Fair play to Matt Birk, an NFL Superbowl champion with the Baltimore Ravens, who recently snubbed President Obama by declining an invitation to a celebration at the White House.  Birk explains:

“I have great respect for the office of the presidency but about five or six weeks ago, our president made a comment in a speech and he said, ‘God bless Planned Parenthood’.  I’m very confused by [Obama’s] statement,” he explained. “”For God to bless a place where they’re ending 330,000 lives a year? I just chose not to attend. I am Catholic, I am active in the Pro-Life movement and I just felt like I couldn’t deal with that. I couldn’t endorse that in any way.”



Birk, a father of six, has also spoken in defense of marriage here:

“Marriage is in trouble right now — admittedly, for many reasons that have little to do with same-sex unions. In the last few years, political forces and a culture of relativism have replaced “I am my brother’s keeper” and “love your neighbor as yourself” with “live and let live” and “if it feels good, go ahead and do it.”

The effects of no-fault divorce, adultery, and the nonchalant attitude toward marriage by some have done great harm to this sacred institution. How much longer do we put the desires of adults before the needs of kids? Why are we not doing more to lift up and strengthen the institution of marriage?

Same-sex unions may not affect my marriage specifically, but it will affect my children — the next generation. Ideas have consequences, and laws shape culture. Marriage redefinition will affect the broader well-being of children and the welfare of society. As a Christian and a citizen, I am compelled to care about both.”

Can you imagine how the BBC would react if a high-profile Premiership footballer started laying into the culture of death and moral relativism?!

How was a man of the sanctity, humanity and intelligence of Ronald Knox capable of saying this about the murder of thousands of people?

Theologically speaking, my thesis is that it would have been a more perfect thing not to bomb Hiroshima. Or, if I must needs talk the language of common life, let me dig up a phrase from an almost forgotten, but not wholly unregretted past, and say that bombing Hiroshima was not cricket (God and the Atom, chapter V, 1945).

Truly, war does strange things even to the best men.

I received an email a few weeks ago asking that I lay out my views on the origin of social authority in the family as opposed to contract or consent. I am not sure if they are fully formed…. but here goes.

The basic difference between Catholic and Modern views on the origin of political authority lies in the gulf between realism and nominalism. The rejection of the reality of universals necessarily entails the rejection of the social nature of man. Man’s social nature therefore cannot be the basis of civil authority. Nevertheless, there are Catholic authorities (albeit Jesuits) who hold that even though the authority of the state comes from nature and so from God it is mediated through the people because, in the event that the state were dissolved by some cataclysm, social authority would revert to a pure democracy. This pure democracy would then function as a constitutional convention bestowing legitimacy on the form of government its constituents elect to impose upon themselves and their descendants. What is the alternative to this account?

The family is the alternative. Man’s social nature is most obviously displayed in his dependant condition at birth, his need for sustenance, protection, socialisation and education, the frame of the male and female bodies and the need of the latter for protection and sustenance from the former while she provides their offspring with sustenance, protection, socialisation and education. The end of man in the-most-excellent-reciprocal-willing-of-the-good-of-the-best-possible-other demands the exemplary friendship of the child’s parents in the indissoluble bond of matrimony. The family and not the individual is the fundamental unit of civil society. Indeed, only two factors obstruct the simple identity of the family with civil society: a) the impossibility of marriage within the family b) the supernatural end of man. Because human beings cannot marry their kin without escalating disastrous consequences the family cannot perpetuate itself without forming a wider society that transcends itself. St Thomas points out in the De Regno that because the actual end of man in this order of providence is supernatural the true King can only be He Who unites man to the Divine Nature in Beatitude – Jesus Christ. Thus all the Kings of the Christian People must be subject to Christ’s Vicar, the Roman Pontiff, as to Himself.

How does this logic impact upon the question of the state of society at its actual beginning in time and in some hypothetical moment of destruction and re-constitution? Revelation has some very interesting light to shed upon these questions. It is clear from Genesis that the effects of the Fall have a progressive element. With each successive generation between the Fall and the Flood the life span of the antediluvian patriarchs diminished. According to Augustine’s interpretation our first parents possessed complete control of all their bodily functions. On this principle it ought to have been possible for them to beget pairs of children who, through a judicious distribution of chromosomes, were scarcely related to each other at all. If, as Genesis seems to imply, the loss of the praeternatural gifts was in some sense progressive then the key natural factor which prevents the family from being an unqualifiedly perfect society is removed. What of the supernatural factor? This too is resolved by revelation. For originally Adam would have transmitted sanctifying grace by generation to all of his descendants so this Adamic familial commonwealth would have truly fulfilled St Thomas’s requirements to qualify as a perfect community.

The Fall, of course, dramatically alters this but it does not abolish it altogether. Adam was still the recipient of revelation capable of conveying saving truth. The distinction between the family and the state was established by the Fall but (if we are right about the delayed removal of the praeternatural gifts) it was not yet applied. Likewise, the fact that the perfect exercise of the evangelical counsels is rendered by the Fall incompatible with property, marriage and  autonomy establishes the distinction between priesthood and kingship (because, in fallen man, the state of perfection required by priesthood is incompatible with the requirements of kingship) but the delayed effect of the Fall postpones the necessity of investing these offices in separate persons. Adam passes the plenipotentiary sovereignty of the human race to Seth, Seth to Noah, Noah to Shem (who I am assuming is Melchizedek), Melchizedek to Abraham, Abraham to Isaac, Isaac to Jacob and Jacob to the people of Israel as a whole. In the Exodus the full distinction between family and commonwealth, priesthood and magistracy is established. These successions pass down through the Levites and the scribes, the judges and the Davidic line until they converge once more in the Messiah Who reigns for ever and administers the Church militant through St Peter and the Apostles and their successors down to the end of time (ideally assisted by a suitably docile temporal power).

This resolves the question of a hypothetical moment of social destruction and re-constitution. The unqualifiedly perfect society in this world – the City of God – The Catholic Church – is indestructible and will endure until the end of time. The hypothesis of social destruction and re-constitution can never be realised. The question of the nature and prerogatives of the family in the abstract is best answered in the eloquent words of the Irish constitution, “The State recognises the Family as the natural primary and fundamental unit group of Society, and as a moral institution possessing inalienable and imprescriptible rights, antecedent and superior to all positive law.” The contingency upon the Divine Will of man’s actual end in any order of providence means that the sovereign authority in the perfect society can necessarily only be established by positive revelation – even were man’s end merely proportionate to his nature. As it is, God made us for Himself and the sovereignty is taken by the Divine King Jesus Christ Himself and wielded on earth through the power of the keys.

This is particularly interesting in the context of the utterly bizarre frenzy over the Field/Dorries amendment.

A few years ago two women were invited on to a Polish current affairs programme to comment on the introduction of compulsory sex education for schoolchildren. One was Joanna Najfeld, who in the course of the discussion said the following apropos a woman known precisely for her campaigning to bring about more abortions:

“Ms Nowicka’s organisation is part of an international concern, generally one of the largest, of providers of contraception and abortion. Ms Nowicka is on their payroll. “

Nowicka took the young publicist to court for this statement. Today Joanna Najfeld was cleared of defamation. The party bringing the charge has to allow the proceedings to be public – which Nowicka has not done.

The financial aspect is so obviously suspicious in the case of the abortion and contraception business  that it is very odd that the libertarian bloggers who so eagerly sniff out this sort of dodginess in other cases (see didn’t worry about it in the case of the Field/Dorries amendment.  Though when one considers people have been programmed to equate prolife=Nazi, it’s probably not that odd.

(SPUC and SPUC Scotland are separate organisations.)

Now, back in the day, the branch of SPUC I joined did two things I particularly remember. We shoogled collecting tins, mostly outside football grounds, and one quiet lady prepared letter-writing materials on matters of the day. She investigated the question, identified and described the players, mustered and summarised facts and arguments, and sent all this out to a list of people who used this to write letters to the relevant MPs and the like. Funds went mostly to SPUC Scotland in Glasgow. They produced useful leaflets which we stuck through doors before elections or important votes. They also trained people to give one-off presentations in schools, and provided them with materials for the presentations. None of this was earthshaking, but it was all concrete, and worked on an “enabling” model that assumed there were other people who wanted to do something about promoting a culture of life even if most of their time was taken up with family and work.

I always assumed this was rather the point of SPUC. A few people given over to doing the legwork that most people don’t have the time, or perhaps the facilities or ability, to do. The charities index and the handy voting records index produced by London SPUC seemed to be along exactly the same lines, and there was the great and hugely useful 2002 book A Way of Life (a revised edition of a book produced when there was a particularly concerted effort to get more abortion into Northern Ireland).   Stuff people could actually use.   The  Love your unborn neighbour book produced by SPUC Evangelicals was something I was happy to pass on to a girl from my college CU.

Now I get news digests in which the first item advertises a talk by a Catholic apologist, and most of the rest are about sex education and assorted legislation to do with men who like to engage in sexual activity with other men.  And the “SPUC Director” blog varies this with insider comment on Catholic affairs.

The many bizarre ways in which the place of sexual activity in human life is conceived (sorry) are in large part the cause of the acceptance of abortion. And ultimately without the Gospel no moral discourse can understand human reality. But while most people who work for or support SPUC will hold these positions, is attempting to promote them the work for which SPUC was founded?


No real surprise that the government is now backtracking on Nadine Dorries and Frank Field’s proposals to stop organisations such as The Society for Constructive Birth Control and Racial Progress Marie Stopes International from offering abortion counselling. Dorries’ own position on abortion is in itself confusing.  In this Daily Mail article, she describes how she was told to “toughen up” by a fellow nurse while participating in a botched abortion.  This event, she confesses, made her feel as though she had “participated in a murder” and led her, ultimately, to table the proposed amendment.  Yet, in the same article she goes on to say, “I am pro-choice, pro-women’s rights. I fully support the legalisation of abortion in 1968 and would hate to see a return to the dark days of back-street operations.”

On the question of the suitability of organisations to provide advice, she has said ““I’ll say it again, no organisation which is paid for carrying out abortions and no organisation that thinks it’s appropriate to bring God into a counselling session with a vulnerable woman, should be allowed anywhere near the counselling room.”

It seems to me that the debate over who provides the advice is a dead duck.  Of course, any changes to the current situation are to be welcomed, and it may well be that innocent lives could be saved thanks to this proposal. However, one cannot make any serious headway if one concedes (or fails to make) the essential point of the inherent wickedness of abortion itself.  The who, what, where and how of the new counselling is unclear. It is not hard to imagine though that there will be some directive stipulating that abortion must be presented as a legitimate option, and that one’s personal beliefs or “religious faith” should not interfere with a woman’s right to choose.  It would be hard to see how any organisation could avoid formal cooperation in abortion were it to sign up to such a directive.  The eventual fate of such organisations (were they ever to get approval in the first instance) would inevitably be similar to that faced by those adoption agencies which refused to place children with homosexual couples.

SPUC have produced a Q & A on the ammendment, the conclusion of which is, “Given the uncertainty about the effect of the amendment, we cannot ask MPs to support it.”  John Smeaton’s views are here.  Make sure you let your MP know what you think.

So it turns out the Nazis weren’t the only ones conducting horrific human experiments in the 40s.  Last October, Barack Obama issued an unequivocal apology to the Guatemalan President Alvaro Colom.  Hilary Clinton described the experiments as “clearly unethical”.  Fair enough, but one wonders whether they are more or less “unethical” than partial-birth abortion, the banning of which they both opposed in 2007.   Watch them both answer the question “When does life begin?” here.

So that Lila Rose girl and her sidekicks in Live Action have been digging out more maggots employed by Planned Parenthood clinics in America: said employees advising a 14 year old girl pregnant by her 33 year old over where to get a secret abortion, telling a pimp how to get insurance for his child sex slaves and so on.  I am glad to see that at least one of these women of Dickensian creepiness has been sacked by PP – I hope PP devote as much energy to dealing with this problem in their staff training as they are to PR efforts.

Except that it wasn’t a 14 year old girl, and the pimp wasn’t one and had no sex slaves – it was Live Action members posing as such. There has apparently been quite a dust up in some blogs about the morality of  Live Action’s actions. I wasn’t really aware of this debate until I happened on a post in defence of lying in a just cause, inspired by all this, on the blog of someone who’d commented here. I made a comment or two, but gave up in exasperation.

All this, to introduce a few links. A chap by the name of Brendan has done a number of posts on this subject.

First (19th Feb), a post about an essay that “represents much of what is dangerous about the ‘lying is OK sometimes’ contingent of the Big Catholic Blogosphere Debate about Lies”.

No one who is competent to speak on the subject will make such an amateurish mistake as suggesting that “Do not lie” implies “Answer directly every question put to you” or that parables and other fictional stories have the same characteristics as a lie. These have all been explicitly addressed over and over by people who have a far greater familiarity with virtuous life than [author of aforementioned essay] and myself.

Second (also 19th Feb) a post with links to posts that form part of said Big Debate, in which he says something about what Aquinas has to say.

It’s one thing to have slight variations and unusual gray areas; but a question that should be raised by some people in the discussion is: How many saints do you have to contradict flat out before you at least raise for yourself the question of whether you are making the right moral judgment?

Third (20th Feb) a post about what Scotus has to say.

The only real difference between Aquinas and Scotus on this point is that Aquinas holds tht it is never possible to lie without doing something wrong, while Scotus would allow that it might be possible to do everything one does in a lie and yet not do something wrong if God had reason to set it up things in that case in a way that he generally (for good reason) does not. Either of these views can reasonably be held by a Catholic; but Scotus’s view provides about as much leeway as can seriously be granted on the subject.

Fourth (22nd Feb) a post on Cassian on lying.

… it is not possible to put Cassian in clear opposition to Augustine on the issue of lying; he says things that can be taken as either consistent or inconsistent with Augustine depending on how one takes his claims to map onto precisions he does not make. It is even possible to read him as, with perhaps a minor exception or two, taking a much stronger stand against deception generally than many in the Augustinian tradition do.

During the last few months events, both regional and national, have worked very far to convince me that even for me as a Catholic the German Christian Democrats have lost any right to be thought the lesser evil.

And just as I arrive at this conclusion, the relevant parties try to shake this decision.

As the Federal Constitutional Court has decided that present legislation does not make preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) illegal, the issue whether it should be will be brought up in parliament. The matter was discussed at the Christian Democrats party congress. Edifying phrases, like ‘sanctity of life’, fell.  The Rhineland-Palatinate head of the CDU even said: ‘If life is a gift of God, than this gift is not given conditionally.  Either value and dignity are there from the beginning, or they are not there at all.’ The final resolution contains the sentence: ‘The inviolable dignity of man as a creature of God is not accessible to human disposal.’ [my rough and ready translation]. However, the decision for a prohibition of PDG was only 51:49 %.  The resolution contains a lot of wooly stuff how this is difficult to decide in the face of parants with severe heredital illnesses, and finally leaves every MP free to vote as they think right. The fact that abortion is possible up to birth if the child is severely disabled was unabashedly used as an argument at the congress. Our minister of health was against a prohibition. In spite of the good stuff, this is somewhat meager in my view.

The Social Democrats, on the other hand, has excelled with a new initiative – ‘Social Democratic Laicists‘. Admittedly, only a small minority in the SPD supports it, and they were banned using a URL including ‘SPD’.  Their demands, however, are the full scale of the stupid kind of laizism: no religious symbols in and no public blessings of any public buildings; no mentioning of God in the formula of oaths; no religious education [that might be a blessing in fact! ] nor prayers or services in state schools; no church tax [could be good, but not for their reason!]; no financing by the state of any religious hospitals, schools, etc.; substituting university chairs of theology by chairs of religious studies [would we notice the difference in all cases?]; no right of the church(es) to bar people from working for them because of worldview, sexual orientation, and so on; no transmission of services, prayers or the like by public service broadcasters – amongst other stuff.

I ordered myself  ‘Father Elijah’ some days ago. Somehow seems appropriate reading.

Yesterday’s Scotsman said:

A spokeswoman for the Conservative Party confirmed that candidates had been advised not to sign Westminster 2010.

A Labour Party spokesman claimed that the ban was part of a wider policy for candidates.

The Liberal Democrats denied there was a ban on candidates signing it.

I pointed out the above to Cath, who googled and found that  Westminster2010 said:

We have seen a gradual evolution in the cut-and-paste letters that we are receiving from Conservative candidates in particular who are apparently being instructed how to reply word for word by Conservative Central Office.

A Source tells me the SNP isn’t telling people what to say. Any goss on Plaid Cymru?  (I’m not implying you should vote SNP, just saying.)

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