Wednesday, August 30, 2006

The BBC is rubbish

Give them the simple job of reporting a scientific story with a religious angle and they completely fluff every aspect. The story is about a paper in Neuroscience Letters. Here's the abstract:

Beauregard M, Paquette V. Neural correlates of a mystical experience in Carmelite nuns. Neurosci Lett. 2006 ;405(3):186-190.

The main goal of this functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) study was to identify the neural correlates of a mystical experience. The brain activity of Carmelite nuns was measured while they were subjectively in a state of union with God. This state was associated with significant loci of activation in the right medial orbitofrontal cortex, right middle temporal cortex, right inferior and superior parietal lobules, right caudate, left medial prefrontal cortex, left anterior cingulate cortex, left inferior parietal lobule, left insula, left caudate, and left brainstem. Other loci of activation were seen in the extra-striate visual cortex. These results suggest that mystical experiences are mediated by several brain regions and systems.
PMID: 16872743 [PubMed - as supplied by publisher]

And here is my translation:
We looked at the brains of contemplative nuns in prayer with a scanner that allows the active bits of the brain to light up. The bits at the front, the side and the bottom lit up as did some bits deep down and a bit at the back to do with seeing things.

Or put more simply:
There is no one part of the brain involved in mystical experience, but lots of bits of the brain.

The BBC reports that there is “no single God spot” in the brain. Duhhhhhh!!!! Is that really what it comes down to – “Look! If you put some nuns in a scanner, you’ll find out where the religious bit of the brain is!” Are they seriously saying that the hypothesis for this study was that the brain has a single portal of entry to do with God? Ill-informed, trivialising, theologically illiterate tripe that would get a D minus in senior school RI. No doubt the Beeboids were hoping to do mass brain surgery and disable religious feeling (well, Christian religious feeling, that is) or to conclude that religion is all in the mind.

I am sick of the trivialisation of religion in general and the Catholic Faith in particular by the MSM (the BBC is particularly bad). Reading this stuff one wonders how they make it up.

“Nuns are said to experience Unio Mystica - the Christian notion of a mystical union with God - during their 20s.”

Says who? When exactly in their 20s? All nuns or just contemplatives? Sr Joan Chittester or St Edith Stein? Did Karen Armstrong have this, or did she miss out and is so peeved she’s been bonkers ever since?

Still, they did at least have the sense to get a priest, Fr Stephen Wang who might utter something sensible. :

"True Christian mysticism is an encounter with the living God. We meet him in the depths of our souls.
"It is an experience that goes far beyond the normal boundaries of human psychology and consciousness."

But now look what they’ve got
“Who was the real Mary Magdalene? The sinner woman of the Bible; Jesus' girlfriend? Or was she an important leader in the early church?”

(Answer: (1) Read the Gospels (2) No; and (3) No)
How do they get away with this? Does the fact that you’ve read and swallowed wholesale the DVC qualify you to be religious affairs correspondent for the BBC?

Do all religions get this treatment? What do you think?

This page refers to:”The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh)” That’s right, “peace be upon him” They’ve already started saying the “Prophet” Muhammed on BBC news. Can’t be too long until they start saying “peace be upon him”, a la Jack Straw.

But back to the Christian Faith. Here is the BBC’s take on Christianity:

“Jesus said that he had come to fulfil God's law rather than teach it.”
Hmmm…..Our Lord seems to have done quite a lot of teaching in addition to fulfilling the Law. Do they imply
(1) He is not God?;
(2) He did not teach God’s law?;
(3) Teaching God’s law is somehow unchristian? (the subtext here is that to teaching anything dogmatically is not Christ’s way – that’s the “Of course Jesus was a really good bloke and all that, BUT…” argument I grew tired of hearing as an undergraduate 20 years ago)
or how about this?

“Justification by faith
Christians believe in justification by faith - that through their belief in Jesus as the Son of God, and in his death and resurrection, they can have a right relationship with God whose forgiveness was made once and for all through the death of Jesus Christ.”

Well some Christians do, but it’s only half the story as far as Catholics are concerned.

I could go on but I'm already very, VERY ANGRY

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

In spite of dungeon, fire and sword

Follow the links

I was moved by Fr Tim’s photos of the depictions of the Carthusian Martyrs from Parkminster. We are lucky that we do not (yet) face such a physical threat to the Faith. Others who follow Christ throughout the world pay a real price for their witness. Pray for them.

Faith of our fathers, living still,
In spite of dungeon, fire and sword;
O how our hearts beat high with joy
Whenever we hear that glorious Word!

Faith of our fathers, holy faith!
We will be true to thee till death.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Attention all Catholic students

Some sound advice ca 1942


Remember that no amount of prayers will keep you from sin unless you do your part and keep out of temptation. St Paul warns us that Faith without good works is dead. He also tells us that provided temptation is not of our making God will surely give us the grace to master it. Don’t weaken yourself by thinking that you are certain to fall. That is fifth column work against yourself. On the other hand don’t presume; don’t put yourself in danger. He that loveth the danger shall surely perish in the danger.

Amongst many soldiers there is an unfortunate notion that a man on leave is expected to do anything he likes and that proficiency in vice is a proof of one’s manhood. Don’t let yourself be led astray by such a miserable idea. It is self-control and not self-indulgence that will attest your manhood. In olden times the perfect knight was the one who fought without fear on the field of battle and off it had respect for himself and others. Let that be your idea of manliness –brave in the face of danger and at all times a Christian. Let it be your ambition to go back to your wife and children or to the girl you hope to marry, without stain and without reproach. Keep the thought of your good womenfolk at home in your mind always and you will find it easier to keep away from those hideous haunts of vice where you can only find death for your soul and loathsome disease for your body. Don’t ever give away the control of your own conduct by taking too much drink. If you have a pledge, keep it. If not, by all means take a drink but don’t take too much. Many a time too much drink is the cause of good men going where they would hate to be found if they were sober. And very often Sunday Mass on leave is missed because of too much drink the night before. If you happen to be on leave over a weekend make sure of finding out the time and place of Sunday Mass and get up in good time and go to mass. Don’t stay away from Mass because your mates might make some comment. At heart Pontius Pilate was not a bad man. Fear of the crowd made him do what he knew was wrong. He is not a model for soldiers to imitate.

Above all and in all and through all cherish a deep personal love for the Immaculate Mother of God – our tainted nature’s solitary boast – and remember that all your earthly loyalty to king and country is nothing if you yourself are not rooted in unswerving allegiance to the King of Kings. If he is the Captain of your soul at all times your soldiering will bring honour to your Faith, your Family and your Fatherland.

The Catholic Soldier’s Prayer Book, 1942

This advice with a few modifications would be usefully handed out to Catholic students going away to university, or indeed on pilgrimage to Lourdes.

Biretta tip to Fr Tim and Antonia

Thursday, August 24, 2006

You never see them together, do you?

Over at The Closed Cafeteria a nice picture of Fr Stephanos is posted. Separated at birth, or are they one and the same person? I think we should be told

What family prayers do you say?

I read with interest Mac's post on family prayers. I'd be interested to hear what prayersother parents pray with their children. These are the stock prayers the Paulinus boys say with me every night:

Angel of God my guardian dear,
To whom God's love commits me here,
Ever this night be at my side,
To light and guard to rule and guide.Amen

Gentle Jesus meek and mild,
Look on me a little child,
Pity mine and pity me
Suffer me to come to Thee.
Heart of Jesus I adore Thee
Heart of Mary, I implore Thee
Heart of Jospeh, pure and just,
In these three hearts I place my trust

(stolen from Fr Sean Finnegan's book)

Jesus, Master, shepherd hear me,
Watch your little lamb tonight,
In the darkness be Thou near me,
Keep me safe 'til morning light

(I got this from a biography of Iris Murdoch)

We add a Pater, Ave and Gloria and a decade of the rosary in May and October and on feasts of the BVM.

What do you pray with your children?

Read the black, do the red.

It’s not that difficult, is it? Fr Tim comments on this pithy aphorism of Fr Philip Powell OP.

Some notes from Roger Scruton on meticulousness in the sacred:

“Sacred rites and observances are in a certain sense meticulous. Their purpose and power lie in their exact performance. Like magic spells (to which they are closely related) they must be performed to the letter, without error, as custom dictates. Mistakes may be made: but it is important that they be mistakes rather than innovations, since any spontaneous innovation carries a risk of sacrilege.”

- An Intelligent Person's Guide to Modern Culture, St Augustine’s Press, 1998

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

As the shades lengthen

This is for dilexit prior, or more specifically for her grandparents in the twilght of their days. I found it in my Dad's things. I don't know if he wrote it, but he had typed it out and it was clearly well used in his last years from the state of the paper.

A Prayer to Our Blessed Lady for Those Who Are Growing Old

Take my hand, O Blessed Mother,
Hold me firmly lest I fall,
I am nervous when I’m walking,
And to Thee I humbly call.

Guide me over every crossing,
Watch me when I’m on the stairs.
Let me know that you’re beside me,
Listen to my fervent prayer.

Bring me to my destination,
Safely bring me, every day.
Help me with each undertaking,
As the hours pass away.

So, when evening falls upon us,
And I fear to be alone,
Take my hand, O Blessed Mother,
Once again and lead me home.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

From the attic #2

I found my Dad's wartime prayerbook, the frontispiece of which is displayed. What is clear from it is the urgency of faith and the need to avoid sin when facing death, imminent death, on the battlefield. It is something we have lost with increased expectation of life, but something quite striking when seen on the page.

which should be used often and committed to memory

O Lord, increase my faith.

O God, be merciful to me a sinner.

Lord, teach me to pray.

Teach me, Lord, to do Thy will for Thou art my God

O Jesus, never permit me to be separated from Thee.

Jesus, Mary, Joseph.

Sacred Heart of Jesus, protect our homes.

Sacred Heart of Jesus, in Thee I place my trust.

We adore Thee, O Christ and we bless Thee, because by Thy Holy Cross, Thou hast redeemed the world.

Mother of Mercy, pray for us.

Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, Hope of the Hopeless, pray for us.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

The Rocky Horror Creative Liturgy

Biretta Tip: Fr Tim

The 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time (or whenever)
(adapted from All Together Now!! The Canmore Book of Common Worship)

The non-hierarchical procession will process to the open access sanctuary with reverence. They may greet and hug ‘particular friends’ in the congregation on the way there. A Communion Table will be set with a rainbow cloth, abstract sculpture and multicoloured candles. Joss sticks may, or may not be used, as appropriate

Leader (for it is she): In the name of the Mother, the Sibling and the Heavenly Dove from above.

People: Amen (or they might say “Yeah”, or “Right” or “Whatever”)

Leader: Hullo! And Welcome to St Julian the Apostate’s Creative Liturgy

And now for our opening song “Gather Us In”

Gather Us In!
Here in this place inanity is streaming; now is the doctrine vanished away;
see in this space our neuroses and daydreams, brought here for us in the light of this day.
Gather us in, the wacky and loopy; gather us in, the blind and the lame;
call to us now, and we shall awaken; we shall arise at the sound of our name
We’re are the young, our lives soooooo boring; we’re from the sixties and we’ve found OUR place;
we have been sung throughout all of history, called to be light to the whole human race.
Gather us in, the middle class haughty; gather us in, with the spliff and the bong;
give us a hymn, so bleek and so tawdry; now we can join in this terrible song!

First Reading
There will now follow a reading from the letter of St Hans of Kung to the Romans
“Zis is so unfair. Other high profile theologians get a cardinal’s hat but I am cast into outer darkness. But yea, I place my faith in the pushy English Catholics who will ensure “Infallable” in the libraries of most Catholic Chaplaincies.”

Psalm (ICEL tr.)
The Mother God is my shepherd
I’ve got quite enough, thank you
Sh/e lets me repose in green organic pastures

Sh/e is true to her name.
If I should walk where there is all sorts of unpleasantness, I won’t be anxious.
You are there with a nice cup of tea and some counselling.

You have prepared a vegan-friendly spread in the sight of all those ghastly trads. My head you have anointed with cold pressed, extra virgin olive oil (or it might be aromatherapy)

Surely, goodness, hugs and togetherness will follow me all the days of my life.
And in the Earth Mother’s bender will I dwell, for ever and ever.

A reading from the Gospel according to St John of Lennon
“Peace is the answer. War isn’t. Yeah”

The Liturgy of the Pebbles

The celebrants will take a stone (nice ones from Ikea) from a black plastic bin that represents the Pit of Ecclesial Despond. This stones represents any act of patriarchy, misogyny, racism, homophobia or other nastiness inflicted on the member of the congregation by the Church hierarchy or society at large. They hold it close to their heart and then place reverently on the altar, having turned that stone into an intention to perform some act of charity (animal activism/sisterly solidarity with excommunicated women bishops or priests on a boat/going on a Stop the War demo)

There will now follow a placing of the stones on the altar

A piece of Aztec Pan Pipe /Native Indian chant/Aborigine music or whale singing may be played

The Liturgical Dance

A first (male ) dancer dressed all in black (looking like a Dementor) will seek to inflict oppression on a poor, frail female dancer (Everyperson - in white). From all sides of the building, other strong, women dancers, dressed in rainbow colours will join with the Children from the Children’s Liturgy Group (“The Kidz”) who will cast out the horrible priest-bishop figure and join in a joyous skipping dance with the Everyperson figure around the communion-table-altar thingy. Everyperson will grow strong

This could be accompanied by any of the following songs (“Spirit in the Sky” by Norman Greenbaum, “Earth Song” by Michael Jackson, “Blowin’ in the Wind” by Bob Dylan)

Bidding prayers
The response is: “WE ARE ALL CHURCH”

Let us pray for all wimmin in the Church – that the hierarchy will recognise their true place at the heart of the Church and give the big jobs – you know the ones with vestments and stuff. R: WE ARE ALL CHURCH

Let us pray for the people of Lebanon/Palestine/Afghanistan/Iraq/Iran (add the latest Middle Eastern hellhole here). We are so, so sorry and it’s all our fault. R: WE ARE ALL CHURCH

Let us pray for all oppressed minorities in the Church (you know who you are). And that this terrible, terrible pope, He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, will not stick around too long so that we can have that nice Cardinal Daneels or Martini or better still a woman. R: WE ARE ALL CHURCH

Let us pray that Christians in China/Cuba/Pakistan will learn to know their place and stop causing trouble. R: WE ARE ALL CHURCH

Let us pray for all those members of Muslim community, so alienated by their life in this country with its free education, health and welfare systems that they feel compelled to blow themselves up on public transport. We pray that they’ll feeless alienated once the government allows them Sharia Law. R: WE ARE ALL CHURCH

Let us pray for the United nations. Despite 60 years of ineffectiveness, we still pray that all people of the world could, you know, just get along and stop being horrid to each other R: WE ARE ALL CHURCH

Let us pray for Barry and Nigel (or it may be Daphne and Erica) as they celebrate their first year of civil partnership together. R: WE ARE ALL CHURCH

Let us pray for Sr Rose of the Holy Name as she begins her new life as Spirit-Flame. We wish her well with her enneagram, crystals and counselling enterprise. R: WE ARE ALL CHURCH

Communion Get Together
A Tesco Finest Pitta Bread in a multicoloured bowl and an ethnic cup of Fairtrade Chilean Chardonnay (pre-consecrated by Father Barry, who may, or may not be present) is held aloft


Leader: Come and eat and be one

People: OK, that’s great

The bread and wine are passed around. As it is passed, the people say each to each other:

Person #1: This is the bread and wine

Person #2: How nice and inclusive

At this point more tasteful ethnic music will be played.

Finishing Rite
Leader: Let us pray. Eternal Good Spirit thank you for a nice liturgy together – it’s been so inclusive and warm and spontaneous.

The Sub-Leader: The liturgy is over – let’s go in peace and hey, be careful out there.

People: Amen to that (or they may say “Right on” or “Cool!” or “Whatever”)

Recessional Hymn

It's me, it's me, it's me who builds community
It's me, it's me, it's me who builds community
It's me, it's me, it's me who builds community
It's me, it's me, it's me who builds communiteeeeeee

Rolling over the ocean, roll over the sea
Go out into the world and build community
Rolling over the ocean, roll over the sea
Go out into the world and build community

It's you, it's me, it's us who builds community
It's you, it's me, it's us who builds community
It's you, it's me, it's us who builds community
It's you, it's me, it's us who builds communiteeeeeee

There will now be a gathering for Fairtrade coffee and organic flapjacks (may contain nuts)

Friday, August 18, 2006

Spain: Between a rock and a hard place

I had meant to post on this during the Holy Father's recent visit to Spain. I despise fascism - principally for the fact of its attack on human dignity and the fact that it degrades human relationships solely to those of power and fear. I vicariously resent the fact that it stole 6 and a half years of youth from my father and his experiences gave him nightmares for 10 years afterwards. I am reading Antony Beevor's excellent "The Battle for Spain - The Spanish Civil War 1936-1939". The focus is the military campaign fought between the Nationalists and Republicans. The English perspective is usually dominated by Orwell's fairly unique perspective (from the anti-Stalinist POUM) and the general tenor of English commentary is pro-Republican. I can't share Andrew Cusack's enthusiasm for El Caudillo, but considering the death of 6,382 priests and religious including 13 bishops and the general sacrilege and desecration (see below), it wasn't hard to see how the Church identified the bad guys:

Anarchists pillage, plunder and desecrate

Even the dead were not spared indignity - nuns taken from their tombs and exposed to ridicule in Barcelona

There's a reasonable summary here.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

From the attic #1

I've been looking through my dear, departed father's papers, two and a half years after his death. I've found his Army record of service and it brought a smile of pride to my face when I saw the judgement on his war service first as a gunner and latterly in the special forces, in the Long Range Desert Group

DEUS, QUI nos patrem et matrem honorare praecepisti: miserere clementer animabus patris et matris meae, eorumque peccata dimitte: meque eos in aeternae claritatis gaudio fac videre. Per Dominum nostrum Jesum Christum filium tuum, qui tecum vivit et regnat in unitate Spiritus Sancti, Deus, per omnia saecula saeculorum. Amen.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Cardinal Daneels gets a doing.

From the letters page of the Daily Telegraph, 15th August:

Sir - You cite Cardinal Daneels in support of the notion that the Pope should "stop Aids" by declaring the use of condoms permissible. With all respect to that venerable prelate, whose relentless progressivism is so charmingly old-fashioned, it is not the Roman Catholic Church's teaching on the intrinsic wrong of artificial contraception that kills: it is sexual promiscuity that kills....

Viscount Monckton of Brenchley

Viscountess Monckton of Brenchley, Rannoch, Perthshire


The Stripping of the Altars

How was this allowed to happen? My apologies for the quality of the picture (scanned from a parish magazine from 1959) This is the church in which my parents were married, my sisters were baptised and my uncle ordained to the priesthood.This church, designed by Adrian G. Scott in the Gothic style, was opened in 1931.

This is what it looked like at the Quarant' Ore devotion in 1959:

This is what it looks like today:

What purpose was served by removing the simple, dignified high altar and reredos? Is there no recognition that the stones of our churches make up a part of the substance of our faith? Is this how the bewildered Catholic people of England felt when Cromwell's men went to work? It certainly feels like the process Eamon Duffy describes.

"It was theologo-philistinism chilling in its austerity."
Carl Green, Oriens

I might ask Fr Nicholas, who is a stone's throw away at Willesden to take a photograph the hideous tabernacle. I was so horrified by it, I couldn't bear to snap it at a family wedding last year.

Signum Magnum apparuit in caelo

Second reading 1 Corinthians 15:20 - 26
Christ has in fact been raised from the dead, the first-fruits of all who have fallen asleep. Death came through one man and in the same way the resurrection of the dead has come through one man. Just as all men die in Adam, so all men will be brought to life in Christ; but all of them in their proper order: Christ as the first-fruits and then, after the coming of Christ, those who belong to him. After that will come the end, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father, having done away with every sovereignty, authority and power. For he must be king until he has put all his enemies under his feet and the last of the enemies to be destroyed is death, for everything is to be put under his feet.

From Munificentissimus Deus

"Yet, according to the general rule, God does not will to grant to the just the full effect of the victory over death until the end of time has come. And so it is that the bodies of even the just are corrupted after death, and only on the last day will they be joined, each to its own glorious soul.

Now God has willed that the Blessed Virgin Mary should be exempted from this general rule. She, by an entirely unique privilege, completely overcame sin by her Immaculate Conception, and as a result she was not subject to the law of remaining in the corruption of the grave, and she did not have to wait until the end of time for the redemption of her body.

Thus, when it was solemnly proclaimed that Mary, the Virgin Mother of God, was from the very beginning free from the taint of original sin, the minds of the faithful were filled with a stronger hope that the day might soon come when the dogma of the Virgin Mary's bodily Assumption into heaven would also be defined by the Church's supreme teaching authority.

I, PIUS, Bishop of the Catholic Church, have signed, so defining"

A Happy Feast Day to everyone!

No liturgical glories for me on this feast day - a quiet 8am Mass on the way to work, but set me up nicely for the day. So for some liturgical uplift, I'm listening to the proper of the Mass for the feast sung by the Benedictine Nuns of St Cecilia's, Ryde, Isle of Wight. Not quite the manly chant, Fr Finigan extolled recently, but it'll do.

Regina in caelum assumpta, Ora pro nobis.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Death, dying and dehydration.

Fr Tim Finigan and Mac McLernon have mentioned this of late and I wanted to get some thoughts together about a fraught subject. The case cited in The Times seems the most appalling case of backdoor euthanasia.

In the main the general rule should be that proper hydration and nutrition is the duty of the medical and nursing staff caring for a patient. When a patient cannot swallow, for instance after a stroke, feeding needs to be given by a feeding tube (usually inserted via the nose into the stomach, not nice, but these are the facts). If swallowing is not possible within a couple of weeks the general principle should be to form a PEG tube (Percutaneous Endoscopic Gastrectomy) – a tube directly into the stomach through the skin over the abdominal wall, through which food and nourishment can be passed. I had one patient in the hospice some years ago who had a glass of red wine each evening via the tube. These carry some risk – anything that involves an incision (as this does) carries the risk of infection, bleeding or perforation – but the risk is relatively small (probably less than 5% for any adverse effect). Feeding and nourishing is an act of care and love and is the first instinct of a anyone who loves another, especially when they are dependent , as a child is dependent on its parents. We accept that we are dependent at the beginning of life – most of us will become so at the end of life but this doesn’t fit with the false god of complete autonomy.

I tell you solemnly, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go. John 21:18

Feeding and hydration at the very end of life are more difficult. Doctors are very bad at predicting or seeing death coming. Oncologists and palliative physicians (overoptimistic by a factor of 2) are better than generalists (overoptimistic about prognosis by a factor of 5).[1] At the very end of life (if death is predictable – for example in the latter stages of advanced cancer) organs begin to fail and the patient becomes catabolic – that’s to say the body stores of carbohydrate and fat get broken down to energy, carbon dioxide and water. At this stage patients will stop eating and drinking because in the process of dying the hypothalamus begins to fail. Families can become concerned that the patient is dying because they are not eating. The reverse is generally true – they are not eating because they are dying. At this stage the need for hydration is debatable – but this the very end of life, where unmistakable signs of dying are clear and one expects the patient to survive no more than 48 hours. One thoughtful review looked at the evidence and came to the conclusion that hydration was no better than good oral care in treating the symptoms of thirst at the very end of life (that is the last 24-48 hours).[2] Indeed there are some circumstances where artificial hydration can be positively harmful – overhydrating patients in heart failure will cause the excess fluid in their lungs to worsen- and thus hasten their demise and worsen their suffering. Likewise in patients with the unfortunately named “death rattle” – hydration will worsen this , although at this stage the patient is generally unconscious and the noise is more troublesome to relatives than the patient.[3]But prolonged dehydration in a patient who is not actively dying and catabolic is painful and cruel.

The shift of emphasis that needs to accompany the transition from “active treatment” to end of ilfe care is difficult to transmit at times to families especially when phrases like “there is nothing more we can do”are used. This is simply not true. There is plenty we can do – the control of symptoms and the addressing of spiritual issues. Care doesn’t stop when cure is not possible – it changes. Indeed there is a good precedent for saying "enough" when failing treatment beomes too much - for example keeping on with aggressive chemotherapy when cancer advances despite it. Pope Pius XII, speaking to a conference of anaesthetists in 1958 made clear:

"Normally one is held to use only ordinary means [to prolong life]—according to the circumstances of persons, places, times, and culture—that is to say, means that do not involve any grave burdens for oneself or another. A stricter obligation would be too burdensome for most men and would render the attainment of the higher, more important good too difficult".[4]

Note - he speaks of a stricter obligation being too burdensome - not the provision of the basics of human life: food and drink. Hopefully, at Judgement most medics will be able to hear their Master say:
"For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in"
Matthew 25:35

As Catholics we have to be clear about the language we use and not merely acquiesce in media obfuscation of terms.
Let me be absolutely clear:
(a)“Euthanasia”=killing people.
(b)“Physician Assisted Suicide”=giving people drugs so they can kill themselves.
(c)“Helping to die” sounds very cuddly but is in fact either (a) or (b).

“Dignity” has been hijacked of late by the euthanasiasts – how dignified is the end of life when the physician’s solution to the problem is as inelegant and ignorant as to kill the problem by killing the patient. I will return to the hijacking of dignity at a later date.Caring for people when they die is an act of charity, commended by the Catholic Church (did you realise palliative care is the only medical specialty mentioned by name in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.?)

2279 Even if death is thought imminent, the ordinary care owed to a sick person cannot be legitimately interrupted. The use of painkillers to alleviate the sufferings of the dying, even at the risk of shortening their days, can be morally in conformity with human dignity if death is not willed as either an end or a means, but only foreseen and tolerated as inevitable Palliative care is a special form of disinterested charity. As such it should be encouraged.

The care of the dying is a specialism but the skills are easily passed on to those who are willing to learn. Truth is, most medical students get less than a week of palliative care in the 5 years of training in the UK. The defence of the vulnerable dying is the responsibility of all of us, but as with abortion it is the Catholic Church that has the moral courage to stand up and be counted.

Finally, for a tale of dying in the midst of a loving family and with the last sacraments to sustain, I would recommend the story of Viola Davison

[1] Glare P, Virik K, Jones M, Hudson M, Eychmuller S, Simes J, Christakis N. A systematic review of physicians' survival predictions in terminally ill cancer patients. BMJ. 2003;327(7408):195.

[2] Dunphy K, Finlay I, Rathbone G, Gilbert J, Hicks F. Rehydration in palliative and terminal care: if not--why not? Palliat Med. 1995 Jul;9(3):221-8.

[3]Wee BL, Coleman PG, Hillier R, Holgate SH.The sound of death rattle I: are relatives distressed by hearing this sound?
Palliat Med. 2006 Apr;20(3):171-5.

[4]Pius XII (1958). The prolongation of Life. Pope Speaks 4:393-398

The pipes, the pipes are calling…

I value the fact that Glasgow celebrates its heritage with the wonderful piping festival – but I wonder if the pipe band practising opposite my office at the hospital from 8am-5pm NON-STOP could find:
1) somewhere else;
2) a larger repertoire of tunes?

I thought I had successfully assimilated - maybe not!

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

These are a few of my favourite blogs

Young Catholics blogging (and the very existence of Pope Benedict) gives me hope for the future.

Step forward Dilexitprior – consistently interesting and informative and the nicest picture on the blogosphere (see above)

Likewise Joee Blogs – what a nice young man! I hope he stays to be a good Catholic doctor but he shows an inclination to monastic life. Still, the new Abbot of Ampleforth is a doctor by training, so he would be in good company.

Another medical student is Antonia – best wishes on her recent wedding and I hope she keeps blogging when back from seeing Il Papa.

Last but not least (though she says she is not young) Mac McLernon

Keep blogging!!!


Today we celebrate the feast of St Dominic. The genius of St Dominic was to take the Faith to the people where they were and what a crowd of intellectual giants were his sons and daughters: St Albertus Magnus, St Thomas Aquinas, St Vincent Ferrer, St Raymond of Penyafort, St Catherine of Siena and the St Pius V, true reformer of the Church and saviour of Europe at Lepanto (see Chesterton’s Lepanto: And the Pope has cast his arms abroad for agony and loss/And called the kings of Christendom for swords about the Cross )

I have a soft spot for St Rose of Lima and my grandmother had a great devotion to St Martin De Porres.

The English Dominicans have some good preaching (as you might expect) here.

Some Dominicans I like, some are a bit of a hangover from the 60s and a bit tiresome (a bit Stanfordish, if you know what I mean) I have three favourite Dominicans on the web – our own Brother Lawrence, who hasn’t blogged for a wee while, Fr Ephraem from Australia and the thriving Moniales OP.

Finally, I like the fact that Glasgow University, where I currently labour (part of the time) in pursuit of a doctorate, had its origins in the convent of the Dominicans here.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Our Lady of Yorkshire, Pray For Us

Yorkshire born and bred, strong in't back 'n' thick in't 'ead.

Yes, Paulinus comes out of the closet as a YORKSHIREMAN. I was born and bred in God's Own County and today is Yorkshire Day. So, sorry St Alphonsus - today Yorkshiremen and women celebrate and thank God for all things Yorkshire: flat hats, ferrets, Yorkshire Pudding, Geoffrey Boycott, Tetley's Bitter, Betty's Tea Shop, Leeds United, Ernie Wise, Alan Bennett, Peter O'Toole, The Four Yorkshiremen,Michael Palin, Alcuin, curd tarts, Dickie Bird, Brian Blessed, Ilkley Moor, Jarvis Cocker,Brian Glover, Guy Fawkes, Frankie Howerd, Kevin Keegan, Andrew Marvell, Charles Laughton, Tinothy West.....need I go on?

Our Lady of Yorkshire - pray for us
St Paulinus - pray for us
St John Fisher - pray for us
St Aelred - pray for us
St Margaret Clitherow- pray for us
St Oswald - pray for us
St Hilda of Whitby - pray for us
St John of Beverley - pray for us
St John of Bridlington - pray for us
St Wilfrid - pray for us
All Holy Men and Women of Yorkshire - pray for us