Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Religion and Violence, A Few Thoughts

Just because my cousin was talking about it after I got mad at someone posting "no religions are violent, it's what you bring to them" nonsense.

1. Violence is not bad.

People use the word to mean bad. It's not. There is a great deal of difference from violently jerking your child back from on-rushing traffic and setting a bomb that kills children. The key modifier is violence for what? To protect the innocent and weak: violence is good. To cowardly hurt weak and innocent people to advance your wrathful cause is bad. There is no equivalency between the two, and that is why I have come to reject pacifism.

Therefore, when you ask, which religion is the most/least violent, you are not asking me which is the best. Catholic theology asks, violence for what? Augustine developed the Church's official war position in the early 5th century, which came to be called the Just War Theory. (Though I haven't read all of the article, Wikipedia's seems pretty accurate.)

2. What is religion X?

People have a lot of problems with this one. Not a day goes by when I don't see someone saying that Deuteronomy's laws are part of Christianity because it's in the Bible. People who say things like that don't understand that, beginning with Jesus (our founder) we interpret the OT, we do not literally follow it. If you think, well, that's dumb, you can't do that - well, that is what we do. Like it or not. So I would invite you to read Matthew 5:

21 “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ 22 But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca, is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.

Okay, so that's our religion.

But, again, we are not a book religion, we are a Jesus religion and a Church religion, which in regard to the latter means that we consider our history determinative to some extent. What our great teachers, like Augustine, Aquinas, Gregory the Great, etc., taught is how we interpret the Bible. I think the same can be said for the great Jewish rabbis and the interpretation of the OT. So, if you want to know a religion, you can't just ignore what that religion says are its authorities.

As for Islam, I am sure they have an interpretive tradition too. And I am positive that the terrorists do not embody it. How do I know that? Because they didn't have explosive vests in the 7th century. This is not to say that Islam is not bent on world domination. I believe it is. Whereas Jesus was not interested in having a "Kingdom in this world," Mohammed actively fought to make one. That's a significant difference.

3. What is the religion's history?

History is a messy thing. What Catholics have done, is not our history. We look to Augustine and Aquinas, not to Hitler and Frederick Barbarossa - although all four were baptized Catholics.

The fact is, the bishops and popes have always opposed the excesses of 'Christian' rulers. If you don't accept that, then you don't know history. St. Ambrose punished Emperor Theodosius for the Thesaalonika Massacre... so, who's the Christian - Ambrose or Theodosius?

Blessed John Henry Newman once made the cynical remark that Christianity only has a significance for the very few. I think it has some significance for many, but, yes, primary significance for the very few.

The fact is, I believe Christianity has had a positive impact on the world. Is it just a coincidence that the scientific revolution, universities and hospitals sprung up in Christian lands first? Is it a mere coincidence that slavery was abolished in Europe centuries before anywhere else, and that American abolitionists were always strong Christians? Its temerarious to deny this link.

4. Human freedom and the role of religious identity.

"Look at what these Christian did over there!" is meant to be a powerful indictment of our religion. It is not. It is an indictment of people who fail to follow Christian teaching. And, desperate times lead to desperate acts. I don't know what it's like to a Christian living in Africa of the Middle East under the threat of Islam. I don't know what I would do in those circumstances. But I would not blame Jesus for what I chose to do.

Christians know when they are being Christ-like and when they are not.

In the end, Christianity is a religion of love and Islam one of submission. I think how these two priorities have affected their natures and histories is fairly evident. Jesus spent His life trying to get people to love; Mohammed, trying to conquer territory for God.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Anti-Christ has a Pleasing Appearance

Our pastor mentioned the coming of the anti-Christ today. It sort of channeled my thinking in a certain direction.

Surely, when he appears, he will satisfy certain of our longings. He will seem to fulfill a long-awaited good. Just like Hitler and Lenin, he will appear to secure for us something we dearly desire, something we value. But these will only be partial goods disguised as the highest goods.
Too handsome to be evil.

I think about Pope Francis, who people love because of what he tells us about loving the poor. That's good, but it's not the highest good. That's the good that Lenin promised. But when it comes from the pope, what more could you want? He unifies the religious and the secular sense of right, and that's what makes him both so welcome and yet so dangerous.

Turn your thoughts now to Soloviev's "A Short Tale of the Anti-Christ." The Anti-Christ of his tale promised everything, but just not one thing: the name of Christ. A small price to pay for comfort, meaning, and sustenance, just a name, the name of Christ. There were a few people who could see through this - but not many - not enough so as to overturn his triumph.

When hospitals, military chaplains, schools and soup kitchens can do everything we need them to in order to fulfill the love of neighbour, and only ask that we set aside the name of Christ so as not to alienate anyone, that is, they say, a very small price to pay for doing all this good.

Just think how much we will gain if we just give up that little, niggling detail about being in a state of grace - what a pharisaical category anyway! Sure, Christ said all He did about adultery, but look at all the good we can do if we just bend the rule a little in the name of mercy.

As in the military, chaplains can comfort so many with the love of Christ, just as long as they don't use the name of Christ.

As in schools, teachers can influence young people in Christ, just as long as they don't overtly mention Him.

As in hospitals.

Why people love Pope Francis is not why he should be loved. He should be loved as Christ's ambassador, not as the ambassador of an easy-universalism that ridicules nit-pickers about the state of grace as though they were Pharisees.

Christ brings a division, and 50% of us don't want it. Anyone that popular is not Christ, but Anti-Christ. He promises more than is possible in the world. Seventeen years before the Communist Revolution in Russia, Soloviev knew someone like Lenin was coming. In his story, the cardinals jumped on board too.

What's in a name?

As Napoleon said, if you would be a success in the world, promise everything, deliver nothing. So did Lenin. There are those would promise a Church, a world, full of love and mercy, but all this path will lead to is indifference, confusion and less glory for Christ. When you stand for nothing, nothing clear, nothing decisive, nothing divisive, no one will hate you, and if that's what you call success, then have at it.

Forty years ago the Canadian bishops promised everything: you can have Christ and you can have carefree sex. Today, no one cares about the Church because Christ could be had with no sacrifice, like an old rug being given away at the side of the road. Therefore, Christ is meaningless, just like a cup of water is during a monsoon. Those bishops thought that easy grace would make people loyal to the Church. The opposite happened. Now Rome wants to buy loyalty with a bribe of that order. But isn't it evident that the people who chose adulterous marriages over the Church will not come back because you are now telling them what they want to hear. Do you really want people who put the Church last, anyway? What kind of Catholics do the German bishops think they will get with this?

Did bread and circuses buy the loyalty of the poor of Rome? And, if so, how did that pan out against the Vandals?

When he appears, he will look a little like St. Francis, a little like Morgan Freeman, a little like John Kennedy. He will look like everything we want him to, unfortunately for us.

Pope Francis is welcomed by us because he looks like St Francis: he rides in the subway and has a smaller bedroom. And for that we are willing to give up Christ's teaching on marriage. That's awfully generous of us.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Sunday, October 25, 2015

The Worker's Wages

I pinned an email I wrote to some people to the Society of Canadian Catholic Bloggers site yesterday. Please have a read.

I think it might be useful to expand some of my thoughts on the matter here - although the email is not lacking in length, that's for sure.

In 1992 I graduated from high school. Shortly before that, at the Easter Vigil, I became Catholic. I was probably the youngest person who ever went through the RCIA at my parish and probably one of the youngest in the Halifax Archdiocese's history. I was 17. It's not unheard of for kids that age to go through the regular confirmation program. I was glad I did not have to go that route, since I didn't then really identify with my peers.

I spent the next few years aspiring to become a priest or a religious. I spent the next three years in a secular university, dreaming of going off to live in a little hermitage in the woods, all the while acquiring a good acquaintance with the sources of Western Thought. I still have that fantasy: days spent wandering the woods for berries, rabbits and fish, nights spent in prayer and reading. I knew I'd either go insane like that or become a saint.

Instead, I chose what I thought would be an easier, sweeter life, a view of which I have subsequently revised. Marriage and family life has been infinitely harder than I imagined. And yet infinitely sweeter too. All of you who are married know exactly what I mean.

I had the 'ingenious' idea that I would be able carry on my life of prayer and study married. This is an idiotic idea for anyone who is not wealthy. But my realization about this was made far too late, after I had painted myself into a corner with students loans, lost opportunities to learn other trades, etc., and six children who depend on me.

Thus, I had to work all through my PhD., which made it longer and more miserable than I ever thought it would be. It is miraculous that I actually finished. Not many people in my position do. I am, evidently, really smart, a good writer, and like the work. But I worked at a million unrelated jobs. I had no chance to do what other grad students do: go to a million conferences, make connections, take a million additional languages courses, do basically unpaid TA work, etc.

I was, however, very lucky to have had a chance to teach for five years at OLSWA. It was a very poorly paid position, (Anne-Marie and I kind of laugh/cried when we looked at my first pay cheque) but it was good experience to put on the CV. I sort of enjoyed the experience. I have done a little bit of teaching elsewhere before and since then.

All along, of course, I had a reason for all this. When I was twenty I thought that I would be such a good and holy intellectual/preacher that conversions would just pop out of nowhere by the bowlful. Heretics would be refuted, atheists brought to the confessional, etc. And my apostolic life would be financed by a well-paid professorship at Oxford - not to mention by the best-sellers I would write. Modest dreams for a modest guy.

Well, life hasn't quite materialized that way. And, if you want to know what I pray about most when it comes to myself - what should I do? Some people have some very strong opinions on this, and they are barely able to keep the bile from erupting when we talk about this. They cannot believe that I have no found and stuck with a safer type of employment. Others tell me what I want to hear: keep up this good work!

That a PhD can't find work seems to be more the rule than the exception now. But there is a particular shame, I believe, for the Church when this becomes the case, and yet still further shame when ecclesia and quasi-ecclesial organizations continue to promote the education of more and more young people when there is no real hope that they shall ever find gainful employment, that all they will find is mountainous debt and eventual professional disappointment.

I know theology is not about a job. But people need to eat and take care of families. The fact that the Church does little to nothing to address this injustice, but does plenty to address other injustices that are much less intrinsically related to the Church's mission is astonishing. Real attention has to be brought to this issue. This is not an insoluble problem for the Church; more than a problem, it is a great opportunity.

In a time when priestly and religious vocations are drying up, the fact that there are unemployed (orthodox) theology PhDs makes no sense whatsoever. Yes, it costs more for the Church to take care of a family than a single priest, but that does not seem to me to justify anything. I converted from Protestantism. And, as you know, they use lay-people for stuff. And not just to read at mass and run bake sales.

Things are starting to change in the Church, and this change is coming from people like my friend, Michael Dopp, who, like me, is an ex-seminarian who believes in the importance of evangelization. A few people's generosity at some particularly dark moments has really encouraged me to persevere in my work; Michael has inspired me to believe that this is not an absurd thing like few others have.

I have to confess to a funny thing. I was really thinking about throwing in the apostolic towel this week. And then, seeing myself sitting at a table with the Archbishop of Ottawa, the Papal Nuncio to Canada, the Bishop of Alexandria-Cornwall and the Chaplain General of the Canadian Armed Forces it kind of dawned on me that I was missing the obvious: God is caring for me and telling me I have a place in the mission. It's hard, though, to keep believing that this is God's will when you are surviving on your Visa, when every issue of The Catholic Review of Books puts you further and further into debt.

The fact is, I am not good at anything else. I am a thinker, a writer, a man of deep faith who sees God everywhere and who thinks about Him all the time. I am not a saint, but I am a tool, in every sense of the word. I am ready to die for the Lord and to live for Him. There are a lot of better living people out there than me. But there are few as well-educated in theology and as able to bring the Lord to the public sphere with the b**** of a brass monkey, to borrow my mother-in-law's saying.

The fact is, it's hard for me to know what His will is. I frankly don't want to live if it's not to speak/write about Him to others. For me that would constitute a betrayal of all I have been given by Him and by others, of course.

The lay evangelization thing is funny. It's about turning the Lord's message into something that sells, I'm sad to say, because if you don't have a reputation of somebody great, like Hahn, Kreeft, Simcha Fischer, Akin, etc., then you can't pay the bills. Is Catholic fame a reflection of holiness and erudition? No, hardly, as the case of Corapi proves. These things don't always go hand-in-hand. Of course, a priest doesn't have to be the smartest, holiest, or best speaker to gain an important place in evangelization. He just has to be celibate. A lay-man, though, has to sell himself if he is ever going to get a chance to sell the Lord, and the latter can't get in the way of the former, or he will lose his place. And his audience has to be able to situate him, to pigeon-hole him: is he a charismatic preacher, is he a Scripture scholar, an expert on the Theology of the Body, a chastity speaker, is she a sassy stay-at-home mommy-blogger, a Catholic Answers type, a pro-life speaker?

But what if he's something else? What if the whole point is that God wants to challenge people to think again for the first time? I don't really have a 'thing,' as an evangelist. Of the known types, I am closest to a Catholic Answers kind of guy, but I am as critical, or perhaps even more critical of the way Catholics live and think than outsiders. If I have a 'thing' it is probably the faith and reason issue, that is, challenging Catholics to accept the Church's actual teaching on this (as, for instance, spelled out by St. JP's Encyclical, Fides et Ratio) and, after accepting it, helping to cultivate Catholic culture, as an essential part of the culture of life.

Do you know any faith and reason speakers? Perhaps Kreeft fits that bill. Perhaps Pieper and Warren Carroll, I suppose, but I don't know for sure. Michael O'Brien is in his way, but not in a way that would exactly resemble my take (although decently closely).

The fact is, my whole life has been a search for the truth, the truth that transforms and takes over us entirely, that blesses us and makes us better and engages our intellects.

The fact is, for most people, truth is but an interesting that exists for them when engaged in casual conversation and perhaps as an appendage of their self-conceit that one is a sophisticated, thoughtful person, better than people who dissent from him.

But, in fact, the stakes have always been high. The stakes are salvation, on the one hand, damnation on the other. The stakes are, the Gospel of life on one hand, and the culture of death, on the other. There is never compromise, never an entente. For, one either builds a culture of creativity and life in the monasteries of Benedict or gulags and concentration camps... One either attains to the heights of the life-giving philosophy or falls into the dark pit of violence and robbery, materialism, depression, exploitation and stupefaction. These are the stakes.

When I was fifteen, I got into philosophy. It seemed to me then, the sort of agnostic that I was, that if one were to find the truth, that would be the most precious find of all... If have found it and still believe this is so. I see my life now in continuity with that. I pray and study to know the truth better, and I speak and write to share my discoveries. My original hero was, and still is Socrates. I took the good he gave me (via Plato) and it led me to Christ. In gaining Christ I lost nothing of Socrates. Christ is the answer to Socrates questions, and I still seek to understand the answer.

Because our age is one that does not care about the truth, the task of the Christian, I believe, includes the original task Socrates put upon himself, to encourage people to seek out the truth, to love it above all things. It's not only that people do not have Christ, they do not even have a desire to begin the process that leads to Christ.

Our Western Tradition is built around this ideal in a way that no other tradition is. Christ is the answer and philosophy is our method. Many Christians today believe that our Faith is not about facts but about feelings, and that is majorly impoverishing. In the secular sphere philosophy has become but logic, closed in on itself from any real service to humanity. It is certainly no longer what Socrates wanted it to be. Education has become about professional development, not human development. The extent to which Christians buy into this is the extent to which they abandon their own tradition's sense of personal development as the most important task given to the individual. Because the secular world no longer shares the Christian view of man, of course it does not share this view of education. This means, does it not, that instituting a Christian view of education is a task for evangelization, and not merely because these centres of education are places that lead to Christian answers, but because they occasion Christian (i.e. human) questions, in other words, a Christian methodology. It is not good enough that we arrive at Christian answers; our answers must be the result of a true engagement of mind and spirit. Otherwise, these are not actually life-giving, life-engaging discoveries.

It is therefore my strong belief that advancing Catholics' intellectual understanding of their Faith and of the world in God - and not merely helping them to arrive at a superficial understanding of it (which can only lead to a half-hearted kind of belief) bestows an incalculable boon on the individual and on the world as a whole. Either you believe this or you don't, and if you want to believe in harmony with the Catholic Tradition, then you must believe this. Probably you have to open your mind up to the possibility that intellectual formation in Christ is not exactly what you suppose it to be. Again, it is not just learning Christian conclusions as spelled out in the Catechism; it is knowing these things in a new light, and it is discovering things about God that you had never even suspected. It is a good that impacts all our human faculties: mind, body, soul (heart, affect). Everyone has different capabilities and desires, and truth of Christ needs to full up all of these containers. It is quintessentially philanthropic.


So, anyway, this is what I believe. What I am up to is, as you know, working on the Catholic Review of Books - and I am sure you can see how it fits into my philosophy of life by now. And, I am writing books. I need financial help to keep both of these things going. As I have said, we are in serious debt and cannot go on much longer like this. Anything you can give us (or people you know can give us!) would - God willing - helps us to stem the tide until we begin to reap the fruits of this labour - the Review becomes profitable, my books sell, and perhaps I land some more teaching gigs.

God bless you. The ball is not in my court. But I am called to be faithful in a time of testing.

Friday, October 23, 2015

There's the Door

Just read a brief, commonsensical article on catechesis.

Made me revisit my theory on catechizing youth. Treat it like a seller's market, not the buyer's market we have been used to since 1965 or whenever.

Treat it like you have something precious and if people aren't willing to work for it, they can go away.

It's like Air Jordans for black people.

Or like a pumkin spice lattes for white people.

Limited time, be prepared to line up for it, looking to give it to a good home, etc.

If you believe your product is good, and the Catholic Faith is more than good, then act out of that belief.

More than a few years ago I was running the religion program at a church and was teaching the confirmation class myself. The kids were not good students. They talked continuously, fooled around, etc. I threatened, etc., and nothing seemed to work for long, and so I finally kicked the three worst out of the program. I told them they could come back if they wrote me an apology letter, signed by them and by their parents.

Wow, Colin, you're just like the guy from the movie Lean on Me - the no-nonsense black principal who turned that bad inner-city school around.

Yes, that's exactly what happened...

Actually, within a few weeks I was unemployed.

Of course, the brats I disciplined happened to be the pastor's 'yes-father' women in the parish.

Years later, still reeling from my sad discovery about how people really are, even people who tell you they will act one way if such-and-such occurs, but who end up doing the exact opposite, I guess I really hadn't learned my lesson and found myself in another position of authority over children. I knew enough about this to decide never become a school teacher, but obviously not enough to avoid all like occasions.

The new position was one where I took a far more patient and gentle approach. That wasn't good enough for certain elements who thought I wasn't harsh enough. I knew, however, that as soon as I started to severely discipline the kids, I would be out. It's a no-win situation. I know that now, completely, finally.

But because a layman is completely without any dependable support doesn't mean priests and bishops should allow things to go this way. Priests can't get fired, nor bishops. Massive financial corruption and abuse/neglect of children notwithstanding. In every other way, priests and bishop are absolute monarchs. Therefore, they should use their authority to back-up this seller's market policy.

My own pastor acts this way to a significant extent. He is one of the only priests I know who is widely hated for his discipline of the sacraments. He is doing exactly what he should be doing. The writer of the above-cited article said that 75% of the kids she teaches are future ex-Catholics. She is correct. I say act with that knowledge in mind. If they are going to move away, make it be because of hate, not indifference. If their experience of the Faith led to indifference, that is the greatest of failures. You didn't give them anything to love or to hate. Leaving with hate, is a victory.

There is someone I know who won't go to Church anymore because our pastor would not confirm her grandchild. Why not? Because the parents only occasionally go to church and told him they had no intention of going every week. That is better than no longer going to church because you don't see a church that really believes in anything.

Love us or hate us, just don't be indifferent.

Therefore, if kids are not perfect, exactly as you want them to be in catechism, kick them out. I mean this more for teenagers than for very young kids.

Someone I know who works in the car industry once told me that the customer is not always right, well, unless, that is, they are willing to pay. They want it in red? Well, the nearest red one is in Montreal, so that'll cost you an extra $700. You want your brat confirmed? Well, that'll cost you this, this and this. Marriage? This, this and this.

Cheap grace is grace ignored.

If we act like this is important, others might actually take it as seriously as we hope they will.

If you give a Nobel Prize to a guy the moment he walks into the White House you have irreparably cheapened your currency.

Every one gets a prize? Well, then, that's not much of a prize.

If I ever get a Math degree (which I hope to before I die) I want it to be as hard as sh** to get, so that I know I have accomplished something significant.

The school at which I used to teach started to award the valedictorian to the popular kid, not the one with the highest GPA. Thus, I could no longer care about it.

A certain one of my kids brings home a report card with all As. Ho hum. Another gets a B+ on a history test - yahoo! Hard work. An accomplishment.

Victories like Vimy Ridge are great

because they implied appalling sacrifice like this

Just because something is hard does not make it good, but we cannot appreciate anything that came easily, that was simply given away.

Christians have always treated the sacraments like the dear and precious things they are. Until now.

Forty years of catering to the 75% who leave the Church has led to 75% leaving the Church. What do we have to lose by showing them the door a little earlier?

No one ever wants anything as badly as when you say they can't have it.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

A Pleasing Attitude

Kirsten Anderson has an interesting article on Aleteia about the attitude towards Pope Francis of those who converted during Benedict's pontificate. Consider the dreadfully disgraceful Buzzfeed video, "I'm Christian but I'm not..."

Put these things together and you might begin to see why I am not enjoying Pope Francis' papacy.

First, be clear on what I am saying and what I am not saying. I did not say, I do not like / admire Pope Francis. I know he is a good, orthodox and saintly man. But one might yet believe that (as I do) and yet still consider his papacy unfortunate (as I do). And, I say here unfortunate, not un-providential (a subtler point which I will address at the end).

If there is one take-away from my previous post (whether I actually post it or not, I am unsure at this moment), it is that it is incumbent upon Christians to positively court negative feelings towards oneself as a sure and necessary block to pride / vanity. To court good opinion re. oneself is the material for sin, whether one's ultimate goal is praiseworthy or not. This is a real problem for professional lay evangelists - and another reason why they should be bankrolled by the Church and not have to rely on private enterprise. The Church should pay evangelists so they can convey the unpopular message, otherwise, they are asked to do the impossible: find donors for their unpopular message (ever wonder why John the Baptist had to eat locust and wild honey?)

In this day and age where we equate virtue with the production of welcome feelings, being a buzz-kill has never been more urgent for sanctity. Benedict was a buzz-kill because he never courted people's affections. Have you ever heard him speak? His tone is boring as heck. His subjects are solid, intellectual masterpieces, but far from exciting or 'sexy.'

People might respond to me, "Yeah, but you have to get people's attention if you ever have a hope of converting them."

Why, then, the converts written about by Kristen? Some got what Benedict was up to.

In life in general we can say that there are trends and there are authentic actions. Trends have a very short shelf-life. Authentic acts last a life time. It occurs to me that the type of people for whom trends appeal - highly emotionally charged, exciting events, often superficial ideas - cannot be relied on to carry the weight of the cross.

It is probably true that the closer the Gospel is made to appear to agree with the zeitgeist, the less it can elicit authentic conversion, authentic engagement. To actually deal with the Gospel we have to see how it conflicts with the presuppositions about morality with which we were raised. Remember, we were necessarily raised with a worldly mindset at least in part; not that of the Gospel. Jesus says, "go sell... have one shirt... take up your cross... the world will hate you..." - these are not bourgeois values. We have to bear in mind that houses and middle class existence are fine but it is not the way of perfection. Such things are for beginners, for the weak, for children.

Although Pope Francis does much to question this middle class type of life he seems to go out of his way to keep people happy about everything else. Be poor, but don't change your mind about anything you already believe. "Dogs, atheists, communists can - theoretically - all got to heaven," he tells us, "but make sure you live poorly."

"Feel compassion and live poorly, but don't do anything to cultivate your mind in the Gospel."

That would surely be an exaggeration, but I would say that that is how Pope Francis is received in the popular imagination.

If you would be perfect, go sell your air conditioner and give the money to the poor and then go back to your worldly life. Do not read the Gospel, the lives of the saints; read Marx, UpWorthy, HuffPo, and every other inimical source."

What has become the caricature of this 'pleasing mindset' is the German bishop. It's easy to see how others are influenced by worldliness (much less ourselves). It's easy to see how Liberal Protestantism, secularism, socialism, etc., have made these bishops into jokes with their insistence to please their apathetic people with their calls for communion for the divorced. But the fact is, when you offer them nothing that is sacred, that is hard, that is far-off, that is holy, in the original sense of the word, they will never care about what you want them to care about. The hard Gospel that was the only thing Polish bishops had to offer under communism was cherished. The easy Gospel of the post-communist era is ignored.

The Gospel is easy, commonplace, familiar, ignored.

I have always said that the way that I won Anne-Marie was through playing hard-to-get. Lots of guys fawned all over her. She didn't like any of them. Lately she told me that wearing your heart on your sleeve (my words not hers) makes a guy look insecure and needy, and what woman wants an insecure man? Women look to men who are strong, confident and able. Who can blame them?

A soul looks to a Church that is strong, confident and able. In never stooping to win anybody's affection, that is how Pope Benedict made Catholicism something to be respected. A Church that is constantly humiliating itself, fawning all over people, praising worldly things, that is the Church we seem to have today.

Pope Francis has never said anything unorthodox, it seems to me (lots of imprudent things, things easily misinterpreted), but he has acted - appeared to act - like the insecure guy who is led by his heart. He is Goethe's Werther. There is a reason why even a rabid atheist like Nietzsche respected the Christian saint. The Christian saint is always a man of iron.

Once the Gospel has been humiliated enough it will be ignored. Once it has been shown to be completely amenable to the modern life it will be rendered silent and irrelevant.

Tell us what we want to hear so we can stop listening.

To the contrary, Pope Benedict fulfilled the old story of the Desert Fathers: the older hermit sent the younger one out to berate the people buried in the graveyard. They said nothing in response. Then he sent him to praise them. They said nothing in response. Be thou likewise. Pope Benedict neither courted favor nor sought to be despised. It was not him, but Christ in him.

I feel that Pope Francis has allowed himself to be perceived as though he seeks the favour of worldly people. In doing so we are all disgraced. He has allowed the zeitgeist to be the standard against which the Gospel is weighed.

What would be wrong with him saying, no, I am not having mass in the vicinity of an image of Che Guevara. And, no I am not meeting the president of the US if you invite all those dissenters like the nuns on the bus etc.? What would be lost?

In Jesus' day no one doubted that the woman caught in adultery was a sinner. In ours we deny that there is such a thing as sin. That is the difference that Pope Francis needs to think about.


Now, the last point re. unfortunate but not improvident.

Everything bad can do God in God's hands. It is, however, wrong to suggest, then, that everything that happens in Rome is good.

It is a Sin to Apologize

It is a sin to lie, even a little bit.

Vanity is a sin.

Caring what others think about you is a sin.

Materialism, that is having undue concern for material things, is a sin.

Being cowardly is a sin.

∴ Most apologies you read about in the news are sins.


At present we are reading about an actress who is apologizing for having said she is thinking twice about becoming an American citizen. This week Matt Damon is apologizing for telling some black woman about racism or something (like black people have innate knowledge which he lacks). Before that, Ariana Grande apologized for licking donuts. Celebrities are often apologizing for saying something un-PC that got recorded. The popes are constantly apologizing for misdeeds of the past - the Canadian government too. Everyone apologizes to aboriginals.

It seems to me the great engines of the Axis' war effort, Volkswagen and Mitsubishi, never apologized. Speaking of Japan, they don't care to apologize for atrocities they committed in China. But to be consistent, neither does Japan like to receive apologies for Hiroshima, etc.

On a more mundane level, we have the ever-hilarious "I'm sorry you feel that way" - type of apology, which is one better left unsaid, it seems to me.

Also, the one kids tend to use, "No offense, but..."

I guess I don't quite get why someone would want an apology. As someone of Scottish descent, would an apology from the Queen for England's depredations mean something to me? Nope. As a Catholic would an apology from her for expropriating our monasteries, churches, universities, etc., mean something to me? Nope. Am I expecting an apology from the Italian government for Nero and Diocletian? Would I want one?

Apologies are moral and significant when they depict a change of mind: "I am sorry I broke your dish when I was fooling around," would have to mean: "I will attempt not to repeat this kind of carelessness again." We call this a firm purpose of amendment. But most often it means, "I am sorry I got caught," or "I regret that this is proving unpopular," or "I regret that this might jeopardize me professionally or financially."

Those aren't apologies and they should not be considered significant to any decent person.

But they are significant to many - especially and perhaps almost solely - to the media. But they are also ways of inflicting moral slights against ideological enemies. That's all fine and good - media wants something to talk about and ideologues want moral victories over their enemies. That makes sense. It's wrong, but it makes sense. But what about other people?

What kind of person says, "Wow, the pope just apologized for the sins of various Catholic educators in the past." The kind of person, I suppose, who does not understand that the pope has no intention of ending evangelization, the conversion of people to Catholicism - and that is how many take it. They think "sorry for the abuse of certain people in our Church" means "we would never try to evangelize natives again." It doesn't mean that.

What is really in someone's heart when they apologize? That's what matters. And if you knew what was in it, would you want their apology?

Hurt feelings is treated like an intrinsic evil. It is nothing of the sort. In fact, hurt feelings are necessary in psychological maturing. A baby is outraged when he is not treated as the only thing in the world that matters. To move from that natural outlook to one, say, represented by the Great Commandment, requires a whole host of hurts. I love the Madonna House motto, "I am third." It's salient in its simplicity. It's too bad that the world wants to reject it not just subjectively but also categorically.

I think that, when we go back to the case of the Japanese, we ought to begin to think of apologies with a certain degree of moral hesitancy. We should consider that there are two kinds: good ones and bad ones. Bad ones are ones that insult a person by imagining that they can be hurt by petty things. We should feel about them as a man would were he to be lifting something light and someone asked if he needed help with it.

To be apologized to is to say that you need someone else's positive regard. If we had more self-respect, we would take this as an insult. This is turning us into a society of babies.