Magna Carta

The British Library has a website devoted to Magna Carta, explaining the document’s history, legacy and crucial influence on the formation and development of modern democracies – HERE. Below is their introduction to the document, emphasizing the principle of the rule of law to safeguard the liberty of the individual in community with others.


by Claire Breay and Julian Harrison

What is Magna Carta?

Magna Carta, meaning ‘The Great Charter’, is one of the most famous documents in the world. Originally issued by King John of England (r.1199-1216) as a practical solution to the political crisis he faced in 1215, Magna Carta established for the first time the principle that everybody, including the king, was subject to the law. Although nearly a third of the text was deleted or substantially rewritten within ten years, and almost all the clauses have been repealed in modern times, Magna Carta remains a cornerstone of the British constitution.Most of the 63 clauses granted by King John dealt with specific grievances relating to his rule. However, buried within them were a number of fundamental values that both challenged the autocracy of the king and proved highly adaptable in future centuries. Most famously, the 39th clause gave all ‘free men’ the right to justice and a fair trial. Some of Magna Carta’s core principles are echoed in the United States Bill of Rights (1791) and in many other constitutional documents around the world, as well as in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) and the European Convention on Human Rights (1950).

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R.G. Menzies — a very ‘clubbable’ prime minister

It is perhaps not well known that Robert G. Menzies immensely enjoyed the social life of the clubs he was a member of. He had membership in three during his career: the West Brighton, the Savage, and the K.K. They provided a clean relaxing break from his busy life first in the law and then in politics. Sir John Bunting, Menzies’ Cabinet Secretary and Secretary to the Prime Minister’s Department, devoted several pages to Menzies’ ‘clubbability’ in his book R.G. Menzies: A Portrait. Those pages are reproduced below.

Edmund Burke’s Club is organizing a dinner to commemorate the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta (15th June 1215) and the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo (18th June 1815) at Melbourne’s Savage Club for the 16th of June 2015. As with the very enjoyable dinner on the eve of our Edmund Burke conference, the dinner will take its lead from R.G. Menzies.

MENZIES was a considerable club man. But that straight away needs an explanation, because the clubs he most used were not of the usually understood variety. There are various dictionary definitions of clubs. For what are now understood as the traditional clubs, the Concise Oxford formula seems to go closest: ‘body of persons combined for social purposes, and having premises for resort, meals, temporary residence etc.’ Clubs of this sort, modelled on British precedent, have always existed in Australia. They are social clubs obviously, but they are also clubs that people join for business and professional reasons. These were not really for Menzies. He visited them often enough, and the equivalent clubs elsewhere, and, as a guest, was perfectly at home and happy. But although he was in them, he was not of them, nor of their style. His main choices, in his home city of Melbourne, fell on three quite other clubs: the Savage, the West Brighton and the K.K. These were clubs for the inner Menzies. (I omit, which would be at my peril if he were to know, the Melbourne Scots, but it does not, I think, come into this narrative.) Continue reading

Kenneth Branagh’s Very Christian Cinderella

The following review of the soon to be released movie CINDERELLA appeared on Zenit Online

By Fr. Robert Barron

Kenneth Branagh’s “Cinderella” is the most surprising Hollywood movie of the year so far. I say this because the director manages to tells the familiar fairy tale without irony, hyper-feminist sub-plots, Marxist insinuations, deconstructionist cynicism, or arch condescension. In so doing, he actually allows the spiritual, indeed specifically Christian, character of the tale to emerge. I realize that it probably strikes a contemporary audience as odd that Cinderella might be a Christian allegory, but keep in mind that most of the fairy stories and children’s tales compiled by the Brothers Grimm and later adapted by Walt Disney found their roots in the decidedly Christian culture of late medieval and early modern Europe.

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Thomas More – fictionalising history for political purposes

Deconstructing History

‘[Hilary] Mantel has chosen to make [St Thomas] More the singular object of her anti-Catholic vitriol. More does not appear in the book other than in a damning light; no one speaks anything but ill of him and he is not allowed a redeeming feature’


By  Graham Hutton

THE FIRST of a trilogy of novels about Thomas Cromwell by the successful English writer Hilary Mantel, ‘Wolf Hall’ has experienced a phenomenal success winning huge critical acclaim, selling over 1.2million copies and winning the Mann Booker prize. It has now been turned into a stage play and at both Stratford-upon-Avon and London’s West End this play, too, has been such a success that it is being described with such hyperboles as ‘a landmark’ and ‘a phenomenon’. No doubt the forthcoming TV series will reach even more people. Unfortunately, whatever the literary merits of the book, its popularity is something which Catholics can only regret. The great work of recent historians of the English Reformation such as Eamon Duffy, Christopher Haigh and Richard Rex, has done much to clear away the obfuscations of traditional English historiography around the medieval Church and the reformation. Continue reading

Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s

The Scriptures are an essential part of our literary heritage
22nd Sunday after Pentecost
Matthew 22:15-22
After this the Pharisees withdrew, and plotted together, to make him betray himself in his talk. And they sent their own disciples to him, with those who were of Herod’s party, and said, Master, we know well that thou art sincere, and teachest in all sincerity the way of God; that thou holdest no one in awe, making no distinction between man and man; tell us, then, is it right to pay tribute to Caesar, or not? Jesus saw their malice; Hypocrites, he said, why do you thus put me to the test? Shew me the coinage in which the tribute is paid. So they brought him a silver piece, and he asked them, Whose is this likeness? Whose name is inscribed on it? Caesar’s, they said; whereupon he answered, Why then, give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s. And they went away and left him in peace, full of admiration for his words.

Saving those who are lost

How could one possibly understand a musical masterpiece like Bach’s St Matthew’s Passion with out being deeply acquainted with the New Testament? The same holds for so much of the West’s musical heritage.



This is the anniversary of the day on which the Basilica of the Most Holy Saviour was dedicated, the first church of Rome to receive solemn consecration. It is the Cathedral church of the Pope, and consequently the chief church of the Catholic world. Several Councils have been held there.


Luke 19:1-10
He had entered Jericho, and was passing through it; and here a rich man named Zacchaeus, the chief publican, was trying to distinguish which was Jesus, but could not do so because of the multi­tude, being a man of small stature. So he ran on in front, and climbed up into a syca­more tree, to catch sight of him, since he must needs pass that way. Jesus, when he reached the place, looked up and saw him; Zacchaeus, he said, make haste and come down; I am to lodge to-day at thy house. And he came down with all haste, and gladly made him welcome. When they saw it, all took it amiss; He has gone in to lodge, they said, with one who is a sinner. But Zacchaeus stood upright and said to the Lord, Here and now, Lord, I give half of what I have to the poor; and if I have wronged anyone in any way, I make resti­tution of it fourfold, jesus turned to him and said, To-day, salvation has been brought to this house; he too is a son of Abraham. That is what the Son of Man has come for, to search out and to save what was lost.

The cream of Labor’s rabble turns up to honour their hero

It was meant to be a gala event with the cream, the giants, the grand worthies of the Labor Party assembling to honour their saint and hero Gough Whitlam. But the cream, the giants and the grand worthies turned out to be your grossest, most vulgar rabble. When conservative Prime Minister Abbott arrived at Sydney’s Town Hall to pay respects despite being on the other side of the political field, the Labor rabble booed long and hard. Just as they unloose their foul mouths whenever they come across anyone that does not meekly fall in with their malignant policies.

‘The governments now in office are the heirs of the May ’68 generation, which is now at the apex of its political and cultural power’
Benigno Blanco, president of the Foro Español de la Familia in an interview with the Observatory of Cardinal Van Thuan

Getting the history right about political Islam

It is almost a dogma, even among some conservative commentators, that there is a radical disconnect between moderate Muslims and radical Muslims. A charming young Muslim with an Australian accent and dressed modestly in a nijab appears on television to tell us that radical Islam is not true Islam. Islam is as peace-loving as she is. Indeed, she radiates peace as well as charm. ISIS warriors, brandishing their swords and mockingly dangling severed heads in front of us assure us otherwise. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the current President of Turkey has angrily rejected the distinction between moderate Islam and radical Islam. There is only one Islam he has insisted. Indeed, but what is it? Dangerous fish swim in calm waters. The ordinary person in the West is inclined to think of Islam in terms of Western thought and traditions, rendering their knowledge of it seriously deficient. Paul Stenhouse MSC Ph.D, an acknowledged expert on Islam and the Middle East, has included the following article in a recent edition of Annals Australasia of which he is the editor. Fr Stenhouse has kindly permitted us to reproduce it here.

ISIS, stratagems, lies, Islamist terror, and political totalitarianism


By Paul Stenhouse, MSC

YOUNG RELIGIOUS MUSLIMS from western democracies, impressed by the military hardware and the ruthless butchery and mayhem that the psychopathic, self-styled Caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, spreads in the name of Allah in Iraq and Syria, have joined his band of young, brainwashed jihadists calling themselves The Islamic State.

Ai-Baghdadi has gone through many name changes; his latest nom de guerre is the title adopted by the legitimate Caliphs or Successors of Muhammad, viz.: Amir al-Mu’minin[Commander of the Faithful]. And he now wants to be called Caliph Ibrahim.

Whatever his name and his claims, would-be followers need to be aware that in the middle of the eleventh century AD there were no fewer than four self-styledCaliphsin Spain, each claiming to be the Commander of the Faithful, each claiming to be Sovereign over all Muslims in Andalusia: Hisham II at Seville; Muhammad I al-Mahdi at Malaga; Muhammad ben al-Qasim at Algeciras; and Idris II ibn Yahya [known as al-‘Ali] the rightful Caliph of Malaga.(1)

Their internecine quarrels unleashed murderous tribal, clan and personal vendettas between Andalusians, Berbers, Arabs, Slavs and Black Muslims in Andalusia that resemble the internecine bloodbaths still engulfing Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, and of the Arab Spring in Egypt and North Africa Continue reading