Tuesday 29 April 2014

A Catholic SSA Person

Following posts with speak about homosexuality I inevitably get comments and emails from all kinds of people; be they active homosexuals; homosexuals who are not active for reasons of Faith, and people who have not been able to make the distinction the Church makes between the person and the homosexual acts they feel attracted to engage in (it is only the acts which are wrong; the Church recognises that it is quite possible to love someone deeply and have a solid friendship with them without sex entering into the relationship, be you homosexual or heterosexual).

I received an email recently that speaks about the struggle to remain celibate as a homosexual Catholic, and I have permission to share with my readers (I am withholding the name of the writer for reasons of privacy). It serves a reminder to heterosexuals not to think that all homosexuals are engaging in disordered acts and disregard the Faith; it also serves a reminder to homosexuals not to claim they are judged and rejected as people because of their homosexual desires...thank you to the writer for allowing me to share it. 

When I first became aware that I was attracted to other women I thought I wouldn't be able to attend church; believed that I wouldn't even be welcome in a Catholic church and scared that I couldn't receive the sacraments.  I spoke with the priest in my local parish church and I was reassured that the loving itself was not wrong it, was physically acting on the feeling would be the sin, just as it would be with heterosexual couples if they had physical relations outside marriage

There are things I do to try and make it easier(!) to avoid temptation: 

Avoid conversations that potentially raise the subject of sex
Sleep in separate rooms if my friend is in my home, or separate beds if we are elsewhere
Limiting physical contact to a hug
Not watching film/TV where there is graphic sex as that encourages sexual thoughts 
Avoid reading literature which describes sexual acts and have courage to stop reading it
To attend Mass together (she is also Catholic though she only attends when I'm with her)
Go to Mass and Confession as often as possible to receive the graces which come from them
Pray to the Holy Spirit that He might help us both to stay strong.

These are some of the things I feel help me keep me in touch with my faith (though I struggle every day). They may be helpful to your readers.

Thank you for sending me this, and thank you for allowing me to share it with readers. I assure you that any comments which come in that fail to show you respect will not be published.

Friday 25 April 2014

Manners and Methods of Receiving Holy Communion

We have noticed, as we are sure many others have noticed, that there is a great variety of ‘manners’ in which Our Lord is received in Holy Communion which go beyond the norm of receiving on the tongue and the option of receiving in the hand. There is nothing in this poster of self-service manner of receiving Holy Communion as we linked to in an earlier post (though we think reception in the hand has something of the self-service dynamic to it). Rather, it is that some who receive on the tongue while standing nod the head forward (this doesn't happen with those kneeling at the rail) while those who receive in the hand may have their fingers splayed, their hands side by side or fingers cupped; others try to take it from you with their fingers and not a few hands are unclean (yes we know the cleanliness of the soul is the important factor, but as the poster indicates, why receive Our Lord on dirty dishes which we wouldn't serve up to our loved ones or our Bishop?) We spent a lot of time scouring the internet for instructions on how to receive correctly and eventually came up with this, which we thought might be interesting or even useful to readers of this blog.

We know it sort of encourages reception of Our Lord in Holy Communion on the hand, but it does note that this is limited to countries where permission to do so has been given by Rome, and that it doesn't replace the norm of reception on the tongue. Also, it rightly places the norm at the top of the list as the first and universal method. Finally, in that there are places where reception in the hand is available, we think it is better that people know how to do it with reverence. Anyway, here is the poster which we are putting out with our parish Bulletin/Newsletter this weekend...

Below is a re-worked version of the poster.

Thursday 24 April 2014

A ‘ban’ on pro-life Doctors and Nurses...

Thanks again to Dr Peter Saunders of Christian Medical Comment for highlighting the fact that The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists has decreed that post-graduate qualifications in sexual and reproductive health will not be available to Doctors and Nurses who refuse to prescribe contraceptives that destroy embryonic life. This is discriminatory toward and oppressive of those professionals who hold firm pro-life views. Will it be long before GP’s have the same kind of pressure levelled at them; that the Royal College of General Practitioners will make it necessary to prescribe all forms of contraception and refer for abortion ‘services’? After all, both Colleges are allied to the British Medical Association.

There is only one aspect in Dr Saunders article to which I would offer a different slant. Dr Saunders rightly indicates that contraceptives work either by preventing fertilisation of the egg or by preventing a fertilised egg from implanting (in some cases, they seek to prevent ovulation), but the fact is that even those which seek to prevent fertilisation have secondary effects on the uterine wall which theoretically make it impossible for a fertilised egg to implant. In this, contraceptives theoretically become abortifacient drugs.

I believe the core problem is ideological, but it is significant that in 1983 British Medical Association changed the words ‘from the time of conception’ to ‘from its beginning’. This puts Doctors and Nurses in direct contravention to the Geneva Convention which states, “I will maintain the utmost respect for human life from the time of conception” and allows them to take the beginning of life to be implantation or even the point of birth, where individuality from the mother can no longer be denied.

The biological nonsense of this is plain to see: it is from conception that an individual human life begins because from that moment a new life with its unique DNA comes into existence. Its implantation, its birth, its reaching of puberty and powers of reproduction are all but stages in the life of that new human being.

The question is this: why are some health care professionals refusing to live by scientific realities? The answer to that question is this: persuaded by ideologies (or their personal desire for sex without responsibility?) they are unwilling to go against the grain and declare all embryonic life a human being, because that would put them into conflict with those who wish to continue the killing of the unborn child. This is an example of the secular mind seeking out the darkness because the light requires them to live in a new way; it is a light by which they must learn to control their desires and build self-mastery over their instincts, rather than allow their instincts free reign. We have a society today which has put itself in bondage to instinct and forgone the use of reason.

Papal Controversies and Liturgical Irregularities Elsewhere...

We do not normally take up controversies on this blog, but we thought we should comment on two things that have disturbed us in the last few days.

The first is that the Pope is alleged to have telephoned a woman in an objectively sinful situation to say that she is OK to receive Holy Communion. We doubt this story is true, because no Pope could continue with integrity as Vicar of Christ if he took it upon Himself to over-rule Christ’s clear teaching; he would become anti-Christ by the very fact of over-ruling Christ. Should we be proved wrong we would have to understand his action as an imprudent act of an imprudent man rather than a Papal Act, but our confidence in him would undoubtedly be diminished if he were shown to be so imprudent on such a core aspect of the Faith as Christian Marriage. The confidence of many has already been unsteadied already by his disregard for liturgical norms that previous Popes thought wise, and by his off-the-cuff remarks that need to be re-interpreted by Vatican spokesmen, but each of these demonstrate the good-heartedness of the man, so we can easily bear them: to lack in prudence does not mean to lack in holiness. It would not be so easy to bear with him if he demonstrated a mind opposed to the teaching of Christ in the Gospel and the constant teaching of the Church, but as we say, we expect this story will eventually be shown to be nonsense.

The second thing that has disturbed us is a post on Rorate Caeli on self-serve Communion. Honestly, the way the Blessed Sacrament and its surrounding liturgy (which is meant to convey the holiness and transcendence of the Eucharist) is treated these days, it is no wonder we have massive lapsation: the Blessed sacrament is God and if we can mishandle God in this way (and at the same time diminish the integrity of both the ordained as shepherds and lay state as lambs, whose area of apostolic action is in the Church in the former case and in the world in the latter case) then we cannot expect anyone to have respect for God or the moral laws which flow to us as expressions of His nature as pure, committed and faithful. ‘Law’ has become a dirty word these days because “it ‘oppresses’ people”; no, it does not: it protects people and holy things from abuse and damage. Every home has rules; “don’t go into your sister’s bedroom”; “don’t eat without washing your hands”; “make sure you do your homework before you go out”; “make sure you say please and thank you” provide for boundaries of respect, achievement and safety in the home. A household without such rules is a household in chaos –and isn’t that what we see in today’s Church? We have forgotten that freedom from law is freedom for anarchy. If we do not have clergy humble enough to teach what is right and subjugate their ideas to the norms of the liturgy, then the household of God (the Church) being filled with anarchy is all we can expect, and can continue to generate. 

Tuesday 22 April 2014

Ideology Dividing Society from Christ

Dr Peter Saunders of Christian Medical Comment had a very interesting post recently. In it he noted that when ideology drives medical science an intellectual dishonesty results. I think he has an excellent point.

It certainly seems that the link between abortion and breast cancer (as demonstrated by a number of studies) is not being acknowledged in modern gynaecological medicine, and that there is psychological opposition to ‘Change Therapy’; a treatment for unwanted same-sex attraction (here), probably based on the idea that homosexuals are ‘born that way’ (n fact, no biological evidence for this has been scientifically established. I fact, studies of identical twins strongly suggest there is no biological cause). Quite obviously, when links between abortion and cancer are ignored or treatments for disordered inclinations opposed by ‘professionals’, the average secular person simply goes along with the professional voices while militant atheists use them as leverage for bringing about legislation which is contrary to science and to common sense.

Is it not the case that practicing medicine and formulating legislation in accord with ideologies rather than natural law has allowed millions of babies to be discarded in the IVF process? Is it not the case that this has given rise to women not being properly informed about the link between breast cancer and abortion as demonstrated by several studies? Is it not the case that society has been hoodwinked into accepting homosexuality on the false premise that it is something with which they are born? As a result of ideology-driven medicine and legislation, the prosecution of good Christian people for their faith has begun. Note the prosecution of the hoteliers who refused to accept bookings by same-sex pairings (here); the sacking of a Registrar because she could not register same-sex associations as marriage (here); the disciplining of airline stewards and nurses etc. for wearing a crucifix (here). All this points to the tolerant society being intolerant of Christianity, and intolerance is in fact bigotry; a small-mindedness that refuses to allow others the right of conscience. When it is backed up by legislation we have oppressive legislative practice; persecution of Christians by prosecution in the courts.

It all comes back to the ideology known as person-centred theory, which has spread through society like a poison. In this theory the focus is on the self and the desires of the ego, which is intrinsically anti-other and therefore anti-society. It cannot be otherwise when the basic thrust of person-centred theory is the unholy trinity of “I, Me and Myself”; the “what I think; I feel, I need is my right, otherwise I am being oppressed”. Legislation and medical practice which acquiesce to the ‘unholy trinity’ only promotes and protects the chaos and disorder we see in modern society. Socio-political philosophy must critically re-consider the “I me myself” ideologies, taking full note of the societal chaos resulting from the implementation of the person-centred ideology from which it springs.

Meanwhile, those claiming to seek and promote “the tolerant society” must give up what many see as their hypocrisy and practice tolerance toward Christians and others of faith.

Friday 18 April 2014

A Few Moral Questions In Modern Health Care Practice

Ever since the case of the Catholic Midwives in Scotland (LINK) I have become concerned that devout Catholics might have to exclude themselves from the core Health Care professions (medicine, nursing and pharmacy) if conscience rights are not upheld. It is already difficult for them to practice as serious Catholics and as medics, nurses and pharmacists because they inevitably meet grave moral matter and must have conscience rights if they are to opt out.

It is right that professionals refuse to prescribe and dispense contraceptives; not only because they have abortifacient actions but because contraception is gravely wrong per se. But while contraceptives can be morally prescribed and dispensed for a woman with menstrual problems the contraceptive property is often an intended second action –can a serious Catholic ever prescribe or dispense chemical contraceptives in such cases? And will our Catholic professionals ever be obliged to do so?

Certainly many sound Catholics refer patients to a colleague, but another question arises: is it morally acceptable to refer patients on for services gravely contrary to the moral law? It seems akin to saying, “I can’t give you a lift home because I don’t drink and drive but N. does, so you might ask him/her”. Cooperation is remote and indirect in referrals, but are we guilt-free simply by passing the prescribing or dispensing responsibility on in this way?

Then there are Care Pathways for the dying. Now it is absolutely right, good and necessary to give opiates in necessary dosages to those suffering intractable, severe pain (please see end note) because the intention is to relieve the pain and anxiety, but are dosages increased precipitously without checking if smaller increases would ease the pain sufficiently for the patient to continue living in a pain-free state without excessive respiratory depression? (This question inevitably arises if we have a high percentage of people dying within 24-48 hours of an infusion being established). I have even seen such Pathways used with a Stroke victim where pain is not an issue –can this be moral at all? Finally, is withdrawing fluids ever morally justified? 500mls of fluid per day is lost simply by breathing to say nothing of the loss via the skin and urinary output, so a 500mls infusion over 24hours will not actually add respiratory or cardiac problems (and removal of fluids will not decrease any such problems), so an infusion of 500mls over 24 hours will only sustain life with comfort, not extend life, while removal of such fluids will not diminish any problems and may increase discomfort.

Those who are not part of the core health care professions must seek to ensure that practitioners in these professions have a right of refusal to cooperate with or facilitate by active referrals any act gravely contrary to the moral law (such as contraception, abortion, IVF., gender reassignment etc). We need as many sound Catholics as possible in these professions and we must make it possible for them to practice by supporting their conscience rights in our everyday conversations; by communicating with the media on pertinent topics and by petitioning Governments to ensure conscientious objection is respected and enshrined in law. We are told that patients must have non-directive counselling in order to preserve their autonomy and conscience, but what about the autonomy and conscience of the practitioner? Non-directive theory (contradictorily) directs them to put their own autonomy and conscience aside.

End Note: I do not want anyone to be troubled over the death of a loved one who had an infusion established, so I must point out that it would be morally wrong to withhold such infusions from those who are dying since it allows for a continuous pain-and-anxiety-free journey towards death. The questions arising with such infusions concern the “when” and “how much” in that journey. Remember it is entirely possible that even a single dose of an opiate may relax the dying person enough that they allow themselves to die; it does not mean their life was ended by a single injection. Many factors have to be taken into account when establishing a Pathway infusion and it is on getting the balance right that this discussion is focused.

Sunday 13 April 2014

Re-labelling Evil as Good

There are words and terminologies in use today which hide the evil of sin and present certain evils as “goods that ought to be achieved”. This presentation of evil as a good has the effect of making good appear evil, which means we as Catholics have to be much more precise in our language than we currently are, and require it of others. With words re-labelling sin as a good becoming part of everyday vocabulary, many people have lost the sense of evil and sin. It is appalling that the education of Catholics in the Faith has been so poor they too fail to recognise -and thus unconsciously cooperate with- sin and evil. For example, some Catholic teachers have no problem giving sex education to young children; some Catholic medics have no problem prescribing death-dealing contraceptives or dangerous drugs to the dying in ‘Care Pathways’; some Catholic Counsellors have no problem helping clients overcome feelings of guilt which would normally bring the client to Confession, thus leaving the client objectively in a state of sin. Some of the terms that hide the evil they promote are the following.

The word ‘contraception’: this is not onply the prevention of pregnancy but sometimes the killing of the new life, and always an active preclusion of parenthood and children. Contraceptives are the only drug Doctors prescribe which is directly geared towards attacking a healthy, normal function; even chemotherapy is given only to kill diseased cells.
The word ‘termination’ hides the reality of direct killing of the unborn child: this is not the terminating of a condition (pregnancy is a state of health, not a disease) but the killing of an individual human life with its own DNA from the moment of fertilisation.
The term ‘fertilised egg’ is (deliberately?) deceptive; it hides the reality of a new, unique human life; a child -once fertilisation has occurred there is no longer an egg by an embryo.
The term ‘Pro-choice’ hides the reality of absolute power over the life of the unborn child: his or her life is ended in order that sexual instincts can be satiated without responsibility being taken; allow a career to be continued, or evade the need to care for an ill or disabled child.
“Care Pathways for the dying” abuses the principle that we can give powerful pain-killing drugs to those who are in pain as long as the dose is only enough to kill the pain and not the person. That said, can we ever be sure that the drug given to our loved one is only given in the amount needed to kill the pain? Is it possible that due to the desire to end pain, coupled with the diminishing recognition of the value of human life that these pathways procure death rather than accompany the patient towards a natural death -how many patients become comatose rather quickly rather than simply pain-free once a syringe driver has been connected..?
The word ‘Euthanasia’ hides the reality of murdering the sick: to end the problem of distress in the dying we are told we can kill the dying person. By application this ‘logic’ would allow us to end the distress of poverty by killing the poor, or kill the lonely who mourn for an irreplaceable loved one. Our duty is to eradicate poverty not the poor, and to assist people through their grief, not help them to avoid it.
The phrase “we had a good time” does not actually mean ‘good’ but pleasurable, and not all pleasure arises from what is good.
“Happiness” is another word that is often wrongly used; a may have a succession of pleasurable events but remain deeply unhappy: having pleasure in life is not the same as being happy.
The word ‘Gay’ hides the reality of a disordered behaviour: ‘gay’ describes a mood, not a sexual inclination, but the word is being used to describe the disposition of someone who is happy to live-out a misdirected sexual inclination.
Use of the word ‘gender’ hides the reality of sexual identity confusion: this term permits for social construction contrary to the biological laws of nature and the social complimentarity and interdependence of the male and female.
The term ‘gender reassignment’ hides the reality of genital mutilation so as to simulate membership of the opposite sex since we cannot actually change a person’s gender: the DNA of the ‘transsexual’ remains that of their birth sex. Even if there came a time when DNA could be manipulated this would be an artificial process; simulation of the opposite sex at a molecular level.
The word ‘partner’ hides the reality of simply having a sexual collaborator: partnership means more than just collaboration in sexual activity and shared living space.
The legal term ‘civil union’ conceals the biological reality that a homosexual ‘union’ cannot exist: a union exists between a nut and a bolt, not between two bolts or two nuts, which cannot be united.

There are other terms used which make wrongful acts sound virtuous, and upon which the above are established as a house on foundations. These include being liberated (which means choosing to put oneself in bondage to one’s instincts and passions); being open-minded (which means having no moral or behavioural boundaries) and being Non-judgemental (which means allowing others to do what they want); it is a re-labelling of self-rule in a way that makes it sound virtuous. In reality it is “I will be able to do whatever I want if I say you have the right to do what you want” -it is not ‘other’ orientated at all, but fundamentally self-oriented –and isn’t that the problem with every one of the above?

Saturday 12 April 2014

A follow Up to “Choose life: Life Issues & Holy Communion”

A polite email to my inbox asks the following question, which relates to my previous post about life issues: “Why can’t Catholics be less controlling of people’s lives? Why can’t you move with the times and accept homosexuals, contraception, divorced people and those who simply enjoy the pleasure of sex before they are married? These are personal life-style choices of good people; not wicked things done by wicked people”. It is worthwhile answering this question as a post, albeit briefly, and having discussed the issues with Fr Dickson. While intellectual arguments are enough to bring about supernatural Faith, by reason alone one can come to know that God exists (Vatican I) and to an appreciation of the Faith as consistent with reason. Grace alone can bring us to supernatural Faith.

M., I don’t understand your point about the Church controlling people’s lives; all she does is sets out laws for those who wish to join (or remain) in her. The State, on the other hand, does control; it demands we follow its laws and punishes us if we don’t. I’m not sure why you say Catholics should accept homosexuals, divorcees etc, because such people among our families and friends do these and we do accept, value and love them as people. But that doesn’t stop us telling them we can’t accept what they do and see it as seriously damaging their chances of salvation. Simply stated, Catholics are about valuing human life because we are made in God’s image. As such, all that has to do with human life is sacred; we must care for the poor, the marginalised and the sick, but we must also promote and protect the natural transmission of life from womb to tomb, which means there are acts of which we cannot approve. Some acts are nothing less than displacing God’s rule with self-rule.

Contraception can be rejected even on medical and social grounds. Medical grounds are that it does not prevent certain STi’s and long term use of chemical contraception can lead to fertility problems. Social grounds are that it facilitates promiscuity and faithlessness (with all the pain a broken relationship brings) by providing for sex in which one does not get ‘caught’ by pregnancy, which opens the door to adultery. Demographically, having contracepted and aborted so many young people out of existence we now have a society where a proportionately large number of elderly persons is being sustained by a small number of young persons paying the taxes and national insurance necessary for a just welfare system. Religious grounds are that contraception refuses to cooperate with God in the creation of new life, actively attacking its transmission.

Homosexual activity is, like contraception, an unnatural act: it cannot participate in the procreation of the species which is the goal to which intercourse in all living species is geared. With homosexual men an organ of excretion is used as an organ of sex, while among lesbians sexual activity can be no more than mutual masturbation which, in both sexes and even in heterosexual relationships, diminishes the acquisition of self-control and self-mastery of the passions.

Abortion can be rejected on social grounds since all the rights we have, be they to education, employment, a just wage, health care, freedom of speech etc., depend upon us being alive to access such rights. We cannot demand any right be enforced unless we protect the life to which those rights apply. Medically, there is evidence that abortion holds many risks, from perforation of the uterus and infection to an increased risk of breast and ovarian cancers. From a religious standpoint, abortion is the wilful taking of human life, the embryo having human DNA from fertilisation. It may not be self-conscious life (which is how some might define personhood) but neither is the person who is in a coma or asleep, and it is not lawful to kill a sleeping person.

Euthanasia can be rejected on social grounds because it leaves us all open to the possibility of having our life terminated: hospitals seeking organs for donation may not work as hard to save us if human life is devalued in the mind, as it is via abortion and questionable ‘Care Pathways’ for the dying. It also exchanges care of the dying with killing of the dying, turning those trained to preserve, support and enhance life (doctors and nurses) into killers. The ‘logic’ of ending the suffering of the dying by killing the person means we can end the suffering of poverty by killing the poor. Even ‘voluntary euthanasia’ has problems: it can occur because people feel pressured not to be a burden.

IVF arises from the idea that everyone is entitled to a child, yet no one has a right to a child because we cannot have a right to a person. Further, the destruction of ten embryonic children to conceive/birth one is, along with selective reduction (abortion) a disregard for the value of every individual human life.

Divorce with subsequent relationships allows for the dissolution of families and produces a chaotic society wherein Mr Brown leaves Mrs Brown and the Brown children to live with Mrs Smith and the Smith (and Whitely) children, while Mr Smith moves in with Mrs Jones and the Jones (and Moore) children after Mr Jones has gone to live with Mr Gray. Meanwhile, the abandoned Mrs Brown is hoping for Mr X to come along. Not only are children deprived of their natural parent but no adult can enter a relationship feeling permanently valued and secure. Serial cohabitation has the same effects as serial marriage.

I’m guessing you won’t find my reasons acceptable, but they are consonant with reason and not ‘mindless religion’. I think our shepherds simply need to be more clear and consistent. After all, you wouldn’t want your physician to tell you smoking is harmful and you must stop, yet have a cigarette machine in his/her waiting room would you? Such a physician would be hypocritical and an occasion of harm to his/her patients. It is the same for our shepherds: our churches and schools cannot expound evil misuses of life-related acts and at the same time have leaflets in the Church or lessons in school which present them as a social good. That would make us –especially our shepherds- as hypocritical and harmful as the physician who tells patients not to smoke yet provides a cigarette machine in the waiting room.

I hope this helps M. I would ask you to think about the old adage that we are to love the sinner but hate the sin: we are to judge acts, not people, and must never support or promote anything which harms people -that would be the very opposite of loving them. 

Thursday 10 April 2014

The Church in Bleak Mid Winter

The Church has been consistently shrinking in terms of practise over the past 50 years. Rather than experiencing a new springtime she has entered a severe winter; a period Pope Paul VI called, in an address to the Lombard seminary on 7 December 1968, “a disturbed period of self-criticism, or what would even better be called self-destruction.” I believe one of the reasons for this is that we have presented Almighty God as a “fluffy Father” who hardly takes sin seriously at all: the lapsed are no longer lapsed but “resting”; the transmission of human life is no longer sacred since contraception etc, are but “personal choices”; sinners are only “wounded”, not self-harming; defined doctrine can be debated, and liturgy has focused on uplifting the community rather than on adoring and propitiating Almighty God. But I believe there is another reason why the Church has been shrinking which is not mentioned very much: where we were once the Church of the poor and the working classes we are now the Church of the professional classes.

This came about when we emphasised the need for professionals on our Pastoral Councils, our Finance Committees and our Liturgy Committees, and encouraged laity to gain theology degrees so they could take over parishes. We do need advice and support from professionals, but we focused too heavily on such participation in the belief that equality meant shared roles and ‘power sharing’. In doing so we diminished the authentic role of the laity which is "to have the Gospel spirit permeate and improve the temporal order" (AA 2) penetrating society like leaven (AA 3). Proliferation of Committees displaced the roles traditionally belonging to Joe Bloggs and Jane Smith, who gave splendid pastoral and evangelical witness by the practise of the corporal and spiritual works of mercy as members of the Legion of Mary (LOM) and Society of St. Vincent de Paul (SVP). At the same time members built their personal holiness through the disciplined prayer, structured meetings and regulated pastoral action of these great societies. It is not that we are no longer engage in solid pastoral action (soup runs and the like prove we do), but that these lack the formation, structure and stability of the Eucharist-centred, Marian-devoted, evangelical action of the LOM and the prayer, action and witness of the SVP. When these Societies lost ground to Committees we lost exceptional means of perusing personal holiness and of giving witness of the Lord’s love to the localities in which we live. Indeed, the structure, action and pastoral cooperation of laity with the priest in pursuit of holiness and in witness to the Lord’s love brought Pope John XXIII, in an address to the LOM in France on 13 July 1960, to declare that “The Legion of Mary presents the true face of the Catholic Church”. What greater praise -and from a holy Pontiff- can be given? Personally, I believe the LOM and SVP produced thousands of hidden saints.

Prior to today’s ‘renewal’ the Legion of Mary was frequently seen visiting the sick, the housebound and prisoners and doing door-to-door and street-contact work, while the SVP were frequently seen distributing food parcels, financial aid and furniture to the poor, all of which left a very positive impression on the non-catholic community around us and channelled the devotional life of the average Catholic into active charity. As a result, and by their membership of the LOM and SVP, Joe Bloggs and Jane Smith made the Church helpful, attractive and worthy of respect by those outside her. Today, with dwindling numbers of the LOM and SVP, this charity, witness and means of pursuing of holiness as the leaven in the world has all but gone. In-house committees and liturgical roles on the other hand, proliferate. All this paints a picture of the church as “professional” and hidden; inward-looking rather than pastoral and evangelical.

I lament the diminishment of the Legion and the SVP because in losing them we have lost a positive impact on the people with whom we live and work. I would love to see Bishops forcefully promoting these means of perusing holiness and of giving active pastoral witness while pruning back on committees and liturgical activities that, quite honestly, are useful but not absolutely necessary. Bring back the Legion and the SVP! Bring back these great means to achieving personal holiness, of exercising pastoral care and of giving evangelical witness. Bring the working class back into the pastoral action of the Church!

Monday 7 April 2014

Choose Life: Life Issues & Holy Communion

In debates about how far we can go in accommodating the world, I was struck by some words of Archbishop Chaput of Philadelphia (see here ). The Archbishop said,

“Thinking about the relationship of Caesar and God, religious faith and secular authority, is important. It helps us sort through our different duties as Christians and citizens. But on a deeper level, Caesar is a creature of this world, and Christ's message is uncompromising: We should give Caesar nothing of ourselves. Obviously we're in the world. That means we have obligations of charity and justice to the people with whom we share it. Patriotism is a virtue. Love of country is an honourable thing..But God made us for more than the world. Our real home isn't here. The point of today's Gospel passage is not how we might calculate a fair division of goods between Caesar and God. In reality, it all belongs to God and nothing - at least nothing permanent and important - belongs to Caesar. Why? Because just as the coin bears the stamp of Caesar's image, we bear the stamp of God's image in baptism. We belong to God, and only to God.

I think we are selling out the image of God within us by accommodating the world. For example, the Lord gives no place to same-sex ‘marriages’, so we say we have no place for them either –yet go on to say “but we accept civil ‘unions’”. That is sophistry. We say we don’t accept civil ‘marriage’ after divorce, but describe some such ‘marriages’ as good ‘marriages’. That is double-speak. We say we want our children protected from impurity; that we uphold the parent’s right to form them in sexuality according to the capacity of the child, but we then go on to support mandatory education in schools on homosexuality, contraception and abortion. That is a contradiction. What are we playing at compromising the Gospel in this way? Why engage in such sophistry, double-speak and contradictory antics? I think it all arises from one of five causes (you can probably add more). Is it

One, that we (and our shepherds) are not convinced of the Church’s wisdom; that we think the world might have got it right and should be followed by the Church.
Two, that we (and our shepherds) do not believe the Church’s teaching is unchanging Truth from the unchanging God (both of the above demonstrate a loss of faith in the Church).
Three, that we (and our shepherds) have become so lost in attending to social needs that we have forgotten spiritual realities.
Four, that we (and our shepherds) have become so eager to have the Church accepted by the world that we are willing to compromise the Gospel in order to achieve that acceptance.
or Five, that we (and our shepherds) have lost our faith, period.

None of us can claim to be a fount of all wisdom, but we can all offer some solution to the contemporary problem of accommodating the Gospel to the world –indeed we may be obliged to offer one if we have made a criticism or are guilty of moaning about troubles: we cannot criticise or bemoan a problem while making no attempt to be part of a solution. My solution would be for Catholic Shepherds to make a clear statement that

The Catholic Faith applies reason to Divine Revelation so that the end goal –salvation- can be attained. This applies to issues of human life and sexuality. While we cannot and will not judge people we can and must judge, and refuse to cooperate with, acts contrary to the teaching of Christ; acts which do not protect and promote human life in all its stages and its natural transmission. These include not only oppression of the poor, the sick and the marginalised, but sex outside of marriage, contraception, homosexual acts, abortion, euthanasia, IVF, serial “marriages” and school-based sex education of our children. All of these make shipwreck of a person’s Faith and objectively militate against salvation. To identify as a Catholic in union with the Church and receive Holy Communion, one must be in a state of grace and free from the above sins.

Having made such a statement, benefits will follow: our shepherds will be obliged to act on their words in order to avoid charges of hypocrisy; governments will know they face confrontation on moral issues; priests at the coal face will know they can rely on the support of the Bishops; the people will know where we stand in claiming to follow conscience rather than the Church.

I cannot help but wonder if our shepherds are too faithless, too cowardly, too darkened by Satan, or just too dazzled by the false lights of the world (Opening Collect, Sunday 15) to live-out what we have received from previous generations. Or do we need to add pride to the list of causes of our failure; pride that the generations from the 60’s onwards are the first to have understood the Gospel and its endorsement of contraception, abortion, homosexual acts and serial marriage? I can hear a chorus of voices saying, “No we have just become more compassionate and person-centred”. Well, I wonder how compassionate it is to give potassium-rich foods to the renal patient or cigarettes to the COPD patient, I wonder how compassionate it is to support people in living by their subjective opinions rather than The Truth (Christ). Genuine compassion would not give patients harmful foods, nor does a sound shepherd favour subjective opinion over the Gospel and our Tradition, which are God’s vehicles of objective Truth. 

Friday 4 April 2014

Considerations on the Greg Pope Letter

The letter addressed by Greg Pope (GP) to Catholic MPs saying the Bishops have no plans to withhold Holy Communion from those who voted for same–sex “marriage” (my speech marks) quickly followed Bishop Egan’s statement that to deny Holy Communion to Catholics who promote anti-life, anti-marriage measures is an act of mercy; a medicinal measure. GP’s letter is fine as far as it goes, as is the affirmation by Fr Stock that it was issued with the support of the Bishops. But I wonder if there isn’t more to be said. The Bishops may not be planning to deny Holy Communion, but it has to be a consideration at some point along the line if we are to shepherd souls in the Way of Christ and the Gospel of life, otherwise we will not be shepherds as much as hirelings. As it stands, Bishop Egan is canonically correct since Canon Law forbids Holy Communion to those in manifest grave sin. He is pastorally right too, since to receive Our Lord when objectively in a state of sin is to commit sacrilege, and allowing a soul to commit repeated sacrilege is to endanger that soul.

I constantly hope for strong words from the Bishops; words which exhort Catholic MP’s who vote for (and Catholics in the media who promote) anti-life, anti-marriage and corrupting education in homosexuality and contraception et al, to change their ways for the sake of their salvation. I hope to hear words exhorting such folk to follow Canon 916 which requires them to refrain from receiving Holy Communion until they change and go to Confession. But how long can such exhortations continue without invoking Canon 915 which places the onus on the shepherd not to admit such folk to Holy Communion? It is hard to say. But if Catholic MPs (and Catholics in the media and public life) continue to vote for or promote anti-life, anti-family measures, there must come a time when their access to Holy Communion is forbidden -not to punish them, and not to simply avoid scandal or even to promote the Gospel, but to safeguard the souls of those who receive and those who allow them to receive when they publicly act contrary to the Gospel. I honestly wonder if it will be enough for those of us with shepherding responsibilities to stand before the Lord and say, “We asked them not to receive” when it is the duty of shepherds to actively ensure the sacraments are protected from sacrilege (isn’t that why the Blessed Sacrament is in a fixed, locked tabernacle and the Holy Oils in a locked cupboard?)

The question arising for me is this: if the Bishops do not exclude from Holy Communion those who publicly exercise their power and influence in ways opposed to the Gospel, will they support parish priests who make that decision? They will not penalise us, because we will be acting in accord with the law of the Church, but will they wholeheartedly support us? I hope so.

I think it is time we as a Catholic community unambiguously declare that sex outside of marriage, contraception, homosexual acts, civil “remarriage” after divorce, IVF, embryonic stem cell research, abortion and euthanasia are all objectively evil acts (that is, they lack the good that ought to be present). We must of course be clear that it is the acts we are judging, not people, and equally clear that denying Holy Communion to those who engage in or promote such acts is a work of mercy which seeks to bring such folk to an awareness of the mortal danger to which they expose their soul, thereby encouraging them to return to the Way marked out for us by Christ and the constant teaching and practice of His Church. Once this has been reiterated clearly and with a united voice, our Bishops can refer back to it when they are questioned and when Catholics in public life act contrary to the Gospel and the eternal good of man. At present, too many Catholics seem to seek nothing more than acceptance of the Church by a secular world. Well, woe unto those of whom the world speaks well, says the Lord.

Post Script. Yes, sins against charity are also gravely wrong; there ought never to be marginalisation of people so that a community of poor, dispossessed people arises. As such we must denounce what we see as laws which dispossess, marginalise and oppress sections of the community as vigorously as we denounce sins associated with the marriage act, all the while actively caring for those who have been dispossessed, marginalised and oppressed. Unfortunately fiscal laws are of prudential judgement and difficult to ‘police’; indeed, it is not for the Church to support any political party or policy per se, she can only comment on policies. But acts which are directly contrary to the permanence, fidelity, exclusivity and life-giving properties of the sacrament of marriage are individual concrete acts which directly violate the sacred and therefore individual penalties can and ought to be applied for the good of souls, be they souls who administer the law or those souls subject to the law.

Thursday 3 April 2014

Convert! Become a Radical Catholic!

This is not a joke. I am inviting catholics to become radicals all over again. For a long time we had proscriptions against divorce, contraception, homosexual acts etc. We were told to use our head and all but forget about the heart, though the heart is the level where each of us lives (we do what brings us emotional joy and we avoid what causes us emotional pain). In worship we had a language that was ancient and nothing to do with modern life, and our priests celebrated with their back to our faces and as such, did not engage with the people. We said we had a strong Church because 80% of Catholics came to Mass and were obedient to the laws of life set out for us, but this was from a fear of hell. The spirit, however, had something in store for us in the 1960’s: a radicalisation of the Faith. The Church was to come alive in the modern age.

We thus began to reconsider the use of contraception and develop our understanding of sexuality and marriage, ultimately seeking ways of helping people -all people- to experience their dignity by finding ways of accommodating their private, consenting relationships. This new focus on the person was demonstrated by putting Mass into our own language; by having the priest face us and actually engage with us. We have now had this radicalisation of the Faith for fifty years and its fruits are beginning to show. Yes, we have a smaller Church, but those who come are there not from fear of hell but because they want to be there and keep the radicalism alive.

The fruits we gained cannot be denied, and they are exactly what the spirit wanted: catholics who question the Faith and the Gospel. Many have been made comfortable enough to walk away from Mass without seeing it as walking away from God and spirituality, having discovered a God of mercy who “loves us anyway”. No more of the 80% practice rate from fear; we now have a 20% practice rate where those who have dared to be radical have been able to stay and see through the changes called for by the spirit. It is precisely these catholics of the radical 1960’s and beyond that I call to become radical again.

I invite them to challenge the ideologies of today; to return to objective truth known to reason and leave behind the subjective, rationalist ideologies of the heart that bind men and women to the passions of their “inner self” rather than binding them to the Church, the Gospel and He Who is Truth. For the spirit of the 1960’s which took hold of our intellect and will was not the Holy Spirit but the spirit we call Satan; he who who has us follow the wayward passions of the heart -the Holy Spirit frees us from bondage to our passions and binds us by faith and reason to the Church, thereby guiding us to heaven along the narrow road that few find (Matt.7:13,14). The radical catholics of the 1960’s now need the radicalism of an orthodox Catholic Faith, for while the 80% who practised in yester-year may indeed have practiced from fear and blind obedience, they were on the road to heaven; and it is better to reach heaven through holy fear and obedience than fall into hell from the self-orientation of subjectivism and relativism.

So come on, ye oldies of yester-year, get radical: challenge the world to give up its anti-life mentality and challenge it to return to the natural law. Challenge also yourself and your pastors to give up the fruits of the old radicalism: increasing lapsation, closed convents, closed monasteries and seminaries; reduced numbers of marriages and baptisms; challenge yourself and your pastors to seek a way of worship that puts God, not man, back at the centre; a way of worship in which we all face God rather than one another; worship in which we use a sacred language to help us experience the transcendence of heaven, instead of using a language of the work-a-day world which ties our worship to a specific time and place and as such, fails to help us experience the above and beyond. Are you radical enough to faithfully follow the Gospel as handed down to us, or are you too tied down by your passions to the world and its subjectivism and relativism?

Wednesday 2 April 2014

The Future We Build Through Our Children

It seems all that is harmful is exalted while good is belittled. Macho, philandering movie characters have become heroes for males, while scantily-clad pop-stars flying the flag of extreme secular feminism are icons for females. Do these models not erode family life, being about competing rather than cooperating?

Raising a family today seems harder than ever. Many parents –including Catholic parents– struggle to form their children well and be vigilant over their development. Often, the 'pearls of wisdom' children get are not words of wisdom but instructions for destruction. From a young age children hear (at least I know I and my friends heard), "If someone hits you, hit them back twice as hard” or “get them when they're alone"; they have violent video games bought for them or are allowed to watch violence on TV; they are dressed up to look like mini adults ready for a night on the town (with all that goes with a night on the town: little girls wear make-up, short skirts; while little boys model their dad's best 'pulling' gear). These cannot build a peaceful, faithful society. We are teaching boys that being tough, hard, competitive, and “No.1” is what makes a man, whereas it is competition in cooperation, toughness of the mind and simple confidence rather than arrogance that makes the man. We are teaching girls that equality with men is to be as licentious and career minded as the ‘macho male’, thereby producing women who display their physical sexuality rather than their femininity and who seek career progression over spousal relationship and family life.

Teenagers are told, "Study hard so you can find employment which pays well and provides a big house, good holidays and a top-of-the-range car" –which teaches them that it is material gains that count (family life needs but enough to get by comfortably but not the best of everything). Meanwhile, young children and teenagers are surrounded by adults lamenting unmade millions or taxes paid and who boast about alcohol fuelled exploits in humorous, exciting terms.

We surround children and ourselves with so many false ideals which are incongruent with a peaceful, stable world and contented lifestyle and then ask why the streets aren't safe at night; why people feel unvalued in relationships and why spouses and children are abandoned.

It seems to me that if we are to change the world for the better, it must begin in individual families; it must begin with you and with me. Even if we are single we must take our share of responsibility for shaping society; we must become the kind of men and women we would like our children to become and to meet. How are we to achieve this? As St. Thomas Aquinas would put it, we must "Will it"; we must put our will into action and not just dream of it or wish for it or pray for it. As the song goes, “Wishing, and hoping, and thinking, and praying; planning and dreaming…” don’t do it; we have to put our will into action. We must pray as though everything depended upon God, and work as though it all depended upon us… 

Tuesday 1 April 2014

Getting to grips with Mercy

Pope Francis speaks often about this age being a time of mercy. But what Francis means and what others mean can be worlds apart. For some folk being merciful is rather analogous to the (fictional!) nurse who won’t require a post-operative patient to mobilise if it is painful; the (fictional) physician who won’t require the diabetic to take his insulin regularly because he ‘has a fear of needles’; the teacher who won’t require over-weight Johnny to do PT because it is too exhausting for him; the parent who doesn't require Johnny to do his homework because he wants to sit with mummy and watch TV. It will be obvious to anyone that none of these are merciful acts; they are indulgent acts which endanger the welfare of the patient, pupil and child. Yet this is the kind of mercy so many in today’s Church seem fixated on exercising: they won’t require the adulterer or active homosexual to give up their lifestyle if it’s too painful for them; they won’t require Confession from those who have missed Sunday Mass in case it gives the impression they are sinners. For such shepherds mercy means if the Faith is difficult to live out, find a way around so as to be “merciful as Christ is merciful”.

But that is not the kind of mercy we see demonstrated by Christ; Christ came to call sinners to change; He came to heal us, not to allow us to wallow in our destructive lifestyle choices. The nurse who does not require the post-op patient to mobilise leaves that patient in danger of DVT and death from Pulmonary Embolism; the physician who does not mandate a regular insulin regime leaves the patient in danger of physical death from the many complications of hyperglycaemia. Sadly, many of our shepherds are like our fictitious nurse, physician et al: they promote the kind of ‘mercy’ that facilitates sinful lifestyle choices –most probably because they don’t want to be judgemental. God preserve us from physicians who don’t want to judge what medicine is needed or confront us on lifestyle changes -and God preserve us from shepherds who don’t want to judge what lifestyle changes are needed. Such correction need not be done in harsh tones or cold language, but it certainly needs to be done. True mercy, be it from physicians or shepherds,  must confront the soul, prescribe the necessary medicine/penance, and warmly, lovingly and consistently support souls in taking the medicine, while requiring the community give the same support.

While most shepherds are strong in condemning social evils which afflict the poor and disadvantaged, they can be very weak in making the necessary rebuke of personal evils such as contraception, abortion, and homosexual activity –they may even seek ways to justify and accommodate such evils. Question: How have we gotten into a situation where shepherds act in this indulgent manner rather than confront souls and prescribe the remedy? Answer: By the misapplication of “Do not judge”; by shifting its focus from persons to acts. Some shepherds seem happy to speak in the abstract and say contraception or a homosexual experience are morally wrong, but they back off from correcting such evils when they are a permanent lifestyle choice; rather, they seek to accommodate them ‘for pastoral reasons’. In this way they appear to uphold church teaching but they are not prepared to do so when the rubber hits the road. Recovery of the rightful, authentic application of “do not judge” is essential if souls are to be saved –including the souls of shepherds, who are charged by Christ with continuing His call to “Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand”.