Thursday 27 October 2011

From the Excellent St Thomas More Legal Centre


A Company limited by Guarantee, Co. No. 6381347
Registered Charity No. 1122184


A Catholic Mental Health Worker has been sacked by the NHS for gross misconduct. What was her offence? Treating elderly patients with callous disregard? Physically abusing mental patients? Ignoring patients who cried out for water? No, it was none of these. The charge against her is that she ‘distributed material which individuals may find offensive’.

Her ‘gross misconduct’ in fact arose from an amicable discussion with a colleague, NOT a patient, who worked as a receptionist organising abortion appointments. In  the course of which she handed over the booklet Forsaken in which five women recount their experience of abortion and the mental problems they suffered afterwards.  The colleague did not object to receiving the book and indeed is not being called as a witness by the NHS.  The booklet contained no graphic images, and it was never suggested that it should be given to patients. The NHS objects to it because the booklet presents a ‘religious view’ of abortion, because one of the women talking about how she now views her Abortion regards it as a sin. Is the expression of a religious view now a sacking offence in Britain?

The Mental Health Worker’s  case is being fought at the Central London Employment Tribunal on November 15th. Her legal representation is being provided by the Thomas More Legal Centre. In addition, we are planning to bring a case against the NHS in the County Court under the Human Rights Act for failure to respect the nurse’s right to freedom of expression, and her right to freedom of religion.  Winning such a case would set an important precedent in defending the rights of Catholics to discuss their faith and beliefs with colleagues without fear

The Thomas More Legal Centre has a strong track record of dealing successfully with similar cases of discrimination through quiet representation of clients’ interests to employers who may have misinterpreted the law and failed to respect freedom of religion. The Centre has for example successfully represented a Catholic trainee Doctor who was told he would not be allowed to qualify unless he referred patients for Abortions, and also successfully represented two Catholic Nurses who were moved to an Abortion Clinic against their wishes.   It has done this voluntary legal work supported by very modest funds to cover inescapable expenses of the charity. The Trustees have always felt that they should not make any public appeal for funds for the charity until a case arose which would have to go to court.

That time has now come. We are appealing for help from everyone who believes in the freedom for Catholics to say what they believe and keep their jobs. We need funds to meet the  costs of legal representation and, as there are no certainties however strong the case,  to cover the risk of County Court costs being awarded against our client (which could be up to £25,000). And we need prayer.

The Thomas More Legal Centre is pursuing the case in the confidence that the Catholic community will come together to support this Mental Health Worker . Because this is not just an injustice being done to an individual, it is a threat to the freedom of the whole Catholic community to express its beliefs.

Donations can be made by cheque (made out to Thomas More Legal Centre) to The Treasurer, Thomas More Legal Centre,  Palmyra Chambers,
46 Legh Street,
WA1 1UJ; or by bank transfer to Yorkshire Bank, 34 Princes Street, Stockport, Cheshire, SK1 1RE; sort code 05-09-33, account no. 43102195 (Thomas More Legal Centre). If you are a UK tax-payer making a gift by cheque, please send a signed statement with your name and address asking for the donation to be treated as Gift Aid.

Thank you for standing up for Catholic freedom.

Richard Kornicki CBE
Chairman of Trustees

Wednesday 26 October 2011

A new book on St John Fisher

I am very happy to learn that a new biography of St John Fisher has been written, and will be published by Alive Publishing in the next few weeks. It has been written by none other than our own Archbishop of Westminster, Vincent Nichols. I will provide more details when I know them.

Along with my namesake, Fr Tim Finigan, I have long had a devotion to St John Fisher. His role as a martyr is well known, but I have always felt strongly that, had the course of history in these islands gone another way, and St John lived the full course of his natural life, that he would have been canonizable (is that a word?) as a Confessor.

Born a Yorkshireman (at Beverley) in 1469, he grew up in what I think we would call a middle-class family and showed early academic promise which led to his gaining a place at Cambridge University in 1484, where he early attached himself to the new approach to studies and theology now known as the Christian Humanist Movement. He followed what I think we can only call a brilliant academic career, and came to the notice of the extraordinary Margaret Beaufort, mother of King Henry VII. She has been variously judged by historians, supposedly being responsible with the widow of Edward IV, Elizabeth Woodville, for bringing the Wars of the Roses to an end by uniting the Lancastrians (in the person of Henry Tudor) to the Yorkists by the marriage of Henry to Elizabeth of York, and also for managing thereby to get her son onto the throne to which he had only the very slimmest of claims. Be that as it may, John Fisher had the highest regard for her and thought of her as little short of a saint.

Elected Vice-Chancellor of Cambridge University, he managed to persuade his wealthy friend Margaret Beaufort to endow two new colleges, St John's (he himself consecrated the chapel) and Christ's College, to study the new approach to theology and the scriptures; he attracted to Cambridge scholars of Greek and Hebrew, so that the Bible might be studied in its original languages.

It was inevitable that he be drawn into Royal circles, and the royal favour got him the diocese of Rochester, the poorest in the land. In later years he was nominated to Winchester, the richest, but refused it. He was elected Chancellor of Cambridge University, and pursued its interests at court assiduously. On the deaths of Margaret Beaufort and her son Henry VII, Fisher was chosen as the preacher.

The growth of the Lutheran Reformation disturbed him, and, at the instance of King Henry VIII, he preached a famous sermon at St Paul's, when Luther's writings were symbolically burned. He wrote assiduously against the Protestants, and has been suspected as the real author of the Assertio Septem Sacramentum, for which Henry VIII took the credit (and the title Defensor Fidei). He also wrote many spiritual works, such as his commentary on the Psalms.

He became something of a tutor and friend to the new King Henry VIII and his Queen, Catherine of Aragon, sharing with the Queen a real interest in fostering the new Christian Humanism, she promoting the scholar Juan Luis Vives, who served also as her chaplain.

Fisher could have become like so many other talented clerics of his day, a dedicated climber of the social ladder. But in his own life he maintained a strict austerity which kept him focussed on the one thing that matters. It was said that he cut a window in the wall of his study so that he could see the Blessed Sacrament at all times when writing. If there were people in Rochester whom the clergy would not visit because of the stench of their poverty, Fisher himself would go. When his rooms were searched for his valuables after his arrest, the King's commissioners, finding at last a single locked chest in his bedchamber, broke it open to reveal only a hair shirt.

The matter of the Kings's setting aside of Queen Catherine and his attempted marriage of Anne Boleyn is very well known, as is Fisher's part in it.

I remain deeply moved by his final hours; called early in the morning to be told he must die, he thanked his messenger, then rolled over and contentedly went back to sleep. Later, he dressed in his best clothes ('for this is my wedding day'), read the Bible one last time ('this is eternal life, to know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent', John 17:3) and commented 'here indeed is learning to last me until my life's end'.

St John Fisher is surely the most wonderful patron for the secular priesthood in England and Wales: we already have St Thomas of Canterbury: St John deserves to be better known, in my view. And thank you, Archbishop Vincent, for bringing him to our attention once more. I look forward to reading the book.

Tuesday 25 October 2011


There's no need to post a picture, because there have been so many on the net, but today our new CTS Missals have arrived; a full one and a study edition for St Peter's, Shoreham, and a chapel edition for Christ the King, Steyning (because the altar is very small).

The doorbell rang for a delivery, and I hoped that it would be the missals, but the deliveryman (a young Pole) seemed to be making very light of the (huge) box. So I knew it wasn't them.

But it was: the vast box contained the three books nestling under a pile of air-filled plastic bags; the books themselves are much lighter than I imagined; though the full edition is quite substantial in size fatness-wise, its pages are actually only A4. It is a handsome book, smelling of leather, and with six very nicely-made ribbons in different colours. No Latin section, which surprised me, since our former altar Missal had the Missale Parvum bound in with it. The much-famed plates are very nice, though I was a bit disappointed that the gold leaf original doesn't look very gold in its reproduction.
The edges of the missal are nicely gilded, though, and the book comes with a cloth wrapper to keep it in good condition. There are page tabs for the whole Liturgy of the Eucharist, though some overlying each other which makes them a bit difficult to handle. And, more seriously, the tabs are attached to the wrong pages; normally they are affixed to the page before the one you turn to, so that you are turning actually onto the right page. These are affixed on the page itself, so that, turning over, one has to turn a page back to get to the right one. That is a mistake and should be rectified in later editions.
However, this is certainly the most handsome new liturgical book in English I have seen so far in my life. Not that that is saying much, but this is a very nice book and a great improvement on its predecessor.

What is particularly striking is that the Gospel for the Palm Sunday procession (which appears in the Missal, of course) is only in the RSV version. Let us hope that this presages the adoption of some version of the RSV (sensitively updated, perhaps, 'you', rather than 'thou') for the general lectionary down the line.

The chapel edition of the Missal is smaller, not bound with leather, and the pages edged with pink rather than gold. There is no book-cosy, either, and page tabs only for the first pages of the Eucharistic Prayers (and also on the wrong pages). Other than that, the edition is very nice too.

The study edition, bound in plastic, and printed on white, rather than cream, paper, isn't as handsome as the others, but is still very nice. I will use it as a 'book at the chair', and hope that its present propensity to close as soon as I open it and set it down, will ease with use.

The CTS is to be congratulated. Producing books of this quality cannot have been easy in our present set-up. Even the individual boxes the books came in are handsome, and shall be recycled for some other good purpose.

Sunday 23 October 2011

Revolution 2

I think what demarcated the two parties that emerged in the wake of the Second Vatican Council was not at first theology (either dogmatic or moral) but something else. There had been an awakening of what one might call a moral imperative to do something about the state of the world; the Second World War had ended a mere seventeen years previously, and the horrors of war, brought by the media for the first time into every living room in the comfortable ‘first world’, the devastation of the atomic bomb, the death camps, made those with a conscience ponder what the world was becoming.

There was a picture, popular in Irish homes, called The Peace Sowers; it showed Good Pope John and President John F. Kennedy walking together in a ploughed field, casting seed; living in the shadow of the Cuban Missile Crisis, the imperative for peace seemed all-important. Yet there were still wars, especially (in the States) against what appeared to be a Communist threat—Korea, and then Vietnam later—which seemed to be going nowhere. They were guided by old men, from the pre-nuclear world who, like Senator McCarthy, destroyed their own arguments by over-stating them. The younger generation was impatient with all the old way of doing things; ‘make love, not war’ seemed a sensible proposition, given where war had got us and what war was now capable of doing.

When Pope John opened his windows to the world to ‘blow off the dust that had accumulated on the throne of Peter since the time of Constantine’, his words found a resonance with the young who wanted a similar revolution in the world. He was pushing at an open door. All the old certainties were to be reviewed and, if found wanting, discarded. At St John’s Seminary at Wonersh, Fr Michael Hollings (then the Catholic chaplain at Oxford University) in 1963 gave the students an electrifying retreat in which he urged them  not simply to follow the seminary rules, but to examine their whole way of life, and if something was in their opinion wrong, then to work to get it changed, because simply going along with the old way of doing things was to collaborate in it, to give passive assent to something that was being perpetuated when it shouldn’t.

And this was the watchword. Throughout the 1950s, the Church had been extraordinarily energetic in her missions and her outlook. Vocations were abundant, especially to the missionary congregations, and these young clergy and religious were the people to be particularly energized by the new ideas.

‘What if,’ a young sister might say, ‘instead of attending Terce, Sext and None, I stayed working in the hospital? Wouldn’t that achieve even more good? Isn’t the Office sung in common actually a hindrance to doing God’s work in the world?’ These long sleeves on my habit could harbour infection. And this wimple makes me a danger when I drive on the roads. And anyway, doesn’t it frighten people off?

I really don’t think that these things were excuses for people wanting a more comfortable life. They were—misguided, in my opinion—attempts to live the Christian life more ‘authentically’ (in the existentialist cant of the day) in the service of our neighbour.

The Second Vatican Council—especially towards the end—seemed to be inclining in this same direction. I have commented before that really there were two councils; one in the Aula of St Peter’s, and the other, (more important, as it turned out) in the bars and restaurants all around St Peter’s, where the periti with their new ideas met journalists. Those journalists were not interested in the documents of the Council which mandated the retention of Latin, for instance: ‘dog bites man’ is never news. They were interested in change and revolution within the Catholic Church, and, fuelled by the speculations of the periti, and deprived of sight of the actual documents until they were published, change and innovation is what they reported in their newspapers. It caused a ferment. And that is what greeted the bishops when they returned to their dioceses; a Church on fire with the prospect of exciting and radical change.

What were the bishops to do? Reach for the fire extinguisher and tell everyone that they had got it wrong? Some tried that, but the majority decided to ride the wave and go for popularity.

Thursday 20 October 2011

Extraordinary Form in the Adur Valley

Those who live in Sussex might care to know that there will be an Extraordinary Form Mass each fourth Sunday of the Month at Christ the King church, Steyning, beginning this Sunday, 23rd October, at 9.00am. The regular Wednesday morning Mass at 9.30am in St Peter's, Shoreham, will continue as before each week.

Monday 17 October 2011

Revolution 1

Robert Mickens, that bête noir of so many blogs, has written in the current edition of The Tablet of a new book published recently in Italy Mal di Chiesa, or Church Sickness.
The author is veteran Vatican journalist Gian Franco Svidercoschi, who covered the Council for the Ansa news agency and then worked two years (1983-85) as assistant editor of L'Osservatore Romano. Svidercoschi says the Catholic Church is ailing right now, not because Vatican II went too far, but because it was a "revolution, left only half done". His 120-page booklet is only one of a number of recent publications by committed Catholics here in Italy who are voicing alarm over the direction Pope Benedict appears to be taking the Church.
The word "revolution" is a telling one. For years the Church has been reassuring us that what happened in the 1960s was a "reform". The word "revolution" has tended to be used by those who resisted the changes, such as the eminent Michael Davis, and has been considered a very controversial term. So it is interesting to read the word being used by someone on the other side.

It really would seem to be only now that we are becoming able to get a bit of distance on the whole Vatican II episode and look at it with something like historical dispassion. Recently I completed a book which had to deal with that period (among others), and I felt that I could not just write another yah-boo account of the period; there have been far too many of these, from Xavier Rynne onwards, with a simplistic division of the parties in the council into 'goodies' and 'baddies', according to one's perspective.

Regular readers of this blog will probably be able to guess my own perspective fairly readily. But I did not want to make yet another Aunt Sally of those who differ from me: that does little to serve the cause of truth, and if my own perspective is to have any value at all it has to rest on truth.

Those of my persuasion are far too liable to caricature the 'liberal' wing in the 1960s as being deliberately malicious destroyers of two thousand years of history, enfants terribles who had managed to seize the wheel and had turned the Barque of Peter onto dangerous rocks, just to see what would happen. The 'liberals' were apt to caricature those of a traditional persuasion as being power-hungry despots with no care for the poor, or the Gospel; deliberate train-wreckers of reform, lacking vision, lacking faith, resisting all change simply on principle.

If we are to understand this period with hope of enlightenment, then we must firmly set aside such caricatures and try to start from the principle that all parties were zealous Christians who truly sought to do God's will.

Thursday 6 October 2011

I, for one,

I, personally, do not wish to see the days of the criminal persecution of practising homosexuals return. I genuinely believe in 'live and let live', and I would rather win others round by persuasion. I hope that they would think the same thing as me, that they would rather persuade me than persecute me.

But I think that by them seeking to embrace marriage, a heterosexual lifestyle, simply with a difference in plumbing, as it were, they are actually doing themselves a disservice. They have all the advantages of unions with the civil partnership thing: it seems to me that by trying to imitate marriage they are admitting that, actually, there is something missing in the quality of their relationship.

Part of the problem is that we have failed to define marriage as what it should be, as necessarily involving openness to the gift of life, meaning children.

Once one has said that marriage is simply for the emotional, sexual, and (sometimes) economic interest of a man and woman, the question naturally arises 'why not for two men, or two women, too?'

Should the Government establish the union of two individuals of the same sex as what it calls 'marriage', I will never vote Conservative or Liberal Democrat again until the policy is reversed. And I, for one, will do my best to encourage others to think and do the same.

The Conservative Party should be very careful of alienating its natural supporters in the hope of attracting a new constituency from other parties. That they would succeed in this is highly improbable: why should proles vote for a load of toffs, after all? 

Our beloved leader simply wants to show that he is right-on. Down with it. And all those other things. Blairus revidvivus, in fact. He said a year ago that the Holy Father had 'made us sit up and listen'. Well, not very much, it would appear.

Sunday 2 October 2011

Save a life!

I rarely re-post material from other blogs, but I have to repost this one, about an Iranian Protestant pastor condemned unjustly to death.

Blondpidge makes a number of suggestions that might perhaps do some good. If Iran is aware that the world is watching, it might (stop laughing!) be a little more circumspect about its actions.

Thank you to Blondpidge for bringing this to our attention.

Biretta tip to Mulier Fortis.

Saturday 1 October 2011

Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori.

There are a great number of Koreans who consider that Thomas An Jung-geun, a man who assassinated the Japanese Prime Minister in 1909 and was executed a few months later, might be a candidate for beatification or even canonization. The Church had condemned the murder, but in 1993, Cardinal Kim of Seoul offered a public Mass for An, and now the archdiocese is preparing to initiate the beatification process.

The comparison is being made with Joan of Arc. Well, I am now going to risk alienating all my new-found French friends by saying that I have never really been able to get my head around la Pucelle.

I mean, if An, then why not Anthony Babington?

Or Guy Fawkes?

Or Michael Collins?

Or Eamon de Valera?

There will be those who will redouble their efforts for the beatification of Francisco Franco. Or even Augusto Pinochet! After all (despite a little skulduggery on the side) these two did fight the enemies of the Church as well as those they considered the political enemies of their country.

And what about the other side? Oh, the list could go on and on.

I do hope that there is no suggestion that An be beatified as a martyr!

You can read more about An's potential for beatification here, on the UCA Asian Catholic news site. If you click on the 'opinion' button, make sure you're sitting down with a good glass of something strong.