People like us

I imagine that most of us in our youth were taught that we should keep in good company. The reason was clear: good company would influence us towards virtue, bad company would do the opposite.

But the company we keep is not restricted to our family or our immediate circle, we also live in society – and society may or may not be good company for us. We can test the influence of society by thinking about the ways in which our moral values have changed during our lives. Take some possible values: the rights of women, what constitutes racism, conscientious objection, the gravity of paedophilia, social class privilege, prudent family size, attitudes towards homosexuals, the acceptance of abortion. These are areas where our society has developed its views – sometime for good, sometimes for ill. But have they changed our own thinking?

We should expect it to be so. For societies to flourish there is a broad need for conformity. (The claim at the moment is that we should conform to ‘British values’ – whatever those might be, while Libya, for example, is currently a failed society because conformity has broken down.) The tendency to conformity is an outcome of evolution. Not surprisingly, we have an error-monitoring activity in our brains which warns us when we are out of line with ‘people like us’. So we would expect the influence of society to have its effects on us too. A minority of people are able to resist this warning: some may be naturally anti-social, while others may become the leaders and pioneers. But the majority conform.

Religion is another instrument of conformity. Some anthropologists argue that its origin lay in its power to impose conformity on the public and private behaviour of its members. We can see historically how religions can promote good and bad behaviour or attitudes among their members.

So it would be interesting to examine how this affects us. We might start by thinking of the moral values we held, say, a generation or two ago. Have any of these altered or at least been modified since then? What has influenced such changes? Of course causes may be multiple, but can we put any down to the influence of secular society? I think we can assume that anyone whose moral views have never changed, at least to some degree, must have either have had very quiet lives or rejoice in a limited self-awareness.

About Quentin

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78 Responses to People like us

  1. Vincent says:

    Yes, I have certainly become more conscious of the universality of corruption. It can stretch from tax evasion to blocking whistle blowers at one end to, say, using contacts to get a young relative a job — and so giving him a better chance than other applicants. I would be prepared to bet that all of us have used corruption in one way or another — and will probably continue to do so.

  2. Hock says:

    There is a saying , that I cannot quote precisely, but it is along the lines that if you tell a lie often enough it becomes the truth. This applies in our personal lives and in the national one.
    Hence we can persuade ourselves, against our moral judgement, that a particular sinful act is not a sin at all if we practice it often enough.
    There is a repeat showing on one of the TV channels of how on a national scale the German peoples of 1944 and 1945 continued to believe in Hitler as some kind of ‘saviour of the nation’ despite all the mounting evidence of defeat being inevitable; and the multitude of concentration camps that existed in Germany that had begun within months of the Nazi party coming to power.
    A whole country, with individual exceptions, managed to convince itself that the whole of the Jewish race, men women and children, were enemies of the State, and to liquidate them was an act of loyalty.
    Closer to home I find that though the Church is opposed to abortion this is not high on the list of many church-going Catholics. Admittedly I can only judge this on a small section of those that express an opinion, but at the back of the Church all literature from Life is usually untouched and to actually distribute the same directly leads to being ignored at best and openly hostility at worst.
    I was speaking to a retired midwife who told me that when the abortion act first came into being every midwife at the large hospital she worked at signed as a conscientious objector to partaking in abortions.
    The attitude has now been reversed as I note in the latest court case that the College of Midwives supported the NHS against the Scottish Midwives seeking to uphold their right not to take part in the abortion process. This would seem to be a result of the pro abortion lobby having a greater influence that those opposed to it, and it has spilled over into the Church.
    Our PP speaks out about abortion periodically. He is the only priest I have ever heard to condemn it from the pulpit. I cannot recall any Diocesan Bishops of my acquaintance, despite many opportunities to re-state the Church’s teaching, actually bringing themselves to do so.

  3. St.Joseph says:

    When I was in my thirties I used to have great impulses to go up to the top of a mountain and shout ‘Jesus is alive, Jesus is alive’.
    The only place that would have taken me to is in a mental hospital.
    St John the Baptist could come shouting ‘Repent Repent, then he had something to give to others! Baptism.
    I believe we as Christians have something to give to others by evangelising and to find out what it is Jesus is calling us to do. We all have duties as Christians, not all are to shout about it .
    As far as the rights of women. Women do have rights depending on their place in life and society.
    Racism is not a Christian act,or for other religions.
    Conscientious objections- that depends what we are objecting to.
    Gravity of paedophiillia. Is an evil and a deep deep sickness.
    Social Class privilege. I am not too sure what to say about that, except up in high places as you say ‘Class’
    Prudent family size. I believe responsibility is needed . My husband wanted a football team!
    God made the decision for us!.
    Attidude towards homo-sexuals. The CCC teaches how we handle that.We love homosexuals, however I do not go along with their lifestyle. Or same sex marriage.
    I would never accept abortion It has developed into society like the plague.
    As far as society is concerned, we live in it but dont have to go along with it. We have a duty as Catholics to profess our faith and not hide it under a bushle!.

  4. Brendan says:

    I suppose inevitably I must have ; but I don’t recall ever being told not to bother with certain ‘ company ‘ by patents etc. Subconsciously , because of that I took everybody generally at face value. Influenced almost entirely by a ‘ good ‘ Catholic upbringing , naturally giving persons whom I believed ( rightly or wrongly ) were of bad character etc. – a wide berth.
    This state of mind obviously could not last as soon as ” self-awareness “.prompted by questioning the world we live in took a firm hold. Of course the Kingdom of God may not be of this world and we are called as Christians not to conform to and somehow reform it to fit this new Kingdom, but I have always struggled , like probably most people , with trying to separate a ‘ herd mentality ‘ from our innate nature of yearning to conform. We are instinctively social beings by the grace of God; we are not yet endowed with sainthood . As we know it takes great courage ,skill and wisdom drawn from life and our spiritual roots to find our way through the complexity of just living that ‘ good ‘ life.
    So, life can be perceived as a living hell one moment and truly wonderful the next. It is undoubtedly beneficial to conform to the worlds religious and secular states ( of being ) ; a maze can be really liberating, fun and all consuming at first, but when the shine wears off and it becomes confusing and frustrating, I find Christianities ( Catholic ) route map has always brought me back on track

  5. Geordie says:

    As a heterosexual male, I have always found the idea of homosexual activity rather distasteful to say the least. However, as a young, primary school teacher in the 1970s, I taught children who had no idea about sexuality but a few of the boys were decidedly effeminate. All the other children knew they were different but they weren’t cruel towards them. I was puzzled as to why such a cross had been given to these people. It made me a lot less judgemental when I met adult homosexuals. However the Church’s teaching was and is a condemnation of gay activity, which I agree with, but I am still puzzled as to why God has created people who have no legitimate outlet for their sexual desires. It’s a heavy cross to bear.
    No doubt on the Day of Judgement God will make all things clear and many will be saved due to mitigating circumstances and the suffering and crucifixion of Our Lord.
    I am not against civil partnerships but I am against gay marriages.

  6. Brendan says:

    Geordie – The Catechism as you are aware , tells us that the exact ‘ psycho- genesis ‘ of homosexuality ( includes lesbianism ) is unknown, so it remains for the time being as you say, in Gods hands.
    When I attended a state grammar school , I befriended a chap in my year who was very effeminate in not so much speech as in action. I am not bisexual/ homosexual by nature and I believed many years later , because of the way I was brought up and the ‘ inclusivity ‘ I derived from my Faith that it seemed the natural thing to do – plus the fact I liked the guy . It may have been because I had a very bad stammer at the time that the both of us found that we were unable / could not conform as it were , to the ‘ herd’. We never discussed our sexuality ( even though this was the early 60’s ) in or outside of school and I was in the dark as to whether he was fully aware of his own sexuality.
    After leaving school – he had gone to university and I had drifted aimlessly around – we met many years later ( he with a male friend in tow ) at the funeral of a mutual friend. During renewing our friendship the penny suddenly dropped. In some way I believe this unconscious non-conformity given my upbringing ( Christianity was not articulated at my grammar school ) was a way of helping us both as emerging adults to cope with both our situations . I do so wish Western society would always make the distinction between homosexuality and homosexual acts to better understand each other.

  7. Brendan says:

    ” We have an error-monitoring activity in our brains which warns us when we are out of line with ‘ people like us ‘ “……….in the end …. ” the majority conform.”
    I will take as read that our moral views will change over the years by the influence on us of society. The paradox for Christians I believe, is the truth embodied in St. Paul’s ‘ in ‘ this world but not ‘of ‘ it ( implicit in Our Lord’s . ” my kingdom is not of this world ” ) and its demonstration in a secular world which does not share our views.
    Setting aside my own character weaknesses and past disadvantages ( which I assume most of us can allude to ) ; have I perhaps an overactive ” error – monitoring ” system which throws me into confusion sometimes , but generally results in me making decisions which I can only describe as Providential in retrospect ? If so , then I do not see myself ever in a position to conform completely – which is demonstrably the paradox that Christ presents to his created beings – in so far as there does not seem to be a place even for religious persons to present themselves as ‘ people like us .’

    • St.Joseph says:

      You are right.
      I think sometimes that we are not killing each other physically as Christians, we have the faith of believing that abortion is wrong etc;
      We thank God for His Grace to know the difference to what ‘serious’ sins are..
      We thank Holy Mother Church for all these Blessings.
      I thank God that I was born Catholic, although I would not be here if my parents did not have me .Even though I have missed the bulls eye at times, I have been given the opportunity to know right from wrong, and to humble myself to confess my sins to The Lord through a priest .and be a part of the branches of the Tree of Eternal Life.
      It was easier for us than for the young people of today,although when we look around there are many good things happening within the Church for teenagers.
      Where I worship they come from schools and Universities on Retreat. I believe that is the way forward,I never had that opportunity when I was a teenager.
      It was Mass on a Sunday and The Miraculous Medal Novena on a Tuesday.Which was lovely, that was it.There was a Youth Club, but I didn’t find that devotional.
      Maybe God calls us to be out in the battle field of life,not saying that priests and religious are not They give us the strength to fight the spiritual war.
      So it is good that we stick together in faith, people like us.

  8. Brendan says:

    Yes St. Joseph, conformity is essential for unity. But the day the Church ceases to be a ‘ sign of contradiction ‘ to the world – I know we’re in trouble.

  9. Hock says:

    I am struggling to understand what St Joseph is referring to in the remark about conscientious objection. My post made it clear what the ‘objection’ was.
    As for paedophilia being a sickness , it is nothing of the sort. It is a choice that some people make. To describe it as a sickness excuses it.

    • St.Joseph says:

      I was referring to Quentins Post.
      I did not have much to say about conscientious objection ,therefore I said ‘.nothing’
      As for paedophlilia. the act is evil and I believe it is also a sickness, There are such things as spiritual sickness The doctor being the Grace of God.Sinners can be cured.
      I hope that is a better understanding for you.
      That is my opinion.

      • Quentin says:

        ‘As for paedophlilia. the act is evil and I believe it is also a sickness’. Yes indeed. We are body and soul, and so we would expect to find influences in our bodies and our brains. But through our soul we have free will. While we are right to assume that paedophilia is ultimately a choice, we never in fact know the degree of choice — which is what measures our guilt. Only God knows that.

      • milliganp says:

        Again, can I caution? God seems to have ordained that even Divine Grace cannot ‘cure’ certain aspects of humanities fallen nature. The idea that a person with paedophile orientation or a person with schizophrenia can be cured by prayer itself belittles free will.

  10. Brendan says:

    Perhaps the most obvious way Catholics ( and others ) have been influenced by society is by the secular media .If the Catholic Church believes it proclaims the Truth then we are are indebted to it for highlighting paedophilia , however uncomfortable for us the whole sordid episode.

    • milliganp says:

      The Holy Father has said we should prefer the scandal of uncovering abuse to the deceit of suppressing it. But, sadly, there are other forms of abuse still prevalent and tolerated; misogyny, bullying and aggressive behaviour, even racism. Till the church genuinely pursues a zero tolerance approach to all abuse and commits to genuine transparency there will always be questions about the genuine Christianity of the church.

  11. Geordie says:

    I have often been puzzled by the warning that we should avoid bad company, because it is direct conflict with “judge not lest ye yourself be judged”. We can’t avoid bad company if we are not allowed to make judgements.

    • milliganp says:

      As a teenager I was sure that a Catholic had an obligation to marry another Catholic and as such I only kept social company with other Catholics.

      • St.Joseph says:

        I dont know if I said this before.but when I was around 9 years my parents went back to Ireland for 5 years .
        All the children were playing on the green outside and a boy from the UK staying with his grandmother.
        All of a sudden the parents called their children in. I stayed outside with this boy,
        Apparently he was as I was told a Protestant . I was amazed as that was all I knew in the UK. Except at Mass.
        Of course that was in 1950. I am pleased to say things have changed now,when I was over there since.
        In London all my work friends who were also social friends were not catholics, they used to call me the little catholic girl.
        They did not know at that time who the Pope was! I remember telling them all about him.
        I am pleased young people will know who he is today. Maybe!

      • Martha says:

        St. Joseph, when we went over to Northern Ireland in the 1980’s, our daughter, about 8 at the time, played with other children in the street, and one day she related that they had asked her if she was a Roman Catholic. She said, “I told them I’m not a Roman Catholic, I’m an ordinary Catholic.” I don’t think she had ever heard the Roman bit before!

  12. Ignatius says:


    “The idea that a person with paedophile orientation or a person with schizophrenia can be cured by prayer itself belittles free will.”

    This is too compressed for my context dependent mind, what is it you are saying please?

    • St.Joseph says:

      Jesus cast out evil spirits.
      I know Exorcism still is used by the Church, but would it benefit a persons soul if the evil spirit was working in him. Or is it not recognised for a priest to say .Begone Satan and use the same method on humans.
      I know a person has to repent-but this action may force them to.

      • overload says:

        St Joseph, “I know Exorcism still is used by the Church, but would it benefit a persons soul if the evil spirit was working in him”
        I wonder if you mean to say would it benefit the soul of the person who is possessed if the church and/or priest who is performing the exorcism is also possessed?

    • milliganp says:

      OK, I’ll try and unpack. I’ve done this before in other posts but here we go!
      A human being consists of body, mind and soul. The mind would seem to subsist in the brain but has awareness outside the purely physical which we might call psyche and somehow our immortal soul speaks to us through our psyche; however the soul is not co-terminus with the psyche. Because the psyche is a function of the brain, certain mental illnesses can be moderated by using drugs which change the physical environment of the neurons that make up the brain. Some types of mental disorder such as OCD, anxiety and depressive disorders can be alleviated by retraining some of the autonomous psychological responses built up by experience. Finally because imagination and memory are important functions in the operation of the human mind it is possible to have mental illnesses where the subject genuinely believes that imagined experiences (including voices and visual images) are real.
      Frequently people posting on this blog infer that problems and sicknesses manifest in the psyche can be cured by prayer or spiritual exercises – mainly because people confuse the soul with the psyche.
      My assertion is that you can no-more cure mental illness with prayer than you can physical, that we must not confuse these. A person who is a paedophile has a psychological orientation most would call a defect; a person who is gay has a sexual orientation (which is part of the psyche) some would call disordered but many do not.
      Ultimately we all exercise will when we do any non-autonomous or involuntary action (heartbeat or knee-jerk being examples). Will is a directly informed by the soul, thus a schizophrenic who murders because of a voice in his head may well not be morally responsible for his act. A paedophile may well believe his action is one of love but must be aware that society and moral authority does not share his view. A Gay Christian may well struggle with his sexuality but believe the teaching of the church or he may, from his own experience, reject it. Those not bound by Judeo-Christian morality may well see all homosexual acts as morally acceptable. Some Christians believe that as God creates people who are gay, we need to re-evaluate our moral foundations.
      Thus it seems to me deeply improper for a Christian to believe that a paedophile or a homosexual can be cured by prayer. Each of us makes an act of will in discerning which moral authorities we accept and how we form our moral character, we each then struggle with our psychological character and ultimately perform acts of will, informed by both.
      For clarity can I close by saying that it is deeply wrong to group paedophilia and homosexuality together, but I was responding to a post which did. For a Christian following classic natural law they are degrees of disordered sexuality but no self-respecting medical professional would call homosexuality a disorder.

      • Ignatius says:

        MilliganP March 1st 12.17pm
        Ok, I can see roughly where you are coming from. Since the prison I frequent is entirely for sex offenders then I see both groups of people you mention. There is logic in what you say but I also get the impression that the is a level of change possible in every human heart which we can only subscribe to the kindness, omnipotence and mercy of God. We cannot understand this kind and all powerful mercy at all but there is plenty of it about in the bible, to a degree most of us have some inkling of the goodness of God afoot in our own hearts and some sense of being healed from things over which we may have had no control.

        The mental illnesses you speak of, if having a foot in the psyche are on a par with say diabetes, in fact the standard ploy of the doctor when prescribing say serotonin re uptake inhibitors is to say something along the lines of:
        “If you had diabetes you’d take the insulin wouldn’t you? Well then do the same thing for your depression/anxiety/ocd !!”
        Particularly as Catholics we have to retain the hope of Gods presence and of the sovereign capability of that presence, if I thought that my presence in the prison could never be a channel of Gods grace (healing in other words) then I just wouldn’t go at all.

        I get the impression though that your concern is not with the basic proposition that the Holy spirit is upon the face of the earth to bring peace but with the Old Testament assumption so often prevalent in Christian circles today that because we suffer we must have sinned. As a companion to that old thought there is the basic Christian intolerance of any form of weakness, especially mental illness. This is an intolerance which says that since God heals we should just pull our socks up and jolly well change!

        I think it perfectly ok to pray for any affliction that God will bring healing. I personally would not be wanting to pray that homosexuals be ‘healed’ of their ‘affliction’ because, probably like yourself I think we have a lot to learn about this area. I would happily pray for Gods healing grace to enter the life of any man in the prison I go to be they paedophile rapist or homosexual offenders, but the prayer I would pray for them would be no different than that I would and do pray for myself, that God will penetrate my heart with his forgiving mercy and transform the ugliness that exists in my own interior life and make of me something better.

      • milliganp says:

        Ignatius, I think in different ways we are on the same wavelength. Grace acts on the soul, which is in the dimension of will. Thus someone with a disordered desire can, through grace, resist the temptation and perhaps in time a temptation resisted could reduce in intensity and the practice of self restraint be a journey towards virtue. However, for those with certain deep psychological disorders this pathway is not open to grace and I think that we are called to accept this and work to minister to the lives of those who suffer what often seems disordered will but is in fact outside their concious control.

    • overload says:

      My friend is, I expect (as does he), possessed. He is a Christian, Baptised in adulthood, in the C of E. He has not visited the Eucharist for perhaps 3 or 4 years, although he wants to. I have recently suggested to him Confession, which he wants to, if he can. I am considering attempting to encourage and help him to write a list akin to Ignatius’ example in the previous discussion, so as to confess alone to a (probably RC) priest.

      He says he wants to be able to forgive, but is possessed by a sprit of unforgiveness, which manifests itself physically in that he feels to be unable to breath in one lung. He (perhaps) commits grave sin on a nearly daily basis.

      For me to communicate with him on his level (as I have tended to do for many years), would perhaps be to condone his behaviour and reinforce that there is no responsibility on his part.
      On the other hand for someone to say “he has freewill, why doesn’t he just repent?”, is I believe very ignorant of what he is going through.
      He sent me a message recently, saying how one of the hardest things he has been going through is feeling that Satan is taking away his identity in Christ, throwing him in severe confusion, fear and depression. I can relate to this out of my own experiences, which I am still prone to, to some degree or another.

      I am not meeting with him in person at the moment, nor am I talking with him on the phone, I will not even allow him to leave an answering machine message (as I used to even when I wasn’t talking to him). He rings my mobile on average once a day, I don’t answer. Only texts and emails, and I either don’t reply, or keep communication minimal, on my terms.

      Any advice?

      • milliganp says:

        Are you both sure it’s possession and not schizophrenia. We had a parishioner who would often speak violently in tongues and be disruptive in church; when he took his medication he would moderate significantly.
        My daughter has a schizophrenic stalker. Fortunately he has our phone number but no address; almost everything he says is utter fantasy, he believes himself to be the SAS soldier who organised the killing of Princess Diana. On medication he barely functions, off it he has to be kept under lock and key.

      • overload says:

        Milliganp, it may well be scizophrenia (and/or other mental illnesses) that my friend has — looking from the understanding of modern analysis.
        But we loose much by always defaulting to modern understanding and not considering the reality and mechanics of spiritual oppression and possession (two different things, perhaps).
        Further to this, considering your other comments recently, it is foolish and in disbelief of the miracles Jesus performed to—on the basis of modern understanding and your or other peoples experience—assume that God cannot heal someone with deep psycological problems, whether gradually or in an instant… “all things are possible with God”, Jesus said.

      • milliganp says:

        Overlord, I do not wish to argue over matters of personal faith. I do believe the miracles recounted in the Gospels but human experience tells us that miracles are rare; Christ’s ministry had a purpose and the miracles were linked to that.
        It is a fact that people suffering schizophrenia can be managed with certain drugs. If they were demoniacally possessed these drugs should have no effect. God has given us intellects and we are called to use these to best effect. Because psychiatry and psychology both address what it is to be human and are still imperfect in their knowledge we have a right to be more sceptical of them than other medical sciences but they have their places.
        This is not to deny that demonic possession exists but Occam’s razor tells us to check other possibilities first.
        As a humorous story from my own life, 30 years ago my father came home to find my mother unconscious at the foot of the stairs. As a good Catholic he got out his rosary and prayed for my mother; as she revived from her unconscious state she asked him if he had called an ambulance, which he had not. There is a place for prayer and a time for personal action.
        I suffer from depression and my medication makes the day to day more tolerable but the fact that part of my personality is dependant on a drug is almost as much a source of personal anxiety to me as the childhood abuse that seems to be the root of my depression. I long to be a ‘whole person’ but where I am may be as good as it gets and may be God’s plan for me. I pray both for relief and for the grace to bear my situation but life does not seem to get any easier in my perception.
        As an Irish Catholic, Oliver Cromwell is not a figure in history for whom I feel any warmth but he is credited with the advice to his troops “trust in God and keep you powder dry”. It seems logical not to expect supernatural intervention when natural might do the trick.

  13. Brendan says:

    Hapus Dewi Sant o ddydd i chi, Iona and everyone. ( self- explanatory I hope )

  14. milliganp says:

    If I could comment on Quentin’s original question – how have we change in our generation (for me this is ~50 years of adulthood); In my youth most people married their own kind – race, religion and social class; today such patterns are much less distinct. In my youth, marriage was a pre-requisite to child-bearing, the most recent figures show 47.5% of births outside marriage and 2016 is expected to be the 50% year. In my youth being gay, outside a small ‘artistic’ group, was considered reprehensible. In my youth you deferred to those of higher social standing and there was a presumption that being the product of our best schools also assured integrity.
    Then we discovered a bunch of old-Etonians were spying for the Russians, cabinet ministers were carrying on with prostitutes and that Harley Street doctors were feeding the drug habits of gentry – and, for a fee, aborting their unwanted progeny.
    Then TW3 came to our screens and, led by David Frost, lampooned and ridiculed the entire edifice of what was called “the establishment”. In a few brief years a range of what had been old certainties were irretrievably undermined. The Church of England was very much part of the establishment and so, in many ways, its authority was also undermined – for its authority had not for many generations been scripture or creed but its place in the establishment order.
    The Catholic faith was largely a faith of Irish immigrants and the Catholic Church was seen with suspicion by the British establishment (no Popery) and as alien by the British working class, who saw themselves as CofE even if they had never been inside a church other than for Baptism or Marriage.
    The 60’s was, in retrospect, a social Tsunami; the earthquake that caused it was probably WW II and the wave took time to gather and build but by the mid 70’s, as an example, almost no-one exiting 3rd level education held to the old verities. The teaching profession became a hotbed of socialism and radical ideologies and this group formed the following generations.
    Nothing that happens today surprises me, you could have read the tea-leaves in 1966 and foretold it all.

  15. milliganp says:

    Today, on the BBC, there was a programme about the Chinese New Year. It explored some deeply superstitious aspects of Chinese culture and it was proposed that this was due to the absence of a strong religious dimension.

  16. Brendan says:

    Ignatius and Milliganp. Trying to follow both your arguments I also believe that you are both right in that you appear to adhere to reasoning that is compatible with the natural order of things. One cannot ascribe therefore ‘ blame ‘ to being homosexual because in the natural order of things God made that person . Every hair on his/her head is counted as much as any other in Creation irrespective of the fact that its ‘ psychogenesis ‘is not fully understood , if at all. The same – whether society likes it or not – I believe given our present understanding to be case for paedophillia
    I also believe that while it is not realistic to expect cures of both conditions / afflictions I would reserve the right and reasonable for believers – as the grace of the Almighty is boundless – to act in a positive way on the part of the person so afflicted , by prayers of supplication. In this respect I firmly concur with Ignatius.
    In my youth I was subject to acute anxiety problems – possibly due in large measure to earlier unresolved conflict (s) in my life – much later developing into a full- blown depression with suicidal thoughts. I experienced a complete loss of the presence of God for the first time in my life. I was very frightened ,’ believing ‘ at the time that this was somehow permanent. Along with the appropriate medical / psychological medical treatment and family – in fact every help available to me in society – I threw myself at His feet in prayer. All I could do was ‘ wait ‘ on God. That holistic approach , if you like I believe brought me out of that singular living hell…… thanks be to God.
    I believe with you that a distinction must be made between a reasoned faith and mere superstition.

  17. Ignatius says:

    Brendan, Yes, this little detour of ours is I think attempting to do that very distinguish between a reasoned faith and mere superstition with regard to the particular topic.

    ” I think that we are called to accept this and work to minister to the lives of those who suffer what often seems disordered will but is in fact outside their conscious control..”
    I really like this distinction. One sees it very clearly in the prison where one meets regularly individuals who can rationally discuss yet seem completely oblivious to their own underlying condition…this hapless state is one which we all sit uncomfortably close to as any serious attempt to make the ascent or enter into the interior castle will soon reveal (to make the spiritual journey in other words) But on consideration it does seem to me that it is exactly here that the need to pray is acute because it is only the Spirit of God who can plumb the deep things of the heart into those places beyond the reach of our own control. So you are right , we are in complete agreement , I suspect also that we both know that we are a very long long way away from the
    ” we pray and you pull yourself together” argument, stumbling instead onto holy ground.

    • Brendan says:

      Ignatius and Milliganp and everyone ; for believing in miracles there is ample precedent – witnessing a miracle, in faith is a miracle in itself .
      They are undoubtedly around us everyday… let us pray for the faith to bear witness.

      • overload says:


      • overload says:

        A word of warning… in the latter days Scripture tells us to expect many anti-Christ performing miracles. So perhaps the kind of miracles we should pray for are such that are only recognisable in the light of Christ.
        On this note, I am reminded that Jesus said of the miracles he performed… “greater things shall be done in by you in my name”.

    • Brendan says:

      Thank you for that , Ignatius.

    • overload says:

      Superstition, and going back to demons…
      Some evangelical Christians who believe in demonic affliction go so far as to purge their house of every object that may be considered idolatrous. Pictures on the wall, non-Christian music CD’s and video’s, TV’s, figurative objects, etc. etc.
      Is this nonsense?
      After Sunday mass recently I was talking with someone who was counted the collections in the money counting room in the parish house. I noticed a black Mary figure on the window sill. I am aware that we should be able to conceive of Mary with any skin colour, however the whole figure was black (with a purple cloak on), looking like a hindu idol (if you are familiar?). Perhaps I have an over active imagination.

      • St.Joseph says:

        I expect that was a Statue of Our Lady of Monstserrat. Spain.
        Tradition has it that it was carved by St Luke in 50AD and was miraculously discovered in the 13th century.
        It is in th mountains and it is supposed to be one of the favourites of St John Paul 2nd.
        Every year it is visited by thousands of Pilgrims. And has numerous cures.

  18. Brendan says:

    The latest ‘ big ‘ question , more answer proving more elusive than the whereabouts of the Loch Ness monster is of course … what constitutes ‘ British values ‘ ?
    A ” broad need for conformity ” ( a.k.a. a meeting of minds ) is inescapable and wholly desirable given the world stage at present , but Britain is so cosmopolitan along with the disparity in beliefs concerning what constitites ‘ the family ‘ etc.; to arrive at something of a concensus on this looks like something of a pipe dream.
    Apart from , I hope maturing in a relatively free democracy during my life ; personally, I can only think of my religious ( moral and ethical ) being the seed bed allowing for radical change in myself and society at large.

    • overload says:

      British values?…
      Legally speaking, is this national not bound to Christianity? But if religion is just superstition, myth and tradition, then I guess there is no legal obligation — it is, along with the monarchy, just for show and prestige, with a degree of utility, pick and mix.

      • Brendan says:

        The British monarchy along with our legal system , for me in the quixotic ephemeral times we live in , are like the proverbial ‘ thin red line ‘ between stability and the barbarian hordes.
        Whatever one feels about the Established Church entrenched in the Law of the Land, it does give its citizens a sense – just – of living in a Christian country if only nominally and minorities such as The Catholic Church at present, liberty to practice its Faith .

      • St.Joseph says:

        There are still Bibles in the hospital bedside cabinets. At least where the two I have been in often lately.

    • milliganp says:

      May I suggest that one of the less wecome ‘British Values’ is not to cause offence to anyone. The reason this is less welcome is that it mitigates against expressing any deeply held belief at odds with that held by the general milieu.
      Thus faith schools are expected not only to teach that homosexuality is a reasonable personal choice but instruct on homosexual practices. Similarly as faith is now entirely a personal choice matter any expectation that society and, in particular, government should reflect faith values is presented as an absurdity.

      • St.Joseph says:

        I was enrolled in the Brown Scapular when I was seven,and wore it ever since,being member of the Third Order of Our Lady of mount Carmel.
        I dont believe that if one wears the Scapular one will l go straight to Heaven!. That is not the message as most people believe.
        I beleve that the Scapular reminds one that they are a part of a religious order so one is duty bound to respect the garment.Therefore more aware to confess one sins.
        Hence I fail to understand how ‘in Gods name a holy priest can abuse children and have homosexual relationship and a clear conscience. Disrespecting them selves and the Church and God.
        They must be spiritually sick,
        I am only speaking about R.C priests, who have faith!

      • overload says:

        St Joseph
        “I fail to understand how ‘in Gods name a holy priest can abuse children and have homosexual relationship and a clear conscience. Disrespecting them selves and the Church and God.
        They must be spiritually sick,
        I am only speaking about R.C priests, who have faith!”

        In this respect, how do you distinguish between a RC priest who has faith and one who does not? (Presumably a priest without faith would either be an atheistic/agnostic careerist, a communist, a Satanist, or just very confused/lost—perhaps in a crisis of faith—?)

        Your comment reminds me of an article I read in the paper a few months ago, about a RC priest in Rome; he and one of his female parishoners fell in love, and were in a relationship. They gave an interview to the newspaper, photo taken in a hotel room clasping one another with their backs to the camera. They said neither of them chose to fall in love, it just happened. He said it makes him a better priest, he is much more relaxed now.
        I prayed that God split them apart and cause them to repent. (Or that he leave the RC priesthood and get married.)

  19. overload says:

    Ignatius and Milliganp,

    On the subject of sin and its relationship to suffering (inc. mental and physical illness), my belief is that there is always a relationship between sin and suffering—perhaps mechanically so—but this is unlikely to be something we can clearly discern. For instance, the young man born blind “to glorify God”, who’s blindness was not a consequence of his parents or his own sin, but was apparently blind for the whole of Israel. So, as graphically acted out Jesus, God had put the muddiness of Israel’s sin over the mans eyes, and Jesus “sent” him to wash his eyes clean, apparently on behalf of Israel.
    And Jesus’ cross is the example of suffering which is a result of sin, but not one’s own.
    A construed and inverted example today; I think of a woman having an abortion, for reasons which she may not fully understand or be in control of. Whether or not she suffers as a consequence of this action, it is conceivable that she has no guilt on her hands; however, assuming the child was murdered (in God’s eyes), then there must be accountability before God, and this may be with other particular individual(s), and/or with society at large. (And if she is guilty but has reduced culpability before God, then either the severity of the crime is also reduced in God’s eyes, or the remainder of the culpability must be with other(s).)

    • Vincent says:

      Of course sin causes suffering, and indeed the innocent often suffer — sometimes as a result. But your suggestion that there is some sort of equation between the two — as if sin creates a debt to be repaid by someone — makes no sense to me. Did you imagine this? If not, where does the thought come from?

      • overload says:

        “your suggestion that there is some sort of equation between the two — as if sin creates a debt to be repaid by someone — makes no sense to me”
        The Apostles said something along the lines that Christ died to pay the debt of our sin; and that the wages of sin is death. This is talking about balance and cause and effect, so mathematics must have some part.
        This also refers to the Buddhist teaching on ‘Karma’, which is now a popularised but perhaps much misunderstood word in western society.

        Further to my comment on sin and culpability, it occurs to me that if a schizophrenic’s eyes suddenly go red and he picks up a knife and stabs another man to death and then eats his face and genitals, and then afterwards remembers nothing (or he remembers)… either a murder has been committed or it has not; if not, it is merely an accident. If there was real hatred and intent, then surely there was murder and sin, in which case, assuming the schizophrenic is not culpable, then who is?
        Supposing he was ‘possessed’. Was it evil spirit(s)/ demon(s) living within him? And/or was he enacting the murderous desire of another man (or other men), by which he was possessed?
        And returning to culpability; if he was possessed, did he to some degree or another agree/collaborate/unite with his possessor(s), or was he broken/powerless in mind and/or body?

      • milliganp says:

        Vincent, we have a Catholic hymn for the souls in purgatory which includes the words “in prison for the debt unpaid, of sins commited here”. Traditional Catholic teaching on Confession states that Absolution removes the stain of sin but not the punishment due. Overlord and others will find this entirely counter to scripture.
        The term redemption, which we use to refer to Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross, is normally, in the OT a reference to redemption from debt-slavery. If we use this model then Christ’s death on the Cross repaid all debt on our behalf, and we should not talk of any new debt above that already repaid.
        At this point, I’m as confused with Catholic theology as you are!

      • overload says:


        “Traditional Catholic teaching on Confession states that Absolution removes the stain of sin but not the punishment due.”
        Can you explain what this means?

        And can you explain the “if” in “if we use this model”?

      • milliganp says:

        God is both infinitely merciful and infinitely just. God’s mercy forgives us but his justice demands retribution; thus we have to make up for our sins either by the graces accrued for our good deeds (or restorative acts) in this world or by punishment in purgatory.
        The if is because there are 3 ways of looking at sin (that I can remember); firstly a model based on ritual cleanliness – sin makes us unclean and absolution restores us; secondly the model of justice, even after forgiveness punishment is due (in Judaism, atonement was by animal sacrifice); and thirdly the model of redemption – a bond slave set free.

  20. St.Joseph says:

    If sin has to do with suffering I must be suffering for the whole of the UK plus mine.!

  21. Brendan says:

    St. Joseph , post 2.31pm.
    Bless you, you quite rightly look for the good in everything. Bibles in hospitals and B&B’s – the means are there but the latency resonates throughout the land. For ” barbarian hordes ” I have particularly in mind a section of the metropolitan elite / chattering classes – a throwback as it were , to a time of blind ignorance.
    The Welsh term ‘ Y Gwerin ‘ I’m told translates roughly into the ‘ common people ‘ and has no English equivalent. It means those ordinary people who have kept up the essence of what is termed the cultural and spiritual essence of their heritage. They are the generally hardworking and poor as opposed to the dominant leading elite.
    All I can say is there is a definite sense of betrayal among’st the ‘ Y Gwerin ‘ of these Islands in so many areas of life.

  22. John Nolan says:

    I find myself increasingly at odds with the prevailing secular morality. This puts me in a counter-cultural minority even among Catholics who by-and-large have embraced it (look at surveys showing Catholic attitudes to abortion, for example). Last month an attempt to make sex-selective abortion an offence was defeated in the House of Commons by 291 votes to 201. Conservative MPs in the main ignored the example of their leader (ever the moral relativist) and backed the amendment. Labour MPs were urged by Yvette Cooper and the TUC to oppose it, and most of them did.

    Meanwhile the bishops issued their pre-election advice to Catholic voters. The key issues? Surprise, surprise – ‘poverty and inequality’. The usual sanctimonious, platitudinous, patronizing twaddle. Even the section on the family was ambiguous. Deus adjuva nos.

    It doesn’t apply to me anyway. Living in the Speaker’s constituency I won’t have to vote for the man who gave us ‘gay marriage’.

  23. Geordie says:

    John Nolan, I agree wholeheartedly with your comment about the bishops; especially your words, “The usual sanctimonious, platitudinous, patronizing twaddle”. I am sick of our hierarchy following the zeitgeist, instead of teaching the Church’s teaching regularly and with conviction.

    • milliganp says:

      Geordie, I think the problem is worse than you think! Our Bishops believe they are counter cultural. When I listen to the words of Pope Francis and look at his actions, I mostly get the impression of a man who is at least attempting to imitate Christ. I can’t think of a single British Bishop of whom I could say the same thing.

      • overload says:

        I’m not familiar with any of the Bishops, are you including that Cardinal in that comment?

  24. St.Joseph says:


  25. St.Joseph says:

    You ask’ How do you distinguish between a RC priest who has faith and one who does not?
    A RC priest knows what they are taking on by the very Sacrament of Holy Orders.
    Those who you quote do not.!!
    A RC priest celebrates Holy Mass daily,, kisses his garment before hand, knows what the Church teaches, he also has an obligation to obedience.
    As far as his sexuality is concerned, that is not a problem as long he is living in the state of chastity Having a partner does not come with the ‘job!’.
    You say about the priest who falls in love with a women.That is natural, however not allowed to have a sexual relationship, the same as me being a widow!!! Unless I marry.
    A priest takes a vow of celibacy, that stops him from marrying.
    He may wish to leave the priesthood. It may be better sooner than live a life of passion that he can not control.I think he can get a dispensation from Rome.I dont know how
    his relationship with the church remains
    I think you will understand all this as a RC..

    • overload says:

      “He may wish to leave the priesthood. It may be better sooner than live a life of passion that he can not control.I think he can get a dispensation from Rome.I dont know how his relationship with the church remains
      I think you will understand all this as a RC..”

      Yes I understand, although I imagine it may be better with God if he can wake up in faith, confess, repent, and remain in the priesthood.
      On the other hand, the audacity of giving such an interview may be some kind of cry on behalf of many to allow marriage in the priesthood. Whatever the positives concerning chastity of priests, however, considering the negatives, I imagine it would be more appropriate to allow for chastity, encouraged as a special vow for priests, but not obligatory. The early Church allowed (and the protestant Church’s allow) marriage of priests — what’s so special about the RC Church that it has changed the rules on this as a universal dictate?

      • St.Joseph says:

        We already have married priests in the Church!
        I believe it is about giving ones whole self to the Lord without the worries of this world if married.
        who is going to pray for their childrens education. Deacons go to work and support their selves.
        I rather prefer it the way it is!.
        If you watch on EWTN you will see there are vocations to the priesthood,
        We need to pray about it in the UK and maybe proper instructions in our homes and schools.
        There are more Deacons being ordained now than ever, At least in my Diocese..
        They will be a great help to the priests.
        No one knows what the future holds only God!

      • John Nolan says:

        There is no evidence that the early Church allowed clerical marriage (marriage after ordination); indeed what evidence there is points the other way. Married men were ordained (there was some argument as to whether the remarried were eligible) as they still are in the Eastern Churches and in particular circumstances in the Latin Church. The extent to which ordained married men practised continence is still the subject of scholarly debate. In the Latin Church clerical marriage was fairly common in the ninth and tenth centuries but was a symptom of the general corruption prevailing at the time; the 11th century reform movement targeted it, along with simony, as an abuse.

        It was the protestants, not the Catholic Church, who ‘changed the rules’ on clerical marriage, and their ecclesial communities are not Churches in the strict sense.

        In Canon Law Holy Orders constitute a diriment impediment to marriage (Canon 1087) so those who ‘left the priesthood to get married’ are not validly married. I suppose that technically if they put away their ‘wives’ and repented they could be allowed to resume their sacerdotal functions.

      • overload says:


        I was not aware that there was clerical marriage in the Catholic Church up until the 11th C.
        If there is scepticism as to whether or not clerical marriage existed in the early Church, then how did it come to exist in the 9th-11th centuries?

      • milliganp says:

        My understanding was that priests were not allowed to marry in the 9th and 10th centuries – the problem was concubinage (having a marriage-like realtionship with a woman to whom they were not married). It is often stated that the reforms of the 11th century were to remove possible claims by children of priests against the estates of the church – but this is contested.

      • milliganp says:

        In looking at marriage and celibacy in the early church we need to understand the context. Couples married at what we would think a very early age – certainly for women by 15 years of age (the capacity of a man to marry depended on being able to suppot a wife). It was uncommon not to marry, indeed many Jews regarded marriage as essential to their faith – so that they could produce heirs for Abraham. Thus the early church communities consisted of married couples, children and widows (a man whose wife died would normally remarry). It was from this community that Priests, Deacons and Bishops were selected. It was thus normal that married men would be selected. There is strong evidence that married men who became Bishops were expected to abstain from sexual relations with their wives but the extent of this practice for Priests and Deacons is unclear.
        It was probably with the rise of monastic movements that the practice of entering orders at an early age became an alternative to marriage and, as Europe was re-Christianised by monks, the practice became normative.
        In the Latin rite priests have never been allowed to marry after ordination, so there is dispensation for married Anglican priests entering into full communion. Unmarried Anglican priests who enter the Catholic church take a vow of celibacy in the same way as Catholic priests and unmarried Deacons.

      • milliganp says:

        IIt is important not to make chastity co-terminus with celibacy. For an unmarried person (priest or lay) chastity implies total abstinence from sexual activity; the vow of celibacy is to never marry and thus to permanently abstain from sexual activity; the vows of marriage require sexual intercourse between husband and wife and chastity consists of not abusing the sexual faculty (which includes not using artificial contraception).
        The rules on celibacy for clerics seem to have started in the late first or early second century so they have ancient roots (and may have been Apostolic in origin). The churches of the reformation broke with the rule – they did not return to any known previous practice. In the Orthodox Church married men are allowed to take orders but those in orders are not allowed to marry so their practice is similar to the known practice of the early church.
        One of the challenges of priestly celibacy is that the vow is often taken at an early age and without full apprehension of what a lifetime of celibacy will imply. Many priests will tell you that they often experience a point in their life when they realise they will always be alone and this is a severe trial. Another challenge is that modern priests often socialise more than in the past and are thus more likely to start forming an attachment to a woman in their circle of friends (or a woman may form an attachment to them).
        However, almost all the priests I know of who have left the priesthood to marry have been in a sexual relationship with their married partner before leaving the priesthood; this would certainly not make a good model for any possible change allowing priests to marry.

  26. Martha says:

    People in my generation have certainly had to make a lot of adjustments during our lifetime. We have had to be very adaptable. To quote from a popular tea towel verse,

    ‘For us, “Time Sharing” meant togetherness, not holiday homes, and a “chip” meant a piece of wood. “Hardware” meant nuts and bolts, and “Software” wasn’t even around. We got married first, then lived together, and thought “cleavage” was something butchers did. A “stud” was something that fastened a collar to a shirt, and “going all the way” meant staying on a double decker to the bus depot.’ Etc., etc..

    Other changes I have noticed particularly are the almost universal use of First or Christian (there’s another one!) names, and the widespread habit of kissing and hugging, often on first acquaintance.

    We were very preoccupied with babies and young children during the Vatican Council, but later, when changes to the form of the Mass were implemented, and started to go much too far, we were rather thrown. Anything could come up in discussions, should we substitute other basic contemporary food such as fish and chips, for bread and wine, the standard food of first century Palestine, for instance. Sometimes things went much too far in practice also, such as the priest and a group of children sitting in a relaxed semicircle during a consecration with a pottery cup used as a chalice. Thankfully, in our area things eventually changed, and became more stable and reverent. It must have affected our children as they were growing up, but that is another question. We had no problem with accepting ex Anglican married priests, and mixed marriages

    However, through it all, the Ten Commandments, and the Beatitudes have not changed. I think, inevitably, as I grow older, and have more experience, I can understand some of the difficulties more, and have more compassion for those who fail, including myself, but I don’t think there have been any fundamental alterations, or that there should be in the future.

    • Brendan says:

      Thank you for your post ( testimony ). for you are the ‘ Church ‘ I know and love ( cf. see previous ‘ y gwerin ‘ , post 7.55pm. ) . How then can we be expected to keep the Law of the Land if we do not keep the Laws of the Church ?

  27. Brendan says:

    Christ’s dictum….” render to Caesar what’s Caesar’s and to God what is God’s. ” is the answer to the above ; in practice the ‘ Saint Thomas More ‘ paradigm. Legislation which ones conscience dictates is in accord with God’s Law, is one to which one can adhere to and vice versa.
    Today, Catholics are finding themselves out of step with the mores and norms of a society , which is palpably becoming less and less Christian in dimension and more intolerant and secular in practice from Government down. The cause and effect of this is a bit like the ‘chicken and egg’ conundrum. Reminded of St. Joseph’s post earlier ; yesterday , University of Aberystwyth students are to vote on whether to allow Gideon Bibles to continue to be placed in campus halls of residence. The Catholic Church while still respected largely for its moral stance ( despite scandals ) is seen as anachronistic to living liberally, ‘ the good life .’
    With the Established Church heavily compromised regarding Christian doctrine and law of the land and drawing away from long held precepts of reformed Catholicism – ‘ people like us ‘ are looking more and more like a bunch of ‘ fundamentalists ‘ ; witness Ofsted’s absurd behaviour in branding a good Catholic school as not exhibiting ‘ British values !
    We need Christs vicar on Earth – with Our Lords promise that he will never desert His Church – as the final arbiter in faith and morals to get us out of collaborating with our present situation, which is spiraling out of control. Our Bishops have given us a lead into the next election ; by the parameters realising good conscience laid out by the Church, we vote accordingly.

  28. overload says:

    (Milliganp, thanks for your comments, I may have to have a think about some of this.)

    Going firmly back to the subject of this discussion; an excellent article I read this morning by a young historian roughly my own age (born in the Thatcher years), Eliza Filby, opening me up to a completely unfamiliar perspective on Thatcher:
    We’re desperate to believe in something. But bringing God into economics is risky
    Also on this subject a talk from Filby at a faith in politics conference I just found on youtube.

    • Brendan says:

      Overload. It is not a question of economics and a ‘ faith ‘ , or a ‘ faith ‘ with any thing.
      In the end it boils down to faith in the City or faith in ‘ The City of God. ‘
      A prophetic saying of the Anglican turned Catholic apologist G.K. Chesterton, says it all:
      ” When men choose not to believe in God, they do not thereafter believe in nothing , they then become capable of believing in anything. “…….( thinks !)… If he could come back and see us now !

      • overload says:

        Brendan, assuming you read the article (I trust you do not have an issue of conscience reading the Guardian), are you suggesting by what you say that this is (or may be) the point Filby is making?

  29. Brendan says:

    Milliganp’s post , March 1st . 10.23a.m. has made me think.
    He describes the ’60’s as a ” social tsunami ……..a hotbed of socialism and radical ideologies .” This was perhaps, previous to the Blairite era , the high-watermark of the Wilson-Callaghan period.
    In the light of revelations around the Jimmy Saville scandal, and current police investigations currently underway, it is obvious to all that very bad things wet on following that seminal period of societal change. If I had been just five years older and attended tertiary education I might have been more aware of my surroundings. As it is, perhaps divine providence saved more from some of the worst excesses of that period. But how many more succumbed to that heated period of indulgent pride.
    Perhaps Thomas Gray had it right ….. ” ignorance is bliss, where ’tis folly to be wise.”

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