lördag 20 december 2014

What future for the grandchildren?

Consider a country with nine million inhabitants and a stable population ie it just replaces itself. Now imagine a million arrivals with a slowly growing population, say 1% a year. After 50 years there will be 1.6 million of the immigrant group. If the growth rate is 2% a year, the figure will be 2.6 million descendants; at a 3% rate, it will be over 4.2 million, the original number having doubled after 25 years. People in charge of immigration policies need to be aware of this. Decisions made today will completely transform the society within half a century. What kind of a future to we want for our grandchildren?

fredag 19 december 2014

Charity shops lose tax privilege

A court ruling has stated that in future charity shops in Sweden must charge value added tax (MOMS at 25%) on all the goods they sell. In Britain, charity shops enjoy valuable property tax concessions with the result that in some shopping streets, there is almost nothing apart from charity shops.

The case was brought by the tax authorities, using the argument is that it gives them an unfair trading advantage. These charity shops in Sweden already enjoy the services of a free workforce provided under a system of workfare. Now they claim there will be a wave of closures as a result of the ruling.

This looks like a bad move; by any standards, MOMS is a disastrous tax. But look again. The tax privileges enjoyed by these charities has made it almost impossible to earn a livelihood selling second-hand clothes, books, household goods and furniture, a once-flourishing business sector dealing in items that were not of sufficient quality or age to be considered as antiques.

The tax is not going to be passed on because there is a ceiling to what people will pay for second-hand goods, so the charity shops will have to absorb it. This change should also give small businesses a chance to get going once again in a trade from which the charity shops have squeezed them out.

lördag 13 december 2014

Emmaus advocates genocide

EMMAUS purports to be a welfare organisation to help the needy. In reality it has been captured by anti-Semites and is headed up by a Moslem - hence this display in the window of one of its shops in Gothenburg. The problem is not the olive oil but the map in the background. Where is Israel? Since no Jews are allowed to live in the Palestine Authority area, it can be assumed that they would not be allowed to live in the one-state "Free Palestine" shown on the map, which includes the whole of the area from the Jordan to the sea. So where would the Jews go? Presumably there would be another six million slaughtered, though the Christians and Druze who live in Israel would go the same way shortly after.

In the window is a list of companies who are supposed to be boycotted. The one I shall boycott will be Emmaus, and I would advise anyone opposed to genocide to do the same.

lördag 6 december 2014

Statement on Palestine

The speech by Israel's ambassador at the UN General Assembly is a cogent overview of modern Israeli history. November 24, 2014.

I stand before the world as a proud representative of the State of Israel and the Jewish people. I stand tall before you knowing that truth and morality are on my side. And yet, I stand here knowing that today in this Assembly, truth will be turned on its head and morality cast aside.

The fact of the matter is that when members of the international community speak about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a fog descends to cloud all logic and moral clarity. The result isn’t realpolitik, its surreal politik. The world’s unrelenting focus on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is an injustice to tens of millions of victims of tyranny and terrorism in the Middle East. As we speak, Yazidis, Bahai, Kurds, Christians and Muslims are being executed and expelled by radical extremists at a rate of 1,000 people per month.

How many resolutions did you pass last week to address this crisis? And how many special sessions did you call for? The answer is zero. What does this say about international concern for human life? Not much, but it speaks volumes about the hypocrisy of the international community.

Our conflict is not about a Palestinian state, but about the existence of the Jewish state.

I stand before you to speak the truth. Of the 300 million Arabs in the Middle East and North Africa, less than half a percent are truly free – and they are all citizens of Israel.

Israeli Arabs are some of the most educated Arabs in the world. They are our leading physicians and surgeons, they are elected to our parliament, and they serve as judges on our Supreme Court. Millions of men and women in the Middle East would welcome these opportunities and freedoms.

Nonetheless, nation after nation, will stand at this podium today and criticize Israel – the small island of democracy in a region plagued by tyranny and oppression.

Hate Bash Fest
Our conflict has never been about the establishment of a Palestinian state. It has always been about the existence of the Jewish state.

Sixty seven years ago this week, on November 29, 1947, the United Nations voted to partition the land into a Jewish state and an Arab state. Simple. The Jews said yes. The Arabs said no. But they didn’t just say no. Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Lebanon launched a war of annihilation against our newborn state. This is the historical truth that the Arabs are trying to distort. The Arabs’ historic mistake continues to be felt – in lives lost in war, lives lost to terrorism, and lives scarred by the Arab’s narrow political interests. According to the United Nations, about 700,000 Palestinians were displaced in the war initiated by the Arabs themselves. At the same time, some 850,000 Jews were forced to flee from Arab countries.

Why is it, that 67 years later, the displacement of the Jews has been completely forgotten by this institution while the displacement of the Palestinians is the subject of an annual debate?

The difference is that Israel did its utmost to integrate the Jewish refugees into society. The Arabs did just the opposite.

The worst oppression of the Palestinian people takes place in Arab nations. In most of the Arab world, Palestinians are denied citizenship and are aggressively discriminated against. They are barred from owning land and prevented from entering certain professions.

And yet none – not one – of these crimes are mentioned in the resolutions before you.

If you were truly concerned about the plight of the Palestinian people there would be one, just one, resolution to address the thousands of Palestinians killed in Syria. And if you were so truly concerned about the Palestinians there would be at least one resolution to denounce the treatment of Palestinians in Lebanese refugee camps. But there isn’t. The reason is that today’s debate is not about speaking for peace or speaking for the Palestinian people – it is about speaking against Israel. It is nothing but a hate and bashing festival against Israel.

Pre-emptive Strike
The European nations claim to stand for Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité – freedom, equality, and brotherhood – but nothing could be farther from the truth.

I often hear European leaders proclaim that Israel has the right to exist in secure borders. That’s very nice. But I have to say – it makes about as much sense as me standing here and proclaiming Sweden’s right to exist in secure borders.

When it comes to matters of security, Israel learned the hard way that we cannot rely on others – certainly not Europe. In 1973, on Yom Kippur – the holiest day on the Jewish calendar – the surrounding Arab nations launched an attack against Israel. In the hours before the war began, Golda Meir, our Prime Minister then, made the difficult decision not to launch a pre-emptive strike. The Israeli Government understood that if we launched a pre-emptive strike, we would lose the support of the international community.

As the Arab armies advanced on every front, the situation in Israel grew dire. Our casualty count was growing and we were running dangerously low on weapons and ammunition. In this, our hour of need, President Nixon and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, agreed to send Galaxy planes loaded with tanks and ammunition to resupply our troops. The only problem was that the Galaxy planes needed to refuel on route to Israel.

The Arab States were closing in and our very existence was threatened – and yet, Europe was not even willing to let the planes refuel. The U.S. stepped in once again and negotiated that the planes be allowed to refuel in the Azores. The government and people of Israel will never forget that when our very existence was at stake, only one country came to our aid – the United States of America.

Israel is tired of hollow promises from European leaders. The Jewish people have a long memory. We will never ever forget that you failed us in the 1940s. You failed us in 1973. And you are failing us again today. Every European parliament that voted to prematurely and unilaterally recognize a Palestinian state is giving the Palestinians exactly what they want – statehood without peace. By handing them a state on a silver platter, you are rewarding unilateral actions and taking away any incentive for the Palestinians to negotiate or compromise or renounce violence. You are sending the message that the Palestinian Authority can sit in a government with terrorists and incite violence against Israel without paying any price.

The first E.U. member to officially recognize a Palestinian state was Sweden. One has to wonder why the Swedish Government was so anxious to take this step. When it comes to other conflicts in our region, the Swedish Government calls for direct negotiations between the parties – but for the Palestinians, surprise, surprise, they roll out the red carpet.

State Secretary Söder may think she is here to celebrate her government’s so-called historic recognition, when in reality it’s nothing more than an historic mistake.

The Swedish Government may host the Nobel Prize ceremony, but there is nothing noble about their cynical political campaign to appease the Arabs in order to get a seat on the Security Council. Nations on the Security Council should have sense, sensitivity, and sensibility. Well, the Swedish Government has shown no sense, no sensitivity and no sensibility. Just nonsense.

Israel learned the hard way that listening to the international community can bring about devastating consequences. In 2005, we unilaterally dismantled every settlement and removed every citizen from the Gaza Strip. Did this bring us any closer to peace? Not at all. It paved the way for Iran to send its terrorist proxies to establish a terror stronghold on our doorstep.

I can assure you that we won’t make the same mistake again. When it comes to our security, we cannot and will not rely on others – Israel must be able to defend itself by itself.

Status Quo
The State of Israel is the land of our forefathers – Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. It is the land where Moses led the Jewish people, where David built his palace, where Solomon built the Jewish Temple, and where Isaiah saw a vision of eternal peace.

For thousands of years, Jews have lived continuously in the land of Israel.

For thousands of years, Jews have lived continuously in the land of Israel. We endured through the rise and fall of the Assyrian, Babylonian, Greek and Roman Empires. And we endured through thousands of years of persecution, expulsions and crusades. The bond between the Jewish people and the Jewish land is unbreakable.

Nothing can change one simple truth – Israel is our home and Jerusalem is our eternal capital.

At the same time, we recognize that Jerusalem has special meaning for other faiths. Under Israeli sovereignty, all people – and I will repeat that, all people – regardless of religion and nationality can visit the city’s holy sites. And we intend to keep it this way. The only ones trying to change the status quo on the Temple Mount are Palestinian leaders.

President Abbas is telling his people that Jews are contaminating the Temple Mount. He has called for days of rage and urged Palestinians to prevent Jews from visiting the Temple Mount using (quote) “all means” necessary. These words are as irresponsible as they are unacceptable.

You don’t have to be Catholic to visit the Vatican, you don’t have to be Jewish to visit the Western Wall, but some Palestinians would like to see the day when only Muslims can visit the Temple Mount.

You, the international community, are lending a hand to extremists and fanatics. You, who preach tolerance and religious freedom, should be ashamed. Israel will never let this happen. We will make sure that the holy places remain open to all people of all faiths for all time.

Yearning for Peace
No one wants peace more than Israel. No one needs to explain the importance of peace to parents who have sent their child to defend our homeland. No one knows the stakes of success or failure better than we Israelis do. The people of Israel have shed too many tears and buried too many sons and daughters.

We are ready for peace, but we are not naïve. Israel’s security is paramount. Only a strong and secure Israel can achieve a comprehensive peace.

The past month should make it clear to anyone that Israel has immediate and pressing security needs. In recent weeks, Palestinian terrorists have shot and stabbed our citizens and twice driven their cars into crowds of pedestrians. Just a few days ago, terrorists armed with axes and a gun savagely attacked Jewish worshipers during morning prayers. We have reached the point when Israelis can’t even find sanctuary from terrorism in the sanctuary of a synagogue. These attacks are the results of years of indoctrination and incitement.

These attacks didn’t emerge out of a vacuum. They are the results of years of indoctrination and incitement. A Jewish proverb teaches: “The instruments of both death and life are in the power of the tongue.”

As a Jew and as an Israeli, I know with utter certainly that when our enemies say they want to attack us, they mean it. Hamas’s genocidal charter calls for the destruction of Israel and the murder of Jews worldwide. For years, Hamas and other terrorist groups have sent suicide bombers into our cities, launched rockets into our towns, and sent terrorists to kidnap and murder our citizens.

And what about the Palestinian Authority? It is leading a systemic campaign of incitement. In schools, children are being taught that ‘Palestine’ will stretch from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea. In mosques, religious leaders are spreading vicious libels accusing Jews of destroying Muslim holy sites. In sports stadiums, teams are named after terrorists. And in newspapers, cartoons urge Palestinians to commit terror attacks against Israelis. Children in most of the world grow up watching cartoons of Mickey Mouse singing and dancing. Palestinian children also grow up watching Mickey Mouse, but on Palestinians national television, a twisted figure dressed as Mickey Mouse dances in an explosive belt and chants “Death to America and death to the Jews.”

I challenge you to stand up here today and do something constructive for a change. Publically denounce the violence, denounce the incitement, and denounce the culture of hate.

The battle is between those who sanctify life and those who celebrate death.

Most people believe that at its core, the conflict is a battle between Jews and Arabs or Israelis and Palestinians. They are wrong. The battle that we are witnessing is a battle between those who sanctify life and those who celebrate death.

Following the savage attack in a Jerusalem synagogue, celebrations erupted in Palestinian towns and villages. People were dancing in the street and distributing candy. Young men posed with axes, loudspeakers at mosques called out congratulations, and the terrorists were hailed as “martyrs” and “heroes.”

This isn’t the first time that we saw the Palestinians celebrate the murder of innocent civilians. We saw them rejoice after every terrorist attack on Israeli civilians and they even took to the streets to celebrate the September 11 attack on the World Trade Center right here in New York City.

Imagine the type of state this society would produce.. Does the Middle East really need another terror-ocracy? Some members of the international community are aiding and abetting its creation.

Jewish Star
As we came into the United Nations, we passed the flags of all 193 member States. If you take the time to count, you will discover that there are 15 flags with a crescent and 25 flags with a cross. And then there is one flag with a Jewish Star of David. Amidst all the nations of the world there is one state – just one small nation state for the Jewish people.

And for some people, that is one too many.

As I stand before you today I am reminded of all the years when Jewish people paid for the world’s ignorance and indifference in blood. Those days are no more.

We will never apologize for being a free and independent people in our sovereign state. And we will never apologize for defending ourselves.

To the nations that continue to allow prejudice to prevail over truth, I say “J’accuse.”

I accuse you of hypocrisy. I accuse you of duplicity.

I accuse you of lending legitimacy to those who seek to destroy our State.

I accuse you of speaking about Israel’s right of self-defense in theory, but denying it in practice.

And I accuse you of demanding concessions from Israel, but asking nothing of the Palestinians. In the face of these offenses, the verdict is clear. You are not for peace and you are not for the Palestinian people. You are simply against Israel.

Members of the international community have a choice to make.

You can recognize Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people, or permit the Palestinian leadership to deny our history without consequence.

You can publically proclaim that the so-called “claim of return” is a non-starter, or you can allow this claim to remain the major obstacle to any peace agreement.

You can work to end Palestinian incitement, or stand by as hatred and extremism take root for generations to come. You can prematurely recognize a Palestinian state, or you can encourage the Palestinian Authority to break its pact with Hamas and return to direct negotiations.

The choice is yours. You can continue to steer the Palestinians off course or pave the way to real and lasting peace.

måndag 27 oktober 2014

What is the point of English Masses for students?

The idea has taken hold that because English is amongst the world's best known languages, it is suitable for use for Masses celebrated for students in countries which are not English speaking. The students will indeed probably all know English. Their courses may even be taught in English. With the English language seemingly on the way to taking the place that Latin occupied as a universal language from Roman times until well into the nineteenth century, this seems like an attractive idea.

There are, however, difficulties with this assumption. Latin as a formal language, and particularly ecclesiastical Latin, was largely settled by the sixth century. What people spoke as vernacular languages would have been the dialects of Latin that would eventually evolve into, amongst others, Spanish, Italian and French. English, by contrast, remains a living language. It is constantly changing. The 1970 translation has already been replaced with a new one, which is truer to the Latin, but in the change, the text has become more complicated and includes words, and a style of phrasing, far from what English-speaking people are used to.

English also has wide dialect variations. Some of the US and British colonial dialects, and even of dialects within Britain itself, can be difficult to understand by people not used to them. A further difficulty is that the meaning of a sentence is dependent on both the order of the words and the stress of the voice when spoken. A foreign reader is particularly liable to pick up the wrong meaning.

This explains why, when attending these English language Masses for students, I have barely understood the readings. Listening to some of the celebrating priests can be hard work. If I, as a native speaker of British received pronunciation English, have difficulties, it is safe to assume that nearly everyone present will have much the same experience.

The obvious answer is to use Latin, which would be customary anyway if provisions of the Vatican 2 document Sacrosanctum Concilium was followed, but in the Novus Ordo there is still the question of which language the readings and Responsorial Psalm should be, and there is the long recitation of the Canon. Here is a situation where the Tridentine form of the Mass is ideal. It can all be read and sung in Latin, and everyone can follow in their own language, in their books, or on printed sheets.

There are further aspects to this. Students are the best educated of their generation, and deserve to be given the opportunity to experience the best of the 2000 year-old musical heritage of the Catholic church. It is not good enough to fob them off with indifferent hymns composed in the 1970s, which is what they are getting. We don't drive 1970s cars or wear 1970s clothes, so why are young people being given 1970s liturgy?

If students are exposed to the best that the Catholic church's liturgy has to offer, they are more likely to retain their faith and pass it on to their children. Some of them might possibly discover vocations to the priesthood or religious life. Support for the traditional Mass is strongest amongst the under-30s. There is every reason to expect that it would be well received by students. A good classic  liturgy with high quality music would encourage students to invite their non-Catholic friends and in this way, become part of the church's evangelical outreach.

There are also implications for the host parishes where these Masses are held in a church. They occupy the building for over an hour, take up a priest's time and are often attended by parishioners. Since Summorum Pontificum was issued in 2007, there has been an increase in the celebration of Mass in the old form, but Pope Benedict's expectations have not yet borne the fruit that might have been expected. Partly, this is due to the shortage of priests able to say Mass in the old form. Conversations I have had with priests suggests that even if they want to, they have not had the opportunity to learn, partly due to lack of time and partly due to the shortage of training opportunities. The ability to say Mass in both forms should be a requirement of all seminarians before they are ordained, and that would in due course solve the problem. In the meantime, there is a need for training courses on the lines of the Priests' Conferences organised by the English Latin Mass Society. However, in some parishes, priests are available who are able to celebrate Mass in the old form.

Surely it is a waste of resources to tie up church buildings and the priests' time with indifferent liturgies, which are not comprehensible and of poor quality, when something so much better could be offered?

tisdag 21 oktober 2014

Winning Catholics back to the church

The principal motivation for the suggested relaxation of rules made at the recent Synod of Bishops was that it would arrest the decline in numbers by making the church more welcoming to homosexuals and people living in irregular relationships.

In my experience at parishes in the south of England, declines in attendance during the 1970s and 1980s happened suddenly when new parish priests took over. It happened within a matter of weeks of their arrival. In each case the mass exodus was precipitated by the introduction of the vernacular liturgy. At first, people would move to adjacent parishes where Latin and Gregorian chant was still in use, but as these in turn were hit, there were fewer and fewer places to flee to. The situation eventually arose where for many people, attendance at a Mass where the liturgy was not dreadful could mean a ninety minute journey in each direction on sparse public transport.

The experience of a family I know is perhaps typical. Dino, now in his 70s, is one of a large family whose father came from Italy in the 1920s. Whilst working as an architect 40 years ago, he married Bridget, a work colleague. She had come from Ireland to England to work in the late 1960s, and was also one of a large family. Both families were staunchly and traditionally Catholic - like so many, Bridget had aunt who was a nun.

They lived, and still live, in a parish in a prosperous part of North London and have three children - a son and two daughters, now in their thirties. The oldest boy used to attend Mass regularly but reluctantly. He didn't like the liturgy and found the sermons patronising. The time came, in his mid-teens, when he announced that he would never go to Mass again. The older of the daughters kept the faith and has paid the price in being unable for many years to find a suitable partner - she married recently, later than she would have wanted. The younger daughter, who is in fact my God-daughter, has a live-in boyfriend, pleasant enough; hers is a typical example of an "irregular relationship". I attended her confirmation about twenty years ago, an eminently forgettable event with banal music. Clearly the church has had nothing to offer her. Dino and Marie continue to attend Mass on Sunday but complain about their local parish and travel to the Brompton Oratory whenever possible, which is over an hour away and turns Mass-going into a full day out.

By contrast, I have been relatively fortunate with my own parishes. St Mary Magdalen's, Brighton suffered a near-collapse when a new priest arrived in 1990. It continued in the doldrums until Fr Blake arrived in 2001. Within a couple of years he had turned things round by adopting a traditional style of liturgy, encouraging regular confession and promoting a good work - a parish soup run. Similar stories can be told wherever this has happened. The Oratorians turned round the moribund former Jesuit parish of St Aloysius within a couple of years. The small parish of Littlehampton in Sussex has been pulled round after thirty years of neglect.

It seems that it is perfectly possible to kindle the flames of faith out of the dying embers of a parish, simply by being Catholic and holding to tradition - a dignified liturgy, getting parishioners into the habit of confession and running a good work of some kind in response to local need. It does not need a re-writing of doctrine, redefining as acceptable that which have up to now been recognised as sins.

måndag 20 oktober 2014

Irrelevant synod on the family

What struck me about the synod of bishops which has just closed was its irrelevance. The teaching of the Catholic Church on sexual matters is clear - no sex outside marriage. That is not anti-gay or anti-anybody. We all find it difficult to keep to the rules. That is what the confessional is for, and the end of the matter.

The real concern should be that families are failing, and that is what the bishops ought to have been talking about. There all sorts of pressures on the family - war and instability, economic insecurity, poverty, migration, housing priced out of people's reach, etc. For example, in most developed countries in Europe, one person's wages are often not sufficient to pay for the accommodation for a family. Wages are often dependent on employment opportunities which can vanish overnight.

My former parish priest used to complain about the lack of large families, but the price of a house large enough for a large family was well out of reach of most people in that parish.

The most successful families seem to be those where the family is also an economic unit, running a family business or perhaps an agricultural smallholding. The rise of the firm as the primary economic unit has been detrimental to families, yet our bishops - neither the "progressives" or the "conservatives" say anything about this.

There is no excuse, since there is a substantial body of Catholic church teaching, known as "Catholic Social Teaching", which has been developed since Rerum Novarum was issued in 1891. It serves as a good starting point despite its deficiencies, and is the grounding for the system of economic organisation known as "Distributism". Having developed the ideas in the 1930s, what has always been needed is for lay people to get together, with the blessing of the hierarchy, to formulate a legislative and fiscal structure which would bring about the Distributist economy, where the economy was organised in the interest of the family. When it comes to it, however, there seems to be a complete lack of interest. Instead of solid proposals, all we have is the uttering of platitudes and an embarrassing debate about bedroom morality.