Monday, March 01, 2021

Spring Mass of Ages available

In this issue: • Fr Timothy Finigan shows what we should learn about Lenten penance from Challoner • We report on an LMS gift of a set of faldstool covers to Corpus Christi, Maiden Lane • David Gornall SJ looks at where we are now, fifty-five years after the Second Vatican Council • Charles A. Coulombe remembers John Crichton-Stuart, 3rd Marquess of Bute.

Thanks to the cooperation of priests in whose parishes the Traditional Mass is celebrated, Mass of Ages is available from more than 120 cathedrals and churches around the country. See HERE for stockists. If you do not live near one of these but would like a copy of the magazine, we would be very happy to send one from the LMS Office. However, due to the high cost of postage, we do ask that you cover the cost of postage. See here for details.

A digital copy of the magazine may be read HERE.If you have the ISSUU APP, you can also read it in mobile-friendly format.

Are you on our E-Newsletter mailing list? To keep up to date with our news, subscribe HERE

To help the Latin Mass Society continue its work of promoting and developing Traditional life and practice in the Church, please consider signing up to our Anniversary Supporters’ Appeal.



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Friday, February 19, 2021

Conspiracies! Podcast with Kevin Symonds from the LMS

Iota Unum Podcasts

Catholic Conspiracy Theories Part 1:

The Prayer to St Michael; Bugnini and the Freemasons

Kevin Symonds talks to Joseph Shaw

Kevin Symonds is the author of books on private revelations and aspects of modern Catholic history, including some which seek to get to the bottom of some famous stories: did Leo XIII really have a vision of Satan before composing his Prayer to St Michael? Has the Vatican hidden the key part of the Third Secret of Fatima? He has recently been working on the question of Annibale Bugnini’s alleged Freemasonry, and the question of Communist infiltration of the Catholic Church: both issues discussed in the podcast.

See Kevin’s personal website. His most recent books are Pope Leo XIII and the Prayer to St. Michael (2018) and On the Third Part of the Secret of F├ítima (2017).

Discussed in the podcast is the story of Annibale Bugnini and the briefcase, which is recounted in a book review by Kevin in the Latin Mass Society’s magazine, Mass of Ages, from Spring 2020.

This podcast can be found on various Podcast platforms, including Spotify: just serach for 'Latin Mass Society'. Here's a link to it on Podbean:


This is Part 1 of my conversation with Kevin: Part 2 will be released on Thursday 25th Feb.

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Saturday, February 13, 2021

French Bishops: Statement from the FIUV

PSX_20170617_133103
Un-marginalised: Archbishop McMahon of Liverpool celebrates
the EF having conferred Holy Orders on two priests of the FSSP, 
in St Mary's, Warrington, in 2017.

I have just posted a statement from the FIUV which reacts to the Bishops' Conference of France, on the FIUV blog here.

Some, perhaps many, French Bishops, insofar as this document of their Conference accurately reflects their views, are worried about the Traditional Mass being a cause of division, establishing congregations and their priests lacking in their connection with their bishop and diocese. Who, we may ask, is responsible for this? Who was has it been, over the last half a century, denigrating the Traditional Mass and driving its adherents into an isolated corner? Who is ultimately responsible for things like excluding traditionally-minded Catholics, priestly or lay, from diocesan staffs, consultative panels, and newspapers, from Catholic schools, and from diocesan events? Here's a clue: it wasn't the traditionalists.

How do you undo the effects of decades of marginalisation? If you are serious about it, the first thing to do is to end the marginalisation. This is a lesson, sadly, that the authors of this document have yet to learn.

In 2015, to mark the 50th anniversary of the Latin Mass Society's foundation, I had occasion to send an Open Letter to the Bishops of England and Wales. I thanked them for the increasingly welcoming atmosphere which characterises the Church here for Catholics attached to the ancient liturgy. I also felt it necessary to address the complaint that this Form of the Mass can become 'ideologised'.

I wrote:

...it is well to consider the relationship between a perceived ‘ideologisation’ and effective marginalisation. As Cardinal Ratzinger so memorably expressed it at the end of the last century:
Anyone who nowadays advocates the continuing existence of this liturgy or takes part in it is treated like a leper; all tolerance ends here.
Sociologists tell us that marginalised groups typically become radicalised, and attract new members who are already marginal, perhaps for unrelated reasons. I believe that we have resisted these tendencies very successfully for the fifty years of the Latin Mass Society’s existence. Those who have any worries in this regard, however, will be able to see the remedy. Problems created by marginalisation will be cured by ending the marginalisation.

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Wednesday, February 10, 2021

More Socratic seminars!

I'm reposting this: a final call for expressions of interest. Many of those involved in the first series are carrying on with the second, and others have asked to join. If you would like to join Series 2, which will begin in the week starting 21st February, please let me know by the end of this week so groups, times, and dates can be arranged. Email joseph.shaw99 AT gmail.com (replace AT with @).

Socrates is in green up on the left, in profile.

In early January I offered to lead some online seminars on early Socratic dialogues, as a small personal response to the lockdown, and (almost to my surprise) this has actually happened. We have now done three of the four proposed seminars, with seven students spread across two groups. It has been fun and I am planning the next set.

It is a remarkable fact of my experience - and I know other academics have found the same - that however many times one looks at a great text, discussing it with students seems to bring out new aspects of it. Different people notice different things, and these texts keep surprising us.

It's not that I think Plato (or Socrates) is right about everything in these dialogues. Indeed, in some ways he is stubbornly wrong-headed, in my view. What I value about them is that they are carefully crafted arguments addressing important ideas without too many preconceptions. I mean this in the sense that they are at the beginning of a tradition, rather than at the end of one (though these things are a matter of degree): in relation to Plato's own thinking, and in relation to great Greek-Roman-Latin-European philosophical tradition.

It is inevitably more difficult to understand later products of a tradition without understanding the earlier stages. Nothing comes without a background, but the background here is more managable than that of some other texts I could mention. For these, I've been putting together a single page of information about the cultural and historical background to each dialogue, and not asking students to do any other reading apart from the text itself.

I'd love to hear from anyone who'd like to join us to discuss the next four in my projected list. These will be the Apology, Crito, Charmides, and Hippias Minor.

More details, including prices, here.

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Tuesday, February 09, 2021

The French Bishops and the Traditional Mass

IMG_0945
LMS Pilgrimage to Our Lady of Guadalupe, Bedford, 2019


My latest on LifeSite.

As LifeSiteNews has reported, a document emanating from the French Bishops’ Conference has found its way into the public domain on the subject of the Traditional Mass or Extraordinary Form (EF). It describes itself as a summary of the responses made by individual bishops on the application of Summorum Pontificum, the 2007 Apostolic Letter of Pope Benedict XVI which made it easier for priests to celebrate, and for people to request, the Mass in the form it had at the eve of the Second Vatican Council, in Latin.

The document has angered many French traditionalists for its hostile tone. Una Voce France, for example, fails to find in it “the slightest trace of empathy, cordiality, or ‘heart’.”

One should not too quickly assume that this tone is representative of the French bishops: the document is clearly the work of a middle-ranking functionary of the Conference staff, and not a very well-educated one at that, in light of its numerous errors of syntax and spelling. Nevertheless, it has some relationship with individual bishops’ reports, which are often quoted, and two themes in particular stand out.

Read it all there.

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Sunday, February 07, 2021

Holy Communion from the Tabernacle: Letter in The Tablet

IMG_1811
SS Gregory & Augustine's, Oxford


It is sad to see The Tablet's Letters Editor reverting the habit of cutting out the key sentences of my letters. Here is my letter in full - with the expurgated sentences in red. In this weekend's edition.


This particular issue is a favourite of the kind of progressive liturgist who likes to sprinkle his attacks on the Tradition with plausible-sounding quotations and references. Don't be fooled. The distribution of Hosts from the Tabernacle is a practice perfectly in line with the Tradition of the Church for very important theological reasons, and is licit in both Forms of Mass, whatever the faddish 'recommendations' of the General Instruction may say.


----------------------

Sir,

Canon Atthill (Letters, 30th January) quotes Pope Pius XII quoting Benedict XIV encouraging priests to give, in Holy Communion, hosts consecrated at the Mass being celebrated. In context, however (Mediator Dei 118, 121), the passage reads slightly differently. Pius XII is speaking of those who request to receive the hosts consecrated at the same Mass as a special act of devotion, and notes that ‘not infrequently’ this is not convenient. He clearly envisages the reception of Hosts consecrated at the same Mass as the exception, not the rule.

The practical considerations at issue have not gone away since 1947. The number of communicants is not always easy to establish in advance, and the hosts which are reserved need to be regularly consumed and refreshed.

But there is also a theological consideration. The ritual of commingling recalls the ancient practice of dropping into the consecrated chalice a portion of a host consecrated at a previous Mass, to express ‘the continuous unity of the Eucharistic sacrifice’ (as Josef Jungmann put it). The use of reserved hosts today has the same significance. As Pius XII remarked, when insisting that tabernacles be joined to the altar: ‘it is the same Lord who is present on the altar and in the tabernacle’ (Assisi allocution, 1956).

 

Yours faithfully,

 

Joseph Shaw 

Chairman, the Latin Mass Society


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Saturday, February 06, 2021

China steps up persection

My latest on LifeSiteNews.

With almost every day that passes, there are new revelations about human rights abuses by the Communist-run People’s Republic of China. Those of a sensitive disposition are not advised to listen to this BBC report on the systematic rape of Uighur girls. It is just the latest news from a particular region of China, where the majority population is distinct ethnically, culturally and religiously from the Han Chinese who dominate China.

The Uighurs, who are Muslim, have received no detectable public defense from the Islamic world, which seems more concerned with doing deals with the Chinese government. They are not alone. Governments and especially universities around the world have been silenced by China’s policy of buying influence. A committee of the U.K.’s House of Commons recently declared, after taking evidence on the problem:

There is clear evidence that autocracies are seeking to shape the research agenda or curricula of UK universities, as well as limit the activities of researchers on university campuses. Not enough is being done to protect academic freedom from financial, political and diplomatic pressure.

Read the whole thing there.

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Tuesday, February 02, 2021

The Virus and the Exams

I feel extremely lucky that I was already home-educating my children before the Coronavirus struck. My children's education has not escaped entirely unscathed--their sporting opportunities have been eviscerated--but they have fared as well as anyone and better than most. Teaching and learning have simply carried on, if necessary online. One thing we can't control, however, is the setting of public examinations. 

Now we are told that the Government has cancelled this summer’s public examinations in schools, and is consulting on what to do instead. An article on a blog on the government website explains:

The cancellation of examinations this summer is not because the pandemic makes them impossible to sit … but rather because the unequal impact of the pandemic makes it impossible for them to be fair.

This is for the simple fact that disadvantaged students have had less digital access and schooling, resulting in higher learning loss than their more advantaged peers. They will not be on a level playing field.

As such, qualifications for 2021 can never be an objective measure of performance in the way we are used to, no matter how much we might wish it.

This is a thoroughly disingenuous argument. Certainly the closure of schools has made an “unequal impact”, and this is a catastrophe which will have terrible and long-term consequences.

But it does not follow that exams this summer would not be “an objective measure of performance in the way we are used to.” We are used to disadvantaged children performing poorly in exams, because for whatever reason they have learned less than other children and are less competent in getting their knowledge down on paper. If there were exams this summer, we would see that again, with knobs on, and would learn precisely how much educational damage had been done, and to whom.

Sunday, January 31, 2021

The government wants to recruit children to spy on their parents

My latest on LifeSite.

The U.K.’s Conservative Party government was elected in 2019 on a wave of revulsion at the patronizing progressivism of the political elite, which was doing its best to frustrate the implementation of the result of the 2016 referendum on leaving the European Union (EU), and condemned patriotic voters as “low information” and racist.

This government has now finally implemented our departure from the EU, “Brexit”, but in many parts of the establishment the old elite are clearly still very much in charge. The government’s attitude to the family, the natural, basic unit of society, is starkly revealed by a proposed law they wish to ram through Parliament, despite it being once already defeated by the House of Lords. The Covert Human Intelligence Sources Bill, due to be considered in the House of Lords in February, allows for the recruitment of children of 16 and 17 years old to spy on their parents, and at the same time allow them to break the law in doing so. The Daily Telegraph reports:

Covert child agents can break the law if it means they will be able to glean information that could prevent or detect crime, protect public health, safety, or national security or help collect taxes, says the guidance, quietly laid by the government this month.

But it’s ok, we are told, because this will only be done if any one of twenty different state agencies, who are given this power, takes the view that it is justified by “exceptional circumstances.”

Read it all there.

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Saturday, January 30, 2021

Younger, conservative priests attacked again: by Fr James Martin

Me on LifeSite. Fr James Martin, who retweeted the article I discuss, is even more annoyed now than he was before. However, since I quoted his tweet in full I can hardly be accused of misquoting him.

-----

Fr. James Martin, SJ, has condemned younger, more conservative priests, linking to a National Catholic Reporter article that uses a parish’s experience as a jumping-off point to criticize a whole generation who are strongly motivated to oppose abortion, who are “active” and want to “evangelize,” who like Latin and incense, and — horror! — who read LifeSiteNews. 

Fr. Martin commented as he re-tweets the article: “Essential reading: These are not isolated incidents and part of a growing trend in the church, leaving parishioners feeling angry and isolated. Essentially the rejection of much of Vatican II by younger priests, this phenomenon has flown under the radar.”

"I cannot tell you how many people have told me of experiences like this: parish councils disbanded, women removed from positions of leadership, parishioners being told they're "bad Catholics," after recently ordained priests decided to remake the parish in their image."

Read the whole thing there.

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Thursday, January 28, 2021

The trade in babies must stop

My latest on LifeSite

The public were recently treated to a recordingof a discussion by the family of Chinese actress, Zheng Shuang, about what to do about two babies which she had arranged to be born by American surrogate mothers. The babies arrived, awkwardly, after she had split up from her boyfriend, the babies’ biological father. The recording was released in the context of a bitter dispute between them and the father.

It’s not clear why Zheng, who is 29 and donated the eggs, wanted to employ other women’s wombs for these pregnancies. Perhaps she has some health reason, or perhaps it was to avoid disrupting her career. After the couple’s split, Zheng and her family have appeared to regard the infants as nothing but an embarrassing inconvenience. Interestingly, surrogacy is illegal in China, and the affair has not gone down well in the Chinese press. Zheng has also been dropped as the Chinese advertising face of the luxury clothing brand, Prada. 

There are of course plenty of minor celebrities, and ordinary people too, whose romantic failures have left small children high and dry. Still, however foolish the earlier behaviour may have been, the maternal bond is generally still strong, and grandparents too tend to feel they have something at stake and frequently step in to help pick up the pieces. Those who pay for surrogates to bear children for them, like the Zheng family, by contrast often seem to feel no connection with the children when things go wrong.

Read the whole thing there.
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Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Find me on Gab: @LMSChairman

Following the suppression of huge numbers of pro-life and Catholic accounts by Twitter, I have created a Gab account. Right now that seems the only alternative - if that makes me an evil person that's too bad.

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'Transjacking' women's sports

My latest on LifeSite

I thought I spotted some signs of common-sense returning to the world of sport a few weeks ago, but the President of the United States can, up to a point, create the political weather, and Joe Biden’s lead on allowing transexuals to compete as whatever sex they choose now makes my optimism seem premature. On the plus side, I have now learned a new word to describe this phenomenon: “transjacking.”

I found it this in this article on the subject which helpfully gives a long list of American sports events where athletes who had the good fortune to be born with male bodies outcompeted athletes who did not. The advantages that men have over women in almost every sporting endeavour are very significant, and enduring. They include, notably, longer limbs and larger lung capacity. The response of many sporting bodies, to insist that male-born athletes who wish to compete in women’s events lower their testosterone levels for a certain number of months, is wholly inadequate. To have the necessary effect, the hormones would have had to have been different over the course of several years, from about the age of 12. Low levels of testosterone isn’t going to shorten runners’ legs at the age of 20. 

Read the whole thing there.

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Tuesday, January 26, 2021

The mother-and-baby homes: fact and fiction

My latest on LifeSite.

On October 30th the Irish government released a major report into the much-criticized ‘Mother and Baby Homes’ run by Catholic religious sisters. These looked after women who had children out of wedlock who, in the first half of the 20thcentury, faced severe social sanctions in Irish society. When their families did not want to support them, these religious sisters did: and worked to find homes for the children, if the mothers wished to have them adopted, and set the women back on their feet in terms of employment.

Except that isn’t the narrative the mainstream media, including in Ireland itself, have been setting out. According to them, these institutions were little short of torture chambers for abuse and oppression. The Irish Government and the Archbishop of Dublin have offered public apologies. So, what is the truth?

Read the whole thing there.

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Monday, January 25, 2021

More online Latin: and New Testament Greek

Don't miss out on the chance to start or improve your Latin and Patristic/ New Testament Greek with unthreatening online classes.


CHRISTIAN GREEK & LATIN Lenten courses

  • New Testament Greek for beginners and intermediates
  • Post‑beginners Latin
  • The Language of the Latin Mass :
  • Roman Canon (Eucharistic Prayer I) and the commentarial tradition from Ambrose to Almar — 50% subsidies for Priests, seminarians and religious

Contact matthewjaspencer@yahoo.com

 “Ardor mihi inerat ut scirem quid priores auctores haberent in corde, qui nostra officia statuerunt”

 Living Greek & Latin for the World Today January 19, 2021

  

GREEK COURSE 1 (22 Feb ‑ 19 March 2021)

Greek Alphabet and very basic grammar for beginners

Plus Greek Course 2 (19th April to 14th May 2021): Intermediate Patristics and New Testament Greek Grammar:

8 weeks total : 2 hours weekly, consisting of two one-hour sessions, with a half-hour break in between, leading to possible participation in a six‑day residential Latin Mass Society Course (in August) £400 for 8 weeks of instruction and small-group work (reduced to £300 if only one course is taken) . No previous Ancient Greek is required

NEW: Post-Beginners Latin Course (19 April - 14 May 2021).

4 weeks. £240 per person for 2 hours per week. If you have taken already Beginners’ Latin, then come along for four weeks of Psalms reading and selections from the saints in order to begin consolidating your knowledge of formal grammar, including word ending changes and sentence structure

The Language of the Latin Mass 8 Weeks (22 February ‑ 19 March 2021, and 19 April ‑ 14 May 2021)

For Seminarians, Priests, Religious, 50% subsidised; and interested laypersons; two one hour sessions, on separate occasions, per week).

£600 per person but after generous Latin Mass Society subsidy this is reduced by 50% for priests etc. Connected to England and Wales by residency or background (PLEASE SEE NOTE* below).

Friday, January 15, 2021

The Demographics of the Traditional Mass

Cross-posted from Rorate Caeli.

The online theology journal Homiletic and Pastoral Review has published an article of mine drawing on the FIUV Report which discusses the demographic profile of Traditional Mass congregations.

My conclusion:

I have demonstrated that the association between the EF and young people and families is neither a myth nor something limited to certain countries. Most Catholics have never encountered the EF, but of those who do, mostly by chance, the ones who make it their preferred Form of Mass are disproportionately young, and include a disproportionate number of families with small children. The presence of numerous children at the typical EF celebration can be confirmed, indeed, by anyone willing to set foot in one, provided it is celebrated in a reasonably family-friendly time and place, and is reasonably well-established.

The place of migrants, and in general of people of mixed cultural and linguistic backgrounds, at the EF, can be seen, naturally, only in places where the local population includes them. Nevertheless it is very evident in cities such as London, and as indicated in the statements quoted above, can be found in many countries.

Easiest of all to confirm is the presence of men at the EF. With Ordinary Form congregations in many places being increasingly dominated by older women, the ability of the EF to retain at least equal numbers of men, as well as young people and those bringing up children, is of no small significance.


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Thursday, January 14, 2021

Hypocrisy and solidarity: the intellectuals and the masses

My latest on LifeSite.

An ever-lengthening list of politicians and media personalities who have been fierce advocates of coronavirus restrictions have turned out to have flouted them. Recently the TV journalist Piers Morgan, who has turned publicly shaming minor celebrities for failures to toe the line on the epidemic into an art form, is now accused of popping off to Antigua for a holiday, against the rules. The Scottish member of Parliament Margaret Ferrier, who is facing trial over her bizarre journeys criss-crossing the country while she was waiting for a test result, had earlier demanded the resignation of Dominic Cummings, a government adviser, for doing something similar. It may be difficult to top the shamelessness of Gavin Newsom, governor of California, going to a party at a famous restaurant in breach of rules he had personally imposed on his state. But I think Neil Ferguson manages it: he was the U.K. Government’s scientific adviser, a man more responsible for the “lockdown” policy than anyone else in the country, who broke the rules in order to commit adultery.

Read the whole thing there.

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Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Woke philosophers vs. Kathleen Stock


Prof. Kathleen Stock is a 'gender critical' feminist and a philosopher at the Univesity of Sussex. She has been involved in the controvery about proposed changes to the Gender Recognition Act which aimed to make it possible for anyone to change gender without any formal process: she is against this. I'd say the mob has come after her, but it's a mob of academic philosophers, and I wonder what the appropriate collective noun is. 'Shower', perhaps. They've written a joint open letter criticising her; there is a counter-letter in her support here, which I have signed myself. One of the leading names is Prof Peter Singer. Anyone familiar with philosophical ethics will enjoy the irony of his and my name appearing together under the same letter. Then again I'd not normally group myself with Stock either. This is about the freedom to disagree, not about defending our specific philosophical views.

I've written about the issue on LifeSite; here's a key passage.

...there is something very odd about a group of philosophers gathering to condemn a fellow philosopher for holding certain views without regard for the cogency of the views themselves. Surely, that must come into it. Surely, if Stock is correct, then any possible harmful fall-out from publicizing these opinions should be managed in some way other than by publicly shaming her? It is almost as if these critics are not confident about the force of their arguments, but hope to win the point by weight of numbers, joined with the fashionable nature of their own position.


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Saturday, January 09, 2021

Same-Sex Marriage isn't working

My latest on LifeSite. A key paragraph:

The 
Daily Mail reports that “divorces” among same-sex couples increased from 428 in 2018 to 822 in 2019, and of the 2019 figure, almost three quarters are lesbian couples. (There were also 107,599 actual divorces that year in the U.K., an increase of 20% on the previous year.) Drew ran a clinic to help women in lesbian couples conceive children, and, as she told the Daily Mail, “a third of the 586 lesbian couples [sic] she helped to have babies between 2011 and 2015 have split up.”


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Wednesday, January 06, 2021

Stay sane in 2021

My latest on LifeSite

As the U.K. and much of Europe head into ever-stricter coronavirus lockdowns, Americans can look forward to something similar from the likely incoming Biden administration. This isn’t quite the vaccine-protected, hopeful new year we were promised, and our short-term ways of dealing with the situation may be getting a bit tired.

In a similar way, some people who were worried about Pope Francis comforted themselves with the thought that his approach, which in certain obvious ways contrasts so strongly with his predecessors’, was unlikely to last long. The Italians have a saying: a fat pope is followed by a thin pope. As time has gone on, I’ve become less sure this is how things will be. They don’t seem to make cardinals like Joseph Ratzinger (elected as Pope Benedict XVI) any more.

In any case, it seems to me that in this bright new year we should be thinking about adaptation, rather than either hibernation, waiting for better times, or the hyper-activity of a response to an emergency. We can’t afford either the loss of time from the first, as months of crisis lengthen into years, or the stress of the second.

Read the whole thing.

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Tuesday, January 05, 2021

Schools conceived of as care-givers undermine the family

My latest on LifeSite.

During the Coronavirus epidemic high-profile British soccer-player Marcus Rashford called for the extension of free school lunches over the school holidays. School meals are free in the U.K. for the children of poorer families, and Rashford thought that it would make sense for this concept to be extended to the time when schools are out. Prime Minister Boris Johnson caved in to the campaign in the summer, giving poorer families vouchers to use in supermarkets, but refused to do so again for the Christmas break, though a lot of volunteers did step in with offers of free cooked meals, and the government promised help through the normal channels of the welfare system. In the meantime Rashford was given an honor—“Member of the British Empire” (MBE)—usually given to people who have spent a lifetime volunteering, at the age of 23.

Rashford’s initiative was prompted by a commendable compassion, but there is something slightly troubling about the terms in which his campaign took off. Feeding the very poor is a fundamental category of good work, but what have schools got to do with it? It was difficult to shake off the impression that Rashford was benefitting from an unfortunate idea which seems to have taken hold: that schools are primary care-givers. If they are, the periods of time in which schools are not in session, for whatever reason, become problematic. Who is going to look after the children then?

Read the whole thing.

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Monday, January 04, 2021

A New Year's idea: a reading group for Socratic dialogues

As we face heaven knows how much more time cooped up under every kind of pressure, I feel the need to get away from it all, not so much imaginatively (I'm not a great reader of romantic fiction) but intellectually

I want to go somewhere where there are no fashionable causes demanding our agreement to an ever-changing collection of insane propositions. Where I can consider something, in company with others, not indeed without relevance to ordinary life, but abstracted a little from the urgencies of today, in a calm atmosphere. And where this consideration can be reasonably prolonged and serious.

The suviving works of ancient philosophy invite us to do this, and above all, the early dialogues of Plato seem to me ideally suited to it. They tend to be short, and address specific concepts, often virtues (piety, courage, friendship). They are artfully constructed to show up confusions hidden in  common beliefs and usually end on a note of paradox, leaving readers to decide for themselves where to take the argument next, whether in a way hinted by Plato, or in a different direction.

They are ideally suited to beginners in philosophy as they don't assume too much prior knoweledge or use too much technical vocabulary. They are an introduction to philosophy in the sense that they have had an immense influence on later thinking, both in terms of their arguments (which were considered again in Plato's later writings, by Aristototle, and by many others) but above all in their style of argument.

The discipline of philosophy, it is often said, is not a body of doctrine, but a method. Plato's early dialogues are the greatest exemples of this method in the history of philosophy: all later philosophy is directly or indirectly indebted to their model, in which concepts are discussed and broken down, definitions proffered and counter-examples considered, in a conversation among civilised people--not always friendly, but always driven by Socrates, with patience and irony, in the service of the truth.

The early dialogues are likely to appear a bit dense at first and are set in a thought-world (of ancient Athens) rather different from our own, so an encounter with them is best done in the company of a guide. They are also designed to generate group discussion, and have not lost their power to do so.

I therefore invite expressions of interest in a course of online seminars on the early dialogues (in English!) to be led by me, for a reasonable fee. My thought is that a small group (between two and five people) could read one dialogue a week and spend an hour on Zoom discussing it after a brief introduction to the argument by one member of the group.

Timing and other details to be confirmed, but I'd suggest starting with a series of four, on the Euthyphro, Ion, Lysis, and Laches. The texts are all online.

I've put more information about the project here.

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