In Medio Stat Virtus

A Catholic Blog From Scotland

Monday, October 18, 2010


Benedict has been and gone; the atheist establishment has excelled itself in vituperation; the Catholic community stands now in readiness to avail itself of the inspiring example that Benedict gave; when will it get it? Hopefully, the wisdom and religious commonsense that he showed to us will be drawn into the Catholic bloodstream by some kind of osmosis for there are few signs of a church inspired 'Benedict bounce'.

There are great lessons to learned from the experience of 1982, with the visit of Pope John Paul to our country. A whole explosion of enthusiasm and exuberance, deeply tinged with triumphalism, was set off. Twenty eight years later, it is not too much of an exaggeration to suggest that we are getting closer to a tipping point in terms of practising numbers. Officially these are given as 185 000, a figure that may be a little out of date. We needed Benedict to come. We need his continued influence.

Monday, April 26, 2010


Young Carlton-Browne of the FO aka Anjoum Noorani and Steven Mulvain, really put their foot into it, what with letting their sense of the irreverent get the better of them and all that. It's so easy to guy an authority figure, especially a religious one, most especially a Catholic one, best of all the top Catholic one. Apparently a sense of the irreverent is a sine qua non nowadays for entry into the Foreign Office. Gosh, what a jolly jape it must be, representing Great Britain abroad and providing opportunities for the country to choke with amusement over its breakfast Rice Crispies. Let's face it. The Benedict brand condom? Could anything be funnier of a sunny morning?

Young Master Milliband apparently was not amused. He after all is in line for the flack from various Vatican vigilantes who perhaps might murmur that the proposed visit be at least postponed for a while, thus scuppering any advantage that might accrue by cosying up to the Vatican - think climate, think poverty. All this could have turned to dust as a result of a wheeze dressed in official memo style by junior hands. Gordon Brown must be chewing the carpet at this stage. The speed of apology missives has apparently been warp 10. No matter. The secret that Catholics suspected and some knew, is finally out for all to see and digest at brekkers. You can take a kick at Catholics and get away with it.


Ladies in White are an unexpected group to come across in the socialist paradise that Cuba is not. Wives and mothers of political prisoners, these ladies quietly and calmly protest that they wish to have their husbands and sons returned to daylight from the prisons in which they have been incarcerated merely for disagreeing with the Disreputable Two, Fidel and Raul.
Their most recent protest led to Fidel's rentacrowd baying hysterically at them for hours on end, accompanied of course by the red flag waving. Funny how these despicable marxoids refuse to see anything else but their own behaviour as having a right to exist. More power to the Ladies in White arms. Is there not something about the right to assembly or to political activity in the Human Rights legislation that all these political imposters signed up to ?

Tuesday, April 20, 2010


Cuba's Cardinal Ortega has laid it on the line for socialism's last despairing outback outpost. The country isn't working, the workers are restless, the prison cells are full, the champagne socialists of the West are distracted by their own problems, Fidel and Raul are holding hands with Hugo Chavez.....the Caribbean's own little socialist paradise is slowly twisting in the wind. What does the picture above have to do with all this? It has appeared before and will again. It reminds me of the way of the cross of the Cuban people under the iron heel of the Castros.

I believe Fidel sleeps well in his comfortable bed. Perhaps if he wakens during the night, he may hear the gentle breeze riffling the curtains of his window. It may or may not sound like 'Ceausescu'. I would hope for his sake that it does not. He and sibling still have time - not much- to do something about their nearly sixty years of ruthless domination of a whole people. I await with interest reports that Dawkins and Hitchens are setting out their traps for the Glorious Leaders.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

We've heard it from the Denial Duo, Dawkins and Hitchens - they're out to huckle the Pope when he comes to visit. Think of the headlines ; 'Benedict in Belmarsh'. Bad enough the media are filled with the Tiresome Two ; the distaff side has joined in. The Thunderer's Purves has chipped in with her slant on the growing Papal imbroglio, while Gledhill agonises about wearing a cross, forgetting perhaps that there is no cross without Christ and no Christ without a cross.

It is hard to tell where all this furor and furore will end. What it will succeed in doing is compromising such a visit if in fact it takes place.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Benedict; a great pope

I am much taken with this photograph of Pope Benedict. It highlights the valley of darkness through which he is currently passing. There is an almost Easter Passion about this. Deserted by friends, "I offered my back to those who struck me, my cheeks to those who tore at my beard. I did not cover my face against insult and spittle". Isaiah said it all.

As Catholics we are all experiencing a collective dark night of the soul, stunned by the revelation of what Benedict has called the 'filth' in the Church. In many ways, he is bearing our burdens. We must pray that God gives him the strength to continue. Isaiah again; "The Lord is coming to my help, who dare condemn me?"

Monday, August 03, 2009


Two contrasting images of holy writ. Reactions are different of course. Our subcontinental confreres in our differing versions of holy writ behave a little more robustly than we do to even unfounded accusations of writ defacement.

Thursday, July 30, 2009


Glasgow is the City of.......Fit in your preference. Its Rulers so far have adopted Culture, Architecture and some other professions that have escaped the notice of its citizens. Its latest boast is City of Curry, a title won for it by Mohammed Sarwar MP who apparently made a hot case for the accolade in Parliament. What the Rulers do not want, regardless of their pleas for tolerance and freedom of speech is to be become City of Vandalism or even City of Blasphemy. Yet that is what has happened. Their sturdy dismissal of traditional values and the religious feelings of their citizens in favour of artistic licence has made world wide headlines, including a papal reprimand.
The invitation to express resentment at feelings of exclusion apparently attributable to Scripture seemed too much for a sizeable minority of latrinographers who on the face of it, had lost their way to the narrowest room and found themselves in Glasgow Museum of Modern Art, a cultural no-go area for anyone who appreciates the finer things in life. The invitation to write the passing thought was irresistible and appears to have been accepted with some gusto. Good manners forbid repeating their efforts.
The episode shows up three things. First the Rulers, who exact the highest city council tax in Scotland and have the lowest rate of collection, have no inhibitions about how they spend other peoples' money: a now universal habit among councils up and down the country.
Secondly, regardless of the social make up of the city, the Rulers' urge to commit to a secularist and 'liberal' agenda seems unstoppable. Culture, Architecture, Curry......we are citizens too of no mean City of Political Correctness.
Lastly, the Catholic Church was slow to resond.A spokesman for the Catholic Church, (always anonymous) suggested that the episode was 'infantile'. Not quite good enough. Ordinary people would have provided 'blasphemous' or 'repellant' or 'insulting', but these kinds of sentiments were thin on the ground. Perhaps our bishops could have collectively commented a little more loudly or forcibly or even at all.

Monday, March 24, 2008


The hunt is on. The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill (HFEB) is about to reach Parliament and suddenly the Catholics in government are important. Media interviews seem to have flushed out unknown Catholics in the House, and for some of them this is a trying time. HFEB has started a debate about what is involved with stem cell research, with the creation of chimerae for the purposes of experimentation, with the abolition of fatherhood. This heady mix of science, morality and ethics has proved a little much for MPs who are already sweating over the discoveries made by the Freedom of Information Act about how they are swinging their expenses.
There is more to HFEB however. It threatens to raise a debate on what loyalty to a political party means and where it can take such loyalty. I got a good example of this in correspondence with members of the House of Lords and with MPs. I feel strongly about this matter and wrote to the Scottish Lords on January 8. This is what I wrote to them :



I would ask you that in the debate on the above Bill, you indicate your support for the amendment put forward by Lord Alton to ban animal-human, ‘inter-species’ embryos.

In my view this practice is inherently both wrong and degrading to human dignity. We talk much of human rights today and human rights and dignity start with the embryo. Embryonic stem cell research has not produced any treatments applicable to any disorder, while adult stem cell therapies have been used in over 70 treatments. Yet scientists and politicians are prepared to divert resources from adult stem cell research to the creation of interspecies embryos which with a fourteen day life span have no uses, a procedure which has created unease among the public and is the killing of a human being.

On this issue, the enthusiasm of scientists for experimentation has influenced Government which proposed to ban such a procedure but changed its mind. I doubt if scientists represent the views of the general public in this matter.

Again, I would ask you to support Lord Alton’s amendment and would be grateful, if you feel you cannot, if you could let me know what factors swayed you against doing so.

Yours sincerely

Out of 70 letters sent, I received 9 replies. Most of these were in postcard form, mere acknowledgements that my letter had been received. Alton's attempted amendment, intended to remove the chimerae clause was overwhelmingly defeated.
As time has approached for the Commons debate of HFEB, I wrote the following to 38 Scottish Labour MPs, excluding the Prime Minister and the Speaker of the House.




As you know, this Bill will be before you for debate in the coming weeks. Among its key areas for discussion are firstly, making provision for research on different types of embryos ; and secondly, proposing changes in definitions of legal parenthood. I would ask you to oppose both of these.

Our defence of human rights includes human dignity, starting with the embryo. No applicable treatment to any disorder through embryonic stem cell research has been discovered, while adult stem cell therapies have been used in over 70 treatments. I therefore would urge you to oppose any diverting of resources from adult stem cell research to the creation of interspecies embryos which with a fourteen day life span have no uses. This is a procedure which has created unease among the general public and ultimately is the killing of a human being.

We all know what the words ‘mother’, ‘father’ and ‘family’ mean. They are what you grew up with. This Bill effectively asks you to change the meaning of words to suit social trends and to eliminate ‘father’ from the vocabulary of the family. I ask you to resist this.

I realise that you may be subjected to the possibility of a whipped vote in the passage of this Bill through the House. However much you may feel loyal to party demands, I would ask you to deny the whip. The matters in hand are too serious to be lost in obedience to lockstep conformity.

Yours sincerely

38 letters were sent. I received 15 replies, 14 of which declined to answer, invoking Parliamentary protocol that forbids members to discuss matters with non-constituents. All referred my letter to my own MP who at the time of writing has not contacted me. One member did reply politely. None of this helped to induce confidence in dealing with elected members.
The reactions of some Catholic MPs - opposition to Cardinal O'Brien's attack on HFEB, their own support for HFEB - is bound to raise some possible heartburning questions for our hierarchy. They should start soon to ask themselves about the levels of moral knowledge among people who state that they are Catholics, but appear to have little understanding of what this means. Much more important is the question of how they are going to deal with this.

Friday, June 08, 2007


The above image is the altar of what was St Peter's Seminary Cardross near Glasgow. Opened in 1966, it fell victim to the general decline in vocations and to a different approach to the training of priests.

Monday, June 04, 2007


The trial of Patrick Tobin for the murder of Angelika Kluk, whose body was found in the church of St Patrick in Glasgow ended with his conviction and a sentence of 21 years in prison. The trial ended too the priestly career of Fr Gerard Nugent, parish priest of St Patrick’s, whose hitherto hidden life was exposed in public. Sordid, vice-ridden, scandalous and lived through a haze of alcohol, Fr Nugent’s career has come to a close. Till the death of Ms Kluk, Fr Nugent was the face of caring in Catholic Glasgow. He held open house for the poor, homeless, exiled and marginalized. To all appearances he was a charismatic personality, recognised even by local authority for trying to put into practice the stated social concerns of the Church. Today he is a broken man, in the words of his beloved Henri Nouwen, a wounded healer.
Perhaps the part of his cross most difficult to bear has been how quickly his archdiocese has distanced itself from him. On 5 May it issued a stinging statement after Tobin’s conviction, ( questioning his prudence in operating his open door policy and stated that his weakness and lack of judgement had been exposed. Archbishop Mario Conti dismissed Fr Nugent as a priest of the archdiocese and indicated he would not recommend him for service elsewhere. Fr Nugent in other words may no longer exercise his priesthood anywhere in the world. At age 63 his career is over, although the archdiocese has a duty of care towards him with regard to his alcoholism for which presumably he will receive counselling and medical care.
On 8 May, after Fr Nugent received a sentence of 100 hours community service for giving evasive answers in the trial of Tobin, the archdiocese issued another statement because new lurid details of Fr Nugent’s activities had appeared in the media. The archdiocese indicated that neither the archbishop or any archdiocesan official had prior knowledge of any such details. In the course of it all, the archdiocese indicated that it would still care for him. Causa finita est. Fr Nugent has been left to be blown this way and that by the winds of public media obloquy, and not just secular media. A representative of the Catholic press has weighed in to suggest that he request to be laicised and that he has betrayed so many people.
Even in the matter of community service, Fr Nugent has been cut loose to drift. The staff of the charity shop to which he was directed to serve at least a part of his 100 hours service refused to allow him to do so, citing the fact that children enter its premises.
As the reverberations die down, Fr Nugent will gradually become a non-person, merely a bad memory. That may be so, but the memory lingers on and many of the questions it raises remain not just unanswered but unasked, leaving a sense of uneasiness that the situations that unfolded at the trial of Tobin were allowed to happen.
As this whole sordid episode unravelled, slowly a story from a work of fiction came back to me. Many years ago I read “The Nun’s Story” by Katherine Hulme. In it we can read of Fr Vermuhlen, who lived far out of reach of civilisation in the Congo, working in a leper colony, who came downriver every two years to be tested for signs of the disease. Many years before, he had been a missionary priest who went native, taking a Bantu woman as his wife with whom he had three children. Then he disappeared. On his return he asked to be assigned to the leper colony and to serve the lepers as penance for his sins, a request which was granted. The point of the story? Eventually he caught leprosy, the final act of penance he could make, the final sign of the forgiveness he wanted.
The story has some significance when we consider the penalties paid by Fr Nugent. He will not be recommended for service anywhere in the world, and in the public viewpoint there are few signs of forgiveness for him. Vermeuhlen at least was allowed to say Mass but only within the leper colony. However….

Thursday, February 01, 2007



I have chosen that title carefully, because what we are engaging in these days in the UK is a game of cat and mouse. Homosexual partnership is the cat, Catholic adoption societies are the current mouse and the point of the game is to kill the mouse. In line with the predatory habits of cats, they are toying with the mice before they are dispatched.

In England, the Labour Government has made it clear that there will be no exceptions from anti-discrimination laws imported from Europe for Catholic adoption societies. Regardless of clear statements from the hierarchy that SSPs are not and will not be morally or actually acceptable, their objections have been overridden. This action, taken by the Cabinet presumably under the aegis of collective responsibility, means that if any Catholic adoption society even considers refusing SSPs adoption rights to a Catholic child, it and its directors are liable to have the full force of the law visited on them. As always, the blow is softened a little. Such agencies have been given twenty months to get their act together. Until then they will be allowed to refer SSPs to other agencies.

In Scotland, things have been a little different. Its hierarchy was under the impression that a deal had been done with the passing of the Adoption (Scotland) Bill in November 2006 allowing Catholic agencies to refer as a matter of course. The bugbear is that the Equality Act is UK legislation, which means that it displaces devolved legislation. Scottish bishops apparently are outraged at what they view as a betrayal, and if the ‘Scotsman’ newspaper is to be believed, are intent on locking horns with the Scottish Executive on this matter. On the matter of SSP adoption and Catholics, there is much heat and not much light.

What is of concern are the consequences of these stand-offs. The all-time every-time loser in all this legislative and religious to-ing and fro-ing is a child somewhere who has no parents and is ultimately in the hands of strangers. Such a child may possibly find him/herself when asked about mums and dads in the playground having to say, “I have two dads and no mum” or “I have two mums and no dad.” Regardless of whatever homosexual propaganda makes of ‘loving care’ the experience of time has shown that children thrive best in the mother/father context. Who can predict with any measure of reliability what kind of society that these children, already part broken and flawed by their circumstances that they may know nothing about, will build for themselves?

What the endgame for the Catholic Church in the UK is, is another matter. Regardless of the sometimes-spurious optimism that the Catholic press occasionally exudes, it is not in a strong position to face down the challenges that such a concerted attack as SSP and adoption, together with the clear opposition of politicians of every stripe, have mounted. Congregations are smaller and older. Ordinations have dwindled to a mere trickle. Public figures, ostensibly Catholic, have sided with legislation that conflicts with their stated beliefs and there seems little possibility of any pressure being exerted for example on Catholic politicians to conform to Church teaching as was attempted by some American bishops on the matter of abortion.

The result of SSP /adoption may well be a further marginalisation of the Church as its opponents (who have had a field day on this issue in the media; if Catholics had used the kind of language about homosexuals as they have used about Catholics, then the police would have been at their doors) gather strength. This in itself may be no entirely bad thing. A Church that seeks privilege, wants a soft spot for itself, looks for and accepts honours and praise from the deeply secular society it finds itself in, is a weak Church that runs the risk of sinking into tame acquiescence and becoming a poodle of the state. It becomes something to be toyed with, and to ensure that this does not happen, it needs bishops to stand up individually as well as collectively and be outspoken for the moral standards we hold. The history of the Church provides plenty of examples of those who have not compromised with a state that wants its own way. Our times give no guarantee that we are exempt from persecution. The name and the means may be different but the intentions and results are the same.

Our politicians have taken on a new role here. They have become the guardians of something new that has been enshrined in legislation - homosexual morality. In doing so they have set the scene for the possibility of applying the force of law to what has been the constant and unchangeable Christian tradition of family morality for 1500 years in this country and there is practically speaking no end to the lengths that this position of power can be taken. Not enough stress can be laid on the need to speak out in protest to MPs content to conform with whatever comes along. Pastor Niemoller can be paraphrased here.
‘First they came for the adoption societies
And I did not speak out
Because I was not involved with them.
Then they came for the Catholic social services
And I did not speak out
Because I was not involved with them.
Then they came for the Catholic schools
And I did not speak out
because I was not involved with them.
Then they came for priests and bishops
And I did not speak out
Because I was not one of them.
Then they came for me
And there was no one left
to speak out for me.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Frogs croaking

There are occasions when you feel repelled by something you have touched, making you feel the need to wash. I got the same feeling this afternoon, when I caught on the radio, an interview with the editor of Catholic Truth, a Scottish magazine that prides itself on its orthodoxy and defence of what it considers traditional values. Its American peers call it 'feisty'.

The latest edition of the magazine has dedicated itself to a game that the Catholic Church does not normally take part in : Hunt the Homosexual. What it wants is for worshippers to snitch on priests who they think might be homosexuals. Presumably if some do, the religious police of Catholic Truth will turn up at their doors calling for such priests to come out and have their collars felt, if not burned.

Catholic Truth's unchristian call for informers has a history of course within the Catholic Church. At the beginning of the century, Pope St Pius X led the reaction of the Church to Modernism which he felt was undermining it. Instrumental in this procedure was Msgr Umberto Benigni, a Vatican official who started an anti-modernist network among his associates. His society, Sodalitum Pianum had less than fifty members who were influential in Catholic journalism and academic life. Their trick was to inform on intellectuals whom they suspected of Modernist thought and to publish their names in their own media outlets, and naturally they had easy access to Benigni. A thoroughly shameful activity that incidentally included among the suspects one Angelo Roncalli, then a history professor, later to be Pope John XXIII.

It is a relief to return to the sanity of true Catholic teaching. The Catechism of the Catholic Church contains sections on its position on homosexuality, 2357 ,2358, 2359. 2358 in particular is quite explicit in its description of how we are to treat people of this tendency. "They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. "

The distasteful action of Catholic Truth in highlighting possible homosexuality among Scottish priests spotlights something else. Apart from causing division within the Church, they show clearly that they are, regardless of their protestations, on the sidelines of the Catholic Church in Scotland. St Augustine was faced with the Donatist heresy that emphasisied the unworthiness of some Catholics, and the predestination of some elect, ie themselves and had something to say about it. "The clouds roll with thunder, the House of the Lord shall be built throughout the earth; and these frogs sit in their marsh and croak - We are the only Christians!"

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Ireland's Own

Is it irreverent to suggest to Archbishop Brady that 'by their flutes shall you know them?'

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Benedict vs the rest

Now that the righteous, unrighteous, pragmatic, opportunistic and hypocritical angers have gone slightly off the boil, it’s time for a reassessment of Pope Benedict’s analysis of the intellectual and arrogant dominance of reason in Western Europe. That after all, was what his Regensburg address was about. Inevitably, reaction to it was hijacked by Muslim over-reaction to one small part of it. Can you expect anything else from a religion that demands submission in every aspect of its exposition?

No, what I have found difficult to accept is the way in which the Pope, not only being left to contend with the above mentioned angers, was, in the words of an American Catholic news agency, hung out to dry by Catholics who were leaden-footed, if not actually dragging their heels, in coming to his defence. One glorious exception; Sister Leonella Sgorbati, martyred missionary in Somalia, a country at present being taken over by Islamic fundamentalists, armed as always with the Qu’ran, sharia law and swords to implement it.

An examination of the three main Catholic newspapers on sale in church porches in Scotland provide a spotty reaction. Least acceptable is the editorial of the Scottish Catholic Observer (SCO) which begins, “There may be an argument as to whether Pope Benedict was wise to include the comments of a Byzantine Emperor…” It goes on to suggest Benedict’s advisers should have counselled against inclusion of this. In SCO-speak, this suggests they should have censored it. The newspaper devotes one column of text and its editorial in an image-filled edition to the affair, one week after it took place. Always politically correct with a tendency to patronise on occasion, it cites the efforts of the Scottish Bishops to develop positive relationships through the Inter Faith Council. Perhaps more regular bulletins on the work of this group would help Scottish Catholics to understand other faiths better.

The Catholic Times, defensor fidei and whose letters columns are something else again, one half of the Gabriel Communications stable, whose journalists seem interchangeable with The Universe’s, its other half, concentrated its editorial input on apologies and the non-acceptance of them. Its main columnist began his regular column with the statement that “Pope Benedict XVI has endangered Christian minorities in Islamic countries with his quotation from Manuel II Palaeologus….” He then goes on to an historical disquisition on this individual, taking up three columns, then to some analysis of Benedict’s lecture. Nowhere does he follow up his initial comment on endangering Christian minorities.

The Universe, tabloid doppelganger of the Catholic Times, emphasised apologies, respect and misunderstandings from Benedict and provided three pages of what pleased it to call world reaction to the affair. Mysteriously included in this was a comment from a university chaplain in Wales to the effect that Benedict was trying to cover too much ground, that he missed some salient features of forced conversion, citing Saxons, and that perhaps he should have acknowledged the contribution of Islam to the writings of St Thomas Aquinas. Editorially, the message was – time to move on. Indeed. Mercifully.

In Nostra Aetate, the Fathers said, “The Church also has a high regard for the Muslims, who worship one God, living and subsistent, merciful and omnipotent, the Creator of Heaven and Earth.” In this same document, they stated, “ Even if over the course of centuries Christians and Muslims have had more than a few dissensions and quarrels, this sacred Council now urges all to forget the past and to work towards mutual understanding as well as towards the preservation and promotion of social justice, moral welfare, peace and freedom for the benefit of all mankind.”

Pope John Paul had no delusion that relations with Islam were not and would not be easy to negotiate or to maintain. In ‘Crossing the Threshold of Hope’ he said that ‘Fundamentalist attitudes….make reciprocal contacts very difficult.’ Benedict knows this perfectly well, but as Sandro Magister of L’Espresso writes, he is not prepared to stand silent before Islam, a silence as Magister says that is often given the name “dialogue”. Benedict’s dialogue involves asking Islam to consider reason in order to free itself from the grip of fundamentalism. There’s nothing unreasonable about that.
Well maybe.........

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

26 September.

The Feast of Sts Cosmas and Damian.

Little is known about these martyrs of the early Church. They were apparently healers who took no money for their services but who after their deaths were venerated by Christians. Their names appear in the Canon of the Mass.

22 September 2006.

The Martyrdom of Fabianus, Dominggus and Marianus.

A lot is known about the death of these three Catholic laymen in Sulawesi, Indonesia. It would be dishonest to say that the death of these new martyrs passed unnoticed. These three dirt poor farmers were accused of organising a Christian militia that carried out attacks on Muslims, a charge that they vehemently denied. Although worldwide protest was made about the unfairness of their trial, nothing could stop their execution.

In a display of spite and indifference that seems hard to believe, Fabianus, Dominggus and Marianus were refused all indications of compassion from the public prosecutor. He denied their requests that their bodies lie in state in their church for one day before burial, that they be buried in their own districts, that their priest witness their execution and that they send a message to Indonesia’s president. Most harrowing of all was his alleged refusal to allow these men’s request for the Sacrament of reconciliation and for a last Mass before their execution.

Their execution took place a few days before Ramadan.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

All Fired Up

The story has gone round the world quite a few times now, but try as they might to deny it, Strathclyde Fire and Rescue Service bosses cannot avoid seeing red faces in the mirror – probably over-heated ones. Their order to serving personnel to hand out leaflets at a ‘Gay Pride’ march through Glasgow, and their consequent disciplining of firemen who refused to take part, has raised a storm of protest tinged with disbelief. Arguments such as this kind of activity being a waste of highly trained and experienced firemen’s time and energy, have proved to be of little avail.
Predictable name-calling and accusations of ‘homophobia’ have obscured the true impact of these men’s refusal to get involved in handing out leaflets to homosexuals prancing around the public highways. The real issue is about political correctness, (not just a policy, more an ideology), that dominates the thinking and actions of public bodies all round Scotland. Once this was considered a joke or a fad. We have all come across examples such as referring to Chairman as Chair or Chairperson, or calling the ‘man in the street’ ‘ordinary people’. Coming from self-considered progressive council bodies, actions such as those taken by Strathclyde Fire and Rescue Service make clear that what we call ‘political correctness’ is something a little more sinister. Political correctness more precisely has to be identified with the spillage from the overturned dustbins of debunked economic Marxism – what it has metastasised into - cultural Marxism.
It’s all tarted up in nice words like ‘tolerance’ or ‘diversity’, ‘multiculturalism,’ ‘anti-racism’ or ‘gay rights’ and has a whole string of designated victims. When the truth is told however, this is soft Marxism as distinct from the hard Marxism that the Cold War was about. Its objective remains the same – the downfall of the West.
Back in the 1920’s the Italian communist Antonio Gramsci, a darling of left wing ideology, delivered a throw-away line that still resonates today. He talked about ‘the long march through the culture’, by which he meant subverting our institutions from the inside – like a process of bringing down a building by means of dry rot rather than by demolisher’s ball. It has taken a long time, but Gramsci must be sniggering in his grave at the success of his plan. When it hits base line however, political correctness or cultural Marxism, has got teeth. An example perhaps of the sharpest of these in the case of the Strathclyde firemen is the insistence by their employers, in the face of protest, that they are to attend ‘intense diversity training courses’.
The punishment, and a real punishment it is in terms of the boredom levels that these men will be subjected too, is compulsory attendance at these courses. Naturally enough their social and cultural retraining will be presented in fuzzy, not quite transparent terms. There will be nothing North Korean about it for it is more sensible to approach this sensitive business in a softly-softly way. After all, the first diversity awareness course was started up for people regarded as social deviants in Dachau in the 1930’s.
But eventually the message will be delivered to them firmly and clearly that their reactions to the order given to them were an indicator of their wish to retain their perhaps barely understood or comprehended power over minority groups. There is no question that they the firemen have human rights under a whole galaxy of laws or that their religious beliefs demand personal acceptance. In the face of the urgency of political correctness however, these must be placed to one side.
Eventually what will be laid before them will be a demand, couched in general terms at first, that they realise that they exploit these minority groups, in this case homosexuals, by not acceding to what are their perfectly reasonable demands. These demands are simple, not hard to understand or to carry out. The firemen will be placed in the situation that they must understand they have failed in this case to tolerate homosexuals, have failed to accept them either as individuals or as a social unit, have failed to endorse them and their activities and have failed to celebrate them. In other words, this demand will place them in the position that they should say what they do not believe and are forbidden to disagree with. In other words, they will be expected to direct their words and thoughts into channels that have been predetermined by their employers.
The firemen’s diversity training will not, I imagine, be swayed by arguments that thinking or talking about race does not make you a racist. Nor will they say that thinking or talking about another religious denomination does not make you a religious bigot. Nor will they say that differing between genders makes you a sexist person. Least of all will they say that even if you accept homosexuality per se but do not wish to celebrate it, this does not make you a ‘homophobe’. What will be demanded at some stage in the proceedings will be some sign or other that they conform to the prevailing philosophy and cultural wishes of their employers.
It is only in a world of ruthless disregard for the feelings and beliefs of others that these firemen have been made victims on the altar of ‘tolerance’ and ‘diversity’, branded as socially and politically incorrect and had their human rights trampled on. They will get the message that in 2006, sin is not any longer a violation of God’s law but is insensitivity to designated minorities. I’m glad to see that Archbishop Conti of Glasgow has spoken up in the press to defend these men. For those sceptical or unsure about his credentials to speak on the issue of ‘diversity’, might I remind them that he (and I) are members of the most diverse group on the planet – the Catholic Church. As for Strathclyde Fire and Rescue Service managers – their faces should be red with shame.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Faithless Fidel?

The picture you see is just short of fifty years old. I cut it from a Catholic magazine in 1960 because it made an impression on me of inhumanity expressing itself that I found hard to shake off. Looking at it from time to time in the interim has reinforced that impression and I have waited nearly fifty years to use it.
It shows the confession and reconciliation, prior to execution, of a political prisoner in Fidel Castro’s Cuba. Note that the kneeling man carries a cross in his hands and it cannot be said that his executioners are going about their work unwillingly according to some of their expressions. The picture expresses a moment frozen in time that shows a nameless man facing death; the last century knows a lot about that. Such loneliness as the unknown was experiencing is hard to imagine or to graft oneself onto. Yet he was not alone.

The picture’s three elements, politics, revolution and Church, symbolise the course of the Cuban revolution led by Fidel Castro. Revolutionaries with guns in their hands waiting to delete their political enemies, waiting as it later turned out to delete the Church, all in the name of revolution. To outside eyes at that time Castro and his group in the mountains seemed to epitomise a revolution that would sweep away dictatorship and corruption. His bulletins did not lack the rhetoric for which he later became famous and much later became boring. Somehow they exuded enthusiasm and dedication. Photos of him and his companions, with their chaplain, in the mountains in 1959 gave a lift to the spirit and an optimism that was hard to explain. It was all a sham.

Time told the true story. Fidel’s true colours were nailed to the Cuban mast at the same time as he and his revolution-minded companions nailed Cuba to its own particular cross. His disclosure of his Marxist-Leninist sympathies in 1961 and his subsequent declaration that Cuba was to be a communist country was soon succeeded by active persecution of the Church of Cuba, in the archetypal way that communist takeovers have. Nothing got better over the next half century for the Cuban who would worship God, rather than Castro’s pantheon of atheists like Stalin or Marx. Fidel after all was soon to declare Cuba an atheist state, and predictably, that religion is the opiate of the masses. Schools and churches were closed, priests exiled, the Church was denied access to the media and limits were placed upon the clergy. Some alleviation, but not much, came with a visit by Pope John Paul.

Some day, psycho-historians will make an in-depth study of the reasons why dictators who have been brought up and educated as Catholics perform the volte-face so typical of them and start to persecute religion, particularly the Catholic belief. Fidel, again predictably, is no exception. Son of a landowner, he was educated in various private Catholic boarding schools, and finished his secondary education in a Jesuit school in Belen. After graduation as a lawyer, he took up active politics and revolution. In 1953, he led an attack on an army post, was captured and sentenced to 15 years in prison. Released after two years, rumours have persisted that the Archbishop of Havana interceded on his behalf. The rest is history; the kind of history that has trapped Cubans in a 1950’s social timewarp and shackled to a 19th century clapped-out and outdated political philosophy.

Reports of Fidel’s demise have been exaggerated this time, but what is true is that like all of us, he will die one day. I hope that he will be granted the opportunity of repentance, a gift that his actions have denied to many Cubans. There are reports that he has asked liberation theologian Leonardo Boff to be with him at his bedside when his time comes – always a good sign that something remains there. The bishops of Cuba issued a pastoral letter that called on catholics to pray for Fidel in his illness – an example of forgiveness in the face of everything to which we should all aspire.

When he does die, I hope that he will not join his hatchet man Che Guevara on the T-shirts of the world. Che allegedly is the poster boy of revolution for the young and has achieved the doubtful distinction of cotton immortality. I hope too that we will be spared the eulogies and encomia that are inevitable accompaniments to the demise of national figures today regardless of the depredations they have practised on their fellow men and women. Fidel made the mistake of not getting killed early on, leaving him the opportunity to get stuck more and more in the mire of his failed social and political philosophies. His place in history will be in the memories of the dwindling number of failed and defunct revolutionaries of the 60’s whose enthusiasm for change at any price has brought about countless hardships to millions and who are irrevocably in denial.

I shall continue to treasure my now slightly tattered picture, to remind me that if we fail to learn from history, we will be condemned to relive it.

Sunday, August 06, 2006


This site shows social neglect and indifference to neighbours, aspects of apartheid that Bishop Tutu might appreciate. The curious web crawler would come across it and never know that within Jordanhill there is a large Catholic comprehensive school, St Thomas Aquinas Secondary School, with a catchment area that extends to half the city on the north side of the River Clyde. It has been rebuilt under the PPP arrangement recently, and has occupied its site for more than fifty years. Beaver, Cub, Scout – no comprehensive. I find it hard to be convinced that the author(s) of this Wikipedia item were unaware of the existence of this school. How could it achieve the status of non-being?

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

23 May : the feast of Mary Help of Christians

Although this should be a joyful day in the Christian economy, it has not been.

Item 1. Thought for Today on BBC Radio4, delivered by a minister of the Church of Scotland. His theme? Tolerance, exemplified by a description of a homosexual partnership event between a Catholic and a Protestant, watched over by their children.
Item 2. BBC Scotland news, 6.30pm. There were 12 603 abortions in Scotland last year, the
highest ever recorded.
The better the day, the better the deed. Christians in Scotland need a lot of help. Their only consolation is that Church teaching is counter cultural and has divine assurance on that.