Saturday, December 31, 2011

This is how I will remember 2011

It's one of the incredible scenes of protest in Cairo's Tahrir Square, which forced the ousting of a blood-stained kleptocracy and embodies all the joyousness of the Arab Spring. True, the battle is far from over in Egypt but just for once, bliss it was that dawn to be alive and I thank God Vaclav Havel lived to see it.

Do we have to go on like this?

Remember this moment?  

Or this one?

Or this one?

I'm sorry to have to spell things out so bluntly to you but ask yourselves in all sincerity whether you are content with the fact that Pro Life in the UK is about as threatening to the status quo as Mr Bean would be to Mike Tyson at his most ferocious prime.

If your answer to that is a resounding NO then take another look at my post about SPUC and please, reflect on it.

Friday, December 30, 2011

SPUC: Nothing Doing

Unlike the loftier kind of Kartholick I think the blogosphere and social media is great for Catholicism. The speedy exchange of information, the cleansing disinfectant of sunlight being shone on murky corners, the crackle of commentary zipping through cyberspace, unfiltered and unspun rebalances the scales of power in favour of the ordinary orthodox worshipper at the expense of the superannuated bureaucrat.

That's the positive side of the blogosphere balancesheet accounted for. There is a debit column too to which one is constrained to enter the inevitable wasting time. Vanity publishing at the click of a mousepad is one hell of an easy way to while away the hours one should be spending on more productive activities, hence the twitter and facebook blocks many employers slam on their computer systems. All this brings me neatly to the subject of SPUC, or more specifically John Smeaton since tanto monta, monta tanto, they arguably amount to the same thing.

In January 2008 the John Smeaton SPUC Director blog-of-sorts (it doesn't allow comments so can't be called a real blog) was launched and boy did he take to sort-of-blogging like a duck to water. In fact it's difficult to tell what else he does other than broadcast his views on such diverse issues as homosexuality, homosexuality and er, homosexuality day after remorseless day.

Contrary to the impression given by the description of SPUC as "a leader in the educational and political battle against abortion", there's precious little evidence that Smeaton's SPUC engages in anything so vulgar as parliamentary lobbying and that's without going into the difficult relationship it has with Pro Life parliamentarians. Indeed if one is so bold as to enquire what precisely SPUC Smeaton is doing politically to achieve its aims one is typically met with a variety of dog-ate-my-homework excuses for its doing nothing. As to education, well nothing was done about this particular story. Note this, dear reader, when I say nothing was done, I mean Nothing and that that Do Nothing policy was determined right at the very top of the organisation.

I suppose there's a twisted logic to Smeaton SPUC's Do Nothing policy. Doing something at work would distract from the crucial business of sort-of-blogging and there's no denying how seriously that's taken. Why, it's a veritable team effort as Smeaton makes clear, graciously acknowledging the help of SPUC's staff, supporters and advisers for their help in researching, writing and producing his sort-of blog.

For more on this sorry state of affairs see Caroline Farrow's superb blogpost, Society for the Purgation of Unorthodox Catholicism and her follow up post, Building for Life.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas

Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace,
good will toward men.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Vaclav Havel, Anti Racist

Wonderful tributes to Vaclav Havel who stood against anti-Roma racism here.


Prague archbishop remembers Havel as friend, 'fellow prisoner'

By Catholic News Service

PRAGUE (CNS) -- Calling former Czech President Vaclav Havel a "friend and fellow prisoner," the president of the Czech bishops' conference said the entire nation owes Havel a debt of gratitude for its freedom and the new flourishing of Czech life and culture.
Archbishop Dominik Duka of Prague, who was imprisoned with Havel by the communists, asked that the bells of all Catholic churches in the Czech Republic ring at 6 p.m. Dec. 18 in memory of the former president who died that morning at the age of 75.
The archbishop, who met Havel in prison in 1981 and continued to meet with him after the end of communism in 1989, was scheduled to celebrate Havel's funeral Mass Dec. 23 in St. Vitus Cathedral.
"He knew the loss of freedom, the denial of human dignity, oppression and imprisonment," Archbishop Duka said in a statement posted Dec. 18 on the Czech bishops' website. "I am convinced that everyone across the country, regardless of political or religious beliefs, owes him honor and thanks."
Havel, a playwright and essayist, was one of the founders of the Charter 77 movement, which began criticizing the communist government of then-Czechoslovakia, particularly for its lack of respect for human rights, in 1977.
He served four years of hard labor and nine months in prison for dissident activities before becoming head of state after the 1989 "Velvet Revolution" that toppled communism. He resigned in 1992 when Slovakia declared its independence, but was elected president of the Czech Republic six months later.
Havel met Pope Benedict XVI during the pope's trip to Prague in 2009. He met Blessed John Paul II at least five times, three of them in Prague, and Havel attended the late pope's funeral at the Vatican in 2005. The two men admired one another and saw each other as participants in the same battle for freedom, human rights, human dignity and respect for the cultures of Eastern Europe.
In an interview with a Polish Catholic news agency in 2000, Havel said, "John Paul II is someone very close to me, who continually startles me with his personality and inspires me."
"His language, constantly stressing human dignity and recalling the rights of man, has been a novelty in the papacy's history. If the pope had been someone else, from another part of the world, without the historical experience of Poland, he probably wouldn't have had such a clear attitude to totalitarianism. John Paul II's services in this area are undeniable," he said.
He also told the interviewer that in April 1990 he made his confession to Pope John Paul during the pope's first Czech pilgrimage while under the spell of the pope's "charismatic personality."
"I suddenly realized I was in fact confessing in front of him, even though I'm not accustomed to going to confession, since I'm not a practicing Catholic. I felt the need because of the great will to understand the other person that emanates from the person of the pope," Havel said.
L'Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper, noted that Havel attended a Mass of thanksgiving in St. Vitus Cathedral immediately after his inauguration in 1989, restoring a practice Czech leaders had followed for centuries until the communists came to power.
"That ceremony was not only the recovery of an ancient liturgy that united politics and tradition, culture and religion, but represented the beginning of a new history, a history of freedom of which Vaclav Havel was the most important symbol," the newspaper said.

Vaclav Havel

I hope you will forgive me, dear reader, for this frank display of emotion.

Vaclav Havel like Pope John Paul the Great, like Laszlo Tokes, Alexander Solzhenitzyn, Evgenia Ginzburg and countless others resisted and bore witness to the horrors of Stalinism.

It is difficult to quantify in mere words just how magnificent Havel's legacy is. Let me put it in terms of a wry Eastern European joke: freedom is the ability to stand in the street and shout "this government is rubbish" without fear of reprisals.

Or putting it another way, there are people alive today who live without fear because of Vaclav Havel.