Friday, December 22, 2006
Thursday, December 21, 2006
But after having a brief conversation with a fellow Catholic (who lives in Alberta), I feel compelled to tell the whole story. So here it is.
When my friend was studying in an Alberta seminary, a group of students from Newman Theological College decided their church was in need to modernization. In what form? Well the church was following the very old and tired idea of having the tabernacle at the front centre of the church. To the NTC students, this was an obvious distraction to the congregation. How could they pray durings Mass with something like that around? These intrepid students then made plans to take the tabernacle out of the church (yes, out) and put it in an adjoining chapel, without consulting the local bishop. The seminarians were justifiably outraged, and informed the bishop. The seminary was divided. After a few days, the local bishop came in, reprimanded the NTC students, and made sure the Tabernacle stayed were it was. Who was this bishop?
Thomas Collins, the new Archbishop of Toronto.
This whole event brings another issue to my mind. What happens when the laity cannot appeal to their bishop in a situation like this? What if their bishop is the one fomenting dissent and division?
There are two things one can do:
(1) I would advise anyone living in a parish like that to write to their local archbishop and the Canadian Papal Nuncio. Most archbishops and nuncios are completely unaware of many of the abuses the laity suffer at the hands of their priests and bishops. Sometimes things can be sorted out quickly, other times (and most usually) it takes some time for action to be taken.
(2) Pray, pray, pray. I believe it was St. Cyril who said that the roads of Hell are paved with the skulls of bishops. These men are under intense spiritual attack, and as we know from our own personal experiences, most Western Catholics born within the last 50 years received pathetic catechesis, and many of our priests and bishops received inadequate preparation and training in the seminaries to boot. Even if it is just one, small prayer dropped into the Divine Economy, every little bit helps. God answers all those who ask, dontchano.
Wednesday, December 20, 2006
Thus it is with some surprise (to myself) that I am actually blogging about the Greens. H/T to Suzanne, who informs me that there is some strife/gnashing of teeth/wringing of hands in the party. Some green folks are a little grumpy a with the new leader, Elizabeth May, for speaking freely about abortion.
Abortion? Spoken freely of? In Canada?
May says she disagrees with (publicly) restrictions on abortions and (privately) excessive access to abortions. She says, nevertheless, that she must follow the party line and never question the abortion leviathan of Canada. According to May, it's a settled 'debate' - Charter stuff and all that. Now with condescending triumphalist crud like that, you'd think that it would be the social conservative members of the Green Party who would be upset. Not so.
Judy Rebick, of the Thought Police and Ryerson University, is officially withdrawing her support of May and of the entire Green party. For Rebick, any discussion of abortion must be framed in a certain way, a way which May did not follow. May, Rebick claims, questions the most important achievement of the women's movement of the last 40 years. The mere 'questioning' of the abortion leviathan could result in the complete destruction of years of good, honest, hard work. Restrictions on abortions are now just around the corner, and those damned evil Conservatives will form an unholy alliance with the Greens and send us all back to the 1960s.
Chretien, Mulroney, Martin, and even Harper have all said the same thing about abortion, so what's the big deal when May says it? I imagine it has to do with May being a woman, and the inner-politicking of the feminist movement. Popular women cannot speak freely on certain issues the same way men can, if Rebick is accurate in her criticisms. So 'freedom to choose' then negates 'freedom of speech' which of course negates by default 'freedom of conscience'. I'm no human rights theory expert, but when rights begin to trump other rights, we have problems with our definition of rights. Right?
Tuesday, December 19, 2006
What I began to understand as I came back to my faith, was that during this period of artificial artistic and architectural denegration, the faithful of the West experienced a massive crisis of faith. Most of this 'crisis' has been linked to dissenting theologians, poor pastoral leadership and even worse catechesis, but I do wonder if some of it can be attributed to the debasement of church architecture and liturgical.
As most capital 'C' Catholics know, the church itself is a liturgical expression. By that I mean the whole building must, in a certain way, direct the congregation toward Christ and His sacrifice, so that they may worship and pray in a sincere and authentic manner. One of course is reminded of the stories about previous Catholics who could provide a brief theological lesson by simply explaining the eschatological meaning of yellow stained glass. When Catholic churches began to resemble their iconoclast Protestant neighbour's, the church ceased being a partner in the liturgy and simply four walls and roof people just happened to visit once a week. I don't think its a coincidence that during this time, Catholicism also became something people just happened to 'do' once a week as well.
I've often thought that there are a few small steps every diocese could take toward 'reliturgizing' its churches. Bring back the Communion Rail. Besides the Tabernacle, Altar and Crucifix, I think this is one of the most vital parts of the Catholic liturgical architecture/building structure. Other than the aforementioned three, there really isn't another structure which would so drastically affect the way people prayed at Mass. Receiving Christ on the knees, whether it be by hand or tongue, is maybe the most humbling act most of us Catholics perform each week. It forces us, even if it is simply posture, to more fully understand what we are doing when we receive the Body and the Blood of our Lord. It is such a wonderful teaching moment for us, and all it takes is some wood and padding.
I think I'm going to mention this to my pastor and the other parish youfs.
Sunday, December 17, 2006
- The coffee we ordered
- The events of my week
- The events of their week
- The events of my siblings' week
- Catholic and political events (they afford me a few minutes to indulge in my political science background)
- The Liturgy
You wouldn't think it, but the most lively topic is usually the Liturgy. When I returned to my faith two years ago, I never knew the Mass was said in Latin. A trip to Europe and Pope Benedict's The Spirit of the Liturgy later, I was dying for some Latin in our 'Bugnini Masses'. Our English translations were so clunky; our hymns so flakey. By the Grace of God, our local pastor introduces a little more Latin into the Mass every year, especially during Advent, Christmas, Lent and Easter, and thus part of my appetite for the language of the Church is satisfied. But I, like my parents, want more. We want a vibrant Latin liturgy, or at least a liturgy that isn't afraid to use Latin and English together. When I was volunteering at WYD 2005, my fellow freiwilligen und mich discussed the positives and negatives of the Novus Ordo Mass. We appreciated understanding all the Liturgy in our mother tongues. We appreciated the participation. But on the other hand, we found the new Mass to lack reverence and sanctity. It was too much like everything else in our society. Latin would at the very least offer us a time truly outside of this world. And on top of this, going to Mass in a foreign country was a little difficult if you didn't speak the native tongue.
Hence it is with much joy that I heard the Holy Father is planning an indult to all bishops to 'deregulate' the use of Latin in the Mass. No one is really sure how 'deregulated' it will be, but I'm certain we won't be witnessing a return to the Tridentine Mass, or even a major up turn in requests for it. It will probably 'universalize' the Mass in way not seen since before the 1970s, as most parishes will likely offer at least one 'Latin' Mass each day of obligation. It will also have a profound affect on the Liturgical music, as the latest Marty Haugen jingle will sound absolutely ridiculous after the congregation and the priest chant the Sanctus or the Gloria in Latin.
Of the people my parents and I have spoken to about the indult, the general feeling is quite positive. Catholics, especially of the younger variety, are craving a truly countercultural experience that will remind them of Christ's calling, and the sanctity of the Eucharist. Older Catholics will probably have a harder time acclimatizing to the changes, of course, since they have spent the last 40 years praying a certain way. Habits can be hard to change (unless you're a feminist nun - ha ha ha!). But everyone seems pleased, if not a little impatient; we've been waiting a while for this.
The national coverage of this event is surprising. Usually Catholics do not make it into the news unless they are (a) dissident or (b) sexually assaulting somone (for the record, the same applies to teachers these days). But here we have several nationally syndicated media outlets discussing the appointment of Collins, a little known bishop from Edmonton who will now head Canada's largest, richest, and most culturally diverse diocese, home to some 1.4 million faithful.
I don't know much about Collins, but what I've heard is good. A friend of mine spent some time at the seminary in Edmonton, and told me that Collins was both orthodox and courageous. My parents remember him from his days in the Hamilton diocese, and they too had fond memories. I can only hope and pray that he handles Toronto well; the diocese has been ravaged by media abuse, especially in the past ten years, after the sexual abuse scandals broke. Toronto is also home to two of Canada's most anti-Catholic and most-read newspapers, the Globe and Mail, and the Toronto Star. Dissident groups regularly appear with any mention of the Catholic Church, and the homosexual activist movement has its base in the city as well. Orthodoxy and courage, indeed!
Take for example the Toronto Star's article. It barely mentions Collins aside from a little history, gives Ambrozic the title 'controversial', and then spends its final paragraphs quoting the local dissident agitator. According to Joanna Manning of Catholic Network for Women's Equality, who has been 'a long time advocate for the ordination of women', Ambrozic and Collins are 'cut from the same conservative cloth' and 'they are all micro-managed from Rome'. Manning continues ' I actually began to feel sorry for him [Ambrozic] because I don't think he ever came to terms with the kind of heterodox, pluralistic inclusive culture of Toronto'. Clearly Manning herself has never come to terms wih the culture of Catholicism and Christianity.
Despite the difficulties Collins will face, his approach to leading the Toronto archdiocese will be much different than Ambrozic's. Cardinal Ambrozic was a Slovenian emigre, who shot from the hip. He wasn't heterodox, but he wasn't subtle either, and his abrasiveness won him many enemies. Bishop Collins is a born and raised Ontario boy, from Guelph, who worked in the area until he was appointed to the bishophoric of Edmonton. He is a young arch-bishop, and one can assume that if he handles the diocese well, he will soon be called to the College of Cardinals.
Joanna Manning, sadly, will never enjoy that honour.
Friday, December 15, 2006
One more important step toward the global revolution!
(Please remember this when you're watching the 2008 Olympics in Beijing)
Tuesday, December 12, 2006
Then on a hot Summer's day in the sweaty and claustrophobic cofines of London's mass transit system, a spark of change was ignited. Four sparks actually, which ended up obliterating 50+ innocents in an instant. For the terrorists, it was a clear 'thanks' to the wooly fingered leaders of the social Left who pushed British society to the precipice with 30 years of anti-Western, anti-Christian ideology. It was however, also a clear sign to those not on the Left: the gauntlet has been thrown, and what are you going to do about it?
Karl Polanyi wrote about the double-effect, a trend he saw throughout history. With every great event, or series of events, or even with every great philosophy, there is a counter-event and a counter philosophy. Within Britain, and here Britain is the model example for the rest of the West, this double-effect was played out as the government openly supported moral ambiguity and a 'neutrality of worldviews' while it was experiencing its greatest numbers of non-Western immigration, specifically from former colonies populated by Muslims. (As an aside, what's pretty funny is that so many elites and intellectuals in the 1960s to the 1980s thought future acts of terrorism or new fascist ideologies would come from grumpy Christians. Oh, how wrong you were, and are.) As it became increasingly difficult to promote a Christian public philosophy in Britain, it became increasingly easier to promote an anti-Christian public philosophy. It didn't matter if you were an angry Muslim-proto-fascist or the village atheist, as long as your views and actions chafed the Christians, all the better.
What happened was pretty much what anyone with an ounce of plain common sense predicted. With the lack of a clear public philosophy, or sense of authentic communal identity (ever wonder why it is the religious who are the most patriotic and committed to their communities?), large swaths of non-Christian immigrants did not integrate. They founded their own schools, which didn't just teach in another language. They ghettoized themselves. Thus when the global jihad officially began in earnest in 2001, power-via-terrorism had already been entrenched in the minds of several hundred, if not thousands, of first generation Muslim Britons. Those people who made the mistake of vocalizing their concern over these unintegrated, alien communities were publicly roasted for being 'bigoted' or 'xenophobic'. Multiculturalism was the dogma, and heresy was not permitted.
Multiculturalism afforded these groups the time and space to advance their agenda. I mean, how else is that in the late 20th Century, the Century of Progress, so many 'insurrectionists' (although that is hardly the best descriptor) could fall under the radar? We've known for centuries that there are certain things in other cultures that are simply incompatible with our Judeo-Christian heritage, incompatible with post-Enlightenment human rights, so no one can argue that this all comes as a surprise. The fact is, we gave ourselves to our foes. St. Augustine writes in City of God that while the barbarian hordes were pressing against Rome, and the city's existence was threatened, pagan Romans were simply going to the theatre, and busying themselves in acts of pathetic immorality. These Romans had many eloquent rationalizations for their insatiable hedonsim and pedantry, which, surprise-surprise, have many parallels to our own society's complex and nuanced theories of multiculturalism, pacifism, and neutrality. Rather than taking the hard steps to protecting our society, we've watered it down, served it as a buffet, and are now wringing our hands because our guests don't want to hold their own buffet.
For any solution, we will have to take the prodigal road back to Christian society. It's patently obvious to anyone with an ounce of common sense that our current path isn't the right one. Whatever the faults of our pre-1960s confusedly Christian culture, it was, by in large, a stronger one than this.
Monday, December 11, 2006
Almighty and eternal God,who created us in Thine imageand bade us to seek after all that is good, true and beautiful,especially in the divine person of Thine Only-begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ,grant, we beseech Thee,that, through the intercession of Saint Isidore, Bishop and Doctor,during our journeys through the internetwe will direct our hands and eyes only to that which is pleasing to Theeand treat with charity and patience all those souls whom we encounter.Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
You can check out other translations of the prayer here.
Sunday, December 10, 2006
- Excellent Acting
- Excellent Sets & Costumes
- Excellent Story
(Not for the kids, though)
Mel Gibson's Apocalypto tells the tale of a young Mesoamerican man, Jaguar Paw whose village is overrun by slavers. The slavers kidnap him and a group of other villagers, and rape and kill the rest. Before he is captured, Jaguar Paw manages to lower his pregnant wife and young son into a cave. As he is being tied up, Jaguar Paw's father is brutally killed in front of him by the slavers. As the slavers lead the kidnapped out of the village, one of them notices the rope Jaguar Paw used to lower his family into the cave, and cuts it. While being led to the slaver's city, the troop encounters a diseased young girl, who warns them about an impending curse. Upon arrival at the city, the kidnapped women are sold as slaves, and the men led off to be sacrificed. The city's crops are dying and to compound that, there has been a drought for some time. The kidnapped men are taken to the top of a Mesoamerican pyramid, and several are disemboweled and decapitated, to the great applause of the city, who believe every sacrificial victim brings them closer to rain, a good crop, and eternal power. Just when Jaguar Paw is about to be sacrificed, an eclipse occurs, and the city shaman announces that their god has smiled upon them, and stops the sacrifices. The slavers then take the kidnapped to a small arena to be killed off. Jaguar Paw escapes, but slays the slaver leader's son in the process. The slaver then takes his best men and chases Jaguar Paw back into the jungle.
As Jaguar Paw is hiding in a tree, he stumbles upon a jaguar. The jaguar almost kills Jaguar Paw, but instead mauls one of the slavers. The slavers try in vain to save their friend, but kill the jaguar in the process. Jaguars, in ancient Mesoamerican mythology, were seen as particularly important creatures; shamans even sought to transform into them since it was believed that a jaguar could transcend this reality and enter into the supernatural realm. The slavers realise their transgression, remember the diseased girl's prophesy, and consider giving up the chase. The slaver leader however, blind with bloodlust and rage, forces them to continue the chase. Two more slavers are killed, seemingly by accident, during the chase, until Jaguar Paw is cornered after running toward a waterfall. Sensing his immediate death, Jaguar Paw jumps off the waterfall, survives to swim ashore and inform the slavers that they have now entered his ancestral jungle. Undaunted, the slavers follow Jaguar Paw over the waterfall, only to lose two more of their men: one murdered for showing what appeared to the slave leader to be fear, and the other by cracking his skull open on an underwater rock.
Jaguar Paw makes his way toward his razed village, only to fall into a mud-pit and nearly drown. Rising from the pit however, he is energized and then prepares himself to battle the slavers. After killing two of the remaining five slavers, Jaguar Paw faces off against the slaver leader, who is a far superior fighter. Jaguar Paw turns and flees from the fight, knowing that the leader will pursue him wherever he goes. The leader manages to wound Jaguar Paw, and rushes in to finish him, but is impaled by one of Jaguar Paw's hunting traps which dotted the jungle around his village. The last two slavers find Jaguar Paw and chase him to a beach, whereupon Jaguar Paw collapses, looking out to sea. Just as the slavers catch up to Jaguar Paw, they pause immediately behind him, joining his gaze. The camera moves out to sea to show four European ships carrying Spanish colonizers and Catholic missionaries. Ironically, it is those who would eventually destroy the viscious Mesoamerica who save the protagonist. Jaguar Paw leaves the beach, rescues his wife and children (she gave birth while in the cave), and moves deeper into the jungle to find a new beginning.
Reviews of the film have generally been favourable, which is not surprising. Apocalypto is a magnificent film, albiet with much more visceral depictions of violence than most films will ever show. The key difference between this violence and the violence of, say, the Saw movies, is that the story is not about grossing out the audience. Via this graphic display of violence Gibson manages to bring the audience into the final days of one of the bloodiest civilizations the world has ever seen. As one who has studied the Olmec, Mayan and Aztec civilizations, I can assure you that we know a lot about the ritual and senseless violence which eventually rotted out the heart of these cultures. Public sacrifice and drug use was common. Life was nasty, brutish and short. When the colonizers are seen at the film's finale, they arrive to sighs of relief - change is finally here, the apocalypse has come for the city and its rulers.
Now if this were a liberal democracy, this wouldn't be an issue. Churches, to the state, are supposed to be private institutions out of their realm of authority. But Canada ceased to be a liberal democracy some time ago, and thus it's probably only a matter of days before the Gay, whoops, Human Rights machine takes the bigot Bishop to task for exercising one of his less affirming canonical competencies.
To the chagrin of those with a bone to pick with the Catholic Church, the Human Rights Act does not apply to this situation, even though it does include 'sexual orientation' as one of its protected groups. Why not? Well for starters, the Act applies to 'goods, services, facilities or accommodation customarily available to the general public'. The sacrament of the Eucharist has never been customarily available to the general public, it is only available to baptized Catholics who have received the sacrament of Confession/Penance, and even then only to those who are in a state of grace (without the stain of mortal sin). Also, the practice of denying the Eucharist to unrepentant Catholics who are publicly resisting repentance, ergo putting themselves into occassions of sin and giving scandal to the Church, is a regular practice, even though it has fallen by the wayside over the past 40 years. Therefore one cannot argue that the Bishop's act violates the HRA's prohibition on administering discrimination selectively to individuals, since this is not 'selective discrimination': You cannot receive the Eucharist if you have violated any of the Ten Commandments. Mind you, I wouldn't be surprised if the Church is sued by the government, this is Canada after all.
So where have the two men gone? Where else! The United Church! Beggars can't be choosers, you know. But even there the men realise something is missing. They attend Sundary worship at their new church, yet still refer to themselves as Catholics. Pray for them.
|You scored as [sic] Roman Catholic. You are Roman Catholic. Church tradition and ecclesial authority are hugely important, and the most important part of worship for you is [M]ass. As the Mother of God, Mary is important in your theology, and as the communion of saints includes the living and the dead, you can also ask the saints to intercede for you.|
Thursday, December 07, 2006
I recently finished two books from two First Things heavies. Catholic Matters, by Fr. Richard Neuhaus, discussed the past 40 years of Catholicism in the West. Neuhaus is a fine writer, and I would recommend this book to anyone interested in the Catholic Church or Western religions in general. God's Choice, by George Weigel, focuses on Catholicism, but mainly on the papacy of the late and great John Paul II, and the new papacy of Benedict XVI. While Weigel calls this book a sequel to Witness to Hope, his seminal biography of John Paul II, I'm not convinced. Witness to Hope is an indepth look into the life of the Man of the Century, whereas God Choice's is more of a first year university survey text. Don't take this the wrong way, I am a big fan of Weigel's, but I think this book was a laboursome affair he patched together to meet a deadline. It lacks direction: the first half discussing the black and white realities of the final years of John Paul II, clearly Weigel's preferred topic; the second half discussing the gray possibilities of Benedict's pontificate. It is the second half that Weigel loses direction, as he drifts from possibility to possibility without every providing as serious an understanding of Joseph Ratzinger as he did of Karol Wojtyla. Naturally, you might say, since Weigel spent years with John Paul II and published an 800 page biographical tome on him. But that's exactly the point: Weigel attempts to apply his lens, which he formed studing the previous pope, to Benedict, and the result is a rather tired and difficult final 150 pages. These final pages feel as if they were simply arbitrarily attached to the first, and I finished the book wondering why it was called God's Choice, and not The Final 5 Years of the John Paul II Pontificate & Some Stuff About the German Guy.
I'm now reading C.S. Lewis' The Great Divorce, which became one of my favourite books at page 30. To my detriment, I haven't read much Lewis, even though he was the last great apologist from the Anglo-Catholicism, and apologetics being my next stop after polemics. But on the rare occassion I take up a Lewis book, I am always surprised by the simplicity of his writing. It's so clear, and yet so effectual.
After I've finished The Great Divorce, I plan on tackling either Truth and Tolerance, by Benedict XVI, or City of God, by St. Augustine. I've read a lot of Benedict this past year, but Augustine's Confessions was the first book I read during my reconversion to Catholicism, and hence I've developed something of an affinity to that great North African Saint, so I might just take that one on instead. Choices.
In regards to my hope expressed at the end of the other abortion quote, it turns out Crusty Curmudgeon has put together a helpful, terse and congent response to the claims made by the CUSA, many of which expand upon the thoughts I was developing earlier.
One point I haven't seen discussed is the Charter right to peaceful assembly. Since the CUSA's decision effectively restricts the free assembly of students (that the CUSA is a non-voluntary, student institution is paramount here) who have displayed absolutely no violent tendencies, the decision violates one of the Lifeline student's basic human rights. I'm not familiar with constitutional law, but I'm sure there has been a case which applies to this situation. Hopefully I can find it.
In my own opinion, the only way the CUSA could legitimately denied the Lifeline funding was by proving that their actions were either (a) violent or (b) discriminatory. Since the CUSA has said that Lifeline can oppose abortion, just as long as it does not argue for criminalization, they have conceded that the opinions expressed by the group are in fact not discriminatory. For if criminalization is their bone of contention, it could be then argued that if the CUSA believes student's can express their pro-life opinions, then they must also grant the students the ability to go so far as to question the criminality of at least some abortions, since this would be the rational, reasonable, and logical conclusion to the students' beliefs. It is not the role of the CUSA to decide whether or not certain conclusions are expressable and which ones are not, and more importantly, they have already allowed for the students to express their arguments for that conclusion.
Wednesday, December 06, 2006
In the course of the debate, the president of the Student Association said that while the group could promote the pro-life cause, it could not however publicly work toward the criminalization of abortion on any level. Since Canada has no abortion laws, and that means no legal protection for the small ones until they fully exit the mother's body, I find it a tad excessive to demand that one small student pro-life group be unable to even discuss the possibility of criminalizing some abortions. Excessive to the point of dangerous.
That the Carleton University Student's Association would go so far as to refuse to allow the group to openly discuss legal restrictions on abortion illustrates a serious crisis of the university, and of our democracy. Carleton University is on Canadian soil, and Canada is a liberal democracy. Liberal democracies are known for many things, first among them freedom of speech and critical analysis. Without these two things, democracy cannot be excercized, since expression and discussion are essentially what makes democracy representation and fair, even at its most base. Thus within Canada, citizens are able publicly disagree with the courts and the government, citizens can appeal judicial decisions, and citizens can repeal legislation. The idea is that even democracies can make mistakes, and it is sometimes necessary to retrace our steps to make sure we have made the correct decision. We do this all the time in economics: trade policies are revised and discarded, budgets are modified, and institutions are expanded or streamline to increase efficiency or competency. Yet what the CUSA is basically saying is that when it comes to abortion, students cannot disagree with the complete lack of laws at all. (And, to top it all of with irony, it is a university association telling its students that certain discussions cannot be held, at a university) So restricting the exercise of critical analysis undercuts the ability of these students to fully exercise their rights as guaranteed in the Charter of Rights. If the CUSA decides to follow its expressed course of action, it does so at the expense of our liberal democracy, and it may even do so illegally.
I'm surprised no one has made this argument to the CUSA yet. I'm sure there are some very smart people following this case who could make a much more compelling argument than I. I would personally love to discuss how to advance this argument, especially since the national media is actually giving the issue some attention.
Monday, December 04, 2006
Similar things happen when abortion, birth control, or casual divorce are brought up. Everyone assumes there has been a massive, and equal debate, and the 'rights' and results we now bask in were brought about by fully fair and democratic means. Canada, as if you didn't know, is a liberal democracy which upholds the primacy of reason and law. Central to the vitality of democracy, the free exercise of reason and law is discourse, and Canadian political and judicial institutions are designed to promote discourse. Right?
What if things aren't as they seem? What if Canada's institutions have been corrupted? What if our democracy has been ebbing away for so long that there is so little left of it we can barely tell it's gone? What if we've been sold gimmick after gimmick in the place of the real thing? How could we tell?
Friday, December 01, 2006
Reeling from this reality-and editorial line-shattering event, those in the media scrambled to categorize and frame wily Benedict's apparent about face. Pope prays toward Mecca headline, the natural result. But did the Pope 'pray toward Mecca'? He certainly did, in the sense that if anyone happens to be praying while facing East they too would 'pray toward Mecca' by geographical default. But you would also be praying toward Jerusalem, Nazereth, Bethlehem, Agra, Beijing, Kyoto or Seoul.
The anthropological roots of praying toward Mecca are rooted in Mediterraenean and Middle Eastern traditions. Simply put, way back when, people identified the rising of the Sun in the East with various spiritual concepts. Christians, in their pagan assimilating ways, saw some basic truth in this, and taught that praying to toward the East, orientalizing prayer, reminded us of the rising of Christ and his Promise to Return in Glory. Most churches, even today, are still on an East-West axis, with congregations facing (and thus praying) the East. In the last 100 years the practice died out a bit, but is enjoying a rebound of sorts.
In Benedict's Spirit of the Liturgy, orientalizing prayer is discussed at great length. Benedict has always believed in physical, corporal acts during prayer, and recalls in his book fond memories of 'praying to the East' as child. He has stated, with some frequency, that posture is crucial to prayer, and that the Church must embrace this aspect of prayer once again, especially in the West.
So for Benedict, the option to orient himself during a prayer session with Muslims was less about making a 'PR' stunt-gimmick, like his predecessor's kissing of the Qu'ran, and more about making a statement about common practices and beliefs Muslims and Christians share.
Tuesday, November 28, 2006
Naughty and Nice Christmas List from the folks at the aptly named Friend or Foe Christmas Campaign:
Partial "Naughty List"
Lowe's - Employees cannot say "Merry Christmas" to customers. Lowe's corporate advised that only when customers initiate a "Merry Christmas" greeting can employees respond in kind.
Toys 'R' Us - "Holidays" are in, "Merry Christmas" is out.
Banana Republic - Web site has "Holiday Gift Guide" with no mention of Christmas.
Bed Bath & Beyond - No mention of any holidays.
Barnes & Noble - Web site says "Gift Guide," "Holiday gift baskets," "Holiday sled," "Holiday delivery," but no Christmas. Stores not allowed to put up Christmas trees, and employees are not allowed to say "Merry Christmas."
Best Buy - Web site says "Unique gifts for the season," "Holiday gift ideas." Spokesperson said the use of "Merry Christmas" is disrespectful.
Dick's Sporting Goods - Web site says "gifts" and has images, but no mention of Christmas.
Eddie Bauer - Customer service would not recognize Christmas, they "don't want to offend Jews, those who celebrate Kwanza and those who have no religious preference."
Gap - "Holiday Survival Guide" with no mention of Christmas.
Home Depot - Web site says "Holiday Store" and "Holiday Lighting" and only at bottom of site says "Make your Christmas decorations complete." Stores have "Holiday Home Accents."
K-Mart - Selling "Holiday trees" and "Holiday wreaths."
Partial "Nice List"
Dillard's - Advertises "Christmas Catalog."
JC Penney - Web site has "Christmas Shipping Countdown."
Joann Fabrics - Offers Christmas and Holiday fabrics.
Kohl's - Christmas is all over TV, print and radio ads.
L.L. Bean - Advertises and distributes "Christmas Catalog."
Linens 'N Things - Has a "Christmas Shop" and "Christmas Checklist."
Macy's - "Merry Christmas!" on its home page.
Michaels - Web site has a Christmas section.
M&M-Mars Candies - Will have red and green candies with pictures of Christmas trees and angels among other images.
Target - Web site says "Christmas Decor," although the physical store has "Holiday entertaining." TV ad says "Merry Christmas."
Wal-Mart - Has a "Christmas Shop," plays Christmas carols, and employees can say "Merry Christmas."
Sunday, November 26, 2006
Well, as this Reuters article tell us, tens of thousands did show up to protest the Pope. Actually, it was only 25,000. How 25,000 (which could itself be an exaggeration) can be considered, in all honesty, 'tens of thousands', I will never know. Once again one finds modern mainstream journalism wanting.
Thursday, November 23, 2006
No? He looks like an elephant, doesn't he?
Actually, in Canada, he's not an elephant.
[edit: My fiance wants me to tell you that yes, this is an elephant. It is a baby elephant in utero, which is why I made the comment about how in Canada, this 'little' guy would not be considered an elephant, since current Canadian law states that unborn creatures (humans included) are not protected by law until air touches them.]
The article, while altogether not too poor, does stumble into the usual pitfalls of agit-prop leftist journalism. Of course, Hooper concedes less than 2 paragraphs in, no offical statement has been made. All that has happened is that the Pope has commissioned one of the Vatican's think tanks to study the issue. Hooper can't resist the usual references to high ranking and media friendly Bishops, naturally 'candidate for the papacy' Cardinal Martini is referenced, who have publicly made some murkish statements which seem to favour the use of barrier contraceptives in cases of HIV/AIDS. Heck, even the unfortunate Dr. Rowan Williams, head of the disintegrating Anglican Church, gets his name in there too. Hooper thinks Williams will take Pope Benedict to task for the Church's teachings, which immediately brings to mind the ironic image of the leader of a Christian sect facing oblivion lecturing the Pope about how to run a church properly. Obviously Hooper has not set out to breach any of the Guardian's sacred editorial policies.
But what of the article's premise? Could the Church do an about face and change Her social doctrine?
While there is always the chance that the Church could change it's teaching on the use of contraceptives, its highly unlikely that She would do so. Here's why:
(1) Sexually transmitted infections and diseases are not new. In the early days of the Church they were rampant, especially in the cosmopolitan cities of Athens, Corinth, and Rome. Nor was the countryside spared; we have many records of syphillis outbreaks scourging the populations of rural Italy, Greece and Asia Minor. In was in this setting that the Church, guided by the Holy Spirit, developed its teaching on the use of barrier contraceptives.
(2) It is in the sexual act that a very important part of who were are as individuals created in the image and likeness of God is shared and displayed to another. The sexual act, the Church has shown, must be an act of reciprocal love without any barriers being put up between the couple. It is by this act of utter selfless giving to one another that we as God's children replicate the love which God gives to us all. By placing a contraceptive between one another, the couple loses the ability to partake in this act of reciprocal love, since, obviously, all is not being reciprocated. For a couple with an untreatable STI/D, the call is to abstain from sexual intercourse. In the place of intercourse, the couple is called to acts of heroic virtue, they must devote themselves to each other without intercourse, which has always been a serious, and sanctifying, even saintly, feat.
(3) Incrementalism isn't an official part of Catholic political science or sociology, but it might as well be. The Catholic Church has watched as the Protestant denominations 'liberated' themselves from bans on contraception over the past 75 years. In every case, the 'liberation' has also liberated those churches of their members and their vitality. A church that ceases to ask its members to live lives of virtue and sanctity, is a church that eventually ceases to exist. As the Protestant churches fled from traditional teaching on contraception, always while making similar arguments to ones found with the Guardian peice I should add, they also suffered a massive crisis within the faithful, as many other traditions and beliefs were deemed too restrictive and removed. The Catholic Church, as its raison d'etre, is here to prepare the world for Christ, and it's not clear how that role would be better serviced if, after 2,000 years, a handful of Church academes and bureaucrats decided to force a change on this issue. The historical record tells us much in this respect.
(4) In the 1960s, the majority report of the Papal commission on contraception advocated allowing its use. The minority report of course advocated no change at all. In those days prior to the announcement of the Pope's decision, to be contained within his encyclical, Humane Vitae, the media and those Church figures popular with the media, confidently predicted that Pope Paul VI would choose the majority report. The rest, as it is nauseatingly said, is history.
Tuesday, November 21, 2006
As President of the Confraternity of Catholic Clergy (a 31 year old national association of 700 priests and deacons) and as a pastor and a diocesan priest ordained for more than 18 years, I personally and professionally repudiate the premise contained in your recent editorial (Tomorrow's Priests). I entered the seminary in 1976 after graduating from eighth grade (parochial school) and continued from high school seminary to college seminary to major seminary until ordination in 1988. During those twelve years of seminary, I saw and heard a lot. Likewise, in the subsequent eighteen years of priesthood, mostly in parish ministry with a brief stint in Tribunal and Hospital Chaplaincy ministry, my experience is certainly not insignificant.
First, the assertion that two major groups exist(ed) in the seminary (either doctrinally orthodox to Rome or pastorally open to collaboration with the people) is inaccurate at best and deceptive at worst. During the later years of the pontificate of Pope Paul VI when I entered High School Seminary, there was a general malaise prolific in many minor and major seminaries. Faculty members who had hoped the reforms of Vatican II would have led to further and more revolutionary changes (priestly celibacy, women's ordination, etc.) were hoping that P6's successor would open the doors and not just the windows (as did J23). Faith and morals were considered 'fluid' and 'malleable' in that they could and needed to adapt to the times, or so this group thought. Immutable doctrines and absolute moral laws were relics of the past, they maintained. Many of these theological and liturgical 'hippies' were the ones who ran the seminaries and therefore sought to remake the mold used to form the contemporary priest.
Collaboration with the laity was not their real agenda anymore than was subsidiarity. True, this group was unmistakably prone to dissent from Magisterial teaching (as evidenced by their enthusiastic embrace of Charles Curran and his dissent from Humanae Vitae) and were certainly not concerned or preoccupied with loyalty to Rome. Yet, they were not the populist saviors they purported to be. Recall in Church History when Martin Luther inaugurated the Protestant Reformation in the 16 th century. He convinced Bishops, priests and laity to rebel against Papal authority with the simultaneous rebellion of the kings, princes, and barons against the secular Imperial authority. Once the Pope and the Emperor were out of the way, however, those in power made sure the dominoes stopped falling. The Peasant's Revolt was mercilessly crushed by the aristocracy with the full support and encouragement of Luther and other clerics. The poor peasants only followed logic when they saw the episcopacy revolt against the papacy and saw the aristocracy revolt against the monarchy. They were unaware of the fact that revolutionaries often depose authority so as to replace it with their own brand. Likewise, some of the extreme radicals of the post-Vatican II church sought to sever their doctrinal and disciplinary obedience to Rome but to keep intact their own fascist control over their subordinates.
Prior to the papacy of JP2, the other group in the seminary was indeed loyal to the Magisterium and obedient to the Roman Pontiff. Sarcastically labeled as 'traditionalist' or 'rigid,' those of us who wished to be faithful to the hierarchical structure intended and founded by Christ when He personally established the Church with Saint Peter, were in the minority and had no influence whatsoever. Those who rejected infallible doctrines and absolute moral laws, embraced and promoted dynamic doctrines that adapted themselves to become more appealing to non-Catholics. They also embraced an amorphous morality which would open the doors to contraception, fornication, homosexuality, pornography, corruption, graft, etc., since there were no more ethical absolutes. Many of the problems and scandals inside the seminary and afterwards in the parishes after some of these guys got ordained can be traced to BAD theology and BAD morality. Both were sustained, sadly, by BAD liturgy ( lex credendi, lex agendi, lex orandi). The raping of the Catholic worship resulted in the intentional loss of reverence, sacredness, sacrifice and worship of the divine. Liturgical aberrations and abuses promoted the dissident theology and adulterated morality by glorifying man over God. Human nature was deified while divinity was dethroned. Concupiscence was no longer the effect of Original Sin, but a natural inclination which needed to be understood and nurtured. The only official deviancy was the old regime and the few new recruits who sought to restore Peter to his chair which had been stolen from under his seat.
It is a false dichotomy to say one had to choose between loyalty to Rome and collaboration with the people. Ironically, it is the people who are often more Catholic than their clergy at times. Like the days of the Soviet Union, Communists claimed to represent and cooperate with the people (proletariat) after they had overthrown the bourgeoisie. The reality was that the new order had no intention of sharing authority with the people and in fact sought to control and manipulate the masses. Anyone who disagreed was sent to a Gulag or simply eliminated. Dissent from party policy was dealt with severity and swiftness. The Kremlin and the KGB did not share power nor did they tolerate unconditional adherence to their rule.
Similarly, the ecclesiastical radicals bragged about their disdain for the Pope, the Vatican and the Magisterium. Academic freedom and liberty of conscience were their mantras. Yet, if someone under their authority dared to disagree or worse yet, disobey the disobedient, then the fascist side of them emerged. While there was no equivalent Peasants' Revolt, we did have in the seminary those who refused to be disloyal to Rome. It was not the people in the pews who faithfully went to church for Mass and confessions who demanded that their parishes remove statues, communion rails or whitewash their sanctuaries. The liturgical Nazis imposed iconoclasm on many parishes and they even deported Christ by removing Tabernacles and placing them in obscure, small, and covert 'Eucharistic chapels' instead of the main worship space.
If the ultra-reformers (those who feel V2 did not go far enough) were truly collaborative, they would not be the ones who bully and harass the elderly woman who chooses to kneel for Communion. Paradoxically, the same bullies are too timid to refuse Communion to politicians who openly support abortion. Bishops who remained silent when local 'theologians' publicly espoused heterodox teaching or even overtly dissented from Humanae Vitae or Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, or who refused to enforce Ex Corde Ecclesiae by requiring and monitoring the mandate needed to teach theology, are often the very same ones who quickly and with ferocity impose sanctions (such as suspension or interdict) on those who dare question their prudential judgments. Disagree with the Pope, even from the pulpit or in the classroom, and nothing was done. Disagree or question a diocesan policy, however, and incur the wrath of Khan. Authentic collaboration are the bishops, priests and deacons who listen to and respond to the spiritual needs of the parishioners who SUPPORT and who ATTEND the local church.
If many post-Vatican II clergy need to be re-educated it was not because they were poor students while in the seminary. Some just got bad or poor education because they were not given the unadulterated truth. There was no Catechism prior to 1992. I was ordained in 1988. We had the Code of Canon Law since 1983 but even that was criticized in class, as in the case of mandating first confession before first communion (#777 and 915). The Documents of Vatican II were not taught but the ' spirit of Vatican II' was invoked all over the place. Thankfully, some of us went underground and learned the truth by secretly reading Denziger's Enchiridion Symbolorum, the Summa Theologica, and attending annual seminarian conferences sponsored by none other than Opus Dei.
What was not taught in the seminary besides orthodox doctrine and morality was business management. The corporate model of ecclesiology was never explained or taught but extensively used as many of us discovered once we were ordained. The hierarchical institution model was always ridiculed but the servant, herald, mystical communion or community of disciples while promoted to one degree or another, did not reflect the reality outside the seminary, however. Many priests who find themselves discouraged, disenchanted or even demoralized are so because they do not feel, see themselves or are treated as spiritual fathers of a local family of faith. Instead, they are often employees of the corporation. Pastors spend more time doing fundraising, attending committee meetings, and reading and completing diocesan paperwork than they do celebrating the sacraments. Often, we are treated like branch managers of the company and the bishop is the senior vice president, surrounded by his board of directors in the chancery office. Policies to protect assets, and increase revenue and reduce expenditures are certainly prudent and required by good stewardship. Sadly, these often become the high priority while the teaching of orthodox doctrine and the reverent celebration of the sacraments are put on the back burner if at all.
When parishioners ask for devotions like Divine Mercy, Eucharistic Adoration, Public Rosary, Novenas, Processions and the like, often the so-called 'collaborators' ignore or insult them. When parishioners utilize their legal option to receive Communion on the tongue or to confess anonymously, their legitimate choice is denied. When someone is known to be a member of Opus Dei, Familia or Regnum Christi, they are often prevented and prohibited in some dioceses from joining Parish Council. So much for collaboration. Often, parish council members are 'elected' like Stalin and others were in the former USSR, i.e., no other candidate was allowed OR the party merely told you who were elected before any vote took place.
Seminarians do not need administrative or managerial skills or training. They need orthodox theological and sound philosophical education within the context of solid spiritual formation founded on prayer and proper celebration of the sacraments, especially the Holy Mass. Instead of running parishes and dioceses like businesses and corporations, we need to return to the familial model. Pastors and Bishops should be paternal and not middle or upper management. Many of us clergy long for the day when competent and qualified deacons and laity can handle most if not all of the mundane business of the parish, like budgets, committee meetings, fundraising, employee relations, labor disputes, diocesan bureaucratic paperwork, et al. I would rather spend time teaching the faith and ministering to the sick rather than worrying about salaries, benefits, insurance, decreasing offertory income, rising expenditures, etc. Here is where real collaboration can take place. Unlike Trusteeism which turned the parish over to the lay trustees who could hire and fire the pastor and other clergy, real lay collaboration is using the gifts and talents of the parishioners, especially those who have accounting, financial and managerial training and experience. The pastor still represents the authority of the local bishop but the division of labor is such that he is assisted by the wisdom and experience of the laity who help him with their expertise. Tampering with doctrine, morals or the sacred liturgy is not the prerogative of either the pastor or the parishioners.
Real faith communities are not places where the clergy have abdicated their authority to teach and govern and be mere sacrament dispensers. Real faith communities are FAMILIES of faith where the pastor is the spiritual FATHER. Collaboration and cooperation occur in the diverse apostolates of the parish, like teaching the faith to children and adults, keeping the church clean, planning and celebrating reverent liturgies that conform to the traditions of our church. Ironically, it is the other side which unilaterally imposes liturgical aberrations and illicit innovations upon the parishioners whether like it or not. This is not a battle between liberals and conservatives, progressives and traditionalists, pre-Vatican II and post-Vatican II. The issue is whether to abandon or entirely embrace the 'corporate business' model. Many of us choose to restore the ancient family model which was never democratic but always hierarchical yet always in an atmosphere of charity, justice and mercy. Since the wonderful reign of Pope John Paul II and his current successor Pope Benedict XVI, we have two exquisite role models and one marvelous vision. Many of the bishops these two have appointed are superb choices and in fact shepherd their diocese like a father leads his family. There are some, however, who still use a business model and prefer the role of executive to that of father. Disobedient children cannot be ignored nor encouraged in their folly, especially when it endangers the rest of the family. Redefining doctrine or reinventing sacred liturgy are not viable options. Sentire cum ecclesiae (think with the church) and ubi Petrus ibi ecclesia (where Peter is, there is the church) are our best roadmaps.
Thursday, November 16, 2006
Throughout the blogosphere and orthodox Catholic media, there is much weeping and gnashing of teeth at the fact that such a blatant anti-Catholic Catholic priest can even exist within the Church. To qualify that a bit, Fr. Gravel's Bishop has indeed revoked his priestly abilities until he steps down for election, but most people are more than a little disappointed that it took several public, even on a national scale, dismissals of Catholicism by Fr. Gravel that the Bishop finally took some action. For leftists, Fr. Gravel is another great French hope for the 'Catholic Church of Tomorrow'. For everyone else, Fr. Gravel is an animated fossil from a passing age.
At my adult catechesis class, we asked our Bishop how he would handle the situation. He said he wasn't sure, that is was a very complex case and that he would feel particularly concerned for the spiritual health of the actively dissident priest. I of course hoped for a more forceful answer, but then this is a Bishop who spends much of his time repairing 40 years worth of damage done to our diocese. Comparing my Bishop's response to the reponse given by Fr. Gravel's Bishop, I cannot help but sympathesize with the latter. No one wants to be the Wittenberg Bishop in this age (although who even remembers the name of Luther's bishop), especially in the ruins of the Church in Quebec. By revoking his abilities as a priest, Fr. Gravel's Bishop has effectively nullified what could have been an absolute catastrophe (imagine a MP priest making a mockery of our sacraments in the Commons... yikes!). Sure, we still have Fr. Gravel agitating for election, but now he is simply Raymond Gravel, whose personal opinions can no longer tarnish the administration of the sacraments. The media will no doubt attempt to spin this as yet another 'progressive' silenced, but of course he hasn't been silenced at all, and the public will realise that. All this without excommunication.
Pray for Fr. Gravel, his associates, and most especially his bishop.
Wednesday, November 15, 2006
St. Augustine of Hippo
Tuesday, November 14, 2006
It has been pointed out by several commentators that wishing that I were something does not make it so. Say, for example, if I wanted to become a police officer, I could not simply wake up one morning and decide that I had become one. To be a police officer takes a lot work and discernment. There is college, several interviews with prospective academies, meeting with those encharge of hiring new police officers, and finally months of serious preparation and training before I can be, authentically, a police officer. This of course is intrinsic to any vocation or career. With this in mind, one really has to question the pyschological health of those unfortunate women in North America and Europe who have decided for themselves that they are now priests. Noticeably absent from their stories are the same rigours and struggles a man seeking to become a priest faces. As some people are aware, becoming a Catholic priest takes many, many years and the priests and bishops responsible for your training and entry into the priesthood reserve the right to decide whether or not the candidate has the necessary charisms and calling to be ordained. The point is that it is not up to the candidate to decide that he can be a priest, and so then he is a priest. There's a lot more to it.
Yet in the minds of the handful of these women agitating for female ordinaition via illicit ordinaition ceremonies and press releases, the route is simple and the path wide. Just make a few calls to your local unrepentant excommunicant, find a boat (since the Womenpriest movement operates under the mistaken assumption that the Church's ecclesial territories do not include water systems - they do), and bring along some funny colour faux-vestments. Removed are the years of patient discernment, the hours in front of the tabernacle, those stressful minutes before you meet with the head of a seminary, the struggle to prepare oneself for the massive demands of the administering the sacraments to the faithful, and not to mention the task of rebuilding the many bridges burnt by scandal. In their place is, well, not that much.
Tuesday, November 07, 2006
For the past century, particularly since the great modernist vs. fundamentalist debates of the 1920s, the mainline Protestant churches have wed themselves to fashion. Rather than using Christianity as a lense by which to interpret the times, these churches used the times to interpret Christianity. As with most bad ideas, this decision (which has also been followed by some in the Orthodox and Catholic Churches, but to a much lesser and limited degree) is based upon a rather naive assumption: Christianity, which admittedly had been on the defensive since the Reformation, will cease to be relevant unless its doctrines and dogmas are radically changed to accomodate similar changes in secular society (this was not a grass-roots decision; the choice to abandon Christian mores and beliefs was made chiefly by bishops and other church leaders).
In the early 20th Century, mainline Protestant churches were robust institutions who played an important role in society. By the end of the 20th Century, and after a seemingly endless number of rethinkings of Christian belief, mainline Protestant churches were empty vessels with absolutely no real influence on society. Its congregations have been hemorrhaging numbers at such a rapid pace that is it now average for one mainline Protestant parish to close its doors forever each week. In the UCC, membership has dropped by 50% over the past 40 years. With such massive losses, one would think common sense to somehow enter the minds of the pastors of the UCC and spark a serious reassessment of their leadership. Perhaps another liberalization or nauseating statement about 'affirming congregations' or 'embracing diversity' is not what is needed. When a church presents the same philosophy as the secular society, it runs the risk that its message will simply not be heard. For the UCC, this is the 10 million dollar gamble.
Saturday, November 04, 2006
For Dawkins the issue is very simple: All of humanity's problems come from irrationality sponsored by religious belief. Unfortunately for his followers (and I suppose his critics as well) Dawkins barely moves beyond that simple statement, and thus spends his entire television programme and book (from the reviews I have read) regurgitating the same statement to which he has seemingly centred his entire life. Aside from the danger of becoming the village atheist (a role currently occupied by Dawkin's friend and ally, the 'philosopher' Daniel Dennett), Dawkins' repetitious argument displays a very obvious deficit of knowledge when it comes to religious matters. Unlike a proper scholar, he pays litte attention to the reason and rationality behind many religious (particularly Catholic) beliefs, preferring to ridicule not what his would-be opponents consider their own belief-system, but rather what Dawkins himselfs decides is their belief-system. A very good tactic if you want to be popular, a very poor tactic if you want to be honest.
What I personally find so interesting about Dawkins and his compatriots is that while they ridicule the religious believer as ignorant, unenlightened and regressive, they themselves are on the verge of a complete demographic catastrophe of fantastical proportions. It is no exaggeration to state that unless the Dawkinites of the world start reproducing, there won't be many of them left in 30 or 40 years. On the other hand, the ignorant, unenlightened, and regressive souls keep making more souls. So for Dawkins, who considers religious belief to be inherently irrational and destructive, it must be a harsh reality to accept that for every atheist who dies, 10 theists are born.
This demographic crisis threatening the Secularist/atheist 'culture' calls into question a great deal of the claims made by the likes of Dawkins. If religious (Christian) belief is so irrational, why has it been so efficacious? Which is more irrational, a species willfully killing itself off, or a species struggling to adapt, survive, and prosper? Which is more irrational, a belief that all life has a purpose, or that all life is ultimately meaningless? Which is more irrational, the idea that all has been made by a Creator (which has yet to be witnessed), or the idea that all has been made from primordial soups and meaningless, unguided mutation (which has yet to be witnessed either)? That Dawkins' philosophy fails to offer any serious response to any of these questions makes the atheist birth deficit all the more understandable. While these questions I listed are basic, they are also intrinsic to humanity. Every successful culture and civilization has been able to provide at least a sufficient answer to the questions of human orgin; in fact as we know from the Christian and Islamic cultures, it is by having rational answers to these questions that civilizations are able to thrive and last.
To be sure, Secularism and atheism are not dead. Europe, Russia, Asia and North America are currently dominated by these philosophies, right the way down to our education systems. Even more to the point, Secularism and atheism are waging what could possibly be their final campaign in the culture wars that have so devastated Western culture for the past 200 years. At least this Christmas, when we're all fighting to be able to say 'Merry Christmas' in a department store, we might be able to take some solace knowing that it is not unlikely that our children's children will not have to do the same.
Tuesday, October 31, 2006
Sponsored by Pro-Life Groups of BC.
Being dupped is usually hard for the ego, but this time I was more than happy about it.
Monday, October 30, 2006
I think I need to tone it down.
So lately I've been addicted to the series Battlestar Galactica. It's not a masterpeice by any means, but it has breathed new life into science fiction. Scifi, as I know well, has generally sucked since Picard hung up his shiny, pointed boots and Riker went back to Alaska to grow his beard and go spear-fishin' with Deanna & Worf. Battlestar Galactica (BSG from now on) attempts to make scifi more realistic, more of our time in terms of style and custom than try to dream up a completely fantastical world of aliens and laser beams.
Briefly stated, BSG follows the last survivors of humanity who, after having their homeworlds completely destroyed by a race of hyper-intelligent robots on their own creation, are in search of the legendary 13th colony, Earth. The problem is that the characters in the show are very human and spend a lot time doing very human (read stupid) things. Reason it seems, even in an age of grand techonological advancements, stills gets chucked out the window when it becomes inconvenient. One of the last scientists, a certain Dr. Baltar, has hallucinations of a female robot to whom he allowed access into humanity's defense computers and thus is indirectly responsible for the nuclear slaughter of billions of people. Ex-president Roslin exploits religious belief when it suites her, then drops it when it mandates a more unpopular, however necessary, course of action. Everyone has a problem: promiscuity, selfishness, pride, alcoholism, infidelity, depression and so forth.
The allure of BSG comes from the humanity of the characters. There isn't a Captain Picard who, between trips to the holodeck, never makes a poor decision. Instead, when people make a mistake and others die, you know it. People get upset and hold grudges. Characters react and change. It may be scifi, but it feels very believable. Credit is due to the writers who recognized the problems of modern-scifi and addressed them neatly in this well produced and acted series.
With that out of the way, maybe I can finish those other posts.
Thursday, October 19, 2006
Monday, October 16, 2006
So how about our West?
Aside from a few sensible men and women working in the popular media, most commentary has been contra the Pope's Regensburg message; in fact most commentary has been reactive, incoherent, and often vicious. Fr. Neuhaus at First Things notes the commentary follows the established norms: When a Catholic makes a Catholic statement, attack him because of his Catholicism. Intrinsic to this norm is the idea that for honest discussion to occur, one must rid themselves of any idea that one's own position is superior, or even simply 'more correct' than the other's. To be honest, it doesn't strictly apply to Catholics, but it tends only to be exercised when the Catholic position on any given issue is publicly stated.
Tersely stated, there are a lot of problems when two participants in a conversation pretend their, for instance, own epistemological and ontological differences do not exist. I need not delve into example to illustrate this, but you can imagine how effective a Supreme Court Council would be if each judge 'rid themselves' of their normative understandings whilst making a conciliar judgement.
Thursday, October 12, 2006
When I finished elementary school in 1995, we hadn't had a recycling rally for about 3 years. I suppose the excitement was tied in with the then optimistic understanding of the Rio Convention, a UN sponsored meeting which would discuss and hopefully resolve the environmental problems of the entire world. By 1995 however, Rio was deemed to be a failure by most, it's most important contribution to environmental conservatism was the term 'sustainable development' and popularizing the idea of biodiversity. The problem with Rio, and all other international environmental law, was that there was no way to make the states participating actually follow through on their commitments. Why should a state, the argument goes, risk its financial assets because of the looming extinction of tree frogs in the Amazon whom few had even heard of before? Unless there was some sort of international body with some authority, few states were and are wiling to independently risk economic strain for the sake of the environment.
Rightfully, this is a sad situation. States are comprised of people, and people need a healthy environment to be healthy themselves. Pollution and waste go against common sense. For the sake of our children and our world, we need to engage in radical environmental conservatism.
But here's the sticker: How can a society which rejects social conservatism embrace environmental conservatism? Both require sacrifice for the good of the community, and naturally authentic expressions of both are rather unpopular. Being socially conservative requires a massive amount of self-honesty and criticism, as does being authentically environmentally conservative. One cannot protest the deforestation of British Columbia's forests while using condoms and pharmaceutical birth control, both recently discovered to be extremely harmful to our water supplies, without firmly cementing themselves on the patchouli steeped plateau of low-brow hypocrisy. For some reason I'm reminded of the unfortunate theif, Svend Robinson.
In effect we have a grand problem, for this type of hypocrisy is natural to us all. It is harder to practice abstinence than it is to compost your leftover spaghetti or cut back on paper use at the office, yet the two sacrifices are interrelated and interdependent. Making the personal sacrifice requires an acceptance of imperfection, a realization of authority and a proper understanding of autonomy. I have not adopted social conservatism because it makes life easier for me, and nor does the other adopt environmental conservatism because it makes life easier for him. This decision comes for accepting my own responsibility to ensure the safety and sanctity of myself and the other. Likewise for proper environmentalism, it too stems from the same sources. Anything else is shallow and incapable of effecting actual change and improvement.
Friday, October 06, 2006
Whose democracy, Bill?
Our's or your's? Canada's or the Liberal Party's?
Thursday, October 05, 2006
For the fifth biggest city in North America, one would think it natural to be home to several, or at least one, successful sports franchise. But let me qualify first: by successful, I do not mean in the financial sense - I am talking about real sporting success, glory and prestige. There was a time, the early 1990s, when 2 of the then 3 major sports teams in Toronto were successful. The CFL's Argonauts had just won a Grey Cup and held a monopoly on talent. The Blue Jays ended up claiming two Pennants in a row, unheard for a 'provincial' team in major league baseball. Even the Leafs re-emerged as a force in the NHL after years in the wilderness. Things were looking up.
But things, they fell apart. The owners of the Argos moved on and so too did all the talent. Baseball was shattered by a player's strike, effectively killing off the Montreal Expos, bankrupting the Blue Jays, and forever ruining that sport's once illustrious image as 'America's pastime'. Our only hope was the now serious Toronto Maple Leafs, a team finally ready to live up to its history and potential. Sadly, as every Canadian knows, no such renewal happened. After a few almost-there years for the Leafs, things began to take a turn for the worse. It's been over ten years since Pat Burns left Toronto, a departure which marked the end of those halycon days of reckless optimism. Things marginally improved under Pat Quinn, who is by all accounts a serious hockey coach, but his tenure was always overshadowed by unpopular signings and tactics. When he was replaced by Paul Maurice this past spring, there were few who shed any tears, let alone paused for a bit of nostalgic reflection.
Maybe things are looking up. 'Pinball' Clemens seems an amicable fellow whose passion for Canadian grid-iron is infectuous. Ted Rogers appears willing to match payrolls with the gluttonous Yankees and Red Sox. Paul Maurice appears to have realistic goals, making it clear that this season will be one of youth and tactical experimentation, rather than veterans and 'dump n' chase'. Maybe in a year I could be blushing at the overwhelming success of the Toronto Sports Franchise.
Or maybe not.
Wednesday, October 04, 2006
In conversations with other pro-lifers, I do hear the Conservative Party frequently bashed for not having an anti-abortion mandate. Some otherwise socially conservative Canadians even refuse to vote for them, since, as they say, they are in effect no different than the Liberals or the NDP on this issue. This is a mistake. The Conservative Party, whatever its faults (and they are many), remains the only party with a chance to form government who is at the very least willing to talk with the pro-life movement. Contrast that with the NDP, Liberals or Bloc, who have aggressively demonized any opposition to abortion as anti-women's rights for the past 25 years. Energies are better thus spent turning the Conservatives authentically pro-life rather than jumping ship to another political party simply because they decided not to adopt a specifically anti-abortion position during the last federal election. For better or for worse, the Conservative way remains our best chance of advancing the pro-life movement to corridors of the Commons. It's time we accepted that.
Proponents of euthanasia and abortion tend not to frame their argument as such, but that's the gist of it. Usually we hear them speak of personal freedom, mercy, a right to choose and a right to die. Superficially, it all seems very reasonable. Shouldn't we have the ability to decide when we die, or to decide what happens within our bodies? Isn't opposition to abortion and euthanasia simply another right-wing restriction designed to stifle one's natural inclinations toward killing small children, the infirm, the disabled, and the old?
In the face of brief scrutiny, the pro-choice and pro-euthanasia arguments decay rather quickly. Each argument rests upon the assumption that things will be worse if the person in question does not die. Seldom discussed is the courageous woman who put up with peer condemnation for not choosing to terminate her pregnancy and raised an international and NHL hockey star. One never hears about the unfortunate woman in Australia who killed herself in front of a group of supporters, thinking she had terminal cancer, only for the autopsy to discover the opposite. In the view of the pro-death movement, these are mere aberrations: abortions and suicides are always the right thing to do. There are no mistakes - just move on. Rinse & repeat. Die, die, die.
Tuesday, October 03, 2006
I first finished The Cube and the Cathedral by George Weigel. For anyone who hasn't read a Weigel book, I suggest you do so: his prose is smooth and accessible making for an efficient read. In brief, this particular book is a collection of essays in which Weigel explores the current cultural crisis afflicting the West. This crisis is 'best' embodied in the dramatic decline of birth rates in Western Europe, an increasing democratic deficit, and an ahistorical understanding of Europe's philosophical roots. For Weigel, these are the symptoms of Western Europe's surgical removal of Christianity from its public philosophy. Radical laicism in Europe, which to me seems to share the same goals as the radical secularism of North America, has stripped an entire society of its historical, Christian roots. Exemplified especially by recent developments within the EU, most especially during the drafting of the now failed European Constitutional Treaty, the elite circles of Europe are dominated by the philosophy that Christianity is necessarily divisive and primitive, and that it must be sacrificed for the future health of Europe. Ironically, says Weigel, while most of Europe's leaders trumpet this belief, the continent, in fact the whole of Western European culture is decaying at such a rapid pace that there may well be no Europe in 50 years as we know it today. Thus enter Christianity. For Weigel, and most Catholics I might add, Christianity offers the sound philosophical and moral base any culture requires to survive. By cutting off people from Christianity, European leaders deprive them of the very basis of their own understanding of human rights, democracy, and the social welfare state. Obviously, a tree doesn't grow without its roots. Weigel ends the book by discussing the probable future of Europe, which he narrows down to three alternatives. I won't spoil it any further.
I then proceeded to finish off Rabbi David Dalin's The Myth of Hitler's Pope. It's popular assumption these days that the Catholic Church did nothing during World War 2 to stop the Holocaust/Shoah of 6 million Jews. James Carroll, John Cromwell (pre-repentance), David Goldhagen, Susan Zucotti, and Garry Wills have all made a tidy living recently off slamming Pope Pius XII, alleging a connection between the murderous Nazi persecution of Europe's Jewry and the Roman Pontiff. Dalin, like Rychlak, Doino and a host of others, debunks these allegations en masse. Drawing from primary sources, Dalin shows that every single claim made against Pope Pius XII is false, indeed baseless. In doing so, he exposes a rather depressing tendency of the liberal media to uncritically accept any claim made against Pope Pius XII. As it turns out, virtually all of the allegations are based upon secondary, and usually unsubstantiated, sources - typically interviews and anecdotes. Critics of the Catholic Church, according to Dalin, ignore the massive amount of primary literature which exonerates rather than implicates Pius XII. For Dalin, such ignorance is not innocent. He charges Carroll et al., with attacking the Pope simply because they harbour resentment toward the Catholic Church's teaching. Coming from a Jew, this is a serious claim. Dalin concludes by examining current trends of anti-Semitism and their relation to anti-Catholicism. As it turns out, it is not within Christendom that anti-Semitism is rife, but within Islam. The governments of Egypt and Saudi Arabia produce millions of pages of anti-Jewish propaganda every year, while several Islamic leaders have made public their hatred toward Jews. Dalin fears that anti-Semitism is endemic to Islam because of several passages within the Koran which explicitly attack and denounce Jews. This leads Islamic scholars to accept otherwise false claims, such as those envinced by the phony conspiracy book The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, as true. Troubling stuff.
Finally, I read Joseph Bottum's When the Swallows Come Back to Capistrano, in this month's edition of First Things. It is a short essay on the death of American Catholic culture after the Second Vatician Council. Bottum seems to yearn for a return to the Catholic culture of the 1950s and earlier, the culture that was so easily destroyed by the confusion and indifference of the Vatican 2 generation. Sure, there are some surviving cultural bastions such as the pro-life movement, but as Bottum shows, virtually everything else was replaced by utter nonsense. For me and my generation, who all lack a 'Catholic cultural' reference point, all the post-Vatican 2 hooplah does seem extremely silly and increasingly tedious. And in this respect Bottum hits the nail right on the head: younger Catholics don't care about the previous generation's divisions. Though I wouldn't call it a rebellion against a rebellion, there certainly is an element of revolution when the new generation of Catholics categorically rejects much of the 'Spirit of Vatican 2' reform.