Sunday 31 July 2011

Pete Doherty: Hero, Villain or Just Human?

'Bad boy' of Rock: Doherty
After Mass today I visited the local and inside the pub was playing an Amy Winehouse song.  I'm sure it sounds quite naff to say it but it was genuinely sad hearing it in the light of her recent death. It's quite haunting, really.

Her friend, Pete Doherty, has just been released from prison where he had been serving a sentence for possession of crack cocaine. It is worthy of note that both of these figures will, 'worthily' or 'unworthily', go down in rock and roll history, for whatever that hall of fame is worth, but that their names will most likely be synonymous with illegal drugs, self-destruction and will be tinged with public notoriety.

It is highly unusual for rock artists to come in for public criticism nowadays, but society makes an exception for Doherty and did for Winehouse.  The stigma concerning heroin and crack cocaine - and there should be a stigma - has led a great many people, in this post-Christian society, to forget the rule of 'hating the sin' and 'loving the sinner' and whenever a lack of charity abounds about certain people, you can be pretty sure that a great deal of hypocrisy is thrown in for good measure.

For the life of me I can't see why Doherty and Winehouse came and still do come in for such criticism when the world of music is soaked with drugs, illegal drugs at that, copious amounts of booze, narcissism, immorality and self-destruction. What is more, it seems to go back a lot further than just the modern day musicians.  It is said that nobody enjoyed a debauched party quite so much as Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, composer of so much music that still makes the World breathless in awe. While perhaps few of us would present the following names as role models, Kurt Cobain, Jimi Hendrix, the Rolling Stones, the Beatles, the Beach Boys, Oasis and just about any band or musical artist you could care to mention have long histories of drug abuse and self-destructive behaviour which befit the 'rock star' image.

That is why it is so unusual for one or two rock stars to come in for such close attention. More than that, however, is the fact that Doherty has admitted that what he has is a real addiction problem - not necessarily a devil-may-care attitude to life in general. A friend of mine told me today that it is likely that Amy Winehouse died not of a drugs and drink overdose, but of the effects of withdrawal.

Neither is drug abuse rife merely among the artists on the stage.  Both the media and the musical industry which promotes performers have unrivalled access to drugs and a large percentage of those who work in both industries find time in their busy schedules to indulge. Even in the legal profession, which is, certainly in these parts, constantly sending addicts into prison, rehab and the rest, illegal drug abuse is relatively common.  Like I say, there is a great deal of hypocrisy that surrounds the drugs issue.

The reason why I find the scathing criticism of Doherty and Winehouse interesting is because, were they not so talented, or, depending on your view, their rubbish so promoted, then by all accounts both could be living in 17/19 Grand Parade in Brighton, scraping by enough money a week to get a hit, being evicted for not paying their top up fee and ending up on our soup run at St Mary Magdalen's. That, I think, is the real reason why these figures come in for such close attention from the media. Their talent has put them somewhere where the 'right thinking majority' believes they do not belong - and that place is fame.

These people forget, rather conveniently that possibly all of their favourite pop and rock stars have lived lives riddled with sex, drugs and rock and roll. Elton John is wheeled out at Royal events and while we are already aware of his homosexual lifestyle, many of those who love him also forget his earlier years when he was quite plausibly sniffing cocaine like there was no tomorrow. That is how many rock stars live - like there is no tomorrow - and society can condemn that if society wishes, but please, don't have one rule for some rock stars and another rule for others. That is just plain old rank hypocrisy, something particularly condemned and even loathed by Our Blessed Lord.

With all of that said, neither fame nor fortune make Pete Doherty happy and neither did they do any favours  for Amy Winehouse.  Very recently, another body bag was dragged out of 17/19 Grand Parade by the ambulance workers and that is a terrible place to live, an horrific excuse for accommodation. Amy Winehouse's body was removed from a £2.4 million house in London and the result was the same and for similar reasons. It has to be said again and again, as our beloved Holy Father said in his visit to the UK, that neither fame nor fortune can answer the needs of that most mysterious of things - the heart of man. Only Our Lord Jesus Christ can do that and He doesn't force Himself upon us. In our lives we can accept Him, or reject Him, on a daily basis, in our struggles to live a holy life. Hope - that most priceless treasure - is only in Him and happiness is in Him alone. All rock stars have fallen short of the Glory of God, as we have and do. Quite why the media and the general public single out Pete Doherty for closer attention than most, however, I have no idea.

Right. Blog post done. Off for a fag...

Saturday 30 July 2011

From the UK Census to US Body Scanners

Talk about fingers in pies!

I'm an avid reader of Prison Planet and I've just read that Lockheed Martin, who were the boys responsible for the UK Census this year, have been given the $72 million contract for the body scanners now at every major airport in the United States of America.

Isn't it wonderful to see the 'land of the free' living up to its traditions?

It's also so heartening that both the US and the UK will never allow terrorism to 'change our way of life'. We launched those wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to defend freedom, liberty and all those values for which that the West stands and we haven't allowed them to intimidate us. No, siree!

Although Lockheed Martin have all our details in the United Kingdom, we know that these details are safe in their trustworthy hands. We can also rest assured that these body scanners are 100% safe and that the Orwellian measures being applied to US citizens are safe in the hands of this gigantic US arms manufacturer. Just remember folks! "War is peace!"

Friday 29 July 2011

You're Hired! For £2.50 an hour...

My job search continues and I noticed recently that the Jobcentre website has started to advertise a lot of apprenticeships.

The new apprenticeship scheme differs to those of the past, in as much as it is not offered to 16/17 year olds only, but to people of all ages, and so yours truly is invited to apply to become a patisserie chef, an administrator or a joiner and obtain that precious NVQ.

The question(s) is (are)...

Should a 33 year old graduate with a considerable history of employment consider working for £2.50 an hour?

Is this just a convenient way for companies to circumnavigate the minimum wage?

Is this exploitation of the unemployed?

How long does one have to be an apprentice before one is taken on and employed as regular staff with employment rights?

Why did the Government not secure a more decent set of working rights for the new scheme so that it doesn't appear that companies are just setting up a cheap pool of labour in exchange for training?

Click image to enlarge

Thursday 28 July 2011

Bishops of England and Wales Take Heed

Cardinal Antonio Canizare Llovera
Fr Z has posted on the latest utterances of Cardinal Antonio Canizares Llovera and those utterances are well worth reading and re-reading, courtesy of CNA.

'Spanish Cardinal Antonio Canizares Llovera recently recommended that Catholics receive Communion on the tongue, while kneeling.
“It is to simply know that we are before God himself and that He came to us and that we are undeserving,” the prefect of the Vatican's Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments said in an interview with CNA during his visit to Lima, Peru.
The cardinal’s remarks came in response to a question on whether Catholics should receive Communion in the hand or on the tongue.
He recommended that Catholics “receive Communion on the tongue and while kneeling.”
Receiving Communion in this way, the cardinal continued, “is the sign of adoration that needs to be recovered. I think the entire Church needs to receive Communion while kneeling.”
“In fact,” he added, “if one receives while standing, a genuflection or profound bow should be made, and this is not happening.”
“If we trivialize Communion, we trivialize everything, and we cannot lose a moment as important as that of receiving Communion, of recognizing the real presence of Christ there, of the God who is the love above all loves, as we sing in a hymn in Spanish.”
In response to a question about the liturgical abuses that often occur, Cardinal Canizares said they must be “corrected, especially through proper formation: formation for seminarians, for priests, for catechists, for all the Christian faithful.”
Such a formation should ensure that liturgical celebrations take place “in accord with the demands and dignity of the celebration, in accord with the norms of the Church, which is the only way we can authentically celebrate the Eucharist,” he added.
“Bishops have a unique responsibility” in the task of liturgical formation and the correction of abuses, the cardinal said, “and we must not fail to fulfill it, because everything we do to ensure that the Eucharist is celebrated properly will ensure proper participation in the Eucharist.”'

How very encouraging are the Cardinal's words. It is encouraging that the head of the Congregation for Divine Worship should advise that the whole Church needs to receive Our Blessed Lord kneeling and on the tongue. If we do not recognise Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament then we do not recognise our need for Him. If we do not recognise our need for Him then we will certainly not recognise Him. If we recognise neither Him nor our need for Him then how on Earth will He recognise us when He comes in Glory?

9/11 and the Cross

Tim Stanley writes a balanced and thoughtful piece today on the American Atheists lawsuit attempting to take away the Cross that stood poignantly as consolation to all those affected by the atrocity of September 11 in New York.

In the article he highlights that...

'Dave Silverman, head of the American Atheists, called the display a breach of the separation between church and state. He said that the cross “has become a Christian icon. It has been blessed by so-called holy men and presented as a reminder that their god, who couldn’t be bothered to stop the Muslim terrorists or prevent 3,000 people from being killed in his name, cared only enough to bestow upon us some rubble that resembles a cross.”'

Interesting. A couple of things stand out from Silverman's comment.  Firstly, the Cross of Christ has been offensive for a long, long time, so it is not surprising that some people would rather it were banished from Ground Zero. It was St Paul who called it a 'stumbling block to the Jews and folly to the Gentiles.' Secondly, quite what God is meant to do when a group of people decide to fly a couple of airliners into very tall buildings is a mystery. The Lord did, after all, and still does, give us all free will to decide between good and evil, life and death. Anyway, it offends him and his atheist friends and so a lawsuit has been filed to have the offending material taken away.

Aside from this however, one wonders whether these 'American Atheists' would like to see the back of the vast and sprawling usage of masonic symbolism in American life.

Such symbolism is there for all to see on the dollar bill, for instance, and I think I am right in thinking that quite a lot of US companies enjoy using such symbolism on their logos and the like.

'Krafty' folk those Freemasons...Sadly, if Catholics boycotted all masonic foods we'd likely never eat.

Tuesday 26 July 2011

Did Freemasonry Ruin well as Government?

 "Too much capitalism does not mean too many capitalists, but too few capitalists." ~ G.K Chesterton

I, for one, am convinced that a great many local government and perhaps national government contracts are agreed not in the corridors of power, but in the corridors of the masonic lodges of the United Kingdom.

It is strange, for instance, that Brighton and Hove City Council has such a cosy relationship with Baron Homes and KEM Properties, not to mention the Mears Group. Kier Longley is the highest paid supplier to the Council with the omnipresent Mears Group following quickly behind them.

However, on a larger scale I wonder whether it is within the context of the secretive society that spawned the Norwegian mass murderer, that we can see such monopolisation of retail and a great deal of commercial property in terms of Tescos and Sainsburys, as well as local businesses and agencies that are awarded lucrative contracts.

I wonder whether it is freemasonry that has destroyed the essence of capitalism and turned it into a cosy club of friends shaking hands. It sounds silly, but looking at things as objectively as I can, I suspect that I am right. A good barrister friend of mine relatively told me about the various hand gestures and bodily gestures freemasons give in court to judges which often result in more lenient sentences. I wonder how the Norwegian killer will get on in court. Now that his masonic membership is becoming more widely known (not that the mainstream press are reporting it) perhaps the lodges will try and distance themselves from him and do justice to one of their own.

Local Government's Biggest Suppliers

The Openly Local website lists Kier Longley as its most paid supplier, in receipt of average £1.3 million per month. The Mears Group receive on average £1 million per month from Brighton and Hove City Council for their housing, repairs and maintenance services. Westridge Construction Ltd receive just short of £1 million per month for their services to the Council.

For those who have been following George and Diane's story, KEM Properties, who have Brighton's self-contained temporary housing scene so wrapped up that they do not even have need of a website, receive £135,000 a month for their services. It all adds up.  The Baron Homes Corporation Ltd, who own emergency accommodation 17/19 Grand Parade, the emergency housing at Brunswick Square and Windsor Court, receive nearly £100,000 a month from Brighton and Hove City Council for their services. Helgor Trading Ltd, who own Percival Terrace where George and Diane used to live, receive £30,000 a month for their services. These are quite vast sums of money we are talking about here, yet the same companies do not even maintain their own buildings to a barely minimum standard because, as we all know the poor aren't "worthy". They are disgusting places.

How did these companies land such lucrative deals with the Council? Were these contracts discussed in Council chambers or in the local lodge?

For those interested in how the Council recruits and employs its temporary staff (for my sins, I was once one of these staff members) and perhaps some permanent staff, chief beneficiaries of the Council's generous pocket are Carlisle Staffing plc, who receive a whopping £426,000 a month for acting as middle men and women for the Council to employ people and Plan Personnel who receive around £94,000 a month for doing the same. Talk about pouring money down a drain!

For a Council that enjoys spending money like water, they sure don't like to spread it around to too many different contractors. Neither do they make demands of their suppliers that the most vulnerable in their care are treated humanely in tenements which are staffed, clean, healthy and secure. Best to have one or two rogue landlords running the property and recruitment in Brighton and Hove, isn't it?

The question is, just how are these deals made, who clinches them and is the final handshake in the Council buildings or the local masonic temple? We'll never know for sure, of course, but then isn't I guess that is just what a secret society is all about: "You scratch my back, I'll scratch yours."

Smash up Your Televisions...But Watch your Favourite Documentaries First

I know that Dr Joseph Shaw, LMS Chairman, has written a highly commendable and laudable post on our need as Catholics to smash up our televeisions, but every now and then an interesting documentary does emerge from 'Satan's lantern'.

This is a quite fascinating exploration of the economic crash of 2008, about who won and who lost, entitled 'The Super Rich: The Greed Game'. Quite inexplicably, even though the presenter does a good job of explaining hedge funds and the sub-prime mortgage crisis, I still don't understand it, so don't bother explaining it to me either, because I'll never get it. Economics just goes right over my head.

Monday 25 July 2011

Baron Tents Corporation Ltd

George and Diane's shrine at Baron Homes's Windsor Court
"Welcome to Baron Tents, here at Baron Tents we supply only the finest camping equipment to our clients in parks and cemeteries around Brighton and Hove..."

Well. That is George and Diane's situation, except neither The Baron Homes Corporation Ltd or Brighton and Hove City Council provided them with a tent. It was Jason who did that, helping them to pitch up last night with a passer-by and a friend of mine, Mister Paul.

Since George and Diane's eviction from Arundel Court, under KEM Properties ownership, they have been to the absolutely diabolical 17/19 Grand Parade, the Wardleigh Hotel, a bed and breakfast in Eastbourne and had ended up in Windsor Court, which appeared as if it was being used for the set of Les Miserables.

I have, for a few weeks now, being doing my best not to allow my Catholic blog to morph into the George and Diane show, but I have meanwhile been doing what I can to support them - hence less blogging.  As it stands now, Brighton and Hove City Council have abandoned them totally, renouncing their statutory duty to house them and so they are in a local park. George and Diane were assessed to have breached their licence agreement and because the Council "uses KEM properties for all of our self-contained properties in Brighton and Hove," there is nowhere else for them to go. In other words, after they had been barred from KEM Properties, being barred from Baron Homes properties means that there is nowhere for George and Diane. Things have spiralled downwards quickly for them.
Abandoned by the Council: George and Diane

Of course, at the park, park rangers come round to tell them to take their tent down because they cannot stay there. I've reported before how park rangers of the Council do their best to close down any tents in Preston Park, lest the Council have to admit that the homeless problem in Brighton and Hove City Council really is spilling out from houses into streets and parks. I'm sure it doesn't look good for tourists, but ultimately, if the Council has renounced its own duty to house George and Diane then surely the same local authority cannot turn around and tell them they are unable to live in a tent in a park. After all, where are they supposed to go?

I asked Brighton and Hove City Council to produce a letter stating that they had renounced all duty of care to one of their mental health service clients so that I could take it to the local press. I waited a long time only to be told that they will produce it Monday. Today I was busy helping a friend move so I couldn't get that letter. Shame on them, they are cowards! They couldn't even come down from their offices at Priory House or Bartholomew House to confront George and Diane and tell them they were washing their hands of them and that they were on the street! They did it by phone in one of their phone kiosks! Vipers!

And this is what I am seeing a lot of in Brighton and beyond. The prejudice that the poor face is extreme and diabolical in nature, deadly, poisonous and unflinchingly cruel.  In the services, whether it be housing or social services, substance misuse services or whatever, they all hide behind desks and phones in offices. Rarely do they ever step outside of their comfort zone to begin to understand the sufferings of the poor and even more rarely do they lift a finger to help them. They get their paychecks and return to their more comfortable abodes, living off the plight of those who they do not care about.

When George and Diane went to the Wardleigh Hotel, the manager told George and Diane that they "belong in a cardboard box". Nice, eh!? And that is where the Council are placing vulnerable homeless 'clients' just so they can provide these emergency hostel operations with extortionate rates of housing benefits. Yet, even the Wardleigh Hotel cannot compare with the extortion of Baron Homes! The Director, I see from the internet, sold her house in Beverley Hills for $6million before returning back to the United Kingdom. Alright for some isn't it! What vile racketeers they are!

If you would like to help George and Diane in any way, let me know, my email is on the sidebar. Now that the Council have abandoned them to the streets they are considering Scarborough or somewhere else up North. If you can do nothing please pray for them. George can rough it but Diane doesn't belong on the streets or in a tent.

Hyde Martlett Housing Association

Riddled with damp, but the tenant is not "worthy" of help
Today I assisted a friend's move from another town to here who has been given a place to live in Moulscoomb an area on the outskirts of the city. I was terribly shocked to see that in the really rather quaint little cul-de-sac where she had been living, the living conditions of her home.

As you can see from the image left, Hyde Martlett Housing Association managed to do rather nicely out of my friend's housing benefits of £94 a week, but, scandalously, didn't think that the tenant was "worthy" (their words not hers) of having the damp in her house sorted out. Her property stank of damp. She had been sleeping in the front room because her bedroom was so noxious with the stench of damp that she rarely entered it. I could not believe that the Housing Association, Hyde Martlett, had said that they would do something about it when they deemed that she was "worthy" of it, but I believe that it underscores much that I have written about the perceptions of living conditions of those who are most scorned and looked down upon in society.

Hyde Martletts: Available, but not willing to help "unworthy" tenants
The kind of prejudice faced by the poor would be all over the front pages of the press if the same outrageous hypocrisy was levelled at the LGBT community. She, like George, was raised Catholic, though she claims that her Catholicism was beaten out of her by nuns at a convent school when she was young. She has a past of drugs but she is looking forward to "a new chapter" in her life, in Brighton.

She believes that people in Brighton are less judgmental and more open-minded than where she lived. I hadn't the heart to tell her that Brighton is no different. Many of her neighbours loved her and were sad to see her go even though it was obvious she had had many difficulties. A couple of neighbours came out to tell her "good riddance". I hope that Brighton shows her more compassion and kindness that did her neighbourhood, but wherever they go, the very poor will find the same prejudice. It is as old as sin itself, but it is vicious and this vile prejudice should be utterly condemned wherever it is found.

Amy Winehouse RIP

She would have fitted in quite well in Brighton, I think.  I always found it sickening that no matter how talented and inspiring was the music of this woman, many within the press called her and Pete Doherty "scum" and the rest. I always find that the "dregs" are at the bottom of a glass. "Scum" only rises to the top of society, usually the top of newspaper empires, governments, Councils and companies.

Certainly, many souls in Brighton who know what she went through are praying for her because they understand her and have known so many who have died similar deaths in similar circumstances, in alleyways, in hostels, in public lavatories, in 17/19 Grand Parade, in their homes. Whenever I saw pictures of her and her friend Pete Doherty, I thought they appeared much as many of the homelesss appear: lost, broken, desperate, in great afflication and pain - men and women bleeding like unto the pierced side of Our Blessed Saviour. Such souls are usually more honest than most and most who criticise them, much less so and with much more shameful things to hide.

May she and all who die at the hands of drink and drugs find rest in His pierced Heart. May the soul of Amy Winehouse rest in peace.

Saturday 23 July 2011

Norway Atrocity

Masonic murder suspect: Is he York or Scottish Rite?
According to The Daily Telegraph...

'Police officials have also said that the suspect appeared to have posted on websites with Christian fundamentalist tendencies.'

Hmm...Strange because he looks rather like a Freemason to me.

Why is it that Christians, Jews and Muslims have blame placed upon them (or us) for all manner of ills, yet nobody ever blames the Freemasons for anything, despite their malevolent influence on local, national and supranational governments being relatively widely acknowledged?

May God grant rest to the victims of the atrocity in Norway and consolation to their families.

Tuesday 19 July 2011

May the Soul of Bishop Michael Evans Rest in Peace...

It could be you! So don't get cremated...
...and let us hope for the sake of Holy Mother Church that he is not canonised, because, from what I hear, relics of him will be hard to come by.

I really hope he wasn't a Saint. St Francis of Assisi asked to be buried on a rubbish dump because of his great humility and overwhelming conviction of his own unworthiness before God. Taking his opinions into consideration, the Franciscans decided to build a Basillica over his tomb instead.

This sounds a little different, however. The Bishop's decision flies in the face of the Church's tradition. It is extraordinary, if you'll excuse the pun, quite unique, and I find it rather odd that even from the grave, a Bishop should teach something that isn't really analagous with the tradition of the Church. While I had not really heard much about the life of this Shepherd, I am sure he still has many admirers. I hear that he was, for instance, a very loyal defender of human life from conception to natural death. His decision is mysterious and we can't know why he would decide to be cremated, but I find it a little bewildering why a Bishop should teach us from the grave something that goes against our Holy Tradition.

For us, there is something sacred about the body because all Catholics, whether they were great sinners or inspiring Saints, both have been touched by the Divine, by Baptism, by Confirmation, by the Holy Eucharist, by the Sacrament of the Sick and Confession. These things matter. Our Bishops and Priests and even laymen may not be 1st century martyrs, but neither are they pagans. All of our lives, as Catholics, are touched by God, Who breathed His spirit into us and adopted us as His children by virtue of our Baptism. The Church has left us, apparently, with cremation as an option, but, much like the issue of communion standing and in the hand, it is an option.

The Church has left us also with a tradition of what the preferred option - the norm, if you like - really is. Communion in the tongue, kneeling, teaches the reality of Christian belief in the Real Presence. Burial teaches us the reality of Christian Death, in the hope of the Resurrection. Christ was buried and Priests and Bishops are indeed conferred with a special Grace upon their ordination to be Alter Christus. I don't know whether the decision by the Bishop was out of a sense of unworthiness or humility, but I do think that he may have misunderstood the huge, unfathomable dignity and greatness of his Office.

I remember going to Westminster Cathedral recently and being shown around the crypt and touching the tombs of Cardinals Wiseman and Manning. I know very little about their lives. All I know is that they were popular, still popular Cardinals and here their bodies reposed, but to be so close to their remains was special because of their Office and our shared communion with them. Obviously, I know they are both in Heaven because Cardinal Manning said to me, "I don't like how they do things here nowadays."

The Holy Father continues to present us with the Church's norm - Holy Church's preference for us - more so now in times of confusion, scandal and neglect of those mysteries which the Faithful have held as most sacred for generations.  I cannot imagine any Successor of St Peter asking to be burned and Christ Himself has in all things shown us an example for follow, even in His Death and His Burial, but then, this is England and Wales and we do things differently here...right?  Are we going to get to a stage where we have a new Catechism for England and Wales which is different to the Church's Universal one? Do our Bishops see Rome as a "foreign power"? I could go on, but I won't. May the Soul of Bishop Michael Evans and all the Faithful departed rest in peace and may perpetual light shine upon them.

Monday 18 July 2011

Rest in Peace

The man who broke the phone-hacking scandal that today wiped $1 billion off shares in News International, bringing the owner of a huge multinational corporation, senior Government figures, senior police officers, and even the prime minister himself into disrepute was today found dead at his home.

Reports have omitted to mention who found him dead. The neighbour who who knew Mr Hoare 'did not seem himself ' in the weeks running up to his death did not wish to be named. Police say the death is as yet unexplained but it is not being treated as suspcicious. "Move along here, now ladies and gentlemen. There is nothing to see, here." May his soul rest in peace.

Thursday 14 July 2011

The Power of the Press

A young Rupert Murdoch in happier days...
While endeavouring to undertake some investigative journalism myself over the past week, the fruits of which can be seen here, I've also been following the fall-out from the phone hacking scandal at News International.

It is all now becoming quite surreal, with former PM Gordon Brown MP lashing out in only his second Commons speech since he was dumped out of 10 Downing Street to bewail the sins of the news empire. You can't blame him for doing so, since he and his family were affected by News International's corrupt methods of journalistic enquiry, but as others have commented, Brown was only too happy to manipulate the same media with his spin doctors. Parliament itself, thanks to the work of The Telegraph, has been revealed to be no stranger to corruption in the light of the expenses scandal.

For me, the Murdoch saga raises some pretty big questions. How can it be healthy for democracy for one man to own so much of the press and therefore form so much opinion?  The press needs money and it needs a degree of power through its popularity and freedom in order to defend democracy from tyranny, but what is to come of it if it abuses that power?

I read something written by the Evening Standard's editor in which he expressed fears that the phone hacking scandal at News International could engender a rigourous clampdown on the press by the Government. That would be bad news, if you'll excuse the phrase. We are living in strange and dangerous times. Governments are no less corrupt today than they have been in previous generations and the Fourth Estate needs to be safeguarded from the contagion spreading out from News International. Already, the Fourth Estate is highly compromised by its own financial interests and that is a cancerous disease at the heart of what Belloc described as the "official press".

The politicians so easily made or broken by media barons like Murdoch are happily laying into the empire now and it is true to say that every politician fears the huge power and influence of the press, which can now report on matters immediately through its online presence. However, the same does not apply necessarily to unruly, multinational or global barons of another kind who, through their own empires and acquisitions, attempt to gain their own monopolies in their chosen markets.

Every politician feared Murdoch, but how many CEOs feared Murdoch? How many executive directors of huge multinational firms feared the power of Murdoch's empire? I would argue that very few did or indeed, do. Why? Because these are the companies who advertise in Murdoch's pages. I would argue that Murdoch, and indeed every media baron is guilty in some measure of refraining to report on much that is scandalous in society in terms of ownership and misuse of power, because his worst nightmare is that nightmare that has come true for the News of the World - the sudden disappearance of his advertisers. Aside from the phone-hacking scandal, that is what really compromises the empires of press barons and their ability to bring integrity into reporting.

The investigation that I have worked on that can be seen here makes one or two things quite clear. The most unreported abuse of power and the real corruption in society at a local level, in a way that affects individuals lives is that abuse of power by the strong in society and the rich, over the weak, defenceless and poor. That, as well as holding the Executive, the Judiciary and the Parliament to account, is what newspapers should be interested in. Newspapers should defend the weak against the strong, not the strong from the weak. My publication, small as it is, will endeavour to do so. Against all the odds, I believe it will succeed in its objectives because barons do not like it when their abuses of power become public knowledge. The mighty of this World fear the truth from emerging and fear the public reaction when their crimes become apparent.

If anybody would like to help with funding for the latest issues distribution across Brighton, I would like to hear from you. The people of Brighton deserve to know about the scandalous neglect shown to Brighton's most vulnerable. The poor deserve to have the story of their abuse at the hands of the rich and powerful told and the rich and powerful 'barons' of this World, and their Governmental friends, deserve to have their greed and neglect of the poor revealed to the city of Brighton and beyond. Journalists should report the truth and they should do it without fear of what may follow.

Catholic journalists or even newspaper owners, should see their vocation as one that upholds the Catholic faith and defends the truth. That, incidentally, is perhaps the only reason they should be offered a Papal Knighthood. Quite why Rupert Murdoch received one is a mystery upon which Fr Ray Blake has shone some much needed light. Perhaps it is time the Page 3's 21-year-old from Croydon promoting, celebrity gossip, destroyer of reputations and owner of a phone-hacking press empire, Rupert Murdoch, had his Knighthood removed and his anti-Christian empire destroyed, no matter how much money they've given to a Cathedral in LA. Money has never bought virtue or salvation. I can't see how it warrants a Papal Knighthood.

Friday 8 July 2011

Back From Spain

Well, I am back from a small holiday in Spain on the beautiful Costa Blanca, as you may be able to tell from my marginally less pallid complexion than the last time George and I sung. There was no internet at the resort, so I was unable to offer my personal commentary on all affairs Catholic, but actually a week off blogging is quite healthy now and then.

Refreshed from a week of swimming in the sea, drinking Coca Cola, slapping on sun cream, speaking Spanglish to locals and being aghast at the appalling liturgy of Our Lady of the Rosary in La Mata ('Mata' apparently means 'Death' in Spanish, as confirmed by my packet of Marlboro for just 3 euros 50 cents), I am ready once more to cast a glance over Catholic ongoings and have a little rant.

So, let's start with my holiday snaps...

'Open wide the windows of the Church...'
Unfortunately, due to travelling I missed the Feast of SS Peter and Paul (mea culpa) Mass at the local Church but was able to attend the Sunday morning Mass. To the left is a picture of the stained glass of the little Spanish Church which is never open unless there is a Mass. This seems to be quite common in Spain, unlike Italy and actually even Brighton, where some Churches are open during the day.

I found it a little ironic that the windows were open during Mass to let in some 'fresh air' given the interpretations of Vatican II of which we are all aware, but then, it is Spain and as we all know Spain is hot.

The Church is quite pretty, beautified and perhaps rescued by its many statues of Our Blessed Lady, Our Blessed Lord and the Saints. Our Lady of Fatima, Our Lady of Sorrows, Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Our Lady of the Rosary all line the walls on plinths. The question is, what does Our Blessed Lady make of the liturgy? Let's guess!

Aside from the fact that the liturgy was in Spanish, not English or Latin and so therefore was definitely not "my Mass" (if you will excuse the awfully blasphemous connotations of that phrase) I was truly shocked and appalled of Tunbridge Wells by the lack of reverence that the congregation gave to the Blessed Sacrament. Nevermind the fact that the CTS have published a Mass card more or less telling us all to stand to receive Our Blessed Lord, the locals didn't think to kneel at the point where we pray, "Lord, I am not worthy to receive You under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed."  In fact, even at the Consecration itself, there were some men and women still standing.  Even at English Masses that I have attended where the liturgy has been shambolic, the people know to kneel after the Agnus Dei. What has happened to the Spanish? Anyone would have thought it was Spain, not England, in which there was a Reformation.

As you will see from the picture below, pride of place in the Church is dedicated not to Our Lord, who is pushed to the side, but to the Priest himself. That, I felt, was just plain eerie. Take a look at where his chair/throne is...

Yes, that is the very centre of the Church's sanctuary, replete with really rather naff Angels that look like they've been made by the local souvenir shop only just rescued by a glorious Our Lady of the Rosary crowned with twelve stars. Below one of the naff Angels you will see the Tabernacle. At least the Priest did genuflect to Our Lord on his procession at the end.

This seemingly common lack of appreciation for the fact that Christ is truly present in the Holy Eucharist was verified when I was told that at a procession for Corpus Christi on the previous Sunday, whenever the Priest stopped at various 'stations' around the small town to lift up the Monstrance, nobody knelt then either.

You can rest assured that we English do not have a monopoly on terrible ditties written by arch liberals as well. I don't know what hymns the congregation were singing, but while the tunes were similarly naff to our own, it sounded truly dreadful.  I know this is hugely uncharitable but it reminded me of that scene in Gremlins when all the gremlins are singing the theme tune for Snow White in that cinema.

I know I sound like a miserable old git, but I was genuinely surprised by the liturgy and the perhaps near total lack of appreciation by the congregation to the reality of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Recognition and acknowledgement of the Real Presence is not an 'esoteric' thing. It isn't something about which we feel 'holier than thou'. It is just something that Catholics have practised down the ages and it really frightens me that this Mass, and doubtless many other Masses across Spain and Europe, put the Priest and People of God at the centre of the liturgy.  It must be hugely damaging to the Faith of all present.

I can't help thinking that with so much of the liturgy that men and women experience at Mass on Sundays in the West, that the problem with things like the 'Soho Masses' is not that they are 'gay Masses' as such, but that so much emphasis is placed on the particular community that a sense of the truly sacred is all but lost.

Anyway, now that the rant is over, onto those lovely statues. You've got to give the Spanish credit, because they do have beautiful statues and they do love a good procession, making public their Faith to both locals and visitors.  On the Saturday, they made a procession with St Peter (right) dressed in vestments to mark (belatedly or did the Spanish Bishops move it?) the Feast of SS Peter and Paul.

There was also a truly awe-inspiring Ecce Homo statue and a lovely if small St Jude who was dressed in white and pink, which is not a colour I usually associate with the Martyr and Apostle as pictured below.

Apparently the Faith in Spain has taken a real battering since the 1960s.  I know that socialism is a popular ideology there and that the gay rights movement and abortion movement have made considerable gains over the last 20-30 years, but it is hugely sad that some commentators have suggested that Spain is becoming 'nominally Catholic'. I really wondered over the period of the holiday why that should be the case, when in Poland and other predominately Catholic countries the Faith is still going so strong. When I went to Mass at this Church, however, I wondered whether it was not just Spain that was becoming 'nominally Catholic' but the Church itself.  Beautiful statues are a wonderful aid to devotion. Processions are a wonderful demonstration of our Catholic Faith. At the end of the day, however, if liturgy fails to communicate the essential truths of the Faith and people are not led into an appreciation for the sacred mysteries of Faith then it counts for little - because our Faith is really not about those things - it is about an encounter with the Lord Jesus Christ.

George and Diane are coping remarkably well even though they are being shoved from "pillar to post" by the local authority. I have some truly shocking footage of the inside of 17-19 Grand Parade which I will post up in my next blog and I believe it is worthy of attention from the national press. Aside from that the Walsingham Pilgrimage with the LMS is approaching in August and George and Diane are wondering whether they might come. There is also talk of guitars being taken for the journey.

Is there any chance of a discount for the unemployed, I wonder?

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