Friday, March 13, 2009
I'm back on the train heading south towards London and taking advantage of internet access to post a few photos from my stay in St Andrews. On Wednesday night a very impressive thirty five students turned out to hear the talk "Aids, Condoms and the Catholic Church". As usual in the questions I was asked what I would say to a couple where one was HIV - would I tell them they couldn't use condoms? Expecting a hostile audience I base the talks on published research and statistics. The World Health Organisation (WHO) in its bulletin publishes a report that claims "consistent condom use among heterosexual couples in which one partner was infected with HIV reduced the risk of HIV transmission". However, what it actually reports is an average 80% reduction with best and worse cases scenarios ranging from 35%-94%. So my answer to the question is always the same: that scientific research says there's up to a 65% chance of transmitting the virus to your spouse. Let couples have that information before they make any decisions. If a couple are going to play Russian Roulette with HIV/AIDS let them at least know the odds! (I should add here that the study in question is referring to 'perfect' not 'typical' use of the condom, i.e. when nothing as gone wrong).
I enjoyed the evening very much. Overall the response was very positive. Using such evidence to defend the Church's teaching is a good way of entering into a dialogue with young people who do not necessarily share our faith. I always add a little section at the end on the Theology of the Body in the hope that some may be led on to think more about the Church's understanding of human sexuality.
On Thursday I prepared a couple of Moral Theology talks for Saturday. I've been asked to speak at a study Day for those doing the Maryvale Catechists' Course. The first talk is an introduction to Moral Theology and the second is a defense of the Church's teaching on contraception. I'm very conscious that some of these catechists will be instructing teenagers for confirmation and preparing couples for marriage so it is important to equip them to understand and explain these important areas of Christian life.
I also got the chance on Thursday to talk with a couple of lads considering priesthood. Please keep them in your prayers. It was a beautiful day and I was able to see a lot more of the town than on previous visits and discover a few interesting facts. Near St Andrew's at Leuchars is a big RAF base currently taking delivery of the Eurofighter. Of course, during the Second World War, lots of Polish pilots were stationed up here so I shouldn't have been surprised to see the following memorial in the town:
Until the Protestant Reformation St Andrews was a great place of pilgrimage and even today its three principal streets lead to one place the great Cathedral where the Shrine of St Andrew was preserved. Unfortunately this is all that remains to greet a wannabee pilgrim today:
Although it is everywhere, St Andrews does little to recall its Catholic past. A few streets and buildings might bear names like 'Greyfriars' but no plaque recalls the fact that this is all that is left of the Dominican foundation in the City:
For many centuries the City was without a Catholic Church and every attempt to acquire land to build one was blocked by the local authorities. Eventually however, someone left land and planning permission was given to build St James, a very attractive little Church on the Scores just be the famous golf course. The parish priest of St James is also the Catholic Chaplain to the university. This year he celebrates his golden jubilee of ordination: ad multo annos!
Perhaps some of the antipathy towards Catholicism can be understood when we consider the fury with which the Reformation took hold here. Sadly the resident bishop, Cardinal Beeton, was hardly a model of virtue. This is the Church from which Knox preached his famous sermon that so enflamed the mob with iconoclastic (and murderous) fervour that they stormed out to destroy the Cathedral and then hang the unfortunate Cardinal from the balcony of his episcopal palace:
The University was founded in 1410 (or 1413 depending on which account you take). I hadn't realised that in the Great Western Schism Scotland sided with Benedict XIII. Some of you may remember that I posted about Papa Luna earlier this year. The crescent moon in the university coat of arms reflects this association between Benedict and St Andrews. Indeed for the eagle-eyed you can see it in other places as well. This photograph is of a ruin in the area of the theology faculty.