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Showing posts from 2009

Public Law and Private Morality in Uganda

Following my last post about The kiss of the Moon, I notice that in Uganda over the last week or two, debate has been reaching fever pitch on the new Anti-homosexuality law which has received universal support from Ugandan religious leaders and most politicans. The country's president has been pressurised (by the US) into promising to veto the bill, but this move would likely lose him his job, so this seems unlikely.

It seems that the bill is largely in response to encroaching 'alternative lifesyle' propaganda from UNICEF and other international organisations (this has been getting into their schools for years) plus recent revelations about child abuse, similar to the recent Report in Ireland. There is also, in the popular imagination, some link with HIV, although this disease is now very much a heterosexual phenomenon in Africa.

The finer points of the argumentation, and the sanctions, which go as far as the death penalty (for active 'recruiters' among the young) ar…

Gay goldfish for French nine-year-olds

France's children are now going to be treated to the ridiculous spectacle of a batty old right-wing cat, abandoned and trapped in a fairy-tale castle tower, which is all that is left of the old ways. This old pussy-cat, predictably named Agathe (Agatha is a really old-fashioned name in France as in England), is ripe for conversion to the beautiful, modern lifestyles emerging beyond the confines of her castle, (in which the only love imaginable is that dry and dusty old kind that exists between handsome princes and beautiful princesses ... )

Enter Felix, a lively young green boy-fish who feels drawn to the equally lively and somewhat slimmer Leon, another boy-fish, this time coloured a lovely shade of blue. All the old nastiness of Agatha-melts away when she sees the free and happy way these two boyish fishes frolic around in the flooded ruins of the old heterosexual society, presumably wiped out by global warming. Now she herself begins to wonder whether she should leave her old ca…

Saint Austin Press US Store

I've been setting up a Catholic storefront on Amazon, including some new titles from Saint Austin Press plus a selection of other great books and films for Catholics.

The weak dollar and's reasonable delivery costs means that this is usually cheaper than shopping for these in bookstores in the UK and Europe.

Please visit the new Saint Austin Press US online store, whether you are ordering from USA or from Europe. One thing to watch out for, however, is that US-format dvds might not work on old dvd players. (Most machines now accept all formats.)

The proceeds from this store will help Chavagnes.

Mindblown by Macbeth

Wonderful evening (even if a bit chilly) watching our pupil's production of Macbeth for its first night yesterday.

Mr Haydon was terrific as Macbeth, and Maggie Boyles sparkled as Lady Macbeth. There was a real tenderness between them, which is the only way one can understand how Macbeth follows her counsels so readily and then, even when he sees that all is lost, does not blame her for a minute. Mr Haydon's 'stiff upper lip' suited Macbeth very well, I thought.

Duncan (Dominic O'Leary) was majestic. Macduff (Patrick Adams) was extremely powerful and mysterious. His rage seemed genuine. The lead assassin (Edmond de Poulpiquet) was impressive and looked the part (he and fellow killer Baudouin de Rambures had recently had their heads shaved for that extra menacing look !)

The 'toil and trouble' cauldron scene always struck me as being pseudo-comical, although many directors try to make it very serious. Our witches went for the light relief element, whilst someh…

Popularity contest for world leaders from France 24

The French international channel France 24 has carried out a 'popularity and influence' survey in various countries across the world.

The upshot is that Obama and the Dalai Lama are the most popular leaders in the world, with Angela Merkel coming in at number three.

The Pope, interestingly, comes in a number five, ahead of Nicholas Sarkozy. In the UK, Benedict the XVI is considered as more popular and more influential than both Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, which should give the British press something to meditate upon.

I am not sure what this information really means. Commentators have suggested that the high score for the Dalai Lama is something to do with 'boboisme' ... He is certainly very much in fashion in France. But the high score for Benedict XVI suggests to me that there are many people out there (at least a third of the population) who think he has something important to teaching the modern world.

The full report is online (as a pdf) at:…

Minarets again ...

On the issue of minarets again ... I now remember something I heard from Phillippe de Villiers, the leader of our local government in the La Vendee. It was at the time of negotiations on the EU constitution (from which a 'Judeo-Christian' preamble was dropped to appease the Turks). The pro-Islamicisation prime-minister of Turkey, Erdogan is supposed to have said: “The minarets are our bayonets, the domes our helmets, the mosques our barracks and the faithful our army.”

In this context, this poster of the Swiss People's Party (above) was not so much of an exaggeration as many people supposed. Moderate islamic statesmen are allowed to speak of minarets as a symbol and tool of a programme for the islamicisation of Europe, but when the Swiss say the same thing, they are accused of over-reacting.

Politicans in other countries (Holland and Italy will probably be the first) are talking of introducing similar referenda. What is one to think? Minarets are not the main point, I think.…

Freedom of religion or freedom from religion?

That's the question many of my friends have been asking over the course of the last couple of weeks, in the wake of the European Court of Human Rights decree that the Italian law mandating a crucifix in every state school classroom is an infringement of human rights.

Italy's response has been to put up new crucifixes in public buildings all over the country, at state expense, and the issue has mobilised even Italian atheists in favour of this symbol of Italian national identity.

The judgement states that religious neutrality must reign in all state schools; which could spell the end of compulsory acts of worship in UK and Irish state schools and the abandonment of nativity plays. Most state schools in the Republic of Ireland have also historically displayed Catholic religious symbols: these will have to come down unless the ruling is overturned.

In the same month that the ECHR made this decree, the Swiss voted to change their constitution to ban the building of Islamic minarets i…

Q: Aren't religious boarding schools all about taking away choices?

A: Well, at Chavagnes we are Catholic boarding school, and a strong Catholic community. Families choose us for that reason. The mutual support offered by fellow young believers in a school setting can be a very powerful influence in a young person’s life.

Also, children who come from a strong faith background at home would be disoriented in an environment that did not give them the same kind of support.

So, far from being about limiting choices, strong religious schools actually provide choice for believing families. They provide a school environment which is still what schools always used to be: the traditional extension of the family values of the home.

At out Catholic boarding school for boys, our pupils are happy to live, work, study, play and pray together, just as they would with their brothers and sisters at home. And the role of the teachers at the school is to provide solid religious role models for the boys as well as sound academic training.

Mise Eire

Musing on the sorrows befalling the Irish church at the moment (the Ryan Report etc.), I cannot but think of Pearse's words "I am Ireland ... Great my glory ... great my shame".

It seems to me that the complicity of senior churchmen in the covering-up of the clerical abuse of children is going to make modern Ireland something akin to Germany in the 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s. It took Germany at least 40 years to escape from the shame of the Nazi atrocities and recover a sense of national pride and confidence.

Noone is pretending that what happened in Ireland was on the same scale. We are talking of thousands of vicims, not millions. And it is also true that the Irish church has done great and wonderful things for Ireland, and continues to do so. It is just that Irish Catholicism had so far to fall, and in a palpable and tragic sense it has now fallen.

Saying, and thinking, "I am an Irish Catholic and proud of it" is now as difficult as it used to be to say "I am a…

Special handshakes

I gave someone a left-handed hand-shake and scout salute yesterday for the first time after taking the plunge and making my scout promise along with 9 of our boys on Saturday morning at dawn. Being a scout is going to be fun, I have decided.

Of course, I am something of an honorary member, especially as the scout universe at Chavagnes seems to be all about covering incredible distances on foot across wild countryside, which is a bit tough for me.

The boys who took their promise all camped out around our little St Joseph Chapel in the woods on Friday night, and maintained a constant vigil before the Blessed Sacrament until dawn, when they each made their promise to serve God, their country and Europe, and to follow the Scout Law. I popped out to visit them once or twice during the night and was very impressed by their seriousness with regard to the religious aspects of what theyt were doing, their camaraderie and their responsible behaviour. Mr Crawford had given them a very stirring tal…

The Scout Law : Chavagnes version ...

Chavagnes scouts after a 10km orienteering challenge ... Here is the text of the Scout Law, as adapted by the Servant of God Father Paul Sevin, father of Catholic scouting. The text is based on Baden-Powell's original and Fr Sevin's version was approved by him. It makes it clear that the Scout Law is essentially a call to the evangelical counsels, adapted to our individual states in life, in a special relationship of love and respect for God's creation. Many of our boys will be making a promise to follow this law, in mid November. Please keep them in your prayers. The Scout Law
1. A Scout’s honour is to be trusted. 2. A Scout is loyal. 3. A Scout’s duty is to serve and save his neighbour. 4. A Scout is a friend to all and a brother to every other Scout. 5. A Scout is courteous and chivalrous. 6. A Scout sees in nature the work of God; he loves plants and animals. 7. A Scout obeys without question and does nothing by halves. 8. A Scout is self-disciplined: he smiles and whistles und…

PC French ...

Going through last summer's AQA French GCSE (Higher Tier) I discovered with my French class some depressing political correctness. Of course our boys take it on the chin and recognise it quickly. Here is what we found in the Reading and Writing Paper:

- An extended screed about global warming (OK in isolation, but wait for the rest, and remember it is a French exam not a science or sociology one ...)

- A first person account by a young man who describes his close and very positive friendships with two men and explains that he doesn't like women as they frighten him. In fact he only knows one, who says hello to him each day as he climbs up the stairs to his high-rise council flat ('HLM'), 'mais on me dit qu'elle se drogue' (they say she takes drugs), so he wants nothing to do with her ...

- From that charming cameo of confused masculine identity in the banlieue of Paris, we move on to a little holiday postcard from a girl to one of her friends. She recounts how…

Stephanus vocabitur ...

What lovely news to hear that on the vigil of the Feast of Saint Augustine, Alexander Morrison, our old boy, took the cloth as a Norbertine novice. He now has the name Brother Stephen. Brother Stephen was a founder pupil at Chavagnes from 2002 to 2005 and then went on to read French at Oriel College, Oxford, where he graduated this summer. Please keep Brother in your prayers!

Single and faithful ... a role for lay apostles?

Is it possible for a layman to be called to serve God in the single state, in the midst of the world?

The Church is divided into Laity, Deacons, Priests and Bishops. This is its hierarchical structure, ordained by Christ himself. (cf Lumen Gentium)

The evangelical counsels (or counsels of perfection) are an invitation made by Christ to clergy and laity alike. Hence this invitation comes directly from Christ, and we are all urged to accept it in some way or another.

Since the beginning of the Church, some people accepted the counsels of perfection in a more external way than others (not marrying, not owning property, submitting themselves to obedience. Forms of life sprang up, after the apostolic period, that promoted the public profession (often, especially later, under life-long vows).

There is no ontological difference between a professed religious and a layman. There is an ontological difference between an ordained man and a layman. Hence the nature of a vocation to the priesthood and …

In response to a letter accusing the Pope of heresy on the Four Last Things ...

Dear Jennifer,

Thanks for the letter and enclosure you sent me a while back. In them you suggested a dialogue about the popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI. You also implied that perhaps they were not popes at all.

Your main problem was that they emphasised universal salvation and thereby effectively denied all the Church’s doctrine about sin and the need for redemption from it.

You took issue with the idea that “hell is not God’s initiative”; that souls send themselves to Hell.
My response is not going to be sophisticated, I’m afraid. I think that if you want to find texts to hang the popes with, you can find them. I have plenty of texts that people have sent me that do this, if you ignore all the other evidence. Taken in context, and in a spirit of docility, they are not for me a source of impossible dilemmas.

The Second Vatican Council asks us to give an assent of our intellect and will the frequent and clearly expressed teaching of the Pope. You complain that texts you have seen are do…

Soft-boiled traditionalist ...

There was once a time when I used to spend a lot of time discussing the liturgy and debating with 'integristes'. At the time, my friends tell me, I was spikier than I am now, but I always managed to stay within the 'una sancta' and keep my love for dear John Paul II and for his Catechism, a document that made a big impression on me when I was a university student.

I remember about 10 years ago an English priest friend called me a "soft-boiled traditionalist." And I hope that is the way I have remained.

I used to spend a lot of time online trying to convert Protestants to Catholicism and Lefebvrists to the Catholic mainstream in the early days of the internet; and then I decided to move on and concentrate on real life. It is great, however, to see that there are still people with the energy for this kind of thing. Here is a one-stop shop of arguments regarding positions of the Society of St Pius X: . I came upon it today …

Butcher Obama and the Reverend Father Colonel Norman Weslin, (US Army Retired)

In the week Notre Dame University sold its soul to Obama and his radical abortion agenda, here is what the same Catholic university is doing to an 80-year-old priest.

One would have thought that for a Catholic institution, the courteous response to a peaceful protest like this from a good and holy priest would be to invite him in to the Vice Chancellor's office to make his case.

With the latest Guantanamo news, it seems now that Obama is failing to deliver on all his manifesto pledges. Thank God that even his abortion promises are having to be toned down too, although no doubt he can still do great damage in four years. Photo from 'daylife':

Chavagnes: for a real Classical education!!!

We just had a great Roman banquet for the young intellectuals in my Latin class. Check out the College website for details and photos.

Claus von Stauffenberg, Hitler and the Catholic Faith. Thoughts for VE Day 2009

Tom Cruise's film 'Valkyrie' about the failed assasination attempt on Hitler by Colonel Count Claus von Stauffenberg was, according to critics, a film about Cruise trying to kill Hitler, rather than about Stauffenberg trying to kill Hitler. But it was a great movie, nonetheless, according to one of my pupils who really enjoyed it.

The media was fascinated by the Stauffenberg family's criticism of the casting of Cruise as Stauffenberg, lest this would be used as a platform for promoting Scientology. The Stauffenbergs are staunch Catholics. The German state also attempted to ban the film, because Scientology is (quite sensibly) considered a ridiculous financial scam in Germany. In the end the film was shown, and it reflected well on Germany and Germans as a whole, though it amost totally omitted mention of Stauffenberg's Catholicism, except for one quick prayer.

In the recent Figaro special edition « Opération Walkyrie. Ils ont voulu tuer Hitler », Jean-Louis Thiériot …

WorldPay CARD transaction Confirmation

If you get an email with the above header, don't open it. And, most especially, don't open the attachment. Apparently, it is a virus that interferes with (or steals) your email addressbook information and other similar data.

I got this today and was careful not to open the attachment, although I did open the email.

150 years of evolution

We had a debate last night about Evolution. On the motion 'This house believes that men and chimpanzees have a common biological ancestor' the result was 10 against, 6 for and 4 abstentions. Of course, people were voting partly from conviction, partly on the quality of the arguments.

A thought struck me afterwards: the chance of one species mutating into another (presumably at the moment of conception) is pretty slim, even by the standards of a fully-fledged evolutionst. That's why it only happens every few million years. So, if Adam and Eve's parents were apes, and one day, perhaps after having several ape children, they had a child which turned out to belong to a brand new species (pre-historic man), how could they be sure that the same statistical miracle of chance would happen again so that the child could find a mate of the same species to mate with? After all, he/she would not be able to mate with the old species (ie of his parents), because whenever one species m… A new international Catholic wiki

Help us to help inform the public about the Catholic faith and Catholic view of our culture and history. We are building an International Catholic Encyclopedia and Directory at

Anyone can help; it's easy to do, just like wikipedia. A team of editors will be making sure that we try our best to prevent any anti-Church statements creeping in, and also to help coordinate and plan the project.

We are using previously published materials, especially the old Catholic encyclopedia, but we are keen for this to be edited and brought up to date, and for new entries to be written.

come and join in the fun at

Prayers for Vincent Nichols

We at Chavagnes are very grateful to Archbishop Vincent Nichols, because - as Archbishop of Birmingham - he was kind enough to send us a chaplain for our school, Fr Anthony Talbot! On a personal level I remember meeting Archbishop Vincent at a conference of Catholic and Orthodox believers a few years ago, and was impressed by his kindness and courtesy on that occasion.

Also, when I organised a conference on the liturgy in Oxford a while back, Archbishop Nichols was very encouraging and helpful.
And so now that he is moving to Wesminster I am happy to support him with my congratulations and prayers and will certainly be asking the boys to pray for him, when they come back from their Easter holidays. The Archbishop spoke the other day of his obedience to the Holy Father, a theme which will be further emphasised no doubt once he is made a Cardinal. Obedience to Pope Benedict is certainly to be encouraged and applauded ...
Eyes are now on Birmingham, of course. As Archbishop Nichols said in …

The truth about Barack Obama

It is painful, but it is true. Obama is an impressive figure. He is handsome, intelligent, competent and charismatic. He is a brilliant leader and much more impressive than the presidential candidate he defeated.

And yet ... his total commitment to tha cause of abortion on demand, and to forcing Catholic hospitals and doctors to perform abortions, is a sad proof that Christians are having to face hard choices in their assessment of political life and in the exercise of their democratic life. Archbishop Burke, the highest ranking judge in the ecclesiastical courts of the Catholic Church, gave an interview on this situation. He subsequently apologised for any offence he might have caused to his brother bishops in seeming to criticise their less forceful stance on these issues, but the interview is still a very valid take on the dilemmas faced by faithful Christians in the USA and worldwide. You can hear it online at:

The other tragedy is that Obama, in suppor…

London-Nantes back with a vengeance!!!!!

Hallelujah! Just when Chavvers folks were starting to panic about Ryanair withdrawing their daily London-Nantes service, now for some great news. KLM is bringing in a twice daily service from 27th April. So we'll be even better connected - and what's more London City Airport is much more convenient for London. Thanks be to God!

Marx, Human Rights, Conservatism, English Renaissance literature ...

Interesting mix, isn't it? Someone was telling me today that I ought to start a French language blog to discuss some of my preoccupations of the day. I will mull this over, but my first reaction is that this is a good idea, even if it means the French state's equivalent of MI6 will probably start tapping my phones (if they aren't already doing so ...)

I have just written something on Marx and Satanism to be published elsewhere (in English) in a month or two. So perhaps I'll start by translating that into French. But first, I'll need to think of a name for my 'frogblog'.

In the meantime - and just to prove that even if I think Marx was a Satanist, I am still a fully-fledged freedom-fighter - check out my French human rights moonlighting on (I have been recruited to the ranks of JSM, a French organisation that helps spread information about offences against conscience (usually the persecution of Christians) in various countrie…

Classical education and how governments want to kill it ...

Classical education and how modern politicians have killed it
In Ancient Greece, two strands of thinking in education were current in what we know as the Classical Age, from about 500BC: that of Sparta, where education was the business of the State and sought to breed a resilient warrior citizenry, and that of Athens where education depended on the free choices of parents and aimed at producing intellectual maturity. As we shall see, it was the spirit of Athens that then dominated our approach to education until relatively recent history.

A Christian classical education, such as later led to the creation of the late medieval and renaissance universities was first seen in Alexandria, at the heart of the meeting of East and West, in about 190AD. Here St Clement, very much of a disciple both of Jesus and of Socrates, established what could probably be called the first Christian academy, educating boys and men, mainly, but not exclusively, for the priesthood. They studied the Trivium of log…

Persecution of Public school types

A recent interesting article in the Daily Mailraised the question of how the current breed of Labourites is able to get away with so many sideswipes against one of the UK's once distinguished and respected minorities, the Anglo-Saxon public schoolboy.

Certain ministers and civil servants are able to treat this important minority group with contempt and daily conspire to bring about its extinction as a social grouping.

And yet, until very recently 7 or 8 % of children in then UK were privately educated. That makes a very important minority. Bear in mind that according to the 2003 census the percentage of non-white UK citizens was 7.9%, and it becomes clear that in fact all the talk about misrepresentation of minorities is a lot of nonsense.

The main reason for showing concern about representation of different groupings is not to do with skin colour, but to do with the distinctive perspectives and contributions that different cultural traditions can bring to public life. Politics and t…

Great Books Programme for adults

Just a reminder that from 26th July to 4th August, Chavagnes is organising a superb 10-day course for adults on 'the Great Books'. Great Books, great company, great value: a cultural holiday of a lifetime in rural France. Join in the Great Conversation: 10 days in the Vendee with Professor Anthony O’Hear, StAR (St Austin Review) coeditor Robert Asch, writer Denis Boyles and StAR’s founder, Ferdi McDermott … … plus Homer, Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, Plato, Socrates, Virgil, Ovid, St Augustine, Dante, Chaucer, Shakespeare, Cervantes, Milton, Pascal, Racine + Goethe! visit for more details ...

A GAP Year for God ...

If there are any committed young Catholic men out there, perhaps in the closing stages of a degree course at university, this is for you:

Each year at Chavagnes International College we are keen to recruit volunteers who will give one or two years of their lives to the cause of Catholic education. It is a rewarding experience, even if not financially. If you would consider making a commitment to being a member of strong Catholic community at the service of youth, for a limited period of time, and would like to gain teaching practice (or help in some other way), then check out:

Lefebvrist bishops

I am impressed by Bishop Fellay's apology to the Pope. I think that it is the first time that the SSPX has officially apologised for anything. It shows that there is a desire for healing there.

As for Bishop Williamson, he is an embarassment to everyone. A number of years ago he wrote a Christmas newsletter from their Seminary in Winona, Minnesota, blaming all the world's moral problems on The Sound of Music and signing himself "+Ebenezer" ...

Israel: a wider perspective

Someone sent me a link to the Daily Telegraph blog of a leading Catholic journalist, re the troubles in Israel and Palestine. It was replete with all sorts of Zionist luvvies baying for Palestinian blood. One of them even expressed his thanks to Israel 'for killing all those Muslim terrorists, to save us the trouble' ...

I wonder whether these same people would have been asking for Northern Ireland (at least the Catholic-dominated areas) to be nuked during the troubles. That was never the official policy of the DT in those days, though it came close. It is a paper I like a lot, but not uncritically.

For years, Israel happily confiscated Palestinian land, built new settlements, filled with new arrivals from the USA, with their coffee bars and kosher McDonalds, only allowing the original locals in to clean the toilets, labelled with a little badge saying 'foreign worker'. When water was in short supply, the Palestinians had their water cut off, while Jewish settlers kept t…

Gong Xi Fat Choi!

We celebrated the Chinese New year today with special fried rice and spicy turkey at lunch and then battered prawns, aniseed flavour chicken and stir fry vegetables, with banana spring rolls (?), yoghurt and honey. All washed down with a nice white wine.

These culinary delights were lost on many of the boys who weren't able to finish it all.

Quite a contrast after last night's haggis, neeps and tatties.

The Ref was beautifully decorated with chinese lanterns, dragons and streamers and Fabrice, our chef, reminded me of Cato from the Pink Panther films with a little red silk betassled Chinese hat.

Boys and school

Some interesting recent releases on the benefits of single-sex education from the boys’ viewpoint, and the evidence that boys are short-changed by co-ed schooling:

Kathleen Parker's Save the Males: Why Men Matter; Why Women Should Care … “Saving the males – engaging their nobility and recognizing their unique strengths – will ultimately benefit women and children, too.”

Sociologist Michael Kimmel’s Guyland: The Perilous World Where Boys Become Men dissects the Guy Code … “Today’s young men are coming of age in an era with no road maps, no blueprints, and no primers to tell them what a man is and how to become one”, he writes. … “As a society, we must be active, engaged, and interventionist, helping America’s guys find a path of emotional authenticity, moral integrity and physical efficacy”.

Richard Hawley’s Beyond the Icarus Factor: Releasing the Free Spirit of Boys occupies some of the same territory in this elegaic exploration of the “puer myth” – that creative, imaginative en…

Robert Burns for Catholics: Singing Auld Lang Syne with the Angels

Tomorrow night, the 25th January, has been a deeply anchored part of my personal calendar since I became a student of Edinburgh University nearly twenty years ago. That night is the night of heavily distilled Scottishness that commemorates the nation’s most famous and beloved bard, a night known throughout the world simply as Burns Night.

Robert Burns, known by Scots as Rabbie Burns, was born into a farming family at Alloway in Ayrshire in 1759. He died in Dumfries at the early age of 37. During his short life he took the Scottish literary world by storm, and secured a place for himself in history and in legend. Every year, lovers of Scotland throughout the world mark the 25th of January, the day of his birth (in 1759) with an evening of song, poetry, speeches, comradeship, food and what he affectionately called Scotch Drink:

Gie him strong Drink until he wink,
That's sinking in despair;
An' liquor guid to fie his bluid,
That's prest wi' grief an' care;
There let him bo…