Saturday, 20 August 2011

You are truly missed, happy birthday Ebitari Tekenah.

Ebitari, today would have been a happy day for you as it would have been your birthday. Instead, today has made me realize how much you are still missed. I have all these memories rushing back to me today and I realize that I would never pick up the phone to call and have our usual chat.
MEN!, Tari, I miss you alot and I would like to tell you Happy Birthday as you look down on us.

Happy Birthday Mate,

One Love Big Guy.

Friday, 5 August 2011

RE: The Vatican may be cosying up to science but it will never go all the way

I recently came across an article by Riazat Butt of the Guardian titled “The Vatican may be cosying up to science but it will never go all the way” on 23rd February, 2011. It was riddled with all sought of inaccuracies and misconceptions. It is important to stress ‘ab initio’ that, the Catholic Church is not a scientific body and as such need not be looked up to, to validate or invalidate any scientific theory. The Galileo experience, as she rightly pointed out, serves as a lesson. Now, it doesn’t prevent the  Church on the side, to actively seek to expand the frontier of knowledge even from the point of view of science in order to further her (she would say) understanding on the workings of God. That is why the Pope has an advisory body on science; The Pontifical Academy of Sciences, first formed in 1603 and whose members include non-Catholics such as its current president, Werner Arber and professor Stephen Hawking amongst others.
Having said that, let me first correct a false impression portrayed by the article, before I really address what I found quite disturbing about the piece as a whole. Riazat says;

“Alas, the much talked about collaboration between the Italian space agency and the Pontifical Lateran University has yet to launch. But the initiative is another sign that the Vatican wants to be taken (more) seriously on science.”

It is important to point out that this is actually not some thing new and that the Vatican has been interested in Astronomy since the 16th Century and in fact runs one of the oldest astronomical institutes (The Vatican Observatory) in the world.

None of these misconceptions surprised me more than her attempt to impose an official position on the church on the theory of evolution and suggest it is has ever opposed (or even endorsed it), going further to equate this to the church’s opposition to certain procedures based on ethical grounds (ethical as opposed to scientific theory is highlighted intentionally).
Let’s address the issue of the Evolution Theory; The Catholic Church has no official position on the theory of evolution. Now, unofficially she has said that she does not reject it as a possibility and that the theory in no way contradicts the teaching of the church on the source of creation and the dual composition of man (material and spiritual). You can refer to Pope Pius XII encyclical; Humani Generis article 36. Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI even went further to describe it as a very sound scientific hypothesis in their speeches to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences and a group of 400 priests respectively. They all did not go ahead to endorse it as a proven fact which is what I perceived the article wanted the church to do. Even the scientific community (religious and non religious) has not accorded it that kind of status; or else it seizes to be a theory.
This can also be said about the churches position on the concept of Intelligent Design and the Big Bang theory which funnily enough was once considered to be religious concept, largely due to the fact it was first proposed a catholic scientist making him to be derided and sometimes ridiculed by some of his peers. Well, today we know how billions is been spent trying to validate the big bang theory by the lager scientific community.
It then went on to suggest that Catholics should have no mind of their own and that any opinion offered by any Catholic is elevated to the status of an official position. This is preposterous and as such, to suggest that the analysis of Cardinal Schönborn tilts the official position of the Catholic Church towards intelligent design is false (and that’s putting it politely). This is because I can also point to an article in L'Osservatore Romano considered to be the official mouth piece of the Roman Curia, where Professor Fiorenzo Facchini dismissed Intelligent Design as a scientific theory. We won’t because of the analysis of the priest in the article elevate it, even in the slightest manner, to an official position of the church. In a nutshell, the church does not validate or invalidate scientific theories even if her members weigh in on the debate. Catholics are free to explore and indeed espouse their opinions on scientific matters but are called to unity of faith in truth and reason.
Now to go ahead to equate this debate within and between the church and the wider scientific community to its stance on the ethical issues surrounding embryonic stem cell and the importance to uphold the sanctity of life at every stage of development is quite worrying. This concern drove me to write this.
FYI, while we are still on inaccuracies, the Catholic Church has not changed her stance on condom use, at least as far as Humanae Vitae and other church documents make me aware.

Friday, 22 July 2011

My Take on the big news of the Week

I am starting my take with the big news of the last couple of weeks, The Phone Hacking Scandal. For those who are hearing about this for the first time, they can catch up here. My main concern about the whole drama is the distractions and misplaced outrage that is going on. The Metropolitan Police has an awful lot to answer for, but instead a lot of energy is being expended on attacking the Murdoch’s and there is even an unbelievable suggestion that the Prime minister should resign. Frankly, the Met should be taking a large portion of the blame for this scandal than they are currently. The allegations against the Met are of a serious nature that bother on corruption and the near criminal manner of improperly investigating/prosecuting the original and subsequent revelations. That newspapers made illicit payment to some officers of the Met to obtain confidential information and that the Met did not investigate the original phone hacking allegation properly and then refused to reopen the investigation in the light of new evidence, is truly a scandal. The Met should be properly investigated with relation to the involvement of some of its officers in the whole scandal, appropriate actions taken and a process of reform should commence.  Apart from the Met, I hope this case will provide an opportunity for an appropriate ethical and moral code to be instituted, to guide the activities of the press in order to avoid abuses and similar incidents by their members. I do not think that the need to expose corrupt public official and erring celebrities should grant the press with powers, if exercised wrongly, can lead them to act unlawfully and act in manners that are criminal in nature.  Laws similar to the Freedom of Information Act should be provided to assist the press in its work of investigative journalism but this must be done in an ethical manner.  Proper statutory regulation should be provided for the industry rather than leave it to self regulation which has clearly failed.  The work of the Press is too important to be allowed fail but on the other hand go unregulated properly.
The call for the Prime Minister to quit is premature and smacks of political opportunism. Yes, he can be accused of poor judgment and being  arrogant for refusing to heed prior warning, but to call for his resignation is an unnecessary distraction and totally ridiculous. I am not a supporter of David Cameron or the Conservative Party but He is not being accused of any form of inappropriate action and besides the alleged phone hacking happened under the watch of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown both of whom failed to address the issue properly or call for an inquiry (at least in the case of Gordon Brown). And lets be honest they all having been  cozying up to the Murdoch’s; Margret Thatcher, Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, David Cameron even Ed Milliband. The only politician who has been vindicated by the whole scandal in retrospect is Vince Cable.

The second story that caught my attention is the plan by the Irish government to compel priests to break the “seal of confession he has with his penitents. This is as a fallout of the Cloyne Report which blamed church authorities including the Vatican for not dealing appropriately with the abuse scandal even as recent as 2008. This is wrong on so many levels and a case of jumping into decision without careful consideration of it consequence or what it ought to achieve.
It is important to note that the sacrament of reconciliation is more of a spiritual exercise that appeals to the conscience of the penitent to come forward to confess his (or her) sins to God (very important point) but in the presence of a priest. In return, the Priest is sworn to Secrecy, a duty that is absolute even if the sin confessed is a criminal one. Under no circumstance (even under the threat of their own death or that of others) is the priest to betray the penitent by divulging to anyone, any sin (even murder) learnt in the process of administering the sacrament of penance.  This is very important because it allows the penitent to freely examine his conscience genuinely without fear or pressure and seek true reconciliation with God. This practice should not be interfered with by any secular authority. The priest can always appeal to the penitent conscience to report any confessed criminal offence to the authority as part of his penance, but that is all he can do.
According to an article by David Quinn, this call by the Irish government has no precedence and will at best be counter productive as a ‘sinner’ who knows a priest who hears his confession of a crime is under a duty to report it to the authorities, will ‘out of fear’ avoid the sacrament. David Quinn further writes:

                        But our Government is clearly missing something that every other Government can see, which is that at a minimum such a law is very unlikely to lead to a single conviction and at a maximum will be counter-productive and will make society less safe, rather than more safe.
It could equally be argued that a priest who hears a confession of murder must report it to the police. But if the murderer knew that priests were under such a legal requirement, the murderer would not make such a confession unless he was going to the police anyway.
On the other hand, a murderer who wishes to confess a crime to a priest, under the absolute seal of the confessional, is on the road to repentance and attending confession gives a priest the chance to encourage the murderer to turn himself over to the authorities or at the very least to cease his criminal activities.
The logic is the same with child abusers. No child abuser will go to a priest in confession knowing the priest is required to inform the police. But cutting off the avenue of confession to a child abuser makes it less likely that he will talk to someone who can persuade him to take the next step.
Various relationships in society are considered privileged and confidential. One is between a person and his or her confessor. Another is between a doctor and patient, and another is between a lawyer and client.
In creating a legal requirement that priest break the seal of confession under certain circumstances; the Irish State is going down a road very few other states in history have gone down. We need to seriously reconsider this extremely unwise and unprecedented proposal.

The Irish Government should seek true protection of its children from abuse both within the church and in a vast majority of the cases within the family (and/or society). Interfering with a sacred sacrament will not achieve a single result and only just smacks of political grand standing.

Friday, 24 June 2011

Is it really dignifying?

How did we really get to this stage, where the most hotly contested social and ideological question of our generation ‘is whether it is right to end human life, considered not fit enough’? From the issue of abortion to euthanasia the divide is increasingly becoming distinct and ubiquitous. I always thought that events in history had taught us not to qualify human life in value terms.  ‘Every human life is precious’ sounds perfect to me. ‘Oh this life is quite worthless, we could as well put an end to it’, was once considered quite an ominous view to have and indeed express, if not only because of it’s potential of producing unintended consequences down the line. “Every human life is precious, valuable and should be preserved”, was touted to be the underlining principle of what a compassionate and civilized society of the 21st century was built on. Could it be that our psyche has changed?
I am writing this against the backdrop of the documentary by Terry Pratchett on assisted suicide. Let me first state that I did not watch the documentary but even if I had the opportunity to, I wouldn’t have. I have seen similar features; I have heard all the arguments before but something still tells me it is wrong. I have heard enough about the content of the documentary and the ensuing debate following from it, so I think I kind off get what it was about (and besides it would soon be available on You Tube).  I am not going to; change my opinion all of a sudden because a man is shown dying on television. We all know that there are people going through unbearable sufferings (we cannot even begin to imagine) for various reasons and in varying degrees in every part of the world. What is actually the policy of showing death on TV? I had always taught it is too morbid and crass to show actual death on telly (even if it is peaceful).
Would the BBC ever allow an abortion procedure to be showed on television? I bet they won’t dare show the outcomes of abortion and let the general public see how cruel it is. May be it was a good thing they showed the documentary to spark a debate on the issue. We hope they can balance it out by showing a similar documentary on how palliative care is administered to terminally ill patient or patient experiencing severe pain keeping in mind that the commission on assisted dying has just finished taking submissions from the public and are now compiling their report.
From a historical point of view, the fears, the concerns and the antecedents of its danger are real and ever present.  Before the Nazi’s first introduced the T-4 Euthanasia (good death) program which they claimed was out of compassion and mercy for those considered to be unworthy of life, there had been a growing call for its introduction in the 1920’s by the German Eugenics movement. This movement stepped up their campaign for the introduction of such a program by the early 1930’s. While acknowledging that public opinion would most likely not support it, they embarked on a huge propaganda campaign of documentaries, films and posters using languages such as ‘compassionate’ and ‘mercy’ in order to sway the public mood. Eventually, they were able to get the Nazi government to introduce the law that enabled killing those they considered to be unworthy of a good life, the terminally ill, and the disabled, which later expanded to include race and various other reasons that history has recorded.  This latest campaign feels like déjà vu to me.
Now, the arguments in favor of it could, to all intent and purposes, be genuine but the overall unintended consequence and the fear of the of the law evolving to point that there would be no safeguards, makes it  a very dangerous route to follow that could ultimately lead to diminished respect for human life.
The one question that keeps coming up is; ‘whose life is it anyway?’ Don’t I have the right to do what I like with it and that includes ending it? Let’s take the case of suicide; the state tries everything it can to persuade any individual threatening to take his/her life for whatever reasons (emotional, psychological and sometimes physical) not to.  So for instance, if a man is standing at the edge of the London Bridge with a revolver pointed to his head. You are sure that expert negotiators from the security agencies would try to talk him out of it. We could as well say, ‘it is his life, let him take it if he wants, it’s one less mouth to worry about’. We don’t because our culture to protect and preserve every life despite what they might have done or what they might be going through (The standoff between the police and Raoul Moat is a recent example). Most legal documents expressly classify the right to life as a fundamental right accorded to all manner of persons not the right to die.
If society is to grant the terminally ill their wish for assisted suicide because of their ailment and suffering, under the principle of control and determination over their life, how can the infirm, weak those who are struggling with depression or suffering for other reasons be denied the same opportunity?
It is hard to criticize the relatives of those seeking to die in the case of the terminally ill with unbearable pain and suffering. How can they not oblige the request of their loved ones to release them from their misery? Is that not being compassionate and merciful? If that is true, does that make those who are opposed to euthanasia, uncompassionate and merciless? No it is not.  In fact, I believe both side are advocating their positions based on love and respect for their fellow man.
Having this in mind, I am of the opinion that in certain cases, assisted suicide (active euthanasia) should not be criminalized but it should not be made legal and permitted in any circumstance (I no longer hold that position which I held 3 years ago as without criminalizing, it will be difficult if not impossible to deter people from carrying out euthanasia).
 What is the point? Is that not a paradox? You might be saying. Well maybe it true that my suggestion is a bit absurd but I guess the whole issue has gotten me really confused.
One thing I am sure of though is that I do not believe society as a whole should abandon its responsibility of caring for those in society who are incapacitated for whatever reason.

 Irrespective of the prevailing economic situation, the state has a primary duty of care to all its citizens (despite their condition) which includes providing for their welfare, needs and security. This at least forms part of the fundamental objectives and directive principles of state policy. Most times family members and relatives do face difficult choices and circumstances, that is why placing the burden of guilt and exposing them to difficult moral choices on this issue will seem highly unfair, without the active help of government.
For instance, in France, any attempt to legalize active euthanasia is most likely to fail, just as it did, when it came up for debate in the senate earlier this year, largely because they have a well developed palliative care program. The Prime Minister, François Fillon said during the debate that he didn’t think such a law would fit in with the “basic values of our society” and that to legislate giving the right to end someone’s life was a limit “we should not go beyond”. He said it was also “very dangerous” as it did not allow for any consultation with the family. I absolutely agree with him.
Just as in France, the debate in England and elsewhere needs a senior political figure to take a principled stand based on sound moral judgment and conviction on this issue and not be bullied by those (sometimes a very tiny group with influence) who tend to lobby parliament to pass laws and thereby alter and coerce public opinion in their favor through the courts.  The political class should offer and expand the alternative option of caring and not the culture of death.
People often suggest that the opposition to legalizing euthanasia is often reactionary, but these same people fail to acknowledge that such a law can be subject to abuse and could lead to further changes in the law that could pose a potential danger to the weak in our society such as babies, children, people with disabilities and the elderly. In the summer of 1939, Hitler set up a programme headed by two of his close confidant Philipp Bouhler and Karl Brandt aimed at killing children under the age of three considered to have mental and physical disabilities. This was after a decision he made to approve the killing of a severely deformed child on the request of the mother. Parents were soon coerced to commit their ward with similar disabilities to the programme and soon the element of guardian consent, disappeared. By the time the war began, it included children under the age of seventeen.  It is estimated that by 1941, over 5000 children had been killed in the programme.
There will be those who will always argue that Nazi Germany was a different scenario. Well, that is the only case we know of, where the policy has actually been tried, developed and evolved.
We see, like in the Netherlands, the introduction of a law; the Groningen protocol, which allows for the killing of children under 16, with only the consent of the parent, Is that not giving parents who consider their children to be a burden a legal way out? Are there not stories of mothers who surreptitiously murder their children for no just cause like in the US where you have cases such as Susan Smith, Andrea Yates and of course the tragic story of Marybeth Tinning? Is it not possible for very manipulative characters to exploit the law to have their children, who they consider to be a burden, killed?
This raises a serious question about those considered unable to grant consent, children, elderly and mentally impaired. Who is going to protect them? Could they be considered to have granted a valid consent or could they be at the mercy of a third party who would pressure, manipulate and even compel them to seek premature death where available.  Where does that leave the free will of the individual, his right to determine his destiny and his right to life?
 A group in the Netherlands; Out of free will are asking for the law to be change to permit over 70’s who feel tired of life to have the right to seek professional help in ending it and have started collecting signatures. I am sure with caliber of influential members it has, if they try hard enough, they can get parliament to enact such a law. ‘Oh yes, use them and then get rid of them when they are old’. ‘Really! Is that the kind of society we have become’? This is a classic example of how slippery the slope can be.
In concluding, let me clarify the issue of withholding or withdrawing treatment, which often presents medical practitioners and relatives with a serious moral dilemma. It is not morally wrong to withhold or withdraw treatment to someone terminally ill, if that treatment will artificially prolong life without any hope of recovery. Refusing to administer or discontinuing the treatment can be done in good conscience, if the treatment becomes burdensome and prevents the natural process of death
(This does not include refusing to feed a bedridden relative, such that he or she dies of starvation because you would rather want them dead).
 This is truly a fine line, but any attempt to legalize active euthanasia would make the line fatally thinner and we would rather not have to deal with the consequences.

Friday, 10 June 2011

Tari you will be missed

Tari, It came as a big shock to me when I heard you left your family and friends abruptly and without prior warning to meet with your creator. Even though the void you left in our lives hurts, we are consoled by the fact that you are in a better place and in good hands. Though, I still struggle to comprehend your departure, I will still hold fast to the loving memory you left behind. It is quite telling that even though I have known you for about 3.5 years, you have left me with fond memories that would last a life time.

As you embark your final earthly journey today Ebitari Tekenah, It is hard to put in words, how I feel at the moment. I guess I can only draw strength from my faith and will cherish all the memory you left with me and all of us that lived at the house in Withington, Manchester, Chidi,Josiah, Marvin, Chinedu and Chike, not forgetting all the people I got to know in Manchester through you; too numerous to mention.

Ebitari..., Rest in the loving bosom of the Lord.

While we are mourning the loss of our friend, others are rejoicing to meet him behind the veil.  ~John Taylor

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Artist of the Day. Fr. Stan Fortuna, the rapping friar all the way from New York.

Fr. Stan was a professional jazz musician who studied with the legendary Lennie Tristano and toured/played in various venues before becoming a Roman Catholic priest. He is one of the eight founding members of the Community of Franciscan Friars of the Renewal in New York.
He has been involved with community development and the implementation of various social programs in his neighbourhood of the South Bronx ever since. In 1987, Fr Stan established his non-profit company, Francesco Productions ( mixing music and message. He has independently released over eighteen (18) CD’s in various genres as well as DVDs and books. His latest book, “U Got 2 Love” discusses love in modern culture.
With his preaching apostolate, Fr Stan travels extensively doing talks and concerts around the world with proceeds from bookings and sales going towards his work with poor and impoverished families. Fr. Stan recently started F.I.L.O. – Francesco International Love Outreach – a new initiative that supports various needy missions abroad including the Masaka region in Uganda, Africa and in Lodz, Poland.

Next stop; Westminster

The show has been on the road for about 17 days and has toured about 16 cities so far. Today, the train arrives at the heart of government, the venue: Westminster Cathedral Hall, Ambrosden Avenue, SW1P 1QW.
The itinerary for the day is as follows:
1.00 - 9.00 pm Free Catholic Art / Photo / Icon Exhibition - all day
                                  Free Vatican Stamp Exhibition  - all day
 1.00 - 5.00 pm Catholic Charities will be have stalls in the Main Hall
   * Catholic Books, CDs and other Religious items will be on-sale
   *   Refreshments available throughout the day in the Main Hall
   * A FREE souvenir newspaper will be available
12.30   Mass
1.30 – 3.30 pm Free Workshops “Helping Your Priest and Parishioners” 
                                 *    Providing Debt Counseling Services
                                 *    How to Run a Soup Kitchen
                                 *    How to make the most of your Repository & Parish Events
                  6.00- 7.00 pm Pre-concert Reception
7.15 - 9.45 pm Gala Concert  - Artists include: Fr Stan Fortuna / Edwin Fawcett / Ooberfuse / Jo Walkden / Charley Pinfold (Rise Theatre) / Gerry Coates / Bobby Jo (Mime & Dance) / Debbie Dew/ Paul Dempsey / Teresa Brown (Violin) / Monica Luz (Soprano) / Louise Orfila /
Pete Walkden M.C.
So if you around the area, make sure you pop in. Tickets for the Gala Concert can be obtained and the venue.
Ticket prices for the concert are as follows:
Concert only = £8
Concession = £5

Pre concert Reception (inc Concert and Wine & Cheese) = £12

Culled from HGUH Catholic Road Show website

Friday, 20 May 2011

In memory of a Friend and a Brother

"Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him. May he rest in peace.  Amen."

In Memory of Ebitari Tekenah. Aged 27 yrs

Friday, 13 May 2011

My Manchester Experience

It was a bright Sunday morning in August 2010 (yes I know, Manchester?), the 10am mass at St Edwards had just finished and I decided to stay back to go through the messages on the bulletin before I went home. I came across an advert, requesting volunteers to assist with the running of an internet radio during the papal visit. The idea of helping to put out the catholic message during the papal visit in anyway appealed to me and I decided to call the contact phone contained in the advert to explore the possibility of volunteering the next day.
After about a 15 minutes conversation (I think) with Mr Gerry Coates and later with Jill
(Those of you who have been involved with the station would have come across her in one way or the other) I made a commitment to do assist the station in the best way I could.
It was agreed that I would conduct some interviews with the religious within the Diocese of Salford (which includes the Manchester area) including its Bishop, while also assisting to edit and in deed help in presenting some programmes.
Equipping my self with audio editing software (audacity), file sharing tool ( and a dictaphone, I was fully prepared to meet my commitment using my laptop and some spare time.
I edited quite a number of programmes into broadcast-able format and conducted three interviews; with Bishop Terrance Brian (Bishop of Salford), Fr. Tom Connolly Parish Priest (St Kentigen) and Fr. Simon Stamp, (the Bishop’s Private Secretary).  All of which I found very interesting and fascinating.
I was also able to record a 10 am Sunday mass from St Edwards, Manchester.
I did experience some challenges and disappointment during my experience. First was a solemn service organised the Holy Name of Jesus Christ Catholic Church, Oxford Road Manchester, in honour of Blessed John Henry Newman just before the papal visit, which was quite interesting. I tried to record it for the station but faced two problems; the recording turned out to be inaudible (due to my placing of the dictaphone in a poor spot). The second problem was that because professionals performed the hymns during the service, I needed to obtain permission from them in order for it to be broadcast. The permission never came in time (it did not matter any way as my recording of the service turned out to be poor and inaudible). My second disappointment was the fascinating interview I conducted with Fr. Pat Deegan, who was the spiritual director of the Legion of Mary Praesidium I was a member of, at the time. There was severe interference from a fish tank in the room where the interview took place that made the recording inaudible.
In all, it was quite a fulfilling experience; I learnt a lot and enjoyed every bit of it.Don’t forget the roadshow starts tomorrow in Birmingham; you can get more details here.