Friday, February 29, 2008

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Why did you leave the Church

Kathy Shaidle has linked to a post on Deacon's Bench about people leaving the Catholic Church. The stimulus is the recent Pew Study that showed that the Catholic Church in America had the highest representation among those who had left the faith of their birth/youth. So what makes people leave? Deacon Greg Kandra, who blogs at Deacon's Bench, says it's other people:

"No, what drives people away is often something far simpler and, in a way, far more sinister.

It's other people.

It's the priest who condescendingly tells a grieving daughter, after her mother's funeral, "Now you can really grow up. You know, we never truly become adults until after our parents die."

It's the deacon who refuses to anoint a baby at a parish baptism because the family arrived late.

It's the pastor who won't take the time to listen to a teenage girl's problems because "it's just hormones."

These are real examples from people I know -- and the people who experienced them walked away from the local parish and, eventually, the Catholic Church. There are many other factors that contribute to religious alienation, I know. But, like the woman at the well in last Sunday's gospel, people are thirsty. What are we giving them to drink?"

I can agree to an extent, though I think the Greg Kandra and Kathy Shaidle are only partially correct. Certainly being offended by other parishioners, priests or other religious can play an influential role in where and how a person worships, but its far from the main cause. Of the people who've left, I imagine very few had what we could call 'serious religiosity', ie a developed relationship with Christ via an active prayer life, the Sacraments and Scripture. I recently had the misfortune to be told by a lay church steward that my confession wouldn't be heard because the priest had to leave early to prepare to say Mass with the bishop. That the fate of my soul could have been at risk never seemed to enter into the mind of this over eager baby-boomer Catholic, whose real interest was in keeping a schedule than helping other people live their faith. But despite this, and I was really pissed off, I didn't leave the Church. I didn't even leave the parish. I prayed about it, got over myself and moved on. According to Kandra however, most people would have:

"From my experience, most alienated Catholics have wandered away not because of dogma or doctrine, or even discipline. They're willing to live with the sometimes difficult teachings of the Church, even the ones with which they don't entirely agree. They're even willing to forgive (after a lot of prayer and teeth-gnashing and soul-searching) the financial and sexual scandals that seize the headlines."

Now there are a tiny minority of cases, such as those involving abuse, that undoubtedly move people away from the Church because of the heinousness of the act. Yet most of the complaints Deacon Greg Kandra lists are ones that we wouldn't quit our jobs over, or make us end friendships, or divorce spouses for. They are in fact a litany of petty gripes from people who were already only tenuously attached to their Catholic faith. I know that sounds harsh, but if you really believe the Catholic Church was founded by Christ and is the only way to know Him, you wouldn't leave even if your priest refused to have a funeral Mass for your Mexican mother because he didn't like ethnic minorities.

In my experience, which I admit is probably much more limited than both Shaidle's and Kandra's, is that people who have left the Church had mentally left long before their bodies did. All of my friends growing up, who were all baptised and confirmed Catholics, left the Church in their teen years because they didn't believe in Catholicism anymore. They left because they didn't agree with the Catholic position on sexual ethics, homosexuality, contraception, divorce and the rest of the usual suspects. For these folks, Catholicism had ceased to be normative, and thus had no personal relevance, so leaving had little to do with their respective interpersonal ecclesial experiences, and everything to do with how the faith was passed on to them.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Who was Tracy Latimer?

We all know who Robert Latimer is, the father who murdered his disabled daughter, but what about his daughter? Now that Latimer is being released from prison before completing his sentence, expect his crime to be discussed, glossed, and ultimately celebrated by our nation's media. Yet here's the telling thing - no one is discussing Tracy. Oh sure, there's a few paltry comments about her condition made whenever her murder is discussed, but we never ever learn anything about who she was. Why is that?

The problem with discussing Tracy, I think, is that by acknowledging her personhood we are forced to re-examine the traditional defence of Latimer. Latimer's defenders will say, and do frequently, that his crime was one of compassion, that his love for his daughter made him kill her. What this defence does is take the focus away from the victim and her inviolable human rights and move it to her father, the beleaguered farmer who just could not help but poison his own disabled daughter. When we look at Robert, we forget about Tracy, and we forget about the crime.

I shouldn't have to repeat this, but murder is murder all the time. Robert Latimer was not in 1993 an expert on cerebral palsy, nor is he now. He had no peculiar insight into the life of a person living with palsy anymore than I have insight into the life of a junky on the street. I wouldn't go suffocating herion-addicted junkies just because I thought they were suffering too much, and if I did I would end in jail for life. Latimer on the other hand decided he could suffocate his own daugther, and he's out of jail on parole. If Canadians think we can live in a peaceful and healthy society with such blatant contradictions, then they're going to be in for a very unpleasant surprise. Leben unwertes leben isn't just a 30's thing.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Vocations: 20 Best & Worst Dioceses in the USA

Catholic World Report has released its annual list of the 20 best and 20 worst dioceses in the United States for vocations. The grading is based upon the ratio between seminarians to lay Catholics in all 176 dioceses in the country.

The top 20: Lincoln, Juneau, Tulsa, Rapid City, Cheyenne, Duluth, Peoria, Denver, Wichita, Lexington, Tyler, Bismarck, Fargo, Nashville, Spokane, Pensacola-Tallahassee, Memphis, Mobile, Yakima, and Sioux City.

The bottom 20: San Diego, Honolulu, Metuchen, Las Vegas, Laredo, Los Angeles, New York, Hartford, El Paso, Rochester, Santa Rosa, San Antonio, Galveston-Houston, Rockville Centre, Boston, Syracuse, Detroit, San Bernardino, Reno, and Monterey.

There's a couple of things I've noticed about the study. One, it fails to take into account the massive number of Catholics in dioceses like New York, Boston and Los Angeles, three major immigration centres that will always have an extraordinarily high number of lay Catholics, but a lower number of vocationally religious Catholics. Two, the authors of the report admit that due to the volatility of seminarian life, ie being moved to different dioceses every six to twelve months, it is possible that the results could be wildly inaccurate. Take for example the two dioceses the report singles out: "The Diocese of Shreveport, for example, surged from 176th to 61st in the rankings between 2003 and 2006, while the Diocese of Lubbock declined from 9th to 121st." I haven't read through all of the report, and I'm no statistician, but I think there might be a problem with methodology as it doesn't appear that all factors, particularly those that would skew results, were taken into account.

That all said, it shouldn't be a surprise that certain cities are doing very well and others are, well, failing miserably. Even with its size, the diocese of Los Angeles, which is the largest diocese in the United States, should have a better ratio. But then most Catholics who are concerned with vocations probably already have a few ideas as to why Los Angeles isn't attracting many men to the cloth. Same with Boston, which may never recover from being the epicentre of the sexual-abuse crisis. New York probably will do better once Cardinal Egan is gone, who seems more interested in keeping his head down that following the path carved out by the great John Cardinal O'Connor. And it shouldn't surprise anyone that Spokane and Denver, with the ecclesial leadership those dioceses enjoy, are among the best in the country.

Friday, February 22, 2008

On the decriminalization of prostitution....

Lurking in the shadows since 2006, the prostitution debate is back. From what I've seen, the argument for decriminalization has yet to really change in the past two years: Legalize prostitution to protect women. Proponents generally argue that prostitution, when no longer a criminal act, can in fact benefit women financially, and that just as long as it is made safe and secure, the net result is positive for society as a whole.

There are several problems with this argument that I should first address. For starters, how to make prostitution 'safe and secure' is notoriously unclear, as there is no fool proof way to prevent the spread of STI's and guarantee the safety of the prostitute. Second, the number of 'successful' prostitutes is infinitesimal to the amount of 'unsuccessful' prostitutes, even in countries like Germany and the Netherlands that have decriminalization. Third, the creation of First World prostitution zones provides a legitimate outlet for human traffickers worldwide. There's a lot more to be said, but I'd like draw attention to the one person who isn't discussed: The john.

Pro-decriminalization folks virtually always speak of the woman, though rarely the john. It's assumed that via decriminalization john's will simply become 'better customers', more responsible, more clean, more discriminating. And that's the extent of it; the rest of the discussion is of the female 'sex worker'. So what of the john? It seems that proponents realize that discussing the john is to draw the debate away from its strengths and toward its fundamental weaknesses. The john represents the failure of an adult man. He pays for something he should, in a sense, earn through courtship, maturity, love and commitment. His 'yes' to paying for sex is simply another moral failure in that man's life. He will take his experience of paying for sex with him wherever he goes - to work, to school, and to home. Now imagine men having easy and quick access to prostitutes. Only the artlessly naive could ignore the clear societal implications of decriminalization.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

On the passing of Uncle Fidel...

Leftists, Communists and other douchebags are together in mourning today. It was announced just 24 hours ago that long serving dictator, party leader, ruthless murderer, imprisoner of innocents, sterilizer of dissidents, president of Cuba Fidel Castro was formally handing over control to his younger brother, Raul.

The CBC and CTV have wasted no time eulogized Castro's legacy. In sort of man bites dog sentimentality, both stations waxed nostalgic on the halycon days of Fidel's early Cuba, his continued defiance of the USA and common sense. CTV even ran the lede 'Castro, the man who outlasted nine presidents' in one of their stories. Nevermind that the US is a democracy and no president can serve more than 2 terms, whereas Fidel Castro refused even the smallest iota of actual political and social freedom, no, Fidel really was something special.

I obviously don't feel the same compassion toward Castro that my elders in the media and academia seem to. They say, collectively of course, that he introduced a strong health care system and raised literacy to close to 98% of the population. So it may be, but Castro also systematically murdered his political opponents, persecuted journalists, blacks, dissidents and homosexuals, and almost plunged the world into nuclear war. 1961 was a long time ago, but not that long.

So what portends for Cuba and Raul Castro? Hopefully the introduction of common sense. Cuba's economic stagnancy has to do with Castro's many failed economic plans rather than the US embargo, but the easing of the embargo would undoubtedly help. Democracy would reconcile the many Cuban expats, thus stopping the brain drain that has seen so many of Cuba's best and brightest flee the country for the muggy climes of Miami. To do these things would make sense for Raul, but then again, communists are not famous for the successes of their political and economic decision making. We'll just have to wait and see how much of a 'Fidel' Raul really is.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

No Steven Speilberg? Then get me his Mexican equivalent!

... so said Mr. Burns, and so say the organizers of the 2008 Olympic Summer Games. Spielberg, alas, did not drop out in protest of the many human rights violations committed by the PRC on a daily basis, rather because of the PRC's lack of action on the crisis in Darfur.

So it's noble, and should be applauded, but strangely removed the issue at hand: The People's Republic of China is the single most abusive state outside of Africa and the Middle East. It's obvious to anyone but a few idiots that the Olympics are an economic event, not a sporting one. Hence Moscow 1980 and Toronto 2008 that never was.

A few facts about China:

- In preparation for the Olympics, the Chinese government has been forcefully evicting people from their traditional homes, and displacing them into hastily constructed shanty-towns away from the international gaze.
- China is currently the world's leading producer of green house gasses, general air pollution, has 16 of the world's 20 most pollutant rivers, and promotes illegal deforestation in South East Russa.
- China enforces a one child per couple policy, enforces punitive measures against those who break this policy, such as jail and the removal of the excess children.
- The one child policy has lead to 25 million more Chinese males than females, since male Chinese workers make more than female Chinese workers.
- As a result of China's one child policy, the country faces a demographic crisis of such magnitude that it will likely erase all of China's ecomonic gains in the next half century.
- And finally, China is a Communist country.

If you can't resist the Olympics, then simply do your part by peeing on a PRC flag this October 1st.

Obama v. HRC

Obama is rolling and HRC is blowing steam. McCain has the nod from Romney, and it's only a matter of time before Huckabee negotiates the Veep for his social covservative shore up. This means the real story is no longer the lack of a decent Republican candidate (let's be honest, McCain is the candidate Republicans deserve, and he really isn't that bad) but the looming tete a tete between Obama and Clinton.

If Obama wins even one of the next major primaries, Wisconsin, Texas or Ohio, he will have an almost insurmountable lead. If Clinton wins all three, both her and Obama will be completely neck and neck. So what the DNC wants to make sure, no matter how the campaigns play out, is that a credentials debate does not occur. Credentials are arguably the Demcrats weakest link this election, with McCain having more political experience in sheer years than both Clinton and Obama combined. Even with Obama's ability to increase voter turnout, all his positives could be for naught if he can't explain to Democrats themselves why they should elect an unknown quantity over an established party leader.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Hello reality!

Remember to support Maclean's, Ezra Levant & Mark Steyn....

I haven't posted on the HR complaints against Maclean's, Levant and Steyn because I don't need to; read the sources yourself.

I will comment that I hope this is an issue Canadians of all political persuasions can agree is of the utmost importance. If we lose our freedom of speech, press and expression, we have effectively gifted the state a tyrannical amount of control. And we should remember that the reason why we have these freedoms enshrined in our society and in our constituions because we know that for a real, liberal democracy to exist, the state needs to be restrained.

Congratulations to Liberal MP Keith Martin, of Victoria no less, for recognizing the issue and acting on it. Keith, you're making the Conservatives look bad to their own party support - good politics!

Little Mosque on the Prairie...

... sucks.

Little House on the Praire was a good show if you liked mulleted pilgrims and sacchrine family moments. Little Mosque is a good show if you like living in a dream world where Muslim immigrants to Canada don't hate gays, women, Christians, Jews, and want to impose Sharia.

I admit that I've only watched a few episodes, so take my opinion with a grain of salt. I have however in my short life watched many hours of sitcom television of varying degrees of quality, so I think I can tell when a show is funny and original, or just plain original. Little Mosque excels on the originality - Muslims living like secularized lefty Christians - but fails horribly at the comedy. Jokes about reactionary Anglican priests (they exist?), reactionary town conservatives (they exisit?) and uber-liberal Mohammedeans (they exist?) can be funny I'm sure, but Little Mosque instead borrows it's comedy from all the boring sitcoms you forgot existed, like The Golden Palace and Flying High. I don't really understand what makes a couple hundred thousand Canadians watch Little Mosque, other than the unrequited boredom that has apparently taken over their lives.

:post script: Can someone explain to me how the cast of a show that presents Muslims as fully sercularized Canadians can lead a panel on diversity?

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

February: A bad time to be a Liberal/Progressive Christian

Two reasons not to be a liberal Christian:

(1) Archbishop Rowan Williams, head of the Anglican Church, 'explores' the inevitability of Sharia law in Britain. Somehow, Williams missed the fact that Anglicans in Nigeria are currently being persecuted under Sharia law, or maybe Williams knew but just didn't care. One hopes it's the former, but I can't help but think, with the behaviour of certain Anglican leaders in mind, that it could just be the former.

(2) Catholics in the Netherlands have decided to start calling Lent, 'Christian Ramadan'. Yea, that makes as much sense, both practically and theologically, as Dutch Bishop Tiny Mueskens wanting to call God 'Allah', to foster better relations between Christians and Mohammedeans. I feel for the 400,000 Dutch Catholics who actually still attend Mass on a weekly basis, but who must becoming inured to the outright stupidity of their ecclesial leaders.

I guess the positive side of the decay of liberal Christianity is it that it will eventually lead to Christian reunification. On the negative side... well, there's just too much to mention.

Giving up nothing...

... and wanting everything. It's a very popular way of approaching life in 21st Century Canada, if the article found here is anything to go by.

Other bloggers have associated this trend with our laxidaisical approach to other serious questions of adulthood, like abortion, birth control and drug use. I think there is a connection. You cannot expect people to accept the responsibility of, say, a mortgaged home with no equity, if you are telling them at the same time they can opt out of pregnancy and marriage if they think it is too difficult. We've been telling our teenagers for years that some decisions, which they themselves know are serious, aren't serious and generally consequence free. Should anyone be surprised that these teens, now grown adults, apply this logic to foreclosure?

Monday, February 11, 2008

Cult of Obama?

Obamania is heating up, and the First Things' blog takes notice. Stephen Webb illustrates some startiling similarities between Obama's followers, and the usual characteristics of cultists.

I'm generally quite critical of Obama supporters, and as much as I don't want to admit, there is a fanatical quality that most smitten Barry O supporters exhibit. In conversations, I've mentioned his lack of political record only to be told that there 'isn't a resume for being president'. I've asked Obamites how he will overcome his lack of experience, to hear that it's the advisors that shape a presidency, not the president. And lastly, I've quizzed them about his murky notion of new politics, as compared to his announced policy objectives, all of which simply tow the Democratic Party line, rather than call for an innovative, bipartisan, consensus based approach - to be told that these are indeed the new way.

The reluctance, better yet, refusal to address a question in an honestic and objective way usually belies an irrational attachment. Sure, within politics there's always going to be a bit of obtuseness coming from politicians and their followers, but it's usually only ever a case of a tiny minority. With Obamaniacs (zing!) it's different - everyone displays this same fanatical and illogical attachment. To be fair, there are lots of folks who think Obama is a better Democratic candidate than Hillary Clinton, and support his policies. But they're not the ones you run into on a day to day basis; you're much more likely to hear about his 'symbolic importance' and his 'new politics' and get a black eye for any unasked for inquiries.