We’re in a dark age where hearts rule minds | Comment | The Times

Max Hastings is worried. So should we all be…

He writes:

Education properly teaches us how to reach conclusions through a measured examination of data. Since the 18th century, intellectual rigour has been acknowledged as a core virtue within western civilisation.Yet a conference was held in London this week under the title The Evidence Initiative, sponsor…

— Read on www.thetimes.co.uk/edition/comment/we-re-in-a-dark-age-where-hearts-rule-minds-5p7gl6g5q

Telling it as it is, how we got here and where we are going – unless we radically change direction

It was a meeting at which anger management was a major challenge. It was a tale of deceit, manipulation and ultimately of collusion and conspiracy.

In front of a packed house in Dublin last night, Maria Steen of The Iona Institute discussed the recent abortion referendum, how it was covered by the Irish media, the legislation that will replace the Eighth Amendment, and the way forward for the pro-life movement in Ireland. An edited version of Maria’s talk follows. The full version can be watched on YouTube here.

She presented her case in three parts.

I am, she began, going to reflect on the referendum, how it was won and its significance. Next, I want to preview some of the legal and political battles ahead, particularly those in relation to conscience rights and finally I will ask the question where to from now on?

Part 1: Reflect on the recent referendum and its significance

How was the referendum won? It was won through an appeal to emotion over reason, to prejudice over weighing the evidence. It was won by “othering” those who are pro-life; by blackening their name and portraying them as heartless, unbending moralists, who were content to see women die.

Let’s look for a moment at the appeal to emotion over reason.

Dealing with the issue of abortion predominantly by reference to individual stories, inevitably feeds into a narrative of “choice”. It does this because it excludes from consideration – or even discussion – that there might be an objective moral standard that killing unborn children is wrong; a standard which exists whether or not people choose to follow it.

So many of these stories involved people saying in effect “abortion was the right choice for me”. Against this narrative, what RTE presented as the counter point – that is to say, a story from someone who chose not to have an abortion – merely supports the implicit idea that everyone should be free to choose what is right for them. That, of course, is the essence of the pro-choice argument. Hence the coverage – even if superficially fair – could not help but favour that side.

Framing the debate in this way was doubly unfair, as not only did it exclude the moral issue – and its legal implications – from consideration, but also it did not truly hear from the other side. There is a personal story that was not heard, and could never be heard – that of the baby.

Part 2: Preview legal and political battles – conscience rights

Let’s preview some of the legal and political battles ahead.


Many of you will already be aware of what it is that the Government is proposing: that a doctor, nurse or midwife will be able to opt out of directly participating in or carrying out an abortion but not other hospital workers who may have an objection to facilitating an abortion – porters, secretaries etc.

Furthermore, as regards doctors who attempt to exercise their freedom to choose to have no part in abortion, they will be forced, in effect, to facilitate it by referring a woman to a doctor who will carry the abortion out. This is an affront to the notion of freedom of conscience and is utterly oppressive.

As I have said before, real oppression subsists not merely in doing unjust things, but in requiring others to participate in doing unjust things. This oppression culminates in forcing people to do things they find morally repugnant against their will. The legislation gives the illusion of respecting conscience, while doing nothing of the sort. It forces everyone to play a part in the system of abortion, thus making it more difficult to apportion blame – when everyone is involved no one is blameless, and therefore no one will complain or try to put a brake on it.

It is also obvious to anyone with eyes that the point of all this is not ease of access – which could be catered for by abortion clinics or an internet list of doctors willing to carry out these “services” – but rather the point is to dissuade anyone who might have a conscientious objection from raising it. The point is to target pro-life doctors, exposing them to opprobrium and financial disaster.

Eventually nobody will object and…the only people left in medicine will be those willing to take an innocent life.

Obliteration of the rights – and status – of unborn children

We pointed out during the referendum campaign that once constitutional protection was removed for children before they are born, their rights – if any – would be subject to the whims of the Oireachtas. We predicted that the status of unborn children would change; they would come to be seen as sub-human or non-persons, whose rights are contingent on the wishes of their mothers – or indeed the opinion of a doctor. We see that already coming true. Since May, Simon Harris has published an updated draft of the Heads of Bill he published in advance of the referendum.

In its definition of viability has been changed to:

the point in a pregnancy at which, in the reasonable opinion of a medical practitioner, the foetus is capable of survival outside the uterus without extraordinary life- sustaining measures”.

What is viability when left to the reasonable opinion of a medical practitioner? What are extraordinary life-sustaining measures? To me, extraordinary life saving measures are what doctors engage in every day in hospitals all over this country.

We can predict where this will go – if left to the opinion of a doctor who is a pro- choice ideologue, it will mean whatever it pleases him to mean – probably up to 30 weeks, maybe more in the case of some children. My own baby was born at 35 weeks and was mechanically ventilated for over a week – undoubtedly an extraordinary life-sustaining measure.

With regard to Heads 5 and 6 of the Bill, there is – again as we pointed out – no gestational limit. This was hotly contested by certain activists on the other side of the debate – and indeed by certain broadcasters, who implied we were lying, and yet there it is in black and white on the Department’s website. Even the Irish Times has acknowledged this in an article in July of this year.

Head 6 deals with what was dishonestly called fatal foetal abnormality during the campaign. Why do I say dishonestly? Because it is not what the government are proposing. There is no requirement that the child actually be terminally ill or have a fatal condition – even if it were possible for a doctor to predict that at all.

All that is required is that there is a likelihood that the child would die. This was never properly debated in the campaign and it seems that Harris is dead set on avoiding any debate on it again. Nevertheless, he has changed the wording from

“condition affecting the foetus that is likely to lead to the death of the foetus either before birth or shortly after birth”

“a condition affecting the foetus that is likely to lead to the death of the foetus either before, or within 28 days of, birth”.

And again, as we predicted, that is just for starters, and before the actual wording of the legislation has been tabled.

The tragedy is that there have been certain organisations who purport to represent people with disabilities who are calling for the same – the right to abort disabled babies. You couldn’t make it up. Meanwhile, let me say that there are many parents of children with disabilities and people with disabilities who are disgusted at these organisations for taking the stance they have and playing into the hands of those who are seeking to brand them as unfit to be born, because of the burden they place on their parents.

In fact, a senior consultant obstetrician in the course of the referendum campaign said that scanning was not necessary to date a pregnancy; that she and her colleagues were trained to be able to date pregnancy on clinical examination. This is simply impossible in the first trimester and after the first trimester there is a margin of error of a couple of weeks. Now Peter Boylan says that ultra-sound facilities are essential and that the “consequences of getting it wrong are very serious”.

Now we have seen Dr Peter Boylan’s call for a waiting period of 72 hours – which was relied on heavily by the Government to sell their legislation to the people – should be scrapped as it was “paternalistic”.

Not only is there already a blatant attempt to make access to abortion easier and more widespread, but Minister Harris yesterday promised that it will be free – before it has even reached the Oireachtas for debate. Free abortion in a country in which, if you have a sick child or are suffering from cancer, you have to pay through the nose for essential treatment. They won’t pay to save your child, but they’ll pay to kill your child – strike that – they’ll get us to pay for the killing.

Part 3: Where to next?

How did this awful thing happen? We voted it in. We voted these politicians into power. And that is what we need to reflect on in the future. If Harris’s proposals bother you – and they should – then Fine Gael must be punished in the next election. You may say, “Well, there’s no difference any more between the various political parties”. That is true, but we must start somewhere, and Fine Gael needs to feel it. If you don’t want to see a regime more permissive than that in the UK in operation here, then you must make them feel your displeasure.

It is high time the media were made to feel it too. If you feel not only politically disenfranchised but also culturally disillusioned, then stop buying pro-choice papers, stop subscribing to hostile outlets that hate you. Turn off the radio shows and TV shows that are pro-choice. If enough of us do this, they will have to take note eventually, if only out of self- interest.

And then…. start trying to save lives.

Not just the lives of babies who might otherwise be lost to abortion, but the lives of their parents, siblings, families, and the communities that might just benefit from the talents they have to share. Start earnestly teaching your own children about the value and dignity of every human life so that when their turn comes they will know how to vote, how to act and how to support and love others.

Support others who also believe in the intrinsic worth of every human being – even human beings we don’t like, even those who hate us and would attack us and our way of life. If you’re a Christian, you will know that we all have a common heritage, we are all children of God… even Government ministers. If you’re not, you will nonetheless recognise the importance of treating everyone as deserving the protection of the law against attack, the value of every human life. Without that recognition, we know what will happen. Life becomes cheapened. “Unwanted babies” become disposable before they are born. “Wanted babies” enjoy the protection of the law only in so far as they are the property of their parents. Born babies and human beings at the other end of life will be next. There are many already advocating for euthanasia, both for the very old and the very young – children who missed the abortionist’s implements by chance because their conditions were not diagnosed before birth. How long before they too will have no escape after birth, if they also are seen merely as an unwanted burden?

This is what awaits us. It is depressing. It is tempting to feel terrible – and justified – anger, but as someone reminded me recently the “anger of man worketh not the justice of God” (James 1:20).

Do what you can in your own life, in your own area. Start small. Small efforts are not to be dismissed or scorned, even if you feel overwhelmed by the culture around you.

During the campaign I gave a talk at a gathering. At the end, some people came up to talk to me. One lady came over and thanked me and then paused and said: “Unfortunately, unfortunately… I had an abortion years ago. I thought it was the right thing. But it wasn’t.” She prayed and prayed to be able to cry. Eventually her prayers were answered and she couldn’t stop crying. Through this process and with the help of a priest who had nearly been aborted himself, she found healing. After telling me her story, she said, “You know it only struck me recently, I didn’t just take the life of my baby, I took the lives of generations to come.”

So save one life if you can, and if you save one life, then you will have saved the whole world.

(September 20, 2018)

The Devil you don’t know is the problem

Mainstream media doesn’t talk too much about the Devil. That is probably because they don’t believe much in anything that they can’t see, touch, taste or hear. He is happy enough with that. He is happy so long as they give plenty of publicity to the things he does – or the things which he can get us poor mortals to cooperate with him in doing while he remains in the shadows. The media do plenty of that. In fact, doing it is a fair share of their bread and butter.

But the Pope does talk a good deal about the Devil – and did so again last week. Again, the mainstream media did not pay too much attention. It is a pity – for he was getting close enough to accusing them of cooperating with this great Deceiver.

Vatican News reported that in a homily during his Mass at Casa Santa Marta on 11 September, the Pope told bishops that they seem to be under attack from the devil. He said: “In these times, it seems like the Great Accuser has been unchained and is attacking bishops.”

The pope was not defending the crimes or misdemeanors of anyone. He was indeed saying that what had been done by ministers of Christ’s Church – which Christians believe is Christ’s own Mystical Body – was something far greater than crimes and misdemeanors. They were sins. “Sins”? That’s another word that doesn’t appear very often in mainstream media.

The Passion of the Christ, Mel Gibson’s searing account of the 24 hours over which Christ’s arrest, trial and execution took place is, for many, very hard to watch. That is a pity. It teaches a very valuable lesson – showing, as it does, the true consequences of sin. Crimes and misdemeanors are the constructs of human lawmakers and are measured by the offence they give to man. Sin is measured on a scale which transcends the laws of man. It is on a scale which for its atonement required all the sacrifice portrayed in The Passion – and even that did not reach the infinite depth of the terrible thing that sin is.

Crimes against humanity are terrible, but ultimately they are terrible because they are sins – offences to, denials of, the loving, merciful and infinite God. Their origin is always to be found in one source – the one who first denied that God, the “father of lies”, whose burning passion is to make us all follow in his footsteps.

The Pope seemed to be reminding us that the Devil wields a double edged sword – first he gets us to offend God by our despicable and unspeakable acts. Then he gets us to offend him again with the scandal we give to others, causing them to lose their Faith in Him.

Knowing very well the words of Sacred Scripture, “If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us”, (1. John 1. 8), Pope Francis said in that homily, “True, we are all sinners, we bishops.” But the Devil “tries to uncover the sins, so they are visible in order to scandalize the people. The Great Accuser, as he is described in the first chapter of the Book of Job, ‘roams the earth looking for someone to accuse’”.

This is calling it as it is. Remember these words: “it must needs be that scandal comes – but woe to him through whom it comes.” Yes, woe! The great dilemma for any journalist as he confronts wrong-doing in this world, the evil that men do, is how to justly report this and at the same time not do more evil by reporting it. There is no question but that justice often requires the reporting of injustice. But doing so with integrity makes onerous demands on those who choose to carry this responsibility.

If, for you, the Devil is a figment of our the imagination then what the Pope is saying will be a great deal of nonsense. But if Lucifer is part of the real world then these are words which should have been spoken long ago about the nature of the times we live in. The prophets of old spoke words like these to the elites of their time. One third of the meaning and function of the office of the Vicar of Christ on earth is to do the same. As such, he is Priest, Prophet and King. That was the symbolic meaning of the triple crown popes used to wear. The crown may be a thing of the past. The meaning of the office remains what it always was.

Many of the prophets of old were killed for exercising their teaching role – which is what prophesy is all about. Who was behind their killing? Who is behind every martyrdom? Christians have an answer to that question and they know it to be true by virtue of the Faith which they profess.

Evil has never been absent from the world. It never will be absent until the “end days” when it will finally be vanquished. The world recognises evil but does not recognise it for what it is, Evil. Men cooperate in and with Evil but we fool ourselves in thinking that we are the sole agent in the evil actions we perpetrate. We are not.

We might hope that these words of Pope Francis, the Supreme Prophet of our time, will awaken from slumber those who profess to know that the Great Accuser exists but go about their business as though he didn’t. If they read the signs of his existence a little more carefully they might be in a better position to convince those who do not profess a faith in anything – other than their own judgment – that something else is needed to unravel the evils we have to confront.

The best way for bishops to fight the evils around them, he added, is by being men of prayer who remain close to the people, and who have the humility to remember they were chosen by God. He went on to say that prayer is “a bishop’s consolation in difficult times,” because “Jesus is praying for me and for all bishops.”

“Let us pray, today, for our bishops: for me, for those who are here, and for all the bishops throughout the world.”

Now, even as he spoke these words calling for a spiritual response to the evils the Church has been beset by, the Pope is diving in with hands-on measures to deal with the institutional malaise apparently affecting many of those who administer – and those who have mismanaged – the affairs of the Church. Catholic leaders from around the world will assemble at the Vatican this next February for a summit to finally contend with the global crisis of sexual behavior of clerics. Leaders from each bishops’ conference around the world will convene at the Vatican for an emergency meeting to discuss the Church’s handling of widespread clerical sex abuse of children over the past several decades.

Don’t hold your breath if you are waiting for a similar response from all those other organiszations and institutions – state agencies, media organiszations, sporting organiszations – which have been found to harbour abusers of one kind or another . Their mea culpas are few and far between.

This unprecedented meeting in Rome in February is seen by many as showing that the Vatican is finally treating the sex abuse crisis as a global, not a localised, crisis. Of course it is global; the Great Accuser does not recognisze borders.

The Devil, probably

Calling it as it is. Remember these words: “it must needs be that scandal comes – but woe to him through whom it comes.” Yes woe! Pope Francis tells us the Great Accuser is trying to uncover sins to cause scandal.

If, for you, the Devil is a figment of our imagination then what the Pope is saying will be a great deal of nonsense. But if Lucifer is part of the real world then these are words which should have been spoken long ago about the nature of the times we live in. The prophets of old spoke words like these to the elites of their time. One third of the meaning and function of the office of the Vicar of Christ on earth is to do the same.

The prophets of old were killed for doing so. Who was behind that?

Evil has never been absent from the world. It never will be absent until the “end days” when it will finally be vanquished. The world recognises evil but does not recognise it for what it is, Evil. Men cooperate in and with Evil but fool themselves in thinking that they are the sole agent in the evil actions we perpetrate. They are not.

We might hope that these words of Pope Francis, the Supreme Prophet of our time, will awaken from slumber those who profess to believe that the Great Accuser is hard at work in our time. If they do they may be in a better position to convince those who do not profess a faith in anything other than their own judgement that something else is needed to unravel the evils we have to confront.

Read the Catholic Herald Report here.

Hollywood- a town ruled by fear?

I have read and now just watched Mark Cousins’ exhaustive Story of Film – all five DVD disks of it. It is very, very comprehensive. Hollywood is well and truly put in its place in this account of the history of cinema. It played its part – a leading part in some decades but now really a bit player in the history of this art.

The trouble is that it still wields power. This story, from National Review, gives us some sense of the weak and dishonest culture which allows it to continue to crush goodness, beauty and truth. The truth about abortion is one of its casualties. But maybe its conspiracy of silence is about to be broken at last.

“It is nearly impossible to find an adult person who does not have an opinion on the issue of abortion, and yet how little we all know about it — how it is done, what the laws are surrounding it, how it is regulated, legislated, and practiced. I wanted to share that knowledge.”

To do so he produced Gosnell.

Read his story here.

I wonder if his subversive production might not figure in the next edition of Cousins’ book, which is in its own way a history, not of an entertainment industry but a history of the subversion of culture, good, bad and indifferent.

Irish pro-abortion Government now under pressure to legislate for abortion without limits

Ireland’s Prime Minister, Leo Varadkar

Having voted to give its parliament the authority to legalise abortion, pressure is now being put on those lawmakers to remove all legal restrictions on the termination of the life of the unborn.

That is the implication of a recommendation being made by a new pro abortion group of academics. The Iona Institute highlights this in a post published this week. It points out in relation to the currently proposed new law:

The General Scheme of the abortion Bill is one of the most permissive in the Western world but four pro-choice academics and activists have published a position paper asking to make it even more so.

The proposed law will allow abortion up to 12 weeks for any reason and up to viability if there is a ‘risk of serious harm’ or to the life of the woman. The word ‘risk’ is in no way qualified. Abortion would remain a criminal offence if performed outside the wide limits of the law.

Claiming that Ireland would maintain “one of the most punitive abortion laws in the world” if the Scheme is approved without changes, the pro-choice academics ask for the removal of any criminal penalty because it may generate a ‘chilling effect’ on some doctors and also it may raise the prospect of ‘stings’ by anti-abortion activists, they claim.

But with decriminalisation, no abortion will be a criminal offence, not even an abortion that takes place on the cusp of birth and doesn’t have even the appearance of a ‘health’ justification.

Read the full Iona post here.

What should change, what must change and what cannot change.

Hubris and the fate of Icarus

Maria Steen, one of Ireland’s most stalwart defenders of truth and life, reflected on the meaning and importance of Pope Francis’ visit to Ireland last weekend in an Irish Times article this week.

As well as being a hopeful sign that her recent and relatively frequent columns in that paper might suggest that this dreadfully biased medium might be beginning to serve the reading public more honestly, her article was a reading of the Pope’s visit which took us deeper than most.

Read the entire article to get its full value. Her concluding remarks on the “hubris of our age” and the struggle now going on among all those who consider themselves Catholic over what reform of the Church should mean are particularly apt:

The hope of change that those calling for doctrinal reform seek is not personal change, but rather that the church deny fundamental truths to accommodate their ways of living. This is an old project.

St Paul wrote: “The time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.”

In Utopia, St Thomas More talked of how men would rather not change to conform to Christ’s rule, but instead prefer to bend it, as if it were a leaden yardstick, to suit themselves. Both he and St John Fisher – the only bishop in England to remain faithful to church teaching on marriage in the face of the persecution of Henry VIII – felt just how unaccommodating those who seek to accommodate Christ’s teaching to the way they live can be.

The hubris of our age is the idea that moral progress has tracked technological progress, so that our behaviour becomes the criterion by reference to which church teaching is to be judged, rather than the other way around.

Those who, in their arrogance and pride, believe themselves to be above God’s law are never far from abuse. This is what allowed abuses – clearly contrary to the law of the church – to be perpetrated and facilitated in the past.

Instead, the Christian is called to humility – which involves sacrificing oneself and one’s immediate desires to a greater cause. In a materialistic “throwaway” age, this message is a hard sell. How many really want to sacrifice immediate personal gratification for someone else or something greater?

And yet that is the message at the heart of the Christian family: duty, sacrifice and, above all, love.

What happens next?

Does this Minister not realise how close to totalitarianism he and this deceitful self-serving Government is bringing us. When a government minister says free speech must “stop” what happens next?


Minister should not feel threatened by Catholic Church imparting its doctrines to the faithful of all ages


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Voices in the wilderness


Who in this secular age can hear these voices crying in the wilderness? Who can deny, in good faith, that they tell us truths on which the future well-being of our race depends, indeed the very preservation of our civilization?

First, these words, written just over twenty years ago and rooted in Christian anthropology:

 It must never be forgotten that the disordered use of sex tends progressively to destroy the person’s capacity to love by making pleasure, instead of sincere self-giving, the end of sexuality and by reducing other persons to objects of one’s own gratification. In this way the meaning of true love between a man and a woman (love always open to life) is weakened as well as the family itself. Moreover, this subsequently leads to disdain for the human life which could be conceived, which, in some situations, is then regarded as an evil that threatens personal pleasure. “The trivialization of sexuality is among the principal factors which have led to contempt for new life. Only a true love is able to protect life”.[i]

Who would have thought that in the space of those twenty odd years, this understanding of our nature and the foundations of our society would have been denied and forgotten so emphatically by a majority of the people of Ireland?

What has happened to cause this change, essentially a change in our perception of what it is to be human in the fullest sense, a radical change in the way we understand ourselves and our nature? Can it be the answer lies in these other words, also now heard only in the wilderness?

Now, we have received not the spirit of this world, but the Spirit that is of God: that we may know the things that are given us from God. Which things also we speak: not in the learned words of human wisdom, but in the doctrine of the Spirit, comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the sensual man perceiveth not these things that are of the Spirit of God. For it is foolishness to him: and he cannot understand, because it is spiritually examined.[ii]

Those were the words of St. Paul addressing the first followers of the Christian Way in the City of Corinth. They also, it appears, had lost their grasp of what that Way said about the human condition in this world and what the choices it presented to them obliged them to do. A four hundred year old note of explanation on that text clarifies what he meant:

The sensual man—the spiritual man. . .The sensual man is either he who is taken up with sensual pleasures, with carnal and worldly affections; or he who measureth divine mysteries by natural reason, sense, and human wisdom only. Now such a man has little or no notion of the things of God. Whereas the spiritual man is he who, in the mysteries of religion, takes not human sense for his guide: but submits his judgment to the decisions of the church, which he is commanded to hear and obey. For Christ hath promised to remain to the end of the world with his church, and to direct her in all things by the Spirit of truth.[iii]

Choice is good but choices have consequences and it is the consequences of our choices that are ultimately more important than whether or not we have the freedom to choose. The consequences of ignoring that the disordered use of sex tends progressively to destroy the person’s capacity to love will be far more devastating for both individual lives and for our society that would be any restrictions our laws might put on our right to choose freely life-styles which institutionalize the abuse of our nature.

But if our society, in its laws, customs and practices, does ignore the principles of good and evil all is not lost. The individual need not lose sight of those principles and this is precisely why adherence to the single greatest body of knowledge articulating moral truth to which history bears witness stands with us to protect us from the evils our folly might otherwise bring down upon ourselves. That body of knowledge is contained in the Magisterium of the Christ’s Church – its Sacred Scriptures and Traditions.

So those in Ireland today, indeed all of those throughout the world, who find themselves perplexed and bewildered by the insanities spewing out of modernity, post-modernity and cultural Marxism, do have a solution. Listen to the voices which are echoing in the wilderness created by those cultural aberrations and in thought word and deed try to live by them. The message of love at their heart – demanding and utterly counter-cultural as it is in this day and age – has the key to the future of our civilization just as it did in the day of the prophets of the Old Testament, in the New Testament when it was newly new, and in countless epochs since then when cultural forces were captivated by those who measure divine mysteries by natural reason, sense, and human wisdom only.

[i] THE TRUTH AND MEANING OF HUMAN SEXUALITY: Guidelines for Education within the Family, (section 105), THE PONTIFICAL COUNCIL FOR THE FAMILY.

[ii]  New Testament, Douay-Rheims, 1 Corinthians 2. 12ff

[iii]  Ibid. Archbishop Challoner note on 1 Corinthians 2.