Wednesday, May 04, 2016

Academic freedom and dissent: again

Jesus really should have made reasoned arguments which could have
been understood by those outside his faith tradition.
Back in 2012 I wrote about the argument made by Prof Tina Beattie that it was wrong for her invitations to speak at Catholic institutions (be they universities or parishes) to be withdrawn, on the basis of academic freedom.

Her argument was insane. The freedom of academics to speak and write as they wish does not imply an obligation on anyone to read or listen. It really is as simple as that. These institutions, or their leaders, are free to invite, not invite, or withdraw invitations, according to their own lights; to deny this would be to deny them freedom.

Chalcedon451, a Catholic blogger on All Along the Watchtower, has criticised Beattie's most recent critics, however. The post appears to make some concession to Beattie's claims to be using 'reason' in the service of the Church, but the central point would seem to be prudential.

This seems to me a real problem. I disagree with Professor Beattie’s views on abortion (and other matters), but to attack her in the way that has been done – as though no Catholic should ever dissent from the teaching of the Church on anything – and to make some of the comments I have seen on social media sites, is simply to turn her into the victim of what looks like a witch-hunt. If the aim is to get the Bishops to look at her activity, this seems not the way to achieve that objective. What Bishop wants to look as though he is trying to stifle the freedom of a woman academic to speak her mind?

Monday, May 02, 2016

The Beattie petition pro-abortion fringe


One of the most striking things about the Open Letter calling for continued legal abortion in Poland is the list of signatures. The petition has been promoted by some of the most well-connected people on the liberal Catholic scene, and yet the list of signatories they came up with is derisory.

Tina Beattie is ubiquitous on the liberal Catholic scene. She holds a professorial chair in Roehampton University, she sits on the Tablet's board, she is on CAFOD's  'Theological Reference Group', and she has been around a fair while - she must know everyone who matters. To promote this petition, she's been assisted by such liberal luminaries as Elriede Harth, the European representative of Catholics for Choice. And what have they come up with?

Sunday, May 01, 2016

Two insights into Latin from non-Catholic sources

IMG_9717
Sign up for the LMS Latin Course with Fr John Hunwicke
and Fr Richard Bailey here.
Two recent news stories stuck me for their relevance to the debate about the use of Latin in the Church.

First, the Victoria and Albert Museum are putting on an exhibition of English needlework from the Middle Ages, called 'Opus Anglicanum', The Guardian carried a story about it, noting

'for the first time in decades, the museum has dared to use Latin in an exhibition title.'
It explained:

“We were a bit worried that people would find the title baffling,” said co-curator and textile expert Clare Browne. “Older people thought that younger people would find it off-putting – but in fact younger people thought it was mysterious and exciting.”

This is a startling assertion, but only because it is so exactly what we have found in the movement for the Traditional Latin Mass. I could have said it myself.

The second is a report in The Economist about whether being a native English-speaker is an advantage in a world where English is increasingly the language of business. It reported some interesting and surprising advantages enjoyed by those working in English for whom English is not their cradle language.

Ingenious researchers have found that sometimes decision-making in a foreign language is actually better. Researchers at the University of Chicago gave subjects a test with certain traps—easy-looking “right” answers that turned out to be wrong. Those taking it in a second language were more likely to avoid the trap and choose the right answer. Fluid thinking, in other words, has its down-side, and deliberateness an advantage.

(I've found an article about this research here; the reseach paper itself is here.)

From about the 8th until well into the 17th century, almost all theology and philosophy in the West was done in a language at some distance, at least, from the cradle language of those involved: Latin. In theology, a great deal of work continued to be done in such a language into the 20th century. This had so many advantages that it is hard to know where to begin: the ability of people to discuss ideas in the same language across the many linguistic barriers of Europe; the ability of people to engage directly with writers from the distant past in a language equipped with all the necessary technical terms; the levelling of the playing-field between linguistic groups; all the educational advantages ascribed to bi-lingualism, plus the special advantages of learning an inflected, and linguistically influential language like Latin.

But in addition to these manifold advantages, it would seem that people doing their philosophy and theology in Latin would actually have been doing better academic work because of the dispassionate 'deliberatness' involved in talking and writing in a second language. 

No wonder things went downhill after the loss of Latin as a working language for academics.

You can sign up for the Latin Mass Society's intensive five-day Latin course here.

Support the work of the LMS by becoming an 'Anniversary Supporter'.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

The Prayer for the Queen in The Tablet

Last weekend a certain Fr David Clemens criticised the Bishops of England and Wales over their mandating a prayer for the Queen to mark he 90th Birthday in a letter to The Tablet. This weekend The Tablet published a whole sheaf of responses, including one from me. The other published letters focused on the importance of praying for the head of state; my interest was with the liturgical aspect of the question. Here is my letter.

I was amused by Fr David Clemens' description (Letters, 23rd April) of the 'Prayer for the Queen' mandated by the Bishops' Conference for Masses taking place on 11-12th June, as 'a quasi-Protestant prayer for the Queen that would not be unfamiliar to Edward or Elizabeth Tudor.'

The prayer the Bishops are asking parishes to use is a translation of the 'Domine salvum fac' ('salvam fac' for a female monarch), which originated in medieval France. It was used in the coronation of King Francis I in 1515, and in time gained a stable place at the end of the 'principal Mass on a Sunday' in countries with Catholic monarchs, but it has also been adapted to petition for the good estate of republics ('Domine salvum fac rem publicam'). It has been set to music by many Catholic composers, such as Lully, Charpentier, and Gounod.



Friday, April 29, 2016

Is Patrarchy a punishment for sin?

Chaucer's Wife of Bath. What is it
all women desire?
In my last post I considered the claim that all the many Scriptural texts saying that wives should be subordinate to their husbands should be read in light of Ephesians 5:21's reference to the 'mutual submission' of Christians. Here I want to address another argument, based on Genesis 3:16, or rather the second half of it. It is part of the curse of God on Eve after the Fall (King James Version):

your desire shall be to your husband, and he shall rule over you.

The curse implies that the harmonious relationship between husband and wife, which was Adam and Eve's in Eden, will be disrupted by sin.

Pope St John Paul II suggests, or perhaps 'hints' would be a better word, that the ruling of the husband over the wife which this verse speaks of, can be seen as a part of the consequences of the Fall which can be seen as reversed in the Christian dispensation. Mulieres dignitatem 11:

Mary means, in a sense, a going beyond the limit spoken of in the Book of Genesis (3: 16) and a return to that "beginning" in which one finds the "woman" as she was intended to be in creation, and therefore in the eternal mind of God: in the bosom of the Most Holy Trinity. Mary is "the new beginning" of the dignity and vocation of women, of each and every woman.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Mutual submission of spouses: coherent, Pauline, true?

DSC_0101

Among other issues raised by Pope Francis' Exhortation Amoris laetitia is the question of family life and the complementarity of the sexes. As I have pointed out on this blog, Pope Francis seems to have a relatively robust notion of the specialisation of gender roles, a subject Pope St John Paul II was less willing to broach. I have noted on this blog the strange position of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which brings up complementarity when discussing homosexual relationships. These lack 'genuine complementarity', the Catechism tells us, and therefore lack something essential to marriage. Something so essential, in fact, that its own discussion of marriage doesn't even mention it. D'oh.

Pope Francis nevertheless pays lip-service to feminism, and says that 'patriarchy', whatever he means by that, is wrong. More substantially, in section 154 he repeats in summary form the argument made by Pope St John Paul II in his 1988 Apostolic Letter Mulieres dignitatem 24, that St Paul in Ephesians wants each spouse to submit to the other (Pope Francis refers in fact to a 'Catechesis' John Paul II gave in 1982, but the argument is the same). This is something, on the face of it, which is problematic in Amoris laetitia, not because it contradicts Pope St John Paul II, but because it agrees with him.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

That Beattie petition

Prof Tina Beattie and some rather obscure others have called on the Polish Bishops to rethink their support for a blanket ban on abortion in Poland.

It raises the question of whether a blanket ban on abortion really is the goal of Catholic political advocacy. After all, it is not necessarily wise to seek the sanction of the civil law against all immoral actions: St Augustine famously argued for the toleration of prostitution.

However, in this case, while the question of when and in exactly what form it should be proposed practically to ban abortion, there is no real question that the civil law should fail to protect the innocent. If the law does not protect the lives of children, then what is it for?

I have written something at greater length on this on my Philosophy blog; here is an 'executive summary'.