Friday, December 22, 2006

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas!

I am taking the next 3 weeks off blogging because of Christmas and my wedding. I hope to make some small updates here and there, but most of my time will be spent with my family and my wife-to-be/wife, Andrea.

God Bless!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Newman Theological College & the Laity's Responsibility to Their Bishop.

When patching together my little post on Archbishop Tom Collins, I briefly mentioned that a friend of mine, while in the seminary, had good things to say of him. I didn't go on any further, because the 'good things' are to some 'bad things', and the 'good things' have something to do with rectifying problems brought about by a certain school's questionable theology program.

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

Merry Christmas, Elizabeth May!

I've never given much of my attention to the Green Party of Canada unless my studies forced me to. While I'm not necessarily against the Greens, I've always found the group to be populated by folks of a more, shall I say, adolescent mindset. Sure, environmentalism, as a general movement, is largely benevolent, but its the prevelancy and prominence of the Paul Ehrlichites that has always driven me away.

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

Call for Communion Rails

I don't know much about Catholic Church architecture, but I do know that most of our post-1950s churches are horrendously hideous in the aesthetic sense. Basic pews, basic sanctuary, basic sclupture, basic stained glass. My first church, Holy Rosary in Milton, Ontarion, was designed to represent a massive tent. If that weren't strange enough, the sanctuary was a maze of curved dry wall, resembling the turning sea rather than, well, a wall. I can't even remember if there was a crucifix in the whole building.

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

Coffee and Conversations on the Potential Changes to the use of Latin in the Liturgy

Post-Mass conversations with my parents usually cover the following topics:

- 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.

Tom Collins to be Archbishop of Toronto

According to the Toronto Star, CTV and the Diocese of Edmonton's website, Bishop Tom Collins has been named Archbishop of the arch-diocese of Toronto. Toronto was headed by Cardinal Ambrozic(sp?), who, at age 76, retired one year after the usual retirment age for priests and bishops.

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

Progress, Brother Comrades!

Soon to be declared a People's National Holiday, China's Communist leaders announced today that they have finally destroyed one of the last capitalist pig-dog-bastards left in the country: The River Dolphin. Long suspected of harbouring multi-party sentiments, promoting religious freedom, and generally being too bourgeois, the last Chinese River Dolphin was at last killed, effectively ending years of national anxiety.

One more important step toward the global revolution!

(Please remember this when you're watching the 2008 Olympics in Beijing)

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Multiculturalism is dead - Hello PCS!

Turncoat! Tony Blair has come out and smashed Britain's multiculturist social philosophy. Just 8 years ago, if you remember, Blair's Labour Party was the champion of multiculturalism. There was no group too small, too backward, too un-Western, too un-democratic, too anti-human rights, too sexually perverse; Britain, and more importantly, her money, was there for everyone and anyone. Lay down your burdens, wankers.

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

A Prayer Before Using the Internet

Written by Father John Zuhlsdorf.

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

Film Review: Apocalypto

5 out of 5 decapitated heads.
- Excellent Acting
- Excellent Sets & Costumes
- Excellent Story
(Not for the kids, though)

Plot Rundown:
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.
One of the last impressions Gibson leaves upon the viewer is the contrast between the family oriented forest villagers, and the powerful city dwellers with their jewels, shows, markets, and slavers. The villagers practice a peaceful religion (which bears, somewhat unrealistically, a semblance of Christian belief); the city dwellers practice a murderous religion. For the city dwellers, their salvation and success is achieved through the sacrifice of innocents. For the village dwellers, salvation comes from trust, rising above fear, and love. I'm reminded of Pope Benedict's Regensburg speech right about now.
I've read in several reviews that despite the name, Apocalypto contains no allusions or allegories to the Judeo-Christian Apocalypse. Oh, the press just doesn't get religion. Think about it: this film shows us a society which has began to prey upon the weak and innocent in a perverse venture to bring about material comfort. For many Jews and Christians, we now live in a society which is doing just that. To hell in a handbasket we go, as our leaders enforce population control upon us and the Third World. Still see no similarity? Well, the Judeo-Christian tradition predicts the Apocalypse will occur in such a way, as society slips into an unprecedented era of barbarousness. The big difference is, there will be no foreign barbarians to speed up the process - we have chosen our own babarians to do it for us.
(updated December 11, 2006)

Give me Your Scandal, and I'll Give you Directions to the United Church

A church in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, is a little less 'diverse' today. From the press reports, I gather that two gay men have left the Catholic Church after their Bishop told them that they could not receive the Eucharist as they are in a state of mortal sin. The men are outraged. The gay community is angst ridden. The CBC is absolutely livid. 'Fantabulous' has not been uttered in the church narthex for weeks.

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.

Wut Rilighin r Uw?

Polls are fun. It turns out I'm 100% Catholic. Thank goodness! I was worried for a bit.

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.

Roman Catholic


Evangelical Holiness/Wesleyan


Neo orthodox




Classical Liberal




Modern Liberal




Reformed Evangelical


Thursday, December 07, 2006

Books, Books, Books, and Married Male Bum Sex

It's been another lively week in Canada. First, Carleton University decides its students cannot oppose the abortion leviathan. Second, the House of Commons rejects the lameass motion by the Conservatives to discuss same-sex marriage. It's not every week that the public is grossly mislead and a little bit more of our liberal democracy dies. O Canada, home of the self-righteous, oppressive, and sexually deviant.

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.

Abortion 4: Update

According to Suzanne, the CUSA passed the motion to deny funding to the campus pro-life group, Carleton Lifeline.

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

Real Catholic Music!

What a great day.

Please visit the aptly named Choral Treasure website for some real, I mean real, Catholic music.

St. Louis Jesuits, Marty Haugen, David Haas and the rest, thank you for your footnote.

Abortion 3: CUSA vs. Liberal Democracy

Who else has been following the debate over at Carleton University on whether or not to ban, yes - ban, the student's pro-life group from the Student's Association. The ban will restrict the groups abilities to organize functions on the campus, prohibit the group from using any of the universities resources, and of course stop any funding it would have usually received.

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

Whenever I'm told by a peer that the 'same-sex marriage debate is over', I often wonder, what debate actually occurred? Can you recall a debate? What constitutes a debate anyway? When I've made the mistake of wondering aloud, I'm usually subjected to the usual brunt: Neo-con! Right-winger! American! Anti-Human Right(ist)! You know, the full gambit of highly original, liberal smears.

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

Oriental Praying

My how things change. Last week, and up to today, the media spent its ink discussing, ad nauseaum, how dangerous the Pope's Turkish visit and how frosty the Turk's reception of him would be. Too much ink, I venture to guess, because today's headlines are much different. Confounding our Western, and liberal of course, media, and his Islamist and Christian detractors, Pope Benedict prayed to East with an imam at Turkey's most famous mosque.

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.