Hamlet

“Thus conscience does make cowards of us all,

And thus the native hue of resolution

Is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought,

And enterprises of great pith and moment

With this regard their currents turn awry,

And lose the name of action.”

Hamlet’s concern is about the future rewards or punishments for our decisions of conscience – and rightly so. But how do we use our consciences rightly? In Catholic terms, it would be fairly straightforward: the laws of right and wrong, mortal or venial, are clear. Tick the box. Or, nowadays we could in practice have a computer guide. Type in the information, and out comes the answer – followed by the necessary penance. Possibly, as we are getting used to long distance electronic communication, absolution would come through our computer. I do not have a ‘smart’ telephone but I daresay that a ‘confessional’ program could be set up.

But Scripture, and particularly the New Testament, will not help us here. We are clearly taught that conscience is founded in love. The fundamental basis is love of neighbour and love of ourselves. I take ‘love of ourselves’ to mean our continuous attempts to climb the ladder another step to reach our own perfection of love.

But people like me, of an older generation, were taught that practical emphasis was always on law – in some description. The spirit is left in the background, obedience is the practical expression. I have found very little to read on the formation of conscience, notwithstanding its importance. I have to go back to my own Autonomy and Obedience in the Catholic Church (Gower 2002). There isn’t much in that which I would alter some twenty years later. Out of print, of course.

We have looked at Natural Law on occasion in the past. We need to remember that we know a great deal more about human nature than we did a millennium ago. Take, for example, the homosexual. Once upon a time it was assumed that this was a corruption of nature and would always be fundamentally wicked. But now we know that that the causes of homosexuality are broad and are by no means always the outcome of wickedness.  And I wonder how many of us share Augustine’s view that, although in principle, sexual intercourse in marriage could be sinless, in practice sinfulness of some kind will inevitably be present.

Some readers will know that I spent several years as a marriage counsellor. I learnt there a wide range of motivations behind behaviour. These were likely to be at least related to the upbringing and the experience of each individual – to say nothing of their genes. The solution was likely to be learning how to live with one’s own and each other’s internal tendencies, rather than to change them.

So I think that readers of this Blog could learn a great deal about the formation of conscience by listening to other contributors’ habits. Do you, for instance, examine your conscience each day – perhaps before turning to sleep. And how do you do it?

Do you consider your conscience in some detail before you go to Confession? (Do you, nowadays, regularly go to Confession? – how often?) This is not a trivial exercise: it is through our use of conscience that we can develop our love for God, our love for our neighbours, our love for ourselves.

About Quentin

Science Editor, Catholic Herald. Portrait © Jacqueline Alma
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53 Responses to Hamlet

  1. David Smith says:

    Quentin writes ( https://secondsightblog.net/2020/09/26/hamlet/ ) :

    // Hamlet’s concern is about the future rewards or punishments for our decisions of conscience – and rightly so. But how do we use our consciences rightly? In Catholic terms, it would be fairly straightforward: the laws of right and wrong, mortal or venial, are clear. //

    Are they now, fifty-some years after Vatican II? Were they even for some time before? Thinking, believing that everything is relative, that there are seldom if ever clearly right actions and clearly wrong ones seems irresistibly appealing to a great many people these days, including theologians. It’s even become a recognized hallmark of the highly educated man. Deny it, even limit it, and you’re out of the crowd, out in the cold, classed among the ignorant and the slow witted. Is abortion evil? Well, that’s a tough question. Conservative Catholics think so, but of course they’re well, you know, conservative. Receiving Holy Communion in a state of sin? What, really, is sin? We know far too much now about human biology and psychology to think very many actions unquestionably wrong. Always consider the circumstances. And so on.

    The Catholic Church seems nearly the only world-wide defender of traditional morality left standing, but even it is tottering – or so it seems to me.

    Sorry – this is all old stuff, but I wanted to get it out of my system.

    • milliganp says:

      I think we have two rather than one problem. The first, and most obvious is the loss of the sense of absolutes in right and wrong, the second that we are now conditioned to believe that wrong is not really that dreadful – surely a loving God would not condemn us to eternal flames for weaknesses in our character?
      Pope Francis’ “who am I to judge’ is not very helpful in this as it seems that everything is now open to moral uncertainty.

      • ignatius says:

        No indeed, surely a loving God does not do so. The issue is not Francis’ comment which only paraphrases Jesu’s words in Matthew 7 sermon on the mount. The problem is that moral theology cannot not always answer existential questions. That’s the nature of pastorality and mercy is not a tick box exercise in moral ‘law’

  2. milliganp says:

    Just a quick note to say that I’ve purchased one of the two paperback copies of Autonomy and Obedience in the Catholic Church on Amazon UK. It was not mint condition, so someone had read it! Sadly, it cannot be in great demand as I got it for £1.99! So much for your efforts in writing it, I will read it with your writings on this blog in mind.

  3. ignatius says:

    I read something quite interesting about the examen recently. There are two kinds:

    1) The examen of consciousness: This is where, at the end of the day we reflect on where we have been in spiritual terms. What was the place in the day where we were close to God and when, during this day were we far from God? By thus paying attention to the movements of our spirit in the environment of the day we gradually come to discern the ebb and flow of our spiritual awareness. We begin to recognise ourselves more.
    2) The examen of conscience: This is where we replay the day again in our minds but this time we are looking at the operation of our conscience in relation to what we do or not do and how we act. So this examen aims to train us in wiling and doing good.

    Its easy to confuse the two modes and for a few years I thought that mode 1) was the only one to do and that change would flow forth from the increase in awareness.

    Nowadays I write down the high point and low point of the day either last thing after evening prayer or sometimes first thing in the morning when things have sifted down a little. Partly I do this looking for change of habits but partly as an aid to reflection and as a lead into contemplation.

    Yes I do also examine my conscience before confession but not perhaps in the traditional and formalised way of checking what we have or have not done. More rather as a way of discerning what is the actual/real reason and motive for me dragging myself kicking and screaming into the confessional.
    It is important, I find, to try and be clear about reconciliation. Easy just to go and chuck a load of stuff at the priest simply in order to get the ticket, can be a very good way of avoiding the heart of the matter. I go along to confession roughly every couple of months -unless I commit some mortal sin or another in which case I hightail it over there just as soon as I can pluck up the courage…

  4. David Smith says:

    Quentin writes ( https://secondsightblog.net/2020/09/26/hamlet/ ) :

    // I have to go back to my own Autonomy and Obedience in the Catholic Church (Gower 2002). There isn’t much in that which I would alter some twenty years later. //

    This is from the amazon.com summary of Quentin’s book:

    // It is Quentin de la Bedoyere’s contention that the principle that the Catholic must follow his or her own conscience rather than the Church is documented from Aquinas onwards, and that this is beneficial in retaining the loyalty of the faithful. He discusses the autonomy of the individual, and describes the relationship between the law of love and the tenets of the moral law. Having described the growth of the individual as a moral person, he goes on to examine how the Church can operate effectively by fully harnessing the autonomy of its members at different hierarchical levels. Credible leadership achieves greater influence, loyalty and commitment. This kind of reform can be done without any loss to the Church’s authority – without such reform, control will increase and the numbers of the faithful continue to decline.The book will appeal to the lay reader as well as the professional. Although the author argues for a personalist approach to morals and obedience, his aim is to show that autonomy is consistent with loyalty to the Church. This book has been written for those who desire autonomy without distancing themselves from the Church. //

  5. David Smith says:

    Quentin writes ( https://secondsightblog.net/2020/09/26/hamlet/ ) :

    // We need to remember that we know a great deal more about human nature than we did a millennium ago. Take, for example, the homosexual. Once upon a time it was assumed that this was a corruption of nature and would always be fundamentally wicked. But now we know that that the causes of homosexuality are broad and are by no means always the outcome of wickedness. //

    I have a problem with the assumption – fairly widely, perhaps nearly universally held today, I think – that scientific discoveries have effectively discredited the notion of personal guilt. They may have extended our understanding of its nature, but the human mind, I think, is fundamentally inclined to erect a personal moral system and to experience guilt when it’s disobeyed. Surely scientific discoveries have not discredited the erection of personal moral systems.

    Homosexuality, in some broad sense, may be “natural”, but so is criminality.

    • milliganp says:

      There is a line in “Silence of the Lambs” where the psychologist (albeit evil one) gives a clue to the detective “What do you love first” to which the reply is “that which you see every day”. I can understand, having had a couple of incidents of homosexual flirting / infatuation in a boys boarding school why someone might find themselves convinced that they are gay. At 13, I asked my parents to let me come home but looking back on my life, I wonder what the outcome would have been had I stayed.
      We describe virtues as making a habit of good things and vices the habit of bad but many of us go through ambivalent periods as we form our characters but, once the character is formed, it is quite difficult (but not impossible) to change.

  6. ignatius says:

    I don’t think that scientific discovery has negated guilt which is, itself a moral/legal/psychological concept. I’m not sure either if drawing the equation between homosexuality and criminality is very helpful.

    • milliganp says:

      There may be a bigger problem with pseudo-sciences such as psychology and sociology. I call these pseudo-science as it is almost impossible to prove or refute any theory using scientific methods.
      Sadly, society (and particularly psychologists and social workers) confuse these theories with the more definite definitions of empirical science.

  7. Geordie says:

    Quentin speaks about confession. Do many people go to confession these days? How often do we go to confession? When I was a child we went at intervals of three weeks, reeled off a list and that was it. I found very few priests who inspired me to strive for holiness.
    Then it all changed over a period of years. People stopped going to confession. Discussions about sin didn’t occur anymore. For example, no priest would get up in the pulpit and talk about gluttony. Half the congregation would get up and go. Yet it is gluttony that is the cause of obesity, which is a serious health problem. I know, for some, obesity can be caused by medical problems but those people are very few in number.
    Can anyone tell me the seven deadly sins without looking them up on the internet? I confess that I can’t.

  8. ignatius says:

    I’m not sure that naming the 7deadly sins is the same as examining ones conscience to determine ones culpability in any matter. As I understand it the Question is how do we check the state of our souls?

  9. ignatius says:

    I guess it could be said that we need to ‘know’ what sin is before we can spot it. Personally I think most of us know that say lying, cheating, avarice, speaking ill, viewing unclean images, aggression, drunkenness etc are all sinful behaviours of one sort or another and don’t need too much extra definition…Most people know when they have been selfish arrogant or cruel. What matters is not the recognition of sin but having compunction over it. That and the desire to keep a clean heart for God. Surely I’m not the only one who knows when he has sinned?

  10. Hock says:

    The old moral maze comes into play here. Is it right to steal to feed your family? I seem to remember a leading Church Minister suggesting it was OK to do so in these extreme circumstances. Shift the moral maze fractionally and it can soon appear to be justifiable to remove all the Jews of Europe by mass extermination.
    The old saying ‘By a multitude of laws Man, only confused what God achieved in ten.’
    Those commandments are a good place to start. The Church seeks to give us an ‘informed conscience’ so that we are not left to our own devices.

  11. David Smith says:

    milliganp writes: ( https://secondsightblog.net/2020/09/26/hamlet/#comment-61267 ) :

    // looking back on my life, I wonder what the outcome would have been had I stayed //

    I imagine it might have led to an experiment in one or several of the many dimensions of what we vaguely call “sex”. I spent two years in a Catholic boys’ boarding school, with a girls’ boarding school in the same large building, but so far as I remember, the opportunity for any sort of sexual experiment never turned up. Had it done so, I have no idea what the outcome might have been.

    Sexuality is multidimensional, surely. In most of us by far, I suppose, it’s strictly a male-female thing. That’s the only biologically evolved way to procreate the species. But, at least in the male, given the right environmental conditions, both internal and external, the object of sexual desire can shift from a woman over to something else, especially in the absence or scarcity of women. The mind’s imagination is fluid and elastic; given adequate encouragement, it can can turn a man or a child or a sheep or a doll into an object of sexual desire. The sex urge in human males is strong. It wants to find an object, an outlet, and it will. If a human female is unavailable or undesirable, any other object will do.

    I’m inclined to suppose that we’re all sexually various, active and passive, dominant and submissive, in varying degrees at different times. How that may correspond to the concepts of “male” and “female” depends on how we choose to define those words. Words, always, get in the way when we try to use them to describe non-material objects. A hammer is always a hammer, but “love”, for example, is likely to mean a billion different things to a billion different people. “Sex”, too, is a non-material object.

    None of this need have any meaning outside the individual person. A man is his own castle. Only he can live there. It’s his universe and his alone. It’s none of anyone else’s business. Until society intrudes. Then rules pop up, and they are arbitrary, made up by the crowd or the king and put on paper and given guns and set into motion. The man, formerly an individual, becomes merely a widget.

  12. David Smith says:

    I wrote ( https://secondsightblog.net/2020/09/26/hamlet/#comment-61264 ) :

    // Homosexuality, in some broad sense, may be “natural”, but so is criminality. //

    ignatius replied ( https://secondsightblog.net/2020/09/26/hamlet/#comment-61266 ) :

    // I’m not sure either if drawing the equation between homosexuality and criminality is very helpful. //

    Agreed.

  13. David Smith says:

    ignatius writes: ( https://secondsightblog.net/2020/09/26/hamlet/#comment-61278 ) :

    // Surely I’m not the only one who knows when he has sinned? //

    I imagine there are a lot fewer Catholics like that today than there were sixty years ago, before Vatican II. I wonder whether most of those inclined to the religious life may not often fail to understand how the rest of the Church interpreted the overall message of the Council. Elements of change that the institutional Church, in its insularity, felt appropriate to the times were, I suspect, widely interpreted quite differently from how they were intended. I suspect that there is a much wider divide than the clergy often realize between their way of thinking and that of the rest of the Church.

  14. Alasdair says:

    To quote from Quentin’s opening piece “But Scripture, and particularly the New Testament, will not help us here”. I would venture to say that the issue for which the help is required is therefore of no great importance, and we may be barking up a wrong tree.
    The clue as to which particular wrong tree we are barking up is contained in the statement “The fundamental basis is love of neighbour and love of ourselves”. But the aforementioned New Testament does indeed help us and tells us that the fundamental basis of love is, love of God, and love of Neighbour.. If we have both of these loves and act upon them, then all other wholesome and necessary loves will be activated in full measure.

  15. Alasdair says:

    Quentin, with sincere apologies if this seems disrespectful:
    I shared your opening piece with an professional academic friend who is not a blog member but is, incidentally a practising Catholic. She instantly picked up on a point which had already occurred to me.
    She remarked on the quotation from Hamlet followed by the statement ” I do not have a ‘smart’ telephone but I daresay that a ‘confessional’ program could be set up”
    She expressed the opinion, and I agree, that.many might read into that juxtaposition, a snooty disdain which I’m sure you didn’t intend.
    The term Smartphone is used and understood by everyone, as is the word “app” ie program. That’s not to say that everyone has smartphones and uses apps of course. For many years both words have been in all the commonly used English dictionaries, and have long since ceased to be, culturally restricted or technically specialised usage.

  16. Geordie says:

    I was told that a priest, who had been a curate at our church in the days we had curates, stated from the pulpit that there was no such thing as an impure thought. He had perhaps forgotten that lust is one of the deadly sins and in the Gospel Our Lord warns us, that desiring another man’s wife is adultery.
    Surely the knowledge of what sin is will help us to examine our consciences and our culpability. People who suffer from scruples think they have committed sin when they haven’t. People who commit serious sin often claim to be good persons. They honestly believe that fornication isn’t wrong. The state of their souls is between them and God but they need to know that some actions are intrinsically evil.

  17. ignatius says:

    Yes. I think we care getting a bit closer to it now. In many ways this is a throughly ‘Catholic’ discussion because we believe in sin. This means we believe it is possible to ‘miss the mark’ when it comes to our living. We understand the term Concupiscence:
    ” Concupiscence is often defined as an ardent, usually sensual, longing. The concept is most commonly encountered in Christian theology, where it also receives the name “Fomes peccati”, as the selfish human desire for an object, person, or experience.”
    As catholics we understand that in some way this tendency towards selfish desire is strong in us and liable to overwhelm leading us into the love of self rather than another. We are aware of both our dignity and our human frailty. We understand this fraility as in some way to do with the condition of original sin-inherited and then sometimes wilfully acted upon.
    This is, if you like a somewhat technical explaination formany of the woes of being human and the church provides the remedy of reconciliation as well as the path of good intentionality/ examen of conscience as exercise…Did I do my best today? Where did I go wrong? Is there any redress to be made? How might I strengthen my will to the good and how can I resist the habits of poor formation?
    So I’m not sure that relying too much on a general/secular world view helps much though of course the notion of ‘self help’ embodies many of the religious helps..Mindfullness for example is fundmentally a monastic discipline in its root. There are many many ways in which ordinary people strive to do their best and minimise the damage of selfishness..there are many ordinary people writhing in the cage of needless scruples. Humanity as a whole, secular or religious recognises sin and struggles with it. But isn’t this particular topic a catholic discussion about catholic parameters?

  18. galerimo says:

    Whether it’s Hamlet talking about conscience or St Paul talking about doing the right thing it amounts to the same fact that we are not much good and putting ourselves in the right.

    Yes, in the end, we do have to grow up and be responsible – ible to respons to the divine where we encounter that reality, make our free choices to open up our lives and have faith that we can receive God’s truth in heart and deed.

    Resorting to the intricate constructions of law, rules and regulations betrays a lot of fear about our human condition, feeling that we are alone and frightened we won’t make it into heaven.

    Yet, historically it has been and seems doomed to remain our preferred option to Christian maturity.

    Frightened that God will zap us with a terrible eternity after checking the accounts laid before him in his judgment seat.

    Whether misquoting the Pope or raging against the gifts of theological thought that have evolved in our modern church, we manifest this fear and anguish very clearly.

    There is no possible way we can make our way safely through life without the gift of God’s Holy Spirit which Jesus gives us but which we anxiously exchange for the rules every time.

    Love is the only emotion more complex than grief and Jesus gives us ability to respond to both (they just about amount to our entire lives) by sharing his life with us – grace if you will – and showing us how.

    He makes a mockery of our homemade legal barricades that we hide behind, fearful of life, when he shows the ‘law-abiding religious’ failing in the face of God’s revelation (Good Samaritan), breaking the law time and time again as religious Jew Himself not observing the Sabbath, not condemning the woman, not judging with human standards. They way we want too – examens and all!

    Our conscience works to motivate us and urge us to mercy and compassion – to forgive and not to hate – it is such a powerful gift imbued by the passion of the Holy Spirit. Helping us to listen to the “values” Jesus speaks of in his “sermon” – all of them. That’s how to form it. By listening.

    But the phone app is always an option and given our fear-bound faithlessness probably the one more likely to succeed.

    I go to confession every time I join in the Eucharist and receive the forgiveness of my sins there too – it is sheer blasphemy to say I will go to hell for that!

    • ignatius says:

      “I go to confession every time I join in the Eucharist and receive the forgiveness of my sins there too – it is sheer blasphemy to say I will go to hell for that!..”

      As I understand it the possibility of hell relates only to those persons who, being of sane mind and having sufficient self control to be able to act according to their consciences, yet choose to live deliberately and wilfully to the constant and severe detriment of others. Living so and choosing so until the very last moment of their lives. So I’m not quite sure whence cometh the idea of going to hell for going to eucharist and joining in the general absolution !!

      //Frightened that God will zap us with a terrible eternity after checking the accounts laid before him in his judgment seat.Whether misquoting the Pope or raging against the gifts of theological thought that have evolved in our modern church, we manifest this fear and anguish very clearly….//

      Sadly I do agree that this idea appears to persist in Catholicism, and other of the Christian streams of belief also. Part of me wonders why this cruel delusion persists. I know many will pipe up with tales of fire and brimstone teachings delivered to them when at a tender age and of forced confessions at school etc, but I wonder also how it is that so few seem inclined to dig a little deeper and to ‘grow up’ in their faith. In many ways it seems easier to trot out the old shibboleths rather than to seek after the reality of faith that we see before us on the back wall of church each time we attend.

      That Christ died once and for all for the forgiveness of sins is the basis of Christian belief.However the system of reconciliation and attending to the movements of our conscience is fundamentally more an issue of christian discipleship than damnation…
      How may I walk in your way God? How may I keep myself from the misery of sin and head towards the joy promised. Thus the general absolution does not provide a ‘cover all’ guarantee that we will always walk in the beauty of righteousness and it may not relieve the burdens that individuals sometimes carry.

      This is an interesting subject to deal with.

      • Alasdair says:

        “That Christ died once and for all for the forgiveness of sins is the basis of Christian belief. So the system of reconciliation and attending to the movements of our conscience is fundamentally more an issue of christian discipleship than of damnation…”.
        Thank you for that ignatius. A very well-made point which I’ve heard preachers (priests, evangelical pastors and professors of theology) attempt to articulate at length, and much less well.

  19. David Smith says:

    Alasdair writes ( https://secondsightblog.net/2020/09/26/hamlet/#comment-61284 ) :

    // The term Smartphone is used and understood by everyone, as is the word “app” ie program. That’s not to say that everyone has smartphones and uses apps of course. //

    “Everyone” may be a bit of a stretch, no? Surely, there are millions or even billions of people in this big world who remain in blissful ignorance of much of the information technology that has so radically affected the thinking of many if not most of those living in developed and developing nations. My life without the Internet would be very different from what it’s become, but in a way I envy those who’ve not been “awakened” by it. Information overload can be a crippling burden.

    • Alasdair says:

      No I don’t believe it’s too much of a stretch. Between myself, friends and family we’ve visited places which were days walking beyond vehicle access and almost never visited by outsiders where smartphones were in use. The hardware necessary to operate the phones had been carried in using 40 year old ex-soviet helicopters, and in one case on mules. The parts of the world that are no longer either developed or developing, if they exist, must be vanishingly small.

  20. ignatius says:

    //My life without the Internet would be very different from what it’s become, but in a way I envy those who’ve not been “awakened” by it. Information overload can be a crippling burden//
    Yes I very much agree David, I suspect we share something of a dispositional problem with words!!
    Apart from my regular attendance here I have been steadily weaning myself off the internet…only to find I’ve taken up Jack Reacher books instead!!!!

  21. Geordie says:

    “I go to confession every time I join in the Eucharist and receive the forgiveness of my sins there too – it is sheer blasphemy to say I will go to hell for that!”

    I agree with this belief. However the Catechism of the Catholic Church says that we are forgiven only our venial sins and we must go to the Sacrament of Reconciliation in order to receive forgiveness for our mortal sins. I am puzzled by this because it implies a downgrading of the Holy Mass. I agree that Confession is necessary for advice, guidance and encouragement but it cannot supersede the Mass which is the memorial of Our Lord’s suffering, death and resurrection – our Redemption. Can anyone help me on this point?

  22. ignatius says:

    I will dig around a bit on that. But, Geordie, I understand it like this. The Mass is as you say the memorial of our lords suffering death and resurrection. The mass is considered to be sufficient remedy for venial sin since grace overcomes a multitude of sins. But in John 20,23 Jesus says this:
    ” 22 When He had said this, He breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you withhold forgiveness from anyone, it is withheld.”
    If you think about the wording of the general absolution it is not actually person specific and forms a request rather than an imperative.

    I guess the general drift would be that God gives sacraments as he chooses to the church which is His body. The sacramental economy makes a whole and God chooses it in such a way as is fitting. Pastorally it seems appropriate that confession requires active presence and participation. If the process were as one sided as at the general absolution then we would be down to slot machine faith?

    • ignatius says:

      //Reconciliation in order to receive forgiveness for our mortal sins. I am puzzled by this because it implies a downgrading of the Holy Mass. //

      There is no downgrading of the Mass. Eucharist is called ‘the sacrament of sacraments’ because it is the sacrament from which all other sacraments flow. This means that the sacrifice of Christ, ushering in as it does the possibility of mercy and forgiveness by restoring fallen humanity, is pre eminent. This pre eminence however does not limit the mercy of God to one modality. In a sense Eucharist and reconciliation perform slightly different functions though both spring from the heart of God. This becomes a little more self evident when full use of the differing forms of grace are engaged in within the course of ordinary life. Remember the priest operates in persona Christi at reconciliation just as much as he does at Mass.

  23. ignatius says:

    PS The other thing would be that the sacrifice of the mass, the once and for all sacrifice, means that through baptism we gain right of entry into the kingdom of God. However since we can commit serious sin after baptism then ‘another remedy’ lies open through reconciliation. It is possible for us to break our side of the bargain as it were and to walk away from the covenant that christ has made in his blood. The new testament is quite clear that heaven is not an absolute right but has contingency written into the agreement, the contingency is on our side of the agreement and so God keeps open the pathway of reconciliation.

    All this marks only my personal understanding of course and is up for grabs!!

  24. John Nolan says:

    I have a lot of sympathy with Quentin and his ‘smart’ telephone. The term ‘phone’ has always had vulgarian connotations – ‘Phone for the fishknives, Norman’ – and failure to conform with the latest neologism is by no means reprehensible.

    I was one of the last people to acquire (in 2004) a portable telephone. I regard it as a necessary evil and use it as little as possible. It’s not in the least bit well-dressed (i.e. ‘smart’) and should anyone try to use the number I am obliged to leave as part of the ‘track and trace’ fixation they will be disappointed.

  25. Alasdair says:

    Yes I also have sympathy with Quentin and I also wince at neologisms. But I don’t allow my prejudices to blind me to progress which can be of benefit. Very recently in Scotland, serious harm or even deaths have been avoided by people using the Protect-Scotland contact tracing app(lication) and the “what3words” geo-location app.
    At home my wife and I find it amusing to misapply the neologisms we have heard to mundane situations where plain English could have been used.

  26. David Smith says:

    Quentin writes: ( https://secondsightblog.net/2020/09/26/hamlet/ ) :

    // Do you, for instance, examine your conscience each day – perhaps before turning to sleep. And how do you do it? //

    No, but that would likely be both wise and profitable. As it is, I’ve been simply surviving, reading most of the time, frequently playing solitaire for hours. I’m sure I’m thinking when I’m reading, but that’s mostly thinking incited by others. Not a lot is digested; most is forgotten. Solitaire is a welcome break from boredom, compassed by the need to faithfully follow a few learned rules and strategies. Focused and free from stress. Then bed, then waking, then breakfast, then back to reading and playing cards.

    Before the lockdowns, I traveled to a nearby state and tutored a small handful of Hispanic immigrants in English and for the citizenship test. That’s done with for now. It was something to do, perhaps useful in a very limited way, but now it’s suspect: am I carrying an infection? Are they likely to suspect I am? The world has suddenly become a hostile place, where human beings go masked to prevent themselves from endangering others.

    Were I to meditate, I’d likely recall not only the almost always insignificant events of the day but how I had felt and thought about them and reacted to them as they happened. Questioning. Looking not for guilt and self-correction but, rather, for understanding. Thanks for the prod.

  27. ignatius says:

    “Were I to meditate, I’d likely recall not only the almost always insignificant events of the day but how I had felt and thought about them and reacted to them as they happened. Questioning. Looking not for guilt and self-correction but, rather, for understanding…”

    That’s pretty much how the ” examen of consciousness works. The basic ‘rule’ is that when replaying the ‘moments’ of the day and your reactions to them there is no judgement, just observation and a short reflection before you let them go. It is the “examen of conscience” which involves a process of self correction. This latter tool is very helpful as is the first type of examen but the examen of conscience probably requires a little more maturity and needs keeping an eye on or it tend to degenerate into legalism.

  28. ignatius says:

    A storm in God’s tea cup.

  29. David Smith says:

    Quentin writes:

    //
    “Thus conscience does make cowards of us all,

    And thus the native hue of resolution

    Is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought,

    And enterprises of great pith and moment

    With this regard their currents turn awry,

    And lose the name of action.”
    //

    Aye, there’s that, and there’s acting rashly. I incline toward the pale cast of thought. An idea that felt burning hot this morning will mature and cool in the evening. Tennyson:

    //
    Who loves not Knowledge? Who shall rail
    Against her beauty? May she mix
    With men and prosper! Who shall fix
    Her pillars? Let her work prevail.

    But on her forehead sits a fire:
    She sets her forward countenance
    And leaps into the future chance,
    Submitting all things to desire.

    Half-grown as yet, a child, and vain —
    She cannot fight the fear of death.
    What is she, cut from love and faith,
    But some wild Pallas from the brain

    Of Demons? fiery-hot to burst
    All barriers in her onward race
    For power. Let her know her place;
    She is the second, not the first.

    A higher hand must make her mild,
    If all be not in vain; and guide
    Her footsteps, moving side by side
    With wisdom, like the younger child:

    For she is earthly of the mind,
    But Wisdom heavenly of the soul.
    O, friend, who camest to thy goal
    So early, leaving me behind,

    I would the great world grew like thee,
    Who grewest not alone in power
    And knowledge, but by year and hour
    In reverence and in charity.
    //

  30. John Nolan says:

    A bone-headed deacon a quarter of a century ago takes it upon himself to alter the formula for conferring baptism (and he wasn’t alone – there was another case in the USA recently, and since fashions in uber-trendiness tend to spread widely I suspect there are many other examples).

    But don’t blame them – they were only trying to make the sacrament more ‘meaningful’ – blame ‘the Vatican’, in this case the CDF, whose prefect (Ladaria) also happens to be a Jesuit, as does the Pope who approved the ruling.

    I have long given up trying to fathom the ‘liberal’ mindset.

  31. David Smith says:

    John Nolan writes ( https://secondsightblog.net/2020/09/26/hamlet/#comment-61334 ) :

    // I have long given up trying to fathom the ‘liberal’ mindset. //

    See Tennyson, above :o/

    Some people are on fire with self-righteousness: when they see tradition, they see red. They’re fiery-hot to burst all barriers in their onward race for power. If they can convince a parish priest to change “I” to “we”, they’re in paradise. Damn the consequences! Onward towards a better world!

    They’re not creatures unique to modernity, but modernity, with its instant mass communication available to all, gives them leverage and range, and it multiplies them.

  32. galerimo says:

    I wonder how much forgiveness we can expect to find in confessional boxes

    while our planet burns more and more

    while our soil dies more and more

    while our racism destroys life more and more

    while we pollute our oceans more and more

    while we give corporations permission to ruin the lives of millions of poor more and more

    while we discriminate against women more and more

    while we poison our waterways and runoffs more and more

    while we release noxious gases into our atmosphere and more

    while we abort those yet to be born more and more

    while we hand over power to govern us to those clearly without integrity more and more

    Perhaps the use of this other ten step examen of conscience could develop our love for God’s community, God’s creation and God’s gift to us of our freedom?

    • John Nolan says:

      Apart from the reference to abortion, this reads like a litany of ‘wokeness’. Notice how ‘confiteor’ becomes ‘confitemur’. As Dr Heinz Kiosk (Peter Simple, Daily Telegraph) constantly reminded us: WE ARE ALL GUILTY!

      Were Galerimo being ironic we could all have a good chuckle. Unfortunately, he gives every indication that he wants to be taken seriously, which is ironic in itself.

      • ignatius says:

        //I have long given up trying to fathom the ‘liberal’ mindset.//

        //They’re not creatures unique to modernity, but modernity, with its instant mass communication available to all, gives them leverage and range, and it multiplies them.//

        Could either of you two wise pundits grant me a simple insight or two into what you think a //’liberal’ mindset // actually consists of, please? No Tennyson or epithets either if you don’t mind!!

      • FZM says:

        I can’t speak for John or David but there being more racism and discrimination against women at present, and it actually increasing in severity seems to be a contemporary woke liberal theme.

        Environmental concerns are also popular at present, and non-specific anti capitalism, as emerged at the time of the occupy Wall Street movement. Some say turning every business into a worker owned co-op is the way forward here.

        I don’t understand how major action on the environment is going to be possible without lowering standards of living and making consumer goods much more expensive. But people love consumer goods, especially when they are in shorter supply and relatively expensive.

  33. John Nolan says:

    ‘No-one is fond of taking responsibility for his actions, but consider how much you’d have to hate free will to come up with a political platform that advocates killing unborn babies but not convicted murderers. A callous pragmatist might favour abortion and capital punishment. A devout Christian would sanction neither. But it takes years of therapy to arrive at the liberal view.’ (PJ O’Rourke)

  34. David Smith says:

    John Nolan writes ( https://secondsightblog.net/2020/09/26/hamlet/#comment-61345 ) :

    // But it takes years of therapy to arrive at the liberal view. //

    And, alas, the schools have been providing that therapy for a half century now.

  35. David Smith says:

    ignatius writes ( https://secondsightblog.net/2020/09/26/hamlet/#comment-61342 ) :

    // Could either of you two wise pundits grant me a simple insight or two into what you think a //’liberal’ mindset // actually consists of, please? No Tennyson or epithets either if you don’t mind!! //

    I thought Tennyson put his finger on it ( https://secondsightblog.net/2020/09/26/hamlet/#comment-61330 ) but I’ll try to give my own sense of what constitutes what I think of when the term “liberal” pops up these days.

    Were “liberalism” defined today as it was fifty years ago, when I was young, I’d call myself a liberal. But of course I don’t, because the definition has changed completely. Black has become white, babies before they’re born aren’t human, and a man can become a woman merely by declaring it so. Liberals used to be open minded and tolerant; now, they’re wedded to narrow notions they call “truths” and deviants from those truths are declared anathema and disgraced and punished severely when that’s possible. To a liberal, the past is a dead letter and humanity up until they themselves appeared on the scene was execrable; everything starts now, this moment, with them and their unassailable ideas about everything. If you see one coming, I recommend that you step aside and tug your forelock.

    Really, I confess, I just know them when I see them. I’m not an intellectual, so I don’t try to sort liberals out by their chosen taxonomies. I did purchase a book the other day written by people who until the day before yesterday would have been classed as liberals but today are something less, I suppose, people who claim to understand the liberal taxonomies and theologies and who spell them out in the book for the uninitiated. When I’ve finished reading it, I may have a much better answer for you, though I suspect it may be impossibly thick with theory.

  36. John Nolan says:

    Quentin is brilliant at starting hares. In this case: ‘Let’s all have a good guffaw at the Vatican trying to maintain the integrity of the sacraments whereas we all know it doesn’t really matter compared with issues like global warming, LGBT rights and economic equality. All you need is luurve’.

    Liberals will shout ‘hear, hear!’ and conservatives will continue to wring their hands. Whether this contributes to intelligent debate is another matter.

  37. David Smith says:

    John Nolan writes ( https://secondsightblog.net/2020/09/26/hamlet/#comment-61349 ) :

    // Liberals will shout ‘hear, hear!’ and conservatives will continue to wring their hands. Whether this contributes to intelligent debate is another matter. //

    Debate involving thorough discussion of an issue in a logical and mutually respectful manner may have passed into disuse. Staged debate – which has become practically the only thing the word “debate” now calls to mind – is always a show, a sporting contest that favors quick thinking and usually brevity over detailed reflective thought. The modern mind has become accustomed to sound bites; it has little patience for careful exposition.

    In a text-based forum like this one, where there is no time-clock running, we can do better. But, I think, that requires restraint and self-discipline. The usual Internet discussions I’ve seen have tended toward either prolixity or over-simplification; and there seems to be an unspoken urge to move on to other topics. My guess is that editing is rare.

    But the possibility of depth and substance is always here.

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