Sunday, April 26, 2015

Twenty Years a Bishop

My long-time friend, my spiritual father, my supporter and inspiration, Archbishop Prendergast, had his twentieth anniversary yesterday as a bishop. Since we were both attending the Summit on the New Evangelization, I got to see him on his anniversary and wish him well in person.

The summit was awesome, not only because I got to tell lots and lots of people about the Catholic Review of Books, and actually sell some copies, but because of the amazing talks.

When its creator, my friend, Michael Dopp of Mission of the Redeemer Ministries, talked about how he slowly decided to undertake his bold idea for the Summit, he mentioned going to Archbishop Prendergast and asking whether he should do it. The Archbishop responded, "You have to do it."

Anyone who knows His Grace's episcopal ministry knows that he has been extraordinarily supportive of NET, CCO, Our Lady Seat of Wisdom Academy, and countless other Catholic initiatives. He has also been extraordinarily supportive of this lost cause, Colin "the Theologian."

This is all you could ever want in a bishop.

The bishop is tireless. He embarrasses me all the time by his energy. He is 30 years older than me.

He is a gentleman, a scholar, he loves his family, he never stops visiting his parishes and attending events in his diocese and abroad, he is faithful to his friends, he is uncompromisingly faithful to the Lord, in and out of season. Most of all, he has merited my unending respect, and I don't like anyone or anything.

Second of all, he has a great sense of humor and is unflagging in his hope that things can build up and not just fall down.

So, please pray for him on the occasion of his twentieth. He's had a lot of important milestone lately, like fifty years a professed Jesuit in 2013 and forty years a priest in 2012.

I think he knows how much he is appreciated. But just in case, please let him know.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Thoughts on Evangelization and Apologetics

As I am soon to head to a big evangelization conference in Ottawa, and as I continue on the work of the Catholic Review of Books (the next issue which focuses on books on this subject, due out soon), my thoughts understandably dwell on this.

When I was a new convert I had big plans on this. Not at very first, though. I didn't consider Catholicism as a religion or ideology or worldview, but as a philosophy, as the philosophy, to be discovered only after a pain-staking intellectual journey, like the one that I myself had been on. Then I began to think more in terms of converting 'commoners,' rather than intellectuals. I have to say now that I am beginning to be tempted back to my initial focus. And not so much on evangelization, but on cultivating Catholic culture as a gift to humanity, as a gift that allows one a glimpse of the truth of Christ.

Why? People have proven themselves altogether unworthy of truth and unresponsive to it. And I don't mean 'my truth.' I mean that people are altogether uninterested in deeper things, and unable to open their minds to the good in a way that can transcend their cultural assumptions, the 'culture' of that proceeds from the means of production.

Next to Jesus, Augustine, Paul, and some other great theologians, my great hero is Plato-Socrates. The hybrid name is for sake of historical accuracy, as we really don't know Socrates other than as he is interpreted by others. My hero is the Socrates of the Phaedo, Crito and Apology, etc. Really, this is Plato, is it not?

Plato or Socrates is my model for the sort of evangelization or culture-work to which my mind and heart are drawn.

I am very much the same person I was when I was twenty - for better or for worse. I feel like I have come full-circle, sans the optimism, sans the idealism.

Although I am now more than ever interested in 'high-culture' as they say, I am not interested in academia per se. I see it as a stumbling block toward evangelization, not an aid to it. This is the first significant admission I make here. Universities are hopeless institutions aimed at nothing more than consolidating the status quo. Not only have they failed to delay the secularization of the world and the death of the Socratic vision, they have positively facilitated its demise. Universities today - all of them - are incapable of anything else. They are institutions, not centers of culture. They are government institutions in the worst sense of the word. Thus, culture is opposed to academics, not to intellectualism, but to academics.

I have always believed that the more intellectually formed a Christian the better. I still believe this, but I once again have to insist that this not be identified with what goes on in a university.

I believe that I can do nothing better for my fellow-man, help him in no way more effectively to draw near to Christ, than with beauty, and not with an intellectual barrage of facts.

For a man, in its fullest flowering, beauty is the intellectual appreciation of the good. It is dwelling upon it and appreciating it and seeking to understand its significance. It is not about proving who is right, it is about seeing the higher thing.

How do we do evangelization this way? I will posit that Flannery O'Connor has done more for the evangelization of the American mind than any bishop has, than has even Cardinal Dulles or Fr. R. J. Neuhaus.

Can you love a poem?

This might strike you as a strange question, but it evokes the essential problem we face today as evangelists.

The greatest pleasures I have enjoyed in recent weeks have included reading Tennyson and Keats. I loved In Memoriam by the former, and Ode to a Nightengale and La Belle Dame Sans Merci by the latter. Also, I have loved some homilies by St. Basil - and it was not necessarily their intellectual content, but the manner in which this fine content was mixed with an unbelievably pleasing style that gave me such joy.

Can you love a poem?

A)Who reads poetry today?

B) Who takes Socrates seriously?

C) If you cannot and do not do these two things, can you love Christ?

If not (A) and (B), then not (C).

Why would I say such a thing? Poems are beautiful, Christ is beautiful. Socrates teaches the utter importance of right reason, Christ's is the life lived fully in accord with right reason. (Right reason is moral truth, life lived in accordance with the principles of nature; the practical intellect, in Kant's terms.)

All who have turned to Christ in the past have loved poems and Socrates. Western Civilization is based on the love of poems and Socrates. It cannot exist otherwise.

Now, there is a principle in evangelization, which roughly translates (after I have removed the offensive dangling preposition), you must take people where they are.

If people do not love poems and Socrates, you must simply accept that if you are to evangelize them.

False! There is something wrong with them if they do not love poems and Socrates. You cannot ask a color-blind man to look at this green thing if he cannot also look at that green thing.

Now, what are the implications of all of this? I will have to write again later.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

He is Risen and He Gives us Strength

Not much going on these days worth mentioning, other than the continual persecution of the true Faith by Muslims and homosexualists.

As to the latter, in light of all that has come out recently vis a vis the Indiana fracas, what can I say other than this is all good. As homosexualists begin to shed their false claim to victimization and become the persecutors, they cannot but loose their hold on fanciful thinking. Although I have little faith in modern man, the fact is, once they shed their image as a persecuted minority and begin to assert their absolutist designs, the lazy voter will change his view of them from harmless and vulnerable innocent to ideological extremist. This will be a switch like that which communism underwent as a movement in defense of the poor and exploited to those of revolutionary extremists. People were slow to catch on then, and they are now too. But the point remains: despite the case that, for instance, Nazis made for the 'proper Teutonic' interpretation of the Bible, it failed to convince everyone. And although I am sad to see otherwise smart Christians catch on to the nefarious character of the homosexualist movement, it will not convince all. In the 1930s and 40s it was pounded into German Christian heads that Nazism and Christianity were completely amenable to each other, and that Christianity really meant to teach the same things Hitler was teaching. Now we have a NYT editorial saying that Christianity's position on homosexuality is just the erroneous aggregation of scattered texts. Just the tactic the Nazis employed: what Christianity really meant to say is... you know that kind of thing.

I am most disappointed in people who still tend to think that the issue is about reaching out to marginalized homosexuals. Kind of like talking about marginalized Muslims. Yes, there are marginalized homosexuals and Muslims, but that is quite beside the point. Christians are being, killed, fine and jailed. Why don't you stop apologizing for the persecutors of your Christian brothers? It is because you think that peace is possible. It is not possible. Christ and the devil cannot agree. And you simply have to accept that homosexualists are dangerous extremists who would treat Christians just like the Nazis and the communists did if and when they have the chance. Don't let history make a fool out of you.

And you know what, Nazis needed jobs and love and so did Stalinists. But they would still kill you. People are free and they can make their choices. The moment they decide to make your religion illegal is the moment you should stop defending them and start fighting back. It doesn't matter that they had a hard life up to that point. They are now making a decision and they need to be dealt with when they chose to infringe on us.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

The New Church of Externals

It finally dawned on me, how to articulate my dismay at the papacy, the College, the Synod, their journalists. Since Vatican II - though with an extended hiatus from 1978 to 2013 - modernity is obsessed with externals, and so too all of these ecclesiastical entities I have listed.

Okay, this is just here for a cheap laugh.
Vatican II is known for two things in general: reform of the liturgy and statements about socio-political things. The liturgy is about seeing now. And statements are about seeing. Statements and policies are not about doing things, they are about saying things, that is, about telling others that your views are in ascendancy.

I am not saying that statements have no purpose at all, as Arch. Cordelione is proving at this moment. He is teaching completely secularized people about Church teaching. I am saying, however, that statements and reform of liturgical forms are the law not the spirit, and that is not what real Christians are concerned about.

When was the last time Pope Francis fans talked about his teaching on prayer? No, they talk about his potential changes of policy. They talk about what he does on the outside, not on the inside.

Are modern people incapable of understanding that there is a spiritual life and that, in light of it, external realities, those things represented by the policies they obsess over are, these things are ridiculously irrelevant?
The Christian ideal:
"I came that they might have life and have it abundantly."

Policy is a surrogate spirituality. It turns the soul made to travel the spiritual heights of the heavens into a bureaucrat.

Even liturgy has turned from the place of signs of spiritual realities into reality itself. The form has become the matter.

In a sense, what is lost, what is gained, in fights with the UN, Trudeau, Obama and Wynne is irrelevant. Christians will not obey evil and false things. I am not saying do not oppose these things. I am saying that these are not life itself. Life is what occurs in the freedom of the soul, not on paper, not in the colour of t-shirts worn on 'support gay-bullies day,' Making things legal or illegal does not change the reality of things. It merely amuses superficial, small-minded materialistic people.

So next time you see someone like this, say to them "Oh, poor superficial, small-minded materialist. I hope some day you discover that there is a bigger world inside of you than can ever be amused with words, statements and policies."

And, for the love of the Holy One of Israel, do not become like them. Your life has open to it an infinitely vast spiritual horizon, where you can enjoy the light and love of God Himself! Why be content with policies and statements when you can have that?!

The most important thing we can do for the world is tell people that this reality exists.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Epistemology Part Two

I posted the last post while things were still revolving around in my head, and I seemed to be able to get out to my consciousness what I had in mind now:

What bugs me about people (of almost every stamp) is how they look at knowledge as a field less vast or an ocean less deep than it really is.

Also, people make conclusions about life's big matters casually and then insist on these conclusions stringently.

They don't take moral and intellectual formation seriously enough. In fact, people have never been so ignorant about basic morality and have never had such a weak hold on logic than they do today even as post-secondary education proliferates.

People follow fads. They are die-hard environmentalists for now. Die hard homosexualists for now. These are great illustrations of what I have been complaining about. The fact that the majority of people switched from pro-traditional marriage to pro-gay marriage so quickly is not a sign of evolution or development (if, so, how what caused this? someone telling you that what you had previously taken for granted was completely false, and you put up how reasoned a defense in reply?); it is a sign that people go with the flow and believe whatever sounds right at any given point in time.

Is originality a virtue or a vice? It can be both.

As a vice; novelty, baseless, random, no dialogue with greater tradition, aims at scandalizing rather than stimulating thought.

As a virtue: an expression of one's dialogue with God; it is creative, like God is creative.

When one looks at the world around us, one does not see reason and intelligence. One sees people believing and doing things for no good reason. They think they have good reasons, but they can't really explain them nor would they respond intelligently to reasoned persuasion to the contrary. People are preoccupied with goods of a very low order.

People are infinitely manipulable and do not seek out first order goods, nor are they capable of questioning the status quo. I have an inborn habit of expecting more from people. I am so often disappointed.

It's the most glaring things that are really bothersome:

people voting for rich politicians because they believe these rich politicians care about people.

rich people flying about on airplanes to give talks about global warming

using the word tolerance as a hammer to beat others into submission

buying things that cannot ever be paid for

rights without responsibilities

Now, the reason why 'the dress' brought up all this bile from my innards was that I could not believe how people could talk about a picture like that. Surely people are aware of optical illusions, the way light changes the appearance of things? Hey, turn the lights out and things blacken! I promise you, it's true! So, was this in anyway a serious debate to anyone?

What the heck is going on here, dudes? How is that half of a pen floating above the water like that!

Sunday, March 1, 2015

The Dress as Epistemological Symbol

Evangelists are educators. Converts are evangelists. That's pretty self-evident to someone who actually chooses the Faith for reasons other than marriage, friends, music or political preferences. I became Catholic because I was convinced it was the truth - it was the Church that carried on Christ's teaching, that embodied His power (somehow), and that was historically linked to Him. Since I didn't really get the sacraments and the idea of grace at the time, it was the first and third factors that meant the most to me as a seventeen-year-old.

As for the first, it wasn't that the Church had the truth of God bound up in handy and assimilable creedal statements (sure it did, but that wasn't so important to me) as much as it was the right philosophical school for knowledge of God. It's one things to look at the truth, it's quite something more to understand it and have it transform you. I still believe this and live my life accordingly. Thus, I am always a little cynical when I hear someone implying that all the Church's problems would be solved with good catechesis. Sure, that'd help, but not do more than help.

The problem is, someone like me will always be frustrated by what I would call 'Socrates' Problem.' The fact is, nobody but Socrates really cares about the truth like Socrates does. (I fell in love with philosophy via Plato, and so that's why I call it this.) No one will love the truth as deeply, consider it more imperative for action, consider it less a simple matter (ever consider it exhaustible).

Politics is all about thought-control today. It wasn't always this way. It used to be about money, simply. There were times when it was simply about pedigree. There were times when it used to be simply about martial valor. ISIS is living in the past by trying to return it to martial valor. Sure, they have more valor than Obama, but so too do most soccer moms.

You can't read an article without noticing that it's all about perception and control of ideas. The ultimate victory of Wynne and her ilk is to change education to favor her kind of ideology. In the US they fight over how American history is taught.

Even in the Church we obsess over education. I don't have a problem with this per se. What I have a problem with is the totalitarian framework we have adopted from secular society (who in turn got it from the Marxists, who in turn got it from the Enlightenment). Globalism, totalism, programs, policies. This mindset is not only an assault on communities, families and the individual, it is an assault on the Holy Spirit, who likes to work in the hearts of individuals.

Adopting this mindset is a knee-jerk reaction to the enemies of the Faith who think this way, both the secular ones and the heterodox ones.

Everyone thinks big and that is hubris in a nutshell.

"Let's get NFP taught in every parish."

"Let's get the Baltimore Catechism in every home."

"Let's have a statement on x, y, or z."

I started reading a book on the Ressourcement Movement last night and they thought this way too: "Let's return to the sources, everyone..." All my theological heroes of the 20th century were Ressourcement people, but they had their flaws too: there was almost an inevitability in its fulfillment in Vatican II's universalism. Thus, they deserved to be blamed for it bad effects too. Ratzinger, DeLubac, etc, discovered this a bit too late and they tried to reverse things, but it was too late for sober second thought.

We moderns don't have the humility for this.

So, here's what I'm saying: the Victorines are good enough for you; Augustine is good enough to me; Aquinas for him; Maximus for her; Newman, Faustina, Bonaventure, Theology of the Body, Ignatius, Carmel, ... all wonderful smatterings. None to the exclusion of the rest.

It is the ultimate sign of hubris, silliness, immaturity to reduce the mystery of life to one set formula. The Bible is very long for this reason. There are so many saints worth imitating for this reason. Butlers counts thousands.

Bear in mind, O you reducers of mystery, that I have forgotten more than you know of the Faith. I would take you model and multiply it by a hundred others, your private revelation and show it up fifty times.

"There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy."

How wonderful there is!

Why did I call this post "The Dress as Epistemological Symbol"? I found in the last few days' obsession with that stupid picture of the dress a sad commentary on the depths of the modern person's thinking.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015


Deborah Gyapong is one of the best people in Canada. You would know her from her many articles in Catholic papers like the Catholic Register and BC Catholic, etc. She is a member of the Ordinariate of St. Peter (the Anglican rite Catholics) in Ottawa and a bang-up human being. She wrote a lovely post re. the whole Fr. Rosica/Vox Cantoris thing. Please read it here.

Deborah's financial well-being is tied to the Catholic Church in Canada. If she is black-balled by the establishment she will be effectively out of work. That is why I admire her courage in getting involved in what cannot be billed as other than a no-win situation. There will be no winners in this controversy, for sure.

Yet this is not a post about Deborah. It is a post about what thoughts her action occasioned in me, regarding the lack of freedom Church institutional culture breeds among her 'employees.'

I know so many people who work for the Church in different degrees. So many. And yet see so little freedom in them. So little.

And it's not in the way that my non-Catholic family would think: it is not fear from doctrinal repressers or conservatives. Exactly the opposite. The hardliners are few and far between, people should realize - though they don't, because it doesn't fit with their liberal narrative. The fact is, liberals are in the vast majority everywhere and always. Thus, to be orthodox is to be in an unwelcome minority. Everywhere and always.

So, how do so-called liberals repress and over what?

Liberals identify insistence on traditional belief and morality as a sign of psychological and/or moral defect. They cannot understand how someone can get so worked-up about words, about doctrinal formulas, etc. (And yet, get worked up about their own kind of orthodoxy.) They see the Church as not much more than a feel-good charity, and whatever is in it that does not reinforce this charity work they have no use for. And yet are their motives not admirable in a certain sense? Admirable in a certain sense, insofar as you don't realize that there is no good act without right knowledge backing it up. We don't do good of ourselves. We won't continue to act charitably once we have cast-off Christian faith. Compare the spirit governing a Catholic hospital up until recent times and that which governs public hospitals today. The latter is the best that secularism can come up with: institutions, businesses, that also incorporate - and come to rely on more and more - death as a solution (i.e. abortion solves poverty, euthanasia solves expensive hospice care). What's the cost? Humanity is the cost.

Compare that to Padre Pio's hospital or Mother Theresa's.

Anyway, so that's how liberals look at the Church, with a short-sighted "Church as a charity" mentality, where supernatural belief is considered extraneous superstition. Nice Marxism, in other words. These people are in the majority because most people--even those who work for the Church--are embarrassed by the Church's traditional beliefs. They don't want to be embarrassed by the Church's beliefs and so don't want to have the traditionalists around to present them. They want to be part of a new, modern, sophisticated Church.

And so conservatives who work for the Church are very careful not to rouse these people's ire. They mutter in corners carefully by themselves, while the liberal majority shines gloriously and unCatholicly in the bright hallways of their institutions.

These people have a survival instinct I was not born with. But I am not really in admiration here. It's prudence to a fault.

And yet, though I fit in more with the bad bloggers (like Vox Cantoris, lol), I am retrained by two things:

1) Christian charity, and
2) my knowledge of the Faith. As a theologian I am much more deeply aware of what is still an open question and what is not. The problem with non-theologians conservative bloggers is that they think that things are more settled and questions are simpler than they really are. If we are talking about evolution, they cite the Syllabus of Errors and Humani Generis, but ignore St. John Paul and Benedict XVI, and, not to mention, Humani Generis (i.e. they don't really understand it).

But, despite these two things, I am probably quite un-hire-able. I am too cut-and-dry to be palatable to the Church world such as it is. If that is so, and if I am aware that this is the case, that seems to argue that I have definite opinions about the type of conduct God expects of people in situations like this, and that would seem to imply that I think hire-able people are not doing what God expects.

Of course, that would be too simplistic. You also have to factor in other things, like the humility required of people, which is of course dictated by an actual honest evaluation of their knowledge of the truth. In other words, an ignoramus is not wrong for not sharing his opinions. He is an ignoramus, therefore, it is right for him to keep his ignorant ideas to himself. But it is not right for people who know to keep silent, especially if teaching the Faith is a part of their job.

Don't try to be everyone's friend; don't blow sunshine, as one of my friends says. That's not honest, authentic living. That's the stuff worthy of politicians, which I mentioned in my previous post. The best people have a sort of stable personality. I don't mean they are uniformly cranky and negative. These are the types of people whom you know what they stand for. They have the courage to disagree with a superior, and yet keep peace. They have the courage to write about what they believe, and not keep silence on Facebook, blogs, etc. Keeping their beliefs secret is not what Christ called them to do.

That is the imprisonment of fear. We have to free up the Gospel from all restraints. One of those is professionalism over truth. There is no fine line between excessive prudence and the toleration of falsehood. There is a yawning chasm between the two. And you can adopt a million acceptable positions in between.

The fact is most of us lie most of the time. What!!! Remember the Sony hack by North Korea, or whomever? Remember the big wig whose emails got her fired? Those emails were the type of thing that we say on weekends to our friends. We all talk that way to our friends and loved ones. Why this idea that we don't? We all have those few people in our lives who never take a break: everything they say is about vegetarianism, global warming, or even the Latin Mass and the consecration of Russia. These people are bores and they rightly have few friends. Everyone else knows how to separate their public life from their private, and so what's the problem with this former Sony exec? Sure, she makes the brand look bad - or does she? (How are universities with their intolerances looking in the eyes of the public now?) Those were private emails. Are we moving into a world where we cannot have private thoughts and exchanges?

Most white people think black, I mean ghetto black, people are stupid.

Most men think the women they work with are oversensitive and annoying.

Most North Americans think Chinese and Japanese people are too pushy.

Most people think gay people are annoying, self-centred and immature.

Most people think feminists are screwed up and annoying.

Most people think aboriginals are lazy.

And yet dare say any of this in the work place. Far from that, you must positively praise all of these groups. I think it is sinful to be too critical, but it is also sinful to lie.

So, don't lie.

What is the proper Christian attitude? We have a number of virtues to bring in to this, not only prudence. Love is doing good for others. What is the good that can be done in any given situation? Often it lies in sharing a reflection on the situation in light of the Gospel. The fact is, most people don't know the Gospel and they have no real truth or wisdom to guide them. And this can be done very sensitively and rather interestingly.

Share the Faith and make it interesting. I mean you, you wimpy Church employees! Yes, I have been watching. And I am not impressed, you self-assured, can do no wrong, 'JP II Generation!'

Look at it this way. The Church does not pay you a competitive wage. So why are you working for it? Because you love it! Well, then love it actually!