Saturday, 12 April 2014

Remembering Mary Whitehouse

Mediawatch reminds us that this year marks the 50th anniversary of Mary Whitehouse's campaign to Clean Up TV which was launched at Birmingham Town Hall in 1964. A year later, she founded the Viewers and Listeners Association which became Mediawatch in 2001.

The Spring 2014 Mediawatch Newsletter tells us of an anniversary tribute using social media:
Every other day this year we are tweeting a quote from Mary Whitehouse’s writing. It is ironic that much of what we know about her views has come to us filtered by the media itself. This is an opportunity to hear Mary Whitehouse in her own words taken from the books she wrote during her lifetime. I think many people will find it quite surprising.
Here are three ways to follow the initiative:
Here is a good quote from Mary:
No movement, except communism and fascism, has practised censorship more rigidly than those who bellow for the abolition of all controls.
She was herself banned from appearing on the BBC for four years. She claimed that for eleven years "hardly a week went by without a sniping reference to me." The Daily Telegraph obituary has a telling story of Sir Hugh Greene, who was the Director General of the BBC from 1960-1969.
There was, indeed, something pathological in Sir Hugh's attitude towards Mrs Whitehouse. He purchased a naked portrait of her, adorned with six breasts, by Lawrence Isherwood and (it was said) would amuse himself by throwing darts at this picture, squealing with pleasure as he made a hit.
I grew up seeing the constant vilification of Mary Whitehouse for daring to challenge the permissive standards of the 1960s and 1970s. The devotees of Flower Power and the Age of Aquarius could get quite nasty when someone looked like spoiling the party, even when the party was pretty squalid.

It is significant to recall now, that Mary Whitehouse particularly focussed on the protection of children. The BBC that she was calling to account was certainly worthy of such attention as we now know all too well. Mary was influential in the passage of the Protection of Children Act in 1978 which made child porn illegal, and she was also a key figure in preventing the Paedophile Information Exchange from becoming socially respectable. As we have recently been reminded, that was not such an unlikely prospect, given the support it received from libertarian advocates.

Do read the Mediawatch article, Mary Whitehouse: A Household Name

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Important rebuttal of Cardinal Kasper's claim of patristic support

The Catholic Herald has an important article by Dr John Rist, a patristics scholar who currently teaches at the Augustinianum, the Patristic Institute in Rome: Cardinal Kasper’s new approach to the remarried has shaky historical foundations. (As Fr Z points out, this article has also been run in the US National Catholic Register and on Zenit.)

Rist considers the claim that evidence from antiquity is sufficiently uncertain that it offers support for the possible consideration of giving Holy Communion to those who are divorced and remarried. He concludes that "the cardinal’s case depends on misinterpreting a tiny number of texts while neglecting numerous others which contradict them."

Fr Dylan James has recently been speaking on the question of divorce, remarriage and Holy Communion (see for example: Questioning the Orthodox solution on divorce and remarriage.) He put me on to a helpful article by Father (later Cardinal) Anthony Bevilacqua, published in 1967 "The History of the Indissolubility of Marriage" given for the Catholic Theological Society of America. The article surveys texts from the Fathers, Popes, Councils, and collections of canons. (All your favourite quotations are there!) Bevilacqua concludes:
It is the firm conviction of this writer that the weight of evidence from the Fathers, Roman Pontiffs and Councils of the first millennium of Christianity strongly supports the indissolubility of marriage. If there were as much evidence in favor of divorce and remarriage as there is in favor of indissolubility, then those suggesting the possibility of divorce and remarriage would have more than a legitimate claim from history.

Ian Wilson's Stations performed by Matthew Schellhorn

Diatribe Records has announced the release Stations, a 70 minute solo for piano by Ian Wilson, performed by Matthew Schellhorn. The CD will be launched during a concert on Tuesday 8 April at 7.30pm at St George’s Cathedral, Southwark, at which the Archbishop of Birmingham will give a series of meditations.

The above short documentary film gives more information about the work, which seeks to distil the emotional content of the Stations of the Cross. See also Matthew Schellhorn on Ian Wilson’s Stations.

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Coalition for Marriage - useful summary

If you signed the Coalition for Marriage petition and asked to be kept informed, you should have received an email today: Talking Points on Same-Sex Marriage. I reproduce it here because I think that it gives a good summary of what has happened in our country and it may be useful to refer to when campaigning begins for next the General Election in May next year.


Dear marriage supporter,

The democratic deficit

With the first same-sex weddings set to take place this weekend to much media fanfare, it’s important to remember how undemocratic and illiberal the redefinition of marriage is:
  • Marriage was redefined over the heads of the 24 million married people in this country.
  • None of the three main political parties at Westminster made redefining marriage part of their election manifesto. It was not even in the coalition agreement.
  • Three days before the 2010 General Election, David Cameron told Sky News he had no plans to change the law of marriage.
  • There was no green paper or white paper. The only consultation was on 'how' to redefine marriage, not 'whether' to.
  • The Government ignored the 500,000 names and addresses of UK residents on our C4M petition. They weren’t accepted as responses to the consultation.
  • Since the Government’s online response form was anonymous, anyone anywhere in the world could submit a response, as many times as they liked.
  • The consultation ruled out religious same-sex weddings. But when the Bill was published religious ceremonies were included.
  • This exposed religious organisations to the threat of hostile legal action, with one gay couple already publicising their intention to go to court to get a C of E wedding.
  • Though he still backs gay marriage, David Cameron has admitted he would never have gone ahead had he known the level of opposition that would be stirred up.
  • Parliamentary scrutiny was wholly inadequate. At Second Reading, backbench MPs were limited to four minute speeches.

Inadequate safeguards

The implications of redefining marriage have not been thought through. The Government agrees that people’s careers shouldn’t be damaged just because they believe in traditional marriage – yet the protections in place are completely insufficient.

A parent complained to her school that her six year old daughter had had two lessons on same-sex marriage in a week.

A teacher was threatened with disciplinary proceedings because she said in the staff room that she believed in traditional marriage.

A couple wanting to adopt children were told they were unsuitable because they supported traditional marriage.

Thankfully all these cases have been resolved, but they should never have arisen at all.

Further redefinitions

If marriage is redefined once, what is to stop it being redefined again? Some campaigners are now calling for polygamy to be legalised.

Just recently the Government stripped familiar words like husband, wife and widow from a raft of our laws simply because these words don't line up with the Government's new definition of marriage.

For another example of what could happen, you have to look no further than the recent comments of a Justice of the Supreme Court.

Lord Wilson, in a speech he gave supporting gay marriage, suggested that marriage to the dead was an option. He said “if it really helps the broken-hearted, we have at least to ask: why not?”

No nation on earth had legalised same-sex marriage until 13 years ago. Only 16 out of 193 nations have done so.

The truth is that same-sex marriage is a social construct, a social experiment. Parliament can change the law, but it cannot change the reality that marriage is between a man and a woman.

Marriage – between a man and a woman – is the greatest partnership in history. It reflects the complementary natures of men and women.

Time and time again the evidence has shown that children do best with a married mother and a father.

So let’s keep standing up for marriage.

Yours sincerely,

Colin Hart

Campaign Director
Coalition for Marriage

Flavigny Benedictines Retreat for men at Pantasaph

The Benedictine Fathers of Flavigny regularly conduct spiritual retreats for men, according to the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius of Loyola, usually at their own abbey. However, some of the Fathers are travelling to the Pantasaph Retreat Centre in North Wales to give a men's retreat (minimum age 17) from Sunday 24 to Friday 29 August 2014. You can register online.

Saturday, 22 March 2014

Greg Murphy interviews Bishop McMahon on usus antiquior


Gregory Murphy, Editor of the Latin Mass Society's Mass of Ages, interviewed Archbishop McMahon yesterday in Liverpool Cathedral about the usus antiquior. he kindly sent round an email with the text of the interview which I have pasted below. To be honest, I don't think there was any need for anyone to feel "anxious" or "nervous" given +Malcolm's generosity in the past. However it is, of course, great to hear such good-humoured comments from a newly-appointed Archbishop.

Apologies for illustrating this post with another ill-fitting mitre photo (credit: Fr Lawrence Lew OP - Flickr photoset.) The Catholic blogosphere being what it is, a google image search did not throw up any pictures of the esteemed Bishop celebrating the Novus Ordo, though I must allay any anxiety or nervousness among my my reform-of-the-reform friends by affirming that he does so regularly and with great reverence. Perhaps the LMS or another group might club together to present a gift to the new Archbishop of a set of bespoke mitres for use at usus antiquior Pontifical Masses.

Archbishop-Elect Malcolm McMahon, of Liverpool, on the Extraordinary Form of Mass -
Press Conference, March 21st, 2014

To selected persons (bottom) who have an attachment to the Extraordinary Form of Mass, or have an interest:

I had the pleasure, today, of interviewing His Lordship at the Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King, Liverpool. I discussed only the matter of the Extraordinary Form of Mass. I faithfully reproduce here - verbatim - the Archbishop-Elect’s quotes which are illuminating - although I stress that it was necessary for him to speak whilst walking and needing to attend to passing and ongoing briefings whilst developing his responses. Although conscious that, due to circumstances, he couldn’t devote full concentration to the subject, the Archbishop-Elect said he was nonetheless happy for me to convey his thoughts publicly. Please, therefore, feel completely free to disseminate these quotes with confidence if - and however - you wish to, and to whomever (beyond the recipients at the foot). I ask only that, where possible and/or practical, I am credited.
No reply required.

+Malcolm on whether those attached to the Extraordinary Form of Mass in the Archdiocese of Liverpool need have any concerns:

"There is no need (for anyone) to feel nervous."

+Malcolm on how much he foresees that the Extraordinary Form may in time become a general and unremarkable part of the liturgical life of the archdiocese:

"I think it’s hard to predict. I will certainly be open to any requests that come my way. I’ve always listened to what people have wanted, and tried to do my utmost to satisfy their needs - and that applies to liturgy, forms of liturgy, as well as other aspects of my ministry."

+Malcolm on whether he foresees himself personally celebrating the Extraordinary Form:

"It depends how it is used. I mean, I’ve celebrated Mass in the Extraordinary Form when required and when I’ve been asked to. But the Mass always has to be a source of unity in the Church, and I certainly wouldn’t want to be used, and the Extraordinary Form to be used, to divide the Church. That would be my (only) concern. But there are plenty of pictures of me on the Internet (celebrating the Extraordinary Form)...with (laughing) mitres that don’t fit me and all that!"
"But yes, of course I would be agreeable. How can you not be when the Mass has been such a … well some like to call it the ‘Traditional Rite’ … but (when) the Extraordinary Form has been a source of holiness to people for hundreds of years. So how on earth can you say no?"
A senior third party, with authority to speak for the Bishop, later said (unprompted) that he fully understood why those attached to the Extraordinary Form are perhaps prone to being anxious on such occasions. But he wished to stress - and also for it to be conveyed - that Archbishop-Elect McMahon’s appointment in Liverpool should certainly not give rise to any apprehension whatsoever. In fact, quite the opposite, I was assured. He said: “There really, really, should be no concerns for anyone at all - and I emphasise that.”

The general tenor of both the Archbishop-Elect’s, and later his spokesman’s, message concerning the Extraordinary Form, was one of complete reassurance and positivity.


freelance editor and journalist

(among previous posts: Catholic TIMES - editor; Mass of Ages [Latin Mass Society] - editor; Catholic Pictorial [Liverpool] - deputy editor)

[List of recipients follows]

Friday, 21 March 2014

Congratulations to Bishop McMahon

Bishop McMahon OP has been appointed as the new Archbishop of Liverpool. (See the report in the Catholic Herald.) Damian Thompson has sometimes been ribbed for getting predictions wrong, so it is only fair to point out that this time, he was right.

Five years ago, I wrote about bishop McMahon's visit to the Latin Mass Society Conference at Merton College, Oxford. (See: English bishop receives standing ovation at traditional liturgy conference) In view of the the current interest in the relationship between Bishops and bloggers, it was interesting to be reminded that on that occasion, Bishop McMahon joked with me about my blog at the evening convivium, told me to keep blogging and said light-heartedly "I want my picture on your blog." (The photos in this post and the previous one are from the Flickr set of Fr Lawrence Lew OP.)


Congratulations to Bishop McMahon. Please keep him in your prayers.

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Bishop Drainey using social media to make his case

The other day, writing of The pitfalls of censoring Catholic bloggers, I referred to an article in the Tablet to which the Lancaster Diocesan website had linked. I also quoted the Tablet's report of Bishop Drainey's comment calling for a "radical re-examination of human sexuality."

Bishop Drainey has written to the Tablet, and posted the text of his letter on the Middlesbrough Diocesan Website. In it, he speaks of the many responses that his diocese received to the Synod Questionnaire and then goes on to say:
I was therefore saddened that your article appeared to demean the honest offerings of these good people by framing them in a sensationalistic style. All of these statements were published in the Middlesbrough Catholic Voice, our diocesan newspaper, in January, and while I would not expect the London-based Tablet to look so far north, to add insult to injury, we send you a complimentary copy every month. So much for the Tablet’s hot pursuit of the truth! I suppose the question I am left with is simply does the Tablet try to report and respect the truth or does it just massage facts to support its own agenda?
The Middlesbrough website page also gives the original response that Bishop Drainey gave to questions from the Tablet.

This response does include the "radical re-examination" paragraph that the Tablet reported, and I guess that the Tablet will argue that they did not misrepresent the Bishop or "massage the facts." There is reasonable ground for debate about the matter, but the important thing to my mind is that Bishop Drainey has shown that it is perfectly possible for Bishops to use the new media to present their side of a case in the public square. Using his own diocesan website rather than relying on the Tablet to publish his letter is also a wise tactic.

Sunday, 16 March 2014

The pitfalls of censoring Catholic bloggers

Pope Benedict's message for the 44th World Communications Day (2010) had the title "The Priest and Pastoral Ministry in a Digital World: New Media at the Service of the Word." In it, he said
[...] priests can rightly be expected to be present in the world of digital communications as faithful witnesses to the Gospel, exercising their proper role as leaders of communities which increasingly express themselves with the different "voices" provided by the digital marketplace. Priests are thus challenged to proclaim the Gospel by employing the latest generation of audiovisual resources (images, videos, animated features, blogs, websites) which, alongside traditional means, can open up broad new vistas for dialogue, evangelization and catechesis.
I quoted this in my post Holy Father encourages us to blog - with a priestly heart: Pope Benedict also gave the wise advice that priests should be "less notable for their media savvy than for their priestly heart." He concluded the message by offering an invitation:
To my dear brother priests, then, I renew the invitation to make astute use of the unique possibilities offered by modern communications. May the Lord make all of you enthusiastic heralds of the Gospel in the new "agorà" which the current media are opening up.
By way of contrast to Pope Benedict's frequent encouragement of the new media, Cardinal Müller recently gave a warning at the meeting of the leaders of the Ordinariates. The report on Zenit says:
The Prefect went on to issue a word of warning about the potential problems caused by the "new media", particularly through blogs. He said that some of the ordinariate clergy and faithful wrote blogs, which, while being a helpful tool of evangelisation, could also "express un-reflected speech lacking in charity". The image of the ordinariate was not helped by this, he said, and it fell to the ordinaries to exercise vigilance over these blogs and, if necessary, to intervene.
Over the past week, bloggers have been responding to the news that the Bishop of Lancaster has "requested Deacon Nick Donnelly to voluntarily pause from placing new posts on the Protect the Pope site." (See: Diocese of Lancaster’s statement about Deacon Nick Donnelly)

Fr Zuhlsdorf surmises that "a lot of pressure was exerted on the Bishop of Lancaster to have gone to such an extreme." I think that it is no great secret that Catholic blogs are indeed a frequent topic of conversation at the meetings of the Bishops' Conference of England and Wales.

Rorate Caeli voices the concern of many that there is a double-standard when orthodox bloggers are silenced while defenders of heterodoxy and moral relativism are unbothered or even promoted. (See: The Sound of Silence) Linen on the Hedgerow makes a similar point (see: Protect the Pope on hold.) There are now hundreds of other posts about the silencing of Rev Nick Donnelly on blogs in England and throughout the world.

Reaction is not limited to blogs. There is much comment on Facebook and Twitter. It was on the latter that I saw a link to this item on the Lancaster Diocesan website:

The link goes to an article reporting that:
The Bishop of Middlesbrough, Terence Drainey, called for a “radical re-examination of human sexuality” that could lead to a development in church teaching in areas such as contraception, homosexuality, divorce and remarriage and cohabitation and the role of women in the Church.
Tweeps wonder how this is OK when Deacon Nick Donnelly is prevented from offering any critical comment. Are Bishops to be immune from criticism when making controversial statements?

I do wonder about the practical wisdom of attempting to censor the blogosphere. Protect the Pope now carries posts by Mrs Donnelly, and she has offered an invitation to others to contribute material - which several writers have already taken up. Other censored bloggers can also simply start up a new blog under a pseudonym, or use alternative social media platforms - Facebook and Twitter are well-known but the possibilities are endless. As activists on the internet pointed out years ago, censorship is just another bug for which you find a hack or a workaround. The danger is that a previously censored commenter will be probably not be inclined to moderation in a new social media incarnation.

Bishops also have on their side the great respect of most Catholics for Bishops. Quite often a blog will criticise a Bishop severely, only to find that another blog tells a different side to the story, or the Bishop issues a statement clarifying things - and then receives a lot of support from Catholic bloggers. The discussion will continue, but the Bishop is not exactly powerless to defend himself.

Bloggers work in an environment which is open to everyone. One of the healthy things about such open communication is precisely that you cannot rely on personal standing to squash disagreement. As Fr Zuhlsdorf put it so well, the internet operates a "Reverse Gresham's Law" whereby good information drives out bad. You can say something inaccurate or unfair if you want, but you can be sure that you will be corrected - within minutes if you have any personal standing - and the more you ignore correction, the more you will be attacked, and the lower your reputation will sink.

The converse is also true. Bloggers who dare to speak honestly and truthfully even when it is risky to do so, especially when they are courteous, even when expressing strong opinions, gain great respect from others. In my opinion, Deacon Nick Donnelly is one such blogger and I was unhappy to hear that he had been silenced. Now that "pastoral solutions" and "imaginative ways forward" are so much in vogue in another context, I hope that this faithful Deacon can be "welcomed and included."

Saturday, 15 March 2014

Family Education Trust Bulletin on failure to safeguard teenage girls in Rochdale

Once again I recommend to you the Family Education Trust Bulletin.

The latest Bulletin has an important article on failure to safeguard teenage girls in Rochdale. To refresh your memory, in Rochdale a gang preyed on under-age teenage girls and were convicted of sex trafficking on 8 May 2012; other offences included rape, trafficking girls for sex and conspiracy to engage in sexual activity with a child. 47 girls were identified as victims of child sexual exploitation during the police investigation.

Drawing from the official report prepared on behalf of the Rochdale Borough Safeguarding Children Board, the Family Education Trust article highlights the way in which professionals had become complacent about underage sexual activity to the point that real risks were ignored. As the Report itself states:
‘The drive to reduce teenage pregnancy, whilst commendable in itself, is believed to have contributed to a culture whereby professionals may have become inured to early sexual activity in young teenagers. The culture from the top of organisations concerned with teenage pregnancy focused on meeting targets for the reduction of teenage conception and sexually transmitted diseases sometimes to the detriment of an alternative focus - the possibility that a young person has been or is at risk of harm and action other than clinical responses are required.’
It is fascinating to compare the Family Education Trust article and the report from the BBC which manages to omit any mention of the problem of focussing on the reduction of pregnancy (i.e. on the provision of contraception and abortion) to the detriment of a proper focus on safeguarding.

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