The musings and meandering thoughts of a crotchety old man as he observes life in the world and in a small, rural town in South East Nebraska. My Pledge-Nulla dies sine linea-Not a day with out a line.
Monday, 31 May 2021
This Memorial Day
Mr Griffey has a frightening thought that the Forces of Evil think they've won the war! I'm not so sure. It's time to resist even more!
From Daffey Thoughts
By David GriffeyFirst business. Here is a link to an old post I did about movies we try to watch on Memorial Day. The same can go for other similar holidays, like Veteran's Day and Independence Day.
Nonetheless, the older three still try to make space to be with us. Even when dating girls, they say they need at least one night a week to be with the family, if not a couple. If nothing else warmed my heart in this cold age - and it is cold, we need the heat on during this weekend owing to Global Warming - it would be that.
There is also the changing times in general. I wrote here that we are wrapping up 'Their Year'." That is the part of the year in which month after month is dedicated to framing the US, the West, white people, and Christian values as Nazi evil. Oh, there are islands in that oceanic storm of anti-Westernism: Lent and Easter, Presidents' Day, St. Patrick's Day, Memorial Day - but the whole of this half of the year is met with endless pokes and prods against almost everything the boys were raised to cherish.
Though they pointed out something. This year they heard less of the news pieces or clips or asides celebrating Black History Month or Martin Luther King or the sacredness of feminism, or the usual accompanying reminders of slavery, racism, sexism, genocide, bigotry, and general evil that usually swirled around such things in years past. They wondered why. Then they concluded that there is no longer a need.
Let's face it, the forces that would destroy the West, its values, its beliefs and faith, its principles, its freedoms, benefits and ideas of equality before God, are now entrenched and beginning to officially move forward. There was no need to continue anti-Nazi propaganda after the war was over. There is no need to continue turning people against America and the West. It's happening on its own. However many object or wish it wouldn't, the war for the West is over, and it is lost. As I said before, we're now in mop-up operations.
Because of this, and because of what they see and hear in their college environment, it's tough to feel that same sense of rousing patriotism and awe for those who gave the last full measure of devotion. More like pity they said. Pity that the country they laid down their lives for was unable to survive a few dozen generations. Pity that many who died gave their all for a country their children and grandchildren gleefully set about destroying and handing over to its new enemies.
Like one son said, however, America rose from nowhere to dominate the world in a mere hundred years or so. It would stand to reason, therefore, that our demise would be a speedy affair. Perhaps that's the point of anything in this world. All things fear time, but time fears the pyramids, so goes an old Arabic proverb. Unless you're the pyramids, time will gobble up anything we do, no matter how virtuous, how brave, how honorable. Sometimes those actions will be remembered for ages to come. Sometimes they fizzle fast. In any event, if we do it to be remembered forever by men, we do it in vain.
Perhaps it's enough that we do it, and the One who sees all things will know what was done, even if everyone else in the world forgets, or works to undo it. I suppose, at the end of the day, that's still worth celebrating, that those facing the inevitability of time still gave everything they had for us chaff in the wind.
This Heroic Polish Doctor Was Persecuted for Refusing to Perform Abortions
Memory Eternal! She was a true heroine in the battle against the Culture of Death!
From the National Catholic Register
By Fr Dariusz Śmierzchalski-WachoczAt great personal cost, Dr. Genowefa Abłażej stood her ground and defended life. She was honored by Pope St. John Paul II in 1988 with the medal ‘Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice.’
Abortion has been a moral and social problem since ancient times. Plato and Aristotle described it. Hammurabi, in his famous Code that formed part of the legal heritage of Western civilization, penalized it. Hippocrates’ Oath, which formed part of the Western heritage of medicine, forbade doctors from being abortionists. The ancient Roman Empire permitted it, but that situation changed totally as Christianity came to form Western culture, a change that persisted in most countries of the world until after World War II.
Poland is often seen as a pro-life leader within Europe and, against the backdrop of almost all European countries (including, most recently, Ireland) that have legalized it, Poland’s leadership is true. But that was not always true in the 20th century, and there are lessons from the history of abortion in Poland relevant to debates abroad. One of them is Dr. Genowefa Abłażej. More about her below.
History of Abortion Law in Poland
Poland lost her independence in 1795 to three autocratic neighbors, who divided her territory between themselves: Austria, Prussia, and Russia. During the partitions, the partitioners’ laws applied to Poland. All of them prohibited abortion, except in cases when the mother’s life was endangered. In the Austrian partition, fathers were also criminally liable under the abortion law if it were proven that he had a role in obtaining an abortion. Prohibitions on abortion remained in force when Poland regained her independence in 1918.
Upon recovering independence, Poland needed to create one legal system from the three previously in force there. A Codification Commission was tasked with developing a criminal code, pitting Catholic and conservative circles against liberal ones in the debate over abortion. The new law introduced the requirement that a physician must perform an abortion but contained neither criteria nor time limits under which abortion could be performed. When it became law in 1932, it was among Europe’s most liberal abortion regimes, except for that of the USSR in the period 1920-36. (Under Nazi occupation in the period 1943-45, Polish women were allowed abortion-on-demand at any point in pregnancy, the only time in Poland such a situation existed).
Under communism, Poland’s law of Oct. 28, 1950, “on the medical profession” required a medical commission to certify that an abortion was necessary for a woman’s health or that a prosecutor certify that conception was the result of rape, incest or statutory rape of a minor below 15. Amendments to the law on April 27, 1956, opened the door to an unlimited liberty for abortion “on account of the difficult life situation of a pregnant woman.”
The 1956 amendments unleashed a violent tide of discussion. Christian, especially Catholic circles, criticized the total decriminalization of abortion and the ambiguity of what constituted a “difficult life situation.” Communists, faced with Poland’s moribund economic situation under their rule, began promoting anti-natal policies: Party boss Władysław Gomułka told a 1958 Central Committee meeting that reducing population growth would promote economic growth. The year 1959 brought further liberalization of abortion, together with an ideological push by the Party and the “Association of Deliberate Maternity” under the leadership of the “League of Women” to promote abortion.
The Party’s push to promote abortion ran into a roadblock, however, from doctors who refused to participate in abortion. The Ministry of Health discovered that, in the absence of regulations implementing the liberal abortion laws, the number of abortions was affected by local conditions and attitudes. All the hospitals and clinics of Warsaw, for example, were identified as being unwilling to carry out abortions.
Genowefa Abłażej was among the “rebellious” doctors. Abłażej completed her medical studies in 1950 and was sent to work at the County Hospital in Szamotuły, near Poznań. She specialized in gynecology and became director of the Division of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Wholly dedicated to her work, she delivered babies and explained to women that every child had a right to life, offering the choice of adoption to women who did not want to keep their babies. Her commitment to her Hippocratic Oath and pro-life convictions eventually brought her into conflict with the hospital leadership, which dismissed her amid attacks on her in the local (controlled) press.
Out of a job, Abłażej signed up to work as a medical missionary in Uganda, working as an obstetrician, first in Naggalama, then in Fort Portal and elswhere. The only doctor in a 200-mile radius and with limited knowledge of Swahili, she eventually befriended two other Polish women doctors serving in that east African country: Wanda Błeńska, who was working among lepers, and Wanda Piotrkowska, a radiologist. Banned from caring for Polish children, she cared for children in Africa.
Returning to Poland in 1965, she encountered one more humiliation. In communist Poland, one had to turn in one’s national identity card to receive a passport and, upon return, re-exchange them. Abłażej’s ID had been lost: the authorities did not expect her to come back and so had stricken her from the citizenship list, forcing her to seek its restoration.
By sheer circumstance, through a meeting with a childhood friend Abłażej learned that a rehabilitative sanatorium for children in Świebodziń was looking for an English-speaking doctor to work with children with polio. The sanatorium director went to bat for this political black sheep, and she has hired as a surgeon, eventually specializing in bone surgery and becoming director of Orthopedic Unit 3, which specialized in children up to age 6, particularly those no other facility in Poland would touch. She also worked with children with dislocated hips. Beginning in 1972, she also became active in the Catholic Family Clinic at St. Michael the Archangel Parish in Świebodziń, speaking about the right to life across Poland and even East Germany as well as assisting with marriage preparation.
Pope St. John Paul II honored Abłażej in 1988 with the medal Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice. That same year, even the Polish Communists awarded her the “40 Years of the Polish Peoples’ Republic” medal. Today’s president of free Poland, Andrzej Duda, honored her posthumously in 2018 with the “Knight’s Cross of the Order of Reborn Poland.” She died June 8, 1988.
The Elinor Grimmark Case
Lest anyone think that Abłażej’s commitment to the rights to life and conscience as well as to medical pro-life ethics, commitments that cost her dearly professionally, are merely an historical curiosity, consider the decision of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in the case of Elinor Grimmark v. Sweden.
Grimmark is a Swedish woman who, in response to her local county’s need for midwives, studied for that profession. She was up front, saying she was willing to assist with childbirth and even to care for women post-abortion, but she would not take part in abortions. Her student stipend was cut off, and hospitals refused to hire her, even though she was quite willing to do the primary work of a midwife, i.e., to bring life into the world. Eventually, she was forced to leave her country to take a position as a midwife at a hospital in Norway (which explicitly protects conscience rights).
Grimmark sued Sweden, claiming infringement on guaranteed “European” human rights of freedom of conscience and religion. On March 12, 2020, the ECHR ruled against her, writing that while Sweden might be interfering with her ability to practice her profession, “the interference was also necessary in a democratic society and proportionate. The Court observes that Sweden provides nationwide abortion services and therefore has a positive obligation to organize its health system in a way as to ensure that the effective exercise of freedom of conscience of health professionals in the professional context does not prevent the provision of such services.” In a pro-abortion world, no one with pro-life convictions need apply. As commentator Sohrab Ahmari put it, “Europe’s highest human-rights court has in effect recognized a duty to kill the unborn.”
The culture of death is intent on driving those with pro-life convictions out of the medical professions, by making participation in abortion mandatory; by requiring abortion training as part of “standard” medical school training; by forcing pro-life doctors to “refer” patients to abortionists; by demanding participation in euthanasia. Thirty-two years after her death, the witness of Genowefa Abłażej remains highly relevant to today’s world.
Hong Kong Churches Plan Tiananmen Square Masses
Good on them, but this will not sit well with the ChiCom Slave Masters. Pray for the Church in China!
By John BurgerMemorials of the 1989 victims are increasingly an act of defiance, as Beijing wields heavier hand in former British colony.
Every year on the anniversary of the June 4, 1989, military suppression of protests in the capital of China, the Tiananmen Square massacre has been commemorated in Hong Kong. But in the years since Great Britain returned the colony to China, and especially in more recent years, the annual observance has become increasingly an act of defiance on the part of Hong Kongers.
Last year, authorities banned the June 4 gatherings, citing the COVID-19 pandemic. But people still came out to light candles in memory of the dead, perhaps with even greater resolve, as they also were protesting an impending national security law that Beijing was forcing upon Hong Kong.
Over the past year, there have been many arrests of Hong Kongers protesting that law, which took effect June 30. The most prominent person to be arrested, media mogul Jimmy Lai, is a Catholic. On Friday, he was sentenced to prison for 14 months over his participation in an unauthorized demonstration last October.
Now, the Catholic Church in Hong Kong has announced that the students and other protestors who died on the pavement of Tiananmen Square 32 years ago will not be forgotten. Seven Catholic churches in the territory will offer Mass in their memory on June 4.“For various reasons, we may not be able to speak openly, but we must not forget history,” the Diocese of Hong Kong’s Justice and Peace Commission said on its website. “Let us offer the life-giving holy sacrifice of the Mass that the Lord of history may look upon those who died in the spring and summer in the pursuit of truth.”
The event comes just weeks after the announcement that the Diocese of Hong Kong will have a new bishop: Jesuit Fr. Stephen Chow. Though he will not step into the role until December, Bishop-elect Chow, who is head of the Chinese Province of the Society of Jesus, said at a May 18 news conference that he would pray for the victims of China’s 1989 crackdown on pro-democracy protesters, especially on occasions like observing the June 4 anniversary.
“Sometimes in the past, I had joined the event in the public arena, but there were times I could not go,” he said.
“So I pray, I pray for China, pray for all those who passed away in 1989. Whether it is possible this year depends on the legal requirements,” he added.
On Thursday, the Hong Kong police rejected a request for permission for a march and candlelight vigil commemorating the Tiananmen victims. Once again, they cited the threat of the coronavirus pandemic — even though the South China Morning Post reported that day that Hong Kong marked a day of zero new COVID cases for the first time in seven months.
Porson Chan, of the diocese’s Justice and Peace Commission, did not think the police restriction will affect plans for the Masses.
“A Catholic Mass is a legal religious activity. Under the policy of the coronavirus, we should allow the faithful to fill up only 30% of the capacity of a single church,” Chan told Aleteia Friday. “If we keep this regulation strictly, we can hold a public Mass legally.”
“Counter-order, Comrades!” The CCP Now Wants More Births
Whilst they're now encouraging births amongst the Han, they're still using forced abortions in the Uyghur genocide.
From Bitter Winter
By Marco RespintiAlthough contradictory, statistics indicate China has a demography problem. The regime will solve it in its usual way, i.e., ignoring individual freedom.
Italian humorist Giovanni Guareschi–a staunch anti-communist journalist and writer–coined a famous sentence to mock Stalinists “Contrordine, compagni!”, i.e., “Counter-order, comrades!”. It was the sudden announcement of an impromptu change in policies and ideas that activists ought to support with the same enthusiasm and dedication they previously displayed for their blatant contrary. Guareschi’s amusing assumption was that, no matter what, communists dully obey whatever kind of order comes from the party, inhaling the “official truth” (even typos in articles and manifestos) from a “third nostril” that nature provided them with.
The CCP has now launched its “Counter-order, comrades!” campaign regarding demography, declaring the country now fully open to childbirth. The days of the staggering “one-child policy” and the subsequent “two-child policy” are over, the reason being the progressive decrease of the Chinese population.
The decision has been preceded, and prepared, by three relevant steps. The first is the 7th National Population Census in December 2020; the second is a report by a team of expert researchers of the People’s Bank of China (中国人民银行, PBC), dated March 26, 2021 and released on April 14; and the third is the publication of the December census data on May 11, 2021.
All three steps reveal a decrease in China’s population figures, but with a significant difference.
Lowest population in 60 years or a birth rate decrease?
It is not clear why the results of the December census were withheld so long after having been announced as imminent. Also, the full census itself is not published as yet. To this date, the web site of the National Bureau of Statistics of China (国家统计局, NBS) shows only the latest full census of 2010 (these demographic and sociological investigations are now conducted every decade). The only 2020 data available are those revealed by a series of eight press releases on May 11, 2021.
What is clear is that the data presented by the PBC’s experts differ from those ‘trailed’ by the NBS. In a normal country it happens every day that different, often private, institutions and agencies of the government conduct independent research resulting in different (sometimes very different) conclusions. But China is not a normal country: it’s a totalitarian country, where all is controlled by the state or enjoys only partial freedom according to the state’s will and designs. So, it is rather improbable that the PBC and the NBS could act so independently as to contradict each other.
In a normal country, this wouldn’t arouse any enduring curiosity, but China is not a normal country. In China, every discrepancy displayed in public could amount to a danger for the central power or even a betrayal.
What is the discrepancy then? The PBC’s experts said that China’s total population had decreased for the first time in 60 years, going below 1.4 billion. This news was published on April 27 by the Financial Times, which was the first newspaper to report on the PBC’s research, and then relayed by many other media outlets. The NBS refuted this finding in the second of its eight press releases on May 11, saying that the country’s population had not gone below the 1.4 billion figure and was in fact still growing but at a slower rate. Thus, not the total population, but the birth rate had decreased for the first time since the 1955 national census, and it is the birth rate (rather than the absolute decrease of the total population) which is the problem.
The ghost of Maoism
The difference is noteworthy for two reasons. The figure of 1.4 billion is both huge and a symbol. It is a demographic ‘sacred limes,’ a threshold be crossed in one direction only. It is round and grandiose, perfect to show the regime’s muscles. Demography is a device rhetorically used by totalitarian and dictatorial regimes but is especially dear to Communist rulers and useful for Xi Jinping’s China in the age of the “New Silk Road”.
The second reason is more serious. In 1961, China was at the peak of the “Great Leap Forward” (1958–1962), one of the many political and economic follies of Chairman Mao, who, in an excess of omnipotence, decided that China, at that time essentially a rural country, had to equal or even overtake the steel production of the democratic superpowers, including the U.S. Officially, at that time the population shrank by 13.4 million, but in his Mao’s Great Famine: The History of China’s Most Devastating Catastrophe, 1958–62 (New York: Walker, 2010), Dutch historian Frank Dikötter counts at least 45 million deaths, also documenting episodes of cannibalism committed by starving people. In Tombstone: The Untold Story of Mao’s Great Famine (London, UK: Allen Lane, 2012), Chinese author and journalist Yang Jisheng concludes that 36 million people starved to death between 1958 and 1962, while 40 million others failed to be born.
These and other millions were the death toll attributable to Chairman Mao, and the politically-induced demographic winter of the Maoist era was one of the chief results of the unsustainable economic disaster that served as the real rationale for the “one-child policy” that post-Maoist rulers launched in 1979 and inserted in Article 25 of the General Principles of the fourth Constitution of the People’s Republic of China (中华人民共和国宪法), or PRC, adopted in 1982. Forced abortion, forced sterilization of women, babies left alone to die and babies kidnapped to be sold as ‘orphans’ to foreigners caused an unknown number of casualties. A propaganda video, aired by the Chinese state TV in 1998, claimed that 338 million people had been prevented from being born.
As shown in a table published in the NBS’ press release no. 2 regarding the December 2020 national census, the Chinese birth rate peaked in 1982 and declined when the “one-child policy” inserted into the national Constitution took full effect.
This is what British journalist Jasper Becker calls Hungry Ghosts: Mao’s Secret Famine (London, UK, John Murray: 1996) in a book that Dikötter judges still very readable even after his own seminal study on the subject, in comparison to other early publications on that great famine, which are rather dated. Perhaps these old ghosts are haunting the present CCP rulers who make no mystery of drawing inspiration from many aspects of Maoism, in a regime where fake news is mass-produced by the state.
Two conclusions for one thriller
The curious side of this kind-of-a-thriller is that both the PBC and the NBS are part of the Chinese government as deputy-cabinet level agencies directly under the PRC’s State Council (中華人民共和國國務院). This is the chief administrative authority of the country, chaired by the premier, who is (since 2013) Li Keqiang. In a normal country, conflicts among different state institutions happen. They may happen in China too, but since China is not a normal country, this may reveal two things. A crack (of some sort) in the regime or a mere mistake. In a democratic country, public mistakes can be costly, in a totalitarian country like China they surely are. As are cracks.
This thriller may thus have two conclusions. In the first scenario, the PBC’s experts didn’t make any mistake. So, the NBS is lying, its data are fake news, and China has demographically gone back to those dark times when the population officially shrank by almost 14 million. It would mean that demographically the country is at the same point as when it implemented a massacre to repair another massacre, and it now needs another “Counter-order, comrades!” to cancel the previous one (the 2015 “two-child policy”) which in its turn canceled the one before that (the 1979–2015 “one-child policy” to cancel the effect of Maoism).
In the second scenario, the PBC’s experts were wrong. The NBS told the plain truth, and China’s birth rate has been constantly decreasing since the “one-child policy” became part of the Chinese Constitution.
In both cases, it’s the Chinese totalitarian state that decides on fundamental human freedoms and rights like having babies and how many to have. Contrasting policies like mass massacres or “sons for the motherland” are within the reach of the next “Counter-order, comrades!” And in fact, while the country is now officially fully open for childbirth, forced abortions and sterilizations continue to serve as tools for the CCP’s genocidal policy against Uyghurs.
How the Anglo-Saxons built England
As usual, the Jutes, my people are ignored. The Angles and the Saxons were not alone!
By Ed WestBack in the eighth century the liberal elite was similarly obsessed
Today if you visit Battle Abbey in Sussex, the great religious house built by William the Conqueror to atone for the bloodshed he caused, children get to re-enact the most famous event in English history by choosing to be either Saxons or Normans. What kind of monsters, I wondered when I lasted visited, would choose to be those shaven-headed grasping, quasi-French religious fanatics?
We’ve always sided with the defeated of 1066. Losing liberates you from the labours of history and allows the vast freedom of what-might-have-been and happy myth-making. And, indeed, Anglo-Saxon England has often been portrayed as a happy place of flowery meadows and rainbow skies and rivers made of chocolate.
The ideal of the Anglo-Saxons as freeborn lovers of liberty is one of the most persistent throughout English history, and long before Walter Scott’s Ivanhoe. During the Peasant’s Revolt Hertfordshire villeins threatened the Abbey of St Albans with ransacking unless they handed over charters from the time of King Offa proving that serfdom had not existed in those halcyon days. In the Civil War, radicals such as John Lilburne and Gerard Winstanley railed against the Norman Yoke; Thomas Jefferson wanted Horsa and Hengist on the presidential seal, “the Saxon chiefs from whom we claim the honor of being descended, and whose political principles and form of government we have assumed”.
It is the oldest of class myths, trusty yeomen against an aristocracy who, even today, have a disproportionate amount of Norman blood. Yet a myth it was; the ancestors of the peasants of St Albans indeed weren’t serfs in Offa’s day — they were slaves. Among its many horrors, Anglo-Saxon England was rife with slavery, an institution effectively abolished by William the Conqueror.
Marc Morris is no naïve freeborn Saxon; his previous book, The Norman Conquest, brilliantly laid out the complexities of that fascinating and frightening people; rapacious, cruel and intolerant, yet often opposed to capital punishment and with a new form of politics called chivalry in which captured opponents were spared. The last decades of Anglo-Saxon England, in contrast, were like the depths of George R.R. Martin’s darkest nightmares, with numerous blindings, betrayals and brutal murders and a court culture devoid of any mercy.
Morris’s eagerly-awaited and equally enthralling The Anglo-Saxons covers the much longer preceding period, and throughout this epic narrative is the continual theme of England’s semi-detached relationship with the continent. The story begins with the destruction of one, Latin-speaking, continental empire, and ends with England’s absorption into another — this one dominated by speakers of a bastardised descendent of the Roman tongue.
In AD402 the last Roman coins appear and at some point the Romans depart, whether with the approval of the Romano-Britons we can’t entirely be sure. This Rexit proved rather unsuccessful, and here we enter the mythical origins of the Saxons, with three ships arriving from across the North Sea to Kent, led by the brothers Horsa and Hengest.
This is the traditional tale told by Gildas, a depressing sixth-century monk living in Brittany and a sort of proto-conservative newspaper columnist warning that the country was going to the dogs because of immigration (he happened to be right, though). Yet Gildas got some basic facts wrong (no change there) and Morris is confident that these are merely common tropes, three ships and brothers with alliterative names being a common theme in origin stories.
Little is known of this earlier period, but light emerges in 597 when Pope Gregory, who turned the ruined city of Rome into the beating heart of a new spiritual Roman empire, sent an emissary to convert the heathens. This began what was for a millennium a close and intense relationship between the English and the Church of Rome.
The Church brought the country back within the European mainstream, literacy re-emerged, and it proved strongest in the north. So begins that great moment in history, the Northumbrian Golden Age, where on the banks of the Tyne and Wear a new civilisation burst forth, producing some of the most beautiful artwork of the middle ages and early renaissance men such as Alcuin and, most importantly of all, the Venerable Bede.
Perhaps no one other than Shakespeare did as much to create the English narrative; this remarkable monk, who never left his native North-East and yet had a vast imagination encompassing every subject imaginable, largely wrote the first chapter in our national story, the Ecclesiastical History of the English People.
History, of course, is told by the winners, and Bede was a Christian. The greatest warrior of the time was Penda of Mercia, who killed no fewer than three kings of East Anglia in the endless tribal wars that marked the period. Yet even after pagan Mercia had defeated Christian Northumbria, the latter’s defeated king, Oswald, came to be immortalised, a saint with his image portrayed across churches as far as Germany.
Penda disappeared into historic nothingness and his son, the even more unfortunately name Peada, accepted the inevitable and became Christian. Morris suggests that Penda’s defeat in 655, at the hands of Oswald’s successor Oswiu, might be the origin story of the most exciting archaeological find of recent years, the Staffordshire Hoard, which dates to around the right time.
“If this wasn’t the war gear of Oswiu and his fellow warriors, it was exactly what their war gear would have looked like,” he suggests. As with all of this period, we have to let our imaginations do much of the work, but what a rich seam for the imagination! Perhaps, the author wonders, it was carried from the battlefield by a Mercian warlord surviving the massacre, or it was like the scene in Beowulf, when an unnamed individual, the last of a defeated race, buries their treasure in despair:
“Now, earth, hold what earls once held
And heroes can no more; it was mined from you first
By honourable men. My own people
Have been ruined in war; one by one
They went down to death, looked their last
On sweet life in the hall”.
Beowulf is a lament for an age of warriors already gone; by now it was the age of clerics, as the Church’s bureaucracy grew across the kingdoms. The most influential Saxons were now not the kings but the men and women of the church, such as Wilfrid, Hilda and Boniface. Again, England’s strange relationship with the continent would prove central; Kent had been converted by Italians, but Northumbria had been converted by the Irish, and the Celtic Church had developed its own rituals and rules, the biggest dispute being over the dating of Easter.
For two whole decades, King Oswiu and his wife Eanfled celebrated Easter at different times of year, and this situation obviously couldn’t last. The nationwide dispute was resolved at the Synod of Whitby where Bishop Wilfrid made a very Remainer-sounding argument for following Rome. “Do you think that a handful of people in a corner of the remotest island is to be preferred to the universal Church of Christ which is spread through the world?” The liberal elite won the day and England fell in with the continent.
The most influential priest was Theodore of Tarsus, a Greek from what is now Syria who had been appointed to this utterly distant, alien, barbaric land well into his sixties. As Archbishop of Canterbury, Theodore more than anyone established the hierarchy of the English Church, much of which still stands today, and cracked down on such strange local customs as mothers putting their daughters on rooftops to cure fevers. When one of his clerics, Bishop Chad, refused to get on a horse because he wanted to show (a rather impractical) humility by walking everywhere, the 69-year-old Greek cleric heaved him into the saddle. Bede said Theodore “was the first of the archbishops whom the whole Anglo-Saxon Church consented to obey”.
The mid 8th century saw an uptake in international trade around the coasts of northern Europe, an inkling of the North Sea area’s future economic takeoff. Yet the cities evacuated by the Romans had been left untouched by the Saxon invaders, who called them the enta geweorc – the work of the giants. Even the largest, Londonium remained empty, and yet a couple of miles to the west the Saxons had set up a trading post – a wic – which became Lundenwic. Bede in 731 described it as “an emporium for many nations, who come to it by land and sea”.
Trade flourished, as did the monastic economy, but the monasteries would also prove to be vulnerable to a darkening presence in the distance; in 793 horror came to northern Christendom when Lindisfarne was raided by “heathens” — Vikings.
Norse armies were able to attack coastal towns at will, and in 851 even stormed the old Roman walls of Canterbury. But the crisis became a catastrophe in 865 when the Great Heathen Army overran the kingdom of Northumbria, killing its king, and then doing likewise to East Anglia. When Mercia collapsed, the story of the Saxons may well have ended. The last kingdom was ruled by the old king’s youngest son, a man of 20 who had been destined for the Church, and even sent to Rome as a child. His three elder brothers had died in succession and the young man, plagued by — possibly psychosomatic — illness now faced terrible odds. His name was Alfred.
For all the propaganda involved — Alfred wisely employed his own biographer, Asser — his epitaph is certainly justified; he defeated the Vikings in battle, made literacy a national priority, built the burhs that would become many modern towns and in 886 re-founded the Roman city of London, where he was accepted as king by those Anglo-Saxons not under Danish rule, with the approval of “all the counsellors of the English race” — ealles Angelcynnes witan.
When Alfred’s children and grandchildren forced the submission of Viking rulers further north, the kingdoms of Mercia and Northumbria would not return. Instead, after his grandson Athelstan united the country in 927 it was said that “this Saxon-land [was] made whole” — ista Saxonia perfecta. Athelstan, defeating a coalition of Scots, Welsh and Viking rulers at “The Great Battle” at Brunanburh, now went by the title “King of the English”.
And yet the glorious triumph of the House of Wessex was not fated to last forever, and a series of disasters in the following century led to foreign conquest — in 1016. Unlike the more famous invader of 50 years later, the Danish Canute did not decapitate the country’s elite, and ruled justly; chroniclers also observed approvingly that with his North Sea empire, Canute was able to remove tariffs for English traders on much of the continent.
The conquest of 1066 was, in contrast, catastrophic for the natives: of 1,000 major landowners recorded in William’s 1086 Domesday Book, only 13 were English. And yet the same record showed that the unfree population had already fallen by a quarter and by 1150 slavery was effectively gone. A chronicler of 1130s recalled that “In this respect the English found foreigners treated them better than they treated themselves”. Many such historical cases!
The Normans destroyed much of Anglo-Saxon culture although they conserved the works of Bede, Asser, Beowulf, the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles and the lives of English saints like Oswald and Ethelwold. Yet they also brought England again into the continental mainstream; we all meet plenty of Williams and Henrys in our daily lives, but not many people called Ethelwold or Oswiu and certainly not Peada.
“And yet,” as Morris says: “although their buildings are mostly gone, and their myths have been dispelled, a great deal of the Anglo-Saxon inheritance remains. The head of the English Church is still based at Canterbury because it was the principal city of King Ethelbert when he welcomed St Augustine over 1,400 years ago. Westminster is the political heart of the kingdom because Edward the Confessor added a royal palace when he rebuilt its ancient abbey. The shires of England, although tinkered with in the late twentieth century, are essentially the same as they were at the time of their creation more than 1,000 years ago… Roman Britannia, despite the grandeur of its ruins, lasted barely 400 years, and was over by the mid-fifth century. England is still a work in progress.”
CONTRA GENTILES - BOOK THREE: PROVIDENCE -Chapter 71 THAT DIVINE PROVIDENCE DOES NOT ENTIRELY EXCLUDE EVIL FROM THINGS
 Indeed, divine governance, whereby God works in things, does not exclude the working of secondary causes, as we have already shown. Now, it is possible for a defect to happen in an effect, because of a defect in the secondary agent cause, without there being a defect in the primary agent. For example, in the case of the product of a perfectly skilled artisan, some defect may occur because of a defect in his instrument. And again, in the case of a man whose motive power is strong, he may limp as a result of no defect in his bodily power to move, but because of a twist in his leg bone. So, it is possible, in the case of things made and governed by God, for some defect and evil to be found, because of a defect of the secondary agents, even though there be no defect in God Himself.
 Moreover, perfect goodness would not be found in created things unless. there were an order of goodness in them, in the sense that some of them are better than others. Otherwise, all possible grades of goodness would not be realized, nor would any creature be like God by virtue of holding a higher place than another. The highest beauty would be taken away from things, too, if the order of distinct and unequal things were removed. And what is more, multiplicity would be taken away from things if inequality of goodness were removed, since through the differences by which things are distinguished from each other one thing stands out as better than another; for instance, the animate in relation to the inanimate, and the rational in regard to the irrational. And so, if complete equality were present in things, there would be but one created good, which clearly disparages the perfection of the creature. Now, it is a higher grade of goodness for a thing to be good because it cannot fall from goodness; lower than that is the thing which can fall from goodness. So, the perfection of the universe requires both grades of goodness. But it pertains to the providence of the governor to preserve perfection in the things governed, and not to decrease it. Therefore, it does not pertain to divine goodness, entirely to exclude from things the power of falling from the good. But evil is the consequence of this power, because what is able to fall does fall at times. And this defection of the good is evil, as we showed above. Therefore, it does not pertain to divine providence to prohibit evil entirely from things.
 Again, the best thing in any government is to provide for the things governed according to their own mode, for the justice of a regime consists in this. Therefore, as it would be contrary to the rational character of a human regime for men to be prevented by the governor from acting in accord with their own duties—except, perhaps, on occasion, due to the need of the moment-so, too, would it be contrary to the rational character of the divine regime to refuse permission for created things to act according to the mode of their nature. Now, as a result of this fact, that creatures do act in this way, corruption and evil result in things, because, due to the contrariety and incompatibility present in things, one may be a source of corruption for another. Therefore, it does not pertain to divine providence to exclude evil entirely from the things that are governed.
 Besides, it is impossible for an agent to do something evil, unless by virtue of the fact that the agent intends something good, as is evident from the foregoing. But to prohibit universally the intending of the good for the individual on the part of created things is not the function of the providence of Him Who is the cause of every good thing. For, in that way, many goods would be taken away from the whole of things. For example, if the inclination to generate its like were taken away from fire (from which inclination there results this particular evil which is the burning up of combustible things), there would also be taken away this particular good which is the generation of fire and the preservation of the same according to its species. Therefore, it is not the function of divine providence totally to exclude evil from things.
 Furthermore, many goods are present in things which would not occur unless there were evils. For instance, there would not be the patience of the just if there were not the malice of their persecutors; there would not be a place for the justice of vindication if there were no offenses; and in the order of nature, there would not be the generation of one thing unless there were the corruption of another. So, if evil were totally excluded from the whole of things by divine providence, a multitude of good things would have to be, sacrificed. And this is as it should be, for the good is stronger in its goodness than evil is in its malice, as is clear from earlier sections. Therefore, evil should not be totally excluded from things by divine providence.
 Moreover, the good of the whole takes precedence over the good of a part. it is proper for a governor with foresight to neglect some lack of goodness in a part, so that there may be an increase of goodness in the whole. Thus, an artisan bides the foundations beneath earth, so that the whole house may have stability. But, if evil were removed from some parts of the universe, much perfection would perish from the ‘universe, whose beauty arises from an ordered unification of evil and good things. In fact, while evil things originate from good things that are defective, still, certain good things also result from them, as a consequence of the providence of the governor. Thus, even a silent pause makes a hymn appealing. Therefore, evil should not have been excluded from things by divine providence.
 Again, other things, particularly lower ones, are ordered to man’s good as an end. Now, if no evils were present in things, much of man’s good would be diminished, both in regard to knowledge and in regard to the desire or love of the good. In fact, the good is better known from its comparison with evil, and while we continue to suffer certain evils our desire for goods grows more ardent. For instance, how great a good health is, is best known by the sick; and they also crave it more than do the healthy. Therefore, it is not the function of divine providence totally to exclude evils from things.
 For this reason, it is said: “I make peace and create evil” (Is. 45:7); and again: “There is no evil in a city which God will not do” (Amos 3:6).
 Now, with these considerations we dispose of the error of those who, because they noticed that evils occur in the world, said that there is no God. Thus, Boethius introduces a certain philosopher who asks: “If God exists, whence comes evil?” [ De consolatione philosophiae I, 4]. But it could be argued to the contrary: “If evil exists, God exists.” For, there would be no evil if the order of good were taken away, since its privation is evil. But this order would not exist if there were no God.
 Moreover, by the foregoing arguments, even the occasion of error is removed from those who denied that divine providence is extended to these corruptible things, because they saw that many evils occur in them; they said, moreover, that only incorruptible things are subject to divine providence, things in which no defect or evil part is found.
 By these considerations, the occasion of erring is also taken away from the Manicheans who maintained two first agent principles, good and evil, as though evil could have no place under the providence of a good God.
 So, too, the difficulty of some people is solved; namely, whether evil actions are from God. Indeed, since it has been sbown that every agent produces its action by acting through the divine power, and, consequently that God is the cause both of all effects and all actions, and since it was also shown that evil and defects occur in things ruled by divine providence as a result of the establishment of secondary causes in which there can be deficiency, it is evident that bad actions, according as they are defective, are not from God but from defective proximate causes; but, in so far as they possess something of action and entity, they must be from God. Thus limping arises from the motive power, in so far as it possesses something of motion, but in regard to what it has by way of defect it is due to the crookedness of the leg.
Next - CONTRA GENTILES - BOOK THREE: PROVIDENCE -Chapter 72 THAT DIVINE PROVIDENCE DOES NOT EXCLUDE CONTINGENCY FROM THINGS
The Feisty Maid of Orléans: Joan of Arc’s Legacy
Her Feast Day was yesterday. Surprisingly, given the historical hatred of her by the English, the Church of England also honours her as a Saint.
From Catholic Stand
By Peter Darcy
Did you know that William Shakespeare hated Joan of Arc?
I don’t think “hatred” is too strong a word either. In Shakespeare’s play Henry VI (1591), written a century and a half after Joan died, he called her the “foul fiend of France” as well as a few other nasty and derogatory female terms which should not be repeated in a Catholic publication!
So what was his problem?
Well, the essence of it was that Shakespeare was English.
A Terrible Defeat
That feisty little French girl had humiliated the English a century before by breaking the back of England’s invasion of her country. Joan’s leadership of the armies of France was the first time in a hundred years that the French had defeated the English in battle.
To make matters worse, Joan was not very diplomatic about it either. Here is a portion of her first letter to the English prior to giving them a proper whooping:
You, King of England and you, Duke of Bedford, who call yourself Regent of the realm of France… Hand back to the maid, who is sent by God, the King of Heaven, the keys of all the fine towns of France you have taken and ravaged… And you, archers and soldiers, noble or not, who are before the city of Orléans, go in God’s name back to your country.… King of England, if you do not do what I ask, I will force your men to depart wherever I meet them in France; if they do not, I shall have them all slain. (Beevers, Joan of Arc, TAN, 55)
The proud English commanders and arrogant nobles didn’t take kindly to such insolence from a French peasant girl. And keep in mind that she was only 18-years-old when she sent that first of numerous brazen and disrespectful letters to the invaders.
The memory of that defeat was still a festering wound in Shakespeare’s England a century later. But perhaps the Bard was more swayed by the English “fake news” about Joan than we are today.
The Crowning Glory of the Middle Ages
Yet, Joan was the crowning glory of the late Middle Ages. She was the last gasp of heroism before Europe broke apart in the Reformation. Notwithstanding the hatred of her enemies, Joan remains one of the most inspirational characters in all of history. We remember her fondly because today, May 30, is the 590th anniversary of her death (1431) and her official feast day.
Mark Twain, who loved Joan, once wrote that “It took six thousand years to produce her; her like will not be seen in the earth again in fifty thousand.” Quite high praise from a man who was known more for his sarcastic humor than for religious sentiment.
Joan still has that effect on people because she is seen by history as a kind of whirlwind of righteous anger and divine judgment that knocked some sense into the men who had wrecked the patrimony of two great nations. No one ever did what she did.
That little woman was like a colossus marching through a long dark period of history to mark the end of an age:
- She raised the Siege of Orléans (in May of 1430), liberating the most strategically important city in the whole conflict between the two nations;
- Joan went on to drive the English out of the Loire River Valley (165 miles of territory) that they had controlled since the Battle of Crecy in 1346;
- She launched the “beginning of the end” for the longest war in history, the Hundred Years War (which ended 25 years after Joan’s death)
- Joan made it possible for Charles VII to be crowned King of France and to take his rightful place in the history of the French monarchy.
Oh, and there’s also this: she accomplished all this in less than one year.
A Great Reset
Her victories could be called the “great reset” of the Middle Ages because they reshuffled the deck of international politics at the time and clarified God’s will for the entire Christian world.
In essence, Joan herself was the message that Christ wanted France to be free and clear of the English, who, through politics and intrigue, had infiltrated a good portion of the country. At the time Joan comes on the scene, the English were poised to conquer what was left of the Kingdom of France and subjugate the entire country to the British monarchy.
Everything that came before Joan of Arc was a millennium of organically-grown and carefully cultivated Christian civilization. The warring (Catholic) kings and royalty had all but undermined this civilization by their political intrigues.
When Joan arrived with her purity and conviction – as an envoy of Christ Himself – she reminded all the warring Christians that Christ was the King of Heaven to whom all, weak and mighty alike, owed obedience.
Her Greatest Legacy
The story of her martyrdom is too long and sad a tale to recount here, but there are numerous books on her life and death. I would just like to point out one final detail of history that may escape even the most avid lovers of Joan of Arc. In fact, it is her greatest accomplishment.
The solidarity of Christian civilization that had been achieved in medieval Europe was called by a single name – Christendom. But Christendom was not to last after Joan’s death, despite ending the Hundred Years’ War. Joan had done her job, but the arrogant politicians and clerics didn’t follow suit.
Enter Martin Luther in 1517. His Protestant rebellion shattered the unity of Christendom and infused doctrinal chaos into the Christian world in its long wake.
Henry VIII of England followed Luther’s rampage, and we all know about that king’s homicidal marital ethics. We sometimes forget, however, that Henry proclaimed himself the head of the Church in England (in 1535). He usurped the role of the pope – and dealt the death blow to any hope of maintaining a united Christian Church in Europe.
Joan of Arc’s France was one of the countries that stood as a bastion of Catholicism against the Germanic and English rebellions of that time. If France had fallen into the hands of England during Joan’s time, only God knows how deeply Christianity would have been wounded in its mission.
But the opposite happened. In the centuries that followed Joan, there was an astounding rebirth of spiritual vigor and faith that issued from France. Not all is due directly to the influence of Joan of Arc, by any means, but we can certainly say that without Joan, the rebirth would not have happened.
Consider the number of the French Catholic saints who were products of future ages. Note, too, that a good number of these French saints were founders of religious orders which had a force multiplying effects on the evangelization of the world and the salvation of souls. An English-dominated, Protestant France would likely not have produced these saints:
St. Peter Faber (co-founder of the Jesuits)
St. Frances de Sales and St. Jane Frances de Chantal (founders, Order of the Visitation of Holy Mary)
St. Isaac Jogues and the North American Martyrs
St. Vincent de Paul and St. Louise de Maurillac (founders Daughters of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul and Congregation of the Mission)
St. John Eudes (founder, Order of Our Lady of Charity)
St. Claude de la Colombiere and St. Margaret Mary Alacoque – visionary of the Sacred Heart apparitions and her spiritual director
St. Louis-Marie de Montfort (founder, the Company of Mary, the Daughters of Wisdom, and the Brothers of Saint Gabriel)
St. Jean-Baptiste de La Salle (founder, Institute of the Brothers of the Christian Schools)
St. Benedict Joseph Labré
The Carmelite Martyrs of Compiègne and countless other martyrs of the French Revolution
St. Mary Euphrasia Pelletier (founder, Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd)
St. John Vianney – patron saint of priests
St. Bernadette Soubirous – visionary of Lourdes
Ven. Basil Moreau – (founder, Congregation of the Holy Cross)
St. Julian Peter Eymard – (founder, Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament and Servants of the Blessed Sacrament)
St. Catherine Labouré – visionary of the Miraculous Medal Apparitions
St. Therese of Lisieux, the Little Flower
St. Peter Chanel – Apostle to Oceania.
Because of these countless, selfless French missionaries, entire continents and remote parts of the world now have the Christian faith, including great swaths of our own North America. Other areas of French evangelization include West Africa, Asia (particularly Vietnam and Korea), Oceania, parts of the Caribbean, and elsewhere.
What a debt of gratitude the entire Catholic world owes to them – and to one feisty medieval maiden named Joan.
Beware When Church Leaders Manipulate the Language: Parts I&II
From Catholic Culture
By Phil Lawler
As an editor, a writer, and a reader, I cherish clarity of expression. As a Catholic, I am appalled by the abuses of language—the pretense, the confusion, the obfuscation, and even the outright deceit—that I see in many recent pronouncements from our Church leadership.
Last week the Vatican announced that a meeting Synod of Bishops, which scheduled for October 2022, will be postponed for a year, to allow for broader discussions of the chosen topic: synodality. The Vatican has suggested a full program of consultations: in parishes, then at the level of dioceses, then episcopal conferences, and finally at the “continental” level, leading to the bishops’ session in Rome.
The topic of all these consultations, again, will be synodality. The quest for synodality is a key theme in the teaching of Pope Francis. But the truth is that no one has a very clear understanding what “synodality” means. And maybe that’s the point. Will a year of consultations clarify things, or will it simply allow for more general confusion?
Or—a more likely possibility, in my view—will that general confusion allow for a cadre of activists to seize control of the process, and turn “synodality” into a handy cover for their own preferred plans?
This week, in a similar development, the Vatican unveiled a a seven-year “action platform” to implement the teaching of the encyclical on the environment. Pope Francis explained the ambitious goal of this program, saying that “we need a new ecological approach, that can transform our way of dwelling in the world.”
So how does the Vatican propose to transform human life? The plan suggests that the first year of the effort should focus on “the three fundamental tasks of community building, resource sharing, and drawing up of concrete action plans.” Thus after calling for seven years of concrete action, the Vatican proposes to begin by making plans for concrete action. So this isn’t really an “action platform,” so much as a call for some action(s) which have not yet been identified. The Vatican’s plan, as described, is not for specific actions but for a lengthy and malleable process.
In both cases—the synod consultation and the environmental “action platform”—the Vatican calls for the recruitment of activists who will work with parishes, dioceses, and episcopal conferences to pursue the desired goals. So a fresh layer will be added to the ecclesiastical bureaucracy, with new operatives holding meetings, attending conferences, issuing statements, and promoting what they see as the top priorities for their Catholic communities.
The great conservative theorist Russell Kirk attended the “Call to Action” conference in Detroit in 1976, and saw how a cadre of such activists—whom he described as “the church mice”—could and did drive the agenda, producing a pastoral disaster from which the Church in America has not yet fully recovered. The bishops who should have controlled the meeting were unprepared; the activists were oh-so-very prepared, and ready to seize the day.
Is this the meaning of “synodality”—a process that would allow a determined, organized minority to dictate pastoral practice? Is this the way the Vatican under Pope Francis proposes to transform human activity, ushering in an environmentalist utopia? And if that is the immediate future of our Church, what will the cost be, in terms of the integrity of Catholic doctrine, the vigor of sacramental life, and the mission to make disciples of all nations?
Yesterday I wrote about “the abuses of language…that I see in many recent pronouncements from our Church leadership,” with my focus on two recent Vatican announcements. Now let me turn to a few noteworthy American examples.
Sometimes the misuse of language is downright Orwellian. When Chicago’s Cardinal Blase Cupich announced that unvaccinated Catholics must not be allowed inside churches without masks, he stipulated that each parish should have officials at the doors to check every individual for proof of vaccination. These people—who will block the doors to those who are unmasked and undocumented—are identified as “the parish’s greeter/hospitality team.” Some greeting; some hospitality.
Unless I’m much mistaken, these “greeters” will not be asking parishioners to show the results of their latest tuberculosis tests. They won’t quiz people about other legitimate public-health concerns (“Do you smoke? Take intravenous drugs? Engage in sexual practices known to spread disease?”). They will have one, and only one, medical concern: the single test ordered by Cardinal Cupich in his capacity as a public-health official. But the cardinal is not a public-health official. He is a bishop of the Catholic Church, who should have other concerns.
So if the parish guards (let’s use honest language) are deciding which people should be allowed into the church, aren’t there more important questions that they might ask? For instance: “Are you party to an invalid marriage?” Or: “Have you voted to support legal abortion?”
Ah, there’s the rub! Because Cardinal Cupich has also recently been leading the charge to block a discussion of Eucharistic coherence, currently scheduled to take place at the US bishops’ meeting in June. He and other bishops have argued that the discussion should not take place, because the American bishops lack the “high standard of consensus” that would be required for a strong statement on the issue.
Now explain to me, please, how the US bishops’ conference can develop that “high standard of consensus,” if there is to be no discussion of the question. Clearly Cardinal Cupich and his allies are not being entirely forthright about their reasons for wanting to avoid the topic.
There are other signs of dissimulation here, too. Although in theory Cardinal Cupich strongly supports Pope Francis in his call for decentralized decision-making, in practice he lobbied energetically for Vatican intervention to curtail an open discussion among the American bishops. Although he complains that the discussion might cause divisions, he and his allies deepened the fractures within the episcopal conference by urging a late change to the agenda—the elimination of a topic that had already been approved by the usual process.
Above all, Cardinal Cupich and his allies do not want “dialogue” on this issue. For all their insistence on open discussion, it is an open discussion that they are doing their utmost to thwart. The incessant calls for “dialogue” are a smokescreen: an attempt to ensure that the issue will remain unresolved indefinitely.
The proponents of this inauthentic “dialogue” argue that instead of upholding the perennial teaching of the Church, instead of fulfilling the clear demands of canon law, pastors should engage in quiet, personal conversations with those prominent Catholics who support the slaughter of the unborn. There is, of course, no reason why a pastor cannot undertake that dialogue and fulfill his canonical duties. But again there is a deeper point at issue.
In nearly 50 years since the Roe v. Wade decision, some of this country’s most prominent Catholic politicians have grown steadily more forthright in their support for unrestricted legal abortion on demand. While bishops trumpet the need for ever more “dialogue,” politicians scoff at the Church’s moral law, and denigrate those who uphold it. Show me one case of an active Catholic politician who has repented of his support for abortion, and embraced the pro-life cause, after a quiet conversation with his bishop. Just one case, and I’ll take the argument for “dialogue” a bit more seriously.