Character Building or Corruption?

Blogged by James Preece 3 Days ago...

Many times in the past I have argued against some dubious sex education or similar attack my children's innocence. Inevitably, somebody will tell me that "you can't shelter them forever" and I will think to myself "well duh, but I still don't want them watching porn in schools"

That said, I'm becoming increasingly aware "shelter them forever" parenting is quite easy to do almost by accident. It's easy as parents to provide safe, clean, wholesome, pre-school fun indefinitely. We feel like we're doing the right thing because we're preventing all the bad things we can and eventually when our children do see or hear something it certainly won't have come from us. We feel like good parents.

But are we?

Well, it's one thing to "not grow up too quickly" but quite another to be seven years old and still watching cartoons aimed at three year olds. Perhaps this is a sweeping generalisation, but many times I think the kids with caring responsible parents are also the kids most likely to be babyish. The child who never does anything wrong because they are afraid or unimaginative is not being good, they are being afraid and unimaginative. Well done you. You're really going to change the world.

The other problem with this approach is that it puts the outside world firmly in the driving seat. The little darlings return home one day with awkward questions about something they saw somewhere and we're left playing catch-up. I don't like playing catch up, catch up means you're behind.  

Obviously it's incumbent on us as parents to protect our children's innocence, but I'm beginning to think it may also be incumbent to do a bit of de-sheltering now and then. To make our kids "not grow up too slowly" so that when they do see or hear something they shouldn't, it's in the safety of their own home.

So.. that's how we found ourselves sat up the other night watching a movie with our eldest. We've decided to invite her in to the world of the grown ups once a week to watch, not a kiddy movie for kiddies - but a grown up one with violence and death.

Yes, we kicked things off with Jason and the Argonauts.

I know, I know, some of you are thinking that's a kids film, but it's plenty adult enough for now - the scene where King Pelias kills Aristo's daughter with a sword is pretty horrific to a seven year old who isn't used to seeing on screen death yet.

Which raises the question.. is this helping our child to grow up at a steady healthy pace? or are we desensitising her to violence? Is it a good thing to ever "get used to" on screen deaths?

I suppose I'll let you know when I figure it out...

Joining the Latin Mass Society

Blogged by James Preece 2 Weeks ago...

Once upon a time some wonderful Protestant Evangelical Christians helped me to discover that Jesus Christ is real and that a genuine relationship with Him is possible. Gradually I realised that while Evangelical Protestantism was great, it had it's limits and I could only really have a relationship with Christ through his Church.

It's been a long process, but something similar is happening with the American Apologetics style "neo-con" Catholicism that helped me out of Evangelicalism and back to Mass.  It's great, I love it, but it's got it's limits and I am gradually coming to the realisation that there are certain conversations it cannot have, certain issues it cannot handle.

Surprisingly, it is the traditionalists who have most consistently had something interesting and (dare I say) relevant to say about real life as it happens. They are the only people I know who are not tied down to some particular point in time but are in fact capable of looking back over the entire history of the Church and discovering themselves among friends.

Today is a special day. We have joined the Latin Mass Society.

We are proper bona fide card carrying nutters now :)

Not Simply Sinful

Blogged by James Preece 2 Weeks ago...

So I'm reading Fr Alexander Lucie-Smith in the Catholic Herald and he's telling me that Voyeurs looking at leaked celebrity photos are not simply sinful and I'm thinking.. er... When is anything "simply" sinful?

There are two ways in which Fr Lucie-Smith suggests Voyeurism goes beyond "simply sinful". The first is in the harm it does to it's victims, the second is that "Voyeurs are not simply sinful, they are mentally ill".

I don't want to have a pop at Fr Lucie-Smith here and I don't want to make this a blog post about Voyeurism (not least because I can scarecely spell it). I do want to point out the subtle unspoken assumption here that I hear from Catholics all over the place all of the time and it needs calling out because it is wrong wrong wrong.

We like to put our own sins in the friendly "simply sinful" box and the really serious sins in the "beyond sinful" box. We like to warn of the dangers of certain sins - but it doesn't work that way. 

Nothing is "simply" sinful. Sin always does harm and Sin is always a kind of illness.

Church teaching doesn't divide sins in to harmless ones and nasty ones like some kind of harmful drugs classification. They are all harmful. There is a difference between mortal sin and venial sin but the difference is clearly not that venial sin is "simply sin" and does no harm and is not a kind of sickness.

To quote GK Chesterton - "Men do not differ much about what things they will call evils; they differ enormously about what evils they will call excusable."

Or to put it another way... about which sins they will call "simply" sinful.

Confirmation Programme: Transformed in Christ

Blogged by James Preece 1 Month ago...


Transformed in Christ blog has, er, transformed.. in to Transformed in Christ Confirmation Programme. I haven't seen the full programme, but the samples look good and I'm sure it's excellent because Hannah who runs it is a very good thing.

If you are looking for a confirmation programme, I reckon you just found it.

There and Back Again: A Blogger's Tale

Blogged by James Preece 1 Month ago...

In one of his books, GK Chesterton describes a man who goes adventuring around the world. Thinking himself far from home, discovers a strange new island, only to discover that the island is England and he has gone all the way around the world and returned home. JRR Tolkien tells a more geographically precise tale about a hobbit who reaches the mountain and then returns home - but he does not return the same hobbit he was when he left.

I think blogging has given me a taste of both kinds of journey and while I've written about how blogging has changed, I haven't often thought about how blogging has changed me.

First it was about ideas - not high brow intellectual philosophy you understand, but students in pubs. I had ideas, my friends had ideas. People who were not my friends had ideas. Blogging was a way to explore those ideas "out loud" and figure out what I thought of the world. It was very much about me - what am I going to think.

As my ideas settled down, I decided to go on an adventure - which is to say I decided to followed a Wizard and joined his party of dwarves. To my horror, I discovered that the dwarves were a mess. Half of them didn't believe in dragons and many had no interest in going to the mountain or retreiving the gold. How do you go on an adventure when your fellow dwarves are so muddled? How do you evangelise the world when many of your fellow Catholics are so muddled?

Well, I'm not Gandalf and I wasn't even wise enough to recognise that Theoden was sick. I was all about ideas so I set about trying to convince my fellow Catholics that their ideas were wrong. That sounds awfully big headed, but I wasn't arguing for my ideas - I was trying to convince Catholics to accept what their own Church said.

Then I began my voyage around the world.  I had realised that the wrong ideas didn't come from ordinary people in the pews - they were being fed from above. So I started to argue with the priests. The priests were obstinate so I started to argue with the Bishops..

Halfway around the world there is a line called the International Date Line. When you cross it you are no longer sailing away from London, you are sailing back again.  I crossed a similar line but I did not know it when I realised that many of the Bishops were not simply muddled about ideas. They were reckless, dishonest, lying, cheating, men who were not mistaken or naive or failing to understand the problems - they were doing it on purpose.  I was pretty angry about it.

Before I crossed that line, I knew sin existed - but somehow I had put it in a different box. I understood that in the "everyday behaviour" box people (myself included) often choose to do the wrong thing, somehow I had naively assumed that in the "getting ideas right" box everybody agreed that truth was better than lies, good better than evil etc. Hence my youthful optimism that with the right arguments I could simply explain to the Bishops how their ideas were wrong and everything would be okay.

So I continued my voyage, not yet realising that I was over halfway around the globe and heading home. I stopped fighting ideas (or at least, I dialled it back a bit) and started fighting sin and corruption.  Some of you may have read this book so you already know the spoiler - sin and corruption are everywhere.

Having worked my way up the heirachy in my fight about ideas, I now worked back down it in my fight about sin.  As I pointed out the sins of Bishops, I discovered local clergy willing to lie to cover them up - I found local congregations willing to lie to protect their priests.  I continued my journey in to wilder and wilder lands as I discovered myself in a place where all around me even ordinary innocent people were sick with this strange disease called sin.

Eventually I sailed up to that beach, that island all the way around the world. I discovered a strange man with a soul half black and half white. His ideas were good but he would lie to himself and ignore them, his behaviour was appalling but people thought him good because he behaved well when they were watching.

A great battle raged in this man's heart, and corruption just as messy as any I had seen on my travels. He carried the diseases that I had seen and while not directly responsible for all of the infection, he had certainly done his own fair share of the harm.

I had found myself.

It's probably just a phase..

Blogged by James Preece 1 Month ago...

One of the problems with not blogging often, is that when one does blog, one tends to blog about not blogging often. How busy I've been, what I've been up to, the way blogging doesn't seem to fit in to the day anymore.

I followed the Where have all the bloggers gone? discussion and I find myself thinking similar thoughts to The Sensible Bond..

To a large extent it is because I am now the father of three small children, and frankly, blogs just don't count. By the time I have done my duty to children, wife, God and employer, I don't have much left in the tank for readers.


It's not so much the Pope Francis effect as the Paul VI, John Paul II, Humanae Vitae, Theology of the Body effect. I'm busy being a father.

My blogging has gone through different 'phases' anyway. When I first started out almost twelve years ago it was an outlet for my thoughts as I journeyed from mostly lapsed cradle Catholic via a brief foray in to Evangelical Protestantism in to a more American Apologetics type understanding of the faith.. In hindsight, I was turning in to what traditionalists would call a neo-con and more recently I've been turning in to what a neo-con would call a traditionalist. I'm not so sure I'm very close to what a traditionalist would call a traditionalist.

It was an outlet for thoughts, a sounding board for muddling things through out loud and it was helpful because when I thought stupid things people said so.

Then, as the world at large (e.g. grownups) discovered the internet blogging changed and I entered what you might call the campaigning phase. It wasn't just about exploring my thoughts - it was about trying to make the world better by pointing out the problems.  I think it made a difference - sometimes. When people pay soliciors to write threatening letters... something is happening.  The down side was having to be careful what I said - the whole "thinking out loud" thing goes out of the window when people are talking to libel lawyers. It all got very complicated.

I'm far to busy for all that now.  I don't have the time.  The kids come first.

So my blogging has entered a sort of "occasionally comment on the news" phase where it just sort of edit and repost of things I read on other blogs. Maybe I am providing a service but it's dull and I don't enjoy it so I'm even less inclined to get around to doing it.

So bear with me. I'm going through another phase, it's the hardly ever blog because I'm far too busy with real life phase.  Then again, I woke up this morning and I just "felt like blogging" so.. you never know.

Pope Francis: The devil hates families...

Blogged by James Preece 3 Months ago...

The devil hates families and tries to destroy them, Pope Francis told a gathering of Charismatic Catholics in Rome on Sunday. “Families are the domestic Church where Jesus grows in the love of a married couple, in the lives of their children," the Pope said. "This is why the devil attacks the family so much.”

The Pope prayed that God protect families.


"Families are the home Church where Jesus grows," Francis said. "He grows in the spouses' love and in the children's lives. For this reason, the enemy attacks the family so much. The devil does not want it. He tries to destroy it, to prevent love from becoming free.... But married people are sinners like everyone else; they do not want to go in faith, in its fertility, in children and the faith of their children. May the Lord bless the family, and make it strong in the face of the crisis by which the devil wants to destroy it."


Pray for families.

Only Bigots value Motherhood?

Blogged by James Preece 3 Months ago...

I am told that the financial crisis could have been averted if there were more women in boardrooms..

Research suggests that businesswomen are more wary of risk than men and that companies with women at the top are more successful and in tune with their customers because their boards have a wider range of views.


I am also told that the sex abuse crisis in the Church could have been averted if there were more women in the Vatican.

a greater presence of women in the Vatican could have prevented clerical sexual abuse from taking place.


"Women, in fact, both religious and lay, by nature would have been more likely to defend young people in cases of sexual abuse, allowing the church to avoid the grave damage brought by these sinful acts."


I am even told that "Mothers Matter More"...

For too long we have been trying to obscure differences, to say we are all the same, and therefore as parents men and women are equal.


It is indisputable that the bond between a child and its mother is different from that between a father and a child.


The relationship is unique and incapable of substitution. We tamper with it at our peril, and at the greater peril of our children.


In short: Women are a good thing.

The above links are all from The Guardian newspaper, it's a lefty newspaper amd they would probably describe the above exaltations of Women as feminist and progressive.

Catholics would call it an acknowledgement of the complementarity of the sexes. The Church teaches that men and women are different and that our physical and spiritual differences are mutually supportive. Men need women and women need men. The two are not interchangeable.

Women's role is vital, irreplacable, incapable of substitution. Even The Guardian thinks so.

So riddle me this one..

Why is it that when Slovakian parents request that their children be adopted in to a family with a woman for a mother, those Slovakian parents were branded "bigoted"?

Why is it that companies need women, the Church needs women and even children need women.. except when they don't?