Friday, 31 July 2009

Quinn v Dawkins transcript

You can now read the transcript of the David Quinn and Richard Dawkins debate chaired by Ryan Turbidy on RTE Radio in Dublin. It is obviously constrained by the limits of a live radio show but is interesting nonetheless in that David Quinn comes out of it very well.

H/T Countercultural Father

'Flu - panic now!

3m body bags could be ordered in flu alert
Ministers are considering stockpiling more than three million body bags because of fears of an impending flu pandemic, a senior Government source has revealed.
... 25 per cent of the population could be infected
... hundreds of thousands of deaths ("scientific advisors")
... body bags may have to be used twice.
... mortuaries would run out of space to store bodies
... mass burials or pyres to burn corpses as quickly as possible.
... flu was now judged to have overtaken terrorism


Whoops - just noticed that this is a story from 2006

A Government Policy Advisor who has seen this post has just sent me a graphic that is doing the rounds in the civil service:

Reaction of MS charities to Purdy judgement

There are interesting reactions from the leading MS charities to yesterday's Law Lords' judgement in the Debbie Purdy case. Although they are non-committal on the morality of assisted suicide, the charities are clearly not happy with the way that MS has been portrayed in the propaganda supporting this case.

Pam Macfarlane, Chief Executive of the MS Trust, said,
"MS is not a terminal condition and we actively campaign for more specialists to deliver the care that is needed for a condition as variable as MS. There is no question that more investment is needed in specialist palliative care and that support for the person with MS and those close to them must be a priority. However people will decide for themselves."
Simon Gillespie, Chief Executive of the MS Society, said:
"Debbie Purdy's victory has pushed MS into the spotlight but there is far more to living with MS – even in its more severe forms – than planning how to die.

"There are 100,000 people with MS across the UK and most will live about as long as any of us. The key to living well with MS is access to the right care and support, including palliative care when it's needed.

"Most palliative care resources are focused on cancer and cases like this show why the Government's end of life care strategy is so important."
MS Trust comment on Debbie Purdy's assisted suicide appeal
MS Society responds to Debbie Purdy ruling

The Odyssey of Puella

Puella Paschalis has described in detail the trials and tribulations she underwent to get to the mysterious and little-known suburb of Blackfen. The cab driver at Bexleyheath even said he had to consult the A to Z. (For heaven's sake, it's only a couple of miles away!)

Here is the full story in four parts, amusingly told with pictures:

Part I
Part II
Part III
Part IV

Let me say, without any exaggerated chivalry, that the Puella Paschalis showed no signs to me of having undergone such an arduous journey. After all that, she even turned up with the Mulier Fortis for the 10am Mass on Wednesday making that two mantillas in the front row.

To all my good friends in the Netherlands - God bless! The Puella brought memories of an excellent Boot Camp and the new springtime of the Church in your beautiful country.

Tablet Appreciation Society on FB

I haven't been on FB for ages - must spend half an hour or so soon and add people kind enough to ask to be friends with me - but I did go over briefly today in response to Damian's post urging us all to join the Tablet Appreciation Society.

After all, it would be churlish not to, in view of the fine rose vestments that they enabled my parish to acquire, courtesy of the readers of Damian Thompson's Telegraph blog.

Do go over and write on the wall.

CBCEW - good page on Year for Priests

The Year for Priests page at the website of the Bishops' Conference of England and Wales is very good.

As well as Pope Benedict's message, the letter from Cardinal Claudio Hummes, and the message from Archbishop Mauro Piacenza, there is a piece from Fr James Clark who was in Rome when the Year for Priests was launched (pictured with Fr Michael Branch) and an interview with Fr John Flynn.

Video of Pontifical High Mass

There is a good quality video produced by EWTN of the Pontifical High Mass celebrated by His Excellency, the Most Rev. Joseph N. Perry, Auxiliary Bishop of Chicago, on the feast of the Precious Blood, assisted by Members of the Canons Regular of St. John Cantius, at the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament, Hanceville, Alabama, the residence of Mother Angelica and the Poor Clare Nuns of Perpetual Adoration.

Thursday, 30 July 2009

Iconoclasm at Parkminster

Not that the holy monks and hermits are smashing statues or anything: today in my theology class, we discussed iconoclasm and the second council of Nicea among other things such as the devotion to the Sacred Heart as and application of the doctrine of the hypostatic union, and Christ possessing the beatific vision.

Above is a picture from the Long Walk in 2006, with the Novice Master leading the way. I learnt today that the Long Walk is distinct from another long walk, the Prior's Walk, which takes place during August. With their solidly healthy diet, regular rule of life and substantial complement of manual labour in each day, the monks remain very fit well on into old age and the walk would be a challenge to many younger men.

I am currently reading Stratford Caldecott's new book Beauty for Truth's Sake: On the Re-enchantment of Education which has just been published by Brazos Press. I have been very impressed by the book and recommended it to the Novice Master for the students as a complement to the course in theology. I think Brazos Press will be receiving an order from Parkminster soon. (Although they may order it from Amazon.)

Law Lords and assisted suicide

One accessory I must get for my car is a lead to plug into the radio so that I can play mp3s through it and listen to talks on my way round the M25 and resist the temptation to listen to the news on Radio 4. On the way back from Parkminster after Vespers, this evening's 5 o'clock news was particularly nauseating as it was announced in tones rather like announcing the freeing of the Birmingham Six, that Debbie Purdy has won her appeal to the Law Lords.

They found that according to Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, a person has the right to choose how they die, because that is a part of their private life which must be respected. They have ordered the Director of Public Prosecutions to set out a policy statement which will make it clear to the public under what circumstances anyone will be prosecuted for assisting another person to commit suicide. Since there have been over 115 cases of people committing suicide at the Swiss Dignitas clinic and nobody has yet been prosecuted for assisting them, it is a fair bet that the policy will make it clear that no prosecution will be undertaken in the case of someone terminally ill or severely disabled.

Although much is made of the claim that the Law Lords do not have the power to change the law, this is, like the Tony Bland case, a significant change in practice, introduced under the guise of a legal judgement. Lord Falconer, who has campaigned for assisted suicide, called today's judgement a "very significant victory."

John Smeaton has a post about this decision, and has previously written on the case.

Parliament has quite rightly resisted the legalisation of assisted suicide and this judgement effectively skirts round the democratic process. I presume we can now look forward to assisted suicide clinics in our own country in the reasonably near future. Since the Mental Capacity Act is now in place, it is only a matter of time before another hard case is brought forward to justify the non-voluntary euthanasia of the mentally incapacitated according to what their relatives or some appointed advocate decides is in their "best interests". In addition, those who are capable of making a decision will feel under further pressure not to "be a burden" on their family or society once suicide is seen as an acceptable option.

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Jubilee Mass - more photos

Last night's Mass was a very beautiful, sacred and at the same time homely occasion. The Parish choir, led by Brenda who has been involved with the music in the parish since before I was born, sang Ludovico Viadana's Missa L'Hora Passa, as well as Crookall's Confirma Hoc and Gounod's Ave Verum at the offertory, and Mozart's Iubilate Deo at Holy Communion. The Schola who come regularly for our first Saturday Missa Cantata sang the proper texts in Gregorian Chant. We had Credo I and finished off with a rousing Te Deum in which there was actuosissima participatio. "Jubilee Secretary", Wendy, organised the printing of a fine booklet for the Mass so that everyone could follow the proper texts and "say or to sing together in Latin those parts of the Ordinary of the Mass which pertain to them." (Vatican II, Sacrosanctum Concilium n.54)

Our MC, Jonathan Hague ensured that there was a full complement of ten servers, as well as taking an afternoon off to rearrange benches and things to accommodate the ceremonies. As is our custom, the principal serving roles were given to the younger boys and it was a much appreciated compliment that Dr Alcuin Reid, the editor of the new edition of Fortescue's "The Ceremonies of the Roman Rite Described" said that the servers were the best trained that he had ever seen in a parish setting.

Several parishioners said to me that they wondered when the entrance procession was going to finish. Here is a list of clergy present:

Deacon: Fr Charles Briggs, Subdeacon: Fr Christopher Basden, clergy in choir: Mgr Gordon Read, Fr Roger Nesbitt, Fr Anthony Logan, Fr Agnellus FI, Fr Ray Blake, Fr William Young, Fr Francis Coveney, Fr Michael Clifton, Fr John Zuhlsdorf, Fr Andrew Southwell, Fr Armand de Malleray FSSP, Rev John Harrison, Fr Simon Leworthy FSSP, Fr Francis Hartley, Fr Francis Marsden, Fr Patrick Hayward CRL, Fr Jude Okenyi FSB, Fr John Boyle, Fr Hugh MacKenzie, Fr William Scanlon, Fr James Clark, Fr Dominic Rolls, Fr Richard Biggerstaff, Dr Alcuin Reid, Fr Michael Woodgate, Fr Felipe Alonso OSST, and Fr Stephen Boyle. Fr Paul Hayward (of Opus Dei) and parish deacons Braz Menezes and Michael Baldry were also attending.

The sermon was given by Fr Roger Nesbitt who founded the Faith Movement together with Fr Holloway. He spoke warmly of my family and moved on to talk about the priesthood and the Eucharist. He mentioned especially the verse "You have prepared a banquet for me in the sight of my foes" (Ps 22.5) speaking of Christ who celebrated the Last Supper on the eve of His passion, and relating this to the life of the priest, centred on the Eucharist, but also subject to trials and tribulations. He wove into his sermon quotations from the Curé of Ars, Pope John Paul II, and Pope Benedict. He made a point of referring to the "hermeneutic of continuity" when speaking of the link between the Holy Mass and the Last Supper and Passion of Our Lord. Fr Nesbitt also whimsically congratulated me on "choosing" the Year of the Priest in which to celebrate my silver jubilee.

Here is another picture of the clergy in choir at the Et incarnatus est:

And at the first part of the Canon:

At my speech at the reception afterwards I said that people usually commented on two things when they visit Blacken: first, the number of young families, and secondly, the warm hospitality that is offered. Preparing for last evening's reception, very many parishioners from different groups worked together to arrange an outstanding welcome for everyone.

They arranged for a marquee to be erected so that the space in our Hall could be extended to accommodate all our guests. They really did a magnificent job with flowers, lighting, and even that most elusive thing, free beer - courtesy of Shepherd Neame brewery who supply the Rosary Social Club. The catering was superb. Trisha, who together with her husband James, runs a family firm of vegetable suppliers (Harwoods of London) got everything organised with the help of guest chef, Steve.

At that moment (a few weeks ago) when people begin to panic a bit, wondering how many are going to come, whether we will over-cater and whether we really need a marquee, I remembered some advice I was recently given about leadership and decided it was a time to "not flinch" and said "cater for 200". There were rather more than 200 at Mass but with some people having to leave early, and others not eating much, it turned out to be about right - and very tasty fare, too. The marquee was really helpful, making it possible for people to meet each other and chat rather than be squashed shoulder-to-shoulder.

I wish the evening had been much longer since there were so many friends there that I would love to have spent more time with. It was also an opportunity to catch up, albeit briefly, with my sisters, Jane, Joan, Mary and Sarah who came, together with children. My brother-in-law, Orlando, who took the photographs at my ordination, was there with his camera; but he is a traditionalist as regards photography and insists on using film so I eagerly await his work which, I am sure, will put us modernist digital types to shame.

In the meantime, here is a photo of just a few of the family:

I think that the youngest guest was Gabriel Ifesinachi (below) whom I baptised just three weeks ago but she may have been beaten by my new great-nephew, Jack whom I saw for the first time last night.

Maria and Bianca made a cake for me with a Eucharistic theme for the decoration. It was a rather rich fruit cake and Maria assured me that plenty of brandy had been added to the mix.

I made the first cut determinedly; some of the children thought that with the ferraiuolo and a silver blade, I looked like a character from Harry Potter.

Then there was the great British tradition, the Routemaster bus (RM5). The driver, Joe asked me to bless the bus and himself before the return journey. The servers were on hand to ensure that this was carried out in Latin and with full solemnity. I understand that the bus safely reached the City by 11.20pm.

On the blog, it would not be right to conclude a post such as this without mentioning the bloggers who were present. First our parishioner bloggers:

Mulier Fortis
Bara Brith
Singulare Ingenium

and then our visiting bloggers:
What does the prayer really say
St Mary Magdalen, Brighton
Fr Mildew ("I really prefer Gothic vestments")
Roman Christendom
Puella Paschalis
That the bones you have crushed may thrill
Catholic Commentary

(If I have missed anyone, my apologies - pop in a comment and I will add you to the list with a link.)

Many regular commenters were also there and, as ever, it was good to meet up in person.

It was really such a lovely evening and a chance to meet up with parishioners from former parishes, associates in pastoral work, family friends, bloggers, writers, and random traditionalists who took up the open invitation from the blog - including Michael Parsons and his wife from Franklin, Michigan who came via Galway.

This morning, I spent a very pleasant hour or so opening all the cards and letters that you have sent for the occasion. Thank you for your gifts, your good wishes and especially for all the Masses that you have arranged for my intentions. God bless you and rest assured that you will be remembered at Mass.

Other posts:
Fr John Zuhlsdorf: Off to Blackfen ("We are off to the event!")
Mulier Fortis: Ad multos annos ("And then there was the Mass: well, what can I say?")
Singulare Ingenium: Silver Jubilee of Fr Timothy Finigan ("The day has been altogether wonderful")
Fr Ray Blake; The Do ("No wonder Fr Tim loves Blackfen")

Yes - that would be right. I do love Blackfen.

Jubilee Mass - quick post

It is quite late so this is just a quick post with a couple of photos from the Jubilee Mass this evening. The sanctuary was full with clerics and chierichetti:

The Church was full of family, friends and parishioners:

And the party afterwards was superb. Many thanks to all those who came and all those who organised and helped. God bless you.

More tomorrow...

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Overpopulation: The Making of a Myth

A short video on the myth of over population:

See also the website: Overpopulation is a myth

H/T American Papist


A new initiative in the UK, Retrouvaille, offers help for those experiencing difficulties in their marriage. There is a weekend programme in Hatfield, Hertfordshire from 23-25 October. At the Pastoral Affairs section of the Westminster Diocesan website, there is some more information about the weekend.

Grumpy Britain

St Osmund and St Andrew's Primary School in Breightmet, Greater Manchester, is under investigation by Bolton Council because of complaints by neighbours that children laugh too loudly at playtime:
Investigators have now caried out noises assessment tests to see if the levels of laughing exceed tolerable limits recommended by the World Health Organisation.
Apparently the sports teacher also has an "annoying voice". Fortunately, Bolton council has found that the children's laughter "does not constitute a statutory noise nuisance". I wonder if perhaps the sports teacher's colleagues might stand him a drink if he manages to reach the statutory nuisance decibel level...

See the Telegraph article: Children investigated for laughing too loudly

Monday, 27 July 2009

Cardinal Cañizares interview with LifeSite

LifeSite news reports today on an interview with Antonio Cardinal Cañizares Llovera, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship. See the full interview and the LifeSite report.

Quite properly, LifeSite, which is concerned with Catholic moral teaching on pro-life matters, questioned the Cardinal on the link between faithfulness to the norms of the Liturgy and faithfulness to the Church's moral teachings. The Cardinal affirmed that there is an inseparable link between the Eucharist and the defence of life because in the Eucharist we enter into communion with Jesus Christ and His life. This divine life should make us communicate love and defend human life.

His Eminence gives an interesting answer on the question of whether there is a movement in the Vatican to return to the traditional manner of reception of Communion (kneeling and on the tongue):
If the papal liturgy is a sign, an indication for all the Church, we should promote Communion kneeling and in the mouth. But, this does not mean not permitting or forbidding Communion in the hand if it is done with due respect. With a previous gesture of adoration. This could be kneeling, or a genuflection or with a deep bow. And also in the moment of receiving Communion, the right hand should be placed under the left hand forming a cross expressing in this way the recognition of the real presence of the body of Christ offered for us. We should take care that no particle should be lost. And the body of Christ should be received in front of the priest.

We should recognise that frequently Communion in the hand many times is not received in this way.

It is very lamentable.
This is yet another affirmation from a senior figure concerned with the Sacred Liturgy that we should "promote" communion kneeling and received on the tongue. I agree with him that if communion is received reverently on the hand, it is not sensible at the present time to impede it. But he is also right that the "lamentable" failure to receive communion reverently is often observed with communion on the hand, and the traditional manner of receiving communion can help to restore reverence.

Golden chalices call for golden priests

On Saturday night, I celebrated Mass in English, versus populum, and preached on the priesthood with some personal reflections. Afterwards there was a lovely reception organised in the Parish Social Club by the Union of Catholic Mothers. The Social Club presented me with a new chalice. The above photo shows me with Eddie Conroy, the Chairman of the Club. I blessed the chalice yesterday after Mass and it will be used for the first time tomorrow evening. I'll also take some more detailed photos for you. (There are more photos of Saturday night's event at Mulier Fortis: Parish Club Presentation)

James Preece quotes Archbishop Nichols saying in his graduate dissertation:
"The Church doesn't need any more golden chalices, it needs golden priests."
This is, of course, a reminder to any priest of the need for holiness but I think that the recent enhancement of liturgical furnishing at Westminster Cathedral might indicate that the Archbishop would agree that both can help. A fine chalice contributes to the Sacred Liturgy and to our appreciation of the tremendous mystery that we are celebrating. But it is not enough on its own. Cardinal Ratzinger reminded us in "The Spirit of the Liturgy" that the priest, as well as the people, must offer his own life in active participation in the sacred mysteries. His failure in this respect is a matter for his own examination of conscience and he will be aware of his need for repentance and greater fidelity.

I am touched by the generosity of the ordinary people of the Social Club, many of who are not Catholic. They seem to understand that the Sacred Liturgy is something special and at the heart of the priest's life, and deserves the very best in homage of the God whom we adore. The Curé of Ars would agree with them.

I always remember the electrician who was advising me on lighting for the sanctuary some years ago. He had two options, one cheaper, one more expensive. When I had discussed the options with him, I said that we could afford the more expensive lighting and should opt for that because it would look better. He mused for a moment and said:
Well, we have nice lights in our own homes, don't we?

Roadworks at Blackfen

One you leave the main road, Blackfen can seem rather like a maze - people often get lost trying to find the Church. To add to the difficulty, there are currently roadworks blocking the normal route in.

So here is a customised google map to help anyone who will be coming by car to my Jubilee Mass tomorrow evening. There is a route for alternative access to the Church and little clickable placemarkers with information.

Here are the normal customised maps:
By car
By train and bus

The postcode is DA15 8LW.

The car park at Our Lady of the Rosary will be limited to those with mobility difficulties. We have the kind permission of Pastor Stuart Pendrick to use the car parks at the Baptist Church in Days Lane which is only a few yards away.

Look forward to seeing you all tomorrow!

Westminster Abbey pavement

Following on my post about ecclesiastical flooring yesterday, Delia sent a link to an article at the Westminster Abbey website: Conservation work starts on the Cosmati pavement.

There is a 56m2 area of cosmatesque paving in front to the High Altar which was commissioned by Henry III and is reckoned to be the finest surviving example of cosmatesque pavement north of the Alps.

Looking at the Abbey website reminds me that it is ages since I last visited the Abbey. I must see whether I could call in and attend Evensong on day when I am in central London.

Sunday, 26 July 2009

Ecclesiastical flooring and green biro

At the blognic with Fr Z the other day, we got to talking about the email equivalent of "green biro" letters that we receive from time to time. You know the sort of thing: lined paper torn from a pad, green biro really pressed down into both sides of the paper, and extra bits of vitriol written up the sides of the six page missive. With email, you get large capitals in a "fun" font (O tempora o mores.) These often focus on my utter obsession with lace cottas (go on, look at the archive of posts and you'll see you true that is) and saying Mass "in a tongue not understanded of the people" while turning my back on them. It's amazing just what a baaaad priest you can be without even getting up on the pole-dancing stage at Stringfellows.

Well actually, I happen to think that lace cottas are a good thing for the liturgy so long as the vestments are not purple or black - in which case you must wear a plain cotta or alb. (Feel free to put in your plea for apparelled amices and albs instead.)

The green biro brigade might well have a seizure at this post from NLM on Ornamental Ecclesiastical Floors so let me issue a health warning: if you are disturbed by beautiful things in Church, just don't click that link. For what it's worth, I think that beautiful floors are a good thing. (You can still give money to charity as well.)

Mgr Moth appointed Bishop of the Forces

Mgr Richard Moth and I were fellow students at Wonersh in the first year in 1976 and it was fun to see the Italian language announcement the other day (complete with misteaks) telling of his appointment as Bishop of the Forces in succession to Bishop Tom Burns who has gone to Menevia.

Mgr Moth is a respected Canon Lawyer, has been Vicar General in Southwark since 2001, has served in the Territorial Army, and is a Knight Commander of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem. He has been the Spiritual Director to the Order's pilgrimages to the Holy Land for some years.

Richard is at home with the forces, enjoys horse-riding and has been known to engage in the odd bit of huntin' and shootin' and I am sure will have the respect of officers, men, and fellow-chaplains. I wish him every blessing in his ministry.

More information at the Archdiocese of Southwark website, where there is a short bio, and a press release.

Please remember Bishop-elect Moth in your prayers.

Radiant Light Exhibition

I am very happy to pass on news of this year's exhibition of the excellent devotional pictures by Elizabeth Wang.

'The Mystery of Faith': An exhibition of new and rarely seen pictures by Elizabeth Wang runs from 15 July – 31 October 2009. It takes place at a new venue: The Church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel and St Simon Stock, 'The Carmelite Church', 41 Kensington Church St, London W8 4BB, which is five minutes walk from High Street Kensington tube station and ten minutes walk from Notting Hill Gate tube station. The Church is open daily from 7am to 7pm. Entrance is free, the exhibition is closed during services. Visit for directions and for weekend tube service. Most of the pictures are recent works, and will be new even to those who know Elizabeth's work well. We hope you will be able to visit.

Elizabeth Wang said, "My hope for the visitors who see these pictures is that they will have a firm reminder of God's immense love for us, and of the marvellous ways in which he is at work to draw us to himself."

The exhibition features large-scale prints of some of Elizabeth's paintings. The pictures should inspire those searching for a deeper faith, and encourage those who have none. They illustrate well-known Christian themes in striking contemporary imagery. Free high-quality downloads of the exhibition pictures are available for certain uses at this link: Please note that the exhibition is in a different church this year and NOT the French Church.

On Saturday 31 October 2009, the last day of the exhibition, from 2pm to 4pm, there will be an afternoon of reflection and worship in the Carmelite Church where the exhibition is taking place. This includes a talk by Elizabeth Wang on the exhibition theme, the celebration of Holy Mass, and refreshments in the hall. All are welcome; no tickets are required.

Amnesty to launch another pro-abortion salvo

Tomorrow, Amnesty International UK will be issuing a new report on the "human rights concerns" faced by women and girls in Nicaragua affected by the recent change to the law on abortion.

The 52 page report will be launched at a press conference in Mexico City at 5pm UK time and focusses on the impact of the prohibition of abortion on women whose life is at risk through pregnancy, and survivors of rape and incest.

This is all sadly standard pro-abortion propaganda. If Amnesty are going to branch out into a general policy on abortion, they might do well to consider the impact on the human rights of women and girls who are pressured into abortion, who suffer because of abortion, and indeed, since we are talking of Nicaragua, the manner in which politically correct abortion advocates can end up helping to conceal child abuse. (See: BBC helped to cover up child molester)

Would Jesus go to Stringfellows?

Stringfellows is a well-known London strip club ... sorry, did I say that? I meant "high-class entertainment venue" which, in addition to "a mouth watering range of dishes from our A La Carte menu", offers:
Hundreds of beautiful Angels - fully nude, dancing alongside your table, and at the various stages dotted around the club.
Actually, I just checked the mouth watering range of dishes - the range of main courses under "meat" is: Lamb, rib-eye steak, sirloin steak, fillet steak, butterfly steak or ribeye steak with lobster (that's for if yer goin' real posh.)

Now you might perfectly well ask why I should be writing about a strip club. Primarily it is in order to answer the assertion of Fr David Gilmore, Anglican priest in Soho who recently got up on stage "(next to the "pole") and told the punters:
"if Jesus was alive today he would be at Stingfellows bar having a drink and chatting to the girls"
It all sounds like a vintage sketch from Not the Nine O'Clock News but sadly I jest not. On the other side of the "pole" was Fr Michael Seed, pictured on Peter Stringfellow's blog together with a bevy of the "Angels" (See "Saints and Sinners"). Fr Seed was there to launch his new book "Sinners and Saints", memoirs of his meetings with prominent political and public figures.

So OK, am I being an old prude here, a pharisee in the mould of those who criticised Jesus because he ate with tax collectors and sinners. Isn't it a jolly good thing for a priest to go down to the strip club and preach the gospel? I don't think so: our Lord's ministry was marked by the fact that He was God, and therefore sinless, and incapable of sinning. For the rest of us, the Church has always observed a certain sensible prudence in such areas of life, and ministry to prostitutes has historically been carried out by women. Today, in Rome, just such a ministry is undertaken by the Missionaries of Charity; but I don't think that they go to strip clubs as part of their work.

Nor did Jesus for that matter: his ministry was focussed on repentance and forgiveness. In the gospels, this is almost taken for granted: first century Jews would not imagine that a religious leader might actually approve of strip clubs. Today, we do need to make this explicit. Nevertheless, Our Lord does make it clear on occasions:
Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the harlots believed him; and even when you saw it, you did not afterward repent and believe him. (Matt 21.31-32)
Key words here are "repent" and "believe". Our Lord railed against his opponents among the Pharisees because they did not think that they also had to repent of their own sins. Our attitude to prostitutes, pole-dancers and strippers should not be one of personal judgement, certainly: but neither should it be one of celebrating their contribution to the entertainment industry. We need to repent of our own sins and humbly pray for other sinners, understanding that we may have been given much greater opportunities to respond to God's grace and that he may well judge us more harshly than he judges them.

My purpose in writing this post is not to attack Fr Seed. I believe that his decision to launch his new book at Stringfellows is misguided but he has gone on record to say that he is not too bothered by the reactions of fellow clergy so I hope he won't mind me expressing an opinion on a public act and the way in which the gospel has, in my view, been distorted to the advantage of Mr Stringfellow's empire.

As a postscript, here is a link to an RTE News report on the closure of Stringfellows in Dublin. an email correspondent tells me that the "protests" included ladies from Dublin praying the Rosary outside every night until closing time.

Friday, 24 July 2009

Successful blognic

During our time at the Buckingham Arms this evening, there was a Police van parked outside. We wondered whether we might be raided for thought crimes but we were left in peace to enjoy a couple of pints before repairing to the Ha Ha Bar for fish fingers and chips (it being Friday an' all.)

It was a good gathering with thirty or so bloggers and readers (a blogging equivalent of the cricketing "Gentlemen and Players" distinction) from various parts. Among those present were Oliver Hayes of the Expectation of Our Lady, who travelled down from Birmingham, regular commenter and Tweeter, Londiniensis, Fr Mildew, Jim and Christina McPake who dropped by on their way back from Lourdes to Carlisle, Mulier Fortis, Jonathan Hague, Andrea, John Simmonds, Delia Gaze, Patricia Forsdyke, Paul Moynihan and Sir Dan of the Blogosphere. I was delighted to meet "Dillydaydream" who occasionally comments on my blog and comes to Mass from time to time at Blackfen. It was also an occasion to meet the trenchantly pro-life and politically left "Red Maria" who blogs at Dolphinarium.

For bloggers and readers it was a chance to meet and chat with Fr Zuhlsdorf of What Does the Prayer Really Say, and generally a most convivial evening to meet face-to-face with those who normally correspond through the "ether".

Of course, it is wrong just to meet up for a pint and a meal so we got some work done. I wasn't going to mention this but we settled down at a table for a workshop where we looked at the minutes of the last meeting, matters arising, ongoing projects and Any Other Business. Since Fr Z has posted the photo, I give it here as proof:

Answer to textual critics

LOL saints is an adaptation of the popular LOLCatz idea. I don't give it an unqualified recommendation because people aren't always good at discerning between harmless humour and mild to moderate blasphemy. Nevertheless, some of them are quite funny. I like the caption for the statue of St Paul.

There is also St Peter of Verona who was assassinate by the Cathars and is commonly depicted with an axe in his head:

Oh! and if you do a good one, you might win an iPod.

Sexual assault and sex education

When I posted on the taxpayer-funded sex-ed filth from NHS Sheffield, I highlighted the problem of sexual bullying in schools. The other day, the Christian Institute had news of a programme made by BBC Scotland called The Dark Side of Teenage Sex. Fiona Walker found that over the past five years, over 500 charges of rape have been brought by Scottish Police against children and teenagers.

There is talk of disclosure of sex offences, and the provision of treatment places for young sex offenders. What is missing is any appraisal of the part played by explicit sex education in schools, and the failure to promote chastity. The BBC programme focusses on the more extreme case of rape but for each of these cases, there are likely to be many more instances of unwanted touching and coercion.

Children and teenagers need to know that some things are just "off limits"; but the message about sexual activity is a non-directive "only do it when you want to", "be safe" combination of coyly libertine morality and wishful thinking. The sexual drive in young men is a very strong impulse (distorted by original sin and compounded by actual sin) which every culture has checked by sanctions and taboos. Christian teaching on the family provides the highest and most noble expression of the sanctity of marriage and the proper place of sexual activity within that permanent union as something that must always be open to children. We should not be surprised that when this is not only abandoned but actively undermined in the education of the young, we will see an inexorable return to the worst kind of savagery.

Preparing for 2012

Michael Hobson from my parish is training hard this summer at at St Mary's, Twickenham, under the guidance of his coach Craig Winrow. Michael runs the 800m and 1500m distances and recently notched up a personal best of 4min 01.2 for the 1500m. Michael is hoping to compete at the 2012 Olympics in London. You can read his latest BBC London diary entry here: Flourishing at St Mary's.

A few years ago, we did a charity run on Christmas Day. I was not surprised to have been left quite far behind by Michael who was a young teenager at the time. I expect he would make the rest of us look rather silly now!

Sex-ed consultation - respond by 5pm today

I have been remiss in not posting about the curriculum reform consultation by the Qualifications and Curriculum Development Agency. Go to the consultation page for the link to register (you only have to give your name and email address) and they will send you a link to complete the questionnaire. The most important question is whether the Government should make sex education in schools compulsory and remove the right of parents to withdraw their children.

The deadline is 5pm today so if you have a chance, do complete the consultation. Abortion Rights are pushing their people to respond so it wuold be good for pro-lifers to have their say.

Thursday, 23 July 2009

Lay apostolate in action

Via a note from Damian Thompson on Twitter, I found Ed West's excellent post about the National Secular Society: The National Secular Society aren't secular - they're atheist bigots.

This was prompted by the NSS reaction to the Scottish Nationalist Party candidate for Glasgow North East who is associated with Opus Dei. They apparently think that this disqualifies him for office. Looking up the story, I am delighted to find that the candidate in question is David Kerr. David has worked for the BBC for many years and wrote a powerful critique of the Panorama programme "Sex and the Holy City", showing its inaccuracies and bias. This research was used by Robin Aitken in his book "Can we Trust the BBC?"

The National Secular Society needs to be worried. In addition to his association with Opus Dei, David has also been a regular at events run by the Faith Movement. He is more than able to answer the expostulations of those secularists who imagine that science has disproved the existence of God.

A Catholic man involved in his trade union, working in the media, and getting actively involved in politics: David offers a fine example of the lay apostolate in action. As Pope Benedict has pointed out in Caritas in Veritate, the Church has a right to a voice in the public square. It is good to hear that someone like David Kerr is there at the coal face.

London blognic tomorrow

Tomorrow evening, there will be a London blognic with Fr Zuhlsdorf (What Does the Prayer Really Say?). Fr Z is visiting London for a couple of weeks and will be coming to Blackfen for the Mass to celebrate my silver jubilee. (You are all invited to that, too - see the this link for details.)

The blognics is a simple and informal opportunity for people interested in the Catholic blogosphere, whether bloggers or readers to meet up for a chat while Fr Z is in the country. Everyone is welcome. The last two have gone very well so I very much look forward to seeing some of you there tomorrow.

We are meeting tomorrow evening (Friday 24th) from 6-7.30pm at the Buckingham Arms in Petty France, near St James's Park tube station. After 7.30pm those who want can go on to the Ha Ha Bar in Cardinal Place (opposite Westminster Cathedral) for something to eat.

Below is the google map for the Buckingham Arms (green arrow) which you can zoom in on, look at the satellite view or street view (you can see the pub sign but street view cuts off just before the pub - presumably because it is opposite the rear of the Wellington Barracks):

View Larger Map

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Back from Eastbourne

Fr Briggs and I were undecided on the plan for today. If it had been raining, we would have returned early to London and lunched before taking suburban trains home. Thanks be to God, today was an absolutely glorious day so we took a couple of long walks along the seafront and had a sandwich at the hotel before taking an early afternoon train back to London. I realised this morning how much I had needed a couple of days' rest and was grateful to Our Lord for His providence, and my parishioners for their generosity which enables me to get away from time to time.

Last night's dinner was a great success with Frs John Zuhlsdorf, Ray Blake, and Stephen Boyle bringing great insights and experience to the conversation. Ecce quam bonum et quam iucundum. (Wiki)

The above photo is from Westminster Cathedral which was a staging-point for our trip. It shows a mosaic of John Henry Newman that was installed last September.

New blog on the Lay Apostolate

Daniel Blackman, a layman and theology graduate, has started a blog called Apostolate of the Laity. The blog takes its impetus from the Vatican II Decree on the Lay Apostolate Apostolicam Actuositatem.

I believe that this important teaching has been neglected in favour of a strong, and in some cases exclusive focus on "lay ministry" in the Church associated with the Liturgy. The Lay Apostolate has a relation with the hierarchy, of course, but it is a specifically lay enterprise in which clerics might offer spiritual support but do not appropriately engage in as lay people do. It would be wrong, for example, for a priest to become active in a political party or a trade union; but it is vital that good Catholic laity do become involved in these areas of life. On this subject, it is always worth re-visiting Christifideles Laici.

Congratulations to Daniel on this new blog and I wish it every success.

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

The sacrament of cohabiting

The recent lecture given by Terry Prendergast to Quest: Family – norms and ideals for a new paradigm(?), has rightly caused concern among many Catholics. Prendergast is the Chief Executive of Marriage Care, formerly the "Catholic Marriage Advisory Council."

Damian Thompson has written a strong critique of the lecture (What is Archbishop Nichols going to do about Terry Prendergast?) and Catholic Action UK points to the criteria for entry in the Catholic Directory which seem to have been very clearly breached. (See: Marriage Care head on homosexual unions.)

The BBC reports a response from the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales, quoting as follows:
The views expressed by Terry Prendergast about the definition of family and marriage are clearly not a reflection of the Church's teaching, nor those of the Bishops' Conference.
although there is, as yet, no notice of this on the CBCEW website - there is nothing at the Press Releases section and a search of the site for "prendergast" generates no results. It would be good to have the full statement available.

Prendergast's lecture is certainly "not a reflection of the Church's teaching" - it is a flat contradiction of it in many instances. For example he states that "there is sacrament" where there is "commitment, consent and covenant" in cohabiting heterosexual couples and same-sex couples, and he opposes "the point of view of Church" that a proper family must have a marriage in it.

It seems to me that this incident highlights two important needs. First, to support marriage and the family as understood in the teaching of the Catholic Church; secondly, to offer compassionate and sensitive support to Catholics with a homosexual inclination who are seeking to live the Christian life according to Catholic moral teaching.

A visit to Brighton

As you can see from Fr Ray Blake's post "Visitors", Fr Charles Briggs and I have taken a couple of days by the seaside, at Eastbourne, joined by Fr Stephen Boyle of Good Shepherd, New Addington. This morning we took the train to Brighton and said Mass at St Mary Magdalen's. Laurence of That the bones you have crushed may thrill, kindly served my Mass. This evening, Fr Ray Blake and Fr Zuhlsdorf will be joining us for dinner so we will have a party of five.

Tomorrow is the feast of St Mary Magdalen and so the statue in the Parish Church has been decorated specially:

Online CCRS from Lancaster Diocese

The Catholic Certificate in Religious Education (CCRS) is a qualification especially for teachers who wish to teach RE in a Catholic School but is also valued for other purposes, for example other RE or catechetical posts in dioceses.

The Diocese of Lancaster now offers the CCRS online. The course is based on the scriptures and the Catechism of the Catholic Church and has been written and prepared by people within the Lancaster Diocese. From the homepage, you can have a look round some sample material.

This impressive venture into online education was the brainchild of Bishop O'Donoghue to help encourage good standards of RE in schools and it continues as part of the Education Service of the Diocese of Lancaster which is headed by Canon Luiz Ruscillo.

Genuine home-cookers need not fear

It is still just about possible to parody our nanny state. Someone sent me this spoof by email. It appeared in a message forum recently. I thought it was quite good.

"Government To Introduce Improved Monitoring Of Home Cooking"

An Independent Review Of Home Cooking was commissioned by the government after concerns were expressed that home cooking could be used as a cover for child neglect or even abuse. Child safeguarding agencies have long held concerns about children who are eating at home instead of the free Government Feeding Stations located in every local community. A spokesman said, 'We believe that children who are fed at home are at increased risk of malnutrition and obesity. We must protect them from this potential abuse by ensuring that home cooking is properly monitored and controlled. If this helps just one child to avoid obesity, for example, we think the increased monitoring will be worth it. Genuine home-feeders should not be alarmed.'

Many home-feeders themselves have apparently been calling for compulsory registration and regular monitoring. Registration is the norm in many countries including the USA, although in Germany, home-cooking has been against the law since the 1930's.

Local Authorities are totally opposed to home cooking because, 'Parents simply do not have the necessary qualifications to be able to provide all the nutrients a growing child needs. It is absurd to think that a home kitchen could provide a child's optimum nutrition. Some parents have Food Technology GCSE's but this is totally inadequate when compared to the nutritional expertise of our chefs at the Government Feeding Stations.'

Under new proposals set out in the Review, parents will have to register as home-feeders and meet with Local Authority representatives to explain their nutritional plan for the following year. If it is not up to basic minimum standards then registration will be denied. Home-feeders' homes will also be inspected regularly. LA's will have the right (surprisingly, not present under current law) to inspect home 'kitchens' and examine the contents of their cupboards and refrigerators. LA inspectors will also have the right to question the child alone about their eating practices, if they suspect low quality home cooking.

LA's already have a duty to ensure that children are healthy, but up to now they have had no way of satisfying themselves that home feeders are not abusing their children. 'If you have nothing to hide, then you have nothing to fear from these new regulations,' says a DCSF spokesman. The new Bill on Safeguarding Children will be introduced in the autumn.

Monday, 20 July 2009

Key figures on Newman's forthcoming beatification

There is a dedicated website for the cause of the canonisation of Ven John Henry Newman. It is very well implemented with a blend of "static" information an d frequent updates. Today it carries an interesting post Interpreting Newman’s Beatification: reactions from key figures. To select just one, let me quote Fr Jonathan Robinson from the Oratory in Toronto:
Newman’s purity was not only that of a chaste priest, although it was certainly that, but there was in addition a purity of mind and intention that led him to seek for the truth no matter what the cost. ‘The Cross of Christ’, to use the words of one of his Anglican sermons, is the measure of the world’; and this measure, or standard, was one he unflinchingly adopted as his own.
The atmospheric picture above is from Newman's room at the Oratory in Birmingham - part of his collection of his own published works.

Sunday, 19 July 2009

Cardinal Jean Margéot RIP

A Mauritian parishioner told me today after Mass of the death of Cardinal Jean Margéot, Archbishop of Port-Louis, whose funeral was celebrated today. See the report (in French) at Le Matinal.

Cardinal Margéot was 93 and a highly respected figure in Mauritius. he was ordained in priest in 1938 at the age of 22 and became Bishop of Port-Louis in 1969. He was created Cardinal in 1988. Out of respect for his weighty contribution to development in Mauritius, he was afforded a state funeral and the leaders of both the ruling and opposition parties have spoken of his patriotism, his dignity and elegance in office. The country declared two days of official mourning this weekend, and cancelled the horse racing at the Champ-de-Mars.

In 1960, he called upon Catholic members of Parliament to oppose the legalisation of contraception, he worked hard to ensure free education and the establishment of Catholic Colleges, and he was always close to the poor and the suffering. I understand also that he opposed the building of a mosque at the premier Marian Shrine of Mauritius although I would appreciate further information about the shrine.

Please remember in your prayers both the Cardinal himself and the people of Mauritius whom he clearly love so well, gaining the respect of his country.

Saturday, 18 July 2009

London Blognic

Fr Zuhlsdorf is in town and keen to get a blognic going. Can I suggest Friday 24 July at 6pm so that people who are at work in London can get there? One suggestion is the Ha Ha Bar opposite Westminster Cathedral. (The Buckingham Arms might be a bit crowded on a Friday evening after work.) Other suggestions for a good venue in central London are welcome for the next day or so then we'll pin it down.

Challenge Team UK

God often brings good out of evil. The responses to my post on the filthy sex-ed leaflet from NHS Sheffield threw up a good reply from Kidscape and now Stuart Cunliffe has put me onto Challenge Team UK which is a group of young volunteers who educate teenagers about healthy sexuality. Part of the strategy is to go into schools speaking from a common sense and health perspective, without any religious references. This is perfectly reasonable since we believe that everyone ought to be able to know and understand the natural moral law.

The message of challenge Team UK is:
• Saving sex for marriage is a positive, realistic and healthy lifestyle.
• Saving sex for marriage is a lifestyle of sexual self-control and respect.
• Anyone can start over again and choose chastity, which basically means saving sex for marriage.
• There can be many negative physical and emotional consequences to teen sexual activity - unplanned pregnancies, sexually transmitted infections and diseases, loss of self-respect, embarrassment, anxiety, regret, etc.
• Saving sex for marriage can bring freedom - from worry about health or pregnancy, to be respected for who you are, to plan your future, to enjoy healthy relationships, and more.
Although the message is not given with an explicitly Christian slant, the volunteers of Challenge Team UK are Christians. You can see Stuart's blog Diary of a WIP (WIP is a reference to his life which, as for all of us, is a "work in progress".) Christians give out food on the streets of our cities and this is a good witness to the imperative of charity for Christians. Teaching young people about saving sex for marriage is also an act of Christian charity.

I'm sorry not to have heard of these good young people before. Say a prayer for their excellent work with teenagers.

UPDATE: Rachel in the combox has drawn attention to one important drawback in the material regarding civil unions at this page. Obviously, I would not endorse this in any way.

Friday, 17 July 2009

Pontifical Mass of Bishop Oliveri

Rorate Caeli has some good photographs of the Pontifical Mass recently celebrated by Bishop Mario Oliveri of Albenga-Imperia at the parish Church of St Michael the Archangel in Villatalla. What a lovely Church for a village of only 30 inhabitants!

I met Bishop Oliveri back in the late 1970s when he was an official at the Apostolic Nunciature in London. He came to give a lecture at the Faith Summer Session and was very warmly received. I have always taken an interest in news about him and it is no surprise to hear that his diocese is one of the few in Italy where there have been no obstacles imposed to the implementation of Summorum Pontificum.

FSSP with Pope Benedict

Recently, Very Rev Fr John Berg FSSP, the Superior General of the Priestly Fraternity of St Peter, met with the Holy Father in the library of the Apostolic Palace. Fr Berg was given the opportunity to speak privately with the Holy Father for fifteen minutes - something less common now that under Pope John Paul II. Afterwards Pope Benedict greeted Fr Bisig and the other founders of the FSSP. He gave his blessing to the FSSP which has 350 members. (There are also 2600 members in the Confraternity of St Peter.) The Holy Father's particular message was "remain ever faithful."

The FSSp website shows some interesting statistics. As of September 2008, there were 347 members: 208 priests, 11 deacons, and 128 seminarians. Average age of members: 37. ("The Church is alive. The Church is young."

Tu es Petrus

Well we haven't had much in the way of pictures or videos of the Pope recently so here is a YouTube video which came my way today:

The soundtrack is the "Tu es Petrus" by Piotr Rubik. It was written as a birthday present for Pope John Paul II in 2005 but the Holy Father died before it was completed.

Thursday, 16 July 2009

Approved re-ordering

Fr Ray Blake is re-ordering St Mary Magdalen's Brighton - they have just got approval from the Historic Churches Committee. (See: Approved!) I'll be over there on Tuesday morning so can have a closer look at the plans. Perhaps I should take over some designs for felt banners ;-)

Routemaster bus to Jubilee Mass

Andrew Bosi sends me the following details of the Bus that has been organised for those wishing to travel to my Jubilee Mass from central London.
Please ask people to be at Moorgate (Finsbury Square) for 4.45 or London Bridge for 5.15 p.m. We hope to use a stand on the east side of Finsbury Square but a routemaster bus should be fairly conspicuous, even though we hope to have RM5 which is red but may have to settle for RM6 which is gold in colour.

We plan to return at approx. 10 p.m.
People should let me know they are coming on this e-mail The £5 fare will be collected on the bus. We hope to have a Gibson ticket machine but cannot promise. Oystercards including freedom passes, travelcards etc. regrettably cannot be accepted.

Any rendition of "Transport of Delight" will be limited to the return journey.

Silver Jubilee Reminder

A reminder that you are all invited to my Silver Jubilee Mass on Tuesday 28 July at 7pm at Blackfen. More details here. The Mass will be High Mass in the usus antiquior with Fr Charles Briggs as Deacon, Fr Christopher Basden as Subdeacon, and Fr Roger Nesbitt preaching.

If you are coming it would be helpful if you could send a quick email to (but if you forget, or happen to be free at the last minute, you are still welcome to come.)

Rome experience

H/T Fr Ray Blake

"The Shack"

The Shack is a novel written by William P Young. It got to the top of the New York Times bestsellers list by word of mouth and buzz on the internet among evangelical Christians. (Wikipedia article about the book.)

There doesn't seem to be much Catholic comment on this book yet (I'd be grateful for any links) but there is a helpful review by Julie D. at Catholic Media Reviews. Here is her brief summary of the plot:
Essentially, The Shack is the story of a family that has suffered the tragedy of having their six-year-old daughter kidnapped and murdered by a serial killer. They are suffering from all the reactions one can imagine, from intense sadness and guilt to extreme anger with God for allowing this to happen. Mack, the father, finds a mysterious card in the mailbox one day. It appears to be from God and invites him to come to the shack where the last evidence was found of his daughter, a blood-stained dress. When Mack gets there he encounters the Trinity in a Narnia-style adventure that strives to inform about God and our relationship to Him.
The author is part of something called the "emergent Church" (or "emerging Church") movement about which there is a fairly lengthy Wikipedia article. This is a postmodernist christian movement which, being postmodernist, is impossible to pin down but is characterised by an openness to various kinds of "spirituality" which are recontextualised for the culture of today. As one would expect, it serenely transcends the old-culture "modernist" characterisation of "conservative" and "liberal".

From what I have seen so far, "The Shack" seems to be emotionally engaging and influential: it is the kind of book which people read and say "it changed my life". However, it plays to the easy, culturally acceptable, rejection of formal doctrine, worship and ecclesiastical structures. Many evangelicals have criticised it because of the way that it treats the bible.

My fear is that among ordinary people it is likely to do some significant harm precisely because it reinforces these cultural prejudices in the context of an attractive story. So some of us are going to need to read it with a critical eye and begin to develop some answers that can challenge those who say that it has "changed my life."

After a few years of the Da Vinci Code, I hope people are reasonably competent in countering the "it's only a work of fiction" argument.

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Kidscape response to NHS Sheffield "Pleasure" leaflet

The other day I asked whether Kidscape might have a view on the dreadful leaflet "Pleasure" produced by NHS Sheffield. (See: More taxpayer-funded sex-ed filth) Peter Bradley, the Deputy Director of Kidscape, has written as follows:
Kidscape certainly have a view on the "Pleasure" leaflet produced in Sheffield. Michele Elliott has already spoken out about this on Radio Sheffield - she made Kidscape's view loud and clear. In summary - parts of the leaflet provide young people with ridiculous, irresponsible advice that may lead young people on a potential sexual path of misery and harm. This is a frequent message adults tell us about on reflection in later, more mature years.

How about a leaflet exploring the necessary skills for teenagers to say to say "No". Would the NHS fund this? With high rates of teenage pregnancy, Chlamydia and other S.T.I.'s it is incredible the same old messages are recycled, sexed up and promoted. If the professional messages don't change how can we expect young people's sexual activity to change? After 20 years of working in the sexual health field I have seen for myself how it is far too easy for workers to hand out free condoms to children without providing accurate information or the opportunity to discuss the moral issues many young people seek to discuss but workers do not provide. Don't get me wrong, young people should be given accurate up to date information around sexual health and relationship options - but they must also be able to make an informed choice based on accurate, thought provoking information which is inclusive for all.

"An orgasm a day keeps the doctor away" (Stated in leaflet) - my advice - "Stick to apples".
We might have one or two differences on what constitutes appropriate discussion of moral issues, information and sexual health and relationship options but it is most encouraging that the respected child-protection charity, Kidscape, which focuses particularly on preventing bullying, has taken such a robust and sensible view on the "Pleasure" leaflet. Michelle Elliott pointed out that
"Young people under 16 should not be having sex... We know they do, but we should not encourage it."

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

"Test of Faith" launch

The launch of "Test of Faith" gave me an opportunity to visit the Royal Society for the first time. This is a learned scientific society, founded in 1660, during the Restoration of Charles II, and considered to be the oldest in the world. Past Presidents of the Society include such as Sir Isaac Newton, Sir Humphrey Davy, Thomas Huxley, Lord Kelvin and Joseph Lister.

This was a treat for me because I have had a keen interest in the natural sciences since before I was ten years old and persuaded my parents to get me a chemistry set. At school, my interest was fostered by enthusiastic and engaging teachers so that in the sixth form (age 16-18) I studied A-levels in Physics, Chemistry and Biology: originally intending to follow my sister's footsteps into medicine; but the good Lord had other ideas.

Fr Roger Nesbitt, who studied Chemistry at Imperial College and has an MSc in Nuclear Chemistry inspired me and many other young men to see science and religion as complementary, and not in competition: in the natural world we uncover the wisdom of God in creation, in the teaching of the Catholic Church, we come to know the wisdom of God in those things He has revealed. The Faith Movement was founded to promote just such an understanding of science and religion and to illuminate the path from science to God.

It was fascinating to see part of the "Test of Faith" DVD (and other educational materials) and see many of the same ideas promoted by the Faraday Institute. Fr Hugh McKenzie, the editor of Faith Magazine was also there casting a critical philosophical eye on things.

The highlight of the evening was a question and answer session, brilliantly managed by Professor John Polkinghorne, one of the key figures in the "Test of Faith" project. I think that the DVD will help many young people to see their way out of the quite false opposition that has been put up between science and faith. Professor Polkinghorne quite properly outlined the limits of natural theology and persuasively argued that from our scientific knowledge of the world it is reasonable to believe in God.

Fr Hugh and I had one or two quibbles. Our position would be to say that the evidence from science does indeed demonstrate the existence of God, not simply show that it is reasonable to believe it. One evangelical questioner quoted Romans 1.20 to which Professor Polkinghorne replied candidly that he disagreed with St Paul since he did not think his atheist friends to be stupid. However, minds can be "darkened" in various ways, not only through stupidity. Professor Polkinghorne would also consider the "Intelligent Design" school to be mistaken but would presumably not regard them as stupid. It is possible for intelligent men to be mistaken about the force of evidence. I certainly do not regard Richard Dawkins as a stupid man and greatly admire his presentation of the evidence for natural selection; but I think he is wrong about the existence of God and I would argue that the evidence shows him to be wrong.

Let us not end on a negative note, however. The "Test of Faith" project is a powerful presentation of the reasonableness of belief in God on the basis of looking at the evidence. In that way, it fulfils the motto of the Royal Society "Nullius in Verba" which means literally "into the words of nobody" and has the sense of "I don't take anyone's word for things but look at the evidence." In terms of the natural sciences, that is the right thing to do - look at the evidence and see where it leads you. The evidence of our ordered universe with its precise laws and constants leads us inexorably to the affirmation of a supreme mind who transcends the material universe.

Early evening in London

Where do you think the above photo was taken? Here is a link to the google map. You might imagine that it is somewhere in the English countryside. In fact, it is a little place called Horse Guards Road, looking towards St James's Park, right in the centre of London. Turning 180 degrees, here is the view of Horse Guards Parade where the trooping of the colour is carried out. You can see the London Eye in the background and just out of shot to the right is 10 Downing Street, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and HM Treasury.

I had to cross a busy road called "The Mall" which has a good prospect to the west (Buckingham Palace.)

My destination was this venerable English institution in Carlton House Terrace, for the launch of "Test of Faith" (more in a moment).

As it was a glorious evening and I was passing some of the great landmarks, I thought some of you might appreciate a couple of snaps.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...