Friday 26 July 2013

On Inclusive/Exclusive Language

I was discussing this topic with Father Dickson this afternoon and he pointed out a post on Catholic and Loving It which I found very amusing and full of common sense. James’ cartoons on the subject are a great way of showing how ridiculous the rejection of inclusive language really is. My favourites are the woman who wanted to get out of the rain but couldn’t because her husband had brought a two-man tent, and the lady swimming safely in the sea because the warning only notified her of man-eating sharks...  I suppose we need to alter our language to say “Two-person Tent” and “People-eating sharks”. But that would be as daft as changing ‘manhole’ into ‘person-hole’. After all, we are not talking of ‘male’ when we say ‘man’ –though even if we were, God has seen to it that the male determines the sex of our offspring in that only the male carries both Y (male) and X (female) chromosomes, meaning the male can stand in for both sexes of humanity -perhaps that is one factor for God determining that the Incarnation be in the male sex?

Personally, I am tired of hearing language manipulated in the liturgy by politically correct clergy. One of the most grating things I ever heard was a changing of the Beatitudes to “You shall be called daughters and sons of God”. What is wrong with “Children of God” –or “sons of God” for that matter? Are women so easily offended? Most, I think, are not. Why are we subjugating Christ and the Gospel to politically correct contemporary language that arose because secular feminists of both sexes felt hurt at not having the female sex explicitly identified? It seems like we are telling God He ought to have been wiser in His use of words when He walked the earth. We then have the heretical idea of “God the Mother, God the Daughter and God the Holy Spirit”.  Those who won’t go that far say “God the Creator, God the Redeemer and God the Sanctifier”. Whichever phrase is preferred, there is an intrinsic rejection of Divine Revelation since Father and Son is how God chose to reveal Himself.

While we know God does not simply encompass both genders but transcends them, we can have no part with the idea that His Self-revelation was constrained by human culture; indeed the culture in which the Incarnation took place was specifically chosen by God (“At the appointed time...” Gal.4v4)  and as such must have been suitable as a vehicle for His Self-revelation. We, in our turn, are not at liberty to change Divine Revelation just to avoid hurting the sensibilities of those who are emotionally charged (challenged?) and easily hurt.  I don’t see the use of “sisters and brothers” as a ‘justice’ thing, simply because the phrase divides the sexes which, if we take it too far, could end with the proposition that only males are saved...

I am not sure the secular feminists have it right anyway. Inclusivity is better expressed by use of the words “man”, “humanity”, “mankind”  etc., since they include both sexes; phrases such as “sisters and brothers”, “men and women”; “girls and boys” discriminate; they are therefore not inclusive but exclusive since they intrinsically delineate one sex from the other. Truly inclusive language is to be found in the terms “humanity”, “man”, “mankind”, even “brethren”. Perhaps our clergy need to revisit not only the nature of these words but help those who are offended by them to a more  broad, more open understanding of language, and a less emotional reaction.

Thursday 25 July 2013

Liturgy and Music at World Youth Day 2013

I am old enough to remember when my favourite singer of the day (the barefoot Sandie Shaw) won the Eurovision Song Contest singing “Puppet On A String”. I turned on the TV the other night and thought my receiver had somehow switched itself from EWTN to the BBC, since I was confronted by a re-run of the Eurovision Song Contest: the singer was an attractive young lady with a  good voice on a stage with a nice colourful haze that I presumed had something to do with her song.  Then I noticed that he was assisted by an altar server, and I was captured: had heaven decided to enter the Eurovision Song Contest? It was then that I realised this was not Eurovision, but a World Youth Day presentation of the Holy sacrifice of the Mass. It was truly hard to tell the difference between Eurovision and Catholic worship: as with Eurovision, the worship offered that night seemed focused on pleasing the crowd; on being ‘grounded’ or (as some would say) “incarnational”. I would say “earthbound; anthropocentric”.  Liturgy ought to lift us from earth to heaven; it should bring us to meet the Risen and Ascended Lord; it should have a music which is clearly not contemporary to time and place. In short, it requires Gregorian Chant -which is not bound by time or place- if it is to achieve its aim of lifting us toward that which is beyond time and place: Heaven.

Though the liturgy does form man by grace through the worship of God (Sacrosanctum Concilium 10) and does allow us to gain sense of common identity and community adhesion (which we badly need today) it exists primarily for the worship of God, uniting us to the heavenly Jerusalem and to all who inhabit the Holy City of heaven, thereby enabling us to sing “with all angels and all the saints... Holy, Holy, Holy”.  As Vatican II stated:

In the earthly liturgy we take part in a foretaste of that heavenly liturgy which is celebrated in the holy city of Jerusalem toward which we journey as pilgrims, where Christ is sitting at the right hand of God, a minister of the holies and of the true tabernacle; we sing a hymn to the Lord's glory with all the warriors of the heavenly army; venerating the memory of the saints, we hope for some part and fellowship with them; we eagerly await the Saviour, Our Lord Jesus Christ, until He, our life, shall appear and we too will appear with Him in glory (Sacrosanctum Concilium 8).
Although the sacred liturgy is above all things the worship of the divine Majesty, it likewise contains much instruction for the faithful [34]. For in the liturgy God speaks to His people and Christ is still proclaiming His gospel. And the people reply to God both by song and prayer. (ibid, 33)

Thus, in that the liturgy of World Youth Day I saw was hardly distinguishable from the Eurovision Song Contest, the liturgy of World Youth day is failing, and failing badly. If souls are not lifted up toward heaven by the liturgy but are kept grounded in their contemporary world, their souls are kept earthbound; detached from heaven.

Yes there is a need to grasp the attention of the young and to engage with them in a style they can understand, which is why I have often argued for the use of paraliturgies during the week. But let us keep contemporary music and dancing puppets etc for such paraliturgies and for prayer meetings of all kinds; in that way we can give the youth (and all Catholics) a wide experience of prayer situations while highlighting for everyone of us the absolutely transcendent nature of the Mass.  You never know, it might also help everyone to see why paraliturgies are a devotional option and the Adoration of Mass an obligation: “Do this as a memorial of Me”. 

Tuesday 23 July 2013

The End of the Liverpool Care Pathway?

 The Liverpool Care Pathway (LCP) is to be phased out in the next 12 months and I am exceedingly pleased. 

When my mum was ill with pneumonia following a subarachnoid haemorrhage (neither of which need be fatal) physicians and nursing staff wanted to use the LCP. That was something I could not accept and so, at my request, mum was given subcutaneous fluids at a rate of 500-750mls per 24 hours (500 being roughly the amount of fluid one loses in exhaled breath over 24 hours, to say nothing of what one loses in sweat and urination). Some sedation was given to control mums agitation and anxiety, but no morphine (she did not give any indication that she was in physical pain). I believe she thus had a very peaceful and natural death, supported by excellent care from her attending nurses and physicians. I do not think this would have been the case if mum had been formally placed on the LCP which dehydrates the person and sedates them to the point that they are not aware of their dehydration; even if they were, they cannot voice it. It all looks very peaceful, but it remains an encouraged death in a sedated patient.

The intention of the LCP was good: helping hospitals to give as a good a care package to the dying and their loved ones that hospices can give, but its application is fraught with difficulty. The common criticisms recounted are that it was not always those formed to use it well who employed it; that there was a lack of consultation with relatives; that it was used to clear beds or to obtain financial reward. However, these are only attendant criticisms which fail to draw attention to the fact that in several ways, the Pathway itself is intrinsically flawed:

  1. It is a self-fulfilling prophecy since the removal of fluids or the failure to supply hydration assists in the inducement of death
  2. The administration of sedatives and opioid analgesics brings about respiratory insufficiency and the possibility of secondary infection
  3. A mistaken notion of ‘a peaceful death’ can only be assumed since the sedated patient cannot voice his/her distress.
  4. No one can know when death will occur in order that 72 hours before hand one can commence the LCP (A friend of mine said this flaw “has staff saying ‘We think she’ll be dead by Friday morning so let’s put her on the LCP’, which is not far from ‘Let’s put her on the LCP; she’ll be dead by Friday Morning’ ”.
  5. Provision for stopping the LCP after it has been initiated shows that its designers/users were aware that a diagnosis of impending death can be fatally wrong
  6. It presumes the difference between hospital and hospice care is one of medication and/or treatment, rather than one of setting and time/support given to patients and their loved ones. Acute hospitals do not have the same nurse/patient ratio as do hospices, and far fewer volunteers.

I will then, be glad to see the end of the LCP. My concern is that it has become so ingrained in staff over the last twenty years that it will continue to be practiced without the title; after all, our current medical and nursing staff are already formed by the LCP and influenced by  contemporary culture which say,s “we wouldn’t let a dog suffer that way; why should mum?” –this is a central argument put forward for euthanasia. When that argument is used to justify the LCP, both the LCP and euthanasia violate the primary principle of care: “First Do No Harm”.

In the early 1980’s I trained as a Nurse and there was no such thing as the LCP. Our hospital patients (including cancer patients) were given sufficient analgesia to keep them pain free, comfortable and conscious, achieved by increasing the dosage of morphine without simply doubling the dosage (though I did see this done). Pain charts monitored the patient’s pain level. Antibiotics were not given, and all unnecessary medications were discontinued. When even sips of fluids were difficult to swallow, patients were kept hydrated either by subcutaneous or intravenous infusion, and frequent mouth care was given.  Hygiene was either a bed-bath or hand and face wash as appropriate to the patient’s comfort; bedding was changed only when necessary. Positional changes were given prudently and only until such time as signs of impending death were noted (i.e., pulse and respiration changes, peripheral cyanosis etc) and airflow beds used to aid comfort and prevent pressure sores.  Thus there was no need for the LCP in my time, and I do not think there is need for it now.

I must have worked with physicians who were astutely careful in their use of opiates and sedatives, and nurses who did not mind how long they spent with a patient or their careful assessment of needs, because I never saw a patient experience a painful or distressing death in my time as a Nursing Auxiliary, Nursing Student or Registered Nurse. In all that time there was never a thought of removing fluids as done in the LCP. I did occasionally see opiates simply doubled when pain relief seemed inadequate, but on asking physicians to try intermediate dosages of analgesia and sedatives, pain relief without undue sedation was successfully achieved.

As noted in (6) above, where hospitals and hospices differ in the care they can give to the dying is not so much in their use of medication as in the comfortable nature of the setting; the time the nurses can spend with the patient, and the time, hospitality and support they can offer to the patient’s loved ones. These are things the LCP did not and could not address.  

At the risk of sounding repetitive, there was no need for the LCP in my time, nor should there be now. Good nurses never needed it before; they shouldn't need it now.

Sunday 21 July 2013

A Blog Post For Adults: Why Same-sex ‘Marriage’ Does Not Make Sense -Updated

I, and all Catholics, would be among the first to demand that homosexual persons be treated with respect and given the same right to life, shelter, education, health care, employment, a just wage, inheritance, freedom from violence etc, as anyone else. My cousin is homosexual who shares her home with another woman, and I would not want either of them treated badly in any way, shape or form. All people, homosexual and heterosexual; young and old, black and white, Christian and Non-Christian, share the same world, and we must get along with each without violence or oppression but care and concern, so that the peace and happiness of heaven may penetrate this world and the lives of all who live in it. But we Catholics are in a difficult place in today’s society in that we cannot support the homosexual person’s engagement in homosexual acts; as such, we cannot support homosexual ‘marriage’. We recognise that the homosexual inclination is a disorder for which the individual is not responsible and for which they cannot, therefore, be judged responsible, but homosexual acts are intrinsically at odds with the will of God and souls who wilfully practice such acts place themselves in danger of hell by refusing to adhere to the will of God. We also need to be clear that homosexuals are not excluded from the life of the Church: by quietly living a celibate life (as all unmarried Catholics are called to do) they can obtain the consolation and strength of the sacraments, take a full part in the liturgical and social life of the parish, establish wholesome friendships and find salvation. We must, however, remain clear that homosexuality is a disordered inclination; homosexual acts an unnatural use of the reproductive faculty and homosexual ‘unions’ and ‘marriages’ social constructions outside the natural order; constructions which destabilise society by destabilising and disregarding the natural family as the natural foundation of the human community. The rearing of common offspring necessitates the unity of the parents, thus marriage is by nature the permanent union of a man and a woman in that on-going, collaborative rearing of their common offspring; a union which provides the bedrock necessary for societal and individual stability. All extra-marital sex is a threat to the stability of society and the individuals within it by reason of it being a series of non-committed, temporary encounters, and by the fact that sexual diseases increase as promiscuity increases.

Since homosexual activity of its very nature is nothing more than mutual masturbation (a non-procreative use of the procreative act) it cannot be equated with the copulation of marriage. It is true that sterile heterosexual couples cannot procreate either, but such couples are of an entirely different order in that they are emotionally and physically complimentary; only a physical ailment prevents the couple bringing children into the world. The homosexual pair, on the other hand, deliberately employ the procreative faculty in a non-procreative manner. Fundamentally, no real union can be achieved by homosexual acts. As such, even the idea of a homosexual union is nonsense, even more so is homosexual ‘marriage’. Passing a law which ignores this reality is like passing a law which pretends gravity does not hold things down: such a law cannot change reality: Governments can no more rewrite the laws of biology than they can rewrite the laws of physics.

What about the union of homosexuals as persons, which transcends the union of bodies? Can this idea justify homosexual marriage? It cannot, because persons are not disembodied beings; disembodied beings are ghosts, and we don’t marry ghosts. Marriage is for the living and is the union of the whole nature. It is absurd to pretend otherwise.  

What about the marriage of a transsexual? This too is nonsense, because even by undergoing plastic surgery the transsexual is only helped to simulate being a member of the opposite sex. God forbid, but should a transsexual lose his or her life in a fire, their remains will not be identifiable as to their simulated sex: their DNA will identify them as the sex of their conception and birth. Governments might pass laws requiring us to acknowledge that a person has changed their sex -they may even allow for their sex to be changed on their birth certificate- but such laws only deceive society at large about a person’s objective sex reality, while simultaneously facilitating the transsexual’s continuance in subjective error as to their gender. In reality, transsexuals remain for all eternity the sex of their conception and birth.

Governments which pass laws facilitating homosexual ‘marriage’ must admit that they might be seen as either so intoxicated by their (temporary) political authority that they have lost awareness of the limitations to that authority (which is powerless to rewrite the laws of nature) or as supremely arrogant in their disregard for those laws. It is not easy to see them as pursuing inclusivity or diversity when they allow the oppression of those who see homosexuality as abnormal (such as clergymen) and of those who cannot in conscience facilitate homosexual activity (such as owners of Guesthouses).  As laws are passed allowing homosexual pairs to acquire the designation ‘married’ Governments must, to ensure they are truly inclusive and valuing of diversity, enact laws that:

(a) protect the religious person’s conscience in the exercise of their professional lives
(b) protect freedom of speech so that those who disagree with homosexual ‘marriage’ can say so without fear of being persecuted and/or prosecuted for voicing that opinion
(c) protect religious institutions from being forced to provide religious Rites to same-sex pairs;
(d) protect religious schools from having to present homosexuality as biologically and socially normal.

On the latter point, it is my belief that no school, religious or otherwise, should teach that homosexuality is normal: they may as well teach that one can achieve good a hold with two bolts or two nuts as one can with a nut and bolt. Presenting homosexuality as normal not only flies in the face of common sense, but it may produce an artificial upsurge in homosexuality in that children exposed to such teaching might consider themselves homosexual (and block their psycho-social development) at the pre-adolescent age when boys have no interest in playing with girls and girls no interest in playing with boys. Surely children have a right to be taught about the natural biological and psychological complimentarity of the sexes, and to have false information kept out of their classroom? Where Governments demand that their contrived social construction be taught, they should have the integrity -or at the very least the decency- to allow schools to present the natural law too, if only for the sake of freedom of speech, respect for conscience, and freedom of religion.

Too conclude, Catholics are among the first to demand that homosexual persons be treated with respect, but so too must the laws of nature and common sense, to say nothing of the laws of God as found in Holy Scripture and Sacred Tradition.

Sunday 14 July 2013

Responding to Dr Tracey Rowland

DrShaw has already made an erudite reply to Dr Tracey Rowland’s remarks in her CNS interview. While this blog is only a minor player in the league of blogs, I do hope that if Dr Rowland is aware of the criticism she is receiving and decides to google it, that she comes across this short response.

Dear Dr Rowland,

I am sorry if your experience of attending the Extraordinary Form (EF) is as poor as you seem to suggest. I started celebrating the EF before the days of Summorum Pontificum, and while I found long-time adherents to the EF rather unwelcoming and perhaps suspicious of newcomers, I recognised this as understandable since they had been boxed into a defensive corner by thirty five years of struggle and derision. In that hostility towards the EF is still present among many in the Church (who seem to think that what was good enough for the saints of millennia is beneath them) those who prefer the EF are not likely to overcome their fears and defensiveness easily, and your interview does not help the situation.  

First, you seem in this interview to be very one-sided and rather unaware of the wider picture. You say that in your experience people attending the EF dissect the celebration, yet you fail to mention a widespread attitude among those who attend the Ordinary Form of “I prefer Fr X’s Mass to Fr Y’s Mass” and the even more common “I didn’t like those hymns today”. In my experience of celebrations of the Extraordinary Form the content of the homily is much more likely to be commented upon; rarely the mistakes Father makes with the rubrics. I grant that the singing may sometimes be subject to criticism, but that criticism too is not restricted to celebrations of the Extraordinary Form.

Second, comments about being “dressed in funny clothes” or “belonging to a different era in history” seem remarkably condescending and indeed, rather off-key. It is my experience –even when celebrating the EF before Summorum Pontificum when only the brave and dedicated dared to attend- that the dress of those present was simply formal, not that of another era. It might have been good for you to note how those who attend the Ordinary Form dress immodestly; females in skirts that barely cover the buttocks and males in T-shirts with dubious messages and images.

Third, while we do indeed need to correct the idea that attending the EF is a statement against the Second Vatican Council, it might have been good for you to note how among a number of those who attend only the Ordinary Form there is often a rejection of the Church’s Tradition as expressed in the EF, and a displeasure with the Council of Trent and the First Vatican Council.

In conclusion, I am sorry to say I do not feel this interview presents you in a good light, and hope this is due to editing. I feel you come across as someone who is either very unaware of the wider picture or as one-sidedly critical. Further, I feel you are not so much “friendly towards" the EF as “not antagonistic” towards it. Sadly, friends of mine -who simply dress modestly and are actively engaged with and understanding of the liturgy, do not seem to be given due respect in your comments.

Fr Dickson.