Why I became a Catholic: Tim Stanley

tumblr_m2qaxvmgvF1rpyyq4o1_500This is interesting, not least to me as it casts some light on my journey as well.

But I think it applies well beyond how we find ourselves in one or another church. I think it speaks much to how we have all searched to find structure in our lives, both in Christianity and in our lives in general.

[…]

Ten years ago this month, I became a Catholic. It happened in the attic of the guest house at Ealing Abbey. There was just me, a friend and a monk, and the operation took about an hour. Afterwards we went for cocktails. I started things as I meant to go on.

I guess the two big questions to ask a convert are: why did you do it and are you happy? Answering the first point is hard. It’s like asking a man why he married a woman. There’s a temptation to invent a narrative – to say, “this happened, that happened and before we knew it we were where we are today”. But the simpler, yet more complex, answer is this: I fell in love.

I was lucky to grow up in a household open to religious belief. My grandparents were Christian spiritualists; Grandma advertised as a clairvoyant. Mum and Dad became Baptists in the 1990s. I remember the pastor one Sunday telling us that evolution was gobbledygook. The teenager in me came to regard the faithful as fools, but I was wrong. I couldn’t see that they were literate, inquisitive, musically gifted and the kindest people you’d ever meet. But I went my own way and embraced Marxism.

By the time I arrived at Cambridge University I was a hard-left Labour activist and a militant atheist. I saw life as a struggle. Salvation could only come through class revolution. The life of the individual was unimportant. Mine was unhappy. Very unhappy. I disliked myself and, as is so common, projected that on to a dislike of others. I’m ashamed now to think of how rude and mean I was. Perhaps I was ashamed then, too, because I had fantasies of obliterating myself from history.

History was my redemption. In my second year I studied the Civil War. I discovered a world more colourful and distinct than today’s. A world of faith; of saints and martyrs. My Marxist sympathy was for the Protestant Diggers but I was intrigued by Archbishop William Laud and his fight to restore the sacramental dignity to the Anglican Church. For some reason I started to visit far-flung churches in Kent. I’d get up at 6am and cycle to a Sunday early morning service at Seal village. It calmed my soul.

I suddenly felt a great need to reconcile myself to something. Because Anglicanism was the only thing on offer at Cambridge (the Catholic chaplaincy felt like an Irish embassy), I asked to be baptised into the Church of England. Anglo-Catholicism was the closest I could get to Laud’s vision of majesty incarnate. But it wasn’t enough. Although I had made tremendous progress, something inside me said that I hadn’t yet reached my destination. Something was missing. Prayer revealed it to be the Catholic Church – the alpha, the rock, the bride of Christianity. I converted quietly in 2005 without letting many others know, including my family. It was like running away to Gretna Green to get married in secret.

Of course, the narrative I’ve given could be something I’ve constructed in hindsight. The journey was never straightforward; there were false starts and I often got lost. I remain uncertain of exactly why I converted at all. But I know I was absolutely right to.

Read it all at CatholicHerald.co.uk » Why I became a Catholic.

Is my story different? Sure! My dad was pretty darn conservative, but a New-Dealer and proud of it. and so I became a Goldwater conservative, not so much a rebellion (at least in my mind) as a way to rationalize my belief structure, and in truth the part of the New Deal he believed in most was a pretty conservative program by later standards.

And I wonder, and always will, if we had lived through those years, if we wouldn’t have been New Dealers as well, there was a lot wrong, I don’t think FDR had the right answers but he may well have asked some of the right questions.

 

Decadence: or Modern Life

Aston Martin 2-Litre 2/4-Seater Sports 1937

Aston Martin 2-Litre 2/4-Seater Sports 1937 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When I was young, all around me I could hear adults saying, “You can’t buy happiness.” often with a humorous dependent clause, to elicit a rueful chuckle. But in the main, we knew and believed it.

But it seems to me, many do believe it now. I knew when I was 5 and drooling over the Sears Christmas catalog, that nothing in there, on its own, was going to keep me happy long. The same is true now, as I drool over the Snap-on catalog or the Aston-Martin brochure. Some things would, did, and do fire my imagination, for me it was electric trains, and Tonka trucks, they let me imitate the world of men (sorry ladies, you didn’t have much role in my 5-year-old imagination). But, perhaps strangely, I never liked equipment with figures on it: the operators seat was where my imagination sat. That may be unique to me, but I doubt it.

But I grew up in a pretty traditional family, and in a rural area to boot. It was entirely conceivable to tell me, after breakfast, to go play, I’ll call you for lunch, and it was done, often. That left me open to learning things, by experiment, by reasoning through things, to use my imagination, unfettered. I have no clue how many times I single-handedly won World War II in Indiana, but it was certainly in triple digits. The same with roads and power lines built, and crops brought in.

So we are going to have a series, I don’t know how long, or whether it will be continuous, or not. We’ll see how it goes. We’re going to investigate how we came to believe that so very novel idea, that we can buy happiness. In many ways, the last two posts here have been a sort of prologue, documenting how our (mostly) young people have gotten themselves into trouble, today we’ll start looking at the causes. I don’t agree with all the specifics here, but he touches on many truths that we need to heed. So listen up, and we’ll start on our mission because we can’t fix it till we define the problem.

Kipling reminds us:

On the first Feminian Sandstones we were promised the Fuller Life
(Which started by loving our neighbour and ended by loving his wife)
Till our women had no more children and the men lost reason and faith,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: “The Wages of Sin is Death.”

In the Carboniferous Epoch we were promised abundance for all,
By robbing selected Peter to pay for collective Paul;
But, though we had plenty of money, there was nothing our money could buy,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: “If you don’t work you die.”

Then the Gods of the Market tumbled, and their smooth-tongued wizards withdrew
And the hearts of the meanest were humbled and began to believe it was true
That All is not Gold that Glitters, and Two and Two make Four
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings limped up to explain it once more.

As it will be in the future, it was at the birth of Man
There are only four things certain since Social Progress began.
That the Dog returns to his Vomit and the Sow returns to her Mire,
And the burnt Fool’s bandaged finger goes wabbling back to the Fire;

And that after this is accomplished, and the brave new world begins
When all men are paid for existing and no man must pay for his sins,
As surely as Water will wet us, as surely as Fire will burn,
The Gods of the Copybook Headings with terror and slaughter return!

David Cameron’s ‘British values’ agenda is anti-Christian

CMMxrnmWEAA8qGKIs it? Yes, and its also anti-Islamic, anti- Jewish, anti-Hindu, anti-Sikh, and anti-secular humanist. It’s also anti-British, anti-American, and anti-western civilization. Unless you worship David Cameron as the one true god, it’s against whatever you believe. Here’s Cameron’s money quote:

For too long, we have been a passively tolerant society, saying to our citizens ‘as long as you obey the law, we will leave you alone’.

In other words do as I say, not as the law of the land says. Even Obama isn’t crass enough to say this out loud.

Here’s Professor Charmley:

Legislation to counter ‘extremism’ will threaten free speech for all faiths and give the state the final say on what we can, and cannot, teach our children

With ISIS in the news, and with young people leaving this country to join them, ‘‘extremist disruption orders’’ (EDOs), designed to prevent the spread of extremism, appear both sensible and popular. This is, we are reassured, about defending “British values”. Again, this seems unproblematic, until you start thinking about it. During the Coalition, the Liberal Democrats asked some searching questions about what this actually meant, and the legislation was dropped; now it is back on the agenda – and in the absence of the Lib Dems, the rest of us need to step up to the plate. Why so?

We can get our first glimpse of why we should be concerned from the response of the Conservative MP, Mark Spencer, to a query from a constituent as to whether EDOs would erode free speech. After the usual airy generalised reassurances about free speech being protected, Mr Spencer volunteered the suggestion that they might, though, be used against someone teaching that gay marriage was wrong. So, espousing the traditional Christian, Muslim and Jewish teaching on marriage, one which until a couple of years ago was the law of the land, can now be considered espousing ‘‘extremism’’? What other aspects of the teaching of our faith might fall under suspicion? It is not, after all, as though our ruling elite has shown itself particularly literate when it comes to religion. As Prof Tariq Modood of Bristol recently commented: “The decline of public religion in Britain in the second half of the 20th century has meant that British society, including higher education and its leaders, has little understanding of religion.”

Our leaders lack the ability to understand what faith means to people. They seem to think we should regard it in the same way they treat their party’s principles – something infinitely malleable and, in an emergency, saleable for something more serviceable.

The Welsh Government, not usually a fan of the Conservatives, has jumped on the bandwagon of the “extremism” agenda to suggest that because religious education is badly taught in Welsh schools, it should be scrapped and replaced with something that fits with the “social cohesion” agenda. This sort of thinking is the fruit of the old narrative, taken as normative in the West, that religion is a fading force in the world which can be generally done away with in the public sphere, and which, if it must exist, should be strictly confined to the private sphere. That this is not true of much of the rest of the world, or of many in this multicultural country, appears to be beyond the grasp of a political elite which fails to see the dangers that will follow by treating public affirmations of faith as signs of “extremism”. Mr Spencer’s blithe assumption that his constituent would agree with his definition of extremism is precisely what should worry us, because he is far from alone in sharing it

With so many examples before us to choose from, it would be futile for anyone to argue that this is not the thin end of a wedge; it always is. Every time our liberties are curbed, we are assured that this is the end of it, but that will come only when the relevant authorities are satisfied we are all on message.

and

The Government’s instinctive mistrust of what it does not understand, combined with an equally instinctive desire to ban opinions it dislikes, is worrying. Claiming to be progressive, the Government is, in fact, in danger of regressing to the days of the Test Acts of the period from 1689 to 1828, when membership of the political nation required a Confessional Test – were you or were you not a communicating member of the Established Church? We already see, with Andy Burnham, that it is necessary to jettison authentic Catholic teaching on matters such as birth control, abortion and gay marriage to secure support in the Labour Party, while Education Secretary Nicky Morgan’s about-turn on the issue of same-sex marriage tells us the same is true of the Tories.

Politicians who are practising members of the Catholic Church are wise to either self-censor or change their views on fashionable issues if they wish to get on. The monstering of Tim Farron by a media shocked at the idea of a believing Christian leading a political party reveals how hostile our political life is to confessed Christians, while his own muted reaction on the issue of same-sex marriage shows how hard it is to speak against the fashionable consensus which so illiberally enforces its writ. Is it wise to give this political elite such wide-ranging powers to decide what we can and cannot express with regard to our faith?

It is, perhaps, hopeless to expect a Conservative Party bent on erasing all traces of it to remember its own history, but the last time it legislated directly on matters of belief was the Public Worship Regulation Act of 1874. Designed to stem the rising tide of ritualism within the Established Church, it forbade various practices such as candles on altars and the reservation of the Blessed Sacrament. The result was that some patently holy men ministering in the poorest parishes of London found themselves in jail for obeying their consciences rather than the government. The law quickly fell into disuse, but not before creating a generation of Anglo-Catholic martyrs. Perhaps Mr Cameron and Theresa May cannot conceive of men and women so principled that they would go to jail rather than defy their own consciences?

via CatholicHerald.co.uk » David Cameron’s ‘British values’ agenda is anti-Christian.

Professor John Charmley is head of the Interdisciplinary Institute at the University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK. His speciality as a historian is modern Britain, with a focus on the Conservative party.

I’m not convinced that people like Cameron and May even understand what a conscience is. And do understand, it is happening on this of the pond as well.

Planned Parenthood Video #4 and #5, and relevant stuff

plannedParenthoodLogo-2I’m not going to embed the videos today. I’ve seen them and they continue to be horrific, nauseating stomach-turning stuff, the links are in here, and you should watch them, as I have.

John Hinderaker picks this as the money quote, and I agree

Sometimes if we get, if someone delivers before we are able to see them for a procedure, then we are intact. But that’s not what we go for, we try for that not to happen.

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Planned Parenthood Video #4 Is a Shocker | Power Line.

One of the things that CMP is doing is interviewing PP people around the country, this emphasizes that this is national policy, not a few rogue people.

There was another injunction last week, as usual claiming that an undercover video was, I don’t know, undercover, maybe. Not that any of it is untrue, just that their now unmentioned publicity flacks at SKDKnickerbocker, didn’t have the chance to suppress the video. In addition the injunction, as per usual, these days appears to be political, since the issuing judge’s wife, well here’s Mollie Hemingway to tell you:

The federal judge who late Friday granted a temporary restraining orderagainst the release of recordings made at an annual meeting of abortion providers wasn’t just appointed by President Barack Obama, the most extreme proponent of abortion ever to hold the White House. He was also one of President Obama’s top fundraisers, a bundler who raised at least $200,000 for Obama and donated $30,800 to committees supporting him, according to Public Citizen.

Judge William H. Orrick, III, granted the injunction just hours after the order was requested by the National Abortion Federation.

Orrick’s wife, Caroline “Linie” Farrow Orrick, is a clown and artist with an interest in outdoor athletic endeavors. She’s also a public supporter of extreme abortion policies.

Her YouTube user page shows that the first video she ever “liked” was from an extreme pro-abortion group called the Center for Reproductive Justice. The slick, celebrity-laden video called for people to sign a “bill of rights” that asserts a right to abortion on demand through all nine months of pregnancy, a position shared by very few Americans. It further calls for taxpayer funding of contraception, abortifacients and abortion.

More at Wife Of Judge Who Blocked Pro-Life Videos Is A Pro-Abortion Activist

And here is Bre Payton also of The Federalist with the fifth video

The Center for Medical Progress released a fifth video today exposing Planned Parenthood’s organ trafficking scheme. In the video, lab technicians are seen sifting through second trimester baby organs, and pulling a 20-week-old twin baby out of the freezer, among other revelations.

Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast Research Director Melissa Farrell explains to investigators posing as organ buyers that she has 6 abortion clinics that perform abortions on babies after 16 weeks.

Stem cell harvesting companies like Stem Express aren’t the only ones collecting aborted babies for research. In the video, Melissa Farrell, director of research for Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast says that many abortionists frequently keep the bodies for their own research.

More and the video (subject to the usual caveats, because it is graphic) here

Several thing have bothered besides the graphical nature of much of the videos. One is the coldness, of the PP officials, that’s more me than anything, and slightly strange, because in my field we tend to be fairly much the same way, it has, I suspect more to do with being around it everyday than anything else, it just bothers me more when we’re talking about a baby, instead of a grown man.

But the thing that really bothers me is how little attention these are getting, other than sites like this, Powerline, The Federalist, some on Fox News. Killing that bloody lion was a bigger story, a lot bigger than this, and here we are witnessing murder on an industrial scale, with medical experimentation mixed in, just as Josef Mengele did it.

But the thing PP doesn’t do, although they claim to is provide much women’s health care. Charles Camosy, an associate professor of theological and social ethics at Fordham University wrote recently:

The first thing to get clear is that Planned Parenthood actually doesn’t provide all that much for poor, vulnerable women — particularly if they don’t live in cities. Indeed, you may remember that, in wake of the Susan J. Komen defunding ridiculousness from a few years ago, lots of charges were thrown around about women losing out on mammograms. But it turns out that Planned Parenthood doesn’t even provide them. As Democrats for Life has pointed out numerous times in recent days, the number of local community health centers outnumber Planned Parenthood clinics ten to one. Rather than the one-size-fits-all franchise approach of Planned Parenthood, these community health centers nicely embody the principle of subsidiarity in responding to the diverse local needs of women — whether in the Bronx, rural Kansas, or southern California.

And the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops says this:

It has long been troubling to many Americans that the nation’s largest abortion network, performing over a third of all abortions, receives over half a billion taxpayer dollars a year. This concern has rightly grown in recent years. The most recent revelations about Planned Parenthood’s willingness to traffic in fetal tissue from abortions, and to alter abortion methods not for any reason related to women’s health but to obtain more “intact” organs, is the latest demonstration of a callousness toward women and their unborn children that is shocking to many Americans. The Catholic Church comes to this issue from a perspective rooted in experience. Catholic charitable agencies and pregnancy help centers have helped countless pregnant women find life-affirming alternatives to abortion. Our hospitals and other health facilities are second to none in providing quality health care for women. We support the legislative proposal to reallocate federal funding, so that women can obtain their health care from providers that do not promote abortion. It is my sincere hope that you will be able to help advance this goal by supporting S. 1881.

Both via Mollie Hemingway.

There was a vote this week in the US Senate to defund Planned Parenthood. It failed. Democrats Manchin of West Virginia and Donnelly of Indiana voting to defund, while Republicans Kirk, of Illinois, and McConnel of Kentucky voted to keep funding the murder of babies, and medical experimentation o them as well, in violation of US law.

Life, or rather Death, marches on.

Justin Welby: ‘The abolition of the global – learning to live in the world in one city’

This is pretty good, albeit long. Note that Archbishop Welby starts at about the 18:00 mark.

Hope, and Prayer

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As I said in my last post, I do not feel competent to offer solace to the other victims in this scandal: the women who have been cheated, by themselves, and by pressure tactics from having their children. They too pay a heavy price. While I don’t have any personal experience of this, my dearest friend, Jessica does, and in this post from February 2014 she recounts her experience. Neo

Thomas Merton wrote that ‘Only the man who has had to face despair is really convinced that he needs mercy. Those who do not want mercy, never seek it.’ One of the things which puzzles me is how those who do not know of God know they need him and come to him. I have been privileged to share in a remarkable example of how this question is answered by God.

A few weeks ago a friend of mine had a knock on the door of the vicarage where he lives. It was a young woman. She was pregnant and did not want to be. She could not get an immediate appointment with a doctor or a medical social worker, or even the counsellor she was seeing at the abortion clinic; she’d heard that you didn’t need an appointment to see a vicar – so there she was. She’d never been to church and admitted she didn’t know what ‘it was all about’, but she needed an ear. My friend listened to her for about an hour. He did not try to influence her against her will, but to discern that will. She was clearly confused and in some desperation.  After the hour, she left, thanking him.

We heard nothing more until Friday evening, when she telephoned to say she was going to have an abortion the next day; she asked if he would come to see her on Sunday. He asked if he could bring a friend – me, as he felt a woman might help in the situation; she said that would be fine.

I posted about her on my own site and asked people to join me in prayer for her. Most of those commenting did so, although there was one poster who thought we ought to be telling her what a dreadful sinner she was, although, since she knew not the Lord, it is hard to know what she would have made of that. We went, wanting to be there to extend compassion to her, and to do whatever the Lord wanted.

When we went into her small flat, it was clear that she was depressed – it was like a huge cloud over her. She told us that she had been counselled about all the medical things, and the side-effects, but she had never felt so empty and so ‘wrong’. She cried, and it was hard to know what to do, so I held her hands. I asked if she’d mind if we said a prayer, and through her tears she said she didn’t really mind, though couldn’t see it would help. The three of us held hands and I asked God to have mercy on the three sinners in the room, and to grant His grace to the dead child. The room filled with light. We all felt the same thing. She gasped. We sat in silence, holding hands for as long as was needed.

As he light faded, I asked her how she felt. She said: “As though God has spoken to me saying that I should go and sin no more,” I asked if she knew where those words came from, and she laughed and said “I’ve just told you, God told me.” I said I knew, I had heard them too, but did she know they had been said before? She asked what I was talking about, so I told her about the woman taken in adultery. She got very serious: “But I thought you Christians would condemn such a slut – and one like me, but you haven’t, and God loves me.” We all cried.

God, alone, can comfort the child who will never be born, but whatever anyone says, I believe that child is with God. But the would-be mother, a soul so lost she did not even know she was lost, had come to know God’s mercy.

Out of the stuff of tragedy a new hope was born. We cannot know what He has in store for her, or for us – but we can trust and love and show the compassion He shows to us. Is there anything more to Christianity at bottom?

I’ll add a bit here, the woman that Jess talks about here is now engaged to that vicar (then, now a priest) and from what I hear they are very happy. After hearing God’s word, she instantly became a pillar of the church, and still is. So while he and Jess lost the child, mostly because of a lack of time, I think, she and Fr A. saved the mother. But this is an extraordinary story, in that she stumbled across a very good priest, and a very supportive woman to help her. That happens rarely. How many of the women who go through this trauma (for that is what it is) are damaged, some beyond earthly repair? Many, I warrant.

I know a bit about that black pit of despair that she was in. I’ve been there a couple of times, and without help, I doubt I would be here, because I was very close to suicide, and from what Jess has told me, not all of it published, I don’t think this woman would have lived a week, without their caring, prayer, and God’s intervention.

So recoil in horror at this unfolding story, that’s appropriate, but remember this, as well. In this case, God himself quoted Christ to the woman taken in adultery, “Go, and sin no more”. That’s not letting anybody off the hook, that is what Christ taught us to do. They will likely pay a higher price than we could imagine, or impose. So, let us go and do likewise.

As for the people running abortion mills, like Planned Parenthood, well I doubt God is amused.

My comment at the time this article appeared was this:

Thus only those sinners belong in the kingdom of Christ who recognize their sin, feel it, and then catch hold of the Word of Christ spoken here: “Neither do I condemn you.”—Martin Luther, Treasury of Daily Prayer, p. 1235.

Neo

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