Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Meriam Ibrahim, Pregnant Christian Woman Sentenced to Death, Gives Birth to Baby Girl


Meriam Ibrahim, the pregnant Christian woman to death for refusing to accept Islam, has given birth to a baby girl.
The mother sentenced to death in Sudan for her Christian faith gave birth to a baby girl in prison today, the Daily Mail reported in an exclusive. Meriam , who has spent four months shackled to the floor of a cell, delivered the baby five days early in the hospital wing at Omdurman Federal Women’s Prison in North Khartoum.
“This is some good news in what has been a terrible ordeal for Meriam,” lawyer Mohaned Mustafa Elnour told the newspaper. “I am planning to visit her with her husband Daniel later today. I think they are going to call the baby Maya.”
“They didn’t even take Meriam to a hospital – she just delivered inside a prison clinic,” the lawyer told The Telegraph. “Neither her husband nor I have been allowed to see them yet.”
In a heart-wrenching conversation with her husband during a rare prison visit, Meriam told him: ‘If they want to execute me then they should go ahead and do it because I’m not going to change my faith.’
She told him: ‘I refuse to change. I am not giving up Christianity just so that I can live.
‘I know I could stay alive by becoming a Muslim and I would be able to look after our family, but I need to be true to myself.’
An Islamic court sentenced Meriam, 27, to be flogged for adultery for marrying a Christian man and to be hanged to death for refusing to renounce her Christian faith.  Meriam was eight-months pregnant with her second child at the time of the sentencing, has been imprisoned along with her 20-month old toddler since February.
Meriam is married to Daniel Wani, an American citizen who has ties to New Hampshire. Meriam was reportedly born to a Sudanese Muslim father and was raised as a Christian by her Ethiopian Orthodox mother.
For three months she has been shackled in a Sudanese prison on death row. Authorities, who refuse to recognize her marriage to a Christian man, have sentenced her to 100 lashes for adultery and execution for her faith.
Her frantic husband, who continues to plead with the U.S. Embassy for help, flew from New England to Khartoum to visit his wife, Meriam Ibrahim — and was beside himself to find her bound up and swollen. For now, authorities refuse to release his son to Daniel, because of his faith. Although the court gave Meriam days to recant her Christianity, she refused, saying, “I am a Christian, and I will remain a Christian.
Now, as the London Guardian newspaper reports, Sudan is facing heavy international criticism.
Governments, the UN and human rights groups have called on the Sudanese government to immediately release Meriam Yahya Ibrahim, 27, and overturn both her death sentence and sentence of 100 lashes. More than 100,000 people have backed a call by Amnesty International to release Ibrahim.
Her lawyers have lodged an appeal against the sentence, which may be heard in Khartoum this week.
Ibrahim has been told that her execution will be deferred for two years to allow her to deliver and then wean her baby.
Her husband, Daniel Wani, who left Sudan for the US in 1998, has travelled to Khartoum to try to secure the release of his wife and son. He said Ibrahim was being denied medical treatment and he had not been allowed to visit her or Martin, according to media reports.
The Sudanese authorities have reportedly refused to release the child to his father’s care because of his Christian faith.
The UK government has summoned Sudan’s chargé d’affaires in London to the Foreign Office to hear its “deep concern”.
In a statement, Foreign Office minister Mark Simmonds said: “This barbaric sentence highlights the stark divide between the practices of the Sudanese courts and the country’s international human rights obligations.” The Sudanese government must respect the right to freedom of religion or belief, he added.
US senators Kelly Ayotte and Roy Blunt have raised the case with the secretary of state, John Kerry, calling for “immediate action and full diplomatic engagement to offer Meriam political asylum and secure her and her son’s safe release”.
The department’s spokeswoman,, Jen Psaki, said on Wednesday the US was “deeply disturbed” by the case and called on Khartoum to respect the right to freedom ofreligion. The Canadian and Dutch governments have also expressed concern.
The UN has also urged Sudan to adhere to international law. “We are concerned about the physical and mental wellbeing of Ms Ibrahim, who is in her eighth month of pregnancy, and also of her 20-month-old son, who is detained with her at the Omdurman women’s prison near Khartoum, reportedly in harsh conditions,” said Rupert Colville of the UN Human Rights Office in Geneva.
Gabriel Wani, Daniel’s brother, who also lives in Manchester, New Hampshire, said Ibrahim was in poor physical shape. “Meriam is in a bad condition, she is eight months pregnant. She needs proper medical attention and she needs medical supplies. She’s bleeding and nothing is being done,” he told the Daily Mail.
“She needs to eat well but she is just getting the prison food. When she had her first son it was a very difficult birth, she lost a lot of blood. She is supposed to have check ups with the doctor but it isn’t happening. We are praying for a miracle.”

Sunday, May 25, 2014

How a Protestant spin machine hid the truth about the English Reformation


Today, May 23, is the anniversary of King Henry VIII’s divorce from Catherine of Aragon —­ the event which started the English Reformation.
In 2003, Charles Clarke, Tony Blair’s Secretary of State for Education and Skills, expressed strong views on the teaching of British history.
I don’t mind there being some medievalists around for ornamental purposes, but there is no reason for the state to pay for them.
In response, Michael Biddiss, professor of medieval history at Reading University, suggested that Mr Clarke’s view may have been informed by Khrushchev’s notion that historians are dangerous people, capable of upsetting everything.­­­­­
In many ways, Khrushchev was correct. Historians can be a distinct threat —­ both those who create “official” history, and those who work quietly to unpick it, filling in the irksome and unhelpful details.
Rulers in all ages have tried to control how history sees them, and have gone to great lengths to have events recorded the way they want. The process is as old as authority itself.
The result is that generations of people learn something at school, only to find out later that it was not so. For instance, children brought up in the communist countries of the 20th century have little idea of the indiscriminately murderous mechanics at the heart of their founding revolutions. More recently, in the United States, anyone young enough not to have lived through the two recent Iraq wars might, if they only read political memoirs, actually believe that the wars were fought to root out al Qaeda.
So what about England? Has our constitutional monarchy and ancient tradition of parliamentary democracy protected our history from political manipulation? Can we rely on what we are taught and told, or are there myths we, too, have swallowed hook, line, and sinker?
Where better to start than with that most quintessentially English of events ­— the break with Rome that signalled the birth of modern England?
For centuries, the English have been taught that the late medieval Church was superstitious, corrupt, exploitative, and alien. Above all, we were told that King Henry VIII and the people of England despised its popish flummery and primitive rites. England was fed up to the back teeth with the ignorant mumbo-jumbo magicians of the foreign Church, and up and down the country Tudor people preferred plain-speaking, rational men like Wycliffe, Luther, and Calvin. Henry VIII achieved what all sane English and Welsh people had long desired ­– an excuse to break away from an anachronistic subjugation to the ridiculous medieval strictures of the Church.
For many in England, the subject of whether or not this was true was not even up for debate. Even now, the historical English disdain for all things Catholic is often regarded as irrefutable and objective fact. Otherwise why would we have been taught it for four and a half centuries? And anyway, the English are quite clearly not an emotional race like some of our continental cousins. We like our churches bright and clean and practical and full of common sense. For this reason, we are brought up to believe that Catholicism is just fundamentally, well … un-English.
But the last 30 years have seen a revolution in Reformation research. Leading scholars have started looking behind the pronouncements of the religious revolution’s leaders – Henry VIII, Thomas Cromwell, Thomas Cranmer, Hugh Latimer, Nicholas Ridley – and beyond the parliamentary pronouncements and the great sermons. Instead, they have begun focusing on the records left by ordinary English people. This “bottom up” approach to history has undoubtedly been the most exciting development in historical research in the last 50 years. It has taken us away from what the rulers want us to know, and steered us closer towards what actually happened.
When this approach is applied to the Reformation, what emerges is a very different picture to the one we were taught in school.
It seems that in 1533, the year of Henry’s break from Rome, traditional Catholicism was the religion of the vast majority of the country. And in most places it was absolutely thriving.
It had developed a particularly English flavour, with a focus on the involvement of ordinary people in parish churches, village greens, plays, and pageants – much of which seemed to involve a good deal of community parties, dancing, and drinking.
It is true that English religion in the early 1500s was not especially studious or erudite. The people did not spend hours a day in biblical studies, contemplation, and moralising in the manner of the more intense European reformers. But England had a nationally cohesive spirituality that was alive and exuberant, with a distinctly community feel.
If you looked inside an English parish church on the eve of the Reformation, you would have seen a space filled with the lives and loves of the community. The saints would be draped in the parishioners’ best clothes, jewellery, and beads, often given as bequests in wills. The nave would have numerous side altars, most funded by local guilds to provide daily masses for favoured saints and the deceased of the parish. If the church had the relics of a saint, the reliquary or tomb would be festooned with gold, silver, and wax models of everything from healed limbs to ships saved from calamities at sea — it would be a mini-history of the gratitude of the people. Flowers and candles would be everywhere, as would parishioners, who regularly attended weekday prayers and masses at the many guild and chantry altars. In an age of increasing literacy, significant numbers of the upper and artisanal classes read along in their own devotional books. Religious printing had become big business. It has been estimated that, on the eve of the Reformation, over 57,000 Books of Hours were in circulation in England.
All in all, parish churches were at the heart of a vibrant English parish life, where the living celebrated their good fortune and remembered the dead.
The first thing to go under the reformers’ axe was the cult of saints. The ancient robed and flower-garlanded effigies were smashed up and carted off. Stone and alabaster were ground up. Wood was burned. In addition to the dramatic loss of these cherished protector figures, the parishes were also deprived of around 40 to 50 saints’ “holy days” (holidays) a year, when no servile work was allowed from noon the previous day. This was a dramatic change to the rhythms of life the country had known for centuries. The reformers were keenly aware this would boost economic activity, and welcomed the increase in output it would bring.
The next biggest change was the abolition of purgatory. The reformers ridiculed the cult of the dead (“purgatorye ys pissed owte” one memorably wrote). But these age-old rites of death and the afterlife provided a unique framework that late medieval English people embraced to cope with death. When the reformers ripped out grave stones and brasses inviting prayers for the departed, when they burned the local bede-rolls remembering the dead of the parish, and when they sledge-hammered the chantry altars where relatives were daily prayed for, they did something even more profound than the vandalism. They stole the dead from the daily lives of their communities, rendering the deceased suddenly invisible to those long used to honouring and remembering their departed relatives and friends. Whether or not intentional, this was an attack on people’s memories.
The early and high Middle Ages were a time when cathedrals and monasteries dominated religious life. But by the late 1400s and early 1500s, religion had been taken over by the people — most notably in the form of the religious guilds that had mushroomed in every parish. For instance, King’s Lynn had over 70; Bodmin had more than 40.
These guilds funded festivals, parades, and pageants — and the parish records show that the celebrations were regularly and widely enjoyed. The guilds’ most spectacular contribution to late medieval religious life lay in the great mystery play cycles they sponsored. These moral dramas were performed in English (not Latin), often around the feast of Corpus Christi. Despite being declared illegal and destroyed by the Reformation, enough copies survive for us to get an idea of their sheer scale: from Chester, Cornwall (in Cornish), Coventry, Digby, Towneley/Wakefield, and elsewhere. They were a focus of intense regional pride, and took entire communities to stage them. The York cycle alone comprised 48 plays.
Inside parish churches, uniquely English customs had also developed. There was the festival of boy bishops and misrule on St Nicholas’s day; the setting up of an Easter sepulchre as a mini stage-set for re-enacting the Passion; and the dramatic “creeping to the Cross” on Good Friday — a humble barelegged and barefoot procession on the knees to adore the cross, before swaddling it and laying it inside the Easter sepulchre. These rituals, as well as the many festivals in honour of local or patronal saints, were deeply embedded into communities, and people stubbornly persisted with them long after they had been outlawed.
Away from the life of the churches, increasing literacy meant more stories, poems, songs, and carols. A favourite theme was, unsurprisingly, the Virgin Mary, who was frequently portrayed as that most English flower, the rose:
Of this rose was Cryst y-bore,
To save mankynde that was forlore;
And us alle from synnes sore,
Prophetarum carmine.
This rose is so faire of hywe,
In maide Mary that is so trywe,
Y-borne was lorde of virtue,
Salvator sine crimine.
(Of a Rose Synge We, 1450)
Finally, the cult of relics was junked. It is true that provenance was rarely scientific, and the reformers were able to jeer at their favourite fakes. But the records suggest that this empirical approach, which counts the number of duplicated and inauthentic relics, misses the point. These objects brought people into the presence of the numinous, and joined the living with the dead. Many relics were even practical. For instance, articles of saints’ clothing were given to expecting women to wear in the hope of a healthy delivery. Relics were therefore a part of day-to-day life, offering people a sense of protection and connection with the sacred.
Given the intensity of people’s attachment to early 16th-century popular religion, the stark Tudor reforms were met with incomprehension, outrage, and sometimes passionate violence.
The men sent to smash up the churches knew this grassroots anger all too well. There are innumerable records of the hostility and violence they faced from distraught parishioners trying to protect churches and graves.
Once the bussed-in workmen had inevitably triumphed, and the heat of confrontation had worn off, people were left bereft:
On the feast of the Assumption 1537 Thomas Emans, a Worcester serving-man, entered the despoiled shrine of Our Lady of Worcester, recited a Paternoster and an Ave, kissed the feet of the image, from which jewels, coat, and shoes had been taken away, and declared bitterly for all to hear, “Lady, art thou stripped now? I have seen the day that as clean men hath been stripped at a pair of gallows as were they that stripped thee.” He told the people that, though her ornaments were gone, “the similitude of this is no worse to pray unto, having a recourse to her above, then it was before.” (from Eamon Duffy, The Stripping of the Altars)
There was, before long, coordinated dissent. In 1536, an uprising known as the Pilgrimage of Grace came south from northern England and occupied Leicester, demanding an end to the radical changes and personal revenge on Thomas Cromwell, whose mercenary looting of the abbeys had shocked people profoundly. Meanwhile, around 30,000 (including the Archbishop of York) took York, with similar demands for the reforms to stop. Predictably, it all ended in catastrophe. Some 250 protestors were executed, killing off any further mass protests. The Tudor monarchy was, after all, one of the most powerful in Europe.
The conclusion of this modern grassroots scholarship is that bulldozing the Catholic Church off the face of medieval England was not a “bottom up” revolution in which Henry merely acquiesced to his people’s wishes by throwing off a widely hated foreign domination. To the contrary, it looks increasingly like Henry and his circle imposed the Reformation “top down”, unleashing 100 years of deep anger and alienation that was only overcome by sustained politicking and ruthless force. Politics and economics have always fitted together snugly, and it was no different in Henry’s day. By spreading some of the lands and wealth stolen from the monasteries, Henry was able to create a firm coterie of influential landholders who had a financial interest in seeing the reforms through.
While we are debunking, we should also look to another “fact” we have been commonly taught, which is that England was moving towards Protestantism by Henry’s time owing to the widespread popularity of Wycliffe and his Lollards. This movement, according to Protestant legend, embodied and expressed the true sentiment of English people. However, the evidence is overwhelmingly that this is a red herring, as research is revealing that Lollardy was never more than a small regional and dynastic movement in select parts of England. Moreover, it was almost dead by the mid-1400s – over a century before Henry's divorce. Although Lollardy had, in its day, been a genuine expression of dissent (like many others across Christendom for the last two thousand years), it was never a mainstream – let alone a majority – English religious movement.
That is not to say everyone loved the Church. By the time Cromwell was sharpening his pen to gut the monasteries more thoroughly than the Vikings ever had, there were known and identifiable pockets of English Protestants, especially in London, the South-East and East Anglia. But the records show they were a small minority of the population, and the tone of King Henry’s Defence of the Seven Sacraments (more below) solidly reflected mainstream thought.
However, nothing ever stands still, and England in the early 1500s – just like everywhere else – had its modern humanist philosophers and theologians. But here there is sometimes a misunderstanding. Humanists were not atheists or anti-Church. They were merely interested in applying the philosophies and knowledge of the day, as thinkers had done in every century. The Netherlands produced Erasmus, who was great friends with England's leading humanist: the exceptionally talented St Thomas More, one of the first victims of the English Reformation, executed by Henry for not agreeing to the split with Rome.
So how did all this happen? Why did Henry VIII, in 1533, cut a wound so deep into his country that four and a half centuries later it has still not healed?
The story is a tragedy.
On May 23, 1533, Thomas Cranmer, the Archbishop of Canterbury, sat in the lady chapel of Dunstable Priory to pronounce one of the most significant legal judgments in English history — infinitely more seismic than Magna Carta.
The underlying issue was that Henry VIII’s marriage of 16 years had produced no boys. But his mistress, the Marquess of Pembroke, was pregnant, so time was ticking. The usual legal channels had failed to grant Henry a divorce, so the Archbishop of Canterbury stepped up to the mark.
In order to give Archbishop Cranmer the unprecedented legal authority to do what he was about to do, Henry’s slippery hard man, Thomas Cromwell, drafted and rushed The Act in Restraint of Appeals 1532 through Parliament. Cromwell’s Act suspended all the usual laws in this regard, and give Cranmer full authority to give judgment. (Interestingly, to do this, Cromwell claimed that Cranmer had full authority because England was an empire. At the same time, his spin machine was working overtime, pumping out fantastical ancient histories linking the English empire to Troy, therefore making it older than, and so independent from, Rome.)
Therefore, in the hope that the King’s mistress was carrying a boy, Cranmer solemnly declared King Henry VIII divorced from Catherine of Aragon.
In the event, Henry’s mistress, Anne Boleyn, gave birth to a girl (and would, with Cromwell’s help, be beheaded within three years). But the deed was done. Cromwell had divorced Henry from Catherine, and England from Rome.
The whole affair was radical.
Since time immemorial, canon law had reserved appeals on marriage and divorce to the Archbishop of Canterbury’s boss, the Pope. English kings­, like all monarchs in Latin Christendom, had always observed this ancient legal structure. Henry had happily used it himself, when he had needed a dispensation to marry Catherine of Aragon (his brother’s widow) in the first place.
The reason Cromwell had pushed for a break with Rome was that everyone knew Henry had no legal basis for divorcing Catherine.
Henry’s argument (which he worked out himself, and was proud of) insisted that the Bible forbade a man from marrying his brother’s widow, and therefore his marriage to Catherine had all been a dreadful mistake and was, regrettably, invalid. However, all canon lawyers in England and Europe (apart from Henry’s circle of advisers) knew it was a hopeless argument, as there was a well-recognised exception to this rule. In a “levirate” marriage (Deuteronomy 25:5–10), a man was required to marry his brother’s widow if she had no children, which was the case here, and why Henry had been permitted to marry Catherine and seal a vital bond between England and Spain.
Therefore, to no one’s surprise, the Pope said no to the divorce.
Until this point, Henry had been an ardent Catholic. When he first read Luther’s works, he had been so outraged by Luther’s attack on the Church that he wrote a book (in Latin) systematically taking Luther’s arguments apart. He published it in 1521 with a dedication to the Pope. In it, he referred to “the pest of Martin Luther’s heresy … a deadly venom … infecting all with its poison.” He continued:
But, O immortal God! what bitter language! What so hot and inflamed force of speaking can be invented, sufficient to declare the crimes of that most filthy villain [Luther], who has undertaken to cut in pieces the seamless coat of Christ, and to disturb the quiet state of the church of God!
Henry made his personal position very clear:
Convinced that, in our ardour for the welfare of Christendom, in our zeal for the Catholic faith and our devotion to the Apostolic See, we had not yet done enough, we determined to show by our own writings our attitude towards Luther and our opinion of his vile books; to manifest more openly to all the world that we shall ever defend and uphold, not only by force of arms but by the resources of our intelligence and our services as a Christian, the Holy Roman Church. (King Henry VIII, Defence of the Seven Sacraments)
In grateful recognition, the Pope awarded Henry the personal title “Defender of the Faith”. (Since the break with Rome, Parliament has, slightly strangely, conferred this title on all British monarchs.)
However, when the Pope refused to allow Henry to divorce, Thomas Cromwell came up with a corker of a solution ­– break with Rome; turn the country Protestant; and, at the same time, solve the problem of the empty royal coffers by trousering all the wealth in the country’s innumerable abbeys and parish churches.
Like King Philip IV of France two centuries earlier surveying the wealth of the Templars, the temptation for Henry was just too much to resist.
The only problem was that although Cromwell’s plan suited Henry and his circle (who would all get very rich off the scheme), there was the small matter of the English people.
To change a country’s religion lock, stock, and barrel was no easy task. In the end, it took Henry VIII, Edward VI, and Elizabeth I. The strategy was fairly predictable for a medieval monarchy, and again, it has striking similarities with how Philip IV took out the Templars. Cromwell’s plan only needed three steps: outlaw everything to do with Catholicism; denigrate and malign it at every opportunity in official pronouncements and sermons; and execute anyone who objects.
One example of the type of propaganda deployed must stand for many. Turning a blind eye to the hundreds of English Catholics executed by Henry VIII, Elizabeth I’s administration came up with the notion of convincing people that religious executions had been invented by Elizabeth's older sister, Mary I. Despite the fact that images were banned in churches, they ordered a copy of Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, hot off the press with the ink still wet, placed in every collegiate church in the land, where all people could be appalled by its 150 gruesome woodcut illustrations showing the Protestant martyrs executed by Mary. What it failed to show, of course, were those Catholic victims that Henry had consigned to identical deaths before Mary’s reign, and the hundreds that Elizabeth was now ruthlessly persecuting in exactly the same way. But, of course, that is the nature of propaganda. Elizabeth forbade the printing of any Catholic materials in her kingdom, leaving her full control of all books and pamphlets.
The Tudor violence meted out to enforce the break with Rome was extreme, designed to deter by shock. For instance, one of Henry’s earliest victims was Sister Elizabeth Barton, a Benedictine nun. When she criticised Henry’s desire to marry Anne Boleyn, he had her executed, and her head spiked on London Bridge ­— the first and only woman ever to have suffered this posthumous barbarity.
Henry and his inner circle of politicians and radical clerics put to death hundreds of dissenters, pour encourager les autres. None of these people were plotting to kill him or destabilise his rule. Their “treason” was to oppose the destruction of their religion or the despoiling of their property. The brutal strangulation, emasculation, disembowelling, beheading, and quartering they endured as traitors was hideous, as was the total absence of any form of due process or justice.
Take the death of Richard Whiting, the elderly abbot of Glastonbury, England’s greatest abbey. Thomas Cromwell’s administrative diary entry about him reads starkly:
Item. The Abbot, of Glaston to be tryed at Glaston and also executyd there with his complycys.
Whiting was, in fact, a member of the House of Lords, and entitled to be arraigned before Parliament if he was to be charged with any crime. But that was much too cumbersome for Cromwell, who just wanted the abbot out of the way in order to seize the abbey’s wealth and line his own pockets with it. Whiting was therefore dragged on a hurdle to the summit of Glastonbury Tor, where he was subjected to the full horrors of a traitor’s death. And he was not alone. Similar summary executions took place up and down the land to clear the way for Cromwell’s commissioners, who boxed up every last cross and candlestick they could find, and shipped them back to London to be melted down and pumped into their personal accounts.
The evidence shows that it actually took the Tudors around 45 years to eradicate all memory of this country’s Catholic past.
Henry started it all, from 1533–47. His reforms were harsh on the people, yet he rather hypocritically remained a practising Catholic himself. He had a newfound hostility towards the Pope, born of his divorce debacle, but he continued to hear Mass regularly. Although he presided over the looting of the abbeys and a good deal of local church vandalism, he nevertheless exercised certain restraining influences over Thomas Cromwell, Archbishop Cranmer and the other zealots. Things therefore only really kicked off once Henry was dead and the reformers were able to take the nine-year-old King Edward VI on a radical six-year Calvinist journey (1547–53). This was the period of the harshest destruction of English religious art and culture, when even the smallest church in the kingdom was ransacked and all its valuables seized. For several generations, people said that they had suffered under Henry’s reforms, but they dated the utter desecration of the English church to Edward’s reign.
When Mary I briefly returned England to Catholicism from 1553–8, many churches and parishioners cautiously took out the few treasured saints’ statues and missals they had recklessly managed to hide, and they set up their churches again, happy for normality to have returned.
But when Mary unexpectedly died and Elizabeth began the persecutions again, people started slowly to give up. By the end of Elizabeth’s reign, no one remembered religious life before Henry. The memories were gone, and so was the will to fight the regime any more.
Amid the turmoil of the English Reformation – with its wanton destruction of communities, their imaginations, and centuries of their books and art – the one thing that stands out most is the sheer scale of the undertaking.
Under the influence of Calvin and Zwingli’s puritan doctrines, Edward VI ordered his commissioners to:
Take away, utterly extinct and destroy all shrines, coverings of shrines, candlesticks, pictures, paintings and all other monuments of feigned miracles, pilgrimages, idolatry and superstition so that there remain no memory of the same in walls, glasses, windows or elsewhere within their churches or houses.
And following Edward’s reign, Elizabeth I repeated the command and finished what he had started. The result was the wholesale destruction of a millennium of irreplaceable English craftsmanship in windows, statues, frescoes, and paintings. The Tate recently estimated that over 90 per cent of all English art was trashed in the period, and scarcely a handful of books survived the burning of the great monastic and university libraries. Oxford’s vast Bodleian, for instance, was left without a single book.
Anyone who doubts there was a political aspect to the destruction needs look no further than the shrine of St Thomas Becket in Canterbury. It was England’s most popular pilgrimage destination, and Becket’s cult had international reach, with mosaics, icons, and relics of him venerated as far afield as Sicily and the Holy Land. Henry ordered his tomb pulverised, his bones scattered, and his name effaced from history. The reason for this special harshness is not hard to see. Becket’s claim to fame was as a churchman who stood up to royal interference in the Church. Becket was therefore a natural rallying symbol for anyone thinking of challenging Henry’s reforms. Becket represented the sanctity of dissent, and Henry could absolutely not have that.
In the process of all the destruction, it was not just traditional day-to-day spiritual life, the free medical and social care provided by the monasteries, and a country full of creative thought and art that were obliterated. The reformers hacked out and discarded an entire slice of England’s history, alienating the English from an especially vibrant part of their own amazing past.
So Khrushchev was right — historians are dangerous. In the case of the Reformation, generations have perpetuated the artful story spun by the Tudor machine, with the result that we fail to acknowledge that medieval religion in this country was, for a thousand years, as English as tea, warm beer, Maypole dancing, and cricket. As has been said many times: within three generations, England went from being one of Europe’s most Catholic countries to one of its most anti-Catholic.
The medieval world was quite capable of outrageous smears. One needs only think of the blood libel against the Jews. Yet it seems that we, too, are the victims of politicised and twisted history because we are still living with the radical agenda of a small group of Tudor reformers who seized upon a king’s marital needs in order to effect a change they (not the country) desired, and at the same time treated themselves to undreamed of personal wealth.
We are the only European country to use the phrase “the Dark Ages” for the medieval period, and in large measure it is because we have retrospectively made it dark. Henry VIII started it by denigrating and destroying the intellectual, artistic, and spiritual output of ten centuries, emptying out cathedrals and library shelves, leaving them barren and devoid of any human ingenuity or beauty. It is no wonder that, looking at the slim remnants of English medieval life, it appears dark to us. To compound matters, rather than recognise the Tudor sack of our culture, we have collectively stuck to their breathtakingly arrogant claim that England was a backward, gloom-filed wasteland until Henry brought the searing flame of enlightenment.
Our complicity in this myth is partly because the sectarian language of the Tudor court and its clerics’ sermons has proved immensely durable and is now so deeply ingrained that we continue to be blinded to the vitality and unique Englishness of our pre-Reformation culture. Instead of celebrating our nation’s vivid and exuberant history, we swallow Henry’s spin and damn it all as nothing more than the output of an infested ragbag of “corrupt abominations”, “papistical superstitions”, and “unsavery teaching”. The result is a gross distortion, and equates to the theft of our past. Happily, it is a wrong that historians are now, in increasing numbers, eloquently addressing.
Perhaps the final word should go to Robert Peckham, who died in Rome in 1569 during the reign of Elizabeth I:
Here lies Robert Peckham, Englishman and Catholic, who, after England’s break with the Church, left England because he could not live in his country without the Faith, and, having come to Rome, died there because he could not live apart from his country.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Pro-Life Candidates for Local & European Elections on Friday 23rd May



These pages only show Independent, Fianna Fáil, Direct Democracy and Green candidates if they have confirmed their pro-life stance. The other political parties voted for the abortion act last year which legalised abortion through all nine months of pregnancy, and they should not receive any votes in future elections.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

An Open Letter to Pope Francis

Translated from

Huixquilucan, Mexico, on September 23, 2013
Dearest Papa Francesco, I am so pleased to have the opportunity to greet you. Surely you will not remember me, seeing so many new people every day must be hard to remember everyone, even those with whom you talked and lived during the long course of your life.

Over the past 12 years, you and I, many times have found ourselves in several meetings, church meetings and conferences that took place in the cities of Central and South America on various topics (communication, catechesis, education). During these pastoral meetings I had the opportunity to live with you for so many days, sleeping under the same roof, sharing the same table and also the same desk. Then you were the Archbishop of Buenos Aires and I was the director of a leading Catholic media.

Now you are the Holy Father and I ... only a mother, a Christian, married to a good husband and nine children, who teaches mathematics at the University and seeks to cooperate as best as I can with the Church, the place where God has put it.

In these meetings several years ago, I remember more than one brought you to me and said: - "Girl, tell Jorge Mario, we're friends", I replied, startled: "Absolutely not, Mr. Cardinal! God forbid you from giving of one of his princes on earth. "

Now, however, I beg to call you, because you are no longer the card. Bergoglio, but the Pope, my Pope, the sweet Christ on earth, to which I have the confidence to address as my father.

I decided to write to you because I suffer and I need you to comfort me. I'll explain what is happening to me, trying to be as short as possible. I know you like to comfort those who suffer, and now I'm one of them.

When I first met you during these retreats, when you were still Cardinal Bergoglio, I was struck and puzzled that you never acted like the other cardinals and bishops. To give some examples: you were the only one there that did not genuflect before the tabernacle or during the Consecration, if all the bishops presented themselves with their cassocks and their clerical garb, because that was required by the necessary rules for the meeting, you will presented yourself in suit and clerical collar. If all of you were sitting on the seats reserved for the bishops and cardinals, you left empty the place of Cardinal Bergoglio and you sat in back, saying "I'm fine here, so I feel more at ease."If others came with a vehicle that corresponds to the dignity of a bishop, you had arrived after the others, busy and in a hurry, telling aloud your encounters in public transport in order to come to the meeting. Seeing these things - I am ashamed in telling this - I said to myself: - "Phew ... who wants to attract attention! Because, if you want to be truly humble and simple, is it not better to behave like the other bishops to go unnoticed? ". Even some of my Argentine friends who attended these meetings, somehow noticed my confusion, and I said - "No, you're not the only one. We all were always puzzled, but we know that clear criteria, and in speeches show convictions and certainties always faithful to the Magisterium and the Tradition of the Church, it is a brave loyal defender of right doctrine ... Apparently, however, loves to be loved by all and please everyone. In this sense could one day make a speech on TV against abortion and the next day, in the same TV show, bless the pro-abortion feminists in the Plaza de Mayo, could make a wonderful speech against masons and, hours later, eat and drink with them at the Club Rotary Club. "

My dear Papa Francesco, it is true, this was the card. Bergoglio I knew closely. One day, intent on chatting animatedly with Bishop Duarte Aguer in the defense of life and of the liturgy and the same day, at dinner, chatting animatedly with always Ysern Bishop and Bishop Rosa Chavez on base communities and the terrible obstacles that represent "the dogmatic teachings "of the Church. One day a friend of the Cardinal Cipriani and Cardinal Rodriguez Maradiaga to talk about business ethics and against the ideologies of the New Age and a little later a friend of Casaldáliga and Boff to talk about class struggle and the "wealth" that the techniques could donate to the Eastern Church.

With this in mind, you will understand that I with greatly widened his eyes when I heard your name after the '"We Have a Pope" and from that moment (before you ask) I have prayed for you and for my beloved Church. And I have not stopped doing it for a single day since then. When I saw you on the balcony, without miter, without cape, breaking the protocol of greeting and the reading of the Latin text, with this trying to differentiate yourself from the rest of the Popes in history, smiling, worried, I said to myself: "Yes, without a doubt. This is the Cardinal Bergoglio. " In the days following your election, you gave me a number of occasions to confirm that you are the same person I had known closely, always looking for a diversity: you asked for different shoes, a different ring, a different Cross , a different chair and even room and home different from the rest of Popes that always had been content humbly with those things provided, without the need of "special" things, especially for them. In those days I was trying to recover from the immense pain felt by the resignation of my beloved and much admired Pope Benedict XVI, in which I identified from the beginning to the clarity in his teachings (the best teacher in the world), for his loyalty the Liturgy, for his courage in defending the right doctrine among the enemies of the Church and a thousand things that will not be listed here. With him at the helm of Peter I felt like I had stepped on land. And with his resignation, I felt the ground disappear beneath my feet, but I understand it, the winds were really stormy and the papacy was something too rough for his strength, now diminished by age, in the terrible and violent culture war being waged.
At that moment I felt abandoned in the midst of war, the earthquake, in the increasingly fierce hurricane, and suddenly you came to replace him at the helm. We have a new captain, we give thanks to God! I confided in full (without any doubt) that, with the assistance of the Holy Spirit, with the prayer of the faithful, with the weight of responsibility, with the assistance of the working group in the Vatican and with the awareness of being observed throughout the world , Papa Francesco leave behind the special things and ambivalences of the card. Bergoglio and would immediately take command of the army, and with renewed vigor continuing the path of struggle that his predecessor had set.

Unfortunately, to my surprise and dismay, my new general, rather than take up arms once arrived, he began his tenure using the time as the Pope to call his barber, to his dentist, his milkman and his newsagent, attracting attention to his person and not on the relevant issues of the Papacy.

Six months have passed since then and I recognize, with love and emotion, you've done thousands of good things. I really like (very much) your formal speeches (to politicians, gynecologists, communicators, the World Day of Peace, etc..) And your homilies on feast days, because in them we see a thorough preparation and a deep meditation of each word used. Your words, in these discourses and homilies have been a real food for my spirit. I really like that people love you and applaud you. You are my Papa, the Supreme Head of my Church, the Church of Christ. However - and this is the reason for my letter - I must say that I also suffered (and suffer), from many of your words, because you say things that feel like stabs in the lower abdomen during my repeated attempts to a sincere loyalty to the Pope and the Magisterium .

I feel sad, yes, but the best word to express my current feelings is: perplexity. I do not know what to say and what not to say, I do not know where to go on and let it go. I need you to orient me, dear Papa Francesco. I'm really suffering, and much, for this concerns me still. My biggest problem is that I have devoted much of my life to the study of Sacred Scripture, Tradition, and the Magisterium, in order to have strong reasons to defend my faith. And now, many of these solid foundations are in contradiction with what my beloved Pope says and does. I am shocked and I need you to tell me what to do.

I'll explain myself better, with a few examples. I can not applaud a Pope who does not kneel before the tabernacle or during the Consecration as taught by the rite of the Mass, but I can not criticize it, because it is the Pope! Benedict XVI asked us in the Redemptoris Sacramentum that we are to inform the bishop of the unfaithfulness and liturgical abuses we are witnessing. Ma .. Who should I inform if the Pope himself does not respect the liturgy? I do not know what to do. I disobey the instructions of our Pope Emeritus? I can not feel happy to have eliminated the use of the paten and kneeling for Holy Communion, and even that you never give communion to the faithful, who do not call yourself "the Pope", but only "Bishop of Rome "or you do not use the fisherman's ring. But I can not even complain, because you are the Pope! I do not feel proud that you have washed the feet of a Muslim woman on Holy Thursday, since it is a violation of liturgical law, but I can not issue a peep, because You are the Pope, to whom I owe respect and to whom I must be faithful! I was hurt terribly when you have punished the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate, because they were celebrating the Mass in the ancient rite with the explicit permission of your predecessor in Summorum Pontificum. And punish them, is to go against the teachings of previous popes. But who do I communicate my pain, you're the Pope! I did not know what to think or say when you have mocked publicly a group that had sent you a Spiritual Bouquet of rosaries, calling them "those who count the prayers." Such Spiritual Bouquets are a wonderful tradition in the Church, what am I to think and I do not like it if my Papa derides those who offer them to him? I have many friends who are "pro-life" who a few days ago were very saddened by your calling them "obsessed and obsessive." What should I do? Console, softening falsely your words or hurt them even more, repeating what you said to them, seeking to be faithful to the Pope and his teachings? WYD you asked young people to "make some noise in the streets." The word "casino", as far as I know, is synonymous with "disorder", "chaos", "confusion." Really this is what you want them to do the young Christians in the streets? There are already enough confusion and disorder in the world? I know of many single and older women (spinsters), which are very cheerful, funny and generous and really felt badly when you said that the nuns were not to have a face like a spinster. I was very sick at heart for my friends and me, it hurt me in my soul for them, because there is nothing wrong with being alone and to dedicate one's life to good works (in fact, loneliness is specified as a vocation in the Catechism). What should I tell my friends who are "spinsters"? That the Pope was serious (which I can not do a Pope), or that I support the Pope in the fact that all the old maids have a face like a bitter religious?

A couple of weeks ago you said that "what we are experiencing is one of the best moments of the Church." How can you say that as Pope when we all know that there are millions of young Catholics who live in concubinage and many millions of Catholic marriages where they use contraceptives, when the divorce is "our daily bread" and millions of Catholic mothers kill their children not born with the help of Catholic doctors, when there are millions of Catholic businessmen who are not guided by the social doctrine of the Church, but by ambition and avarice; when there are thousands of priests who commit liturgical abuses, and when there are hundreds of millions of Catholics who have never had an encounter with Christ and do not know the essence of the doctrine, when education and governments are in the hands of the Freemasons and the world economy in the hands of Zionism? This is the best time of the Church? When you said it, beloved Pope, I panicked. If the captain is not seeing the iceberg before us, it is very likely that we smash against it. Do You really believe that or is it just a way of saying dear Pope? Many great preachers have felt devastated to know that you said that now no longer have to talk about the themes of which the Church has already spoken and which are written in the Catechism.

Tell me, dear Papa Francesco, what must we Christians who want to be faithful to the Pope and also to the Magisterium and Tradition do? Let's stop preaching even though St. Paul has told us that we must do so at every opportunity in season and out of season? What with the courageous preachers, we force them to silence, while truly spoil sinners and gently tell them that if they can and want to, should read the Catechism to know what the Church says? Whenever you speak of the "shepherds smelling of their sheep," I think of all those priests who allowed themselves to be contaminated by the things of the world and have lost their scent of priesthood to acquire a certain smell of decomposition. I do not want the smell of shepherds with sheep, but sheep that do not smell of dung, because their pastor care and always keep clean. A few days ago you talked about the vocation of Matthew with these words:  "I am impressed by the gesture of Matthew.He clings to his money, as saying: 'No, not me! No, this money is mine " .  could not help but compare your words with the Gospel (Mt 9, 9), contrary to what Matthew himself says of his vocation: "And Jesus went forth from thence, he saw a man who was sitting at the tax office, whose name was Matthew, and said unto him, Follow me. And he rose and followed him. " 
I can not see where the grasping of money (not what I see in the painting by Caravaggio). I see two different narratives and wrong exegesis. Who should I believe, the Gospel or the Pope, if you want (as I really want to) be faithful to the Gospel and the Pope?

When you talked about the woman who lives in concubinage after a divorce and an abortion, you said  she "now lives in peace." I wonder: can someone live in peace, a lady who is voluntarily removed from the grace of God? The previous Popes, from St. Peter to Benedict XVI, said that it is not possible to find peace away from God, but Pope Francis said so. What should I support, the teachers always or this news? Should I say, starting today, to be faithful to the Pope, that peace can be found in a life of sin? Then you tossed the question without answer on how a confessor should behave, as if to open the Pandora's box knowing that there are hundreds of priests who mistakenly recommend continuing in concubinage. Why does my Papa, my dear Papa, not tell us in a few words what should be advised in cases like this, instead of opening doubts in sincere hearts?

I met Cardinal Bergoglio in almost a family environment and I am a faithful witness to that you are intelligent, friendly, spontaneous, very witty and very clever. But I do not like that the press is publishing all your sayings and quips, because are not a village priest, nor the Archbishop of Buenos Aires, now you're the Pope! and every word you say as Pope, acquires ordinary magisterial value for many of who read and hear you.
Anyway, I wrote taking too much of your time, my good Papa. With the examples I have given you (although there are many others) I think I made clear the pain of uncertainty and perplexity I'm living.
Only you can help. I need a guide that illuminates my steps based on what the Church has always said, speak boldly and clearly, does not offend those who work to be faithful to Jesus' command, to call "the bread, bread and wine wine"," to call sin " sin" virtue " virtue", although this risks his popularity. I need your wisdom, your firmness and clarity. I ask for help, please, because I am in agony.
 I know that God has equipped you with a very acute intelligence, so that, trying to comfort me alone, I could imagine that everything you do and say is part of a strategy to disconcert the enemy, by introducing yourself in front of him with the white flag and so letting your guard down.

But I'd like you to share it with those who are fighting this strategy at your side, because, in addition to disconcerting the enemy, you are disconcerting us, we do not know where he is and where our headquarters is located in front of the enemy. Thank you once again for all the good you have done and what you said during the feast, when you uttered beautiful homilies and speeches because there really are served a lot. Your words inspired and gave us the impulse to love more, to love, to love in the best way, to show the world the loving face of Jesus

I send you a hug branch very loving, my dear Papa, with the assurance of my prayers. I also ask for yours, for me and for my family, of which I enclose a photo, so that you can pray for us, knowing our face. Your daughter loves you and pray for you every day, 

Your daughter loves you and pray for you every day,

Lucrecia Rego de Planas

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Holy war rocks Harvard as the Catholic Church fights back against Satanic mass


Church officials say they will “combat evil” by hosting a positive worship service to counter a Harvard group’s Satanic mass planned for Monday evening.
The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston will host a Eucharistic procession from MIT to a nearby church for an hour of prayer, The Boston Globe reports.
The religious procession will end up at St. Paul’s Parish in Harvard Square, just a 10-minutes walk from the Queen’s Head Pub in Memorial Hall the Harvard Extension Cultural Studies Club is set to hold a “black mass.”
A black mass is a ritual performed as a parody of the Roman Catholic Mass.
In an official statement, the Archdiocese said it fears that people who partake in the ceremony are “underestimating the power of Satan.”
Club members say that they are holding the service for educational purposes, but church officials say that the service is offensive.
“The university is allowing this under the guise that it is educational,” said the Rev. Michael Drea, pastor of St. Paul’s Church. “But anything rooted in hatred is not something that should be put in the same category as academic freedom and academic expression.”
Club leaders insist that the black mass is meant to be a historical reenactment and an exploration of other cultures.
“Clearly people are insulted, and I believe that is due to them having no contact with, or understanding of Satanism,” an unidentified club representative said via email Friday.
The newspaper reported that members of the club would not identify themselves and preferred to speak over email.
The club’s representative told reporters that Satanists are often misunderstood: These people are not evil; they just don’t fit in with mainstream culture and choose to “actively embrace their outsider status.”
“Many whom I have met are vegetarians, artists, animal-rights activists, and have a strong sense of community,” the representative said.
Mr. Drea disagreed and said the practice was inherently evil.
“There is no way to misunderstand a Satanic act that degrades the Catholic liturgy,” he said. “There is no misunderstanding; it is just a fact.”
Archdiocesan spokesman Terrence Donilon said in a statement that the black mass is “contrary to charity and goodness, and it places participants dangerously close to destructive works of evil.”

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

RTE Abortion Bias

Ireland appoints a woman as its new resident ambassador to the Holy See


The Irish Government has appointed Ms. Emma Madigan, a career diplomat as its new resident ambassador to the Holy See. 

The decision was taken today at the Cabinet meeting in Dublin, May 6, and confirmed by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), which said the new Ambassador will have a particular mandate to ‘follow the activities of the Holy See on the development and human rights front’.  The DFA, in a statement, said that Pope Francis, since his election in March 2013, has “become a leading global advocate for action to address hunger and poverty and for the respect of human rights”.

Ms. Madigan, at the time of her appointment was assistant-chief of protocol at the Department of Foreign Affairs. She has served in the Irish diplomatic service for the past 14 years, including as Vice Consul in New York, Private Secretary to the Secretary General and Deputy Director of Europe and United Nations Coordination Section. Recently she played a key role in organizing the first ever State visit to Britain by an Irish Head of State when President Michael D. Higgins met Queen Elizabeth II.

She has a degree in History and Italian as well as a Masters in European Studies from UCD, all of which will serve her well in her new mission.  It is her first appointment as Head of Mission, and she will be the first resident Irish ambassador since November 2011 when the Government closed the Irish Embassy to the Holy See. The last resident ambassador was Noel Fahey, who retired from the post and the diplomatic service in the summer of 2011.

Ms. Madigan takes over from David Cooney, who served as non-resident ambassador in these past years, while also acting as Secretary General at the Department for Foreign Affairs.  Cooney played an important role in the reopening of the Embassy and the restoration of a resident ambassador. 

The new Ambassador’s appointment comes just over a week after the Irish Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Enda Kenny came to the Vatican for the canonization of John XXIII and John Paul II.  At the end of that ceremony on April 27, the Taoiseach met Pope Francis and invited him to visit Ireland.  

Kenny’s visit opened a new chapter in Ireland’s relations with the Holy See because as head of the Irish Government, he had harshly attacked the Vatican in the Irish parliament, July 2011, for its handling of numerous cases of abuse of children by priests and religious in the country, and for not cooperating with State investigations into these.  In November of that same year the Government closed its embassy to the Holy See as a cost-saving move, it said.

 In January of this year, however, the Government reversed that decision and announced that the Embassy would be reopened, though downsized, with a resident ambassador.  The DFA then said the re-opened Embassy will “enable Ireland to engage directly with the leadership of Pope Francis on the issues of poverty eradication, hunger and human rights”.

It has not yet been announced where the new embassy will be housed since the former Embassy to the Holy See on Rome’s Janiculum Hill now serves as Ireland’s Embassy to Italy. The Department for Foreign Affairs said the new Embassy will be a “modest”, one-person operation, and will re-open this summer.