Tuesday, 29 November 2011

One That Got Away...

By modern medical standards, this child is a failure. She should have been identified and killed before birth.

Yet one can see the joy she brings to her mother's life - and doubtless countless others'.

Pause and say a prayer for the many others who were not so lucky, and for their mothers, many of whom will doubtless feel the knife twisted in their hearts as they read this story.

H/t John Smeaton.

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Alma Redemptoris Mater

Alma Redemptoris Mater, quae pervia caeli

Porta manes, et stella maris, succurre cadenti,

Surgere qui curat, populo: tu quae genuisti,

Natura mirante, tuum sanctum Genitorem

Virgo prius ac posterius, Gabrielis ab ore

Sumens illud Ave, peccatorum miserere.

V: Angelus Domini nuntiavit Mariae
R: Et concepit de Spiritu Sancto

Mother of the Redeemer, who art ever of heaven

The open gate, and the star of the sea, aid a fallen people,

Which is trying to rise again; thou who didst give birth,

While Nature marveled how, to thy Holy Creator,

Virgin both before and after, from Gabriel's mouth

Accepting the All hail, be merciful towards sinners.

(Tr Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman)

V: The angel of the Lord declared unto Mary
R: And she conceived by the Holy Spirit.

Celebrating Advent

Although the first Christmas Trees have gone up in some houses in town, and indeed the town's Christmas decorations are up, we are just starting to celebrate Advent.

We always keep our Advent Celebrations and our Christmas Celebrations separate - though they are related, they are two different seasons of the Church's cycle.

So we mark Advent by saying our prayers around the Advent Wreath, singing O Come O Come Emmanuel and having a reading as we add another character to our Jesse Tree. We will also say the wonderful collect Arise in thy strength we beseech thee O Lord and come; from the dangers which threaten us because of our sins, be thy presence our sure defence, be thy deliverance our safety for ever more; and we'll sing the Alma Redemptoris Mater.

This is the pattern until Christmas Eve (the collect changes each week, of course: we use the Sunday collect from the Extraordinary Form of the Mass). Only then will we start to decorate the house, put up the tree and so forth.

Which means I've been out in the rain collecting holly for the wreath, up in the attic looking for the advent calendars, Jesse Tree book etc, and singing the Alma Redemptoris to myself throughout the day.

Friday, 25 November 2011

A Barbaric Suggestion

Imagine that you are pregnant. You have carried twins nearly to term, and then the medics tell you that one of the twins may have a heart condition, which may be fatal, or may require several operations throughout his or her life.

You are likely to be extremely upset, probably overwhelmed by emotion.

Then the medics suggest that one option is to terminate - well not the pregnancy, obviously, that euphemism won't work here... - to terminate the twin with the heart condition (which has somehow changed from a possibility to a certainty in people's thinking).

What you most need, probably, is time. Time to adjust to the new situation, time to work through the storm of emotions, time to think about the future, time to consider what the medical indications really mean, with all their 'mays.'

What you cannot have is time: a decision is needed. If we are going to terminate we need to get on with it.

There is something barbaric about offering such a decision to someone at such a moment.

A poor woman in Australia was placed in that position. As a result of a decision she took, both of her children are now dead, and she probably doesn't even know if either of them actually had the suspected heart condition.

I am quite sure she is bitterly regretting that decision, and I have nothing but prayers and sympathy for her.

But the medics, who apparently are devastated at what they have done... what did they think they were doing as they injected poison into the heart of a baby capable of being born alive?

And how could they think that offering a woman in a state of shock such a choice under such pressures of time and emotion is a responsible or humane thing to do?

Sancta Maria, Mater Dei
Ora pro nobis.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Day of Reckoning?...

Today was interesting. It was the day Charlie was scheduled to have RE, and following the initial prompt and courteous response from the school to my initial complaint, I had heard nothing.

So I was wondering whether they would continue showing Keeping Mum. I didn't think they would, but didn't know that for sure.

So I had talked it through with Charlie and agreed that if they did, he would have to excuse himself and go to the school library to work (referring the teacher to me, if there was a problem with that).

In the event, they did not show any more of it. Instead they had a period of revision. Charlie asked his teacher if he'd seen my letter (it had been addressed to the head of RE, not the individual teacher), and the teacher replied that he had. He asked Charlie if he felt the same as I did (I had told Charlie in broad terms the content of the letter, but he had not seen it). Charlie said that he did. And there the matter rests for the present.

I am sure I will receive a full response from the school in due course, but have to say that so far their response has been pretty good.


I see that people have been looking at this page again recently (Sept 2013) so thought it would be helpful to point you to what happened next: here)

Tragic killing of 'wrong' twin

The ever-wonderful BBC reports that doctors in Australia gave a lethal injection to a healthy unborn child, which was meant for its twin. The twin who was believed to have a congenital heart condition, was subsequently killed via an emergency caesarian section.
(Victoria) State Premier Ted Baillieu: "I don't think it's appropriate for anybody to draw any conclusions other than this is a horrible tragedy."
I disagree. I think there are many more conclusions we could appropriately draw. One is that doctors should not be killing children in utero.

Another is that the rush to say we should draw no conclusions is an indication of the complete moral bankruptcy of the philosophy of those who think this is anything other than barbaric.

A third is that the mother, and all involved, need our prayers.

Q: Down's Syndrome? A: Lethal Injection

Both Fr Finigan and Rorate Caeli carry reports of the chilling and dispassionate advice to obstetricians and gynaecologists from their governing body, the Royal College, on the killing of unborn children who are suspected of abnormalities, by lethal injection prior to abortion, because, as the College puts it so clearly:failure to perform feticide could result in a live birth and survival, which contradicts the intention of the abortion.

I was listening to Wendy Savage talking on the Today programme a couple of days ago about the rise in births by Caesarian Section. She made the point that the research suggests that a lot of this is a result of defensive medicine: doctors fearing litigation.

Who can doubt that the same arises when there is any suspicion of any abnormality in an unborn child?

Who can doubt that doctors will not inform people when they are mistaken?

Who can doubt that many perfectly healthy children are killed and their parents never told?

Who can doubt that children with Down's Syndrome deserve extra love and care, not potassium cyanide?

Who can doubt that since the 1967 Abortion Act, medical ethics have taken a nose-dive?

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Interesting article on Same Sex Adoption

Mercatornet carries an interesting article by psychiatrist Rick Fitzgibbons on the risks of same-sex adoption, currently being conducted in the UK and the USA, driven by an ideology that places the wants of adults above the needs and rights of children. Dr Fitzgibbons cites plenty of research as well as his own clinical experience. The comments are worth reading, too.

Catholic French Scouts, anyone?

I have just received an email from Fr. Hervé Tabourin the leader of a scout troop from Riaumont. (It is fair to mention that the translation of the linked page to English is slightly idiosyncratic and not totally illuminating, but you get the idea)

Anyone who has done the Chartres Pilgrimage will remember the hugely impressive Riaumont scouts.

He is planning to bring a group to England and is looking for somewhere in the South East (between the Channel and London) for them to camp for Low Week (15 - 21 April 2012). [Have just checked my diary, and those dates, which he gives along with the description la semaine après Pâques, seem to be the week after Low Week; if you're interested I'm sure we can seek clarification...]

So if you know of anyone with a field (or large garden!) in that area who would welcome these traditional French Scouts, (eg if they've done the Chartres Pilgrimage) please contact him: prv@riaumont.net +336 74 34 85 29

If you have any questions, and do not feel up to dealing with these in French, feel free to forward them to me and I will happily liaise.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

The School Responds

I got home yesterday to find an answerphone message from the head of RE, to say that he had received my letter, was looking into it, and would get back to me. Prompt and courteous: just as I had expected.

I find, on re-reading my posts about the last time I had to write to the school, that I had not finished the story. In their written response, as I noted here, they assured me they would correct the text for next year.

In fact, they went much further: Dominique told me that the very next RE lesson, they were asked to take out their handouts and correct them, and had the reasons for the correction explained simply and clearly.

That is why I am optimistic about the outcome of the current issue. Their reasonableness, responsiveness, and genuine concern for parents' views and wishes are in marked contrast to some allegedly Catholic schools (or rather, 'schools with a strong Catholic ethos', as they prefer to call themselves), where the (soi-disant Catholic) teachers see the (Catholic) parents as the ideological enemy...

Monday, 21 November 2011

Why we don't homeschool...

A comment in my comms box recently asked why we don't homeschool, which is an excellent question, and felt worthy of a post of its own.

My late father always used to say 'There are two reasons for everything: the good reason and the real reason.'

So I will be quite honest and say that the real reason we chose not to homeschool is because my wife point-blank refused to countenance the idea.

At the time, she wasn't Catholic; but even though she was received into the Church some 15 years ago, I think her refusal would be as strong.

However, with hindsight, there are some good reasons for not homeschooling (as well as many excellent reasons for homeschooling - some of the best Catholic young people I know have been homeschooled, and all that stuff about not being socialised is rubbish, in my experience).

However, I do think that there is some value in having children in schools who are Catholic; it opens the eyes of friends and teachers - and even sometimes those who are hostile to them - to the fact that it there are still believing Catholics about.

Ant and Bernie have both survived school and gone onto University with their Faith intact - and one of Bernie's friends is now keen to convert.

Charlie and Dominique both seem secure in their Faith, at present; and as regular readers will know, I have recently had to take the opportunity to educate their school about some basic issues...

So while I was disappointed at Anna's refusal to consider homeschooling, if I had my time again, I am not sure I would want to homeschool: for our kids, the other option has worked, and possibly benefitted others beyond our family.

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Here we go again...

I had been following the saga at Bonus Pastor Catholic College with some interest, initially via James Preeces' blog, and subsequently via Bonus Pastor Exposed.

And then on Friday, Charlie came home to tell me that they'd started watching Keeping Mum in RE, as they were going to write an essay on the treatment of Religion in the Media. (see Bonus Pastor Exposed for clips showing how unsuitable Keeping Mum is - but beware: it is unsuitable! Alternatively, my letter below itemises why I disapprove.)

Charlie and Dominique are not at a Catholic School, as there is not one locally (and our experiences at the Catholic School the bigger girls went to before we moved would not make me rush to another - but that's another story...). Nonetheless, I feel it is incumbent on me to point out that we do not believe Keeping Mum is something he (or any other adolescents) should be watching at school.

To their credit, the RE Dept have been very understanding and responsive when I have raised concerns in the past (see here for my concerns and here for their response)

So here's the first draft of the inevitable letter:

Dear Mr X

I am writing in my capacity as critical friend to the RE department - and also concerned parent.

I have learned from Charlie that his class has just started to watch Keeping Mum, with a view to studying how religion is portrayed in the media.

I have serious concerns about this film being shown in school:

  • It blasphemes the Holy Name of Jesus
  • It makes repeated use of the F*** word (and does both of these in a context of casual irreverence)
  • It shows a young woman interrupted having sex in a van; showing her topless, and again being watched by a voyeur as she undresses, again showing her topless
  • It shows the mother being seduced by her golf instructor, including unedifying lines such as: ‘You want our First Time to be in a car: that’s the kind of thing my daughter does, for f***’s sake.’
  • It has an ethos of sexual behaviour that is casual and promiscuous (‘And I know why - you’re not getting any’ says the daughter to the mother.)

From our perspective as parents trying to raise our children to be virtuous, all that poses serious problems, breaching as it does several commandments, and the traditional practices of custody of the eyes and custody of the ears, which are how we train our children in the virtue of purity. In Catholic theology, human sexuality is sacred.

I know that ours is an unfashionable, and even counter-cultural, approach, but looking at our children, I don’t think it has damaged them too much: to be honest, I am proud of the way they are turning out.

I recognise that the children may hear this sort of language in the playground, though I lament the fact. I am sure that it would not be countenanced in the classroom, any more than a girl appearing topless would be. So I fail to understand why this is appropriate in a film shown to the students.

I have been told that it is a recommended resource for the syllabus; but that, in my understanding, does not make it either compulsory or desirable.

I suspect that if you asked other Christian parents whether they wanted their adolescent kids to watch blasphemous, profane and sexually titillating material, some others would have reservations.

But we were never consulted or informed, and perhaps that is my deepest concern. If the teaching staff really deem this suitable, their project for our kids is very different from ours: and I really don’t want to have to start quizzing Charlie and Dominique about what they’ve been taught in order to undo damage (as I see it) that may have ben perpetrated by well-intentioned but (in my view) misguided teachers.

I have every confidence that you will take our concerns seriously, and understand them, and look forward to your response.

Yours sincerely

I am confident that the response will be swift and courteous - and it may well be positive. It could scarcely be worse that Bonus Pastor's...

Friday, 18 November 2011

Faith Schools are the Answer, not the Problem

I just came across this post by Sarah Johnson posted in 2007 (because she has just added a further note about the same issue to her rarely-updated blog). It is well-worth reading, in the light of the shenanigans at the Vaughan, and now Coloma Convent (the subject of her more recent post).

She makes a strong case for the validity of considering parental volunteering as part of the selection criteria, and points out how diocesan-imposed changes or challenges are largely based on perception rather than reality.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Sola Scriptura Alert

I saw this on the Facebook page of a friend of a friend, and love it!

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Feeling stressed? Try Faith, Hope and Charity

I attended an interesting training course the other day on stress management. As well as looking at reducing the pressures we work under, we were encouraged to increase our resilience - which was defined as our ability to cope with pressure without a stress response.

The first thing discussed was the obvious need to look after oneself physically (diet, exercise, rest, reducing caffeine and alcohol intake etc.) when the pressure is on.

But then we discussed the research on what was called 'positive affect'- a sort of emotional and cognitive optimism.

It struck me that most of the evidence supported the three theological virtues.

Faith was highlighted by the need to find meaning - to have something to believe in. Viktor Frankl was cited, the Austrian therapist who lived through the Nazi concentration camps and wrote Man's Search for Meaning, to explain how some people managed to hold onto their humanity in the midst of the brutalising regime. Other examples were cited (Clarence Adoo, for example, a world class trumpeter who was paralysed from the head down in a car accident, and attributes his positivity to his faith as a Salvationist).

Hope was the leitmotif of the day: a well-founded optimism seems very important. One interesting study looked at nuns, who on entering their convent some 50 years ago, had written a letter to explain why they wanted to be nuns. All had Faith, of course, but some letters were highlighted as having lots of 'positive affect indicators' which I heard as hope-filled; whilst others were more negative on that scale (young women focusing on atonement for past - or others' - wrongs). The study said there was a clear co-relation between the hope-filled letters and a nun's long-term health and longevity - decades later.

Charity was also important: again and again the research evidence showed that people who maintained good relationships with others, who went out of their way to perform acts of gratuitous kindness, who thought well of others and so on were more resilient under pressure. Those who withdraw into themselves are less so.

Clearly, from a Catholic point of view, there is much more that could be said (and in terms of the nuns' study, I am also aware of the saintly nuns who have seen their vocation as a vocation to suffer). Nonetheless, I was interested how the secular research did seem to coalesce around these three virtues, as well as a prudential view of physical well-being.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Yet More on NDC and Life

I have just caught up with Joseph Shaw's philosophy blog, where there is a very interesting post about a discussion between philosophers and Catholic NDC counsellors.

I won't summarise it here, as I think summarising anything a living philosopher writes is a risky proposition!

Scout's Honour

A relatively new arrival on the Catholic comment scene, Scout has been putting himself or herself around a bit, with comments on many blogs, great and small. There seems to be a slight disjunct between the Scout of the comments box, who presents as a fairly reasonable and polite commenter, and the Scout of the blog, who, err... does not.

Wading into any strongly stated Catholic views (let alone those from the nutty fringes) Scout is not above hyperbole and Sun-style headlines him- (or her-) self.

However, despite all these efforts, Scout’s site does not attract the volume of traffic he or she doubtless wants, so I though I’d run a trailer here, as I’m sure my readers will appreciate Scout’s particular style and approach.

In the interests of absolute transparency (that’s my value, not Scout’s) I should point out that all that follows is written by me: the style alone is borrowed from Scout.

Hardline Catholic Bishop Hits Children: Parents Look On with Approval!

Yesterday at the ultra-Catholic St James’s Spanish Place, the Uber-traditionalist Latin Mass Society organised Confirmation according to the now-discredited old-fashioned liturgy.

That involved the children being confirmed being physically held down by their sponsors, while the hardline bishop hit each in turn on the cheek!

Given that physical punishment is now outlawed in our schools, that some imams and madrassas are being investigated for using physical punishment, it is extraordinary that the Catholic extremists still think they can get away with this! Do they not know that the world has moved on, and it is no longer acceptable to slap children?

We would encourage the children to bring an action of assault against the hardline bishop, John Sherrington, against their so-called sponsors who were materially co-operating with the abuse, and against their parents who were sat supine in the pews, watching with approval as this barbaric ritual progressed.

For more in this illuminating, expressive and insight-filled style, do rush over to Scout's place, which is dedicated to exposing Catholic lunacy, prejudice and hypocrisy on the web. You'll even find a tag with my name...

Dominique's confirmation

The confirmation yesterday went very well. Unfortunately Bishop Hopes was ill, but we were blessed that newly consecrated Bishop Sherrington agreed to step in at the last minute.

Ant and Bernie had both escaped from their respective Universities for the day, and we had travelled down to London early that morning (up at 5.00...) and had walked to St James' via various pleasant London Squares and Oxford Street, as the girls had some shopping to do...

A countercultural aunt joined us for the confirmation, and the reception and lunch afterwards.

The confirmation itself was accompanied by some lovely music, and followed by Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, with Frs Southwell and Finigan (who has some pictures on his blog) joining the bishop.

As last time, I was disappointed in the demeanour and behaviour of some of the congregation. Many chatted vivaciously in the Church before the ceremonies began, even while others were on their knees praying; many entered and left pews, and crossed the central aisle, with no genuflection to the Blessed Sacrament. Some stood all the way through Benediction. And immediately afterwards, many were chatting vivaciously again in the Church - despite the fact that we had the hall available for our reception and socialising. One expects a degree of reverence at LMS organised events; whilst there were many behaving appropriately, it was disappointing and distracting that so many were not.

After a pizza, we spent a pleasant few hours wandering round London seeing the sights: St James' Palace, Buckingham Palace, the park, Trafalgar Square, and then a half hour or so in the National Gallery, before heading back to the station. By the time we were on the train we were all pretty tired, so the trip home was somewhat quieter than the trip down.

But a great day, particularly with the reception of a sacrament by Dominique; and that's our last confirmation till the grandchildren start to arrive...

Friday, 11 November 2011

New Director of Catholic Education

The Catholic Herald reports that Oona Stannard has resigned from her role as Director of the Catholic Education Service of England and Wales (CESEW), for personal reasons.

I hope that she has not got health problems, and wish her well; but I cannot pretend that I am sorry to see her go. The CESEW has signally failed to fulfil its mission to promote Catholic education. Instead it has overseen schools that are scarcely worthy of the label Catholic, and negotiations that were more capitulations vis-a-vis an anti-Catholic political class. To add insult to injury, we were then told these negotiations had ben successful.

Let us hope and pray that Fr Marcus Stock, who is taking over on a temporary basis, has the desire, wisdom and courage to put CESEW back on track. I understand that that is likely to be the case...

A Big Day...

Tomorrow is a big day: we're off to London for Dominique's Confirmation (Bishop Alan Hopes, St James's Spanish Place, traditional rite).

It doesn't seem two years since Charlie's confirmation, though on reflection a lot has changed. We now have two daughters joining us from their respective universities for the day, for example.

But some things never change: the booklet produced by the LMS (at least the one sent in advance) is as makeshift as ever: I rather hope they'll pull something rather more worthy out of the bag tomorrow.

And of course the important stuff doesn't change. The rite itself will be almost identical, kicking off with the Veni Creator Spiritus, the initial prayers, the Confirmation itself (complete with the blow to the cheek) the Veni Sancte Spiritus, and so on. Different bishop, and different sermon, I dare say, but the rest will be the same as it was for Charlie, Bernie, Ant, my parents, and generations who preceded them...

Remember all those being confirmed in your prayers, and also Bishop Hopes, to whom we are all most grateful.

Another statement of belief from Bonus Pastor

From their current newsletter

We believe that Jesus died and rose again, so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have died believing in him.
Ref: 1 Thessalonians 4.14

Well, kudos, I suppose for saying something about belief that relates to Christianity, and referring to the Bible.

Except, (or is it me?), this seems to promote a Sola fide (ie Lutheran) interpretation...

Save us from a Catholic Ethos...

Why is it that when I hear the words 'a Catholic Ethos,' in relation to a school, I shudder?

It seems to me that they are weasel words. They are trying to do two things at once. On the one hand, they are trying to suggest to devout Catholic parents that the school is a Catholic School. On the other, they are trying to suggest to parents who are not so keen on the Catholic Faith that religion won't be shoved down their children's throats.

It seems to me that they indicate a retreat from the mission of a Catholic School, which by definition must be to educate their pupils to be saints: to teach them the Faith, in ways which accord with the Faith, and to educate them more broadly to discover and fulfil their vocations.

If that is the primary purpose of a Catholic School, which I take to be axiomatic, then it is hard to see why showing children videos which are occasions of sin, examples of immorality and contain obscene and blasphemous language can be considered 'appropriate' (or as an unreconstructed traditionally minded Catholic like me would say, right). See my previous post for the details.

So consider a school which not only shows such videos, but defends the practice and then tries scare tactics ("For security reasons we advise you not to access the website as we believe that it could compromise your account") to stop parents finding out what is going on. Reflect on that remarkable sentence for a second. It is the only place on the front page of their www site where they believe anything - and it is patently rubbish (and I suspect that they know that: the phrase 'terminological inexactitude' springs to mind). Yet they profess to believe it, while they express no Catholic belief at all: but, of course, the school has a "strong Catholic ethos."


Thursday, 10 November 2011

Trouble in Lewisham

I wasn't quite sure what to make of the goings-on at Bonus Pastor as reported by James Preece. Clearly the videos featured on the linked www site were inappropriate for Catholic RE, but I always wonder who is behind these protests and how nutty they are...?

Then I discovered that at least one of those involved is Greg Clovis. Moreover that he had been accused of assault.

Now, I have met Greg (many years ago at Walsingham), and know of his work and reputation. Far from being a nutter, he is a brave, intelligent and committed Catholic and a stalwart of the pro-life movement in this country. Any suggestion that he assaulted anyone strikes me as implausible in the extreme - and that is what the police have decided too.

So have a look at the protest www site, and then, if you believe that the videos are inappropriate for a Catholic school, leave a word of support there, and drop the school and the diocese a note (all the details are on the www site).