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Wednesday, 12 December 2012

'Euthanasia' - the slippery slope of evil


"Euthanasia 'trivialized' in Belgium: report by European Institute of Bioethics"  -   Michael Cook,  'BioEdge'. 

Belgium legalised euthanasia in 2002, with a law containing strict controls to protect the vulnerable.  The Belgium-based European Institute of Bioethics has just released a study of the experience of ten years of euthanasia. It claims that the results are far from encouraging.
This is the text of the law in English, and this is the English translation of the IEB study.

The central theme of the report is the ineffectiveness and bias of the body - established by the legislation, to allay the misgivings of the public by monitoring and controlling euthanasia. After 10 years and about 5,500 cases, not one case has ever been referred to the police. It is illusory, says the IEB, to expect doctors to denounce their own failings.

Furthermore, nearly half of the statutory 16-member Commission for Control and Assessment are members or associates of the leading Belgian right-to-die society.
This is sufficient to explain, according to the IEB, “the absence of any effective control and the ever-widening interpretation which the Commission intends to give the law”.
A law which permits euthanasia is bad enough, the IEB suggests, but the government is not even enforcing its application.

“As is the case in all penal laws, this law has to be strictly interpreted lest (failing this),  it be seen as stripped of any substance. It is not for the Commission, appointed to control and assess the law, to provide an ever-widening interpretation of its terms, with this going so far as to negate the initial spirit of the text and of doing away with the control of decisive legal criteria.”

As a result, there are on-going abuses in several areas. Here are a few of those which the EIB singles out for criticism:-

•A written declaration of a desire for euthanasia is required, either by the patient or a surrogate. However, the Commission often waives this obligation.

•Initially patients had to have a life-threatening and incurable illness. Nowadays, the illness need only be serious and debilitating
•The pain is supposed to be unbearable, unremitting and unrelievable. However, a patient can refuse medication to relieve the pain. The Commission, says the IEB, has “decided not to carry out its mission - so central to the law - of verifying the unbearable and unrelievable nature of the suffering”.

•The ambit of “psychological suffering” is ever-expanding.

•Doctor-assisted suicide is not authorised by 2002 legislation. However, the Commission has ignored this and regularly signs off on such cases.

•If a patient is to be euthanased at home, the doctor himself is supposed to fetch the lethal medications at a pharmacy from a registered pharmacist and to return left-over drugs. In practice, family members often get the drugs; unqualified personnel hand them over; and no checks have ever been made about surplus drugs.

Some of the consequences of the absence of any real control of the implementation of the law:-

The trivialization of euthanasia.
Initially legalized under very strict conditions, euthanasia has gradually become a very normal and even ordinary act to which patients are deemed “to have a right”.
In the face of certain high profile cases, the evident relaxation of the very strict conditions has caused many reactions, but also a total absence of any sanctions on the part of the Commission and a very conciliatory silence from the political establishment, has given rise to a feeling of impunity on the part of some concerned medical practitioners, and to a feeling of powerlessness in those
worried about where things are leading.

Changing attitudes also concern confusion of terminology.
There is no real need to make a distinction between passive euthanasia and active euthanasia in view of the fact that it is the criterion of intentionally killing a person which is decisive. Consequently, neither halting disproportionate medical treatment nor palliative sedation, which only aims to alleviate pain, is considered as constituting euthanasia. And yet, the idea that euthanasia is an option afforded within the confines of palliative care referred to as 'integrated care', continues to gain ground. This shows the extent of the misunderstanding of what is actually concerned by the term “palliative care” which does not consist in deciding the day and the manner in which death should take place, but to accept this eventuality when it occurs, while at the same time ensuring that care is taken to provide the patient and his/her entourage with comprehensive care and pain management. By its very nature, palliative care does not include any form of euthanasia.

'If thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought'
George Orwell

A further associated ethical matter :

Organ donation
The confusion tends to become more wide‐spread as a further step has, on several occasions, been taken from euthanasia to immediate organ harvesting, with a view to transplantation. Indeed there is a new practice of accompanying a request for euthanasia with a form for organ donation to be filled out by the patient.To what extent does this possibility risk weighing on the decision taken by a patient who thinks that their existence is worthless?
Does the patient still meet the conditions required by the law – i.e. without any external pressure – in order to formulate a request for euthanasia, when he/ she is invited at the same time to agree to organ donation ? By suggesting that the patient’s organs would be more useful to someone else, does this not belie a form of utilitarianism?

Has the debate been hijacked?
By 'end of life' doctors and 'right to die with dignity' proponents, who control and influence legislation and the practical application thereof.

Risks of serious transgression.
In some cases where the patient is deemed not to be able to discern matters for him/herself as required for an informed request for euthanasia, because of his/her young age or mental deficiency, the medical teams appear to invoke 'a case of necessity'.
Authorizing the medical team to invoke a 'case of necessity', thereby justifying euthanasia beyond all the conditions provided for by the law, gives the medical team arbitrary and uncontrollable power. Far from strengthening the patient’s rights, since theyare not in a position to give consent, recourse to a 'state
of necessity' gives the medical profession enhanced
powers of decision over life and death issues concerning
the most vulnerable patients. Besides dialogue with
close family members, how is one to assess the degree
of “necessity” invoked and to ensure that the patient’s
interests always come first ? Do not such practices not
bear witness to a form of abdication on the part of the
medical sector when faced with certain pathologies?
'The law shall obey its own nature and not the will of the legislators, and it shall inevitably bear the fruit we have sown in it'
G.K. Chesterton

N.B.  The report notes the recent appeal by the Council of Europe's parliamentary Assembly in favour of an absolute ban on euthanasia.  


I  have this horrible feeling that the more I learn of this type of legislation, the more I become sub-consciously hardened to the evil that it espouses. I totally abhor it, and yet constantly  reading and hearing about it  and knowing that such evil is brazenly advocated and practised, seems to numb that innate sense of horror and anger that arises in me.  I think that this 'anaesthetizing of evil' is deadly dangerous, for inevitably over time, evil will no longer be recognised as such, becoming  commonplace and even the norm in society. A classic example of this is the UK Abortion Act which whilst enacted with  stringent rules and conditions, has over time,  been manipulated by certain medical, scientific, and commercial interests,  to effectively allow  'abortion on demand'. Constantly we hear demands that 'assisted suicide' and euthanasia should be legalised, and should either of these, together with the aberrant 'same-sex marriage' proposals become enshrined in law, our society will be engulfed in a sea of immorality, in which without God's grace, we will surely perish. Thank God for our holy Catholic faith, our priests and religious, our churches and our Sacraments, which offer solace, hope and strength to suffering souls. 
 "Come to Me all you who labour and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My burden light."  
       This is Jesus's invitation and promise to all people, in all ages, until the end of the world.

  'Take and eat; this is my body' (Mathew 26:26) 
 'Unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood, you shall not have life in you'  (John 6: 53-56)


Friday, 9 November 2012

'Don't hurt Jesus, He loves you' - Fr William Doyle S.J.


                                             Remembrance Sunday
                       Laying wreaths at the Cenotaph - November 2010

                                                                                  (photo Creative Commons)
This coming weekend will see the annual Remembrance Sunday Commemorations, and  it is salutary to remind ourselves that in World War 1, a total of 1,115,600 servicemen from Great Britain and the Colonies died  for their country, and in World War 2, a further 384,000 gave their lives. Added to these are the many thousands who have died for their country in subsequent hostilities in Palestine, Malaya, Korea, Kenya, Falklands, Iraq, Afghanistan, N Ireland, and other areas of conflict. The vast majority of those who died were young men and women, who did not want war and certainly did not want to die, but accepted that for the world to have peace, the ultimate price might have to be paid.

“Eternal rest give unto them O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May they rest in peace”
Mary, Mother of God and Mother of mercy, pray for us and for all those who have died in the horrors of war”


My wife owns an excellent book, ‘Father William Doyle S.J.’ by Alfred O’Rahilly, a biography first published in 1920 by Longmans, Green & Co. –  this edition 1936.

Father Doyle was born in Dublin in 1873 and died on the ‘Western Front’ at the battle of Ypres in 1917.
The book is an absorbing account of this holy priest’s life, beautifully written and eminently readable. At this time of year I inevitably think of this courageous and inspirational Irish priest,  whose faith, bravery and devotion to his men on the field of battle, was truly outstanding.                        

                                  Father William Doyle S.J. - Army Chaplain

The following passage is from a letter of General Hickie, written to a friend on 18th November, 1917:-

 “Fr Doyle was one of the best priests I have ever met, and one of the bravest men who have fought or worked out here.  He did his duty, and more than his duty, most nobly, and has left a memory and a name behind him that will never be forgotten. On the day of his death, 16th August, he had worked in the front line, and even in front of that line, and appeared to know no fatigue – he never knew fear.  He was killed by a shell towards the close of the day, and was buried on the Frezenberg Ridge. ……….  He was recommended for the Victoria Cross by his Commanding Officer, by his Brigadier, and by myself.  Superior Authority, however, has not granted it, and as no other posthumous reward is given, his name will, I believe, be mentioned in the Commander-in-Chief’s Despatch. …..  I can say without boasting that this is a Division of brave men; and even among these, Fr Doyle stood out.”.
  Possibly the fact that he was an Irish Roman Catholic priest influenced the decision of the ‘Superior Authority’. Beyond the tributes of this world, numerous favours and cures have been attributed to his intercession, and to the use of his relics.


This biography includes many incidents in Fr Doyle’s life which reveal his extraordinary charity.
One such event, originally published in the ‘Irish Messenger of the Sacred Heart’ in August 1931, is included in Appendix IV of the book, and is reproduced below.

‘Snatched from the brink’

             ‘A telegram for you, Father,” said the Sister, laying the envelope on the table. Father Doyle looked up from his writing with a smile. “Thank you Sister” he said, “I was expecting one.”
            Having finished the letter he was writing, Father Doyle opened the telegram placed by his side. As he read it a slightly puzzled look passed across his face. He thought for a moment, and picking up a railway guide, studied it. Then he crossed to the electric bell and pressed the button.
            “Sister” he said, when the Lay Sister appeared, “I wonder could I see Reverend Mother for a moment.” “Certainly Father, I’ll get her at once” was the answer.
            In a few moments Reverend Mother entered the room. “Mother” said Father Doyle, “I have just got a telegram from my Provincial telling me to return to Dublin by the first available train, as I am to cross to England this evening. I find I shall have time to give the Community the last lecture of the Retreat, if I may give it now. I’m sure the Parish Priest will say Mass for you tomorrow in my place and give you Benediction.”
            “Of course Father, we can have the lecture at once,” said Reverend Mother, “but I am sorry you have to rush off like this. Were you expecting this news?” “No indeed,” replied Father Boyle. “I was expecting a telegram it is true, but not from the Provincial, nor with an invitation to take a trip to England. Perhaps the Provincial thinks I want a little rest and is sending me to Blackpool for a week,” he added with a laugh.  
            A couple of hours later the Limited Mail was carrying Father Doyle swiftly to Dublin, which was reached well up to time.           

           "Here I am, Father,” he said, as he entered the Provincial’s room, “ready for marching orders.”
           “Well,“ replied the Provincial with a smile, “your marching orders are to go to prison! Here is a telegram I got this morning from England, from the Governor of D…. Prison.  ‘Please send Father William Doyle SJ, to D….. Prison. Woman to be executed tomorrow asks to see him.’ “ Can you throw any light on the summons?” Father Doyle shook his head. “No” he said, “I don’t know of any of my friends who are going to be hanged!” “Well,” said the Provincial, “in any case you had better go. You will just have time to catch the night boat for Holyhead. You will get to D….. at 5 a.m., and you will have time to see this poor woman before she is executed.”
           Day was dawning when Father Doyle reached D….. Prison.  He was shown at once to the office of the Governor, who welcomed him courteously. “It was good of you sir” he said, “to come all this way at such short notice. This poor woman has been asking for you earnestly, and it will comfort her to see you.”
          “But,” said Father Doyle, “the whole thing is a mystery to me. Who is this woman, and why does she want to see me?” “Her name is Fanny Cranbush,” was the answer. “She is a girl of the unfortunate class who was convicted for her part in that poison case you may have seen in the papers. When brought here after her trial, she was asked in the usual way if she would like to see some minister of religion. She replied that she had no religion and had no need of priest or parson. A few days ago, however, she sent for me and said she had changed her mind and would like to see a certain priest.
           ‘What is his name?’ I asked. ‘I don’t know.’ ‘But how can I get you a priest whose name and address you don’t know? Can you give me any information at all about him?’ ‘All I can tell you,’ she replied, ‘is that this priest was in Y…. about two years ago. I was told he was from Ireland and was giving what is called a Mission in a church there. For God’s sake get him for me. I want to see him so much before I die.’ ‘I’ll do my best of course,’ I said, ’and perhaps I shall be able to find him for you.’
           “I at once got into communication with the police of Y….., and inquiries were made at the different churches of the place, if a clergyman from Ireland had given a Retreat or Mission there a couple of years previously. The address of your Superior was obtained and the telegram sent him that has brought you here.”
           “I’m still in the dark” said Father Doyle. “Well” replied the Governor, “I’ll take you to her, and she will be able to clear matters up, doubtless. There are some hours yet before the execution takes place, and if you wish, you may stay with her to the end. Will you please come with me,sir.”
           The Governor led the way up two flights of stairs and down a long corridor, at the end of which he stopped before a cell, and producing a bunch of keys, unlocked the door. “This is her cell, sir,” he said, “and I shall leave you alone with her.” Then beckoning to the warder on guard inside to leave, he stepped back and let the priest enter.
               Father Doyle saw a girl still in the twenties, sitting with bowed head on the edge of a narrow bed. As he came towards her, she looked up with a drawn, weary face. But next instant her look was transformed as she sprang to her feet, exclaiming: “Oh, Father, thank God, you are come!”
            “I’m glad I’ve come, my child,” said Father Doyle, as he took her by the hand and led her to a chair. “And now you must tell me why you have sent for me. Have we ever met before?” “Yes Father, but of course you don’t remember. Two years ago you stopped me in the street in Y…... I was a bad girl, have been all my life, and was out on my work of sin.

           You said to me, ‘My child, aren’t you out very late? Won’t you go home? Don’t hurt Jesus. He loves you.’ You said this so gently, so appealingly, and then you gave me a look that seemed to go right through me.”


                       Father Doyle nodded. “I remember,” he said half to himself, “I had been hearing confessions late that night and was on my way home.”
          “Your look and words stunned me,” went on the girl. ”I actually turned back, and went home in a dazed state. All that night I lay awake. The words: ‘Don’t hurt Jesus, He loves you,’ kept ringing in my ear. Had I hurt Jesus, did He love me? Who was He? I knew very little about Him. I had had little schooling and less religion. I had never prayed, I had never been baptized. Mother told me that before she died. Yet, ’Don’t hurt Jesus, He loves you,…’ seemed to find an echo in my heart. I felt He was in some way within me.
            I saw you once again Father, after that night. I was with another girl and you passed on the other side of the street. ‘Who is that clergyman?’ I asked my companion. ‘I hear he is from Ireland,’ she replied ,’and is giving a Mission or something here.’
            For weeks after that I kept off the streets, but then want and hunger drove me out again. I sank lower and lower, until now I am to be hanged. I came here hard, defiant and unrepentant, and wanted to have nothing to do with priest or parson. Then one day your words came back to me. ‘Don’t hurt Jesus, He loves you.’              

           Something seemed to snap within me and I wept – the first time for many years. I felt changed, softened, and there came a great longing to see you and to learn more about Jesus. Now that you have come, won’t you tell me more about Him? Won’t you set my feet on the road that goes to Him?” 
          “Do you mean my child, that you wish to know about the one True Faith, that you want to become a Catholic?” “Yes Father, I do, with all my heart.”
           The essential articles of faith were quickly explained and drunk in with eagerness by a soul that thirsted for the truth. Then the waters of baptism were poured for the first time upon her head, and all the wicked past was washed away.

           “I shall leave you now for a while, my child,” said Father Doyle. “I am going to try to get permission and the requisites for Mass here, when I shall give you Jesus in Holy Communion.”
            Father Doyle hurried off to the nearest Catholic Church, and without much difficulty obtained the necessary leave and outfit for saying Mass.  A tiny altar was erected in the cell, and Fanny heard her first and last Mass and received her God for the first and last time. She refused the breakfast offered her.  “I have just eaten the Bread of Life,” she said with her smiling thanks.
              As she walked to the scaffold with Father Doyle beside her, she whispered to him, “I am so happy, Father! Jesus knows that I am sorry for having hurt Him, and I know that Jesus loves me.”

           A moment later and Fanny Cranbush, with her baptismal robe unspotted, was in the arms of Jesus


On 19th October, 2008,  I posted briefly about Father William Doyle S.J., on the ‘whitesmokeahoy’ blog.  (see link below)

Father William Doyle S.J. (1873-1917)
After this appeared I received a communication from a lady in the south of England, to say that she was in possession of an army overcoat which she believed to have belonged at one time to Father Doyle. She further stated that her father had worn it throughout various military campaigns of World War II, and had attributed his survival to the protection of Father Doyle.
Certainly, numerous favours and cures were attributed to Father Doyle’s intercession after his death, and many are listed in the book


For those who would like to learn more about this brave and holy priest, I recommend the following website dedicated to his life and memory. 

      Memorial window, St Finnians Church, Dromin, Co. Louth


  “Another very severe pain for the holy souls is caused by the thought that, during life, God showed them so many special mercies not shown to others, after they had by their sins compelled Him to hate them, and to condemn them to hell.  He, nevertheless, through His pure mercy, pardoned and saved them.”
(Daily thoughts from St Alphonsus - November 9th)


Tuesday, 9 October 2012

The Orthodox Barber by G.K.Chesterton

The following sketch was one of many written by G.K. Chesterton in the early 1900’s, and published in the ‘Daily News’ national newspaper. They were subsequently printed in book form by Sheed and Ward, New York, in 1955, under the title ‘Tremendous Trifles’.
                Gilbert Keith (G.K.) Chesterton (1874 - 1936)
When reading this particular article, written more than one hundred years ago, it is interesting to note how the author’s observations  apply equally to today’s world as it did then.  I don't only mean this in the context of his obvious affection, respect, and understanding of people generally, but also the spiritual realities  which he recognises in man’s fallen nature:- 
       “ but every now and then men jump up with the new something or other, and say that everything can be had without sacrifice, that bad is good if you are only enlightened, and that there is no real difference between being shaved and not being shaved.  The difference, they say, is only a difference of degree; everything is evolutionary and relative.”  
       Sounds rather familiar -  but do read for yourself!
                                 The Orthodox Barber

Those thinkers who cannot believe in any gods often assert that the love of humanity would be in itself sufficient for them; and so perhaps it would, if they had it. There is a very real thing which may be called the love of humanity; in our time it exists almost entirely among what are called uneducated people; and it does not exist at all among the people who talk about it.

       A positive pleasure in being in the presence of any other human being is chiefly remarkable, for instance, in the masses on Bank Holiday; that is why they are so much nearer Heaven  (despite appearances) than any other part of our population.

       I remember seeing a crowd of factory girls getting into an empty train at a wayside country station. There were about twenty of them; they all got into one carriage; and they left all the rest of the train entirely empty. That is the real love of humanity. That is the definite pleasure in the immediate proximity of one’s own kind. Only, this coarse, rank, real love of men seems to be entirely lacking in those who propose the love of humanity as a substitute for all other love; honourable, rationalistic idealists.

       I can well remember the explosion of human joy which marked the sudden starting of that train; all the factory girls who could not find seats  (and they must have been the majority),  relieving their feelings by jumping up and down.       
       Now I have never seen any rationalistic idealists do this. I have never seen twenty modern philosophers crowd into one third-class carriage for the mere pleasure of being together. I have never seen twenty Mr. McCabes  all  in one carriage and all jumping up and down.
       Some people express a fear that vulgar trippers will overrun all beautiful places, such as Hampstead or Burnham Beeches. But their fear is unreasonable; because trippers always prefer to trip together; they pack as close as they can; they have a suffocating passion of philanthropy

Saint Elias Ardounis - 'Orthodox' Patron Saint of Barbers
      But among the minor and milder aspects of the same principle, I have no hesitation in placing the problem of the colloquial barber.  Before any modern man talks with authority about loving men, I insist (I insist with violence) that he shall always be very much pleased when his barber tries to talk to him.  His barber is humanity: let him love that. If he is not pleased at this, I will not accept any substitute in the way of interest in the Congo or in the future of Japan.  If a man cannot love his barber whom he has seen, how shall he love the Japanese whom he has not seen?

      It is urged against the barber that he begins by talking about the weather; so do all dukes and diplomatists, only that they talk about it with ostentatious fatigue and indifference, whereas the barber talks about it with an astonishing, nay incredible, freshness of interest. It is objected to him that he tells people that they are going bald. That is to say, his very virtues are cast up against him; he is blamed because, being a specialist, he is a sincere specialist, and because, being a tradesman, he is not entirely a slave. But the only proof of such things is by example; therefore I will prove the
excellence of the conversation of barbers by a specific case.       
       Lest anyone should accuse me of attempting to prove it by fictitious means, I beg to say quite seriously that though I forget the exact language employed, the following conversation between me and a human (I trust) living barber, really took place a few days ago.

                            Mediaeval barber's shop

       I had been invited to some ‘At Home’ to meet the Colonial Premiers, and lest I should be mistaken for some partly reformed bush-ranger out of the interior of Australia, I went into a shop in the Strand to get shaved.
       While I was undergoing the torture,  the man said to me:    
      “There seems to be a lot in the papers about this new shaving, sir. It seems you can shave yourself with anything – with a stick or a stone or a pole or a poker” (here I began for the first time to detect a sarcastic intonation) “or a shovel or a –".
       Here he hesitated for a word, and I, although I knew nothing about the matter, helped him out with suggestions in the same rhetorical vein.
       “Or a button-hook,” I said, “or a blunderbuss or a battering ram or a piston- rod –“
        He resumed, refreshed with this assistance, “Or a curtain rod or a candle-stick, or
a –“
       “Cow-catcher,” I suggested eagerly, and we continued in this ecstatic duet for some time.

       Then I asked him what it was all about, and he told me. He explained the thing eloquently and at length.

      “The funny part of it is,” he said, “that the thing isn’t new at all. It’s been talked about ever since I was a boy, and long before.  There is always the notion that the razor might be done without somehow. But none of those schemes ever came to anything; and I don’t believe myself that this will.”

      “Why, as to that,” I said, rising slowly from the chair and trying to put on my coat inside out, “I don’t know how it may be in the case of you and your new shaving. Shaving with all respect to you, is a trivial and materialistic thing, and in such things startling inventions are sometimes made.        
       But what you say reminds me in some dark and dreamy  fashion of something else.  I recall it especially when you tell me with such evident experience and sincerity, that the new shaving is not really new. 
       My friend, the human race is always trying this dodge of making everything entirely easy; but the difficulty which it shifts off one thing it shifts on to another.  If one man has not the toil of preparing a man’s chin, I suppose that some other man has the toil of preparing something very curious to put on a man’s chin. 
       It would be nice if we could be shaved without troubling anybody.  It would be nicer still if we could go unshaved without annoying anybody –

    ‘But, O wise friend, chief Barber of the Strand, Brother, nor you nor I have made the world.’

Whoever made it, Who is wiser, and we hope better than we, made it under strange limitations, and with painful conditions of pleasure."

       “In the first and darkest of its books, it is fiercely written that a man shall not eat his cake and have it; and though all men talked until the stars were old, it would still be true that a man who had shaved had lost his beard, and that a man who had lost his razor could not shave with it.           
       But every now and then men jump up with the new something or other and say that everything can be had without sacrifice, that bad is good if you are only enlightened, and that there is no real difference between being shaved and not being shaved. "
       "The difference, they say, is only a difference of degree; everything is evolutionary and relative. Shavedness is immanent in man. Every ten-penny nail is a Potential Razor.  The superstitious people of the past (they say), believed that a lot of black bristles standing out at right angles to one’s face was a positive affair.  But the higher criticism teaches us better.  Bristles are merely negative. They are a Shadow where Shaving should be."
       “Well, it all goes on, and I suppose it all means something.  But a baby is the Kingdom of God, and if you try to kiss a baby he will know whether you are shaved or not.  Perhaps I am mixing up being shaved and being saved; my democratic sympathies have always led me to drop my ‘h’s.’ In another moment I may suggest that goats represent the lost because goats have long beards. This is growing altogether too allegorical."

“Nevertheless,” I added, as I paid the bill, “I have really been profoundly interested in what you told me about the New Shaving.  Have you ever heard of a thing called the New Theology?” 
He smiled and said that he had not.


'When devotion towards Mary begins in a soul, it produces the same effect that the birth of this most holy Virgin produced in the world. It puts an end to the night of sin, and leads the soul into the path of virtue'
(Thoughts from St Alphonsus de Liguori)

Monday, 3 September 2012

SNP Cabinet Minister - "Well they've done it in Portugal and the sky's not fallen in"

Last Friday, the Scottish Cabinet held a public meeting  in Kirkwall, Orkney. The meeting was chaired by the Deputy First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, in the absence of the First Minister Alex Salmond, and had been arranged by the Scottish SNP government,  to  give  members of the public an opportunity to put  any questions they wished. 

 I was impressed with both the  meeting itself, and the fact that members of the public were able to speak personally with Ministers after the meeting had ended.

My  reason for attending was to voice opposition to the ‘same-sex marriage’ legislation, which the  government  plans to bulldoze onto the statute books, in spite of strong and widespread  opposition from the Catholic Church, the Orthodox Church, many Evangelical and Protestant Churches, many in the Church of Scotland , and tens, if not hundreds of thousands, of individuals of other faiths or none.

The meeting , which lasted from 12.30p.m. to 2 p.m., was scrupulously fair in that  open questions were invited  from any person present. I was able to raise  a question concerning mis-representation by the SNP government concerning the percentage of Scottish residents opposed to ‘same-sex ‘  marriage as revealed by the numbers who actively voiced their opposition in writing and by ‘petition’  to the government; and the fact that these  views had been   ignored and over-ruled by the SNP government  in spite of earlier  assurances that this would not happen.  Another question was put by a lady teacher who raised the question of future criminal liability, if in her capacity as a teacher, she refused to teach children about same-sex marriage.

Nicola  Sturgeon replied to both my question and that of the teacher, or rather I should say that she appeared to reply but what she said was not the answer to my question, it was rather the same official line that the SNP politicians have been posting all the time, namely that fairness and equality to everyone would be enshrined in the proposed legislation, and the government would ensure that religious organisations would not be under any threat to act against their faith/conscience in any way!

Once the Minister had replied to a question it was not possible to put any further questions, so the final word was always with them! 
A young man in the audience demanded that  the government  take appropriate action  to protect young people of homosexual inclination, whom he alleged, were continually bullied and threatened , particularly in faith schools,  making their lives a misery! He spoke  loudly, aggressively, and accusingly,  which I suspect did not endear him  to the Cabinet.  He received noticeably short thrift from the appropriate Minister, being reminded that there was already adequate legislation in place to protect minority groups, and the Minister made a point of endorsing the high standards set by Roman Catholic schools in Scotland to protect all their students against bullying and hate crime.
After the meeting we were fortunate to be able  to talk briefly to Fiona Hyslop,  Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs,  also to the Deputy First Minister,  Nicola Sturgeon. 

Both were charming as one would expect from eminent politicians, and both seemed happy to listen.  The answer I received from Fiona Hyslop deserves to be saved for posterity, and rather sums up the mind-set of  politicians who refuse to face reality,  shutting their minds to the serious implications  of legalising so-called 'same-sex marriage'.  
Fiona’s reply was simply, “Well they’ve done it in Portugal , and the sky’s not fallen in!”
I must admit that this reply took me by surprise, and my undoubtedly feeble riposte was not  in the same league! 

I then had a brief opportunity to speak to  Nicola Sturgeon, repeating  my fears  regarding the proposed legislation and emphasising that I was but one of a huge number  of people holding these views.  Again the Minister reeled off the party line, viz. protecting religious freedom, need for full equality, etc. etc.
My friend Michelle who also attended the meeting, was able to make  some telling  points to both Fiona Hyslop and Nicola  Sturgeon , and I strongly recommend her excellent post:-  please read it, she writes from the heart!  

We have it from good authority viz. the Christian Institute,  that the battle against ‘same-sex marriage' legislation can be won. There are many potential pitfalls for this proposed legislation, and for God's sake and for the sake of the dignity and humanity of mankind, made in God's image, the fight must go on.
Grateful thanks to Cardinal O’Brien for his leadership, courage, and unequivocal condemnation of this proposed legislation. The Catholics of Scotland respect this outspoken Shepherd, as I’m sure do many others of different faiths and none. As the Cardinal said in his recent letter to Catholic churches, it is necessary to speak out loudly,  clearly,  and fearlessly against this evil legislation. 
We know that with  God’s help  all things are possible, without it we can do nothing.

Since the ‘Canonical Erection’ of the Sons of the Most Holy Redeemer (F.SS.R) community on the 15th August by  the Bishop of Aberdeen, it has been a pretty busy last two weeks here in Stronsay.

As I’m sure everyone knows by now, His Lordship Dom Hugh Gilbert OSB  Bishop of Aberdeen, accompanied by Very Rev Dom Benedict Hardy  OSB , Prior of Pluscarden Abbey, and Very Rev  Cuthbert Madden OSB, Abbot of Ampleforth Abbey, stayed  at Golgotha Monastery, Papa Stronsay, the home of the F.SS.R , during the week of the 20th August.  On the 22nd  Bishop  Hugh  officiated at the 'Public Profession of Vows' by Fr Michael Mary  (Superior ) ,Fr Anthony Mary (Rector),  Br Yusef Marie , Br Jean Marie , Br Magdala Maria, Br Martin Mary, Br Nicodemus Mary,  and Br Gerardo Marie . 

Absent  were Br Paul Mary , Br Dominic Mary , Br Xavier Marie, all  currently in Christchurch, New Zealand, and Br Alfonso Maria  in the Phillipines. 
The occasion as befitted such a joyous and historic  event, was  one of solemn splendour, after all it is several hundred years since a new religious order of monks was founded in Scotland .

The ceremony lasted about two hours after which the Bishop, priests, brothers and congregation , all retired to St Magnus house adjoining the Chapel, for  delicious  refreshments and a most convivial evening.
I must say how beautiful ‘Our Lady’s Chapel’ looked for this unique occasion. The altar top had been enlarged,thereby creating room for a beautiful new tabernacle to be put in place. This tabernacle, together with three magnificent statues, one of  the  Boy Jesus, one of St Anne and a young Our Lady, and one of St Joseph with the Child Jesus, had all been brought up to Stronsay a few days earlier by Fr Anthony, Brothers Yusef Marie  and Jean Marie,  from the Isle of Sheppey in Kent, where the monks lived prior to moving to Papa Stronsay. 

In Our Lady’s Chapel, a throne had been erected for the Bishop which would not have looked too out of place in a Cathedral, and the whole chapel was filled with flowers. It  looked truly magnificent!  There are some excellent photos of the occasion on the Transalpine Redemptorists blog-site ........

                      Our Lady's Chapel, Stronsay.


On the Saturday 25th August in the evening, we had the annual bonfire on Papa Stronsay to which all the residents of Stronsay were invited. 

Happily the weather was kind, being dry and mild, with just a slight breeze, the bonfire was awe-inspiring, as usual, and the superb barbecue and generous selection of tasty  food and drink was  more than adequate.  The bonfire was lit by Brother Seelos who celebrated his 21st birthday that same week, and the occasion was a rare opportunity for many to meet and chat with the Fathers and Brothers of the Community.

We took the opportunity to visit their splendid greenhouse with its impressive display of nectarines, apples, grapes, strawberries, and other fruit and vegetables, and which included  two massive pumpkins, the pride and joy of Brother Jean Marie!

We were also shown the brand new  chicken-house, a luxury  home for the 'monastic' chickens, built very recently by the monks,  and I can truly say it is the most impressive chicken-house that I have ever seen! Solidly constructed of concrete blocks and wood, strengthened with metal sections, it is divided into three main compartments, dry and weather-proof, with access to an area of fenced open ground which itself will be opened-up for the chickens to roam free-range once they have become fully settled in their new home. The whole building was spotlessly clean with fresh greenery covering the floors. The chickens looked eminently comfortable and at home on their various roosting bars, and the whole place was  so  clean, dry, and sweet-smelling, that  I would have been quite content to sleep there if adverse weather conditions  had suddenly struck, preventing our return by boat to Stronsay! 
By the way, do look (and listen) at the blog-site of the Traditional Redemptorists for a  ‘mind-blowing’  version of the bonfire spectacle  ---  superb!!
Weather-wise, we on Stronsay might not have had a very good summer, but event wise it has been truly memorable, with innumerable graces and blessings from Almighty God.
May Our Lady of Aberdeen guide and protect the 'Sons of the Most Holy Redeemer' (F.SS.R) community, and may She cast Her protective mantle  over our Bishop and all priests. religious, and  faithful in our Diocese.


                Diocese of Aberdeen - Coat of Arms

        God bless our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI. 

Friday, 3 August 2012

'In the Steps of the Master' once more

 Herewith a few more extracts from  H.V.Morton’s  classic ‘In the Steps of the Master’, written  in the 1920s, in which he recounted his impressions and experiences whilst re-tracing the journeys of Our Lord Jesus Christ through the Holy Land.

                      ‘On the roads of Palestine, and on the hills, you see the good shepherd. He comes along at the head of his flock, generally carrying over his shoulders a lamb or an injured sheep.
He is a man burnt almost black by exposure to the sun. He wears the flowing Bedouin head-veil, the keffiyeh, bound with two black twisted cords known as the agaal.  Beneath his robes he often wears a sheepskin coat with the fleece turned next to the body.  He is one of the many characters who walk the roads of Palestine exactly as they must have done in the time of Our Lord.'

                                             Palestinian Shepherd

'A most remarkable thing is the sympathy that exists between him and his flock.  He never drives them as our own shepherds drive their sheep. He always walks at their head, leading them along the roads and over the hills to new pasture: and, as he goes, he sometimes talks to them in a loud sing-song voice, using a weird language unlike anything I have ever heard in my life. 

The first time I heard this sheep and goat language I was on the hills at the back of Jericho.  A goat-herd had descended into a valley and was mounting the slope of an opposite hill when, turning round, he saw his goats had remained behind to devour a rich patch of scrub.  Lifting his voice, he spoke to the goats in a language that Pan must have spoken on the mountains of Greece.  It was uncanny because there was nothing human about it.  The words were animal sounds arranged in a kind of order.  No sooner had he spoken than an answering bleat shivered over the herd, and one or two of the animals turned their heads in his direction. But they did not obey him. 

The goat-herd then called out one word and gave a laughing kind of whinny.  Immediately a goat with a bell around his neck stopped eating and, leaving the herd, trotted down the hill, across the valley and up the opposite slopes.  The man, accompanied by  this animal, walked on and disappeared round a ledge of rock. Very soon a panic spread among the herd. They forgot to eat. They looked up for the shepherd. He was not to be seen. They became conscious that the leader with the bell at his neck was no longer with them.  From the distance came the strange laughing call of the shepherd, and at the sound of it the entire herd stampeded into the hollow and leapt up the hill after him.

I would like to know what an English sheep-dog would make of the Palestine sheep, because our principle of droving is something that neither Arab shepherds nor their sheep-dogs understand.  It is all done by word of mouth, and the sheep follow their shepherds like dogs.  The Arab sheep-dog is used therefore not to drive sheep but to protect them against thieves and wild animals.

Early one morning I saw an extraordinary sight not far from Bethlehem. Two shepherds had evidently spent the night with their flocks in a cave. The sheep were all mixed together and the time had come for the shepherds to go in different directions. One of the shepherds stood some distance from the sheep and began to call. First one, then another, then four or five animals ran towards him; and so on until he had counted his whole flock.'

'More interesting than the sight of this was the knowledge that Jesus must have seen exactly the same sight and described it in His own words:

             “He calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out. And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice. And a stranger they will not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers.  This parable spake Jesus unto them ........ I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep and am known of mine” '

'No animal mentioned in the Bible can compare in symbolical interest with the sheep. I believe it is mentioned over five-hundred times.  And you cannot go very far along the roads of Palestine without encountering the figure who, staff in hand, symbolises the love and compassion of Jesus Christ.’

Having visited the ruins of the synagogue of Capernaum, the author wrote:-

             Ruins of the Synagogue at Capernaum - early 1900s

‘One sits in the ruin of this building watching the blue lake, trying hard to build up a picture of Jesus as He appeared to His contemporaries.  The traditional bare-headed Jesus of Christian art cannot be correct. Perhaps Dr Stapfer has drawn a more authentic portrait in his ‘Palestine in the time of Christ’;

“He had neither the fine linen nor the sumptuous raiment of those who live in kings’ houses,” he wrote, “neither had he a long flowing robe like the scribes and Pharisees. Upon His head He must have worn the turban, the national head-gear, used alike by rich and poor.  Painters make a mistake when they represent Christ bare-headed. As we have said, with everyone the head was covered. The turban He wore was probably white. It was fastened under the chin by a cord, and at the side fell down to the shoulders and over the tunic. Under His turban He wore His hair rather long and His beard uncut. His tunic, and underneath vesture, was of one piece without seam; it was therefore of some value (John xix. 23), and had probably been given Him by one of those women who ‘ministered to Him of their substance.’ Over this He wore the talith, loose and flowing.  The mantle was not white, for we are told it became white during the Transfiguration. It was not red, for that was only the military colour. It is possible it was blue, for blue was then very common, or it may have been simply white with brown stripes. In any case Jesus had at the four corners of this mantle, the Ciccith, the blue or white fringes of which we have just spoken. He wore sandals on His feet, as we learn from John the Baptist; and when He was travelling, going from place to place, He doubtless wore a girdle around the loins and carried a stick in His hand ...” '

           Jesus casting out devil  (Mathew Ch 17 v.14-20)


The author travelled to Beirut where he stayed in an hotel immediately overlooking St George’s Bay. Of his visit there he wrote:- 
            ‘I began to think of St George, that sadly libelled Saint, who was the patron of Beirut centuries before we in England placed his cross on our banners.  I think Calvin began the belittlement of St George, but Gibbon certainly started the libel. It is a curious thing that thousands of Englishman who have not read the Decline and Fall’ will tell you that St George was a villainous army contractor at Cappadocia. He was nothing of the kind. Gibbon, very strangely for a man of such meticulous accuracy, confused two men, or rather assumed that George of Laodicea, who was murdered in the reign of Julian and whose body was flung into the sea, was the Christian soldier who was martyred under Diocletian.  Gibbon’s George was indeed a bad character, a man who, as Gregory Nazianzen said, would ‘sell himself for a cake’. He became Arian archbishop of Alexandria and the retribution which overtook him must have been of a singularly brutal character, because the Emperor Julian wrote a letter of remonstrance, in which he said, “the people actually tore a man to pieces, as if they had been dogs." 

'The saint however, was a Roman officer of high standing who suffered death rather than countenance a Christian persecution ordered by Diocletian. I remember discussing him with Sir E A Wallis Budge, whose book St George of Lydda should be read by everyone interested in the saint. Sir Ernest believed that his martyrdom might have occurred as early as 200 AD, although the accepted date is 303 AD. The traditions of East and West agree that after St George was martyred in Nicomedia, a town about forty miles east of Constantinople, his body was brought to Lydda – now Ludd, near Jaffa, for burial.

The veneration he inspired among the members of the early Church was so great that hundreds of extravagant legends gathered round his name, among them the story of the Dragon, which many scholars regard as a pagan myth grafted to the Christian tree. Many an agnostic points to the ridiculous stories about saints and martyrs to prove the credulity of the early Church.  It is not generally realised that many of these stories were recognised as fiction and as nothing else. Pope Gelasius made war on such devout fictions at the Council of ‘Seventy-two  Bishops’ in Rome in 494 AD, when he ordered the faithful to discontinue the reading of such stories for the reason that they called down ridicule on the Christian Faith. Among the stories banned were those about St George.'

      St George dragged through the streets prior to martyrdom - (Bernardo Martorell 15th century)

'When the Crusaders came marching along the coast road towards which I was looking, they had already encountered St George at the very gates of the East, for the Bosphorous was called ‘the Arm of St George’.  Everywhere they went they heard stories of the Saint’s courage and holiness. In time they came to believe that he was riding beside them. Stories in no way more remarkable than that of the 'Angels of Mons', in which thousands of people believed in 1914, began to spread when the Crusaders were in trouble. A mysterious white horseman with a red cross emblazoned on his sur-coat was seen helping the cause of Christ, first at Antioch and later in many desperate battles.'

                                          Flag of St George

'The Crusaders, returning home to England, told stories of the saint and of his miraculous interventions. It was, therefore, natural that Richard should have restored the Church of St George at Lydda, should have used the name of St George for the English battle-cry, and should have returned from the Holy Land with a patron Saint who was recognised in the East and in the West as the perfect Christian soldier.'

Ack. 'In the Steps of the Master' by H.V.Morton. First published by Rich and Cowan Ltd., London, 1934.