Saturday, 21 November 2009

von Balthasar on The impossibility of Women Priests

The Uninterrupted Tradition of the Church
Hans Urs von Balthasar,
published in L'Osservatore Romano (February 24, 1977):6-7

1. The Declaration Touched on All the Decisive Dimensions of the Problem

The declaration of the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on the question of the admission of women to the ministerial priesthood has prudently touched on all the decisive dimensions of the problem. It was not afraid to penetrate into the depths of the mystery, from which such liberating and convincing light shines forth for the true believer. Certainly, the actual proof which justifies the Church's way of acting is given in sections 2-4 on the normative way of action of Christ, then of the apostles and then of the tradition of the Church. The constancy of this tradition is presented finally not as a "kind of archaism, but as faithfulness" to her own founder. It is precisely here that it derives its "normative character."

Only after this primary historical proof does the declaration go on in section 5 to a thorough consideration of "appropriateness" (convenientia), according to the "analogy of faith," as St. Paul called it. But we must not let ourselves be led astray here by words: where it is a question of mysteries of the faith, convenientia means something quite different from a mere approximative rightness, or a merely human "suitableness" that might be simply fortuitous and relative. It means rather what convenientia, originally meant: coming together, inner harmony, such as an organism achieves in the balance of its various organs.

The declaration insists expressly on the impossibility of transforming the mysteries of faith into truths considered on the purely rational plane. Among these mysteries belong also the sacraments, and therefore the institution of the ordained ministry in the Church, These mysteries have their own hermeneutics and interpretation, which are accessible and comprehensible only for those who, believing, let themselves be led by the mystery of Christ and the multiple aspects which belong to it in an organic way, into the depths of their inner harmony and plausibility. St. Anselm did not hesitate to attribute a "necessity" to this internal harmony in God, in spite of all the freedom of divine disposition. For even if we must always concede to the sovereignty of God the possibility of acting differently from the way he deigned to act, we have not in any way the freedom to relativize his logic: He is absolute reason, the logos itself. Neither have we the freedom to picture in our imagination other ways which he could have taken.
II. Regarding Tradition . . . , Everything Depends on Whether the Aspect in Question Belongs to the Essence of the Structures of the Church

It was necessary to make this premise before being able to tackle in a meaningful way the problem that concerns us. For it is clear a -priori that the mere fact of a hitherto uninterrupted custom of the Church cannot represent a sufficient proof that this custom could not be changed because of important insights of changed cultural circumstances. If any conclusion is to be drawn from uninterrupted tradition, everything depends on whether the aspect in question belongs to the essence of the structure of the Church, as it was instituted by Christ, or not. There are also other aspects, for which important motives or appropriateness can be indicated, but which can be described only as highly suitable— and not "necessities" in St. Anselm's sense. As an example one could mention priestly celibacy. Although it is possible to point to a long and persistent tradition in such cases, they are not such a central part of the substance of the mystery of the Church. This can be seen from the Pastoral Epistles, in which mention is made of married pastors of local churches. There is also mention of "Peter's mother-in-law." In the Gospel, in fact, Jesus and Paul, in their recommendation of celibacy, merely advise it.

Therefore, argumentation on the basis of the uninterrupted tradition of the Church must necessarily be able to find support in a moment that is contained in the very essence of the structure of the Church and of its sacramentality; a moment preserved from any intervention by the Church to bring about changes (since the latter cannot change at will, but must accept herself, as she was born), and which, in its complete and substantial logic, becomes understandable for faith only if it is considered in the "analogy of faith," in the context of the mystery of the faith as a whole. Now, the essential harmony between the order of creation and the order of redemption belongs to this connection. The redemptive mystery "Christ-Church" is the superabundant fulfillment of the mystery of creation between man and woman, as Paul affirms very forcefully, so that the fundamental mystery of creation is called "great" precisely in view of its fulfillment in the mystery of redemption. The natural sexual difference is charged, as difference, with a supernatural emphasis, of which it is not itself aware, so that outside of Christian revelation it is possible to arrive at various deformations of this difference such as, for example, a one-sided matriar-chate or patriarchate, an underestimation of women, or, finally, such a leveling of the sexes as to destroy all the values of sexuality. It is only from the indestructible difference between Christ and the Church (prepared, but not yet incarnate in the difference between Yahweh and Israel) that there is reflected the decisive light about the real reciprocity between man and woman.
III. The Concept of Apostolic Succession Is Decisive in the Catholic and in the Oriental Churches

The conferring of the priestly ministry only on men, unchanged in a history of two thousand years, shows clearly enough, as the "declaration" sets forth, that the Church considers it as part of the substance given to her from her very foundation. Particularly important, here, is the testimony of the Oriental Church, which never deviated from the original tradition, although "her ecclesiastical organization admits a great difference in many other problems." And the deviations in the Churches born from the Reformation are quite clearly connected with a changed, weakened relationship between the people of the Church and the apostolic office. This relationship was largely conceived as detached from the concrete succession from the apostles—and therefore also from the structure of the apostolic Church—and constructed directly on the common priesthood of all the faithful.

In the Catholic Church, on the contrary, as in the Orthodox one, the concept of apostolic succession is decisive. The primitive Church was clearly a structured community, because of the ministry set up by Christ for the believing community—with full powers over the authentic proclamation of the word and the administration of the sacraments. And this was to remain so throughout the centuries by means of full powers always transmitted concretely and personally. Continuity with the origin consists, from the Catholic and Orthodox point of view, not only in the faith, but also in the organ responsible for Orthodox faith (and the presence of Christ in the sacraments belongs to this faith): the episcopal office. Even before the existence of a concrete community, Christ at least prepared this office through the calling of the Twelve and the attribution of full powers to them (Mk 3:14f). These "full powers" were already christological: the authorization to proclaim Christ's doctrine in his name and to reject the spirit of the anti-Christ with his power, in the Holy Spirit. This means that here, apparently close to the beginning of his public activity, Jesus granted a participation in his precise messianic function. And this function of the Messiah was, already in accordance with the expectation of the Old Testament, that of representing God and his definitive work of salvation to his people. Hence the apostolic office will always be primarily an office (and, consequently, a responsibility) of representing God, from now on concretely in Jesus Christ.

But representation is a strangely ambiguous phenomenon. It says at the same time something positive: the representative had received from the one he represents full powers to make something of his superiority or dignity present, without being able to claim for himself—and here we have the negative element—this superiority or dignity. This duality makes the concept of representation, and therefore also of the apostolic office, so vulnerable and also so liable to misuse.

In the natural order of the sexes, the representation of God and of his "glory" (doxa) is to be found, according to Paul, in the creation of man (1 Cor 11:7). But it is brought home to him how much man is only reflection and not the glory itself: "for as woman was made from man, so man is now born of woman. And all things are from God" (v. 12). In the Christian supernatural order, which has its foundation in the natural order, the duality is even more marked; the apostle, as "God's fellow worker," just because he represents Christ, is put "last of all." He is the servant of everyone, who considers it normal that "we are weak, but you are strong. You are held in honour, but we in disrepute" (1 Cor 4:9f).

Now, throughout Catholic tradition and its concept of concrete succession, there passes, at least by underground channels, the awareness of this insuppressible dualism of priestly representation. Even if often, owing to sinful forgetfulness, one-sided emphasis was laid, in a presumptuous clericalism, on the positive aspect of representation—to the extent of the excessive exaltation of the priest as an "alter Christi," which does not exist—yet it has always been recalled too, especially by the saints but also by the ecclesiastical authority, that the apostolic office is only a service for the Church and in the Church, and the service is all the purer, the more specific it is. Namely service of the transmission of God's gifts, which the priest in no way possesses by himself or even only essentially in himself, and which he transmits through his office all the better, to the extent to which he becomes completely a pure instrument of transmission.
IV. Woman Does Not Represent, but Is, While Man has to Represent and Therefore Is More and Less Than What He Is ...

All this, however, becomes really clear only when one looks at the subject to which the male apostolic service has to dedicate itself: the Church of the faithful of Christ, which—not to mention the Old Testament image of Israel as the bride of Yahweh—is always presented as feminine in the New Testament. According to the major ecclesial reflection, which is well founded on New Testament declarations, this femininity of the Church belongs just as deeply to tradition as the attribution of the apostolic office to man. For patristic theology, as well for the scholastics of the Middle Ages and also of the baroque period, the Church is the mother of the faithful and at the same time the bride of Christ. She stands as the sublime woman in Church portals, as opposed to the crumbling synagogue. In innumerable miniatures, she is presented as the only woman standing under the cross, she holds up the sacred chalice to collect Christ's blood; she is, particularly in Oriental theology, the definitive incarnation of divine Wisdom, who receives and bears in her womb all the seeds of the Logos, dispersed in creation and throughout the history of salvation.

I cannot help thinking here of two books by Louis Bouyer: the first one, Le Trône de la Sagesse, is older (1957); the second one, Mystère et ministère de la femme (Aubier, 1976) is new and concerns our subject expressly. Its main purpose is to shed light, even more than on the "femininity" of the Church, on the sexual-personal role of woman. While man, as a sexual being, only represents what he is not and transmits what he does not actually possess, and so is, as described, at the same time more and less than himself, woman rests on herself, she is fully what she is, that is, the whole reality of a created being that faces God as a partner, receives his seed and spirit, preserves them, brings them to maturity, and educates them. One can question this thesis of Bouyer in many ways, and we will do so elsewhere. But in the first place its central point is certainly to be accepted, all the more so in that it represents the core of an ecclesiastical tradition, which is free here of all peripheric scoriae and obscurities due to hellenistic misogyny (which is partly re-echoed in the fathers of the Church and in the Middle Ages).

Unfortunately, this liberation and renewal of a great tradition, parallel to that of the sacred ministry, falls in an age in which the whole fruitfulness of the differentiation of the sexes in their respective roles is more and more forgotten and intentionally suffocated. And this in favor of a "masculinization" of a whole civilization, marked by a male technical rationality, a masculinization which is sought under the pretextof equality of rights and parity of the sexes. Inasmuch as the sexual sphere is opened to all technical manipulations, the personal height and depth of the difference of the sexes loses its significance. All "services" are put on the same plane and are therefore interchangeable. Even if man cannot conceive and give birth, why cannot woman carry out in the Church each of these apparently neuter "services" which are entrusted to man?

It is above all this overestimation of the masculine, which objectivizes the spirit and imprisons sexuality in a low physiological sphere, which today opposes understanding of the attitude of the Church, when she remains faithful to her tradition. Here, too, the principle holds good that "gratia supponit naturam." Restored nature would bring to light— within the parity of nature and parity of value of the sexes—above all the fundamental difference, according to which woman does not represent, but is, while man has to represent and, therefore, is more and less than what he is. Insofar as he is more, he is woman's "head" and on the Christian plane intermediary of divine goods; but insofar as he is less, he depends upon woman as a haven of refuge and exemplary fulfillment.

It is not possible here, for lack of space, to show in detail this difference in equality of nature; in particular the question would have to be discussed of the masculinity of Christ, in his eucharist, in which he, on a plane above the sexes, gives himself to the Church entirely as the dedicated seed of God—and the participation, difficult to formulate, of the apostolic office in this male fertility, which is above sex. Only if this aspect were fully brought to light, would man's latent inferiority to woman be overcome in some way. But it must suffice to have mentioned this concept.
V. The Virgin Mary Is the Privileged Place Where God Can and Wishes to be Received in the World

It should give woman a feeling of exaltation to know that she— particularly in the virgin-mother Mary—is the privileged place where God can and wishes to be received in the world. Between the first incarnation of the "Word of God in Mary and its ever new arrival in the receiving Church, there exists an inner continuity. This and only this is the decisive Christian event, and insofar as men are in the Church, they must participate—whether they have an office or not—in this comprehensive femininity of the Marian Church. In Mary, the Church, the perfect Church, is already a reality, long before there is an apostolic office. The latter remains secondary and instrumental in its representation and, just because of the deficiency of those who hold office (Peter!), is so made that the grace transmitted remains unharmed by this deficiency. He who has an office must endeavor, as far as he can, to remove this deficiency, but not by approaching Christ as head of the Church, but by learning to express and live better the fiat that Mary addressed to God one and triune.

As can be seen from all this, the tradition of the Church is far more deeply rooted than might be thought at first sight. It goes down into unfathomable depths, but what we can grasp of it and express in shimmering words shows us that it is within its rights and cannot be challenged by changes in times and opinions (also as regards the role of the sexes).

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

The Voices you want to hear stand up for Catholicism in the Media

Off-topic but important for all Catholics :
Whom do you consider are the voices for mainstream orthodox Catholicism in this country ?
Fr Ray Blake wants your opinion:



I ask you to go to this website and sign the UN Petition for the Unborn Child.

A coalition of pro-life and pro-family groups, being led by C-FAM (Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute) will present the petition names to the UN this December. Their goal is 1 million names!

I urge you to go to , read the petition, and then sign the petition and send this link to everyone you know.

At this site you will also see the petition has been translated into more than 15 languages. It is truly universal!

Please go to and sign the petition and then forward this message to EVERYONE YOU KNOW!

Many thanks.

Monday, 28 September 2009

Another reminder on the dangers of mixing Fundamental Moral theology with ostensibly corroborating scientific evidence,,,

{We were in the middle of arguing on Holy Smoke Blog regarding the HFE bill - and a few had referred to common sense science [which they equivocated with natural law] as being the source of our morality. I felt compelled to warn them of the inherant dangers within this stance; in that when the science crumbles; so too does the ethical reliance upon it}

I'm not speaking as some amateur who's read a few websites - I was compelled to read and research extensively for my double-thesis for Ethics on when Life begins :
Be very , very careful what you mean when you say life begins at conception ; ensure that you have your philosophical and ontological grounding as the first principle - the unique essence in potential which if no direct external force is applied it is internally directed [even if incapable of actuating it] towards becoming a human being ;
that this is the only tenable point in time when one cannot equivocate away this internal directing force.

This may seem ridiculous but you'd be amazed at the way Pope John Paul II's teaching of 'ensoulment at conception' was diretly turned against him by biologists and ethicists :

a] Ever wondered why there is a 14 day limit on embryo experimentation ? You'd be stunned at the answer - and utterly astounded that Baroness Warnock was considered a great intellect at the time.
14 days is deemed the time when it can be determined visually if there is either one or more embryos [twinning or recombination].
Therefore as it cannot be shown that there is either one or more it is impossible to say that 'ensoulment' [or unique psycho-personal individuation] occurs before this time.
i.e. Because you cannot tell under a microscope whether it's a single embryo or twins + ; it's morally acceptable to experiment on them before this time - because if there is such a thing as ensoulment it must occur after this !!!
Insane ? Most assuredly - but that's the grounds for the law of this land !
But supposing some pro-choice person was to corner you with this hypothetical:
Identical Twins - a fertilised embryo splits in two, now was there one individual who became two replicas, or one individual who suddenly had an adjacent replica, or one individual who perished and became two new entities, or one individual divided between the two entities ? How do you apply individuality and ensoulment in this regard ? head spinning yet ?
This is what happens when you try and rely on tenuous scientific support without reasoning the principles through first.

b] There are problems with 'conception' per se in that it isn't as cut and dried as everyone presumes.
Beware of stating the 'presumed case' because others may fallaciously attempt to destroy your case by applying exigent facts which don't disprove the philosophical case but they do hack away at the groundwork when one unnecessarily over-relies on the science.

For a start regularly more than one sperm penetrates the ovum - and in order to ensure genome integrity all other genetic material must be expelled from the ovum - evolution has made provisions for this and ensured that the actual genetic integration between the sperm and ova to form a zygote occurs between 24 and 48 hours after sperm penetration.

Next you have to worry about the 'Germaine Greer fallacy' - that of the fact that we do not know why around 30% of all fertilised concepti do not implant and are ejected [ you'll hear a lot of pro-choicers double this figure ; but there are many decent research papers out there which confirm the c.1/3 figure] - assuredly some are genetically defective [blighted ova] and would never develop so are expelled as an expediency for further potential to conceive - but regarding a significant percentage of those 'spontaneously' expelled they do not appear to be defective - we have no idea why this 'natural abortion' occurs.
Consequently you have the quite offensive and specious corollary of Germaine Greer that according to catholic sentiments regarding conception a priest should be holding requiem masses for sanitary towels.

You'll also hear of pro-choicers speaking of hydatidiform moles and choriocarcinoma as a [fallacious] substantive proof that sperm and egg do not axiomatically mean life ; therefore one can do what one wishes with all fertilised ova.
Pro-choicers equivocate the 'necessary' condition of fertilisation as being invalid by its 'insufficiency' - which is as logical as saying dynamite isn't explosive because the fuse sometimes fizzles out.

Then there's the implantation fallacy - one that's even used by reprehensible liberal catholics to justify the use of iuds, the morning after pill and even the contraceptive pill itself.
the idea is one of the fertilised embryo 'interfacing' with the mother - implanting and transmitting signals for the production of hormones triggering subsequent development of the four [misnomered] 'foetal membranes' .
The seed not being a real seed unless it's in the soil.
The embryo not being alive until it's implanted.
Imagine this notion as the tree falling in the woods not making a noise if there's no-one to hear it - grossly ridiculous epistemology deriving its justification from bastardised enlightenment idealism - you'll see the same fallacious reasoning all over the place - something doesn't exist until it makes its presence known ! Aristotle is spinning in his grave.

c] The nucleic acid problem .

I've already mentioned when fertilised an embryo can split into twins,triplets etc and this allows arguments condemning the notion of ensoulment.
does each twin get half a soul, or does an extra soul pop up or descend from heaven ; and what happens to the second soul if recombination [a regular risk in IVF] occurs ? does one human being contain two souls or does the soul vanish ?

but lets go all frankenstein - supposing we separated the embryo up cell by cell at an early stage and implant this genome into irradiated ova - thus producing dozens of siblings - does the multicell embryo contain one soul per cell in order to ensure each of these new embryos is ensouled or do these souls pop into existence when the new embryo is formed - if so what happens to the original soul ?

yes, this is obscene speculation - but it's all grounded in that single comment of His Holiness of blessed memory...get my point ?

let's go to the ultimate proposition - every cell in one's body could potentially produce a clone - supposing in a nightmare future billions of clones were made from a single human - from where would their souls derive unless the soul was not inherant within each and every cell ?

utterly ridiclous of course - alien and anathema to all we were trying to morally and ontologically defend within the unique individual deriving from conception who must be afforded all the rights and dignity as an entity which is directed towards a fully fledged living human being and person external from the womb - and be deemed as essentially human life without exception ; irrespective of the accidental consequences occurring to it which may not allow this to be completed.

what is a soul ?
how are we ensouled ?
are we even ensouled or is the process even more spiritually and supernaturally mysterious ?

We don't know !
Therefore we must always as a moral categorical imperative err on presumptive caution that irrespective of any scientific or metaphysical speculation - the conceptus is axiomatically a unique aspect of creation to its fullest extent which includes being created in God's image to its fullest extent regarding its possession of a soul.

We must NEVER transgress this principle by conspiring with presumed corollaries or corroborating scientific evidence which seem to justify our ontological and moral principles - it's building a house on sand; and sadly this is what Pope John Paul II, in all innocence and wondrous faith in the divine; inadvertently became embroiled in; by allowing his statements regarding our faith to be analysed out of context as scientific phenomena.

Yet again all I'm saying is beware
Rely on our fundamental moral principles and construct one's arguments accordingly - not on presumed scientific phenomena which seem to vindicate it.

{ A few responded [another e-mailed me] , implying I was speaking detrimentally of Pope John Paul II , who was highly educated with two doctorates yet never claimed to be an expert [they presumed I was claiming I was, although I never even implied it] on the issue so took advice from the experts - one in paticular referred to anyone wishing to know more on the subject should consult the site . This led to my response :}

...I made no reference to evangelium vitae or questioned its moral integrity or its potential contrariety with scientific evidence ; nor did I anywhere make any counterclaims regarding ensoulment or the validity of Pope John Paul II's statement.
I was referring to those who cling to these 'soundbites' and infer a great deal more to the point of hyperbolic construction of a principle grounded upon it - it's how every ideology begins.

I would never claim this was His Holiness' rationale; but I know there are a great deal of people out there who presume certain things grounded in these presumed 'factoids' and formulate their ethical stances accordingly - and the moment science appears to compromise or jeapordise that morality 'built on sand' it collapses. The moment we stopped arguing on our terms and attempted to take the fight to them on their ground - we were sunk.

Spend a decade arguing with pro-choice 'christians' who ground their morality on obfuscatory pro-choice propaganda built from mendacious embryological "old wives' tales" and you'll see where I'm coming from.

I didn't claim to be an expert on the subject ; but I am highly experienced in the argumentation on the subject - I have only a meaningless pseudo-honorary doctorate in logic ; but did spend nine years studying and researching life ethics at third level education - intimating I was blowing my own trumpet or fallaciously appealing to authority was below the belt.

I didn't go on an all-out assault on the warnock report because it would take weeks of typing just to scratch the surface of the travesty - I merely referred to one of its most outrageously irrational conclusions.

Nor would I refer anyone to the Linacre site as a primary resource for ethical instruction - because it isn't ! It's there to inform and relay principles and the arguments which flow from them - were the uninformed to refer to the articles without recourse to a fundamental catholic moral theological instruction regarding our basic moral principles - confusion would arise ; especially when contrary hypotheticals or opinions of past Church fathers and saints are made without qualification [because a reader's awareness of the catholic position is regularly presumed by the author].

If you think I'm being specious please allow me to take one example from Helen Watt's article on pre-implantation diagnosis.
Within it she assumes [I contend she presumes] [for argument's sake] that the entity before twinning is destroyed completely and the twins formed are entirely new entities.
Understand so far ? whether one agrees or not or simply has no idea isn't that important [however metaphysically earth-shattering]; but that which follows IS important:

"If, on the other hand, the conceptus does not have developmental potential in any environment, then it is not a human embryo, and not a human being."

She then proceeds further along this line of development 'as act' as being of axiomatic mandatory import.

Notice the far from subtle danger in all this ?
Consider the phenomena of spontaneous abortion of the apparently non-defective embryo ? Or for that matter the defective.

Extrapolate this to congenital or developmental defects within the embryo or foetus which make its viability impossible - travel farther along this line of argument and consider anencephalic foetuses .

Is Ms Watts implying that only that which develops or maintains the potential to develop is solely human ?
[Notice the affinity with the seed/soil corollary I mentioned earlier ?]

It would appear so ; and if she was it would be utterly contrary to catholic moral teaching [inherant since the Didache, but absolute since Pius IX] regarding the embryo from conception ; irrespective of its implantation or its spontaneous abortion - it possesses a full share of human dignity and authenticity in what von Balthasar and Benedict XVI refer to as 'a democracy of essence'.

But more than likely this statement was a mere oversight , never intended to be considered on its own ; but as an exigent aside to the main thrust of the argument relating to the dignity of pre-implantation embryos by clinicians.

Inadvertently in attempting to argue one case , she takes a little less care in qualifying her side-points and lets slip through an argument which if taken out of context could destroy everything she is attempting to argue.
Normatively this wouldn't matter one jot ; because the informed reader would immediately overlook the potential unintended consequences and see it solely in the light for which it was intended.

But let's supposing someone slightly less informed of the catholic principles were to read the article ?
and they had suffered miscarriages of embryos who through an internal fault would never reach full term ; or bore an anencephalic foetus ; and then read that comment ?
They would presume Ms Watts was saying their child was never a human being !
Or suppose a secular biologist directly seeking ethical loopholes to dismiss or destroy catholic principles as contradictory, irrational, fallacious or contrary to scientific evidence - caught sight of this sentence ?
Imagine what a Dawkins or Robert Winston would do with this nugget ?

Are we so presumptuous to conclude that 'blighted ova' which would never develop into embryos past the zygote or blastocyst stage aren't fully fledged souls in Heaven when we have no idea what's in the mind of God or His providential will ?
We must always err on the side of caution [as Ms Watts wondrously concludes elsewhere] ; and maintain that prime moral principle of Human Life from conception as a categorical imperative ; we dare not consider anything else without the potential of contravening God's will.

Do you now see what I'm saying ?
I'm not talking about the ethics of an issue ; I'm talking about how to argue from our Ethical standpoint; not inadvertently ,as Chesterton puts it, 'thinking backwards'.
The late, great Fr Robert Noonan [OFM [cap]] declared that regarding catholic morality - "lest ye become like little children" is the most crucial of scriptural considerations.
Sure we must be as cunning as serpents and exercise the graces of our intellect and wisdom to their fullest extent ; but the principles intrinsically bear an innocence ,and adamantine simplicity of Truth [devoid of gnostic mystagoguery and obfuscatory complexity] Truth - the Person of Christ.

Human Life is Sacred - a gift from God.
Human Lovemaking is a gift from God in which we share in God's life and love [it invokes inseparable unitive and procreative aspects].
Human life begins at conception.

Three principles : with due concern to Original Sin tell me a single ethical argument pertaining to life and sexuality to which these cannot be applied; and in doing so manifest the totality of the catholic position.
Simple in context: Profound beyond our human consideration in discernment and deliberation - Divine Mystery.
Apply these fundamental principles and we have the promises of Christ given to Holy Mother Church that we cannot err.

When we attempt to argue outside this remit in any other way using any other grounds we are prone to failure ; and have our own arguments turned against us.

{Of course this led to arguments that I automatically alienate atheist pro-lifers by including God in the Catholic Fundamental Moral theological principles for Life and Human Sexuality}

You misunderstand the point of first principles.
You presume they must be the lowest common denominator, the most watered-down which the greater amount can agree upon.
You expect us to remove God from the equation ; this would axiomatically introduce a hidden agenda on our part; and a diminution of the principle; others may agree with the inviolability of human life from conception to grave [or somehwere in-between] ; but their reasoning could be grounded on all manner of reasons and beliefs which may either have a remote affinity or a contrariety with our position.
Natural law is a consequence and support for our theodicy ; not a criterion for it.

{he claimed he didn't misunderstand ; and that it was quite obvious I was on a hiding to nothing and participating in a 'dialogue of the deaf' by making God a mandatory element [I didn't] for a pro-Life position }

But you are misunderstanding !
...and to be frank , you're also being quite specious: Why should extra principles alienate and exclude those with similar sentiments and principles who have no theistic grounds for them ? My enemy's enemy dude.
You also refuse to acknowledge what I said in regard to first principles : excision from them does not make them simpler [e.g. 'even if there were no God our existential authentic human identity includes respect for every living individual; refusing to use them as a means to an end and considering their life inviolable'] - reductionism is not retrogressive re-grounding or simplification - that's known as Ockham's fallacy.
Your 'solely' misunderstands the holistic dissemination nature of intrinsic consequential predication - the A-B-C synthesis may preclude A-B for some; but not necessarily B-C ; or even the A--C for others.

{Of course it didn't do any good - there are those among us who think having God in the equation axiomatically invalidates the integrity or congruency of the argument. Consequently in order for them to 'get on board' we have to throw out our underlying principles . All too sad.}

Thursday, 10 September 2009

Just to Remember...Trust the Holy Spirit working through His Holiness

I cannot remember writing this...but I need to remind myself that we should daily thank God for His Holiness...

"1] This is where the subtlety lies - tying a successor's hands - giving them virtually no manoeuvrability - being categorically precise - clinically diamantine doctrinally ; having fundamental moral principles set in stone. This is where His Holiness [and his phenomenal team] excels without contemporary comparison....How ? Well it's very technical ; and you have to scrutinise the writing ; but Benedict XVI is ensuring catholic dogma and morals are becoming inextricably linked with unbreakable bonds - he's bringing to the fore adamantine connections to ensure that future generations cannot jeopardise or compromise catholic positions without it leading to all manner of absolutely unacceptable conclusions.
Take for instance contraception : Where John Paul II went off course with the Theology of the Body [don't get me wrong - it's all fine and dandy - but it's nothing to do with the fundamental theological principles inherant within our natural law approach - it's sourced in it of course - but its a how ; not a why - and for moral theologians to base sexual and life morality on it is confusing and can lead to serious 'ethical reverse-engineering' problems.] Instead Benedict reiterates the natural law teaching within Casti Connubii, the Allocutios to the Doctors and Midwives and Humanae Vitae - of the inseparability of the unitive and procreative aspects of human lovemaking.
This gives a cast-iron holism to sexual morality ; and makes it virtually impossible for any future papacy to even attempt to revoke it. Were we to remain in the transient wavering obfuscatory miasma of pragmatisms that could so easily contaminate the theology of the body - it could simply be altered by the unscrupulous into a pro-contraceptive agenda.
Doctrinally the big offensive assault by the progressivists is going to be against original sin and the mass [esp. the real presence] - the old doctrines may be perfectly fine for supporting the dogma ; but for defending them we need new powerful inviolable symbolism of the formal reality within the doctrine - and His Holiness using in particular the work of von Balthasar has provided an asbestos formula with the diachronicity of salvific grace and the moral disordering nature of sin ; and universal conspiracy in original sin's actuation - not only are we our brother's keeper ; we share the burden of culpability for all our scarring - not only does this compound the universal efficacy of prayer ; it concretises it - not only does this prevent scientific and psychological obscurantism of our heritage ; it compounds personal and mutual responsibility to such an extent that the dogma of original sin becomes as blatant and understandable as the nose on our faces. It makes the sacrifice upon calvary the alpha point reaching forwards and backwards throughout history - shooting out into transcendental anticipatory events and prophecy [it validates the last supper, the immaculate conception, the global heralding of the incarnation among every race and creed ; it substantiates the whole notion of the mass as being the return to that single sacrificial calvary event ; it vindicates the religious revelation , mysticism and inspired wisdom by its interaction and harmony with the pentecostal sending forth of the Holy Spirit - it makes the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church an authentic living entity and not merely a source or path among many.
Pope Benedict has undertaken a great theological re-wiring scheme - where everything is all part of a single system - the modernist or progressive may attempt cut a myriad of doctrinal wires; but the orthodox power source still gets through to every principle and ideal from the most obscure or hitherto ignored source. It's sheer genius - and ironically the source material came from the Church Fathers and Doctors - de Lubac [et al ] didn't exactly realise that when he was resurrecting the differentiating theologians [who sought to separate and classify] he was providing a vast array of resources to integrate catholic theology into a single entity supplemented and complemented by everything else within the Mystical Body of Christ.
No longer is the modernist merely fighting a dragon where a single lucky blow can decapitate - within Benedictine writings and teachings the modernist now fights a hydra - it chops off one head and two grow back in its stead - it tries to attack one 'ology' and a dozen other 'ologies' now fight alongside to defend that principle - some the modernist may be very reluctant or virtually impotent to enter conflict with....
With Ratzinger our faith and morals are not just built on rock ; they're now buttressed and arched all over the place....and it would be an almost impossible task for any future progressivist papacy or oecumenical council to attempt to knock everything down in order to breach a wall.
2] You worry about the 'overly cautious' prudence - what you're not really considering is even though futurechurch and the progressivist agenda is a busted flush - it's desperate and aggresssively destructive in in its death pangs ; as dangerous as a wounded tiger . Instead of a cavalry charge His Holiness and the armies of light are crawling through the minefield ; defusing explosives and incapacitating the last few lethal bastions of opposition.
Every easter we sing 'battle is o'er , hell's armies flee' - yes we're victorious but the past 2,000 years have been skirmishes with the bitterly twisted adversary trying to drag everyone and everything down with him into the abyss of defeat.
Futurechurch and the progressivistas are so incorrigably and pitiably vindictive and petty - that which they cannot convert to their agenda they will seek to either annihilate or adumbrate with calumnies.
If they persist in declaring sour grapes all too often the gullible believe all grapes are sour, the vineyard owner soured them , and ultimately all wine is vinegar they must never drink... See my point ?
Just because futurechurch has lost the war ; it doesn't mean it isn't still terribly dangerous and won't launch a good few final volleys and suicide missions before it perishes.
His Holiness is playing a most dangerous game - previously we always had assassins and fifth columnists - but now we ave kamikaze pilots to deal with too. This cautious prudence isn't cowardice ; it's bravery compounded with understanding."

Friday, 28 August 2009

Ahem...ahem..what's this ? Pope was right regarding Condoms ?

from Zenit

The director of Harvard's AIDS Prevention Research Project is affirming that Benedict XVI's position was right in the debate on AIDS and condoms.

Edward Green stated this in an address at the 30th annual Meeting for Friendship Among Peoples in Rimini, sponsored by the lay movement, Communion and Liberation.

Green, an expert on AIDS prevention, said that "as a scientist he was amazed to see the closeness between what the Pope said last March in Cameroon and the results of the most recent scientific discoveries."

He affirmed: "The condom does not prevent AIDS. Only responsible sexual behavior can address the pandemic."

Green continued, "When Benedict XVI said that different sexual behavior should be adopted in Africa, because to put trust in condoms does not serve to fight against AIDS, the international press was scandalized."

The Pope made this statement in a meeting with journalists en route to Africa last March.

The scientist affirmed that the Holy Father spoke the truth. He noted, "The condom can work for particular individuals, but it will not serve to address the situation of a continent."

Change habits

Green added: "To propose the regular use of the condom as prevention in Africa could have the opposite effect."

He explained the phenomenon of human behavior called "risk compensation," whereby a person "feels protected and thus exposes himself more."

The researcher and medical anthropologist asked: "Why has an attempt not been made to change people's customs?"

"The world industry has taken many years to understand that measures of a technical and medical character are of no use to solve the problem," he added.

Green highlighted the successful policies that have been implemented in Uganda to battle AIDS, programs based in the "ABC" strategy: "Abstain, Be faithful, and, as a last resource, use a Condom."

He reported: "In the case of Uganda, an impressive result has been obtained in the fight against AIDS.

"The president was able to tell the truth to his people, to young people, that on occasions some sacrifice, abstinence and fidelity are necessary.

"The result has been formidable."

Thursday, 20 August 2009

From Yesterday's General Audience : Real Priests for Life

I offer a warm welcome to the English-speaking visitors present at today’s Audience, including the pilgrims from India and Nigeria. Our catechesis considers Saint John Eudes whose feast we celebrate today. He lived in seventeenth-century France which, notwithstanding considerable trials for the faith, produced many outstanding examples of spiritual courage and insight. Saint John Eudes’ particular contribution was the foundation of a religious congregation dedicated to the task of giving solid formation to the diocesan priesthood. He encouraged seminarians to grow in holiness and to trust in God’s love revealed to humanity in the priestly heart of Jesus and in the maternal heart of Mary. During this year let us pray in a special way for priests and seminarians that, inspired by today’s saint, they may spiritually “enter into the heart of Jesus”, becoming men of true love, mercy, humility and patience, renewed in holiness and pastoral zeal. My dear Brothers and Sisters, upon you and your families I invoke God’s blessings of joy and peace!

Bishop D'Arcy yet again leads the way...

Fr Jonathan Hill , fellow diocesan and one of the dwindling decent hopes for the future amongst our clergy* ; has informed us on his blog that the wonderful Bishop D'Arcy [yes he of the Notre Dame controversy] has taken a stand regarding the modern negligent positioning of the Tabernacle. Why Bishop D'Arcy was never appointed cardinal says more about the US church than anything else...

* [the recent promotion of new Deans for the diocesan restructuring was not only controversial ; but in my opinion quite depressing - a few adored and respected devoutly orthodox gems truly deserved their positions ; but more than a few eyebrows were raised at certain appointments of clerics who should be..[derogatory detractive comments deleted]

Spiritual Mothers of Priests

...and while we're at it - Catholic Grande-Dame ; the Blessed Jane M-F of the French Oasis - has started yet another blog ; this time grounded upon the Cardinal Hummes incentive to physically, morally and spiritually support our Priests !
With a score of illustrious females on a par with our adored 'Dona Nobis Pacem' ; we could conquer the world !

Back to the Obamination

Don't just read what Loz has to say on this issue ; read everything he's written on his blog recently ; This guy should be a leading catholic journalist - NOW!

Just remembered this...

I'm watching the battle-axe beyond compare - Peggy Mount - in the film 'Sailor Beware'. It reminded me of the glorious episode of the Sweeney where Diana Dors guest starred as the mother from hell - Lily Rix!

Bit of Politics.

Regettably she failed to become the next Speaker [although I begged her to stand again should the Tories oust John Bercow] ; but it now looks like Ann Widdecombe could be the front-runner to take over from Francis Campbell; and become our next ambassador to The Holy See . The Cameronite Tory hierarchy cannot abide either her popularity among the Conservative heartlands or her conscientious dogmatic idealism ; so they would love to get her out from under their feet - Which is all to our benefit!

Fr Tim Finigan - His Hermeneuticalness - has pricked our consciences regarding our voting habits ; and although being of good canonical rectitude by not promoting any suggestion we either remain within the larger parties and fight for the pro-Life cause from within or join a distinctly pro-Life party ; he has nevertheless informed us of 'Resurgence'
[formerly the political party - the Pro-Life alliance [which now exists as a campaign group]] Check them out - discern one's options; and think of the potential consequences of your action when you place the X on the ballot paper. Remember we are first and foremost members of the One, Holy, Catholic & Apostolic Church - NOTHING should prevent us from acting accordingly. Here's one of Resurgence's stances:

Hope for the Future

1.1 Our vision and hope is for a United Kingdom and a European Commonwealth built on the twin pillars of a just democracy and a fair market economy. These must be constructed from the bottom up with the consent of the people and a renewal in moral virtue and responsibility.

True democracy must be responsible and based on absolute and unchanging core values which are ethical, such as the sanctity of all human life and the rule of just and reasonable law.

A market economy must not deny any citizen access to the essentials for playing their part in society. A fair market economy will also be inclusive to encompass free enterprise; private, mutual or public ownership; moderated to the extent that State intervention may best secure and serve the best interests and dignity of the individual citizen.

All economic principles, mechanisms and methods are secondary and subject to the development of the human person and the common good.

1.2 The rights, responsibilities and dignity of citizens must be clearly enshrined and understood. Social justice requires of each individual that which is necessary for the common good. The common good of a society cannot be provided for unless each individual/citizen receives all that they need to discharge their social function. In order to promote the common good of humanity these core values must be a shared vision out of which a common agenda can be agreed.

1.3 Our vision for the United Kingdom is formed on the defence of our historical Christian Democracy which is being attacked and undermined by anti-religious forces. It must be raised up and restored to provide a moral example for the renewal of decency, dignity, honesty, integrity and respect for all. This must be acknowledged by the civil/lay Head of State (Monarch), Legislature, Executive and Judiciary. Our aim is a Democracy founded on Christian principles of Peace, Truth, Justice and Freedom.

1.4 In the words of John Paul II, on the rededication of Europe at the Shrine of Our Lady of Europe in Gibraltar:

Through the Church’s presence since ancient times the message of the Gospel has contributed to the very formation of the culture and consciousness of the various European nations. Christianity is not just part of European culture; it is the spiritual ‘form’ of European man’s approach to the basic and universal questions. It is appropriate that there should be a shrine which will help Europe to recall its Christian heritage and inspire all who come to pray there to build the future of the continent on that solid foundation. Only a strengthening of the spiritual and moral values rooted in “the truth of the gospel” (Gal 2:5) can guarantee that the Europe of the third millennium will be a place of harmony, peace, freedom and respect for life and human dignity.

1.5 Our vision for Europe is formed on the – Europe for Christ! – Charter:-

Europe stands before a crossroads. Europe owes much of its culture to the Gospel lived by Christians – solidarity and human rights, universities, hospitals and cathedrals. Today, however, we risk betraying the soul of Europe. A dictatorship of relativism and a culture of death are omnipresent. Christians are increasingly discriminated against and watch a political tendency in which a humanism inspired by the Gospel is ever increasingly banned into the private sphere.

And yet we have also understood that when God is not our Father, that we are no longer brothers and sisters! For this reason it is important for the future of this continent that we base our culture again on Christ. We seek a Europe in which freedom of religion and conscience is respected, a young and dynamic Europe, one that is a sign of hope for the world.

For this we pray and work


Marriage Care's Terry Prendergast has been up to his nefariously unethical tricks again ; only a month after he was dismissing the nuclear family [a la ekklesia] More can be read at the links below ; but I could only fairly comment if I read more - although many of our catholic lady-bloggers out there have been banging-on about sex education in our catholic schools since the blogosphere started - maybe it should all be collated and sent off to the Holy See before January's ad limina?

Catholic Action UK
The Muniment Room
& The Sensible Bond


The Guardian reports on Tony Blair doing 'the God thing' ; giving a speech at Holy Trinity, Brompton ; you should all by now know what I think of the gentleman concerned ; but the link's here anyway.


Now : Regarding the whole US 'health-care' issue :

a] I'm an old-fashioned 'leftie' - not a communist, nor a trotskyite, nor a Nu-Labour supporter, nor a supporter of the socialism rightly condemned by Their Holinesses Pius IX, X & XI ; but one who supports Christian social democracy ; [akin to the teachings within the magisterial social teaching of Holy Mother Church , the Gospels and the Corporal and Spiritual works of Mercy ; and the private-property promoting distributism of Belloc and GKC ] - but given that all these names have now been usurped by groups which are far from Christian, social or democratic - I have very little choice but to call myself either a 'leftie' or a catholic socialist [with a whole barrage of conditionals].
b] From my perspective the very notion of an absence of Universal Health Coverage within a society is an abomination ! It contravenes the Judaic laws of Noah [mandatory and axiomatic from natural law for any community] and is in utter contrariety to the commands of Our Lord and Saviour to Love our neighbour. The very notion of someone with an inability to pay being deprived of medical care is an obscenity - and for a tax-paying nation to be refused adequate healthcare for all is technically a form of judicial murder-by-omission. It is a gross dereliction of duty and abrogation of responsibility to protect and serve the society within the government's remit.
c] In regards to his political life ; I consider Barack Obama to be a monster - He is a man who has promoted and legally accelerated the culture of death to the degree of systemic genocide. I will not give detailed accounts on his wallowing in the blood of the unborn - but it is readily available for all to read elsewhere.
d] It is regrettable ; but too many Catholics within the US have fallen into two categories within the political sphere.
[i] 'Left' - willing to compromise and jeopardise , or utterly repudiate; the mandatory, obligatory pro-Life stance demanded from every Catholic ; in order to promote an ostensibly more just and equitable society. An obscenely deluded recourse ; a reprehensible collaboration with evil.
[ii] 'Right' - Where monopolist , corporate , capitalist, dehumanising and disenfranchising violations against the state's duty towards implementing the collective corporal works of mercy [which cannot be exercised by the individual]; are promoted through a 'low taxes:small government' agenda ; and Catholics - conducive to the right's 'pro-family values', and ostensibly 'pro-life' principles ; delude themselves into believing that a few congruent ethical stances validate the whole package. They do not - and ultimately far too many consider themselves republican first at the expense of their catholicism ; or worse - incorrectly presume that catholic political and social teaching conforms to this right-wing agenda.

e] Because of these phenomena we're left in a terrible situation :
[i] the left are willing to 'sell out' their Pro-Life principles for the provisions of Universal Health Care ; which will of course , in an Obama tenure, mean an extension of state-funded abortions ; irrespective of the diabolical duplicity and mendacity of the Obama camp that this will not occur [ h/t to Luke Coppen for this link to the Catholic Key Blog ]

[ii] the 'Right' have been deluded/indoctrinated into believing over the decades that the Welfare State , and consequently Universal Health Care provisions, are morally repugnant to the point of being 'anti-Catholic' ; as state coercion to provide care and support "promotes indolence, introduces inhumane social engineering ,denies personal charity and is a poor and ineffective means of enforcing society to act like a collective of benevolent individuals" ; thus although the anti-Life position of the Obama propositions may remain the main bone of contention ; the very notion of universal health care is seen as wrong !

The 'Left' [and one need only refer to Catherine Pepinster's despicable editorial in last week's Tablet] are willng to allow the culture of death to thrive if Universal Health Care is the result.
The 'Right' don't only oppose the culture of death ; they also oppose the very concept of Universal Health Care in itself !

f] Now I'm far from a friend or supporter of the US National Conference of Bishops ; but the position they've been forced into has been caused by pressure from the Right and Left - and thus they're compelled to for once in their life - promote the Authentic Catholic Position - Universal Health Care without any conspiracy or compromise with the Culture of Death.
This is something the Obama administration cannot and will not provide - BUT - if Catholics actually took a stand [when nearly 20% of all medical care is provided by catholic institutions] and cast aside their anti-catholic political contaminations of either exteme political persuasion ; something could be done to take the issues out of Obama's hands and into the public domain. Alas for US Catholicism - this will not happen - self-interest and political ideology has poisoned the well.
Is Obama's health care plan viable ? Of course not - it's fomented by those willing to sacrifice human life for any political self-advancement - it's intrinsically and extrinsically evil in its intended furtherance of the Culture of death via abortion and Euthanasia. It is far too high a price to pay - even if a few million had their lives saved or extended through this healthcare provision - the price of paying for even a single murder of an unborn child is too much - and we risk our very souls at contemplating such a collaboration with evil.
Is the 'Right's' opposition to it pure and unsullied ? No - while they maintain this is a Life-issue; when it comes to the underlying position - it's the very notion of a covert 'Commie' welfare state which they loathe - They're ignorantly oblivious to the core of catholic teaching that we are obliged to care for our neighbour at all levels - a a personal, community and national level.
Universal Health Care is a Catholic principle - but they'd rather choke on their own vitriol than ever concede the point or ever contemplate that their version of Catholicism in this regard is far from that within the Gospels.

Repost : Eduardo Verastegui - Movies for Life

Ignatius Insight Blog has details of the San Francisco 'Movies for Life' Awards.
I didn't think much of the winners to be honest ; but see for yourself here :

Thought it appropriate for me to re-post this :

Cardinal Justin Rigali, archbishop of Philadelphia, said the film, released today [October 2007] in the United States, "has a message that is so connected to life: to the problems of life, the challenges of life, the value of life." The cardinal wrote to his fellow bishops encouraging them to host advanced screenings of "Bella" with the hope of spreading the film's message.

The film won the 2006 People's Choice Award at the Toronto Film Festival.

"Bella" is a story about a young pregnant woman who loses her job, and a man who is unable to recover from a tragic accident in his past. Their friendship changes their lives and brings new hope to both.

The film features actors Eduardo Verástegui, Tammy Blanchard, Manual Pérez and Ali Landry.

The Beauty Within....

Verástegui, a teen heartthrob during his years as a professional musician supermodel and actor, once voted the most beautiful man in the world ; is now known as a Catholic role model. After a spiritual conversion that brought him back to Catholicism, he is now an outspoken defender of the right to life, chastity and his faith. This video will bring you to tears...

Update: H2O news talks to EV [h/t Luke Coppen]

Repost : St Thomas Aquinas on seeking the grace for a devout life...

Grant me, O merciful God, to desire eagerly, to investigate prudently, to
acknowledge sincerely, and to fulfill perfectly those things that are pleasing
to You, to the praise and glory of Your Holy Name.

Do You, my God, order my life; and grant that I may know what you would have me do; and give me to fulfill it as is fitting and profitable to my soul.

Grant me, O Lord my God, the grace not to fall either in prosperity or
adversity, that I be not unduly lifted up by the one, nor unduly cast down by
the other. Let me neither rejoice nor grieve at anytime, save in what leads
to You or leads away from You. Let me not desire to please anyone, nor fear
to displease anyone except You.

Let all things that pass away seem vile in my eyes, and let all things that are
eternal be dear to me. Let me tire of that joy which is without You, neither
permit me to desire anything that is outside You. Let me find joy in the labour
that is for You; and let all repose that is without You be tiresome to me.

Give me, my God, the grace to direct my heart towards You, and to grieve
continuously at my failures, together with a firm purpose of amendment.

O Lord my God, make me obedient without dispute, poor without despondency,
chaste without stain, patient without complaint, humble without pretence,
cheerful without indulging the senses, serious without being morose, active without
recklessness, fearful of You without despair, truthful without
double-dealing, devoted to good works without presumption, ready to correct my
neighbor without arrogance, and to edify him by word and example, without

Give me, Lord God, a watchful heart which shall not be distracted from You by
vain thoughts; give me a generous heart which shall not be drawn downward by any
unworthy affection; give me an upright heart which shall not be led astray by any
perverse intention; give me a stout heart which shall not be crushed by any adversity; give me a free heart which shall not be claimed as its own by any
unregulated affection.

Bestow upon me, O Lord my God, an understanding that knows You, diligence in
seeking You, wisdom in finding You, a way of life that is pleasing to You,
perseverance that faithfully waits for You, and confidence that I shall embrace
You at the last.
Grant that I may be chastised here by penance,
that I may make good use of Your gifts in this life by Your grace,
and that I may partake of Your joys in the glory of heaven:
Who lives and reigns; world without end.

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Ella Fitzgerald sings 'Love for Sale'

Cole Porter gets me through stacking the fish shelves each morning - if ASDA FM is on loud enough I can belt the songs out without being detected ; otherwise I'm singing them to full orchestra in my head.... My Uncle Tom died last week - a great man without an enemy in the world who lived but a stone's throw from my house and stood by the gate every day with a smile , ready for a chat with anyone who passed by - losing his presence is like being exiled from a part of reality .
His sister 'My Auntie Madge' ; dead for many years - was a Jazz Singer with the Joe Loss orchestra ; and at her best she could have given Ella a run for her money....

Monday, 17 August 2009

A re-post : Just to remember...

A dismal Tuesday one November an eternity ago ; with "rains that might put out the sun, and rid the sky of stars"{GKC}...

Drenched , trudging through London: shoes squelching, hair dripping; disconsolate and oblivious to the world around me ; I was lost in more ways than one.
My Partner was suffering from severe post-natal depression ; she had recently miscarried.

I had lost my promotion and was falsely-accused of theft. Eviction loomed, an ex-landlord had stolen most of my belongings, I'd been trainfare-dodging to reach university ; and a vindictive anti-catholic lecturer was ensuring I would never attain my degree....and friends ? Well ?

In my despondency, God and I were on far from friendly terms.
The Church was at least dry - the confessional light beckoned.

Patiently enduring my tirade the priest inquired:
"So you think God's ashamed of you?

Or is it you're afraid others think you're a failure?

Listen : A father and son were taking their donkey to market. Along the way a merchant mocks them for not riding it - the father mounts - but some students accuse the father of mistreating his son - the old thriving from the labours of the young - they swap places. Some old men reprimand the 'selfish' son for forcing his father to walk - so both ride the donkey, until another accuses them of animal cruelty. Finally they carry the donkey ! At market the crowd laugh at the foolish pair. The donkey breaks free , falls into the river and drowns....

"Son, you're frightened of your own shadow - God's telling you :"Be not afraid !" why won't you trust Him ? Your child is in heaven watching over you . Go home! Love your wife and children and leave the rest to God; and to hell with anyone else's opinion ! For those who refuse to fear the Lord end up fearing everything and everyone. Don't fall into this trap. Trust in God and Holy Mother Church."

Diana Dors said: "The most terrible thing in the world is for someone to feel unloved";

St Francis de Sales advised: "It is never enough to love someone - that someone has to know they are loved".

When love seems no more than an illusion , if we fail to believe in the truth or worth of our lives ? We die inside.
For the lonely and disenfranchised there is a desperate yearning for recognition and vindication - a clinging to any available source ; whether fleeting , self-harming or irrevocably compromising; any price is worth paying to feel 'somebody' ; to briefly alleviate the pain.

'Compensating' for spiritual loneliness can lead the best of us commit the most terrible acts; and excuse similarly reprehensible actions in others - tyrannical : simply to be acknowledged or 'respected' ; alienating everyone through fear ; or conversely masochistically submissive ; never daring to jeopardise any relationship by potentially offending; thus depriving oneself of any sincerity, authenticity or self-respect...and like all habit-forming drugs ?

I am certain this anxiety is the major cause of not only our personal sins and failings, but also the English Church's negligence in its duties and responsibilities ; and thus the emptying of our pews.

Why else should we be failing so miserably ? Unless we're contaminated with a spiritual pride which refuses to believe in the Love of God, and Truth - the Person of Christ - subsisting within His Mystical Body the Church.

Is it possible we have forgotten to let our neighbour know they are loved ? And in the process rarely hear it ourselves, and when we do our pride prevents us from believing it ?

Anxiety, together with an abject fear of antagonism ; and the saddeningly desperate yearning for recognition indicates how lonely, scared and untrusting of God [and our Catholicism] we have become.

Surely above all things the Cross is the absolute symbol of Hope in hopelessness ?

It doesn't have to be this way....

Thursday, 28 May 2009

Abortion & euthanasia

IT IS ABSOLUTELY CRUCIAL TO READ AND REVISE pgs 208-225 within the Tyler & Reid
religious Studies textbook:

When answering an abortion question one has to understand that this is a issue which relies on :

a] a notion of rights , especially for the mother [p215] ; secondly the utilitarian notion of 'rights for the unborn' which seem more like justifications to abort the foetus that could potentially live a life including pain and disability, have a relatively 'poor quality of life' or is unwanted.
b] the religious notion of the Sanctity of Life, of Life as a gift given by a Loving Creator God and the rights of the foetus as such [p215]
c] the notion of personhood - and the legislation that follows from this within the revised mixed strategy with the inclusion of the potentiality considerations. remember in the US an embryo/foetus is considered a human being but not a human person in order to permit abortion but also to charge any third party who caused an unwanted miscarriage with a criminal offence . Definitions [p209]
d] the moral worth and dignity of the foetus :

This last issue will be the main structure of any answer: You must mention the developmental stages ; e.g. the legal limit of 14 days for embryonic experimentation , the 24 weeks legal limit for reasons other than significant medical/psychological harm to the mother [which permits abortion up to birth], implantation, the development of the primitive streak , the neural groove [where the developing brain connects to the developing spinal cord [17 days] ] , resemblance [10-12wks], autonomous reactivity [12-16wks] the quickening, the variance and movable nature of viability with scientific advancement, and birth.

Remember the five main ideological strands:

Conservative: [Religious] [The roman catholic response provides the best definition of this stance]
[Secular] in that as it is impossible to determine where a group of cells becomes a human being/person ; therefore all moral considerations must treat the embryo foetus as a human being from conception.

[The conservative view has to overcome the difficulty of the significant observable difference between a fertilised ovum and a newborn baby ; especially considering 32% of embryos do not implant; and 20 % of developing foetuses do not survive to full term]

Extreme liberal [radical feminist] : a reverse of the conservative secular argument ; that as it is impossible to determine where the mother's tissue becomes an independent entity and human being ; the embryo/foetus MUST be considered as nothing more than tissue of the mother until birth and the cutting of the umbilical cord. Even if it is deemed a human being or person , this is an irrelevance as the rights of the mother over that part of herself countermand any rights of the foetus.

[the extreme liberal view has obvious difficulties in that to most people a late-term foetus is far from a a piece of human tissue as innocuous as a kidney or liver, and abortion cannot be considered as morally irrelevant as having a haircut as the extreme liberal would imply - there are also the issues of pregnancy through rape [the woman should have little psychological concern that she's carrying a rapist's child - it is merely a piece of tissue; nor should there be much anguish at miscarriage [it is not the loss of a child] - but there is a major crucial problem inherant within this stance : that of surrogacy - as one woman provides the fertilised ovum , and another sustains and grows the foetus - to whom does the foetus belong ? For the extreme liberal this brings great difficulties.

Moderate Liberal :

a] Animalistic - The embryo and foetus should correspond to whatever one deems as an appropriate ethical stance regarding the dignity and worth of higher animals.

b] The Mixed Theory: This is the major stance [combined with the notion of personhood] which is adopted within western societies. It considers both the secular conservative and extreme liberal indeterminacy [no absolute cut-off point where one can say a foetus becomes a human being] position as specious and unworkable.
There have to be limits where abortion is permissible [usually for any reason ; as the destruction of a non-human is innocuous] until a certain cut-off point where only medical/psychological harm to the mother may justify abortion [this is predominantly legislated at viability]. Thus at early term pregnancy abortion for any reason is permissible , at late term one requires a serious reason, and there is a fuzzy region mid-term where there is an openness for debate on the issue.

The mixed strategy , in attempting to accomodate liberal and conservative terms , sides strongly with the extreme liberal view in regards to the moral insignificance of the embryo and early term foetus - it is merely a matter of a time limit for abortion - even justifications as potentially morally reprehensible as wilful pregnancy/abortion for cosmetic [clearing of skin] or increasing sexual libido reasons are deemed as morally irrelevant ; providing the abortion occurs within an early timescale.

In order to accommodate the potential difficulties with justifying late-term abortions ; mixed strategy approaches became even more sided with the extreme liberal view by introducing the 'parasitical principle' in that in order for the foetus to survive within the womb it requires oxygen , nutrients, warmth and protection from the mother ; and the mother cannot be expected to be enforced into this position of providing for the dependant foetus. [Ref Judith Jarvis Thompson's Violinist analogy and the justifications within US Law in Roe vs Wade]

c] Potentiality - this position seeks to limit the 'moral irrelevance' factor within the mixed strategy by declaring that the fertilised ovum,embryo and foetus are unique entities worthy of degrees of respect as such ; therefore abortion for any reason is morally repugnant ; and only a serious reason would make it justifiable.

Biblical passages and statements against abortion.

When my bones were being formed, carefully put together in my mother's womb, when I was growing there in secret, you knew that I was there -you saw me before I was born. The days allotted to me had all been recorded in your book, before any of them ever began. Psalms 139:15-16

Before I was born, the LORD chose me and appointed me to be his servant. Isaiah 49:1

"Listen to me, O house of Jacob, all you who remain of the house of Israel, you whom I have upheld since you were conceived."
Isaiah 46:3

"Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations."
Jeremiah 1:5

You shall not kill by abortion the fruit of the womb.
Didache (an early Christian document c100AD)

"From the time that the ovum is fertilised a new life is begun which is neither that of the father or the mother. It is the life of a new human being with its own growth. It would never become human if it were not human already"
Document on Procured Abortion (1974), Roman Catholic Church

"Life must be protected with the utmost care from the moment of conception; abortion and infanticide are the most abominable of crimes"
Statement from the Roman Catholic Church

'If you do make a mistake don't destroy the life ... because also to that child God says, "I have called you by your name, I have carved you in the palm of my hand: you are mine"'
Mother Teresa

'Ever noticed that those who support abortion all happen to have been born ?'
Ronald Reagan

The AQA book provides a reasonably good set of resources for different religious considerations of Abortion ; ensure you know a couple of religions inside-out ; but I'd recommend you learn the Roman Catholic position plus another you feel most familiar with.
ADVICE : Remember that although there are many social concerns ; you're arguing about the ethical positions addressing abortion. Using justifications like 'making abortion illegal would be wrong as it would lead to backstreet abortions' are a concern , but not one which addresses the rights and wrongs of abortion itself ; especially in regard to the moral worth and dignity of the foetus. If you wish to argue that the Rights of the mother outweigh all other considerations [parasitical principle , subsequent duty of care etc] be sure that you are able to counter all the opposing positions. If you wish to argue against abortion from a conservative position , you must adress every opposing viewpoint and have valid, cogent responses to each ; especially in regard to an early term embryo who does not resemble a human being or possess the majority of human physical attributes or faculties ; you may have to argue from the point of 'what it will become without direct intervention to prevent it becoming that developed human being' - that from point zero it is a potential human being like you or I.

You could be asked to apply something/ everything you've learned in the abortion arguments to one specific issue - embryonic research or foetal euthanasia or the notion of personhood or religious rights to life - DON'T PANIC ! You have all the necessary provisional material to answer the question ; you merely just have to change the emphasis of those arguments accordingly to ensure they directly answer the question.

Euthanasia :
It's unlikely that you'll get a euthanasia question on its own [although IT IS possible] ; but it's strongly recommended that you revise every aspect of it in case one specific aspect comes up as a secondary aspect of a question.

Although you must use the AQA arguments pro and con [very weak - using these on their own won't provide a good grade] ; it is highly recommended that you include the extra Tyler & Reid arguments [220 onwards] & the notion of palliative care and the hospice movement.

In order to gain extra points I strongly advise that you use the James Rachels arguments to argue the potential dangers with merely accepting passive over active euthanasia.
1. As active euthanasia immediately stops pain and suffering ; and passive allows a further short-term period of pain and suffering - if the justification for passive euthanasia is to prevent pain and suffering ; surely active is better ?
2. We are legally allowed to withdraw treatment from any newborn Downs syndrome babies with duodenal atresia [twisted bowel] ; whereas a non-Downs baby must undergo minor surgery to save their lives. As we are allowing the Downs baby to die for no other reason than because they have Downs , this leads to two consequences:
either a] we can kill/allow to die all Downs children ; or b] All Downs babies should and must be treated.
3. Two brothers wish their nephew to die : If one brother drowned him in the bath , or in another scenario the other brother saw the child slip in the bath, bang their head and drown without rescuing him . What is the ultimate ethical difference if both consequences result in the death of the child ?

[THE ANSWER TO 3 IS KNOWN AS THE 'in absentia corollary'. In the first case the child would not be dead ; in the second he would have died anyway; only if there was a duty of care could there be deemed any legal cupability; moral culpability is of course very different]

4. Allowing to die vs. Direct intervention to end life. When a doctor withdraws treatment are we fooling ourselves that the doctor is not making a direct action to end life ? If there is a duty of care, and a doctor abrogates that responsibility; is this not a direct act of omission ? The doctor is actually doing something in refusing to provide further treatment. [rather than one of commission which active euthanasia requires].

ADVICE : Remember this is a very sensitive subject and writing in any extreme way supporting either a strong pro or contra position for or against euthanasia without due concern will make you seem callous and heartless ; denying either a person's rights to 'die with dignity or live with dignity'- and antagonising an examiner will lose you points . Read all the arguments inside and out; and look out for fallacies appealing to either sentiment or the removal of duty/responsibility of care in order to accommodate utilitarian notions of increasing pleasure/eliminating pain, or those which introduce notions of personhood - especially for those in PVS or suffering dementia/alzheimer's. Yet again you have to give every side a voice and counter each one ; even with those arguments with which you might possibly agree. Remember too the hospice movement and palliative care ; but remember the difficulties in arguing against personal autonomy [J S MILL] for those who wish to die and want someone else to kill them in assisted suicide. The AQA book is adequately proficient in explaining most religious approaches to euthanasia , but if you wish to mention the Roman catholic position - it is better that you use the Taylor and Reid [for instance DON'T use the Hans Kung quote , as most catholics consider hans kung to be very far from a real catholic - if you get a catholic examiner they'd go ballistic!]
remember too that you're being placed in a position where you'll be expected to "SHOW OFF YOUR KNOWLEDGE" - if you can remember a few different viewpoints from different religions - use them !

Wednesday, 27 May 2009


Utilitarianism is an ethical system which pre-supposes we are have some degree of freedom and responsibility for our actions. [i.e. it is not hard determinist]
It is non-relativist in that - although not absolutist - one is obliged to perform ‘right’ action ; one has a duty to perform those acts which promote greater utility.
Utility may be defined as that which is useful, beneficial , increases pleasure or happiness, diminishes pain or suffering.
Unlike deontological forms of ethics , Utilitarianism is teleological and consequentialist ; in that it is concerned solely with the justification/moral worth of an act by its ends and consequences ; not its means, motives or intentions.

At the dawn of the Industrial revolution, and post the American and French revolutions, [where social injustice, inequality and the rights of the majority became significant social and political concerns ] ;
Jeremy Bentham concluded; and subsequently adopted the principle that:

“Right actions are those which produce the greatest pleasures for those affected by their consequences ; wrong actions are those which do not.”

In order to assess and determine a standard for judging personal and private action [it‘s rightness dependant upon its ‘Utility‘ or usefulness ] ; Bentham introduced the hedonic calculus to calculate the most pleasurable and least painful action :
The action’s :
a] intensity
b] duration
c] certainty
d] propinquity [nearness] vs. its remoteness.
e] fecundity [the chances of there being further pleasures]
f] purity [the chances of there being less further pain]
g] extent

With this process one could be able to ascertain right action by quantifying happiness.
Yet within this system lie two major difficulties:
a] The inability to determine or predict one or more of the factors within the hedonic calculus.
b] a danger of narcissistic self-gratification and indulgence ; which John Stuart Mill considered a ‘wallowing in lower pleasures’.
Thus Mill introduced the principle that utilitarianism’s primary moral concern should be towards the quality rather than quantity of the act ; and should aspire to the higher-order goods such as art, culture and intellectual/social improvement.
Mill also considered that personal autonomy , when it affected solely the private individual and had no influence on society ; was not within any remit for the social majority to either influence or legislate against. The harm principle dictates that the majority may only act against the will of the individual if it is to protect and prevent harm to others.

Utilitarianism’s strengths include its consideration for that which actually affects others - the consequences of an action ; where the intention and motive may be irrelevant or ambivalent .
It also takes into consideration that circumstances change and there must consequently be an alteration within the ethical judgment and determination. There is no [potentially cruel and unjust] inflexible categorical imperative.
Utilitarianism is a communal ethical system where the benefits to society become paramount.
What is important is human well-being and their happiness here-and-now ; not in some future metaphysical and possibly non-existent ‘Heaven’. The greatest good for the greatest number is an obviously good ideal and needs no reliance upon religion or legal system to validate it.
The principle promotes a democratic voting system wherein the majority [which includes the weak, poor, dispossessed and disenfranchised] have a voice in the decision making rather than some influential minority [e.g. church or aristocracy].
Utilitarianism’s fundamental weakness is that it is too simplistic in nature ; giving no consideration to either means or motive .
It is also always predictive in nature ; the consequences of an action being indeterminate ; even though experience may provide some guidance ; there is no guarantee that the consequences will correspond to the intention towards them.
There is also no guarantee that the wishes of the majority are right.
There is also the difficulty in that as utilitarianism insists that it is solely the consequences of an action which provide ethical worth ; potentially any action , providing it brings about beneficial consequences ; can be justified.
There is also no credit given towards that which human beings generally naturally judge a person’s character : their motive and intention behind the action.
Utilitarianism comes directly into conflict with concepts of universal human rights and justice as there is no inherent 'right or wrong', actions have only instrumental value, and motives towards a consequence are neither 'good nor bad' merely morally neutral ; if people are required to be used as means to an end to produce greater utility - that action is justified - the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.
It also makes no allowance for human relationships and requires that one should adopt a clinical, cold and possibly callous assessment of a situation - any appeal to sentimentality, empathy or interpersonal relationships must be deemed an irrelevant obstruction to producing the utmost utility.
It also has a highly simplistic notion in that happiness can be equated with pleasure ; when human experience, history and cultural traditions reveal that self-sacrifice and heroism are highly admired.
Is not happiness - an abstract subjective concept - immeasurable ?

Because there were major criticisms and concerns with Bentham's 'Act' Utilitarianism; Rule utilitarianism was developed by Mill to counter the more self-centred aspects of Act's overly pragmatic flexibility towards one's own whims and desires.
For rule utilitarians, the correctness of a rule is determined by the amount of good it brings about when followed. In contrast, act utilitarians judge actions in terms of the goodness of their consequences without reference to rules of action. It stresses the greater utility of following a given rule in general, arguing that the practice of following some rule in all instances will have better consequences overall than allowing exceptions to be made in individual instances, even if better consequences can be demonstrated in those instances.Rule utilitarianism deems that people are happier if their society follows rules to guarantee people know what types of behaviour they can expect from others in given situations. Therefore utilitarians can justify a system that keeps to the rules unless there is a strong reason for breaking them.
A major criticism must therefore be that adhering to rules which are axiomatically lacking in promoting utility in a specific circumstance, irrespective of the collective benefits; cannot be considered as right action within that situation for the individual ; and to make any attempt to resolve or remedy that lack of utility would resort to a return to a personaist , subjective 'act' utilitarianism ; which contravenes the overriding principle inherant within rule utilitarianism that the needs of the many outweigh any needs of the few; or one.
This imbalance between the precedent given towards majority interest and the ignoring of minority concerns led to a restructuring of utilitarianism to accommodate and reconcile this conflict.
Preference utilitarianism , whose main proponent is Peter Singer ; insists that any severe detriment to the minority within rule utilitarianism e.g. the justification of slavery , or the execution of an innocent in order to prevent a riot and further death ; must be remedied by a compromise between all parties to a 'best preference satisfaction' where rather than the the best-possible pleasure for one party , a solution is found in which the possible optimal preference for happiness is achieved for all parties.

There are various types of questions you may get asked:

* You may get asked to explain Bentham's Hedonic Calculus or Mill's Utilitarianism
* You may be required to evaluate the theory or compare it to another theory.
* You may be asked to apply Utilitarianism to one of the issues studied.

The following are AS exam questions written by OCR:

(a) Describe and explain the main principles of Utilitarianism. [33]

(b) ‘Utilitarianism has nothing at all in common with religious ethics’. Discuss. [17]

(a) Explain a Utilitarian approach to issues raised by fertility treatment. [33]

(b) ‘A Utilitarian approach to issues raised by fertility treatment leads to wrong moral choices.’ [17]

(a) Explain the main differences between Act and Rule Utilitarianism. [33]

(b) To what extent is Utilitarianism a useful method of making decisions about euthanasia? [17]

This AS question is from January 2005:

(a) Explain how Utilitarianism might be applied to embryo research. [33]

(b) To what extent can embryo research be justified? [17]

This question is from June 2005:

(a) Explain the main differences between Utilitarianism and the ethics of Kant. [33]

(b) 'Happiness is the most important consideration in ethics.' Discuss. [17]

This A2 question is from June 2005:

Compare and contrast Utilitarianism with the ethics of the religion you have studied. [45]

This AS question is from January 2006:

(a) Explain how Bentham's version of Utilitarianism can be used to decide on the right course of action. [33]

(b) Evaluate a Utilitarian approach to abortion. [17]

This is an AS question from June 2006:

(a) Describe the main strengths and weaknesses of Utilitarianism. [33]

(b) ‘Utilitarianism is a good approach to genetic engineering.’ Discuss. [17]

This A2 exam question is from June 2006:

'Utilitarianism is the best approach to environmental issues.' Discuss. [45]

This AS question came up in January 2007:

(a) Explain the main differences between Act and Rule Utilitarianism. [33

(b) ‘Rule Utilitarianism ignores consequences.’ Discuss. [17]

These questions are both from June 2007:

(a) Explain the main strengths of Mill’s version of Utilitarianism. [33]

(b) ‘Mill’s Utilitarianism has no serious weaknesses.’ Discuss. [17]

(a) Explain how Utilitarianism might be applied to the issues surrounding the right to a child. [33]

(b) ‘Utilitarianism can lead to wrong moral decisions.’ Discuss. [17]


When dealing with the religious aspects of Utilitarianism one must address its inherant conflicting ideals with the major religions which generally adhere to deontological 'natural law' ethical systems, the commands and statutes by religious founders, or even 'virtue ethics'.
Yet many progressive or reformed versions of the major faiths have a predilection towards a relaxation of the ethical inflexibility to a more situationist approach.
Fletcher's 'situationist ethics' is prone towards adopting a pragmatism and relativism which veers towards corresponding with preference utilitarianism ; where rather than maintaining a rigid legalistic system of ethics ; a flexibility towards compromise and accommodation for the benefits of the entire faith community may be considered as the best option e.g. contemporary liberal christian groups allowing remarriage for the divorced , or the blessing of same-sex unions.
Although utilitarianism is antagonistic to major religions in that one's moral authenticity , worth and dignity usually corresponds with a good motive and intention and an idealised sense of duty ; there are some religious groups which enforce the major ethical concerns are those which sustain, support and promote their religious community - and for these the application of a utilitarian ethical system may be collectively beneficial e.g. within reformed liberal judaism, sufism, reformed progressive christianity and community-based faith structures e.g. Quakers[Society of Friends] ; Baptist chapters , Jehovah's witnesses etc. The notion of the pleasure/pain principles could very easily be accommodated into certain varieties of Buddhism; where the renunciation of self-interest for the sake of the collective could be achieved through a utilitarian agenda structure where only the ultimate objective would differ; but not the means of achieving it.