Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Evenings of Faith: Why the Church?

Evenings of Faith are organised by the Faith Movement to address important themes in theology for lay people. The meetings are held in the parish rooms below the Church of Our Lady of the Assumption and St Gregory, Warwick Street, W1 by kind permission of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham. Access is via 24 Golden Square (a short walk from Piccadilly Circus.) The talks all begin at 7.30pm.

I gave one of the talks in the last series. There was a good gathering of people, intelligent discussion, and time to chat afterwards over coffee and later in a nearby pub.

Here is the list for the forthcoming third series:
Wednesday 26 February 2014
The Church of Jesus Christ: The 'ecosystem' of man
Fr William Massie

Wednesday 12 March 2014
The Church’s Magisterium: Why must it be part of God's communing with Man?
Fr Mark Vickers

Wednesday 26 March 2014
Why Male and Female? Why the virginal birth?
Fr Hugh MacKenzie

Wednesday 30th April 2014
The sacraments: The sunshine of the soul
Fr Michael-John Galbraith

Wednesday 14th May 2014
The Church as a field hospital.
Canon Luiz Ruscillo

Wednesday 28th May 2014
The Eucharist: Fulfilling Human Nature
Fr David Standen

Sunday, 16 February 2014

A Day With Mary at a "fashionable" parish

Photo credit (all photos): Mulier Fortis

The Day With Mary is a spiritually powerful event in the parish. Not only does it give a boost to the faith and devotion of those present, it has the feeling of making a real contribution to the treasury of merits of the Church with the assistance of Our Blessed Lady and under her powerful protection.

Fortescue has a famous footnote about not genuflecting at the top of a ladder when retrieving the monstrance from a throne (I am grateful for his prudent advice) but he says little more about liturgical ladders. When I was crowning the statue of Our Lady, the assistants did well to retain hold of the cope without showing the orphreys.

Yesterday morning was fine and we took the Procession of Our Lady around the streets. Sung Mass followed.

The beautiful Marian vestment is currently on loan to the parish. It is shown well here at the Et Verbum caro factum est:

Here is a zoom of the back of the chasuble:

The afternoon procession of the Blessed Sacrament was a little more edgy owing to a fairly brisk wind which threatened to take the canopy and bearers skyward.

The afternoon was devoted as usual in the programme, to adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, meditations on the Passion of Christ and prayers for the faithful departed. During the day twenty decades of the Rosary were said, and there was plenty of time for silent adoration. With several priests kindly hearing confessions, and the public recitation of prayers for the Pope, we can hope that many plenary indulgences were gained.

The day ends with the Fatima "Farewell" hymn at the "departure" of the statue of Our Lady of Fatima. This year we had an even better turn-out than usual with plenty of children taking part - and plenty of men, as one lady commented to me.

Over the lunch and tea breaks I had some fun with the DWM Team. At the extensive bookstall I asked if they had any books advocating women priests and gay marriage: they were unable to help. At the piety stall, I enquired about yoga equipment but again, no luck. I was also unsuccessful in my search for DVDs of liturgical dance: all they had were lives of the saints and presentations of Catholic doctrine.

I'm obviously behind the times. The fashion among young people now, it seems, is to be addicted to the traditional liturgy and I am in a "with it" parish.

Seriously, the Day With Mary is a wonderful opportunity to be together with other Catholics singing enthusiastically, praying silently, processing with devotion, stocking up with good and spiritually enriching Catholic books and films, and chat with other enthusiastic Catholics. There were also sermons, of course. If you want to hear my two, here are the YouTube videos kindly uploaded by the Day with Mary Team:

Sermon at Mass:

Afternoon sermon:

A suggestion for persecuted Christians and Belgian children


Being burned out of your home and threatened with death for not being a Muslim? Fear being persuaded that it is in your best interests to be bumped off before you get any older? Getting no sympathetic publicity from Western media (or no publicity at all)? Here is your answer: dress up as a giraffe and the world's press will give several pages of coverage with soul-searching debate skewed in your favour, celebrities will take up your cause, and you will probably be granted asylum somewhere friendly.

Available in large medium and small from

Available in various sizes from Kids Halloween Costumes

Friday, 14 February 2014

Euthanasia for children

The ghastly decision of the Belgian Parliament to legalise the euthanasia of children has rightly drawn much comment from Catholic journalists and bloggers, many of whom have referred to the Nazi euthanasia programme. I thought it would be helpful to look more closely at the origins of this

Some years ago, I wrote a post called "The life thou gavest, Lord, we've ended" which drew on an article written in 1980 by Malcolm Muggeridge: The Humane Holocaust. See the article for more details but essentially, Muggeridge pointed out that euthanasia for the mentally ill and physically disabled was introduced in Germany in the 1920s, before the Nazi movement had gained any prominence. It was doctors and psychiatrists who pushed the programme on utilitarian grounds. When the Nazis developed Aktion T4, they extended euthanasia to children, vastly increased the numbers who were killed, and extended the grounds from disability to race. But the perverted legal and medical justification for the programme had already been established.

The sinister phrase "life unworthy of life" was not invented by the Nazis but was used by German psychiatrist Alfred Hoche and jurist Karl Bilding in the title of their book, published in 1920, Die Freigabe der Vernichtung Lebensunwerten Lebens ("The authorisation of the destruction of life unworthy of life.")

Binding argued in this book that suicide itself was not illegal (he further argued that it was a "human right") and that therefore assisted suicide should also be permitted. He went on to argue that the direct killing of the terminally ill was not unlawful since it was in the best interests of the patient. He argued for the legalisation of killing those who were incurably mentally ill (and therefore had a life unworthy of life), and those who were unconscious because of injury and would wake to nameless suffering. He wanted there to be a committee to decide on such killings on a case-by-case basis. Consider how familiar the argument in this quotation sounds to us in England today:
In legislative terms, the question could also be posed this way: whether the vigorous continued preservation of such lives, as evidence of the inviolability of life, deserves preference, or whether permitting their termination, to the relief of everyone involved, would seem the lesser evil.
One important factor in Germany for a while was the opposition of the Catholic Church to euthanasia in 1933. This even caused the Nazis to pause: although ultimately it might seem that their resistance was futile, many lives were saved because of the courageous resistance of the German bishops.

In order to soften up the people to accept more widespread euthanasia, the Nazis used films showing people suffering from physical and mental disability and the merciful release of euthanasia. In the film Ich klage an ("I accuse")of 1941, an attractive woman with multiple sclerosis is shown being gently killed by her loving husband. Invoke "Godwin's Law" if you will, I cannot resist the comparison between this and the determined effort to soften up our own people by emotional scenes in popular dramas and educational films shown in schools to "stimulate discussion."

Thursday, 13 February 2014

il Foglio organises appeal to Pope Francis after disturbingly weak response of the Holy See to UN report

The commendable Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute, C-FAM have organised a petition to Defend the Holy See in the wake of the recent Concluding observations on the second periodic report of the Holy See made by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child. The observations were not limited to matters concerning the response to child abuse, but include demands that the Catholic Church promote abortion, homosexuality and contraception, and effectively abandon its moral teaching in favour of secular humanist ideology.

Even the Wall Street Journal characterised this as The U.N. Assault on the Catholic Church, calling it "an attempt to bully the church into bowing before the altar of Turtle Bay." (Turtle Bay is the neighbourhood in New York where the UN Headquarters is located.) Claudia Rosett effectively exposes the hypocrisy of the UN ("Blue berets accused of sex crimes are simply sent back to their home countries, where in the majority of cases they drop off the radar") and its selective indignation, citing the UN's bland response to horrendous incidents in Saudi Arabia and North Korea (see the article for details.) She points out that "whatever changes the Vatican and the world's 1.2 billion Catholics might consider, the U.N. is supremely ill-qualified to serve as a guide."

I have signed the C-FAM petition and encourage you to do so (here), but as well as widespread comment even in the secular press that the UN has gone way beyond its remit, there has also been a significant reaction in Italy to the weakness of the response of the Holy See and particularly that of the Cardinal Secretary of State.

Giuliano Ferrara, the editor of the national Italian single-sheet daily il Foglio, has organised an appeal in the form of an open letter to Pope Francis, urging the Holy Father to help the laity in promoting a counter-offensive. The summary page has a full list of signatories.

In his background article Sparano sui preti per emendarsi, Ferrara urges "a stronger, more rigorous response which combines the energy of the faith with the resources of rational culture which are common to all, believers or not."

With reference to the il Foglio appeal, the blog Eponymous Flower published an article by Giuseppe Nardi yesterday which offers further analysis of the power vested in UN agencies, the threat of the Holy See to this power, and the possible reason for the weakness of the Holy See's response. (See: Weak Reaction to UN Attack Against Church -- Bishops' Synod to Attack "Humanae Vitae"?)

The financial and political power of the UN agencies enables them to impose policies, especially on developing countries, that have the support of secularists and humanists in the West but without any democratic mandate or public debate. We are wearily familiar with the promotion of abortion, contraception, gay marriage and gender ideology under the banner of "reproductive rights."

The Holy See stands as an obstacle and a permanent irritant to those in the UN who would prefer to have a free hand in imposing the secular humanist creed on all in its path. Thanks to the Lateran Treaty, the Holy See, operating from the Vatican City State, has sovereignty and must therefore be recognised as a member state and a permanent observer at the UN. Many would like to change this and reduce the Holy See to the status of an NGO.

Not having economic or territorial ambitions beyond the small area of the Vatican City State and the internal government of the Church, the Holy See, unlike many smaller states, is not threatened by economic disadvantage or the withdrawal of military aid as a consequence of opposing the powerful lobbies of the West. It is therefore free to promote policy based on the natural law, and the dignity of the human person, sometimes offering leadership to others, for example in South America and in the Islamic world, creating a bloc of votes that is infuriating for the secular humanists and gives further reason for them to discredit the Catholic Church and attempt to change its nature.

Hence, influential scholars, writers, and professionals from many fields have supported the appeal of il Foglio that a more robust response should be made to the attempt by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child to undermine the teaching of the Catholic Church and even urge the Holy See to change that teaching.

There was a Vatican Press Release in response to the Observations of the UN which expressed "regret" at the attempt to interfere with Catholic Church teaching. The Secretary of State, Cardinal Parolin, gave a brief holding statement which merely expressed surprise that the Observations attempted to interfere with the teaching of the Church. In a lengthy interview with the Italian Catholic newspaper Avvenire, given by the Cardinal just three days after the publication of the UN Observations, one might expect a large watermark in the shape of an elephant with "UN" printed on it.

The explanation of Giuseppe Nardi for the disturbingly weak response of the Holy See is that within the Church there is a powerful lobby which would in fact welcome precisely the kind of changes in the Church's moral teaching that are urged by the UN. This is not an outlandish suggestion given the current, subtle jockeying for position among various senior ecclesiastics on the issues of divorce and remarriage, homosexual unions, contraception, and the offering of abortion counselling services. Nardi suggests that some wish to make the forthcoming Synod on the Family "a late revenge for the encyclical Humanae Vitae."

As I lean out of my window this afternoon in South-East England, I see glorious sunshine, a few fluffy clouds and notice only a light breeze. It is chilly but not unpleasant. Yet we know that we could again be battered by storms, gales and flooding within a matter of hours. I wonder if this is a metaphor for the current state of the Church.

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Posters for schools and Church halls

The indefatigable Fr Andrew Pinsent has produced five posters which I think are ideal to help people re-assess the bias against Catholicism that they may have unwittingly imbibed from the secular environment. They are entirely positive, giving examples of Catholics who have made a major contribution to our science and culture. They would be ideal for secondary schools, but also for Church Halls, especially those that are hired out to people. (We will be getting some for Blackfen.) In fact, the whole project is a fine example of the positive evangelisation which Pope Benedict - and indeed Pope Francis - have called for.

The subjects of the posters are:
  • George LemaĆ®tre (the Belgian priest who proposed the Big Bang theory)
  • Gregor Mendel (the Augustinian friar who was the founder of the new science of genetics)
  • Guido d’Arezzo (the Medieval music theorist who invented musical notation as we know it today)
  • Maria Agnesi (an Italian noble lady of great learning, the first woman to be appointed Maths professor at a university) and
  • J.R.R. Tolkien (the devout Catholic author of The Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit books)
Maria Agnesi (above) is the one that I didn't know about before. It is remarkable that the first woman professor of mathematics in the world was appointed by a Pope in 1750 - the learned and astute Pope Benedict XIV.

Below are low resolution versions of the other posters. They are published by the CTS as laminated A2 (42cm by 59cm) posters at £24.95 for the set. Fr Pinsent put examples on display at the Colloquium of the Confraternity of Catholic Clergy last autumn and they are well-produced: they are more vivid in colour than appears here. To order, go to the CTS page Catholic Knowledge Network Poster Pack 1. ("Pack 1" leads me to look forward to further posters.)

CD 014: Is it obligatory to buy Fair Trade products?

Many Catholic organisations promote Fair Trade products but I have some misgivings about the scheme. Is it a sin not to buy Fair Trade products?

Criticism of Fair Trade comes from both ends of the political spectrum. Some free market economists argue that Fair Trade interferes with the proper working of supply and demand and that other producers are adversely affected by the distortion of prices. Some advocates of more sweeping changes to unjust trading argue that Fair Trade is not radical enough because it works within the existing system of trade and has partnerships with multinational companies.

Those in favour of Fair Trade would reply that it is a market-responsive model of trade and that other producers are positively, not negatively affected. They would consider that it is better to promote realistic and achievable change rather than waiting for the whole trading system to be made fairer.

Fair Trade is widely supported by Catholic organisations, and many parishes try to use Fair Trade products for as many of their supplies as possible, in addition to encouraging parishioners to buy Fair Trade goods. Many Catholics see Fair Trade as an important part of their work to promote social justice in a practical way.

We do have an obligation to justice, charity, and the works of mercy but we have a legitimate freedom in the way that we choose to fulfil these obligations. A person who generally agreed with the case made by Fair Trade, would probably feel some sense of duty about buying Fair Trade tea and coffee. Nevertheless it would be somewhat rigorist to consider it a sin not to do so.

A Catholic could be sincerely critical of Fair Trade and exercise their prudential judgement not to support the movement. There are a number of possible reasons for making such a judgement that would not involve any denial of the Church’s social teaching or of our duty of fraternal justice and charity. Within the limits set by the Church’s magisterium, Catholics are free to take different views on political, economic, and social questions. So I would say we can hold off from adding to the commandments “Thou shalt not buy PG Tips.”

Catholic Dilemmas column published in the Catholic Herald
Suggestions for Catholic Dilemmas are always welcome by email or via Twitter @FatherTF

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Information on current persecution of Christians in the Middle East, from ACN and Ed West

Aid to the Church in Need continues in its sterling work not only in giving practical down-to-earth support to persecuted Christians but also by providing solid information on their appalling plight. Their latest freely downloadable report Persecuted and Forgotten? A Report on Christians oppressed for their Faith gives a comprehensive update on the worldwide persecution of millions of Christians at the present time. Here is their press information on the booklet:
In recent years, the Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need has received a growing response from government figures, politicians, the media, Church leaders and faithful to their seminal research project: Persecuted and Forgotten? A Report on Christians oppressed for their Faith.

Such has been the growth in recognition of ACN’s vital work, that their National Director, Neville Kyrke-Smith, and report editor John Pontifex, were recently invited to a Reception at Clarence House in which HRH The Prince of Wales called upon Christians, Muslims and Jews to unite in "outrage" over deliberate attacks on Christianity in the Middle East by fundamentalist Islamist militants.

In recognition of this growing response, ACN are pleased to announce that this month sees the publication of their new booklet, Persecuted but Never Forgotten. Intended as a readable and concise summary of the Persecuted and Forgotten? report, Persecuted but Never Forgotten is described as being ideal for personal use, prayer groups, parishes and secondary schools.

Along with direct testimony, Persecuted but Never Forgotten has been published to open our eyes to the daily reality for millions of Christians today – including those in Syria, Egypt and Nigeria – and underlines the need for prayerful solidarity this coming Lent and throughout the year.

ACN are inviting you to download the booklet for free from their website, and to share this link with family, friends and fellow Christians. ACN hope this will help to open even more eyes to the daily reality for millions of our brothers and sisters in Christ.
The persecution of Christians in the Middle East by Islamic militants has not received the attention in the Western media that it merits. Ed West, Deputy Editor of the Catholic Herald, has made an important contribution to fill the gap with his "Kindle single" ebook The Silence of Our Friends which describes and gives facts and figures on the major examples. I do recommend it to you - at 99p you won't break the bank buying it and at approx 15,000 it is a fairly quick but highly useful read.

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Good Counsel Network seeking Fundraising Co-ordinator

Please note that I do not normally publish recruitment adverts. This is an exception because it is the Good Counsel Network. They are looking for someone committed to their work who has fundraising experience. It is a 0.6 post with salary of £25,000 pro rata.

The Maria Stops Abortion blog has the basic information and an email address for further information.

Monday, 3 February 2014

CD 279: Planning our charitable giving

I tend to give money when people shake a box in front of me but I feel I should organise this a bit more. Would that lose the spontaneity of giving?

Remember that having charitable status in law does not necessarily mean that an organisation is always doing things that exhibit love for God or our neighbour. “Reproductive health” (a pseudonym for providing contraceptions and abortion) and research on human embryos would be considered “charitable” aims in civil law, but are immoral and therefore not truly “loving.” When someone shakes a box in front of you, there is no moral obligation to give money. In fact, it would be better to find out about the “Charity” first in order to be sure that it is charitable as we would understand the word.

Your desire for spontaneity illustrates how we have lost the true meaning of charity. We should not love simply when we feel the urge, but as a part of our Christian lives. Our holidays do not suffer if we plan them carefully beforehand. Our love for others is not necessarily improved by being thought up on the spur of the moment. So I think that your instinct towards a little more organisation is not a bad thing but a recognition that charity to others is something important.

You need to set aside some money to support the parish that you use for Mass. The money that you put in the collection should be a considered part of your income: gift-aided if appropriate, and made by a banker’s order if you use that method of payment for other things such as gas, electricity or your mobile phone tariff. Then you can have the fulfilling task of looking at a number of other charities and choosing a few to support, especially if they uphold moral values that are compromised in the world.

If you arrange your charitable giving in this way, you will have taken care to use your surplus wealth conscientiously. You can always re-examine how much of your income you should give, but you can peacefully walk past charity muggers without having to feel guilty.

Catholic Dilemmas column published in the Catholic Herald
Suggestions for Catholic Dilemmas are always welcome by email or via Twitter @FatherTF

Victory for St Margaret’s Children and Family Care Society and vindication of Neil Addison's legal advice

In June 2009, Neil Addison of the Thomas More Legal Centre and Religion Law Blog, argued that it was not surprising that Catholic Adoption Agencies had lost their case before the Charities Tribunal because they were using an ineffective legal argument. (See: Catholic Adoption Agencies lose case) The legal defeat led to Catholic agencies either giving up adoption work or continuing with the work, becoming a non-Catholic agency, and being open to placing children with same-sex couples.

Neil has constantly argued that Catholic adoption agencies should make a case based on adherence to their constitution in which they assert that all of their activities (not just adoption) have to be conducted in accordance with the teaching of the Catholic Church (not just on the question of same-sex unions but on any moral question, including, for example unmarried couples.) This, he has always argued, would fit the exemption for Charities under reg 18 of the Sexual Orientation Regulations 2007.

Neil has been rather like a voice crying in the wilderness over the years despite the fact that he has consistently offered advice on what he has always claimed would be a better legal route than referring specifically to adoption and heterosexual couples which would be directly, explicitly and obviously discriminatory in legal terms.

It is therefore quite reasonable for him to find the recent decision concerning the St Margaret’s Children and Family Care Society a vindication of the advice that he has repeatedly given.

See also his November 2012 post Catholic Care v Charity Commission (4) with further links.
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