Thursday, 29 August 2013

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Queen of Heaven....

...felt I should share this too; don't really know why.

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Life of a Saint - Pope St Pius X


But, Venerable Brethren, we shall never, however much we exert ourselves, succeed in calling men back to the majesty and empire of God, except by means of Jesus Christ. "No one," the Apostle admonishes us, "can lay other foundation than that which has been laid, which is Jesus Christ." (I. Cor.,iii., II.) It is Christ alone "whom the Father sanctified and sent into this world" (Is. x., 36), "the splendor of the Father and the image of His substance" (Hebr.i., 3), true God and true man: without whom nobody can know God with the knowledge for salvation, "neither doth anyone know the Father but the Son, and he to whom it shall please the Son to reveal Him." (Matth. xi., 27.) Hence it follows that to restore all things in Christ and to lead men back to submission to God is one and the same aim. To this, then, it behoves Us to devote Our care - to lead back mankind under the dominion of Christ; this done, We shall have brought it back to God. When We say to God We do not mean to that inert being heedless of all things human which the dream of materialists has imagined, but to the true and living God, one in nature, triple in person, Creator of the world, most wise Ordainer of all things, Lawgiver most just, who punishes the wicked and has reward in store for virtue.
9. Now the way to reach Christ is not hard to find: it is the Church. Rightly does Chrysostom inculcate: "The Church is thy hope, the Church is thy salvation, the Church is thy refuge." (Hom. de capto Euthropio, n. 6.) It was for this that Christ founded it, gaining it at the price of His blood, and made it the depositary of His doctrine and His laws, bestowing upon it at the same time an inexhaustible treasury of graces for the sanctification and salvation of men. You see, then, Venerable Brethren, the duty that has been imposed alike upon Us and upon you of bringing back to the discipline of the Church human society, now estranged from the wisdom of Christ; the Church will then subject it to Christ, and Christ to God. If We, through the goodness of God Himself, bring this task to a happy issue, We shall be rejoiced to see evil giving place to good, and hear, for our gladness, " a loud voice from heaven saying: Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God and the power of his Christ." (Apoc. xii., 10.) But if our desire to obtain this is to be fulfilled, we must use every means and exert all our energy to bring about the utter disappearance of the enormous and detestable wickedness, so characteristic of our time - the substitution of man for God; this done, it remains to restore to their ancient place of honor the most holy laws and counsels of the gospel; to proclaim aloud the truths taught by the Church, and her teachings on the sanctity of marriage, on the education and discipline of youth, on the possession and use of property, the duties that men owe to those who rule the State; and lastly to restore equilibrium between the different classes of society according to Christian precept and custom. This is what We, in submitting Ourselves to the manifestations of the Divine will, purpose to aim at during Our Pontificate, and We will use all our industry to attain it. It is for you, Venerable Brethren, to second Our efforts by your holiness, knowledge and experience and above all by your zeal for the glory of God, with no other aim than that Christ may be formed in all.

Meanwhile, Venerable Brethren, fully confident in your zeal and work, we beseech for you with our whole heart and soul the abundance of heavenly light, so that in the midst of this great perturbation of men's minds from the insidious invasions of error from every side, you may see clearly what you ought to do and may perform the task with all your strength and courage. May Jesus Christ, the author and finisher of our faith, be with you by His power; and may the Immaculate Virgin, the destroyer of all heresies, be with you by her prayers and aid. And We, as a pledge of Our affection and of divine assistance in adversity, grant most affectionately and with all Our heart to you, your clergy and people the Apostolic Benediction.

Repost: Ladies & Gentlemen Infanticide is aready here.

The BMJ's latest article on After-Birth Abortion has led to a storm of outrage among Catholic Bloggers, Journalists & Commentators. Most see this as a natural consequence of lax abortion laws without really understanding that the issue of Personhood has been around for decades and only been biding its time before it became the next guest to arrive at Western Culture's 'Dance of Death' - waiting in the wings.
We have travelled so far down the slippery slope that overt infanticide had to inevitably make its entrance; especially considering it is being performed, even as we speak; covertly in hospitals across the land.
Yet there is also a secondary, more subtle ideological position slipped into the BMJ article that many commentators have either missed or seen as somewhat irrelevant to the issue; but believe me it is this secondary aspect which is the more deadly...and is being placed among us as a ticking timebomb.

Personhood [as opposed to mere human 'being'] is seen as the determinant of designating moral worth upon the individual - to modern sentiments the 'non-person' embryo or foetus may be experimented upon or aborted, the mentally handicapped 'non-person' may be eugenicised by clinical treatment withdrawal; the injured, elderly or terminally ill 'non-person' may be euthanised...but who determines what constitutes a person? Most arguments naturally revolve around stages of embryonic and foetal development:

Arguments for when Personhood begins

a] Pre-existence - various philosophies [e.g. Plato] & religions [e.g. Judaism]

b] Fertilization, the fusing of the gametes to form a zygote

c] Meiosis - where genetic codes [alleles] from independent gametes within the zygote form a new genetic code [from 2 cell stage]

d] Genetic integration, removal of any extraneous genetic material - e.g. after 2 sperm penetrations [24-48hrs]

e] Genetic integrity - i.e. not being a hydatiform, choricarcinoma or a blasted ovum

f] Implantation, the start of pregnancy, occurring about a week after fertilization

g] Segmentation & Individuation , after twinning is no longer possible. 14days

h] Development of the 'primitive streak' 14days

i] When the neural cortex connects to the spinal cord  17 days

j] When the heart starts beating 23-25days

k] Closure of the neural tube [thus allowing forebrain development & preventing anecephaly] 23-26 days

l] The time of foetal movement, or "quickening"

m] When the foetus is first capable of feeling pain

n] When it can be established that the foetus is capable of cognition, or neonatal perception

o] Neuromaturation, when the central nervous system of foetus is neurobiologically "mature"

p] Foetal viability

q] Birth

r] The Personist position of when a child is "capable of desiring to continue as a subject of experience and other mental states" i.e. possessing rationality, autonomy & self-awareness...[arguments vary from 5 weeks after birth to 2.5 years!!!]

s] The Age of Discretion  argues for personhood beginning in a child at around the age of  7 [when it achieves conscientious recognition of right/wrong, personal responsibility and culpability]

t] The Age of Abstraction  - Personhood only begins when the individual is able to transcend their own socio-cultural positivist behavioural boundaries [Contrary to most parents perceiving this present in children around the age of two] - Piaget and his educationalist acolytes attest that this does not become manifest until the age of 13!!!

Now US Pro-Life activists recognise the situation in US Law that a child from conception is a human being [and thus any offences against it afford criminal prosecution] but it is NOT a human person [hence Roe v. Wade was permitted] Therefore they seek to change the law regarding personhood as beginning at conception - failing to realise that the term 'personhood' has been running round the ethical academic scene for nearly fifty years - and to 'philosophers' like Peter Singer and Michael Tooley personhood is a very different scenario - to them a person is a conscious thinking being aware that it is a person and able to respond accordingly . Prof T.I. White has the criteria for personhood as

(1) is alive,
(2) is aware,
(3) feels positive and negative sensations,
(4) has emotions,
(5) has a sense of self,
(6) controls its own behaviour,
(7) recognises other persons and treats them appropriately, and
(8) has a variety of sophisticated cognitive abilities

Singer, Tooley and MANY [make no mistake - it is many] modern ethicists are concluding that this does not occur until a child is nearly three years old.
And  for some children born mentally handicapped with learning difficulties - they will NEVER achieve personhood and may thus be disposed of accordingly.
[if they are unwanted or cause mental distress to presumptive carers - being non-persons they may be left to die by not being allowed 'clinical treatment ' - like nutrition and hydration - they are starved/desiccated to death]

This already occurs in Western hospitals to Downs' syndrome children with twisted bowels - or severely brain damaged children - or children born with lethal ailments like a hole in the heart
[yes surgical intervention may save their lives - but the present diagnostic discernment procedures - after the Bland determination - state that any child who can not survive on their own at birth without surgical intervention - may be euthanised!]

So please - Get this into your heads - INFANTICIDE IS HAPPENING NOW!!!

Now at present it is only the mentally impaired and the seriously ill being murdered...

ASIDE :  I'd strongly advise everyone to refer to James Rachels's arguments regarding what is actually occurring and the potential dangers within modern society and 'medical ethics forums'  merely accepting passive over active euthanasia - and that these conclude that active euthanasia - and the proposed infanticide which is at present causing all the furore - will axiomatically happen!!!
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 ? [This 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].

But now the BMJ has published a proposition by Giubilini & Minerva that:

"Abortion is largely accepted even for reasons that do not have anything to do with the fetus' health. By showing that (1) both fetuses and newborns do not have the same moral status as actual persons, (2) the fact that both are potential persons is morally irrelevant and (3) adoption is not always in the best interest of actual people, the authors argue that what we call ‘after-birth abortion’ (killing a newborn) should be permissible in all the cases where abortion is, including cases where the newborn is not disabled."

Now this is arguing 2 principles [many commentators have missed the second]
a] the notion of personhood
b] the 'rights of the foetus'

This second principle [where adoption is not in the best interests of 'actual people' - echoes of Polly Toynbee who sees adoption as the gravest of all moral evils] something which looms on the horizon...

"The Right to Foetal Dignity"
Now this principle has been pervading the halls of ethical academe for over a generation but it's slowly inveigling its way into the public forum - and is going to be a significant weapon used by the pro-abortion activists to argue for the elimination of those children who would be born deprived of these rights.... be born free be born healthy be born into a safe and secure environment be born wanted be born with all the mental and physical capabilities to engage in personal development/flourishment comparative with one's peers

Do you see the irony? This so called agenda for rights of the unborn is actually a eugenicist's manifesto!

Pro-Choice activists are slowly realising that biological equivocation and mendacity regarding foetal devlopment is rapidly being disproven via 4d imaging etc.
That in this realm of 'battle for rights' the so-far predominant overriding rights of the woman to self-determination regarding her own body MIGHT lead to potential legal appeals to rights of post viability and ultimately post self-reflective sentience within the foetus countermanding a 'woman's rights'....

[NB. Recent comments by 'Voice for Choice' on the 'gendercide' issue seems to indicate that there remain a few pro-abortion activists who fail to see this emerging paradigm - their position of 'foetal sex-selection is not gender discrimination' has left many - even among their own ranks - incredulous in its inanity and insensitivity to the prevailing situation and diconcerted public opinion]

So the next strategy will be the above 'right to dignity for the unborn'.
One already witnesses it more in the increasing removal of new-born children from drug addicted, homeless, mentally unstable or 'unfit' mothers.
One can see it that one of the first policies of the west when it comes to areas of armed conflict in the developing world is to immediately send in the mobile abortuaries... 

The 'moral arguments' will move from aborting for our own benefit towards the mephistopheleanly mendacious aborting for their own benefit!! The prevailing mantra will become

"Nobody would be want to be born unwanted by their parents, or into financial hardship, or the insecurity of war, ill-health or mental incapacity...." 

Which will rapidly become  a mandate for only certain individuals being deemed fit by the state to have children...with abortion becoming mandatory for those not fitting that criteria. [We have already witnessed enforced abortions occurring within the remit of the Mental Capacity Act [2005] ]

It's not enough to state Life begins at Conception: 
We must be scrupulously accurate in our Philosophical Construct of this statement.

Primarily caution is necessary when one says  life begins at conception; one requires philosophical and ontological grounding as a 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.

This is the only tenable point in time when one cannot equivocate away this internal directing force.

[This may seem almost childishly obvious; but if one veers from this path even for an instant - for the best of all intentions - it can become disastrous; as happened with Blessed John Paul II's teaching on 'ensoulment' in his Theology of the Body]

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 !

[and if you think this is a position only held by insensitive, irreligious secularists - check out Professor Anthony Kenny on the notion of Individuation!!!]

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]  Understanding the Embryology.

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.

c] The 'Germaine Greer fallacy' 

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.

d] Non-Integrated Concepti

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.

 e] The Implantation Fallacy

This argument  is used quite liberally [sic!] by '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.

f] The Nucleic acid problem 
& When is a Soul not a Soul?
& Splitting a Soul: More complex than splitting the atom??!!.

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 ?

Lets enter Frankenstein territory:
Supposing we separated the embryo up cell-by-cell at an early stage and implant this genome into many 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 ?
Or is the issue that we are not ensouled - WE ARE SOULS and rather we are embodied into a holism of soul and body - as St Thomas reminds us....but when?
Or is this a specious question and there is not a time when the soul is not and the embodiment is immediate at conception?

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 - or more accurately - with the greatest respect to Blessed John Paul - a soul in possession of a body.

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.

So I repeat: Beware!
Rely on our fundamental moral principles and construct one's arguments accordingly - not on presumed scientific phenomena which seem to vindicate it.

Spend a decade arguing with pro-choice 'christians' who ground their morality on obfuscatory pro-choice propaganda built from mendacious embryological "old wives' tales" [e.g. no brain function before the brain cortex comes online at 32 weeks!! ] and you'll see why I'm so frustrated.

g] When the Pro-Life arguments are inadvertently non-holistic and lead to further problems:

Please don't think this is merely a secularist  issue - Religious ethicists or people one would naturally presume would be on our side in the pro-Life issue make big mistakes too!!!

If you think I'm being specious please allow me to take one example from The Anscombe Centre's 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 ? [Anthony Kenny's Individuation paradigm enters the fray again] 

Whether one agrees, or not, or simply has no idea isn't that important [however metaphysically earth-shattering]...

....but that which follows IS important:

...not real unless becoming...

"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 [inherent 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.

h] Always stick to the fundamental principles - yes Humanae Vitae IS enough!

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 using reverse induction of effects providing causes, 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.

Yes 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.

Hence when it comes to the very notion of Personhood and infanticide - we have a moral duty to prove without a doubt that this occurs significantly earlier than Birth and Peter Singer, Michael Tooley etc are in grave unscientific error as well as being in an obscenely immoral one

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 - appearances may be deceptive - 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.
The same goes with abortion of the brain-damaged foetus.
To move from the concept of Brain death to Brain Life?

Yes, Intelligence - with its presupposition of self-awareness and autonomy in order to actuate that intellect seems an adequate determinant for 'personhood'.

Extraordinarily 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... seven months after conception !
[an analogy which blows most people away is that the foetus at this stage has an equivalent of triggering neurons giving them the IQ equal to all 2,500 members of the staff of Harvard!]

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 - and Personists like Singer/Tooley declare should be afforded quasi-human dignity ] 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 [or place one in a wheelie bin] and I could end up in prison - some think it's barbaric to kill a spider and to 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 ?

All of these 'guesstimates' are far from accurate.
It's impossible to determine when it actuates, 
but the mechanism for its functions cannot preclude its absolute absence; 
when the organ is present - we cannot presume it is not already functioning
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:

This may shock/amaze/astound some of you:
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... 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, higher brain function development begins at less than a month into pregnancy!

But this is not the end of the story - or even the beginning of the wonders of embryological development:

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  I'm actually 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 to the 3rd week after conception and cut-off the cells which would form the embryo's head 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 - with a fully functioning brain!
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 ?
Most assuredly: YES!
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 bunch of inchoate cells...

All this available information - and it doesn't alter Catholic principles one iota; because we have fundamental moral principles that Life - AND PERSONHOOD [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.

So where does Personhood begin?
Most definitely NOT after birth, so any argument proposing the killing of any child at that time  is automatically invalidated - and any who according to their own criteria determine that the severely mentally or physically handicapped are 'non-persons'? Well I suggest they are guilty of the severest self-delusion and mendacity - and they should require a mirror to find the only non-humans in the room...

But I strongly urge people to not forget the second underlying principle inherent in this BMJ proposition - the eugenic charter duplicitously depicted as rights to dignity for the ideology which may destroy vast swathes of humanity...because the storm clouds are gathering - the nightmare scenario of Huxley's  'Brave New World' of licences to have children [with financial/psychological/social criteria] is no longer imaginary...but only a matter of time....

Saturday, 17 August 2013

The Warning from GK Chesterton

Suppose that a great commotion arises in the street about something,
let us say a lamp-post, which many influential persons desire to
pull down. A grey-clad monk, who is the spirit of the Middle Ages,
is approached upon the matter, and begins to say, in the arid manner
of the Schoolmen, "Let us first of all consider, my brethren,
the value of Light. If Light be in itself good--" At this point
he is somewhat excusably knocked down. All the people make a rush
for the lamp-post, the lamp-post is down in ten minutes, and they go
about congratulating each other on their unmediaeval practicality.

But as things go on they do not work out so easily. Some people
have pulled the lamp-post down because they wanted the electric light;
some because they wanted old iron; some because they wanted darkness,
because their deeds were evil. Some thought it not enough of a
lamp-post, some too much; some acted because they wanted to smash
municipal machinery; some because they wanted to smash something.

And there is war in the night, no man knowing whom he strikes.

So, gradually and inevitably, to-day, to-morrow, or the next day,
there comes back the conviction that the monk was right after all,
and that all depends on what is the philosophy of Light. Only what
we might have discussed under the gas-lamp, we now must discuss
in the dark.

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

How can anyone believe in the Most Glorious Assumption?

...Because the wages of sin is death. [Rom 6:23]
Next Question?

Monday, 12 August 2013

I guarantee you have never heard a talk on Purgatory like this before....

On the Eighth Beatitude

“Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Mt 5:10).

“‘Blessed are they who suffer persecution for righteousness’ sake, that is for virtue, for defending others, for piety, for all these things are spoken of under the title of righteousness. This follows the beatitude upon the peacemakers, that we may not be led to suppose that it is good to seek peace at all times.” -St. John Chrysostom

“‘For righteousness’ sake’ He adds expressly, for many suffer persecution for their sins, and are not therefore righteous.” -St. Jerome

“Scripture . . . does not mention the persons of the persecutors, but only the cause of persecution, that you may learn to look, not by whom, but why you suffer.” -Pseudo-Chrysostom

“He includes those in the beatitude whose will is ready to suffer all things for Christ, who is our righteousness.” -St. Hilary of Poitiers

“The eighth beatitude, as it were, returns to the commencement, because it shows the perfect complete character. In the first then and the eighth, the kingdom of heaven is named, for the seven go to make the perfect man, the eighth manifests and proves his perfectness, that all may be conducted to perfection by these steps.” -St. Augustine

“Wonder not if you do not hear ‘the kingdom’ mentioned under each beatitude; for in saying ‘shall be comforted,’ ‘shall find mercy,’ and the rest, in all these the kingdom of heaven is tacitly understood. . . . For indeed he would not be blessed who was to be crowned with those things which depart with this life.” -St. John Chrysostom

and from Fr John Hardon:

Finally, and I hesitate even speaking of the Eighth Beatitude because I would like to spend the Whole Hour just on the Eighth Beatitude. It is so Rich in it’s implications. First it reads, “Blessed are you when men abuse you and persecute you and speak all kinds of calumny against you on My account, rejoice and be glad for your reward will be great in Heaven. This is how they persecuted the Prophets before you”. Unquote the Savior. What are we being told? Christ saved the Eighth Beatitude for Last. You live Faithfully the First Seven (7) Beatitudes, and my friends, you cannot escape the Eighth, am I clear? In other words, even as Christ Himself, and just repeat the verbs, was Abused and Persecuted and all kinds of Calumny spoken against Him, Hated, Hounded, Condemned to Death, Crucified, and the Worst possible, the most Horrible kind of Execution of which the Roman Soldiers were capable, was Crucifixion.

Christ Himself experienced that Suffering and His Promises for those who follow-in His Footsteps, they are to expect to be Rejected accordingly. You might ask, well why? Why? Because the World always Hates the Truth, and when Truth became Incarnate, the Truth was Rejected, Crucified, Died and was Buried. You might say somewhat surprisingly, Christ in giving us the Eighth Beatitude Promises, oh, He Promises Happiness all right, but hear it, the Promise of looking-forward-to a Heavenly Eternity. In other words, for those who follow Jesus Faithfully, they should not expect any other Joy here on Earth that is more deeply satisfying than the Joy of knowing that they are following in the Footsteps of the Master and that even as He was Rejected, so they are. They are Rejected with Him, but, hear it, in the original Greek of Saint Matthew, the Followers of Christ are told not just to rejoice, but positively, dance with joy. Why? Because Love, Love enjoys to Suffer for the One whom he Loves, and there is no greater Joy, no greater Joy on Earth, than that of Uniting our Being, Rejected by the World, because we are Faithful to Jesus Christ.
No Pain . . . . . . No Gain
No Guts . . . . . . No Glory
No Cross . . . . . No Crown

Sunday, 11 August 2013

The Screwtape Letters [read by John Cleese]

John Lennox & Peter Kreeft on Suffering/The Problem of Evil

Don Bosco [part one]

Nine Days Noven for the Intercession of St Gerard Majella

Nine Days Novena to
St Gerard Majella


Saint Gerard, ever full of faith, obtain for me that, believing firmly all that the the Church of God 
proposes to my belief, 
I may strive to secure through a holy life, 
the joys of eternal happiness.

Recite 9 times..

Hail Mary...

Pray for us, O Saint Gerard
That we may be made worthy
 of the promises of Christ.

Let Us pray.

Almighty and Everlasting God, 
who did draw to Yourself Saint Gerard, 
even from his tenderest years, 
making him conformable to the Image 
of Your Crucified Son, 
grant we beseech You, 
that imitating his example, 
we may be made like unto the 
same Divine Image, 
through Jesus Christ Our Lord. 



Saint Gerard, most generous saint, who from they tenderest years did care so little for the goods of earth, grant that I may place all my confidence
 in Jesus Christ alone, 
my true Treasure, 
who alone can make me happy 
in time and eternity.

Recite 9 times..

Hail Mary...

Pray for us, O Saint Gerard
That we may be made worthy 
of the promises of Christ.


Saint Gerard, bright seraph of love, who despising all earthly love, did consecrate your life to the 
service of God 
and your neighbor, 
promoting God's glory in your lowly state, 
and ever ready to assist the distressed 
and console the sorrowful, 
obtain for me, I beseech thee, 
that loving God the only good  
and my neighbor for His sake, 
I may be hereafter united to Him 
forever in glory.

Recite 9 times..

Hail Mary...

Pray for us, O Saint Gerard
That we may be made worthy
 of the promises of Christ.


Saint Gerard, spotless lily of purity, by the angelic virtue and thy wonderful innocence of life you did receive from the Infant Jesus and His Immaculate Mother, sweet pledges of tender love, grant, I beseech you, that I may ever strive manfully 
in my lifelong fight, 
and therefore win the crown 
that awaits the brave and the true.

Recite 9 times..

Hail Mary...

Pray for us, O Saint Gerard
That we may be made worthy 
of the promises of Christ.


Saint Gerard, model of holy obedience, who through your life did heroically submit your judgment to those who represent Jesus Christ to you, therefore sanctifying your lowliest actions, obtain for me from God cheerful submission to His Holy Will and the virtue of perfect obedience, that I may be made conformable to Jesus, my Model, who was obedient even to death. Recite 9 times.. Hail Mary... Pray for us, O Saint Gerard That we may be made worthy 
of the promises of Christ.


Saint Gerard, most perfect imitator of Jesus Our Redeemer, you whose greatest glory was to be
 humble and lowly, 
obtain that I too, 
knowing my littleness in God's sight 
may be found worthy to enter 
the kingdom 
that is promised to the humble 
and lowly of heart.

Hail Mary...

Pray for us, O Saint Gerard
That we may be made worthy 
of the promises of Christ.


Saint Gerard, unconquered hero, most patient in suffering, you who did glory in infirmity, and under slander and most cruel ignominy did rejoice 
to suffer with Christ, 
obtain for me patience 
and resignation in my sorrows, 
that I may bravely bear the cross 
that is to gain for me 
the crown of everlasting glory.
Recite 9 times..

Hail Mary...

Pray for us, O Saint Gerard
That we may be made worthy 
of the promises of Christ.


Saint Gerard, true lover of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament 
of the Altar, 
you who did kneel long hours before 
the Tabernacle, 
and there did taste the joys of paradise, 
obtain for me an undying love for the 
Most Holy Sacrament, 
that receiving frequently the Body 
and Blood of Jesus, 
I may daily grow in His holy love 
and merit the priceless grace of loving Him 
even to the end.

Recite 9 times..

Hail Mary...

Pray for us, O Saint Gerard
That we may be made worthy 
of the promises of Christ.


Saint Gerard, most favored child of heaven, to whom Mary gave the Infant Jesus in the days of your childhood, to whom she sweetly came before you did close your eyes in death, obtain for me I beseech you, so to seek and love my Blessed Mother 
during life, 
that she may be my joy 
and consolation in this valley of tears, 
until with you, 
before the throne of God, 
I may praise her goodness for all eternity. 


Recite 9 times..

Hail Mary...

Pray for us, O Saint Gerard
That we may be made worthy 
of the promises of Christ.

On the Bonds of Love - St Catherine of Siena

My sweet Lord, look with mercy upon your people and especially upon the mystical body of your Church. Greater glory is given to your name for pardoning a multitude of your creatures than if I alone were pardoned for my great sins against your majesty. It would be no consolation for me to enjoy your life if your holy people stood in death. For I see that sin darkens the life of your bride the Church – my sin and the sins of others.
  It is a special grace I ask for, this pardon for the creatures you have made in your image and likeness. When you created man, you were moved by love to make him in your own image. Surely only love could so dignify your creatures. But I know very well that man lost the dignity you gave him; he deserved to lose it, since he had committed sin.
  Moved by love and wishing to reconcile the human race to yourself, you gave us your only-begotten Son. He became our mediator and our justice by taking on all our injustice and sin out of obedience to your will, eternal Father, just as you willed that he take on our human nature. What an immeasurably profound love! Your Son went down from the heights of his divinity to the depths of our humanity. Can anyone’s heart remain closed and hardened after this?
  We image your divinity, but you image our humanity in that union of the two which you have worked in a man. You have veiled the Godhead in a cloud, in the clay of our humanity. Only your love could so dignify the flesh of Adam. And so by reason of this immeasurable love I beg, with all the strength of my soul, that you freely extend your mercy to all your lowly creatures.

Humani Generis


Tuesday, 6 August 2013

On Really Protecting One's Children

You know something - I get a little bit sick at the MADNESS of overscrupulosity and 'new 'Catholic' puritanism' which is dangerously counter-productive and jeopardises our children's safety, security and well-being.

Parents please: Get this into your heads - this prevailing  mentality of denying children an integrated, comprehensive sex-education is the equivalent of banning scary stories from children because they get nightmares - or banning romances from girls because they make them cry...

GK Chesterton tells us that Fairy Tales don't tell children that monsters exist - a child already knows monsters exist - what Fairy Tales do is tell them that monsters can be killed!

Kids will know learn all about sex from somewhere
So [regrettably] this demands we commit a pre-emptive strike against an inoculation

When the adversity of impurity, the promotion of indiscriminate sexual licence and the profusion of pornography and pornographic ideological propaganda endorsing 'sexual and reproductive freedom' is at every step - a child needs to understand the evil, the lies, the folly and the integrity and dignity [and overwhelming rewards] of purity and chastity

Evil is out there - pornography is at every turn -
...and I am not referring to the quite innocuous videos of men and women without any clothes on engaging in horizontal shenanigans
The actual pornography is the LEAST of our worries - at least for all its sinful depravity it has an honesty in that it is what it portrays...
it's the diabolically lethal pornographic mentality which jeopardises our kids' futures!!

It's the total lack of moral compass and an education system which endorses endemic promiscuity without any responsibility for oneself or anyone else...
a media and culture which says do what you want any way you want to whoever you want...
...and a sex-ed system that not only agrees - it provides the manuals and the condoms and says 'go for it'....
The facts are simple - you CANNOT protect them from these lies, these evils, these risks.

You cannot watch over them 24-7
you can't wrap them in cotton wool with blindfolds and earplugs until they reach 35
You can't defend them - they cannot defend themselves
Therefore you protect them - by letting them protect themselves....
You teach them how to fight it...
You get to them first..with the truth about it all
you teach them everything...with intelligence, integrity and love
I agree - it's too early for them to be taught about 'that sort of thing'
But unfortunately we don't make the rules any more
- and no amount of censored home-schooling or internet safeguards or throwing the TV on the rubbish heap - is going to stop the dangerously potentially corrupting evil getting through to them...
- therefore while previously we might not have wanted a child touching sharp objects...
...we're instead compelled to teach them how to use a sword

We can't treat our baa-lambs like baa-lambs when the wolves are at the door and never sleep - but you have to...

Therefore you are forced to educate them with the truth with an accompanying morality - and all the real reasons why...yes they are being forced to grow up - but it's not our fault that the majority of grown-up role models are still kids!
Teach your child how to fight
If you don't - they will get to them some how
vaccinate them against the moral disease...
...then you have given them a fighting chance.

Scandal and irresponsibility?
I'll throw that back at you and suggest that people supporting the position of
'save the children - hide them away from the big bad world until it's too late'

...stand indicted of gross dereliction of parental responsibility and downright negligence.

...and of a corruption of children's minds into thinking that sex is sordid, salacious and intrinsically pornographic and some ineffably mysterious forbidden fruit which they must taste at the first opportunity..

I think some might need to draw back the chintzy curtains and realise what the poor little baa-lambs have to endure out there on a daily is not an Enid Blyton world of happy pixies in tinkly-winkly-land....
It's deplorable, corrupting, shallow, toxic...
..and they need to be able to fight it

You can protect childhood innocence - well into adulthood - if you provide a sincere, authentic well-informed TRUTHFUL upbringing for your children...talking about sex as a private, personally important and wonderfully 'sacred' thing as it's intrinsically linked to life - from the earliest age in a simplistic basic language the child will understand...which develops along with the child's level of understanding and wanting to understand...
That's being responsible..
Nothing becomes smutty or prurient or self-indulgent

What happens is the child develops almost a mystical code of conduct and mutual understanding - a moral empathy with the parent - that the world out there is frankly childish and pathetic and reckless and irresponsible... more thing:
Don't you think the almost-exclusive bias towards opposing visual pornography is:
a] that
b] It displays a lethally dangerous ignorance of the vast range of almost exclusively female-oriented pornographic 'literature' from teenage 'chick-lit' to 'erotic fantasy fiction'
Teenage lads might scan some gaudy gratuitously misogynistic rag laden with pneumatic peroxides who'll catch their death...which might raise their hormone levels for a few minutes...
But have you any idea what little Jocasta's reading under your very nose?
'Romances' and teen magazines and true-life stories mags more redolent of Emmanuelle in Bangkok & 120 days in sodom...
Parents glibly oblivious to 50 shades of Grey because it's called 50 hints of pink with a grinning 'butter wouldn't melt' girl next door-type on the cover...
What's more likely to result in psychological abuse or the actuation of the lingered-over fantasies?

It's so ironic that the yummy mummies are handwringing and rending their garments at finding a copy of big jugs monthly in Lysander's sock drawer...
...yet they'll then say how teenage girls are so much easier to parent as Lucinda spends most of her time voraciously reading
her Love stories???!!
Be a parent - or get out of the way.

 I am all for childlike innocence - one that can be both possessed a reclaimed [after falling] for a lifetime...but that requires an ability to protect and defend itself...and knowledge, insight and wisdom need to be garnered...long lessons need to be learned A teenager's life is a living hell if they're terrified of themselves...but they're halfway out of the darkness if they are mature enough to be able to laugh at themselves...that requires informed understanding.
Childish 'innocence' - being ignorant and oblivious - it lethal..

It can crack over time or shatter in an instant
....and the child - even if they're way past puberty - can be left bereft, vulnerable, helpless and despondent...

I'm always amazed at how parents can be hoodwinked by the overwhelming charity and concern of their children to not bother them or worry them about what they've discovered on the playground or what schoolfriends were discussing in graphic detail or what was being shared around during lunchbreak - the half-truths, fallacies, superstitions or the vile pornography inveigling its way into them via 'comedy' or far-from-social media....

Some matter how naughty or tricky - can be guileless and innocent beyond their years...
and the child who seems worldly-wise and self-assured can be utterly oblivious to relationship or sexual issues as it simply never crossed their path...
Some who look like they wouldn't say boo to a goose can know everything and anything and have little reticence in spreading their version of 'being grown up' to all and sundry...
Kids are different - and although you can assure yourself you know what your kids are like - appearances can be very deceptive in regard to other people's kids...and you can't afford to rely on trust or expect your own chid to report back to you potentially embarrassing scenarios where they're ridiculed as a baby for not knowing what an x,y or z is...

Therefore - you spend a whole lifetime preparing the way for them to retain and protect that childlike [not childish] innocence.
Where in facing what others say they have that inner strength , knowledge and confidence to be able to take the insults and derision like water off a duck's back...
They can't get truly hurt - if they know better!!!
But irrevocable damage can be wrought at an early age by the unimaginable cruelty and mockery of children...wounds that can last a lifetime

No-one is suggesting that kids should fit in to an adult world
- I'm suggesting that kids should be allowed to live safely in their own world
- one where they can say - at no matter what pernicious evil is thrust upon them against their will - "Oh look a penis in a vagina - oh look two shirtless men kissing - oh look someone's texted me a link to 'sorority girls enjoy a wet visit from the plumber' - oh look a website where forty year old women pretend to be naughty schoolgirls - big deal! - boring! - now where's my comic book/homework/video game/football stickers?"

Excuse me - not our job to persuade - but to inform

We preach Christ Crucified
- we let our lives and words be witness to the reality of the Resurrection and the Subsisting Truth in the One, Holy, Catholic & Apostolic Church...

Argument is sincere - it's also highly respectful to the other person in that it seeks to win the argument and leave the individual free to ponder, discern and freely convert/repent/whatever...

This 'gentle persuasion' baloney is a psychological assault - it's neither gentle nor persuasive - attempting to brainwash a person via exigents and the most appalling form of proselytism
- I'm nice
- we're all friends
- join us and have a hug
- now try to believe what we say is true [and it doesn't matter if you don't as Faith is a gift from God - you'll just have to pray very hard and be a good little bunny - because all God wants you to do is belong and try very hard]

Chesterton was asked why he became a Catholic
"To have my sins forgiven"
5 words!!! A second to say: An eternity to explain

Respect your opponent enough to tell them the truth

A little wish list

His Holiness repeatedly and strongly urged The Prayer to St Michael the Archangel to be said by the faithful after mass - we do so here in my parish and some [few] dioceses have had Bishops re-impose it at the end of mass [e.g. Paprocki in Springfield] .

It would be a good thing to re-introduce universally at the end of this Year of Faith - as it would announcing Our Lady as officially 'Queen of Priests' - as Pope Benedict wished to do.

But then again I'd formally introduce Sunday Quaternation to ensure that the majority of the faithful in this country & the western world were able to attend a Sunday mass after Midday
AND mandatory Sunday exposition
AND mandatory Saturday confessions [all too many churches have reverted to 15 mins before mass]
and mandatory monthly Novena devotions...

..but here's my biggie for the Year of Faith

Most clerics defy the Canon Law directive to continue with ongoing study
Most Bishops who do not have a Doctorate at their consecration are expected to study further to achieve one...

Well if they're all going to disobey the law of the Church?
The Vatican should take this to hand and ensure it cannot happen
By doing it themselves.

Register the Bishops at Pontifical Academies and give them a time limit to complete their doctorates
Publishing yearly educational material on doctrinal and moral theology, philosophy, scripture study, liturgy, Church history and spirituality, apologetics and evangelisation in the modern world etc...which every cleric is expected to learn with his brother priests and deacons....

It might also be a good idea if no convert priest was permitted to have their own parish for at least five years after ordination to ensure they were suitably educationally, spiritually and pastorally trained in the Faith [after the fiascos that happened in the 90s with the fast-track anglican vicars who had a few months part-time training in seminary and then given carte-blanche to run a parish without having a clue what to do - with the bare minimum knowledge of what Catholicism actually was!]

How can we even begin to talk with Atheists?

One only needs to look at the fiascos of recent public debates or media interactions to realise that the majority of our 'visible figures' on the scene are not competent to discuss the philosophical and theological issues with atheists/secularists/humanists.
There is no apologetic foothold in this country.
The days of the Catholic Evidence Guild have gone

...and certainly there's a glimmer of hope in Maryvale's Masters course in Apologetics

But in this country we are simply not competent:

Let's face it the majority of atheists are far from intellectually informed [ a little visit to a London/westminster sceptics meeting will reveal that!] - they usually resort to the same few mantras and arguments which they think vindicate their position and are unassuageably proven.
There are generic soundbites against the five ways
Hyperbolic ridicule of scripture to imply falsiehood by association - misrepresentation of christianity as fundamentalist and biblically literalist - lastthursdayist anti-evolutionist luddite and just simply devoid of academic procedurality [everything Biblical's been disproven donchanow?]
There's appeal to the scientific method and a highly dodgy reinterpretation of Popper's falsifiability.
Pascal's wager's now designated a fallacy

..and dawkinsiate 'highly unlikely' and 'verging on the ridiculous' and 'utterly absurd' are distorted into conclusions based on logic and reason rather than bigotted doxic opinion.

They win by repetition, supposition and the firm resolution that they have every argument trounced - even when they haven't actually addressed the issue - they have a sophistic 'put-down' to divert or mislead or obfuscate...

..but who do we have arguing against them in a quasi-official manner?
Uninformed, untrained, inexperienced mediocrities who cannot even deal with uneducated bombastic anti-theists - let alone the intellectual arguments of classical atheism.

And where are our intellectual giants?
Who could do something to counter this farce?
Certainly not in this arena...
Yes 'come and see' intiatives at St Pat's Soho & elsewhere are excellent ideas but let's not hoodwink ourselves into thinking this is actual evangelisation - it's pre-evangelisation

..and the terrifying trend of recent 'conversion stories' where the new convert spends a long time saying how inviting and welcoming and communal and reasonable these Catholics were so they felt compelled to be one among them?
Without a single mention of them believing Catholicism to be true?

I'm afraid we need Catholic Evangelisation - NOT Evangelical 'catholicism' where Christ is not very apparent on the Cross...
It's one of the main reasons I have grave concerns over Fr Robert Barron's 'Word on Fire' - it's how group-huggy we are - how nice we are - how nice and heroic our saints were [interspersed with a lot of name-dropping and sounbites] - and you can belong to a group to which these great people belonged too!!??

The apologetic - the agreement and resolution - the repentance - the acceptance and confession of faith - the actual conversion - that's what's missing!!!
But when it comes to Atheists
We need to respect them - enough to oppose that for which they stand - to argue against and refute their positions.
Intellectual sincerity and authenticity - then natural friendship and affability may follow.

But what's really happened on the 'scene' is the reverse - it's become a hijacking of the debates by sides who wish to perform a sophistry stage-show to grandstand to their crowds of adoring fans.
And what's grown out of this is a sort of 'mutual respect' of stage performances
When rather than any real friendship and respect for the sincerity behind their positions - there's an underlying contempt for the person - but a respect for their rhetorical technique.

So what it inevitably leads to is each side trying to be a nice as ninepence outside the issues but the moment the 'debate' is on they turn into pseudo-intellectual who act out what's tantamount to a pretty dire portrayal as a prosecuting barrister in a dodgy repertory stage-play. Self-perpetuating linguistic slapstick.
It reminds me of the 'glory days' of the 3rd French republic where opposing sides of the assembly weren't adversaries but posturing stage-antagonists

Ever heard of Saul Alinsky? And his method of gaining control over the political scene?
Be the puppetmaster of both sides - have the same types of people wearing differently coloured masks.

That is happening here!! Both sides will sew up the debating scenes as 'ever-discussing but never learning' [St Paul] entities as elitist franchises...and the book deals, newspaper articles and media guest-spots continue unabated.

This is why we have Catholic Voices [incidentally they're up to their progressivistic revisionistic best again]  mantras like 'more light - less heat'
[to which Chesterton responds :
The one created thing which we cannot look at is the one thing in
the light of which we look at everything. Like the sun at noonday,
mysticism explains everything else by the blaze of its own
victorious invisibility. Detached intellectualism is (in the
exact sense of a popular phrase) all moonshine; for it is light
without heat, and it is secondary light, reflected from a dead world.

...and winning hearts and minds rather than arguments?
[you mean we become scientologist hoodwinkers who convince the vulnerable that they need to belong?]

...and 'positive reframing'
[the recourse to euphemism and politically correct NuSpeak for 'sensitive dialogue']

Austen Ivereigh 'wrote' a book on 'How to defend the faith without raising your voice'
aka 'how to keep your job as a Catholic media commentator without really saying anything'
We need to keep these people away from atheists otherwise they'll just think we're all insincere, inauthentic hypocrites who believe nothing, stand for nothing and will fight for nothing except our comfy seat in the front row....