Friday 28 October 2011

Is this worth celebrating?

Not really, but the re-conversion of England certainly would be

photo: Swanson Media

So in around four years the Act of Settlement (1701) will have been re-written and a Catholic will be able to marry the heir to the throne in England. Is this something worth celebrating? I asked my two daughters - 4 and 7 - what they thought, as it had a greater chance of affecting their lives than mine. My seven year old looked pensive for a moment and said "well, I suppose if the Catholic person who married the person who would be King could convert the King and he could convert the country then that might be a good thing, but otherwise I don't think that it really matters..."

She has a point. For a Catholic to marry the heir to the throne (who will henceforth be the oldest child, rather than the oldest son) s/he would almost certainly have to marry in the Church of England as s/he would be marrying the future "Defender of the Faith" and head of that sect. I'm not completely clear on this, but wouldn't that be an invalid marriage for a Catholic? And if you're a Catholic willing to participate in an invalid marriage then, surely, you're not that bound to your faith? So is today's news that a Catholic will soon be able to marry the heir to the throne, or that a lapsed / ex- / lukewarm Catholic will be able to marry the heir to the throne? Unless, of course, as my seven-year-old speculated, the Catholic may have ulterior motives and manage to convert the monarch and return England to her earlier and happier state as Mary's Dowry...

I suppose the fact that a piece of anti-Catholic discrimination dating back to the reign of William III will be removed from the statute books can only be considered a good thing. Until today's announcement takes effect, a satanist, an animist, an atheist or a Moonie can marry the heir to the throne, but a Catholic is forbidden to by law. Clearly this is no more than a symptom of the deep-seated Catholophobia from which Britain suffers. Weirdly, Catholicism is seen as the foreign interloper rather than the made-it-up-as-we-go-along strains of Protestantism that are widely considered to be more "native", even by thinking, educated people. It's as though Merrie Olde England only existed in legend before the Tudor period, as though England was simply waiting to be "liberated" from that foreign Catholicism by the hodge-podge of Luther and Calvin's ideas that formed and informed the various protestant sects that are now seen as "truly British". The only problem is that there wasn't much, er, British about either Calvin or Luther... In fact they were an awful lot less British than the native Catholic faith that had flourished for almost a thousand years and that these sects sought to supplant.

In fact here's a thought - the British Isles have been Catholic for much more of their history than they have been protestant: it isn't the Catholic faith that's the foreign upstart! Pray for the re-conversion of England and her neighbours!

O Mary! O Mother! Reign o'er us once more,

Be England thy Dowry as in days of yore.

Tuesday 25 October 2011

Ave Verum Corpus

We've been singing the Elgar version in our church choir recently, and it's been playing repeatedly in my head for the past fortnight, providing no little comfort in a rather difficult period.

I've also been wondering whether any sublimely beautiful music has been written by a non-believer. Is it possible to create music (or art) that aspires to the sublime without a belief in God? I doubt it.

For now just enjoy this version from the Hereford Cathedral Choir. Yes, they should give us back our cathedral, but it's a jolly good choir and sings the Ave Verum Corpus at a decent speed: it's amazing how many dirge-like recordings of it there are on YouTube.

And if that inspires you, here's a PDF of the music:

Free sheet music
Elgar, EdwardElgar, Edward
Ave Verum, Op. 1, No. 2 (Op. 1, No. 2)
Choral SATB, Organ
Mass; Choir; Sacred

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Sunday 16 October 2011

The only thing worse than a gypsy is a Catholic gypsy...

French Gypsies at Lourdes: Catholicism is part of their identity even though they may feel excluded from the mainstream Church (photo: Iglisia Descalza) least that appears to be the gist of a rather bizarre article by Germaine Greer in Saturday's Telegraph. It's an oddly written opinion piece that veers from extreme nimbyism at having travellers living in her village to evoking warm fuzzy images of "nomadic peoples". One of the worst things about the travellers that we have here in the UK, the article suggests, is that they're Catholic. My comments are in bold.
How diverse are British nomads? They include English Romanichal and New Age Travellers and Roma refugees from eastern Europe, but the largest group is the Irish Travellers. These are not only Irish; they are also Roman Catholic. This is not the same as being simply Irish Catholic (we can, apparently, tolerate "cultural Catholics" as they're no different from the rest of us) : the travellers are more Catholic than other Irishmen and women (Ack! More Catholic! Than the Irish! As in they might actually BE Catholic). Traveller women have no sex before marriage (Oh the horror! And how bad for the contraceptive/abortion industry: think of the economy!) , marry young within the community (This is a problem? Why?), and bear more children than any other women in Europe (I say hooray for them! Germaine clearly sees this as A Bad Thing).
The highest value in traveller society is the family (what's wrong with that?), and the honour of the family resides in its women (wasn't it Archbishop Fulton Sheen that said that the value of a society can be measured by its womenfolk? So the travellers are in good company)....
Prolonged contact with the more relaxed mores of the host community carries a high risk for traveller families, who dread their children becoming involved in under-age drinking, experimentation with drugs and casual sex. (That would be true of many of us who don't want our children to adopt the normative behavior of the sewer; I'm with the travellers here as are most parents I know). When travellers are housed by local authorities it is invariably in the kinds of housing estates where all these are rife (well a caravan in a field looks like a good option then, doesn't it?)

Greer gives some anecdotal evidence which largely amounts to Why She Does Not Like Travellers But Is Too Liberal to Say So. She relates feeling "uneasy" when visiting a traveller site:

One day an official letter for a Mr King was delivered at my house, and I took the opportunity to visit the encampment. I drove past the piles of rubbish which were all we neighbours got to see and found myself in a compound swept clear of every speck of mud, surrounded by caravans that sparkled in the afternoon sun. The only people I saw were children, who formed a solid phalanx between me and the caravans.
“Does Mr King live here?’ I asked.
The children did not respond. Their faces were closed and blank. I showed them the letter and asked if I should leave it with them. They neither moved nor spoke.
There was something familiar about the whole situation, the size and shape of the compound overlooked by the invisible mothers in their caravans and the implacable mien of the guardian children. For a while I couldn’t place it and then I realised that I could have been in a Rajasthani village.
Oooh, not a Rajasthani village, the sort of place where people have better things to do than read tripe books by Germaine Greer. And what's with the "invisible mothers in their caravans" - how unbelievably patronising! How denigrating of motherhood.  How does she know that they aren't all at the supermarket, or enjoying a cup of tea and a laugh while looking after their babies, or happily making their family's lunch. Should they have dropped everything and rushed out to greet the important feminist academic? Or perhaps they should all be at work, their babies in second rate substitute childcare. As for the "implacable guardian children", well, I reckon that Germaine doesn't have a lot of contact with children. Round our way she'd likely find herself escorted by a phalanx of stony-faced warriors, and would count herself lucky if she wasn't tied to a tree "Just-William" style if she let herself onto our land without invitation. Face it, Germaine, an elderly scary lady brandishing an envelope and speaking in clipped antipodean tones is hardly going to put a group of children at their ease. Why, who knows, maybe they'd read your books and were too scared to speak.

Germaine Greer argued in Sex and Destiny (1985) that the nuclear family was a bad environment in which to raise children. Her criticism of British/Irish Travellers appears to be rooted in a morbid distrust of the natural family augmented by  a profound anti-Catholicism. In this article she gives a series of unsubstantiated "facts" (e.g. "traveller women have twice the rate of miscarriage as the UK average" - this without being able to specify how many travellers  are in the UK) pointing the the "obvious" conclusion that it would be in the travellers' own best interests to be brought into the mainstream. Then the children could be sexualised at a young age, the babies born out of wedlock, the mothers could all go out to work full-time, families could break down and they'd be just like the dysfunctional moral sewer of mainstream British society . You'd like that, wouldn't you, Germaine? That the Travellers value family, chastity and children irritates you no end. I'm sorry to tell you that that's exactly what some of us admire in them; that and the fact that they -- and we -- will out breed your sterile feminist intelligentsia with joy and alacrity. And that's the real reason that you're worried, isn't it?


Wednesday 12 October 2011

Science and theology

Superb letter in today's Irish Times (12/10/11) by somebody called Maolsheachlann O Ceallaigh who appears at one point to have published a blog called "The Irish Chestertonian". An exerpt from today's letter below:

"The doyen of modern atheism, Richard Dawkins, has written that “the universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pitiless indifference.”
I suggest that such a response can only come from someone spectacularly tone-deaf to the music of existence. Mankind’s craving for ultimate truth goes deeper than can be satisfied by any scientific explanation of empirical facts (which simply pushes the explanation back one more stage to some mysterious “laws of nature”); as St Augustine wrote, “our hearts are restless till they rest in Thee.” 

The rest of the letter's worth a read too. Unfortunately the way the Irish Times webpage is set up means that it is not possible to link to an individual letter, so by tomorrow the link will be out of date.

Tuesday 11 October 2011

Nothing under the Sun is new....

"The more they called themselves philosophers the more stupid they grew"

Nothing under the sun is new, neither is any man able to say: Behold this is new: for it hath already gone before in the ages that were before us.

These words from Ecclesiastes 1:10 (Douay Rheims) came to mind as I listened to the reading from St Paul's letter to the Romans in this morning's N.O. Mass. It is easy to assume that the sarcasm and know-it-all dismissiveness of the likes of Richard Dawkins and Philip Pullman are a contemporary phenomena. That this attitude is a reflection of late 20thC/early 21stC disaffection with religion, fetishisation of knowledge and surrender to concupiscence. It's good to be reminded that the clever-clogs brigade has always existed: believing that they are too intelligent for God, mocking the faithful.
The anger of God is being revealed from heaven against all the impiety and depravity of men who keep truth imprisoned in their wickedness... such people are without excuse: they knew God and yet refused to honour him as God or to thank him; instead, they made nonsense out of logic and their empty minds were darkened. The more they called themselves philosophers the more stupid they grew, until they exchanged the glory of the immortal God for a worthless imitation...That is why God left them to their filthy enjoyments and the practices with which they dishonour their own bodies, since they have given up divine truth for a lie... (Romans 1:16-25 passim)
 I think that the opening words of today's reading  - "I am not ashamed of the Good News: it is the power of God saving all who have faith... as scripture says: The upright man finds life through faith"  set the tone for the Church Militant today... as they did 2000 years ago. 

Monday 10 October 2011

Hurrah for Sir Nicholas Windsor! Queen's cousin stands up for human life

"The world doesn't have a right to abortion" writes Lord Nicholas Windsor, the Queen's cousin and a Catholic convert, in today's Daily Telegraph.

Lord Windsor's writes that his robust defense of the right to life comes on the day that 

an important project is launched today in the House of Lords by parliamentarians and experts, as it was last week in the United Nations General Assembly and around the world.
The aim of this, based on a document called the San José Articles, is to stop the practice we've been talking about from being foisted on to countries that don't want it. The Articles aim to show that there is no "right to abortion" to be found in international law that would oblige such countries to "conform, or else". This is in spite of the UN and other agencies' claims to the contrary.
Human rights lawyers of a certain stamp around the world are taking the same pro-abortion line, manipulating the current provisions of international law. Frankly, officials and politicians in developing countries are being bullied into writing such a right to abortion into their domestic law. This project aims to help them to fight back. 
 This campaign is one to watch and support. And no prizes for guessing who my favourite member of the Royal family is!

Wednesday 5 October 2011

"Ignore science, this is about opinions"

That's what representatives of Planned Parenthood told American university students at a debate in Colorado on 20 October 2010. Anyone with a basic understanding of human biology would find it difficult to argue a pro-abortion stance using science, but I've never before heard someone say "just ignore the science. This isn't about science, it's a matter of opinion". Oh, and isn't it a bit scary that the brightest and best that Planned Parenthood could put together for the debate think that a baby's heart starts beating at 24 weeks?! Yes, weeks!

Watch the video with commentary on Lifesite News ; a video of the whole debate, including the impressive pro-life arguments is on the EternityImpact website.

Evidence is one of the things that will win minds and hearts in this debate. But the pro-life movement needs foot soldiers and prayers as well. If you're near London, please consider signing for an hour praying at the 40 Days for Life vigil at Bedford Square. Details and how to sign up are on the 40 Days for Life London website (click on "vigil schedule" link at top of page).