Smiley Miley, and the Price of a Dance

salomeToday’s Gospel on the memorial of the beheading of Saint John the Baptist recounts the story Herod, Herodias, his unlawful wife (who had been married to his brother), Herodias’ daughter, Salome, and, of course, John the Baptist, at this point confined in prison.


We all know the gist:  The Baptist was imprisoned for condemning Herod’s unlawful, incestuous marriage, but Herod enjoyed listening to him.  Herodias, on the other hand, saw him as a danger, a wedge between her and Herod, so sought his death.  She got the chance when Herod, so enamoured of his step-daughter’s ‘dancing’ (whatever that entailed, but we may presume it was not a waltz) that he promised her ‘anything’.


Beware what you promise, especially in the throes of passion.  The result was the head of the Baptist on a platter, and his martyrdom for the truth and sanctity of marriage.


I watched a brief segment last night from Jimmy Kimmel, something I rarely do, but I was intrigued.  They had Miley Cyrus ‘disguised’ and interviewing a few random people for their thoughts of her.  Her disguise was minimal, and her fake-Aussie accent abysmal (albeit, it is a difficult accent to imitate.  The only ones to my mind more difficult are the New Zealand and South African); one man saw through her disguise almost right away.


But here is the point:  A couple of the men she interviewed saw her as a malign influence, a corrupter of the young, a bad example, a sign and symptom of the degradation of America.  I myself was mildly surprised by the young woman’s reaction (she is 22), which was blankness, an ironic sort of smirk, a blasé sense of ‘who cares, I’m a millionaire and successful, a winner of Grammies, with platinum sales albums’.


mileyYes, poor Miley is a sign and symptom.  In the interview, she even taught a couple of young women a basic move of ‘twerking’ (don’t bother).  Fortunately, it was brief and fully-clothed, but has the woman no shame?  Is there a twinge of conscience left in the former Disney-queen Hanna Montana, the daughter of good-ol’ boy Billy-Ray Cyrus (who may not be all that good, as a lifelong Democrat, and who seems at least somewhat supportive of his daughter’s provocative imagery), whose eighties hit “Achy, Breaky Heart” gave us the phenomenon, (which I hope and pray dies soon), of rather innocent line dancing?


Miley (whose real name is, ironically, Destiny Hope, but who was given the nickname since she was so ‘smiley’) has plumbed the depths since those early innocent days.  She has simulated sex on stage with the mid-thirty-something Robin Thicke (the son of white-bread eighties-sitcom star Alan Thicke), whose own video “Blurred Lines” does not seem to blur any lines, as it delves into pornography and sex abuse.  Miley has appeared unclothed on the cover of her album Wrecking Ball, and in various guises of undress and sexual innuendo in her videos and performances.  (Not to be punny, but full disclosure and to avoid scandal, I have not seen a Thicke or Miley video).  Alas, I did see the brief ‘interview’ which prompted this column, which was mostly innocent, but at the end of which, the young Miley allowed an older man to peek down her ‘bosom’, as I might politely put it (she used a more slang term, which I will not repeat in this G, or at least PG, rated, column).  This was, apparently, to verify that she was indeed the ‘real Miley’.  Hmm.


What are we willing to ‘pay’ for such dances as Miley does?  It seems a lot, for she is one of the richest performers out there, and certainly is approaching ‘half’ of Herod’s kingdom.  I hesitate to use the word ‘slut’, but if that sounds too pejorative, there is the alternative term ‘slattern’ or ‘harlot’.  Either way, it profits a man, nor a woman we may add, nothing to gain the whole world…


I prefer a more theological term, which is scandal, one who causes another to sin by their words or conduct.  Miley Cyrus, along with a number of other performers out there, in fact, nearly all of them, is a scandal, particularly to young women, who seem more and more to be imitating her, particularly in dressing, well, like slatterns.  I hope their actions follow not their sartorial choice, or lack thereof.


I am not a big fan of censorship, but sometimes it is necessary, and I do think that Miley’s videos belong in the garbage.  But in these days of ever-more-pervasive media, and anyone with a smartphone can instantly upload a video to YouTube, as we have seen with ISIS, censorship is a difficult proposition.  Better is the capacity and virtue to make choices properly in freedom, what to watch and to which to listen.  For this, one must be formed and educated, and that is done best in a good family, wherein one’s sexuality is controlled, tempered, made fruitful and life-giving.


Miley identifies in some vague way as ‘Christian’, and almost entered family life, being engaged to no less than Thor’s brother, Liam Helmsworth, but she now describes herself as ‘pansexual’ (whatever that means), and, as she apparently said, ‘would love anyone who loves her for who she is’.


Who are you, Miley, and do yourself even know who the real Miley is?  I hope you are just a confused young woman, like the manipulated Salome and know not what you do, but perhaps you are more calculating than that, rather like Herodias, and know where the money and attention are. More than likely, you are a bit of both.


That is the problem with sin, that, to paraphrase Pascal, it distances us from who we are, and what we really want.  Our conscience becomes dull, and eventually blind, and we become blank and oblivious to the evil we do to ourselves, and to others.  Herod found that out to his downfall, although his conscience still plagued him (a good sign, which could lead to repentance).  We know not what happened to Herodias and Salome.  I just hope they saw the truth before the end, just as I hope the same for young Miley, whose conversion to her Christian roots would go a far way to undoing all the scandal and bad example.  In the meantime, unlike Herod, we can do what we can to avert our eyes.


On this, Miley’s or our own conversion (for conversion is never done!), I would not put much hope on Thor or his brother, but we can all hope in Christ and the prayers of his cousin, the Baptist.  The tragedy is that Saint John paid only with his head; we are paying with the very souls of our young.

Crusades, Olde and New


crusadesThe Crusades are, in general, vilified, an example of Eurocentric, Anglo-Saxon and, worst of all, Christian imperialism turned fanatical, bloodthirsty, imposing their view of God and civilization on peaceful Arabians, who just wanted to build up their own civilization based on the tenets of their own religion, Islam, whose main premise is peace and submission to God’s will.


A distorted view, to be sure, but with some truth:  Of the seven or so Crusades (they are difficult to number, for they often flowed one into the other), some went gravely awry.  One need only witness the fourth in 1204, wherein the Latin crusaders ransacked, pillaged and looted their fellow Christians in Constantinople, still today a source of bitterness between East and West.  Not to ameliorate the whole business, but the Latins were in some sense revenging a massacre of their own people in Constantinople in 1182, a couple of decades before, and still within the memory of the knights themselves.


But to the present:  What we witness in Syrian, Iraq, Libya and beyond is the self-professed founding of a new caliphate, a rebuilding of what Islam, at least in their eyes, originally was and will be again, an empire governed by the strict interpretation of the Qur’an and the original example of the ‘Prophet’.


There are, of course, other more moderate ‘interpretations’ of Islam, but the Wahabi strain, the most distilled and strict, is the one that tends to dominate all the others.  For an argument can be made that this is the version that Muhammad himself lived and preached, and movements, especially religions, always tend back towards their founder, their original impulse, their very essence and raison d’etre.


Reading an article recently on the tragic plight of the residents of the banlieus on the outskirts of Paris, those vast swathes of multi-storey concrete apartments where many Muslim immigrants live, and where the police dare not travel, there was this description of the author’s visit to a make-shift mosque in an old trailer, and note the quotation from his young ‘Muslim’ friend, a troubled young man named J.P.


At least two hundred men were kneeling, heads bowed to the carpet. On the coming Sunday, a few miles away, the magnificent, cavernous churches of Paris would be nearly empty. The imam, an elderly Tunisian who spoke little French, gave the closing prayer. J.-P. kept his earphones in.

Afterward, in the crush at the exit—old North African men, young blacks in street clothes, fundamentalists with long beards in ankle-length skirts—J.-P. introduced me to some of his friends. “Allahu akbar! ” they exclaimed in surprised welcome, but they seemed even more surprised to see J.-P. He said to me, “Not everyone has to be a Muslim in the same way. There are sixty-two approaches to Islam.”


I mentioned a few I knew about, including Sufism and Salafism.


“We’re all Salafists,” J.-P. said. “We all want to live like the companions of the Prophet in the seventh century.”


I put ‘Muslim’ in scare quotation marks since J.P. does not really live like a Muslim.  The author goes on to say that J.P. enjoys his ‘glass of wine’ (to put it mildly), is clearly not interested in the sermon nor the theological doctrine of Islam; he has been charged with assault and battery, and fornicates.  Looking at the conduct of the supposedly ‘strict’ Islamic members of ISIS, one could argue that in their eyes perhaps J.P is a good Mulsim, so long as he says his prayers five times a day, follows Ramadan, and makes a pilgrimage to Mecca at some point.


But note J.P.’s final words:


We all want to live like the companions of the Prophet in the seventh century


That, dear reader, is the nub.  J.P and untold thousands, perhaps millions, more unemployed, disaffected young men like him, are seeking an identity, and the image of swaggering around, sword in hand, enjoying the prestige inspired by fear.  Even a cursory glance at history tells one that many of the ‘companions of the Prophet’ did not live what we would consider morally upright lives:  Pillage, warfare, forced conversion, the forced concubinage (i.e., rape) of the wives and daughters of their captors, executions, often gruesome, all in the name of their religion.


In other words, many of the ‘companions of the Prophet’ could and did live like the current civilization-destroyers of ISIS.


It was activities such as these that in large part inspired the Crusades of the 11th century, which motivated the Christian knights to take vows, to lead warriors into battle, and leaving all behind, reclaim the Holy Land.


There are now calls for a new ‘Crusade’, of course not using that loaded term, and not motivated by recapturing the ‘Holy Land’, now occupied by Israel and Palestine (with many of its own issues, to be sure), but there is growing consensus that some kind of military mission is required, already instantiated by arms-length aerial and drone strikes


These are both of quite limited effectiveness, and as the crisis intensifies, here are some questions we may want to ask ourselves:  Do we have a moral obligation to protect those in slavery in the clutches of ISIS, in particular the sex-slaves, Christian (and non-Christian) women captured and divided up into harems?


What of the Christians, those of other non-Islamic faiths, or even (in ISIS’s view) the non-observant Muslims, forced to ‘convert’ at gunpoint?  (If they are even given that opportunity).


How far, geographically, are we to permit the ISIS  ‘caliphate’ to grow?  Should we help protect those lands outside ISIS borders, and to reclaim the land they have already taken?


What happens when the ISIS ideology enters our own land, as it already has?  Can we do anything to pre-empt this, and to root out the radical ideology it breeds?


I will have more to say on these issues, but for now let it be said that I doubt this battle can be won militarily, for it is primarily a war of ideologies, of religions, of metaphysical outlook, of moral principles, of conviction.  Islam is filling up the moral void of the West, of our own crumbling Christian civilization.  Hilaire Belloc prophesied, before Arabia became oil-rich, and not many in Europe had even heard or met a Muslim, that the ultimate battle in the coming century would be between Christianity and Islam, which he saw in largely spiritual terms, and Christianity, from all appearances, is currently on the losing side.


Sometimes, however, even, and perhaps especially, if the case is desperate, one must respond militarily, especially when the weak and vulnerable are being gravely exploited and harmed.


At the very least, people are seeing that the idea of the Crusades was perhaps not such a bad one after all.

Yer’ in the Army Now, Baby

Women in CombatFollowing my previous post, I see that the first two females have graduated from the rigorous U.S. Army Rangers program, which has the reputation for the toughest training regimen out there.  Well, we may presume that it just got a little less tough, for I have difficulty believing that the women can do everything the men can do, at least at the elite level.  One need only ponder the sex-distinction still prevalent in the Olympics and professional sports, to say nothing of college and high school sports; there is no chance anytime in the near future that women will compete with men.  Can the same not be said of the Rangers, the primary virtues of whose regimen we may presume are physical?


The curious irony is that these militaristic feminists have also adopted male characteristics: shaved heads, muscles, aggression and, most ironic of all for a feminism that sought freedom from patriarchy, a strict hierarchy and unquestioning obedience to orders, almost always from men.  The strange thing I have heard is that these new female Rangers, although graduates of the training (whether attenuated or not), will not be allowed to act officially as Rangers, whatever it is that Rangers do for a living beyond regular Army duties.


But there are far deeper philosophical questions that go beyond just letting these two women complete basic Ranger training, and why almost every civilized  country in the world restricted combat roles to men.


There were, and still are, reasons for this restriction.  No serious group of warriors in real combat wants a woman along; any man in a candid moment will admit this.  For every man in that unit will act to protect the woman, or women, even subconsciously. They may even act to impress her, but at the very least, they will feel the natural male-protective bond.  This will especially apply if capture by the enemy, especially the sadistic rapists who inhabit ISIS, is imminent.  For such evil men can do to women what they cannot do to men, namely, make them sexual slaves, confine them to harems, to repeated rape and even pregnancy, forced to raise modern-day Janissaries.


Speaking of which, how do we know that female soldiers are not pregnant when they go into combat, thus exposing an unborn child to grave harm or death?  Are they all celibate or sterilized?


Whatever one says about the danger to which men are exposed in combat, they cannot be nor get pregnant, and, if captured, they cannot really be ‘raped’.  For sodomy is not sex, but a species of violence, pure and simple.  Have you wondered why they made Liam Neeson’s daughter and not son who was captured in the visceral revenge fantasy Taken?  Would his palpable tension, and our own vicarious outrage, have been anywhere near the same if a young man were the one confined?  You would expect the guy to save himself.


But any man worth his salt, Neeson, Ranger, or whatever, will do his utmost to spare a woman that indignity.


As much as they try to make themselves so, women are not made for combat, except in the most extreme conditions, like when the enemy is streaming over the walls.  When I say ‘made’, this is not just, or even primarily, physical, especially in our age of technological and arms-length warfare, which requires little or no physical strength and agility.


No, the problem with putting women in harm’s way to defend others is primarily spiritual: Are they fulfilling their role and being perfected as women, in accord with their feminine genius?  I will repeat what I said in a previous blog, that it is a great dishonour to a country to have its women defend and kill for its men, while the men lounge on couches playing World of Warcraft.  You go girl!  I’ll be here warming up the pizza pops…


Just recently, a Conservative politician in Quebec was vilified for a blog he had written about women (people are digging up all sorts of old postings nowadays, and perhaps even this obscure blog may be found by someone at some point, but I don’t plan to run for office anytime soon).  Anyway, he wrote innocuously, and rather obviously one would think, that women, especially when pregnant, need to be protected by men.  He was trying to nuance the notion of men having a natural authority over women, which he explained was more a sense of such protection.


Nothing controversial, and I would even go further, saying that there is indeed a natural authority of men over women, or, at least, that there is something slightly unnatural about a woman having authority over a grown man (which is why the French always maintained Salic law, restricting their monarchy to males, or kings).  Of course, our culture has adopted female authority over men as natural, par for the course, ho-hum, and I am not sure how far even my own patriarchal principles would go to the wall for this, but still…


Yes, still, even to hint at such notions nowadays, even to refuse to use ‘inclusive’ language, ensures that one is instantly banished to social pariah status.  I just hope the politico has the cojones to stick to his guns, but most people will be cowed by the threat of the worst banishment that can befall a public figure, media vilification.


The problem is that we can hold fake opinions because we live in a rather fake world, far removed from reality.  Everything from modern military training to academia and politics is so fraught with political correctness and media bias that I am not sure how they would stand up to reality, should reality be thrust upon them.  If and when things go south, and there is real combat, and I mean when we are all truly threatened by the enemy at the gates and are actually defending our hearth and homes, we will see what happens.


Although I fear we men will no longer be up to the task, having been whittled away in our leveling, marshmallow world, our love of comfort and ease, history has taught us that necessity and adversity can bring great things out of even the most unexpected and least likely people.  There are signs of hope, like the vacationing American soldiers on that high speed train in France, subduing a heavily-armed would-be terrorist.


In the meantime, do what you can to follow the advice of Monsignor Escriva, Esto Vir!  Be a man!  Train for that day when you may indeed be called to task, for we know neither the day nor the hour when such a call may arrive…


Feminine Genius

The call-in show over lunch today on the CBC, as I enjoyed my very first kefir smoothie (quite enjoyable, in fact, made more so as I thought it was not invented by, nor named after, Kiefer Sutherland…somehow, I connect him with the CBC, perhaps going back to that anti-Catholic CBC screed of a movie he was in in 1984…).  Anyway, I digress, the theme of today’s CBC show was on women in politics, and in power positions in general.  They had a representative from Equal Voice, which advocates for 50% of MP’s (and MPP’s) to be female, for ‘equal representation’. Currently, roughly one quarter of the seats of federal Parliament are filled by females.  Not nearly enough, cry the women.  By hook or by crook, there must be more.  To be precise, they want 52%, since there are slightly more females than males in society, for genetic reasons that are, to say the least, mysterious (but just wait until gender selection abortion makes its inroads, fully tolerated by the ‘feminist’ and ‘woman-loving’ Liberals and NDP).  The Equal Voice ladies may also want a bit of payback for all those aeons of male dominance, for why should the less-fair sex now expect fair treatment?



kathleen wynne 2Here is our current harridan-in-office, who also happens to be a lesbian, but I am not allowed to say that that influences her worldview, for such would be construed, gaspi gasporum, as homophobic.  Of course, they are permitted to say that my own worldview is coloured by an aversion to homosexuality, but the tables are never fair, are they?  But it seems Ms. Wynne also wants to stick it particualry to the men.  Here she is, as quoted on the CBC:


We must never retreat, never explain, never apologize, get things done, and let them howl.


I presume the ‘them’ in ‘let them howl’ refers to the men, fathers of families and so on, looking on impotently as Ms. Wynne sets out to corrupt their children by a pornographic sex-ed curriculum, and is soon set to tax their paycheques (yes, the private sector only) about 2% for a vague, future ‘pension fund’ where they may get about $6400 a year in ‘old age’.  Try living on that now, never mind in thirty years.  How much of that wynne-fall will actually make to the coffers of a future pension, and how much in the present tense shoring up the ballooning debt in which our province is mired?  But more on that later.


Ironically, the only reason Premier Wynne has any power at all is due to the fact that she, and the ‘laws’ she is set to instantiate, are protected by an almost all-male phalanx of heavily armed police officers, who will put you rather forcibly in jail if you resist.   The law, like the truncheons the enforcers carry, is indeed a blunt instrument.


The debate over women in politics of course is part of the much larger debate of women, and men, in general, their roles, their purposes, their identities, yes, their very genius.


I am not sure if it is politically correct anymore to speak of the specific ‘genius ‘ of Man and Woman.  I would think people, including women, would quite enjoy discussing their particular genius.  But the fact remains that we, as sexually dimorphic beings, do have a specific genius.  People often speak of genius as a particular, even unique, talent or skill (and we all have some degree of that), but the word originally means a trait, or set of traits, that belong to a thing by its very nature.


By being born, or I should say conceived, as male or female, we develop a set of traits, first physically and biologically, then psychologically and culturally, as we mature, which belong to us as masculine and feminine.  Pope Saint John Paul II discusses the feminine genius marvelously in his 1988 Apostolic Letter Mulieris Dignitatem (On the Dignity of Women).  To paraphrase the great Pontiff:  Woman, become what you are!


Our modern world would like to deny this, claiming that all sexual identity is ‘culturally conditioned’, an amorphous spectrum.  Indeed, I fear that it may soon be illegal even to label someone as male or female, to say nothing of masculine or feminine.  Already toy stores are removing their ‘boys’ and ‘girls’ sections, for how dare we pre-determine what kind of toys a child may enjoy based on their, what was the right word, gender, so much kinder and gentler than ‘sex’.  The same goes for bathrooms, which now must be unisex, as I discussed in a blog on the so-called transvestite-questioning-transsexual identity politics.


The only identity politics we really need is whether you are male or female, easily done by quick inspection at birth.  We must ask as a culture, is there a specific identity to male and female, which we as a society have a duty to foster and promote?  Or is it a free-for-all, and the devil take the hindmost?


It has been the accepted wisdom of our civilization, east and west, north and south, that the primary role of men and women is to be fathers and mothers.  Everything else flows from this initial and fundamental family unit.  Human beings are primarily members of families, existing in relation to their parents, siblings and extended family units, not as individuals.  As such, the male, the father figure, has been the protector and provider, while the female, the mother figure, has, due to the vulnerability that pregnancy and children bring, been in need of protection and providing.


This may sound ‘sexist’ to some modern, sensitive ears, but not so:  Taken to extremes, yes, but in the main, it is what men and women do ‘best’, it is their respective ‘genius’.


One may try to breed, educate, beat or berate this genius out of the sexes, but to no avail.  It is how we are built and created.   Men will always bring some notion of ‘fatherhood’ into whatever they do, while women will bring the same notion of ‘motherhood’.  Men will always act in some instinctive way to protect women, and will always find it somewhat unnatural to compete with them, to shout them down, to criticize them (as is necessary in politics), or to be protected by them.   One female MP on the talk show today complained about being drowned out by the ‘opposing party’ while she was trying to speak.  She demanded her right to be heard without straining her low-key feminine voice, not nearly loud enough to drown out the male-dominated bobonos in the peanut gallery.


Fair enough.  I am no fan of modern politics and the simian antics that pass for our modern democracy, but the problem is that men will always act differently when there is a women present, either being too delicate, or overdoing their attempt at machismo.  There is always, always a tension in the air when a woman is in the mix.


Is this a good thing?  Does it make men more peaceable?  Can men and women work together amicably, without sexual tension?  Oh, I suppose so, to some degree, and I do work with women.  Although I long for more segregation, I realize that we will likely never return to the days of yore, when, in that mournful dirge of Archie Bunker, ‘girls were girls, and men were men…’  And, I discovered happily as I re-listened to that tune after many years, ‘we didn’t need no welfare state, for everyone pulled his weight’


However, in the midst of our current androgynous culture, we must maintain some fundamental distinctions between what it means to be male and female, masculine and feminine, a distinction being whittled away, or perhaps a better word is demolished, in our culture.


Witness modern movies, the puerility of which I am not sure how people tolerate, but one thing I have noticed is that almost every current action movie has to have the killer femme-fatale, a 115 pound svelte female, who preferably looks like, and more than likely is, a Swedish model, throwing men around like yoga mats at an ashram.  In the recent instalment of the Mission Impossible franchise, which thankfully I have yet to see, said female assassin not only saves Tom’s 53-year old heinie three times, but takes on the eight-foot giant with ease and finesse, while Tom stands by like a doe-eyed castrati.


isla faust 2

Now that’s what I call a Swedish massage…


Ho-hum.  Not only is this impossible, but, as such, it is boring.  When will directors get the hint that the more reality is strained in movies, the less watchable they are.  It is necessary to identify with the characters, to believe in some way that we could do what they do, to care.  (Incidentally, that is why Superman is the least movie-able of the superheroes, and why they have to make him ever-more ‘human’, which is to say vulnerable, in his various incarnations).


But on a moral level, is it to this that we want our young women to aspire?  Katniss Everdeen in Hunger Games?  Merida in Brave?  That Israeli-model as Wonder Woman?  Angelie Jolie in Salt?  Halle Berry as Catwoman?  (Wait, scratch that last one).


To bring this back to politics and public authority, is the only way for woman to fulfill herself to become, in the lyrical words of Henry Higgins, more like a man?  And, in the movie franchises, a tortured, disordered man at that?


Should we not in some way at least begin once again to exalt the vocation of motherhood?  Instead of something a woman does ‘on the side’ while advancing her real career, we should see, as we have always seen until recently, that motherhood is itself a full-time, and fully fulfilling, vocation.  Nurturing, teaching, and raising children is the greatest and most complete natural work one can perform.


Why would we want to make this a part-time job, relegating the raising of our children to nannies and daycare providers, while mothers leave the home, which then becomes just a house, to get out there in the dreary, slave-like ‘workforce’ where ‘real’ life takes place?


And politics, of all things?  Even Hilaire Belloc back in the first decade of the twentieth century in England saw parliament as an exercise in near-futility.  But not complete…I still do believe to some degree in politics. Sadly, that belief is being tried by our current gallery of parliamentarians, often relegated to the role of marionettes in the whim-driven hands of their party leaders sniffing the ever-changing wind of cultural opinion.


I’m with Belloc, that of things women could do, politics (to say nothing of the life of an assassin) is a rather limited option.  Rather, as has always been, and always will be, not only is motherhood (and, in a different but related way, fatherhood) the most naturally fulfilling, but, as the saying goes, even in the world of power and influence, it is the hand that rocks the cradle that rules the world…



Corrigenda remuneratio

sunshine listI must admit when I have been mistaken.  Well, not completely mistaken (at least in this case!) but perhaps seeing things from the wrong point of view.  I have been rather harsh on the public servants of our country (and our neighbours to the south), for their high wages and benefits, implying that they make an unjustly high income.  Many of those on the sunshine list in our debt-soaked province (that is, an income of over $100,000) are in the public service.


But I have been pondering, and perhaps, rather than they making an unjustly high income, it is by and large only the public servants who are still making, or at least guaranteed, a just wage, and the hoi polloi, the poor chumps in the private sector eking out a living, providing for their own pensions, who are making unjustly low incomes.


Here is the rub:  A just wage must be measured by some objective standard, and by natural law, history and universal right, the most objective standard of a just wage is whether or not one can buy private property, a home with at least a small piece of land.  Only thus can one be free, and autonomous to some degree from the State, or from some dictatorial landlord.


In any urban centre west of Montreal, the average house price is anywhere from over $400,000 (Guelph), $538,000 (Calgary), to over a million dollars (Toronto, Vancouver).   To afford a house even on the low end of this spectrum, one would have to rather high up on that sunshine list (for my take on houses and homes, see my recent blog).  For most single-income families, it is impossible; for those families with both parents working and someone else raising their children either by nannying or daycare (themselves problematical), it is difficult, and becoming impossible even for them.


So, in short, the government is artificially raising the salaries of their own employees, all the while private sector salaries follow the stagnation in the ‘real’ economy, and the deflation in the currency.


Private property is the foundation of a free and prosperous society, as any ‘real’ economist will admit, at least in moments of candour.  Without it, an economy dribbles away its wealth and resources, work ethic diminishes, and one’s attachment to one’s land and country attenuates.  One need only compare rental neighbourhoods to those with mortgages for empirical evidence.


It was not always like this.  Not long ago, in fact just back in 1975 when ‘real’ incomes dropped for the first time, a family on one income (which almost always meant the father as provider) could purchase a home, a car, food, furniture, and all other basic expenses and still have some to save.  Of course, most people were property owners, and all those houses now ‘for rent’ in Toronto, divided up into multiple dwellings, were once family homes.


Here is what a 2011 Globe and Mail article on the ‘Demise of the One Income Family‘ (even that, sadly, now sounds quaint) has to say:


Expressed in 1950 dollars, U.S. median household income in 1950 was $4,237. Expenditures came to $3,808. Savings came to $429, or 10 per cent of income. The average new-house price was roughly $7,500 – or less than 200 per cent of income.


A worker in 1950 could easily pay off his mortgage in jig time, still in their early adulthood.  To put that into context, consider that the average income in Toronto in 2013 was about $73,000, which would mean by the same ratio that a house should now cost just over $140,000.  What could you buy in Toronto for that?


Or, to put it another way, for incomes to have kept up to house prices, the average worker in the province’s capital would have to be making over $500,000.


Hence the need for dual generous incomes, deep debt, borderline mortgages sensitive to the least increase in interest payments (a 2% increase on a $480,000 mortgage would mean an extra $700 or so per month).


So even the sunshine boys (and girls) have it tough in the big city, where almost all of their jobs are to be found, except those on the high end.


As we contend about whether to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour, we should keep in mind that, as unrealistic as even that is for many small businesses, that is nowhere near what we mean by a just wage, a measure so far beyond anyone’s control that the very term has lost almost all meaning.


Rather than artificially raising everyone’s wages so that we all go bankrupt, it seems that the only way for things to return to normal is for the housing bubble, for bubble it is, to burst, or at least deflate, causing some degree of short term pain for many whose mortgages would be underwater.  Afterwards, we hope, house prices would return to something the average family could once again afford.


Then we can all bask in the sunshine in our own private yards.


Oh, and a blessed solemnity to all, one message from which is that our only real home is in heaven, and we are all on pilgrimage here.  And pilgrims should lighten their loads, or at least carry their loads lightly…


August 15, 2015


Solemnity of the Assumption


Clarity and Ambiguity

There is an old saying that the three rules of real estate are ‘location, location, location’.  A similar rule applies to public speaking: ‘brevity, brevity, brevity’.  And, we may also apply an analogous principle to teaching:  ‘clarity, clarity, clarity’.


The ultimate point of teaching is to transmit the truth that is in the teacher’s mind (which he should know clearly) into the mind of the student.  Ambiguities, double-entendres, irony, bombast, hyperbole and so on are essential in literature, poetry and drama, and one can ‘teach’ through these modes, but, at the end of the day, a teacher must be clear and direct, saying what he means to say with an economy of words.


That is why the Church has adopted the scholastic method as the primary way to do theology, and has also put forward the greatest proponent of this method, the thirteenth century Dominican Saint Thomas Aquinas, as the patron of theology, whose method and doctrine should be studied and internalized by every student of theology (and, by extension, philosophy).  Since we all should know some theology and philosophy, that means Saint Thomas should to some extent be studied by all.


saint thomas aquinas


People today often mock or disdain Saint Thomas (if they have heard of him at all), and his magnum opus, the Summa Theologica, as dry and boring.  It is nothing of the sort, and they mistake what Thomas was trying to do, which was to seek and present to his readers the truth of philosophical and theological principles as clearly as possible, striving to get to the first principles of every question and topic he considered relevant.  After reading through a ‘question’ in the Summa, with the requisite labour necessary, one really does understand the topic far better than when one began.  This in turn leads to further questions, and an extension of the topic.


Erwin Panofsky, in his fascinating 1951 study Gothic Architecture and Scholasticism (a highly recommended read) claimed that all of our sciences owe a great debt to Saint Thomas, for how we study and present information is basically ‘scholastic’ in method, dividing our books up into chapters, subchapters, sections, subsections, all according to topic, so that we truly understand the subject in its first principles, or as close as we can get given our level of education and expertise.


The Church has always taught that a disciplined study of the thought and method Saint Thomas Aquinas is one of the best ways to train the mind to think clearly, and analyze any topic.  That is why his works and thought are required for all students of theology, as was affirmed as recently as the Vatican II decree on the training of priests, Optatam Totius:


in order that they may illumine the mysteries of salvation as completely as possible, the students should learn to penetrate them more deeply with the help of speculation, under the guidance of St. Thomas (S. Thoma magistro)


Saint Thomas is again prescribed in the decree on education, also from Vatican II, Gravissimum Educationis, as the patron of all students:


In those schools dependent on her she intends that by their very constitution individual subjects be pursued according to their own principles, method, and liberty of scientific inquiry, in such a way that an ever deeper understanding in these fields may be obtained and that, as questions that are new and current are raised and investigations carefully made according to the example of the doctors of the Church and especially of St. Thomas Aquinas there may be a deeper realization of the harmony of faith and science.


Finally, here is Pope Saint John Paul II in his 1998 encyclical Fides et Ratio.


A renewed insistence upon the thought of the Angelic Doctor seemed to Pope Leo XIII the best way to recover the practice of a philosophy consonant with the demands of faith. “Just when Saint Thomas distinguishes perfectly between faith and reason”, the Pope writes, “he unites them in bonds of mutual friendship, conceding to each its specific rights and to each its specific dignity”.


And, later in the same encyclical:


It should be clear in the light of these reflections why the Magisterium has repeatedly acclaimed the merits of Saint Thomas’ thought and made him the guide and model for theological studies. This has not been in order to take a position on properly philosophical questions nor to demand adherence to particular theses. The Magisterium’s intention has always been to show how 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.


Many more teachings from the Magisterium on the fundamental importance of Saint Thomas’ thought could be adduced.   The modern Church would do well to heed these words, so that optimal clarity may be achieved in her official pronouncements.


In other words, the Church could do with more ‘scholastic’ thinking (which means rigorous and clear).  I do believe that Pope Francis is the Pope chosen for our times, but, as I alluded in my post on his recent encyclical, some of his statements leave us in some degree of ambiguity.  Perhaps he intends this, to ‘shake us up’ a little, but one way or the other, certain things he says could use further clarity, either on our part in understanding what he says, or on his part, in clarifying some of the points he makes.


I will close with a couple of examples:


In a speech on his visit to Turin last June 21st, Pope Francis went ‘off script’, and apparently condemned investment in the arms trade.  Here are his words:


It makes me think one thing: people, leaders, entrepreneurs who call themselves Christians, and manufacture arms! This gives rise to some mistrust: they call themselves Christians! “No, no, Father, I don’t manufacture them, no, no…. I only have my savings, my investments in arms factories”. Ah! And why? “Because the interest is somewhat higher…”. And being two-faced is common currency today: saying something and doing another. Hypocrisy….


Does the Holy Father mean to say that manufacturing or investing in ‘arms’, which presumably means weapons, guns, bullets and so on, is intrinsically evil?  Or only sometimes evil?  As Father George Rutler points in an insightful essay in Crisis (where he also take the Pope to task for criticizing the Allies for not ‘bombing the railways that led to the concentration camps’), the Swiss Guards who protect the Pope use automatic weapons.  And self-defense is still a valid moral principle, and oftentimes a duty for those who have the obligation to protect others.  So is just war theory, and presumably one must fight such wars not just with men engaging in hand-to-hand combat, but with ‘arms’, as the opening lines of the Aeneid make clear.


Here also is the Holy Father recently on divorced and remarried Catholics in his August 5th audience:


In these decades, in truth, the Church has been neither insensitive nor lazy. Thanks to the in-depth analysis performed by Pastors, led and guided by my Predecessors, the awareness has truly grown that it is necessary to have a fraternal and attentive welcome, in love and in truth, of the baptized who have established a new relationship of cohabitation after the failure of the marital sacrament; in fact, these persons are by no means excommunicated — they are not excommunicated! — and they should absolutely not be treated as such: they are still a part of the Church.


The ambiguous phrase here is the ‘failure of the marital sacrament’.  To be clear, if it is a true marriage, then the sacrament itself can never fail, for it is indissoluble (‘What God hath joined…’).  The couple may fail to live out or live up to the demands of the marital sacrament, but marriage, in its essence, cannot ‘fail’.  Once a true marriage, always a true marriage.


Further, it is true that a non-married cohabiting couple are not ‘excommunicated’, for this is a specific canonical penalty for certain heinous crimes against God and man (abortion, desecration of the Blessed Sacrament, etc.), and not for grave sins in general.  However, fornication and adultery are still grave sins, and by living in a way that so contravenes the moral law, such ‘couples’ have set themselves ‘apart’ from the community, both by the manner of their lives and the public scandal that they offer.  Certainly we must show them charity, but we also must beware the oft-neglected sin of complaisance, wherein we ‘please’ them in the evil they have done and continue to do.


These are some of the distinctions Thomas would have made in writing a question on divorced and remarried Catholics, or investment in the arms trade, or whatever other topic comes up.  For it is said that the mark of a trained intellect is the capacity to make the right distinctions.


The words of the Pope carry a lot of weight, even when he is not speaking ex cathedra or authoritatively, which is why Popes rarely ever gave impromptu interviews or went off-script.  However he speaks, the Holy Father, the rest of the Church, and, indeed, all of us should follow Saint Thomas and strive for clarity and simplicity, so that the truth may be presented in all of its splendour without obscurity or misunderstanding.





Return to the Source

In the college at which I teach, we believe in the ‘Great Books’, going back to the primary sources of our religion and civilization, the Bible, the Fathers of the Church, the Greek and Latin classics, the teachings of the Church, Dante, Shakespeare, Newton, Einstein, the great philosophers and literary geniuses.  By reading original works, one can find out what the greatest of minds really said, as well as learning what others have said about them.  This is what Chesterton meant when he quipped that education should make us ‘good critics’, which means accurate judges of what is true and false, of what is good and evil, not least by reading what people really meant by the words they wrote.


pope francisI would recommend the same approach to Pope Francis, who is receiving both good and bad press, and whom everyone wants on their side.  I personally believe that the Holy Father is on the side of truth, whether he expresses this truth more, or less, efficaciously and clearly.


When you see a headline proclaiming something about the Pope, go back and read what he actually said, and you may be surprised at the divergence between the two.  The liberal media desperately want Francis on their side, and will spin his words to fit their own a priori, and usually amoral, message.


Here are a few examples:


Many consider that the Pope’s line, “Who am to judge?”, now emblazoned on rainbow-bedecked t-shirts across the world, forbids us from making any judgements on morality, and specifically that homosexuality is morally equivalent to heterosexuality (or, as I prefer, orthosexuality, which is Greek for ‘right and proper sexuality’, much as orthodoxy is ‘right teaching’).


Au contraire:  When one’s reads the primary source of this statement, we discover that the Holy Father was referring to the specific case of a priest who had been charged with homosexual behaviour, and belonging to a ‘gay lobby’.  The Pope quite rightly was claiming he did know enough about the case to make his own judgement, one way or the other.  Further, if someone with homosexual proclivities ‘accepts the Lord’ and ‘has goodwill’, then we cannot judge their moral state.  However ambiguous we may consider his words, the Pope was not suggesting that we can no longer ‘judge’ homosexuality as disordered, a constant and irreformable teaching of divine law.


Another recent headline claimed that the Pope called capitalism the ‘dung of the devil’.  He did nothing of the sort.  Rather, in a speech in Santa Cruz on his recent pilgrimage to South America, the Holy Father quoted the fourth-century Father of the Church Saint Basil of Caesarea, who in a sermon claimed that the sole pursuit of profit and wealth, unfettered greed, brought pain and destruction, underlying which was an evil that may be compared, rather graphically, to the ‘dung of the devil’ (keeping in mind that a spiritual being like Satan can have no ‘dung’).  Here are the Pope’s actual words:


The earth, entire peoples and individual persons are being brutally punished. And behind all this pain, death and destruction there is the stench of what Basil of Caesarea called “the dung of the devil”. An unfettered pursuit of money rules. The service of the common good is left behind. Once capital becomes an idol and guides people’s decisions, once greed for money presides over the entire socioeconomic system, it ruins society, it condemns and enslaves men and women, it destroys human fraternity, it sets people against one another and, as we clearly see, it even puts at risk our common home.


Finally, just yesterday, a headline in the National Post proclaimed: “The Catholic Church should go easier on members who divorce and want to remarry, Pope says”.


What the Holy Father actually recommended in his Wednesday audience of the same day was for us to reflect on “our brothers and sisters who have divorced and entered a second union”.  Especially, since many of these unions affect children, we must be “aware of a greater urgency to foster a true welcome for these families in our communities. For how can we encourage these parents to raise their children in the Christian life, to give them an example of Christian faith, if we keep them at arm’s length?“.


Reading behind the headline to the primary source, we notice that the Pope is not advocating the dissolution of the indissolubility of marriage, and in the ways to welcome such ‘divorced and remarried’ Catholics back into the Church, in his words, by “prayer, listening to the Word of God, the Christian education of their children, and service to the poor“, he nowhere mentions the reception of Holy Communion, nor in any way renouncing the Church’s teaching on marriage, sin and divorce, all of which come from Christ Himself.


So go back to the sources, preferably in the original language, and read for yourself, and this advice applies not just to the words of the Magisterium, but to all that we read, from Scripture and the classics all the way to modern politicians.


Sometimes, what we read in the Holy Father is ambiguous and, some say, even rash, requiring further clarification and discernment not only on his part, but on the part of Catholics who must read his statements in the light of the Church’s tradition.  But I will discuss that in a future post in the context of theological clarity and method.


In the meantime, pray for Francis, that he may shepherd the universal Church in these tumultuous times according to the mind and will of the Holy Spirit.


Feast of the Transfiguration

August 6, 2015






Public Venality

As readers of this blog may have ascertained, I consider police officers, along with firefighters, teachers, politicians, the myriad of bureaucrats in offices across this fair land, and a host of other government employees in the main overpaid and overcompensated.  Not just salary-wise, but also in terms of early retirement, gold-plated and inviolable pensions, manifold benefits packages, sick leave galore, and so on.  The origins of this have to do with contracts designed to keep pace with the private sector, so that public service jobs would attract talented people.  But, given the ‘downturn’ in the economy (one could argue, simply a return to reality), the public service has become ever-more disconnected from reality.  For example, the contract with the Ontario Provincial Police stipulates that they have to be the highest paid police force in the province; hence, anytime any other police service gets a raise that matches their own wages, up the wages go, in an apparently never-ending upward spiral…The same principle applies to numerous other public employees.  Our teachers are about yet-again to go on strike…


But I don’t think even those who may disagree with this thesis were prepared for and can defend the chief of police  and his deputy in Peterborough who, when the regional police force was reamalgamated as a city force, technically, ‘lost their jobs’, even though they were immediately appointed chiefs of the city force.  There was no actual loss of employment, nor of income.


police chiefs peterborough


Au contraire:  Their contract said they were ‘terminated’, which required that they be paid a severance package of $205,000 and $171,000 respectively.  This is on top of their already inflated salaries, which they never lost for one second, and, barring societal collapse, never will lose.


Even the mayor of Peterborough, Daryl Bennet, is up in arms, claiming that residents of the city are disgusted with their greed.


Yes, on paper they are legally due the money; but in a moral sense?  Why should these public servants, every cent of whose salary is funded by hard-working, home-owning taxpayers, be paid twice?  Even the president of the University of Western Ontario, who took a double salary of close to $1 million for foregoing his ‘sabbatical’, paid the money back after an outcry from the staff and student body (hmm…I am somewhat surprised to see that Western, after awarding ‘Dr.’ Henry Morgentaler an honorary Ph.D., on top of all their other nefarious deeds, still has some moral indignation, at least when it comes to money).


I don’t really care if these venal cops keep their money.  In the big picture, ’tis but a drop in the bucket of the amount we waste on police and the myriad-other public services in this province and country (how ‘safe and secure’ do we have to be?).  Consider the case a few years ago of the millions of dollars in ‘mismanagement’ of the Ornge Emergency services under Chris Mazza, then the highest-paid public employee in history.


What I am glad to see is that the extent of this boondoggle, and the deep sense of entitlement amongst our hired ‘public servants’ is slowly but surely coming to the fore and to public consciousness. But perhaps economic reality, namely that the whole structure is simply unaffordable, will catch up with us first.  After all, Ontario just had its credit rating downgraded early last month due its ‘unmanageable’ debt, quickly ballooning out of anyone’s control.


What does bother me is that their conscience does not bind and urge these public servants to give the money back, and to be satisfied with an already satisfactory salary.  Western’s president only responded to fierce public indignation, but the police chiefs are more immune in their ivory towers from such negative feedback (after all, the president of a university has to interact to some degree with the hoi polloi; not so, police chiefs).


A strict and literalist adherence to ‘law’, especially for the benefit and whim of those who wield and enforce it, is a short road to anarchy and chaos.  As I mentioned in my last post, law is a means to an end, a way of forming and guiding our own conscience, which should always be paramount.


Now we have just begun the campaigning for the federal election.  Ask yourself:  How many of these would-be politicians, themselves very handsomely recompensed on the taxpayer dime, actually want to serve this country, and make it a more virtuous place to live?  And how many want the golden ticket to a recession-proof job, public acclaim and power?


Or, to put it another way, how much of the ‘servant’ is left in our public servants?


August 3, 2015