Monday, 29 June 2009

Archbishop Nichols responds to Holy Days Petition

Julia Ashenden, the originator of the recent Holy Days petition to Archbishop Nichols, has kindly emailed the response from the Archbishop.
I hope very much that the last sentence of the letter indicates a willingness to re-open the possibility of feasts being kept on their customary days, at some point in the (near) future.




17 June 2009

Dear Mrs Ashenden,

Thank you for your kind and gracious letter of 12 June.

Thank you for your kind wishes.

Thank you for sending me the results of your on line petition concerning the possible re­instatement of the three holy days of the Epiphany, the Ascension and Corpus Christi on their correct dates.

The changes made to these three feasts were made after considerable reflection and some consultation, not least with the Holy See. The changes bring the practice in England and Wales much more in line with most European countries. But that, I agree, is not a major argument.

One of the questions we explored was whether it was possible to keep the feasts on their customary days while releasing people from the obligation to attend Mass, as increasingly this is very difficult for large numbers of people, given both the pressures of economic life and the pressures on the clergy. However we were told that it was not possible to separate the feast from obligation in a formal way.

Schools are encouraged to celebrate the mystery of faith of each of the feasts in the course of the week running up to its celebration on the Sunday and thereby prepare the children for the Sunday celebration, indeed encouraging them to go with their families to church.

Thank you for writing to me. No doubt we Bishops will continue to reflect on these matters.

With every good wish,

Yours sincerely

Vincent Nichols

Archbishop of Westminster

Friday, 26 June 2009


The annual Youth2000 retreat at Walsingham, in August, (bank holiday weekend), is approaching;this short video made by a young person who has been to Y2K retreats, will give you an idea of what the retreats are all about.

Thursday, 25 June 2009

Bishop O' Donoghue's Talks for Priests

Via Fr. Finigan's blog, I found the text of these excellent talks, given by Bishop Patrick O'Donoghue, Bishop Emeritus of the Diocese of Lancaster.Speaking at a retreat in Ars, for the priests of the Diocese of Northampton, Bishop O' Donoghue offers reflections on the identity, role, spirituality and formation of the priest. Although his talks were given to priests, much of what Bishop O'Donoghue has to say is also instructive to the laity, deepening our understanding of the nature of the Sacred Priesthood.

At the end of the last talk, The Bishop quotes these beautiful words from St John Vianney:

"I love you O my God and my only desire is to love You until the last breath of my life. I love you O my infinitely lovable God, and I would rather die loving you than live without loving you. I love you Lord and the only grace I ask is to love You eternally...My God, if my tongue cannot say in every moment that I love You, I want my heart to repeat it to You as often as I draw breath. Amen."

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

A new Blog

Phil and Dom

I have posted earlier, here , about Dom and Phil's sponsored bike ride from Medjugorje, in Bosnia/Herzegovina, to the Shrine of Our Lady, in Walsingham, England, to raise funds for the Catholic charity, Youth2000. The lads will commence the marathon journey quite soon and have started their own blog, Dom and Phil's Bike Trip which they hope to update regularly during the course of the cycle ride.
Do pop over and give them some encouragement!
And it's not too late to sponsor them with your prayers and if possible, a donation.
God bless them both.

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Organ Donation - After Death?

This morning's edition of the Radio 4 'Today' programme carried a snippet about organ donation: it seems that church leaders, including Archbishop Nichols, are endorsing the NHS appeal for more donors of organs.
Many people believe that donation of bodily organs, such as corneas, liver, kidneys, heart, lungs, after the death of the donor, in order to benefit someone else in need of one (or more) of such organs, is an act of goodness and generosity. I don't disagree with them.
But, donated organs need to be 'live' i.e. not in, or beginning, a state of decay. I do have some reservations about how it is possible to retrieve live organs from a dead person.

The Linacre Centre, reputedly one of the best Christian bioethics institutes in the world, published (1999) a helpful article, 'The UK Definition of Death' of which I quote :

"Before the 1960s human death was primarily understood and diagnosed by cardio- pulmonary criteria. The irreversible cessation of breathing and heartbeat, of the functioning of the lungs and heart, constituted the death of the person as a whole. This seemed quite obvious, for the heart and the lungs comprise the delivery system necessary for the rest of the body to receive oxygenated blood. Without functioning heart and lungs the rest of the body could not survive. A person might die from being crushed or incinerated so that the whole body was destroyed together, but if death were slow and lingering the final moment was determined by the fact that breathing and heartbeat could no longer be maintained. For generations of doctors the two most significant signs of life were heartbeat (and so pulse) and breathing. On the basis of the confirmed and persistent absence of these vital signs, the person was to be declared dead.

This longstanding definition of death was critically undermined by developments in medical technology. First, the introduction of assisted ventilation and heart-bypass machines showed that the biological functions of lung and heart could be maintained artificially. The delivery system could be replaced, and thus they could no longer be considered constitutive of human life. Then in 1967 the first human heart transplant operation was successfully performed. If the heart could be bypassed or even entirely replaced then it could not contain the essence of the human person. Every organ seemed to be replaceable in this way apart from one, the human brain. Your heart can die without you dying, but it would seem that, if your brain dies, you die.

Assisted ventilation had altered people's understanding of death but also it produced a new clinical condition that could not have been observed before. This occurred in several patients who had suffered massive head trauma (due to external or internal causes) but who were sustained in intensive care. Some such patients were discovered to have lost all responsiveness, even the ability to breathe spontaneously. This very severe and short-lived syndrome was first investigated in France where it was called coma depasse. It only existed under conditions of assisted ventilation, for without such assistance the patient could not breathe and the rest of the system soon collapsed. In the UK this clinical syndrome was identified with the complete functional destruction of the brain, hence it was called brain death.

The first pronouncement from the British medical establishment on brain death was made in 1976 in a paper of the Conference of the Medical Royal Colleges entitled "Diagnosis of brain death". This document describes the procedures for the diagnosis and asserts that for a diagnosis of brain death what is required is the irreversible loss of all function of the brainstem [whence the term 'brainstem death' was coined]. However, nowhere in this document is brain death equated with the death of the patient. Rather, brain death is described as "accepted as being sufficient to distinguish between those patients who retain the functional capacity to have a chance of even partial recovery from those in whom no such possibility exists." In other words, a diagnosis of brain death implies that the patient will certainly not recover, not that the patient is dead already.

A second pronouncement was published in 1979, also from the Conference of the Medical Royal Colleges, and is entitled "Diagnosis of death" [note the shift in title]. No change was made to the diagnostic protocol, but now it is stated that: "brain death represents the stage at which a patient becomes truly dead." No explanation is given for this massive leap in interpretation. All that is said is that brain death is the point at which "all functions of the brain have permanently and irreversibly ceased."

During the 1980s and 1990s significant medical evidence has mounted against the claim that brainstem death, as diagnosed by UK criteria, is the point at which "all functions of the brain have permanently and irreversibly ceased." In the face of medical uncertainty, and the consistent confusion over why brain death should be identified with the death of the patient, a third document was published in 1995. This appeared in the Journal of the Royal College of Physicians, and is entitled "Criteria for the diagnosis of brain stem death". This document encourages the use of the more 'correct' term, 'brainstem death' rather than 'brain death' and, for the first time, attempts to give a definition of death that will explain why brain death implies the death of the patient.

'It is suggested that 'irreversible loss of the capacity for consciousness, combined with irreversible loss of the capacity to breathe' should be regarded as the definition of death'

While this definition seems curiously ad hoc, it is certainly helpful in making explicit the definition of death that underlies the present criteria. However, before analysing this proposed definition, it would be useful to examine the divergent views that underlie the present practical consensus.

Practical pressures

The acceptance of the equivalence of brain death with the death of the person has not been made in a vacuum. Various practical pressures have also shaped this consensus. Two are most prominent [Younger (1992), McCullagh (1993)]. First a declaration of death can allow costly intensive care to be withdrawn. Perhaps there are other circumstances that would allow medical support to be withdrawn, but none are so clear and free from ethical difficulties as the fact that the patient is dead!

The second, and without doubt the major factor behind the political acceptance of brain death as death, is the development of transplant medicine. Transplant techniques require a source of donor organs in good condition. The organs must be alive even if the donor is dead. Traditional moral and legal norms have only allowed the taking of organs from live donors if the process of donation did not seriously harm the donor. Transplant teams have therefore come to rely heavily on post mortem organ retrieval. So as to obtain organs in good condition, the organs need to be 'harvested' as soon as possible after death. If brain death is equivalent to death then surgeons can remove organs while the heart is still beating and the organs are still perfused with oxygenated blood. Many sorts of transplantation are only possible because organs can be taken in this way. The great rise of transplant medicine has, then, been wholly dependent upon organ harvesting from so called 'beating-heart cadavers', that is, patients who are determined to be dead on the basis of brain death criteria.

These two practical pressures have ensured a consensus as to what may be done with patients declared to be brain dead. However, there is in fact no such consensus as to why brain dead patients can be treated as dead. The 1976 declaration on the diagnosis of brain death did not describe a brain dead patient as being actually dead, but brain death was thought a reliable test for hopeless prognosis and thus for the removal of unnecessary treatment. Many in the profession still talk and act as though the essential question were the one of prognosis. If brain dead patients have no hope of recovery then, seemingly, medicine can do them no good, and therefore removal of their organs can do them no harm. The debate about brain death often focuses narrowly on recovery. The latest official document on brain death continues a long line in repeating that "Even if ventilation is continued, both adults and children will suffer cessation of heart beat within a few days, very occasionally a few weeks." Even if this assertion were true, and it is not incontrovertible, this does not resolve the question of the status of those patients during those days or weeks. Certain prognosis is not the same as present status. Certainly-dying-in-days- or-weeks is not the same as dead!

Perhaps it is thought that patients who are unconscious and who are dying are not significantly harmed by having their life shortened, while the recipient is helped enormously. A survey among healthcare professionals in the USA found almost a third of respondents thought this was the reason why brain dead patients were counted as being dead [Younger (1989)]. It seems likely that many people in the UK, even within the medical profession, also think in this way. This contributes to the appearance of a consensus, but it is a fragile one. How should we treat patients who are certainly dying but who are not unconscious? If someone who is dying wishes to donate his organs, why could they not be harvested before his death? [For otherwise it might be impossible to retrieve his major organs.] How should we treat patients who are unconscious but who are not dying, like those in a so-called 'persistent vegetative state'? Could they be used for their organs?

Whatever our answers to these questions it is clear that they take us far away from the simple identification of brain death with death itself. These further questions are closely linked to support for euthanasia [explicit in Singer (1995)], which again is an issue that needs to be examined explicitly and publicly and not simply taken for granted. Even if this utilitarian mindset does exist within the medical profession in the UK, which one hopes is rarely the case, it is not the official rationale for identifying brain death with death. It is here made explicit only so that it can be set aside. The medical profession clearly thinks that brain dead patients are actually and truly dead, not just 'as good as dead'.

Personal death

There is however a further confusion that is much more evident in the official and unofficial statements of the British medical profession on this issue. The profession is confused as to whether brain death is thought of as death because it implies the death of the body as a whole, or whether brain-death is thought of as death because it signals the irreversible end of mental life.

On the one hand it has been argued that the brain is the organ that integrates and organises the rest of the body. So, it is argued, when the brain is completely dead, the body has no centre and cannot be thought of as a living organism. The organs may still be alive but the system as a whole is defunct and only the continual support of artificial ventilation gives the temporary appearance of continued life. In reality the body is dead.

This argument has the great benefit of keeping the traditional account of death: death is the death of the body as a whole. It explains why brain death can be thought of as death, and does not involve any new and intractable ethical problems - like those of euthanasia. However, this approach, which is the standard approach in the USA [Presidents Commission (1981), Lamb (1985), (1996)] and has been used very widely in this country, suffers from empirical counter- evidence. First it is not clear that, in the syndrome usually diagnosed as brain death, the whole brain is entirely destroyed. Residual hormonal function, maintenance of blood pressure and the presence of certain reflexes, as well as the presence, in some cases, of measurable electrical activity in the brain, particularly in response to stimuli, all cast doubt of the supposedly 'total' character of brain death [McCullagh (1993), Byrne (1993), Kaukinen (1995)]. Most strikingly, the beating-heart cadaver often has to be anaesthetised, or paralysed, to prevent it reacting to the operation; otherwise blood pressure sometimes rises dramatically when the incision is first made [Evans (1989)]. The supposition that the body cannot maintain itself as a system without a functioning brain is also one that is open to question. There have been cases, particularly among children, where brain dead patients have been 'maintained' for many weeks. The continued functioning of the body as a whole - blood flow, metabolism, body heat, blood pressure, growth, healing - is evidence that the body is not dead [Seifert (1989), Jones (1995), Shewmon (1997), cf. Jonas (1974)]. For such reasons many people, again including medical professionals, prefer to believe that what is significant is not the death of the body, but the 'death of the person' [Gillon (1990), Gillet (1990), Lizza (1993)].

The complete functional destruction of the brain cuts the person off from all personal life and consciousness, not temporarily but permanently. What is most characteristic of human life - personal interaction - is now impossible. It seems that whatever we wish to say about the continued sustaining of the body, the person is 'gone'. The only thing that stops persistently 'vegetative' patients from being defined as brain dead is the greater possibility of recovery or of misdiagnosis. PVS is a less reliable diagnosis than brain death.

However, while this solution [explicitly proposed as early as Beecher (1968)] has the virtues of being clear and of side stepping the empirical evidence for continued biological life for the body-as-a-whole, it represents a radically new definition of what constitutes human death. The human being is no longer seen as a living bodily organism, as a rational animal, but rather as a consciousness, a res cogitans. So being human and a living organism is not enough to qualify as being a person. It is also necessary to be able to demonstrate consciousness. This is presumably because it is our rational, linguistic abilities that distinguish us from other animals. But, in that case, human beings who do not possess the ability to communicate linguistically, such as babies and the severely mentally handicapped, should also be excluded as non-persons. Life is no longer defined as human bodily life, and death is no longer defined as human bodily death, but extra qualifications are now being demanded. This attitude relies at some level on a dualistic separation of the human person from the bodily animal. While this idea appeals to a sort of popular philosophy, or popular religious separation of body and soul, in fact there are strong philosophical and theological arguments against this sort of dualism [Braine (1992), Kerr (1997)]. However we resolve the question, it is clear that it is not simply a medical matter or an uncontroversial piece of 'common sense'. Rather, it is a subtle conceptual or, if you like, metaphysical, argument and one that impinges on the traditional medical and legal understanding of death.

An agreed UK definition of death

In this context one can see what led to the curious and ad hoc 1995 proposal for a definition of death. On the one hand brainstem death as it is diagnosed in the UK clearly does not exclude all bodily functions. It excludes many but not all. Thus one basic vital function, the ability to breathe spontaneously, has been picked out as somehow the 'essential' sign of the life of the body. However, lack of spontaneous breathing on its own is clearly insufficient on its own, for it is possible to be dependent on a ventilator while still being conscious! So breathing and consciousness are just put side by side as two signs of life, either of which is enough to count in favour of still being alive. But why just these two signs of life? Why is breathing so much more important than heartbeat, body heat or blood pressure? There is no convincing reason that can be given for just picking out this one sign of bodily life. If, on the other hand heartbeat and body heat do not count, why bother so much about spontaneous breathing? Surely once the 'person' is gone then all these functions are at the level of autonomic biological reflexes.

The proposed definition is, however, helpful for several reasons.

  • First it calls attention to the need for a definition of what constitutes death, which is more basic and more general than the current agreed criteria for the diagnosis of death.
  • Secondly it shows up vividly the weakness of the present working definition of death, more a reflection of actual practice than a rationally based definition in its own right.
  • Thirdly it shows how the question of the definition of death, while it has important medical implications, is not itself a medical question, and thus the opinions of medical professionals have no more weight than those of other thinking people.

A widespread consultation and examination of the question of a definition of death, at the political and legal level, would place this decision where it belongs, at the level of society and not just with medical practitioners. The combination of reasons behind the current practice has led to a consensus that is intrinsically unstable and a pattern of practice that is more questionable than it at first appears. The suggestion of this writer is that death should be defined as:

The irreversible cessation of all integrated functioning of the human organism as a whole, mental or physical.

Medical practitioners could argue in practice to what extent and how brain death or brainstem death fulfilled this definition, but death itself should not be defined in 'personal' or neuro - physiological terms. Developments in intensive care and transplant medicine have raised questions that are not only of a practical but also of a conceptual kind. Before discussion of particular medical criteria can start there must be a clear idea of what constitutes human death."

It seems that the definition of 'death' has possibly been 'doctored with'; partly in order to remove an obstacle in the development of transplant medicine and partly in view of the cost of treating those who are very ill.

Just as the definition of 'conception' was altered to mean the implantation of a fertilized egg (conceptus) in the womb of its mother, rather than the earlier moment when a human egg and sperm fuse, bringing about a new life. By altering the meaning of words, it is easier to present the 'morning after pill' as a contraceptive, rather than the abortifacient, which, in reality, it is.

The major political parties in the UK proclaim from time to time that 'the National health Service is safe in our hands'- but are we safe in its hands?

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Witches claim 'religious discrimination' against Catholic Church

I wondered how long it would be before an allegation of this kind would be made:

The Daily Telegraph reports that a group of witches is claiming religious discrimination after (Catholic) church leaders banned them from using a church social club as a venue for their annual Witches Ball.

From the Daily Telegraph:
"The Diocese of Shrewsbury have since confirmed witches are not 'compatible with the Catholic ethos'."

Sandra Davis, who seems to be the organiser of the Witches Ball, and is described as a High Priestess at the Crystal Cauldron (?) commented:

"My congregation is shocked that in this day and age there can be such religious discrimination. "

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Where are the AntiSocial Behaviour Police- I'm FEELING Annoyed!

It's not often that I have cause to thank God that our youngest daughter cannot read. Today her school bag contained a leaflet, published by the local council entitled " Anti-Social Behaviour Explained"

The opening sentence proclaims that " anti-social behaviour is anything that makes a person feel annoyed............intimidated, scared or simply bullied."

Feel annoyed?

I felt annoyed at the supermarket yesterday, when the till broke down and I had to move my shopping off the conveyor belt , replace it in my trolley, and then place it on the conveyor belt of another till.
I feel annoyed when I can't find a disabled parking space at the supermarket carpark, and many of the cars occupying those spaces have not displayed a blue badge.
I feel annoyed when the washing machine breaks down- with an average of five loads a day, it's a real problem.
I feel annoyed when our dog has nicked yet another sock/ toy.
I feel annoyed when I have just put out another line of washing, only for the heavens to open.
I feel very annoyed on reading a leaflet aimed at 7-11 year olds which informs children, and encourages them to believe, that the morality of behaviour is based on how they feel about it.

Further on I read " what bothers you might not necessarily bother someone else."
(no common principles which guide behaviour)

"Have you been in the middle of doing something and your sister, brother or friend has kept interrupting?"
(brothers, sisters and their childhood friends will squabble from time to time, always have done, far from being antisocial, it's part of growing up and it's for parents to encourage their children to resolve their disputes fairly, assisting the children to do so, if necessary.)

In fact the leaflet makes no reference to the work and responsibilities of parents, to raise their children to have a healthy respect for people, places and property.
Instead it appoints personal feelings as the sole arbitor of what constitutes moral behaviour.

The elevation of "feelings" over common sense, reason, conscience or natural law, does not bode well for our society.

The day the Clintons' stood up for Life!

The internet is a wonderful thing!
I started a search for campsites, not too far away from home and in reasonable vicinity of a Catholic Church, as we're hoping to take some of the younger family members for a weekend's camping.
I'm still not quite sure how I happened upon the website of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, but having met some of them at youth2000 retreats, over the years, it was a pleasure to view their pages.
I discovered that one of their founding members, Fr Robert Stanion, had recently died, may God rest his soul in Paradise.
At his funeral, Fr. Glenn CFR gave a eulogy from which I quote:

"While many people have multiple stories about our brother, Father Robert, I have one you may never have heard. It’s entitled “How Father Robert Made the President of the United States Stand Up For Life.”

When Cardinal O’Connor was buried out of Saint Patrick Cathedral, many dignitaries, including President Bill Clinton and his wife Hillary, where in attendance. Of course, they sat in the front row closest to the aisle. During the homily, the Cardinal who was preaching stated something to the effect that Cardinal O’Connor was “unabashedly pro-life.” Well, guess who couldn’t help himself and broke from the herd? For three seconds, the only sound in the cathedral was Father Robert applauding a statement that 99%of the audience was waiting to hear. Feeling a bit embarrassed for him, I joined in, then the priests behind me – in seconds the pro-life wildfire spread throughout the cathedral. Then, an auxiliary bishop broke ranks and stood up, then another, then the Cardinals together with the congregation. Almost everyone’s eyes were on the Clintons, whose bottoms were burning in the pew – then slowly, and reluctantly, they both stood up as the applause continued even louder. Yes, believe it or not, President Clinton and Hillary stood up for life – thanks to our own brother, Father Robert."

Anglican Sisters to swim the Tiber

Ten nuns of the Anglican Convent of All Saints, Catonsville, Maryland are to be received into full communion with the Catholic Church on 3rd September 2009.

Congratulations and prayers for these Sisters; their leap of faith seems all the more courageous given the presence of others in their Community, who have decided against joining them.
Thanks to NLM

Corpus Christi?

Was this a Corpus Christi procession?
H/T to Cathcon

Thursday, 11 June 2009

The Nationalisation of Childhood is no longer a Marxist dream: it is becoming a British reality"

The title of this post is taken from a paper by Jill Kirby ' The Nationalisation of Childhood' published by the Centre for Policy Studies, 2006.(The link takes you to the CPS page where you can download or buy a copy)
This interesting publication criticises the ideological direction of this government's policy regarding children, their education and their care, and evidences the flaws of the strategy, known to many, "Every Child Matters".
Kirby's paper is well worth reading, here's a snippet from the introduction:

"New duties are to be imposed on every local authority to ensure that childcare is universally available. The Government proposes that by 2010 every school will be able to offer "wraparound" childcare for every child up to the age of 14, from 8am to 6pm throughout the year, school holidays included. As the Prime Minister [Tony Blair] explained, as he commended the Childcare Bill to the House of Commons in November 2005, this

'..effectively means a new frontier for the welfare state.'

This new frontier bears a remarkable similarity to theMarxist concept in which the collectivisation of childcare was considered essential to achieve an equal society with full productivity. Marx recognised that you cannot abolish the family; you have to replace it. The Marxist doctrine was brought up to date by Anthony Giddens, one of the architects of New Labour, in 1998. In The Third Way, Giddens explained how the democratisation of the family demands that responsibility for childcare be shared not only between men and women, but also between parents and non-parents.Giddens also proposed that in the democratic family, parents would have to 'negotiate ' for authority over their children."

Until the present time, homeschooled children have escaped the totalitarian 'Every Child Matters' agenda, but that seems likely to change following recommendations from a recent review :

"officials from local authorities should have the right to access their home with just two weeks' notice and speak to children to ensure they were "safe and well". They can revoke the right to home schooling if they have serious concerns over their welfare."

"Councils can impose a "school attendance order" if they believe the education received is not up to scratch, with parents facing legal action if they refuse."

The review was carried out by Graham Badman, former Director of Education at Kent County Council, and , somewhat ominously, he says that a further review would be carried out to judge the structure of a home education.

" For the first time, local councils will have the power to enter family homes and question young children, under new plans."
Annette Taberner, from the group Education Otherwise, said: "To suggest parents can continue to home educate but then give powers to local authorities to enter our homes and interview our children without an adult being present is just extraordinary. This is nothing short of an attempt to regulate the private lives of people. It is a very bad day for civil liberties in this country."

The nationalisation of childhood is no longer a Marxist dream; it is becoming a British reality.

and the setting for that reality is about to cross the threshold of the family home.

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Dr George Tiller's abortion facility to close forever

From Lifesite news

WICHITA, Kansas, June 9, 2009 ( - In a statement released today, the attorneys of late-term abortionist George Tiller confirmed that his Wichita abortion facility would shut its doors permanently, following Tiller's murder last month.

"The family of Dr. George Tiller announces that effective immediately, Women's Health Care Services, Inc., will be permanently closed," stated attorneys Lee Thompson and Dan Monnat today. "Notice is being given today to all concerned that the Tiller family is ceasing operation of the clinic and any involvement by family members in any other similar clinic."

Swimming the Tiber

Congratulations to Jeffrey Steel, a clergyman in the Church of England, his wife and their six children who have " jumped into the Tiber to swim across".

"I realise that I do not come to the Church making demands. I come offering my life to Jesus and to the Church as I seek his will for my life."
Jeffrey gives a humbling account of his spiritual journey on his blog, De Cura Animarum: humbling because those of us who are 'cradle Catholics' can often completely underestimate the struggles, fears and the 'not knowing' of which way to go, which often accompany adult conversion.

e" In my heart, I knew that I had grown to love and believe the Catholic faith as it was taught in the Catholic Catechism. On my final day in Rome on 17 April 2009 I went to the tomb of S. Peter and knelt and prayed for quite some time. I knew in my heart I was a Catholic and asked what it was that was keeping me from converting. All sorts of fears ran through my head and I felt very restless there and at times just knelt quietly asking S. Peter to pray for me because I didn’t know how or the way to go. At the end of this time I went over and knelt at JPII's tomb and asked him to please pray for me as I was scared to make a journey like this with a wife and six children not knowing how God would provide for us."

And it's a wonderfully moving story because, conversion involves a profound change brought about through seeking the Truth and being open to God's Will.

"After praying with JPII, I got up and went to S. Peter’s tomb again and there with conviction of heart signed the Roman Catholic Catechism stating ‘This is the Faith of the Church and this is my Faith’, and signed my name with the day's date. Before leaving the Basilica I walked over to the statue of S. Peter with the key in his hand, rubbed his foot, and said, ‘I am going out to find the way, open the door and make this happen and pray for me as I make this journey."

Conversion changes most obviously the one who has converted, yet it also brings great blessings and real joy to the faithful in the Catholic Church.
I hope, pray and trust that Jeffrey and his family will receive a warm welcome in the One True Church for which they have made great sacrifices.

Thanks to Fr Ray

Saturday, 6 June 2009

Petition to The Holy Father

Fr Ray Blake over at St Mary Magdalen has started a petition to the Holy Father, for the restoration of the Octave of Pentecost. I hope he gets very many signatures for this, wouldn't it be wonderful to emphasise the birthday of the Church in this way, again.

"Love can, and does make suffering bearable"

In the pro-life, defence of human life at all its stages argument, Alison Davis and Colin Harte make a valuable point about suffering:

"In many people's minds, the whole of the debate about euthanasia is fixated on the question of suffering,"

Harte quoted Holocaust survivor and psychoanalyst Victor Frankl, who said that, amid his suffering: "I grasped the meaning of the greatest secret that human poetry and human thought and belief have to impart: The salvation of man is through love and in love. ... In a position of utter desolation, when a man cannot express himself in positive action, when his only achievement may consist in enduring his sufferings in the right way - an honorable way - in such a position man can, through loving contemplation of the image he carries of his beloved, achieve fulfillment."

"That profound insight that resulted from Frankl's own intense suffering, which in all probability would not have been realized without that suffering," said Harte. "Love really can, and does make suffering bearable." ( my emphasis).

Read more at Lifesite

Many years ago, we had the privilege of meeting Alison Davis; this inspiring woman has dedicated much of her life to the pro-life cause, despite her own multiple disabilities and, at times, frail health.She is a living testimony of the power of God's love for those who are vulnerable, weak or disabled.

Friday, 5 June 2009

" For you as a priest, what is the most beautiful aspect of your vocation?

Cardinal Hummes, Prefect of the Congregation for Clergy, in an interview with Zenit, answers this question; here's an extract :

"This question brings to mind something from St. Francis of Assisi. He once said, "If I were to meet on the road a priest and an angel, I would first greet the priest and then the angel. Why? Because the priest is the one who gives us Christ in the Eucharist." This is what is most fundamental and marvelous: The priest has the gift and the grace of God to be a minister of the this great mystery of the Eucharist.

The priesthood was instituted by Jesus Christ at the Last Supper. When he said, "Do this in memory of me," he gave to the apostles this commend and also the power to do this, to do the same thing that Jesus did at the Last Supper. And those apostles have in turn transmitted this ministry and this divine power to the men who are bishops and priests.

This is what is most important and at the center. The Eucharist is the center of the Church. Pope John Paul II said that the Church lives off the Eucharist. The priest is the minister of this great sacrament, which is the memorial of the death of Jesus."

How's it going?

How's your county council doing?

Ours has moved from Lib-Dem control to Conservative, I suppose time will tell if that is a good thing. One of the first acts of the County Council after the previous elections was to award the councillors a rise in expenses, the Leader of the council justified it, saying that the rise would be funded from savings the council had made ( cutting back services etc). Somehow I think the councillors will be less likely to try the same this time.

I see that Brown/Sugar are now a political item. Sir Alan Sugar, said to be a good friend of Gordon Brown, has accepted the post of Enterprise Tzar, and is likely to be nominated for a seat in the House of Lords in order to join the government.
So much for democratically elected representation, then.

Thursday, 4 June 2009

Archbishop Nichols standing up for Catholic Education

From the Daily Telegraph

In his first public address since taking office, the Archbishop countered the criticisms of Catholic schools, arguing that faith schools benefit wider society and that religion must be freely expressed in schools.

"Schools of a religious character are upfront, overt and very reasoned about the values that shape the education," he said.

"Whereas I think often those that would claim to be neutral are covert in the values that they present to the children".

If the first priority is to protect the place of Catholic schools in our system of education, Archbishop Nichols has shown the high value he places on Catholic Education, in guarding and defending the place of Catholic schools against the continuing onslaught of atheist secularism which seems to desire their eradication. Thank you Archbishop Nichols!

The second priority might be to acknowlege that not all Catholic schools are fully up to the task; helping children learn of the Catholic Faith in its fullness, in order to support parents in their role as primary educators with a responsibility before God of transmitting the Faith, is a primary function of a Catholic school. However, very many youngsters fall away from the church when they leave school, and that ought to raise questions.

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

"Shut up and keep still!"

" Shut up and keep still" were the words spoken to one of our multiply disabled sons aged 12, by a carer, at home, some months ago. The carer was/is a qualified Childrens' Nurse. Needless to say, she didn't cross the threshold of our house again.
John Smeaton's post today has prompted this memory; as he says,

"What I wish to underscore is that there is evidence of a culture of neglect in Britain of elderly, disabled and vulnerable people;"

It seems to me that some of this culture of neglect is systematic in that professional carers,working in the community, and often for an organisation, are often working under considerable pressure: in the community, they visit a number of clients, operating a tight time schedule, with virtually no flexibility.So they can only come to help a person at a time that suits them, or their organisation, rather than a time that suits the individual needing care.
They can only perform the tasks set out in the client's care plan , so if, for instance a light bulb needs replacing, or a piece of equipment stored on a high shelf needs using, they are unable to help.
Or, if, as in our case, such a carer is assigned to help one young person, (older son) and another young person (younger son) is in need of urgent help, the carer cannot assist. They are not allowed to because employers liability insurance would not cover them.
They are only allowed to dispense and administer blister pack medicines , therefore they cannot help with medicines in liquid/suspension form.

A few years ago, we were approached by the then Commission for Social Care Inspection (CSCI).It was about to inspect local domiciliary care services and wanted to hear from clients, or as in our case, parents of clients. We responded, giving praise where it was due and criticism where it was due. I think part of the purpose of such inspections is to exemplify and disseminate good practice in the care profession, as well as to raise standards where that is needed. In our case, the end result was that the provider of domiciliary care for our sons, far from wanting to improve its services, decided that it was no longer able to meet one of our sons needs at all, leaving us scrabbling about trying to fill the gap.

It's not difficult to imagine the sort of conditions, referred to in John Smeaton's post, in the community as well as in institutions, particularly in the case of people who cannot speak up for themselves, and who may not have anyone to speak up for them.

What will they do?

The Government seems to be in freefall, with MP's standing down and ministers resigning here, there and everywhere. Quite a few will be out of a job in the not too distant future, so what will they do?
I have a suggestion for them:

Tony Blair's Faith Foundation is looking for new recruits at present; it would surely be pleased to receive applications from Tony's former, trusted colleagues.

The website doesn't give details of salary or expenses , but in these times of economic crisis, most people are thankful to be in work, even if that work does not command the highest salary or expenses account.

Of course, not all MP's have a faith, but that might be unlikely to stand in the way of an application . Generic descriptions of the posts offered include:

facilitating interfaith dialogue
deep understanding of world religions
attuned to the sensitivities of communicating to different faiths

All of the above could be delivered by people of any, or no faith.

But the last description could be the one that some of those about to step down from Government might find the most attractive:

committed to the cause

Compulsory Vaccinations?

Sir Sandy Macara, former chairman of the British Medical Association believes that childhood vaccinations should be compulsory and that the means of enforcing them should be by making vaccination a requirement for school entry.
Specifically, Sir Sandy wants all children to have to have the MMR vaccine (triple vaccine) whether their parents consent, or not.
The MMR vaccine has been the subject of controversy in the UK since it's introduction in 1988. The then Prime Minister, Tony Blair, famously refused to confirm or deny that his youngest child, Leo, had received it.
Part of the controversy has been about alleged links to autism, or other effects such as convulsions,loss of speech, fits, even, death. In the case linked here, one mother whose child died having had the vaccine, said

"During Hannah's illness I always felt there was a connection with the MMR vaccine, but my opinion was either dismissed by doctors or they genuinely appeared not to know.

Just after she died, I had another letter saying that the MMR link was unproven, and I became very angry. I believed that they wanted to get rid of this 'problem'.

So, we went to appeal, deciding to represent ourselves.

Four months later, we received a letter which included the following: 'Hannah Buxton was disabled as a result of a vaccination to which the claim relates.' It also stated: 'The tribunal found it particularly significant that the reaction to the MMR vaccination was exactly at the expected period of time following this vaccination. This reaction was severe and prolonged, and therefore the development and progress were halted and if anything, deteriorated to a marked and obvious extent. We know this evidence is uncontested and to our minds argues strongly in favour of the award.'

In other words, the Government had not argued against the case and were admitting liability.

The most important thing for me is that someone had confirmed what I had always suspected - that the MMR had caused this; that MMR had done so much damage to the brain that she became severely handicapped, and started having fits."

Another part of the controversy concerns the ethics around the use of vaccinations prepared from cells that are derived from aborted foetuses, as in the case of the Rubella component of this vaccine.

In 2005, the Pontifical Academy for Life published a useful guide " Moral Reflections on Vaccines prepared from cells derived from aborted Human Foetuses"

Here is the brief summary:

-there is a grave responsibility to use alternative vaccines and to make a conscientious objection with regard to those which have moral problems;

- as regards the vaccines without an alternative, the need to contest so that others may be prepared must be reaffirmed, as should be the lawfulness of using the former in the meantime insomuch as is necessary in order to avoid a serious risk not only for one’s own children but also, and perhaps more specifically, for the health conditions of the population as a whole – especially for pregnant women;

- the lawfulness of the use of these vaccines should not be misinterpreted as a declaration of the lawfulness of their production, marketing and use, but is to be understood as being a passive material cooperation and, in its mildest and remotest sense, also active, morally justified as an extrema ratio due to the necessity to provide for the good of one’s children and of the people who come in contact with the children (pregnant women);

- such cooperation occurs in a context of moral coercion of the conscience of parents, who are forced to choose to act against their conscience or otherwise, to put the health of their children and of the population as a whole at risk. This is an unjust alternative choice, which must be eliminated as soon as possible.

Wouldn't it be more acceptable to allow parents the choice of separate vaccines against the diseases of measles, mumps and rubella, thus avoiding the risk of serious damage to children? In some countries MMR has been banned because of the damage it can do. Separate vaccines would also allow parents to consider more carefully, the morality of using individual vaccines where they are concerned about ethical issues, instead of being almost forced to act against their consciences.

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Sponsor the cyclists!

I posted a couple of weeks ago about Dom and Phil's sponsored bike ride from Medjugorje to Walsingham (see side bar). They are just £60 short of their first £1000 raised in sponsorship for Youth2000 - go on, make their day!

Monday, 1 June 2009

The Killing of Dr. George Tiller

The killing of Dr George Tiller was an evil act.
Dr Tiller was gunned down yesterday, as he attended his church, and a man has since been arrested to answer police questions, and face possible charges. A motive for the killing has not so far, been made public, yet blame is already being apportioned. Blame, guilt, culpability, are being heaped upon pro-life organisations. Dr Tiller was an abortionist, and one who specialised in late-term abortions.

Here's the Guardian newspaper on the bandwagon:

"Not surprisingly, his killer is strongly suspected to be affiliated with the "pro-life" movement. If that's the case, it makes Tiller the 10th person in the United States to be murdered by anti-choice terrorists.

And that's just the tip of the iceberg. Since 1977, there have been at least 17 attempted murders, 383 death threats, 153 incidents of assault or battery and three kidnappings committed against abortion providers in North America. Tiller himself survived an assassination attempt in 1993.

Some pro-life groups are issuing statements of condemnation and attempting to paint this murder as the work of an extremist. But this latest act of terrorism is, sadly, not an anomaly. It is part of a clearly-established pattern of harassment, intimidation and violence against abortion providers and pro-choice individuals. And mainstream pro-life groups shoulder much of the blame."

The Guardian seems to be implying that a propensity to harass, intimidate or do violence against abortion providers to the point of killing them, is part of the pro-life ethic.It's a bit like claiming, on the back of 9/11, that all Muslims are terrorists (but they wouldn't try that, I think).

Pro-life is about respecting, protecting and valuing all human lives from their natural beginning to their natural end, and at every stage inbetween. That means all people, including those who are vulnerable, including those whose views or actions we deplore. Pro-life is not, and has never been about killing people.

There could be some other fallout from the tragic killing of Dr. Tiller:

Is 'harassment' going to be redefined to include the kind of peaceful, prayerful witness that takes place outside abortion clinics?

Will telling people the truth about abortion be construed as 'intimidation'?