Monday, December 31, 2012

Life Is Precious

As the year comes to an end I had better post something - I have not had a chance to do so over the Octave.  Actually it has been a difficult Christmas, it was so busy, I was behind in everything (didn't get a chance to get Christmas cards out - sorry!), funerals and to top it all my father fell seriously ill on Christmas Eve.  So Christmas was spent en route from parish to hospital with a muted family dinner in between.   Thankfully Dad is doing fine - he had a minor heart attack which, we found out later, warned of a fatal one which was on the way - thankfully we got him to hospital in time.  He is undergoing tests and treatment at the moment, so I would ask you to please remember him in your prayers.  

We are so thankful to God for his mercy in all of this: though we were initially distraught at his illness, when we were told it was a warning, we fell on our knees in gratitude: Dad could have actually died on Christmas Eve.  So we were given a Christmas grace in the midst of it all.

Life is so precious, and in all the trauma of the last week we are confirmed in our convictions that life is sacred and we have a duty to preserve it.  That is a good conviction to have in these days as we struggle for life.  And that struggle is going to intensify in the months to come.  I was delighted to hear the Cardinal's Christmas message in which he reiterated the Church's committment to the pro-life cause and his call for the citizens of Ireland to do what they can in a respectful but forthright manner to presuade our TDs not to legislate for abortion.  That will be a hard task given that the party whip is so strong. 

If you can get a copy of January's Alive newspaper, my friend Fr Owen Gorman has an excellent article on conscience.  He points out, correctly, that the Taoiseach, in imposing the party whip on this issue, is expecting his TDs to relinquish their conscience in order to "vote in accordance with party decisions".  Yet, Fr Owen points out, "Each person owes greater allegiance to conscience than to any political party, yet this government says no accommodation will be given to conscience."  This "highlights the sickness and dysfunction at the heart of Irish political life". This is, of course, ironic, given that Enda Kenny accused the Vatican of being sick and dysfunctional - at least the Vatican recognises the importance of conscience even in those who disagree with Church teaching. 

It needs to be said that, regardless of what the media and pro-abortion groups say, abortion is an evil act - intrinsically evil - nothing can justify the direct killing of a baby in the womb no matter what his or her stage of development.   The ruse of "limited abortion" versus "abortion on demand" is just that: a ruse: in both cases an innocent child dies.  If Irish TDs and senators support legislation that introduces abortion, they are cooperating with evil and are responsible for their actions. Conforming to the party whip is no justification and will not be a defence when they stand before God - indeed they will be judged all the harsher, for they resigned their consciences and did evil at the bidding of another.  So in this campaign we must pray for our TDs and sentors so they will not put their souls at risk.  Yes, people may not have heard it in a long time, but it is possible to be lost, we can put our souls at risk of eternal damnation, and working for the introduction of abortion is one way of earning a bus pass to hell...unless they repent, of course.  But let's pray they won't need to repent - that they will do the right thing.

The next pro-life vigil is due to take place in Merrion Square, Dublin, on the 19th January 2013 at 4.30pm - I would urge as many as possible to attend.  At this stage we need to make our views known, and indeed support our pro-life TDs and senators who are trying to persude their leaders not to legislate.  We have a small number of TDs who may well defy the party whip in order to be true to their conscience, and they need our support.  I believe numbers will be important.  Unfortunately the pro-abortion brigade can turn politicians by their small rallies of a few hundred - though we can get thousands we do not have the same effect.  However a massive crowd might just catch their attention. 

In the US our friends are preparing for the annual March for Life in Washington on the 25th January.  Well over a million people attend the march and it is usually ignored by the media: we need only look to the US to see how things may pan out here in Ireland.  But we can pick up a few tips too.  One interesting thing in the pro-life movement Stateside is the huge numbers of young people who are pro-life.  They describe themselves as survivors - given the prevalent abortion culture in the US, they know they were lucky to have escaped being aborted - it may well be the case for Irish babies in the future. 

Anyway, have a Happy New Year.  If you are heading out for celebrations tonight, enjoy them.  May 2013 bring us all many blessings!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Declared Venerable: The Prophetic Pontiff

When darkness falls, God always sends a shaft of light to ease the gloom which has descended on the hearts of his faithful.  As we in Ireland struggle to protect the lives of children now endangered by an abortion regime, a sign of hope has been given to us: or at least that is how I see the elevation of the Servant of God, Pope Paul VI to the status of Venerable.  Yes, yesterday the Holy Father signed the Decree of Heroic Virtue thus granting the late Pontiff the title Venerable and bringing him closer to beatification.  A miracle is making its way through the Congregation of Causes of Saints and seems it may be approved by the Pope in the coming months and Pope Paul will probably be beatified during the Year of Faith.

I know some people have issues and problems with this: they may ask - why is there a rush to beatify recent popes?  Well, I come from a position of an openness to the will of God and leaving the glorification of his servants up to him.  In accordance with the process established, the will of God is made known by verifiable miracles.   In faith I accept that when God grants a miracle through the intercession of a Servant of God or Blessed, then that is the time that God wants the beatification or canonisation to take place.  Sometimes that may take a long time - as in the case of St Martin de Porres whose Cause took a number of centuries; and sometimes it happens quickly, as in the Cause of Blessed John Paul II, where miracles were occurring soon after his death.  The administration work on a Cause should be done as efficiently as possible, however long it takes, but if that work is done and a miracle is granted, then why delay?  If God has seen fit to grant the miracle quickly, then why say, "Well, we'll leave that for a few hundred years so as not to rush it": is that not, in some way saying, "Well, maybe God is rushing this, we'll have to slow Him down"?  Or is it a case of "We didn't like him, we should leave off beatification as long as possible and hopefully he'll fall between the cracks and be forgotten"?

I believe the beatification of the Venerable Paul VI will be timely - this is the kairos.   Yes, as I said in a previous post, there are issues in his life and pontificate which present many people with difficulties and problems.  But there are other issues which reveal a truly heroic and holy man who emerged, even as a broken and sensitive man, as a prophet for our times: a prophet for the cause of life.  In the midst of the culture of death, God has raised up a suffering servant to challenge the distorted thinking of many today: a thinking that is convinced that the murder of innocent children is permissible, good and necessary; a distorted thinking that sees the killing of the unborn as somehow creating a "culture of life". 

This is what we must draw from his glorification, and I see in this God's saying to us who work for the cause of life that he is with us; that he blesses our efforts; that he will grant us the graces we need, and he will do what he can to turn the hearts of those who seek to enshrine the culture of death in our countries.  I see in this God giving us a new patron for the cause of life - the Pope of Humanae Vitae, the Prophet of the cause of life, a Champion of human life, who, from heaven, will support our efforts with his prayers and be present with us in our struggle.  What hope that gives me today!  How providential that this should happen in these days. 

Let us pray that the Venerable Paul's beatification will be celebrated very soon, and then, soon after, his canonisation.  In the meantime I commend the pro-life movement in Ireland to his care and intercession, may he watch over us, guide us and help us.   Let us call on him now:
O Venerable Pope Paul, help us in Ireland to win the battle against abortion.  Obtain from the Lord the graces we need to help turn the hearts of our politicians to the cause of life, that the Holy Spirit may guide our actions and our words, to restrain our passions and increase our charity.  Help us to endure whatever suffering may come in our struggle so it may be offered in the cause of life and, united with the sufferings of Christ, be of service for the salvation of souls.

Venerable Pope Paul VI, pray for us.
UPDATE:  It seems there is a lot of negative reaction to the Holy Father's declaring Pope Paul Venerable - to be expected, I suppose.  More information though.  It seems the miracle being considered for his beatification was one performed for an unborn child sixteen years ago in the US.  The baby had serious problems and mother was advised to have an abortion.  She refused and they prayed to Pope Paul.  Despite all the medical evidence of the problem, the baby was born perfectly healthy, and now at fifteen, the child is in perfect health, showing no signs of any impairment.  How appropriate is that!  It seems there is also a second miracle for the Venerable Pope Paul - a nun who is said to have been miraculously healed of a tumour.    Andrea Tornelli has some details.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Gross Distortion

Well, the pro-abortion media were not long in replying to the Catholic Archbishops' response to the government’s plans to legislate for abortion.  In the Irish Independent today, a missile is thrown across the abyss to the Church and the one throwing the weapon is the Taoiseach himself who claims he was threatened over the Cloyne Report.  Is the story true?  To be honest I do not know, but given the Taoiseach’s propensity to skitter around the truth I am afraid I am not inclined to believe him.  I notice he will not give details of the threat – just as he would not give evidence for the accusations he made against the Vatican last year.  So perhaps that is an indication to the veracity of his claims.  Besides he now needs to attack and undermine the Church as she prepares to fight for the lives of the unborn, so that too may effect his credibility.

According to the Taoiseach the introduction of abortion into Ireland will not create a culture of death, but rather a culture of life.  I think Blessed John Paul II is probably spinning in his tomb.   Of course this is not the first time that the Taoiseach has misquoted or failed to understand Papal teaching.  In his attack on Pope Benedict last year he tried to be smart and quoted some of Benedict’s writing thinking it could be used against the Pontiff – he took the quote out of context and revealed his incompetence.  

And he's revealing his incompetence again on his understanding of the culture of life, and indeed in thinking that he is only legislating for limited abortion.  In every country where “limited abortion” was legalised, a more liberal abortion regime, even abortion on demand, resulted.  As Dr Ruth Cullen of the Pro-Life Campaign said a few days ago: “Once it is conceded that some human lives may be directly targeted there is no going back. Inevitably over time the grounds for abortion would be widened.”  The Taoiseach does not seem to get this, or perhaps he does but just won’t admit it.

Reading this article I am inclined to think that perhaps “the red tail wagging the blue dog” may not be entirely true - unless he's skipping over Labour’s threats.   However it is obvious from what he says that Enda Kenny is pro-abortion, and it is also obvious that he intends to force his position on his party, particularly those members of Fine Gael who are pro-life.  He will enforce the party whip and says that the members of the party have a constitutional duty to support his position.  That is a most interesting comment: do the TDs we elect have a constitutional duty to support their leader and his views, or to represent the people of Ireland in parliament?  

It is also obvious that there is no room for conscientious objection; or at least if someone’s conscience disagrees with party policy they are not permitted to object.  This is not constitutional duty, it is tyranny, and Irish governments have shown that they are inclined to such tyranny when it suits them.  The recent imposition of the Civil Partnership Bill without a vote in parliament and its draconian punishments for registrars and wedding services providers who object on grounds of conscience is one such example: a Fianna Fail/Green Party government was responsible for that.   This is ironic given that our Constitution was written in an era of tyrants – when Hitler, Mussolini, Franco and Stalin were enforcing their will on their political minions, and it was designed so as to prevent the rise of such a dictator in Ireland.  Somehow our politicians have managed to get around that.

To suggest that the introduction of abortion into Ireland promotes a culture of life is nonsense.  When we can say that a life is unworthy of life, regardless of the situations, then we have decided to use death as an instrument of social policy to further a particular agenda – that agenda is part of the culture of death.  A culture of life will respect the lives of both mother and child and will do everything in a crisis situation to preserve life – the lives of both mother and child.  A culture of life loves both mother and child and does not concede that the child has to be intentionally killed in order to save the mother.  A child may die in the attempt to save both lives, that is a tragic outcome, one which is being used cynically by the pro-abortion lobby to further its agenda.  The death of the child in those circumstances was not intentional, and that is difference. Enda Kenny in his legislation, and pro-abortion advocates, want to kill the child - it is their intention that the baby dies; not naturally, but by a direct act be it poisoning, dismemberment or other grotesque means.  There are many names for this, but in no way can this be considered part of a culture of life. 

In this struggle, we must all remember that abortion is not a Catholic issue: it is a human issue: it is a flesh and blood issue, literally.  It is not just Catholic babies who die - human beings from all races and countries die in abortion.   The media want to make this struggle one between the government and the Church: it is not - the Church should be just one organisation in that struggle.  Ultimately it is a struggle between the government and the citizens of this Republic.  I think the only way to resolve this issue to allow the citizens have their say, and it is the constitutional duty of the Taoiseach and his government to consult us by means of referendum - a clear and concise referendum. 

Bishop John Buckley of Cork and Ross has issued a response to the government's decision, reiterating Church teaching and respect for human life, as he taught clearly in his recent pastoral letter.

The Church of Ireland Archbishop of Dublin, Dr Michael Jackson, has also issued a statement regarding the government's decision: however he supports the decision to legislate for abortion, which is disappointing. 

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Red Tail Wagging Blue Dog?

At the end of our St Genesius Film Club in Dublin yesterday evening, a number of people were discussing the government's decision to legislate for abortion and the Archbishops's response, one young man, a teenager commented: "Well, what do you expect?  It's the red tail wagging the blue dog."  An interesting comment and one which reflects the opinion of many that Labour has whipped Fine Gael into supporting its own anti-life agenda.  I do not know if it is true, but it may well be academic since history will record, and we will never forget, that Enda Kenny and Fine Gael as the majority party in government, brought abortion into Ireland.  

I see Labour Minister Pat Rabbitte is shocked at the Church's response and is castigating the bishops in his own inimitable way.   He wonders how the bishops can jump to conclusions when the legislation has not even been written, well the dogs in the streets, red, blue or green, know what Labour are trying to do.  The bishops have stood up and are being counted and are showing that in the struggle to come they will not be silenced now. Perhaps Minister Rabbitte is shocked to discover that the Church has teeth after all.  And it seems Minister Rabbitte does not like the term "culture of death", well it may grate on his ears, but that's what he and his colleagues in government are seeking to create. 

Of course bishops, faithful and pro-life organisations must work together, as I have said.  No doubt the media will be up to its usual tricks and will try and support red tail/blue dog in getting the legislation through,  That may well mean the "exposing" of another scandal involving the Church at a crucial moment, but I think we need to take a piece of advice from an exorcist when engaged in an exorcism - when the strange things start happening, ignore them, they are distractions designed to unsettle and interrupt.  It will be necessary, then, to be prepared and to have a plan of action ready.  While I hesitate to use the terms of war since they imply violence, which we must reject at all costs, we are engaged in a war - the battle for life. 

One of the issues the Archbishops's statement raised was that of the free vote - as I mentioned, the parties are going to impose the whip and so TDs will not be free to vote according to conscience but must do as they are told.  First of all I note the hypocrisy as Minister Rabbitte's insists that he did not want to see bishops dictating to legislators while he sees no problem in party leaders dictating to the consciences of TDs.  Whether he believes it or not, TDs will have to answer to God for the way they vote and their eternal salvation may well now depend on how they respond to this legislation.  If a party leader wants to send himself to hell, does he have the right to insist that his minions must do the same?

But I also thought of the Nuremberg trials, where Nazis tried to defend their actions by insisting that they were only following orders.  The judges at the trial correctly rejected that defence pointing out that each of us is responsible for our actions, and when it came to their part in the murder of millions of innocent people in the death camps they could not evade justice.   That insistence by the judges on personal responsibility has been accepted by most, yet now here in Ireland personal responsibility has no place, all that matters is that TDs do as directed by the leader. 

A third issue that also arises concerns our doctors: will they be forced to perform abortions?  It has been said that doctors will not be permitted to object in conscience.  I presume nurses will also be forced to participate in the procedures.  One doctor has said that she will leave medical practice if she is required to participate in the killing of the unborn.

And finally, another issue that now also arises is that of excommunication.  The Church in Ireland will have to brush up on its canon law to see how to deal with Catholics in parliament who vote for the legislation.  Are they to be excommunicated, or just deprived of the Eucharist?  And will the pastors of the Church have the courage to follow through?  Lest people think that this is the Church imposing the party whip - it is more nuanced than that.  The Church teaches that direct abortion is evil and never justified: a Catholic who wishes to remain in full communion with the Church cannot support abortion.  In the Church's eyes TDs will be free to act as they see fit, however if they vote for abortion legislation they themselves have broken communion with the universal Church:  the decree of excommunication merely confirms what the TDs have done themselves.

I also note the timing of all this: Advent and Christmas - the feast of the Incarnation, of the birth of the child who was God.   It is grotesque and a real sign that evil is at work.

In a related argument, Fr Alexander Lucie Smith reflects on how choice has become a god in the eyes of so many today.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

A Dark Day For Ireland

Today the government of Ireland made the decision to introduce abortion into Ireland - in effect, abortion on demand.   According to its statement it will only permit abortion in cases where the life of a woman is at risk, but that includes suicide and that, as you all know, is the key to opening the door to abortion on demand.  Today is the darkest day in Ireland since we won independence in the 1920s.

Of course I am not surprised: I have said on this blog that the government was going to introduce abortion into Ireland: the Labour party was made it a priority and though Taoiseach Enda Kenny gave an assurance that he would not bring in abortion, but though we expected him to remain true to his promise we suspected he would not.

According to the statement, legislation will be introduced into parliament, debated and then passed: the Taoiseach has said that he will not allow a free vote - so members of parliament have no choice but to vote for it: those who reject will be "excommunicated" from the party.  Such is Irish democracy.  Our TDs have to toe the party line even if it means violating their consciences and, I presume, they expect God to toe their party line too and absolve them of responsibility.  The Minister of Health will also produce regulations to govern abortion in Ireland - these regulations can, in future, be changed by ministerial statute without recourse to legislation.  Ireland is on the brink of a most liberal abortion regime.

The Archbishops of Ireland have issued a strong statement rejecting the government's decision.  It is the strongest statement I have ever seen come from the bishops.  Here is the statement in full:
The four Catholic Archbishops of Ireland: Cardinal Seán Brady, Archbishop of Armagh; Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, Archbishop of Dublin; Archbishop Dermot Clifford, Archbishop of Cashel & Emly; and Archbishop Michael Neary, Archbishop of Tuam, have issued the following response to the decision today by the Government to legislate for abortion:

Today’s decision by the Irish Government to legislate for abortion should be of the utmost concern to all.

If what is being proposed were to become law, the careful balance between the equal right to life of a mother and her unborn child in current law and medical practice in Ireland would be fundamentally changed. It would pave the way for the direct and intentional killing of unborn children. This can never be morally justified in any circumstances.

The decision of the Supreme Court in the ‘X’ case unilaterally overturned the clear pro-life intention of the people of Ireland as expressed in Article 40.3.3 of our Constitution. To legislate on the basis of such a flawed judgement would be both tragic and unnecessary.

The dignity of the human person and the common good of humanity depend on our respect for the right to life of every person from the moment of conception to natural death. The right to life is the most fundamental of all rights. It is the very basis for every other right we enjoy as persons.

The lives of untold numbers of unborn children in this State now depend on the choices that will be made by our public representatives. The unavoidable choice that now faces all our public representatives is: will I chose to defend and vindicate the equal right to life of a mother and the child in her womb in all circumstances, or will I chose to licence the direct and intentional killing of the innocent baby in the womb?

Moreover, on a decision of such fundamental moral importance every public representative is entitled to complete respect for the freedom of conscience. No one has the right to force or coerce someone to act against their conscience. Respect for this right is the very foundation of a free, civilised and democratic society.

All involved, especially public representatives, must consider the profound moral questions that arise in responding to today’s announcement by the Government. We encourage all to pray that our public representatives will be given the wisdom and courage to do what is right.

The Archbishops are to be congratulated for their strong stance, and they must be supported: if you get a minute drop each of them a letter of support and keep them in your prayers.

It is now time for all who believe in life to stand together and try to lobby TDs and get them to stand for the lives of the unborn.  Complacency has no place now: as Caroline Simons of the Pro Life Campaign said today, we must fight every element of this legislation.  The lives of innocent Irish children are now at risk. 

I have to say I am sick to my stomach with this government.   Taoiseach Enda Kenny stood up in the Dail and condemned the Catholic Church and the Pope for the failure to protect children, and then they closed the Irish Embassy to the Vatican.  Then they push a dodgy referendum on "childrens' rights" telling us that children needed to have a stronger voice.  But now they decide to sanction the destruction of innocent children by the introduction of abortion.  This is nothing short of hypocrisy; cynical hypocrisy. 

But, time to push up the sleeves.  Time to rally the troops.  As the government seeks to push ahead, we cannot stand idly by.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Question Of Civil Disobedience

Fr Ray Blake has a very interesting post on his blog today: on the issue of civil disobedience. I note with interest one person is horrified that a priest should be discussing such issues and left a comment to express their disgust.  However, it is a legitimate topic for discussion, and as the secular/pro-abortion/pro-gay lobbies begin to squeeze Christians out of the public square (and into prisons?), the question of civil disobedience is one we need to look at, not merely from a practical point of view, but from a Christian/theological  point of view.

Can we as Christians participate in non-violent civil disobedience?  We know we cannot get involved in violence, nor stir it up, nor condone it; but civil disobedience is bigger than raw violence.

Fr Blake offers us some interesting examples of what were, at various times, examples of such disobedience: St Edmund Campion printing and distributing copies of his "Brag"; St Laurence defying the emperor when he ordered the Church to hand over its valuables.   Some might say these examples are not really civil disobedience, so I have another, more contemporary example: Rosa Parks refusing to give up her seat to a white person when she broke the law and sat in the whites only section of a bus.  Surely if she was a Christian she would have turned the other cheek, relinquished the seat and worked for equality through less aggressive means?  In fact the whole civil rights movement in the US offers us interesting examples of Christians, black and white, engaged in civil disobedience as they fought American apartheid.

I am only asking questions and reflecting, and it is something we need to do, not to plan such actions, but to recognise the limits - where we as Christians must not go.  There are some who believe we should not march or attend rallies, but instead just pray and trust in God.  Yes, prayer and trusting in God is vital, but there is the danger of falling into quietism there: God also expects us to act, to witness. The question is: how shall we do that? 

This is a question for us now as we in Ireland face the stark reality of the introduction of abortion into our country.  And there is the forthcoming issue of gay marriage and the real possibility that Churches may well be forced to conduct them.   A new civil rights issue is now emerging: that of religious freedom and we are now challenged with a simple question: how shall we respond?  Let us not forget that one day adherence to Rome may well constitute an act of civil disobedience; and the preaching of the unedited Gospel may well be such an act too.  As it is priests are under severe pressure not to speak on certain issues for fear of offending people - we are advised to sanitise, dilute or excise some of Christ's teachings.  Given the challenges we now face I do think we need to look Stateside to see how pro-life groups work there, but we also need to look at our own political situation here. 

Thanks to Fr Blake for raising such interesting questions.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Feast Of The Shrine Of Life

Today is the feast of Our Lady of Loreto.  Loreto, as many of you know, is the Sanctuary of the ancient House of Our Lady, translated in the 13th century from Nazareth.  The manner of the translation has been a subject of debate for centuries.  It was originally thought that angels translated the house over the course of a couple of years, the house resting in various places until it found its final resting place on a road on the "hill of laurels" near Ancona.  Archaeological research then suggested that the house was actually dismantled and brought to Italy, eventually being rebuilt on the hill. 

However the enigma continues as archaeological digs around the house have raised more questions: there are no foundations, one corner of the house is hanging over a ditch and one of the walls is on top of a squashed bush.  If the house was built on the road surely the builders would have laid some sort of foundation, and they would not have been able to build it with one corner hanging over a ditch, over thin air, and the squashed bush just boggles the mind.

Anyway, translation aside, the house is the house of Nazareth: the place where Our Lady grew up and where the Annunciation took place.  It is also venerated as the House of the Holy Family, where Jesus grew up.   It is an important shrine, and one with tremendous significance for us as the first "church of the Incarnation" where we are led to deeper reflection on the Son of God's becoming Man for the sake of our redemption.  As the place where "the word was made flesh", it is a truly pro-life shrine where God was conceived as a child in the womb of the Virgin Mary.

News.  Bishop John Buckley of Cork and Ross has issued a pastoral letter on abortion

In his weekly column in The Irish Catholic, David Quinn has some sobering things to say on the abortion issue.  According to David, Enda Kenny will not keep his pro-life promise, not unless there is a grassroots revolt within the ranks of Fine Gael.  I am inclined to agree with him.  So far the Taoiseach has broken many of his pre-election promises, and I think with the Labour party applying pressure he will fold on this issue too unless he sees his backbenchers on the rampage and the unity of the party is seriously threatened.  Keeping the coalition partners happy is one thing, but the disintegration of the party is another - so too is his leadership.  If a majority of Fine Gael backbenchers revolt Kenny's days may well be numbered, as, perhaps, are those of his Fine Gael ministers.   The question is: will the Fine Gael backbenchers revolt?  Will the grassroots Fine Gael members around the country, most of whom are pro-life, revolt and turn on Kenny?  Perhaps the future of Ireland now depends on this.   Certainly silence will usher abortion into Ireland.   If I may turn the adage around: when good men and women remain silent, innocent children die.

Of course we have to be realistic and see that if Kenny turns and becomes pro-life to save the party, will Labour concede for the sake of the coalition?  Will its thirst for power overcome its evangelical campaign for abortion?  Or will the government fall?  I have no doubt that Kenny will be told by Gilmore that Labour will pull out of government if he does not play ball.   It may well be a game of chicken to see who turns first. With the last budget, the harshest one yet, Labour is not in the good books with many citizens and if there is a General Election they may well lose seats: that might be a consideration if Kenny is forced by backbenchers to stand his ground.  Of course a General Election may well yield a hung Dail.  It is all up in the air.

Time to pray!  And fast!  We need to turn human hearts and make backbenchers courageous.  Some say courage and politics are uneasy bedfellows.  I would not be so dismissive - we have had some marvellous politicians who were courageous, virtuous and saintly.  St Thomas More is one, and is now their patron, but also the late Aldo Moro, friend of Paul VI and murdered in 1978: a cause has just been opened for Moro.  So let us seek their intercession in these difficult times.  Meanwhile get ready for action.  We may need to take the streets on a regular basis in the coming months to convince our TDs that we the people are, ultimately, in charge, and we do not want abortion in Ireland.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

The Immaculate And Her Faithful Servant

A happy feast day to you all.  Today is a wonderful celebration, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of Our Lady.   It is one of two unique feasts within the Christian faith where we celebrate conception and the destiny of the child conceived: two pro-life feasts which remind us of the personhood of the child in the womb. 

On the 25th March we celebrate the Annunciation which is the feast of the Incarnation - when "the Word was made flesh".  Our God became man and it happened at the moment of conception.  On this great solemnity we marvel at the awesome privilege God gave to Mary which she was preserved from Original Sin and personal sin from the first moment of her life - i.e. when she was conceived. 

In these times we turn to the Holy Virgin and ask her prayers for all our children, especially those who are most vulnerable, and among them the little ones in the womb.

As we celebrate today, let us also honour Blessed John Duns Scotus (pictured above with Our Lady and St Francis).    Blessed John was one of the great defenders of the Immaculate Conception and preached the dogma throughout his life even when great theologians like St Thomas Aquinas and St Bernard of Clairvaux disagreed with him. 

Blessed John was a Scotsman, born in Duns, Berwickshire, Scotland, around the year 1266.  He entered the Franciscans and was ordained on the 17th March 1291.  He was educated in Oxford and was renowned for his ability and learning.  He taught at the University of Paris, but was expelled in 1302 for siding with the Pope in a feud the King of France was conducting with the Church.  However he returned to the university in 1304 and taught until he was transferred to Cologne in October 1307, where he died on the 8th November 1308.

Blessed John was an important philosopher and theologian who has lived under the shadow of St Thomas Aquinas.  Many of his works were unfinished at the time of his death, yet he was influential enough to found a school of thought - Scotism.  He was an arch-rival to William of Ockham, not a bad thing since Ockham gave us Nominalism which would eventually lead to modern relativism: Scotism actually allied itself with Thomism in combatting Nominalism.  Blessed John was known for his subtlety in thought and earned the title "Doctor Subtilis".  Much neglected, his work has been praised by Blessed Pope John XXIII who recommended that theology students should study him.

Pope Benedict wrote a beautiful Apostolic Letter to celebrate the seventh centenary of the Blessed's death in 2008.    It begins with a most joyful greeting: "Rejoice, City of Cologne, which once welcomed within your walls John Duns Scotus, a most learned and devout man, who passed from this life to the heavenly Homeland...and whose remains you preserve with admiration and veneration".

I am sure Blessed John can glory in many titles, but I think the one he would covet and cherish above all the rest is "faithful servant of the Immaculate", and it is one he richly deserves.  This solemnity today is a triumph for him, as it is for all of us, for in this privilege given to Our Lady we see, as did Blessed John, a sign of hope for all humanity: what she was at her conception, was throughout her life and is now in the heavenly kingdom, we hope to be one day: free from all sin.

O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.
Blessed John Duns Scotus, pray for us.

The tomb of Blessed John Duns Scotus in Cologne.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Hillary's Two Cents Worth

I remember the first time I saw Hillary Clinton in the flesh: she and her husband Bill, by then a former president, were at a ceremony in St Patrick’s Cathedral, New York where President George W Bush presented the Congressional Gold Medal, posthumously, to Cardinal John O’Connor.  I had been invited by a priest friend in the Archdiocese.  During one of the eulogies, one of the senators for New York praised the late Cardinal’s work against abortion – the vast crowd stood and applauded: the only two left sitting with bowed heads were Hillary and Bill Clinton – and all cameras were on them.  I had to feel a little sorry for them - they were surrounded.

Hillary and Bill are two of the US's most aggressive advocates for abortion.  Yesterday Hillary visited Dublin to attend the OSCE meeting in the RDS.  Unfortunately, rather than remain aloof as the US Secretary of State should, she could not help but offer an intervention in the current debate on the issue of abortion.  Speaking on human rights, she said that women’s lives matter and promoting women’s rights begins with saving women’s lives - not so subtle hint there.   Hillary, like her allies in the pro-abortion movement, promotes the lie that abortion is necessary to save women’s lives.

Now if the pro-abortion cohort are really interested in women's lives, they might actually look at the gendercide which is occurring in the world thanks to the abortion culture.  Here is The Economist's famous article on the massacre of baby girls, of which abortion is an important element.  China has been waging such a war for decades and now there is a real demographic crisis about to break out.  And of course Savita Halappanavar's own country, India, has a real problem with gendercide.  Gendercide is the wicked offspring of the culture of death, and the abortion movement is its nursemaid.

I remember another encounter Hillary had with another pro-life Catholic – Blessed Teresa of Calcutta.  During that meeting between the two – I think it was over a meal, Hillary was wondering when the US would have its first woman president.  Blessed Teresa responded quite bluntly, “Maybe you have aborted her”.  I believe Hillary was shocked and embarrassed.   Unfortunately it seems she did not get the point, not even when made by a living Saint who knew the value of life, how precious it was, even when that life was ebbing away on the rubbish strewn streets of an Indian slum.

Abortion claims human lives, and as each person is conceived, they come into being with great potential and, as we Christians believe, with a destiny.  Central to that destiny is the mission God has entrusted to that person. In respecting and protecting human life in the womb, we are protecting the future of humanity and the contribution that child will make to humanity.  Perhaps the first woman president of the US has been aborted, and perhaps too the scientists who would develop definitive cures for cancer or HIV/AIDS; great musicians and artists, great teachers and inventors, great humanitarians and yes, perhaps even people destined to be canonised Saints.  Our pro-abortion friends will tell us we will never know and so it will not matter.  But look around and see the world struggling in so many areas of life and then realise that in killing our young we are impoverished by their absence.   As Blessed John Paul II said: “A nation that kills its children is a nation without hope” – I would add to that: a people that kill their children are a people without a future.

Take note, Hillary; take note, Ireland.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Updates, Snippets And A New Blessed For India

I have updated the pro-life page on the blog.  If any of the pro-life organisations want me to post additional information about their campaigns and events, please let me know and I will do what I can to include them.

A few interesting snippets for you.  Matthew Archbald has a very good article on the issue of the separation of Church and State - it is a one way street, he tells us. How true, those who call for separation of Church and State tend to mean control of the Church by the State.  William Oddie over at the Herald has a good piece on the liberals's obsession with quoting Blessed John Henry Newman to support their dissent.   There is no way Blessed John Henry would support our present tribe of dissidents in their attempts to force the Church replace the timeless teaching of Christ for their ephemeral views. 

Mgr Charles Pope has a good article on St Nicholas, whose feast it is today.  According to Mgr Pope, St Nicholas are neither fat nor jolly: he quotes that story of the Saint at the Council of Nicea which has endeared the Saint to me.  Now I do not propose violence as the solution to any problem, but I think the incident brings Nicholas to life and reveals his passion for Christ and the truth.

With recent events I did not get a chance to blog on the new Blessed, beatified last Sunday in India.  Blessed Devasahayam Pillai, layman and martyr: indeed he is the first Indian layman to be beatified. 

Blessed Devasahayam was born on the 23rd April 1712 into a wealthy southern Indian family, in Nattalam.  He was named Neelakanda.  His father was a Hundu priest.  According to the traditions of his culture he was raised by a maternal uncle who was a pious Hindu, and so the young boy was brought up in the way of Hinduism.  His family was influential and well received at court of the king of Travancore, and so when he was old enough, he entered into the royal service under the king, Maharaja Marthanda Varma.  As a capable and gifted young man he soon attracted the attention of court officials and the king himself and Neelakanda was soon moving up the ladder in the palace and soon occupied an important position in the area of state affairs.  It was at this time that he met a young woman, Bargavi Ammal and they married.

The Maharaja was an influential monarch and sought to consolidate his power in various ways, one of the most successful being through his maritime pursuits.  He had been a soldier and he was renowned for his ability as a tactician, so he brought this gift to his relationship with external powers.  Following a war with the Dutch East India Company – which he won, he captured a number of naval commanders, among them Captain Eustachius De Lannoy whom he pardoned on condition he serve in the Maharaja’s army.  This led to Neelakanda’s meeting with the Dutchman and the development of friendship between them.  It was in the context of this friendship that the young Hindu was first acquainted with Catholicism and he found it most attractive.  The Dutch captain instructed the young official in the faith, and Neelakanda decided to seek baptism.  

Neelakanda was baptised in 1745 by a Jesuit priest, Fr Boutarri, at their mission in Vadakkankulam.  He took as his baptismal name Lazarus, after the disciple of the Lord, and this translated as Devasahayam in his native tongue.  His wife also converted, taking the name Teresa, or in their native language Gnanapoo; other members of his family would eventually follow him into the Church.

While there was no official persecution of the Catholic Church in the kingdom of Travancore, it was not permissible for a state official to become a Christian.  Devasahayam soon found himself facing difficulties.  The Brahmin chief priest of the kingdom and other officials eventually brought false charges against him, accusing him of treason.  He was stripped of his office, arrested and for the next three years subject to torture to make him renounce his Catholic faith.  Devasahayam remained steadfast; his wife Gnanapoo was safe at the Jesuit mission.  In 1752 sentence was eventually passed against him and he was condemned to death.   The execution was to take place at Kuzhumaikkad, and the pre-execution ritual was observed, with the condemned being brought to the place of execution on a buffalo.  When he reached the place, however, Devasahayam was told that the king had granted a reprieve – the death sentence had been commuted to a series of tortures and then banishment. 

On his journey to exile, he was painted with red and black spots and put on public show as a traitor, beaten every day and given only stagnant water to drink.   According to the traditions of local Catholics, God worked miracles to quench the Blessed’s thirst, and Devasahayam is believed to have healed people.  When he reached the place of exile, Aralvaimozhy, he settled down to a life of prayer and meditation.  Among the local people he gained a reputation as a holy man and they began to flock to him.  In these encounters, Devasahayam preached the Gospel.  However, local Hindu priests were not happy and they conspired to rid themselves of the Christian holy man.

On the 14th January 1752 soldiers went up to the place where Devasahayam lived to shoot him.  Unable to fire their guns, the holy man took one of the weapons and blessed it and gave it back to his persecutors.  Untouched by his holiness, the soldiers fired again and killed him.  His body was discarded, but later recovered and buried in the Church of St Francis Xavier in Kottar.

Controversy surrounds the life and martyrdom of Blessed Devasahayam.  Some historians claim that there was no persecution of Christians at that time in Travancore, yet contemporary documents show that the conversion of state officials to Christianity was not permitted .   That he was killed is accepted, but some maintain that he was executed for treason and sedition and not for his faith.  There is enough evidence, however, to prove that Devasahayam was indeed martyred for his faith, and many local traditions, which were found to be sound, testify to his holiness and miracles.  After an exhaustive examination of the evidence, Pope Benedict signed the Decree of Martyrdom, and the beatification took place last Sunday in Kottar.  His body rests in the Cathedral of Kottar.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Bishops Respond to "Expert Group" Report

The Irish Bishops have released their initial response to the government's expert group's report.  I am posting it in full:

Initial response by the Irish Catholic Bishop’s Conference to the Report of the Expert Group on the Judgement in A,B and C v Ireland

A society that believes the right to life is the most fundamental of all rights cannot ignore the fact that abortion is first and foremost a moral issue.

As a society we have a particular responsibility to ensure this right is upheld on behalf of those who are defenceless, voiceless or vulnerable.  This includes our duty as a society to defend and promote the equal right to life of a pregnant mother and the innocent and defenceless child in her womb when the life of either of these persons is at risk.

By virtue of their common humanity the life of a mother and her unborn baby are both sacred.  They have an equal right to life.  The Catholic Church has never taught that the life of a child in the womb should be preferred to that of a mother.  Where a seriously ill pregnant woman needs medical treatment which may put the life of her baby at risk, such treatments are morally permissible provided every effort has been made to save the life of both the mother and her baby.

Abortion, understood as the direct and intentional destruction of an unborn baby, is gravely immoral in all circumstances.  This is different from medical treatments which do not directly and intentionally seek to end the life of the unborn baby. 

Current law and medical guidelines in Ireland allow nurses and doctors in Irish hospitals to apply this vital distinction in practice. This has been an important factor in ensuring that Irish hospitals are among the safest and best in the world in terms of medical care for both a mother and her unborn baby during pregnancy.  As a country this is something we should cherish, promote and protect.
The Report of the Expert Group on the Judgement in A, B and C v Ireland has put forward options that could end the practice of making this vital ethical distinction in Irish hospitals. Of the four options presented by the Report, three involve abortion – the direct and intentional killing of an unborn child.  This can never be morally justified.  The judgement of the European Court of Human Rights does not oblige the Irish Government to legislate for abortion.

Other aspects of the Report also give rise to concerns.  These include, but are not limited to the fact that:

·         The judgement of the European Court of Human Rights permits options on this matter of fundamental moral, social and constitutional importance that are not offered by this Report.  This includes the option of introducing a constitutional prohibition on abortion or another form of constitutional amendment to reverse the ‘X-case’ judgement.

·         The Report provides no ethical analysis of the options available, even though this is first and foremost a moral issue and consideration of the ethical dimension was included in the Terms of Reference.

·         The Report takes no account of the risks involved in trying to legislate for so-called ‘limited abortion’ within the context of the ‘X-case’ judgement.  The ‘X-case’ judgement includes the threat of suicide as grounds for an abortion.  International experience shows that allowing abortion on the grounds of mental health effectively opens the floodgates for abortion.

The Report also identifies Guidelines as an option.  It notes that Guidelines can help to ensure consistency in the delivery of medical treatment.  If Guidelines can provide greater clarity as to when life-saving treatment may be provided to a pregnant mother or her unborn child within the existing legislative framework, and where the direct and intentional killing of either person continues to be excluded, then such ethically sound Guidelines may offer a way forward.
A matter of this importance deserves sufficient time for a calm, rational and informed debate to take place before any decision about the options offered by the Expert Group Report are taken.  All involved, especially public representatives, must consider the profound moral questions that arise in responding to this Report. Abortion is gravely immoral in all circumstances, no matter how ‘limited’ access to abortion may be.
In related news: it was announced yesterday that the Duchess of Cambridge, wife of Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, is pregnant.  May God watch over her and all expectant mothers and their babies.  The Duchess is in the first trimester of pregnancy and yet, strangely, the pro-choice media in Britain are speaking of a "baby", a future heir to the British throne - they are presuming that here is a child, a human being, a person, someone with a destiny: in fact a "someone", and indeed they are absolutely correct in this presumption. 

However, despite the "royal status" which Britain will confer on this child, this baby is no different from any other child at the same stage of development.  Once again the pro-choice media reveal the appalling double standard which is at the heart of the abortion culture: if a child is wanted it is human; if a child is not wanted it is a " cluster of cells", inhuman, not a person.  As we all rejoice in the forthcoming birth of a baby, royal status aside, we should always rejoice in new life, regardless of how it comes into being and always ready to support those for whom it is a difficulty.  As Fr Frank Pavone of Priests of Life often says: every person conceived is chosen by God. 

Vigil For Life

The Pro-Life Vigil outside the Dail yesterday was a great success, congratulations to those who organised it at such short notice, and well done to all who took part.   There were about 8,000 people there, though RTE, the national broadcaster, initially reported that there were only about a 1,000 – they have since changed their figure to “thousands”.  We had a mixture of all ages – but the large number of young people was noted – young people tend to be more pro-life than the middle aged, – many of them realising that they could have been aborted and so see they cannot take life for granted.  We even had five bishops officially representing, I am told, the Bishops’ Conference – it was great to have their presence.  There were also a number of priests there.

It was bitterly cold, but that did not stop the enthusiasm of the crowds. There were a number of good speakers including Caroline Simons of the Pro-Life Campaign and Niamh Ui Bhriain of the Life Institute.  I am not sure if there were elected representatives there – a friend of mine told me he met Sinn Fein TD Peader Toibin.  Deputy Toibin is defying his party in his support for the lives of the unborn – Sinn Fein, like the Labour Party, is pro-abortion.   Other TDs came out of Leinster House (the parliament building) to have a look at us, but did not come to speak to us. 

In her talk Caroline Simons, a lawyer with the Pro-Life campaign clarified the Savita Halappanavar case the judgement of the European Court of Human Rights.    She explained, as pro-life advocates have been explaining from the start, that an abortion was not required to save the woman’s life and that Irish hospitals have an excellent record of care for pregnant women and those facing miscarriage.

Another speaker pointed out that the pro-abortion groups had actually disgraced Ireland’s excellent record in the eyes of the world in order to achieve their aims.  This is true.  Around the world there are now people who believe that Ireland is a dangerous place to be pregnant.  In reality it is one of the safest – it is safer than the UK, it is safer that US which is one of the most technologically advanced countries in the world, and it is miles safer than India where for every 100,000 pregnancies 212 women die every year.  Indeed it is reckoned by a UN report that every ten minutes a maternal death occurs in India.  This is not to lessen the tragedy of a woman’s death, but to expose the lies of those clamouring for abortion.  And as we are speaking about India, more statistics: 20,000 women die as a result of abortions annually, and 200,000 baby girls are aborted very year in India just because they are girls.  The feminists are happy to ignore that gendercide when it suits them. 

It was also pointed out that our doctors, most of whom, we were told, are pro-life, do a fantastic job in caring for women in difficult pregnancies – that also is true.  In painting Ireland as a dangerous place for pregnant women the reputation of these fine doctors is seriously undermined, as are the colleges in which these doctors are trained.  Our health care system is not perfect, but we in Ireland should be proud of the care our medical professionals deliver each day.  Instead of plotting for abortion, pro-choice groups should actually wake up and see how good we actually have it in comparison with other countries.

I am delighted to see the united stand against abortion.  All the major pro-life groups were represented on the stage: the Pro-Life Campaign, the Life Institute, Family and Life and Youth Defence.  If we are to battle the pro-abortion groups we need all the groups working together.  We also need the leaders of the various religions in the State to work together – the Bishops of the Catholic Church and Anglican Communion, the Moderator of the Presbyterian community and President of the Methodist community, the leaders of other Christian denominations, the Chief Rabbi and leaders of the Islamic communities; pro-life humanists and atheists must also be invited too. 

As I have said before, we need all the citizens of the State who believe in the sanctity of human life to form a grand coalition: a Coalition for Life.  In the US we see people of all faiths and none marching together: we need to do the same in Ireland.  At the moment the pro-abortion groups are targeting the Catholic Church, presenting pro-life ethics as no more than oppressive Catholic teaching designed to denigrate women.  Abortion is not a Catholic issue – it is a human issue: it is THE human issue because if the right to life is not respected, then no other right can exist or has any force.

Here are some video snippets from the Vigil.  More rallies and demonstrations are planned, I will keep you updated.  I would be happy to hear news of any pro-life initiatives, so email me and I'll include them on my blog if I can.