Deborah Gyapong: September 2009

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Canadian laws against child porn posession

Criminal Code of Canada Definition of "Child Pornography"

According to Section 163.1 of the Criminal Code, "Child Pornography" means:

  • a photographic, film, video or other visual representation, whether or not it was made by electronic or mechanical means

    • that shows a person who is, or is depicted, as being under the age of eighteen years and is engaged in, or is depicted as engaged in, explicit sexual activity, or

    • the sexual depiction of the sexual organs of a person under the age of eighteen years; or

  • any written material or visual representation that advocates or counsels sexual activity with a person under the age of eighteen years.

Devastating news about a bishop and child porn charges

From the National Post:

A prominent Roman Catholic bishop praised for his compassion and humanity in dealing with victims of sexual abuse in Nova Scotia now faces charges related to child pornography.

In August, Bishop Raymond Lahey, head of the Diocese of Antigonish, concluded an historic $13-million settlement with parishioners who had been sexually abused. On Friday, he suddenly resigned his position, citing only the need to take time for "personal renewal."

"I guess I could say the bishop had indicated on Saturday that he was resigning for personal reasons and there had been lots of speculation about what those personal reasons were," said Father Paul Abbass, a spokesman for the diocese, who said he was surprised and devastated by the news. "And I think we know now what those personal reasons are."

The handling of delicate public relations

When Michael Ignatieff appeared before a gathering of religious leaders sponsored by the Canadian Council of Church last spring, it seemed to me that he had prepared for a question and answer session dominated by socially conservative questions---you know, about abortion and pesky issues like that. I think he might have been floored by the fact the questions from the floor were coming from way out of left field: questions about "tar sands"--like would he commit to shutting them down? or would he commit to a world without nuclear weapons?

I am reminded of this off-the-record Ignatieff event (in which I thought he performed admirably and I came away quite reassured that he respects religious freedom and genuine pluralism and the right of religious people to express themselves in the public square) when I think of the public relations difficulties the Catholic Church in North America has been facing of late.

For years and years, the bishops have braced themselves against the assaults of the mainstream media, often unfair attacks on unpopular aspects of Catholic doctrine or the often unfair focus on the sexual abuse scandals that plague other organizations as well, and to a greater degree but you'd never know it from listening to your TV news or reading your morning paper. In Canada, they've faced relentless hits on Indian Residential Schools and criticism about the so-called lack of an apology, despite the fact that apologies have been coming from bishops and religious orders for decades.

But lately, the Church has faced mounting criticism from another direction, one that with the growth of the new electronic media has found a megaphone to increase its audience. The criticism comes from within, from conservative Catholics who are dissenting from their bishops' public stands, despite the fact that bishops hold the Church's teaching authority.

The latest manifestations in Canada have come in the public criticism of Development and Peace, the Catholic development agency the bishops created more than 40 years to help the poor in the Global South. The other is in the public (and very distressing) battle among pro-life Catholics concerning the way Boston Cardinal Sean O'Malley handled the funeral of Senator Edward Kennedy.

What's interesting to me in all of this is that a public relations strategy that might resolve some of the unpleasant attacks from the secularist media and "get the message out" to the vast number of Canadians, including many cradle Catholics, could have the opposite effect on the various websites and blogs run by Catholics who have publicly criticized various Church leaders.

Someone like Barry McLoughlin, who is one of the top in his field and is now a member of a news standing committee the Canadian bishops have established, could conceivably tell the bishops, the critics represent a fringe group in the Catholic Church, never mind Canadian society as a whole, and he might be right, according to the polls. (Though they might prefer to call themselves a "remnant" rather than a "fringe.) In that event, perhaps the bishops could shrug them off or perhaps ignore them and not give them credibility by responding to their criticisms.

There is a perception--fair or unfair--that many of these conservative Catholics alienate more people than they attract, including many who share the same beliefs. Catholics with the same beliefs may object to their tactics, their tone, their timing, their jumping to conclusions through guilt by association, or through caricaturing in black and white what may be a more nuanced argument. There may be a lot more sympathy for some of the genuine arguments made by the Catholic critics than those with a beseiged mentality might think--even among the bishops!

I am hoping and praying all of us will navigate a third alternative between the proverbial devil and the deep blue sea: a public relations strategy that leans neither right nor left, but is inspired and driven by the Holy Spirit and bears all His fruits: love, joy, peace, faithfulness, kindness, gentleness, self-control etc., and that is committed to the inseparability of Truth and Love.

Some of the latest controversies are as much about how a message is delivered: its timing, its perceived friendly fire, its unfair characterizations than about what kernels of truth it may or may not contain. What people may be reacting to is the tone, the perceived anger in its delivery or exaggerations and hyperbole. At times people from all sides may have been sloppy about facts or unfair in conclusion-jumping. And, unfortunately, there have been examples of intemperate language on all sides. Rene Girard would have a field day in pointing out how mimetic so much of the back and forth criticism is. Everyone's accusing everyone of doing the work of Satan these days. Oh my. News flash. All of us do the work of Satan when we unwittingly let our carnal selves rule and fail to live by the Spirit. In our lapses into impatience, anger or other carnal passions, we inadvertently allow Satan's fiery darts to travel through our words and hurt our Christian brothers and sisters. But I believe no one is consciously doing the work of Satan. Everyone believes himself or herself to be in the right and is eager to point out how the other is wrong.

Sometimes the Catholic critics can come across as legalistic, moralistic and harsh. Whether this is fair or not---because I have not found many of the critics I have met to be personally legalistic and moralistic--the perception still leaves a public relations problem. And some Catholic leaders, perhaps in an effort to reach out to the wider society, may have left a perception that certain doctrines are optional, even if they do not believe in cafeteria Catholicism at all.

Since his first encyclical, Deus Caritas Est, Pope Benedict XVI has been trying to reveal a Church that says Yes! to Jesus, to love, to life, to marriage, a positive face that attracts people. He has tried to overcome an impression that the Catholic Church is all about "No" to this or that--condoms, abortion, divorce, you name it.

Yet no one has been more unfairly charactertized as negative and doctrinaire than the Holy Father. One of the risks we all have if we take up the Cross is that the road leads to Gethesmane and Calvary; it does not necessarily end with the worldly popularity Jesus experienced when he entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. I say this because some who are being perceived as divisive may be living out a calling that is prophetic and the costs might be extremely high, yet, in love they must do it.

But at the same time, anyone who thinks this about themselves must be extremely careful they are not falling into thinking they are being persecuted for righteousness sake--a very real phenomenon Jesus promised his followers would experience--when they are being criticized for self-righteousness or pride or anger. It is not always easy to discern these things, especially about ourselves!

Only the Holy Spirit can bring about the unity in the Church. And as Archbishop Raymond Burke has said, those who have been critical may be doing His work, despite the accusations of divisiveness against them:

One of the ironies of the present situation is that the person who experiences scandal at the gravely sinful public actions of a fellow Catholic is accused of a lack of charity and of causing division within the unity of the Church. In a society whose thinking is governed by the "tyranny of relativism" and in which political correctness and human respect are the ultimate criteria of what is to be done and what is to be avoided, the notion of leading someone into moral error makes little sense. What causes wonderment in such a society is the fact that someone fails to observe political correctness and, thereby, seems to be disruptive of the so-called peace of society. Lying or failing to tell the truth, however, is never a sign of charity. A unity which is not founded on the truth of the moral law is not the unity of the Church. The Church's unity is founded on speaking the truth with love. The person who experiences scandal at public actions of Catholics, which are gravely contrary to the moral law, not only does not destroy unity but invites the Church to repair what is clearly a serious breach in Her life. Were he not to experience scandal at the public support of attacks on human life and the family, his conscience would be uninformed or dulled about the most sacred realities.

As someone who floundered as a cafeteria Christian for years, I have come to see the importance of having a truly Catholic faith as handed down by the Apostles. I do not think we can truly show the evidence of the fruits of the Spirit without an obedience to the Spirit, who convicts us of sin and reveals the Son of God to us in faith. Right doctrine is a matter of life and death. It is by believing the Truth that we are both saved and sanctified, not by pulling ourselves up by our own moralistic bootstraps, to loosely paraphrase St. Paul in Galatians 3.

We need to have that right doctrine preached as well as modeled. We all could do a better job of modeling the faith we claim to hold. And here I speak especially of myself.

If we want that joy and peace, we need to experienced first the humility of a broken and a contrite heart.

Right doctrine without love is, as Paul says, a clanging cymbal. But without right doctrine, how will we know the real Jesus and how will we know His promises towards us? How will be know that in Him we are new creatures and that we can walk in the Spirit and that God, in His divine promises, has given us everything we need for life and godliness?

Love and Truth. Truth and Love. We all need to humble ourselves before God.

Then maybe we'll be qualified to speak the truth in love.

Another thing. We just all be careful we don't take it upon ourselves to do the convicting work of the Holy Spirit. We can get in the way and end up really pointing the finger of the Accuser.

The Holy Spirit convicts and convicts powerfully in circumstances where a Christian forgives on the spot, or "covers" the sin of an another with prayer and silence and lots of hidden intercessory prayer. Imagine the difference in the Parable of the Prodigal Son, if the Father had come out and said, "You squandered my inheritance, blah blah" to make sure the son got the message that he had wronged his father before he ordered the fatted calf to be killed. The elder brother might have liked that approach, no? How much more was the son's heart broken by his father's undeserved abundant love. He really got the message of how much he had wronged his loving father then.

None of us deserves Christ's love and for some of us, who know in our depths how guilty we are, it is the hardest, most humbling thing in the world to accept. Jesus' love breaks pride, every shred of it.

The biggest changes in my life have come from people who have loved me with a Christlike love, who have treated me with patience and grace when I deserved to have them come down on me like a ton of bricks. The Holy Spirit convicted me because they did not step into His way to do it themselves.

Yes, sometimes we do have to speak up. Sometimes the words might well up in us the way they did in Jeremiah, like fire in our bones, so that we must speak.

But before you do, make sure you recognize that you have been forgiven much and that you love much to the point of tears before you do.

My friend Lorna Dueck's timely column on polygamy

Listen Up Host and executive producer Lorna Dueck has a timely column on our political paralysis regarding polygamy.

She writes:

Shopping for a legal team to prosecute polygamy in Canada is tougher than shopping for a harem. How can it be easier to maintain 19 women in a polygamous relationship than to find a court able to enforce Canada's Criminal Code against polygamy? It's a symptom of tolerance, injustice and, ironically, the Charter of Rights.

Read it all.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Polygamy laws remain in force says EFC legal counsel

With all the confusion coming out of British Columbia about a recent court decision concerning charges against polygamists in Bountiful, B.C. , the Evangelical Fellowship's Legal Counsel Don Hutchinson has published an essay explaining what really happened:

“It won’t do to have truth and justice on his side, he must also have the law” (Charles Dickens, Bleak House).

Madam Justice Stromberg-Stein of the Supreme Court of British Columbia has decided to throw out the charges against Winston Blackmore and James Oler for reportedly engaging in polygamy in contravention of the Criminal Code of Canada.

Comments in recent days in regard to that decision changed from the misunderstanding that the polygamy prohibition had been struck down by the court to the understanding that the decision of was directly related to the intricacies of administrative law procedure, rather than a constitutional challenge to the legitimacy of the Criminal Code sections.

To be clear, the Criminal Code prohibitions against polygamy remain.

There's more. Read the rest.

Also, it's great that Hutchinson and his boss, EFC president Bruce Clemenger were both at the 40 Days for Life opening rally, with Clemenger leading opening prayers and Hutchinson giving a short talk on the need for Parliament to legislate. There is no right to abortion in Canada, he said.

Amen to that. There is just a legal void. The picture shows Clemenger and Hutchinson at the rally.

Sorry I was a bit under the weather last week and I did not post as much as I would have liked on the rally.

Deliver us, Obama?

Deliver us, O Lord.

Do I dare believe this is true?

I may have to start planning to be in England next Sept.

The National Catholic Register reports:

The Holy Father’s trip to Britain will be timely for positive reasons, too. As well as possibly coinciding with the beatification of Cardinal John Henry Newman, thousands of traditionalist Anglicans are expected to come into communion with Rome sometime in the near future, perhaps around the same time as the Pope reaches Britain’s shores.

Talks between the Traditional Anglican Communion (TAC) and the Vatican stepped up recently and a viable structure to accommodate them is said to be taking shape. Sources say it will most probably resemble something between a personal prelature and an apostolic administration, with the end result looking similar to a rite, however nothing has yet been confirmed.

Talks with the Vatican have been taking place for many years following the TAC’s split from the Anglican Communion in the early 1990s over the Church of England’s decision to ordain women. The TAC claims to have around 400,000 members worldwide and the corporate reception of so many Anglicans into the Catholic Church would be unprecedented in the Church’s history.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Balthasar on women and the priesthood

I do odd things in my spare time, like spend time reading stuff on the Internet like this 1977 article by Hans Urs von Balthasar on why only men are priests.

This might take a while to sink in but, I like it.

Woman Does Not Represent, but Is, While Man has to Represent and Therefore Is More and Less Than What He Is ...

All this, however, becomes really clear only when one looks at the subject to which the male apostolic service has to dedicate itself: the Church of the faithful of Christ, which—not to mention the Old Testament image of Israel as the bride of Yahweh—is always presented as feminine in the New Testament. According to the major ecclesial reflection, which is well founded on New Testament declarations, this femininity of the Church belongs just as deeply to tradition as the attribution of the apostolic office to man. For patristic theology, as well for the scholastics of the Middle Ages and also of the baroque period, the Church is the mother of the faithful and at the same time the bride of Christ. She stands as the sublime woman in Church portals, as opposed to the crumbling synagogue. In innumerable miniatures, she is presented as the only woman standing under the cross, she holds up the sacred chalice to collect Christ's blood; she is, particularly in Oriental theology, the definitive incarnation of divine Wisdom, who receives and bears in her womb all the seeds of the Logos, dispersed in creation and throughout the history of salvation.

I cannot help thinking here of two books by Louis Bouyer: the first one, Le Trône de la Sagesse, is older (1957); the second one, Mystère et ministère de la femme (Aubier, 1976) is new and concerns our subject expressly. Its main purpose is to shed light, even more than on the "femininity" of the Church, on the sexual-personal role of woman. While man, as a sexual being, only represents what he is not and transmits what he does not actually possess, and so is, as described, at the same time more and less than himself, woman rests on herself, she is fully what she is, that is, the whole reality of a created being that faces God as a partner, receives his seed and spirit, preserves them, brings them to maturity, and educates them. One can question this thesis of Bouyer in many ways, and we will do so elsewhere. But in the first place its central point is certainly to be accepted, all the more so in that it represents the core of an ecclesiastical tradition, which is free here of all peripheric scoriae and obscurities due to hellenistic misogyny (which is partly re-echoed in the fathers of the Church and in the Middle Ages).

Unfortunately, this liberation and renewal of a great tradition, parallel to that of the sacred ministry, falls in an age in which the whole fruitfulness of the differentiation of the sexes in their respective roles is more and more forgotten and intentionally suffocated. And this in favor of a "masculinization" of a whole civilization, marked by a male technical rationality, a masculinization which is sought under the pretextof equality of rights and parity of the sexes. Inasmuch as the sexual sphere is opened to all technical manipulations, the personal height and depth of the difference of the sexes loses its significance. All "services" are put on the same plane and are therefore interchangeable. Even if man cannot conceive and give birth, why cannot woman carry out in the Church each of these apparently neuter "services" which are entrusted to man?

It is above all this overestimation of the masculine, which objectivizes the spirit and imprisons sexuality in a low physiological sphere, which today opposes understanding of the attitude of the Church, when she remains faithful to her tradition. Here, too, the principle holds good that "gratia supponit naturam." Restored nature would bring to light— within the parity of nature and parity of value of the sexes—above all the fundamental difference, according to which woman does not represent, but is, while man has to represent and, therefore, is more and less than what he is. Insofar as he is more, he is woman's "head" and on the Christian plane intermediary of divine goods; but insofar as he is less, he depends upon woman as a haven of refuge and exemplary fulfillment.

It is not possible here, for lack of space, to show in detail this difference in equality of nature; in particular the question would have to be discussed of the masculinity of Christ, in his eucharist, in which he, on a plane above the sexes, gives himself to the Church entirely as the dedicated seed of God—and the participation, difficult to formulate, of the apostolic office in this male fertility, which is above sex. Only if this aspect were fully brought to light, would man's latent inferiority to woman be overcome in some way. But it must suffice to have mentioned this concept.

V. The Virgin Mary Is the Privileged Place Where God Can and Wishes to be Received in the World

It should give woman a feeling of exaltation to know that she— particularly in the virgin-mother Mary—is the privileged place where God can and wishes to be received in the world. Between the first incarnation of the "Word of God in Mary and its ever new arrival in the receiving Church, there exists an inner continuity. This and only this is the decisive Christian event, and insofar as men are in the Church, they must participate—whether they have an office or not—in this comprehensive femininity of the Marian Church. In Mary, the Church, the perfect Church, is already a reality, long before there is an apostolic office. The latter remains secondary and instrumental in its representation and, just because of the deficiency of those who hold office (Peter!), is so made that the grace transmitted remains unharmed by this deficiency. He who has an office must endeavor, as far as he can, to remove this deficiency, but not by approaching Christ as head of the Church, but by learning to express and live better the fiat that Mary addressed to God one and triune.

As can be seen from all this, the tradition of the Church is far more deeply rooted than might be thought at first sight. It goes down into unfathomable depths, but what we can grasp of it and express in shimmering words shows us that it is within its rights and cannot be challenged by changes in times and opinions (also as regards the role of the sexes).

Victor Davis Hanson is one of my faves

He writes:

In fact, it is America’s 20th century of achievement, its wealth, its singular morality, its competence — all the things that Obama either takes for granted or snarls about — that alone explains everything from his enormous Air Force One to the influence he enjoys. Put mellifluous Obama as president of Sweden or Slovakia and the world, rightly or wrongly, snores. Obama tragically does not understand that America made him — he does not make America.

Did unrepentant former terrorist Bill Ayers write Obama's book?

Some people have poo-pooed this theory, dismissing it as something as ludicrous as conspiracy theories about President Obama's birth certificate.

As a writer who knows how extremely difficult it is to write well, however, I found Jack Cashill's analysis of the authorship of Dreams of My Father compelling. Writers write, he argues, yet Obama's pre-Dreams record of published works is scanty to say the least. And that which does exist is workmanlike, policy-wonkish, and dull, not the accomplished, singing prose of Dreams. One does not go from being a wooden amateur to a top-notch literary stylist in a single bound. Or even two or three. It takes years of practice to become really good.

Now Cashill has new evidence from a surprising source. He writes:

The major media will not likely tackle the emerging evidence of Obama's stunning literary fraud, but the days of Obama's boasting about his writing skills are just as likely over.

The immediate cause of concern at the White House is Christopher Andersen's largely benign new book, Barack and Michelle: Portrait of an American Marriage.

Andersen contends that the ambitious Obama, unaware of JFK's own literary fraud, hoped to launch his own political career with a book as did John Kennedy with the discreetly ghost-written Profiles In Courage.

Despite a large advance, Obama found himself "hopelessly blocked." After four futile years of trying to finish, Obama "sought advice from his friend and Hyde Park neighbor Bill Ayers." This he did "at Michelle's urging," she being the more pragmatic half of the couple.

What attracted the Obamas were "Ayers's proven abilities as a writer." Barack particularly liked the fluid novelistic style of To Teach, a 1993 book by Ayers. This he hoped to emulate for his own family history. In fact, he had already taped interviews with many of his relatives, both African and American. The key sentence in Andersen's account is the one that follows:

"These oral histories, along with his partial manuscript and a trunkload of notes were given to Ayers." Adds Andersen, "Thanks to help from veteran writer Ayers, Barack would be able to submit a manuscript to his editors at Times Book." The manuscript in question would become Obama's 1995 memoir, Dreams From My Father, what Joe Klein of Time Magazine called "the best-written memoir ever produced by an American politician."

From textual sleuthing, I had come to a comparable conclusion more than a year ago, namely that Obama had "turned the framework of his life over to terrorist emeritus Bill Ayers who roughed it in with his own darker sentiments and experiences." Embedded here is a visual summary of this research, produced by Chris Kusnell. (Part I) (Part II)
Oh, and another thing. The "hopelessly blocked" experience. I can relate! Writing involves so many choices! How do you open your story? How do you structure the book as a whole and each chapter and paragraph? But having a president of the United States "hopelessly blocked" when it comes to making decisions that could mean life or death for millions of people, that's a scary thought.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Hey, the Binks quotes me!

I'm famous!

The Binks quotes me in the address he didn't end up giving in Halifax because the free speech event in Halifax was canceled.

But he has posted his text and it is well worth the read. And it is also a a primer on the new media and how the truth will get out, and is easier to get out now because of the Internet.

He writes:

That’s the situation I found myself in when I joined the Anglican Church, and began seeking ordination as a priest. A traditional Church increasingly hollowed out, and serving political correctness more than God, or her own best interests. Even the church newspapers became party organs, and dissenting views were stuck into the letters to the editor, or stifled. In the pre-internet era, it was intended that no other than ‘approved news and views’ would get a hearing, fair or otherwise. Welcome to Pravda, the officially expurgated Anglican edition.

So there I was, a frustrated conservative convert in a church which was headed in the wrong direction in many respects– how to get the word out about seeking something better, more true to herself and her own roots in the God’s Word written, and the Creeds, and so more faithful to Christ?

You Can’t Stop The Signal

Jesus says: “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

In the recent movie Serenity, one of the characters– an internet-nerd like fellow who’s trying to expose government crimes and cover-ups– says “You can’t stop the signal.” Word will get out, sooner or later.

Christians have always adopted and adapted new technology to their Gospel Message– new-fangled books in Roman times, instead of scrolls; or the printing press; radio and TV, computers, and the internet. In the beginning was the Word, says St. John in his Gospel: but that Word may be passed along, articulated, debated, in many ways. The truth will set you free.

New information technology– what former communist and now writer and blogger David Horowitz calls “the liberating potential of the computer-driven revolution” [2] or, “You can’t stop the signal.”

The Binky Arises

I was a late-comer to computers– having written my last school-paper on one, and only buying one myself when seminary was over. Could this be a tool to pass on news and views? I created my first website in 1994, and figured out e-mail and all that. E-mail: free, and it could go anywhere!

In 1995-6 I proposed a website to the head of the Prayerbook Society of Canada to spread our message of classical Anglican renewal cheaply, and far afield.

So arose “The Binky Doctrine”– the information is the important thing: but it can come in many forms. In the digital era, you can take an article or picture or video, and then send it in an e-mail, or make a webpage for it, or print it in a newsletter or magazine or book, or on a DVD or CD-ROM or in all formats. It makes it easier and cheaper to get the message out, in various forms and formats, depending on your audience. Somebody can print that off, clip & paste it into their newsletter or church bulletin or magazine– and voila! – the information revolution. “You can’t stop the signal.”

Suddenly, you’ve got cheap counter-revolution. Official news-sources cost real money– unlike a website. The web could get the word out despite the church paper or official line, to clergy and people who had little clue about why their church had seemingly gone crazy. Now they could see the bigger picture, that local bullying and weird new ideas were part of wider pattern of re-education and top-down enforcement.

Binky has now shifted his emphasis away from the Anglican Church's internal conflict to the struggle to retain real civil rights in Canada. What a service he provides at Free Canuckistan.

Some perspective on conservative vs. left-wing protests

From Mark Steyn:

Well, the reality is when the tea party crowd showed up in Washington, they left the city cleaner than they found it. If you look at the pictures as the crowd disburses, there’s not a candy wrapper on the grass. I mean, these are the kind of best-behaved protesters ever to hit town. You contrast that with the G-20 Summit in Pittsburgh today, when the left wing protestors show up, and they’re having to board up all the stores, they’re having to board up all the local Starbucks and the rest of it, because these guys come to lob bricks through the windows. So it’s transparently false the view that somehow the Republican Party has put this angry, snarling mob of Nazi, racist, right wing, domestic terrorists out there on the street. And furthermore, when a gentleman at Reason Magazine made a very good point about this, that if you just sit back and look at it, the way Ed Schultz, for example, is talking about these so-called right wing extremists, about these political extremists, actually, you’re hearing a lot more paranoia right now from the so-called political center. When you hear Nancy Pelosi and Co. talk about perfectly respectable, well-behaved, peaceful protesters the way they do, they’re the ones who sound paranoid and crazy.

Polygamy and troubling signs of civilizational suicide

Gag, but didn't I open up my National Post on Saturday to read this story that put a positive spin on the polygamous lifestyles of Bountiful, B.C.

McGill University law professor Angela Campbell does not endorse polygamous practice. She "has no love for Winston Blackmore," even if he is more laid back and more approachable than Mr. Oler, who represents the more conservative of Bountiful's two polygamous religious factions. Both are "problematic people," she says.

But she doesn't get too worried about them, or what goes on inside Bountiful.

Prof. Campbell is one of the few outsiders - and a secular, inquisitive, intellectual one at that - to have a well-informed opinion of the place, based on first-hand observation and experience. She has enjoyed direct, almost unfettered access to the women of Bountiful.

About 1,000 people live in the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints community. It is next to Creston, B.C., near the U.S. border.

Prof. Campbell has spent some of the past two summers in Creston and Bountiful, conducting research and interviewing women who call themselves "sister wives."

"It's a fascinating, amazing place," she says. "It's complicated. It's very diverse."

More than many would imagine. She met two ladies who, besides being married in the "celestial" Bountiful sense to Mr. Blackmore, are married, in the state-sanctioned legal manner, to each other.

Prof. Campbell has also encountered in Bountiful monogamous marriages. Even a traditional wedding that, she says, seemed "right out of the pages of a bridal magazine."

Preconceptions she had before her trip to Bountiful were shattered.

Prof. Campbell must, like so many today, have had her brain steeped in John Stuart Mill or some other kind of "harms" analysis that is so myopic and relativist that my jaw is hanging open and the word "Nincompoop!" springs to mind.

So, maybe the women she interviewed at Bountiful think their arrangements are just hunky dorey, but what about the children? Imagine being the son of a father who has 100 kids. Does he even know his name, let alone his birthday? Sure you can really probe the dark side of a society by spending a couple of summers in a place.

What happens to the second tier of men who don't get to marry in such a society?

No one ever asks a child whether the arrangements of his or her parents are going to be beneficial in the long run. What about the harm to wider society?

Last year, I worried that various organizations engaged in promoting a culture of life in the public square were NOT getting their arguments together to form an apologetic against polygamy. I feared that it was coming down the track like the shining light that is not the end of the tunnel but an approaching train. But I'm a journalist, not an activist, so it was not my place to organize anything.

There are big fears that charges against polygamists will not survive a religious freedom challenge. Why? Because judges may respect religious freedom, but they tend to see all religions as equal, as a bunch of mystical hodge podge that is basically irrational.

What's rational comes out of the Enlightenment they argue, as if everything rational is a break from the Christian faith, from which the Enlightenment stole many ideas and debased others.

As Denyse O'Leary once put it to me, people put the Catholic faith--which she said is supremely rational--on a par with the green apple worm cult.

Argggghhhhh! It's true. This is the kind of reasoning that gives Satanists the right to have a shrine on a submarine. Religious freedom, you know?

This is why what Archbishop Raymond Burke said recently in the United States is so important to grasp and work from if we want to regain an apologetic that defends the marriage against such insults as polygamy.

He said, (my bolds):

According to the proportionalist way of thinking, each of us has the right to choose what are the most important moral issues. Ultimately, it lacks any relationship to the objective truth of actions. It fails to realize that unless the fundamental moral goods are safeguarded, that is, human life and the sanctuary of marriage, other moral issues, while having an importance, lose their ultimate meaning. In such a way of thinking, for instance, one can accept a program of universal health care, even if it includes the compulsory provision of abortion and the rationing of health care to the benefit of those considered to be "productive," while providing for the hastening of death for the aged, the weak and those with special needs, that is, for those considered to be "unproductive," according to the reasoning of whoever has political power.
In this regard, I find the language of values to be less than adequate to our moral discourse. Although I know it is common to speak of moral values, we must remember that the language of values, which comes to us from the world of economics, usually expresses a relative assessment of worth. What is a value to me may not be a value to another. What is really at stake are objective goods, created by God and participating in His own goodness, like human life and the union of man and woman in marriage. They are good in themselves, no matter how I may view them. Only when I am able to view them as they are, according to God's plan, am I able to do what is right and good. Only then I find happiness in a right relationship with others and with the world.

We used to have civilizational confidence because we knew that our laws and our founding principles had some relationship to these objective goods, because they were part and parcel of our Judeo-Christian tradition.

Now we are slipping off those foundations into nincompoopery elevated as wisdom and common sense grounded in natural law demoted to some kind of phobia.

We're told that if we mention God at all, we are going to be ignored and marginalized.


Even mentioning natural law, without talking about God, also tends to get one ignored or marginalized.

But just because we live in a society of Millsian nincompoops who think only of individuals and whether they think they are harmed, and who never seem to think of the harms to society as a whole, to the common good, or to children and their future prospects does not mean that objective reality has gone away.

Someone has to be sane enough to speak up for it.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Reflection by Archbishop Raymond Burke

I would recommend your reading this reflection in its entirety. Here are some excerpts to whet your appetite. I have bolded some parts because I think what he has written is so important that I want to remember his arguments. The post starts with the hyperlink below:

It is clear that we are experiencing today a period of intense and critical struggle in the advancement of the culture of life in our nation. The administration of our federal government openly and aggressively follows a secularist agenda. While it may employ religious language and even invoke the name of God, in fact, it proposes programs and policies for our people without respect for God and His Law. (snip)

At the same time, there is a lack of unity among those dedicated to advance a culture which respects fully the gift of human life and its origin in procreation, that is, in the cooperation of man and woman with God through the conjugal union and through education in the home which they have formed by marriage. Recent statements, occasioned by the Rites of Christian Burial accorded to the late Senator Edward M. Kennedy, have manifested profound disagreement and even harsh criticism among those who are publicly committed to the Gospel of Life.

Articulating the context in which I place my reflections, I do not, in any way, deny the contribution which other religions and persons of good will have made to the life of our nation. To acknowledge the Christian faith which inspired the foundation of our nation and has sustained our nation is not a declaration of intolerance toward persons who are not Christians. It is, in fact, of the very nature of the Christian faith to love all men, without boundary or exception. The Golden Rule, taught to us by Our Lord Jesus, expresses the Christian embrace of all men, without boundary or exclusion (cf. Mt 7:12). For Christians, the acceptance of others who are not of the Christian faith is not a matter of tolerance, but of love which adheres to the truths of the faith while respecting the beliefs of those who are not Christian, as long as those beliefs are coherent with the natural moral law, that is, coherent with the respect for the "inalienable rights" with which God has endowed every man. Christian love does not have its foundation in blind tolerance of others and of what they think and say and do, but rather in the profound knowledge of others and their beliefs, and the honest acknowledgment of differences of belief, especially in what may compromise the life of the nation.

Once sexual union is no longer seen to be, by its very nature, procreative, human sexuality is abused in ways that are profoundly harmful and even destructive of individuals and of society itself. One has only to think of the devastation which is daily wrought in our nation by the multi-million dollar industry of pornography. Essential to the advancement of the culture of life is the proclamation of the truth about the conjugal union, in its fullness, and the correction of the contraceptive thinking which fears life, which fears procreation.


Regarding the faith and political life, there has developed in our nation the false notion that the Christian or any person of faith, in order to be a true American citizen, must bracket his faith life from his political life. According to such a notion, one ends up with Christians, for example, who claim personally to be faithful members of the Church and, therefore, to hold to the demands of the natural moral law, while they sustain and support the right to violate the moral law in its most fundamental tenets. We find self-professed Catholics, for example, who sustain and support the right of a woman to procure the death of the infant in her womb, or the right of two persons of the same sex to the recognition which the State gives to a man and a woman who have entered into marriage. It is not possible to be a practicing Catholic and to conduct oneself politically in this manner.
Such conduct is also not true to the founding principles of our nation and its government. While the clause of the First Amendment of the Constitution, which guarantees the free-exercise of religion, prohibits the imposition of purely confessional practices on the general population, it fosters the teaching and upholding of the moral law, common to all men, which is at the heart of every true religion. What kind of government would require that its citizens and political leaders act without reference to the fundamental requirements of the moral law?
[Isn't this exactly what doctors and other health professionals are asked to do when told they have to refer for abortions or dispense drugs that induce abortion?]

Recognizing the responsibility of Christians and of all men of good will to enunciate and uphold the natural moral law, we also recognize the scandal which is given when Christians fail to uphold the moral law in public life. When those who profess to be Christian, at the same time, favor and promote policies and laws which permit the destruction of innocent and defenseless human life, and which violate the integrity of marriage and the family, then citizens, in general, are confused and led into error about the basic tenets of the moral law. In our time, there is a great hesitation to speak about scandal, as if, in some way, it is only a phenomenon among persons of small or unenlightened mind, and, therefore, a tool of such persons to condemn others rashly and wrongly.
Certainly, there is such a thing as pharisaical scandal, that is, a malicious interpretation of the morally good or, at least, morally indifferent actions of another. The term comes from the supposed scandal which Our Lord Jesus caused to the Pharisees by, for instance, healing the man born blind on the Sabbath (cf. Jn 9:13-34).
But there is also true scandal, that is, the leading of others, by our words, actions and failures to act, into confusion and error, and, therefore, into sin. Our Lord was unequivocal in his condemnation of those who would confuse or lead others into sin by their actions. In teaching His disciples about temptations, He declared:
Temptations to sin are sure to come; but woe to him by whom they come! It would be better for him if a millstone were hung round his neck and he were cast into the sea, than that he should cause one of these little ones to sin (Lk 17:1-2).
It is clear that Our Lord taught as a primary responsibility, with the gravest of consequences, the avoidance of scandal, namely, of any act or failure to act which could lead another into sin. Our Lord's words are nothing less than vehement.


A unity which is not founded on the truth of the moral law is not the unity of the Church. The Church's unity is founded on speaking the truth with love. The person who experiences scandal at public actions of Catholics, which are gravely contrary to the moral law, not only does not destroy unity but invites the Church to repair what is clearly a serious breach in Her life. Were he not to experience scandal at the public support of attacks on human life and the family, his conscience would be uninformed or dulled about the most sacred realities.


According to the proportionalist way of thinking, each of us has the right to choose what are the most important moral issues. Ultimately, it lacks any relationship to the objective truth of actions. It fails to realize that unless the fundamental moral goods are safeguarded, that is, human life and the sanctuary of marriage, other moral issues, while having an importance, lose their ultimate meaning. In such a way of thinking, for instance, one can accept a program of universal health care, even if it includes the compulsory provision of abortion and the rationing of health care to the benefit of those considered to be "productive," while providing for the hastening of death for the aged, the weak and those with special needs, that is, for those considered to be "unproductive," according to the reasoning of whoever has political power.
In this regard, I find the language of values to be less than adequate to our moral discourse. Although I know it is common to speak of moral values, we must remember that the language of values, which comes to us from the world of economics, usually expresses a relative assessment of worth. What is a value to me may not be a value to another. What is really at stake are objective goods, created by God and participating in His own goodness, like human life and the union of man and woman in marriage. They are good in themselves, no matter how I may view them.


According to the proportionalist way of thinking, each of us has the right to choose what are the most important moral issues. Ultimately, it lacks any relationship to the objective truth of actions. It fails to realize that unless the fundamental moral goods are safeguarded, that is, human life and the sanctuary of marriage, other moral issues, while having an importance, lose their ultimate meaning. In such a way of thinking, for instance, one can accept a program of universal health care, even if it includes the compulsory provision of abortion and the rationing of health care to the benefit of those considered to be "productive," while providing for the hastening of death for the aged, the weak and those with special needs, that is, for those considered to be "unproductive," according to the reasoning of whoever has political power.
In this regard, I find the language of values to be less than adequate to our moral discourse. Although I know it is common to speak of moral values, we must remember that the language of values, which comes to us from the world of economics, usually expresses a relative assessment of worth. What is a value to me may not be a value to another. What is really at stake are objective goods, created by God and participating in His own goodness, like human life and the union of man and woman in marriage. They are good in themselves, no matter how I may view them.

Wow! Archbishop Raymond Burke is on the left and Ottawa Archbishop Terrence Prendergast is in the middle. I can't remember the third bishop, who is from the United States. The picture was taken at the Eucharistic Procession during the 2008 International Eucharistic Congress in Quebec City a year ago June.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Coming out at age 11

Read this and weep.

We arrived unfashionably on time, and Austin tried to park himself on a couch in a corner but was whisked away by Ben, a 16-year-old Openarms regular, who gave him an impromptu tour and introduced him to his mom, who works the concession area most weeks.

Openarms is practically overrun with supportive moms. While Austin and Ben were on the patio, a 14-year-old named Nick arrived with his mom. Nick came out to her when he was 12 but had yet to go on a date or even kiss a boy, which prompted his younger sister to opine that maybe he wasn’t actually gay. “She said, ‘Maybe you’re bisexual,’ ” Nick told me. “But I don’t have to have sex with a girl to know I’m not interested.”

Ninety minutes after we arrived, Openarms was packed with about 130 teenagers who had come from all corners of the state. Some danced to the Lady Gaga song “Poker Face,” others battled one another in pool or foosball and a handful of young couples held hands on the outdoor patio. In one corner, a short, perky eighth-grade girl kissed her ninth-grade girlfriend of one year. I asked them where they met. “In church,” they told me. Not far from them, a 14-year-old named Misti — who came out to classmates at her middle school when she was 12 and weathered anti-gay harassment and bullying, including having food thrown at her in the cafeteria — sat on a wooden bench and cuddled with a new girlfriend.

Austin had practically forgotten about his boyfriend. Instead, he was confessing to me — mostly by text message, though we were standing next to each other — his crush on Laddie, a 16-year-old who had just moved to Tulsa from a small town in Texas. Like Austin, Laddie was attending the dance for the first time, but he came off as much more comfortable in his skin and had a handful of admirers on the patio. Laddie told them that he came out in eighth grade and that the announcement sent shock waves through his Texas school.

“I definitely lost some friends,” he said, “but no one really made fun of me or called me names, probably because I was one of the most popular kids when I came out. I don’t think I would have come out if I wasn’t popular.”

“When I first realized I was gay,” Austin interjected, “I just assumed I would hide it and be miserable for the rest of my life. But then I said, ‘O.K., wait, I don’t want to hide this and be miserable my whole life.’ ”

I asked him how old he was when he made that decision.

“Eleven,” he said.

Rest in peace, dear Joanna

A dear friend was laid to rest today after an eight year battle with a brain tumor that brought her through many surgeries, times of absolute helplessness--not even being able to swallow--to fighting back miraculously to regain lost speech, the ability to feed herself, and get around in a wheelchair. For a while she recovered enough so we could take her out. She had no balance, but was strong enough to walk if she had one of us support her on either side. We took her to the Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit when it was at the Museum of Civilization and on some other outings.
But then there was a slow decline that led this woman to a nursing home while still in her 40s.

Joanna had an inspiring Christian faith. One night before she was scheduled brain surgery, I stopped by the hospital. Her eyes were ablaze with holy fire and supernatural peace. "To live is Christ, to die is gain."

She lived . . . and went through an ordeal that is hard for all of us who knew her to understand. Why her of all people?

She suffered complications later on, swelling that gave her horrible headaches. She would writhe in pain. But she always thought of other people, always remembering to thank whoever mopped the floor around her bed, or the nurse who cared for her. During this time of headaches, I stopped at NOA, the special ward that is not quite intensive care but close for those with brain injuries. It was already 9 p.m. and her concern was for me, that it was late, and I should go home.

What courage she showed, having to face horrible treatments that would have made waterboarding look like a picnic. One time she had to be fastened, literally screwed to a table with a mask that held her head absolutely still so pictures could be taken of her brain. I was there with her and when she looked at the equipment---all very scary looking--she cried. But just a simple little prayer and she submitted, and God gave her peace and courage so that during her ordeal, she silently sang hymns to herself.

She had to go through that mask thing a second time, and I remember her out in the waiting area afterwards, with the marks still pressed on her face, but she was encouraging someone else who faced a trial.

Joanna, you were such a blessing to so many people. Me especially. What an example you were.

Today, I looked out on my autumn garden and what was there but an Easter lilly blooming. I couldn't believe it! I had taken some lillies from church after their flowers had faded after Easter and stuck them in the garden. And this one bloomed. It tells me you are home safe now, friend.

My story on 40 Days for Life

Or a very edited version anyway, is up at the Catholic Register site.

Great reflection on prophesy by Fr. Tom Rosica

Here's an excerpt. Read the rest over at the Salt and Light TV Blog.

Jeremiah, despondent because of his unrelieved message of woe to the people he loved would stifle the word: ‘If I say, “I will not mention him, or speak any more in his name,” there is in my heart as it were a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I am weary with holding it in, I cannot’ [Jeremiah 20:9]. Whatever the form of the message, the true Israelite prophet’s vision of God has permeated the manner of his thoughts so that he sees things from God’s point of view and is convinced that he so sees them. Fundamental to the mission of the prophet is obedience to God’s Word.

Would that all the LORD’s people were prophets!

In Sunday’s first reading from Numbers [11:25-29], God sent the spirit of prophecy upon others who took Moses by surprise. Moses had earlier complained to God that he could not provide for Israel in the desert all by himself. To alleviate the situation, God promised to confer Moses’ prophetic spirit on seventy elders. Even though Eldad and Medad were not present in the camp when God conferred Moses’ spirit, they still received the gift and began to prophesy.

When Moses’ aide, Joshua, wished to squelch the so-called rebellion against authority, Moses replies: “Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the Lord’s people were prophets, and that the LORD would put his spirit on them!” [Num. 11:29]. Moses is pleased that the spirit of prophecy is shared with those not immediately present in the first commissioning of the elders. Joshua is upbraided for his jealousy. Spiritual authority can lead to serious abuses. It must be handled carefully, humbly, and justly. The lesson is that God’s ability to share the spirit is not restricted. God is the measure.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

I've got to see this movie Longford!

John Zmirak sure can write:

This week I'd like to commend for your holiday viewing a movie that offers none of those happy attributes: Longford. While it isn't profane or "dirty," I wouldn't suggest you pop it in and gather the kids, since one of the main characters is an infamous child-murderer. It's not a feel-good movie about the Church, since its Catholics are clearly in trouble. But I think Longford is essential viewing for Christian grown-ups of every variety, since it tackles what Mother Angelica called the "reigning sin of our time."
This vice isn't one of the Seven Deadly Sins, although it enables each of them. It's not exactly a heresy, although it gives heretics aid and comfort. A sharp, if hostile, observer -- Friedrich Nietzsche -- looked at Christianity and thought this error lay at the very heart of our ethics, which led him to label ours a "slave morality." And wherever this vice takes over a Christian's heart, slave morality is precisely what we’re practicing.
This vice is misguided compassion. That was the good sister's term for it, although St. Thomas might have "gone medieval" on this vice by describing it as Liberality and Meekness corrupted by neglect of the governing natural virtue, Prudence. An easier way to say all that is simply "mercy without justice." As we all know, that's not real mercy at all, and it's not what we expect from Christ on Judgment Day. As a lover of Byzantine art, I've seen plenty of icons depicting Our Lord enthroned as judge of the human race. He isn't grinning.
The movie Longford depicts misguided compassion gone horribly, wildly out of control -- to the point where it ruins lives and destroys the good name of decent people, all to serve the purposes of a manipulative criminal who wishes to make a mockery of justice.

My kind of feminist critique

On women's authority in the Church by Monica Miller:

The nuptial structure of redemption wrought by Christ determines what authority is within the Catholic Church. Authority, because it is life-giving, is fundamentally service. Rooted in the marital structure of the New Covenant, authority entails responsibility for the faith. It is important to understand the nature of this responsibility. As we stated, male and female sexuality, from the very beginning, are the symbols of the covenant. The covenant is dependent upon these symbols and would have no concrete expression without them. From the very beginning of creation, man and woman are imbued with salvific meaning -- they are sacramental signs. Responsibility for the faith is differentiated according to the sexual symbols of the covenant. The responsibility of ordained men, for instance, exists over and against the feminine Church whose femininity is expressed in the very lives of Christian women.
To the extent that this differentiated responsibility becomes blurred, Christianity itself, as rooted in the meaning of sexuality, ceases to be effectively communicated to the world. To undo the meaning of sexual symbols is to undo the Christian faith. This is why it is doctrinally and theologically wrong to refer to God as a female. The covenant itself exists according to differentiation. God as the creator of nature cannot be confused with his creation and neither can creation be confused with God. Yet God and the world exist in a covenantal relation. Sexual symbols reveal this truth. God is male toward his creation which in turn is feminine in relation to him. Male and female sexuality speak a truth about this transcendent relation. It is not an arbitrary choice of words or simply a matter of historical conditioning from a patriarchal culture that God is referred to with masculine pronouns and called "Father." Masculine symbols speak a truth about the way God gives life. Similarly, nature, or creation, is truly feminine. It is within the feminine essence of nature and the Church that female authority exists. Liturgically and sacramentally women speak the full voice of creation to God.
The feminization of God strikes a blow at the covenantal structure of the Judeo-Christian tradition and takes from women their authentic role. Feminists believe it is necessary to turn God into a woman seeking thereby to imbue women with power that they would not otherwise have. This mistake is based on a non-Christian understanding of reality and authority. Feminists do not understand, or at least do not accept, that authority is shared in a covenantal fashion.

We warned you about polygamy

But you didn't listen, Canada. And now a judge has ordered the charges against two flagrant polygamists dropped. LifeSiteNews.Com reports:

Premier Gordon Campbell and current attorney-general Mike de Jong told reporters they were surprised and disappointed by the ruling.

"It's not the result that obviously we were hoping for or looking for, and it's obviously an impediment to advancing this prosecution," de Jong said. "There's a decision to be made around a possible appeal."

"I think it's important to solve the issue," Campbell said. "The question is, how do you solve it?"

Campbell and de Jong have not indicated what course they will follow to solve the issue: whether an appeal will be launched against Stromberg-Stein's decision, or the case will be handled as a constitutional challenge as Peck and Doust had advised, or they will direct the RCMP to conduct a new investigation of polygamy in the province and once again bring charges against Blackmore and Oler, or simply do nothing.

Blackmore and Oler, members of a polygamous Mormon splinter group in Bountiful, British Columbia, were charged with polygamy in January of this year after a two year investigation by the RCMP.

Blackmore was charged with marrying 20 women, though he claims to have had 26 wives and more than 108 children. Oler was charged with marrying two women.

Section 293 of the Canadian Criminal Code says that anyone entering into a conjugal relationship with more than one individual at the same time is in violation of the law.

On at least two previous occasions the RCMP had recommended that arrests be made, but the Crown denied the recommendation, saying that the ban on polygamy would likely be struck down on the basis of the Canadian re-definition of marriage to include homosexual couples, and the Charter's guarantee of religious freedom.

Lawyers had argued in January that the polygamists had "a very strong case" in light of Canada's legalization of homosexual "marriage."

"If (homosexuals) can marry, what is the reason that public policy says one person can't marry more than one person?" the lawyers contended.

Opponents of same-sex "marriage" have long observed that once homosexuals are permitted to "marry," there is nothing holding polygamous marriages from being legally recognized as well. "It's like this," explained Stanley Kurtz in a 2006 National Review article. "The way to abolish marriage, without seeming to abolish it, is to redefine the institution out of existence. If everything can be marriage, pretty soon nothing will be marriage. Legalize gay marriage, followed by multi-partner marriage, and pretty soon the whole idea of marriage will be meaningless."

Canada's Nuncio appointed to France

Here's a link to a story I did on the Nuncio's appointment to Paris. What a gift he has been to Canada.

OTTAWA - Pope Benedict has appointed his man in Canada, Archbishop Luigi Ventura, to serve as apostolic nuncio to France.

Ventura, 65, has served as the nuncio to Canada - the Holy See's ambassador - since 2001. He arrived the day before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

"It's sad news for us because he has been serving our country very well as representative of the holy father," said Cardinal Marc Ouellet.

"He was close to the people, he was very knowledgeable about the situation of the Church.

"He had travelled the whole country," Ouellet said. "He had a very good relationship to the bishops in general and also to the faithful. We will miss him.

"So I'm happy for France, who will have a nuncio who is a man of experience and very faithful to the holy father," the cardinal said. "I wish (him) many good years in France."

France is considered the "eldest daughter" of the Church, and the role of nuncio in Paris ranks among the most esteemed in the Holy See's diplomatic service.

Previous nuncios there have been made cardinals. One previous nuncio, Archbishop Angelo Roncalli, served in Paris during the Second World War and eventually became Pope John XXIII.

Salt and Light TV CEO Father Thomas Rosica, who worked closely with Ventura when he was CEO of 2002 World Youth Day in Toronto, said Ventura will be "at the centre of Europe.

"Paris plays an extremely important role," he said in an interview. "So he's really one of the key people in the diplomatic corps."

Catholic blogger Rocco Palmo reported on his popular Whispers in the Loggia site that Ventura's Sept. 22 appointment is a sign that the pope "wants to give the French hierarchy an extreme makeover."

History of Catholic news cooperative traced to papal visit

I was living in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, when Pope John Paul II visited Halifax in 1984. Sadly, I sort of ignored the visit back then. I was in my gnostic stage and probably attending Christian Science services if I went to church at all. In fact, I spent a whole year around that time not taking any medicine at all, not even an aspirin for a headache, or a decongestant for a cold, because casting off all reliance on material medicines and trusting in God for a year was a prerequisite for becoming a Christian Scientist. But then, this Christian Science gal in my neighborhood told me I would have to give up the meditation I used to do that was taught by a Jewish convert to Christianity whose theology was a little Arian (though I didn't know it at the time.) So she would not recommend me. I got rejected by the Christian Scientists.

Someone said I was like a woman with many dogs on a leash all pulling me in different directions. I was into Mary Baker Eddy. I was into Roy Masters. I was into Emmanuel Swedenborg. So the pope was barely in my peripheral vision. I remember in the 1990s receiving one of his books at work. When I was a CBC TV producer, I used to get several books a week from various publishers. I was so clueless, I opened up Crossing the Threshold of Hope, thinking I would find it dry and lifeless. "Be not afraid . . ." and the room started to become lighter, the book seemed to glow.

But that's a big digression, from the story I worked on this summer when things slowed down, tracing the history of Canadian Catholic News, a cooperative of Catholic papers.

You can read a condensed version of the history I did here.

The Canadian Catholic News (CCN) news cooperative began as the gleam in the eye of Father Andrew Britz and was conceived 25 years ago to prepare for the 1984 visit of Pope John Paul II.

The Benedictine priest who edited the Muenster, Sask.-based Prairie Messenger wanted to see Catholic papers across the country working together to fill a vacuum in national Canadian coverage.

"We were news-deprived when it came to information about the Church in Canada," said Montreal's Catholic Times editor Eric Durocher, who with Britz is credited as co-founder. "The only consistent source of national information was the weekly mailings we received from the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB)."

Cooperation was essential to address the "information gap," Durocher said. But it was "easier said than done" in a country that values regional distinctiveness and a Church with diverse pastoral approaches.

One big problem was getting the two Toronto papers involved. Initially The Catholic Register and Catholic New Times were cool to the idea of CCN. "I think they thought they were the centre of the Canadian Church and they didn't need all this fancy stuff - us people in the hinterlands needed it - but they quickly changed their minds," Britz said.

The differences went deeper. The Catholic Register under former CBC national news broadcaster Larry Henderson had become a strongly conservative voice, while the now defunct Catholic New Times founded by Sister Mary Jo Leddy and Father Gregory Baum represented a more social justice focus.

The other big problem was technical. Back then there were no fax machines, no accessible Internet and email, no easy electronic means of easily sharing news copy, let alone photographs. The editors then relied on Canada Post's "snail mail" or couriers.

But Pope John Paul II's anticipated visit to Canada led to CCN's conception.

"The papal visit really made it possible to set up Canadian Catholic News," Britz said. "People knew they wanted to cover the story of the pope's visit, but they couldn't have someone in Halifax, someone in Vancouver."

Back in the early 1980s at the CBC, we used manual typewriters and five part canary yellows--yellow letter-sized newsprint with five carbon copies. You really had to pound those keys. The news came in via a teletype machine that would spill a coil of newsprint on the floor. One of my early jobs in the business was lining up the early morning weekend regional radio news, arriving in time to prepare the 6 a.m. (? or was it 7 a.m.--anyway it was early) newscast. I'd come in and start cutting up the snaking pile of stories. Then I would cut them up and rewrite them in CBC broadcast style. I'd call the police to find out if any murders or other news had happened. Same with the fire department. I'd have to get up around 3:30 a.m. to get to work to prepare for that news cast.

In those days, we used to edit radio tape with a razor blade, and splice with tape. Boy oh boy have things changed. What did we do without the Internet? Well, we had a clippings library, where someone cut up newspapers and kept files that we could access.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Pope's upcoming trip to England

Catholic Online reports:

A visit by Pope Benedict to Britain may have implications for those within the Church of England who have witnessed their Church being torn from within over the last few decades. The decline of orthodoxy in that community has reached a critical stage where some observers think it is irreparable. There has been speculation over the plight of some within the broader Anglican community who openly discuss entry into full communion with the Catholic Church. The “Traditional Anglican Communion”, one of many “splinter groups” which have arisen as a direct result of the Church of England’s movement away from classical Christian orthodoxy, has formally requested to enter into full communion with the Catholic Church. They have done so with a refreshing humility, agreeing to do whatever it would take. They still await a formal response from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the faith in Rome.

John Zmirak airs frustrations over people who do not understand economics or human freedom

What's missing from these people's happy, totalitarian picture is something fundamental to the West, a fruit of Christian culture that it took Vatican II (yes, you read me correctly) for the Church to fully recognize: the fact of human dignity. In the early Church, up through the first writings of St. Augustine, the Church asked only for liberty of worship, confident that the gospel would sway people on its own. In his later years, frustrated by the intransigence of the Donatist heretics, Augustine changed his mind and asked the now-Christian emperors to "compel them to come in." Building on Augustine's later work, many popes and countless Christian kings used the coercive power of the State to persecute heretics -- arguing that the free will of these individuals was outweighed by the danger to the souls they might lead to hell. Besides, they said in a phrase that became a little bit infamous, "Error has no rights." Since no one has a right to do what's wrong, how can those with false beliefs have a right to hold and practice an inaccurate religion? Do they have the right to lie about the gospel?

At Vatican II, the Council Fathers (under pressure from American prelates, as an unsympathetic Michael Davies argues) were more concerned about the very real persecution of Christians throughout the Communist bloc than the duty of (now-deposed) Catholic monarchs to uphold orthodoxy. They reframed the question as follows: Error may have no rights, but the person holding the error does. In Dignitatis Humanae, the Council teaches that the dignity of the human person forbids religious coercion by the State. Pope John Paul II was not, I think, misguided when he apologized for the actions of his predecessors that violated this precept.

Nor does human dignity stop at the church door. Throughout the Catechism, the Church insists on the rights of the human person to liberty of thought, association, and action -- within the limits of justice and the countervailing rights of one's fellow men. Only when our actions violate justice -- not charity, but justice -- is it right to use the violent, coercive power of the State to curb and restrict them. Indeed, it is only justice that can be enforced by the State. Mandatory charity is as moot as mandatory faith or hope.

So in all our discussions of health-care reform and other economic issues, let's keep in mind that part of loving our neighbor entails not enslaving him at gunpoint to suit our vision of the Good -- be it religious orthodoxy, economic equality, or anything else. On a prudential level, we must take with grim seriousness the threat that any health-care plan, even if it for the moment excludes abortion and sterilization, will expand -- irrevocably -- the power over our lives of a grimly secular State.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Saying goodbye to our Nuncio

Canada's Apostolic Nuncio--the ambassador from the Holy See--has been appointed Nuncio of France.

I'm feeling a little sad because I hate to see Archbishop Luigi Ventura leave Canada. What a blessing he has been not only to the Church here and to me. But I am also happy for him.

Salt and Light TV has put together some lovely tributes to him, and CEO Fr. Tom Rosica has also said far more eloquently all the things I would like to say, along with some wonderful videos and pictures.

Salt + Light Television Tribute to Archbishop Luigi Ventura
Apostolic Nuncio to Canada

This morning Pope Benedict XVI appointed Archbishop Luigi Ventura, current Nuncio to Canada, the Apostolic Nuncio to France. Archbishop Ventura has served as Apostolic Nuncio to Canada since September, 2001. Here is the tribute to Archbishop Ventura from Canada's Salt and Light Catholic Television Network.

Fr. Thomas Rosica, C.S.B.,
CEO, Salt and Light Catholic Television Network, Canada Former National Director and CEO of World Youth Day 2002

Don Luigi, Mille Grazie e Arrivederci!
A Tribute to Archbishop Luigi Ventura
Apostolic Nuncio to Canada 2001-2009

Fr. Thomas Rosica, C.S.B.

Since the most ancient of times, Popes have sent representatives who were known as Legates, to general and local councils of the Church. These Legates were chosen from among the members of the Roman Clergy or the Bishops of Italy, which depended directly from the Holy See. From the Eleventh century, these legations, because of their importance, were entrusted to Cardinals who were called Legates. The name ‘Nuncio’ (from the Latin “nuntius” meaning messenger or message), however, was given to prelates, generally Bishops, to whom were entrusted negotiations of a particular character.

Apostolic Nuncios are personal representatives of the Holy Father in each country. The complex and often unknown roles of Nuncios operate simultaneously on many levels, yet most often “behind the scenes”, with great discretion and humility.

First and foremost the Nuncio in a given country works closely with the local churches (dioceses) and the Conference of Bishops to foster communication between the Church in that country with the Holy Father and the many Vatican departments. Nuncios are living reminders of the universality of the Church.

Second, Nuncios serve as official representatives of the Holy See to the government of the country to which they are assigned. Third, Nuncios serve as the official links between the country in which they find themselves and the Holy See. Since their mission allows them to have a view of the whole, they are essential in determining the future directions of the Church in a given country.

Nuncios come and nuncios go. Most people never really get to know “a nuncio!” But that wasn’t the case with Archbishop Luigi Ventura, Apostolic Nuncio to Canada from 2001 to 2009. Arriving literally on the eve of September 11, 2001, he was hailed even before his coming to Canada as “the nuncio of the GMG- World Youth Day 2002.” And that he was!

Luigi Ventura was not just another Papal diplomat sent to us. It didn’t take him long to size up the Canadian Church and provide for its pastoral needs. One of the most important duties of a nuncio is to assist the Holy Father with the appointment of Bishops in a particular country. Archbishop Ventura did that job in a remarkable and admirable way, leaving his “mark” on the Church in this country for years to come. He traveled this country from sea to sea to sea, tirelessly bringing the good news of Jesus and the message of the Church from the “home office” on the Tiber to the most remote places of Canada. He reminded us in season and out of season of the bigger picture: the universality of the Church.

Crisscrossing our vast Canadian territory, he made distant friends and brought strangers close, making room in our land for the peace of Christ. He was a real “Pontifex”, a builder of bridges in a world and a country that too often erects solitudes, walls and divisions. He has been an extraordinary, gentle shepherd with a universal heart who conquered our vast country with his infectious smile, genuine goodness, pastoral wisdom, and common sense.

Go read the rest. Fr. Tom has much more about this special archbishop who has done so much good here. Go watch the videos at Salt and Light TV, too.

Axe Section 13 of the Canadian "Human Rights" Act

Maclean's Magazine has a detailed editorial why Harper must act now:

Stephen Harper used to have very clear—and colourful—ideas on human rights commissions and what should be done about them.

“Human rights commissions, as they are evolving, are an attack on our fundamental freedoms and the basic existence of a democratic society,” he said in a 1999 interview with Terry O’Neill of BC Report newsmagazine.“ It is in fact totalitarianism. I find this is very scary stuff.” He went on to complain about the “bastardization” of the entire concept of rights in modern society.

Of course, that was back when Harper was president of the National Citizens Coalition. Today he’s Canada’s 22nd Prime Minister. And he appears to have lost his fear of totalitarianism.

In an interview this past January with Maclean’s, the Prime Minister was asked what, if anything, he intended to do to halt the encroachment on individual freedom by the Canadian Human Rights Commission in the name of regulating hate speech.

It is an issue of crucial importance to this country and our strongly held traditions of freedom of speech and freedom of the press.

This magazine understands only too well the dangers involved in putting those rights at risk. Following a 2006 cover story by columnist Mark Steyn titled “Why the future belongs to Islam,” we were visited by a group of law students from the Canadian Islamic Congress. We were given the option of handing over editorial control of our pages for a rebuttal to Steyn’s piece or face a series of human rights complaints. As the first option was anathema to our obligations to our readers, the students launched their complaints.

That we were vindicated in all instances, notwithstanding the Ontario Human Rights Commission’s attempt at an unofficial smear, is beside the point. Under the guise of human rights, the ability of any news organization to produce truthful and reasoned articles was questioned by a variety of government bodies. Scary stuff indeed.

So we asked Harper if he intended to correct this threat to the basic existence of a democratic society.

“The government has no plans to do so,” was his casual reply. “It is a very tricky issue of public policy . . . It’s probably the case that we haven’t got the balance right, but I’m not sure the government today has any answer on what an appropriate balance would be.”

To summarize: the issue of human rights commissions running amok over Canadians’ basic rights and freedoms is something Harper has followed—closely and with obvious passion—for at least a decade. As Prime Minister he admits it is still a problem. And he says he doesn’t have a clue how to fix it.

We do.

Read the whole thing. H/t Ezra Levant, who adds his own colorful commentary.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

A New York Times take on Acorn and the new media

Via Big Government, the Andrew Breitbart site that broke the latest Acorn scandal:

“Work formerly done by reporters and producers is now routinely performed by political operatives and amateur ideologues of one stripe or another, whose goal is not to educate the public but to win. This is a trend not likely to change.”

So writes a very worried Mark Bowden (he of “Blackhawk Down”) in the latest issue of The Atlantic. And there’s more:

The Internet is now replacing Everyman with every man. Anyone with a keyboard or cell phone can report, analyze, and pull a chair up to the national debate. If freedom of the press belongs to those who own one, today that is everyone. The city with one eye (glass or no) has been replaced by the city with a million eyes. This is wonderful on many levels, and is why the tyrants of the world are struggling, with only partial success, to control the new medium. But while the Internet may be the ultimate democratic tool, it is also demolishing the business model that long sustained news­papers and TV’s network-news organizations.


Yes, the video starts with employees of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, or Acorn, giving advice on gaining child-tax credits for employing underage Salvadoran prostitutes. And then it gets worse. (Writing off condoms!)

Well, with Congress having voted to shut off Acorn’s money spigot, I guess we can score one for Bowden’s “every man.”

Who killed Kennedy?

Kathy Shaidle sets the record straight:

There are still those who don’t believe Oswald killed Kennedy. But Oswald’s Communist sympathies, defection to the Soviet Union and pro-Castro activism are all matters of public record.

Even if Boehlert is a conspiracy nut who thinks Oswald wasn’t the killer, even the craziest “buffs” feel obliged to mention the fellow’s name in their screeds, if only to declare his innocence. Not this Media Matters scribe.

And why should he? Last year, James Piereson penned a fine book called Camelot and the Cultural Revolution: How the Assassination of John F. Kennedy Shattered American Liberalism. His thesis: liberals were so traumatized by the idea that JFK’s assassin was a man of the left like themselves, that they literally wrote Oswald out of the story by concocting conspiracy theories surrounding the crime.

And the killer of Bobby Kennedy also hailed from the left.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Be very afraid---says David Goldman of First Things

The magazine's associate editor writes:

Why do Americans pay to watch images as revolting as the cinematic imagination can discover? Many things might explain the vast new market for uncanny evil. If you do not believe in God, you will believe in anything, to misquote G.K. Chesterton; and, one might add, if you do not feel God’s presence, you will become desperate to feel anything at all. Terror and horror create at least some kind of feeling. After pornography has jaded the capacity to feel pleasure, what remains is the capacity to feel fear and pain.

But there is a pattern to the highs and lows of the horror genre that may reflect something specific about Hollywood’s feeding of the mood of the United States—something about America’s encounter with truly horrible events, from the Second World War through Vietnam and down to the attacks of September 11, 2001 and the lingering conflict in Iraq. Terror loiters in dark corners just off the public square.