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

Self-Censure

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!

Sex Ed, Democracy, etc.

There's little to no need for me to criticize the Ontario government's newly proposed changes to the sex-ed program in schools in the province. Many people have done it more learnedly than I can. I want to talk about some general principles.
This is Jeremy. His mental capacity developed to its highest
point at 8. Since then it's been a steady, blissful decline into
democracy. Jeremy is great. He won't bother you at all. He
believes in open-mindedness and yet strictly adheres to
PC orthodoxy. He is the difference he hopes for.

1. Schools should not be teaching about sex and values at all, other than as a theoretical exercise to strengthen thinking skills. In other words, it should presume to have no position on the matter. It has no competence to decide right and wrong. But it does have an orthodoxy. That is a glaring problem.

2. Democracy worked decently well under a generally Christian constituency. It no longer works. It no longer does what people expect it to. It will collapse eventually, and not that far into the future. I predict that in 20-30 years Canada and the US will fragment. US first. Why? Two main reasons: 1) no money. A problem for all non-Christian democracies: desire outreaches resources. Only Christians believe that self-restraint and self-discipline is a virtue. Secularists usually believe that the problem with society is that spelled out by Marx: we refuse to take the money of the rich from them - that is the big problem as they see it. See how healthy that mindset is, how productive it is of a stable, productive democracy... Every democracy in the world is running massive deficits and has massive debt. Nations never pay their debts. Revolution inevitably results as a consequence. Don't believe me? Then you haven't read much history. 2) alienation of key pro-citizen demographic: Christians are family people and pro-stability. Young people are not, unChristian people are always looking for radical change. They offer unsustainable models of governance. But also, and perhaps even more importantly, for every Christian florist or baker who is fined, you loose the allegiance of a great number of people who are more than happy to support and sustain the status quo. When you turn conservatives into radicals you have a real problem on your hands.

3. The case of the Ontario Liberals. Here is a government widely known to have fraudulently wasted $ 1 billion of public money. A government recently reelected. It's the only proof one needs for my assertion that democracy can no longer work. But, the cities of Toronto and Ottawa (not the rest of the province) voted for the lesbian's party anyway. Sure, the alternatives were lamentably bad, but a thief and scoundrel can never be rewarded, even if it means electing idiots.

The reason I bring up the lesbian thing is that it was no doubt the greater factor for the city-people, proving their open-mindedness and all that. But homosexuality is a psychological defect. How do I know this? Because I believe in evolution. So people voted for someone who is defective. How absurd? Not really. In voting for politicians people are always voting for defects. Politicians are, one-and-all, people who are immensely defective, because they are addicted to lying. Lying is not a small fault. A life that is dependent on it is worse than homosexuality per se. Homosexuality is usually the misguided but understandable attempt to cope with the poor circumstances that were a part of one's psycho-sexual development: abuse, absentee parents, etc.

Defective human beings are normative in politics. And don't tell me we are all defective. We are not to the degree that someone who is addicted to lying for sake of material gain is. Perhaps the moral of the story is people deserve democracy. Sure, they do. But what about those of us who hate what the masses are condemning us to?

What is the model here - fascism? Show me a fascist who ever deserved to lead and I will agree. No, it is the old problem to which Plato devoted The Republic, how to govern the blind? People will always be blind, stupid and capable of little more than a servile and hedonistic existence. For Plato philosophy and absolutism was the answer. For Christians it was monasticism and general de-centralization.

Going back to the sex-ed program. Clearly this is the problem, opponents of it believe that sex is sacred and needs to be handled gingerly. Proponents believe that sex is always good and needs to be treated with less reverence. So, you either believe that human beings are different from animals or you don't. It's that simple. Back to democracy: that's a philosophical question of which the every day hedonist is incapable of any reasoned response. He can only think in terms of being a prude versus being open-minded. Idiots think being open-minded is an idea worth thinking about, one that can exhaust all moral discourse.

"Bread and circuses," they say. Today the clowns are the homosexuals.

"Miracle, mystery and authority," said the Grand Inquisitor.
Miracle? Science and progress that can free us from every moral scruple that imprisoned us.
Mystery? Coordinating relativism and political correctness.
Authority? Trusting a government with decisions about your children's upbringing.

Same shit, different religion.


Monday, February 23, 2015

cover pictures

I'm just trying to snazzy things up a bit. Some abortive attempts.







What am I Doing for Lent?

I am breaking a promise to a friend that I would be adding another post re. the malleability of Church teaching next... I will do that soon. I just wanted to write something about Lent here.

The other day my six-year-old asked me: What are you giving up for Lent?

I said I am doing extra prayer. (I am on a diet anyway, so giving stuff up wouldn't really be too Lenty anyway for me right now).

He said that that was not giving something up. I replied I am giving up some free time, some of the time I have to do what I want. I don't know if he was impressed, but I will explain here why you should be impressed.

Yes, I pray. By some measures, I pray a lot. But for someone who has been Catholic for more than 20 years, I do not, objectively speaking, pray enough - not nearly enough. I do holy hours regularly, we pray the rosary as a family most nights, I read holy books almost constantly...

And yet, I have long realized that there is something missing. I am missing listening.

For some people, to listen and not speak is really hard. For me, to listen and not read is really hard. It's a struggle sometimes to put my book or laptop down and listen to Anne-Marie or the kids. It's sometimes positively painful to stop what I am doing and listen to my six-year-old do his nightly assigned reading. It's important to listen to others - especially our loved ones.

A fortiori, it is important to make time to listen to God. And so that is why I am trying to devote a simple 15 minutes a day to listening. Not speaking, not reading, not beseeching, not imploring, not interceding. Listening.

Worldliness is the opposite of prayerfulness. You know and I know when we fall from the latter into the former. When you pray and really listen to God you suddenly receive a new mindset, the realization that all the world is passing away and that only one thing will remain: God. ISIS, homosexualists, the plague of bad bishops and cardinals, all begin to seem less important, less oppressive.

But even more importantly, you get closer to your Father.

Do we pray for ourselves or for God? People thing they are clever by saying that it is for us. I say, no. It is for God. We pray that God may be loved. The final death is the death to my own fate. If God wishes me damned - I love to quote from St. Francis de Sales - then may His holy will be done!

Listening is something totally different. Do you ever do nothing. I don't. I do most of my somethings sitting down in an easy-chair on my laptop. That's not nothing, even though it is not the something my wife would like me to be doing.

Listening to God is finally doing nothing for Him. It is the doing of nothing. It is setting aside everything: grocery lists, the construction of tomorrow's to-do list, remembering where you put the keys, remembering if you locked the doors or paid the phone bill, it is not even interceding for your friends and loved ones before God. It is waiting for Him, waiting on Him, to tell you about Himself. In other words, your doing nothing is mostly trying to stop thinking about other things, pushing things out so that God can make his way into the room of your heart and mind.

It may take 14 minutes to free up space, but that one last minute is more valuable than all the gold in the world.

You may need something to help you concentrate: a holy picture, candle or sacred word might help. You might need to think about a virtue of God, a mystery of Christ. You may not need any of this. But if you are anything like me, you need a braking device, something that is going to slow your mind down from highway speed to idle.

I am doing some work, ministry, I'd like to say, with and for the elderly right now. How important it is to listen!


Spring Draws Nigh

It had become a tradition for me to make a post like this when I began to see that the spirits of my friends and family were lagging because of the cold, darkness and cabin-fever. But I wasn't having too bad a time of it, and kind of forgot. Until a friend said she needed a boost. Of course, I think she asked for this in December. I thought that was a little too early, kind of like a pep-talk after the first kilometer of the marathon.



And then the other day I noticed that it was February 21st. The seasons usually change on the 21st or 22nd and so I quickly calculated that there was only one more month of winter left, officially speaking. That's something to be excited about. It's been terribly cold in Barry's Bay the last few weeks. Even the last month. It's been pretty much -25 every morning we wake up and seems to rarely climb above -15 at the warmest. And yet there is something beautiful in it. When it is at its coldest it's usually sunny, so that's good.

You must have started noticing that the days are getting longer. It's dark by about 6:00 now, compared to 5:00 or even 4:30 two months ago. The official sunset time in nearby Pembroke is 5:46. In a month from now it will set at 7:22, to a large extent because of daylight saving time, which starts on March 8th. So hold your breath till then, I say.

Lent is perfectly timed for people in the Northern Hemisphere. It starts in death, in the dreary hoar-frost of February and ends in the bright, warm, happier days of April, more or less. We can do forty days.

This is the penance we don't chose for ourselves and which we can't do anything about - the best kind for us spiritually.


Thursday, February 19, 2015

Priest, Don't Teach, Sue

It sounds like a passage from Jeremiah or one of the other prophets: priests who no longer teach the people, but drag them before the judge.

No one likes an embittered blogger (except for you people reading this). But, whether you are talking about Vox Cantoris, Michael Voris, LifeSiteNews, the Heresy Hunter, or what have you, you have serious, earnest Catholics looking for an explanation for things that don't make sense to them. They have a right to an explanation; they have a right to get angry when they see the Faith not being taken seriously, or at least not appearing to be taken seriously.

Priests are teachers of the Gospel. They get the money, the power and the prestige and this is what is required of them in exchange. It is not something they can chose to do or not do. I understand that it's hard being judged, thought badly of, criticized. But what do you expect? When you take on the name 'father,' you are in for it.

I am a father. I have sued none of my children. I punish them for impertinence, but never refuse to teach them what they need to know. When I punish, I do so with their long-term good in mind. I have no other goal in mind, not my reputation, not my financial success.

When I started to teach as a professor, I disliked being called a heretic. I disliked it because I have suffered much for my orthodoxy. I love a debate. I hate power-moves, like telling the department head or the dean on me when you don't like something I have said. To me that is quintessentially pathetic. If you don't like what was said, did you attempt to understand it, did you come to me for an explanation?

Yes, I got mad. Now I don't. Most people are dumb, so why get upset? I am the teacher so I teach. I am not getting paid to be loved.

If you express yourself publicly you must anticipate contradiction. If you find this so terribly difficult, may I suggest solitaire rather than media work?

But a priest is a special kind of teacher. He represents the Church, even God. He is supposed to open up to us the gates of knowledge, not close them done with brute force. If a priest is not prepared to explain himself, then don't speak in the first place.

I have never gone to my pastor about something he has said in a homily. Because he's never made a mistake? No. Rather, I share a former colleague of mine's opinion: if there ain't at least three heresies in a homily, it was over the people's heads. I trust my pastor. He is a man of total good will and firmly committed to the teachings of the Church. He doesn't interpret them to go with the times. He tells us about the evils of contraception, immodesty, divorce, pornography, etc. If he happens to say in a homily some day that Paul denied Christ three times, why would I need to get in his face about it? To make myself feel smart?

And yet, if you have spent any time at all reading this blog you know that I don't look at the Church and her ministers with rose-coloured glasses. If there is one thing that gets me worked up it's bishops who aim to please men rather than God. And I call them on it. If I am right, they should listen to me. If I am wrong, they should show me how I am wrong.

Okay, we are about to have a cardinal of the Church grand-marshal a parade that has allowed in a gay activist float but so far no pro-life float. If this occurs, that cardinal will owe the faithful an explanation for his conduct. It's as simple as that.

It may be Rosica's legal right to sue, but in doing so it would be an abjuration of his priestly obligation. He is not owed a good reputation by the Church. He is owed configuration to Christ. Yes, it sucks and yes it's hard, but that's what you sign on for. And, if he sues Vox Cantoris, he can sue me too for the above sentence. Is that the kind of world we should have? Is this our Catholic tradition? Seriously, who couldn't sue me? Yet I try to be careful, not because I personally agree with Canada's laws regarding defamation, but because I am a Christian. I don't want to tear down. I criticize with the hope of building up.

And if he doesn't come to reason himself, what bishops will challenge him on it? The same ones who challenged Fr. Gravel when he sued LifeSite?

Cricket, cricket.

If you want depressing reading, consult the letter Rosica's lawyers sent to Vox Cantoris. I think it is going to be a bad year for Rosica. That's my prophecy to all of you. Anyone who feels that he must do something like this must be in a bad way. Our Lady, please pray for all of us.

What am I saying, that it should be open-season on priests? In so many words, yes, of course it should be. A priest who leaves us in doubt about the Gospel is not doing a very good job. He needs to be called on it just like a mechanic who can't fix my brakes needs to be called on it. Defamation? How about evangelization?!

I can't see how this could do Salt and Light any good. "Disagree with anything you heard on this program? Well, prepare to be sued."

Lawsuits for defamation are a plague in our society. When this mindset infiltrates the Church, how much more shameful is it. Are people not permitted opinions anymore, not permitted to be annoying? That to me is what makes democracy great, the freedom to be an ass without fear of legal punishment. One person's ass might be another person's prophet.