Sunday, 3 December 2017

First Sunday in Advent

Today is the first Sunday of Advent.

Whilst the experts on the Pray,Tell blog are quick to proclaim that Advent is not a time of penance, I demur.  

I understand the concern with my position: that Advent should not be seen as the same as Lent.  I agree: the two are different, but there are similarities. Both Advent and Lent are characterised by a more solemn tone in the liturgy: violet or purple vestments are worn, and the Gloria is omitted; and both have a respite Sunday (with rose vestments): Gaudete in Advent and Laetare in Lent. 

Advent, of course, is a time of joyous preparation for the coming of Our Lord (memories of his first coming, and looking forward to his second, of course). But both of these considerations naturally lead us to listen to the words of St John the Baptist: Repent!

We think it important to keep our Advent Celebrations quite distinct from our Christmas Celebrations - though they are related, they are two different seasons of the Church's cycle, with different themes and moods.

So as ever, we will celebrate Advent by saying our prayers around the Advent Wreath, singing O Come O Come Emmanuel and having a reading as we add another character to our Jesse Tree. We will also say the wonderful collect from the traditional Roman rite of the Mass:

Arise in thy strength we beseech thee O Lord and come; from the dangers which threaten us because of our sins, be thy presence our sure defence, be thy deliverance our safety for ever more. 

For those who love Latin, or those who fondly remember my introduction to Liturgical Latin, here is the collect in Latin. too:

Excita, quǽsumus, Dómine, poténtiam tuam, et veni: ut ab imminéntibus peccatórum nostrórum perículis, te mereámur protegénte éripi, te liberánte salvári.

(This, of course, changes with the four Sundays of Advent).

The Marian Antiphon changes today from the Salve Regina to the Alma Redemptoris Mater, which we will sing until the Feast of the Purification (February 2nd).

Alma Redemptoris Mater

Alma redemptoris mater, 
quae pervia caeli porta manes,
et stella maris succurre cadenti
surgere qui curat populo.  
Tu quae genuisti, 
natura mirante, 
tuum sanctum Genitorem.  
Virgo prius, ac posterius, 
Gabrielis ab ore, 
summens illud ave, 
peccatorum miserere.

Mother of the Redeemer, who art ever of heaven
The open gate, and the star of the sea, aid a fallen people, 
Which is trying to rise again; thou who didst give birth, 
While Nature marveled how, to thy Holy Creator, 
Virgin both before and after, from Gabriel's mouth 
Accepting the All hail, be merciful towards sinners.

(Translated by Blessed John Henry Newman)

So today, we have been out in the frost, collecting holly for the wreath, up in the attic looking for the advent calendars, Jesse Tree book etc, and I will be singing the Alma Redemptoris throughout the day. Later, we will be singing the Mass of the First Sunday of Advent: Ad te levavi animam meam.

Anna's Jesse Tree blog, means that Ant and her family, in the North East, and Bernie, down south in Manchester, and Charlie and Dominique, at their respective universities, can be with us spiritually at the end of each day as we recall Salvation History.  

Pray for us all.

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

All Saints' Day

Today is one of the great Feasts of the Church's year: the feast of All Saints.

We honour all those who have achieved their heavenly goal, known and particularly unknown; and we ask for their intercession as we, the Church militant, struggle on.

Here is Victoria's wonderful setting of O Quam Gloriosum Est:

O quam gloriosum est regnum,
in quo cum Christo gaudent omnes Sancti!
Amicti stolis albis,
sequuntur Agnum, quocumque ierit.

Oh, how glorious is the kingdom
in which all the saints rejoice with Christ!
Clad in robes of white,
they follow the Lamb wherever he may go.

Sunday, 15 October 2017

More good news from Lancaster

Our venerable bishop, +Campbell, has published a blog post in support of the pro-Life movement.  In it he writes, inter alia:
As we approach the 50th anniversary of the (1967) Abortion Act in Britain, we recall we’re citizens of heaven first and we have pro-life obligations to the poor, the homeless, the disabled, the elderly and the refugee.  But abortion is foundational. There’s no way around it. It’s the cornerstone issue for any society because it deals with the most basic human right of all – the right to life.
He also takes a passing swipe at the Tablet, which has further degraded itself (who knew that was possible?) by publishing an attack on Catholic teaching on abortion.  +Campbell writes:
Some Catholics – including some periodicals and newspapers who claim to use that name – seem simply embarrassed by the abortion issue.
The Tablet's editorial is behind a paywall - and even if it were not I would hesitate to link to it - why encourage them?  However, I have read it, and it is described in brief here, which also contains an excellent response from another of our good bishops, +Davies.

+Davies also attacked the Tablet:

'Sadly there are journals which use the name "Catholic" but are not reliable guides to the faith and teaching of the Catholic Church.'
Damian Thompson, Editor-in-Chief of the Catholic Herald, asks (on Twitter) what the Tablet would have to do to get banned from Westminster Cathedral. However, I also note that so far it is Christian Today, and not the Catholic Herald, that carries +Davies' criticisms.

Nonetheless, the question is a good one: when will Westminster Cathedral set the lead and stop selling the Tablet?  And if it continues to sell it, why does it do so?

I haven't been to check, but I would be astonished to find that it is still being sold in either Lancaster or Shrewsbury Cathedrals, after the comments from the respective bishops - and I hope that all the churches in their dioceses (and, indeed, in others) follow suit. When good bishops lead, it behoves us all to follow.

Thursday, 12 October 2017

Beyond the rhetoric

Those who style themselves pro-choice are fond of rhetoric. 

Some is simply silly (Keep your rosaries off my ovaries being a prime example).

But some sounds as though it might mean something. Who could argue with A woman's right to choose? But of course, that sentence is never finished. For most could argue with a woman's right to choose to kill a child.  And that is the choice in question.  Indeed, when people are audacious enough to offer other choices to women, as the Good Counsel Network does, they must be prevented, and the full weight of Officialdom will be brought to bear on them.

Listen to these women, who thought their only choice was to abort their babies, but who were offered an alternative:

 And of course, women who choose, as Clare McCulloch and her brave associates do, to offer such a choice to women in distress... why their choice is not valid at all.

And the reality of choice exposed by videos like this is that many women 'choosing' abortion are forced into it, whether by the circumstances of their life, or by the men in their life...  Some choice...

The other slogan that is particularly popular at present is Trust Women.  But of course, they are only to be trusted if they are doing what the abortionists and their fellow-travellers want them to do .  They are not to be trusted to offer support to other women in distress, to help them to find other solutions than the killing of their children. 

When confronted with reality, the rhetoric rings rather hollow...

Sunday, 8 October 2017

The Silence of the Media

I quite enjoyed Damian Thompson's article in the Herald about the Catholic Cyberwars, though my regulars will realise I may have a slightly different take on this.

However, I think he misses a significant point: the reason the Catholic blogs have some traction in this country at least, is because neither the Bishops' Conference nor the Catholic Press are doing their job properly. And Thompson, as a director of the Herald*, really should reflect on that.

One of the striking aspects of the CES Scandal has been the near-silence of the media, both Catholic and secular. To be fair, the Catholic Herald has run a couple of pieces, but both very understated. For example, here Nick Hallett mentions the contradictory statements regarding funding, but does not press the point, still less do any investigative (errr...) journalism. Likewise, he writes: "sections of document appeared to have been lifted from materials produced by gay rights groups Stonewall and lgbtyouth Scotland." Had he taken the trouble to fact-check, he would not have written 'appears' - unless he is covering for the CES. There is no appears about it: the proof is evident for all to see.

But neither he nor any other Catholic journalist has pursued the questions in the way one would expect a journalist to. One would have thought this story was a gift to a journalist, with issues around funding, collusion with Stonewall etc, and the obfuscation and complete lack of openness and transparency of both the CES and CBCEW. So why are they asleep at their desks? 

In that enormous silence, 
Tiny and unafraid
Comes up along a winding road
The noise of the crusade...

(of Ben Trovato, Mark Lambert, et al).

(*amended later on 8.10.17 to report DT's role at the Herald accurately - had wrongly said 'editor'. Mea culpa and thanks to Bro Eccles for pointing out my carelessness)

Saturday, 7 October 2017

Talking of unanswered questions....

... we have never had a satisfactory answer about the funding of Made In God's Image. The CES has issued contradictory statements, but failed to explain the contradiction.

Not surprisingly, rumours persist that the CES accepted money from Stonewall.

That, of course, is one of the inevitable results of the policy of silence: people will fill in the gaps, and not always in the way one would wish.

That is one of the practical reasons the Nolan principles are so important. There are ethical considerations, too, of course, but perhaps we shouldn't set our sights so high...

And in practice, it means that when (as is inevitable) dribs and drabs of information seep out, and pesky people like me start to comment on them, energy and attention are focussed on seeking whom to blame and excoriating people for the leaks, rather than focussing on the real questions, such as: have we actually got this wrong? What should we do to put it right?

If those questions had been addressed earlier, we might not now be in a situation where backtracking risks a real loss of face, and, (far worse) where some schools reading the cues that Stonewall et al are the authorities on these issues, have developed and imposed immensely harmful policies of trans affirmation.

And still the rumours about funding persist: did Stonewall fund the distribution of Made in God's Image? If not, who did? And if nobody did, why did the CES proudly announce that they had "received funding to cover the printing and distribution of a hard copy for each school"?

Thursday, 5 October 2017

Too little, too late

If it is true that Made in God's Image is to be revised, to bring it more closely into line with Catholic teaching, that is good news. And if that is the result of bishops realising the deficiencies of the document, and demanding that such changes be made, that is more good news. On top of the restoration of (some of) our holy days, it suggests that the bishops are moving in the right direction.  However, due to the culture of silence that pervades the CBCEW, we don't actually know...

But in the meantime, great harm is being done. Several Catholic schools, such as Sacred Heart, Hammersmith (the school my sisters attended many years ago) are now adopting trans-positive policies. Is there a connection between this and the CES's apparent endorsement of the Stonewall agenda? It seems probable. Note the head mistress' language on the topic: 'Every child at our school is made in the image of God...' Whilst a self-evident truth, the use of that phrase in this context suggests the baleful influence of the scandalous CES document.

This is very bad, for both theoretical and practical reasons. At the theoretical level, Stonewall's philosophy is antithetical to Catholic truth. You cannot serve both God and Tatchell...

But at the practical level, not only is there the issue of corrupting the consciences of young people, but further, of laying the Church open to serious claims of harm in the future. For the affirmation of young people in transgender identities is something that the professionals are very wary of, and they are also wary of Stonewall's passionate advocacy of this approach.  I have quoted this previously, but I unapologetically quote it again, and in more detail, as it is so important. It comes from a meeting hosted by the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health:

Peter Tatchell’s human rights rallying call after lunch felt incongruent after we had seen the sobering reality of what is actually done to the bodies of young people who ‘persist’ in gender dysphoric feelings. It was out of place in an event specifically about children and which was otherwise encouraging of alternative viewpoints. Who would dare raise any objections to the ‘affirmation’ approach after his tirade against ‘transphobia’ 
The presentation by Mrs Terry Reed, Trustee of the Gender Identity Research and Education Society (GIRES) in the morning similarly jarred in its certainty that transgenderism has a biological cause, during an event where professionals consistently emphasised the uncertainty in both the explanation for, and the treatment of, gender dysphoric youth. 
It begged the question of the place of advocacy groups at a medical and clinical conference such as this. Three of the breakout workshops after lunch were led by such groups, GIRES, Mermaids and the Intercom Trust, all groups certain of the need to ‘affirm’ trans-identified children.
For, as the report also notes: 
 There were also questions about the huge jump in referrals of teenage girls to the Tavistock, the group most likely to both suffer associated mental health problems and to progress to adult services. Absent an agreed etiology for ‘gender dysphoria,’ the question implicitly raised about these young people is: are they really ‘trans’ or are they simply non-conforming young people who have been presented with a new way to conceptualise their problems and a new tribe to join which provides them with acceptance and approval? 
The issue was inadvertently touched on by Professor Stephen Whittle of the Manchester Law School, showing slides of young people with slashed arms and commenting that this “didn’t happen in my day because it wasn’t presented as a possibility” and that “now kids learn quickly from social media.” It is only political sensitivities which prevent us from considering the same explanation for the sudden unprecedented number of teenage girls who bind their breasts and identify as boys. 
Professor Katherine Johnson, Reader in Psychology at Brighton University, showed slides of interviews with young people which were revealing of what a ‘trans’ identity means for teenagers: “Cis people think you should conform” said one interviewee. The binary of ‘cisgender’ and ‘transgender’ has come to represent ‘conformity’ v ‘non-conformity’ in the minds of young people: is a trans identity now the only way for teens to distinguish themselves as not conforming? In which case, what self-respecting teenager would want to identify as ‘cis’?
And perhaps more troubling still:
One of the leading researchers in this area, Thomas Steensma from VU University, Amsterdam, confirmed in his afternoon presentation that there is ‘no true data’ to support an ‘affirmation’ approach above one of ‘watchful waiting’ and that only a minority of gender dysphoric children persist in those feelings. He stressed the ‘need to be balanced and honest,’ admitted that ‘we don’t know a lot,’ advised that ‘we should keep all possibilities open’ and suggested a less prescriptive approach.
(Source: the whole piece is well worth reading.)
So the experts don't support the 'affirm' approach which Stonewall advocate, and which now some Catholic Schools are imposing on parents and children. 

This is important, as there is evidence that between 80 - 95% of children with Gender Identity Dysphoria find that these feelings decrease or disappear in time - unless they are put on puberty blockers, in which case (in the one study I know of) 100% went on to physical surgery. As children as young as 12 are being treated with puberty blockers, you can see that the risks of affirmation are serious and irreversible.

What do we know about trans-regret?Unfortunately, the research cannot be done, as it is politically incorrect. That in itself shows the way in which this agenda is being pushed for political reasons, not on the basis of any evidence. It is shameful that Catholic Schools - and indeed the CES - should have been swept along by Stonewall propaganda, rather than consulting the medical and psychological experts in the field; and even more damningly, without consulting the truths about human nature and human well-being of which the Catholic Faith is the guardian.

It will not be long - inside ten years, I dare wager - before troubled young adults are bringing actions against their schools and the Church for putting them on a path to transitioning that has permanently damaged them, physically and mentally. Apart from the huge injustice to the children (and also their peers, corrupted by this false ideology), this will be yet another blow to the credibility of the Church in this country.

Our bishops need to be aware of this likelihood, and take much more decisive action. Quietly amending Made in God's Image will be too little, too late. Please write to them, in charity as ever, and ask them to address this issue as a matter of priority.

And pray for them, as ever.