Father Jacques Hamel and the Faith of Europe

Father Jacques HamelAnother Islamic massacre, this time of an octogenarian priest, Father Jacques Hamel, saying Mass in a church in Saint Etienne de Rouvray in the northwest of France.  ISIS has claimed responsibility, with promises of more attacks ‘on churches':  These Islamists are nothing if not symbolic, with their own form of ‘liturgy’, working on behalf of their distorted image of God and His law. Francois Hollande, Le President of the Republic, has vowed ‘war on ISIS’, denouncing such random and absurd acts of terror . He does not quite get it, and likely never will, mired in his own agnostic worldview.  To such a mind, murders of octogenarian priests in irrelevant and dying churches are completely irrational:  Why?

 

Yet, to the Islamic mind of ISIS, such an act makes perfect sense, for the priest represents the blasphemy of Christianity, which makes ‘God’ (Allah) a ‘Man’ (Christ).  If there is one essential message in Islam, it is that Christ, even though mentioned in the Qur’an far more than Mohammad, is not, and never could be, God.  In fact, Jesus in various suras declares his non-divinity in no uncertain terms.

 

In Islam, God is completely ‘other’.  A consequence of this, as Pope Benedict made clear in his Regensburg address ten years ago, is that man has no real access to the mind of God.  There is no Logos, or Word, and hence no logos, or reason.  The Islamic view of God’s law is voluntaristic, pure will, pure obedience.  How dare we ask if what Allah wills makes sense to us?  The mere fact that it is commanded is enough.

 

This is a dangerous strain in many religions, indeed most, not just in Islam (although here it has had its most violent manifestations).  Even in the Catholic Church, it has had its adherents, traced back most formally to the 14th century Franciscan William of Ockham, who advocated and developed the original philosophical version of voluntarism: According to Friar William, the moral law is arbitrary, a manifestation of the ‘will’ of God, and could be changed at the divine whim (or will, depending on your point of view).  The commandments do not express anything true about God or Man, but on the contrary are arbitrary commands that God could change tomorrow, or next year, or next minute.

 

But it is also only in the Catholic Church that religion, including its teachings on morality, is most perfectly rational.  The Church, of course, rejected the bizarre and dangerous theological musings of Inceptor William of Ockham (who never did receive his Master’s), and adopted rather the sober and rational theology of the Dominican Saint Thomas Aquinas (who did receive his doctorate, back when they were rare and meant something).  Friar Thomas taught that the natural moral law is immutable in its principles, binding upon all men, for all time.  There may be some variance in its particular, minute applications (such as modesty for men and women, and for different cultures), but in the main, it is the same for all, and no particular application of the moral law can ever violate the principles.

 

Not to be anachronistic, but Islam is far more Ockahmist than Thomistic (although they would not put it that way , of course). Sure, they have Sharia law, but that is a legal code, not so much a moral one. Islam, as we see most evidently in ISIS, (and they are closer to Islam’s essentially violent origins than most of our secular leaders want to  admit), things like mercy, love, forgiveness, purity, chastity, do not really exist, and certainly should not be applied to the infidel.  Hence, their ‘prayers’ before and during rapes and beheadings, mayhem and destruction, shouting out invocations to Allah as they mow down innocent children.  As these adherents of a false creed see it, they risk, indeed even welcome, the hail of bullets, a quick and glorious death, then martyrdom and a ‘heaven’ of sensual delights.  And to whatever Islamic ‘hell’ for their victims.

 

Chaotic as they may appear, there is a reason to their madness, for Man can never be purely voluntaristic.  After all, the will is a blind faculty, and must always be guided to some extent by the intellect, even if aberrantly and wrongly.  That is why the ISIS ‘soldiers’ delight in spectacle, in significant violence, that will instill the most fear, that strikes the most vulnerable targets, that paralyzes the populace, making them ever more ‘submissive’, as is ISIS’ (Islam’s) aim.

 

The violence of ISIS is therefore not purely random, nor chaotic.  Rather, it is usually planned well ahead, with knowledge aforethought.  The Nice (and not so nice) truck-killer spent a year planning his mayhem, and the murderers in the French parish knew when the priest was saying Mass, knew more or less what the Mass signified, and knew that killing a priest while saying Mass was a very ‘significant’ act. Easy targets, maximum impact.

 

Secularist leaders like Hollande hope to defend France and Europe, but good luck with his ‘war on ISIS’.  This is not primarily a military and police conflict, but a spiritual and cultural one.  Even at the level of enforcement, confused and wobbling Western nations such as France are rather hopeless:  The perpetrator here had actually twice tried to leave France to ‘fight in Syria’ (that is, for ISIS).  The French authorities, so scared of Islamophobia and ‘racism’, let him stay, forcing him to wear an alarmed ankle bracelet, which was conveniently turned off each morning, and it was at 9:30 a.m., wouldn’t you know it, that he slit the throat of the priest.

 

How does one defend against random, chaotic violence, which could in theory be perpetrated by any one of the millions of young Muslims residing in France, and now throughout Europe?  As I wrote before, even if only one percent sympathize with ISIS’ ‘version’ of Islam, that is still many thousands of potential terrorists.  And those are only the ones registered.  Do you put useless ankle bracelets on them all?  Or lock them all up in un-escapable ghettos? Or kick them all out? (The last two were tried in Spain in the fifteenth century)

 

These questions are at present unanswerable, for France,  as has the rest of the West, has lost its spirit and its culture, its raison d’etre, and without this foundation, no defense is possible, for what, really, is Hollande and the rest of secular Europe defending? As Hilaire Belloc so prophetically wrote in 1920, ‘Europe is the Faith, and the Faith is Europe’.  And, as bellicose Belloc went on, ‘Europe will return to the Faith, or she will perish’.

 

We may well be witnessing  just such a dissolution of the grand two millennia Catholic Christian project called ‘Europe’, symbolized as the good priest perished in his own blood before the altar of Christ, a sacrificial victim in the act of offering the Most Holy Sacrifice.  There were only a few people in the congregation, fortunately so at one level, one may suppose.  But not so at another.  Why are there not throngs of French people at Mass?  One may wonder if the ISIS adherents also knew that they were acting on the eve of World Youth Day in Poland, a country which is now arguably the focal point of what ‘Europe’ means.  Even if they did not, God did.

 

The Islamic onslaught was turned back in the year 732 by Charles Martel at Tours, and by Christian soldiers (not least from Poland) in 1683 in the Battle of Vienna.  Now, untold numbers of ISIS adherents, potential and actual, are within the very gates.  Who will defend us now? The only way to stop such violence is, as Belloc stated, for Europe to rediscover her faith, along with which comes a recovery of reason and a sense of common purpose. That is what saved Europe in the past, and it is the only thing that will save her now.

 

For example:  A true and truly spiritual renewal of the Santiago de Compostela pilgrimage (instead of a pagan-ish hike for Nordic tourists) would be a step in the right direction, as would a reinvigoration of Mass attendance, Humanae Vitae adherence, Catholic education and culture, an emphasis on Christian sexuality and committed, married love and family life, but most of all, a general and solid awareness of what is ‘right’ and what is ‘wrong’, of what is true and false, most of all in the moral life and religion, based on Christian revelation.

 

But, as another fantasy and misguided warrior discovered long ago, that may well be a Quixotic hope.

 

Saint James, Joachim and Anne, orate pro nobis!

Facing East, and Other Thoughts

facing eastAs I have mentioned previously, Cardinal Sarah, the head of the Congregation of Divine Worship (so the highest authority in these matters besides the Pope himself) has asked for priests to return to the ad orientem mode of saying Mass, worshiping ‘with the people’, facing the ‘East’ and the return of Christ, as was done for millennia prior to the revision after the Second Vatican Council.  As this article by Christopher Ruddy in First Things makes clear, sadly, the Cardinal’s suggestion has been quickly shot down by the highest authorities in Rome, for reasons that are not made so clear. I think Ruddy is correct, that we have lost much of the eschatological, eternal orientation of the pilgrim Church.  It is all about here and now, our feelings, the immediate payoff, charisma and personality. Hence, also , the rejection of meditative ‘other worldly’ Gregorian chant, polyphony, splendid vestments, clear and direct sermons that challenge one to perfection and so on.  We are way too absorbed in clappy-hands, guitars, emotive ballads, inclusivity and feelin’ good.

I hope that the good Cardinal Sarah’s sober words, which go far beyond ad orientem , into the very nature of what it means to be and to worship as a Church, have influence beyond the ‘here and now’.  May they seep into hearts that are perhaps a little too focused on fruit that does not last.

 

And while we’re at it, to paraphrase the late great Father Neuhaus, one should also peruse the article by Tom Holland on the need to re-bastion Europe against the rising tide of uncontrolled mass immigration.  As I have also written before, Christian and non-Christian, that is, pagan and unbaptized, cultures just do not mix, unless assimilation occurs, one would hope in the Christian direction.  Historically and into the present, this applies to Christians and Muslims, but also between Christians and non-Christians, namely, the neo-pagans who now fill the halls of our universities, parliament and media.

The problem, as we are all aware and Holland emphasizes, is that Europe is hardly Christian anymore.  Can an agnostic paganism carry the day? To what possibly could the Muslim immigrants assimilate, even if they were inclined to?  See the last paragraph above.  Who are we as a Church, and, more broadly, as a civilization?

 

Another black man was shot by a white officer.  This time, the black man, Charles Kinsey, a therapist at a group home, was helping an autistic man on the street when officers, an entire SWAT team apparently, were called.  Mr. Kinsey had his hands in the air and was shouting that he and his patient were unarmed, explaining the situation, when three shots rang out, one bullet ripping through Kinsey’s leg.  Fortunately, he survived, and was conscious throughout.

Besides this, two other things are troubling:  When he asked the officer why he shot him, he replied ‘I don’t know’.  Hmmm.

Then, the officers handcuffed Kinsey, purportedly leaving him bleeding on the street for 20 minutes.

Now, I admit, I do not know ‘all the details’ for all the cops-can-do-no-wrong  crowds out there.  It turns out now that the sniper was aiming for the autistic patient, who was playing with a plastic truck. Is this police procedure?  I am glad he had bad aim, at least in this instance.  If a man with his hands in the air can get shot with a high-powered bullet, what has happened to the rule of law?  We must be able to trust our executive branch to act in a way that is at least somewhat predictable, for if they become chaotic, there is no longer any order to stem the external chaos outside the ‘rule of law’.  And we are entering rather chaotic times.

And, as the spectacle of the Republican Convention wraps up, we witness the ‘Trumps’ in full display.  Ted Cruz failing to endorse Trump was the high or low-light, depending on your perspective; Cruz was booed, whether spontaneously or, by plan.  As was the plagiarism of Melanie Trump, or her speechwriter, from Michelle Obama’s speech of eight years ago.  Donald Trump is now officially the Republican nominee. America is entering some interesting waters, as they face the unenviable choice of Trump or Hillary. Well, there can really be no choice for Hillary, as vehemently pro-abortion.  So what does one do? Well, declaring your own nation is one option, as this enterprising Native Chief ‘His Excellency’ Carle has apparently done.  I have actually thought of that, even within the precincts of my own home, which should be a man’s castle.  Long live freedom!

 

Saint Mary Magdalene, ora pro nobis!

Calum and Tina’s Childless Choice: A Reflection on Parenthood

calum and tina

From the National Post, July 16, 2016

The headlines proclaimed it, in a his and her perspective, on why a young-ish, urbanite couple plan never and, they mean never, never, never in the Taylor Swiftian sense, to have children.  The mother, excuse me, the ‘wife’, Tina Marsh tells her side, then the ‘man’, Calum, his.  Yes, I use scare quotes, since he in particular mans not up to his station as a husband, as is fit for what should be the head of the household.  Nor does she fulfill the role of wife, as is requisite in a marriage, in deliberately refusing to have children.

 

In fact, the millennial couple (their ages are not given, curiously) are not really married at all: As Saint Augustine made clear, and which the Church has adopted, a marriage requires three ‘goods’ or ‘characteristics’ for the marriage to be integral or real:  Fides, proles, sacramentum:  Namely, fidelity to the one spouse (fides), openness to children (proles), and indissolubility, until death do you part (sacramentum).  If any one of these is deliberately denied or rejected in the vows or the intention, the marriage is null and void, even at a natural, non-sacramental level.  So Calum and Tina, should they ever come to their senses, will have to regularize their irregular situation.

 

But let us look at the causes of their non-marital state and the focus of their diatribe, namely, their adamant refusal to have children.

 

The woman, Tina, seems rather prosaic in her a priori rejection of motherhood:

 

Why do I not want children? It’s simple: I don’t want to raise a child. I don’t mean to be coy with the minimalism of my reasoning, that’s simply what it boils down to. And that should be enough. 

 

Tina seems to think a little more deeply for a moment, perhaps realizing the inadequacy of this trite reply, so she goes on, still rather lamely:

 

My decision boils down to knowing myself better than anyone else. The sheer weight of responsibility of raising a child would change my life dramatically. I have an attention deficit disorder that already makes every aspect of life challenging; throwing a kid into the mix would seriously hinder not only the quotidian aspects of my life, but also what I want to accomplish with it.

 

Attention-deficit disorder?  Lo and behold, that may well be carved onto the tombstone of our dying civilization:  Death by psychological-esque labelling.  The end comes not with a bang, but with a whimper from the therapist’s couch.  ‘But, Doc, I just can’t focus on kids..I mean, what time is left after binging on Game of Thrones and How to Make a Murderer..?’

 

But then along comes Calum, the male half of this odd couple, and even my cynical self was taken aback by his direct honesty.  His perspective perhaps lurks deep in the heart of every self-absorbed male (by which I include all members that XY genus):

 

Children? Those fleshy barnacles of snot and mutiny? Those extortionate burdens? Those shrieking, dribbling, bawling horrors? Not for me, thank you. And not – I rashly assumed – for anyone else in my peer group. That my friend could want a child seemed to me unthinkable. It was as if she’d said she planned to invade Poland.

 

Truly astounding.  I just spent a weekend with my brother and his two children, a toddler two years old and a baby-nearly-turning-toddler aged 10 months, and, yes, they do keep the parents up at night, they shriek and bawl, and emit various bodily effluences, as do we all, don’t we Calum?  It’s just that yours and mine, for now, are hidden, usually behind locked bathroom doors, while babies have not that privilege of privacy.  That privilege, however, may be lost any day by sickness or old age, and what then?  Who, indeed, will care for a crying, bawling, snot-smeared-dribbling-and-incontinent Calum?

 

Wait a minute…did not someone already do so, namely, those who begot, raised and changed the diapers of said Calum-of-no-children?

 

Calum is not yet finished, and goes on:

 

Let’s briefly address my reasons. I’m afraid they’re not especially insightful: I value my lifestyle, and I like having the means to maintain it. I value my free time. I’d like to re-read the complete works of Shakespeare, and get around to tackling Proust; I’m keen to learn Latin and modern dance; I wouldn’t mind visiting Locarno, Ankara and Bucharest. I also enjoy the freedom from responsibility childlessness affords me. I can’t begin to imagine the burden not only of time and money but of authority and influence – of being accountable for a human life. It’s lunacy that so many people are comfortable with it. I can no more picture myself raising a child as I can building a log cabin or captaining an aircraft carrier. Maybe it’s within my ability. But more likely I’d screw it up.

 

At least he brings things out into the open, making explicit what is implicit in most of our millennial generation, that they do not want children because they are too self-absorbed.  Learning Latin?  In any normal culture (as in, one generation ago), Calum would have mastered his declensions when he was still four-and-a-half feet tall and had residual childhood trouble controlling his ‘bodily effluences’.

 

Yes, Calum, if life were all about our own individual, natural self-perfection, then your argument sort of makes sense.  Become a Renaissance Man, a veritable Leonardo (da Vinci, that is, not di Caprio), waltz, dance, sing, travel, sip finely aged wines, and experience all the exotic locales and food your maxed-out Platinum Visa can get you.  Gather ye rosebuds while ye may

 

But at the end of the day, or, more properly, at the end of your life, where does it get you?

 

To respond to this misguided couple, who somehow managed to get their ludicrous opinion printed in a national newspaper:  There are two basic reasons to have children, natural and supernatural.

 

First, the natural:  Children are the only way that a civilization and, more to the point, a culture can survive.  Every single Western nation, and by that I mean once-Christian cultures, is in steep demographic decline at a suicidal rate.  The United States is hanging on barely at replacement level, but not by much, and helped along in large measure by immigration.  Peruse the numbers if you have the stomach for it.

 

The only ‘culture’ which is reproducing itself on a worldwide scale is the Islamic, by means fair and foul.  Within one or two generations, a number of Western nations will be predominantly Muslim.

 

To get married and then to refuse to have children is to neglect one’s societal and civilizational duty.  It is to say:  My life, here and now, is all that matters, and to hell with future generations.  In the immortal words of Keynes, In the end, we’re all dead.  Following such Keynsian logic, we have all abdicated our responsibility in a fiscal sense, burdening our children and grandchildren to the n-th generation with unbelievable and unpayable debt.  Now we are even refusing to give them the gift of life.

 

But there is hope, for we all know of many Catholic and other Christians still having children, but not enough, as of yet, to stem the tide.  Many of the alumni of the Catholic college at which I teach, although still young, are very open to life, and it is a great joy to my heart to see them visit with all their babies, as a number did last weekend at our annual Family Reunion.

 

Which brings me to the second reason to beget children, supernatural.  Whether one believe it or not, we are created by God for eternal life, which takes shape by our choices and actions here and now.  We will only achieve eternal (and even natural) happiness by living here a life of charity, of self-gift, of relation with others,  and of sacrifice:

 

For whoever would save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.  For what will it profit a man, if he gains the whole world and forfeits his life?

 

Forget the world, Calum, but to forfeit eternal life for Proust, modern dance and Ankara?, to paraphrase the great Thomas More in his reply to the perjuring Richard Rich.

 

Here is the rub:  Calum and Tina are correct that there is no binding duty to have children for happiness here, nor even to enter into eternity and ‘find life’.  Christ Himself died childless, in a physical, biological sense, as did untold numbers of other great men and women.  Many couples cannot have children.  And there are many others who choose not to marry, or who cannot find a spouse, and must live a life of unintended singlehood.

 

However, whether married, single, childless, or not, the essential thing is that one must give one’s life to something higher than oneself, to family, to care for parents, to dedicate oneself to an apostolate, to missionary work or some other way to ‘lose’, or ‘give’, one’s life.  I found it curious that neither Calum nor Tina mention the needs of their spouse in their decision never to have children; it seems all about them as individuals, who happen to share a bed and house.

 

That all said, historically and into the present day, getting married and raising children is the path of most people to perfection, while also being necessary for the continuation of the human race (the two are connected, according to Saint Thomas).

 

That is why, if one chooses to enter into the vocation of matrimony and the great joys of its conjugal life, of home and hearth, one must fulfill all the rights and obligations of that noble state, not least to raise and educate children.   Then that becomes your path to perfection and sanctity.  In the words of Lord Nelson in a rather different context, one must do one’s duty, along with which comes great joy and fulfilment, as many a parent can attest.

 

The only tragic blessing for Calum and Tina is that, ironically, they will have no one to whom to pass along their self-centred and self-defeating worldview.  Perhaps they could peruse the following prayer from the psalms over their morning latte, as they groom their coddled kittie, before it is too late for them:

 

Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house;

 

Your children will be like olive shoots around your table.

 

Lo, thus shall the man be blessed who fears the Lord.  

 

King Henry’s Anglicanism Gone Awry

Anglican same sexThe headline the other day read that the Anglican ‘Church of Canada’ had rejected same-sex ‘marriage’ in their recent synod by one measly vote. Now, just yesterday, lo and behold, what some might consider by a Deus ex machina recount, they realize that, in fact, some votes were not counted properly, and they have indeed endorsed same-sex marriage by the slimmest of margins.

 

The vote likely won’t matter all that much.  Many delegates declared that they would have gone ahead and ‘blessed’ same-sex unions regardless, while other Anglicans would continue in their belief that they are ‘depraved’.  As I have written before, truth, not least moral truths, cannot be decided by majority vote, but rather by the light of reason and faith. As John Paul II never tired of proclaiming, democracy itself stands or falls by its adherence to the truth, especially the truth about the human person.

 

Furthermore, Anglicans profess to be Christian, which implies a reliance upon Scripture in determining one’s beliefs and conduct, and Scripture is decidedly against homosexuality, from the early days of Sodom to the latter days of Saint Paul. This Scriptural witness continues into the Fathers, the Church Councils, the Magisterium, and so on.

 

But wait, are we not beyond that now? Scripture is only one source of truth, and, apparently according to some Anglicans, a flawed, erroneous and culturally hide-bound one at that. We have evolved, become more sensitive, more, well, pink and rainbow flavoured.

 

Think back to poor King Henry, the eighth of that name, the one who started all this, who thought he could cast off from Rome and build a Church without a Pope and Magisterium. Of course, he also plundered and ransacked monasteries, essentially destroying every religious house in England, killing and dispersing all of their inhabitants, and giving the majestic buildings away to his sycophantic courtiers; he had murdered an untold number of innocent people, including two of his own wives, in barbarous ways.  Yes, ‘good’ King Harry died with much blood dripping from his gold-furrowed brow, yet he entered whatever eternity he merited considering himself a Catholic, and, I recall, had in his will that ten thousand Masses were to be offered for his soul. Likely he thought he may well need them. Of course, with Thomas More, his most famous victim, we know not the depths of the King’s troubled conscience, but the sharp lawyerly mind of More saw where Henry’s decision to cast off from Roman and papal authority, by appointing Archbishop Cranmer to annul his marriage to Catherine in defiance of Rome, would lead.  That was why More went to the scaffold and lost his head, rather than sign the document declaring Henry ‘Head of the Church in England’.

 

Three centuries later, Cardinal John Henry Newman saw the effects of Henry’s schismatic decision even more clearly: In his own attempt to formulate an Anglican via media between the flatness and austerity of pure Protestantism (what was then known as latitudinarianism), and what he saw as the excesses of a too-Italian-and-florid Rome, Newman diligently read the Fathers of the Church, to find an ‘essentially properly British Christianity’ in the early Church.

 

But the great and truthful mind of Newman soon realized, as he put it, that to delve into history is to cease to be a Protestant, for, as he discovered, from the very earliest days the Church had a Pope, who was bishop of Rome from the get-go, a world-wide episcopacy, a Magisterium, all the sacraments and many of the sacramentals, an all-male celibate priesthood, a solid teaching and disciplinary authority, canon law, rules of marriage, all of what we call the ‘Roman Catholic Church’. There was no getting around it: Christ founded the Roman Catholic Church, with a Pope, who has full, supreme, universal authority.  There is no such thing as an ‘Anglican Church’, but rather the Catholic Church in England, of which the Pope is the head, not Henry, nor his current successor, Elizabeth.

 

Newman saw too that Protestantism, for all its claims to the contrary, by its own principles, leads eventually to agnosticism and secularism, as we have just witnessed in full display at the recent Anglican Synod. It is ironic that King Henry, who has claim as the founder of an Anglicanism now covered in rainbow flags, banners and stoles, was, to put it mildly, not tolerant of homosexuality. In fact, he would not be considered a Homophobe of the Highest Order.  The year 1533 saw him spearhead law which made homosexual liasons, referred to as ‘buggery’ in the law, punishable by no less than hanging.  A brutal retribution by a brutal man in a brutal age, we would say, but such was the custom of the times where even minor thefts could have you killed in even more barbarous ways (read up on what ‘hung, drawn and quartered’ really refers to). We, of course, would now universally condemn such punishment, but we nevertheless still hold as Christians, nay, even just as simple men, that same-sex eroticism is immoral, and can provide no basis for a ‘marriage’.

 

Sad, sad, that the Anglican community, which began in schism, drifted over the years into heresy, and now is swimming in secularity, immorality and irrelevance.

 

There is a big silver lining to this:  With Newman and a host of others, disaffected Anglicans who no longer have a place in their ecclesial community can always swim over to Catholicism and the one, true Church.  Pope Benedict XVI made this much easier, with his 2009 foundation of the Anglican Ordinariate, providing, as the document states, the general normative structure for regulating the institution and life of Personal Ordinariates for those Anglican faithful who desire to enter into the full communion of the Catholic Church in a corporate manner.

 

That is, the constitution permits and even encourages Anglicans who convert to the fullness of the Faith to enter as a corporate body, keeping their liturgy, customs, music and, not least, the unmatched liturgical and Scriptural translations of the Shakespearean era.

 

So to all Anglicans out there, I say, welcome home, fratres in Christo.

 

Saint Henry, Emperor, true and faithful son of the Church, ora pro nobis!

 

Nota in Brevis July 13: Laws, Trump and post-Brexit

brazilian policeFor those of you who, perhaps rightly so, misconstrued my article on the collapse of the rule of law, please do be aware that my intention was not to present an anti-cop, nor pro-‘Black Lives Matter’ piece, but rather to use the current situation in America to show that ‘law’, understood in the broad sense as a balance of authorities, is breaking down, a result of the more fundamental crumbling of our moral foundation. The fact that police officers now fear for their lives every time they approach a vehicle is proof of this. Will we all now face a loaded pistol in our face, with a sweaty, twitchy finger on the trigger, every time we are pulled over for a traffic peccadillo? Or will we all have to exit our vehicle, and lie spread-eagled on the tarmac, hands folded behind our head? What are police allowed, and not allowed to do with the civilians whom they are hired to ‘serve and protect’? As is natural, and bombast aside, most police officers in the heat of the moment are more concerned with protecting their own lives than yours.  If there is no law, nor clear procedure for police, where does this all end? The slippery slope to Brazil, Colombia, or any other even worse tin-pot dictatorship, where the police-military rule a state of anarchy and chaos, is not as far as most people might think.  As I have written before, who will guard the guardians, if the guardians have no law, or are above what law there is?

 

trump climate changeThe headline stated that, if elected, Trump would be the only candidate to reject climate change. I truly dislike ambiguity, especially of the deliberate variety.  Of course, the climate is changing, perhaps even radically so.  What Trump ‘denies’, or at least is dubious of, as far as I know, is the anthropogenic cause of this change of climate.  Is it all, or mostly, caused by human activity, or inactivity? That, dear reader, is the billion-trillion dollar question, for a lot hangs in the balance, from population control, to economic stagnation, to United Nations control of sovereign countries, to our whole view of the cosmos and Man’s place therein.

 

Here is the current consensus:

 

According to NASA, 97 per cent of climate scientists agree that the world is getting hotter and that man-made carbon emissions are to blame. Ten of the warmest years in history have occurred in the past 12. Studies show the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets have decreased in mass, while the world’s oceans have risen on average nearly 18 cm in the last century.

 

That is disingenuous, for the “97%” is of a very selected group, a congratulatory, mutually reinforcing climate-change glee club.  Many reputable and well-published scientists also deny the reality of anthropogenic climate change, but they are not included in whatever group constitutes the ‘97%’.  Rather, they are shunned, fired, ostracized, not allowed to publish, denied funds and so on.  One need not be a conspiracy theorist to realize that there is something a lot like a conspiracy (that is, a ‘breathing together’) going on here, not to mention the grafting of untold amounts of money.

 

theresa mayBritish politics just gets weirder.  After the Brexit vote, most of the campaigners, for and against, left the field to re-enter whatever ‘private’ life they have. Now even the Prime Minister has walked off the job. Not realizing his microphone was still on after his brief resignation speech, he was heard (and recorded) humming a little hip-hop ditty to himself, along the lines of too-doo-da-doo, which has, of course, been remixed both as a classical fantasy and dance tune or my favorite is the lady who develops the short ditty into a Bach fugue. (You could spend a whole evening perusing the memes on this theme). O joy, o bliss…Well, would you want to lead Britain at this point forward?  Now it is left to a woman, Theresa May, to bring Britain through the stormy days ahead, but from initial reports, she is no Maggie Thatcher.  We can pray that she may rise to the occasion, before the island nation goes adrift in its own troubles.

Potty Mouth: A Reflection on ‘Swearing’

swearubgI have been asked to write about what is euphemistically, and rather incorrectly, known as ‘swearing’.  We have all perhaps heard our younger siblings yell, “Muuuum! Jimmy swore!”.

 

Yet Jimmy did not really ‘swear’, unless he is beyond his years, or brought into a court of law.  Swearing literally is taking a solemn oath, only permitted, as Scripture and Saint Thomas make clear, under the most serious of circumstances. One swears by something higher than oneself, as Christ said, often by God, but also by other sacred persons, things, or even one’s ancestors.

 

To take such an oath, to ‘swear’ without sufficient reason, or, worse, to perjure oneself by lying under oath, is a grave offense. This is especially grievous when one uses the Lord’s name ‘in vain’, either as an expletive or in anger.  This is what is known as ‘blasphemy’.  How grave this is for any individual only God Himself can really judge, but in essence, the name of God, of Christ or of any sacred person or thing should be treated with veneration and respect, as a prayer or invocation.

 

What we usually mean be ‘swearing’ is what Jimmy’s sibling meant: That he exercised his ‘potty mouth’, using either scatological or sexual language to emphasize his point.  We do this by euphemisms describing the lower actions of our nature, which we share with animals, with guttural and consonantal terms, often of one syllable, or the infamous ‘four letters’, and then let ‘er rip.  As you are aware if you watch movies or walk outside near any urban centre, our culture is now awash in such usage, as nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, emphatics, commands and whatever else comes to mind.

 

Besides demonstrating a significant lack of vocabulary and imagination, there is nothing wrong with referring to these bodily actions in the right way and at the right time.  But there is a coarseness in using them in the wrong way, at the wrong time and with the wrong word.

 

First, to the sexual, which is the more serious, for sex is sacred, something holy, intimate and private, or it damn well should be (excuse me, but I think that was the proper use of a four letter word.  For one is indeed facing damnation by misusing this sacred act). To utilize terms referring to sexual activity, especially of the illegitimate variety, or to sexual organs, as a means of emphasizing one’s speech, shows a lack of respect for the sacredness and intimacy of sex. This is even worse when the terms themselves are degrading of sex, like the f-word, so ubiquitous that it is almost made irrelevant, but that itself speaks volumes.  People know not of what they speak, and what was it Christ said about idle words, and, I would add, especially idle words that are supposed to be sacred?

 

Scatological terms, referring to bathroom activities and related ilk, are also problematical. Some things concerning the more animal and bodily aspects of our nature should be veiled in privacy, for to bring them out into the open degrades us as humans by making us, well, too animalistic. There is nothing wrong or shameful about these activities in themselves, but they must also be put into their proper place and time.  No one really wants to be seen ‘going to the bathroom’, and to sprinkle one’s speech with references to various bodily effluences shows a vulgarity and lack of tact.

 

Indeed, in all of this, what is most wrong with ‘swearing’ (in the broad sense), and the use of such language, is that it leads to coarseness of soul, and, eventually, to coarseness in one’s actions. One whittles away one’s moral resistance, by giving way to one’s lower impulses, whether these be anger, or something more sexual and sensual.  It has been said that ‘clothes make the man’, but more true is that the thought makes the speech, which in turn reinforces the thought, which then makes the action, which really does make the man, if you follow my logic.

 

In short, we are how we think, speak and act.

 

‘Manners are the gateway to morals’, and manners are also the safeguard of morals. If we allow ourselves to become coarsened and unmannered, we will soon, methinks, become immoral as well, for we have ‘let go’ of that restraint upon our lower impulses.

 

Ponder the words of the Apostle James from the third chapter of his Scriptural letter:

 

For we all make many mistakes, and if any one makes no mistakes in what he says he is a perfect man, able to bridle the whole body also.
If we put bits into the mouths of horses that they may obey us, we guide their whole bodies.
Look at the ships also; though they are so great and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs.
So the tongue is a little member and boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by a small fire!
And the tongue is a fire. The tongue is an unrighteous world among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the cycle of nature, and set on fire by hell

 

There is nothing ‘manly’ about letting one’s tongue loose with vulgarity.  In fact, that is effeminacy and weakness hiding behind a superficial veneer of ‘strength’, what John Paul II termed ‘machismo’, a mockery and inversion of true ‘masculinity’, so rife in our society filled with vasectomized men mouthing sexual expletives, boasting of their past or future non-existent, or pathetic, exploits, when in reality they are home impotently watching porn, chewing Viagra in vain hope of recapturing their libido; and they all voted for Trudeau. The parody of true manliness in our society is almost beyond parody.

 

Nay, it is only the man who can control himself, tongue, mind, body and soul, who can truly become master of himself. And it is just such real men that real women want.

 

Excursus:

 

A final note for Catholics out there, who think that vulgar speech is a good way to evangelize and ‘fit in with the crowd':  Although it may be beneficial to adopt some aspects of those amongst whom we live and work, there must be a limit and a balance:  Would you get drunk, fornicate, blaspheme, or condone those activities in others? When it comes to speech, to be sure, one must avoid being a prig, overly censorious, or expostulating like an Oxford don.

 

Yet, it does not seem wise to lower one’s speech to their vulgar level, for one would simply be reinforcing what is disordered not only in them, but in ourselves, and this especially applies to sexual colloquialisms. Far better to show one’s fellow beings what it means to speak well, but vigorously, to tell a story without dotting one’s sentences with the f-word and other debasements. There are over one million words in the English language, give or take (most adults know only about 20-35,000, or about 3%, but use, we may presume, far fewer).  Well, let’s start using some of them, and elevating our lexicon, our manners and our morals.  But most of the time, do what Christ would do, using simple, direct speech, a much more effective means of evangelization.

 

robert duvalAnd before we close this topic, allow me an anecdote:  I recall a film I saw years  ago starring Michael Douglas (often a bad sign), Falling Down, wherein he played a down-and-out angry white male, who just could not take it anymore. His protagonist was Robert Duvall, a hesitant, doubting, beta-male cop, ridiculed and mocked by his alpha-male police chief for, amongst other things, Duvall’s refusal to use foul language.  In one of the last scenes of the film, Duvall ‘stands up’ to the bullying chief, after he is congratulated, by responding, (I quote from hazy memory) ‘thank you, thank you very (f***ing) much’.  Ooooh…

 

I leave it to the reader to decide whether this made him more, or less, of a man.

 

I was waiting for ol’ Bobby to drive his metatarsal into the testicular region of the illegitimate offspring of a female canine, followed by a solid upper-cut.  (No intended slight to his mother, of course, for this is all analogical).

 

But even better, by far, would be to elevate the chief with some words of wisdom, that uncouth language befits not his badge nor his authority. Nor does it befit us as humans, eternal beings enfleshed for a time in an animal body, but created in the very image of God, and called to eternity with Him forever. In that light, should not all our language correspond with our own station and calling?

Saint Benedict: Ora et Labora

saint benedictToday is the feast of Saint Benedict (ca. 480-547), the father of Western monasticism and one of the main forces in preserving Western culture through the tumultuous years of post-antiquity. His retreat from the world, paradoxically, is what saved the world, as he and his monks, guided by Benedict’s wise and prudent regula or rule (well worth a persual even by laymen), worked and prayed, copying manuscripts, turning arid soil into fruitful farmland, developing Gregorian chant (not just the most perfect sung praise of God, but also the foundation of all western music), building permanent structures which provided aid and hospitality to all guests, rich and most especially the poor.

 

The notion of the ‘Dark Ages’ has been grossly overstated, a hyperbole foisted by the likes of Gibbon and Voltaire, for, as most balanced historians such as Rodney Stark have persuasively argued, although chaotic politically, they were not ‘dark’ at all, but rather formed the basis of much of our modern technology and learning.

 

As  many Catholics ponder their own ‘Benedict option’, retreating from the world to save their souls, we should keep in mind that our task here is also to help redeem the world, and many souls besides our own, as Benedict himself realized full well. We must not hide our lights under bushel baskets, but let our light, and the full truth of our Catholic faith, shine upon the world, even if preserving and fostering that light does require some level of retreat and silence, in work and in prayer.

 

Saint Bendict, ora (et labora!) pro nobis!

Trudeau at Auschwitz: A Study in Irony

trudeau auschwitzOur poseur Prime Minister, who loves backdrops, as do most politicians I suppose, fresh from his front-and-centre presence at the licentious ‘Gay Pride’ Parade, just visited what remains of the labour/death camps at Auschwitz.  A curious juxtaposition, one might think.

 

I was at Auschwitz last May, and you may peruse my own thoughts if you are so inclined, but here is what Justin Trudeau, described in the National Post as “sombre and visibly moved”, while wiping away tears, penned in a memorial book on the site:

 

Today we bear witness to humanity’s deliberate capacity for cruelty and evil…May we ever remember this painful truth about ourselves and may it strengthen our commitment to never again allow such darkness to prevail

 

Fine words, one might think, but Trudeau seems ignorant of the fact that the Nazi death machine had its origins in Germany’s own fully legal-and-approved euthanasia program, run by psychiatrists and high-level government officials, to put to death mercifully those who could most benefit from such a release from apparently tragic and pointless suffering, as I also recently described.  Trudeau sees not the irony that he himself just recently spearheaded the legislation to permit similar euthanasia death laws in Canada, and, lest we forget, his support for abortion is vocal and unflinching.

 

The fundamental evil of the Nazis was not specifically the killing of the Jews, (for, although this is the greatest evil for which they are remembered, they did not start there, and they extended their murderous rampage to many others), but rather the denial of human dignity to particular kinds of people, not least the Jewish people. As soon as the State can determine who has the right to life, and who does not, we are already in the realm of what has unfortunately been linked with ‘Nazism’, the one go-to entity that embodies evil. But such evil is of the essence of any number of God-less authoritarian regimes, from Maoist China to Stalinist Russia, who killed far more than Hitler and his deranged henchmen.

 

And, we must ask, how are we much different, in denying the full rights and the dignity of humanity to the unborn, and now to the sick, frail and elderly?

 

Trudeau and his fellow-travelers are the very ones who are allowing ‘such darkness to prevail’, although they couch their words in fine-sounding slogans of human rights and dignity, of Canadian ‘values’ and compassion. Yet their euphemisms are largely empty, as they inexorably promote and legislate the culture of death.

 

We should recall the words  of the great John Paul II in Evangelium Vitae which, sadly, I do not think the Prime Minister has read:

 

 It is therefore urgently necessary, for the future of society and the development of a sound democracy, to rediscover those essential and innate human and moral values which flow from the very truth of the human being and express and safeguard the dignity of the person: values which no individual, no majority and no State can ever create, modify or destroy, but must only acknowledge, respect and promote.

The Collapse of the Rule of Law

philanod and aaronAnother day, and more mayhem, with no end in sight.  Five police officers assassinated, others wounded, by snipers at a Black Lives Matter protest, after two black men were killed recently in dubious circumstances by (white) police officers. And, of course, dozens have been killed by bombings in the Middle East, Sunni versus Shiite, and those are just the ones that make the news over here.  As you may be aware, most Islamic terrorism is committed against other Muslims, based on what (to us) seem like rather esoteric historical, genealogical and religious differences.

 

Yet they may say the same about us, as America descends into its own form of civil war.

 

The problem here is that a society can only function under the rule of law, which has two basic elements:

 

First, the society must be governed by well-thought-out written laws, and not by the arbitrary will of men, acting on the spur of the moment.

 

Second, there must be various powers and authorities that balance each other, so that no one person or group governs autocratically, with complete immunity from correction.  These balances of powers are subsumed under the legislative, the executive and the judicial branches, which, respectively, make laws, enforce laws and judge whether and how a law has been broken.

 

The rule of law appears to have broken down completely in most areas of the Middle East, and the same thing is, to a lesser extent, happening in America. When certain segments of the population can rely upon immunity from prosecution (Hilary Clinton, politicians in general, and, to some extent, police and the military), the populace feels they can no longer rely upon the law, which becomes arbitrary, wobbly. Then the populace feels they have to take ‘the law’ into their own hands.

 

But that leads to an oxymoronic situation, for if each man is his own law, then there is no law.

 

I have thought much about authority, which is defined as the ‘quality by which men make laws and expect obedience from others’ (CCC, #1904).  I have thought about those who seek authority, a desire which is, to my mind, somewhat pathological. “Seek not to lord it over men” said Christ, and He is stating not just a supernatural, but a natural truth.

 

In many ways, the last person I would choose to be a police officer, or president of the United States, is the person who most wants to be a police officer or president. Public office, especially one with lots of authority, particularly wielding lethal force, should be a service, that one takes on as a burden, not something that one seeks with mouth a-panting and eyes a-blazing.

 

Yet our executive branch seems filled with such pathological types who have seen way too many movies, and cannot wait to strap on a gun and ‘enforce the law’.  I did not watch the live-stream video of the death of Philando Castile, which was filmed by his girlfriend beside him, with his child in the back seat, as he was shot point-blank four times by an officer pointing a gun in the window after a traffic stop, but what I did read and the still pictures were tragic enough. The other shooting of Alton Sterling outside a strip mall where he was selling CD’s (also recorded on video), was about as tragic:  Shot point blank in the chest as he was held down by two officers; true enough, he did have a gun, but to defend himself against robbers, since the only job he could get was selling stuff on the street for cash.

 

Part of the problem is that many of our laws are niggling pieces of bad  and ill-considered legislation, yet enforced with lethal weapons. And the police, desperate in the panic of the moment to defend their own lives, have recourse to such lethal force all too easily.

 

Now, in retaliation, the killing and wounding of police officers, with more violence threatened.

 

What is the answer?

 

That is a difficult question, for we live in a society that has let go of virtue and honour, of manners and civility, of family upbringing and the ties that bind us to God, to ourselves and to others. I am not much of an advocate for gun control, but when everyone has access to high-powered weapons, with little or no limitations, one can see the situation escalating very quickly. A state of nascent civil war may be upon us.

 

The only answer I can see, short of total martial law (which would breed other evils) is a return to virtue and to God, even if that means suffering violence. Returning violence for violence, especially against the innocent, only leads to chaos and mayhem.

 

Will the United States descend into a state similar to Iraq? One never knows, but we should pray that cooler heads prevail, and the rule of law reinforced.

 

We are perhaps now discovering the truth taught by Pope Leo XIII in 1885:

 

To exclude the Church, founded by God Himself, from life, from laws, from the education of youth, from domestic society is a grave and fatal error. A State from which religion is banished can never be well regulated (Immortale Dei, #32)

 

And by ‘religion’, the Pope means Catholicism, and not the false premises of Islam, or other erroneous faiths. The most fundamental oxymoron in all of this is that there is such a thing as a ‘God-less’ or secular State. The only way to re-instantiate the rule of law is to re-instantiate the rule of God in the hearts and minds of the people.

 

 

Maria Goretti and the Noon-Day Devil

maria gorettiOn a hot and sweltering July 6th in a small farming town in the fetid area outside of Rome, one hundred and four years ago today, a young maiden of not-yet twelve years old was viciously stabbed fourteen times with an awl by an eigtheen-year old Alessandro Serenelli, enraged by frustrated lust, because she refused to submit to his sexual advances.

 

Scripture in Psalm 91 speaks of the ‘noonday devil’, which in the tradition has come to signify the lust that arises in the heat of the day, often as a man takes his siesta. It is connected with sloth or acedia, a spiritual sadness that seeks solace in sensual pleasure, against which the early Fathers of the Church warned.  We see its tragic consequences in the story of King David, listlessly wandering around the roof of his palace while his men are off at war, when, ‘late one afternoon’, the bored King voyeured the disrobed Bathsheeba bathing next door. We all know the adultery and  murder which followed.

 

Our world has accepted lust as normal, and does not even use the term.  In fact, as I wrote in a previous article, any deviancy is fine so long as you have ‘adult consent’, but one need not ponder long to realize that ‘adult’ and ‘consent’ are rather vague terms.

 

Alessandro Serenelli was addicted to pornography, in the form it existed in early 20th century Italy, with photographs and drawings and his own interior imaginings. Because Maria Goretti’s father had died, her family had to move in with the Serenellis.  Alessandro was thus in close propinquity with the beautiful and virtuous young girl, developing quickly into an attractive woman.  Rather than try to court her honourably, which, who knows, may have been possible, the young man allowed himself to be taken over like King David of yore by the ‘noonday devil’.

 

The world has, of course, normalized pornography, with the feting of Hugh Hefner, his ‘Playboy’ mansion filled with beautiful sad and tragic women who know not their fate.  His deviant lifestyle is raconteured in rock songs and films, as something both alluring and humorous. Every guy ‘does  it’, so why not just accept it, bring it maintstream, make a profit, ensrhine it as a profession.

 

But pornograpy, along with the lust it breeds and fosters, is always deleterious and harmful, a plague upon the soul and upon society. True enough, not everyone delving into porn becomes a would-be rapist, in the same way that not every smoker develops stage IV lung cancer. But smoking  is always unhealthy  and bad for you.

 

Even more so, at a deep spiritual and psychosexual level, is pornography evil and ‘bad for you’.  One is at least opening oneself to demonic powers. Chastity is defined as the “successful integration of sexuality within the person” (CCC, par. 2337).  Lust, its opposite, is the dis-integration of the person, to the point where he will even commit murder to get what he wants.  Besides deep hunger, nothing so motivates a man, and it is especially men, like the sexual drive.  And when it becomes detached from reason and virtue, the whole person unravels.

 

The townspeople, when Maria’s bleeding body was discovered, wanted to lynch Alessandro, but the police intervened. Maria took 24 hours to die, after unsuccesful surgery without anasthesia.  She forgave her murderer before she passed into eternity.

 

Alessandro was sentenced to 30 years in prison, commuted from a possible life sentence, or even death, due to the difficult circumstances of his upbringing and the pleas of his mother. For years, he remained uncommunicative and unrepentant, until Maria, as he said, appeared to him in a dream, giving him lilies, a sign of purity, which ‘burned in his hands’.

 

He slowly and gradually began to see the evil of what he had done, and at the end of his sentence, he went first to Maria’s mother Assunta to beg her forgiveness.  Alessandro joined the Capuchin Franciscans as a lay-brother, and spent the rest of his life in humble work, prayer and repentance. He was present with Maria’s family at her canonization in 1950 by Pius XII.

 

As a good priest friend of mine recently mentioned, it is providential that the Pope put forward Maria Goretti as a ‘martyr for chastity’ at the very dawn of the sexual revolution, when all hell would quite literally break loose, a hell in which we are still living. Peruse a recent very honest article by Ann Maloney  (which I had trouble reading, and it still stays with me) describing the sad and irrevocable, and sometimes horrific, effects of the ‘hook-up’ (read: lust-driven) culture, particularly on  young women.

 

As we see in Alessandro, there is always time to turn back, and hope for all of us. We should pray to Saint Maria that our culture may escape from the snares of the ‘noonday devil’, and recapture the joy of chastity and friendship, which is the only way to true sexual intimacy in the covenant of matrimony.  Anything else is a lie, which some of us learn, if we learn at all, like Alessandro, the hard way.