Sunday, 20 December 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) are all reasonably up for argument, it seems to me. One wonders if perhaps they aren't going a bit too far ... But the key point is that there must surely come a time when certain choices of private morality become a public issue, with the potential to damage a whole society. This is the position that Ugandans have arrived at. I think that they are right and ought to be loudly congratulated.

Although the bill is supported by Muslims too, I don't think that this is a question of Shariah law. Shariah law starts from the principle that everything immoral ought to be illegal. That has never been the Christian position. But this legislation is not so much about private choices as about the common good, just like Mrs Thatcher's much-maligned Section 28 of the Local Government Act.

It seems to me that in the coming years Europe and America will have to start listening to Africa, which is something they have never done before.

Saturday, 19 December 2009

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 castle behind and look for frienship, or sex, herself ...

Of course, the film is all wonderfully poetic and artistic. It is beautifully done, from what we can see of the trailer (available at http://www.le-baiser-de-la-lune.fr/)

But the subtext is clear enough. The film-makers would say they are against 'homophobia', but the film portrays heterosexuality itself, and not just the attitudes of hardened heterosexuals, as something out-dated and out-of-touch. Homosexual love is portrayed as liberating and almost as a kind of renassaince of love for the loveless old world.

The film-makers are preparing a kit which will enable children of 9 and 10 to watch the film at school, then play role-play games that explore new and different ways of loving (!), then discuss the wider issues and find out the specifics of how boys can have sex amongst themselves, and girls too, instead of with each other, like those old-fashioned princes and princesses.

Of course the project is sponsored by a rogues' gallery of gay organisations plus the French youth and sport ministry ...

The film is called The kiss of the moon, although the word for kiss can also be translated to mean something more physical. This would no doubt come out in the discussions with the kids afterwards.

One thing about the film is spot-on: the idea that our age-old culture is drowning, and not just because of global warming.

I prefer the family tale of Mary and Joseph, and their mysterious new-born babe who also brought a new message of love to a weary world. Now that is a tale worth telling our children ...

Thursday, 17 December 2009

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 amazon.com'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.

Monday, 14 December 2009

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 somehow also keeping up the sense of supernatural tension. They had real soap bubbles coming out of the cauldron ,and a rather comic frog (a cuddly toy) was also added to the stew ... all three witches were excellent and delivered their lines beautifully and with a real sense of drama and rhythm.


Nathan Hopkin was great as the porter. But he had been told to leave out the vulgar gestures that most directors allow these days. The result was that the humour of this bawdy secene was lost on our 50% Francophone audience. Still, Nathan was impressive and well cast.


A theatrical secret: tomato puree is better than ketchup for the bloody scenes ...


I'll comment some more when I've seen the second night.

Monday, 7 December 2009

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: http://media.rtl.fr/online/binary/2009/1203/5930975692_Sondage-World-leaders.pdf

Friday, 4 December 2009

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. But the question of cultural identity is.

One can be in favour of religious freedom and tolerant of immigration, but one may also stand up for the rights of an indigenous people. In north America and Australia there is a new culture of breast-beating over the treatment of the indigenous populations by white settlers, and over the way in which native cultures were destroyed. We are right to apologise, because the white settlers, then their governments, and indeed their churches, were involved in indefensibly inhumane policies aimed at the domination and oppression of these peoples.

And yet, having learnt these lessons, it would be unwise of us not to apply the same lessons in Europe in the current cultural context. The traditional European peoples have a right to live and defend their culture. They have a right for their values and traditions to be the dominant ones in their home.

We bewail the destruction of the Celtic languages by the incoming English-speaking settlers in Wales or the Hebrides; we bewail the destruction of picturesque African and Indian tribes by contact with 'westernisation' of the worst kind. Is it not also time now to look at what is happening to English culture, to French culture, to Dutch culture? Not as a result of choices made by the indigenous people, but as a result of immigration without assimilation.

A number of years ago another Vatican document, and a letter from the Italian bishops' conference, drew attention to the rights of indigenous peoples in the whole area of immigration.

This is an issue that the large and unwieldy united states of Europe, with its new President and Foreign Minister, will now have to address, before it tears us all apart.

Closing our eyes to demographic and cultural change, and the tensions they create, is not an answer. In a few years (20, 30 or 40, depending on the country) many European nations are going to discover that most of their young people are completely alien (or even hostile) to the traditional values and culture of their country. That is not a recipe for justice and peace.

The long-overdue debate about European cultural identity has now begun.

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

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 in the country. Lucky for them they are not in the European Union so they can do more or less what they like on the question without fear of sanction, although they probably are signatories to the ECHR, so they may have to put up with the stigma of a negative judgement at some time in the future.

A spokesman from the Vatican has condemned this democratic vote in Europe's oldest and most peaceful democracy ... interesting times indeed.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

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.