Monday, 19 February 2018

'Pro-life v Pro-choice' / 'David v Goliath' - we know the winner!

Acknowledgement  BBC Nottingham for the following report,  14 February 2018.   

 ‘The activists intend to take part in a “prayer vigil” outside the hospital for 40 days’
(BBC Nottingham.)

 Anti-abortion group 40 Days for Life targets Queen's Medical Centre (BBC Nottingham)

In the last day or two the BBC has highlighted details of the witness of members of the ’40 Days for Life’, a pro-life, anti-abortion Christian organisation, who are keeping a prayer  vigil outside the Queens Medical Centre, Nottingham, during the 40 days of Lent.
John Edwards, from Nottingham 40 Days for Life, said the group was "always peaceful".
"40 Days for Life is a vigil of prayer, not a protest. We pray - for the unborn, and for their mothers, who are also harmed by abortion," he said.
"If anyone approaches us, we will talk to them, and can direct women to sources of support to help them keep their baby if that is what they wish. Many women around the country have been helped by such vigils."
The movement claims to help women by showing them an alternative to abortion, and claims many women have been grateful for their presence outside clinics.
The action has been timed to coincide with Lent and it is the third year in a row that it has taken place in Nottingham.
They intend to be there every day, with different activists signing up for "vigil hours".
The BBC asked to speak to some of these women, but 40 Days for Life has not provided any contact details.  

‘The activists took part in a “vigil of prayer” at the same hospital in 2016 and in 2017 (above).’  (BBC Nottingham)

In November, Home Secretary Amber Rudd ordered an assessment of protests outside abortion clinics following concerns about the tactics of some "aggressive" protesters.
However, researchers into this type of activism have said it is a form of street harassment that is "incredibly intimidating and distressing".
The hospital said the activists had previously caused "distress".

Councillor Nick McDonald, portfolio holder for adults and health, said:-
 "We will repeat, we fully support the trust's stance on this issue, and for our part we will not put up with Nottingham residents, whether staff or patients, being intimidated or harassed as has happened in previous years."
Before the demonstration began, Tracy Taylor, chief executive of Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust, said: "Previous protests by this group have caused very considerable distress to patients, visitors and staff, which we are not prepared to allow to happen again.”

‘Dr Pam Lowe said women having abortions can find even “peaceful” demonstrations intimidating and distressing’ (BBC Nottingham)

‘Councillor Nick McDonald described the actions of the group as a “protest” and said it is not wanted in Nottingham’  (BBC Nottingham)

‘Rachel Strong from Pro-Choice Nottingham, took part in counter demonstrations in 2017’  (BBC Nottingham)

Rachel Strong, an activist with Pro-Choice Nottingham, took part in counter demonstrations in 2017 and campaigned to stop 40 Days for Life from going on the hospital site again.
"A small group of us were quite horrified by what they were doing because we are aware that it's really intimidating for anybody accessing reproductive healthcare to have to walk past these kinds of vigils, these kinds of demonstrations," she said.
The trust has said it does not support "any protest, on any matter that impacts adversely on our patients, visitors and staff".
A few observations - the photographs.

A picture is worth a thousand words.  The photographs of the ’40 Days for Life’ supporters, the largest of the groups being four persons, show prayerful and devout people, mostly middle-aged men and younger women, some praying the rosary, with small  banners,  ‘Pray to end abortion’ or ’40 days for Life’, thereon, all standing quietly and peacefully. Each photograph represents a different year, so that in any one year there were never more than a handful of people witnessing and praying for this end. Hardly an ‘incredibly intimidating and distressing’ scene. These people constituted  a tiny group  praying for justice, for the rights of unborn children, as acclaimed under International Law, to be born alive. They are courageous and steadfast in their Christian beliefs, prepared to stand-up peacefully and without aggression to the evil of abortion, and to  offer practical help to those women who want to keep their unborn child. To these they are truly messengers of life and of hope.

We only show one photograph of ‘Pro-Choice’ supporters,  numbering  about twelve and  comprising mostly youngish women, some wearing  jeans with an emblazoned ‘pro-choice’ top. They display a large 'Pro-Choice' banner which leaves no doubt of their identity and purpose, the scene all too familiar as representing the ‘pro-Choice’ brigade, so many of whom seem determined to facilitate and even encourage abortion. It is not fair to label all within the 'pro-Choice' camp, as anti-life, however the actions of so many under the 'pro-Choice' banner suggest a corporate mentality offering little or no genuine sympathy for the unborn child and the mother, no time for those who dare oppose their agenda, and no love nor fear of Christ, the author of all life, and by Whom one day soon we will all be judged.

 Further observations - on the BBC report.

In fairness to the reporter, I think that she has done her best to be objective and unbiased, whether the same can be said for those she interviewed is a matter of opinion.
The choice and implication of certain words and phrases are worth considering.
1. The heading  “Anti-abortion group ‘40 days for Life’ targets Queens Medical Centre” – suggests  a reasonable sized gathering of active protesters. In fact, according to the published photographs, the group consisted of three or four people, all of whom were peaceful and prayerful, standing together with two or three small placards visible.
2. “The BBC has asked to speak to some of these women (who have been grateful for the help provided by the pro-life group) but’ 40 days for life’ has not provided any contact details”. Clearly such information would be absolutely confidential, and the motive for including this in the report seems unnecessary and questionable.
3. The constant use of the words ‘activist’, ‘harassment’, ‘distress’, used in a context which suggests social disruption on a quite serious scale, paints a significantly distorted  picture.
4. If such disorder had occurred previously, why did the ‘authorities’ fail to act by calling the police or some similar action. The law covers such incidents, but was not used; perhaps such incidents were more imaginary than real, or of less consequence than implied.
5. The phrase 'before the demonstration began' - immediately preceding photograph 3. But what demonstration? This is a prayer vigil, not a demonstration. Another example of distorted imagery.

Reading the BBC’s report, it would seem that this whole matter has been blown out of all proportion by persons wishing to curtail  positive and practical help to pregnant women and their unborn children. The complainants  consist of NHS and hospital administrators, and local politicians perhaps keen to hit the headlines? But where and who are the women who have allegedly suffered such harassment and distress? Of course it may be that they are embarrassed about coming forward, which is perhaps understandable, nevertheless they are rather conspicuous by their silence, bearing in mind the alleged harassment and distress they suffered! Furthermore, is it possible that the alleged distress in previous years was the result of aggressive behaviour by the pro-Choice demonstrators, rather than the small pro-Life group?
Pregnant women are often under immense pressure from families and peers, to abort their child, and it is to pro-life organisations that they turn for help. These peaceful and dignified pro-life aid groups must be allowed to continue their prayerful presence where needed, always subject to common and statutory law. In our country, particularly concerning matters of life and death, and abortion is certainly this, free speech and the right to peaceful protest has always been protected, and must be allowed to continue. 

The prejudiced attitude of certain NHS administrators, local government officials, and the media, towards peaceful pro-life activities designed to support a mother and her unborn child, assume a scenario of Goliath v David proportions. We know of course, that in the end, with God's help, David triumphed.

Sunday, 7 January 2018

'The Aristocrat' and other poems - by G.K.Chesterton.

Wishing one and all a very happy and blessed New Year.

I was recently talking to Brother Dominic Mary F.SS.R, from our good neighbours at Golgotha Monastery, Papa Stronsay, on the subject of G.K.Chesterton,  when out of the blue and quite spontaneously, he recounted to me the warning tale of the Aristocrat, who was not all that he might seem:-

The Aristocrat

The Devil is a gentleman, and asks you down to stay
At his little place at ‘What’sitsname’ (it isn’t far away).
They say the sport is splendid; there is always something new,
And fairy scenes, and fearful feats that none but he can do;
He can shoot the feathered cherubs if they fly on the estate,
Or fish for Father Neptune with the mermaids for a bait;
He scaled amid the staggering stars, that precipice the sky,
And blew his trumpet above heaven, and got by mastery
The starry crown of God Himself, and shoved it on the shelf;
But the Devil is a gentleman, and doesn’t brag himself.

O blind your eyes and break your heart and back your hand away,
And lose your love and shave your head; but do not go to stay
At the little place in ‘What’sitsname’ where folks are rich and clever;
The golden and the goodly house, where things grow worse for ever;
There are things you need not know of, though you live and die in vain,
There are souls more sick of pleasure than you are sick of pain;
There is a game of April Fool that’s played behind its door,
Where the fool remains for ever and the April comes no more,

Where the splendour of the daylight grows drearier than the dark,
And life droops like a vulture that once was such a lark:
And that is the Blue Devil that once was the Blue Bird;
For the Devil is a gentleman, and doesn’t keep his word.

                                                               G K Chesterton

NB. I was so impressed by Brother Dominic’s virtuosity, that I decided to post this work as a reminder to myself, and indeed everyone, that aristocrats, no more nor less than others, are not always what they seem!  Thank you Brother, for the warning!

This poem  has left me wanting more, so I dedicate this first post of the New Year to a little more of GKC’s poetry, of similar ilk.

The Song of the Children

The world is ours till sunset,
Holly and fire and snow;
And the name of our dead brother
Who loved us long ago.

The grown folk, mighty and cunning,
They write his name in gold;
But we can tell a little
Of the million tales he told.

He taught them laws and watchwords,
To preach and struggle and pray;
But he taught us deep in the hayfield
The games that the angels play.

Had he stayed here for ever,
Their world would be wise as ours –
And the king be cutting capers,
And the priest be picking flowers.

But the dark day came: they gathered:
On their faces we could see
They had taken and slain our brother,
And hanged him on a tree.

                 G K Chesterton

The Holy of Holies

‘Elder father, though thine eyes
Shine with hoary mysteries,
Canst thou tell me what in the heart
Of a cowslip blossom lies?

‘Smaller than all lives that be,
Secret as the deepest sea,
Stands a little house of seeds,
Like an elfin’s granary.

‘Speller of the stones and weeds,
Skilled in Nature’s crafts and creeds,
Tell me what is in the heart
Of the smallest of the seeds.’

‘God Almighty, and with Him
Cherubim and Seraphim,
Filling all eternity-
Adonai Elohim.’

           G K Chesterton

Commercial Candour
(on the outside of a sensational novel is printed the statement:
  “ the back of the cover will tell you the plot”)

Our fathers to creed and tradition were tied,
They opened a book to see what was inside,
And of various methods they deemed not the worst
Was to find the first chapter and look at it first.
And so from the first to the second they passed,
Till in servile routine they arrived at the last.
But a literate age, unbenighted by creed,
Can find on two boards all it wishes to read;
For the front of the cover shows somebody shot
And the back of the cover will tell you the plot.

Between, that the book may be handily padded,
Some pages of mere printed matter are added,
Expanding the theme, which in case of great need
The curious reader might very well read
With the zest that is lent to a game worth the winning,
By knowing the end when you start the beginning:
While our barbarous sires, who would read every word
With a morbid desire to find out what occurred
Went drearily drudging through Dickens and Scott.
But the back of the cover will tell you the plot.

The wild village folk in earth’s earliest prime
Could often sit still for an hour at a time
And hear a blind beggar, nor did the tale pall
Because Hector must fight before Hector could fall;
Nor was Scheherazade required, at the worst,
To tell her tales backwards and finish them first;
And the minstrels who sang about battle and banners
Found the rude camp-fire crowd had some notion of manners.
Till Forster (who pelted the people like crooks,
The Irish with buckshot, the English with books),
Established the great educational scheme
Of compulsory schooling, that glorious theme.
Some learnt how to read, and the others forgot,
And the back of the cover will tell you the plot.

O Genius of Business!  O marvellous brain,
Come in place of the priests and the warriors to reign!
O Will to Get On that makes everything go –
O Hustle!  O Pep!  O Publicity!  O!
Shall I spend three and sixpence to purchase the book,
Which we all can pick up on the bookstall and look?
Well, it may appear strange, but I think I shall not,
For the back of the cover will tell you the plot.


Sunday, 3 December 2017

"The indescribable comfort and reassurance of the Universal Latin Mass" - Francis McCullagh (1920)

"The indescribable comfort and reassurance of the Universal Latin Mass" 

Almost 100 years ago the above words were used by Capt. Francis McCullagh in his book 'A Prisoner of the Reds' to describe his feelings when attending Mass in one of the Catholic Churches in Russia. The deep sentiments expressed by the author are shared today by increasing numbers of Catholics, who are praying and working for the re-establishment of the traditional Latin Mass world-wide. Additionally, the strong faith and loyalty to the Church shown by the Polish hierarchy today, is a reflection of the situation 100 years ago when the Bolshevik revolution was in its ascendance, and the Polish hierarchy suffered persecution and death for the Faith. Today the enemies of the Church, from within and without, are determined to destroy her in an exercise which is doomed to failure, for they seem to forget that it is not for nothing, that the Church is deemed to be  'the Bride of Christ'.
Capt. Francis McCullagh

"The Polish churches, not only in Moscow but all over Siberia, were crowded with men as well as women; and I always felt better, physically and spiritually, after visiting them. They were calm asylums for the sane in a country which had gone mad.  They were altars where one could seek sanctuary from the poisoned shafts of ideas more deadly than the spears of the feudal age, from Kropotkin’s fascinating theories of licence, as well as from Lenin’s stern dogmas of oligarchic tyranny.  Even their severe Latin architecture and the plain, veritable cross of Rome on the steeple were a relief after the twisted oriental style, barbaric colours, and distorted crosses of the Byzantine churches; while, on the other hand, the warm glow of life which animated them was an equally welcome contrast to the chill of death which pervaded the ‘Reformed’ chapels. They were mute but eloquent symbols of a greater and an older International than Lenin’s, of an Institution which had witnessed the fall of the Roman Empire, which had survived the dreadful menace of Islam, which had seen many movements madder even than Bolshevism, rise and rage for a season, and then disappear so completely that the man in the street today does not know their very names.
            I had visited many of those churches during the course of my journey, and had found them open when the others were shut, had found the Catholic priest at his post when all the other ministers of religion were fleeing or had fled. The Red torrent had thundered down on them, the leaping spray had hidden them from sight, and the raging waters had cut them off, but when I came back they still stood like the rock on which they are built.  I thought with awe of that tremendous prophecy which I had seen on the dome of St Peter’s:  “The gates of Hell shall not prevail against it.”
Image result for Captain Francis McCullagh
 Gens. Sakharov and Kolchak; Francis McCullagh(ext.rt)

There was an indescribable comfort and reassurance in seeing exactly the same service as is to be seen in Ireland, Tyrol, Westminster, the Vatican, France, Valparaiso, the Islands of the Outer Hebrides, and every part of the orbis terrarum. Semper eadem.  One heard in all these different places exactly the same Latin words leading up to that stupendous sentence pronounced at the Last Supper,  and followed by those simple, soldierly words of the Roman Captain which are engraven to the end of time on the memory of man.  Yet in each place the Church was no exotic, hothouse plant, but a national growth with its roots in the hearts of the people.  Even in Russia the congregations were made up not only of Poles but of Lithuanians, Ukrainians, White Russians, French, Germans, and Austrians.  Meeting once in Siberia a gentle young priest who had remained behind to share the fortunes of his flock, and knowing that Poles do not like to speak Russian when they can help it (though he turned out to be Lithuanian), I addressed him in the best Latin I could muster, and I shall never forget how his eyes lit up when he heard the sound of that stately tongue. Did it remind him of how Nero failed yesterday as Lenin will fail tomorrow?  Nor can I ever forget the Masses I have heard on dark, frosty mornings in isolated Catholic churches far in the heart of Red Russia, and how astonishingly the calm and dignity of the noble service contrasted with the mad roar of revolution outside.  The church was dark, save where the altar candles made the silvery hair of the priest shine like a nimbus and lit up the altar, evoking a picture of the same Sacrifice being offered in a dimly lit Roman catacomb in commemoration of Sebastian the Soldier or of Agnes the Virgin Martyr, while a tyranny as bad as Lenin’s howled itself hoarse outside.  

                                                                                       Light of Faith

To me the Catholic priests whom I met represented European culture, Christian civilization; and great indeed was the contrast between their scholarly discourse and the mad babble of the Bolsheviks into which I had again to plunge".          


The above short extract is taken from ‘A Prisoner of the Reds’ by Capt. Francis McCullagh, being an account of his experiences as a prisoner of the Bolsheviks from January to April of the year 1920. The writer was of Irish birth and was a journalist by profession. As a war correspondent he had covered the Russo-Japanese war for the New York Herald, the Turkish civil war of 1909, the Portuguese revolution of 1910, various Balkan wars, hostilities in Morocco, and the Italian invasion of Tripoli.
On the outbreak of World War 1 he was sent as a journalist to the Eastern front, where he reported from the Russian side. He then enlisted in the Royal Irish Fusiliers at the end of 1914, was posted to Gallipoli and spent most of the war in military intelligence. He was posted to the British Military Mission to Siberia, which was assisting the White Russians in their struggle against the Bolsheviks. Captured by the Russians in early 1919, he persuaded his captors that he was a journalist rather than a British army officer, and was allowed to spend many months wandering around Russia before the increasingly suspicious Russian security services arrested him in Moscow. Under the Brest-Livotsk Agreement he was repatriated to Britain where he wrote many newspaper articles on his experiences in Bolshevik Russia, and also completed this book ‘A Prisoner of the Reds’. I have been fortunate in that I have managed to obtain four books (old copies) by McCullagh namely ‘The Bolshevisk Persecution of Christianity’, containing a detailed account of the staged State trial of  several prelates and priests culminating in the murder in custody of Mgr  Budkiewicz, and the sentence of death passed on Archbishop Cieplak later commuted to life imprisonment to assuage world-wide criticism of the mockery of a trial; ‘Red Mexico’ an account of the terrible persecution of the Church in Mexico in the 1920s, and the role of the United States government in aiding the Masonic Mexican government; ‘In Franco’s Spain’ being an account of events in Spain during the Civil War of the mid 1930s; and of course ‘A Prisoner of the Reds’.  I am amazed and impressed by the achievements of McCullagh, a brave man by any standards both physically and morally. As a journalist he is fearless in reporting the truth, with his Catholic faith shining like a beacon throughout his work. As a young man he attended a Seminary to test his vocation, but in spite of glowing reports from others decided that he was not suited to the priesthood. Thereafter journalism  was his life.  

                                                              'The Bolshevik' (1920)  by Kustodiev
In his day, Francis McCullagh was a renowned and highly regarded war correspondent who is now largely forgotten. I believe he deserves to be remembered as the honest and fearless journalist that he was, and above all as a man who loved God and His Church and was not afraid to say so. In the above quoted passage, it is revealing to read his comments on the universal and traditional Latin Mass which gave him ‘indescribable comfort and reassurance’, and his experience of warmth and peace in that Catholic church, in a country ravaged by the evils of the Bolshevik uprising. He was writing nearly one hundred years ago, with the world a ‘maelstrom’ of bloodshed, violence, and increasing godlessness. Sadly the universality of the traditional Latin Mass is no longer the case, and the use of the vernacular in the Novus Ordo Mass, together with attendant liturgical changes, has created a Church which sadly is far from united.The world today is as much a maelstrom of bloodshed, violence, and godlessness, as it was in 1920, but sadly the Church is less united, less forthright, and some would say less holy, than it was then.
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