The Law is (sometimes) an Ass

mr. bumbleSo cried the unfortunate Mr. Bumble towards the end of the musical version of the Dickensian classic, Oliver!  I had the opportunity to play the rumbunctious character a few years ago here at the college, complete with pillow to fatten me up, and I quite enjoyed the opportunity to shout the phrase to my students and assembled audience members, with the implicit emphasis that ‘ass’ still means a donkey, and only secondarily (and I am not sure how) the posterior.


After all, as even the great Saint Thomas says, sometimes the law is an ass (well, not in those words, but the gist is there).  Unlike the natural, moral law, perfect in its principles (since derived from God), human law is fallible, decreed by imperfect and fallible men, with some more imperfect and fallible than others.  I will let you decide where our recent and current crop of legislators falls on that spectrum.


The great columnist Joseph Sobran, God rest his soul, would often allude to the fact that a society with a group of men (and women) whose sole professional job is to ‘make laws’, is headed for disaster.  The knee-jerk reaction to ‘make a new law’ every time something bad happens does not bode well for the freedom and independence of the citizenry of any country.  As the old adage goes, bad cases make bad laws.  Laws should not be made in a state of emotional distress, which is also why Thomas states that laws should be made rarely, and only after much reflection, by a few wise men, once the emotional reaction has abated.  A law is an ordinance of reason, not of the  gut.



Alas, we have many laws that are laws of the gut, passed with an emotional (or, worse, a rational) desire to keep the citizens ‘safe’ from any harm, under the warm, fuzzy blanket of Canadian legislation.  Take the drinking laws.  Some group of parliamentarians decreed that one could not legally drink alcohol under the rather arbitrary age of 19, outside Mum and Dad’s careful supervision within the home.  One may argue, well, did they not have to pick some age?   I would dispute with that, and propose leaving it up to the citizenry, and particularly the family, to decide who drinks what and when.


But let us accept the premise for argument’s sake that some age must be decreed.  Why nineteen?  ‘Children’ (as those under 19 are, again, arbitrarily called in Canadian law) who are 18 (and even  younger) can vote and be drafted; they can engage in sexual relations and contract matrimony; they can have their unborn children murdered (euphemistically, ‘get abortions’) without parental consent, yet not one of them  can dare put a Chardonnay or pale ale to their lips.


What this encourages is an infantilization of our budding young adults.  The law has a pedagogical effect, and if one is treated like an immature child in the law, then one tends to act like one.


Hence, what we have on many of our university campuses, filled with eighteen year olds (especially with the abolition of grade 13 in high school a number of years ago), is a binge-drinking culture.  So-called ‘underage’ drinking is driven underground, in the bushes, in the alleys, at house parties; since they are breaking the law, when given the opportunity to drink, the young people will down as much as possible, often as quickly as they can, in secret, in the dark.


This problem is even worse in the good old U.S of A., still labouring (like Canada) under a strict-Calvinist view of alcohol as an apparently intrinsically evil substance; the attempt to ban it outright under Prohibition, begun in  1920 with the 18th amendment, collapsed ignominiously 13 years later with the 21st amendment in 1933 (but not before making a bunch of gangster bootleggers rich).  Now the drinking age is 21, a law imposed on all the states by federal diktat (blackmailed, apparently, using federal money, which means, of course, the taxpayers’ own money).


That basically means that only a small percentage of college students can drink legally.  But, as custom dictates, and custom always  trumps law (as the attempt at Prohibition taught the over-reaching legislators in America), young people will drink, and will experiment with alcohol.  That custom, which I heartily admit could become unhealthy, should be directed and guided towards a good end, with parents and those who stand in their place leading the way by teaching and example, and intervention when  necessary.


But even we ‘adults’ (I hesitate to put myself in that category, but in I go) are curtailed in our imbibing habits.  Alcohol is only permitted in private residences and licensed establishments.  Anywhere else is illegal.  So a group of said adults gathering for a picnic on a summer day must partake of water, or sparkling dealcoholized cider, for fear of being busted by a group of o.p.p robocops in full gear to pour their booze on the lawn, and cite them with a healthy fine to help pay for said armored gear.  I read a year or two ago of a disgraceful event in Stratford a  few years ago; no, not one of the plays, but a police officer who, witnessing a gathering of grannies out to catch some Shakespeare daring to enjoy a glass of wine on the grass, grabbed their Pinot Noirs and poured them out on the lawn before their eyes.  After all, the law’s the law, and who knows what might have transpired if left to their own devices? I suppose he was ‘doing his job’ (the problem is just that that is his job).  Can we not consider changing the law to fit with custom?


Imagine how different would a culture be with a healthy respect for the fruit of the barley, grape and other plants, distilled into a hearty beer, wine or cider.  If families were permitted to teach their young people to drink responsibly, to use this gift of  God as a complement to food and good times, moderately, with laughter, and never as a drug, or to deliberately inebriate oneself.  We find such cultures in Europe (but, alas, even those halcyonic days of the old country are changing under the bloated European Union).


As Chesterton once said, you should always drink to remember, never drink to forget.  But I’m tempted to down a stiff Scotch right in front of Parliament to forget the ridiculous laws this country puts forward to keep us coddled in the fat arms of the State.  Instead, I will retire to the comfort of my own home, which Chesterton called a man’s kingdom, and perhaps, or perhaps not, enjoy a dark ale, and toast the freedom we once had as Canadians.


I will write again on how we might approach such laws; take me not for an anarchist, for I do have a healthy respect for law and those in authority, but we must put all things in their proper perspective.


October 1, 2014

Saint Therese of Lisieux

Kanadian Kulture

Tim HortonsOne of my readers mentioned, a propos the post on multiculturalism, whether or not we here in Canada even have a culture worth annihiliating.  A pertinent question, and one that I have pondered.  What, in fact, is Canadian culture?

Such a question may bring to mind a number of associations:  Maple trees and syrup, backyard hockey-rinks made by your Dad with the garden hose, flannel shirts, fireplaces, polar bears, skidoos and igloos, cottages, the Rocky Mountains, David Suzuki and David Sutherland.  Perhaps, if one is more historically minded, as one ought to be, one may ponder the early settlers of an untamed Canada, the interpid and stoic habitants and missionaries who heroically brought Christian and European culture to Canada, with mixed success.  I say ‘mixed’, since not all of their descendants were, and are, shall we say, appreciative of their efforts.

What is left of all this to bind us together?  A country must be more than a geographical expression and a proximate grouping of individuals in urban or rural communities.  At least the early Quebecois and the missionaries had their shared religion and, as I said in my previous post, underlying every culture is a religion of some sort, those principles that guide our actions and conduct, the one or more things that are the ‘master(s) of our affections’.

Can Tim Horton’s and the Ottawa Senators serve such a function?  Are we bound together by frozen and reheated doughnuts (yes, the Canadian spelling, culture at work), and coffee that requires ‘two creams and two sugars’ just to be drinkable?   Can the National Hockey League, comprised of millionaire players and billionaire owners, many of whom are not even Canadian?

To ask the question is to answer it:  We are a people without much of a culture, and ‘multiculturalism’ is a patchword to describe our own emptiness.

We are left with what we might call cultural artefacts, the relics of a past culture fading away:  Our laws, customs, manners, views have been, more or less, shaped by Christianity, and we have lived off this patrimony.

Ask yourself, how many people on your street, or in your town or city do you know?  If you know them, would you consider them friends?  Would you have them over for a barbeque, or a games night?  Would they come to your help in time of difficulty?  Could you ask them to help you move, or babysit the children?   Do you know any Canadian folk songs, the music of the ancestors who built this land?

Other cultures, who do have shared ‘values’, especially a shared religion, can answer these questions in the affirmative.  One need only look at the Amish, Mennonites, Muslims, Sikhs and, yes, even some Christian communities that remain tight-knit.  Notice they all take their religion seriously.

But, alas, across most of this land, the remnants of our own once-Christian culture have left a vacuum, and, as we all know, that is something nature abhors.  Other cultures will move in simply to fill the void; unlike Caesar, they will scarcely have to conquer.

A Tale of Two Justins

Recently, at least within the recent limits of my own limited memory of things inane, Justin Bieber, a Canadian from southern Ontario, stripped down to his ‘Calvin Kleins’ on national television, declaring that he is only ‘comfortable in his Calvins’, as he exposed his skinny body to too many people, most of whom would rather forget the sight (I, yes, will admit, caught an unwitting glimpse on a fleeting news story).

Our other famous-Canadian Justin, Trudeau by name, has also exposed himself of late:  Well, a year or so ago, he also stripped down to his ‘boxer shorts’ to win a charity match against the heavier, and favoured, Senator Patrick Brazeau.  The fight was a somewhat pre-fixed; they wore Olympic protective equipment, which saved Justin from Patrick’s initial brutal assault.  Then, when the Native senator was out of steam, Justin, with his own long skinny arms, ‘tap-tap-tapped’ Brazeau  into a victory.

But there is a deeper exposition in both Justins, and that is the revelation of their moral and intellectual deficiencies, more embarrassing than their underwear or boxers.   Bieber’s own inanities are rather obvious, splayed over the tabloids with tedious regularity.  I read recently that he spends over a million dollars a month. Oh well.  I just hope someone is being gainfully employed. Do people actually still buy his music, or is he living off royalties?

More pertinent to my and your life is other Justin, Trudeau, who may well become the next Prime Minister of Canada.  I make this prediction for I, as an adopted member of this country that I have come to love, long ago despaired of finding sanity and rationality amongst a good number of Canadians.  Any society that could elect and admire Trudeau Senior, Pierre, a man, smirking all the while, who defrauded and denuded Canada of its original strong, virile identity, is one with which I must, at least in thought, separate myself.

But back to Trudeau Junior:  I make no judgement of his interior state, but, from what comes out of his own mouth, and signified by his actions, he seems to me the perfect embodiment of the Generation-X Canadian (a generation hardly improved in the subsequent Generation Y and Millenials):  Lightly and deficiently educated in the modern state-run-university, coddled in a millionaire household, Justin has grown up a self-entitled man with a seemingly inflated sense of his own importance, based largely on his family’s (read: his father’s) fame and fortune.  It would be difficult to argue that Mr. Trudeau Junior would be where he is today without his lineage.  The Liberals are banking on name-recognition, and the people’s natural love of dynastic rule.  After all, monarchy is the most natural form of government, for, as we can read in the Israelites clamouring to Samuel thousands of years ago, ‘Give us a king!’, people will always follow a demagogue, usually one of their own making.

Take just one example, Trudeau’s claim to know better than the Church to which he professes to belong, which betrays his ignorance or his arrogance, or both.  One need not be a member of said Church to realize that a man of principle would either submit or jump ship.  Like father, like son.  But, again, I cannot read Trudeau’s conscience, only his actions.  I only wish someone would, or would have, more thoroughly informed said conscience.

Then again, perhaps he is a man of principle, but of a set that defies reason.  His latest dictat that all members of his Party shall vote ‘pro-choice’ is a sign of things to come.

Just listen to one of Trudeau’s interviews.  I heard a snippet of one at a speech he gave at my ‘alma mater’, the Univeristy of Western Ontario (more on that institution later).  Mr. Trudeau claimed to represent the ‘party of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms’, which his father helped to draft, and passed into law as the main component of our Canadian constitution (a dim comparison to the great Constitution of our neighbours to the south).  From his own isogesis, he (or his advisors) find  in its shallow and vague texts an absolute and inviolable right to abortion on demand for all nine months of pregnancy, at the whim of the mother, under the right to ‘privacy’ and ‘integrity of the body’.  He also seems able to discover therein a right to homosexual ‘marriage’, and an obligation amongst all citizens to find sodomy normal and, indeed, a joyful enterprise, to be celebrated and promoted, even if they do not themselves indulge.

The proof is always in the pudding, and we already see where these policies are leading us.  Although there are pockets of hope, for there is always hope, both Canada and America are dying countries, led by proponents of the culture of death, with no rational plan for the future, but simply an indulgence in the present.

But the can can only be kicked down the road so far, before, as one commentator declared, it falls off a cliff.  Well, that cliff is looming, and the possible election of Justin Trudeau may accelerate us off its edge.

In such an occurrence, I have thought of dusting off my feet, and travelling back to the land of my birth, bonnie old Scotland; but, alas, I fear things there are not much better.   Perhaps I could float about on a sailboat on the Pacific; but, then I think back to the heroic Jesuits and Franciscans who first brought the faith to this country.  Like them, but in my own lesser way, I must do my duty in the land to which I have been called, and which I have come to love.  Perhaps I would ask you to do the same, and, while you’re at it, do your best to ensure that the Trudeau legacy ends with the dismal record of his father.

September 19, 2014

Saint Janurarius, Bishop and Martyr

Multiculturalism as Oxymoron


I’ve been pondering of late whether there can be such a thing really as multiculturalism, especially in light of recent disturbing revelations coming out of Rotheringham, England, where a under-age sex-ring was conducted, mainly by men from Pakistan, right under the noses of the police and the inaptly-named ‘children’s’ aid’.   Muslim culture has a different view of sexuality than, say, Christianity.  I suppose they got away with it due in part to the loss of Christian sense in Britain; in a society adrift, anything goes.

This raises the question:  Can cultures really thrive together in the same society?  An answer is pressing, as Muslim immigration (and immigrants from other groups) is fast overtaking birth as the primary means of growth in most western nations.

Here is the rub:  Culture and society are not really, in their essence, two separate things.  Rather, they go together like ice cream and apple pie, but even more intimately, for what makes a society really is its culture.  Whatever way one defines a ‘culture’ (and many definitions have been offered), they must include all those things that make a society cohere, and, as the etymology of the word implies, that is primarily a society’s religion.

As I have said in a previous post, all society’s have a religion, a principle that binds them together, whether that principle be Christianity or atheistic Marxism.  All of the customs, practices, beliefs and the daily aspects of life flow from the society’s religious principles, which are the primary component in its culture.  That is why Pope Saint John Paul II declared in Centesimus Annus that “At the heart of every culture lies the attitude a person takes to the greatest mystery: the mystery of God. Different cultures are basically different ways of facing the question of the meaning of personal existence. When this question is eliminated, the culture and moral life of nations are corrupted”.

To be cohesive, and achieve a common good, a society must have some level of cooperation on the level of religion and of culture.  Of course, no one objects to curry shops, exotic art, and products from other ‘cultures’.  I would not mind wearing a toga or my native kilt, rather than the silly and chafing pantaloons we are accustomed to in our culture.  But this, need it be said, is a rather superficial view of culture.  Culture on the deeper level, affecting how one actually lives one’s life, views other people outside the culture, and practices one’s faith, makes common living problematical.

There is a critical point at which cultures that are so radically different cannot coexist, which is why they tend to form enclaves of their own, living together in their own separate societies, leading to fragmentation of the larger society.  Look around at the so-called ‘gay culture’, concentrated in Toronto around Church Street, or the Muslim culture (at least, those who take their faith seriously) who live in common neighbourhoods, even common houses; they are now demanding that sharia law be imposed on these enclaves, even if non-Muslims happen to reside therein.   And, of course, we are all aware of ‘first nations’ culture, forming their own societies on reserves where the laws of Canada and the respective provinces no longer apply.

We, in Canada, were a Christian society, founded on the principles of Christian revelation.  We still live on the remnants of that heritage which, like the soft sands of Prince Edward Island (whose original name, Isle Saint-Jean, I still prefer), is being eroded away at a quickening pace.

For now, let it be said that the quixotic Trudeaupian attempt to build a true multicultural society is recipe for societal unrest, fragmentation and ultimate failure (as are most of Trudeau’s, senior and junior, policies).  There may still be an entity called ‘Canada’, but it will not be unified and, therefore, not really a society; rather, it will be a grouping of separate societies, each with different ends, some of which include the absorption, dissolution and ultimate destruction of other  cultures and societies.

We should air these differences out on the table and ask ourselves, can we really get along?

September 16, 2014

Saint Cornelius and Cyprian