion amendments could lead to the most damaging extension of the Abortion Act for over 40 years.

Please help us alert people to this threat by ordering a supply of leaflets to distribute. Would you consider ordering sufficient leaflets to distribute them in your street or in a number of streets in your local area? You can order leaflets by contacting Liz Foody at SPUC HQ, email , phone (0)20 7091 7091.

You might also consider approaching local clergy at your place of worship or other local places of worship, asking them to allow you and/or others to distribute the leaflets and encouraging clergy to order more leaflets for their congregations.

Please write to the prime minister and to your own MP

Please write yourself to the prime minister and to your own MP! For information to help you write and send your letter, please read both the "Under pressure" leaflet and SPUC's latest detailed briefing at this link.

As our leaflet states: pro-abortion MPs want to abolish even the minimal constraints in the Abortion Act, like needing a second doctor to authorise an abortion. They want nurses and midwives to perform abortions (which makes it cheaper, but not safer). They want the Abortion Act extended to Northern Ireland against the wishes of the vast majority of people living there. Pro-abortion MPs also want punitive restrictions on pregnancy counsellors who don't refer women for abortions. If these amendments are passed it is likely to mean more abortions than ever before: more babies will die. Reluctant women will face more pressure than ever to submit to abortions.

Please copy any replies you receive to Anthony Ozimic, SPUC political secretary, either by email at or by post to SPUC HQ.

Please pray and fast to protect Northern Ireland from British Abortion Act

Liam Gibson, SPUC's development officer in Northern Ireland, has published and distributed widely in Northern Ireland a paper entitled "Prayer and Fasting to prevent the extension of the Abortion Act [to Northern Ireland]" which calls for a 40-day fast from Wednesday, 20 August, until Saturday, 4 October (excluding Sundays - or on another 40-day period of your choice). If you are interested in joining or promoting the fast.

Society for the Protection of Unborn Children E-petition

An aborted baby recovered from a bin outside an abortion clinic

In the Catholic Church we are against abortion because it amounts to the taking of innocent life in the womb.

SPUC usually does not promote online petitions due to their limited merits compared with other campaigning tools. Due to the gravity and urgency of the current situation, however, we would encourage you to please sign (and ask others to sign) the online petition at

This e-petition to the Prime Minister reads:

"We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to deny any extension planned for the 1967 Abortion Act to Northern Ireland, as we believe in the right to life."

For further information, please visit the lobbying page on SPUC's website

Pope Benedict XVI: Saints Knew They Were Sinners

LOURDES, France, SEPT. 15, 2008 ( The only thing that separates a saint from a sinner is that a saint looks less at himself and more at Christ and his love, says the Pope.

The Pope offered a commentary on the Eucharist on Sunday night at the conclusion of the Eucharistic procession in the prairie at the Marian shrine in Lourdes.

The Holy Father visited Lourdes this weekend to participate in the celebrations marking the 150th anniversary of the Marian apparitions there. He returned to Rome today.

"Let us accept; may you accept to offer yourselves to him who has given us everything, who came not to judge the world, but to save it, accept to recognize in your lives the presence of him who is present here, exposed to our view. Accept to offer him your very lives," the Pontiff said in his short address.

Benedict XVI noted that some 2,000 years ago Mary accepted "to give everything, to offer her body so as to receive the Body of the Creator."

"Everything came from Christ, even Mary," added the Pope. "Everything came through Mary, even Christ."

He reflected on Mary's presence with those gathered in Lourdes, as well as the "crowd of saints in heaven" composed of "all those men and women who have contemplated, venerated, adored the real presence of him who gave himself to us even to the last drop of blood; the crowd of all those men and women who have spent hours in adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament of the altar."

Look to Christ

"This evening, we do not see them," the Pontiff continued, "but we hear them saying to us, to every man and to every woman among us: 'Come, let the Master call you! He is here! He is calling you! He wants to take your life and join it to his. Let yourself be embraced by him! Gaze no longer upon your own wounds, gaze upon his.

"'Do not look upon what still separates you from him and from others; look upon the infinite distance that he has abolished by taking your flesh, by mounting the Cross which men had prepared for him, and by letting himself be put to death so as to show you his love.

"'In his wounds, he takes hold of you; in his wounds, he hides you. Do not refuse his love!'”

The saints, said the Holy Father, "have allowed themselves to be embraced by his Love," and they "never cease to intercede for us."

Benedict XVI continued, "They were sinners and they knew it, but they willingly ceased to gaze upon their own wounds and to gaze only upon the wounds of their Lord, so as to discover there the glory of the cross, to discover there the victory of life over death."

"Remain in silent adoration of your Lord," the Pope urged the crowd. "Remain silent, then speak and tell the world: We cannot be silent about what we know.

"Go and tell the whole world the marvels of God, present at every moment of our lives, in every place on earth."

Definitely a Step Too Far!

While the victims of abuse and the Church itself have suffered terribly from the actions of some Priests and Clergy, whose treatment of children was horrific and scandalous, Our Lord said that it would be better for someone to have a millstone tied around his neck and be thrown into the sea, than scandalize 'any of these little ones.' Those who abuse children have to answer to God for their actions. The Church prays for the victims, the families and for the repentance of the abusers themselves. Pope Benedict XVI, himself, publicly and privately mourns for the victims and prays for the forgiveness of God. In every country he visits which has suffered from the scandals, he publicly apologises for the crimes of abuse that have taken place. The Church has always believed that the scandalisation of children is a great crime and to be avoided at all costs, even if some of Her members have done exactly that.

The above link is from The Telegraph today. Speaking as someone who struggles to stay in a State of Grace even for a few days, the fact that the values of our society are crumbling is not entirely surprising. It is because God has been removed from the statute book and is left out of the minds and hearts of those who construct public policy. Any sense of real goodness, truth and beauty are sorely lacking.

Yet, as I said earlier, so often, we have found the enemy and the enemy is ourselves, or at least within ourselves. Morality, it is true, is a private issue. But then, if our private morality is sinful it can and does have very public consequences. I am as guilty as the next man, perhaps guiltier for you never know who the next man is. However, the fact that we Catholics grapple with and often fail in overcoming our own sins does not stop us from believing in the Doctrine of the Church, nor shouting it from the rooftops, when the time calls for it. And the time does call for it. When it comes to an issue such as homosexuality, much like any other issue of sexual morality, such as masturbation, the use of pornography, adultery or fornication, the Church is clear and firm in Her teaching. In Confession recently (I realise the Seal of Confession is inviolate, but I can share advice given me) my Confessor told me that some personal sexual sins, while serious and grave or even mortal for the sinner, are potentially less serious than, say, sins against Charity and our neighbour. The Church is strict on sin, it is true, but She is soft on sinners, as is demonstrated by Our Blessed Lord's Parable of the Prodigal Son.

People are often surprised when I tell them I have no interest in attending Gay Pride in Brighton. Well, other than rather feebly trying to avoid occasions of sin, which that most certainly would be, I think that the worst thing about Gay Pride is that much of it takes place during the day and children are watching...and of course learning. Any good teacher will tell you that teaching involves modeling good behaviour, which children learn to imitate. One man who lives in a YMCA in Brighton told me that once he took his child to Preston Park, only for him and his child to discover two men at it in some bushes. Let us be clear. No child should ever have to be witness to what is a very graphic and very adult sexual scene. Meanwhile, some men and women at Gay Pride usually are behaving in an overtly sexual fashion, which while liberating for them, can be confusing or even disturbing for children. Let us allow children, who, though are not always little angels, still have an innocence of the adult world and all of the sexual complexities found therein.

Which leads me nicely back to this article published in The Telegraph. If we who are in the Church still fall into sin, how much worse are the social consequences, when Governments and policy makers do not even believe in its existence? The article in The Telegraph states that the leaders of the project at Exeter University, funded by public money, "have set themselves a goal of creating primary classrooms where queer sexualities are affirmed and celebrated".

So, it turns out, that if those who ran this project get it endorsed by the Government, which, knowing this Government they probably would, every week, month or year would have a Gay Pride day, affirming the value of homosexuality and showing the children how it all takes place, not just to secondary school teenagers, no, but to primary school children. That is children aged between the years of 5 and 11!

That is the nothing less and nothing more the than scandalisation of little children, making its sordid little way towards future education policy. Our Lord said, "Suffer the little children to come to Me." He did not say, "Make the little children suffer the sins of the adult world!"

Funny Sketch: Big Train

Ave Maria

Background on the Most Holy Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Police Squad!

More Flight of the Conchords

Marvin says it better than I ever could!

Some Thoughts on the Economic Turmoil

As another massive investment bank goes bankrupt and rumours of a 1930s style global economic meltdown begin to increase, I suppose the really worrying aspect of it all is the social and political consequences. When times are good, people are obviously kinder. As long as people have a roof over their head and a bit of money and can feed themselves society does function. In these circumstances, liberal, parliamentary democracy flourishes, even if we think that half of the time, MPs are a bit naff and don't make the right decisions. The worst aspect of a global recession is not unemployment and economic gloom. The worst aspect is that things we took for granted such as a parliamentary democracy, liberty and civil rights suddenly come under threat.

When the proverbial hits the fan in the economy, people look for strong leadership. In Latin America, where there is often economic instability, the electorate sometimes are just relieved when a military dictatorship takes over and just recreates some semblence of order. If in the US and the UK the economy goes down the pan, perhaps the greatest danger will be within ourselves. We have experienced relative 'good times' for so long now that we easily forget about the conditions that led to the fascism of the 1930s and 40s. Both the US and UK Governments have been laying a bedrock of legislation aimed at eroding the civil liberties we have enjoyed for so long. For that reason and others the next couple of years will be a dangerous time.

As I said, the greatest threat to peace and stability, even in an economic downturn is within ourselves. At such times, as occurred in various countries in the 1930s, the temptation will be for us to look for a scapegoat. In the 1930s in Germany it was the Jews who faced the horrendous persecution of the Nazi regime. I'm no historian, but clearly Hitler inspired such loyalty and devotion that his ideology was given the blank cheque of the electorate and many of them collaborated with the execution of his murderous plan. Italy too, found their strong man in Mussolini and Spain sought General Franco.

History all too easily repeats itself. In Rome, when the Emperor Nero was facing the anger of his people as a fire swept though the streets, he cleverly blamed the early Christians and suddenly Christian men and women were being torched and thrown to the lions. It wasn't just because people were suspicious of the Christian religion. The conditions for a persecution were already there. The people needed to pin it on someone. They needed someone to blame for their misfortune.

I guess what I am saying is that even though we have so many years of history behind us, will we have learned the lessons if times get really hard? Will we remain in solidarity with each other, or will we look for a scapegoat? Will we stay true to our beliefs that we all have a common humanity or will society turn on the Jews, or the Christians, or the Poles or the Muslims? We now live in a multi-cultural society which prides itself on being such. For so long now, fascism and ethnic hatred have been rightly derided in this country as the scourges of peace and brotherhood that they are.

But if millions of people lose their savings and their livelihoods in the months to come, what hope will they have? If thousands of people lose their homes to repossession, what hope will they have? If the Government uses force to control the rising tide of popular opinion against it, what hope will we have? For us Catholics, and we believe, for all humanity our hope is only in Jesus Christ and His Church. We pray we shall not give in to hatred and emnity with our brothers and sisters should times get hard, for He has given us a new law, "Love one another." Whether we are rich or poor, we know that Love is the only way to serve God, even unto loving our enemies.

This is no longer a country which holds religion dear, even though there are many faith communities who live here. In the absence of faith in God, the temptation for all will be to put their faith in something else, a cause, a leader or an ideology. Yet that temptation will be there for all of us, religious or not. The temptation to give into hatred and lose sight of our values and our common humanity will be there for all of us, religious or not. If that were not true, countries which elected dictators in the recession of the 30s, such as Spain and Italy, which were and still are predominantly Catholic would never have done so. If that were not true, it would not happen so regularly in Latin America.

I hope and pray that not only will the economic troubles be mild, but that if they are not that the strength we are looking for when we are weak, is found in the 'love as strong as death.'

Courageous Commentator Olbermann With his Finger on the Pulse

Monday 15 September 2008

The Debate Continues to Rage

Well, the debate over 'Creationism Vs Science' continues to hot up on BBC. As a Catholic I find this debate so tedious it is spinning my head out. The real confusion is for atheists who purport that just because Sacred Scripture says the World was made in 6 days (and the inference that it all occurred 8,000 years ago) that the author, who was most definitely guided by the Holy Spirit, meant all of this literally. Then, on the other hand, 'Bible Christians' have a few problems in this argument too, because due to their lack of Holy Tradition, they have not understood the full depths of the Book of Genesis, and are reading it literally also. In some ways, you cannot blame the scientists fury!

As any scientist worth his salt would tell you that if the Book of Genesis went into a literal discussion of how the World and the Universe was formed, not only would the Large Hadron Collider have been unnecessary (someone explain to me its necessity!) but the story of Creation would be incredibly, incredibly dull, describing particles, atoms and protons etc.

It is told as a story because only in this context do the spiritual truths of the Creation of the World and Man's place in it make any real sense at all, whether it is recounted to believers or to unbelievers. We Catholics have a healthy respect for science. Scientists clearly don't always have that much a healthy respect for God or Man as demonstrated by their decision to risk creating a small black hole which could turn us all into goo.

On a moral and spiritual basis, how and how long it took is not the point here. We are given an allegory of Creation, that God, out of nothing made everything. We are told that God made the Heavens and the Earth and He saw that it was good. So far, so good. No scientist can disprove this theory! Now at some point, somehow the First Man and the First Woman came into existence. How this occurred, I am happy to leave to the imaginations and studies of scientists, so long as in discovering it, do not turn us into goo. Yet Man is described as 'very good.' In other words, God was thrilled to bits when He created us, evolved or not.

If you are an atheistic scientist, this is where you have to suspend your disbelief for a little while. We Catholics believe that the first Man and first Woman, named in Genesis as Adam and Eve enjoyed intimacy and friendship with God. We are told that the union between them and the Creator was so close that God 'walked with them in the Garden'. The point is that 'in the beginning' everything was perfect. But through their disobedience the human race inherited Original Sin. We Catholics do bang on about Original Sin because it speaks much about the way we are, about the cause of human suffering and the salutary reality of death. This is described as the result of the sin of our first parents. The main point is that in truth the story of Creation is about us. Adam and Eve represent us, men and women today.

I mean, look at the picture and ask yourself if it does not in some way portray our frail human condition.

God looks down, saying, "What have you done?"
Adam (crapping himself) says, "It wasn't me Boss, it was her fault. She tempted me."
Eve looks at the serpent and says, "Well, it wasn't me, the serpent tempted me."
The serpent we assume, says, "It was the err, tree? Look over there its a helicopter!" and probably tries to make a quick get away.

We have no idea whether our first parents really took an apple from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. But that would not be the point. The point the author is making is one about our fallen human nature. This is about why sin came into the World. This is about our moral disobedience, our guilt, our shame and then defiance in the face of our Maker, who of course, speaks to Man in the depths of his Conscience. It is also, of course, about God. In the Catholic Church, we believe that Our Blessed Lord is the New Adam and Our Lady, the Blessed Virgin Mary, is the New Eve. Man, though inheriting a frail, fallen, human nature has been redeemed at a very high cost; the suffering and death of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

You may argue that atheists have to suspend disbelief on the Incarnation, Life, Death, Resurrection and Ascenscion of Christ and the Immaculate Conception and Perpetual Virginity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, as well as her Assumption Body and Soul into Heaven. However, you have to admit, that as far as theology goes, it does hold together better than Higgs Boson and believing in the Catholic Church's Doctrine of Original Sin and the Redemption of the World will never turn you into goo.

Wall Street and the City: "Turn the machines back on!"

Morrissey on How Not to Pray (But we do sympathise, dear man!)

Still Harbouring Dreams of Wedded Bliss...Sigh

This year saw the 40th anniversary of Humane Vitae, the 1968 encyclical by Pope Paul VI to the Church. I have read it and compared to the state of modern relationships (some of which I have been in) it really does make a lot of sense to me.

As a Priest friend of mine recently said, "It isn't easy living in the Garden of Eden after the Fall." How right he is! I suppose that being something of a dandy in bohemian Brighton it would seem strange to many that I should still want to marry. I'm a poor romantic at heart.

I'll be honest with you. I'm a gay man in Brighton and have had gay "experiences". The gay lifestyle seems to be so attractive to many, but I know its a lonely Cross for many others. I suppose that ultimately, I feel that there is something greatly missing from a relationship with a man. To me it feels a bit empty and devoid of real meaning. So, very often, as soon as one looks like it is in the offing I turn off. I can never really escape the feeling that it isn't going anywhere really. That it is sterile or even dead physically and spiritually. Indeed, the best 'relationships' I have are with friends. The most sacred 'relationships' I have don't involve sex at all. As St Paul said, "Love is chaste, love is pure, it is not self-seeking."

Take this passage from Humanae Vitae on Married Love:

This love is above all fully human, a compound of sense and spirit. It is not, then, merely a question of natural instinct or emotional drive. It is also, and above all, an act of the free will, whose trust is such that it is meant not only to survive the joys and sorrows of daily life, but also to grow, so that husband and wife become in a way one heart and one soul, and together attain their human fulfillment.

It is a love which is total—that very special form of personal friendship in which husband and wife generously share everything, allowing no unreasonable exceptions and not thinking solely of their own convenience. Whoever really loves his partner loves not only for what he receives, but loves that partner for the partner's own sake, content to be able to enrich the other with the gift of himself.

Married love is also faithful and exclusive of all other, and this until death. This is how husband and wife understood it on the day on which, fully aware of what they were doing, they freely vowed themselves to one another in marriage. Though this fidelity of husband and wife sometimes presents difficulties, no one has the right to assert that it is impossible; it is, on the contrary, always honorable and meritorious. The example of countless married couples proves not only that fidelity is in accord with the nature of marriage, but also that it is the source of profound and enduring happiness.

Finally, this love is fecund. It is not confined wholly to the loving interchange of husband and wife; it also contrives to go beyond this to bring new life into being. "Marriage and conjugal love are by their nature ordained toward the procreation and education of children. Children are really the supreme gift of marriage and contribute in the highest degree to their parents' welfare." (8)

So my dreams of wedded bliss aren't completely foolish after all?

Show me a rainbow and I will chase it.

Barefoot Walking

I know this is going to sound awfully hippy and new age, but on walking to town to collect my car the other day I had a sudden urge to take off my sandals and walk barefoot. Near where I live there is not much glass on the ground but obviously the closer you get to town the more glass appears as you approach the pubs and clubs.

I must say it does feel strangely liberating and comforting to feel my feet landing on solid ground. Perhaps because there is a lack of solid ground in my life, it compensates! Once you get closer into town it is impossible though, without getting glass stuck in your soles!

When I go to Seville at the weekend I will try it there. I know there is a tradition for pilgrims to walk barefoot as penance when they are visiting a famous shrine or place of pilgrimmage. As well as the obvious decrease in physical comfort enjoyed by the shoe-wearer, I suppose it symbolises a certain nakedness and humility, when you forego the shoe.

Flight of the Conchords is Brilliant

Help! The LHC could still turn us into goo!

Tindersticks II

A couple of evenings ago, I wanted to see one of my favourite bands, Tindersticks. I bought a ticket this week. The venue? St George's Anglican church. I assumed it was to be held in the crypt or something. So I went along, queued up. When I got in, I didn't feel comfortable at all. The stage for the band was on the altar. The pews were full of people awaiting a band. The bar (in the Church) was heaving and in the shadow of a giant and very beautiful crucifix sat the audience, drinking beer and chatting to each other. Now I really admire this band, but I walked out.

I understand that as an Anglican church, Catholics don't believe that the church is fully consecrated and that as such Anglican orders are invalid. But, it is still, or was a house of prayer. In days gone by, how many tears of penitence hit the floor of that church? In days gone by, how many hymns were sung to God? In days gone by, how many prayers were said there and on Sundays they are still.

Yet, whoever is in charge at that Church has allowed the very church itself to be like a nightclub. I thought that the gig, the bar and the lack of any reverence or respect to what that church was built for, was an insult to God, regardless of whether Anglican orders are valid or not.

I love music, I enjoy a good drink (perhaps too much!) but there is a time and a place. Recitals and choral pieces fine, but an indie band and the treatment of a prayerful space as a nightclub are bar are a little much.

Tindersticks I

St Joseph Benedict Labre, Pray for Us

I recently discovered this Saint when reading, 'Reaching for God: Lives of Heroic Virtue,' a rather nice publication I found in Church. I love it when I discover a Saint who I had hitherto not heard of at all and who inspires in me a sudden desire to amend my sinful life. St Benedict Joseph Labre was born in 1748, the eldest of 15 children to a prosperous French shopkeeper, in the village of Amettes, near Boulogne. To cut a long story short, he was considered too sickly and delicate for the Trappist monasteries he wanted to join. Instead he decided to be homeless and live amongst the homeless of Rome, where he settled, having made holy pilgrimmages to Loreto and other holy pilgrimmage sites. He ate herbs, seldom begged and apparently smelt so rough that his Confessors couldn't bear to be near him!

Yet, his Franciscan love of poverty, his love for the poor (to whom he gave anything he had), and his love for the Crucified Christ marked his life and won for him sanctity and true holiness. I often pray to him now, that I may be more like him, but not so much that my parents and friends disown me.

He was known as the 'Poor Man of the Forty Hours' due to his habit of spending whole days in the churches of Rome, where the Blessed Sacrament was exposed in a monstrance for a period of 40 hours. Many would think that his death at the age of 35 a failure of a human life. Yet, he was sickly even when very young and wanted to empty himself and make himself the servant of the poorest, and to be the poorest in union with Christ.

The Saints truly confuse us sometimes! Here is one Saint who demonstrated for us the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. What the World deems as failure is the triumph of the Cross over a worldly death! Here is a Saint who showed us that what rises high in the esteem of men, is often scorned by God, and those who mankind treats as contemptible are most precious in the eyes of God!

St Joseph Benedict Labre, patron of the homeless, pray for all the homeless of Brighton and pray for us that we might shelter them and feed them.

The Pope Who Won't Be Buried

It has been a long time since I have put finger to keyboard to write about our holy Catholic Faith, something I regret, but which I put larg...