Sunday, 26 July 2015

Investors Wanted

With my astounding business acumen, I am putting together a business plan for a new, very profitable business which I plan to launch shortly. 

For a limited time, there is an opportunity for the forward-looking investor to get in on the ground floor of this innovative and highly lucrative enterprise.

Here's the scam. Very shortly, it will be both legal and lucrative to persuade people to commit suicide. 

It will be legal, because they will keep bringing the euthanasia legislation before parliament till they get the answer they want, and will then gradually extend the scope of it (to include the elimination of any opt-out clauses deemed necessary in the first instance, and then the removal of all the restraints and safeguards...)

It will be lucrative, because very soon the accountants will be able to demonstrate the annual cost of people living into their 80s (say) to the NHS and DWP; not to mention those living with any special needs. So to save NHS/DWP funds, voluntary euthanasia will be a very pragmatic option. And in the spirit of free-market enterprise, anyone helping some reach a decision should be remunerated with a small commission. 

So I plan to start an enterprise to be in pole position as soon as this becomes legally viable. We will have trained sales people, who will have a wonderfully euphemistic job title (suggestions welcome; though I am currently inclined to End-of-life Care Experts). They will use a completely non-judgemental approach to help people think through their options (ever-increasing pain and debility on the one hand, or a quick and easy end on the other) and reach the right decision. And they will collect the commission, whilst bathing in the virtuous glow of saving the NHS money.

Any takers?

Here's where I have trouble...

Here's where I have trouble in following some of President Obama's reasoning.

I love my children. That love expresses itself in many ways: spending time with them, educating them, laughing with them, providing for them, listening to their piano practice. It also expresses itself in specific, and appropriate, physical ways: tickling them, hugging them, chasing them around the garden, and when younger, throwing them into the air and catching them.

For that, I should be judged - positively. These are good loving behaviours.

That love does not express itself sexually; and if it were to do so, I should be judged negatively: that would be bad behaviour.

The same is true, of course, mutatis mutandis, for many other relationships in my life: with my parents, my siblings, my friends and so on.

There is one relationship, and one only, in which love is expressed sexually, and that is with my wife. That fact, not least the exclusivity of that sexual relationship, is beneficial to me, to her, to our children and to wider society. From it flows the family itself, including its stability; and our commitment to each others ensures that we do not threaten the stability of any other relationships, which is also in wider society's interests; as is the fact that we do not contract or transmit STIs, nor require abortions to correct 'mistakes.'

So when Obama says that nobody should be persecuted because of whom he or she loves, I agree. But when he extrapolates from that proposition the idea that States have a duty to promote homosexual relations on the same footing as married relations, I cannot follow him.

And he says that in Africa: a continent plagued with AIDS that has been spread by sexual promiscuity, not least amongst practicing homosexuals. 

Indeed, until relatively recently when they started to sanitise their image, part of gay pride for some homosexual men was a pride in promiscuity - and a promiscuity that reached staggering proportions. That is now not publicised: instead, a strategy was put in place which ensured we hear about the stable couples who have been together for 20 years. But who is to say which of these gay myths is nearer to reality?

What is clear is that Obama's only idea of controlling AIDS, swamping the population with condoms, is insufficient; and his promotion of a particular philosophy of how Africans should regulate their own affairs is both morally bankrupt and tainted by an American superiority that smacks of colonialism.

Saturday, 25 July 2015

The Enormity of the Pro-Life Challenge

It may be that I am a bit out of the loop these days, but it seems to me that the pro-life movement in this country has not really developed a coherent strategy, designed to win people over to a pro-life understanding.

And that is an enormous challenge. 

In one sense, history has moved in a pro-life direction. The science of embryology, the growing understanding of neuro-psychology, and the technology such as ultrasound all support the pro-life cause. 

Whereas in 1967 it was easy to believe the 'blob of tissue' argument, that is no longer intellectually possible.

But in another way, I would argue, history has moved against us. For we now find ourselves in a position in which a large proportion of the population has a psychological interest in believing abortion to be morally acceptable.

The reason is simple. Over the last 47 or so years, large numbers of women have had abortions; large numbers of husbands, lovers, mothers, friends have been close to them; and large numbers of medical and ancillary staff have performed, assisted or otherwise been involved in them.  Few, if any, of these people are likely to have a self-image that they are evil. Therefore, when confronted with the idea that abortion is evil, they may suffer from cognitive dissonance: they need to reconcile that notion with their self-understanding that they are not evil.

As I have had occasion to mention before, one of the many things I lament in the change from the Traditional to the New Rite of Mass is the loss of the wonderful prayer from Psalm 140 (said at the incensing of the altar): Pone, Dómine, custódiam ori meo, et óstium circumstántiæ lábiis meis: ut non declínet cor meum in verba malítiæ, ad excusándas excusatiónes in peccátis. (Set a watch, O Lord, before my mouth: and a door round about my lips.  Incline not my heart to evil words; to make excuses in sins.)

So one way, and I think the most frequent way, that we may try to resolve the type of cognitive dissonance I am concerned with, is to convince ourselves that our bad actions were not so bad, after all ('to make excuses in sins'). The unspoken, and scarcely adverted to, inner dialogue goes something like this. 'I am not an evil person. I had (performed, collaborated with, etc) an abortion. Therefore abortion cannot be such an evil thing.'

And of course, our media, entertainment industry, political establishment, medical establishment, schools and universities all confirm that judgement. I wrote some years ago about my nephew's tragic case, and I think it may well be very typical. They (he and his girlfriend) really believed - they needed to believe, and were taught to believe - that they were doing the responsible thing. They still feel the need to believe that. So we need to think carefully about the implications of that for our long-term pro-life strategy.

There is also another, almost opposite, psychological state that we may encounter. That is, the person who had an abortion, but does realise that it was evil. With time, she may forget the duress she was under, the lack of freedom she experienced, when pushed to abort her child. So the guilt may be disproportionate; not to the objective evil, which is grave indeed, but to the subjective guilt. If, for example, she was young, vulnerable and confused, and parents, teachers and boyfriend all told her that the only choice was to have an abortion, her personal culpability may be very limited.  But we need to think about her, too, as I am sure there are many in such a position.

It may be that people are discussing such things, that a strategy exists or is being developed, to address these issues: if so, I would love to know about it.

But if I am right, and that conversation is not being had, I think it is time to get on with it.

Monday, 20 July 2015

More on ex-priests and ex-nuns as teachers

A priest writes (starting with a quotation from my blog earlier today, here):

“I am not saying that no ex-priest or ex-nun should ever be employed as a teacher.”

This was indeed the case pre-Vatican II.

It might have seemed rather harsh – but I suspect that the reasons for it were as follows:

  1. To avoid sending mixed messages to children. A priest makes promises for life – like a married couple.
  2. Some (not all) former priests and nuns may disagree with the Magisterium on some matters of faith or morals.
  3. Some (not all) former priests and nuns may have lost their faith.

Nowadays (so I am told by those who are more knowledgeable than me) former priests and nuns may become teachers at a Catholic School – on a case by case basis.

But obviously great prudence and care is needed to avoid scandalising children.

Sadly I suspect great prudence and care are not always taken.



Catholic Schools as Sanctuaries

I knew there was something else... something that has been niggling at the back of my mind over the weekend.

And I woke up with that sudden clarity induced by a glass or two of red last night and a shower this morning.

It is this: I think the practice of appointing ex-nuns and ex-priests (I use the term in the colloquial sense - priestly ordination is, of course, permanent) to teach in our Catholic schools is a very risky one.

It has been going on for decades now: someone leaves the convent or the presbytery and immediately turns up teaching in a Catholic School.

Here's why that concerns me. I think that teaching in a Catholic School is also a vocation. A Catholic School should be a sanctuary dedicated to learning the Faith and how to live as a Catholic adult in a hostile culture, not a sanctuary for people on the run from their vocation, or struggling to come to terms with themselves.

That, I am sure, sounds harsh. But the reality is that if people are leaving the priesthood or the religious life, they have either discovered that they have mistaken their vocation, or are in the process of abandoning it. Either of these realities is likely to be a traumatic and unsettling time for them: it is not the time to start teaching children.

Yet somehow, Catholic Schools repeatedly appoint people in that situation. I suspect it is as a way of keeping them on the Catholic payroll, as it were, when their lives are in transition. A charitable aim, perhaps, but I think a misguided response.

I am not saying that no ex-priest or ex-nun should ever be employed as a teacher. People who have gone through that trauma are certainly not beyond redemption, and once they have resolved their crisis they may make fine teachers.

Nor am I saying that the Church should not find ways to support such people: that may indeed be an obligation, and is almost certainly an act of charity.

But it is also true that while going through such turmoil, people are almost by definition not in the most stable state. Many also have issues with the Church and its teaching. 

So I think that at the very least there should be both a cooling off period, and then a process of genuine scrutiny before appointing such people to teaching positions in Catholic Schools. Our children deserve no less; and yet that is not what I see happening.

Sunday, 19 July 2015

Telling Fr Fisher's Story

It seems that some people thought my reference to vitriol in yesterday's post was directed at Dr Shaw; I have amended the post to clarify that was not what I meant. I was referring to some of the very intemperate comments I have seen in comms boxes and on Facebook.

With regards to Dr Shaw's post, he clearly reached a different prudential judgement to me about publicising Fr Fisher's story, and on balance I think he was right, though I question the precise way he went about it. 

My concerns were that such an approach would risk depriving Fr Fisher of his good name, that it would risk provoking precisely the kinds of intemperate comments we have seen (Dr Shaw sensibly deletes them - other blogs are less prudent), and that it would provide more arguments for the enemies of tradition.

On the other hand, I think there is always a case to be made for the truth being told - and everything published was material put in the public domain by Fr Fisher himself; further, understanding what was going on for Fr Fisher undermines any attempt to re-write history and suggest that traditionalists drove him from the parish, or any such nonsense; moreover, I think that parents of the school where Fr Fisher teaches have a right to know about his history and sympathies; and it is very important in our understanding of the episcopal crisis we face in this country (which was the point of my post  yesterday).

So my criticism of Dr Shaw's post, for what it's worth, is that it did not put that context around the story, which meant it risked seeming an act of retaliation against a man who has done things we don't like.  I am quite confident that was not his intention, not least as he concludes by asking for prayers for Fr Fisher, but I have already seen that particular interpretation being touted around.

Saturday, 18 July 2015

More on the Blackfen saga

I do not wish to comment on Fr Fisher (any more than I did on Kieran Conry after his fall) and for similar reasons: it is bad form to kick a man while he is down, and we do not know all the circumstances.

However, as with the Conry affair, I think it raises questions that are both legitimate and important to address, with regard to the episcopal oversight of the affair.

Soon after Fr Fisher's appointment, many were speculating about the bishop's intention in appointing him to the parish. Even given the most charitable of interpretations, it was clear that something had quickly gone very wrong. But there was no episcopal intervention, merely a bland letter.

Now it seems that there were already plenty of reasons to suspect at that time that Fr Fisher might have been in a fragile space, with regard to his faith and his vocation. Either these were known of when he was appointed to Blackfen, in which case I think he was the victim of a gross dereliction of care; or they were not, in which case I think my observations on Toxic Ignorance (which I voiced at the time of the Conry scandal, apply).

For the victims of this are not merely those who loved the traditional Mass at Blackfen, nor just those who liked the new ways at Blackfen, who have lost their new PP after less than a year, but also Fr Fisher himself, who seems to be going through a bad time (and which is really not helped by vitriolic attacks which some have made in comms boxes or on Facebook and Twitter: Catholics should know better than this). What he needed at that time is more likely to have been excellent pastoral support, not being thrown into what was bound to be a very difficult position.

I can only conclude that the crisis in the Church in the country continues, and that a major factor in this is widespread episcopal failure. 

We do have good bishops, of course, and it is important to listen to them and support them. 

And we have others. We must not be led astray by them, nor allow ourselves to be scandalised by them, or led into behaving badly ourselves, in our frustration and anger.

We must pray for them all, and for Fr Fisher, and all affected by the developments at Blackfen.