Archive for the ‘Family’ Category

“Both sides in the debate can take consolation”

09/04/2016

Yesterday Pope Francis released Amoris Laetitia, his long awaited Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation.

John Allen writes that “One of the standard talks I’ve given on the Catholic lecture circuit for years now focuses on the cultural gap between the Vatican and Main Street USA. Only semi-jokingly, I sometimes title it “Rome is from Mars, America from Venus,” because it does often seem they’re on two different planets. One area where the cultural gap is especially apparent is contrasting attitudes towards law. For Americans, and perhaps Anglo-Saxons generally, law is a lowest common denominator of civic morality. It’s what we expect everyone to do all the time, and if a law is being widely disobeyed, for us that’s a crisis – we either want to repeal the law or launch a crackdown, but we can’t have people making exceptions on the fly”.

Allen goes on to notes “For Mediterranean cultures, which still shape the thought-world of the Vatican to a significant degree, law is instead more akin to an ideal. It describes a moral aspiration, but realistically it’s understood that many people much of the time will fall short. (If you don’t believe it, come to Italy sometime and watch how the locals approach traffic laws!) A frustration I’ve long experienced as an American journalist covering the Vatican is that when the pope or some Vatican department issues a new law, it often comes off as terribly draconian and harsh in media coverage and public discussion. It’s difficult to explain that always encoded into the legislation is the common-sense expectation that bishops and pastors will use good judgment in applying it in ways that reflect their local circumstances”.

Allen makes the point that Rome “never says that second part explicitly – perhaps out of fear that it will come off as encouraging hypocrisy, rather than presuming a good-faith effort to live up to the value the law expresses. They don’t usually say it, that is, until now. One striking point about Amoris Laetitia, Pope Francis’ sweeping new apostolic exhortation on the family, which was released in a Vatican news conference on Friday, is that it lifts up this long-standing Catholic capacity for flexibility and nuance in pastoral practice, and sets it squarely alongside the law in full public view”.

The report goes on “Although the 264-page text treats a staggering variety of topics, public interest initially will focus on what Francis says in chapter eight about Communion for the divorced and civilly remarried, since that was the lighting rod issue in two contentious Synods of Bishops in 2014 and again in 2015. In a nutshell, the pope neither creates any new law on the issue nor abrogates any existing one. What he does do, however, is place great stress on the pastoral practice of applying the law, insisting that pastors must engage in a careful process of “discernment” with regard to individual cases, which are not all alike, and help people reach decisions in conscience about the fashion in which the law applies to their circumstances. The “money quote” on this score comes in one of Francis’ footnotes (number 336, to be exact), in which the pontiff says, “This is also the case with regard to sacramental discipline.” In effect, what he’s saying is that there may be cases in which a given divorced and remarried Catholic, after talking things out with a priest, could be justified in reaching the decision that they don’t carry the guilt that should exclude them from the sacraments, including Holy Communion. In truth, that may not change very much in terms of in-the-trenches experience in the Church”.

Interestingly Allen makes the point that “For one thing, that sort of pastoral adaptation, sometimes referred to as an “internal forum” solution, is already happening. In many parishes, you can find divorced and remarried Catholics who come forward for communion, and many pastors have either quietly encouraged them to do so or, at least, never discouraged them, choosing to respect whatever decision they’ve made in conscience. For another, the language in Amoris Laetitia on the Communion question is sufficiently elastic that both sides in the debate can take consolation, meaning that those pastors and bishops inclined to a stricter reading of Church law probably won’t feel compelled to revise their thinking, and neither will those given to a more flexible stance”.

Crucially he adds “Amoris Laetitia represents a breakthrough of no small consequence, because for once in a Vatican text, what got enunciated wasn’t simply the law but also the space for pastoral practice – which is where the Church’s long-underappreciated capacity for subtlety and compassion usually enters the picture. In other words, what Pope Francis has done is let the rest of the world in on one of the best-kept secrets about the Catholic Church: Yes, the Church has laws, and it takes them very seriously. But even more than law it has flesh-and-blood people, and it takes their circumstances and struggles seriously too. At one stage, Francis writes that the divorced and remarried can find themselves in situations “which should not be pigeonholed or fit into overly rigid classifications, leaving no room for a suitable personal and pastoral discernment.” In reality, that’s been the spirit of things in the Church forever, to greater and lesser degrees depending on time and place. Still, it somehow feels new, and important, to hear a pope saying it out loud”.

 

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Francis risks civil war

21/11/2015

Damian Thompson writes in the Spectator that Pope Francis is risking a Catholic civil war, “Last Sunday, the Italian newspaper La Repubblica carried an article by Eugenio Scalfari, one of the country’s most celebrated journalists, in which he claimed that Pope Francis had just told him that ‘at the end of faster or slower paths, all the divorced who ask [to receive Holy Communion] will be admitted’. Catholic opinion was stunned. The Pope had just presided over a three-week synod of bishops at the Vatican that was sharply divided over whether to allow divorced and remarried Catholics to receive the sacrament. In the end, it voted to say nothing much”.

Thompson goes on to write “On Monday, the Pope’s spokesman, Father Federico Lombardi, said Scalfari’s report was ‘in no way reliable’ and ‘cannot be considered the Pope’s thinking’. Fair enough, you may think. Scalfari is 91 years old. Also, he doesn’t take notes during his interviews or use a tape recorder. Of course he’s not ‘reliable’. But that didn’t satisfy the media. They pointed out that the Pope knew exactly what he was letting himself in for. This is the fourth time he has chosen to give an interview to a man who relies on his nonagenarian memory. In their last encounter, Scalfari quoted the Pope as saying that two per cent of Catholic priests were paedophiles, including bishops and cardinals. Poor Lombardi had to clean up after that one, too. Last time round, Catholics gave Francis the benefit of the doubt. This time many of them are saying: never mind Scalfari, how can you trust what the Pope says? We’re two and a half years into this pontificate. But it’s only in the past month that ordinary conservative Catholics, as opposed to hardline traditionalists, have started saying that Pope Francis is out of control”.

Correctly Thompson makes the crucial distinction, “Out of control, note. Not ‘losing control’, which isn’t such a big deal. No pontiff in living memory has awakened the specific fear now spreading around the church: that the magisterium, the teaching authority vested in Peter by Jesus, is not safe in his hands. The non-Catholic media have yet to grasp the deadly nature of the crisis facing the Argentinian Pope. They can see that his public style is relaxed and adventurous; they conclude from his off-the-cuff remarks that he is liberal (by papal standards) on sensitive issues of sexual morality, and regards hard-hearted conservative bishops as hypocrites”.

Thompson goes on to argue that “All of which is true. But journalists — and the Pope’s millions of secular fans — get one thing badly wrong. They assume, from his approachable manner and preference for the modest title ‘Bishop of Rome’, that Jorge Bergoglio wears the office of Supreme Pontiff lightly. As anyone who works in the Vatican will tell you, this is not the case. Francis exercises power with a self-confidence worthy of St John Paul II, the Polish pope whose holy war against communism ended in the collapse of the Soviet bloc. But that’s where the similarities end. John Paul never hid the nature of his mission. He was determined to clarify and consolidate the teachings of the church. Francis, by contrast, wants to move towards a more compassionate, less rule-bound church. But he refuses to say how far he is prepared to go. At times he resembles a motorist driving at full speed without a map or a rear-view mirror. And when the car stalls, as it did at the October synod on the family, he does a Basil Fawlty and thrashes the bonnet with a stick”.

He goes on to write “The Pope’s encyclical Laudato Si’ gave a temporary boost to climate activists. It was the conference on the family that was historic, but not in a good way. During the synod, ordinary devout Catholics began to wonder if Francis’s judgment had deserted him — or whether he’d always been a far stranger man than his carefree public image suggested. In church circles the worries began in October last year, when the Pope staged an ‘extraordinary’ preparatory synod that fell apart in front of his eyes. Halfway through the gathering, the organisers — hand-picked by Francis — announced that it favoured lifting the communion ban and wanted to recognise the positive aspects of gay relationships. Cue media rejoicing, until it emerged that the organisers were talking rubbish. The synod bishops, who included senior cardinals, didn’t favour either course. Cardinal George Pell, the Australian conservative who serves as the Pope’s chancellor of the exchequer, hit the roof — and when Pell is angry you really know about it. The final vote ditched both proposals. Francis, however, demanded that this year’s synod should revisit the question of communion for the divorced”.

Thompson goes on to note “This first synod wasn’t just humiliating for the Pope; it was also weird. Why did Francis let his lieutenants, Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri and Archbishop Bruno Forte, arrange a briefing that basically told lies? Any other pontiff would have sent Baldisseri and Forte to parishes in Antarctica after screwing up so badly. Instead, to general amazement, the Pope invited them to take charge of the main synod last month. Also invited back was Cardinal Walter Kasper, an 82-year-old ultra-liberal German theologian who wants to sweep away all obstacles to remarried divorcees receiving communion. To cut a long story short, Francis made it clear that he agreed with Kasper. Yet he also knew that most bishops at this year’s synod wanted to uphold the communion ban”.

The report goes on to mention “The synod ended messily, with a document that may or may not allow the lifting of the communion ban in special circumstances. Both sides thought they’d won — and then the Pope, in the words of one observer, ‘basically threw a strop’. In his final address, Francis raged against ‘closed hearts that hide behind the church’s teachings’ and ‘blinkered viewpoints’, adding that ‘the true defenders of doctrine are not those who uphold its letter but its spirit’. The implication was clear. Clergy who wholeheartedly supported the communion ban were Pharisees to Francis’s Jesus. The Pope was sending coded insults to at least half the world’s bishops — and also, it seemed, giving priests permission to question teaching on communion and divorce. One priest close to the Vatican was appalled but not surprised. ‘You’re seeing the real Francis,’ he said. ‘He’s a scold. He can’t hide his contempt for his own Curia. Also, unlike Benedict, this guy rewards his mates and punishes his enemies.’ Clergy don’t normally refer to the Holy Father as ‘this guy’, even if they dislike his theology. But right now that’s one of the milder conservative descriptions of Francis; others aren’t printable in a family magazine”.

Worryingly Thompson writes “Never before has the Catholic church looked so much like the Anglican Communion — which broke up because orthodox believers, especially in Africa, believed that their bishops had abandoned the teachings of Jesus. In the case of Catholicism, the looming crisis is on a vastly bigger scale. For millions of Catholics, the great strength of the church is its certainty, coherence and immutability. They look to the Vicar of Christ on earth to preserve that stability. If successive popes come across as lofty and distant figures, that’s because they need to, in order to ward off schism in a global church that has roots in so many different cultures. Now, suddenly, the successor of Peter is acting like a politician, picking fights with opponents, tantalising the public with soundbites and ringing up journalists with startling quotes that his press officer can safely retract. He is even hinting that he disagrees with the teachings of his own church. A pope cannot behave like this without changing the very nature of that church. Perhaps that is what Francis intended; we can only guess, because he has yet to articulate a coherent programme of change and it’s not clear that he is intellectually equipped to do so”.

He ends “Loyal Catholics believe that the office of Peter will survive irrespective of who holds it; Jesus promised as much. But after the chaos of the last month, their faith is being tested to breaking point. It’s beginning to look as if Jorge Bergoglio is the man who inherited the papacy and then broke it”.

Francis = Benedict

04/12/2014

John Allen writes that Pope Benedict and Pope Francis are very alike. He begins “During a brief press conference aboard the papal plane yesterday, returning to Rome from a day trip to Strasbourg, a French journalist asked Pope Francis if he’s a Social Democrat. The question was based on a line from one of the pope’s speeches in Strasbourg in which he took a shot at multinational corporations. If you don’t follow European politics, the Social Democrats are the main center-left party, so it’s a bit like an American asking the pope if he’s a Democrat. Francis actually laughed out loud, and then said: ‘Caro, questo è un riduzionismo!’ The Italian basically translates as, ‘My dear friend, that’s an over-simplification!’ Francis went on to talk about how he tries to follow the Gospel and the social teaching of the Catholic Church, not any party line, and ended by thanking the reporter, Renaud Bernard of France 2 TV, for cracking him up”.

Allen goes on to make the point that “In truth, the idea of Francis as a Social Democrat in Strasbourg — and, therefore, as a repudiation of the Catholic Church’s perceived drift to the political right under Pope Benedict XVI — depends entirely on listening to only part of what Francis had to say. Yesterday’s trip was not only the shortest foreign trip in the papacy’s history, less than four hours, but it also set a record for the ratio of words spoken to time on the ground. His speech to the parliament topped out at 3,500 words and the one for the council came to 3,100, which means Francis pronounced 28 words for every minute he spent visiting Europe’s most prominent political institutions”.

He goes on to argue “In many ways, they were the closest Francis has come to the kind of rhetoric associated with Pope Benedict XVI, starting with lofty and abstract principles and then working down toward specific conclusions. The comparison with Benedict is even more apt at the level of content, because both of the speeches Francis delivered yesterday were ones it’s easy to imagine Benedict having given. Aside from the use of certain stock phrases associated with Benedict, such as ‘dictatorships of relativism,'”.

He continues citing the need of Europe for God, the examples of abortion and the treatment of those who are terminally ill as well as the idea, as Allen puts it “Secular Europe is running out of gas. Francis said that the world today has become ‘less and less Eurocentric,’ that today, Europe ‘gives the impression of being somewhat elderly and haggard,’ and that it’s ‘less and less a protagonist.’ In part, the pope implied, that decline is due to an aversion to reproduction”.

Allen ends the article “Benedict XVI said similar things, but the difference is that media outlets today believe Francis means it and so such utterances draw wide play. In truth, Benedict had a social agenda every bit as populist as Francis. Benedict’s great uncle on his father’s side, Georg Ratzinger, was one of the towering Bavarian figures of the 19th century, a Catholic monsignor with a strong track record of engagement on behalf of the poor. He was twice elected to the Bavarian and the federal legislatures, and helped found a political party, the Bauerbund, which represented the interests of poor farmers against large capitalist industrial concerns. Its chief goal was a system of social supports that would insulate poor farmers and small traders from “boom and bust” cycles. As a result, Benedict had a strong streak of scepticism about free-market capitalism. When he traveled to Brazil in 2007, he defined both communism and capitalism as ‘failed ideologies,’ the kind of language Francis routinely invokes”.

Allen concludes “Still, the contrast between Francis and Benedict is only one part substance, while it’s every bit as much about perception. Never has that been clearer than Francis’ trip to Strasbourg, when he gave two speeches eerily reminiscent of his predecessor and still had to face questions about whether he stands on the political left. Had it been Benedict who journeyed into the heart of secular Europe and said the exact same things, the question likely would have been: “Holy Father, are you on the far right?” The difference has little to do with what Francis actually said, and everything to do with how the narrative dictates he should be perceived”.

Consistory 2014:titles and deaconries

22/02/2014

After meeting the Council of Cardinals and after two days of consultation with almost the entire College on the  family.

Rocco writes that “Francis has signaled his premium on hearing the ‘mind of the body’ instead by extending the session to two days, while culling back its agenda to just one item: the pastoral challenges facing the family – Papa Bergoglio’s marquee issue-item for 2014, set to culminate at October’s Extraordinary Synod on the same topic'”.

Rocco goes on to write “At the same time, what the Pope’s “script” lacked in a heavy roster, it more than made up for with his choice of messenger. Yet again, no small amount of shockwaves made the rounds on the announcement that the retired Christian Unity Czar, German Cardinal Walter Kasper, would be the keynote speaker at yesterday’s opening session. For all the warmth that’s marked the unprecedented dynamic of ‘two Popes’ coexisting behind the walls, the move signaled yet another theological turn from the mind of Ratzinger toward a greater openness to the thought of his rivals. A onetime assistant to Hans Küng, Kasper memorably clashed with the future B16 over the primacy of the universal or local church and, before his 1998 arrival in Rome, over the very issue that’s become the flashpoint of Francis’ call to reflection on family life: the standing of civilly remarried Catholics, particularly on their reception of the sacraments. Specifically citing the ‘adamant refusal’ of the Eucharist posed by the latter scenario, Kasper wrote in 2001 that ‘no bishop should be silent or stand idly by when he finds himself [facing] such a situation.’ Within days of his election, the new Pope began showcasing the German iconoclast as – to quote Mickens – “the theologian of his pontificate.” At his first Angelus, Francis conspicuously plugged Kasper’s recent opus on mercy, hailing him as an ‘on the ball’ thinker. Even before the election, meanwhile, the cardinal – who, having turned 80 days after B16’s resignation, was able to vote in the Conclave by the skin of his teeth – said the next Pope ‘need[ed] to realize the perception of the Second Vatican Council; we have not accomplished this task… to fully realize collegiality.'”

In a related article Rocco reminds readers that “In today’s Vatican, meanwhile, the sign of the times is subtler – and for many, not as sweet… but still no less significant. After 33 years of one German’s dominance in matters of the Doctrine of the Faith, today sees another of Joseph Ratzinger’s countrymen take his seat as the cardinal-prefect of the “Holy Office.” Even so, a continuity argument would be a challenge to make – despite being reconfirmed in his post, Gerhard Müller has already been eclipsed. Once ranked atop the Curial orbit as “La Suprema,” a dicastery technically headed by the Pope, this Consistory finds the CDF taking an inferior place to the power-center of the new pontificate, as the Secretary of a newly-emboldened Synod trumps the “Grand Inquisitor” in seniority and standing, upending an order of rank that dates to the 16th century”.

Notably, Benedict XVI attended the ceremony, Rocco notes that “the first fully public appearance of the Pope and his predecessor together since B16’s epochal resignation a year ago this week. Even beyond our time, meanwhile, the duo’s joint presence at a major event made for an act never before witnessed in the two-millenia history of the papacy, and one that wasn’t expected to be seen until Pope Francis’ joint canonizations of Blesseds John XXIII and John Paul II on April 27th”. He goes on to write that “Once he emerged – greeted at the front by an applause most of the congregation couldn’t see to understand – the Pope-emeritus unusually remained in his white grecca (overcoat). Then again, the place was said to be freezing during the midmorning rites.  In any event, Papa Ratzinger – seated alongside the junior cardinal-bishop in the same red silk chair as the rest of the College – made a conspicuous homage to his successor; as Francis approached Benedict on both his entrance and exit from the Altar of the Confession, B16 removed his zucchetto (skullcap), a lower prelate’s classic act of homage to the Pope, albeit one which has largely gone by the wayside over recent decades”.

Pope Francis has created his first cardinals in a ceremony in Rome today. As per custom each recieved a titular church linking them to the historic clergy of the diocese of Rome. These were announced today as follows:

  • Pietro Cardinal Parolin: Cardinal-Priest of Santi Simone e Giuda Taddeo a Torre Angela
  • Lorenzo Cardinal Baldisseri: Cardinal-Deacon of  Sant’Anselmo all’Aventino
  • Gerhard Ludwig Cardinal Muller: Cardinal-Deacon of Sant’Agnese in Agone
  • Beniamino Cardinal Stella: Cardinal-Deacon of Santi Cosma e Damiano
  • Vincent Gerard Cardinal Nichols: Cardinal-Priest of Santissimo Redentore e Sant’Alfonso in via Merulana
  • Leopoldo Jose Cardinal Brenes Solorzano: Cardinal-Priest of San Gioacchino ai Prati di Castello
  • Gerald Cardinal Lacroix, ISPX Cardinal-Priest of San Giuseppe all’Aurelio
  • Jean-Pierre Cardinal Kutwa: Cardinal-Priest of Sant’Emerenziana a Tor Fiorenza
  • Orani João Cardinal Tempesta, O. Cist.: Cardinal-Priest of Santa Maria Madre della Provvidenza a Monte Verde
  • Gualtiero Cardinal Bassetti: Cardinal-Priest of Santa Cecilia
  • Mario Aurelio Cardinal Poli: Cardinal-Priest of San Roberto Bellarmino
  • Andrew Cardinal Yeom Soo-jung: Cardinal-Priest of San Crisogono
  • Ricardo Ezzati Andrello SDB: Cardinal-Priest of Santissimo Redentore a Valmelaina
  • Philippe Cardinal Nakellentuba: Cardinal-Priest of Santa Maria Consolatrice al Tiburtino
  • Orlando Cardinal Quevedo OMI: Cardinal-Priest of Santa Maria “Regina Mundi” a Torre Spaccata
  • Chibly Cardinal Langlois: Cardinal-Priest of San Giacomo in Augusta

In addition to the 16 voting cardinals Pope Francis elevated three non-voting others:

  • Loris Francesco Cardinal Capovilla: Cardinal-Priest of Santa Maria in Trastevere
  • Fernando Cardinal Sebastian Aguilar: Cardinal-Priest of Sant’Angela Merici
  • Kelvin Edward Cardinal Felix: Cardinal-Priest of Santa Maria della Salute a Primavalle

This means that there is now 122 cardinal electors. Before this consistory there was 13 vacant titles and nine vacant deaconaries. However, as a result of the number of Cardinal-Priest’s new titles have been established, are Santi Simone e Giuda Taddeo a Torre Angela  which is the new titular church of Cardinal Parolin, Cardinal Langlois’s church of San Giacomo in Augusta and Sant’Angela Merici of Cardinal Sebastian Aguilar.

The majority out of wedlock

15/07/2013

In a somewhat unsurprising news article published recently, it was revealed that in the UK, the majority of children will be born out of wedlock within three years due to the falling marriage rates.

The piece notes that “The proportion of children born to unmarried mothers hit a record 47.5 per cent last year, according to the Office for National Statistics. The figure has risen from 25 per cent in 1988 and just 11 per cent in 1979. If the trend continues at the current rate, the majority of children will be born to parents who are not married by 2016. Conservative MPs and experts warned that the stark decline of marriage is likely to lead to more family breakdowns and damage children’s prospects. Tim Loughton, the former Children’s minister, called on the government to introduce tax breaks for married couples to help stop the decline. He said: ‘If people are prepared to make a public declaration to each other in front of their friends and family they are more likely to stay together. Without marriage people drift in and out of relationships very easily'”.

The article goes on to mention that “David Cameron has pledged to introduce legislation to give couples tax breaks worth £150 by the end of the year. The Prime Minister has been forced to put a timetable on government plans to recognise marriage in the tax system amid growing Conservative unrest over the failure to act. Last year a total of 346,595 babies were born outside marriage and civil partnerships in England and Wales, equivalent to 47.5 per cent. In 2002 the proportion was 40.6 per cent, and if the trend continues at the same rate more than half of children will be born out of wedlock by 2016. According to the 2011 Census, the number of people who are married in England and Wales has fallen from just over half of the population a decade ago to 45 per cent. The figures represented the first time since the Census was founded in 1801 that married couples have been in a minority. More than 11 million people in England and Wales are single, reflecting the growing number who have chosen not to marry, while more than 5 million unmarried people live with their partners”.

The piece adds later that “The official figures show that 729,674 children were born in 2012 and mothers now have an average of two children each, the highest fertility rate since the 1970s. The rise in the birth rates has been driven by immigration and women chosing to have children later in life. The number of women aged over 40 having children reached a record 29,994, up from just 6,519 in 2002. The average age of mothers has risen to 29.8 years in 2012, compared to 27 in 1982. The ONS said: ‘These trends reflect the increasing numbers of women delaying childbearing to later ages'”.

Much of the problem is down to a lack of marriage which hinges on the ever increasingly individualism in societies, and added to this the decline in belief in God as exemplified by attendance at an official church domination. However, the other problem is that relativistic belief that all forms of “partnership” are equally valid. This is not the case and indeed the concern is that marriage will become a thing of the past for the vast majority with only a few couples choosing to commit to what is by far the most stable form of union in society and therefore the best for children.

The problems of capitalism

24/02/2013

The major article in the most recent Foreign Affairs entitled “Capitalism and Inequality” argues that “Recent political debate in the United States and other advanced capitalist democracies has been dominated by two issues: the rise of economic inequality and the scale of government intervention to address it. As the 2012 U.S. presidential election and the battles over the ‘fiscal cliff’ have demonstrated, the central focus of the left today is on increasing government taxing and spending, primarily to reverse the growing stratification of society, whereas the central focus of the right is on decreasing taxing and spending, primarily to ensure economic dynamism. Each side minimizes the concerns of the other, and each seems to believe that its desired policies are sufficient to ensure prosperity and social stability. Both are wrong”.

It goes to say “Inequality is indeed increasing almost everywhere in the postindustrial capitalist world. But despite what many on the left think, this is not the result of politics, nor is politics likely to reverse it, for the problem is more deeply rooted and intractable than generally recognized. Inequality is an inevitable product of capitalist activity, and expanding equality of opportunity only increases it”. While he is correct in the sense that inequality is rising, with both the bottom and middle suffering the most with the very wealthiest losing least, or in many cases, actually gaining. It would be wrong to say that the only reason for this was capitalism but the kind of capitalism that has been worshipped over the last 20 years, or maybe more, has greatly worsened the level of inequality in many societies. This change in capitalism has itself come about with as a result of the changing nature of the economy and the work that more people are doing. It is far more skilled, even at low levels than it was previously which in turn has meant greater emphasis on education. Yet while many more than ever before have gained university degrees the wealthiest have gone further still thereby enhancing their advantage. There is nothing wrong with parents doing this for their children but there must then be a counter balance to this in order to mitigate and lessen this effect.

He goes on to write “Despite what many on the right think, however, this is a problem for everybody, not just those who are doing poorly or those who are ideologically committed to egalitarianism — because if left unaddressed, rising inequality and economic insecurity can erode social order and generate a populist backlash against the capitalist system at large”. He rightly praises capitalism for raising living standards and reducing poverty but goes on to warn “Capitalism’s intrinsic dynamism, however, produces insecurity along with benefits, and so its advance has always met resistance. Much of the political and institutional history of capitalist societies, in fact, has been the record of attempts to ease or cushion that insecurity, and it was only the creation of the modern welfare state in the middle of the twentieth century that finally enabled capitalism and democracy to coexist in relative harmony”.

He goes on to state rather controversially “If capitalism has opened up ever more opportunities for the development of human potential, however, not everyone has been able to take full advantage of those opportunities or progress far once they have done so. Formal or informal barriers to equality of opportunity, for example, have historically blocked various sectors of the population — such as women, minorities, and the poor — from benefiting fully from all capitalism offers. But over time, in the advanced capitalist world, those barriers have gradually been lowered or removed, so that now opportunity is more equally available than ever before. The inequality that exists today, therefore, derives less from the unequal availability of opportunity than it does from the unequal ability to exploit opportunity”.

He adds “All this progress, however, has been shadowed by capitalism’s perennial features of inequality and insecurity. In 1973, the sociologist Daniel Bell noted that in the advanced capitalist world, knowledge, science, and technology were driving a transformation to what he termed “postindustrial society.” Just as manufacturing had previously displaced agriculture as the major source of employment, he argued, so the service sector was now displacing manufacturing”.

He rightly goes on to mention the role of the family in society and its subesquent economic effects, “In the United States, among the most striking developments of recent decades has been the stratification of marriage patterns among the various classes and ethnic groups of society. When divorce laws were loosened in the 1960s, there was a rise in divorce rates among all classes. But by the 1980s, a new pattern had emerged: divorce declined among the more educated portions of the populace, while rates among the less-educated portions continued to rise. In addition, the more educated and more well-to-do were more likely to wed, while the less educated were less likely to do so. Given the family’s role as an incubator of human capital, such trends have had important spillover effects on inequality. Abundant research shows that children raised by two parents in an ongoing union are more likely to develop the self-discipline and self-confidence that make for success in life”.

He goes on to argue that education is not necessarily the answer “even though a higher percentage of Americans are attending college, they are not necessarily learning more. An increasing number are unqualified for college-level work, many leave without completing their degrees, and others receive degrees reflecting standards much lower than what a college degree has usually been understood to mean”, he adds “formal schooling itself plays a relatively minor role in creating or perpetuating achievement gaps”.

The answer to this he says is not greater redistribtuion which he argues “has two drawbacks, however. The first is that over time, the very forces that lead to greater inequality reassert themselves, requiring still more, or more aggressive, redistribution. The second is that at some point, redistribution produces substantial resentment and impedes the drivers of economic growth. Some degree of postmarket redistribution through taxation is both possible and necessary, but just how much is ideal will inevitably be contested”.

Whatever about his idea that greater redistribution will mean more redistrubition the second point that it “impedes the drivers of economic growth” is laughable.

The second solution which he also rejects is “using government policy to close the gaps between individuals and groups by offering preferential treatment to underperformers, may be worse than the disease. Whatever their purported benefits, mandated rewards to certain categories of citizens inevitably create a sense of injustice among the rest of the population. More grave is their cost in terms of economic efficiency”. Again this logic is questionable, to say the least.

The recommended cure for capitalism, he says, is more capitalism, “encouraging continued economic innovation that will benefit everybody, is more promising. The combination of the Internet and computational revolutions may prove comparable to the coming of electricity, which facilitated an almost unimaginable range of other activities that transformed society at large in unpredictable ways. Among other gains, the Internet has radically increased the velocity of knowledge, a key factor in capitalist economic growth since at least the eighteenth century. Add to that the prospects of other fields still in their infancy, such as biotechnology, bioinformatics, and nanotechnology, and the prospects for future economic growth and the ongoing improvement of human life look reasonably bright. Nevertheless, even continued innovation and revived economic growth will not eliminate or even significantly reduce socioeconomic inequality and insecurity, because individual, family, and group differences will still affect the development of human capital and professional accomplishment”.

Death of the dream

23/11/2012

Confirmation has finally come after many years suspecting it, the American Dream is dead, and has been for decades.

An article in Foreign Affairs argues this and elobrates on this theme. She argues that during the recent presidential campaign both GOP and Democrats wanted to promote opportunity. She notes that “In remarks in Chicago in August, Obama called for an ‘America where no matter who you are, no matter what you look like, no matter where you come from, no matter what your last name is, no matter who you love, you can make it here if you try.’ The same month, he urged the Supreme Court to uphold affirmative action in public universities, putting his weight behind what has been a mainstay of U.S. equal opportunity legislation since the 1960s. Days later, the Republican vice presidential nominee, Paul Ryan, echoed Obama’s sentiment, saying, ‘We promise equal opportunity, not equal outcomes.’ Romney, too, argued that whereas Obama ‘wants to turn America into a European-style entitlement society,'”

She mentions that “one of the United States’ major successes in the last half century has been its progress toward ensuring that its citizens get roughly the same basic chances in life, regardless of gender or race”. She adds “women are more likely to graduate from college than men” as well as some other related statistics. Yet these results are mainly from the Great Compression in the 1950s and 1960s. However, since the 1970s and 80s worldwide inequality has risen sharply since the rise of neoliberalism and effectively zero regulation. She adds that “As gender and race have become less significant barriers to advancement, family background, an obstacle considered more relevant in earlier eras, has reemerged. Today, people who were born worse off tend to have fewer opportunities in life”.

The article goes on to add that ” there is general consensus among social scientists on a few basic points. First, an American born into a family in the bottom fifth of incomes between the mid-1960s and the mid-1980s has roughly a 30 percent chance of reaching the middle fifth or higher in adulthood, whereas an American born into the top fifth has an 80 percent chance of ending up in the middle fifth or higher. (In a society with perfectly equal opportunity, every person would have the same chance — 20 percent — of landing on each of the five rungs of the income ladder and a 60 percent chance of landing on the middle rung or a higher one.) This discrepancy means that there is considerable inequality of opportunity among Americans from different family backgrounds”. She the goes on to mention, not suprisingly, that “The United States has less relative intergenerational mobility than eight of them; Australia, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Norway, Sweden, and the United Kingdom all do better. The United States is on par with France and Italy”.

She makes the point that education in America was greatly expanded in the 50s and 60s which raised living standards for people, yet she adds “The share of poorer children growing up with both biological parents has fallen sharply, whereas there has been less change among the wealthy. About 88 percent of children from high-income homes grow up with married parents. That is down from 96 percent four decades ago. Meanwhile, only 41 percent of poorer children grow up in homes with married parents, down from 77 percent four decades ago. That has hurt poorer children’s chances of success”.

Indeed this social and familial decay is becoming increasingly prevelant in more developed countries as the corrosive force of individualism eats into society. This both attacks the family as well as people seeking to start a family with the relentless drive for money which has now proven to be socially and morally corrosive.

She argues that “Low-income parents are not able to spend as much on goods and services aimed at enriching their children, such as music lessons, travel, and summer camp. Low-income parents also tend to read less to their children and provide less help with schoolwork” adding that this trend is seen again, “According to data compiled by Sean Reardon of Stanford University’s School of Education, the gap in average test scores between elementary- and secondary-school children from high-income families and those from low-income families has risen steadily in recent decades. Among children born in 1970, those from high-income homes scored, on average, about three-quarters of a standard deviation higher on math and reading tests than those from low-income homes. Among children born in 2000, the gap has grown to one and a quarter standard deviations. That is much larger than the gap between white and black children”.

The same is true for university, she argues noting “The share of young adults from high-income homes that got a four-year college degree rose from 36 percent in the first group to 54 percent in the second group. The share from low-income homes, however, stayed almost flat, rising only from five percent to nine percent. When it comes time to get a job, the story is no better”.

She writes that “A universal system of affordable, educational child care and preschool could help close the capability gap that opens up during the early years of life”, again she argues that education is key, “Among Americans whose family incomes at birth are in the bottom fifth but who get four-year college degrees, 53 percent end up in the middle fifth or higher. That is pretty close to the 60 percent chance they would have with perfectly equal opportunity. Washington needs to do better at helping people from less-advantaged homes afford college. The average in-state tuition at an American four-year public university exceeds $8,000. In Norway, Sweden, Denmark, and Finland, attending four-year public universities is free”.

One of the simplest ways to begin to reduce the inequality is to raise taxes and a country that is clearly undertaxed.

Society in chaos

10/08/2011

As the riots in England spread, Cameron must crush, by any means necessary, the disorder. It is an indictment of society itself when mere children and their absent parents cause such mayhem.

As easy as 1,2,3, regrettably

26/07/2011

U.S. style divorce getting easier to acquire in the UK. The societal rot continues unabated and unchecked.

Blame the feminists

20/06/2011

A not unreasonable article with flawless logic, even worse they’ve been blamed for keeping the poor poor.

Waiting for Concordia

28/05/2011

With world peace still immienent, social harmony is surely not far behind, but what about quotas for cats, dogs, zebra, lions, goldfish……………

Short sighted

26/05/2011

How can anyone claim this, when taxs cuts are a thing of the past.

“‘Trying to fix something that’s not broken”

01/04/2011

At a Catholic school in New Orleans recently a demonstration took place but not like one that would be expected.

Apparently, “more than 500 students, parents and other supporters of the 7th Ward institution’s use of corporal punishment marched this morning on an Archdiocese of New Orleans office to deliver a message to Archbishop Gregory Aymond, who has called on school officials to abandon the 60-year disciplinary practice”. Interestingly Archbishop Aymond is accused of “‘trying to fix something that’s not broken, and he’s going about it in the wrong way,’ Jacob Washington, student body president at St. Augustine, said”. It also shows that many in society, as has been stated here before, see less and less of a distinction and thus more of an “equality” between children and adults. This is partly casued by the worst excesses of the French Revolution which have been glorified unquestioningly in many parts of society. This can only end badly, both for children and society as a whole.

It is fascinting to see the students themselves support the use of corporal punishment in schools. It has, in many parts of the world, been taken too far and used excessively. However, used infrequently, it can be a tool that teaches pupils that bad behaviour has consequences. When so many children are  not brought up properly due to a lack of discipline the society begins to break down. The correct use of discipline and under the right circumstances can lead to this, over time, being corrected. It would then not be unreasonable to assume that this would filter out through society for the betterment of all.

This would mean that people would be much more aware of the fact that actions have consequences which must be faced up to. It should serve as a reminder to us all.

The most un-Christian man in Belgium?

04/11/2010

Is Archbishop Andre-Joseph Leonard the most un-Christ like man in all of Belgium?

The trouble with capitalism, again

12/10/2010

Profit before morality.

Western “morality”

21/09/2010

In a group of surveys carried out over the last number of days in Ireland, it would seem that the excesses of the French Revolution are alive and well and at the same time Pope Benedict still has much work to do in challenging the rabid individualism that pervades all Western capitalist nations. As with most things in capitalist societies, if there is a large enough market for it, then it will be provided, irrespective of the consequences to the common good of society.

In one of the questions asked there is a large number of people that support gay marriage. As has been stated here the before, the state must provide gay couples with civil partnerships, and if some religious communities such as the Religious Society of Friends, wish to have a religious cermonony around this, all the better. The poll found that “67 per cent of people believe gay couples should be allowed to marry, while 60 per cent do not believe that civil partnerships will undermine the institution of marriage”. Marriage is between a man and a women with the hope that they will have children. Gay marriage is an oxymoron but gay couples must have the ability to create wills and have visitation rights as well as tax status within civil law. What is suprising is that so many people think having civil partnerships will affect marriage. It is not on the same basis as has been stated above and therefore poses no threat to marriage. The article quotes some who said that people are “aware that the current exclusion of lesbian and gay couples from civil marriage is deeply unfair and doesn’t make any sense in today’s Ireland”. This is incorrect as gay couples are not the same as hetrosexual couples and should not be treated the same in law. However, what is less suprising is the attempt to paint modernity/rationality as the best, indeed, the only way forward. Such thoughts on thier own can be very dangerous and lead to further down the path that the West is going.  

On a more general point, the survey reveals that in Ireland “The legal age of consent for sex is of course 17, and the great majority of Irish people clearly feel this is, if anything, too young an age at which to make such a decision”. The danger is that permissiveness begets permissiveness due to our inability to correct others behaviour for fear of being seen as “judgemental”. Others see such attempts to even begin a dialogue on people’s behaviour as an attack on the primacy of the rational individual. Two concepts that do not always go hand in hand.

Thankfully however, “90 per cent of people reject outright the notion that they might think less of a person if he/she revealed to them that they were gay or lesbian”.  

Closing out the series is the usual inaccurate and dangerous dichotomy about past attitudes being consigned to history with people now stepping into the light of modernity and progress that is is meant to inevitably bring. The author notes how, “what was once the most powerful institution in the land, the Catholic Church, the poll results must be deeply disturbing. If the Catholic Church were a political party running for election, and if these survey results were the actual vote, then this could be described as a rout”. Maybe it needs to be stated that the Catholic Church is oddly enough, not a political party and has no interest in pandering to the masses (no pun intended) to save a few seats at the next election.

The inevitable liberal sneering thus follows, “In fact, we don’t find the church’s position on anything to do with sexuality or women credible. The sexual revolution, the development of effective contraception, the growth of the women’s and gay rights movements – all these historical shifts have left the church stranded with an archaic psychology of sexuality”. While some of the these developments are indeed beneficial, to say that the Church is “stranded” for supporting committing life long, loving relationships is patently false.

The author goes on to say, “how have we fared morally without the church’s moral guidance? Remarkably well it seems”, for now perhaps, for now.

Some people never learn

08/08/2010

Why do people still believe this nonsense. There are so many arguments against this that it is almost impossible as to know where to start.

Quotas are a ludicrous way of creating illusionary equality so wolly liberals can have a little less guilt so they can sleep better. The premise is that women should be better represented in politics because they make up half the population.

Firstly, there are women in politics, just not the correct number according to the equality maniacs. What does it matter if there are two women in the parliament or twenty? Surely, by their “logic” all women represent other women, never mind ideology or anything else. All women care about in politics is other women in politics, supposedly.

Secondly even if they weren’t directly involved, society would regrettably be hearing endlessly about women’s views on how all men are evil and these groups would, like the rest of civil society make its voice heard. He complains that parties don’t field enough women candidates, not that it matters but political parties want to get into office irrespective of which gender takes the most seats. He implies that political parties are getting every man that comes through the door to stand for office but refusing any women who wishes to stand. Maybe there aren’t the same number of women that come through the door as men?

The faster these people are ignored the better for all of us.

Decline in parental authority

24/07/2010

In an article written some time ago the admittedly complex issue of child punishment was discussed. The writer, notes how “Most parents who smack consider that the occasional tap does no harm”. Indeed she recounts how her own children “all felt it had done them no harm, but none of them felt it was right or good”. Maybe parents should be more willing to consider the judious use of hitting when things are getting out of control.

What many don’t seem to get however is that the decline in parental authority can lead to many children getting out of control simply because we are more and more being called to respect their “boundaries”. Society is going down this road and look where it is taking us.

Myth of liberal tolerance

28/06/2010

As if further evidence were needed of the intolerant left.

Dangers of populism and the erosion of childhood

27/06/2010

The Irish givernment’s plans to hold a referendum on the rights of children this year is absurd and ridiculously populist knee jerk policy, and can only by expected from a party like Fianna Fáil.

It is, of course, understandable that such a measure would be put before the people after the rightly damning evidence of the Ryan and Murphy reports, however article 45 of the Constitution of Ireland already says that:

“The State pledges itself to safeguard with especial care the economic interests of the weaker sections of the community, and, where necessary, to contribute to the support of the infirm, the widow, the orphan, and the aged.

The State shall endeavour to ensure that the strength and health of workers, men and women, and the tender age of children shall not be abused and that citizens shall not be forced by economic necessity to enter avocations unsuited to their sex, age or strength.”

In his excellent piece about the referendum, John Waters notes that “the Fianna Fáil TD Mary O’Rourke has ‘warned’ that ‘various groupings’ are ‘joining forces’ to ‘fight’ the proposed referendum on ‘children’s rights’. Oh my! How distressing that citizens are preparing to engage in democratic debate concerning an important question about the direction of their society!” Waters gets to the point, many people, for example Fianna Fáil, take a very knee jerk view to everything without thinking things through – just look at Ireland now.

Many people will be unable to see how you could vote against a referendum on children’s rights. Despite obvious theoritical flaws, such as giving children under the age of majority, rights, thus further weakening the important division between adulthood and childhood, they will brand anyone who raises questions and has concerns about it, reactionary or just plain detached from reality.  

Waters contiunes saying that “It seems O’Rourke’s powerlessness to prevent this incipient nuisance-making is causing her anxiety. She ‘warned’ that, arising from the involvement of ‘pro-life’ and ‘anti-Lisbon activists’, the referendum might not have ‘a sweet passage’. ‘The forces of old will wish to re-assert themselves,’ she prophesied.”

He continues saying “A visitor from afar might have difficulty understanding what O’Rourke was getting at. What does ‘forces of old’ signify? Isn’t this referendum about a new and discrete question? What is the connection between a referendum on ‘children’s rights’ and a treaty concerning internal EU housekeeping? What has this to do with ‘pro-life and anti-abortion’?” Indeed, as was stated here only recently, the very reason that many people who hold strong views on emotive subjects become so vocal is because there is no regular outlet in the Irish party system for them and thus able to separate the real conservatives with the people who are unhinged.

Or as Waters says, “O’Rourke, who chaired the cross-party committee that produced the amendment proposal, is entitled to argue for constitutional change. But she is not entitled to present this amendment as incontrovertibly beneficial or to cast aspersions on the legitimacy or bona fides of those contributing to the discussion on the other side.” He says rightly that “Citizens may even find her arguments persuasive. But she is not entitled to disparage arguments before they are made on the basis of snide throwaways concerning the pedigrees of those who may seek to make them.”

I fear however, the O’Rourke’s and the hard left Geraldine Kennedy’s of this world will dicate the terms of the debate so that they can stifle the arguments of the other side that deserved to be heard. It is due to Fianna Fáil’s populism and lack of ideology that lead to measures such as this which, while of on the surface beneficial it is unwise to put such measures into a constitution that such contain only the fundamentals of a State.

Individualism and the end of the welfare state

09/06/2010

After the recent strikes in Spain, two things should be pointed out. The first is that people are unable to understand the common good where for the last, in particular, ten years people’s desires where only were what were important. The message not only from “the market” but from all of society was that nothing else matters other than your immediate needs – which is partly why we are in the economic meltdown in the first place. Now this greed is coming back to us at the worst possible time. A 5% public sector pay cut was needed in Spain to begin the process of restoring, in this case, Spain, to some kind of economic order. What is worrying however is that this is just the beginning of the pain. There will be more cuts, not just in Spain but across much of Europe.

With the levels of debt, not just personal debt, but the debt of governments, the size of the State and the things that for over a hundred years were taken for granted, things like a safe pension, will all disappear. States can no longer afford to support these services. Pensions as we know them will cease to exist, and ironically and sadly, return to what Otto von Bismarck intended them to be, a basic stipend that will assist the worst off to survive. Not only this but much of the health care systems, like those in Sweden and France will simply be too expensive to carry on in their present forms due to too much government debt.

Not only are we witnessing the end of capitalism as we know it but we are sadly seeing the death of the welfare state that much of Europe can be so pround of simply because it has become too expensive and unsustainable.

New UK government

14/05/2010

There is, in case you hadn’t noticed, a coalition government in the UK, and believe it or not, the sky hasn’t fallen in!

Brown decided he had had enough so he just resigned and suddenly, well sort of, there was an agreement between the Tories and the Lib Dems that steers clear of any disagreements, more or less, and focuses on the items where there is commom ground, which there seems to be. The Cabinet announced, on Wednesday 12th is as follows:

 
  Minister
*Prime Minister   The Rt Hon David Cameron MP
*Deputy Prime Minister & Lord President of the Council
(special responsibility for political & constitutional reform)
  The Rt Hon Nick Clegg MP
*Foreign Secretary & First Secretary of State   The Rt Hon William Hague MP
*Chancellor of the Exchequer   The Rt Hon George Osborne MP
*Lord Chancellor & Secretary of State for Justice   The Rt Hon Ken Clarke QC MP
*Home Secretary   The Rt Hon Theresa May MP
*Secretary of State for Defence   The Rt Hon Dr Liam Fox MP
*Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills   The Rt Hon Dr Vince Cable MP
*Secretary of State for Work and Pensions   The Rt Hon Iain Duncan Smith MP
*Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change   The Rt Hon Chris Huhne MP
*Secretary of State for Health   The Rt Hon Andrew Lansley CBE MP
*Secretary of State for Education   The Rt Hon Michael Gove MP
*Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government   The Rt Hon Eric Pickles MP
*Secretary of State for Transport   The Rt Hon Philip Hammond MP
*Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs   The Rt Hon Caroline Spelman MP
*Secretary of State for International Development   The Rt Hon Andrew Mitchell MP
*Secretary of State for Northern Ireland   The Rt Hon Owen Paterson MP
*Secretary of State for Scotland   The Rt Hon Danny Alexander MP
*Secretary of State for Wales   The Rt Hon Cheryl Gillan MP
*Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport   The Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt MP
*Chief Secretary to the Treasury   The Rt Hon David Laws MP
*Leader of the House of Lords & Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster   The Rt Hon The Lord Strathclyde PC
*Minister without Portfolio (Minister of State)   The Rt Hon The Baroness Warsi PC
 
     
     
     
     
     
 
     

What should be clear is that from the Cabinet at least, the Tories are very much in charge, being in control of all of the Great Offices of State. The Lib Dems getting five seats at the big boys table. Former shadow Secretary of State for Justice,  Dominic Grieve had to be moved to allow Ken Clarke to take up the Justice job, who in turn was moved to allow Dr Vince Cable take up the BIS job. Talk of Cable getting a newly formed ministry quickly faded as did talk of him getting the Treasury job.

Obviously the Tories had to be compensated in some way, with those particularly on the Right of the party feeling snubbed, so IDS made his return to the Cabinet as DWP Secretary. In addition to that the coalition has laid out a plan that would allow an election to take place no earlier than the first Thursday of May 2015. In order to allow both parties to hang together and take the blame, and (hopefully?) some of the gain after taking what are expected to be some savage decisions.

Will it work? I hope so, with the Tories not budging on things like Trident, but rightly ditching their inhertiance tax cuts, and the Lib Dems getting some badly needed voting reform as well as some economic jobs in the Cabinet this could be an excellent coalition with some brilliantly sensible policies on both sides. It also leaves Labour who are searching for, David Miliband, as their new leader, to spend some well deserved time in oppostion.

If they can keep to their areas then it could work exceptionally well, however, there is bound to be tensions, especially over the health sckeptism that the Lib Dems have of the market, as opposed to some of the Tories still bottomless faith in it. With, Osborne, Hammond and Cable all going to be in each others pockets, due to co-ordination efforts, it will be a tremendous test of both Cameron and Clegg to reign in their respective parties extremes and prevent the collapse of the coalition.    

Here’s hoping.

Collapse of authority and the excesses of capitalism

30/04/2010

In an Irish Times article some time ago the hard left showed its cards. The article entitled “Primark row signals backlash against unsuitable marketing” shows just how far the loony left have bought into the idea of rights for children. Why did it not use a more obvious criticism and call a spade a spade?

The article opens with the fact that the “Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (ISPCC) started its confidential Childline service 21 years ago, it was getting regular calls from 17-year-olds under pressure to have sex. Today these calls are coming from 10- and 11-year-olds.” Despite the best attempts of the unhinged journalist to make the product, bikini swimsuits with padded tops for seven-year-olds, look perhaps as they would see it distasteful, luckily the “ISPCC’s director of services, Caroline O’Sullivan, does not think so.”

As the director says, “this product is a symptom of what is actually going on for children”.   The article continues saying, “It is not the first time adverse publicity has compelled a retailer to remove inappropriately sexualised products marketed at children. Tesco, for example, is not allowed to forget how it once had pole-dancing kits in its toy aisles.”

This also begs the question, who in their right mind thought that such a product would be appropriate for a child, when the world is, justly outraged at the child sexual abuse scandal sweeping the Catholic Church at the moment. Was it the unfettered desire for profit, or just the hope that they would just get away with it, even though, in their heart of hearts, they knew such a thing to be immoral?

The journalist thinks children pole dancing is “inappropriate”, I’d love to see what they call downright evil? Or maybe that word doesn’t exist in this journo vocabulary. Much of the problem is “not only that children’s desire for these things is fuelled by the media but also that parents do not know how to say no.”

Here we have a classic case of the disrepect of authority. However, it is not just in the home but in classrooms around the world and in our streets – it is everywhere. The French Revolution may have “freed” us from tyranny but it was only replaced by a new and even worse tryanny, that of the individual. Coupled with the belief that the individual knows best, regardless of age and that if anyone dare question someone’s actions, they would be impinging on thier “rights”

It is not that authority must go unquestioned it is that, we have gone to such extremes to get away from the 1750s/1950s, that we have only created a new tryanny that far outstrips the worst excesses of the previous tyranny, which, in some cases it undoubtedly was. When parents have lost the ability to say “no” then I fear that we on a path that can only lead to societal collapse.

Immorality

08/03/2010

Disgraced former England football captain John Terry had an injunction imposed by a judge preventing the media from reporting that Terry had had a four-month affair in late 2009 with Vanessa Perroncel, the former girlfriend of Wayne Bridge, current England teammate. The injunction was lifted a week later, England manager, Capello then dropped Terry from the England captaincy on 5 February 2010.

However there was little sense of moral outrage at the fact that this very public personality who was obviously admired by many could have acted so appallingly. Many people just issued a collective shrug of their shoulders and carried on. People like Terry show the dangers that making people like him into role models, when once it was teachers and priests.

Society seems to have lost the sense of moral outrage that brought it together and ensured that there was a certain moral standard that was upheld. Now however there is this all envoloping relativism that clings to everything and drags us further into the moral abyss. Instead there should be a dramatic rethink on why these people are our de facto role models and what we have done that led us down this path.

Naturally, politicans and the clergy are by no means blameless, (perhaps even the opposite?) but unless there is a radical overhaul on how we think about our moral lives then we might as well give up now.

Church and homosexuality

05/03/2010

The “conservative” Andrew Sullivan, in a post some time ago noted how when a group of gay Catholics staged a protest at the Church’s teaching on homosexuality. However much their cause is just and correct Dr Sullivan describes how “We need to do this more and more”.

Does he not realise that these tactics, however right are totally useless? They will regrettably not affect any of what the Church says on this issue and will bring no change. He either forgets or ignores that the Church is not a democracy (and neither should it be) but coupled with the fact that there are now more praticising Catholics in Africa and Latin America where homosexuality is still taboo does not mean the Church will change its teachings to what is correct and risk alienating the areas where it is undergrowing rapid growth.

It is however commendable that the more extreme elements of the Church on this issue are corrected, as was the case with Javier Cardinal Lozano Barragán’s statement some time ago.

All that can be done is wait and hope that it will change.

Gay marriage in California

06/01/2010

TIME in its article “A Gay-Marriage Lawsuit Dares to Make Its Case” notes that in a San Francisco trial it will be argued that “the U.S. Constitution forbids states from restricting marriage to one man and one woman”. The article says that many advances have been, rightly made, from Romer vs Evans to Lawrence vs Texas (when the federal judicary of America finally caught up with the rest of the world and legalised same sex sexual activity).

However, the Supreme Court as the article says “has never voiced a word of enthusiasm for gay marriage”. So the fear for the gay rights activists is that it will go to SCOTUS only to be defeated. The case will decide “the trial will be the first in federal court to answer the question of whether the U.S. Constitution forbids states like California from restricting marriage to opposite-sex couples”

There seems to be something missing in the article, why don’t the judges do what the politicans do and say that the issue is too divisve to handle and refuse to hear such cases. So leave it up to the people, which unlike what happened in Iowa last year, wouldn’t hurt judicial legitimacy and at the same time leave the politicans off the hook.

And yet, perhaps it is the concept of equality that is fundamentally flawed. People are not equal. Hetrosexual people have the ability to reproduce.  Marriage is a duty and it should not be equated with things like the right to life and security. This of course does not detract from the basic inherent diginity of us all.