The competing ethics of duty v self-interest misread by Harry and Meghan.

The announcement from Harry and Meghan will cause a variety of responses from the public.

One of them will be sadness. There is a tragic element to the blinkeredness and immaturity that mistakes a bid for independence as ‘carving a progressive role.’It isn’t that at all of course. In reality it is choosing between two competing philosophies or ethics. One, which the monarchy is founded on and depends on, is a Christian one in which doing one’s duty on behalf of others takes priority over self-interest. The other is a concentration on self-interest and self expression (however it is justified) at the expense of self-sacrifice and duty.The problem for the Sussexes is that they  have chosen to put their own self-interests before their public  duty and family. It has been tried before both by ordinary people and by prominent people like Edward 8th. The tragedy is that it almost always ends in a growth of self-pity and sadness.

Although they are banking on a degree of public support, a narrative that includes make Kate Windsor cry and cold-shouldering a beloved grandmother, may not elicit as much public sympathy as they hope.

The tragedy is that they have undoubtedly underestimated the cost of an independence that sits badly with the wealth and privilege they appear to feel they have a right to.

We can only pray for them; praying particularly for wisdom to make better choices and charity to mend the relationships they have broken as the price of pursuing their own interests.

Free speech for 2020!

It’s been an astonishing year. Some things have moved very fast. Two things in particular have stuck out. One is the dreadful level of plastic pollution in our oceans, and throughout our whole ecological system.


Of all the crises I would like to do something about, dealing with plastic pollution is at the top of my list. And it can be done, and although we are doing too little too late, new forms of biodegradable plastic are emerging already, and not a moment too soon.


But as a parallel to the pollution of the oceans is the pollution of our freedom to speak and to think. The ‘woke culture’ is growing deeper and deeper tentacles. This last year Kanye West was told he was not really black. Douglas Murray was told he was not really gay. Germaine Greer was told she was not a feminist, and JK Rowling was struck off the reading list of the woke because she was a transphobe. 


Since Kanye West is in fact black, Douglas Murray is in fact gay, Germaine Greer is not just a feminist but arguably the Queen of feminism, woke culture clearly isn’t concerned with  telling the truth. Worse than that, it doesn’t like other people telling the truth, and that’s why progressive, PC or woke culture presents such a danger to us.


This recategorizing gives the game away about whatwokeness is really all about. It is imposing a new cultural and political ideology. What had these four people done in 2019 to be publicly shamed and redefined in this way?


Kanye West urged his fans to vote for Trump. The Left were so furious they stripped him of his skin colour overnight. He may have been of African origin, but he was no longer ‘black’, because ‘woke-black’ has changed its meaning. It’s now about a commitment to taking power away from the majority and transferring it to the minority; not just for the sake of fairness, but because black has become good and white has become bad.


Douglas Murray may be attracted to men rather than women, but he was no longer ‘gay’. Because ‘gay now means buying into the belief that homosexuality is still a persecuted minority, whereas Douglas believes the battle for gay rights has been long won. And Douglas has rumbled the plot of Cultural Marxism to overturn our culture and written about it so compellingly in the Madness of Crows. So he may not be straight, but he’s certainly not (woke-)gay.


Germaine Greer has fought for womens’ rights the whole of her life. She is unconvinced that a change in the mental furniture of a man born biologically male, with xychromosones, and no womb, aided by oestrogen instead of testosterone and surgery to mimic feminine genitals, makes him a woman. So Germaine Greer has been banned from speaking at universities and is declared not to be a ‘feminist.’


Even JK Rowling, who does woke better than most, objected to a woman being sacked for holding the views that your biology was more determinative of your gender than your imagination. She was immediately ‘phobed too. She publicly vilified as a transphobe by the twittermob. Many of them claimed then could never read Harry Potter again, and feel safe.


Phobed, is the new excommunication. The PC mob is the new Inquisition.


Phobic is one of the  most powerful words in our vocabulary or public lexicon. It acts as a stranglehold on our thoughts and how or whether we can express them. As you might expect, this word which has become a secret policeman enforcing censorship, doesn’t actually mean what it says. It’s just a weapon to close down discussion and discovery.


Originally it meant just ‘fear’. But it became attached to conditions where people experienced an irrational anxiety that was out of proportion to the reality of the situation they were in; a fear of spiders or open spaces for example. It was used in the context of mental distress or mental illness. The skilful trick from progressive culture has been to attach it to anything with a presumed victim status, in a way that suggests you are mentally unwell if you are at all uneasy or uncomfortable with what you see.


And yet you might well feel uncomfortable that our Gender Identity Development Services have seen a rise of over 100% in referrals without having any idea why. But this doesn’t make you transphobic.  You might feel anxious about Islamic suicide bombers targeting children at pop concerts; that doesn’t make you Islamophobic. You might feel concern that people lose their jobs for failing to back to the ever-more ambitious LGBT agenda, imposed  by the woke who have infiltrated the institutions from the Police to the media; but that doesn’t make you homophobic. 


If I was able to start a campaign for 2020, it would be to take a stand against the word phobic, in the name of free speech and free thought. Its members would commit themselves to challenge every use of the word phobic and refuse to engage with the conversation, until it the sentence had  been translated into vocabulary that removed the stigma and insinuation of mental illness, the implication of hate, and the threat of the modern inquisition.


Let’s become as impatient with the pollution of our language as we are of our oceans. Just say ‘no’ to words that have been polluted by the suffix phobic’, and make our public discourse a safe space for free communication for 2020 and beyond.



Charting the journey of the heart ‘home to Rome’. An article in the Tablet. Gavin Ashenden.

The heart is a complex place. The psalms warn us that it has its own language. So does St Augustine.

Stuff happens of its own accord ‘down there’. From the head’s perspective, I have been on a slow but determined course of convergence for al long time. For nearly 25 years I taught GK Chesterton (along with Lewis, Williams and Tolkien) in the Literature Department of a university.

I have never stopped reading Newman. I have read more of the Apostolic Fathers in the last ten years than at any previous stage of my life.

But one or two things proved to be what we have begin to describe in ecological language, as a tipping point.

One was during a meal with Tom Holland as he was writing Dominion. “I don’t understand” he said, why the Church is so ill at ease with its competence and experience of the supernatural. Of the whole dimension of heaven and hell; of angels and demons. It’s the one thing you bring to the public table that nobody else knows anything about? Why does it insist on trying to offer a political discourse that everyone else does better?”

A second was the constant stream of emails I received from Catholics who were reading what I had written or listening to my homilies on my web page.

“Please come across and join us in our struggle against progressive culture. The struggle is lost in Anglicanism, but we it hasn’t been and won’t be lost with us. Come and do it here.”

The third was a simple request from my local Catholic bishop. “We know you are coming across at some point. Come now.”

The rather incongruous association with St Paul’s dream of the Macedonians appearing to him in his sleep saying “come and help us” attached itself to this inner conversation. And I decided the time had come. I moved from Kronos to Kairos.

I had not realised until the Mass at which I was received at Shrewsbury Cathedral how deeply I had missed being in the same Church as St Augustine in particular. I realised I had for years been suppressing my grief at being in a different and essentially heretical ecclesial community. It was indeed a coming home. So so many saints whose company I had treasured over the years; of course to St Peter, and his succession. But my heart told, especially St Augustine of Hippo.

I am awash with relief, a sense of fully belonging, and with an unashamed sense of the depth, richness and authenticity of the fullness of Catholic faith. The entropic derivative I had been taking unnecessary refuge in had run out of steam. I was home.

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