Posts Tagged ‘Roman Catholic Church’

Book Review: The Great City Academy Fraud – Part 1

July 13, 2016

Academy Fraud Pic

By Francis Beckett (London: Continuum 2007)

This is another book I managed to pick up from a cheap bookshop, in this case the £3 bookshop in Bristol’s Park Street. Although published nine years ago in 2007, it’s still very acutely relevant, with the plan of the current education minister, Thicky Nicky Morgan, to try to turn most schools into privately run academies. According to the back flap, Beckett was the education correspondent of the New Statesman from 1997 to 2005, and also wrote on education for the Guardian. The book’s strongly informed by the findings of the NUT and other teaching unions, whose booklets against academies are cited in the text. And its a grim read. It’s an important subject, so important in fact, that I’ve written a long review of this book, divided into four section.

Academies: Another Secondhand Tory Policy

Much of New Labour’s threadbare ideology was just revamped, discarded Tory ideas. This was clearly shown before Blair took power in the early 1990s, when John Major’s government dumped a report compiled by the consultants Arthur Anderson. This was immediately picked up, dusted off, and became official New Labour policy. Similarly, PFI was invented by the Tories man with a little list, Peter Lilley, who was upset ’cause private industry couldn’t get its claws into the NHS. This again was taken over by New Labour, and became the cornerstone of Blair’s and Brown’s ideas of funding the public sector. Academies, initially called ‘city academies’, were the same.

Basically, they’re just a revival of the City Technology Colleges set up in the mid 1980s by Thatcher’s education secretary, Kenneth Baker. Baker decided that the best way to solve the problem of failing schools was to take them out of the control of the local education authority, and hand them over to a private sponsor. These would contribute £2 million of their own money to financing the new school, and the state would do the rest. Despite lauding the scheme as innovative and successful, Baker found it impossible to recruit the high profile sponsors in big business he wanted. BP, which is very active supporting community projects, flatly told him they weren’t interested, as the project was ‘too divisive’. Another organisation, which campaigns to raise private money for public projects, also turned it down, stating that the money would best be spent coming from the government. It was an area for state funding, not private. The result was that Baker was only able to get interest for second-order ‘entrepreneurs’, who were very unwilling to put their money into it. From being a minimum, that £2 million funding recommendation became a maximum. And so the scheme was wound up three years later in 1990.

After initially denouncing such schemes, New Labour showed its complete hypocrisy by trying out a second version of them, the Education Action Zones. Which also collapsed due to lack of interest. Then, in 2000, David Blunkett announced his intention to launch the academy system, then dubbed ‘city academies’, in 2000 in a speech to the Social Market Foundation. Again, private entrepreneurs were expected to contribute £2 million of their money, for which they would gain absolute control of how the new school was to be run. The taxpayer would provide the rest. Again, there were problems finding appropriate sponsors. Big business again wouldn’t touch it, so the government turned instead to the lesser businessmen, like Peter Vardy, a car salesman and evangelical Christian. Other interested parties included the Christian churches, like the Church of England, the Roman Catholic Church, and evangelical educational bodies like the United Learning Trust. There were also a number of universities involved, such as the University of the West of England here in Bristol, and some sports organisations, like Bristol City Football club. Some private, fee-paying schools have also turned themselves into academies as away of competing with other private schools in their area.

Taxpayers Foot the Bill

While the sponsors are supposed to stump up £2 million, or in certain circumstances, more like £1.5 million, in practice this isn’t always the case. The legislation states that they can also pay ‘in kind’. Several have provided some money, and then provided the rest of their contribution with services such as consultation, estimated according to a very generous scale. For Beckett, this consists of the sponsors sending an aging executive to give his advice on the running of the new school. This particular individual may actually be past it, but the company can’t sack him. So they fob the new school off with him instead. Sometimes, no money changes hands. The Royal Haberdashers’ Society, one of the London livery companies, decided it was going to sponsor an academy. But it already owned a school on the existing site, and so did nothing more than give the site, generously estimate at several millions, to the new academy. Other companies get their money back in different ways, through tax rebates, deductions and the like.

But if the private sponsors are very wary about spending their money, they have absolutely no reservations about spending the taxpayer’s hard-earned moolah. An ordinary school costs something like £20 million to build. Academies cost more, often much more: £25 million, sometimes soaring to £37 million or beyond. Several of the businessmen sponsoring these academies have built massive monuments to their own vanity, using the services of Sir Norman Foster. Foster was, like Richard Rogers, one of the celebrity architects in favour with New Labour, whose ‘monstrous carbuncles’ (@ Charles Windsor) were considered the acme of cool. One of these was called ‘The Learning Curve’, and consisted of a long, curving corridor stretching across a quarter of mile, off which were the individual class rooms. Foster also built the Bexley Business Academy, a school, whose sponsor wanted to turn the pupils into little entrepreneurs. So every Friday was devoted exclusively to business studies, and the centrepiece of the entire joint was a mock stock exchange floor. The school also had an ‘innovative’ attitude to class room design: they only had three walls, in order to improve supervise and prevent bullying. In fact, the reverse happened, and the school had to spend more money putting them up.

Unsuitable Buildings

And some of the buildings designed by the academies’ pet architects are most unsuitable for the children they are supposed to serve. One academy decided it was going to get the local school for special needs children on its site. These were kids with various types of handicap. Their school was not certainly not failing, and parents and teachers most definitely did not want their school closed. But closed it was, and shifted to the academy. The old school for handicapped youngsters was all on the same level, which meant that access was easy, or easier, for those kids with mobility problems. The new school was on two floors. There was a lift, but it could only be used by pupils with a teacher. The parents told the sponsor and the new academy that they had destroyed their children’s independence. They were greeted with complete incomprehension.

HM School ‘Belmarshe’

In other academies, conditions for the sprogs are more like those in a prison. One of the schools, which preceded an academy on its site, had a problem with bullying. The new academy decided to combat that problem, by not having a playground. They also staggered lunch into two ‘brunch breaks’, which were taken at different times by different classes. These are taken in a windowless cafeteria. The result is a joyless learning environment, and the school has acquired the nickname ‘Belmarshe’, after the famous nick.

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The Medieval Church on the Duties of the Rich to the Poor

February 21, 2014

Cardinal-designate Vincent Nichols, who has attacked fellow Catholic Iain Duncan Smith's benefit cuts as a "disgrace". [Image: Liverpool Echo]

Vincent Nichols, Roman Catholic Bishop of Westminster

Last Sunday, the Roman Catholic bishop of Westminster, Vincent Nichols, criticised the government welfare reforms for their attacks on the poor. Needless to say, this annoyed the Prime Minster, who has now declared his belief in the essential morality of the government’s welfare reforms. Previous churchmen, both Roman Catholic and Protestant, have criticised the government’s attacks on the poor and vulnerable. Dr Robert Runcie, the Archbishop of Canterbury, criticised Margaret Thatcher, as has his successor, Justin Welby, attacked Cameron. I can also remember the Church of Scotland looking mightily unimpressed when Thatcher addressed them on St Paul’s text, ‘If a man does not work, he shall not eat’. There’s a lot of theological discussion about that text, and it certainly is not a pretext for denying the unemployed benefit.

There was considerable debate during the Middle Ages about the moral status of wealth, whether the unemployed should be given alms to support themselves if they were not working, and the relationship between the rich and the poor. There was a belief in the Middle Ages that the rich had the moral duty to support the poor, with damnation as a possible consequence if they did not.

One of the major Middle English texts that debated this question was Dives and Pauper, a dialogue between a rich and poor man. In it, Pauper says

All that the rich man has passing his honest living after the degree of his dispensation it is other mens and not his, and he shall give well hard reckoning thereof at the doom… [the Last Judgement] For rich men and lords in this world be God’s bailiffs and God’s reeve to ordain [=provide] for the poor folk and for to sustain the poor folk.

The Fathers of the Church believed that superfluous wealth belonged to the poor. The great medieval theologian and philosopher, Thomas Aquinas, stated that

According to natural law goods that are held in superabundance by some people should be used for the maintenance of the poor. This is the principle enunciated by Ambrose … It is the bread of the poor you are holding back; it is the clothes of the naked which you are hoarding; it is the relief and liberation of the wretched which you are thwarting by burying your money away.

St. Basil, in his sermon ‘On Mercy and Justice’, stated that if the rich did not making offering to God to feed the poor, they would be accused of robbery. This was reflected in another of Pauper’s statements

Withholding of alms from the poor needy folk is theft in the sight of God, for the covetous rich withdraw from the poor folk what belongs to them and misappropriate the poor men’s goods, with which they should be succoured.

Ambrose went further and stated that those, who did not provide food for the starving killed them. Pauper also made the same statement when he referred to the Fifth Commandment: Thou shalt not kill.

If any man or woman dies for lack of help, then all who should have helped, or might have helped, or knew the person’s plight, but who would not help are guilty of manslaughter.

Mrs Thatcher herself was personally very generous, and part of her argument was that private charity could provide better relief to the poor, that state support. She also believed that it was more moral, because there was an element of choice involved. Now Albertus Magnus, Aquinas’ predecessor, believed that almsgiving should also be a matter of personal choice, but that this only involved donations beyond the moral compulsion to provide for the poor out of superfluous wealth.

Unfortunately, at various times during its history the Church has not lived up to its moral responsibility to provide for the poor. This was certainly the case during the Thirteenth century, when a number of churchmen attacked their clergy for taking the money provided for poor relief. The result was that in many parishes the lay congregation put up ‘poor tables’ in parish churchyards, on which bread was to be doled out to the poor. There was a feeling amongst some churchmen that the poor had rights. Just as a vassal had the feudal right of diffidatio, or rebellion against an unjust overlord, so the poor could also spiritually rebel against the rich. Johannes Teutonicus declared that a pauper had the right to denounce a rich man publicly and excommunicate him. By the 16th century the belief had developed that God paid particular attention to the prayers of the poor against the rich. If a pauper was refused alms, and so prayed to God for His help or judgement against the rich person, who had refused him, his prayer would be answered answer the rich miser suffer as a consequence.

Nor at various periods in history was almsgiving entirely voluntary. In France during the 17th century it was compulsory for parishioners to donate to poor relief in their parish. In England giving was supposed to be voluntary, but it was strongly urged by the clergy in their sermons.

Cameron has maintained that his welfare reforms are moral. I’ve reblogged a piece by Mike over at Vox Political, which shows that Cameron and his wretched policies are morally bankrupt. As for the statement of Ambrose, Basil and the rest of the Church Fathers that refusing to support the starving makes a person responsible for their murder, it should be borne in mind that so far as many as 38,000 per year may have died as a result of being refused benefits by Cameron and the Coalition. The poor are very definitely being denied their rights. In this argument between His Grace the Bishop of Westminster and Cameron, the moral authority and traditions of Fathers are very definitely on the good bishop’s side, not Cameron’s.

Let the wailing, grinding and gnashing of teeth at Tory Central Office now begin.

ATOS and the Nazi Murder of the Mentally Ill

February 18, 2014

atos-final

So many people now are struggling to support themselves after Atos has thrown them off invalidity benefit, that many see it as an organised attack on the very lives of the disabled themselves. If you read the comments to the Void’s posts about Atos, or those on Vox Political, you find the same thing said again and again: ‘I don’t think there will be any more people in a few years time, because Atos and the government will have killed us all off’. Some of the disabled people in the unemployment course I’ve been on have also said the same thing. People may phrase it differently, but the sentiment remains exactly the same: a feeling that the government is deliberately murdering the disabled as part of their welfare reforms.

The Nazi Euthanasia Order

The Nazi regime had a deliberately policy of murdering the mentally ill in its infamous ‘Euthanasia Order’. It was a secret decree passed by Hitler himself, and back dated to the 1st September 1939. It was implemented by Hitler’s personal doctor, Karl Brandt, and the Chief of the Fuehrer’s Chancellery, Philipp Bouhler. The major figure in the carrying out of this mass murder was Bouhler’s deputy, Oberdienstleiter Victor Brack. Brack was head of the Central Office, which handled, amongst other things, the requests for the ‘euthanasia’ of the incurably ill. Brack’s colleague in this was a Dr Hefelmann.

Brandt, Bouhler and their staff recruited a small group of doctors, who were in favour of euthanasia. These were then given membership of the Fuhrer’s Chancellery and granted promises of immunity from prosecution for their actions through Hitler’s secret decree.

The Reich Working Group for Asylums and Hospitals

The group and its intentions were strictly secret. They operated under the innocuous cover name of ‘Reich Working Group for Asylums and Hospitals’. Their real job was to select the programme’s victims. Under the Reich Health Leader, the former SS doctor Leonhardt Conti, and his subordinate Dr Linden, the head of Asylums and Nursing Homes in the health division of the Reich Ministry of the Interior, questionnaires were sent out, ostensibly for the registration of the sick in the Third Reich’s asylums.

The SS and the Gassing of the Disabled

The regime also set up a cover organisation from the SS transport fleet, The Welfare Transport Company for Invalids Ltd. Their duty was to remove the programme’s victims from their normal asylums to the institutions where they would be murdered. The main institutions for this were Hadamar in Hesse, Hartheim near Linz Grafeneck in Wurttemberg and Sonnestein in Saxony, where chemists from the Institute of Criminal Technology from the Reich Criminal Police Office tried out gassing them with carbon monoxide. The operation was financed through another cover company set up by the Fuehrer’s Chancellery, the Welfare Foundation for the Benefit of Asylums. Only about fifty people knew all the details about the programme. The directors of the asylums from which the victims were taken were only told that they had been transferred for special observation and treatment. The only Reich minister, who was directly informed by Hitler about the secret authorisation of the doctors was the head of administration in the Fuehrer’s Chancellery, Hans Lammers.

Opposition from Roman Catholic Churchmen

The euthanasia programme had to be abandoned in 1941 following opposition from the public, the legal system and the administration. The main opponent of the programme was the Cardinal Archbishop of Muenster, Count Clemens Galen. Galen was fiercely critical of Nazi racism, and had published a critique of The Myth of the Twentieth Century, by the Nazi ideologue Alfred Rosenberg, in 1934. He publicly attacked the programme in a sermon. Regarding it as a crime, he informed the civil police. His condemnation of the programme was so effective, that it enraged Hitler and Goebbels had to advise the Fuehrer against ordering the Count’s arrest. Nevertheless, the programme had resulted in the medical murder of 70,000 people, by no means all of whom were ‘incurably insane’.

ATOS Not Physically Killing Disabled Like Nazis

However horrendous ATOS are – and they are deeply amoral and horrendous – they are clearly unlike the Nazi euthanasia programme. They do not have the ill and disabled taken away by a state operated private company and murdered in a secret institution, as was done under the Third Reich. The person assessed remains free. All that is done is that their benefits are removed. And at least in theory the most disabled individuals, who cannot work are still supported through benefits.

38,000 A Year Killed by ATOS’ and DWP’s Denial of their Benefits

Nevertheless, ATOS’ administration of the assessments has resulted in tens of thousands of deaths. ATOS have been set secret targets by the DWP to have a specific percentage of claimants thrown off benefits, a quota system that has been implemented across the system to cover people on Jobseeker’s Allowance. The number of people, who have died after their assessment by ATOS remains unknown. Ian Duncan Smith simply refuses to release the figures. Jaynelinney on her blog has estimated that it may be as high as 38,000 per year.

ATOS, DWP, Ian Duncan Smith and Esther McVie Refuse to Take Responsibility for Deaths Caused by Benefit Reforms

This indicates that the government is well aware of the number of deaths that have resulted, and are too ashamed or afraid of the public to release the true statistics. And while the system is not set up for the organised, physical mass murder of the unemployed, the government’s welfare policies are aimed at the removal of large numbers of them from government support, fully aware that for many this will result in their death. As they are not physically murdered, however, the government, the civil servants and ATOS employees and executives involved in the policies do not see themselves as responsible and so do not care.

This is disgusting and unacceptable. Although they have not physically killed anyone, the government’s benefit reforms have nevertheless resulted in the deaths of tens of thousands of Britain’s poorest and most vulnerable citizens. In this sense ATOS, the DWP under Ian Duncan Smith, the Disabilities Minister Esther McVie, and David Cameron and George Osborne are certainly responsible, and all the more so because they know it is happening and have done nothing to change the policy.

It needs to stop. And stop now.

Let’s hope the protests against ATOS tomorrow help turn public opinion even further against the administration and its lethal policies.

A Face from Medieval Nubia

June 28, 2013

As I’ve already mentioned on previous posts on medieval Nubia, the churches of the Classic Christian period, including that at Arminna West, were decorated with wall paintings. Faras Cathedral was richly decorated with murals. It had been dedicated to the Virgin in 630, so many of the wall paintings were of her. One of these was of Our lady standing amongst the stars in heaven, holding the infant Christ and with two angels, one standing either side of her. The fesco had the inscription ‘The Holy Mary, Virgin Mother of Christ’. To the right was another inscription, reading ‘Jesus Christ, the Saviour’. There was another wall-painting showing the Virgin and the birth of Christ with the three kings and the shepherds. The two shepherds depicted had the names Arnias and Lekotes. There were other murals of the three kings, the Apostle Peter, and those saints that were particularlyrevered in the Monophysite church, such as St. John Chrysostom, and Ignatius, the archbishop of Antioch. There was also a vast mural of the three holy children, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the fiery furnace as described in the Book of Daniel. The military saints were also depicted as was the the archangel Michael, the patron and protector of the Nubian kingdom of Macuria, whose capital Faras was. The murals also showed the Queen Mother, Martha, under the special protection of the Virgin and God crowning king Mercurius on the church’s foundation stone. The mural’s inscription described the king as ‘Christ-loving’. The tenth century mural of King Georgios II showed him under the protection of both the Virgin and Child.

The murals also showed the bishops, and their staff of archpriest, priests and deacons. These were shown in their vestments, including the stoles and chasubles. These were richly decorated, some covered with jewels. Their vestments were modelled on those of the Byzantine church, but are not very different from the modern vestments of the Orthodox, Roman Catholic and Anglican church. As a diocese, Faras had the status of Metropolitan, a high status held only by the most important dioceses of the Byzantine Empire. The town itself was under the Eparch, a high official directly subordinate to the king himself in Old Dongola. The Eparch was styled ‘illustris’, a term used only of the highest rank of civil servants Byzantium. One of the churchmen depicted on the murals is of Marianos, who was bishop of Faras from 1005 until his death in 1036. With his broad face and beard, he has been described as resembling King Henry VIII of England. I’ve attempted to depict the mural of him in the drawing below.

Nubian Face Drawing

Clearly Nubia had a rich artistic as well as literary and religious heritage.

The Contribution of Roman Catholic Medical Missions to Health Care in the Developing World

June 6, 2013

The Roman Catholic Church has come in for a great deal of criticism recently for the apparent impact of its doctrines on the health of the peoples of the developing world. The Church’s prohibition on contraception and its doctrine of sexual abstinence except within marriage have been attacked by its secular opponents. They have accused the policy of allowing the spread of STDs and AIDS, and for contributing to these nations’ problems of overpopulation. In fact several non-Roman Catholic researchers have pointed out that the Church’s doctrines in these areas are not to blame for the spread of sexually transmitted diseases. Traditional African culture is strongly opposed to contraception, to the point where one joke states that they are the only things you can send through the post in West Africa that won’t be interfered with.

Irish Roman Catholic Opposition to President Reagan for his Support of Contras

It also needs to be pointed out that Roman Catholic charities are amongst the most active organisations working to combat disease and poverty in the Third World. Their members and supporters in the Developed World have criticised and denounced their leaders, when it has seemed that their policies have worked to harm and brutalise the very peoples for whom the charities work. When Ronald Reagan paid a state visit to Dublin in the 1980s, and went to speak at the University, many of the students at the great centre of learning boycotted the event, or led protests against him. The Irish were particularly involved with the Roman Catholic charities in the Third World, and particularly in South America. They were outraged at Reagan’s support for the Contra rebels in Nicaragua. The Sandanista government was an undemocratic dictatorship, and its supporters also committed atrocities. However, most of the atrocities in that terrible conflict were committed by the Contras. They were responsible for massacres and mutilation on a truly horrific scale. Reagan’s administration not only supported the Contras, the president himself went as far as to call them the moral equivalent of America’s Founding Fathers. The result was widespread anger, and the boycott and protests by Irish Roman Catholics.

Two Examples of Roman Catholic Medical Missions: The Order of the Sisters of Mary and the Medical Mission Sisters

Some idea of the size of the Roman Catholic contribution to medical care in the Third World can be gained from the statistics for the Order of the Sisters of Mary in 1967. This order was founded in Drogheda in 1939. By 1967 the Order had sent 41 doctors, two dentists, 15 sister-tutors and 159 nurses to the Developing World. The Order had treated 946,647 patients. 131,647 of these were maternity patients. A further 13,909 people were treated for leprosy. Fourteen years later in 1981 the Medical Mission Sisters, otherwise knkown as Anna Dergel’s Foundation, based in Rome had 697 doctors working in the Third World. The Church and its charities have clearly made an immense contribution to medical care in teh Developing World, a fact deliberately overlooked by its fashionable secular opponents.