Deborah Gyapong: February 2006

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Christian response to Brokeback Mountain breaks stereotype

One of the concerns I have as a Christian is how often we are demonized and stereotyped, especially by secularists who don't see a lot of difference between Christian believers and the Taliban.

Well, Michael Medved points out how much Christian North Americans defied the usual stereotyping in their reaction---or lack of one--to Brokeback Mountain.

The publicity blitz surrounding Oscar front-runner Brokeback Mountain not only challenged stereotypes about gay relationships, it simultaneously cleared away persistent misunderstandings about the nation's Christian conservatives.


Instead of reacting with outraged calls for censorship or condemnation, the much-reviled minions of the so-called religious right have mostly ignored the movie, allowing it to collect every sort of honor with shockingly scant controversy. While derided by prominent liberals as "the Taliban wing of the Republican Party," conservative Christian leaders have displayed a new sense of security and confidence, in dramatic contrast to the paranoid Muslim mobs that riot across the globe over a dozen disrespectful Danish cartoons.

This doesn't mean that cultural traditionalists in the USA have abandoned their principles and suddenly embraced the much-discussed "gay cowboy movie": People who revere biblical strictures against same-sex relationships can scarcely commend a film that provides a lyrical celebration of a homosexual affair that wrecks two marriages.

Nevertheless, the publicists and activists involved in promoting Brokeback Mountain seem almost disappointed that religious conservatives have expressed so little indignation.


-snip-

Eighteen years ago, Christian conservatives felt unsure enough about their position in society to react with horror and pain to The Last Temptation of Christ; 25,000 protesters rallied at Universal Studios to plead against the film's release - a response in no way echoed by religious organizations preparing for the arrival of The Da Vinci Code. Though Ron Howard's high-profile new project tells a story that contradicts Christian teaching about Jesus at least as thoroughly as The Last Temptation, even the Roman Catholic organization Opus Dei, portrayed by name in the film as a violent cult, pointedly plans to take "a less confrontational approach," according to The New York Times.


Opus Dei, by the way, is urging that people donate to missions in Africa rather than boycott or protest. That group is totally maligned in the DVC.

Thanks to LifeSiteNews.com for the link.

Manifesto against Islamism fine--but secularism? No thanks.

Michelle Malkin and Gateway Pundit have posted a Manifesto against Islamism that will be printed tomorrow in a French newspaper.

In part, the Manifesto reads:


Together facing the new totalitarianism

After having overcome fascism, Nazism, and Stalinism, the world now faces a new totalitarian global threat: Islamism.

We, writers, journalists, intellectuals, call for resistance to religious totalitarianism and for the promotion of freedom, equal opportunity and secular values for all.

The recent events, which occurred after the publication of drawings of Muhammed in European newspapers, have revealed the necessity of the struggle for these universal values. This struggle will not be won by arms, but in the ideological field. It is not a clash of civilisations nor an antagonism of West and East that we are witnessing, but a global struggle that confronts democrats and theocrats.

Like all totalitarianisms, Islamism is nurtured by fears and frustrations. The hate preachers bet on these feelings in order to form battalions destined to impose a liberticidal and unegalitarian world. But we clearly and firmly state: nothing, not even despair, justifies the choice of obscurantism, totalitarianism and hatred. Islamism is a reactionary ideology which kills equality, freedom and secularism wherever it is present.


I have highlighted in bold some of the phrases that concern me. While I applaud the fact that people are standing up to the Islamists, I am not terribly sanguine about the commitment to free speech among secularists--though perhaps the signers of the manifesto are exceptions. For secularists, equality often trumps all other rights, including freedom of speech and religion. We have plenty examples up here in Canada, which is further down this road than the United States. Secularists are behind the push to get all religious symbols and belief out of the public square. Note I am making a distinction between the secular--which includes people of religious and non-religious belief--and secularism which is another ideology that proponents love to force on others.

I like living in a secular society. I like freedom of religion and association and the fact that no one denomination is forced on anyone. But religious folk are part of the secular and we have a right to be here along with non-religious folk, participating fully in public life. I don't have a problem with Muslims having freedom of religion, wearing their hijabs, praying five times a day even in public schools. I distinguish between Islam and Islamism, just as I distinguish between the secular and secularism.

France is a secularist society. You cannot home school your kids in France. You have to send them to French schools, where no religious symbols such as yarmulkes or crosses or hijabs are allowed. Now, maybe people think, okay, that's great if we can get rid of the hijabs, so what if other religious people's freedoms are restricted so that everyone is treated equally. Secularism is a new kind theocracy, only its gods are secular humanism and atheism.

While I believe in democracy and pluralism and a secular society where no one institutional church is favored, some secularists would probably accuse me of being a theocrat--falsely--merely because I take my Christian faith seriously and don't believe it should be sent into the closet or banished from the intellectual marketplace.

Also--I don't think that the kinds of freeoms and institutions and democratic values that the West has just popped up in a vacuum. They are rooted and grounded in our Judeo-Christian heritage, which took the best the Greeks and others had to offer. Successful democracies are also dependent on the development of virtue and character among the people and intervening social institutions like the family and churches. Many secularists think the state is the solution for everything, to hell with the family or any intervening institutions and they are all for social engineering---and enforced political correctness--in order to achieve their vaunted equality goals.

So...while I think we have to stand up to Islamism, I don't want to take on another -ism with a totalitarian mindset, albeit a much softer, gentler, more benign-seeming one. I'd chose the secularists over the Islamists, of course, but please, I think we can uphold democratic values, and pluralism and the idea of a secular state without going overboard in another wrong direction.

I urge caution on some aspects of this Manifesto. But I like the fact that it might be a first step in breaking some of the bizarre inability of the left to critique Islamism, perhaps because of the lure of cultural relativism.

This is the manifesto I can sign onto.

UPDATE: I'm not the only one with reservations about this Manifesto.

Kathy Shaidle over at Relapsed Catholic writes:

Manifestos are such a bad idea. They normally signal a movement in decline before it's begun, or one too esoteric to gain any popular traction.

I'm also a bit suspicious of repeated appeals to "secularism", of the presence of so many "apostates" and, in one instance, someone from Iran's "Workers-Communist Party". Maybe "suspicious" is the wrong word but I'm still half asleep.

Anyway, this is still a stirring call to "arms", and we need all the help we can get.


Brussels Journal is another.


While Islamism can be considered the perversion of religion, the three scourges of the 20th century – Fascism, Nazism (National-Socialism) and Stalinism – were secular ideologies. Neither Adolf Hitler nor Joseph Stalin were theocrats. It takes “French intellectuals” to use mankind’s experience with National-Socialism and Stalinism as motivation for a rallying cry to oppose “religious totalitarianism” and a call for “secular values,” which they hold to be “universal values.”

There is no doubt that Islamism is a threat to freedom and human dignity. However, as we have warned before, some people – undoubtedly brave, but nevertheless mistaken – are prepared to destroy certain basic freedoms, such as freedom of education, in their fight against Islam and religion in general. The question has already been put here:

Is Islam dangerous because it is a religion? Do Muslim values differ from European values because the latter are rooted in Christianity or because they are secular? These questions are at the heart of the debate in Europe today.

In our opinion, man is a religious being. Secularism destroyed the Christian roots of Europe and, in doing so, created the religious vacuum that is now being filled by Islam. The manifesto warns against

“battalions destined to impose a liberticidal and unegalitarian world. […] We must assure universal rights to oppressed or discriminated people.”

History in the past century, however, has clearly indicated that those fighting for an “egalitarian” world were the most “liberticidal” of all. Freedom is the right to live “unegalitarianly.” This is why The Brussels Journal defends the right of individuals – though not of the state – to “discriminate” (which, by the way, contrary to what the manifesto implies, is not the same as “oppress”). Indeed, it is no coincidence that the manifesto avoids referring to “Socialism” (and even “Communism”) among the scourges of the past century and prefers to speak of “Nazism” and Stalinism” instead. Half the manifesto’s signatories are probably Socialists, which explains why the manifesto obfuscates the secular, Socialist roots of these scourges.


The Da Vinci Code lawsuit--can facts and ideas be copyrighted?

I'm puzzled by the lawsuit launched by a couple of the authors of Holy Blood, Holy Grail against The Da Vinci Code author Dan Brown for copyright violation.

Every lawyer in court yesterday was equipped with copies of both books. Mr Justice Peter Smith, who exhibits both a refreshing northern accent and a magnificent moustache, disclosed that he had read both — but not, he said, in an analytical way. Jonathan Rayner-James, QC, for the claimants, told the judge that Dan Brown had “appropriated” the central theme of HBHG. “The claimants are not alone in this. Many people all over the world have commented to the same effect since The Da Vinci Code was first published.” One who noticed was a letter-writer to The Times.

Brown, however, claims that HBHG was “incidental” to the creation of his book and was consulted only at the very end of its making.

“This is an extraordinary claim that would surprise anyone who has read The Da Vinci Code after reading HBHG,” Mr Rayner-James said. “HBHG is a book of historical conjecture setting out the authors’ hypothesis. The authors’ historical conjecture has spawned many other books that developed aspects of this conjecture in a variety of directions. But none has lifted the central theme of the book.”

At one point the judge, who appeared intent on keeping a tight grip on the case and on counsel, interrupted Mr Rayner-James to say: “You couldn’t blame Mr Brown for reading HBHG and thinking, ‘That’s a cracking good story’.”

Mr Rayner-James said his clients had invested a great deal of time, effort and skill in their book, while Dan Brown had “appropriated its architecture”, and had even copied some of the language. The author’s copy of HBHG was heavily annotated, it was alleged.

“It is not as though Brown has simply lifted a discrete series of raw facts from HBHG. He has lifted the connections that join the points up.”


I have objected from the start to Dan Brown's claims that his book DVC is based on historical facts, especially since I recognized influences of the allegedly non-fiction book HBHG in those so-called facts.

Which leads me to wonder about what has happened to the whole concept of facts.
Back when I studied for a year at Dartmouth College, my religion professor repeatedly said, "Facts are not self-evident." I've often thought of that statement and, perhaps without thinking about it too deeply, have agreed with it. The way I understood it, though, was that facts need to be arranged or set into a narrative in order to be evident, we select among facts, we determine which facts are important, we put them in hierarchies. But I never questioned whether there are in fact, facts, actual truths. Things that indisputably happened.

Now it would seem that even the non-fiction authors of HBHG think that the way they've arranged the facts makes it as much of a creation as a work of fiction. Well, in this case, I am inclined to agree! But this leads me to wondering whether our culture is losing respect for the concept of facts, for a sense of objective reality out there that can be measured and agreed upon.

Yes, we are discovering new things about memory, how plastic it is, how our memories are shaped by our self-image, our stories about ourselves. We know eyewitnesses often see different versions of the same crime and that authority figures can influence the way someone recalls an event. But does that mean the event did not happen in a certain way merely because memories are faulty, or memories conflict?

Several years ago, through I listserve I belonged to, I met someone who had read HBHG and was persuaded by that book that the Christian faith was bogus. He took word for word the authors' claims that Jesus never died on the Cross, that the Turin Shroud was wrapped around a living man whose blood still flowed and Jesus escaped the tomb and ran off to India or something. Can't recall it all.

Now, apparently Dan Brown doesn't want to go that far and deny the Resurrection, though he does deny the divinity of Christ in DVC, claiming the the Emperor Constantine created the idea Christ's divinity in the 4th Century and foisted it upon the Church, which up until then thought Jesus was a nice sage. (Not true, by the way!)

These are not the only books out there that erode faith in the facts of the Gospel.

Recently I had a conversation with a dear friend who has read several books that debunk the idea there ever was a historical Jesus, books that claim the Christian faith was merely a bunch of rising, dying vegetation God myths cobbled together from the surrounding societies. That friend now doubts whether Jesus ever did really exist as a historical person.

He still believes in Jesus, but Jesus has become mythologized, disembodied, spiritualized, it seems.

That is basically how Brown ends the DVC, talking about how all religion is just "myth," uplifting stories that might help us live better lives but have no historical basis in fact.

Is it a bit like saying facts don't matter? Is it like saying that facts don't even exist?

This all reminds me of the stand that Francis Schaeffer, founder of L'Abri, took against those who, following in Kierkegaard's footsteps, would sever the "upper story" of the Christian faith--the poetic, metaphorical, spiritual and psychological truths in the Bible--from the facts contained within.

For Schaeffer the facts were of crucial importance. They grounded the "upper story."

To me the historical facts of Jesus' existence are overwhelming.

And I agree with C.S. Lewis, who said:

“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.’ That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic—on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg—or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronising nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”


[CS Lewis, Mere Christianity, Book 2, Chapter 3, The Shocking Alternative]

Shrove Tuesday


From Wilkipedia

The origin of the name Shrove lies in the archaic English verb "to shrive" which means to absolve people of their sins. It was common in the Middle Ages for "shriveners" (priests) to hear people's confessions at this time, to prepare them for Lent.
Contents


Tonight I attended our annual Shrove Tuesday pancake supper at the Cathedral of the Annunciation in Ottawa.

And...I had my first sacramental confession. We still have "shriveners" in our parish.

So...I'm ready for Lent.

The picture shows my pancake supper just before I dug in.

Christophobia---the real persecution of Christians worldwide

There's a move afoot to make Islamophobia equivalent to anti-Semitism, as if Danish cartoons or the marginalization many Muslim communities in Europe experience can be equated with the holocaust. (And, if you look at Britian where people of the same racial background and color who happen to be Hindu or Sikh fare well economically, while those of Muslim background do not, then you have to ask whether some of that marginalization is self-imposed.)

While I think anti-Semitism in Europe is seriously under-reported and growing in virulence, the other great story that gets little or no ink in the West is the persecution of Christians.

Voice of the Martyrs says that more Christians have been martyred---and this is real martyrdom, not bizarre blowing yourself up to take out others kind of bogus martyrdom--in the last century than in all previous centuries combined.

Now Poland, thankfully still a Christian country, is mounting an awareness campaign.

Gateway Pundit has news about the campaign and pictures of the posters.

Morning and Evening Prayer--A Lenten Journey

First thing in the morning when I wake up I face a choice. Do I read the newspaper while I have my morning tea? Or do I crack open the Bible and the Book of Common Prayer and Psalter and do my prayers and readings?

I open the front door, smell the icy wind, hear the clang of the cast iron metal top of the mailbox as I pull the fresh paper out and I must say, the temptation to read it is strong. But if I do...and then start traversing the Blogosphere, soon I am appalled and dismayed and everything I read adds to that state of mind.

Last time I looked "being appalled" wasn't a fruit of the Spirit. While visiting one of my other Church families at the Baptist Church, I mentioned this to the Pastor, who said he thought my state of being appalled had something to do with a prophetic gifting.

If it is, the "being appalled and dismayed" state is not a position of strength. Yes, it has its own energy, but it is not holy.

When I am disciplined to do the prayers and readings first, I can see the same things, but it's as if I'm protected by a supernatural plexiglass shield. I can see clearly what's before me, but not have a negative reaction. My peace--the peace that passes understanding that only God can give--remains unperturbed. (For the most part....every now and then, the world lobs some rotten tomato or dead chicken that strikes me and tempts me to react and I fall to it.)

I am renewing my commitment to do both morning and evening prayer offices and blog the readings and the insight they engender as a Lenten journey and discipline. If you want to start a prayer discipline, why not join me?

Tomorrow is Ash Wedneday. We'll start then.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Nice story about the GG's visit with the Pope



Rocco Palmo writes:

Michaëlle Jean, the Governor-General of Canada, was received by the Pope this morning in private audience with her husband, the documentarian Jean-Daniel Lafond, and her six year-old daughter Marie-Eden.

-snip-

Jean, a CBC journalist who began her tenure in the post representing Queen Elizabeth II as Canada's head of state last September, seemed to have (for today, at least) laid aside her known predilection for pantsuits, adhering to the traditional Vatican protocol which calls for women in skirts and mantillas, arms covered, etc.


Thanks to Kathy Shaidle at Relapsed Catholic for the link. Photo by Alberto Pizzoli.

New diet book at Purgatorio

Check it out. Heh heh heh.

An atmosphere of lies

On the way into town this morning, I listened to CFRA Radio host Lowell Greene read an email from a listener that he found highly disturbing. So did I. The listener said that he like many Canadians had waved an American flag right after 9/11, but subsequently he had done some web surfing and come across sites that claimed no plane ever struck the Pentagon, and no plane ever crashed in that Pennsylvania field. These sites purported to have evidence that no bodies or plane parts were ever found in these sites.

The listerner's well-written, articulate conclusion was that U.S. President George W. Bush and his buddies had engineered the attacks that everyone saw on television and faked the others.

Lowell wondered aloud who was putting that kind of garbage out there. I don't like to say this, but I've heard strains of this thinking from a variety of sources, too. And I remember right after 9/11, when the Canwest chain did a survey of Imams across the country, nearly all of them said they found it inconceivable that Muslims could have carried out the attacks. It must have been the Jews and Mossad, some kind of conspiracy.

How dangerous is the mindset that believes this kind of outright manipulation of the facts? How dangerous are the purveyors of these lies that speak to resentment and blame and scapegoating? Very, I'd say. That's how Hitler mesmerized the German masses, by appealing to their resentment and blaming the Jews.

ShrinkWrapped has an excellent post today on the Information War, as well as several previous posts that look at the effects of lies on the plasticity of memory.

He writes:


Many years ago, a patient told me a story. She was trying to impress me with the power of her mother's personality and how her mother's hair trigger temper made everyone reluctant to challenge her. She recalled a summer at a lake in the country; her father would stay with them on the weekends and work in the city during the week. Her mother had found and rented the cabin and would not tolerate any criticism of their accommodations. One weekend night when her father was at the lake, there was a terrible rain storm; the roof began to leak. When her father mentioned the leak to her mother, her mother screamed at him that the cottage was fine, there was no leak, and he should go to sleep, whereupon her father dutifully rolled over ands went to sleep, with the ceiling dripping on him throughout the night. There was never any further mention of the incident.

And the most interesting aspect of the story?

When my patient told me this story, she suddenly realized that though she had not thought of it for years, she had been, to that moment, uncertain whether or not the roof had really leaked.

I mention this story for two reasons. First, it is important to recognize the importance of "authority" in shaping perceptions; second, the plasticity of perception and memory requires constant vigilance to safe guard reality.


His piece focuses on how the authority of broadcaster Walter Cronkite turned an American victory in the Tet offensive into a defeat, with disastrous consequences for the United States.

He also has some good analysis of the role the MSM is playing.

Bishop Henry yells a loud Yes! and pumps his fist into the air


Calgary Bishop Fred Henry writes in his Calgary Sun Column:

The brief prayer, "God bless Canada," uttered by Prime Minister Stephen Harper at the end of his election victory speech sent shock waves through much of Canadian society.

Although taken aback by such an unexpected conclusion, I was absolutely delighted and yelled out a loud "yes" in the solitude of my living room and pumped my fist in the air reminiscent of Tiger Woods reaction to sinking an impossible putt.

Why? All too many of our politicians and public figures have been inclined to be timid, even apologetic, in professing or witnessing any belief in God.

Rather than forbidding the mention of God, here was a prime minister actually mentioning God and asking for a blessing, this constituted nothing less that a modern day resuscitation.

The prime minister's conclusion, of course, dovetails perfectly with his call for government accountability and integrity, as ultimate accountability must be rendered to God.

Furthermore, his reference to God reflects our nation's history, the spirit of the founding fathers and mothers of our nation, our national anthem, and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms which begins: "Whereas Canada is founded upon the principles that recognize the supremacy of God and the rule of law."

Immediately, the Charter proceeds to list our fundamental freedoms.

The first one is the freedom of conscience and religion. The second is freedom of thought, belief, opinion, and expression.

In the Supreme Court case, known as Big M Drug Mart case, Chief Justice Dickson established the nature of religious freedom in broad terms: "The essence of the concept of freedom of religion is the right to entertain such religious beliefs as a person chooses, the right to declare beliefs openly and without fear of hindrance or reprisal, and the right to manifest belief by worship and practice or by teaching and dissemination ..."

Regrettably, it's mostly been downhill ever since.

After asserting our fundamental freedoms, the Charter then begins to spell out rights -- first democratic rights, then mobility rights, followed by legal rights, then equality rights, etc.

Section 15 (1) reads: "Every individual is equal before and under the law without discrimination and, in particular, without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability."

More recently, not only has "sexual orientation" been read into the Section 15 (1) of the Charter, but the courts have ruled that protection for homosexual practices is part and parcel of the protection for "sexual orientation."

In 2002, the Ontario Divisional Court ruled that the owner of a print shop, Scott Brockie, could not refuse to provide services to an organization even if the organization's fundamental purpose violated his religious conscience.

Brockie, an evangelical Christian, had refused to print letterhead and stationary for the Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives.

The court narrowed the acknowledgment of Brockie's religious beliefs. He could only refuse to print materials the content of which actually offended his beliefs. Meanwhile, he was fined for offending the dignity of his gay-rights accusers.

In 2005 a B.C. Human Rights Tribunal ruled a Knights of Columbus Council was entitled to cancel a hall rental when the Council learned the rental was for a lesbian "wedding" reception.

Nevertheless, beyond comprehension, the panel proceeded to rule that the complainants had suffered an affront to their "dignity, feelings and self-respect" and the women were therefore awarded $1,000 each.

All of this despite a number of efforts being made by the Knight to accommodate the couple in question with other options.


Bishop Henry goes on to list several more areas where equality trumps religious freedom.

For my American readers, the list is an eyeful.

A Lenten journey. . .want to join me?

I used to post links to The Daily Offices for Morning and Evening Prayer until I got too busy to do so more than a year ago. As I prepare for Lent and a renewed commitment to actually trying to do both of these daily offices, I am considering posting those links again and blogging here on my Lenten Journey.

Father Carl Reid, Dean of the Anglican Catholic Cathedral of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Ottawa where I worship, gave an awesome sermon on Lent on Sunday.

Here is an excerpt of what he said.

“Behold, we go up to Jerusalem,” Jesus says to His Apostles as they begin that final journey to the Holy City where the events of the Passion shortly were to transpire. “Behold, we go up to Jerusalem, and all things that are written concerning the Son of man shall be accomplished. For He shall be delivered unto the Gentiles, and shall be mocked, and spitefully entreated, and spitted on: and they shall scourge Him and put Him to death; and the third day He shall rise again.”
Surely, here is the most essential aspect of our Lenten journeys – we are to go up to Jerusalem – with Him. Through Lent, we are to walk with Jesus, knowing as He did, what was to befall Him; and, thus to share in His Passion, to acknowledge our own part in the events, in the sins, that put Him to death, but, finally, and joyfully, to gaze upon our Resurrected Lord, He Who is the Divine Love that transforms and heals us, Who makes us at one with God.

The Gospel passage tells us that, immediately after Jesus had finished His words to the Apostles about the events that were to take place in Jerusalem, “they understood none of these things: and this saying was hid from them.” Which is to say, in a sense, they were blind.

The episode that then follows on the road to Jerusalem involving the blind beggar, as real as it is in terms of the manifestation of the Divine Love as shown in our Lord’s compassion, as important as it is in teaching us about faith, is above all symbolically important. We, like the Apostles, are so very limited in our ability to see truly and thus to comprehend fully. We are also very much like the blind beggar, or at least we should recognize ourselves to be so, spiritually.
Wednesday past, we began our study of The Sermon on the Mount, beginning in Chapter 5 of the Gospel according to St. Matthew. What is the very first, arguably foundational, Beatitude? “Blessed are the poor in spirit; for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Of the two Greek words for poor, Matthew chose the one that means absolutely destitute to communicate our Lord’s teaching that only when we admit our utter inability to save ourselves, only when we acknowledge our spiritual blindness, and therefore, only when we faithfully place our spiritual welfare completely in God’s hands, do we become clay fit for the heavenly potter.

“Lord, that I may receive my sight. And Jesus said unto him, ‘Receive thy sight; thy faith hath saved thee’.” As we absorb this lesson that true faith is faith in God only, not faith in our own accomplishments or abilities – we cannot heal our blindness ourselves – a light begins to dawn. Like the Apostles and the blind man, but only through the compassionate Divine love, we leave darkness. Our Lenten journey with our Lord, then, is from darkness towards light, as we walk with Him, placing the outcome of our spiritual journey utterly and completely in His hands.


The whole sermon is worth reading, especially his "cautions" on the Stations of the Cross.

If you want to prepare for Easter with readings and prayer, why not join me?

Dr. Sanity has good posts on progress of democracy

Check out her No instant gratification post here.

Priests tell Vatican to ordain gays and recognize same-sex marriage

Montreal Gazette reporter Cheryl Cornacchia writes:

MONTREAL - Nineteen Quebec priests yesterday denounced the Vatican's opposition to same-sex marriage and its refusal to allow gay men into the priesthood.

In an open letter published yesterday in La Presse, the priests expressed the strongest public dissent to date on the Roman Catholic church's stand on homosexuality.

In the letter published under the headline "Enough is enough," the priests charge that by considering homosexuality a "disorder," the church is contributing to homophobia.

"There is no reason for the ban on homosexual men from entering the priesthood," said Rev. Raymond Gravel, a parish priest in the diocese of Joliette and one of the letter's 19 signatories.

In an interview yesterday, Father Gravel added, the church has invoked "natural law" to support its current ban against homosexuality, gay marriage and gay priests.

However, Father Gravel said, where it comes to "the mysteries of life," the Roman Catholic church has been wrong before in its 2,000-year history and it is wrong again now.

Father Gravel added he and the other Quebec priests who signed the letter felt they could no longer remain silent.

The letter, which runs about 1,000 words, calls on clergy throughout Quebec to open dialogue at the parish level.

The initiative is a response to the position against same-sex marriage taken by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops and the publication of a Vatican directive forbidding gays from entering the priesthood.



Will be following this story.

UPDATE:

Here is LifeSiteNew's blistering response to this story.


My take? While I wish moments like this could be used as great teaching opportunities, bishops have pastoral concerns and responsiblities that I cannot fathom from the outside. And they face an unfriendly secular news media which has already made up its mind. For Catholics who are confused by the priests' letter and interested in finding out the bishops' position on same-sex marriage, for example, they can find plenty of material on the record already. Find some key documents here.

The bishops were on the forefront in the battle to save traditional marriage in Canada, so I have to give them credit for that. How individual bishops discipline or don't discipline priests is another matter. Fascinating story, but I will reserve judgement.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

SpongJohn Square Pantheist

Thanks to Lisa Samson, I came across Purgatorio. Check out their new Anglican mascot SpongJohn Square Pantheist. Hilarious.

More good news from Iraq

This is the kind of news you are unlikely to hear or read about in the mainstream media about Iraq.

The gist of Gateway Pundit's excellent post is that the Islamofascist terrorists may be serving to unite Iraqis rather than divide them.

We must remember that Iraq has Syria on one side and Iran on the other and both those countries are sending in foreign fighters responsible for much of the so-called insurgency in Iraq.

Iran and Syria may also have played a key role in fomenting the over-the-top, rage about the cartoons.

While Iraq may not be slipping into the civil war meme that existed even before Saddam was deposed, an idea that was one of the main reasons why many on the left and maybe even President George H.W. Bush decided not to go all the way to Baghdad in the firt Gulf War, that doesn't mean we have clear sailing and peace ahead.

Something terribly evil is afoot, and I can't help but think, like many others, that we are in a similar place now as people were in the 1930s when Hitler was on the rise.

Of course most "reasonable people" thought he was a buffoon who couldn't possibly mean what he was saying. Maybe that's how people view Ahmadinejab in Iran.

I'm with David Warren on this one. He believes the cartoon controversy is the most important thing to happen since 9/11.

David writes:

This will be my 11th consecutive column, directly or indirectly on the “Danish cartoons” issue. The cartoons themselves were a red herring from the start -- a fake issue, trumped up by fanatical Muslims seeking grievances to abet a confrontation, and thereby extract concessions from the West. It is a fire, still being stoked around the world by radical “Islamists”, using shameless lies and misrepresentations. (See my previous columns.)

The reason I have written so copiously on this subject -- not the cartoons themselves, but what I have called the “organized apoplexy” in response to them -- is because it is important. In my judgement, it is the most important thing that has happened since the Al Qaeda attack on the United States, in 2001. It is important in combination with other fast-developing events, including the victory of the openly terrorist Hamas in a Palestinian election; Iran’s public promise to “wipe Israel off the map”; collapsing public order in Pakistan, Nigeria, and elsewhere; the recent Muslim riots, and continuing low-level Intifada in France; and now the destruction of the Golden Mosque in Samarra, triggering vicious sectarian strife in Iraq. And quite literally, hundreds of lesser events of the same nature -- each revealing an Islamic world in combustion, and a West retreating into contrived apologies and other confused gestures of cowardice and panic.

One cannot keep up with all these events -- the wheels of history are turning too quickly. The world in which we will find ourselves, a few years hence, will not resemble the world we inhabited a few years ago. Yet this is among the few predictions that can be safely made. The events will fall out as unpredictably as those Danish cartoons. The names, dates, and places are not yet recorded; but the shape and scale of events is already blotting the sun on our horizon.

Even after the experience of the Great War, and the Depression, people on the eve of the Hitler war could not appreciate what was coming. It is only in retrospect that we understand what happened as the 1930s progressed -- when a spineless political class, eager at any price to preserve a peace that was no longer available, performed endless demeaning acts of appeasement to the Nazis; while the Nazis created additional grievances to extract more.


I think he's right. It's a terrifying thought. But all the reason not to bury ourselves in denial.

What else is it going to take for people to wake up?

Render unto God the things that are God's

Fr. Tom Rosica's Toronto Sun column looks at what belongs to Caesar and what belongs to God.

He writes:

In the end, we are left with two images -- the image of Caesar and the image of God. To the first image, Jesus asks a simple question: Whose picture is on the coin? The emperor's. Therefore, give the emperor the part of your possession that belongs to him. But Jesus also has a second, penetrating question: whose image and blessing is on humankind? God's. Therefore, give to God your entire being-- undivided.

Is service to God and to Caesar compatible? We face a perpetual temptation to accept the promise of material blessings and power from political, economic and even ecclesiastical systems in exchange for circumscribing our commitment to God. What is required is the courage and wisdom to give simple, truthful answers when we find ourselves in ambiguous and compromising situations.


I've added the emphasis. Good advice.

I agree. It's time for the West to wake up.

Mark Steyn today:

Something very remarkable is happening around the globe and, if you want the short version, a Muslim demonstrator in Toronto the other day put it very well:

''We won't stop the protests until the world obeys Islamic law.''

Stated that baldly it sounds ridiculous. But, simply as a matter of fact, every year more and more of the world lives under Islamic law: Pakistan adopted Islamic law in 1977, Iran in 1979, Sudan in 1984. Four decades ago, Nigeria lived under English common law; now, half of it's in the grip of sharia, and the other half's feeling the squeeze, as the death toll from the cartoon jihad indicates. But just as telling is how swiftly the developed world has internalized an essentially Islamic perspective. In their pitiful coverage of the low-level intifada that's been going on in France for five years, the European press has been barely any less loopy than the Middle Eastern media.

What, in the end, are all these supposedly unconnected matters from Danish cartoons to the murder of a Dutch filmmaker to gender-segregated swimming sessions in French municipal pools about? Answer: sovereignty. Islam claims universal jurisdiction and always has. The only difference is that they're now acting upon it. The signature act of the new age was the seizure of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran: Even hostile states generally respect the convention that diplomatic missions are the sovereign territory of their respective countries. Tehran then advanced to claiming jurisdiction over the citizens of sovereign states and killing them -- as it did to Salman Rushdie's translators and publishers. Now in the cartoon jihad and other episodes, the restraints of Islamic law are being extended piecemeal to the advanced world, by intimidation and violence but also by the usual cooing promotion of a spurious multicultural "respect" by Bill Clinton, the United Church of Canada, European foreign ministers, etc.

The I'd-like-to-teach-the-world-to-sing-in-perfect-harmonee crowd have always spoken favorably of one-worldism. From the op-ed pages of Jutland newspapers to les banlieues of Paris, the Pan-Islamists are getting on with it.


Dr. Sanity responds here.

I don't know about you, but none of the "one world" fantasies that I have ever had included me and my daughter wearing a burqha. Nor did they ever include substituting liberty for oppression or living in abject slavery to some religion's brutal and bloodthirsty god.
It is definitely time for the West -- particularly the left -- to wake up and get serious in dealing with this threat.

Is this the next J.K. Rowling?

When I saw that headline on an Ottawa Citizen article sitting on a table in the back of my church this morning, at first I wanted to object and say, no, I want to be the next J.K. Rowling. But when I looked further and saw the person in question was Matthew Skelton, the son of some dear friends in Edmonton, then I will gladly step aside.

Paula Simons writes:

EDMONTON - Once upon a time, there was a shy, studious kid from Edmonton named Matthew Skelton. Matthew wasn't a fast reader. But he loved books. He loved to buy them, to collect them, to own them. He dedicated himself to the study of literature and publishing. In 1996, at 25, he left Edmonton to study at Oxford.

He earned his doctorate, but he couldn't find a full-time job. So the impoverished young academic, living out of a suitcase on #12 a week, wrote a novel called Endymion Spring, about a young brother and sister who discover a haunted book in Oxford's Bodleian Library, a medieval book of all knowledge, which requires the blood sacrifice of an innocent child to yield its secrets.

Matthew didn't think his novel was good enough to publish. But a friend insisted on sending the manuscript to an agent. It ended up in a big slush pile, until someone found it and realized how special it was. Then Matthew sold his book to the world's most respected children's publisher for a huge sum, Endymion Spring was translated into 14 languages, the film rights were sold to Warner Brothers, and Matthew Skelton lived happily ever after.

Sound like a fairy tale? Well, meet Matthew Skelton. His magical first novel, Endymion Spring, will be released next month by Puffin Books in Britain, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, and by Penguin Canada here. Random House brings out an American edition in August. And there are forthcoming editions in France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Greece, Russia, Norway, the Czech Republic, South Korea, Japan, Portugal and Brazil.

"I'm quite astounded, still, that this would happen," Skelton laughs. He's just about to turn 35, but he projects a kind of sweetly diffident naivete that makes him sound far younger. "It just seems so unreal to me. I was very afraid, because I thought kids might not like this book at all.

"Anyone expecting another Harry Potter will be disappointed," he adds. "Endymion is a fairly formidable read, I think, but I wrote it to please myself."

Indeed, Skelton's novel has more in common with Philip Pullman's Dark Materials trilogy, or Cornelia Funke's The Thief Lord, than with J.K. Rowling's work. It's a Faustian tale about what happens when the quest for knowledge becomes an obsession, when books become more important than people. While most fantasy authors present a black-and-white Manichaean universe -- where the forces of darkness are embodied by evil wizards, or witches, or demons -- Skelton's bad guys are ordinary human beings who've been tempted and corrupted by ambition and covetousness. And his heroes are armed not with magic wands, nor swords, nor rings, but only with innocence, courage and the bonds of family love.


May he truly be the next J.K. Rowling. As for me? May I be the next Dan Brown, who wrote The Da Vinci Code. Only I hope that our respective novels will also serve as antitodes.

What is really happening in Iraq?

The MSM is so convinced that Iraq is going to fall into civil war that the meme is like the harsh Afghan winter that was supposed to mire coalition troops in that war.

In my Ottawa Citizen this morning, the headlines were about the fear of civil war, but the story itself showed hopeful signs.

Here is an interesting round up of news from Arabian dissent on what he was able to garner from Al Jazeera's coverage. (Thanks to Blogging Tories for the link.)

Arabian dissent writes:

-All the people ordinary people that they spoke to affirmed that they did not want a civil war and hoped the situation would calm. (Like I predicted)

-That's not to say everything is fine, far from it. There will still eventually be terror exchanges by the extremists of both Shia and Sunni factions. Factions which were never controllable in the first place since the fall of Saddam. However, an all-out Civil war for the moment seems improbable.

Texas Rainmaker keeping an eye on the Ricin story

Texas Rainmaker is following the possible discovery of Ricin in a roll of quarters at a Texas university.

It may be a false alarm, but further tests on the substance should produce results today. Drop by his site later to find out.

My take? We cannot be too vigilant. We cannot allow ourselves to be lulled back to sleep after 9/11 woke most of us up.

Prior to 9/11 it seemed that many terrorist attacks were foiled by someone having a little intuitive nudge to do something like check out the trunk of some guy trying to cross the border from Canada into the U.S. That's what happened to stop the would-be Millennium Bomber Ahmed Ressam, who planned to blow up Los Angeles airport as a way of celebrating the year 2000.

I happen to think those little intuitive nudges have a supernatural origin. But we can easily become deaf to them, or refuse to obey them for fear of looking like Chicken Little.

I'm not calling for hysteria or paranoia, but for cultivating watchfulness and spiritual abiding so that we can calmly, fearlessly assess the horrific dangers marshalled against us, both outside the West and internally.

It is too easy to fall into denial.

Italian organization seeking to revive Western Civilization

Carla from Italy dropped by yesterday to let me know about an organization there that is trying to revive Western Civilization in that country. From what I've read on the English version of the site, I'd say this is an organization that's singing off the same song sheet that I am about the need for renewal, for revival, for recapturing a sense of the spiritual rootedness of our culture.


The West is in crisis. Attacked externally by fundamentalism and Islamic terrorism, it is not able to rise to the challenge. Undermined internally by a moral and spiritual crisis, it can't seem to find the courage to react. Our affluence makes us feel guilty and we are ashamed of our traditions. Terrorism is seen as a reaction to our errors, whereas it is nothing less than an act of aggression against our civilization and against all human kind.
Europe is at a standstill. Its foreign policy lacks unity, its birth rate is declining and so is its competitive edge in the world market. Europe hides and denies its own identity, and so fails to gain popular support when called to adopt a constitution. It hops on the anti-American bandwagon and drives a wedge between itself and the United States.
Our traditions are questioned. Our heritage, dating back thousands of years, is denied in the name of secularism and progressivism, thus impoverishing the values of life, of the person, of marriage and of the family. It is affirmed that all cultures are equally valid. The integration of immigrants has been left rudderless and without rules.
As Benedict XVI said, nowadays "The West doesn't love itself any longer". To overcome this crisis, we need to increase our commitment and show more courage when dealing with issues regarding our civilization.


Drop by the site. Check out some of their network. Looks like there's a healthy remnant in Europe, just as there is in Canada.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Finders keepers 2006-style

This is a bizarre story about an expensive digital camera lost on vacation and the way the mother who reported finding it behaves when the owner contacts her.

"Well," she said, "we have a bit of a situation. You see, my nine year old son found your camera, and we wanted to show him to do the right thing, so we called, but now he's been using it for a week and he really loves it and we can't bear to take it from him."

I listened, not sure where she was going with this.

"And he was recently diagnosed with diabetes, and he's now convinced he has bad luck, and finding the camera was good luck, and so we can't tell him that he has to give it up. Also we had to spend a lot of money to get a charger and a memory card."



What kind of message about character is this mother sending her child? I remember when I was a kid, we might jump on something and say, "Finders keepers" but that was the rough and tumble world of the backyard and the playground. Our parents taught us that if we found something like a wallet we returned it intact.

I can just see this kid. He probably has been whining or throwing tantrums in the supermarket aisles, especially by the candy at the checkout. And this mother has probably given him everything he whines for until she has ruined his health with too much sugar. And created a self-centered, neurotic, whining monster to boot.

But this is what seems to pass for child-rearing these days.

In a conversation with a teacher today, she discussed how out of control and disrespectul today's students are and how younger teachers tolerate things like kids sitting in the back with those little earphones in listening to music, or napping with their heads on their desks.

She won't allow that kind of behavior in her class and what happens? The parents attack her for being hard on their child.

No wonder parents who want to raise children to exhibit sound characters and virtue are hauling their kids out of public schools.

Thanks to Strong World, one of the Blogging Tories.

The blogosphere zooms in on discovery of Ricin in roll of quarters

Gateway Pundit has great links to another possible front opening in the war of terrorism.

Let's see if the MSM gives this story as much play as it gave U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney's hunting accident.

No plans to expand hate laws

This is a relief. (Thanks to Kathy Shaidle over at Relapsed Catholic for the link.)

David Rider writes:

TORONTO (Reuters) - The Canadian government has refused demands from the country's Muslim leaders to expand a law banning hate propaganda so that it covers cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad such as the ones that have sparked worldwide protests.
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Patrick Charette, press secretary to Justice Minister Vic Toews, told Reuters that Canada's new Conservative government has no plans to broaden the scope of the 36-year-old law.

"The provisions covering hate propaganda ... as they stand strike a balance between the freedom of expression and also the rights of minorities to be protected from hatred," Charette said. "It's broad enough right now."

The Islamic leaders' calls come in the wake of a prosecutor's decision not to lay hate charges against two Canadian publications that reprinted a selection of the infamous cartoons.

The chief prosecutor for Calgary, Alberta, said he determined the Western Standard and Jewish Free Press were "trying to debate the issues" in articles accompanying the cartoons, not incite hate.

Bloggers rally in Washington to support Denmark


Christopher Hitchens, who wrote a blistering defence of Denmark for Slate Magazine, called for a peaceful demonstration in support of that country in front of the Danish embassy in Washington on Friday at noon.

Several other bloggers were there, including Andrew Sullivan, who at one time was an everyday stop for me. Now I visit him occasionally.

I lifted this picture off Age of Hooper, where there are other good photos.

Scroll down on Age of Hooper and you'll find video of Hitch's speech.

Thanks to Michelle Malkin for the links. Instapundit also has some via Vital Perspective.

I am very much enjoying various Arla cheese products, especially the garlic cream cheese spread. It's like Boursin only half the price.

How bad ideas and lies combine in ever more pernicious forms

Dr. Sanity puts me onto a ShrinkWrapped post that are well worth reading to understand more about the strange convergence of toxic ideas from the Marxist left and the Islamism.

Dr. Sanity writes:

We see the results of this new alliance in the postmodern rhetoric and behavior that assaults us on a daily basis.

What matters is not truth or falsity--only the effectiveness of the language used. Lies, distortions, ad hominem attacks; attempts to silence opposing views--all are strategies that are perfectly satisfactory if they achieve the desired effect. Ideas and reason must make way for reification of feelings; and freedom is replaced by thought control.

The postmodern assault as it is used by the new totalitarians of the 21st century is a four-pronged attack to undermine
- Objective reality
- Reason and the rational debate of ideas
- Individual freedom and freedom of thought and speech
- Progress and capitalism

The strategies used are:
- The distortion of language and meaning to undermine the individual's perception of reality;
- The use of direct or threatened physical violence to suppress speech and individual freedom;
- Politically "correct" thought control and cultural relativism to undermine reason and rational debate;
- The promotion of environmental hysteria to undermine progress, industrialization and capitalism

These activities represent the most serious assault on reality, reason, and individual freedom since the twin beasts of communism and socialism rose up early in the 20th century. And, though seriously wounded, they are rising again in a new and more virulent form.

Nothing short of a spiritual revival will save us

I believe the fundamental problem facing the West is not Islamofascism, but a collapse of faith, a loss of a meaningful sense of rootedness in the Judeo-Christian Story, and a consequent failure of principle and virtue in both leaders and the people.

We still have lots of vestiges, like a big inheritance that is rapidly being squandered.

Pope Benedict XVI has been sounding a similar alarm long before he became Pope. Now there's an excerpt posted on the web of a new book by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger & Marcello Pera - called Without Roots: The West, Relativism, Christianity, Islam.


If colonization could be considered a success, it is in the sense that contemporary Asia and Africa can also pursue the ideal of a world shaped by technology and prosperity. Yet there, too, the ancient religious traditions are undergoing a crisis, and secular thinking has made inroads and begun to dominate public life.

These processes have also produced the opposite effect: Islam has been reborn, in part because of the new material wealth acquired by the Islamic countries, but mainly because of people's conviction that Islam can provide a valid spiritual foundation to their lives. Such a foundation seems to have eluded old Europe, which, despite its enduring political and economic power, seems to be on the road to decline and fall.

By contrast to Europe's denial of its religious and moral foundations, Asia's great religious traditions — especially the mystical component expressed in Buddhism — have been elevated as spiritual powers. The optimism in European culture that Arnold Toynbee could still voice in the early fifties sounds strangely antiquated today: "We are faced by the fact that, of the twenty-one civilizations that have been born alive and have proceeded to grow, thirteen are dead and buried; that seven of the remaining eight are apparently in decline; and that the eighth, which is our own, may also have passed its zenith." Who would repeat these same words today? Above all, what is European culture, and what has remained of it? Is European culture perhaps nothing more than the technology and trade civilization that has marched triumphantly across the planet? Or is it instead a post-European culture born on the ruins of the ancient European cultures?

At the hour of its greatest success, Europe seems hollow, as if it were internally paralyzed by a failure of its circulatory system that is endangering its life, subjecting it to transplants that erase its identity. At the same time as its sustaining spiritual forces have collapsed, a growing decline in its ethnicity is also taking place.
There is a paradoxical synchrony in these developments. The victory of the post-European technosecular world and the universalization of its lifestyle and thinking have spread the impression — especially in the non-European countries of Asia and Africa — that Europe's value system, culture, and faith — in other words, the very foundations of its identity — have reached the end of the road, and have indeed already departed from the scene. From this perspective, the time has apparently arrived to affirm the value systems of other worlds, such as pre-Colombian America, Islam, or Asian mysticism.

At the hour of its greatest success, Europe seems hollow, as if it were internally paralyzed by a failure of its circulatory system that is endangering its life, subjecting it to transplants that erase its identity. At the same time as its sustaining spiritual forces have collapsed, a growing decline in its ethnicity is also taking place.


I came across this excerpt through the Catholic Educator's Resource Center, which sends out a bi-weekly email list of excellent articles of interest to Christians. Visit their site, sign up for your own email update, and make a donation to support this excellent service.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Work Research Foundation is doing great work

Check out their Comment Magazine and read this essay by Gideon Strauss, which touches on the beauty of the story as per the Wounded by Beauty post below.

Gideon writes:

When I put down that tired old paperback that Angela bought me, I entered a night of vigil. For my teenage imagination, informed by years of reading Tolkien, entering The Story was like laying down arms before a conqueror, changing sides in a furious war, finding peace in the service of the true king. It was less a choice than a surrender, less an achievement than a gift received.


Read it all.

Some sane perspective on Iraq

From Dr. Sanity...with great links.

Wounded by beauty



Over at the Master's Artist, my fellow blogger J. Mark Bertrand has launched a discussion about beauty and apologetics, which led me to remember an essay "Wounded by the Arrow of Beauty" in a new book released by Ignatius Press by Pope Benedick XVI called "On the Way to Jesus Christ."

Mark writes:

In other words, we don't come to the debate as neutrals. We already have positions and those positions influence the way we see the argument. Instead of forming our beliefs based on careful weighing of the evidence, we look at the whole picture -- the story -- and believe what is most compelling. Logic is a component of the process, but not its totality. We form our beliefs and commitments, Hart says, because we find them aesthetically pleasing, or beautiful.


The essay, written when the Pope was still Cardinal Ratzinger is online here:

He begins by contrasting two Scriptural passages read side by side during Holy Week, one that describes the sublime beauty of the wedding of the King from Psalm 45 [44] and the famous passage from Isaiah 53:2 "He had neither beauty nor majesty, nothing to attract our eyes."

The Pope writes:

How can we reconcile this? The appearance of the "fairest of the children of men" is so wretched that no one desires to look at him. Pilate presented him to the crowd saying: "Behold the man!", to rouse sympathy for the crushed and battered Man, in whom no external beauty remained.



Then, after summing up some of the thinking of Augustine and Plato he writes:

In the first place, the text of Isaiah supplies the question that interested the Fathers of the Church, whether or not Christ was beautiful. Implicit here is the more radical question of whether beauty is true or whether it is not ugliness that leads us to the deepest truth of reality. Whoever believes in God, in the God who manifested himself, precisely in the altered appearance of Christ crucified as love "to the end" (Jn 13,1), knows that beauty is truth and truth beauty; but in the suffering Christ he also learns that the beauty of truth also embraces offence, pain, and even the dark mystery of death, and that this can only be found in accepting suffering, not in ignoring it.


After some more wonderful, clear writing that is the hallmark of this great man, who deserves to be called the Vicar of Christ on earth, we find this:

Being struck and overcome by the beauty of Christ is a more real, more profound knowledge than mere rational deduction. Of course we must not underrate the importance of theological reflection, of exact and precise theological thought; it remains absolutely necessary. But to move from here to disdain or to reject the impact produced by the response of the heart in the encounter with beauty as a true form of knowledge would impoverish us and dry up our faith and our theology. We must rediscover this form of knowledge; it is a pressing need of our time.


Then he moves into a meditation on evil, on Auschwitz, on how it often seems these days that evil is more real than the good.

The One who is the Beauty itself let himself be slapped in the face, spat upon, crowned with thorns; the Shroud of Turin can help us imagine this in a realistic way. However, in his Face that is so disfigured, there appears the genuine, extreme beauty: the beauty of love that goes "to the very end"; for this reason it is revealed as greater than falsehood and violence. Whoever has perceived this beauty knows that truth, and not falsehood, is the real aspiration of the world. It is not the false that is "true", but indeed, the Truth. It is, as it were, a new trick of what is false to present itself as "truth" and to say to us: over and above me there is basically nothing, stop seeking or even loving the truth; in doing so you are on the wrong track. The icon of the crucified Christ sets us free from this deception that is so widespread today. However it imposes a condition: that we let ourselves be wounded by him, and that we believe in the Love who can risk setting aside his external beauty to proclaim, in this way, the truth of the beautiful.


I don't know about you, but this writing makes me want to weep for the beauty it conveys.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

No hate crime charges laid against Western Standard

But Muslim group is calling for hate laws to be strengthened.

I sure wish that Muslims were out in the streets protesting against Al Quaeda's bombing of a Shi'ite Shrine in Iraq, or the beheadings of journalists, or the kidnapping of Christian peacemakers than against some cartoons that are no where near as virulent and hateful as those routinely appearing in the media of Muslim-dominated countries. Where is the proportion? They do themselves no credit in persisting in this. I think people know now that there is a sensitivity to depictions of their prophet. That will encourage some to responsibily exercise respect. But not if threats are attached and not if freedom of speech is at stake.

Is a Catholic diocese a public or private institution?


Whether the Catholic Church is deemed to be a private or a public institution is now the subject of debate at the Cornwall Inquiry and, according to MSM reports, could have an impact on the inquiry's scope.

Here's a story from today's Ottawa Citizen.

The Citizen's headline reads: Cornwall diocese expected to try to derail abuse inquiry.

The lawyer representing the Diocese of Alexandria-Cornwall was on CBC Radio this morning talking saying the diocese was cooperating fully with the inquiry.

Here is the CBC story.

In a controversial move, the diocese under investigation at a public inquiry in Cornwall for its handling of sex abuse allegations is arguing that it not be considered a public institution.

If the Alexandria-Cornwall Roman Catholic Diocese succeeds, it will limit how closely the inquiry can examine the diocese's response to abuse complaints.

The inquiry, which wraps up its second week on Friday, is looking into how allegations of sexual abuse by prominent citizens and clergy were handled by authorities.


-snip-

But the diocese argues it is a private corporation and a charity, not a public institution with a duty to deal with complaints of abuse.

David Sherriff-Scott, the lawyer for the diocese, says his client does not intend to curb the inquiry's reach, and has in fact been co-operating with the commission by handing over key documents.

"To suggest that the diocese is somehow trying to limit the inquiry is absolutely irresponsible and wrong," said Sherriff-Scott.

He says the commission agrees with his client's position, but other groups may ask for a ruling on the matter.


My take? We must be cautious about jumping to conclusions on this one. If the Church is to be characterized as a public institution, then where are cries about separation of Church and State from the MSM? And we must be cautious about judging the past by the knowledge and standards of the present. Witnesses so far have revealed that only by the 1980s did social scientists begin to realize the scope of the problem involving acquaintance pedophiles who focused on boys. That's not to say that anyone who abused children should be excused or protected from justice, either.

UPDATE

More controversy coming out of the Inquiry. Here's today's Ottawa Citizen story.

CORNWALL - A motion to exclude victim testimony from an inquiry into the handling of child sex abuse allegations in Cornwall could mean the end of the commission, the inquiry heard yesterday.

"How can we possibly hold an inquiry into alleged sexual abuse without hearing from the victims?" said Dallas Lee, lawyer for the 48-member Victims Group.

The commission, lead by Justice Normand Glaude, has given standing to groups representing alleged abuse survivors, including The Men's Project and Victims Group. The commission is supposed to look at the response of several public and community institutions to allegations of historical abuse of children in the Cornwall area over the past several decades.

But yesterday a lawyer for two men who faced allegations insisted the claims had no place at the hearing. "It is our opinion alleged victims should not testify," said Guiseppe Cipriano, lawyer for Rev. Charles MacDonald and the estate of Kenneth Seguin. "And if they do, they should not name who these people accused of wrongdoings are."

What happened to the watchdogs of free expression?

Alan Dershowitz and William Bennett write in the Washington Post:

There was a time when the press was the strongest guardian of free expression in this democracy. Stories and celebrations of intrepid and courageous reporters are many within the press corps. Cases such as New York Times v. Sullivan in the 1960s were litigated so that the press could report on and examine public officials with the unfettered reporting a free people deserved. In the 1970s the Pentagon Papers case reaffirmed the proposition that issues of public importance were fully protected by the First Amendment.

The mass media that backed the plaintiffs in these cases understood that not only did a free press have a right to report on critical issues and people of the day but that citizens had a right to know about those issues and people. The mass media understood another thing: They had more than a right; they had a duty to report.


-snip-

What has happened? To put it simply, radical Islamists have won a war of intimidation. They have cowed the major news media from showing these cartoons. The mainstream press has capitulated to the Islamists -- their threats more than their sensibilities. One did not see Catholics claiming the right to mayhem in the wake of the republished depiction of the Virgin Mary covered in cow dung, any more than one saw a rejuvenated Jewish Defense League take to the street or blow up an office when Ariel Sharon was depicted as Hitler or when the Israeli army was depicted as murdering the baby Jesus.


Thanks to Dr. Sanity for the link.

Does this story ever bring back memories

Here is Dawn’s account of her own journey into the white light of unemployment, which is a cautionary tale about all kinds of things — from not-so-tolerant libertarian editors (I speculate freely here) to the dangers of expressing one’s faith in the blogosphere.


I never got fired but I did get accused a couple of times--falsely--of having an agenda because I was a Christian and a conservative, a rare, rare combination in the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. at the time. (And I imagine, to this day.) I thought I was merely pointing out in story meetings that there was another point of view beyond the group think I encountered. While most of the time, to their credit, my dissonant voice was welcomed by my superiors, I did occasionally land on programs ruled by secular fundamentalists.

While working on another program with a different cast of characters that were mostly great to work with, the subject of abortion became dicey. An otherwise nice, rational, sound journalist, who happened to be my boss, became angry and bullying. The sudden transformation shocked me. I can discuss abortion calmly. I had no problem in booking a panel that pitted great debators representing the pro-abortion and pro-life sides of the issue. I could calmly present both sides of the argument.

And as a CBC producer, I would even have been polite and referred to the pro-abortion side as pro-choice because that is how they describe themselves. My job was to present the debate as fairly and openly as possible and let the viewers decide. But, because of my Christian faith, my boss assumed that I had a bias and therefore could not be trusted on this issue. Of course the "pro-choice" secular fundy group think viewpoint could be trusted because for these birds of a feather it was the "objective" view. And.....I have found more totalitarian, knee-jerk, angry, irrational responses from pro-abortion people on this issue than from any of the pro-life people I would have chosen to participate in any debate.

In fact, the people I chose were so good at their rational arguments on related issues such as euthanasia, my colleagues would describe them as "the odious [insert name]."

What the CBC and other MSM had done repeatedly was create a straw man debate on abortion. They pick some Bible-waving redneck jerk to foment a few lame "It's in the Bible" and "God says it is wrong" arguments and pit that person against some cool, collected and reasonable-sounding person who frames everything according to the rights of women, blah blah. And, given they had restricted the soundbytes to this narrow parameter, they were bored silly with the debate. Eyes would roll.

And it was tiring to see the same things over and over, like hearing a record stuck in the same groove.

I confess, I didn't even know how many great, rational, medical, ethical non-religious arguments there were out there against abortion until I tried to get past the straw man set ups. As I explored this I started wondering...how come we never hear from the doctors or nurses who had gruesome epiphanies that what they were doing was horrible and wrong when they saw a tiny arm in the suction equipment? Or about the after effects of abortion on women, including a higher risk of breast cancer?

Just as the marriage debate was framed in the MSM as a self-evident equality issue vs. homophobes using a religious justification, so is the abortion debate framed only as a self-evident right of a woman to control her body vs. the oppressive troglodytes that would stop them. I'm sick of the MSM because of that.

Thanks to Kathy Shaidle over at Relapsed Catholic for the link to Dawn's story.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Stanley Kurtz at NRO on the abolition of marriage

Sweden’s bold feminists have exposed the long-term agenda of the social left. Still, given FI’s tactical errors, we can expect Sweden’s social radicals to adopt a more subtle strategy. The Law Commission of Canada has advocated the establishment of a flexible, gender-neutral, multi-partner relationship system in addition to marriage. The strategy is to get that new system going, then subtly phase out marriage, boil-the-frog-style. Expect proposals like this from Sweden.

Even if the Left Party loses its place in Sweden’s governing coalition at some point, it will surely be back. Say a decade from now, under some future left-dominated coalition, the time may be ripe for adopting an experimental multi-partner-friendly relationship system that, in the long run, can push marriage itself aside. As Sweden’s conservatives point out, now that youth divisions of the country’s left-leaning parties are starting to tout polyamory, we can expect future parliaments to consider the idea.

What does it mean when a movement wants simultaneously to formalize gay marriage, equate marriage with mere registered partnerships, equate registered partnerships with mere cohabitation, and then abolish marriage itself? It seems contradictory, but it all makes perfect sense once you realize that Sweden’s social liberals don’t support either gay marriage or registered partnerships out of any affection for marriage itself. On the contrary, Sweden’s social left is simply using gay marriage as a lever to achieve the abolition of marriage itself.

Why we must keep an eye on the fanatics

I used to know a man whose family were German aristocracy prior to World War Two. They owned a number of large industries and estates. I asked him how many German people were true Nazis, and the answer he gave has stuck with me and guided my attitude toward fanaticism ever since.

“Very few people were true Nazis” he said, “but, many enjoyed the return of German pride, and many more were too busy to care. I was one of those who just thought the Nazis were a bunch of fools. So, the majority just sat back and let it all happen. Then, before we knew it, they owned us, and we had lost control, and the end of the world had come. My family lost everything. I ended up in a concentration camp and the Allies destroyed my factories.”


Thanks to Kate McMillan at Small Dead Animals.

Mark Bertrand on Iraq and rules for blogging

My fellow Masters Artist Mark Bertrand has some really good posts up. One of them is on a Frontline piece on Iraq called The Insurgency.

He writes:

For Americans on the right of the political spectrum, the most frustrating parts of the report will be the early mistakes that allowed the insurgency to gain ground. For those on the left, the words of one Iraqi army officer will sting: if the Coalition forces leave now, he says, that's the end of Iraq. I'm no expert, but I don't think approaching this problem through a partisan political lens is the answer. The insurgents see themselves as part of an international movement. They interpret every political compromise we make as a glorious victory (and a sign of greater victory to come if they continue their campaign).


Another is on his self-imposed rules of blogging and participating.

Let's not jump to conclusions on the U.S. ports deal

While I have concerns, I hestitate to jump on the bandwagon against the deal to sell operational control of some major U.S. ports to a United Arab Emirates company until I clearly understand why U.S. President George W. Bush is digging in on this one. Dr. Sanity has some good links as she too is working through her own concerns. Gateway Pundit also has some excellent links.

Yes, we have to understand fully the threat of Islamofascism, and know we are fighting a pernicious extremist ideology rather than terrorism, which is merely a technique. But all Arabs are not Islamofascists, nor are all Muslims extremists. And our Islamofascist enemies can be white and homegrown like John Walker Lindt.

We have to rise above the temptation to fear, to hate and to stereotype. We must show restraint, while keeping our eyes wide open to the very real danger arrayed against us all over the globe.

Imagine if the Ku Klux Klan grew in power. With their cross burnings and terror tactics they succeeded in gaining recognition as Christian leaders because they waved Bibles around and used Christian symbols. Imagine that they ran neighborhoods, governments and countries and lynched their opposition. Any Christians who disagreed with them were executed along with the blacks, Jews, and anyone who challenged their fanaticism.

How would you feel if you, as a Christian, or a nonbeliever simply living in their neighbhorhood, were constantly lumped in with them? If the stated enemies of the Ku Klux Klan would kill you, imprison you and remove your rights because the fearful rise of the Klan tempted those enemies to demonize you too? What if the shooters of abortion doctors suddenly became a more significant minority? And they shot not only abortion doctors but any Christians who dared criticize them, calling them apostates.

Maybe that's a little of what it feels like to be a moderate Muslim in countries where speaking up against the Islamofascists could send you to prison to be tortured, or draw a mob to burn down your house or hack you with a machete. If you look at the fear in the West among newspapers when it comes to printing the Muhammed cartoons, you see it doesn't take much of a threat to shut people up. Some angry people with signs or threat of a hate crimes charge is enough it seems.

I have often believed that those on the left who have opposed the war in Iraq have often had a racist attitude towards those living in the Middle East. Though they would never say it aloud, they think of them as barbarians who could never appreciate democracy, who are incapable of creating democratic institutions. They look at the cartoon riots as something those poor barbarians can't help but do. They would see the cartoons as a stupid provocation of a primitive force, something like deciding to take a swim among sharks while you have a nosebleed. You couldn't blame the sharks for their feeding frenzy, that's just their nature. You would get all the blame for being stupid, just as the Danish editor who commissioned those cartoons is getting blamed for the riots. And they probably blame Bush for creating the barbarian mentality in the first place.

Bush has a vision of democracy in the Middle East. It requires that we win the hearts and minds of the people there. It is a beautiful vision. It requires that we show restraint. That we not allow the extremists to tempt us to become like them. Note I say restraint. Restraint is not the same thing as appeasement, though our enemies might wrongly interpret it that way.

For all the bad news out there, let's not lose perspective.

Here is an encouraging sign that Muslims in India are not falling for the fatwas of extremist clerics.

And we have to recognize that American Muslims played a role in this bust of a terror cell in Toledo.


I believe Islamofascism is a huge threat to the West, similar to past threats posed by Nazi Germany, or the Soviet Union. But a far bigger threat is our own loss of faith. We have lost our place in the Story that grounds our civilization. Our best defence is to recover that faith. Then we will have a godly wisdom to discern the real dangers around us without demonizing people in a way that dehumanizes us. We will have the restraint to behave in a civilized manner towards our enemies no matter what they do, and we will have the courage to respond to them with strength when justice requires it.

Perfect love casts out fear. It is not the weak-kneed Jimmy Carter type Christianity of smiling appeasement, nor is hateful revenge of the crossburning Klan.

For those of us who are Christians, it is all the more important that we choose not to fear anyone but God. Only He is worthy of our fear and awe. To allow ourselves to fear our enemies is a form of idolatry and perverse worship. It's a choice we must make constantly, and the fear is easy to succumb to. It takes discipline and prayer and dwelling in the secret place of the most High.

We need revival and spiritual renewal here, folks. Without it, it doesn't matter who is running our ports, we are in dire danger. And without it, the pluralistic society we love is going to devolve into a totalitarianism where there will be no religious freedom or freedom of speech.

Patients murdered to speed hospital staff evacuation during Katrina

Thanks to Kathy Shaidle over at Relapsed Catholic, I was directed to Lost Budgie, who links to Not Dead Yet, a group opposing euthanasia.

Feb. 21, 2006 -- On February 16th, 2006, NPR revealed that it had access to "secret court documents" of the investigations of alleged killing of patients at Memorial Medical Center in New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

The NPR account tells a chilling story. But unfortunately, NPR and others in the media are still calling the alleged homicides "mercy killings."

The following is a statement by Not Dead Yet, a national disability rights group, in response to the framing of these homicides as "merciful" acts:

The term mercy killing is a loaded one, a term that tends to generate sympathy for the killer. It's also generally used in those cases when the victim of a murder is old, ill or disabled.

Within days of Katrina striking New Orleans, rumors surfaced of "mercy killings" and euthanasia at one or more hospitals in the area. Apparently, these were more than just rumors -- the attorney general in Louisiana has been investigating the allegations, although little about the investigation has become public.

Until now.


Read it all.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Pro-life group supports teacher fired for out-of-wedlock pregnancy

Good on them!

LifeNews.com editor Steven Ertelt reports:


McCusker has filed an employment discrimination lawsuit against the school, which is run by the Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn. But the school defends its decision.

"The school requires its teachers to convey the faith, to convey the gospel values and Christian traditions of the Catholic faith," Frank DeRosa, a spokesman for the Diocese of Brooklyn, told ABC News.

However, a pro-life group is coming to McCusker's aid.

Serrin Foster, president of Feminists for Life, says the firing sends the message to women and employees that they should have abortions if they become pregnant.

"When an employer fires a woman for carrying a child to term, they send an unintended message: An abortion will cover up the sex," she says.

"How would the employer feel if they later learned that their actions contributed to pressuring Ms. McCusker into having an abortion," she asked.

"The compassionate response to a woman who is carrying a child should be to ask if she needs help," Foster explained. She added that firing a pregnant woman is to "cause a crisis for her by taking her career, her income, and the obstetric/prenatal care that is critical to the health and well being of both mother and unborn child."


If the Catholic teacher is repentant about her out-of-wedlock sexual behavior, then why shouldn't the school keep her on? Of course if she brazenly goes about promoting premarital sex, then her presence is a scandal at the school whether she is pregnant or not.

Christopher Hitchens says stand up for Denmark

Thanks to Michelle Malkin for this link to Hitchen's latest post in Slate Magazine.


The incredible thing about the ongoing Kristallnacht against Denmark (and in some places, against the embassies and citizens of any Scandinavian or even European Union nation) is that it has resulted in, not opprobrium for the religion that perpetrates and excuses it, but increased respectability! A small democratic country with an open society, a system of confessional pluralism, and a free press has been subjected to a fantastic, incredible, organized campaign of lies and hatred and violence, extending to one of the gravest imaginable breaches of international law and civility: the violation of diplomatic immunity. And nobody in authority can be found to state the obvious and the necessary—that we stand with the Danes against this defamation and blackmail and sabotage. Instead, all compassion and concern is apparently to be expended upon those who lit the powder trail, and who yell and scream for joy as the embassies of democracies are put to the torch in the capital cities of miserable, fly-blown dictatorships. Let's be sure we haven't hurt the vandals' feelings.


and he ends with this:

I wonder if anyone might feel like joining me in gathering outside the Danish Embassy in Washington, in a quiet and composed manner, to affirm some elementary friendship. Those who like the idea might contact me at christopher.hitchens@yahoo.com, and those who live in other cities with Danish consulates might wish to initiate a stand for decency on their own account.

Now the Christians are fighting back in Nigeria

Of course, the Christian retaliation will probably be front page news and dominate TV news broadcasts, but the violence that preceded it has barely been reported.

Thanks to Michelle Malkin for the link.

And Little Green Footballs led me to this statement from Anglicans in Nigeria.

Having watched with sadness and dismay the recent development in some States in the Northern part of this Country where many Christian Churches and other property have been wantonly destroyed by some Islamic fundamentalists, the Christian Association of Nigeria is compelled to issue the following statements:

1. From all indications, it is very clear now that the sacrifices of the Christians in this country for peaceful co-existence with people of other faiths has been sadly misunderstood to be weakness
2. We have for a long time now watched helplessly the killing, maiming and destruction of Christians and their property by Muslim fanatics and fundamentalists at the slightest or no provocation at all. We are not unaware of the fact that these religious extremists have the full backup and support of some influential Muslims who are yet to appreciate the value of peaceful co-existence.


I came to the Anglican statement via Judith Klinghoffer's article.

She writes:

I know, I have written about this before. At that time a Nigerian left this comment on my site:

This REFUSAL of the press to mount a HUGE OUTCRY is GETTING US KILLED. . . . If they'd all come out in unison and HOWLED THEIR DISGUST, it might have quelled the riots and shamed the Muslims into ceasing this obscene behaviour. As it is, Muslims see nothing is going to happen to them for howling and they are going to up the ante. The REAL STORY IS THE PRESS REFUSAL TO COVER THIS. WHY?

Now, oh, my God, the machetes have come out. Remember Rwanda? Christians again are murdered in their churches.

You really want to cry? The poor Christians apparently knew what was coming and tried appeasement.

-snip-

Now they realize that it was the wrong move, as their appeasement has been interpreted as weakness. Indeed, the cartoons are used to further the goal of turning Nigeria into an Islamic state.