Man & Woman

Christians are witnesses. And one aspect of our witness is that we point to the goodness of creation and of our place in it. We point out that creation is made up of many creatures and persons who are different from ourselves. We acknowledge how different they are, and that we rely on them to be different from ourselves. We do not attempt either to absorb them or to substitute for them. Individually we do not try to be everything. We do not try to replace all others and so do without them. We do not try to make them redundant, or make ourselves entirely autonomous. We do not cut them out of our lives and insist that we will not miss them. We acknowledge that we live in a world made up of many other persons whom we do not determine, and we affirm that they are good, just as they are. So we are witnesses to the independent existence of beings other than ourselves, and we affirm that it is good so.

God loves us.  And God loves those who are not us. We are witnesses to his love. We hope we can love whoever comes our way. We hope for great relationships of love, that over time will blossom out into further great relationships of love. Meanwhile we wait. We do not go to bed with the first man or woman who comes along, and then, bored or fearful, pack them off. We do not glue ourselves to one another only in order to tear ourselves away from one another again. We wait,  sometimes contentedly, sometimes impatiently. Nevertheless, we wait. We are witnesses to what we do not yet have. Hope is our thing.

So a man can wait for a woman. A woman can wait for a man. Perhaps that waiting will stretch out to the end of their lives and they will not meet the woman or man who can become their one and only partner and companion. But in this waiting, they are nonetheless witnesses to love, the love of God they do have and the love of one particular person that they don’t have.

And so it is with women and ministry. They can wait. They can do so because they are Christians. Christians serve and wait and look forward to what they do not yet have. They are witnesses to the future. Hope is our thing, and waiting and looking forward to what we do not yet possess is our distinctive way. If we cannot wait, we do not act as Christians and so are not good models of the Christian life, and the Church cannot choose us to be its ministers for other more particular purposes.  We must be content to watch many people go ahead of us.  We may not see why there should be a difference between them and us, but we can affirm that there always will be, and should be, differences between us. This waiting and pointing to what we do not yet possess is itself the ministry of every Christian. The Christian who does not grasp this, and attempt to be faithful in this way, is certainly not ready for any other ministry.

Men & Women

You are a man or you are woman. You are a witness to the particular charism of being either one or the other.  We are able to live together by giving to one another and by receiving from one another. We are able to receive from others because we do not already have everything. They have what we don’t.  We are able to receive from them whatever they have  and  are able to contribute, because we cannot provide it for ourselves. We need what only they can give us, and so we need them, and they need us. Given differences, of age and of experience and of sex orient us towards one another. Sexual difference brings us together, and make us look to other, appeal to them and wait for them to provide whatever we cannot provide for ourselves. Our need makes us receptive, prompting us to make them  welcome. What is more, we may not know what they have to contribute; they may surprise us, and thus we cannot control them, or insist that they make only the contribution that we demand and allow. What they bring may not be entirely determined by us, and this means that to some degree they are free of us. We are witnesses that differences, and sexual differences in particular, are not subject to our determination. We cannot entirely define and control them. Attempts to deny or reduce differences are untruthful, and in the long term fruitless. Attempts to  expunge sexual difference are futile and an assault on the truth.

God did not intend a unisex human. God does not make everything identical to everything else, for then there would only be one thing, and there would be no one to see it and marvel at it. God brings order, not confusion; God brings what is new, but what is new supplements what is given, it does sweep it aside as though it were all a mistake. God made man, male and female he made them.  God saw that they were good, both individually and together. Christian doctrine says that creation is good, our sexual differences and complementarity are good, and for the health of our society it is the job of Christians to say so.

Culture of Life

As Pope John Paul the Great wrote in his historic message Evangelium Vitae (the Gospel of Life) the culture of death goes all the way back to that fateful afternoon when Cain struck down his brother Abel, and the Lord said to Cain,  Where is Abel your brother? And Cain answered,  €œAm I my brother’s keeper? And the Lord said to Cain, €œThe voice of your brothers blood is crying out to me from the ground. The voice of the blood of brothers and sisters beyond numbering cry out from the slave ships and battlegrounds and concentration camps and torture chambers of the past and the present. The voice of the blood of the innocents cries out from the abortuaries and sophisticated biotech laboratories of this beloved country today. Contending for the culture of life has been a very long journey, and there are still miles and miles to go.

The contention between the culture of life and the culture of death is not a battle of our own choosing. We are not the ones who imposed upon the nation the lethal logic that human beings have no rights we are bound to respect if they are too small, too weak, too dependent, too burdensome. That lethal logic, backed by the force of law, was imposed by an arrogant elite that for almost forty years has been telling us to get over it, to get used to it. But We the People€? who are the political sovereign in this constitutional democracy, have not gotten over it, we have not gotten used to it, and we will never, we will never ever, agree that the culture of death is the unchangeable law of the land.

Richard Neuhaus

Death, Life and Mary in London

Whether we like it or not as British citizens and residents of this country — and whether we are even prepared as Catholics to accept this reality and all it implies — the fact is that historically, and continuing right now, Britain, and in particular London, has been and is the geopolitical epicenter of the culture of death. Our laws and lawmakers for over 50 years or more have been the most permissively anti-life and progressively anti-family and marriage, in essence one of the most anti-Catholic landscapes culturally speaking than even those places where Catholics suffer open persecution.

England itself nevertheless has a unique Christian heritage: St. Augustine, the apostle to the English appointed by Pope Gregory, defied the temptation to despair of ever converting the pagan Britons by reminding the degenerate race of the beauty, truth and dignity of marriage. St. Bede’s chronicle of English Christianity recounts this strategy, and, as he put it, “England recovered.” England is also the “Dowry of Mary,” an ancient title going back to the 14th century and even further in the spiritual language of the people. This title signified the fact that from the earliest times English Catholic Christians revered the person of the Mother of Christ with such a singular and wholehearted devotion that the very nation itself was attributed with having a supernatural role (metaphorically-speaking) in the “marriage” between the Holy Spirit and his spouse — the Virgin of Nazareth. That is to say, English Christianity, in the plan of God, has a unique role to play in being a secure foundation (like a dowry in a marriage) to the work of redemption and salvation history globally. England was the first Christian nation to bestow upon the Church the formal solemnizing of marriages, which found expression in the Sarum Rite of Marriage.

Edmund Adamus speaking to Zenit
Edmund runs Pastoral Affairs at the Roman Catholic Diocese of Westminster

The only serious philosophical question

A five step neo-Darwinian refutation of neo-Darwinism:
1. A person is, in Richard Dawkins’ beautiful phrase, “a gene’s way of making another geneâ€?. So forget religion, forget values, forget ideals, its all about reproduction; handing on our genes to the next generation.
2. Europe today is the most secular region in the world.
3. Europe today is the only region in the world which is experiencing population decline. As you know, zero population growth – a stable population – requires an average of 2.1 children for every woman of child-bearing age in the population. Not one European country has anything like that rate today. Here are the 2004 figures: In the United Kingdom: 1.74, in the Netherlands: 1.73, Germany: 1.37, Italy: 1.33, Spain: 1.32 and Greece: 1.29.
4. Wherever you turn today anywhere in the world, and whether you look at the Jewish or Christian or Muslim communities, you will find the more religious the community, the larger, on average, are its families.
5. The major assault on religion today comes from the neo-Darwinians.
From which it follows, as night doth follow day, that if you are a true neo-Darwinian believer you want there to be as few neo-Darwinians as possible. QED.
Parenthood involves massive sacrifice: of money, attention, time and emotional energy. Where today, in European culture with its consumerism and its instant gratification ‘because you’re worth it’, in that culture, where will you find space for the concept of sacrifice for the sake of generations not yet born? Europe, at least the indigenous population of Europe, is dying, exactly as Polybius said about ancient Greece in the third pre-Christian century. The century that is intellectually the closest to our own – the century of the sceptics and the epicureans and the cynics. Polybius wrote this:

The fact is, that the people of Hellas had entered upon the false path of ostentation, avarice and laziness, and were therefore becoming unwilling to marry, or if they did marry, to bring up the children born to them; the majority were only willing to bring up at most one or two.

That is why Greece died. That is where Europe is today. Now, that is one of the un-sayable truths of our time. We are undergoing the moral equivalent of climate change and no one is talking about it. The only serious philosophical question is “Why should I have a child?â€?
Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sachs

Far-sighted investment in future stability

Cardinal Keith Patrick O’Brien Homily preached at Mass for Pentecost 2009 St Mary’s Cathedral, Edinburgh

Before any society can prosper and endure it must give support and encouragement to the institution of marriage and the place of the family. As a society we have failed utterly to do this and have instead in recent years acted again and again to undermine marriage and weaken the family: in abolishing tax benefits for married couples; creating tax credits which favour couples who are not married; giving legal status to cohabitees; speeding up divorce and creating same sex marriages. In these and other ways we have attacked and damaged the foundation stone of our society, the foundation on which any stable society is built. I think of the tuition and support available to young people as they prepare to sit their driving test. Our government knows that a stringent test and structured tuition at the start will pay dividends later in better driving standards and fewer accidents. I would hope that we will now try to see marriage preparation in the same light; and encourage those who are living together outwith marriage to consider preparing for that great Sacrament. What we require is nothing less than a nationwide programme of marriage preparation courses and ongoing reconciliation services to help couples who inevitably face difficulties and strains in their relationship. This must all be funded at public expense as a far sighted investment in future stability and will offset the multi-billion pound cost of family fracture, divorce, breakdown, depression and social collapse we currently pay for. I see this as not a competition between morality and money, but rather a recognition that embracing morality can potentially save us vast amounts of money.

The Church-State relationship in Scotland is very different from England. Here the bishop talks as a bishop must, like a schoolmaster, with the directness that comes from compassion. He reasons pragmatically, from common good, even from the common purse. Of course O’Brien is a Roman Catholic bishop and Cardinal. So, my dear bishops of the Church of England, can you do likewise? Or shall we leave you and follow the Cardinal?

Against the family

While many factors have contributed to this truly diabolical, bureaucratic onslaught against the family, we might begin by looking within. The churches’ failure or refusal to intervene in the marriages they consecrated and to exert moral pressure on misbehaving spouses (perhaps out of fear of appearing “judgmentalâ€?) left a vacuum that has been filled by the state. Clergy, parishioners, and extended families have been replaced by lawyers, judges, forensic psychotherapists, social workers, and plainclothes police.
Family integrity will be restored only when families are de-politicized and protected from government invasion. This will demand morally vigorous congregations that are willing to take marriage out of the hands of the state by intervening in the marriages they are called upon to witness and consecrate and by resisting the power of the state to move in. This is the logic behind the group Marriage Savers, and it can restore the churches’ authority even among those who previously viewed a church’s role in their marriage as largely ceremonial…. We all need to atone.
Stephen Baskerville Divorced from Reality

A prejudice against the future

The current reference in legislation to a child’s need for a father is being removed because of the alleged offence such a clause is causing to single women. Removing this reference, for the sake of a tiny minority that currently does on the whole have access to assisted reproduction, sends a powerful signal to the whole population that fathers can be dispensed with in children’s lives. This is in spite of a wealth of social research showing the importance of engaged fathers for families and communities. Fathers matter to children but fatherhood itself is essential for drawing men into dependable and responsible adulthood… By ignoring the benefits fathers bring to children in order to accommodate childless adults, the [Human Fertilisation and Embryology] Bill [which has since become an Act] places the rights of adults at the centre, rather than the best interests of children.

Centre for Social Justice Fathers not included – summary

The War between the Family and the State

Whatever the origins and convolutions of the (complex and often incoherent) intellectual and emotional background that implicitly, if not explicitly, endorses atomisation and household fragmentation, the foremost element has been the animus against marriage and two-parent families. Anti-family activists have expressly sought to undermine any economic, social and legal need and support for marriage by getting any privileges granted to married couples, including tax allowances, withdrawn, and recognition extended to different types of households and relationships. This has reached the Orwellian stage of editing references to marriage out of the lexicon, led by government removing the term ‘marital status’ from official documentation and replacing husband/wife/spouse with ‘partner’, which assimilates them with cohabiters and flatmates. Since the control of language brings the control of thought, which brings the control of action, so there is (hopefully) the perception, acceptance and practice of a world of provisional and fluid relationships, where men move around siring and ‘parenting’ children as ‘partners’ of essentially lone mothers. This is just about the most adverse environment for child welfare one could create.

Patricia Morgan The War between the Family and the State

Crisis: economic, social and moral

Melanie Phillips on the economic crisis

I see this financial breakdown, moreover, as being not merely a moral crisis but the montary expression of the broader degradation of our values – the erosion of duty and responsibility to others in favour of instant gratification, unlimited demands repackaged as ‘rights’ and the loss of self-discipline. And the root cause of that erosion is ‘militant atheism’ which, in junking religion, has destroyed our sense of anything beyond our material selves and the here and now and, through such hyper-individualism, paved the way for the onslaught on bedrock moral values expressed through such things as family breakdown and mass fatherlessness, educational collapse, widespread incivility, unprecedented levels of near psychopathic violent crime, epidemic drunkenness and drug abuse, the repudiation of all authority, the moral inversion of victim culture, the destruction of truth and objectivity and a corresponding rise in credulousness in the face of lies and propaganda — and intimidation and bullying to drive this agenda into public policy.

The financial crisis was brought about essentially by a public which threw away all notions of prudence and committed itself to spending today what it could never afford to pay back tomorrow, and a banking, regulatory and political sector which ruthlessly and cynically exploited and encouraged such catastrophic irresponsibility with a criminal disregard of the ruinous consequences for the poor. The financial crisis and our social meltdown are thus combining to form a perfect cultural storm.

And on Mary Warnock, who suggested that dementia sufferers may have a duty to die

On Planet Warnock, it seems that ties of family and kinship, acts of selfless love, the deep satisfaction from bringing comfort to those who are helpless or who are so poignantly leaving us — essential aspects of our common humanity — mean nothing at all.

Phillips on Warnock