Tuesday, 3 September 2013

More Complex Comments

Readers who are easily bored may wish to look away now

If there's anyone out there who knows what they're talking about on the following, your comments would be very welcome indeed. I'm very much an amateur in all areas of Christianity, so what I've cobbled together from bits and bobs of knowlege may actually be a bit wayward.

Basically.

I've had too much time on my hands of late so have continued to write excessively long comments on a protestant website. My latest offering was in response to this
Francesco, you do need to read Hebrews 4:12 where we are told that the bible is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword……..discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. The bible is God-breathed. It is HIS word left to us and is fully able to train up the man of God in all his ways. Study the word, Francesco. You can read the bible backward and forward and come away with no understanding if you are not seeking God’s heart and truth. Even the devil knows the bible completely yet he is not surrendered to Christ. If you are a true believer, the bible is all that you need. As for traditions, Jesus spoke against tradition. He said in Matthew 15 “For the sake of your tradition, you have made void the word of God. You hypocrites!” I have no idea what your verse from a Christmas carol was supposed to prove? Mary was used to bring the incarnate Christ into this world but she has no more a relationship to Christ than does any believer! God is not a respecter of persons. In Scripture, when Mary and her sons showed up where Jesus was, Jesus said, “Who is my mother, my brother or my sister? ANYONE WHO DOES THE WILL OF MY FATHER is my mother,my brother and my sister.” Jesus HIMSELF said that. Can it get any clearer?
and read as follows.
A couple of very basic points to get us going.

First. Perhaps the most obvious. When Hebrews 4:12 was written, there was no Bible. The Bible (as I've already said once on this tread) was compiled by Pope Damasus I in 382AD. The epistle to the Hebrews was written in 63-64AD. How could the author, a human, possibly know a) that his work would be included in this compilation, b) what else would be in this compilation, and most obviously of all c) that there would be a compilation. If God had taken the trouble to write it out Himself then I would willingly believe his omniscience would have encompassed his knowlege of Pope Damasus's doings, but since He didn't, I don't believe that the author of Hebrews did foresee the events of the Council of Rome.

Second. If you would like to throw around Bible quotations with no context and therefore almost no meaning, two can play at that game. I might even feel the need, being a Catholic, to understand what they say on a deeper level. Who knows.

On the cross Jesus told Mary "woman, behold your son", indicating the beloved disciple (who when referred to as such represents not only the Church herself, but all her members) and then to the beloved He said "Behold your mother". Now clearly they are not talking in literal terms since it goes on to say that from that time forth the disciple took her into his home. The custom of the time was that a man lived with his parents until their deaths so there is no question of a son taking his mother into his home since he would already have been living in her home. What Jesus is telling us, in a way so beautiful as to indicate His possession of the fulness of that quality, is that Mary is mother of the Church and that we are her children but not only that, but that we are to love her and take her into our lives. With a little context, suddenly a much maligned passage becomes not only clear but starkly relevant and challenging to those who object to marian devotion. Jesus himself said that, can I make it any clearer?

Third. You misunderstand what Catholics mean by "tradition". We don't mean how many tassles on a maniple or the colour of pom poms on a biretta as modern day Catholic pharisees do. The Church's use of the word refers to the intellectual tradition, the purifying of doctrine to what Christ intended in what He taught and the application of that doctrine.

Fourth. The verse from the carol does not prove anything, it illustrates the difference in relationship that she does have with her son. As I have previously explained this difference does not come about by the mere fact she birthed him, but because she was without sin.

Now that prosaic and most obvious bit is out of the way I'll have to take a gamble that the Greek and Hebrew characters in the following make it through the "post comment" button: [it did]

Lets look at that greek word "λόγος" that you translated as "the Bible". It's one of the most used words in the New tastament (Strong's Concordance notes 316 mentions) and roughly equivalent to the word "אֵמֶר" in Hebrew which crops up (according to Strong again) 53 times in the Old Testament. Strong (a hearty American protestant) gives the following definition for the word "λόγος" something said (including the thought); by implication a topic (subject of discourse), also reasoning (the mental faculty) or motive; by extension a computation" but the important bit is how strong follows these translations. He writes: "specifically, with the article in John, the Divine Expression (that is, Christ)".

Let's have a look at why he felt so confident in this assertion: that the word λόγος had little to do with literal "words" in the biblical context.

Philo Judaeus's contact with Greek philosophy allowed him to first coalesce the hebrew concept of "חכמה" with the hellenstic concept of "Σοφíα" which Philo termed "λόγος" by roughly 50AD. This Σοφíα was the mediator between God the Creator and man, a concept which Hebrews knew as "מלאך יהוה", that is "messenger of the Lord". Suddenly this whole "λόγος" is looking increasingly like it's actually talking about Our Lord Himself rather than the pages of a compilation of documents put together by some fourth century pope. If you were to quibble with this I need to look no further that John 1 for the perfect rebuke for your idea. He writes in that epic hymn to λόγος that it "became flesh and dwelt amongst us". Last time I checked, no copies of the Bible had a pulse. The author of the Hebrews was aware of the philonian philosophy and so it seems obvious that he and pseudo-John are in accord. It has been speculated that this hymn may have been lifted or adapted from an earlier source, so John 1 and Hebrews may be closer to each other chronologically than the rough estimate of completion of John's Gospel thirty years later suggests. Regardless, nethier have any interest in the Bible, they are talking about Christ. Christ is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword. The Bible is an inanimate object and can give you a paper cut. The Christ which it describes pierces the soul with his loving gaze.

I suggest that you not only go back and study the words in the Bible, Marianne, because that can only ever give you part of the picture. I suggest you look at their context and maybe then you might find some more profound meaning in them.
Asides from that it lacks of charity and so cannot be from God, does anyone have any thoughts on this?

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Protestant Fantasies

So I stumbled upon this web page this evening and have posted the following comment, though I imagine it will never make it onto that particular website.
Rarely have I read such drivel. I’m amazed at the ignorance of this post.
Here’s how it actually is. From the Bible you yourself idolise.
First, Catholics don’t worship Mary, we worship her son, but we remember that when another person recognised his as Christ for the first time, He he inspired the person closest to Him to shout “for behold all generations shall call me blessed”.
Have you ever stopped to wonder how amazing a woman would have to be to be the tabernacle of the most holy thing in existence? Even the angel was stunned by it: “hail Mary! Full of Grace!” That was the first thing his pure eyes saw: that she was replete with holiness. It’s like Our Lord said himself: “no good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit.”
Mary interceded for other humans at the wedding at Cana, why would she not be able to do so now?
She’s discussed extensively in Revelation: St John sees her after the assumption in heaven in her continued corporal form, still at enmity with satan who hates not only her holy offspring, Christ, but also the rest of her offspring, us.
So yes, we love Mary because one of Christ’s last commands was that we hold her as our mother, but we don’t worship her.
No more do we worship statues: we use images to focus the mind because we are fleshy creatures with fleshy psychology. We use the prompts to be able to engage in prayer as fully as we can. If we were angels we wouldn’t need them, but we’re no so we do.
I would invite you to get in touch with me to see if I can put right any of your other misguided thoughts on what Catholics believe and do. Once you actually have some information on the subject you might find yourself less hostile to us, maybe even see the beauty, goodness and truth of how the Church faithfully passes on Christ’s doctrine.
Ever so frustrating. I myself would tend to draw more on the relationship I have with Mary and how that has improved my relationship with her son rather than resort to the Protestant line of quoting texts from two millenia ago. Our faith is alive, not confined to the words of humans or the pages of a book.

And what did he say about my mum?

Is having a flutter on a boxing match immoral if it's a dead cert?
Update: He did in fact publish my comment, somewhat surprisingly. He also replied to it, in the sense that he wrote words and pressed "reply" rather than said anything that actually challenged what I'd said.
Dear Francesco Forgione
Shalom, and love in Jesus.
You wrote:
First, Catholics don’t worship Mary, we worship her son, but we remember that when another person recognised his as Christ for the first time.
My comment:
First: It is a gross error of Catholicism, to claim that the Messiah came into existence, when His mother birthed him in the flesh. Jesus the Messiah is eternal God, not created, but begotten by God the Father.
God Him self came down from Heaven, and took on flesh. The Jewish virgin Miriam was chosen by God to give Him flesh, born like all men. The Son of men. Fully God, and fully man, the one and only.
Second: Its a gross error to claim that the mother of Jesus was a goddess, born without sin, never sinned, and was “ever virgin”. You do not have to be a Christian to understand this. You simply have to be able to read, and open your Bible. Please do so.
Obvious I wasn't going to stand for that.

First. Catholicism simply does not say that. It says that the word became flesh at the incarnation. You are just wrong. Get your facts right. At some point you may find yourself reciting the apostles or nicene creed. Both of those documents were written by the Catholic Church. Both of those state this belief very clearly. The Angelus, that beautiful prayer for Mary's intercession, does so even more pointedly, quoting John 1 "and the word was made flesh and dwellt amongst us".
Second. Catholicism simply does not say that Mary is a goddess. I have already dealt with her being sinless. Unless you think that Jesus sinned, Mary too was without original sin: “no good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit.”

You will note that I have based my answer entirely on the Bible. It is a book I know fairly well. That said, I believe you fasion an idol out of the Bible. My faith is alive: an interpersonal relationship between myself and my creator, redeemer and sanctifier. Yours is stultified by its confinement to a text that is only inspired by God with the a large dose of human corruption. You reject our (biblical) belief in papal infallability but you do so having applied infallability not to a person (who by virtue of his personhood can communicate with God like the rest of us) but to the cold dead pages of a book.

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Fury

I simply do not have the words to express my anger at these monks. The idea of using a holy thing like a cincture to beat a child makes me ill to think about. The idea that a man would use Christ's mandate to forgive sins as an opportunity to degrade a child's innocence is gut wrenchingly vile. That a man would parody the beauty of proffesing the Benedictine Rule in order that he might have children vulnerable to his perversion.

They did not care about the children in their care. They did not care about their order or their Church. They spat in the eye of Christ and battered His body and mind to the same extent they battered those of the children for whose care they were ordained. At one point the presenter said that some of these monks would never see justice because they were already dead. I trust that is not the case.

Bastards.

Monday, 29 July 2013

News Flash! Pope Reads Catechsim!

The British media have picked up on the press conference on the Pope's plane in which he said "Who am I to judge him [a gay priest]?".

This is nothing new or radical. This is sound, orthodox Catholic teaching. Any journalist, anywhere in the world could have picked up a Catechism and read what it says there. Pope Francis has just repeated it.

If only the Pope's next supportive gesture to gay people was to explore a closet with more tasteful vestments in it.

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Little glorious here

I'm always disturbed when I hear Catholics (or for that matter adherents of any religion or philosophy) talking about martyrdom in terms of glory. This is what twenty first century martyrdom looks like and if you live as sheltered a life as me and therefore don't want to see it, don't click this link.

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Sharia Law

Having a parallel system of justice is wicked. Awful. Making people live up to a moral code is awful. We should definitely close down every single Sharia court simply for existing because it isn't British law.

Oh. Wait.


Thursday, 23 May 2013

The Face of Islam in the UK

Reasonable, Calm, Collected, Loving, Socially Responsible

Thank heavens that this is what Islam looks and sounds like in the United Kingdom.


Thank heavens that this is not what the United Kingdom looks like. I know who I'd rather have running my country.

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Love in Woolwich

This morning St Columbanus, the sixth century Irish missionary, tells us in the Office of Readings that "God is everywhere, utterly vast, and everywhere near at hand". Vast enough to consume the wickedness in Woolwich yesterday and near enough at hand to comfort the family of the soldier who was murdered. There are reports that a woman knelt beside his body yesterday and prayed. A moment of love in amongst so much hatred.

Eternal rest, grant unto him, O Lord, and let light perpetual shine upon him; may he rest in peace.

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Interdenomenational Dialogue

I thought I'd share this heart warming story from Facebook.
 n was walking along Cornmaket [Street] today with a priest and encountered a gentleman of the evangelical persuasion engaging in a conversation with a crowd about gay and black people. [The priest n was with] paused for a moment and informed [the preacher], from a distance, that "we used to burn heretics like you". His good deed done for the day, [they] proceeded on [their] way.
 If you were wondering, the hate preacher in question was also of the American persuasion. Not that I have anything against americans... per se...

God bless our priests.

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Unashamedly Church of Nice


Another day, another inflammatory video from "the angry man with the astonishing hair". It's a bit old now, but, as a young Catholic, who happily attends and serves the Vetus Ordo, is loyal to the pope, loves Christ, hates abortion and harbours an unchristian lack of charity towards wishy washy liberals, I want to firmly pledge allegiance to the Church of Nice that Voris derides. That is because the Church of Nice is the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church. Catholics ought to be nice people because Christ was the ultimate in nice blokes: he told the truth about some things which aren't nice, like Hell, but don't forget that it was him that came up with the beatitudes. Catholics ought to be tolerant: no one suggests that Our Lord agreed with the sinners he ate and drank with, but not only did He tolerate their presence, He sought them out. I desire that everyone in the world be Catholic, but I'm big enough and ugly enough to deal with the fact that my faith is uncertain and that not everyone agrees with me and that they're very welcome not to do so.

He opens this video with a comment about division and lack of charity. The devil exists because of a division he caused in Heaven. He continues to cause division. Christ prayed that all be one. Divisions are evil. As for charity, has Voris ever been to a wedding? Lack of charity is a fault. Climate Change is a problem. If you're american and you think otherwise, look who's funding the ill informed literature you've been reading. Since it seems Voris hasn't read any theology later than Augustine, he probably hasn't come across the extensive literature of the theology of the environment. Christ warns us in the strongest terms that we sin by being judgemental. Indeed, he spends five whole verses of Matthew's Gospel doing so. People Poverty is also a collosal issue we ought to be dealing with. If you think otherwise, I'll just give you one from a wealth of quotations I could have mentioned.
And now, suppose that a man has the worldly goods he needs, and sees his brother go in want; if he steels his heart against his brother, how can we say that the love of God dwells in him? My little children, let us shew our love by the true test of action, not by taking phrases on our lips. (1 John 3:17-18)
 So, in short, Michael Voris, stop talking about God, go meet him instead.

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Not All Bleak

BBC News reports that two Catholic midwives have won their legal battle not to have to take part in abortions. They had not been forced to take part in themselves, but had been told to delegate, supervise and support staff who were willing to take part in them. This is important since it means we ourselves are defended against having to act against our concience, but it is unlikely to save babies lives. It says something about a piece of legislation when the only good thing about it is the get out clause. Nevertheless, thank you Lady Dorrian and Lords Mackay and McEwan for upholding the right to concience.

I came across this poem a while back

June 03, 1982, 11 PM

Dear Susan,

The urge to tell my daughter what’s gnawing at my gut.
The agony of watching her slide toward a one-way rut;

There’s nothing quite so devastating to the father’s mind
As finding out he’s dropped-the-ball and now his girl’s entwined.
In mental anguish, doubt and fear
— And, worst of all, self hate —
And questioning there in the mirror
if by now it is too late.

And putting off decision, commitment to repair
the damage done by all involved, the guilt of which I share.

I read a poem a while ago about a test she failed.
Though eloquent it surely was the logic somehow trailed.

As if life granted one big test — and then the Judgement made,
we’d never have a second chance, nor values we could trade.

Thank God it doesn’t work that way. Thank God there’s other chances —
to Accept Him as He said, The Vine, and take our place as Branches.

Discouragement is Satan’s tool that prunes us from the Vine,
He’ll try to get us all messed up, our emotions he’ll entwine.

Then piling on the doubt and fear, he’ll say with exclamation:
Stay back! Go away! You’re just no good — for Reconciliation!

But if you only understood how much He loves you!
Why He hung on that cross!
How much He wants you back!
If you only understood how much He wants you back!
I’m sorry for hurting you so much.
I love you.

Dad

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Prayer Request


If you see this post, could I ask you just to take a moment to pray with me for the two archbishops kidnapped yesterday in Syria, Gregorios Yohanna and Boulos Paul Yaziji, both of Aleppo. It seems they were trying to secure the release of two priests who were taken hostage in January when the incident happened. It will only take a second to do.


---
UPDATE, 24th April 2013:

The two bishops were released yesterday :D


Friday, 19 April 2013

Unexpected traffic

It seems that even four lines of praise for the parish priest of a residential area of Sidcup in Bexley attracts an unexpected amount of internet traffic. I will assume it's to do with the fame such saints inevitably acquire (much as they might resent it) rather than the fact the post was entitled "The End of the World".

Thursday, 18 April 2013

The End of the World

I just thought I should point out, incase anyone is unaware, that Fr Tim Finigan is an incredible and holy gentleman. The best bit is the long absenses from the net while he gets on with his day job of saving souls for Christ. His blog is definitely a useful sideline, but only that. What brought this to mind specifically is his imitation of God in his sense of humour.

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Marini. Not the good one.

Only someone with real humility could possibly allow himself to be dressed like that
I'm currently terrified that Archbishop Pierro Marini will be appointed to the Congregation of Divine Worship. He was received in private audience by the Holy Father for half an hour last week. This is scary.

People come to the ultimate in beaut, goodness and truth through the human experience of those transcendental qualities. We're creatures of matter; we experience the world through the senses and God is not only the originator of that reality but also part of it. To internalise the Mass, to actually participate in it, we need the psychological triggers of how momentous it is. Beauty is part of Catholicism because God is the most fundamental beauty. If Archbishop Pierro Marini is appointed to this Congregation we will be in real danger as far as beauty in the liturgy is concerned.

A friend of mine, who actually understands these things (unlike me), has also suggested that there might be a danger of the devolution of the liturgy to local bishops conferences. I don't know about other countries but that is not a task I would trust to my bishops conference. More importantly, I also appreciate that I pray the same way as Catholics all over the world when I go to Mass. I'm part of an international community, borders are irrelevant to the Mass and it transcends cultural differences. It expresses that the idea of human races is a heresy, we are one human race created by God to know him, to love him, to serve him in this world and to be happy with him in the next.

When he was removed by Benedict XVI, he went on record as saying he was only waiting for Him to die so he could go back to business as usual.

This man is dangerous.

Monday, 15 April 2013

Mundane Wickedness


There are no citations of this image so there's no way to know how accurate the figures are, that said, this is clearly a horrific case.

It is, of course, entirely reasonable for Gosnell to have committed these crimes. What is the difference between 23 and 24 weeks? Before and after the baby breaches? With this in mind, it's worth pointing out the bottom left statistic. That they were late term has no importance. It is just mundane wickedness and the shocking results of it are hardly surprising.

The abortion laws in the UK are just as bizarre as in the US. There seems no logic to them. It is just a male parliament's way of allowing other males to abdicate responsibility for their children by having them killed.

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Rosary

Recently I've been praying the rosary a fair bit and it's been forcing me to reevaluate parts of my life and ask some fairly fundamental questions. I thought I might as well jot down some of my reflections on it and so, being in the 21st century, I thought a good way of sharing them would be to pop them online and so there is another blog under the same Francesco Forgione called "Reflections from the Rosary". Don't you just love the illiteration and the vacuous title? Do pop over there and give it a read. Criticism always welcome.

Michael Voris. Get over it.

Michael Voris
I saw today a video by the scary Michael Voris of Church Militant TV about what he labels as the "Gay Mafia" within the Church hierarchy. Scrolling through some more of his videos there are more inflammatory videos such as "Talk Like a Man, Not a Sissy", "The New Pope & Homoheresy", "Homosexuals and the Conclave", "Gays in the Clergy" and "Father Gay". Now, I have no idea if the crisis we are told we are experiencing in the Church today is any greater or weaker than the crises we as a Church have experienced over the last 2, 000 years; I'm not a Church historian. One thing that I'm certain of, however, is that the cause of this crisis is not the existance of homosexuality within the Church. It is just a complete non sequitur. It looks to me simply to be unthinking scape goating. This is a man who is completely comfortable berating others for the alleged heterodoxy, even sneeringly saying of judgmentalism in one video that "[we] can't have any of that", apparently forgetting what a certain first century rabbi-come-God incarnate said on the subject. The Catechism itself seems to recognise that societies, one of which is the Church, get on just fine with gay people in them. I think the Church will cope with some gay men in cassocks. We've done pretty well thus far.

Without wishing to form an ad hominem attack against Voris himself, maybe glancing over his wikipedia page might give some background to where his views come from. What was once called "RealCatholicTV", his digital television channel on YouTube, has had to rename itself "ChurchMilitantTV", having been forbidden the use of the term "Catholic" by his local diocese and is forbidden from talking on property owned by the Diocese of Scranton. He sounds like the sort of person Fr Z campaigns against. The most bizarre moments in his videos are his rants against Social Justic, portraying them as part of the liturgical puppet movement of those who perverted Vatican II. I guess the letters "STB" after his name means he knows better than St Dominic, St Francis, and Our Blessed Lord. He casts himsef as a defender of America (if you hadn't guessed he's a yank yet), and yet is quite happy to attack the fundamental principles of democracy, basically saying that people who disagree with him ought not to have the vote. In that video, he talks about how only faithful Catholics look at God and don't stare in the mirror, but have you seen his hair...?

Also, he's actually an appaulingly bad speaker. He stammers, his prose is littered with tautology and his reasoning leaves much to be desired. Looking at his "Talk like a Man, Not a Sissy" video, maybe he should talk like someone with an ounce of intellect, ideally with a touch of compassion, not a foolish biggot. Basically I don't think he's a good advocate for our beautiful faith.

With that as useful background, let's examine in great brevity one or two of his videos. I'll just deal with the gay ones since they're the most easily ridiculed.

The reason I feel fine about writing the ad hominem paragraph above is because of the "Father Gay" video seems to have no argument at all. He rants quite a lot, and gives us a clip of a priest supporting gay marriage, but does not engage at all with the gay marriage debate, instead just shouting about a dog collar for quite a while and saying that the priest is an instrument of the devil. As it happens I believe in the devil, something I think is unusual for Catholics my age. I certainly don't think there is anything diabolical about a priest going off the rails a bit. The handful of priests I know who have had contact with the demonic lead me to believe that Satan is cannier than that. Certainly he possesses an intellect far superior to Mr Michael Voris STB.

Then there's "The New Pope & Homoheresy" video which lays the blame of all divisions in the Church squarely at the door of homosexuals in the Church. He doesn't offer up any evidence for this in his video, but waves a report by Fr Dariusz Oko, who Voris repeatedly reminds us has a magic, infallability granting doctorate. The Rev'd Dr Oko seems to follow a non sequitur Voris would be proud of which suggests that because there are gay men serving as clerics in his diocese, therefore there is division amongst the clergy. Voris then extends this into an explanation for the divisions within the college of bishops. Practicing sexuality is problematic for a priest of any sort. Besides breaking his vow of celibacy, it makes him vulnerable to blackmail and can cause scandal. That there are gay clergy is so far from a problem. Diversity is a mark of God's creation, the human race is blessed with a diversity of sexualities and thus, so should be the clergy. In terms of sociology, if the gay clergy in the Vatican have formed a clique it is probably because they feel excluded in some way and so formed a clique (Voris hypes it by using the term "underground"). If this clique presents a danger to the Church (which we know that it won't in the long term, keep calm non praevalebunt) then it is not them being gay which is the danger, it is the men who happen to also be gay. Their sexuality actually bears at most a tangential importance to the situation.

His video "Homosexuals and the Conclave" is based on the same document. He has based it entirely upon spurious newspaper reports in the Italian press. This "homosexual underground" he refers to again, I know many holy, faithful priests who I know are gay. They are serving God and offering up the gift of their sexuality to Him. I'm sure that there are practicing gay clergy, but I'm also sure that there are practicing straight clergy. There are more non sequitors about gay clergy and uncooperative bishops. The man makes almost no sense. It is not plausible that Pope Benedict resigned because he has gay priests in his curia, he resigned because of ill health. Look at his dog collar recently, much larger than it has been in the past, presumably covering up that he has almost no neck. Look at his cassock, how many times it is gathered under his fascia? That overcoat he saw him in when he met Pope Francis which hid his frame completely and just how frail he looked when he was walking. The man has lost a lot of weight very rapidly recently. Benedict is a man of God facing his end with his hand in the Lord's. I don't think gay priests are at the top of his agenda at the moment.

In short, Church Militant TV presents itself as expressing "solid Church doctrine". I'll just point out again one doctrine of our Church, that homosexuals "must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity [and] every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided." I just wish he would calm down, take a sip of tea and think about what is important and what is not. There seems to be a lot of stone casting and splinter removing and I don't think that's something Jesus was very much in favour of.

NB For the Americans who read this. We British have what I suspect is a completely unfair notion that you don't get irony. There is some irony in this.

Saturday, 16 March 2013

I really like his public style

It seems Francis is less keen on Marini than he is his stole.
 The Italian press has reported that moments after Pope Francis was elected, he told Msgr Marini, the papal ceremoniere, "Quella roba se la metta lei, Monsignore. Il tempo delle carnevalate è finito": "put those robes away, Monsignor. Carnival time is over." Now this isn't a sentiment I disagree with entirely. I think that beauty has its place in Church, and that place should be limited to the glorification of God and the raising of the souls of the faithful to a plane in which they might better communicate with the Almighty. Beauty being used to glorify an individual is not a very pleasant idea for the Catholic Church. Some of course will argue that the Pope dressing in the finery of choir dress is in fact a glorification of the office rather than the man, but I'm not sure that holds water.

However, the style of this remark seems to be somewhat at odds with the public style of the man we've seen thus far. The sentiments match, but saying this to the holy man that is Msgr Marini in front of several other priests, seems to have been calculated to embarrass him. It seems this remark has been confirmed by certain other officials who were present at the time, presumably in the Room of Tears.

His attitude to Marini seems also to be shown in the fact that his Inauguration Mass on Tuesday will be orchestrated by the Fransiscans of La Verna rather than the house team. 

It seems that in the past our Holy Father has been a man of courage. If this comment was indeed made, it was made in semi-private, with only a few others there. A courageous act would be to make up with Msgr Marini in similarly semi-public circumstances and it would be in keeping with his humble personality.

Like I said in my previous post, the only time the rags of St Francis of Assisi would be replaced with finery was when he was in the liturgy: the source and summit of the Church's life and mission.

He hasn't had time to establish anything more concrete than style yet, but if his style carries through into actions then we will have a fine Pope. We've had good popes and bad popes in the past, and we will have good and bad popes in the future. This man could be either, just like any man only a few days into his pontificate might be.

PS Cardinal Mahony's twitter seems suddenly to have become deeply distateful on Marini related matters.

As always, comments very welcome in the box below.

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Deo Gratias


Thank God for our new pope! I was in the pub last night watching on the "ThePopeApp" with some friends, several Catholics but quite a few non Catholics and the joy was palpable. Drinks were bought, the Holy Father toasted and we had a great evening celebrating.


I mean to expel thee from the rank thou holdest, deprive thee of thy office. And when that time comes, I will summon one who is a true servant of mine, Eliacim the son of Helcias, clothe him with thy robe, gird him with thy girdle, entrust him with the power that once was thine; to rule all the citizens of Jerusalem, all Juda’s race, with a father’s care. I will give him the key of David’s house to bear upon his shoulders; none may shut when he opens, none open when he shuts. I will fix him securely in his place, like a peg that is to carry all the royal honour of his father’s house; all the honour of his father’s house will rest upon him, as a man’s goods rest on a peg, the smaller of them, here a cooking-pan, there an instrument of music. Isaiah 22:19-24
 
So many things to like about him. We desperately needed someone who will spur on the New Evangelisation fruitfully and forcefully. Catholicism is an attractive religion full of beauty, goodness and truth, full of our very means of being. He seems to be a genuinely humble man, there are outward signs, but I've seen a couple of photos that have been taken of him surreptitiously on the tube and Fr Z has a story on his blog recounting how even he didn't realise he was a cardinal when he first met him. In particular I note the line "missionary fervor does not require extraordinary events. It is in ordinary life that mission work is done.". That he's practically unheard of is probably evidence of his humility too. Cardinal Dolan makes a strong case for humility being Jesus's favourite virtue in his book Priests for the Third Millenium, it seems we have a pope for our epoch.



He has picked the name Francis, presumably to signify the simplicity for which he will continue to strive in his pontificate. The other thing, however, with which he signalled the style of his pontificate was coming onto the balcony in just a plain cassock. He seems to be saying that this pontificate will concentrate on the acts of faith, the getting out there and getting one's hands dirty and less interested in the liturgical expression of that faith in which his immediate predecessor. Obviously, I think this is magnificent in itself, but I think it's maybe worth tempering it a little. For a Christian the move from the encounter with Jesus at the altar to the encounter with Jesus in our neighbour should be almost superficial, something which only happens on the surface. There's that line in the Tantum Ergo "Faith will tell us Christ is present when our human senses fail", this seems to go as much for seeing Christ in our neighbour as in the Eucharist. The liturgy and the good works should in fact all be one love, a continuum. I am reminded that the rags worn by St Francis were covered with as much beauty and gold as any other medieval cleric while he was serving as deacon in the liturgy. He had no problem giving the finest craft and artistry back to God or with lifting people's minds to heaven through beauty. I'm a little concerned that having been a genuinely humble man all his life, it's now important for him to be seen to be so. I think this may have been at the bottom of the lack of Urbi et Orbi liturgy. Another type of humility would to have seen the Church's liturgical laws governing these things and submitting oneself to them, even though one had the power to change them. Like I say, the evidence suggests that Pope Francis is genuine in his humility, but there is more than one way of looking at these things. There seems to be a potent but quiet charisma to this man. When he asked for silence he got it, when he prayed, the crowd prayed with him. when he smiled, the crowd cheered.

It will be interesting to see who he appoints to the Secretariat of State. This is the key role which up and till now has been filled with the not terribly effective but very nice Cardinal Bertone. It will be his replacements job to flush out the corruption which has set in with the roman curia. If they have any sense a selection of people will be keeping their heads down and behaving in the apostolic palace with this unknown quantity of a pope in play. That he is an outsider from the curia is simply ideal.

The other joy I have is that he is 76. This is not because I think he will die soon so the sacristy can get back to being prettified, it's because the cardinals who elected him probably think of him as a stop gap pope. Like they did when they elected Benedict XVI. Or John XXIII. Stop gap popes seem not to have been what the cardinals expected of late, and I imagine the Almighty has something similar in store for this holy, humble man.

Viva il Papa


Sunday, 24 February 2013

Guilty until proven innocent

 
Question: Has any wrong doing been proved against Cardinal O'Brien
Answer: No.

Question: Will it be proved?
Answer: No one knows and no one can know.

Question: Should Cardinal O'Brien take part in the upcoming conclave?
Answer: He should do what he feels right.

Question: Is this the underlying problem of the Catholic Church's dealings with clerical sex scandals?
Answer: No. It's the problem of people assuming guilt before they have any proof of it.

Update 28/02/13:
Mulier Fortis has some thought provoking comments.

Friday, 22 February 2013

Is the Pope a Catholic?

Does The Guardian think that it's a secret that there are gay men working in the Vatican? Two things sell newspapers: sex and scandal. That's the only reason this nonesense has been brought up. I know there have been reports for a while that there are priests who are sexually active in the Vatican and I hope that this isn't true, but it wouldn't be Church shattering news if it were, it certainly wouldn't prompt a pope to abdicate. Things that might lead a pope to abdicate include situations such as "bad health" and... well, that's about it really isn't it?

Thursday, 14 February 2013

We knew not what we did

Image courtesy of the western media.
 The best article I've read on Pope Benedict's papacy is from The Spectator and I'd like to take its point a step further than it does.

The article is clear that it is not concerned with whether his papacy succeeded or failed, it is concerned with the media's reaction to him. Before I launch into my tirade, I'll just pause to remeber that the most famous of history's popes to have abdicated, Pope St Peter Celestine V got a shoddy treatment at the hands of the media too in his portrayal as the figure in the vestibule of Danté's Inferno. However, I think that today's media is far less understanding even that Danté and in that it is indicative of the society is serves and promotes. It strikes me that we in the world today are poorly equipped for interaction with ideas on anything more than a superficial level and how that impacts on our understanding of other people. The age of the soundbite is superceding that of the rational reasoned debate. For me the article highlights this broader issue with the example of how the world, particularly the western world, has treated the Holy Father. The conflict between him and the media is in fact between the age of reason, which he exemplified, understood and promoted, and that of the preformed opinion of an age where we have our selfserving social obsessions which dominate our interactions with other people to the extent that we not only no longer know what other people have said but we don't care, except when they impinge on these obsessions. The joy of having this Pope is that he was not this cold hearted, solely rationalising, conservative automaton the media portray him as, but a man formed by love who lives his life through the paradigm of his prayer life. That someone can at once have that characteristic and be a man of reason is a concept the media will never get to grips with. At the risk of ending in irony: we will need a pope that will teach us the Catholic faith and so the Church has no use for a soundbite pope.

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Cardinal Arinze sums it up


Since I first came across Cardinal Arinze I have thought of him as a wise, loving, deeply holy man. In this video we have a microcosm of the reactions so many of us have felt since Monday. His weeping has the power that comes with the tears of a man as strong as he is. He doesn't repress his emotion with his rationalism, but with reason in the paradigm of love he comes to peace with it and sees that it is part of God's plan and that we have things to learn from this great teacher's actions. His personal feelings of sadness are offset by his trust in the joyous love of the Holy Spirit for His Church: "the Holy Spirit doesn't go on holidays" he says. My faith seems to be growing in a maturity as I reflect on the Holy Father's decision.

If Arinze was ten, maybe fifteen years younger, the beads would be rattling through my fingers in the hope the Holy Spirit had particular plans for him.

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

The Promised Gay Marriage Comment

Excuse the taridness of this post, I've had so much work of late I've not had a moment to myself.*

Well it's certainly been a difficult fortnight for the Church, maybe more in this country than others. Not only have we had to deal with the shock of the Holy Father's abdication, but also work out how we are going to respond to our governments attempt to change marriage.

The Church should have stood up in 1967 and refused to accept the state's assertion that it had the right to change what marriage meant from a lifelong union between a man and woman for the purpose of bringing up children by removing the requirement that it be lifelong. This undermined the institution of marriage greatly and it is unsurprising that it has further tried to change what marriage is. We no longer have an institution of marriage in this country because it is no longer about children, it is no longer lifelong and it is no longer about a man and a woman's creative love for each other. This is a deep sadness.

A gay marriage is a contradiction in terms. Gay love is no less than straight love, the relationships are of the same value, but they are no marriages and never can be. They are a different love. God's creative love is expressed in a marriage and procreation is simply not possible for gay relationships, however much we love the people in them. The idea that this is a question of equality is very much a misguided one.

A very sad state of affairs exists in our country.

*I just found I'd writted "tardiness of this pope". Freud and fields.

God Bless Our Pope, the Great, the Good

Maybe he'll have more chance for serenity now

It seems like a great many people, myself amongst them, are struggling to take in the idea that the Benedict will not be Pope next month. I never thought I would live to see a pope resign. It all makes sense when I look back on it, but I'd never have guessed this is what he was building up to.

Time moves on. Humans are living longer than ever before and whereas in the past we would have died before we got too frail to work. The 19th and 20th centuries saw great advances in medicine meaning that we now live long enough that we get illnesses associated with old age we never used to. If you look at videos of Pius XII towards the end of his life, he sometimes appears to demonstrate the natural mental effects of great old age. I pray that the Holy Father hasn't found himself with the first signs of dementia, there certainly been no hint that he has, but one could understand how the curia would rather keep it under wraps if he did. He chose Our Lady of Lourdes's feast, by whose prayers so many people with such a variety of illnesses had been cured, to make his abdication announcement. He is always going to have been the best judge of when to step down. He is a brave man for having done so, hopefully in the future when a pope feels he can no longer carry out the petrine ministry to the extent required he will feel more comfortable abdicating because of this. The humility of seeing that the work of running the Church had got too much for his frail body is powerful.

The poor man never wanted to be pope, which I imagine has something to do with why he's been such a good pope. He tried to resign from the curia before John Paul II died but stayed in his post out of obedience and he talked about how he would resign the papacy if he ever felt he needed.
In 2009 Benedict placed his own pallium on the tomb of Pope St Peter Celestine V who himself abdicated in 1294
Suddenly, Archbishop Gänswein crying on last month when he was ordained a bishop makes sense and Pope Benedict's words instructing those four bishops he was ordaining to be courageous. This is a man that is deeply loved by many, not least of all me. It is a great shame that we won't get his encyclical on Faith, the only indicator of future behavious is past so presumably it would have been a great work.

England won't have a vote in the upcoming conclave, though to be honest I'm not sure that's a problem: I don't think we have a specific point of view that needs promoting within the Church. We can though expect the usual bunkum as people think that think that the Church has policies and not doctrines and so expect any number of things to change that simply will not. Jesus knew everything and did not lie. His teachings will be true forever as they have always been, so the Church won't change those teachings when she repeats them.

I'll be praying for him and I expect at some point to be asking for his prayers. I wonder if he will publish his retirements work or wait for it to be published after he's dead.

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Busy

I have a crazy amount of work on right now, but there will be a post on gay marriage before long.

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

More Sacred than the Blood of the Martyr


Richard Dawkins this morning alerted me to the attack in Mali upon the Ahmed Baba Institute in Timbuktu which holds one of the most extensive collections of 14th, 15th and 16th century Islamic manuscripts on earth. It gets most of its funding from South Africa.

When the Roman empire finally fell completely in 1453 it was to the Turks who thus acquired a great deal of the ancients' learning. This reinforced an extant respect for learning within Islam: knowlege ("Ilm") is the third most common word in the Qur'an, there is a tradition that Mohammed said that "the best form of worship is the pursuit of knowlege" and mosques themselves have a key role in education.

The Ahmed Baba Institute held many manuscripts of great significance for all branches of Islam and for Arabic and African culture. Some of the manuscripts are written in local languages Initially the Institute had been seconded by Islamist fighters as sleeping quarters, but as frech led Malian troops pushed further into Timbuktu they fled and set light to the library. It was believed that some of the manuscripts had already been damaged when they were moved by the fighters who were sleeping there.

There is a vindictive wickedness in attacks like this. Not only does it violate a basic tenant of their faith, but it is a grossely selfish act which denies their descendants access to their rich past. It seems obvious to me that the people who attacked this centre of learning have no respect for other people and no respect for Islam or Mohammed.

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

SPUC... What?




A video taken from This Morning on ITV 1 from last Thursday. Anthony Ozimic, representing the opposition to the Same Sex Marriage Bill, was introduced as a member of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children. I give money to SPUC and I do so to further the campaign against abortion. That is what I had assumed my money is being used for. You can understand, therefore why I was shocked by this video and this is from someone who I hope made my views clear on the Same Sex Marriage Bill with my post on the letter to The Telegraph on the subject from a thousand priests that appeared the other week. Why are they getting distracted from combatting this ultimate evil by the unrelated issue of so called same sex marriage?

It has to be said that the other guest, Kelly Rose Bradford (from the Daily Mail), did not put forward any convincing arguments for the measure, nor did the show's hosts Holly Willoughby and Phillip Schofield who just berated Ozimic instead of engaging with him. The Catholic position of Same Sex Marriage is one that is reasoned and loving. Ozmic was neither.

I did though find his views unsettling, embarassing and contrary to Catholic teaching. On his personal Twitter page, Ozimic claims to be a "Catholic traditionalist", I assume this does not mean he is out of full communion with the Catholic Church. If my assumption is correct, maybe he would like to explain why he thinks that a person being gay is unnatural, when all the Church says is that homosexual acts are unnatural. When the Catechism says that homosexuality is "objectively disordered" it does so in the technical sense of natural law, as Ozimic knows full well. It tacitly recognises its natural origin when it discusses homosexuality's presence across the centuries and cultures. His discouragement of teenagers coming out does smack of a lack of "respect, compassion and sensitivity" for teenagers who are gay. I don't know what he thinks a homosexual lifestyle is or why he thinks it per se is a problem. Certainly he is misguided if he thinks that his views are upholding the Catechism. His assertion that gay relationships do not last is a nonesense. He's making himself look silly and with him the SPUC. Also, I for one, will be delighted if God blesses me with children and will be equally delighted if they are gay, straight, land somewhere inbetween or are asexual. I hope that I'll be a good enough father that they can talk to me about it as Ozmic suggests, but I'll certainly never encourage them to repress God's incredible gift of sexuality.

The SPUC justifies its campaign againt the Same Sex Marriage Bill because they believe that the undermining of marriage will lead to an increase in abortion. This seems a little spurious to me, I have to say. The strongest argument against Same Sex Marriage is that marriage is not appropriate for relationships that are not about children. If those relationships aren't about children, which though not popularly said, is obvious, how will they lead to abortions? It makes a nonsense of the SPUC's position. The two issues are not related, why pretend they are? Perhaps it is true to say that since pro choice and pro gay marriage positions often themselves as the "liberal" positions in the separate debates, people who self identify as liberal are drawn to both, but there is no greater causal link between the two and the outcome of the one debate won't effect the outcome of the other.

I also note that SPUC oppose the proposal in Wales to change the organ donation system to one in which an individual opts out rather than getting a donor card (NB I just this minute got a new one to replace mine which I've lost and it took me less than a minute). This measure seems eminently sensible considering our problems in this country with a lack of organs. How this is a pro-life issue I have no idea, except that it means that people's lives will be saved. People who feel strongly about it will opt out, as is their right, and those who don't will do others a great deal of good.

Please, SPUC, use donors money, my money, for what we give it to you for, campaigning for the recognition of the human rights of the not yet born. If I were giving money to a campaign for the legal affirmation of true marriage, which I have every reason to do, I would give it to the Coalition for Marriage. Be specialist, be excellent at what you do and do so by confining yourselves to the struggle you are the best equipped to deal with: don't get bogged down in unrelated campaigns. Anthony Ozmic's appearance on This Morning was an embarrasment and may well have harmed the pro life movement. Ozmic's appearance may also have done harm to the genuine programs of pastoral care for gay people that the Church runs in this country. The Church has no interest in changing someone's sexuality, why would they? That's how God created humans, with variations of sexuality. Diversity is a sign of God's love of His Creation. You lose credibility by trying to deal with issues outside of your remit and lose sight of your real goal and ultimately, in so doing you fail in your duty to protect unborn lives.

I'm going to carry on giving to SPUC because its work against abortion is important, but I would like all of the donations it receives to be spent on its pro life work and to leave its other campaigns to groups better equipped to deal with their issues.

Fr Tim takes the opposite view.

Holy See's Presence in London

Tarcisio Cardinal Bertone, Secretary of State to the Holy See
A facebook friend of mine today has the status "HOW EVIL CAN YOU ACTUALLY GET!" [sic] with a link to The Guardian's article on the Holy See's property portfolio in London. The guy's studying Classics at Cambridge. He's not thick. But erm... What actually is evil about this...? It's not a secret that part of the settlement with Mussolini was financial. The Papal States had been invaded in 1870, by today's standards illegally, so the pope claimed sovereignty over his territory which was now occupied by Italy. The Papal States existed since the 8th century to 1870, it was a well established part of the European political scene. To solve this problem, Mussolini signed a Concordat with the Holy See in 1929. The Holy See lost out big time in the Lateran Treaty because it lost all but the Vatican from its territory and with it, the ability to collect taxes. The money actually seems small compensation with that in mind. The Holy See is a state like any other and can spend its money as it wishes. Every government has a trading arm. Would it be evil for Luxemburg to own properties in London? The Guardian seems to be getting very flustered but I'm not entirely sure why. I'm sure any other state who had a decent sized property portfolio in another country would want to keep it quiet and since that's perfectly fine under British law, where's the problem?

Sunday, 20 January 2013

30, 000 Irish People


Thank God for these marvellous people in Dublin. Protesting against what one person in the crowd calls "the ultimate form of child abuse". Beeds will be flitting through the fingers for them, their country and their unborn. This is the active, relevant faith of the Church and it's deeply moving to see so many other young people out actively working to protect life.

I'm in the middle of an essay crisis or I'd write a bit more.

Saturday, 19 January 2013

Fr Lombardi comes out as pro Gun Control

Add caption
It is entirely appropriate that the Holy See should express opinions on affairs of other states since those for whom the Holy See has care are not only only its own citizens but Catholics throughout the world and in another way it has a duty of care to every person on Earth since they are created by her God in His own image and He loves them. However, it is not always politic to been seen to be meddling in other states' affairs. The USA has been very sensitive in the past to the idea that Rome might influence White House policy and so a more subtle approach to a public announcement in favour of gun control might be appropriate. I think that this "personal opinion" of Fr Federico Lombardi SJ, often referred to as the 'Vatican spokesman' in the press, is probably the result of this situation.  

The last line of Vatican Radio's summary is a nice little epigram.
Peace is born from the heart, but it will be easier to achieve if we have fewer weapons in hand.
It sounds almost Ratzingarian.

Bulgarian Assassination attempt


This shocking video of an attempted political assassination, on the face of it, seems out of place on this religious affairs blog. However, the gentleman with the gun pointed at his head, Ahmed Dogan, is leader of a party which relies heavily on the Bulgarian Muslim minority's vote called the Movement for Rights and Freedoms. It supports and promotes Muslims in Bulgarian society. It is mainly formed of ethnic Turks and has thus met with a fair bit of opposition from the extreme right and left wings in that country and there have been several instances in which opposition to the party has seemed religiously motivated. I would be surprised if this didn't have some such motive, either ethnic or religious, even if that prejudice is a manifestation of some psychological problem with the would be assassin.
Papa B leads the way
In an increasingly secular world, a strong Islam is a protection to the rights of Christians and for the promotion of justice in general throughout the world. Islam and Christianity tend to agree on the matters of life and of social justice where we and society as a whole are threatened by atheist ideologies. An attack on anyone for their religious beliefs is an attack on each person who holds a faith, even when it is perpetrated out of religious motivations because it seeks not only to suppress that person and their faith but the very idea idea that faith should be a part of a person in everything they do. This becomes particularly important when that person is involved in public life. It seeks to make faith irrelevant and if the concept of faith itself becomes irrelevant, it will soon becomes extinct.
Faith itself is relevant to the world today and will be more so tomorrow
I have no time for the SSPX line that interfaith and oecumenical dialogue should simply be the Church trying to convert people to Catholicism when faiths have so many areas of agreement that are so important. A person reaches out to God when they convert and God reaches back and touches their very soul, if we want to encourage this process of love then the appropriate situation for it is the interpersonal. Not only would evangelism in this situation be inappropriate, it would be pointless. We have so much to lose to atheist ideology, and by "we" I don't only mean Catholic, Christian or religious people. Religion as a force has huge potential to alter the world for the better simply because theism is a common factor is such a large proportion of human lives, and so to disregard this unifying experience of love is to to jeopordise the work of religions and religious people for a better future. That would be dangerously irresponsible.

Thursday, 17 January 2013

Lord Oystermouth

Burke's first law: "The quality of a priest is directly proportional to the size of his dressing up box"
The recently retired Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Oystermouth, has taken up his new post as Master of Magdalene College Cambridge. A Catholic-leaning vicar friend of mine commented to me last year that the last thing a church needs is an academic in charge, though we Catholics seem to be managing just fine. Another that his farewell broadcast, Goodbye to Canterbury, showed the Rowan that could have captured the minds of a generation if his church had not stood in his way. He and the Pope seem to get on well, both being academics by trade and having put up with an unwanted call from God to lead their denominations. The Holy Father did him a big favour in setting up the Ordinariate which led many of the Anglicans who had been a thorn in his side to join the Catholic Church, taking the problem off his hands. He also personally invited Professor Williams to take part in the Synod of Bishops last October and they celebrated Vespers together in San Gregorio al Celio, the monastery from which the first mission to the Britons was launched, last March. My favourite moment of their meeting there was the Archbishop adjusting the Pope's shoulder cape for him as they walked towards the monastery church; it just seemed like an entirely natural moment in front of the cameras, when the Pope is so awkward in the media spotlight.


I wish we Catholics had more bishops like Rowan. Maybe they could be a bit noisier than he was as Archbishop, but he speaks beautifully, lovingly and it is easy to see him configuring his day to day life to his prayer life. Upon his retirement he spoke of his regrets but said that it wouldn't do to be "too cautious" in a job like his. A Cambridge college seems his natural home and hopefully will be more than simply a retirement project for him.

The Natural Solution

An alternative solution which was not adopted by the Almighty
The Good Lord seems to be taking his time about gathering this particular relic of a time when whacky theology was the norm to his bosom. Some protestants liturgies pray for "time for amendement of life", but surely it doesn't take that long for this protestant? Our Heavenly Father seems to take even longer than the German legal system in carrying out justice. Today the good Bishop (currently, and I imagine forever without a See) was fined €1800 (£1500) for holocaust denial as a result of the broadcast which propelled him momentarily out of the obscurity of schism and into the twenty first century. He swiftly he decided he didn't like it and retreated back to 1788 and heresy. Following his expulsion from the Society of St Pius X for seemingly habitual disobedience, he offered to put his episcopal powers at the disposal of excommunicant groups. Does this mean the conclavists might get bishops?

I was told last night by an American that Britain has a law against insulting people. Whilst I hope for the sake of this blog post that this isn't true, we do have a law against defamation (I don't mind substatiating all the unpleasant things I've said here) and we have a law against hate speech (I merely express surprise at the Lord's tardiness, I wouldn't urge people to help him be more swift). We in this country don't have a law against holocaust denial specifically as they do in some European countries. I don't know how I feel about this one. On the one hand if there were an academic discussion to be had about it I would want that to be free, but on the other, by spreading the belief that the Holocaust didn't happen or one makes it more possible that it might happen, so holocaust denial does have the potential to pose a real and significant threat to society and the rights of others. Is it better to nip holocaust denial in the bud in case it later gains wider creedence or will the very act of outlawing it provoke a surge of support for the bizarre notion?

Bishop Fellay, the most sensible of the remaining three SSPX bishops, said something stupid about the jewish religion the other day, presumably knowing what would happen in the media as a result. Fellay said that people who follow the jewish religion were inimical to the Catholic Church. This seems not to bear any relation to reality. An improved approach to carrying out Our Lord's call to be missionaries is one of my favourite things about Vatican II: the Church calls us to do missionary work in a much more loving way than we had before. God created the people we're talking to as well and gave them brains and hearts too and He loves them as much as He loves us. Why treat or call people we love as enemies? 'Love your enemies' is irrelevant to our dialogue with judaism but 'love thy neighbour as thyself' or even 'honour thy father and thy mother'. To reject Vatican II is one thing, but to reject God's love is quite another and we know where it ends.

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Alabama Declares Humans to be People


What makes us human
Hating the sin of abortion is one thing, loving the people who are driven to it is quite another. I find it easy to get carried away when I talk about abortion and forget the second of the two most basic tenants of Christianity. I hope that I can get over this and become more like The Holy Family Sisters of the Needy in this respect. A congregation of these sisters live out this crucial call to love with a particular passion and joy in Willesden Green, London, working in such a complex and difficult situation as unwanted pregnancy. I'm also very aware that people that are pro-choice are so from the same motives as I am pro-life, the desire to promote the dignity of people.

I approach abortion from three angles.

Firstly that all humans, being made in the image and likeness of God and sanctified by the incarnation have innate value since each is loved infinitely by our Creator, Redeemer and Sanctifier. There's that beautiful passage in Jeremiah too
I claimed thee for my own before ever I fashioned thee in thy mother’s womb; before ever thou camest to the birth, I set thee apart for myself.
But actually, that's not the most relevant bit of what I think about abortion because that belief, which I hold dear to my heart and firmly in my mind, is only a belief held by Christians. I wouldn't impose that on people who chose to believe a teaching that relies, when it comes down to it on a belief in the Resurrection of Christ even if I could. If this were the only belief I had about abortion and I had the ability to do so, I would not pass a law forbidding it. I would be pro-choice with my own choice always being not to abort what I believed to be a child.

However, it is not my only belief on abortion. It is my second belief is the one that means that if I could I would outlaw all abortion except those to which the principle of double effect applies. I believe this in the same way that I believe logic and science simply because it is a logical application of scientific fact. That is my belief in human rights, most importantly the right to life. There is one feature that marks an organism out as human and that is not its ability to think, sense or the degree to which it is conscious or able to live independently. All these things change to varying degrees in humans that have been born already and if the last century taught us anything I hope it's never to say that a variation in someone's personal characteristics changes the extent to which they are people. If you say a foetus has no human rights for one of those reasons, it logically follows that you strip some humans who have been born of their rights. The only thing scientifically speaking that marks us out definitively as human in the scientific method is our genome, our DNA. If an organism has human DNA it is human. The process of growing is a continuum from conception to adulthood but there must be a point at which there is a discontinuity at which one can say "before this it is not a person and after this it is a person". There is only one point of continuity, the very start, the moment of conception. Before that, the DNA is incomplete: the sperm and ovum are not humans. After that they are humans. At the point at which they are human they must acquire the rights of personhood since otherwise you say is that not all humans are people or that some humans are more entitled to the rights of personhood than others.

Thirdly, I'm a feminist. A woman has a right to chose what happens to her body that exists within a hierarchy of rights. The right to life is the most fundamental of all rights and without it all others are annulled. This is manifest with abortion by the idea which I have heard promoted more than once amongst men: that their baby, when born, is not their problem because if the mother didn't want it she could always have had an abortion. She made the choice to keep it and so she bares the responsibility for it in every way. This in itself is not entirely illogical, only callous and wicked since it neglects both the mother and her child's right to a secure family life whilst also neglecting the father's responsibilities, the abrogation of which is the driving force of these men's argument. As an RE teacher I had when I was little was fond of saying: "it takes two to tango".

The hierarchy of rights in which all rights exist means that the unborn human's right to life, since it concerns its literal life must come before the mother's right to chose what happens within that life, this latter being the concept referred to when people ask in these situations "what about the mother's life?" The concepts in play may both be called 'life', but that is only because of lax use of the term: in reference to the foetus it is literal and in reference to the mother, figurative. The woman has the right to chose what happens in her life, but that right must bow to the unborn child's greater right to life. Once a child is alive, something which the scientific method informs us occurs at the point of conception, it has the right, being human, to stay alive.*

The Catholic News Agency is reporting that the state of Alabama has started to recognise the truth of my second belief on abortion into law: that foetuses are humans. Specifically they say "that unborn children are persons with rights that should be protected by law" and that as such they ought to be subject to the constitutional imperative that "all men are equally free", including that most basic freedom, the right to life.
Give audience to my prayer, O God; do not spurn this plea of mine (Ps 54:2)
Whilst this is not the repeal of Roe vs Wade (and our own Abortion Act 1967) that I'm praying for, it is a start of the recognition of this fact. Abortion is only a religious matter for me in part but it seems obvious to me that my denomination should be involved in what is a largely secular issue because it ought to be there to protect the weakest in society and who weaker than the unborn? It is as obvious to me in this instance as in its work against segregation in the USA and as obvious as the fact it should have held to its principles on slavery in the events surrounding the Treaty of Madrid in the 18th century.

In the UK, the government and most of society have got to the point where a human's human rights are not considered till the now arbitrary cut off point of twenty four weeks after conception and if there is so called 'foetal abnormality' there is no regard for them until birth. Physical abnormality, in British law, is now grounds for the removal of one's human rights. Whilst obviously causality isn't always implied by correlation, it is a sobering fact that in Ireland the proportion of babies born with Down's Syndrome is a lot higher than the proportion in the UK. In Ireland abortion is illegal. Is this what is meant by foetal abnormality in British law?
Bénédict Morel





*Some of this paragraph reads like a bad translation from German, but it was the clearest I could get it to be.