Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Dogs in Space

I can't load these on to Facebook so I will have a crack at loading them here instead. Here are the Dogs on their first professional walk with Julia from Paws Pet Care. When I played the first one at home, all three dogs went berserk when they heard Julia's voice and ran around looking for her again, so they clearly had a great time.

Update - I can get one video up, but not the others ...

Update - I think I can get them up on Google+?

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Abbott and Turnbull - In Brief

Kindly people who don't read Catallaxy Files occasionally ask me what my view is of recent happenings in Australian politics.

I have many views, most of them unprintable. But today Dr Faustus on Catallaxy Files summed my views up nicely, so I'll reproduce his/her comment here:

From late 2014 ‘Good Government’ became a clown circus – Abbott and Hockey both sank into political torpor and were casually kicked to death throughout 2015 by anyone who fancied a go.
This was not a case of ideological, dry, Thatcheresque heroes going down in flames. It was a couple of garden variety politicians fucking up on an industrial scale in the septic tank of Australian politics.
And, yes, Turnbull is a devious shit, with a pretty hopeless political CV, and likely to out-Rudd Rudd himself with his disruptive agility. Australia is certainly in a bad, bad place from a policy perspective; but not improved by airbrushing Tony Abbott. 
This has been a public information announcement. Thank you for listening.

Sunday, 18 October 2015

Gallipoli Dead from Western Australia

And now, a word from our sponsor - or rather, a plug for this year's Frederick Bell VC Memorial Lecture, for the RSL WA Branch Inc and the Cottesloe Sub Branch.
Friday 13 November at 6pm at the Cottesloe Civic Centre.
Speaker: Shannon Lovelady
‘Gallipoli Dead from Western Australia: Naming the Lost’
“I will be speaking about all aspects of the Gallipoli Dead From Western Australia project, in which many of you have been involved as contributors and researchers. I will also be speaking about some of the men researched along the way, and some I wrote about afterwards, in my Gallipoli Remembered column for Post Newspapers.”
Shannon – a lively and vibrant speaker, who I have met and worked with on various things to do with local records – says, “In the spirit of Lest We Forget, this is a wonderful way to end the Anzac Centenary. I hope you can make it and look forward to seeing you there.”
No charge; admission by gold coin donation. 6pm start for light refreshments; talk starts at 6.30pm. 
(I gave last year’s lecture on Martin O’Meara VC.)

Thursday, 24 September 2015

Trebuchets for All

This is the trebuchet at Urquart Castle, where I was today. I am posting this for trebuchet fans everywhere. You know who you are.

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

The Protestant Renovation

I have been lucky enough to be able to travel to the UK several times in my adult life, and each time I see something different about how they choose to interpret their religious history.

Many years ago I saw an astonishingly frank exhibition at the V & A which showcased their collection of pre-Reformation artefacts and actually explained that Catholicism was for 1000 years the traditional religion in England. Usually, though, the English don't go quite that far.

This time, I see more acknowledgement at Westminster Abbey that it was once a Catholic church with very outre decorations, including wall paintings on a lavish scale. In the Chapter House, the matter of the strange disappearance of these is touched on tactfully as the 'alterations' of the 16th to 18th centuries.

Ah yes. That would be during the period known as the Renovation, when churches across Europe were seized with the desire to 'antique' their existing dull and dated interiors by stripping the wall paintings and beheading the statues. Now, of course, we look back and sigh a little at the loss of so much fine art, much as we do when we hear of the Victorians putting matchboard and flocked wallpaper over linenfold oak panel carvings.

This is, I suppose, a start, but to me it says more about our Ikea generation's limited range of understanding, and also how unfashionable and intolerant it is to talk about dying for actual ideals and principles. No one dies for linenfold panelling.

Monday, 7 September 2015

We Are Amused

If I were cast in a forthcoming production of The Gondoliers as the Duke of Plaza Toro, I would be able to exclaim, "At last, we have arrived at our destination! This is the Ducal Palace." However, our hotel is less Ducal Palace and more Stateroom Scene, with v amusing consequences so far.

It was a beautiful autumn afternoon yesterday, and we had a voucher for free drinks at the Sussex Arms, so we ... went to the Sussex Arms and had free drinks, and then repaired to a local hostelry where we surveyed their bill of fare. We were aiming for something authentically English, and something which would show due honour to HM the Q upon her achieving the longest reign in England's history. With this in mind, there was only one real choice. So Jus had a Whopper and Mike had something with a lot of meat in it, and carefully inquired of the natives as to whether they could provide a vanilla milkshake to go with that.

I am thrilled to report that my dinner consisted of a glass of wine, a large bag of excellent English Burger King fries, and a cigarette. I think this bodes well for the rest of the trip.

Friday, 4 September 2015

My View for a While

I would love to show you the back of the airplane seat in front of me, a la Fr Z, but I'm not there yet.

Normal transmission will be resumed in a few days (I hope). So to keep you occupied in my temporary absence, here is Bob Marley with an important message from our Sponsor.

Spiritual Direction

Anyone who thinks people in religious life don't have a sense of humour should visit the new Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate's Australian mission home page. The photos are gorgeous. I found this particular gem below, of my spiritual director, which should help explain a lot about me to any interested passers-by.


Nah, seriously, he normally looks more like the one below.


Monday, 17 August 2015

Ah, the Children of the Night ...

I was reading a rather good article in the Grauniad about why Hillary Clinton should probably stop running for President round about now, or in fact about two years ago.

Then I noticed the randomly-generated ad that appeared in the article. It seemed too good not to share with you.

Childish but effective.

Thursday, 6 August 2015

Reckless Engagement With Technology

Yes, I now have a tablet. And the excellent Universalis app, so I no longer have an excuse for not saying the Office. Curses!
On the upside, here are some tulips on the dining room table.

Monday, 27 July 2015

Ellen Gets It Right

Ellen of Tasmania is a regular Catallaxyfiles contributer. This morning, this is what she had to say in response to a comment from Fisky (justly celebrated developer of the Fisk Doctrine, a challenging approach to the use of free speech when confronted by those who don't believe in it).

Ellen says:

Most people don’t care if they are illogical or irrational.
They do care about cool-shaming and peer group pressure. They care about being seen to be ‘on the right side of history’ – even if it’s the wrong side. They care about looking caring – even if such caring has dire consequences. They care about their current comfort and security; they care about not having to go against the flow; they care about caring with the least possible disruption to their daily lives.
In such a foaming, fuzzy fog of feeling, it’s hard to see clearly.

Oh yes indeed.

Sunday, 26 July 2015

Chris Wortham on Shakespeare

Chris Wortham taught me both medieval and Renaissance literature back in the day at U Dubs, so this should be a fantastic talk!

I hope to see you there (something always seems to go wrong shortly before Dawson events I really want to go to, so fingers crossed this time).

Thursday, 9 July 2015

Up Tails All

“One does not argue about The Wind in the Willows. The young man gives it to the girl with whom he is in love, and, if she does not like it, asks her to return his letters. The older man tries it on his nephew, and alters his will accordingly. The book is a test of character. We can’t criticise it, because it is criticising us. But I must give you one word of warning. When you sit down to it, don’t be so ridiculous as to suppose that you are sitting in judgment on my taste, or on the art of Kenneth Grahame. You are merely sitting in judgment on yourself. You may be worthy: I don’t know, But it is you who are on trial.”
― A.A. Milne

Monday, 29 June 2015

The Experiment Grows Up

From a very interesting article on Daily Life today about the adults who were donor-conceived (DC) and are now asking questions about their genetic origins:
At my clinic alone, codes were deliberately destroyed for 88 pregnancies. Why those 88? Was it all the same donor? Are we all related? What on earth was going on? The RNSH also claimed that this was not "malicious management of records". I was gobsmacked. Not a single RNSH staff member from the time has been held responsible. This is the low regard that society has for donor conceived people. We are treated like unregulated products. Money, and careers, have been made out of our existence. Against that, our humanity doesn't count.
Oh yes indeed. Read the full article.

Thursday, 11 June 2015

Draining the Wound

I have had some conversations recently with disaffected Catholics who feel that the Church is not doing enough to speak out against gay marriage. What they seem to want is a new crusade; a jeremiad preached in unflinching language about homosexual sexual practices that will set the record straight about the difference between this and marriage. 

Hopefully, the exact opposite is true. Hopefully there will be no jeremiad condeming same-sex sexual practices from anyone in any country which is facing the prospect of gay marriage legislation. That is NOT the point of this debate. 

The point of the debate is to stop secular governments redefining marriage away from the contractual obligation to some kind of permanence, and raising of biological children, into something transient and unstable based on a very recent idea of 'love'. 

Catholics need to draw on our 2000 years of Christian legal and social teaching and practice to show these pagan governments that we know a thing or two about stability, permanence, and the best way to raise children. 

We have gone way, WAY beyond the sexual issue now. It's about 50 years too late to start talking about 'depraved actions' or 'perverse sexual practices'. This is because the Catholic Church effectively dropped the ball 50 years ago on this issue with the widespread failure to support the implementation of the encyclical HumanaeVitae. The bishops and priests way back then in 1968 effectively cut our legs out from under us in this debate, because they created the world of sexual doublethink among Catholics. If leeway could be granted for birth control, although expressly condemned, then leeway could be granted for just about anything. 

It's like the old joke about the man who offers a woman $1 million to sleep with him. She accepts. Then he offers her a dollar to sleep with him. She indignantly refuses, and asks, 'Do you think I'm a prostitute?' He replies, 'Madam, we have already established that. Now, we're just haggling over price.' That's exactly where people who compromised on Humanae Vitae have found themselves - they have named their price, but now we're just haggling it down even further. 

And here's the thing: those priests and bishops who let us down were all formed and ordained in the wonderful 1950s when everything in the Catholic Church was marvellous, and everyone went to Mass, and was far holier than we are now. This is why I get so stroppy about people who have a fantasy about the 'good old days': all those priests and bishops who let us down in 1968 were products of the 'good old days'.

I don't deny that at the parish level, a person might have thought that things were 'good' in the 'good old days', but the awful explosion after Vatican II tells me very clearly that things were not OK at all.  We needed that explosion - it was like lancing a boil. And it will take decades to clean up the mess, not because it was a revolution, but because we are draining the poison out of a wound that goes back to the late 19th century with the development of Modernism. (OK, so it actually goes back to Judas, but I'm thinking recent history ...)

There is almost a century of evil that has accumulated inside the Church, due to this set of beliefs, that needs draining out, and it's being drained as we speak, but it will take time. We can't just pump antibiotics in at one end and expect it to clean up the infection; the wound must also be drained at the other end. 

It's painful, but who said we were going to be let off easily? We let this happen in the first place. Here is a saying from those celebrated good old days: Offer it up.

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Colin Barnett MLA (Lib) on Gay Marriage

Extract from interview with PerthNow:

PN: We’ll move on to an entirely different topic altogether. Where do you stand on same-sex marriage?
CB: First can I say that’s a very personal issue to people. It’s not something I think should be dominated by party politics. With respect to my own views, I think the issue is complicated. I have always taken the view that marriage is a very unique institution, a special institution within our community and I believe marriage is between a man and a woman. I know many people will have a disagreement with that. I don’t see it as an equality argument. With respect to gay and lesbian couples I’ve always supported civil unions. I have always supported removing any form of discrimination that may take place and my view is people are free to live their life as they wish. But I don’t believe in changing the nature of marriage itself.
PN: But it’s fair to say you think it (should be) a conscience vote?
CB: Yes, it should be an individual free or conscience vote. And I certainly recognise that more people in the community are probably coming down in support of gay marriage. I just have an attitude that marriage is a unique institution. It’s one of the foundations of our society, and in saying that I don’t believe that is discriminatory at all against gay or lesbian couples. I think it is just a difference.
PN: We’ll agree to disagree on that one I guess, like a lot of people.
CB: Well I think there would be wide implications if change is made.

Monday, 1 June 2015

Melissa Parke MHR (ALP) on Gay Marriage and Small Businesses

Me to Her (1) - via her website:

 I live in your electorate. I hope you will vote against the proposed Bill to change marriage law in Australia.

I know you're not married yourself, and you support gay rights and equality, but I hope you will be able to see beyond this to the wider community, and understand just how disastrous this could be for small businesses. It will almost certainly lead to prosecutions in Australia of manufacturers and small businesses who don't agree with the idea of gay marriage.

These people have rights, too. They should be allowed to exercise their freedom of conscience, and also their freedom to withdraw goods and services from sale at their own discretion, without needing to give a reason. Churches and religious groups of all kinds should also be free to marry couples who follow their beliefs, and to restrict the offering of these marriage services to male-female couples, if they wish.

In many Western countries that have introduced gay marriage legislation, lawsuits are beginning to proliferate against business owners who won't provide services for gay marriages, eg bakeries, florists, wedding planners. I would be horrified to see this happening in Australia as well. No one should be prosecuted for following their conscience in this area.

There is already sufficient legislation in Australia to protect the legal and financial rights of gay couples. This is an ideological move, and it's based on very flawed premises, and will almost certainly lead to the prosecution of people who simply don't agree with it, and won't participate in it.

Her to Me (1) - via email:

Dear Phillippa

I hear your view and of course respect your right to oppose any change to the Marriage Act.  While I am inclined to take a different view about the scope of marriage, and while I believe it shouldn't be a category of relationship that excludes same-sex couples, I appreciate the reasonable manner in which you have put your view.  I know this is an issue on which there are strongly held views on both sides, and as a parliamentary representative I have given it a great deal of time and thought.

I would point out that we have seen change to aspects of discrimination in a number of areas in the course of Australian history, including changes to laws that had prevented women and indigenous Australians from voting.  People opposed those changes at the time too.  Now we look back and see that of course it was right to end the discrimination against women and indigenous Australians.  In time to come I think we will look back and say it was right to end marriage discrimination.

Allowing same-sex couples the dignity, stability and happiness of marriage will not change our society, except to make it fairer and more tolerant.  Happiness shared is not happiness diluted, and the clear majority of responses from people in the Fremantle electorate is in favour of an end to marriage discrimination.  I have been contacted by a large number of Fremantle people who support an end to discrimination when it comes to marriage, including a number of Christians, and also by a few people like yourself who would prefer no change.

All these contributions will be part of my consideration if a change to the Marriage Act comes before the parliament.

Kind regards,

Hon. Melissa Parke MP
Federal Labor Member for Fremantle

Me to Her (2) - via email:

Good morning Melissa -

Your first paragraph was great! It gave the impression you'd actually read my submission and heard my voice. However, the remaining two paragraphs are pre-composed and I've read them before in other correspondence. They also don't even come close to addressing the issue I raised.
The issue I raised is not about racial discrimination or votes for women or anything of the sort. It's about the very real risk that businesses will be prosecuted if they choose not to provide goods and services for a gay marriage ceremony. There is also the very real risk of prosecution of organised religions that can't marry same-sex couples.
Can you give me a guarantee that there will be clauses in the ALP's proposed Bill that will protect the rights and freedoms of individuals, churches and businesses to withhold goods and services if they in conscience cannot provide them for a gay marriage ceremony? And that you would support these clauses, because you believe in individual freedom and conscience as much as you believe in fighting unjust discrimination?
Many thanks

Her to Me (2) - via email:

Dear Philippa,
If legislation is passed to introduce marriage equality – as I hope it will – there will be provisions that allow churches to continue to administer marriage in accordance with their religious beliefs.
Australia already has anti-discrimination laws which mean one cannot unreasonably discriminate on the basis of age, sex, race/ethnicity/nationality, or sexual identity.  A business today could not legally withhold goods or services from a same-sex person by reason of their sexual orientation; that will still be the case whether the marriage equality Bill is passed or not.
Kind regards,
Hon Melissa Parke MP
Federal Labor Member for Fremantle

Thursday, 28 May 2015

The Seal of the Confessional - Part 3

In this morning's Australian:
"It's not yet public, but we have heard from at least one priest who confessed to his confessor, and in that way reconciled his offending behaviour, which continued with his belief in God," Justice McClellan said.

Confession is not a rubber-stamp exercise. For absolution to be effective, the penitent has to have a firm purpose of amendment.

The confessor (the one who hears the confession) can urge counselling, police involvement, and other interventions for the person who has offended. The confessor can also withhold absolution from the person if he thinks there is no firm purpose of amendment, or until they have handed themselves over to the police or relevant authority.

It's THIS end of things that needs closer examination - not breaking the seal under force of law, but making sure that all confessors (those who hear confession) know what to do, in the event that someone confesses paedophiliac acts or any other crimes that can be dealt with by police. 

On a more serious note: You can't reconcile ongoing offending with belief in God. Eventually one of the two wins, in every human heart. It may be a long, slow process, but each day you are either moving closer to God, or further away from Him. It has nothing to do with how you feel, or what you think, or where you think you are. It's an objective spiritual reality.

So when the offending becomes more important and more real to you than your relationship with God, the prayers ease off, and the Mass-going eases off, and eventually both stop. You may be going through the motions - going to Mass, going to Confession, saying Mass if you're a priest - but your actual relationship with God has ended long before.

This is when you become shy around God, or embarrassed by things of religion, or you find yourself trying to convince others that you're still serious about the whole thing, even though you're not. You are in the situation described by C S Lewis as the man in financial difficulty who hates the very sight of a passbook.

People have spent their entire lives trying to reconcile their offending with belief in God. This is why there is such a vocal and enthusiastic group of nominal Catholics in Western countries who want every single element of Catholic teaching changed to suit their particular brand of offending.

Sin is sin. People sin. The difference is that a sinner realises it, goes to Confession, and takes steps in his or her life to change the things that are leading them to sin all the time. It's hit and miss, and it may not always work, and it may take a long time, but they are dedicated to the pursuit of holiness. They will keep trying, no matter what. They will try different strategies.

But someone who has decided that God is the problem - that 'the Church' is the problem - will try to change the Church to suit themselves. They solve the problem of their own offending by simply editing and editing until their offending is no longer wrong, but inevitable. It's just part of who they are. From there it turns into a human right, about which they can become very angry and demand justice.

This is why St John Paul II was so right to hit the 'fundamental option' on the head in Veritatis Splendor (section III). There isn't some 'good person' hiding inside everyone, who just occasionally makes bad choices. Instead, we are the consequence of our actions. The older I get, the more I realise the truth of the following:

Be careful of your thoughts, for your thoughts become your words; Be careful of your words for your words become your deeds; Be careful of your deeds, for your deeds become your habits; Be careful of your habits, for your habits become your character;Be careful of your character for your character becomes your destiny.

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

The Seal of the Confessional - AGAIN

Convicted paedophile priest Fr Gerald Ridsdale has told the current Royal Commission that he believes that 'a priest should go against the teachings of the church and tell police if someone confesses to a crime during confession.'

This is the same Fr Gerald Ridsdale who also said that:
  • He did not confess all his sins during confession once he left the seminary.
  • He told no one he was abusing children when he was ordained in 1961.
  • "I didn't confess the sexual offending against children".
  • He did not tell the Ballarat bishop who ordained him that he had offended while in the seminary studying to be a priest and while overseas.
  • "I don't think I told, would have told anyone at all".
  • "I never told anyone. It's the sort of thing I wouldn't tell anyone.
  • "Looking back on it, I think that the overriding fear would have been losing priesthood."
  • "I would have lost faith in myself because I was a very proud person. It just would have been devastating."

Gerald Ridsdale would not confess his sins to a priest, under the seal of the confessional, in absolute confidence, back in the day when there was also a protective culture of secrecy that shielded him from the consequences of his actions.

And yet he now thinks that the seal of the confessional should be abolished because ... because ... Why, exactly? Does he really think that this would make it easier for paedophiles to confess to people who were going to shop them immediately?

Paedophiles don’t confess, not even to police, and not even when they are practically caught red-handed. This is why it’s almost impossible to rehabilitate them. They do not want to get caught, and they do not want to admit that what they are doing is wrong. In some cases, they are unable to admit that what they are doing is wrong, because they have convinced themselves that it is normal, and it is their right to act in this way.

Abolishing the seal of the confessional will achieve nothing, except that it will stop people who are genuinely seeking spiritual help from doing so. Fr Gerald Ridsdale has also done enough damage to the Catholic Church already without his views on the seal of the confessional being taken seriously.

Ridsdale also apparently told a Catholic Church Insurances investigator in 1994 that Bishop O'Collins told him "if this thing happens again then you're off to the missions". If anyone ever gets smug with me again about the failures of celibacy among African priests, I am going to point out to them that Africa was used as a dumping ground for decades for Western priests who couldn't be celibate. One day we will have to pay for what we did to the Catholic Church in those developing countries.

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

My Lucky Star

Despite my combox comments being constantly in moderation on Fr Z's Blog (I can't think why), he very kindly gave me one of his Gold Stars for the Day recently. This may never happen again, so I am going to post the screen-grab right here:

For the all-important context of this utterly vulgar remark, see the original blog post. 

Saturday, 16 May 2015

Yackity Yak (Don't Talk Back)

I am alive and also reasonably well; I've just been very busy. Meanwhile, forthcoming speaking and other engagements:

1) I'll be coming to the planned homeschoolers weekend retreat in July in Toodyay, just briefly, to give a talk (I think on the Saturday?).

2) Then I will give a presentation on the history of Claremont Hospital as part of the Glyde In Community Learning Centre's program. I've visited the Centre before; it's very beautiful and located in an enviously charming street in East Fremantle. They also run adult learning sessions on everything. (I've yet to see a session on nuclear physics, but I'm sure it's being planned).

3) At the end of August I will be attending the Dawson Centre Colloquium 2015 in Tasmania, and giving a presentation on 'Traction or Friction?' I am not going to say any more, because the rest of it is a surprise.

4) And then it's time for a well-earned holiday, so I thought we would exhaust ourselves by going to the UK for three weeks! The three of us have a very busy schedule planned, because this is Mike's first trip to Foreign Parts, so we will not be Visiting Friends (this time, at least - unless you're keen to stand near the M1 and wave as we drive past). No military museum will be safe.

Saturday, 21 March 2015

Human Trafficking - 14 April

The good folks at the Dawson Society are having Peter Abetz to speak on this controversial topic on 14 April. Click on the image above to book your tickets.

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Hurrah for Billy the Barber

Billy the Barber shaved his father
With a rusty razor
The razor slipped, and cut his lip -
Hurrah for Billy the Barber!

Actually, the hurrah in this case is for George Pell (courtesy of Damian Thompson in the Spectator). Is there any chance of getting Pell back here to replace Joe Hockey?

I am also a recent convert to the First Church of Anthony Esolen, so here is his latest on the self-inflicted priest shortage in the West.

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Neuroplastic Explosive

Huzzah! New book out by Norman Doidge - the sequel to The Brain that Changes Itself:

The Brain's Way of Healing (2015)

I bought a copy on sale on Saturday, and finished reading it by Sunday evening - a staggering book, with recoveries that look miraculous, but are actually just good brain science. If it's not enough for you to read about the blind seeing and the deaf hearing and the lame walking, the chapter on autism is breathtaking, and offers real hope for people whose children are struggling with this.

I now want to lie in the sun and listen to Mozart, for the good of my health, for the rest of my life.

Meanwhile, In Other Headlines

This article by Rebecca Weisser is one of the few intelligent and sensible things I have seen in the Spectator recently about the current Abbott mess. (Simply waving pom-poms and chanting 'rah rah Tony' and denouncing any criticism as failures in groupthink is not helping. And yes, I AM looking at you, Rowan Dean et hoc genus omne.)

Meanwhile, I have been reading about someone called Rosie Batty, who is apparently the first woman in Australia ever to have experienced domestic violence. Thankfully she has been able to speak publicly about this, starting with her first press conference a few hours after her son was beaten to death by his estranged father. At last, after millenia of silence, the lid has been lifted on this abhorrent practice, and a woman has spoken out about her experiences. This is the only explanation I can come up with as to why she was given an uninterrupted platform on Q&A and then a standing ovation.

I am also watching with interest the downward trajectory of Australians of the Year. Next year, if we take this to its logical conclusion, the winner will be either Lara Bingle or that lesbian couple from last year's My Kitchen Rules. But probably not both.

Thank goodness also for Patricia Arquette, star of such films as Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors, Stigmata, Little Nicky, and Deeper than Deep (in which she played Linda Lovelace). When she was awarded an Oscar as Best Supporting Actress this year, Arquette very bravely devoted an entire sentence or two to the complex and mulitfactorial issue of why some people are paid more than others. Meryl Streep, one of Hollywood's highest paid actors of either sex, gave her a standing ovation. I look forward to the release of Arquette's comprehensive strategy outlining just how she intends to arrange for everyone to be paid exactly the same amount, regardless of sex, age, and abilities.

UPDATE: Thank goodness for Queensland Attorney General Yvette D'Ath. D'Ath reports that she is being briefed on how Queensland can introduce civil union legislation. This is despite the fact that Queensland already has a civil union scheme introduced by the Bligh government, which was then renamed as a 'registered relationship' scheme by the Newman government, which also got rid of the official ceremony part. So all the State government has to do is restore the official ceremony and original name. I think the technical term for this is 'low-hanging fruit', no pun intended.

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Extremely Quotable Quote

In our time, when someone says, “I don’t agree with all of the teachings of the institutional Church,” you can bet your house that the disagreement has nothing to do with three Persons in one God, but rather two persons in one bed.
- says Anthony Esolen, in a crackingly good article on how to fix the so-called vocations 'crisis' and reverse the feminisation of Church culture.

Can Islam Be 'Reformed'?

This piece by Theo Hobson in the Spectator last week is the best and most coherent summary of this vexed issue that I have read recently. Here's an extract:
Creating a more liberal political order was not on Luther’s agenda, nor on anyone’s at that time, but it did become a central concern of some Protestants in the next century. The Protestant Reformation was not a matter of Christianity accepting the truth of something else, something beyond itself. And that is what people really want when they say that Islam needs a reformation: they want it to accept the truth of western values, adapt to them.

So the ‘Islam needs its reformation’ line makes this mistake. It supposes that Christianity and Islam are two comparable forms of religion: if Religion A adapted to modernity, Religion B can too. But Religion A didn’t adapt to modernity: it inadvertently made modernity, by trying to be more purely itself.

The game-changing idea that emerged in the wake of the Protestant Reformation can be summed up thus: down with theo-cracy! (Maybe I’m a soppy liberal patriot, but it seems to me that this breakthrough was 90 per cent English.) Let the state no longer enforce religious uniformity, but rather protect people’s freedom to choose how to worship. This revolution in theo-politics was proposed not by atheists but by idealistic Protestants. God wills this new sort of liberty-protecting state, said people like John Milton and John Locke. (Nonbelievers like Spinoza and Voltaire followed in their wake and have received undue credit.) [take that, you Enlightenment geeks!]

Why did they think that political liberty was God’s will? They had learned from earlier Protestants like Luther to distrust bossy institutions and religious rules; they now applied this to politics as well as religion. And they pointed to the New Testament, which affirms no theocratic model of politics (unlike the Old Testament, with its holy kings). The whole tradition of coercion in religion is wrong, is at odds with scripture, they said. For example, John Locke, in his ‘Letter Concerning Toleration’, claimed that toleration is ‘the principal mark of the true church’.
PS. If you want a good laugh while you despair of Western civilisation, read the Comments section ...

Sunday, 11 January 2015

Here's the Thing

This is something I’ve been chewing over in the last few days.

You need a society with minimal economic intervention, but maximum law and order. There is no use having laws unless they are enforced. You don’t need many laws, but you do need a system that enforces them, from police through courts through to the prison system.

The only example I can think of is Singapore, which works well along these lines (even if I find the weather oppressively humid).

Australia, on the other hand, now has a society with increasing economic intervention, but diminishing law and order, due to a lack of enforcement.

One of the causes of the lack of enforcement is that we are drowning in laws, and cannot enforce all of them, because many of them are contradictory.

The inertia brought about by lack of enforceability has also led to the ‘low-hanging fruit’ mentality among law enforcement and the justice system. Mentality: “If we can’t enforce the big, scary laws – which we can’t – then we need to pick off the easy targets, or else we will be out of business.”

I see two strains at work in Australian history.

One is economic meddling, protectionism and over-regulation. This was shown to be damaging in real life, and led to its unpicking mostly by the Hawke-Keating government. However, it’s been flooding back in, and shamefully under Liberal governments.

The other is the trahison des clercs identified by Nick Cater and others: the systematic white-anting, from within, of ideas about law, order and justice at every level, and in every institution.

So yes, we do have no one to blame but ourselves.