A Catholic Approach to the Papacy

Pope FrancisOn this solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, celebrating their respective life and martyrdom, it is beneficial to dwell a moment upon the papacy (and by extension, the episcopacy), as we make our way towards eternity in these confusing times.


It is no secret to readers of these columns that I share with many other Catholics certain reservations about the current Pope, or at least, how he exercises his papacy, and particularly some of the things he says and writes. I have striven in my own mind and soul to maintain a sense of equanimity and balance. Anxiety (perturbatione in the original Latin) is something we pray to be freed from daily at the end of the Our Father at Mass.  Perhaps the following reflections will help to achieve some level of peace for your own minds.


To begin, we should always show a respect for the office of the Pope, regardless of who fills the shoes of the Fisherman, along with charity for the man behind the office. I have heard or read of Catholics who call him ‘Frankie’, ‘Bergoglio’ or even worse, which does not reflect well. When we call him ‘Pope Francis’, ‘Holy Father’, ‘Your Holiness’, we are not reverencing Jorge Bergoglio, per se, who, like all of us, is a vessel of clay, but rather the office the man holds, as the Vicar of Christ. As in the military (and we are the Church militant), we salute the ‘rank’, not the person.


On that note, we should always see things in historical terms. We have had a whole panoply of Popes since Christ bestowed the office first upon Peter, to the 266th, who currently sits on his chair: Saints, sinners, the vain, the irascible, good administrators and bad ones, Popes who have committed adultery, vastly more who are chaste and pure, intellectuals and academics, peasants and farmers, diplomats, shy Popes, gregarious Popes, dour and cheerful and so on. We have been blessed with a series of stellar and saintly men, especially in the last few centuries.  The last two Pontiffs in particular were intellectual and spiritual giants, historical men chosen by God.


The danger in this is that we have become perhaps overly dependent upon the Pope, even falling into a sort of quasi Pope-olatry.  We must remember as Catholics that our faith and our hope are in Christ, the Church’s true foundation, whom the Pope represents as His Vicar.  Every Pope, from the best to the worst, by his own human weakness to some degree obscures this representation of Christ, which is why even Popes, perhaps especially Popes, have to go to regular confession (John Paul II purportedly went every week sometimes, one may guess, even more often).


This current papacy is offering us a reminder in a very incarnate way that the Pope is not some sort of Delphic oracle, and not everything he writes, and especially not everything he says, is from God, nor even free from error.  The Holy Father can be wrong, and at the very least ambiguous, hesitant, even incoherent at times.  We are free to, and should, analyse, interpret, criticize, even disagree with some of the things he says and writes, but all in the spirit of charity and reverence.  In fact, the Code of Canon Law (can. 212.2) suggests that this is not just a right, but at times even a duty for the laity:


In accord with the knowledge, competence, and preeminence which they possess, (lay people) have the right and even at times a duty to manifest to the sacred pastors their opinion on matters which pertain to the good of the Church, and they have a right to make their opinion known to the other Christian faithful, with due regard to the integrity of faith and morals and reverence toward their pastors, and with consideration for the common good and the dignity of persons


True enough, as the First Vatican Council dogmatically declared, the Pope has the charism of infallibility, freedom from error, but like any charism, a gratia gratis data (a grace freely given), this grace is only exercised under certain conditions.  These conditions were made clear in the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium, from Vatican II (par.25). The whole document should be read, but here is the key passage:


The Roman Pontiff, head of the college of bishops, enjoys this infallibility in virtue of his office, when, as supreme pastor and teacher of all the faithful – who confirms his brethren in the faith – he proclaims by a definitive act a doctrine pertaining to faith or morals


In sum, infallibility is only exercised when the Pope teaches as Pope, to all the faithful, on faith and morals, in a definitive way, which, to understate the case, does not happen all the time. To such utterances, we owe the ‘assent of faith’. To pronouncements of the Pope that are not infallible, but simply authoritative, we should offer him obedience and respect, with ‘religious submission of mind and will’.


Oftentimes, however, perhaps most of the time, the Pope speaks in an exhortative manner, urging us to action, to prayer, to virtue, to give to the poor, to be merciful, to welcome the sinner, and so on.  This we interpret and apply in the context of our own lives and vocations. He may also give his opinion on matters outside faith and morals (e.g., on global warming), or on matters that are provisional and conditional, with which we are free to agree or not.


The central point in this current discussion is that whatever the Pope says or does, we must always interpret and accept through the lens of Scripture and Tradition.  Even the Pope cannot add one iota to, nor change in any way, the revelation given to us by Christ, which was completed in the Apostolic era. The reason we have a Pope and a Magisterium, as the Catechism states, is that


even if Revelation is already complete, it has not been made completely explicit; it remains for Christian faith gradually to grasp its full significance over the course of the centuries.


It is the task of the Magisterium, led by the Roman Pontiff, to interpret, expound and guard this revelation through each specific historical epoch, with the aforementioned charism of infallibility, or at least the authority, granted to the Pope and bishops from Christ


The task of giving an authentic interpretation of the Word of God…has been entrusted to the living, teaching office of the Church alone…the task of interpretation has been entrusted to the bishops in communion with the successor of Peter, the Bishop of Rome (CCC, #85, cf., Dei Verbum, 10):


However well or badly a given Pope carries out this office should not cause us as Catholics to demean or disregard the papacy itself, nor, God forbid, to lose our faith and leave the Church.  The Papacy is our visible, incarnate link to Christ, and we believe in the office of the papacy not on the basis of reason, but of faith.  It is a mystery stricte dicta, beyond the realms of our human imagination.  We don’t believe in the papacy because it makes sense to us, but because Christ revealed it.  Ponder the following words of Lumen Gentium (par. 22):


the college or body of bishops has no authority unless it is understood together with the Roman Pontiff, the successor of Peter as its head. The pope’s power of primacy over all, both pastors and faithful, remains whole and intact. In virtue of his office, that is as Vicar of Christ and pastor of the whole Church, the Roman Pontiff has full, supreme and universal power over the Church. And he is always free to exercise this power


No earthly institution would give such power to one man, and the world will never ‘get’ this, but the wisdom of God is folly to Man, and such is the will of Christ, in working through our human weakness and limitations. Both the Church and the papacy have not only survived, but thrived in the midst of good, bad and indifferent Pontiffs, to say nothing of the countless bishops, priests, religious and laity for two millennia, and counting.


To paraphrase a riposte between Napoleon Bonaparte and an unnamed Roman Catholic cardinal:


Your eminence, are you not aware that I have the power to destroy the Catholic Church?


The cardinal responded ruefully:


Your majesty, we, the Catholic clergy, have done our best to destroy the church for the last 1800 years.  We have not succeeded, and neither will you.


Now, don’t get me wrong:  This is an anecdote, and no Pope or bishop that I know of, not least Pope Francis, is out to ‘destroy’ the Church.  Sure enough, in their (and our) human weakness, any given Pontiff can obscure Christ’s truth at times.  That is why, when we read what the Pope says or writes, we should always interpret his words in the light of Christ’s revelation, through the lens of Scripture, the Tradition of the Church, previous teachings of the Magisterium, and so on. No one papacy, not even the last two great ones, ‘defines’ the Church.  Even John Paul II and Benedict stood on the shoulders of those who came before, and their own vast, clear and profound teaching can only really be understood and applied by immersing oneself to some extent in what every other Magisterium has said and taught.


One may peruse all of Francis’ encyclicals and exhortations, sermons and addresses, and never come across anything that is explicitly heterodox (and, yes, not even in the most controversial sections of Chapter 8 of Amoris Laetitia).  One may find ambiguities, conditional statements, opinions with which one may disagree, selectively edited and nuanced footnotes and references (even from the great Saint Thomas!), all of which may lead to a certain confusion and hetero-praxy, if read outside of the Church’s consistent Magisterium and Tradition.  A whole series of articles could be devoted to this topic alone, and the blogosphere is full of them already.


For example, the Pope will never permit divorce or the dissolution of marriage as a principle (which would be heterodox) but he may expedite the annulment process to such an extent that the practice seems a tolerance of quasi-Catholic ‘divorce’.  The same goes for his other statements on homosexuality, cohabitation, reception of Communion and so on.


We are free to question this approach. Perhaps, we may presume, Pope Francis is trying to get the truth across and save souls, opening the ‘gates of mercy’ so wide in his pastoral zeal that his statements seem to compromise this truth.  We know not whether Pope Francis has a ‘master plan’, nor his intentions, nor the secrets of his heart.  Many have wondered at his choice of advisers.  All we can do is read what he writes, and interpret what he says, as Pope, as best we can, in the light of what has come before, and accept what we can.


As I wrote recently, quoting the great Thomas More, we must get to heaven by the ‘tangle of our wits’, more necessary now than before.  Christ never said the path would be easy, especially when we have to see our way through the tangle of obscurity and obfuscation. Yet those who are committed to the truth will see the truth through ambiguous, even erroneous, statements, while those who are not, well, they will conclude what they want.


If your eye be sound, your whole body will be full of light; but if your eye is not sound, your whole body will be full of darkness


And, of course, we must pray that wisdom, clarity and courage are given to the Pope, who carries a large burden and responsibility on his shoulders (indeed, one of the largest).  The shoes of the fisherman are not easy to fill, and no one is really worthy of this office, for they are, in the end, the shoes of Christ.  We must see past the human weakness, to the Christ Who dwells within (and that applies to each one of us).  For it is in following the shoes of the Fisherman that, by straight or sometimes winding roads, we find the road to heaven.


Holy Proto-Martyrs of Rome, orate pro nobis!

Supreme Court and Texan Abortion

jubilant abortionAnother day, and more bad news.  One becomes benumbed after a time, which is not a good thing. Would that I could write on something uplifting, and I will, soon.  But the culture of death marches on, almost unabated, from victory to victory, and I wonder how much they need further to ‘win’, with the exception, perhaps, of stamping out any and all opposition with full-out Christian persecution, already happening in an insidious way.


Yesterday morning’s ruling by the hobbled Supreme Court of the United States (eight members since the death of Antonin Scalia), struck down a Texas law 5-3 that required that physicians who do abortions at the very least have admitting privileges to hospitals, and maintain the same standards as any mobile surgical clinic (whatever those may be). Even the ‘pro-choicers’, one would think, would have these safeguards to heart, at the very least to protect the women seeking an abortion, an invasive surgical procedure if ‘ere there was one.


ruth baderBut in the tortured reasoning of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, requiring such standards would drive women into even worse conditions, ‘faute de mieux’ as she said, ‘without anything better’, in their desperation to seek to end the life growing within them. One wonders how much worse it could get than ‘Dr.’ Kermit Gosnell, whose ‘licensed’ abortion clinic was a house of putrid, unsanitary horrors. The Texan law would at least have made his sordid operation illegal.


To top it off, Justice Ginsberg declared that abortion was at least as ‘safe as childbirth’, and we don’t require all those laws and requirements for childbirth. I am not sure where she is getting her statistics on that one, but that is not really the point. Childbirth is a natural process and not a medico-surgical procedure, and for millennia of human history has been carried out at home. Only in emergencies does childbirth require surgery.


But in their rabidity, the pro-abortion side can stand no opposition to abortion, for even the hint of any limits and restrictions is a goad to their seared conscience. As I gazed at the women marching in jubilant victory down the steps of the Supreme Court, at least two of them ‘abortion providers’, I wondered about the conscience of such people, especially those who make their living from dismembering babies. Could they possibly be in ‘good’ conscience, and by that I do not mean justified, but one in invincible ignorance? What is the source of the apparent joy and bliss on the faces of such women?


Part of the answer is that for them to admit the life of the child at any stage within the womb is an anathema, for somewhere, deep in their unresolved psyche, they know that any gestational restriction to abortion is arbitrary, and that what is growing within a woman is indeed a child, especially if they have ever been ‘with child’.


So far, the arbitrary line in the legal sense is exiting from the birth canal. Then, and only then, according to the current consensus, does one have a ‘person’. By a secular miracle, the benevolent State, represented by these Justices, bestows upon this newborn individual the rights and protection to the full extent of the law.


It is curious, in this light, that another case was decided yesterday, that of Emile Weaver, a 21 year-old co-ed who gave birth to a child secretly in a sorority bathroom, then threw the poor baby into a dumpster, to die alone and untended. One also wonders about her conscience. She received a sentence of life in prison with no parole.  If she had had an abortion, even moments before, it would have been fully legal, even paid for, at least in Canada (there are more restrictions on late-term abortions State-side).


Of course, Ms. Weaver and her lawyers are going to appeal, and it will be interesting to see where this case goes in our current legally and morally confused milieu.


Can they not see the schizophrenia in this situation, and I do not mean in the mind of that troubled young woman, who is more to be pitied than condemned, although condemned to some extent she must be?


I am not sure how long such protection even of newborns will last. You have likely heard of Peter Singer, professor of ethics at Princeton, who advocates, amongst other things, for legally-protected infanticide up to two years old, if the child has some debility and is unwanted enough. In the narrow, materialistic universe of Professor Singer, in many cases animals have more rights than ‘defective’ humans, seeing as they have more ‘autonomy’, ‘capacity to suffer’ and so on.


His moral philosophy, once deemed radical, is now mainstream. Now that we here in Canada have legalized murder and suicide under the euphemism of ‘euthanasia’, the State can decide, through her ministers, who is killable, and who not. Already a court challenge has been raised against Canada’s ‘medical assistance in dying law’, not because it is immoral and evil (that would be good news) but because it is too julia lambrestrictive. Yes, just when you thought you were safe, Julia Lamb, who suffers from spinal muscular atrophy, which is not imminently fatal (the current requirement of medically-induced death under the law), but does result in suffering and debilitation for decades, has requested that she be given the right to have her life ended when and how she sees fit. Of course, her wheelchair-bound, thin, bespectacled, pain-racked frame evokes sympathy, as it should, but for all the wrong reasons in this case.


As predicted, indeed even before the law has received official royal assent, the scope of the prospective killing is already being broadened.


We are in dark and uncharted waters here, and the two sides, those who are for life and virtue, and those who are not, the respective cultures of life and death, in Pope John Paul’s words, are drifting further apart. Dialogue is becoming next to impossible with those who share not even our most fundamental principles, like the right to life, freedom, religion, and family.


Now the greatest country in the world (whose greatest days may be well behind it already), faces a choice between being led by, to various accounts, a narcissistic, multiply-divorced septuagenarian billionaire (who may or may not have had a ‘conversion’ to ‘conservatism’) and an venal, unscrupulous and deceitful sexagenarian millionaire (who most definitely has not had such a conversion). Although I think Trump may be the lesser of two evils, he is not the answer to our woes, which go much, much deeper than who becomes President of the United States. We are, to my reckoning, way past that point.


Even the hope that Trump will at least appoint ‘good’ Justices to the Supreme Court betrays a fundamental flaw: That in both the U.S. and Canada a small, elitist group of unelected officials of limited and narrow education and background, appointed for life, can ‘trump’ (pardon the pun) the properly elected members of Congress, Senate and Parliament, as well as any state, provincial and municipal laws, as happened yesterday in Texas.  Whither has gone, I ask, the rule of law, wherein authorities are meant to balance one another, or democracy, wherein the decision of ‘the people’ is manifest through their elected representatives? Even an all-conservative Supreme Court would wield far too much power for its, and our, own good.


What we are facing is a full-bore fight for life and death, which will require ever-greater counter-cultural resistance on our part against the insane laws being passed outside of the juridical and democratic process, the usurpation of the minds and souls of our youth, the dismantling of properly-construed laws. What has become manifest is no longer a culture, but a rank tyranny, of death and despair.


As one very holy, pious and intellectual priest, a famed Thomist with whom I had the honour of teaching, said once:  “I have lost all hope’.  But, he added, ‘…well, natural hope, but not supernatural!”. He had a dark, but also curiously joyful, Irish sense of humour, which he kept right up to the end of his own suffering and death in ripe and fruitful old age.


We must always remember that the battle is the Lord’s, and in the midst of apparent defeat, we must but trust, be patient and hold fast to the truth as clearly as we can.  Call to mind in these darkish days the divine promise:


Blessed is he who perseveres to the end.  


Sancti Irenaei, Petre et Paule, orate pro nobis!

A Philosophical Brexit

brexitAlready the effects of the Brexit are rippling through the world:  The British currency has taken a record nosedive, the stock market is a, and wee bonnie Scotland now wants independence from Britain, to stay cuddled up with the EU. Now our own Quebec wants to break free, once again: Justin Trudeau was booed for not speaking French on the occasion of their Fete Nationale, which in the Catholic world is called the Solemnity of the Birth of Saint John the Baptist, precursor of the Messiah. One need not wonder that the Quebeckers mumurmed not that their, or the, Prime Minister neglected to mention their sometime patron saint. What need have they for the ‘greatest amongst those borne of woman’, when they have federal transfer payments and massive debt spending to keep them going?


I wish them both well, Scotland and Quebec, and have great admiration for them in different ways, but, on a rather prosaic note, what would support their miniscule economies, such as they are, unmoored from their generous patrons, the far larger countries to which they are joined? Quebec without Canada would be Haiti north, and I dare say the same for Scotland, populated mostly by sheep and deep mystic lochs. Then again, Scotch is fetching a fair price nowadays, with the vast Asian populations developing a thirsty taste for the national drink, especially the single malt variety. It’s a lot better than sake.


But back to the Brexit: Mirroring the polarized articles popping up faster than Eurocrats at a Brussels convention, my mind is not completely made up on the Brexit.  As a native of Scotland, I have a soft spot for independence, and have a very sore spot for metastatisized bureaucracy, especially of the unelected and unaccountable and notoriously unCatholic variety.


One should also, with former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and John Paul II, maintain grave reservations about the use of binding referenda for momentous decisions. Leaving to the ‘will of the majority’, and a majority being 70% or so of the population in this case, decisions that can never be reversed, or even grave moral questions, is itself highly questionable. We should keep in mind that the will is a blind faculty, and without the guidance of reason, the will acts on emotion or impulse. Far better for the Brits to hold an essay contest. These things should be pondered by wise and able men, whatever mechanism is used in the end.


Yes, alas, although I wish that the majority of the populace was so philsophically minded, thinking things through logically, if not theologically, (and one must be logical to be theological), most people do not tend this way, either through lack of proclivity, effort, time or desire. Further, most are swayed by emotions, national pride, nostalgia, and current events, especially tragic ones, like the murder of the MP Joe Cox, or the hyperbolic demagoguery of our modern prophets, the politicians, professors and pundits. Too often, they speak not the truth, as today’s reading laments from, where else, Lamentations:


The prophets had for you false and specious visions

They did not lay bare your guilt, to avert your fate.


I know not what the fate of Britain, nor Europe, is now, nor their collective or individual guilt for the current crisis that the ‘Eurozone’ is now facing, but the seeds of its dissolution can be found in its very motto:


Unity in diversity.


That might look pious and enlightened engraved on a granite pedestal in front of the European parliament, but they did not think deeply enough about these three words. Certainly, some diversity is good within a unity, otherwise we would be living in a Stepford-wife-ish clone-ville, but only so much. There is a limit to diversity, a limit that can be discovered by the principle of non-contradiction. One cannot be pro-life and pro-abortion, nor pro-marriage and pro-polygamy, nor pro Communism and private enterprise, nor believe in the rule of law and lawlessness…


The list is endless, yet Europe strives to find unity where unity just does not, and cannot, exist. There must be a deep unifying principle to unite people, if that is not a redundancy, and vague values of ‘tolerance’, ‘diversity’ and ‘welcoming’ just do not cut it.


The bureaucrats in Brussels, and their fellow travellers leading the various nations in Europe, have been trying to wallpaper over the deep cracks in the foundation, but the recent tensions in the Middle East, the unending flood of immigrants, the economic stagnation, the demographic implosion, are all exposing the weakness, even the moribundity, of the whole endeavour.


The general populace, at least those who work for a living and feel the economic effects of such things as socialist principles, a metastatized welfare state, and untrammelled immigration, are beginning to get this, but they do not reallly know how to respond, or how to fix things, or even what normal is anymore. They cannot buy homes, their children are growing up feral  and hopeless, and dark clouds are on the horizon.


We have come so far from our Christian foundations that it will be a long road finding our way back. But God always provides a way, if we but take the first step. Who knows? The Brexit could bring some degree of sanity to the seemingly unstoppable collectivism of Europe.

Brexit, the Faith and Europe

brexitBritain is voting as I write on whether or not to stay within the ‘European Union’, with pundits widely divided on the effects of departure, on Britain, Europe and the world. Financial disaster, riots in the street, or improved stability and increased national fervour.


When questions like this arise, it is wise to go first to the essence, the nub, of the question: What is the proper way for a nation to be governed, and, particularly in this case, what level of autonomy should a nation have? Should there be a supra-national government, that can trump properly elected parliaments, whether this be the United Nations or the European Parliament?


There is nothing intrinsically wrong with a united Europe, which was, to a greater or lesser degree, ‘one’ in the Roman Empire in its various manifestations, holy, Catholic and otherwise. The rise of nationalism in the wake of the Empire’s gradual dissolution, which was made manifest with the loss of the unity provided by the Catholic Church after the rise of Protestantism, had good and bad effects, depending upon one’s historical focus and point of view. I would go mostly with the bad, beginning with the wars of religion, the Thirty Years War, and all the wars and internecine strife since.


There is nothing wrong, and much that is good, with greater unity, and in fact it is something for which we should all strive, but only if such unity is founded upon the truth. Being ‘united’ in evil is oxymoronic, for evil can never truly unite, and a house divided against itself is sure to fall.


That is the problem with the European Union, a constructed entity with a long and convoluted history, culminating in the Maastricht Treaty of 1992, imposing a unity upon the 28 member states, which widely diverge in terms of their economies, their forms of government, their culture, their religion, their outlook, their aims, their needs. It is a quixotic adventure, fraught from the beginning with tensions and the seeds of its own dissolution:  How does one govern half a billion people over nearly 1.5 million square miles, from a central office in Brussels?


Even at a purely practical level, as other have written in great detail, how does one impose a unified currency, the infamous ‘Euro’, on countries with as widely divergent economies as Greece and Germany? Left to their own, the drachma and the deutschmark are nowhere near parity, so the Germans support the Greeks, to the latter’s shame and resentment, and the former’s condescension and, now, frustration.


One cannot unite people artificially, for unity can only be founded upon truth, and the deeper the truth, the greater the unity. That is why religious unity, what binds people in the most foundational of our realities, is the greatest unity. The relative permanence and stability of the Holy Roman Empire was due to the people of Europe being united in the Faith, whatever their other divisions.  As Belloc wrote, Europe is the Faith, and the Faith is Europe.


Well, Europe has more or less lost its faith, and is now trying to find unity in modern ‘European values’, many of which are banal, some downright evil, like the universal right to abortion, while others are facing real stress, like welcoming refugees and other immigrants. But Europe cannot handle the refugees it currently has, never mind the thousands, even millions, waiting to come across the Mediterranean and isthmus of near Asia.


Many Britons innately get this, at least at some emotive level, and will no longer tolerate being dictated to by a group of bureaucrats in Brussels. In some inchoate way in their uneducated milieu, they seek a greatness Britain once had, but has no longer. They want to cast off on their own, as the brave island nation that once ruled over an empire upon which, in Queen Victoria’s famous phrase, the Sun never set.


Alas, that Britain is long gone, rolling down the bloodied scaffold with the heads of Thomas More and John Fisher. It is now a land of semi-educated yobbos, with the ‘educated’ and rich ensconced in gated compounds.  The churches are empty, and what culture remains is crumbling. How long can ‘football’, which we know as ‘soccer’, hold a people together?


In the end, alas, Europe, and Britain along with her, is on a death-spiral, as even a passing familiarity with demography will convince the reader. The birthrate is nowhere near replacement level, and falling. The only ones having enough children to hand on their culture (and it requires a ‘culture’ to have children) are the Muslims (along, one may surmise, with a few Catholic outliers here and there).


The vote today, whichever way it goes, will give Britons some sense of victory, but it will be short-lived, unless they once again discover the Faith that made them great, and a unity founded upon the truth.

More’s Conscience

more and fisherToday we commemorate Saint Thomas More, husband, father, lawyer, sometime chancellor of England, marytyred in 1535 with his compatriot Saint John Fisher, Bishop of Rochester and cardinal of the Church. More was actually put to death on July 6, with Fisher being beheaded on this day, when they are both remembered.


Both saints are martyrs of conscience (as are all martyrs, really, as John Paul II made clear in Veritatis Splendor), More’s case made famous in the 1954 play by Robert Bolt, and the 1966 film, portrayed in immemorial fashion by the great Paul Scofield.


Thomas More saw the absolute importance of law, especially the divine law of God as embodied and instantiated in the Catholic Church, in guiding conscience. Perhaps he saw, at least in inchoate fashion, the hell that would be unleashed by his King, Henry VIII, making conscience a purely subjective matter, unhinging this judgement of morality from the guidance of the Church. We are still living through the rippling effects of the momentous rift of King Harry and the Protestant, now secularized, mindset which resulted.


The whole case of Henry’s quest for an annulment seems rather quaint to us now. If he had asked for his marriage to Catherine of Aragon to be declared null and void in today’s milieu, it would likely be handed to him on a silver platter, instead of the heads of More and Fisher.


But law is law, and marriage, marriage, and the Church, the Church. They all bind us in conscience in whatever age in which we live, as More so rightly and wisely saw. As he declared to his son-in-law Roper, who wanted to mow down the law to rebel against the King and his henchmen:


William Roper: So, now you give the Devil the benefit of law!

Sir Thomas More: Yes! What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?

William Roper: Yes, I’d cut down every law in England to do that!

Sir Thomas More: Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned ’round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country is planted thick with laws, from coast to coast, Man’s laws, not God’s! And if you cut them down, and you’re just the man to do it, do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I’d give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake!


Saints Thomas More and John Fisher, orate pro nobis!

Star Farce: A Study in How to Ruin a Franchise

star warsI thought the Star Wars franchise, so successful and cinema-transforming in the late seventies and early eighties, was ruined by the three prequels in the early years of this millennium, all of which were phenomenally bad, the last one on a galactic scale.  The blond Canadian Anakin deserved an anti-Oscar for his bathos. I had hoped it was all over after this cinematic disaster Lucas foisted upon an unsuspecting and hope-dashed generation of movie-goers.


But they made a whackload of money, so here we go again.  I, against my better judgement, recently watched the sequel, ‘The Force Awakens’. I must confess to being a bit of a sci-fi fan, which may or may not be a weakness, and in fact enjoy the occasional film of any genre, but I usually watch what few I do alone, so I can turn them off with ease, something that happens more often than not.


Alas, this time, I had guests over, so had to sit through this whole thing, which seemed to last a lot longer than the rotation of a galaxy.


Now, I have seen a lot of bad movies in my decades on planet Earth, some of which I truly regret, but this, this is bad in a way that I have trouble putting into words.  Having said that, allow me to try, at least to expunge the memory of this inanity in my own scorched memory.


Where to begin?


Well, we might as well start with the Force. In the plot that was the sub-creation of Star Wars, the Force, although ‘all around us’, only the Jedi could control and channel, utilizing this power for the good (the light side) or for evil (the dark side). But this control took years of training, discipline (even the much-denigrated celibacy) and effort, signified so clearly with Luke under the unrelenting tutelage of Yoda. Whatever one’s memories of this now much-parodied scene, we know that Luke, even after some degree of proficiency, was no match for Darth Vader, who toyed with him in the famous light-sabre battle on the Cloud City, trying to coax him to the dark side, after he sliced off Luke’s sabre-wielding hand.


daisyYet, here is the young Rey, played by Daisy Ridley, who does what appears to be her best. Part of the problem is that she bears an uncanny resemblance to another ubiquitous English actress, Keira Knightley, with the same smile with lots of teeth and porcelain features (stick with what works, I suppose). I half-expected Mr. D’Arcy to show up. Her ‘acting’ consists in widening her eyes at significant moments, with forced, fake emotion. I know she is limited by the one-dimensional plot and laughable dialogue, but poor Daisy comes across like a drama queen from a high school production. And why do people still have British accents all that way into the future (or the past?).


But back to the Force: Rey, without any training at all, becomes a Jedi expert, defeating a Sith lord just by repeating the word ‘force’, softly but with meaning, like little Dorothy whispering ‘there’s no place like home’, and tapping her shiny red shoes three times. Just believe in yourself, like the Kung-Fu panda! Such is the post-millennial socialist generation: no work, but all the benefits.


Need I repeat that this destroys any sense of drama or tension or even identification with the character, besides its being entirely inconsistent with the whole Star Wars universe? What the heck is a Jedi, and why was Luke training them, and why did he himself have to train to become one?


I suppose Rey’s instant expertise is part of the blunt feminism and anti-masculinity which does not just run through this film, but seems almost to be its raison-d’etre. It is not as though the untrained-scavenger Rey can do anything the men can do, and better; she seems able to do anything that can be done, without effort, without discipline, with just her feminine intuition.


Fly the two-pilot Millennium Falcon like an experienced ace through the most technical maneuvers without any apparent opportunity to fly anything before? No problem.


Defeat two aliens trying to steal her droid with the now ubiquitous and invincible feminine ‘martial arts’. With ease.


Use Jedi mind-control just by repeating a mantra? Hey, who needs Ben-Kenobi?


Find the electrical thingy that saves the ship, or the technical solution to get them out of any situation? You bet, and even the grizzled Han Solo is impressed.


But Solo is not so impressed with the hapless converted Stormtrooper, ‘Finn’, who does his best innocuous beta-male to Rey’s uber-alpha female. The poor hapless Finn is rescued from imminent death more than once by the ever-competent Rey. He is the flip-side of the fainting female, and their romantic chemistry non-existent. If Rey were an English white male, all Hollywood would be crying ‘racism’ at this second-fiddle black guy. But here, I guess, feminism trumps racism.


Don’t get me wrong: I do not mind women finding their place, and rising up from their roles as waiting-to-be-rescued eye candy, screaming on cue. But, this, this is a parody of all that women deserve, and just plain boring. Oh, it’s Rey…again.


And speaking of parodies, what is with bringing the aged Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher into this embarrassing mess? Why not leave them safely ensconced in our memories in a galaxy far away and long time ago? They both show up long enough to earn a Jupiter-sized paycheque and whatever slice of the take they could bargain.  Ford recites his stale Solo-esque lines, as he sleepwalks through this barely-veiled remake of his very first Star Wars in 1977: The same desert planet, the same orphaned potential Jedi, the same annoying droid, now spherical, the same Death Star, only A LOT BIGGER, the same evil, angry Sith Lord with a mask (only now he is Solo and Leah’s wayward son, instead of Leah’s wayward Dad), the same ‘Empire’, now renamed the ‘First Order’ (with over-the-top Nazi analogies, replete with a ridiculous, spittle-inducing Hitler-esque speech in front of legions of, yes, ‘stormtroopers’), the same death ray destroying not just one planet, but FIVE (or so), the same final assault on the one vulnerable shaft in said Death Star, by the same X-wing flying Republic pilots, led now by Poe Dameron, Oscar Isaac, who does what he can to be the new cocky Solo, but without the charisma.  The whole flat conclusion is foreordained from light years away. Ho, ho hum…ho, ho, hum, ho, ho, hum.


The Dark Side thing is so brutal, dark and lonely, one wonders why anyone would be attracted to it. All the good-looking girls (indeed, all the girls), the music and the parties are on the light side, and the dark side is not even powerful: The bad guy, the aforementioned ‘Ren’ from Han and Leah’s union, which apparently lasted at least long enough to produce an offspring (unlike most Hollywood romances) is supposed to be powerful enough in the ‘Force’ to defeat even the great Luke Skywalker’s attempt to train a whole new legion of Jedis. Did he kill them all? Did he defeat Luke? Why is Luke so desperately needed? Why can’t some Jedi just mind-message him? The lazy plot does not bother asking these questions, never mind answering them.


renBut here is Ren, who bears a passing resemblance to Justin Trudeau, at least his his flowing brunette locks do, with a little tinge of Oscar Wilde (but without Wilde’s wit). As one fellow viewer mentioned to me, he should have kept his mask on.  As I was saying, here is Ren getting his Jedi-butt kicked by the total-non-Jedi beta-male Finn, who has never held a light-sabre before. Why, in the name of the myriad of muses weeping over this slapdash rubbish, would Rey want to be trained by this dweeb, and join his pathetic dark side?


Is it just me, or is this whole thing is just a few micro-milli-parsecs away from a total Saturday Night Live parody, with its comical dialogue and fake, deliberate, and over-wrought scenes? It would have been better if director J.J. Abrams had gone whole hog to comedy; at least then we could have laughed in earnest.


Even the sets are cheap, with the look of something out of Star Trek: New Generation, limited, apparently by a TV-sized budget (to maximize profits?). The bar scene, the killing of the villagers, the victory after the Death Star, name your vignette, they all look like the producers grabbed a few people off the street and dressed them up in left-over costumes from the last time this series was resurrected, and told them to prance around.


What troubles me most is not that this is a crappy movie, of which there are too many to count, but that it made over 2 billion dollars, and that means a lot of really bad Star Wars offsprings are in the offing. Yes, dear reader, in case your eyes glazed over like Ridley’s in her oh-so-emotional scenes, that is two thousand million, or about one dollar for every second the camera lingers on her Knightley-esque face, enough bills to pave a path to Mars, enough even to fund the Rio Olympics, one may think, which might help save Brazil from financial ruin. At least one finds some drama in sports.


A final note: As I ruminated over writing this review, the CBC providentially had a lunchtime discussion on whether superheroes are destroying the originality and quality of Hollywood. That is not the central point, for the deeper problem is that people are paying a lot of money for spectacle over substance (to which superhero films are more prone, I suppose), a grievous sign of the diminution, I would say regression, of our culture.  We are losing, or have lost, our collective imagination, our capacity to think logically, to follow plot and dialogue, to ponder the deeper realities of life and eternity. Movies now are like watching someone else play a video game, and the gaming market makes a lot more money than films. So why would not Hollywood follow the dollar signs, and mimic what the people want?


There is more to be said here, but for now, let it stand that Star Wars, and the myriad of films like it, are a symptom of what we have become.


One good thing is that films like this prompt me to read more books, and to watch what movies I might, you guessed it, Solo.


Saint Aloysius Gonzaga, ora pro nobis…


Senate Passes Euthanasia Law

senateThe Canadian Senate has capitulated, passing into law Bill C-14 legalizing ‘Medical Aid in Dying’, or, more properly, murder-assisted suicide. It will now be legal, even binding in some jurisdictions we may presume, for physicians and other health personnel, to kill their patients. The Senate wanted to broaden the scope of the law, permitting murder-suicide even if death were not ‘reasonably forseeable’ (a broad notion in itself), but they will live with it for now, pardon the pun.  The scope of the law will broaden in due course, as these always do.


There is one more hurdle, however:  The Bill requires royal assent, since Canada is still technically a monarchy. But I do not foresee our Governor-General, David Johnson, nor the Queen, stopping this law.


So welcome to one more step towards the full scale culture of death. Of course, our millennial generation will see this as a leap forward, an evolution towards greater enlightenment and rationality.  ‘Remember the days’, they laugh, ‘when it was illegal for physicians to kill?  What a lot of benighted barbarians our fathers were.’


To paraphrase Chesterton’s prediction, the new barbarians won’t be wearing fur skins and carrying axes; they will be wearing lab coats, with lots of letters after their names, and carrying syringes.


Conscience, Love and Law

right and wrongThere is much talk nowadays about conscience, freedom of conscience, good and bad conscience, yet with little awareness, from what I can tell, of what conscience actually is. So, a definition:  Conscience is an act, specifically an act of the practical intellect, judging the moral quality of an act that we have done, are doing, or plan to do (cf., CCC, #1778).  We judge these acts ‘good’ or ‘bad’, according to what knowledge and formation we have, and then act accordingly.


Of course, we may disobey this judgement of conscience, and avoid doing a good act we judge we should do (like help a friend move house), or we do the bad act we judge to be evil (like pornography).


Yet as the judgement of an imperfect human being with imperfect knowledge, and very adept at rationlization, our judgements of conscience may be wrong, and are at least usually not perfectly right.  We may judge a good act to be bad, or a bad act to be good, a judgement that is known as an erroneous conscience.


An erroneous conscience is one that acts in a state of ignorance, in which the agent does not know something about the act that he should know.  Such ignorance may be culpable, wherein he could and should know that an act is bad (or good), but does not take the time or trouble to find out, or deliberately blinds himself to the true moral quality of the act.


Ignorance may also be invincible, which means that the agent is not able by himself to overcome his lack of knowledge; in fact, as Pope John Paul points out in Veritatis Splendor, such a man is not even aware that he is in ignorance (#62).


The key is to make the best judgement of conscience we can, based on what the Church calls the ‘three criteria’ of the moral act:  the nature of the act (the object), our intentions, and the circumstances in which the act occurs, including its consequences.  However, left to our own devices, we are never entirely sure that what we choose to do, or not to do, is the best, or even good.  Behind the judgement of conscience there is an objective moral reality. Oftentimes, we only discover  our bad decisions after the fact, and face the consequences.


That is why we need the various kinds of law to help guide our conscience, especially for the bigger decisions in life, those that affect us or others in a fundamental way: Marriage, property, driving, violence, guns, medicine, employment and wages and working conditions, these and a myriad other things need to be governed by laws, so that we know the right thing to do, and the wrong thing not to do.


Saint Thomas in his treatise on law states that if people were brought up properly, with the requisite’ paternal discipline’, we would not need much law. But those who are not so well brought up, require laws so that, at the very least, they leave others in peace and free from harm to themselves or their property.


It is to inform and guide our conscience that God reveals the moral law, and offers us the divine law of revelation, and gives authority to human beings to make laws. Ultimately, however, the decision to act is ours, and God leaves us free, in the hand of our own counsel, as the Book of Sirach states.  John Paul II calls conscience the ‘proximate norm of morality’, and as Blessed Cardinal impishly quipped in his Letter to the Duke of Norfolk,  he would toast conscience before the Pope.


But we must not make light of law, nor make conscience into an autonomous god, especially in grave matters. That is why we cannot interpret the ambiguous passages of Chapter 8 of Amoris Laetitiae in discerning the state of one’s marriage, or one’s non-marital ‘irregular’ relationship, to mean that we decide we are married, or not married, based solely on our conscience, in what is called the ‘internal forum’, even with the advice and counsel of a wise pastor.


Many things in the realm of conscience can be so decided (like what to eat for dinner, or how to exercise), but we cannot wake up one day and decide that we are not, and never were, married to our spouse. And, on the contrary, a couple cannot just decide that they are married by a secret mutual agreement:  There must be a public declaration of marriage, bound by law, as in your ‘lawfully wedded spouse’, with a ring on the finger for good effect, and as an imperishable reminder.


The Council of Trent (1545-63) in the decree Tametsi forbade clandestine marriages, mainly for this reason.  Without public law, how could we, and how do children of the various sexual liasons, know who is married to whom?


In most cases, law does bind conscience, and as John Paul II declared more than once to the marriage tribunals deciding annulment cases, the validity of marriages, like the innocence of the accused, must be presumed, in and out of court. Once we make those vows (or any vows), we are bound until death do you part, unless clearly, in ecclesiastical law, it has been proved beyond reasonable doubt that your marriage was invalid and null.


I will end with a brief note on the Holy Father’s impromptu comments yesterday, with his  quip that, from his vantage point, he considers a ‘great majority’ of Christian marriages to be invalid (the transcript of which was later changed to ‘a part’), since the immaturity of couples limits their awareness of the fidelity and indissolubility required.


I must confess that I have thought along similar lines, as the multitude of lapsed, shacked-up, non-practising Catholics, with no intention of practising their faith, hop out of bed together, only later to march up unshriven to the altar to make their marital vows before God.  Priests tell me, and perhaps you, that this is the norm rather than the exception.


Although we cannot judge the culpability of their conscience, this is a disastrous situation, about which the Holy Father is right to be concerned.  But to claim that most marriages are invalid since couples are not aware enough of its ‘permanence’ will likely have deleterious efects. As  Edward Peters posits in a piece well worth a read, what will be the effects on those in struggling and difficult marriages?  Peters is correct to go back to Pope John Paul, who declared to the Roman Rota (the highest tribunal) that marriages must be presumed valid even if people enter this state imperfectly and with mixed motives.


We must keep in mind that the Holy Father’s off-the-cuff comments are not law, and are not binding in conscience, and only formative to the extent and in the sense that we take them to be.


And that ‘sense’ should always be orthodox, and in keeping with the tradition of the Church which, in this case, means presuming the validity of each individual marriage.  After all, the grace of the sacrament can do wonders not even, but especially, with our limited and imperfect nature.

Normalizing Deviancy

jamacain rainbowWell, another evening CBC episode, dedicated this time to the flying of the rainbow flag in various locales, the most controversial being the American embassy in Jamaica, where homosexuality is, shall we say, less than tolerated.


We must clear the air here, and allow me a final distinction before we leave this subject alone for a time. There seems to be a rather fundamental confusion in the minds of individuals and in the ethos of our culture between what might be termed homo-philia, friendship between persons of the same sex, and homo-eros, sexual expression between persons of the same sex.  I dare say that this confusion stems from a lack of nuance implied in the English word ‘love’, which we use for just about everything, our spouses, our friends, our shoes, our food and our sports and our leisure.


Greek, on the other hand, from which these words derive (along with that doubly-confused term ‘homophobia’) has at least four words for ‘love’, classically and clearly distinguished by the great C.S. Lewis in his book titled, appropriately enough, The Four Loves.  There is agape, pure unselfish love, philia, the love of friendship, especially between brothers, storge, affection love, a deep bond usually borne of spending a long time with another and, of course, the one most familiar, eros, which is passionate, sexual love, seeking pleasure from the other.


It is requisite to keep these distinctions in mind as we consider how and why we ‘love’ the various persons we do. In the Christian view, all loves must be subsumed under agape, which is the term Christ uses, and that the Church has adopted, to mean ‘charity’, pure, disinterested love, which wills the good of the other, without necessarily seeking our own good.


We, however, usually consider ‘love’ as between persons of the opposite sex, erotic love, as in ‘falling in love’. This is the stuff of literature, plays, songs and films.  As Virgil sang all those years ago, ‘amor vincit omnia, et nos cedamus amori’, ‘love conquers all, and let us too yield to love’.


But what of ‘love’ between persons of the same sex?  In itself, there is nothing wrong, and indeed much that is good, in men loving men and women loving women.  In fact, throughout history, the sexes have spent most of their time with, and much of their affections upon, persons of the same sex, without this friendship, this philia becoming erotic. Soldiers, workers, monks, priests, knights, missionaries, miners, hunters, gatherers, all the way to our modern poker, hunting and golfing buddies, hang out together and, yes, love each other. True friendship between ‘brothers’ is only possible, however, if the love remains non-sexualized and every man, deep down, knows this.


To be specific, what the Church warns against in same-sex friendship, following natural law, is eroticizing this natural and healthy bond, turning homo-philia, a good and noble thing, into homo-eros, with the unnatural vices and corruption which that entails.  Sadly, in an ironic way, the obsession in our culture with homoerotic tendencies has clouded, obscured and tainted the natural homo-philic friendships of men (and, to a lesser extent, women).  Indeed, our hyper-sexualized culture has tainted any normal relationships, parent-child, uncle-child, man-woman, man-man, adult-child, boy-girl.  We all look at each other funny, with suspicion and fear, as the latent unbridled eros , unhinged from reason and virtue, swirls in the air like a noxious fog.


How far this is from the Christian view! As Pope Benedict XVI declared in his 2005 encyclical Deus Caritas Est (as with all things Benedict, well worth a read), it is the modern world that has warped eros, not the Church and Christianity, which very early on in the Roman Empire purified eros from its pagan, deviant, and warped tendencies, which were particularly deleterious for women and children, who were subjugated and used as sexual slaves and prostitutes (a tendency, sadly, that is now on the resurgence in our neo-pagan culture, with our loss of Christian mores and values, and the dignity of the human person).


Consider:  In a Christian culture, where men are virtuous in their chastity towards women, or at least held to account if they are not, it is the women who hold all the cards in the sexual relationship.  It is the exact opposite in an unvirtuous, pagan, or practically pagan, culture, unmoored from Judeo-Christian law, where women are objectified and sexualized, taken by force if need be.  Anyone who says the Church is anti-woman knows not history.


For Man to be who is he is meant to be, and for society to flourish, eros must be controlled and channelled, subsumed under the higher love of agape, willing the good of the other.  As John Paul II and Benedict both made abundantly clear, this is only possible within monogamous and faithful marriage, wherein the true ‘gift of self’ can occur, with eros ordered to the mutual complementarity and union between husband and wife, and the procreation of children.


All of our other friendships should be non-sexual and non-erotic.  To put it in the modern colloquia, the only ‘friend with benefits’ should be our husband or wife.


Yet the modern world thinks that it matters not where one ‘gets one’s jollies’. Chaque a son gout, they say, even, perhaps especially, in our sexual proclivities.


kinsey-neesonWell, even they have limits. There is still an aversion to adultery, and especially to pedophilia and rape, for example. But even these are becoming more difficult to define as we cast ourselves off from the solid bulwark of Christian revelation and reason. One need look no further than the lionizing of Professor Alfred Kinsey, an entomologist who transformed himself into a ‘sexologist’.  He performed sexual experiments on toddlers, masturbating them, yet was portrayed flatteringly by Liam Neeson in a major film (although I never saw it, I am sure they left out the pedophilia, and some of the other bizarre and grievously immoral, even criminal, ‘experiments’).  This is all in the public record, but his name still disgracefully adorns the Kinsey Institute in Indiana for studies in ‘sexuality’.


We now think that any sexual activity between ‘consenting adults’ is all right, and no one else’s business. Even here, however, we have trouble defining ‘consensual’ with all the explicit and implicit imbalances of power and authority, and what, really is an ‘adult’? Is that a biological measure, or a psychological and spiritual one? Who is to determine? Furthermore, something harmful does not cease to be harmful just because one consents to it (as we see in euthanasia)


All of this to say that we must not underestimate the power of the sexual drive, and how it affects us and those around us.  Unleashed and ungoverned eros, whose origins lie in the deeply wounded libido of Man, is at the basis of many of our societal ills, from the breakdown of the family, the epidemic of sexual diseases, all the way to abortion on demand, with the unborn killed daily in far greater numbers than any other modern tragedy or massacre.  Unrestrained sexual licence, and the enshrining of sexual deviancy into law, leads inevitably to societal breakdown.


We should keep this mind as we hoist all those rainbow flags, for what really do they celebrate or commemorate? There are other, and better, ways to remember and pray for the all the victims of this sad and tragic massacre.


Just thought I would further clarify for Neil MacDonald and his readers what the Church is really ‘against’ and, more to the point, what the Church is ‘for’.


Peace to all.

Truth in Tragedy

orlando sympathyWell, that happened faster than even I thought.  Already, there are calls to outlaw any and all ‘homopobia’ in any speech, writing, discourse or thought.  As the narrative goes, the massacre in Orlando is mostly the fault of the Christians, and to some extent the Muslims, who came 600 years later.  In fact, ‘homophobia’ has its roots in all three of the monotheistic religions, Christianity, Judaism and Islam.  Neil MacDonald, the author of the article to which I refer posted (where else) on the CBC, blames in particular certain Old Testament passages of the Bible, which are indeed rather stark in their censoring of homosexual acts, and the punishments due thereto.  He leaves out the fact that 2000 B.C. was a rather brutal time, and that lethal or sort-of-lethal punishments were also decreed for adultery, murder, fornication, sorcery, treason, apostasy, and a number of other offenses, some of which we still denounce, others, not so much.


Cultures do change, but no so the truth.  I suppose we are now all supposed to rejoice in homosexuality, after all the dark ages up to the 21st century.


Here are MacDonald’s own words:


Now, after Omar Mateen armed himself, reportedly professed allegiance to ISIS and went hunting gays in an Orlando night club, could there possibly be a better time to have the same conversation about organized religion, and what responsibility it bears for the pain and misery and death inflicted on gays for so many centuries in the name of god?


And not just the Muslim god. That is happening now because of Mateen, and deservedly so, but restricting the discussion to Islam is far too easy.


Then begins his diatribe against the Bible and Christianity.


The blunt, ignorant article by Mr. MacDonald fails to make a number of requisite distinctions, necessary to understand the Catholic view of homosexuality.  He fails to discern that revelation is gradual, and that mankind was not prepared to receive the full truth all at once.  Even God has to work within man’s own limitations (see Christ’s words on divorce, permitted under Moses, but not under Him).


And can we please find another term other than ‘homophobia’, which literally means ‘fear of the same’? People who disagree with homosexuality are not ‘homophobic’. We do not fear, nor hate, homosexuals. In the absence of a proper term, I will at least try to describe what the Church’s view really is.


But first, I cannot speak for Judaism, which is multifold in its expressions, many forms of which seem to be only loosely religious, with a rather liberal view of homosexuality. Islam, on the other hand is in the main rather straightforward in its view of homosexuality: It is to be outlawed and punished.  However, even here, most Muslims do not call for their murder.  Even the Orlandonian Imam I quoted in my last post, who said that the ‘punishment for homosexuality is death’, was not necessarily calling for a killing spree.  He could have meant nothing more than that it is a rather ‘deadly’ activity, with high rates of disease and psychological disequilibrium, and that God will ‘punish’ them with death in His own time (something the father of Mateen stated after the massacre).


On a scientific note, even a passing glance at the rigorous and highly researched book by Robert Reilly, Making Gay Okay,  should convince any remotely unbiased reader that male-to-male ‘sex’ (which is not really sex) is fraught with a myriad of health risks.  This is just basic science, and not a moral argument.  I will not go into the details here, and you may read for yourself.


The Catholic Church’s view of homosexuality is nuanced, and the Church is not ‘anti-gay’.  Those with a homosexual tendency, which falls on a spectrum, are persons made in God’s image, and are owed the full truth of who they are and who they are meant to be.  Homosexuals are in their nature good, even if their acts are ‘sinful’.  But, then, so are many of mine and your acts.  Homosexuality is one of a number of disorders of the sexual appetite.  As the Catechism states, the “psychological genesis” of homosexuality “remains largely unexplained” (CCC, #2357).  The acts that flow from this tendency are “intrinsically disordered”, and cannot lead to mutual complementarity and affectivity (hence, the impossibility of homosexual marriage).


One may or may not accept this truth, but, like any truth, neither MacDonald’s nor anyone else’s opinion can change it.  The sexual dimorphism of the human race is written into our very nature:  We are called to sexual complementarity with a member of the opposite sex in matrimony, or to sublimate our sexual drive in a life of charity and active service.  Any deviation from the proper integration of sexuality within the person, termed ‘chastity’, harms not only the person, but also those he acts with, and those affected by his actions. The greater the deviation from this norm, the greater the harm.  Homosexuality happens to be one of the ‘greater deviations’


This may be a ‘hard truth’ to some, but one that we must accept, if we are to be fulfilled as human beings, and achieve societal stability.


That all said, as the Holy Father declared, the Church is a ‘hospital for sinners’, a category into which we all fall.   With homosexuals (and with all of us sinners) the Catechism states very clearly that “any unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided”.  In fact, those with homosexual desires should be “accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity” (CCC, 2358).


But we should keep in mind that the homoerotic activity in which homosexuals engage is damaging physically, psychologically, and spiritually.  We cannot judge the genesis of these impulses, nor their culpability, but we should take with a large grain of disingenuous salt Obama’s words that all the patrons of the ‘Pulse’ were there just to sing, dance and hold hands.  But they are looking for love in all the wrong places.


Rather than condemn them, we should strive to help in what way we can, and, in these days, stand in solidarity with their loss and the evil that has been done to them.


Islam does not in the main make these distinctions, as it is not a ‘rational’ religion, but an emotive and voluntaristic one.  As I mentioned, they take a rather blunt view of things, at least the radical, primitive version of Islam that Omar Mateen had adopted.


Yet, and yet, the plot thickens:  It is now being revealed that Mateen actually frequented the ‘gay’ bar where he later killed so many.  Was he a secret double agent, prowling the scenes of his future rampage?  Or a homosexual who hated what he was, who grew also to despise and hate those who were like him?


We may never know.  As I said before, we should offer prayer for his disturbed and twisted soul, and the souls of all his victims, as well as all the wounded and the grieving.


But we must also offer the truth, which cannot be changed by any tragedy, no matter how great.