The Gospel of Life in the Public Square

On the recent Annual Chartres Pilgrimage of 2011, the theme taken was “The Gospel of Life”. The Pilgrimage concentrates on a Papal Encyclical, this time “Evangelium Vitae” by Blessed Pope John Paul II in 1995. This insightful meditation by fellow pilgrim, Richard Kornicki, was read out to us during the 70 mile walk between the two cathedrals of Notre Dame de Paris to Notre Dame de Chartres. 

2011 Chartres Pilgrimage theme "The Gospel of Life"

This Pilgrimage takes as its theme the Gospel of Life.

Human life: something to be cherished; something to be protected from beginning to end; something made by God in the image of Himself.

It is hard to imagine a theme that could be more central to our understanding of ourselves, and of our profoundest beliefs. It is hard to imagine a theme more consistently taught from the earliest years of the Church. There is nothing new here. There are no novel doctrines. Only infinite richness.

So when we proclaim the Gospel of Life in a public context, why does it always cause such surprise, so much trouble, such antipathy? Why did the Holy Father have to insist on ‘the legitimate role of religion in the public square’ when he spoke in Westminster Hall?

To understand a little more of this, we need to look at the nature of that ‘public square’ today. And that is the purpose of this reflection.

The generation now in power is different from any that has gone before. As a group of people – in politics, the media, law, medicine, the civil service, local government – they will be looked back on as marking a turning point in British society. Because not since St Augustine landed in Kent, has power been held by a group of people who in large numbers, have less understanding of religion.

It is not that the atheists are in charge, or even the agnostics. It is rather that this is the first generation that takes its decisions with no personal experience of what religion is. Religion is not something they have rejected, it is something which they have never had presented to them: not by their parents, not by their schools, not by the social environment around them. It has passed them by. They have no more understanding of religion than St Augustine had of America.

At best, as Archbishop Smith put it, they see religion as a legally permissible private eccentricity, to be practiced behind closed doors, once a week, by consenting adults. At worst, they see religion only as it is presented to them by the media: fundamentalist mullahs, abusive clergy, and elderly congregations out of touch with today’s world. (No wonder the Holy Father’s visit woke them all up.)

To some extent the Church is at fault here. For too long we have assumed that in talking to Government and its agencies, we were talking to people who knew what religion was, even if they did not practice it themselves. The truth is that we are talking to people like Barry Sheerman MP who, as Chairman of the Education Select Committee, said that he didn’t mind there being Catholic schools but he took exception to them trying to foster religion in children.

It is hard to remember just how little we can take for granted. We have to get over the basic point that religion is not like a subscription to Sky TV. It is not an optional add-on to life. It is the very core of it. Indeed, as the blood of countless martyrs has testified, it is more important than life. To put it in terms that even the Tabloids can understand, you can’t take the Catholic out of me anymore than you can take Blackpool out of a stick of rock.

If that was the only problem we had, it could probably be solved. But there are far more profound issues underlying the tensions between Church and State. Put simply, we believe in moral Truth as something objective and verifiable. The State believes that moral truth is whatever contemporary society says it is. How often have you heard Catholic moral teaching derided with the words ‘Society has moved on’? Well society may indeed have moved on, but Truth hasn’t. That is its nature. If it was true yesterday, it is true today, and it will still be true tomorrow. Whether that happens to coincide with where the weather-vane of public opinion is pointing is neither here nor there.

Sadly, history shows repeatedly how the policies of the state, supported by the media, can be profoundly wrong if there is no objective point of moral reference. In Germany, they turned on the Jews; in Soviet Russia, the Church; in Ruanda, the Tutsis. Scotland had the Highland Clearances; for Ireland, it was the famine. No country is exempt no age is exempt. Choose today’s examples for yourselves. But we tend not to notice the faults of our own time, because they blend in with what Government is saying, what the newspapers and television is saying, what the neighbours in the bus queue are saying. It all seems so normal.

Society will of course move on again. What is acceptable today will not be in future. Slavery was fine. Child labour was fine. Hanging for theft was fine. Massive civilian casualties in war was fine. In time to come, Britain of our own day will surely be pilloried as a place where people did so little while year after year, in every corner of the country, the unborn were slaughtered with industrial efficiency. ‘How could they just go along with it?‘ posterity will ask. We may find ourselves at the Judgement Seat alongside the ordinary Germans of the 1940s, asking with them: ‘what could we do about it?’ The test may not be did you succeed, but did you try?

It is inevitable that in discussing the attacks on the Gospel of Life, you find parallels with the worst totalitarian regimes. It is hardly surprising. If you take away the Gospel of Life, you are left with some benign pre-lapsarian paradise, inhabited solely by the liberal and the tolerant. Left to his own devices, fallen man is pretty quick to come up with a system that worships himself, tolerates no dissent, and leads not to a Gospel of Life, but to a Politics of Death.

The first target of any totalitarian regime is always the family. For that is the only alternative social structure that it cannot wholly control. It is also the first target of any society opposed to the Gospel of Life.

The overlap in motivation is sobering. Marie Stopes is now lauded as a pioneer of what is laughingly called ‘reproductive health’. But few remember what motivated her. It was her passion for eugenics. Far from the innate dignity of man as made in God’s image, Stopes really did believe that physically, intellectually, morally, and economically, there were better people and there were worse people. Poverty and moral degradation went together. And the answer was simple: discourage them from breeding. That was the purpose of contraception.

Stopes was at least consistent. Fearsomely so. She even disinherited her own son – for the outrage of marrying a defective female. The poor girl needed to wear glasses!

The distortion of language has been a key part of the appalling industry Stopes created. ‘Reproductive health’ is simply the polite name for a process that is opposed to reproduction and ensures death not health. If the child is wanted it is a ‘baby’, if it is unwanted it becomes a ‘foetus’, a disposable medical by-product.

The distortion of language to hide moral truth has become endemic. Wherever you look, language is manipulated to make the unacceptable acceptable. Firms don’t make anyone redundant, they just ‘let you go’. You are not unemployed, you are a ‘job seeker’. We do not engage in aggression, but a ‘pre-emptive strike’ might be necessary…. for peace-keeping purposes. Politicians may confess to using ‘terminological inexactitudes’ or ‘mis-speaking’. Senior civil servants have been economical with the truth. George Orwell parodied it as ‘Newspeak’ in his novel 1984. It is now so prevalent that we no longer even notice it. That is when it becomes really dangerous.

The abuse of language is not just dishonesty, however. It is far more worrying than that. For language and thought are intimately connected. Without the word, there isn’t the concept. And if you change the word, you change the concept. That is how whole populations come to accept the unacceptable. If you can establish a new terminology, you can establish a new understanding. And if you have new understanding, you can have the policies and practices that go with it.

No one ever asked the German population to assent to the slaughter of the Jewish population. It started with name-calling. No one ever asked the British public to approve wholesale abortion on social grounds. It was a limited measure to stop the damage done by back-street abortions.

If evil presented itself openly and in full, it would be much easier to resist. But it always comes as the thin end of a wedge – or, to put it in Newspeak, as the start of a progress to broader opportunities.

Most of us do not realise the significance of what is happening, until it is too late to undo the damage. It takes the perceptiveness, and the courage, of St Thomas More or St John Fisher to understand what a little bit of acquiescence now, will give rise to in the long run.

If you want a current example, in Britain we are now working our way along from the thin end of the latest wedge in social policy. When the Civil Partnerships Bill was debated in 2006, both Front Benches were absolutely clear that this was a measure to provide sensible pension and other arrangements and had absolutely nothing to do with marriage, which they recognised was something wholly different in kind. Five years later, the Government is implementing legislation on allowing civil partnerships to take place in religious premises. What do legal contracts about pension entitlements have to do with religious premises? When the legislation was going through, they were explicit in saying that what they sought now as a permissive measure, they would expect to see as a right within ten years.

And if that wasn’t enough, the Government has announced that it wants to consult on ‘equalizing’ civil partnerships and marriage. Harmless semantics? Hardly. If marriage is redefined as being between two people of different or the same sex, then where does that leave any expression of the traditional Christian view of marriage? In a word, in the dock. To make such a claim would be classed as homophobic hate speech, a public order offense. Any good police officer, properly trained in diversity, would arrest you on the spot.

Catholic teaching has not changed, but society has. And within a generation the normal understanding of social relationships, based on millennia of teaching and practice can be dismissed as abnormal in the new social order.

In recent years we have got used to life being sometimes uncomfortable for Catholics; it may become more so.

In one sense it is reassuring if we do find life uncomfortable. Because if it weren’t, it could only mean one thing. We would have sold our souls to the mood of the day. We would be a Church that regarded the Gospel of Life not as an enduring truth, but as a ‘flexible concept’. Something to be endlessly adjusted in line with the changing views of contemporary society. Instead of a Gospel that transforms the world, we would have a world that transformed the Gospel. Transformed and reduced it to meaninglessness.

If we are not a sign of contradiction, we are nothing.

But however bleak things may appear, or whatever our fears for the future, we have one extraordinary consolation: the knowledge that ultimately Truth will prevail.

Who could have foreseen the collapse of the Soviet empire? Stalin at the height of his power invaded Poland in 1939 and dismissed the power of the Church with the mocking question: ‘how many Divisions does the Pope have in his army?’

Well the Communist experiment lasted just 70 years. One lifespan. Who could have foreseen that it would be brought down to nothing. Brought down by a Pope who had no Divisions. And a Polish Pope at that. Truth will prevail.

Ultimately it is the Gospel of Life that sustains us, and it is the Gospel of Life that we proclaim. It may be welcomed in the Public Square, or it may be abused and mocked. But it does not change, whatever society thinks about it, and however society changes. Our job is simple. As St Paul said, we are to speak the truth, in season and out. Nothing more and nothing less. For if we do not proclaim the truth, the Gospel of Life, it will be an arid world we find ourselves in. And if that causes us a little discomfort, so be it. It is the Faith of our Fathers, a holy Faith, and we will be true to it… pray God, whatever the cost.

The Gospel of Life is at the heart of our Faith. As Our Saviour said, ‘I am come that you might have life and have it more abundantly.’ What more could we need or want than that?

Our Lady of Walsingham                Pray for us
St Alban                                                        ”
St Edward the Confessor                           ”
St Thomas More                                         ”
St John Fisher                                             “

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65 Responses to The Gospel of Life in the Public Square

  1. toadspittle says:

    “In Germany, they turned on the Jews; in Soviet Russia, the Church; in Ruanda, the Tutsis.”
    In Spain they turned on the Jews and the Arabs, and the Socialists. More than once.
    “No country is exempt no age is exempt.”
    Very true. And, when the Catholics find themselves in a position of power in some country once again, will they turn on anybody? Gays? Divorcees? Atheists? Surely not!


  2. kathleen says:

    Be fair Toad. It’s true that in Spain there had been on occasions pogroms against the Jews, which were undoubtedly wrong. And at the time of the ‘reconquista’ the Jews were either expelled or forced to convert. That was wrong too, and no one would condone such actions nowadays.

    But the Arabs? They were the invaders who took over the greater part of Spain, reducing the Christians to second class citizens in their own land! During the seven centuries they dominated Spain, there were indeed periods of peace, and others of aggression, persecution and harsh treatment of the Spanish by the Arab masters. The battles the Christians had against the Arab invaders were in defense of their country. Surely even you can’t deny that the Christians had every right to reconquer their homeland? The Arabs were then deported en masse, or given the choice to convert to Christianity and remain; many did. After seven centuries of practical slavery, the ‘reyes catolicos’ were not going to mess around giving concessions to whom they saw as dangerous heretics – implacable though this method certainly seems to us now – and deportation was the result.

    And Socialists? Yes, there were many killings and wrongs done….. but on both sides. Don’t forget the horrendous torture and murders the Socialists, Communists and anarchists wrought on so many members of the clergy and ordinary Catholics, plus the wanton destruction of churches, monasteries etc., before the 1936-1938 civil war had even started! In fact it was this outrage that was one of the main instigators of the civil war.

    I don’t know what you mean by Catholics being in ‘a position of power’ – there’s no such thing. There are many countries where Catholics are in the majority, and what’s bad about that? On the contrary, it is often where Catholics are in the MINORITY, and where other religions of a more intolerant nature are ‘in power’ (if you like to call it that) where the Catholics have a very very hard time, often suffering continual persecution and harrassment.

    Things are not as black and white as you often make out Toad.


  3. toadspittle says:

    “Things are not as black and white as you often make out Toad.”

    Well, Toad doesn’t think that very many things are ‘black and white,’ Kathleen, and has not done these many years. But he rather thought Catholics did, almost as a matter of course, and that’s one of the things about CP&S that interests him.
    Your offering here, being an example.
    “We would be a Church that regarded the Gospel of Life not as an enduring truth, but as a ‘flexible concept’. Something to be endlessly adjusted in line with the changing views…”

    When you talk of an ‘eduring truth’ there is no room for shades of grey. Or is there?

    To put the point in a nutshell (where it belongs) whenever one gang gets the majority upper hand, they invariably bully all the other minorities. Would Catholics make divorce and homosexuality illegal if they could? Maybe. Maybe not. What do you think?

    Indeed, if the Gospel does not express morality in terms of black and white, what does it do?
    But you have written a very good, heartfelt and thought-provoking piece. (Thinks Toad.)


  4. kathleen says:

    Good point Toad.
    When I said ‘things’ were not simply black or white, I should have specified that I meant recounting of events, historical reports, or talking of occurrences that have taken place over long periods of time involving many factors etc.
    There certainly are ‘things’ that are indeed black or white, and that includes Moral Truth (Catholic teaching on Faith and Morals), as quoted in the article above…. and of course, Revelation. It is this unchanging (yet always fresh and new) fact about the Catholic Church that brings such security, peace of mind, and purpose to the Faithful. We are not “Mr Looking-all-ways”, picking up and dropping dogmas, ideas, fads, depending on the wind or the times.
    Living one’s Faith in obedience and humility is not always easy – attacked as we are by the world, the flesh and the devil – but it’s the Rock millions of Catholics worldwide have clung to down through the centuries, and will do so till the end of time. As St Peter responded to Our Lord’s question: “Lord, to whom can we go? You alone have words of eternal life.”

    Btw, thank you for your kind words about the article, though I have to admit it was not my work, but that of friend and fellow pilgrim, Richard Kornicki :-).
    Richard is the son of an English mother, and a Polish (nationalised British subject) father, a war hero. In fact his father, Franciszek Kornicki, now in his nineties, wrote a very interesting book, “The Struggle”, about his life.


  5. Wall Eyed Mr Whippy says:

    Thanks Kath,

    I am sure that the latter part of your post is not a defence of Franco and his ilk.

    Sometimes it is forgotten what beast he was. And as Brecht said, “The bitch that brewed him is in heat again.


  6. Wall Eyed Mr Whippy says:

    The initial post reflects a tiresome religious/cultural imperialism, widespread in England.

    We are told that not “since Augustine landed in Kent” has there been such a group in power who know nothing of religion. In fact, the Celtic Church was well established in many parts of the British Isles, and had been since around 350 AD. Augustine was a Johnny-come-lately, slipping in by a side door in 595.

    Yes, there have been many examples of pogroms and attacks throughout history; today, it is the US and its hangers-on who now slaughter Muslims. Around 1 million in Iraq; not all of course were Muslim – there’s enough munitions for many faiths there.

    I believe the White House professes Christian values. It seems that one of Obama’s companions during the live action adventure film of the killing of Bin Laden was seen clutching a rosary.

    That’s good to know.


  7. joyfulpapist says:

    Wall-Eyed Mr Whippy says:

    We are told that not “since Augustine landed in Kent” has there been such a group in power who know nothing of religion. In fact, the Celtic Church was well established in many parts of the British Isles, and had been since around 350 AD.

    And what is your point exactly? Even if you are suggesting that those in power between 350AD and 595AD knew less about religion than the current UK government (which seems unlikely – Christianity perhaps, but not religion), that does not negate the idea that, between 595 and recent times, rulers and politicians could be counted on to know – and possibly even share – the beliefs held by those they ruled.


  8. omvendt says:

    “And what is your point exactly? ”

    A question I find myself asking frequently on perusing Wally’s contributions.


  9. Wall Eyed Mr Whippy says:

    Joyful, it was the OP who suggested that the British Isles were a land of ignorance till said Augustine landed – I am disagreeing with that.

    Om – you must try harder.
    My point is….sigh again….no, I won’t explain again Om….can’t be bothered.

    Will Eye


  10. omvendt says:

    “Om – you must try harder.”

    I am trying. 🙂

    But you’re right, of course.


  11. toadspittle says:

    “I believe the White House professes Christian values. It seems that one of Obama’s companions during the live action adventure film of the killing of Bin Laden was seen clutching a rosary.”

    Sez Wally. Vice Prez. Biden. Worked, though, didn’ it?

    Bad Muslim dead!!!

    Must be something in it. Hand me the beads! Look out Dawkins!


  12. Wall Eyed Mr Whippy says:

    Om, your double entendre is quite luverrly.

    And I am mostly not right, but probably unintentionally difficult.
    I want to be forgiven.
    Till the next time.
    De profundis.

    Is Toad gunning for ole’ Dickie Dawkins? I ‘ope not; Dickie is a geezer oo’ could ‘ave taken on ‘Enery Cooper in ‘is doy. Wiff words Oi mean. But wiff ‘Enery, oo’ couldn’t? But Oi just call ‘im Sir. ‘Cos ‘e’d panch moi loyts aat.

    SWALK ….WallsEnd


  13. Wall Eyed Mr Whippy says:

    Joyful Papist, may I offer another perspective on your name?

    We have different experiences of the Faith.

    My goodness, about half a century ago, I was often referred to as a “Papish c***” on my way home from school,(St Patrick’s High School) by the robust, numerous and cheery lads from a nearby Protestant school. They bounced rocks off my head – and to this very day I can remember the onomatopoeiac THWOCK-KNOCK as my poor young head received ‘incoming’.

    You see, I was Papish, rather than Papist.

    I would mutter, sotto voce, our school refrain, “Proddy dogs, eat the frogs, two for tuppence ha’ppeny”. It didn’t really help. My dear mother, from Cork as it happens, and who never used bad language except here, once taught me a little song:

    “King Billy slew the Papish crew
    At the Battle o’ Benwatter,
    and a pail o’ sh***
    came ower the dyke
    and hit King Billy on the napper.

    There is a misrhyme, but well! She also shared a cultural practice with me; which was that each 12th July, when the Orangemen marched through our town, they passed Our Holy Redeemer’s Church, and the drummers beat their brutal war drums even louder. So each year, some staunch young Catholic men came forward and volunteered to kick in the big bass drums. Bail money had been prepared; and indeed they were bailed. (a bit Biblical, that register!)

    And more – naive as I was when looking for a job at 15 (a while back!) I foolishly filled out the form at a local printing company which asked, “Which school did you attend?”. I answered truthfully, not yet knowing the ways of the world. Of course – no job. I remained a “Papish” person.

    This, I admit was in a chronically religiously backward part of Europe, stressed as it was/is between Calvinism and Catholicism: of course I have moved away, I “have flown by those nets” as Jimmy Joyce said of Stephen Hero. But my poor old head took the brunt. Now I am half bald, though strangely attractive, and so you see I bear the scars even today.

    I am sorry about this lengthy account of differences of experience, based on two phonemes, i.e., ist and ish. I have wanted to let all this out for a while. Sorry to dump it on you, who mean no harm. I am not a Northern Ireland person, incidentally.

    This is a learned and erudite site and I thought it might be useful to speak of the Faith as experienced in a kind of British Beirut, through the skin, tho’ I do exaggerate here. It’s a small contrast to the (sometimes) arid intellectualism here. I mean that kindly I must say. I abhor all the ugliness I have recounted.


  14. toadspittle says:

    Fear not W.E. Mr.W.

    Toad guns for nobody, not Cath nor Athe nor Agno.

    Bit sceptical about most anything positive, though.

    Dickens would have been amazed at your grasp of the argot of the vulgar. And bewildered.
    And appalled.


  15. omvendt says:

    “This is a learned and erudite site and I thought it might be useful to speak of the Faith as experienced in a kind of British Beirut … ”

    That’s got to be Glasgow. 😉


  16. Wall Eyed Mr Whippy says:

    Toad, I am vulgar, I am a low class oik.


  17. Wall Eyed Mr Whippy says:

    Om – Glasgow? with the accent which posh Toad takes me to task on? Preps again! sorry.


  18. Wall Eyed Mr Whippy says:

    With my occasional taste for irony, I don’t expect belief. But here goes – you are lovely chaps.If indeed you are chaps. How can i know?

    Will Eyed Mr Whoppy.


  19. joyfulpapist says:

    Wall Eyed Mr Whippy, my choice of the term ‘Papist’ is based on growing up on the other side of the kind of prejudice you mention. I don’t recall seeing any actual physical attacks, but I am certainly familiar with the rhymes. I grew up knowing that Catholics were ‘not our kind of people’, and were superstitious and probably damned. I call myself a Papist in defiance of that mindset.

    Regarding your comment: “it was the OP who suggested that the British Isles were a land of ignorance till said Augustine landed”. No. He didn’t. Read it again, and you’ll see that he didn’t comment at all on what the land was like before Augustine landed.


  20. Wall Eyed Mr Whippy says:

    Thanks Joyful

    Of course I was a little tired and emotional when I commented on Papism etc. Pay no heed.

    However I don’t read that Augustine part as you do.

    Nor do I agree with the OP when he wrote that Communism “was brought down by a Pope”. I’m afraid not, and nor was it downed by that amoral pair, Regan and Thatcher. All of that is wishful thinking by the OP.

    Eye Wall.


  21. kathleen says:

    “Nor do I agree with the OP when he wrote that Communism “was brought down by a Pope”.”

    Well Mr Whippy, your opinion clashes with the majority of mankind it seems. Including that of the KGB who were apparently behind the attempt on his life on 13th May 1981.
    I grant you that there were obviously other factors too – there always are – but it would never have happened so suddenly and so dramatically if it had not been for the influence of Blessed Pope John Paul II.


  22. Wall Eyed Mr Whippy says:

    Well Kathleen, I always hope to avoid thoughtlessly following the herd – we know about that at Golgotha. And even if the KGB were behind an attempt on the Pope’s life, that still doesn’t make any Pope the factor or a factor in the fall of communism. As I said, wishful thinking; or emotion over reason, fantasy over fact. Malheureusement.

    It may be comforting to believe that Pope brought down communism, but it is not the case. If it were so, then the Pope forgot about China, and Fidel with his cigars and beard intact. By what means was the Soviet Union toppled by the Pope? Pray tell.

    Referring to another issue, Bill Clinton has it succinctly, saying, “It’s the economy, stupid”.

    In a recent post, Mr Toad has also indicated that he thinks for himself. Difficult chap. He poses the question, “How do you know that?”. If you ask this of me on this topic, I say, “History, dear girl, history.”

    And you?



  23. kathleen says:

    Hate to tell you Mr Whippy, but you are doing just that (in this case at least) eh, “following the herd”. You are giving the opinion of most of the secular media who could not bear to admit that a Pope of any nationality – but especially one from such a ‘horribly’ Catholic place as Poland – could have been the catalyst in bringing down the communist giant.
    (He did have an influence on Cuba too after his visit there, but Castro’s hold on Cuba was/is very strong. China? A lot goes on there underground, of which we have little info.)
    But yes, you’re right of course, opening the market, or as Bill Clinton says, ‘the economy’, was certainly another important factor in toppling communism. I did mention above that there were other reasons.
    Perhaps you’re a bit older than me, and perhaps (who knows?) you know your ‘history’ better, but I’m not totally ignorant as you seem to want to make out. Anyway, certainly Richard Kornicki, whose statement it was in the first place, is a very knowledgeable man.

    Let’s just smoke the peace pipe and agree to disagree, OK? 😉


  24. Wall Eyed Mr Whippy says:

    My dear Kath,

    I will happily share a peacepipe with you, even tho’ we are not at war!

    May I say that you don’t have to be as old as the history one discusses to know anything about it? I like mediaeval history, but, you cheeky thing, you don’t suggest I am as old as that? !

    Kath, please know that discussion, sharing of views and disagreement is not at all a naughty thing – it’s what makes the world go round… And Richard K is surely a knowledgeable man, but that doesn’t make him right.

    Yet I do note that you won’t quite tell me how the Pope pulled off the fall of the Soviet Union. Until you do, let’s have a cream tea together..


  25. Mimi says:

    Dear Mr Whippy, as a Fenian b****** from Norn Iron, I thoroughly enjoyed your post of 29 July at 21.16. Ah, the good old days! 🙂 I’d love to have seen those staunch lads kicking in the lambegs!

    Did your mother teach you this one?

    “Up the long ladder and down the short rope,
    To Hell with King Billy and God bless the Pope!
    If that doesn’t do, we’ll cut him in two
    And send him to Hell in his red, white and blue!”

    Oh dear, apologies to everyone for my recidivism. It’s just that the marching season is almost upon us and one discovers that one’s old resentments are really not very far from the surface.


  26. joyfulpapist says:

    Five minutes ago, I heard shouting from the street outside, and someone said it was the Orange Day march. I felt something of a frisson – until they explained that it is the day that our primary schools celebrate those who volunteer their time to manage traffic outside the schools – dozens of small children wearing orange day-glo safety aprons with orange safety cones on their heads.
    Long live new meanings for old colours!


  27. joyfulpapist says:

    (It is 10.30am in my part of the world.)


  28. Wall Eyed Mr Whippy says:

    Thank you Mimi

    Have you noticed how Catholics are always ‘staunch’? I know the song you quote, but learned in the playground. Don’t let those lumpen proletariat trouble you on the 12th.

    Joyful suggests a way to laugh at all this! Cones rather than bowler hats too. If the cap fits…..


  29. kathleen says:

    Mr Whippy, I didn’t mean to refer that you were as old as all that! You were talking to me as though I were an overgrown schoolgirl….. so yes, I’m sorry, I responded by being a bit cheeky :-). Am I forgiven?

    Mmmmm, I won’t say no to a cream tea! However I’d better forfeit it for the info you deny and that you ask me for…….

    Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev once said the collapse of the Iron Curtain would have been impossible without John Paul II. There are loads of well analyzed reports on how he brought down communism – or, as I said earlier, in his being the main catalyst of its fall – and so I’ll give you a few references for you to read for yourself.
    Btw, I’ve chosen a variety of sources, so that you won’t accuse me of being biased:


  30. toadspittle says:

    “Have you noticed how Catholics are always ‘staunch’?”

    Queries the Whipster.

    Interesting. Toad has long been amused at how ‘Roman’ Catholics are always, “devout.”

    And what were once known as “Red Indians” are always “full-blooded.”

    And Muslims are always “fanatical.” (As are Atheists, these days.)

    Oh, for a full-blooded, fanatical Catholic!” Step forward Kathleen!


  31. Wall Eyed Mr Whippy says:


    My wall eyes straightened when you said that my “views did not agree with most of mankind”. Even if that were true, I’d still say what said. And spookily enough, I was watching RT (Russia Today) on the ould telly today and a Russian bloke with a pointy head said that it was Gorby’s attempt at democratisation and the resistance of the military/industrial complex to that which queered the pitch for those pesky Reds. No mention of the Pope, and a different view from mine. Same mil/ind complex in the US strangely enough – too much military and too little democracy.

    Never mind the links – you teasingly won’t tell me what the Pope did to pull the rug from the Red Menace.

    I may see you as a cheeky young schoolgirl, but that is because I was a bit frisky and you are in the full bloom of youth. I like cheeky girls actually. We can use the cream tea to good effect.

    However, like the cheeky girl you are, you build me up and then – you slap me down by referring to the info I “deny”. OK, show me the instruments……. you are indeed a staunch and devout Catholic; I quail before your indefatigability.

    But not so fast! You see above that Toad remains defiant “in thought, word and deed” * – give him the works….I told you all – it’s like herding cats with him. Toad, who likes language might consider that other memorable but merciless phrase “government of the tongue”. And there’s more!

    * you remember the relentless phrasing in the catechism. He’s boxed in!

    Will Eyed Whopper


  32. toadspittle says:

    Check out the latest Joyful post, Mr. W., re “devout”. Toad rests his case.

    “Most of mankind” is wrong, most of the time. Thinks Toad. Which is just as well for Catholics, as they seem to comprise no more than 20 per cent of mankind, at best. As far as he can figure it.


  33. toadspittle says:

    Check out the latest Joyful post, Mr. W., re “devout”. Toad rests his case.

    “Most of mankind” is wrong, most of the time. Thinks Toad. Which is just as well for Catholics, as they seem to comprise no more than 20 per cent of mankind, at best, these days. As far as he can figure it.


  34. Wall Eyed Mr Whippy says:



  35. Wall Eyed Mr Whippy says:

    Communities are “close knit”.
    Knife wielding teenagers who come to grief are always “popular pupils who had a whole life and career ahead of them.”


  36. joyfulpapist says:

    de·vout (d-vout)
    adj. de·vout·er, de·vout·est
    1. Devoted to religion or to the fulfillment of religious obligations.
    2. Displaying reverence or piety.
    3. Sincere; earnest

    Some Catholics are devout, as are some Jews, Muslims, Hindis, Wiccans. Some are not. So?


  37. Wall Eyed Mr Whippy says:

    Thank you Joyful.

    Tho’ I would never use that adjective you offer, and say that someone is, “devouter” than most.

    PS., the employment of the phonetic alphabet would be in order above, to avoid confusion.



  38. toadspittle says:

    “Some Catholics are devout, as are some Jews, Muslims, Hindis, Wiccans. Some are not. So?”

    Queries Joyful.

    Well, Toad’s very point is that one NEVER hears of anyone being described as a devout Hindu, or Jew, or Muslim, or Quivering Brethren, etc.
    Only devout Catholics.
    Mr. Whiplash agrees, (Toad is reasonably sure) so it must be true.


  39. kathleen says:

    Says Toad:
    “Oh, for a full-blooded, fanatical Catholic! Step forward Kathleen!”

    Well dear Toad, I hate to tell you: though it may be true that your Kathleen loves her God, her Church and her Faith with all her heart, she is also (no false humility here) a great sinner 👿 !
    It is only through God’s infinite mercy and goodness I have hope in forgiveness for my sins and one day to reach Heaven.
    Don’t we all?


  40. kathleen says:

    OK Mr Whippy, let’s forget the links and just put it in a few simple words.

    Blessed Pope John Paul II changed hearts. He inspired the millions of despondent, unhappy, faith-starved souls behind the Iron Curtain to see that there was a way out. He showed them the face of a living and loving Christ, Son of God. “Be not afraid!” He gave them courage and hope and renewed vigour to demand release from the chains of atheistic communism.
    And quite simply, the hardened communist leaders (M. Gorbachev was not one), just could not cope with holding back the overwhelming tide of pressure from the people to open the floodgates to freedom.


  41. Wall Eyed Mr Whippy says:

    What? That I should agree with Mr Toad in Norvern Spine, probably dressed as a matador in an illjudged tight fitting costume and resembling nothing less than an Iberian Pearly King? The only thing keeping him on the straight and narrow is his little pulpitless church. And it’s as well there’s no pulpit, for he’d only argue.

    Well Ok I do agree with him, but it won’t happen again.

    I repeat, Herr Toad – Government of the Tongue and Custody of the Eyes would be of enormous benefit to you, sir.

    Kathleen is doubtless a great sinner, but Senor Toad’s appalling situation makes us all feel squeaky clean. And, if I may say so, holier than thou.


  42. Wall Eyed Mr Whippy says:

    Kath, I at least know your thinking on this, and I thank you for that.
    I regret to confirm however, that the Pope had no influence whatsoever on the events in the Soviet Union . There is no evidence for that at all.

    The Pope was close to Lech Walesa in Poland, and gave support there. But even in Poland, the Pontiff was not a factor or a catalyst in Poland breaking free. This was because it was a popular movement of mainly shipyard workers, the salt of the earth as I see them.

    Stalin, odious as he was, spoke as a politician and a military general when he asked how many divisions does the Pope have? Meaning the Pope had no temporal power sufficient to affect the might of the Soviet Union. And it is unproductive to read history backwards: as my old history tutor would say, “Futile”. So the previous reference to Stalin here was inapplicable.

    And consider this; if the Pope had such mighty powers, I can think of a depressing number of situations where he could intervene. Yet I wait, and wait….

    I am a simple man; I only ask for evidence of something and then I am content.

    Kath, I recently read of Louis Pasteur who was so often right, that he drove his opponents into a fury. I feel somehow on his side.

    Pax vobiscum


  43. toadspittle says:

    Joyful. Pedantry personified. And we love it. Well Toad does. Mostly.


  44. manus says:

    Or perhaps, my dear Toad, we’ve reached the stage where, via Google, the unwashed masses are presently intoxicated with the opportunity of checking their facts, while those in the media (or perhaps recently retired) are merely vexed with the ennui of such vulgarity. Who needs facts when one has such enlightened opinions? Who indeed? Well Toad doesn’t. Mostly.


  45. toadspittle says:

    Manus, how dare you refer to Joyful, albeit slyly, as one of the ‘unwashed masses’? Toad is shocked! Shocked!
    We must be charitable and put it down to jetlag. Or Korean meatballs.


  46. manus2 says:

    … Or watching truly surreal videos (brough to my attention by my teenage son …)

    Now, who fancies eating some meatballs after watching that?!


  47. Wall Eyed Mr Whippy says:

    Is Manus2 some kind of alias or sockpuppet, as our friends from the Americas alarmingly say?

    I think we should be told.

    I think.

    Pie Eyed Mr Whoopee


  48. manus says:

    Nah, just technically inept. If I show signs of turning into Rebrites, then I’d start to worry.


  49. Wall Eyed Mr Whippy says:

    I’ve seen this Rebrites name before – is it some kind of household cleaning product I ask? Is there some sponsorship funding involved?

    If I am mistaken I will rightly be taken to task, so I apologise in advance.


  50. manus says:

    Good luck with that one, pal.


  51. Frere Rabit says:

    Thanks for the cows, Manus2. That is going straight on my donkey blog! My donks do weird things, but not quite as weird as cows it seems….


  52. Wall Eyed Mr Whippy says:

    Thank you Manus – you speak as if to a man passing in the tumbril. I meant and mean no harm, but perhaps my Scouse humour is not always understood. If I have offended, I will say what I can to apologise.


  53. omvendt says:

    ” … but perhaps my Scouse humour is not always understood.”

    When you mentioned Orange Walks I knew it had to be Glasgow or Liverpool.

    The Orange marchers really like to provoke Catholics, eh?

    Or as they say from your place, “Dey doo doh,,don’t dey?” 🙂


  54. manus says:

    Mr Whotnot,

    Our beloved Toad has never been a fan of chivalry – we know well that Joan of Arc stirs him not a jot. It remains to be seen whether he will rise to the defence of his own good lady. But I should warn you, nostrils may flare, and muesli might stream verily like fireworks on the Fourth of July. Which it is. I’d keep a bucket of water handy just in case.


  55. Wall Eyed Mr Whippy says:

    Yes Om , we have our British Beiruts. Tho’ I found parts of London (tho’ without the same bigotry) to be far more menacing than Liverpool, Glasgow or wherever. And despite the ugliness of the Orange element in NI, I was received there with more kindness and generosity than anywhere in the British Isles. Lovely people in that context.
    I must say tho’ that the Cathos never retaliate in such a gross fashion as the Prods and their marches.

    Manuel, I was unaware of the extent of the connection between Toad and ‘his good lady’. Even then, my jest was a jest. I may tickle, I may tease, but nothing, I hope, offensive. If I am covered in toadspittle, then I will say “it’s a fair cop guv’nor”. Such is the fate of those in the tumbril.

    Whipless in Gaza.


  56. manus says:

    Witless: the denouement will be a wonder to behold. (Now don’t let us down, Toad!)

    Frere Rabit – you are most welcome, sir.


  57. toadspittle says:

    Whenever someone says, “Now don’t let us down, Toad”
    Toad’s instinctive reaction is to let them down.


  58. manus says:

    Oh the dreary predictability of the contrarian!

    Whippy – put not your trust in Toads, neither.


  59. rebrites says:

    it is a wise amphibian that hops away from cheap taunts. Toad learned that back when the others called him “frog spawn.”

    As for his “own good lady,” I can tell you true: That´s no lady. That´s me!


  60. Wall Eyed Mr Whippy says:

    Manuel: you referred with glee to the denouement: but seems that you were in a lynch mob of one. You turned up at Tyburn with your flask, sandwiches and copy of ‘The Sun’ but there was no-one there. Case dismissed: what a bummer.

    I think of the French bloke Joseph Ignace Guillotin who having invented the instrument, met a sticky end in his own invention – allegedly. Yes! – oh yes! your hand reaches to your neck to rub a little, as well it might. Ask not for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee.

    You can learn a little poise and cool from Rebrites above: never call her a “good lady” – that’ll larn yer! If I may paraphrase Mae West, ” A good woman is hard to find”. But you can feebly respond to her by squeaking, “I may be free but I’m not cheap” as Frank Zappa said to the hippies.

    You knew your cunning agent provocateur game was up when you said in a policy switch, faster than a politician trousering a bribe, “Wallfish, put not your trust in amphibians”.

    Sooner an amphibian than a strummer, Manuel.

    Eye wall if you wall so wall eye


  61. manus says:

    Hi Rebrites,

    Each to her own, of course. Lady or “household cleaning product”, who can guess which might cause greater offence? I apologise. Your ability to defend yourself was never in doubt, merely the frequency of your visits.

    Wally, you are a fickle chap. Throughout recent exchanges, an enthusiasm for finding a proper place for the guitar in the liturgy has been one thing shared between Toad, Rebrites and me.

    Nevertheless, and with due deference to Church teachings on such matters, I am on balance pleased that you have been spared an ordeal by museli.


  62. manus says:

    Yes museli – with extra shellfish.


  63. Wall Eyed Mr Whippy says:

    Fickle? Mandrake, please. A moment’s re-reading would confirm that I am against strumming in the liturgy, not guitar playing. I lurv classical guitar and indeed rock, jazz and blues on this instrument.

    The word “Lady” in its plural form is found above public conveniences. That’s why Ms Rebrites says “that’s no lady”. If it were I, a household cleaning product and its associations with cleanliness and sparkle would please me, rather than being referred to as a toilet. In fact, if you had the luck to be near me, you would often hear me rail against the phrase “Ladies and Gentlemen”. It is indeed a phrase for toffs and toilets.

    De Profundis
    Wall Mart


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