Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Eastern Ukraine Situation Report 28th February

This is war. This is Europe. This is happening today.

PeoplePolitics: George W. Bush Breaks His Silence on the Direction of the Country Under President Trump: ‘I Don’t Like the Racism and Name-Calling’

PeoplePolitics: George W. Bush Breaks His Silence on the Direction of the Country Under President Trump: ‘I Don’t Like the Racism and Name-Calling’

For eight years since leaving the White House, George W. Bush has refused to criticize publicly those who succeeded him, saying he didn’t want to make an already tough job any harder for President Obama and, now, President Trump.

But one rocky month into Trump’s tenure, it’s harder to keep quiet.

“I don’t like the racism and I don’t like the name-calling and I don’t like the people feeling alienated,” Bush, 70, tells PEOPLE in an interview for the new issue of the magazine on newsstands Friday.

“Nobody likes that.”

Trump is making people realize that George W. Bush was a decent man and not a moron or an ignorant warmonger.

Monday, 27 February 2017

The Guardian: John Major attacks government over approach to Brexit

The Guardian: John Major attacks government over approach to Brexit

Theresa May’s government must avoid souring the article 50 negotiations with “cheap rhetoric” and give voters an honest warning about the risks of Brexit, the former prime minister Sir John Major has said.

With the prime minister planning to begin the formal process of leaving the European Union within weeks, her predecessor used his first big speech on Brexit since last year’s referendum to issue a series of thinly veiled attacks on Downing Street’s approach.

“I have watched with growing concern as the British people have been led to expect a future that seems to be unreal and over-optimistic,” Major said, speaking at the Chatham House thinktank. “Obstacles are brushed aside as of no consequence, whilst opportunities are inflated beyond any reasonable expectation of delivery.”

He urged May’s government to be “realistic about the timescale and complexity of the huge undertaking that lies ahead”.

Sunday, 26 February 2017

Canadian Land Task Force

Crux: Coccopalmerio says there’s no doctrinal confusion over ‘Amoris’

Crux: Coccopalmerio says there’s no doctrinal confusion over ‘Amoris’

According to Coccopalmerio, the summary of the doctrine and pastoral praxis when it comes to Amoris Laetitia is the following: “A member of the faithful finds herself [or himself] in a non-legitimate situation, and the first marriage is valid and indissoluble. Yet the person is conscious of the wrongness of the situation, has the desire to change it but can’t because it would hurt innocent people, such as the children. It’s my belief that this situation, with these elements, allows access to the sacraments.”

The presence of those elements has to be confirmed by a Church authority, he said, meaning a priest, “who knows well the life of these people.” Consulting with the local bishop, he added, is desirable, even if not strictly necessary, because the two should dialogue and have a “common solution.”

Asked if this interpretation applies also to gay couples who live together, some civilly married too, Coccopalmerio said that it’s “clearly” not the same situation because for Church teaching and doctrine, “it’s not a natural condition. We can accept them, welcome them, accept their decision, but it’s not [the same].”

I like this cardinal's approach; recognizing room for flexibility in some complex situations, while making clear that the Church has a clear moral stance on homosexuality.

The New York Times: People From 7 Travel-Ban Nations Pose No Increased Terror Risk, Report Says

The New York Times: People From 7 Travel-Ban Nations Pose No Increased Terror Risk, Report Says

When President Trump signed an executive order last month temporarily barring visitors from seven mostly Muslim countries, he said he was moving to protect the United States from terrorist attacks. The Homeland Security secretary, John F. Kelly, echoed the president, saying the travel ban was necessary because vetting procedures “in those seven countries are suspect.”

But an internal report written by intelligence analysts at Mr. Kelly’s department appears to undercut the assessment that people from the seven countries — Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen — pose a heightened threat of terrorism. The three-page report found that “country of citizenship is unlikely to be a reliable indicator of potential terrorist activity.”

The report adds to the difficulties the Trump administration has faced in carrying out the travel ban. Federal judges have suspended the order, and the administration has said it will redo it to withstand legal scrutiny, but has not given a timetable.

Independent: Gina Miller demands Lords show 'backbone' in changing Theresa May's Brexit Bill on eve of critical debate

Independent: Gina Miller demands Lords show 'backbone' in changing Theresa May's Brexit Bill on eve of critical debate

Peers may use sittings on Monday and Wednesday to push for votes on key amendments, including ones demanding a guarantee for EU citizens’ rights and for a vote on the final deal Ms May secures from the EU on Brexit.

But the upper chamber is under immense pressure to wave the Bill through unchanged, ratcheted up by Ms May’s decision to personally attend the Lords last week and monitor them discussing her legislation.

Ms Miller said the Prime Minister was clearly trying to “bully” the Lords and even compared her to the tyrannical character Miss Trunchbull, from Roald Dahl’s children’s novel Matilda, who browbeats children into submission.

The philanthropist was the lead voice among a group of campaigners who prevented Ms May from unilaterally launching the countdown to Brexit using Royal Prerogative powers, arguing at the Supreme Court that Parliament must vote on the issue.

But Ms Miller told The Independent that after she and her team won the right for Parliament to be consulted, she now fears the upper House will bow to media pressure and pass the Bill unamended.

What is the point of having an House of Lords if they simply rubberstamp the House of Commons? This is the most crucial legislative debate of our generation. It is vital that the House of Lords shows its teeth.

Saturday, 25 February 2017

The Guardian: Trump national security adviser wants to avoid term 'radical Islamic terrorism', sources say

The Guardian: Trump national security adviser wants to avoid term 'radical Islamic terrorism', sources say

A participant, paraphrasing McMaster, said: “He said he doesn’t want to call it radical Islamic terrorism because the terrorists are, quote, ‘un-Islamic’.”

McMaster, the participant said, indicated that the phrase castigates “an entire religion” and “he’s not on board”.

At the meeting, multiple sources said, McMaster discomfited White House staffers who view the terrorist threat in those religious terms and who were said to have exchanged awkward looks with each other.

At other points in the meeting, McMaster laid out a vigorous defense of the post-second world war liberal order, calling it a guarantor of peace and economic prosperity. Staffers inferred that McMaster was signaling to professional staff on the National Security Council that he subscribed to longstanding US foreign-policy goals, which Trump has attacked as yielding a chaotic world.

McMaster really does sound like a sensible chap.

Mary as Mother Earth

If we accept the premise of the Scotist view of incarnation, as held by Franciscan theology, then the universe was created for the purpose of Christ's coming. That means that the existence of Mary was a teleological goal of the universe, the central focus of its design. This makes Mary the very heart and soul of creation, for she is its summit. We might well draw an analogy between Mary, created to be the dwelling place of Christ and the universe, also created to be the dwelling place of Christ. In a very real sense, we may then say that Mary represents Mother Earth, all creation is summed up in her and through her, creation is brought to its eschatological goal in Christ. She is truly Queen of the Universe, queen of all creation.

I don't want to necessarily suggest that pagan associations of the Earth with motherhood have a source in divine revelation, but the association is strikingly true. Adam was drawn from the dust of the Earth, as Christ was born from the womb of Mary.

This helps us to see how Wisdom, the revelation of God's beauty and goodness manifested in creation is ultimately realized in Mary, who is Queen of the Universe and the sum of all creation in her position as the indwelt temple of God. The universe is created to become the Temple of God, when God shall be all in all. Likewise, the Blessed Virgin Mary is the temple of God, who was indwelt by the incarnate Lord of All.

Mary is truly Mother Earth.

This means that Christians should avoid reacting to the words 'Mother Earth' or launching into fundamentalist hysteria when people talk about ideas like the Gaia hypothesis. Such ideas may not be entirely correct in all they advocate, but they echoe the truth of the Sophianic motherhood of the Earth which is ultimately and spiritually realized in the Divine Motherhood of Mary.

ConservativeHome: The Canada deal is not the model Brexit negotiations should follow

ConservativeHome: The Canada deal is not the model Brexit negotiations should follow

by Vicky Ford MEP

"When I talk to key sectors of the British economy about what they want to retain from a new UK/EU relationship while tariffs of course remain a concern, it is the non-tariff barriers which are frequently cited as being more important.

For example, car manufacturers want to keep the mutual recognition of vehicle testing so once safety and emissions tests are passed in the UK they don’t need to go and get the same vehicle tested and approved again. Digital entrepreneurs want to retain access to cross-border data flows. Pharma companies wish to continue to seamlessly run cross border clinical trials with a single approval for the new medicines or medical devices that result as well as to enjoy the ability to avoid double testing by having their UK manufacturing facilities certified as compliant with EU standards by UK regulators. The young Irish Occupational Therapist I met working at my local hospital wants to know that her qualifications will continue to be recognised on both sides of the Irish Sea and for our banks it’s important that once they pass regulatory tests in the UK they can market the same mortgages, loans, insurance in other countries without additional requirements.

All of these are covered by the current trade arrangements we have between the UK and the rest of the EU but none of these issues are covered in any detail or with any certainty by the Canada trade deal."

Eastern Ukraine Situation Report 25th February

This is war. This is Europe. This is happening today.

Friday, 24 February 2017

ConservativeHome: There are much better ways to help low earners than the Living Wage

ConservativeHome: There are much better ways to help low earners than the Living Wage

by Sam Bowman

"If we want to redistribute to the working poor, simplifying and strengthening tax credits would avoid some of the unintended consequences we find with minimum wages.

The National Minimum Wage was set by a panel of economists, industry representatives, and trade unionists, with a mandate not to endanger jobs. They were restrained, and avoided the large rises that many people feared.

The National Living Wage is being set without any care for that evidence. George Osborne’s main goal was to undermine Labour after the 2015 election. Well, fine, but they’ve done a good enough job of that themselves.

Politics shouldn’t trump the well-being of people who need to work, and whose prospects might be seriously harmed by further rises to the Living Wage. Let’s stick with what works."

The Conservative Party should have known better than to go down the 'Living Wage' rabbit hole.

Well done to the Conservatives in Copeland!

No matter how much I resent the government over Brexit, I cannot help but feel delight at a Conservative victory.

The Christian Post: Privacy Advocates, Christian Leaders Praise Trump's Rescindment of Obama's Transgender Bathroom

The Christian Post: Privacy Advocates, Christian Leaders Praise Trump's Rescindment of Obama's Transgender Bathroom

Emily Zinos, who works as a consultant with Ask Me First MN, a project of Minnesota Family Council in partnership with Family Policy Alliance, concurs.

"When America's schools are forced to protect gender identity instead of sex, they are teaching students that self-knowledge comes through conforming to sex stereotypes. That's regressive and I don't think our schools should promote such an outdated mindset," Zinos said, welcoming the administration's decision.

"Schools can provide accommodations for transgender students while still protecting the privacy of every student and I'd welcome federal funding to make that easier for districts," she noted.

Thursday, 23 February 2017

Politico: McMaster Has the Islamophobes Worried. Good.

Politico: McMaster Has the Islamophobes Worried. Good.

by William McCants

"When America’s most influential Islamophobes are upset, you know the president made a good choice. “Score one [for] the swamp,” whined Robert Spencer upon hearing the news that Donald Trump appointed Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster to be his national security adviser. Spencer makes a living scaring Americans about the dangers of Muslim soccer moms. “John Bolton lost out to this guy?” sputtered his frequent partner in whine, Pamela Geller, who scoffed at the general for saying, “Every time you disrespect an Iraqi, you’re working for the enemy.”

The Islamophobes are not wrong to sense that McMaster will be hostile to their worldview, according to those who know him best. McMaster spent much of his career fighting and winning wars in the Middle East, which required him to know the local cultures and treat Muslims like humans rather than scripturally programmed robots. “He absolutely does not view Islam as the enemy,” said Pete Mansoor, who served with McMaster in Iraq. “He understands that the world is not one dimensional, that the Muslim world is not one dimensional,” said John Nagl, who also served with McMaster. In other words, the complicated causes of terrorism require complicated solutions."

InFacts: Is EU migration falling faster than even ministers want?

InFacts: Is EU migration falling faster than even ministers want?

by Luke Lythgoe

"Still, it is notable how a number of government ministers were saying they wanted to keep the door open to at least some EU migrants even before these latest figures. Speaking to reporters in Tallinn, Estonia, this week Brexit minister David Davis suggested immigration of low-skilled Eastern European workers would continue for a long time yet.

“In the hospitality sector, hotels and restaurants, in the social-care sector, working in agriculture, it will take time – it will be years and years before we get British citizens to do those jobs.” He added: “Don’t expect just because we’re changing who makes the decision on the policy, the door will suddenly shut: it won’t.”

This didn’t please the hardest of Brexiters. Former minister Iain Duncan Smith told The Times he was surprised at the timescale, commenting: ““My sense is that it is going to happen quicker than that.”

But Davis’ comments fit well with a government coming to terms with the reality of abrupt restrictions on migrants. In September, Communities Secretary Sajid Javid suggested EU construction workers could still come if that’s what it took to tackle the UK’s housing crisis. Chancellor Philip Hammond had similar thoughts on financial professionals in the City."

First Things: A Modest Defense of the “Liberal World Order”

First Things: A Modest Defense of the “Liberal World Order”

by George Weigel

"The political and economic system created by the United States and its allies after World War II—a system built around common defense measures and free trade—rescued Europe from the self-inflicted catastrophe of 1914-1945, prevented nuclear war, preserved the peace until the collapse of the Soviet empire, and allowed once-captive nations to reclaim their liberties. It didn’t do too badly by the rest of the world, either. Over the past several decades, more than a billion people lifted themselves out of abject poverty by becoming participants in a system of free trade and the free movement of capital and labor—even as those economic successes helped create conditions for the possibility of free and decent governance in places like Taiwan, South Korea, Chile, and India.

So might it not be the case that the “liberal world order” needs fixing rather than dismantling, as some “populists” propose today? Surely those dismantlers don’t propose a return to the beggar-thy-neighbor economic autarky and myopic nationalism that intensified the Great Depression and helped bring on World War II. As for the security side of the equation, doesn’t the catastrophic condition of the Middle East, after eight years of an American-led withdrawal of western power from the region, demonstrate what happens when those committed to a “liberal world order” retreat from history in history’s most volatile regions? Given Vladimir Putin’s evident determination to reverse history’s verdict in the Cold War, would order be maintained in Europe over the next decade absent a robust NATO?"

Very good, though I think Weigel's criticisms of the EU are a little unfair.

Girls Need Protection Too

The Washington Post: Trump’s immigration order will increase crime

The Washington Post: Trump’s immigration order will increase crime

by Jennifer Rubin

"Logically, if you are prioritizing that long list of categories of people, you are not prioritizing any one category, especially violent criminals. When the next felony committed by an undocumented immigrant occurs, the Trump administration will have to explain why it was spending time and resources deporting noncriminals. When the crime rate goes up in cities, and mayors explain that not only have the feds neglected to focus on violent criminals in the undocumented-immigrant population but they’ve also deterred ordinary citizens from cooperating with law enforcement, Trump should be held accountable for the “carnage.”

This is not about crime, or even illegal immigration. This is about the White House ideologues keeping a pledge to anxious white voters who’ve been told by Fox Non-News and Trump that immigrants are responsible for their economic plight and are largely violent criminals. The exaggerated, inaccurate view of the immigrant community has had its effect. The expanded deportation directive is the natural result of Trump’s — and too much of the right’s — demonization of nonwhites. And the new order in fact will sweep in a great many people who are not criminals or undocumented immigrants, or immigrants at all. A Hispanic-looking person without “papers” will now need to worry about being swept up in an immigration raid. Welcome to Trump’s America, where relations between the police and Hispanic and other minority communities are about to get really, really tense."

Great article on the stupidity of the Trump administration's approach to illegal immigration.

German Military Tech

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

The Legacy of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

James Salmon, SJ and John Farina (editors), The Legacy of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, 2011 Paulist Press

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin was an interesting chap. There are perhaps some aspects of his work which are problematic, in particular his theology seemed to lack a place for Original Sin, but he seems to have had some insights. He worked hard to develop Christian response to evolutionary science, even if not all his conclusions are altogether sound. I like his optimism and his ideas fit nicely with the Scotist view of the incarnation, viewing the universe as having a Christological goal and purpose.

This set of essays offers a number of perspectives on the legacy of Teilhard de Chardin's ideas. John F Haught begins by looking at the search for extra-terrestrial life in the context of Teilhard de Chardin's work. He brings up Teilhard's eschatology, pointing out that in his view (like Moltmann's) God is not just 'up above', but also 'up ahead.' Our ultimate experience of God lies in the eschatological horizon of the future. Thomas M. King looks at Teilhard as a 'missionary to the modern world.' Teilhard has sometimes been accused of being a rotten scientist. However, Mark McMenamin argues that he made a genuine and important contribution to science in his work on convergent evolution. He makes the case that in that area, Teilhard was very much ahead of his time.

The most interesting essay in this for me was Ewert Cousins on "Teilhard and the World Soul." He looks at the concept of the World Soul, its roots in Platonism and it's adoption by some Patristic theologians. He then looks at how this idea re-emerged in Teilhard's writings. Teilhard combines all the physical processes of the universe in a spiritually guided process called cosmogenesis, which has its endpoint in Christogenesis, the eschatological consummation of all things in Christ. Cousins argues for the merit of Teilhard's approach:

"On the one hand, Teilhard brings the modern experience into the theology of the cosmic Spirit; on the other, his thought, seen in the context of the history of the theology of the Spirit, leads to the solution of certain theological problems at the same time that it raises others. For example, the presence of the Spirit in the universe overcomes any Gnostic or Manichean dualism; for there is no realm of the universe where the Spirit is not present and working. Therefore, there is no autonomous nature that stands apart from God, as a Deist world-machine or a purely isolated mechanical process. For the Spirit works in electrons and atoms as well as in mystical ecstasy. Hence there are no purely natural laws."

Cousins argues that theologians should identify the world-soul with the Holy Spirit. This is problematic, because Abelard was condemned for teaching that the Holy Spirit is the soul of the world. I think it is better to connect the world-soul with Sophia, the sum of God's wisdom and beauty manifested in creation, energized by the Third Person of the Trinity.

Philip Hefner looks at the spirituality that Teilhard presented in The Divine Milieu, a spirituality centred on the material world and which gives a new significance to the Eucharist. In the next essay, Nicole Schmitz-Moormann takes a more personal look at the legacy of Teilhard, examining some of his journals and correspondence. James Skehan defends the orthodoxy of Teilhard de Chardin. He points out how Pope St. John Paul II and Cardinal Ratzinger have made use of his Eucharistic theology. He views Teilhard as being very much in the classic vein of Jesuit spirituality. The final essay "Teilhard's Two Energies," by Harold Morowitz, Nicole Schmitz-Moormann and James Salmon went completely over my head.

This was an interesting set of perspectives on an unusual thinker.

Our Lady, Queen of Peace, pray for us

Stars and Stripes| NATO general: Troops will stay in Kosovo as long as needed

Stars and Stripes| NATO general: Troops will stay in Kosovo as long as needed

PRISTINA, Kosovo — A senior NATO commander has assured Kosovo that the military alliance will maintain troops in the Balkan country "for as long as it's necessary."

NATO's Supreme Allied Commander for Europe, Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, met with local officials and Western ambassadors during a visit Tuesday to Kosovo.

Some 4,500 troops from 31 countries have been deployed in Kosovo since June 1999, after NATO's 78-day air campaign to stop a bloody Serbian crackdown against ethnic Albanian separatists. Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008, but Serbia has not recognized it as a country.

"We will keep in place a flexible, determined presence and will make changes only when the security situation allows. KFOR remain a robust and credible force, capable of carrying out its mission for as long as it's necessary," Scaparrotti said.

Monday, 20 February 2017

Winter Camouflage

Sunday, 19 February 2017

The Hill: Ukraine is making progress against tough odds. It deserves US support.

The Hill: Ukraine is making progress against tough odds. It deserves US support.

by Alexander Vershbow

"Building a democracy isn’t easy, even in the best of circumstances. As a diplomat for over 40 years, I have seen firsthand how difficult it has been for the countries of Central and Eastern Europe to overcome the legacy of Soviet authoritarianism, root out corruption, and establish free societies and market economies based on the rule of law.

No country in this region has faced more formidable challenges than Ukraine.

In the 25 years after achieving independence in 1991, Ukraine squandered many opportunities for reform, disappointing the aspirations of its people for a European future based on justice, prosperity and accountable leaders and institutions. When former President Viktor Yanukovych, yielding to Russian pressure, suspended Ukraine's negotiations on partnership with the European Union in late 2013, the Ukrainian people made it clear that they had had enough.

Their frustration led to the Revolution of Dignity on Kyiv's Maidan square, Yanukovych's flight to Russia and, a few months later, the election of new, reformist leaders led by current President Petro Poroshenko.

Since that time, however, Ukraine has had to continue the reform process with a gun to its head, both literally and figuratively.

It has not been easy for Ukraine to start a reform process from the ground up, especially while it has been fighting to protect its freedom and independence from Russian aggression.

Russia has worked to undermine Ukraine through its illegal annexation of Crimea and sponsorship of an armed insurgency in Eastern Ukraine, coupled with economic intimidation and misinformation campaigns. Russia's actions are designed to portray Ukraine as a failed state that doesn't deserve support from the larger international community."

The Feast of Blessed Francisco and Blessed Jacinta of Portugal

O Almighty God, who willest to be glorified in thy Saints and didst raise up thy servants Blessed Francisco and Jacinta Marto to shine as lights in the world: Shine, we pray thee, in our hearts, that we also in our generation may shew forth thy praises, who hast called us out of darkness into thy marvellous light; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

O Most Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, I adore Thee profoundly. I offer Thee the most precious Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ present in all the tabernacles of the world, in reparation for the outrages, sacrileges and indifferences by which He is offended. By the infinite merits of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary I beg the conversion of poor sinners.

Blessed Francisco and Jacinta, pray for us and for Portugal.

Come, Holy Spirit, by Leonardo Boff

Leonardo Boff, Come, Holy Spirit: Inner Fire, Giver of Life and Comforter of the Poor, 2015 Orbis Books

It is very telling that Boff uses just one sentence to deal with the role of the Holy Spirit in the inspiration of Scripture. This should not be a surprise. He really does not like the idea of a permanent, unchanging absolute revelation. This unchanging revelation might be the work of the Holy Spirit, but Boff presumably hoped that having dealt with that in just one sentence, the reader would forget about it and go with the idea that the Holy Spirit is a sort of renengade who constantly does cool right-on things.

Leonardo Boff attributes a number of things to the work of the Holy Spiri; the Second Vatican Council, the rise of Latin American Liberation Theology and Base Communities, the Charismatic movement (though he worries a bit about their tendency to fundamentalism) and the election of Pope Francis. Basically, the Holy Spirit does all the thing that Boff thinks are cool. Of course, I imagine some less right-on people might attribute Vatican I, the conservatism of John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI's 'Reform of the Reform' to the Holy Spirit.

Boff has been accused of copying and pasting material from dogmatics textbooks and then inserting his left-of-centre insights. True to this, quite a few of the early chapters have a theology textbook feel to them. When he explains the doctrine of the Third Person of the Holy Trinity, he does not stray that far from orthodoxy. He does imply early that he takes a Process Theology view of God, that God is in the process of becoming, though he does not go anywhere with this less orthodox idea. He also follows Torrance in seeing the unity of the Trinity in perichoresis. The danger of that approach is tritheism, that the persons are no longer united by a common substance. He seems to imply on page 81 that the Holy Spirit indwells all human beings, but he fails to explain or elaborate on this. This is a habit we see continually in this book; our author makes a point that might be insightful or might be heretical (usually the latter), but does not spend any time elaborating or clarifying his point.

Boff's ecclesiology is problematic. He argues that the Church is the body of the risen Christ and therefore is not subject to limitations. We must not therefore, he argues, limit the Church to an institution. Yet we are then left in the dark as to how to identify the Church. There must be limits to what we can define as the Body of Christ. Boff continually attacks the institution of the Catholic Church throughout this book. He urges us to the see the working of the Holy Spirit as something spontaneous and dynamic. One might ask whether the Holy Spirit never works through institutions and formal procedures. It appears that Boff actually does think so. He views the Second Vatican Council as a work of the Holy Spirit. Well, guess what, the Second Vatican Council was a council of lawfully ordained bishops called by the lawfully-ordained Pope and which followed a set of formal procedures. He also views the election of Pope Francis as a work of the Holy Spirit. Funnily enough, Pope Francis was chosen by the cardinals following the same procedure by which previous popes were chosen. So it looks like the Holy Spirit is perfectly happy to operate through the traditional institutional procedures of the Catholic Church. It might have been helpful if Boff had spent a little more time talking about the sacraments, in particular the role of the Holy Spirit in the Sacrament of Holy Orders. Rather worryingly, Boff sounds like a Protestant when he identifies Peter's faith as the 'rock' in Matthew 16:16. Amusingly, he sounds like a Dispensationalist when he argues on page 142 that the Church was introduced because of the rejection of Jesus' Kingdom mission. I imagine that he has no idea that many American fundamentalists would agree with him on that point.

Our author loves the idea of dynamic and charismatic movements and dislikes institutions. Yet he offers no concern about the dangers of charismatic power. Often radical movements empowered by charismatic authority tend to produce authoritarian leaders and sometimes abuse of that power. Those of us who have come from the Charismatic Evangelical movement are aware of this. It may be largely forgotten now, but the Nine o'clock services in Anglicanism (1986-1995) are instructive as to these dangers. Many thought the Spirit was moving in the Nine O'cloc services, but in fact conditions were forming in which abuse was allowed to take place. The usual institutional checks that could have prevented this abuse were let down. Boff sees the Charimatic movement as a movement that is complementary to the Base Community movement. However, some have argued that Pentecostal groups have grown in reaction to the Base Communities. The Pentecostal groups have attracted people from the Base Communities because they offer more personal morality, are less politicized and show more concern to the needs and concerns of women.

There is a chapter on the relationship between the Holy Spirit and the Blessed Virgin Mary, a subject dealt with at greater length in his boo, The Maternal Face of God. Boff has been accused of teaching that Mary is an incarnation of God the Holy Spirit, but this is not exactly what he says. He argues that there was a permanent perichoretic indwelling of the Holy Spirit in Mary, such that they are fundamentally united, while not being an hypostatic union, as the incarnation of our Lord was. In Mary we see the revelation of the Feminine Divine. This is the part of this book that I like best. Boff says of the implications of Mary's Pneumatization:

"The spiritualization/ pneumatization of Mary is not only about her. Mary belongs to the human community, men as well as women. We are all touched by this trinitarian event of infinite tenderness and mercy, revealed through the person of the Holy Spirit. Something in us has become divine, brought into the Kingdom of the Trinity by Mary. Something of our warm, mortal humanity has become eternal."

Boff admits his debt to Jurgen Moltmann in the chapter on cosmology. Here he identifies the Holy Spirit as the Spirit of life, sustaining the universe. Likewise, he also follows Moltmann in seeing the end of the universe in becoming a temple of the Holy Spirit:

"This is how the Bible describes the good end of the universe: the moment when the Spirit will prevail over all the hostile and divergent powers of life, and will bring about a new heaven and a new earth (Joel 2:28-32, Revelation 21:1). We will all be drawn together into the dynamic and loving life of the Trinity."

At times Boff attempts to theologize speculative ideas within Quantum Physics. I am not altogether sure this is helpful and I have my doubts that he completely knows what he is talking about. He probably makes a little too much of the media-spun theory of the "God-particle."

This is an interesting book with some good ideas, plus a lot of rot. The bulk of it is Jurgen Moltmann with a progressive Catholic gloss, plus an unconventional high Mariology.

National Review| Michael Novak: Intellectual Godfather to a Generation of Conservatives

National Review| Michael Novak: Intellectual Godfather to a Generation of Conservatives

by Arthur C Brooks

"Like many thinkers of his generation, Novak intellectually matriculated as a progressive but graduated to conservatism. The first reason was his observation that the Democratic party of the 1970s was softening on Communism; then over social issues such as abortion and the family; and finally over support of the American free-enterprise system. He ultimately defined himself as a neoconservative alongside AEI colleagues such as Irving Kristol. But while Kristol defined a neoconservative as a liberal who has been mugged by reality, Novak preferred the definition “a progressive with three teenage children.”

My own ideological migration from left to right matched Novak’s. Although at the time I had never met the great man, his work was especially helpful to me as a young Catholic. In the 1990s, I was struggling to ascertain how my religion fit with the conviction that capitalism was the superior economic system, at a time when much of the Church hierarchy appeared to be asserting the opposite. Was my ideology at odds with my faith?

Novak answered my question. In the early 1980s, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops developed a pastoral letter, “Economic Justice for All,” that promoted unvarnished liberal economic policies under the banner of Catholic social teaching. Novak led a lay group of Catholic leaders with expertise in economics and business that published an alternative take, “Toward the Future: Catholic Social Thought and the U.S. Economy.” While respectfully confirming the Church’s teaching authority regarding faith and morals, Novak and colleagues confidently asserted lay competence in practical questions of economics and policy. And this expertise, they argued persuasively, showed that free enterprise was integral to achieving the Church’s goals of promoting the dignity of the individual, affirming the social nature of humanity, and asserting the need to solve problems at the lowest possible level of governance. Novak’s words were mother’s milk to me at that pivotal moment in my life."

I am very saddened to hear of the death of Catholic thinker Michael Novak. When I studied Liberation Theology as part of my Theology degree, I was very encouraged by his critique of that movement and his defence of capitalism.

Novak certainly did a splendid job of showing the virtue of the capitalism system in The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism. That book was not, of course, perfect. Novak failed to offer any account of poverty in capitalist system and showed no sign of supporting a welfare state, which is foundational to a fair and just society.

Cardinal Nichols Consecrates England

Our Lady of Fatima, pray for us.

Pope Francis on the Fifth Marian Dogma

The National Opinion: What western ‘experts’ get so wrong about the conflict in Syria

The National Opinion: What western ‘experts’ get so wrong about the conflict in Syria

by Loubna Mrie

"Hafez Al Assad, the father of Bashar Al Assad, came into power in 1970 after a military coup. After his death in 2000, Bashar became president.

So, for almost 60 years, Syrians have not known what it is like to vote. My generation, and the past several generations, don’t know what it’s like to have a choice of candidate. Syria was always Syria Al Asaad.

Those who accuse the opposition to Mr Al Asaad of being puppets of the West don’t know what it is like to grow up in a police state where you believe that the walls have ears and anything you say might lead you to jail.

It’s very important to note here that the first chants of the Syrian uprising called for fair elections and reformation of the system.However, the police brutality and the killing of protesters escalated the situation and people started to call for overthrow of the government. Then they started to take up arms to defend themselves and their towns."

HANDS ACROSS THE AISLE: Biology Isn’t Bigotry: Remarks from a Hands Across the Aisle Member

HANDS ACROSS THE AISLE: Biology Isn’t Bigotry: Remarks from a Hands Across the Aisle Member

by Emily Zinos

"Are we the generation of parents who will allow our young and vulnerable children to be fed a false anthropology rather than take the time to tell them they are beautifully and wonderfully made?

Are we the generation of parents who will consent to our children’s sterilization rather than patiently guide them towards an appreciation of their bodies?

Are we the generation of parents who will treat our children’s mental health issues with double mastectomies rather than seeking out a true remedy?

The women of Hands Across the Aisle answer with a resolute NO to each and every one of these questions. As a practicing Catholic and mother of seven, I certainly disagree with my radical feminist sisters in this coalition on many issues, believe me. But I’m honored to join forces with them for the sake of protecting vulnerable children and I thank them for their intelligent and insightful criticisms of gender identity as a threat to women in law and culture.

At Hands Across the Aisle, we hope to start conversations that will get people thinking critically about gender identity and we hope to embolden women to speak up for the hard-earned rights they will lose if gender identity is allowed to eclipse sex. I hope you will join me in saying NO to the ideology of gender wherever you see it, but most especially in schools where it strikes at the very heart of what it means to educate."

Saturday, 18 February 2017

BBC News: US 'unwavering' in support for Nato allies, says Pence

BBC News: US 'unwavering' in support for Nato allies, says Pence

The US will be "unwavering" in its support for Nato, vice-president Mike Pence told European leaders at the Munich Security Conference.

In the first major foreign policy address for the Trump administration, Mr Pence said the US would "stand with Europe today and every day".

But he told the gathered leaders that European countries were "failing to pay their fair share" on defence.

That failure "erodes the foundation of our alliance", he said.

The vice-president pointed out that apart from the US, only four Nato countries had met a 2014 commitment to spend 2% of GDP on defence.

"The time has come to do more," he said.

Eastern Ukraine Situation Report 18th February

This is war. This is Europe. This is happening today.

Thomas Merton: A Book of Hours

Kathleen Deignan (editor), Thomas Merton: A Book of Hours, 2007 Sorin Books, Notre Dame, IN

I had never even heard of Thomas Merton when I was a Protestant. So far I have yet to read any of his books, though I am looking forward to having a look when I can get around to it. As I am a sucker for prayer books, especially those containing a daily office, I bought this.

This is not quite what I expected. I was expected that it would follow the tradition of a Medieval Book of Hours, with Psalms and Scripture readings, interspersed with meditations from the writings of Thomas Merton. However, while it follows the structure of a daily office, with Psalms, canticles, readings and collects, the material is entirely taken from Thomas Merton's writings. Given that Merton was a monk who prayed the Psalms daily, I have my doubts that he would have approved the replacement of inspired Scripture with his own words.

Some of Merton's words are very beautiful and inspiring. However, a lot of the time his profound thoughts leave me scratching my head, confused as to what he is actually saying. There is a time for reading opaque and challenging spiritual writings, but I do not think morning and evening prayer is that time. A daily office is all about routine, consistency and simplicity. When one has just cleaned one's teeth and needs to set off for work in twenty minutes one is better off reading the Psalms. There are people of a poetical and mystical temperament who will relish this book. This may be the book they want; but it is not necessarily the book they need.

One thing I did really appreciate was the emphasis on Sophia, divine wisdom in the Saturday office. This fits nicely with the tradition of Marian devotion on Saturday. When one has time on one's hands, it may be worth using this book of hours for a few days.

Friday, 17 February 2017

No-Show Rate

Reflections of an Anglican Theologian: On being un-Anglican and un-Catholic

Reflections of an Anglican Theologian: On being un-Anglican and un-Catholic

"The problem with this argument is that you cannot detach the Church’s existing law and teaching with regard to marriage from its teaching about sexual relationships. They go together. This can be seen if we go back to what is said in Canon B.30. This Canon forms part of the Church of England’s law, but in terms of its form it is a statement of the Church of England’s teaching about the nature marriage. The Canon declares:

‘The Church of England affirms, according to our Lord’s teaching, that marriage is in its nature a union permanent and lifelong, for better for worse, till death them do part, of one man with one woman, to the exclusion of all others on either side, for the procreation and nurture of children, for the hallowing and right direction of the natural instincts and affections, and for the mutual society, help and comfort which the one ought to have of the other, both in prosperity and adversity.’

These words declare not only what marriage is, but what it is for. Following a tradition going back to St. Augustine they affirm that there are three causes why marriage exists, and that the second of these is ‘the hallowing and right direction of the natural instincts and affections.’ The ‘natural instincts and affections’ referred to here are the desire for sexual relationships that human beings possess and what the Canon says is that this desire needs to be hallowed, that is to say, to be expressed in a way that is consistent with living a holy life. Marriage between one man and one woman is the way that this takes place. Sexual desire finds a holy expression when it takes place in this context.

This point is expanded slightly in the 1999 House of Bishops teaching document Marriage. This document sees marriage as a relationship ‘in which a man and a woman may learn love together over the course of their lives’ and further states:

‘Sexual intercourse, as an expression of faithful intimacy, properly belongs within marriage exclusively. The three blessings that belong to marriage are traditionally described as the procreation and nurture of children, the hallowing of natural instincts and affections, and the mutual society, help and comfort which each affords the prosperity and adversity.’

This statement makes explicit the point which is implicit in the Canon, which is that because it is in marriage that the expression of sexual desire is hallowed it follows that sexual intercourse belong solely within marriage. All sexual intercourse outside marriage is not hallowed and is therefore illegitimate.

Canon B.30 further declares that the Church of England’s teaching about marriage can also be found in the Book of Common Prayer.

‘The teaching of our Lord affirmed by the Church of England is affirmed and maintained in the Form and Solemnisation of Matrimony contained in the Book of Common Prayer.’

If we turn to the Book of Common Prayer we find that it too sees marriage as something that takes place between a man and a woman and that it too lists three causes for marriage. The second of these causes is that marriage was

‘… was ordained for a remedy against sin, and to avoid fornication; that such persons as have not the gift of continency might marry, and keep themselves undefiled members of Christ’s body.’

The point that is being made here, building on the teaching of St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 6 and 7, is that sex outside marriage is the sin known as fornication and that therefore those who have not been given by God the ability to restrain themselves from giving physical expression to their sexual desires should, if they are able to do so, enter into marriage in order they may channel their desires in a godly and disciplined way so that they can keep ourselves ‘undefiled members of Christ’s body.’

The homily ‘Of the State of Matrimony’ in the Second Book of Homilies, which is another key authorised Church of England statement about marriage, expands the point made in the Book of Common Prayer about marriage being a ‘remedy for sin.’ It says ‘The word of Almighty God doth testify and declare ‘ that marriage:

‘…. is instituted of God, to the intent that man and woman should live lawfully in a perpetual friendly fellowship, to bring forth fruit, and to avoid fornication: by which means, a good conscience might be preserved on both parties in bridling the corrupt inclinations of the flesh, within the limits of honesty; for God hath straitly forbidden all whoredom and uncleanness, and hath from time to time taken grievous punishments of this inordinate lust, as all stories and ages hath declared.’

What these four documents show is that it is simply not possible to separate the Church of England’s teaching about sexual relationships from its teaching about marriage. This is because according to the Church of England a central part of the purpose of marriage is to provide a context within which people may engage in sexual relationships in a way that negatively avoids sin and positively accords with the demands of holiness."

We can be thankful there are plenty of Anglicans who will defend Christian teaching on sexuality.

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Coptic Catholic Bishops call for Peace and Unity with their Muslim Neighbours

Crux: What Egypt’s Catholic bishops said to Pope Francis

Terrorism is another concern for the Church in Egypt.

“Egyptians are very attentive, as they know that terrorism aims at undermining the unity of our country as well as our shared life with Muslim brothers,” Bishay said.

Despite incidents in which many churches were burned by extremists, “no reaction against the Muslim community came from the Catholic Church,” the bishop reported.

The government of Egypt understands the issue and helps restore the destroyed churches. Christmas 2014 also marked a new outreach from President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who visited a Coptic Orthodox cathedral.

“For the first time ever a president of the Republic of Egypt spent the Christmas night at Mass,” Bishay said.

Egyptian society was also profoundly shocked by the beheading in Libya of 20 Orthodox Coptic faithful and a companion by Islamic State militants in February 2015.

“On one hand, this wound does not only affect the Egyptian society, but the whole world. What has happened is part of a war that is fed by the instrumentalization of religions,” the bishop said, denouncing efforts to kill in the name of God.

On the other hand, he continued, “the example of the Coptic martyrs gave strength and courage to all of us. Instead of creating divisions within the country, the message of the martyrs bore more unity. So much that people do not speak about the shedding of Christian blood, but about the shedding of Egyptian blood.”

American Support for NATO Allies

The Guardian: UK fishermen may not win waters back after Brexit, EU memo reveals

The Guardian: UK fishermen may not win waters back after Brexit, EU memo reveals

The hopes of British fishermen that the UK can win its “waters back” after Brexit are expected to be dashed by the European parliament, despite the campaign promises of Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage, a leaked EU document reveals.

MEPs have drafted seven provisions to be included in Britain’s “exit agreement”, including the stipulation that there will be “no increase to the UK’s share of fishing opportunities for jointly fished stocks [maintaining the existing quota distribution in UK and EU waters]”.

The document, obtained by the Guardian, adds that in order for the UK and EU to keep to commitments on sustainable fishing – contained within the United Nations stocks agreement – “it is difficult to see any alternative to the continued application of the common fisheries policy”.

So much for 'take back control!'

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

The Feast of Saint Cyril and Saint Methodius

O God, who enlightened the Slavic peoples through the brothers Saints Cyril and Methodius, grant that our hearts may grasp the words of your teaching, and perfect us as a people of one accord in true faith and right confession. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

Saint Cyril and Saint Methodius, pray for us and for all Slav nations.

Sunday, 12 February 2017

Understanding Scripture

Wayne Grudem, C. John Collins and Thomas Schreiner (editors), Understanding Scripture: An Overview of the Bible's Origin, Reliability and Meaning, 2012 Inter-Varsity Press

This Evangelical publication is a basic introduction to the Biblical texts. The first part of the book deals with reading and interpreting Scripture, while the second part deals with the Biblical documents, the canon, their textual reliability, their archaeological support, the languages they are written in, though one of the last two chapters makes an odd return to the field of interpretation by talking about salvation history. I was a little surprised that there were no chapters on the inspiration and inerrancy of the Bible.

The material in this book will not be very new to those with a graduate level Biblical education or who are well read in Biblical studies, but it is a good introduction to the Biblical text for Evangelicals who are less well informed. There is a chapter defending the Protestant omission of the Deuterocanonical books. I think it is flawed in understating the Patristic support for the Deuterocanonicals. Catholic readers would need to be cautitious with this book, though most of it is profitable.

In chapter two, John Hannah uses a number of terms, allegorical, literal, typological and literal-historical. I don't think he clearly defines and distinguishes these terms from each other very well. On page 23, he accuses Medieval theologians of using allegorical (how are they different from typological?) methods of interpretation to support un-Scriptural teaching. It might be argued that rather than departing from Scripture, Catholics have simply been willing to follow typology through to it's natural conclusions. There is a permanent tension within Evangelical exegesis as to how far to go with typological interpretation. On page 25, Hannah points out the rise of individual interpretation as the root of Enlightenment doctrinal departures, without acknowledging the role of Protestantism in taking interpretation in that direction. He suggests the importance of following previous generations of Evangelical interpretation. Yet what are we to do if those interpretations are mistaken? Without an authoritative magisterium, Evangelical appeals to traditional interpretation ring somewhat hollow.

I like the comments of David Powlinson on reading Psalm 21, recognizing the corporate participation of our worship:

Third, your participation arises not as a solo individual but in company with countless brothers and sisters. You most directly apply this psalm by joining with fellow believers in a chorus of heartfelt gladness: "Oh Lord... we will sing and praise your power" (Psalm 21:13). The king's opening joy in God's power has become his people's closing joys.

Billy Graham on Politics

Henry Jackson Society| Analysis: ‘Assad’s Crimes Against Humanity and Trump’s Options in Syria’

Henry Jackson Society| Analysis: ‘Assad’s Crimes Against Humanity and Trump’s Options in Syria’

by Kyle Orton

"Perhaps the Trump administration will realize the contradiction in trying to partner with Russia and degrade Iran in Syria. Perhaps the futility of relying on Russia as a counterterrorism partner will become obvious. Perhaps the incapacity of the Assad regime, even to hold a politically significant town like Palmyra, and the regime’s record of consciously facilitating the rise of terrorists it now offers to fight if its crimes against humanity are ignored, will be brought to the President’s attention. Perhaps Trump can be brought to see that airstrikes in isolation cannot defeat al-Qaeda, which is embedding itself further into Syrian society every day, forming a dangerously durable base from which it can attack the West; that locally-accepted rebel forces will be needed to uproot al-Qaeda. Perhaps it will dawn on him that publicly partnering with the pro-Assad coalition, something repeatedly tried by his predecessor, will not only stain him and the United States morally but will vindicate and empower al-Qaeda, pushing rebels further into al-Qaeda’s camp in order to continue the anti-regime battle. Perhaps this Amnesty report will help him understand why those rebel forces regard Assad, not the jihadists who fought in the same trenches as the rebellion, as the main enemy, and will see that being a better partner to the rebels in their main struggle is the easiest way to pull them away from al-Qaeda. Or perhaps not. Doubtless time will tell."

The Guardian: Theresa May faces public backlash over hard Brexit, poll finds

The Guardian: Theresa May faces public backlash over hard Brexit, poll finds

A clear majority of the British public oppose Theresa May’s uncompromising Brexit negotiating position and are not prepared for the UK to crash out of the EU if the prime minister cannot negotiate a reasonable exit deal, according to a new poll.

In a sign that public support for the government’s push for a hard Brexit is increasingly precarious, just 35% of the public said they backed Britain leaving the EU without an agreement with other states. The UK would then fall back on to World Trade Organisation (WTO) tariffs, which MPs and business leaders have claimed would devastate the economy.

The survey – conducted by ICM for the online campaigning organisation Avaaz on the day the House of Commons voted overwhelmingly to trigger article 50 – suggests May would face a considerable backlash if Britain crashed out of the EU on WTO terms. In a welcome boost for soft Brexit campaigners, over half (54%) of those surveyed backed either extending negotiations if a satisfactory deal could not be reached, or halting the process altogether while the public was consulted for a second time.

Who is your Enemy?

Saturday, 11 February 2017

The Maternal Face of God, by Leornardo Boff

Leonardo Boff OFM, The Maternal Face of God: The Feminine and its Religious Expressions, 1989 Collins, London

The novelty of this book lies in combining Liberation Theology and feminism with an high maximalist Mariology. This contrasts with Mary and Human Liberation, by the Sri Lankan theologian Tissa Balasuriya, which argued that Catholic dogmas regarding the Blessed Virgin contributed to the oppression of women. Balasuriya was excommunicated in 1997. I used to see that book in bookshops quite often when I was a teenager, the author's excommunication giving it the popularity of notoriety. I read Mary and Human Liberation when I was at college. Being a fundamentalist Protestant at the time, I rather enjoyed it's attacks on Catholic Mariology.

There are quite a few things wrong with The Maternal Face of God. Most importantly is Boff's low view of Scriptural authority. He clearly rejects the Inerrancy of Scripture, contrary to Magisterial teaching. He reads Scripture through the lens of the hermeneutics of suspicion, seeing it as influenced by a culture of Patriarchal dominance. While he does not call for the ordination of women, he is dismissive of arguments against it. He also spends a lot of time talking about sociology. Towards the end of the book, he devotes no less than three chapters to the subject of 'Myth,' in which he makes use of the unscientific ramblings of Carl Jung. Theologians love the words 'Myth' and 'Mythology' because nobody really knows exactly what they mean. Theologians can call the Biblical narratives 'Myths,' and then when they are accused of treating them as fiction, they can say that is not really what they meant.

Yet despite it's faults, The Maternal Face of God offers a really fruitful and insightful look at the topic of Mariology. Boff affirms the Marian dogmas of our Church and also their typological basis in Scripture. He also places them into the context of the contemporary issues of poverty and social struggle. We may disagree with Boff's Marxist assumptions, but we can appreciate his attempt to make Mariology relevant to a modern context and very real situations of poverty and oppression.

Boff sees in the Immaculate Conception the seed of a new humanity, God's wish to communicate the divine self. In Mary's Perpetual Virginity, he sees her total dedication and openness to God. As with many theologians, he connects the Assumption of Our Lady with deification:

Mary on an eschatological level is supremely divinized- preserving her created nature and thus remaining utterly distinct from God in that nature, but indissolubly one with the Spirit.

In reflecting on the Assumption, he offers criticism which would seem to be aimed at the 'Mariology from Below' advocates, such as Elizabeth Johnson, who emphasize the historical Mary as an example to identify with or Karl Rahner's emphasis on Mary within salvation history:

Mariology is in constant danger of degenerating into the empty memory of a long-ago past, made real for faith alone by a relentless scholarly research into the sources of that faith in Scripture an tradition. Our Lady can become an idea, an abstract principle, a means for the construction of our salvation history. Mary's resurrection and assumption corrects this potential deviation. Mary is still in the world, still at the heart of the Church, with the living presence of someone alive.

Boff is arguing that rather than making the Blessed Virgin Mary remote, as some of the critics of Marian dogma allege, in fact it brings her closer to us and gives her an ineffable presence. Our author also affirms the role of Mary as Mediatrix of Grace. He sees in this doctrine the identification of Mary with all those who are oppressed. Through her mediation, she joins with them in their struggles. This is particularly seen in the Magnificat, where Mary proclaims God's solidarity with the poor and suffering.

This book aroused controversy over Boff's views on the relationship of Mary to the Holy Spirit. He has been accused of teaching that Mary is an incarnation of God the Holy Spirit. Boff insists that the incarnation of the Son of God was unique and declines to call Mary's union with the Holy Spirit an incarnation. St. Maximilian Kolbe seems to be have been less cautious in his language. However, he asserts a 'spiritualization' of Mary and an uniquely intensive indwelling by the Holy Spirit in Mary that unites Our Lady to the Holy Trinity. He states:

We hold that Mary not only received the effects of the Holy Spirit's intervention in her life- indeed as anyone might, although it was surely to a special degree of intensity in her case- but that she specifically received the very person and Godhead of the Third Person of the Holy Spirit.

So there is a personal union between Mary and the Holy Spirit, when the Holy Spirit 'overshadowed' her. He describes this union in terms of perichoresis:

... the chain of chain of laudatory enunciations normally predicated of the Holy Spirit but used by the faithful in the Litany of Loreto, have sometimes struck theologians as exaggerated. But in the hypothesis we are defending, they only tell the whole truth about Mary. If Mary has been spiritualized by the Third Person of the Trinity, then everything that can be predicated of the Holy Spirit can be predicated of Mary and vice versa, by virtue of the general theological principle of the perichoresis.

Later in the book, Boff connects this union with the Holy Spirit to Mary's Divine Motherhood:

Analogously, Mary acquires in the Incarnation an indelible character in the form of a permanent, real and special relationship with the Son and the Holy Spirit, as well as through them, the Trinity as such. She alone bears the indelible character, the ontological reality, of being Mother of God and living temple of the Holy Spirit.

I think that Boff is correct in his articulation of Mary's relationship to the Trinity and divinization. This helps to provide an understanding of why we place the Mother of our Lord on such a pedestal. If the Protestants accuse us of worshiping a goddess, they are only half wrong. Boff's understanding of Mary's divinization also enables us to see in her the revelation of the Eternal Feminine. He does connect this with Sophia, Lady Wisdom, but I would have liked him to have said more about this and to have engaged with the works of Sergius Bulgakov. Boff sees all the feminine virtues having an eschatological fulfillment in the Blessed Virgin. Among his concluding thoughts he quotes Teilard de Chardin:

The authentic, pure feminine is par excellence an luminous, chaste energy, the vessel of the ideal, and of goodness- the Blessed Virgin Mary.

I had my frustrations with this book, yet I still found in it a marvelous portrayal of the glories of the Queen of the Universe.

Eastern Ukraine Situation Report 11th February

This is war. This is Europe. This is happening today.

Stars and Stripes: Former NATO general warns against Russia partnership in Syria

Stars and Stripes: Former NATO general warns against Russia partnership in Syria

WASHINGTON — The former U.S. supreme allied commander of NATO said Thursday that Russia has little interest in fighting the Islamic State group and the United States should be wary of partnering with the country in war-torn Syria.

Retired Gen. Philip Breedlove said he backs new dialogue with Moscow but warned that Russia’s operations in Syria are aimed at propping up the “savage” government of President Bashar Assad.

“I don’t see their priorities as the same as ours in any way, shape or form in Syria,” he said in testimony before the Senate. “To align ourselves with Iran and Russia in support of Mr. Assad would be very tough for me to deal with.”

His testimony comes as President Donald Trump and Congress weigh a new approach to Russia — including a major thaw in relations — amid its growing aggression, including indiscriminate bombing in Syria, an incursion into Ukraine and interference in the U.S. presidential election last year.

IB Times| Marine Le Pen: French Jews will have to renounce Israeli citizenship under National Front

IB Times| Marine Le Pen: French Jews will have to renounce Israeli citizenship under National Front

Le Pen said in response to a specific question from a reporter that special allowances would not be made for French Jews holding Israeli passports. "I'm asking the Israelis to choose their nationality. It doesn't mean that if they don't choose French nationality, they have to leave" she said.

However, Le Pen said dual citizenship with Russia would be allowed. The FN leader said her world outlook places Russia within the Europe. Le Pen has said if she becomes President she will also look to remove France from the European Union.

The Front National still don't like Jews very much. Those who hate the Muslims are just as ready to start lining up the Jews- and the faithful Christians. The Far Right has to be stopped.

ConservativeHome: The Government must do more to support marriage

ConservativeHome: The Government must do more to support marriage

by Sir Paul Coleridge

"Why is that? Because unmarried parents make up only 20 per cent of cohabiting parents but are responsible for 50 per cent of all family breakdown. The UK has almost the highest rate of family breakdown in Europe and the cost (current estimate £48 billion) shows no sign of decreasing. Sixty per cent of lone parents are on Housing benefit, against only ten per cent of intact couples.

There is also an alarming and ever widening “marriage gap” in society. The better off continue to marry at the same rate as always, around 90 per cent. The less well of no longer do so, with rates at only 24 per cent. This must mean that the less well-off experience a disproportionate share of family breakdown, along with the other obvious disadvantages inherent in their position. A social justice issue if ever there was one.

Marriage Foundation has been trumpeting this message, based on our own top-quality research, since 2012. Perhaps politicians and the public have screened it out, or filed it in the too difficult tray."

Estonia invests in Defence

The War goes on in Ukraine

Friday, 10 February 2017

The Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes

Grant us, O merciful God, protection in our weakness, that we, who keep the Memorial of the Immaculate Mother of God, may with the help of her intercession, rise up from our iniquities. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

The Litany of Our Lady of Lourdes

Lord have mercy; Lord have mercy.
Christ have mercy; Christ have mercy.
Lord have mercy; Lord have mercy.
Christ hear us; Christ graciously hear us.
God the Father of Heaven; Have mercy on us.
God the Son, Redeemer of the world; Have mercy on us.
God the Holy Spirit; Have mercy on us.

Holy Trinity, one God; Have mercy on us.
Holy Mary; Pray for us.
Holy Mother of God; Pray for us.

Mother of Christ; Pray for us.
Mother of our Savior; Pray for us.

Our Lady of Lourdes, help of Christians; Pray for us.
Our Lady of Lourdes, source of love; Pray for us.
Our Lady of Lourdes, mother of the poor; Pray for us.
Our Lady of Lourdes, mother of the handicapped; Pray for us.
Our Lady of Lourdes, mother of orphans; Pray for us.
Our Lady of Lourdes, mother of all children; Pray for us.
Our Lady of Lourdes, mother of all nations; Pray for us.
Our Lady of Lourdes, mother of the Church; Pray for us.
Our Lady of Lourdes, friend of the lonely; Pray for us.
Our Lady of Lourdes, comforter of those who mourn; Pray for us.
Our Lady of Lourdes, shelter of the homeless; Pray for us.
Our Lady of Lourdes, guide of travelers; Pray for us.
Our Lady of Lourdes, strength of the weak; Pray for us.
Our Lady of Lourdes, refuge of sinners; Pray for us.
Our Lady of Lourdes, comforter of the suffering; Pray for us.
Our Lady of Lourdes, help of the dying; Pray for us.

Queen of heaven; Pray for us.
Queen of peace; Pray for us.

Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world; Spare us O Lord.
Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world; Graciously hear us, O Lord.
Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world; Have mercy on us.

Christ hear us; Christ graciously hear us.

Let us pray:
Grant us, your servants, we pray you, Lord God, to enjoy perpetual health of mind and body. By the glorious intercession of Blessed Mary ever Virgin, may we be delivered from present sorrows, and enjoy everlasting happiness. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Our Lady of Lourdes, pray for us, for France and for all who are sick.

Talking Principles

The New York Times: ‘Bad Dude’? No, but Deported Anyway

The New York Times: ‘Bad Dude’? No, but Deported Anyway


By no standard of common sense or decency should Guadalupe García de Rayos have been a priority for deportation. Ms. Rayos, a 35-year-old mother of two, was arrested on Wednesday by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents in Phoenix. On Thursday she was deported to Mexico, a country she left 21 years ago. Her devastated family, including her American-born children, remains in the United States.

President Trump persists in the absurd claim that America will be safe and great again only after an assault on “bad dudes” and “criminal aliens,” whom he has promised to arrest and remove by the millions.

But Ms. Rayos fits no such definition and was no threat, though she had been living in the United States illegally since she was 14. She had been known to the authorities since she was caught in a workplace raid in Phoenix in 2008. In the years since, she would check in regularly with immigration officials, who chose not to deport her, having more important things to do.

The deportation of this woman is disgusting. This is so typical of immigration officials; deport a defenceless woman while leaving all the gangsters and crooks in place.

The Heavy Anglo-Orthodox: The world’s longest-reigning monarch

The Heavy Anglo-Orthodox: The world’s longest-reigning monarch

Very many happy returns to Her Majesty, Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God Queen of Great Britain, Ireland and the British Dominions beyond the Seas, Queen, Defender of the Faith!

I can never seem to write those kind of congratulatory royalist posts. I always prefer to link to other blogs to say that sort of stuff for me.

Thursday, 9 February 2017

The Feast of Saint Scholastica

As we celebrate anew the Memorial of the Virgin Saint Scholastica, we pray, O Lord, that, following her example, we may serve you with pure love and happily receive what comes from loving you. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

The Litany of Saint Scholastica

Lord, have mercy on us.
Christ, have mercy on us.
Lord, have mercy on us.

Christ, hear us, Christ, graciously hear us.
God the Father of Heaven, Have mercy on us.
God the Son, Redeemer of the world, Have mercy on us.
God, the Holy Spirit, Have mercy on us.
Holy Trinity, One God, Have mercy on us.

Holy Mary, pray for us.
Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us.
Holy Virgin of virgins, pray for us.

Saint Scholastica, pray for us. (repeated after each invocation)
St. Scholastica, true sister of St. Benedict,
St. Scholastica, chosen by God from eternity,
St. Scholastica, predisposed to faith by the grace of Christ Our Lord,
St. Scholastica, consecrated to God from thine infancy,
St. Scholastica, always a Virgin incorrupt,
St. Scholastica, espoused to Jesus Christ,
St. Scholastica, scholar of the Holy Ghost,
St. Scholastica, mirror of innocence,
St. Scholastica, model of perfection,
St. Scholastica, pattern of virtues,
St. Scholastica, glory of the monastic life,
St. Scholastica, mother of numberless virgins,
St. Scholastica, imitator of the angelic life,
St. Scholastica, full of faith in God,
St. Scholastica, replenished with hope of the goods of Heaven,
St. Scholastica, ever burning with the love of thy Spouse,
St. Scholastica, resplendent with humility,
St. Scholastica, trusting as a daughter in the Lord,
St. Scholastica, intent on prayer,
St. Scholastica, quickly heard by the Lord,
St. Scholastica, famed for the praise of perseverance,
St. Scholastica, who didst enter the courts of Heaven in the form of a dove,
St. Scholastica, who dost now follow the Lamb whithersoever He goes,
St. Scholastica, who dost rejoice in the delights of thy Spouse forever,
St. Scholastica, adorned with a crown of glory,
St. Scholastica, advocate with God of those who invoke thee,
St. Scholastica, generous patron of those who imitate thee,
St. Scholastica, holy and innocent Virgin,

We sinners, Beseech thee, Saint Scholasica, to hear us.
That you would deign to help us by your most holy and efficacious prayers to God,
we beseech thee, hear us.
That you would deign to cherish and preserve, by your protection, the Benedictine Order
(and this monastery) and all who dwell therein, we beseech thee, hear us.
(That you would admit us into the number of your children,) etc.
That you would deign to raise up, increase, and preserve our devotion toward you,
(That you would deign to preserve in us the perfect observance of the Rule of your blessed
brother, our most holy father Saint Benedict,)
That you would deign, by your supplications, to moisten the dryness of our hearts with the dew
of heavenly grace,
That by your intercession you may eternally unite us to Christ, the Spouse of our souls,
That you may lead us to eternal joys, and to Jesus (our most sweet Spouse),
That you would vouchsafe to hear us,

Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, spare us, O Lord.
Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, graciously hear us, O Lord.
Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, Have mercy on us.

V. Pray for us, O holy Virgin Scholastica,
R. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Let Us Pray.

O God, Who, to show the innocence of her life,
did cause the soul of your blessed Virgin Scholastica
to ascend to Heaven in the form of a dove,
grant, we beseech You,
by her merits and prayers,
that we may live so innocently as to deserve to arrive at eternal joys, through Jesus Christ,
Your only-begotten Son Our Lord,
Who with You and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns,
God, forever and ever. R. Amen.

Saint Scholastica, pray for us and for all women consecrated to God.

Biblical Evidence for Catholicism: Immaculate Heart of Mary & Mary Mediatrix (Excessive Devotions?)

Biblical Evidence for Catholicism: Immaculate Heart of Mary & Mary Mediatrix (Excessive Devotions?)

I’m saying that anyone struggling with Catholic Marian doctrines (and they are legion!) should also take the time to learn more about why Catholics use this sort of language about Mary. No one has to be in the dark. There is plenty of material out there. I’ve tried to do some of that educating in this thread, which is my job. non-Catholics can disagree with it. But those considering conversion need to understand that the prayer is Catholic, and is part of the faith that they would be adopting, should they decide to become Catholic. The Holy Father was not mistaken at all, within the framework of Catholic orthodoxy.

That may bother and offend and alarm some folks; it may even set them back on their journey towards the Catholic Church, for all I know, but I can’t sit here and pretend that it is not part of orthodox Catholic faith. It is. I would be negligent of my duty as a Catholic teacher if I denied that. Any possible convert can choose to learn more about it and perhaps be convinced of it or not. They’re not obliged to engage in every form of Catholic Marian piety even after they areCatholics, or to say the Rosary, or say any Marian prayer if they don’t want to.

Apologists and catechists and priests and anyone who is sharing the Catholic faith are, however, duty-bound to accurately explain what a convert is “in for” once they become Catholic (doctrine-wise). Some things are far more complex and take more time to grasp (Mariology being the classic case) but if we don’t try to explain Mariology when questions come up we are guilty of selling someone a bill of goods, when they are considering conversion. I don’t see the point of trying to do “Catholic Lite” or “Protestantizing” the faith to make it more palatable to Protestants.

I never had any struggles with Marian devotion; apart from giggling at some of the more flowery Marian prayers. For me, devotion to Mary was one of the most appealing aspects of Catholicism.

The Feast of Saint Maron

O Almighty God, who willest to be glorified in thy Saints and didst raise up thy servant Saint Maron to shine as a light in the world: Shine, we pray thee, in our hearts, that we also in our generation may shew forth thy praises, who hast called us out of darkness into thy marvellous light; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Saint Maron, pray for us, and for all Maronite Christians.

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

The Washington Post: Donald Trump wants you to be afraid

The Washington Post: Donald Trump wants you to be afraid

by Paul Waldman

"Trump’s presidency, like his campaign, is built on a set of powerful negative emotions: fear, hate, disgust, contempt, resentment. When Americans think of the world outside our borders, he wants us to think of two things: foreigners that are ripping us off, and foreigners that are trying to kill us."

Welcome to Latvia!