Fighting at the New Lepanto

To stand back and look at the violence sustained by the family over the past century is to look at a bleak landscape. Divorce; ever easier. Contraception; now a norm. Abortion; used to mop up the unwelcome evidence of a society whose entire being worships self. Homosexual marriage; the most recent barren wedge driven between sex and its beautiful role for humanity. On the horizon are ever darker shadows.


We know the story of Lepanto. It was the turning point where Christian Europe was saved from Islamic expansion across the Mediterranean through Our Lady’s intercession. Exciting times and all in the past one might think. Yet we have a Lepanto today, and it needs crusaders just like before. Ireland is today’s Lepanto. Ireland is one of the last barriers in the way of the devil expanding his empire to the fullest. It is a critical point in this battle over marriage and the family, but to fight it we need an army of modern crusaders prepared to travel in spirit to your new Lepanto. Because if life wins here, the tide of evil will surely be on the turn.


In Ireland the 8th Amendment gives equal rights to both mother and baby. If the 8th Amendment is repealed there will be no significant hurdle to abortion on demand. Then there will be little in the way of the devil saying he owns the world and every country in it. That’s how evil abortion is. It deadens society to the love that binds families, a love that should be inviolate, and turns it into spite. After all every child will know that if they had appeared at the wrong time they too would have been tossed in a metal bucket. All those bonds become optional. If love is measured by sacrifice, in a country where sacrifice is avoided, we run out of love. Ireland, which has always had a special love of family, of hearth and home, will start to close its doors to its own.


The best way you can help us from anywhere in the world is by your prayers. At the moment we are asking priests and individuals to consecrate Ireland’s 8th Amendment to Our Lady’s Immaculate Heart on December 8th. Those in Ireland; ask your parish priest will he do this. Those in other countries, please kneel and say our consecration prayer or use words of your choosing to consecrate Ireland’s 8th Amendment to Our Lady. If we pray with humility, with constancy, with hope, we can keep Ireland lit as a candle in the world. From one candle we will reignite others. Let us keep the light alive in Ireland, and we will not stop there, we will together win back the world by prayer, country by country, till every country bows to the Sacred and Immaculate hearts of Jesus and Mary. We will not rest till its done. But we must, absolutely must, do it together.

Consecrate the 8th with us.




Consecrate the 8th Documents

Documents for the Consecrate the 8th Movement – print, share, spread far and wide!

Consecrate the 8th poster

Poster is A4, if you have a confirmed location for the consecration, print this and pin it up on local noticeboards and in your nearby Churches with the time and location added.

Consecrate the 8th prayer card & explanation B&W

Not everyone has a colour printer, and we know it’s more expensive to print in colour. That’s ok – we’ve a black and white version, 4 per A4 page. Print double sided; the prayer is on one side, an explanation on the other.

Consecrate the 8th prayer card & explanation colour version

A colour version for those who prefer. 2 cards per A4 page. Print double sided.

Consecrate the 8th Prayer card & explanation Intl version

For all our International supporters who will pray in solidarity on 8th Dec (we are so grateful!). A prayer just for you, with mention of your own country included. 2 per A4 page, and print double sided.

God bless all. Our Lady will gather these roses, let us make as large a bouquet as we can.

The Fighting Irish and Getting Off Fences

On 2nd November I got the children togged out in wellies and coats and we headed off for a visit to a local cemetery and Church for the Holy Souls. We have an historical little village near us called Tomhaggard, in the Model County. I’d like to tell you a story…

Tomhaggard is the sleepiest little spot, a few houses, no shop anymore. Rural shops died a death. There’s a Church that gets a Mass every second day by a curate covering other parishes – not a rare situation now, few parishioners and fewer priests. There is a pub. That’s ok. The pub and the Church and the local shop were a rural village’s hub; at least there are two of them left.

St Anne and the Child Mary

Anyway, it could be any little village in Ireland. But Tomhaggard has a few special things, hidden as it is down boreens and round bends and off the beaten track. It has history, a holy history, a martyr, a site of bloodshed, and a haunting Irish beauty.

There are two holy wells, St James’ well and St Anne’s well. St Anne’s has a sweet statue tucked in its nook, candles, a stone prie dieu. Stations of the Cross wind around rough stone steps from St Anne’s grotto up to the Penal Chapel. The Chapel itself could be seen as neglected, in other ways it feels reserved in much the barren manner it would have been back then. A packed earth floor is lumpy and shiny… how many people have knelt there. The walls are stone, without windows, a ledge in the front wall shows where a crucifix would have sat, a few candles glowing in the dark and casting crosses on the walls. You can almost feel the prayers still hovering there in the air. You whisper without quite knowing why.


The Chapel has a nativity scene in there now, that seems like the only change excepting age. Indeed the space has a stable-like feel, it suits a nativity scene. More than anything though it reminds me that a priest was murdered not far away on the morning of Jesus’ birthday, the day we rejoice over a baby born in other hostile times, to a quiet woman, in the poorest of places. Who came to see Jesus? The shepherds and the kings; only the very humble and the very wise. Near this spot, in grass stiff with frost, in hiding, had gathered the very poor, the humble, to see Jesus, like the shepherds did centuries earlier. And as through the centuries His followers would die for Him, hated by the world, so here on this day, a life was laid down. Not the first. Not the last.

In 1653 Ireland was an impoverished and persecuted land. In 1652 Cromwell’s soldiers had defeated the Royalist and Irish Catholic Confederate armies, ending the Eleven Years War. Guerrilla warfare continued in its wake for a further year. They were turbulent times, following on the heels of the Gunpowder Plot, the flight of the Earls and the beginning of the Penal Laws with taxations and the transfer of Catholic Churches to Anglican use. Anger led to the Rebellion of 1641 and a Confederate Ireland. Enter Cromwell. Confederate Ireland was demolished, brutally demolished. Harsher Penal Laws followed and Catholic clergy were expelled. Bloodshed was to right and left, Catholics were crushed into the ground and their Mass, their Beautiful, grace filled, life giving Mass, was gone. But we Irish of course, aren’t ones for lying down. Priests stayed, risking their lives, from hedge to hiding place, to give the sacraments, to baptise infants, marry couples, hear confessions and see souls well equipped to leave this world. And yes, to say Mass. The priest would arrive by night and leave before the dawn broke.

People gathered by night at Mass Rocks hidden in furze bushes and down fields and across bogs, to receive their Saviour. Knowing their soul needed this more than it needed life itself. The Penal Chapels, small and poor and barren, supposed to be without the sacraments, would nevertheless be a place of comfort, where mothers’ fingers stepped along their rosaries and children heard the prayers of their parents and fathers came with their fear and their anger and their desperation.

This was Ireland in 1653. The people full of sadness at the fate of their country and their faith, but full of love and hope for both. Cromwell was still on the prowl for the priests who must have seemed ghostlike, there and not there.

In Tomhaggard early on Christmas morning, before the sky began to lighten, Fr Nicholas Mayler celebrated a Mass, hidden in the dark. The Mass was whispered, the people silent, communion received with thankful hearts, when a shout came from higher up the land. Soldiers were coming. Fr Mayler turned and begged his people to take the Chalice, someone save the Chalice. Mrs. Lambert hid it in her apron and ran. How her heart must have beat and her breath have come ragged as she raced, both sure of heart and yet full of terror. Fr Mayler was killed, his blood seeping out in the white frost, the seed of the faith.


Fr Mayler is buried across the road from the Penal Chapel in a 13th Century Church now in ruins. His grave is unmarked. The chalice is used again every Christmas morning when the local faithful cross the fields for mass at the site of the Mass Rock.

And here we are today, 364 years later. We have cars and wages and freedom to vote. We have rights, equalities, liberties. We have it easy in comparison to Mrs Lambert and Fr Mayler. But I do wonder, what Fr Mayler might say, should he be put back here for a day. I could find material in that question to write much more than I will here. But I know this. This man, who died for his faith, would fight today for that same faith. This man, who dashed in secret from shadow to shadow, would die again today, for what is right. This man, who knew his life was in the balance every day and carried on, also knew his faith was not a feeling, a trend, an indulgence, a whimsical fancy. It was true, and it was necessary. Like air and water and food. And here today, Ireland, whose past sons fought in ditches and on hills with pikes and farm tools for God and country, has been all but conquered by fashionable ideologies and money. All but conquered. Not quite.

There are people, dotted around Ireland, quietly staging a revolution. Not in the style of the pikemen perhaps or the 1916 rebels, but as passionate and bold nonetheless. I see them, here and there, all ages, ardent but marginalised, fire in their bellies but disregarded and dismissed. People are hurt by the anti-Catholic sentiment pervading everything. People are tired of suffering under something weirdly akin to a social penal law; where Catholics are witless or bigots or hypocrites. The spirit of Fr Mayler and all the other priests and laypeople who died for Ireland and the faith… that spirit may be burning low, we may be a remnant army, but the spirit isn’t dead. And what’s more, it’s time to rekindle it. We need to be like the shepherds on Christmas morning; be humble. We cannot do this alone, stop bemoaning our fate in isolation. It’s never going to work. Ask for help, ask God for help, ask Holy Mary for help. Place our country and our people at the feet of Holy Mary and pray often and fervently for her protection upon them. We must be like the Maji too; be wise. Remember that Our Lady told us she would triumph. We know it’s going to happen, we just don’t know when. But each prayer and sacrifice we make hastens that moment. And perhaps, with a fresh flame in this land, Ireland may be one of the few countries that doesn’t utterly fall into the depths before that Marian resurrection.


But, why now? Our country will be faced with something pivotal soon in the abortion referendum. We will be at a parting of the ways… up or down, better or worse. The country will not stay static, society doesn’t work like that. We will make a choice, and then we will follow it like a shadow that moves ever further ahead of us. It will make our country better or it will make our country worse. It is time to bring back the revolutionary Irish spirit. This is the counter revolution. It is time to fight a battle, we will see it in the material realm but its dirtiest fray will be in the spiritual. The loss or the victory, will be decided in the realm of the principalities and powers.

And that, right there, is the reason behind ‘Consecrate the 8th’. We need Our Lady so badly. Our Lord will not refuse her, and she will not refuse us. Be wise, ask for help. Be humble, ask for help. We can do this, because she can do this. We need to turn this country around, before it goes off a cliff. Please, for the love of our country, for the love of our faith, for the love of our history and the blood of the martyrs on our land, take this step. Consecrate Ireland’s 8th Amendment to the Immaculate Heart. Then go from there, consecrate yourself, consecrate your families. Do you never say a prayer? Start saying 3 Hail Marys daily. Do you say that already – then say a decade. Do you say a decade – say two. If you say two now – say another. Add a memorare to what you already do, or a morning offering. Haven’t been to Mass in 10 years – go now. Haven’t been to confession in even longer – go now. Look at what you do now, then do some more, a little more. A little more by many people is a wave of petition and grace. Because the time for sitting on the fence is past and Ireland is one of the few places left where we still have the opportunity to climb off the fence on the right side.

Join us to Consecrate the 8th

queen of ireland


Our Lady, Queen of Ireland, Pray for Us.


Rising to the Truth

We are celebrating a century since our Irish patriots rose up against British rule. And it has cast up column inches from every shade of politics, every interpretation of history, every social movement, everyone wants to own it, even the people who are mortified by it. But for me, there is one word that is getting severely on my nerves. And that’s liberty. Call it any way you will; liberty, freedom, rights, independence. It seems to me our patriots fought for liberty in the sense of independence from colonial oppressive powers, and within that, liberty to make our own laws, to run our own country, to value our own people, to practice our faith, to grow our economy, to be ourselves alone.

That is not the liberty I see so often spouted this year, and many another occasion. Lets try decide what we think liberty is. Pick one:

  1. Liberty is the freedom to do what you want.
  2. Liberty is the freedom to do what you should.

Now, before you say ‘well it depends’… these are necessarily mutually exclusive. You can’t decide some situations make liberty the ability to do as you please, but other situations make liberty the ability to do what you should. That’s a sort of relativist psychosis that turns the word liberty into an ephemeral nonsense.

Option one, the freedom to do what you want, makes the individual the sole arbiter, opinion and emotion rule supreme.  If you and I are saying different things, then while we may both be wrong, we cannot both be right. We are free, in terms of civil liberty, to espouse our opinions, but we cannot both be objectively correct. We do not have two truths, one each. And the same for national conversations; civil law needs to decide, based on objective truth, what is right and what is wrong. However once government and it’s justice system lose the grasp of natural law and objective truth, it will simply be a mirror for each decade’s increasing profligacy. Because popularity of opinion is the new law. We confuse norms of the age with rights. In the end this is the basis for anarchy, and it’s associated chaos is held in check only by a semblance of government that we’ve inherited from the past. A few dusty old customs and cultural norms and ageing institutions.

The other option you could plump for, is that liberty is the freedom to do what we should, which implies that there is an external law providing the ‘should’. A law higher than you or me or the judge in court or any individual. Philosophers call it the natural law. The natural law is unchanging, it has to be because a truth isn’t true if it can be changed in time or circumstance. To have an objective natural law, means you have rights and wrongs. So that we do not then have the liberty to circumvent natural law in order to indulge in individual satisfactions, or fashions. That is not freedom at all, it is the tyranny of trend over truth. This is the reason the legal system cannot be carved around the individual sad story. Hard cases make bad laws. Good laws are based on the common good of the people, not the happiness of your cousin once removed. And the common good is directed by objective realities. AKA Truths. As GK Chesterton said, “fallacies do not cease to be fallacies because they become fashions”. (Slight aside, GK – legend! Love him).

“fallacies do not cease to be fallacies because they become fashions”.

Where we are today seems to me to be near a tipping point. The old norms are getting ever hazier in the past, and are being replaced by personal ‘liberty’, not just in personal lives but in our governance. Today liberty is no longer only the freedom to choose good, it is the freedom to choose self, me over others, people I love over other people, the individual freedom over the common good. And this isn’t freedom at all, it’s licence. It would be fascinating, though we’ll never know this side of the veil, whether the leaders of 1916 would be rejoicing at our freedoms or horrified at our licence.

So we do have rights. And the rights we have, were always rights, even when they weren’t granted, and they will always be our rights. And there are wrongs, that flipside that we’ve forgotten. These wrongs were always wrongs, and always will be, even if society calls them rights. To have the right to do something, given today’s mixed up world where justice is so far from truth, is not at all the same as to be right in doing it. To deny that wrongs are immutable, is to deny rights are immutable, you cannot have it both ways. And that awkward reality has to be denied today if you want to be popular and mainstream. So today populist society needs a way out, it’s more or less as follows:

  1. Find a sob story, make it your argument. The more stories the better. If anyone has a problem with this argument they are hateful.
  2. Call the person who questions the value of the sob story as a moral argument a bigot. Allow no comeback. Facepalm if possible.
  3. Embrace relativism. Everything is relative. Good and bad are relative. They change. Which means bigot above has failed to keep up and the fault is his.
  4. Call the goal of the individual sob story a social right. Don’t try to argue for it in terms of philosophy or logic, emotion is your artillery. Use the words liberty and rights often.
  5. When enough people ‘feel’ like a wrong should be made a right, it will be taken up by our relativist government who want your vote. Goal achieved.

I should stick a caution on the advice above though. When you finally come up against someone else doing this to make a right out of something you believe to be utterly wrong, you might have a really awkward moment where you realise the bus of moral licence has kicked you off. You thought this argument was self limiting, but of course it’s not. It’s self perpetuating. And eventually the brakes don’t work any more. When society forgets basic and eternal truths, it crumbles, and will never be rebuilt until these are remembered.

So here’s to 1916.

Here’s to independence. Here’s to thinking men. Here’s to liberty, not licence. Here’s to fraternity, in charity. Here’s to equality where we are all subject to the same Truth, and all protected by the same Truth. Here’s to an end to fear, that root of modern licence. Because so much of this ‘liberty’ is not so much our courage in overcoming rules, but that we are too timid for responsibility. Here’s to finishing the Rising, not by peddling sentiment like it is fact, but by feeling free to be signs of contradiction.

When moral wrongs are politically correct

Have you all seen the new Amnesty ad? Take a look! It’s here: ‘Amnesty ad: Chains’

I have to commend Amnesty. They hired some great crew to get this just spot on. Its not overly dramatic or Hollywoodised. The cinematic effects are so subtle that really it’s just one of those little productions where the facts are allowed to speak for themselves. You know… the stats, the bits where they quote stats and facts and blow us all away with reason…? Yeah that bit. Well, facts may be the wrong word. But they’ve got Liam Neeson doing the voice over so that makes up for facts.

I love, love, love the black and white thing, clearing to colour at the end when the veil of evil is lifted. Its so potent. You can’t really go for restrained suggestion here because Amnesty know we aren’t able for that, so in their charity and clarity, they coloured it all to reflect the message, past = bad = monochrome, future = can be better = pretty colours. There are no confusing ambiguities in the camera work, which is fine as there’s nothing worth saving from history anyway and the Church in Ireland was obviously sacrificing women and doing no good anywhere, so best to clear that up. In black and white. Amnesty et al do love tolerance of course, but only of certain things, and the Catholic Church and its history in Ireland is not one of them. Good for Amnesty for clearing up any remaining tolerant attitudes we may have harboured for our Catholic past.

I have a few thoughts on where Amnesty could really have driven this message home with greater dramatic scope. I humbly suggest, a few waif like white figures of dead women wafting by in the background, preferably wailing, would help to get across the maternal mortality rate from lack of abortion provision. I assume they avoided doing this in case people thought the figures were for women who died as a direct result of abortion, like here, and here, and here, and here, and… ah, never mind. We don’t want to mention those, maybe no waif-like ghosts then. And after thinking about it, I guess no wailing either, it might sound like the cries of, y’know, the few babies who have been ‘uncreated’ by abortion. How many? I don’t know, its about 1,352,359,683 to date in the world since 1980, but that figure leaps by about 60,000 per day so its anyone’s guess really. So, to conclude that idea, maybe no ghosts, and no wailing. Good call on leaving those out after all.

Maybe we could have a little teeny bit of antiquity, so people don’t think Amnesty is totally anti-history? How about having some still pictures in the foreground of Sean McBride and Peter Benenson and Eric Baker? Its would lend a little intellectual appeal to this otherwise dry and unsentimental ad. You’d have to try disassociate Amnesty from any of its founding principles of course, like being against torture and imprisonment for politics or religious belief. We don’t need those ideas lingering around, Lord knows people might associate abortion with torture and abuse, or promotion of religious freedom with allowing Christians an uncensored voice. Sure we could have lost the last referenda here, both of them, if we had equal debate… considering the ad is taking the line that our Christian past is the source of the problem, we definitely need to separate McBride and Benenson and Baker from the current Amnesty agenda. They sully the whole thing with their unenlightened ideas.

But that’s ok, that’s ok – its do-able. Planned Parenthood have done it in the States, cutting their founder Margaret Sanger off from her racist, eugenic legacy and sterilising her (forgive the pun) enough to pop up a bust to her in the Smithsonian (despite her racist legacy and the protests of black pastors… no religious need object remember). And sure hey, Marie Stopes Intl have sanitised her too from her promotion of mandatory sterilisation of those deemed unfit for parenthood or suffering disease, and being a fan of Hitler and good ol’ Josef Mengele (he’d have loved the stats on down syndrome abortions, loved them). The Stopes International crew have done a stellar job reinventing her.

So yeah, I reckon we could reinvent McBride and Benenson and Baker as not being a Catholic, a convert, and a Quaker; lets make them feminists, but not real feminists who like women, make them the feminists who undo babies to solve problems (Amnesty are really on to something here, its like selling time travel, ‘you can go back to the way you were before, like you were never pregnant!’, which sells well, unless you’ve tried the product and realised you can’t actually go back in time, but there is no 30 day returns policy on abortion so its a win-win sale…) Definitely then, floating pictures of these three on the ad would be a distinct improvement, but only when we reinvent them.

I like the ruins of the church and the old spooky cross and the crumbly gravestone. All suitably fact laden. Definitely appealing to logic and the mind, is Neeson’s hot smoky voice lending a little suave compassion to the woman who is clearly buried under that stone, with her child inside her. Because, you know, she couldn’t have an abortion. And abortion is a medical treatment is it not, to heal women? Ok I know its not their body that gets taken out (better not to say its someone else’s, that’s awkward) but still, it must in some miraculous though entirely non Catholic miraculous way heal the bigger body that the first body is lifted from. I don’t know, I get confused. Her body, baby’s body, they are separate, but one has a choice, the other doesn’t because its not old enough, its all a bit of a head wrecker. I’m sure there is a direct causal link between taking out the “baby” (remember to use inverted commas) and saving the mother, despite the two being different entities with their own organs and systems. I’ll just go with Amnesty on that one because I can’t think it through and I like Neeson’s voice.

The colour wash at the end is genius, because of course we are in for better days ahead, once Amnesty get abortion clinics opened here. Then, we won’t have to have those tedious arguments with crazy pro-lifers about whether its a baby or not, when it reaches sentience, whether sentience is the measure of being human, etcetera etcetera etcetera (‘The King and I’ – love that quote), because we’ll have it, it’ll be here!!!! Woohoo! Freedom! (Thats the Mel Gibson one). And hey, we love freedom. What’s this Pope JP 2 said…. paraphrased slightly, ‘freedom is the liberty to do what we should, not what we want’. Oh no hold on, that isn’t a suitable quote, that doesn’t help. Its ok, I’ll make my own reality up: ‘freedom is the liberty to do what we want’. Yay! JP 2 was a Catholic anyway, and we don’t like them.

So, to summarise, welcome to the world of non stats, non facts, black and white, Neeson narrated, Hollywoodesque, twisted up, emotion ridden, opinion directed, insult laden Republic of Amnesty. Where charities founded on principles of humanity, can wage war on little humans and women alike, and put out ads to people it reckons are too damn stupid to see past the daubed use of cinematic tools, monochrome, spooky music and mossy tombs. Nice one Amnesty. The intellectual rigour is dripping out of you. My kids do more subtle finger painting.

Can anyone tell I am angry and insulted? Are you surprised that I can be so glib about a subject that takes lives, women and babies both? Why are you surprised I can be glib, but not surprised that Amnesty can make such cowpat? You wonder where is the compassion in this post. What a heartless thing I am, to be sarky about women’s lives. Am I right? Well I can suffer with women, I can hear the difficulties and sorrow and trauma, but I can’t show compassion for Amnesty and the lie its peddling.

If Amnesty had an honest bone left in them, they would campaign for support services for women who suffer both prenatally and postnatally, with grants to help struggling women finance their pregnancies, medical support, mental health services, adoption strategies if the mother does not want to keep the baby, counselling services, practical help with places to stay and food on tables, an effective social services body giving uncritical help. Full pro-life support from conception till death, not beginning at 24 weeks gestation and ending at birth, with abortion preceding that and abandonment to NHS counselling after it. But all this is too much effort, doesn’t fit today’s world view where women’s rights are touted by the very institutions who make money from women in vulnerable circumstances.

This isn’t women’s rights. This isn’t compassion. Rights, are what we all have, not something one has over another. Compassion, is what would give rights where they are deserved, not withhold rights for some in favour of others. Compassion doesn’t provide a permanent solution like death for a temporary problem like pregnancy.  It doesn’t visit the sins of rapist fathers or incestuous relatives upon the baby they create. Compassion has been hijacked and turned on its head. What you are looking at in this ad, isn’t compassion, its political correctness. Do not be confused. So if I sound uncompassionate, its because I’m angry that such a beautiful sentiment, that has seen women stand by women, and men stand by women, that has seen brave choices and truth stated and lives saved, has been taken by Amnesty and turned into a 2 minute cinematic farce in order to launch their bid (supported by multi-millions from abroad) to repeal the 8th Amendment.

I’m going to turn prophet, right here on this blog; if the 8th Amendment is repealed, it will happen with foreign money poured in here; it won’t be an independent decision at all. Do you really think democratic results can’t be bought? If you have enough money, and enough big names, and stifle enough debate, they can indeed be bought. So don’t wonder where my compassion is. I have no compassion for Amnesty, no compassion for lies, no compassion for ending babies’ lives because they are deemed ‘less human’ (we’ve seen that argument in the past, but then Amnesty has it in for history so I guess we will be destined to repeat it). I have no compassion for the idea that because something is legal, it is right; nor the reversible reasoning that because its legal somewhere, it is right everywhere, and should be legal everywhere! Amnesty has clearly bankrupted its critical thinking skills in favour of beginner’s video lessons.

I leave you with this, from Gianna Jesson. Gianna survived an attempted saline abortion in 1977, not the only baby to do so although survival is obviously rare. It meant she was then born premature and the saline solution caused her to have cerebral palsy. Nevertheless, she is alive, though she was never supposed to be. As she says herself “if abortion is about women’s rights, then what were mine?”

On pain and love

Suffering is naturally distasteful to us, we try to avoid it and lessen it when it comes our way. We see it as a bad thing, and in the natural sense thats true. It brings us sadness, pain, grief. We rightly console others when they suffer, so its normal to console ourselves. There is not one person in the world who does not experience suffering to some degree. For many of us that burden may be a light one, or at least an average one, normal life with its twists and turns. Others may be given great and longlasting sufferings. Suffering can be mental, physical or emotional, and it can be big or small, but one thing is sure; it is universally felt.

The Catholic faith is filled with concepts we find turn our current social perspectives on their head. The old ‘He who is first shall be last’ idea. Those who appear most successful and loved in the world are often at the greatest disadvantage when approaching God. Those who try so hard to soften their lives and guage their success against how little suffering they have, are never going to be truly happy because they can never control when suffering may come their way, and come their way it will, in some manner.

Perhaps we should think about how to be happy rather than how to avoid suffering? We can’t avoid suffering, but we can be happy.

As with many things that are set at opposition within the Catholic faith, many see suffering in the wrong light. Suffering allows us to share in Christ’s crucifixion, we share in carrying His cross. Instead of weeping along the way like the women of Jerusalem, we press forward and put our hands on His cross and attempt to carry that dead weight with Him. Why would we do that? Because He is our brother. Because we love Him (not the carried away, emotionally charged modern feeling of love, but love through our will). Because we gain graces that will help us to grow closer to Him, which will help us to view our suffering in a different light, to realise we can turn our suffering into grace, that suffering and happiness are not exclusive of each other.

Loving Christ doesn’t take away suffering, in fact the opposite may happen. Christ tries his tools in the fire before he uses them, and the devil hates those who love Christ and His Mother, so suffering will not leave you because of your faith and resignation. What happens is that the cross becomes sweet, the load feels lighter, we are consoled in our spirit and at peace in our hearts. Hope replaces despair, love replaces hate, peace replaces anguish. You still suffer, but you suffer with lightness of heart rather than darkness of soul.

This all sounds very glib. I am not saying that this makes suffering easy! Don’t confuse the message, suffering isn’t easy. But as we reach to help share Christ’s cross, He in turn reaches out to help us carry ours. And He will never be outdone in generosity of heart. What little we offer up our suffering, we gain tenfold the worth of our effort in peace.

I am not at the stage of wanting to suffer, that is a level of sanctity way above where I am. I am with all the other souls struggling at the back of the crowd. I don’t desire to suffer, but I pray for the desire to suffer. Holy Mary will bring me there eventually, in her good time. She knows about suffering. She was there, at the foot of the cross as the last drops of blood fell from her Son’s side. She watched him carry a cross on His lacerated shoulder, His skin hanging in rags, flesh bare and stinging, feet stumbling on stones, knees crushed by the weight of the cross as He fell. She saw the soldiers drive the nails deep into his wrists and feet, saw Him raised on the cross and hanging there, dying slowly from pain, loss of blood and asphyxia. He was her son. To even contemplate watching that happen to my sons is unthinkable. But she not only watched it, she willed it, knowing it was God’s will, despite the sword piercing her heart at every lash and every step.

Holy Mary and Christ know suffering above all that we can ever experience, and they will help us, they will never fail us. Every act in Christ’s life was a lesson for us, from his humble birth, to his hidden obedience to His parents, to His preaching; and His passion and death were His greatest act, His act of redemption, and holds for us the greatest lessons. His suffering gave us life, and our suffering unites us to Him in order to obtain it.

It is worth remembering as well, that God will never send us suffering without the graces necessary to bear it. We are still free, as always, to accept or reject those graces. But if suffering is in our path regardless, then to reject it, to say no to it, to fight it, does not take the suffering away, it simply increases our sorrow and anger. If it is in our path, turning it to a source of grace and merit makes it profitable to us rather than a useless horrible thing. But asking for God’s help through Mary’s hands is the start of it, we must ask for their help.

It is hard to suffer with resignation and offer it to God if we do not keep our eyes on the goal. We need to try to remember that this life isn’t ‘it’. It doesn’t end here, in fact it scarcely starts here, this is a pilgrimage to something far greater. Liken it to the baby in the womb, they think that’s it, that’s the sum of life, and then they are born and the real world opens up around them. We are the same, we are here such a short time and often forget that this is only a journey. We are destined to leave here and were never meant to be here for long, only long enough to give our yes or no to God’s offer of redemption, a short few years of proving ourselves. Make sure you say yes to Him. If you can’t say yes, pray for the spirit to say yes. Embrace life, good, bad and indifferent, for God, because whether you are happy or sad, on top of the world or suffering, it is God’s will for you right now. Turn it into gold.

Quitting Semantic Gymnastics

There’s a lot going round at the moment regarding abortion. In some ways, it is never far from the surface, either because some people are demanding more of it or others are demanding less of it. Its not an argument that lends itself to moderation or compromise. We had the situation of Savita Halappanavar here in Ireland, we had numerous cases before that, we’ve had similar cases since. We’ve got Planned Parenthood in the States making headlines and pro-life rallies in Dublin reaching 30,000. Ireland’s Eighth Amendment is being dragged inch by inch closer to the guillotine. There are arguments on when abortion should be allowed and when it shouldn’t, up to what point, due to what illnesses, how far to take into account the mother’s wishes, physical health or mental state. The arguments are varied and numerous. But here’s the thing, there is really only one argument that matters. That fundamental argument is why there is no room for compromise, it is either all ok or none of it is ok. If you can follow that argument and come out at the other side with an informed opinion, the rest falls into place.


So here it is; is what is inside the mother a human being?


There are only two answers to this. Either it is or it isn’t. We’ll go with the negative first. It’s not human. Well then abortion is no big deal, no more or less than getting a mole removed or an appendix out. The thing is, this opens up problems. If it’s not human, does birth make it human? Most would say no, because babies born well before gestation completion are fine little bundles of life. So then, there is a point where it goes from non-human to human. What point do you pick… the cut-off point the hospital uses for viability outside the womb? That’s generally 24 weeks. Though there have been babies born as early as 21 weeks and have survived and thrived, and in the 70s viability was thought to be from 28 weeks. Do we rate people’s humanity on their ability to fend for themselves? That knocks out whole sections of society.

Let’s drop down a bit further then, down to 12 weeks. That’s often the first scan, that’s the first trimester completed. Maybe that’s where it goes from a piece of tissue to human. But by then, the heart is pumping blood, the lungs are growing, the liver is producing bile, kidneys are secreting urine, neurological connections are being made, toes are curling, fingers clenching and reflexes are responding to touch. In fact, all the bodily systems are working by 11 weeks.

Ok, it’s getting difficult, let’s go right back to 6 weeks. Maybe at 6 weeks the being becomes human. This should be easy because it looks like a kidney bean. Couldn’t be human. At 6 weeks though, the heart is beating at 150 beats per minute, the face has the beginnings of eyes, nostrils and mouth, buds for legs and arms are there, the foetal pituitary gland is producing hormones. So it looks a bit tiny and disposable, but everything is there, in miniature. What’s more, can we simply look at this little thing and go ‘well it couldn’t be human, it’s too small and too odd looking’? If the scientific measure you are using are your own unaided eyes, then you may well think it’s not human. But to base your opinion on what you see rather than science assisted by microscopes, ultrasounds and genetic knowledge would be pretty irrational. You wouldn’t look at a patient and go ‘you have heart disease’ any more than you would look at an embryo and go ‘you aren’t human’. You use science. And the only difference between the embryo and the old man is nutrition and age.

Also, crucially, among everything that is functioning by early embryonic stages, is the embryo’s utterly unique DNA, two sets of 23 chromosomes (usually) from the parents. That one embryo will never be created again, it is unique. Even the same parents, will never create that particular being again. Each being who meets its end in abortion, will never have a chance. It makes me shake my head when people say ‘the time isn’t right for us now, we’ll have a baby when (insert common reasoning)’. Yes you may well have a baby then, but it will not be the same baby you end now. That baby is gone, its chance at life is over. The baby you have then, will be another baby, a subsequent baby, a baby who suited your timing. The unique individual, is unrepeatable. You, the reader, are unrepeatable. Your genetic blueprint said whether you would have a fuzzy head of hair or be bald at birth, whether you would later be blonde or dark, tall or short, your outline personality, your aptitudes. All that you are by nature was there from when sperm met egg and became a zygote, and will be there till you die. Meanwhile you grow through all the stages of blastocyst, embryo, foetus, baby, toddler, child, teen, adult, elderly, as stages of the human life cycle.

To feel or not to feel


I have twice heard the argument in the last couple of weeks that the point where the embryo becomes human is the point of sentience. Sentience is feeling, either psychological or physical. Some scientists put the point of sentience as early as 8 weeks, others as late as 20. That tells me they haven’t much notion either way, but I’ll tell you what. If we are dealing with the threshold at which beings become babies, they had better be very, very sure. And they are not. So to err on the side of caution seems ethically wise. What’s more, to pick sentience as the point of can do or can not in abortion makes no great sense (no pun intended). This confuses harm with hurt. I can be harmed without feeling hurt. Shall we reclassify all the reversibly comatose, the unconscious, the anesthetised, as non human? They can’t feel hurt, why not…? Sentience does not make one human. It makes the human feel, and that is an entirely different thing.


Where it leaves us


So, did we pick a point where the tissue with potential became human….? That’s right, we didn’t. Because we couldn’t. Because any imposed threshold is just pinning the tail on the donkey. It’s taking a point in time, whilst the human can’t be seen and we can all ignore the process and get away with murky ethics, to decide that yesterday it wasn’t a human but today it is.

In case I appear to be making enormous sweeping statements off my own bat, this quote from William Reville, Professor of Biochemistry at University College Cork, sums it up; “The zygote is the start of a biological continuum that automatically grows and develops, passing gradually and sequentially through the stages we call foetus, baby, child, adult, old person and ending eventually in death. The full genetic instructions to guide the development of the continuum, in interaction with its environment, are present in the zygote. Every stage along the continuum is biologically human and each point along the continuum has the full human properties appropriate to that point”. See the full article here, and a more recent one along similar and equally eloquent lines here.

Where science informs ethics


Now let’s look at the other side. We’ll say yes, it is a human. If it’s a human, then the right to life applies throughout its life surely? If the 20 week, or 10 week, or 6 week foetus is human, then what really is the difference between aborting that foetus and deciding that we should have a cooling off period after birth? I don’t know, say the first 2 years, just to pick another arbitrary number? If we aren’t happy with the human being we are given at birth, or it’s causing us inconvenience or our budget is getting a bit tight or we find we miss sleep, an injection will sort that out. What’s the difference? There is no difference. Because human is human.

The tough cases


So if abortion is the killing of another human being, how can we be so accepting? Should the emotional arguments like cases of rape, incest, fatal foetal abnormality, any foetal abnormality; should those cases receive a different attitude than others? In cases of rape, the perpetrator is the rapist, not the baby conceived. Same for incest. We wouldn’t dream of euthanising the disabled, but we will abort them. This is the most skewed moral thinking. What we cannot see, despite its sacrosanct rights, is actually stripped of rights for the sake of the person we can see; the mother. While the most desperate, awful, unspeakable crimes are committed, and some mothers go through horrific ordeals and terrible mental anguish, the answer to her mental and emotional needs simply can not include the taking of an innocent life. If a mother with post-natal depression or post-natal psychosis wished to hurt or kill her child we wouldn’t let it happen. We don’t disbelieve her, we don’t treat her badly, we give her care and help both mental and physical, whilst protecting the child. So if the unborn being is human, how can we do any different? I guess if we can’t see it, it doesn’t count. That’s what this amounts to. If we are honest, it’s about what we see with our eyes and what we want to believe, not about what science tells us and facing truths whether we like them or not.

The Declaration of Geneva (Physician’s Oath) adopted in 1948 by the World Medical Association originally stated protection of life from conception. They had to change that sort of language of course once abortion started raising its head. However it still states “I will not permit considerations of age, disease or disability, creed, ethnic origin, gender, nationality, political affiliation, race, sexual orientation, social standing or any other factor to intervene between my duty and my patient; I will maintain the utmost respect for human life; I will not use my medical knowledge to violate human rights and civil liberties, even under threat” (revised, 2006). What does it say for the ethics and conscience of the abortionist, if they can take an oath to protect life on one hand and can take it away on the other? It can only mean that they are either purposely violating their oath, or that they have become so desensitised to the abortive process that they no longer truly see what it is.

The moral instincts of humans are generally fragile, and if they are not constantly renewed by vigorous use, they wear away until they crumble completely” (Edwin Roberts, National Observer).

So it all comes back to that one question; is the foetus human? If it is, we can’t kill it off for great or small convenience. We can’t kill it because it has a criminal father who raped its mother. We can’t kill it because some seedy uncle committed incest with its mother. We can’t kill it to harvest organs. We can’t kill it because it’s bad timing for us, or because it has a cleft palate, or because it has Down’s Syndrome, or because it lacks something we see as required design.  That is not to diminish the mother’s plight, that’s the other half of the abortion story. Whilst many women champion abortion and many declare it to be the best decision they ever made, what of the mothers who feel backed into a corner and who are offered an easy way out on one hand and no help on the other. The suicide rate among post abortive mothers is higher, fuelled by post abortive depression, and that’s quite aside from the medical complications. The options for mothers who are facing a difficult pregnancy, medically or emotionally, are so limited in terms of positive care and help. If we can assess women for their mental state in order to approve an abortion, why can’t we assess them for qualifying for extra pre-natal care, mental care and post birth support, as an option that holds with ethical equality?

Hearts and Heads


Ultimately, how we feel about abortion is neither here nor there as a measure of it being right or wrong. There are women who use abortion as contraception and say so quite openly and believe it is a brilliant option and should be free and on demand. There are others who feel sick when they hear the word. You know what? That’s not part of the argument. That is no argument. This is an argument of science and truth, not feelings. You cannot legislate for feelings or the individual case, only for truth and the greater good of society. So we need to get this right in order to be right, not in order to feel right. Feeling right while being wrong lends itself to a weird moral schizophrenia. “Since the old ethic (preservation, protection and enhancing of human life) has not been fully displaced, it has been necessary to separate the idea of abortion from the idea of killing which continues to be socially abhorrent. The result has been a curious avoidance of the scientific fact, which everyone really knows, that human life begins at conception, and is continuous, whether intra- or extra-uterine, until death. The very considerable semantic gymnastics which are required to rationalise abortion as anything but taking a human life would be ludicrous if they were not often put forth under socially impeccable auspices” (California State Medical Association Journal, Sept 1970). Yes this quote is heading for fifty years old, but it’s still as relevant today as it was then, because the same truths are being renamed and rebranded as non truths now as then. Call it anything, but don’t call it a baby.

Ireland needs to ask itself the fundamental question. The world needs to ask itself the fundamental question. Because the answer to this informs every other argument. If we care about people, if we care about our own nation, we have to answer this question. Because a society that kills its offspring is a society which will eventually die itself.