The Great Saint Catherine of Siena: A Woman for our Time

catherine of sienaSaint Catherine of Siena (1334-1380) was a feisty, indomitable woman.  One might, in a Catholic way, claim her as an early ‘feminist’, in the true JP II sense of that term, recognizing the genius, and the power, of woman, and her role in the Church.

 

Catherine was born the 23rd child of an Italian family that would eventually number 25 children.  In the unbelievable bustle of such a household, perhaps because of it, Catherine recognized her call to give all to Christ early on (she apparently had her first vision of Christ at five or six years old).  Refusing all offers of marriage, she consecrated herself in the third-order Dominicans, eventually wearing a modified habit (in which dress she is often pictured).  Her life was spent in deep prayer and penance, with profound mystical revelations which she dictated  (she never learned to write), forming the basis of her masterpiece The Dialogue of Divine Providence , and earning her the title (bestowed in October of 1970 by Paul VI) of one of three female Doctors of the Church (along with the two Theresa’s, of Avila and Lisieux; there are only 36 Doctors in total, so Catherine is in eminent company).

 

Catherine died at the young and Christ-like age of 33, but not before changing the history of the Church and the world (that is, besides the universal effects of her prayer and writings).  What she perhaps is best known for in the secular mind is her criticism of, and influence over, the Popes of the era, particularly Gregory XI, who was living in the lavish papal court in the ‘papal city’ of Avigon, in southern France.  Decades before, to escape the intrigue, poverty, danger, fetid air and general civic collapse of 14th century Rome, the French cardinal, Bernard de Got, elected as Clement V in 1309 under the coercive influence of the French King, Philip IV, le Bel, or the Fair as he was called, refused even to go to Rome, setting up a whole Curia in the more ‘agreeable’ climate, in more ways than one, of Avignon.

 

This caused no end of evils:  The court was rife with immorality, and King Philip had the papacy under his over-bearing kingly thumb, with the Pope almost as his personal royal chaplain (he had Clement dissolve the meddlesome, but noble, Knights Templar, and confiscated their immeasurable wealth for the royal treasury).

 

By the time Catherine came of age later that century, the Popes were still at Avignon (seven were to reign there, all of them French), and Catherine is famous for her influence over the Pope of her era, Gregory XI, urging him in no uncertain terms that he had to return to Rome, or face the severe, but just,  judgement of God.  At least in large part due to her insistent letters, he did return to the eternal city on September 13, 1377, only to die a short time later.

 

Unfortunately, the ‘Babylonian captivity’, as the Avignon papacy had come to be called, gave rise in the ensuing conclave to what is known as the ‘Great Western Schism’, to distinguish it from its Eastern counterpart (still with us in the sad separation of the Orthodox community from full communion).  Meeting in April of 1378, the cardinals, coerced by an angry Roman mob outside the hall,  elected what they thought was a bad choice, the irascible Italian Bartolomeo Prignano.  They tried to elect a new Pope, but only ended up with two rival claimants to the papacy, a Pope, and an anti-Pope who fled, you guessed it, back to the ‘cucumbers and melons’ of Avignon.  Each ‘Pope’ had his own fiercely loyal adherents, convinced of the legitimacy of the divine right of their Vicar of Christ.

 

It was Saint Catherine, again, who recognized the true (but unpopular) Pope, in Rome,  who had taken the name Urban VI, and held him steady in the course of his own rightful claim.  The schism would not be healed until well after Catherine’s death in 1380, at the Council of Constance in 1417, when the true Pope of the Roman line resigned, and the Council declared his successor.

 

There are many lessons we may draw from the great life of Saint Catherine:  The power of prayer and sanctity, the witness of silence and seclusion, remaining steadfast in ones’ convictions, and, for our purposes, that even Popes sometimes need correction, as well as prayer and corroboration.

 

Catherine was ahead of her time, refusing the two normal vocations for women of her age, either in married life, or secluded in a convent.  She knew (and Christ confirmed) that she was to live a consecrated life in the world, with the courage to confront even those in power if what they were doing was harmful to themselves, the faithful, and the Church.

 

However, we must also recall that Catherine was a true ‘daughter of Christ’, and would always submit in joyful and prayerful obedience, when her work, and her words, were done.

 

I do not think it is a revelation to the readers of these pages that we are living in interesting times, in the world and the Church, perhaps not as politically chaotic as the 1300’s (although the ways things are shaping up in the U.S., one never knows), but intellectually and culturally the sands are shifting all around us.  As I have emphasized, we must use our own wits and counsel to see our way through the tangled web of ambiguity and obfuscation, to discern and criticize respectfully when need be, but always loyal to Christ and His Church, against which the gates of Hell will never prevail.

 

Saint Catherine, ora pro nobis!

 

The Bright Moment of Conception

zygoteThere are sometimes good things in the news, like this report from the Telegraph that when conception occurs, that is, when the male sperm fertilizes the female ovum, and the 23-chromosomal DNA of both meiotic cells fuse to form a new human with 46 chromosomes, there is a bright flash of light.  (But there is always a downside:  This phenomenon was discovered during in-vitro fertilization treatments, and the scientists claim that the ‘brighter the light’, the more healthy is the zygote.  I wonder).

 

Now, the scientists explain this by natural means, something to do with a not-fully-explained ‘zinc spark’.  I was surprised to hear the article describe that this luminous event “marks the very moment that a new life begins”.  Hmm.  What kind of life might that be?  Could they be admitting that human life begins at conception when, as they say, the sperm meets the ovum at conception?

 

The Church has never dogmatically declared when exactly the soul is ‘infused’ into the body, a metaphysical event that transcends the physical world.  As the 1987 Instruction on Reproductive Technologies, Donum Vitae, declares “no experimental datum can be in itself sufficient to bring us to the recognition of a spiritual soul”.  However, the Church has always declared, well before the advent of modern science, that the zygote must be treated as a human being from the very first moment of conception, for the sacred process of life has already begun.   This is the reason why human sexuality is sacred, for it itself is ordered to the divine creation of human life.

 

That said, we now do have strong evidence from modern genetics that the zygote is a fully ‘personal’ entity, with his own human characteristics, distinct from his parents.  As the document goes on to state:  “nevertheless, the conclusions of science regarding the human embryo provide a valuable indication for discerning by the use of reason a personal presence at the moment of this first appearance of a human life: how could a human individual not be a human person?”

 

The Church may be moving ever-closer to declaring the little one-celled zygote a human person.  The 2008 follow-up Instruction, Dignitatis Personae, taught that although “Donum vitae, in order to avoid a statement of an explicitly philosophical nature, did not define the embryo as a person”, what it did to was “indicate that there is an intrinsic connection between the ontological dimension and the specific value of every human life”.

 

We are formed as ‘clay in the hands of the potter’, God fashioning us intricately, as the Psalmist sings, within the ‘depths of our mothers’ wombs’.  This divine process of human creation begins at conception, and ends only at bodily death, and, as Instruction goes on to say:  “the reality of the human being for the entire span of life, both before and after birth, does not allow us to posit either a change in nature or a gradation in moral value, since it possesses full anthropological and ethical status. The human embryo has, therefore, from the very beginning, the dignity proper to a person”.

 

Yes, Dr. Seuss was right (whether he meant to be or not) that “a person is a person, no matter how small”.

 

The bright flash could be one more ‘sign’ that what happens at conception is something unique, powerful and, yes, sacred and holy.  A new soul is created, fused to a new body, to form a new person, on a trajectory towards eternity.

 

Saint Catherine of Siena, ora pro nobis!

The Brave New Canada of Artificial Reproduction

Brave New WorldIn 2004, Canada passed the Assisted Human Reproduction Act, which legalizes certain forms of artificial reproduction of human beings, including in vitro fertilization and artificial insemination.  The rub is that, although one may donate sperm and ova, one cannot get paid for doing so, for that would be seen as ‘trafficking’, even meretricious. The obvious unintended consequence of this, if you will pardon my pun, is to dry up the source.

 

Hence, much of the ‘reproductive material’ for these procedures in Canada comes from the United States.  Americans of all stripes can get paid, sometimes rather handsomely, for donating genetic material.

 

Just for the record:  I was against this law from the very beginning, and was very surprised and saddened to see some of my fellow Catholics support it, claiming that it was ‘better than nothing’, and the anarchy of no law.  Well, no, for now we have a precedent of legalizing these procedures in positive law.  Paragraph 73 of Evangelium Vitae states very clearly that one may only vote for a law that permits some level of intrinsic evil, such as abortion (or in this case IVF and its ilk) only if it restricts a more permissive law that has already been passed or is about to be voted on.  In 2004, there was no such law, and the Assisted Human Reproduction Act has now brought a plethora of evils upon our land with the full backing of the State.  As predicted back in 2004, the only thing that will happen is that the various restrictions will be loosened, especially after stories like the following:

 

It was reported a few days ago that three couples in Ontario are suing a sperm bank in Georgia, U.S.A., after all three women were inseminated by a ‘schizophrenic burglar’ whose sperm-bank resume, which claimed him to be ‘highly educated and popular’ with the ‘I.Q. of a genius’, was either deceitful or deliberately whitewashed.  (Then again, who’s to say that these traits could not go along with being a schizophrenic burglar?)

 

The point is, this man is now supposedly the father of 23 children, which would put a mediaeval Muslim sultan to shame.  There is not much sperm to go around in Canada, I guess, so ‘Donor 9263′, as he is anonymously termed, does more than his fair share of adding to our ever-shrinking gene pool .  Could this get even more weird, like something out of a B-movie about what if the Nazis had won the war, and teamed up with the Communists, to produce lists of ‘Donors’ known only by their numbers?

 

I wonder if some of Donor 9623’s children will meet in the future, not realizing they are half-siblings, get married and have a bunch of genetically-damaged children?   Or will they be like Marty McFly, who is kissed by his own mother in his back-to-the-future adventure, until  the deluded  debutante realizes that, for some reason, the ‘magic’ just is not there?  ‘It’s like kissing my brother’, she exclaims in the film, only now too true to life.  The future generation may have more siblings than it may realize, making dating more of a minefield than it already is.

 

I am not sure what to say of this, for the lunacy speaks for itself.  Even at a basic, scientific, Darwinian level, prescinding from any moral or cultural considerations, it is requisite for any gene pool that it be diverse, so that adaptation can occur, and deleterious DNA gets weeded out by diffusion and random assortment.  The best way for this to happen is by serendipitous romance, falling in love with someone to whom you are not biologically related, and having a whole passel of genetically diverse and robust children, most of whom go on to do the same thing, and, to paraphrase various country songs, the wheel of love and family goes round and round.

 

I do not think we have seen the full effects of the Brave New World of reproductive technology.  Let us not forget that the first ‘test tube baby’, Louise May Brown, was born but in 1978 (on July 25th, ironically, ten years to the day after Paul VI’s Humanae Vitae), and is still in her thirties.  So the long term consequences of being technologically conceived in vitro have yet dawn upon us.  There is evidence that these children already suffer from significantly more medical conditions that normally-conceived babies.

 

Regardless, besides the biology, we certainly have not seen the full familial and cultural ramifications, as these children grow up in disordered families, two Dads, two Mums, or just one Mum and her boyfriends, and that’s if they are fortunate.  They are now talking about three-parent babies, mixing up the genes of three would-be parents  (two lesbians and one altruistic homosexual male, let’s say) to form one very mixed-up baby with bits and pieces of each of their genetic code.  So far this is only done in a few cases for therapeutic reasons (damaged mitochondria), but the future is wide with potential.  Hmm.

 

As if that is not enough, we may also glimpse into the Frankensteinian desire to develop animal-human hybrids, or clones for organ harvesting and macabre research purposes.

 

And need we forget all the untold number of unborn children who are conceived, then either aborted or left in cryogenic freezing in vats, with no discernible and moral way to bring their lives to fruition?

 

We are way beyond Brave New World.  Aldous Huxley thought that his dystopia was centuries in the future, but it is already full-bore upon us, and accelerating quickly.

 

The 1987 Instruction Donum Vitae declared in no uncertain terms:

 

The child has the right to be conceived, carried in the womb, brought into the world and brought up within marriage: it is through the secure and recognized relationship to his own parents that the child can discover his own identity and achieve his own proper human development.

 

But then, we only think of children in our society when we ‘want’ them; their rights are subjected to our desires, either to have a child, or be rid of one.  We are raising (or not raising) a whole generation of children who have little or no identity, and we wonder why they are filled with despair, aimlessness and thoughts of suicide.

 

The Pandora’s Box of 2004 has been opened, and there is no little or no chance of putting that evil genie back in his bottle.  All we can really hope to do is convince individuals to romance the old way, and pray that God sends you children.  If not, well, there are many other ways to be fruitful.  To seize children as a ‘right’, especially by technological means, harms everyone concerned, and the children most of all.

Conscience, Law and Amoris Laetitia

amoris laetitia

Another Canadian Senator, the Liberal Colin Kenney, has been caught using public money, and his servants’, sorry, his staff’s, time to do personal business for the esteemed member of the Upper House of ‘sober second thought’.  These included renovations on his private residence and disinfecting the beds in his privately-owned tanning-salon business.  Shades of Mike Duffy, Pamela Wallin and all the rest of the entitled class.  Thirteen other Senators were also investigated for dubious, if not outright immoral, use of public monies.

 

But I do pity them:  After all, as the Mr. Duffy trial made clear, the financial fiduciary rules were so vague, so nebulous, that lines were easily crossed:  How were they supposed to govern themselves without a clearly promulgated and enunciated law?

 

The same thoughts came into my mind as I read through Amoris Laetitia, much of which is beautiful, moving and filled with solid practical advice.  The more controversial bits arrive in the now much-discussed-and-analyzed Chapter 8.

 

In a webinar I gave a few days ago now on the recently-released Exhortation, I made a distinction between orthodoxy and orthopraxy.  The former refers to ‘right teaching’, the propositional, dogmatic teaching of the Church.  The latter refers to the Church’s practice of instantiating and applying that teaching, especially to concrete, pastoral situations.  The Holy Father in Amoris seems to be trying to maintain orthodoxy, while extending, one might say stretching, the praxis of the Church, especially her sacramental discipline, to bring, or to keep, the lost and straying sheep into the fold, especially the ‘divorced and remarried’ and those involved in what he euphemistically calls ‘irregular’ situations.

 

Pope Francis seems to think that the sacramental and canonical law currently in place is in certain circumstances too burdensome, and one may, or even must, go outside or beyond the law.  In the abstract, he has a point.  After all, Saint Thomas says that sometimes one must perforce act praeter legem, beside the law, in accordance with the intention of the lawmaker, rather than with its strict literal interpretation, particularly in emergency situations.

 

This is in accord with the purpose of law itself, which is to help us avoid sin, disorder and chaos, and lead us to virtue, truth and harmony.  If the law ceases to be a means to this end, then it must be transcended.  In Thomas’ pithy phrase, necessitas non subditur legi, necessity is not subject to law (I-II, q. 96, a. 6).

 

We must be careful here, however, in making the proper distinctions.  Saint Thomas is talking about human, positive law, crafted by men for society, laws which he clearly states are always somewhat imperfect and proportional to the common good of that particular society.  He makes no provision for any violations of the natural-moral or divine law, and the Church has reiterated the inviolability of the moral law from the very beginning.  When Thomas asks whether law binds us in conscience (I-II, q. 96., a. 4), he says that it does, because much of law simply clarifies what is already in the divine or moral law.  Only if the law is about other more contingent matters can we in certain cases disobey, or more properly act beside the law’s letter, if the law be unreasonable, either in itself or in those particular circumstances.

 

In general, however, we should obey the law, for our own reason is uncertain, while laws are (one hopes!) framed by wise men with much aforethought, so we should not rest too easy in justifying the breaking of law.  Furthermore, violations of law may easily cause scandal and disturbance, along with some degree of disdain for the lawmaker.

 

Law, in fact, should give certainty and serenity to the conscience, that one is acting in accordance with the will of God, as manifested through the authority He has vested with some degree of His own power. Without law, no society could function, not least the Church, for we would be left to the tangled labyrinth of our own disordered and self-justifying consciences, which would in turn lead to great evil and chaos.  Saint Paul goes so far as to describe the anti-Christ as anomos, the ‘man of lawlessness’, who will rebel against the law of God, echoing the original temptation of the first Man in the garden, ‘ye will be like gods’, to make a law unto yourself, disobeying the law of our Creator, written on our very hearts and minds.

 

It is with these caveats that we should read Chapter 8 of Amoris Laetitia, especially the section on using one’s conscience as a guide to determine one’s moral state, prescinding from the law of the Church.  Of course, conscience is the court of last appeal, the proximate norm of morality as Pope John Paul II declared in Veritatis Splendor, the aboriginal Vicar of Christ, in Bd. Cardinal Newman’s vivid analogy.  In his insightful Letter to the Duke of Norfolk, the Oratorian also declared that

 

if I am obliged to bring religion into after-dinner toasts, (which indeed does not seem quite the thing) I shall drink—to the Pope, if you please,—still, to Conscience first, and to the Pope afterwards.

 

However, one must be cautious here, for in the whole preceding section of this lengthy missive, Newman is at pains to make clear that the Pope and the Magisterium, and we may add the whole body of revealed doctrine, along with all the Church’s laws and edicts, are there to be the primary guide for our conscience. As the Declaration on Religious Freedom, Dignitatis Humanae, declares, one is bound to seek the truth, and once one is aware of a conclusion of natural or divine law, as revealed and defined by the Church, one is bound to hold and keep it.

 

As may have been expected, the Holy Father in Chapter 8 gives no permission to deliberately violate divine or natural law.  What he does seem to do in Chapter 8 may be reduced to two things:

 

First, he offers some freedom to Catholics to discern whether certain disciplinary laws, particularly about marriage, fail in some cases to reveal the objective truth of their situation (e.g., the validity, or not, of the first marriage).

 

Second, he suggests that even in clearly non-marital situations, some people may not be fully culpable for breaking the moral law.

 

To those in the first case, those in ‘irregular situations’  that may approximate marriage, the Holy Father exhorts them to examine their conscience, for example, the state of their ‘first marriage’, their own level of guilt in the breakdown, who was hurt, and so on.  However, they (and we) must beware that they are not justifying grave evil for the sake of some temporal good.  Although the guilt in any marital separation may vary, we cannot take these words to mean that one can self-administer one’s own personal annulment (nor, on the other side, can one in the interior and secret realm of conscience ‘make’ oneself married to another).  The Pope’s words here are somewhat ambiguous and easily misinterpreted, and I hope that clarification is offered to those in such situations, that they quickly seek a decision in law for the state of their new ‘union’ before joining as ‘man and wife’.  We must recall that if an annulment is not an infallible decree (the marriage may still be ‘real’), far more fallible is our own hazy and rationalizing conscience.

 

To those in the second category, here is the rub:  Adultery and fornication are grave objective moral evils, and we are bound to avoid them, even if it means great sacrifice or even death, as the untold number of martyrs in the Church’s calendar attest.  For these acts to be ‘mortal sins’, however, one must carry them out with full knowledge and deliberate consent.  One may therefore be ignorant of the moral law, and the Pope quotes Saint Thomas on this in I-II, q. 94., a. 4, but Thomas is speaking principally of pagan cultures who have not had the fullness revelation, or any revelation at all.  This would be difficult to justify in our modern era, where almost everyone has access to the Church’s teaching, especially if they are coming to a Catholic Church for the sacraments.

 

One may also not be fully free not to do the act, that is, the will is coerced in some way, and this seems a more likely scenario.  Women in particular are sometimes forced into ‘irregular’ situations’ for various economic or cultural reasons, especially in very poor countries.  They may engage in cohabitation, and sexual acts within these unions, to which they do not fully consent.

 

What we must not do is take these very unusual, and hopefully very rare, situations to provide any sort of general norm.  The universal and regular way of proceeding must always be by the law, which means the natural law, as clarified by the Code of Canon Law, the Catechism, the teachings of previous Pontiffs, and the disciplinary procedures of the Church, and not solely by one’s own personal discernment, with or without a pastor.

 

As Canon 915 states:

 

Those…obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to Holy Communion

 

Note that it says ‘grave sin’ and not ‘mortal sin’.  Once we have consented to an act gravely contrary to the moral law, we must go to Confession, with a firm purpose of amendment not to sin again.  To deliberately flout the law would bring great harm to one’s conscience, and to one’s soul.

 

The process of rationalizing ‘grave sin’ as not mortal, or not even serious, is a widespread modern error.  As Pius XII warned at the beginning of his great encyclical Humani Generis (also quoted in the Catechism):

 

The truths that have to do with God and the relations between God and men, completely surpass the sensible order and demand self-surrender and self-abnegation in order to be put into practice and to influence practical life. Now the human intellect, in gaining the knowledge of such truths is hampered both by the activity of the senses and the imagination, and by evil passions arising from original sin. Hence men easily persuade themselves in such matters that what they do not wish to believe is false or at least doubtful. (H.G., # 2; cf., CCC #37)

 

Read over the last sentence once or twice again, and reflect upon how often that has applied to us.  The same Pontiff also declared in a radio address in 1946 that the greatest sin of the twentieth century was the ‘loss of the sense of sin’.  And just last October, in a very rare interview, Pope Emeritus Benedict declared that the Church has to deal with the modern error of seeking mercy without some level of repentance and conversion.

 

Of course, the reality behind the law will always be greater than the law itself.  After all, law, and even the sacraments themselves, are a means to an end, to bring each individual soul to eternal bliss with God.  As the Catechism declares, although God has bound salvation to the sacraments, He Himself is not so bound, and He may lead souls to heaven outside the Church’s law and sacramental economy (#1257).   We, however, should beware of the deadly sin of presumption, keeping in mind that the Church’s law and the sacraments are the only certain means we have to attain this final end, which is why the Dogmatic Constitution of the Church, Lumen Gentium, declares that those outside the visible Church may all the more easily be deceived by the Evil One, and led to final despair (# 16.3), and that those who recognize the Church, but refuse to enter or persevere therein cannot be saved (#14.1).

 

No one, Catholic or not, can justify himself, nor lead himself to heaven. Rather, we must be purified, healed and elevated by God’s sanctifying grace as we journey through the tangles and pitfalls of this life, and the primary way we can be morally certain of this ‘state of grace’ and our growth in holiness is by the sensible, visible sacraments, and the laws of the Church that surround them.

 

In the vivid words of Thomas More to his future son-in-law Roper, warning against circumventing the law to achieve an apparent good:

 

Oh?  And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned ’round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat?  This country is planted thick with laws, from coast to coast, Man’s laws, not God’s! And if you cut them down, and you’re just the man to do it, do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then?  Yes, I’d give the Devil the benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake!

 

If the saint and martyr said this of the imperfect human laws in the reign of the even-more imperfect Henry VIII, should this not also be said even more so of canonical and ecclesiastical law?  Such laws are there for our sake, not God’s, and we should not tread outside them lightly, for to do so not only endangers one’s own soul, but those of others with the risk of scandal, which is why Pope John Paul II in his own post-Synodal 1981 Exhortation on the family, Familiaris Consortio, warned of those in ‘second’ marriages:

 

…the Church reaffirms her practice, which is based upon Sacred Scripture, of not admitting to Eucharistic Communion divorced persons who have remarried. They are unable to be admitted thereto from the fact that their state and condition of life objectively contradict that union of love between Christ and the Church which is signified and effected by the Eucharist. Besides this, there is another special pastoral reason: if these people were admitted to the Eucharist, the faithful would be led into error and confusion regarding the Church’s teaching about the indissolubility of marriage. (#84)

 

In light of this warning of the previous Pontiff, we must be very careful how we interpret some of the phrases in chapter 8 of Pope Francis’ Exhortation (and Francis obliquely warns us of such misinterpretation), so that traditional Church law and sacramental teaching remain firmly intact, and our consciences are able to see the truth clearly, especially in the realm of married and sexual love, where our most powerful emotions are involved.  For upon the integrity of the family depend not only the happiness and fulfilment of those we love, or should love, but the very existence of society itself.

 

Cultural Dis-Assimilation

culture warsIt was reported amongst the Indo-Canadian community, and that is the far-away India, not the Native Canadians whose ranks were just increased by the Supreme  Court decision to grant ‘status’ to 600,000 Metis (those of mixed-Native ancestry).  More on this later, and what level of new financial boondoggle it might entail.  No, amongst those of the other-Indian extraction, it turns out that they like baby boys a lot more than baby girls, enough to have the latter exterminated in the womb at an unprecedented rate.

 

I did not know that they kept statistics on these sorts of things in our uber-sensitive era, but apparently they do.  After one or two girls, Indo-Canadian mothers are far, far and away more likely to choose an abortion if the ultrasound determines the baby is, alas, another girl:

 

The study says Canadian-born women in Ontario gave birth to about 105 boys for every 100 girls between 1993 and 2012, consistent with the average in most of the world.

But women who immigrated from India who already had two children gave birth to 138 boys for every 100 girls. If they already had three children, they give birth to 166 males for every 100 females.

That ratio rises to 326 boys per 100 girls for Indian-born mothers with two daughters who had an abortion preceding her third birth.

It was 409 boys for every 100 girls if the mother had more than one abortion.

 

This, in a word, is breathtaking.  On a recent CBC interview on this topic, a pro-abortion feminist, training in some unnamed medical field, was ‘concerned’, but would not admit in any way that a woman’s inviolable ‘right to choose’ be obstructed in any way, by anyone.  You could almost hear her jaw clenching.

 

As a follow-up article makes clear, if such clarity is required, this raises a conundrum for pro-choice feminists.  How do they reconcile their promotion of ‘women’s rights’ with the untrammeled right of a female mother to murder her unborn female daughter?

 

Besides the obvious moral evil, there are the demographic consequences of this Eastern obsession with baby boys.  Already in Canada, there are 105 boys born for every girl, on average.  Skew these numbers even more by the a priori selection of sex, by abortion or in vitro fertilization, and we will become like China, where boys outnumber girls by a wide and disastrous margin.

 

How far can we go with multiculturalism, and the quixotic attempt to assimilate cultures that clash fundamentally with our own?  As I have argued before, and will argue again, there is a limit to how groups differ in what they believe and do, and still live together harmoniously, or at least peaceably.  Italians, Irish, Germans, Ukrainians, French, all got more or less along in North America, by and large because they all shared the same set of ‘fundamental values’, derived from their Christian faith, which gave them an unswerving understanding of the inviolable dignity of each and every human person, from conception to natural death.  Even if they knew not all the theological and philosophical arguments, it was accepted, as part of, yes, our ‘culture’ and our ‘faith’.

 

That faith and culture has held us together, at least until now.  I for one am no longer sure what unifies Canada, or what makes a ‘Canadian’, nor what makes a ‘European’, or a ‘Scotsman’, or, alas, even an ‘Irishman’, most of whom have cast off their faith, and are trying to build a culture on rather thin, secular, agnostic ground.

 

Other cultures are filling in this vacuum.  Ponder what is happening in Europe, where a recent survey found that  a vast majority (over 90%) of young Muslims in Molenbeek and Schaerbeek (the neighbourhood where the Paris terrorists came from in Belgium) thought that their fellow religionists, whose mass slaughter of innocent civilians last year shocked the world, were ‘heroes’.

 

Teachers working in the predominantly Muslim districts of Molenbeek and Schaerbeek in Brussels have reported that “90 percent of their students, 17, 18 years old” called the Islamist terrorists who attacked Paris and Brussels “heroes”.

 

How does one live amongst such savagery, impervious to rational explanation?  The Jews sure don’t, and are fleeing in ever-greater numbers.  Even the man who helped begin the whole process of trying to assimilate large-scale Islam into Europe (and who coined the phrase ‘Islamophobia’) is having deep second thoughts, but there are not yet many takers for his quasi-conversion amongst our culture elites.

 

Yet are we now much different from the barbarism of these mindsets?  Here in Canada, our members of Parliament are currently debating a law that would not only permit patients to be murdered, but force their physicians to carry out the nefarious deed.  Of course, as our Prime Minister is fond of repeating, they will follow the Supreme Court’s decision.  ‘Tis a small good that they will not yet allow ‘mature minors’ to avail themselves of this macabre service, at least not for two or three years, to see how things go, as the Health Minister alluded in a recent interview.  Then, rest assured, just like abortion, the gates will be opened wide.

 

Yes, sadly, from the restricted permission to ‘abort a pregnancy’ in 1969 with the permission of a panel of two doctors, we now allow the wholesale murder of pre-born children for any reason, whatsoever, for all nine months of pregnancy, right up until the baby sees the light of day.  You can’t get much more barbaric than that and  as Pope John Paul II prophesied in Evangelium Vitae, a society cannot long survive permitting such persistent violations of the natural law and human dignity.

 

So perhaps we will all get along, for a time, being nice, unbullying, wearing pink, all the while killing each other, the old, the unborn, the infidel, at random intervals, but with increasing frequency, for different reasons, in the name of tolerance, freedom and multiculturism.

 

I wait to see what that society will look like, if any society is left standing.

 

 

Caveat Spectator

mediaModern television (or do we say internet?) programs, particularly on Netflix, and other media, have become radically explicit, both in violence and in sex.  Reading this article, even my somewhat jaded soul was surprised that such things could remotely pass for ‘entertainment’, to say nothing of actually being shown to a mass, and indiscriminate, audience.  Torture, bloody murder and child sacrifice, rampant adultery, fornication, immodesty galore.  We are now immersed in ‘pornography’, or, quite literally, the showing of evil for evil’s sake, and we scarcely notice.

 

I warn you of this, since I posted a brief review of the Daredevil series which, sure, has a certain number of moral problems, but so far, more or less (and I dare say, looking back, more less than more) evil is shown as evil, and good, as good.  But I have noticed the lines blurred, and the content getting more explicitly violent, for no apparent reason except to shock viewers even more jaded than I, apparently.

 

That is, until the other evening, where an episode had Daredevil in his Matt Murdoch guise (or is that the other way around?) caught in a very compromising position with his female superhero side-karate-kick Electra.  I probably should have foreseen this, and was getting a creepy feeling from the show, but, hey, I try to hope for the best, that one can view entertainment without compromising one’s morals and interior vision.  I suppose not.

 

There are two primary documents from the Church on media:  The first, Miranda Prorsus, is from Pope Pius XII in 1957, at the very dawn of the television age (Pius XI issued a radio broadcast using Marconi’s recently-invented radio twenty years earlier, followed by a letter on films a few years later).  The other is a very brief decree from the Second Vatican Council, Inter Mirifica.

 

Both documents have a rather optimistic view of the media, speaking to its great power for good, and appealing to the higher angels in Catholics and fellow travelers.  That said, although they both permit the portrayal of evil, they warn sternly against anything that might harm one’s morals, incite to evil or is  outright pornographic.

 

We have come a long way, and not upwards, from the days of Bishop Fulton Sheen, Milton Berle and the Disney hour.  Like the oft-quoted analogy of the frogs in the boiling water, even good Catholics, normally well-grounded, have been gradually inured to greater and greater voyeurism, until we justify just about anything in the name of ‘art’, ‘entertainment’, ‘relaxation’ or, even, ‘education’.  But what this does to our souls, to coarsen them, and prepare them to look upon evil with an ever-more-tolerant attitude, can only be imagined.

 

My greatest fear is how the children, lacking the spiritual and psychological defenses of adults, will turn out.  The generation now growing up has been immersed in such ordure from birth.  How will they ever gain a sure moral foundation, with so many pornographic images embedded deep within their young brains and souls, the phantasms welling up throughout one’s life?

 

One must carefully discern what one, and more one’s children, take in, for an image once seen, can never be unseen.  As you do so, try to unplug for a time, take up a good book, play some instrument, spend some time in the church, visit a friend, cook a hearty meal, go for a walk or bike ride, clear one’s mind and soul, breathe in God’s good fresh air, both naturally and figuratively.  Far better than Game of Thrones, or worse.  And, as a wise man once told, just before you think it has gone as low as it could go, it could always get worse.

Amoris Laetitia, Global Greed, and Warming Up

*The Holy Father’s Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia is now promulgated.  I have only read the first few pages, wherein the Pope advises us to read the document “patiently and carefully”.  At over 200 pages, that may be unavoidable.  There are already a number of commentaries out there, presumably by those who have read it at a rather quicker pace.  Commentators have already remarked that the Pope has advocated that we ‘not throw stones’ at those who fail in living the moral life, and has apparently opened some kind of door to Communion for the ‘remarried’.  Hmm.  I will read it over the next while at a pace moved by the Holy Spirit, I hope, as I plow through essays and preparation for the last classes of the semester.

 

*Panama papers, Liberal cronyism, riots in Iceland (of all places), political corruption en masse continues to astound, or not, depending upon how inured one is to the daily revelations amongst our governing members of kick-backs, favoritism, financial misdeeds, sheer hypocrisy, lying, obfuscation, avoidance of any scrutiny or oversight, cowardice and the sheer, unbridled love of money, cupiditas which, as Saint Paul warns, is the root of all evil.  Saint Thomas builds on this divinely-inspired insight, teaching that avarice, the disordered desire for money or artificial wealth, is far more evil than greed, the disordered desire for natural wealth like food, cars or clothing.  For there is no natural limit to avarice, and the hoarding of money gives the illusion of unlimited power, with concomitant flouting of God and His laws, if the avaricious even think He exists.  So welcome to a God-less world, in the hands of evil.  But then Christ knew that when the devil offered it all to Him.  And, like Christ, we can live without the baubles and charms of this passing pageantry.

 

*Well, almost.  People, especially all those good people raising large families, need some property and money to make things go.  G.K. Chesterton’s distributist principles advocate for a wide distribution of wealth, both natural and artificial, but not by socialist, State-enforced tendencies.  People just need access to some of the sources of wealth, not least private property, which, if they are raised and educated properly, they will put to good use in increasing the wealth of the nation. Whenever I hear of a ‘billionaire’, I wonder, why does he have all that money, located in one place, doing not much of anything?  Why should a mediocrity like Mark Zuckerberg have billions?  I suppose the money goes where the people go, and people go to Facebook, offering for free all that personal information to Mr. Zuckerberg, which he in turn sells ‘for billions’ to advertisers and companies quite interested in all that intimate knowledge, written and visual, of you, your life, and your loved (and hated) ones.

 

*Now we have 20-something Millennials who are famous just for being famous (well, amongst a certain clientele, for I had never heard of them) making millions from ‘Instagram’ pictures of themselves doing things famous people do, like lounge on couches and hang out in restaurants where the price of an entree could feed an African village for a year.

 

*That said, at least one Hollywood actress is doing something right, by getting married and having children.  I am glad to see the princess of Princess Diaries, Anne Hathaway, has always wanted to be a mother, as I suspect every woman does deep down, so congratulations to her on the birth of her baby boy.  May many more join in her footsteps.

 

*And, finally on this Easter Friday, the clouds are coming!  It turns out that global warming, or change, or whatever it might be today, is coming far faster than was first thought.  The clouds are apparently trapping more ice, and this will somehow warm the Earth up much more quickly than anyone, or any computer-model at least, imagined.  For all I care, the clouds have all the ice they want from the Ontario village in which I happen to dwell, and, I, for one, could do at least with some heavy-duty local warming.

 

*So be of good cheer!  Spring is here, at least in theory, and soon in reality.  And, of course, Christ is Risen, the source and basis of all our hope.

 

Ant-Man vs. Daredevil

(As a bit of light-hearted reading before the issuance of the Holy Father’s Apostolic Letter later today, here are some thoughts on two superheroes, such as they are.)

 

Yes, I must admit, I did watch Ant-Man, in two instalments, for a I had to sort of motivate myself to finish it.  The campy film was better than it might have been, but worse also.  Carried along by the charisma of its male lead, the movie has a child-likeness about it, refreshing in the age of jaded superheroes (and heroes in general).

 

Need I discuss the physical impossibilities of the whole premise?  Michael Douglas’ character, Hank Pym (I was surprised to see him, sort of thinking that original Wall Street-guy was nearly dead).  Anyway, Pym is the inventor of the ‘technology’ of the ant-suit, based on his discovery of a way to shrink creatures to miniscule size, while maintaining their strength and speed, by reducing the ‘space between their atoms’.  The problem is that such creatures would still have the same mass, and thus be just as heavy.  Ant-Man would not be as nimble as he is, and would wreck things as he stomped around.

 

There are, of course, also the insurmountable physiological problems with creatures adapted to large-scale life becoming the size of insects. Even back in Galileo’s day, they realized that surface area and volume increase and decrease at different rates, which is why insects have exoskeletons, while large mammals have endoskeletons.  Not just that, but at a certAnt-Manain size, the lungs and heart would cease to function, to say nothing of the brain.

But why bother with all the science stuff?  It is a cartoonish movie, with a few humorous bits to move the plot along, but also with some rather garish violence, unsuitable for the young (and old, for that matter), such as when the villain uses a defective ‘shrinking gun’ on someone, turning him into a reddish blob of bloody tissue, which he wipes up and flushes down the loo.  I don’t know, but I found that quite disturbing for some reason.

 

My main concern was with the subplot of Scott’s (the Ant-Man’s real name) domestic life, such as it is.  He apparently abandoned his wife and young daughter to commit a Robin Hood-esque heist, for which he spends a number of years in the slammer.  When he gets out, his finds his wife shacked up with a middle-aged cop, with her seven-year girl old in tow.  It was a bit embarrassing to see these two middle-aged men, Scott and the cop, vie for the affection of this young girl through the film, all the while her Mum committing open adultery, and her father falling in love with Hank Pym’s daughter.  No one seems desirous of any further children, just enjoying themselves.  Is it just me, or am I weird in thinking that this messed-up moral situation, with all the ‘adults’ in her life seeking juvenile pleasure, would do far more harm to the young girl-to-be-rescued, than anything the villainous ‘Yellow Jacket’ , arch-enemy of Ant-Man, could ever do?

 

So, ho-hum, she was saved, only to face a world where growing up normal is all but impossible.  But, then again, there are lots of little girls in her situation, and no one seems able to save them, Ant-suit or not.

 

DaredevilWhat of the Netflix Daredevil series?  Again, I will admit that I watched the first season, being a fan of the comics when I was of the age to read such things, now, yes, of the age to watch them.  Like Batman, the character always intrigued me, being a ‘self-made’ superhero, relying by and large upon his own developed skills, with a bit of help from heightened senses.  Also, like Batman, Daredevil was vulnerable, and his Catholicism, his struggles with his conscience and the morality of his actions, added to the drama.

 

They try to bring this out in the series, with some limited success.  Hollywood has little idea of the complexities and nuances of Catholicism, nor of its complementary stark lines of evil and good.  Matt Murdoch (Daredevil’s real name) is a New York lawyer by day, vigilante by night.  He has certain moral lines he will not cross, especially killing anyone, which seems odd, for he will bash, crush and wreak havoc on people, often presented in gory and voyeuristic violence (more vivid when done by the ‘bad guys’).  One must wonder that the Daredevil is at the very least causing potentially-lethal harm, itself an evil, unless done strictly in a proportionate manner in self-defense.

 

Matt is portrayed as Catholic who does not seem to live any sort of regular religious life, a familiar theme, even though he is shown going into his local church, struggling with his conscience, and speaking with his priest now and again.  This man of the cloth is presented with more masculinity and moral certainty than most in films. However, he is still weak and wavering, offering often vague advice, allowing Matt to continue with his life of ambiguous and, I would argue, immoral vigilantism.

 

That allows the comic-book show to continue, but I am glad to see that they at least raise moral questions in this series, leading the jaded viewers, I hope, perhaps to begin the process of asking questions about themselves, and life in general, in however inchoate a Socratic fashion.  What indeed is the proper response to violence, especially as such violence creeps ever closer to our own milieu?

 

As we question, we may at least hope, along with Daredevil, that some good comes out of the evil.  The problem with which Daredevil must wrestle, pun intended, lies in doing the evil in the first place, and becoming as dark, brutal and coarse as those against whom he fights.

Mercy: Divine and Human, True and False

divine mercy(The following is an address I offered yesterday at Saint Hedwig’s Church for the Divine Mercy celebration.  jpm)

This being the Year of Mercy, decreed by Pope Francis, as well as Divine Mercy Sunday, as decreed by Pope Saint John Paul II, back in 2000, I thought that I had better not stray too far in these few moments of reflection from the theme of mercy, but here I would like to briefly connect mercy with truth.

 

We hear much of mercy, which in its Latin original is derived from miser (sad) and cordia (heart).  In his one question in the Summa on mercy, Saint Thomas Aquinas states that mercy derives from our being moved with pity at the sight of another’s suffering, to feel compassion for them, with a desire to alleviate whatever evil is afflicting them.  This mercy is all the more intense the more we fell connected to the other, to the point even of feeling the sadness as our very own.

 

So far so good, but there are two things to be warned of in mercy, the first from Thomas, the other from my own ponderings.

 

First, to Thomas, who says that mercy is first a passion, and thus blind and uncontrolled.  Many things ‘move’ us, especially as our vision expands over the internet with news of almost unbelievable suffering across our world.  Our pity must therefore be guided and moderated by reason, otherwise we may be overwhelmed by misery, or act irrationally.

 

Upon whom, how, in what way, should we show mercy?  Like contrition (which is sorrow for our own moral evil), we must feel pity for the other in the right way, the right amount, and for the right kind of evil.  We pity the victims more than the suicide bomber who killed them.  Is this mercy?  Who deserves our pity more?  Do we pity the misguided politician who votes for abortion and same-sex marriage, or the children deformed or even destroyed by these laws?

 

The answer, or at least part of it, can be found in the connection between mercy and charity, or love.  In fact, mercy may be defined as ‘charity put into action’.  Mercy is not mercy unless we do something, act upon our pity, alleviate the suffering of the other in some way.  In his meditation on suffering Salvifici Doloris, Pope John Paul II invokes the parable of the Good Samaritan as the most perfect example of mercy, the Samaritan being a type of Christ who, in his early encyclical Dives in Misericordia, promulgated two years after he became Pope, John Paul described as the very face, the Incarnation, of the mercy of the Father which, like Christ, we must put into effect.  As he writes,

 

It is precisely the mode and sphere in which love manifests itself that in biblical language is called “mercy.” (#3)

 

It is Christ Who teaches us what ‘true’ mercy means, which brings me to the essential point:  Mercy must be connected to, and founded upon, truth.  There are few things worse than misguided mercy, pitying those who perhaps need little or none, while being merciless to those who need it most.   We campaign for ‘animal rights’, and even the rights of ‘mother Earth’, while murdering the unborn, and now we consider it a ‘mercy’ to put the old and the sick out of their own misery.

 

Quid est veritas, Pilate asked of Christ during His trial, ‘what is truth’, without realizing that Truth Himself was standing before him.  Christ gave no answer, perhaps since, like so many in our modern world, Pilate would not have listened, was not ready to hear.

 

Truth is, as Saint Thomas states, an adequatio rei et intellectus, an adequation between the mind and reality.  When the mind is truly conformed to how things really are, then there is truth.

 

Our mercy must be founded on the truth of things as they are.  Although mercy may and should go beyond justice, the strict level of ‘what one is owed’, it must never violate or contravene justice.  To pervert justice is to pervert mercy, to make it false.  We should show mercy and pity where they are due, where the suffering is ‘real’, is true, and where can alleviate the suffering with goodness and truth.

 

I will close with three conclusions from these principles:

 

First, the main suffering in our world is not material, but spiritual.  As the prophet Hosea lamented, ‘my people perish for lack of truth!’, and Bd. Mother Theresa said that spiritual poverty was far more rampant, and far worse, than the material variety.  Indeed, in Salvifici Doloris, his meditation on suffering, Pope John Paul declared that every physical evil could be traced back to some kind of moral evil.  That is why our mercy should primarily be directed towards those who know not the truth, by giving them the truth.  This will not be easy, but we must open ourselves to the parrehsia, the boldness, spoken of by Saint Paul.  We must stand up for truth, proclaim it, discuss it with our family and friends, and fear not the consequences, to bring them to conversion:

 

Conversion is the most concrete expression of the working of love and of the presence of mercy in the human world. The true and proper meaning of mercy does not consist only in looking, however penetratingly and compassionately, at moral, physical or material evil: mercy is manifested in its true and proper aspect when it restores to value, promotes and draws good from all the forms of evil existing in the world and in man. Understood in this way, mercy constitutes the fundamental content of the messianic message of Christ and the constitutive power of His mission. (Dives, #6)

 

Second, we must be converted the truth found in Christ and the Church He founded.  We must learn this truth, make it our own, for only in the truth can we show true, and not false, mercy to others:  Human life is inviolable, marriage is indissoluble, (and, need we add, only between a man and a woman), euthanasia and abortion are grave evils equivalent to murder.  Even if we cannot work out all the arguments for these truths, we accept them on the authority of Christ himself.  And, to bring this back to the first point, John Paul II will later say in Evangelium Vitae that all the heinous crimes against life, ‘ do more harm to those who practise them than to those who suffer from the injury. Moreover, they are a supreme dishonour to the Creator more harm is done” (E.V. #3).

 

Third, therefore, we must distinguish mercy from tolerance and false compassion:  To have mercy on someone does not mean allowing them to wallow in evil.  It is a misconception that good and evil are subjective, or not even real.  God is a merciful God, but He is also just, and even His mercy cannot violate His justice.  There is a requirement to going to heaven: keeping the commandments, loving God and neighbour, being in a ‘state of grace’, which means in a right relationship with God.  Without these, we are lost.  As Christ declares, and Saint Paul specifies, the immoral and unrepentant cannot inherit the kingdom of God, unless they repent.

 

Again, to Pope John Paul:

 

one cannot fail to be worried by the decline of many fundamental values, which constitute an unquestionable good not only for Christian morality but simply for human morality, for moral culture: these values include respect for human life from the moment of conception, respect for marriage in its indissoluble unity, and respect for the stability of the family. Moral permissiveness strikes especially at this most sensitive sphere of life and society. Hand in hand with this go the crisis of truth in human relationships, lack of responsibility for what one says, the purely utilitarian relationship between individual and individual, the loss of a sense of the authentic common good and the ease with which this good is alienated. Finally, there is the “desacralization” that often turns into “dehumanization”: the individual and the society for whom nothing is “sacred” suffer moral decay, in spite of appearances. (Dives, #12)

 

It is no ‘mercy’ to leave adulterers, fornicators, homosexuals, those involved in abortion or contraception, nor even unbelievers, agnostics, to remain in their objectively sinful states, thinking they are ‘fine’ and in ‘good graces with God and His Church’.  That is a scandal, for how is that seeking their good in the truth?  In a recent and very rare interview last October, Pope Emeritus Benedict lamented that one of the primary errors of our modern era is a sense that we can achieve mercy without repentance, which means, without an awareness of the truth of our own sinfulness and need for conversion.  The Pope emeritus asks,

 

whether modern man is waiting for a “mercy” that requires anything of him—no restoration of truth, no penance, no “works”, as it were. This restriction is precisely the “limit” of mercy, the line where mercy is understood to deny justice, rather than the healing of his soul through its acknowledgment.

 

This applies, of course, also to us.  Without acknowledging our own ‘violations of justice’, our sinfulness, and dependence upon God, we will wallow in our own self-centredness, and exclude ourselves from the kingdom of heaven.  But we must not only impress this truth upon ourselves, in our daily prayer, our examination of conscience, how we think of and treat others in our mundane tasks.  More, we must also teach these truths to others. As Vatican II declares, quoted in the Catechism

 

The witness of life, however, is not the sole element in the apostolate; the true apostle is on the lookout for occasions of announcing Christ by word, either to unbelievers…or to the faithful.”  (CCC, #905; cf., AA 6.3).

 

Not an easy task, but we must remind ourselves that this year of mercy is not a year of unconditional forgiveness, but an opportunity to seek forgiveness, especially at this critical moment of human history which even the usually restrained Pope John Paul saw standing on the brink of a ‘new flood like Noah’, unless we repent.  We must pray also for others to do the same (especially by the Mass, the Rosary and the Divine Mercy), for the healing of their and our souls, that all may return to the Father like the Prodigal son.  For the son had to ‘come to his senses’, to see the truth in his condition, and make the journey back to the ‘good things’ of his father’s house.  All he had to do was take that first step:  We can be sure that the Father will meet us along the way, with robe and ring in hand, ready to prepare a banquet for us.

 

As Pope Francis declared on this Sunday three years ago soon after his pontificate began:

 

I am always struck when I reread the parable of the merciful Father. … The Father, with patience, love, hope and mercy, had never for a second stopped thinking about [his wayward son], and as soon as he sees him still far off, he runs out to meet him and embraces him with tenderness, the tenderness of God, without a word of reproach. … God is always waiting for us, He never grows tired. Jesus shows us this merciful patience of God so that we can regain confidence and hope — always! (Homily from Divine Mercy Sunday, 2013)

 

To conclude with the great hopeful words of Pope John Paul, there is only thing that can block this path to eternal salvation:

 

On the part of man only a lack of good will can limit (God’s mercy), a lack of readiness to be converted and to repent, in other words persistence in obstinacy, opposing grace and truth, especially in the face of the witness of the cross and resurrection of Christ. (Dives, #13)

 

We must be like the ‘good thief’, who, even at the very last moment, end opened himself to the grace of God, as offered to Him through His Son, Jesus Christ.

 

Amen to that.

Legislators, P.E.I. and Lust in the Classroom

A blessed Easter Octave Friday, which liturgically is a Sunday.  There is an old adage about a ‘month of Sundays’, but the Catholic Church really does have a week of Sundays after the Solemnity of the Resurrection, the greatest feast in our calendar, the solemnity of solemnities, and the date from which all the rest of our liturgical year flows.  So manducemus et bibamus, cras hodie Christus resurrexit, alleluia!

But the world rolls on in its seemingly inevitable slide towards insanity:  Our vaunted Members of Parliament and Senators (the legislators, not the hockey team who cannot make the playoffs), those whose task seems either to make our lives ever-less free or to legislate immorality, just voted themselves a 1.8 and a 2.1 percent respective pay hike.  Lo and behold.  To paraphrase Plato, who guards the purse strings of the guardians?

The 338 MPs will see their salaries rise to $170,400 from $167,400, while Trudeau — who gets another $170,400 as PM — now will make $340,800, an increase of $6,000.

This raft of MP’s therefore, in salaries alone, costs us  $57,595,200 per annum, and this does not take into account staffers, their, ahem, spending accounts, of which so much hay was made during the lamentable Mike Duffy trial, wherein they spent millions tracing the origins of a $64,000 cheque.  Nor for that matter, their pensions, which are hefty and lifelong, even after a two-term ‘career’ as a Member of Parliament (Senators are for life).  Winning a seat in parliament is even better than winning the lottery.

The late great American columnist Joseph Sobran, r.i.p., lamented the existence of such a class of permanent legislators.  In the early days, the parliamentary system relied upon those who had other occupations; they would take turns doing the ‘service’ of representing their fellow citizens, taking on the burden of authority.  Now, parliamentarians’ work seems to consist of ‘discovering’ new laws either to make us less free and/or less rich (raise the drinking age! ban smoking! ban fireplaces! bike helmets for all! carbon tax!) or to legislate immorality (homosexual ‘marriage’! sex-education in the classroom! transgender ‘rights’!).  When was the last time you heard of a ‘good’ law being legislated?  Even the good ones, in general, simply remove some of the bad effects of previous laws, and even that is rare.  Given the inertia of our laws and customs, once something is put into law, it is nearly impossible to remove.  And this inertia is almost always making us worse.

Case in point:  It was announced today that Prince Edward Island, named after the fourth son of King George III and the father of Queen Victoria, but which was originally named Ile Saint-Jean (the name was changed after British occupation in 1798), will now permit abortion on its land so-far innocent of the blood of these littlest of martyrs.  How I wish this were an April Fool’s joke, but any joke is on us, and the victims.  This is what we pay our ‘legislating’ class to do.  Saint Jean, prie pour nous!

And, in the classroom, a female teacher is in court today, charged with multiple counts of pedophilia, sexual assault and child pornography, using ‘children’ as young as 12 to act out her sexual fantasies.  It would be difficult to convince me that this has nothing to do with the explicit sexual material in the curriculum, as mandated by McGuinty and Wynne tag-team.   Add to this that teachers are hired without regard for their own moral lives or views, and that these ‘children’, also unhinged from any real moral foundation in or out of the home, are already acting out their pubescent sexual fantasies with each other.  It was only a matter of time before a teacher also lacking a moral compass would eventually join in. Now even a young female teacher in the ‘Catholic’ system has been charged with sexual contact with a male student.  Would you really want to put your child into the potential amoral miasma of our public schools?

But all that is old is new again.  Allegations are now surfacing of rampant child sexual abuse in Hollywood dating back decades.  Yes, I know that we should pity those who fall into such sexual sins for there, but for the grace of God, go I.  But that is the very reason why the noonday devil of unbridled lust within each one of us must be caged and enclosed by strict laws and customs about sex. To let him loose is to invite havoc, mayhem and destruction.

I will close with the words of the great Pope John Paul II from paragraph 97 of Evangelium Vitae, which brings us back to abortion in P.E.I.:

The trivialization of sexuality is among the principal factors which have led to contempt for new life. Only a true love is able to protect life. There can be no avoiding the duty to offer, especially to adolescents and young adults, an authentic education in sexuality and in love, an education which involves training in chastity as a virtue which fosters personal maturity and makes one capable of respecting the “spousal” meaning of the body.

Amen to that.

A final question:  When was the last time you heard the word ‘chastity’ mentioned in our legislature or our schools?