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On the whole, patriotic priests are preferable to those preaching the old baloney about the universal brotherhood of man, an impossible, unnatural aspiration that, by definition, can only (if it is to mean anything) be coercive.
It is however better if that patriotism is clear-eyed. healthy, and not too heavily worn.
I’m not convinced that that has been the case with Jorge Mario Bergoglio, the Argentine prelate who has now become Pope Francis. Even if we disregard the rights (hard to discern) and wrongs (monumental) of the Argentine case for its unprovoked attack on the Falkland Islands in 1982, Bergoglio’s language is, well, judge for yourself.
Pope Francis’s election may cause controversy in Britain over comments he made at a Mass last year for Argentine veterans of the Falklands War to mark 30th anniversary of the 1982 conflict. He reportedly said at the time: “We come to pray for those who have fallen, sons of the country who went out to defend their mother country, to reclaim that which is theirs and was usurped from them.”
Addressing relatives of fallen veterans before a visit to the Argentine military cemetery in Darwin in the Falklands in 2009, he said: “Go and kiss this land which is ours, and seems to us far away.”
He said they would not go alone, adding: “There are angels who will accompany you, who are sons, husbands and fathers of yours, who fell there, in an almost religious movement, of kissing with their blood the native soil.”
Or this, via Harry’s Place:
“Let’s pray to God that these years – despite the efforts of many to de-Malvinise history and reality – have served to silently mature the conscience of many Argentinians far and wide in this country, in a more authentic love for the Homeland, in a spirit of justice, through anonymous sacrifice, that they should be the hidden but fruitful sap which will make us live in freedom, in all the possible ways within this anxious life.”
Back in 2002 the (British Roman Catholic) Tablet provided its take on the religious dimension of the Argentine assault on the Falklands:
….Around this twentieth anniversary much has and will no doubt continue to be written. For those of us who lived the conflict at close quarters, perhaps one of the most interesting and under-reported aspects of it was the extent to which God and the Virgin Mary were used to justify the war, and to bring it to an end.
The military regime which decided to invade the islands did so in the knowledge that it counted on a powerful body of opinion within the Argentine Church to give it its blessing. The attitude of the Argentine Episcopal Conference to the regime that came to power in the 1976 coup had been equivocal. Pastoral letters had held back from public condemnation of human rights violations, and suggested that the ?common good? could be served by dealing with the moral and social disintegration that had characterised the previous civilian government of Isabelita Peron.
Only a minority of bishops, priests and nuns condemned the thousands of disappeared, and the complicity of those who pandered to national Catholicism. Those who survived the repression, like Bishop Jaime de Nevares of Neuquin, Bishop Miguel Hesayne of Viedma, and Bishop Jorge Novak of Quilmes, distanced themselves from the nationalistic fervour which surrounded the “reconquest of Las Malvinas?”.
They remained, however, in a minority. From the outset of the Falklands War, the partnership between Church and State gave the Argentine soldiers and their generals a sense of a moral crusade, and the junta the certainty of political cohesion. History was revisited and revised to provide justification for the equation between Argentine sovereignty and holy conversion.
Memories were revived of the first Spanish missionaries to the Falkland Islands, the priests portrayed as picture-book saints laying the sacramental rock on the heathen land. The subsequent British colonialism was reduced to a caricature of spiritual emptiness when, in fact, both the Anglican and Catholic faiths had retained an enduring presence on the islands. The mixing of nationalistic and religious mythology was prevalent in the first crucial hours of the Falklands conflict. On the eve of the invasion, Argentine commanders agreed that the military operation to take Las Malvinas, initially planned under the codename Azul, should be renamed Rosario, in honour of the Virgin of Rosario. According to Argentine cultural tradition, the Virgin had brought her graces to the population of Buenos Aires in the early nineteenth century before an invasion by British troops was successfully repulsed. She has been venerated passionately ever since.
On 7 April, the new Argentine military governor of Las Malvinas, General Mario Men?ndez, was sworn in during a ceremony at which Archbishop Desiderio Elso Collino, the chaplain general of the armed forces, officiated. “The gaucho Virgin is Mother of all men, but is in a very special way the Mother of all Argentines, and has come to take possession of this land, which is also her land”, stated Collino.For the rest of the war a succession of military chaplains ensured that the crusading spirit of the Argentine troops was kept alive in language reminiscent of the speeches delivered to Franco’s forces during the Spanish Civil War. In the fight against the English “heathen” no Argentine churchman was more fanatical than Fr Jorge Piccinalli….
How this all ties into Argentina’s ‘dirty war’ is, of course, something that will be worth discussing on another occasion.
From a Guardian interview with Nigel Farage, the leader of Britain’s neo-Thatcherite, euroskeptic UKIP:
He won a lot of Tory support by opposing gay marriage, chiefly because it was an affront to religious values. “Tolerance is a two-way street, and the whole equality rights agenda has come to the point of head-on conflict with religious faith,” he declares, as if such a conflict must de facto discredit the equality agenda. It takes some nerve to oppose gay marriage on religious grounds – while adding, “I know the Anglican church isn’t much good, but mind you, with that idiot having run the show for the last 10 years that’s hardly surprising. Couldn’t even clip his beard for the royal wedding!” – when, on closer questioning, it transpires Farage isn’t even really a Christian. He claims never to have thought about whether he will go to heaven, or even if such a place exists. “Never.” He goes to church four or five times a year, and thinks it plays “an important role in our society”, but as for believing in God, “I think there is something there, but that’s as far as it goes.” It sounds to me as if he’s agnostic. “Well you’ll have to draw your own conclusion,” he says, looking slightly embarrassed.
While I don’t agree with Farage on same sex marriage (live and let live, say I), the rest of this section of the interview is worth noting for the (presumably leftish) interviewer’s failure to understand that it’s quite possible to oppose something as being an affront to religious faith without sharing that particular set of beliefs. Farage quite clearly sees the Church of England (however flawed) as part of the tradition that makes the country what it is, an essential element in the glue that holds it together. Whether the rather wild claims on which it was originally based—first made in some foreign country two thousand years ago—were true is, of course, an irrelevance.
Grim reading, I fear, for New Year’s Day, but the (London) Daily Mail has a report here on the evolution of the ‘Liverpool Pathway’, a National Health Service procedure which “involves withdrawal of lifesaving treatment, with the [terminally] sick sedated and usually denied nutrition and fluids. Death typically takes place within 29 hours.”
The notion that allowing someone to die—even if heavily sedated—through starvation or thirst is somehow humane is grotesque. At some level a good number of these patients know what is going on, and often they do indeed suffer.
And then there’s this:
Up to 60,000 patients die on the Liverpool Care Pathway each year without giving their consent, shocking figures revealed yesterday. A third of families are also kept in the dark when doctors withdraw lifesaving treatment from loved ones.
Despite the revelations, Jeremy Hunt last night claimed the pathway was a ‘fantastic step forward’.
So much for consent.
Naturally, anti-euthanasia vigilantes are up in arms over this news, but they would do better to ask themselves the extent to which their own pressure to keep patients alive regardless of what those patients themselves want has done to contribute the creation of this ‘pathway’.
Those opposed to empowering agonized patients to shape their own exit for themselves often talk darkly about a slippery slope. Greedy relatives, stingy governments and all that. Well, the individual being starved or dried-out to death (sometimes it seems without even the courtesy of being asked for his consent), not to speak of someone trapped in the coils of an excruciating disease from which he has no means to extricate himself, may well feel that he has already arrived at the bottom of the abyss.
Appalling. Simply appalling.
His Daily Telegraph obituary can be found here. Some key extracts:
A genuine eccentric who never took himself too seriously, Moore played up to his image as a “mad professor”, and wrote more than 100 books — most of them about astronomy for a popular audience. Meanwhile, his monthly Sky at Night programme — launched on BBC Television in April 1957 — attracted millions of viewers.
On television Moore became celebrated for the thunderous fervour with which he would utter the words: “We just don’t know!” to emphasise that our comprehension of the universe is incomplete…
The Sky at Night started almost by accident. One day in 1957 the BBC broadcast a somewhat sensationalist programme about flying saucers. Producers wanted a counterview by a “thoroughly reactionary and sceptical astronomer who knew some science and could talk”. This turned out to be Moore. He little guessed that he was starting a series that would last for half a century….
He had as little sympathy either for the peddlers of what he considered pseudoscience. Astrology he declared “rubbish”. And he was deeply angered in the 1970s by a book co-written by the journalist John Gribbin called The Jupiter Effect, which predicted that in 1982 the planets would be so closely aligned that their combined gravitational fields would cause earthquakes all over the world… Both the data and the conclusion, Moore said, were nonsense. The planets were not in alignment, and even if they had been, they were much too small and too far away to cause the predicted earthquakes. Despite his efforts, Gribbin’s book became a bestseller and was the subject of a solemn presentation at the London Planetarium.
Moore was furious. A show at the Planetarium gives an idea scientific authority, and people who saw its treatment of the “Gribbin effect” were seriously alarmed. Moore campaigned successfully to have the Planetarium show taken off and afterwards presented a humorous Sky at Night programme showing the idea up as the nonsense he considered it to be.
Meanwhile, when some of the Moon astronauts apparently claimed that in space they had had visions of God, he was asked: “What do you think they really saw?”
“I think they saw the Moon…”
He was also a euroskeptic.
Cross-posted on The Corner
Via The Daily Telegraph:
An influential British-based preacher is leading an armed gang of more than a hundred Islamist fighters in Syria, it can be disclosed. In a video posted on the internet in the last few days, Abu Basir al-Tartusi can be seen on a balcony surrounded by Kalashnikov waving rebels after apparently capturing a hilltop village in the war-torn country.
Security sources believe that dozens of British extremists, possibly as many as 50, have travelled to Syria to join the fighting and some may have been recruited by Basir. This week a junior doctor of Bangladeshi origin from, East London was charged with kidnapping two photographers in Syria, where he was said to be part of a 15-strong group of Britons.
The security services are concerned that the brutal conflict in Syria could become a “new Afghanistan” drawing in young men who return to Britain radicalised and keen to continue a fight to spread Islam.A source said the numbers were “small but increasing” and there were concerns about “who they meet and the knowledge they could gain.”
Basir, whose real name is Abdal Munem Mustafa Halima, was running classes at the al-Ansar Institute in Poplar, East London just months ago. He has his own website and his sermons are readily available on the internet. The preacher has been based in Britain since fleeing the Assad regime following an uprising in the early 1980s.
He has been compared with fellow preacher Abu Qatada and was described by one academic as one of the “most influential and most prolific radical scholars in the world right now” and by another as one of the “primary Salafi [fundamentalist] opinion-makers guiding the jihadi movement…”
Tom Chivers writes in The Daily Telegraph:
The man [just] put in charge of the [UK's] health policy is on record as supporting spending public money on magic water to cure disease. Here’s the text of an Early Day Motion he signed in 2007:
That this House welcomes the positive contribution made to the health of the nation by the NHS homeopathic hospitals; notes that some six million people use complementary treatments each year; believes that complementary medicine has the potential to offer clinically-effective and cost-effective solutions to common health problems faced by NHS patients, including chronic difficult to treat conditions such as musculoskeletal and other chronic pain, eczema, depression, anxiety and insomnia, allergy, chronic fatigue and irritable bowel syndrome; expresses concern that NHS cuts are threatening the future of these hospitals; and calls on the Government actively to support these valuable national assets.
And here’s the letter Mr Hunt sent to a concerned constituent who pointed out that homeopathy doesn’t work:
Dear Mr Ellis,
Thank you very much for your letter regarding EDM 1240 in support of Homeopathic Hospitals. I appreciate that you are disappointed that I added my name to this motion, and read your comments on this issue with interest.
I understand that it is your view that homeopathy is not effective, and therefore that people should not be encouraged to use it as a treatment. However I am afraid that I have to disagree with you on this issue. Homeopathic care is enormously valued by thousands of people and in an NHS that the Government repeatedly tells us is “patient-led” it ought to be available where a doctor and patient believe that a homeopathic treatment may be of benefit to the patient.
I am grateful to you for taking the time to write with your concerns. I realise that my answer will be a disappointing one for you, but I hope that the letter helps to clarify my view.
Jeremy Hunt Member of Parliament South West Surrey
Hat-tip to Chris Coltrane on Twitter and the Mote Prime blog.
I probably don’t need to rehearse this, but: homeopathy does not work. Homeopathy is the treatment of disease using literally non-existent amounts of ingredients which wouldn’t cure the problem even if they were actually there. It is not to be confused with herbal medicine, which often involves real active substances (eg aspirin, which is distilled from willow-bark). If homeopathy worked, we would need to explain how this non-existent substance did what it does: but it doesn’t work, so we don’t. Homeopathic hospitals are not “valuable national assets”, they’re £7-million-a-year white elephants for middle-class hypochondriac hippies.
This is not unlike putting someone who thinks the Second World War began in 1986 in charge of the Department of Education.
Or following the advice of foes of the taxpayer like Orrin Hatch, the numbskull who wanted Christian Science prayer ‘treatments’ added to Obamacare’s bounty.
Hunt should be fired.
The debate about assisted suicide has been reignited after the [English] High Court ruled that two men with locked-in-syndrome cannot be legally helped to die. Tony Nicklinson, 58, and a second man known as Martin, 47, mounted legal challenges in attempt to secure immunity from prosecution for any professional who helped them to die. The men are completely physically dependent and can only move their eyes and eye lids yet remain cognitively sharp. Both want to die but neither is capable of taking their own life.
Lawyers acting for Mr Nicklinson, who suffered a catastrophic stroke in 2005, argued for an extension to the common law defence of ‘necessity’ for murder because the alternative – forcing him to stay alive – is worse. They also argued that the government is in breach of his Article 8 right to ‘privacy, dignity and autonomy’, a right he cannot exercise independently because of severe disability. The court rejected the “bold” submission, stating that there was no precedent anywhere in the world and such socially controversial changes were only for Parliament.
The decision was condemned by Mr Nicklinson and his family but welcomed by medical leaders and religious groups.
Both men are likely to appeal and will most likely end up in the Supreme Court.
Martin, who also suffered a stroke, bid to have the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) amend current guidance regarding assisted suicide. The clarification he sought would have meant that if a doctor or lawyer were to help Martin to end his life by taking him to the Swiss clinic Dignitas, they would not face criminal and/or disciplinary action. Martin cannot currently fulfil his wish to end his life as his wife, a nurse and carer, is not willing to actively assist in any steps leading to his death.
The three judges, who said the court had been “deeply moved” by both men’s circumstances, ruled that such matters were for Parliament to decide…
Sadly, the judges were correct. There is no innate “right” to assisted suicide, and it’s not for the courts to discover one. It’s up to Parliament to decide.
And so Parliament should: by changing the law to allow those two men, and others like them, to end their suffering if they so choose.
Get on with it.
Via The Daily Telegraph:
‘Political correctness’ is preventing police from stopping child abuse by parents and church leaders who believe in witchcraft, a minister warns.
Tim Loughton, the children’s minister, said that a “wall of silence” was obscuring the full scale of cruelty in some communities where beliefs in evil spirits was common. He was speaking as the Government announced plans to introduce new training for social workers, teachers, police and church members to combat the abuse.
It follows the conviction earlier this year of Eric Bikubi a London football coach, and his partner Magalie Bamu, for torturing and murdered a 15-year-old boy because they believed he was practising witchcraft. The couple, whose families came from the Democratic Republic of Congo, subjected Bamu’s brother Kristy to a three-day ordeal because they were convinced he was practising “kindoki” or sorcery. The case had echoes of that of Victoria Climbié, the eight-year-old girl who was murdered by her guardians who believed she was possessed by demons.
Writing in the (British) Catholic Herald, Francis Phillips claims that she “feels a shiver when I see the parallels between our world and that of St John Fisher”.
The context, inevitably, is of officialdom’s supposed attack on religious freedom in the UK. Fisher (1469-1535) is allegedly relevant because this English cardinal was eventually executed for refusing to go along with Henry VIII’s attempt to ensure that England should determine its own laws.
To Phillips, Fisher is a example to be praised, martyred because he would not go against his conscience. Oddly, she doesn’t mention another aspect of this sinister fanatic’s career, his role in the trial and execution of Thomas Hitton, the man often described as England’s first protestant martyr.
Thanks to Wikipedia (in this case, why not), we learn that George Joye (1495-1553) was not so reticent:
“And [Thomas] More amonge his other blasphemies in his Dialoge sayth that none of vs dare abyde by our fayth vnto deeth: but shortlye therafter/ god to proue More/ that he hath euer bene/ euen a false lyare/ gaue strength vnto his servaunte syr Thomas Hitton/ to confesse and that vnto the deeth the fayth of his holie sonne Iesus/ whiche Tomas the bishopes of Caunterburye & Rochester [Fisher]/ after they had dieted and tormented him secretlye murthered at Maydstone most cruellye.
Fisher was no defender of freedom of conscience. What he was defender of his conscience. And, indeed, enforcer of it on others. As for his fate, well, biter bit.
As I noted the other day, Fisher, and another of those responsible for Hitton’s execution, Thomas More, were recently drafted by New York’s Cardinal Dolan into the fight against the Obamacare contraception mandate in the name of religious freedom.
They were not, perhaps, the best of choices.
The Daily Telegraph’s Cristina Odone is rightly appalled by the murder of Shafilea Ahmed:
Shafilea Ahmed’s parents have been found guilty of her murder. The beautiful 17-year-old Cheshire schoolgirl was killed by her own mother and father in a brutal honour killing they kept hidden for nine years.
Even though I’d suspected, like everyone else who’s been following the tragic case, that Iftikhar Ahmed and his wife Farzana were responsible for their daughter’s murder, I’m desperately sad. Can religion really lead a mother and father to kill their own child? It is clear that in the Ahmeds’ case, this was so: Alesha, the victim’s surviving sister, testified in court that her parents openly acknowledged that they must do away with the rebellious teenager. She had adopted “western ways”, and brought shame on their family.
It is a terrible tragedy – even more so because although the [Uk] Home Office statistics claim that there are 12 honour killings a year in Britain, the truth is far more alarming. As Ann Cryer, the former Keighley MP who campaigned tirelessly against honour killings and arranged marriages pointed out to me when I was researching faith schools, teachers in predominantly Muslim areas complain regularly of “disappearances”.
I’m not the first to note this, but I have to say that if I were asked to compile a list of misleading phrases “honor” killings would be up near the top. These are shame killings, and as Ms. Odone clearly agrees, they are deeply shameful too.
Back to Ms.Odone:
Once a [British] Muslim girl hits puberty, the most conservative parents will pluck her out of school where she risks contamination from western peers, and if she is lucky they continue her lessons at home. If she is unlucky, they send her back to Pakistan, in an arranged marriage usually to a much older man. I see this as a very strong argument in favour of more Muslim faith schools: only when they feel their daughters are in a safe Muslim school will parents allow them to continue their education past puberty.
Yes and no, I’d say. In principle, taxpayer funded ‘faith schools’ (or, say, voucher programs that permit parents to spend their vouchers on such schools) seem fine to me. When run well, such schools can deliver a better education—and at lower cost to the taxpayer–than their equivalents in the public sector. Everyone wins.
On the other hand, they can also be a poisonous recipe for cultural isolation and, ultimately, the Balkanization of a nation. Taxpayer-funded Pakistani-style madrassas anyone? No, I didn’t think so. To that end, whether in Cheshire or in Louisiana it is essential that schools eligible for taxpayer pounds or dollars need to be open access (academic selection is fine, however) and subject to a strict accreditation process. What’s more, the UK experience would appear to show that the vetters themselves need to be vetted.
The problem with all that is that schools that have weathered that process are unlikely to satisfy parents such as Iftikhar and Farzana Ahmed, two killers who are just the latest evidence of the failure of multiculturalism.