Conservative Prudence?

Conservative platformI received a rather critical email in response to my last post on the Conservative capitulation, so thought I should clarify my, and hopefully your own, thoughts:


As I wrote, there may be nothing wrong with capitulation or compromise.  Sometimes, they are necessary to achieve a greater good, or avoid a greater evil.  When and how to capitulate (to draw up terms) or compromise (reach a mutual agreement) depends by and large on the virtue of prudence, not much discussed in today’s world.


Prudence is the ordering of means to an end or, more accurately from the Catechism, it is the “virtue that disposes practical reason to discern our true good in every circumstance and choose the right means of attaining it” (CCC, #1806).  To be prudent, one must therefore know what is good, what it is one wants, before figuring out how to achieve it, here and now, in the concrete conditions in which one finds oneself.


Was it prudent for the Conservative Party at their recent convention to remove any stance on marriage, same-sex, hetero-sex, or otherwise?  One might argue such, with the claim that they will never again achieve political power otherwise. The charge of ‘homophobia’ is a curse upon a political party.  I am willing to listen to and understand that argument.


However, I sympathize also with writers like Mark Steyn and, in a more theological way, with John Paul II and Benedict XVI, that we have capitulated too much already, and it is time for a little parrhesia, boldness, direct and clear speech, and drawing certain lines in the sand:  ‘Thus far, and no farther!’ to quote the great Gandalf.


Yes, there are many things we must capitulate and compromise on in today’s world of realpolitik, or, more realistically, fantasy politics.  We must to some degree play the game, and achieve what good we may.  But to do so requires a clearly thought-out policy, at least in the back rooms and conventions, so at least we know whence we come and whither we go.


I have no desire to criticize the Conservative Party itself, and indeed have a number of friends and former students who have worked for them.  I myself am a card-carrying member.


Hence, I have the right to ask, does not prudence itself require that we, somewhere, somehow, define our terms, our mission, our raison d’etre? In the previous post, I defined a family with a quotation from the Catechism on marriage, as ” (a) man and a woman united in marriage, together with their children…”.


But the Magisterial text goes on to make clear that “(t)his institution is prior to any recognition by public authority, which has an obligation to recognize it. It should be considered the normal reference point by which the different forms of family relationship are to be evaluated” (CCC, 2202, emphasis added).


I would just like to ask before I continue my allegiance to the Conservatives (itself a prudential decision on my part), what does the Conservative Party stand for?  Can these principles be enunciated, written down, promulgated?  Will a Conservative government, if elected, clearly and boldly uphold the truth about marriage and the family, requisite for any functioning, to say nothing of prosperous, society?


Or are we dependent upon individual politicians guided by their conscience, good, bad or indifferent, taking up the charge?  Are there still enough social conservatives, with clear moral principles, to hold the Party together?  Or is the emphasis upon a vague economic conservatism, ‘tough on crime’, which may do nothing more than slow our slide towards the abyss?


I for one would not mind knowing the Conservative’s end or purpose, so that we, united as much as prudence allows, can then order the means thereto.


This is the feast of the Visitation, and a blessed one to all…

Conservative Capitulation

conservative capitulationTo capitulate derives from the Latin root capis, capitis, ‘head’, and literally means to cease to resist an opponent by drawing up terms under ‘headings’ or ‘chapters’.  So any mutual agreement is a kind of capitulation, as many of you who are married may attest.  Hence, the term is connected with that of compromise, where two parties, ‘co-promise’ to abide by some agreement.  There is nothing intrinsically wrong or distasteful with capitulation or with compromise in their original etymological sense.


Yet capitulation and compromise, in their modern forms, have strong negative connotations. More often than not, the capitulation is one-sided, with the weaker, or at least one who considers himself inferior, giving in to the stronger, or, again, one who considers himself such.


Usually, in a compromise, the weaker party retains some of his rights and privileges.  The two parties may even be equal, and agree to a stalemate of sorts.  The cold war a kind of compromise, based on the morally dubious, and as its acronym implies, insane, principle of M.A.D. or ‘mutually assured destruction’.


We usually consider capitulation worse, a complete giving in, even handing over one’s head, bowing in submission before the clearly superior entity.  What was demanded by the Allies of the Axis and the Japanese towards the end of World War II was ‘unconditional surrender’, again a morally dubious principle of total and utter capitulation, which many plausibly argue unduly prolonged the war, leading to untold hundreds of thousands of unnecessary deaths, military and civilian, the firestorming of cities, and the atomic destruction of Hiroshima and Japan.


I began pondering the whole philosophical notion of capitulation over the weekend, when I heard of the Conservatives at their convention in Vancouver giving in on the nature of marriage.  Yes, dear reader, the Conservative Party of Canada has now officially abandoned any principled opposition to same-sex ‘marriage’ in its constitution.


Of course, need it be said, some, perhaps even many, inside and out of the conservative camp see this not as a capitulation, but as a necessary evolution, even an enlightenment, dragging the Conservatives out of their primitive Prestonian-Harperian Dark Ages into the dawn of a new era of universal rights and privileges.


Our Prime Minister mocked even raising the question of same-sex ‘marriage’:


Among other things, they’re debating the merits of marriage equality. In 2016. More than a decade after we made same-sex marriage legal in Canada,”  Trudeau said to gales of laughter.


 “Well, better late than never, right? Who knows, ten years from now they might finally be willing to admit that climate change is real. Or that tax cuts for rich people don’t help the middle class,. Or that government shouldn’t legislate what women are allowed to wear on their heads.


I wonder about the ‘gales of laughter’.  And the reality of climate-change.  Or whatever Trudeau means by legislating what women wear on their heads, presumably the Islamic niqab.  I wonder if he would be against a Sharia law forcing women to cover their faces whenever they were outside? How far would his feminist credo take him against a non-capitulating Islam?


But back to marriage:  Did the Conservative Party capitulate based on principle, on expediency, or on the fear of being the subject of ‘gales of laughter’ by the jejune comments of an immature and ill-formed Prime Minister and his merry band of sycophants?


But capitulate they have, and here is the rub:  At the basis of any society, as its unit or cell, is the family, defined as a husband and wife (one must specify male and female nowadays), along with their children (cf., Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2202).  Although there are situations that approximate in an analogical sense this notion of ‘family’, the homosexual union does not.  The disorder involved in the ‘joining’ of two men (or two women, in a different way) cannot bring good to the couple, nor, qua homosexual, to their prospective children.  It is a grave disorder, and cannot be deemed an act of ‘love’ or ‘unity’.


To be clear, conservatives do not fear legions of married homosexuals destroying society, not least because there are no legions.  There are not that many of them, and even fewer who will avail themselves of this new freedom to marry.


No, it is rather the legitimization in positive law of such unions with the name, and all the rights, privileges and benefits of ‘marriage’ and ‘family’ that is deceitful and destructive. When push comes to shove, everything else in terms of social policy flows from one’s view of marriage and sexuality.  For a conservative to deny the basic truth of marriage is like a mathematician denying the reality of one and zero.  Do what you like with your new reality, but don’t call it math.


What are we now to call the Conservative Party?  And how, pray tell, do they plan on rebuilding society once our Liberal iconoclasts have had their way, now that they have capitulated on the very building block of that society?


Far better if they had stood on principle, like today’s saint, Joan of Arc.  In fact, it is the only thing to stand on.




Saint Philip and Witnessing for Life

saint philip

Today is the feast of Saint Philip Neri (+1595), the second Apostle of Rome, and the founder of the Oratory, whose houses are now found throughout the world (Bd. John Henry Newman brought the Oratory to England).  As you may know from my brief biography, I lived and studied at the Toronto Oratory, and owe a great debt of gratitude to Saint Philip, and the Fathers and Brothers of his Oratory.  May the joyful spirit of the great Saint of Rome, whose physical heart expanded to contain his great ‘fire of charity’ continue to inspire and convert many!


Two events are on the near horizon:  The first is a rally on June 1st, at from noon to 1:30 p.m. on Parliament Hill to protest the upcoming, and apparently unstoppable, ‘medical assistance in dying’ bill currently being ‘debated’.  That is, even though the Liberals have shut down debate, so they can achieve the June 6th deadline imposed by the unelected Supreme Court.  We will soon be turning our physicians into murderers, so a protest against this insanity seems like a good idea.


And speaking of euthanasia, there is a conference the weekend after in Ottawa, from June 3rd to 5th, organized by the Canadian Physicians for Life.  The focus is health care, but is open to one and all.  The conference opens with a concert ‘for life’ by the Canadian composer Eric Genuis on Friday evening, and talks by a number of informative speakers, including philosopher Peter Kreeft, who will offer the keynote address at the banquet.  You can find more information here.


Sancte Philipe, ora pro nobis!

To Yoga, or Not?

yoga on parliamentLast week, I was walking through Ottawa, and what greeted me on the vast lawn in front of the Parliament buildings was a sight to behold:  Hundreds of raised posteriors in various tight-fitting spandex doing yoga exercises, to the voice of an unseen young woman on a remote microphone.  I was quite literally flabbergasted, and I felt sort of bad even taking the photo (I waited until they adopted a more modest pose):  But to see this sea of adult humanity stretching, bending, breathing, hands on hips, hands outstretched, one leg, two legs, all in unison to the soothing female voice, right in front of the halls of our federal government was disconcerting.  I had never seen yoga in action, at least not really.  I recall vaguely my own father standing on his head once, which I think was ‘yoga’, but this was something else all together.


Yoga has a long history, with origins in India sometime in the sixth to fifth centuries prior to Christ, and there is no end to the literature on the topic.  Of course, the spirituality is pagan, both Hindu and Buddhist, and to this day yoga maintains these non-Christian roots, principles and ends.


That said, like any other spiritual system, exercise, method, call it what you will, there is some good in yoga.  There is nothing intrinsically wrong, and likely much good, with certain bodily postures, stretching one’s ligaments, breathing and relaxing properly.  The question is, can one take the good and leave the bad?


Although I would like to think so (one may ponder Eastern martial arts like judo and karate, most of which are just training exercises now, with little or no spirituality), but the problem in yoga is that the practices are almost inextricably wrapped up and intertwined with its spiritual aspects  I heard the young announcer tell the hundreds of stretching adults on the lawn to adopt the ‘goddess’ position.  Hmm.  I am not sure what that was, but it seemed to involve holding one’s hands on one’s hips in a defiant pose.  Or perhaps I am imagining things.


I wrote recently on the Church’s view of using Eastern practices in prayer, citing the 1989 Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith document Some Aspects of Christian Meditation.  Therein, the Church does allow for certain ‘Eastern’ techniques (itself a rather vague term), but with a good degree of caution:  One’s prayer must always be Christocentric, based on the principles of Christian revelation and never deviating from them.


The same could be said in an extended way for using yoga as exercise:  If one is keen on yoga, take what is beneficial for one’s body and mind, and leave behind the rest.  Or, better yet, ally the Eastern techniques with one’s Christianity, recite the name of Jesus and the saints while meditating and breathing in a hesychastic way, avoiding postures, prayers, mantras and anything else that is connected explicitly with paganism.


Is this possible?  I don’t know enough about yoga to say for sure, but I can say that I at the very least would not do what I saw all those  hundreds of adults on the lawn doing, at least not in public.  And I certainly wouldn’t be wearing the stretchy, skin-tight pants, raising my spandexed posterior into the air for all to behold.


While we’re on that note, I will leave you with one other question:  Why can they not wear a bit more loose-fitting garb?  There is no way they had spandex in fifth century B.C. India, nor much for that matter in the 21st century, so why not go back to the sources, with the rather beautiful flowing robes of the original yogi (or yogini)? I asked a priest friend of mine, who witnesses and prays on Parliament Hill daily, and he said the hundreds of participants meet twice a week, the whole thing funded by a clothing company, which he had to look up on his phone.  I already knew the answer:  Lululemon, whose ‘yoga pants’ are the bane of modesty everywhere.


Besides the clothing issue, there are probably better and more Christian ways to exercise.  Like fencing, boxing, cycling, kayaking, all transferable to real-life skills (yes, I admit I am a bit biased).  But if yoga is your thing, be sure to Christianise it, in the true spirit of inculturation. And you may want to be just a tad bit more private, especially if you do go for the spandex look.

Trudeau’s Tantrum

trudeau scuffleMost readers will have seen the bizarre behaviour of the Prime Minister yesterday evening.  As witnesses and the video record attest, Mr. Trudeau, in an apparent fit of pique at what he perceived to be a deliberate delay on the part of some Conservative members returning to their seats, strode angrily towards MP Gord Brown (Conservative), dropped the f-bomb, grabbed his arm, and ‘escorted’ him forcefully to his seat, in the midst of which he ‘elbowed’ female MP Ruth Ellen Brousseau (NDP), who had to leave the chamber in hurt and shame.


Trudeau at first, embarrassingly, attempted to justify his actions, claiming he was trying to ‘help’ Mr. Brown to his seat, as though he were a cripple. Now Mr. Trudeau is being more apologetic, as he was obviously caught on camera in an explosion of anger, one might argue outright assault, in not getting his way as quickly as he would like.


The 1866 Robert Louis Stevenson novella The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is indicative here.  The story of the split personality of the genial and restrained Dr. Jekyll, who under the effects of a self-concocted potion turns into the unhinged and immoral Mr. Hyde, is really a tale of personality and character:  Which one in the end was the ‘real’ Dr. Jekyll?  We all have a bit of Mr. Hyde in us, with occasional bursts of unrestrained anger or other passions for which we repent.  Only the saints are who they are all, or most, of the way through.  Saint Philip Neri said that building virtue is like pulling weeds:  There is never an end to the depth and interconnectedness of the roots, and we must dig real deep to become truly good.


That is why, as the old adage goes, virtue is only tested in adversity. It is easy to be ‘virtuous’ when one is well fed, warm, comfortable, with a glass of port in one hand and plate of fine cheese and chocolate in the other before a roaring hearth, as I can attest from experience.  It is not so easy when one is standing in line at the airport, harassed, hungry, thirsty, inching forward, with babies crying and one’s sweaty undershirt stuck to one’s back, looking forward to an even more uncomfortable flight.


It is in these conditions that our mask slips off, and we see ourselves, and others see us, as we really are under the facade of our public persona.  Do we maintain our patience, kindness, equanimity when they are put quite sorely to the test?  Stories are told of Saint Edith Stein when she and a host of her fellow Jews and Catholics were hauled off in cattle cars to the concentration camp at Auschwitz.  While others collapsed into listlessness, anger, vituperation, the Carmelite saint, mystic and soon-to-be martyr walked around peacefully, helping others, combing the disheveled hair of the girls, calming the distressed mothers.  The saint was who she was, all the way through.


Is Justin Trudeau who he seems to be, we may ask?  Is he really an angry, petulant bully, a feted man used to getting his own way, furious, now that he is in the pinnacle of his power and prestige, that a few minority Conservative members dared to delay voting in the House?  Or was this an anomalous outburst, caught on camera for national consumption, for which the happy-and-sunny-ways Prime Minister is truly repentant?


I dare not judge his interior state, but it is curious that the vote that was being delayed was the assisted-suicide/euthanasia bill, an evil, even satanic, piece of legislation that, like the Nazi regime under which Saint Edith and countless others perished miserably, will give State-licensed-and-sponsored agents the right and duty to murder their fellow citizens.  The law is being touted under the banner of kindness, tolerance, freedom, autonomy, compassion and, yes, that global-catch-all, mercy.  But, as history demonstrates, there is little reason to presume it will end there.


Did the mask slip off the smiley-huggy-doe-eyed Mr. Trudeau, so zealous for abortion and euthanasia, demonstrating his latent totalitarian tendencies, ready to burst forth when opposition arises to his will?  If he feels empowered enough to manhandle a fellow member within the very halls of Parliament, and knock the wind, wittingly or not, out of a fellow female MP, what will he do when he faces real opposition?  The Prime Minister, now publicly repentant, is struggling to regain his Dr. Jekyll, but how predominant is his latent Mr. Hyde, and when, and how, will he reassert himself?


At this point, the Liberals have their way, and, although they might be delayed a bit, not much can stop their agenda.  Canadians have foolishly voted them a majority, and the minority opposition that sits like a rump in Parliament can offer just token resistance.  At the very least, even with this power, the Prime Minister should allow what little remains of our democracy to function, with what decorum and patience he can muster, whatever his interior state.


But part of me fears that we may soon look back on yesterday evening as a small sign of bigger and badder things to come.


Birthday Blessings to JP II, Marriage and the Liberals’ Ludicrous Energy Plan

JP II birthday*Today would have been the 96th birthday of Pope Saint John Paul II, who died just shy of his 85 birthday.  Very few Popes have reached this venerable age; Pope Leo XIII, the oldest reigning pontiff known to history, reached his 93rd year.  I know not how old John Paul/Karol is in heaven.  Not having his body back yet, we may presume, he is now ageless, but enjoying the beatific vision.  So happy birthday, in your well-deserved ‘rest’ until, God willing, we all meet merrily in heaven.


*The Pope’s birthday falls, providentially, on the memorial of the first Pope to take the name of the beloved disciple, and that not until the early seventh century.  After an apparently unsuccessful mission to Constantinople on behalf of the Arian King Theodoric the Goth, Pope John I was cast into prison, where he died of neglect and maltreatment.  But, then, how could a Pope petition to allow Catholics to remain Arians?  So he died for the faith, a witness to the truth, as was his successor John Paul, albeit in a different way.


*I gave a talk last night in Ottawa at Saint Patrick’s Basilica Grotto, on the current Holy Father’s recent Exhortation, Amoris Laetitia, and its connection to law and conscience.  I will have a summary at some point in the near future.  But there were many questions, and many are (quite rightly) confused by some of the things the Pope had to say in the now much-commented-upon Chapter 8.  Here is the nub:  There can be no exceptions to natural law, including adultery, which in one sense may be defined as conjugal relations with anyone not one’s wife.  Pope John Paul was very clear in Familiaris Consortio that if you are in a non-marital relationship with a significant other, one must live in continence.  And the only way to be sure that the ‘significant other’ is your spouse is, quite simply, to get married.  If one cannot get married, then one cannot have sex.  The conjugal act is too important, too filled with ramifications for the couple, for the children, for society, to leave it in the realm of private conscience, with or without ‘pastoral guidance’.  The only avenue proper for sex is a valid, public, ratified marriage.  The Exhortation does not explicitly refute this, but opens a number of doors of ambiguity for the ill-willed to interpret as they may.  But more to come.


*As providence would have it, as I was leaving Ottawa this afternoon, approaching my car in the church parking lot, I met one of my former students and her husband, getting ready in their own car with their two beautiful boys in the back seat.  I say ‘providence’, since this happened to be day of their third anniversary.  Sometimes God gives us little favours like that.  So a very blessed and joyous anniversary!


*I also met a friend of mine, a lawyer who travels much in his business, if memory serves correctly, lobbying for the energy and environment, in good Catholic and good business sense of those terms.  Again, providentially, on the day that Kathleen Wynne’s Ontario Liberals’ Green Agenda was revealed.  Amongst the many ludicrosities, they want to wean every household off natural gas by 2030, with all of us heating our homes with ‘green’ electricity.  I am not sure how green electricity is (not much, I suspect) but this at the very least will raise heating costs, even at current rates (and they are rising rapidly) by 600%.  Yes, more than $3000 per year.  I mentioned to my friend that everyone tasked with making any decisions on the energy or the environment should be forced to take a rudimentary course on thermodynamics, the science of heat, energy and their various transformations.  It is not easy to get energy out of material, whether it be gas, sunlight, wind or water.  The more diffuse, erratic and non-transportable the source of the energy (as in wind and solar), the far, far less efficient, and far, far more expensive, it is.  But the Liberals care not.  They have their majority; they are on a mission; science, reality, along with the rights and needs of the people, not least those on a limited income, be damned.   Oh, and the debt will continue to balloon, if we don’t reach Greek-Venezuela-level default well before 2030.


*But rejoice.  Summer is on its way, this weekend proves to post temperatures in the high twenties (Celsius, for any American readers convinced that Canada is always cold and snowy).  So enjoy the ‘Victoria Day’ long weekend, in commemoration of the now second-longest-reigning monarch, Queen Victoria (63 years, 216 days), who was just passed this past September by her grand-daughter Elizabeth II (64 years, 102 days and counting).  Although I have reservations about Elizabeth’s religious views, and the history of the monarchy over my native Scotland and Ireland, she has reigned prudently overall, within the circumscribed limits of her power.  Long may she reign.


Or, for those not monarchically-inclined, you could just call this May 2-4, as we did in high school, for the obvious reasons that connect that number with a certain barley-based beverage, best served cold on a late spring day.  One way or the other, enjoy, all in God’s good will.


Good Pope John, ora pro nobis!


Brendan’s Voyage

brendan voyageToday commemorates Saint Brendan, the sixth century Irish monk, the ‘Navigator’, whose main claim to fame is a supposed seven year trans-Atlantic voyage in a boat made of animal-hides upon which he and sixteen others embarked, with the discovery of North America many centuries before the time Cabot.  Many considered his journey pious legend, a fantastic mediaeval tale like many others (and it does contain a number of fantastic elements).  That is, until the voyage was re-created, with the same mediaeval materials, by Tim Severin in 1978, chronicled in the book and film The Brendan Voyage, demonstrating that Brendan’s voyage was at the very least eminently possible.


There are many things that Brendan can teach us, but one of them is the limited value of human hubris.  We in our modern smugness presume that we are more advanced, morally, spiritually, intellectually than any culture or civilization that came before, a consequence of the virus of the evolutionary paradigm, that things will always proceed upward and get better with time.


Not so.  Advance is possible, certainly, but so is regression, evolution along with devolution.  In fact, the second law of thermodynamics states that greater perfection can only be achieved by expending mental and physical energy and effort, without which things generally proceed into entropy and chaos.


Who is to say that the monks, and the contemporaneous Vikings, did not have better boats than we?  Certainly, the Romans were far more adept at building natural amphitheatres than modern man.  To this day, you can hear a pin drop on the stage even in the ruins of one of their outdoor auditoria, utilizing to the maximum in some mysterious forgotten way the surrounding natural features, while we still struggle to build decent concert halls with all of our ‘space age’ materials (cf., the expensive renovation of our own already-lavish Roy Thomson Hall in 2002 due to the poor quality of its acoustics).


Certainly, on the spiritual plane, we have much to learn from our ancestors, which is why the Catholic Church remains so immersed in tradition and history, in her saints, their writings, their experiences, even their journeys and the people they evangelized.  We ignore to our peril the great holy men and women who preceded us, and, as Chesterton alludes, one of the unholy evils of ‘modernism’, amongst the many of that multi-headed hydra that Saint Pius X described as the ‘synthesis of all heresies’, is that something is good and true just because it is modern.


Sometimes, many times, it is the old that is truly good and truly true.  At the very least, it has stood the test of time.


In the present context, I for one like the pious thought that an Irishmen discovered Canada many centuries before a Frenchman.  But, then again, they both claimed Canada for the Church.


Either way, Saint Brendan, ora pro nobis!


The Choice to March for Life

march for life 2016Today, the feast of Saint Matthias, paradoxically marks the sombre anniversary of the legalization of abortion in Canada, under Trudeau Sr., in 1969.  Omnibus Bill C-150, officially the Criminal Law Amendment Act , also brought into law gun control, contraception, homosexuality, drunk driving (with the 0.08 level), gambling and cruelty to animals.  I find it curious that as we allowed the murder of the unborn in the womb, we began the process of an increasingly mawkish sentimentality towards animals.


Of course, as will happen with euthanasia, so happened with abortion:  The initial ‘safeguards’, the required permission of a ‘therapeutic abortion committee’, with two physicians, only in extreme cases endangering the life or health of the mother, and so on, were whittled away.  Ever since 1988, when the whole abortion law was struck down, Canada has had abortion-on-demand, for any reason whatsoever (one is not even permitted to ask anymore, as the gender-selective abortion debate makes clear), all through nine months of pregnancy, right up until the baby sees the light of day.


Trudeau Jr. is all over this, and is vehement in his desire to protect a woman’s ‘right to choose’.  He is a product of our modern education system, his own dysfunctional family, the culture in which he was raised, and the narrow, restricted world-view he absorbed in the upper-crust Montreal in which he was raised, getting more or less whatever he wanted, the spoiled scion of a distant, older father and his bewildered mother, who divorced when he was but a child.  How much can one blame him?  I heard recently that our tattooed, pot-smoking Prime Minister no longer even considers himself a Catholic.  Of course this is bad, but at least it may decrease the charge of hypocrisy, not least if he makes this, if true, more widely and clearly known.  But, ‘good’ politician that he is, he may want to ride the Catholic coattails, and the votes that go along with at least paper membership in the Church.


Each year I and many others go to march in Ottawa for life, a symbolic gesture, largely ignored in the media.  Numbers always vary somewhat year by year; some say 22,000, others a few thousand.  I personally thought they were down a bit, but I am not much into statistics.  Even if five good families showed up, it would still signify that someone, somewhere is resisting the culture of death making its inroads  into the hearts and minds of our nation.  This year, the police significantly shortened the proposed march, since there were a number of violent protesters blocking the way.  I am not sure why they were not arrested; if it were we pro-lifers blocking a ‘gay’ march celebrating the unsung joys of sodomy, I think a lot of us would have ended up in jail.


I say the march is symbolic, since our (that is, those of the culture of life) influence in ‘the world’ is minimal, and we (or at least I) go to the March not so much to influence politicians and pundits, but to pray and meet other like-minded people.  The agents of death, and I include not just the pro-abortion-pro-euthanasia zealots, but also all those who support deviant sexuality, unchastity, fornication, pornography, prostitution, all the ‘crimes against life’, they, the agents of death, have near-complete control of our schools, elementary and high school, universities, colleges, media, film, newspapers.  The whole zeitgeist is on the side of the leering grim reaper.  No wonder they ignore us, and why fewer and fewer young people attend and make a stand for life.  We are, in the world’s eyes, like hobbits must have seemed to the eye of Sauron:  Insignificant little creatures, primed for destruction, to be cast aside by the inevitable spirit of progress.


Yet like the under-sized Israelites when they first reconnoitred the Holy Land which had been promised to them, who seemed ‘like grasshoppers’ compared to the gigantic Canaanites who dwelt there, or the runt-ish David with the ruddy cheeks against the hulking Goliath, or Gideon’s little band against the thousand trained Midianite warriors, the victory is ours, for God is on our side, and the battle is the Lord’s, who laughs his opponents to scorn.


Of course, for a time it may not seem so; God works on His own timetable, not least to give these same opponents time to change their minds and repent.  The choice to witness for Christ like Matthias, or to ‘go to our own place’, like Judas, stands before each one of us.  Both of these Apostles were ‘chosen’, but only one (to our eyes) responded to the path of love, of agape, of hope, that God offered him.


On the very eve of the March for Life, Trudeau signed back into law Canada’s funding for abortion overseas, which had been removed by Harper, to give him his due.  Alas, at least as things now stand, Trudeau and his not-so-merry band of Liberals have chosen the losing side, regardless of their ‘majority’.  They just don’t know it yet, and we should hope and pray they do before it is too late.


Sancte Matthias, pro pro nobis!

Holy or False Innocence

Marc Bauerlein has an insightful essay on false innocence in the recent issue of First Things, describing those who feign an innocence that, perhaps at some level they think they have, but, deeper down, in their heart of hearts, in that still, small voice of conscience I alluded to in my last post, they know they do not.

Today we celebrate true innocence, and true innocents, on this blessed feast of the Holy Innocents, a commemoration of all the ‘male children under two years’, murdered, and we say martyred, by Herod’s soldiers in Bethlehem and surrounding region, as he sought to destroy the Christ, whom Herod considered a rival to his throne.  Of course, ‘the Christ’ had already been taken to exile in Egypt, as the Holy Family fled the wrath of Herod at the warning of an angel.

To be declared a martyr, one must be killed in odium fidei, in hatred of the faith, and that is the case with these children, although they knew it not.   But they rejoice in heaven with all the angels.

We may also hope that these victims of the first Christian-era holocaust now rejoice with all the murdered children in our own day and age, not least those killed by the euphemistic-medical term ‘abortion’.  Pope Saint John Paul II in paragraph 99 of his Evangelium Vitae gives us hope that all the voiceless victims of abortion are in heaven, wherein he declares to mothers who have had abortions:

The Father of mercies is ready to give you his forgiveness and his peace in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. To the same Father and his mercy you can with sure hope entrust your child.

He comes close to canonizing the victims of abortion, but stops just short with the virtue of hope, for we know that no one can be lost just due to original sin, which is not a personal sin, of which these children are free.  At the same time, outside of baptism, there is no revelation as to how such children are saved; but the Catechism offers sure hope:

As regards children who have died without Baptism, the Church can only entrust them to the mercy of God, as she does in her funeral rites for them. Indeed, the great mercy of God who desires that all men should be saved, and Jesus’ tenderness toward children which caused him to say: “Let the children come to me, do not hinder them,” allow us to hope that there is a way of salvation for children who have died without Baptism.

And just a few paragraphs earlier:

God has bound salvation to the sacrament of Baptism, but he himself is not bound by his sacraments.

This is not to downplay the gravity of the crime of abortion, nor the crime of Herod, whom we might in some way term the original modern-day ‘abortionist’, killing innocent children who were an inconvenience to him.

Herod was not innocent, and neither we may presume are our modern leaders who support the illusory ‘right’ to abortion.  This is perhaps the darkest aspect of our photogenic Prime Minister, who is all smiles, hugs and high-fives, except, that is, on a few issues, where he gets all down and serious, and one of these ‘issues’ dear to his heart is the unquestioned right of women to ‘terminate their pregnancies’, about which he will brook no opposition. nor debate.

Trudeau seems to fall with Herod into the camp of the false innocents, those who claim to be doing the right thing, when, all along, they are doing the wrong thing, whether they know it or not.  We all suffer from this malady of a disordered and rationalized conscience, but some seem to suffer from it on a rather grand and breathtaking scale.

I wonder if such people examine their conscience?  I even wonder if they know what a conscience is, how to define this act within the human soul, its constituents, how to form said conscience?  From my years of teaching, and the sad state of catechetics even amongst Catholics, I have my grave doubts.  Does Trudeau sleep well at night?  Does he ever question his principles, his values, wondering perhaps he may not have it right, maybe even with the words of today’s reading from the prophet Jeremiah sounding in his soul:

Thus saith the LORD: A voice is heard in Ramah, lamentation, and bitter weeping, Rachel weeping for her children; she refuseth to be comforted for her children, because they are not.

There are an untold number of children who ‘are not’, and not just because of surgical abortion, which has claimed several million lives here in Canada alone since its legalization in 1969 under Trudeau’s father.   There are also the children killed in very early stages by the morning-after pill and abortifacient contraceptives.   And what of the myriads of children who never existed because of contraception itself (also legalized in the same bill by Trudeau Sr.), or because women (and men) were too busy with careers, ambition, travel, ‘life experiences’, to have children, or to get married in the first place.

Yes, how many children ‘are not’ because of what John Paul II termed the culture of death, still marching on under Trudeau Jr.  I suppose Mr. Trudeau could be in a state of what was quaintly termed ‘invincible ignorance’, which, again, the great John Paul II described strictly in Veritatis Splendor as “an ignorance of which the subject is not aware and which he is unable to overcome by himself“.  A stretch, perhaps, in Trudeau’s case, but even if true, a man of such profound ignorance could scarcely run his own life, never mind a country.  Even in the case of such invincible ignorance, although one’s personal guilt may be diminished, the evil is still an evil, and the conscience disordered and malformed.  Again, in the immortal words of the Holy Father:

It is never acceptable to confuse a “subjective” error about moral good with the “objective” truth rationally proposed to man in virtue of his end, or to make the moral value of an act performed with a true and correct conscience equivalent to the moral value of an act performed by following the judgment of an erroneous conscience.  It is possible that the evil done as the result of invincible ignorance or a non-culpable error of judgment may not be imputable to the agent; but even in this case it does not cease to be an evil, a disorder in relation to the truth about the good


And few disorders, whether in ignorance or not, produce worse evils than abortion and infanticide.

But enough.  Today, in the midst of the joyous Christmas octave, we celebrate the real first martyrs of the Church, while Christ Himself was still an infant.  As their name implies, they were in -fans, literally unable to speak, but as today’s Office of Readings declares via the 5th century bishop Quodvultdeus (I love his name, ‘whatever God wills’)

How great a gift of grace is here! To what merits of their own do the children owe this kind of victory? They cannot speak, yet they bear witness to Christ. They cannot use their limbs to engage in battle, yet already they bear off the palm of victory

Amen to that.  We need not speak to proclaim Christ, but, rather, live and die for Him, in whatever span of time He gives us.  We should pray to the victims of our modern holocausts, that they intercede for us and their persecutors, that we all may grow in the love of God, our love for each other, and for life itself and that we all may, as the good bishop’s own name implies, ‘do whatever He wills’.





Fatima, Prayer and Private Revelation

our lady of fatimaToday is the commemoration of Our Lady of Fatima, a title given to the Virgin Mary after she appeared ‘brighter than the sun, shedding rays of light’ to three shepherd children in the summer of 1917 (no painting ever did Our Lady justice) just outside the village of Fatima, in central Portugal, about 76 miles north of Lisbon.


The accounts of the visions, along with the still-as-yet-unexplained miracle of the dancing and twirling Sun, which took place, with one or two exceptions, on the 13th of each month until October of that year, can be found in countless books and articles.  What we as Catholics should keep in mind is that today’s memorial does not canonize everything within these appearances, nor all the locutions and revelations.  There are many things mysterious and, one might say, confusing about Fatima that one is free to accept, or not, or accept with some degree of reservation and explanation.


Just ponder a few examples of questions we may ask:  Are numerous souls really falling into hell like burning embers, shrieking in anguish?  Did the Sun really become unmoored from its astronomical course and whirl around the cosmos?  Did God suspend the law of nature, in particular gravity, for this occurrence?  Or was it an optical illusion of sorts, a ‘vision’ given to all the people, to teach them the power of God over nature?  Did the children receive Holy Communion from an angel, and what sort of ‘Communion’ was this, without the apparent species of bread?  What is the status of the ‘three secrets’, which were supposed to be revealed in 1960, but instead were made public in the Jubilee Year 2000 by Cardinal Ratzinger?  Did Our Lady really ‘guide’ Ali Agca’s bullet that should have killed Pope John Paul on this day in 1981?  It seems the Pope himself thought so, and I for one believe she did, as she may well have saved my life more than once.


These are really side issues, for in the midst of all the titillating mystery, we should always go back to the basic and ultimate purpose of private revelation, whether large and approved (Fatima, Guadalupe and Lourdes) or smaller and less well-known, all the way to our own ‘private’ revelations in our personal prayer (and let us not forget that even the most famous of revelations began with a one-to-one encounter):


Private revelations, as the Catechism declares, “do not belong…to the deposit of faith.  It is not their role to improve or complete Christ’s definitive Revelation but to help live more fully by it in a certain period of history” (CCC, #67).


That is why the Catechism goes on to make very clear that “Christian faith cannot accept “revelations” that claim to surpass or correct the Revelation of which Christ is the fulfilment”.


Thus, any revelation that supports Christ’s Revelation (found in Scripture and the Church’s Tradition) is good, while any revelation that negates, or even purports to go beyond or improve Christ’s Revelation is bad and must be rejected.


We may think of clear examples outside the Christian fold, like the ‘revelations’ Muhammad claimed to have received, or Joseph Smith and the Mormons, or even Luther in his fevered and enthusiastic soul as he drifted away from the Church, which are obviously false, even if mixed in with some truth.


Rather, the ‘good’ private revelations remind and exhort us to live out more fully and perfectly in a particular era and historical setting what has already been given to us by the Church:  Our Lady of Fatima exhorted the children (and us) to be more diligent in praying the Rosary, to do penance for sinners, to pray for peace, especially for an end to the World War, to go to Mass and Communion and so on.  Lourdes was much the same, as was Guadalupe and all the other good and approved ‘visions’, all the way down to our own personal prayer, which is itself a kind of private revelation, our own face-to-face time with Christ, Our Lady, the saints who speak to us in their (and our) own way.  That is why the Church offers guidelines for our prayer, which should be Christocentric and immersed in the Church’s Tradition and Scripture.  Every Catholic should peruse the very apt 1989 instruction Some Aspects of Christian Meditation to learn what is useful, and what is not, and what is downright wrong, as we develop in our prayer life.  And let us not forget the dire words in the current Catechism, quoting Saint Alphonsus Ligouri:


Those who pray are certainly saved; those who do not pray are certainly damned. (CCC, #2744)


We may add to this that those who pray well are certainly saved, for it may not always be God who speaks to us in prayer, if we choose to go off on our own, on paths too dark and deep for us.


We should therefore test the spirits, as Saint John tells us, to see which are from God, and which are not.  The Church’s teaching is the guide and lodestone, the pillar and bulwark of truth, and Our Lady, or any saint, will always lead us back to Christ, His Church, the moral and ecclesiastical law and the sacraments, and eventually heaven.


Any other revelation is illusory and a wide and easy road to the ‘other’ place of which the children had such a vivid vision in the true revelation of Fatima.