Deborah Gyapong: March 2007

Friday, March 30, 2007

The Daily Ablution interviews Michael Crichton

What is the most serious threat facing our civilisation?

Loss of classical liberal values in those western societies that embraced them.

England was the first modern state, the first superpower, the first nation to deal with moral issues around the world, and the first nation to install the benefits of what we might now loosely term a liberal society. I mean that in the 19th century sense of liberalism. That notion of liberalism was also present in America, but made it to the Continent only in a pale and limited form. It is a wonderful social conception that must be vigilantly guarded. It is not shared by other nations in the world. Nor is it shared by many citizens in English-speaking countries. Peculiarly, many of our most educated citizens are least sympathetic to classical liberal ideals. Indeed the term 'liberalism' in the modern day has come to imply a constellation of attitudes that John Stuart Mill would not recognize as liberal at all. Nor would, say, John F. Kennedy recognize them as liberal. Kennedy's conception of liberalism was simultaneously more tolerant and more tough-minded: tolerant about varieties of behavior within the society, and tough-minded toward threats to a tolerant society from without.

That's all gone, now. Today there is far too much sensitivity within societies, and too little hard-nosed recognition of threats from without. We are inclined to be intolerant of speech by our friends and neighbors, and tolerant of beheadings, rape, and homophobia in distant lands.

This makes no sense. But here we are.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Church needs respond to alarming societal changes

OTTAWA, Canada (CCN) – Bishop Ronald Fabbro believes the Catholic Church needs to actively respond to “alarming” societal changes regarding the family in the wake of the redefinition of marriage.

“Formerly the family was supported by the culture that we lived in but we can’t presume that anymore,” the bishop of the London, Ont., Diocese said in a March 23 interview here. “I think the church has an important role to play in bringing the tradition that we have as Catholics to help our people understand the deeper meaning of marriage and family.”

Bishop Fabbro, who chairs the Catholic Organization of Life and Family’s (COLF) board, said some families can feel “so overwhelmed” by the present anti-family culture they are “capitulating to the popular culture.”

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Dr. Sanity diagnoses the British response to the Iranian capture of their Marines

They provoke. We issue stern words. They escalate and use military force. We send diplomats to make nice. They tell us clearly and repeatedly what they their plans are. We don't believe them.

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Monday, March 26, 2007

Sometimes I'm proud of the CBC

Just found out through The Anchoress about a wonderful little documentary CBC Sunday Night TV news aired on the Dominican Sisters of Mary. Beautiful, heart-warming piece. Please be sure to watch it!

Yes, when I worked at the CBC, I often had opportunities to do life-affirming TV pieces, or oversee others doing them. It's too bad that so often we see stuff that bashes Christians, especially Catholics. If you like this piece, write to Tony Burman at and let him know.

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Sunday, March 25, 2007

There is no legal right to abortion in Canada

OTTAWA, Canada (CCN) – Despite claims by pro-choice activists, there is no constitutional right to abortion, said members of a pro-life panel on abortion and the law at Carleton University.

At the March 21 event, they also warned that women are being denied crucial health risk information prior to terminating their pregnancies.

Lawyer and Laurentian Leadership Centre director Janet Epp Buckingham called the claims of a constitutional right to abortion a “disturbing trend.”

“This is not the law in Canada,” she said, explaining the 1988 Morgantaler decision that struck down Canada’s abortion law recognized “there is a legitimate government interest in protecting the unborn.”


Saturday, March 24, 2007

Who gets to define what is Catholic?

Years ago, during a discussion with some friends, I commented that no one who doesn't believe in the Trinity should call themselves a Christian. My friends were a little miffed at this, thinking that anyone who felt they were a Christian, who was a good person, who followed the teachings of Jesus Christ, was entitled to call themselves one.

To me that's like my calling myself a vegetarian even though I eat meat.

Now a theologian in the United States has been publicly accused of false teaching for saying that one can be Catholic and still support same-sex marriage, birth control and abortion.

In a statement released March 22, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) Committee on Doctrine took aim at two pamphlets published by Daniel Maguire, a 75-year-old professor at the Jesuit Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wis., “The Moderate Roman Catholic Position on Contraception and Abortion” and “A Catholic Defense of Same-Sex Marriage.”

He said he sent that one to members of Congress and state legislators in Wisconsin. In the pamphlets, which were sent to the nation’s 270 bishops on June 19, 2006, as well as to members of the U.S. Congress and Wisconsin state legislature, Maguire argued that abortion, contraception and same-sex marriage are morally permissible under Catholic doctrine, that the church teaching on these issues is “pluralistic” and that Catholic theologians through history had expressed a variety of positions on those issues.

“The Roman Catholic position on abortion is pluralistic,” wrote the professor of religious ethics, former priest and long-time critic of Catholic Church teaching on sexuality. “It has a strong ‘pro-choice’ tradition and a conservative anti-choice tradition. Neither is official and neither is more Catholic than the other.”

Further, he said that there is no one position that can be called “Catholic” concerning the morality of homosexual acts and same-sex “marriages.” “Catholic teaching is in transition,” he wrote, “and Catholics are free to let their consciences decide either for or against same sex marriages. Both views – for or against homosexual marriage – are at home in the Catholic world and neither one of them can be called more orthodox or more official or more Catholic than the other.”

The bishops’ Committee on Doctrine denounced the pamphlets as “irresponsible,” saying that the claim “that the teaching of the pope and the bishops represents merely one voice among many legitimate voices within the Catholic Church” is in “serious error.”

I recently interviewed Hans Kung, a theologian who holds dissident views on papal infallibility and women priests, was stripped of his license to teach as a Roman Catholic theologian, but is proud of the fact that he is known throughout the world as a Catholic theologian. Kung and Maguire have a point in this: if you were to take a survey of self-described Catholics---people who identify with the "tribe" for one reason or another--you would find in Canada and perhaps the U.S. and Europe---that a majority would probably agree with the dissident theologians.

But this self-defining group may not even be church attenders, never mind believers in the faith.

Those who believe the "people of God" have as much insight into the movement of the Holy Spirit as the hierarchy often think the Church should go in the direction the people are going and become more democratic and more open to changing mores. Same-sex marriage is a sign of the times for them, something they believe God wants.

However, if you look at the Pope's latest Apostolic Exhortation on the Eucharist, you will see that all members of the People of God, whatever their place in the hierarchy, are called to 100 per cent consecration of their lives, to place themselves as living sacrifices on the altar of Jesus Christ. That kind of wholehearted devotion produces a different type of Catholic. I am reminded of Jesus' saying in the Gospel of John 7:17 that those who will to do God's will, will know whether what Jesus is saying comes from God or not. In other words, without a willingness to obey the truth, the discernment of truth remains murky. A laity wholeheartedly sold-out for Christ--that sort of "people of God" could be trusted to sense the movement of the Holy Spirit. And would come in line with what the Church has always taught. But people who were born into the Catholic Church through their culture, and attend only at Christian and Easter still need to experience a conversion to that kind of willingness to die to self.

What I think happens is that people think that their opinions arising from their doubleminded lives and out of darkened consciences are worth consulting and qualify as Catholic. They are not. But by virtue of their baptism, they are part of the Catholic Church.

The Catholic Church is not a democracy. I've always wondered by those who object so much to its teachings don't just become liberal Anglicans, or join the United Church.


Friday, March 23, 2007

Richard Dawkins sliced and diced

Interesting refutation of Richard Dawkins by Alvin Plantinga over at Christianity Today.

(Could it be that his mother, while carrying him, was frightened by an Anglican clergyman on the rampage?) If Dawkins ever gets tired of his day job, a promising future awaits him as a writer of political attack ads.

Hat tip Mark D. Roberts, who is always worth reading.

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Bishop Smith appointed Edmonton Archbishop

I had the privilege of interviewing Bishop Richard Smith via telephone from Pembroke yesterday, the day the announcement of his appointment as Archbishop of Edmonton became official. I haven't written my story yet, but if it gets posted electronically, I will post a link. Bp. Smith told me he loves being a priest and loves being a bishop. He grew up in a devout Catholic family in the Halifax area, and a wonderful Spryfield priest modeled for him what he wanted to do with his life.

Of course Rocco Palmo at Whispers in the Loggia is on top of the story.

At January's end, whilst doing the (ecclesiastical) star-gazing during Archbishop Thomas Collins' installation in Toronto, one couldn't help but notice the bishop of Pembroke standing solidly head and shoulders above the other prelates grouped on either side of the cathedra.

Sure, Richard Smith is tall. But, me being me, I took it as a bit of an omen....

This morning, the Pope named the 47 year-old Smith as archbishop of Edmonton, succeeding the aforementioned TC.

The appointment is but the latest step in a rapid rise for Smith, currently president of the Ontario bishops and also spiritual advisor to Canada's highly-influential Catholic Womens' League (CWL). A native of Halifax, where he served as vicar-general prior to his 2002 appointment to the northern Ontario diocese of 65,000, he was a professor of theology at St Peter's Seminary in London in addition to serving simultaneously as pastor of three communities. A Roman alum, he earned his doctorate in theology from the Greg in 1998.

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Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Hans Kung --His Holiness' loyal opposition

Here's the piece I wrote about Hans Kung via Catholic online. For more on my impressions of the Swiss-born theologian go here. An excerpt of my piece follows. By the way, they added "Father" to his title, I guess because he is a priest. I more frequently see him referred to as Dr. Kung.

OTTAWA, Canada (CCN) – Swiss-born theologian Father Hans Küng said he has a “right to be in his holiness’ loyal opposition,” representing thousands of liberal-leaning Catholics who remain disappointed the Second Vatican Council renewal did not go far enough.

Often a scathing critic of the papacy and church doctrine, Father Küng has softened somewhat since his Sept. 2005 meeting with Pope Benedict XVI. Many see the meeting as a gesture of reconciliation, on both sides.

“There are two ways to be a Catholic, aren’t there?” Father Küng said in an interview here March 15 while promoting the publication of the French edition of part one of his memoirs entitled My Struggle for Freedom, which he jokingly described as “conflict studies.”

“I think he went one way, I went another way, but we are both Catholics,” he said. “I am not a lonely wolf. He knows that, that I am representative of another part of the church.”


A Christian theological perspective on The Secret

Everyone's talking about The Secret, though it couldn't be that much of a secret if that's the case. Anyway, Our Sunday Visitor has an interesting article that looks at the ideas and philosophy behind it from the perspective of some Catholic theologians. Interestingly, in Dan Brown Da Vinci Code fashion, apparently the author of the secret, believes the Catholic Church suppressed the secret. Give me a break!!!!!!

Byrne allegedly discovered that power in 2004, when she read The Secret of
Getting Rich, written in 1910 by Wallace D. Wattles. That book convinced Byrne
some long-lost secret to success existed and set her off on a Da Vinci Code-like
rabbit chase to find it.
What she discovered (after a mere year of research) was "The Law of Attraction.”
According to her book, this “law” was practiced by historical greats such as Plato, Galileo and Einstein, and has been “discovered, coveted, hidden, lost and recovered” repeatedly for the past 4,000 years. The book also claims the Catholic Church worked assiduously through the centuries to keep “The Secret” a secret.


Monday, March 19, 2007

Cardinal Ouellet responds to Pope's exhortation on the Eucharist

OTTAWA, Canada (CCN) – Cardinal Marc Ouellet, archbishop of Quebec, believes Pope Benedict XVI’s apostolic exhortation on the Eucharist could bring about an “extraordinary renewal in attendance at Sunday Mass,” if it is given a careful reading.

Cardinal Ouellet said the document challenges the rampant individualism in democratic society and shows how the church can “give the sign of fraternity, of sharing together, of coming closer to one another.”

“That’s at the heart of the document, to awaken a new awareness of the centrality of Sunday,” the primate of the Catholic Church in Canada said in a telephone interview from Quebec City March 15. “The sacrament of the Eucharist is the heart of the church, where we are brought together by the person of the risen Lord, to receive nourishment, energy and a new impulse to bring the gospel everywhere.”

The picture shows Cardinal Ouellet with Conservative Senator Gerry St. Germain at Senate hearings on legislation to change the definition of marriage. The picture has nothing to do with this story, except it's a nice one of the cardinal that I happened to have in my files and that I still retain rights to.

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Barbara Nicolosi contemplates the Boomers' legacy

Over at Church of the Masses Barbara Nicolosi writes about the legacy of the Baby Boomers on the Catholic Church. As a Boomer who rebelled, I repent. I repent. Nicolosi writes:

Now, clearly, there is a tremendous amount of stored up resentment in Gen Xers and the Millenials towards the Boomers. I know I’ve been simmering for years under the intolerant tolerance of the grim socially activist but individual people-despising folks who have dismantled every social and ecclesial framework in the last forty years, not to mention making taboo the idea of anything ever actually being taboo.

I’m just wanting to talk in an ecclesial sense here, though.

I see in the generations now wresting power from the Boomers, the inclination to set back the clock to before all the insanity started. I think this inclination is only going to gather momentum in the next few years. Some of this is fueled by rage at having so many things jammed down our throats – like, for example, the way a boomer pastor at any area church is grimly determined to wreckovate our beautiful church despite the fact that nobody in the parish wants it. He keeps bloviating in the Sunday bulletin and from the altar that “we can no longer do worship according to the current mind of the Church in this worship space.” There has been picketing and people fleeing the parish and parishioner rebellions, but the grey-haired Crusader continues grimly on. He will drag us all into the revolution and rip apart our gorgeous sanctuary whether we want it or not, damnit!

The lesson that the Rebellious Generation has never learned is that, just because people fall silent, does not mean you have won them over. It just means that they are waiting for their moment. Knowing that eventually all tyrants fall.
Read the whole thing, then check out the comments. Most interesting.

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Mothering Sunday--the real mother's day

From Fr. Peter Jardine's sermon on Mothering Sunday--the real mother's day:

What more reason could we have for honouring women, our human mother’s and motherhood itself, than that God did not abhor the virgin’s womb.

On the Cross, St. John tells us, When Jesus therefore saw His mother, and the disciple standing there whom He loved, He saith unto His mother, Woman, behold thy Son! Then saith He to the disciple, Behold thy mother!

It is understood from these words of Jesus Christ that He gave His blessed mother not just to St. John, but to all of us. That is the interpretation carried in the prayer following the Salve Regina as sung at Walsingham, which contains the words, O Mary, recall the solemn moment when Jesus, thy Divine Son, dying on the Cross, confided us to thy maternal care. Now there are those who dispute this interpretation of those words of Christ upon the Cross, but there is a prayer of St. Augustine in which for me the matter is put to rest. It contains the following paragraph:

Woman incomparable, thou art both bodily and spiritually Mother and Virgin. Mother of our Head, who is the Saviour, thou art Mother also of his members, even of ourselves; for by charity thou hast co-operated in the birth of the faithful into His Church. Thou art the beauty and dignity of earth, O Virgin, and hast ever been the type of the holy Church. By one woman came death, and by another even by thee, O Mother of our God, came life.

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Iraqis say their lives are getting better, but you'd never know it

Dr. Sanity has some interesting posts and worthwhile links today.

Check out this story.

And especially, click on the Vanderleun link. Read the whole thing. Here's sample:

Four years in. An inch of time. Four years in and the foolish and credulous among us yearn to get out. Their feelings require it. The power of their Holy Gospel of "Imagine" compels them. Their overflowing pools of compassion for the enslavers of women, the killers of homosexuals, the beheaders of reporters, and the incinerators of men and women working quietly at their desks, rise and flood their minds until their eyes flow with crocodile tears while their mouths emit slogans made of cardboard. They believe the world is run on wishes and that they will always have three more.


Four years in and we see these old rotting rituals trotted out in the streets like some pagan procession of idols and shibboleths, like some furred and feathered fetish shaken against the sky by hunkering witch-doctors, to hold back the dark, to frighten off the evil spirits and graven images that trouble the sleep of the dreamers.

Four years into the most gentle war ever fought, a war fought on the cheap at every level, a war fought to avoid civilian harm rather than maximize it. Picnic on the grass at Shiloh. Walk the Western Front. Speak to the smoke of Dresden. Kneel down and peek into the ovens of Auschwitz. Sit on the stones near ground zero at Hiroshima and converse with the shadows singed into the wall. Listen to those ghost whisperers of war.

Four years in and the people of the Perfect World ramble through the avenues of Washington, stamping their feet and holding their breath, having their tantrums, and telling all who cannot avoid listening that "War is bad for children and other living things." They have flowers painted on their cheeks. For emphasis. Just in case you thought that war was good for children and other living things.

There were children and other living things on the planes that flew into the towers. They all went into the fire and the ash just the same. But they, now, are not important. Nor is the message their deaths still send us when we listen. That message is to be silenced. The rising brand new message is "All we are say-ing is give...." And it is always off-key.

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Sunday, March 18, 2007

I miss Dr. Laura

We used to be able to get Dr. Laura on the radio up here in Canada, but I believe political correctness shut her down. Had forgotten about her until Kathy Shaidle at Relapsed Catholic linked to a transcript of one of her radio conversations with a vet who lost a limb in Iraq. Read the whole thing.

Jay: I am an ex-military soldier with a loss of limb, and I’m having a difficult time reconciling between being revered as (quote) “a war hero” and reviled as an oppressor. Friends, family…

Dr. Laura: Who reviles you as an oppressor?

Jay: Believe it or not, my family.

Dr. Laura: You mean your mother and father?

Jay: And my sister as well.

Dr. Laura: Who do they think you oppressed? I mean, how stupid is your family?


Hans Kung as seen through the media lens

I interviewed dissident Catholic theologian Hans Kung this week and was pleasantly surprised to find that he is not the negative, strident, constantly critical person he comes across as in news stories I've read about him. Kung deserves his reputation as a brilliant theologian. I see that I have been perceiving Kung through the lens of the secular journalists, who have often used him to bolster their own positions.

It would seem to me that journalists who want to criticize the pope or the Roman Catholic hierarchy, or Church teachings make Kung their "go to" person who can be depended upon for negative comments. Jennifer Green writes in a Citizen article published March 15:

Since Benedict's election almost two years ago, hundreds of reporters have contacted Father Kung, confident that he will say exactly what he thinks of the increasingly conservative papacy.

He did not disappoint, making the point that if the church does not reform, it could end up as a facade of rules and rituals, while it weakens at the parish level.

"The hierarchy can preach what it wants, but the people do what they want, and that is a disastrous situation," says Father Kung.

As he spoke, news was flashing around the world that Benedict has no plans to ease the rules on priestly celibacy, communion for divorced Catholics, or anything else for that matter. He also called for more Latin in the mass and even Gregorian chants.

Well, the article I'm going to write will focus more on points of agreement between Kung and Ratzinger. Because I was not looking for criticism of the Pope, or of the Church, I got a different interview. And interestingly, even when he spoke to a group of Saint Paul University professors, he said positive things about his meeting with the Pope Benedict XVI months after his election.

Green focused her piece on Kung's assessment of why Ratzinger left Tubingen University where they were both professors after their participation as theologians in the Second Vatican Council.

Green starts off the piece:

Behind the rigid rule of Pope Benedict XVI is a man who lives in terror of grassroots rebellions, says a renegade theologian who was once his friend.

After student revolts swept Germany in 1968, "he got more and more conservative, more and more frightened," says Rev. Hans Kung.

Then at the end of the piece, she concludes that Ratzinger's journey to conservativism was based on fear, using quotes from Kung's memoir My Struggle for Freedom :

But a few years later, thousands of students revolted, some violently, protesting a government they saw as hypocritical and authoritarian.

He writes in his book: "We were both more than once vociferously prevented from teaching by sit-ins of protesters from other faculties in the lecture room. What for me remained a temporary annoyance evidently had a permanent shock effect on Ratzinger. He didn't want to remain in Tubingen a semester longer."

He was most horrified at a group of Catholic students demanding more control over their chaplaincy.

"To the present day, Ratzinger has shown phobias about all movements 'from below;' whether these are student chaplaincies, groups of priests, movements of church people, the Iglesia popular or liberation theology."

Father Ratzinger left for another university.

Now, contrast this with Vatican specialist John Allen's Jr.'s treatment of the same time period and its pivotal role in moving Ratzinger in a more conservative direction. He does quote Kung, who describes Ratzinger as "timid" but he stresses other points, and gives ample space to Ratzinger's perspective. Here's how he treats Ratzinger's reaction to the radical protests:

For Ratzinger, all this was simply too much. Frustrated that the theology faculties were emerging as the ideological center of the protest movement, Ratzinger joined forces with two Protestant colleagues, Ulrich Wickert and Wolfgang Beyerhaus, to "bear witness to our common faith in the living God and in Christ, the incarnate word," which the three men believed was under threat. Ratzinger found himself in conflict with many of his colleagues. "I did not want to be always forced into the contra position," he said, and thus he abandoned Tübingen, a height that most theologians can only dream of attaining, after only three years.


Ratzinger was also deeply disturbed by events at the student parish in Tübingen, where a group of radicals claimed the right to express a "political mandate" for the parish. These students wanted to appoint the chaplain themselves and to lead the parish into political activism. The debate deeply polarized the Catholic students at Tübingen. Ratzinger expressed his worries about the situation to his students, especially on the question of the bishop's right to appoint chaplains. It was another awakening experience for Ratzinger, an object lesson in the dangers of a politicized faith.

Ratzinger later said the Tübingen experience showed him "an instrumentalization by ideologies that were tyrannical, brutal, and cruel. That experience made it clear to me that the abuse of the faith had to be resisted precisely if one wanted to uphold the will of the council.... I did see how real tyranny was exercised, even in brutal forms.anyone who wanted to remain a progressive in this context had to give up his integrity." According to observers who were at Tübingen in the late 1960s, several of Ratzinger's graduate students, including some who had followed him from Bonn and Münster, became puzzled and frustrated at his new stance. Some deserted him to study under Küng or Metz.

Interesting, eh? Because of articles that have used Kung to provide a negative view of the Church, I was prepared to dismiss him. Frankly, I've found many of the so-called dissident Catholics quite appalling as theologians and not even Christian, never mind Catholic Christian. But in preparing for the interview, I read parts of Kung's Does God Exist?

The book is a brilliant apologetic for Christ that totally engages philosphy and science. When I read his section on Blaise Pascal, I connected with him because Kung clearly respects Pascal as do I. Then he makes the case for the specific God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and finally for the incarnate and risen Son of God, Jesus Christ. I still disagree with Kung on a number of issues, but agree with him on essentials. He said he agrees with the Pope on essentials too.

Why do so few journalists ever mention those essentials?

Also....though Benedict may be a shy man, to say that he is timid or frightened doesn't seem to jibe with a man who went to Turkey after the violent reaction to his speech at Regensburg, possibly risking his life. Nah, Benedict's no coward. And I understand his reaction against the totalitarian revolt of the students.

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Saturday, March 17, 2007

Iain Benson addresses the soccer hijab controversy

Great post over at the Centre for Cultural Renewal by Iain Benson on the soccer hijab controversy.

There is a danger in using technical objections to “deal” with something else. It is an old trick universally employed in politics and, in fact, just about everything else. Thus, to attack Jesus and shut him down, avoiding his other more uncomfortable claims, you accuse him of “healing on the Sabbath” or, in Quebec, in the bad old days under Mayor Duplessis, you attack the Jehovah’s Witnesses by withdrawing their liquor licences. As noted in the last article in this space, such inappropriate applications of rules can be applied in exceedingly clever ways – such as, trying to squelch the freedom of belief and expression of medical personnel by the roundabout claim that they must “provide a full set of medical services” (such as abortion) or at least “refer” for them. There, the general rule about medical services is being used to avoid accommodation just as surely as, in the other examples, one set of beliefs are being circumvented by the inappropriate application of other sorts of rules.

Or let us take another example of the same sort of thing. In some places, it is common to attack religious groups through the use of zoning bylaws so as to restrict their growth or even their existence. This use of one set of rules (religious rules, liquor licensing, zoning, or a supposed duty to “provide a full range of medical services”) as means of avoiding proper public sphere accommodation of personally held beliefs is, a use of law and rule-making that always threatens liberty. When the English sought to subordinate the Scots, they banned the wearing of the kilt or the playing of the bagpipes. Eradicate the diversity of those you wish to subjugate and you are half way to making them invisible. How we dress is reflective of our beliefs in some ways, and in the heated climate of contemporary multi-culturalism, dress is becoming an issue that frames how we approach pluralism itself.

One well-known example of using rules about “dress” to make an (anti-religious) statement was the French government’s decision, a few years ago, to implement the recommendations of the Stasi Commission (see earlier articles on this site:click here to view) banning the wearing of “ostensible religious symbols” of all types in French classrooms. A rule, effectively, on “school clothes” was being employed to make some beliefs (but not others) invisible, rather than a more searching quest for the proper principles of accommodation.

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Robert Sibley's article on The Vulgarians is a must read

Ottawa Citizen journalist Robert Sibley has a must read piece on the growing vulgarity of our society and what that is doing to true human freedom.

In The Vulgarians at the Gate Sibley writes:

Why would we, as a society, regard turning children into sexual objects as legitimate creative expression? It is such moral incoherence that ensures our children are increasingly immersed in a culture that has reduced the idea of human fulfilment to self-gratification. Much that children see on television and the Internet, hear on their iPods or cull from the fashion magazines, tells them their identity and self-worth depends on attracting the attention of others through the flaunting of their sexuality. It would take a multi-volume forensic examination of the modern psyche to address the issue. For my purposes, it is perhaps sufficient to regard the sexualization of pre-pubescent children as yet another example of western culture's increasing vulgarity.
Please read the whole thing. It is excellent.

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Friday, March 16, 2007

Ottawa focuses on Canadian identity

My piece on Canadian identity has been picked up by B.C. Catholic

OTTAWA (CCN) -- Who are we? What does it mean to be Canadian? Questions of
Canadian identity have frequently occupied pundits, academics, and politicians.
Now the Conservative government in Ottawa is getting involved.

CCNJason Kenney, the new secretary of state for multiculturalism and
Canadian identity, stands among students from Grenville Christian College at an
event marking the end of Black History Month in Ottawa Feb. 28.

The Canadian identity point person is Calgary Southeast MP Jason Kenney,
who was sworn into cabinet Jan. 4.

"It's a reflection of the growing consensus that we need to focus on a
multiculturalism that is based on the things that unite us and bring Canadians
together rather than ghettoizing them," said the new secretary of state for
multiculturalism and Canadian identity.

Canada has the highest immigration levels in the western world, but
also a growing level of ignorance among younger Canadians about Canadian history
and values.

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Siggy posts on God's presence in suffering

Thanks to the Anchoress, I came across this wonderful post by Siggy:

It is easy to see the beauty of our spouses, children and loved ones when they are healthy, charming and well dressed. It is not always so easy to see their beauty and uniqueness when that is not the case.

It is also true that sometimes, a person’s real inner beauty and strength are revealed when they face adversity. There are mothers and fathers that marvel at a child’s strength through a debilitating illness. What parent has not secretly proposed to God that they, and not their child, be stricken or afflicted? What parent has not agonized over the trials and tribulations that each child must endure at each and every stage of their lives?

There are husbands who see their wives in a way they had not understood, as those women fight cancers that are unique to their gender and impact how they see themselves as women. Those men come to see a beauty and dignity they had never known and marvel in a stricken spouse’s concern for them and their family. There are wives who have heard grown men, weakened by pain and despair, often in inarticulate and fumbling words that are nothing less than the sweetest poetry, profess their love and appreciation for the wives and family that have nurtured them.

It is at those times we see the real beauty of those who we love and those who love us. It is at those times that we come to understand the kind of love that is real commitment and loyalty.

God no more abandons us in our pain anymore than we abandon our loved ones in their pain and suffering.

Read the whole thing.

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Thursday, March 15, 2007

Garrison Keillor gets jumped on

Interesting furore over response to a Salon article on marriage by Garrison Keillor.

In it Keillor writes:

Under the old monogamous system, we didn't have the problem of apportioning Thanksgiving and Christmas among your mother and stepdad, your dad and his third wife, your mother-in-law and her boyfriend Hal, and your father-in-law and his boyfriend Chuck. Today, serial monogamy has stretched the extended family to the breaking point. A child can now grow up with eight or nine or 10 grandparents -- Gampa, Gammy, Goopa, Gumby, Papa, Poopsy, Goofy, Gaga and Chuck -- and need a program to keep track of the actors.

And now gay marriage will produce a whole new string of hyphenated relatives. In addition to the ex-stepson and ex-in-laws and your wife's first husband's second wife, there now will be Bruce and Kevin's in-laws and Bruce's ex, Mark, and Mark's current partner, and I suppose we'll get used to it.

The country has come to accept stereotypical gay men -- sardonic fellows with fussy hair who live in over-decorated apartments with a striped sofa and a small weird dog and who worship campy performers and go in for flamboyance now and then themselves. If they want to be accepted as couples and daddies, however, the flamboyance may have to be brought under control. Parents are supposed to stand in back and not wear chartreuse pants and black polka-dot shirts. That's for the kids. It's their show.

Those remarks have raised a furore among gay marriage advocates like Andrew Sullivan.

Mark Shea writes:

A classic case of liberal jacobinism punishing the insufficiently pure. Keillor, an old liberal war horse from way back, who has made fun of the GOP stance on gay marriage on his show, nonetheless writes a column in which he dares to state that twice two is four and to suggest that there is something out of whack about a conception of marriage built entirely on narcissism.

(h/t Relapsed Catholic)

Keillor writes in a Salon article:

Under the old monogamous system, we didn't have the problem of apportioning Thanksgiving and Christmas among your mother and stepdad, your dad and his third wife, your mother-in-law and her boyfriend Hal, and your father-in-law and his boyfriend Chuck. Today, serial monogamy has stretched the extended family to the breaking point. A child can now grow up with eight or nine or 10 grandparents -- Gampa, Gammy, Goopa, Gumby, Papa, Poopsy, Goofy, Gaga and Chuck -- and need a program to keep track of the actors.

And now gay marriage will produce a whole new string of hyphenated relatives. In addition to the ex-stepson and ex-in-laws and your wife's first husband's second wife, there now will be Bruce and Kevin's in-laws and Bruce's ex, Mark, and Mark's current partner, and I suppose we'll get used to it.

The country has come to accept stereotypical gay men -- sardonic fellows with fussy hair who live in over-decorated apartments with a striped sofa and a small weird dog and who worship campy performers and go in for flamboyance now and then themselves. If they want to be accepted as couples and daddies, however, the flamboyance may have to be brought under control. Parents are supposed to stand in back and not wear chartreuse pants and black polka-dot shirts. That's for the kids. It's their show.

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Lamenting the loss of letter writing

From my post over at Canadian Authors Who are Christian:

Recently I read a wonderful memoir by an elderly friend of my mother's: Russia and Beyond: One Family's Journey 1908-1935 by Margaret Zarudny Freeman. It tells an amazing story of her family's survival during the Russian revolution. She was the oldest of six children and wrote with amazing detail how they coped in western Siberia, helped by a couple of loyal servants after their father fled the country to work first in China, then in Japan. While he was away their mother was arrested by the Bolsheviks and later shot.

John Allen on Christian- Muslim dialog in Nigeria

Vatican specialist John Allen Jr. has a most interesting article about efforts to stem violence between Muslims and Christians in Nigeria.

He writes:

For three years in the mid-1990s, James Wuye, a Pentecostal preacher and former leader of an anti-Muslim Christian militia, worked tirelessly to launch a pioneering new effort in Christian/Muslim harmony in his blood-soaked region of northern Nigeria. And for almost every day of those three years, he harbored a secret, burning urge: to smother his Muslim partner, Imam Muhammad Ashafa, with a pillow.

"When we traveled together, we would share a room, and he was a heavy sleeper," Wuye recalled on Wednesday. "Every time that happened, I felt a deep desire to kill him." In explaining why, Wuye offered a chillingly simple explanation: "In my heart, my hatred for Muslims knew no bounds."


Eventually, Wuye overcame his hatred and gave himself fully to the task of building peace. If his story suggests that dialogue between even the most embittered Christians and Muslims is possible, it also comes with a sobering footnote: Whatever uneasy peace exists today is, in the opinion of many -- perhaps most -- observers here, due to the fact that Christians used violence and that was an incentive to make peace. It's a paradox. But more on that later.
I hope I've included enought to whet your appetite for the whole story.


Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Does Richard Dawkins really exist?

The Anglo-Catholic Ninjas have come across some important theological insights into the non existence of atheist Richard Dawkins entitled "The Dawkins Delusion." You can read the whole treatise here, or peruse a more manageable chunk at the AC ninjas blog. Here's a sample:

Tommyrot: Well, nothing so simple Richard. You shouldn’t ask sensible people to believe in something unless you’ve got evidence for it. If there is a Dawkins, why hasn’t he shown himself to me?

Richard: In your opinion, then, are people who believe in Richard Dawkins just a little bit dim?

Tommyrot: Well, in a way I can understand the mistake: simple people pick up a handful of books claiming to be written by Dawkins, and since a Dawkins seems to be a sufficient account for how they got to be there, for the similarities in all the texts, and so on – they stick with commonsense and fallaciously conclude that this Dawkins (which they have never seen with their own eyes) actually exists.

Richard: Of course, some people do claim to have seen Richard Dawkins, and even shaken his hand.

Tommyrot: Yes, if you can believe them.

Richard: You think they’re all lying?

Tommyrot: I didn’t say that. Of course, there’s no shortage of liars in the world, and undoubtedly some people who claim to have had these ‘Richard Dawkins experiences’ are deliberately telling fairy stories, but, you know, the human brain is a very, very complicated thing… and conjuring up an imaginary Dawkins would be child’s play for it. Christopher Robin had Binker. I had the slimy custard man. I suspect that something very similar is happening with people who claim to have seen a Richard Dawkins, or heard his voice, or felt his touch.

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The memorable character

My Master's Artist post today:

Someone told me once that when you go on TV or radio to sell your book, you are really selling yourself and if the audience likes you, they're more likely to buy your book. This may be good advice for the nonfiction writer, but it poses problems for the novelist--even though I've found the sales principle works.

The few times I have had an opportunity to do radio or television, the focus has often been on my personal testimony. I have been in effect selling myself, and, if Amazon rankings the days after or sold out local stores are any indication, books sell when people hear my personal story, which has little to do with the novel.

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Monday, March 12, 2007

David Frum on whether religious freedom can survive gay liberation

You may already have heard that the British Parliament voted earlier this year to require all adoption agencies, including Catholic agencies, to place children with homosexual couples if requested.

Now an influential committee of the British Parliament is recommending that Britain take the next logical step. The Joint Committee on Human Rights, made up of 12 MPs and Lords, released a report on Feb. 26 that advocates drastic further increases in state supervision of religious organizations and religious schools



The Secret gets sliced and diced by Jane Wheatley

Great article by Jane Wheatley about "The Secret" on Times Online in the UK. Hat tip Jules Quincy Stephens, administrator of the Master's Artist.

Wheatley writes:

The Secret is a toxic stew of psychobabble leftovers served up with lavish quotations from 29 “gurus” from psychology, religion, mysticism and marketing. There is a heavy reliance on quick-fix, already simplistic methods from self-help manuals, made even easier for the simple-minded or deluded. Wisdom vies with cleverness, banal truth runs alongside barefaced delusion; a pottage of self-contradictory homilies for the credulous and childish.

As a book and marketing exercise, The Secret is self-reflexive: write a book quoting other people who have written books about how, if you write a book or advise others about becoming rich, you will do so. It’s like pyramid selling, hocuspocus.


Dean Koontz is a Catholic convert

Fascinating profile of horror writer Dean Koontz over at Catholic Online:

Koontz’ books – more than 50 to date – often feature ordinary people facing extraordinary evil. It’s a theme Koontz draws from his own life, as he was raised by a father whom Koontz has described as a sociopath. Later in his life Koontz’s father made two attempts on the author’s life, one involving a struggle with a knife after which Dean found himself facing two police officers with drawn guns. It’s material that he has used in his work.

“I used a version of that incident in my novel, Mr. Murder,” said Koontz. “Everything becomes material to a novelist.”

While his books tell dark stories, many readers have found Koontz’ work increasingly spiritual. Some have even compared his work to that of author Flannery O’Connor.


From the Corner of His Eye struck me very clearly as being about the mystical body of Christ,” said Christopher Check, executive vice president of the Rockford, Ill.-based Rockford Institute. “It’s about how the death of one of the members diminishes all of us and how the good acts of one of the members improves all of us.”


“I can walk in the rose garden, watch the joyful capering of my dog, and see the indisputable work of God. The key is beauty,” says Koontz, who converted to the Catholic faith while in college. “If the world is merely a complex and efficient machine, beauty is not required. Beauty is in fact superfluous. Therefore beauty is a gift to us. If we were soulless machines of meat, the survival instinct would be all we needed to motivate us. The pleasures of the senses – such as taste and smell – are superfluous to machines in a godless world. Therefore, they are gifts to us, and evidence of divine grace. The older I’ve gotten, the more beauty, wonder, and mystery I see in the world, which is why there are ever more of those three things in my books.”

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Michael Coren interviews Kathy Shaidle

Want to hear what Kathy Shaidle of Relapsed Catholic thinks of International Women's Day?

Go here.

For a profile of Kathy, go here.

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Dee Stewart laments the lack of "hard writing"

My fellow Master's Artist Dee Stewart is immersed in Christian fiction, yet as a Christian writer trying to go against the grain.

She has a convicting and powerful post this morning:

"I am in the middle of judging the lit category for this year's Christy Book Awards. The books are breezy, fresh, contemporary and a nice pick-me-up from a day filled with hard writing.

I am a hard writer. Lord knows, I wish I could write about finding a date or puppy love or solving the murder of the PTA President. But I can't. Oftentimes, I find myself staring at my notebook. No words come, because I am sad. There are things that need to be written about and sometimes I don't have the wherewithal to write them all.

In Zimbabwe, children are eating rats to survive.

In Uganda, children run from their homes every night to hide from the Lord's Resistance Army.

In Holland, Louisiana, FEMA crew members forced former Yorkshire residents out of their homes in the middle of the night this week without warning.

No wonder Christian chick lit is popular. Who wants to hear or read about such horrors as this? Who wants to read about a romantic view of Christianity steeped in realism?"

[Read it all, and you'll be able to follow the links at the Master's Artist site.]

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Great description of writer's block

over at the Canadian Authors Who are Christian blog.

Eric E. Wright writes:

I sit staring at the blank screen . . . and staring . . and staring. Nothing.

A massive writer’s block, like an arctic cold front, has frozen all creativity. My fountain of ideas is a block of ice. I shiver. Why, oh why, was I so stupid as to accept this assignment? With the deadline a few days away I feel desperate. My kingdom for a warm idea!

Well, I’ll just check my e-mail. Hum, cheap drugs—cheap stock options on a gold mine—cheap Rolex reproductions. OK, back to the grind.

A blank screen. What gave me the idea I could write, anyway? Why didn’t I take up curling or tiddly winks or knitting?

No use sitting here biting my lip. I’ll work on another project already in process. That should unthaw my idea bank.

Ah, that’s better. An article already roughed out. But as I scroll through the story, a terrible truth dawns. It’s appalling. I darken the first two paragraphs and hit the delete button.

Whoa, Nelly, that might not be wise in my current state. Better to restore and come back another day.
Read the while thing. And bookmark the site. Everyday a Canadian author who is Christian puts something up. The topics vary widely, but they are all interesting.

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Saturday, March 10, 2007

Real ultimate Anglo-Catholic power

Hilarious post that launched Anglo-Catholic Ninjas on the hunt is here.

Anglo-Catholics can out-catholic any Roman they want! Anglo-Catholics kick low-church evangelical asses ALL the time while chanting and genuflecting and don't even think twice about it. These guys are so crazy and awesome that they read Ritual Notes ALL the time. I heard that there was this Anglo-Catholic priest who was eating at a diner in his cassock. And when some dude said “and also with you” the priest killed the whole town and sung a solemn requiem mass. My friend Mark said that he saw a Anglo-Catholic totally uppercut some kid just because the kid used the 1979 Prayer Book.
The Ottawa-based Ninjas are contemplating taking on Calvinists.

Heh heh heh. But you may have to be a Anglo-Catholic to get half the jokes.


Dr. Sanity diagnoses our narcissistic analysis of the past

Once upon a time intellectuals who sought to understand the modern world looked to the giants of intellectual thought from humanity's past. In their wisdom and writings we would be able to find the words and meanings relevant to analyzing the events of today. But now, it is as if history has been turned upside down. We no longer look to the past to understand ourselves and our journey--instead we use our present feelings and our modern understandings and prejudices to reinterpret and deconstruct the past.

Is it any wonder that we are horribly confused and disoriented, not knowing who we are or where we are going? Is it any wonder that today's events do not seem to have any rhyme or reason? Modern philosophical assumptions distort and/or obscure any appreciation of our own past. Where once we strove to understand the thinkers and events of the past by placing them within their own context and culture; it is now common practice to judge them by contemporary standards and inclinations.

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Thursday, March 08, 2007

Pro-family coalition seeks appeal of Three Parents Case

The Alliance for Marriage and Family has filed an appliaction to appeal the Three Parents Case with the Supreme Court of Canada.

Story at the Catholic Register site.

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Counterrorism expert relies on his Catholic faith

Catholic Online and Western Catholic Reporter have picked up my story on Counterrorism expert John Thompson of the Mackenzie Institute.

"These terrorists are willing to do all kinds of things to people," he said. "The terrorist or organized criminal tends to see other people as objects. Every time I find myself doing the same thing I have to bring myself up short."

But allowing his faith to challenge him does not mean closing his eyes to threats.

"If you're Chinese women and a snakehead has just taken your passport and dropped you in a brothel you can be assured he does not have any respect for human dignity," he said.

"If we're going to allow everyone to participate in society, we have to keep the snakeheads and the terrorists away from the people they would victimize," he said.

Thompson believes that Canada has been doing a better job at combating terrorism since the 9/11 attacks in 2001, but he is worried that Canadians have been lulled into a sense of complacency. He fears Canadians, in their openness, "will be taken as suckers."

"Success leads to complacency, which leads to vulnerability," he said.

"I'd rather keep reminding people the threat exists," he said. "Or else in the aftermath of an attack we'll adopt some measures that are truly foolish."

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Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Joseph Ben-Ami on the climate change "deniers"

For almost four decades, the left has been using the environment as a weapon in their ongoing war against free markets and free societies. “The world is on the verge of an environmental catastrophe,” they claim, a calamitous event that can only be averted if – you guessed it – we give them complete political control.

First it was the population explosion and the moronic argument that families had to stop having children or the human race was doomed. When this failed to seriously impress anyone but the emerging (at that time) left-wing academia, the eco-extortionists discovered global cooling. “We need to curb industry, surrender our cars and hand over our economic freedom to the planning experts before it’s too late!” the left trumpeted while the rest of us yawned.

When the global cooling crisis failed to move voters to shut down industry, surrender their cars and hand over their economic freedom to the expert planners, the left discovered a new crisis – acid rain. The world may not be in the process of freezing after all, they conceded, but it was in the process of dissolving. Unless we shut down industry, surrendered our cars and handed over our economic freedom the expert planners, they claimed, the complete deforestation of eastern North America was inevitable with dire consequences for all of humanity.


Watch out for the Anglo-Catholic ninjas on the hunt

If an AC ninja came accross a Calvinist, would he whip out his gin martini? The Calvinist would probably call him a wussy boy and smack him around town with a fine bottle of single-malt whiskey (just look at crazy Reformed boy RC Sproul Jr. checking out his collection). So, with due respect to the Master, AC ninjas have to be better armed, especially when on patrol in low-church zones. To develop dexterity and flexibilty at an early stage , we suggest that acolytes begin training with the…

Double-bladed crosier


Secular Muslim manifesto

This St. Petersburg Declaration is definitely worth reading and supporting.

We are secular Muslims, and secular persons of Muslim societies. We are believers, doubters, and unbelievers, brought together by a great struggle, not between the West and Islam, but between the free and the unfree.

We affirm the inviolable freedom of the individual conscience. We believe in the equality of all human persons.

We insist upon the separation of religion from state and the observance of universal human rights.

We find traditions of liberty, rationality, and tolerance in the rich histories of pre-Islamic and Islamic societies. These values do not belong to the West or the East; they are the common moral heritage of humankind.

We see no colonialism, racism, or so-called “Islamaphobia” in submitting Islamic practices to criticism or condemnation when they violate human reason or rights.

Read the whole thing. (Hat tip Dr. Sanity)

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Sunday, March 04, 2007

Day of Prayer for Julianne

Nearly two years ago, a young woman, now 22, was brutally raped and left for dead in Banff, Alberta, where she had been working a summer job. Left brain damaged, her Ottawa-based family, is seeking expensive treatment in Florida to help her come out of her partial coma.

One of the priests at my little cathedral, Father Peter, met two of Julianne's friends a while back as they organized fundraisers for her treatment. Fr. Peter organized a day of prayer at our little church on Saturday and many of Julianne's extended family and her friends came for the Eucharist and our weekly Saturday morning breakfast in the church basement. Then they joined us for prayer upstairs.
What lovely people they were. What a privilege it was to participate in this prayerful time with them and members of my church community.

Fr. Peter gave two talks yesterday, both excellent. You can find the first talk here.

By the time we sang Evensong, most everyone had gone, except Barbara C., Clement and myself, Bishop Carl, Fr. Peter and Michael, who played the organ.

Fr. Peter gave his last talk to a mostly empty church, but what he said was profound and worth sharing with a wider audience.

He said:

We have prayed today, sincerely and honestly. We do not know if God will heal Julianne through the medical attention she is now receiving or by some other means. If any of us still cannot quite believe in her healing, let our cry be I believe; help my unbelief! But let us all leave here confident in the knowledge that Jesus promises, All things are possible to him who believes.

You can read the whole talk here.

Fr. Peter also preached today on the Second Sunday in Lent. Julianne was also mentioned. A powerful sermon on the power of prayer.

Those who want to make a donation to Julianne's treatment can do so through any TD Canada Trust Branch in Canada. Make contributions payable to Julie's Recovery--Acount # 5213856_3282. Fr. Peter is helping organize a big fundraising concert in June.

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Thursday, March 01, 2007

On that stupid story about the so-called Jesus tomb

Every Easter you can count on a story about some archeological find that supposedly undermines orthodox Christianity. Well, Catholic Register publisher and editor Joe Sinasac obliterates the latest claim in this excellent article, picked up by Catholic Online.

TORONTO, Canada (The Catholic Register) – The claim by a Toronto filmmaker that he had found the true burial site of Jesus of Nazareth – along with Jesus’ wife and child – began to sink under withering criticism almost as soon as he revealed his new film Feb. 26.

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Longing for honest, open communication

N.J. Lindquist has an excellent post over at the blog for Canadian Authors Who Are Christian. It's about our fears and a sense she has that something is missing from her life and probably from yours and mine, too. Read the whole thing.

What a strange idea. To think that my greatest fear might be the fear of you? Ridiculous....

The funny thing is I don't feel God's peace in this area. I feel...longing. Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could talk to each other? I mean, really talk. And I wouldn't have to be afraid that you would think I was stupid, or peculiar, or not a good enough Christian. Wouldn't it be great if we could let our guards down and I could learn from you and you could learn from me—and we could even help each other in practical ways? No jealousy or pettiness or envy or shame—just help each other. You know—like Jesus would.

Why does the mere idea stir something deep within my heart? Like embers beginning to glow. It would be so great to know you really cared. That you knew all about me and still cared. And we wouldn't have to fear each other.

One of these days, one of us will have to make the first move.

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The Antichrist reduces Christianity to an ideology

Zenit Vatican News Service has a most interesting piece about a retreat the Pope has been attending. I can only quote a small segment here and unfortunately, the link will only go to Zenit, not the individual item. If you want to see the item as a whole, go to Zenit, click on English if the link doesn't get you there, and go to the articles for Feb. 28, 2007. The one you are looking for is: Retreatants Hear of Guises of the Antichrist. (Sorry I can't make the link work.) Consider signing onto Zenit's free daily email of news items. Always some great stuff in it.

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 28, 2007 ( The Antichrist is the reduction of Christianity to an ideology, instead of a personal encounter with the Savior, says the cardinal directing the retreat which Benedict XVI is attending.

Cardinal Giacomo Biffi, retired archbishop of Bologna, delivered that message during a meditation Tuesday, drawing on the work of Russian philosopher Vladimir Sergeyevich Solovyov.

The cardinal's meditation came during the weeklong Spiritual Exercises being attended by the Pope and members of the Roman Curia. The retreat ends this Saturday. The Holy Father suspended his usual meetings, including the general audience, in these days.

According to Vatican Radio's summary of his preaching, the cardinal explained that "the teaching that the great Russian philosopher left us is that Christianity cannot be reduced to a set of values. At the center of being a Christian is, in fact, the personal encounter with Jesus Christ."

Quoting the work "Three Dialogues on War, Progress and the End of History," Cardinal Biffi told his listeners that "the Antichrist presents himself as pacifist, ecologist and ecumenist."

"He will convoke an ecumenical council and will seek the consensus of all the Christian confessions, granting something to each one. The masses will follow him, with the exception of small groups of Catholics, Orthodox and Protestants," he said.

The cardinal added that Solovyov says in that work: "Days will come in Christianity in which they will try to reduce the salvific event to a mere series of values."