PRO FIDE ET PATRIA: A USELESS TITLE OR ONE WITH WHICH TO LIVE BY?
What Is A Motto?
Mottos are creatures which, on the face of it, may seem anachronistic to the sophisticates of the 21st Century; something that sums up all that has been wrong with Western society and has therefore no place, except that they convey the only version now acceptable: ME, ME, ME!
That no doubt is a very cynical view to take, however, mottos are important as they do instill a short phrase or word that inspires and uplifts and can thus be viewed in both a secular or faith based context. Their primary expression is found in the science of heraldry; where families identify themselves by a grant of arms that summarise an ancestor’s achievement to a sovereign or they are composed by a national body of heralds. In London, the regulatory body is The College of Arms, founded by Richard III and in Ireland, by the Chief Herald, at Dublin Castle. The main grants of arms by these authorities denote prestige to a family or organisation. In the Church, the late Archbishop Bruno Heim, was a noted authority and his beautiful paintings of armorial bearings convey a dignity that was noted by many experts in the field. He mainly composed for new episcopal appointments, and the late Bishop Daly of Derry’s arms are an outstanding example of the Swiss ecclesial herald’s talent.
Sadly, some recent examples are not what one would consider as having been given much thought or would even follow the most basic rules of this ancient art!
However, every episcopal coat of arms contains a motto, a guiding rule for the new diocesan incumbent for their tenure. But, a motto, while it is identified with heraldry, is not an essential part, which itself is a surprising fact! Another place where mottos can be found are in some newspaper publications; as seen in the Times of London and the Telegraph and that is where the title of this piece comes in.
The Irish News
The latin phrase: Pro Fide et Patria (For faith and country) has been on every editorial of the Belfast daily The Irish News, whose circulation would be familiar to readers in the border areas of the country. From its inception as an anti-Parnell paper, backing and holding to the Catholic/Nationalist identity, which was then emerging into the industrial engine, with which Belfast was becoming identified with.
In the face of Unionist sectarianism, it became a voice that proclaimed the aspiration of nationhood, which over the next century and a half would see partition and continued sporadic internecine attacks. The Irish News, along with the strong leadership exercised by the episcopate and cultural organisations forged in the northern Irish Catholic a confidence that the truth – both in their faith and in their love for national unity – would find concrete expression.
Throughout the recent conflict, the paper continued to defend those noble views. Together, with a balanced mixture of political debate, the coverage of the sad litany of murder and violence, and unique coverage of Church matters, that one would not find in any other paper, especially in the Republic. It still is a clear identity that the purchaser of the paper is a Catholic Nationalist.
The paper conveys adverts for pilgrimages, has a weekly column called “Faith Matters” and whilst, it conveys a ”Catholic” feel, it is usually a mixture of ecumenical viewpoints, that actually convey very little, since it seems that it doesn’t wish to offend. For instance, it has never covered, from what I can see, anything to do with growth of the Extraordinary Rite of Mass!
Nonetheless, growing up in the Eighties, I noticed that every June/July, the paper covered nearly every Monday, the previous day’s ordinations around the north, especially in the Down and Connor Diocese. These St. John Paul II inspired priestly ordinations did much, I believe, to help me in considering my vocation, and for that I am grateful.
The Times They Are A Changing!
And it was in the aftermath of that decade, wherein we seemed to have discovered anew, a Catholic identity which would prove to be illusionary, when the revelations of the late Bishop Casey to the realms of broken vows and damaged, broken little ones, and unsavoury shenanigans in Curia departments in the Vatican became reality.
With the Irish News, it too reflected the communal anger at the betrayal of good people in these sordid tales. For the next two decades, this failure of care found all Irish papers (especially in the South) becoming cold and hostile or just plain indifferent to anything that identified with Catholicism.
The same has been shown with a gradual emergence, in the Irish News of this same hostility towards that identification, that even one columnist – an ex priest – is always on hand to give his “theological” expert opinion in expressing the tired old rhetoric; of an end to celibacy, married and women priests.
Other columnists have also expressed support for the redefinition of marriage and a subtle endorsement for abortion law change; thus identifying, with the recent Westminster cabalist move, to bring in laws that kill Irish citizens and is a clear negation of the sentiments expressed in their paper’s motto! The only exception is Martin O’Brien, who has been an advocate for humanity and catholic values, especially. However, this summer would see this continual abandonment of principles expressed in a way that has not – to my knowledge – even be found in the South.
Humanism And IVF
In June, as well as in August this year, the paper included a full-page advertisement for humanist weddings. This organisation states its ability to plan your wedding where non- judgementalism (no doubt a dig at religious offerings!) would be experienced. While some may view this as an offering to those who reject the Catholic understanding of marriage, a humanist wedding of course cannot be supported by any Catholic, since its ethos rejects God and His dignifying marriage as a sacrament. However, the well-known phrase of Belfast priest Fr Patrick McCafferty, stated after the rejection of the Eighth amendment, that since they’ve rejected their faith in the most radical way possible (the taking of innocent life), that rather than commit sacrilege, they should go elsewhere, was well put. It may also, please God, prick their consciences and re-discover the riches accomplished by the prodigal (cf: Lk 15:11-31)!
However, it was the adverts for the Belfast Fertility Clinic, (Aug 26th – 29th) that are the most problematic. From the printed picture of joy of a new mother delivered of her child, with the title: We Make Mums! we learn that, it is science, not aiding, but usurping the marital act between husband and wife.
In the full-page advert, there are only two comments that are worth picking up on. They do discuss at length, the importance of a healthy diet and exercise, the problematic causes of infertility; especially concerning obesity. As well as that the unborn is treated with respect, by referring to their humanity as a baby!
Very positive, but nevertheless, the fact that human embryos are frozen for use at a later stage is noted, as is that surrogacy for same sex couples is available. There is no mention of what happens to unneeded embryos, or those that may not be properly formed! The process for obtaining male semen, by mechanical intervention is also stated.
Quite clearly, what all of this shows is that advertising for such procedures, rather than uplifting the dignity of the human personage, is the cause of his denigration, with no reference towards his created person in the eyes of the Creator. One would have hoped that the editorial and advertising staff of the Irish News, should have thought that to have such adverts is not beholden to the motto of its founders: Pro Fide et Patria?
Even a cursory glance at the Catechism, would have clarified the standing of Catholic moral thought on IVF. However, has this paper decided that they cannot be arbitrators of thoughts of their readers, with the well-worn phrase of “Who am I to Judge”? But does a paper editorial not express the editor’s views on an event or on a personage and thus hope to change their readers viewpoint?
Equally, should we see in this decision identification with medical procedures that are utilitarianism in their outlook and are clearly, at odds with Catholic belief? It would appear so!
The question however remains: what do these clinics do with unwanted surplus embryos?
Are they flushed away or even subjected to experimentations?
Uneasy questions that hopefully disturb, but as has have already been seen in the USA, the question of money and the quest to play the Creator are not divided by much! Indeed, the IVF industry has amply showed itself a keen protagonist in the upholding of the Culture of Death, since, those who created the first in vitro child; Louise Brown in 1978, stated that there was no need for God, since they were now God (cf. Gen 3:5-6).
AN APPEAL TO REASON
I believe that the motto of the Irish News is still as valid as it was when it was first used. I have had the honour of having my letters printed by the paper on many vexed questions; however I feel that my trust has been – along with probably many others – who identify as ordinary Catholics trying to make a difference in a world that is closed to the sentiments expressed in that noble editorial motto, has been let down by the decision to accept advertising that is opposed to family life. Having written to the paper twice on this vexed matter, I am still waiting for a response. This paper has, as I have already stated, reflected the identity of those who in the past, present and hopefully, the future, wish to see, by it in the midst of darkness and indifference, a little of God’s light. It has always been a part of our homes, indeed, our very families’ lives and that is a rare access granted to few. So, be honest, live up to what this motto espouses you to do or if not, then scrap it, along with any outward identification towards being an Irish and Catholic newspaper, and become yet another mundane publication that sees only this world and a eighty year existence or so for those who inhabit it. Instead with Pro Fide et Patria there is a means for hope, since it is a pointer to the eternal reality of life forever, while defending and promoting the life of the vulnerable in all its stages! It’s an identification with which the original founders, I’m sure would readily agree with.