The Most Important Person on Earth

The Most Important Person

on earth is a mother. She

cannot claim the honor of

having built Notre Dame

Cathedral. She need not. She

has built something more

magnificent than any

cathedral—a dwelling for an

immortal soul, the tiny

perfection of her baby’s

body…The angels have not

been blessed with such a

grace. They cannot share in

God’s creative miracle to bring

new saints to Heaven. Only a

human mother can. Mothers

are closer to God the Creator

than any other creature; God

joins forces with mothers in

performing this act of

creation… What on God’s

good earth is more glorious

than this: to be a mother?

—Joseph Cardinal Mindszenty


Joseph Cardinal Mindszenty

1892 – 1975

Joseph Mindszenty was born in Hungary on March 29, 1892. He was ordained to the priesthood on the Feast of the Sacred heart of Jesus on June 12, 1915, and was consecrated Bishop of Veszprem on March 25, 1944. From November 27, 1944 to April 20, 1945, he was imprisoned by the Nazis. Pope Pius XII appointed him Archbishop of Esztergom and Primate of Hungary on October 2, 1945. Just a few months later, on February 18, 1946, the Holy Father raised him to the Cardinalate. As Pope Pius XII placed the Cardinal’s hat on his head, the Pope said: “Among the thirty-two, you will be the first to suffer the martyrdom whose symbol this red color is.”

When the Communists arrested Cardinal Mindszenty in Budapest on December 26, 1948, his twenty-three long years of persecution, suffering and enforced isolation began. Throughout his ordeals, he was unwavering in his faith, hope and love of God.

Upon the request of Pope Paul VI, Cardinal Mindszenty departed from his country of Hungary, still occupied by the Communists, on September 29, 1971, and settled in Vienna, Austria. He died there at the age of 83 on May 6, 1975.

Today, Cardinal Mindszenty is buried in the Church of the Assumption, the Basilica of Esztergom, Hungary, where pilgrims visit daily and pray for his intercession in their needs.

(taken from:

Every life is worth living – A challenging and inspiring story

Saying Yes To Sara – a testimony by Catherine MacMillan

I found out I was pregnant in the summer of 2009 when I was 18 years old. I had recently returned from a gap year in Africa and had a place at Glasgow University to study music. The course was due to start that September.

Of course I did not feel ready to be a mother: I felt I was too young, I worried that I might not be able to cope with being a young mum. I had so many plans and I didn’t have a great relationship with the father. I booked an abortion, and this fact has filled me with such guilt that I’ve only started openly admitting it this year.

It is becoming more and more rare for young people to hear the case against abortion and it can be disheartening when the only advice available from people around you is to take take the opposite action. It is a counsel of despair. Pressure on young women in these situations is now huge. Abortion can seem the only way out of a frightening new situation.

Miraculously, my wonderful family found out about my pregnancy. Only then did I realise that they were going to be supportive of this new chapter in my life, and that abortion was no longer something that needed to be considered. When I speak about the person I was then, it doesn’t seem as if I’m talking about myself.

Although I was naive, self-centred, self-destructive and stupid in so many ways, I am proud of, and so very grateful to that old version of me for eventually saying yes to new life. As it turned out that wonderful new life was on its way to teach a lot of lessons, and ultimately to save me. In my 26th week of pregnancy I decided I would like to know the sex of my unborn child, so my mother and I went along to a private gender scan.

At this scan it was revealed to us that I was carrying a little girl, but also that this little girl had quite a few brain abnormalities. We were passed over to the hospital for further assessment. I used to think of that week as my “mourning period”— mourning the loss of the child I thought I would have. I tried to forget some of the hopes and plans I had already made for her, like teaching her how to play the cello and how to sing, and I mentally cancelled all the nice nurseries and schools I had made a list of in my head.

I’m now glad that week was so tough, as it matured me emotionally by about 10 years. Something else happened that week. It might have been happening before then, but that point in my pregnancy signified when I became my daughter’s advocate and began to stand up for her life, her right to life, and all that comes with that.

I’ll never forget the doctor I met the following week. She was the first of many with appalling social and people skills. She was a very severe woman and she didn’t give a hint of empathy for my situation the whole time I dealt with her. She scanned my (at this point enormous) belly in total silence, and when she had finished she took a deep breath and recited this speech: “There is a chance your child will be ‘normal’ and perfectly healthy, but there is also a chance she may not make it through birth. She will potentially be extremely disabled, she could have anything from Down’s syndrome . . . ” She then went on to list lots of possible scary syndromes, with a few of them usually resulting in the child’s death during or straight after birth.

The doctor strongly advised termination and offered no support whatsoever for my decision to continue with my pregnancy. I now know that this is scarily common in our hospitals. It is legal in this country to have a disabled child aborted up to 40 weeks into pregnancy. NHS guidelines consider a baby full-term at 37 weeks, though most women go into labour between 38 and 42 weeks into their pregnancy. Ninety-two per cent of prenatal Down’s syndrome diagnoses are terminated. This means that  if modern medical procedures continue in the way they have been going for the past decade, it will not be long before the condition is virtually extinct.

When I went in for my 30-week scan with the same doctor she was still pushing termination on me. I was a huge, waddling pregnant woman. Such a procedure routinely involves giving the baby an injection, usually of potassium, into its heart so it dies before the process starts. Then the mother would have to give birth to the dead child, or a suction device would be used to remove the dead child from the womb. No one ever tells you that. No one ever explained what I would really have had to do if I had agreed to “terminate”. I would have still had to give birth to my child, and it would have been my fault that she wasn’t breathing.

Doctors don’t tell you how traumatic that choice would be, how much of a burden that would be to carry around with you for the rest of your life. The same doctor continued to strongly advise termination until I was 35 weeks pregnant. On March 31, 2010, my beautiful Sara Maria was born. She was crying, loudly, she weighed 6lb 7oz, she was alive and she was perfect. It took a few months before the extent of her problems became clear. Even the doctors were encouraging in their prognosis after her birth, but only for a short while.

As soon as she was born, things became so much easier in a way. She was a gorgeous baby. Sara spent the first two years of her life very unwell with constant chest infections because of an undetected unsafe swallow. This meant that she had been aspirating on her feeds. When it was eventually detected, she had a gastronomy feeding tube surgically fitted in her stomach. Unfortunately, the way we were treated by the doctor who initially told us Sara could be disabled was the start of a recurring theme. Sara needed a lot of medical intervention; she had five major operations, 20-odd specialist doctors and she needed round-the-clock care.

I had to file complaints against doctors for neglect and bad practice. I had constant rows with some of her doctors about whether they had her best interests at heart. Some of them did not view Sara as a human being; they viewed her merely as a medical problem that they could not solve. Instead of trying to make her life the best it could be, some of them acted as if they could not be bothered, because unlike other children’s conditions, such as cancer, they couldn’t be the hero and cure Sara’s.

Sara’s condition is called Dandy Walker Syndrome, which means that three parts of her brain did not form correctly in the womb. Her other conditions included epilepsy, cortical vision impairment, scoliosis and hip problems, and she was fed entirely through the gastrostomy tube in her stomach. She was non- verbal and immobile. She also wore hearing aids for a long time, but at the end of last year we discovered, after much debate and disbelief on my part, that we were right about her not having hearing impairment. Despite my fears of her never being musical, Sara was a pianist and a drummer, with an eclectic taste in music already, ranging from Rachmaninov piano concertos to lots of different folk and rock music.

Sara’s favourite singer, Jackie Oates, came and sang specially for her at her fifth birthday party last year, thanks to the generosity of the Make A Wish Foundation. Despite not being able to talk, she learned to quack like a duck. One of her favourite things to do was to visit the ducks at the pond and have little conversations with them. Sara had her feeding tube fitted when she was two years old. It dramatically changed her quality of life, although she still struggled with reflux and digestion issues. I eventually found out that this was because of the milk being prescribed by her gastro-surgeon and dietician.

After some research I decided to put her on a blended diet of real food. Anything you and I would eat, she got it too. This had a huge impact on her health and happiness and for the last three years her main medical problem was hip dysplasia, which she had surgery to correct last year. The high-protein diet appeared to cure her epilepsy, and she stopped having seizures altogether, which was wonderful. She was a late smiler but she certainly made up for that. I have been told by countless people that Sara is the happiest child they have ever met.

Being so inspired by my daughter’s bravery and everything else, I completed a Bachelor of Music university degree, on time, with honours and a 2:1. Sara inspired me to do work with disabled adults and children doing music therapy, and I now teach early-years music classes. I will be going back to university in August for my one-year postgraduate teaching diploma.  I want to become a primary school teacher. When Sara’s health improved I started to take her on a lot more adventures. Such a well-travelled girl, such a happy girl, such a fulfilled life. Lots of days at the beach, visiting historical castles, a life filled with going to classical music concerts and plenty of parties and social gatherings, which she thrived in.

I took her to Disneyland Paris just before last Christmas, and it was just as magical as we could have ever hoped for. On the morning of January 5 this year I was busily preparing Sara’s uniform for her return to school the next morning, and sorting through my piles of work for my return to work after the Christmas holidays. Sara hadn’t made any noise yet, but it was not unusual for her to have a long lie-in, so I let her sleep for a little longer while I got organised.

Little did I know that in the early hours of that morning, my happy, beautiful, miraculous little girl’s soul had returned to Heaven. She passed away peacefully in her sleep and with no warning at all. She would have been six years old at the end of March. We still don’t know the cause of death, but it is likely that Sara died from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. I wasn’t prepared for that. But I take comfort from knowing that she didn’t die from any of the scary things I had been prepared for, like the pneumonia she came close to suffering from when she was two years old, or a long stint in hospital with her health deteriorating over time, and me having to watch her suffer.

At her Requiem Mass my father, the composer Sir James MacMillan, said this: “Catherine’s life changed forever when she said yes to new life, and we saw in this relationship an astonishing love and devotion; we saw rapture gazing at rapture, tenderness embrace tenderness, devotion build upon devotion, worship meet worship, the cherisher lift up the cherished, the enchanter astonish the enchanted, and heart lost to heart.”

He continued: “Our world celebrates strength and power. We glorify might and wealth and health and success. We cheer winners and achievers, we bow before men and women of financial clout, we laud politicians of guile and ruthlessness. Sara had nothing of any of this. Our society doesn’t know what to make of children like Sara any more. There are some very important, powerful, professional, ‘caring’ people in Glasgow who made it clear that they thought Sara should not exist—that the compassionate response to her significant disabilities would be to stop her living, for her mother to say ‘no’ instead of ‘yes’ to Sara. The concept of ‘Lebensunwertes Leben’ (life unworthy of life) did not disappear 70 years ago on the defeat of Nazi Germany. It’s here now—in our modern, oh-so-caring-and sharing nice democracies. Well, Sara interfered with that narrative too and turned it on its head.”

In a recent article in the Daily Telegraph, Neil Lyndon wrote of a father’s pain, two decades after he and his girlfriend decided to terminate her pregnancy on the grounds of severe disability. After going into great detail about his son’s severe, extensive disabilities, and, by the sound of it, being advised to abort, he wrote: “Human beings aren’t made to take such superhuman decisions. We sexual mammals exist basically to reproduce, to suckle and to nurture our young and to let them go when they reach their majority, around the age of 21; not to determine whether they should live or die.

When God commanded Abraham to sacrifice his son, he removed from the father the moral responsibility for the decision and the deed. Nobody could have said it was the old man’s personal choice. “Thanks to the miracles of modern medicine, my girlfriend and I had no such consolation.” Being in a similar situation almost seven years ago, I can tell you now, after losing my most precious creation, how thankful I am that I don’t have that kind of pain. The pain that asks, “What if?” The pain that wonders what might have been.

The pain I am experiencing now, and will experience for the rest of my life, is worth it. Worth it to have those almost six years of joy, love, heartache and extreme pride. Worth it to have the happiness, the smiles and everything that Sara taught me.


Man and Woman in Marriage: Foundations of Society

There is nothing that can replace the bond of marriage between a man and a woman. In every faith and culture of the world, the complementarity of the two sexes united in a relationship of fidelity and fruitfulness (whether physical or spiritual) is the foundational building stone of society.

The West, with its materialistic and relativistic approach to human life is the first culture in the history of mankind that deliberately and aggressively tries to deconstruct this natural reality of creation, in which we see this complementarity of two “opposites” fruitfully at work in every possible realm. Not only with human beings, but also in the animal world, we see that life is created and developed through the necessary difference yet at the same time compatibility of male and female. The world of physical laws is guided by the same principle, for example the need for electrical currents to have a positive and negative pole.

If Western societies want to survive the current crises that threaten to destroy or at least gravely weaken them, modern Man has to return to the healthy practice of accepting the reality of the natural created order, in which God created Man in His image as man and woman in order that the two can become one flesh and be fruitful. In God’s plan for humanity, so well described in the first two chapters of the Book of Genesis, we see the description of the creation of man and woman in God’s image and the institution of marriage as the groundwork of creation. Genesis speaks about the need for Man to be fruitful and multiply and inhabit the earth. We do not find calls for contraception and abortion, neither for population control.

If Jews and Christians of all stripes would accept these clear teachings of the Bible unequivocally and live them joyfully and responsibly, our world would soon see peace and prosperity flourish. It is really as simple as that.

Quietism and the need for Evangelization

A survivor of the Holocaust described very well to the Historian Martin Gilbert how this great evil could happen: it “depended most of all (…) upon the indifference of bystanders in every land”. The famous quote of Edmund Burke that “the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing” equally underlines the core of the problem, something which Pope Francis is today calling the “globalization of indifference”. Whether it is politicians or those of us who decide to turn our back on the many harsh realities of our world because we think “there is nothing we can do”, it is all the same quietism that overlooks a central exhortation that Christ has given to his followers: go out to all nations and proclaim the Gospel – in words and in deeds.

There is the quietism surrounding the great evil of abortion and its dreadful consequences, most recently exposed by a group of courageous men and women in the United States through the release of a series of undercover videos showing how executives of the abortion industry discuss over lunch and wine how best to crush the skull of an unborn child in order for its organs to be sold intact to interested buyers. The Center for Medical Progress videos show a culture of death that bears all too much resemblance to other well documented forms of barbarism.

There is a quietism surrounding the ideological colonization perpetrated by Western governments that require developing countries wishing to receive financial aid to implement so-called progressive concepts of “sexual- and reproductive health” (a euphemism for desired-for population control through the means of unlimited abortion and contraception) and “marriage equality” (a euphemism for redefining marriage to include same-sex unions). These policies reek of a new form a racism.

There is the quietism surrounding the well-planned persecution of Christians from the Middle East and other parts of the world where a genocide is going on that has only one goal: to wipe out all Christians and their culture from the lands where Christianity was born. In the meantime, arms are flowing unimpeded to the various parties in the various conflicts in the Middle East. As a result, Europe is unsuccessfully trying to deal with an influx of refugees and migrants on an unprecedented scale. Most Europeans are showing their basic Christian humanism by receiving these our fellow human beings with charity and understanding. But this is not enough. Only the Gospel is enough.

To defend life in all its stages, Christians need to show by their lived example as couples and families God’s plan with humanity

To defend marriage, Christians need to themselves live and courageously testify to the meaning of human love and sexuality

To defend the faith, Christians need to stand up, go out, and bring the Gospel to everybody – in Europe, now more than ever, we need to bring the Gospel especially to the fallen-away Christians, and to the Mohammedans. Humanism towards refugees and immigrants is not enough. They need Christ above all else. In the words of Pope Francis to the millions of youth on Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro in 2013:

Where does Jesus send us? There are no borders, no limits: he sends us to everyone. The Gospel is for everyone, not just for some. It is not only for those who seem closer to us, more receptive, more welcoming. It is for everyone. Do not be afraid to go and to bring Christ into every area of life, to the fringes of society, even to those who seem farthest away, most indifferent. The Lord seeks all, he wants everyone to feel the warmth of his mercy and his love.


Just who do we think we are?

With these words Chief Justice Roberts of the United States Supreme Court underlined his firm opposition to the majority ruling of that same court making “marriage” for same-sex couples a constitutional right throughout the United States of America. Reading the majority opinion delivered by (Catholic) Justice Kennedy and then the dissenting opinion delivered by (Catholic) Chief Justice Roberts is like reading two tales of two entirely different worlds. Both justices write their opinions with civility and respect for the other, but that is the only similarity.

The first point that should grab our attention is the fact that two judges known to be Roman Catholics hold diametrically opposed views when it comes to marriage and its definition. This fact should give Catholics pause for thought, as well as the fact that it is traditionally Catholic and Protestant-Catholic countries in the West that have in recent years been redefining marriage to include same-sex couples, without much of a real fight ever being fought over it, let alone a fair public debate being held or sought: Ireland, France, Spain, Canada, Belgium and The Netherlands. It seems that many of us Christians have given up the good fight or have chosen to go with the flow, which is so much more comfortable and does not disturb our nice lives of quietism amidst material well-being. It is also a sign of our own flawed understanding of what marriage really is and how it should be lived.

The problem, really, lies in the following definition the United States Supreme Court gives to marriage, in which it does not differ much from the way too many Christians think about it today:

From their beginning to their most recent page, the annals of human history reveal the transcendent importance of marriage. The lifelong union of a man and a woman always has promised nobility and dignity to all persons, without regard to their station in life. Marriage is sacred to those who live by their religions and offers unique fulfillment to those who find meaning in the secular realm. Its dynamic allows two people to find a life that could not be found alone, for a marriage becomes greater than just the two persons. Rising from the most basic human needs, marriage is essential to our most profound hopes and aspirations. (Obergefell v. Hodges, 576 U.S. (2015), 26 June 2015, Opinion of the Court, II.A, P.3)

At first reading, this sounds quite profound and beautiful. However, the fundamental issue that has been the defining raison d’etre for marriage since the beginning of mankind is entirely missing from this definition, and deliberately so. Throughout the ruling of the Court, procreation plays no part in its deliberations and neither does the welfare of children who objectively need their biological father and mother to rear them in a stable and lasting relationship, which is what marriage is meant to be. The fact that many children have to suffer the absence of (one of) their biological parents in their lives does not take away their natural need to know and love them, even if circumstances do not always allow a closer relationship. Where marriage as an institution protected and privileged by the law was meant throughout all ages and cultures to secure the well-being of a people by enabling children to grow up in the best possible of imperfect human environments, the lifelong bond between their father and their mother, the West has now reverted to a model of marriage where the feelings and desires of the couple itself come first. Once more, the United States Supreme Court makes this very clear:

Marriage responds to the universal fear that a lonely person might call out only to find no one there. It offers the hope of companionship and understanding and assurance that while both still live there will be someone to care for the other.

Very true, but also very limited. There is much more to marriage than this alone. Self-giving, the complementary character of man and woman, and openness to life make marriage fruitful in many different ways (ways that can make marriage equally fruitful for heterosexual couples who cannot have children of their own) and allows new human beings to come into this world and find a protected environment where they learn what it means to be human and thus how to live in this world. Our self-indulgent Western societies have instead chosen to institutionalize pleasure-only selfish sex, where it is not spousal fidelity, measure and fruitfulness that defines this intimate realm, but rather the unlimited access to chemicals, rubbers and medical interventions that treat the gift of human fertility as a dangerous risk to be controlled by all possible means, including the massive state-sponsored killing of new life in the mother’s womb. Once sex becomes the free-for-all commodity it now so often is, anything goes. No wonder that American judges, even Catholic ones, are profoundly confused about the true meaning of marriage.

Some weeks ago Pope Francis had some clear words to say about love and sexuality as he addressed young people gathered in Turin. He reminded them that true love is chaste and “you young people, in this hedonistic world of ours, in this world where only advertising, pleasure…the good life…prevail, I tell you: be chaste! Be chaste!” This is the core issue we have to address – and which for many, also within the Church, is still a taboo – to bring back to our societies a correct understanding of love and marriage. As long as sex is deliberately disconnected from fidelity, fertility and life-long responsibility, marriage in the secular understanding can only be a public legal form to arrange a feel-good relationship between different persons, today two, tomorrow any given number. The redefinition of marriage in Western countries is just a symptom, not the illness itself. The illness itself is contraception, and this can only be treated by the Catholic Church and its members following their call as Christians to go against the flow and live and speak charitably and responsibly the truth of God’s plan with humanity, so clearly stated in the first pages of the Bible many thousands of years ago:

Then God said: Let us make human beings in our image, after our likeness. Let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, the tame animals, all the wild animals, and all the creatures that crawl on the earth. God created mankind in his image; in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. God blessed them and God said to them: Be fertile and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it. Have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and all the living things that crawl on the earth.(Genesis 1, 26-28).

God looked at everything he had made, and found it very good… (Genesis 1, 31).

Our Responsibility for Humanity

The result of last month’s referendum in Ireland, where a sizable amount of people from a traditionally Catholic nation voted to amend the country’s constitution in favor of redefining the concept of marriage to include same-sex couples, was rightly described by Cardinal Parolin, the Vatican Secretary of State, as a defeat for humanity. When human beings decide that they can overrule the natural order of creation by ignoring its objective realities – like that of the bipolarity of man and woman as a source of new life and the well-being of their children, the whole point of marriage as a protected institution in society – humanity itself is indeed the greatest victim of such grave error. However, we Christians are ourselves at least partly to blame for this disruptive development because we have clearly failed to educate young men and women, in our schools and parishes, to know, understand and respect the eternal truths of what it means to be human.

In a recent rare publicized letter of 21 April 2015, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI writes how he has lately rediscovered the great responsibility the Church has today to actively engage with the world at large: since the Church is part of the world, Benedict says, she can only fulfill her mission when she herself is concerned by the world as whole:

Only if we think together with the perspectives and the questions of our time, will we be able to grasp the Word of God as addressed to us in the present. Only if we join in the concern for the possibilities and the needs of our time, can the sacraments come to the people with their real power. There is another element contained therein: Inasmuch as the care of the faithful who directly seek the faith is first of all entrusted to us, so also the service of the shepherd cannot be limited to the Church alone. The Church is part of the world and so she can only rightly carry out her proper mission by looking after the entire world. For its part, the Word of God likewise regards the whole of reality, and its presence places a responsibility upon the Church for the whole. [..] the Church must involve herself in the struggles which humanity and society pass through to find the right path, and for this purpose the Church must find a way of debating these questions which also reaches out to non-believers. Only if she goes out of herself and assumes the responsibility for all of humanity does the Church remain true to herself.

At times like these, when it seems that common sense is rarely to be found in the public sphere and Christians are ridiculed and verbally abused – like we have recently seen in Ireland on a large scale – because of their fidelity to an understanding of what it means to be human that is increasingly rejected by modern man, it is easy to retreat into intellectual ghettos and false ideas of moral superiority or victimization. What however is being asked from us is something entirely different: it is the moral courage to stand up, to speak clearly and to evangelize incessantly. Let us not forget the words of Christ in the Gospel of Matthew (28, 18-20):

All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age.

The real answers to the problems modernity presents us with are found in these verses: Christ has all authority, despite the human follies of today; Christians are called to make disciples of all peoples – so we still have more than enough work to do; we have to teach the whole of humanity all that Christ has commanded us – also here, we have our work cut out for us; and finally, Christ himself is with us always until the end of times. What else could we ask for? Our responsibility for humanity lies exactly here, that we follow this exhortation faithfully and do our work without complaining. The Gospel has never told us it was going to be easy, to the contrary: the cross is ours, and it is our salvation.

As Pope Francis recently commented, through evangelization we have to become “instruments of salvation for our brothers” and allow all men and women to encounter Jesus Christ. Only a personal encounter with Christ can enable a person to want to know his teachings and to decide freely to follow him. To put this into the perspective of today: only when those promoting the many disordered ideologies of our times – like abortion, contraception, euthanasia or same-sex ‘marriage’ – personally encounter Jesus Christ, will these brothers and sisters of ours be able to see and accept why these ideologies are disordered and why they do not bring peace and happiness to their lives and to mankind as a whole. In order, however, for these personal encounters to be able to take place, every Christian has to be this instrument of salvation by daily testifying to the merciful love of the Father in word and deed. This requires a vibrant faith in charity and clarity – and an always listening heart that is open to the world. This is the responsibility of every Christian for humanity.

The Fallacy of the Marriage “Equality” Argument

A hundred years ago the English writer G.K. Chesterton was asked to write about “Marriage and the Modern Mind” and when he finally published the work that fulfilled this request, he wrote: “It would perhaps be more appropriate to write about Marriage and the Modern Absence of Mind. In much of their current conduct, those who call themselves “modern” seem to have abandoned the use of reason; they have sunk back into their own subconsciousness (..)”. It seems that Chesterton’s words are as relevant today as they were when he wrote them a century ago, because the current shrill public discussion of the desirability of a redefinition of marriage seems to have little room for reasoned debate. At this time a number of Western countries are dealing with the question whether marriage should be redefined to include same-sex couples. The United States States Supreme Court is due to take a decision on the matter in June, whilst Irish voters are about to go to the polls to vote on the issue in a referendum. It is a bitter irony that a society that has become so addicted to various forms of living together and sexual relationships that exclude any aspect of durable fidelity and openness to life, should now be so obsessed with re-inventing that oldest of human institutions to now include those relationships that through the mere realities of biology will never be able to fulfill the conditions for which the institution of marriage was exclusively created: the complementarity of man and woman, whereby their mutual commitment and openness to new life creates the best possible environment for children to be raised.

The argument most commonly used today to promote the redefinition of marriage to include same-sex couples is that “gays and lesbians are ordinary people like everybody else” and need to be “treated equally” and should thus be able to marry, which is then called “marriage equality”. We need to pick this argument apart to get a better sense of what is being said here and why the argument is off the mark. First, what does “ordinary people” refer to? If it means that gay and lesbian people are ordinary in the sense that like every other human being they are created in the image and likeness of God and thus have equal dignity, then yes, they are indeed ordinary people. Yet people that are equal in dignity (which all human beings are), can be very diverse in their way of life and in the relationships they form. The second thing we therefore have to do is to take a look at the definition of “equality”. According to the Oxford Dictionary equality is “the state of being equal, especially in status, rights or opportunities”. Equal means being the same, being identical. Whereas any human being, regardless of sexual orientation, is equal in worth, this does not mean that all the relationships we enter into as human beings are equal, identical or the same; we distinguish here between the human being itself and the actions this human being takes. The loving relationship between a man and a woman is not identical to the relationship between two men or two women. Men and women are by the mere fact of their created nature biologically different from each other. Such a relationship based on difference is one thing. A relationship between two people of the same sex, where that basis of difference is missing, is another thing, because the reality of their created natures is that they are biologically the same. Where a man and a woman in a relationship are by nature meant and capable to complement each other through their differences, which in principle includes the possibility to create new life as a result, two people of the same sex cannot attain this, simply because they lack the biological reality of other-ness.

Since the institution of marriage is based exclusively on the human reality of other-ness, it cannot be changed to include same-ness. Whilst heterosexual and homosexual people are equal in dignity as human beings, heterosexual and homosexual relationships are factually speaking entirely different. Two things that are different cannot be treated in the same way, they have to be treated in a way that respects those differences rather than just ignore them. They have to be treated differently. Claiming that equality requires marriage to be open to same-sex couples is to ignore that heterosexual and homosexual relationships are not identical. The modern marriage ‘equality”argument actually leads to inequality and discrimination because it forces us to threat what is different the same. Consistently and logically promoting genuine marriage equality should in fact lead to reaffirming that marriage is an institution designed exclusively for one man and one woman and open to life. This is the equality we have to fight for – for the good of humanity. Also here Chesterton has some advice to pass on a hundred years later:

But the traditions of humanity support humanity; and the central one is this tradition of Marriage. And the essential of it is that a free man and a free woman choose to found on earth the only voluntary state; the only state which creates and which loves its citizens. So long as these real responsible beings stand together, they can survive all the vast changes, deadlocks and disappointments which make up mere political history. But if they fail each other, it is as certain as death that “the State” will fail them.

Human life as a disposable lifestyle product

Last week international news outlets like the BBC reported about a famous US TV star and her former partner being in disagreement about what to do with two frozen embryos they had created through IVF procedures whilst they were still together. He, according to the news source, wants to find a surrogate mother to carry out the pregnancy, while she apparently refuses. The words of the father as to the the euphemistically called “frozen embryos” leave no doubt about the true nature of these human beings: “When we create embryos for the purpose of life, should we not define them as life, rather than as property?” He also notes that he does not want “the two lives I have already created be destroyed or sit in a freezer until the end of time”. Here we have a situation that is a painful reminder of the cynical culture of death our society seems to be so addicted to: the father openly testifies to the true nature of these frozen embryos, namely that they are human beings created for the purpose of life, but that risk being killed simply because of personal preferences of another human being that happens to have the power to decide over these human lives.

It should be noted here that the often forgotten or deliberately ignored “side effect” of IVF procedures is the freezing and later destruction of countless human beings – as always euphemistically merely referred to as “embryos” – that are deemed unworthy of life for a variety of reasons such as so-called “defects” or there being a “surplus” of embryos (human beings) originating from the same couple. The United Kingdom “Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority” (an institution George Orwell could have invented for his novel “1984”) reported in 2013 that between January 1991 and December 2011 of the 3,546,818 embryos (human beings) created, 1,714,570 were ‘discarded’ (killed). Why are we not up in arms about such chilling facts that show a terrifying disregard for human life? Why does a majority of people seem to have gotten used to and accepted these modern forms of clinical mass killing? Where is our humanity?

Whilst human history is full of examples where humanity gets lost in wars and ideologies that lead to indiscriminate killing by the millions (we have discussed this in previous blog posts), no ideology has caused so many millions of deaths of innocent human beings as indeed our current culture of abortion and the “discarding” of embryos. In mainstream politics and media few people show any concern for the staggering numbers of conceived but unborn lives killed, whilst the general populace has – willingly or unwillingly – accepted this as something they either agree with or can do very little about. The publicity given to the above case and the way in which the topic is being dealt with – namely wholly neutrally – shows where much of society stands when it comes to the life of the unborn: it is a property, a product of medical procedures and personal choices, rather than an ultimate and unrepeatable gift to the world.

What causes this cynical and materialistic attitude in us human beings? The main cause of this lethal culture is easy yet unpopular to identify: contraception. Human life became a disposable lifestyle product when artificial contraception was made the norm of the day, a matter of government policy. Once the coming together of a man and a woman in sexual intercourse is decoupled from their marriage vows and their openness to create and rear a new human life together, and the conception of life itself becomes purely a matter of “family planning”, we automatically treat life exclusively as a product of our own will and preferences. If we only accept a new life that we have ourselves “planned” or “willed” (how often do pregnant mothers hear the question “was this baby planned?”!), the logical consequence is that we “discard” the life we did not plan or will, which is essentially where abortion and IVF is all about. Institutionalized contraception has thus given our societies the idea that human life is a product to be planned and owned. Since every property can be disposed of by its owner, human life has as a consequence itself become disposable.

There is, really, still (since the beginning of human history actually) only one answer to all this: the loving marriage between one man and one woman, open to life and till death do them part. This remains the primary community of mankind where we learn what it means to be human; as the author Michael D. O’Brien says it:

Love is a holy power of the soul. Love never possesses, love never forces, manipulates, or controls, because for love to grow there must be between two souls a mutual gift of the self.

The Globalization of Indifference and Violence

Ever since the beginning of his papacy, Pope Francis has spoken out against the culture of “global indifference” that reigns in many of our societies. He has addressed the issue within the context of a wide variety of problems facing us today, for example the unspeakable drama of boat refugees crossing the Mediterranean and the untold numbers dying when trying to reach the shores of Europe in search of a better life. In his Lenten message the Holy Father commented:


As long as I am relatively healthy and comfortable, I don’t think about those less well off. Today, this selfish attitude of indifference has taken on global proportions, to the extent that we can speak of a globalization of indifference. It is a problem which we, as Christians, need to confront.

This is a problem we as Christians indeed must confront, because this indifference not only leads to loneliness and despair of those ignored, it also leads to new waves of violence coming out of our very own societies that claim to be peaceful, tolerant and democratic. The following example illustrates this point: the weekly newspaper “The Economist” reports in its April 18th-24th, 2015 issue that the top nine countries from which jihadists flow to Iraq and Syria are west European. What does this tell us about our Western societies? Despite the freedom and prosperity enjoyed by those in Europe, many thousands of young men and women from Europe are flocking eagerly to the Middle East to participate in ideologically inspired acts of hatred and brutal violence.

Why do these young men and women choose violence and death over a relatively comfortable life in prosperous Europe, where mainstream society promises them instant pleasure and material bliss with the latest smartphone and a cradle to grave social welfare state? Aside from the many useful explanations sociologists and politicians may give us about radicalization of certain youths, there is a much more profound cause at work here, which is the institutionalization of indifference towards the good, the true and the beautiful. When a society and its laws become dependent on mere feelings, opinions and preferences, rather than the pursuit of what is right and the avoidance of what is wrong, emptiness and desperation are the logical consequences.

This is the problem we Christians in Europe and other Western nations need to confront. We need to win back our youth for Christ, who is the way, the truth and the life. We cannot win young men and women back to Christ merely by doing good deeds, by being nice people, or by staying within the walls of our parishes and communities. It is important, but it is far too little. We need to go out, leave our comfort zones, and follow the Gospel call to “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.” (Matthew 28, 20). We need to speak about the love of God the Father, in private and in public, and we need to show and proclaim at every suitable occasion that living a life in Christ is good, and beautiful, and true – even if at times quite a challenge (but we all know that noting truly good and lasting comes easy). As Pope Francis says, we should not be afraid of being rejected but rather be assured that God’s love will redeem the world:


God is not indifferent to our world; he so loves it that he gave his Son for our salvation. In the Incarnation, in the earthly life, death, and resurrection of the Son of God, the gate between God and man, between heaven and earth, opens once for all. The Church is like the hand holding open this gate, thanks to her proclamation of God’s word, her celebration of the sacraments and her witness of the faith which works through love (cf. Gal 5:6). But the world tends to withdraw into itself and shut that door through which God comes into the world and the world comes to him. Hence the hand, which is the Church, must never be surprised if it is rejected, crushed and wounded.

He then concludes this thought by reminding us that “God’s people, then, need this interior renewal, lest we become indifferent and withdraw into ourselves”. When we Christians withdraw into ourselves and become indifferent to what happens in the world, we risk becoming silent bystanders of the many grave injustices that take place around us every day, near and far. Many courageous Christians are giving the example by their initiatives to spread the Gospel and do good around the world, others even by their martyrdom. But so much more witness is needed, especially to turn the ever growing tide of institutionalized indifference towards the sanctity of life; whether it be the life of the unborn, the elderly, the refugees or fellow human beings professing a different faith. Christ died on the Cross and rose from the dead out of love for every human being to be redeemed and to live.

The makers of this video show how radical Christ’s love – and thus ours – needs to be.

History and the Pope of Justice and Mercy

Mercy Sunday 2015 (12 April) will go into history as a little noticed but all-important day in the life of the Catholic Church, when Pope Francis showed courageous leadership by speaking in no uncertain terms about the genocides and mass killings of the 20th and 21st centuries, starting with the Armenian Genocide of 1915, then the genocides planned and executed by Nazism and Stalinism and drawing a line all the way to the mass slaughter of ethnic groups and Christians for their faith today, especially in the Middle East and Africa:

On a number of occasions I have spoken of our time as a time of war, a third world war which is being fought piecemeal, one in which we daily witness savage crimes, brutal massacres and senseless destruction.  Sadly, today too we hear the muffled and forgotten cry of so many of our defenseless brothers and sisters who, on account of their faith in Christ or their ethnic origin, are publicly and ruthlessly put to death – decapitated, crucified, burned alive – or forced to leave their homeland.

Today too we are experiencing a sort of genocide created by general and collective indifference, by the complicit silence of Cain, who cries out: “What does it matter to me? Am I my brother’s keeper?” (cf. Gen  4:9; Homily in Redipuglia, 13 September 2014).

The Holy Father, whom we have all come to know as the Pope of Mercy, and whose words are often misunderstood or misused by those failing to see the unique charisma and calling of Pope Francis, has done something very important: he has spoken the uncensored truth about facts of history that certain governments and political leaders are trying to cover up and silence. Whether it is the Armenian Genocide of 1915, the extermination campaigns by Lenin. Stalin and Mao, or the systematic uprooting, torture and killing of Christians and other groups in the Middle East, Asia and Africa today, leaders East and West are all too often engaged in campaigns of organised forgetting. Where this organised forgetting leads to, Pope Francis tells us as well:

(..) for whenever memory fades, it means that evil allows wounds to fester. Concealing or denying evil is like allowing a wound to keep bleeding without bandaging it!

We need the living memory of history, not as a political tool to condemn others, but as a constant reminder of our ever recurring human frailty and tendency to do evil, even very great evil. Real mercy, therefore, is not – as many today would like to suggest the Catholic Church to do – to look away when sin or evil occurs, but to have the courage to be merciful in truth and justice. As the Catholic author Michael O’Brien puts it so well “Without justice, human mercy all too easily dissolves into sentimentalism and false compassion, leading to an increase of sin and error.” We have seen this mechanism occur in the history of humankind again and again. The Holy Father refers to this tragic cycle of sin and error leading to senseless slaughter:

It seems that the human family has refused to learn from its mistakes caused by the law of terror, so that today too there are those who attempt to eliminate others with the help of a few and with the complicit silence of others who simply stand by. We have not yet learned that “war is madness”, “senseless slaughter” (cf. Homily in Redipuglia, 13 September 2014).

And let there be no mistake: this continued senseless slaughter is not only caused by war in the classical sense, by means of guns and knives in the hands of brutal terrorists and armies, it also takes place globally almost unheard and unseen in clinics at the hands of men and women who are convinced that the unborn child in the womb of the mother has no independent right to live. Also here there is a complicit and an even highly organized silence and covering up in the face of a brutal practice that kills more human beings every year than all the other mass killings of the 20th and 21st centuries combined (over 40 million by official UN estimates). Whilst we cannot and should not make a comparison between the people and the motives behind these forms of killing, the undeniable fact remains that no other slaughter of innocent human life is so vast and so systematically – even industrially – organised as abortion is today. Whilst we rightly condemn the genocides of the 20th and 21st centuries, let us not forget and remain silent about the mass killing of unborn life that takes place in our cities every day. It is still, as Blessed Mother Theresa of Calcutta rightly said, the biggest threat to world peace.

The great tragedy of history is that the killing of certain groups of people by other groups of people always seems perfectly justified for the perpetrators – they always think and openly proclaim that they are doing a service to society. Sadly, no mass killing in the history of mankind – whether it be the many genocides or even abortion – escapes this deadly error of judgment. It is here that the words of Pope Francis on Mercy Sunday 2015 turn out to be so vital, because he reminds the world of the foolishness of forgetting. He warns in clear wording, rarely heard from world leaders, that this attitude leads to ever more horror and death:

It is the responsibility not only of the Armenian people and the universal Church to recall all that has taken place, but of the entire human family, so that the warnings from this tragedy will protect us from falling into a similar horror, which offends against God and human dignity. Today too, in fact, these conflicts at times degenerate into unjustifiable violence, stirred up by exploiting ethnic and religious differences. All who are Heads of State and of International Organizations are called to oppose such crimes with a firm sense of duty, without ceding to ambiguity or compromise.

It is then, our duty as Christians to speak about and speak out against all these horrors of yesterday and today and not let political or economic expediency blind us for the truth. If we Christians in the West – whether in academia, politics or elsewhere – would start speaking with the same courage and respectfulness as Pope Francis does, it would very likely lead to less of these horrors for our children.

Deported Armenian Children 1915 Deported Armenian children in 1915