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Thursday, September 29, 2005


Please pray for the repose of the soul of Walter, a homeless man who was usually around the University area and a regular at the Sisters of Mercy homeless project. He died a couple of weeks ago (I just heard). He was in his early 40s, but looked twenty years older. As he was, he was usually cheerful, at least mildly drunk, without much memory; God only knows who he was when unafflicted by the alcoholism which effectively killed him. May he be awakened to true life.

Sarkozy: Castrate Rapists

French minister for the interior wants to introduce chemical castration for repeat sex offenders. What on earth is it? Is it like the elastic bands used on lambs, so things shrivel up and drop off? In which case I don't see why they shouldn't just do it mechanically. And if not, then it probably requires some kind of repeat treatment, which seems like a risky proposition. People do give the police the slip, and those intending to re-offend are most likely to do so, I would have thought.
I often wonder about amputation as a punishment. It seems harsh. There is no recognition in the law, as far as I know, of the idea in moral theology that, for example, stealing by someone who is in need from someone who has more than he needs is not stealing, though there is between murder and manslaughter. Still, presumably just as there are different sentences handed down anyway for crimes all labelled "theft", there could be some criteria for the kind of theft for which one could have one's hand cut off. But then the convict would perhaps not be able to make a living. Would he then be kept at the taxpayer's expense?
Is amputation ever permissible? A jail sentence has an element of "fresh start" about it. Once you are out, you are again a citizen in (more or less) good standing. You have paid for your crime. If a member is cut off, then it will never grow back again, unless you are a starfish. You pay for your crime to the end of your life.
Much to be said on the subject, but I must dash.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Labourite describes Second Great Commandment as 'bonkers'*

Further to my thoughtlessly loose use of caritas, four posts back, The Spectator sadly lets us down with an interviewer and interviewee who don't know the meaning of the word 'love'. Quite an interesting article, nonetheless, with, hovering around the edges, some rather frightening implications for religious freedom.

Eventually the man could hold back no longer. 'Look,' he said. 'You can't make people love people of other races. You just can't. And you can't have a law which says we have to love each other. That's bonkers.'

*And yes, I know this is an unjust and overblown header inasmuch as he means civil law or positive law, and means 'feel warm and fluffy' rather than 'love.' It remains rather worrying that such a sentence could be recorded without either party giving any indication that he realises it sounds seriously off.

Surrogate mother sells baby

The Social, Health and Family Affairs Committee of the Council of Europe deferred the vote on the report of Michael Hancock (UK, ALDE), relating to the recognition and supervision of surrogacy as an alternative to sterility, for December 16th 2005. Members of the committee were unable to agree on giving a legislative status to this controversial matter and many expressed their dissatisfaction with the current version of the proposed report. This new delay would allow the addition of new amendments to facilitate a consensus among the members. However, the postponement of the vote indicates the unlikelihood that it will be adopted. The report of Mr Hancock aims to regulate the growing 'medical tourism' in countries where the commercialization of pregnancies through surrogate motherhood is legalized. Many evidences show that the sale of pregnancies is becoming more frequent and raises important legal problems in those states. For example, it was recently reported that a baby girl is now at the center of legal battle because her surrogate mother breached a contract established with a Belgian couple, when she decided to sell the baby to a Dutch couple who made a better offer. It is undeniable that there is a risk of a commercialization of motherhood at the European scale if the report is adopted. The legislation of this practice within the EU would not help to reduce the trade of unborn babies but, on the contrary, it would marginalize motherhood even more and would reduce the unborn child to a mere commodity.
From Euro-Fam.

George Galloway, the clerical candidate

"It was not his opposition to the war in Iraq but his positions against abortion, against women's rights and for the death penalty that won Galloway the backing of the Muslim Association of Britain, an organization dominated by Islamic clergy."

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Jesuits lose a good man: Fr Joseph Senespleda, RIP

Fr. Joseph Maria de Senespleda, SJ died on Monday, September 19th at the Little Sisters of the Poor in Gilmore Place. His funeral was held on Wednesday, September 21st in the church. The Principal Celebrant was the Provincial Superior of the British Province of the Society of Jesus, Fr. Michael Holman, SJ joined by many concelebrants, priests from his own community, Jesuits from around the country, diocesan priests and members of other religious congregations. Mgr. David Gemmell, V.G, represented his Eminence the Cardinal.
The church was packed with parishioners and many medical staff and ex-patients from the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh, people who in one way or another were grateful to Fr. Senes for his devoted care of them over the years.
Fr. Joseph Maria de Senespleda was born in Spain on 7th April 1927. He joined the Society of Jesus at the age of 16 and after his novitiate he began his studies for the priesthood and eventually was sent to a Spanish Jesuit mission in Pune (Puna), India, where he continued his studies and where he was ordained to the priesthood on March 24th 1958. Fr. Senespleda came into contact with the British Province (or English Province as it was then called), when he arrived in (British) Guyana where he became Administrator of the Cathedral. After some years in Guyana he came to Edinburgh where he spent about 40 years within the city, 28 years of that time being Catholic Chaplain to the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh. If anyone was faithful to his responsibilities, it was Fr. Senespleda. He was a well-known figure to doctors and nurses, to administrators and ancillary staff - but especially to the patients in the Royal Infirmary.
From morning till night he visited patients - bringing the consolation of Christ in the Sacraments, but also his own personal priestly kindness.
He leaves a gap in the Lauriston Jesuit Community where nothing was too much trouble for him. "If you need any help, just let me know" was typical of him.

Apologia pro Buffy...

Xander: I've got a theory:
It could be witches,
Some evil witches -
Which is ridiculous 'cos witches they were persecuted wicca good and woman power and love the earth
and I'll be over here...

This is from the musical episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, specifically from the song in which they're trying to work out why everyone has started singing spontaneously. This bit is partly mocking Xander, the clodhopping one, whose best chum is a 'good witch.' It's also, however, I think, mocking the new notion of cuddly wicca-ness where one shouldn't say nasty things about witches; as indeed happened much earlier in the series, when there was a satirical scene with a 'wiccan' group in Sunnydale College which was primarily concerned with questions like, 'OK, so who moved my woman-power scented candle?' Buffy is not necessarily the most edifying thing in the world, and the whole big pro-lesbian thing is very bad, but it's not intrinsically utterly evil either - cf the Harry Potter debate, I suppose... Especially as at one point said 'good witch' turns really evil, and Xander has to Save The World by the power of his friendship. (Lots of Buffy-ites seemed to think it was a weak season ending. I thought it was one of the best: persistent love (and I mean caritas, not eros) was the only thing that could do any good - and even so it could not really help until it was accepted - which seemed beautifully constructed to me.) Joss Whedon doesn't have a not-so-secret occultist agenda. It seems to me that he mostly likes sending things up, really.

No, this isn't particularly relevant to anything. It's just that people keep expressing considerable surprise that I like Buffy, so an apologia of sorts seems in order.

The songs are also very hummable, and there are some very silly rhymes. Hurrah. Now go and read Aelianus's much more edifying post below.

Friday, September 23, 2005

The Return of the Queen (of Sciences)

Theology is not apologetics and apologetics does not consist in violently yoking the truths of the Catholic Faith to whatever half-baked poisonous pseudo-philosophy the prince of this world has just concocted to procure the damnation of our contemporaries. The point is illustrated by the fact that such apologetics and such pseudo-theology, through whose hour of darkness we have been living for the last several decades, have emptied the house of God with more thoroughness than many an overt persecution. A side effect of this is that those great theological minds who remain faithful to the truths of the Faith but also remain within the polluted precincts of academic theology are compelled, merely to gain a hearing, to enter into debate with positions which are utterly incapable of reconciliation to the truth. This manoeuvre, a veritable descent into hell, requires the provisional consideration of ideas which in themselves are wholly unworthy of any consideration whatsoever. This means that the true theologian who would enter into argument with his pseudonymous colleagues is compelled like Socrates always to take the reductio ad absurdam (more or less tactfully expressed) as the overall form of his argument.

John Saward has chosen a different path. Mindful that, compelled to live in the real world, the man in the street is a great deal closer to reality and so to Thomism than academic philosophers or theologians, Saward addresses his reflections to everyman. While academics do indeed have souls, so does the man in the street, and the latter is far more numerous than the former. But in ignoring them, Saward does academic theologians a great service, for, like the enemies of Socrates, what they need to learn more than anything else if they are to have any hope is that they know nothing. For theology is science derived from revealed principles, by far the most important of which are wholly beyond the ken of natural reason. As Isaiah says "if you do not believe then you will not understand". The world of academic theology is pervaded by the spirit of unbelief: its inhabitants are wedded to ideas intrinsically incompatible with the virtue of faith, and so in theological terms they literally know nothing.

Saward practices theology, which is a science; and he treats it as such. He calls to his service and the service of his theme those who do know of what they speak (even if when they spoke it they knew only in a glass darkly) in order to speak of the state of those who see face to face. He does his theology not with the Teutonic hoards of the pseudo-theologians but with those who have actually 'suffered divine things': the saints. St Thomas, St Bede, Bl. Dennis, Bl. Marmion are his guides and his partners in conversation and in contemplation of the mystery expressed in the image which adorns the cover of this book: the entering of human nature and of human persons into the glory of the Beatific Vision.
By choosing this theme he strikes into the heart of the darkness of the post-conciliar horror. For it is errors about the beatific vision, of Christ's possession of it, and the manner in which we are ordered to it, that have wreaked the devastation of which the visionaries of Fatima spoke among the earthly suburbs of the one everlasting city. What better way to commence their renewal than by turning to the contemplation of their heavenly archetype the Heavenly Jerusalem, our Mother, and its archetype the Ever Blessed Virgin 'who has destroyed all heresies throughout the world'?

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Clearing out one's youth

Not to be melodramatic about a spot of tidying, at all...

Things which one realises, when forced to clear out the shelves, that one did not need to keep for periods of between four and thirteen years:

Tickets and travel insurance policies from past holidays;
- leaflets from all museums etc visited on said holidays;
- programmes from every play and opera one's been to, kept in the expectation of reading them before watching later productions of said works and making intelligent comparisons between them, which has yet to happen...;
- Standard Grade Chemistry notes;
- actually, any Standard Grade notes;
- notes from a language course from a summer spent abroad, kept in the hope that one will one day use them to nail the Konjunktiv, even though by any reckoning this will be better done with a grammar book than with messy, not wholly accurate classroom notes;
- prospectuses and open day leaflets from all the universities one didn't go to;
- copies of one's UCAS form;
- notes on college interview procedure;
- letter inviting one to register with the college doctor;
- invoices for battels for every undergraduate term;
- fragmentary OICCU Bible study notes;
- illegal photocopies of the viola part for The Messiah and several British folk songs in easy string orchestra arrangement;
- a box which once contained Trivial Pursuits: The After Dinner Mint Edition...

The recycling people are going to be doing very well. Unless, of course, ours is a local authority which actually incinerates everything, but takes paper away in separate bins to make us feel better about ourselves.

I could, of course, have boxed it all up, attached a list of suggested thesis titles on The Late Twentieth-Century Scottish Female Adolescent Experience, and sent it to a university history/sociology department in the certain knowledge that a funding board in a few years time could not refuse cash for an easy, strictly limited, (boring) results-guaranteed research project... But I'm not sure that any of the local repositories would have taken it off my hands so easily...

Reasons for becoming a Catholic

I threw my support behind Mom, even as she announced she was going to be a Catholic. I knew nothing about Catholics anyway, other than that they had funnier rituals than ordinary Christians. At any rate, her reasoning behind the choice seemed sound: She felt she might as well go with the original.

Vatican Mole Goes Underground

On April 2, 2005 at 9:37 PST (Pope Standard Time), Agent 241533, the International Jewish Conspiracy's eyes and ears in Vatican City since 1978, fearing exposure, went underground in an emergency manoeuver to avoid detection.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

"He taught me everything I know..."

Widespread suspicions as to the source of Balthasar's theology are finally confirmed. The Swiss theologian insisted his companion be addressed as 'Ignatius'.

Moderator: Muslim Radicals Should Leave UK

How did I miss this? Great picture as well. The editorial. Sadly I can't find the interview.
The following week's letters in SoS.
And found along the way: Holloway. He is always a mine of quality idiocy quotes. Is a supposedly Christian body still paying this man money?

Monday, September 19, 2005

Oj oj oj

From 40 Bicycles, by now no doubt in St Andrew's: this. Discuss.

Not as funny as the Modern Labour Minister, but good enough for time-wasting: this. Via Arthur's Seat, I think.

More of Dawn Eden's conversion story is up. I like this woman. From what I can tell from her blog, obviously, maybe I would hate her if I met her.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Corona Beatissime Virginis Marie

One of the most interesting parts of my splendid week in Poland with Berenike (thank you, Berenike!) was a visit to the National Museum in Warsaw, which is really the National Gallery and has an excellent collection of medieval art. It is mostly fifteenth and early sixteenth century, from within the boundaries of modern Poland; which means that in fact a good deal of it is north German. It is a most edifying collection in several respects; from the historian's point of view, among the most interesting is that most of the art is in broadly the same idiom - late medieval north-central Europe, mostly devotional panel paintings - but was produced for a variety of clients, for various contexts, on various levels of quality. One therefore gains a well-rounded impression of this section of the late medieval visual world. That's what I thought, for what it's worth, anyway.

Possibly the most remarkable single work is a vast panel painting of c.1500, 5x3 metres, from the Bernardine (Observant Franciscan) church of Wroclaw/Breslau. Sadly I can't find an image online, and they didn't have postcards of it, so you'll have to make do with a description. In the bottom quarter or so of the painting are the Virgin and Child in sole, standing upon a crescent moon. To each side of them are four Bernardines, carrying scrolls with lines of the Pater and Ave. Behind Our Lady's head is a scroll saying Corona beatissime Virginis Marie. And above her head, taking up the rest of the painting, is a huge crown, supported by two angels. The crown is filled with 49 roundels in seven rows of seven. The rows depict, from bottom to top:
The Seven Joys of Our Lady;
the Seven Sorrows of Our Lady/Blood-sheddings of Christ;
the Seven Choirs of Heaven (Angels, Apostles, Martyrs, Bishops, Widows, Virgins and All Saints);
the Seven Deadly Sins;
the Seven Contrary Virtues;
the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit;
and seven groups who trust in Maria's intercession (Parents, clergy, laymen, religious, those in need of help, sinners and the dead (in Purgatory)).
Over the top of the crown, each column is headed with a star, labelled Prima stella, Secunda stella, etc..

It's a quite astounding sight, and like nothing Berenike or I had seen before; nor did it correspond exactly to any late medieval devotion of which I'm aware. By the magic of Google, however, I came across a helpful article: Katarzyna Zalewska, '"Corona beatissime Virginis Marie": Das mittelalterliche gemalte Marientrakat aus der Berhardinerkirche in Breslau', Zeitschrift für Kunstgeschichte lv (1992). Surprisingly, not much seems to have been written about this painting before 1992. Zalwska notes that corona was often used as a metaphor for glory, frequently referring to the glory of the Mother of God, about which tractates were written from the early thirteenth century. Most notably, an anonymous tract called Corona Beatae Mariae Virginis, which had more than ten printed editions between 1485 and 1500, gave twelve different readings of the Virgin's crown of twelve stars in Rev. 12:1. Among other things, twelve Patriarchs and twelve Old Testament women were presented as presonifications of 'properties which first reached perfection in Maria.' Similarly, in the Bernardines' painting 'virtues, sins and gifts of the Holy Spirit are personified in Old Testament figures and figures of the Saints.'

The pattern of this Corona, however, is more closely connected to various Rosary-type patterns of prayer called Coronae which were current in the later middle ages. These usually consisted of 63 or 72 Aves, corresponding to the numbers of years Maria was supposed to have lived on earth, divided into seven or eight sections by Paters. Usually the Joys or Sorrows of Our Lady provided the subjects of meditation. A song current in Poland and Silesia mentions the Corona of 63 Aves. Particularly relevent is the form of prayer recommended by Bl Wladyslaw of Gielniow (found in Wadding's Annales Minorum..., 2nd ed (Quarracchi, 1505), iv.349-350): 72 Aves divided into eight sections by Paters, during the first of which the Seven Joys were to be honoured, in the second the Seven Sorrows honoured, in the third the Seven Heavenly Choirs to be honoured, in the fourth hatred of the Seven Deadly Sins to be aroused, in the fifth strengthening of the Seven Virtues to be asked, in the sixth the Gifts of the Holy Spirit to be prayed for, and the seventh and eighth to be offered for persons whom one wished to recommend to the care of the Mother of God. Although the numerical symbolism is imperfect, with nine Aves per section, this arrangement, far more complex than other Franciscan Coronae, is clearly closely connected to that of the painted Corona, and it is to almost without doubt that the Wroclaw Bernardines had heard Wladyslaw's prayer.

The prominence of sevens in Wladyslaw's Corona, despite his sections of nine prayers, arises from the catechetical pattern of sevens - sins, virtues, gifts, sacraments, petitions in the Our Father - so widely taught. Zalewska argues that the painting more perfectly reflected the catechetical habit, and served a catechetical purpose in the Bernardine church. She also supposes that it aided the Bernardines in praying a Corona devotion, as they are seemingly pictured doing in the picture itself. She further notes that the images in the roundels, using Biblical stories and events in saints' lives to characterise virtues and vices, was in line with other late medieval art, and was itself influenced by devotional literature which typically used such personifications. (Incidentally, I wonder if one could here further the argument that Franciscan preaching, with its habitual use of colourful exempla, encouraged the naturalism of early renaissance art, which so well served narrative illustrations in preachers' churches? One might argue that narrative became a dominant idiom in moral education, and thus fed back into Franciscan art and preaching again... But I've never been quite sure about the Franciscans-caused-the-Renaissance line, myself...)

'The Corona, Zalewska concludes, 'is above all the work of an imaginative and highly educated theologian, who drew upon many sources and knew how to connect elements of the most various sort with one another.' She suggests that the closest iconographic comparison is thus in some respects found in the Rosenkranzen illustrated with differents states of life and various saints (there's a good one, incidentally, at the end of the first printing under James V of the Acts of the Parliament of Scotland).

Hurrah for Dr Zalewska!

The only sad thing is that this painting is in a museum, rather than in a fab Lady Chapel somewhere with this devotion being prayed.

Might I recommend that you all go to Warsaw?

Che cosa ne pensate?

Fraser Nelson, he of the often quite interesting columns:

Wild ideas are discussed by wild people at Liberal Democrat party conferences, from the legalisation of heroin to the use of potholes to slow traffic. But as they gather in Blackpool this week, one proposal will be deemed too vulgar for debate: an alliance with the Tories.

Yet this is exactly what Vince Cable, the party's highly respected Treasury spokesman, suggested last week. The old left-versus-right division has broken down, Cable said, and a new pendulum of history may swing to a "coalition in some form" of Lib Dems and Conservatives.

Many Tories, too, would be horrified at the thought. Yet those who dismiss it outright have not been watching the direction of their own party's leadership debate. There is every indication that the Tories are considering a jump to the left - which would make possible a radical realignment of British politics.

Traditionally, the Lib Dems have been Labour's friends. The two are, most obviously, in coalition in the Scottish Executive and have been united by the label "progressives". They have been allies in the great political division of the last century: labour versus capital.

But now, Cable says in a pamphlet for the Fabian Society, new dividing lines are emerging and cutting across the old party divisions. The arguments could revolve around a new power struggle which is the 21st-century equivalent of labour versus capital: the individual versus the state. [cont., click title: free registration needed]

Austria again!

Well, fourteen hours between sleepers from and to Warsaw barely counts as a visit, but I was happy anyway. Spanish Riding School again, though I was a little disappointed that they didn't, as they did last time I was at the morning exercise, throw in a few of the top horses at the end and give us some of the high school movements.

Visiting the Hofburg a la my little sister (the imperial apartments, the Sisi museum (Franz! Sisi! Franz! Sisi!) and the silver collection in under an hour), and a more leisurely examination of the carriages at the Schonbrunn.

One of my favourite places on the planet: the Stephansdom. The kneelers in the Blessed Sacrament chapel should be the model for such places everywhere. I love this church.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Tartaglia autobiography

From a Google cache of an old parish website:
I am Father Philip Tartaglia. I am honoured to be the 21st Parish Priest of St.Mary's [Duntocher], and have held this office since 1995. Over the years this parish has been served by many fine priests.

My immediate predecessors since the end of World War II were Father Thomas Cunningham (1987-95), the late Canon Jeremiah O'Flynn(1967-87) and the late legendary Canon James Hogan (1945-67).

Of Italian extraction, I was born in Glasgow in 1951. I trained for the priesthood in the Scots College, Rome and studied philosophy and theology at the Gregorian University, Rome. I was ordained in 1975 and graduated Doctor of Sacred Theology in 1980.

After serving for a year in Our Lady of Lourdes Parish, Glasgow, I taught dogmatic theology at St.Peter's College, the seminary of the ecclesiastical province of Glasgow, and, after its closure, at Chesters College, the Scottish interdiocesan seminary, where I was also Rector from 1987-93.

When Chesters College amalgamated with Edinburgh's Gillis College, I was transferred and served for two years as Assistant Priest at St.Patrick's, Dumbarton (1993-95). In September 1995 I became Parish Priest in St. Mary's, Duntocher. I continued to teach theology part-time from 1993-97. From 1987-94, I was also visiting lecturer in theology at the Divinity Faculty of Glasgow University. In all, I taught theology in part time and full time capacities for 17 years.

I was a member of the Theology Commission (later Commission for Doctrine & Unity) of the Scottish Catholic Bishops from 1980-97. During those years I also represented the Scottish Catholic Church on the Joint Commission for Doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church and the Church of Scotland and was for many years its Co-Convener. I also served during that period on the Joint Roman Catholic-Scottish Episcopal Study Group.

From 1983-88, I was the Scottish Catholic representative on the British Council of Churches Study Group on Trinitarian Doctrine from 1983-88, an especially instructive experience. Finally, I was one of the representatives of the Scottish Catholic Bishops in the formation process of the ecumenical body ACTS and served on its Faith & Order Committee until 1997.

Since 1997, my energies have been dedicated more or less exclusively to my parish, apart from the occasional foray into the academic world I formerly inhabited.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

New Bishop!

Paisley better done by than Aberdeen? We shall see. Philip Tartaglia has apparently been appointed to Paisley. My informant says "apparently this is a good thing". For some reason Tartaglia has good associations for me. There are two, aren't there, brothers? All info welcome.

In festo Exaltationis Sanctae Crucis

Vexilla regis prodeunt,
fulget crucis mysterium,
quo carne carnis conditor
suspensus est patibulo.

Confixa clavis viscera
tendens manus, vestigia
redemptionis gratia
hic inmolata est hostia.

Quo vulneratus insuper
mucrone diro lanceae,
ut nos lavaret crimine,
manavit unda et sanguine.

Inpleta sunt quae concinit
David fideli carmine,
dicendo nationibus:
regnavit a ligno deus.

Arbor decora et fulgida,
ornata regis purpura,
electa, digno stipite
tam sancta membra tangere!

Beata cuius brachiis
pretium pependit saeculi!
statera facta est corporis
praedam tulitque Tartari.

Fundis arome cortice,
vincis sapore nectare,
iucunda fructu fertili
plaudis triumpho nobili.

Salve ara, salve victima
de passionis gloria,
qua vita mortem pertulit
et morte vitam reddidit.

New bishop of Paisley

Anyone know anything else about him?

St Andrew, pray for him.
St Mirren, pray for him.
St Margaret of Scotland, pray for him.

All right, lectores dilecti Americani,

- what's going on with Roberts? Do we give up hope now? (Also note the caption for the pic in the BBC story - no prizes for guessing whose world-view the Beeb takes to be normative...)

Almost enough to make one a Eurosceptic

ECHR rules that parent-in-law may 'marry' child-in-law, hitherto illegal in Britain.

'The Strasbourg judges said the British ban, although pursuing a legitimate aim of protecting "the integrity of the family", did not prevent such relationships occurring.'

Because obviously, if you can't completely and perfectly prevent bad things happening, you might as well not bother in the first place. Whyever didn't that occur to me before?

But, 'In a previous case, the UK Parliament had even declared that barring the marriage between in-laws "served no useful purpose of public policy."' Yes, because the integrity of the family and stability of society are just fancy madcap ideas, completely impractical...

Sunday, September 11, 2005

September 11th

Statu nationis Britannorum considerato, oremus iterum pro America, pro salute animarum eorum qui in die unodecimo Septembris in anno Incarnationis MMI ab hac luce migraverunt, et precipue pro animabus eorum, qui criminem hoc scelerissimum commiserunt, et qui tanta crimina hodie sublevant.

Agnus Dei, Qui tollis peccata mundi, miserere nobis.

This green and pleasant land

When leaving Britain on the ferry to the Continent, I 'phoned Aelianus for a running commentary on landmarks with which he is more familiar than I am.

Boeciana: What's the sort of ruined thing just before we get out into the sea?
Aelianus: That's Britain.


Actually the immediate object of my inquiries was this:
viz, Tynemouth Priory. Nonetheless, my co-blogger's remark sadly stands up to some scrutiny. This had been clear in the bombast of various politicians and writers after the London bombings of 7th July, when their enthusiasm for the maintenance and strengthening of British values could only be met with the question, 'What values?' And last night, in the Last Night of the Proms, the matter of Britain arose again.

I don't see the point in being sniffy about the Last Night. I'm not convinced about the ever more spectacular link-ups with parks around the country, at any rate not when it involves hearing Kathryn Jenkins singing Andrew Lloyd Webber in Wales (Wales deserves better!); but there is considerable charm, it seems to me, in an unbridledly patriotic (but non-sporting) British event, particularly given the immense silliness in which British patriotism tends to express itself. But what was I singing about (in a slightly croaky way, from the slightly broken armchair, in front of the television)? My cynical side would consider replacing Land of Hope and Glory with Noel Coward's There Are Bad Times Just Around the Corner: 'A likely story! Land of hope and glory! Wait until we drop down dead...' More seriously, Britain may still be mother of the free in terms of her governmental history; but as things stand I can hardly hope for her bounds to be set wider and wider. Legislation and policy are formed with little thought for, or at least little understanding of, true freedom; appreciation of democracy seems to have turned into a crazed populism where right is identified with acceptability to or convenience in modern society. Land of Hope and Glory could very well be sung about Holy Mother Church. If it is to be sung about Britain, it can only be as a prayer that God will make her mighty by restoring a true culture in her.

Rule Britannia is less heart-breaking to sing. It is a simple fact that Britain does not rule the waves as she once did, and I couldn't say whether it is for good or ill. Still, to sing that 'guardian angels sang this strain: Rule Britannia! Britannia rules the waves. Britons never, never, never shall be slaves' leads one again to ponder what a difficult job our guardian angels and patron saints have (and how little we help them). And while Britons are not slaves in any legal sense, how many Britons are enslaved to false gods and error, because the last half-century has seen the Gospel slip so completely from the public consciousness, and while we who have heard it still fail to live and show the Gospel?

By the time Jerusalem is reached, one is singing with a full heart (if still out-of-tunily in the living room, hoping no one else can hear, in my case). It may name only England, but children of any nation can sing this with sincerity. Yet... how many in the Albert Hall know that they are singing for the establishment of the Kingdom?

And at last, the National Anthem. Having by now shed at least one tear over my country, for possibly the first time in my life, again for perhaps the first time I spontaneously stand up for it. One of the duller national anthems, I always think, but one can hardly disagree with the sentiment: God Save the Queen. No arguments there. Though in the second verse (learnt as a Brownie and never forgotten), 'May she defend our laws, and ever give us cause to sing with heart and voice, "God Save the Queen!"' - and I suddenly realised that the Queen must have signed the Abortion Act. Not a great law to be upholding, there. I have no idea what the legal and constitutional implications of a refusal to sign would have been, but if there were ever reason for a monarch in a mixed government to reclaim some power, that was surely it.

Then finally Auld Lang Syne... which as usual the English sing all wrong... and pointless indignation serves to stiffen the upper lip again...

What we should have been singing:

O God of earth and altar,
Bow down and hear our cry,
Our earthly rulers falter,
Our people drift and die;
The walls of gold entomb us,
The swords of scorn divide,
Take not thy thunder from us,
But take away our pride.
From all that terror teaches,

From lies of tongue and pen,
From all the easy speeches
That comfort cruel men,
From sale and profanation
Of honour and the sword,
From sleep and from damnation,
Deliver us, good Lord.
Tie in a living tether

The prince and priest and thrall,
Bind all our lives together,
Smite us and save us all;
In ire and exultation
Aflame with faith, and free,
Lift up a living nation,
A single sword to thee.

- G.K. Chesterton

Georg Ratzinger Appreciation Society I

A couple of days ago at Mass, during the bidding prayers, I thought I heard the priest pray for the Pope, and then again for his full return to health. Well, that was like a bucket of cold water. Some quick checking online proved that it was the Pope's brother that was in hospital. Which was in one way a relief, and in another way made me think that it was time to get round to starting the GRAS. A preliminary step being this post. Click on the title for an interview with the Monsignor.

I can't find the picture of him looking dischuffed at the inauguration Mass.

Saturday, September 10, 2005


Further to this post: one of the teaspoons was actually sitting forgotten in my room. Mea culpa.

Cricketing interlude


Come on, chaps. 224-1. That's just silly.

(I disagree with the Nats who think Scots shouldn't support any English teams. There isn't much point supporting the Scottish cricket team to the exclusion of the English, is there now?)

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Who is the chap in white?

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Pope story

Everyone's got one...

On the Thursday when the Holy Father arrived in Köln, Juventutem had had a votive Mass of the translation of the relics of the Magi in Maria Hilf Kirche in Köln, some classic Juventutem aimless wandering about at lunchtime, and vespers (confusingly at two o'clock). This was followed by much ambling about in an attempt to find a good spot from which to watch the Pope, chant 'Be-ne-DET-to,' jump up and down over-excitedly, etc etc. Predictably the group got somewhat split up. A largish segment of it ended up near where the Pope was due to land on the bank of the Rhine, waiting to get through a security tent and stand nearer his path. The queue was moving so slowly that most Juventutem Anglophones were about to find a pub with a decent television instead, when the call went up that they were letting women through first, so I joined the fray. After being thoroughly searched (the policewoman looking pretty unimpressed with my lunch and the amount of junk in my bag), I found myself a few metres away from the path the Pope was meant to walk up; but there were only about five Juventutem people who hung about for long enough to stand there. Boats kept going up and down the Rhine, to our increasing excitement; something involving Cardinal Lehmann was being piped through speakers. Eventually, eventually Benedict's own voice was heard. The five-language speech he gave was predictably humbling, pointing out to us, in its emphasis on the journey towards Christ, that Our Lord, not His vicar, was the one to get excited about. (Much shushing among the crowd as certain language groups chattered during the sections they didn't understand.) Eventually, eventually the Pope's boat passed on the Rhine, and a white figure holding up his arms could just be seen through the riverside trees. Everything notwithstanding, we applauded... Eventually, eventually, eventually the boat returned and he landed, and walked up towards the Dom, surrounded by his fortunate companions. But the press of the crowd was so great, and the height of Benedict so... not great... that even from our relatively close vantage point,all I saw was the little white hat bobbing up the path... Until he got further uphill, and turned round to wave at the crowd. And that was that.

I didn't say it was a very exciting pope story... Still, there he was. Ipse est Petrus.

Cardinal Meisner on Benedict XVI: 'He has the intelligence of twelve professors and is a pious as a child on the day of his first Communion.' (According to a review of a clutch of books about Benedict in last week's Catholic Herald.)

In lieu of more picturesque genuine memories, I have the delightful Benedykt: nasz nowy papiez (even my Polish can stretch to that), a book full of Pope pictures (and Polish text I can't understand) obtained for a mere £2.50-ish, and produced by a paper called Fakt. Berenike informs me that this is the equivalent of The Sun Big Book of the Pope. Well, if the Sun were to produce books about the Pope, I might be more kindly inclined towards it...

Boot-camp Rosary

This is, amusingly, what results when one of the splendid FSSP American seminarians leads a loud and rapid Angelus and Rosary while Juventutem Anglophones await the S-Bahn to Cologne. The quick-fire delivery and volume reached the point that,as, um, someone or other remarked (sorry not to credit this more exactly!), one expected the responses to go, 'Et concepit de Spiritu Sancto SIR YES SIR!!'

Post-holiday conundrums

Expensive, 'oil free', 'easily absorbed' facial sunblock still gives one spots after two weeks of slapping it on. Might as well stick with Boots' cheapest Factor 30, expect skin horror and avoid disappointment.

The only problem with lovely relaxing baths with complicated moisturising bubbly stuff is that it takes about as long to clean the bath afterwards as it did to bathe in the first place.

Vanishing teaspoons. Our house's teaspoons seem to be decreasing in number rapidly, a gallant band depleted by cruel fate. Why is communal living inimical to the stability of the teaspoon population? Similarly pencils in the context of any choir or orchestra. Pencils vanished so often and so completely in my college chapel that the choir stalls, I think, must have had some strange ability to absorb their constituent molecules.

(Or is that 'conundra'?!)

You try saying that in a history department in Britain...

'At this point we have to make clear that no philosophy of history can be genuine if the general philosophy it presupposes, and of which it is a part, does not recognize the existence of human free will (together with the other properties of the human person) and the existence of God: the consequence of these two truths being that human history implies a double kind of contingency, on the one hand with respect to the transcendent freedom of God, and on the other hand with respect to human free will as well as to natural accidents and vicissitudes.
'If we do not believe in the existence of human free will, we cannot understand how man can exert, as I mentioned above, a decisive influence on the mode or specific orientation of an historical change which is necessary in itself, or with regard to the accumulated needs it answers; and we cannot realize, either, that the historical necessity in question refers to a kind of general pattern which is, as a rule, undetermined and, so to speak, neutral with respect to what matters most to the hearts of men: whereas the mode, specific orientation or specific inspiration which depends on human freedom has to do with what has, for good or ill, the most direct impact on human persons and human societies.
'And if we do not believe in the existence of God, we shall not, of course, see history as governed by Him from above, and as continually modeled and remodeled by His eternal purposes, making up for the evil through which human free will spoils human history, and turning losses into greater gains. But then, if we do not look at history as at a tale told by an idiot, and if we try to work out a philosophy of history, we shall, in our effort to make history rational, transfer to it the very rationality which no longer belongs to to transcendent divine purposes; in other words, we shall transform these formerly divine purposes either into history's own inner purposes and dialectical requirements, or into "scientific" laws which shape its development with sheer necessity. It was the misfortune of the philosophy of history to have been advertised in the modern world by philosophers who were either the greatest falsifier in divinity, or utter atheists. Only a spurious philosophy of history could be elicited by them.'

'The Christian, because he is not of the world, will always be a foreigner in the world - I mean, in the world as separating itself from the Kingdom of God and shutting itself up in itself; he is incomprehensible to the world and inspires it with uneasiness and distrust. The world cannot make sense of the theological virtues. Theological faith, the world sees as a challenge, an insult, and a threat; it is by reason of their faith that it dislikes Christians, it is through their faith that they vanquish it; faith is enough to divide them from the world. Theological hope, the world does not see at all; it is simply blind to it. Theological charity, the world sees the wrong way; it misapprehends it, is mistaken about it. It confuses it with any kind of quixotic devotion to whatever human cause it may profit by. And thus does the world tolerate charity, even admire it - insofar as it is not charity, but something else. (And so is charity the secret weapon of Christianity.)
'In the last analysis, it is exceedingly hard for the world to acknowledge the fact that the Christian may simply be; it cannot make room for the existence of the Christian, except by virtue of some misunderstanding. If we really were what we are, and if the world knew us as we are, how pleased it would be to recognize it as its sacred obligation to mow us down, in self-defense....' .

Jacques Maritain, On the Philosophy of History (New York, 1957), pp.34-5, 148-149

Monday, September 05, 2005

[inarticulate noises]

Another chap going on about how universities should prepare you for real life, i.e. train you for work.

"We need an education system that will train the people the economy needs."
"What's the use of medieval history anyway?"

Sunday, September 04, 2005

How Berenike sees Benedict XVI...

Another brave mother

I wonder if St Gianna had a hand in this?


I just wrote a really long post about Juventutem, and Blogger has EATEN IT ALL!!!!!

Bah. Right. Well, I should get some photos tomorrow, so maybe can gear self up to reorder thoughts again. Sigh. Cup of tea time, I think.


Student leader says sensible things about indiscrimate distribution of contraceptives.

Via Scottish Christian news monitor.

Thanks be to God

for this beautiful day. This is a particularly pleasant thing to stroll around on a sunny morning before Mass. (It gives me some sympathy towards the whole labyrinth thing, but I still doubt that I'd manage to walk round the labyrinth without getting the giggles.)

Thomism (dark, presumably) blues

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Bit short of pictures round here, never a good thing that as I learned in three years of cutting tutors' reading lists to manageable size, so here we are.


Nostalgia. Melted my shoes to the heating pipe under the pew in front of me during the school carol concert the year after I left.

Mmmm, like the heels.

mmmmmmmmmm, I like these. In fact, having wasted all afternoon I will have to ave one or three to re-establish my sanguity of mind upon returning home from attending La Santa Messa, which I propose to do now.

Reader, I recommend this site. Which I think Boeciana told me about. To whom, incidentally, my heartfelt and appreciative chocolatey thanks for the fact that I will be able to settle my sefl mentally when I get home.

Is he really real?

Ole Duguid. If he isn't real, someone's had to make him up.

No more problems with London cafes?

They want tae take oor notes awa.

UN Program Rejects Abstinence Group for Criticizing Condoms

UN Program Rejects Abstinence Group for Criticizing Condoms
A Nigerian organization was denied admittance to a United Nations program that solicits volunteers because the organization's leader criticized condoms in the prevention of HIV on the African continent. The Action Family Foundation (AFF) was told that they are at odds with the UN's official position on AIDS prevention known as the ABC method which promotes abstinence, sexual fidelity and condom use. But the Friday Fax has learned that the UN program has granted admittance to several groups who are highly critical of abstinence and critical of the entire ABC approach. In an e-mail dated July 22, Dr. Emmanuel I.B. Okechukwu, president of AFF, was told his organization could not participate in the UN Volunteer's Online Volunteering service, which matches organizations with volunteers who can provide services from their own homes. Annika Diederich, who works for the UN Online Volunteers office in Bonn, Germany, wrote in the email that "UN policy, as you must be aware, clearly outlines an approach with balanced A B C components as the most effective tool in the fight against HIV/AIDS." Diederich said the UN Online Volunteers had "reservations about Action Family Foundation's position and information dissemination on the use of condoms as a legitimate method of HIV/AIDS prevention. UNV cannot endorse your criticism of condoms as voiced in your articles on the Abstinence Clearinghouse web site, for instance." In the offending article, found on the AfricaAbstinence.com website, Okechukwu argued that widespread condom distribution in Africa has resulted in a "sense of false security" and "subtly engenders sexual initiation/experimentation by young people who otherwise were abstinent, and emboldens the already sexually active into multiple sexual partnering." The result, he says, is "that [the] condom and the activities it engenders constitute the single most important factor promoting HIV spread around the world." But despite the insistence of UN Volunteers officials that groups admitted to their program cannot criticize any part of the ABC approach, several member groups are openly critical of the ABC approach in general and abstinence in particular. One such organization is the Voluntary Service Overseas. In a report on the 15th international conference on AIDS and HIV in Bangkok, the UK-based organization said that because of "gender" inequality "initiatives that promote ABC alone (Abstinence, Be faithful, Condom use) so heavily advocated by the US, are unlikely to be successful." A UN affiliated organization, the World Food Program, said that "For an alarming number of women, HIV prevention is not as simple as 'ABC,'". The Center for Reproductive Rights website features numerous criticisms of abstinence, including an article by a Dutch senator saying that the "US reproductive policy overseas has dangerous consequences for women" because it "over-emphasizes abstinence education." In an interview with the Friday Fax, Elise Bouvet, Online Volunteering Program Specialist, defended their rejection of the Nigerian group for their criticism of condoms while admitting organizations critical of abstinence and ABC. She said stopping the spread of AIDS is a "complex" issue. "To be critical of the ABC approach is fine -- to say that it's maybe not the best solution," Bouvet said. But the AFF's rejection of condoms was too dogmatic. The article by Okechukwu "is straightforward [in saying that condoms were] the thing responsible for the HIV increase in Africa. It's written like the single most important factor promoting HIV . . . around the world." That position means "you cannot dialog; it's not about criticism. It's . . . a very strict position." But Bouvet did acknowledge that many of the groups had been admitted to UN Volunteers early in the program's existence before admittance guidelines had been put firmly in place and she promised that a review of current member organizations was underway. "[W]e are working on revamping the website, reviewing the content and reviewing the criteria [for admission]. We will go group by group to see if the criteria still matches their policy [and to approach groups that are problematic or borderline]. We may have to re-contact Voluntary Service Oversees given the clearer policy on the website. I think you are right that we should treat all the same groups the same way. This is in the plans to review all the groups." An experienced UN observer told the Friday Fax "this is typical of the hypocrisy of the UN. They bend over backward for their ideological soul-mates and punish those they don't like." The Friday Fax will continue to monitor the situation.

From the Friday Fax of the Catholic Family & Human Rights Institute.
Did I ever write about that Scottish chap who told me he used to work for some publicly-funded sex ed thing, thinking that the folk in it were no doubt sincere and that perhaps one might get further by working with the sex ed thing rather than criticising it from outside, and who several times heard conversations in which the complete failure of the "more contraception" approach was acknowledged by these public servants, who however agreed that the main thing was to keep going.
There should be a question mark at the end of that, but it would look silly.

Scholasticism in Renfrewshire

Who is this Barrett chappie?

Are they taking the piss?

Chilling signs of pre-spin from the Neo-Cons (with the emphasis on Con).

Friday, September 02, 2005

homework help

I have to characterise the process of separation in the formation of the concept of being in classical philosophy of the existential version. As opposed to the process of abstraction in classical philosophy of the essentialist version. And then describe the concept of being as being in both of these versions. What are these questions talking about? Because you need the separation thing as well as abstraction, according to Thomas, (er, references later) (?ST I 85 i ad2, also something in the perihermeneas or whatever it's called) to get at being. And as for distinguishing the two versions: is it something to do with nominalism and realism?
And how many first principles are there anyway? Six seems like too many. Even five seems a lot.
Berenike, erudite and articulate philosopher.

What Living Scotland should have written in the Education Consultation

The essence of education does not consist in adapting a potential citizen to the conditions and interactions of social life, but first in making a man, and by this very fact in preparing a citizen.
Jacques Maritain, Education at the Crossroads, 1943.

Ratzinger vs the 'Unity Law'

"Every explanation of reality that cannot at the same time provide a meaningful and comprehensible basis for ethics necessarily remains inadequate. Now the theory of evolution, in the cases where people have tried to extend it to a 'philosophia universalis,' has in fact been used for an attempt at a new ethos based on evolution. Yet this evolutionary ethic that inevitably takes as its key concept the model of selectivity, that is, the struggle for survival, the victory of the fittest, successful adaptation, has little comfort to offer. Even when people try to make it more attractive in various ways, it ultimately remains a bloodthirsty ethic. Here, the attempt to distill rationality out of what is in itself irrational quite visibly fails. All this is of very little use for an ethic of universal peace, of practical love of one's neighbor, and of the necessary overcoming of oneself, which is what we need. "