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Monthly Archives: August 2014

August 28, 2014

Joys and Sorrows of Downsizing

We are “downsizing”, and moving tomorrow  into a two-bedroom flat (or, as the sellers insist on calling it, an “apartment”) in  Cabinteely, Dublin 18.  It is an operation that requires an immense amount  of thought and of hard work .

On of the pleasing aspects of our new place  is that the apartment block  is  in the grounds of the old St Gabriel’s hospital,  the first place where  permission was given for celebration of the old Latin Mass  under the terms of the motu proprio Ecclesia Dei Adflicta.  We were also gratified to discover that our postman, like ourselves, attends the Extraordinary Form, or as I prefer to call it, the Vetus Ordo.

Having reached the age of 77, and still comparatively fit, we decided that if we were going to move out of our four-bedroom semi in Dun Laoghaire, we had better do so well before we became too old and doddery to manage the two flights of stairs and keep the fairly large garden reasonably tidy. Our new place has a lift, which will be handy.

Recently I came across an advertisement for luxury apartments for discerning couples. It showed a contented, smiling  old pair with their arms around each other–but mysteriously, underneath, the text said in large type: “OPTION FOR PART EXCHANGE”.  Stramentaria says I had better be careful.

One of the painful aspects of moving into a smaller place is that one has to get rid of an enormous amount of objects–furniture, pictures etc., that one would far rather have kept.  This is a wrench, but it is salutary to realise that it won’t be that many years before one has to leave it all behind.

One of the things I have to dispose of is a  set of Brandsma Reviews, from Nos. 40 in December 1998 until the present issue, No. 133. We have been living for the past few months in at our son Joe’s duplex in Bray (he and his family are in Thailand), so if anyone  wants the Reviews they can collect them gratis from No 65, Saran Wood. They should telephone us beforehand at our new place (01-) 2859843  so that we can make sure one of us is in the Bray duplex to hand them over. Unfortunately I need to keep Nos 1-40 as I haven’t got electronic versions of them.

The upheaval of moving may prevent me from blogging over the next few days.



August 27, 2014

The Crusaders Were Right

Every time a bloody atrocity or other outrage is perpetrated by Moslems, Western political and religious leaders fall over themselves to insist that such actions are contrary to the true beliefs of Islam.  The unpleasant truth is that  the campaign of murder and mayhem now being perpetrated in Iraq and Syria by “Islamists” (as we have to call them) is entirely in line with the actions and teaching of “the prophet” Mohammed, as set down in the Koran.

Let’s just take three examples. (there are many more):

First, the beheadings:

I will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieve. Therefore strike off their heads and strike off every fingertip of them.  (Koran 8:12)

Second, the mutilations:

The punishment of those who wage war against Allah and his apostle and strive to make mischief in the land is only this, that they should…have their hands and their feet cut off on opposite sides (Koran 5: 33)

Third, the burnings of those who refuse to become Moslems:

Garments of fire have been prepared for the kafir  unbelievers. Scalding water will be poured upon their heads to melt their skins and that which is in their bellies; and they shall be lashed with rods of iron. If they try to escape, they shall be dragged back and told, `taste the torment and the fire`. (Koran 22: 19-22)

Despite all this, two British politicians were maintaining last weekend that Isis had nothing in common with orthodox Islam.

First, we had Yvette Cooper, shadow home secretary, on the Isis atrocities in Iraq. “This is no liberation movement–only a perverted, oppressive ideology that bears no relation to Islam.” Then there was the foreign secretary Philip Hammond: “Isis”s caliphate has no has no moral legitimacy–it is a regime of torture, arbitrary punishment and murder that goes against the most basic beliefs of Islam.” (Italics mine.)

Mohammed’s army began its campaign of conquest by beheading 900 Jews in Medina, Saudi Arabia.  It went on to massacre Christians, Jews and Zoroastrians,  in North Africa and  what is now Turkey, and throughout the Middle East. Just like Isis, it carried out crucifixions as well as  beheadings, and reduced non-Moslems to the status of serfs,  forcing them to  pay a punitive tax.

Moslem rulers managed to hold on to  Spain and Portugal for hundreds  of years, and would probably   have occupied much of Europe but for the partial success of the crusades. The tide of Moslem conquest was finally reversed by  Don John of Austria at the naval battle of Lepanto, but it is worth remembering that the Moslems  almost captured Vienna a little over 300 years ago. The city was saved by the Polish King Jan Sobieski.

Now, as I write, a terrible tale is unfolding from Rotherham in Northern England, where over a thousand girls, some of them only 11 years old, have been raped by gangs of Moslems.  The truth behind this has been covered up by the authorities, terrified by possible accusations of “racism”.

Our ancestors knew that Islam was the implacable foe of Christendom and the West. Isn’t it about time we woke up?



August 26, 2014

Christ of the Good Death

Our rulers and betters, in their zeal to make us ever more post-Catholic-pluralist,
want to remove Christianity not only from the education system but also from the
country's armed forces. They don't like to see soldiers participating in public events
with  religious overtones—apart, that is, from State funerals.
I decided to investigate how we compare in this respect with one of our European 
neighbours: Spain.
A little exploration on the web brought me to El Cristo de la Buena Muerte,
(Christ of the Good Death) a military devotional practice which takes place every Holy
Thursday in Málaga. Sixteen burly soldiers from the elite Spanish Legion, (the equivalent
of the French Foreign Legion) process out of a church carrying on their shoulders a massive
crucifix with a very realistic (and gory) figure of Our Lord.
They parade round the square outside, doing a slow goose-step and singing a mournful
anthem called El Novio de la Muerte, which means, roughly “The Bridegroom of Death”. It's not
entirely appropriate to the occasion, being a celebration of human love as well as of courage 
and death. A cynic would call it a piece of mawkish militarism, but I find it strangely moving
and impressive.
Nadie en el Tercio sabía
quién era aquel legionario
tan audaz y temerario
que en la Legión se alistó.
Nadie sabía su historia,
más la Legión suponía
que un gran dolor le mordía
como un lobo el corazón.
(“No one in the regiment knew who that legionary was, so bold and daring, who had
enlisted in the Legion; no one knew his history, but the Legion guessed that a great
sorrow was gnawing like a wolf at his heart.”)
The choreography of this occasion is something to behold. Almost at the start, the 
legionary at the front of the cross gives three sharp taps on the wood, takes one more 
step, and taps once more. That is the signal for the men to raise the cross high above 
their heads, using one hand, and continue marching. After a dozen or so more steps, 
there is another tap and they drop the cross back on to their shoulders. Other commands
are given by a shrill blast on a bugle. When the team have to wheel to the left, the men
on the inside have to stop marching forwards and take several paces sideways to their right,
 while those on the outside lengthen their pace and keep advancing leftwards. You can see 
how they do it by Googling El Novio de la Muerte.
The original crucifix dated back to the 17th century but was smashed up by a socialist mob
in 1931 and had to be replaced.
I may return to this subject in our next post.
`Conservative` a misnomer
The conservative majorities have not conserved anything. Gradually they have delivered 
everything and have themselves been delivered over to the violent minorities that they 
have seemed to combat, but to which, in reality, they have submitted. 
Louis Veuillot (1813-1883)


August 25, 2014

Here is something to cheer all you Traddies up on a damp, dark, depressing August morning:

You know, while I would rather have a somewhat smoother path in the growth and implementation of Summorum Pontificum, maybe it is – in the large scheme of things – good that we can from time to time report that some bishop or even curial official actively oppresses people who want the traditional forms.  Yes, it hurts.  Yes, it is unjust.  Yes, we wish it weren’t so.  BUT… in doing that they only serve to toughen up those who will, in the end, undo their liberal catholic agenda. Go ahead and tell seminarians that they can’t attend the old Mass anywhere.  Go ahead and threaten them.  All you are doing is making them want it even more.  Deny them the chance to learn the older Mass in classes in the seminary, will you?  Fine, they will learn it in their rooms, with the help of young priests who are already using it.  Bully them all you want.  It won’t work.  They are the maquis and you can’t stop them. It is possible to get mired in all the bad news or in the news about strange and controversial things that this or that highly ranked churchman might spout on a bad day. What I have seen, and what encourages me, is that a lot of the younger guys, young priests and seminarians, are really not paying a whole lot of attention to goofy prelates and mixed messages.  These men do not lug around a lot of baggage.  They do not have the scars of the wars that some of us who are older have gained.  They really took notice of what Pope Benedict did and they took it on board.  In turn, this has a knock on effect among their peers.  As the newer seminarians come in, they will see that the older guys, whom they admire, are learning, and saying, the older Mass and they will want to do so too. ¡Hagan lío!  This cannot be stopped. —Fr John Zuhlsdorf


August 22, 2014

If you can attend the Life Institute’s vigil  in Dublin this evening in support of the baby who survived an abortion attempt by  Caesarean section, then please do. It will take place at 4pm in O’Connell Street, opposite the GPO.
In any case, PLEASE read the message below:
‘You are not alone’ is the message of the Vigil of Hope for the baby boy left struggling for his life in an ICU after being forcibly delivered at just 25 weeks under abortion legislation.

The Vigil will also hear that the abortion agency, the IFPA, has serious questions to answer in relation to its treatment of the woman at the centre of the case.

Niamh Uí Bhriain of the Life Institute said that the Vigil of Hope was called because so many people wanted to send a message of hope to the baby, and one of compassion to his mother who had been failed by the new abortion law. She said that the plight of the baby, who now faces an enormous struggle and the possibility of brain damage and blindness, was being largely ignored by media coverage of the abortion controversy.

“Usually when we hear about a tiny premie fighting for life, everyone is rooting for that baby, but in this case, we are hearing abortion supporters insisting that the baby should be dead: that he should have been aborted,” said Ms Uí Bhriain.

“This is a tremendously callous and cold-hearted position, and does not reflect what the majority of people feel. The Vigil of Hope will gather ‘Get Well’ messages to send to this baby boy over the weekend, and to let him know he is not alone,” she said.

Dr. Eoghan de Faoite, one of the vigil organisers, was highly critical of the way this woman and her unborn child were treated from the beginning and questioned the involvement of the IFPA in her care. He said that this case was mismanaged from the start and ended up forcing doctors into an impossible situation.

“This case broke every rule of medicine. Firstly, the IFPA failed to adequately address this woman’s mental health status when she twice expressed suicidal ideation to them; secondly, abortion was prescribed as a treatment for her suicidality, when every doctor knows there is no evidence for this; and thirdly, an obstetrician was obliged to forcibly deliver a healthy baby at 25 weeks, where no medical basis existed. This is the anti-thesis of obstetrical care”.

Dr De Faoite continued; “Vulnerable women expressing suicidal thoughts need to be given the correct treatment of support, psychotherapy and medication where needed. This is how suicidality is treated. However Fine Gael’s legislation forces doctors to abandon evidence-based medicine and perform abortions on request, throughout all nine months of pregnancy.”

He concluded: “This Vigil of Hope seeks to send a strong message that we care for both patients in this scenario, mother and baby, and they both have been utterly failed by Enda Kenny’s abortion act,” he said.




A Welcome Appointment

I was greatly pleased when that outspoken pro-life priest and medical ethicist Fr Kevin Doran was appointed Bishop of Elphin last month. It was he, you will probably recall, who resigned from the Board of the Mater Hospital when that institution cravenly agreed to comply with the Government’s Orwellianly-titled Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act, opening the door to the possibility of abortion in this country.

Bishop Doran has now braved the ire of the media and the chattering classes by denouncing the recent decision to carry out an early caesarean section on a woman threatening suicide as “really unethical”. When the present low-level persecution hots up, as it almost certainly will, he will be in the firing line.

I first met Fr Doran in 1983 when I had written some pro-life pieces for the old Catholic Standard. He invited me to join an outfit called the Life Education and Research Network (LEARN). The two of us edited a book called Abortion Now by various authors, including William Binchy and nurse tutor Loretto Browne. At that time, if memory serves, Fr Doran was chaplain to University College, Dublin. Later he became spiritual director at the Irish College in Rome.

He is one of the kindest and most considerate priests I have had the good fortune to know. When my wife and I arrived in Rome on our first visit, he went out of his way to call at our hotel and took us out to dinner at a delightful restaurant on the Via Merulana, between St Mary Major and St John Lateran. He showed us around the college and procured tickets for a papal audience the next day, and drove us to one of the catacombs.

During his time at the college, Fr Doran was very helpful to young Irish couples who chose to be married in Rome. Many of them found it stressful to deal with Italian officials, who were inclined when faced with communications difficulties to raise their voices and gesticulate. The Irish tended to think, mistakenly, that this was a sign of anger and impatience, and resented it.

Like the late Fr Des Forristal, Bishop Doran believes in letting a thousand flowers bloom. While not particularly in favour of the Extraordinary Form of the Mass, as parish priest of Glendalough he was very willing to accommodate the Latin Mass Society of Ireland when it organised walking pilgrimages across the Wicklow mountains from St Colmcille’s well near Tallaght, concluding with a Vetus Ordo Mass in his church.

Ad multos annos.


Archiepiscopal faux pas

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin showed remarkably poor judgment when he criticised a young curate who had told his parish priest he was unhappy about some of the things Pope Francis has said.

In the first place, this was a private conversation. This PP had no right to snitch on his curate, and His Grace should not have compounded this breach of confidentiality during a speech in Australia. The relationship between this PP and the curate may have been damaged beyond repair.

Secondly, there are, I understand, only two priests under the age of 40 in the Dublin archdiocese. So it is very probable that this young curate can be identified.

And all, as one critic put it, just to add a bit of colour to the archbishop’s sociological discourse. It was ill done.

True to form, Fr Seamus Ahearn of the “Association of Catholic Priests” said we need to hear more comments like the archbishop’s, as “the few young priests there are in the Irish Church appear to embrace a very traditionalist view of Church”. Personally, I’m delighted to hear that they do.

Incidentally, I can’t help wondering why their ageing liberal colleagues are always so averse to using the definite article? Can anyone explain it?


Gardening Talk Is Racist?

Do you like pottering around the garden? A spot of mowing, maybe some weeding, or making sure the slugs haven’t got at the lettuces? Perhaps you like trying to grow different varieties of roses, tulips or daffodils, or maybe cabbages, carrots or runner beans? Maybe you even listen to gardening discussion programmes on the radio…?

Stop! All that gardening talk is racist, according to a senior lecturer in–you’ve guessed it–sociology. On the BBC radio programme Thinking Aloud Dr Ben Pitcher of Westminster University asserted that the station’s Gardener’s Question Time is “riddled with racist overtones”. It is full of  “racial meanings”, and all those references to soil purity and non-native species are promoting nationalist and fascist beliefs.

Dr Pitcher believes the programme is connected with the crisis in white identity in multicultural Britain. Apparently people are ashamed to be overtly racist so they conceal their perverted ideas behind all this gardening talk.

You really couldn’t make it up. How did this head-banger ever secure a senior lecturing post at a university? But he’s not the only academic with such views. On the same programme, Lola Young, a former professor of cultural studies, agreed with Dr Pitcher’s analysis. Back in the 1980s, said she,  gardening enthusiasts were talking about going out “rhododendron-bashing”. That was at a time when Paki-bashing was something that was all too prevalent on our streets.・ Quod erat demonstrandum?

Come to think about it, the most surprising thing about Ms Young’s analysis is that she didn’t shy away from using what usually now has to be referred to as “the P-word”. Hope someone reports her to the Race Relations Board.


A Problem Like Sharia

We noted in our first issue that Lefty neo-fascism is on the march. I don’t go in for conspiracy theories, but it is amazing how the militant Left, almost everywhere you look, is trying to shut down debate on controversial topics from Islam and Israel to global warming and “gay marriage”.

A few examples culled from an article by Mark Steyn in the London Spectator.

In California, the chief executive of the software company Mozilla has been forced to resign because he once made a political donation in support of traditional marriage.

At Westminster, the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee declared that the BBC should seek  “special clearance” before it interviews those who challenge the climate change consensus. Such sceptics would include the former Chancellor of the Exchequer Nigel Lawson, not to mention many highly-qualified scientists.

Also in London, a multitude of liberal journalists and artists responsible for everything from Monty Python to Downton Abbey have signed an open letter in favour of the first state restraints on the British press in three and a quarter centuries.

And in our own island of saints and scholars, a speaker at the National University of Ireland, Galway, who tried to argue against the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions programme against Israel was shouted down by thugs screaming obscenities, and ordered to “get the **** off our campus”.

This whole attitude is summed up by another example given by Steyn, quoting Erin Ching, a student at $60,000-a-year Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania, in her college newspaper: “What really bothered me is the whole idea that at a liberal arts college we need to be hearing a diversity of opinion.”  Yeah, says Steyn, who needs that?  “There speaks the voice of a generation: celebrate diversity by enforcing conformity.”

You can read his entire article by googling  “Spectator Steyn Diversity”.

I just love his gallows humour: “By mid-century a majority of Austrians under 15 will be Moslem. Salzburg, 1938, singing nuns, Julie Andrews: How do you solve a problem like Maria?・ Salzburg, 2038: How do you solve a problem like Sharia?”


Infallible Fallacies?

I haven’t forgotten that I promised in a previous issue to try to tackle some concerns that have arisen about aspects of the present pontificate. As an unqualified layman, I am reluctant to attempt anything of the kind, but it can’t be avoided indefinitely. For the present, as much for my own enlightenment as anyone else’s, here are some pertinent questions.

1. Does the Faith come from the pope? Y/N

2. Does papal infallibility operate in every single thing the pope says and does? Y/N

3. Is the pope impeccable? Y/N

4. Does the pope have to understand the subtleties and nuances of Church politics, geopolitics, economics, the agenda of the media or the machinations of the various factions in the Curia and hierarchy? Y/N

5. Is it necessary for either the validity of the papacy or the survival of the Church for the pope to be a a major player in academic philosophy or theology, have the right ideas about politics, economics, culture, sociology or history? Y/N

6. Can a pope be crazy and still be pope? Y/N

Finally, a harder one:

7. Can the pope be wrong on matters of aith and morals? Can the pope be a heretic and still be the pope? Y/N

I’m sorry to be so Delphic, but I’ll try to be a bit more forthcoming next time.

Issue 4: July 16, 2014

Gruesome Graduation

Why is the Catholic Church winning so few converts these days.? Could it be episodes like the one which took place at a Dublin church for the graduation of the sixth-class students from the neighbouring school?

The church is run by the Servite Fathers. They’ve put a lot of money into converting it to conform with the “Spirit of Vatican II”, including removing all the kneelers, so that the congregation is dissuaded from kneeling during the consecration. The curate sits at Mass and looks on benignly while Communion is given out solely by lay ministers. (Priests who do this show a “reprehensible attitude”, according to Pope St John Paul II.)

The evening began with parents and children filling the church, laughing, joking and chatting at the tops of their voices. The “sanctuary” lamp showed that the Blessed Sacrament had not been removed.

The procession of children to the sanctuary with reminders of school, including football and hurling paraphernalia, which they stacked against the altar has come to be regarded as normal. The casual insouciance of the headmaster, laying his script on the altar as he chatted to the teachers, was nothing exceptional. Neither was the Elton John number “Your Song”, played on the church piano as the young students in home-made coloured mortar boards rearranged themselves at the side of the church. Or the laughter which greeted the speeches or the raucous clapping which followed each event.

What perhaps was unusual was the group of school musicians who played “What shall we do with a drunken sailor” in front of the tabernacle. This was followed by a “lip dub” video of the sixth class― including the homosexual anthem “YMCA”―screened on the church wall next to the tabernacle.

Among the congregation were a few women with their heads respectfully covered―but they were Moslems. What must they (and the children) have thought of those parents and teachers who claim to believe that God is really and truly present in the tabernacle–and yet behave like this?


Making Amends

I recently received this from my brother-in-law in England:

“I expect you’ve heard of the great progressive stance taken by our public schools, or at least one of them, in this so repressive world. It was reported in the Daily Telegraph and Daily Mail that the medical centre in the now co-ed Stowe school had committed the cardinal offence of nearly running out of supplies of the Morning After pill. Can you beat that for negligence? All of us now hope that at least they’ll invite the British Pregnancy Advisory Service to set up a clinic in a month or two’s time to sort out any problems caused by this dereliction of duty.”


Cameron’s Paradise

David Cameron has trumpeted the British  Government’s “huge, historic” redefinition of marriage. His video message, filmed to mark “Pride in London”, is a deliberate insult  to ordinary people who sincerely believe that marriage is between a man and a woman. Not only does he boast that  Britain is now “the best place in Europe to be gay or lesbian”; he says he is prepared to to use taxpayers’ hard-earned money to promote “same-sex marriage” abroad. In his party’s election manifesto he gave no hint of such a policy―knowing full well, I suspect, that Conservatives would have deserted the party in droves, had they known of his intentions.

Cameron has brushed off concerns that people will be damaged in their careers, businesses or in their dealings with the public sector because of their support for traditional marriage. He has strongly opposed conscience rights for public employees or the self-employed. British laws on homosexuality now go beyond even the requirements of the EU.


Quick Rejoinder

I have just returned from a stimulating symposium organised by the Roman Forum at the idyllic setting of  Gardone in the Italian Lakes. While there I met a young academic philosopher with an enviable gift for thinking quickly on his feet. Some time ago, he told us, he had witnessed a group of young teenage boys teasing each other by using the epithet “gay” to mean useless, pathetic or ineffectual. After a while they were approached by a gentleman who rebuked them roundly, saying that as a “gay man” and proud of it, he objected to the way they were using the word to mean something objectionable.

The young philosopher interjected. Today, he said, these boys had just as much right to use the word “gay” in a different sense to the one now commonly intended, as years ago the homosexuals had to change it from its original and true meaning of happy and cheerful.


A Scary Thought

Is it really possible that the Church’s perennial teaching on the indissolubility of a valid marriage could, in practice, be watered down in the interests of “mercy”? Good and wise people tell me it could never happen. But I’m not so sure. There are very powerful interests trying to soften us up for “change”, and they will be strongly represented in the forthcoming synod on the family. We will just have to wait until October for an answer, but I think we should be considering our options in advance if that answer turns out to be an inconclusive fudge.

More tentative thoughts on this in our next issue.


Issue 3: June 23, 2014

To Hell with “Spiritual”!

I note that the Holy Father’s niece Cristina Bergoglio, described as an artist, has announced that she is  “not religious but spiritual”.  She’s just the latest in a long line of pseuds to make such an assertion. They want us to believe they are intelligent, sensitive and caring. But  how much better to fly in the face of fashion and be religious but not spiritual.

Just think about it: (I pinched most of the following from Fr Ray Blake’s blog), well before Ms Bergoglio let it be known she had joined this tiresome and snobbish club):

We believe in Jesus Christ who did not abhor a Virgin’s womb; indeed that was where He became flesh–flesh and blood.

We believe in the flesh-and-blood Resurrection of the flesh-and-blood enfleshed Word of God. Those who claim he rose “spiritually” or somehow took on our humanity “spiritually” are damnable heretics.

Catholicism is about physical realities; we believe our resurrection is physical, not “spiritual”; we believe that “in my flesh I shall see God” (Job, 19:26).

In the Holy Eucharist we do not receive “spiritual” food but the actual body and blood, the soul and divinity of Jesus Christ. That’s why I (Stramentarius, not Fr Blake) am not at all happy with the phrase “spiritual drink” in the Novus Ordo Mass.)

We do not believe that the Church is merely the spiritual body of Jesus but is the real tangible reality of Christ’s presence in the world.

Even the Holy Spirit, the most “spiritual”’ thing that we believe in, manifests Himself in a real way, in the Incarnation, in the Resurrection of the Person of Christ, in the gathering of the Church, in transubstantiation of bread and wine, in the real sanctification of those who have received Him.

We are not called to “spiritually” feed the hungry but actually to do it, we are not called to “spiritually” instruct the ignorant but to actually do it, nor to be spiritually chaste but to actually be chaste. Indeed we are not called to have a “spiritual life” but to have Life. The Holy Spirit always manifests Himself in the flesh.


Spooky Catholicism

As  I have just endorsed all that about the Flesh you may be surprised to learn that I am a devotee of what Hilary White, in her blog Orwell’s Picnic, calls Spooky Catholicism. Here’s how she explains it:

“People who are interested in religion are really interested in the Spooky parts. They want to know about the grand movements of Heaven and Hell, of angels and demons and the Great War between them. They want to know that their own moral struggles are about something greater, taller and more grand than global warming or the dangers of smoking. Something better, that is, than what the secular world offers.

“It’s the real reason movies and books like the Da Vinci Code are so wildly popular. Why Hollywood always dresses its pretend nuns to look more like real nuns than the real nuns have looked in 40 years. And why the Godfather movies all have depictions of the brocade and velvet, pointed arches, gold-curlicued and marble-columned Catholicism of the pre-Vatican II era. No one who is looking for the real, Spooky, Supernatural version of religion wants a priest to dress in a polyester poncho and sing folk songs.

“There’s The Rules, yes, and we give intellectual assent to the doctrines of the Faith, (which is what `The Rules` is shorthand for.) But what are The Rules guiding if not the supernatural life of the soul?

“What is it all for if there’s no Spooky?”


Estranged Young Catholics

It is a truism, but unfortunately true, that bad things which happen in the United States will almost inevitably be replicated in Ireland and Britain a few years later. A new book, Young Catholic America, a  massive survey of Catholics aged from 18 to 23, indicates that the overwhelming majority of them have given up the Faith to a greater or lesser degree.

It divides these youngsters into five groups: Apostates, Switchers, Estranged, Nominal and Engaged.

Seventeen per cent of those interviewed had become Apostates: they had totally abandoned the Church and given up their Catholic identity, without joining any other religion.

Twelve per cent, the Switchers, had joined some other faith. These categories together make up nearly 30 per cent of the total.

But it’s worse than that: 27 per cent are labelled as “Estranged”, meaning they still described themselves as Catholic but rejected Catholic teachings and distanced themselves from the Church. This means that 56 per cent of  all those interviewed were no longer meaningfully connected to the Church.

Then we have the “Nominal” category: 15 per cent said they were Catholic but no longer practiced the Faith at all. So far, then, 71 per cent  of these “Catholics” had either left the Church or were Catholic only in name.

Then we have the “Engaged”. Twenty-nine per cent embraced their Catholic identity, and said they find the Faith important and meaningful. However, they don’t accept all the Church’s teaching. That means one hundred per cent of those surveyed were either lapsed or wobbly.

There was, however, a sixth category the researchers were looking for. These would have been labelled Devout–meaning those who practice their faith consistently, believe in and understand Church doctrine, and expect to remain Catholic. The researchers state: “There were none we could categorise as devout.”

That is the only part of the survey I would regard as dubious. One must assume there was something not entirely representative about the sample interviewed. I don’t know all that many young American Catholics, but  I have met several whose zeal for the Faith would put me to shame.

Be that as it may, there is a ring of truth about the rest of the survey. It indicates that over the next half century, the Church in North America will shrink to microscopic proportions. Who can doubt that other English-speaking countries, including Ireland, will follow suit?

One has to agree with the assessment of Churchmilitant.TV that this represents a disastrous failure on the part of Catholic bishops in the West to insist on proper catechesis in schools and other educational establishments. They are down to the last generation of young Catholics.


The Bishop and the Wendy House

In the 1930s there was an Anglican bishop of Gloucester known as “Nazi” Headlam because of his extreme racist ideas and approval of eugenics. An Anglican Benedictine monk, Dom Gregory Dix, once had an appointment to see this rather unsavoury individual and was ushered into a drawing room. After a long wait he was joined, not by the bishop but  by a small girl who was sobbing uncontrollably. In his attempt to console the child, Dix began by asking her who she was. It transpired she was the bishop’s granddaughter. Asked why she was crying, the little girl replied, between sobs “It’s my Wendy house.” (A Wendy house is a toy house just big enough for a child).

Dom Gregory offered her the cleaner of his two monastic handkerchiefs and asked for more precise information.

“Well,” said the child, “I persuaded grandpa to crawl into my Wendy house. It wasn’t really big enough for him, and he got wedged inside. Then I went for a ride on my pony and no one heard him shouting for three hours and when he got out he was all stiff and hoarse and all he could say was ‘Now I’ve got to go and see that bloody monk.’ Oh,  please don’t’ tell them I used that bad word! I’m already in disgrace.”

Recounting this story afterwards, Dom Gregory added: “I patted her on the head and told her what a good girl she was and gave her half a crown.”


What You Think

It is useful, indeed probably vital, to know what readers are thinking about NewStraws. We have had some very helpful responses to the first two issues.

One priest  friend expressed his general approval but thought there was too much “Angry Young Man” at the expense of “Jolly Satirist”. Well, it’s a fair comment, but I have to point out that I am in fact an Angry Old Man who thinks there is rather a lot to be angry about. And I’m not sure that “Jolly Satirist” is not an oxymoron.

Another priest friend points out that our Holy Father Pope Francis, if he puts his foot in it, always corrects the error. As it happens, on the day I read this comment I happened to be reading  G.K. Chesterton’s The Scandal of Father Brown.:

“The truth is still half an hour behind the slander; and nobody can be certain when or where it will catch up with it,The garrulity of pressmen and the eagerness of enemies had spread the first story through the city, even before it appeared in the first printed version. It was instantly corrected and contradicted in a second story…but it was by no means certain that the first story was killed. A positively incredible number of people seemed to have read the first issue of the paper and not the second.”

My point is that a huge amount of damage has been done, and it is impossible to put the genie back in the bottle.

But now some good news. (About time, sez you.) Another friend, a layman, tells me that a recent  issue of the Tablet carried an item stating that the Catholic Church had helped to lift more people out of poverty than any other worldwide organisation.  Credit where credit is due.

Issue 2: June 10, 2014

Unspeakable Galantino

The most unshepherd-like bishop of the early 21st century must surely be Most  Rev. Nunzio Galantino, secretary-general of the Italian Bishops’ Conference. I can hardly believe it, but here’s what he actually said:

“I do not identify with the expressionless faces of those who recite the Rosary outside the clinics which practice interruption of pregnancy [sic] but with those young people who are opposed to this practice and strive for the quality of life of the people, for their right to health, to work.”

If he is trying to curry favour with the secular media, he will certainly succeed, but  he will alienate all of his flock who take their faith at all seriously.

His Lordship obviously has not the faintest notion how much courage and forbearance it can take to witness outside  abortion mills, and see lines of women being ushered in in to “interrupt their pregnancies”. (It would be more accurate to say “to have their babies torn to pieces”). As has frequently been pointed out, such pro-life people endure abuse and sometimes violence for the sake of the unborn victims. They are helping Our Lord to carry His Cross, and certainly deserve the bishop’s encouragement, rather than his supercilious contempt. Does he really expect them to have big cheesy grins all over their faces?

The bishop also expressed the view that in the past, “we” had concentrated too much on abortion and euthanasia. As John Smeaton of English SPUC pointed out in a letter to his Lordship: “I really don’t think you would be saying, if national laws had allowed the killing of Catholic priests or Jews over the past few decades: ‘In the past we have concentrated too much on the killing of Catholic priests or Jews’. Indeed, you would probably be saying: ‘We can never do enough to denounce this grotesque evil.’”

Obviously the bishop was speaking in Italian, and the translation we have received could be somewhat garbled. It is this: “In the past we were exclusively focused on ‘no’ to abortion and euthanasia.  It can’t be like this, in the middle of this there is existence which develops.”

Now what on earth can this mean? Surely not that we may have to “develop” to a point where we may say “yes” to abortion, instead of “no”? But if not that, then what?

But that’s not all. Bishop Galantino went on to call for a “taboo-free discussion” of priestly celibacy, Holy Communion to divorced-and-remarried Catholics, and homosexuality (presumably homosexual acts?). This suggests the bishop believes that all these topics should be up for grabs. Well, one might perhaps legitimately discuss clerical celibacy (although didn’t Pope St John Paul II ruled that out of bounds ?). But not, surely, the other two?


Merciless Marie Stopes

How bizarre―and yet paradoxically how appropriate―that a Dublin “reproductive choices” clinic should choose to call itself after a fervent anti-semite and eugenicist who campaigned to stop poor and disabled people from having children; who believed that only selective breeding could save the human race, who once sent Adolf Hitler her poems; and who refused to attend her son’s wedding because his bride was short sighted and wore glasses.

The birth control pioneer and author Marie Stopes did all  these things. And the contraception/sterilisation/abortion lobby and their lackeys  in the media have almost as high a regard for her as Catholics have for Mother Teresa.

Marie Stopes’ son Harry Stopes-Roe died recently at the age of 90. As a child, Marie made him wear skirts until the age of 11 because she didn’t believe in the “ugly and heating-in-the-wrong-places garments which most men are condemned to wear.” For the same reason, young Harry was forbidden to ride a bicycle.

Marie Stopes was 44 when she gave birth to Harry, and was told she could have no more children. She therefore advertised with a view to adoption, insisting that the child should be “absolutely healthy, intelligent and not circumcised”. She adopted four boys in succession, all of whom failed to meet her standards in various ways, so she sent them back. (One of them wetted his pants and was therefore “unfit to live in a decent household” and ought to have a thrashing, she said.)

Marie’s first marriage was annulled for non-consummation, and she bullied her second husband, Harry’s father, a First World War air ace, forcing him to write a letter freeing her from her marriage vows because, she claimed, he was unable to satisfy her.


Tit for Tat

I mentioned Ms Stopes in an issue of the Brandsma Review several years ago. She once took took offence at the cartoons of Giles of the Daily Express, who used to portray himself as a henpecked paterfamilias with numerous  offspring, dominated by a grim grandma in black. Marie Stopes wrote a letter to the editor stating : “The Giles cartoons degrade humanity” and announcing that she was cancelling her subscription.

Giles responded  with a cartoon of himself with hordes of tough little boys clambering all over him, and declared: “Very well, Marie, if you won’t read the Express any more because of my cartoons, then I won’t read any more of your little books.”


Weapon of Ridicule

If you ever feel tempted to give up the fight against seemingly all-powerful politicians and religious Modernists in high office, remember that the good Lord has left us one very powerful weapon: we can poke fun at them, and they hate it!

Listen to that most gifted Anglican convert, Mgr Ronald Knox:

“Our sense of the ridiculous is not, in its original application, a child’s toy at all, but a weapon, deadly in its efficacy, entrusted to us for exposing the shams and hypocrisies of the world. The tyrant may arm himself in triple mail, may surround himself with bodyguards, may sow his kingdom with a hedge of spikes, so that free speech is crushed and criticism muzzled. Nay, worse, he may so debauch the consciences of his subjects with false history and with sophistical argument that they come to believe him the thing he gives himself out for, a creature half-divine, a heaven-sent deliverer.

One thing there is that he still fears; one anxiety still bids him turn this way and that to scan the faces of his slaves. He is afraid of laughter. The satirist stands there, like the little child in the procession when the Emperor walked through the capital in his famous new clothes; his is the tiny voice that interprets the consciousness of a thousand onlookers: ‘But, Mother, he has no clothes on at all!’”


Police pomposity

A Baptist church in Britain obviously shares at least one of Mgr Knox’s ideas. It put up a poster with the words “ If you think there’s no God you’d better be right !” and a small strip picture of a fiery furnace underneath. It was clearly intended to be at least partly humorous  Someone complained of offence and the local police pontificated that “National guidelines require this to be treated as a ‘hate’ event”.

Even the National Secular Society came to the support of the church and its right to free speech ! It makes you wonder, though, why offence caused to some British people by things like David Cameron’s adulation of sodomy is of no account.


They still do it…

It is one of the cleverest devices of the Modernists (as they are commonly and rightly called) to present their doctrines without order and systematic arrangement, in a scattered and disjointed manner, so as to make it appear as if their minds were in doubt or hesitation, whereas in reality they are quite fixed and steadfast.

―Pope Pius X, Pascendi Dominici Gregis


Traitors Within

It is sad enough when people lose their faith and leave the Church; but it is much worse when those who in reality have lost their faith remain within the Church and try―like termites―to undermine Christian faith with their claim that they are giving to Christian revelation the interpretation that suits “modern man”.

―Dietrich von Hildebrand


I’m in a Quandary…

…And it makes me decidedly uncomfortable.

When I was editing the Brandsma Review, I used to operate on the principle that if bishops or priests did or said foolish or unorthodox things, they were legitimate targets, but that a reigning pontiff was above criticism. I still think that is a proper attitude for a Catholic. One cannot ignore the Church’s constant teaching, in particular Lumen Gentium 25a of Vatican II, which speaks of “religious submission of mind and will to the authentic magisterium of the Roman pontiff”.

And yet…

How shall I put it? How can one deny that aspects of the present pontificate give cause for concern?  They certainly raise questions which need answering. So with some trepidation, as an unqualified layman I  shall try to tackle some of these questions. But that will have to await future issues when I have tried to come to some tentative conclusions.

Issue 1: May 22, 2014

Blubbie Mickens and ‘The Rat’


How careless of the Tablet’s Rome correspondent Robert Mickens to have so clearly demonstrated his hatred and contempt for Pope Benedict XVI! But how gratifying—and surprising when you come to think of it—that the top brass at Britain’s flagship modernist Catholic magazine decided Mickens’ offence was damaging enough to merit his suspension..

Many Brandsma readers may be unaware of this episode, so here is a brief resumé:

At the beginning of March, Pope Francis made the 98­ year ­old former secretary to Blessed John Paul II, Loris Francisco Capovilla, a cardinal. A thoughtful and appropriate gesture.

Then in a Facebook exchange, Mickens asked : “Do you think he’ll make it to the Rat’s funeral?”

To which one Chris Grady replied that he hoped the aged cardinal would be well enough to celebrate Pope John’s canonisation—“plus one other”. (The “one other” is Blessed Pope John Paul II.) “The Rat’s funeral the next day would be a bonus,” added Mr Grady..

As it happens, I know a certain Chris Grady, but of course it can’t be the same one. This acquaintance, based in England, has several times ordered books from Francis Book Sales— including missals, etc—and once called to our house. We have been in e­mail correspondence several times, and he seems a reasonable fellow. Religiously, he seems modernistically inclined but not viciously so.

The Chris Grady involved in the Facebook exchange with Mickens and others is very different.  Gratuitous abuse of Benedict XVI and what one can only describe as a pathological detestation of traditional and conservative Catholics.  And evidence of a grotesquely dirty mind. God knows, my own imagination is hardly as pure as the West Virginia snow. But it took me some time to work out what Grady meant when attacking one of the leaders of the Society of St Pius X. He used an expression incorporating this prelate’s name to signify a deviant sexual practice. I will not elucidate.

As for Bobbie Mickens—or Blubbie as he was dubbed after weeping in public after the election of Pope Benedict—well, don’t expect him to remain suspended for very long. Let’s wait and see. As Fr Ray Blake, a most perceptive blogger, has pointed out, you can tell a lot about a man, (or even a magazine) by the friends he (or it) keeps.

Mr Mickens’s supporters have denied—quite absurdly—that there was anything hateful in his use of the term “the Rat”. Of course it was full of bile; both Mickens and Grady would apparently like to see Benedict dead, or why refer to the Pope Emeritus’ funeral in such a way?

In another context, of course, the nickname might be used with affection, and even admiration.

When Pope Benedict freed up the old Latin Mass, many of us cheered “Good old Ratty!”




How’s This for ‘Compassion’?


Yes, the internet can perform a very useful service by revealing the true state of mind of cynical anti-­life journalists .

Here in Ireland Kitty Holland, the Irish Times reporter who “broke ” the story of Savita Halappanavar with a pro­abortion slant has revealed what a truly nasty piece of goods she really is.

It happened like this: Someone calling him or herself “@prolifestuff” tweeted a link to a very moving story of a father dying of pancreatic cancer. As he obviously wouldn’t be able to attend his little daughter’s wedding when she eventually gets married, her father surprised her on her birthday by walking down the aisle in a mock wedding to give her a nice memory to look back on when she is older. (It’s not the kind of thing I would do myself in similar circumstances, but that’s not the point.)

The repellent Ms Holland replied to this tweet as follows:

“@prolifestuff walks 11­year­old daughter down the aisle!! The anti­choice crowd into child brides now! !??”

Keep this in mind the next time Kitty Holland or the Irish Times lectures pro­lifers for a lack of compassion.

My acknowledgments to Hibernicus for drawing my attention to this revealing episode.




No Royal Male Queens


It has been drawn to my attention that the introduction of homosexual pseudogamy in Britain is having unforeseen and rather hilarious consequences. If a future king “marries” another man, the new law solemnly states that such a partner will not be entitled to call himself “Queen”. And if the monarch’s heir marries a man, that man will not become Princess of Wales. Similarly, to ensure that these exciting legal changes are smoothly integrated into British society, if a Duke or an Earl “marries” a male, that male will not get the title Duchess, Countess or Lady.

Rather more ominously, the terms Husband and Wife are to be removed from all legislation and replaced by “male spouse” and “female spouse”. The word “widow” will no longer be recognised, being replaced by “female spouse of a deceased partner”. Can you imagine anything like this happening, say, 20 years ago?

Apparently, in his rush to placate the militant homosexual lobby, David Cameron did not realise that over two thousand legislative changes would be needed. Hundreds of Civil Servants were diverted from projects such as flood relief to take care of this huge and worthy task.

Acts of Parliament dating back over 700 years have had to be amended. These include even the Treason Act of 1351, which makes it high treason to “violate the King’s companion” or that of the heir. A government spokeswoman explained that it would still be high treason to have intercourse with a king’s wife—but not his husband. Other changes will affect long­standing legislation covering inheritance, taxation, social security and children.

The British Conservatives are so anxious to be considered nice, compassionate, and politically correct, so keen finally to slough off the “Nasty Party” label, that Tory media spokespersons frequently raise this subject of “gay marriage” as evidence of how truly progressive they have become. Whether this will improve their electoral prospects is most doubtful. I suspect that if the United Kingdom Independence Party were to proclaim that they would repeal this ridiculous Act in the unlikely event of their achieving power at Westminster, they would gain considerable support. (I don’t know if the UKIP leader Nigel Farage is a very estimable individual, but I always enjoy his knockabout media appearances. His crushing defeat of the Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg in their EU debates on BBC television was a real tour de force.)




Friggin’ Eunuchs and Man­Grabbers


Having cast off the shackles of royalty and aristocracy, we in Ireland will avoid some of these problems when we too introduce marriage rights for “gay” citizens. But never fear: there will still be plenty of extra work for Gaeilgeori civil servants when it comes to drafting legislation in the First Official Language. In previous legal reforms, Irish language experts sometimes had to invent new words from scratch—or so I was informed by former colleagues in the RTÉ Newsroom.

I know only a few phrases of Irish, but I recall that during the push for “family planning” in the 1970s, the late John Healy of the Irish Times pointed out that the Irish for “contraceptive” sounds like “friggin’ eunuch”. Seems appropriate. A learned Irish scholar informs me that the word referred to by Healy is frithghiniúnach, based on the verbal noun frithghiniúint. It’s a twentieth-century neologism.

The Welsh have had some problems finding a politically­correct expression for “homosexual”. There have been complaints from the expected quarters that the commonly­used Welsh dictionary entry for homosexual translates literally as “man­grabber”.




Thirsty Majesty


While we still more or less are on the subject of Queens, the late Queen Elizabeth the British Queen Mother, who died some years ago aged over 100, was a lady of fixed habits. In common with Michael Collins, she always smoked Three Castles, but she also liked to be served with a gin and tonic at a fixed time before dinner. In one of the royal palaces, there was a preponderance of homosexuals among the staff. After waiting over half an hour, Her Majesty is reported to have picked up the telephone and announced: “I don’t know what you old queens are up to down there, but there’s an Old Queen up here who’s dying of thirst.”




Homofascism on the March


No movement, except communism and fascism, has practised censorship more rigidly than those who bellow for the abolition of all controls.

—Mary Whitehouse


It is already socially infra dig. to refer to active homosexuality in tones other than those of total acceptance and respect, or to point out that sodomy is not only dangerous and insanitary but also, objectively, a deadly sin. I’d like to make a prediction. In the not too distant future, probably within 10 years, it will be a punishable offence at law (probably a “hate crime”) to state the perennial Catholic and biblical teaching on the subject.

This will be the case in most of the Americas, in the whole of Western Europe including Ireland, and in many other countries. The Moslem world and much of Africa will be exceptions. But most proper Catholics and genuine evangelicals will fall victim to what churchmilitant.tv has described as “homofascism”. Here’s how that term is defined:

…a way of organising a society in which homosexualists impose their agenda with which no one is to disagree or to have any appeal to the contrary without being subjected to severe consequences of ridicule, slander, libel, fines, public demonstrations, distortions, denial of free speech rights, loss of employment, and of having he word “hate” attached to you in some form.

Let’s take a look at how we have already come down this road. In Ireland, we have had the dreadful and well­documented hounding of the exceptional journalist John Waters who expressed some moderate and well­argued opinions on the undesirability of homosexual practices.

Elsewhere, the following episodes were reported in the space of just over seven days:

A Church of Scotland minister lost his job as a chaplain because he criticised, on Facebook, the legalisation of same­sex “marriage” in Scotland; a Catholic school in Massachusetts is undergoing a state investigation for withdrawing a job offer to a man when it discovered he was “married” to another man; the municipal authorities in Rome are proposing a ban on Father’s Day activities in schools where children might come from lesbian “same­sex parent” homes; a Canadian man has filed a human rights complaint against his former Catholic schoolfor “a pattern of homophobia”; also in Canada, homosexual activists are threatening demonstrations and gathering petition signatures to prevent a pro­family American from speaking to a pro­life conference.; homosexualists are boycotting an Oregon natural foods store before it even opens its doors because the owner supports traditional marriage. They are also lining up boycotts of store suppliers; homosexualists have successfully organised an annual “Day of Silence” in public schools across the United States to “eradicate conservative moral beliefs”; Disney is threatening to withdraw funding to the Boy Scouts unless they allow homosexual scoutmasters; an American Catholic teacher is suing his former Catholic school employer after being fired for “marrying” his homosexual partner; a New Mexico husband and wife wedding photography team lost their bid in the US Supreme Court challenging a state “sexual orientation” law for refusing to photograph a lesbian same­sex union. They had to pay $6,000.

And perhaps scariest of all: qualified theologian Sister Jane Dominic of Aquinas College has been forced to take leave of absence and cancel her speaking engagements after her reiteration of Catholic teaching on homosexuality gave offence to some parents and pupils at a Catholic school in North Carolina.

One week’s work by the homofascist lobby.




OK, I’m Homophobic


It is customary for anyone putting his or her head over the parapet by criticising homofascism to preface their remarks by insisting that of course they are in no way homophobic. Well, as “homophobia”, if it has any real meaning at all, must mean fear of aggressive homosexualism, I have to put my hands up. You bet I’m scared of the “gay lobby”! I’m scared of any group that is campaigning, with ever-­increasing success, to suppress my right to disagree with it.

Having said which, I have the greatest sympathy for those struggling, with more or less success, to resist temptation to serious sin in this area, or indeed any other. (As someone important said: “Who am I to judge?”)

But that will make the homofascists even crosser…




Robbo the Warmo­Fascist


It’s not only the militant homos who are guilty of neo­fascism, but I was a bit surprised to hear the establishment arch­liberal Mary Robinson (remember her as “the President with a Purpose”? being so dictatorial on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland about climate change.

Because it is now official group­think that man­made global warning is an established fact, Mrs Robinson says the media should stop giving the anti­warmists equal air time and column inches. (I hadn’t noticed that they ever did so.)




Greenpeace Rules in Schools


And in Britain, I see that one youngster, who got straight A-­levels in all his science papers, and had acquired extensive knowledge of climate science, failed an exam in general studies when he pointed out that “source materials” on climate change.were riddled with basic errors. When his mother paid to have his paper independently assessed, the new examiner conceded that the boy’s answer was well informed and well structured. But he was still failed: he hadn’t parrotted the warmist party line.

As Christopher Booker pointed out in the Sunday Telegraph, generations of schoolchildren have been taught to accept as gospel nothing but a propagandist, Greenpeace-­type view of the global warming scare. Yet the British Education Act of 1996 requires that pupils should be taught in a balanced way and allowed to form their own view of the evidence.

And the lefty neo­fascists accuse the Catholic Church of brainwashing…




Passion Play Banned


I can hardly believe this, but Oxford city council banned a public Passion Play scheduled for Good Friday because, they said, officials “thought it was a sex show” Either they are telling the truth, in which case public ignorance of Christian tradition has plumbed new depths; or else they are not— which would indicate a remarkable degree of anti-­religious malice. In previous years the play has been performed in the streets of Cowley without incident.

Have these people really never heard of Mel Gibson’s film?




Now That’s a Relief


Proof that Pope Francis is not about to concede one of the top items on the liberal wish­list by getting a new, “liturgically ­correct” Master of Ceremonies: L’Osservatore Romano reported in mid ­March that the Holy Father has confirmed Don Guido Marini in the post for a further five years. That should mean that papal liturgical ceremonies will be reverent and orthodox, as they were under Benedict XVI.