Saturday, January 31, 2009

The Difference Between Men and Women: What goes through your head when someone says "Do you want to go for a drink?"

Sometimes I thank God with all my heart that he made me a man.

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Friday, January 30, 2009

Atheist Bus Campaign - "evasive and nannyish collection of non-sequiturs"

In last week's Speccie - Charles Moore

The Atheist Bus Campaign poster says: ‘There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.’ Is this the best that the power of ratiocination in which people like Richard Dawkins put such faith (yes, faith) can manage? ‘Probably’ is a weak word, for a start, though I do see that the atheists would find it difficult to assert that there is ‘certainly’ no God. But if there is only probably no God, why would one stop worrying about this question? And how does His improbability make one able to enjoy life more? Those banners which one used to see at race meetings — ‘The end is nigh. Flee from the wrath to come’ — were less unsettling than this evasive and nannyish collection of non-sequiturs.

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Thursday, January 29, 2009

On Catholics and fighting Nazism.

I'm still fuming about the Nicky Campbell interview on Radio 5 yesterday. On a personal level, my Catholic grandfathers (having both served in the First World War) were on civilian war work while my Catholic father served firstly in the Royal Artillery and subsequently the Special Forces (LRDG) alongside my Catholic uncles who were also gunners at Alamein and Cassino. Another Catholic uncle suffered head injuries requiring a metal plate in his skull whilst serving in the Royal Navy.

Amazing that armchair fighters against fascism can damn the faith of those who actually got their hands dirty, firing field guns, sailing the North Atlantic and jumping out of Dakotas and generally putting themselves in the way of harm to liberate Europe and protect their own.

It is anyone's guess what such people would have done themselves when the call came.

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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Slurs and Libels - Open Season on the Catholic Church

On my way in to work this morning I listened to the most astounding minute or so of dialogue between Nicky Campbell, a normally fairly informative and incisive interviewer and Stephen Smith, chairman of the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust. I was so amazed at this ill-informed and frankly twisted piece I have transcribed the dialogue (and yes, I do have better things to do with my time). You can listen for yourself here for the next 7 days (it's 2 hours 43 minutes into the broadcast).

Nicky Campbell: Jewish groups are criticising the Pope’s decision to lift the excommunication of a British bishop who said that the Nazi death camps did not exist. Bishop Richard Williamson made his comments recently on Swedish TV. The Holocaust Centre has condemned the decision as indefensible. It coincides with holocaust memorial day today. Stephen Smith is Chairman of the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust. Stephen, good morning.

Stephen Smith: Good morning Nicky

Nicky Campbell: The Pope reinstating Richard Williamson - this seems on the face of it extraordinary…

Stephen Smith: Yes it does particularly on Holocaust Memorial Day, today, when we reflect on what a tragedy and a trauma the Holocaust was in human history to find that a bishop is being reinstated who actively denies the fact that the gas chambers existed is absolutely astounding and outrageous, actually.

Nicky Campbell: Why is he saying this is, is this a political position he has?

Stephen Smith: Well it must be, simply because the gas chambers are an historical fact, and bishop Williamson was seen to reinforce his views recently on Swedish TV….

Nicky Campbell: …he said that no more than 200,000 died....

Stephen Smith: …yes no more than 200,000 died but he categorically denies that the gas chambers existed. Now denial is part of the cycle of genocide. What happens is that you create an ideology of hatred towards people be they Jews or Gypsies or whoever it might be in Darfur today. You then exclude them from society. You then kill them and then you deny that the facts actually are the facts. It’s all part of that cycle so for the Catholic Church that was so, in many ways, implicated in the Nazi regime as part of its Concordat with the National Socialists in the 1930s - we look back at that history and say well the Catholic Church could probably have done more to stop it, it didn’t. Now, 64 years after the liberation of Auschwitz it reinstating a bishop who denies it happened, it actually doesn’t bode well for the future.

Nicky Campbell: In some countries you could be arrested for that, but lets move on. To National Holocaust Memorial Day [there follows a discussion of the comparisons between Gaza and the Warsaw Ghetto]

Let me state for the record that I accept fully that the Nazi regime was evil, that the Holocaust is a fact of history and that the gas chambers did exist. The finer points I am happy to debate. May I also state I think Bishop Williamson is an idiot if he believes what he is said to believe. But back to the programme....

Here are the distortions or libels I've counted:
1. No context is given to the lifting of the excommunication - one would think the Pope were doing it merely to annoy or worse;
2. Bishop Williamson is being 'reinstated' (To what? A diocese? No, just communion with the Church);
3. This outrageous 'reinstatement' is being timed to coincide with Holocaust Memorial Day. Deliberately;
4. The Catholic Church is implicated in the Nazi regime;
5. Having been implicated in the Nazi regime, the Catholic Church then did little to stop the Holocaust;
6. Having 'reinstated' a Holocaust-denying bishop, the Catholic Church in some way is going to be 'implicated'in future genocides

Can you add any others I've missed?

The dangerous thing about this stuff is that it enters the zeitgeist. There are plenty of people now wandering around the UK as a result of hearing this who think that a Holocaust-denying Catholic bishop has been reinstated by the German (nudge-nudge) Pope and it was deliberately done to coincide with Holocaust Memorial Day.

I don't think we are long away from the point where the Catholic Church is accused of abducting children in order to incorporate their remains into communion wafers. You read it here first.

Do complain to the BBC if you feel the urge. Much good it will do us.

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Pray for Sana

Martin Kelly alerts his readers to this remarkable piece of film via Creative Minority Report. As Martin and CMR point out - what's the worst thing you suffer for your faith? A snide comment from work colleagues? Being viewed as slightly eccentric?

I imagine it isn't the risk of having your kids taken away. Or worse.

Pray for her. If there is something more practical that can be done, we should do it. I've emailed the link to converts' charities like this one and this one.

The least we can do is pray for an unknown sister in our midst who needs our help.

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Monday, January 26, 2009

On brilliance, neurologists and the company one keeps

Dr Mohammed Asha was described in many of the articles I read about him during his recent troubles as a brilliant neurologist. Call me an old pedant, but there are one or two brilliant physicians or surgeons in a generation in any specialty. It tends to take a career of 30-40 years to work out who they are.

In neurology it is probably reasonable to say that Lord Walton of Detchant, Kt, TD, MA, MD, DSc FRCP is a brilliant and distinguished neurologist and that Sir Roger Bannister , CBE, MA, MSc, DM, FRCP is certainly a distinguished neurologist.

Dr Asha qualified in 2004 in Amman, came to the UK in 2005 and was arrested in July 2007. To describe a junior doctor, probably an FY2 (and no disrespect to them, Matt and Antonia, you know who I'm talking about) as a brilliant neurologist is laughable.

What may do for Dr Asha and his medical career, at least in this country, is the company he keeps.

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Sunday, January 25, 2009

So it begins...

1. Close Quantanamo...check

2. Middle East peace...check.

3. Facilitate death of thousands of children in utero...check.

Obama - not so cuddly after all. So tell us, Mrs Pellosi, Mr Biden, what is your view on this policy change?

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BBC Declares War on Pro-Lifers

Having cast anti-abortionists as kidnappers and child-murderers in Hunter last week, the BBC goes one better with a sympathetic portrayal of topping yourself if you have a progressive neurological illness. It's called A Short Stay In Switzerland. Would 'Lemmings' have been a better title?

I must look through the Charter to see if they can do this sort of thing.

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Saturday, January 24, 2009

Maybe you should have chosen another bar, sisters...

"OK - what are those guys looking at? You'd have thought they'd never seen a nun before!"

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Friday, January 23, 2009

Atheist Cliches #4: Get Out Of My Face, Christians

Not that you'd ever proselytise.




Thursday, January 22, 2009

Repeat after me....

A tricky business taking Solemn Oaths, but at least President Obama is in good company, as is Chief Justice Roberts:

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Foot-In-The-Door Merchants

The ever fertile (if often scatological) Urban Dictionary has a gem:

Dawkins' Witness

Slang term for evangelical atheists, who are always trying to convert you to atheism. A take-off on Jehovah's Witness, who are always coming around trying to convert you. These guys are the same thing in reverse, preaching Richard Dawkins to anyone who will listen.

Man, a Dawkins' Witness just came by my cubical preaching again. I couldn't get rid of him.

I have one of my own to add:

n. One who's avowal of the views of Richard Dawkins makes him immune to rational argument.

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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Pre-Conciliar Catholicism

I tell you, it's a good job the hippies who taught me RE in High School warned me about what the Pre-Conciliar Church was like. I mean, you can see it here can't you? No role for the laity; a joyless, unlovely liturgy; racist and Eurocentric; no involvement of women and children; priests completely removed from the life of lay people - a caste apart.

Take a look yourself in these pictures from Life, just to see how miserable people were in their faith before the Council.

Thank God for Eagle's Wings.

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Monday, January 19, 2009

Grandstanding for the Ummah

MSP Bashir Ahmad applauded for campaign to help Gaza victims, screams The Glaswegian, the free paper on my mat last Friday night. My fellow West of Scotland blogger, Martin Kelly is not a fan of Mr Ahmad, and when I read this I understand why.

Glasgow helping Gazans -who but the most curmudgeonly could disagree? Well, let's look at it rationally, shall we? Where should those Gazans go? Well Gaza looks pretty flattened, as far as I can see, so they might need specialist help elsewhere. But wait. Hold on. Surely there must be facilities closer to hand?

How about Cairo - a mere 215 miles away? There's the Kasr El Aini Teaching Hospital - with 1200 beds: lots of appropraite facilities. But wait, closer still there's Beirut - loads of hospitals there and only 170 miles away. But that's daft. Amman is a mere 77 miles away and Jordan has more world-class hospitals than you can shake a stick at. Let's not forget the hospitals in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, which deserve a mention as the citizens of that country dig deep when it comes to paying for Qassam rockets.

No, let's bring these injured Gazans 2177 miles to Glasgow for treatment. There are so many Arabic speakers on the staff of the Western, the Southern, Yorkhill and the GRI, of course. Oh, silly me, no. We'll need lots of translators, too. All this just at the point when we're facing a winter bed crisis.

This is all the more telling given the experience of someone I met earlier this year. She had been treated in Gaza for a serious illness when working there as a volunteer teacher. Having been reluctantly treated by a doctor who, she said, had stated that he really would rather not treat a "Western slut" (try getting that one past the GMC) she had nothing but praise for the hospitals there and indeed used the chance to compare Glasgow hospitals rather unfavourably with the facilities in Gaza.

But that's by the by. Mr Ahmad knows his proposal isn't going to happen. The SNP knows it isn't going to happen - nor should it happen for good clinical reasons (it might not be a good idea to drag recovering injured patients 2177 miles for treatment) as well as the obvious one - we don't have the capacity.

No this was about as cynical a call as ever I have heard from the mouth of a politician. Google Mr Ahmad - please do, he's been in Scottish political life for a while now. Google for his calls to treat the victims of Darfur or Chad or Rwanda in Glasgow hospitals. All you will get is tumbleweed and the distant tolling of a bell. You see, there's something about them, they're the wrong type of victim. Can you think why he might think Gazans more deserving, despite the fact that the idea is clinically unsafe and practically impossible?

It is for local consumption. Pollockshields? Nah. Mr Bashir Ahmad - MSP for Faisalabad Central.

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Sunday, January 18, 2009

The twisted world-view of the BBC

Now they have a drama, Hunter, on BBC 1 tonight - primetime telly - in which a group of pro-lifers kidnap children and threaten to kill them in order to stop abortions. It's novel, I'll grant you: a blood libel against pro-lifers.

We all know where that kind of thing ends.

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Sometimes I hate my profession

My brother-in-law recounts the fact that his 92-year-old mother has had some age-related aches and gripes which her GP investigated appropriately and found no serious, or indeed reversible, cause for. She wanted a second opinion and paid good money to see a physician privately. This is all second-hand, so I may have something completely wrong here, but said physician, having pocketed the nelsons and without any further investigations beyond a good, old-fashioned clincal examination (nothing wrong with that, I'm quite an advocate) told the old dear to cut out fats and alcohol and stuck her on a statin (a cholesterol-lowering drug).

She had a miserable Christmas watching all around her feasting like good Catholics.

She's 92, for crying out loud! If I reach 92 that may be the point at which I take up smoking Havana cigars and upping my intake of single malt, bacon rolls and chocolate eclairs. What would I have to lose?

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Saturday, January 17, 2009

You had it coming, you miserable sinners

George Monbiot and friend

Toby Young is not noted for his being a champion of the poor but he has harsh words for those (and I suspect that includes most of the BBC and Guardian editorial staff) who, safe in their tenured posts, look upon the financial Götterdämmerung with a barely concealed delight at the cleansing power of crisis in the financial systems of the world.

In this article, Young takes aim at George Monbiot (Stowe; Brasenose, Oxford), the aristocratic environmentalist (is there a working class variety? I've never met one) who with Knox-like glee at the retribution being visited upon the business world omits to have an ounce of sympathy for the poor blighters collecting their P45s:

Puritans love disasters. No sooner has some calamity befallen mankind than some hair-shirted scold emerges from his priest hole and starts wagging his finger. The message is always the same: ‘You are being punished for your immoral lifestyle.’

The latest grist to the puritan mill is, of course, the credit crunch. George Monbiot, the Guardian’s very own Oliver Cromwell, has been looking forward to this moment for years. ‘I hope that the recession now being forecast by some economists materialises,’ he wrote in 2007. Now that it is upon us, he and his colleagues can hardly contain their glee. ‘A much-needed reality check’ was how another Guardian columnist recently described the global economic meltdown.

He also has a good pop at Oliver James, celebrity psychologist, who also seems to think a spot of unemployment is good for one's mental health.

However, none of these prigs has welcomed the disaster quite as joyfully as Oliver James, the broadcaster and clinical psychologist. Last Sunday, I heard him on Radio 4 discussing his most recent book in which he offers ‘scientific proof’ that there is a link between material wealth and mental illness.

‘I absolutely embrace the credit crunch with both arms,’ he said. He went on to denounce ‘Thatcherism, Reaganomics and neo-Liberalism’ which he claimed were responsible for the ‘consumer binge’ that encouraged us to think ‘wide-screen TVs were more important than playing with our toddlers’. ‘With any luck people will actually change their values, they’ll start concentrating on being rather than having and on meeting real needs rather than wants,’ he concluded. ‘It could be the beginning of a radical change in our mental health for the better.’

It is really quite astonishing that someone who prides himself on his sensitivity to human suffering could be so openly enthusiastic about an economic recession. Does he know any of the 1,230 people who are about to lose their jobs at M&S? Or the 2,700 people who work for Waterford Wedgwood? How about the 27,000 people laid off by Woolworths? The number of unemployed in the UK currently stands at 1.8 million, but according to the CBI it is due to increase to 2.9 million by 2010. In all likelihood, the number of people who will receive a ‘much-needed reality check’ from the credit crunch will exceed one million.

That's right, it worked wonders in the 1980s. Just take a walk round Govan or the bits of Motherwell that used to depend on Ravenscraig Steelworks.

One wonders how pundits, the likes of Monbiot and James can parade their disdain for people in financial difficulties with such apparent glee. I suppose they fit the classic definition of the Calvinist:

a person who is miserable at the thought that someone, somewhere is actually enjoying themselves

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Friday, January 16, 2009

Be seeing you!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Why are wannabe-jihadis so thick? It's the Juice, innit?

I've already had a pop at wannabee-jihadis' spelling. Malcolm at Cally's Kitchen points out that grammar and spelling are maybe not top of the list of hot topics at yer average madrassa (that would be (1) An in-depth analysis of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion; (2) the chemical and physical properties of chapati flour and hydrogen peroxide; (3) the life of Mohammed with a particular de-emphasis on the age of his favourite wife; (4) Home video making; (5) More Elders of Zion stuff, etc., etc.)

Rod Liddle at the Speccie went further by pointing out that most jihadis are incredibly thick. I suspect (or maybe that should be, hope) that the suave officers of the security services, the men and women of Special Branch and the rugged and sometimes rough members of HM Forces are quite good at thwarting the jihadis. They are probably helped by the fact that, thankfully, most jihadis are halfwits (Have we ever faced an enemy more stupid than Muslim terrorists?):

‘Don’t mess with the Muslims’ was the vainglorious coda to the bloodthirsty video message recorded by the quarterwit Tanvir Hussain shortly before he was arrested for his part in planning to detonate explosives on board an aeroplane, all of which you may have read about in your newspapers this last week. ‘Why ever not, Tanvir?’ we might have asked him gently. ‘Because, let’s face it, you’re absolutely f***ing useless at this Western-infidel cockroach carnage business. You couldn’t blow up a balloon. Mess with you? Mess with you? What would be the point?’

There had been plenty of wholly spastic Muslim terror operations even before those doctors tried to blow up Glasgow airport last year and ended up setting themselves on fire, harming absolutely nobody except themselves, and having the s**t kicked out of them by itinerant security guards. These were the docs, remember, who couldn’t find a good place to park: Allah’s will thwarted by local council parking regulations. (Well, sure, thinking about it, maybe we’re all with Allah and his soldiers on this one.) I was already worried, before then, about the average IQ level of al-Qa’eda operatives; that stuff, though, made me seriously question the calibre of candidates they’re allowing to practise medicine in this country. I don’t mind that my local GP is a psychopathic jihadi, but I would like him to have an IQ level higher than my cholesterol count; he should at least be able to park.

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Wednesday, January 14, 2009


I have been granted an honour by my profession and I am grateful to have been considered for it and delighted to have received it. Unconsciously I have worked for it, I guess, for 17 years of higher training and postgraduate work. Opening the letter lead to a moment of surprise and delight and then a more wholesome realisation of the hollowness of these things. Now that I have it, I realise that like any earthly thing it is as so much straw and its possession means nothing sub specie aeternatis. Mrs P opened a bottle of champagne. We'll go to the ceremony and out for dinner afterwards and I'll have a poncey gown to wear and get a rolled-up certificate and it will be great fun for a day.

My treasure lies elsewhere, I hope:

Praise adds nothing to your holiness, nor does blame take anything from it. You are what you are, and you cannot be said to be better than you are in God's sight. If you consider well what you are within, you will not care what men say about you. They look to appearances but God looks to the heart. They consider the deed but God weighs the motive.

The Imitation of Christ, Book 2, Chapter 6

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Monday, January 12, 2009

Educashun system is failing da Muslim yoof, innit?

It comes to something when the wannabe-jihadis of East London have finished vandalising a Jewish cemetery that they don't know the difference between Gaza and Gazza.

Dem teachaz don't know nuffink, man, innit?

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Saturday, January 10, 2009

Atheist Cliches #3: Science and Religion are Incompatable

A somewhat novel idea that would come as news to the following who were Christians and Scientists (or rather those with important contributions to science and scientific thought).
Pope Sylvester II , Hermann of Reichenau ,Robert Grosseteste , Pope John XXI, Albertus Magnus, Roger Bacon, Theodoric of Freiberg, Thomas Bradwardine , Jean Buridan , Nicole Oresme , Nicholas of Cusa , Otto Brunfels , Nicolaus Copernicus, Michael Stifel , Ignazio Danti , Bartholomaeus Pitiscus , John Napier, Johannes Kepler , Laurentius Gothus , Galileo Galilei , Marin Mersenne , René Descartes , Anton Maria Schyrleus of Rheita , Blaise Pascal , Isaac Barrow, Juan Caramuel y Lobkowitz , Nicolas Steno , Seth Ward , Robert Boyle , John Wallis , John Ray , Gottfried Leibniz , Isaac Newton, Colin Maclaurin , Thomas Bayes, Firmin Abauzit , Carolus Linnaeus , Leonhard Euler, Maria Gaetana Agnesi , Joseph Priestley , Isaac Milner , Samuel Vince , Olinthus Gregory , William Buckland, Augustin Louis Cauchy , Edward Hitchcock , William Whewell, Michael Faraday , Charles Babbage , Adam Sedgwick, Temple Chevallier , John Bachman , Robert Main, James Clerk Maxwell , Gregor Mendel, Philip Henry Gosse, Asa Gray , Francesco Faà di Bruno , Julian Tenison Woods, Louis Pasteur , George Jackson Mivart , Armand David , George Stokes, George Salmon , Henry Baker Tristram , Lord Kelvin , Pierre Duhem , Georg Cantor , Dmitri Egorov , Mihajlo Idvorski Pupin, Pavel Florensky , John Ambrose Fleming , Max Planck , Edward Arthur Milne , Robert Millikan , ET Whittaker, Georges Lemaître, Arthur Compton, David Lack, Theodosius Dobzhansky , Aldert van der Ziel, Carlos Chagas Filho, Sir Robert Boyd, Arthur Peacocke, C. F. von Weizsäcker, Charles Hard Townes, Ian Barbour, Freeman Dyson, Stanley Jaki, Allan Sandage, John Polkinghorne, Owen Gingerich, R. J. Berry, Michał Heller, Ghillean Prance, Donald Knuth, Eric Priest, Henry F. Schaefer, III, Robert T. Bakker, Kenneth R. Miller, Francis Collins, Simon C. Morris, John D. Barrow, Denis Alexander, John T. Houghton, Christopher Isham

All of them are somewhat more qualified to write on science than an expert in the pecking order of chicks is qualified to talk of the existence of God.

Oh, and add the thousands of practising Christians who also happen to be scientists and the millions who are Christians and have a scientific education.

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Thursday, January 08, 2009

Postscript to Odone

One of my dearest friends is a priest who is same-sex attracted. He is also committed to living chastely and fulfilling his vows. I remember a discussion over a bottle of Rioja when a fellow student said something along the lines of "But surely the Church can find some way of accomodating the love gay people have for each other?" (I'm not sure what he had in mind).

His response was stark: "You are surely not suggesting that the Church should advocate sodomy?"

He was right. His love of Christ made him foreswear his inclinations and be faithful to what the Church teaches in Christ's name. The love we owe to our gay men and women does not mean that we must advocate that which is contrary to the immemorial teaching of the Church.

Human nature, oddly enough, did not change significantly in 1968 (or whenever).

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Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Wear a Stauffenberg t-shirt

Following up from the film on Che, Nigel Jones has an interesting piece comparing Ernesto 'Che' Guevara, the celebrated sadistic killer and Claus Stauffenberg, the brave German officer who tried to remove Hitler: It is a sad reflection of our time that Che Guevara is seen as a hero

Che made no secret of his bloodlust: "It is hatred that makes our soldiers into violent and cold-blooded killing machines," he wrote. But he fell out of love with the revolutionary catastrophe he had created. After helping to ruin the island's economy as minister of industry and president of the Cuban National Bank, he flounced off to bring revolution to Bolivia's peasantry. They turned him over to the army, who shot him in October 1967.

Stauffenberg, too, died at the hands of his enemies, shot down after his bomb had failed to kill Hitler. He, too, was a failed revolutionary, but the sort of society that Stauffenberg was risking his life to create was the opposite of the tyranny embraced by Che. Stauffenberg wanted a return of the rule of law; political plurality; an end to the Nazi methods of arbitrary arrest, and torture and concentration camps; and the resumption of a culture guided by the values of Christian civilisation: the exact opposite of Che's vision.

Guevara and Stauffenberg: two very different heroes. It is sad, but given the state of our society, somehow not so surprising, that we choose the wrong man to adorn our T-shirts.

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Monday, January 05, 2009

Fisking Christina

Christina Odone, mouthpiece of those Catholics who shelter under the wing of The Guardian rather than Holy Mother Church, has done some finger-wagging in the direction of the Holy Father. I'm sure he's shaking in his elegant slippers at the piece. It is one of the most execrable pieces of 'journalism' I have seen in a long time, mixing misrepresentation, ignorance of Catholic teaching and thwarted bile in a equal measures. Needless to say this makes a cocktail that is difficult to stomach. My comments are in red.

Over the past few months, the Vatican has been quietly canvassing Lord Guthrie, the former head of the armed forces, John Studzinski, the millionaire philanthropist, and a handful of other influential British Catholics on who should succeed Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor upon his imminent retirement. From the telephone conversations and one-on-one meetings, it is clear what Pope Benedict XVI expects of the man who will lead Britain's more than four million Catholics: courage, patience, PR nous and an unshakable respect for liturgical tradition. As of last week, we also know one quality the Pope is not seeking in prospective candidates: tolerance towards lesbians and gays. [Tolerance of gays and lesbians is an article of the Catholic faith, if you read your catechism. What I think you mean, Ms Odone, is promotion and that we cannot do]

In his Christmas address to Vatican staff, Benedict XVI inveighed against the harm done by "gender theory" (he likened it to the threat to the planet caused by the destruction of the rainforest), which teaches that the distinction between male and female is down to cultural rather than biological influence. [and you have a problem with that?] Most of the faithful billion-plus Catholics who pay close attention to every word the Pope utters must have drawn a blank: gender theory, perhaps a familiar concept to some Ivy Leaguers, is unknown in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro and the slums of Calcutta. [I think many of the people of Rio and Calcutta probably have views about homosexuality which you would find uncomfortable, Ms Odone] The media, however, quickly bridged the knowledge gap and interpreted the papal message as a coded attack on homosexuals. [They were wrong, it was an attack on the likes of Peter Tachell and Patrick Harvie] Gender theory questions the patriarchy and sex-based discrimination; its critics, ergo, must support both. [It is also based on outmoded and theories incompatable with Catholic thought - it draws on discredited ideas of Freud, Lacan and Foucault]

Such flawed logic is perhaps inconceivable to Benedict XVI, a powerful intellect and brilliant theologian. Yet he must have known that to raise the issue of sexual identity was to provoke yet another examination of Catholic teaching on homosexuality. [I'm sure he has no problem with that. The Truth has no fear of exposition]

Gay men and women have for millenniums filled the ranks of the church's holy orders, schools and administration; they have celebrated the Catholic vision in music, paintings and writing.[Yes, and....] Catholic teaching might condemn sodomy as the sin that cries to the heavens for vengeance, yet Catholic parishes, universities and seminaries would grind to a halt if gays were banned. [Are you saying that all these gay Catholics do not try to live chastely? Do tell. Point out where in Catholic teaching gays are banned] Church rules might forbid same-sex unions, yet Christ's first and foremost commandment was to love one another. [Love is all you need, man. Is this is profound as it gets, Christina? He also had some unpleasant words involving millstones around necks and better if people were not born than lead others into sin. It might be a good idea to bear that in mind]

These contradictions present a tremendous challenge to gay Catholics (lay and ordained) who must somehow fit into a community that views their proclivity as an abomination, and to heterosexual Catholics who wonder how to stay loyal to an intolerant church. [Show me where in Catholic teaching the word abomination is used. Show me.] It is just the kind of challenge a bold and sophisticated theologian such as Benedict XVI could wrestle with. [So he is wrestling with it. You would rather he shut up and didn't?] It is a challenge echoed in every corner of the complex Catholic edifice. [I suspect it is not being discussed over the breakfast tables of Coatbridge on a regular basis]

The church offers certainties, but trades in questioning; it holds up virgin births, eternal life and resurrection as unquestionable truths, yet inspires great scholars like Cardinal Newman to pronounce that theology is constantly evolving. Papal infallibility was only introduced 200 years ago, [untrue - it was defined in the 19th century. It's been around a lot longer, much as gravity was around before Isaac Newton] clerical celibacy was unknown among the first Christians [and your evidence for that is? Unknown? I don't think so. Do you remember the name Paul of Tarsus?] and the state of limbo was dumped only last year. [Never defined as doctrine, so liable to be dumped] No wonder that supporters of women's and gays' ordination, both banned by the church today, hope that Catholic teaching will change. [They wait and hope in vain, as do you]

While critics see in these contradictions nothing but a towering hypocrisy, Catholics - indeed all non-evangelical Christians - believe that these conflicting messages inspire the questioning and prayer that constitute life's journey. [Critics will always look for the mote in the eye of the Holy Father] Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, put it beautifully in his Christmas message when he said that to step into a church is to find a place and silence that make questioning possible. [Well, very poetic and all that, as one would expect from Dr Williams, but how exactly do the views of a bearded schismatic layman help me?] The doubts of questions, as well as the certainty of answers, are the twin pillars of faith. [Doubts may be inevitable but as a pillar of faith? That's stretching it.] Those who only see the first are tormented and lose heart; those who see only the second risk an odious fundamentalism. [Fact is most of us have the first and are comforted by the second]

Many Catholics, as they grapple with these dilemmas and await theological enlightenment, adapt church teachings to their own circumstances. [Which ones? Thou shalt not kill?] Thus, they get a divorce, despite the Vatican's ban, and practise contraception, ignoring Rome's teachings. [Turning vices into virtues is hardly theological enlightenment and risks one's mortal soul] The constant infraction of such rules makes for a theological evolution of sorts. [Which is just how 'progressives' view the moral life, I suppose. If I do what I want, when I want, often enough, it won't be a sin any more] I remember, when I was editing the Catholic Herald, discussing the pill with a wise, elderly priest: "I haven't heard anyone confessing to using birth control in the past 20 years," he told me. [Which begs the question: what was he telling them from the pulpit?] It didn't mean that Catholics had stopped using contraception - they had simply stopped regarding it as a sin. [Shall we try that with adultery? Or oppression of the poor?]

Bishops and diocesan information officers around the globe have spent a great deal of time over the past few days in damage control. [The damage was done by lazy editors in the secular press who wilfully misreported. It's not the first time that's happened, as you know] They point out that the Pope never even mentioned the word homosexuality in his address. This is literally true, but smacks of casuistry. [Hmmmm. Literal truth becomes casuistry. Now I see where you are coming from.]

As a sophisticated public figure, Benedict cannot ignore the consequences of raising, even in the most indirect fashion, the subject of sex. The one "S" word in an address of more than 5,000 can hijack the entire message. [Yeah, shut up about sex, OK Ratzi? Leave that stuff to Guardian commenters] Yes, this is a sad indictment of our salacious times, but just as in Regensburg two years ago, when Benedict's Muslim audience saw a slight in his quoting a Byzantine emperor's description of Islam's flaws, the western liberal audience last week pounced on the implied attack on homosexuals as unnatural. [How revealing: the Western 'liberal' Catholic is as touchy as yer offence-prone Mohammedan. Well I suppose this is The Guardian] The papacy cannot be reduced to a PR exercise, but no missionary can afford to ignore the basic rules of presentation.

Even if Benedict XVI never meant to tackle the issue of homosexuality, the timing of the message was spectacularly ill-judged. [I said, just shut up Ratzi, OK?] The world is slumping into an economic downturn that has humbled even financial giants. [No money, so sodomy must be OK, right? Just to cheer ourselves up] Millions risk losing their jobs and their homes. [and that affects their sexuality, just how? More or less likely to be gay because the FTSE drops 15%?] For the first time in decades, consumerism seems shaken. [Good] Even the most unthinking, bling-crazed WAG must be wondering if there isn't more to life than shopping at Prada and hanging out at Bijou. [Good] People in the developed world, infatuated with the here and now, cocksure about the benefits of high-maintenance capitalism, now find themselves having to embrace the same humility and openness that people in the undeveloped world have long adopted as norm. [Not before time]

Here was a golden opportunity for a church leader to invite the frightened, the curious and the confused to sample a different way of life. [He did] The Pope could have explained a set of values that have seen out recessions, depressions, bear and bull markets. [HE DOES]He could have welcomed outsiders to come and feel for themselves the warmth of a community that believes everyone deserves love - and forgiveness. [HE HAS DONE, FOR CRYING OUT LOUD!]

Instead, Benedict XVI issued a message that could be, and was, boiled down to a finger-wagging warning against a vulnerable minority. [Only by the wilfully blind or The Guardian commentariat -which amounts to just about the same thing] Many Catholics, even among his most devoted disciples, must be issuing a moan of exasperation, none more so than the candidates to succeed Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor. [Many Catholics like the Pontiff's clarity of thought and exposition of eternal truths] These men stand to inherit a position that propels them to the centre of public life in an overwhelmingly secular society that will treat them with suspicion, if not downright hostility. [That is their job as successors of the Apostles. They are lucky they do not find themselves subject to the persecutiuon of the likes of Diocletian. Perhaps that is not a long way off. If they couldn't take a bit of a tongue-lashing - if you'll excuse the phrase - from Peter Tatchell, they shouldn't have signed up] Given the make-up of today's Catholic church, at least some of these men are bound to be gay; given their candidature, their service to the church cannot be doubted. [It isn't, so long as they are faithful to Catholic teaching]

As the personification of this apparent contradiction, the future cardinal will need to tread carefully. And, it would seem, without much help from his boss. [Well faithful Catholics can't really expect much help from the likes of you, can they?]

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Sunday, January 04, 2009

Killer chic.

This January will see the launch of the first two films about Ernesto 'Che' Guevara (the second is launched in february). Both star Benicio del Toro. Needless to say the number of grinning imbeciles wearing T-shirts bearing images of the mass-murdering sadist commie will increase. Next time you encounter one, encourage them to watch this film.

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Saturday, January 03, 2009


For the second year running a weird thing has happened on Christmas morning.

I have a copy of 'Daily Prayer' and I say the Office fitfully due to the demands of work and fatherhood. I am not good at rising early - hence I knew I would not make a good monk when that vocation flitted across my spiritual radar as a young man (though I thought about it ruefully when feeding the boys at 2am, knowing the Carthusians were just getting up then).

My kids are very good at Christmas: they wake at a reasonable hour 7-7.30, same as usual, come in to say good morning and have a cuddle, get up and open Santa's stocking before Mass. At 5am, for the second Christmas in succession, I woke up: ping! I got up and said The Office of Readings for the day (there are only 4 days of the year that have the Office of Readings in 'Daily Prayer' - Christmas, Good Friday, Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday). I then went back to bed and slept soundly until the boys got up.

I'm not sure why I've had this grace (it is a beautiful thing to say the Office at that time in such peace). I'm just very thankful.

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Friday, January 02, 2009

Ja! Das Hokey Cokey

Kraftwerk now purveyors of hate crimes. Dastardly Huns!

Ein gutes und gesegnetes neues Jahr

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Thursday, January 01, 2009

Mary, Mother of God

There Is No Rose Of Such Virtue

1. There is no rose of such virtue
As is the rose that bare Jesu;

2. For in this rose contained was
Heaven and earth in little space;
Res miranda.

3. By that rose we may well see
That he is God in persons three,
Pari forma.

4. The angels sungen the shepherds to:
Gloria in excelsis deo:

5. Leave we all this worldly mirth,
And follow we this joyful birth;

6. Alleluia, res miranda,
Pares forma, gaudeamus,

Hat tip to Laban Tall

A Happy New Year

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