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Ash Wednesday (2)



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Ash Wednesday




Yes, it sort of happened to me.  I was a Liberal Arts student at St Andrews University from 1966 to 1970, studying Mediaeval History – leading to an Honours Degree (MA – Master of Arts).

I had a tremendous crush on a lovely fellow student, Dorothy, who came from Stockport.  She was a devout Roman Catholic (not that devout when it came to …… hey, this was the “Swinging Sixties”, and we were young, single, and free!)

Anyhow, we had arranged on one Ash Wednesday to meet for lunch – probably, at the Student Union for a gourmet meal of pie beans and chips….. yes, I know that Catholics shouldn’t eat meat on Ash Wednesday, but the University’s Scotch Pies had a filling that had as much meat in it as my dental fillings have. 😄

So, I met her near the RC chapel, and, of course, immediately blurted out, “You’ve got a dirty smudge on your forehead!”  And that’s de truth, Yer Honour.

With it being a Wednsday, there were no classes nor tutorials in the afternoon; so, after lunch, we had a bit of R & R – and the “smudge” quickly rubbed off! but that’s another story………😊


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The Catholic Patient

Charlie Chaplain’s Tales


On his first day, as the Catholic part-time Chaplain to the Hospital (ed: note not “part-time Catholic Chaplain” – what was he the rest of the time: part-time Baptist, part-time Anglican?) was understandably nervous.

He went into the Ward (one of those long “Nightingale Wards” with beds down each side), looking for Catholic patients.

At the end of each bed, there was a small sign.  On the first one, it simply had the letter “P” written on it.  “a Protestant,” he muttered under his breath, “maybe Pentecostalists, could be Pagan….certainly not one of mine, anyhow”

However, as he passed the bed, he glanced over and wished the patient well.

The next bed along… “P” once more….and the next….and the one after that.  “Are there no Catholics here at all?” he wondered.

Then – Joy of Joys (though he sought forgiveness from Above for rejoicing that someone was unwell and in hospital, but this patient had the letters “RC” printed on the card at the foot of his bed!

The priest sat down beside him, and they had a wonderful chat.  The chap was delightful and a good conversationalist.

When it was time to go, the Priest said, “The doctors and nurses here are wonderful, but you mustn’t neglect your spiritual health – here’s a rosary, just a cheap plastic one, but a rosary none the less. As you use it, pray to the Archangel Saint Raphael, and thank him for healing you.”

“But, Father, I’m not a member of your Church; in fact, I’m an Elder at St Blethers by the Gasworks – the Kirk in……..”  The Priest interrupted, “But…. but … it’s got RC printed on the notice at the end of your bed!”

So the patient explained – patiently…… (and you can all join in the punchline of this joke – it’s so old that I’m paying death duties on it).

“It’s for the catering department; for breakfasts: those with a “P” on their card get porridge; me – I prefer Rice Crispies”  Boom! Boom!  (yes, I know that Kelloggs spell their breakfast cereal with a “K”, but it wouldn’t be a joke then, would it?)


Glorious Archangel St. Raphael, great prince of the heavenly court, you are illustrious for your gifts of wisdom and grace. You are a guide of those who journey by land or sea or air, consoler of the afflicted, and refuge of sinners.

I beg you, assist me in all my needs and in all the sufferings of this life, as once you helped the young Tobias on his travels. Because you are the “medicine of God” I humbly pray you to heal the many infirmities of my soul and the ills that afflict my body. I especially ask of you the favor (here mention your special intention), and the great grace of purity to prepare me to be the temple of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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The Gates to New Life

VANCOUVER – Bill and Melinda Gates, the richest couple in the world, long ago decided to devote the bulk of their wealth to charitable causes, reducing child poverty and illness in the developing world, and improving education in the United States.

But in a candid interview with Chris Anderson, the curator of the TED conference in Vancouver, they acknowledged their great wealth hasn’t saved them from making costly mistakes.

They cited two examples Tuesday night in a TED talk that was broadcast live, saying the mistakes have served to help them realize their charitable goals need to be better researched and activated.

The evening talk was one of the highlights of the week-long TED event, a popular worldwide conference of thinkers and doers which is making its debut in Vancouver on its 30th anniversary.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation spends $1 billion a year on improving access to education, and developed a model for small, intimate school settings. But Melinda Gates said that hasn’t always worked.

“I would say is that an early lesson out of this was that we thought these small schools were the answer,” she said. “Small schools definitely help. They bring down the dropout rate, they have less violence and crime.

“But the thing that we learned, and what turned out to be the fundamental key is a great teacher in front of the classroom,” she continued. “If you don’t have an effective teacher in the front of the classroom, I don’t care how big or small that school is. You are not going to change the trajectory of whether that school will be ready for college.”

Bill Gates said he wasted more than $60 million on a dream to eradicate Leishmaniasis in India, a potentially fatal disease that is transmitted by sand flies.

“We were very naive about a drug for a disease in India called Leishmaniasis. I thought once we got this drug we could just go wipe out this disease,” he said.

“Well, it turns out it took an injection every day for 10 days, and it took three more years to get it, and then there was no way it was going to get out there. You can say we wasted five years and about $60 million on a path that had very modest benefits when we got there.”

Melinda Gates also talked about the personal wrestle she had as a Roman Catholic over her decision to help fund contraceptives for women in developing countries.

Condoms may be useful for stopping transmittable diseases, but women can’t convince their husbands to use them for planning families, she said.

“Women will tell you I can’t negotiate condoms with my husband. I am either suggesting he has AIDS or I have AIDS,” she said.

“We have backed away from contraceptives as a global community. We knew that 210 million women were saying they wanted access to contraceptives. And we weren’t providing them because of the political controversy in our country,” Melinda Gates said.

“And to me, that was just a crime. I kept looking around trying to find the person who would get this back on the global stage and I finally realized I had to do it. And even though I am Catholic I believe in contraceptives, just like the majority of Catholic women in the United States who report using contraceptives, and I shouldn’t let that controversy be the thing that holds us back.”

As a result, she was able to raise $2.6 billion to help provide contraceptives for women in developing nations.

The Gateses have pledged to donate 95 per cent of their wealth to their foundation. In 2006 their friend Warren Buffett, the fourth-richest person in the world, pledged 80 per cent of his wealth to the foundation.

The two philanthropic contributions helped spark the Giving Pledge campaign, a program the Gateses and Buffett have developed to convince other wealthy people to donate large portions of their assets. Bill Gates said that so far about 120 people have made that pledge.

The Gateses said they were stunned when Buffett came to them and offered his money.

“He was going to have his wife Susie give it all away. Tragically she passed away before he did. And he’s big on delegation,” said Bill Gates.

“If he’s got somebody who’s doing something well and is willing to do something at no charge, maybe that’s okay,” he said to laughs from the audience.

“We were stunned; we had never expected it. It has allowed us to increase our ambition and what the foundation can do quite dramatically. I mean half the resources we have come from Warren’s mind-blowing generosity.”

The Gateses also answered a question many in the audience wanted to know; would their three children become instant billionaires by inheritance?

“No they won’t have anything like that,” Bill Gates said. “They need to have a sense that their own work is meaningful and important.”


© Copyright (c) Vancouver Sun

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Thank God for the NHS (falling to bits as it is)

AlterNet / By Valerie Tarico
Biblical Medicine: How Religious Authorities Can Have Power Over Your Life and Death Decisions
Religion can play a harmful and inappropriate role in our hospital rooms.


February 19, 2014 |
Religious belief is on the decline in the U.S., and medical knowledge is on the increase. This makes it particularly ironic that so much of our health care system is accountable at the highest levels not to science or patient preference but to the dictates faith and of theology. Metaphorically, more and more medical decisions get made with the Catholic Bishops in the room, regardless of whether the patient wants them there. Not only that, but the Bishops have a religious veto that can trump both doctor and patient.

James Glickman from Sturbridge, Massachusetts, became a legal witness for aid in dying after watching his father scream for someone to kill him during his last forty-five minutes of life. Darcy Burner chose to end a pregnancy that would have killed her, and then advocated for patient rights during a congressional run. Judy Nicastro risked the life of one twin in utero to abort the other who would have painfully suffocated at birth. Each of these individuals, together with loved ones, wrestled with some of the most difficult decisions any of us can face. In all cases, the response of the Catholic Bishops would have been to deny them options—to fall back on the current position of the Church hierarchy: “we believe life is sacred from conception to natural death.”

Thanks to corporate mergers and laws that privilege religious institutions, many communities across the United States havefew or no secular options when it comes to medical care and no legal mandate that patients be told about the full range of medically appropriate services. In Washington State, to cite one egregious example, almost half of hospital beds and affiliated care systems fall under the authority of the Catholic Church, and many counties have no alternative.

Let’s be clear why this creates an irreconcilable conflict of interest. A medical system with religious authorities and corporations at the top means the following:

· Patients kept in ignorance about the full range of medically appropriate treatments if some of these are judged to violate the theology of the provider or institution

· Providers who don’t get continuing education about medical advances that a religious hierarchy disapproves

· Pharmacies that don’t stock drugs and devices that religious owners disapprove of

· Public health dollars used to promote specific religious beliefs and the notion that “faith” is a reasonable way of determining what medical care should be provided

· A medical culture that denies the very methods of science: evidence, hypothesis testing, and accountability

· Religious institutions or individual believers given a religious veto over the deeply personal medical decisions of individual patients

· Couples denied the means to time their childbearing, which leaves more families mired in poverty

· Women denied miscarriage management or termination of pregnancy gone wrong

· Less prenatal diagnosis and a greater percent of children born with birth defects

· Families stripped of decision making power after tragic accidents because “every life is sacred”

· Dead women kept on life support as human incubators

· Higher costs to families for health treatments that are excluded from insurance

· A growing number of religious health professions who demand to keep their jobs without fully doing their jobs

· Religious allied health professionals second guessing doctors’ orders and patient requests

· A powerful lobby undermining anti-discrimination laws that protect queers and females

· A powerful lobby advocating exemptions to living wage laws and worker rights

· Soaring public health costs as a consequence of religious meddling in end of life and beginning of life decisions

· Suffering unto death aka “redemptive suffering” for people who would prefer to manage their own process and die with dignity

The fact that religion has the final say in so much of our healthcare system is an artifact of history. Many early hospitals were built by missionary orders who believed that God called them to serve the poor and sick. They provided largely palliative care akin to what Mother Teresa’s order provides in Calcutta. As medicine advanced and government began funding health systems, it was often easiest to simply channel funding through the existing providers, even though these providers ultimately were accountable to Church authorities. It was a marriage of compassion and convenience.

Early on, there was no conflict between religion and medical science because the two were synonymous. Religion provided proto-scientific understandings of illness and death. The role of nurses was to ease suffering where they could and make spiritual meaning of it where they could not. When healing happened, the hand of God got the credit, and when healing failed, faith eased the loss.

However, conflict was inevitable. One part of the religious-medical mindset is compassionate service, but another part is passive acceptance of divine will. Consequently, over the centuries as medical science has emerged, first in the rudimentary trials and errors of folk practitioners and then as an actual scientific endeavor, institutional Christianity has had mixed reactions.

When push comes to shove, religion is designed to help us transcend our mortal condition in a world to come, not to help us overcome it in this one. Consequently, in religion-based healthcare the ultimate good is actually the health of the soul, as understood by a specific authoritarian tradition and set of practitioners. Suffering, in this view, may be a test, a punishment, or a way of cleansing sin. In any case trying to discern and obey God’s will is supremely important. Our lives belong to God.

Contrast this with the worldview of medical science—that human suffering is a natural phenomenon; that our experience in this world is controlled by physical and biological laws; that by understanding these laws we have the power to prevent illness and cure it or to limit suffering when both of those are impossible. In medical science, it is the health of the body and the quality of this life that matters, and our lives are our own. Medical ethics place a supreme value on patient autonomy and preference.

Sometimes the priorities of religious practitioners and the objectives of secular medicine align, but sometimes they don’t. In particular, the religious edicts controlling any given medical institution may clash with the moral, spiritual or physical priorities of a person seeking care. When that happens, who should get to decide? This question is being played out in the courts, with the big money coming from religious institutions. This illustrates the very heart of the problem with religion controlling healthcare, the ability of powerful institutions motivated by theology to impose their will on vulnerable individuals who simply need help or want to offer it.

Christians haven’t burned midwives as witches in a long time, but in the last century Christian clerics fought against polio vaccines (just as some conservative Muslims do today) because immunizing children was “playing God.” More recently, Christian authorities opposed HPV vaccines that prevent cervical cancer (as have conservative Jewish groups in Israel). Some perceive that sexually transmitted illnesses are divine punishment for unsanctioned sex and eliminating the threat of cancer might (God forbid!) increase promiscuity. Others see mandatory vaccination as an intrusion on divinely appointed hierarchy in which a man decides what is best for his own wife and children.

Today Catholic and Evangelical authorities are going all in to fight against universal access to contraception. Giving women the ability to delay, space and limit childbearing subverts God’s intention, which is, as the New Testament writer puts it, “women shall be saved through childbearing.”

The Church is also throwing weight and dollars into opposing aid in dying. Antibiotics and assistive technologies increasingly are removing some of the easiest ways to die of old age—pneumonia, for example. As baby boomers witness the drawn-out deaths of their parents, they increasingly are looking for ways to manage their own end of life experience. But Catholic theology and authorities insist that life is sacred, “from conception to natural death.”

Religion may not poison everything, as the late Christopher Hitchens alleged, but it can poison healthcare. And from there the poison seeps into society more broadly, because in order to maintain their privilege in the healthcare system, Churches and Religious corporations fight legal battles that undermine human rights in society at large. They have argued that the conscience rights of institutions and corporations should be able to trump individual conscience. They have challenged anti-discrimination laws, and won, effectively establishing legal precedent that freedom from discrimination is not a constitutional right. They have argued that they should be exempt from labor organizing because giving workers the right to organize impinges on their sovereignty. Driven by dogma, lawyers find circuitous arguments and judges uphold “rights” that under any other light would look patently immoral.

Compassion and justice, individual responsibility and freedom, health and wellbeing—values like these require that we constantly wrestle with hard questions. The values themselves may be timeless, even rooted in human biology, but our understanding of how best to enact them evolves as technology and population growth bring us into contact with new ideas and dilemmas. Our ancestors had no moral responsibility to cure malaria, for example, or maternal mortality, because they had no power to do so. Similarly, they had no responsibility to prevent birth defects, because they couldn’t know in advance whether a fetus can grow into a healthy baby. But now that we have this knowledge and power, a new set of ethical questions and moral complexities arises.

Biomedical science is presenting us with questions like these at a faster and faster pace, and they are precisely the kind of questions that religion is poorly equipped to answer. In fact, they are the kind of questions to which religion has given the wrong answer time and time again. Religion tends to take a snapshot of a given cultural-moral nexus, sanctifies it, and then tries to defend it against all comers. Christianity puts God’s name on cultural agreements that were made in the Iron Age, long before medicine became a science. Small wonder, then, that some of the “Ethical and Religious Directives” that govern Catholic healthcare cause harm rather than helping people to flourish.

We need a medical system with one singular mission—to ensure everyone has affordable, easy access to effective care. To maximize the ability of American women, men, and children to live and die as well as we can. We need a system that respects our individual ideas about what that means, a system in which decisions are made based on medical science and our preferences, a system where no institution or provider gets a religious veto over another person’s most intimate decisions.

Today, thanks to science, modern health facilities looks nothing like those early hospitals where care was limited to brow wiping and bed changing and prayer. They are also different from those early missions in another way: today, the dollars that fund Catholic health care come from us. Almost half of the funds flowing through religious hospitals come from taxpayers, with the next largest chunk coming from private pay patients or their insurance companies, often in situations where patients have no choice about where to go. And contrary to popular myth (and the Catholic hospitals’ own self-promotion), Catholic hospitals provide less charity care than the industry average. We pay for these institutions, and we have the right to expect medical care that respects our personal ethical and religious priorities, including the right to manage our own bodies. It’s time to get religious institutions out of the healthcare business.

Valerie Tarico is a psychologist and writer in Seattle, Washington and the founder of Wisdom Commons. She is the author of “Trusting Doubt: A Former Evangelical Looks at Old Beliefs in a New Light” and “Deas and Other Imaginings.” Her articles can be found at Awaypoint.Wordpress.com.

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On being a Catholic – Andy Millman (“Extras”)

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February 18, 2014 · 15:39



If most people saw an enormous tornado passing terrifyingly close to their house, they would probably run for cover.

However, Anthony Khoury watched steadfastly from his window as he calmly recited “The Lord’s Prayer,” “Hail Mary,” and “Glory Be,” while videotaping the massive storm that hit his neighborhood in Washington, Ill. The resulting video, submitted to CNN iReport, is a powerful demonstration of faith in the face of danger.

“I come from a very devout Catholic Christian family, and we trust in God that he protects us, and he always gives us strength and courage to help us endure all sorts of sufferings and threats,” 21-year-old Khoury told CNN.

He talked about the sudden storm to the Weather Center, saying, “It was so unexpected to see that coming. I heard the sirens come on, and I thought it was just going to be a small storm, then all I see is a massive black tornado. My mother, my father, and I, we all panicked, we all ran downstairs and started praying.”

Amazingly, the storm that devastated his neighborhood a mere two streets away didn’t damage Khoury’s house. “It was my street, and the street next to us were the only ones in the neighborhood that weren’t hit by the tornado,” he told CNN.

“We believed that God would keep us safe,” Khoury said.

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Across the Great Divide



Maurice (“Mo”) Johnston, former Celtic FC player, hit the headlines in July 1989,  when he opted not to return to Celtic and instead joined Graeme Souness‘s Rangers. From the early 20th century onwards, Catholics had not been knowingly signed by the club, nor employed in other prominent roles as an ‘unwritten rule’ Johnston was “their first major Roman Catholic signing”. He was the highest-profile Catholic to sign for the club since the World War I era, though other Catholics had signed for Rangers before.

The move angered both Celtic and Rangers supporters. Some Rangers fans burned scarves and threatened to hand in season tickets over the signing while Celtic fans referred to Johnston as Judas. Rangers’ kit men protested by making Johnston arrange his own kit ]

However, he won over a lot of Rangers fans in November 1989 when he scored an injury time winner for Rangers against former club and bitter rivals Celtic.

When he arrived at Ibrox,  Souness sat Mo down and said that in his first competitive game for his new club, he would put him on during the first half and they’d see how things went.

Graeme said to him, “We can always pull you off at half time.

Opened eyed, Mo replied, “Thanks, Gaffer – that’s brilliant; at Watford we only got a cup of tea and a digestive biscuit!”

Mo had his doubts and a few weeks later went to Confession.

“Forgive me, Father, for I have signed,” he blurted out.

“As a penance,” replied the Priest, “You must go to that desolate and God-forsaken place: Larkhall…….

“…. there you will attend the Loyal Lodge of the Sons of William and sing ‘The Sash'”

“But, I dinnae ken it!” protested Mo.

“That’s all right, my son, Donald Findlay will be there and he knows it of pat”


“Yes, my son, Pakki Bonnar” (Celtic goalkeeper).


(Bill) Struth! I’d be better joining an atheist church – are there any near here?!!”

Catholics who played for Rangers:

Willie “Doc” Kivlichan 1906 – 1907
Colin Mainds 1906 – 1907
Tom Murray 1907 – 1908
Pat Lafferty 1886
Johnny Jackson 1917
James Tutty 1899 – 1900
Tom Dunbar 1891 – 1892
Joe Donnachie 1914 – 1918
Hugh O’Neill 1976
Constantine McGhie
Don Kichenbrand 1955 – 1956 (whom it was not known he was a Catholic when he signed)
Laurie Blyth played 1951-52 again signed by ‘accident’ and was released once his religion was known.
John Spencer played 1987-1992, 13 appearances, John Clare
Johnny Kennedy
Charles McCafferty (Never made a first team appearance)
Daniel Divers
Chris Houston
John Manners
Bob Cleary
George (or Gorg) Banciewicz
Eddie Devenney
Terry Sloan
Brian Grubb
Edward Devlin
Andy Casey
Tom Cassidy
Bob “Dancer” Dunn
Peter Mone
“Starry” McLachlan

Closer scrutiny however would reveal the true nature of some of these names was not of a footballing background, but was of a scholastic nature.

It would appear that many of the names that appear on this list are former teachers of St Aloysius College!

This from a comment posted on the Scotsman Site: –

“William at 72, your list of Catholic Rangers players is certainly impressively long. Obviously the very idea of a sectarian signing policy was a vile slur.
However, I notice that a large number of these Rangers players’ names bear a striking similarity to those of the teaching staff working at St Aloysius College in the late 1970s and early 1980s. To wit:
Charles McCafferty or “Weed” as we knew him – Latin master at St Al’s. Liked the Aeneid and Caesar’s Gallic War. I didn’t. Rumour had it that he had been on Celtic’s books at one point.
Daniel (Dan) Divers – also Latin master at St Al’s, as were Chris Houston (Sweaty, RIP) and Bob (Bob) Cleary. So that’s the entire Latin department from my time at St Al’s. What a great back four they’d have made. Badminton was more Sweaty’s speed, I think.
John – or rather, Father – Manners was before my time, but I believe he was a Jesuit man and that his nickname was Toad.
George Banciewizc was a somewhat psychotic maths teacher, fond of hurling the wooden blackboard duster at the inattentive. Truly terrifying man and too scary for a nickname.
Terry Sloan was a fellow pupil who I sat beside in 4th year chemistry. Played bass in a very bad sub-Stranglers band called Underground Hero.
Brian Grubb was the useless and slightly thuggish physics teacher who was fired for moonlighting as a minicab driver. No need for a nickname with a surname likes that.
Edward Devlin was the useful but slightly scary physics teacher. Nickname was “Ernie” after the v dull motorbike daredevil cartoon of the same name.
Andy Casey was a rather dapper geography teacher who apparently had some connection with Clyde FC. Had a worrying attachment to colour pencils.
Tom (Butch) Cassidy was a Canadian redhead who succeeded Andy Casey as head of geography after Andy became burser in 1980. Trained to be a priest at Maynooth, but apparently couldn’t hack it. Not a great teacher, but a good guy.
The fact that most of these teachers are actually grouped together by the subjects they taught tells me, William, that you have been hoaxed – and quite imaginatively. Who would have thought that these thoroughly Fenian pedagogues from the most Catholic school in Scotland led a double life as Rangers’ non-sectarian alibi? God, you think you know people.
Unfortunately, all of this casts doubt on the veracity of most of the rest of your names, and thoroughly undermines your point, does it not?”

Donald Findlay QC – In May 1999 he was accused of sectarianism, after being filmed singing The Sash at a private party organised by a Rangers Supporters Club, following the Scottish Cup Final in which Rangers beat Celtic 1-0. For his role in this event, Findlay resigned from the board

Bill Struth – one of the best managers in Rangers history

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August 30, 2013 · 06:27