Towards the conclusion of his landmark book After Virtue, the Scottish philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre observes that the death rattle of the Roman Empire began when men and women of good will “turned aside from the task of shoring up the Roman imperium” which had become socially decadent and culturally diseased.
“What they set themselves to achieve instead – often not recognising fully what they were doing – was the construction of new forms of community within which the moral life could be sustained so that both morality and civility might survive the coming ages of barbarism and darkness.”
More than half a million Christians have left Syria, fleeing to neighbouring countries such as Lebanon, and a similar number are believed to be displaced in Syria itself. In Iraq 120,000 Christians fled their homes between June and August 2014. Although this is a much lower figure than the number who fled in Syria, most estimates suggest there are only around a quarter of a million Christians left in Iraq, making the impact of the recent displacement there so much greater.
I live in a “post-1930 Lambeth Conference house”: a large, detached house optimised for the idealised family of the birth-control era: Mum, Dad and two children (preferably a boy and a girl). It’s a lovely house with glorious gardens, but its two single and two double bedrooms are ill-suited to our household of seven (plus menagerie), so with some sadness we are selling.
Searching for a new home has put the tension between the priorities of the housing market and the needs of a large family into stark relief. Just as many attractions consider a “family ticket” to mean two adults and two children, so houses have been built to accommodate the perceived norm of their time.
Pope Francis is calling for the Church “to embark upon a new chapter of evangelisation”. Father Hermann Geissler of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith believes that Cardinal John Henry Newman’s four sermons on the apostolic zeal of St Paul can help all Catholics rediscover their missionary vocation.
Nobody can truly be an apostle unless he has first been seized by the grace of God and thereby undergone a profound conversion. In an Anglican sermon, “St Paul’s Conversion viewed in reference to his Office”, Newman argues Saul’s conversion constitutes the beginning of St Paul’s ministry.
At the beginning and in the early part of Our Lord’s life, we find Our Lady at significant moments. When she found Him in the Temple she saw the demonstration of divine wisdom made flesh as the learned men were astounded at his words. At the Presentation, when He was formally given the name of Jesus, Our Lady presented, in accord with the law, the sacrifice of the poor person. She who had no need of purification associated herself with her Son, who came not to abolish the law but to fulfil it. She knew even better than Simeon that here indeed was the light to enlighten all the nations, and she shared in his joy at being granted the grace of seeing Him with his own eyes before his death.
In Parliament, Jim Dobbin campaigned for a reduction in the upper limit at which women may abort their unborn child, from 24 to 13 weeks. He highlighted the eugenic clause in British law which allows the abortion of babies with disabilities up to birth; and drew attention to “gendercide” – the abortion of little girls merely because of their gender.
His passion for the rights of disabled people was undoubtedly influenced by the disabilities experienced by two of his grandchildren – one of whom has just begun undergraduate studies at the University of Oxford. Jim was enormously proud of him.
A great deal of attention has focused recently on the difficulties and brokenness that we experience in our most intimate relationships with each other. The Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on the Family was convened in large part to consider how the Church should best exercise pastoral care in these matters. The canonical processes that are involved have received particular attention, as have the difficulties themselves. But it remains important to continue to explore the theological basis for pastoral responses. It is now quite widely accepted that Saint John Paul’s theology of the body represents the most substantive development that the Church has seen in recent years in our understanding of human sexuality. This is a corpus of theology that warrants further exploration in relation to the specific challenges that the Synod has been facing.
Interventions by Christian clergy in welfare debates are commonplace. Indeed Cardinal Nichols argued this year in an interview for The Daily Telegraph that the welfare safety net had been torn apart. He was encouraged to speak out after listening to the experiences of his own priests. Not all concern with poverty expresses itself as a defence of Western-style welfare states, however. Pope Francis has spoken with great concern about poverty and inequality. He argues that this is a problem of justice that should not be solved by the permanent provision of welfare. Rather he would like all who can to have meaningful work so that they can provide for their families.
Campaign Life 2017 is designed to gather together and mobilise people in the cause of life, so that, by the time the 50th anniversary of the passing of the Abortion Act comes along on 27 October 2017, the pro-life movement in Scotland will have a more powerful voice than ever. The campaign will be launched on 22 November at the St Margaret Queen of Scots Ladies’ Lunch, a gathering of around 120 women who, either explicitly or implicitly, live the pro-life message. Throughout the course of the sumptuous lunch there will be a series of short talks given by courageous women, as well as live entertainment, and the event will be an opportunity for women of all walks of life to come together and talk – something women are particularly good at.
I write this from a gathering of young people, mainly fresh graduates or final-year students. They come from a variety of church backgrounds, from Pentecostal to Roman Catholic, and are studying different subjects at university or college.
How refreshing it is to meet with these youngsters! They are confident and outward-looking, eager to engage with the culture and all its challenges. They are serious about understanding the issues we face as Christians living in these times but they also like to party, to make a lot of noise, and they seem to have boundless energy. They are not afraid to be ambitious for Christ whether that is in promoting a culture of life, or in supporting the family as a basic building block of society, or in dialogue with people of other faiths or with secularists.
I suspect Paul VI will be the last Italian pope (if we discount the short reign of John Paul I). It strikes me that he had Italian virtues and vices, a touch of “Futurism”, a bit too prone to trust those who would betray him and not a very good organiser.
St John Paul II was Polish philosopher. So Polish, in fact, that some suggest his encyclicals are in part only decipherable to someone with an understanding of his brand of philosophy. Benedict XVI was a German, a Bavarian, so anxious to avoid dictatorship that he appointed his enemies to key positions, to the point that his papacy fell apart. Francis is an Argentinian who has witnessed so much bad government he is conscious of the dangers and seems to want to avoid the failure of his predecessor with a neuralgic fervour.
The Scottish independence referendum campaign grew in passion and determination towards 18 September. It culminated in a fraught day and evening of voting and counting in which the nationalists fell short of their dream.
It is surprising how people’s perceptions and experiences of the campaign differed so widely. Experiences ranged from an exhilarating political adventure to an unpleasant period of hostility and intimidation. Certainly there was much emotion and energy and it is not surprising that this may have led to instances of ugliness and unpleasantness. It also led to excitement and euphoria which swept up many in the swelling numbers that just a week before the vote seemed to be on the verge of winning a Yes vote.
What an extraordinary Extraordinary Synod of Bishops we are having. I write as the second half of this year’s gathering gets under way. The theme of next year’s phase of the Synod was announced 13 October, immediately after the reading of the Relatio Post-disceptationem, or mid-term report, which marked the end of the first half of this Synod.
The announcement made clear that the present Extraordinary Synod for the Family – to be held at the Vatican from 5 to 19 October 2015 – is just part of a two-year path. So this year’s final document issued by the synodal fathers will be but a preparatory document for the next Synod. The topic will be slightly different: 2015’s theme will be “Vocation and mission of the family in the Church and in the contemporary world”. This year’s has been “The family in the context of new evangelisation”.
Science informs us of the existence of both good and evil, within the Cosmos, long before the emergence of homo-sapiens, on planet Earth, who then committed Original Sin. Since truth cannot contradict truth, the aim of this letter is to also justify, in theological terms, the theory of a transcendental (as opposed to historical) Original Sin.
It is the nature of love for the lover to give himself unconditionally to the beloved. God is infinite love, so in the relationships between the three equal Divine Persons each one gives himself completely to the other two, and receives them in return. Each Person is as nothing and receives fullness of being from the others. The Father generates his Son, the Word, as his other Self – and the infinite dynamic of love between them is the Holy Spirit.
Father Paul Graham is an Augustinian friar and parish priest of St Monica’s in Hoxton, London. As the title of this book suggests, his quest is to find a way through the ever-changing times with their complexities, emphases and ups and downs to help prepare the way for greater stability, renewal and enthusiasm among the Lord’s disciples, especially within religious communities.
The book is a collection of some of the author’s talks, retreats and published articles between 1988 and 2011 in the UK, US, Belgium, Japan, Malta, Italy and Australia. There are also a valuable preface and postscript. Father Paul hopes that despite repetitions, a development of thought can be detected in the book. This I can affirm; the book is informative and thought-provoking, with deep insights which are at times more than a little inspiring. We are mostly left to draw our own conclusions.
Carlo Rovelli, a physics professor at Université de la Méditerranée, Marseille, makes some thought-provoking comments about the philosophy involved in science.1 As author of The First Scientist: Anaximander and His Legacy, Rovelli views Anaximander as a sort of scientific revolutionary. Anaximander stated that nature is ruled by “laws”, just like human societies. He postulated that the indefinite (apeiron) was the source of all things, an attempt to describe all of physical reality, a conceptual abstraction typical of later Greek philosophy.