Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Diamond Jubilee Prayer

Next Monday 6th February Her Majesty the Queen will celebrate the 60th anniversary of her accession to the Throne. The Church of England has composed a prayer of thanksgiving for her remarkable reign. The Diamond Jubilee Prayer, written at the Queen's direction by the Chapter of St Paul's Cathedral, is commended for use by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York throughout all parishes:

Anti-Christian despotic fascism at UCL

Some years ago (five, to be precise), His Grace wrote about the appalling plight of the Exeter University Christian Union, which was coming under considerable pressure to permit non-believers not only to attend their meetings (which was never a problem) but to lead them. Their policy of requiring CU leaders to be Christian apparently rendered them ‘too exclusive’ for the university’s ‘inclusion’ policy.

It was (and remains) manifest common sense to His Grace that leaders of a Christian Union ought to subscribe to foundational Christian tenets, not for reasons of dogmatism or exclusivity, but in accordance with St Paul's exhortation to ‘teach what is consistent with sound doctrine’ (Titus 2:1). Quite how non-believers could possibly adhere to this teaching (and so sustain the ethos of the society) is something of a mystery.

At the time, His Grace was searching for evidence of ‘inclusion’ in other Exeter University clubs and societies: perhaps tone-deaf philistines in the Gilbert & Sullivan Society; wheelchair-bound students in the rowing club; a lesbian Christian to lead the Muslim Society’s Friday prayers...

It was all in jest, though doubtless not remotely amusing to those affected.

But now it transpires that students of the LSE have reintroduced the blasphemy law (which His Grace observed long ago [five, to be precise]), and students at University College London have voted to force Roman Catholic chaplaincies to invite pro-abortion speakers to pro-life discussions. The motion (here in full) was adopted by 2002 votes to 818. It says: ‘Any future open events focusing on the issue of termination invite an anti-choice speaker and a pro-choice speaker as well as an independent chair, to ensure there is a balance to the argument.’

His Grace looks forward to pro-Israeli speakers being invited to meetings of the Palestine Society, and for members of the Conservative Society being called to address the Labour Society, and for all avid Guardian-reading lecturers to be accompanied by ardent readers of RightMinds. All ‘to ensure there is a balance to the argument’, you understand.

Honestly, whatever happened to freedom of speech, freedom of religion and of association? This is a university – an English university – in which its student body apparently has no remote understanding of what it is to be educated in the liberal arts tradition, or any appreciation of what it is to live in a liberal democracy.

Further, the UCL Student Union also voted to adopt a fixed pro-abortion stance and formally affiliate itself to the organisation Abortion Rights. This development has considerable implications for the university’s Catholic Society (though by no means exclusively), which has said: “We are concerned that this could set a precedent for other such divisive issues at UCL. Societies such as the Catholic Society, who by their nature are pro-life, are now no longer able to express themselves without first warning the union and inviting a pro-choice speaker in order that so-called ‘balance’ may be imposed.”

Neil Addison (Barrister) has blogged on the legalities (or illegalities) of this. He has recommended that the Catholic Society ignores this Motion ‘which is completely illegal under s43 the Education (No 2) Act 1986 which guarantees freedom of speech at Universities, and is also illegal under Articles 9, 10, and 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights’. He says:
The Student Union has no right to dictate what speakers are invited by Student Organisations. Also the resolution assumes that everyone involved in this debate can be easily categorised as "pro choice" or "anti choice" which is a simplistic analysis. Many people for example regard Nadine Dorris (sic) as "pro life" though she describes herself as "pro choice". What right does the Student Union have to decide which category a speaker should be classified under?
His Grace exhorts the UCL Catholic Society and Christian Union to invite whatever pro-life speakers they wish, and not to be intimidated by the harassment and bullying threats of the Student Union, the Constitution of which clearly states:
XXVI. Affiliation to Outside Bodies
A. The Union may not affiliate to any religious, political or other sectarian organisations, other than the NUS and the University of London Union.
Ergo the decision of the UCL Student Union to affiliate to Abortion Rights would appear to be in breach of their own Constitution.

But why let a minor matter of law get in the way of a little anti-Christian despotic fascism?

Monday, January 30, 2012

Archbishop Cranmer is Bishop Philip Boyce

The Most Reverend Dr Philip Boyce is the Catholic Lord Bishop of Raphoe. He preached a homily on 20th August 2011, entitled ‘To Trust in God’. His Grace reproduces it in its entirety, for the two sentences highlighted in bold have landed the Bishop in a bit of hot water.

Apparently, they constitute an incitement to hatred, at least according to ‘leading humanist’ John Colgan. And so the Gardai have thoroughly investigated the complaint and compiled a file which they have handed to the Republic’s Director of Public Prosecutions.
Homily of Bishop Philip Boyce, Bishop of Raphoe.
Knock Novena, 20 August 2011.


“Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace” (Heb. 4:16).

The word of the Lord urges us to place our trust in God, not in the brittle supports of created things on earth. People have always been tempted to rely on some visible and profitable reality. To us, it seems at times to be a step too far to place our confidence in Him whom we know only through faith. It was a test failed by Adam and Eve when they were asked not to taste of the fruit of the tree of Good and Evil. Relying on their own wisdom, and abetted by the false promises of the Evil One, they put their trust in a created gain rather than in the power of the all-wise Creator.

They were very soon to regret their folly. They immediately tasted the bitter fruit of the confidence they placed in a lie. They felt ashamed of each other and afraid of God. Their misplaced confidence led to death for both of them. There we see how true it is that God did not make death (Wis 1:13) but that “through the devil’s envy death entered the world” (Wis 2:24). Our first parents trusted in a lie and in the father of lies. As Jesus would say one day: “The devil…was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies he speaks according to his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies” (Jn 8:44).

Throughout the history of salvation, people have been led astray. They trusted in something or someone less than God – human idols of one kind or another. It was either in riches or power, earthly princes or human allies. Yet the wisdom of God denounces such shallow confidence: “Cursed is he who trusts in man….whose heart turns away from the Lord…Blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord” (Jer 17:5-7).

The Trust of one who believes

Trust or hope means persevering in faith against the evident difficulties that free us. On a natural level, hope is a movement of our will towards something we perceive as good, that is not ours completely, but that is possible though difficult to attain. Psychologically it creates a tension within us because, what we aspire to, we do not fully possess as yet. But the very fact that it is possible to attain makes us overcome the uncertainties and be confident that what we long for is not beyond our grasp.

Christian theological hope, or trust of one who believes, aspires to the greatest good of all, namely, our salvation and the vision of God in heaven. The Lord Jesus tells his disciples that this is not a delusion for “it has pleased your Father to give you the kingdom” (cf. Rom 4:18). However, the God who gives the promise is faithful so that “hope does not disappoint us, because the love of God has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Rom 5:5)

Trusting in God through suffering and in the Dark night of the Church

The moment of history we live through in Ireland at present is certainly a testing one for the Church and for all of us. Attacked from the outside by the arrows of a secular and godless culture: rocked from the inside by the sins and crimes of priests and consecrated people, we all feel the temptation to lose confidence. Yet, our trust is displayed and deepened above all when we are in troubled and stormy waters. It is easier to be confident when we ride on the crest of a wave, when the tide is coming in. Not so easy, however, yet every bit as necessary, when what is proclaimed by the Church namely the truth of faith with its daily practice and influence on behaviour, is under severe pressure.

Some of you may be labouring under a severe trial and have come to this Shrine of Our Lady at Knock for strength and consolation. It may be a dreaded illness or family difficulties; it may be spiritual darkness and desolation; it may be trying circumstances in the present financial downturn. Or it may be the spiritual Dark Night that now engulfs the Church in Ireland, in which our spiritual horizons are dimmed because some of those anointed to preach the word of God and to sanctify, were found to have betrayed the trust placed in them by innocent souls.

What we are called upon to do at this time is to act hopefully, with patience. Every dark night of suffering is meant to be a time of purification and renewal. As so often in times past, there were dark days of disorder and trial for the Church. But then, she rose again fortified in light. So too will it be once again this time.

One man who sacrificed all he had to discover the true Church, Blessed John Henry Newman, and who had personal experience of her weakness as well as of her beauty, expressed this buoyant trust in eloquent words:

“But in truth the whole course of Christianity from the first, when we come to examine it, is but one series of troubles and disorders. Every century is like every other, and to those who live in it seems worse than all times before it. The Church is ever ailing, and lingers on in weakness, “always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in her body.” Religion seems ever expiring, schisms dominant, the light of Truth dim, its adherents scattered. The cause of Christ is ever in its last agony, as though it were but a question of time whether it fails finally this day or another. The Saints are ever all but failing from the earth……; meanwhile, thus much of comfort do we gain from what has been hitherto,- not to despond, not to be dismayed, not to be anxious, at the troubles which encompass us. They have ever been; they ever shall be; they are our portion.” (Via Media I, 354-5)

These troubles seem to us to be the worst ever – simply because they are the ones we struggle through at present. The Lord however has to be met in the midst of the very trials that beset us. We should not so much fight them directly as give them into the Lord’s keeping. In some ways we exchange our weakness for God’s strength. Simply to worry and fret makes the anguish fester within us. We do not deny them but rather take them as our share in Christ’s redeeming sufferings. From the midst of them we call upon the only Person who can really help us.

As we heard in the first reading, David, looking back on how the Lord delivered him from his enemies and the waves of death that encompassed him, said: “In my distress I called upon the Lord….” (2 Sam 22:7). He recognised his predicament but he sought help in his weakness from God, the Strong One of Israel. Or like the two desperate people in the Gospel passage: a prominent ruler of the Synagogue whose daughter had already died, but who hoped beyond hope in a miracle and a poor women, a socially marginalised person on account of her ailment, making a desperate grasp, trying to touch even the fringe of the Lord’s garment. The unshakable trust of both of them was rewarded promptly and with astonishing authority (Mt 9:18-22). In some ways, the worse our condition, the nearer is God’s help. For nothing can separate us from the love of Christ, for he has promised to be with his Church until the end of time. As Christians, so much will depend on our attitude of faith and trust. We cannot avoid trial and suffering in this world. “It is not by side stepping or fleeing from suffering that we are healed (writes our Holy Father), but rather by our capacity for accepting it, maturing through it and finding meaning through union with Christ, who suffered with infinite love” (Spe Salvi No. 37). Therefore, we need to trust Him.

When we enter into any kind of suffering and distress, it is the Lord who allows us to experience our own weakness and inadequacy. Some situations cannot be rectified without special help from on high. The sad effects of accidents on the roads, of dreaded diseases, of social and economic upheavals, of addictions and so on, need more than human resources. They also need the helping hand of God. The prophet warned the people of old: “Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help and rely on horses, who trust in chariots because they are many…..but do not look to….the Lord” (cf. Is. 31:1). We look for prosperity, but there is no real and lasting prosperity without God.

Indeed unless we trust in a higher power, in God himself, what hope can we have? St. Paul told his converts at Ephesus that before they came to know Christ, they were “without hope and without God in the world” (Eph. 2:12). We need the radiance of a hope that looks beyond the horizons of space and time, one as Pope Benedict teaches “that cannot be destroyed even by small-scale failures or by a breakdown in matters of historic importance” (Spe Salvi No. 35). For the distinguishing mark of Christian believers is “the fact that they have a future: it is not that they know the details of what awaits them, but they know in general terms that their life will not end in emptiness….To come to know God – the true God – means to receive hope” (Ibid, No. 2.3). We thank God for the faith, that enables us to trust in Him.

Knock: a Call to trust in God

In this holy Shrine of Knock, we are always reminded of the reasons we have for hope and trust in God. Central to the Apparition itself is the altar with the Lamb standing on it. This reminds us first of all of the Eucharist where, as fruit of Christ’s Sacrifice, there is offered to us in every Holy Communion the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. By nourishing us with Christ’s life, the Eucharist nourishes in us a life that has no end. “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life and I will raise him up on the last day” (Jn 6:54). This is a pledge of something great to come, a seed that will blossom into eternal life, into immortality.

From this point of view, the holy Eucharist, which we shall celebrate with intensity at the International Eucharistic Congress next June, is a Sacrament of hope that strengthens our trust in God. It sustains us as we are buffeted by the storms of this world and bear a cross that weighs us down. The Mass is a foretaste of heavenly peace. At this Eucharistic celebration we too experience it at least imperfectly but really, and we are given the promise that it will one day be perfect and cannot be lost. Therefore, let us trust our God.

Moreover, the Lamb on the altar at Knock reminds us of the Apocalypse with St. John’s vision of the end of time and of fulfilment in heaven. We see the risen and triumphant Lamb of God. He is surrounded by angels and a countless number of Christian believers who come here on pilgrimage. This vision foreshadows the heavenly city from which will descend at the end of time the Church, which is the Bride of Christ, the Lamb of God. In his prophetic gaze, St. John “saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband; and heard a great voice from the throne saying, “Behold the dwelling place of God is with men. He will dwell with them….he will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain any more….” (Rev. 21:2-4). In that company there will be for us “things no eye has seen. No ear has heard, things beyond our imagining, for outweighing our present distress” (cf. 2 Cor. 4:17).

This triumphant Church of the elect is the same that now struggles and sighs in the slow and painful grip of history that is unfolding hour by weary hour, minute by minute. We now face the challenge of trusting in our Saviour, at times without hope. The powers of evil and their apparent triumphs put our trust in God to the test. However, we have the certitude of faith that Christ, the Word of God, will have the final victory. And it is not far away. For the Lord says: “Behold, I am coming soon” (Rev. 22:7).

And we all respond with a cry of hope that hungers for his presence: “Maranatha, Come. Lord Jesus, come.”

Perhaps Blessed John Paul II, at the time we embarked on a new Millennium of human history, had this vision of hopeful trust in his mind when he wrote: “Duc in Altum! Let us go forwards in hope! A new Millennium is opening before the Church like a vast ocean upon which we shall venture, relying on the help of Christ. The Son of God, who became incarnate two thousand years ago out of love for humanity, is at work even today: we need discerning eyes to see this and, above all, a generous heart to become the instruments of his work…we can count on the power of the same Spirit who was poured out at Pentecost and who impels us still today to start anew, sustained by the hope which does not disappoint” (Apostolic Letter, Novo Millennio Ineunte, No 58).

We are under Our Lady’s protection, who visited her people here at this spot in a time of poverty and distress. As long as she is praying for us in Heaven nothing whatever, high or low, can harm us or take away our trust in God. She reigns a Queen forever and her Son refuses her nothing she requests. Our Lady of Knock, pray for us.
The above is reproduced in its entirety for, as we know, that which is permitted and legal in one EU member state may be prohibited and illicit in another, and this may result in the issuing of a European Arrest Warrant and the enforced extradition of British nationals to await trial in a foreign land. Should His Grace’s ashes be extradited to the Irish Republic, he will attempt to keep his readers and communicants informed of events with an appeal for access to his blog in accordance with his inviolable human rights.

John Colgan said of these two sentences: "I believe statements of this kind are an incitement to hatred of dissidents, outsiders, secularists, within the meaning of the (Incitement to Hatred) Act, who are perfectly good citizens within the meaning of the civil law. The statements exemplify the chronic antipathy towards secularists, humanists etc, which has manifested itself in the ostracising of otherwise perfectly good Irish citizens, who do not share the aims of the Vatican's Irish Mission Church."

So such expressions merit hours of police time and investigation by the DPP?

This is a most worthy moment for an 'I'm Spartacus' declaration. His Grace wishes to stand foursquare with Bishop Philip Boyce, as should all who care about freedom of speech, freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and freedom of religion. And in the UK, that will (thankfully) still include a good many secularist-atheist-humanist types. But for how long?

Sunday, January 29, 2012

David Lammy: Labour was wrong to ban smacking

There is a bizarre story in The Mail on Sunday in which Labour MP David Lammy attributes last year's riots to his party's 'smacking ban'. He calls for 'a return to Victorian laws on discipline' because parents are 'no longer sovereign in their own homes'.

Setting aside the political reality that no British citizen has been sovereign in his or her own home since UK accession to the European Economic Community in 1973, His Grace is at a loss to know what Mr Lammy is talking about.

The Mail story appears not to be fabricated, for it quotes the Tottenham MP at some length. And you'd expect a former education minister to know what he's talking about. Yet he calls for 'a reversal of Labour’s 2004 decision to tighten up the smacking law':
Previously parents could use ‘reasonable chastisement’, while the new definition prohibits any force that causes ‘reddening of the skin’. Mr Lammy poured scorn on that description, saying it was irrelevant to black children.

He said: ‘Many of my constituents came up to me after the riots and blamed the Labour Government, saying, “You guys stopped us being able to smack our children.”
‘When this was first raised with me I was pretty disparaging. But I started to listen. These parents are scared to smack their children and paranoid that social workers will get involved and take their children away.

‘The law used to allow “reasonable chastisement”, but current legislation stops actions that lead to a reddening of the skin – which for a lot of my non-white residents isn’t really an issue.’
And it transpires that Mr Lammy was interviewed by Iain Dale on LBC Radio, 'after he had made a call on the Mumsnet website for smacking to be legalised'. Further, Mr Lammy 'set out his support for scrapping the smacking ban in his book Out Of The Ashes: After The Riots'.

Right.

There is no such ban, Mr Lammy.

This being the case, it is rather difficult to attribute last year's riots to the prohibition of smacking. It is also a moot point to suggest that 'reddening of the skin' is 'irrelevant to black children'. This being the case, black parents would be more likely to ignore the non-existent ban and carry on smacking regardless.

Does anyone know what David Lammy is twittering on about?

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Sentamu pitches for Canterbury


Secure in the knowledge that Dr Rowan Williams will be vacating the See of Canterbury at some point this year, it stands to reason that the frontrunners will be increasingly making themselves heard over the celebrity chatter and what passes for political analysis in much of the MSM. And Dr John Sentamu, Archbishop of York, really doesn’t have to do much to attract an audience: he is one of the Church of England’s great showmen, baptising believers outside York Minister as a public witness; cutting up his dog collar in protest against Robert Mugabe; and calling for a re-discovery of English pride and cultural identity. When he speaks, he incarnates the sound-bite in ways Dr Williams has never quite grasped.

Two articles about Dr Sentamu might have been written by the same journalist, and published on the same day in the same newspaper, but a story about the CofE and homosexuality will always attract more froth and bubble than a discussion about the CofE and the middle class, despite the latter being by far the most important.

One of the Church of England’s fundamental weaknesses, in common with many churches in Europe, is its tendency to demand that people do not merely acknowledge the Lordship of Christ but also abandon their former way of life in favour of that of a peculiar middle-class sub-culture. Notwithstanding some of the excellent work going on in some of the most impoverished parishes in the country, the public perception of the Church of England remains one of middle-class privilege and an élitism which has little relevance to a modern, pluralist, multi-ethnic society. While this may be a misconception, it is undoubtedly exacerbated by the nature of establishment and the fusion of the Church with secular government.

Now to the froth and bubble...

The very moment the ‘gay marriage’ article was tweeted by (the excellent) Martin Beckford, the Twittersphere was alive with conjecture that with this proclamation Dr Sentamu had just blown his chances of succeeding Dr Rowan Williams to the See of Canterbury.

People appear to have forgotten Gordon Brown’s 2007 reforms, which is forgivable, for just about all of what Gordon Brown achieved is eminently forgettable. But the Prime Minister no longer possesses Royal Prerogative power to sift the names of prospective bishops or archbishops and submit God’s choice to the Supreme Governor. The whole process is now in the hands of the Crown Nominations Committee – a kind of 15-strong college of cardinals who meet in secret to elect a single candidate. And when the white smoke appears, the Prime Minister simply wafts it in the Queen's general direction. And the CNC might quite like a bishop who’s prepared to tell a Tory PM where he can stick his proposal for ‘gay marriage’.

The Committee will be acutely aware that it remains one of the Church’s primary functions to hold government and political parties to account and highlight the inadequacies of the political system, in order that people’s welfare may be improved. Whatever the outcome of discussions and debates, the CNC will be unanimous in their desire to see the public realm remain an arena in which the Church’s moral and ethical mission continues to be exercised. Perhaps it is only the Establishment Church that, in contemporary society, possesses the status to permit it to fight for representation of a slighted electorate in the face of an increasingly abstract political élite. And some of these forays concern themselves with issues which are of primary concern to the majority of the electorate. The Archbishop of York observed of New Labour in 2008:
“Our current Government is in danger of sacrificing Liberty in favour of an abused form of equality – not a meaningful equality that enables the excluded to be brought into society, but rather an equality based on diktat and bureaucracy, which overreaches into the realm of personal conscience.”
And here he is in 2012 voicing the same concerns about a Tory/LibDem coalition. By alluding to David Cameron the ‘dictator’, Dr Sentamu reminds us of Parliament’s omnipotence in our Erastian Settlement. Or is it its impotence in the face of the inexorable metaphysical quest to subvert the created order and eliminate sexual inequality?

Friday, January 27, 2012

Dave in Davos


The Prime Minister’s speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos was passionate, lucid and forthright. He firmly nailed his theses to the door, and told his fellow European leaders to desist from the ‘madness’ of their incessant regulations and red tape which are stifling growth. He didn’t quite say they were all as mad as a hatter/fish/march hare/box of frogs, but he won’t have made many friends with his patronising and lecturing tone. Take this, for example:
In the name of social protection, the EU has promoted unnecessary measures that impose burdens on businesses and governments, and can destroy jobs. The Agency Workers Directive, the Pregnant Workers Directive, the Working Time Directive. The list goes on and on. And then there’s the proposal for a Financial Transactions Tax. Of course it’s right that the financial sector should pay their share. In the UK we are doing exactly that through our bank levies and stamp duty on shares... But look at the European Commission’s own original analysis. That showed a Financial Transactions Tax could reduce the GDP of the EU by 200 billion euros cost nearly 500 thousand jobs and force as much as 90 per cent of some markets away from the EU. Even to be considering this at a time when we are struggling to get our economies growing is quite simply madness.
His solution?
Look at America. Or the United Kingdom...
And there we have the Prime Minister’s incomprehension / unawareness / intolerance of the EU’s Catholic-interventionist-corporatist model versus the Anglo-Saxon-Protestant one of free markets and liberty. Perhaps PPE doesn’t cover it, but you’d think the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom would grasp that the ‘madness’ is not political, but religio-philosophical.

The EU is intrinsically structurally autocratic, cohesive, Catholic and corporatist. It is was inspired principally by two Papal Encyclicals, namely Rerum Novarum (1891) and Quadragesimo Anno (1931), and is consequently concerned with solidarity, the single market and the social chapter. It advocates close co-operation between employers and workers, with the State overseeing wages, working conditions, production, prices and exchange. By eliminating competition, the system is meant to promote social justice and order. This, to any Anglo-Saxon Conservative with a grasp of the Protestant work ethic, constitutes unnecessary regulation and red tape. It is the antithesis of free markets, liberty and a sovereign legislature.

And so, while the Prime Minister spouts on about the need for deregulation and less state interference to fuel competition and spur growth, our EU partners believe the solution lies in more regulation and more interventionism to yield a greater social justice. David Cameron urges a liberal economic model; our EU partners urge ever closer cooperation and the pooling of economic and social sovereignty.

The EU is the answer to everything: the State is the author of not only all that is good, noble, right and true, but of everything. It is the State which must fill the gap, for while the market creates the wealth, only the State can ensure social justice. The UK/US Anglo-Saxon neo-liberal model has manifestly failed, they aver: and the solution is the social doctrine of Europe's social-market economies, which need to be guided by cross-border regulation, which must be subject to the global government of the international community.

This is not ‘madness’ to our EU partners; it is logic. The Mother State is our saviour, and she yearns for her recalcitrant children to return to her breast. She must nurture and care for them, for only she knows what’s best. This is global Socialism – unadulterated, unrelenting, unaccountable and undemocratic. It is indeed ‘madness’, but not at all to those who believe the UK/US economic model is a repugnant, dog-eat-dog world of corporate selfishness with the social ethic of a Vegas casino.

As Margaret Thatcher observed, the EU is about Socialism ‘by the back Delors’. It is a tragedy that David Cameron keeps the front door and all the windows wide open to it. Therein lies the madness.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Is Rupert Matthews 'as mad as a box of snakes'?


Setting aside for the moment that His Grace thought the madness simile was made with comparative appeals to a hatter, the march hare or a box of frogs, it would appear that Conservative Campaign Headquarters (ie Baroness Warsi) is intent on making windows into men's UFO portals.

Essentially, Roger Helmer MEP (right) wishes to retire, which would usually leave Rupert Matthews (left) to succeed him, since Mr Matthews is next on the regional list system used in elections to the European Parliament. Those elections took place in 2008, when Mr Matthews was an approved candidate of the Conservative Party. Now, however, it appears that Mr Matthews has been unapproved, despite the Party affirming him for that election, and despite Mr Matthews having garnered sufficient support from the millions who voted Conservative.

On the Daily Mail's RightMinds, Simon Richards thinks there's something of a witch-hunt going on, because Mr Matthews is 'a strong Conservative, a man of principle, and, like the overwhelming majority of Conservative Party Members and voters, a convinced Eurosceptic. He also happens - horror of horrors - to be white, middle-aged, grammar school educated and a Christian'.

According to Michael Crick, Mr Matthews has some unconventional beliefs in the paranormal (UFOs, poltergeist, etc), and his company has published material challenging political correctness (featuring gollywogs). According to one (conveniently) unidentified MP, Mr Matthews is 'as mad as a box of snakes', though THIS LIST of published books suggests they are targeted at non-specialists and are of the 'easy-to-read' genre. People who buy such books are often interested in ancient mysteries and stories of ghosts and UFOs, as well as interesting bits of history, snippets of science and accounts of natural disasters.

His Grace does not know Rupert Matthews, but he would like to point out that a publisher is not obliged to agree with either the content or design of every book which is produced and printed under one's aegis. There is nothing in this publication record which merits barring him from office. And His Grace would also like to point out that it would be a dangerous precedent to bar a man from public office because of his alleged beliefs in certain wacky paranormal activity.

After all, Baroness Warsi is reported to believe that some illiterate Arab in the 7th century had a book dictated to him by the Angel Gabriel which was God's final testament for mankind. Others believe that God became a 1st-century Jewish carpenter and rose from the dead. Still others believe they can turn wafers into his flesh and wine into his blood - quite literally - and then consume it cannibalistically. And yet others believe that the head of an elephant can fit squarely onto the shoulders of a man, and the chimera can live and breathe in contravention of all the known laws of biological science.

Perhaps Baroness Warsi might like to produce a convenient list of which privately-held beliefs are permissible and which are prohibited before one may be an approved candidate for the Conservative Party. His Grace has long suspected the existence of an unofficial Conservative Test Act.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Is Ed’s leadership doomed to fail?


As readers and communicants will know, His Grace is a fully paid up member of (it’s free) and Hon. Chaplain to DUEMA, and so prohibited by its founding charter from doing anything which may imperil the status and standing of HM Leader of the Opposition the Rt Hon Edward Miliband MP. So here’s a guest post by Zach Johnstone:

You won’t hear too many Labour MPs saying so, but this was the week that was supposed to revive Ed Miliband’s ailing leadership fortunes. With a negative poll rating that presently sits somewhere between that of Ian Duncan Smith and Michael Howard at similar junctures in their inauspicious leaderships, the party desperately required a red letter day (in fact, a whole series of them) in order to ensure its continued relevance in the domestic political landscape, particularly with both the local and mayoral elections now just four months away.

For Ed, the backdrop to success is the ‘battle of ideas’. Without the power to effect change directly, he has spoken on numerous occasions of the need for Labour to project itself as the party pioneering solutions to the country’s ills; in other words, he wants his party to provide a credible alternative to the Coalition and to act like a government-in-waiting. His vision is a Labour Party forcing the political agenda through an awareness of the issues that really matter to voters; with this in mind, Ed embarked upon a series of public appearances in recent days in order to set out his stall and attempt to gain traction with an electorate that has, until now, shown little faith in his credentials for the highest office in the land. Having conducted several interviews with various national newspapers in order to convey his ‘human side’, all that was left was to flesh out his policy initiatives and wait for his fortunes to change.

As it transpires, it was all for nothing. Despite his considerable efforts the latest polling data from YouGov suggests that throughout the past week Labour has actually lost ground, dropping two percentage points. A series of meticulously-planned speeches and television interviews intended to propel Miliband to the fore of the news agenda managed only to reinforce the perception that the Labour leader is hopelessly vacillating. Worryingly for the stability of the party, Cameron’s accusation of “flip-flopping” at Prime Minister’s Questions was met with little more than an agitated murmur by the Labour backbenchers, perhaps redolent of a growing consensus amongst the party’s parliamentary members that Ed is not the man to lead them to electoral victory in 2015.

Frustratingly for Mr Miliband, it is difficult to see what he should be doing differently. The issues upon which he has chosen to focus – notably bank bonuses, executive pay and exorbitant energy bills – are precisely the things that many people expect their politicians to be tackling. He was not the first, as he speciously asserts, to decry crony capitalism, but he has certainly led the way in forcing the subject up the political agenda. He played his part in persuading energy companies such as EDF to cut their bills by as much as 5% this week, and he has ensured that the bonus of the Chief Executive of the publicly-owned Royal Bank of Scotland, Stephen Hester, is receiving appropriate scrutiny. In fact, by and large, Ed has been pushing the very issues that should be drawing Labour’s core voters (and swing voters, for that matter) out in their droves.

So why, if he is talking about the right things, is he failing to attract supporters?

Certainly, part of Miliband’s problem is the distinct lack of clarity on offer, especially with regard to the economy. His assertion that his party presently opposes the Coalition’s economic trajectory but that it cannot pledge to reverse cuts to public services in three-and-a-half years’ time is, given the continually changing nature of the economy, eminently rational, yet his failure to articulate this view with sufficient intelligibility has led to accusations of vagueness. His interview with Andrew Marr on Sunday was, at times, painful for this very reason, as was Harriet Harman’s similarly ungainly appearance on the Daily Politics. But vagueness is not, in itself, enough to keep a credible candidate or party down, as aptly demonstrated by Mitt Romney’s success in the Republican nominations in spite of his refusal to publish his tax returns.

Where Miliband is concerned there seems to be more at play than political strategy.

Take the differing fortunes of the two main parties when pursuing the same tactic. In the run-up to the 2010 general election David Cameron determined that in order to attract voters, the Conservative Party stood to gain more by explaining the harsh economic reality to the electorate and, paradoxically, setting out an austere vision for the next five years. Where electoral convention dictates that candidates must don rose-tinted glasses and espouse a rhetoric replete with optimism, Cameron and his colleagues readily admitted that a Conservative administration would cut public expenditure to such an extent that the United Kingdom’s entire structural deficit would be eliminated by 2015, a frankness that was rewarded (more or less) by the electorate. However as Ed Miliband sought to display similar candour this week by refusing to commit to increased public spending without knowing where the money would come from, he was met with a torrent of abuse. This was led by Unite leader Len McCluskey who, in a characteristically ignorant tirade, criticised Ed’s guarded approach (clearly the only way to placate the Labour Left is to commit to unbridled increases in public spending irrespective of the size of the national deficit). When Miliband attempted the Cameron approach, integrity and a desire to be honest counted for nothing.

So having established that the substance is more or less there, and that ambiguity isn’t terminal, we come to the crux of the matter: the harsh reality for Miliband is that this is about image.

Just as significant as saying the right things is how you look and sound when you do so. Whether it is the slightly nasal voice, his irrepressible blinking or his lack of charisma, Miliband does not look prime ministerial. It was, of course, rather uncouth of John Humphrys to ‘pose this point’ to Miliband in quite so forthright a manner as he did, but it rather reaffirms the point. Rightly or wrongly, it seems to play on people’s minds to a greater extent, even, than the carefully thought-out policy initiatives that Miliband is entreating people to support. It is a galling thought for the Labour leader, for if his problems are rooted in such unalterable factors then it is difficult to see what he can do to reverse his own – and his party’s - fortunes. The Labour Party may have to consider the prospect that with Ed at the helm, anything other than five more years in opposition seems greatly optimistic.

In a speech on responsible capitalism delivered on Thursday, Ed ‘encouraged’ prospective voters to judge the Government ‘on their deeds and not on their words’. To be judged on his words would, at this stage, represent a welcome reprieve for Mr Miliband.

Monday, January 23, 2012

We need more Tory bishops

According to The Sunday Times (£), the bishops of the Church of England are (again) ‘at war’ with the Government (which, let us remember, is not some extreme, right-wing, arch-Thatcherite group, but a mild and moderate coalition of ‘progressive’ Tories collaborating with ultra-enlightened Liberal Democrats). This time the conflagration is apparently over government plans to cap household benefits at £500 per week (that’s £26,000 per annum). The cap will apply to the combined income from the main out-of-work benefits – Jobseeker's Allowance, Income Support, and Employment Support Allowance – and other benefits such as Housing Benefit, Child Benefit and Child Tax Credit, and Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit.

Perhaps the ‘war’ ought to come as no surprise, since the vast majority (if not all) of CofE bishops are paid up (or very sympathetic ex-) members of the Christian Socialist Movement who pore over The Guardian every morning with their mint tea and muesli and intercede fervently for the amelioration of the fortunes of Ed Miliband. “O God, let justice flow like a river,” they pray, hoping desperately for the water to turn red. On that count, they might as well pray to win the lottery: His Grace is firmly persuaded that the Lord wants Ed Miliband to become Prime Minister of the United Kingdom about as much as He wants Johann Hari to write the Third Testament.

The former Bishop of Hulme, the Rt Rev’d Stephen Lowe, is of the opinion that capping housing benefit could make children suffer. He said: "We have got some families, quite a large number of families I am sad to say, where neither parent is working. They perhaps are not particularly capable of working. They have large families... The fact that child benefit, which is meant to be attached to the number of children, is being discounted in relation to this particular £26,000 is actually going to damage those children's welfare and put potentially another 100,000 children into poverty."

The Rt Rev’d John Packer, the Bishop of Ripon and Leeds, says: “There is a very real risk that these reforms will cause suffering to the most vulnerable in society. What we’re hoping to do is to lessen that suffering for children in families where parents are unemployed.”

And this, apparently, amounts to ‘war’.

His Grace feels he’s going round in circles on this one, principally because some bishops can’t think beyond their religio-political predisposition, firmly convinced that Jesus, were he to walk our green and pleasant land, would vote Labour.

His Grace would very much like a three-bedroom pad in Kensington, preferably near Harvey Nick’s. And failing that, a nice pied-à-terre in Kensington Palace Gardens would suffice. The reality, of course, is that his abode is commensurate with and proportionate to his meagre stipend: he has no expectation that the taxpayer should subsidise his desire to dwell in a house or an in area he cannot afford.

£2000 a month represents the average weekly wage for working households. Adopting the mean income would appear to be a manifestly fair way of apportioning welfare, the bill for which presently runs at £192bn a year. But the bishops are concerned that the reforms risk pushing thousands of children into poverty and homelessness. How in the name of St Gemma could an income of £2000 a month be considered poverty? Certainly, it won't be enough to pay a rent in Kensington or any major city. So move.

When it comes to protecting the poorest and most vulnerable in society, the Government's measure of poverty is woefully inadequate, and the bishops need to reflect on the teachings of Jesus (just occasionally). His Grace has said this before, but he will say it again for the economically obtuse. If poverty continues to be defined in relative terms, then Jesus was right to insist that the poor will always be with us. For when the average household income reaches £35,000, there will still be children being brought up in households where the income is a meagre £21,000, and thereby damned to be brought up in ‘Dickensian levels of poverty’.

The proportion of UK households defined as living in poverty has been around the 20 per cent through many decades of both Conservative and Labour administrations.

If the Conservative Party were intent on eradicating child poverty, or any other kind of poverty, they would first need to confront UN/EU/UK/CofE definition of the term and reassess how it is measured, for the social(-ist) scientists have being very busy moving the goalposts.

The bishops are right to highlight that subject of poverty, for it was foundational to the ministry of Jesus: he preached more about money than he did about eternal salvation. But when examining what he said about the poor, consideration has to be given to context and audience, and the nuances of Greek vocabulary also need examining.

What does Luke mean by ‘the poor’ (6:20)? The peasants who possessed little material wealth were not called ‘poor’ (‘ptochos’) if they possessed what was sufficient (ie subsistence) - they were termed ‘penes’. Jesus was (and is) concerned with the literal, physical needs of men (ie not just the spiritual [cf Acts 10:38]). When Luke was addressing the ‘poor’, he meant those who had no money - the oppressed, miserable, dependent, humiliated - and this is translated by ‘ptochos’, indicating ‘poverty-stricken…to cower down or hide oneself for fear’ - the need to beg. The ‘penes’ has to work, but the ‘ptochos’ has to beg. Those addressed by Jesus are the destitute beggars, not ‘penes’ or the general peasant audience of few possessions.

This is an important distinction upon which the bishops might like to reflect. They might also like to reflect on the teaching of St Paul:
We were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone’s food without paying for it. On the contrary, we worked night and day, laboring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you. We did this, not because we do not have the right to such help, but in order to offer ourselves as a model for you to imitate. For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.” We hear that some among you are idle and disruptive. They are not busy; they are busybodies. Such people we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and earn the food they eat.
(2 Thess3:8-12 NIV – so the bishops can understand it).
Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith has grasped this. But it’s a sorry state of affairs when a lay Roman Catholic has to instruct bishops of the Established Church in God’s justice: we must think of those who pay taxes while some unemployed people live in large houses at public expense. The principle ought very fairly to be that those on benefits cannot ‘earn’ more than those who work.

Mr Duncan Smith said: "The question I'd ask these bishops is, over all these years, why have they sat back and watched people being placed in houses they cannot afford? It's not a kindness. I would like to see their concerns about ordinary people, who are working hard, paying their tax and commuting long hours, who don't have as much money as they would otherwise because they're paying tax for all of this."

Quite.

His Grace is fed up of the moral hazard in this argument: children have become a vehicle for guaranteed income and a sense of entitlement. While society must always protect the vulnerable, adults must take responsibility for their choices, including the bad ones.

Perhaps, instead of obsessing about which bishops are gay, one or two might have the courage of their convictions and come out as Tory and support this manifestly sensible reform.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Abortion ads on TV – courtesy of the taxpayer

Abortion is not illegal in the UK, and neither is smoking or prostitution. But society makes moral decisions about what it seeks to propagate and promote, ever mindful of the common good. Thankfully, we are spared TV advertisements for ‘massage services’, even post-watershed, for Parliament and the independent Advertising Standards Authority deem them inappropriate; somehow beyond the bounds of acceptability or respectability. But after years of lobbying by the likes of BPAS and Marie Stopes, we are to be subjected to TV advertisements for ‘post-conception advisory services’, which appear to have become both acceptable and respectable.

It is curious that, at a time when all advertising for cigarettes and tobacco is banned from our TV screens in order to avoid promoting and propagating the habit, we should move towards permitting advertisements for abortion. Only a decade ago, HM Government (spurred on by EU directive) outlawed tobacco advertising in order to mitigate the detrimental effects on the nation’s health. Why is lung cancer of a higher political priority than mental health? Is the life of an emphysemic pensioner worth more than the child in the womb?

Ah, yes. Of course it is.

For Parliament has decreed it so.

But if there is deemed to be statistical correlation between advertising and an increase in the uptake of smoking, how can there not be a causal link between advertising and increased numbers seeking abortion? And surely there must be, for why else would ‘charities’ like BPAS and Marie Stopes wish to spend millions on such advertising? And His Grace refers to ‘charities’ because he was under the impression that such organisations act benevolently and often voluntarily, frequently dependent on public charitable giving. BPAS and Maries Stopes obtain much of their incomes (amounting to tens of millions of pounds) from their ‘partnership’ with the NHS. The NHS is financed by government: government is financed by the taxpayer: the taxpayer is you. Ergo, you are paying for BPAS and Marie Stopes to promote their ‘post-conception advisory services’.

Their primary mission is to ‘protect’ pregnant women from pregnancy advisory services which do not provide abortion: God forbid that they might lose ‘customers’ to pro-life agencies. Yet it is ironic that one of the few human pursuits which still may not be screened on British television is the termination of a baby. If abortion may not be screened, how can BPAS and Marie Stopes possibly be truthful and transparent, as all advertisements must be in order to conform to the requirements of the ASA? Surely, if advertisers omit key facts about the baby’s development, how the procedure is carried out, and the implications for the woman’s mental health, they will fall foul of advertising standards and find themselves in breach their duty of trust.

All tobacco advertising must carry a Government Health Warning, and there is a statutory obligation upon all providers of financial services to disclose a raft of tedious details. Will advertisements for abortion be forced to carry warnings about the high risks of guilt and depression? Will they offer accompanying psychiatric services? Will they be frank and open about the serious psychological, spiritual and physical impact of abortion?

Or will they ignore them? Will they suggest that the tortuous invasive process is, in fact, quite pleasant; a little like a walk in the park? Will they make abortion sound rather attractive in order to persuade women and girls of its benefits and to promote its merits above its demerits. Why otherwise would providers spend money promoting their services if they could not somehow recoup their investment?

How abhorrent, shameful and profoundly immoral it is to shroud the horrors of abortion in lightness and joy, to sell them as we do instant coffee and crisps, and to promote the ‘post-conception advisory services’ of the likes of BPAS and Marie Stopes as though they were no different from Specsavers.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Nadine Dorries’ quest for sexual abstinence

This is a guest post by Mr Gillan Scott of the ‘God and Politics in the UK’ blog:

Today sees the Second Reading of Nadine Dorries’ Sex Education (Required Content) Bill which, should it become law, would require schoolgirls to discuss abstinence in the classroom. The summary of the Bill taken from the UK Parliament website is as follows:
A Bill to require schools to provide certain additional sex education to girls aged between 13 and 16; to provide that such education must include information and advice on the benefits of abstinence from sexual activity; and for connected purposes.
In her blog entry following the first reading on 4th May 2011 (which passed 67-61), she explains the reasons for presenting the Bill:
“I am not seeking to diminish sex education as taught at present, but to include the empowering option that young girls can just say no. In school, children are taught to base the decision whether or not to have sex on their feelings and wishes. I don’t believe young girls under the age of 16 have consistent feelings and that they can change from day to day. My bill was about making boys wait being an empowering and cool thing for girls to do and that it should be taught as a viable, if not preferable option for girls aged 16 and under – especially as sex at that age is unlawful.”
And so Ms Dorries, whether deliberately or not, has caused another political storm. Not entirely surprisingly, the National Secular Society and British Humanist Association are opposing. In fact, they will be demonstrating outside Parliament with other aligned groups to protest against it. One of their counter arguments is that this type of education should not be solely compulsory for girls. They have is a valid point. I’m not exactly sure what Ms Dorries was thinking when she left boys out of the Bill. However, I doubt this is the main reason why the protest will be going ahead. Rather, the thrust of their animosity would appear to be the thought of any moral values being applied to sex education under law.

Irrespective of any religious beliefs someone may have about teenage sex, I find it very hard to see how anyone can argue against giving girls (or boys) the chance to consider the benefits of holding back from sexual activity at a young age. Any sexual engagement for young people obviously carries the risks of pregnancy, subsequent abortion and the contraction of sexually transmitted infections. The number of STIs reported by sexual health clinics in the UK is increasing rapidly year on year with 482,900 recorded in 2009. Two thirds of these cases were from females aged 15-24. Studies have shown that young adults are more likely to have unsafe sex and that they often lack the skills and confidence to negotiate safer methods. There have been conflicting studies about whether early sexual activity causes long term mental health issues, but surely there is less chance of this in any form if a young person is abstaining from rather than having sex. The UK has the second highest teenage pregnancy rate in the world behind the US, and the highest teenage abortion rate in Western Europe. This strongly suggests that the current sex and relationship education (SRE) in schools is not particularly effective.

Something has fundamentally shifted in our society’s moral values (and not for the better) over the last few decades. For centuries, abstinence was seen as the norm outside of marriage, but now in some circles any promotion of abstinence in any form is seen as totally outdated and something even to be fought against. When did we decide that ideology was more important than the wellbeing of our children?

Even if Nadine Dorries’ Bill is flawed, her desire to see young people receive sound advice as part of their sex education is not, and she ought to be commended for this.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Christian persecution – the top 50 countries

Open Doors have again done the world a great service with the 2012 publication of their World Watch List. It is compiled from a qualitative questionnaire which covers various aspects of religious freedom in each country. Points are ascribed to permit a quantitative assessment of the liberty or oppression experienced by Christians.

Here are the Top 50 worst persecutors of Christians:

1. North Korea
2. Afghanistan
3. Saudi Arabia
4. Somalia
5. Iran
6. Maldives
7. Uzbekistan
8. Yemen
9. Iraq
10. Pakistan
11. Eritrea
12. Laos
13. Northern Nigeria
14. Mauritania
15. Egypt
16. Sudan
17. Bhutan
18. Turkmenistan
19. Vietnam
20. Chechnya
21. China
22. Qatar
23. Algeria
24. Comoros
25. Azerbaijan
26. Libya
27. Oman
28. Brunei
29. Morocco
30. Kuwait
31. Turkey
32. India
33. Burma (Myanmar)
34. Tajikistan
35. Tunisia
36. Syria
37. United Arab Emirates
38. Ethiopia
39. Djibouti
40. Jordan
41. Cuba
42. Belarus
43. Indonesia
44. Palestinian Territories
45. Kazakhstan
46. Bahrain
47. Colombia
48. Kyrgyzstan
49. Bangladesh
50. Malaysia

While the oppressive, atheist-communist regime of North Korea is (again) the worst persecutor of Christians in the world, it must be observed that the rest of the Top 10 are Islamic. In fact, 38 of worst 50 countries persecuting Christians are predominantly Muslim.

While His Grace doesn’t wish to cause offence, he’d very much like to know what is to be made of the appalling statistic that 76 per cent of the world’s fiercest oppressors and persecutors of Christians are culturally, politically and religiously Islamic? Have they all misunderstood the Religion of Peace? Are they torturing and murdering their cousins – the People of the Book – in error and in contravention of quranic precepts? How could so many be so wrong in their interpretation of the sharia? Or misapplication of sharias? What does Allah think of it? Would Mohammed approve of the systematic persecution, imprisonment, torture and slaughter of those who follow the prophet Isa?

And must we remain silent about this? Must we take tea with the Taliban and sell arms to the Wahhabi kingdom of Saudi Arabia out of tolerance and respect? While we happily take their oil money and permit them to build mosques and open their free schools, they murder our brothers and sisters in Christ – reserving the most appalling torture and suffering for those who have rejected Islam and accepted Jesus as their Lord and Saviour.

And so it is ironic, is it not, given this list, that the Organization of the Islamic Conference sponsored a UN resolution entitled ‘Combating intolerance, negative stereotyping, stigmatization, discrimination, incitement to violence and violence against persons, based on religion or belief’.

It beggars belief that while OIC members insist they are the epitome of tolerance and shine at the zenith of global religious liberty, the reality is that they are the most intolerant of Christians and Christianity, and the suffering and despair they inflict places them at the nadir of humanity.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Chris Bryant on the ‘silliness’ of the Roman Catholic Church


According to Labour’s Chris Bryant, the Roman Catholic Church ‘has got its cassocks so firmly in a twist’ that it is no longer able to think or communicate rationally on the subject of homosexuality. And he surmises that this is perhaps because so many of its priests, bishops and cardinals are gay. He observes:

In the old days it was all very simple. Homosexuality was a deliberate choice, a perversion, a sin. Gay men were skipping along the rose-pink path to the everlasting bonfire and gay clergy who were caught in the act were dismissed, disgraced and defrocked.

“But nobody seriously believes that anymore,” he avers. “Most church leaders know your sexuality is not something you choose, but something you discover. So you could even argue that God has made some people gay, which is why the Roman Catholic Church no longer condemns anyone for just being gay. Indeed, it even teaches that homophobia is immoral.”

But in a classic twist of Roman logic, Mr Bryant points to the absurd hypocrisy of the Holy Mother Church, which, despite many of its priests and bishops being inclined towards homosexuality, considers it a more or less strong tendency ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil; and thus the inclination itself must be seen as an objective disorder.

Celibacy is the rule – for all clergy (except pre-married converting Orthodox and Anglicans) – and same-sex sex is definitely off-limits.

There are two problems with this, Mr Bryant observes: “For a start it is a great big lie. It ludicrously pretends that the Roman Catholic Church has no gay bishops.

“What is even worse,” he adds, “is that the Church's double-speak is so cruel. It condemns people to a life without the joy of sexual intimacy – and all to placate a theology that is as misplaced and out of date as Christianity's onetime advocacy of slavery.”

And he ends by asking: “Is it too much to hope that one day the Roman Catholic Church will get this silliness out of its system?”

O, hang on.

His Grace may have got this very slightly wrong. Silly him.

If Chris Bryant thinks the Church of England is being ‘silly’ over this issue, what on earth does he think about the Roman Catholic Church, which is rather more robust on the issue?

Or Islam, which he might find even more robust?

It is astonishing that an MP attacks the Established Church on this matter, not least because it is one of the few expressions of faith in this country which has bothered to commission and convene endless debates, committees and reports on the issue, tearing itself apart and driving it to schism and not-quite-schism over the last decade and more.

The Church of England has been adapting, compromising and perpetually 'modernising' along via media after via media since 1534. The genius of Anglicanism is that it seeks to reconcile opposed systems, rejecting them as exclusive systems, but showing that the principle for which each stands has its place within the total orbit of Christian truth.

The Church of England is not a political party that may be recreated in the image of man. It is no-one’s private fiefdom (though it may once have been). Her Majesty the Queen is the Supreme Governor, and Jesus Christ is the Head.

It is acutely concerned with many pressing prioritries: the persecution abroad of homosexuals; the adoption of children by suitable parents irrespective of sexuality; the provision of services for the poor and marginalised; the expression of compassion to the alienated, outcast, oppressed and persecuted, irrespective of their gender, skin colour, sexuality or religion. The doors of the Church of England are open to everyone in the land. For centuries before the Labour Party even existed, it has possessed the capacity for the via media which was never in its essence compromise or an intellectual expedient but a quality of thinking, an approach in which elements usually regarded as mutually exclusive were seen to be in fact complementary. These things were held in 'living tension', not in order to walk the tightrope of compromise, but because they were seen to be mutually illuminating and to fertilise each other.

This is the ‘living tension’ which was first advocated by Hooker (whom Mr Bryant has probably long forgotten since his Cuddesdon days). This finest of Anglicans (Hooker, that is; not Bryant) was opposed to absolutism in both church and state and an exponent of conciliar thought. This ensures that the laity, clergy and bishops all participate in guarding against autocracy in a system of checks and balances that in many ways apes the parliamentary process. If authority is dispersed, spiritual tyranny is prevented. The similarities between the synodical and parliamentary procedures are unsurprising when both expressions of representative government have a common root in mediaeval political thought.

Yet Chris Bryant appears to be intent on pursuing the Harman agenda and forging an absolutism in sexuality: dissent is ‘silliness’. The Archbishop of York once said of Labour that they were ‘in danger of sacrificing Liberty in favour of an abused form of equality – not a meaningful equality that enables the excluded to be brought into society, but rather an equality based on diktat and bureaucracy, which overreaches into the realm of personal conscience’.

While Mr Bryant’s grievance may have some vailidity, it only adds to the perception that the Church of England seeks to exclude or is out of sympathy with some distinct groups of people for whom it should have a pastoral concern. This would be less of a problem if the Church’s Supreme Governor were not also the Head of State, for by virtue of being so, she is obliged to exercise her public ‘outward government’ in a manner which accords with the private welfare of her subjects – of whatever creed, ethnicity, sexuality or political philosophy. The Royal Supremacy in regard to the Church is in its essence the right of supervision over the administration of the Church, vested in the Crown as the champion of the Church, in order that the ‘religious welfare’ of its subjects may be provided for.

While politicians may argue over the manner of this ‘religious welfare’ in a context of ‘equality’ and ‘rights’, by focusing on such issues they alienate and distance the Church from political engagement.

His Grace would very much like Chris Bryant to reflect on these matters, and to ask himself why he does not show equal contempt for the Roman Catholic Church or even greater contempt for Islam on this same issue.

Or would that run the risk of accusations of being ‘anti-Catholic’ or ‘Islamophobic’?

Ah, much easy to be anti-Anglican, isn’t it, Mr Bryant?

Monday, January 16, 2012

Alex Salmond’s Anglophobic racism


Is there much more than a letter between the SNP and the BNP? Both are nationalist parties: both seek to enforce separatism, propagate insularity and practise protectionism, all under the guise of benign patriotism. And both are led by racists.

Let us imagine that Nick Griffin discovered that curry may first have been eaten in Britain and only later popularised by Asians. What if he then declared: “I don’t mind the Asians claiming curry as their own, as long as they leave us our country.”

Racist?

This was Alex Salmond’s precise reaction to the seismic revelation that haggis may first have been eaten in England. And he went further (as is his wont): detecting an opportunity for political hyperbole, this trivial piece of culinary history became akin to a ‘land grab’; an unwarranted political threat by ‘the English’ on ‘our country’. Go to parts of Birmingham, Leicester, Luton, Bradford or Tower Hamlets and dare to talk of ‘the Asians’ making a ‘land grab’ on ‘our country’, and you’ll soon find yourself in court.

What, then, if a colleague and senior adviser of Mr Griffin then accused those who did not agree with his nationalism of being ‘anti-British’?

Offensive?

But any Scot who does not agree with the Salmond brand of nationalism is a traitor. Indeed, all Scottish Unionists are traitors. The SNP haven’t used that word, but they might as well have done, for what else does an allegation of being anti-Scottish mean to a patriotic Scot?

It is curious that we repudiate British nationalism while tolerating Scottish nationalism. After decades of bloodshed and civil strife, Irish nationalists have been welcomed into the fold of the enlightened, and Welsh nationalism is tolerated because it’s basically as warm and fluffy as the sheep. In these constituent countries of the United Kingdom, nationalism is synonymous with patriotism. But underlying them all is a deep antipathy towards some alien other, namely the English. What exactly is the difference between Nick Griffin’s racist outbursts against Asians and Alex Salmond’s nationalistic enmity against the English? Do they do not both represent a form of bigotry?

UKIP are not infrequently derided as closet racists, petty little Englanders and xenophobes for seeking the secession of the United Kingdom from the European Union. Their backward-looking insularity is self-evident to the progressive, enlightened, globally-minded establishment. The BNP are undoubtedly racist for seeking to exclude non-white people from their ranks and for advocating the primacy of the ‘indigenous Caucasian’ (or 'ethnic groups emanating from that race’). Understandably, the non-racist, non-sectarian UKIP often get a little irate when their brand of ‘extreme Right’ is mentioned in the same breath as the BNP’s more robust brand. Peas in a pod, some say: the one leads to the other.

But why is Alex Salmond not cast by the media as a little Scotlander, a petty anti-English xenophobe or a racist? Certainly, if one were to spout the bile he does against any minority ethnic group, one might just find oneself accused of inciting racial hatred. But Anglophobia is apparently not as illegal as Islamophobia, or as abhorrent as Europhobia. Indeed, it appears to be quite a respectable and legal pursuit, even by politicians.

We all know what the media and the entire establishment make of a white politician renowned for his ‘persistent contempt for Pakistanis’. Such irrational scorn based on nothing but skin colour is rightly to be reviled. Yet Alex Salmond is noted for his ‘persistent contempt for the English’, and is simultaneously lauded as ‘the best politician in Britain’.

The eminent Scottish composer James MacMillan accuses Alex Salmond of inciting racial tensions, and the entire SNP leadership has a history of ‘anti-English bigotry’. Which is curious when you consider the lengths to which Mr Salmond is going to eradicate sectarianism in Scottish football.

Why is bigotry to be outlawed from the Ibrox Stadium or Celtic Park but tolerated, encouraged and positively embraced at Holyrood? Sectarianism is as vibrant across political movements as it is across religious denominations. It is bigotry, discrimination or hatred which arises from attaching importance to perceived differences between subdivisions within a group. Together we are a United Kingdom, with a shared history, philosophy, industry, religion and literature. Agitate and exaggerate the differences, and the rhetoric leads to enmity, hostility and disunity. The spirit that hates the Protestant or the Roman Catholic for their religion is the same as that which hates the English for their polity. Sectarianism is sectarianism; nationalism is nationalism; evil is evil.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Gingrich: “The bigotry question goes both ways"


Newt Gingrich observes the bias in the left-liberal media which propagates a distorted view of 'bigotry'. He said:
“You don’t hear the opposite question asked. Should the Catholic Church be forced to close its adoption services in Massachusetts because it won’t accept gay couples, which is exactly what the state has done?” Gingrich asked. “Should the Catholic Church be driven out of providing charitable services in the District of Columbia because it won’t give in to secular bigotry?

“Should the Catholic Church find itself discriminated against by the Obama administration in key delivery of services because of the bias and bigotry of the administration?” he asked, referencing the Obama administration’s unprecedented denial of a health care grant to the U.S. Bishops over their pro-life stance.

“The bigotry question goes both ways and there’s a lot more anti-Christian bigotry today than there is concerning the other side, and none of it gets covered by the media.”
Quite so. Perhaps Speaker Gingrich might consider 'Cranmer's Law', which appears to have entered the US Conservapedia.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Religious Freedom Day 2012

His Grace has just received this communication from The White House. He is at a loss to know why President Obama keeps honouring him with such polite missives, not least because His Grace can hardly wait for President Obama to be ousted (not that he will be). It is curious that His Grace has never received anything from 10 Downing Street (or Lambeth Palace, for that matter). He would like very much to receive a proclamation from the Prime Minister concerning the UK's 'Religious Freedom Day'. He could do with a laugh.


THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release January 13, 2012
RELIGIOUS FREEDOM DAY, 2012
- - - - - - -
BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
A PROCLAMATION
For nearly four centuries, men and women have immigrated to America's shores in pursuit of religious freedom. Hailing from diverse backgrounds and faiths, countless settlers have shared a simple aspiration -- to practice their beliefs free from prejudice and persecution. In 1786, the Virginia General Assembly took a bold step toward preserving this fundamental liberty by passing the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, which brought to life the ideal of religious tolerance from the texts of the Enlightenment in the laws of state. On Religious Freedom Day, we celebrate this historic milestone, reflect upon the Statute's declaration that "Almighty God hath created the mind free," and reaffirm that the American people will remain forever unshackled in matters of faith.

Drafted by Thomas Jefferson, the Virginia Statute formed the basis for the First Amendment, which has preserved religious freedom for both believers and non-believers for over 220 years. As our Nation has grown, so too has its diversity of faiths, cultures, and traditions; today, individuals of rich and varied beliefs call America home and seek to follow their consciences in peace. Our long history of religious tolerance and pluralism has strengthened our country, helped create a vibrant civil society, and remained true to the principles enshrined in our founding documents.

Our Nation is committed to religious liberty not only for all Americans, but also for individuals around the world. Internationally, we bear witness to those who live in fear of violence and discrimination because of their beliefs. My Administration continues to stand with all who are denied the ability to choose, express, or live their faith freely, and we remain dedicated to protecting this universal human right and the vital role it plays in ensuring peace and stability for all nations.

Today, as we reflect on the many ways religious freedom enriches our country and our lives, let us lend our voice to all people striving to exercise their innate right to a free mind.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim January 16, 2012, as Religious Freedom Day. I call on all Americans to commemorate this day with events and activities that teach us about this critical foundation of our Nation's liberty, and show us how we can protect it for future generations at home and around the world.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this thirteenth day of January, in the year of our Lord two thousand twelve, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-sixth.

BARACK OBAMA
# # #

UCL students forcibly sensitised to sharia


His Grace has had his differences over the years with Dr Richard Dawkins and the National Secular Society, but on this matter they are quite right. Indeed, if this sinister and illiberal agenda isn’t nipped in the bud pretty quickly, the entire population will wake up one day to find new blasphemy laws in force. And then they’ll be yearning for the long-gone days of the benign Anglican Settlement, when Rowan Atkinson was free to mock ministers of religion in raucous pulpit parody, and the spirit of Spitting Image enlightened closed minds with its biting satire.

It has taken many centuries of religio-political evolution, but liberal democracy has learned to permit expression of the God who laughs (Ps 2:4). So why are the thought police (aided and abetted by government) collaborating on the ascendancy of a god in whom there is no humour? Protests over cartoons satirising Mohammad combined with images of Muslims criticising frivolous aspects of Western culture leave the distinct impression Islam and comedy are incompatible – it is haram. The most concerning thing for Britain is that those Muslims who dare to express humour or satrise aspects of their religion are derided by those who hold to the Puritan School of Islam. Ayatollah Khomeini once said: "An Islamic regime must be serious in every field. There are no jokes in Islam. There is no humour in Islam. There is no fun in Islam."

Well, the students of UCL don’t agree. And this doubtless includes some Muslim students who have no problem at all with the above cartoon. But it appears they are censored, and being forcibly sensitised to sharia. UCL’s Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society have every right to post the cartoon on Facebook. It is taken from from a comic book, Jesus and Mo, Volume 2: Transubstantiated, by a pseudonymous British cartoonist called Mohammed Jones (pseudonymous, presumably, out of fear for his life). It depicts Jesus and Muhammad as flatmates who share jokes together over the occasional pint. But UCL’s Student Union suggested it would be ‘prudent’ to remove it.

‘Prudent’ in the sense of averting physical harm or damage to property?

Apparently, there have been complaints (number undisclosed) from students (identities undisclosed). But instead of engaging in open discussion and debate on the limitations of freedom or the consequences of censoriousness (as one might expect in an august seat of learning), the cartoon had to be taken down.

This advice prompted an online petition to ‘Defend freedom of expression at University College London’, which has attracted the support of Richard Dawkins, who also left a comment stating: "Jesus and Mo cartoons are wonderfully funny and true. They could offend only those actively seeking to be offended – which says it all."

Quite so. It is important to take a firm stand against religious censorship. Indeed, in the context of yesterday's post on our ever-diminishing liberties, it is becoming crucial (quite literally).

Thursday, January 12, 2012

We must be free to insult our neighbour

What the hell is the point of life if you can’t get out of bed in a morning and hurl insults in the general direction of your neighbour? Yes, we know we’re supposed to love them – for so we are commanded – but loving doesn’t preclude insulting: indeed, sometimes a solid dose of the truth is entirely justified and wholly necessary.

Of course, one man’s truth is another man’s offence. But, hey, that’s life. Being able to offend is one of the foundations of liberty. Freedom of speech must be tolerated, and everyone living in the United Kingdom must accept that they may be insulted about their own beliefs, or indeed be offended, and that is something which they must simply endure, not least because some suffer fates far worse.

What’s the point of being a Member of the European Parliament if you can’t stand up and denounce the Pope as antichrist? Why would you want to open a hotel if you can’t call Mohammed a terrorist or paedophile or rail at the oppression of hijab-wearing women? Why would you want to stand in Hyde Park Corner if you can’t call Scientology a cult, or open a café if you can’t tell gays they’re going to hell for their abomination?

It may not be very Christian in the PC Christology of perpetual tolerance to say any of these things, but should it be illegal to do so? Section 5 of the Public Order Act 1986 outlaws ‘threatening, abusive or insulting’ words or behaviour if they are likely to cause ‘harassment, alarm or distress’. This is increasingly being used by certain people to get the police to arrest and silence Christian street preachers, prosecute hotel owners for chatting about their faith with a Muslim hotel guest (no, they didn’t use the 't' or ‘p’ words), and to prosecute a teenager for calling a religious cult, err... a cult.

This is the New Inquisition: the demand for theological orthodoxy has given way to prohibition of ‘feeling insulted’. And you might be next. Indeed, His Grace’s blog may well be closed down because someone complains to the police that religio-political polemic makes them feel uncomfortable and causes them distress; that they feel ‘insulted’. This blog is, after all, a public space and His Grace is publishing alarming material. He probably not infrequently falls foul of equality and diversity demands, or transgresses the bounds of acceptability for those of other faiths or ‘exotic’ sexual proclivities. His Grace rarely means to insult, but the intention is irrelevant: if the beholder feels offended, His Grace may be reported to the police under Section 5 of the Public Order Act, and they are obliged to investigate.

If you wish to continue to be free to insult and be insulted, please support the Christian Institute's campaign to have the word ‘insulting’ removed from this Act, as part of the forthcoming Protection of Freedoms Bill. THE CLOSING DATE IS TOMORROW (Friday 13th). The campaign has cross-party support, including Edward Leigh (Con), Tom Watson (Lab), and Alan Beith (LibDem), along with very many others. They believe that the freedom to disagree and to challenge received wisdom lies at the heart of a democracy. It is certainly intrinsic to the proclamation of the gospel.

The Government are asking for our views on Section 5 to help them decide on whether or not to introduce an amendment to the Freedom Bill. Of course, they may very well ignore us, but that shouldn’t deter a response. Please respond now, using the Christian Institute's online guide, and submit your response by Friday 13 January 2012. Please note – if you decide to complete the form, you may be put off by the unnecessary questions they ask. Please just complete questions 1-9 in part 1 (you can ignore the rest).

The link is HERE: there is a quickie version, and a longer one... While ye may...

Monday, January 09, 2012

The quest for the elusive ‘Conservative Particle’ in the Coalition Collider

Buried deep beneath the British political fray there is an ongoing search for the elusive Thatcher boson – a composite ‘Conservative Particle’ with integer spin which can only be seen at great distance. The Coalition Collider is the most powerful political decelerator ever conceived. It is capable of perpetuating the very conditions last seen in the country a billionth of a second after the last General Election, when political potency was consumed by a vast vacuum. It permits Conservatives to study the fundamental ingredients of the matter of which their philosophical universe was formed.

The Conservative Party under David Cameron is intent on using the full force of the state to control wages (of bankers) and prices (of alcohol); they penalise enterprise with a high 50p rate of income tax; continue to volunteer the surrender of domestic policy to European Union competence; fail to defend British interests in talks over a new European Union treaty; have made it easier to concrete over swathes of the British countryside; are undermining marriage and the family; have given us a defence review which leaves us with aircraft carriers but no aircraft; are bequeathing a dog’s breakfast of constitutional reform in the House of Lords; and appear to have lost all confidence of the union of the United Kingdom.

David Cameron has done more than any Conservative leader since the nineteenth century to centralise the internal workings of his own party. Taxes are increasing; total government spending continues to rise; the national debt continues to rise; interest payments continue to rise; contributions to the European Union continue to rise; the private sector is forecast to contract while the public sector grows; mass immigration continues unchecked; illegal immigrants are no longer routinely finger-printed; billions of pounds are being committed to combat ‘man-made global warming’ adding £100s to energy bills; civil liberties are being curtailed; religious liberties are being diminished; ‘gay rights’ are being expanded; the Rt Hon Ann Widdecombe has not been elevated to the House of Lords.

Traditional Tories believe they have glimpsed the elusive ‘Conservative Particle’ in certain education and welfare reforms, but these are subject to further experimentation in the Coalition Collider. Certainly, there is to be no return to selection by academic ability, and the latest budget established that it really does still pay to be unemployed and claiming benefits, which are increasing at a higher rate than public sector salaries. Dozens of Conservative MPs are said to distrust David Cameron’s political strategy and modus operandi; indeed, he suffered last year the greatest rebellion of any prime minister in post-war history.

To try to understand what is going on beneath the froth and bubble, Conservatives have come up with a theory called the Standard Model. It explains three of the fundamental forces that interact at the political level: the philosophical force, the strong policy force and the weak policy force. The Thatcher boson is part of this Standard Model, which is why it believed to exist. Frustratingly, though, it is the only boson or particle predicted by the Standard Model that has not so far been detected. This may be because it is difficult to detect (which is undoubtedly is) or that it does not exist.

To find such particles, it is necessary to collide other particles together at high energies using the £700bn Coalition Collider, which accelerates fudged policies and decelerates Conservative ones. Sensitive MPs at the sites where the particles collide are designed to monitor the tell-tale signs of a Thatcher boson. There are about 80 such detectors searching at high energy levels. Unfortunately, there is a lot of ‘noise’ coming from other liberal particles and coalition collisions which can mask the existence of the Thatcher boson. Sophisticated statistical analysis is the only way of improving the certainty that a Thatcher boson has truly been detected. The search continues.
Newer›  ‹Older