Sunday, 30 September 2012

Where on earth?

A real challenge this week! And, yes, photographs taken yesterday while Zero and I were on a day out.

This is not quite the clever photograph for the week .... but if you look carefully you can see through the Church (that is indeed what it is) to the trees behind it.
This is the clever photograph for the week. I will be discrete about what Zero chose to read (or, if I am honest, I can't remember, no short term memory ...), but do look at the reflections in the window.

Yours truly meditating on the mystery of life. St Catherine of Siena has an important reflection on the Christ as the bridge reaching between heaven and earth, across the waters of the deep, with a hostelry of Holy Church on the way across. What I was actually doing, though, was listening to the sound of the water running over the weir beneath the bridge ....

And the last for readers of a certain age, and as a hint as to where on earth we were....

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Ecumenical dialogue abandoned?

This is a bit of an "in passing" comment rather than a detailed analysis, (well perahaps a bit more detailed than originally intended) ....

This morning, I caught alongside my cereal a package on BBC Radio 4's Today programme in relation to the meeting of the Crown Nominations Committee that has just begun to decide on the successor to Archbishop Rowan Williams as Archbishop of Canterbury. A BBC report of the meeting, and of the possible candidates for the said See, can be found here: New Archbishop of Canterbury to be chosen.

It is intriguing to me that the video clip on the BBC website ends with a reference to the idea that a Bishop is a sign of unity and that, as far as the position of the Archbishop of Canterbury is concerned, that involves reaching out to Christians of other Churches. I think that one of the key features of the way in which Archbishop Williams approached his role was precisely one in which he saw himself as a minister to the unity of the Church of England itself. He therefore tried to promote compromises, compromises with a certain solidity, to maintain that unity. With hindsight, the extent of his success would appear to have been limited, something evidenced by the failure to achieve unity within the Church of England over matters of sexuality and Church order, and the coming of the Roman Catholic Ordinariates. I have felt for some time that, despite this failure in what one might call human terms, the fact that Archbishop Williams viewed his office in this way and thereby indicated that the Church of England had need of an office in favour of a universal unity, was something rich in ecclesial and ecumenical signficance.

One of the speakers in the discussion on the Today programme this morning was Christina Rees, a prominent member of the Synod of the Church of England who is, if I understand rightly, on the "liberal wing" of the Church of England. The discussion made reference to Archbishop Williams attempts to maintain the unity of the Church of England, but it was Christina Rees' particular contribution that she felt that it was now time to be making decisions in regards to matters like same sex relationships and women bishops, even if that did cause division, since it is not going to be possible to get everyone to agree about them.

On the Today programme this might present as being just a discussion of a politcal nature, albeit the politics being Church politics rather than the politics of secular government. But it does have a tremendous ecclesial import. In effect, Christina Rees was arguing that the next Archbishop of Canterbury should be someone who does not hold to the idea that unity, oneness, is a characteristic essential to the nature of the Christian Church. Whatever one might feel about the merits or effectiveness of Archbishop Williams particular attempts to maintain such a unity, he clearly did offer a clear witness to the idea that unity does matter for the Church of England and therefore for Christian Churches in general, and the ecclesial significance of that witness should perhaps be valued more by Roman Catholics than it has been. [Subject, of course, to the intrinsic difficulty presented by the idea of what "unity" means in an Anglican context.] The loss of such a witness in the Church of England would be very sad indeed.

As far as ecumenical dialogue is concerned, the Roman Catholic Church has always faced the problem that, in talking to the Church of England, she is talking to a range of different sections, and that it is not possible for any one section to speak for the whole. This is why I believe Roman Catholic-Anglican covenants at parish or diocesan level make such little sense, representing at face value a relation to an Anglican whole that does not really exist. The position advocated by Christina Rees on Radio 4 this morning is one that, though it was articulated internally to the Church of England, in effect abandons completely any last semblance of seriousness about ecumencial dialogue with other Christian denominations (because of its abandonment of any idea that unity is of the nature of Christianity), and it needs to be recognised as such.

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Where today?

Or today's effort at a clever photograph.

Now I thought I was reasonably clever, given the uneven nature of the paving, to get the reflection of the dome from the wet ground.

But look carefully at the reflection in the glass of the building just above the middle right hand side of the photograph. Have I caught, too, the bell towers at the west door of the Cathedral, seen above the intervening buildings on the left hand side of this view?

Comparative politics

In the UK we call for a resignation when a government minister swears at a member of the Constabulary: Andrew Mitchell under mounting pressure in 'police insult' row.

In Pakistan, a $100 000 dollar bounty is offered by a government minister for the murder of the maker of a film in another country: Anti-Islam film: Pakistan minister's bounty condemned . Today's news reporting indicates that politicians of all parties in Pakistan, including the relevant ministers own party, are distancing themselves from his offer. But does not a society that, as a question of its culture, makes a call for a bounty like this even appear a reasonable, rational option need to deeply examine its conscience in order to make sure that it does not happen again?

[In the interests of balance: the extra-judicial nature of American drone attacks against  terrorists/fighters in Pakistani territory leaves the developed nations in a morally weak position in terms of speaking out against an equally extra-judicial $100 000 bounty.]

Friday, 21 September 2012

Strawberry Hill: is it all about university status?

Just a suspicion, and I do not have any inside knowledge, but it is when I get to the last sentence of  the penultimate paragraph of the statement by the Chair of Governors of St Mary's - original on the College's website here, and reproduced by Fr Tim here - that my antennae start responding (added italics are mine):
The Governors have total confidence in the Senior Management Team who have worked diligently and in accordance with our constitution, due process and our Catholic ethos in what has been a difficult time as we continue to strive to gain our university title.
Whether "the establishment of a Centre for the Study of Catholic Theology and ...... the merger of the Schools of Communication, Culture and Creative Arts and Theology, Philosophy and History into a new School of Arts and Humanities" represents a secularisation (by which I mean a reduction in the Catholic or explicitly theological character) of the study of theology at undergraduate level is difficult to gauge. The parallels to similar arrangements at other institutions suggest that the Centre for the Study of Catholic Theology might well be a post-graduate arrangement, with a spirit of studying Catholic theology as a phenomenon rather than undertaking a systematically Catholic study of theology as such. I think one can be forgiven for being a bit suspicious that the two developments put together will not in any event strengthen the Catholic nature of theological study at St Mary's  ....

...... but it might all be rather attractive to secular authorities about to make a decision about university status.

Thursday, 20 September 2012


(The car isn't mine, unfortunately.)

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

St Mary's and Dr Anthony Towey

UPDATE: as at 21st September, Fr Tim has summarised the most recent news: Strawberry Hill - shaken or stirred?

Back in the day - ie the last century - Anthony Towey and I were in the same year group as students. That shows how old we both are (though something I heard in passing on BBC Radio 2 yesterday suggests that our age is now, considering increasing longevity, thought to really be about the beginning of middle age, and, to be fair to him, I think I might be a year or two ahead of Anthony in this regard). I last had the opportunity to meet him again, and chat briefly, two or three years ago when he was chairing a lecture in Westminster Cathedral Hall. My other connection to St Mary's is that, nearly as far back in the day, it is where I gained my teaching qualification.

There are Strange goings on at Strawberry HillStudents Misbehaving and the original report at Independent Catholic News.

The media statement from St Mary's reported in Fr Tim's post is unfortunate in that it does not refer to investigation of an allegation of "a grave breach of his professional duties at the University College" - suspension is strictly speaking, though it often does not feel like it, a neutral act while an investigation takes place, and should not be taken as a presumption of guilt. Suspension usually occurs when the allegation, if proven, would constitute gross misconduct, or when the continued presence of the employee at work might prejudice the investigation of the allegation. By definition it means that the employee is barred from attending their place of work, though it does not necessarily imply being escorted off premises by the security team, as is reported to have happened rather dramatically in this case. During his suspension, Anthony will continue to receive full pay. And St Mary's will be expected to maintain a fully confidential process of investigation - which becomes more difficult if others speak in public about the relevant events.

So, in very difficult circumstances, I wish Anthony good luck and assure him of my prayers for an outcome to events that is in his favour.

Monday, 17 September 2012

Bigot-gate: Mr Clegg's apology

There is something sweet about Mr Clegg's apology to the Archbishops of Canterbury and Westminster for implying, at least in draft form, that their opposition to same-sex marriage, and that of others, made them "bigots". The original gaffe is reported on the BBC news site here: Nick Clegg in 'bigot row' over gay marriage speech and at Sky News Clegg Speech: Gay Marriage Opponents 'Bigots'. Mr Clegg has denied that he ever intended using the word "bigot" and I believe we have to take that denial at face value as a genuine and truthful denial.

However, that the "b" word was used in the draft of the speech is itself significant enough to warrant the very public apology that has since been made. And its significance is that, making the assumption that many of those attending the event at which the speech was to be made are supporters of an organisation called Stonewall, at least a proportion of Mr Clegg's hearers would have themselves quite happily used the "b" word in his place to describe religious leaders opposing their support of same-sex marriage.

At an annual awards ceremony, Stonewall include an award for "Bigot of the Year". It is now very difficult to find any trace of this on Stonewall's own website. The search function on the site showed up a report of the 2009 Award, but nothing more recent than that. That the award is still in existence is suggested by this spat at Pink News over the nominations for the award in 2012: Stonewall dismisses rumour Ken Livingstone was nominated for homophobe award. The last paragraph of this report states that:
Stonewall’s Bigot of the Year Award goes to the public figure who has most “gone out of their way to harm, hurt or snub lesbian, gay and bisexual people in the last year”.
In practice, you can get yourself nominated by simply opposing a Stonewall supported policy. Once nominated, Stonewall members then vote on whether or not you, or another of the nominees, should be the one to get the award.

And this is where the sweetness of Mr Clegg's apology arises. When he was Archbishop of Birmingham, Rt Rev Vincent Nichols achieved a nomination as "Bigot of the Year", a nomination prompted by his very public opposition at that time to legislation with regard to adoption by same-sex couples. [Archbishop Nichols strongly opposed the Sexual Orientation regulations that forced Catholic adoption agencies to accept same-sex couples as potential parents.] Oh how sweet that the Deputy Prime Minister should now publicly apologise after implying, in an almost exactly analogous situation over same-sex marriage, that Rt Rev Vincent Nichols, now Archbishop of Westminster, might be a "b".

The terms of Mr Clegg's apology were reported in the Daily Mail I apologise for my gay marriage 'bigot' slur, says Clegg as he tries to limit fallout caused by remark (my italics added):
'Those extracts were neither written or approved by me. They do not represent my views, which is why they were subsequently withdrawn.

'While I am a committed advocate of equal marriage, I would never refer to people who oppose it in this way. Indeed, I know people myself who do not support equal marriage and, although I disagree with them, clearly I do not think they are bigots. Nor do I think it is acceptable they, or anyone else, are insulted in this way.
I wonder if Stonewall supporters have clocked the significance of this apology, and of Mr Clegg's unwillingness to be associated with the use of the "b" word? Will Stonewall now offer the same apology to everyone they have called a "b" over the years of their awards ceremony, and discontinue an award that is highly offensive? And will Mr Clegg himself acknowledge the clear water that he has put between himself and some of the advocates of the LGBT agenda?

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Who said ...?

The use of the old Missal presupposes a certain degree of liturgical formation and some knowledge of the Latin language; neither of these is found very often. Already from these concrete presuppositions, it is clearly seen that the new Missal will certainly remain the ordinary Form of the Roman Rite, not only on account of the juridical norms, but also because of the actual situation of the communities of the faithful....

.... the two Forms of the usage of the Roman Rite can be mutually enriching: new Saints and some of the new Prefaces can and should be inserted in the old Missal. The “Ecclesia Dei” Commission, in contact with various bodies devoted to the usus antiquior, will study the practical possibilities in this regard. The celebration of the Mass according to the Missal of Paul VI will be able to demonstrate, more powerfully than has been the case hitherto, the sacrality which attracts many people to the former usage. The most sure guarantee that the Missal of Paul VI can unite parish communities and be loved by them consists in its being celebrated with great reverence in harmony with the liturgical directives. This will bring out the spiritual richness and the theological depth of this Missal.

Answer here.

My experience, and, I would expect, that of most practising Catholics, is that only a small minority are interested in the celebration of the Extraordinary Form, and that the impression otherwise created by the electronic media does not reflect a real situation in pews. Since Summorum Pontificum there has undoubtedly been an increase in such interest; but not such as to make it anything other than still a small phenomenon for the Church as a whole.

If there is not an effort for mutual enrichment - a common calendar seems a clear suggestion to me, implied by the suggestion of including new saints in the old Missal, and an explicit interest by those attached to the Extraordinary Form in promoting the sacrality of celebration of the Ordinary Form - then the majority of Catholics are being excluded from the benefits and intentions of Summorum Pontificum. In this respect, I wonder whether the attention of the  Pontifical Council Ecclesia Dei to just the communities attached to the Extraordinary Form will turn out to have an element of dis-service to the wider Church, analogous to the dis-service that the traditionally inclined see in the work of the post-Conciliar Consilium.

"Brick by brick" - but the building is not going to be finished if you refuse to use the vast majority of the available bricks, use bricks of only one size and shape, and you concentrate on only one corner of the plan...

My previous posts on the theme of Summorum Pontificum can be found from this link. And. oh, how I wish I could lead a Catholic existence without feeling forced to adopt a stance "for" or "against" the Extraordinary Form!

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Pope Benedict in Lebanon: "From across the Middle East the young people came"

Unfortunately, Pope Benedict's visit to Lebanon, full of significance for the countries of the Middle East, has been overshadowed as far as media coverage goes by some photographs taken in France and by the reaction to a crass Youtube video produced in California. The full coverage from the Vatican news website is at Pope Benedict XVI's journey to Lebanon.

Earlier this evening, Pope Benedict met with the young people from all over the Middle East. Vatican Radio have a report of this meeting: Pope: from across the Middle East the young people came.
...many were waiting to see what the security situation would be like before deciding to come. Some didn’t care about that at all, crossing over the border from war-torn Syria – one young girl saying she hadn’t fled the country but come here on purpose to bring the Holy Father’s prayers for peace back to her suffering home. And they came too from the Holy land, Syria, Iraq, Kurdistan, Jordan, Europe, the Americas and Australia – from across every continent to celebrate the peace that Pope Benedict wants to share in a suffering world. And they weren’t just Christians either – at least one thousand Muslims came, many singing in mixed-faith choirs.
This second report describes what Pope Benedict had to say to the young people: Pope to Muslims and Christians: "Come together and end violence"....  The full text of Pope Benedict's speech can be found at the Vatican website: Meeting with young people: Address of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI (and at the Vatican news site here). The greetings to young Muslims and to young people from Syria are particularly moving:
I should like now to greet the young Muslims who are with us this evening. I thank you for your presence, which is so important. Together with the young Christians, you are the future of this fine country and of the Middle East in general. Seek to build it up together! And when you are older, continue to live in unity and harmony with Christians. For the beauty of Lebanon is found in this fine symbiosis. It is vital that the Middle East in general, looking at you, should understand that Muslims and Christians, Islam and Christianity, can live side by side without hatred, with respect for the beliefs of each person, so as to build together a free and humane society.

I understand, too, that present among us there are some young people from Syria. I want to say how much I admire your courage. Tell your families and friends back home that the Pope has not forgotten you. Tell those around you that the Pope is saddened by your sufferings and your griefs. He does not forget Syria in his prayers and concerns, he does not forget those in the Middle East who are suffering. It is time for Muslims and Christians to come together so as to put an end to violence and war.
The same link at the Vatican site includes a video of the meeting. If you do watch the video, it is worth remembering that the setting, though it appears peaceful enough, is close to regions of great tension and present warfare.

Thursday, 13 September 2012

New Movements and New Media: Discuss

[This post is a response to Fr Tim's New movements John Paul II, new media Benedict XVI: discuss.]

Pope John Paul II's encouragement of the new movements in the Catholic Church has its highlight the meeting between those movements and the Pope on the eve of Pentecost in 1998. And the highlight of the highlight was John Paul II's assertion of the "co-essentiality" of the institutional and charismatic elements in the constitution of the Church, as foreshadowed in the teaching of Lumen Gentium n.12:
The institutional and charismatic aspects are co-essential as it were to the Church's constitution. They contribute, although differently, to the life, renewal and sanctification of God's People. It is from this providential rediscovery of the Church's charismatic dimension that, before and after the Council, a remarkable pattern of growth has been established for ecclesial movements and new communities.
A charism is a specifically given gift of the Holy Spirit arousing in the person or persons receiving it a call to fulfil a particular ecclesial mission. Each of the major ecclesial movements has its own unique charism, but it is interesting to identify common themes.
1. As Fr Tim pointed out, a Catholic with an intelligent and well formed commitment to the practice of their faith will, almost without exception, have received a formation from one or other of the new movements. Parish life has not been providing that formation in recent times (personally I am not sure how far it was providing such formation in more distant times either). At first sight this suggests a point of tension between ordinary parish/diocesan life and the life of the movements. However, it is worth recognising that the engagement of a person with the life of a movement should be seen as a specific way of experiencing baptismal consecration in commitment to Christian life. Seen in that way, there should be a continuity between parish life and the life of a movement. [The Marian consecration typical of the Legion of Mary at its Acies ceremony and of the last day of the "Fundamental Retreat" of the Foyers of Charity is explicitly articulated as a specification of baptismal consecration; "baptism in the Spirit", typical of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal, is also understood in this way.]
2. The 1983 Code of Canon Law, in c.321 ff, allows a status as "private association of Christ's faithful". In summary, this status allows a movement, subject to the approval of its constitutions by appropriate ecclesial authority (the Bishop or the Holy See, the latter in the case of universal associations), to govern itself rather than being under the governance of an ecclesiastical assistant. This is a canonical expression of the idea of "co-essentiality"; I do not know whether or not there was an equivalent status under the provisions of the 1917 Code, though I suspect not.  [However, this self-governance does not exempt an association from visitation by those in ecclesiastical authority, which should provide safeguard against abuse of power in those associations.]
3. If we look at the specific charisms of some of the movements, a number of common themes appear that are worthy of further examination. These common themes run through the more unique aspects of the charisms proper to each movement.  They are: (1) a strong Marian character which is not a "devotion added on" but a natural part of the ecclesial life - the Legion of Mary, Focolare (official title "The Work of Mary") are not the only examples; (2) a natural ecclesial sense, expressed in a faithfulness to the Holy See and the official teaching of the Church that lacks any dogmatic or ultramontane spirit; (3) an interaction of a male and female figure in the founding charism - Pere Finet and Marthe Robin in the case of the Foyers of Charity, or indeed, the relation of the inspiration of Agnes Holloway to the mission of Fr Edward Holloway described in the introduction to the booklet "God's Master Key"; (4) an affirmation of the value of the vows of the evangelical counsels as appropriate not just for priests and religious but also for the lay faithful, often emerging as a group sought to live the charism of the movement in a more radical way - the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, the life of members of the Foyers of Charity are examples.

4. As suggested at 1 above, there is a question about how the life of the ecclesial movements, perhaps particularly those that are universal rather than diocesan in nature, relate to the life of parishes and dioceses. And indeed about how the life experienced in one ecclesial movements relates to the life of other such movements. This has been part of the process of "ecclesial maturing" to which Fr Tim referred, a process that has involved the explicit articulation of a founding event, often in the preparation of constitutions, and the discernment undertaken by ecclesiastical authority in approving such constitutions. It is at this point that the question of examining and ensuring the authenticity of a founder/founding charism, and questions of behaviours of founding figures, should come to the fore. The task of promoting unity among the movements was a particular task undertaken by Focolare (with its charism of unity) after the meeting at Pentecost 1998. Increasingly the word "communion" has been used to express the ecclesiology of the Second Vatican Council, and the theology of communion perhaps offers a way of understanding the "co-essentiality" of charisms and institutions in the Church and of how they should relate to each other in living the Christian mystery.

5. If one can see Pope John Paul II as a particular promoter of the new movements in the Church, one can also see Hans Urs von Balthasar as being a particular theologian of the new movements. The  evangelical counsels as an option for the life of the lay faithful can be seen in his writings on the states of life in the Church and on the secular institutes. His book Engagement with God is prefaced by a dedication to Luigi Giusani and Communion and Liberation. He recognised in the Focolare exactly the living out of the "Marian profile" that features in his understanding of the Church and shared with them a strong sense of "Jesus forsaken" on the Cross.

Can we see Catholic blogging as a form of new movement akin to those being discussed above? I would suggest rather that, generally speaking, it partakes of an aspect of ecclesial life that has a certain analogy to the idea of the different ecclesial movements, but is not so readily capable of a positive evaluation. Unless I have misunderstood some recent reading, John Henry Newman referred to the Oxford Movement in a significantly different way when an Anglican than when a Catholic. As an Anglican, he would not have seen it as a "party" engaged in a (political) struggle for supremacy in the Church, but as a call to live Christian faith in its fullness; as a Catholic, he asked those who continued in the Church of England to recognise that they could not continue as a "party" (among other parties) following the general rejection by the Church of England's bishops of the Catholic principles of the movement. Colonised largely as it is by those of a traditionalist inclination, I would suggest that the Catholic blogosphere is closer to representing a "party" in this Newman-esque sense than an ecclesial movement in the sense considered above. It's campaigning behaviours, and sense that the Extraordinary Form of the liturgy as the only show in town and the subject to which every Catholic is devoted, seem to me characteristic of a "party".

Just as a final comment, and at  risk of arguing ad hominem but hopefully not without charity. The challenge that a traditionalist Catholic faces in considering the new movements derives from a strong sense of the institutional aspect of the Church. In consequence, the traditionalist might well have a reluctance to recognise the legitimacy of the charismatic and be put off by those who fail to live the charisms of their movements as well as they should; and they might also let their attachment to the Extraordinary Form trump all else as far as liturgy goes. But the witness of the movements, and of the support given to them by Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI, is precisely a witness to "co-essentiallity" between the institutional and the charismatic.

UPDATE: See also Fr Tim's observations on this post, which particularly respond to my suggestion that the Catholic blogosphere has the nature of a "party".

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Pope Benedict XVI: visit to Lebanon

Whilst Lebanon does not appear to have been drawn fully into the tragic events in Syria, it is a country that has not avoided some of the consequences of that conflict. Lebanon has recieved refugees escaping the violence in Syria, and some of the sectarian tensions within the Syrian conflict have spilled over into violence in Lebanon itself.

Pope Benedict's visit to Lebanon does, in this context, take on an aspect of a pilgrimage in favour of peace that was in all probability not part of its original intention.The focus of the visit is the signing and publication of the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation of the Special Assembly for the Middle East of the Synod of Bishops.

Speaking in French at the end of today's General Audience, Pope Benedict said:
Chers pèlerins, dans deux jours à pareille heure, je serais en vol vers le Liban. Je me réjouis de ce Voyage apostolique. Il me permettra de rencontrer de nombreuses composantes de la société libanaise : des responsables civils et ecclésiaux, des fidèles catholiques de divers rites, et des autres chrétiens, des musulmans et des druzes de cette région. Je rends grâce au Seigneur pour cette richesse qui ne pourra continuer que si elle vit dans la paix et la réconciliation permanente. C’est pourquoi j’exhorte tous les chrétiens du Moyen-Orient, qu’ils soient de souche ou nouveaux arrivés, à être des constructeurs de paix et des acteurs de réconciliation. Demandons à Dieu de fortifier la foi des chrétiens du Liban et du Moyen-Orient, et de les remplir d’espérance. Je remercie Dieu pour leur présence et j’encourage l’ensemble de l’Église à la solidarité afin qu’ils puissent continuer à témoigner du Christ sur ces terres bénies en recherchant la communion dans l’unité. Je rends grâce à Dieu pour toutes les personnes et toutes les institutions qui, de multiples manières, les aident dans ce sens. L’histoire du Moyen-Orient nous enseigne le rôle important et souvent primordial joué par les différentes communautés chrétiennes dans le dialogue interreligieux et interculturel. Demandons à Dieu de donner à cette région du monde la paix si désirée, dans le respect des légitimes différences. Que Dieu bénisse le Liban et le Moyen-Orient ! Que Dieu vous bénisse tous !

[.... I give thanks to the Lord for this richness which can only continue if it can live  in peace and a permanent reconciliation. This is why I encourage all the Christians of the Middle East, be they of ancient origin or newly arrived, to be builders of peace and actors for reconciliation.... Let us ask God to give this regeion of the world the peace it so desires, in respect for legitimate differences. God bless Lebanon and the Middle East! God bless you all!]
The page at the Vatican website for the visit to Lebanon is here. Texts will be added as they are delivered.

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Same-sex marriage: the situation in France

La Croix carries reports describing the situation with regard to same-sex marriage in France. These follow an exclusive interview with Christiane Taubira, the Minister of Justice, published by La Croix on Monday.

I haven't got time to translate all of La Croix's coverage, but here are the links and an excerpt from one of their reports (my translation could be better, I think). The interview with Christiane Taubira can be found at the first link.

Christiane Taubira : « Le mariage pour tous répond à une exigence d’égalité »

Les réactions après les annonces sur le « mariage homosexuel »

Le cardinal Vingt-Trois relève les « écueils » du débat sur le « mariage homosexuel »
Surtout, l’argumentation de l’Église ne doit pas être comprise comme « défendant une conception du mariage et de la famille essentiellement catholique, une particularité confessionnelle ». « La transmission générationnelle, l’organisation de l’avenir par l’éducation des enfants ne sont pas d’abord confessionnelles », a rappelé le président de la Conférence des évêques. « Que mon point de vue soit alimenté par des considérations chrétiennes est une évidence, mais si je propose d’autres solutions, c’est en me mettant au service non pas de l’Église mais de l’humanité. »
[Above all, the argument of the Church must not be seen as "defending an idea of marriage and the family that is essentially Catholic, a confessional interest". "The transmission to a new generation, the preparation of the future by the education of children are not primarily confessional", recalled the president of the Bishop's Conference. "That my point of view should be nourished by Christian considerations is a given, but if I suggest some different answers, it is because I put myself at the service not only of the Church but of humanity".]

Monday, 10 September 2012

The Paralympic Games must change the way we think about abortion

The Paralympic Games must change the way we think about abortion.
... if, as Lord Coe says, 'we will never think of disability the same way', surely we must lift 'the cloud of limitation' on the thousands of unborn babies in the womb, whom providence has seen fit to gift with one leg, no arms, no eyes, dwarfism or spina bifida.
 'Paralympics call Britain to review abortion laws'
“What is astounding is that Britain is enabling the eyes of the world to be opened to the giftedness and potential of those with disabilities through its hosting of the Paralympic Games. However, its own laws vehemently and shockingly discriminate against any new life in the womb that might possibly be affected by a physical handicap, genetic problems or a mental defect."

In conversations with a number of Paralympians in recent days [James Parker, Catholic co-ordinator for the 2012 Games] was astonished to discover that “many of them don’t even realise that, should their team mates have been conceived in Britain today, they would most likely be aborted. If Britain wishes to retain its place towards the head of the medals table at future Paralympic Games in decades to come then it needs to seriously consider changing its laws to stop discriminating against what is presently termed as an ‘unacceptable quality of life’. Games aside, any society that wishes to be healthy needs to increasingly value disability and non-disability equally.

h/t Archbishop Cranmer and Independent Catholic News

Saturday, 8 September 2012

"Right to die": an invented right

 The news media are today reporting that a health minister newly promoted in the recent Cabinet/Government reshuffle has said, in the context of terminally ill people, that "you have a right to kill yourself". It is interesting to note the different emphases of the BBC reporting and that in the Telegraph. The front page report, and published interview on inside pages, in the Times are behind their paywall, so I am not able to link to them. The penultimate paragraph of the interview in the print edition reads as follows:
Ms Soubry has always been a "firm supporter" of the Abortion Act and backs the introduction of gay marriage. She also thinks there is a case for reforming the law on assisted suicide. "I think it's ridiculous and appalling that people have to go abroad to end their life instead of being able to end their life at home. You can't say to a doctor or a nurse, 'Kill this person' but ... you have a right to kill yourself. The rules that we have about who we don't prosecute allow things to happen but there's a good argument that we should be a bit more honest about it".
Though it is not clear what Ms Soubry thinks the terms of a reformed law should be, I would challenge her to justify the claim that there is such a thing as a right to kill to yourself. When asserted in the public domain, it sounds eminently reasonable and compassionate. But does it have a rational, argued basis, rooted in the nature of the human person?

No justification whatsoever can be found for the assertion of a right to kill yourself in a document such as the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights. If anything, the provisions of the Universal Declaration suggest the opposite (my emphasis added):
Article 3: Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.

Article 25: (1) Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.
Can it not be argued, contrary to Anna Soubry, that a situation where a terminally ill person feels that they want to kill themselves represents a breach of their rights under the above articles of the Universal Declaration? And that the establishing, even within the limited context of the terminally ill patient, of such a right within UK law would bring UK law into conflict with the Universal Declaration?

I find Anna Soubry's intervention particularly unfortunate in such close proximity to the example provided by the London 2012 Paralympics of how hope is engendered, not just by the person who is ill or disabled alone, or by the person who is caring alone, but between the two together. See my posts At the Paralympics and Paralympics Chaplain on Radio 2. It is sad to see such a prominent intervention that fails to recognise the part that society as a whole has to play in working to engender this community of hope rather than undermining it.

Monday, 3 September 2012

"Down the pit"

More on coal mines, prompted by me having a chat with an ex-miner the other day. He worked at Betteshanger in the Kent coalfield. I think he was a bit surprised to talk to someone who had some knowledge of, and contact, with coal mining (my father was  Bevin boy, see the end of this post).

Zero and I went down to the Kent coalfield on Saturday, to visit the Waiting Miner: Miner statue rededicated at Kent's Fowlmead Country Park. Fowlmead Country Park has been established on the side of the spoil heap from Betteshanger Colliery. It isn't that impressive for walking, but the facilities for cycling are very good. There were lots of visitors either hiring bikes or bringing their own on Saturday.

The plaque you can see on the plinth lists the names of all the miners who died in the pits of the Kent coalfield.

The Waiting Miner has his back to the former spoil tip, and looks out towards where the Betteshanger Colliery used to be.

Saturday, 1 September 2012

At the paralympics

At the end of July, I posted about having seen some Olympic and Paralympic tickets. As events turned out, I was able to use one of them yesterday to attend Day 2 of the Paralympics. I went with my sister and five of her children (child 6 was at the Excel with friend for the day, watching Judo).

It was cool to start with - fleeces and coats - but warmed up during the day. The tickets enabled us to see the first two games of the blind 5-a-side football, and then acted as a day pass to other events for the rest of the day. After lunch at the "American Church" (= McDonalds) we used them to watch some wheel chair basketball. By lunch time, the Olympic Park was busy - very busy - with all ages, but a noticeable presence of families.

 It was very moving to see such a huge response to disabled sport. As one commentator I heard said on the radio a day or two before the paralympics started, you very quickly started watching the sport precisely as sport, rather than as it being a disabled form of the sport. That the athletics stadium was full to capacity for an evening session on Day 2 also sent a very moving message.

The 5-a-side court during a warm up. Here, silence during play was of the essence, since the unsighted outfield players depend on shouted instructions from a sighted goalkeeper and attack guide, and on hearing the rattle in the ball.

The basket ball arena during women's wheel chair basketball. Here, the opposite was true, with noise being of the essence. The game we saw did not involve Team GB, but every time the announcer asked who was cheering for Germany or who was cheering for the USA, the whole arena roared equally for both sides.
A view of the Live at the Park mid-afternoon - the top of the large screen is just visible above the line of trees at the centre of this photograph. You can see a full bank of people watching the screen from the opposite side of the river, but cannot see the crowd on the nearside bank, behind the trees at the left also watching from the other side. The athletics stadium and orbit visible in the background
In both the arenas we visited, announcers were very good at explaining some of the specific aspects and rules of the sport. This was particularly true of the 5-a-side football, where the idea of "Let them hear, hold your cheer" was quite important. And in the basketball arena, there was non-stop entertainment by way of little games with audience members during breaks in play.
I did read rather quickly and in passing some comment in the print media to the effect that we should not take the disabled athletes as having an experience typical of disabled people, the athletes being people of exceptional commitment and ability, and perhaps having had access to exceptional opportunities. But what struck me from listening to Stacy James on Radio 2, and again yesterday, was that hope is not one sided. Hope is engendered, not by the disabled person alone and not by the able bodied person alone. It is engendered between the two together. Well over one hundred thousand people enjoyed a brilliant day out yesterday, a gift to them from the disabled athletes involved; but it must have been quite something for disabled athletes to compete before such large crowds yesterday.
There are many other people whose disabilities (or illnesses) mean that participation in sport is not a possibility for them. But why cannot they take the model of hope offered by the paralympic athletes and the crowds supporting them as a model for themselves, and seek to build the hope between and among themselves that was demonstrated so amply yesterday? And should not society as a whole recognise its responsibility to adopt attitudes of hope towards and alongside those suffering from illness and incapacity and to reject once and for all the language of a "life not worth living"? Most of yesterday's athletes will have had not the slightest inkling of the extent to which they offered a gift to individuals who they will never know and never meet.