The Revelation of Fatima

The 100th anniversary of Fatima is a significant one in the minds of many, not least due to the effect of the apparitions on the momentous events of the 20th century, but also in connection with the purported prophecy of Pope Leo XIII, who as the century began, said the Devil would have a ‘100 year reign’, wherein God would allow the Evil One greater freedom to wreak havoc in the world, something that prompted him to write the prayer to Saint Michael, and have it said after every Mass (a pious custom well worth continuing).  Of course, in the designs of God’s providence, the Almighty would bring, and has brought, greater good out of this evil, in ways that we will only fully understand at the end of time.




Then there are the ‘secrets’ of Fatima, revealed to the three children, and safeguarded by the one survivor, Sister Lucia, after Francesco and Jacinta died soon after the visions, as they themselves predicted, in the Spanish influenza in that fateful year 1918 which killed millions across the globe.  (Pope Francis will canonize them in his own pilgrimage to Fatima this Sunday). In particular, the so-called ‘third secret’, a mystical vision made public by Cardinal Ratzinger in June of 2000, has exercised the minds of all too many, with lurid visions of apocalyptic scenarios, disintegration within the Church, and horrors all around.


We as Catholics must always be cautious of private revelation, for they can offer nothing new to the faith, neither adding to nor subtracting from the body of public revelation, given to us by Christ, preserved by the Apostles, and handed on and explicated through their successors in the Magisterium.  The whole purpose of private revelation is to support and lead us to live more perfectly what God has already revealed in His Son. As the Catechism states:


Throughout the ages, there have been so-called “private” revelations, some of which have been recognized by the authority of the Church. They do not belong, however, 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. Guided by the Magisterium of the Church, the sensus fidelium knows how to discern and welcome in these revelations whatever constitutes an authentic call of Christ or his saints to the Church. (par. 67)


Hence, strictly speaking, we need not believe all that was revealed at Fatima in order to be a ‘good Catholic’.  The only elements that bind us in the realm of faith are those things already revealed by Christ, as clarified by His Magisterium: Prayer and penance for the conversion of sinners, and for peace in the world.


Of course, the miracles and prophecies of Fatima, along with all the other private revelations throughout history, are very good helps and supports to our faith. Many were converted by witnessing the miracle of the Sun on that rain-drenched October 13th morning in 1917, and by the fulfillment of the predictions not only of the end of the ‘war to end all wars’, but also the tragic beginning of another war in the late summer of 1939, when, as the children foresaw, a ‘bright light’ throughout the sky would presage an even worse conflict, if men did not amend their ways.


Tradition has called these various miracles, prophecies, even the very holiness of the saints and visionaries, motiva credibilitatis, motives of credibility, all those things which either lead someone into faith, or increase the faith of those who have it already (cf., CCC, #156).


I for one believe that those three young children, on those spring and summer days of 1917, really did see Our Lady, the young virgin chosen by God to be the dwelling for His incarnation, who now exists body and soul glorified in heaven.  Through these innocent visionaries we too have some indirect access to that celestial realm, which seems so far from this fractious vale of tears through which we now journey.


If we have ‘eyes to see’, Our Lady of Fatima helps us keep those eyes, along with our minds and hearts, ever ‘upward’, knowing that whatever is in store for us and the world, however we may live and eventually die, old or young or middle-aged, whether in the apocalypse or in some more mundane manner, all things work together for the good for those who love God, that we too are made for heaven, not for earth, and that by following her Son’s commandments and inspirations, we too will one day join her and all the saints in glory.


What in the end could be more hopeful?


Our Lady of Fatima, ora pro nobis!


March for Life, Twenty Years On

march for life 2017You will likely hear that numbers were down at the March for Life, although enthusiasm  and devotion were, as always, high.  This was the twentieth anniversary of the annual event, held on the Thursday before May 14th, when abortion was legalized under Pierre Trudeau.  I (along with many others) have been to nearly every one, missing two due to travel, if memory serves.  It is always a beautiful and enriching experience, even though motivated by the tragedy of the innumerable attacks against life, as pro-lifers gather together, meet each other, catch up, and realize that they are not alone.


I pondered why the numbers were not what they perhaps should be as I arrived on Parliament Hill, and noticed there were not as many school buses, with far fewer students from elementary or especially high school.  Of course, if students do not get the day off, and are not transported to event, almost none of these young potential pro-lifers will go.  I heard that a number even of the amenable school boards are now refusing to send students, fearing insurance claims and the danger the ‘protesters’ present.  Given the presence of dozens of police officers, and the even smaller number of rather pathetic protesters, they need not worry.  There were the usual pro-abortion suspects, tragic-looking women with bare midriffs, holding hastily-written placards with such slogans as “If you don’t like abortion, don’t have one!”.  Well, that’s not really the point, is it?  If you don’t like murder, then don’t kill?  Hmm.  One pro-abortion protester of the male persuasion held up a sign that said “If you take away their reproductive rights, we’ll take away yours”, replete with a scribbled pair of bloodied, detached testicles. Again, hmm.  I don’t think they understand the nature of ‘analogy’, and could use a basic course in Aristotelian logic. That may move the debate forward.  But, then again, from the looks of things, it does not seem they are all that interested in debate or dialogue.


But back to the pro-lifers and the attenuated numbers: Without the plethora of semi-voluntary student attendance, on a Thursday, many people who are not in school have to work.   There is also the vast area of Canada, with its dispersed population, making travel difficult and onerous.  In the American March for Life, which they hold at the end of January in Washington, there are many millions of people living within easy driving range of the capital, but I have also heard of stalwart Americans driving vast distances to attend their March, as do a number of Canadians.  One way or another, the numbers south of the border are in the six digits.  It is, as they say, an ‘event’, which one would not want to miss, something I and others had hoped would be the case for Canada’s March also.


Besides the drop in student numbers, I cannot help feel that a sense of complacency is settling into not only the broader society, but even our hopefully stalwart pro-life souls, of ‘what’s the point’, and ‘what good does all this do’? Marching, protesting, writing letters, prayers and sacrifices, yet here we have had nearly a half-century of legal abortion in Canada, with more than half of that with no restrictions whatsoever, in effect, no law. It is, as the saying goes, a decision between a ‘woman and her doctor’.  Now, not even that, for any woman can get an abortion for any reason from any physician, whether her own or not, all paid for by the government, which means, by you and me.


Saint Thomas states that law works in two ways:  Pedagogically, teaching us what we should do, and coercively, forcing us to do it by ‘force and fear’, should we be inclined to disobey.


One cannot help but think that abortion has been legal for so long, that most people in Canada now consider it perfectly legal, moral, even normal, and that to be ‘against abortion’ is a sign of anarchy, fascism, even mental illness.  The same is now happening with euthanasia, even more rapidly, as we have been accustomed to state-sponsored death for some time now.


Pope John Paul teaches in Evangelium Vitae that the primary way that one builds the ‘culture of life’ is to live a moral life, doing one’s duty of the moment, fulfilling one’s vocation, raising children, spending time with family, taking care of the elderly and sick, all those little things that make up the life of sanctity and the way to heaven.


He also declares that the two primary underlying causes of abortion are the contraceptive mentality and the trivialization of sexuality, both of which breed a selfish, self-absorbed and hedonistic mentality, whereby one perceives any  child conceived as an ‘enemy’ and an ‘intruder’, who has no right to be there, in fact, has no rights at all, unless such ‘rights’ are bestowed upon him by the whim and ‘choice’ of his mother, which may fluctuate and change at any point (definitely not his father, who also has no rights in this regard). Infanticide cannot be all that far away.


Abortion is a symptom and an effect of a far deeper and more complex moral decrepitude in our society, all that is entailed in what the Holy Father memorably termed the ‘culture of death’, but that does not mean that we stop protesting.  For abortion is the culmination of this evil, the wholesale and widespread  murder of innocents in the first phase of their existence. We cannot just let it stand.  Rather we must stand up and be counted, for these children cannot, even if we see such gestures as ‘futile’ in a worldly sense.  For we do not it for the world, but for God, for the babies, for each other.

Bourne Redundancy: The Mediocrity of Movies

Jason_Bourne_(film)Matt Damon has played his eponymous hero, Jason Bourne, since 2002’s ‘Bourne Identity’, finishing the third of the films, the ‘Bourne Ultimatum’, in 2007.  Mr. Damon apparently intended never again to reprise the role, which he thought he had exhausted, claiming that any future film could only be title the ‘Bourne Redundancy’.


Well, I guess money talks, with the mortgage on a mansion or two to fund, for Mr. Damon nearly a decade on has indeed taken on the Bourne mantle once again in the recent outing, simply called ‘Jason Bourne’, a slick but stale venture which sums up much of what is wrong with modern Hollywood.


The visuals of this film display full big-budget, exotic locales, money shots, stunt scenes, but the narrative limps, with little imagination, not much point, various plot devices spun out of thin air, and our ageing hero, albeit still of fine fettle as one commentator put it, bloodied, battered and bourne again, going through the motions.


But we have seen it all before, more than once, and what is ‘new’ seems there just to make things seem, well, ‘new’. For some reason, we first find Jason making his living bare-knuckle boxing in distant, vaguely eastern desert locations.  Why and how is never disclosed.  He mumbles something at one point about ‘just surviving’, but one would think with his advanced skill set, he could do far more lucrative undercover work.


Then there is the scene, stolen right out of the first of the recent Sherlock Holmes films (and that’s another story) where Bourne is getting battered in one fight, when the Attractive Woman from the Past shows up in the crowd (former CIA operative Nikki Parsons, played by Julia Styles), and our hero, seeing her face, suddenly and easily dispatches his opponent (with less finesse and intelligence than Holmes).


Parsons plays almost no role in this plot, except to download secret files for yet-another black-ops CIA scheme, with the plan to ‘expose’ them, Wiki-leaks style, even after she dies early on in an implausible quasi-suicide for the cause (I guess she wanted out of this franchise, Baywatch-Pamela Anderson-style).  As one CIA guy later laughably declares later on, ‘It’s worse than Snowden’.  Then, inexplicably, this whole McGuffin seems quietly forgotten part way through the film, dropped into its own sort of black-hole-ops.


Perhaps I quibble, for there are deeper problems with this mashed up mess.  Tommy Lee Jones, looking like the walking dead stumbling and mumbling towards another big supporting actor payout, laconically lurches his way through the ‘really evil CIA director’  shtick, with almost no nuance.  Jones may be a patriot at heart, but it’s all black inside.  There he is, having his own highly-trained, and expensive, innocent and loyal men killed without a qualm, like some tin-pot dictator, all to pin it on Bourne.


The antagonist  assassin, mysteriously named ‘the Asset’, of course some guy with a mysterious past and a British accent, is also a caricature.  In the chaotic, climactic final chase scene, he steals a SWAT truck, chased by Bourne, and plows through dozens of vehicles and sidewalks at full speed, killing, maiming who knows how many innocents.  And we’re supposed to cheer?  After the attacks in Germany and Paris, that seems a little too true to life.  Oh, and by the way, said British assassin also killed Bourne’s father, just as dear Dad was trying to convince Bourne not to become a killer in the CIA, like he was, or might have been.  Well, wouldn’t you know?  Irony of ironies…


Which brings me to Bourne, and what they do with him. The whole point of this franchise was that Bourne was the ‘assassin with a conscience’, or, rather, one whose conscience is reawakened in the first film by seeing his intended target’s children, just as he is about to exterminate with extreme prejudice, as the lingo has it. Yet here is Bourne not only blatantly killing people, but formally participating in the deaths of who knows how many others, all to get revenge.  The final scene of the last of the (supposed) trilogy had a chastened and repentant Bourne seeking forgiveness from the daughter of a man he had killed, and for all of the deaths he had caused.  Now what?


In a final sop, there is a nod to the new millennial generation, with Alicia Vikander playing the ‘new’ kindlier kind of CIA operative, gentler, more open to speaking and dialoguing (but lying without compunction), facilely convinced of Bourne’s innocence and good intentions by flipping through a few of his files.


Thrown into this soup is also a sort of fictional FaceBook corporation, ‘Deep Dream’, run not by Zuckerberg, but by some individual of vaguely Middle Eastern origin, ‘Aaron Kaloor’, that Tommy Lee and the CIA want to co-opt, so they can spy on ‘everyone, everywhere’.  Mr. Kaloor resists, of course, for freedom and privacy are key.  Who would not dispute with that? But there is this undertone of anti-authoritarianism, of ‘can’t we all just get along’, that open borders, geographic and otherwise, will lead to an era of peace, good-will and understanding. What matters what your creed, religion, culture is?  Kum-by-ah and log on, my friend. The ‘old America’ is gone, as time-lined and worn as Tommy Lee’s face.  The future belongs to the soft and youthful, with no hang-ups, not much in the way of principles, besides an inchoate ‘tolerance’, tolerating everything except intolerance.  Hmm. But if you don’t have anything to die for, then you have not much to live for either.


Perhaps I doth read too much into this, for I don’t think the creators of this film themselves thought all that much, which is the fundamental problem.  Such films, the bulk of what Hollywood produces, are all show, no substance, no moral, no intent, no overarching narrative.  Just put together a series of scenes, strung together by a thin and contradictory plot that seems made up as they went along, and hope for the best.  And by ‘best’ means not intrinsic quality, art worthy of the name, but a profit margin that justifies the very making of such films.  So long as mediocrity sells, mediocrity will be made.


Redundancy indeed.


At times, I wish I had Bourne’s amnesia.


Saint Thomas and Trump’s Executive Order

johnson part 2Pursuant to President Trump’s executive order on the notorious Johnson Amendment, my Dad put me onto an article in the National Review, recounting the limitations of this well-intentioned action of the Commander-in-Chief. The author makes a good case that personal executive orders cannot stand against the full force of entrenched law, which is where the real battle should be.


The answer to the Johnson Amendment, however, is to either repeal the statute or overturn it in court.


After all, any executive order can be easily remanded not only by a contrary-minded judge, as we seen happen twice now with Trump’s other executive order on immigration, but also by a future president. As the author reasonably argues, those charities, particularly churches and schools, who now violate the Johnson amendment, and oppose specific candidates for public office, are leaving themselves hanging in the wind, vulnerable to future prosecution by the IRS under a future presidential administration.


a later administration can tear up Trump’s order and begin vigorous enforcement based on actions undertaken during the Trump administration.


There are a few things to ponder here:


First, freedom should be one of the fundamental principles governing Church-State relations.  The government should in the main leave its citizens well enough alone, so they can work out their own opinions and ideas, whether in or out of churches and schools, according to their own mind and conscience.  Using ‘tax breaks’ as a cudgel with which to coerce people is a bad and oppressive idea.


Second, if we were taxed within reasonable limits (which would mean far less than we now are, especially here in Canada), no one would give much of a tinker’s dam about tax breaks.


Third, laws should be few and far between, reserved only for the most grave of matters, especially the far-reaching federal and state/provincial law. Saint Thomas states that laws should only forbid those things that are to the ‘harm of others’, without which society could not function (cf., I-II, q.96, a.2).  These laws, furthermore, should be framed by wise men, who ponder over a long period of time, and they should be revised the same way.  To govern a country by judicial or even presidential fiat, as necessary as this may be in emergencies, is haphazard, chaotic, even anarchic, and leads to bad laws and policies.  Judges  are not supposed to make law, but only determine whether and how an already existing law has been violated.  Neither should  the executive branch, of which the President is the head, make or break laws; they are tasked with enforcing the law, not writing it.


I wish Trump all the best in his desire to destroy the Johnson amendment, and wish also that we had some version of Trump here with the same desire.  However, even if he were successful, which would mean overturning the law itself, there are far more fundamental problems in America than the Johnson amendment, and the mere fact that this legislative over-reach was permitted back in 1959, so that Lyndon Johnson could muzzle his opposing candidate, itself speaks volumes. America is drifting further afield from its constitutional foundation, and it may be a long and painful journey back to sanity and just rule.


But I agree with Anthony Esolen and others, that the deeper problem in both America and Canada, indeed throughout the world, is cultural and religious, involving the notions of family, hearth and home, civic and moral duty, honour, and our very view of life, the universe and eternity.


Unless there is some common consensus on these fundamental principles through a shared culture, and to some extent a shared religion, seeking a political remedy through laws and orders is a quixotic venture, which may at best offer us a temporary reprieve from sliding further into anarchy.

Blessed Catherine of Saint Augustine

catherine of augustineBlessed Catherine of Saint Augustine is listed as one of the ‘six founders’ of the Church in Canada, and I will offer the other six when I find out who they might be.  Saint Franҫois de Laval, whose feast we celebrated a couple of days ago on May 6th, must surely be one of them, the first episcopus of the vast diocese of ‘Quebec’ (even more extensive than Quebec is now).


Catherine de Simon de Longpré, as she was born in Normandy, France, chose her vocation decisively and early, as should ideally be the case:  Giving her life to God at the tender age of 16 (then, a more mature age than now, when the devotion of most 16 year-olds tends more to FaceBook and SnapChat than to missionary orders), she joined the Canonesses of Saint Augustine of the Mercy of Jesus, choosing the name of the great bishop of Hippo as her name in religion.


Her order was the first to send consecrated female religious to the far-off and austere colony of Canada, and she arrived here in 1648 in the midst of political and cultural turmoil, a year before the great saints Jean de Brebeuf and Gabriel Lalemant met their horrific end at the hands of the Iroquois in Midland, 800 miles to the west. Sister Catherine devoted her life to the colonists and natives, with concentrated effort learning the latter’s language, offering up prayers and penances for her spiritual work. She fell gravely ill upon her arrival, and her cure at the intercession of the Blessed Virgin she considered miraculous.


Sister Catherine was one of the founders of Hotel-Dieu hospital, still going strong, technologically more advanced, but apostolically and spiritually not quite what it once was. She was always of cheerful and hopeful disposition, even in the most trying of circumstances, and went to her eternal reward on this day in 1668 at the still-tender age of 36 at the hospital she had helped found, universally venerated as a saint, beatified by Pope Saint John Paul II in 1989.


Santa Catherina, ora pro nobis, that in this sesquicentennial year of her founding, Canada may discover what she was once was, and may yet be again.

The Truth and Irony of Mercy

prodigal sonIrony may be described in one way as something happening, not that you don’t want to happen, but that you don’t expect to happen, that goes against what should be the case.  That is why it is ironic that right in the middle of the just completed Year of Mercy, decreed by Pope Francis in 2016, our current Canadian government, led by the sometime-Catholic Justin Trudeau, legalized what is euphemistically known as ‘medical assistance in dying’, an Orwellian doublespeak for allowing physicians to murder their patients, and for patients to request (or not) such murder of themselves by suicidal acquiescence.


Of course, they would see such permission, paid and sanctioned by law, as manifestly merciful.  What more unmerciful thing than to watch people die in slow agony?  Why not put them out of their misery?


The theme of ‘mercy’ is therefore very a propos in the Church and society at the present moment; along with tolerance, compassion, inclusion, they are all the rage in the secular world.


As we know from experience, the Church and the world, although they should live and grow in harmony, are often in conflict, and that conflict descends into the realm of the very words we use.


Before we get to the words, ponder other recent ironic ‘mercies’ in action of late:


The legalization of ‘same sex’ marriage in the United States, following Canada’s lead a decade on.  Why deny homosexuals the opportunity for marriage, just as we heterosexuals? Be merciful.


What of ‘hate speech’, and the enforcing of ‘inclusive’ terms in general? Now gone are binary pronouns, implying that there are only male and female, a he and a she, his and her…Now a he is a she is a zhe is a zho.  Not only is gender non-binary, it is ever-fluid, and can change from day to day.


And, irony of ironies, our government just passed a motion condemning ‘Islamaphobia’, any criticism of a religion that already outlaws any criticism of itself or its founder, amongst its adherents or others, often with death.  We should recall that back in 2006, when Pope Benedict XVI in his Regensburg address obliquely and calmly questioned the irrational and violent nature of early Islam, a number of Muslims responded by, you guessed it, acts of rampaging and killing. A religion of peace, spread by the sword. Quoting the erudite emperor Manuel II Paleologus, the gentle Pope declared,


God”, he says, “is not pleased by blood – and not acting reasonably (σὺν λόγω) is contrary to God’s nature. Faith is born of the soul, not the body. Whoever would lead someone to faith needs the ability to speak well and to reason properly, without violence and threats… To convince a reasonable soul, one does not need a strong arm, or weapons of any kind, or any other means of threatening a person with death


And as he concludes, the key phrase there is that not to act in accordance with reason is contrary to God’s nature


‘Reason’ is what makes us, as human, in God’s image. The great Thomist Josef Pieper wrote that language is the gateway and guide to reason, and reason is the principle of action.  So it is vital to get our terms straight, for otherwise we will act badly, and we all know where that leads.


Whatever we mean by ‘mercy’, mercy can never, ever, therefore, contradict ‘reason’, which here means ‘reason grounded in truth’, anchored to reality as God made it, an adequatio rei et intellectus.  And reason put into action is called ‘justice’, the constant and firm will to give to the other what is owed to him.  Without truth, reason and justice working in harmony, there is no such thing as mercy, only the false kind of emotionalism, an unbridled and unhinged ‘compassion’ that can be the source of grave evil.  In Latin, mercy is misericordia, which literally means to ‘feel sorrow in one’s heart’ for another, which is part of the problem.  We ‘feel’ someone’s pain, and we want to alleviate it, to bring them relief, to provide them with what they want, whether an early death or a disordered, unnatural marriage, or the death of their unborn child, or confirmation in their own sexual identity disorder..


To return to Pope Benedict, who wrote in his 2009 encyclical, Caritatis in Veritate, that charity divorced from truth is no charity, and no mercy, at all. As he puts it:


A Christianity of charity without truth would be more or less interchangeable with a pool of good sentiments, helpful for social cohesion, but of little relevance. In other words, there would no longer be any real place for God in the world. (#4)


Mercy may go beyond justice, and may be its fulfilment, but mercy can never contradict justice, or leave it aside, which is why mercy must always be grounded in, and flow from, truth.  And sometimes, perhaps many times, mercy must be ‘severe’, to speak the truth, and act in accordance with it, without compromise.


Mercy is always a fruit of charity, the theological virtue by which we love God and our neighbour for His sake.  That is, we love as God loves, which means always to will the good of the other.


The question, of course, is what is the good of another?


That is a difficult question, but we do know that there are always things that are never good, regardless of how ‘merciful’ we may think them: Murder, suicide, pre-marital or abnormal sex, lying, apostasy, schism, abandoning the Church, rejecting the truth.  We may also add, it is never good for us to support others in these evils, whether by our adulation, our cooperation, even by our silence, when words must be spoken.


God has a way of bringing us out of sin by some radical intervention.  The flood was merciful, and likely saved many souls from eternal perdition by a quick death.  In any of the cataclysms  which followed, God was telling us something.  The crucifixion was the ultimate an act of mercy, the immolation of God Himself, in atonement for our sins.


Pope Francis warns us, rightly, that we must not use the truth as ‘stones’ to hurl at people, and we can usually let God do whatever ‘punishing’ needs to be done.  But at the same time, we must stand firm in the truth, willing the true good for others, in each and every situation, even if this is perceived as painful, or sorrowful.  This must be done delicately, requiring prudence, counsel and discernment. But done it must be.


I will close with a few words of practical advice:


First, know the truth, be grounded in it, and do not allow the fog of this modern, toxic, debilitating culture to suck the life out of our minds, our brains, our souls. Apply this first to revealed truth, those things ‘necessary for salvation’ which God has revealed to us through the Church.  Read the living word of God in Scripture, daily.  Follow the Liturgy, especially the Mass, and participate as and how you can.


But even natural truth can ground us in reality:  Learn the names of those birds singing in the trees on your yard, your street; for that matter, learn the names of the trees themselves, why the sky is blue, the points of light in the night sky; read great and good books and poetry, even in snippets.


Second, offer what truth you can to others.  Be not afraid to speak, when opportunity arises, and prudence and counsel tell us to do so.  And do this using words and terminology accurately and properly, particularly in reference to life issues. Ponder the words of the quiet and forceful Saint John Paul II, who wrote the book on mercy, in his 1995 encyclical Evangelium Vitae, in reference to the crime of abortion, now so normalized, even blasé:


But today, in many people’s consciences, the perception of its gravity has become progressively obscured. The acceptance of abortion in the popular mind, in behaviour and even in law itself, is a telling sign of an extremely dangerous crisis of the moral sense, which is becoming more and more incapable of distinguishing between good and evil, even when the fundamental right to life is at stake. Given such a grave situation, we need now more than ever to have the courage to look the truth in the eye and to call things by their proper name, without yielding to convenient compromises or to the temptation of self-deception. In this regard the reproach of the Prophet is extremely straightforward: “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness” (Is 5:20). Especially in the case of abortion there is a widespread use of ambiguous terminology, such as “interruption of pregnancy”, which tends to hide abortion’s true nature and to attenuate its seriousness in public opinion. Perhaps this linguistic phenomenon is itself a symptom of an uneasiness of conscience. But no word has the power to change the reality of things: procured abortion is the deliberate and direct killing, by whatever means it is carried out, of a human being in the initial phase of his or her existence, extending from conception to birth.


The moral gravity of procured abortion is apparent in all its truth if we recognize that we are dealing with murder and, in particular, when we consider the specific elements involved. The one eliminated is a human being at the very beginning of life. No one more absolutely innocent could be imagined. In no way could this human being ever be considered an aggressor, much less an unjust aggressor! He or she is weak, defenceless, even to the point of lacking that minimal form of defence consisting in the poignant power of a newborn baby’s cries and tears.    


Au contraire, continues the great Pope later in the same document:  Women who have had an abortion must realize that what they have done “was and remains terribly wrong”. But he continues:  “…do not give in to discouragement and do not lose hope. Try rather to understand what happened and face it honestly. If you have not already done so, give yourselves over with humility and trust to repentance. 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”.


That is truth, and that is mercy.  Curiously, in another irony, France, in the process of choosing a new leader, just back in February outlawed any webpage or electronic communication that spreads ‘misleading information’ about abortion, including anything that claims abortion, or having one’s child murdered, has any ‘negative consequences’.  As they put it, this could traumatize women who have chosen to ‘interrupt their pregnancy’.  Most pro-life webpages are now illegal, punishable by massive fines and up to two years in jail. To add insult to injury, France also forbade a video of Down’s syndrome children thanking their parents, for, yes, allowing them to live.  Same reason, for a good number of those babies killed were likely diagnosed with Down’s.


What applies to abortion applies to every sin, every privation, every degradation, from homosexuality, sex outside of marriage, transgenderism, all the way to gender fluidity which, as a recent article declared, can change from day to day.  And, not least, here in sunny ways Canada, euthanasia, which we should not call ‘medical assistance in dying’, about as evil and obfuscatory a euphemism as one could imagine, but, what it is, murder and suicide, ironically carried out state-paid by physicians and nurses, whose most foundational principle is ‘First, do no harm…’


Of course, with Pope Francis, we must lead people to the truth gradually, without gradualizing the law itself.  That does not mean that we condone their evil; for we must call evil and good for what they are.


This is the mercy that the world needs, for my people perish from lack of knowledge, and to give them the truth is the greatest good we can do.


Finally, for now, be not conformed to this world but, as Saint Peter tells the first Christians at the beginning of the Book of Acts: Save yourselves from this crooked generation (Acts 2:40)  This is the basic premise of what has come to be known, somewhat misleadingly, as the ‘Benedict Option’, with Christians retreating from the world, setting up enclaves in which to ‘save themselves’ from this ‘crooked generation’, which seems to be getting more bent with each passing day.


I say ‘misleadingly’, since Saint Benedict of Nurcia was simply practising what Christ and the earliest monks in the desert of Egypt and Palestine were doing, and all Christians from that time forward have always done: To be in the world, but not of the world.  We are called to evangelize wherever we go, but whatever is meant by immersing ourselves in what Pope Francis calls the ‘smell of the sheep’, it cannot mean becoming ‘like the sheep’.  The ‘world’ should be able to tell that we are Christians, not just by a vague, amorphous, emotional and ultimately destructive ‘love’, but by how we live, act and interact, our conduct, our speech, our chastity, integrity and truth, by keeping our word, by our excellence in all things.


We do this not by our own power, of course, but by Christ, who has revealed to us all that it means to be ‘human’.  To hide this from, or, worse, obscure this for, the world is a great scandal. Whether we are called to the monastery in the wilderness, or to the corner of 32nd and 5th in Manhattan, we all must retreat’ from the world to be ‘with Christ’, sometimes physically, at Mass, at set times of prayer, during certain times of the year; but also interiorly, to build an ‘interior castle’ as Saint Theresa of Avila put it, to guard that interior realm of our conscience, where we are ‘ alone with God’,


For we offer the mercy of truth more by our example than by our words.  As Saint Paul wrote to the early Church at Philippi:


Do all things without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. (Philippians 2:14-16)


This is the greatest mercy we can offer to the world around us.  To live as lights wherever we are called in the world, so the world may come to the truth, which is the only thing that will set them free, both now, and in eternity.

Trump Emends the Johnson Amendment

johnson amendmentPresident Trump, to his credit, yesterday eased the restrictions of the Johnson Amendment, named after Lyndon B. Johnson, who in his time as Senator in 1954 proposed that non-profit organizations, including universities and churches, should be restricted from speaking on politics. In particular, they would not be permitted to ‘oppose’ a political candidate.


Johnson’s amendment was an attempt to maintain the fictitious and impossible ‘wall of separation’ between church and state, a misinterpretation of the original Constitution, which would be reiterated by the future President Kennedy in a speech in Dallas in 1960.  Americans feared Kennedy would impose the teachings of the Catholic Church on the land.


Is it ever possible for man to detach himself from his religion and his conscience? Man is a seamless being, unitary in body and soul.  We can leave neither our conscience nor our religion at home, when we go to work or vote or do anything else in the world.  The documents of Vatican II declare that our conscience must be ‘integral’, not porous, haphazard.  And that conscience should be formed in various ways, not least in the churches we attend, where priests, pastors and rabbis should be permitted to speak their own minds, applying the supernatural truths of religion to all aspects of life, not least politics.


Of course, as Pope Leo XIII taught, we have an obligation to have our consciences formed by the ‘one true religion’, and the State a corresponding duty to support, defend this same religion. In the modern era, this ideal is a far way off, so in the meantime, we do what we can, jostling within a pluralistic society.


The least the State can do is offer freedom for the truth to be proclaimed, within and outside of churches. There is no compartmentalization between politics and morality, not least since every decision we make is ‘moral’, involving our conscience.


The myth of separation between Church, State, between morality and politics, is a heresy, not only because it is not true, but because it is impossible.


Of course, there is a deeper problem here, with churches and other non-profit organizations dependent on the government for ‘tax breaks’.  That still gives the government the right, the very whim, to determine what organizations  are ‘charitable’, and the restrictions placed upon them for what constitutes their ‘charitable’ work.


But until those deeper problems are fixed, thank you to Trump, for bringing us some of the way back to normalcy.


Philip and James

Today’s feast is that of the Apostles, Saints Philip and James.  Philip, the one who asked Christ that if they could only ‘see the Father’ they ‘would be satisfied’.  Of course, following upon my comments on Athanasius yesterday, Christ was already way ahead of the Arians, replying to Philip patiently: ‘He who has seen Me has seen the Father’.    Christ is God, made manifest in the flesh.


‘James’ is termed the ‘Less’, from a reference to him in Mark’s Gospel, signifying he was younger (or in far less likely sense, perhaps shorter) than the other James ‘the Greater’ whose feast is on July 25th, and after whom the Santiago de Compastella is named.  Today’s James is traditionally venerated as the author of the letter in the New Testament, well worth a re-read.  Would that more bishops in the Church today would preach the Gospel with the veracity and verve of Bishop James, apostle and martyr.


Ponder just this oft-cited passage about the comfortable rich:


Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you.  Your riches have rotted and your garments are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver have rusted, and their rust will be evidence against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure for the last days.  Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, cry out; and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. You have lived on the earth in luxury and in pleasure; you have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. You have condemned, you have killed the righteous man; he does not resist you.


And by ‘rich’ he does just mean material wealth, just as Christ did not mean it only in that way to the ‘rich’ young man. Rather, a ‘rich’ man is one who is comfortable with himself, complacent, thinking he needs not God, a state of mind to which one is easily led if one has abundant material wealth, but also by physical beauty, youth, strength, vitality, charisma, intelligence, all of which tempt us to that state of ‘pride’, exalting oneself before God.


Rather, as James declares a few lines before:


Humble yourselves before the Lord and he will exalt you. 


And that means living in the truth of who we are before God, and before our fellow man.  As Saint Francis would say a millennium later, what a man is before God, that he is, and nothing more.  Anything else, really, is vanity, a storm-tossed phatansmagorgia.


Sancti Philippe et Jacobe, orate pro nobis!  

Our Lady Seat of Wisdom Receives Official Accreditation

Yesterday, May 1st, on the memorial of Saint Joseph the Worker, Our Lady Seat of Wisdom received official recognition from the government of Ontario to grant degrees, specifically the ‘Bachelor of Catholic Studies’.  Providentially, the letter arrived three years to the very day that the application was first submitted, on the day dedicated to the dignity and value of human labour, exemplified in Saint Joseph and his divine foster Son. God is good and, as a wise woman once mentioned, is a God of surprises.


Congratulations to all those students, staff and faculty who worked so diligently to bring this about, after nearly seventeen years of apostolic work.


God be praised, and gratitude to Our Lady Seat of Wisdom, Saint Joseph, Saint Thomas and all the saints and angels who have seen us through this far, and will, Deo volente, see us through many more years to come.



For the Sake of One Iota

nicaeaThere are times when one word, even one letter, can make all the difference.  The scene is June of 325, in the basilica of the imperial city of Nicaea (now in northwestern Turkey) where an ecumenical council has been called by the Emperor Constantine to deal with a number of issues in the Church, not least the ideas of a certain learned and charismatic deacon from Alexandria on the Egyptian coast (then under the control of the empire), Arius, who claimed that Jesus the Christ was not fully and completely ‘God’, at least not in the sense that God the Father was God.


The Second Person, rather, was an emanation from the Father, exalted and ‘divine’ in a sense, but still, technically, a ‘creature’, who came into existence at a certain point.  As the followers of Arius would say, ‘there was a time when He was not’.


Many were convinced by the subtle argument of Arius, that Christ and the Father could not be the ‘same’, for are they not somehow different?  Otherwise, is not the Trinity something of an illusion, just three ways or modes of God presenting Himself to mankind, as the Roman priest Sabellius had claimed a century or so earlier?


The Council was called to settle the question, and the argument became heated, as the pro-Arian bishops fought, sometimes literally with the anti-Arian faction (there is a rumour that Nicholas of Cusa, the prototype of Santa Claus, descended to the ad baculum argument, pulling the beard of the annoying Arius).


The orthodox position, of course as we now know and believe, is that Christ is the ‘same’ as the Father, fully divine, fully God: ‘I and the Father are one’, and ‘He who has seen Me has seen the Father’.


The term that captured and solidified this position was adopted from ancient and pagan Greek philosophy, ‘homo-ousios’, that Christ was and is the ‘same-being’ or ‘same-substance’ as the Father.  And the great champion of the homo-ousios was the saint we celebrate today, the holy and learned Athanasius of Alexandria (296-373), bishop of the very same city as the recalcitrant Arius.


There is too much to tell of the varied and adventurous life of the great Athanasius (I would recommend the reader to peruse the essays of Bd. John Henry Newman, a great devotee of Athanasius). Suffice to say that Athanasius suffered much for the faith, exiles and imprisonments, fleeing often as a fugitive from his own episcopal see, especially under Constantine’s sons and successors, who adopted Arianism with a vengeance.


But to end for now where we began, with the term and the letter:  A compromise was attempted, that instead of homo-ousios, could we not all agree on homoi-ousios, that the Son is ‘like’ the Father, but not quite the ‘same’?


Athanasius’ clear mind, sharpened and developed through a life of prayer study, discipline and chastity, knew that this would be the death knell of Catholicism.  For are we not all ‘like’ God in some way?  Is not the Son unique, in being not only similar to God, but very God Himself, in a way that transcends our limited human minds to fully comprehend?


Thus, for the sake of one ‘iota’, the smallest of Greek letters, our faith was saved, largely due to the efforts of one great and holy bishop, who stood, often alone, against the forces of waffling, ambiguity and ultimate heterodoxy, with the whole might of the imperial army behind them.  He was known as Athanasius contra mundum, Athanasius against the world, a term that should in some way apply to us all. After his death in 373, the Cappadocian doctor of the Church Gregory of Naziansus called Athanasius the ‘pillar of the Church’.


The truth always wins out in the end, even if it costs.  And what is worth winning, without some sacrifice?


Ponder Athanasius the next time you recite the Creed that was adopted at that Council of Nicaea, meditating on the unambiguous description of Jesus the Christ as:


God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten not made, consubstantial (homo-ousios) with the Father…