Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Repost: The Crisis was never new....

From 'On The Holy Spirit' by St Basil the Great [329-379] ChXXX
76. To what then shall I liken our present condition?
It may be compared, I think, to some naval battle which has arisen out of time old quarrels, and is fought by men who cherish a deadly hate against one another, of long experience in naval warfare, and eager for the fight.
Look, I beg you, at the picture thus raised before your eyes.
See the rival fleets rushing in dread array to the attack.
With a burst of uncontrollable fury they engage and fight it out.
Fancy, if you like, the ships driven to and fro by a raging tempest, while thick darkness falls from the clouds and blackens all the scenes so that watchwords are indistinguishable in the confusion, and all distinction between friend and foe is lost.
To fill up the details of the imaginary picture, suppose the sea swollen with billows and whirled up from the deep, while a vehement torrent of rain pours down from the clouds and the terrible waves rise high.
From every quarter of heaven the winds beat upon one point, where both the fleets are dashed one against the other. Of the combatants some are turning traitors; some are deserting in the very thick of the fight; some have at one and the same moment to urge on their boats, all beaten by the gale, and to advance against their assailants.
Jealousy of authority and the lust of individual mastery splits the sailors into parties which deal mutual death to one another.
Think, besides all this, of the confused and unmeaning roar sounding over all the sea, from howling winds, from crashing vessels, from boiling surf, from the yells of the combatants as they express their varying emotions in every kind of noise, so that not a word from admiral or pilot can be heard.
The disorder and confusion is tremendous, for the extremity of misfortune, when life is despaired of, gives men license for every kind of wickedness.
Suppose, too, that the men are all smitten with the incurable plague of mad love of glory, so that they do not cease from their struggle each to get the better of the other, while their ship is actually settling down into the deep.

77. Turn now I beg you from this figurative description to the unhappy reality.
Did it not at one time appear that the Arian schism, after its separation into a sect opposed to the Church of God, stood itself alone in hostile array? But when the attitude of our foes against us was changed from one of long standing and bitter strife to one of open warfare, then, as is well known, the war was split up in more ways than I can tell into many subdivisions, so that all men were stirred to a state of inveterate hatred alike by common party spirit and individual suspicion.
But what storm at sea was ever so fierce and wild as this tempest of the Churches? In it every landmark of the Fathers has been moved; every foundation, every bulwark of opinion has been shaken: everything buoyed up on the unsound is dashed about and shaken down.
We attack one another.
We are overthrown by one another.
If our enemy is not the first to strike us, we are wounded by the comrade at our side.
If a foeman is stricken and falls, his fellow soldier tramples him down.
There is at least this bond of union between us that we hate our common foes, but no sooner have the enemy gone by than we find enemies in one another.
And who could make a complete list of all the wrecks?
Some have gone to the bottom on the attack of the enemy, some through the unsuspected treachery of their allies, some from the blundering of their own officers.
We see, as it were, whole churches, crews and all, dashed and shattered upon the sunken reefs of disingenuous heresy, while others of the enemies of the Spirit of Salvation have seized the helm and made shipwreck of the faith. 1 Timothy 1:19
And then the disturbances wrought by the princes of the world 1 Corinthians 2:6 have caused the downfall of the people with a violence unmatched by that of hurricane or whirlwind.
The luminaries of the world, which God set to give light to the souls of the people, have been driven from their homes, and a darkness verily gloomy and disheartening has settled on the Churches.
The terror of universal ruin is already imminent, and yet their mutual rivalry is so unbounded as to blunt all sense of danger.
Individual hatred is of more importance than the general and common warfare, for men by whom the immediate gratification of ambition is esteemed more highly than the rewards that await us in a time to come, prefer the glory of getting the better of their opponents to securing the common welfare of mankind.
So all men alike, each as best he can, lift the hand of murder against one another. Harsh rises the cry of the combatants encountering one another in dispute; already all the Church is almost full of the inarticulate screams, the unintelligible noises, rising from the ceaseless agitations that divert the right rule of the doctrine of true religion, now in the direction of excess, now in that of defect.
On the one hand are they who confound the Persons and are carried away into Judaism; on the other hand are they that, through the opposition of the natures, pass into heathenism.
Between these opposite parties inspired Scripture is powerless to mediate; the traditions of the apostles cannot suggest terms of arbitration.
Plain speaking is fatal to friendship, and disagreement in opinion all the ground that is wanted for a quarrel.
No oaths of confederacy are so efficacious in keeping men true to sedition as their likeness in error.
Every one is a theologue though he have his soul branded with more spots than can be counted. The result is that innovators find a plentiful supply of men ripe for faction, while self-appointed scions of the house of place-hunters reject the government of the Holy Spirit and divide the chief dignities of the Churches.
The institutions of the Gospel have now everywhere been thrown into confusion by want of discipline; there is an indescribable pushing for the chief places while every self-advertiser tries to force himself into high office.
The result of this lust for ordering is that our people are in a state of wild confusion for lack of being ordered; the exhortations of those in authority are rendered wholly purposeless and void, because there is not a man but, out of his ignorant impudence, thinks that it is just as much his duty to give orders to other people, as it is to obey any one else.

78. So, since no human voice is strong enough to be heard in such a disturbance, I reckon silence more profitable than speech, for if there is any truth in the words of the Preacher,
"The words of wise men are heard in quiet," Ecclesiastes 9:17 the present condition of things any discussion of them must be anything but becoming.
I am moreover restrained by the Prophet's saying,
"Therefore the prudent shall keep silence in that time, for it is an evil time," Amos 5:13
...a time when some trip up their neighbours' heels, some stamp on a man when he is down, and others clap their hands with joy, but there is not one to feel for the fallen and hold out a helping hand, although according to the ancient law he is not uncondemned, who passes by even his enemy's beast of burden fallen under his load. Ezekiel 23:5
This is not the state of things now. Why not? The love of many has waxed cold; Matthew 24:12 brotherly concord is destroyed, the very name of unity is ignored, brotherly admonitions are heard no more, nowhere is there Christian pity, nowhere falls the tear of sympathy.
Now there is no one to receive "the weak in faith," Romans 14:1 but mutual hatred has blazed so high among fellow clansmen that they are more delighted at a neighbour's fall than at their own success.
Just as in a plague, men of the most regular lives suffer from the same sickness as the rest, because they catch the disease by communication with the infected, so nowadays by the evil rivalry which possesses our souls we are carried away to an emulation in wickedness, and are all of us each as bad as the others.
Hence merciless and sour sit the judges of the erring; unfeeling and hostile are the critics of the well disposed. And to such a depth is this evil rooted among us that we have become more brutish than the brutes; they do at least herd with their fellows, but our most savage warfare is with our own people.

79. For all these reasons I ought to have kept silence, but I was drawn in the other direction by love, which "seeks not her own," 1 Corinthians 13:5 and desires to overcome every difficulty put in her way by time and circumstance.
I was taught too by the children at Babylon, that, when there is no one to support the cause of true religion, we ought alone and all unaided to do our duty.
They from out of the midst of the flame lifted up their voices in hymns and praise to God, reeking not of the host that set the truth at naught, but sufficient, three only that they were, with one another.
Wherefore we too are undismayed at the cloud of our enemies, and, resting our hope on the aid of the Spirit, have, with all boldness, proclaimed the truth.
Had I not so done, it would truly have been terrible that the blasphemers of the Spirit should so easily be emboldened in their attack upon true religion, and that we, with so mighty an ally and supporter at our side, should shrink from the service of that doctrine, which by the tradition of the Fathers has been preserved by an unbroken sequence of memory to our own day.
A further powerful incentive to my undertaking was the warm fervour of your "love unfeigned," and the seriousness and taciturnity of your disposition; a guarantee that you would not publish what I was about to say to all the world,—not because it would not be worth making known, but to avoid casting pearls before swine. Matthew 7:6
My task is now done.
If you find what I have said satisfactory, let this make an end to our discussion of these matters. If you think any point requires further elucidation, pray do not hesitate to pursue the investigation with all diligence, and to add to your information by putting any uncontroversial question.
Either through me or through others the Lord will grant full explanation on matters which have yet to be made clear, according to the knowledge supplied to the worthy by the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Repost Pt 5: The Road in Ruin...

I'm going to use an analogy which I'll call the Roman Road:
The War went on for millennia ; then our Saviour came and victory was ours...the way home was made clear - over the centuries all those seeking to return , to continue their long journey homeward were led towards a long road, straight and true, which led directly there...
it was well fortified and defended, it was always occupied with many thousands of travellers and companions all making the same journey ; enlightening, consoling, sharing all that they were and had...there were places of rest and refuge along the way, and in them we could regain our strength and determination to carry on and free ourselves from any unnecessary burdens and hear stories and inspirational poems and songs of long past travellers....

but darkness covered the land, local administrators , guardians of the road became negligent, lazy and indifferent to the safety of the travellers, signposts were torn down, lamp-posts were extinguished, regions of the road crumbled ,collapsed and fell into disrepair and became prone to bandit raids, towns and villages became cold and silent and laden with phantoms , to replace stone buildings mere shacks were erected, but few sought solace there - the laughing and singing rang hollow and less was talked about the journey or the way ahead and more about enjoying the now or the hovel in which they dwelled... the well known guides and community leaders hid themselves away most of the time, only emerging when it was deemed necessary for civic duty...previously where everyone knew either your name or was happy to make your aquaintance and become a friend and fellow traveller for life, more often there are secret people hidden in shadows, there are many orangeboxes along the road, upon each stands a scruffy individual telling everyone of shortcuts home, of sideroads which lead off the main road which are more comforting and secure...some declare that the road is no longer the way home, some shout that home is no longer there and we should stay put and make the best of it here...sometimes the braver innkeepers argue back or send these loudmouths away with a flea in their ear, but sometimes the innkeepers allow these renegades into their taverns with open arms and can be seen avidly discussing their ideas with the innkeeper in the backroom...
sometimes the travellers gather together to ask the town leader how they can continue on, do they have a map or directions...the town leader does not mention the older accurate maps but more recent local scribblings or sketches , even some he has made himself - which he is ready to give to anyone [for a modest fee of course!?]....want me to continue ? or are you depressed enough ?

let's be really honest;
the problem on a diocesan level is not that it is run badly by people of ill or misconceived will....
but that it is hardly being run by people of virtually no will at all !

To be blunt and 'analytical' : Dioceses are suffering from clinical depression...

Complacency, disillusionment, anxiety, fear, abject loneliness, despondency, denial of the real problems, no visible solutions, no hint of hope....

a few remedies are sought : hasty activity, making oneself too busy to contemplate what's wrong; making grand designs or schemes and putting all one's eggs in the one basket or risking everything with a single throw of the dice, then there is the seeking out of what people think is the problem - they ask among themselves and come to the conclusion that there is ;
a] nothing wrong - how could there be ? we're here!
b] something that needs to be done but it must be set off for the future because there aren't enough people or resources or we are too busy doing other things at the moment.
c] there was something that could have been done but now it's too late and we have made our bed now we have to lie in it and make do...
d] this is all part of a growing process, like birth pangs, the darkest hour before the dawn
e] we're already doing everything we can, we have already considered everything and it's all working wonderfully thankyou if only you'd allow us to get on with it and stop bothering us...

Ok, now imagine for some reason we have a new bishop who's been in a monastery most of his adult life and has no idea whatsoever what's facing him in his new diocese : what does he encounter?

Well for a start most of his authority within the diocese has been usurped from him !!? From Rome ? Of course not ! By his predecessor placing his own men in positions of authority ? No. Guess again...
Diocesan government has become riddled with 'quangos' ; most under the ostensible auspices of that dreaded behemoth known as the conference of bishops - education, RCIA, youth programmes, catechetical material in schools AND the diocesan representatives on those commissions, committees, quorums, clades, inner-rings [clerics or lay-people the bishop may personally loathe or consider a heretical reprobate]- they decide practically everything - even the movement of feast days , provincial timetables , a significant budget from the diocesan purse, etc , etc etc.. all the exigences which used to be within the sole remit of the bishop has been 'tendered out on a long-term lease'!!!

so the Bishop looks to his personnel ; and weeps...
the good people ? the effective, orthodox, holy men ? well there are a few but they are stuck clinging to their parts of the diocese for grim death trying to keep them into a coherent semi-functioning machine - simply none of them can be moved except maybe slid across to a larger more encumbent parish to replace the bloody useless ,if not dangerous or mentally unstable ones, some will be sick and elderly and incapable of doing anything more than they are possibly doing now, in fact for a few charity demands that some of their burden should be removed...
of the rest ?
well there will be a handful of priests going through a severe mid-life crisis - they will be in trouble, crisis of faith, mental exhaustion, deep feelings of all the things I've mentioned in previous postings, and for some they will have been up to less than a modal priestly behaviour.
The youngsters ? half of these priests are bleeding useless - they don't know what they're doing, they don't believe in half of what they're doing and most of the time they do as little as possible anyway or they're trying to find any excuse in the book to get out of doing what they are supposed to be doing....
some of the priests in the diocese will already be working to a diferent agenda and trying to impose it upon the diocese - the 'professional' clerics of the quangos, together with their covens of laity. the bishop either submits fully, attempts to waylay them or sidetrack their authority, or commences a long drawn out war of attrition attempting to regain his power and authority back from them...
there will be the odd tin pot tyrant who needs either kicked out of his post, or put out to pasture or merely deprived of a few of his more capable assistant priests who are being too well moulded into his image and likeness; and a few positions of power may need to be taken away from him too...
there will be a few surprisingly capable priests who are imply not being used to their full abilities ? why? diocesan politics - maybe they just don't fit in, or have made enemies in the wrong places or are just unwilling to conform to certain other people's agenda, and sometimes through just sheer negligence and oversightedness....
but within the majority ? who are the ones readily available for promotion ?

of course there are nominal jobs of little import these days as their roles are simply not used or implemented - things like 'vicars of clergy', deans [deanery structure is a joke!] ,boundary commissioner ,archivists etc - anyone can have these as they mean very little - there are the diocesan finances which are the main import so there will only be a select few capable of these anyway...
but the rest ? the bishops secretaries? the chancellors? vicar general ? the deans of the cathedral ? vocations director , canonical lawyers etc... well, unless the bishop is willing to go against the grain and pick the best for the job [something that normally only happens infrequently now, the bishop's secretary is mainly the priest the bishop loathes the least - the vicar general ? the least offensive or antagonistic , the vocations director ? the young charismatic well as that there will be a few positions that have to be filled with certain people 'expected' to get the job...] - so unless the bishop is willing to compromise some other aspect of the running of the diocese, he is compelled to pick from a select bunch :

these are invariably the ones whom the bishop can afford not to have have on the front line in the major parishes, the ones least likely to be boatrockers, the bland , the mediocre, the clever but not too clever [even though they may be ostensibly academic and may have had a couple of books or articles published - in this scenario intelligence has nothing to do with wisdom - and a bishop doesn't want any too wise in such positions - they'd be much better in a big parish] , the ones trained more as administrators or accountants, the ones with a head for business or are experienced with liaison with all the quangos but aren't part of the system, the paper shuffler, the inoffensive, the academic who did their licence in something worthwhile like canon law...
the non-entity who has just been around for such a long-time....the ones with 'links' to people in the know....

so regrettably the administration is run by the second-raters with a few non-raters thrown in and a couple of "I'd love to sack them now but I dare not - they're better inside the tent widdling out..." types...
there maybe the odd 'clerical celebrity' too - one famous for their being a member of some quango or commission or for writing something - whatever - they assume the authority by popular assent among the 'professionals' and it's better to go with the flow , even if you think they're either useless, just plain wrong, or responsible for the end of civilization as we know it !!

But have you noticed one thing?
I haven't mentioned a single thing regarding what the priest believes, how he acts, or how well he has integrated his priesthood into his pastoral life - why ? because the majority of the time when considering people for positions of authority and responsibility in a diocese it's an irrelevance !!! Unless the bishop directly goes out of his way to ensure it happens !
And a lot of the time the price is too high for the diocese and its structural integrity if the bishop chooses the best as his closest associates.

So what happens ?
when it comes to the choice of the next bishops ? among whom do the conference of bishops, the papal nuncios etc look to recommend ?
well whom do they know ?
who have they encountered?
who is 'sound' according to their agenda?
who is popular ?

you see here is the bitterest , deepest irony of them all...this is the age of the internet, the wi-fi, the blackberry, the mobile phone, the fax, video conferencing - you name it ...
this is supposed to be a global village...

would you be surprised to learn that the majority of clerics simply NEVER interact with each other except on the most major of diocesan occasions - some priest in the same town or city in neighbouring parishes may never speak to each other from one year to the next, the majority of priests in a diocese have neither had a decent conversation or any reasonable encounter with half of the rest of the diocesan priests - it's incredible ! it's ludicrous - but more than that it is highly morally disordered....

but this is the breeding ground for our new bishops...
and in such a stagnant pond how do you expect anything to truly flourish ?
sometimes the Holy Spirit works its way round human will and gets the right people in the right position, but all too often we get um...well?

This has been the worst written of all of these, and i apologise for it because it was written at lightning speed and with little real composition - but I'll have a go at trying to summarise what I'm poorly attempting to relate very shortly...

Repost pt 4: The Insulted & The Injured

One cannot repudiate the simple fact that vatican II wrought a considerable amount of enthusiasm from some quarters....
but on the parish level there was an awkward confusion about what was really happening - it's with a deep irony that the majority of vociferous clerics about the subjects of the council were ardent traditionalists ; they naiively presumed that there would be a sweeping clean of the stables and a return to orthodoxy and orthopraxis amidst the tiny hints of rebellion in the US and northern europe and the missions. Although there were major stirrings among the seminarians , the younger and the 'professional' clergy ; the ordinary priest on the doorstep was reticent to admit what was really going on - because generally he had absolutely no idea - basically they presumed it was going to continue as 'business as usual'....

Oliver Wendell Holmes said :
" I would not give a fig for the simplicity this side of complexity, but I would give my life for the simplicity on the other side of complexity."
Good Pope John sought to gather the Church together in the simplicity wrought from complexity; regrettably the church ended up with a faux simplicity and simpletons.

It came like a thief in the night : like a subcultural new fashion - punks, hippies, goths, yuppies, emos - we suffered with endurance the living nightmare of the 'trendies'!!!!
The onslaught and desecration became more rife than anything any Tudor Monarch had wrought upon the church...the puritanical iconoclasts of old merely destroyed buildings and lives; these new trendies crushed and destroyed the purposes behind the building and lives.

Ok I apologise now because I'm going to go contemporary theologically 'incorrect' and mention the devil....
The worst thing about modern society is not that it is more evil [even though it is] but it's the failure to recognise blantant evil when it's right before one's eyes !
Now we have some pretty infantile ideas about the devil - part the absolutely gut wrenching terror of the exorcist; part 1930's suave sophisticated elegant bounder - the english cad!! ; part Iago - the supreme suggester in our ears....

let's make it clear - whatever this devil is - he is infinitely more dangerous than this - he's a spoilt brat seeking to destroy everything and anything merely for the sake that given any opportunity , he can!! One of the best analogies of the devil in his actions within the modern church is to compare him with, believe it or not, The Grinch who stole Christmas !!!

sounds a bit spurious doesn't it ? Until you remember what the Grinch did - he stole all the presents to make everyone miserable...

So the devil and all his minions used every fault,failure and weakness within us to make an all-out assault on our gifts...
I call this 'The War of the Sacraments'
Just think about it - Suppose we were some great anti-catholic legion - where would we intensify our assault ?
Come on , imagine it ; what would you do ? how would you destroy the church from within ?
How about this way ?

First destroy that which makes a catholic a catholic ; destroy what makes a priest a priest...

a] On baptism - make it unimportant , an irrelevance , deny original sin exists or twist the concept of original sin into something utterly unbelievable; imply that all religions are equal and baptism is of no intrinsic significance or worth. corrupt it until it crumbles....

b] Matrimony - yet again make it non-sacramental, non unifying, non-Godlike in its love.... assault it from every corner ; suggest it is non-fungible; equivocate it with secular marriage or mere sexual liaisons or homosexuality; and go for the jugular - destroy the unity of a husband and wife by depriving them of the graces of a family, allow them to become obsessed with sexual awareness and fulfillment rather than intrinsic mutual love - destroy potential children, destroy the bond, destroy the love !

c] The sacrament of the Sick - attack the very notion of life itself and promote the hideous evils of dying with dignity - kill off the handicapped foetuses because they may suffer in life, allow those in PVS to be starved to death, kill off the 'burden' of the terminally ill - deny the right to live until one dies - euthanise , eugenicise, abort !

d] Confirmation - destroy responsibility and adult maturity altogether - reaffirm the right to act childishly,narcissistically, selfishly and irresponsibly - instigate a blame culture or one ridden with psychological neuroses and excuses for any behaviour - live and act as if one is a teenager for the rest of your life - refuse to take on the mantle, never assume away from the adult life in Christ - assault the gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit by ridiculing them, denying them or tormenting those who excel in them or live their lives according to them.

But now we come to the Crux...The major assault which is destroying Holy Mother church from both without and within.
e] The dissolution of Holy Orders
f] The Abolition of the Confessional
g] The denial of, and the spitting upon the Blessed Sacrament

We know it's happening - we can witness it all around us...
Now I think I've gone into more than enough detail regarding the priesthood elsewhere, the majority are not acting like priests, for a lot of these they have no notion or concept of priesthood to begin with ; so they fumble along in the dark , hoping that whatever they do will either suffice or placate....

But as the question was regarding the appointment of Bishops - I feel I need to concentrate my emphasis to that of the way the violation of these last three sacraments has personally affected the clergy:

Primarily it is through a loss of identity and understanding of the vocation. Alienating them from the seven corporal and seven spiritual works of mercy :

To feed the hungry;
To give drink to the thirsty;
To clothe the naked;
To harbour the harbourless;
To visit the sick;
To ransom the captive;
To bury the dead.
To instruct the ignorant;
To counsel the doubtful;
To admonish sinners;
To bear wrongs patiently;
To forgive offences willingly;
To comfort the afflicted;
To pray for the living and the dead.

Secondly it is through isolation and ignorance - remove all proper education and instruction from the sacred traditions and wisdoms ; remove them from the flock and make them devoid of any experience or understanding of their human condition. It thus deprives the clerics of the graces of the cardinal virtues: Prudence, temperance, fortitude and justice.

The easiest way to do this ? Make the confessional redundant, prevent the priest interacting with his people - stop the practice of home visiting - make the priest isolated from and ignorant of all the people around him.

Thirdly it is by depriving the priest of the ritual of being a priest - removing every habit or sacred ritual which complements or supplements and inspires the theological virtues : Faith, Hope & Love

Violate the mass, despoil it - de-sacralise it , demean and debase and de-spiritualise it; turn the symbolism on its head to represent the exact opposite of its intent

- Turn the mass, our participation in the ritual sacrifice of the public execution of God Incarnate for our Redemption - INTO A PARTY ROUND A TABLE!!!

- but most importantly - promote treatment of the most precious , sacred gift from God ; His very Body and Blood , instill the habit as one of overfamiliarity and disrespect verging on contempt ! No longer make the vessels valuable and beautiful and worthy to befit the King of Kings, rather turn them into bowls not fit for dogs to drink from ; no longer have the priest and people dress as if they are in the presence of royalty, no longer have the priest and people bow or kneel in homage of their God, no longer have the people receive the Blessed Sacrament ; compel them to give it to themselves...
destroy the dignity of the blessed sacrament , and you destroy every consequence that comes from that respect...

That's what mother Theresa meant when she said it brought her the most sadness !!!
A faithful catholic of a century ago would look upon the average contemporary mass of today with the horror and outrage of witnessing a satanic ritual - why ? the way we virtually spit upon the blessed sacrament through our indifference and abject negligence.

If a priest resides in this culture which disrespects the greatest of things ? how else will he act towards anything else ? save with an attitude distinctly devoid of reverence.

Lastly - once the priest is unaware of who they are, and no longer acting like a priest inside the church through prayer and ritual and respect/worship of the sacraments ; or outside the church pastorally within the community with respect for God's children,

once all the major damage is done ; impose the sin of Pride upon it all - poison it irrevocably through presumption and despair ; either make the cleric oblivious to these factors and allow him to continue as if everything is wonderful, or make him believe in nothing except his despondent futile ineptitude and the utter falsity of all that he and the church stands for.

... and to seal everything up - to prevent a change of heart , a damascene conversion, a metanoia ; ensure that the priest never encroaches upon the critical virtues - patience, gentleness and humility.

That's how to destroy the Church - it's a brilliant masterplan isn't it ???

Now, does any of this seem remotely familiar ?
Ok, on to the last part - what it's like in a diocese and why the best priests aren't becoming bishops....

Repost pt 3: It was the best of times: It was the worst of times...

Word Picture:

The old structure within a diocese almost invariably ensured that the cream floated to the top.
The cleverest, wisest, most charismatic or empathic, the most talented, the best preachers or pastors or spiritual directors/confessors - even on the rare occasion the holiest of priests would manage to reach the top jobs/positions within a diocese - most of us have been graced with encountering the type of priest I'm referring to.
Now even if some of them weren't the best among pastoral priests ; they were assuredly the most capable or effective administrators, good chairmen or team leaders - and rarely were there any who had not experienced and obtained a deep level of understanding regarding the human condition and the spiritual necessities for societies and the individual.
because the priests were highly active and very much about the Lord's business it was more often than not quite easy to determine a cleric's capabilities and talents.
the Holy Spirit made the job of a Bishop a great deal easier by pushing the more capable and responsible priests to the fore.
Frequently a bishop would be fully aware that he could both rely on his clergy and could be assured that anyone he placed in a diocesan position of responsibility/authority was already tried and tested by time and had proved their worth on many occasions beforehand . It was more than likely that a person he had 'chosen' for a position would become his or another bishop's successor; and he could be proud of both his choice and have few qualms about the future in that cleric's hands.

Then came Vatican II.

Now there were already significant embryonic factors within the clerical and episcopal make-up:

a] The efficacy of priestly formation was being compromised by increasingly poor,irrelevant or out-of-date/overly zeitgeist training in seminaries; and the limiting of the considerations of the duties and responsibilities of Holy Orders - usually the source of this was the poor example of priests and the overlying ethos of the seminaries regarding priesthood [too many educators in pastoral ministry had little experience of being pastoral ministers!]

b] The increasing duties, responsibilities and demands upon the priest within the parish led to six significant consequences/types of clergy:

i] the Hero - the priest who seized the helm of responsibility in the storm to prevent all around them sinking - assuming an authority and duty merely by being the right person at the right time who saw the problem and acted upon it.
ii] the Envious - those antagonistic to the hero-type - there may be a vast array of reasons/causes/motivations behind their positions ; but nevertheless the predominant result is their begrudging the hero's position - how they act on that envy also manifests itself in varied forms - hostility, indifference, diammetrically opposing positions regarding doctrine or praxis, procedural antipathy, reticence to assist or even direct action against the 'hero'.
iii] the Tin Pot Dictator - the Master of his own Domain - not much more needs to be said as we have all encountered and experience such a type - it may be a virtuous and benign dictatorship or one that has compromised its authenticity and supped with the Prince of this World; but nevertheless they are still dictatorships and the priest has jeopardised spiritual authority by confusing it with the secular and temporal.
iv] the Reactionary - what are they opposing ? good grief ! it could be anything - the Pope, the bishop, certain clergy, Church teaching on sexuality or contraception or divorce or celibacy, liturgical practice, aspects of church dogma, it could be politically motivated or over-encultured with the spirit of the age [we've all suffered the hippy priests, the corporate downsizing thatcherite priests, the blairite spin/procedural committee priests...all too sad!]
v] the Counter-Revolutionary Uber-Traditionalist - could be some belligerent irish canon unwilling to change anything and stopping time somewhere mid 1928, ditto an almost anglo-catholic brideshead-type who revels in the bells, smells, frippery ; or the youngster outraged at the pragmatism/situationist ethics/abject relativism/sacrilegious liturgies/banale indolences of the reactionary clerics; and counteract with an overpietistic or overlegalistic pseudo-conservatism verging on sedevacantism. [yes this is surprisingly not a new phenomena or a product of the outrages in the late sixties and seventies- the tridentinista were already gathering forces in the forties/fifties being fully aware that there was going to be trouble ahead]
vi] the Recluse - the priest who ran away and hid from any controversy, who either swayed in the wind and agreed with everyone, or dissociated himself from the prevailing situation and got on with his own job in his own quiet way.

c] Systemic Ignorance of Fundamental Theology among the Clergy - this is the deficit of the teaching of the underlying 'why' that I referred to in the previous posting ; and led to the massive ruptures regarding doctrine/morality/liturgy/clerical praxis/ecclesiology among the clergy - let's be truthful - what we had was a schism - the only problem was that both left and right, liberal and traditionalist, were so inadequately trained and educated in all the subjects they purported to be experts on, that their ignorance prevailed, incompetence ensued; and many millions of catholics were deeply hurt in the process.

d] The Crisis in Faith - it was on its way - academia and intellectual realms and alleged 'colleges of excellence' were adopting every new fad or ideology or innovative philosophical/political/socio-cultural/anthropological process - chaos reigned.
pragmatism, relativism, demeaning post-hegelian political ideologies, behaviourism, nihilism , linguistic and logical positivism and many more ideologies all had pervasive contaminating influences ; and the ignorant ill-educated clerics and theologians became corrupted by these prevailing forces...
The results ? Well please refer to my first posting regarding anxiety and despondency.

e] The Crisis in identity [more later, but basically I'm referring to the loss of an authentic notion of a Unique Real Ordained Priesthood in contrast to 'vocational pastoral ministries']

f] The Crisis regarding the Love of God and consequently the reality of both Love and God. [ref. first posting]

g] Existential Angst and the authenticity of anything the cleric professes/represents/adheres to ; in the light of d,e & f.

Now One person in 1958 was more aware of the clerical situation than any other - Cardinal Ottaviani [indeed every member of the Vatican General Council] was inundated with reports/assessments/new writings on the impending crises regarding doctrine, morality, the liturgy and most especially the clergy:
So much so that when John XXIII announced the actuation of a Second Vatican Council one voice was heard echoing through St Peter's:
'E Pazz!!' [He's mad!!!]
to the cardinal it was like detecting a gas leak and lighting a match to see where it was coming from....

We must concede that many necessary reforms and considerations simply had to be addressed or redressed - but what happened at Vatican II and the reprehensible post-conciliar committees was a systemic fiasco of the first order....

One of its benefits was that indeed, all the sins/poisons that had previously only lurked in the mud - now hatched out !!!
The result was the disenfranchisement of tens of millions of catholics - they were left abandoned to the wolves...Holy Mother Church ruptured and millions of victims were left in its wake...

a price worth paying ?
I'm sorry, but I believe the price was too high; but I trust in God and his Divine Providence - I am certain that God did not leave us orphans ; that ultimately there MUST be a reason as to why this happened and why God allowed it to happen....
could it possibly be that had we remained the way we were we may have altered into some monolithic autarchy ? or could the world have finally confronted us head on and destroyed us all in its wake ?
I don't know , all I am sure of is that it was God's will ; and it is now a wake up call to action for every devout and orthodox sinful catholic...

maybe this was a baptism of fire in preparation for the terrible adversities ahead ?
I do not know - but I do know the affect it has had on the church at a Diocesan level - and in the choice of clerics - which is what I'll address in my next posting.

[to be continued]

Repost: Pt 2: The Enemy Within

Nietzsche had a mandatory criterion for the possibility of God, meaning to Life etc ; and that was Love being eternal....

He could not believe it ; and I truly believe that the major source of the crisis in the Church is the simple fact that despite wanting to believe it, and all the verbiage and innovative ritual attempting to compensate or paper over the hints of disbelief, this lack of belief is prevalent.

But the unbelief isn't the disease, it's merely a symptom of something a lot more subtle.

The cause ? We need to go back a century and the age of presumption and arrogance. Italy , France and Germany were beginning to settle down after generations of crisis; Britain and Ireland were beginning to reap the benefits of the decades-long struggle to re-integrate catholicism, The US was gaining the security in the power of money and distance from warring europe - and catholicism leapt on the bandwagon grasping the opportunity to thrive espcialy among the millions of immigrants, the British Empire was stealing a quarter of the world from its rightful owners and instigating 'peace' down the barrel of a gun and utilising every available natural resource - and we resided in the shadow of that effect ; The Church was gaining ground, there were no significant adversaries and theological/scriptural/moral/canonical and clerical spheres were beginning to become effective and powerful influences within societies; the social teaching of Leo XIII made this even more of a concrete visible active prevailing force - we built churches, hospitals, schools, junior and senior seminaries bulging at the seams - and it's here we begin to see the first signs of complacency...

I'm not going to go through a history lesson - it's all readily available to anyone interested - but the first major test to the Church in the new century was modernism. Now Pius X was truly a saint and he sought to remedy a crisis in a specific way - suppression of the questionable ; and the re-emphasising and reformed expression of age old dogmas and their doctrinal implementation and consequences - almost every available resource was oriented towards what the church teaches and how it is to be taught....

You see the problem ? It's very subtle , but here's the root of what followed - we were complacent in that we presumed that society and the individual were not going to significantly change in their outlooks and lifestyles...

Inadvertently we'd become contaminated with Hegelianism - we'd catholicized his notion of the Geist - the development and progression of society and the Church along a certain path - all that was required was a reiteration of 'the what and the how' of Church teaching ; the 'why?' we believe or act wasn't exactly ignored, but it was never deemed an absolute intrinsic necessity towards understanding and living the catholic faith - and anyway, catholic society possessed the capabilities to deduce the 'why' from the hearts and minds of those who thrived in the overwhelming thrall of the Church. Because we had a surplus of understanding 'the why' among the average cleric or devout parishioner, we merely assumed that feeding the faithful [and the trainee clergy] with 'the what and the how' was more than amply enough for doctrine and praxis to be sustained. We presumed that the monolith of the teaching authority of the church would suffice. We were negligent because we failed to notice the idol of 'Church authority' had feet of clay.

Thus the message of the 'why we believe and live that belief' was neglected and compromised; and in a way it became distorted and obfuscated into being perceived as not primarily a spiritual authority ; but more a regimented temporal [albeit religious] was seen as 'surplus to requirement' to do anything other than 'state the faith', not continually prove was seen as an unnecessary exigency to do anything other than 'show love of neighbour' through teaching, healing, feeding, housing, consoling and caring - very little effort was made to emphasise the 'why we love' or to validate or prove or remind the faithful 'what business we are about and why'

This negligence only took three generations to wreak havoc -war irreparably altered society and the clergy were already being contaminated by this black hole in their catechesis and training; the ignorance manifested itself in two ways:

a] questioning every aspect of the Church and the faith it professed and the morality it demanded; failing to realise that one was not personally equipped or experienced or educated enough to assess or discern the core motives and reasonings of the fundamental teachings, these people decided that they could work out their own , personalised theology, morality and ecclesiology - or sought answers from sources external to the church [regularly of the protestant ilk like Bultmann, Barth or Tillich]

b] defiantly refusing to contemplate the possibilities of the motives or reasonings behind the church teachings [possibly out of fear or a sense of possibly losing the newly acquired temporal power within a parish/diocese] and rather than attempt to understand the why ; instead blindly following what the church says to the letter [and possibly adding a more rigorist or pietistic flavour to it in the process] - 'Just do what you're told and stop asking questions!!!'

It was a lack of education, a dearth of understanding , and a childish arrogance [something only truly present among the ignorant] that led to the initial divergence of what we perceive now as progressive/liberal/neo marxist and the Ultra-traditionalist 'fascist'.

rather than being a Faith ; this ignorance allowed ideology to pervade and contaminate the ranks of the clergy.

But what about the parishes and dioceses ?

Well charitable activity, intense social interaction, continuous prayer and devotion and the machinations of the Holy Spirit through these corporal and spiritual works of mercy delayed or even halted the progression of the 'intellectual' malaise...but even within this there were detectable flaws, especially amongst the attitudes of certain clergy - whereas previously they had taken up the mantle of responsibility for their flock, burdened themselves, sacrificed and lived their love for the parish - with subsequent generations this responsibility and earned position of spiritual authority became distorted into the presumption of the younger priests [or the older priests who had been 'tainted by habit to forget the origins of things' ] that this clerical position was one of temporal , civic, social authority. The ostensible 'shepherd' slowly metamorphosed into a normatively benign well-meaning dictator !!! But this was by no means a universal occurrence - the high amount of clergy and their busy lives interacting with the communities allowed human living and loving to deflate a lot of clerical egos and autocratic ambitions....the only places it was truly likely to happen was where socio-cultural influences thrust the cleric into more than just a priest but a civic representative of authority - this usually occurred in either the rural backwaters [e.g. in ireland where the priest was practically a minor deity - we can still se it today in certain regions of the developing world or in the US among the ultra-conservative protestant bible belt pastors] or amongst the isolated or disenfranchised immigrant communities - Italians, Irish, Poles etc....

This clerical ambiguity of their role as a priest ,
and the ecclesiastical consequences of poorly trained catechetical intellectual ignorance ,
with the splitting of the church along the lines of ignorant loyalty [right-wing] and ignorant defiance [left-wing];
together with the rise in political ideologies of all flavours and their mixing with the realms of philosophy and social sciences and even transgressing into theology ;
all wrapped up in the social upheaval after the second world war - inevitably led towards Vatican II

....and we all know the consequences of that. [To be continued]

The Problem....

Anyone who has known me for any length of time will tell you that one of my many annoying habits is repeating a single sentence which I've practically adopted as a motto for how to live my life - It was written by St Francis de Sales, exemplified through the praxis and pedagogy of St John Bosco, indeed it's been intrinsic to the life of every saint ;and it encapsulates Catholic Theology, Spirituality and Morality. It's quite a simple phrase really, one that's prone to being misunderstood and quoted as if it's merely something found on the back of a cornflake packet or in a fortune cookie.
But as Dostoyevsky told us , there is nothing under heaven that cannot be twisted, distorted or debased by men of ill will .
It goes like this :

"It is never enough to love someone ; that someone needs to know they are loved."

Now Mother Theresa was always a controversial figure , and no end of abuse was hurled at her when , in this world of wars, terrorism, sexual profligacy, abortion, poverty and disease rife in the developing world she stated :

"Wherever I go in the whole world, the thing that makes me the saddest is watching people receive Communion in the hand."*

Communion in the hand ? Is she crazy ? Well let me put it to you that the Blessed Theresa was anything but...because if you look into what she's saying a little closer you'll arrive at some startling revelations about what is truly in crisis within the church. I'll return to this later.
*[n.b. it's subsequently been denied by her order that the Blessed Theresa ever said it - but apocryphal or no - if asked - She would have said it]

I once gave a sermon during my time as a Pastoral Minister in the US - it centred around a question:

"For a Catholic, what is the greatest 'object' in the world ?"

After qualifying the statement that the Blessed Sacrament was not truly solely of this world, and a catholic had already received the waters of baptism ...and after a few possibilities proposed to me by the congregation which I rejected; I pointed to the little box room in the corner of the church and said :

"There - that's the greatest object in the world !" and proceeded to explain why the confessional is so intrinsically important beyond our wildest imaginings....let me move on...

Now I'm sorry to be seemingly chaotic , but I do have a reason for beginning something , then leaving it hanging and proceeding to something apparently unrelated; but you must be asking by now what the heck has this to do with the clerical crisis ? Well please bear with me for a moment - I'm getting there.

Chesterton was one of the most significant adversaries of the sin of Pride - read any one of his apologetic essays and you will invariably find it having the overriding virtue of Humility as its fundamental tenet - but he goes beyond this to a great psychological insight - that Pride , and all its manifestations in arrogance, presumption or despair are grounded in two things : Ignorance and Anxiety - In order to be humble [ and thus be virtuous in any way ] you have to possess a freedom of spirit and an openness to understanding - a willingness to confront the unknown and face your fear.

Now the majority of people think it was FDR who said 'we have nothing to fear but fear itself';
actually the president plagiarised it from my old hero St F-d-S... and if you haven't read it before , I urge you with the deepest sincerity to read St Francis de Sales' chapter on Anxiety from his 'Introduction to The Devout Life' - it's one of the greatest pieces of psycho-analysis ever written. I've posted it already on this blog : here's the link

Our Lord and Saviour spent his entire life telling us to 'Be Not Afraid' ; and we poor, weak-willed sinners do everything and anything but listen to those words....

Aside from objective sin, Anxiety is the most dangerous phenomena as it compromises and jeopardises our freedom to accept God's overflowing graces or to act upon them. Not only do we run away from God , from the world and our neighbour, we run away and hide from ourselves.

The only way for this anxiety to be overcome is through the iron will of patience and unconquerable strength of gentleness ; in other words the only way is through Love.

Now we're nearly there: only a few more steps....

Now despite all its terrors and consequences , its hiding in the shadows, anxiety still resides in the shadow of Truth - even when it has lost everything else and dwells in confusion and delusion ; it still confronts and admits the validity and worth of Truth.

One can sink to an even deeper one of despondency where Truth or untruth is not even considered; one is so scared of addressing the possibility of anything's truth or falsity, of its reality or its being merely an illusion, that one both denies or dismisses the necessity of confronting anything remotely hinting at those concepts, and when confronted with these phenomena one runs away from them. In other words not only are you lying to yourself and fully aware of the nature of the lie ; you also become a fully-fledged coward.

Cowardice ? can it really be that simple or obvious ? That we're so scared of being scared , so scared of being wrong, so scared of it all being a delusion, or a lie, or a nihilistic nightmare, that we simply refuse to acknowledge anything ; and would rather run away and hide in the faux-security of self-delusion .
That we're so scared that our belief in God might neither be validated by God's reality, nor corroborated by our Human will that it is a truly some , if only weak, form of faith - we'd rather dismiss the concept of believing out of fear that we might be unable to believe...never risk loving or hoping out of sheer cowardice that we'd be unable to love or hope or have what we love or hope for confirmed by actually being made manifest?

No, it isn't that could it be ?

because it's actually more simple than that...

I asked my elder son a few years what being a Catholic was all about...

His answer ?

"God loves you !"...

[he kind of spoilt the moment by adding..."get used to it !" straight afterwards with a cheeky grin ; but the more I reflect on his words, the more I feel that this is the message for the world of today... if there is one thing the world and all its members needs to know - it's that God loves them....]

But what of Universal Divine Revelation ? Natural Theology ? The Incarnation, teachings, actions, passion, Death and Resurrection of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ...

Surely after all this we should be able to find the reflections of God through His Creation and the Truth in the Person of Christ in all our endeavours and interactions , surely we must see the working of the Holy Spirit in whom we Live , Move and have our Being in all we encounter and survey ?

No, because I truly believe for some of us the abyss has opened into an even deeper chasm where not only does the person not know they are loved, or believe they are loved, or even believe that they are in any respect lovable; No, they have sunk to the level where the concept of love as possessing any reality beyond genetic programming ,hormonal urges or evolutionary survival technique is beyond them.....

They don't believe in love...and truth be told, they don't believe in God.

So to return to the beginning... what can we say ? what can we do ?

Ensure that our neighbour knows they are loved - it's simple enough - but being simple it's also the most arduous, sacrificial , devastating , heart-breaking but ultimately rewarding thing we can ever do...

But What has this to do with the Crisis in the Church and the clergy and the episcopacy ? and where does Mother Theresa's quote fit into this schema ? and what concrete implementations or policies can be actuated to remedy the situation...?

Well ? I'm coming to that...[to be continued]

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Maybe a pertinent repost? #2

{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.}

Maybe a pertinent re-post. #1

{Never knowing when to shut up, I jump headfirst into a little discussion amongst a few smug mutual back-patters on the Holy Smoke blog regarding the varying considerations of the child in the womb - the usual 'it's a blob for the first few months; and can be treated accordingly' bilge. There was also a snide aside regarding our 'gnosticism' regarding when ensoulment occurs. Unable to sleep [overtired - long story] : I started to type.}

I wish you'd stop presuming what Catholics believe - we have absolutely no idea what a soul is except that it exists - we have no idea if there is a process called ensoulment at all [i.e. whether it is intrinsic to the material form by its being held in being by the Holy Spirit or if it is an external interaction] - we are fully aware of the dogmatic position that we are ultimately a holism of an embodied soul - but beyond this we are dealing with mystery - yet we don't have to know in order to believe in its essential validity - the 'what' and 'how' we leave to Divine Mystery. I could still push you down the stairs without knowing Newton's laws of motion, I could slap you without knowing anything about quantum theory, electrostatics or neurons.

Ok here's my question :
Let's remove the whole 'human life in potential' argument from the equation and ask :

When in human development is it concretely valid to determine and classify the embryo/foetus as 'not a person' ?

Well you've probably all seen intra-uterine photos of 12 week old foetuses who look almost identical to sleeping infants - so I don't suppose any of you will use 'looking human' as a determinant;

what about intelligence ?
we already use that criterion to switch off the severely brain-damaged's ventilators ; and if the vital organs function we'll dehydrate them and starve them [it's a mercy isn't it ? nobody would wish to live like that would they ? anyway it's all perfectly legal since Jamie Bland] The same goes with abortion of the brain-damged foetus [a blessing - beter off not to be born and suffer]
yes, Intelligence seems an adequate determinant for 'personhood'.

well you might not like to know when we are at our most intelligent - the time when a human has the highest amount of active and interactive neurons and is at its optimum learning capacity with the highest IQ it will ever accrue - is seven months after conception !
You may be aware that before 22 weeks a foetus's brain has yet to develop folds in order to increase its mental capacity - what you may not be aware of is that even at this stage the foetus has the intelligence and learning ability of a seven year old child ! regress further week by week and you'll discover that a significant amount of foetal abortions happen to human beings of an intelligence quotient equivalent to ourselves and greater than any adult primate or cetacean [for whom we have so much sympathy] could ever achieve! we need to travel many many weeks further back to arrive at an 'insignificant' level of even human intelligence, let alone the animals we treat with 'human-like' sensibilities.

Do any of you remember that bitterly ironic day when the Liberal democrat party voted for the motion proposing abortion on demand and subsequently voted for the banning of the use of goldfish as fairground prizes on the grounds of cruelty ? who says evolution and civilization isn't a wonderful thing ?

Ok what about walking away from the brain thing and see what the biologists and geneticists say. How about working out the life-cycle of the human being and discerning how brief this embryonic development is in the totality of human development ? nine months versus three score years and ten - surely this will prove something.
Well ! If you remove the temporal length of stages one discovers that our life is more redolent of a mayfly than we'd believe. Out of the 41 stages in the human cell-life cycle we undergo 37 of them in the womb. If one accepts that past half-way is nearer the whole , technically the embryo is long past middle aged before its mother knows she's pregnant !

what about the foetus/embryo feeling pain ?
it's illegal to inflict pain on sentient animals; I kick a cat and I could end up in prison - some think it's barbaric to kill a spider and not humanely dispose of it in some other way.

Well the developing neural cortex attaches to the developing brain stem at 17 days after conception - the embryo certainly feels pain from that point - but is it aware of it ?

Maybe we should move onto sentience ?
there must be a time during human development where there is no self-awareness whatsoever - maybe embryology will give us an answer - then the abortion debate may become clearer - even if the embryo is undergoing a painful death surely not being aware of it or actually 'experiencing it' with self-awareness, cognition, memory etc might make it tenable to consider this as the killing of a non-person ?

Surely sentience and higher brain function, the ability to express oneself, portray emotion ,dream etc can't happen until well into pregnancy , maybe the last few weeks ? or even the last few months ? possibly it begins around or before the abortion limit of 24 weeks ? maybe slightly before but surely not earlier than say 18-20 weeks ?

Ooops !
it's impossible to determine when it actuates, but the mechanism for its functions cannot preclude its absolute absence; so we must be willing to face the possibility that it occurs at the beginning of the organ's development - when it goes online as it were:

Well guess what !
during the fourth week of development after conception the heart starts beating, blood starts to flow around the body to and from the yolk sac, buds start to turn into hands, the eyes are developing lenses....and
the brain divides into five separate vesicles : one of these is the telencephalon !
what's that ?
only the beginnings of the cerebral cortex [controlling memory, attention, perceptual awareness, thought, language, and consciousness]
and the basal ganglia [controlling motor control, cognition, emotions, and learning].

In other words it is impossible to determine if any of these functions have not commenced by this developmental stage. No matter how ill-formed or 'embryonic' - it is still present and potentially as active as every other aspect of the embryo.
Yes, less than a month !

and it gets even worse for the pro-choicer

In order for the brain vesicles and especially the telencephalon to form and function it requires morphological and molecular transient 'segments' known as neuromeres.

These neuromeres are already functioning in order to combine and differentiate and form a co-ordinate system.

These neuromeres - the spark of our whole psyche, awareness , intelligence, will - all that makes us a 'person'....

[wait for it]

...begin to develop on the 18th day after conception.

What am I saying ?
am I daring to make the ludicrous, preposterous suggestion that this lump of cells is self-aware, sentient and capable of the minutest form of cognitive function with a direct purpose and even a determined will towards actuating an end other than a simple form of chemical processes genetically engineered by its DNA ?

Well guess what ?
I'm going further and beyond this !

What's all this massive fascination with stem cells ?
why are they the new miracle on the block ?
why are they almost treated like some magical elixir that can solve all the world's medical ills ?

it's not so much what they do ; it's what they are !
they function beyond what we would seem credible to our common sense - to the point that we may feel compelled to call them miraculous or magical !

Go back a week or so and cut the cells which would form the embryo's head off above the forming notochord - well that which is destined to ultimately become a head - and flush it down the sluice !
then take the bunch of cells which are already developing into a proto-form of the lower body and place it where the head should have been.

what happens ?
a head develops - fully functioning brain etc - full kit and kaboodle.
In other words there's a self-directing entelechy within the organism itself external to the genetic code [whether it's controlled by nucleic acid concentrations pre-determined by the genetic code makes little difference - the self-directing motivation is now inherant within the organism]

this entelechy aims itself towards self-preservation and development to the point of self-repair and redirecting itself [changing legs into a head to replace a lost one - love to see Paul Daniels try that one!]

even if it's all basic biochemistry we're talking about an entity which from the very start is not developing into something which will eventually develop self-preserving , self-regulating and self-directing attributes - it already possesses them to the extent that within the first few weeks it's not the amorphous blob as insignificant as an amoeba , nor is it something many months away from brain function, self-awareness, cognition, emotion ; rather once it enters the foetal stage it's barely a month away from smiling, dreaming, mnetically reacting differently to varying sounds and sucking its thumb - all within twelve weeks - half the abortion limit !
Is it a person at twelve weeks ?
when wasn't it before this ?
want me to go through it all again ?
we simply cannot tell !!!!

there's no embryologist who can irrefutably claim that thought [no matter how primitive or merely motor-regulating] does not possibly commence as early as the 18th day after conception when those microscopic neuromeres emerge - and who knows what processes led to this and when they began ?

we're never dealing with a mere blob...

All this available information - and it doesn't alter catholic principles one iota; because we have fundamental moral principles that Life [however potential and requiring all manner of necessary things to become all it is designed to be] commences at conception ; because from that moment we can never know what wonders may be wrought within the womb and beyond in that entity's regard.

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Child breaks through security and greets Pope at the Vatican - Day neither will forget [one big tear...]

SPONGEBOBARU!!! How the Japanese MUST be doing something right if their kids can be so filled with wonder!!

Save Cardinal Vaughan Candlelit Vigil Tonight 6p.m.

Update #1: Story hit Lunchtime news BBC London news on Cardinal Vaughan School + Michael Gormally

Update # 2: Diocese responds with a "Know thy Place & be Thankful"
Bullying demeanour - ignoring all the issues.
Westminster only compounds its deplorable actions

Update #3
Damian Thompson re-Blogs on the increasingly embarrassing situation


Message from Campaign representative Dominic Brennan:

Dear All,

The Candlelit Vigil to protest (peacefully) against what the diocese are doing to our school takes place tonight. Please come in your numbers and bring friends and family so we can display an overwhelming resolve and get the message across that we're not going to take our school being metaphorically bulldozed lying down.

I'll see you all at 6pm

Best wishes


Now you'd have to have been camping on Alpha Centauri not to know what's happening to one of the best Catholic comprehensives in the Country.
Cristina Odone & Damian Thompson have both blogged on the scandal .

Former Headmaster Michael Gormally [who if you remember - at his leaving mass was treated to a 'wonderfully awkward' Homily by Archbishop Nichols - an address to the faithful on their responsibility to their Bishop - which boiled down to something redolent of the Daleks "You will obey!!!"] has written to parents [click to enlarge] I will also include Mr Gormally's letter to Archbishop Nichols,but all transcripts detailing the fiasco are available here