Tuesday 28 October 2008


When the country voted in the Labour Government in 1997 with the open support of many Catholics in England and Wales, we were told that there would be an new era of freedom and prosperity for all. No British Government, in modern times, has done more to harm the nature of society and to pervert of the moral order than this one. How could we have been so unaware - how could the people of Germany have been so unaware in the 1930s when they voted for Hitler. The complicity of so many British people who have continued to support the Blair/Brown Government is leading to the unleashing of a terrible darkness in the UK - that human life be subservient to a new ideology - the quest to vanquish God and truth from human life in the name of progress.
And suddenly, a Cardinal steps forward and makes a direct challenge to the leader of this ideology. Cardinal O'Brien's Open Letter to the Prime Minister should become a call to the whole nation to wake up and realise what is going on right under our very noses. I quote a part of this letter here:

"Should this Bill become law, removing tissue from incapacitated adults or children, without their specific consent in order to create animal-human hybrid or other embryos would be permissible, as would creating artificial sperm or artificial eggs from bone marrow or even cord blood.The grotesque implications of these procedures are utterly horrifying. The proposals in this Bill represent a breach of 50 years of ethical medical research. They by-pass the Declaration of Helsinki, the Human Tissue Act, the Mental Capacity Act and the Human Rights Act. Removing parts of people’s bodies without their consent, utterly flies in the face of all BMA and GMC guidance on consent to research.Such behaviour was last seen under the Nazis. Following the liberation of the concentration camps in 1945, the full horrors of the Nazi’s atrocities were revealed to a shocked world. The hideous savagery of their experiments convinced the civilized world that such practices must be outlawed forever. I am appalled that you are promoting a Bill which seeks, by stealth, to create a regime where extracting tissue and cells from human beings no longer requires their consent or involvement."
We should pray that the Cardinal's action will bring many to their senses. May this courageous and credible voice that contradicts the evil being proposed by this Goverment be a call to us not to remain silent in the face of an evil Goverment.

Sunday 26 October 2008

Heads down

In the UK the academic year is settling down into full swing; but here in Oz we are coming to the end of the year. Heads are down completing assignments and organising studies for the exams which are only two weeks away. Moreover, here at Campion our Third Year Students are looking to the completion of their degree and Graduation. So, please do include us in your prayers during the next couple of weeks. It is great when students know that they are being supported in prayer.

Saturday 25 October 2008

A little gem

The other day I was browsing through the fascinating library which we have here at Campion College when my eyes alighted upon a slim volume which I was prompted to borrow and read - this little gem is such wonderful book about Prayer that it deserves a post on the Blog.
First Steps in Prayer by Jean-Marie Lustiger (the late Cardinal Archbishop of Paris), Fount Paperbacks, 1987, is a truly beautiful exposition of the basics about Christian Prayer. The Cardinal takes his reader through the day, and shines light on how we can open up our day more and more to God. I recommend this book to old hands and new alike, for the author has written it to help many reclaim the time of their lives for God.
He writes: "Everyday we are subjected to oppresive demands from the artificiality which chracterises our civilisation, but God comes to us in the deepest part of our being: our freedom. But it remains for us to consent to reserving that secret, innermost place within ourselves and to meeting God there."
May this humble servant of the Lord be enjoying now the rewards of his labours.
'Prayer is the first missionary duty of each one of us. It is first of all through prayer that the way for the Gospel is prepared; it is through prayer that hearts are opened to the mystery of God and that souls are disposed to receive his Word of salvation.' B16

Thursday 23 October 2008

Putting faith in scientists rather than in God

After voting to make the HFE Bill Law in the UK I wonder about the future of the country. How does playing God and being a society fit together? It doesn't. How long will this Dark Age last? The previous one lasted for about six hundred years! Nevertheless, we cannot become self-righteous; Christ may want to come and teach British politicians - that is in his gift to do. But we can, in charity, hold our law-makers and our country before Him in our hearts. No one is beyond the reach of grace.
However, what we do need to do is to nurture families and their offspring who do want to love God and humanity.

Tuesday 21 October 2008

Convinced and convincing

Last week, Dr Simon McCaffrey, an Obstetrician and Gynaecologist and the President of "Right to Life Australia" came to Campion College at the invitation of the College's Human Rights Society, to speak on the subject of the role of a Catholic Doctor in a Secular Society.Dr McCaffrey gave us an analysis of the different ways in which secularism is present in society and how a Catholic doctor is able to respond. It is especially at the interface with "intermediate secularism" that a Catholic should dialogue seeking to restablish common ground on the basis of the dignity of the person. I was immensely impressed by the way in which this doctor gave witness to his faith and revealed, not simply a deep understanding of genuine morality, but the way in which he lets his spirituality inform his professional life. He told us "that after thirty years of practicing medicine I am convinced that Catholic moral teachings have their origin in the Holy Spirit ."
He described that what lies at the heart of society is unconditional love, and the reason why society is foundering today is because abortion is attacking unconditional love. As a doctor trying to help women who have "unplanned" pregnancies he seeks not to battle for the life of the child she is carrying, but rather to uncover this unconditional love which a mother has for her child and thereby open up the alternative to abortion - life.
In Dr McCaffrey the College met with a doctor who is on the frontline here in Australia and who, often working alone and with the odds stacked highly in favour of the culture of death, is undaunted because he relies on grace. We were tremendously impressed by the witness he gave us.

Friday 17 October 2008


This book is quite the opposite of how we find woman expressed in the Soap Operas or in magazines and supermarket culture. After writing his book on the masculine soul, "Wild at Heart", John Eldredge got together with his wife, Stasi, to co-write this book. These Christian spouses and authors have had the courage to enter into their own lives and to express themselves at the level of Christian anthropology.
The lived experience of sinful humanity and of grace has enabled them to express womanhood at a very deep level and in a genuine way. The narrative at times expresses how painful hos been the journey, but even more apparent is the overwhelming influence of grace.
This book is very readable, by both men and women, young and mature; it goes a long way to shining light upon the truth about woman in a secular and distorted age. Indeed, I would say that this book is the fruit of grace.

Tuesday 14 October 2008

The building up process

Here in Oz we are now looking to the end of the academic year and the long summer holidays over Christmas, and whether WYD inspired or not, there are set in place a whole range of real formation opportunities for young people in the Sydney area and in NSW. The Church in Sydney is building for the future.
The first event is the iWtness 2008 Conference on the north foreshore, Mon 21st - Fri 24th November. This residential conference is for 18 - 35 yr olds. The Cardinal will be taking part along with a raft of other speakers; Mass will be celebrated every day. The cost is about £80 per person and the event is looking to draw together again some of those who took part in WYD and to help them become convinced that they are called to be apostles today.

The second event to list is perhaps a more important endeavour - a four week residential formation course which is looking at building leaders for the Church. This is arguably the most important area of formation at present. This event Active Witness will take place from 25th November till 20 th December. There will be a program designed to help participants give an enthusiastic witness to their faith, be an agent of the new evengelisation, deepend their understanding of the faith, develop skills in pastoral leadership, be equipped to help young people experience Christ in His Word and in the Sacraments. This events requires a more formal application and costs £240.
Along with the monthly "Theology on Tap" evening in a pub in Parramatta, another similar endeavour has just started "Urban Theology" down in the centre of Sydney. Both of these try to cater for students and young professionals who are short on time but who have a thirst for a more rounded and deeper catechesis.
A major outreach based within and from one of the city centre Parishes is taking place 29th Nov - 7th Dec entitled "Open the doors to Christ". This Mission, which will include a lot of street evangelisation and door-knocking is being led by one of the auxillary bishops of Sydney and a city-wide appeal has gone out for helper. This is obviously an important event which is looking at doing evangelisation, not talking about it.
There are also periodic days of Youth Ministry Training/Workshops held in the city. The next one is this coming Saturday at a cost of £12 - these days are designed to support those who are already engaged in evangelisation in some way. There is also a weekend event planned to lead new young people to engage with what is on offer for them in Syndney, 31st Oct - 2nd Nov. This weekend is free.
The last thing I'll mention is an event for young men Young men Rise Up. This is a Catholic Conference for young men, 16 - 35 yrs and is being held to challenge young men to make a difference and to become leaders in the Church and in society. 24th - 26th Oct. Cost £65. On a similar note, John Eldredge who wrote the fascinating book "Wild at Heart" will also be in Sydney at the beginning of December - he is leading a five day experience in the outback for young men who wish to uncover/rediscover their masculine soul.
This list is just a taster - there are a host of smaller events taking place in Sydney and its parishes - but a sign none the less of the necessity of formation and the willingness of the Church in Sydney to offer this to young people.

Saturday 11 October 2008

The end of an era

The current economic crisis shows the importance of building our lives on the firm foundation of God's Word. The other day Benedict XVI said that we see this "now in the fall of the great banks. ... This money disappears; it is nothing - and in the same way, all these things, which lack a true reality to depend on, and are elements of a second order. The word of God is the basis of everything, it is the true reality. And to be realists, we should count on this reality. We should change our idea that matter, solid things, things we touch, are the most solid and secure reality. ... He who builds only on things that are visible and tangible, on success, a career, money - he is building on sand. Apparently these are the true realities, but one day they will pass away. Only the Word of God is the foundation of all reality; it is stable like the heavens and more than the heavens. It is reality. Therefore we should change our concept of realism. The realist is he who recognizes in the Word of God, in this reality apparently so fragile, the basis of everything."
In 1991 John Paul II had asked this question:
"Can it perhaps be said that, after the failure of Communism, capitalism is the victorious social system, and that capitalism should be the goal of the countries now making efforts to rebuild their economy and society? Is this the model which ought to be proposed to the countries of the Third World which are searching for the path to true economic and civil progress?
The answer is obviously complex. If by "capitalism" is meant an economic system which recognizes the fundamental and positive role of business, the market, private property and the resulting responsibility for the means of production, as well as free human creativity in the economic sector, then the answer is certainly in the affirmative, even though it would perhaps be more appropriate to speak of a "business economy", "market economy" or simply "free economy". But if by "capitalism" is meant a system in which freedom in the economic sector is not circumscribed within a strong juridical framework which places it at the service of human freedom in its totality, and which sees it as a particular aspect of that freedom, the core of which is ethical and religious, then the reply is certainly negative." (Centesimus Annus, 42)
The fact is that Capitalist culture has had its heart set on materialism and has made peripheral things - designer clothes, infantilised lifestyles and megabytes - become the focus of the Common Good, whilst pushing unwanted human beings into the background and even denying life to a countless multitude through contraception, abortion, embryo research and euthanasia. The reverse of this situation is the truth: the human person, not material goods, is the source of the Common Good. Indeed, it is the human person redeemed by grace who is the Common Good of humanity, whilst the goods we buy in the shops and want in our homes are peripheral realities. It is human beings we need more of, and redeemed human beings at that; a Capitalist culture which empties us of our humanity and leads us to respond to our inadequacies has got to have a limit imposed on it. Thank goodness God is stepping into the market place in order to make some changes.

Wednesday 8 October 2008

Foundation of peace: the Family

Nowhere is the conflict of Civilisations felt more keenly than it is by the family - here the two cultures of Life and death meet and the struggle is most deeply felt. Yet the family, in Christ, has been immersed in the well-spring of life in the Sacrament of Marriage, and the forces it possesses for good and for the building up on the Civilisation of Love are grace-filled. In the aftermath of the World Wars and in the midst of the world's contemporary secular project which tries to focus the hearts and minds of men and women on illusory and fleeting goals, the Church has set her sight upon the very basis and medium of human life - the family. The family, in Christ, is the first and most essential building brick of the Civilisation of Love which flows out of the heart of the Holy Trinity.

During this last week I helped to lead a Family Camp and Retreat on the outskirts of Sydney in the very beautiful landscape near the Hawksbury River. This was the first event of the newly established National Association of Catholic Families in Australia (founded some years ago in the UK). I was delighted to have been asked to involve myself with this fledgling Association in Sydney and to be Chaplain to the Camp. My experience of being involved with Catholic family events in the UK has been extremely rewarding - when Catholic families are "switched on" to their mission and the graces that are theirs - loads of human and Christian culture flows out of them.

We had 7.30am Mass each of the three days, talks on "The Eucharist and the Family", "Asceticism in the Family" and "The Family and the New Evangelisation". We prepared our meals and eat together, we experienced the "Flying Fox" and organised a magnificent Family Concert evening. The Camp ended with a Rosary procession through the woods at the Retreat Centre.

In 1981 John Paul II called upon Catholic families to associate - some families have heard his call and family events like these are taking place, albeit with small numbers, throughout the world. I have always encouraged families in the parishes in which I have worked in Leeds to come together, but I have usually found that their attention is on the secular world and have almost totally lost touch with Christ, and my encouragement has led to nothing. I am so grateful to these families of Sydney for the openness which they showed to God, to one another and to me.

There is a Family Conference/Retreat taking place in St Alban's in the Uk at the end of this month - this is your opportunity - become leaders in the new Culture which the Holy Spirirt wants to form!

Tuesday 7 October 2008

Rooting Pelagianism out of marriage

Benedict XVI has written a Message to Msgr. Livio Melina, president of the John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and the Family to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the publication of Paul VI's Encyclical 'Humanae vitae'.
This Encyclical, writes Pope Benedict, 'deals with one of the essential aspects of the vocation of marriage, and of the specific path to sanctity deriving therefrom. In fact, the married couple, having received the gift of love, are called in their turn to give themselves to one another unreservedly'.
'The possibility of procreating a new human life is inherent to the complete giving of the spouses', observes the Holy Father. 'To exclude this communicative dimension by acts that seek to impede procreation means to deny the intimate truth of married love'. Forty years after the publication of the Encyclical we are better able to understand 'how decisive it was to our understanding of the great 'yes' implicit in conjugal love', he writes.
In the light of the Encyclical 'children are not seen as the aim of a human project but are recognised as an authentic gift, to be welcomed with an attitude of responsible generosity towards God, Who is the primary source of human life'.
Benedict XVI recalls how 'during a couple's life serious situations may arise that make it prudent to separate the births of children or even suspend them altogether. It is here that a knowledge of the natural rhythms of a woman's fertility become important'.
'Methods of observation that enable a couple to determine periods of fertility', he continues, 'allow them to administer what the Creator wisely inscribed in human nature without disturbing the integral meaning of sexual relations. In this way the spouses, while respecting the full truth of their love, can modulate the expression thereof in accordance with these rhythms. ... Clearly this requires a maturity in love, ... and mutual respect and dialogue'.

Thursday 2 October 2008

The Faith, the Family, the future

The Faith and Family Conference has no TVs! There are just a few more beds left and also places for day visitors; http://www.faithandfamily.org.uk/ Don't miss out on this weekend Family event at St Albans, 25th - 26th October 2008. (I'm leading a similar one here on the outskirts of Sydney this weekend, 3rd - 6th October: The Family: the foundation of peace. Remember us in prayer - we'll remember you.)

Of paella and science

In Brisbane I stayed with my good friends from my Valencia days, Salvador, Margot and family. We spent some of the time on North Stradbroke Island where Salva made a most magnificent paella for us after Sunday Mass. I swam off Flinders Beach which, together with Main Beach, are the most beautiful beaches I have ever seen. I also saw my first Koala bear - a mother with its baby, perched in an inert and intoxicated way in a gum tree.
We even saw a whale passing by Lookout Point on the Island. This is one of the finest locations I have ever encountered in my life and it was a wonderful preface to the Priest's Conference which then took place in the city. Dr David van Gend gave honour in his conference to the Japanese physician Shinya Yamanaka whose work in 2007 has made cloning and the supposed need to use embryonic stem cells utterly obsolete.

This great man has developed a technique for creating totally viable and usable stem cells from skin tissue, which makes the culture of death procedures of cloning and harvesting stem cells from embryos wholly irrelevant. His work invites the world to look at the embryo in wonder at how a whole human person can exist in such a small thing and expand and develop in the same way in which the Universe did.

500 miles north

At the beginning of the week I was in Brisbane, Queensland, for the annual conference of the Australian Confraternity of Catholic Clergy (www.australianccc.org). This was a top quality clergy conference whose speakers addressed immediately useful topics superbly - for instance, Cathechesis in the era of B16, Priestly ministry to the mentally handicapped, the status of science and debate concerning embryo research, Liturgical development in the era of B16, and many others. I was warmly welcomed as a non-Australian and invited to join - which I did. There is a real level of priestly fraternity here in Oz which I have experienced since my first week; I am making some very good priest friends here. And it was very refreshing to find some of the Australian hierarchy taking part in the Conference and mixing naturally with the priests. I have been in Oz for only three months and have already met and spoken with seven Australian Bishops who express their priesthood with ease and grace.