Archive for March, 2010

In his post ‘Is it all in the mind?’ on the Iona Institute blog David Quinn discusses a scientific paper that claims scientists can switch on and off our moral sense, and the implication that morality is ‘all in the mind’. Check it out.

I’ve always wondered by why humanists, atheists and others feel that finding areas of the brain that relate to emotions, moral sense, religious experience etc is a sign that we are entirely physical beings and hence that there is no soul, and no God.

I think it comes from a misunderstanding of the relationship between body and soul. We are not ‘souls’ being carried around in ‘bodies’ – like water being carried around in a bucket or even like a hand in a glove, fitting very well together but actually two separate things.  Each of us is a single unified being with both physical and spiritual aspects: a physical body animated by a spiritual soul.  And we express our spirituality through our physicality.

So what’s my point? My point is that since both physical and spiritual aspects of our nature are completely integrated with each other, we should expect that every expression of our nature has both a physical and a spiritual aspect.  So we should expect to find a part of our brain that relates to love, reason, spirituality, choice etc, just as parts of our brain relate to physical powers such as speech, motion, smell etc.

If a part of our brain that relates to one of these spiritual aspects is damaged, we no longer have a way to express that aspect of our being, just as if the part of the brain that controls, for example speech, is damaged, we still have the capacity for speech but no means of expressing it.  Finding a part of our brain that relates to moral reasoning, and that if damaged, limits or stops our ability to make moral decisions, is simply another illustration of the unity of body and soul in our nature.

Did that make sense? Well – if it didn’t, at least go and read David’s post which definitely does! 😀


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Rather than duplicate what Robert Fuller has already done, I recommend a look at his well researched post on the controversy, which gives a rather different insight into Pope Benedict’s involvement in the case of Fr Lawrence Murphy who had abused deaf children over many years. The only thing I’d like to add it that I hope in all the necessary focus on the bad handling of these cases that we make sure we never become immune to or skip over the evil done by the actual abusers.

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I thought this was a good response to the decision today to open pubs in Limerick City from 6pm to 11.30pm on Good Friday because of the Leinster – Munster rugby match: Statement from Limerick Diocesan Administrator, Fr Tony Mullins.

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I’m doing a ‘mindmap’ type chart of the main points of the Pope’s Letter. It’s still a work in progress but I thought I’d put up what I’ve done so far.  When it’s finished, I’ll add a link to go the a more user-friendly way of looking at it. (28th Mar: Just updated it again – nearly there now! More soon…)

Click on the map to open it in its own window so you can read it, and click it again to zoom in or out.   Hope it’s useful:

♦ NOTE:  (The mindmap on this post is not complete – click here for the finished version  Completed Mindmap of Pope’s Letter )

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Nothing in the media coverage I heard and read today gave any real sense of the significance or even of the content of the Pope’s pastoral letter to the Catholics of Ireland.

Naturally, secular commentators were looking for the kind of things you’d expect of say, a large corporation, or a government: you know – reshuffles, sackings, audits from HQ. That’s why the proposed Apostolic Visit got a lot of mention, and the words of apology: they make sense from a purely human point of view. And that’s why people were looking for news on the resignations and said they couldn’t see much by way of a plan of action.

But this is not a letter from the CEO of a company. It is a pastoral letter from the leader of the Catholic people. Same difference? No – not same difference! HUGE difference!  There’s an infinite difference between someone who believes that God who created everything, entered history at a particular time and place, and lived here on earth, and that he did that because he wants us to share his life. That’s pretty amazing and pretty radical. And it gives you a completely different way of thinking about everything. There’s a big difference between someone who thinks like that – and someone who believes we live and die, and that’s it.

So the things that might strike a person of faith are things that, looked at without faith, make little sense or no sense at all: offering Friday penances (Friday what?) for one year for the renewal of the Church here; discovering again the sacrament of Reconciliation (isn’t Confession a thing of the past??) As for Eucharistic Adoration – what good is that going to do??

But though eyes that see the world differently, there are the seeds of a real renewal of the Church here, if we decide to take it.

(More to come on Pope’s Letter)

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“With words that come from my heart, I wish to speak to each of you individually and to all of you as brothers and sisters in the Lord.”

Each of us should take time to read and re-read the Pope’s letter to us, to reflect on it carefully, first as individuals and then together as suggested below.

Here’s the link to the text:



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Cardinal Brady to welcome “Pastoral Letter of the Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI to the Catholics of Ireland”

Cardinal Seán Brady, Primate of All Ireland and Archbishop of Armagh, will celebrate Mass tomorrow Saturday, 20 March 2010, at 10:15am [Irish time] in Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, Armagh.  After Mass Cardinal Brady will welcome the “Pastoral Letter of the Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI to the Catholics of Ireland”.

You, or a representative, are invited to attend this Mass at 10.15am in St Patrick’s Cathedral.  This Mass will be streamed live on the internet on www.catholicbishops.ie and also on www.churchservices.tv.

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