L’Arche, Pronouns and Police

vanierL’Arche, the community founded by Jean Vanier, has clarified his ambiguous comments upon euthanasia, upon which I wrote a few months ago. You can read their brief, one page comments here, and make up your own minds how clear they are.  I find that there is still a trace of ambiguity in this clarificatio, but perhaps that is just me.  Anyway, I am glad that they wanted to reaffirm the commitment of L’Arche to the protection of life at all stages and conditions, as only befits such an apostolate.

 

Rex Murphy has a good commentary on Professor Jordan Peterson, the infamous rebel who has dared rebel against the Perpetually Vigilant Pronoun and Politically Correct Language Everywhere and At All Times Police.  As you may know, Dr. Peterson has produced a few YouTube videos explaining why he refuses, and will continue to refuse, to use the ridiculous, mind-altering gender-inclusive pronouns such as ze, zhe, zir and so on, made up out of thin illogical air.  I am glad to see that sane minds think alike, as I wrote on this recently. But sane minds are becoming more rare, as the zombification of our culture, and especially the Millennials, spreads ever further afield in the bizarre, stifling halls that count for modern academia. It truly is like the invasion of the body snatchers, but here they steal your mind and souls. The Spanish Inquisition had nothing on these ideologues, who will apparently stop at nothing to have their way.  The dictatorship of relativism, as predicted by the ever-prescient Pope Benedict, is fast afoot. Continue to resist, good Dr. Peterson, and be not assimilated.

 

A recent RCMP arrest has raised questions of over-use of police force, as burly officers are seen dragging an ‘elderly man’ down a staircase.  Of course, we don’t know ‘all the facts’, but we should recall that the rule of law requires that any authority be balanced by other authorities in society, along with written and strictly enforced codes of conduct.  The great the force, the greater the vigilance required, and we should recall that police have deadly force at their disposal. Quis cusdoiet ipsos custodes?  Who indeed will guard the guardians, if the guardians themselves are ungoverned?

 

Do I even comment on Tom Hanks and Ron Howard and the newest instalment of Dan Brown’s series of misinformed, slanderous novels on Christianity?  No.  But I will say that even secular reviewers are wishing this whole sorry mess would just die the death it so deservedly deserves.

 

And on that note, here’s wishing all our readers, their friends and families a very joyous All Hallowed Eve and All Saints Day.  Remember that you can gain a plenary indulgence for visiting a cemetery in the next octave of days, saying a prayer for the faithful departed, with the usual conditions.

 

IVF, FBI and Lost Causes

simon-and-judeSome stories sum up the insanity of our world in a way I find almost profound.  Apparently, a male homosexual sperm donor donated his ‘seed’ to a female friend, back when they were in medical school together. She raised the children, both now teenagers, while he stayed involved to some degree in their lives, as what he terms a ‘spuncle’.  They signed an agreement in 2002 that he would not be liable for any financial support.

 

Now, however, the mother is suing for child support, claiming that Dr. Ransom, as the deviant doctor is named, has acted as a father all along, sending emails, even having the teens over for a week in Italy with his ‘partner’. What he’s doing in Italy, after having us pay for most of his education, is another story.

 

What, oh what, is not wrong with this picture?  The Church predicted such mayhem back in 1987, in the Instruction Donum Vitae, warning of the evils of artificial fertilization, reiterated in 2008 in the updated Dignitatis Personae. Neither physician, I would presume, has even heard of these pearls of heavenly wisdom, and we wonder why our medical system is in such dire straits.

 

Besides the deficient upbringing these two teens are receiving, do you think these doctors will resist the culture of death, and not kill people with scarcely a peep from their warped and erroneous conscience? Unlike the Nazis, they will not even have to justify themselves. God help anyone who enters a hospital in any even-near moribund state.

 

It now turns out that the FBI is going to probe Hillary Clinton’s emails after all, after a new spate of leaked documents related somehow to Anthony Weiner’s sexually suggestive ‘sexts’. Well, Mr. Weiner (I know, I know) is married to Huma Abedin, a Muslim, and the vice-chair ‘person’ of Ms. Clinton’s campaign.  Who knows what this is all about, but likely guaranteed is more Clinton corruption, and subversion of the rule of law.

 

What this does to the campaign with ten days to go is anyone’s guess. There is a groundswell in America, with a lot of people fed up with political entitlement and, unlike Obama’s campaign of 2008, things really are now ripe for a change.

 

Today is the feast of Saints Simon and Jude, mentioned briefly in the Gospels, but of whom little is known for absolute certain beyond that.  Jude is the patron saint of ‘lost causes’, of which there are many in our world (see above).  But we all have our personal ‘lost causes’, which are not really lost in the sight of God, who can even raise the dead to life.

 

So worry not; cast all your cares upon Him, for He cares for you, as the chief Apostle Peter reminds us. For all manner of things will ultimately be well.

 

Saints Simon and Jude, orate pro nobis!

Of Angels, Football and Moola

guardian-angelsWell, some news stories have sort-of-happy endings.  A distraught father, after arguing with his wife, ‘kidnaped’ his two toddler sons, drove to a bridge, and jumped in with them in his arms, in an apparent attmpted murder-suicide.  Reports on the height of the bridge vary from 15 to 30 metres, which is survivable (I have jumped from 15 metres, in my younger days).  I read somewhere that the height of near-certain death is 100 feet, or just over the 30 metre mark.

 

Anyway, the unfortunate man died (requiescat in pace), but the police found his two sons, perhaps miraculously, alive and well, without life-threatening injuries.

 

Some stories do corroborate one’s belief in angels, especially those of children, whose guardians, as Christ warns us, see the face of God, and watch over each hair of their heads.

 

And speaking of angels, perhaps they are leading people away from the inanity that is NFL football, and professional sports in general.  Viewership has dropped precipitously, by double digits, and all I can say is, I cannot see much appeal in a bloated, boring game, with oversized men in spandex  wrapped in kevlar pummelling each other, with most of the plays ending within seconds.  Ponder that in a regular 3 hour-plus football game (and even the name, where their feet rarely ever touch the ball), there is on average 11 minutes or so of actual play.  Almost all of what you watch in the other 169 minutes or so is of cheerleaders, players dawdling around, replays and commercials.  No wonder there are so many bathroom breaks during the SuperBowl, and why swilling beer seems a near-necessity to get through to the end.

 

I have written  before on the many problems with modern sports, not least their merecenary, professional televised versions, and perhaps people are waking up.

 

Yes, it does seem rather odd that we pay our sports figures untold amounts of cash, while the common Canadian, and Canada itself, drowns in debt, the combined total of which, government, companies and households, even I was surprised to learn, is a whopping $4.4 trillion, and that is in U.S. dollars. Easy debt is a great evil in any society, but especially one as lacking in discipline and moral principles as Canada.  Who cares about the future, when you can get the Toyota Tundra and the house in the suburbs now?

 

Pope Leo XIII, in his 1891 encyclical Rerum Novarum, praised the virtue of providence, by which a man plans and prepares for the future, saving his money, instead of living only for the present.  Now, before you rebut, this is not what Christ meant when He taught that we should not worry about tomorrow:  That was a warning against anxiety, and a lack of  trust in God.  Au contraire in this case:  I would advocate some level of deep concern over how far we can carry this debt, especially while the out-of-control Liberals, at both levels of government, seem drunk on spending, to keep everyone happy as long as possible, especially the millions on their direct and indirect payroll.

 

That is, until the credit runs out, and the creditor comes-a-callin’.

How Catholic is Kaine?

tim-kaineA recent flattering article in the New Yorker describes Tim Kaine, Hillary Clinton’s vice-presidential running mate, as a “devout Roman Catholic.” Not only that, but the paean proceeds to declare that the pious senator “is more comfortable quoting Scripture than any Democrat to reach the level of Presidential politics since Jimmy Carter”.  There is more: “When “(a)sked to name his heroes, Kaine begins with Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German Lutheran theologian who was executed by the Nazis for his involvement in a plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler”.

 

Whew, a veritable martyr in the making, as all Catholics should be, one might think.  Yet, Senator Kaine does not make clear exactly for what principles he would be willing to die.  To put it mildly, he seems rather fuzzy on his Catholic doctrine, and I am not sure what gives the New Yorker, not known for its Catholicism, to say nothing of its Catholic orthodoxy, the right to determine who is, or who is not, a ‘devout Catholic’.

 

Of course, the Church herself does have that right. In a statement last July, Bishop Thomas Tobin, of the diocese of Providence, declared,

 

Senator Kaine has said, ‘My faith is central to everything I do.’ But apparently, and unfortunately, his faith isn’t central to his public, political life.”

 

No kidding.  Kaine is no Thomas More. The aforementioned article mentions that “(s)ome Catholics criticize Kaine for his political support of abortion rights, same-sex marriage, and the ordination of women as priests”.

 

But Kaine has a reply at the ready. In line with his apparent proclivity to quote Scripture, he compares himself, with some degree of unaware hubris one might think, to the Good Samaritan:

 

Who’s beaten up and lying on the side of the road now? Is it somebody in an immigration detention camp? Is it an L.G.B.T. kid who’s going to a high school and getting bullied and feeling not only bullied in high school but feeling like the governor of their state is kicking them around?”

 

As is the wont of too many politicians, Mr. Kaine avoids the central point and obfuscates the issues at hand.  There is a long and tortuous road from unjust discrimination against homosexuals and immigrants (which we are all against) to the folly of same-sex ‘marriage’ and the dismantling of our borders. The question, rather, should not begin with what we should do with immigrants and “L.G.B.T” kids, but what one believes about the truth, and how that makes, or does not make, one a ‘Catholic’.

 

The first and foundational requisite for being a member of the Church (indeed, of any religious body) is faith, which the Church defines as “an act of the intellect, assenting to the divine truth, by command of the will, moved by God through grace“.  This definition in the Catechism (par. 155) is drawn from Saint Thomas Aquinas, in his treatise on faith in the Summa Theologica (II-II q.2 a.9).

 

We may begin with faith at its most basic natural level:  Most of what we think we ‘know’, we actually hold by faith.  Few of us could prove that the chemical formula for water is H2O, or that Antarctica exists, or even what people tell us about themselves, but we by and large accept these truths, assenting to the authority whence they come.

 

Of course, some truths seem more reasonable to us, and are held with greater firmness, than others.  To answer why this is the case, Thomas draws a distinction between the formal and material objects of faith: The formal object is the authority in which we put our trust: scientists, books, bridge builders, friends, teachers.  The material object are the truths we hold based on this authority:  Chemical formulae, the stability of bridges, the trustworthiness of our acquaintances, the truth given by teachers.

 

Very simply, the material object is what we believe, the formal object is why we believe it (cf., II-II q.1 a.1).

 

The same holds for faith at the supernatural level, as a theological virtue, but here the formal object is God Himself, Who speaks through Christ and His Church.  The material object is the truth of what He speaks, all the myriad and necessary truths revealed for salvation.

 

Which brings us to the key difference between natural and supernatural faith, namely, the authority of the formal object: God cannot be ‘wrong’, and He ensures that all the truth taught definitively by His Church on faith and morals is guarded by the charism of infallibility.

 

That is why, unlike natural faith, one must hold all the truths revealed by God through His Church, for to deny even just one is to deny not merely one aspect of the material object (as can be done with a fallible natural authority), but rather the authority of the formal object, God Himself.

 

As Saint Thomas puts it in his own pithy way, answering his own question whether a heretic may still maintain faith after rejecting one revealed truth:

 

Now it is manifest that he who adheres to the teaching of the Church, as to an infallible rule, assents to whatever the Church teaches; otherwise, if, of the things taught by the Church, he holds what he chooses to hold, and rejects what he chooses to reject, he no longer adheres to the teaching of the Church as to an infallible rule, but to his own will. Hence it is evident that a heretic who obstinately disbelieves one article of faith, is not prepared to follow the teaching of the Church in all things” (II-II. q.5 a.3)

 

I always wonder what other religions have as their ‘formal object’.  Protestants confess sola Scriptura, but how reliable, really, is one’s own personal interpretation of the Bible? They all depend to some extent on the traditions and the authority of their various ecclesial communities, but even these, to a greater or lesser degree, have drifted from the truth.  Islam professes absolute belief in the Qur’an, but the various derivations have become so unhinged from objective truth in so many fundamental ways, it hardly needs explanation.  And what really are the moral teachings of Buddhism and Hinduism?  Is anything binding, and even what is, is it true and connatural to who we are as human beings made in God’s image?

 

As far as avowed atheists go, their only source of moral authority is their own fallible and self-justifying reason.  Perhaps, as Vatican II teaches, they can dimly hear the voice of God in this way through the whisperings of conscience, but they more often than not go way off base (cf., Lumen Gentium, 16).

 

It seems clear that if God is really to communicate with us human beings, we would need something like the Catholic Church, with an official Magisterium, teaching with the infallible authority of Christ Himself, which binds us in conscience to the truth.

 

I must admit that I have no primary sources nor first-hand evidence for Mr. Kaine’s opinions, nor how nuanced his positions are, but hisavowed, unabashed  and unwavering support for both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, two of the most vocal and intransigent pro-abortion-rights politicians ever to walk this Earth since the days of Carthage, speaks volumes.

 

Suffice to say here that, whatever his opinions, all of the truths listed in the New Yorker piece, abortion, male-only priesthood, homosexual ‘marriage’, have been clearly defined by the Catholic Church, binding not only upon Catholics but, in an extended sense, upon all of mankind.

 

To take but a sample: Here is Pope John Paul II on the doctrine of the male-only priesthood from the conclusion to his 1992 Apostolic Letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis:

 

Wherefore, in order that all doubt may be removed regarding a matter of great importance, a matter which pertains to the Church’s divine constitution itself, in virtue of my ministry of confirming the brethren (cf. Lk 22:32) I declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church’s faithful” (par. 4).

 

This teaching was clarified by then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger in a Responsum from 1995:

 

Dubium: Whether the teaching that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women, which is presented in the Apostolic Letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis to be held definitively, is to be understood as belonging to the deposit of faith.

 

Responsum: Affirmative.

 

This teaching requires definitive assent, since, founded on the written Word of God, and from the beginning constantly preserved and applied in the Tradition of the Church, it has been set forth infallibly by the ordinary and universal Magisterium (cf. Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium 25, 2). Thus, in the present circumstances, the Roman Pontiff, exercising his proper office of confirming the brethren (cf. Lk 22:32), has handed on this same teaching by a formal declaration, explicitly stating what is to be held always, everywhere, and by all, as belonging to the deposit of the faith“.

 

Don’t you just love the clarity and precision of Cardinal-Ratzinger-Pope Benedict?

 

And, back to John Paul  for the truth about abortion from his 1995 encyclical Evangelium Vitae:

 

Therefore, by the authority which Christ conferred upon Peter and his Successors, in communion with the Bishops—who on various occasions have condemned abortion and who in the aforementioned consultation, albeit dispersed throughout the world, have shown unanimous agreement concerning this doctrine—I declare that direct abortion, that is, abortion willed as an end or as a means, always constitutes a grave moral disorder, since it is the deliberate killing of an innocent human being. This doctrine is based upon the natural law and upon the written Word of God, is transmitted by the Church’s Tradition and taught by the ordinary and universal Magisterium” (par. 62).

 

I know not whether Mr. Kaine has read these sources.  Even if he has, he may try to wriggle out, claiming that he is only doing the ‘will of the people’ or some other democratic doublespeak.

 

But not so fast, Senator.  As Vatican II’s Constitution on the Church, discussing the role of the laity, declares:

 

Because of the very economy of salvation the faithful should learn how to distinguish carefully between those rights and duties which are theirs as members of the Church, and those which they have as members of human society. Let them strive to reconcile the two, remembering that in every temporal affair they must be guided by a Christian conscience (christiana conscientia duci debere), since even in secular business there is no human activity which can be withdrawn from God’s dominion (Dei imperio)” (Lumen Gentium, 36).

 

One would think this would apply most especially to a politician, who has the weighty task of instantiating laws and policies which impact the most fundamental aspects of our existence for a long time to come.

 

In reference to just such a politician’s duty to his country, we return to John Paul II’s Evangelium Vitae:

 

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” (par. 71).

 

How does Tim Kaine reconcile these words with his own would-be President’s support for Roe vs. Wade, in fact, for the killing of the ‘fetus’ right up to the very moment of birth, a heinous position upon which Mrs. Clinton doubled down in the final presidential debate?  She, and we may presume Kaine, see nothing wrong with a court and legal system committed to the wholesale murder of the unborn at the whim of their mothers.

 

The same Pope’s earlier taught in his 1991 encyclical Centesimus Annus that

 

“(i)t must be observed in this regard that if there is no ultimate truth to guide and direct political activity, then ideas and convictions can easily be manipulated for reasons of power. As history demonstrates, a democracy without values easily turns into open or thinly disguised totalitarianism” (par. 46).

 

As Father Rutler wrote recently, the spate of leaked anti-Catholic emails from the Clinton campaign hint that such a ‘totalitarianism’ foreseen by the great Pope may not be too far off.  In fact, in many ways, it is already upon us.

 

Of course, Tim Kaine is ‘free’, from one point of view, to reject these truths, even to ignore the teaching authority of the Church herself, as do so many of his fellow ‘Catholics’.  He may even choose participate in what may well be the Clinton regime’s future persecution of right-minded (or, in his mind, wrong-minded) Christians.  But in doing so, he is not ‘free’ to describe himself, or to be described, as representative of Catholic teaching, or even as a ‘devout’ (more properly ‘orthodox’) Catholic.  For then he is usurping the right of the Church to define herself, and the truths she holds, which ultimately means he is putting himself in the place of Christ, of God, to determine what is true and what is false, what is good and what is evil, which, come to think of it, sounds sort of familiar…

 

Of course, no one can read the conscience of Mr. Kaine except, to some degree, Mr. Kaine himself.  I know not the state of his soul; he may well believe what he says; he is likely a devoted husband and father, who pays his taxes and dutifully takes out the garbage. I am simply assessing the opinions he seems to hold, or that he wants people to think he holds.  I make no attempt to ‘judge’ him. However, as a spiritual work of mercy, if I were ever to get a quiet moment with the senator, I would remind him of what the Second Vatican Council taught in its document on religious freedom, Dignitatis Humanae:

 

On their part, all men are bound (tenentur) to seek the truth, especially in what concerns God and His Church, and to embrace the truth they come to know, and to hold fast to it” (par. 1).

 

And, later in the same Declaration:

 

The disciple is bound by a grave obligation (gravi officio) toward Christ, his Master, ever more fully to understand the truth received from Him, faithfully to proclaim it, and vigorously to defend it…” (par. 14).

 

How each of us lives up to these grave obligations is a matter of our conscience, where God speaks in the depths of our souls, and this can only really be perfectly and, yes, infallibly, judged by the same God, who “probes the mind and the heart”, and whose Word is “living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart”. It is before the blazing eye of the Creator that all of us will one fateful day stand naked and alone, to give an account for what we have done, and not done, for the least of our brethren, and that includes the unborn.  Peruse Matthew, chapter 25. As Saint Francis of Assisi claimed, ‘what a man is before God, that he is, and nothing more’.

 

As the Church has always taught, we make ourselves ‘who we are’ by our actions, which in turn flow from the principles we hold:  “By their fruits, ye shall know them”.  We may therefore assess others by the principles they profess to hold, especially if they ask for our vote (or even to babysit our children).  We must all be clear about the truth in these dark and troubled times for although charity is a greater virtue than faith, indeed the greatest, one cannot have true charity without true faith.  For without faith, and the truth which this virtue offers to our reason to guide all else we do, our apparent ‘good works’ descend into banal sentimentality and, eventually, downright evil, as we have so sadly witnessed in the support for abortion, and now murder-suicide (under the gentle Greek name of euthanasia), along with all the other various manifestations of the culture of death, much of which is more-or-less official Democratic (and here in Canada ‘Liberal’) party policy.

 

We may hope that, whatever the culpability of his erroneous conscience (and erroneous it is), Tim Kaine, (and the rest of the ‘Catholic’, and even non-Catholic politicians, bereft of many of even the most basic principles of the natural moral law) awaken from their darkened slumber before it is too late.  For although they talk a big game about Good Samaritanism, love, freedom and values, these mean nothing if not exercised in the truth, the fullness of which is found only in the one true Church.

 

Pope Saint John Paul II, a Reflection

john-paul-iiToday is the memorial of Pope Saint John Paul II, who was installed as the 264th successor of Saint Peter on this day in 1978, which seems aeons ago in more ways than one.  An era without the Internet, Facebook and smartphones, scarcely imaginable.  His feast was added by Pope Francis two years ago when John Paul was canonized, a welcome addition to the calendar of saints, not least since I happen to share, by a quirk of my own parents’ choice, the name he adopted.

 

The greatness of a man such as he can only be measured in historical terms:  His saintly life, formed and shaped by his acceptance of grace and his own disciplined habits, his missionary journeys, his obvious love for each peson he met, his voluminous writings, of a spiritual and intellectual depth that defies description, and which will guide  the Church, the world,  and all of our own consciences, through history, one would think until Christ comes again.  Then the example of his death, accepting the suffering, whose depths we may never know, with a calm and serene resignation to the will of God, living out his own profound meditation on this mystery in his 1984 Letter Salvifici Doloris.

 

All I can recommend is that you delve into what he wrote, even little bits and snippets, his audiences and addresses, his encyclicals and letters, all of which which are truly transformative. I know it changes the lives of the students with whom I read a number of his works, year by year.  We as Catholics are called not to focus over-much upon the travails, follies, even the evils of this world, the form of which is already passing away.  Our eyes, with Pope John Paul, should be on our heavenly homeland, towards which we are all journeying.  If we with him and Our Lady, to whom the great Pontiff was so devoted, but say a small fiat to God for what he wants to do with our lives, we will soon be with him and all the saints in the heavenly Jerusalem.  You may be surprised at what fruits may be borne on the way.

 

Pope Saint John Paul II, ora pro nobis!

 

Kaine, Trump and Clinton, Oh My

alfred-smithI have an article posted this morning on Crisis magazine, on How Catholic is Kaine, Hillary Clinton’s Vice-Presidential running mate.  Feel free to peruse.

 

I should have added the irony that Donald Trump’s running mate, Mike Pence, a former Catholic, and now apparently a Protestant, describes himself publicly as ‘100% pro-life’.  The scandalous irony is that the lapsed Catholic Pence is more Catholic than the proclaimed ‘devout Catholic’ Kaine.  The Protestants are living out our Catholicism better than we Catholics.  Such is our ecumenical age, I suppose.

 

Whatever his faults and failings, at least Donald Trump professes a commitment to life issues, something Clinton would never do. She is ‘100 % pro-choice’, in the modern idiom, or idiocy, as one may choose. Last night, the two candidates traded barbs at the annual Alfred E. Smith Memorial dinner, a tradition where those vying for the presidency take a break and meet each other for the last time before the election, in a friendly ‘Catholic’ atmosphere (the original Al Smith was the first Catholic presidential candidate in 1928, with John F. Kennedy being the first Catholic president in 1961).  Anyway, at said dinner, which was supposed to be a good-natured event, Trump was booed and jeered for his edgy jokes against Clinton, seemingly going beyond the vague line of ‘good nature’.  And there was Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the host, seated uncomfortably between Trump and Clinton, smiling wanly and, one might think, forcedly.

 

For how can you smile and joke with someone like Clinton, sitting there with her rictus grin and eyes a-fixed, licking her chops until she and her husband take their place once again as the rightful heirs of the presidency? Mark Steyn  was onto something when he found it curious that the presidency in America is evolving into an hereditary monarchy, the unjust usurpations of which were the very thing the youthful United States rebelled against in 1776?

 

But now, the new presidency-monarchy is not even constrained even by a faint vestige of noblesse oblige.  At least the kings and queens of the ancien regime had to make some appearance to be on the people’s side, and were constrained by constitutions, laws and the ever-present threat of revolt. But one glance at the Clinton foundation and its corruption will give one the feeling that the Clintons seems smug and secure, and there is only one side the Clintons are on, and it does seem to be the side of the angels.

It’s a S.T.E.M. World, Baby

stemA recent article, sponsored by none other than the Royal Bank of Canada, had a list of the top ten ‘most valuable’ university degrees ranked, as is the wont of a bank I suppose, by how much you could make upon graduation.  Happiness, fulfilment, joy, the breadth and length of knowledge, all be damned, just show me the money!

 

Of the ten, five were in engineering, two in accounting and finance, and one in business (the others were geosciences, and mathematics, the only remotely philosophical science amongst them).  So, if I may simplify, the way to make money is to build and maintain machines, or help hide the money of rich people so they can hoard all the more.  Then, as said graduate makes his own whackload of money doing this, he can give it all back to the Royal Bank, to bury himself in a usurious mortgage for an over-priced house in the suburbs. Hmm.

 

Speaking of money, I don’t think you could pay me enough of it to do any one of those jobs (well, maybe geosciences or math), although that may be just me.  But this does pertain to my recent musings, indeed my entire life, on the nature of education, what it means and how one should pursue this most noble of endeavours. I would hope that, in the midst of learning how to fix and program computers, or move money around, such a student also learns a few things that broaden the mind, elevate his thoughts, contribute to society, how to engage in sparkling and deep conversation, to raise children well, offering him the intellectual and spiritual foundation to live as a full and complete human being, immersed in the greatest that has been thought and written.

 

But I have little hope.  I don’t think there is much room for elective courses in the jam-packed laser-focus of an engineering degree.  We are sadly producing a whole generation of near-automatons, educated to vote Liberal, immersed in all the supposed ‘values’ that ‘Canadians hold dear’, who build robots which will soon inundate the labour force, leaving the idle unemployed to their ever-better computers on which to whittle away their hours playing ever-more-real first-person video games, watching ever-less-real films, made by ever-more-stultified-and-brainless production studios.  We are so far down the rabbit hole of Plato’s allegorical cave that I don’t know if we know the way out anymore.  The philosophers who can help us are few and far between, and getting more rare.

 

So, back to ‘valuable’ degrees: The real question is, what is it that one values? And how do we learn what we should value? Where should our treasure be, for where that is, there is your heart also? For where your heart is, that, dear student, is where you are.

Abuse of Language – Abuse of Power

abuse-of-languageThe great Thomist Josef Pieper penned a short book in the late seventies on how totalitarian regimes use words to gain control over the masses: Abuse of Language – Abuse of Power. Pieper’s treatise came to mind as I read that the Canadian government is no longer going to refer to ISIS as ISIS (that is, the ‘Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or sometimes just the “Islamic State”). Rather, they will use the more neutral term “Daesh,” so as to avoid, they say, painting all of Islam with the bloodstained brush of terrorism. Ironically, not only does this name (which is in fact an Arabic acronym) mean more or less the same thing as ISIS, but the terrorists of ISIS have threatened to cut the tongue out of anyone using it.

 

Of course, this opens up many questions, not least the relation between Islam and terrorism. Taken to its logical conclusion, this change in nomenclature would mean that no terrorist act can, by definition, be termed “Islamic,” even if the terrorist confesses it so with his dying breath. Whence, therefore, Allahu Akbar? Is any and all bloodshed in the name of Allah no longer Islamic? Who is to say? What therefore do we make of Islamic “radicalization,” which literally means “going back to the root”? Do we not mean by this returning to the very origins of Islam that, even to the most irenic of historians, is steeped in blood and carnage? Can a change in name change this reality?

 

Well, no, but it can change our perception of reality, the “reality” of our thoughts, ideas, and opinions.

 

This is by no means the first time a regime has used Orwellian language to mollify evil: Hitler had his lebensraum, carving out a little bit of “living room” for “real” Germans in central Europe. No worries, just a little blue-eyed Aryan expansion. Oh, and we also have to “cleanse” the race of “impurities,” culminating in the “final solution.” Little written record was kept of Hitler’s decisions; it was all dark and secret, for light exposes the truth. The “labour camps,” wherein one was worked to death, or transported to the gas chambers, had the infamous sign in wrought-iron over the gate, Arbeit macht frei, “work will make you free,” a demonic parody of Our Lord’s words that, rather, it is the truth which shall truly set you free.

 

Few could outdo the Communists in their use of doublespeak: “Five-year plans,” “free the worker,” the “People’s Party,” “equality for all,” “enemies of the State,” and, proclaiming all the lies in official form was their official paper Pravda, which did anything but speak the “Truth.”

 

Beware of Soft Totalitarianism

 

The so-called “hard” totalitarian regimes are on the wane, but beware the soft variety, which is creeping into our very brains and thoughts, as our government, schools and their mouthpieces in the media, subtly alter the meaning of our language and its terms. Ponder the following:

 

Gay, which until quite recently meant “happy” or “joyful,” now applies to a group that engage in unnatural vices that will make them anything but happy and joyful.

 

The same goes for queer, which once meant “odd” or “out of the ordinary.” Now, it is a term of “pride,” which, along with gay, now forms “Gay Pride.” Are they proud for being happy? If memory serves, I recall a local brewer years ago marketed a beer that they called Pride Lager, bedecked with a pink triangle as its label, targeted to the homosexual community. It did not fare well. As you can guess, no one wanted to be seen with one in his hand, at least outside a “happy” bar.

 

From gay, to gender, a term once upon a time applied only to inanimate objects, while the term sex was used for people, as in “male” and “female.” Now we are taught a fluid notion of sex or, pardon me, gender, and even our traditional terms are fraught with discriminatory overtones. We are no longer male, nor female, but rather somewhere on the spectrum of who-knows-how-many (some say infinite) possible “genders.”

 

Hence, the expectation to no longer use the all-encompassing, and inclusive, “he” or “his,” but the awkward and clumsy “he and she,” “she or he,” or, alas, “s/he,” to say nothing of all the bizarre neologistic pronouns carved out of the thin air of political correctness, zhe, zir, shi and so on, soon to be prescribed in law. A column this morningin the National Post cautions against state interference in this gender war, but declaims from its media-moral throne that we should in all fairness use whatever pronouns people want us to use.

 

But do not pronouns mean something, and point, or not point, to an underlying reality? Why would I want to be complicit in someone else’s disordered “gender fluidity” or, as they now say, “dysphoria”?

 

I wonder how long it will be before Hamlet’s monologue, and much else in literature, is bowdlerized:

 

What a piece of work is man!… And, of course, woman, or, er, is that womyn? Humyn, anyone?

 

In the midst of an address to seminarians on his recent pilgrimage to Georgia, Pope Francis warned that there is a great enemy to marriage today: the theory of gender. Today there is a world war to destroy marriage. Today there are ideological colonizations that destroy, not with weapons, but with ideas. Therefore, there is a need to defend ourselves from this threat.

 

The Illiberal Liberal Prime Minister of Canada

 

Trudeau and ObamaOf course, if one were so to “defend oneself,” he (and, yes, she) would be accused of bigotry, hatred, and being anti-freedom. Speaking of which, here in Canada, Prime Minister Trudeau and his cronies govern under the mantle of Liberal, derived from the Latin verb liberare, to free, or set something free. Even heterodox Catholics have adopted this term: They are “liberal,” while we benighted knuckle-draggers are “conservatives” or “traditionalist” (or something worse). As truth would have it, such “liberals” are anything but for true freedom.

 

Case in point: Trudeau and parliament recently legalized euthanasia, which, as its Greek etymology attests, literally means a “good death,” eu-thanatos. Who does not want a good death, surrounded by a priest and family, having received the Last Rites, breathing one’s soul into eternity, and carried to heaven by the Angelic Host. But that is not quite what they mean, as some healthcare worker injects a semi-compliant patient-victim with a syringe full of potassium chloride in the dead of night.

 

Trudeau has also made clear that his government will always and everywhere defend a woman’s “right to choose,” which, translated, means the right to have her unborn child killed. This issue seems “settled” in Canada, at least so far, but not so in Poland, already with one of the strictest abortion laws, but which the other day voted against a bill to outright ban the grisly procedure. The legislators were swayed by a host of protesting women, presumably educated into ignorance, out marching for their “right” to choose what is good for their own bodies.

 

Well, what of pro-choice? Why does that term bring to mind being pro-abortion? Are we not all pro-choice, in any real sense of that term? Saint Augustine’s phrase for “free will” was liberum arbitrium, which translates more precisely as “free choice.” After all, as Augustine rightly reasoned, we cannot not will our final end, which is God whom we all desire by nature. Rather, all we can really choose are the means to this end, whether well or badly. So everyone, not least Catholics who have the fullness of truth, is “pro-choice.” It’s just that some choices are evil, and lead us away from our final end, and from the common good of society.

 

Pope Saint John Paul II in Evangelium Vitae puts the point even more forcefully in speaking of the ‘unspeakable’ crimes of abortion and infanticide, and I cannot put the case more eloquently and clearly than he:

 

But today, in many people’s consciences, the perception of its gravity has become progressively obscured. The acceptance of abortion in the popular mind, in behavior and even in law itself, is a telling sign of an extremely dangerous crisis of the moral sense, which is becoming more and more incapable of distinguishing between good and evil, even when the fundamental right to life is at stake. Given such a grave situation, we need now more than ever to have the courage to look the truth in the eye and to call things by their proper name, without yielding to convenient compromises or to the temptation of self-deception. In this regard the reproach of the Prophet is extremely straightforward: “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness” (Is 5:20). Especially in the case of abortion there is a widespread use of ambiguous terminology, such as “interruption of pregnancy,” which tends to hide abortion’s true nature and to attenuate its seriousness in public opinion. Perhaps this linguistic phenomenon is itself a symptom of an uneasiness of conscience. But no word has the power to change the reality of things: procured abortion is the deliberate and direct killing, by whatever means it is carried out, of a human being in the initial phase of his or her existence, extending from conception to birth.

 

Time to Take Back the Language


By so altering the terms of our language, the powers of darkness have proved themselves wiser than the children of light. By co-opting the common and customary meaning of our words, with shrewd epistemology, they have altered our thoughts and concepts, which connect us with how things really are, or are not, which in turn is how Saint Thomas defined truth, adequatio rei et intellectus: a conformity between the mind and reality, a relationship that is forged, built up and maintained by what we mean by the words we use. Josef Pieper argues that it is in changing our use of language that totalitarian regimes change our notion of truth. We are enslaved not with guns and tanks, but by the ignorance resulting from the warping of our words and thoughts. We, and by that I mean especially our young people attending modern state-controlled educational establishments, are being turned into a nation of mind-controlled zombies.

 

Who of them connects “happy” anymore with “gay”? Perhaps they think of “gays” as joyful, happy people, surrounded by hateful bigots wanting to take away the source of their, er, joy? That is often how they are portrayed in films and sit-coms.

 

And who considers abortion “murder” anymore, except a few fringe “anti-choicers”? Even bringing the topic up in any discourse is considered bad taste. We will soon see the same thing with euthanasia, made even more palatable with the antiseptic phrase “medical assistance in dying.” Helping someone to die used to be “accessory to murder,” a federal crime, but no more, so long as the person has, and here we go again, “terminal,” or now the subjectively even more ambiguous “unbearable” suffering.

 

We are in strange waters here. As our minds get muddied and fogged up, we must breathe in the pure and clear air of truth in how we use our words, which shape our thoughts, which in turn influence our actions, for good or for ill.

 

Here is some advice: A good place to start in forming our minds is a decent primer on Aristotelian logic, then move on to some scholastic saint thomas aquinasphilosophy and theology, the two primary hallmarks of which were clarity and precision: To say what you mean clearly, and cut away what you do not mean. And amongst the greatest of the Church’s minds in training us how to think is Thomas Aquinas, held up by the Church as the paradigm of theological method, of the synthesis between faith and reason, and a source of much of the established terminology of the Church (and our culture).

 

John Paul II went so far as to praise Thomas in his 1998 encyclical Fides et Ratio “as an authentic model for all who seek the truth. In his thinking, the demands of reason and the power of faith found the most elevated synthesis ever attained by human thought, for he could defend the radical newness introduced by Revelation without ever demeaning the venture proper to reason.”

 

The American author Flannery O’Connor supposedly read a page of the Summa every night, a practice that bears much imitation.

 

After that, read good books, essays, articles, encyclicals. Look words up, find out their etymologies and meanings, and use them correctly, even if, especially if, it is politically “incorrect” to do so.

 

Let’s take back the language, so that our thoughts and our reasoning may be as clear, pure and, yes, as courageous in the truth as Christ asks of us, so that our “yes, may mean yes, and our no, no.” Anything more, comes from, well, you know…

 

Of Girl Power, Councils and Contraception

I trust all the Canadians out there had a very joyous and blessed Thanksgiving.  Our hearts go out to those affected by the torrential rains out east, and the snows out west.  Mother Nature, from our point of view, seems capricious, but as I mentioned in previously, all things are in the hands of God.

 

And speaking of caprice, I am not exactly sure what this means, but today is the international ‘Day of the Girl’, with Sophie Trudeau for some reason officially opening the Toronto Stock Exchange this morning. I suppose her symbolic gesture is meant to get ‘girls’ to go into stock trading, a predominantly male field.

 

I suppose ‘Girl’ means ‘Women’, in an analogous way that ‘Boy’ sometimes means ‘Men’, as in ‘The Boys are Back in Town’. There may be a bit more pejorative sense in calling a man a ‘boy’, as one of my students once declared to me, ‘you are such a boy’, as I was doing something she thought silly, like banging out a drum beat on pots and pans, but this was a long time ago, when I was closer to boyhood, at least biologically.

 

This day is meant to ‘empower’ women, I suppose, again a vague phrase, loosely and badly interpreted.  Case in point:  Is Kelly Clarkson, who puts herself forward as a crooner of sorts, a symbol of ‘girl empowerment’, recently demanded of her, ahem, ‘husband’ that he get a vasectomy prior to the birth of their second child. I wonder how long that coupling will last, as Mr. Clarkson, otherwise known as Brandon Blackstock, submits to being made a eunuch at the behest of his much-richer and more-prominent wife.  Here is the confession of Ms. Clarkson, on the Jenny McCarthy Show, of which I had never heard, and hope never to again:

 

I was literally pregnant with Remi, and I was like, ‘You are getting fixed. This will never happen to me again,’” Clarkson, 34, said. “If something happens, it’s a miracle of God. I literally told my OBGYN on the table while open, ‘If I get pregnant again, I will find you!’

 

I know not how big their mansion may be, but, really, how difficult would it be for Kelly to ‘find’ her recently ‘fixed’ Brandon and, what, pray tell, would she do when she did so?

 

Alas, it is the Age of Woman, and Woman Lost at that.  The only way that Man and Woman can find who they are is in the context of the family, rightly defined, which means defined by the revelation safeguarded by the Catholic Church, which has condemned such voluntary and contraceptive sterilization in no uncertain terms.

 

But do ‘men’ , even of the secular, agnostic and hedonistic variety, really need such Christian revelation to figure out that having someone take away their virility, their capacity to produce children, forever afterward shooting blanks in whatever conjugal life in which they may subsequently engage, is a bad idea?

 

Then again, the Church declares that for even such ‘obvious’ mysteries of salvation, we need revelation, for we are ignorant, slow of mind, blinded by our passions and our sins, easily rationalize idiocy and evil, so that all men may know what they need to be human, and to be saved, ‘with ease, firm certainty and no admixture of error‘.  This phrase is found in Saint Thomas, and is repeated in the First Vatican Council, in Pius XII’s encyclical Humani Generis and in the Catechism. Just in case you thought being treated like a randy pet dog is fitting for a husband.

 

And speaking of Revelation, today is the feast of Pope Saint John XXIII, who opened the Second Vatican Council on October 11, in 1962. The good Pope, so filled with good intentions, hopes and Christian optimism (literally, that all things work out for the best, which is ultimately true), died in June of 1963, before any of the documents of the Council were promulgated.  But he is celebrated on this Conciliar commemoration, for his boldness, some might say his foolhardiness (in the Christian sense) for opening the floodgates of the Second Vatican Council. But such floodgates had to be opened, one may opine.

 

I am teaching a course on the Council at present, and it behooves us as Catholics to read what the Council actually said, rather than what others said the Council said or, even worse, what the Council should have said, but did not, or what the Fathers might have meant by what they said, and so on down the rabbit hole of the ‘Spirit of Vatican II’.

 

In a Christmas address in 2005, then-Pope Benedict XVI warned against such a ‘hermeneutic of rupture’ in interpreting the Council, a false interpretation which has wreaked such havoc and mayhem. Rather, we must read and apply the Council with the ‘hermeneutic of continuity’, in light of all the other twenty Councils and the vast body of teachings of the Church. That is, in light of the truth, as contained in the words themselves.

 

What Vatican II declared in its sixteen documents is all orthodox and timely, and still waiting to be put fully into effect.  So say a little prayer to good Pope John today, that such apostles, lay, ordained and consecrated, may rise up (as the Council itself calls for), to bear the fruit of the Council as befits Catholics, and bring many souls to Christ, here and in eternity.

Nota in Brevis: Lepanto, Language and Hurricanes

lepanto

  • Today, the feast of the Most Holy Rosary, marks the 444th anniversary of one of the most decisive battles not only in naval history, but in all of history, and I refer of course to the Battle of Lepanto, fought by a Christian fleet, led by Don Juan of Austria, son of the Emperor Charles V, in the waters of the Adriatic against an apparently superior Islamic Turkish fleet, vowing to turn Saint Peter’s into a mosque.

 

  • Father Rutler has an outstanding piece today in Crisis, recounting details of the battle that bring that day vividly to life. It was the saintly Pope of the time, Pius V, who attributed the victory to the intercession of Our Lady, by means of her Rosary. As the good priest more or less rightly predicts, in an a posteriori sense (which is to some degree fallible), if we had lost that battle, there would be no Europe, no civilization to speak of.  For not all cultures are equal, and given the mess of modern Islamic states ,what would ‘Europe’ be like after 444 years of Muslim rule?  One need not look far to wonder…

 

  • On another note, I too have an article published today in Crisis, humbly side-by-side with the far greater Father Rutler, on the abuse of language to mold and shape the minds of people into the agnostic and hedonistic image of the secular State. Perhaps by the time I am seventy, I will write with as much aplomb and facility with facts as he..

 

  • We are also reminded today of the uncontrollable power of Nature, which really means God, as hurricane Matthew pounds the coast of Florida, after devastating Haiti and other Caribbean countries. Of course, this will be attributed to ‘climate change’, but like King Canute, we should have the humility to declare that even the greatest of potentates has no power over the sea, whose courses are in the hands of the Almighty.  The winds of Matthew, reaching about 120 miles per hour, destructive enough, are not much compared to the winds of our planetary neighbour Venus, which are rather consistently twice that.  Perhaps God is telling us something?

 

  • I am not sure what the future and putative Vice Presidents were telling us in their recent debate. (Well, only one will gain that title). I did not watch it, only read reports, but it does not seem to have far transcended the bathos of the Presidential version.  However, the Protestant Pence did admit to being ‘100%’ pro-life, while the ‘Catholic’ Kaine waffled, and this on the death penalty (more politically correct than abortion, and, unlike abortion, not intrinsically evil). His prevarication is much of a piece with so many who profess the faith of Rome. Alas. I will have more to write on this in the context of that most fundamental  and misunderstood of virtues, faith, and its close cousin, humility.

 

Our Lady of the Rosary, ora pro nobis!