The balancing act

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I look back to the many years I spent as a smoker. And I wonder how I could have been so stupid. After all, for most of the time I was well aware of the medical dangers. But that didn’t stop me because the cigarette or pipe were there, and immediately offering the pleasure of a quick drag. I even came to understand how the pleasure centres of the brain reacted to the addiction. And punished me for failing to smoke.

I have been thinking about this again because the newspapers have carried so many stories on this new facility for those over age 55 to take their pension pot early. It is, say its champions, only right that intelligent human beings should not be treated as incompetents; they should be able to choose. (There are, of course, cynics who says that the Tories are well aware that lumps of extra spending just at this stage will give an extra push to a growing economy.)

I had encountered something similar before – when, in my former career, I was concerned with marketing pensions. There were a surprising number of people who, even after understanding the need for a pension and the importance of setting it up early, simply elected to spend the money now rather than provide for retirement. I even met an Evangelical who assured me that the Bible had condemned providing for the future –“Take no thought for the morrow. Sufficient for the day is the evil thereof” he quoted to me. And he wasn’t joking.

So I fear that this new facility is not being offered to sane, balanced, rational people. It is being offered to human beings. And that is a different animal.

A picture of a seesaw comes into my mind. On one end is a large man, on the other is a child. Yet the seesaw balances. Of course it does, because the child sits on the long end and the man sits on the short. It’s the effect of leverage. “Give me a place to stand and with a lever I will move the whole world.” said Archimedes.

Human nature is like that: the more immediate the reward the greater its desirability. So a puff on a fag this very minute attracts me more than good health in forty years time.

We must assume that this, apparently irrational, characteristic is the result of evolution. There must be some benefit which contributes to survival. My guess is this. We are prompted to take action immediately because, if we fail to do so, that action may never be taken. As a result of this omission, we may be destroyed before we have a chance to enjoy the future benefit. Unfortunately, the instincts which emerge from evolution are not discriminating. What may have been a good survival strategy when lives were nasty, brutish and short, may no longer be so useful in more settled times.

It is only too easy to apply this to the Christian life. Sin is immediate, and attractive. We are drawn, Aquinas tells us, to a good – or something which we perceive to be a species of good at the time. Of course, if we pause for a moment, we realise that it will be an the expense of an incomparably greater good. But unfortunately this is somewhat indeterminate, and will not be available to us for many years. The sin is there – to hand.

We may even see a version of this ‘seesaw’ instinct in Christ. His first thought is to ask his Father to take away the ‘chalice’ of his Passion. But this is only an immediate good. Through invoking his Father’s will, he chooses to accept the long term benefit of redemption by suffering and death.

In day to day matters we may well be helped by remembering that the ‘seesaw’ instinct is just that – an instinct. The choice between immediate action and future consequences must be rational and not instinctive. In more serious issues, we must try to discern the will of the Father, and be ready to follow that.

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About Quentin

Science Editor, Catholic Herald. Portrait © Jacqueline Alma
This entry was posted in Church and Society, Moral judgment, Neuroscience, Quentin queries and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

111 Responses to The balancing act

  1. Alasdair says:

    I don’t see an automatic conflict by my Christian faith and living a full and enjoyable life. “I have come that they may have life and have it abundantly”.
    Relentless, nagging guilt about matters that do not affect our salvation is a distraction of the devil. Jesus said “You will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light”.

    • Vincent says:

      Alasdair, I wonder whether you could develop further the words ” my yoke is easy, and my burden is light”. For instance how does it stand against “take up my cross and follow me.”? And we accept, even without Pope Francis’s assurances, that we are all sinners. That is, we are continually falling short and struggling to pick ourselves up. Moreover our devotion can be accompanied by much suffering, and we are expected to accept that willingly. The yoke sounds anything but easy to me!

      • St.Joseph says:

        Vincent,
        My definition of “my yoke is easy and my burden is light”.You ask how does it stand against ;take up my cross and follow me?
        It could stand against ” take up our cross and follow Him.”
        It may not only apply to sin,but to suffering here on earth, whether it be through serious sickness, being abused, suffering for our faith etc
        We may say to ourselves ‘Lord why me?’.
        Then we need to look at a Crucifix and listen and we may hear the Words ;Why me?

    • overload says:

      Alasdair “I don’t see an automatic conflict by my Christian faith and living a full and enjoyable life.”
      Have you heard of the Nicolaitans?
      We are to renew our minds in the Spirit, so that what is our enjoyment will be in conformity with Christ. If we can’t do this then I guess we are stuck with ‘penance’ and/or sin.

  2. overload says:

    In response to Alasdair and Vincent: what exactly is the yoke of Jesus, and what is the burden?

    My own suggestion is that His yoke is the “yoke of righteousness” (The Holy Spirit received in our hearts, united with our human spirit), and His burden is the cross.
    Without accepting His yoke and burden, we are already under the yoke of ignorance and the burden of suffering and sin.
    “Ignorance is bliss”, or so we say, when in the bubble. We can ‘blissfully’ forget that the bubble always bursts! And when it bursts, we hopelessly cling to the next bubble (if we can — for some this is apparently the natural flow of life), and immediately forget again.
    Fallen, we are already under the burden of suffering (even when our suffering is masked/postponed, we are still suffering! — cite Buddhist teaching). So Christ does not, I think, much at all burden us with suffering. Rather He takes our suffering away, and/or He converts our suffering into a partaking in His suffering, which is in a sense to be more alive to how we are already suffering—but according to our Christ nature (which naturally embraces our communion with others).

    Thinking along these lines, it stands that if we are under the yoke of righteousness, we are not under the burden of sin.
    So it follows, if we think the Jesus’ yoke is not easy, and His burden is not light, then either we are not under His yoke and burden, or we are in our nature confused (ie. there is a chaotic waring/entanglement of our sinful and Christ natures) about whether or not we are under His yoke and burden or not.

    Paul is the richest and prime example we have of one who has accepted the yoke and taken the burden as a daily reality. He is not confused about this. He is clear that he was in sin and that he does not continue in sin. I don’t think we quite know to what extent sin still touched him; whether he had—like Mary—become entirely sinless or not. This is in an interesting question and perhaps helpful for us to consider. He is generally a more constructive and searchable example for us to contemplate and follow than Mary.

    Does anyone else have a different perspective?

    Ps. Thinking more about the burden… I might picture that the cross can at times be a very heavy burden—but it is not as heavy as my own sin and delusion, and if I am carrying the cross there is no space for me to mistakenly carry my own sin and delusion. I might picture that at other times it becomes a like a sail to carry me off the ground and towards my destination?
    Carrying my own sin and delusion, there is a second burden, which is the blindness/meaninglessness of my journey and where I am heading.
    Carrying the cross, I know why I am carrying it and where to, and I know that I am not carrying it alone.

  3. Iona says:

    Overload – Paul referred to a “thorn in his flesh” which he would gladly be without, and (I think) says he has prayed that it might be taken away, but it hasn’t been. I have seen this interpreted as being a constant temptation to some specific sin, so perhaps he did not become entirely sinless.

    Quentin, I would see addictions (such as the temptation to light a cigarette, for anyone who is already a smoker) as something other than just choosing an immediate “good” over a long-term benefit. The addiction has changed his brain chemistry in such a way that it’s become much harder for him to make a rational choice; the cigarette is no longer just a simple pleasure.

    • overload says:

      I think the thorn in Paul’s flesh was persecution in various forms (from an angel of Satan).
      Paul said: it is no longer I myself who sins, but my sinful nature. So it is possible he did become entirely sinless.

      • overload says:

        “Paul said: it is no longer I myself who sins, but my sinful nature.”
        Sorry, I think I got that wrong, perhaps it should read:
        It is no longer I myself who sins, but the sinful nature which is dying (and yet has already died)—nailed to the cross (and yet is already buried) with Christ.

        So I think there are 4 types of belief:
        [1] unbelief.
        [2] superficial (blind) belief.
        [3] true belief—the sinful nature lives but is powerless and is dying, or understood from another perspective, the believer has died to it’s power.
        [4] true belief—the sinful nature is dead.

        One might assume that [4] is superior to [3].
        [4] is the final state (and is completed in part in ourselves and the Church in this world). However for now in many ways [3] is greater than [4] because if the sinful nature is raised up on the cross, kicking and screaming, this draws attention to the crucified Christ! And also [3] indicates opportunity to suffer with Christ, which we are told is the true way to grow into the perfection of His love.

    • Quentin says:

      Iona, it may be significant that, notwithstanding earlier failed attempts, I finally gave up smoking in 5 minutes without a moment’s concern. Why? Because my wife had to give up suddenly for medical reasons — and it was clear to me that I had to as well.

      The new factor was, quite simply, love. It transformed the short term benefit into an immediate but long term benefit. Whatever brain changes I may have have had were nullified. So I wonder whether love is the answer

      • St.Joseph says:

        Iona.
        I as I have said before gave up smoking when catholics were asked to pray for his health and make a sacrifice . When he was shot..
        I threw the last few in a bin, and never smoked again..

      • Alan says:

        ” So I wonder whether love is the answer”

        An answer rather than the answer I would suggest. I gave up smoking pretty much instantly too when I found an alternative “addiction” that was more healthy than and incompatible with cigarettes. All it took was something that captured my interest sufficiently and wouldn’t really allow me to continued to do both.

      • Iona says:

        Love is possibly the biggest brain-changer of them all!
        (That must be what my son needs, – the one who has tried to give up smoking but so far without success. He has a girl-friend but I don’t think it’s a relationship that’s going anywhere).

      • overload says:

        Iona, while the RCC largely fails to love her children, her children will—at best—be gasping love in a low oxygen environment.

      • milliganp says:

        Quentin, both my parents died of cancer. My father gave up smoking on a number of occasions but my mother couldn’t (or wouldn’t) and so he always returned to the habit. In much later life my mother gave up when she needed surgery and the doctor pretty much laid down the law to her. Visiting her in hospital in a ward of almost exclusive “self inflicted injuries” it was amazing to see very seriously ill people sneaking out for a smoke.

    • milliganp says:

      There are plenty of addictions or compulsions which are not healthy. However we must not make unhealthy co-terminus with sin. A fondness for chocolate is different to an addiction to porn (briefly returning to last week’s subject).
      Up until 30 or so years ago the tobacco industry was fairly successful at covering up the adverse effects of smoking and 40-60 years ago almost everybody smoked. In the 1950’s a doctor might have advised smoking as an expectorant.
      However today, given our knowledge of the effects, I would suggest that smoking automatically involves some form of bad example as well as dangerous behaviour. However smoking is rarely equated with a moral evil.

      • overload says:

        Milliganp, “smoking is rarely equated with a moral evil” — this depends on the smoker.

        I used to be a fairly heavy smoker, and from day one always desperate to give up (I started in the first place by making a switch over from Cannabis smoking when I was going through a breakdown). I managed to do this many many times (for a few hours), and quite a few times for a number of days, once for a week, and then once for a few months (then I started again heading towards another breakdown).
        The effects were undoubtedly negative physically, but in fact it was more the psycological dimension (inc. physical torpidity) which was of concern. Smoking generally made me more anxious. It was not just a physical defilement but a spiritual one also—such was my belief. It was a daily burning away of my hope and vitality (repressed libido—desire for change and self-control. What shall I do with myself? Im weak, I’ll smoke a cigarette). Once I was in a pub and I thought “what shall I do with myself now?” so I started to roll a cigarette, and realised I was already smoking one (actually this probably happened many times). I think at best 1 in 10 cigarettes were actually enjoyable. The rest were, to a greater or lesser extent, like death. The worst was smoking with a hangover — this really was disgusting, acutely mentally disturbing, and physically my heart was all over the place.

      • Quentin says:

        Can’t tell you the number of occasions I searched the house frantically in order to find my missing pipe. Only to discover that it was in my mouth all the time.

  4. St.Joseph says:

    PS. Being Insulin dependent diabetic, I should probably do the same and give up ‘cakes’

  5. John Nolan says:

    Balnea, vina, venus corrumpunt corpora nostra;
    Sed vitam faciunt balnea, vina, venus.

    Wine, women, baths our bodies undermine;
    But what were life without baths, women, wine?

    • St.Joseph says:

      John Nolan.
      What are you saying precicely?

      • John Nolan says:

        St Joseph, we were talking about habits of a lifetime, addictions if you like, and my quotation from a Roman of antiquity simply points out that human nature doesn’t change.

        We have long been fed the line that Catholicism as traditionally taught engenders a feeling of guilt, and like Protestantism is grounded in a hatred for the world and its allures. I prefer to go along with Hilaire Belloc: ‘Where e’er the Catholic sun doth shine, there’s always laughter and good red wine’.

        We certainly need penitence. But as Fr Faber told us in his famous hymn which is probably unknown to the two generations which have been nurtured in the poisonous atmosphere which followed V2: ‘Do more than pardon, give us joy; sweet fear and sober liberty’.

    • St.Joseph says:

      John, thank you I did get it in the end.
      Runnung a Public House for over 20 years, we had plenty of laughter, but also saw plenty of tears.
      Strange how people laid all their troubles on landlords. It was very enlightening!

  6. Brendan says:

    Hedonist belief is as old as time. I always think ( conscience ) that The Catholic Church as an institution is there to save us from ourselves .What does that say about Western politics as a political system , when it prostitutes the view that .. we will instinctively know the cost of everything and the value of nothing.
    I’m afraid that the days of a firm handshake with the bank manager to allay all concerns is a piece of nostalgia.

  7. milliganp says:

    Quentin, the original theme of your post raises the issue of “do we have a moral duty to provide for the future?”. If we go back 50 years, for the vast majority the state pension was all that was available; few earned enough to put anything of substance by for their old age. Personal pensions are very much a modern thing and exist mainly because the state has failed to maintain the provision expected when pensions were first introduced.
    We believe Jesus worked as a carpenter and Paul a tent-maker. Both professions meant they lived day to day existences with little opportunity to build up cash reserves for the future – were they reckless?
    So I have to say, I do not see pensions as a moral see-saw of the sort you describe. In my mid-life I had to support 5 children so making a substantial personal contribution to a pension scheme was not within my means. Perhaps, in the moral view you propose, I was reckless in having so many children.
    Despite the above I do have some provision and am faced with the sort of decision you describe. Do I have a moral duty to leave an inheritance to my children or should I use equity release to provide a more comfortable personal lifestyle? Is it unreasonable to enjoy a better holiday now, while I have my health rather than maintaining my reserves against an uncertain future?

    • Martha says:

      Or, should I give most of it to those who literally have nothing? We see so much of the suffering and destitution that there is across the world on our television screens and elsewhere, can we be any longer be prudent and save what we have for our own extra comfort, or for future care or needs which may not arise anyway?

      • Quentin says:

        Sounds very altruistic, Martha. But let’s suppose that you and I end up in the same care home. Your charitable efforts have left you poor, so the public purse pays for you. I have saved providently, so I have to pay for myself. In fact I will be subsiding you because the State makes as small a contribution as it can, so care homes have to charge much more to paying customers in order to make ends meet.

        You have in fact used my money to fund your own charitable giving.

    • Brendan says:

      ” Leave tomorrow take care of itself, we have enough to do with today. “

      • overload says:

        Quentin, “So a puff on a fag this very minute attracts me more than good health in forty years time.”
        This is a misconception that it is all about a calculation about a projected future (what meaning does this have if were to die in a few days time?).
        When I was concerned about eating certain foods and not eating others, I was looking forward, however my concern was really with the moment—but I was (perhaps am still to an extent) lost in this respect.
        It makes some sense to be onward-looking (in the right Spirit), however the causes and effects are available to us here and now, that, with the “renewing of our minds” in the love of God, we might know to do one thing and not to do another (which includes knowing why).

    • Quentin says:

      I wouldn’t claim that there is an intrinsic moral problem in taking the short term answer. In a given instance it might well be the right thing to do. My point is that judgment rather than instinct should be the decider.

      Choosing not to make provision for retirement is fine. But then I would say that expecting others (through tax or reduction of benefits), who have made provision, to recue you in old age is simply wrong.

      • overload says:

        “Choosing not to make provision for retirement is fine. But then I would say that expecting others (through tax or reduction of benefits), who have made provision, to recue you in old age is simply wrong.”
        You might choose not to make provision because you care for yourself and others here-and-now — which includes a healthy, godly relationship with money. So when you have no money, and since you do work for Christ and others in His name, should not the Church help you if she can?

      • milliganp says:

        Re: “expecting others to pay”; when I started work 45 years ago we paid PRSI which was supposed to top up our pension to something closer to our actual earnings. In the 80’s, Margaret Thatcher, realising that the state was buiding up an obligation it could not meet, bribed us with our own money to take out personal pensions which, after the financial melt-down are now worth far less than we need to provide a decent pension. This is exactly the sort of crisis the welfare state was allegedly instituted to avoid. I have paid tax, and lots of it, during my working life and my children pay tax; why is it wrong to expect support from the state?

  8. Brendan says:

    My wife and I are pestered day and night with home -phone and mobile calls hoping to sell us something. We looked at our ‘phone bill online by chance and saw that WE had paid for in coming ‘ international ‘ calls . I have discerned from this that ” the will of The Father ” is to completely ignore such calls from now on. With these ‘ pots ‘ available , the vultures are starting to circle.
    A so- called ‘ recovering Catholic ‘ might exclaim , ‘ what the Hell !.’ That’s why I am ..Catholic.

  9. Horace says:

    With regard to Quentin’s point :-“the more immediate the reward the greater its desirability” the obvious argument is that – the less immediate the reward the more likely it is that something will happen (it doesn’t have to be an action on our part) so that the reward may never be received or at least will be much less valuable when at last it comes.

    Hence “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush”!
    It does not seem to me that morals are particularly relevant to this decision.

    My own experience of smoking is rather different from what Quentin describes.
    I did smoke occasional cigarettes in the playground at school and became a quite a heavy smoker (20-per-day) during my days at University and for about 2 years afterwards [this was at a time when smoking was considered ’normal’ – my father smoked and even my mother had an occasional puff].
    Then I got a bad cold with a chest infection, I went to see my GP who listened to my chest [yes they did that in those days!].”Three weeks in bed” was his prescription!
    I was shattered – I wondered ‘if this happens to me when I am 25 what will things be like when I am 50?’.
    I never smoked again!!!

    Could this be what underlies the necessity for Penance after Confession – a salutary reminder of what might lie in store for us in the future?

    • milliganp says:

      The parable of the labourers in the vinyard would seem to contradict the benefit of early virtue.

      • St.Joseph says:

        Jesus said’ The last shalll be first and the first shall be last

        I think that it would apply only to those who honestly could not get work, not to those who idled their life away and did not want to work!

      • milliganp says:

        So, St Joseph, deathbed conversions or remorse won’t get you in to heaven? If the labourers had been available earlier the day the vineyard owner would have hired them. The story is precisely about lazy men who turn up late for work.

      • St.Joseph says:

        Milliganp.
        Why are you always on the defenceive.!
        I was making a point, Not questioning your comment!!!
        Sloth is a grave sin.
        And we as christians may never think of faith as a private act. Our Catholic faith demands a public witness, a public demension of believing and and proclaiming ones faith fearlessly to every person.
        Pope Emeritus Benedict XV1,

    • overload says:

      Horace, I think Penance has to do with a recognition of loss of grace. My impression is this began as the Church fell from grace. So penance comes to embody that when one has received grace and then fallen from grace, this is something to be very remorseful about in ones inner being, until and unless it can be re-found. In case we don’t realise we are not in a state of grace, the RCC has devised ways to engineer our consciences?
      A question is for us as individuals: have we received grace in the first place?

      • Brendan says:

        Overload – Faith is so closely linked to ‘ grace ‘ as to be almost a given. Why? , because in demanding it , we lose it . Our faith and reason tells us that we have it ! in the course of our faithfulness to the Gospels , grace ( positive effects of accepting God ) continues to ‘ surprise ‘ us in leaving no doubt we have received it in the first place. That’s how one ‘ grows ‘ as a person. Our Lord never said it would be easy, but in our world there is simply no other way. Even the darkest of dark nights can be the prelude to a new dawn in our relationship with ourselves through Our Maker. … ” Ask and you shall receive, seek and you shall find, knock and the door will be opened to you .”

  10. Martha says:

    Quentin, no reply button under your comment about care homes.

    I think you could do worse than indirectly fund the charitable giving of other residents in your care home, you will probably be funding the cruises, travelling, and other luxuries that some have had anyway.

    It is a real dilemma, but I don’t think it is amazingly philanthropic to consider these choices. Christ’s story of Dives and Lazarus is very stark. There is also the story of the man with his barns full of grain whose soul was required much sooner than he expected. We could hold on to whatever money or assets we may have in case they might be needed to fund care, and wait until we die for them to go to our children and/or “charity,” or we can think people are destitute and dying, and many are without access to Christ’s teaching NOW, and let them have some of our surplus without that delay.

  11. Iona says:

    “Some of our surplus” – but how much of our surplus? For example, am I justified in buying the occasional bottle of wine, or taking a fairly modest annual holiday, which I can afford; or (looking at the privations endured by much of the world) should I aim to live as frugally as possible and pass on the money thus saved to organisations that feed the hungry, clothe the naked etc.? And what about my children; am I to leave them nothing because everything has gone to charitable organisations? – Though earning well, they are having to repay debts which they incurred to fund their university education (I never had to do that, it was grants, not loans, in my day), and as they live and work in one of the more expensive parts of the country they haven’t a hope of buying a house or even a flat – though I and their father were homeowners within a year of our marriage. Isn’t it reasonable that they should have whatever worldly goods I can leave them?
    How does one do this sort of calculation?

    • Martha says:

      Indeed Iona, that is the question, how much of our surplus? So far, when spending, we tend to decide on a case by case basis, with our children and other things which arise, and considering intangible effects as far as possible. Sometimes I resort to supporting the local or national economy as a justification, or is it a rationalisation, when it is something “extra.” I have been trying to persuade my husband, in his mid eighties, to pay for some help with the gardening, give someone a few hours work, so far without success!

    • milliganp says:

      To me it would seem fairly obvious that Jesus and he early Church relied on sponsors who, if not positively wealthy, had resources to spare. Jesus does not seem to condemn wealth, per se, but unnatural attachment to wealth and a lack of care for those less well off.
      I have no doubt that Quentin would not look favourably on me if I sold my house, gave the money to the poor and tried to live off the welfare state – so there is obviously a bound to what is expected of us.

      • St.Joseph says:

        Milliganp.
        Quite right,, however, my house will be sold by my children,unless it is needed for my welfare.

      • overload says:

        “I have no doubt that Quentin would not look favourably on me if I sold my house, gave the money to the poor and tried to live off the welfare state – so there is obviously a bound to what is expected of us.”
        Is Quentin your judge, milliganp? Just because such an action sounds to be, and in conventionally foreseeable circumstances would be, madness, does not exclude the boundless possibilities of faith that might make of this a most holy sacrifice, even a response in obedience to Christ. Why dictate to yourself what Christ asks or does not ask of you on the basis of science, your/societies experience and expectations, etc.?

    • overload says:

      Iona, “what about my children; am I to leave them nothing because everything has gone to charitable organisations? – Though earning well, they are having to repay debts… Isn’t it reasonable that they should have whatever worldly goods I can leave them?”

      Why don’t you give them money/things to help them now, rather than waiting until you have died?

      • Vincent says:

        I know nothing of Iona’s circumstances but many elderly people are frightened of lengthy periods of dementia or other disablement. My friend Francine has been paying around £70,000 a year for four years because of the nearly full time care her husband needs. I rather think that she is happier paying this out of former savings than begging it from her children.

      • overload says:

        Vincent, you say many elderly people are frightened of extended periods of dementia/disability. I don’t claim to know what the solution is for your friend Francine, however my own experience (with two very old grandmothers) is that people in a dead-end alley of life need not so much to be sustained in their sense of maintaining control and independence, although there can be a form of need for this, but more importantly one needs the inner security to be able to do the inevitable which is to let go of ‘control’ and independence, to let go, and to die in peace or to be able live before one dies. We all need to do this, but we have more ‘choice’ when we are not in obviously heading down a dead-end alley!

  12. Brendan says:

    ” The choice between immediate action and future consequences must be rational and not instinctive.” – Made in his own image and therefore willed into existence by God we can be nothing else but rational in our actions – whatever came before us ( assumed to also rational ) Our instincts may well be evolutionary , but as believers we act rationally because we have God-given faith and use reason to determine that which God has made for us in this world.
    The ” leverage ” in determining the correct ” balancing act ” – the path to holiness as the Christian would have it – provides the catalytic effect between our unreliable natural instinct and God-given reason which transforms our actions to the greatest good.
    As Christ demonstrated in giving us this ‘ gift ‘ of eternal life ( the greatest good ) ; in our fallen world this demands our own personal sacrifice . But the certainty of our final goal ( by faith and reason ) is manifested in our daily lives through the Beatitudes ( Saint Matthews Gospel ).

    • Brendan says:

      The ” catalytic effect ” is supernatural and actual ‘ Grace ‘.

    • Quentin says:

      Of course we are right to be rational, and – in doing so – to take into account our instincts and habitual tendencies. So one stage in making a moral decision is to identify and then evaluate our different motivations. However we are much more aware nowadays that we may also have motivations which we do not easily see. For instance the strong motivation for immediate benefit. Another might be that some racial attitudes are founded in the evolved instinct of seeing ‘strangers’ as a hazard.

      • Brendan says:

        ” Identify and evaluate our different motivations.” The different passions that we all have by differing degrees do unbalance the ” see-sawing ” effect in sustaining a life containing the greatest good ( holiness ). I find the best way Quentin to soften these inner passions and control them ( put them into perspective ) when making life’s moral decisions is frequent practice of Confession with a firm purpose of amendment.
        I recall St. Paul , with reference to ” the thorn in his side ” , being told by Christ …. ” my yoke is easy and my burden light, for power is perfected in weakness . ” 2 Cor. 12:9.
        And in another place … ” My grace is sufficient for you, ” Matt. 11;30.
        By this measure I find that in time God has a way of exposing ” motivations that we do not easily see ” so we can clearly deal with them in the light of Gods grace. To that end we are gradually becoming like ” children ” in trusting totally in Him.

      • Quentin says:

        Brendan — yes you can be sure of God’s grace, but I fear it’s you who has to do the hard graft. And it’s here that your knowledge of the human psyche and how it might be affecting you will help. By definition you do not know the motivations of which you are not aware.

      • overload says:

        Quentin, “it’s you who has to do the hard graft. And it’s here that your knowledge of the human psyche and how it might be affecting you will help”

        Yes, the ‘knowledge’ (scientific-empirical) that I accumulate and have accumulated is something that if I possess it I will naturally draw from (baring hinderances such as attachment / aversion / torpidity / confusion / ill-will / agitation / doubt). But I do not really need to go seeking new ‘knowledge’, I really need to grow in knowledge of Christ, which is seated in the heart, not the intellect. With true knowledge, God gives us the ‘knowledge’ we need, I believe. And simply being alive, and free, is to acquire ‘knowledge’, It think.
        As for ‘hard-graft’, it is hard-graft growing in patience, waiting with faith and hope on God, enduring the affliction and confusion of not being able to do the ‘hard-graft’ one wants to do and believes has to be done.

    • milliganp says:

      As someone who has suffered from several years of often severe mental illness I would argue against the idea that we are ultimately rational. Faith that ought to be able to move mountains can often fail to get a grown man out of bed in the morning.

      • St.Joseph says:

        Milliganp.
        It has taken faith alone that has got me out of bed for the last 3 months.
        It was faith alone that got me out of bed yesterday.
        And I thank God for today.

      • St.Joseph says:

        Milligan.
        The above should read 9 months not 3.!

      • milliganp says:

        St. Joseph, there was a wonderful, octogenarian, parishioner who died recently. He had told me after Mass that each day, when he went to bed, he thanked God for the day he had just received and each morning he thanked God for waking up. At its simplest faith is really quite simple but that isn’t the same as easy.

      • St.Joseph says:

        I did not say ity was easy,that is why my faith held me in the balsnce, and it is not over yet!

      • overload says:

        Milliganp,
        What faith ought to be able to move mountains? Jesus is talking about faith “as big a mustard seed”, which presumably is not the same as faith as big as an atom, or faith as big as a loose collection of molecules. A mustard seed is not like a bit of gravel — it has a specifically defined and self contained (dormant) living potential. Furthermore, although it is not the smallest of seeds, it is smaller than wheat and many other standard food crops. And it is perfectly round.

  13. St.Joseph says:

    Brendan I like your sound comment
    We could take into account the women who took about a pint of pure nard and poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped His feet with her hair..
    Lazarus said it could have been sold and the money given to the poor,
    Jesus said there will always be poor in the world,but you wont always have me.
    What does anyone think He meant by that.? In the balancing act!.

    • St.Joseph says:

      Ps
      It was Judas not Lazarus who complained!

    • Brendan says:

      St. Joseph – On this Divine Mercy Sunday, perfect example !
      The ” balancing act ” means one runs counter to worldly thinking . In achieving this end, an act ( or moment ) of ‘ grace ‘ wins out and the ‘ Judas’ s ‘ wither away on the vine. The ” see – saw ” effect is the Spirit of God positioning one to achieve the greatest good for that moment. God never fails in the moment – Himself being ‘ the moment ‘ – however difficult it is to see future consequences of the action.
      Pope Francis , in audience with a group of young people recently, told them to go back to their parishes and… ” make a mess ! ”
      The very ‘ nard ‘ ( graces they release ) they use will allow the Spirit of god to position the Parish now and for future blessings in its healing power to achieve the inner Life of God ( His Kingdom ). …. ” I WILL be with you always , even ’til the end of time. “

    • milliganp says:

      This is like the question often asked as to why poor people raise money to build beautiful churches and cathedrals. Sometimes it is actually good to go beyond the immediate world of material goods and mere existence. I suspect, in an ideal world, we could both build Cathedrals and care for the poor. When we get the balance wrong it looks like we are ‘wasting money on God’ but that is a fallen human perception.

  14. Geordie says:

    Iona
    How can you guarantee your donations to charities go to the poor of the world and are not used to pay the fat salaries of the chief executives of these charities?

    • St.Joseph says:

      Iona.
      I dont know I give to the Charities associated with the Catholic Church.
      I will put into some street collections!
      I think if we give to charities, we do what the governments dont do, so therefore they would have nothing.
      If I have spent all my money on charity and have nothing left for myself,then those who have saved for their selves will be charitable and pay for me!

    • Vincent says:

      Geordie, I am not in the charity field, but I know people who are. Managing a big charity is a pretty tough job, and those who become CEOs can easily earn equivalent or greater salaries elsewhere. Why should such a person give away, say, a third of his salary in order to get everyone’s approval?

    • milliganp says:

      Geordie, this excuse is often excused as a cop out from giving to charities. The major development charities are fairly transparent in the way they report their costs and expenditure. However some smaller charities do pay a lot to commercial companies used to sign up new givers.

    • overload says:

      I can’t remember this precisely, but I recollect hearing that most ‘business’ charities are only giving about 10-20% of their income to the the cause, whereas real charities give say 80%.
      I and every flat in my house got an envelope from the red cross in the post before Christmas, containing pen, bookmark, drinks coaster, etc. Presuably this was sent out nationwide?
      They were asking for a donation. Why would I give them ‘charity’ to send me and other people things that I do not need or want?

      • St.Joseph says:

        overload.
        Quite right!

      • Singalong says:

        That was my reaction also, but they probably find it does pay them overall in in increased donations.
        However, the Red Cross last year dismissed one of their long standing volunteers because he had expressed his personal opinion that a conventional female mother and male father is better for children than Gay parents

  15. Iona says:

    Geordie, that is something I bear in mind. For example, I was told (by someone who did voluntary work for a charity which I might have donated to) that their chief execs were given a new (and expensive) car every year. This information put me off donating to that particular charity.

  16. Geordie says:

    The priest who runs the MISSIO charity, which includes the Mill Hill Fathers is paid the same stipend as the average parish priest. The chief executive of Cafod gets £87,500 per annum. Both Catholic charities but I know which one I support.

    • Martha says:

      I cannot find the last annual financial statement sent to benefactors, but I do know that Aid to the Church in Need spends a very small proportion of donations on administration and salaries.

      • milliganp says:

        CAFOD spends 12.1% of income on overheads wheras ACN spends 11.2%, it’s not such an enormous difference given that CAFOD is a development charity which always needs more cost to run. Oxfam, by comparison spends 26% of revenue on overheads and Christian Aid 14.7%. It’s sad that Catholics justify not supporting what is a development charity with a world class reputation out of misguided prejudice.

      • St.Joseph says:

        milliganp.
        What do you mean by misguided prejudice?

      • Quentin says:

        But I think it’s right to check out these things – and you have fortunately given us the information. I have spent some time talking with Cafod about their work, and so I have supported them. (By sheer chance one of my grandsons has a temporary work contract with them. They are unlikely to take him on permanently, but he is now thinking of making a career in the charitable field.)

      • St.Joseph says:

        Quentin.
        We are right to question these things, however who would think of questioning Catholic Organisations. Surely that will be the Church authorities.to guide us on that!.
        Misguided prejudice is what I wonder?
        .
        CAFOD it was believed had an involvement in condom circulation-was that true or not?
        It could be’ made clear now’ then perhaps they would have more donations.
        I expect workers to get their fair share of financial payments,however it must be strictly in line with the teaching of Holy Mother Church.
        Can you tell me is the main organiser of CAFOD.? I dont know much about it.

        I mostly donate to the Society of the Little Flower, For priestly vocations.
        Children in Need raise a lot and I did donate to that recently.
        Also the Mill Misionaries and. SPUC and EWTN and Family Life in Ireland, through the Bank monthly.
        Perhaps Milliganp will know the financial records of who gets paid what in those charities’
        I am not up to that.

        It is good to hear young people getting involved, you must be proud of your grandson.
        .

      • milliganp says:

        St Joseph, the story about Cafod being involved in condom distribution is exactly the kind of misguided prejudice to which I referred. Cafod supports people and projects. Some of the projects may have involvement in AIDS education and treatment and in some of these condom advice or distribution may occur but Cafod do not directly support or give grants for condom distribution.
        A few years ago Cafod produced internal advice on their attitude to Aids prevention via a process called ABC, Abstain, Be faithful,use a Condom. Many objected to the C, but the reality in many parts of Africa is that casual extra-marital sex is commonplace and in these situations condoms are the final line against the spread of AIDS.
        Simliarly Geordie raised the question of Cafod’s Chief Executive’s salary. This is the lowest of all the disaster charities and was set based on external advice. There are dozens of Head Teachers, thousands of Doctors and hundreds of Civil Servants earning more than Cafod’s Chief Executive and his fellow directors all earn well below the average for their industry.
        The returns of Aid to the Church in Need indicate that their highest paid employee is in a package between £110,000 and £120,000.

      • Quentin says:

        Milliganp, I was just about to write the very contribution you have written here. As I recall, but don’t have time to research today, one of their concerns, and potential use for condoms, was sex workers and brothels.

        Incidentally, there is not a word about contraception outside marriage in HV. And its arguments are irrelevant to sex outside marriage. There are respectable theologians who hold that condoms are not wrong outside marriage, and that certainly the Church has never forbidden this.

        I hold firmly the view that someone who risks, by choosing not to use a condom, a pregnancy or serious infection in intercourse outside marriage, is guilty of a major offence against the care we owe to others. By comparison fornication is a minor offence.

        What is of course clear is that (sub Saharan) societies who strongly support fidelity and abstinence have been much more successful in lowering HIV/Aids infection than those who have tried to solve the problem through condom promotion.

      • St.Joseph says:

        Thank you Quentin, Milliganp and Brendan.
        It is good to get to the truth, whatever the source..
        I went to The Priests Sjhow in Bristol 3 years ago, it was very good and clever,
        It must have raised thousands for CAFOD.
        Yes Quentin I agree with your comment on the sub saharan societies.

    • St.Joseph says:

      Geordie.
      So do I.

      overload.
      Prayers are answered through Mass intentions, Rosary intentions, Novenas. If it be The Lords Will.
      A priest told me that God knows more than the doctors,
      Jesus worked so many miracles, He calmed the wind and the sea and they obeyed Him, , He changed water into wine at the Wedding at Cana, when He answered His mother’s ‘They have no Wine’ He fed the thousands from 5 loaves and two fish, He Rose from the dead,.as God
      So it is no doubt that He will answer prayer even if it is a No.
      All we need is Faith Hope and Love.
      Trust in Him..

  17. Brendan says:

    Answer to Quentin 13th, 9.41 am. – Following this interesting line of reasoning , I see that Overload was quick to answer with similar thoughts to mine – although expressed in a different way I ask myself the question ; can one be too rational , or depend on rational thinking at the expense of closing off divine revelation ( grace ) in living the moral life ?
    For myself , I feel I was not naturally ‘ trained ‘ towards rational thinking. Psychological / emotional disorders in the greater part of my earlier life meant that I was only equipped emotionally to deal with life’s balancing on my particular ” see-saw ” , by gravitating close to the centre ( my ‘ congenital ‘ Faith ) where Christ lay – rationalism came later on in years. In that respect Overload ( in his own inimitable style ) makes much on that point. Believe me Quentin , there is just as much ‘ hard graft ‘ involved with wrestling with ones own irrationality . I contend then that it was only through relying heavily on divine providence ( God’s grace ) through His Church that I gained knowledge of myself ( the human psyche ) ,at the same time in some kind of symbiotic relationship with with my ability to gradual rationalism ( including the revelation of motivations of which I was previously unaware ) , which in my later years I found that right ‘ balancing act ‘ on my current road to holiness .

  18. Brendan says:

    My wife and I made a decision a long time ago not to donate to ‘ Children in Need ‘ because of its links with organisations that supported or are involved in abortion , family planning not approved by the Catholic Church , etc., Now for example, I find a statement from John Smeaton, Director of SPUC , that in 2012-2013 ,that The Terence Higgins Trust was given over £ 36,000 by the BBC charitable fund raiser. John Smeaton has no doubts where this money is being used – and it is not in accord with Catholic teaching on socio – sexual matters.
    It is nightmarish for any Catholic who has the time and energy to literally ‘ root out ‘ exactly how secular based charities are using their funds. It’s not just the case of being over-scrupulous in such matters its the case of doing right and by not giving scandal.
    The latest information I have is that Catholic Bishops (? 16 or 18 ) in Germany have finally relinquished ownership ( under pressure from the Church worldwide ) – by filing for bankruptcy in August 2014 – of ‘ Weltbild ‘ ; one of the biggest distributor of pornographic and erotic material in the country. It is well to remember just what the Church Tax ( Kirchenstauer ) which all tax-paying Catholics pay to the Church via the German Government has been funding !
    It seems that the rather aptly named ” Bishop of Bling ” was not alone in unseemly ostentation.
    The Archdiocese of Cologne , has alone an annual income of somewhere around $ 2.3 million dollars – about a million more than the Vatican annual income.

    • Brendan says:

      Error – replace $ 2.3 miiion for 3.5 billion euros !

    • milliganp says:

      Error, the story about Weltbild and pornography is also wrong! Weltbuild has a large bricks and mortar component of it’s business (like Waterstones) as well as an online and catalogue business. It was the pressure from Amazon on it’s margins that was considered the probable cause of its difficulties. Any major book seller with a catalogue of hundreds of thousands of books will inevitably find itself distributing material contrary to Catholic morality, sentiment and belief.
      The church ceased direct ownership and control in 2011 when it realised that it would be impossible to police every publisher distributed by the company. There is no indication whatsover that its 2014 bankruptcy was orchestrated by the church.

      • Brendan says:

        That as may be Milliganp ;. But Cardinal Gerhard Mueller summed up the public mood at the time about the German Church… ” Preaching chastity on Sunday, selling pornography.”

      • milliganp says:

        The sorts of inaccurate, exaggerated generalisations you make do great harm to the church. You have a duty to check facts before making such a condemnatory statement. There is a country mile between a few erotic publications and “one of Germanyy’s largest publishers of pornography “

  19. overload says:

    Martha says: “I do know that Aid to the Church in Need spends a very small proportion of donations on administration and salaries.”

    Apart from their sale of Catholic nick-nacks, I have a good impression about this charity, but Milliganp says:
    “The returns of Aid to the Church in Need indicate that their highest paid employee is in a package between £110,000 and £120,000.”

    ??

    • Brendan says:

      Overload – Vincent’s comment April 12 th, 4.49pm. strikes a chord with me here. Running a global Charitable Church organisation such as Aid to The Church in Need must be very difficult and by its very nature has internal expenses and hopes to recruit the best ‘ talent ‘ it can ; if only to make the best use of available funds. It’s come along way since its founder after World War ii , the late ,saintly ( but tough ) Father Werenfried van Straaten. – ‘ the bacon priest ‘. It did not discriminate between Catholic and non-Catholic, victorious or vanquished. Saint John Paul ii commended it personally for its ecumenical approach in dealing with the Eastern Orthodox Churches.
      This organisation must be one of the jewels in the ‘ Catholic Crown ‘.and as far as I am aware has never compromised its principles based on Catholic social action.

    • Vincent says:

      Why the ??. We are in a market in which executives with a record of making organisations successful are few and far between. You recruit them and you must expect to pay the market price. It does not seem to be well known that the difference in terms of results between a mediocre chief and a top rank chief can be enormous. In fact £120,00 is quite a modest salary for a competent leader.

    • overload says:

      Thanks for the info.
      Vincent, the “??” was directed at Martha and milliganp who, as I highlighted, made contradicting statements of fact.
      As for whether or not ACN chief exec needs/deserves over £100,000 per year, I do not wish to judge, however my belief is that we as Christians should relate to money—in heart at least (hopefully also in materiality)—more in line with true communism (ie. the early Church who we are told shared/distributed everything); recognising that God is the giver, sustainer and taker (not taking anything for granted); not clinging to personal possessions; loosely holding any evaluation of what “I” or “we” ‘deserve’ or ‘need’; and living in obedience to the Spirit (‘on-edge’—willing to obey at the drop of a hat).

      Being ‘on-edge’ in our prayer and communion with Christ is not necessarily to decrease/abandon our security in worldly matters such as food/shelter/clothing, blood-family, money/possessions, etc.—but it is to always know that our true security to be not in such worldly matters. This makes us more secure with and thankful for those worldly things/relationships we do have.

      • Martha says:

        I agree with what you are saying, but do you think “on call” would be a better description? If a man is “on edge” he is very anxious, he can’t concentrate, and he is pretty useless.

      • milliganp says:

        I’m not criticising Martha but what she stated was an assumption, whereas I looked up the filing on the charity commission website. Almost all the comparative remarks made by commentators on this blog about CAFOD are inaccurate. Sadly these inaccuracies are rife in the Catholic community and CAFOD looses considerable support because of them.

      • St.Joseph says:

        Milliganp.
        What blog are you speaking about.?

  20. Brendan says:

    I don’t pretend to understand much of modern economics – who does ? But since the ‘ make do and mend ‘ years post Second World War , we are experiencing greater levels of prosperity than
    ever before … but not for all. Listening to the news , as we approach a General Election it would seem that our politicians are once again stoking fear in the future and pandering to self – interest by promising the earth ! How is it to be paid for does not seem to figure in economic calculations. It is difficult to envisage a balancing act which does not produce the required increase in GDP – in the shadow of a huge deficit – without more financial struggle and poverty for a substantial portion of our fellow Countrymen.
    I did read an article some time ago in the C.H. , from the Jewish Labour peer , Baron Maurice Glassman ; who sees strands of Catholic social thinking being taken up by his party. Let’s hope future radical change in economic thinking is a result of /or coincides with the genuine perception of increased Faith in Britain.

  21. Brendan says:

    Milliganp – The Statements are there on line in the public domain. No doubt Cardinal Mueller is exaggerating as well. The people who are dong great harm to the Church are those who are covering up, or refusing to believe in the obvious when faced with the problem.

  22. RAHNER says:

    “The people who are dong great harm to the Church are those who are covering up, or refusing to believe in the obvious when faced with the problem.”

    Like Pope JP2 and Fr Maciel perhaps?

  23. Brendan says:

    Yes sadly, Farther Marcial Marciel . Pope Saint John Paul ii ? You’ll have to expand a bit more on that one Rahner.

    • RAHNER says:

      I was referring to JP2’s attitude toward Maciel……

    • Brendan says:

      Just quickly Rahner. Could it be that he was unaware of the full story about Father Marciel’s secret life ?

      • overload says:

        From what I have just read on wikipedia, the implication seems to be that Marciel was a master con-artist, so presumably when Pope John Paul II was informed about his close brother’s secret life—such a betrayal to the Church and the Pope’s faith and trust in him—he did not want to believe it. Perhaps it was easier for him not just politically but also personally just to dismiss it as lies/nonsense, or in some way diminish the issue?
        The wikipedia article implies that Marciel may already have been an offending paediophile at 18, and that a bishop (his uncle) found this out—and then died of a heart attack having it out with him about it.
        It also says something about Marciel having a troubled childhood, but does not go into further details.
        I apologise if this is old news that I am relaying.

  24. Brendan says:

    Going back to where Milliganp takes me to task. I understand that the situation regarding the embarrassment some German Bishops were causing to the Church , urged Pope Benedict for instance to take the problem up with the German Ambassador to The Vatican. I find among’st others , a well – rounded article on this vexed issue in The Independent, ” Revealed : Publisher owned by the Catholic Church sells Pornography. ” Thursday 16th April 2015.
    Word semantics can lead one into a morass of argument. When I used the word ” pressure ” , in relation to ‘ church ‘ affairs ; I am not taking about force in the worldly sense or on the other end of the scale, blackmail. I mean the dignity ( which I hope our Bishops will use for example in the upcoming General Synod ) of the consensus leading one from ” the darkness into the Light “. The reading of last nights Gospel during Mass opened my eyes to what we are about here. We may agree to disagree , but that ultimately is what I believe …..is what we are about here.

  25. Martha says:

    ACN is our favourite Catholic charity, but we contribute to Cafod also, though we have some misgivings about the matters which have been mentioned. I think it was Archbishop Fulton Sheen who wrote that God finds the mud spattered hounds who have been giving their all in the thick of the chase more acceptable than the little poodles and lap dogs who can keep themselves fresh and clean and uncontaminated . . .

    • Brendan says:

      Thank you for that Martha. I can across something in ” The Catholic Voice ” by the Archbishop, who I don’t know much about but to whom I am warming:-
      ” Democracy needs religion more than religion needs democracy. A religion can live without democracy; it can live under tyranny, persecution and dictatorship – not comfortably, it is true , but heroically and divinely. But democracy cannot live without religion, for without religion democracy will degenerate into demagogy by selling itself to the highest bidder . ” ( Whence Come Wars )

  26. overload says:

    I just today came across an unfamiliar charity Open Doors booklet at the hairdressers, for the persecuted church worldwide, seemed positive to me, anyone know anything about this?

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