Liberal Budget Educated in Red Ink

The Ontario Liberal budget was released yesterday:  As expected, costs are going up, while revenues tank, the deficit is $50 billion, the debt, well, the debt is now more than $300 billion.  With those apocalyptic figures, I am not sure how worried we should be that wine is going up ten cents a bottle.  Perhaps the rise in gas costs is more troublesome, four cents a litre, the result of Kathleen Wynne’s mafia-esque cap-and-trade system, wherein companies pay the government for the great honour of burning fossil fuels and emitting the compound that every plant lives on, yes, carbon dioxide, which is in turn exhaled by plants as oxygen.  All the money from this racket will go into ‘green technologies’, almost all of which are bottomless money pits.  Thus, we have a dilemma: If oil ever returns to ‘normal’ to stabilize the Albertan (and Canadian) economy, we may end up paying $2 per litre to drive our cars and heat our homes. If oil does not return to the prices we were used to (and there are few signs it is), Canada is facing imminent bankruptcy and insolvency.  I myself am banking on the latter, but will still fill up my tank.


Speaking of insolvency, perhaps the most troublesome aspect of the budget (besides new money for stem cell treatment, a whole topic in itself), the Liberals have now offered ‘free’ tuition to students whose parents make less than $50,000, and generous grants to those who make less than $80,000.  Of course this is not ‘free’, for we all pay for it, at least those of us who make a wage.  We were already subsidizing the vast horde of millennial-age post-secondary students to more-or-less goof off for four years (or fewer if you fail out, an ever-less likely outcome, given the financial incentive universities have to keep students).  I know.  I was there once.


Ponder this for a moment.  Every young person now after high school will have no reason not to go to university, and every reason (from a certain worldly viewpoint) to go, which means that the government will not only indoctrinate them all through elementary and high school, but now into their twenties and beyond.  Their minds and souls will be formed in the mold of our socialist technocrats mouthing in unison all the politically-correct mantras.  Hey, but who wants diversity, unless it is the ‘wrong’ kind? What was that Jesuit maxim, ‘give me the child for the first seven years, and I will give you the man’.  Now we are offering our enlightened teachers and professors the ‘child’ for the first quarter of a century, half-way to middle age, and what will we get?  Well, I don’t think too many well-formed ‘men’, or women for that matter.


I heard the government plans to fund this boondoggle by taking away whatever tax credits allowed beleaguered families to try to provide some alternate (read: private) education for their young people.  If so, things just got a lot more difficult for those of us who believe in freedom of choice in education.


As I have written before, our modern universities do not offer what our venerable ancestors (including our parents) would have called an ‘education’.  In fact, the students graduate generally less educated, or at least more mis-educated, than when their fresh faces first walked through the doors to face that week of brazen debauchery endearingly known as ‘frosh week’.   At the very least, their ignorance of the most important aspects of our culture and civilization remains woefully intact.  Even showing up for class is optional. Almost guaranteed is the fact that they graduate more immersed in immorality than when they entered. As an experiment, if you ever get the chance, ask someone unfortunate enough to live in or near a student ghetto.  Of course, there is always some good everywhere, but the overall effect of our now-even-more publicly funded post-secondary system is deleterious and this new policy, like most Liberal policies, does not bode well for our future.


I am beginning to think that the only way our government will ‘get it’, that expenditures do have a limit, is, like a drunken sailor waking up in the gaol, to experience some sort of economic crisis, even collapse.  I fear that only this will wake us, and the deluded Liberals under the money-no-object Trudeau, well and truly up.  Sometimes we wander so far from the truth that it has to take us unawares.

Clarification on the Legend of Paul VI’s ‘Permission’

*Pursuant to my recent post on Pope Francis’ ambiguous and confusing remarks on contraception, it turns out that my initial discomfiture of hearing of Paul VI’s supposed permission to nuns in the Congo to use the Pill in case they were raped was a healthy sign:  According to Father Z (his blog posting on this is well worth the read, and leads one to wonder how much else out there is ‘urban legend’) Paul VI, it seems, gave no such permission.  The story can be traced back to one magazine article by three theologians speculating in 1961, two years before Paul VI became Pope.  There was a similar ‘Magisterial’ legend about John Paul II giving Bosnian nuns permission to use the Pill.  False again. It does pay to check one’s sources; thank you, Father Z.


*So Pope Francis was citing an urban legend (which, like most people, he thought true) to implicitly give permission to use contraception, which, legend notwithstanding, he has no right to do, and every duty to refrain from doing.  Alas, and alas again.  The confusion is still sown, and this piece of wind will indeed reap the whirlwind of confusion and bad practice.


*Hence, allow me to retract my initial defense of Paul VI’s non-existent ‘permission’. I will have to think more on this matter, but contraception is still very much an intrinsic, and grave, evil.


*Today is the feast of the Chair of Saint Peter, dedicated to the papacy as the supreme pastor of all the faithful.  On that note, whatever concessions are given to the Orthodox in the coming years to move towards reunion, there can be no budging on the principle that the Supreme Pontiff has, as Lumen Gentium, the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church (par. 22) declares “full, supreme universal power over the Church. And he is always free to exercise this power”. Or, in the original Latin:  Vicarii scilicet Christi et totius Ecclesiae Pastoris, plenam, supremam et universalem potestatem, quam semper libere exercere valet”.


How he chooses to exercise that power is, within certain limits, up to each individual Pope.


*So let us pray for the Holy Father, for the chair he occupies is indeed too big for any mortal man, and only the grace of Christ can allow one to fulfill such an office.


Sancte Petre, ora pro nobis!


Trump, Zika and Contraception

Pope francis and TrumpThe Holy Father has started another furore with his latest off-the-cuff interview on the plan ride back from his pilgrimage to Mexico.  I would recommend that all those interested read the entire text of the interview, or at least the relevant bits.  As I have written before, it is always good to go back to the sources, and make up one’s own mind.


The two most  controversial segments (yes, there are others) have to do, first, with the Pope’s response to a question on Donald Trump’s intention to build a wall across the entire U.S.-Mexican border.  The second, and more important, has to do with his response to a question about whether couples could in good conscience use contraception to avoid a pregnancy while the Zika virus lurks in the background (the virus has been linked correlatively, but not conclusively, to the birth defect of microencephaly).


Now, before I offer my own two cents’ worth, we should reiterate that truth requires that one make the proper distinctions, which Saint Thomas states is the primary mark of a clear and informed intellect.  As I have also written, it is to some degree the task of the Pope (and any teacher) to make those distinctions for his listeners.  But there is also a duty for the listeners to make the distinctions implicit in what is taught.   This is especially the case if the teacher, in this case the Holy Father, for whatever reason, does not clarify what he says (alas).


First, to Donald Trump.  The Holy Father, when  given a very brief summary of Trump’s intention to build a 2500 km wall between the U.S. and Mexico (there is already 554.1 km of discontinuous fencing between the two countries) and to deport 11 million undocumented Mexicans, had this to say:


 a person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian. This is not in the Gospel.


This seems a rather dramatic statement, which requires clarification, or at least tempering.  The Holy Father seems to realize this, and takes a bit of a step back, saying that


I say only that this man is not Christian if he has said things like that. We must see if he said things in that way and in this I give the benefit of the doubt.


The Holy Father has likely not been following the U.S. political race, since he admits in the same interview that he scarcely knows what is going on in the Italian parliament outside his own doorstep.  Given his lack of specific knowledge, the Pope probably should have considered before answering.  Perhaps realizing that he has waded into the politics of a foreign country, (and he later confesses in the interview, in response to his abstention from the Italian debate about recognizing same-sex civil unions, that “The Pope doesn’t get mixed up in Italian politics”, but American politics are fair game?) he quickly says


As far as what you said about whether I would advise to vote or not to vote, I am not going to get involved in that.


But involved he already is, and Trump has already responded in a more or less Trump-esque manner. The Pope, as the supreme shepherd of all the faithful, and in one sense of all mankind, can speak on what issues he sees fit, political or not, especially as they concern the salvation of souls.  However, as one commentator put it, the Holy Father has unwittingly given a lot of free publicity to a candidate with whom he apparently disagrees in a fundamental way, right before the South Carolina primaries.  And as the adage goes, there is no such thing as bad publicity, especially for a man like Trump.


Now to the second and more important point, on contraception and Zika, a reporter asked the following question:


Holy Father, for several weeks there’s been a lot of concern in many Latin American countries but also in Europe regarding the Zika virus. The greatest risk would be for pregnant women. There is anguish. Some authorities have proposed abortion, or else to avoiding pregnancy. As regards avoiding pregnancy, on this issue, can the Church take into consideration the concept of “the lesser of two evils?”


The Holy Father unequivocally condemns the abortion option, and very rightly so.


Abortion is not the lesser of two evils. It is a crime. It is to throw someone out in order to save another. That’s what the Mafia does. It is a crime, an absolute evil.


However, on contraception, the Pope is somewhat more ambiguous.  As he continues:


On the ‘lesser evil,’ avoiding pregnancy, we are speaking in terms of the conflict between the fifth and sixth commandment. Paul VI, a great man, in a difficult situation in Africa, permitted nuns to use contraceptives in cases of rape.


This response, to put it mildly, is problematical.  Here are what I consider the key distinctions that must be made here, which I wish the Holy Father himself had made in his response.


From the get-go, there can be no ‘conflict’ between the commandments.  They form an integral whole, flowing one into the other, and all derived from the two ‘great commandments’ to love God and love one’s neighbour.  As such, the commandments are hierarchical, some more fundamental than others, but any ‘conflict’ between them is only apparent.


The questioner implies such a conflict between the sexual expression of the couple, and the potential risk to the child.  He does not raise the word ‘contraception’, but it is clearly implied, and the Holy Father takes the question as such.  The Church has always permitted periodic abstinence to avoid pregnancy for serious reasons even if such avoidance of the great gift of a child is perceived as an ‘evil’, that is, a physical, not a moral evil. Here is Bd. Paul VI from his 1968 encyclical Humanae Vitae (#15):


If, then, there are serious motives to space out births, which derive from the physical or psychological conditions of husband and wife, or from external conditions, the Church teaches that it is then licit to take into account the natural rhythms immanent in the generative functions, for the use of marriage in the infecund periods only, and in this way to regulate birth without offending the moral principles which have been recalled earlier.


Whether the apparent correlation (not yet fully verified, as far as I know) between Zika and microencephaly is a serious enough reason to avoid a pregnancy, even indefinitely, is a question the couple must answer in their conscience, hopefully with good spiritual advice.  I personally would not think so but, then again, conscience is by definition particular.


Following upon this, the principle of double-effect, to which the questioner alludes, only applies to physical evil.  That is, one can tolerate such a physical evil to avoid a greater evil, or, at times, obtain a significantly greater good.  A limb can be sacrificed to save one’s life, and, in these days of Lent, abstinence and fasting, to some degree painful in themselves, are recommended for their spiritual and even physical benefits.


However, one may never do moral evil, not even a ‘small’ moral evil, for the sake of a good, no matter how good, nor to avoid an evil, no matter how evil.  This is a consistent and irreformable teaching of the Church going back to Scripture (cf., Romans 3:8), which even the Pope is not free to change, nor from which he can grant dispensations.  The natural moral law admits of no exceptions, even for the gravest of reasons, indeed even to the point of giving up one’s life in martyrdom (cf., Veritatis Splendor, #82; #90-94.  The whole section, indeed the whole document, is well worth a read in our day and age).


The reason for this is that although there is a proportion between two physical evils (or goods) which can be compared and weighed, there is no such proportion between physical evil and moral evil, for the latter is always infinitely ‘worse’ than the former.  Physical evil harms only the body (which is headed for death one way or the other), but moral evil corrupts the soul and, as Pope John Paul put it, such acts render one unfit to realize one’s final end, the ultimate tragedy (cf., Veritatis Splendor, #78-80).  “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul” our Lord warned “rather fear him who can destroy both body and soul in hell” (Mt 10:28).


To emphasize the point with Victorian flourish, here is Bd. Cardinal Newman from chapter 5 of his Apologia:


The Catholic Church holds it better for the sun and moon to drop from heaven, for the earth to fail, and for all the many millions on it to die of starvation in extremest agony, as far as temporal affliction goes, than that one soul, I will not say, should be lost, but should commit one single venial sin, should tell one wilful untruth, or should steal one poor farthing without excuse.


It is, furthermore, a consistent, irreformable teaching of the Church that contraception is one of those moral evils that admit of no exceptions.  Following upon numerous other documents from the very origins of the Church, Humane Vitae declares contraception an ‘intrinsic evil’, that does grave harm to those who practise it (cf., #14).  Here are the solemn words of Pope Saint John Paul II in his aforementioned 1993 encyclical Veritatis Splendor:


With regard to intrinsically evil acts, and in reference to contraceptive practices whereby the conjugal act is intentionally rendered infertile, Pope Paul VI teaches: “Though it is true that sometimes it is lawful to tolerate a lesser moral evil in order to avoid a greater evil or in order to promote a greater good, it is never lawful, even for the gravest reasons, to do evil that good may come of it (cf. Rom 3:8)–in other words, to intend directly something which of its very nature contradicts the moral order, and which must therefore be judged unworthy of man, even though the intention is to protect or promote the welfare of an individual, of a family or of society in general”  (paragraph 80).


Pope Francis knows this, and he does not directly permit contraception, but by alluding to the permission given several decades ago by Paul VI to the nuns in Africa, who faced the threat of violation by rampaging soldiers, the current Pope seems indirectly and tacitly to do so.


I have some reservations with Paul VI’s original permission, and would have to delve more into the details of what he actually said, but clearly the case of minimizing the evil done to consecrated women who may be raped in an act of aggression is different in kind from married couples who engage in the marital act, but want to avoid a child.  It is under the voluntary control of the couple to abstain and control their sexual expression, an option not give to the nuns.


I am not sure what to make of all this, and I wish the Holy Father would limit himself to more controlled statements.  Whatever his interior meaning, he has left some level of confusion in the minds of the faithful, at least in those who are not conversant with the Church’s perennial Magisterium on these matters, and take the Pope’s ambiguous and somewhat incoherent answers in press scrums on airplanes as true teaching with which to guide their conduct.


I fear that the Pope’s ambiguous response may give support to what many Catholics, and perhaps many priests and bishops, already think:  That contraception is not an intrinsic evil, and in a proportional way may be used when the reasons are serious enough.  Already, current widespread practice of contraception amongst Catholics does not seem to differ significantly from the general population, and Catholic couples faithful to the teaching of Humane Vitae are in the minority, to say the least.


Yes, sexual fidelity, chastity and continence are difficult, but necessary for growth in the spiritual life, indeed for attaining our final end in heaven. There are cases where one may be tempted to just throw in the towel and give in, but heroic virtue above and beyond the norm is sometimes called for, and we must soldier on, as befits true disciples of Christ.  I just wish the Holy Father would be more clear that the same message of heroic zeal he preaches for the environment must be applied also, and more so, to the far more fundamental realm of family life, marriage and sexuality, even in the most difficult of cases.  God is not stingy, and He always provides the grace to triumph over whatever obstacles or difficulties may be in our way, yes, even Zika and the possibility of microencephaly.


Humanities, Technology and the Martian

the martian

What, prithee, is he thinking about?

On  a news report the other evening, it was mentioned that enrolment in the humanities (philosophy, literature, history, to say nothing of theology) has dropped by 50% over the past  ten years in our universities.  Burgeoning onwards with full enrolments, on the other hand, are the S.T.E.M. studies, science, technology, engineering and mathematics, with which one can presumably ‘get a job’.  This says many things about our culture, not many of them good and bode well.  As I, and others far greater than I, have written, there is a vital need for a broader perspective in university, to delve into deep learning, to ‘see the whole’ as Cardinal Newman put it, how all the parts fit together.  We are educating a whole bastion of technocratic automatons, who educate themselves for the sake of Mammon, and for those who hold Mammon’s purse strings.  But as Aristotle said, most men are natural slaves, and seek only a ‘living’.  We as Christians must fight this natural tendency, to learn to live free or die trying.  That is what the ‘liberal’ arts strive to do:  To set us free, from the slavery of ignorance and blindness.


Now, there is nothing wrong with Mammon, if he is your slave, and you are not his.  Most of us need to ‘make money’, and engage in remunerative labour, especially if one is blessed with a wife and children, along with which blessing comes solicitude for their present and future, being provident as befits beings made in God’s image, as Pope Leo XIII taught in Rerum Novarum.  But do we want to toggle all of our future to this one subsidiary goal of providing, and providing with money?  Is ever-more perfect technology, and the money that goes with it, a goal in itself?  Even secular pundits claim that we cannot lose the broad picture of how our technology, good  in itself, should be used.


Also included in this is the whole notion of the why of things.  Technology itself proceeds best by understanding how things work at the deepest level, only possible by metaphysical knowledge, or beyond the physical.  As Aristotle put it, one only understands something by knowing it in its first principles, in its fundamental causes, in what he called propter quid knowledge, that ‘on account of which’ something works.


Besides the limited good of technology, its workings and its ongoing perfection in ever-new generations of i-phones and curved televisions, are beauty, art, literature, liturgy, prayer, good works, friendship, conversation, music, poetry, marriage and children, religious life, culinary arts, all that which makes life worth living.  After all, technology, as its Greek roots signify, is a tool, always ordered to a higher end than itself.  By its very definition, technology cannot exist for its own sake.  What good is a tool, when one knows not why and wherefore to use it?  As Anthony Esolen put it the other day, we have access to the greatest works of our civilization at a mouse click, or the swipe of a smartphone, yet many use such fantastic technology to view pornography, or to ‘tinder date’, or to play stultifying computer games.


This came vividly home to me as I viewed the recent film The Martian with the ubiquitous Matt Damon (what film is he not in?).  The whole endeavour seemed like a two hour (more like two and a half to be precise) infomercial for the aforementioned S.T.E.M. studies.  Scarcely a whiff of culture, still less religion, in the whole saga, unless one counts Mr. Damon posing as Rodin’s ‘The Thinker’ in one of the promo shots (see the image above); or, more to the point, his carving up a fellow astronaut’s crucifix for a fire that he needs to ignite (a mixed symbol:  Is Christ giving His life in a way once again?  Or is it that the only use for a crucifix is as a tool to start a fire?).  There is as well as the running joke that the sole music the stranded Matt has is the left-behind playlist of his commander, containing only disco music, principally ABBA.  A veiled reference to the Father, the Hebraic Abba?  Methinks not, but rather a sad commentary on the state of our own anemic, two-dimensional existence.  We live just to live (and perhaps dance badly), and Matt’s only purpose is ‘to survive’, which he does by technology and his scientific know-how.  As he puts it in one speech, to paraphrase, it is ‘math that saved him’.


Math is all well and good, but it too is a means to an end, a tool.  The humanities, however, the core subject matter of the ‘liberal arts’, are named that for a reason:  As education, they are an end in themselves, for they signify most clearly what it is that makes us human, distinct from and far greater than the animals.  We are, each of us, created by a special act of God in the very imago Dei.  Our purpose is not to live, but, to paraphrase another sci-fi hero of more depth than the ‘Martian’, to ‘live well and prosper’.  Or, again Aristotle, our purpose is to live a life of virtue, of excellence, of magnanimity, of greatness of soul.


It is the primary task of a university to hand on the ‘greatness’ of our ancestors so that it does not get lost, and we enter even further into the new dark age descending upon our civilization.  Our centres of higher learning must not limit themselves to becoming corporate-driven research centres, seeking ever-more perfect technologies and the profit which they offer.  As John Paul II emphasized so strongly in Fides et Ratio, we need the light of metaphysical, philosophical and, yes, spiritual and theological truth to guide us. But how many now seek such truth?  Intellectual and spiritual poverty is far worse than the material variety.


Of course, there will always be lights in the darkness, reflections of that one Light, the perfect reflection of the Father, Christ, and the perfect reflection of Christ, His Mother Mary.


Speaking of whom, we commemorate today the founders of the Servite Order, priests and brothers who banded together in the early 13th century, that great century of Christendom, dedicating themselves to Our Lady, and to living a life of perfection in prayer and good works.  They are one of the many too-oft untold and unsung lights in the darkness that give our life and our culture their purpose and meaning.  So keep our eyes on the light, and the darkness will dispel itself.


Of Universities, Family Day and JP II

*Anyone who is remotely interested in the state of the Canadian university, and especially all the parents pondering where to send their children, and all the high school graduates wondering where to go next year, must read this recent essay by Professor Ron Srigley of the University of Prince Edward Island, on how truly corrupt these institutions have become, and this from a secular vantage point.  I will have more to write on the university, something very near and dear to my heart, but in the meantime, read away, and let us know your thoughts.


*As a follow-up, there was a discussion on the purpose of the modern university by three current or former presidents on the Sunday Edition, with Michael Enright, with whom I disagree on many things, but who seems to grasp that there is something deeply wrong, and I would add even evil, about our institutions of higher learning former the future generation.  The main problem, besides all the rank immorality, hypocrisy, hypocrisy and untruths bandied about campus, is that they know not what they are doing in education, for they have lost any deep sense of why they are doing it.  Thus it goes when one has lost the ‘end’ or purpose, which can only be defined and captured by Catholic theology.  But more to come.


*I suppose a ‘Happy Family Day’ is in order, although I have a certain resistance to a holiday crafted out of thin air by the likes of Dalton McGuinty.  Do not get me wrong:  I am all in support of families, who may need this day off.  But another holiday at taxpayer expense for the already holiday-ed out public service unions?  And a forced holiday imposed upon all the small businesses (the primary employers in our country), forced to give their employees a day off by governmental diktat, or forced to pay them time and a half?  I cannot help but think this imposition is but a salve for the troubled Catholic conscience of Mr. McGuinty, many of whose policies did anything but support the traditional family.  Recall, amongst numerous other examples, his attempt to foist pornographic sex-ed on the province’s children, foiled back then by public outcry, but now accomplished by his lesbian successor.  But, oh well, the holiday is now here, and may all the families enjoy it.


*The BBC, whose acronym like the CBC could stand for anything the imagination wants, is airing a rag television piece claiming the former Holy Father, Saint John Paul II, ‘fell in love’ in his fifties  while archbishop of Cracow.  Nothing is alleged, but much suggested, that he crossed some kind of line, at least ‘interiorly’. Apparently, some letters have surfaced between the Karol Wojtyla and two female Polish academics that may have ‘delayed his beatification’.


*Here are my thoughts on this sad attempt to smear the Pope by the bigots at the BBC:  First, the Pope over his long busy life wrote an untold number of letters, along with many other works, unsurpassed in their erudition and clarity.  Second, that he wrote to fellow academics, male or female, is not surprising in the least.  Third, the officials at the Vatican who scrutinized his life in great detail in the cause of his canonization would have found any whiff of aberrant behaviour.  The BBC is fishing in waters where there are no fish.  But they will go to great lengths, like their counterpart the CBC, to try to find some, or at least leave a  trace in our minds that some are there, somewhere, somehow, in the depths…The fact that someone could actually be a saint, to have his passions and affections in order, who sought to fulfill God’s will, to love God and neighbour with a heroic devotion and intensity, does not seem occur to them.  But then it does not occur to anyone limited to the horizons of this passing age.   But I suppose it says something about the enduring legacy of the great Pontiff that the BBC still has its stilettos out, and can find so little after all this time to look.  So, Saint John Paul , ora pro nobis!


Of Valentine’s Day and Violence

broken heartAs we near the over-hyped commemoration we call ‘Valentine’s Day’ (Valentine was a rather obscure third-century martyr, of whom we know little, but legends abound) in these early days of Lent, I was pondering, given some recent events, the darker side of love.  Particularly, the connection between intimacy and violence, which is a curious and, indeed, an ironic one.  Why, we may ask, do those who at some point loved each other to the point of sharing in the most intimate way their bodies, their affections, their vulnerabilities, then begin to hate to the point of violence, even murder?


Here are just a few examples amongst many:  Last fall, there was the murder of three women in the area in which I live, all of them killed by the same former ‘boyfriend’, who had ‘lived with’ two of them; the third woman apparently rejected his advances, but had him over at her house.  A couple of months ago, in New York, a jilted boyfriend broke into the bedroom of his former girlfriend with her new boyfriend in the early hours of the morning, and knifed them both to death, apparently while they slept, before taking his own life.  And just the other day in nearby Ottawa, a disgruntled former husband brandishing a hunting rifle confronted his ex-wife at her father’s home, killing her father, severely wounding her, before killing himself.  More cases could adduced, on and on, so it goes, ad nauseam.


And, to a less serious degree thankfully, we have just waded through the muck of the Jian Ghomeshi trial, the former CBC radio darling charged with physical assault during intimate encounters with his dates.


Back to the question:  Whence and why love and violence?  The answer lies, methinks, in the old proverb extrema se tangunt, that extremes tend to touch each other, to become one.  We can only really hate what we once truly loved.  The volatile passions aroused by love, especially sexual love expressed intimately, easily turn into hate when one or the other’s love is rejected.


The Church, as the guardian of natural law, has always taught that the sexual union implies, and should imply, a permanent bond.  Saint Thomas states[1] that this is primarily for the sake of the children who may be conceived and born of that union, and he is correct on that score (more on that later in terms of the abortion question).


But there is more, developed especially in the Theology of the Body of Saint John Paul II.  The great Pope taught that sexual union implies a total ‘gift of self’ to the other.  Serious problems arise when one gives one’s body without giving one’s love, will and affection.  This is the fundamental evil of fornication and adultery, that the ‘body’ says something that the ‘heart’ does not.  That is why the Holy Father calls such false unions (including contraceptive sex wherein one’s fruitfulness is withheld) ‘lies’, and, we might add, damned lies at that.


Such false unions differ in degree, from the drunken one-night stands rampant on our campuses, to longer-term common-law ‘marriages’ and live-in arrangements wreaking havoc upon family life.  What compounds the evil is that in such false union of bodies, the persons give themselves internally, by their wills and affections, to different extents, and the lies told with the body and the soul are of different degrees and kinds.  People are intimate for all sorts of reasons:  the need for affection, loneliness, desperation, and a generally disordered view of that much-abused word ‘love’.


The problem is that the union of the bodies, especially if repeated and prolonged, by its very nature produces affection, a sense of ‘belonging to’ and ‘possessing’ the other.  Sex is not a handshake or a hug, but effects a permanent union, even if such union is not fully intended.  As Saint Paul says, a man who lies with a prostitute even one time ‘becomes one body with her’[2].


Thus, such unions can never really be broken off, for there is always that lingering sense of belonging, stronger usually in one or the other, depending on how much they gave in the union, or whether they have now given themselves to someone else.  As much as our modern world would like to think so, one cannot just walk away from such relations and be done with it.  As the Catechism states, our sexuality “involves all aspects of the human person in the unity of his body and soul”[3].  There is always a large part of ourselves left behind, belonging to the other.


Therefore, we have the natural reaction of jilted men, or jilted women, slighted in the very depths of their being, their love rejected, and the consequent jealousy, anger and seeking revenge.


How does the law possibly control this?  Restraining orders?  Banishment? Permanent imprisonment? Castration, of the physical or psychological variety?  For all of his own disordered views, and although he did not intend good of it, Pierre Trudeau was sort of right when he said that there is no place for the State in the bedrooms of the nation.  What takes place there is too complex and intimate to be governed by such a clumsy and ham-fisted thing as coercive public law.


The only way to contain the near-unmitigated fury, and, yes, the glory, of sexual passion and its attendant consequences (including the children born of such unions) is monogamous marriage, bound by a public vow, ratified and secured by custom and law.   Anything short of this is somewhat deviant and disordered, and leaves this untamed genie outside the bottle to do what mischief it may.


We have come a long way from this ideal.  We are now expected to seek sexual satisfaction in whatever way we want.  At the very least, so the story goes, one should experiment and experience widely before ‘settling down’ (even the term!).  As one unfunny comedian put it when looking back on how many sexual partners he had had, well, he said, ‘I lost count in my twenties’.  I hope he really was joking (but in joco veritas).  How do such people ever give themselves to any one person for life?  One must own oneself to give oneself, and a sexually dis-integrated person does not own himself.  As the Catechism again says, there must be “integrity of the person” in order for there to be “integrality of the gift”.[4]


I have always thought that ideally we should marry the first person we truly fall in love with, keeping in mind that I do not mean our transient infatuations, which will come and go from grade school to the grave, but love as a decision, an act of the will, which leads to matrimony and commitment.


At some level of our being, all of us, and I will say especially women (whence matri-mony, the ‘office of motherhood’, gets its name), still seek that ideal marital bond.  That is why the women who had been choked and hit by the teddy-bear-looking-shaggy-haired-doe-eyed Jian still went back to him and wrote him love notes:  As they admitted, they thought he might be different, that it wasn’t really him, that perhaps they could change him.


In a more tragic way, that is why the revenge murders take place:  Whoever’s fault the marital, or at least sexual, break-up was, the fact that the relationship broke up at all was still a tragedy, experienced as a deep and sorrowful loss, even a type of death.  It is sad beyond words that the only way some men can respond to such sorrow is through violence, their former love turned to hatred, for themselves and the other.  Extrema se tangunt.  But the evil which is in some sense the cause of the violence and hatred is real indeed.


No, Christ had it right:  A man leaves his father and mother and cleaves to his wife, and the two become one flesh.  And what God hath joined, let no man, nor no woman, tear asunder.  Anything else is playing with fire and with evil which, I predict, the law will not be able to contain.


Saint Valentine, ora pro nobis!


[1] Summa Theologica, II-II, q.154, a.2

[2] 1 Corinthians 6:16

[3] CCC, #2332

[4] CCC, #2337

Of Japanese Martyrs, Hotel Refugee and Orthodox Reunion

*The migrant/refugee debacle continues, with assaults, rapes and (so far, thankfully foiled) terrorist plots in Germany, Sweden and other countries, who have bent on an emotional and irrational desire to welcome all and sundry from Syria and other war-torn regions.  As I have written before, there is nothing wrong and indeed much good with the motivation to assist those less fortunate, but this must be guided by reason, by policies shaped with a ‘strong juridical framework’, as Pope John Paul would have said.  Now, there are thousands of virile young men unaccounted for, gone into ‘hiding’, and no one knows what havoc will be wrought in the coming months.  The evil actions of a few give a black eye to many, and one wonders how Islam will assimilate into the weak, vague, milequetoast post-Christian society of Europe.


*So far, here in Canada, Justin Trudeau’s ill-considered refugee policies have not resulted in outright violence, at least none reported, but thousands of them have been stuck in hotels in the Toronto area for months now in a virtual prison, all on the taxpayer dime.  Our Prime Minister apparently has no game plan beyond the  superficial photo op of welcoming thousands at the Toronto airport, and giving himself a pat on the back for his ‘charity’.  At the very least, where, oh where, we will he find homes for them all?  Will requisitioning homes be in our future?  Will the refugees be content to live in abandoned and ‘refurbished’ army barracks?


*Trudeau notleyAll the while, Mr. Trudeau is promising hundreds of millions in ‘infrastructure’ payments to kick-start the economy, as he tours the once-mighty Alberta giving hugs and vague promises.  Oh, how the mighty have fallen!  Alberta, what has become of thee, now that oil is bottoming out?  Is Alberta on its way to becoming one giant ranch?  That is hundreds of millions the government does not have, by the way, as we quickly ratchet up towards a trillion dollar deficit.  Trudeau’s father back in the seventies could rely upon the oil revenue of Alberta to support his socialist policies:  What will Trudeau Jr. rely upon, one wonders?  As one article put it:  “the Prime Minister comes across as the perpetual earnest schoolboy, accustomed to passing the oral exam on charm and goodwill alone”.  I am not all that sure about the ‘good will’ part, although I must give him the benefit of the doubt, but someone should teach our highest civil servant, even as he approaches middle-age since he seems to have missed it in his youth, how to clearly enunciate, stop using ‘ums’, and the overall proper technique of public speaking.  It would at least make his vague politically-correct ramblings easier on the ear.


*But those who voted for Mr. Trudeau and his ‘liberal’ policies (they should not be permitted a monopoly on that much valued adjective, which has an honoured history in our Church and civilization, as in the ‘liberal arts’), anyway, the vast swath of Trudeaupians inhabiting our public system seem content to live in their own world view, sheltered from any painful reality, economic or otherwise.  A glaring example of this was the recent news that the teachers’ union of Waterloo region have asked for their members to boycott the only local paper, the Waterloo Record, due to the ‘teacher bashing’ of one columnist, Louisa D’Amato.  I too disagree with many of Ms. D’Amato’s opinions, as she publicly bashes the Church and morality, but, at least to some extent, one should be permitted to have one’s say.  As one commentator put it, so much for freedom of expression.  And, speaking of wondering, one wonders what it is our oh-so-sensitive teachers are teaching their students.  But I have been more than wondering about that for quite some time, but wonders never cease.


Pope and Patriarch*On more religious and hopeful news, the Pope and the Russian Orthodox Patriarch plan to meet next week in Cuba, the first such meeting in history, since the two ‘Churches’ separated in the schism of 1054 (briefly ‘healed’ in the 13th and 14th centuries).  I will have more to write about this, as it is, to put it mildly, rather momentous, and could signal the beginning of the end of this painful and scandalous thousand-year schism, and a reunion of the Church for which Popes and bishops have worked for all these centuries.


paul miki*And today is the feast of Saint Paul Miki and Companion martyrs, put to death by crucifixion on February 5, 1597 at Nagasaki, Japan.  The Office of Readings for today is a powerful contemporary testimony to their martyrdom, as the Franciscan priests, brothers and their lay associates prayed, sang and forgave their executioners from their crosses, in joyful imitation of their Lord.  Father Paul Miki preached his last sermon from his cross, saying:

As I come to this supreme moment of my life, I am sure none of you would suppose I want to deceive you. And so I tell you plainly: there is no way to be saved except the Christian way. My religion teaches me to pardon my enemies and all who have offended me. I do gladly pardon the Emperor and all who have sought my death. I beg them to seek baptism and be Christians themselves.”

And, as the account concludes:

Others kept repeating “Jesus, Mary!” Their faces were serene. Some of them even took to urging the people standing by to live worthy Christian lives. In these and other ways they showed their readiness to die.

  Then, according to Japanese custom, the four executioners began to unsheathe their spears. At this dreadful sight, all the Christians cried out, “Jesus, Mary!” And the storm of anguished weeping then rose to batter the very skies. The executioners killed them one by one. One thrust of the spear, then a second blow. It was over in a very short time.

*In a providential connection the depths of which only the good God knows, Nagasaki, the most Christian region in Japan, was also chosen (as a secondary target) for the dropping of the second atomic bomb on Japan in August of 1945.  Curiously, or miraculously, as one’s a priori suppositions lean, the eight Jesuits stationed there, although only eight blocks from ground zero, not only survived the blast, but received no ill-effects of the radiation and lived to a ripe old age, as religious often do.  The same goes for the Franciscan house nearby the Jesuits.  As mentioned, wonders really do never cease.

May the martyrs pray for us, and that all may be open to the Truth.

Mission Impossible: To Make a Real Movie

mission impossible 5I finally got around recently to watching the fifth instalment of the Mission Impossible franchise.  As expected, it was slick and high-budget, with impressive real-life stunts.  Besides hanging on to moving planes and swerving motorcycles, Tom Cruise is showing his age a little, a rigid expression setting into his normally expressive face, a rictus grin replacing the toothy bluster of his youth, reminding me a bit of old Stoneface himself, the silent movie star Buster Keaton, who also, ironically, did all of his own stunts well into later life.  We will see how long Tom lasts.


But back to the film, the problem with which is, to paraphrase the Bard, that it is much ado about nothing.  As with so many of its ilk nowadays, such films avoid controversial topics like the plague (and even that topic is handled with the requisite political correctness, as in Matt Damon’s Contagion, basically a two-hour infomercial for the indispensability of the World Health Organization and its byzantine and bloated bureaucracy, which can, of course, solve any world crisis like incurable disease).


But the rub is that without controversy, there is no drama.


Nowhere is the vapidity of modern films more evident than in their choice of the bad guy(s).  As Mark Steyn has pointed out, movies used to use real-life enemies to provide the tension:  The ‘Japs’ and the ‘Krauts’ in World War II, the ‘Russians’ and the ‘KGB’ during the Cold War, corporate America in ‘Wall Street’ and its ilk.


One might think our films would dramatize evils that we are actually facing:  Islamic terrorism comes to mind, or the difficulty of cultural assimilation.  But no.  Too sensitive for the fragile necks of Hollywood-types, which are not made for sticking out, unless the cause is safe, secure and politically correct, like global warming or black actors deserving Oscars.


So in Mission Impossible we have the go-to ‘rogue agent’, Solomon Lane, a rather pathetic-looking former member of the IMF (I always think of the International Monetary Fund when I hear that acronym, before the Impossible Mission Force reasserts itself, but, then again, they both play in fiction).  Well, this agent, who has the defect of a weak chin and a funny nose (the distinctive-nose-syndrome, from Cruise’s own famous irregular schnozz, to the pointy nose of the female uber-agent, stands out in a number of actors in this romp), runs a rogue group bent on world domination, or instability, or something, for purposes that are unclear and ill-defined.  Lane and his agents, for all their world-class-agent-skills, also cannot aim a gun, even at close range with an apparently unlimited number of bullets.  Ho-hum.


And, speaking of the female British agent, aptly named Ilsa Faust, I guess because she deals in death or has magical skills (?), I have written before on how she implausibly steals the show:  In an almost childish ‘everything Tom can do, she can do better’, the film is a montage of her apparent superiority in all things secret-agent-ish, from martial arts, to riding a motorbike, to knife fighting, to marksmanship (or is that markswomanship?), to holding her breath underwater, and so on.  Well, it is the age of the Woman, and she has to make up for all those past movies in the age of patriarchy wherein Woman was the helpless rescuee, fainting into the arms of her muscular hero at just the right moment.  Now it is Tom who faints into her arms.  Yes, the once mighty-mouse Cruise is relegated to the background, looking befuddled and amazed by her excellences.  Isla is all buffed up, dispatching rogue agents with various yoga-esque ju-jitsu moves, which involve jumping up and wrapping her legs awkwardly around their necks.  I mean, she is attractive in an Swedish-English sort of way, but would secret agents of the male persuasion go so far to stand for such indignity?  One wonders.


I am all for films developing what Pope John Paul would call the ‘genius of woman’, but this does not mean their competition on all things masculine.  Are women to find their place in society only by becoming more like men?  Some degree of the complementarity of man and woman is in order, and there must be a way to do this even in secret agent films.


And speaking of complementarity, the other characters in the IMF are add-ons without much purpose, just to make this a ‘group effort’, I guess to spread the wealth, and so the series does not look too much like Tom Cruise doing James Bond.  Simon Pegg and Ving Rhames seem to have identical and redundant jobs as the requisite ‘computer whizzes’, and act as though sleepwalking to their impossibly-sized paycheques.  The scene where Pegg declares his loyalty to Cruise seems flat; and, as Ving’s character aptly says in one of his few scenes as he works his laptop:  “I could have done this from home”.  Indeed.


Ah, the vapidity. One could argue people are just looking for entertainment and popcorn and visual spectacle, and well enough, but should we not ask for some degree of thought, background, development, and dramatic tension in our films?  I suppose there are always lower depths to plumb compared to which the MI series reads like Shakespeare (and here I think of such things as the Transformers or Avengers).   But one must compare excellence to excellence, not to even more mediocre mediocrity.


They are already starting production for the sixth instalment in the financially successful sequels, which make far more money overseas than here (perhaps because they cannot understand the dialogue, and think the movie is about something else).   Here’s hoping at the very least that next time they figure out how to portray a real bad guy, and a real woman.


Saint Agatha, ora pro nobis…