Wednesday, April 29, 2009


It is difficult to know where to begin, so breathtakingly perverse is this letter from yesterday's Guardian. Pray for the poor woman.

So "faith" schools (ie schools with "values", unlike other, "faithless" schools without "values") are going to be allowed to line up alongside the BNP in promoting homophobia and marriage.

Faith schools will be left free to defy the work of safe sex campaigners; to promote marriage as a desirable zone of unprotected sex (denying actual evidence to the contrary); thereby reinforcing the low human and social status of girls, women and children, and the longheld belief that these lives matter less than protecting religious orthodoxies or offending powerful men.

In the 21st century, the enduring patriarchal power behind the linked projects of misogyny and homophobia (rooted in and promulgated by religions), designed to corral and manage our sexuality and life force within traditional marriage as a disciplinary institution (or celibacy), is being given a pass to carry on "disciplining" and corrupting children's minds and promise.

And this on the day Harriet Harman's equality bill is announced. Time for some joined-up thinking. Time for an outcry.
Val Walsh

Sedes sapientiae, ora pro nobis!

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Snickering into my Missal

Now I know, brothers, that neither you nor your leaders had any idea what you were really doing

Was I the only one who couldn’t help noticing the appropriateness of this line from the First Reading at Mass last Sunday(Acts 3:13-15,17-19)?

Prophetic, certainly. Funny, were it not so tragic.

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Saturday, April 25, 2009

Right Wing

Like many other Catholic bloggers, I have been accused of being right wing. Now, I think that needs a close look. Am I right wing? Does it matter if I am?

I suppose it depends what you mean. Going to the usual sources for a definition

The political term right-wing originates from the French Revolution when liberal deputies from the Third Estate generally sat to the left of the president's chair, a habit which began in the Estates General of 1789. The nobility, members of the Second Estate, generally sat to the right. In the successive legislative assemblies, monarchists who supported the Ancien Régime were commonly referred to as rightists because they sat on the right side.

So not immediately relevant to the current political situation. Indeed if one thinks of the current regime, supporting the status quo and the institutions of society means being in favour of gay civil partnerships, agnosticism or atheism, legalised abortion, dishing out condoms courtesy of the public purse and multiculturism. To be a faithful Catholic would therefore seem to be against that and in a sense radical or left wing, no?

I grew up in a fairly traditional North of England, Catholic, Labour-supporting family. Our MP was a Catholic (loyal to the Church, pro-life) and I went to school with his children (selective Catholic grammar, since abolished). The MP for the constituency over the road was Denis Healey. His agent lived in the house opposite ours. When I first came to any sort of political consciousness, in about 1976, I understood this Labour-supporting business to be about left-wing politics. It was the height of union unrest, the time when people like Tony Benn and his ilk were eviscerating the Labour Party of its Christian roots (Methodism and the like) and supplanting it with Marxism.

I spent some my youth thinking myself a Marxist atheist in the way perhaps that only a pubescent grammar-school boy can. The residuum of this was some lefty views that persisted into my thirties and made me receptive to some pretty destructive feminist and pro-gay ideas. My discovery of the thrill of orthodoxy was liberating. I am probably a bit of an embarrassment to some members of my family now.

So where am I now? I have no idea, to be honest. In the past ten years I have gone from reading The Guardian to reading The Spectator and The Telegraph (though I can't quite swallow Simon Heffer - who could?). I read Theodore Dalrymple and find myself agreeing with much of what he says about society, medicine and Islam. I read Roger Scruton in much the same way. I have gone from being a tribal anti-unionist (all those pissed-up sentimental uncles singing Kevin Barry) to being a committed unionist (and lover of my now native Scotland, but with a fond regard for the England of my birth). I hate racism but can see no sensible way of organising a society other than civil nationalism and loyalty to the 'tribe'. This finds it's manifestation in a respect for the monarchy as a continuing institution ('though I don't like personality cults. Her Majesty seems like a very nice woman. I've met her daughter a couple of times. She's nice too). That's probably laziness, though. I just can't think of any reason to change the status quo. I'm not interested in repealing the Act of Settlement, either.

I work in the one of the poorest areas of Europe with people of little aspiration, with poor expectations of their often short, brutal lives. I see the hopelessness of their welfare-dependent, client-state existence. I see the crappy call-centre jobs they are offered and see that globalised capitalism has little to offer them either.

I look at the Left such as it is these days and don't see much to like. A bunch of grievance merchants and self-hating whiteys hitched up to a range of (often contradictory) causes - Gay 'Rights', Islamism, 'anti-racism' (i.e. bashing whitey), wimmins rights (Harmanesque man-hatred) and crazed, neo-pagan, anti-rational environmentalism, the Daddy of them all at the moment.

Am I right wing? Does it matter? Or is that just Tabletista dog-whistle politics?


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Friday, April 24, 2009

A cabdriver writes

This week: Robert Mickens, cab no. 666

What do you think about these, oh, what are they called again? Bloggers! That's it! Bloggers, guv? Nasty lot, I reckon. Mouthing off about Latin Masses and bigging up the Pope. Who do they think they are, eh? Vituperative lot, they are. Right wing, too. I mean, you'd never get a quality journal like The Tablet engaging in the sort of innuendo and character assassination you get with these Catholic bloggers. Oh no, guv.

Do you know what I'd do with 'em. I'd sue 'em. Then I'd send 'em off to a psychiatrist for some therapy and a moral theologian for a good ticking off. Then I'd regulate them out of existence. Only language they understand.

It was Ecclestone Square you wanted wasn't it, guv? Oh, the Oratory. That'll be another £20, squire....


Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Sex Industry #2

Jed Mercurio – has an interesting piece on ‘sex addiction’. Needless to say ‘sex addicts’ seem to be rich celebs, beating off members of the opposite sex with an ordure-covered shelalagh. Funny that.

Sex addiction has been made “fashionable” by celebrities such as Russell Brand, who claims in his autobiography, My Booky Wook, that his relentless desire for “how's yer father” is a compulsion beyond his control. Well, I've spent the past year living with sex addiction - not my own, you understand, but while researching a book on John F. Kennedy - and the more I study it, the more sceptical I have become that sex addiction is a geniune condition.

No shit, Sherlock. There are plenty of interested parties in keeping the myth of ‘sex addiction’ alive and well – members of the psychiatry and psychology fraternities , happy to make this an area of special interest and charge £200 an hour for a prolonged course of therapy. Wouldn’t do to take a judgemental line, though.

The Church has long had a name for ‘sex addiction’. It’s called lust. It has a very effective remedy: contrition, sacramental confession, prayer, fasting and self-control. Not that you’ll see that advocated in the pages of The Guardian or the British Journal of Psychiatry. Just doesn’t, you know, fit the zeitgeist.

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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

You're in for a treat

I have it on good authority that Bobby Mickens gets something of a doing in the letters section of The Tablet this week from Jordanhill's greatest resident. It is, apparently, a joy to behold. Don't buy the filthy rag but it might be worth a trip to the newsagent to have a browse.

You read it here first.

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De Profundis – Fisking Bobby

My turn to fisk The Bitter Pill's pathetic attempts to do down Catholic bloggers

Blogs - a corruption of web-log [corrupt, eh? I see where you’re going here, Bobby] - were invented in America, [those darned colonials, eh? With their computers and fancy-dan goings on. The blighters!] where they still thrive, particularly among the political and religious right wing.[Yeah, man. Right wing. Like, fascists man, yeah?] What feeds the blogosphere's paranoia [ Tin-foil hat wearers, eh, Bobby?] is a sense of resentment that "they" - those in charge [That’s you, right? You da man, Bobby. You da man] - are engaged in a conspiracy against "us" ordinary folk. [I think you miss the point there, Bobby. It’s all about the fact that the media do not reflect the views of many people. People get a chance to voice their opinions without censorship. It’s called free speech. You have a problem with that?] The main media is regarded as part of that conspiracy, [Well that’s a bit rich given that those of your ilk have wittered on about the ‘right-wing’ press for years] which is why the internet - cheap, [unlike quality outlets like The Tablet, Bobby?] unregulated [I think you'll find the libel laws apply, Roberto, as with the dead tree press] and with unlimited capacity - has drawn the bloggers to itself. [You sound as though you really don’t like that idea that people might be able to speak for themselves and mirabile dictu – not agree with the editorial line of the Tablet] In Britain, too, there are Catholic bloggers, again often right-wing, polemical and vituperative. [I can’t really beat Ches for his systematic trashing of this particular strawman] The targets in this case often seem to include The Tablet, in some sort of fantastical conspiracy with the bishops.[are you denying that The Tablet does not reflect the views of a particular type of Catholic bishop?] Generally, blogs are far from an idealised forum for an exchange of intelligent ideas that would be constructive. [Why would that be Bobby? Because most British Catholic blogs don’t agree with you? Because you have been rightly derided? Because you can’t select the comments you want to hear as you do in the letters section of the Tablet? Or because they nailed your disgusting and malicious treatment of a good priest?] More often they indulge in straight poison-pen character assassination without reference to any requirements of accuracy or balance. [That, dear boy, is a case of the pot calling the kettle black when one bears in mind Ms Curti’s treatment of Fr Finigan]
Suing a blogger for libel can be a frustrating business, and Messrs McBride and Draper must have presumed that the Tory leaders would have had no stomach for it. But eventually the laws of privacy and defamation will have to catch up with this Wild West world, [Tell me, Bobby – what’s wrong with the law as it stands? If libelled, sue. Or is it that you want these pesky right-wing bloggers muzzled lest they snarl too much?] not least by stripping the anonymity which encourages an almost insane recklessness. [OK, how about you have signed editorials then, rather than hiding behind Ma Pepinster’s petticoats, Bobby?] There is a good subject here not just for libel lawyers but also for psychiatrists and moral theologians. [Bloggers – not just soon-to-be-illegal but mad and eeeeeeeeeeeeeviil. Puh-leaze!] What is it about a computer connection to the web that can turn a Dr Jekyll into a Mr Hyde? [A question you might well ask yourself the next time your rag defames a good priest]

I have not used this phrase before. Now is the time.


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Monday, April 20, 2009

The Sex Industry #1

It was after something Martin Kelly had written about the Military Industrial Complex (he mentions the Sexual-Secular Complex, which might fit this description) that I grew to thinking about how the interests of big business in are at play in the most intimate areas of life and set themselves to stride the world imposing their need for profit into the sex lives of people around the world.

SSL International is one of the biggest manufactrurers of condoms in the world. It made £47M in pre-tax profits in 2006-7. It gave hundreds of thousands of pounds to a number of organisations like the International Planned Parenthood Federation, the creepy-sounding Population Services International, UN Populations Fund and the World Aids Campaign.

Needless to say, when the Pope states Catholic teaching about condoms, the NGOs funded by SSL International come to the defence of their paymasters.

This is how it works: SSL International pays said ‘charities’ to lobby for more condoms to be sent to the Third World. HMG is only too happy to oblige. SSL International reaps the profits.

Follow the money as someone once said

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Saturday, April 18, 2009

A Short Note

To the two clerics who left comments on this piece in December 2007. I assume they were clerics because I looked at the IP addresses (didn't know I could do that, did you?) and one was from a dicastery, the other from the library of a Pontifical Institute in Rome. Both accused me of defaming the former Prime Minister, Anthony Charles Linton Blair, who had just made the following solemn declaration before his own Ordinary, a Cardinal of the Holy Roman Church and most importantly before Almighty God:

I believe and profess all that the holy Catholic Church believes, teaches, and proclaims to be revealed by God.

I deleted your comments as I didn't like their finger-wagging tone. I wish I had left them and identified their authors if possible. Reverend gentlemen, I think you owe me an apology as everything in that satirical piece is turning out to be true.

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Thursday, April 16, 2009

A New World Record?

21st December 2007 to 8th April 2009.
Is this the shortest ever period from conversion to apostasy?

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Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Spot on, Your Eminence

Cardinal O'Brien sticks it to the Scottish Nomenklatura ('Moral cowardice' of Holyrood Ministers):

Cardinal O'Brien said: "Like the manic sorcerer whose spells have gone disastrously wrong, our politicians cannot control the urge to cast yet more spells upon the chaos.

"It is an approach that seems to be driven by moral cowardice."

He said that when a toddler is shot with an airgun, the immediate reaction is to regulate the sale of such weapons.

The cardinal added the SNP's alcohol blueprint, which could also see the minimum age for buying drink in shops increased to 18, was focused on "mitigating the effects" of binge drinking rather than dealing with the causes.

He concluded: "When our fellow citizens err and lapse we seldom focus on them or ask why they behaved as they did.

"Rather we rush to impose legal restraints on such action forgetting dangerously that no external restrictions can ever match the effectiveness of self-restraint."

The insistence on tackling the symptoms instead of the causes of Scotland's social problems was predicated on the assumption they are "immutable and unchangeable, he said.

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Monday, April 13, 2009

Well done BBC

A rare thing for me to say but I was touched by the BBC's coverage of Lourdes at Easter. The focus is largely on the HCPT Pilgrimage. I have some reservations about the HCPT's laissez faire attitude to the liturgical abuse that takes place on their pilgrimage which I've blogged about before. That caveat out of the way I have nothing but praise for the love and fellowship and the sheer Christian charity and love of Our Lord and His Holy Mother that the Trust embodies.

Shelagh Fogarty (who in some from some of the things I've heard her say on 5Live appears to have lapsed from the practice of the Faith) seems to have been genuinely touched by Lourdes. Her coverage was sensible and largely untouched by the anti-religious sentiment characteristic of the BBC in recent times. You can listen to it for the next week HERE.

Pray for Ms Fogarty and for all the pilgrims there for Easter (especially a dear friend of mine who is there at the moment).

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Sunday, April 12, 2009

Surrexit Dominus Vere


Happy Easter.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Three columnists and the Holy Father

One generally hostile but at least understanding the purpose of the Pontiff (i.e. to uphold Catholic teaching rather than dish out condoms like our very own Madame Arcati)

But then I'm not a Catholic. The Pope, it transpires, is. Deal with it.


The gentle and gentlemanly Lord Rees-Mogg, being sensible.

It all looks simple: condoms good, Pope reactionary. It is not simple at all. All societies impose some code of sexual conduct, usually formed around religious beliefs. Cultures that lack concepts of sexual discipline are not usually good societies in which to live. Certainly they are not societies with good control over sexually transmitted diseases.

Finally, Peter Hitchens, a non-Catholic but certainly not hostile:

Conventional wisdom says the Pope is stupid and wrong to say fidelity and abstinence are better than condoms at guarding Africans from AIDS.
Conventional wisdom, as usual, is talking out of its backside. What the Pope says matters only if anyone listens to him. If nobody does, his opposition to condoms won’t stop anyone using them and will make no difference. If lots of people listen to him, his support for marital fidelity will persuade many people to follow this path, and so save untold lives.
The experience of such countries as Uganda suggests very strongly that he is right when he says this, and that fidelity is a far better protection than a rubber sheath. The only real hope is a change in sexual habits.
I am not a Roman Catholic, but I am weary of the concerted smearing and misrepresentation which the Pontiff constantly faces.


Monday, April 06, 2009

Pope in new row

Pope Benedict is again embroiled in a new row concerning Catholic teaching. Vatican insiders are increasingly worried about the ‘gaffe-prone’ Pontiff. Asked by journalists about the Church’s position on driving the Pope declared that “people should drive if they have a licence, following the Highway Code and the laws of the land and keeping within the speed limits” adding that “bigger bumpers, louder horns, bigger headlights and drivers in crash helmets isn’t the answer to making the roads safe."

The Pope’s comments drew a swift response from critics. “Typical, really” said one commenter. “When is the Catholic Church going to move with the times? We all love a drive, don’t we? It’s fun going fast and cars can now travel faster than ever before. Anti-lock brakes are so much better than they were years ago”. Campaigners for ‘free-driving’ maintained that if driver wanted to drive on the pavements, at whatever speed they wanted to they should be free to do so and if pedestrians got in the way, too bad. “Why should we listen to the comments of an octogenarian who doesn’t drive but gets ferried around in a Popemobile at 10mph?” said one commenter. “With louder horns, brighter headlights, bigger bumpers and better seatbelts, you retain the fun of extreme driving and cut down on accidents. I tell you, this emphasis on driving licences and insurance, just encourages those without a licence to drive more recklessly. If they had better horns and bigger lights so pedestrians could get out of the way, we’d all be safer. The Pope has blood on his hands.”

Peter Tatchell who campaigns for a reduction in the driving age to 14 lashed out at the Pope. “Kids love driving! Look at them down at the local carting track or on the dodgems. If they can drive there, why not out on the road? They don’t need licences, they need a good crash helmet and a big foam bumper. ”

Ed Balls, Minister for Children and Schools said the Government intended to carry on with its programme of showing episodes of Top Gear to 5-year-olds and live screenings of Formula One races in schools.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Bowdlerising Lent

Charles Moore in the Speccie – I should have posted on this a few weeks ago. You see what happens when you fanny about with good, old-fashioned hymns?

At the beginning of Lent, the hymn ‘Forty days and forty nights’ is sung. Singing it this Sunday, I noticed that the words were different. In the original, the third and fourth stanzas go:

‘Shall not we thy sorrows share
And from earthly joys abstain,
Fasting with unceasing prayer
Glad with thee to suffer pain?
And if Satan, vexing sore,
Flesh or spirit should assail,
Thou his vanquisher before,
Grant we may not faint nor fail.’

The Celebration Hymnal in front of me said:

‘Let us thy endurance share
And from earthly greed abstain
With thee watching unto prayer,
With thee strong to suffer pain.
Then if evil on us press
Flesh or spirit to assail,
Victor in the wilderness,
Help us not to swerve or fail!’

The changes are an almost perfect example of bowdlerising. Necessary antitheses vanish — ‘Sorrows’ are the opposite of ‘joys’ but ‘endurance’ is not the opposite of ‘greed’ . You are ‘glad’ to suffer pain because that is the opposite of what is normally expected: being ‘strong’ to suffer pain is what one would generally hope to be. ‘Flesh’, being weak, ‘faints’: why would it ‘swerve’? Fasting is removed, as are Satan and the temptation he offers. In short, Lent is excised.

I agree with Mr Moore. If it ain't broke....

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Friday, April 03, 2009


Needed for two crosses being borne, most appropriately, just now.


Thursday, April 02, 2009

Squeezing Out Pro-Lifers

Ever wonder why the old type of Labour Pro-Lifer is dying out in Parliament? David Lindsay is standing in the North West Durham at the next election and he knows why.

It works like this. The Labour Party imposes an All-Women Shortlist (usually in a safe seat). Said woman candidate needs funds to campaign and there exists an organisation that exists to provide such funds, Emily's List. As they explain, however, there are strings attached:

Who can apply?Any woman member of the Labour Party who is seeking selection as a candidate for the Scottish Parliament, the Welsh Assembly, the
European Parliament and Westminster may apply for an EMILY Grant. Applications must fulfil Labour Party criteria; support the programme and values of the Party and be pro-choice.

[My emphasis]

Very democratic.

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Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Dog-Whistle Journalism

The good Dr James MacMillan (Upon Whom Be Peace) is understandably irked by a risible piece in a journal called Forward. It is a review of his 'St John Passion'. Parts of it are laughably ignorant:

...liberation theology, a form of Christian socialism that avoids hectoring and assigning blame, preferring to focus instead on human dignity and communitarianism..

This makes it clear the author knows little of liberation theology and has never met, read or heard a liberation theologian.

But apart from exposing the ignorance of the writer about the nature of the Good Friday Liturgy (in either the EF or the OF) there is a rather creepy Pavlovian quality to this piece: St John's account of the Passion? "His blood be on us and on our children" and all that. You knows what that means don't you, eh? Nudge, nudge.

Does the writer seriously expect Catholics to stop using their sacred texts, The Passion being the most sacred? Does the writer seriously think that a Jew writing his inspired words - a meditation on the savage death of his Master, a Jew, at the hands of his own people intended that text to be used to fuel hatred of Jews? When you hear that text and the Improperia at Good Friday do you feel like fire-bombing a synagogue? Of course you don't, you feel as I feel and I daresay Dr MacMillan feels, that my sins crucify Christ, that every wilful offence against God hammers another nail into Christ's broken body, and in the words of Herbert McCabe OP:
If you don’t love you’re dead, and if you do, they’ll kill you.

The reviewer picks the wrong target, however, as is clear from Dr MacMillan's response which is measured but pulls no punches:

Hearing Hate Where There Is None

My composition “St John Passion” and character are the subject of a ludicrous attack by your reviewer Benjamin Ivry (“MacMillan and Strife: A New ‘St. John Passion,’” March 6).

Ivry’s implication that the Gospel of John is antisemitic is offensive to Christians. Likewise, his assertion that the Reproaches (Improperia) used at the Good Friday liturgy are also anti-Jewish is laughable, considering that much of the text of the Reproaches is taken from the Hebrew Bible.

In 1965 the Catholic Church issued the document Nostra Aetate, which addressed the relationship of the church to our elder brothers in faith, the Jewish people. Nostra Aetate specifically said that the death of Jesus cannot be laid at the door of the Jewish people, and that Jews should never again be wrongly accused of deicide. The document also condemned all antisemitism. As a child of Vatican II, I was not at all influenced in my thinking by the old tensions between our faiths. No sane Catholic today, hearing these Reproaches — or my “St. John Passion,” for that matter — imagines that they contradict Nostra Aetate; neither would any sane secularist believe them to be an occasion for heightening antisemitism. The Reproaches are a liturgical tool to remind those Catholics, present at Good Friday services, of their own sinfulness.

I am a staunch friend of Israel and a participant in joint Jewish-Christian ecumenical dialogue in the United Kingdom. Ivry’s accusations are therefore both comically wrong and profoundly unjustified. Many of my works are inspired by Jewish cultural practice and theological reflection. My second string quartet “Why Is This Night Different” is inspired by the Seder; my song cycle “Raising Sparks” is based on the writings of the Hasidic theologian Menahem Nahum.

Your readers have been seriously misled, but I hope that they will come to forthcoming American performances of these pieces and especially my “St John Passion” and make their own, more intelligent conclusions about them. Ivry has told them practically nothing about me. The real antisemitic threat today is to be found in the mosques of London and Birmingham, and certainly not in concert halls.

James MacMillan
Glasgow, Scotland

There are those who would keep Catholics silent. We might fear of a newer type of baying mob called into action by a variety of dog-whistles. This is merely one. There will be others.

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