Thursday, March 30, 2017

Catholic University of Louvain: Abortion 'a fundamental right'

Cross-posted from Rorate Caeli.

In response to a junior philosophy lecturer distributing a document to students making the argument for calling abortion 'murder', a spokewoman for the 'Catholic University of Louvain' (UCL) in Belgium has made it clear that this is 'contrary to the values' of the institution.


Tania van Hemelryck, the special adviser to the university president on gender politics, spoke to Belgian television on behalf of the university, saying: “The authorities want to find out the exact status of the text and how it was used during this course, bearing in mind that in any case UCL defends the fundamental right to abortion, and particularly women’s right to choose.”...
The official statement published by UCL on its website says much the same thing:
“Whatever the outcome of the inquiry, the right to abortion is enshrined in Belgian law and the note that was brought to the attention of UCL is at odds with the values upheld by the university. Conveying standpoints that contradict these values in the framework of a teaching course is unacceptable.”

Louvain has not been a very 'Catholic' Catholic University for a long time, but these statements take matters to a new level. Please consider signing a petition to support the lecturer at the centre of the row, St├ęphane Mercier.

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Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Albertus Magnus Summer Programme in Norcia

In light of the earthquake this seems particularly deserving of support this year: the annual Summer Programme of the Albertus Magnus Centre, associated with the monks of the Norcia community. It is a 12-day programme of study on Aquinas, this year on his sacramental theology.

"Divine Power in a Hidden Way:
Thomas' Commentary on the Sentences IV"
July 2nd - July 14th in Norcia, Italy


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Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Sex education, sexual exploitation

Not long ago I posted on this blog about how sex education which focuses on consent and ignores all other aspects of sexual morality opens children up to abuse. Here is some concrete evidence, via the excellent Family Education Trust. This focuses on the corrosive nature of the sex ed ideology not only on the children, but on those charged with their care.

A serious case review published by the Bristol Safeguarding Children Board last year notes ‘an underlying confusion for practitioners in distinguishing between underage but consensual sexual activity between peers and child sexual abuse and sexual exploitation’. But that confusion does not exist in a vacuum. It is rather ‘rooted in the complex and contradictory cultural, legal and moral norms around sexuality, and in particular teenage sexual experimentation’. Put simply, a major part of the problem lies in the moral confusion that has resulted from an abandonment of moral absolutes.

The same theme features in the 2015 serious case review into child sexual exploitation in Oxfordshire. Having made the observation that there were times when ‘confidentiality was put before protection’, the report suggests that for at least some professionals this related to ‘a reluctance to take a moral stance on right and wrong, and seeing being non-judgmental as the overriding principle’. The Oxfordshire report further states that: ‘[T]here was…an acceptance of a degree of underage sexual activity that reflects a wider societal reluctance to consider something “wrong”,’ and argues that ‘action to prevent harm’ should always take precedence over ‘action to be non-judgmental’.

In a most telling comment, the report notes that ‘the reluctance in many places, both political and professional, to have any firm statements about something being “wrong”’ is among the factors that create ‘an environment where it is easier for vulnerable young people/children to be exploited. It also makes it harder for professionals to have the confidence and bravery to be more proactive on prevention and intervention.’

In the light of these observations from the serious case reviews, we should be wary of any approach to sex and relationships education that is reluctant to declare anything ‘wrong’. Children, young people and professionals alike all need a clear moral compass in order to safely negotiate the confused and confusing landscape that lies before them
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Monday, March 27, 2017

Silverstream Priory on RTE

A sympathetic introduction to the traditional Benedictines at Silverstream in Ireland.




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Friday, March 24, 2017

The Challenge of Islam: Part 1 - the end of secularisation

I was reminded of this post from July 2014 by a story in The Tablet about retired Major-General Tim Cross, an Anglican, who was in despair about the attitude at the Foreign Office that religion really couldn't be the real explanation of anything important in, say, Iraq. The message is sinking in, but very slowly.

The other posts in the short series this post introduced are:
2. Religious Liberty
3. Caught in the Critique of the Decadent West
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I've been reading up a little on the sociology of religion, and the latest stuff is no longer about the Secularisation Thesis: the inevitable secularisation of society. This was to do with the ideas of the Enlightenment, wider education, and prosperity, eroding religious belief, as expressed in that stupid poem by the over-rated Matthew Arnold, published in 1867.

The Sea of Faith
Was once, too, at the full, and round earth's shore
Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furl'd.
But now I only hear
Its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar,

As Linda Woodhead explains, in her Introduction to a collection of articles, the secularisation story no longer works. It only ever worked if you ignored the contrary evidence - such as the big revival of religious practice which started pretty well as soon as Arnold's lacrimose effusion came off the presses, and another even more impressive one in the 1950s - but now it is obvious that things simply aren't travelling in the right direction.

Woodhead explains how sociologists' faith in the secularisation hypothesis was shaken first by the Salman Rushdie affair. Rushdie's book The Satanic Verses was condemned by the Ayatollah Khomeini, who issued a 'fatwa' (ruling) against Rushdie, ordering that he be killed. This was in 1989. It made the sociologists realise that religion, or at least Islam, was actually stronger, in its ability to shape events, even in the West, than it had been before: it wasn't fading away in obedience to the Secularisation Thesis. And then, 22 years later, there was 9/11

If Western sociologists had been paying attention, they would have noticed the revival of Islamic practice and zeal with started in Egypt in the 1970s, and was continued by the Islamic Revolution in Iran in 1979, and has continued some more in the overthrow of a whole heap of secular-minded regimes across the Arab world in recent years. To give them due credit, however, sociologists like Woodhead have been more on the ball than Western politicians, who appear to have clung to the Secularisation Thesis right up to the last few months. I suspect many of have not abandoned it yet. The idea that all the Middle East needs is prosperity and education, and religious zealotry will dissipate, is still rattling around in the corridors of power. Do these people read the newspapers? Syria was a prosperous nation with a big, educated middle class. They've got money coming out of their ears in the Gulf. There are universities of international standard in Egypt. And guess what? It was as those universities that the Islamic revival began. It was there, not in the slums, where young women started to wear head scarves.

In truth, the Secularisation Thesis was kept on its shakey legs after the War not by the inevitable effects of education and prosperity, but by the Cold War. It was the resources poured into Communist and anti-Communist factions, by East and West, which made the world outside North America and Western Europe look as if it was focused on secular issues. Once that was out of the way, an awful lot of people have turned to traditional religious themes to assert their identity and culture and distinguish themselves from their colonial past. We are now living in a period in which radicalised Hindus are persecuting Muslims in India, radicalised Buddhists are persecuting Muslims in Burma and Sri Lanka, radicalised Sunni Muslims are persecuting Shia Muslims in Iraq, and Christians are being persecuted by pretty well everyone. It's not a pretty sight, but it's not secularisation.

Is victory for the homosexual lobby and 'reproductive rights' feminists at the United Nations around the corner? You've got to be joking. I follow the excellent Friday Fax, which covers the infinitely depressing machinations of the World Government in Waiting. The progressive lobby's breakthrough is always round the corner. They've got the western nations in their pockets, they have the procedures taped, they like to see aid money being used to buy votes. But things are not going their way. A horrible realisation should begin to dawn on them some time soon. We have a world-wide revival of traditional values on our hands.

To repeat, this has actually been going on at least since the early 1970s. And it is not just Islam. Even Christianity is benefitting: the Catholics of southern India and West Africa, pressure from Hindus and Muslims notwithstanding, have had a very good few decades, and the very visible presence of their priests in the West has more to do with the massive numbers of vocations they have than persecution. In China, too, Christianity is on the march, as the most vigorous alternative to Communism.

There is nothing inevitable about secularisation. The sociologists have now accepted this, and the politicians, eventually, will follow them. This reality will solve some problems, such as the prospect of a right to abortion being established in international law by some international mega-treaty, but obviously creates others. The punch-line of this blog post is simply this: in addressing the problems, which are very real and very pressing, let's not try to pretend that the Secularisation Thesis is true after all. And part of that pretence is the guff about Religious Freedom.

I've argued more than once that appeals to Religious Freedom, to defend the Church against militant secularists in the West, is a complete waste of time. It is even more of a waste of time when directed against non-Christian religious zealots. This is so blindingly obvious that it shouldn't need saying, but I am saying it because I can see the temptation to make this appeal in a recent speech by Lord (David) Alton. I'll address this in the next post.

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Islam and the decadent West

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Reposted from the time of the Paris attacks, November 2015. Requiescant in pace.

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I've not had time to write anything about the terrible massacres in Paris. It was good to be able to attend a solemn Mass for the dead the day after the killings had taken place. Every Mass for the dead, and practically all traditional prayers for the dead, even if they are for the benefit of a specific person or group of persons, is also for 'all the Faithful departed'.

May they rest in peace. And may God protect us all from an unprovided death.

I've done a number of blog posts criticising the approach to understanding and tackling Islam taken by various people, notably the zealous Evangelical David Wood, and the American Syrian Catholic Robert Spencer. In the comments to one of these posts a reader recommended a book by a Jesuit who hails from the Levant, Samir Khalil Samir, which proved to be excellent. Samir has given a very interesting interview to Edward Pentin, in which he explores the way the West is seen from the Arab Muslim perspective, an important factor, obviously, in these attacks.

Here are some extracts:

Muslims know that modernity is coming from the West; this is a fact. Now they see the West as having lost its ethics, especially on sexual questions. They’re very shocked by what they see or hear. … So they say this comes from modernity. They want to reject the excesses and abuses of some principles, but end up rejecting the whole thing. The problem is that the West is responsible, without knowing it, of the reaction of the Muslim world.

...
When Muslims see that, they immediately recall that homosexuality is absolutely condemned in the Quran, with reference to the biblical Lot. See chapters 7: 80-81; 11: 77-82; 15: 58-74; 21: 74; 26: 165-166; 27: 54-55; 29: 28-30; 54: 33-34. In some cases, they were burned alive. Then the Muslims say, “Okay, the West is Christian, Christianity allows this, and so Christianity is not the true religion; it’s a false religion. And we want to be true, to stick to the Quran and to the tradition.”


This means we are partly, indirectly responsible for the fanaticism that is spreading more and more in Islam, as a reaction to the West — not only, but this also — and playing a role in the radicalization of Islam.
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Tuesday, March 21, 2017

2017 Launching a new Confraternity in Scotland: May 13

Further details from the2shrines@gmail.com

The event will take place in Bannockburn, Stirling, and the proposed format is as follows:

From 10am (TBC): Holy Hour concluding with Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament;
11am: Procession from Holy Spirit Church to Our Lady & St Ninian's Church with traditional devotions;
12 noon: Sung Mass;
2pm: Inaugural Meeting to formally establish the Archconfraternity.

13 May will be the 100th anniversary of Our Lady's 1st Apparition at Fatima so we will also incorporate the devotions necessary to obtain the plenary indulgence associated with the centenary.



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Saturday, March 18, 2017

St Catherine's Trust Family Retreat: 31st March to 2nd April

Bookings are coming in. Don't miss out! Book now for the Family Retreat in the Oratory School near Reading with Fr Serafino Lanzettta. Details and booking here.

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The Family Retreat is back in the Oratory School near Reading this year, for Passion Sunday weenkend (the weekend before Palm Sunday), led by Fr Serafino Lanzetta of the Gosport friars. Details and booking here.

The Family Retreat, run by the St Catherine's Trust, is designed to make it possible for the parents of small children to attend a retreat without leaving their children behind. We arrange activities for the children during the spiritual conferences. Everyone is welcome, however: you don't have to bring children with you!

Thursday, March 16, 2017

The Government bans independent midwives: in the Catholic Herald

I've been trying (with some success) to get Catholic and pro-life news outlets to take an interest in the shocking story of the banning of 'independent' midwives in the UK: that is, midwives who are employed by individual women to assist them in giving birth, rather than the NHS or a private hospital or 'birth centre'. Independent midwives had a fantastic safety record, but the Government regulator, the Nursing and Midwifery Council, has told them their insurance is 'inadequate': just not what 'adequate' actually means.

Why is this a Catholic story? Because the culture of the NHS is far from pro-life, and independent midwives offer a client-focused alternative. In the NHS women routinely face pressure to have abortions, pressure to limit family size after Caesarian sections (which is related to pressure not to have a natural birth after a section), pressure to limit family size for any and no reason, pressure to stop having children after a certain arbitrary age (you can be 'high risk' at 35), and a patronising and totally out of place pep-talk on contraception, which is apparantly a legal obligation following childbirth. Independent midwives are not as a group committed to any special pro-life principles, but they have the freedom to care about their clients and genuinely respect their choices and values. If you are having a tough time with the NHS on any of these issues, they are a safe harbour. But no longer.

If you want to protest, see the website 'Save Our Midwives' for suggestions. The story has also appeared in Church Militant.

From the Catholic Herald.

In preparing for the birth of our first child, we considered all the available options. Our research was not reassuring. Expectant mothers could talk to midwives, but it may not be the one who would assist at the birth. There was a birthing pool, but it might not be available when the moment came. Yes you can give birth at home, if a midwife was free. When it comes down to it, the mother’s preferences and plans for birth might, or might not, have some application when labour starts

Our friends’ experiences of the NHS didn’t reassure us either, and it seems they were not untypical. A recent study reported women feeling unsafe and frightened while in NHS facilities, describing their experience as being treated “like cattle” or being “on a conveyor belt”.
See the rest there.

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Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Shaming men into virtue: a text-book case from Matt Walsh

Matt Walsh writes:

How can we expect our children to be righteous, to be generous and disciplined and faithful and godly, if their own father has not provided a demonstration of those traits? How can we demand virtue in others that we can hardly locate within ourselves? How can a real man rely on his wife to carry this burden alone or primarily? We, as men, are called to be the spiritual light to our family. When we engage in weak, shameful, selfish and childish behaviour, we dim the light. After a while, the light goes out altogether and our family is left to stumble around in the darkness. This is one of the many reasons why we need to reject porn and other vices, all which serve to lessen us, emasculate us and extinguish the light.
Well it is true, of course, but is this really the best way to inspire men to take up their role, as Walsh puts it, of 'leadership'? And what kind of 'leadership' does this, in fact, suggest? So far, it is just one of example. An example of suffering. Sounds a bit like a doormat, doesn't it?

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Pilgrimage to Caversham 2017: photos

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Our Lady and St Anne, Caversham, houses the official Marian Shrine of the Archdiocese of Birmingham, crowned by Papal mandate: the shrine image is below.

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It was the Ember Saturday of Lent, and we had five 'prophecies', Old Testament readings, before the Epistle and Gospel, rather like the Easter Vigil.

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Saturday, March 11, 2017

Me on Newsnight: last night

Last night I was, briefly, a talking head on Newsnight, talking about Pope Francis. The main problem was to get the presenter - and, I suppose, the audience - to have the smallest understanding of the concept of Catholic doctrine, what the Pope's function is, and what schism means. That didn't really leave much time for anything else.

In the UK you can see the whole programme online here, from 18:30 - 22:16 mins:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/.../episode/b08hwb7d/newsnight-10032017
They've put a little clip on Twitter:

https://t.co/2FcLa0m5fN
Maybe someone can let me know if the whole thing goes up on YouTube.

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Friday, March 10, 2017

The empty Imperial throne

Over on Rorate Caeli I've posted an article by James Bogle, former FIUV President, LMS Committee member and author of a book on Bl Charles of Austria, on the role formerly played by the Holy Roman Emperors (and indeed by the Christian emperors of Rome) in Church affairs, and the consequences of the disappearance of the Emperor from Europe's life.

It is easy to point to periods of conflict between Pope and Emperor. Conflict is inevitable over time and itsn't always unhealthy. What is worse than the conflict between the two pillars of Christian society, the spiritual and the temporal, is the disappearance for practical purposes of one side of the conflict: the disappearance of lay leadership in the Church. This is a point discussed in the FIUV Position Paper on the Extraordinary Form and the Laity.

It is not that the Pope since 1918 has made himself the Emperor; it is that the Catholic Emperor's power has been taken by people outside the Church.

I was very struck recently reading Valentin Tomberg's discussion of the symbolic meaning of the figure of the Emperor. He wrote, in part:

Europe is haunted by the shadow of the Emperor. One senses his absence just as vividly as in former times one sensed his presence. Because the emptiness of the wound speaks, that which we miss knows how to make us sense it.

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Thursday, March 09, 2017

Pilgrimage to Caversham and the Ember Saturday: 11th March

Coming up this Saturday!

Reposted.

We combine the annual Latin Mass Society Pilgrimage to Our Lady of Caversham with the Ember Saturday of Lent, and this way we have a splendid celebration of the Ember Saturday in this rather special church of Our Lady and St Anne.

This important medieval shrine was restored in the 1950s, and is worth a visit. The liturgy of the Ember Saturdays is always worth making an effort to experience, with its extra readings and lovely chants. We will also have the Newman Consort to sing polyphony.

There is more about the pilgrimage here.

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Pray for the Pope

Alwys a good idea, never more so than now. From my 'Chairman's Message' in the latest Mass of Ages, the quarterly magazine of the Latin Mass Society.

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Pope Francis, like all Popes, faces great challenges and difficulties; at the current moment of crisis much depends on his words and actions. This seems a good time to renew the practice of regular prayer for the Pope. The prayer below, from the 1953 Manual of Prayers, approved by the Bishops of England and Wales, can also be used publicly after Prayers after Low Mass. (I have added the name of Pope Francis.)


For the Sovereign Pontiff

V. Let us pray for our holy Father the Pope.
R. The Lord preserve him, and give him life, and make him blessed upon earth, and deliver him not up to the will of his enemies.

Let us pray.
O Almighty and eternal God, have mercy on thy servant Francis, our Pope, and direct him according to thy clemency into the way of everlasting salvation; that he may desire by thy grace those things which are pleasing to thee, and perform them with all his strength. Through Christ our Lord.

R. Amen.

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Monday, March 06, 2017

Declaration on Sacred Music

I'm a signatory of this declaration; I'm cross-posting the below from Rorate Caeli.

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In honor of the 50th anniversary of the Instruction Musicam Sacram (promulgated March 5, 1967), a Declaration on Sacred Music Cantate Domino, signed by over 200 musicians, pastors, and scholars from around the world, is published today in six languages (English, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, French, and German). This declaration argues for the continued relevance and importance of traditional sacred music, critiques the numerous serious deviations from it that have plagued the Catholic Church for the past half-century, and makes practical suggestions for improving the situation.

Readers are encouraged to read the text (reproduced below in full) and to disseminate it far and wide as a rallying-point for Roman Catholics who love their great heritage, and for all men and women who value high culture and the fine arts as expressions of the spiritual nobility of the human person made in God's image.


“CANTATE DOMINO CANTICUM NOVUM”

A Statement on the Current Situation of Sacred Music


We, the undersigned — musicians, pastors, teachers, scholars, and lovers of sacred music — humbly offer this statement to the Catholic community around the world, expressing our great love for the Church’s treasury of sacred music and our deep concerns about its current plight.

Saturday, March 04, 2017

What exactly is wrong with sex ed for four-year olds?

There is a lot this weekend in the Catholic press and online about a proposal to establish mandatory sex education in schools for children from the age of four. Since the reasons Catholics and others are worried about this are not always articulated very clearly, I thought I would try to set at least some of them out.

The problems can be summarised under three headings: the content of typical sex education; the classroom context in which this education is delivered; and the role of the state vis-a-vis parents. In this post I'm only going to talk about the first of these, the content, although the others are important as well.


Interviewed alongside SPUC's excellent Antonia Tully, a certain Lucy Russel (sp?) on BBC Radio Cardiff (listen here), who campaigns for sex education (sounds an interesting job), tried to reassure listeners about the proposal by saying that, of course, it would be 'age appropriate'. Four-year-olds would not be told about sex positions, but about 'holding hands', and asked about whether they were comfortable with people holding their hands and so on.

Friday, March 03, 2017

How not to treat a lady

So what's the quid pro quo?
Over on Catholic Gentleman, Sam Guzman has re-posted a discussion of 'How to treat a lady' written by  John Cuddeback, a Philosophy prof at Christendom College. On Cuddeback's own blog it is part of a series. It doesn't say a great deal of substance, but here is its conclusion.

Women are deserving of special reverence not because of weakness, but because of strength. In women, a man can intuit the presence of something that transcends his comprehension. It is in reality something of the divine, something that is somehow his to cherish, to serve, and to protect. Just what it is, and how best to respond to it, he will need to spend a lifetime trying to discover.


I've discussed this kind of thing before, but I'll go over it again because clearly this needs repeating.

Thursday, March 02, 2017

LMS Easter Triduum in London

Taking place in St Mary Moorfields in the City of London (EC2M 7LS), at more consistent times than at the past: Tenebrae at 9pm, and the main Triduum services at 6pm on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.



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