This week will see the beginning of the month of November, the month in which the nation remembers those who died for this Country in all wars, but particularly the Great War 1914-18, and the 2nd World War 1939-45.
Some time ago I acquired a copy of a book, ‘Up the Line to Death. The War Poets 1914-1918’ being an anthology of poems selected by Brian Gardner, and first published by Methuen in 1964.
The following poem by Wilfred Owen epitomises the stark reality and obscenity of trench warfare in the Great War:-
Dulce et Decorum est
Bent double, like old beggars under sacks, Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge, Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs, And towards our distant rest began to trudge. Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots, But limped on, blood shod. All went lame, all blind; Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots Of gas-shells dropping softly behind.
Gas! Gas! Quick boys! – An ecstasy of fumbling, Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time, But someone still was yelling out and stumbling And floundering like a man in fire or lime.- Dim through the misty panes and thick green light, As under a green sea, I saw him drowning. In all my dreams, before my helpless sight, He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.
If in some smothering dreams, you too could pace Behind the wagon that we flung him in, And watch the white eyes writhing in his face, His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin; If you could hear at every jolt, the blood Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs, Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,- My friend, you would not tell with such high zest To children ardent for some desperate glory, The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est Pro patria mori.
Wilfred Owen - killed in action 1918
A week ago the English Parliament approved by a significant majority vote, the Human Tissue and Embryology Bill – otherwise known (to me) as the ‘Bill of Death’, which will allow virtually indiscriminate murder of, and grotesque experimentation on the human embryo, on the grounds of promoting scientific and medical knowledge. In medico/scientific circles it is acknowledged that medical research over several years on the human embryo has produced little or nothing, whereas over a much shorter period, the use of human stem cell research not involving the embryo, has been remarkably successful; yet this crucial fact apparently carried no weight with our politicians, particularly but not exclusively, those in the Labour and Liberal Democratic ranks. It seems that there is something seriously amiss here, almost a deliberate concealment of the failure of embryonic stem cell research, and a deliberate policy to ignore the success of alternative stem cell research. Theoretically this matter was fully aired and discussed in the Commons, but I wonder just how many of the MPs present were fully aware of all the relevant facts, especially as I suspect that those most prominent and vociferous in promoting the Bill, were seen as ‘experts’, from whom every pronouncement - for the benefit of the uninformed majority, assumed an almost Biblical significance. This misguided and intrinsically evil Bill appears to be Gordon Brown’s showpiece, which is why the Labour whip was imposed on all party members to vote for the Bill, and with a few creditable and honourable exceptions, this is exactly what happened. Nevertheless why was no serious credence attached to the proven merits of alternative stem cell research? The spectre of wounded scientific pride and ambition, of commercial and conglomerate interests and investment, of big money and fame, creates a grotesque backdrop to this nightmare scenario. Have the majority of our politicians been hoodwinked and blinded by the assurances of the ‘experts’, assurances which are not commensurate with rapidly accumulating evidence that the best way ahead, medically and scientifically, is through morally acceptable stem-cell research? You may ask what has this to do with the Great War. Well it occurs to me to ask myself what those who gave their lives would have said, if they had known that within a few generations, their fellow countrymen- in the persons of elected Members of Parliament, would acquiesce without any apparent qualms of conscience, in the ‘legalised’ slaughter of probably millions of innocent unborn children, and this does not include the more than 7 million killed since the Abortion Act 1967. Those who fought and died for their country, ultimately did so for the benefit of future generations. This ‘Bill of Death’ makes a mockery of their patriotic and commonly spiritual idealism, their bravery, and their ultimate sacrifice. They did not want to die, but they did, some 880,000 of them, with a further 1.6 million wounded. The Human Embryo & Fertility Bill represents the antithesis of all that they suffered and died for, and must surely be opposed in every lawful way and at every opportunity, by all right-minded people.
The mood of the poets of the Great War seems to range from idealism and patriotism in the early months, a more stoical realism in the middle years, and anger and despair tinged with desperate hope, in the final stages. Wilfred Owen's poem, ‘Dulce et Decorum est’ as above, describes the horror of gas warfare, and Philip Johnstone’s ‘High Wood’, seen below, offers a cynical appraisal of man’s potential to exploit his fellow men for his own selfish ends, even to the extent of commercialising the ‘ultimate sacrifice’- which surely brings us back to the Human Embryo and Fertility Bill - the Bill of Death!
Ladies and gentlemen, this is High Wood, Called by the French, Bois de Furneaux, The famous spot which in Nineteen-Sixteen, July, August and September was the scene Of long and bitterly contested strife, By reason of its High commanding site. Observe the effect of shell-fire in the trees Standing and fallen; here is wire; this trench For months inhabited, twelve times changed hands; (They soon fall in), used later as a grave. It has been said on good authority That in the fighting for this patch of wood Were killed somewhere above eight thousand men, Of whom the greater part were buried here, This mound on which you stand being………. Madam, please,
You are requested kindly not to touch Or take away the Company’s property As souvenirs; you’ll find we have on sale A large variety, all guaranteed. As I was saying, all is as it was, This is an unknown British officer, The tunic having lately rotted off. Please follow me - this way ........ the path, sir, please,
The ground which was secured at great expense The Company keeps absolutely untouched, And in that dug-out (genuine) we provide Refreshments at a reasonable rate. You are requested not to leave about Paper, or ginger-beer bottles, or orange-peel, There are waste-paper baskets at the gate.
Philip Johnstone 1918
In this month of the Holy Souls and particularly on Remembrance Sunday, we pray for the repose of the souls of all those Servicemen and women who gave their lives; 'Eternal rest give unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May they rest in peace. Amen.'
We also pray that with God's grace, our Country will once again recognise the Kingship of Christ and abide by His laws. ‘Our Lady, Help of Christians, pray for us.’
As a zealous pro-lifer, I have been following the Presidential campaign in the USA with increasing concern, although it has to be said that as we live in Orkney my information comes mainly from the internet, and the rest from the Daily Telegraph. However it seems to me that the media, when reporting on events in the current Presidential campaign, rarely, if ever, mention the issue of abortion. There seems to be a conspiracy of silence, all the more surprising considering that abortion represents one of today’s greatest, moral and physical threats to humanity (more than 48.5 million abortions recorded in the USA alone since 1973), and which issue, according to many Catholic commentators, may well determine the identity of the next President. Abortion is a political ‘hot potato’, and it would seem that the media prefer to ignore it, and somehow pretend that it doesn’t exist. In this context it is uncanny how world events seem to have played into the hands of the pro-abortionists. We have had a major fall in the value of the world’s Stock Markets, closure and nationalisation of Banks, international seizure of assets, increasing likelihood of a world recession, all of which have currently taken centre stage in world news and affairs. From reports on and in the media, it appears that economic and financial matters have become the ‘be and end all’ of political debate and action. In the Presidential contest, McCain is generally backed by the pro-life lobby, and Obama by the pro-abortion. On the abortion issue, with several million pro-life votes assured, McCain surely holds the aces, and the pre- election debates would seem to have been the right time to play these cards. Unbelievably, virtually nothing seems to have happened and the issue appears to have been effectively ignored. The world monetary crisis has resulted in major moral issues such as abortion, human cloning, etc. being put on the political and media back-burner. It seems that Mammon is more important than God, and more newsworthy. This situation must have suited Obama very well, for with his past pro-abortion record, he was surely on a hiding to nothing in any public debate on this issue, but it didn’t happen. Similarly in the UK, Gordon Brown rather like a phoenix arising from the ashes, has suddenly found himself the saviour of the UK banking and monetary system. The current financial crisis has played into his hands, from being in the 'chorus' a few weeks ago, he now finds himself a star celebrity on the world stage. As ex-Chancellor, money is what he knows about, and money is what makes the world go round. In our materialistic society, nominally Christian but effectively pagan, particularly in the current political arena, Christian morality is fighting for survival. Gordon Brown’s current political baby, the ‘Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill’, if finally approved by Parliament this coming week (October 22nd), will introduce legislation which is evil, unjust and totally atheistic. Official abortion figures in the UK are rising annually, with 193,700 recorded in 2006. This Bill goes further than existing legislation, totally rejecting traditional Christian belief and values, and replacing them with a poisoned chalice of death and destruction, blaspheming God and His creation, shaming and demeaning mankind, and leading souls to perdition.Gordon Brown and his supporters, whether misguided or not, are playing God. There is still time to stop, to reflect on the omnipotence of God and the frailty and limitations of man. Lucifer (the angel of light), in his pride and arrogance, challenged God, inevitably lost and was cast into Hell, together with his legions, for all eternity. All men and women of goodwill (God’s will) who oppose this Bill, will continue to fight the evil that it represents. We know from Christ’s resurrection, that finally and inevitably Good will triumph over Evil, life over death. In Christ’s own words, “Our Father, Who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name, Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven …….” Christus vincit, Christus regnat, Christus imperat.
Autumn is here and it is time to arise from summer torpor! First I must mention the ‘Pro Papa League’, with its papal fleet, assembled to do spiritual battle for the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVIth, with weapons of prayer and penance. Since the ‘Motu Proprio’(2007), the Holy Father has met with widespread and often barely concealed hostility from certain Catholic leaders, from whom he could reasonably have expected loyalty and obedience. Recently there have been signs of a certain mellowing in attitude, and slowly but perceptibly more and more Bishops are following our Holy Father’s instruction to facilitate the re-introduction of the traditional Latin Mass in dioceses, parishes, and seminaries throughout the world. Many believe, as I do, that the freedom to celebrate this dignified and beautiful ‘Mass of all time’, will significantly revitalise and deepen appreciation of our Catholic faith, will keep many in the Church who might otherwise have strayed, and bring back many lost sheep to the fold, with a corresponding increase in vocations to the priesthood and religious life. This is truly encouraging, but there is much still to be done. Daphne McLeod, see Catholic Action UK , has recently published a report in which she places the blame for the current Church crisis on a failure to teach the truths of the Catholic faith to generations of Catholic children, with poor and inadequate catechesis in both school and pulpit. She holds the view that simultaneously with the introduction of the Novus Ordo Mass, Catholic catechesis was programmed to accommodate the 'new' liberal and modernist ethos, and it is as a result of this that the Church is in such a critical state. Speaking as a parent, I believe that the 'ecumenical' practice of joint Catholic/Church of England schools has proved spiritually disastrous for our Catholic children. I can only relate to the period of the late 1970’s early 1980’s, when two of my sons attended such a school, and unfortunately by the time the reality became known, great damage had been done. Things might have improved over the years, although personally and from what Daphne McLeod says, I rather doubt it. Ignorance of basic Catholic doctrine and practice, false ecumenism, modernism and liberalism, provide a recipe for loss of faith and separation from God. Couple this with weak leadership, Protestantised and un-Catholic liturgical practice, closure of seminaries and churches, role-disorientated clergy and religious, lack of priests, and much else besides, we arrive at the grave situation in which we find ourselves today. Bishop O’Donaghue’s recent ‘Fit for Mission - Schools’ promotes the ideal of true Catholic schools, where the Catholic faith and worship has absolute place of honour, and where a full and true grounding in the Faith would be assured for all the children. Similarly the follow-up to this, ‘Fit for Mission-Parishes’, was a no-nonsense, no holds barred, analysis of what it means to be a true Catholic. No liberal waffle, no blurred definitions, no sociological jargon, but a demand that we take a truthful, critical look at ourselves, and that if we honestly wish to be true Catholics, we must accept and obey God’s commandments and those of His Church. It means that we must take up our Cross in the one true Church, for which over the centuries many brave and loyal Catholic men and women, priests, religious and layfolk, have given their lives. In the words of Bishop O’Donaghue, ‘let us pray for courageous and outspoken Shepherds of the Flock’, true to the tradition and teaching of the Church, and loyal to the Holy Father, who will lead the Church out of this sterile winter into a fertile spring of blossoming faith and spiritual renewal. Please consider adding your support to the aims of the Pro Papa League.
I cannot finish without reference to the following slogan which was shown on an American pro-life blog site, and with thanks to that site:- “Unborn children should have the same right to be born alive, as had abortionists " - this is an undisputable truth which should beimprinted in the minds and consciences of all those who support abortion, in particular our MPs. My own Member of Parliament supports legalised abortion on (quote) ‘pragmatic’ grounds, yet he is proud of the work that he has done to promote laws guaranteeing ‘equal rights’ and ‘social justice’, particularly for minority rights. He appears blind to the absolute injustice of abortion, where the unborn is denied the right to be born alive. In the USA, ‘abortion’ is a major political issue, with the Republicans led by Sen. John McCain and Gov. Sarah Palin, supporting the ‘pro-life, anti-abortion’ lobby, and the Democrats led by Sen. Barack Obama and Sen. Joseph Biden, promoting the ‘pro- abortion' lobby.
Whatever we might think about the American electoral system, it has to be admitted that the American people generally do not seem to be afraid to be publicly associated with moral and ethical issues, and very many are prepared to speak out loud and clear against the evil of abortion. ‘Abortion’ may well be the dominant issue determining the next President of the USA. We must all pray that good will prevail over evil, as we must also for our own country, where in Parliament the debate continues on the Human Fertility and Embryo Bill, in which so far this Government has proved itself anti-God, anti-Catholic, unethical, and totally materialistic. I wonder if a change of Government would promote a Christian pro-life agenda, we do not know, but we must continue to pray and work for this cause.
These two recent offerings from Paul Nichols say more than a thousand words, and reflect only too well the real and deadly threat of the ‘pro-abortion’ lobby. Grateful thanks to Paul Nichols, Catholic Cartoon Blog, for permission to reproduce his work.
Prayer for the beatification of Bishop Richard Challoner, Bishop of Debra, Vicar Apostolic of the London District 1758-1781. O God, who didst make thy servant Richard a true and faithful pastor of thy little flock in England, deign to place him among the Blessed in Thy Church, so that we who profit by his word and example, may beg his help in heaven for the return of this land to the ancient faith, and to the fold of the one true Shepherd, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Slightly frayed around the edges and still trying to pretend that I'm not really as old as that! I thank God for all my blessings, particularly my Catholic faith; my wife a 'pearl of great price'; my children and grandchildren; my friends; our dog Dartmoor; and our good neighbours and spiritual mentors, the F.SS.R community from Papa Stronsay.