Ireland and Life

Tomorrow the people of Ireland will go to the polls. They will decide whether to repeal the 8th Amendment to their Constitution. That amendment states the following, “acknowledges the right to life of the unborn and, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother, guarantees in its laws to respect, and, as far as practicable, by its laws to defend and vindicate that right.”

As you all know, I couldn’t agree more with it, and I will consider it a travesty if they repeal such a common sense provision. But they might, hedonism runs strong, these days. Something Timothy M. Jackson wrote in The Federalist yesterday resonates strongly with me.

Start with any blatantly obvious premise that is grounded in a basic moral principle for producing a good and just society, and you will find that, according to the pro-choice proponent, abortion is the sole exception to all those standards. They would agree that all innocent human beings should be afforded protections under the law, except for the unborn.

They would concede that we have a responsibility to make sure all children are cared for, except for the unborn. They would argue that children with more needs and more dependence for survival should garner more compassion and heighten our responsibility to care for them rather than diminish it, except for the unborn.

They would argue that intentionally killing an innocent human being is always unjust, except for, well you get the idea. Ireland has recognized that this one exception has not been in line with reason. It is ad hoc. In other words, this one exception as has been concocted to defend the turf of abortion only.

Well, they are not exceptions, we all began as the unborn. Abortion is the ultimate selfishness, killing the weakest amongst us because one can’t be bothered to take care of the helpless.

Well, it’s not for me to tell the Irish what to do, but if they wish to maintain a moral society, there is only one answer, it is summed up in the old adage:

The first duty of the strong is to protect the weak.

Who amongst us could possibly be weaker than those who haven’t been born? And who could be more evil than those who would kill them?

I hope the Irish do the right thing.

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Rest in Peace

BBC – Alfie Evans, the 23-month-old toddler at the centre of a High Court legal battle, has died, nearly a week after his life support was withdrawn.

The boy from Merseyside, who had a degenerative brain condition, died at 02:30 BST, his father Tom Evans said.

On Facebook he wrote: “My gladiator lay down his shield and gained his wings… absolutely heartbroken.”

Here’s the father’s message from instagram:

https://www.instagram.com/p/BiGlA1lDS4Y/embed/captioned/?cr=1&v=8&wp=658&rd=therightscoop.com#%7B%22ci%22%3A0%2C%22os%22%3A2464.6000000066124%7D

Here’s more:

Alfie Evans’ parents have paid heartbreaking tributes to their little boy after he passed away this morning – five days after his life support was switched off against their wishes following a legal battle.

The 23-month-old, who was being treated at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in Liverpool died at 2.30am, Kate James and Thomas Evans said on Facebook.

The youngster was at the centre of a legal battle over his treatment that touched hearts around the world.

Mum Kate James posted on Facebook: “Our baby boy grew his wings tonight at 2:30 am. We are heart broken. Thankyou everyone for all your support.”

Dad Tom wrote: “My gladiator lay down his shield and gained his wings at 02:30. Absolutely heartbroken. I LOVE YOU MY GUY.”

He posted crying emojis and a broken heart next to the message.

From: BREAKING: Little Alfie Evans is now in Heaven…

Pretty much pre-ordained, and yet the world will mourn this little warrior, and while we will seldom speak of him, he will inform our battle for life going forward, and some day, we will once again win that battle.

Meantime, I saw a Tweet this morning that summarized my thought on this.

God give him rest, and comfort his parents, as they too remain in our thoughts

Alfie’s Saga Continues

This is one of those stories that won’t let go of my imagination. We have spoken about it before, as far back as August 1st of last year, and again on last December 26th. On that occasion my friend Caroline Farrow was forced by a British court to edit her post saying this:

Edited Wednesday 20th December 2017: The first version of this blog was published on Monday 18th December 2017, the day before the Directions Hearing in the High Court. At this hearing, an anonymity order was put in place which prohibited publication in the UK media of the names of the medical professionals involved in the case. Out of courtesy for this order, passed on Tuesday 19th December, I have therefore removed the names of the individuals, even though this blog is published on an international platform, for an international readership.

I was able to verify the involvement of one of the named individuals in another well-known case via a number of independent sources, which I already knew at the time of the case.

While I respect Caroline’s decision and will comply, frankly it is bullshit. If you are not man enough to take responsibility for what you do, you have no business making decisions for yourself, let alone anyone else, especially a helpless baby. It makes a damning story even worse, I think.

That is still true, and here it is, 4 and a half months later, and there is no movement. A few days ago Caroline Tweeted this:

And yes, she is taking some heat from some very callous people, not to mention those who actually believe in the Stalinist NHS, which again, in this case, seeks to kill a baby, even though they don’t even have a clue what is wrong with him.

Steven Woolfe wrote in The Catholic Herald about this some days ago, as well, saying:

Alfie’s dad, Tom, and I recently met with hospital officials. At the meeting, we offered video evidence of Alfie’s improved condition, pledges from other specialist European hospitals to treat Alfie and details of a second air ambulance that adhered to the hospital’s requirements.

We left the meeting with the view that Alder Hey had agreed to a further internal meeting where they would consider the points we raised and our new evidence to support Alfie receiving a second opinion in Italy. Tom was overcome at what we all believed was a small chance of hope for Alfie.

However, within a few short hours, and without analysing Alfie’s parents’ video evidence, Alder Hey had again applied to the High Court to set a date to turn-off Alfie’s life support.

But, irrespective of that ruling, the ultimate decision to switch-off life support remains in Alder Hey’s hands. The opportunity for Alfie to receive a second medical opinion and to undergo pioneering treatment in Italy is still available.

The behaviour of Alder Hey and its Trust is incomprehensible. Senior management continue to bury their head in the sand, ignoring compelling evidence that Alfie has a fighting chance. Alfie’s parents find themselves fighting a bureaucratic behemoth with its enormous resources and vast legal budget.

Instead, Alder Hey seem more concerned about saving face than saving a young child’s life. As we have seen from Charlie Gard and Ashya King, Alfie’s situation is not without precedent.

Totally despicable, there is simply no excuse for torturing this baby for all these months, simply because the so-called medical professionals don’t want to look as evil as they are.

Last Sunday, Pope Francis…

Pope Francis used his Sunday Regina Coeli address to pray for Alfie Evans, saying his situation is “very painful and complex”.

The Pope called for Alfie’s human dignity to be respected, and said those who are terminally ill should be cared for “with the unanimous” support of family members and medical professionals.

The pontiff also prayed for Vincent Lambert, a 42-year-old Frenchman who has been quadriplegic for 10 years. His hospital recently ordered the removal of his food and water, against the wishes of his parents and the advice of other doctors.

“I entrust to your prayers persons like Vincent Lambert in France, and little Alfie Evans in England, and [persons] in various countries who live, sometimes for a long time, in a state of serious infirmity, and are medically assisted for their basic needs,” the Pope prayed.

“They are delicate, very painful and complex situations. Let us pray that every sick person is always respected in his dignity and cared for in a way that is suitable to his condition, with the unanimous support of family members, doctors and other medical professionals, with great respect for life.”

This happened after Tom, Alfie’s father met with the Pope, and Tom was reassured that Alfie could be treated at a hospital affiliated with the Vatican at no cost to the NHS, as well as reassuring him that he would receive diplomatic level support from the Vatican.

Sadly, The Catholic Herald reported today that:

The Catholic bishops of England and Wales have defended Alder Hey hospital’s handling of dispute over seriously ill child Alfie Evans.

Hours after Alfie’s father, Tom Evans, met Pope Francis, the Bishops Conference of England and Wales said the “professionalism and care for severely ill children shown at Alder Hey Hospital is to be recognised and affirmed”.

During the meeting, Tom Evans begged Pope Francis to grant his son “asylum”, saying that British hospitals “do not want to give disabled children the chance of life and instead assisting in the death of children.”

“If your holiness helps our child you will be potentially saving the future for our children in the UK, especially the disabled,” he added.

Following the meeting, Pope Francis mentioned Alfie Evans at his general audience on Wednesday, saying: “I would like to reiterate and strongly confirm that the only master over life, from beginning to natural end, is God! And our duty, our duty is to do everything to preserve life.”

Such is Catholicism in Britain these days, at least as bad as the Church of England, although there are honorable exceptions in both churches, there are very few bishops included. A most unChristian stand, from the ‘leaders’ of a church that grew originally because of its respect for life from conception to the grave. We have a right to expect better.

Perhaps we shouldn’t expect better things from the atheist, bureaucratic NHS, who apparently has found it congenial to bury both its mistakes and its ignorance. But we have a right to expect basic Christianity from the Church. Well, we aren’t seeing that in Britain these days.

Remember, Remember, the Fifth of November; and Pictures, Too!

Tonight they’ll try to set a bonfire to burn England down. Why? Because back in 1605 Guy Fawkes was caught before he had time to light the fuse on 30 some odd barrels of gunpowder under parliament, in an attempt to destroy Parliament and the King (James I), thereby setting the stage for the restoration of the Catholic Church.

It has long since become nonsectarian although very often an effigy of Guy Fawkes is on the pyre. But mostly it’s a good excuse for a bonfire and fireworks, indeed rather like the 4th of July, where we really don’t rail much about old King George anymore.

It was celebrated here until the Revolution as well, especially in New England, where the effigy of Guy Fawkes was sometimes joined by one of the Pope. It was banned by General Washington while the Continental Army occupied Boston in the Revolution so as not to over inflame the residents, and pretty much never resumed.


Speaking of domestic terrorists

And, of course…

Most, as usual from PowerLine and Bookworm.

 

Bare Ruined Choirs

In Sonnet LXXIII Shakespeare wrote

That time of year thou mayst in me behold
When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,
Bare ruined choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.
In me thou see’st the twilight of such day
As after sunset fadeth in the west;
Which by and by black night doth take away,
Death’s second self, that seals up all in rest.
In me thou see’st the glowing of such fire,
That on the ashes of his youth doth lie,
As the death-bed, whereon it must expire,
Consumed with that which it was nourish’d by.
This thou perceiv’st, which makes thy love more strong,
To love that well, which thou must leave ere long

Not one of his happiest, but it accords well with my feelings, this fall. It hasn’t been a year I would wish on anybody, but this is the season when I understand why All Hollow’s is sometimes called Totenfest by those of German heritage. Tomorrow is the Feast day of Our Lady of Walsingham, and for me, that has significance as well. Six years ago, I had never heard of Walsingham, let alone this representation of Mary, but One summer day in 2012, Jessica became my dearest friend at almost the moment she lit a candle for me at the shrine. The main part of the story begins here. I have ever since found Mary a worthwhile conduit for my prayers. But for me, it’s specifically the Walsingham representation. Earlier this year,  Fr Matthew Pittam wrote in the Catholic Herald about his feeling for the Shrine.

 

Whilst visiting this year I met some other pilgrims who were unfavourably comparing Walsingham to other well-known European Shrines that they had visited. It is true Walsingham is no Lourdes or Fatima but for me that is part of the appeal of the place. It seems right that the English National Shrine is understated, reflecting the character of the English themselves.

The story of Our Lady’s Shrine and the meaning of its message demand a much tenderer charism than Walsingham’s more flamboyant European cousins. Above all Walsingham is a memorial to the Annunciation. The whole place speaks softly of Our Lady’s ‘Yes’ to God. Mary’s encounter with the Angel Gabriel was abundantly full of humility, generosity and peace. The quieter pace and rhythm of our National Shrine really can take us to the heart of this life changing and life-giving moment.

The location of Walsingham is also understated. It is not set amidst mountain grandeur but nestles within the pleasant rolling meadows of the Stiffkey Valley, echoing the gentleness of the shrine’s own spirituality and Our Lady. The whole place seems to be set apart for peaceful encounter.

He nails it for me. Without the slightest intention to be offensive, much of Roman Catholicism is too ornate, too baroque, and the decoration, like some of the verbiage, is over extravagant for me. That’s not a knock on it, it simply doesn’t fit with this working guy of Lutheran Scandinavian heritage. I’m no iconoclast, but enough is enough. Both the Roman Catholic and the Anglo-Catholic shrines at Walsingham have a northern European feel about them, which I find comforting. I’m still of my roots, I have found it comforting to talk with Our Lady, as Jessica once said, it feels rather like talking to Mom, which in a sense it is.

And then there is the relief, that I have felt on several occasions, after talking with Her, usually not the formal Rosary, although I do that sometimes as well, mostly sitting here, meditating silently directed towards Her. The old man’s knees aren’t really up to kneeling much anymore, anyway. 🙂

Strangely, it is only 3 years, nearly to the day, since the Abbess from Walsingham came to Jessica’s hospital bed to pray over her and sprinkle her with Walsingham water, giving her some ease, and then again a mere two weeks later, just after she received the last rites, she again prayed over her and sprinkled her. Two days later she was out of her coma, without pain and cancer free. A remarkable testimony to the power of prayer.

A year after that Mary Katherine Ham lost her husband,  Jake in a bicycle accident while pregnant with their second child. It was one of those things that shocked many of us, this young vibrant couple, and him suddenly gone. She wrote about it this week at The Federalist.

I love the idea of the divine spark. It crosses a lot of cultures and religions, the idea that you carry a bit of the Creator inside you, that it animates your life.

Jake’s life always brings to mind a spark and then some. Jake’s soul, to me, was a bonfire. He was here and he was in your face and he was warm and bright. He roared with enthusiasm at the beginning, even the hope of something new, sometimes a little too much. His glow was infectious, throwing sparks into the night air, silhouetted against a dark sky before they landed on everyone in his vicinity. He mellowed to embers as the night wore on, usually over a glass of bourbon or a beer.

I lived seven years of my life looking into a bonfire. I warmed my hands and found comfort in its flame. There were times when I damn near burnt myself or got a giant waft of smoke at exactly the wrong time.  Because that’s life. And that’s fire. It’s not all s’mores and sweetness.

Everyone who’s loved someone knows that light and warmth. Everyone who’s lost someone knows the feeling when it goes dark and cold one day.

When that happens at any time, it’s jarring. When it happens without warning, even more.

The light went out. This fire I’d stood next to for seven years just went out, like a flood light on a switch. Boom. Imagine staring into a fire, and then suddenly turning 180 degrees to survey the woods behind you. I couldn’t see. I was standing in what otherwise was my life, and I knew all the other parts of it were there, but I couldn’t understand its contours anymore. I was standing in my own life, blinded, blinking away those disorienting shimmery green spots.

Brilliant, simply brilliant. But you know when we lose someone we love, not even always to death, it’s like that as well. It was for me when my marriage broke up, and even though my sisters, parents and brothers-in-law lived full lives, in truth as much as could be expected, they have left a hole, that cannot be filled.

And so it was for me, a year ago today, when I received the last email from  Jessica, who as far as I know is healthy, happy, and busy. Too busy or some other unexplained reason, to maintain the friendship that turned to love on my part, more than I ever felt for another human being. And get your mind out of the gutter, yes she is beautiful, but I loved her before I knew that, far more a case of Agape than Eros. She was my friend, the best one I’ll ever have. And even Our Lady of Walsingham has found no way to comfort me. I’m reconciled that I must go on more alone than I have ever been, but have little appetite for it. Which is why that sonnet speaks loudly to me.

Walsingham, and Our Lady are her legacy to me, and I thank God for them everyday. But it does make me think of another poem.

Weepe, weepe O Walsingham,
Whose dayes are nightes,
Blessings turned to blasphemies,
Holy deeds to dispites.

Sinne is where our Ladie sate,
Heaven turned is to hell,
Sathan sittes where our Lord did swaye,
Walsingham oh farewell.

But it is true that while Eliot was writing of Little Gidding, I’ve always thought that this applied as well to Walsingham

           If you came this way,
Taking any route, starting from anywhere,
At any time or at any season,
It would always be the same: you would have to put off
Sense and notion. You are not here to verify,
Instruct yourself, or inform curiosity
Or carry report. You are here to kneel
Where prayer has been valid. And prayer is more
Than an order of words, the conscious occupation
Of the praying mind, or the sound of the voice praying.
And what the dead had no speech for, when living,
They can tell you, being dead: the communication
Of the dead is tongued with fire beyond the language of the living.
Here, the intersection of the timeless moment
Is England and nowhere. Never and always.

We merely have to trust God that Dame Julian of Norwich was correct.

‘It was necessary that there should be sin; but all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.’

Jacob Rees-Mogg and Absolute Morality

There has been a bit of commotion over in Britain the last couple of weeks, caused by a Member of Parliament that I’ll bet most Americans have never heard of, and that’s a shame. His name is Jacob Rees-Mogg. His father was William Rees-Mogg who was a former editor of the £ Times newspaper and created a life peer in 1988. Jacob was educated at Eton and in History at Trinity College, Oxford. (Can you say “posh”? I knew that you could.) He created his own financial services company and is the Member for North East Somerset (since 2010). Quentin Letts dubbed him the “Honourable Member for the early twentieth century”. It’s rather humorous, and yet, his accent and manner of dress, and yes his manner of acting play into it. As does that he is proud of being both Catholic and English, something we see far too seldom these days. And that’s why the commotion. The other day he was on Good Morning Britain and some of what he said shocked the hosts rather profoundly.

It’s rather fun to watch Piers Morgan taken apart, apart from the fact that Rees-Mogg is entirely correct for the Catholic Church as well as any orthodox Christian. It is simply what we have always believed everywhere, at all times. Here is exactly how far our churches have descended since the beginning of the twentieth century. And that leads us to something else. Steven Bullivant writing in the Catholic Herald, tells us something about how secular Britain, even its Catholics, are becoming.

How many Catholics actually share Jacob Rees-Mogg’s beliefs?

He is already in a minority simply by attending Mass regularly

Today’s Times carries an interesting – though for many Herald readers deeply dispiriting – article: “Most UK Catholics back right to abortion”. (It’s behind a paywall, but a quick and free registration can get you access.)

I won’t repeat the full thing here – and besides, you can read the full report from the 2016 Brithish Social Attitudes survey, on which the article is based here. But the essential statistics are these: In 2012, 39 per cent of British Catholics thought that abortions should be legal on the simple grounds that “the woman does not wish to have a child”. Now, fully 61 per cent of British Catholics think so.

This is, it must be said, a huge leap in just four years. By comparison, in the 27 years prior to 2012, the proportion of similarly pro-choice Catholics increased by only six percentage points (from 33 per cent in 1985). Personally, I’d suggest regarding the specific figures in play here – i.e., 61 per cent of British Catholics; a rise of 22 percentage points – as being illustrative, rather than pin-pointedly precise. (This is due to all the usual caveats regarding sample size, margins of error, etc.) Nevertheless, the general tenor of the statistics, and indeed of the direction of travel, are likely to be trusted.

These figures come at a time when Catholic attitudes to critical moral and social issues are already very much in the news. This is thanks to Jacob Rees-Mogg’s straight-talking statement of the Church’s, and therefore his own, opposition to both abortion and same-sex marriage. It is not surprising, then, that these new BSA data are being used to cast Rees-Mogg’s views as being out of touch even among Catholics themselves.

I addressed the general question of “How odd is Rees-Mogg?” in terms of British social attitudes as a whole on the Spectator’s website over the weekend. How representative, though, is he among his fellow Catholics?

First of all, he is already in a minority of Catholics simply by virtue of being a regular Mass attender: fewer than one in three of cradle Catholics (a good chunk of whom now identify as ‘no religion’, of course), and only about two in five of all those who currently identify as Catholics, say that they attend Mass even as often as once a month (see here).

Accordingly, it would be interesting to see what difference there is between practising Catholics and non- or irregularly-practising Catholics on attitudes towards abortion and other subjects. I suspect that among them Mr Rees-Mogg’s views would find much greater (though not at all unanimous) agreement.

Even so, these new statistics are a sobering indicator (as we didn’t have enough of them already) of just how far British Catholics have secularized. So too, for that matter, is the furore surrounding Jacob Rees-Mogg.

Part of what I find disheartening in this is that even as we, in the US, appear to be winning the battle on abortion, and we have public opinion on our side on same sex marriage as well. It was simply established by a federal court acting extra-constitutionally, if not quite unconstitutionally. But the United Kingdom appears to be still sliding down that slippery slope. But we know that we have seen some very dark places in this battle here as well. And one of the things that is winning for us, is the steadfastness of many Catholics in this battle, who have shown some of us Protestants what we must do to achieve the proper result.

And so, real conservatives in Britain have found someone who speaks eloquently for them, and for us as well. There is a boomlet for him to become the leader of the Conservative Party. It is, at best, very premature and unlikely, but stranger things have happened.

Because a lot of what is happening in Britain these days are very much like those things that have caused us to say here, “That is why you got Trump”. And nothing in my lifetime was more unlikely than that.

He also reminds me of this, from Kipling

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too:
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise;

If you can dream- -and not make dreams your master;
If you can think- -and not make thoughts your aim,
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same:.
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build’em up with worn-out tools;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings,
And never breathe a word about your loss:
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on! ‘

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings- -nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much:
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And- -which is more- -you’ll be a Man, my son!

Rees-Mogg certainly is, and a most admirable one, as well
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