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March 27th, 2017

Those Nasty Homophobic Russkis

Guess where this  piece of Political Correctness comes from.

 A troubling alliance of religion and nationalism is uncovered by Marcel Theroux in Russia, where state-sponsored TV and the Orthodox church promote an agenda of homophobia, anti-abortion and barely concealed misogyny in the guise of faith and ‘family values’.

My old alma mater The Guardian? The New Statesman? The RTÉ Guide, perhaps?  Or maybe our own lovely Irish Times, which we used to call the D’Olier Street Pravda (ironic, that, when you come to think of it).

None of the above. It’s from the television page of what used to be sneeringly called the “Torygraph” —the Daily Telegraph, which now allows its young officer class to defy what was, until recently that paper’s  policy of defending what remains of Christian civilisation in Britain. Week after week editor Charles Moore, a Catholic convert, still writes witty and very readable articles advancing the case for conservatism with a small c, but his features staff and some of his columnists are allowed a free hand in expressing their progressive prejudices.

Somewhat masochistically, I decided to watch the Theroux programme, and it was far more balanced than you would have expected from the above quotation.

It began with an Epiphany  ceremony on an ice-bound lake. A priest chanted prayers while men, women and children in swimming attire crossed themselves from right to left and then one by one jumped into a hole in the ice. This penance would probably have killed me, and it was impossible not to admire the penitential spirit of all concerned. Theroux interviewed one layman who recalled that as recently as the 1960s the Communist authorities would have banned such a display of faith. You don’t have to be a fan of Putin to think the Russians may be on to something these days.

Theroux gave the impression (possibly correct) that Orthodoxy has experienced an astonishing revival in recent years. It certainly  has no truck with the kind of modernism now undermining the Catholic Church throughout the western world.  One broadcaster was questioned about the Orthodox lack of tolerance for homosexuality which Theroux  regarded as reprehensible (the lack of tolerance, not homosexuality). Well,  replied the broadcaster, the Bible condemns sodomy, so we do too.

One inspiring sequence which clearly impressed Theroux concerned a middle-aged woman who had taken over the care of a few dozen children who’d been abandoned by their alcoholic mothers. She housed and fed them, and accompanied them to school. All this was done out of love, although she did receive a small state allowance for each child, some of whom had quite severe psychological problems.

What impressed me above all about the Orthodox, as portrayed here, is that they have no time at  all for aggiornamento. They see no reason at all to update their liturgy or to encourage any of the progressive prejudices acquired by so many Catholics in Ireland. At the present rate, Orthodox Christianity will be thriving in Russia when Catholicism is near to vanishing point with us.

March 16th. 2017

We’re in Deadly Peril from Islam

Fight and slay the pagans [i.e. infidels] wherever ye find them, and seize them, beleaguer them, and lie in wait for them in every stratagem of war.The Koran, Sura 9:5

What was the meaning of all that whisper of fear that ran round the west under the shadow of Islam, and fills every old romance with incongruous images of Saracen knights swaggering in Norway or the Hebrides?G.K. Chesterton, The Everlasting Man.

Continuing our series of old articles from the Brandsma Review (we haven’t had any for  around six months) here’s one I wrote  around the turn of the millennium. I wouldn’t change a line of it, but I think  the threat from Islam is now far  greater than it was then.

In the mid 1960s I worked on a London newspaper with a Moslem from the Indian sub-continent called Khalim Siddiqui. He was intelligent and courteous, totally convinced of the truth of Islam, and impressively eloquent on the benefits of regular prayer. But his mind was entirely closed to other philosophies: they weren’t even worth investigating. He knew all he needed to know about Jews and Christians: God had rejected each in turn and raised up ‘the prophet’ Mohammed. Moslems were the final, complete heirs of the Abrahamic faith.

Twenty-five years later, Khalim could be heard ranting on the radio, calling for the implementation of the fatwa on Salman Rushdie, and for an Islamic parliament which would claim the allegiance of British Moslems and subject them to its own laws. By then, he was clearly not only a bigot, but a dangerous fanatic.

The question is, had he been one all along?

Francis Martel, writing in the magazine Culture Wars (July-August 1999) can help supply part of the answer: ‘There is not one Islam that is reasonable and approachable, and another that is the demented distortion of that…There is no non-fundamentalist version of Islam.’ (Martel is the pseudonym of an American who teaches in an Islamic country.)

There is much to admire about individual Moslems. One can be grateful for their stalwart opposition to abortion and euthanasia; their alliance with the Vatican and other Christians at the Cairo population conference was crucial in defeating the machinations of Planned Parenthood. We have even carried a fine pro-life article by a Moslem doctor, Majid Katme, in this Review.

And yet…I have come to believe that now Communism has been defeated the next big challenge facing Europe is coming from Islam—as so often in the past. But this time, it will be mainly internal rather than external And because of the woeful spiritual state of the West, we are as yet quite incapable of defending ourselves against it.

More than 60 years ago, when the West was not yet as degenerate and ‘post-Christian’ as it is today, the southern shores of the Mediterranean and the Near and Middle East were controlled or dominated by France, Britain and Italy. At that time, Hilaire Belloc issued a warning that must have seemed absurdly alarmist. It’s worth quoting at length:

‘Islam survives. Its religion is intact; therefore its material strength may return. Our religion is in peril of dissolution, and who can be confident in the continued skill, let alone the continued obedience, of those who make and work our machines?…There is with us a complete chaos in religious doctrine where religious doctrine is still held, and even in that part of the European population where the united doctrine and definition of Catholicism survives, it survives as something to which the individual is attached rather than the community. As nations we worship ourselves, we worship the nation; or we worship (some few of us) a particular economic arrangement believed to be the satisfaction of social justice. Those who direct us, and from whom the tone of our policy is taken, have no major spiritual interest. Their major personal interest is private gain, and this mood is reflected in the outer forms of government by the establishment of plutocracy.

‘Islam has not suffered this spiritual decline; and in the contrast between the religious certitudes still strong throughout the Mohammedan world, as lively in India as in Morocco, active throughout North Africa and Egypt…lies our peril.’

Speculating on the probability of some notable change in the Middle East, he added: ‘Perhaps that change will be deferred, but change there will be, continuous and great. Nor does it seem probable that at the end of such a change, particularly if it be prolonged, Islam will be the loser.’ (The Crusade, 1937)

When our ancestors attempted to wrest the Holy Places from the Moslems they were aware that Islam intended to conquer the whole world,and could well do so if it were not vigorously opposed. It is little over 300 years since the last serious Moslem attempt to take over Europe was launched. It was defeated under the walls of Vienna by King John Sobieski of Poland. Islam is still just as determined to achieve world domination: that is regarded as a religious duty.

The Moslems had a respect for Richard Coeur de Lion and Don Juan of Austria, even though they regarded them as infidels. They must find us modern Catholics, with our ‘apologies’ for Lepanto and the Crusades, utterly pathetic—a pushover! That is not to suggest we should now seek to overthrow Islam by force of arms—that would be anachronistic, absurd and unjust. But we should, by now, be aware of Moslem intentions, and resisting them by political, economic and above all by spiritual means. For we are confronted by an aggressive Islamic revival, stretching all the way from the Philippines to Nigeria.

In his Culture Wars article, Martel points out that from its beginnings in sixth-century Arabia, Islam has divided the world into the Dar Es Orb and the Dar Es Islam, (the world at war and the world of peace, or the world that has ‘submitted’, which is what Islam means, and the world still to be conquered. Once a territory becomes part of the Dar Es Islam, it must remain so.

In this connection, the Evangelical Christian apologist for Israel, Lance Lambert points that one reason why Moslems wish to destroy the Jewish State is that Palestine is part of the Dar Es Islam, having once been under Moslem control. Its very existence is an affront to Islamic theology. (So, presumably—although I have never seen this argued—must be the existence of non-Moslem Spain and Portugal.)

Although the peril to the West is clearer now than it was in Belloc’s day, few seem to be concerned. This is probably because the astonishing successes of tiny Israel in the wars of 1948 and 1967, and then the crushing Desert Storm victory over Iraq, have led us to despise the military capabilities of modern Islam.

We are missing the point: the danger is not so much external (though it could well become so) as internal and spiritual. The United States (the only remaining superpower) has been particularly naive in its dealings with Islam—failing to realise that Moslems simply have no concept of the individual having the right to choose his own path. Islam is of its very nature aggressive and totalitarian. It has is no separation of ‘church’ and ‘state’.

Public relations consultants to major Moslem organisations in the US use the liberal media to assuage the public while they pursue radical agendas inimical to the American system. ‘Now, in addition to homophobia, we have Islamophobia, a dread disease no contemporary journalist wishes to catch,’ says Martel. The American Islamic Council and the Council of American-Islamic Relations have managed to condition the media not to criticise the activities of Moslems for fear of a libel suit. Forthright coverage of militant Islamic terrorist groups operating in America resulted in journalist Steven Emerson being placed on a blacklist. Martel continues:

‘It is not possible to publish a critical essay about the Koran, as the Atlantic Monthly did in January 1999, without screams that the West has begun a new Crusade. Arab and Islamic studies are now popular in universities happy to receive petro-dollars to build special libraries and programmes and to endow professorships. The Moslems who support or teach in these programmes would be the first to riot in the streets should universities in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Syria, Bahrain or Oman accept a chair in Christian Theology or Jewish studies…In America, several generations of Christians and clergy—including Bishops and Cardinals—who have been nourished on share-and-care theology easily buy the view that the Moslems are being bashed by wicked people.

As I study what Moslems are about in the United States, I am struck by the ‘virus’ theory , that given enough local nutrition and space, Islamic society will attempt to reduplicate itself and emphasise its power and exclusivity. In short, in England and America, where there are some 1200 mosques each, and in other countries of the West, most Moslems prefer to create islands of Islam or ‘beachheads’ as Khomeini called them when he condemned Salman Rushdie. When these grow large enough to exert political power, they begin to demand that the large society change to fit Islam, as in England, where Moslems demanded their own separate parliament. Other Moslems in England argued against this, but mostly because they felt it was ‘too soon’.

Western foreign policy towards Islamic countries is as supine as its treatment of Moslems at home. Martel points out that when Desert Storm entered Saudi Arabia, the Americans permitted the Saudis to tell them that chaplains could not wear crosses, and worship services had to be disguised as counselling sessions. ‘When such behaviour is acceptable to the West, Islam knows that it is winning the worldwide culture war.’

The Balkan situation is muddled, as it has been throughout modern history—but now very much to Islam’s advantage. Islamic nations have armed, trained and financed the Bosnian army and the KLA in Kosovo. Their aim is an Islamic state comprising Bosnia-Herzegovina, Macedonia, Albania and Kosovo—the largest chunk of Europe under Moslem control since the days of the old Turkish empire. President Alia Izetbegovic of Bosnia is known to be a fanatical proponent of the formation of Islamic states, and has purged his army of non-Moslems. Under the Dayton accords, his country is supposed to be a multi-ethnic society with liberty and justice for all. Yet in 1997, Izetbegovic addressed the Eighth Session of the Islamic Summit Conference in Teheran. It is worth recalling that Izetbegovic was imprisoned by the Yugoslav Communists for his pan-Islamic agitation which shows—as Martel drily comments—that the Marxist governments of Eastern Europe knew exactly what they had to suppress.

If all the above strikes you as over-alarmist, listen to Archbishop Giuseppe Germano Bernardini, O.F.M., Cap., of Izmir (formerly Smyrna) in Turkey, where he has lived for 42 years. In an intervention to the Post-Synodal Council in Rome, Archbishop Bernardini gave examples of the futility of ‘dialogue’ with Moslems: During an official meeting on Islamic-Christian dialogue, an authoritative Moslem person, speaking  to Christians participating, at one point said very calmly and assuredly: ‘Thanks to your democratic laws we will invade you; thanks to our religious laws we will dominate you.’ The Archbishop said the ‘domination’ has already begun , with petro-dollars used not to create work in poor North African or Middle Eastern countries, but to build mosques and cultural centres in Christian countries with Islamic immigrants—including Rome, the centre of Christendom. ‘How can we fail to see in all this a clear programme of expansion and conquest?’

He added: ‘During another Islamic-Christian meeting, always organised by Christians, a Christian participant asked the Moslems present why they did not organise at least one meeting of this kind. The Moslem authority present answered in the following words: ‘Why should we? You have nothing to teach us and we have nothing to learn.’

Archbishop Bernardini said of course we must distinguish the fanatic and violent minority from the tranquil and honest majority; ‘but the latter, at an order given in the name of Allah or the Koran, will always march in unity and without hesitation.’

He appealed to Rome to begin to face up to the threat from Islam: ‘And now I would like to make a serious proposal to the Holy Father: to organise as soon as possible, if not a Synod, at least a symposium of Bishops and those engaged in the pastoral care of immigrants, particularly Islamic immigrants, and open to the Reformed and Orthodox Churches. The symposium could be useful to study in a collegial way the problem of the Islamic individuals in Christian countries, and thus find a common strategy to face it and resolve it in a Christian and objective way. I end this exhortation suggested to me by experience: do not allow Moslems ever to use a Catholic church for their worship, because in their eyes this would be the surest proof of our apostasy.’

Early this century [that’s the 20th, of course]  G.K. Chesterton wrote a fantasy called The Flying Inn about an England turned Moslem in which all the pubs were closed by law. (It was rescued, if I remember rightly, by an Irish sea captain who travelled around the country with a large cheese, a barrel of rum, and an inn-sign.) I used to think the whole idea was just too absurd: now I’m not so sure.

When Father Richard John Neuhaus reviewed a book called The Decline of Eastern Christianity under Islam and pointed out some of the things referred to above, he was savaged by the Council of American-Islamic Relations, which demanded that the Catholic Church should ‘investigate’ him for daring to suggest that Islam is a permanent threat to Western Society and that Christian-Moslem dialogue might be a delusion.

Of course, it is. As Martel says: ‘Remember the past. Know Islam, love the Moslems, but accept no follies that would lie about a global threat that will surely be permanent until the heathen are converted.’

* * * * *

I have hardly touched the surface of the vast subject: in particular, the ongoing persecutions of Christians in many Moslem states should have an article to itself. The atrocities committed in Sudan, above all, are almost unbelievable: and it is astonishing that they get so little mention in the Western media. The persecution of the Christian Copts—the original inhabitants of Egypt—has lasted off and on for 1400 years. I should also have liked to have dealt in depth with the role of Israel in relation to Islam, and to have discussed the history of Mohammed and the Moslem attitude to women.

For further reading I would recommend, in addition to the July-August 1999 issue of the Catholic magazine Culture Wars (206 Marquette Avenue, South Bend IN 46617) the following Protestant publications: Robert Morey, The Islamic Invasion: Confronting the World’s Fastest-Growing Religion, Harvest House, Eugene, Oregon 1992 (187pp.), and The History of Islam: Its Self-Understanding, its Claim to Jerusalem. The latter is a pamphlet published by Christian Friends of Israel, 15 Teddington Business Park, Station Road, Teddington, Middlesex TW11 9BQ, England. Some very informative tapes can be obtained from ‘Prayer for Israel’, 199 Widmore Road, Bromley, Kent, England.

Re-reading what I wrote then I realise that perhaps I may have been a little over-gloomy. We should at least be grateful to President Trump for taking the first tentative steps to neutralise the Moslem threat, in addition to his apparently genuine conversion to the pro-life cause.

March 6th, 2017

Carry On Fornicating

I would never buy the Irish Times, so it’s hardly surprising that I never read it, except in the doctor’s or dentist’s waiting room. A few days ago, while waiting for some physiotherapy for a nasty attack of arthritis in the knee (something I’ll probably have to endure more frequently as  I advance into my 80s) I   glanced over the Times as there was nothing much else on offer. My eye was caught by a psychotherapist’s agony column offering comfort to a man who found himself impotent after years of indulging in self-abuse, aided by pornography. This fellow was greatly distressed because he couldn’t perform with a real flesh and blood woman, and his every attempt to do so was a flop. Help! What could he do?

Serve you right, you dirty little bastard, I thought. An  act of contrition, and then a good Confession with a firm purpose of amendment is what you need, my lad. And even if you fail (as you probably will) you’ll be forgiven seventy times seven and eventually you may obtain peace and freedom from your nasty habits.  You may even achieve a happy marriage, and be the father of a family.  But screwing around will just make you miserable, make it impossible for you to form a healthy, exclusive relationship, and may even eventually send you to hell.

That’s the sort of advice an old-fashioned Redemptorist would have given.

This psychotherapist had other ideas. Sex, she told this unfortunate man, was meant to be fun! So relax when you are attempting to have it off with a floozie. Don’t worry! Just enjoy it! You’ll make it in the end!

What a disaster! How much human misery has been caused by the wrong use of this, one of God’s greatest gifts. No wonder so many marriages end in divorce, and consequent unhappiness, particularly to children.

The Catholic Church, which used to have a great deal to say on this topic, now stays completely mum, out of craven fear.  When did you last hear a sermon on the Sixth Commandment?  I’m not suggesting priests should keep banging on about fornication or contraception every other week, but once every year or two would be fair enough.

I see the British government has decreed that sex education must become compulsory in schools from the age of four. You may be sure it will be based on ideas similar to those expressed  by that Irish psychotherapist.

 

 

 

 

March 2nd, 2017

Into the Desert: A Lenten Reflection

You don’t get many Anglican clergy converting to Rome these days. However infuriated they may be by the woolliness and general gutlessness of their denomination, there’s little or no incentive to cross the Tiber, and the present Holy Father actively discourages such a step. Nonetheless, there’s still  a small trickle of Anglican converts, thanks mainly to Pope Benedict XVI and the Ordinariates.

Perhaps the most distinguished comparatively recent convert is  retired Cambridge don Edward Norman. Dr Norman is unusual in that he’s not from the Anglo-Catholic wing of the church, but tended towards Low Church evangelicalism.   As we are now in Lent, I’m reproducing something he wrote as an Anglican which appeared over a dozen years ago in the London Times. It displays a most un-Anglican intellectual rigour, and an almost pre-Vatican II Roman insistence on the unpopular truths of the Christian faith.

Traditional Christianity was a structure of doctrine, which the individual did not expect to adjust to suit his own emotional preferences. It expressed obligations owed to God and involved not emotional fulfilment but privation.

Church leaders who attempt to present religion as a product to be sold on its appeal, as an advertising agent might do, are being unfaithful to the doctrines they are supposed to hold on trust. Religion does not ‘appeal’, and it is founded not in emotional need but in objective truths, many of which are deeply antipathetic to what humans regard as their entitlements.

At the centre of Christianity is the assurance of its Founder that there is something wrong in the hearts of men and women, and that what we need is not some pandering to our emotional greed but a structure of spiritual discipline. Religion is about giving things up. It is about denying ourselves things, including emotional entertainment, so that we may follow Christ into the austerities of the wilderness—and therefore into the clarity of the light by which we can see.