Monday, 25 May 2015

The Irish have chosen secularism over faith and have not just abandoned Catholicism but religion altogether

At this time of writing, I don't think that I've written a piece that has attracted so much debate.  On this sparklingly clear morning in West London,  there are now nearly 900 comments left on The Catholic Herald article that I wrote on Catholic Ireland becoming the post-religious country where same sex marriage has been enshrined in law by the will of the majority of the people. 

Other journalists have been busy analysing why 'Ireland said yes to gay marriage and no to Catholicism', which was the title for Tim Stanley's article that admirably captures the mood of post-Catholic Ireland.  I would go deeper still and say that Ireland said 'no' to Christian tradition.  A point that scarcely gets made is that when tens of thousands of Irish stopped practising as Catholics, they did not en masse turn to any other Christian denomination, or even ad hoc Christian worship, and the influence of the Gospels waned in Irish life. The passing of gay marriage into Irish law shows that the power and influence that once was wielded by the Church, is now wielded by the forces of secularism. 


Yes supporters celebrate outside Dublin Castle, May 2015






One of Charles Moore's best columns is more relevant than ever in the wake of Ireland legalising gay marriage by popular vote

Some lines from Charles Moore's column of March 21st were re-playing over and over on the monitor of my mind during the past week when the polls were proven right and Ireland passed same sex marriage into legislation by a two to one majority. 

Regarding the freedom to articulate the age-old view that children do better with a mother and a father (as the fashion designer Dolce did - and was swiftly castigated) Moore wrote that:

"Yet now you can barely say this. I am sure I would be barred from working in the public services if I said it at a job interview. I could not become a Labour parliamentary candidate, and probably not even a Conservative one. If I were 28 rather than 58, I doubt if I would dare say it in print if I wanted a successful career in media. Socially conservative moral views are now teetering on the edge of criminality, and are over the edge of disapproval by those who run modern Britain."

The reason that it was on my mind was that I know a number of people who decided to stay quiet, glue their lips together and not encourage others to vote No in the Irish gay marriage referendum - for precisely the reasons that Moore depicts - that speaking out would be its own punishment and carry implications for one's career and reputation.  A lot of young, sincere voices, even some who are London based were missing from the No campaign because the young people just-starting-out felt they had too much to lose. 

My friend, Joe Shaw also took up Charles Moore's point in a post. Joe goes one step further by suggesting that people who embrace certain views (such as arguing that a child does just as well being brought up by two dads, as opposed to a mum and dad) may do so, just to get ahead.  I asked Joe what he meant by the title of his piece, The Chicken Run, and he said chickens run when they are scared...

Saturday, 23 May 2015

There is nothing woolly about Pope Francis' advice to parents

On The Catholic Herald website, I have a piece on Pope Francis' no-nonsense advice to parents

It was largely inspired by the video of the Pontiff reminiscing about a time when he was in the 4th grade and he said a bad word to his teacher...



...and by the Pope's tweet exhorting parents to forgive from their hearts.


Monday, 18 May 2015

Zélie Martin, Mother of St Thérèse of Lisieux’s parents would make a great role model for women, but won't be adopted as a feminist icon any time soon

Over at the Herald, I have a piece on Zélie Martin, the French lace-maker who was the mother of St Thérèse. Do pop over to the Herald for the full piece.  Zélie was born in 19th Century France, and married her true-love, Louis who was a watchmaker. It seems obvious to point out that Zélie and Louis were raising a family long before the advent of widely available contraception but Zélie still showed remarkable openness to life, bearing 9 children and bearing sorrow when four died in infancy. Five daughters survived, the youngest of which became the Little Flower.  Zélie was a diligent businesswoman, a team of lace-makers were under her supervision and simultaneously she was a loving mother. 

I think the part of the article that will get some people hot under the collar is where I argue that Zélie should be applauded for persevering to have children. Had she not been so open to life, she may not have had a fifth daughter, St Thérèse, who millions all over the world call on in their hour of need. 


Sunday, 17 May 2015

Dog of the Week

'In some ways, my Tibetan Spaniels are more like cats than dogs. You can leave them at home and they are okay being alone for a few hours,' said the owner of the two furry blonde dogs. A little more independent than the average pooch, but very devoted to their master or mistress. They can be a little strange with strangers, evinced by the way that I'm petting one of them, but she keeps her gaze on her owner. 

They are small lap-dogs, but are very alert with beady eyes. They like to keep watch over their owner by going to high perches in the house, so they can keep an eye on everything. 

The breed does hail from the mountains of Tibet, but they are plentiful in London, walking in clusters, their tails like big plumes of fur. 


For years, I've been meaning to get a photo of the edges of Hyde Park during May. Finally, I got around to it...

Thursday, 14 May 2015

How to start a movement

TedTalks videos are not everyone's glass of ale.  If you watch Derek Siver's video below, you may not want to jump up and copy the dance moves of the people dancing on the grass in their bathing suits. Come to think of it, I have Traddie Catholic and non-Traddie friends who think wearing bathing suits in public should be made illegal. Traddie friends worry about sinful immodesty in the young flaunting their flesh. Non-Traddie friends say when the old flaunt flesh they look like they need ironing. 

There is, however, a very good message at the heart of Siver's talk. The most important line being that leaders must nurture 'followers as equals'.  I think it is a key message for many Catholics who are trying to attract new people to their movements, or even who want more readers to come to their blogs. In a very ameteur and tiny way, I've tried to treat people who follow and comment on this blog as my equal.  For one post on the Corapi saga, I got the response from some people that I did not treat some commentators as equals, and then others felt that I had treated some commentators as though they were better than me! You can't win them all. 



Wednesday, 13 May 2015

The number 13 belongs to Our Lady

Pope Francis may visit Fatima to celebrate the centenary in 2017.
98 years ago today, Our Lady appeared to Lucia, Jacinta and Francisco. It's not a random event that she did so on May 13th 1917.   Nor is it an arbitrary coincidence that the Miracle of the Sun happened on October 13th, during the month that is dedicated to the Most Holy Rosary.  Our Lady gave St Dominic the Rosary in the 13th century. 

A fact is that the letter 'm' is the 13th letter of the alphabet.  This just might be by chance, or it could owe to England's Catholic days when the letter 'm' for Mary was placed at number 13 in the series of letters because it honoured Our Lady, the 13th witness to the descent of the Holy Spirit. 

Over at the Herald,  I have a post on Our Lady's method of marking her presence on our earthly calendars.  It's a system that uses a certain number and one day a month. The number is 13 and the date is the 13th of every month. 


Tuesday, 12 May 2015

A great night out at the launch of Stephen Bullivant's new book

Last night at St Mary's University, there was a big gathering for the launch of Stephen Bullivant's new book, The Trinity: How Not to Be a Heretic.  It's a great pleasure to tell people that Stephen's book is a very enjoyable and enlightening read which can entertain and educate people like me who are poorly self-taught theologians. The reviews on the Amazon page for Stephen's book volumes. According to Matthew Levering, How Not to be a Heretic is: 


"Brilliantly clear, succinct, readable, informed. Here is winsome erudition that teaches us not only who it is that Christians worship, but also the sheer joy, vitality, and graced intelligence that pertain to worshiping this God. Stephen Bullivant is a breath of fresh air for Christian intellectual life. --Matthew Levering"

Here is the author in full flight. 



The launch took place in the beautiful confines of the Waldegrave Drawing Room. The sun was still shining and the room was awash with bright May light.  




Lots of young seminarians were present, including Joseph Bailham (to the extreme right) who used to blog as Catholic With Attitude. 

Can anyone spot Francis Campbell?
  















The room was buzzing! It was my first time meeting Stephen and his wife, Joanna, who is a musician and mother to their two little girls, Grace and Alice.  Both Stephen and Joanna are converts to Catholicism. 















When Stephen was speaking, he gave special thanks to Fr Hugh Somerville-Knapman Osb, who baptised Stephen in Rome at St Paul's Outside the Walls on May 11th 2008.  The book launch also marked the 7th anniversary of Stephen's baptism. Stephen was born in Cumbria, and did not have a religious upbringing.

Fr Hugh is a very encouraging Benedictine and he brings out the best in people.



In view of the post that I did welcoming Princess Charlotte, it was pointed out that I ought to have a photo taken with the portrait of Queen Charlotte. 



Stephen is a senior lecturer in Theology and Ethics at St Mary's, and his former students were in the audience. Here are Rebeccah and Sacha who were telling me that they liked St Mary's, one of England's best known Catholic universities because it has such a warm, friendly atmosphere where, 'people look out for each other'. 











Fr Hugh, Peter Tyler and Michael Kirwan are sharing a joke over a glass of wine.

Peter Tyler was telling me that centuries ago Twickenham was the nearest place to Central London that Catholics were *allowed* to live. If they lived closer to the centre of town, they would break the law. 



Afterwards, we had a delicious Italian dinner to celebrate.  I had one of my all-time favourite meals, baked salmon, asparagus, creamed potato with a lightly sparkling white wine. We toasted the success of Stephen's book. 

Jacob Phillips is to my right - he is doing a doctorate on Bonhoeffer and having to study the German language very intensely in the process. 

We were a very lively group and other people dining in the restaurant came up to us to ask us why we were having so much fun!  This reminds of the key reason that I think Stephen's book stands out, it is funny while it explains essential dogma. 

Hanging out with Ed, Nigel and the Prime Minister...

well, masks of them at least that are on sale at a fancy dress shop on the Kensington High Street...

Sunday, 10 May 2015

Charles Moore: The victorious Prime Minister could, if he chose, turn the Conservatives into English nationalists

The sharpest, most testing and penetrating piece on the Conservatives winning a majority comes from Charles Moore. 

It'll make soul-searching reading for some SNP supporters who may need to reply as to whether or not Nicola Sturgeon's made a 'serious mistake'....


"I hope David Cameron, in his hour of triumph, can find time to write a thank-you letter to Nicola Sturgeon. She won him this election. For all her party’s brilliance in capturing Scotland, she made a serious mistake in her UK campaign.
By boasting that she would forge an alliance for “progressive change” with Labour across the United Kingdom, she at last woke the English people from our slumber. Many of us don’t like “progressive change” at the best of times, and these are not the best of times. The idea that Ms Sturgeon’s party should help impose it – and we should pay for it – was just too much."

Presciently, Moore sees a tight as a strait-jacket quandary for unionists who are Eurosceptic and hoping to vote in the 2017 referendum that England leave the EU. In voting that England leave the EU, do they risk tearing the Union apart?  
"Anyone who votes, in 2017, to get out of the EU now risks breaking up the United Kingdom, with Scotland heading for the Continent and England for the open sea. Mr Cameron is well placed to argue that our Union is best guaranteed within a bigger one, so long as the EU agrees to be loose-fitting. More and more, for those who want to break absolutely with Europe, the referendum is looking like a trap."


Calling by Alfred Hitchcock's old place...

I find it fitting that Alfred Hitchcock lived in an old Victorian house on the Cromwell Road for 13 years, from 1926 to 1939.  His old home is a long, tall, building to the west of the heart of London. The Cromwell Road is a darker place than that of the smarter, brighter sections of central London such as Mayfair and Belgravia. Cromwell is lined with towering terraces that cast ghostly silhouettes. The atmosphere is an elegant eeriness, very much the stuff of a Hitchcock flick.  

I've been reading the latest biography of Hitchcock by Peter Ackroyd, which calls Hitchcock's old address, 'one of those anonymous West London venues'. According to Ackroyd, when Hitchcock became wealthier, he rebuffed the allure of moving to Mayfair.  'Hitch' made 24 films in 13 years when 153 Cromwell Road was his base.  13 is a number that reoccurs in Hitchcock's life, he was born on August 13th. 

Here I am outside Hitch's old place, grabbing a photo on a wet, showery day, when few people are around. It's just impossible on a fine day, when multitudes of tourists are passing by and taking snaps of the old home of the best film director of the 20th Century. 


After marrying Alma in December 1926, they made the top two floors of 153 Cromwell Road their nest, and worked on the dining room table.  Hitchcock married Alma in my parish church, The Brompton Oratory, and he used to attend symphony concerts in the Royal Albert Hall. The Oratory and the Royal Albert Hall are each about a twenty minute walk from Hitchcock's old house. 

Hitchcock was a cradle Catholic. Three of his grandparents were Irish Catholics. 
His father was a greengrocer in East London who sent him to a Jesuit school, St Ignatius College on Stamford Hill. 

Hitchcock's last film in England was Jamaica Inn, popular still because of the enduring appeal of Daphne du Maurier's story.



Friday, 8 May 2015

A chance to cast your vote, or a selfie moment?

Gosh, I love elections.  Politicians outdoing themselves to win our votes: it's free theatre! Yesterday, running errands, I had to walk through parts of West London, and I saw various polling stations, where people were queueing alongside the Polling Station signs to take selfies of themselves as they were about to vote.  I'm as vain as everyone else, and wanted to take a selfie, but a touch of hayfever had given me the spring time Rudoloph-the-red-nosed-reindeer look. 

With great excitement, I did vote. When I did, there was a queue to take a photo in front of the Polling Station sign, but no one in the queue for the voting booth. Seeing so many people posing for photos,  I wondered if voting was more of a selfie moment: people seemed far more interested in themselves than the politicians they were helping to get elected. 



Share It