So where does the Catholic Church stand?

Irish television’s current affairs flagship, Prime Time, is turning its attention this week (Tuesday 10th of December) to ‘The Current State of The Catholic Church’ and its future. It is posing the question as to whether the Church is “heading to a more purist congregation or is the leadership of Pope Francis opening up its doors to a more diverse range of beliefs?”

While the awkward phrasing of that question in itself betrays a degree of confusion about the nature of the phenomenon being looked at it, the very posing of the question once again underlines the shock and awe aroused in the secular media – and it doesn’t get much more secular than Irish television these days – by the new man on the Chair of Peter.

What the question betrays is the simple ignorance of the fact that constant development is part of the DNA of the Catholic Church. The past 30 years have seen an incredible development and clarification of its teaching under the guidance of two incredible popes. We now have what looks like another extraordinary man setting out an explicitly missionary stall, defining the very nature of the church in those terms but also very explicitly building that mission on all the sacramental and moral principles which have been taught, developed and clarified by his predecessors over two millennia.

The church’s business is and always has been helping us find our way from this world, through this world, to the next. That is sometimes a messy business. It can be messy for internal and external reasons. It was internally messy for weak-kneed Peter, doubting Thomas, Augustine, overchaqrged with testosterone, and countless others. It was externally messy for its Founder and countless others of his followers down to even an hour ago. People are put to death every day for pursuing this business. For a lot more life is made very awkward because the take it all so seriously. But it has nothing to do with being rigid or purist – it is about the pursuit of the Good Life in the true meaning of both those words.

This is the stall now being set out by Pope Francis. I’d say, ‘just watch this space’.

We now enjoy far greater freedom from rigid social constraints than we did 50 years ago – although the new cultural phenomenon of ‘political correctness’ has put a number of new ones in the place of the so-called “taboos” we have got rid of. But freedom, while a very good thing, does not guarantee good judgment. At the heart of the Catholic Church is a teaching mission and the ultimate aim of that teaching is to guide us to right judgment. ‘How will they know if they are not taught’?

Many of the judgments we have made about ourselves and our condition which have now become enshrined in the modernist and post-modernist political and social consensus are totally at variance with the teaching of the Catholic Church. What the Church is now doing is finding the way to counter this alien consensus, as it has done for centuries – first, in the Roman Empire, later in the paganism of the barbarians, later still, in the many false,  although often well-intentioned, cues of the protestant reformers, then in Marxist materialism and now in hedonistic materialism.

Pope Francis is now addressing the entire Catholic world in a letter   (“Evangelii Gaudium”, Apostolic Exhortation, 24-XI-2013.) which is much more than a letter. It is a programme for missionary action, profoundly cognizant of human nature and profoundly supernatural, rooted in the essentials of Christian faith and morality. Here he is talking to the Church dispersed in particular churches throughout the world:

Each particular Church, as a portion of the Catholic Church under the leadership of its bishop, is…called to missionary conversion. It is the primary subject of evangelization, since it is the concrete manifestation of the one Church in one specific place, and in it “the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church of Christ is truly present and operative”. It is the Church incarnate in a certain place, equipped with all the means of salvation bestowed by Christ, but with local features. Its joy in communicating Jesus Christ is expressed both by a concern to preach him to areas in greater need and in constantly going forth to the outskirts of its own territory or towards new socio-cultural settings. Wherever the need for the light and the life of the Risen Christ is greatest, it will want to be there. To make this missionary impulse ever more focused, generous and fruitful, I encourage each particular Church to undertake a resolute process of discernment, purification and reform.”

Later he says:

If we attempt to put all things in a missionary key, this will also affect the way we communicate the message. In today’s world of instant communication and occasionally biased media coverage, the message we preach runs a greater risk of being distorted or reduced to some of its secondary aspects. In this way certain issues which are part of the Church’s moral teaching are taken out of the context which gives them their meaning. The biggest problem is when the message we preach then seems identified with those secondary aspects which, important as they are, do not in and of themselves convey the heart of Christ’s message. We need to be realistic and not assume that our audience understands the full background to what we are saying, or is capable of relating what we say to the very heart of the Gospel which gives it meaning, beauty and attractiveness.

As Rome Reports summed up this letter: “Pope to Christians: Don’t just talk the talk, walk the walk.”

Blind and shameless collusion in abortion news coverage

We are of course rejoicing at the success of the phenomenal pro-life demonstration in Dublin on Saturday. It was achieved in the face of what one could only describe as a media blackout of the event in the weeks leading up to it. It must surely have given both the conscientious and the crowd-following public representatives something to think about. The conscientious will have had their convictions reinforced by the platform speakers who sent out loud and clear statements and illustrations of the crime that the killing of the unborn is. For the populist crowd-followers it gave evidence that pro-life people power is on the move and for them this is a chilling signal that their cosy parliamentary seats might also be on the move.

More than 25,000 people from all over the country gathered in Merrion Square to protest at the coalition government’s proposal to legislate for abortion within the jurisdiction of the Irish Republic. Abortion is currently prohibited under the terms of a constitutional amendment passed overwhelmingly by the people 30 years ago. An estimated 150 pro-abortion demonstrators presented themselves at the venue as well.

But we are also once again confronted with the story-within-a-story. The story of the shameless bias of the media which spells out one fact over all others: the majority of those in the positions of influence in the media in this country are openly and unapologetically campaigning for the pro-abortion cause.

If anyone needed confirmation that there is collusion between the Irish media – orchestrated, one suspects, from behind the closed doors of sub-editing rooms – and the international press one has only to scan the reports of the Vigil in the newspapers over the following days. It did not make the front page of a single broadsheet on Monday. The Irish Times reported on it without the slightest allusion to its significance. Even RTE managed to rise to using the term “game-changer” in its Saturday evening report. That this surprised us speaks for itself. Can you imagine what we would have been reading and listening to had such numbers turned out for a pro-abortion rally? Try. You won’t find it very taxing.

How did Independent Newspapers report this the following day? The opening paragraph of a report attributed to Sarah Stack and the Press Association was this:

PROTESTERS for and against abortion have staged separate rallies in Dublin as each side step up their campaigning. The Pro-Life Campaign urged people to stand up for “the right of the unborn child” at its Unite for Life Vigil but were (sic) accused of going against legislation that would save the lives of women. Note that “right of the unborn child” in inverted commas.

The Government, we were reminded, has committed to legislate and introduce regulations to allow abortion if there is a real and substantial risk to a woman’s life, including the threat of suicide.

The report then entered even-handed mode when Pro-life spokeswoman Caroline Simons’ words were reported. She told the crowd, the biggest Dublin has seen for a decade or more, that the Government’s argument that abortion is needed to treat threatened suicide in pregnancy was demolished at the hearings on abortion held in the parliament over a week ago.

“The psychiatrists who addressed the hearings were unanimous that abortion is not a treatment for suicidal ideation”, Simons said. “But there is evidence that abortion increases the risk of future mental health problems for a significant number of women.

“The facts are simple. Where a pregnant woman’s life is at risk, Irish law and current Irish medical practice allows doctors to intervene to ensure women receive whatever treatments are necessary to safeguard their lives, even where this unavoidably results in the death of the baby.”

But that was as even-handed as it was going to get. Separately, Stack then told us, – without mentioning the number protesting – that pro-choice campaigners staged a counter-demonstration nearby and said pro-life groups are protesting against the introduction of legislation that would save the lives of women living in Ireland.

“They’re protesting against legislation that the majority have voted for in a referendum. They’re protesting against a supreme court decision. They’re protesting directly against what the ECHR (European Court of Human Rights) says Ireland needs to do to protect the human rights of pregnant women,” a spokesperson for this group complained about the 25, 000.

Then came the red-herring inbthevform of a report of a two-day-old story about the opening of an inquest into the death of Indian dentist Savita Halappanavar on October 28 after she suffered a miscarriage. The international media has – with the help of its Irish fellow-travellers – sat in judgement on this and has decreed that Savita died because she was refused an abortion. On the information currently available there is absolutely no basis whatsoever for that conclusion.

Stack’s report then goes over the background to that case – all in the context of the demonstration in Dublin. No mention is made of the multiple statements made by gynaecologists, and by speakers at yesterday’s demonstration, that there is no evidence that an abortion need ever be resorted to as a solution to a complication which might arise in pregnancy.

Stack then proceeded to report on the formation of a new pro-choice group, Abortion Rights Campaign, being established in the country.

She reported that Clare Daly TD said the campaign is not a sprint but a marathon. “We’re here for the long haul,” she said. “In the meantime, we want the immediate introduction of legislation for the right to safe, legal abortion when a woman’s life is at risk, including from suicide.

“We also want the simplest, broadest legislation that includes the right to abortion in the case of fatal foetal abnormality. We will keep the pressure on until we get this.”

She did not say what everyone knows, that the pro-abortion campaign wants abortion on demand, and knows that prime minister Enda Kenny’s “restrictive” legislative proposal is the best way to get it.

The entire report devoted about 150 words to the demonstration by 25,000 people while the cause being promoted by the pro-choice group got the lion’s share of attention with over twice that. Shameless. Admittedly another report, seen online, by two reporters from the group’s newsroom did carry more of the content of what was said at the demonstration. But it was not much more and it also laboured the Halappanavar case which in the end of the day may have nothing at all to do with abortion and be revealed as a sad case of a woman dying from the effects of an infection.

For some serious coverage of the demonstration a more balanced report can be read here. See this short YouTube video for an atmospheric snapshot of the event.

All this is happening in Ireland while conscientious Americans are mourning the more than 55 milion lives sacrificed on the twin altars of, on the one hand, false compassion, and on the other of selfishness and self-indulgence. This is the toll of lives taken over the 40 years since the US Supreme Court conceded the right to life of the unborn in Roe V Wade.

Enda Kenny, the Irish prime minister, keeps telling his people that he is not entering the same road as this. He offers no plausible reasons for this assertion, no reasons at all in fact, but instead moans about receiving abusive letters among which are some which suggest that he is “worse than Herod” who slaughtered the Holy Innocents. Well, he may not be worse than Herod. But if he presides over the passing of legislation which will lead to the intentional killing of babies in the womb, even one baby in the womb, then he will bear responsibility for that act and will join a significant number of public representatives who are running Herod a close scond. Is there any other moral reasoning which will deny that? These babies are the new Holy Innocents.

The US picture is truly horrendous. Since that fateful decision by nine men on the Supreme Court in 1973, there have been approximately 55,772,015 abortions that have destroyed the lives of unborn children. Looked at another way, that is 1,392,500 abortions each and every year, 116,191 abortions each and every month in all 50 states. The math breaks down to 26,813 abortions each and every week nationwide. And every day, that’s 3,820 abortions.

Almost 4,000 children have died in America from abortions each and every day since.