Saturday, 31 March 2007

Men's walk to Aylesford

Today saw a new event for the parish - a walk for men of about eight miles from Hollingbourne to Aylesford along the North Downs Way and part of the ancient Pilgrims' Way. Here we are, having been dropped off at Hollingbourne. Trefor, who in Austria could have claimed the title of Wanderfuhrer, is explaining that the walk is not too hilly.

After about two minutes, we came to the first of the not too hilly bits:

The view was pretty spectacular along much of the way. The Good Lord blessed us with perfect weather and some welcome breezes on the higher sections.

At one point, the path obstinately refused to go along the route that was indicated on the map. Undeterred, Dan demonstrated how to negotiate the barbed wire.

There were a few of those "Lord of the Rings" moments in the wooded sections.

and a few more of those not very hilly moments. Joking apart, Trefor did a magnificent job of researching the route and guiding us. It was a most enjoyable afternoon.

At Detling, Pip, Helen and Caroline were waiting with tea, rolls and home made cake. There was also some good beer to be had in the pub (I had Ruddles, others chose IPA or Old Speckled Hen.) Noticing the lack of ashtrays, I realised that there was probably something awry. It was indeed that most absurd of institutions that will spring up all over the land on my birthday this year - a non smoking pub. As Jeremy Clarkson might say "What's that for?"

Speaking of Mr Clarkson, you may notice that the car parked nonchalantly outside the pub is in fact a Ferrari. When the owner came out and spent some time getting into the vehicle and adjusting various things prior to lift-off, he could not but become the centre of attention. The throaty roar was delayed, however, as he got out again and said sheepishly that he had left the keys on the bar. Never have 14 men had such a missed opportunity!

At Aylesford in thanksgiving for the day, we had Benediction in the charming Cloister Chapel with prayers to Our Lady of Mount Carmel.

Publicity for pro-life stand against euthanasia

Edmund put me on to a good article in yesterday's Daily Mail in advance of the Mental Capacity Act coming into force this Palm Sunday. The article is headed, We'll fight backdoor euthanasia and risk jail say doctors and it is good to see two senior doctors quoted:
Philip Howard, a London gastroenterology consultant, said that he would not withdraw or withhold artificial nutrition and hydration even when it was specified in an advance decision.

"No patient should die as a result of dehydration and no patient should be allowed to die in a state of unrelieved thirst," he insisted. "It is my practice never to allow a patient to die of unremitting thirst."

Dr Howard added that a number of his colleagues had made clear "deep concern that patients may be dehydrated at the end of their lives".

Consultant geriatric psychiatrist Adrian Treloar said: "If I am asked, will I kill a patient under the Mental Capacity Act? the answer is 'no'.

"People who make living wills or support the idea should ask themselves if they really want a doctor to stop treating them or would they rely on that doctor risking a jail sentence?"
It is very good to see such senior figures in the medical world speaking such good sense.

Catholic parish of Hythe

I was just pointed to the new website for the Catholic parish of Hythe has a new website. It's a good parish website and has a section on Vocations.

Hythe parish is run by the Society of Our Lady of the Trinity and also covers Dymchurch, Littlestone and Lydd - lovely seaside towns on the south coast of England between Folkestone and Dungeness.

That Judas book

One or two people have asked me what I think about The Gospel According to Judas. To be honest, it was on the list of things to think about when some rather more important tasks had been tackled. Back from an afternoon's walk to Aylesford, I cooked up something to eat and read the Catholic Herald. They have a good article on it which got me looking on the internet.

Courtesy of The Cafeteria is Closed, I found the article by Fr Paul Mankowski which the Herald had quoted. In his remarks on the gospel according to judas, Mankowski offers the following clarfications:
  • The Pope did not "bless" the Archer-Moloney novel.
  • The Pontifical Biblical Institute provided the bottled water at the speaker's rostrum for the Archer-Moloney press conference. Its scholars had nothing whatever to do with the book's content.
  • The Archer-Moloney novel was not "published with Vatican approval."
  • No biblical scholar, including my former colleague Fr. Frank Moloney, believes Fr. Frank Moloney to be "the world's greatest living biblical scholar."
  • Fr. Moloney is not "one of the Pope's top theological advisers."
  • The International Theological Commission, of which Fr. Moloney was a member, enjoys the same level of teaching authority as the Philatelic Office of the Holy See -- that's to say: zero.
  • The teaching of the dogmatic constitution Dei Verbum §11 has not been abrogated.
The rest of Mankowski's article is well worth reading.

Friday, 30 March 2007

Parents' Faith Group at Aylesford

Another visit to Aylesford yesterday for the Parents' Faith Group at my parish began with us celebrating Mass in the simple but prayerful Cloister Chapel. Above the Altar there is a beautiful ancient crucifix:After Mass, I conducted a tour of the shrine, beginning with the historical exhibition showing paintings by Adam Kossowski illustrating various events in the history of the Carmelites.

Here is his depiction of the Friars being cast out into the street as a result of Henry VIII's Dissolution of the religious houses.

After visiting the other chapels and saying a prayer at the relic of St Simon Stock, we repaired to the shop for tea and the purchase of books and devotional articles, the pottery to see the work in progress and then the local pub "The Chequers" for an enjoyable lunch.

It was raining all day and this made me fearful that the men's walk today might be a rather drenched affair. It was not to be so ...

Dom Guillerand's book now at Amazon

A book that I have mentioned on this blog more than once is now available from Amazon UK. Many thanks to Fr Rafat for the link:

General Absolution - worries of a young priest

A young priest sent me the following by email. I am happy to post it with little in the way of comment except the following:

1. The priest concerned will bring this matter to the attention of the local ordinary. Do not underestimate the difficulty that faces him.

2. It is a shame that young clergy who are happy to live in obedience to their Bishop and cultivating a solid interior life have to face these problems.
One of the highest pastoral priorities for me as a Priest is helping people to receive God’s forgiveness in Confession or Reconciliation. Hearing Confessions can be demanding and tiring, but I love this sacrament – both as minister and penitent.

I wouldn’t be able to forgive myself if, through laziness, I denied the people their right to encounter the mercy of God through this sacrament. It’s one of the main reasons why I became a Priest. I could even say that it’s what I live for!

A lot of my preaching and pastoral work is done with the hope of helping people to feel welcome and encouraged – so that they can meet Christ in Reconciliation and be forgiven.

I like to think that I go the extra mile in putting up with people being difficult with me, remembering that I am an ambassador for Christ, who makes the appeal through me, “Be reconciled to God!”

I always wear clerical dress so that I am available for people. I find that I have many encounters of reconciliation – in different ways – as I travel about.

My experience teaches me that in coming to Confession people feel a sense of relief. Especially if they are able to go to Confession anonymously, they are able to broach difficult areas of their lives in safety. So, even with its demands and difficulties for people, the Sacrament of Reconciliation is a hugely pastoral sacrament. This sacrament, when it celebrated as the Church intends, gives Priests the best opportunity of reaching out to the lost sheep, being available for them.

I’m a Priest working in England. Recently we have been discussing the problem of the breakdown of marriage and family life among Catholics.

In the sacrament of Confession people of all ages are enabled to come and find Christ’s forgiveness and have the advice that will help them to keep their lives on the right track.

Young people who are undergoing temptations can come and receive the guidance which will help them to keep their lives on the right foundations. Very often I have been able in the sacrament of Reconciliation to encourage young people to confide in their parents or to avoid destructive and unwise patterns of behaviour. I could write pages along these lines – but I think that in no other area of my ministry have I been able to do more to help young people to prepare for happy marriages in the future.

So if we want to know how to help Marriage and Family life, the correct celebration of the Sacrament of Reconciliation is a good place to begin.

I’ve spent the whole of Lent – in the homilies I’ve given – trying to help people prepare to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

The reason I’m writing all this is because my Parish Priest has just informed me that he plans to do ‘general absolution or something like that…’ at the Penitential Service this evening. I don’t want to speak more about the details of this situation. It's not my place to judge my Parish Priest. He is a kind man who has done his best to encourage and make me welcome in my appointment.

But I don’t think he or others have the slightest idea how upset I and other Priests feel about the ways in which the sacrament of Reconciliation is undermined.

It’s very hard for Parish Priests who find that their parishioners – whose Confessions they offer to hear – disappear to a neighbouring parish where some sort of easy, but illicit (if not invalid) form of the sacrament is taking place.

I’m not a cry-baby, but this morning I burst into tears of frustration at what is being done to me and to the people. What is really happening is that they are being sent away with something which is easy, but not satisfying. They have asked for bread…

Of course, the people can go to Confession in the normal way somewhere else, but many of them probably won’t. They trust Father. And with our fallen condition we are always tempted to do what is easy, especially when someone in authority has said it is all right.

I suppose it may seem to some people that I’m just being bolshy in declining to have anything to do with tonight’s proceedings. Perhaps it seems as if I’ve got a 'legal' approach to ministry.

And in a certain way I do. Sometimes we do have to obey. The fact that recent Popes (even recently in Sacramentum Caritatis) have repeatedly reminded us that we need to help people to make an integral Confession seems a good reason not to water down the sacrament.

But there is more to it than that. What is really happening is that I am being denied the chance to exercise a very important part of my Priestly ministry.

It’s not that there is a shortage of Priests. The offer of finding enough Priests for this evening (and on other occasions in other parishes) was declined.

It’s not the first time this has happened to me. In one parish where I worked the people were encouraged to ‘confess one sin’. Personally I think this ‘rite two and a half’ (as it is commonly referred to by the clergy) is even more damaging than general absolution. It is certainly just as frequently done here in England.

In another parish where I worked the Priests gave individual absolution without the penitent confessing anything. This, too seems to be quite frequently done.

The result is that in the Deanery where I am now working, out of the small number of people who go to Reconciliation at all this week, probably only a third or a quarter will receive the sacrament in the way the Church intends.

Last year, during the time the reconciliation service was going on, was a very demoralizing time for me. It didn’t seem right to stay in the parish. I would have seemed to be a sign of contradiction – and I try to be loyal to the Priests I work with. I was (like this year) given very little notice of what was going to happen at the Reconciliation service. My friends were all busy or unavailable, so I walked around the streets to kill the time.

All of this reminds us that it’s good for us to pray for our Priests and for the Bishops!

May the Lord grant us always shepherds who will walk in his ways and whose watchful care will bring us his blessing. (Collect for the election of a Bishop)

Thursday, 29 March 2007

Retreat at Aylesford

From Tuesday afternoon until lunchtime today, I was at Aylesford Priory giving a short retreat to some parishioners. (Mulier Fortis has also posted about the retreat with some good photos.) Aylesford is one of my favourite places in the world. I think it is undervalued by Catholics locally. After all, it is the home of St Simon Stock to whom Our Blessed Lady gave the original brown scapular.

Aylesford was founded when the hermits of Mount Carmel had to leave the Holy Land. One of the English Crusaders gave the hermits a plot of land on the banks of the river Medway. This river was an obstacle to the Romans on their British campaign and still offers problems. Recently, the friars have completed a new wall to keep the river at bay.

The buildings are a mix of old and new. The Friary was dissolved by Henry VIII and the friars were cast out into the street. From then until the early 20th century, it was home to various wealthy families. When it came back into Carmelite hands, the surviving older parts were restored and new chapels built.

A recent restoration is this plaque just by the reception office. In English, it means "The flower of Carmel, having been cut down, has risen again more vigorous."

Thankfully, we had the cosy cloister chapel for all the conferences and Masses of the Retreat. I spoke first of all about the nature and purpose of a retreat and how to gain the best from it, speaking also about how to pray. The second conference was on the nature of a sacrifice in the Old Testament, the sacrifice of Christ and how we gain fruit by meditating on the passion. For the third conference, I drew from Sacramentum Caritatis and the Holy Father's teaching on how we should participate in the Eucharistic sacrifice.

For the fourth and last conference, I spoke of St Therese of Lisieux and her "Little Way." I was upfront about how I felt that this was becoming a new "craze" for me. Recently, I took up "L'Histoire d'Une Ame" again after 30 years. I think I finally get the point now! The teaching of the Little Flower is a simple and beautiful expression of some really quite daunting, even terrifying, truths about the spiritual life.

The bookshop at Aylesford has a good collection of books about Carmelite saints and their teaching so I picked up a new translation of "The Story of a Soul", a book about St Therese and prayer, and a book about her parents.

We were accommodated in the "New Block." I find the rooms at Aylesford very comfortable. Some people would probably consider it rather "old fashioned" now: for example, they do not follow the recent fad of installing a lavatory in everyone's room. This actually makes the rooms more spacious than many modern hotels.

The hospitality offered by the Friars is exemplary. The Prior and several of the other members of the community always take great trouble to come and talk with their guests and nothing seems too much trouble. The food is good and plentiful, and the sacristans keep the chapels in very good order.

I'm going to be at Aylesford again tomorrow with some mums from the Parents' Faith Group, and again on Saturday with the parish Men's Walk of ten miles, concluding with Benediction at the Shrine.

Tony Blair's "little skip" at first gay marriage

The UK Gay News reported recently on Tony Blair's speech at a fundraising dinner given by Stonewall. Blair’s “Real Joy” That Civil Partnerships Have Brought To Gay People. The page also includes the full text of Blair's speech at the dinner. Blair's appearance helped Stonewall's Equality Dinner to raise £230,000.

Blair makes it clear in his speech that he is wholeheartedly in support of the changes that have happened in the country's culture and he regards them as a significant part of his legacy as he prepares to step down from office. The recognition of civil partnerships, the Equality Act and the Sexual Orientation Regulations are part of this change in the culture of the UK which he was celebrating. He said,
I think the civil partnership is really the thing that, as I was saying to people earlier, it is a thing that doesn't just give me a lot of pride, but it actually brought real joy.
He goes on to say that he did "a little skip around" when he saw the pictures of the first ceremonies in Northern Ireland.

None of is really surprising given that Tony Blair is the Prime Minister and the legislation is part of the programme of his government. Perhaps the Guardian can now be reassured that Tony Blair is not becoming a Catholic (see this 2004 article worrying about his being "effectively a Roman Catholic.")

Call me a prophet of doom but it is embarrasingly obvious to everyone living in the real world that the Catholic Church in England and Wales is not going to get "concessions" from the Government on these issues by keeping quiet and taking a softly-softly approach. Wake up and smell the coffee, folks!

The Iona Institute

Sir Dan told me this evening of the Iona Institute which is an Irish non-governmental organisation dedicated to the strengthening of civil society through making the case for marriage and religious practice.

The Director of the Iona Institute is David Quinn who came to the notice of Catholics worldwide after Zenit news published his debate with Richard Dawkins which was broadcast on RTE's "The Turbridy Show" (Here are the links to Part 1 and Part 2 of the debate.)

Blogiversary coming up

I suddenly realised today that it is nearly a year since I started blogging. Checking the archives, I find that the actual date of the first post was 6 April 2006. So this year, that will be, let me see, err, oh dear, Good Friday. So no champagne celebrations then.

Looking up an almanac of moveable feasts, I see that 6 April will not fall on Easter Sunday until 2053. Not likely I will live until then.

BTW I checked google for "blogiversary" (442,000 hits) and "blogniversary" (477 hits) so have unthinkingly gone along with the majority view. It's nice to be able to do that occasionally :-)


Two funny posts. First of all from the Aliens in This World blog, the original Top Ten Signs You’ve Succumbed to Motu-Mania.

Then the Curt Jester's follow up with ten of his own.

My favourite from the Aliens in This World is:
10. Your browser’s homepage is now the news page at The one in Italian.
That gets developed with delightful silliness as you write code to refresh the page every five minutes, then realise that is not often enough and eventually your computer becomes a denial of service attack all on its own and the Vatican webmistress sends over the swiss ninja death guard to rip out your modem.

My favourite from the Curt Jester's list:
3. You have thought about punching the next person who uses the word "nostalgic" referring to your wanting the Tridentine rite available.

Tuesday, 27 March 2007

BBC bias article

Fiorella has reminded me that she did some extensive work analysing the BBC programme Sex in the Holy City which I mentioned in the post Can We Trust the BBC - 1.

Her article is in pdf format and is downloadable from this page at the SPUC website. It looks particularly at:
  • Allegations made, particularly the use of unreferenced figures and case studies
  • The use of slanted language and interview tactics
  • The omission of information
  • The use of negative stereotypes
It is incontrovertibly demonstrated that in this programme the BBC breached its own guidelines.

The BBC's response to an initial complaint was:
The BBC programme complaints unit concluded its response to SPUC by finding that “the programme supported its claims with properly researched and journalistically sound examples” and could “find no grounds for upholding your complaint against this programme.”
There is a good example to illustrate Robin Aitken's claim that the BBC knows it can slough off complaints because it is difficult to give evidence of bias and they know that normally no hard evidence will be forthcoming.

But what happens when there is hard evidence in the form of a 30 page dossier investigating a programme? What was the BBC's response to Fiorella's evidence?

Errr. No response.

Blogging revelations

A corespondent sent me this today:

Monday, 26 March 2007

Can we trust the BBC? - 1

From the Prologue:
"The licence fee brings with it a unique quid pro quo: it follows that because everyone pays for the BBC everyone has an absolute right to fair treatment from the BBC. That is the bedrock of the contract between the BBC and the country; and it is this contact that has been corroded by the inherent bias within the BBC’s journalism."
Robin Aitken is a former BBC reporter who spent 25 years working within the corporation. His book details his own attempt to draw attention to bias within the BBC at the highest level, concerns that were dismissed on the say-so of the Head of BBC News.

I recommend Can we Trust the BBC? to readers of this blog: you will find chapter eight especially interesting because it looks in some detail at BBC reporter David Kerr’s research into the 2003 Panorama Programme Sex and the Holy City. Aitken comments:
The great value of Kerr’s analysis is that it subjects a BBC programme to exactly the same sort of journalistic scrutiny which the BBC routinely deals out to others. Kerr shows that ‘Sex and the Holy City’ fell woefully short of basic journalistic standards, never mind the BBC’s aspiration to the highest possible level of trustworthiness.
Rather than give a lengthy review of the book in one post, I will from time to time offer some summary and highlights from the different chapters. For now, I will leave you with one of Aitken’s concluding comments which will ring true with any Catholic who has ever complained to the BBC about its bias against the Catholic Church:
Bias is such a subjective concept that it is easy for the Corporation to slough off most allegations secure in the knowledge that hard evidence will not be forthcoming. People may know, in their hearts, that the BBC is biased against them, but many will take the fatalistic view that nothing can be done about it. They merely accept that they are not going to get a fair hearing. This is a lamentable state of affairs for an organization that aspires to be ‘the most trusted in the world’.

Putting links in the combox

I don't normally do tech support but this problem has caused incovenience to some readers. Therefore...

If someone pastes in a long URL into the combox (e.g. from a newspaper story) it may go beyond the end of the line. (There are no spaces for the line to break at.) The text is all there but you can't see it. If you try to select to the end of the line, you do not get all the URL.

If people do this, you can solve the problem as follows:
Select from the beginning of the URL to a line below the URL. Paste this text into Windows notepad. There you can see the whole of the URL, you can select it, copy it to the clipboard and then paste it into the link box of the browser.

When you want to direct people to a web page, do not just paste the URL text into the combox. Do a link instead using the html anchor tag. Here's what you do:

1. Type in the following: <a href=
2. Type or paste the URL in double quote marks
(e.g. "")
3. close the angle brackets: >
4. Put in the text you want to see as the link text (e.g. Vatican website)
5. Put in the closing tag - </a>;

You end up with the following:

<a href="">Vatican website</a>

and it looks like the following:

Vatican website

Sunday, 25 March 2007

Channel 4 sex-ed poll

Channel 4 is running a poll. Wording as follows:
Sex and relationships education in Britain has been highlighted by Davina McCall in Let’s Talk Sex. Tell us what you think.

Should sex education be compulsory in the UK for all pupils regardless of their parents' wishes?
When I looked, it was 93% in favour of sex-ed regardless of parents' wishes. Here is a link where you can cast your vote.

Saturday, 24 March 2007

"She is the Immaculata..."

"She is the Immaculata, who receives God's gift unconditionally and is thus associated with his work of salvation. Mary of Nazareth, icon of the nascent Church, is the model for each of us, called to receive the gift that Jesus makes of himself in the Eucharist."
(Sacramentum Caritatis 33)

New toy

Having built up loads of upgrade brownie points with T-mobile, I decided it was time to get a new phone-pda. I've used Palm devices for quite a while so I regard it as a bit of a backward step to have to go to windows mobile. I got the MDA in its all-singing, all dancing version (though I have gone into settings/dancing and permanently disabled liturgical dance.)

The trouble is, being windows and all, setting it up is a major investment of time - something I don't have much of. Several re-installs of the utterly useless activesync later, I have downloaded a new version which has worked following a couple of hard resets of the handheld device. That being said, this is the first handheld I have had that actually does the internet in any convincing way. I'm trying out a few browsers on it and will have a look at opera's pocket version.

To be of any use, it needs an SD card - Amazon do 2Gb cards for less than a tenner so I got one of those in the post. But actually it needs a mini-SD card so if anyone (esp. poor student) wants a standard 2Gb SD card, make a claim in the combox (first come first served), then send me an email and I'll post it to you.

For a diary, an alternative to the ghastly and useless "Outlook" is Calendarscope (another possiblity would be Mozilla Sunbird but that probably needs a few months more and a few more builds.) I downloaded the Calendarscope sync softward for pocket pc only to find it would not work. Their tech guys replied to my email with a step-by-step windows mobile registry hack to sort it out. So I downloaded a windows mobile registry editor and did the hack. They were right - and I'll probably need the registry editor in the future so that's a plus. For the contacts, I've got various ideas for getting my own patent letters-and-contacts database onto the thing but will have to think that through a bit.

The MDA also works with a bluetooth satnav gadget. That came with another wrong-sized storage card but I am most of the way through working round that. It should also act as a mobile modem for my laptop - setting that up will be a google fest for another day.

Microsoft - doncha love it! When I next get a new computer, I must learn to leave Windows alone with all its own settings and defaults, a bottle of milk and a teething ring.

One real killer-app for a mobile device: the London Tube map with toggle between tube and roadmap. I see that the whole London A-Z is also available. That's going on the storage card.

Another great app that I recommend for users of these gadgets is Pocket e-sword. I have long used the desktop version. This is a free electronic bible put together by a chap called Rick Meyers. The pocket version was just recently put up, I think. Most of the versions of the bible that he lists are protestant ones but I have download the Vulgate, the Greek NT with variants and the Greek NT with Strong's numbers, Strong's dictionary and the Douay-Rheims bible. (Must remember to get the Septuagint also.) The Catechism can go on as a Word file, together with the Code of Canon Law.

Any other tips for good Catholic software for these things?

Do I recommend it? If you are happy with searching tech support boards for error messages, finding workarounds and downloading hacking software, yes, it can be made into a really cool thing eventually. But don't get one if you need to rely on it working by "plug ner play" and doing what it says on the tin.

(BTW if you do get one, you're on your own. I don't do tech support.)

An evening at Kingsland

If you have read the Roman Miscellany or Cally's Kitchen, you will have seen that I was at Our Lady and St Joseph in Kingsland (left) last night, speaking on Richard Dawkins and the Existence of God. There is a page at my parish website on Dawkins, Evolution and Atheism if you are interested.

The Mulier Fortis kindly gave me lift over to Kingsland which is "the other side of the river" (insert scary chords here.) We arrived in time for the fifth Station of the Way of the Cross led by Fr Nicholas Schofield. There were about 100 people there for the Stations; a commendable turnout for a Friday night. Here is Father at the eighth station:

There were some good questions after the talk and, as so very often, I found myself revising some opinions in the light of them. The local headmaster picked up on my comment near the beginning of the talk that I had a great respect for Dawkins. This was in reference to Dawkins' undoubted ability to explain scientific concepts in an attractive and intelligible manner. However, as I mentioned later: in his recent book The God Delusion, Dawkins opines that bringing children up in a religious faith is a form of "child abuse." I would agree that this nasty jibe rather limits the amount of respect that one can have for him.

Sacramentum Caritatis copies from CTS

The Catholic Truth Society have got out print copies of Sacramentum Caritatis. Following their email notification, I asked Jean who runs our pamphlet rack to order 10 copies - they arrived this morning.

I sat down with it over lunch today and read the first half through carefully. This is a wonderful exposition of the Eucharist and I will incorporate several quotations into my notes for students on sacramental theology.

It struck me also that this is perfect material for reflection for Passiontide and Eastertide. I'm starting this weekend with the relationship between the Eucharist and the Sacrament of Penance. It will be helpful, I think, for people to see that when I talk about the importance of being properly disposed to receive Holy Communion, the value of a spiritual communion, and participation in the Mass as something more than external actions... it is not "your priest being traditionalist" but the teaching of the Holy Father in response to a Synod of the world's Bishops.

Friday, 23 March 2007

White greca

Some recent photos of the Holy Father over at the unsurpassable fount of papal pictures, the Papa Ratzinger Forum, show him wearing a white Greca (cassock-covering coat) at the General Audience.

Now these coats, even for Cardinals, are usually worn in black. But knowing Gammarelli's, I expect if you walked in there and said "Look, I'm Pope John the twenty-fourth and I need a white Greca", they would probably ask if you wanted it in polycotton, wool or mohair.

Update: White greca experts have posted links to pictures of several other Popes sporting this garment - see the combox.

Christophobic reply from MP's aide

A correspondent has drawn my attention to page 27 of the print edition of the Daily Telegraph today. The 'Spy' column reports on a constituent who wrote to Alan Simpson, Labour MP for Nottingham South, asking him to oppose the SOR legislation.

The reply was written by a member of Simpson's staff, one Paul May:
'You disgust me. You are so totally and utterly out of touch with the real world that it is no surprise to me that the Christian faith is fizzling out to nothing in the United Kingdom. Perhaps when we have managed to turn all our children gay the problem of religious bigotry affecting our laws will no longer be an issue.'
Apparently Mr May has now apologised and made it clear that he does not speak for Mr Simpson. I be that caused some fluttering. The mask of "equality" is not meant to slip as dramatically as that!

Talk at Kingsland

I'm off now over to Kingsland to speak to the William Lockhart Circle about Dawkins and the existence of God.

This has been advertised over at the Roman Miscellany and Cally's Kitchen. Mulier Fortis is giving me a lift over there and the four of us bloggers will be meeting up for a bite to eat afterwards (no meat, of course.)

I'll take the big camera and see if I can get some nice pictures for you.

Catholic papers on the reception of Sacramentum Caritatis

The Catholic Herald leader this week is sharply critical of the lack of the failure of the Bishops' Conference of England and Wales to give due publicity to Sacramentum Caritatis. Headed "A bewildering silence", the piece invites us to imagine the Church as an orchestra with Pope Benedict XVI as conductor:
Last Tuesday, the Pope took to the podium to lead us in a hymn of priase to the Eucharist through his Apostolic Exhortation, Sacramentum Caritatis. When he raised the baton, the Herald began to play at full volume, devoting pages to the new document and hailing it as a masterpiece. But we were bewildered when we looked up and saw that great sections of the orchestra were sitting in silence.
The Universe seems a little hazy on the difference between various types of papal document. However, a short article on page 3 manages to make the same point as the Catholic Herald leader, albeit probably without intending to. The headline reads simply "LMS welcomes encyclical."

Thursday, 22 March 2007

Channel 4 sex propaganda

Tomorrow night, the programme Let's Talk Sex will be repeated on Channel 4 (first shown in March last year). It will be broadcast at 8pm (an hour before the "watershed") and pushes the tired and utterly discredited line that teenage pregnancy will be reduced by more sex education.

The programme will be presented by Davina McCall. Her authority in this area is presumably based on her being a presenter of Big Brother. Davina will take you (and your children) on a visit to a Dutch sex education class where children as young as four are taught about homosexuality and shown cartoons of various sex acts. Also featured is that tried and trusted method of preventing teenage pregnancy: unrolling a condom over a prosthetic sex aid.

The Channel 4 website has this deeply moving assessment of the presenter's lone stand against the forces of reaction:
In Let's Talk Sex, Davina McCall takes on the establishment over the crisis of teen pregnancies and spiralling rates of sexually transmitted infections in the UK. It's time for Britain to be brave, she says, and for sex and relationships education to become compulsory.
The "establishment" that she is so courageously taking on is presumably the London-metro British establishment that is so anti sex-education and pro-chastity. Aren't you just in awe at her bravery?

Sadly, propaganda of the Let's Talk Sex type not only leads to more teenage pregnancies but also further exacerbates the epidemic of sexually transmitted infections among teenagers.

The website includes the hackneyed argument about Dutch teenage pregnancy rates being low because of sex education. This article from Family and Youth Concern blew that one apart four years ago.

Below is a linked image to a publicity photo for Big Brother with colleague Dermot O'Leary. I hope it will help parents to decide whether this woman is a good person to trust to give advice to their teenage daughters:

Pray for seminarians

Fr Stephen Boyle has just been out to the Royal English College in Valladolid for a few days. He sent me a photo of himself and three students of the College: Samuel Davey and Thomas Lynch from the Archdiocese of Southwark, and Mark Homsey from the Diocese of Leeds. Please remember them in your prayers.

The lost girls

There is a good article in the daily Standard called The Lost Girls which exposes how sex-selective abortions are targeting unborn girls by the million. At the UN, the practice is not properly highlighted because of feminist orthodoxy over abortion.

A visitor to London

Catholic Rights is a blog run by John Kearney whom I met at the SOR Prayer Rally yesterday. He has a good post called A Day in London telling of his experiences on coming down to visit our capital.

Jansenists and transferring Holydays

I have just been reading through the bull Auctorem Fidei in which Pope Pius VI condemned the errors of the Jansenist pseudo-synod of Pistoia. One condemned proposition that caught my eye was the following:
The deliberation of the synod about transferring to Sunday feasts distributed through the year, and rightly so, because it is convinced that the bishop has power over ecclesiastical discipline in relation to purely spiritual matters, and therefore of abrogating the precept of hearing Mass on those days, on which according to the early law of the Church, even then that precept flourished.

Pius VI Auctorem Fidei 1794 n.74
That is very interesting. I did not know that the Jansenists were in favour of transferring Holydays to the nearest Sunday. So many liturgical changes of recent decades were enthusiastically promoted by the Jansenists.

To avoid confusion: the condemnation of this proposition is not a matter of infallibility in dogmatic matters but a disciplinary provision, particularly concerning the authority of Bishops. The Holy See has in recent decades subsequently given the necessary permission for Bishops' Conferences to transfer Holydays to Sunday.

Wednesday, 21 March 2007

SOR Prayer Rally

The Prayer Rally outside the Houses of Parliament tonight was a moving witness to the Christian faith. Led by a series of evangelical preachers using unerringly appropriate quotations from the Holy Scriptures, it was a stirring opportunity to proclaim the Gospel.

The Rally took place during the debate in the House of Lords over the Sexual Orientations Regulations. In the order of business for the House of Lords was the following:
Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007 Baroness Andrews to move that the draft Regulations laid before the House on 13 March be approved. 12th Report from the Statutory Instruments Committee and 14th Report from the Merits Committee
Baroness O'Caithain introduced the following amendment:
to move, as an amendment to the above motion, to leave out all the words after “that” and insert “this House, having regard to the widespread concerns that the draft Regulations compromise religious liberty and will result in litigation over the content of classroom teaching, and having regard to the legality of the equivalent regulations for Northern Ireland, declines to approve the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007.”

During the debate, Baroness O'Caithain said that she believed the SORs to be seriously flawed. She drew attention to the now notorious failure of the Government to allow proper parliamentary scrutiny of the regulations. The House of Commons had no opportunity to debate them except in a last-minute Committee. The approval of the regulations on Monday night was marked by a series of points of order protesting about the abuse of democratic procedure. Baroness O'Caithain said:
"This surely is not acceptable. The government is rushing headlong into the incredibly sensitive area of a clash between gay rights and religious freedom and doing so by secondary legislation that does not allow for amendments and permits only very limited debate."
Sadly but not surprisingly, the amendment was defeated by 168 votes to 122.

Tonight's rally was organised by the Lawyers Christian Fellowship and Christian Concern for our Nation. Andrea Minichiello Williams has kept us all informed by comprehensive and informative emails. It was good to see her tonight and to thank her for her work.

I am pleased to say that there were some Catholics although very much in the minority. The Latin Mass Society, the National Association of Catholic Families, the Faith Movement, (and of course, the parish of Our Lady of the Rosary Blackfen) were represented. Apart from myself, priests attending included Fr James Clark (pictured), Fr Mark Swires, Fr John Boyle and Fr Dermot Fenlon.

It was all very evangelical in tone and it was fun to shout "Amen" at various points, as well as enjoying a little fun with the trad Catholics who were there, suggesting other interjections such as "miserere nobis" and "laus tibi Domine" when the un-Lenten alleluias were being shouted. During the various "prayer points" we managed to say the five sorrowful mysteries of the Rosary and added a number of Catholic prayers at the times of spontaneous prayer. It was really ecumenism at its best. After the final hymn, we stuck up a chorus of "Christus Vincit" emphasising the importance of the social Kingship of Jesus Christ.

A few of the younger Catholics got together afterwards with some of the clergy at the Albert pub in Victoria Street. The picture below includes a rare shot of the Mulier Fortis (tapping smartphone) as several of us attempted to use various bits of technology to get any news there might be of the progress of matters in the House of Lords.

Peter Luff MP protest over SORs

On Monday, Peter Luff MP made a strong protest in the House of Commons about the "breathtaking abuse" of Parliament in the Government's handling of the Sexual Orientations Regulations. Several other MPs also complained about the rushing through of the SORs. Commenting in a press release issued today, Peter Luff said:
“There are two quite separate issues here. First, are the regulations – which are complex– right in principle and in detail? Second, have they received proper parliamentary scrutiny?

“There is room for debate about these two rival freedoms - the freedom of religious people and organisations to apply their own moral code to difficult and sensitive decisions, and the rights of gay people not to be discriminated against. Both are genuine freedoms, but I am deeply concerned that the second freedom has taken absolute priority over the first without any debate in Parliament on a matter of such profound importance.

“With more time, a solution could have been found that removed discrimination and respected religious conviction - but the government was having none of that. It sought to impose its will in a breathtaking abuse of the spirit of parliamentary democracy. Yesterday parliament was diminished and important freedoms were trampled over in a worrying way. It was a sad day for people of all faiths whose deepest convictions were contemptuously dismissed by an arrogant government.”
Mr Luff was able to refer to "concerns raised by constituents" so well done to those in Mid Worcestershire who contacted him over the weekend.

If you want to check how your own MP voted, here is the relevant page in Hansard. If you go to the top of the page and click "previous section", you can read the various points of order that were raised.

Very pleased to see that, as ever, Derek Conway, MP for Sidcup and Old Bexley, was on our side, voting "No" to approving the Regulations.

Tuesday, 20 March 2007

Anti -abortion petition

Some of the petitions using the e-petitions website seem to me to be poorly worded. However here is one that has no ambiguity:
We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to Revoke the 1967 Abortion Act
The explanatory text says simply:
We the undersigned petition that the 1967 Abortion Act be revoked. The act of abortion destroys the lives of thousands of women every day, not to mention the innocent children, and is reprehensible in all circumstances.
There are 548 signatures at the time of posting. Do add your name if you are eligible (you must be a British Citizen or resident to sign the petition.

Sign the petition here

C'mon now! Everyone can sign this.

Mrs Cooper RIP

Please remember in your prayers Mrs Cooper who died yesterday, aged 96, the mother of Dan Cooper (Sir Dan of the Nesbitry.) Dan returned to Ireland for the funeral and the family would be most appreciative of your prayers for Mrs Cooper.

Queen equates cohabitation with marriage

The Independent reports today (Queen's Royal approval for 'living in sin') on the invitation cards sent to peers for this year's Garden Parties. The form includes a note "NB living with partner = married."

UK Commentators draws attention to the Coronation Oath in which her was asked:
Will you to the utmost of your power maintain the Laws of God and the true profession of the Gospel ?

Will you to the utmost of your power maintain in the United Kingdom the Protestant Reformed Religion established by law ?

Will you maintain and preserve inviolably the settlement of the Church of England, and the doctrine, worship, discipline, and government thereof, as by law established in England ?

After promising to do so, she solemnly swore with her hand upon the gospels:
"The things which I have here promised, I will perform, and keep. So help me God."
UPDATE: As a blogger, I would always want to observe the proper form of the "new media" and correct anything that is wrong. It seems from my commenters here that a different slant on this story would be that Her Majesty wished to prevent cohabiting children of peers from attending the Garden Party as if they were single. If that is so, the "cohabiting=married" note certainly takes on a different hue. If this is the case, I readily proffer my sincere apologies to Her Majesty for my treasonable comments.

(However, the aide who phrased the note in that way should surely be reprimanded for his/her failure to spot the obvious misinterpretation that could be made of the sovereign's will.)

Monday, 19 March 2007

Sneering at Wilberforce

Many thanks to Edmund for the link to this excellent post Biting the hand which analyses the BBC's treatment of Wilberforce last Friday.

Indeed that looks like a good blog: Biased BBC. One item that caught my eye was a Freedom of Information request put in to the BBC by a commenter:
Fed up as I was with the constant bleating about man-made global warming we get on the BBC, I thought I would find out just what they are doing to help the planet. So I put in a FOI request asking about the air miles the BBC fly, the carbon that this produces, and how the BBC offsets this. Get ready for some amazing numbers (all relate to the last reporting year):

Total UK domestic flights: 17 million miles

Total European flights: 14 million miles

Other flights: 94 million miles

Total air miles: 125 million

Total cost: £15,147,000

TOTAL CO2 EMISSIONS: 25,676,000 Kgs

TOTAL CO2 OFFSET: 0 kgs. Yes, 0 Kg.
What a hoot!

The BBC, slavery and papal teaching

Cally's Kitchen has an excellent post headed The Pro Life Cause: Inevitable Victory? The BBC is running a series commemorating the abolition of the slave trade. The DĂșnadan speculates on a future series in which "The BBC commemorates the banning of abortion, euthanasia and eugenics with a season of programmes on TV and radio." (H/T to Mulier Fortis)

Another link between the two themes is explained by Fr Linus Clovis in an article in Faith Magazine, Slavery, the Gospel of Life and the Magisterium. He explains that although the Popes consistently and repeatedly condemned modern slavery from its very beginning in the 15th century. Slavery was also very clearly condemned by the Holy Office of the Inquisition in 1686 and the captors, buyers and possessors of slaves were ordered to make compensation to them. This teaching did not have the effect that it should have had because of the lack of co-operation among some Bishops and priests. He says:
Hence the durability of the scandalous impression of official Church collaboration, support and participation in that most heinous institution of rapine, murder, exploitation and greed. The Papal Magisterium’s clear and unequivocal condemnation of slavery was not echoed, supported, preached on or translated into action by the generality of local hierarchies, clergy and laity. It is similar today with abortion and especially with that other aspect of the Gospel of Life, condemnation of contraception, which teaching is, in at least partial consequence, ignored by many Catholics today.
Another article which gives some more details of the various papal documents is The Popes and Slavery.

Of course, people whose information comes from today's BBC get a very different picture. The BBC website has a page on Christianity and slavery which is entirely devoted to the justification of slavery by Christians. Papal condemnation of slavery? Not a word. Instead, we get:
The emergence of colonies in the Americas and the need to find labourers saw Europeans turn their attention to Africa with some arguing that the Transatlantic Slave Trade would enable Africans, especially the 'Mohammedans', to come into contact with Christianity and 'civilisation' in the Americas, albeit as slaves. It was even argued that the favourable trade winds from Africa to the Americas were evidence of this providential design.

Religion was also a driving force during slavery in the Americas. Once they arrived at their new locales the enslaved Africans were subjected to various processes to make them more compliant, and Christianity formed part of this. Ironically, although the assertion of evangelisation was one of the justifications for enslaving Africans, very little missionary work actually took place during the early years. In short, religion got in the way of a moneymaking venture by taking Africans away from their work. It also taught them potentially subversive ideas and made it hard to justify the cruel mistreatment of fellow Christians.

However, some clergy tried to push the idea that it was possible to be a 'good slave and Christian' and pointed to St Paul's epistles, which called for slaves to 'obey their masters', and St Peter's letters (1 Peter 2: 18-25), which appeared to suggest that it was wholly commendable for Christian slaves to suffer at the hands of cruel masters.
So there you have it - Christianity wholly reprehensible: no other side to the story at all. The next article, discussing the role of Christians in the abolition of slavery does, of course, go for "balance" putting both sides to the story -
"... some have argued that they never showed the same commitment to ending slavery as they did to ending the slave trade. Their attitude towards Africans appear condescending by today's standards..."
The article does not, of course, mention the teaching of the Catholic Church's magisterium.

Sunday, 18 March 2007

Sacramentum Caritatis on Catholic legislators

A correspondent drew my attention this evening to an important passage in Sacramentum Caritatis:
83. Here it is important to consider what the Synod Fathers described as eucharistic consistency, a quality which our lives are objectively called to embody. Worship pleasing to God can never be a purely private matter, without consequences for our relationships with others: it demands a public witness to our faith. Evidently, this is true for all the baptized, yet it is especially incumbent upon those who, by virtue of their social or political position, must make decisions regarding fundamental values, such as respect for human life, its defence from conception to natural death, the family built upon marriage between a man and a woman, the freedom to educate one's children and the promotion of the common good in all its forms. These values are not negotiable. Consequently, Catholic politicians and legislators, conscious of their grave responsibility before society, must feel particularly bound, on the basis of a properly formed conscience, to introduce and support laws inspired by values grounded in human nature. There is an objective connection here with the Eucharist (cf. 1 Cor 11:27-29).
My correspondent pointed out the painfully obvious application of this paragraph to Ruth Kelly, the Communities Secretary who laid before Parliament the Sexual Orientation Regulations and said that she was proud to bring them forward.

No Room for Contraception

I recently came across a blog called No Room for Contraception.

The blog is linked from their main website which has useful articles and news. NRFC celebrated its first anniversary on 27 February.

Association of Catholic Women

Another good organisation is the Association of Catholic Women which also has a quarterly publication, the ACW Review. A quote from the website:
As Catholic women we are aware of the need for positive and practical action in the service of the Church.

We give our glad assent to the teachings of the Church and rejoice in the heritage which we have been given.

Family and Youth Concern

For many years, I have regularly received the Family Bulletin from Family and Youth Concern. The organisation campaigns on a range of issues related to the family and produces good quality materials with references.

Preparing this post, I find that the quarterly bulletin is available on the web, or by email as well as by post.

Saturday, 17 March 2007

SOR Prayer Vigil Wednesday

This coming Wednesday, there will be a prayer vigil outside Parliament at Old Palace Yard (the square opposite the St Stephen’s entrance to the House of Lords) on Wednesday 21st March from 7 to 9pm when the final vote on the Sexual Orientation Regulations will be taken. The Vigil is organised by Christian Concern for Our Nation. They say:
We pray for a miracle next Wednesday. However, whatever the outcome it is vital that history records Christians standing for truth to the very end of the parliamentary process.
This is my type of ecumenism! I will be there and it would be great to see any readers of this blog.

Further information at Christian Concern for Our Nation.

Faith Magazine March-April free online

Sorry to be late with this but the full content of the Faith Magazine for March April is available free of charge online. The editorial is on "Pro-Life Strategy and Arguments for the Soul" and there are other pro-life articles as well as further debate on science and creation.

Until I looked at the website just now, I quite forgot that this issue includes a piece I wrote about Preaching on Abortion. This makes me feel really middle-aged. It is one thing to forget what you said but quite another to forget an article you have written :-)

Comic Relief: One World Action

In the combox, Paulinus reported on a little "digging" he has done at the Comic Relief Cash in Action page. This lists the grants given last year to charities both in the UK and overseas.

One charity that benefited last year was One World Action (Zambia). One World Action is a non-governmental organisation based in London that supports projects in Africa, Asia and Central America.

One of the documents that is made available and supported by One World Action is "Sexual and Reproductive Rights in Central America." Although some of the content is specific to Central America, the document is a good summary of policy in various areas. For example (2.1.9)
One of the themes of the document is the negative influence of the Church It should be emphasised that the church’s opposition to abortion is not only due to its much trumpeted position that life begins with conception but also derives from its vision of motherhood as the destiny of all women.
The document explicitly opposes the Vatican's influence on the Millennium Development Goals, it opposes the emphasis in Catholic countries on abstinence ("not a realistic option") and regards the prohibition of abortion in the Honduras and El Salvador as "a great step backwards."

One World Action strongly promotes the "secular state" but regrets that the Church still has some influence and attacks in particular the work of Opus Dei.

In the "Notes for an Agenda for Action", the defence of the secular state is again seen as a "key political issue." There is advice on tactics for arguing the pro-abortion position:
When arguing for the decriminalisation of abortion –whether total or partial – it is important to go beyond arguments against the position of the Catholic Church, analysing the issue with all its implications. Rather than becoming trapped in a debate about abstract moral principles, the reality of the women who die every day because abortion has been forced underground should be emphasised. For this reason, the advocates of decriminalisation should demand that governments develop serious statistics on abortion-related mortality so as to make visible the problem.
In other words, rather than debate whether abortion is about killing babies, find some "back street abortion" propaganda. The document conveniently forgets the physical and psychological damage done to women by "legal" abortion throughout the world, not to mention the epidemic rise in sexually transmitted infections caused directly by "reproductive rights" programmes.

The whole document is a brief for pro-contraception, pro-abortion, and specifically anti-Catholic action.

In 2006, One World Action received a grant of £637,054 from Comic Relief scheduled over four years.

(I would be happy to post other information on "charities" supported by Comic Relief.)

Friday, 16 March 2007

Fresh air and exercise

Today was a glorious spring day in the South of England. I had a funeral and one or two other things in the morning, then a bit of space before Stations and other duties in the evening. So before grinding into the paperwork on my desk, I took a couple of hours out to get some fresh air and exercise with a walk round Lullingstone Park. Here are some photos I took showing some scenery of the North Downs. Benedicite omnia opera Domini Domino!

A taste of Pluscarden Abbey

Fr Augustine of Pluscarden Abbey writes:
I am organising a retreat for single Catholic men aged 18-40 at the Abbey from 4th - 8th June 2007, to give them a chance of sampling the monastic life within the cloister. Those who come will follow our daily timetable, join us in choir for the Divine Office and private prayer, eat with us in the refectory and work with us; there will also be talks and discussions on various aspects of the monastic life and instruction on how to practice lectio divina. We are not charging for the retreat and there are cheap flights from England to Aberdeen and Inverness whence buses can be got to Elgin - we are six miles out of the town in a secluded valley.
To book on the retreat, contact the Abbey by email

SOR leaflet

I am happy to pass on this email received today from a friend. It can be copied for parish newsletters and/or passed on to friends.

URGENT - contact Parliament IMMEDIATELY and ask Parliamentarians to VOTE AGAINST the SEXUAL ORIENTATION REGULATIONS (SORs) to be voted on in the House of Lords THIS WEDNESDAY 21st March.
  • The government’s Sexual Orientation Regulations (SORs), in a misguided attempt to protect people against unjust discrimination, forces schools, adoption agencies, providers of goods & services and others to act as if homosexuality is as valid a lifestyle as heterosexuality. The Government has said about the SORs: “This is not just about legislation, it is about ultimately changing the culture of our society”.

  • It is against Catholic teaching and against the natural moral law to regard homosexuality as normal, morally acceptable or as valid a lifestyle as heterosexuality.

  • The SORs violate people’s freedom of conscience not to be complicit in the endorsement of homosexuality. For example, the SORs may even leave teachers open to legal action if they say homosexuality is wrong.

  • Baroness O’Cathain has tabled a motion to stop the SORs becoming law. Please contact as many Peers (members of the House of Lords) as possible, urging them to support Baroness O’Cathain’s motion against the SORs. You can email Peers via You can also get lists of parliamentarians’ email addresses from websites such as You can also write to Peers at the House of Lords, London SW1A 0PW.

  • Please also contact your MP. Please ask your MP to be present and formally object to the SORs on the floor of the House of Commons on Monday (19th March) at the close of business. Also, please ask your MP to be present and vote against the SORs during the ‘deferred division’ on Wednesday (21st March) between 12:30 and 2:30pm. The MP for this parish is [MP’s name], though you may live in a constituency with a different MP. You can find out who your MP is by visiting You can also email (or fax) your MP via or via or by using You can also write to your MP at the House of Commons, London SW1A 0AA. All parliamentarians can be telephoned via the Parliamentary switchboard 0207 219 3000.
Be calm, measured and polite in your tone but clear and firm.

Comic relief's policy

Red Nose Day each year is an occasion for local or regional newspapers to have a go at Catholic schools. It is an easy story to write; here's how it goes: Pupils want to raise money for Comic Relief because it has been on the telly. A good head teacher refuses, insisting that they promote other charities. Shock Horror! Catholic school meanly denies children the right to wear a red nose - for CHARIDDY! And you know why? Because they don't agree with condoms!

Here is an example from this year's round (published yesterday in the Sussex local, the "Argus"): No Red Nose Day at school

The argument about Red Nose Day has been running in the UK for several years now. This Catholic News Agency Report sums up the debate that reached an impasse a couple of years ago.

Comic Relief insists that it does not give money to "fund abortions." But time and again it turns out that it supports agencies that promote such things as "reproductive health care" which is code for ...

Here is part of the statement from "a spokeswoman" for comic relief as quoted in the Argus:
"Our funding in Africa goes to all kinds of projects - providing education, rehabilitating child soldiers, peace-building, fair trade, supporting street children and disabled people and a range of other work helping people in Africa to turn their lives around. A small percentage goes to projects with a family planning component.

We support this work because of the important contribution it can make to the health of children and families and to the empowerment of women in Africa, especially in the light of the terrible effects of HIV and AIDS across much of the continent. None of the money we have allocated as grants has been used to support abortions."
Carefully worded there: "none of the money"is used to support abortion, not "none of the organisations or projects" support abortion. It would be surprising if "projects with a family planning component" did not support this aspect of "reproductive health care."

The "small percentage" has been given in the past as 3%. Last year, Comic Relief raised £65 million so we are talking about £1.95 million going to "projects with a family planning component."

Thursday, 15 March 2007

"Red Box Day"

Mrs Jackie Parkes (Catholic Mom of 10) has posted a wonderful piece from the newsletter of the Birmingham Oratory:
Red Nose Day? No Thanks!
Instead of supporting some morally very dubious causes by giving your money to Red Nose Day on Friday, why not celebrate a RED BOX DAY instead? The Red Box is the recognised means of raising money for The APF, the Association or the Propagation of the Faith. It is the Pope's own missionary organisation which supports those who have the task of spreading knowledge of the Faith in so many difficult circumstances throughout the world. If you haven't got a red box, you can put some extra money in the APF box by the Sacristy Door, and sign up for a box on the list at the back of Church.'
If you are from the US, the Red Nose Day website will give you an idea of what people who have televisions must put up with ad nauseam tomorrow.

I wish I had known about the "Red Box Day" alternative earlier - I would have promoted the same in my parish. However, it is not quite too late. Tomorrow, instead of observing Red Nose Day, put a little extra into your APF Red Box. Just so we don't lose out on the funny pictures, here's my effort:

Wednesday, 14 March 2007

Magister on Sacramentum Caritatis

Along with the other recommended commentaries on Sacramentum Caritatis that I mentioned yesterday, I would like to add Sandro Magister's intelligent summary posted today: “Sacramentum Caritatis”: Everyone to Mass on Sunday. Many readers will be interested in this snippet related to the hermeneutic of continuity:

Benedict XVI cites this in paragraph 3, recalling with admiration and gratitude "the orderly development of the ritual forms" in which the Mass was celebrated (and still is) until the liturgical reform of Vatican Council II, "whose riches are yet to be fully explored". And he observes: "Concretely, the changes which the Council called for need to be understood within the overall unity of the historical development of the rite itself, without the introduction of artificial discontinuities."

The rejection of these “artificial discontinuities” – according to what the pope said to the Roman curia on December 22, 2005, in the address he gave on the correct interpretation of the Council, which is cited in the footnotes of this apostolic exhortation – is one of the reasons that, for Joseph Ratzinger, justify the continued use of the Tridentine Rite.

Afternoon of Prayer this Saturday

Ken sends me details of a Lenten afternoon of prayer with consecration to the Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of Mary at Westminster Cathedral, this Saturday 17 March, 2-4.30pm; led by Mgr Keith Barltrop and Fr Anthony Doe.

If you have a chance to attend, I can promise you that these two excellent priests will provide you with some worthwhile and spiritually enriching input.

Damien Thompson on Sacramentum Caritatis

Damien Thompson has drawn my attention in the combox to his Daily Telegraph blog in which he has commented on Sacramentum Caritatis (Pope calls for Latin revival). He is entertainingly disparaging about the "bloody press office – or "communications network", as they have the nerve to call it."

He speaks of the document in a very positive tone:
The Pope's document, by the way, is a dazzling summary of Catholic teaching on the Eucharist - and a warning to clapped-out liberals that they need to improve the standards of worship. Oh, and Benedict wants more Latin in services.
Then comes something of a sting in the tail:
Not what the Left-wing apparatchiks at the Bishop's Conference wanted to hear. Hence, presumably, no press release – something that Catholics might want to bear in mind next time the plate is passed round for "Communications Sunday".
To be honest, there is nothing in the post with which I (and many other priests I know) could not heartily concur.

Tuesday, 13 March 2007

Sacramentum Caritatis

The picture shows the Holy Father signing the post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation, Sacramentum Caritatis which was presented at a Press Conference earlier today.

For instant comment, I recommend:
I'm away from home at the moment so I'll have to read it and digest it later.

Charities Act and the secularist agenda

As part of the exercise of implementing the new "public benefit" test for charities, the Charities Commission commissioned Opinion Leader to conduct research reported in Public Perceptions of Public Benefit. Under the heading "Approach", we are told,
The chosen method was a one-day Citizens’ Forum involving 51 people. A Citizens’ Forum is a unique approach which combines qualitative techniques with deliberation to enable citizens to give informed opinions and recommendations on complex issues.

While this is not a quantitative exercise, and the findings are indicative rather than conclusive, there were a number of common themes coming from different table discussions and a high level of consensus and consistency which lends weight to the findings and provide a firm foundation for the conclusions reached in this report.
That sounds a whole lot like the "discussion group" approach that is so tried and tested as a means of "modernising" institutions of various types in order to fit a pre-determined agenda. Once you have people in groups, peer pressure ensures that the overall result will be a statement of what is generally perceived to be accepted opinion.

The weighty, firm, high level, consistent consensus (only indicative, mind you) was that:
Some people perceive that receiving spiritual guidance is a benefit itself to followers of a religion. However, the inherent benefits of promoting religion are questioned by those who do not have religious beliefs. There is a general concern about the amount of public benefit provided by charities that only engage with a particular religious community especially given current concerns about community cohesion.
Actually, no. The still substantial proportion of the UK population that attend Christian Churches would not perceive religious charities simply in terms of "spiritual guidance." Christians in the UK give nine time more to charity than the average and they generally understand that religion contributes to the public benefit not only in terms of material and observable results but also in the improvement of the individual and therefore of society.

Nor do most people without religious beliefs necessarily question the amount of public benefit provided by religious charities. Many atheists and agnostics accept that religion is basically a good thing and helps the community. The TV-induced delusion that religion has "caused all the wars" evaporates in the face of the benefits that Churches bring to their local communities.

Then consider this rider to the above quotation:
Participants felt that there was a need for charities for the promotion of religion to reach out to the wider community, without proselytizing to them.
Where on earth did that word "proselytizing" come from? Would it not be more honest simply to say that religious charities should not be involved in preaching the gospel? In the modern UK with its increasing "dictatorship of relativism", you may preach about healthy eating, non smoking, global warming, and recycling. But the teaching of Christ - that's proselytizing.

Christians in the UK should be aware that the new legal requirement for religious charities to prove that they offer a material "public benefit" betrays a dogmatic secularism that denies the value of religious faith in itself. The London-based anti-religious clique that is directing public policy would like to see religious charities judged solely in terms of material results because they hate our Christian moral teaching. This is essentially what the new Charities Act is about: it is just one more step in the implacable secularist agenda of modern Britain.
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