The Long Weekend

Published at The Orthosphere on Easter Saturday, 2021.

It’s Saturday. As Friday waned, the old world died. All of the old certainties were bound up with aloes and myrrh in linen, and laid to restlessness.

Now we wait. There are rumours of Sunday. I have heard, and I believe – as so many have, as so many have not. Some who have believed have made new worlds and all who have believed have made new lives; lives inconceivable on Friday. Some who have disbelieved have built fortresses of unbelief; all who have disbelieved have turned their faces from the east. But all who hear these rumours have been put the question extraordinary, and all have been obliged to answer.

This Saturday, empires have risen and collapsed. Hosts of hosts have lived and died. None of the understandings of Friday can be re-imagined, save the one stubborn link, and that one passing over Calvary.

When will night fall on this expectant Saturday?

The Virgin Birth

Published at The Orthosphere on the Solemnity of the Annunciation.

Nothing is impossible to God. Occam’s Razor cannot separate the works of God according to any principle of economy. What economy is evident in a cell, a tree, the biosphere, the galaxy, the farthest reaches of the universe? Irrespective of the models we construct to map and try to predict the behaviour of these things, all of them, in their concrete reality, are unfathomably complex, and each is a unique instance. What principle can place limits on the actions of the creator of all these wonders? 

With this in mind, consider the conception, gestation and birth of Jesus of Nazareth. Accepting as an irreducible given that Mary, his blessed mother, “knew not man,” there is a minimalist scenario – Occam’s scenario, so to speak. On this view, the action of the Holy Ghost consisted in fusing a DNA strand of his own making with the DNA in a mature ovum of the Blessed Virgin, which at the moment of the Annunciation and Mary’s fiat, was making its way down one of her fallopian tubes. And with, “I am the servant of the Lord,” that fusion took place, and the Son became flesh as a single fertilised ovum. Continue reading “The Virgin Birth”

The Father of Lies

[Published at The Orthosphere, 20/12/2010]

You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.   John 8:44

On November 9th, Tucker Carlson offered the following prescription for curing the ills of the USA.

Let’s all stop lying. Lying about everything that matters, every day of our lives. That’s what we’re doing now. Have you noticed? How many times did you lie today because you had to? Let’s repeal our national dishonesty mandate (it’s a law never codified but still ruthlessly enforced) and tell the truth instead. That’s our only hope. Tell the truth about everything. Continue reading “The Father of Lies”

Jeremy Bentham on the seal of confession

Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832) was a philosopher, economist and writer on jurisprudence. He is most well-known for his development and expounding of utilitarianism. He considered that the object of legislation should be “the greatest happiness of the greatest number.” Bentham was an atheist, and a strong proponent of the separation of Church and State. In 1827, John Stuart Mill edited Bentham’s writings on jurisprudence into the five volume Rationale of Judicial Evidence.

His opinion concerning the seal of confession is of topical interest. In Rationale, Bentham considers the case where priests can be forced to testify concerning any felony, but the application to the case of child sexual abuse is obvious, though less widely applicable.

Bentham takes as context for his arguments a country in which Catholicism is “barely tolerated,” and its withering desired, though no coercion is applied to that end; for example, the United Kingdom of the early nineteenth century. Of countries where Catholicism is granted equal standing with other religions – contemporary Australia for instance – he writes that the necessity of protecting the seal of confession “will probably appear too imperious to admit of dispute.” Apparently not. Continue reading “Jeremy Bentham on the seal of confession”

Who won?

On the morning of April 7, national television relayed the announcement of my verdict from the High Court. I watched in my cell on Channel 7 as a surprised young reporter informed Australia of my acquittal and became still more perplexed by the unanimity of the seven justices.

That is George Cardinal Pell writing on My Time In Prison for First Things magazine. The surprise and perplexity reflect the response of the majority of those hearing this news. Those of us who were delighted by the news had long experienced perplexity, though not surprise, at the years of relentless persecution of George Pell. We were in a tiny minority. We still are.

Was Cardinal Pell’s eventual acquittal, then, a victory for the Australian justice system? Was it a re-affirmation and consolidation of the principle of the rule of law? Has justice been served? Continue reading “Who won?”

The Burden of Proof and the Pell Case

[Originally published by Quadrant Online on 30th December 2019. Published in Quadrant Magazine March 2020.]

The conviction of the guilty is just; it is the unremarkable business of a just criminal jurisprudence; but the conviction of the innocent strikes at the heart of Justice. If it happens through error or negligence, it is bad enough; when it happens by design, it is an abomination that corrodes trust in the law itself. 

Maimonides in the 12th century, in this commentary on Exodus 23:7 (Keep far from a false charge, and do not kill the innocent and righteous, for I will not acquit the wicked) concluded, “it is better and more satisfactory to acquit a thousand guilty persons than to put a single innocent man to death once in a way.”

Continue reading “The Burden of Proof and the Pell Case”

The Samizdat University

The April 2015 edition of First Things included an article by Sir Roger Scruton, titled The End of the University. As Scruton points out, the university as an industrial-scale certification factory is in ruddy good health, enrolling an increasing proportion of the population. Nonetheless, his article is not about some distopian future in which these enterprises collapse, but about the distopian present, in which some essential capacity of the university has been vitiated.

It addresses also the other meaning of the phrase, “the end of the university”; exploring the process by which Scruton himself began to question his purposes in teaching: to what end?

…I asked myself what exactly I was trying to teach, and why.

Continue reading “The Samizdat University”

Israel Folau and the Rainbow Dhimmis

[A version with slight differences was published 28th April, 2019 on Quadrant Online QED.]

Notre Dame de Paris, on the Île de Cité, is a centrepiece of Europe’s Christian cultural heritage; which is to say, a centrepiece of our heritage. The shocked and sombre reaction of most Parisians to the burning Cathedral was shared by anyone with some sense of the debt we owe to the builders, not only those who laboured over centuries on the cathedral itself, but the millennial builders of our patrimony.

The Sorbonne Quarter lies over the river from the Cathedral, and the first universities emerged from the Church schools as expressions of Christianity’s commitment to learning.  The Sorbonne was the second of the great universities to be founded, around 1150, after Bologna. St Thomas Aquinas studied there under St Albertus Magus as the Cathedral was being constructed.

Continue reading “Israel Folau and the Rainbow Dhimmis”

The Willing Suspension of Disbelief

[Published in Quadrant April 2019, and on Quadrant Online as Memoirs of an Abused Altar Boy, which included links to various documents.]

…so as to transfer from our inward nature a human interest and a semblance of truth sufficient to procure for these shadows of imagination that willing suspension of disbelief for the moment, which constitutes poetic faith.                                                 Samuel Taylor Coleridge

In May of 2015, the royal commission came to town, and opened public hearings in the Ballarat Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday the 19th, with Justice McClennan presiding. Counsel Assisting, Gail Furness SC, outlined the evidence that was expected to be given, and a number of victims gave evidence about the abuse they suffered. The next day’s proceedings opened with the evidence of Gordon Hill about his abuse at the hands of priests and nuns while he lived at St Joseph’s Home in Sebastopol near Ballarat. He was followed by number of other witnesses, some of whom alleged that they had informed the then Father George Pell about abuse centred on the Ballarat East parish, where Pell was, for some time, an assistant priest. David Ridsdale also repeated his allegation that Pell attempted to bribe him to keep quiet about his abuse at the hands of his uncle, the then Fr Gerald Ridsdale.

Continue reading “The Willing Suspension of Disbelief”

The Pope’s Commission

[First published at The Orthosphere.]

Faithful Catholics are expected to accept that, although the Pope is elected by the Conclave of (eligible) Cardinals, the One who really selects the Pope is the Holy Ghost Himself: the cardinals are His catspaws, so to speak. It is a grave offence to leak the proceedings of the Conclave (which is why such leaking is so rare), but if the preceding is to be accepted, the machinations in the Conclave are irrelevant. Therefore, I can appreciate both the smile and the squirm of orthodox Catholics who, in these very pages, see the so-ordained Pope described as … ahem … Pope Fruit Loops I.

Continue reading “The Pope’s Commission”