It was amusing when Fr. Richard Whinder stood up to welcome our guest speaker, Jacob Rees-Mogg, at the latest meeting of the Confraternity of Catholic Clergy -given that the two look so alike. Thank goodness one wore dog-collar and the other a tie else we might not have told them apart!

Mr. Rees-Mogg proved a considered and engaging speaker. He gave an address rich in praise for the Catholic faith in which he vocalised genuine desire that clerics would learn to be bolder in taking a spiritual lead within the nation. For he believes our nation is not as militantly atheistic and secular as the media would have us believe but that most British people retain a deep seated respect for their Christian heritage. Furthermore a strong spiritual and moral leadership is needed at present.

Mr. Rees-Mogg also gave sound advice warning clergy to steer clear of political meddling. If we are outspoken on subjective matters relating solely to political policy, not objective truth relating to the next life, the danger is we can be mistaken and lose credibility to speak on God’s behalf. Though clearly some political matters touch on moral and ethical questions becoming spiritual matters too.

I agree- there is nothing as disappointing to authentic Christian witness as that cleric, especially if it is a bishop, who remains silent on matters like abortion but vocal on populist political causes like the environment. Yet such clergy, who are short on supernatural faith but strong on political theory, seem two a penny today. And, of course, it is equally lamentable when politicians do the same in the opposite direction- failing to get public policy right whilst stepping into the religious domain by instructing us on how we should think and believe. Let priests be priests and politicians be politicians!

There were plenty of other interesting points but it is not my place to share the details of private talks in a public forum. So let me share instead how I was struck by Mr. Rees- Mogg’s integrity. Whatever your  party political views, if you are a Christian JRM deserves your prayers and support. He is  a man of deep personal faith whose passion for the family, the church and pro-life causes is vital in the current political landscape. Indeed we must pray for Christian politicians of all shades and parties as they walk a difficult path at present. We need them to represent our faith.

Last Sunday we held our May Devotion. At 8am Mass we ended with the Salve Regina and offered prayers before the image of Our Lady in church. At 9:15am Mass, and at the 11am, we processed the church grounds, sang Marian hymns and ended with Solemn Benediction. It was a good Sunday with clouds of incense, hearty hymns and lots of smiles.

The May Devotion is a grass roots phenomenon stemming from the 18th Century when, in Rome, a peasant child gathered his friends, one balmy May evening, and led them to an image of Our Lady in the city to sing a litany. The children decided to do it again the following night and brought more friends. Soon the crowd was swelled by mothers, fathers and local clergy. A tradition was born. And now across the world Catholics offer heightened devotion to the Mother of Our Lord in this month of May. A month which in the UK, due to the lush growth of Spring, chimes with the Eastertide themes of birth and fresh hope.

The May devotion is a source of encouragement in times of hardship for the church. It reminds us that we are not dependent on a human hierarchy for grace. We need not ask permission to build up the life of faith so long as we remain obedient to the magisterium. And it reminds us that the long term health of the church is not ultimately dependent on better bishops but better laity. For it is only when our families and communities put devotion front and centre that healthy vocations are born and faith begins to bear fruit. Pray that this holy month might embolden us to live the faith as God intended.

Many moons ago, in Anglican days when I was curate of St. Thomas of Canterbury Church in Brentwood, I met one of those inspiring Christians whose virtue is manifest and whose devotion is obviously deep. That person was Ruth Pye and she became not only a parishioner but a friend.

Ever since I knew Ruth she was a walking miracle. Through prayer, determination and grit she overcame a virulent form of cancer, being nursed in an isolation on several occasions,amazing medics in the process. She would go on to live for years beyond what was anticipated which was a blessing to her family and friends and especially her children.

Around the time that the Ordinariate sprang into life, Ruth converted to the Catholic church. Unable to join an Ordinariate group locally she became a member of the Catholic Cathedral in Brentwood. Her support for the Ordinariate was evident by her prayers, her love of this blog and the gift she regularly gave to our parish here in Pembury.

Last week Ruth lost her battle with cancer but, I strongly suspect, won the battle of life. She will not have feared death but will have been excited at the prospect of meeting God face to face. The 9:15am Mass in Pembury, this morning, was offered for the repose of her soul. Please pray for her and for her family.

Jesu mercy, Mary pray. Rest in peace a genuine friend of Jesus and a friend of mine. A stellar example of faith lived out.

At the Ascension, celebrated yesterday, we witness a handover of epic proportion. Christ took his earthly body into the heavenly realm leaving the disciples to become his active body on earth. The ones charged with responsibility for preserving the faith and growing his kingdom. He did not abandon us, like an absent landlord, for he soon sent his Spirit to guide and made himself present in every tabernacle where the true church gathers. But we no longer behold his human form. It was time for the apostles to take up the reigns. What trust God shows his people! What a responsibility we face as the church on earth.

That the Lord was ‘received from sight’ in a cloud is fascinating. Because that was how God appeared to his people in the Old Testament when he led them from Egypt into the promised land. What are we to make of this intertwining of God’s ancient form with his Christological form? Surely it is a firm reminder that the Ascension was no moment of innovative rupture but one of deep intended continuity. As all authentic change in the church must be. If it is to remain faithful to what went before. The faith is centred on objective truth, divinely revealed, not on the subjective opinions of man.

The Gospel is not ours for changing then. God does not do U-turns because he has been working his purpose out from eternity. He is, to quote scripture, the same yesterday, today and forever. So whilst we are called to become His body on earth- we are not called to tinker with the deposit entrusted to us. Christ remains the head. We are to be stewards not kings. Meaning paradigm shifts in established teaching are out because there is but one eternal paradigm. We must recall whose faith we profess and remain obedient to the Master who ascended.

The ascension was a time when God entrusted the deposit of faith to His Church for safekeeping. History shows sometimes it has been done well- sometimes badly. In 2018, sad to say, given widespread confusion and apostasy in our day, we seem to be enduring a most lamentable era. One senses many hirelings and not nearly enough authentic shepherds. So be it. Don’t let weak faith in others, no matter their seniority, no matter how widespread, ever get you down.

Because the authentic church often has dwelt in backwater stables not in the palaces of the powerful. And it often has been upheld not by the many but the few. An indisputable fact when one ponder the lives of Saints and the Martyrs. Learn from them. That when others are losing their heads and abandoning Christ you may remain steadfast. Even if the whole world apostatises you have the freedom to remain close to Christ. And in times of trouble and confusion such simple lowly fidelity is a precious gift to God. It presents him with at least one life to work through. St. Athanasius had it right when he wrote “Even if Catholics faithful to tradition are reduced to a handful they will be the ones who are the true Church of Jesus Christ”

On this Ascension day let us pledge to be part of that true eternal mystical church, as we seek to remain faithful to Christ in all things, as we await the return of our Master. To him be the glory. Amen.

Last Friday the family travelled to the Cotswolds for a long weekend of camping. The journey however was predictably complicated by an unwritten law that governs Tomlinson family holidays; motor failure must play some part! This time the fault being a wheel, broken beyond repair by one of Kent’s numerous potholes. With no replacement available until after the bank holiday, the only solution was for Hayley to pile her tiny Citroen with the sleeping bags et al, whilst I took the children over by train. Rush hour with children is not for the feint hearted- but being in holiday spirit we enjoyed it nevertheless.

The weekend proved bitter sweet. The low of motor failure was compensated by glorious weather. We joined several of Hayley’s university friends and also spent some time alone. Our family excursion being to a crocodile zoo, which the boys absolutely loved. Feeding time was the highlight and any suggestions that the boys themselves might be dinner were laughed off.

We had planned to drive to one of the Ordinariate groups in the Oxford area for Sunday Mass but a fraught journey meant we opted instead for the local church in Charlbury. It turned out to be charming. A small faithful congregation whose liturgy was identical to our 11am in Pembury. I was incognito, having travelled light, but was soon rumbled by the parish server who reads this blog. A former Anglican priest, now senior staff member at the Reading Oratory school, it transpired he had employed my predecessor at St. Barnabas, Fr. Kenneth McNab, following his earlier conversion to Rome!

The nice thing about joining with other families on a campsite is that the children have lots of friends to play with. And with the sun shining they were having a blast. But the wonderful weekend took a sudden turn for the worst when Gussy fell awkwardly from a climbing frame and hurt himself badly.

Poor little chap was rushed to a local emergency room where a nasty fracture close to the shoulder was discovered. Fearing he might need an operation to align the bones the medics booked him into the trauma unit at the John Radcliff hospital for further analysis the following morning. An uncomfortable night ensued with only Calpol to dull the pain.

The photograph above shows a little boy’s face when he is being extremely brave in the face of pain because he wants to earn some ‘brave boy’s lego’. And earn it he did as we watched a much older child acting hysterically in the hospital whilst Gus bore his own suffering with stoic heroism…and a large packet of fruit pastilles. A masculine show that soon won over the nurses and ensured he was very much the centre of attention.

Meanwhile I  had a serious logistical problem to solve. Here you see me discussing plans with a brighter person, or were we discussing the pitfalls of subjective Hegelian theology? I forget. Either way the problem was that Gussy would need one adult and a free car, lest he be kept in overnight, but the other family members needed to get home with a good deal of camping equipment. The train option was no longer feasible.

Step forward dear Father Nicholas who volunteered to drive from Kent and collect family and equipment, freeing me to focus on Gussy. What a star! In the end Gus did not need the manipulation, thank the Lord, and so was soon home and tucked up on the sofa where he can recover at leisure from his ordeal . Meanwhile I must now get about the business of ordering wheels and try to avoid Fr. Nicholas in the ale houses of Kent- I owe him more beers than my stipend affords!

As people around the world look on in horror at the treatment of baby Alfie Evans, a few points worthy of reflection.

There are times doctors must make difficult decisions and extraordinary care needs to be withdrawn from a patient. This would include things like medicine and machines that enable lungs and heart to function. What is never acceptable, according to Catholic teaching, is withdrawal of ordinary care (food, water and oxygen) because at this point you shift from allowing natural death to enforcing unnatural death, eg.. EUTHANASIA. Alfie has not been fed for over 20 hours.

The time to remove extraordinary care is when somebody is already in the process of dying. That is to say they would die even if given ordinary care. Alfie Evans was NOT in the process of dying when food, water and oxygen were withdrawn. He could easily have been handed to another medical team and, thanks to the Vatican, that team was/is ready and waiting to help. That this has been refused cannot be said to be ‘in Alfie’s best interest’ when your ‘best interest’ for him is death by starvation and dehydration.

The medical staff are today claiming victim status and telling reporters they feel threatened. This is profoundly ironic given that the same authorities placed a police cordon around Alfie’s hospital bed and threatened his parents with taser should they take their child out of the room. If people are angry at the manner in which Alfie has been treated then the state needs to reflect on why that might be. Zero sympathy in these quarters given how the family have been treated.

Pride is a sin. Undoubtedly the medical staff never planned for this situation to arise. But it has blown into a global incident because people can see an obvious refusal to admit mistake and a desire to enforce power of state over the family. Whatever happened to doctors advise and parents decide? It strikes me a proud judge, a proud medical team coupled with a poor regard for the sanctity of life due to cultural attitudes lies behind much that is going wrong here.

The decision to remove food, water and oxygen was taken on the assurance Alfie would only survive minutes without breathing tube. When he survived an entire night without it that was the time for the authorities to apologise and review. Instead they pressed ahead and it now feels, rightly or wrongly, as if they are desperate for him to die to prove them right.

This blog has long warned of the danger of creeping liberal totalitarianism in the West. One in which the State claims for itself powers and privileges rightly belonging to our families. Here we see that write large. First they came for Alfie… How will we defend the rights of the family? It is a pressing concern for us all.

Alfie Evans is a child who, following a seizure in 2016, has been on life support at Alder Hey hospital in Liverpool due to an undiagnosed degenerative illness. In recent months the doctors treating Alfie, believing his condition incurable, wanted to bring his life to an end. A decision which brought them into sharp conflict with his parents who want him to be given every chance, not least as he is not in pain and still partially responsive. The photograph above was taken yesterday.

When Alfie’s parents decided to move their son to a Catholic hospital in Rome (pro-life rather than part of a culture of death) the conflict between State and family took a sinister turn. Using a law that enables the State to overthrow parental rights when deemed “in the best interests of a child”- police were sent to stop the family leaving hospital with Alfie. A seemingly callous decision that scandalised people throughout the world. Since then the authorities have remained bullish in maintaining their stance that Alfie should not be moved to another hospital. What gives them that right?

The saga took a dramatic twist last night when the Italian government, at the Pope’s behest, granted Alfie citizenship to enable him to be transferred to the Vatican hospital against the wish of the State. Pope Francis tweeted support asking that the needs of parents be considered and met. Instead, at 9pm, a judge ruled that Alfie’s breathing tube be removed and medical assistance withdrawn. His death would have been instantaneous had the hospital been granted its initial preference to use a chemical cosh to euthanise. Fortunately they lost that bid at an earlier hearing and so Alfie was left with his parents overnight to let nature take its course.

Since then a minor miracle has occurred. As of this morning, against all odds and the assurances of the medics, Alfie continues to breathe unaided. He is being held skin to skin by his mother and father, who have proved heroic in fighting his cause. The family hope to launch a fresh appeal when the courts re-open enabling his transfer to go ahead. They ask for the prayers of the Catholic community.

It is important to recognise that ethical situations like these are notoriously tricky. Our doctors and nurses work hard to help people and have to make lots of very difficult decisions. They have to work to economic constraints whilst also striving to bring comfort and care to the sick. Nevertheless the following questions gnaw at me

 

  • What is the justification here for the family being sidelined by the State? When did our children become their possession? This blog has long warned that the break down of the family and rise of Big State is a dire threat to personal liberty and the home. This proves that point.
  • How can it be argued that death is ‘in the best interest’ of Alfie given the he remains comfortable and alive when given life support? How can any long term decisions be made given that his illness is undiagnosed?
  • What reason is there for not enabling the transfer to Rome? The cost is being met by others? I do wonder if the decision to end his life was partially economic and the authorities are uneasy about the implications should Alfie do well.

Most rugby playing fathers, once age catches up with them and bodies are broken, turn to coaching minis. Something I would have loved to get involved with but cannot due to priestly commitments; youth rugby has become a Sunday morning activity in recent years across the entire nation. Our local club has hundreds of families involved.

This secular phenomenon of Sunday morning sport is bad news for the church because I know several families who might well be church goers but for a love of the game. They are the sort who are not committed Christians (yet!) but who are certainly open to the faith. We must find different times in which to promote our services and way to meet their need.

Not wanting my boys to miss out I, rather selfishly, put on an 8am Mass at St. Anselm’s a couple of years ago. The idea being that Benny could get to Mass before training and thereby fulfil both duties. I thought it would be just the two of us but, to my surprise, that Mass has steadily grown and we now get around 20 most weeks. There are lots of reasons why people occasionally require an early Mass and some who simply like that slot. The 8am is here to stay.

The good news, for Benny, is that another boy in the congregation is in the same team. Meaning his father takes them both off to training after Mass. But the downside is that he never gets to play in front of his dad which is important for boys. So when news of the under 8 tour to the Isle of Wight was announced I grabbed the opportunity to make it up to him. And so at 7:45am this morning we head off together for a great weekend of rugby and fun.

As Father Nicholas is also away, in Ireland for a family wedding, I am grateful to Monsignor Keith Newton, who released Fr. Mark Elliot-Smith from Sunday duties at Warwick Street in London to enable him to come to Pembury and cover services this weekend. Please be there to support him and give him a warm welcome. He looks forward to seeing how the Ordinariate functions within a village setting. And it goes without saying that I am also very grateful to him!

The latest buzzword, amongst those who hunger to water down the Catholic faith, is ‘paradigm shift’. Have you run up against awkward scripture that frustrates your favoured narrative? No problem – ignore that teaching by explaining it is time for a ‘paradigm shift’!

Does the historic teaching of the church contradict a desire to endorse _________? (insert favoured cause) Explain how the Holy Spirit is ‘doing a brave new thing’ encouraging a ‘paradigm shift’. If your audience still seems unsure make clear it is a ‘work of mercy’ and demonise those faithful to the previous historic teaching as outdated ‘rigid and legalistic’. Then most will applaud; certainly politicians, the secular media, cafeteria Catholics, atheists, liberal protestants et al…

Cardinal Tobin, who recently caused scandal by sending a private text- (reading ‘Nighty, night baby. I love you xx’) as a public tweet; and whose explanation (that it was for his sister…) was largely met with scepticism, is the latest to jump on this bandwagon. At a conference endorsing modernist agenda he suggested the church is ‘moving’ in its approach to homosexuality because…. a paradigm shift is underway!

But here is the problem for Cardinal Tobin and other advocates of  modernist revolution within the church. You cannot endorse a paradigm shift if there is only one acceptable paradigm!

This is made clear at Mass when we are told that the new covenant is eternal. It is made clear in Hebrews where, in a passage instructing us to honour marriage, we read ‘Jesus is the same, yesterday, today and forever’. It was spoken by Isaiah  ‘the grass withers, the flowers fade but the Word of God will stand forever’ After his resurrection Jesus made it clear, on the road to Emmaus, teaching how his rising was no ‘paradigm shift’ but a fulfilment of Old Testament promises. Jesus also said “until heaven and earth pass away, not even one iota, nor one stroke of a letter, shall pass away from the law”. 

So how can it be implied, by Tobin et al, that God is now abandoning historic doctrine to do a new thing? A thing, it must be noted, that does not strengthen church teaching but concedes ground to secular concensus and philosophy of the sexual revolution. By all established rules of the church such change is not permissible. And given that those pushing the change can only appeal to sentiment not reason, pleading the cause of mercy but refusing to answer questions with clarity, we ought smell a rat. Might this be a demand for heretical teaching?  Are we being duped into accepting snake oil to ensure comfort from the world?

The Holy Spirit, Word of God, the deposit of faith revealed to Apostles, the Catholic faith -these things being divinely revealed truth  are not for changing. Things might develop naturally but cannot change via contradiction. Because God does not do U-turns. Truth is truth. And this is VERY important. Because when we stop looking to scripture and tradition, to discern the will of God, we are left only with ‘experts’ to tell us which bits to believe and which to discard. We switch from a reliance on objective divine revelation to  subjective discernment imparted by  fallen men. Clericalism writ large. And if the abuse crisis, and rumours of immoral lives within the Vatican, teach us anything – it is that we should not place trust in the Princes of this world but in Christ whose church it is.

So when modernist theologians attempt to seduce you into squaring impossible circles, in the name of mercy and via the ‘paradigm shift’, be extremely cautious. Meditate on scripture, consider the teaching of  Saints. And do read 2 Timothy 4:3 which warns that ‘the time will come when people 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.’ 

Beware Paradigm shifters…I fear they sell us snake oil.

BBC Radio 4 is at its best when it steps aside from a politically motivated agenda, that seeks to impose a new moral and cultural narrative, and focuses instead on impartial stories of genuine interest.

One such item, on the Today programme yesterday, was a perfect example. It reported on a study revealing a minority of people are born with a fourth cone allowing them to see colour in a superior way. These super visual people may see shades and colours the rest do not. Genuinely interesting stuff.

But then came the bombshell moment when the Beeb let slip it does not believe its own narrative. Because the report made clear only women are born this way. Which is odd given how much energy the BBC normally expends assuring us our sex is not objective reality but open to choice; as if we may choose to be male, female or any number of realities which our grandparents never heard of…

So unless the BBC can explain why nobody who identifies as woman (but was born with penis) has this extra cone..it must surely concede that all previous claims suggesting ‘gender’ is subjective are scientifically faulty. For this report made clear  the biologically determined differences between men and women. So which is it BBC? Do you uphold scientific fact as reported by yourselves yesterday or refute it? You cannot logically have it both ways.

Understand I have sympathy with those whose psychological state makes them question reality. Mental illness is no joke and such people need acceptance, love and support. Be gentle with those who suffer delusion; be it the anorexic who believes themselves fat, or those unable to accept their sex. But what such people do not need is a state sanctioned collusion in the delusion that contradicts truth!

It would be unspeakably cruel to gouge the eye and hack the hand off the person who believes they are Lord Nelson. So why do health professionals hand out drugs and perform mutilating surgeries on people, some of them only teens, who are deeply confused about their sex? And why do the media applaud this and act as if biological science is not a factual discipline?

The differences between men and women are biologically determined. They exist not only in fourth cones but at a chromosomal level and can even be seen in skeletal remains! It is high time  we stopped the ridiculous PC narrative that undermines objective reality and dared speak truth in love. Doing this does not mean we must be hard or cruel on vulnerable people who need our support. Disagreement is allowed in civilised debate and sometimes those who question our assumptions and beliefs are working very much in our favour.