Thursday, 29 January 2015

Loss of freedom of speech and freedom of religion at universities and elsewhere

The government is consulting on guidelines for local authorities, colleges and universities regarding strategies for preventing people being drawn into ideologies that lead to terrorism. We well know that they are particularly concerned about Islamic ideologies that lead people into terrorism, but might also include rascist or animal-rights groups as well.

We can all agree that we do need to do things to prevent people be drawn into terrorism.

But there is a massive problem. The guidelines define "extremism" and "radicalisation" as any ideology (violent or non-violent) that disagrees with the government's definition of fundamental British values, and, the "protected characteristics" defined in the Equality Act 2010. Well that means the Catholic Church, which does not agree with all these definitions, would fall foul of the "prevent strategy".

We have already seen how these ideas justified by the need to deal with terrorism, are applied to require OFSTED to interfere with Christian Schools teaching children the Christian faith in a Christian way.

These guidelines specifically require universities to vet religious societies that invite outside speakers to speak on the university property and also to seek strategies to interfere if they use other facilities. While in one sentence they rightly say that universities' freedom of speech enables intelligent debate to occur that can present rational reasons against dangerous ideologies, they go on to say that the debates need to be prevented in order to protect students! Surely we are confident we can rationally argue against such ideologies? And that such arguing will help prevent such ideologies taking hold?

The guidelines also require local authorities to monitor the content of out of school activities where children may be taught these "extremist" ideologies (as defined previously) and if necessary take action. Is the Catholic Church going to be allowed to catechise? Do they really think the teaching of the Catholic Church, because it does not agree with the government's definitions of British values etc, leads people to consider terrorism?

This is very dangerous indeed. We are rapidly getting to the stage where anyone who disagrees with the government defined values and definitions of what it is to be human, will be silenced and regarded as dangerous. Are we not drawing dangerously close to those ideological governments of the 20th century who perpetrated such horrors as the holocaust?

Please pray for our government. Please write to your MP. Please add your voice to the consultation.

If you are concerned please email the consultation before Friday 30th January by 12noon.

The government's consultation document is here.

Example paragraphs:

5. Terrorist groups often draw on extremist ideology, developed by extremist organisations; some people who join terrorist groups have previously been members of extremist organisations and have been radicalised by them. The government has defined extremism in the Prevent strategy as: “vocal or active opposition to fundamental British values, including democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs. We also include in our definition of extremism calls for the death of members of our armed forces”.

6. The Prevent strategy was explicitly changed in 2011 to deal with all forms of terrorism and target not just violent extremism but also non-violent extremism, which can create an atmosphere conducive to terrorism and can popularise views which terrorists exploit. It also made clear that preventing people becoming terrorists or supporting terrorism requires challenge to extremist ideas where they are used to legitimise terrorism and are shared by terrorist groups. And the strategy also means intervening to stop people moving from extremist (albeit legal) groups into terrorist-related activity.

Out-of-school settings supporting children
44. Many children attend a range of out-of-school settings including after school clubs and groups, supplementary schools, and tuition centres to support home education. These settings are not regulated under education law. Local authorities should take steps to understand the range of activity and settings in their areas and ensure that children attending such settings are properly safeguarded (which should include whether there are any risks related to Prevent). In assessing the risks associated with such settings, local authorities should have regard to the whether the settings subscribe to voluntary accreditation schemes and any other evidence about the extent to which the providers are taking steps to safeguard the children in their care. Where safeguarding concerns arise, local authorities should actively consider how to make use of the full range of powers available to them to reduce the risks to children, including planning and health and safety powers.

89. We define fundamental British values as “democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect and tolerance for those with different faiths and beliefs”, and we expect institutions to encourage students to respect other people with particular regard to the protected characteristics set out in the Equality Act 2010 (including with that being used for schools).

Saturday, 27 December 2014

Christmas Masses

The Ordinariate in the Southwest wish all our readers and supporters a blessed and joyful Christmas Octave.

Buckfast Ordinariate Mission will be joining the community at their 10.30am Mass on the Feast of the Holy Family, and therefore there will be no afternoon mass.

On Sunday 4th January, the Mass will be at 3pm as usual.

Fr Ian

Saturday, 20 December 2014

Fr Guy Nichols : Rejoice in Advent

The Oratorian Father, Fr Guy Nichols, reflects on the theme of rejoicing for his Advent reflection. EWTN filmed this for their third Advent reflection, at Buckfast Abbey.

Fr Tom challenges us to be evangelists

This video comes from EWTN and is Fr Tom's Advent reflection filmed at Buckfast Abbey.

Friday, 19 December 2014

The desert shall bloom

The desert in bloom

While listening to the Gospel (Lk 1:5-25) and also the first reading at Mass today (Judges 13:2-7,24-25), I do not think it is easy to not be moved by the plight of both women, whom people called “barren”. It was a terrible label for any woman. Fertility, the ability to bring forth life, has been the essence of marriage in almost every society (excepting our own in the modern west) and the inability to have children is a terrible burden for any married couple. And this burden perhaps falls most heavily upon women who are constantly reminded through their menstrual cycle of their capacity to nurture life within their bodies. Women are created with the gift of being tabernacles of new human life. (Incidentally this is why in Catholic churches women traditionally wear veils. All holy tabernacles are veiled in a Catholic Church: the tabernacle behind the altar, the chalice, statues of Our Lady and thus also all God’s daughters.)

Infertility was seen in their time as a sign of God’s disfavour, but Elizabeth and Monoah’s wife, we hear about in Mass today, are not the only childless women in salvation history who are made fertile by God’s intervention. There was Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel, and Hannah. Thus John’s birth falls in line with that of Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Samson, and Samuel, all of whom were representatives of the Covenant between God and Israel.

And John was to be a Nazarite from birth. The practical consequences of this were that being consecrated he could not drink alcohol nor have his hair cut. In many ways Nazarites were like Old Testament monks and nuns. Nazarites could take lifelong or temporary consecration. John was to be a Nazarite from birth and for his whole life. Nazarites could also be priests or members of the laity.

The conception of John in a womb called “barren” also symbolised his vocation as a desert prophet. For from the barren wilderness would come forth a prophet proclaiming a message to prepare for the coming of He who is the Life. Indeed the desert would blossom and bring forth truth, beauty and goodness.

There is barrenness in all our lives. There are aspects of all our lives I expect that are not bearing fruit, what should we do about them? Like those courageous women of faith in salvation history we need to bring our barrenness to God with all the faith we can muster and ask the Lord to make our lives fruitful according to His Will. Perhaps we do not see how they can be made fertile but God does not see things as we do!

Fr Ian

Thursday, 18 December 2014

A great joy, actually!

Over the years I have come across a number of people who state their opposition to the reality of sin. When I served as an Anglican clergyman various parishioners said that they didn’t believe in sin. When asked to explain this, they said that “sin” was so negative and that talking about sin just made everyone sad. When pushed further they agreed that this meant there was no real need for salvation, and that they believed everyone went to heaven.*

Resigning from the Church of England and entering the full communion of the Catholic Church was motivated not least by the lack of consistency in doctrine in the C of E and so being received into the Catholic Church, I accepted joyfully its Magisterium (teaching authority). Yet I have come to discover a similar problem in the Catholic Church! Many Catholics do not believe sin is 'as bad as all that'. Many do not really think there is mortal sin, or sin that is unto death. One reason why almost everyone who goes to Mass receives the Blessed Sacrament is because many don’t really believe in mortal sin. They just think God is a nice chap and of course He wants us to receive “communion”, no matter what state our soul is in. This diminishing of sin in people’s minds is extremely dangerous and is of course exactly what the Enemy wants us to think.

If we want to know how dangerous sin is we simply need to consider the Incarnation and today’s gospel reading (Matt 1:18-24). The Angel said to Joseph in a dream, “You shall call his name, Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” The very reason for the Incarnation, the reason that God became man, is because of sin. Out of His great merciful love, God desires to save us from our sins, and in order to do so, condescended to become Man. In the Blessed and Immaculate Mary the divine and human nature were united in this child, who was to be called Joshua, or Jesus. His name means ‘God saves’, which is not only His mission but also His identity.

Why on earth would God become man if sin were not serious? Why would God condescend to unite Himself with our human nature, if sin were ‘not that bad’ or ‘did not exist’?

The truth is sin is deadly. Sin causes disintegration. Sin causes disintegration between our relationship with God, between our relationships with fellow human beings, between our relationship with the whole of Creation, and even the relationship between our body and spirit. Sin is a comprehensive disaster! There is nothing else that does such a comprehensive and damaging  job as sin!

By saying this I am not being negative! By saying this, the Church’s magisterium is not being negative! By saying this Christ is not being negative! The first words of Christ’s first sermon was “Repent and believe!” This was the proclamation of Christ after His Baptism, at the beginning of His public ministry. And Christ went all the way to Calvary to definitively and completely deal with sin.

Sin is immensely serious and comprehensively disastrous, but we have the Good News that Christ has completely and entirely dealt with our sin, and so His grace is sufficient for us to deal with sin in our lives. Christ has given His Church the authority to absolve sin, especially mortal sin. “Those who sins you forgive, they are forgiven…”, He said to the Apostles on Easter Day.

We need to take sin immensely seriously but taking it seriously does not mean wallowing in it or just being miserable, it means dealing with it. So let us all repent, get ourselves off to confession, and let us all have our sin dealt with by the grace of Christ in the Church. Dealing with sin through the grace of Christ is actually a great joy!

Fr Ian

*Not everyone in the C of E thinks like this, there are many good Christians who do believe in salvation from sin, but for me there were too many who thought that this way of thinking was entirely compatible with membership of the Anglican church.