Ubi Petrus, Ibi Ecclesia

peter and paulOn this Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, the first Pope and his primary missionary bishop respectively, and in light our current Pope’s new encyclical, I thought a few words on the papacy itself would be helpful, and particularly the often-misunderstood charism of infallibility which goes with the office.


Today’s Gospel reading gives the great commission placed upon Peter by Christ.  In response to Our Lord’s question, “Who do you say that I am”,


Peter replied “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God”.  And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona!  For flesh and blood have not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.  And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it.  I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” 


Powerful words.  The Church has unpacked our Lord’s intent, through her living Tradition, and one can find the culmination of this teaching in the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church from Vatican II, Lumen Gentium (cf., par. #25 especially).


The Pope, from the Latin ‘papa‘, a derivative of ‘pater‘, meaning Father, is called to teach and govern the Church in the name of Christ.  Thus, he is often termed the ‘Vicar of Christ’, one who stands in the place of Christ; the Pope is a living link, a mediator, a pontifex (or ‘bridge builder’) between Men and Christ, between heaven and earth.


Although the Pope fulfills this duty with all the strengths, and weaknesses, of himself as a man, he is fortified and elevated by the grace of Christ, especially by what the Church has discerned as the charism of infallibility, always believed by the Church, but defined by the first Vatican Council in 1870, and reiterated by the Second Vatican Council and in the Catechism (CCC, #891).


The Latin term for ‘charism’ is a gratia gratis data, a ‘grace freely given’ by God to fulfill some office or task, primarily to sanctify others (cf., CCC #2003, 2004).  That is, the charism of infallibility does not belong to the Pope as a man, but belongs to God, working through the humanity of Christ, present in the office of Peter, but only under certain conditions, so that the Church may be guided without error, in the words of Saint Paul, as the ‘pillar and bulwark of truth’ (1 Tim 3:15).


These conditions were specified in paragraph 25 of the Church’s Constitution from the Second Vatican Council, alluded to above.  The Holy Father must be teaching as Pope, to all the faithful, in a definitive manner, on faith and morals.  To such teaching, the Catholic faithful must give the ‘assent of faith (fidei obsequio).  Much of the Church’s teaching has been defined in this way, as we can read in the Catechism, but clarification continues, and some things are not so clearly defined.  Even to non-definitive teaching on faith, morals and, to some extent, the discipline of the Church, the faithful must give ‘religious assent of mind and will’ (religiosum voluntatis et intellectus obsequium).


To other opinions of the Pope, the faithful should give respect, but they are not bound by such, even if they appear in an official document or pronouncement.  John Paul II offered his opinion about the injustice of the first Iraq invasion, with which I happened to agree, but we were not bound as Catholics to do so.  Benedict XVI thought Mozart the greatest composer, with which I also concur (albeit, I do also love Bach) .  And, as mentioned in my last post, we do not have to assent to Francis’ own opinions about climate change.  The charism of infallibility does not extend to such.


Our response to papal teaching requires that we use our discernment, our wits, and, in the end, our conscience.  Some teachings do bind us, others are there to guide and inspire us.  Theology and catechetics, spiritual direction and prayer are some of the ways that help us to put into effect the teaching of the Holy Father and his bishops (especially through the various Councils and synods of the Church).


The office of papacy is part of supernatural revelation.  Although there is Scriptural and historical evidence for the Pope acting as the ‘Vicar of Christ’, with all that entails (infallibility, power to govern the Church, choose bishops and so on), ultimately one needs to believe in the office of the papacy by divine faith.  To try to disprove the papacy historically is an act of futility, for we believe not on the basis of history (although history may help), but on the authority of Christ Himself.  From a worldly, human perspective, it  would seem to make more sense to govern the Church by democratic means.   Although the Church usually does use such means in her decisions (the Pope has advisers, councils, asks his bishops and faithful before deciding a question, does not usually interfere with the work of his bishops and priests, and so on), at the end of the day, the Pope still has ‘full, supreme, universal power’  (Lumen Gentium, #22) to govern and teach when and how he wills, flowing from the very power of Christ Himself.


Folly?  Perhaps, but what is foolish in the eyes of men, is wise to God, and what is weakness to men, is strength to God…


We have been blessed to have had a panoply of saints on the chair of Peter to match the dignity of the office, men of high, indeed unique, intellectual and spiritual virtue.  We have not always been so fortunate, although the ‘bad Popes’ are few and far between (and their vices often room of tearsexaggerated in historical accounts).   But no Pope has ever officially, at least as Vicar of Christ, taught error or heresy.  God protects us from the weaknesses, foibles and limitations of the bad (and even the good!) men chosen to succeed Saint Peter.  For we are all sons of Adam, and all the Popes have had their faults, their pride, their ignorances, their blind spots.  The burden of the office of Peter, to carry Christ’s Church, its billion or so adherents, and indeed all men, through the complexities and evils of this world, is great indeed, which is why the vestibule where the new Pope first puts on his robes of office is called the ‘crying room’ or the room of tears.


But we have hope:  As Our Lord says to Peter, towards the end of the Gospel of Saint Luke, on the very eve of His Passion when all seemed lost:


Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail; and when you have turned again, strengthen your brethren.


With Christ Himself praying for the Holy Father,  what need have we of anxiety?  Saint Peter himself said to the first Christians, ‘cast all your cares upon Him, for He cares for you’, and as one of his greatest successors never tired of reminding us, ‘Be not afraid’…


June 29, 2015

Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul


Laudato Si: Magisterial Ecology

The Holy Father’s new encyclical, Laudato Si, whose title is taken from the canticle of Saint Francis of Assisi, lives up to radical Franciscan spirituality (from the Latin radix, going back to the root or source), sparing no punches in his denunciations of the waywardness of the world, calling for a return to a simple way of life, less dependent on technology and non-renewable resources, more focused on God, the beauty of His creation, our relationships with one another.


There are, as many of you have likely already heard or read, controversial aspects to the encyclical, largely stemming from Pope Francis’ apparent tendency to make statements that can be misinterpreted.  I am not out to judge the Pope, but one must read his often exhortatory statements in the light of reason and the traditional teaching of the Church.


There is his much-touted  endorsement of the scientific validity of anthropogenic global warming by carbon emissions (#23), with which the radical environmentalists are already making hay.  The Church does have a limited authority to speak on scientific issues, when they pertain to faith or morals (e.g., Pius XII’s limits on the theory of human evolution in Humani Generis).  However, she must be cautious in advocating as-yet unproven scientific theories, especially shaky ones rife with fraud, and drawing moral conclusions therefrom. The carbon-emission hypothesis is only a small part of the letter, however, and Francis admits later on that this question is not completely decided, that debate is possible, and that “on many concrete questions, the Church has no reason to offer a definitive opinion; she knows that honest debate must be encouraged amongst experts, while respecting divergent views” (#61).  In other words, the encyclical does not oblige Catholics to believe in anthropogenic climate change or global warming.


I also have concerns with the Pope’s apparent advocacy of the Earth Charter (he mentions it without criticism in #207), and his call for an international body with legal powers to enforce environmentally-friendly policies (#170, 173), especially if we accept ‘carbon emissions’  produced by humans as pollutants (although, thankfully, the Holy Father is against the easily-abused scheme of ‘carbon credits’, #171).  The Holy Father does warn that the sovereignty of nations must be protected (#38), but I would have difficulty imagining such a international body being friendly to the Church, or to large families, Catholic or otherwise.


I am also not sure how to jibe his stated goal to “eliminate poverty” (#172, 175), with  Our Lord’s prediction that “the poor you will always have with you” (Mt 26:11; Mk 14:7).  Reason also tells us that ‘poverty’ is a relative reality.  The poor in Canada, who have access to a ‘free’ health care system and welfare, are not quite the same as the poor in Calcutta, who are left in the gutter, at least until the Sisters of Charity arrived.  There will always be the ‘rich’ and the ‘poor’, both monetarily and otherwise, until the end of time.  I would think the term ‘alleviate’ poverty would have made things clearer; I wholeheartedly agree that we will always have work to do for the poor.


Also, I have some sympathy for the Holy Father’s advice to turn down, or off, the air conditioner, to “wear warmer clothes” rather than turn up the heat, to avoid the “use of plastic and paper”, to reduce water consumption (cf., #211), all within the broad exhortation to wean ourselves from ‘fossil fuels’ (#165) and care for the environment.  However, he does not make clear just how bad these often much-needed realities are.  How are we now to view driving our cars, especially on long road trips, air travel, heating our homes, cooking our food?  I would not mind having some clearer directives how to proceed.  Back to the science question:  How polluting really are the burning  of fossil fuels and the harvesting of paper?


But, anon, enough of the controversial aspects, and on to the main emphasis of the encyclical, a call for a radical reorientation of our view towards God’s creation, and our place therein:  That all things are created by God, and signify in a broad sacramental way some aspect of His glory, and that we can ascend from created things “to the greatness of God and to his loving mercy” (#77).  Francis declares the need to reappropriate “a correct understanding of work” which can only come about if we first grasp the proper “relationship between human beings and things” (#124).  A re-emphasis, following from John Paul II and the unbroken tradition of the Church of a true “ecology of man”, and accepting “one’s own body in its femininity or masculinity”, as well as recognizing the “family as the basic cell of society” (#157).


Along these lines, the Holy Father calls for a renewed respect and care for all of creation, to maintain its bountiful biodiversity, which not only reflects God’s beauty, but which is often helpful to man (one may consider insects and agriculture, cf., #34).  Primary and inviolable protection, however, is to be given to human life.  As the Holy Father asks, “(h)ow can we genuinely teach the importance of concern for other vulnerable beings, however troublesome or inconvenient they may be, if we fail to protect a human embryo, even when its presence is uncomfortable and creates difficulties?” (#120).   While we must learn to care for our environment and use resources wisely and prudently, the ecological problems we face cannot be solved by a “reduction in the birth rate” (#50).  Quoting the Church’s Compendium of Social Doctrine, Francis makes clear that “demographic growth is fully compatible with an integral and shared development” (#50), and that our ecological problems are rather the effect of an “extreme and selective consumerism on the part of some” (ibid.).  One might surmise that the ‘some’ are those who call most vociferously for population reduction.


While recognizing the utility and even the beauty of technology as a “means of improving the quality of human life” (#103), Francis also recognizes its dangers, for our “immense technological development has not been accompanied by a development in human responsibility, values and conscience” (#105).  As Francis put it earlier in the letter, “when media and the digital world become omnipresent”, and who does not see smartphones everywhere, “their influence can stop people from learning how to live wisely, to think deeply and to love generously” (#47).  Would that our modern educational establishments took to heart his words that “(t)rue wisdom, as the fruit of self-examination, dialogue and generous encounter between persons, is not acquired by a mere accumulation of data which eventually leads to overload and confusion, a sort of mental pollution” (ibid.).


The Holy Father’s has some harsh words for our over-consumerist society, and I must confess that I have a good degree of sympathy for him here, more so than some of the Catholic blogosphere.  He does not condemn capitalism, nor does he advocate socialism, but rather asks us to go beyond what he calls “an undifferentiated and one-dimensional paradigm” in our approach to the economy, a paradigm based on the “scientific and experimental method, which in itself is already a technique of possession, mastery and transformation” (#106).  An economy cannot operate solely upon the basis of profit, especially when “finance overwhelms the real economy” (#109).  This problem is not just economic, but epistemological, following upon our “fragmentation of knowledge” (a fruit of our modern university education), which leads only to partial solutions and to a “loss of the appreciation of the whole” (#110).


One vital application of ‘seeing the whole’ is the need to protect employment, and a reappropriation of the value and dignity of human work. Quoting the Pastoral Constitution on the Church from Vatican II, Gaudium et Spes, the Holy Father reiterates that “man is the source, the focus and the aim of all economic and social life” (#127; cf., GS, #63).  In this context, profit is only one factor in any business enterprise, and we should beware, for example, of “laying off workers and replacing them with machines” (#128).  Such loss of jobs, which is becoming a real problem in our society, in turn has a negative impact on the economy.  To build a stable and long-lasting financial basis, “it is imperative to promote an economy which favours productive diversity and business creativity” (#129) and civil leaders have the “right and duty”, in concrete cases, “to adopt clear and firm measures in support of small producers and differentiated production” (ibid.).  Do we want all our clothes, furniture and food to come from the same multinational companies, especially those that have unjust, even slave-like, labour policies?  Should not local production and employment be fostered and supported?  As Francis states, “to stop investing in people, in order to gain greater short-term financial gain, is bad business for society” (#128).


Towards the end of the encyclical, the Holy Father has a beautiful exhortation for us to attain true “joy and peace” by a “prophetic and contemplative lifestyle, one capable of deep enjoyment free of the obsession with consumption”, to be “spiritually detached from what we possess, and not to succumb to sadness of what we lack” (#222).  This can only be accomplished through a “sobriety and humility” which leads to an “integrity of human life, of the need to promote and unify all the great values”, which is impossible if we “exclude God from our lives or replace him with our own ego” (#224).  I agree wholeheartedly with Pope Francis that “(w)e have had enough of immorality and the mockery of ethics, goodness, faith and honesty”, and that “light-hearted superficiality has done us no good” (#229).


The primary means to attain such peace and magnanimous goodness is to recognize and reflect upon the beauty of creation and of being at peace with ourselves (#225), but most of all through participation in the sacraments, those tangible, created realities through which God offers us his grace, a participation in His very life.  As Francis declares, “(i)t is in the Eucharist that all that has been created finds its greatest exaltation.  Grace, which tends to manifest itself tangibly, found unsurpassable expression when God himself became man and gave himself as food for his creatures” (#236).  It is here, in the Eucharist, that “fullness is already achieved; it is the living centre of the universe”.  It is thus that “the Eucharist joins heaven and earth; it embraces and penetrates all creation” (ibid.).


So creation itself becomes supernaturalized, signifying that all things come from God and are held in His hands.  In fact, all creation signifies the very Trinitarian reality of God, the “divine Persons” which are “subsistent relations”, in the reality of which the “human person grows more, matures more and is sanctified more to the extent that he or she enters into relationships, going out from themselves to live in communion with God, with others and with all creatures” (#240).


At the end, with Our Lady, who “in her glorified body, together with the Risen Christ…has reached the fullness of beauty”, we too “will find ourselves face to face with the infinite beauty of God”, whose creation is but a dim reflection, but nonetheless a foretaste, of this glory.


June 28, 2015

13th Sunday


Culture trumps Law: Segregation, Islam-style

segregation islamA former student sent me an article from the Daily Mail, and asked me to comment upon it.  Since the gist of the article follows upon my last post, I thought, why not get right to it, then on to other things, like the Holy Father’s latest encyclical. (warning: if you do go on Daily Mail webpage, be prepared for gossip, verbiage, and various smutty photos in the right-hand column, nearly impossible for the eye to avoid).  Anyway, the article described a store in Bordeaux, France, whose owner is of a certain Middle-Eastern-cultural-religious background, who has now instituted a strict segregation policy, with men and women only being allowed to shop on different days.


Now, just so we are all clear, this is not what I meant by segregation in my last post, but rather an aberration, along with many others, flowing from a ‘strict’ (true?) interpretation of Islamic decree.


Here are some points that come to mind as I reflect upon the store’s policy, especially in light of Friday’s attacks across Europe:


To begin, Islam is not an inherently rational religion.  There are elements of reason within it, insofar as it overlaps with the true religion: the call to fasting, prayer, almsgiving, for example, belief in one God, and so on.  However, their view of God’s will is different from Christianity.  In the Islamic mind, at least according to its ‘strict’ interpretation by the followers of ISIS, Allah may decree things that not only go beyond our reason, but even things that, from our point of view, go against reason:  Lying, murder, pillage, theft, domination, forced conversion, at least against the infidel, and of ‘heretical’ Muslims.  We can in no way access the mind of Allah, nor judge his decrees. There is no Incarnation in Islam, no God-become-Man, no Mediator, no imago Dei, no Trinitarian communion within the Godhead, no God-as-Father.  Just pure will, pure command, pure decree.


I am not entirely clear, and I don’t think anyone else is, on how the various Islamic factions, from Sunni to Shia and all points in-between, discern the ‘will of Allah’, derived from the often -obscure Suras of the Qur’an.  There is the Hadith, the traditional literal sayings of Muhammad, but the various branches of Islam have different ‘Hadiths’.  Even within each tradition, individual imams interpret and apply the principles of Islam differently.  We now have ISIS claiming central authority of a sort, but it is chaotic, violent, reactionary, unstable, its ‘leaders’ come and go, are killed, deposed.


On Friday, to take a far more serious example than the store segregation, there were four major terrorist attacks following a call to violence during Ramadan by ISIS ‘senior leader’ (for now) Mohammad Al-Adnani:  in Tunisia, at the resort town of Sousse, two gunmen opened fire on sunbathers and swimmers at the idyllic beach resort, before entering the hotel and shooting at random, killing 40, injuring 38, most of the victims vacationers from Europe; ISIS apparently considers the hotels ‘brothels’.  In Libya, a suicide bombing during Friday prayers at a Shiite mosque (whom Sunni  ISIS considers heretics),  27 killed, 227 injured;  in Somalia, an attack by Al-Shabaab on an African Union soldier outpost, where 70 soldiers were killed; and in France, where the store is segregated, an Islamic terrorist beheaded a man who had apparently employed him, displaying his dismembered head, before trying to blow up an oil tank.


All of these attacks are irrational; they lead to no good, no discernible ‘end’ or purpose. Random violence, to ‘send a message’, to destabilize, to instill fear and create chaos.  Then again, perhaps the purpose is that, after the breakdown, ISIS or some other Islamic acronym will take over, but then what?  Another  faction will come along, claiming that only they speak for Muhammad, for true Islam.  A house divided against itself….


Given the existence of irrational, and even evil, elements within our midst, how are we as a society to tolerate them?  Can we prevent such attacks before they happen by making illegal such things as store or swimming pool segregation, or, on a more serious note, the supporters of jihad?


In Saint Thomas’ treatise on law (I-II, q.90, ff.), he asks whether the State should forbid all vices, and he answers no, for such would be impossible, would stretch the power of the State beyond its limits, and would lead to open rebellion by the people.  For not all are equal in virtue, and we do not even agree on what virtue, and vice, really are.


However, we must agree to criminalize some things, those things that Thomas describes as “to the harm of others, without which society could not function”.


In a broad, multicultural and multireligious society like France (or Canada), we must tolerate a lot of things in others with which we may disagree, such as their style of dress, their boorish behaviour, swearing, overeating, lust and a host of other ‘vices’, but some things we cannot tolerate, such as murder, rape, theft and so on.


The difficulty arises in the middle ground, in things that are difficult to legislate, such as the store segregation, and, more to the point, the very mindset (or, more properly, the ‘religious-set’) that gives rise to such ideas.


Here are some thoughts:  If the store is located in a remote area, such as Nunavut, where the only other grocery outlet is a thousand miles south, then one could make a strong case for the State to force the owner to open his store to all, men and women, at all hours.  Such a society could not function with a store operating according to Sharia law.


However, if his store is in a busy location, with five other stores within walking distance, well then, let people vote with their feet, and just not shop there.


The problem in France, one which is already arising in many other countries including Canada, is that culture always beats law.  In the words of Saint Thomas, “culture has the force of law, abolishes law and is the interpreter of law”.  Law, which is a means to an end, one that teaches us to do the right thing (or, more properly, not do the wrong thing), and forces us in some way to comply, is always the product of a society’s culture, as we also witnessed on Friday in the decision by United States Supreme Court to legalize ‘same sex’ marriage throughout all fifty States of the Union (about which I will have more to say in a later post).


If a culture is irrational and pathological, then so will be its laws.


Culture, however, is signified by how people actually act as a group, based on their beliefs, and culture is the result, as I have written before, of a strong, cohesive community.  When there are enough people in one place all believing and acting the same way, they will always be able to change the law.  Not least, as Mark Steyn likes to say, since demography is destiny, and those who have the children will make the customs, and write the laws.


France has about 5 million or so Muslims, roughly 7.5-10% of its population, and these numbers are growing geometrically both by birth, and immigration, legal and illegal (which is why hard figures are hard to come by); in fact, Islam is about the only growth demographic in all of Europe, and, in the main, its adherents all tend to live in the same region, the same neighbourhoods, attend the same mosques, follow the same religion and the same customs.  Thus, they want a store that segregates men and women, and the owner will cater to them.


The State may be able to force desegregation for a limited time, but that does not often work out too well, as witness the still-evident signs of racial segregation in the United States, after decades of laws and education.  There are still black and white neighbourhoods, schools, music…Culture trumps law.


What we are facing as our Western society breaks down is the danger of a strong culture that does not follow our ‘values’, and in fact considers our values to be immoral, evil, to be stamped out at all costs.  Such thoughts and principles, which reside in the hearts of the people, are like ticking time bombs, but mostly opaque to the eyes of the State and its laws.  I wonder how many Muslims were secretly pleased with the massacres on Friday, or at least not unpleased, thinking, well, it was too bad, but they were all infidels anyway.  For every deranged jihadi killer, there are many more who may not do the deed, but are to some degree supportive.


aaron driver arrest

Aaron Driver, arrested, on June 26, but with what will he be charged, I wonder?

Such thoughts, at least until they break forth into action, cannot easily be controlled by law. In Canada, recently, a young man named Aaron Driver was prosecuted as a vocal supporter of ISIS, and of the attack in the fall of 2014 on Parliament Hill.  Driver insists he himself is not a threat.  How do you charge someone for how they think, or what they support?  How far do we permit different cultures within our midst, particularly Islam, whose very name means submission, and which has world domination or, if you will, ‘conversion’, as one of its tenets?  At present, in Canada, we may presume that Aaron Driver is an aberration, but there may come a day not too far in the future when he is not. How many ‘Aaron Drivers’ can a society tolerate?


People may now realize why there was a need in the Middle Ages for something like the Inquisition, and why there may be a need for a new, perhaps not improved, variety.  For unlike the old Inquisition, whatever one thinks of its methods, the nova inquisitio will not be based on objective truth in a society unhinged from any true notion of good and evil, but on the spirit of the age, decreed by our ‘elites’, by what passes for wisdom in our judicial system.


The day after the attacks, Tunisia announced that it is closing 80 mosques for ‘inciting violence’.  Hmm.  There may be a lot more mosques to come, but what then?  What do you think the NSA in America will do with the myriads of data it is collecting on our phone and internet conversations?   Searching for potential ‘terrorists’, one may presume, but with the criminalization of ‘hate speech’, we are on the verge of our very thoughts being declared illegal, whether truly jihadi-minded or not.


Thus, we already have a ‘secular inquisition’. The question is, what do we use it for, and whose purpose does it serve?


The store segregation is but one small sign, amongst numerous others, that some cultures and their customs do not easily mix, and are in fact antagonistic.  Islam in particular has a difficult time assimilating.  Indeed, such assimilation is against their creed, which states very clearly that they must assimilate us to them.  Given the weakness and continuing death spiral of our own culture, that may not be too difficult to accomplish.  Dhimmitude, here we come…


The Chinese have a proverb:  ‘ May you live in interesting times’.  I sometimes wish the times weren’t quite so interesting.


June 27, 2015

Saint Cyril of Alexandria, Bishop and Doctor



Propinquity as Aphrodisiac

Sometimes the truth is expressed in a clumsy, awkward way, like a beautiful person drunk at a party, stumbling and semi-coherent, trying to act funny.  Thus it was in the past couple of weeks, when two high-profile men, established in their careers, both formed in a past era now long-gone, held forth their opinions on the relationship between the sexes.


nobel scientist sexist speechProfessor Tim Hunt, F.R.S. (Fellow of the Royal Society, and a Noble Prize laureate in physiology and medicine) made a rather lame attempt at humour, or perhaps social commentary, when he said this in the midst of a speech:


Let me tell you about my trouble with girls. Three things happen when they are in the lab. You fall in love with them, they fall in love with you, and when you criticise them, they cry.


This was followed a few days later here in Canada by retiring Defence Staff General Tom Lawson, in commenting on the numerous cases of sexual assault in the military in an interview with Peter Mansbridge of the CBC:


It would be a trite answer, but it’s because we’re biologically wired in a certain way and there will be those who believe it is a reasonable Tom Hunt Defencething to press themselves and their desires on others. It’s not the way it should be


Most women I have met, and I bet many  I have not met, dream of being courted, even pursued, by a outgoing and audacious man…


But, anon, even though both comments lack philosophical and anthropological finesse, they are, in the main, true.  Both men, however, were forced to make humiliating apologies, prostrating themselves to the implacable zeitgeist of political correctness.  Tim Hunt was given the choice on the flight back home, relayed to him via his wife, either to resign or be fired.  Tom Lawson was more fortunate, in that he is retiring in June on his comfortable military pension, but the media are still calling for his head, and that he resign immediately in disgrace.


Witness the effects on the elderly Dr. Hunt (he is 72), as he is brought to his knees:


“Tim sat on the sofa and started crying,” says Collins (his wife). “Then I started crying. We just held on to each other…”

Hunt is under no illusions about the consequences. “I am finished,” he says. “I had hoped to do a lot more to help promote science in this country and in Europe, but I cannot see how that can happen. I have become toxic. I have been hung to dry by academic institutes who have not even bothered to ask me for my side of affairs.”


Woe to those who cross the new and ever-shifting orthodoxy of the new Inquisition, where even abject apologies and repentance are not enough…


But why apologize at all?  I would like to have seen at least one of these men, who do not seem like beta-wuss-males, to tell their critics where to go.  What, pray tell, is wrong with saying that women may fall in love with their highly-intelligent boss in the laboratory (or men with their highly-intelligent female bosses, for that matter), that men and women are ‘biologically wired’ to fall in love with each other, and that men in particular are wired to ‘press their desires’ upon women?


These biological desires are natural and necessary for the continuation of the species, and to inspire men and women to, what was that quaint term?   Ah, yes, court and fall in love.  As Virgil so eloquently put it: Amor vincit omnia, et nos cedamus amori…Love conquers all, so let us too yield to love…


A wise man once said to me that propinquity is the greatest aphrodisiacProximity is being near to someone, propinquity is being near to them and interacting, often on a daily basis.  We may be proximate to someone on the floor above our apartment, as they live a scant fourteen feet away, but we may never meet them; they are but footsteps on the ceiling.  But we are propinquous to our roommates, our fellow office workers, our classmates and, of course, to our families, or at least one hopes.


When men and women interact on a regular basis, and especially when they strive together for a common goal, discussing, planning, laughing, sorrowing, eating together, of course an emotional bond will develop.  If the man and woman in question are nubile, that is, marriageable, then all the more will there be a tendency to ‘give in to love’, at least at an emotional level.  One may resist such urges with reason and will, but we must be careful in putting ourselves into such temptation.


That is why the Church and our common culture have always warned against mixed schools and workplaces, for the danger of sexual attraction, and ‘workplace crushes’ can never be fully removed.


I say ‘danger’, but it is not always so.  Sometimes, as in college and early-working years, it is natural and good for young people to fall in love and marry.  Of course, even here they must be aware of becoming smitten with the first attractive person to smile back at them.  The danger increases, however, if the people in question are already married (as in most workplaces), or they are looking for sexual satisfaction, so to speak, outside of marriage.


Yet here the modern acada-media pundits claim that you can put men and women into close, cooperative environments, and expect them not to develop feelings towards each other, or, ironically, to crush such crushes should they arise.  I have heard that the military has young men and women sleeping, snugs as bugs in a rug, in tents together in field exercises.  And at most universities, there are co-ed dormitories,  with ‘sleepovers’, of course, permitted even in single-sex dorms, for how dare we outlaw public and notorious fornication, albeit only in student handbooks?


The schizophrenia of the modern age never ceases to amaze me.  Our teachers resist abstinence education, declaring such chastity to be impossible, yet scream foul if a man ‘presses himself’ upon a woman.  What does that phrase even mean?  Asking her out?  Making a move?  Ogling?  Casual brushes of the hands as the beakers are passed during experiments?  Making ‘inappropriate contact’ while helping her clean her rifle?  I for one would not mind having a clear and precise definition of that vague term ‘sexual harassment’.


Of course, there is real and evident sexual assault, which one may presume is the end point of harassment, but the best way to avoid even venturing down that road is to avoid the occasion of sin in the first place, and that means some segregation of the sexes,  a delineation of each of our roles and expectations.


A return to courteousness and chivalry is in order, respecting the gifts and roles of each other as male and female, as man and woman, grounded in the truth of our created and bodily reality.  John Paul II’s Theology of the Body and his groundbreaking work Love and Responsibility are excellent places to start, and should be required reading for those making any policies concerning the interaction of the sexes.


In his ‘apology’, General Lawson says he will refer to former Supreme Court Justice Madame Deschamps’ ‘ten point recommendation’ in her report for the military.  I may have more to say on this, but in the meantime, it seems as though they will continue in their quixotic attempt to enforce the impossible, fostering all the while the very thing they are trying to avoid.


June 23, 2015


Mini Income Me

ndp vs conservativeThomas Mulcair and his socialist NDP party are ahead in the polls for the upcoming federal election, hot on the heels of the NDP Albertan sweep.  Of course, polls are only slightly indicative of the political temper, but they do signify something.


What this signifies is more than just ‘politics’ or some vague partisan loyalty or dissatisfaction with Stephen Harper.  Rather, there is a cultural shift at work, the genesis of which is found in our schools, universities, media and the very mindset of almost everyone whose principles are formed by these entities (which includes just about every Canadian, unless they actively resist such a formation).   The socialist policies espoused by the NDP, and by all of our political parties to one degree or another, are not just economic.  They rather embody a whole different approach to life, work, family, morality, and everything subsumed under the all-embracing term ‘culture’.


Allow me to address just one policy that sums up their view, the notion of a minimum income, also known as ‘mincome’.  So far, only the NDP in PEI, as well as, curiously, the mayors of Calgary and Edmonton, have publicly espoused this notion, which has been debated for a large part of the previous century, and should be distinguished clearly from minimum wage.  A minimum wage guarantees that an employee must receive a certain amount (usually per hour) for work done.  But one must first have a job to receive minimum wage.


A minimum income guarantees (again by law) that every citizen of a given age will receive a salary from the government of some sort, whether he has a job or not.


I do not think that in this brief column I could enumerate the problems with this socialist folly, but we can make a start.


Minimum income was actually tried in Canada as an temporary experiment, in Dauphin, Manitoba in the 1970’s.  The brief five-year study seemed to show that people continued to work, and that life actually improved under the mincome scheme.  From a cursory glance, however, corroborated by subsequent analysis, the experiment did not offer the full long-term effects of putting everyone on a basic wage (not least, everyone knew it was temporary, and that they were being studied).  For something more real, consider the current welfare system in our modern society, which functions like minimum income.  Can one really argue that those on welfare are better off, and that dependency on welfare has produced good effects for society?   On the contrary, welfare, which was never intended to be permanent, but rather a temporary, emergency measure, has created what John Paul II called in Centesimus Annus a permanent and entrenched ‘Welfare State’ , a particularly pernicious drain on a society’s resources.


By intervening directly and depriving society of its responsibility, the Social Assistance State leads to a loss of human energies and an inordinate increase of public agencies, which are dominated more by bureaucratic ways of thinking than by concern for serving their clients, and which are accompanied by an enormous increase in spending. (#48)


The worst harm of this intervention by the State bureaucracy is not economic (which is bad enough), but personal.  As the same Pope wrote in his encyclical Laborem Exercens  (On Human Labour), we as human beings are perfected and enobled by work.  To keep grown men (and, now, women) on permanent fixed incomes for doing nothing leads to a stunting of their development, and an infantilization of the populace.  Adults will be turned into permanent wards of the State and its bureaucracy, bored, listless, unfulfilled, watching Netflix and playing Minecraft.


The notion of minimum income is an attempt to put a fig leaf on the growing plague of unemployment and welfare, which is reaching crisis levels here, and more so in many other countries.  No longer will there be any ‘welfare’ or ‘unemployment’, for everyone will now be happily employed doing whatever they want to do!  Oh joy, oh bliss, as we frolic in pastoral settings waving our government cheques…


But several questions come to mind:


Who is to determine what kind of work is being done, or whether any work is being done at all? Could I receive a minimum income for cycling around the Madawaska Valley, or, ahem, writing a blog?  If there is oversight, presumably this would be by government officials, basically turning every citizen into a slave of the State, not to mention also a burden to the State.


Who furthermore is to pay for the near-unimaginable cost of this endeavour?  They talk of taxing those of ‘higher income brackets’, but that will not even nearly cover what this will entail, in a country hundreds of billions of dollars in debt.


There is also the problem of incentive.  Proponents of minimum income ‘reason’ that people will work harder so that they can increase their incomes, but this is, in general, fallacious.  Even Emperor Nero realized that the vast majority of people are content with panem et circenses, with their bread and circuses, which today we might call the internet, beer, pizza, cheap cigarettes.  Why would they work harder?  This becomes especially relevant if the harder you work ,the more you will be taxed to support the continued  growth of the welfare society ‘beneath’ you.


auto mechanicI stopped in to see my mechanic the other day, to tighten the lugs on my car, and in our brief conversation, he mentioned that his other mechanic quit, and he is having great difficulty finding a replacement.  Automechanics, he said, is becoming ever-more difficult as cars get more complex, and very few are going into the field.


I thought, hmm, who would want to work in a hot, sweaty garage, covered in oil and grease, toiling away on the undercarriage of vehicles?  Unless, of course, one was nicely paid for doing so.


pajama boyBut, if someone can make a decent, or at least a living, wage making paper airplanes or writing the great Canadian novel while sipping coffee in their jammies at home, or, for the more highly inspired, landing some highly-compensated paper-shuffling government job in an air-conditioned office, the answer seems obvious.  What would inspire the automechanic to work to pay for all this?


Hard work should be highly compensated so that at least some are inspired to go out there into the field to build and maintain what we used to call an ‘economy’.  Saint Paul was right that he who does not work should not eat, for without work, there is no society, no culture, really, no nothing.  Unless necessity dictates otherwise (i.e., you are a child or incapacitated), we should all pay for our own bread and circuses.


June 15, 2015

Offending the Malaysian gods

Canadians Maylasia

Canadians pre-full-Monty

A number of Canadian tourists are currently languishing in Malaysia, and may be criminally charged.  Their crime?  Standing nude for photos on the top of a sacred mountain.  According to the Malaysian authorities, the gods of the mountain were angered, causing an ensuing 5.1 magnitude earthquake which killed a score of people.


Hmm.  I don’t believe in gods of mountains, but I do believe in God.  I am not sure whether He would cause an earthquake based on the foolish and immodest behaviour of some Canadian tourists,  but the Malaysians have a right to be offended at buffoonish Canadians stripping naked for the world to see  on a site that, at least to them, is sacred.


Modesty is a much maligned virtue in our world.  A couple of weeks ago, teenaged high school student Alexi Halket was asked to ‘put more alexi halketclothing on’ when she showed up in the attire pictured.  As far as modern dress goes, there is far more ‘exposure’ out there, but I guess the school took offense at the midriff exposure and the bra-like appearance of the top.  Normally, this would not be news, as many young girls also would like to show the beauty of their bodies, but this became a sort of cause celebre about uniforms and imposed dress standards in our public education system.


The school has a rather vague dress policy, in line with most of its other education, one may presume:


“The school should be a great learning and working environment for all. So that we can all feel comfortable in our school/work environment, clothing must be respectful – it shouldn’t be too revealing or display inappropriate language. Students may be asked to change or cover up if their clothing is deemed inappropriate by the school administration.



What was she thinking?

What is ‘deemed inappropriate’ is a rather sliding scale.  I think back to the year 1991, which seems like aeons ago, when another young woman, nineteen year-old Guelph university student Gwen Jacobs, won a court case for her, and every other woman, in Ontario the right to go topless in public.  I have never seen a woman go publicly topless in Ontario, so, if the fairer sex is exercising their legal right, I am not sure where or when; not that I really want to know, mind you, but my suspicion is that the natural tendency to modesty, more ingrained in women than men, precludes just about all of them from baring their bodies to the glare of the, shall we say, less-fair sex.


Saint Thomas describes modesty as a subset of the cardinal virtue of temperance, which controls our desire for the pleasurable good (and, conversely, our aversion for unpleasant things).  Since sex is pleasant, in fact one of the most pleasurable sensations, and, since nudity is a prelude to sex, we delight in the nude body. But such delight is only proper when one is supposed to have sex with the other, and that only occurs in marriage, which, as John Paul II describes in his Theology of the Body, justifies and sanctifies the natural shame and humility of nudity.


Yet modesty is about much more than sex and nudity.  As its name implies, modesty is the virtue by which we find the right ‘mode’ in all of our activities, what is ‘fitting’ for each circumstance, how we eat, study, read, walk, talk, look, drive, and decorate our homes.  It is rather sad that in our myopic  and hyper-sexualized world we have restricted modesty to clothing.


Modesty may be described as the ‘hedge around the Torah’, the safeguard, for the more important and universal virtue of temperance.  We control our eating by eating decorously, with a knife and fork, taking bite-sized chunks and chewing them well, as our mothers hopefully taught us, rather than shoveling fistfuls of food into our gorges as fast as our hands can move.


Modesty in what we read also helps us absorb what we take in, so that we are able to learn what we should (the virtue of studiosity), and not learn what we should not (the vice of curiosity).


And, yes, controlling our eyes, where and how we look at others, what is still called ‘custody of the eyes’, helps us to control our often-uncontrolled sexual desires.


And so we return to clothing.  We cover up that which should be covered not only to protect us from the cold and elements, but also to protect our own and other’s disordered desires.  The debate over what should (and should not) be covered will continue until the end of time, but I think we can agree upon certain broad strokes.  Full nudity is ruled out, except in certain restricted circumstances (marital situations, showering, medical exams and so on).


After that, we should cover up what have traditionally been called the erogenous zones, in particular the sexual organs.  Every society and culture has some degree of modesty in these areas.  Even the Canucks on the mountain cupped their hands over their ‘privates’, and natural modesty prevented even these ha-ha party-loving Canadians from going the full-full-Monty.


In general, we don’t just cover up our privates, like some European skimpo bathing costumes.  We also ensure a degree of modesty over the rest of  our bodies, again, not just for the sake of ourselves, but primarily for others.  What the modern world has forgotten is the deep wound of ‘original sin’.  Whatever name one gives to this condition, it is obvious that our passions are not fully under the control of our reason.  The flesh rebels against the spirit , and our sexual desires in particular have to be strictly dominated, or, as we see so often around us, they will dominate us.


Miss Halket, in line with countless other young women, claims that there should not be a dress code, that she should be allowed to wear whatever feels comfortable, and it is not her fault if others (read: boys) ‘sexualize’ her body.  Well, it is not the boys who have sexualized her body, for her body is already ‘sexualized’ by its very nature.  It is what we mean by being male and female, man and woman.  Although disordered in our current state, our sexuality and the powerful attraction between the sexes are good and holy, but like every good thing,  they can, and have, become warped and misused.


To display, indeed even flaunt, one’s body to the sight of others is to invite such warping and misuse, if not explicit, at least implicitly and internally.  I am rather amazed at the blatant hypocrisy:  Out of one side of their mouth, our modern educators claim that we cannot, and even should not, control our sexual desires. Hence the need for pornographic sex-ed, condoms and birth control pills.  Yet, here they are saying that the boys must be as chaste as mediaeval Irish monks by the sight of a young woman in halter-top-yoga-pants sitting beside them in class, with various cleavages on full display.


saggy_pantsJust to be clear:  The converse also holds, that the boys must be modest as well, but we all know that modesty is not the same in men and women, and the sexes respond to immodesty and nudity in different ways.  That is why there is no debate over boys and halter-tops; but there may be over boys and saggy jeans.  But the principle still applies.


Of course, there is the flip-side of immodesty, in revealing too little, as in the body-bag-burkas of certain strains of Islam, or  in a different way, burkasthe modern obsession with wearing sunglasses to cover one’s eyes, even during intimate conversation.  There are some things, not least our faces and eyes, that we should reveal.  But too-little-modesty is not the main problem, at least in our culture, or at least, as Mark Steyn is wont to lament, until the Mullahs take over.


In the end, however, modesty is not really about dress, but about one’s interior state.  In other words, modesty is a virtue, not a type of clothing. Do we even still want to keep hidden and veiled what should remain such?  How should we dress, or not dress, as various occasions demand? What is the role of custom, and of law, in all of this?  The debate can, and has, become quite rancorous, as even a quick glance at recent stories demonstrates.  That is originally why schools (and many other institutions) imposed uniforms, so everyone could be on the same page.


Even though we’re no longer on the same page anymore, nor even the same book, we should at least ask these questions, and frame some sort of answers, so that we can all get along without giving offense, to each other, to God or to the Malaysians.


June 9, 2015

Saint Columbkille

Saint Ephrem



Call Me Caitlin?

Superheroes usually have alternate identities, to hide who they ‘really’ are, but in this very process, ‘who’ they are becomes obscured.  One might answer:  well, they are the identity with which they most ‘identify’.  Even here, it still remains difficult to pinpoint who they are, deep down, in their heart of hearts.  That is, likely, why they find it so difficult to find true love, for one must know oneself, to love another.  Who is Superman: Kal-El, or Clark Kent?  Spiderman, Peter Parker? Batman, Bruce Wayne?


Speaking of Bruces, a former all-American hero, Bruce Jenner, has now officially come out as transgendered in the recent edition of Vanity Fair, in an article, inaptly titled ‘Call Me Caitlin’.  As a brand new ‘female’, he is pictured in a come-hither, swimsuit-nightie on the cover, the full details of which I will spare you (a head shot is below, or is that above?). Bruce/Caitlin’s Wikipedia entry is now replete with female pronouns, even when referring to Mr. Jenner’s past glory as the 1976 gold-medal winner of one of the most gruelling Olympic events, the Decathlon.  But we may presume that he did not desire to be a woman back then, if such ‘desire’ is what makes one transgendered.  Or, once a ‘transgender’ always so, even backwards in time?  How often can this desire change?  Can one morph from man to woman and back again multiple times per day, or do we limit it to yearly transitions?


jenner decathlon

I was a very young boy back then in the sevenites, a recent immigrant to Canada, but I recall Bruce Jenner, certainly a man, one synonymous with athletic grit, determination and success.  This was in the very hottest part of the Cold War, and any usurpation of Olympic glory from the Russians, who would form their uber-athletes in virtual prison camps from childhood, ensured an American athlete instant secular hagiographical status.  Bruce trained on his own while working as an insurance agent, making $9000 per year (this was in the time when they took the amateur status of the Olympics seriously).  After his Olympic gold, he and his wife Kris became the premier American couple, and Bruce himself a role model to all young athletes of whatever variety.  For when you win the Decathlon, you are good at everything.


I am not sure what happened to Bruce. Success, fame, isolation, insanity?  After cashing in on his success in the 70’s via some badly-acted jenner-wheatiestelevision, movies  and endorsements (he was one of the original Wheaties  heroes), he became famous again recently as the step-father of the famous (or, for most readers, infamous) Kardashians, who are the daughters of his current wife’s previous marriage to attorney Robert Kardashian (two of the daughters are Bruce’s own children…alas, you need not know that, nor anything else about the Kardashians; but anyone waiting in line at the grocery store cannot help but glance at the headlines of the rags on the racks, praying at times for momentary blindness).


jenner-vanity fairIn the midst of his multiple marriages and the highways and byways of his erratic life, Jenner, who claims to be a Christian (as well as a Republican), decided that he was really a woman.  I must admit that I am rather amazed at what access to lots of money, top surgeons, as well as the photography and airbrushing of a top-tier magazine can do.  Mark Steyn makes the case that Bruce should run against Hilary as President, if the American people are so hell-bent on electing a, ahem, female.


Sadly, attractive as he tries to make himself as a ‘transgender’, Bruce is still a man, for one’s sexuality is not just a function of the body, still less osteve tylerf the feelings, but of the person, a composite of body and soul, making one male or female.  All the surgery, electrolysis, hair extensions and hormones, are, simply, an exotic and bizarre form of mutilation to make Bruce look like a woman.  It is almost the definition of superficiality.  As Steve Tyler of Aerosmith, himself no paragon of virtue, and turning sort of hag-like as he ages, the effects, one may presume of his woefully misspent youth and not of plastic surgery, well, as Mr. Tyler belted out, perhaps referring to himself, but just as well now applies to Bruce/Caitlin, Dude Looks like a Lady.


What a waste of medical expertise, and what a tragedy of a once-heroic life.  Then again, as someone mentioned to me, perhaps this is all a ruse to get another spin-off reality show…


One way or the other, Bruce has forgotten who he is, and lost his identity. Where, oh where, is the real Bruce? The relative sanity of the 70’s seems so far away….


‘Call me Caitlin?’.  No thanks.  I’m fine with Bruce.


June 3, 2015

Saint Charles Lwanga and Companion Martyrs