Cultural Divides

sharia-controlledYou may have read a couple of weeks or so ago of a Montreal housing complex here in Canada that was until recently moving in the direction of becoming more or less an Islamic enclave, fully compliant with Sharia law. For one thing, they would refuse to pay interest on their mortgages, which Nabil Warda, the mover and shaker behind this scheme, describes it in these terms:


A lot of Muslims have problems with the idea of interest, which in Arabic is called riba,” Warda said. “That means if you pay more than you were loaned, you are doing something that is very, very, very, very bad from the Muslim point of view.”


I wonder how bad are four ‘verys’ before bad?  Badder than, say, polygamy?


Muslims are permitted to a pay a ‘profit’ to the bank for loaning them money for a mortgage, but not ‘interest’, which may sound like hair splitting, or what the scholastics would have termed a distinction without a difference, but it seems to mean a lot to Mr. Warda, who wants his neighbourhood compliant with his version of Islam in other ways:


Women could choose whether to wear the headscarf but they could not walk around in a halter-top and shorts…“There must be some modesty in the way you dress. We don’t want women living there going half-naked down the streets. We don’t like that,” he said. “If they want to do that, let them go and live in downtown Montreal.”


I am a fan of modesty, and think there should be certain laws against outright public nudity, but shorts? And why put all the ‘immodest’ women in halter-tops in downtown Montreal, which is the only part I, and most tourists, including many Muslims one might presume, usually ever see?


Of course, Warda will permit non-Muslims to live in the neighbourhood, even pay interest on their homes, but, as he puts it, “they would have to share the values of their Muslim neighbours”.


What, perchance, are these vague ‘values’ to which he refers?  And what  happens if one does not share those values, or transgresses them, even inadvertently? Would fellow residents be kept on tenterhooks, fearful of offending in some particular minutiae of Sharia law?  Here is one hint of a warning from Warda for all you who might enjoy a little sip of something in the fresh summer air:


If you want to drink alcohol, you drink it in your house 


Ah, here we get a taste, so to speak, of the submission required for Islam.  I suppose you would have to close the blinds as well, just in case Warda and his neighbours get all offended by the sight of you and that pint of darkish, foamy substance of dubious provenance. Best to keep the whole thing wrapped in a brown bag, with the lights off.


What next, one wonders? A ban on music?  Images?  Nativity sets and Christmas lights? The smell of bacon burgers sizzling on the grill?  And even if all his fellow Muslims agree, what happens to the guy who lives just outside the ‘enclave’?


I have no problem in theory with segregation and setting up your own neighbourhoods with people of like mind and such. I certainly do not think the State should enforce ‘desegregation’, with all the problems that go along with the artificial enforced cohabitation of people who would rather not.  Let people live amongst and with whom they will.  Throughout the ages, immigrants of various cultures have always banded together, and to this day in cities across our fair land you still find Italian, Portugese, Vietnamese, Chinese, Irish, Ukrainian, German, Polish and even Scottish enclaves and neighbourhoods.  Birds of a feather flock together; they share the same ancestry, food, music, relatives, language, traditions, all in all, the same culture.


Pope John Paul II in Centesimus Annus taught that at the basis of every culture is religion, that metaphysical point of view that colours all that we think, all that motivates our beliefs and actions:


A human being is understood in a more complete way when situated within the sphere of culture through language, history, and the position one takes towards the fundamental events of life, such as birth, love, work and death. At the heart of every culture lies the attitude a person takes to the greatest mystery: the mystery of God. Different cultures are basically different ways of facing the question of the meaning of personal existence.


These deep principles, one’s ‘take’ on these ‘fundamental events of life’ are what draw people together.  Different cultures can coexist, as the multi-symbol-lame-o bumper sticker goes, in some degree of proximity, tolerating each other’s divergences, so long as they share at least some common ground on these fundamental principles, which the aforementioned immigrant communities did.  Most were Christian, which became ‘American values’, and all had some level of good will towards all men.


As Saint Thomas states, it is custom, derived from culture, which has the “the force of law, abolishes law and is the interpreter of law” (I-II, 97, 4).  Inherited from our fathers and forefathers, these form the primary basis of our lives together.  They need not be exactly the same across cultures, and a bit of diversity is a good thing (like Irish music and Asian food), but there comes a point where they clash, often violently, as we have witnessed too often in our world, and no amount of optimistic thinking can change that.


Islam presents some peculiar and unique difficulties, which our leftist ‘elites’ and their media refuse to face.  Not only is it inherently expansive, with the explicit intention of having prodigious families and gaining numerous converts (but so does Catholicism, and as the saying goes, demography is destiny), but with this difference:  At its root, radical Islam it is also intolerant, often coercively and violently so, of what they perceive as ‘evil’.  With a disordered view and little nuance in the degrees of such ‘evil’, they require, or at least desire, as the very name of the religion suggests, submission in all tenets of the Islamic behaviour, from diet to marriage, even from those who do not adhere to its creed.


Do you think any other religion, from Buddhist to Zoroastrian, would give a tinker’s-dam if you cracked a beer on your own front porch, or your daughter went to a pool party wearing ‘shorts’?  Sure, the old retired schoolmarm, still tinged with a rather grim version of her childhood Calvinism, might glance askance from behind her curtain, at least at the ‘demon-liquor’, but so what?


Certain varieties of radical Islam, however, cannot tolerate such deviancies from ‘the faith’ and infidelities to the ‘law of Allah’, the pondering of which keep many a newly-radicalized bearded young man awake at night, gnashing their teeth.


Of course, this does not apply to all Muslims, perhaps not even most.  In fact, Warda’s own imam, Foudil Selmoune, demurs:


We are here in Canada. We came of our own will…Our intention was not to come to isolate ourselves from society or from the community.”


Selmoune goes on to suggest that it would be more constructive for Warda to use his financing proposal to help Muslims buy existing homes rather than creating a Muslim neighbourhood.


Imam Selmoune’s disagreement notwithstanding, the fact that such an enclave was even being pondered in multicultural Canada is significant, and one must wonder which version of Islam will win out in the end, Warda’s or Selmoune’s.


We might all hope that, like other religions, Islam could to some degree assimilate and accommodate, but we have seen enough examples to guess that this may never happen.  The problem is that religions, with enough energetic individuals in their midst, always tend to ‘radicalize’, which literally means to ‘return to their roots’.  Thus, we see ever-new radical movements amongst Protestants, Mennonites, Hippies and Back-to-the-Land-ers, Catholics and, of course, Muslims.  Those with the most stark and vivid beliefs tend to be the ones most easily radicalized.


Islam, like the Arabian desert in which it arose, has remarkably ‘stark and vivid’ beliefs, and these, at least in its radical form, it very much wants to impose upon others. In its roots, it is anything but peaceful and tolerant.  Au contraire:  Islam under the Prophet began with war, conquest and forced ‘conversion’, and who is to say its present and future are to be any different?


The Amish and Hippies and Catholics who so ‘re-form’ themselves don’t tend to bother anyone else, within the limits of public order and the preservation of basic human rights.  We don’t impose Catholicism, but propose, and if anyone converts to our creed, they do so, or should do so, freely.


Of course, while being tolerant of others’ differences, we do maintain the right and duty to convince and lead others to the truth as we see it.  As the Vatican II Declaration Dignitatis Humanae states, people should be permitted to act in accord with their ‘religion’, but “within just limits” and “preserving just public order”. Of course, these concepts will apply differently in different lands and cultures, but there is a limit beyond which they break down, and certain versions of Islam stretch this limit to its breaking point and beyond. Someone like Warda can have his own daughters dress how they please (or, perhaps, as he pleases), and govern his own household as he likes, but within such limits of order and justice, as determined by rational public law as informed, ideally, by Christian revelation. Whatever his own idea of ‘revelation’, Warda’s authority over others ends at the edge of his front lawn.


The problem here is not so much with the idea of an Islamic enclave (which has since been shelved, due to widespread backlash), but with people like Mr. Warda and the religious principles he espouses.  I am not sure just how hot he is for Sharia law, but who would want someone like him, perhaps even more zealous than he, as a neighbour, eyeing you out of his window? You never know what might happen if you move into the watchful ward of Warda.


President Obama is on his swan-song world tour, lecturing us in Greece recently all on why we cannot all just ‘get along’:


So my vision … may not always win the day in the short run…but I am confident it will win the day in the long run. Because societies which are able to unify ourselves around values and ideals and character and how we treat each other, and cooperation and innovation, ultimately are going to be more successful than societies that don’t.


The difficulty with the soon-to-be-former President’s pious platitudes is that one cannot just paper-maché over deep moral and cultural divides.  Some cultures and peoples just do not, and likely never will, get along.  Of course, this applies not only to Islam, but to any of our current deep, cultural divides, including the one brought to the fore in the recent election, between what we might term the ‘nation of Clinton’ and the ‘nation of Trump’, between ‘liberals’ and ‘conservatives’ for want of more precise terms (since neither candidate fully embodies them).  These two ‘nations’ seem deeply divided over how they view life, marriage, sexuality, religion, property, freedom and human rights in general.  Would Ms. Clinton want to live anywhere near her ‘basket of deplorables’, or Mr. Obama take up residence beside any of his ‘knuckle-dragging, gun-toting, Bible thumpers’?  They seem mildly amazed that such people even exist. Thankfully, this intra-American divide has avoided extreme violence of one toward the other, at least so far. But the future looks rather ominous.


It is the reality of these impassible cultural divisions that the likes of Obama, Clinton, Merkel, Hollande, Trudeau, and the host of other liberal democratic leaders living within their own ‘enclaves’, want to ignore, for they don’t seem to hold to, and don’t see how anyone else can hold to, eternal, inviolable, religious truths, except perhaps vague and ever-malleable notions of ‘tolerance’ and ‘multiculturalism’.  Reality has a way of biting back, however, and as many such leaders are being tossed out on their ear in elections of late, their ‘legacies’ in tatters, we are discovering, hopefully not too late, that such platitudinous bromides from our self-proclaimed elites are rather flimsy glue to hold together a society fissured along its most basic seams.  As the Church has always taught, it is the faith, the ‘Catholic Thing’ as Belloc would have it, that holds society together, and without the faith, even in some vestigial attenuated form, moral and societal disintegration is inevitable.  And again to the prophetic words of Belloc:  The new paganism towards which we are regressing will be far darker than the old.


Young Sam and Somalis

Another Islamic terrorist attack in America, this time in Ohio, where a Somali-born student, ‘self-radicalized’ according to reports, went on a rampage with his car, ramming into a crowd of his fellow students, before jumping out and stabbing two with a butcher knife. A campus police officer checking out a nearby gas leak showed up at 9:43 a.m., and the perpetrator, refusing to drop the knife, was deceased by a police bullet at 9:43 a.m. God rest his troubled soul, and thank God also that his was the only life taken.  On that note, see my article later today on the fundamental fact that some cultures just cannot co-exist.


gay-toryWell, I must eat some of my words about the newly-minted nineteen-year old MPP Sam Oosterhoff, and I will give credit where credit is due. Yesterday, the provincial government voted into law Bill C-28, which removed the terms ‘mother’ and ‘father’ from government documents, making the relation of ‘parents’ (now up to four allowed) to their ‘children’ a contractual agreement, no longer founded on the mother-father-child bond, based on biology. Young Sam was the only MPP who expressed disagreement with the bill (he could not vote, being sworn in the day after the vote).  Kudos to him.  According to LifeSite news, every other MPP, and this goes even for the so-called ‘pro-life and family ones’,  either voted in favour or were absent for the vote (final tally, 79 to 0).  Oh, that you were hot or cold! Patrick Brown, the benighted leader of the Conservative Party with his nose to the wind, demanded as much:  Vote in favour, or find something else to do that day, like count your pension. This doesn’t speak well for the provincial Tories. Only Mr. Oosterhoff stood up to him. Youth of body, as Saint Thomas says, does not imply youth of soul, using as his example the many youthful martyrs in the Church, who withstood the most horrific torments for the Faith.  Sam demonstrated far more maturity and courage than those of his ‘colleagues’ more than twice his age.


Today, the body of Fidel Castro is being laid to rest.  I cannot speak for his soul, for that is between him and God.  Whatever damage El Commandante has done will live for some time; like any of our sins, they ripple through the ages beyond the here and  now. We can only hope that he was a deluded man, which may to some extent excuse his messianic zeal for the fundamentally evil doctrine of Communism. Here’s looking forward to the recovery of Cuba, once the Castros end their oppressive regime.


And speaking of socialism, the stepping stone to full blown communism, our own national radio conglomerate, the CBC, is demanding, I mean, requesting, pleading , for an extra 400 million, yes, nearly half-a-billion dollars from the government (which, dear reader, always means you and me) so that they can go completely ‘ad free’.  There is a grave danger afoot when there is only one functioning information-based radio station in a country, especially when the medium is in bed with the State, receiving lavish funding with which no private radio station can possibly hope to compete. One of the principles of Communism is control of the media by the State, as in Pravda (‘Truth’), the ironically named Stalinist ‘newspaper’.  I do listen at times to the CBC, and enjoy a very small number of its programs; I also follow Sun Tzu’s advice to ‘know thy enemy’ as the first principle of warfare.   Its television shows, even though I don’t watch them, I hear are beyond atrocious, unfunny, forced,  politically correct in the extreme (Little Mosque on the Prairie?).


A healthy dose of competition in radio, and elsewhere (not least education) would be most welcome in our statist, bland and brainwashed Canada.  Artificial subsidies to the tune of nearly 1.5 billion dollars to radio, and many times that number to education and other aspects of the ‘economy’, go well beyond the realms of justice.  Try listening to the radio in America; sure, you will get commercials, but you will also get a diversity of interesting and entertaining viewpoints, not just the State-monitored party line.


This day is also the feast of Saint Andrew, especially dear to my heart, as the patron of Scotland, as well as Russia, Ukraine and Greece, so he has quite the task to fulfill, for they all have deep and abiding problems, yes, even the land of my birth.  But love, at least true love, symbolized by the Cross of Christ, and Saint Andrew’s own X-shaped cross on the Scottish flag, conquers all, and will triumph in the end.


So, Saint Andrew, ora pro nobis!


The End of Castro

castroJustin Trudeau shows his true colours once again, eulogizing Castro as a ‘friend’ of his Dad’s, who ‘made significant improvements to the healthcare and education of his island nation’, whom he also had the ‘opportunity to meet’, along with his Castro’s three sons, ending up praising him as a ‘remarkable leader’.


The reaction has been swift and brutal, with the Prime Minister ridiculed with parodies of eulogies of Hitler, Pol Pot, Stalin and so on, who also ‘improved’ their nations in various insignificant ways, at least  compared to their brutality. But Trudeau has doubled down:


He certainly was a polarizing figure and there certainly were significant concerns around human rights,” Trudeau told reporters Sunday. “That’s something that I’m open about and highlighted, but on the passing of his death I expressed a statement that highlighted the deep connection between the people of Canada and the people of Cuba.”


And the clincher:  Trudeau “understands that some people who had been affected by the Castro regime would view things differently” than his enlightened view.


People who have been ‘affected’ by the Castro regime?  Like all those shot, tortured, imprisoned, thought-controlled, brainwashed, subdued, held in coercion, and died trying to flee  his corrupt regime through shark infested waters to the safe haven of Miami, Mr. Trudeau? Condescension, thy name is JT, comfy and safe within his enclave, from which he issues forth idiotic banalities.


Contrast Trudeau with Trump’s statement:


The world marks the passing of a brutal dictator who oppressed his own people for nearly six decades. Fidel Castro’s legacy is one of firing squads, theft, unimaginable suffering, poverty and the denial of fundamental human rights.”


I will leave the reader to determine which of the leaders is more accurate in his assessment.  Not that one should feel schadenfreude in anyone’s death, but reality is reality.  The government of Cuba has decreed nine days of enforced mourning, with no loud music or partying.  I guess the people of Miami, especially those who made that crossing or descendants thereof, did not get that communiqué, and feel a bit differently from Trudeau, holding parades in ‘honour’ of the end of Castro’s regime, now that he has gone to his eternal reward, in the hands of the God in Whom he did not believe.


All we can hope is that the dictator remembered some of his early Catechism, and repented before his nonagenarian body gave out.  Requiescat in pace, as I would wish to anyone, but may someone more worthy take your place.


Philosophers, Trump and Trudeau

catherine-of-alexandriaToday is the feast of Saint Catherine of Alexandria, a woman ‘renowned for her learning’, put to death as a virgin martyr in 305 under Emperor Maximiam (whose wife the saint converted, and who was also thereby condemned).  The emperor brought in the best and brightest pagan philosophers to convince Catherine of the folly of Christianity, but Catherine’s reasoning and eloquence bested them all.  So Maxentius resorted to the argument that ends all arguments, the ad baculum fallacy, or ‘to the stick’.  In short, he could not argue, so had her tortured and killed.  Catherine thereby gave the ultimate witness, and her triumph, or rather Christ’s, was assured. She has been adopted as the patroness of philosophers, so to all of you out there who think at all, a seemingly decreasing number in our milieu, at least amongst our elites, for should we all not be philosophers as both Saint Thomas and Chesterton declared, a blessed and joyous day!  Read a phrase or two of Plato, Aristotle and Thomas to celebrate.


Speaking of not-thinking, Justin Trudeau was in Liberia the other day, the nation that was created out of thin air just before the American Civil War to house all the former slaves of the United States colonies. Not surprisingly , it has never really worked as a country. Like many other African nations, Liberia is struggling just to survive.  Yet Trudeau has the solution: Wider access to ‘abortion’, and other rather vague and sinister aspects of ‘maternal health’.  Sad, sad, sad.  This ill-formed, adolescent man, whom Canadians have adopted as their leader, a faint vestige of a ‘Catholic’, espouses pre-born murder as a means of advancing the cause of women, and saving a nation.


And here we are back in Canada, paying through the nose to maintain the residence where he and his family refuse to live, it is in such rough shape, at least for the Trudeaus.  We, the taxpayer, are on the hook for $10,000 a month in hydro bills alone for Rideau Hall  ($22,962 when you add gas and ‘maintenance’), a giant, gusty mansion in which no one dwells, except, perhaps the ghosts of Prime Ministers past. (Hmm. I see a book in the offing).  The cost to renovate the place to fitting living standards has ballooned, as all governmental things seem to do, multi-fold:  From just under 10 million to just under 40 million dollars; the silver lining, I suppose, is that it’s all in Canadian currency, slowly folding like a hastily-built bedouin tent.  Forty million could buy you quite the mansion all on its own.  I don’t know too many movie stars and moguls who live in an edifice that expensive. I wonder how much of that is actual ‘renovation’, and how much union wages, expenses, overtime for all the government contractors and material?



The new White House?

Donald Trump, on the other hand, has apparently decided to spend part of his time living in his own residence, the multi-storied penthouse on top of Trump Tower in New York.  Melania and Barron, his wife and their ten-year old, plan to stay there full-time.  This will save the American taxpayer a few bucks, one might presume, but also creates a nightmare for the Secret Service.  As too many sub-par movies to mention describe, the White House is fitted with any number of ‘secret’ defenses for the President, from hidden, reinforced rooms, to caches of weapons, to any number of heavily armored personnel, with high calibre weapons at the ready.  How does one defend an exposed penthouse, right off the waterfront of New York harbour?  This does sound like another one of those movies that one would never have thought come to life…


I will say this in favour of Mr. Trudeau: No one seems out to assassinate him, for he does exude an air of absent-minded bonhomie, whatever his deeper intentions.  And I am a fan of his devotion to his wife and children, even if he is raising his boys as ‘feminists’.


On that note, Bill C-16 makes its way through parliament, which would criminalize any discrimination based on ‘gender identity and expression’. Will the use of the ‘wrong’ pronoun put you in jail?  Perhaps. Certainly, other things will accrue, all those ‘accommodations’ that make this world a more and more bizarre place for any sane individual to live and move and have his being.  Which, I suppose, is why the Bible says that such verbs take place in God alone, regardless of these passing and transitory inanities, even all the evil that they will bring in their train.


I suppose laws such as this are what make our Prime Minister, and Canada in general, less threatening on the world stage, insofar as we are on the stage at all.  I fear our much-vaunted nation, built by valorous men and women, will become a laughingstock.  The times, they are a changin’, sayeth one Nobel laureate, whom no one can seem to find.  I just wish sometimes that Trudeau and his parliamentarians would make themselves as invisible as Mr. Dylan/Zimmerman. Perhaps he’s out rollin’ with the stones…


Of Severed Heads, Pronoun Wars and Canaries

severed-headsAn Italian neurosurgeon, Sergio Canavero, is planning to head up the first human body-head transplant, taking the head from a man, Valery Spiridonov, who is suffering from spinal muscular atrophy which confines him to a wheelchair, and putting it on the body of a ‘brain dead’ victim, I mean, donor.


There are so many issues with this prospective $128 million operation, involving apparently 100 surgeons: There has never been a successful head transplant in any animal (at least one that has been scientifically verified), to say nothing of humans. We cannot even reconnect the spinal cord within the same paralyzed victim, never mind connecting two different spinal cords together. And where are they going to get the ‘brain dead’ donor?  How brain dead is he, or will he be, at a time convenient enough for a surgery?  Why is not detaching the head from poor Mr. Spiridonov not considered at least attempted murder?  This must be a hoax, or a publicity stunt, or Italians have gone insane, or all three.


Professor Jordan Peterson participated in a ‘debate’ on his refusal to use gender-fluid pronouns. If things proceeded as reported, with a series of emotional pleas, diatribe, ad hominem argumentation against the beleaguered professor, who responded with a rather reasoned defense, then Christie Blatchford is right, that it was not a ‘debate’ in any rational objective sense of the term. Dr. Peterson is fighting the good fight; not for religious reasons, it seems, but on purely rational grounds.  Good for him, but I fear he is in an uphill battle.  The whole zeitgeist is against reason and objectivity, and all with victim ideology, along with misguided, even unhinged, tolerance and compassion, which quickly turn evil.  As I have written previously, by changing our words, they, the comptrollers of the zeitgeist, hope to change our thoughts and our notion of that quaint thing we used to call ‘reality’. The silver lining here is that the modern university is being exposed for what it is under its prim facade, a place of sycophants, quasi-illiterates, ideologues, a general morass of idiocy and coercion.  Why, oh why, would anyone want to learn in that environment? Go, if you must, to ‘get a job’, but, like the political stables of which I wrote of late, the whole sorry and sad mess needs a good thorough Augean cleansing.


And speaking of politics, it turns out Hillary Clinton received a far wider margin of the popular vote in last week’s election, well over a million more than Trump. Ultimately, that matters not, for the electors are supposed to pull their handle according to the electoral votes, not necessarily representative of the popular vote, in the spirit of the republic which America is, or was, or hopes to remain.  But we will see what the future holds when the official electoral vote is held, on December 8th I believe, the solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, the patroness of the United States. Curious.


Alberta might be the canary in the coalmine for what is in store for Canada, as the once rich independent province is turning into a basket case, as the demand and price for oil continue to plummet throughout the world, and the demand for food and assistance increase in the former land of milk, honey and black gold.  We in Ontario, of course, are living by and large on debt, with the Liberals doling out cash like candy, on ‘infrastructure’ and other numerous political pet projects too numerous to mention.  And all Mr. Trudeau, Ms. Notely and Ms. Wynne can envision is a new ‘carbon tax’ to try to fill the vanishing coffers, a move that will only worsen the economic woes, especially now that Donald Trump, no fan of the climate change fiasco (although he is now singing an uncertain tune on that score) will keep America somewhat competitive.  Mexico north, here we go…



Saint Caecelia and What Church Music Should Be

saint-ceciliaToday is the feast of Saint Caecelia, a young virgin martyr in Rome, put to death either in the late second or early third century.  She was married, against her will, during which ceremony she ‘sang in her heart to the Lord’.  For that one phrase, she was adopted as the patroness of music (her husband, by the way, according to the tradition, respected her wish to remain a virgin, being baptized himself after a vision of the angel protecting Caecelia).


So the story goes, which may or may not be historical.  What is historical and real is her patronage of Church music, which, alas, is now much needed, as it is in a sad, even deplorable, state.


This is not the fruit of Vatican II, which had this to say about Church music in its Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy:


The musical tradition of the universal Church is a treasure of inestimable value (pretii inaestimabilis), greater even than that of any other art.  


That is saying something, given the ‘inestimable value’ of all the rest of the Church’s art, paintings, buildings, sculptures, mosaics, vestments, chalices and so on and on, ad maiorem Dei gloriam.  Yet how much of that ‘musical treasure’ remains locked away, all the chants, the motets, the concerti and recititativos, the traditional hymns, with their rhythmical and deeply theological Latin poetry, gathering dust as the ages go by?


The main reason for this pre-eminence is that, as sacred song united to the words, it forms a necessary or integral part of the solemn liturgy.


The value of the Church’s music is not something it holds on its own, but rather as part of the public worship of God in the Liturgy.  Without music, such worship is lessened and attenuated; with tawdry, discordant or just downright banal music, such worship is distorted and even vitiated.


Therefore sacred music is to be considered the more holy in proportion as it is more closely connected with the liturgical action, whether it adds delight to prayer, fosters unity of minds, or confers greater solemnity upon the sacred rites


There is a gradation in ‘good’ Church music, from the most perfect, to the lesser so, to the stuff that should never be heard anywhere near a Church.  Ecclesiastical music should be ‘holy’, should lift our hearts and minds above and beyond the secular world, into the consecrated spiritual oasis that is the Liturgy, and especially the Holy Mass.  God in His wisdom and providence has given us a music set aside for such a purpose that goes back to the very dawn of the Church:


The Church acknowledges Gregorian chant as specially suited to the Roman liturgy  (ut liturgiae romanae proprium): therefore, other things being equal, it should be given pride of place (principem locum) in liturgical services


Notice the term ‘specially suited’, which in the original Latin is ‘proprium‘:  Gregorian chant is proper to the Roman liturgy, which means it belongs there as part of its very nature, and something is sorely missing without it.


Of course, other music adds also to the splendour of the Liturgy, “especially polyphony” as the document states, with composers such as Palestrina, Bach, Mozart, Tallis, Byrd, whose music is heard, sadly, now by and large only in secular concert halls, or in churches outside of Liturgy.


And what of instruments?


In the Latin Church the pipe organ is to be held in high esteem (magno in honore habeatur), for it is the traditional musical instrument which adds a wonderful splendor to the Church’s ceremonies and powerfully lifts up man’s mind to God and to higher things.


I have had the pleasure and honour of hearing many fine organs, but, alas, too many churches have either ripped them out, or let them languish, unplayed.  As the great J. S. Bach put it, a Lutheran, but in many fundamental ways more Catholic than many modern ‘Catholics’ one might be bold to presume, the organ is the ‘instrument of instruments’, requiring years of dedication to play to full effect. Yet how many churches pay their secretaries and maintenance men well, with full benefits, but hire no one to direct music?  Or employ someone whose ‘skill set’ extends to four or five chords on a guitar, belting out emotional ballads, making up in volume what he, or she, lacks in talent?  If music really is the most important aspect of Liturgy, besides the actual Liturgy itself, should we not devote more time and effort and, yes, money, to it? Speaking as one of ‘limited talent’, we should have done with volunteers-only music at Mass, with the phrase ‘at least they’re doing something’.  If someone cannot sing or play well, then they should not.  There are many other charisms in the Church besides music, and silence is better than bad music.  There is a phrase attributed to Saint Augustine, which he seems not to have said exactly, ‘qui bene cantat, bis orat’, he who sings well, prays twice. (What the great bishop really said was something to the effect that he who sings with love, but you get my drift, for to love is to will the good of the other, and off-tune singing, at least in the cantor, is not much good).


The Constitution does admit that “other instruments also may be admitted for use in divine worship“, but “only on condition that the instruments are suitable, or can be made suitable, for sacred use, accord with the dignity of the temple, and truly contribute to the edification of the faithful“.


Ah, there we are again, with the ‘apt for sacred use’.  Such ‘other instruments’ should not be those we hear the secular realm, banjos, drums and guitars (nothing wrong with them in their own right time and place), but rather those instruments that allow us, again, to transcend the passing form of this world, that fit with the great dignity of God’s temple, and that lead us to holiness.  How often have we left Mass unedified, emotionally drained, and rather un-exalted, forced to discern with the sheer force of our intellect and will the great beauty of the Liturgy hiding and obscured behind such banality, or at least secularity, that often passes for modern Church music? As one musician recently put it, and I paraphrase, we are leaving the expensive china and silverware in the cupboard, and serving up the best dishes to God and His people on styrofoam and paper plates.


My exhortation:  Reappropriate in whatever way you can the great and inestimable musical treasure of the Church, by attending good Liturgy, by getting involved yourself, learning how to sing and play, and at least learning to appreciate all that is true, good and beautiful in the music handed down to us through the ages of the Church.  Doing so is a bit of work at first, but one that is well, well worth the cost.  In fact, I am not sure how far we will get without it.


Saint Caecelia, ora pro nobis!


Youthful Ambition Pays Big

oosterhoff-brownSo Mr. Oosterfhoff has won the by-election, becoming the youngest MP ever to win a seat in the provincial legislature.  I wish him and his constituents all the best, but still stand by what I wrote, that there should be certain criteria for leadership, whether by custom or by law.  Ideally, we as voters would and should just know who would make a good candidate, but things have become so disordered, the whole system so open to abuse, demagoguery, buying votes, holding all those dependent on the government hostage to one’s positions, that we need more than a major overhaul, a revolution of sorts.


There is this that will limit Mr. Oosterhoff, and perhaps allow him to grow into his office:  Members of parliament in whatever legislature, federal or provincial, have little or no power.  In the infamous words of Pierre Elliott Trudeau, ‘they’re nobodies’.  I don’t mean this in any derogatory sense to the new delegate or anyone else (but cannot speak for the intentions of the deceased Trudeau).  It is just that, as Trudeau saw and helped realize, power has been concentrated very much ‘at the top’, with the Premier and Prime Minster and their hand-chosen cabinet members doing whatever they want, making all the decisions, and ‘whipping’ their members (yes, that is the verb they use) to vote in the party line.  Sam Oosterhoof could be Gandalf the Grey, and he’d still get nothing done in the moral morass we call ‘parliament’.  Whoever thinks we live in a democracy should examine how things are actually run. We are rather in a semi-functional socialist oligarchy.


At least Mr. Oosterhoff professes Christianity and, we may presume, some true conservative principles.  However, ‘conservative’ must mean more than simply ‘not being pro-abortion’, but, rather, having a desire, mission and capacity to preserve and apply all of the best and most noble principles and mores that have been handed down to us by our ancestors.  Does he have that capacity?


The sad thing is that there are likely legions of young ‘political science’ students out there across the country, and there are quite literally thousands of them, in their teens and early twenties, whetting their chops for a chance to organize their own run at office.  What else will they, and the innumerable others following unproductive degrees, do upon graduation?


For we live in the midst of socialism, and the only way to make a decent living now is to be born of rich parents, and inherit a wealthy portfolio, or attach oneself most firmly to the government teat.  Those who actually work in the private sector, producing wealth and things that increase the GDP of the nation, all the ‘working men’ described by Leo XIII in Rerum Novarum ‘by which a state grows rich’, well, they are being well and truly ripped off, treated as chumps, taxed beyond their means to support an ever-metastasizing State bureaucracy, whose employees demand near-ubiquitous six-figure incomes, benefits, parental leave, holidays, expenses, paid trips and excursions, all, of course, ‘for your benefit’.


But the benefits, alas, are almost all one-sided, and who knows when the tipping point will be reached?



Laying Heavy Burdens of Carbon

trudeau-climate-changeJohn Robson is right, when he decries the hypocrisy of Prime Minister Trudeau and his entourage of 225 ‘delegates’ to the ‘climate change’ conference in sunny and warm Morocco.  Yes, you read rightly, that’s 200 plus 25, along with Trudeau, his whole family, and one may presume an in-law  and nanny or two, trailing one giant plume of exhaust, leaving a ‘carbon footprint’ worthy of a entire medium-sized African country.  Do not think these ‘elites’ will be dwelling in tents and munching on nan bread; say not, for, as the best and brightest in whatever passes for climate-change-ology, they will, one may presume, be flown in first-class, lodged in at least four star hotels, with buffet meals, with all the waste that entails; valets and chauffeurs will abound, drinks charged to the taxpayer in the evening, and scrumptious breakfasts in the morning, soirees, and perhaps even a spa and massage or two.


From their royal perch, King Trudeau and his courtiers will be preaching the doctrine of abstinence from consumption for all and sundry; like the prophets of old, they will condemn all our, the hoi pollloi, ‘waste’ and ‘extravagance’, how we must reduce our own ‘carbon footprint’ asymptotically to zero, imposing heavy burdens on men’s backs, while scarcely lifting a finger to move them themselves.


Here is Trudeau, a millionaire and the scion of a millionaire, a dedicated ‘environmentalist’, who has perhaps never lifted a finger to do his own laundry, who jets everywhere at great expense on private planes with his army of sycophants in tow, planning to impose a ‘carbon tax’ on the entire nation, irrespective of the legitimate autonomy and will of each province and their Premiers.  Since we all produce carbon as a consequence just of staying alive, such a  tax amounts to a tax upon life itself, which is about as unjust, intrusive and burdensome tax as one could imagine.


One is not even permitted to debate, to say nothing of dispute, the ‘science’ of ‘climate change’.  Not only is carbon dioxide not a pollutant, it is the very ‘air’ upon which plants breathe, and we need plants, and lots of them, to live.  So do animals, which we also need.  Does carbon contribute to global warming?  Well, if the planet is reallly warming up (and  two or three years do not a trend make in the age of an entity like a ‘planet’), there may possibly, just  perhaps, be a correlation, but so many other factors go into the temperature of a planet (itself notoriously difficult to measure) that peeling out one factor is well-nigh impossible.


I cannot help but think that there is something far more sinister going on behind the scenes here, of which perhaps the likes of Trudeau and his fellow traveler David Suzuki (beware an octogenarian who wants to ‘leave a legacy’!) are not even themselves aware.  But someone, perchance, is.


Donald Trump is no saviour, but his denial of the pastiche-science of climate change is a healthy sign, and a recent article suggests that Trudeau may have to rethink his carbon tax scheme if America does not go along.  To cripple the Canadian economy on the basis of flimsy science is not a prudent move.  But Trudeau seems to have a bit of a saviour complex himself, and his evangelical zeal for all things ecological borders on the unhinged.


But then truth is the adequatio rei et intellectus, the conformity of the mind to reality, and Trudeau, and the oligarchic political class, do not inhabit reality, or at least the same reality as most readers of this column.


The one saving grace is that reality, and truth, always win in the end.


So have hope. Christ has already overcome the world, and all the illusions thereof.

Albertus Magnus

albert-the-greatSaint Albert was called the ‘great’ even during his lifetime, rumoured to have known everything there was to be known, which may have been sort of possible in the early thirteenth century.  He certainly wrote on almost every subject, and his insights provided much of the basis of what we now know as ‘science’.  One of the first Dominicans, a preacher, scientist, philosopher, prodigious writer, indefatigable walker across thousands of miles of Europe (in their spirit of poverty, the Dominicans were forbidden to use horses), eventually bishop of Cologne and, not least, the teacher of the pupil who would outshine even his own fame, Thomas Aquinas. They were lifelong friends and, even though older, Albert outlived his younger disciple, and wept upon hearing news of Thomas’ death his former ‘dumb ox’ (as he was nicknamed in school, thinking his silence implied mental deficiency) journeyed towards the Council of Lyons in 1274.  Albert would follow Thomas into paradise after a long and fruitful life, in 1280.


Both Albert and Thomas are the patron saints of ‘learning’ in the broad sense, of teachers, students, scientists, all those who pursue the truth. But being open to the truth requires a rightly-ordered will, that one desires the good that is at the basis of all truth.  For even ‘truth’ can be distorted and warped by, and to, our own whims and desires.  Purity of mind requires purity of body and soul, or as the Catechism puts it:  There is a connection between purity of heart, of body and of faith (#2518).


Just after this is a quotation from Saint Augustine, upon whom both Thomas and Albert based much of their own thought:


The faithful must believe the articles of the Creed “so that by believing they may obey God, by obeying they may live well, by living well may purify their hearts, and with pure hearts may understand what they believe”


Orthodoxy and orthopraxy, right thinking and right living, stand or fall together.  That is why the great John Paul II declared that clarity in the realms both of faith and of reason are required for the formation of the human mind and soul.  Without faith, reason becomes rationalism, a over-dependence upon Man’s vacillating and weak intellect, and we have see the evil fruits of that in the atheistic totalitarian regimes, building utopias without God and without charity; in the application of technologies without a solid moral framework.


Without reason, faith becomes fideism, descending into something bizarre and erratic, justifying much evil in the name of ‘God’, as we see in branches of Islam and other religions, that refuse to see that reason itself is a work of God, and a manifestation of the very mind of the Almighty.


The only answer is a harmony between the two, faith and reason, found most perfectly in the principles offered by great scholastics, embodied in Albert and Thomas, who integrated in their own lives the harmony between and perfection of soul and mind, holiness and intelligence.


Here are the words of Pope John Paul describing Saint Thomas, whose own singular and unique mind and writings were perhaps the greatest testament to work of Saint Albert:


Saint Thomas is 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. (FR, 78)


Sancte Albertus Magnus, ora pro nobis! 


Remember Saint Martin

martinToday we celebrate Remembrance Day (in the United States, Memorial Day), commemorating the cessation of hostilities in World War I, on the eleventh hour, on the eleventh day, in the eleventh month, with the signing of the Armistice in Germany between 5:12 and 5:20 in the morning, their time (even though the war officially did not end until the signing of the Treaty of Versailles on June 28, 1919).


Again, in the mysterious designs of providence, on this day in the Church we also commemorate Saint Martin of Tours, a pagan and a soldier who converted to Catholicism very early in life, perhaps at the tender age of ten, and against the wishes of his still-pagan parents at that.  He was conscripted into the Roman army, and served well.  One day, he came across a shivering beggar, and, moved by his Christian conscience, tore his cloak in cloak in half for him; later, in a vision, the beggar turned out to be Christ Himself, a sight that greatly deepened Martin’s conversion. He left the army soon afterward and adopted the life of a hermit.  Word of this former-soldier-turned-penitent grew. Lured to Tours in 371 by a claim that there was someone sick who needed help, Martin was constrained by the townspeople, who recognized his great sanctity, to become their bishop.  The good soldier-monk tried to hide in a barn (see my post on fleeing from high office), but the flock of geese also hiding therein gave him away by their squawking.   God chooses whom He may by what means He may, we may suppose, and even geese do the will of their Maker.  The good bishop Martin lived an exemplary life of prayer, repentance and almsgiving and, after his death in 397, was soon adopted into the Church’s calendar as the first officially canonized saint.


Martin has also been recognized as the first conscientious objector, serving his emperor, but, so the story goes, refusing to shed blood, a position that is permitted by the Church (cf., CCC, #2311). This is an a propos topic, not just for today, commemorating all those who did ‘shed blood’ and died serving their country, but also in light of the new film by director Mel Gibson, Hacksaw Ridge, a fictional account of real-life conscientious objector Desmond Doss, whose Seventh Day Adventist faith, he considered, obliged him never to bear arms; he served heroically as a medic, desiring to save life, not to take it.


The Catholic Church, as is often the case, has a more nuanced position than the one Doss’ faith held, for even though one can give up one’s own life, there are cases where one must defend others, an obligation that becomes a “grave duty for one who is responsible for the lives of others” (CCC # 2265), like a father protecting his wife and children. Sometimes, as the passage goes on to state, “the common good requires that an unjust aggressor be rendered unable to cause harm”, even if this requires, sadly, lethal means.


So we pray for all those who gave their lives for their country, one way or the other, in battle or not.  As even the ancient Romans recognized, dulce et decorum est pro patribus mori, ‘it is a sweet and decorous thing to die for one’s country’, but, in a more proper translation, for one’s fathers and ancestors.  We should recall that in ‘defending our country’, even to point of killing and being killed if need be, we do so to protect others, real flesh and blood human beings, not some abstract ideal or flag.  The only just war is a defensive war, and all of our actions, even within such a war, must be acts of charity, of the love of God and of neighbour, especially for those closest to us, for hearth and home.


It is a sad and mysterious thing that there is so much evil out there, and a lot of men under its demonic spell, so as another Roman saying goes, si vis pacem, para bellum, if you want peace, prepare for war.   Every man should know and have what it takes to defend his own ‘hearth and home’.  We honour those who died, protecting our peace and freedom, and it is up to us to do what we can to maintain that peace and freedom, and not continue to squander it away in a new, more subtle and perhaps even worse forms of a atheistic and messianic totalitarianism which they gave their lives resisting.


God indeed keep our land, glorious and free.


Requiescant in pace, and may we all meet in a blessed eternity.