The death of debate

I reproduce here, with permission, the main leader from the last edition of the Catholic Herald. It raises some important points for discussion.

David Cameron has recently described British values as: “a belief in freedom, tolerance of others, accepting personal and social responsibility, respecting and upholding the rule of law.” We agree, but behind such a general statement lie many traps. In recent times there has been a growing pattern of discrimination against moral and religious opinions and practice. We may think of Catholic adoption societies, attacks on faith schools in the public sector or nurses being required to supervise abortion administration in hospitals.

Now, it would appear, attacks against freedom of debate and discussion are appearing in the universities – the very institutions which assume, and have assumed since the days of Plato, that rational and free debate is at the heart of the discovery of truth. We have in mind here Cardiff University where the student union is intent on converting the University to a pro-abortion stance. This follows a decision to baulk a debate on the damage of abortion culture to our society by Christ Church, Oxford.

We need to see these serious incidents against a background of growing secularism. The philosophy here is plain: secularity is essentially neutral and any religious belief, or morality related to such belief, is grounded in superstition. We may be allowed to maintain and even to act upon such values provided we do so in private, but any manifestation in public life must be taken as a form of intolerance to be condemned or even directly punished. Organisations, such as the National Secular Society and the British Humanist Association, are skilled in public relations and their secularist propaganda addresses the passive agnosticism of our society.

So we all have to decide what kind of society we wish to be. The history of England and the British Empire shows us many attitudes and policies which it shames us to remember. But, at least eventually, the freedoms of opinion sustained by the freedom of democracy have won through. But if we allow ourselves to become a society with an inherent tendency towards control we will have destroyed the very instrument of our freedom. Of course free speech itself has its necessary limits which have been established over the centuries, but our history should lead us to champion a free and diverse society with an instinctive abhorrence for any controls which are not clearly proven to be necessary for the common good.

The rights to life, to religious belief and practice and freedom of expression are guaranteed by the United Nations. Perhaps university students have forgotten the sacrifices their forebears made to achieve the freedom which they enjoy. They will learn that the preservation of these rights, even to their own disadvantage, is the price of such freedom.


Contributors have, from time to time, noted a gradual slide into secularism in our society. But it may still come as a shock to discover that there are those who would deny us the freedom to argue the moral law in public. That, in the instances noted, the aggression comes from the next generation of our educated young makes it all the worse.

The leader describes our society as one of passive agnosticism. Should we be letting sleeping dogs lie, or does this make our society fertile ground only too ready to support attacks on religion?

We have had constructive discussion on the casual assumption that the idea of God as a creator carries little force nowadays. But there is active, and sometimes aggressive, attack on particular issues. Abortion is indeed the first one which comes to mind. The movement, under the banner of female reproductive rights, is national and international. There has been strong pressure even in the United Nations to have abortion, effectively on demand, as a right in every country. The gulf between those who hold that the human being in the womb is disposable and those who defend human life at every stage seems unbridgeable.

The active campaign against faith schools has been strongly boosted by a minority of Muslim schools – and this has been neatly turned into ammunition against any faith (read, Catholic) school. Many now take it for granted that the use of public money to support religious education is simply unjust. This is reinforced by a condemnation of ‘indoctrinating’ the young with superstitious beliefs. Moreover, it is claimed that the exclusivity of Catholic schools damages the integration of society.

Sometimes we may think that the only ace in the pack available to us is the popularity of Pope Francis. While this is well deserved we should not rely on it. You may be sure that there are those who seek for any crack or misinterpretation which can be used to bring him, and thus the Church, into disrepute. You may remember the damage done to the standing of Pope Benedict by the pack snapping at his heels.

But, as always, it is not enough to say what others should do. We must not forget the effect we have on our families, our friends, and the institutions to which we belong. Our particular rôle is to bear witness to the secular world.

About Quentin

Portrait © Jacqueline Alma
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59 Responses to The death of debate

  1. Gerry says:

    Wait a sec! When it comes to blocking debate, political correctness isn’t in the same league as the Catholic Church. When I became a keen Catholic in the late 1940’s I felt the need to write to the Archbishop of Southwark to get permission to read Capital by Karl Marx. He gave me permission with a mild warning. I got only to page seven, so he needn’t have bothered; nevertheless, there was this ban on Marx and on very many other writers, a gentle ban in my day, but a fierce and effective one in previous centuries when the Church had power. No doubt in the olden days the Church would block a debate on allowing abortion and nowadays the politically correct want to ban a debate on the dangers of abortion.
    The whole subject is curious. Take the extraordinary change in our attitude to population increase. The population of Iraq, Syria, and Palestine goes 10 million in 1950; 20 million in 1975; 40 million in 2000; and an estimated 80 million in 2025. In the 1950s and 1960s “everyone” from the Pope downwards would know that this meant disaster, but from the 1980s until now “no one” from the Pope downwards finds these figures interesting. This is partly because they don’t know about them. Can anyone explain why this has happened? My own guess is that political correctness – helped by the efforts of John Paul II – has effectively blocked all information and all discussion.

    • I well remember the ban on reading certain books (1947) – in my case it was Freud, so I took my teacher’s advice and read Jung instead!

      • Peter D. Wilson says:

        I think that a large extent the “Index of forbidden books” was a dead letter. When I introduced myself to the university chaplain in 1957, one of his first comments was that I could ignore it. As a matter of interest I had a look and found that it included several in my devoutly Catholic mother’s bookcase.

    • Zepher says:

      There will always be controversies, I think is the answer.

  2. Nektarios says:

    We face a very hidden censorship. Every once in a while, as soon as we begin to talk about the need of re-entering Christian values into the discussion, someone says that what you are after is theocracy. Absolutely not! We must make absolutely plain, we are not in favor of theocracy, in name or in fact. But, having said that, nevertheless, we must realize that we already face a hidden censorship — a hidden censorship in which it is impossible to get the other Judeo-Christian world view presented in something like public television. It’s absolutely impossible.

  3. milliganp says:

    One of the biggest challenges to meaningful open debate is surely the problem of banality; every minor unsubstantiated opinion is treated as equal. As Catholics in the post Vatican II era we have forgotten the intellectual roots of our faith. In the public sphere critical analysis of the arts has all but ceased to exist. Nearly two decades ago Brian Sewell decried the intellectual illiteracy of the students to whom he had to teach the history of art, matters have not improved. The complete lack of any underlying fundamental principals in politics points to a similar problem (what do socialism and conservatism mean any more?) We live in the era of the opinion; rational, thought out, fact based assertions carry no more weight than that which comes into the head on the spur of a moment.
    – Now is that an opinion? I’ll shut up!

  4. John Thomas says:

    “You may have been as shocked as I was to read that two universities have, in effect, blocked public debate on the issue of abortion.” – No, Quentin, I’m afraid I accept this as virtually normal, these days. Sadly, this is the sort of world we’re living in …

    My own website is I hope that some contributors will find time to visit.

    • Nektarios says:

      Had a look at your website – interesting.
      We should be shocked. Only the Humanist ad secular worldview can be taught in American schools, colleges and universities by Law.
      I agree with Milliganp who mentions the banality of many debates, but it is worse than that, such debates starts with words and ends with words.
      Little do many realize that agreeing to the Humanistic worldview is lose and erode more of our freedoms. We are indeed moving at a faster pace that most anticipate towards totalitarianism. If we are to debate such serious matters it may demand action instead of words.

      • St.Joseph says:

        All the more reason why we pray outside abortion clinics,
        The March for Life is beginning to take on in the UK.
        There is a NFPTA (Natural Family Planning Teachers Association) conference 11th – 14th June next year, coinciding with the World Trade Fair – EXPO 2015 – in Milan.
        Their theme is ‘Feed the Life, Nourish Love and Sustain the Family’.

      • Singalong says:

        An orchestrated campaign is building up to legislate against any prolife activity of any kind near abortion clinics in the UK. Our local paper reported favourably on these moves this week, and there is a very emotive article in today’s DM, and also a factual article in the Catholic Herald. Bubble or buffer zones around the clinics are being proposed which I believe are already enforced in a few other countries, I am sorry I do not know which ones..

        Another subject in our free country which allows only one opinion.

  5. Zepher says:

    I don’t think I am shocked or surprised. There has always been censorship of controversial ideas by people who don’t want their own ideas challenged. This, however, is entering area that is starting to make England look a bit Soviet. Of course universities have a history of trying to clamp down on free enquiry, and the Catholic Church of protecting it. And, no, that isn’t sarcasm, that actually happened back when universities started clamping down on certain authors and the pope himself had to issue a Bull telling them to chill. This is the absolute opposite of what most people have been taught to think, and that’s because of censorship.

    What has happened now is that universities have simply weeded out all the competitive ideas to form their own solid single orthodoxy based, mostly, around hating our orthadoxy.

  6. Hock says:

    There are many strands to these issues. I often ask myself would I be opposed to abortion if I were not a Catholic ? I would like to think so but in truth my opposition is modeled on my Catholic faith and what it teaches. Were I of a secular mindset I have to admit I probably would not be so opposed although I know that many who might regard themselves as atheists are uneasy about abortion.
    However, and I realise this sounds something of a contradiction to my previous paragraph, but it has to be stated that my experience is that most Catholics I speak to about this are ambivalent about abortion. Ever tried handing out the pro-life times at the end of Mass as parishioners leave the Church? If not , try it, and stand ready to be ignored and even abused.
    How about leaving the copies of the, free, Pro-Life times at the back of the Church for people to help themselves? Expect to see the pile untouched when you return the following Sundays.
    Ever heard abortion roundly condemned from the pulpit or in a Bishop’s pastoral letter ?If so then your experience is a lot different than mine. Only once have a heard a condemnation of abortion from the pulpit. At best you get it lumped in with a load of other evils. Evidently it does not deserve a mention of its own.
    Even in the lead article in The Catholic Herald about the University on the cancellation of the abortion debate it finished the article with a long quote that was supportive of the University’s stance. Was the person quoted named? Not a bit of it. The quote was ‘pinched’ from some unidentified person who had not even written to the Catholic Herald but to some national daily paper. So even in a Catholic newspaper the last words that we read in the article, and so the most likely to stay in the memory, are pro-abortion.
    I wonder if these were the true sentiments of the author of the Herald article and that is why they were included. Otherwise it seemed oddly out of place.

    • Quentin says:

      Hock, I assume you are referring to the story on page 3 of the CH (28 November). I am confused – the quote is shown as coming from the chaplain, and I cannot find any mention of support for the motion to prohibit the debate. Certainly there is a call for charity for those who promote the motion — and that is important in itself; but charity does not reduce our firmness in any way. Or have I misunderstood your point?

    • John Thomas says:

      Hock, You don’t have to be Catholic – or even Christian/a theist; apparently in the US there are three organisations of non-theists who oppose abortion, some militant atheist – I think one is actually called “Atheists for Life”.

  7. Ignatius says:

    “..Sometimes we may think that the only ace in the pack available to us is the popularity of Pope Francis. While this is well deserved we should not rely on it..”
    The ace available is the flame of the spirit of God burning in the heart of the believer and the trust that ,somehow, that flame can be felt by others in some way unknown to us. I am increasingly breaking the news to my patients, students and colleagues that I will be getting ordained this summer. Our college exams are in June as is my ordination so this gives me opportunity to chat with students about graduation and ordination. This means that many people who know me quite well can now make a judgement about me from a ‘religious’perspective….in other words do they sense the presence of that flame or do they only feel the chill of legalist disapproval? The truth of who we are is obscured for ourselves but is much plainer to others.

    • Brendan says:

      Your last comment is very true. Ignatius, may the Spirit drive you to Ordination and beyond. The fact is conversion ( metanoia ) starts with oneself and reinforced in a ‘ LIFE-LONG ‘ process . That’s why the ‘ real saints ‘ among us do not realise how saintly they are unless proclaimed by their public.
      The real problem with the ‘ West ‘ is that it has lost the route to finding God – having allowed itself to be blown off course by the seductive sweet smelling winds of ‘ modernity ‘ with its persuasive but false promises of utopia here and now . The result is a palpable loss of faith ( trust in God ) in replacing ” man ” by ” superman .” Surely the great upheavals of the last century tell us this ?
      Our Lord told us – as usual – exactly where to find God, and is so doing , ourselves and our fellow ‘ men ‘; the prerequisite of which is ‘ HUMILITY ‘. Everything else as I see it from our ‘being’ – nature and nurture – depends on that disposition before God and our ‘ finding ‘ Him again. He has never left us but gives us the satisfactory means ( grace ) of giving us free will to this affect. Until the West rediscovers this ‘ act ‘ of faith , the human propensity for debate will deteriorate until it becomes nonsensical. i.e. The Tower of Babel. There has to be ‘ something ‘ more than us , ‘ we ‘ of ourselves are not enough.
      I see no virtue in the Church continually raking over the faults of the past. As Christ said… ” let the dead bury the dead “. It is enough to repent and learn from its mistakes and not to harbour the poison of resentment for others. In another place … ” shake the dust from you feet .. ” and move on, if no one will listen or if debate is stifled. Thus little by little we begin the process of expunging this ‘ superman ‘ complex.

      • St.Joseph says:

        I like your comment, but just a few comments;
        You say ‘you see no virtue in the Church continually raking over the faults of the past’.!
        It is not normally the authority of Holy Mother Church that is raking over the past,but the liberal thinkers who would like to undermine the Magsterium.
        There are new difficulties today for the Church to uphold Her Authority being Euthanasia, Abortion Chastity (which floats under our noses including TV and other media that affect society
        These are all and many more becoming a part of a general lifestyle.As you say in so many other words.
        We need to move on as you say and defend the rights of our beliefs in todays age.
        The Government ought to be reminded of the Christian and other denomonations who are doing charity works at the risk of their own lives and the finance that are given from religious organisations!
        Would we die for our faith today as those who did in the past,! We built schools first to teach the faith to our children, then Churches.
        We must still remember those also the penal days in Ireland and thank them in our prayers.
        The short time I attended a Catholic school in Ireland, we used to take pennies for the black babies. My mother used to say’ they will be the Missionaries to bring the faith back to us’,

  8. John Nolan says:

    Paul Milligan is surely right when he bemoans the lack of critical analysis. This is certainly true when it comes to popular culture. I don’t particularly like the show ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ but it is noticeable that when the most honest of the judges, Craig Revel Horwood, makes even the slightest negative comment on the performers he is roundly booed by the studio audience.

    Most people have no idea of what constitutes debate and nor do most politicians. I watched the second so-called debate on Scottish independence between Alistair Darling and Alex Salmond. Darling simply asked the same question over and over again while Salmond was allowed to talk over his opponent. It was not an edifying spectacle.

    Medieval scholastics understood the art of disputation and could conduct it in a spirit of Christian charity. The Dominicans were adept at this – their maxim was: ‘Never deny, rarely affirm, always distinguish.’

  9. Hock says:

    I am referring to the Herald dated 21 November in which on Page 3 it was headlined: ‘Abortion debate cancelled amid threats.’
    At the end of the article there are several column inches given over to a quote that appeared in The Independent from an unidentified source but one described as a ‘pro abortion student.’
    You will see for yourself that this quote sets out in some length the justification for the cancellation as argued by the anonymous writer.
    As I stated above this was oddly out of place. Also it lingers longer in the memory by being the last thing written.
    It is also a strange departure from editorial practice to quote from a letter /article that has appeared in another paper when the writer is unidentified.
    There was no justification for The Herald to have to put the pro-abortion viewpoint other than what was set out in the main narrative of the article.
    The quote’s inclusion suggests to me that a Catholic newspaper could be considered ambivalent about the abortion issue.

    • Quentin says:

      Yes, I’ve got you now (always helpful to identify the issue so that people can assess your opinion). Presumably the name of the pro-abortion student would have been unknown to readers, and so irrelevant. The quote itself tells us something of the thinking which favours abortion.

      I can assure you that the CH is strongly against abortion – as its leader which I reproduced shows.

  10. Hock says:

    I guess the names of most people who write to papers in their letters column are ‘unknown’ but it is a requisite of publication that names are supplied. It is not irrelevant for any paper and its readers to know the name of such a person who is being quoted. Also the quote is part of an article
    (according to the Herald,) and therefore one assumes that such an article has an author of some status or standing to have an article accepted, and for The Herald to also make use of it.
    Since when has it been the duty of a Catholic paper to inform us of the thinking which favours abortion? ( and to do so by pinching such ‘thinking’ from another newspaper.)
    Sadly the publication of this convoluted quote does not sit comfortably with the stance of being strongly opposed to abortion in this particular instance.

  11. nfortunate says:

    Why should a growing number of people in Britain have respect for an opposing point of view among’st their fellow human beings, when there is at large only indifference shown to the basic understanding of the uniqueness ( sacredness ) of all human life around us. It is now ingrained in the nations psyche and consequently lack of respect is becoming more apparent in many ways.
    Last week my wife and I went to see the film ‘ The imitation Game ‘ – about Alan Turing and his part in cracking the German Enigma Code. Despite warnings about breaches of film copyright ( which I was told later, does go on in cinemas ) and pleas to turn off ones mobile ‘phone I noticed that a lady three rows down was giggling and talking rather too audibly in a distracted manner. Thinking this would naturally subside I left it for a while. Unfortunately it persisted so I lent over and asked if she was on her mobile. When she turned I could see the light on her mobile clearly. She replied.. ” What’s it to do with you., you p**** !
    Realizing that debate was over , and not wanting to spoil mine and my wife’s enjoyment of a good film, I left it there.

  12. I note that the Hippocratic Oath (approx 300 BC) forbids a doctor to procure an abortion.

  13. Brendan says:

    St.Joseph, comment 11.04am.
    In the New Catholic Herald ( new format is great ! ) today I read a leader by I believe Luke Coppen making just your point – about rejoicing at what the Church ( us ) has done and is doing to enhance the cause of ‘ civilisation ‘ – put in one basket, my eyes were opened some time ago to this fact by the learned Father Andrew Pinsent and others ! I will never allow anyone to tell me otherwise again.
    By the Church raking over old ‘ coals ‘ I mean ourselves – The Church – I don’t particularly relish party games such as ‘ left ‘, ‘ right ‘, ‘ liberal ‘, ‘ conservative ‘. – and i don’t believe Catholic youth do either or Pope Francis . They are fed up of these terms , and being led by the noise in a secular sense by the all-powerful media machine that people who sport these labels hide for protection and justification. Saint Joseph, The Catholic Church ( US ) is still the best chance our planet has of getting out of this mess – in their heart of hearts even the deniers know it.
    A Blessed Advent to you and your family.

  14. Brendan says:

    In my last piece replace ‘ justification ‘ by ‘ self-justification ‘.

  15. Brendan says:

    St. Joseph, you have touched on some family roots, and as a family history researcher I mention the trials and tribulations of my Irish forebears experienced during the 19th Century socio- economic and religio-political difficulties of Irish Catholics in Britain particular to that period.
    Before that my maternal great-grandparents , the O’ Driscolls, came from Bandon, Cork to South Wales. Earlier they had removed from Skiberreen to escape the horrors of the 1845- 1852 Great Famine. In 1882, My grandfather ( aged 10 yrs. ) with his family had to flee their home and with many others ,forced to hide in the forest above the town of Tredegar, Monmouthshire while their homes were burned to the ground during the riots aimed at the Irish ( Catholic ) Community. Only the the prescence of Militia arriving from Newport quelled this ‘ disturbance. ‘
    Meanwhile , my paternal great – grandparents , the O’ Learys similarly arrived in South Wales from Cork about the same period. In 1880 ( during a period of serious disturbances in Souh-east Wales Valleys ) my great- grandfather was burned to death accidently in a vat of molten metal at Ebbw Vale Steelworks. His son , my grandfather, was born on the same day of the Coroners hearing concerning his death. My great – grandmother, died 9 years later probably worn out and they say with a ‘ broken heart .’ In 1938, my parents, having just married and looking for lodgings were turned away by a landlady in the same town because they were ‘Catholic’.
    I relate these facts not because they were untypical of Welsh life at that period , and could indeed be mirrored anywhere in Britain and among other groups of immigrant or indeed indigenous peoples. I relate it , because I am immensely proud and grateful of the sacrifices they made for their descendants and for me receiving the Catholic Faith.
    University students of our day would do well to contemplate the cost to their forebears to ensure freedom of speech, conscience and religion that they and all of us enjoy today and the serious consequences that would ensue if we were denied the very things that make us alive and living a life worth living.

    • St.Joseph says:

      Brendan thank you for that.
      It is very familar to me after listening to my maternal grandmother,who was born and bred in Bray Co Wicklow along with her 9 brothers and one sister, They left to live in America and Scotland;Her grandparents were imigrants from Spain and France.
      It all seems unreal when we hear this history,of course we heard about the Reformation.
      We hope and pray those days are passed, however not at the expense of our faith that our ancestors suffered for.My parents came to UK in 1934 with my father being a National Hunt Jockey,I think they were preserved from any bigotry in the circle of horse racing, then called up for the war. 1939

      Do we compromise for the sake of unity;?Would we suffer for our faith like our ancestors> ,Please God it wont come to that.

      • St.Joseph says:

        Blessings to you and your family too.

        I had my Scan on Wednesday and get the results on Tuesday please God.
        Thank you for all your prayers on SS it has helped me through the last very difficult 4 months, they have been a wonderful comfort to me. I do feel well thank God even though losing 3 stone and all my hair!! But I have a lovely wig!!!

  16. Nektarios says:

    Probably we are using the word debate or debating in a special sense. To me it is exploring and asking. Is a discussion merely an exchange of ideas, a debate, an exposition of one’s own knowledge, cleverness, erudition, or is a discussion in spite of knowledge a further exploration into something which I do not know? Is it a scientific exploration where the scientist, if he is really worthy at all, enquires, there is not a conclusion from which he enquires?

    What are we trying to do? We are just laying the foundation for a right kind of discussion. If it is merely a schoolboy debate, then it is not worth it. If it is merely opposing one conclusion to another then it does not lead very far. If you are a Communist and I a Capitalist, we battle with words, political activities and so on; it does not get us anywhere. If you are entrenched as an Orthodox, Catholic, Protestant or whatever we are – we just battle with words, with conclusions, with dogmas; and that does not get us very far.

    And if I want to go very far, I must know, I must be aware that I am discussing from a position, from a conclusion, from a knowledge, from a certainty; or that I am really not entrenched. If I am held to something and from there I proceed or try to find out, then I am so conditioned that I cannot think freely. All this is a self-revealing process, isn’t it?
    Has there been a death of debate or debating, or is it we are just losing the art of debating?

    • Brendan says:

      I do not think we are seeing the ‘ death of debate ‘ quite yet. We are in essence as you say maybe losing ‘ the art of debating ‘ by not preparing adequately – thus perpetuating ourselves , a world that does not contemplate very much and demands instant sound- bite , which is not conducive to fertile debate,
      Today is the feast of The Immaculate Conception. I read in the last day of a novena to Our Lady the phrase …. ” our tainted nature’s solitary boast ” taken from a romantic poem ‘ The Virgin ‘ by William Wordsworth.
      I give this example to show the upsurge of emotion and feeling which one could initially embrace before debate which should naturally engender a position of humility and respect for the person or persons for which one is debating. Supposing of course that one is well briefed on the subject of debate.

    • tyke says:

      I can only debate about things which I am convinced about. That is, I am certain that one side of the question is right and the others are wrong. If this condition is missing that we don’t have a debate but an exchange of points of view.

      However, at the same time as being convinced that I am right and you (not not you personally Nektarios) are wrong, I can still accept that you feel exactly the same thing … just the other way around. So I should at least try to understand what it is that you really think and why. And then we can get the Damascus moment – the realization that actually we’re both partially wrong and partially right and that the ‘real truth’ is above both. Of course, this is now just a new position of which I am now convinced and so the process restarts.

      That is they key point to debate — to understand the different positions and grow. But unless all parties are ‘entrenched’, ‘convinced’ then we just get a rather soppy discussion without any passion. And unless all parties are prepared to understand why the others think as they do then we get intolerance.

      Isn’t that the real problem with today’s society?

  17. milliganp says:

    If we look at David Cameron’s “British Values”, he identifies them as “a belief in freedom, tolerance of others, accepting personal and social responsibility, respecting and upholding the rule of law”. Under this set of rules we are called to respect that the state allows Gay Marriage and Abortion and to allow those who believe that these are not moral evils the right to practice what they believe.
    Under these circumstances we have to witness to our beliefs in a different way. Perhaps we need to tale a lead from Elizabeth Fry, the prison reformer or the 17th Century Quakers who opposed slavery. Rather than picketing abortion clinics, perhaps we should be setting up organisations that give women the ability to choose to keep their unborn babies.

    • Singalong says:

      Milliganp, this is what Life has always aimed to do, and has helped many mothers and their babies, by giving advice, befriending, help with finding accommodation, sources of funding, baby clothes and articles like cots, prams, clothes.

      Money donated to Life’s practical work can be gift aided as it is a charity, giving positive assistance, and separated from campaigning.

      We should certainly be giving it more support.

      • milliganp says:

        We have a small lLife group in our parish, however it has not been supported by the PP for 10 years and, sadly, abortion is a non-issue for most Catholics. Post Humanae-Vitae the church seems to have given up talking about marriage and family life issues.

      • tim says:

        Not forgetting the Good Counsel Network, who try to help all who need it. Praying outside abortion clinics, and offering help to those who enter (preferably without horror pictures) is also excellent work.

    • St.Joseph says:

      I gave women the opportunity to keep their unborn babies until they were 6 weeks old in 1980
      Using my home when we organised a SPUC Branch, It felt right to do this at the time’
      No good preaching if we dont help them.
      I did that for about 3 years.
      However when their babies were born (single girls with no parental support) they got their flat from the Council; they then went on the abortfacant pill. So it was then that I decided after a great deal of thought to study NFP for 18 months. to teach.Even though my husband and I had a public house we went back to running the Guest House instead of a home for pregnant girls
      People pray outside abortion clinics, I have never seen picketing.
      As I said earliar the answer is theMarch for Life, like in the USA. where Bishops, priests.Congress men young people by the thousands. march. We need to show the government we mean action. and prayers.
      Chastity is something greatly needed and responsibility and respect for life.

      • milliganp says:

        There is, in my opinion, an innate hypocrisy in American society. They are overwhelmingly Christian but fail to pass a law to protect the unborn. To my knowledge, nobody in the USA has ever proposed a constitutional amendment to protect the unborn; instead they play with the selection process for the Supreme Court. However they now have a president who has said that if either of his own daughters became “inconveniently” pregnant he would expect them to have an abortion.

    • Nektarios says:

      I can agree with you up to a point, however `witnessing’ is not the same thing as debating.
      If you were in a position to `debate’ with David Cameron on each of his points on British Values, how would you lay out your questioning of his opinions?
      As they are in Parliament for the most part Humanists and Secularists…. by not upholding (for example) God’s Laws, they forfeit the right to rule, because it is God that puts them up into such positions and pulls them down.
      If they are arguing denying God’s authority over all men, by allowing such artbitary laws and rules
      that lead sin, error and the continuing fragmentation of society, then David Cameron should realize he is on a sticky wicket, and a fall can be anticipated.
      It is not only the privilege but it is the duty of the Christian to disobey the government. Now that’s what the founding fathers in America did.That’s what the early Church did. That’s what Peter said. You heard it from the Scripture: “Should we obey man?… rather than God?” That’s what the early Christians did.
      Now if our debating is not to end in mere words, but social change, what shall we Christians of today do?

      • milliganp says:

        It would be hard to tell that Great Britain has an established church. Ignoring and criticising C of E bishops is pretty much standard fare on both benches of the commons.
        Although all power is ultimately of God, unless you believe in establishing a Christian theocracy, then there is a duty to obey the laws of a democratic society except when they directly clash with faith.
        I can live in a society that allows abortion but never procure or participate in an abortion. I can live in a society that allows divorce but witness to marriage by remaining faithfull to my wife. I could live in a society that believes that bearing arms is a fundamental right but choose never to own a gun. The early church lived by a different set of rules to the mainstream society of their time but, other than refusing to practice idolatry, they did not actively oppose the government of their time.

      • milliganp says:

        Nektarios, the point I was trying to make, perhaps poorly, is that we can’t argue for Christian values in the debate about our society and laws if we don’t visibly offer an alternative, lived, set of values. St Joseph talks of her heroic commitment in offering an alternative to women who might otherwise have had an abortion. Sadly the entire Christian establishment, Catholic and Reformed, seems to offer only lip service to these fundamental values. As Paul VI said, the world prefers witnesses to teachers.

  18. Brendan says:

    Congratulations to Cardiff pro-life Students ! Motion to make Student Union officially pro-abortion is defeated. Nothing like numbers for changing minds and keeping debate open.

  19. Ignatius says:


    “It is not only the privilege but it is the duty of the Christian to disobey the government…”

    So when and how did you last disobey the government then?

    • Nektarios says:

      Now, you would not want me, along with many others, on different issues to go into all that here. A lot of it is confidential and thus not open to this debat forum -sorry!

      • Quentin says:

        You are of course quite right, Nektarios. This Blog is of necessity in the public forum, and tens of thousands of people of whom we know nothing see it each year. It reminds me that we (most of us) are the Catholic Church on show to the world. We should be an example of frank debate,conducted in charity.

        Most of the time we do just this — and the occasions when a shot across the bows is required are now rare.

    • In a response to “With a bare bodkin…” (May 4, 2013 at 9:55 am) I outlined the only time when I have felt impelled to “disobey the government”. This was not a specifically Catholic, or even Christian position but does illustrate a situation which I considered a matter of conscience.
      “When I was a young doctor I had as patients a number of young people who had attempted suicide. At that time suicide was a felony. ‘Attempted suicide’ had by law to be reported to the police. This I refused to do on grounds of medical confidence.”

  20. Brendan says:

    If one wants to know where and at what level the stifling of debate occurs in Britain today can I suggest that one reads Christopher Bookers expose in the Daily Telegraph May 13 2013. – ” I’ts time we knew the gay marriage Story “. Of course we have a Chamber that prides itself on free open factual debate …. don’t we ?
    It would grace any bookshelf of Machiavellian provenance.

  21. Brendan says:

    My apologies. Please. Please replace ‘ uentin ‘ for ‘ Brendan ‘.in my last piece.

  22. Ignatius says:

    ” We should be an example of frank debate, conducted in charity.”
    Yes but what has this to do with civil disobedience?
    I don’t think its a good idea to blithely reccomend civil disobedience in public then to become so suddenly coy when asked to clarify. It should not be hard to reply to the topic in generalities at least and notwithstanding anonymity. It may interest you all to know that I was asked about the same issue of Church and State relationships at my diaconate selection panel. So I ask again…when should Christians disobey the government?

    • Nektarios says:

      Pray that you are not put to the test, as were the martyrs that have gone before us who stood firm in faith.
      Like so many martyrs their civil disobedience was passive.
      The times will tell you when to act in civil disobedience, passively. But like I say,my dear Ignatius,
      pray you are not put to the test …. it could cost you your life!

      • milliganp says:

        I do not wish to sound too critical but this sounds like “3 pint republicanism” where everybody in Ireland was a member of the IRA after a few drinks (and everybody in France during WW II was a member of the resistance). The inability to clarify a single example of a situation in which a conscientious Catholic should break the law when you have previously said it was a duty seems disingenuous. If you can’t commit a sin if you do not know that what you do is sinful, how can you be virtuous if no one will tell you what counts as virtue.

    • tim says:

      When the Government requires you to do something sinful – like take the Oath of Supremacy? (no longer insisted on, I believe). When required to assist in an abortion? What did you have in mind? Demonstrations for good causes conducted contrary to public order? If your point is that recommending civil disobedience is not something that should be done lightly, it is hard to disagree.

  23. Ignatius says:

    “The times will tell you when to act in civil disobedience, passively. But like I say,my dear Ignatius,
    pray you are not put to the test …. it could cost you your life!..”

    Shortly after Tianmnen Square I spent 5 years in China with the underground church. Believe me I do not need vague platitudes on this subject.

    At different times in different places it is the case that to proclaim Christ may be at odds with Government policy, in those circumstances push most definitely comes to shove. In England now though I would be hard pressed to disobedience on the grounds of faith – apart that is from possibly the sheltering of asylum seekers.

    • Nektarios says:

      Quentin has already given his ruling, but you persist.
      Having been pastor to Chinese students here in the past, and receive regular info on what is presently religiously going on in China.
      If you have thought what I have posted previously is mere vague platitudes, you have not thought it through.
      Of course there is the civil disobedience against the state, which so many think has to be, and can only be violent. That is not Christ’s way or what Scriptures teach and I am not advocating violence.
      Some want to be told what to do if they were to exercise civil disobedience towards the State.
      I have known for many years about the Underground Church in China and elsewhere. I am sure you are aware they were passive for the most part and the sufferings they endured, and still endure?
      There I will stop on this topic.

      • Ignatius says:

        “..Some want to be told what to do if they were to exercise civil disobedience towards the State..”
        I you didn’t think it right to discuss, why did you raise the issue in the first place?

  24. Nektarios says:

    Yes, because civil disobedience was not the main import I was driving at.
    To descend into particulars of civil disobedience on a public forum such as this
    is not advisable.
    The main thread was the ever pervasive nature of Humanism and Aggressive Secularism and the effect it is having on and in the Church particularly here in the west.

    It was not only me that thought it not right to take you up on your comment but Quentin also.
    Tact and diplomacy, Ignatius!

    • Ignatius says:

      “It was not only me that thought it not right to take you up on your comment but Quentin also.
      Tact and diplomacy, Ignatius!..”

      Strangely enough I’m not over keen on ponderous admonitions either…can’t think why that is at all.

      • Nektarios says:

        Ignatius, Fellow Bloggers and Readers of the SS blog.


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