Tuesday, October 31, 2006

The Ugly Package

Late one night last week, I watched a bizarre commercial for the website optionsbc.com. It shows several young women from a variety of backgrounds vocalizing their concerns over their unexpected pregnancy. It all feels very... pro-choice, especially when the website name is flashed at the end of the commercial. After watching it, I was indignant. It so effectively gave a pro-choice message that I very nearly missed the small print at the bottom of the screen during the commercial's last few seconds:

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 Just Can't Finish It [edit: yes I can]

For the past 2 weeks I have had about 5 or 6 long, and I mean long, posts on the verge of making to the blog. Yet for some reason, I just can't bring myself to finish any single one of them. I've been thinking a lot about Marian apparitions and devotions, faith and reason, and other topics of great interest to me. But after six or seven paragraphs, I find myself floundering.

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

Quote of the Week

Christianity, and nothing else, is the ultimate foundation of liberty, conscience, human rights, and democracy, the benchmarks of Western civilisation.

Jurgen Habermas. 2004

Monday, October 16, 2006

More Neutral Than I am Smart

Over at Suzanne's blog, I read that several Muslim scholars are embracing Pope Benedict's call for honest, religious dialogue. With all the nonsense that has followed the Regensburg Moment, it is refreshing to find sources capable of critical and open discussion, especially admist all the strife and extremism dominant in much of Islamic society today.

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

Love thy Shrub: The Woes of Environmental Conservatism

When I was in elementary school, recycling was a grand idea destined to solve Canada's waste problems. The entire school would cram into our small gym, and our herioc teachers would provide demonstrations on how to crush cans, remove paper labels, and read recycling symbols. It was all very envigorating for us children; here we were, the future generation, sacrificing our compulsion to litter. The world was going to be a better place.

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

Bill Graham, Liberal of the Year

Bill Graham, interim leader of Canada's naturally corrupt party, had some not very nice things to say about Darrel Reid, Environment Minister Rona Ambrose's new chief of staff. Graham started out by criticizing Reid for his views on the dubious 're'definition of marriage, Quebec separatism, and violence within Islam. Criticism is something Canadians and politicans are used to; it's a fact of life within our democracy. One cannot expect to enter the political arena and not have his opinions trashed by his opponents - to do so would be incredibly naive. But Bill Graham, operating as a true Liberal, took his criticisms one step further. According to Bill, Mr. Reid's beliefs are 'an affront to our democracy'.

Whose democracy, Bill?

Our's or your's? Canada's or the Liberal Party's?

Thursday, October 05, 2006

For Everyone's Information

I've decided to link permanently to the definitive John Jay report done on clergy sexual abuse in the United States. I don't think I need to explain my reasons behind doing so.

The Autumn of our Discontent

So far my posts have all been of a serious nature; abortion was discussed yesterday, anti-Catholicism the day before, and the pains of planning a marriage on Monday. I'd like today to talk about something even more serious: the plight of the Toronto Sports Franchise.

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


I just read some comments over at First Things about my Prime Minister's position on abortion. I like to think that abortion, completely unrestricted in Canada, is an unpopular issue and that a government would have no trouble introducing limitations based up the age of the child and parental notification. But it looks like I'm just optimistic. As Fr. de Souza points out on christianity.ca, Harper has absolutely no intention of initiating an abortion debate. To be frank, I don't blame him. The Conservative Party already suffers daily at the hands of our socially far-left media on the topics of same-sex marriage, gun control, Afghanistan and Kyoto; abortion then seems an unnecessary risk.

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.

Abortion continued

Thinking about abortion has me also thinking about euthanasia. I don't personally see how one can go without the other for long. If society decides killing is admissible for no reason other than inconvenience, then the two are natural bed-fellows. It matters little how young or how old you are, if you're a certain type of pain in the ass to someone, you'd better be ready to die.

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

The Crisis of Europe, Debunking Papal Myths, and the Collapse of American Catholic Culture

Thanks to Green Bay's impotent offense and defense, I was able last night to catch up on some reading.

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.

Mah-ree-ahj (marriage)

I think I've heard it said that marriage is harder for a man.

What a stupid thing to say.

Anyone who has planned a wedding knows it is seldom the husband-to-be who struggles in the trenches against the encroaching enemy forces. No, for the husband-to-be, planning a wedding is a predominantly supporting role. We provide the moral, pyshcological, and emotional support to our wife-to-be, while she dodges bullets, trying to make everyone happy. Sometimes our support is so woefully lacking that the wife-to-be feels alone and isolated. That's not what I'd call easy.

Joseph and Mary had a much rougher time and look how they turned out. Joseph suffered public shame for marrying a younger, pregnant woman. But even this, in an ancient Jewish society, pales in comparison to the stuggles Our Holy Mother had to accept and overcome. Mary, the human par excellence, quite literally sacrificed everything in her life for God and her marriage. Lest I not forget Joseph, husband par excellence, was there in unwavering support. So far, Andrea and I have not had any visits by archangels, no public criticism, no threats against our first born. Our difficulties, when put into prespective, are rather minor.

Monday, October 02, 2006

World Youth Day 2008

As if you didn't know, the World Youth Day 2008 is in Sydney, Australia. Cardinal George Pell, a bishop I admire a great deal, was instrumental in bringing Catholicism's second largest function to a often forgotten corner of Christendom, much like Cardinal Joachim Meisner was for Koln in 2005.

I had the opportunity to work in Koln for WYD 2005. I was one of 3 dozen poor souls sentenced to 2 weeks hard labour in the registration centre in the Koelnmesse. Everyday we started with a group prayer, some readings and a few hymns. It was all put together by our selfless supervisor, Remco, a Dutch seminarian whose contact information I have sadly lost. Because of those moments of prayer, we were able to manage the extra 100,000 people our centre had to service because of an email malfunction.

WYD's have come under intense scrutiny from sources within and outside the Church. Der Spiegel, the German equivalent of Time Magazine, estimated the conference would be a colossal waste of money. Hans Kung claimed it was little more than a concert. Ultramontain Catholics called it a hub of licentiousness, an expression of superficial religiosity at best. For me and my fiance, it was a key part of our return to Christ. I met many people whom I now consider dear friends. I was able to discuss Mary one night with a seminarian from Brazil, an Italian, and a Lithuanian. I talked with many non-Catholic men and women about what it now means to be a Christian in a non-Christian society. I prayed the daily office. I learned about Taize, Opus Dei, the Neo-Catechumenate Way, Communio et Liberatio, and the Fransican Sisters of the Renewal. I confessed my sins with a Malaysian priest. I don't think I'd get the same from any concert or cesspool of debauchery.

What you knew but they didn't

So apparently the BBC television program, Panorama, has discovered secret Vatican documents that discuss how a bishop should handle sexual abuse cases. Some of us might think it old news, or not news at all, since the actual documents were written and published publicly in 2001. Some more of us might even think the reporting by Panorama horribly inaccurate and inexcusable, especially from a source a top 'the commanding heights of culture' or that promulgating a vicious lie might actually cause serious problems for a large minority in Britain. The documents in question outline a number of procedures a bishop must follow in the event of several possible transgressions, including sexual impropriety by a priest or religious person. None of those procedures are secret or evasive, but why let annoying facts upset a juicy story? How else will Panorama justify its budget?

First Post

So yea, this is my blog. It's going to focus on issues Catholic, social, and political. I hope this could one day become an arena for other Catholics in Canada to share ideas and endure each other's opinions.

A few details about myself:

I'm 24, but soon to be 25.

I'm getting married in December.

I live in Victoria, BC.

I have my undergraduate degree in Political Science (flush goes the money).

I work for a small company.

I'm a fan of West Ham FC, Toronto sports teams, the Green Bay Packers, and philosophy in the Catholic tradition. It should also go without saying that my favourite philosopher is St. Augustine.