Sunday, 19 August 2018

World Meeting of Families 2018: my highlights.

Reading the programme for the Pastoral Congress associated with the World Meeting of Families 2018, there are three things that attracted my attention as "highlights". The nature of the Congress is that it is not possible to get to everything because things happen simultaneously. If I were able to be at the World Meeting, the events below reflect things that I would particularly want to attend. I expect that I will also want to listen to the Family celebration on the Saturday evening, especially the family testimonies which are usually very moving.

The first is the involvement of members of the Focolare movement, and in particular Focolare's families movement, in a number of the panels/presentations. So, for example, a Focolare speaker is involved in a panel entitled "And the greatest is love: Pope Francis on 1 Cor 13" on the Wednesday. Representatives of the New Families Movement are part of a panel on Thursday: "The Joys and Challenges of Parenting Today". Also on Wednesday, a Focolare initiative in the field of economics ("Economy of Communion") is represented in one of the speakers, Professor Bruini, in a session entitled "The Family: A Resource for Society". And on Thursday, the movement is represented in a session entitled "Handing on the Faith between the Generations: The Role of Grandparents".

The second is the involvement of Aid to the Church in Need in two different sessions. On the Wednesday, as part of the evening programme, they are hosting a session entitled "The Family of Families: the experience of Catholic Families in Russia":
In this interactive workshop we listen to the stories of faith and family from Catholics in Russia, through the initiatives supported by the Pontifical Foundation, Aid to the Church in Need International.
They are also presenting a similar session "The Family of Families: the experience of Catholic Families in Africa" on the Thursday of the Congress.

And thirdly, Rocco Buttiglione is speaking on Thursday: "A Hidden Treasure: The Theology of the Body of Saint John Paul II". There can be few people who so effectively represent an authentic Catholic voice in the political and cultural field as does Rocco Buttiglione.

The relics of St Therese of Lisieux and her parents, Louis and Zelie Martin, are also on an extended visit to Ireland, and will be present at the World Meeting of Families. They will be present at the concluding Mass of the World Meeting. Remembering the impact of the visit of St Therese to the UK, this too will be another highlight - and perhaps one that we should not underestimate.

Wednesday, 8 August 2018

BBC Radio 2: Gerard Manley Hopkins cited on the Folk Show

Wednesday evening on Radio 2 is the regular slot for Mark Radcliffe's The Folk Show. Often there is a live guest band on the show, and this week it was  band called Mishaped Pearls. They released an album earlier this year entitled Shivelight.

You can listen again for a further 29 days to the programme, but you will need to have BBC account in order to sign in to the iPlayer to do so. If you do listen again, go to this link and then to 36:50. At his point Mishaped Pearls perform the track "Queen May", and then discuss the origins of the title of the album.

They have taken it from Gerard Manley Hopkins use of the word in the poem "That Nature is a Heraclitian Fire", to indicate the shaft of light that can be seen shining through the canopy of a forest. It is an appropriate choice of title, as many of the songs on the album do reflect on nature in a way with which Gerard Manley Hopkins might be familiar.

What is very striking in the programme, though, is Mark Radcliffe's familiarity with and enthusiasm for Gerard Manley Hopkins. He is able to quote the first lines of "The Windhover", adding the comment that it is "stunning stuff". Perhaps I shouldn't be surprised at the connection between folk music and an interest in Hopkins' poetry ...

Do listen if you can ….

Friday, 3 August 2018

On the inadmissability of the death penalty ...

In the light of Pope Francis' promulgation of new wording for n.2267 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (though it is worth reading the preceding n.2266 as well for a complete context), I have searched "death penalty" on this blog.

It produced these two earlier posts: The consensus of the Holy Fathers ..... and The end of Traditionalism?

Thursday, 19 July 2018

Sex Education and the European Convention on Human Rights: is Damian Hinds right?

According to the BBC report:
In an oral statement to the Commons on Thursday, Mr Hinds said: "We've previously committed to parents having a right to withdraw their children from the sex education part of RSE [relationships and sex education], but not from relationships education, in either primary or secondary school.
"A right for parents to withdraw their child up to 18 years of age is no longer compatible with English case law nor with the European Convention on Human Rights."
But is it true to suggest that the European Convention on Human Rights disallows withdrawal by parents of their children from sex education in the years immediately leading up to age 18?

The consultation document about which Damian Hinds was speaking can be found at the Department for Education website: here. It represents a draft of statutory guidance to which, if it is implemented, schools will have "have regard". The relevant sections can be found on page 12 and following.  My emphasis added in the extract below:
36. The role of parents in the development of their children’s understanding about relationships is vital. Parents are the first educators of their children. They have the most significant influence in enabling their children to grow and mature and to form healthy relationships.
And the relevant article of the Protocol to the European Convention on Human  Rights, which forms a full part of the Convention, with my emphasis added (cf Article 26 n.3 of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights):
Article 2: right to education  
No person shall be denied the right to education. In the exercise of any functions which it assumes in relation to education and to teaching, the State shall respect the right of parents to ensure such education and teaching in conformity with their own religious and philosophical convictions.
Damian Hinds' consultation document at n.36 represents a clear and blatant derogation from the provision of the Convention to which it has reference.

This derogation is further followed by the suggestion of a good practice which expects headteachers to, in effect, make every effort to dissuade a parent from exercising a right to withdrawal. Given the likely power imbalance in the conversation between a head teacher and an individual parent, the use of the terminology of "discuss" or "discussion" may not accurately reflect the provision of the Convention that the State respect the right of parents with regard to the education of their children.
41. Parents have the right to request that their child be withdrawn from some or all of sex education delivered as part of statutory RSE. Before granting any such request it would be good practice for the head teacher to discuss the request with the parent and, as appropriate, with the child to ensure that their wishes are understood and to clarify the nature and purpose of the curriculum.
42. Good practice is also likely to include the head teacher discussing with the parent the benefits of receiving this important education and any detrimental effects that withdrawal might have on the child. This could include any social and emotional effects of being excluded, as well as the likelihood of the child hearing their peers’ version of what was said in the classes, rather than what was directly said by the teacher (although the detrimental effects may be mitigated if the parent proposes to deliver sex education to their child at home instead).  
43. Once those discussions have taken place, except in exceptional circumstances, the school should respect the parents’ request to withdraw the child, up to and until three terms before the child turns 16. After that point, if the child wishes to receive sex education rather than be withdrawn, the school should make arrangements to provide the child with sex education during one of those terms.
So is Damian Hinds telling the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth with regard to his proposals and the European Convention on Human Rights?

Tuesday, 17 July 2018

Humanae Vitae is here to stay

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Pope Paul VI's encyclical Humanae Vitae.

There is a view that the teaching of the encyclical on the moral illicitness of contraception is widely disregarded by the ordinary Catholic faithful. I am not sure that such a generalised view is really true to the reality seen as an ecclesial reality, rather than as a sociological reality. I can think of several families I know who are obedient to its teaching; and I ponder that the real witness to the integrity of the teaching of Humanae Vitae lies in the witness of families like these rather than the percentages produced by surveys or opinion polls. If there are areas in which the Church's life appears to be in decline, then there are always the ordinary places, like these families, where it is truly alive.

Since 1968, the universal teaching office of the Church has, amidst a severe contestation, held to the teaching of Humanae Vitae without change. Combine this with the witness of families referred to in the previous paragraph, and we can say with some confidence that Humanae Vitae is here to stay.

Penny Morduant is tilting at windmills if she really thinks that the Holy See will change on this.

The following passages from Humanae Vitae use the translation given in Fr George Woodall's 2008 "Humane Vitae: forty years on".
Upright people can also be persuaded more fully of the truth of the doctrine which the Church proposes in this matter, if they turn their minds to those things which will come about form the means adopted and the grounds put forward for restricting artificially the increase of births. In the first place they themselves may recognise what a wide and easy road can be opened by this way of acting both to conjugal infidelity and to the general weakening of the discipline of morals. Nor is long experience necessary for someone to discover human infirmity and to understand that people - and especially the young, so subject to the pressure of their desires - stand in need of incitements to observe the moral law and that it is wrong to proffer to them the easy road to violating the law itself. [HVn.17]
Clearly the situation in less developed nations is not the same as that in highly developed nations such as our own. But what we can now see in the reality of widespread successive marriage/partnerships, and a culture of sexual intimacy as a recreational activity whose only possible moral constraints are consent and the condom, can surely be foreseen in the future of those less developed nations if they are subject to the promotion of a contraceptive ideology and practice.
It is indeed to be feared that husbands, already accustomed to these ways of blocking conception, may forget the reverence due to their wives and, putting the well-being of their bodies and minds in second place, may make their wives into instruments at the service of their own desire and no longer value them as companions with whom they ought to go through life with respect and with love. [HV n.17]
The narrative of women's control over their own bodies, presented as if it is the only and universal narrative, should be put beside the equally possible alternative that the availability of contraception permits a greater control of men over women. One signal of this might be those women whose decisions for abortion are driven by the attitudes of boyfriends to their pregnancy, particularly if the pregnancy has resulted from a contraceptive failure. It is misleading to suggest that the marketing of contraceptives to women in less developed nations will uniformly have the effect of increasing the empowerment of women.
… unless we wish the duty of procreating life to be left to the arbitrary decision of human beings, we must necessarily recognise that there are some limits beyond which it is not licit to proceed in the power which a person can exercise over his or her own body in undertaking tasks which are natural to it; limits, we say, which it is licit for no-one, either as a private individual or as one endowed with public authority, to violate. These limits are not established for any other reason that that of the reverence which is due to the human body as a whole and to its natural functions... [HV n.17]
And with the promotion of LGBT ideology and an ideology of gender - what Pope Francis refers to as an "ideological colonisation of the family" - we see, at the level of our culture, precisely a full implication of the removal of any accepted limits to what a person can licitly do with their bodies.

Some additional observations: about half of all women seeking abortions do so after using an effective means of contraception (source here). Penny Morduant cannot be unaware of this, and one can suspect that, in asking the Catholic Church to change its teaching on contraception, she also foresees abortion provision.

Pope Benedict, at the 40th anniversary of Humanae Vitae:
The possibility of procreating a new human life is included in a married couple's integral gift of themselves. Since, in fact, every form of love endeavours to spread the fullness on which it lives, conjugal love has its own special way of communicating itself: the generation of children. Thus it not only resembles but also shares in the love of God who wants to communicate himself by calling the human person to life. Excluding this dimension of communication through an action that aims to prevent procreation means denying the intimate truth of spousal love, with which the divine gift is communicated: "If the mission of generating life is not to be exposed to the arbitrary will of men, one must necessarily recognize insurmountable limits to the possibility of man's domination over his own body and its functions; limits which no man, whether a private individual or one invested with authority, may licitly surpass" (Humanae Vitae, n. 17). This is the essential nucleus of the teaching that my Venerable Predecessor Paul VI addressed to married couples and which the Servant of God John Paul ii, in turn, reasserted on many occasions, illuminating its anthropological and moral basis.
Forty years after the Encyclical's publication we can understand better how decisive this light was for understanding the great "yes" that conjugal love involves. In this light, children are no longer the objective of a human project but are recognized as an authentic gift, to be accepted with an attitude of responsible generosity toward God, the first source of human life. This great "yes" to the beauty of love certainly entails gratitude, both of the parents in receiving the gift of a child, and of the child himself, in knowing that his life originates in such a great and welcoming love.

Pope Francis, speaking during his visit to the Phillipines:
The family is also threatened by growing efforts on the part of some to redefine the very institution of marriage, by relativism, by the culture of the ephemeral, by a lack of openness to life.
I think of Blessed Paul VI. At a time when the problem of population growth was being raised, he had the courage to defend openness to life in families. He knew the difficulties that are there in every family, and so in his Encyclical he was very merciful towards particular cases, and he asked confessors to be very merciful and understanding in dealing with particular cases. But he also had a broader vision: he looked at the peoples of the earth and he saw this threat of families being destroyed for lack of children. Paul VI was courageous; he was a good pastor and he warned his flock of the wolves who were coming. From his place in heaven, may he bless this evening!
And, later this year, Pope Francis will canonise Pope Paul VI. It is difficult to see these actions as anything other than an affirmation by Pope Francis of the teaching of Paul VI.

Sunday, 17 June 2018

Pope Francis speaking to the Italian Forum of Families

Pope Francis' prepared speech is being circulated - but on the occasion itself, he set it aside to respond "off the cuff" or rather, "from the heart", to the introductory words that had been addressed to him by a representative of the participants in the meeting. An English text of the Pope's remarks as actually delivered is not yet available, but the Italian is here. [UPDATE: English text, along with English text of Pope Francis' prepared text, here.]

The London Evening Standard website is citing what will no doubt be seen as the most controversial section of this address:

Quando ero ragazzo, la maestra ci insegnava storia e ci diceva cosa facevano gli spartani quando nasceva un bambino con malformazioni: lo portavano sulla montagna e lo buttavano giù, per curare “la purezza della razza”. E noi rimanevamo sbalorditi: “Ma come, come si può fare questo, poveri bambini!”. Era un’atrocità. Oggi facciamo lo stesso. Voi vi siete domandati perché non si vedono tanti nani per la strada? Perché il protocollo di tanti medici – tanti, non tutti – è fare la domanda: “Viene male?”. Lo dico con dolore. Nel secolo scorso tutto il mondo era scandalizzato per quello che facevano i nazisti per curare la purezza della razza. Oggi facciamo lo stesso, ma con guanti bianchi.

[When I was a boy, the teacher who taught us history spoke of what the Spartan's di when a disabled child was born: they carried them up the mountain and threw them down from there, to look after "the purity of the race". And we were amazed: "But how, how could they do this, poor children!" It was an atrocity. Today we do the same. You can ask yourself why we do not see as many disabled people* on the street? Because the protocol of many doctors - many, not all - is to ask the question "Will it go badly?" I say it with sorrow. In the last century the whole world was scandalised by what the Nazis did to keep the purity of the race. Today we do the same, but with white gloves**".]

That last sentence is hard hitting, to say the least.

But this is one paragraph of a much wider, from the heart, reflection by Pope Francis on the life of families in our own times. The whole is worth a read.

Pope Francis shares the questions he asks when he meets married couples at audiences; he very clearly speaks of marriage between a man and a woman (throughout!) and indicates how it is an image of God to the world; he comments on the analogical use of the term "family" and distinguishes that usage from the specific use of the term in relation to human families, made up of a man and woman with children; he suggests that we need a catechumenate for marriage like that we have for baptism; in an anniversary year of Humanae Vitae, he clearly calls on families to welcome the children that are the gift of God; and, as you would expect, he explains his three key words for married life - please, sorry and thank you - with the need for ensuring reconciliation at the end of the day.

It is probably better to view this address as being "from the heart" rather than "off the cuff". The content clearly arises from a long standing pastoral experience, and reflection on that experience, by Pope Francis.

And do read the whole.

*This is not a literal translation of the word "nani", but I think it will better capture the sense of Pope Francis' use of the word in this context.
**A reference to the surgical gloves of the medical profession.