Thursday, 27 September 2012

The Betrayal of Children

The scandal emerging from Rochdale raises many difficult questions.  On the BBC Radio 4 Today programme this morning, there was a chilling description by one of the abused children of the attitude of the social workers who should have been protecting her.  Her parents were told that she was a prostitute, that that was a lifestyle choice, and that as she was nearly 16, they would not intervene.

According to the BBC’s website:
The report also shows some officials believed vulnerable girls as young as 10 - who were being groomed for sexual abuse - were "making their own choices".One of the girl's parents said they were simply told their teenage daughter was hanging out with a bad crowd, it [the report] says.”
There are so many shocking aspects to this, but the one that I want to focus on is the culture of that makes it possible for social workers, police or anyone else to condone the abuse of children (as all under age sex is, with or without consent) on the grounds that the children had ‘chosen it.’

Such a dreadful opinion is only possible because the whole cultural milieu is corrupt.  There is no real sense of the intrinsic harm that children can do to themselves by ‘poor choices’ at this age - indeed, ‘poor choices’ is too judgmental; they are just ‘lifestyle choices.’

What’s worrying is how widespread this idiocy is - and how even Catholic schools have welcomed Connexions, who are steeped in exactly the same philosophy.

This is the philosophy that considers it ‘appropriate’ to give contraception to under-age girls without parental knowledge or consent; that then arranges their abortions, again without parental knowledge or consent.  This is the philosophy that makes people from other cultures look on white adolescent girls as so much trash to be abused at will.  This is the philosophy that abandons girls as young as 10 to exploitation in the name of choice.

It represents complete moral bankruptcy, and an abdication of our responsibility as adults to make wise choices on behalf of children, to protect them, and to educate them to make wise and good choices.

And we invite it into our schools, give it access to our kids, in complete confidence...

Sub tuum praesidium confugimus, 
Sancta Dei Genetrix. 
Nostras deprecationes ne despicias in necessitatibus, 
sed a periculis cunctis libera nos semper, 
Virgo gloriosa et benedicta. 

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Rosary Crusade of Reparation

I have been asked to publicise the 28th National Rosary Crusade of Reparation, and am happy to do so.

It will take place on Saturday 13th October, and you are asked to assemble outside Westminster Cathedral by 1.45 pm, for a procession with the statue of Our Lady of Fatima to the Brompton Oratory.

As you would expect, you will be praying the rosary en route.

Their www site, with contact and other details, and photos of last year's crusade, is here.

Saturday, 22 September 2012

What's going on at SMUC?

Imagine you are running an institution of Higher Education.  Imagine, further that it is a Catholic one (or as we'd probably say now, one with a Catholic ethos q.v.)

What would it take to make you send your security staff into the middle of a lecture, in order to remove the lecturer in front of a lecture theatre full of students?

For myself, I would need to be impelled by the sense that something very important was at stake, and further that there was extreme urgency attached to the removal of the lecturer.

Otherwise, it would make no sense at all.  Prudence, with regard to reputational risk alone, would make me wait till the end of the lecture if at all possible, even leaving aside any considerations of charity or the dignity of the individual (which, of course, one shouldn't in a Catholic Institution; or even in an Institution with a Catholic ethos [q.v.]).

Which all leads to the question: what's going on at St Mary's University College?

If you have not been aware of this, you may wish to look at EFPastor emeritus' and Fr Finigan's pieces on this.

The root of the dispute seems to be the proposed merger of the School of Theology, Philosophy and History with the School of Communication, Culture and Creative Arts to form a much larger  School of Arts and Humanities - and concerns about how appropriate that is for a Catholic Institution.

In fairness, I should note that such a trend of merging departments and faculties has swept English HEIs over the last decade or more: I am aware of many Universities which have done so (and predict a major Welsh University will follow suit with the arrival of a new Vice Chancellor this term...)

SMUC is also establishing a new Centre for the Study of Catholic Theology - so that's all right then.

However whether this particular re-structuring is wise or necessary is very much up for debate (though none is tolerated, it seems); and when the manner in which it is done involves such scandalous scenes, and leads to the resignation of distinguished figures such as Professor Eamon Duffy, and Dr Robin Gibbons, the longest serving theology lecturer, that does suggest a flawed process.

Having observed various organisational re-structurings in a long and varied career, I have noticed that while the 'business case' is often (though not always) the primary motivator, they are almost always seen as an opportunity to dislodge staff who are no longer valued, and who would otherwise be hard to shift.  (Sometimes that is done by voluntary severance schemes, sometimes by re-organising posts out of existence to make the staff redundant, sometimes by provoking them into doing or saying something that provides grounds for a disciplinary case against them, and sometimes by making life impossibly uncomfortable for them in a thousand small ways that would make constructive dismissal hard to claim...)

Is that a part of what is happening here?  Are people like Professor Duffy, Professor D'Costa, Dr Towey and Dr Gibbons not the kind of people wanted for the new Centre for the Study of Catholic Theology?  And if so, what does that tell us about it?

Of course, the Governors may say that some things are best settled privately and internally, not in the glare of ill-informed public comment like mine. That is a view with which I have some sympathy; unfortunately one rather undermines that approach by publicly frog-marching a lecturer away mid-lecture.

Ant's teaching placement

As part of her degree, Ant is doing a module working in a local school as an assistant teaching Maths. 

I think it's started well; one of the pupils said on her first day: 'Miss Trovato, are you going to be a teacher one day? Cos I think you should be... you'd be the nice sort.'

Friday, 21 September 2012

Advice to Catholic freshers

Lazarus has just posted some advice, prompted by his first going off to University.

Which reminded me of a note I wrote to Bernie this time last year, when she left home to study Fine Art:

Dear Bernie, 
I am sure that you do not need any words of advice from me.  But somehow I feel that I need to offer some.  I remember experiencing pangs of guilt when Ant left without any paternal exhortations ringing in her ears...
There are only two things I want to say: one is to enjoy yourself and the other to look after yourself.  On the first I have nothing to say except what is relevant in addressing the second.  The same applies to your studies: I believe if you enjoy yourself and look after yourself, the studying will fall into place. 
In terms of looking after yourself, I think it helpful to consider four aspects: physical, mental, social/emotional and spiritual well-being.
  • Physical: this is the obvious bit.  Make sure you get sufficient exercise and sleep, a sensible diet, not too much alcohol, and no drugs.
  • Mental: keep your mind sharp by thinking about what you do, by taking an intellectual interest in your Art, and by finding friends who have discussions about things that matter to you or them, not merely superficial chat...
  • Social/emotional: stay in regular touch with your friends and family.  Use music to combat the blues!  Use your emotional ups and downs (which are pretty inevitable) to inspire art – if only by keeping a diary.  Find people with similar interests, sense of humour etc.  but take your time in making new friends really close: you may want to get to know them over time (especially boys!...)
  • Spiritual: Have a regular Plan of Life: morning offering, rosary and examination of conscience daily, and weekly Mass (weekday Masses are good too!), regular confession, and get to know some other Catholics.  A bit of spiritual reading wouldn’t go amiss, either.

Have a good time - in every sense of the word!
Lots of love

I don't know how good the advice is, but she is doing very well - just going back full of enthusiasm for her second year.

Charles Williams

Yesterday was the anniversary of the birth of Charles Williams in 1886. Although his name is not well-known, he is an important figure in mid 20th Century Christian Literature.

A drinking and reading friend of Lewis and Tolkien - one of the group who jokingly called themselves The Inklings, which was never a formal society or club - he was also a very prolific writer, and editor at the OUP.

He famously became friends with Lewis when each had written the other a congratulatory letter, and the letters crossed in the post. Williams liked Lewis’ The Allegory of Love; while Lewis had enjoyed Williams’ The Place of the Lion.

Both enjoyed the improbability of the crossed letters - a device neither would have dared use in fiction - so they met and became firm friends.

Williams’ novels are good but strange: much acclaimed by serious writers at the time, but never widely known. His poetry I find almost completely impenetrable.  The few other works of his I’ve read, history and criticism, have been of a uniformly high standard.

It has been pointed out that Lewis’ That Hideous Strength was certainly written ‘under the influence’ of Williams.  The Arthurian theme, totally absent from the preceding books in the trilogy, clearly reflects Williams’ fascination with Arthur, as reflected in his (impenetrable) poetry.

I have reason to believe that Williams was also the model for Lewis’ characterisation of Ransome in That Hideous Strength. There is a passage in which Ransome is described as being someone with whom women fall in love, but in a way which makes them more, not less, devoted to their own man.

My mother got to know Williams at Oxford, and I think he had precisely that effect on her. She was, by her own admission, completely intoxicated by him, leaving a lecture he had given (which she’d attended because Lewis had recommended it) thinking the only thing that mattered was hearing him speak again.

She had been surprised at the start of the lecture by two things. One was that she recognised Williams as the man who always sat in the same place in Lewis’ lectures, and laughed at all the jokes.  The second was his cockney accent - very different from the usual Oxford lecturer. (In fact, most unusually for a lecturer at Oxford in those days, and probably still, Williams had no degree).

However, within a minute of his lecture starting, she forgot the accent and was enchanted: to such an extent that, quite out of character, the next time Lewis was due to lecture, she got to Magdalen Hall early, and sat herself in the seat next to Williams’ habitual one. She had no further plan, no opening gambit; she was, she claimed, the greenest of green undergraduates.

However, Williams arrived a bit early, sat down beside her, and started to talk to her as though they were old friends resuming a conversation.

They became good friends, and Williams would read and comment on her English essays.  These comments ranged from: ‘Oh, no. You should write out 50 times “sacred bard, forgive me!”’ to ‘You write like an angel and think like a saint.

Williams, like Lewis, lived and died an Anglican. My mother converted to Catholicism in order to marry my father (who had just converted himself, but that’s another story for another day). They are all now dead, so please say a prayer for all four of them.

Requiescant in pace.

Monday, 17 September 2012

Liverpool - To Die For...

A few further thoughts on the Liverpool Funeral Mass controversy.

Helping to clarify this to someone who’d missed the point on Twitter, @PartTimePilgrim tweeted:
Opposition I've seen focuses on three issues.
1. The idea that a lay-led Funeral Service is as good as a Funeral Mass. It is not.
 2. The suspicion that there /are/ enough priests in Liverpool to have Funeral masses for those who die.
3. The un-Catholic nature of the Archdiocesan Planning a Funeral leaflet.
That’s a pretty good summary, and I just want to explore each in a little more depth.

1: Is a lay-led Funeral Service is as good as a Funeral Mass?  

This was what originally incensed me (terrible pun only half intended): the Herald quoted Archbishop Kelly as saying ‘the service they provide is “of the best quality” and was not seen by Catholics as “second-class”.’

I wrote a fair bit about this aspect in my first post on the subject, but would add this (which I wrote about in a comment on the Herald site).  

I think a large part of the problem here lies with the impoverished understanding of the Mass.  Once a priest got up early every day and offered the Sacrifice of the Mass.  

Perhaps some of his flock were there, perhaps they were all still in bed.  Nonetheless, he knew he had done something of inestimable value for the salvation of their souls (and his) and the conversion of the world.

Now he may say a 10.00 am Mass, the success of which is judged by the numbers who attend; and which may, apparently to everyone's complete satisfaction, be substituted with a lay-led service (which may be better attended as Mrs Cannybody's friends will all turn up...)

My contention is that such a decline in the valuing of the Mass seriously erodes vocations: current and future.

If that is part of the problem which has led to declining vocations, Liverpool's proposed solution exacerbates, rather than relieves, it.

2 Are there enough priests in Liverpool to have Funeral Masses for those who die?

I think that may depend on how high a priority it is considered to be, compared with other activities. Late last night, I tweeted: I dare bet a substantial sum that when ++Kelly dies, more than one priest from Liverpool will have time for his Funeral Mass.#cynicalme

That wasn’t a dig at Archbishop Kelly, so much as pointing out that when priests (or any of us) deem something important enough, we make time for it.  And I hope and pray that many priests turn up for Archbishop  Kelly’s Funeral Mass when he is called to his final reward. And that at least one is prepared to make time for my Requiem Mass, too.

My concern is that the tenor of the Liverpool leaflet, and Archbishop  Kelly’s reported comments, suggest that the provision of Masses, as opposed to lay-led services, is not seen as important.

Others have even suggested that there are those who welcome the withdrawing of priests from this ministry, as it gives laymen - and particularly lay women - more space to operate.

There’s also the risk of a sort of apartheid system: bishops, priests, deacons, EMHCs, parish worthies... will get Funeral Masses; the disposessed, friendless, alienated, (according to the leaflet, one criterion is how many Catholic chums you’ve got) will have lay-led services.

3. The un-Catholic nature of the Archdiocesan Planning a Funeral leaflet

A number of bloggers, such as Ttony have highlighted that the Leaflet is at odds with official Church documents.  

Certainly, when I read it, I thought it lacked any sympathy with those Catholic Instincts, whose absence I was lamenting in my first post on the subject, and my earlier post about Liverpool.

I have just noticed that the Order of Christian Funerals says:
‘When no priest is available, deacons, as ministers of the word, of the altar, and of charity, preside at funeral rites. 
When no priest or deacon is available for the vigil and related rites or the rite of committal, a layperson presides.’ 
Notice that only deacons (not laity, as proposed by the Liverpool leaflet) are authorised to stand in for (non-available) priest at the main funeral rites. Lay people are only allowed to lead ‘the vigil and related rites or the rite of committal.

Throughout, the Order makes it clear that a Funeral Mass is the norm; anything else only as a serious exception, as I highlight here. The Liverpool leaflet strikes a very different note - could be one, could be the other, nothing to worry about...

If I were a bishop implementing such a change out of necessity, I would be stressing the difference, apologising for the crisis, assuring the faithful that every effort would be made...

Mark Lambert also highlights how the understanding of the Funeral itself, in the Liverpool leaflet, is at odds with Catholic belief, as expressed in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.


This is serious stuff: I can only hope that it is cock-up, not conspiracy, and that someone draws it to Archbishop Kelly’s attention.  I am assured he is a good and holy bishop (and he certainly does some good and holy things, like supporting the cause for Blessed Dominic Barberi). So I imagine that when he realises quite what is being done and said in his name, he will be keen to put it right, and assure his flock that their right to a Funeral Mass will be honoured  if at all possible.

Funeral Masses: What Does The Church Actually Say?

It seems I am not alone in my reservations about lay-led Funeral Services replacing Funeral Masses in Liverpool.  Several others have blogged and tweeted, both before and after me, raising a variety of salient points.

I will blog later on these, and further reflections of my own; but first I thought it instructive to look at what the official line is.  The paragraphs below are all taken from the UK Liturgy Office’s publication: Order of Christian Funerals, the Introduction to which is available online here (h/t to commenter Mike on Dylan’s blogpost).

I have put a few sections in bold, to emphasise what seems unarguable to me: that the norm is for a Funeral Mass, and other arrangements are for occasions when that is impossible (not inconvenient) due to the complete unavailability of priests.


4. At the death of a Christian, whose life of faith was begun in the waters of baptism and strengthened at the eucharistic table, the Church intercedes on behalf of the deceased because of its confident belief that death is not the end nor does it break the bonds forged in life. The Church also ministers to the sorrowing and consoles them in the funeral rites with the comforting word of God and the sacrament of the eucharist.

5. Christians celebrate the funeral rites to offer worship, praise, and thanksgiving to God for the gift of a life which has now been returned to God, the author of life and the hope of the just. The Mass, the memorial of Christ’s death and resurrection, is the principal celebration of the Christian funeral.

6. The Church through its funeral rites commends the dead to God’s merciful love and pleads for the forgiveness of their sins. At the funeral rites, especially at the celebration of the eucharistic sacrifice, the Christian community affirms and expresses the union of the Church on earth with the Church in heaven in the one great communion of saints. Though separated from the living, the dead are still at one with the community of believers on earth and benefit from their prayers and intercession. At the rite of final commendation and farewell, the community acknowledges the reality of separation and commends the deceased to God. In this way it recognises the spiritual bond that still exists between the living and the dead and proclaims its belief that all the faithful will be raised up and reunited in the new heavens and a new earth, where death will be no more.

12. At the vigil for the deceased or on another occasion before the eucharistic celebration, the presiding minister should invite all to be present at the funeral liturgy and to take an active part in it. The minister may also describe the funeral liturgy and explain why the community gathers to hear the word of God proclaimed and to celebrate the eucharist when one of the faithful dies.
The priest and other ministers should also be mindful of those persons who are not members of the Catholic Church, or Catholics who are not involved in the life of the Church.

Liturgical Ministers 
Presiding Minister

14. Priests, as teachers of faith and ministers of comfort, preside at the funeral rites, especially the Mass; the celebration of the funeral liturgy is especially entrusted to priests. When no priest is available, deacons, as ministers of the word, of the altar, and of charity, preside at funeral rites. 

When no priest or deacon is available for the vigil and related rites or the rite of committal, a layperson presides.

46. The section entitled ‘Funeral Liturgy’ provides two forms of the funeral liturgy, the central celebration of the Christian community for the deceased: ‘Funeral Mass’ and ‘Funeral Liturgy outside Mass’. When one of its members dies, the Church especially encourages the celebration of the Mass, When Mass cannot be celebrated (see no, 189), the second form of the funeral liturgy may be used and a Mass for the deceased should be celebrated, if possible, at a later time.


That seems to be pretty clear to me.

Sunday, 16 September 2012

What is it about Liverpool?

Some while ago (reflecting on the proposed Methodist 'Ordinations' in Liverpool's Catholic Cathedral) I was lamenting what I saw as a lack of Catholic Instincts in the Archbishop and (presumably) his advisors.

I have been brooding on the recent report in the Catholic Herald about proposals to have lay-led services for the dead in lieu of Funeral Masses.

His Grace Kelly (how I love writing that, btw) has apparently 'formally commissioned 22 lay ministers to celebrate funeral ceremonies.'

It may be that this is a pastoral necessity, as he clearly believes; though I find it hard to imagine anything more important for his priests to be doing than saying Masses for the living and the dead.

But what really made me return to this theme of a lack of Catholic Instincts were his (reported) comments 'that the lay ministers – some of whom are drawn from the roster of Eucharistic ministers, catechists and religious sisters – would receive continuing support and training to ensure that the service they provide is “of the best quality” and was not seen by Catholics as “second-class”.'

How could any lay-led service, even of the best quality (whatever that may mean in this context - to be frank the phrase makes me shudder) not be regarded as "second-class" compared to a Funeral Mass?

The Mass is 'the source and summit of the Christian life,' (CCC 1324) and specifically  "The Eucharistic sacrifice is also offered for the faithful departed who "have died in Christ but are not yet wholly purified," so that they may be able to enter into the light and peace of Christ." (CCC 1371)

Are my instincts wrong to suggest that a Funeral Mass, the sacrifice of Calvary offered by a priest in persona Christi for the repose of the soul of the deceased, is superior, not just as first- is to second-class, but almost infinitely, to any lay-led prayer service, however high quality it may be?

I give notice here and now that when I die I want a sung EF Mass, with the traditional Chant, offered for my eternal repose; and I want people praying for my soul. I will need all the help I can get.

In the meantime, pray for the Archbishop, and for all those who die in Liverpool and are denied a Funeral Mass.


Mulier Fortis blogged about this a while ago - excellently, as you might expect - here.

The Liverpool leaflet Planning a Catholic Funeral can be read here. (H/t Part Time Pilgrim)


Ttony makes some important additional points here.


Mark Lambert adds powerfully to the debate here.


I realise I missed the breaking of this story all together: Reluctant Sinner blogged here, based on this article in the Pill (I make no apology for missing this...) and Fr Simon Henry explains his refusal to comment here.  I will blog more on this soon.

Saturday, 15 September 2012


It is perhaps overdoing it to liken the Catholic blogosphere to Samizdat.  After all, we do not risk imprisonment for expressing and sharing our views.

However, there are similarities. Until relatively recently, the main means of communications in the Catholic community in this country were under the control of a relatively small number of people. They chose which articles to commission and publish, which news to report and with what slant, and, very noticeably, which letters from ordinary Catholics to publish.

Maybe they did all that very well, and the reason letters from people like me were routinely binned was because people like me are nutters.  But with the rise of the Catholic blogosphere, it has become apparent (which was previously invisible and easy to ignore) that there are many such people around; not a homogenous group who all hold to the same analysis and propose the same solutions, but a concerned group keenly aware that the Church in this country is not as it should be.

The other similarity is that the breaking of that control of communication has given a certain amount of power to people previously disenfranchised.  By being able to talk together, and express common cause where that is found, we are no longer voiceless.

It is hard to say which of the following voltes-faces (if that's the correct plural) have been influenced by the fact of having the light of critical publicity shone on them, but I imagine it has at  least helped in some cases.

Anyway, here's the start of a list (I'm sure I had more in mind when I started writing this post, but that was five minutes ago, and my short term memory is such that.... what was I on about?...

Ah yes, a list:

  • A bishop celebrating an anniversary Mass for a homosexual partnership
  • Methodist ordinations at Liverpool Cathedral
  • Cruddas speaking at Oxford
  • Cruddas speaking at Brentwood
  • Beattie speaking at Clifton

Add the ones I've forgotten in the comms box!

Saturday, 8 September 2012

Salve Sancta Parens

Today is the feast of the Birthday of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Here is the rather beautiful Gregorian Introit for today's Mass: Salve Sancta Parens.

Salve sancta parens, enixa puerpera Regem: qui caelum terramque regit in saecula saeculorum, alleluia.
(Ps. 44: 2Eructavit cor meum verbum bonum: dico ego opera mea Regi.

Gloria Patri, et Filio, et spiritui sancto. Sicut erat in principio, et nunc, et semper, et in saecula saeculorum.  Amen.

Salve sancta parens...

Hail, holy Mother, thou who didst bring forth the King Who rules Heaven and earth for ever and ever. 

(Ps. 44: 2) My heart hath uttered a good word : I speak my works to the King. 

Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost, as it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen. 

Hail, holy Mother...

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Incrementalism or absolutism to fight abortion?

There has been much debate recently about the best strategy for the pro-life movement (if the current situation can be dignified with the name of a movement, which is itself debatable).

Should we be seeking incremental changes to the abortion laws or outright abolition of abortion?

The incremental approach is, I am told, more politically astute.  By reducing the age limit at which abortions can be conducted, from 24 weeks to 22, then to 20, then to 18, then to 16, we can create a momentum that will both save some lives in the short term, and make total abolition more achievable in the long term.

The absolute approach, I am told, is unrealistic, and just what the pro-choice lobby want us to adopt.

I am not convinced.

I am not finally convinced either way; but I incline strongly towards the absolute position for a number of reasons, some moral, and some practical.

However, I am interested in the discussion and am open to influence - particularly if I have missed or misunderstood anything.

My view at present is that the absolute position is better because, fundamentally, it is what we truly believe.  That allows us to operate with integrity and clarity.

Further, I think the general public is more usefully engaged in a debate about whether abortion is right or wrong - in the fundamental issues of the humanity of the unborn child and its rights - than in a debate about whether abortion is OK up to X weeks, but distasteful (and therefore illegal) beyond then.

I have no way of knowing which strategy is really going to be successful (and neither does anyone else). But I think we should strive to do the right thing.

The most recent change to the abortion time limit, the reduction from 28 to 24 weeks, came along with an exemption: abortion being de-criminalised up to birth, for children with (or suspected of having) a serious handicap.

It seems to me that this was a terrible price to pay: removing any shadow of protection from the most vulnerable of all, in the name of political pragmatism, even though the intentions were, presumably, good.  

People will doubtless tell me that lives have been saved as a result; though that is clearly a very difficult proposition to prove. First, one would have to do the invidious calculation of babies that might otherwise have been aborted between 24 and 28 weeks’ gestation, versus the increased number of handicapped babies aborted.  Anecdotal evidence of one or two instances one way or the other doesn't really add anything to the debate here.

But even that sum (and should one even DO sums like that?) is not the whole answer.  Human behaviour is complex, and it could well be that an earlier time limit pushes some women into an earlier decision to abort - a decision that might not have been taken with more time.  One of the brutal things about abortion is that it pushes women in distress to make catastrophic decisions with a deadline. Yet research on unwanted change suggests that over time people typically go through a predictable sequence of reactions from initial denial, through anger and despair, to (frequently) acceptance and integration.  That is why there is so much truth in the maxim that an unwanted pregnancy does not necessarily mean an unwanted baby.  There is a real risk that earlier time limits make it likely that women feel they have to make a decision as they are in anger and despair.

Further, imagine if the exemption had been for black, or Christian, or gay, or female babies.  Would anyone have voted through legislation with such an exemption, even on the grounds that some other lives would be saved?  If not, why is it OK in the case of handicap?

And why is it that such exemptions should not be voted through?  At the most profound level, simply because they are wrong. But even at the political level they are unwise: they would come back to haunt us. That I call political naivety.

That encapsulates my fear with ‘politically realistic’  solutions: that they will always involve compromises which we should not make.

But the other approach, the absolutist approach, I am told, is politically naive: total abolition will never be passed through parliament in one go.

I have various problems with that line of argument.  One is that I do not believe that humans can foretell the future with such certainty: history would certainly suggest otherwise. 

A second is that I do not buy the implied corollary: that the incremental approach is more likely deliver total abolition by a process of ‘momentum.’  The belief that it could I see as equally naive as the absolutist approach. Just think it through: we might (conceivably) get a reduction from 24 to 22 weeks; or even 20, or even 18.  I can’t imagine a political process along those lines that would take that down to 16, 12, 8 and finally 0.  So where does that strategy lead? Or am I missing something here?

A third is that focusing on such a strategy implies building alliances with others who may support us for part of the journey but not all of it.  That is likely to result both in compromises that we should not make, and also, finally in a sundering of the ways, that could make them particularly potent critics of our continued push for final abolition (for that surely must be the endgame for any serious pro-lifer.)

To be honest, I do not see either strategy as likely to deliver what we want, if we rely solely on political strategies; and to me that is the biggest danger - that we see this as a political issue, first and foremost.  It is not.  It is a spiritual battle, a moral battle, a philosophical battle, a humanist battle, and an ethical battle.  

My contention is that we should fight on those grounds: that to fight purely in political ways is already an error; that a political solution will only be possible if we can convert hearts and minds of the medical profession, of the caring professions, and of the public at large; then the political solution will become a possibility, and an enduring one, that won’t be reversed at the next change of government.

As long as we have a culture of recreational sex, of abusive sex, of contraceptive sex, of sex without commitment or consequences, abortion will always be required (licitly or illicitly) as a backstop.

That, of course, is a much larger problem, effectively the re-evangelisation of society. But as a Christian pro-lifer, that is the only solution that I can envisage.

Is it possible?  In human terms, probably not; but to God all things are possible.

And as Mother Teresa reminded us, we are not called to victory, but to faithfulness.  If we are faithful, God will deliver the victory in His way.  

So our task becomes building a Civilisation of Love: educating and converting society by our lives, example, prayer, and charity; as well as by our outreach, our campaiging and so on.

For me, the caring and educational work have always been at least as important as, and possibly more important than, the political battles.  Here at least we can point to lives saved with no others sacrificed.  And here we are operating in ways that command respect and demonstrate that our concern is human well-being, not the various motives attributed to us by political opponents.  Moreover, here we are directly contributing to building the Civilisation of Love.

I am not saying we should not fight the political battles, of course; but that they must be subordinate to, and congruent with, the larger spiritual mission on which we are engaged.

Likewise, I am not saying that we should not support a vote to reduce the time limits on abortions, should one present itself: if it has no unacceptable strings attached.  But to make that the focus of our strategy seems highly questionable to me; as does denigrating those who take an absolute position (and vice versa, of course).

To misquote Lord Acton: Politics tends to corrupt and absolute politics corrupts absolutely.

The stakes are not merely the lives of the unborn innocents (enormously important though they be), but also the souls of all involved - including our own.  We lose that perspective at our great peril.

Sunday, 2 September 2012

Liturgical Latin

I had a break from the Liturgical Latin series when we went on holiday, and on my return, I am not sure what, if anything, to post next in the series.

It seems to me that we have covered enough basic grammar; by referring to what we have learned, using Lewis and Short for vocabulary, and if necessary other online grammar books, one should be able to understand most of the texts one is likely to encounter in the liturgy.

If there is any interest, I could continue to post a prayer from the liturgy each weekend, with a brief note of any vocabulary or grammatical points arising; but if there is no such interest, I think I will end the introduction to Liturgical Latin here.  To be honest, we have about covered my knowledge of Latin grammar...