Monday 30 January 2012

Am I Being Hypercritical?

I know that Catholic Voices's brief is wide because the Church's mission and message affects every aspect of human life and that the project has become...

'...a school of a new Christian humanism; and a laboratory of a new kind of apologetics'...

But I can't help wondering whether the 'Academy' is a being a little complacent in the upcoming battle with the Government.

Don't get me wrong. The Church has plenty to tell the Government and society about Catholic social teaching and how it can be employed to make society more just in the work towards what has become known as the 'common good'. My personal opinion is that markets could possibly be made moral but that rich people who are more influential in the markets than poor people do not want them to be. It's one of the outcomes of Original Sin, as is homosexuality.

And last I heard, the Government wanted to redefine marriage over the next year or two and the 'common good' will, in this area, not be served. If I were leading the Catholic Voices (obviously I'm not trying to usurp anyone's job here - such a venture would never be successful anyway and besides, everyone can tell how shy I am) I would drop the beard-stroking session on whether 'capitalism can be made moral' and stick to your guns on making the Church's position on 'gay marriage' and, indeed, homosexuality in general, 100% crystal clear.

In fact, does anyone have a timeline of when marriage is going to be redefined by the State to contradict the very essense of what the word 'marriage' means? How long do we have until this demolition ball is in full swing? If you know drop me a comment because I'd like to know how much time we have before the Government resets the date of the United Kingdom to year zero.

I know that according to the web page that 'on Monday 5 March there will be a talk on same-sex marriage and the threat to (religious) freedom and that the details of the speaker will be confirmed shortly,' but I personally consider that the 'gay marriage' issue is the hottest issue (literally) of the day, week, month and year and I know I am not the only one.

Of course, the CV project doesn't want to be a 'single issue' organisation, but when it comes to the media, what they want to know is the Catholic Church's position on what is about to unfold in the United Kingdom. The media doesn't give two fig leaves for what the Church in England and Wales says about capitalism. You can tell that because when the Holy Father released 'Caritas in Veritate' you could see tumbleweed blowing past every newspaper's office doors. His Holiness only has to breathe a word about the threat to society from gay marriage and newspapers go wild with frenzied excitement. Let's face it, sex sells, even when the Pope discusses it. Besides which, nearly everyone agrees that banker bonuses in the midst of deep recession are bad. It is on this issue, this threat to 'human ecology' in the words of His Holiness, caused by the legislative onslaught of 'gay marriage' that the Holy Father wishes to see the Church in those countries where it is being considered, spring to life and to action.

Like I say, whether markets can be made moral is an important discussion and perhaps I am being hypercritical, but it just strikes me that the publicity for this Academy talk makes it look like the Church is treating the issue of 'gay marriage' as it might 'capitalism and markets'. It makes it look like we are still discussing it, trying to work out the answer and also, at this time, makes it appear that we are ambivalent as to how things will turn out when Parliament goes into motion on the marriage of two men or two women. It makes it appear that we don't care passionately about marriage, or that the Bishops don't care passionately about marriage. Or maybe not. I just saw it and thought, 'The Government are about to do this and you're talking about that?' Keep talking about this because this is where the fight is going to be! This is not a time for navel-gazing.

Bloggers are peripheral to the media. We are not passive in as much as we blog and communicate through the internet but we are also not so active that we are on BBC or quoted in The Guardian. Among the thousands of words that have been said about the CV project, some nice, some not so nice, has been perhaps lost the sense that all Catholics should want uppermost the success of the Catholic Voices project in communicating the Church's teaching and explaining it to the United Kingdom. Further, I don't know any Catholics who do not want Catholic Voices to be a resounding success. Where I do think some bloggers and the leaders of the CV project might differ is in the interpretation of 'success'.

After all, Catholic Voices are there to represent the whole Church, Bishops, Priests and lay faithful, even His Holiness himself, I guess. What they do over the airwaves over the next year either reflects well on us, the Body of Christ, or not. Also, just a thought. Have Catholic Voices recruited anyone who is willing to talk about the fact that they are both a homosexual person and a Catholic loyal to the Magisterium to defend the Church's position in the media? If you want to give Catholicism a human face, that seems to me like a good idea. Otherwise, you'll be open to the accusation that 'the Church just hates gays'. Anyway, I'm sure Austen's got all bases covered. Finally, if you want to attend Academy sessions, get in there quick, before the Academy 'membership scheme' comes in. Obviously, its not my job to tell Austen Ivereigh how to run Catholic Voices. With all his experience he has far more knowledge of the media than I. But then, if that's true for me, then its must also be true for those bloggers who think they could do John Smeaton's job so much better than John Smeaton with all his experience in the pro-life field.

Liberalism and the Last Chance Saloon

University College London
Life Site News today carries a report that 3/4 of British Christians believe that anti-Christian discrimination, though perhaps a better word is 'sentiment', is on the rise in the United Kingdom.

The same site informs us that the University College of London is to force the UCLU Catholic Society to invite pro-abortion speakers should any pro-lifer give a talk to their Society.

The same site carries a report that in Barcelona, peaceful pro-life demonstrators had insults, food and then rocks thrown at them for demonstrating against abortions being carried out in Catholic hospitals.  In the US, we have news that President Obama is doing all that he can to force the Catholic Church to burn incense to the emperor in a new and more open phase of his administration's desire to silence, divide and then rule the ability of the Catholic Church to proclaim Her faith in Her hospitals and institutions.

We are beginning to see that liberalism's true colours are anything but liberal, but it is also likely that 'we ain't seen nothing yet'. The ongoing spread and rise of liberalism coupled with the State's dominance and frightening control over every sphere of human activity is a one-way road to firstly dividing the Church and then, if She is not pliant, or indeed compliant, crushing Her freedom.

In the US, only an orthodox-believing Catholic president will be able to reverse the tide. It is unlikely the Republican party will elect Rick Santorum or Newt Gingrich. In continental Europe, hopes that traditionally Catholic nations would defend the institution of the family and marriage, or defend the unborn child and the freedom of the Church are proving ill-founded, aside from Eastern European states such as Poland and, as Fr Tim Finigan reports, Hungary. 

And without wishing to state the blatantly obvious, liberalism's dictatorship is grotesquely unjust. This is not least because the Catholic Church has, in Europe and the United States, as well as the United Kingdom, been the 'salt of the earth' for those nations. In all of these nations, the Catholic Church has provided for those countries relief to the poor in terms of soup runs, soup kitchens and organisations working within communities, doing the kinds of things the State would never dream of doing.

The Church has also provided schools which give education to children - and not all of these children, as we know, are Catholics. The Church has provided hospitals and hospices which have cared for and treated hundreds of thousands of people. Yet, the huge benefit that Church-owned institutions have brought to the Western states is not the only reason why forcing them to go against the Church's own teachings is unjust.

After all, here in the United Kingdom, the Catholic Church continues to be relatively mute concerning the raft of legislative insults to the Christian Faith that this country has seen, even to the point of allowing the State to bring its own liberal ideology into Catholic schools.

In the UK, the Church has been worryingly compliant with Government. Dr John Senatmu's recent defense of marriage was more impressive than anything we have yet heard from the Hierarchy of the Catholic Church in England and Wales. How refreshing it was to hear that he believes that the truth about natural marriage is more important than wanting to be 'popular'. We hear little from the Hierarchy in terms of defending the unborn or against human embryonic research. We hear a lot about the danger of cuts to welfare, but little on the right to life. Bishops here are not in the habit of speaking out in ways which embarrass the Government and even when they do, it might have been from a speech from Ed Miliband. In the US, more Bishops are becoming bolder but that is because the Government is removing freedom and liberty from Catholic institutions.

By and large, although liberalism has become the adopted, default position of most Western states, the Church has tried to maintain moral standards in Her own institutions, but has by no means given the Governments of the West a particularly difficult time over its immoral decisions concerning human society.

This is because although the Church has authority over its own institutions, She cannot force adherence to the moral law upon the rest of society. The Church shows a great deal of tolerance, even towards those things which are morally evil. The Church does not, nor cannot, force societies or Governments to accept the Gospel. The Church also understands that her own members too are in need of forgiveness and purification and that there is plenty of sin to be found in the Church itself.

Yet, in the US, and surely over the next few years in Europe and the UK as well, the Church will come under renewed pressure to accept in Her own institutions that which goes against what She believes in terms of both the natural law and the law of Almighty God. The Church forces nobody to believe. Like God, She leaves to men and women within and without the Church free will in choosing God and true freedom, or sin and slavery. The liberal State, however, cannot tolerate those who contradict liberalism. Liberalism, by its very nature, is aggressive. It cannot tolerate 'dissent'. It cannot abide the opposing viewpoint and it sure as heck cannot tolerate Christianity for long. Eventually, it throttles those who are not convinced by its own very arbitrary and narrow definition of freedom.

While in Spain (and England, we are told) Catholic hospitals are only too willing to forget their founders' moral convictions and provide abortions, abortion referrals and abortifacients, in the United States, the power of the Executive arm of Government is forcing Catholic hospitals to go against the conscience of its own workers, benefactors and the Church which laid those hospitals foundations and maintains them. How long before that becomes the situation in Europe and the United Kingdom? How would our Bishops react when, after all the back-room negotiations, consultations and social gatherings, the State decided that the drinks were nice, the chats were friendly, but it is now time to force the Church to do those things that She does not want to? We still have conscience clauses, I believe, for health workers in the United Kingdom. These clauses are, I believe, on their last legs.

Since liberalism began its open assault on the Church in the 1960s, the Church has been nothing but kind to the State and to those who really are Her sworn enemies. Undoubtedly, in some countries, such as ours, the Church has been 'too kind' to these enemies. In the United States, we are beginning to see that co-operation and kindness means nothing to those who seek to destroy the Church. To liberals, kindness is a weakness of which to be taken advantage. Sadly, it will not take too long for the doctrinaire liberalism, the inquisitorial liberalism of President Obama, to be adopted in Europe and the United Kingdom as well. Freedom to worship means nothing if Catholics do not have the freedom to live according to our consciences. I hope and pray that the Bishops do not discover too late that the niceties of dialogue with liberal Governments means nothing and that your freedom to worship means little, when the State removes your right to live according to your sacred Conscience.

Sunday 29 January 2012

Tabula Delenda Est!

Thanks to my friend Lawrence who played harmonica on this song and to the Blessed Virgin and the Saints who inspired me. If you like it then Gloria Patri et Filio et Spiritui Sancto, sicut erat in principio et in saecula saeculorum. Amen. If you don't then, sorry. I chose a car park for recording because the acoustics are good and we are the Catholic underground.

Tabula Delenda Est

Well I walked into the Mother Church of England and Wales
To light a candle, say some prayers and confess
Took a stroll around and found a magazine
Enigmatically titled, ‘The Tablet’

So I read a couple of the articles and the more that I read,
The more it dawned on me this mag once had Catholic zeal
Now its a vehicle for dissent
So I said:

‘Tabula Delenda est!’
Now I know why so few Catholics genuflect
They're so comatosed by this infernal, liberal journal
They don’t believe in the Real Presence

‘Tabula delenda est’
The barely beating heart of the Catholic Establishment
Surely its days are numbered
If their faith is so encumbered by liberalism’s foul-smelling stench

Domine exaudi orationem meam
Et clamor meus ad te veniat
When will the axe fall upon this moribund magazine
And its liberal editrix?

No subject is taboo, no line can be drawn
Nothing's sacred, no Teaching unchallenged
And if you dare to tell them they’re writing into oblivion
They’ll say you’re a fundamentalist

Tabula delenda est!
The intelligensia ain't that intelligent
 Because they’re losing readers by the weeks, months, years
And its obvious they’re best years are spent

Tabula delenda est!
And we wonder where all of the Catholics went
They either lapsed or died of boredom readin' this nauseatin'
Excuse for the Catholic press!

An insult to the energy Cardinal Vaughan spent
On a Catholic journal called The Tablet
That would explain Catholicism rather than end up in schism
That would be loyal to Christ to the end

Now we get articles by Bobby Mickens wishing that our
 Beloved Pope was dead
But who'll be Bobby’s successor?
And who's a rank outsider?
Have a word with Archbishop Vincent

Living proof for the Doctrine of Original Sin
But at least in Adam and Eve’s defence
Although they picked from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil
At least they knew the difference
More than we can say for…

Tabula delenda est!
The barely beating heart of the Catholic Establishment
When will the Archbishop of Westminster tell Catherine Pepinster
 She's non dignus of her monthly pay cheque

Tabula delenda est!
What kind of Catholic does this weekly represent?
Not the ones who adhere to the Magisterium
 You'll find them all on the internet

Tabula delenda est!
Are you wondering where all of the Catholics went?
Their faith collapsed, possibly, when they swallowed the Suppository
 Implausibly, bitter Tablet

Tabula delenda est!
Why not consider reading the Herald instead?
The Pill's dwindling readership's still cryin’ over Humanae Vitae
So they read The Tablet

Tabula delenda est!
Let's burn copies of The Tablet 'til there's no Tablets left
And then return to the Church to adore Our Blessed Lord
In the Most Holy Sacrament

Tabula delenda 
Tabula delenda
Tabula delenda est! 

Tabula delenda
Tabula delenda
Tabula delenda est!

Why Do They Keep Banking?

Daniel Knowles today writes...

'Since starting at RBS in 2008, Mr Hester has been paid something like £4.8 million in basic pay, before we even consider his bonuses. Surely he has something better to do with all that money than carrying on working as a banker?'

I think I'd consider retiring after £4.8 million as well, but then I guess I don't have the Protestant work ethic.

The Church does provide us with an actual answer to the question of why no amount of money is ever enough for Mr Hester, but it would be uncharitable to say it. Sorry, I should correct that. It's not just any money. It's your money. RBS was bailed out by the taxpayer in the financial crisis. We must keep reminding ourselves that the economic crisis was caused by men and women on disabled living allowance in council estates. I need to fix my van and start a small business. Any chance of a loan, Mr Hester? No? Thought not. You see, no amount of money is ever enough for these guys. Also, important to remember that the huge welfare bill is the fault of those claiming housing benefit. It has nothing at all to do with the rent prices themselves, which are by no means inflated by landlords asking for £170 a week for a 1 bed flat in Brighton in which you can barely swing a cat. That's just the 'market rate', much like there exists a 'market rate' for Mr Hester.

Christian Art for Sale in Brighton

I went for a walk (I nearly typed a welk) in Brighton yesterday and popped into an artists shop where he sells his art. He's called Daniel Laurence and one thing that I liked was his Psalm typography which he has put onto canvas. The one in his shop is quite large. You can see his website here. The Psalm typography is simple but very pretty I think. I asked whether he would like to use the Community Centre as a place to promote his art (a donation) or he could sell it there, like they do in pubs with a price tag and the name of the artist. He said he was open to the suggestion. I don't know whether its a bit Protestant to have stuff like this up in the community centre or not, but I just thought the simplicity of it was quite beautiful. Perhaps he could do one in Latin! I know that the AA group that meets has a serenity prayer. A nice big psalm would be nice for them as the whole premise of the AA thing is that people seek the help of a 'higher power' to overcome addiction to alcohol. Anyway, I thought I'd just post it up because I told Daniel that it was "unusual" to see any Christian art in "Godless" Brighton and that it was nice to see that faith in the art world was not totally dead. Nice chap and it seems he is selling these things at reasonable prices.

Thursday 26 January 2012

The Gambler

With President Obama making his intentions for religious freedom, especially for the Catholic Church in the US, abundantly clear, the question is, has he overplayed his hand, or revealed his hand too early?

In the United Kingdom, the Labour Party always cosied up to the Catholic voters up North just in time for the election. Once in office of course, they'd behave as if the Catholic vote was toilet paper, but strategically, you would call this sound politics.

It seems as if President Obama is gambling on the sentiment in the US being virulently pro-abortion and gay marriage, even to the point of declaring war on the Catholic Church. His plans, in the run up to the election, have drawn criticism even from Bishops and Priests hitherto seen as incredibly liberal and friendly to the administration. Though I dare say there is a culture shift going on still in America towards sex, sexuality, marriage and abortion, a lot of Americans are very frightened of the federal government removing liberty from States, Churches or anyone apart from terrorists. Has he misread the American public? Does he not understand the American psyche or soul or has America turned the page on religious freedom? And if the American public care about the issue will there be a Republican candidate like Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich or even Ron Paul, who will stand up to the Obama plan? I expect the Republican party to elect Mitt Romney, lose the election and hand over the Executive to a rabid enemy of liberty and the Church for another four years. If that happens, America will most likely crumble and fall one way or another.

Catholic Voices Poll

I have a Twitter account but I don't want to get involved in the incessant online tit-for-tat that I see flying between various Catholic Voices and various Catholic bloggers who are not in Catholic Voices and who tweet about it a great deal.

I'm sure readers are aware that I'm generally suspicious of any activity organised by Austen Ivereigh, but I'm not going to go on a massive rant about it and prejudice is always ugly. The mud slinging on Twitter is ugly, but I get the feeling that what is being fought over is truth, or the Truth. Even the great Councils of the Church have seen strong disagreements over the truth. The difference is that in the Councils the victors emerge in the end and something is definitely settled. I won't go on.

However, I do wonder what UK Catholics familiar with the blogs think about the project and especially with regard to the involvement of a number of Catholic bloggers. On Twitter the accusation that I see banded around is that Austen Ivereigh saw the Catholic blogs as a problem and now some bloggers have got involved in the project something has changed and critics see those bloggers as having been co-opted by the Catholic Establishment. I'm interested in how readers of this blog would answer the poll question in the sidebar. Comments on this post are closed. If you want to comment, comment in the poll. There's an error in the question title with overuse of the word 'have'...apologies for that. You get the gist.

Monday 23 January 2012

For Those Unsure of What's Down the Road...

"You are looking for Gay Marriage Avenue. For Gay Marriage Avenue turn left onto Cockspur Street. Go forward for 500 metres to...Whitehall. You have arrived at your destination. For Civil Partnerships Lane, Blessington, go 4 kilometres west to...Soho. For Care Pathway go to...Liverpool Street..."

Sunday 22 January 2012

Abortion Ads II

'You want it, you want it, you want it, you want it, you want it, you want it, you want it, you want it!'

'You don't want it, you don't want it, you don't want it, you don't want it, you don't want it, you don't want it, you don't want it, you don't want it...let us kill it!'


If you want to know why these adverts are in the pipeline, then remember that in 2009, according to the BPAS, there was a 3.2% fall in abortions in the United Kingdom. In 2010, there was a slight rise of 0.3%, but, that is a rise presumably of the drop of the previous year. Last year's stats are yet to be published, but perhaps there is a sense of alarm in abortion clinics that 'business' is not thriving as well as it did and therefore revenue is dropping. Why do companies advertise again? In the hope of bolstering revenue is the answer. Which celebrities are going to come forward to endorse their advertising campaign? If they can't find anyone to endorse it, the question is...why not, I wonder?

Saturday 21 January 2012

Abortion Ads

Advertising works on the central premise that certain techniques employed in the media can persuade you to buy something or influence you to believe that you want something.

So, for example, Lynx are famous for selling their brand of deodorants because men want sex. 'Buy Lynx, get sex!' is the message.
Abortion adverts, on the other hand are trying to persuade the target audience that they do not want something. That 'thing' is, of course, a baby.

Marie Stopes and BPAS are charities, you could object, and so charities do not sell 'products'. No, what charities do is they try to persuade people to give money to help people in need.

Notice that what Marie Stopes and BPAS are doing falls into neither of the above categories. They are neither offering a product because people want it or desire it (it is the baby in their womb they do not want, they do not want the 'product' itself), nor are they asking people to donate to a good cause such as feeding the starving in the Horn of Africa.

You could object, then...

'Well, do not people buy pain relief tablets from companies because they do not want a headache or backache?' 

That would be a valid objection except for the fact that these are not charities, they are companies, so Marie Stopes and BPAS should not be given chartitable status on these grounds. Not to mention the fact that those objectors would be giving equivalence to a headache or a backache that the audience do not want and a baby that the audience do not want.

You could then object...

 'Well, what about BUPA?' 

They offer health cover and none of us want to be unhealthy, we just need health cover. That is true, but then BUPA are a company, not a charity. Secondly, they are selling their product or service because even though none of us want to be unhealthy, BUPA are offering us health cover. We don't want to be unhealthy, but we do want health. It is a positive. It is something we want - health cover. None of this can be said for abortion, since what is not wanted is not health in this instance, but the desire is instead a negative. The desire is: 'I do not want...a baby'. Marie Stopes and BPAS are there to help you not have something - a baby. That said, just because that is the case it does not mean that their advertising will not be effective in terms of generating 'business'. After all, 'business' is what they are interested in.

The objection could then be raised...

'Ah, but I go with BUPA because I do not want this illness, this disease or this cancer.' 

Well, BUPA may be able to cure an illness or a disease or a cancer, or they may not be able to at all. They may be able only to offer you nursing in an illness, rather than cure it and they will provide a better service than the NHS, but are we then saying that a baby is an illness, that a baby is a disease, or a pregnancy a cancer? Why then, is for everyone a cancer a cancer, but to some a baby is a joyful arrival, but others a disaster waiting in the wings? I've never heard anyone leap for joy on the news that they have cancer.

The next objection could be:

'Well, women just need abortions.' 

That is not true. We're not talking about toilet paper or sanitary towels here. They are objective needs or necessities. Some women who are pregnant believe they need an abortion for numerous and varied reasons, none of which are morally justifiable. If a woman needs a heart transplant a doctor can examine and assess that woman and assess the need for a transplant. Objectively, there may be a need to preserve life. An abortion on the other hand is an action taken by a nurse or doctor according to what the patient believes she needs, or rather, does not want or need - a baby. Whatever you believe the unborn child to be, it is not a tumour.

Finally, the objection to be raised would surely be:

'Well, who said there were any rules to advertising?' 

Well, if that is the case, then why bother with a Broadcast Committee of Advertising Practice (BCAP) and the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP)? If there really are no rules to advertising, then may I suggest that these two committees are scrapped within the next year?

I know how chomping at the bit Catholic Voices and the Bishops Conference of England and Wales are about this and even though the above are the thoughts of a poor simpleton, either are most welcome to employ these arguments in their forthcoming robust media defense of the unborn and of the Catholic Faith.

And I know Durex advertise condoms because people don't want babies or STIs. The Catholic Church does not support condom adverts either.  This is not because the Catholic Church believes that STIs are good. The Catholic Church believes that STIs are prevented through chastity or a monogamous, exclusive sexual relationship in marriage between a man and a woman. The Church's position is that if you do not want a baby so much that you find yourself using a condom in order to prevent conception, then do not have sex, since the sexual act between a man and a woman is by its nature ordered towards both union ("the two have become one flesh") and procreation ("Go forth and multiply"). Pardoxically, I believe, the Church's position is that if you do not want children and you are married and reject co-operating in God's creation of new life then you are thwarting God's good purpose to create new life ("Go forth and multiply"). The difficulty in the Church's teaching for all of us (nobody said the teaching was easy) centres around what we want and what God wants and us either accepting or rejecting God's will with His grace.*

* On this last paragraph, I am totally open to being corrected by those faithful to the Magisterium of Holy Church. What a minefield!

"Literally Unconscionable"

Cardinal-elect Timothy Dolan of the Archdiocese of New York
Beware, readers, this post contains strong language which some reader may find offensive.

The US Cardinal-elect Timothy Dolan has condemned as "literally unconsionable" President Barack Obama's plan to force religious institutions to comply with the Government's birth control bill by 2013. Obama, eh. He's not the Antichrist, he's just a very naughty boy!

In other news, Fr Ray Blake of St Mary Magdalen Church, Brighton, has condemned the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) and the Broadcast Committee of Advertising Practice (BCAP) who are, in his words, 'to allow abortionists to advertise tearing a child limb from limb in its mother's womb on television and radio.'

Strong language, indeed - uncompromising, hard-hitting, Catholic, truth. But if you think that is hard-hitting, wait until our Bishops fight back against the news that abortion ads on TV are going to be as acceptable to the viewing public as Persil ads or the news that the Wellcome Trust are pouring £600 million pounds into 3-way biological parenting out of human existence mitochondria DNA disordered embryos. Tom Chivers clearly thinks that when Dr Josef Mengele tried this kind of experimentation on children he was insanely evil, but when modern day scientists do this on embryos, well, they're not human so it doesn't matter. Mr Chivers may not think so, but to our Bishops this is moral evil and they are most certainly not afraid to speak out!

Oh yes! Watch out BCAP! Watch out! Our Bishops are onto you and any minute now either they or the Catholic Voices team are going to be so angry that they're going to say something very, very obliquely nuanced that is going to leave both you and the Catholic faithful feeling both a little deflated and more than a little confused! For the Bishops not to speak out against such evil is surely "literally unconscionable".

In other news, the 'Magic Circle' is said to be in disarray after Paul Daniels cut his finger off with a circular saw when a recent trick went awry. Catholic commentators suggest that now could be the time for the Holy Father to seize the moment while the circle is impaired.

The Kids

For years the Church has been trying to get down with the kids...

Now is the time for the Church to take the kids up to Heaven.

Friday 20 January 2012

Funny How Times Change...

Fr Ray Blake has picked up on Fr Alexander Lucie-Smith's post for The Catholic Herald on the Crusades. Apparently, this new BBC series is not as concerned with 'black legend' as previous attempts by the mass media to portray or rather distort the hisstory of the Crusades.

Unlike the recent war in Iraq, the Crusades began in defense of the Holy Places and the Chrisitian pilgrims. In Iraq, on the other hand, Christians are fleeing in their thousands in the wake of 'democratisation', which leads us nicely onto a local charity working from St Mary Magdalen.

This afternoon we had Brighton Voices in Exile in the parish community centre. Funny how times change. The Voices in Exile charity gives food, advice and practical assistance to asylum seekers from various parts of the World.

Most if not all have no access to the state benefits system and many are trying to appeal against their ordered expulsion from the United Kingdom. Whatever you read in The Daily Mail, it isn't the whole story. Voices in Exile this afternoon hosted a meal for their voices. Obviously, given that they are asylum seekers, many destitute, BVIE have a high proportion of peole from Africa and the Middle East, so there is a real mixture of religions going on there - a veritable melting pot. Possibly the majority are Muslims, some are Catholic, some are Coptic and some evangelical Christians, a minority of atheists/agonistics I guess. I expect it is quite diverse. War is over, at least in Brighton, and it seems that a Catholic Church is at the heart of reaching out to all in need, regardless of whether they are Muslim or Christian. I think the Holy Father would be glad to see St Mary Magdalen hosting some really quite generous caritas in veritate.

I've got some spare time on my hands, as readers know, and so I'm planning to dedicate some time to brightening the centre up with flowers, soft lighting and nice pictures on the wall. Looking at it from the angle of someone wanting to hire a space, it looks terribly austere. I know what you're thinking. Alright, maybe some cushions, as well and a small low maintenance fish tank. It would be nice to make the place feel more homely and welcoming. I'm planning to do an Adult Teaching in the Lifelong Learning Sector course (another course) and who knows, maybe one day I can hire out the community hall myself and do some teaching. The Voices today said that they appreciate the fact that the centre is starting to look a little more warm and welcoming and the heating was even on today thanks be to God and boiler repair man. In the Middle Ages the Church was at war with Muslims. Now, we are feeding them in our community centres. Funny how times change...

There is much to celebrate this year at St Mary Magdalen's, as not only has Fr Blake received the great news that Mother Riccarda's cause is going very well indeed, but also we have celebrations to mark the 150th anniversary of the opening of St Mary Magdalen Church in 1862, so I am hoping that the community centre will host some parish events this year too. Say a prayer for the parish community centre that it serves Christ and the community to the Glory of God and say a prayer for the Voices.

Catholic Herald Morning Must Read

William Oddie has written a piece for The Catholic Herald suggesting that despite his unwavering belief that conspiracies have no place in the Catholic Church, he is starting to wonder why the US Ordinariate of the Chair of St Peter has been given a Church from which to build their mission, yet the English counterpart, the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, is still awaiting a Church headquarters.

Who knows what's down the road for the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham? Well, unless as Oddie suggests, Rome takes action, the answer is...roadkill! It would be nice if down the road was a Church for the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham but hey...accidents will happen!

Thursday 19 January 2012

'Greater Love Hath No Man Than This...'

Tom Chivers today adds his contribution to the growing press commentary on the Costa Concordia cruise liner disaster off the coast of Italy.

In his article, Tom tries (pretty desperately in my opinion) to argue that a captain of a ship leaving his passengers to their fate and dashing into the nearest lifeboat is in-keeping with evolutionary thought. But equally, Tom argues that bravery and self-sacrifice is also.

I'm not going to be the first to cast a rock at the cruise liner's now publicly humiliated and presumably rather guilt-ridden captain, since my actions were I in his position would depend upon whether I was open to the grace of God on that day, or indeed not. I'd like to think I would man up and 'face the music', so to speak, but with human nature as it is, I simply don't know whether I'd step up to the plate and put the needs of my passengers first.

The difference between the actions of the Titanic's captain and the captain of the Costa Concordia in response to a huge emergency involving life-saving and self-sacrificial behaviour is, I guess, not so much because we live in an age in which Christianity is sinking, but because what Christianity brought with it is disappearing. We do not know the personal faith of the captain of the Titanic. All we do know is that his was an age of duty. Presumably, he would not have thought of abandoning his ship and passengers because it was an age in which duty was a fundamental part of being a member of society. It was duty that led men to fight World Wars and it was duty that led captains to go down with their ships with bravery. To them, to be known as the captain who abandoned his passengers would be a fate worse than death itself.

Tom argues that bravery, courage and self-sacrifice can be evolutionary traits in mankind. There is, however, no getting past the fact that evolutionary thought does place 'survival of the fittest' at the top of man's all-round agenda. Tom spends plenty of time in his article considering whether Darwinian thought and self-sacrifice are as incompatible as one would first think. He spends far less time wondering whether Darwinian thought in this case has the vagaries of human nature down to a tee. The captain of the ship was only doing what modern man, stripped of the chief civilising cultural force of Western societies would do: save himself because the rights of the self are the rights that matter the most and to hell with all the others. Readers could say, 'You can't blame today's society for this man's actions. He alone is culpable!'. Possibly not, we are all individually accountable for our actions, indeed, but today's society hardly helps the cause of selflessness, does it?

I've been reading Caroline Farrow's blogposts on the joys and difficult hardships of pregnancy and it really rams home the crux of the abortion debate, not only because a lot of men and women do not understand just how demanding upon the self pregnancy can be (information which BPAS and Marie Stopes are doubtlessly all too willing to avail to clients), but because it takes real guts, courage and self-sacrifice to place the needs of the child in the womb and outside of the womb first. Similarly, in a bygone age, abortion was culturally unthinkable. Today it still carries stigma despite its legality, but the duty of motherhood, the duty itself, has been eroded and perhaps destroyed and replaced with an ideology of personal rights that trump duty on a societal level every time. That's just one of the reasons why abortion is so destructive.

We can see this also in the arguments of the pro-gay marriage cause. The 'right' to gay marriage must be defended and promoted because this 'right' destroys the duty of all to defend natural marriage between a man and a woman with the desire to bring into their family and human society, new life. Without families society implodes, dies, becomes sterile and is bound for destruction. The Holy Father has recently said as much. We can even say that at the time when the Titanic sank, if a man got a woman pregnant, he would be encouraged by his family to marry her and if he didn't then he had neglected his duty. Nowadays, he would be ticked off because he had neglected his 'duty' to wear a condom (which might just break anyway).

It would be nice to think that the captain of the ship, had he been a faithful Catholic, would remain on board because of his faith ('the first shall be last', 'greater love hath no man than this' etc) but we know from our own lives and the lives of even the Saints that we are perfectly capable of denying Our Lord, once, twice, even thrice and of betraying Him. No, the difference is that we are now in the age of rights and personal freedom and if we have 'evolved' in the last 50 years then we have 'evolved' out of the age of duty. Presumably, the manufacturers of both cruise liners did not believe either iceberg or rock could 'sink the unsinkable'. What the modern makers of the Costa Concordia might not have considered is that the new age of unbridled personal freedom leads us men, capable of moments of great bravery and ghastly cowardice to 'think the unthinkable'.

We can only assume that the reason why the Western societies are throwing Christianity out of the pram is because the law and love of God requires us to place restrictions upon our own personal freedoms, to distrust our own self-generated impulses and, with His grace, to freely choose God and the service of others, above or instead of self. Now that these societies have thrown Christianity out of the pram, what is it left with?  The answer is the Costa Concordia and a captain abandoning his passengers to their watery fate. May the souls of all who have died in the sea disaster rest in peace and the captain find forgiveness and peace from the Lord. As for Tom Chivers's article...Well Tom, I must say I disagree. The captain, in Darwinian terms, was only doing his evolutionary 'duty'.

I Missed This...

I missed this lecture by Archibishop Vincent Nichols, hosted by The Tablet, in October last year. I found it on The Tablet's website.

I'd never seen or heard the Editor of the dissident organ before. Nice to be able to put a face to a name. The lecture itself is worth a listen, but is it right for such a dissenting magazine to be given this endorsement from England and Wales's highest ranking Bishop?

The lecture was called 'Holiness Today: The Formation of the Human Heart'.

Tuesday 17 January 2012


Apparently the Latin word 'fundamentum',  translates into English as the word, 'foundation'. I find it quite interesting that the translation is 'foundation' because once you think about it, it starts to make sense why Catholics loyal to the Pope and the Magisterium are called 'fundamentalists'.

We are loyal to our foundations. The foundations of the Church were laid by Christ on the Rock of St Peter and were built on century by century by Peter's successors and the successors of the Apostles. It ties in with the sense of continuity that the Holy Father is trying to build on the foundations of those who preceded him. So, being a 'Catholic fundamentalist' shouldn't be so terrible. It means that you believe in the foundations, the continuity and the Holy Tradition of the Church.

You could argue that as 'Catholic fundamentalists' we are only being faithful to our foundations if we say that sacred music didn't arrive in 1960s and say that we believe the Holy Father is right when he says that Mass being celebrated facing East makes liturgical sense. 'Protestant fundamentalists' with their theology steeped in Reformation thought are being loyal to their foundations. 'Islamic fundamentalists' who wage war and murder in the name of Islam, really, are only being loyal to their foundations too. Religious fundamentalism is a dirty phrase today, but it really depends on your foundations. The countless martyrs of the Church tell us that when they faced shedding their own blood for Christ and His Church, they were being loyal to their foundations. I think that's as loyal to your foundations as you possibly can be.

Monday 16 January 2012

Great News

The Telegraph reports...

'A file on Mother Riccarda Beauchamp Hambrough has been sent to the Vatican to be studied by historians and theologians. Her cause for sainthood was opened in July 2010 by the Diocese of Rome along with that of Sister Katherine Flanagan, marking the first phase of the investigations.

In a significant development, the causes of both women have together been sent to the Holy See’s Congregation of Causes for Sainthood, marking a significant, but early, step forward in the long road to becoming saints.

If it is concluded that the pair lived lives of “heroic virtue”, the Pope will declare the London-born nuns to be “Venerable” and the search will begin for two miracles to first declare them Blessed and then saints.

Both nuns belonged to a revived order of Bridgettine sisters nicknamed “the hot cross bun nuns” because of the distinctive crosses covering the tops of their wimples. Mother Riccarda helped to save the lives of about 60 Jews by hiding them from the Nazis in her Rome convent, the Casa di Santa Brigida.

She was born in 1887 and was baptised in St Mary Magdalene’s Church, Brighton, at the age of four years after her parents converted to the Catholic faith.

Yesterday Father Ray Blake, the parish priest of St Mary’s welcomed the progress of her cause. “I think it is fantastic,” he said. “Here is Brighton we are following her cause with great enthusiasm and see her very much as our local saint. When I tell people at Mass that that her cause is going forward I’m sure that they will be overjoyed.”

While Mother Riccarda spent most of her life in Rome, eventually becoming the head of the order, Sister Katherine was at the forefront of efforts to open Bridgettine convents around the world some 400 years after the Reformation nearly wiped out the order.

Judith Whitehead, a niece of Sister Katherine, said she was astonished that the first phase had concluded so quickly. “I am surprised that it has moved to the next stage in my lifetime,” said Mrs Whitehead, 73, of Shaftesbury, Dorset, who had given evidence to the initial inquiry. “I thought that the progression of looking into her life would take about 10 years,” she said. “It is amazing to have someone in your family who was so revered by everybody … the Bridgettines obviously think that she is going to become a saint.”

Father John Henry, the parish priest of St Gregory’s Church, Earlsfield, south London, where Sister Katherine was baptised, said: “To have a possible saint from the parish is wonderful.” Born Florence Catherine in Clerkenwell in 1892, Sister Katherine trained as a dressmaker before she left the family home for Rome at 19 years with the aim of becoming a nun.

She went on to become the first prioress of new convents in Iver Heath, Buckinghamshire; Lugano, Switzerland; and Vadstena, Sweden - where she died in 1941. A year after Sister Katherine joined, the future Mother Riccarda - born Madaleina Catherine - also journeyed to Rome.

Because of her talent and intelligence she soon became deputy of the Order, called the Most Holy Saviour of St Bridget, and remained at the mother house in the Italian capital. When the Nazis took control in Rome in 1943, and began to round up the Jews of Rome for deportation to Auschwitz, Mother Riccarda risked her own life by smuggling fugitives into her convent. Some Jews who gave evidence to the initial inquiry spoke of Mother Riccarda's kindness, saying they nicknamed her “Mama”. She died in Rome in 1966 at the age of 79 years.'

To read Simon Caldwell's article for The Daily Mail, click here. Keep praying for her cause. It is worthy of note that the Mail article has attracted just four comments so far. It just goes to show that examples of the kindness and holiness of Catholics isn't worth much attention or comment, but obviously, if Mother Riccarda had been exposed as a brutal nun who'd physically abused those who took refuge in the convent, then that would attract far more comment. The only negative thing that the Mail commenters can say is that the Church has no power (in their eyes) to recognise Saints and Blesseds. That's the way of the World, folks...

Singing at the Office

I've been looking at the Little Office and wondered what the hymns to Our Lady sound like. Some of them I know already, but this one is new to me and I must say this chap sings it rather beautifully.

I've noticed that on the application form for helping out at the homeless shelter that St Joseph's Church are organising in collaboration with other Brighton churches volunteers are required for a 'prayer team'. Of what does the 'prayer team' consist I wonder? I hope and pray that it isn't like what Protestant churches offer when they feed the homeless, asking if anyone wants anyone to come and 'pray over them' then there is a prayer team at the ready. I'm not sure whether I'll be doing anything with the shelter project, but if you were going to introduce those not used to Christian prayer to the beauty of prayer, you could do worse than sing the hymn above.

'Shine Jesus Shine' could well scare people (including me) off but Gregorian chant is soothing introduction to prayer. The hymn above is humble, plaintive, mournful - that's the place where many of the homeless are at.

At Tale of Two Homilies

St Andrew: "But I don't have an NVQ in Social Care!"
I went to Mass twice yesterday once in the morning and once in the evening.

The Gospel reading was about the calling of St Andrew...

'The next day again John stood and two of his disciples. And beholding Jesus walking, he saith: Behold the Lamb of God. And the two disciples heard him speak: and they followed Jesus. And Jesus turning and seeing them following him, saith to them: What seek you? Who said to him: Rabbi (which is to say, being interpreted, Master), where dwellest thou? He saith to them: Come and see. They came and saw where he abode: and they stayed with him that day. Now it was about the tenth hour. And Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, was one of the two who had heard of John and followed him. He findeth first his brother Simon and saith to him: We have found the Messias, which is, being interpreted, the Christ. And he brought him to Jesus. And Jesus looking upon him, said: Thou art Simon the son of Jona. Thou shalt be called Cephas, which is interpreted Peter.'

The two priests both took up the theme of 'come and see' the Lord, but what was striking was the contrasting ways in which the priests explained how Jesus might be sought or found. For one priest, Jesus is to be found in the place where He lives, namely, the Church He founded. For this priest, Jesus Our Lord is to be found in the Tabernacle, in the Sacraments of Confession and in the Most Holy Eucharist.

For the other priest, Jesus is to be found in those feeding the hungry, in the hungry, in those who visit the sick and in the sick. He said that wherever someone was helping the outcast or showing love to a sick person that Jesus was there. No mention was made of the Tabernacle, of the way in which the Lord Jesus comes to us in Confession, taking away our sins as the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the World and no mention was made of His Real Presence in the Holy Eucharist.

I found it quite interesting that one could go to two different Churches in a day and receive two very different takes on how Jesus can be sought and found. Of course, there is a sense in which both Priests are right, and that knitting the two concepts together would form a whole idea of how the Lord can be seen or discovered. However, it seemed to illustrate the different emphases of different Priests. For one, the emphasis is upon Salvation - that our deepest need is for salvation and that the Lord is to be found in the Sacraments of Holy Church.

For the other, the Lord Jesus is portrayed as a kind man who helps poor and sick people. It seems that it is the latter emphasis which has dominated the Church in the post-Concilliar era. This is the image of Christ that comes to the fore - the Christ who urges us to do good or be good people. However, for Priests, knowing the human condition so well and the inbuilt self-destruct button that we all rather enjoy pressing from time to time, the emphasis should really be on Christ as both Judge and Saviour. I don't really understand how the Church's social teaching has come to almost usurp the central message of the Church for centuries. Of course we need Priests to remind us of the need to be kind, caring and compassionate to the poor and sick, but above all, we need Priests to remind us that our Souls are dear to God, that we are not our 'own property', as St Paul said in the reading and that Christ didn't come to make the World a better place. Christ came to save the World from sin and everlasting death.

By the way it seems it didn't work out for Jason at his friend's house. He's back in a car park, so keep praying for him.

Sunday 15 January 2012

We've Moved On...Again...

I enjoy reading Brendan O'Neill's often cynical but frequently 'on the mark' assessments of the modern liberal agenda.

This week he posted on the new movie 'Shame' which depicts the issue of sex addiction. O'Neill, who was apparently raised Catholic, is rather scathing in his piece on 'sex addicts' desire for sympathy and understanding and especially in their seeking help from psychotherapy for their condition. Really, for some modern day addictions, psychotherapists have becomes secular replacements for Priests.

I must say that there is a certain lack of compassion in O'Neill's piece, but he is right to point out that the liberal cause enjoys creating new language for the brokenness of the human condition which was and is still (and will be until the Lord's return) the natural territory of the Church. So he says that good old fashioned lust has been transformed into 'sex addiction'. Good old fashioned gluttony has been transformed into food addiction. Presumably good old fashioned avarice is 'money addiction' unless we're talking about bankers and suddenly people can be seen as greedy gits and all our wrath can be focused on one group of terrible sinners.

What O'Neill doesn't point to is any kind of remedy for our fragile fallen human nature. It's either 'pull your socks up' or 'stay in the gutter' and accept it. He dismisses psychotherapy as pointless and pathetic, describing sex addicts as 'losers'.  Well, we know how much God loves a loser, as well as a trier.

Few sinners and few Saints would deny that our sins, the cause of so much of our grief to ourselves and others, are, by their very nature addictive. It is in our nature to pull the juicy fruit from the tree and 'once you pop, you can't stop'. Even some murderers become addicted to murder - hence the serial killer. The Church is the expert of the human condition, however, not Freud. Confessors know only too well the rich tapestry of human sins and foibles; strange sins, small sins, huge sins and Christ is present in the Priest who absolves us and removes our faults as far 'as the East is from the West'. The remedy the Church has always preached is Confession, the Holy Eucharist, penance, prayer, fasting and almsgiving.

Some would say, 'Why bother going to Confession with the same old list?' or 'Confession is a cop out to allow people to keep carrying on with their vices'. The last one is a regular criticism aimed by non-Catholics or the lapsed at those practising the Faith, struggling to overcome our sins and falling from the State of Grace. I haven't seen the film 'Shame' and I doubt I will see it, but even those with a liberal mindset would perhaps agree that what is lacking most in such portrayals is the sense of redemption - or a positive outcome. Liberals can call sin what they like, but ultimately to deny its existence is to deny the flip side of the fall and the loss of our innocence and purity - the saving work of the Most Holy Redeemer and a Love that won't let go of us even as we draw our dying breath. The destruction that our vices and sins cause are pretty much solid Hollywood fodder, but what is lacking is redemption. Perhaps someone will correct me, but we haven't really had much redemption in modern culture since Graham Greene died.

Again, there is this sense that the liberal agenda likes to pretend that we've 'moved on' from sin and the language of sin. When sin rears its head, it has to be given a different name, lest it be recognised for what it is. The tragedy of liberalism is not merely the overlooking of sin or merely calling it something else. That is tragic, of course, for modern man, but what is more tragic is that for modern man caught in so many snares and entanglements, the only option appears to be therapy. It means that overcoming personal addiction is something that can only be achieved through personal effort - 'working on yourself'. How joyless that must be! Not only is such an attitude to sin doomed to failure, because we are helpless without God's grace, but it means that what people really want in their heart of hearts in terms of redemption, forgiveness, healing and to know that, despite our weaknesses, we are loved by God, will for some never be known.

While liberals would contest that we have moved on from the old-fashioned language of sin, that sin is an 'irrelevance' it is an ever-present reality that we have not 'moved on' from sin itself. Therapy for sex addiction aptly exposes the hypocrisy of the liberal position on sexual activity. This is what we're teaching children in schools. The message is that all kinds of sexual activity with whoever is fun and recreational, until you're addicted to promiscuous sex, up the duff at 14, suffering some STI, being marched down to an abortion clinic or you're a bit older, cruising the gay scene and contract HPV or HIV.

Furthermore, recourse to therapy for 'sex addiction' is not something that would be necessarily widely promoted in society since society promotes promiscuity. It is something that people do when they have realised that actually their sin is a really big problem, that they realise that they are enslaved to it and it now dominates their whole lives. There is a sense that someone would only go for therapy for sex addiction once they realise that they make relationships only to break them - that there is a destructive tendency in it that leaves them feeling totally out of control.

A commenter said in a comment on a recent post that I'm only a Catholic because of guilt over my sexual orientation. That would be a vast over-simplication of the story of my soul but it wouldn't be a mere footnote either. The sin that really led me into the Catholic Church was selfishness and the effects of that on me and my relationships with others, but I'd be lying if I said that sexuality played no role. Have I suffered, or do I suffer Catholic guilt over my sexuality? Yes, but what liberals fail to understand is that guilt is actually healthy. You know, it is, after all, a sign that you have a sacred Conscience and it is that which is in some way disturbed by sin. That said, I don't beat myself up about my sexual orientation. I accept that I have an instrinsic moral disorder and feel quite at home in the Catholic Church because it is the place for disordered persons to be, what with some moral disorder or another affecting the lives of every single person on the entire planet. Saying to a man who has same-sex attraction that he's only Catholic because he is attracted to men is like saying an alcoholic is only a Catholic because he's attracted to drink. Of course, we're sinners. We're weak and human.

The one thing that comes across from commenters is that they imagine that we Catholics, whatever our sexuality, are terribly twisted and embittered creatures constantly denying ourselves and becoming miserable and despising others as a result. I think their vision of Catholicism is one steeped in joylessness and self-loathing like Calvinism or something. The opposite is true. We are joyful because we are a people who, though in highly frequent need of God's mercy and forgiveness, are shown God's infinite mercy and forgiveness.

It is in that sense that we are liberated people, far more 'liberated' than those who welcome sin with open arms thinking it will answer our needs, because the power of sin over our lives is frequently broken by God's love and mercy. In that sense we can see the wounds of others and the addictions and vices of others and know of our own need for mercy at the same time so we are set free to love sinners and see sinners as God sees them because we know that God loves us, despite our failings. The psalmist says, 'Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered.' We are the 'blessed', a word which also suggests happiness.

There are many Catholics who can say that there is something, some sin that dominates their life but God's mercy reaches down to them and there are Catholics who can say that while they still struggle with their sins generally (that's all of us), God's grace even healed a particular sin that overwhelmed them. Each person's story is different and we all follow a hard road made sweet by the Lord Jesus. The truth is that there is no sin, no vice or presumably addiction that God's grace cannot conquer in this life if we are open to His grace, though quite what the Lord wants to do with my blogging addiction is a mystery. I've a multitude of other addictions, of course. Lent isn't too far away...gulp!

Saturday 14 January 2012

Quando Quando Quando

A great Latin love song.

Starlings Over St Peter's Basillica, Rome

I'm a big fan of starlings as any readers will have guessed as they are now all over my blog in my latest redesign. Here they are over the Eternal City. There's also some fantastic footage of starlings over Rome in this documentary called Earthflight on IPlayer. The stunning flying formations, called murmurations, of the starlings are able to help them to evade capture by predators who want them for fodder, but, aside from that, God commanded that they do this kind of incredible formation thing because by doing it they give Him praise and glory. Benedicite sturnus vulgaris Domino!

"We've Moved On..."

Souls moving up and souls 'moving on'...
During the week I posted on the publicity drive for homosexual marital unions. I received quite a few comments, some in support of what I'd written and quite a few lengthy comments (so lengthy I don't publish them) from supporters of gay marriage who basically said I was talking gibberish.

I'd like to spend more time answering comments from people who want to take me up on what I write and who write virtual essays on why I am wrong, but I have a life to live and can't stay on the computer constantly answering critiques of my blog from the enemies of the Church.

However, one point which seemed to keep coming up in the criticisms of my post was that all my arguments were imbecilic because the Catholic Church's teaching is irrelevant, gay marriage is none of our business and because society has 'moved on'.

The phrase 'moved on' or 'moving on' is quite attractive. It's a kind of catchphrase for the 'progressive' movement which is liberal in its outlook on human morality. This 'moving on' appeal, this appeal to 'progress' is alluring to every generation, this one no more than the last. It is the seductiveness of this 'moving on' that allowed Mao to achieve the 'great leap forward'. It's about motion and movement, on from something now deemed antiquated into some bright future of promise. Every totalitarian movement has required for society to accept that its project for the human society is a movement forward, a movement onwards, a progression from that which went before. Onwards, that is, but not upwards since to the godless architects of all such movements there is no upwards, there is only onwards.

Every political campaign requires a movement onwards or a rhetorical publicity drive that suggests movement, because electorally speaking, all times are sad, or bad, or mad, the idea of standing still or the idea of continuity is always dismissed as dull and unenlightened. Would anyone get elected if they said, "I promise that if you vote for me, the next five years will be extraordinarily similar to the last five years!" For Tony Blair and Peter Mandelson 'Things Can Only Get Better' because there was no doubt in their minds that 'progress' could be anything other than fantastic news for everyone and everything (including their bank accounts). Years later, where has the 'progress' of the New Labour years got us?

Every political leader that has brought us some form of societal living nightmare, from Mao, to Stalin, to Hitler, even to Blair, has promised a leap forward, using the theme of modernity and the intellectual hubris aroused in every age (because every age is 'modern') by using the language of progress. This could be why Conservative electoral appeals to things like 'back to basics' usually fail. Every age wants change and every age seems to want something 'new' even if, objectively, or dare I say 'empirically', what is proposed in untried, untested and the results highly questionable in outcome. Oh well! Nevermind! Let's do it anyway! Interestingly, Margaret Thatcher's political rhetoric was traditional in terms of the family, marriage and work, but presumably was considered radical because of the chaos of what had preceded it. What was new, with the Baroness, was a strange cocktail of traditional morality (quoting St Francis of Assisi on entering Downing Street) with an ethos which espoused an undiluted and unbridled love of money. Certainly, that's what her admirers thanked her for, even if the frugal Methodist herself was unimpressed by luxury.

Now, however, every political party including Labour, Conservative, Liberal and Green has 'moved on' from 'antiquated' visions of the family, of marriage, children, education and a raft of issues which were previously grounded in what had been handed down. The idea that homosexual couples should not be able to adopt children is dismissed because society has 'moved on' from that idea. The idea that IVF is unnatural and that it would be better if we did not 'play God' with human embryoes is 'outmoded' and 'antiquated'. The idea that marriage is the union of man and woman exclusively is 'irrelevant'. Ethical challenges to these issues are dismissed not because a coherent, watertight argument has been posited to dismiss moral objections, but because objectors 'refuse to step into the 21st century'.

Abortion is defended because the language of its proponents is grounded in the 'women's rights' movement of the 1960s, which makes it relatively easy for its proponents to dismiss those who stand up in defense of the unborn child and the women who are victims of the abortion culture as a group of people who refuse to step into the modern age of female reproductive health.

Surely, in every age in which religion is crushed and the voice of the Church is silenced or ignored, the justification for doing this is couched in the appeal of a bright new modern age. Modernity is infallible, of course. So, Stalin crushed the role of the Church in Russia because the Church refused to step into the gruesome 20th century and a new era of Stalinism. Hitler's vision of a glorious German is interesting in as much as so much of his imagery was steeped in German folklore. Yet, there can be no denying that the eviction of God from the public square and the eugenicism of Nazi policy was a product of the modern age with a new vision for humanity which was both socially Darwinian and absurdly utopian.

Every modernity enthralled to its own intrinsic greatnesss blinds itself to even the most basic and fundamental of human truths which have been handed down. Christianity is rejected because 'its so 2,000 years ago'. Well, actually, it isn't. It's only 50 years ago. Britain was a Christian country (albeit Protestant) only 50 years ago. It's really only in the last 40-50 years we can speak of a Britain that has 'moved on' from Christianity.

The new vision for society is founded on a tissue of lies, half-truths and rhetorical flourishes concerning an idol of 'progress' and 'progress' is what is worshipped. It's the golden calf of our age and perhaps every age. Personally, I love electricity, the internet and modern transport, but these are not particularly moral issues. These things do not rock society at its very foundations, they bring society great benefits. The question about whether two men can get married, however, does shake society to its core. Certainly, the question of whether we can destroy nascent life does also. The question of whether we can control by artificial means such natural phenomena as human fertility does as well.

I have little doubt that the Catholic Church will suffer in the course of the 21st century in the name of 'progress'. Should that be the case in the United Kingdom, then comparisons with the martyrdom of the early Christian Church will be nonsensical.

See, what the Apostles died for was a 'new' vision. It was because the message was 'new' that they were killed, silenced, tortured and cast out of their societies. Centuries ago, the message of the Apostles and their successors was new and bold and radical and transformative. The same message of a new life in the Trinity is 'both ancient and new' as St Augustine said, yet it will not be perceived to be 'new' by modern 21st century man because modern 21st century man has 'moved on' from Christianity.

Without doubt, the Church has tried to embrace modernity in every sphere of her mission and the results are dire in every sphere of the Church's mission. With the new liturgical movement growing in strength, perhaps the only thing that can rescue modern man building his life on sand, instead of rock, is the 'shock of the old', for every generation that severes itself from its fundamental roots and foundations withers and dies.

At some point, the wisdom of the Church will prevail both within Her and without because nothing but Our Lord Jesus Christ satisfies the human heart. Outside of Our Lord Jesus Christ, is only illusion, shadows and darkness, no matter whether man calls it 'progress' or not. The Lord has given us free will to love and worship whatever we choose, but only the love and worship of Him can bring us happiness in this life and the life of the World to come. As Lord of History, there can surely be no concept of modern 'progress' that Christ has not both seen and conquered. We are mocked because we refuse to step into the 21st century. Yet, in all seriousness, apart from the technological toys, what is so great about the 21st century? When will we all realise that our deepest desire is not to step into the age into which we are born, but to step into Eternity?

A Nice Email from Opus Dei

I received a nice email from a priest of Opus Dei which I post below for the edification of readers.

'I am a priest of Opus Dei, and I have come across your blog entry on Opus Dei with its humorous imagined conversation involving someone being rejected by Opus Dei on account of their being unemployed. 
While it is clearly of the essence that anyone who feels called to Opus Dei – a calling which requires a more or less lengthy period of discernment – should have the desire of seeking sanctification in the ordinary circumstances of life, unfortunately such “ordinary circumstances” are increasingly likely these days to involve some time or degree of unemployment. 
However, that is not a bar to sanctity: the effort to find a job can itself become a way to God, and there are many things that one can do during the period of unemployment to show one’s love for God “with deeds”, even if no payment is received for them. No one ever claimed that it was a requirement for holiness that one had to have paid remuneration. 
Unemployment can be considered as in some way analogous to illness: something which one tries to overcome, but if it is the will of God that it should remain, then it can be accepted and offered as a “pleasing sacrifice”. In fact, the beginnings of Opus Dei are closely associated with the sufferings of the incurably sick in the hospitals of Madrid at the end of the 1920s and early 1930s. 
In his book "The Way of the Cross" St Josemaría includes the following consideration: “God is my Father, even though he may send me suffering. He loves me tenderly, even while wounding me. Jesus suffers, to fulfil the Will of the Father... And I, who also wish to fulfil the most holy Will of God, following in the footsteps of the Master, can I complain if I too meet suffering as my travelling companion?” 
And as the current Prelate of Opus Dei, Bishop Javier Echevarría, has written, encouraging us to pray for a solution to the grave problem of unemployment: “Men and women of faith should use this situation to improve personally in the practice of virtue, taking extra care of the spirit of detachment, practising rectitude of intention, giving up unnecessary possessions, and so many other things. Besides, we know that we are always in the hands of our Father God, and that if divine providence permits these difficulties, it is so that we can draw good from evil: God writes straight with crooked lines” (Letter of the Prelate, 2 October 2009).
As you may be aware, there is a booklet available on the Opus Dei website entitled "Novena for Work", together with accounts of various favours received. 
I wish you every blessing in your own work and activities, and hope they help to bring many people closer to the love of God. 
Yours in Christ 
Fr Paul Hayward'

Friday 13 January 2012

Good News and Bad News

The good news is that Jason has been taken in by a friend who used to be on the streets. He has agreed to take him in for 3 months with some ground rules. Brave man! It means for the time being Jason lives in Moulescoomb. Deo gratias! Thank you for all who have been praying for him.

The bad news is I didn't wait long enough to receive that news and gave the garage the go-ahead to get the van fixed so the financial drain has been re-opened and I've thrown some more money down it.

A lesson for me to trust in God and the power of the prayers of the Faithful, rather than myself.

“More things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of.” Lord Alfred Tennyson

Thursday 12 January 2012

The Latest News on Jason's House

My van in happier days...before I owned it...
I have had a couple of very kind emails offering me legal advice on the situation with my van. I appreciated the emails very much but the van situation has moved on and so has the man dwelling within it.

I must say I pretty much crapped myself when I found the letter from the Council on the front of the van and so took the van to the to the nearest repairs garage as a friend had said he would pay for it to get fixed.

The date of the letter warning me of a £1000 fine was January 5th, so I didn't know how much time I had to get it off Preston Park. George had said he was interested in having the van for free but has now baulked at the £704.00 price for getting it back up and running and roadworthy. I don't blame him. The van has caused me nothing but grief ever since I bought it and he now knows that it is something of a drain.

Now I find myself in a moral dilemma. I could scrap the vehicle and receive £300-500 for doing so, with a local scrappage firm. It would be sad to see it go, but it would be a weight off my mind. Having said that, what with the van having become 'emergency temporary housing' for Jason (not that I can get a penny of his housing benefit, unlike proper temporary accommodation) the moral dilemma deepens and takes on soul-weighing significance. So, that's another weight on my mind. The Council might not mind Jason dying from exposure in winter, but personally, I believe that 3 months of homelessness and sleeping in loading bays in Brighton is a pretty hard penance for some 'anti-social behaviour'.

Jason's sleeping on a loading bay in Brighton now with a sleeping bag. He's no access to day-centres or places to keep warm because he's barred from those streets in Brighton. The van wasn't warm, but it had a mattress in it, quilts and a lamp. If I paid for it to get fixed, then I guess he could live there temporarily on a public road, as if I parked it where it was, presumably I'd get fined £1000, unless I were challenge it in court. Personally, I don't fancy my chances against Brighton and Hove City Council in Court, especially if I lose. That would mean a criminal conviction for me for an act of charity.

So, my choice is clear. I either scrap the van and walk home with £300-500 in my pocket (tempting!) or invest £704 into the van with money that I don't have and allow Jason to shelter in it on a public highway in Brighton at night until the Summer, when I'll have to pay out something in the region of £900 for its insurance (possibly more as I and the van are another year older). I live on less than what people get for Jobseekers Allowance. Jason's 'key-worker' has told me that he will not be housed "for at least 3 months" because after years of working with Jason, the Council still believe that a man banned from 44 streets in Brighton and who commits a criminal offense every time he begs is now suddenly going to be coerced into model behaviour. Very rapidly my life is turning into an episode of Only Fools and Horses...and not in a good way. Wodney! You plonker!

If people are interested in helping to fix Jason's house so that he can sleep in it on a Brighton road at night, I'll be posting up exact costings of the repairs later this morning. Perhaps I should have left the blinking van where it was in Preston Park and contested the 'automatic conviction' that would have at some point arrived, but this isn't an activist's publicity stunt to raise awareness of the Council's treatment of campers and travellers.

This is not Dale Farm. This is a man in a van. White van man, if you please. I was sincerely just doing a favour for a friend in a tight spot and the Council have thrown an almighty spanner in the works, if you'll excuse the pun. I don't for a minute believe that I am the answer to Jason's homelessness problem, nor is the van a long term housing solution for Jason. It is just rather hard and cruel on him to pull the rug from under him in terms of shelter more or less immediately after he was evicted from New Steine Mews and I don't want to be on the side of the crucifiers. I want to be on the side of the crucified.

I wrote a new song recently and I think the answer to my moral conundrum in in there somewhere. If you want to help, you're more than welcome. I don't know. Perhaps if we all pray really hard, the Council will relent, but I don't think so. This time they're being really mean...and this time they really mean it. Pray for him. He's not the only man sleeping rough in Brighton and Hove, but its different when you know someone quite well. You know, he's outside 3 minutes away curled up in a sleeping bag on a hard, cold metal floor with only Lady Poverty as his companion. I'm tucked up nice and warm in bed with a cup of milky tea. After a while it gets to you.


When you've got the World it's never enough
And how could it ever be?

And when you think you've got it all sewn up
It will be unravel one day

And if you think that its just 'over and out'
There's nothing more to this World than what you've got

Oh if you think that's what this life's about
You are what you own and a secure bank account

Well if you think the World looks sweet and sound
Then turn it upside down

If you think this World's just turning round and round
In pences and pounds

If you think the victors are proud
If you think the rich wear the crowns
If you think the wealthy are first
Then, pray, where is the rich man?
And where is Lazarus?

Yes, if you think that this World was made for winners
Then why do the Saints
Only pray for sinners

How can you say that your house is forsaken?
I think that you'll find you're very much mistaken!

If you have put your heart into your possessions
Then when your Death comes as it surely will
Who'll welcome you into Heaven?

How can you say that this World is for successes?
When Lazarus is at your gate
Dogs licking his abscesses

How can you say that the World is for successes?
Did Our Blessed Lord walk this Earth
Taking permanent addresses?

The poor are rich, the rich they are poor
Yet there's none so rich as 

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