Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Scottish midwives lose legal battle not to assist in abortions

Two senior midwives from Glasgow have lost their battle not to assist in abortions following a court ruling.
In a judgment handed down today from the Court of Session in Edinburgh, Lady Smith ruled that the midwives must accept the decision of their hospital management to oversee other midwives who are performing abortions on the labour ward.

The midwives in the case, Miss Mary Doogan and Mrs Connie Wood, argued that they had never been required to supervise abortion procedures in the past, and that the hospital was asking them to be morally, medically and legally responsible for abortions.

Although they said that this conflicted with their profound objection to abortions, Lady Smith said that the midwives involved were not protected by the conscience clause of the Abortion Act.

These women are legally being forced to supervise abortions. The law says this is okay, as they are not directly involved in carrying them out. They object as they are practising Catholics.

Do you think that this is right? Should they have expected as senior midwives that this may be part of their job? Is there a better solution to this situation?

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Brentwood Catholic Youth Service (BCYS)

Following on from today's assemblies and talks to various classes, please find some links to forthcoming BYCS events. SHoM students can speak to myself or Cleo for more information:

Flame Conference -

Spring Youth Gather (Y7-9) -

Monthly Youth Mass - Every first Wednesday of the month at the conference centre behind Brentwood Cathedral. All welcome!
For more info see:

Monday, 27 February 2012

Priest Denies Communion To Lesbian Parishioner At Her Mother's Funeral

A Maryland-based priest is garnering heat in the blogosphere today after allegedly denying communion to a lesbian parishioner attending her mother's funeral.

As The New Civil Rights Movement blogger David Badash is reporting, Father Marcel Guarnizo of Gaithersburg's Saint John Neumann Catholic Church reportedly covered the bowl containing the Eucharist as the woman, who is identified only as Barbara, approached him.

“I cannot give you communion because you live with a woman and that is a sin according to the church," he is quoted as saying.

Badash quotes from an Addicting Info blog written by Ann Werner, who also notes, "To add insult to injury, Fr. Guarnizo left the altar when she delivered her eulogy to her mother. When the funeral was finished he informed the funeral director that he could not go to the gravesite to deliver the final blessing because he was sick."

Werner also notes, "I will tell you a little about the woman who drove that priest from the altar. She is kind, she is smart, she is funny and she works hard promoting the arts. She pays her bills, she cares deeply for her family and she loved her mother and her mother loved her right back. And now she will never set foot in a Catholic church again and who can blame her?"

Ann Werner went on to write:

"It is time for Christians of all stripes to stop and think about the teachings of the Jesus they proclaim to love so deeply and revere so much. I spent twelve years in Catholic school and the Jesus I was told about would never have turned away anyone for any reason and certainly not on the occasion of burying a parent. Fr. Guarnizo has a lot to learn about Christianity and the Catholic Church has a lot to learn about the teachings of Jesus if behavior of this sort is tolerated."

Read more: and

UPDATE (1/3): More on this news story:
Who do you think is right? Essentially Fr Guarnizo is simply upholding the teaching of the Catholic Church. Do you think that Ann Werner is correct in her assesment? How could this situation have been avoided? What do you think would have been a better way for the priest to have handled this?

Science vs God: Richard Dawkins takes on Archbishop of Canterbury

Richard Dawkins & Rowan Williams The Archbishop of Canterbury discuss Human Beings & Ultimate Origin, 23rd February, Oxford, moderated by Anthony Kenny

Yesterday (23/2/12) Richard Dawkins went head-to-head with Rowan Williams in a televised debate about evolution. So who won?

Oxford university hosted what seemed tantalisingly like a similar clash of great minds, between the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, and Professor Richard Dawkins – a bulldog on behalf of Darwin's theories. But anyone hoping for a dust-up would have been sorely disappointed, for the conversation was conducted with utmost politeness. The cleric even confessed his belief in evolution, and agreed with Dawkins that humans shared non-human ancestors.

Could Dawkins disprove the existence of God? He could not, he confessed, describing himself not as an atheist but as an agnostic – to gasps from Twitter, where the unlikely #dawkinsarchbishop hashtag was trending.

They did, finally, come to verbal blows – or gentle nudges, at least – over the origins of the universe. "The writers of the Bible, inspired as I believe they were, were not inspired to do 21st-century physics; they were inspired to pass on to their readers what God wanted them to know," Williams argued. "In the first book of the Bible is the basic information – the universe depends on God, humanity has a very distinctive role in that universe, and humanity has made rather a mess of it."
"I am baffled," responded Dawkins, "by the way sophisticated theologians who know Adam and Eve never existed still keep talking about it." God, he said, "cluttered up" his scientific worldview. "I don't see clutter coming into it," Williams replied. "I'm not thinking of God as an extra who has to be shoehorned into it."

Read more:
Are you surprised this was not more of a heated argument? Are you suprised by some of Dawkin's or Williams' comments? Do you think God does 'clutter' our view of the world?

Friday, 24 February 2012

BBC4: Catholics (Priests)

Filmed over six months and with extraordinary access, an intimate behind-the-scenes portrait of Allen Hall in London, one of only three remaining Roman Catholic seminaries in Britain.

This is the first of a new three-part series directed by award-winning filmmaker Richard Alwyn about being Catholic in Britain today. Each film - one about men, one about women, one about children - reveals a different Catholic world, showing Catholicism to be a rich but complex identity and observing how this shapes people's lives.

As the Catholic priesthood struggles to recover from the scandal of child abuse, numbers of men applying to join have fallen greatly. Just 19 men were ordained in England and Wales in 2010. In this first film, Alwyn meets the men who still feel themselves called to this role, including funk band roadie turned first-year student, Rob Hunt. A cradle Catholic, Rob ignored his faith for years before deciding his life was veering off course. With little education, he thought he had as much chance of becoming a priest as becoming an astronaut. Today, surrounded by boxsets of The Sweeney, he is adapting to seminary life.

Andrew Gallagher is in his final year at Allen Hall. Now 30, he previously worked in a City law firm, but felt he couldn't ignore a lifelong calling - at school, his nickname was Priest.

The film follows the seminarians through a timetable which ranges from Biblical Greek to lessons on how to live a celibate life. Everything builds towards priestly ordination when the seminarians believe they will be fundamentally altered as human beings, only then able to celebrate the Eucharist and perform the act that is central to Catholic life, the transformation of bread and wine into the body and blood of Jesus Christ.

'I will give you shepherds after my own heart', said the prophet Jeremiah, stating God's chosen method for guiding His people. This film brings rare and moving insight into those who believe themselves to be God's shepherds in the 21st Century.

Watch on iPlayer:

The reviews of this have been very positive (for example:

Have you watched it? Does it help you understand why some men still choose the Catholic priesthood? What difficulties do these men still face?

The following two episodes cover women and children apparently!

Italy: Divorce Italian style may get easier

Is Italy about to become more like America?

An Italian parliamentary committee on Thursday recommended making divorce in the overwhelmingly Catholic country easier. Much easier.

The Lower House Justice Committee said the separation period should be cut to one year from three years before qualifying for a divorce. Married couples with children would have to wait two years.

"Reducing the time for a separation prior to a divorce...makes all Italians freer to make decision about their future," said committee member Anna Paola Concia.

Before divorce was legalized in 1970, estranged Catholic couples would have to submit themselves to an arduous annulment process to get the Church to basically say the marriage never happened.

Read online here:

Is it right that Italy is reforming it's laws? Were they too strict before? Do you think this will increase the rates in divorce? Will it be because it is easier, or because unhappy people will now be able to get out of their marriages where as before they were stuck?

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

"There’s More to Nothing Than We Knew" -Pre-Big Bang 'Nothingness'

Why is there something, rather than nothing at all? 
It is, perhaps, the mystery of last resort. Scientists may be at least theoretically able to trace every last galaxy back to a bump in the Big Bang, to complete the entire quantum roll call of particles and forces. But the question of why there was a Big Bang or any quantum particles at all was presumed to lie safely out of scientific bounds, in the realms of philosophy or religion.

Now even that assumption is no longer safe, as exemplified by a new book by the cosmologist Lawrence M. Krauss. In it he joins a chorus of physicists and cosmologists who have been pushing into sacred ground, proclaiming more and more loudly in the last few years that science can explain how something — namely our star-spangled cosmos — could be born from, if not nothing, something very close to it. God, they argue, is not part of the equation.

He gave a talk in 2009 which was a YouTube sensation:

If nothing is our past, it could also be our future. As the universe, driven by dark energy — that is to say, the negative pressure of nothing — expands faster and faster, the galaxies will become invisible, and all the energy and information will be sucked out of the cosmos. The universe will revert to nothingness.

Nothing to nothing.

One day it’s all going to seem like a dream.

But who is or was the dreamer?

No Questions Asked Abortions

Daily Telegraph - 23/2/12

Abortion investigation: doctors filmed agreeing illegal abortions 'no questions asked'

• Doctors filmed agreeing to abortions based on gender
• "I don't ask questions," doctor tells pregnant woman
• Health Secretary Andrew Lansley “extremely concerned"
• Questions for watchdog over 'abortion on demand' industry

Doctors at British clinics have been secretly filmed agreeing to terminate foetuses purely because they are either male or female. Clinicians admitted they were prepared to falsify paperwork to arrange the abortions even though it is illegal to conduct such “sex-selection” procedures.

Read more, including video:

Is this the natural consequence of the changing attitudes in the UK? Why do you think this is front page news? What do you think the ultimate consequences will be? 

St Thomas Aquinas

"Thomas Aquinas was the greatest philosopher of the Christian middle ages. So what can he teach us that we have forgotten?"

The Guardian have run a fascinating 4 series on possibly the greatest Christian philosopher ever.

Part 1 outlines some of his background and foundation, compared to today's modern world:

Part 2 looks at his view of the mind and soul:

Part 3 looks at his greatest work Summa Theologica and Aquinas' reasoning for God's existence:

Part 4 continues to look at creation, modern science and some of the great Greek philosopher:

Part 5 looks at waht it means to be human and links to the idea of conciousness:

Part 6 is focused on Aquinas and natural law:

Part 7 looks at Aquinas and his view on evil:

Part 8 reflects on Aquinas for the world today:

An excellent series that is well worth a read - the articles are short and accesible.

Do you agree on Aquinas being the greatest Christian philosopher? What is your favourite part of these articles?

Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus

This video caused a lot of controversy a few weeks ago as it went 'viral'.

The author of the poem wrote this:

"A poem I wrote to highlight the difference between Jesus and false religion. In the scriptures Jesus received the most opposition from the most religious people of his day. At it's core Jesus' gospel and the good news of the Cross is in pure opposition to self-righteousness/self-justification. Religion is man centered, Jesus is God-centered. This poem highlights my journey to discover this truth. Religion either ends in pride or despair. Pride because you make a list and can do it and act better than everyone, or despair because you can't do your own list of rules and feel "not good enough" for God. With Jesus though you have humble confident joy because He represents you, you don't represent yourself and His sacrifice is perfect putting us in perfect standing with God the Father."

It has links to the post I made the other day:

Is it actually possible to detach Christianity and Jesus?

It does also remind me of a quote from Gandhi:

I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ. Mohandas Gandhi

Why should religions be exempt from advertising rules?

"My colleague Brendan O'Neill writes that "If Christians are not free to say 'God heals', then there is no religious freedom in this country". He berates "authoritarian literalists" at the Advertising Standards Authority for banning a Christian group from claiming in a leaflet that God can heal (and I quote) "Back Pain, Arthritis, MS, Addiction … Ulcers, Depression, Allergies, Fibromyalgia, Asthma, Paralysis, Crippling Disease, Phobias, Sleeping disorders or any other sickness".

Brendan describes the ASA's decision as an "outrageous attack on freedom of religion", saying "policing the expression of an inner conviction, of a profound belief in the healing qualities of God, is ludicrous and authoritarian." It'd be different, he says, if it was Pepsi or a homeopath claiming to cure disease, but since it's a religious thing, it's an expression of faith and thus should be allowed."

Read full article here:
Is it right that religious groups should come under the same category as companies and service providers? Should religions be able to make healing claims? Do people only dismiss them anyway? Are some people more vulnerable or susceptible to these claims?

Monday, 20 February 2012

Richard Dawkins, Famous Atheist, Appeals To God On Radio Program

In his book "The God Delusion," leading atheist Richard Dawkins famously argued that belief in a supernatural creator is irrational and that believing in God qualifies as a delusion, or "a persistent false belief held in the face of strong, contradictory evidence."

He went on the radio to discuss a recent poll in the UK.

The results of the poll suggest that Christianity has become largely irrelevant in Britain and uses as evidence, among other data, the fact that nearly two out of three people who consider themselves Christians cannot name the first book of the New Testament as the Gospel According to St. Matthew.

However surprising (or unsurprising) that fact may be, one prominent British pastor argued it was highly inappropriate of Dawkins to use that fact to challenge people's "self identification" as Christians.

To prove his point, Reverend Giles Fraser, former canon chancellor of St. Paul's Cathedral, went on BBC radio with Dawkins on Tuesday and asked the staunch evolutionist to name the full title of Darwin's seminal work:

Giles Fraser: Richard, if I said to you what is the full title of 'The Origin Of Species', I'm sure you could tell me that.

Richard Dawkins: Yes I could.

Giles Fraser: Go on then.

Richard Dawkins: 'On The Origin Of Species' ... Uh. With, Oh God. 'On The Origin Of Species.' There is a subtitle with respect to the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life.

Giles Fraser: You're the high pope of Darwinism … If you asked people who believed in evolution that question and you came back and said two percent got it right, it would be terribly easy for me to go 'they don't believe it after all.' It's just not fair to ask people these questions. They self-identify as Christians and I think you should respect that.

Dawkins was pretty close; the book's full title is "On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life."

Many media sources, and Christians, took great delight in Dawkins' mistake.

Did Dawkins have a valid point?
Was Rev Fraser's arguement a good counter point?

Full article here:

Letter from God to Man

"This poem isn't actually about religion. It is kind of irrelevant to the piece whether or not you believe in God or a God or anything like that. Thats not the point......"

Is this really not about religion? Y12 suggested this linked very well to some of philosophical debates about the existence of God and the responsibility that man has in our world. Does it suggest that everything that happens is due to the free will of man give by God? What involvement does God have in creation?

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

St Valentine's Day

February 14th — why is it known as Valentine’s Day? Why do those in love send each other valentines? And what feast does the Catholic Church celebrate on this day? Think you know the answers? Think again, because the truth is a lot more surprising than you’d imagine. Watch friend of Busted Halo, Fr. Jack Collins, CSP, wander the streets of New York asking the city’s star-crossed lovers if they know why we celebrate Valentine’s Day.

Do you know who St Valentine was?

Friday, 10 February 2012

Y13 General RE

**work in progress** keep checking for further updates!
Here are some resources, organised by outcome, to help you complete the relevent sections of the NOCN Level 2 General RE qualification:

1.2 – I am able to give three examples of how spirituality, theology and ethics are relevant to current issues in society

Example 1: Nurse suspended for prayer offer

A Christian nurse from Weston-super-Mare has been suspended for offering to pray for a patient's recovery.

BBC News (including video):
BBC Learning Zone:
BBC News clip:
Former Prime Minister Tony Blair airs his concerns to the CoE:
'Marginalisation of Christians' gets discussed in the House of Lords:

Recent reviews into this case:
It's WRONG for government to refuse to allow people to wear crosses:
It's RIGHT for government to refuse to allow people to wear crosses:

Other similar cases:
Nadia Eweida - told to remove cross or be sacked by BA -
Colin Atkinson - told to remove cross from his van or be sacked by BA -

2.1 - Describe how a religious commitment is demonstrated in everyday life.
2.2 - Evaluate some of the demands of a religious commitment.

Example: Maximillian Kolbe

BBC Learning Zone Clip:

YourTube Clips:

Detailed information site: incldues FAQ and useful headings.
Another useful site full of information:

Look up to story of Fr Mychal Judge on 9/11:

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Medical Ethics: Being Healthy and Doing Good

Anja Steinbauer, President of Philosophy For All, is joined by ethical philosophers Piers Benn, Carwyn Hooper and Elselijn Kingma to discuss our responsibilities for our own health, government initiatives to makes us lead healthier lives, patient automomy and choices, as well as enter the minefield of organ transplant ethics.

Listen here:

Why I Am Not a Christian - Bertrand Russell

The full essay can be found here:

It was also delivered as a lecture on March 6, 1927, at Battersea Town Hall under the auspices of the South London Branch of that National Secular Society.

Russell defines the term Christian and then sets out as to why he does not "believe in God and in immortality" and why he didn't believe "that Christ was the best and wisest of men". These are the two things he identifies as "essential to anybody calling himself a Christian".

He then logically considers a number of arguments for the existence of God including the cosmological argument, the natural-law argument, the teleological argument and moral arguments following what he describes as "the intellectual descent that the Theists have made in their argumentations".

The Independent newspaper claimed it as being "devastating in its use of cold logic" and is listed in the NY Public Library's list of the most influential books of the 20th century.

Do you find his arguments convincing? What problems can you identify with his logical reasoning?

You can listen to the lecture in full here:

Monday, 6 February 2012

Why did God allow the evil of 9/11?

Ross Mackechnie, a 9/11 survivor, claimed: “In less than two hours Aquinas’ proofs of God were blasted, seared, chocked with arid smoke and snuffed out forever along with more than 3000 lives now reduced to powder in the rubble of Ground Zero.”

Many Americans agreed with the sentiment of Ross. They simply could not believe what they saw on that day and found it impossible to reconcile the events alongside their Christian concept of God.

On the other hand, others were able to see God working very actively. Dave Ahl wrote this:

Would 9/11 fit with Augustine's or Irenaeus' theodicy? Was it simply an absence of good in the hearts of the terrorists or was it an opportunity for people to show just how good, loving, kind and generous they could be?

I visited St Paul's Chapel when I visited New York in 2011. It's an amazing place, right next to Ground Zero that survived completely from the nearby disaster.

It's full of stories from survivors, rescuers and people around the world who sent their love to NY over the days, weeks and months post-9/11. It's a very special place.

As Bruce Springsteen sings in this song, which became an anthem of survival for NY:

"With these hands,
I pray Lord...
Come on, rise up"

The Theodicies of Augustine and Irenaeus


There are some good summaries of these two theodicies on Scandalon (an RE site created by Stafford Grammar School):

The Theodicy of Augustine of Hippo -
Irenaeus’ Theodicy -

Responses to Evil (General)

This first video is produced with consideration of the GCSE 'Belief in God' but gives some general explinations for the existence of evil, but closely linked to Christian teaching.

This video starts to introduce some of the philosophical questions. Can God really be omnipotent? Omnibenevolent?

Stephen Law on the Problem of Evil

Stephen Law on the Problem of Evil

"What is evil? Is it consistent with the existence of a benevolent God? In this interview Stephen Law gives an original take on this traditional philosophical problem."
Listen here: (~15mins)

His conclusion is that the God of classical theism is improbable in the light of the suffering that exists. Law is an atheist which, it could be suggested, makes his philosophical arguing unsound. Or does it make it objective?

Y8 Exodus Resources

The Y8 Independent Learning Project is based on the story of the Exodus and linking it to the Passover and its importance for Christians today.

You need to include some of the key events of the Exodus. There are a number of clips on YouTube from the Prince of Egypt:

Moses and the Burning Bush:

The Plagues:

The Exodus:

Crossing the Red Sea:

The BBC site explains about the Festival of Passover in an easy to understand guide:

BBC Learning Zone has some really useful clips too:
The Ten Plagues - (3min 16secs)
The Exodus Story - (2min 45secs)
The Passover - (1min 27secs)
The Passover Story - (4min 36secs)
The Last Supper (Animation) - (2min 09secs)
The Last Supper - (4min 52secs)

Judaism 101 is a brilliant site and contains lots of easily accesible information:

This site looks a bit dated, but contains some good information:

This worksheet hosted by the TERE may help you make some of the connections between the Passover and Eucharist:

This website explains about the Christian Seder and why Christians celebrate it:

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Alain de Botton: I want to build a "Temple to Atheism"

"The atheist 'philosopher' Alain de Botton has undertaken a (literally) monumental project: he wants to create in the City a 150-foot-high temple to 'new atheism'. This is to distinguish it from old, aggressive atheism, as preached by Richard Dawkins. The two chaps seem to disagree on tactics, for one struggles to find any difference of substance.

'Why should religious people have the most beautiful buildings in the land?' Botton asks. 'It's time atheists had their own version of the great churches and cathedrals'."

Is an atheist philosopher an oxymoron? Alexander Boot seems to think so. Read his analysis of Botton's bizare scheme here:

What are your concluesions on this story?

How To Choose Your Religion

Click on image to enlarge:

Busted Halo: Sacraments 101 Videos

These collection of videos are excellent for revising the sacraments for EdExcel GCSE:

Unit 3: Marraige and the Family

Marraige -

Unit 10: Worship and Celebration

Baptism -
Confirmation -
Penance -
Annointing of the Sick -
Eucharist -

Unit 10: Live the Christian Life

Holy Orders -