Posts Tagged ‘Stratford Caldecott’

Stratford Caldecott is one of the commissioning editors here at CTS, who has had the privilege of working with the Holy Father on the theological journal Communio.

When we asked him for his reaction to Benedict XVI’s announcement of his resignation last week, he told us:

“My feelings were mixed when I heard the news about Pope Benedict’s abdication. I was surprised, certainly, but also pleased to think that he would have some peace, some time to pray without the burdens of office.

I admired the spiritual freedom he demonstrated in making this decision, I am sure after long and prayerful consideration. As the theologian Joseph Ratzinger, he had been one of the founders (along with his friends Hans Urs Von Balthasar and Henri de Lubac) of the international theological journal Communio, which has done more than any other to shape the way the Church has interpreted the Second Vatican Council. It continues to be an important influence.

As a member of the editorial board of the journal myself, I have had several occasions to meet him both before and after he became Pope, albeit in a group setting. I attended his lecture in Cambridge many years ago, and in 2001 I spoke at a liturgical conference that he chaired.

His personal courtesy and gentleness was admired by everyone, and his holiness has become ever more evident. But holiness, theological expertise, AND an ability to write like an angel are very rarely combined in one individual. More writings will come. And he has clearly not lost the ability to astonish.”

Of related interest:

Election of a Pope Election of a Pope (revised ed.) –This booklet explains the new norms promulgated by John Paul II in 1996 and combines the technical with the historical and spiritual elements of the process to produce a unique and highly informative summary.
Benedict XVI Benedict XVI Biography – revised ed – Here we discover a ‘humble and thoroughly kind man’, a leading thinker very much in touch with this modern age.

In Search of a Universal Ethic

People wonder whether it is possible to formulate a moral code we can all agree on, in an age where there is vast disagreement on questions of right and wrong. A document from the International Theological Commission which looks at this vital issue was discussed earlier this week in London.

Stratford Caldecott, a commissioning editor for CTS, wrote the following short summary of the conference which he attended.

On Tuesday 22 May a small conference at Blackfriars Hall, Oxford, helped to launch the English translation of an important document of the International Theological Commission: IN SEARCH OF A UNIVERSAL ETHIC: A NEW LOOK AT NATURAL LAW. The event was organised by the Anscombe Bioethics Centre (formerly the Linacre Centre).

Each section of the document was presented and discussed in turn. It starts with the need for a universal ethics and the difficulties of achieving it. How do we know what is good and what is evil, except by accepting the authority of the Church or of some other institution or tradition? The most successful recent attempt to find a moral code that everyone can agree on was the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, which avoided reference both to God and to “nature”. But the document explains that even this attempt has been widely criticized and disputed, and the concept of rights is currently devalued and exploited by special interest groups. It therefore argues for a new look at the concept of natural law as offering the missing foundation for this universal sense of right and wrong, and of the inalienable dignity of the human person.

The document begins by examining the points of “convergence” between the great human and religious traditions, including Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, and the Greco-Roman, Chinese and African traditions (focusing on similarities rather than differences), and tracing the development of the Jewish and Christian traditions against this background. The core of the document is a clear and helpful presentation and defence of the natural law theory (and the theory of nature) that was brought to its perfection by St Thomas Aquinas.

It concludes that the moral law is “inscribed in the heart of human beings” and it“appeals to what is universally human in every human being”. In the end, law itself is transcended in the Holy Spirit and the requirements of love, revealed in Jesus Christ, but it is not necessary to be a Christian to enter into the philosophical discussion of a “rationally justifiable basis” for a universal ethic, and the document invites “the experts and proponents of the great religious, sapiential and philosophical traditions of humanity to undertake an analogous work, beginning from their own sources, in order to reach a common recognition of universal moral norms based on a rational approach to reality.”

As the former editor of the Universe pointed out in the conference, what is perhaps even more urgent is an attempt to communicate these profound philosophical arguments to a wider public in less abstract terms, for the discernment of good from evil is surely the most important issue of our time.

In Search of a Universal Ethic is available from CTS priced £3.95

Of related interest:

Catholicism and Other Religions the cover Catholicism and Other Religions – This booklet explains what the Catholic Church intends by interfaith dialogue, what she thinks of the truth of other religions and the different questions that different religions exist to answer.
The cover of Sexuality and Love width= Dominus Iesus – Declaration from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
The much-talked about document which reaffirms the centrality of Christ and the Catholic Church in God’s plan of salvation.


Catholic social teaching expert Stratford Caldecott says the new report on AIDS from the CTS, helps banish the ignorance through which anti-Catholicism in this much discussed but often inadequately understood area of sexual ethics, thrives.

“Anti-Catholicism is still a potent force, which flourishes in a secular society, and feeds on ignorance.

One of the accusations most often thrown at Catholics is that the Church, or the Pope, has been responsible for the deaths of thousands if not millions by blocking the promotion of condoms to prevent the spread of AIDS. Often Catholics do not know the facts of the situation, or how to respond to such accusations. This booklet, written by a world expert on the problem, contains the essential facts and will be invaluable in the war against both ignorance and the AIDS virus itself.

“Matt Hanley demonstrates not only that the use of condoms to prevent the spread of AIDS has been ineffective, but that the only effective method is precisely the one adopted by the Catholic Church, namely ‘partner reduction’. The Church is the largest single provider of health-care and support for those suffering from AIDS-related illnesses worldwide; besides which her teachings offer the only hope of an integrated and humanistic approach to human sexuality.

“The booklet is a based in empirical data, presented in a way that is easy to read and assimilate, and does not shy away from the difficult technical and moral questions that make this issue so difficult to discuss and deal with. This forthright and intelligent defence of the Church’s policy on AIDS will be welcomed by Catholics and others who are fed up with the half-truths and distortions that dominate much media coverage of this serious problem.”

Stratford Caldecott, Director, Centre for Faith & Culture, Oxford.

The Catholic Church and the global AIDS crisis is available from CTS priced £2.50

Of related interest:

EX39 The Catholic Church & the Sex Abuse Crisis – This excellently researched booklet sets out the nature and extent of clerical sexual abuse, its prevalence, likely causes and consequences. Its robust analysis of the crisis and its handling by Church authorities is both illuminating and balanced. The position, teaching and pastoral response to the crisis of the Catholic Church are rigorously assessed.
DO798 25 Tough Questions on the Catholic Faith – Written by experts familiar with the varied contexts in which Catholics are called on to explain what they believe in and why, it covers sexuality, abortion, contraception, divorce, women priests, married priests, war, environment, purgatory, the pope, scripture, Catholic Mass, confessions, and suffering, just to name a few.
Do750 Questions & Answers about Sex and Marriage – Dr Charlie O’Donnell answers 24 of the most common questions put to him by couples at marriage preparation classes. The beauty, practicality and advantages of the Church’s teachings on these issues are explained in this easy to read booklet.


As the beatification of John Paul II draws ever closer, Catholic social teaching expert Stratford Caldecott tells us about a special play put together to celebrate his life and his desire that everyone should be holy.

Encouraging the religious vocation

Catholics continue to call for the late Pope John Paul II, soon to be Blessed, to be made a saint. His reputation for holiness is well established. One of the greatest fruits of that holiness is the worldwide revival of vocations to the priesthood and religious life, among young people who saw thanks to him what a joy it could be to give one’s life entirely to God through personal consecration.

Young people were a special concern of this Pope, and the World Youth Days that began in his pontificate have become the biggest gatherings of human beings on the planet – a place for the rediscovery of what it means to be human, and also a place to discover one’s vocation in life.

Discovering the meaning of life

But the World Youth Days are just a bigger-scale version of something John Paul II/Karol Wojtyla had been doing all his life, from his early days as a priest in Poland, taking groups of young people hiking in the mountains.

Now, to celebrate his beatification, a theatre group at the Oxford Oratory is presenting a play about a mysterious meeting between a man resembling the young Karol Wojtyla, and a group of young hikers, on a pilgrimage to see the Holy Face of Manoppello in Italy during the days when the Pope lay approaching death.

Out of this death comes life, as the pilgrims are taken through the darkness of confusion and despair to a discovery of the meaning of their own lives.

A mixture of mediums

The play, THE QUALITY OF MERCY, written by Leonie Caldecott and directed by Teresa Caldecott for Divine Comedy Productions, is playing at the Catholic Chaplaincy in Oxford on three nights, April 27, 28, and 29.

It mixes live action, symbolic musical sequences featuring the words and voice of John Paul II, and the choral speaking of Scripture passages translated by Dr Carl Schmidt of Balliol College.

Catholic composer Ben Nichols is responsible for the music. Tickets can be obtained for £10 (£5 concessions) at the Oxford Playhouse (01865 305305) or from the Oxford Oratory Porters’ Lodge. Online details here

Of related interest:

JPII John Paul II: The Pope who Made History – A unique and monumental 5-DVD collection that chronologically follows Pope John Paul II’s life, including his childhood in Poland, his appointment as Pope, his most important foreign visits, and his last days.
JPII's Life John Paul II: His Life his Pontificate – his DVD contains two feature-length documentaries: His Life (30 mins) and His Pontificate (60 mins). They consider the two parts of John Paul’s life, before and after his election as Pope.
Saints made How Saints are Canonised – Through baptism, all Christians are called to be saints, and yet there are also ‘saints’ who are ‘canonised’ by the Church. This booklet gives an overview of the history and process of beatification and canonisation in the Catholic Church.


In an article posted yesterday, we looked at the EU ruling on crucifixes in classrooms and the actual judgement that was made.

Now, Catholic social teaching expert Stratford Caldecott tells us why, though they may not seem like much, these symbols are vital.

What is at stake he says, is much more than just things on walls. The influence symbols and other forms of cultural and religious expression have are no less important, simply because the affect is difficult to measure, as he puts it:

“Of course it is unfortunately true that there is little evidence that crucifixes, Christian art in general, and in fact Christian instruction, have any influence on pupils whatever, since most appear to reach adulthood with no sense of faith or the sacred, little respect for tradition, and hardly any intention of adhering to Christian morality.

“Total immersion”

“A few pious words and symbols cannot compete with total immersion in a world of TV, computers, supermarkets, games, and music that contradict them so profoundly. Or so it might appear. In fact, I believe, art and architecture prepare the ground of the soul and influence the imagination in hidden ways.

“That is just as well, because a civilization that loses its connection with religious tradition entirely has lost the roots of its morality and its culture.”

True freedom

The 20th century should be a clear lesson that the twisting, eradication and rejection of that Christian culture has not led to freedom and a more just society, nor is that course of action likely to do so in the future, as Caldecott concludes:

“A purely technocratic, pragmatic society will end up being run either by an all-pervasive bureaucracy or a military dictator, or both. Only faith in the transcendent – which the crucifix among other symbols represents – keeps alive the hope of true freedom.”

That piece of wood on the wall may not be much, but it represents our only chance for true liberty.

Of related interest:

Lumen LUMEN The Catholic Gift to Civilisation – In a recent debate, broadcast worldwide by the BBC, over 87% of the audience rejected the motion that the Catholic Church is a force for good in the world. To set the record straight, this booklet summarises the extraordinary fruitfulness of the faith.
Creation Catholic Social Teaching – A Way In – The Common Good’, ‘option for the poor’ ‘subsidiarity’- concepts like these have become part of the currency of Catholic teaching, but what do they mean? What are their foundations in scripture and tradition which make them distinctively Catholic? This book examines key aspects of human social relations such as the family, the state and civil society, the world of work and justice.
Apologia Apologia – The rise of secularism and the new atheists has led to many difficult questions being regularly posed about religion in general and the Catholic Faith in particular.


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