Thursday, January 30, 2014

Away for a few days

This is the interior of the 12th century monastery church of the Benedictine nuns of Our Lady of Rosano, an ancient Benedictine house near Florence. I'm going there for the weekend to have some quiet time.

Some few months ago, I visited some nice American nuns who were making a foundation here. During one of my chats with one of these very friendly sisters, she asked, "what is stopping you from saying the full Divine Office every day?"

The only possible answer to that question is, "Me".

As far as I can figure, these nuns in Rosano, whose community has been there since AD 780, are the only ones in the country who do the full Monastic Office in Latin. It's also the place where Cardinal Ratzinger liked to take his retreats. Everyone says it's very nice. They are also one of the most invisible sets of nuns I've ever seen. They have no internet access, no computer, no email address and no website.


So, I'll be away for the weekend. You may all talk quietly amongst yourselves until the bell rings. Dale, you're in charge. Please take attendance. If there's any noise from you lot, I'll know about it when I get back on Sunday afternoon.


Your country on "democracy"

and Calvinism.

Charles I, b. 19 November 1600 - ex. 30 January 1649

"I go from a corruptible to an incorruptible crown, where no disturbance can be, no disturbance in the world."

~ * ~

I'm in the mood tonight to write an alternate history story in which English Catholic refugees in France build a dirigible and sailing over the channel just in the nick of time to rescue Charles I from the clutches of the Calvinists.


Shock archeology news!

Archeologists digging around under modern Rome have found...


Who knew?


This one's for you, brah

You know who you are...


Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The "Lost" Vatican II

Remember those "schemas" the modernists threw out at the beginning of Vatican II, when the whole thing came crashing down (and was never the same again)?

Yep, someone's put them online. Because on the internet, the past is never over.

And it turns out that their content should hardly surprise us today:
The source material is interesting as well. An examination of the footnotes of the discarded schemas reveals an abundant number of citations from Pascendi, Mortalium Animos, the Syllabus and even the anti-Modernist oath, none of which are cited in the 1992 Catechism of the Catholic Church, for example.

The tone is markedly different; instead of the humble "searching for truth" [1] that we note in the conciliar documents, the original schemas lucidly and authoritatively proclaim the truth, as well as about the errors which pervert it.

How Novusordoism was born.


Feel the luuurve...

The next time someone asks you what homosexuality and abortion have to do with each other, tell them, "I dunno, why don't you ask these guys. I'm sure they'll be able to fill you in on the Big Picture."


How Dan Brown ruined my life

“Thank you for your email. Why no, I hadn’t heard that Pope Francis is keeping clones of himself in a vat in the basement of the Vatican. Please tell me more.”

Actually, no, please don’t tell me more.


Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Fun stuff from around the 'net for Tues

Terry Gilliam's latest cry for existential help, for deliverance from the modern world's impoverished metaphysics.

~ * ~

Ever wonder what a real Welsh accent sounds like?

~ * ~

Someone quoted me!

The other day, LifeSiteNews writer Hilary White posted an interesting question: “A question that has been haunting me lately: given what we know, given what is happening in the world, what business do we have pursuing a quiet, ordinary life?” That depends, I suppose, on your definition of quiet and ordinary


Dr. Monica Miller, in her superb book Abandoned: The Untold Story of the Abortion Wars, describes this realization better than anything I’ve read or heard so far:

“I opened the door to the refrigerator to retrieve a carton of milk,” she wrote, “In the midst of reaching into the refrigerator my hand stopped. I was gripped by a realization. I thought, I’m not living in a normal world anymore. Standing there, suspended in time with one arm in the fridge, I realized that ‘normal’ could not apply to a world in which the murder of the unborn was protected by law, and that I could no longer consider myself a normal person. I knew that I could not live my life in the expected way: get an education, get a job, get married, buy a house. I felt I could not deal with those things. No, I had to be seized by a radical act. I had to drop everything—forget about milk and lunch. Babies are being murdered. They are being murdered down the street, in my own town. I know about it and I have to give up my life and do something about it.”

Everyone I've ever talked to who is involved in the kind of work I do has had the same experience. Mine was on a bus in Halifax when I looked around at everyone on the bus and realised that nearly every one of them, if asked, would probably say it was OK to kill people. It was a terrifying experience, and I went home that day and didn't come out of my apartment for three days.

I am asking the question more and more. Far from receding into the background buzz of my brain, it comes to me now clearly at any time of the day or night: why am I trying to live a quiet normal life in the middle of a war? And if not the normal pursuits, then what?

~ * ~

Best yet from Kathy: when Monty Python sketches become documentaries.

"So, you want to donate your liver, then?"

Yes, and from now on, I want you all to call me Loretta.

~ * ~

Archeology nerds! Sunken ancient things! Coo-Whul!

A 1500-year-old basilica was unearthed during excavations conducted on the bed of Lake Iznik.


Nope, no vocations crisis over here...

There are a lot of reasons I live here and not in Angloland. One of which is the superabundance of monasteries, and the fact that the Italians retain the faith that includes an appreciation of the worth of monasticism.

Imagine any of the state broadcasters in the Commonwealth countries doing a series, consisting of dozens of episodes, on "a day in the life" of every monastery in the country. Well, TV 2000 has been doing it for years, and it's pretty popular.

Maybe one of the reasons there isn't much of a "vocations crisis" in Italian monastic life? People see it, on tv, all the time.

Well, now that we've got YouTube, so can you.

I passi del silenzio


Monday, January 27, 2014

How to make Bird's Custard awesomely!

It's a British institution. If you were English or raised by English people in an English colonial town, you will know that Birds custard, hot, makes everything better.

It's about 99% corn starch, so if you just follow the instructions on the tin, it can be a little dull, however. Esp. if you've been a pastry chef and know the difference between Bird's Custard and creme anglais.

One tbsp Bird's custard powder
1/2 pint milk + 200 mls fresh cream
tbsp vanilla extract
tbsp sugar (or substitute)
2 egg yolks

Mix the Bird's with the sugar and a little of the milk. Whisk in the egg yolks while the rest of the milk n' cream are heating. When the milk mix is just about to boil (this is called "scalding"), pour it into the custard and whisk vigorously. Pour it all back into the pot for a couple of minutes while stirring.

Voy-Lah! cheap, simple custard that almost tastes like real Creme Anglais.


The thing with Catholic monasticism is

it just can't be killed.

The Emperors tried. The barbarians tried. The Calvinists tried. Napoleon tried. The anti-clericals tried. The Modernist heretics tried.

And they just keep coming back.

Almost like there's something non-terrestrial driving it.



"Lies! I've been robbed!"


A few weeks ago, there was a kerfuffle among Traditionalists over something the pope said about Our Lady.

I won't repeat it, because it's awful. But I think I may have an answer as to why a man like Francis might say the kinds of things he says, and why it's only the Trads who noticed how awful it was.

I think it's the same reason very few people outside the Traditionalist movement batted an eye. For fifty years, we have been taught that she, and Our Lord too, are really just regular folks. Just like you and me and apart from the special role she played in Christian history, there's really not much about her that would distinguish her from the rest of the world.

If that were actually the case, the Pope's description of her "likely" reaction would be fairly understandable. It's what any mother might say, if she were a modern, secularised western woman with the normal, half-trained faith in God that is the standard for our post-Christian global culture.

It's just another indicator that this pope is a man trained in the intellectual milieu of his time, the post-Vatican II world of dumbed-down, halfassed and humanised, horizontal Catholicism that is virtually all that is left in the mainstream Church and his held by millions upon millions of Catholics around the world.

The problem is not that he said it, but that nearly all Catholics of the world shrugged it off. We have known for decades that one is taught anything about the Faith in the normal institutions of the Church, schools, parishes and seminaries. With the majority of Catholics in the western world not believing in the Real Presence or the reality of sin or Hell or whathaveyou, is it any surprise that they are no longer imbued with the Marian doctrines that once formed such a bedrock? Who today knows anything about the special prerogatives of our Lady? Of the effects on her of being preserved from conception from the effects of original sin? No one has the least idea what she is really like.

I am not a big Mary-person, on the whole, but I know two things about that. One, that this is a fault of mine, a failure of my personal faith that I am seeking to remedy through prayer. Second, that this is the normal condition of nearly all Catholics. I know enough to know that perhaps one of the most dangerous effects of the Conciliar Asteroid has been to rob the faithful of the benefits of closeness and familiarity with this great advocate and intercessor, one whom God cannot refuse. No one, from the top of the Church to the bottom, seems to have retained in a deep way these rock-bottom foundational beliefs.

Many people in the Church still cling to the more obvious moral teachings; they know that abortion and euthanasia are murder, they know (though in a kind of distant and foggy way) that fornication and sodomy (and all the rest of that stuff) is morally harmful. Indeed, these are considered the litmus test for "conservatism". But from the point of view of the Faith, "believing" that you shouldn't kill people is, to put it mildly, lowering the bar as low as it will go without actually digging a trench and burying it.

I submit that this is mainly because the men in the Church have refused, en masse, to teach anyone the faith. And this has now been going on so long that the men in the Church no longer know it any better than the rest of us schmoes.

Francis, like everyone else of his generation, trusted that the schools and seminaries would be teaching him all he needed to know. And this was the correct way to proceed! Of course you should be able to trust your superiors in the Church, your teachers in Catholic schools, your professors in seminary.

It was not until many, many years later, after the effects of this bad education had already devastated the vineyard, that parents and seminarians wised up and steered clear.

Another thing about this is that Francis is talking the way almost every public figure talks. A great deal of the time, I think the pope talks without giving any consideration whatever to the actual meaning of what he says - and this is only surprising to us in the Church because until now, we've had popes who were not of that generation, and who had received a very different intellectual training. He's using words the same way everyone else does who has the kind of half-assed "education" that is normal and expected in his time and in ours - not to describe objective reality, but the same way you and I use Christmas tree decorations; to produce an emotional effect.

Is it any wonder that he talks like everyone else? Particularly like every other politician? He is not only a son of the Church, he's a child of his times, who, like nearly everyone in the Church of his generation, never figured out that he was being led astray.

In that, he is the perfect representative of the vast majority of the Catholics who are in exactly the same condition.


Saturday, January 25, 2014

Feeling sorry for inanimate objects

When I was little, I used to feel sorry for my left hand because my right hand gets to do everything. I used to try doing more things with my left hand so it didn't feel left out...


Kill the wrinklies!!

So, let me see if I've got the logic worked out: Because the NHS does such a lousy job of treating cancer patients, they have the worst rates of survival in the EU, particularly for those over 75.

Because older people have such lousy survival rates, we're now going to not treat them at all, in order to save "resources" for younger patients who have a *slightly* less-lousy chance of getting out of an NHS oncology ward alive.

Did I get it right? Do I win something?

I notice that the DM writer, however, didn't look too closely at which govt' body might be contributing to the kill-the-wrinklies policy. need to interview these guys: National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence (N.I.C.E.)

To quote... err... myself...

In 1945, the great 20th century Christian apologist, C. S. Lewis, wrote a science fiction novel in which he proposed an alternative British history. In this history a government-funded scientific think tank, the National Institute for Coordinated Experiments (N.I.C.E.), dictates government policy according to eugenic, utilitarian principles.

In that novel, That Hideous Strength, the ironically acronymed N.I.C.E. takes over Britain and attempts to create an anti-human totalitarianism in which human rights are abolished and people are used as disposable tools in medical and social experiments. The guiding principles of Lewis’ N.I.C.E. are immediately familiar to people on the pro-life side of our current Culture Wars: a mechanistic and ultra-utilitarian, anti-life philosophy that regards human beings as merely a disposable means to an end.


Set up by the Labour government in 1999, the National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence (N.I.C.E.) produces "guidance" for the NHS on what drugs and treatments should be provided by Britain’s government-funded health system. From the extraction of wisdom teeth, to the funding of Alzheimer’s drugs, to the provision or withdrawal of nutrition and hydration to disabled patients, N.I.C.E. lays down what will and will not be paid for by Britain’s National Health Service.


Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Gen-X test

OK, hands up everyone who used to get up early, voluntarily, before school to watch Starblazers.

Come on, admit it. Get em up.

Even then it was like a countersign for nerds. I met my first boyfriend in high school using it. In art class one day, this cute boy suddenly popped up and said, "Hey, anyone watch Starblazers this morning?" I knew I had a winner.

Well, they've remade it.

Shinier, cooler, but still Starblazers.


Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Ora pro nobis

Sometimes something big and important, and terrifying, that's really far away is brought to one's own doorstep.

This is a photo of Father Ragheed Ganni, a Chaldean rite priest who was murdered outside of his parish church in Mosul, Iraq, in 2007 for refusing to acquiesce to armed thugs who demanded he accept Islam.

He was the friend and classmate of a good friend of mine who lived here until a few years ago.

Today, John tells us, would have been Fr. Ragheed's 41st birthday.

Nicest guy you'd ever want to meet. Three of his subdeacons were killed with him. One of the gunmen demanded to know why he didn't close the church as he had been ordered. Fr. Ragheed replied quietly, "How can I close the house of God?" Ragheed had been secretary to Archbishop Rahho of Mosul who was murdered nine months after they were.

"I understand his cause for beatification is being delayed on account of the current situation in that part of the world. But it will be introduced."

Sometimes we need to be reminded that this is real, and that these are real people this insane and evil stuff is happening to.


Plotting the conquest of all I survey

Standing on the Hill of Tarvit, looking down on the unsuspecting town of Cupar.


Picnic anyone?

At the pub in Dundee, Scotland.


Monday, January 20, 2014

Nobody loves me; everybody hates me; guess I'll go stand in the corner

Woot!! My first genuine death threat via email!

I know what you're thinking. First?! Seriously? In a 15 year career of anti-woman, anti-choice, homophobic ranting? What have I been doing wrong all this time?

Beats me, but at least now I can hold my head up in Kathy's company.

Name: Liberty Columbia

Message: Another violent, blood thirsty, fascist barbarian who would make Mussolini proud. You will meet the same fate as he did.

You are going to legally hang for your crimes against humanity, Hilary White, you grotesque, illiterate Fascist whore. This is a promise. You are going to die and your death will be cheered. Every contributor to LifeSite News is going to be legally tries [sic] and sentenced to hang.

Date: 2014-01-17 11:48:15


Oh yeah? Define the subjunctive in English!

Huh. Illiterate my foot.

And of course, the irony is forever lost on these promoters of peace n' tolerance. I'm the evil fascist, but you're the one issuing death threats.

It reminds me of our old friend David the painter, who said that because he believed so deeply in tolerance and diversity, and I was such an evil fascist, he could not possibly tolerate me and I had to remove all links to his 'blog and go stand in the corner.


Saturday, January 18, 2014


The sight of Schiller's face as he poked his head around the door of the forward lounge was enough for an educated guess.

"What's up?"

"Looks like we might be getting a bit of red weather."

I felt the colour drain and my guts clench.

The lounge was normally the biggest open space aboard Frobisher, but now it was crowded with sleeping bags, clothes, toys and kids and their mothers. Our passengers were noisy and most of the ones old enough to walk were rambunctious and needed a lot of watching. It had made a nice break to come down and play with the kids for half an hour.

We were still three days out from our rendezvous with the small fleet of passenger vessels who could take up some of our overcrowding and the escort planes we'd been told to expect from the Kerala Christian Free State. They were expecting us and had plenty of room for the refugees we'd picked up from the IPPF camp in Tanzania, but we needed to get them there in one, or I should say 200 pieces. And until we met the escort, we were on our own.

Schiller gave me another look, and I handed back to his mother the six year-old who was telling me excitedly how much he wanted to be an Aeroscraft captain when he grew up.

"I'll come and take a look, shall I?" I said, keeping as neutral a face as possible. 200 hungry, tired men and women, many pregnant, and their kids, with an uncertain future who were unlikely ever to get home again: I didn't need to add to their worries.

"Red weather," of course was code. The trip had been uneventful so far. Over Yemen and Oman we'd steered inland and the few Arabian tribesmen on the bottom corner of the peninsula didn't have planes or dirigibles, so I figured we just had a long trip over the desert to look down on. After the Gulf of Oman, a relatively safe cruise down the ridge of the coastal range of the subcontinent, go high over Mumbai to avoid their rather pushy and nosey air-cops, and bob's your uncle. I'd been hoping for quiet sailing after getting past the Gulf of Aden, but apparently our luck wasn't running that way.

The Arabian Sea was another matter, buzzing with American and British navy, pirates out of Madagascar, and who knew what else. Of course a quick trip directly across the sea from Tanzania to the KCFS would have been three days at most, but we had to go the long way round to avoid trouble.

When I got down to the aft wheelhouse I found a little crowd around the BTs. "How are we doing?" I asked Schiller who was glued to his display.

"Same as always," he said, without smiling or looking up.

"That bad, huh?"

I took my chair and clicked on the digital and was sure. The room was silent; everyone knew we could be in trouble from that little ship about 300 feet down and two miles off our port stern. We had some small arms on board but none of us were soldiers. And there were some explosives left over from a barter payment after we'd supplied an illegal mining operation near Irkutsk. Useful if we wanted to blow ourselves out of the sky. And then there were the unarmed passengers.

Since the end of the brief war a decade ago between the EU and Turkey and their more aggressive neighbours to the east, a lot of the northern end of what had once been Pakistan had broken up into little warring kingdoms ruled by chieftains and despots, each vying to prove who was the biggest bastard. And a lot of them had acquired old model dirigibles. They liked to call them "privateers" and some of the more educated actually issued "letters of marque" making it "legal" and giving the boys permission to take whatever they could get up here.

Lately they'd been armed with cast-off Russian and Chinese EMP canons, which were perfect weapons against an airship, cutting our engines, navigation and communications, but not sinking us or damaging the goods. A 600-foot late model VTL cargo ship with landing craft and the latest gadgets would be quite a prize for them, but Frobisher was home, and one fights for one's home.

Our friends below could be Kashmiri or Afghan, or hooked up with that little bespectacled psychopath sitting like a spider in Peshawar, but either way they weren't going to be chummy. We weren't carrying cargo, so there wasn't much aboard worth stealing, except Frobisher herself, and 200 women and children. We knew what pirates would be likely to do with such a quantity of human ballast.

"Let me take a look." I got up and shouldered Williams off the 120mm BT. He had a habit of standing too close when he was nervous, and I could hear him breathing next to me. Our best binocular telescope had a better range than the digital display, a gift from our friends in the Australian Coast Guard from the time we'd pulled two of their officers out of a bit of trouble in Indonesia. It combined regular high-powered analogue binoculars with some nice computer enhancement.

I peered into the scope: "Small ship. About 250 feet long. Maybe three tanks. Low flight ceiling but faster than us on the flat."

"Is it that new Iranian ship Vincker told us about?" Williams asked.

"Nope. An old German model. A Nimbus BL-889," I said. "Discontinued about five years ago. Design flaws, one of which was the low ceiling. I met the architect at a conference a few years ago. He was raving about the superior capabilities of his design. The company made about 12 of them and then sold them off at a cut price."

I knew the crew thought my obsession with airship designs a bit of a joke, but they weren't laughing now. Who was in the market for cheap, low-altitude, fast-flying cargo airships? Well, for one, all those savage little tin-pot despots I mentioned.

"Give me infrared, please." The scope switched to the heat view and I saw from their exhaust signature that I'd been right. New engines or modifications from the original design, which meant they were a lot faster than us. But it was still only a three-tank ship. They were closing the distance between us, but not ascending. They might not be chasing us.

There were six other people on the deck, all watching me. EMP canons had a short range, and we were already above them. We might be able to get a little higher and stay out of their reach.

"Maintain course and go to surface stealth mode." Maybe they hadn't seen us and showing them a shiny underbelly could give us the time we needed. But we couldn't outrun them. "Cut the turbo prop and pump the tanks. Let's get some more altitude. Deploy the forward sails. The wind is with us, and we can cruise quietly for a bit." Without taking my eyes off the scope, I asked, "How high is that stratocumulus bank?" Thank God it was mid-winter and there was a bit of cloud cover.

"About another 800 feet up," said Schiller's voice. "But we're close to the top of our ceiling now, and would have to dump some ballast to get in there. And there's rough weather inside."

"It's a place to run if we have to." I flipped on the intercom and said in English, "Ladies and gentlemen, I have to ask that you remain in your berths. We may be experiencing some rough weather shortly. Try to remain seated and avoid moving about the cabins if possible. Crew please clear the observation deck. Drill six; report secure."

I turned to the dark Nigerian standing with his feet apart and arms crossed looking grimly out the wheelhouse ports. I'd never seen him look anything but grim. "Mr. Osadebay, could you please repeat that in the relevant languages?" As he moved to obey, the security reports came in. Passengers were quieting the kids and were calm. Crew was breaking out the sidearms from the weapons locker and keeping their expressions neutral.

Osadebay had spent the last ten years rescuing refugees and getting them out of some pretty horrific situations around Africa. He'd seen, and I presumed done, quite a lot in recent years and he was dedicated to getting his people to a safe haven. I knew he would hold it together if we had to fight. He had told me he'd been in Djibouti at the start of the Sino-Russian Purges. There was peace in Somalia now, so we were told. Mostly because there were only Chinese workers there now.

"Mr. Williams, please send a telex to Gatsby and Ceremoniere giving our location and the Red Weather report." At least if we went down, the rest of Prince Stephen's little fleet would know where.

"If they've seen us..." Williams couldn't keep his nervousness to himself. If they'd seen us, we wouldn't have much chance. Some, but not a lot. We'd know in a minute or so.

I kept my eyes locked on our radar and the two blips showing our position and that of our friends. We sat in silence, waiting. The green space between the blips remained steady for five seconds. Ten seconds. Fifteen.

On the V-axis, the distance slowly grew as the tanks pumped out helium into the gas vault and we drifted quietly higher. The H-axis showed no change; they were no longer closing.


Thursday, January 16, 2014

Let's play a game! Working in the Real

OK, before I go outside for my run-around, let's list three things we all know how to do that would be useful real-world skills (that is, having nothing to do with computers or not dependent on electricity) that would allow us to be picked for the surviving team in the apocalypse.

I'll go first:

I can shear a sheep, clean, card and spin the fleece and knit a sweater out of it.
I can snare rabbits and know how to use a tap-board to drop a net under a sheet of ice on a lake to catch fish.
I can shoot 13 clay pigeons in a row.

OK, now you.


Puffin Count

There are puffins out there, and they need counting.

A couple of friends took me out to dinner on my onomastico the other day and we were talking about our respective works.

I said, "You know what I want to do?"

My friend, who knows me all together too well, said, "Quit your job and become a marine biologist?"

"How did you know?"

"You've been saying it constantly since we met."



Work and The Real

I almost cried when I saw this ad. I miss it so much! Honourable physical work, using my hands and knowledge to make real things.

Last summer, I had a conversation with an American academic. I think his thing was history. I thought the guy was a prat, but I put that down to him being an academic who had failed to get religion. (Later on I found out that he thought I was a prat, so I guess fair's fair.) Anyway, as Americans and academics usually do, he opened the conversation with a personal question, "What's your background." What he meant, of course, was "Where did you go to university and what did you study." As I'd already had a glass of wine or two I decided I wasn't going to play along, and said, "I'm Anglo-Irish Canadian."

As Americans are also rarely conscious of when an English person is teasing them, he pressed on and said, "No, I meant where did you go to university and what did you study?"

Just for a change, I decided to be bull-headedly honest, and said, "I dropped out of my parents' alma mater, the University of Victoria. Mostly because, half way through my second year, I remembered suddenly that I had hated every minute of school I'd ever experienced and I couldn't think of any reason at all to be there, wasting valuable youth-time and huge amounts of money." Which was mostly true. In fact, I had, like most people of my class in my country, simply assumed that "going to university" was something you just had to do, like it or not. At one point, for some reason or other, I was suddenly aware of the fact that I had absolutely no idea what I was doing, and so quit rather than waste time continuing to do it.

Later on in that conversation, I asserted that the best educational money I ever spent was $80 on a typing course at the Y. (I went away thinking that the party had been a grand success, having had a wonderful time and sincerely thanking the hostess. My rather rude American interlocutor, I was later informed, had complained to the hostess about me and my friends after we had left and told her what a rotten time he'd had, which in British social interaction is a totally unthinkable thing to do, so I think I win. What a twit.)

Anyway, since giving up on university, I've learned that what I am is an autodidact, and, though we didn't call it that in those days, homeschooled. My education was built on the curiosity instilled by a combination of my mother's keen and wide-ranging intelligence and the will of the Holy Ghost, and fed by an early addiction to library cards. I think I got my first one when I was about four and my parents were both employed by the public library. It was the perfect babysitter, and I grew up with the smell of the stacks as the happiest and homiest smell I knew (apart from the lavender in Grandma's linen closet.)

Library cards are free, or less than 20 dollars if you want a subscription to a university library. University degrees, on the other hand, can range from $40,000 into six digits, and at the end of them, you still can't get a job because in practical terms "looking things up on Google" and "fornicating" aren't a very high-level skill set.

It reminds me of the question I once asked a class of catechism students preparing for Confirmation: "How many of you plan on going to university?" All hands but one. "OK, and how many of you have one specific driving intellectual passion or interest that you need to go to university to pursue? Like engineering or chemistry or Latin and Greek?" No hands. Ah. I see.

I ask the one kid who hadn't stuck up his hand what he planned on doing. He said, "Well, my dad is a plumber, and I looked up the starting salary of a self-employed plumber and found out that it's about $50-80 thousand a year. So I thought I'd do that." I congratulated him on being the only smart kid in the room, and told him how to get a library card at the University of Toronto.

What I most despised about the fellow at the party was his pompousness. He assumed that because he was a university professor he automatically deserved some respect. Now this might have been the case in, say, the 13th century, when ten year old schoolboys were expected to know before entering university more than most post-doctoral students know today. It is the pompousness, the arrogance of most academics that convinced me in the intervening years that my decision to quit until I knew a few more things was the right one. An academic who isn't aware of the problem in academia is part of that problem.

I was taught rhetoric formally in a series of workshops taught by Scott Klusendorf (the logic came naturally) who offered it as part of his apologetics training programme. I took his short evening class first in 1999, then in May 2001 went for a five-day weekend with a small group of other "young" people who wanted to get involved in the pro-life movement. Being taught the basics, what a logical fallacy is and how to hold your own in an argument, in our intellectually barren era makes you the equivalent of a time traveller visiting the Battle of Hastings with a gattling gun. With even rudimentary skills, you will always, always be the baddest mofo on the rhetorical block.

In fact, the times I've taught the Pro-life 101 rhetoric seminars, I've usually had to warn particularly keen students that they are being given the equivalent of intellectual superpowers: facts and the ability to string together a logically coherent argument. And they have to decide right away whether they're going to use their powers for good or evil. Usually the people who take this training (that used to be the standard foundation of all education) end up becoming rather alienated. One of the things it does it take them out of the Matrix, one they were not previously aware they were in, and they discover just how much utter rubbish and nonsense nearly everyone around them has soaked up through intellectual osmosis. It's not for the faint of heart, and like all superpowers, tends to make you a bit of a loner in the world.

(A while ago, I was listening to a pod-cast of a lecture by Alan Watts, one of the Big Names in "philosophy" for the 60s revolutionaries. I remember his book lying around the house when I was a kid. I had never read him before, and was curious. But I simply couldn't believe the utterly meaningless, contradictory, contentless piffle he was jabbering. It made me very, very angry. After you're out of the Matrix, you tend to spend a lot of time angry. It's like your kryptonite; watch out for it.)

Anyway, what's all this in aid of? Why did it pop into my head today? I was thinking about the announcement of a good friend, one of my mentors here in Rome, a priest who is shortly to leave his long-held post in the ranks and "retire" back to parish work in the US. He told me yesterday that he has spent too many years "trapped behind a computer" and wants to get back to being a priest full time. That is, saying Mass and hearing confessions. Who can argue?

It might sound strange on the outside, but in truth, I've been in a constant state of uncertainty about my work (I'm seriously tempted to use quotes on that). This is my tenth year with LSN and 15th in the pro-life movement, and I'm tremendously chuffed about our accomplishments. When I started it was just the three of us and we had a tiny audience. We must have found what the freemarketeers call a "niche" or a market gap because since 2004 we've gained about 20 employees and volunteers, an office and 501-C3 status in the US, correspondents in four countries and about 6 million page views per month.

But I used to be a pastry chef. Actually, I started in the pro-life movement in 1999 because I was looking for a job after an illness pushed me out of this physically demanding work. And now, 15 years down the line, my friend's comment about being chained to a computer particularly piercing. When I used to get up at three am to go to work, by the end of the day, I had made food for people and made a bunch of little kids happy. It wasn't cosmically important, politically necessary or "contributing" in any way to the world of thought and affairs. I was in my 20s and knew at least enough then to know that I didn't know anything. I was still autodidacting (baker's hours are perfect for reading a LOT of books).

In the end, I had to take almost a year off from work (living on the dole! ugh!) in which I had just enough energy and money to take myself down to the Dalhousie University library five days a week and read modern philosophy (specialty in bioethics). And one thing led to another. But my intention had always been to get back to having what I've always thought of as a "real" job.

Despite my mother's academic and intellectual accomplishments, my family background is old fashioned upper working and middle class. My mother's (adoptive) family were in the mills in Manchester. My father's parents owned a (rather nice) dress shop. My father and grandfather built their house at the top of that cliff on Vancouver Island. My mother, after finishing her degree in mathematics and marine biology married a Canadian Coast Guard engineer and ended up becoming the first female engineer working on the boats in the arctic in the CCG. (Icebreakers!)

Given the ephemeralness of the internet, and the rather poor opinion I have of modern intellectual work, I am constantly plagued with doubts about what I do. I have never thought of myself as being on the "front lines" of the pro-life movement. Those are the people who leave the house every day and go down to stand in front of abortion facilities, and who organise crisis pregnancy centres to get baby clothes and jobs and health care for pregnant women. That's the front lines. That's living nose-to-nose with The Real.

You might have wondered where I was for the Christmas holidays. Thanks to the great generosity of a few readers, I was able to have my first real holiday in Britain, visiting friends and the fam until I got back to Italy late Sunday night. And it felt strange to be back here. It's familiar and I was very glad to see my lovely friends and my poor, long-suffering puss-cat. I love my flat and I love Santa Marinella, and there is a big part of my brain that thinks of it as home, and though I had a fantastic holiday, I was tremendously glad to be home.

But there is an air of unreality to all this that I can't shake. Maybe it's my working class upbringing. Maybe it's just a healthy skepticism about the ultimate value of "the news" and being a "public voice".

But I can't help wonder if it isn't in some way the little whispering of the Holy Spirit. Maybe it's the voice of St. Philip whispering "Amare nescire" in my inner ear.

Deep in the core of my middle-class Cheshire soul, a "job" involves making things, fixing things, or dealing with external economic reality in the day to day world. In my brain, I'm simply not qualified to be making a living telling people things, still less telling them what I think. And even if I were, how "of the Real" can the internet possibly be? If I were properly educated (which I think has been all but impossible since 1950) and I were writing books, I think it might be a little more justified. Even as a painter I think I would be closer to the Real. At least my work would stand a chance of surviving an EMP blast.

But in reality, I'm just some schmoe, talking. I'm Joe-Nobody and it leaves me profoundly uncomfortable that I make my living this way. It simply feels like messing about on the internet, and it's making me feel like I'm part of the problem. There's too much fakery out there and not enough people living in the Real. And I can't help but think I'm contributing to that.

While I was away, visiting friends in Scotland, I chanced to meet a man who was a "ranger". That is a job designation (in that insanely over-regulated country where you can't be a waitress without getting a government-approved "qualification") that means he works for the Scottish National Trust keeping track of the lives and health and habitat of every creature on one of the estates the trust manages. We were being shown around the old kitchen garden of this beautiful 17th century stately home and he pointed out where a mating pair of barn owls had taken up residence.

I told him that I was terribly envious of his job, and related that my dream job is Puffin Counter on Skomer Island, where I intend to flee when the Day of Wrath comes (and will deny that I ever knew any of you, just so's you know).

Anyway, my priest friend, when I related some of my own discomfort at living my life glued to the little square Palantir, said that my vocation is to write, which I suppose must be more or less true. He said to keep doing it, which I will. But... well... I dunno. I can't help still feeling it. I'm terribly envious that he gets to go do real things in the real world, and I have to stay behind here in this strangely disconnected realm.

And now, dammit, I've spent the morning fooling about on the internet and have missed the Thursday morning farmer's market... again! Ugh!


Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Faith and certainty

"A new virtue is promulgated; to be uncertain of the truth and of the will of God; to hold our faith on probabilities. And yet, what is the very idea of Revelation but a Divine assurance of Truth? Where faith begins uncertainty ends. Because faith terminates upon the veracity of God; and what God has spoken and authenticated to us by Divine authority cannot be uncertain."
Henry Edward Cardinal Manning


"[We must] guard the proper way of expressing [the Faith], lest our careless use of words give rise, God forbid, to false opinions regarding faith in the most sublime things. St. Augustine gives a stern warning about this when he takes up the matter of the different ways of speaking that are employed by the philosophers on the one hand and that ought to be used by Christians on the other. 'The philosophers,' he says, 'use words freely, and they have no fear of offending religious listeners in dealing with subjects that are difficult to understand. But we have to speak in accordance with a fixed rule, so that a lack of restraint in speech on our part may not give rise to some irreverent opinion about the things represented by the words.'' (cf. City of God, X, 23; PL 41. 300.)"
Paul VI, Mysterium Fidei #23

Ah the good old days. Back when the grownups were in charge...

But I guess these guys were just "bad Christians" or didn't really believe in God... or something...


He's kind of the Ferris Bueller of the sheep world

Meet Shaun the Sheep, one of Britain's most important exports.

The boys play a little footie.


Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The Mysterium Iniquitatis

The prayers of the pro-life community around the world go out tonight for the repose of the soul and for the family, friends and colleagues of Tom O'Gorman.

No matter how much we stare into it, even in the course of our daily work, we will never fully understand the mystery of evil.

We pray,

I gcomhluadar na nAingeal bo mbeidh sé (That he may be in the company of Angels)


Monday, January 13, 2014


into the Church of the future!


So, that's that...

Latest via email from the dottoressa:

Dear Hilary White,

the result of the biopsy that we did at Gemelli hospital was ok.
I will send it to you as soon as I can.