The good news about the Good News

A blog or two back we found ourselves beginning to discuss evangelisation – and our duties in this regard. The subject is so important that I am suggesting that we return to it and consider the issues.

We all agree that a central part of the Christian mission is to help others towards understanding and acceptance of the “good news” of the redemption which is offered to all of us. In fact the word ‘evangelisation’ comes directly from the Greek for ‘good news’.

The first stage – difficult to do but easy to understand – is that we should be leading our own lives in a thoroughly Christian way. We cannot expect our friends to be attracted to our beliefs if they do not admire our way of life. It’s only when they can say: he’s got something I want, that they may begin to be curious.

Do you have a higher standard of honesty in all that you do than the common mass? Are you readier than most to support the unpopular person? Does your view on political choices include a strong concern for the poor? Are you condemnatory rather than intent on constructive understanding? Do you forgive your enemies – including for example that trying boss who makes your life so hard? You can complete this list without difficulty – but you may, like me, make yourself uncomfortable when you ask such questions of your own behaviour. This is why Pope Francis speaks of “concrete” love. Stop talking about it – roll up your sleeves and do it.

You may have occasionally wondered why I am strict on this Blog about discourtesy and personal criticisms. That is because we are in the market place – getting tens of thousands of hits from around the world. I do not want to sponsor discussions which lead people to see that were are just as bad as everyone else. We must not even be just as good, we must be better. We know only too well that the laspses of those who claim a better way of life are judged harshly by the world.

We must be prudent when we speak about religious matters. Words like Christ, Jesus, salvation, God’s law, grace, and the rest, are appropriate in conversations with people who understand and value such terms. But for others they can simply be a turn-off. The common term ‘God-botherer” says it all.

This may sound negative but it’s a good principle in teaching to start where the other person is. And what we may have in common is a sharing of important values. You will recall that everyone with the use of reason has access to the moral law at some level.

Catholic Voices, the organisation which trains adult lay Catholics to explain our beliefs and moral positions in the media, uses the term ‘re-framing’. What they mean by that is putting an issue into a correct context where others can see that the Catholic position in fact meets the deeper values that they actually hold. Let me give an example.

We live in a society where rather casual sex is taken for granted; it is becoming increasingly common for couples to live together without the commitment of marriage – and the number children born outside marriage is nearly as high as those within. Marriages themselves are now very vulnerable to break down, and we are near to a situation where the term ‘serial polygamy’ begins to apply. So what values might we share?

One such value is that the breakdown of parental relationships is normally a disaster for children. Yet the evidence is clear that our society’s practices very greatly increase the likelihood of that disaster. We also know that for the couples themselves the breakdown of relationships is a tragedy – almost invariably for one, and often for both, the partners. In either case, lives can be destroyed – and the damage can be continued into the next generation. We are rapidly building a very unhappy society.

Many of our friends can see that this is so, and it is reasonable to assume that they would like to mitigate such damage. With such an understanding, they may perhaps be ready to think about the value of committed marriage, and see more clearly that sexual intercourse has an intrinsic link to the married state. They won’t rush off to be baptised – but they may perhaps think rather more deeply about the subject. One day it may click.

And of course we can think of many similar points of difference we have with those outside the Church which provide an opportunity to show what important human values our Catholic understanding protects.

This of course goes well beyond matters of morals. Most people search for some kind of meaning in their lives. Superstition may be only superstition but it bears witness to an instinct that there is more to human existence than chance or causality. The psychologists tell us that a tendency towards supernatural belief and religion is inbred in children. It may get choked and smothered on the way, but it is still a small voice inside waiting for someone to give an answer. (It might be interesting to discuss with others the Richard Dawkins view that teaching religion to the young is brainwashing. The facts tell us that it is the attempts to eradicate, rather than to foster and guide, this natural religious tendency which constitute the brainwashing.)

So just how seriously do our contributors take evangelisation? I am surprised to hear of people asking about opportunities to do so in a concrete way. At the top of this page you will see a heading The Apostolate of the Blog. Remind yourself that I suggested that, in this electronic age, we have ample opportunity to explain our beliefs. With one exception, as I recall, no one here was interested in progressing this. I realise that this is not everyone’s cup of tea – but is it no one’s? So lets discuss evangelisation in terms of what we will actually do – in whatever way is suited to us, rather than what we comfortingly think.

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About Quentin

Science Editor, Catholic Herald. Portrait © Jacqueline Alma
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97 Responses to The good news about the Good News

  1. Peter D. Wilson says:

    Surely we should behave courteously whether or not any third party is aware of our conduct.

  2. tim says:

    PDW – Yes. But failing to be courteous does less harm if few are aware of it.

    Quentin, I’m sorry that you felt you had almost no support for ‘The Apostolate of the Blog’. It seemed to me such an obviously good idea that I presumed all your regular readers must agree with it, and would do it as and when the opportunity offered. Were you thinking of something more systematic? For example, did you want people to sign up and (perhaps) be assigned specific duties, eg monitoring specific blogs, or responding to Google alerts on sensitive subjects such as abortion or euthanasia? it was worth reminding us of the benefits of this apostolate – and the need to do it sensitively, keeping in mind how our comments will be received and the effect they may have on readers.

  3. tim says:

    .. and to divert the discussion (perhaps inappropriately), to the specific subject of casual sex. I must confess now (and perhaps later, formally) to schadenfreude about the problems of President Hollande. Here is a man who had what might be described as a ‘common law marriage’ with a talented lady who bore him children. He abandoned her after some years for a liaison with another attractive and talented lady, who up till now has been treated as the official consort of the President of France. Now it appears (to the second lady’s sad discomfiture) that a relationship that she had presumably regarded as an exclusive commitment was no such thing to him. And everyone wants to know (not perhaps legitimately) what will happen next. Is this an opportunity for evangelisation on Christian ideas of marriage – or would this need more skill than most of us possess?

  4. Alan says:

    I agree that it would be interesting to discuss the tendency towards supernatural belief and the teaching of religion to children sometime.

    • Advocatus Diaboli says:

      Yes, spot on, Alan. The tendency to supernatural belief is not just to be found in the very young, it goes back to long before recorded history. Archaeologists will use evidence of burial and grave goods as a sign of early human presence. Then there is the whole of primitive mythology from the Greek gods to sacred trees. None of it very edifying. Several civilisations have favoured shaman ‘holy men’ — who derived their great controlling power through their claim to be in touch with the supernatural. Come to think of it, a hot line to god’s will remains a major source of authority in the RC church.

      Now we need to think about the evolutionary advantages which have led to all these strange and superstitious things. Any ideas?

      • Peter D. Wilson says:

        AD – perhaps the advantage lies in developing a sense of discipline more cogent than being merely under the eye of the pack leader – when he’s looking.

      • Advocatus Diaboli says:

        PDW, that’s just the kind of thing I had in mind. It has been proposed that, since our sense of shame inhibits antisocial behaviour, it became helpful to invent an all-seeing eye to extend our shame to situations when we are on our own. Those groups which responded to this questionable device tended to prosper. The catholic church — always quick at grabbing power — capitalised on shame in sexual matters. In spades. No wonder, as your contributor Rahner has pointed out, Catholics are fixated on sexual matters
        But I think that even the shamans of old would have hesitated at proclaiming that a single act of auto-eroticism by a boy of 14 merited torture in hell for eternity. That’s a Catholic value you might like to share with non-believers. You should pull them in in droves.

      • Alan says:

        AD – The evolutionary benefits seem like a reasonable possibility to me. The “Invisible Princess Alice” experiments might lend some weight to the idea that the benefits are real even when the subject of the belief is not. While many children (and adults) have some instincts in common I don’t think we can assume that those instincts point to anything either evidently true or worth fostering/teaching to children. I can think of one or two examples of where our instincts are, almost without fail, misleading.

      • tim says:

        Thinking up evolutionary advantages for ethics – or superstitions – is a splendid game to play. As this is not experimental science, one won’t be able to distinguish readily between valid explanations and Just So stories, but it comforts one’s preconceptions. And no doubt similar origins could be postulated for AD’s wish to make us rethink our convictions.

    • St.Joseph says:

      The Resurrection of Jesus from the dead is supernatural, that is believed by adults except atheists of course.

  5. Ignatius says:

    “So lets discuss evangelisation in terms of what we will actually do – in whatever way is suited to us, rather than what we comfortingly think…”

    Ok, Its not that difficult really, here’s my list of what to DO. It can be done most days bit by bit here and there, a lot or a little. Most days I have a go at it , sometimes I forget for days on end.

    1) Try and clear from your mind all ‘ideas’ about what ‘evangelism’ is…forget the word. Also chuck out from your mind words like ‘discuss’ ‘debate’ ,argue’ and have instead words like: ’embrace’ ‘encounter’ ‘listen’ ‘hear’ ‘comfort’ etc
    2) When at prayer or contemplation or exposition or at mass or indeed anytime anywhere you pray notice just for a moment how good it is to be a Christian. Even for a few seconds in any day bring to mind what the Love of God means to you. If you do the rosary say a decade purely in thanksgiving for the joy of being able to say it.
    3) Pretty soon you will notice that you are indeed thankful for what has been given you. When you notice this say thank you and ask God to widen and deepen that love which is in you and to let it ripple out to others in whatever way seems best to him.. Pretty soon others will come to mind, begin to pray for them.
    4) Begin to ask God if God will kindly arrange for you today to share some of that love which is building up inside. Do not worry about the method or whether it will involve religious language or much in the way of outer signs or even any words at all.
    5) Pretty soon you will notice that opportunities present themselves for you either to say something or to somehow show out the joy of knowing God…it might be something big or it might just be that you smile at someone or mention you were at church on sunday when someone asks about your weekend…don’t worry about it – relax.
    6) As time passes allow yourself more freedom to speak with people about whatever issue comes up- always seek to bring some positive thing regarding God and then leave it. Do not be ashamed of who you are or what you believe but don’t ram it down anybody’s throat either.

    All the above takes place in the context of the lived life. If we trust in God at all, even one iota then we can trust that there will be some element of fragrance in our lives that is welcome to at least one other person somewhere, we will not know what that element is or who is attracted to it. You cannot make any of this happen, polishing your shoes brighter or grinning wider probably won’t make much difference though a smile always helps! Do not be concerned by outcomes and above all do not harry people with all the usual stuff about sex, abortion, complex issues of Canon Law, long winded explanations about the virgin birth or eucharist etc unless you have good reason. Just say a simple word or two, ask if you can pray for problems in peoples lives. The key issue is not to demand results. You can tell people what you believe without demanding they believe the same

    If you want some encouragement then buy the DVD or the book called Catholicism by Father Barron. The DVD is better I think

    It may be ,by the way that you can’t do any of this, don’t panic because someone is watching your life ..and sooner or later they will want to know about what runs it even though you might not be the person they ask-God is not stupid and knows His work best. Finally ..don’t panic, there are a lot of us around the place we don’t have to be lone rangers or hero’s of faith – we are the Body of Christ.

    • Peter D. Wilson says:

      Ignatius – thank you. That’s a very interesting prescription. It’s worth thinking how to work something on those lines into my existing practice.

      • Singalong says:

        Another thank you, Ignatius. I think your guidelines are very helpful and inspiring for everyday life, and the way in which we may hope that how we live can have some influence on those we meet and work and live with. The ideal is to be a leaven in the dough of our society, and although we may often fall very short of achieving this, I hope it is not too presumptuous to think that sometimes it may happen. Descriptions and phrases go out of fashion, and one we used to hear about a lot was the importance of giving good example.

  6. ionzone says:

    I think one of the key problems with spreading the gospel is one that was summed up by someone I met today. We were in the history section of a book shop and he says “I love reading about the dark side of Christianity”. This is very interesting because it highlights the public attitude – one-sided negative portraits of Christianity and Christians are hot sellers, even-handed histories and defences are not. In fact, Books that take a positive or neutral evidence-based look at Christianity tend to sell in their hundreds and quickly drop out of print. Books that lay down ignorance and hate while counting their anecdotes and manipulating their evidence sell in their millions and are often found in the ‘educated’ or ‘science’ sections dispute being neither.

  7. Nektarios says:

    St. Seraphim of Sarov said, ” Acquire the Holy Spirit and thousands will be saved round about you.”
    If one wants to make a better society, yes go into politics, social work, or a thousand and one charities around the world, but that is not evangelization.

  8. St.Joseph says:

    Nektarios.
    The saying is ‘Answer a question by asking one’ that does not mean what you have just done..
    You made a statement ,so I want to know what you mean by it.
    If you don’t know,then you should not make the point!.
    I believe it to be an important question and the answer is pertinent…

    • Nektarios says:

      Vincent
      Believers have always done `good works’. But that is not same thing as a religious institution using people no matter how good the work is for denominational propaganda. The history of such good works is too painful to relate here.
      I am not against good works or the Love of God, but there is a lot of sentimental twaddle that is talked, spoken and written about both, leading to where we are today, in a state of confusion as to what does the Bible mean by good works and the Love of God.

    • Nektarios says:

      St. Joseph
      Salvation is of God, not by man or by his invention. Much of the externals of religion is however a matter of human invention.
      Are you asking what St. Seraphim of Sarov said, or asking me to answer your question:
      `what is your definition of being saved?’
      Both would take a long answer to fully explain it by way of definition, but would gladly do so if Quentin was not demanding short answers.
      As short as I can make it:
      St. Seraphim of Sarov said, to acquire the Holy Spirit….. without the Holy Spirit it is impossible to either save ourselves or those round about us – hence acquire the Holy Spirit
      who communicates Christ to us. He is the One who convicts, convinces and converts us so we go from death to life, darkness to light, and receive forgiveness, and eternal life.

      Salvation, or being saved is a lifelong process and one must abide in Him( Jesus) our Lord until the end.
      That in a nutshell is to answer both your questions quickly.

      • St.Joseph says:

        Nektarios.
        You are in no position to say who is saved and who isn’t. God is our only Judge.
        As Christians we know how the Spirit works.
        It is not up to you to say ‘who acquires the Spirit around us-it seems to you that you believe it is either Heaven or Hell as you do not believe in Purgatory!
        As we are Christians it would be better to say -we acquire the Spirit so those around us who do good works are saved by the grace of God through their good works!

        So in your opinion all atheists go to Hell.!.

  9. Nektarios says:

    St Joseph
    I never said, who is saved and who is not, I can’t see where you get that from, from what I posted?

    I am not going to argue with perhaps one of Russia’s greatest Saints, St. Seraphim of Sarov who said, `acquire the Holy Spirit and thousand will be save around you.’ Without reading him, his life and holiness and what he taught, I would refrain from making wild statements.
    Your, view of being saved through good works, is to turn the Salvation of God, through the finished work of Christ, into a gospel of works, which of course is no gospel at all. Salvation is not of works, lest any man should boast.
    On your last point, I have no opinion what happens to atheists regarding Salvation.
    But the bible makes it clear, man since the Fall has become a rebel. What will happen to an atheist, or anyone who neglects so great a Salvation?

    • St.Joseph says:

      Nektarios.
      With all due respect.
      You and I a while back discussed Purgatory so knowing that the Orthodox do not believe in it,I asked you your definition of being saved, you could have shown me the courtesy to answer my question..
      Yes you did not say who is saved! You assumed that acquiring the spirit thousands would be saved. , I felt it was meant that we were not as Christians doing what we ought to do.
      You proclaimed that we read scripture,and learn from that.
      I have never heard of your Russian Saint, I go by what Jesus said in the parable of the Good Samaritan.. Judge not and we will not be judged. This is a case for the belief in Purgatory. We are on a journey and whilst we are on that journey we pray for poor sinners as the Church prays for us..Presumption is bordering on pride.

  10. Ignatius says:

    ST Joseph,

    “As we are Christians it would be better to say -we acquire the Spirit so those around us who do good works are saved by the grace of God through their good works!..”

    There’s obviously some thought and conviction gone into this sentence of yours. I’m not quite clear about what you mean by the second half of it beginning with “we -acquire..”
    I often think that we, as the church, are called by the Holy spirit to stand with Christ in that self sacrificing and self giving and prayer which goes toward the sanctification of the world – with all its non believers in it.. an analogy if you like might be Abraham asking God not to destroy the city if only 5 men remained in it…or Moses asking God to curse him and not the people whom he prayed for and watched over- not all of whom were devout. Is this the kind of thing you mean’t or was it something else?

  11. Ignatius says:

    PS, Singalong and Peter:
    Thanks for your kind comments, we all have to find a balance in things and this is one which works for me. Nearly twenty years ago I came back from my years as evangelist in China where I had seen and been part of quite remarkable things during the revival there. My health had collapsed and so did my zeal of spirit.
    For some time I struggled with the fact that I, as an individual, no longer saw spectacular results of evangelism..eg dozens of people coming to faith and ‘underground’ churches being set up left right and centre. But then I gradually came to see that God works just as powerfully in the everyday of our lives ..its just that we have to look a bit harder and learn that a moment spared- in say a smile for a grumpy and hardened heart- is enough to set the angels dancing as well! Recently I have more and more begun to think about Jesus and that one lost sheep of his and have begun to realise that it is the same heart exults for the one as that exults in the thousands, it is the same thing.
    Recently I purchased a wooden statue of Christ carrying his cross. I bought it from some Palestinian Christians selling their wares at the back of our church one day and I wanted to support them so I bought a big statue a couple of feet high which now stands in my study and I contemplate it as I do morning prayer. Recently it seems to me that ‘the cross’ Jesus carries is and was in fact his own daily life, for it was that ordinary life which brought him to Jerusalem and martyrdom. So his life of being loved, reviled, blessed, cursed -and of moving from place to place and earning a living by doing a trade etc is similar to our lives – except that Jesus; life blazes with the glory of the spirit. So ,in fact, do our lives…we just have to accept that we are ‘on fire’ as it were even though we may not feel or sense it!!

    • St.Joseph says:

      Ignatius.
      I will say no more than this and the rest I leave to you and Nektarios to think about others whose salvation is earned by the good work that they do..
      Imagine you are Simon of Cyrene who helped Jesus carry His Cross-or anyone else who needed help,.The person who lightens Jesus’s load or His followers and helps Him in the Salvation of others mentally- physically or the poor.will they not share in the saving power of Jesus;s Sacrifice..
      As Catholics we believe that we are not saved by faith alone.
      I will give you another small example. ‘If a non believer marries a believer and helps his or her husband or wife.to be responsible in bringing their children up to be decent members of society and works hard to support his or her family. The Christian member would be very upset if it was thought that the non believer was destined not to be saved, even though all efforts were made to have their spouse baptised so that they would enter into Paradise.
      There are loads of example that I could mention in my lifetime alone in my journey of good works which I did for the Lord, without the help of non Christians I would not have perhaps succeeded in achieving without the help of unbelievers. I pray for all those kind and generous people over the years helped the just out of love for their neighbour!

      I still would like to know Nektarios’s definition of being ‘saved’!
      That is my last word!!..
      .

      • Nektarios says:

        St Joseph
        I thought I gave you as quickly as I could a definition of Salvation or what does it mean
        to be saved.
        The bible teaches us we are all sinners and robbers, as Jesus said, all that ever came before me were sinners and robbers.
        So we hear the Gospel, The holy Spirit gives us the gift of faith in Jesus, for that is really what the Gospel is all about.
        Such a one believes on Christ and receives Christ as his Lord and his Saviour.
        Such a one not only recognises and confesses their sinner-ship, they also find at that moment a new principle at work in them, they have been give a new heart, a restored relationship to God.
        As I said before, that is the beginning of what is defined as Salvation, or what it means to be saved, and is life long work. `And this is your work, that ye believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. That is to receive Him, follow Him and obey Him as Lord of our lives.
        Or perhaps you just wanted the summery of all that as we have it in the Gospel of St John 3:16 .” For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life”.
        I hope that satisfies your demands?

  12. Iona says:

    Ignatius – I really appreciate what you say in both of your long posts.

    On a visit to Belmont Abbey during Advent I picked up a little prayer card, a quotation from Blessed John Henry Newman: it is headed “Hidden Faith”:

    True religion is a hidden life in the heart;
    And though it cannot exist without deeds,
    Yet these are for the most part secret deeds,
    Secret charities, secret prayers,
    Secret self-denials,
    Secret struggles, secret victories.

    • St.Joseph says:

      Iona.
      A lovely prayer, it tells how only the Lord can know the hidden heart and soul of man.
      Not us!
      Is anyone perfect before we die( and we don’t always have time to achieve it, if the option is only Heaven or Hell- we are in sorry state!.

  13. Ignatius says:

    Iona,
    Gosh, what a brilliant card…I must get one!

  14. Iona says:

    I am still receiving – and occasionally reading – references to abortion and to euthanasia which Google emails to me. (See Quentin’s remarks above about the Apostolate of the Blog). But I almost never send replies now, for the following reasons:
    Some of the discussions insist you “join” before you can “comment”. I did join one or two, early on, but this led to my receiving loads of unwanted emails, or else nothing I wanted to comment on ever arose again in a group I’d joined. Sometimes you have to comment through Facebook, and I’m not on Facebook and don’t want to be. Or you can join something else, such as “disqus”, through which you can comment, and I did join it but still seemed to be unable to comment.

    Furthermore, the references I’m receiving from Google seem to have changed in a subtle way, and are rarely the sort of thing I could comment on with any benefit. About 80% of the “abortion” references come from the USA and are concerned with specifics about legislation in Minneapolis or Texas or wherever. Many of the remaining 20% are pro-life, and while I’m happy to read them and to know there are plenty of pro-life bloggers roaming the internet (including “secular pro-life”, which I was especially happy to know about), there’s no point in preaching to the converted.

    • Quentin says:

      Iona, yes of course I was aware that you had been working away at this. And, yes, the situation has changed since we started. The sign-in problem is certainly a difficulty in many cases although Disqus works for me. (I was once briefly on Facebook — but I was finding out so much about my grandchildren’s lives that I didn’t want to know, that I got out of it!)

      However, I still have my successes. Got a comment in this morning on faith schools and Creationism in The Times. And last week I finished a long and constructive blog debate with a doctrinaire materialist on the question of free will. I do keep a register of my sign-ins on my desktop — and that often works. I don’t mind about Americans, provided there’s something to say. They need to be invited to think, too.

      So I keep working away. If I get no more than one good chance a week, I can still hope to do some good. And I have noticed that in some cases my comment seems to have given courage to other constructive bloggers.

      • St.Joseph says:

        Quentin.
        I too could not cope with it, I have had so much ill health this last two years, I just about managed SS.
        I do look into the Life Site News and Homilitic Pastoral blog’s who e.mail me.but really I cant keep up with it. Hopefully it will improve. Please God.

  15. St.Joseph says:

    Nektarios.
    Yes as I thought- what you believe, that all unbelievers perish in Hell. No Hope of salvation.!

    • Nektarios says:

      St Joseph
      I have to say this is becoming a bit tiresome with your strident arrogant demands and jumping to conclusions I have not mentioned.
      As I have said, Salvation is of God, not of man, nor by the will of man, but of God.

      As you said, God, is the rightful and only Judge. He alone knows everything about everyone. It is not for me to pre-judge anyone.
      As I suspected, you are not interested in what I post, just spoiling for an argument.
      Why?

      • Ignatius says:

        Nektarios:

        “..I have to say this is becoming a bit tiresome with your strident arrogant demands and jumping to conclusions I have not mentioned…”
        Did you get this marvellous demonstration of humility from your book on Russian Saints?

      • St.Joseph says:

        Nektarios.
        You have done it again, getting on the defensive by attacking.
        A Yes or a No is all that is needed-or I don’t know.

        Just a few points you made.I will mention

        ‘Believers have always done good works. But that is not the same as religious institutions using people no matter how good the work is for denomination propagands.

        ‘A lot of sentimental twaddle’

        ‘Bowing and genuflecting!!’

        ‘Communicating RCism is completely different entirely with all its history and baggage.’
        So the structures that have been carefully laid by man can not save a single soul.

        ‘Your statement ‘Acquire the Holy Spirit and thousands will be saved around about you’
        I find that directly offensive in connection to your previous comments to all the good works of Salvation by Holy Mother Church when the Holy Spirit descended on the Apostles.
        The Wells of Salvation is not filled with rubbish from the Church but from society.That is Satan’s work And will be until the Second Coming. Thank God for Purgatory a wonderful weapon which he hates. Hell is there for the Devil and his angels..
        .

  16. ionzone says:

    AD – “Now we need to think about the evolutionary advantages which have led to all these strange and superstitious things. Any ideas?”

    The advantage that springs most readily to mind is that these things do exist in some format and are natural. As I have mentioned before when talking about Dr Shelldrake, science seems utterly terrified of investigating the supernatural in case it is real. Have a listen to this (the long URL near the top of the page):

    http://www.sheldrake.org/reactions/wikipedia?highlight=WyJiYmMiXQ==

    “The catholic church — always quick at grabbing power”

    Such as when? I’m guessing from what you say that you think atheists have never done that. Naturally you think that whole thing with the soviets, China, Korea, and so on was the fault of whichever popes where in charge at the time. I seem to recall one of those was mysteriously shot.

    “But I think that even the shamans of old would have hesitated at proclaiming that a single act of auto-eroticism by a boy of 14 merited torture in hell for eternity.”

    I have never heard of anyone being told they would go to hell for masturbating. At least I assume that’s what you imply by ‘auto erotic’, sadism was, after all, named after an atheist who loved torturing children and it is rather a tendency of atheists to blame the victim for things…. but I digress. I do love the way atheists react when I point out that the church was backing up the scientific community of the day by saying masturbation was bad. Funny how things go. First it is a scientific theory, then it is a publicly known fact, and then it is an embarrassment which gets blamed on the Church because they had the indecency to follow the scientific line.

    It’s amazing how science manages to get away with stuff like this. Take the whole thing with the meteorites for example. Scientists called them a ‘superstition’ and every museum in the world throws away its meteorite samples.

    • ionzone says:

      FYI – this is actually how the vibrator was invented. Doctors thought that it was a ‘safe’ way of reliving ‘hysteria’ in women that didn’t involve them ‘getting involved’.

    • Advocatus Diaboli says:

      Ionzone, I think you are confused about evolution. Not a good start for discussing scientific matters. A plausible theory of evolutionary development needs a characteristic which comes about naturally, which is inheritable, and which can be shown to give a survival advantage. It seems clear from history that groups which are integrated under effective leadership do have such an advantage. Since religious control is very effective in at least primitive societies, a good case can be made.

      You notice that I make no definite statement here. Unlike religious belief, science is self-correcting. The correction comes through empirical evidence. In this instance we have strongly suggestive evidence, but we go no further than saying that this is how it could have happened, and quite possibly did.

      You of course are a much better authority than I for understanding the question of masturbation.So please correct any one of these propositions which does not accord with your Church’s teaching.

      1. masturbation is grave matter; it is intrinsically evil.
      2. therefore any one who does this with full knowledge and consent commits a mortal sin.
      3. mortal sin is so serious that it kills the soul and deserves hell.
      4 those who die in mortal sin will go to hell for all eternity.

      If you find the last two points are familiar, it may be because I copied them out of a book called ‘A Catechism of Christian Doctrine’ (1971). But it would seem from what you say that this must be a forgery.

  17. Ignatius says:

    AD,
    It seems that you are in playful mood.

    CCC 2352 gives a clear view on masturbation and calls it a disordered act…however the next couple of lines clarify thus:
    “…To form and equitable judgement about the subjects’ moral responsibility and to guide pastoral action, one must take into account thee affective immaturity, force of acquired habit, conditions of anxiety or other psychological or social factors that lessen or even extenuate moral culpability..”

    Lost your glasses perhaps AD ..or perhaps just a bit confused about page numbers?

    • Advocatus Diaboli says:

      No. I had my glasses on. And I don’t say that to claim that I am not blind nowadays because of vice in my youth. I am familiar with the mitigations of CCC 2352. That was why I gave a date for the Catechism to which I referred. These mitigations are quite late. From early times to, at least 1971, they were not publicly mentioned. They came about because the RC church discovered rather late that there was a discipline called psychology. They are set out to inform the religious adviser, not the potential sinner.

      Now, imagine how a 14 year old, trapped into onanism, would interpret ‘full knowledge’ and ‘full consent’ if it took your church nearly 2000 years to explain that it didn’t necessarily mean what it appeared to say.

      • Ignatius says:

        Hi AD,

        Lets not yet dive into the ever deeper reaches of your febrile imagination..(a useless pastime really because your 14 year old boy is a mere abstraction, a cipher for a very poor argument ..) Lets instead search for a bit of veracity. The list you produced on 19th, points 1 to 4 for example, I trust the list is abbreviated? nay even the production of a bit of cut and paste perhaps?. Could you give us the full reference and the book please. You can e mail me the discussion in full if you like 🙂

  18. ionzone says:

    ” plausible theory of evolutionary development needs a characteristic which comes about naturally, which is inheritable, and which can be shown to give a survival advantage.”

    I think you misunderstand what I mean about evolution. Shelldrake’s theories are a lot more profound than what you are suggesting. Shelldrake suggests animals use psychic phenomena to communicate over long distance and to feel predators looking at them. Both are much more powerful motives for change than what you suggest. You are failing to engage with the idea that if the phenomena were real it would be useful.

    “Since religious control is very effective in at least primitive societies, a good case can be made.”

    And yet that isn’t what we find when we look at ‘primitive’ societies. We find that they have a standard pack-style pecking order with the shamans filling a spiritual support role.

    “Unlike religious belief, science is self-correcting. The correction comes through empirical evidence.”

    Unlike science, religion does not concern itself principally with the physical plane of existence. And unlike science, Christianity doesn’t see itself as being in a conflict. As I have said many times before, as far as the Church is concerned there can be no conflict between science and religion because they are complementary halves.

    I also find the idea that ‘science corrects itself through empirical evidence’ to be very funny. Broadly this is true, but the moment you enter a controversial area, suddenly science becomes a toddler that puts its fingers in its ears and hums loudly. If science is so uniformly rigorous, why don’t they want to investigate certain things and why do they feel they have to rig the results? Science physically cannot give a positive result with regards to God or psychic research because any positive result is seen as error or trickery. So much for objective empirical evidence, science learnt absolutely nothing from the meteorite debacle.

    “You of course are a much better authority than I for understanding the question of masturbation.”

    Oh, no no no, I defer to your expertise in that. My areas are history and church teachings. Feel free to declare yourself professor Spankalot, I shan’t contest the title. No, go on, really, that one is all yours, I insist!

    “If you find the last two points are familiar, it may be because I copied them out of a book called ‘A Catechism of Christian Doctrine’ (1971).”

    That has to be the most transparent argument I have ever read. By your own words you admit that the first two parts of your assertion aren’t in the book. I suspect you did this deliberately. I doubt that the Church has ever made the claim that actions relating to your area of expertise (Inveterate Spankology) are a mortal sin. Certainly, that kind of thing would dishonour your entire profession. What I am saying, however, is that scientists has taken ‘moving on from the mistakes of the past’ to such an extreme that they have made themselves utterly and completely incapable of learning from their primary mistake. That mistake being that every shift in science creates a powerful new orthodoxy which is incredibly difficult to question. Scepticism has nothing to do with rational debate and questioning, it’s simply a method of policing and attacking heretical ideas. The methods of scepticism are scorn, dismissal, and refusal to investigate.

    • Advocatus Diaboli says:

      I do not understand your references to ‘spankalot’. Is this some witty insult in line with Quentin’s idea that you should impress casual readers with your charity? I fear it missed me because I was somewhat dazzled by your skill in detecting my ”deliberate” failure to reference masturbation as grave matter, and the need for full knowledge and full consent for mortal sin. You are presumably under the impression that I cannot read (and I must assume that you will not). Try these from your modern Catechism.

      “2352 Both the Magisterium of the Church, in the course of a constant tradition, and the moral sense of the faithful have been in no doubt and have firmly maintained that masturbation is an intrinsically and gravely disordered action.
      1857. For a sin to be mortal, three conditions must together be met: Mortal sin is sin whose object is grave matter and which is also committed with full knowledge and deliberate consent.”
      Don’t bother to apologise for your hasty judgment. You have given me the satisfaction of confirming my belief that Catholics have little concern with truth.

      • Ignatius says:

        No AD it is you, you are frankly lying with your use of these books and you know it, push off and find some other sheep to bark at.

    • Advocatus Diaboli says:

      There have been a rather large number of approaches to describe the process of evolution. I fear that I, rather dully, had in mind the one which most experts accept.
      You are critical of scientists closing up their ears, etc. No doubt this happens, scientists have their faults like everyone else. Any time you catch me doing this please tell me so.
      Sheldrake sounds fascinating. Do you have a reference list to his peer-reviewed papers?

    • Alan says:

      ionzone – “but the moment you enter a controversial area, suddenly science becomes a toddler that puts its fingers in its ears and hums loudly. If science is so uniformly rigorous, why don’t they want to investigate certain things”

      I wonder which things it is that you feel science doesn’t want to investigate. Telepathy, the healing power of prayer, near death experiences, particles travelling faster than light, Einstein’s “Spooky action at a distance”, cold fusion, homoeopathy, dowsing, Shelldrake’s idea that people can sense when they are being stared at and more – all pretty controversial and all investigated. Some are ongoing areas of research, some showed positive results, some cases led to the discovery of errors in the initial findings and in other cases results that had been claimed couldn’t be independently repeated. Certainly those that fall into the latter group don’t encourage much by way of further investigation without good reason, but I don’t think that reluctance can be put down to the controversial nature of the subject necessarily.

      • John Candido says:

        I agree with Alan. By the way Alan, you mentioned that you have worked in some area of science. Can you tell us what is your area of expertise please? Thank you.

      • Alan says:

        John,
        I studied Material Science at university but I have never worked in any scientific field. It was all too long ago (and I wasn’t all that good a student in the first place!) for me to claim any expertise whatsoever. I have retained a passing interest in the sciences though and keep a layperson’s eye on the popular subjects/developments.

  19. Nektarios says:

    Ignatius
    Sorry I did not respond sooner, was caught up fruitlessly answering St Joseph.
    Yes, I have several books on St. Seraphim of Sarov. The best one is, ` St. Seraphim of Sarov – A Spiritual Biography by Archimandrite Lazarus Moore. New Sarov Press. ISBN 1- 880364 – 13 -1
    One can of course simple Google in St. Seraphim of Sarov and browse for a while on his life and work.

    • Peter D. Wilson says:

      Looking up St. Seraphim led me back to the 17th-century schism in Russian Orthodoxy provoked by controversial fiddling with the liturgy. Sounds familiar? I wonder if Nektarios would care to comment.

    • St.Joseph says:

      Nektarios.
      Yes ‘fruitlessly is correct’.
      Like your belief in Purgatory
      Then that is ‘your’ faith.! Obviously your understanding of being saved will differ a great deal when you don’y believe in purification…

  20. Peter D. Wilson says:

    Are we perhaps getting a bit too close to personal abuse rather than courteous discussion?

  21. ionzone says:

    “Is this some witty insult in line with Quentin’s idea that you should impress casual readers with your charity?”

    No, that was me being silly. You may feel free to interpret the word however you choose.

    ” I was somewhat dazzled by your skill in detecting my ”deliberate” failure to reference masturbation as grave matter”

    Lacking a citation it seemed rather like an intellectually dishonest attempt to mislead. Why did you not cite those to begin with instead of setting up your post to look like a logical fallacy? I, personally, have never once head of this Church teaching and it interests me greatly that you do know about it since my experience of non-believers is that they don’t know about the catechism, let alone have an intimate knowledge of it and its various versions. I am not going to try to defend that teaching both because I have never heard of it and because I don’t agree with it. As I said before, what you get up to in your free time is none of my business.

    “Don’t bother to apologise for your hasty judgment. You have given me the satisfaction of confirming my belief that Catholics have little concern with truth.”

    Fantastic generalisation, bravo. I am not most Catholics, I am one Catholic and my beliefs do not even mirror a sizeable chunk of what the Church teaches. For example, I am fine with the marriage of both gays and priests and I mean that in both senses of that statement. I also support the idea of female clergy and condoms. By your logic, my being happy for the Church to marry a couple of lesbian priests means that everybody else on this forum shares the same view.

    If by ‘truth’ you mean the outdated and unscientific atheist dogma of absolute materialism, then yes, I have little regard for ‘truth’. If, however you mean truth in the true sense of that which can be established by the facts, then you will find I care for little else in this context.

  22. Advocatus Diaboli says:

    I wonder how you square your claim, “My areas are history and church teachings” with your ignorance of rather important aspects of your church’s teaching, i.e. what sends you to hell for all eternity. Of course I am aware of the catechisms — they are often quoted at me on this blog. They are accessible, and searchable at the click of a mouse. And I am rather careful not to get into controversy or make accusations without first checking my facts.

    “confirming my belief that Catholics have little concern with truth” — a fantastic generalisation? No, a precise statement. I have a belief and you strengthen or ‘confirm’ it with a further instance.

    • Peter D. Wilson says:

      AD – ““confirming my belief that Catholics have little concern with truth” — a fantastic generalisation? No, a precise statement. ”
      No, it is not a precise statement, since it hinges on the ambiguity of “Catholics” as “some Catholics” or “all Catholics”. If you mean the first, it may be true; if the second (which you appear to imply), at best it is unverifiable, at worst a gross calumny.

      • ionzone says:

        “I have a belief and you strengthen or ‘confirm’ it with a further instance.”

        Would you like me to introduce you to a group of people who also operate via this same method? You can find them hovering around on white supremacist websites such as Stormfront. The basic idea is that if you find an example of a person from a particular group behaving in a particular way it means that it was mandated by the entire group. If you want me to start using your method of generalisation towards you then I can oblige.

        “I wonder how you square your claim, “My areas are history and church teachings” with your ignorance of rather important aspects of your church’s teaching, i.e. what sends you to hell for all eternity”

        I was being flippant, but never mind. In any case, saying that this is a Church teaching would imply that they actually teach it. I.e., that a priest would stand up and say “if you wrangle your trouser snake you are going to hell forever”. Somehow I doubt that is going to happen. It may be on the books from a time when they taught this but I have seen no evidence that the church thinks you would actually go to hell for that. There is also no Biblical basis for the teaching that I am aware of.

        “Of course I am aware of the catechisms”

        You seem far more than aware of them, you seem to have spent some time studying them. If so, this clashes very strongly with what I have seen of atheists in the past since they tend not to know anything about Christianity that they haven’t gotten third-hand (or twenty-third-hand) from other atheists. Which would imply either that you aren’t in or associated with that category…..that or generalisations are bunk.

  23. milliganp says:

    I can’t help but say that AD has the best arguments. For too long the church seemed to posit a position – much like Schrödinger’s cat, where we are all simultaneously saved or damned, depending on our immediately previous actions – and the last time one had been to confession.
    I’ve never been a fan of the “fundamental option” but our ultimate fate in the hands of God cannot be reduce to our immediate state at death.

    • Advocatus Diaboli says:

      thank you, Milliganp. there’s hope yet.

      Not in answer to you, but as general comment on recent dialogue, may I say how much I have enjoyed it. I greatly value and will certainly recall for future mention in other places the statement:
      “No AD it is you, you are frankly lying with your use of these books and you know it, push off and find some other sheep to bark at.”

      Game, set and match, I think.

      • Ignatius says:

        No I don’t think so AD some things are not just about ‘polite argument’ which evades everything and deserves what it gets. Your disingenuous use of these texts simply isn’t funny, if what I have said breaches your sense of etiquette then so be it.

    • John Candido says:

      Exactly! Completely correct milliganp. May I refer anyone who has not read my post on culpability and the human conscience at the bottom of ‘Death Thou Shalt Die’ on the 30th August 2012. It comprises of eleven points. https://secondsightblog.net/2012/08/30/death-thou-shalt-die/

  24. milliganp says:

    Re: Apostolate of the Blog.
    Most blog comments come from various extreme positions. I wouldn’t dare engage those who post on the Catholic Herald, Telegraph or BBC blogs; if you don’t post within 30 seconds the lunatics take over. The blogsphere is not a comfortable place; perhaps one might think of Paul at the Areopagus, but it can be difficult,
    Sadly even this blog rarely gets through more than 4-5 posts before someone is condemned as a heretic, or worse – a defender of Vatican II.

    • Quentin says:

      You may not recall what I said at the time. Your objective is not the person whose views you are questioning, but the uncommitted visitors who are open to hearing the Catholic view, and the rational and courteous way in which it is expressed.

      • Singalong says:

        My low level contribution in this field is to post comments sometimes about articles in the Daily Mail, to support Catholic views, and to try and balance other opinions, or untrue facts. I hope they may have a little influence for good, like drops of water helping to build up a stream. I agree completely about being rational and courteous, strident and argumentative comments usually make a very bad impression even when one might agree with the sentiments.

        Many subjects can provide this opportunity, but today there happens to be one written by Dominic Lawson about the number of baby girls aborted because so many parents prefer to have boys. There are well over 300 comments so far, many encouragingly expressing the truth about what actually happens in any abortion.

        Articles in favour of euthanasia, usually called assisted dying, attract a lot of support, and more can be expected to follow tonight`s episode of Coronation Street which I have noticed being trailed extensively.

      • Quentin says:

        Singalong, you are doing exactly what I hoped would happen. Nothing dramatic — just the calm thoughtful voice which may well encourage people to think a little more deeply about their values.

        The gender balance question is most important. Recent publicity has been about its incidence in this country, but potentially more important is the effect in, say, Asia. Here we have growing surpluses of males — and that can lead only to rape and to conflict and terrorism.

      • Singalong says:

        My low level contribution in this field is to post comments sometimes about articles in the Daily Mail, to support Catholic views, and to try and balance other opinions, or untrue facts. I hope they may have a little influence for good, like drops of water helping to build up a stream. I agree completely about being rational and courteous, strident and argumentative comments usually make a very bad impression even when one might agree with the sentiments.

        Many subjects can provide this opportunity, but today there happens to be one written by Dominic Lawson about the number of baby girls aborted because so many parents prefer to have boys. There are well over 300 comments so far, many encouragingly expressing the truth about what actually happens in any abortion.

        Articles in favour of euthanasia, usually called assisted dying, attract a lot of support, and more can be expected to follow tonight`s episode of Coronation Street which I have noticed being trailed extensively.

    • John Candido says:

      Well said milliganp.

  25. Quentin says:

    Reverting to the Apostolate of the Blog, I notice that New Scientist has some pieces this week on the tendency of human groups to dehumanise other human groups. So I have sent them the following letter:

    “Your leading article with the subhead “Animals would never disown other members of their species” brought me up short. How could you give examples of how we dehumanise “the other” but omit to mention that we destroy up to 200,000 of our own species in the UK every year, on the grounds of personal convenience? Even the Spartans gave their young a chance to survive.”

    Of course the odds against any one letter being published are long, but they have been known to publish criticism.

    I think that we have to look out systematically for opportunities to get a good message across, if we are to find them.

  26. Geordie says:

    Quentin,
    You can’t be too happy about the some of the posts above. The interpretations of some contributors about other people’s contributions are totally inaccurate and their comments are most uncivil. Most disappointing. I admire Nektarios and AD for perservering. I just wouldn’t bother.

    • Quentin says:

      You are quite right. Perhaps I was a little naughty here. I felt, in both the cases, that we were getting two live examples of what can happen when we don’t accord with the guidance rules for the blog. The principle that we should conduct ourselves as we would if we were face to face with the other person is the one we should observe. As it happens, I am not over concerned about AD. I have watched him long enough to see how he plays the line like a trout fisherman. He is usually able to scoop up his catch. But from him we can at least learn that non-believers are not by any means always fools. I am looking forward to the day when he locks horns with someone who fights at his own weight!

  27. St.Joseph says:

    Geordie.
    AD and Nektarios can do their fair share.
    ‘A Note Note On Fundamentalism’ .Nektarios January 8th 3.27- treats RC as fools.least of all insulting
    Yes why do I bother.?.

    • RAHNER says:

      Funny you ask that question………

      • St.Joseph says:

        RAHNER.
        What do you find funny about that.
        I am not laughing or amused. But getting a little annoyed with cheap ‘Jibes’
        You are able to find replies with those.!

    • Quentin says:

      I wonder if the problem here lies in the very fact that both Nektarios and St,Joseph often produce enlightening contributions. That makes it sad for others to see so much valuable energy being used up in argument rather than fruitful discussion. But they are by no means the only contributors who find it hard not to try to get in the last word.

      • St.Joseph says:

        Quentin if I was posting on a Orthodox Blog, I would not speak about their faith with so much disrespect that Nektarios speaks about the RC Church.
        Perhaps that is the name of the game,that is not for me. I will give the truth as I believe it to be and expect the non Catholic to give their truth as they see it from their belief.
        I don’t see it as an argument.I do expect an answer when a point is made and Nektarios avoids the question with some obscure answer .
        As far as I can see,he thinks the Catholic Church is in schism;
        If that is his thinking on evangelism I am not impressed.

    • Nektarios says:

      St Joseph
      Without going over the topic on Fundamentalism again, I was indeed pointing out
      something about Roman Catholicism
      On the present topic under discussion, I speak as a semi-retired preacher now. It is regrettable that you feel I treat you both as fools and insulting to your RC views.
      I can assure you, to disagree with you from time to time does not mean I am attacking you personally, which I am not.
      As a preacher, I do not have the liberty to go beyond what the Bible teaches. I do not find for example, anything on Purgatory in the OT or the NT and was certainly not taught by the Apostles and we both belong to and are committed to Apostolic teaching.
      I am sorry you feel so aggrieved by what I said, and take it so personally, for that a apologize, it saddens me.

      • St.Joseph says:

        Nektarios.
        The Church wrote the NT.There are many things not in the Bible;this is where our beliefs differ, the Magisterium is continuing teaching Truths with the passing of time.
        To say you believe in Apostolic teaching is a nonsense when the Church interpretated it in the first place. Jesus knew this that is why He built His Church in the first place.
        As an example the contraceptive ‘pill’ was not spoken of in the Bible that does not mean that we can believe it to be usable.
        I have always understood that the Jews believed in purgatory.
        However I will respect your humble comment’! As I hope you will respect my beliefs.
        Just because thousands around us are not converted-that is not the failure of the Spirit.
        The Holy Spirit is working well! We can bring a horse to water but we can not make it drink if it does not thirst; that does not mean that the well is dry or full of rubbish;Just to clear up a point!

      • milliganp says:

        The concept of pergatory (or at least the virtue of praying for the dead) is, I believe (without resorting to texts) in Maccabees which is accepted as part of the scriptural canon by Catholics, as detero-canonical by some Protestant denominations but has the status of apocrypha for others. Thus my Baptist uncle refuses to pray for his Catholic mother or father since he considers their disposition as determined at death (and since neither was “born again” he is fairly certain they are not in heaven – and with no purgatory there is only one choice left!)

  28. Iona says:

    But is AD a non-believer? Or is he just trying to push believers towards scepticism in order to please the one on whose behalf he advocates?

    And BTW, what was all that about meteorites?

    • Quentin says:

      Iona, do you think it possible that he was once a believer? After all his eponymous master was effective precisely because he had been an insider. He presented us with a picture of a 14 year old boy trapped in guilt through clumsy teaching. (19/1, 4:40) Well, you’re the psychologist — is it possible that that was a memory rather than just an example?

      I have in fact been in touch with him because he was subjected on this blog, for which I have to take responsibility, to some very serious allegations. I have read through the exchanges and I’m darned if I can see any justification for these. All his statements are well sourced. However he tells me that he treated this as a gift since it provides him with great ammunition for his cause. Quel dommage! He did point out though that his anonymity was a saving grace — as the comments in question were actionable.

      I know nothing of meteorites.

  29. ionzone says:

    “Game, set and match, I think.”

    0k, I’m going to stop joking and messing about. What is it, exactly, you think you have won? In terms of my key point…you haven’t answered it as far as I am aware.

    “Sheldrake sounds fascinating. Do you have a reference list to his peer-reviewed papers?”

    You may find information on many of his papers available for free through the research tab on Rupert Sheldrake’s website. The key thing you should remember is that Shelldrake isn’t saying that psychic powers and things like that absolutely and defiantly exist, he is saying that science has decided that the matter is closed without really looking into it.

    “I wonder which things it is that you feel science doesn’t want to investigate.”

    Quite a large number of things, and you list several, but the situation is a lot more complicated than it appears. There is and has been very little research done on certain key areas because in science they are utterly taboo. To get an idea of just how taboo they are take, for example, the absolute backlash against a tiny piece of speculation on the future of science by Nobel prize winner Brian Josephson. This piece was written for a Royal Mail collection of quotes from prominent Nobel Prize winners to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the award that invited the winners to say something inspiring about the future of Nobel prize-winning research. Here is what he wrote:

    “Physicists attempt to reduce the complexity of nature to a single unifying theory, of which the most successful and universal, the quantum theory, has been associated with several Nobel prizes, for example those to Dirac and Heisenberg. Max Planck’s original attempts a hundred years ago to explain the precise amount of energy radiated by hot bodies began a process of capturing in mathematical form a mysterious, elusive world containing ‘spooky interactions at a distance’, real enough however to lead to inventions such as the laser and transistor.

    Quantum theory is now being fruitfully combined with theories of information and computation. These developments may lead to an explanation of processes still not understood within conventional science such as telepathy, an area where Britain is at the forefront of research.”

    And here is a report on the backlash:

    http://www.theguardian.com/uk/2001/sep/30/robinmckie.theobserver

    As I said before, it is simply accepted and taught that these things are false even though the overall evidence is lacking. As was noted by a surgeon on Radio Four this morning, scientific taboo extends as far as things that an outsider would consider uncontroversial. For example, surgical techniques often owe more to tradition and untested assumption than they should (use listen again to hear Professor Iain Hutchison talk about it on One to One). Scientists, like everyone else, have taboos and assumptions, of course.

  30. John Nolan says:

    A couple of years ago I was on a chant course whose main contributor was Colin Mawby, Master of Music at Westminster Cathedral in the 1960s and an eminent composer of sacred music. He recalled how JP II told Domenico Bartolucci (who died last year) that liturgical music (properly understood) was a major factor in evangelization. Colin also related that someone who came into Westminster Cathedral and heard the boys singing Gregorian Chant (he had no idea of what they were singing and why) in the early 1960s eventually became a Catholic and attributed his conversion to that initial experience.

    My main issue with this blog is that while it is certainly wordy, it very rarely addresses aspects of beauty which are fundamental to our existence and purpose. Benedict XVI spoke eloquently on the subject of Truth and Beauty which suggested to this English listener that he was not unfamiliar with the poetry of John Keats.

    • Quentin says:

      Yesterday, on Wimbledon Common, I listened to Eliot’s Four Quartets read by Jeremy Irons. (You can still catch it – Radio 4 last Saturday). Its profundity in the sunny wildness of my surroundings was a remarkable experience

    • milliganp says:

      Several years ago I was driving my elderly mother to a hospital appointment. I had Classic FM on the radio and it was a time when much of their content was Gregorian Chant and classic settings of the Latin Mass. I said that I found it amazing, given the lack of faith in our country, that it was so popular. She replied that people were praising God without realising – perhaps anonymous Christians?

  31. johnbunting says:

    ionzone, do please enlarge on the meteorite business. “Scientists called them a superstition…..” etc. Who? And which museums?

    • tim says:

      Meteorites : Wikipedia
      “The German physicist, Ernst Florens Chladni, was the first to publish the then audacious idea that meteorites were rocks from space.[42] He published his booklet, “On the Origin of the Pallas Iron and Others Similar to it, and on Some Associated Natural Phenomena”, in 1794. In this he compiled all available data on several meteorite finds and falls concluded that they must have their origins in outer space. The scientific community of the time responded with resistance and mockery.”
      Similar mockery greeted has greeted other scientific pioneers (for example, the chap who noted that the coastlines of South America and Africa would fit quite neatly together: Newlands’ ‘Law of Octaves’ anticipating Medeleev’s Periodic Table’. And the President of the Royal Society at the beginning of the 20th century who said that all that was left to physicists from then on was to measure fundamental constants to a few more decimal places).
      Nevertheless, while I try to be open-minded, I’m doubtful about Sheldrake.

  32. milliganp says:

    One of the premises of this blog is that we allow legitimate differences and, as it is a blog on the interface between faith and science, we admit the views of those who do not share a Catholc view of life. Too often we get into fundamental positions entirely off-topic. Thus the truth of Christ’s resurrection (of which only 22% of humanity admit), the existence of purgatory (15%) or Catholic teaching on contraception (<2%) are not necessary to contribute to our discussion.
    The reformation is a fact of history (not of faith) and it caused a divide in Christianity; the churches of the reformation consider themselves authentic witnesses to Christ as much as does the Catholic Church. If anyone said "I prefer to be a …. because it's easier than being a Catholic" we might criticise them, but we should respect the personal faith of those raised in other Christian traditions. In particular, I have met Methodists who put my own faith to shame. In the way that only the Roman Catholic church knows how to express itself we call this "invincible ignorance".
    One of my concerns about the discussion on this blog is that it has its own version of Godwin's law, after more than n (where n is generally more than 10 but less than 20) posts someone is condemned rather than logically contradicted.

    • St.Joseph says:

      The good news about The Good News.
      There is 9 days left before I take my Crib out of my Porch( Feast of the Presentation) the day I put it away until next year please God. Also the day after I have Holy Mass offered for my late husband as it is the anniversary of his death.
      Pope Benedict suggested that the Crib be not put away until the,!
      Also as my husband prayed that Cardinal Ratzsinger would become Pope! have a Mass said for him as I know how much he loved Holy Mass and although I remember him and all holy souls at Mass this is a special day for me,and it make me happy that I am a Catholic.
      I do the same for my parents even though my mother died suddenly at 67. 35 years ago

      The neighbours all 34 of them plus the refuge collectors, post men and post ladies, delivery men etc. They all know and understand why the Crib is left up until 2nd February,I make a special point of making it known that Christmas is not all about decorating the outside of
      the house with fairy lights etc etc etc.
      Oh and by the way I also include the unborn in the Christmas message, when I make the point of seeing the unborn in the face of the Child Jesus in the Crib.
      There is more than one way to preach the Gospel. I see so many lost opportunities.

    • tim says:

      Miliganp, I agree with nearly all your post, except possibly the third sentence. The topics you mention should not be dragged in where they are not relevant: but quite frequently they are relevant. It is then in order to discuss them – courteously. If you think people are wrong, you can tell them why you think so, giving your reasons, as “That is not: what the Church teaches/Pope Leo the Great said/ what was reported in The Times[/Catholic Herald] last week” – etc. Contradiction without reasons does not convince. Maybe condemnation is sometimes called for – though probably best avoided. When it cannot be, condemn the opinion, not the holder. Two quotations:
      “Mr Escot. Say no more, sir. That apology is quite sufficient.
      Mr Panscope. Apology, sir?
      Mr Escot. Even so, sir. You have lost your temper, which I consider equivalent to a confession that you have the worst of the argument.” (Peacock, Headlong Hall)
      and (rather weightier)
      “Jesus answered him, “If what I said is wrong, bear witness about the wrong; but if what I said is right, why do you strike me?” (John 18,v 23).

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