Saturday, February 15, 2020

The pain of not being able to find a priest

Are you a young engaged couple looking for a bilingual priest to marry you?

Increasingly in various parts of the world, and even here in our western societies, it is becoming difficult to find a priest. You might be a young couple in love and you want to get married in your own language in your favorite parish church, but the priest there can't speak your language. So you go looking for a priest who can and you find just how difficult it might be. Priests are older, fewer, and laden with more and more duties. Our priests in many places are suffering a similar fate to lay people in the workplace where, in order to "maximize profits", more and more corporations are eliminating posts and expecting current workers to not only continue doing their own job but, in addition, taking on the jobs of those who have been "downsized", or "excessed", or "reduced"....

The big picture, at least in part, when people make requests of the Church...

One reason for a possible delay in obtaining a bilingual priest to serve you is simply the current conditions in our society and our Church. When I was a boy, the vast majority of people went to Church on Sunday to worship the Lord... we would join the crowds of neighbors all walking to Church. At the same time, the devotion to God and prayerfulness of people and their support of the Church and generosity of both service and contributions raised very high the "good reputation" of God as well as of his Church in society. New parishes were established and new churches built throughout the 1940's to the 1960's because all the churches were literally full to overflowing with 4 to 5 Masses in the church and perhaps 3 to 4 Masses in the basement every Sunday. Most parishes saw anywhere from 5,000 to 15,000 people every Sunday.

Many young men were therefore encouraged to heed the Lord Jesus calling them to follow Him and join the ranks of his priests at the service of the People of God. Moreover, the generous support of the large Sunday assemblies permitted the local parish to care for the people as well as for their buildings and services. In addition, parishes were receiving enough donations to be able to send their share to the Diocese to enable the Archbishop to assure a number of services needed by everyone but unavailable in parishes.

Then everything changed...

Then came the great prosperity and the emerging "middle class" of the 1950's because of the industrial development brought about, ironically, by the tragedy of World War II, followed by the "sexual revolution" of the 1960's, the abandonment of faith, of the Church, and of God by a large proportion of the population in the 1970's, a kind of "love affair" of society with science and technology in the 1980's (which trend continues until today) and simultaneous distaste for God, faith, and religion, and, sadly, in the 1990's began the coming into broad daylight of the hidden scandal of sexual abuse, clericalism and the abuse of power and authority in the Church.

There has probably always been some sexual misbehavior since the turning of the first human beings away from God. More seriously, there has probably always been the risk of sexual abuse of children within the family circle - by a parent or relative or family friend - due to psychological trouble and emotional immaturity in adults close to children. Also well documented is the risk and occurrence of abuse of women by their husbands or by their parents, and other causes of distress.

Unfortunately, the sexual abuse of children is such pure evil that until our times people could simply not believe that such things could possibly be happening. It is a fact that when a child tried to tell its mother that it has been harmed by the father or uncle or someone else, that all too often the mother just could not believe it, and the child remained isolated.

Until the 1990's not enough was understood about the condition of adults who molest young children; so it was simply seen as a "sin" about which the "sinner" could be expected to feel sorry, repent, and never do it again. What social science research finally discovered is two things. First, that the pedophile who abuses small children has a pathological condition by virtue of which he or she is incapable of realizing the harm they are doing or to stop or "repent". Second, and much more important, the sexual abuse of a child is a very serious crime because of the profound harm done to the child.

The sexual revolution of the 1960's and the abandonment of morality generally in the 1970's by society caused a proliferation of abuse, and many of those who might have been restrained by fear of punishment in the past now no longer felt such restraint and this evil increased. It is now being documented that in a number of seminaries a "homosexual culture" took root which drew in men with unhealthy sexual lifestyles and psychological immaturity; while at the same time trumping the seminary's important duty to "filter" candidates and offer the appropriate formation. This brought new challenges that have to be resolved and a new urgency to face these challenges and work together to find lasting solutions. Thankfully recent popes have taken some important measures and there is reason to hope that they will continue to do so.

The dramatic social upheaval of the 1960's and 1970's caused many serving priests to become aware of doubts regarding their faith and their vocation, and probably more than 1 out of 10 left the priesthood. This trend continued until today when, occasionally, in the face of all these challenges, a priest becomes discouraged and finally leaves the priesthood, but does not necessarily become any happier than he was before.

The crisis of faith...

Social upheaval throughout human history has affected individuals, families, and the whole society. The very dramatic upheavals of the past century have profoundly destabilized human life and family life as well as the whole society as we can see with all the suicides, gender and other identity issues. Troubles in the lives of adults have also had dramatic impacts on children and the young, often affected by such hard changes in their own lives as separation or even divorce by their parents, then having to go through shared custody with their estranged parents, or else being affected by such changes in other people close to them.

Many people have never really experienced the love of God, or struggle in their life because they find God too invisible, too silent, and find their faith almost reduced to insignificance in the face of all the dramatic troubles in society, in the natural environment, and in life in general.

Many people feel their faith is strong when they feel close to God or have the impression that they feel his love for them, but then they feel they have lost their faith when they no longer feel close to God, or don't feel his love, or feel isolated or abandoned in the face to troubles and suffering.

The truth is that - like in the poem "Footprints in the sand" - when we feel close to God it is simply that God is carrying us by his grace. Then, when we feel alone or abandoned by God or suffer because He seems to be silent and invisible, those are the times when God has so much confidence in us that He set us down on our own two feet and says, "Okay, you can do it, go now and play, and know that I am with you."

God is merciful toward his children...

By the grace of God, the taboos preventing us from facing our challenges, from talking about evil wherever it occurs, and from fighting to resolve it and prevent it from happening again, many of these obstacles have finally begun to unravel, and society now feels that it is able to face these wrongs and try to set them right.

God is purifying his Church and is using his Church to bring to the whole society his healing for all that is sick and distorted in persons, family life, and human society. God heard the cries of his children, and in the 1990's the scandal of abuse was brought out into the light of day, thanks be to God.

So how does all this have anything to do with you finding a bilingual priest?

So, now Church authorities are taking strong measures to resolve the problem, to alleviate the suffering of the victims, and to change ways of doing in order to weed out any who might be inclined towards such evil behavior and acts. You need to understand that over the past few decades many priests have left, many have died, the number of those coming forward to replace them has trickled to almost none, the priests we still have are now all older, some of the young who joined us have become discouraged or ill or left their vocation.

In addition, new burdens have been added to the shoulders of the good and faithful priests who, though aging, continue to serve the Lord and his people. Now that instead of 75% of Catholics going to Church on Sunday in Québec, Canada, it is more like 5%. In a typical inner city parish instead of Sunday offerings around $4,000.00 they probably don't get even $1,000.00. Most of our churches are in disrepair and have plaster falling, stones falling out of the walls, leaking roofs, bad plumbing, furnace problems, and the list goes on.

Many beautiful churches have been condemned as unsafe, closed, and the parishes dissolved because they had been abandoned for decades with only a handful of people going on Sunday and an accumulated need for urgent repairs in the millions of dollars for each church. Most parishes can't even afford to give their priests the proper salary, or have a full time secretary, or even give a proper salary to their janitor. There is only so much that volunteers can do.

So, what are your options?

When I was young, Mass was in Latin, but we followed the Latin prayers with a parallel English text in our missal prayer book. You want to marry at a French church, fine. The priest assigned there speaks French; so he can celebrate your Mass in French and allow you to say your vows in English. He can obtain the text from an English parish. You can read your vows to each other from an index card. No matter the language, the Mass is always Jesus offering Himself to his Father and inviting us to join Him in offering ourselves also to the Father.

Most of our priests are of retirement age, but by the grace of God, they continue to be dedicated and motivated to serve; however, we must all acknowledge that we cannot expect a 70 or 80 or even 90 year old priest to be able to function as though he were still 30 or even 50.

Your desire to have an English Mass in a French church seems simple, but because of the current conditions of our whole Church, is very difficult to fulfill, in fact, it is becoming increasingly impossible. You need to decide what is most important for you... is it the French church or getting married in English or what?

The important thing is that no matter what you decide, God loves you and is with you both and your families. Our Lord Jesus is asking you to be merciful and to feel somewhat sorry for the troubled state of his Church. Society in general has a lot of contempt for the Church, for priests, and even for God. More than ever, as Jesus continues his work of salvation on Earth, He needs our help and our support in any way we can. We all need to do our part.

It is time for Christians to believe in the face of great unbelief, because God is calling us to Himself...

In addition, I believe that God wants everyone to demonstrate a little more respect for Him, for his Church, and, yes, even for his priests. There is something schizophrenic about a society that has contempt for clergy today but then tomorrow wants favors from them, or that turns its back on God and his Church on Sunday but when the occasion arises expects the Church to still be there for them. That would be like expecting doctors, nurses, teachers, police, and firemen to continue serving us while simultaneously cutting their salaries down to 10% of what they have been getting. That would be like no longer repairing your home but expecting it to continue to be in top shape for the next 50 years. It's time for Alice to come back from wonderland.

I have been a priest for over 36 years and I am delighted to have been called by the Lord. I can't say that I am always happy, but my life is punctuated by incredible joy, peace, and the love and mercy of God. It is amazing for me to see the "hand of God" at work in people's lives, to see the gentle flow of "living water" from the Holy Spirit heal, grow, and refresh people from within. Jesus continues to be amazing as Lord, King, Messiah, and High Priest.

We need to encourage men who are hearing Jesus call them to "not be afraid" and to explore the possibilities they have for responding to his call. Please pray for these men every day, and as we all begin once again to truly put our trust in God; then He will manifest his power to save in amazing and even dramatic ways. The whole Bible makes it clear, though, that God wants our faith. He wants us to show that we believe in Him, demonstrate that we want to know and do his will, manifest clearly our willingness to obey Him, and He will most certainly act.

May God bless you both and your families, the Father, and the + Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

The wonder of our vital human strengths

It is truly a wonder that we human beings have what are called VITAL HUMAN STRENGTHS. These are innate capacities which we have and are able to mobilize in the pursuit of our life as we try to give meaning and purpose to our lives in accord with our chosen values and way of life. Just as there is a logical network of laws and principles at work in the physical or tangible universe; so there is a similar logical network of laws and principles at work in the spiritual or intangible realm, which is also called the Kingdom of God.

One agency which offers formation in the "Actualization of our Vital Human Strengths" is IFHIM - the Institut de Formation Humaine Intégrale de Montréal - which you can tell by its title operates mostly in French. However they have at times in the past offered formation in English.

We human beings, in accord with this perspective on human existence, have six "vital human strengths", which are so many abilities:

    Ability to choose and accomplish one goal at a time = Self-esteem.
    Ability to choose effective means and renounce others = Self-confidence.
    Ability to take sufficient time and live past and future time freely = Hope.
    Ability to repeat accomplishments, learn from mistakes, and improve = Competence.
    Ability to consistently overcome obstacles and accomplish one's goal = Fidelity.
    Ability to persevere in developing all these abilities to accomplish the goals one chooses to freely give meaning and purpose to one's life = Love of self.

© Dr. Jeannine Guindon, IFHIM, 55 Gouin Ouest, Montréal, Québec, H3L 1H9 Canada  514-331-6861

TRY IT AND SEE FOR YOURSELF - CHOOSING A GOAL

Dear Reader, if you are interested and would like to investigate this perspective on human vitality, then I'd like you to freely choose to do a physical activity, a gratuitous physical activity such as a walk or exercise session at home or at a gym, or a swim... the purpose of which would be to freely choose to give yourself a GRATUITOUS GOAL: to change your mood for the better or to dispel tension you might be feeling. Depending on your condition, there may be some discomfort or even pain involved in setting your whole body into motion, but whatever resistance you may experience, you have within you a capacity to forge ahead in the pursuit of this good goal of feeling better.

It is to be expected that at some point during the physical activity that you will have some enjoyment, fun, satisfaction, good sensations, or simple gladness to be alive. Little pleasures are good as acknowledged by Jesus when He walked this Earth. If this visceral experience of goodness is not evident the first time, it will come, because such goodness has been built into us by our Creator. Even severely handicapped people come to experience satisfaction as they do something to be active and care for themselves.

Now it is important that you personally want to do it, perhaps because I ask it, but actually for the purpose I suggest, namely, to choose to do a physical activity so that by means of it you might come to feel better, even if only a little better. The best means would often be one that is most readily accessible: closest to hand, least expensive, one that would not involve too many obstacles or generate the least distractions along the way. This is because the sole purpose is to allow yourself to hopefully feel better.

Now this is a simple thing to do - to want to feel better and to do something in order to achieve this goal of feeling better. It is a simple thing to give oneself a gratuitous walk or other physical activity. The purpose of your chosen physical activity will be to get the whole body in motion, a continuous motion of your whole body, because God our Creator designed the human body for motion, and during sustained motion of the whole body, our whole living organism goes through a process that could be called "RESET" by which the diverse parts of us converge and coalesce in a kind of "hum" to restore proper functioning of the whole in equilibrium and harmony.

However, we human beings are not entirely simple and we live on simultaneous levels of complexity, or to put it differently, we observe at times very complex movements unfolding simultaneously within us in our body, mind, heart, psyche, and soul. For the simple reason of our human complexity, and in order to help you experience the wonder of a gratuitous physical activity, I offer you the following suggestions or instructions or "mini course". Please receive these instructions in the spirit with which I offer them, that is, simply to help you enter into these helpful dispositions no matter what may happen within you in the course of your freely chosen physical activity the purpose of which is simply to feel better as a result of doing it. Don't let yourself get caught up or worry or be afraid. Simply notice these instructions now and take them in, and trust yourself to remember enough of them to do you good as you pursue your goal and accomplish it.

CHOOSING AN APPROPRIATE MEANS TO ACCOMPLISH YOUR GOAL

So the activity will be your chosen MEANS to obtain this good outcome for yourself: to feel better. God is not cruel but good and the Holy Trinity very much want all human beings to experience the goodness of life and to feel well and grateful to be alive as much as possible at any given moment. This is a universal truth and principle, and a major corollary is that in times of trouble, God wants us to face and handle the trouble - with divine help - to endure the trouble as long as it lasts and with as much serenity as possible, and to get over the trouble as soon as possible so as to return to a state of goodness in love, peace and joy in God. Why? So that we may be free to give meaning and purpose to our lives in accord with the universal transcendental principles put in place in the universe by the Creator: truth, goodness, and beauty.

To accomplish any goal, we need to give ourselves the proper means. This requires that we choose one means out of many possibilities and, in choosing this particular means, we must necessarily renounce any other possible means. In order to choose one means, one way to achieve your goal by engaging in this particular physical activity, you will need to renounce other possible means and be free to invest in this chosen one. It will be a gratuitous physical activity in that you will not accumulate any other ends to the activity: no mailing of letters or picking up of groceries or any other practical thing or conversations with anyone along the way.

OVERCOMING OBSTACLES ALONG THE WAY

It is truly a wonder that we human beings have an innate capacity to overcome obstacles in the pursuit of our goals. If someone greets or engages you in any way, you may gently acknowledge them but not slow down or stop your activity, perhaps thanking them but letting them go with a "See you later" or "have to let you go" or other such "goodbye phrase". This physical activity will be for your good alone and for your good only. In your value and dignity as a human being created in the image and likeness of God, you have the right to keep your own company and to put others off entirely or until another time. You have the right to defer to another time any obligations you may have to others whether they like this or not. Their reactions are their own and you are not responsible for them.

GIVING YOURSELF THE APPROPRIATE TIME

Having chosen a particular physical activity to get your whole body into sustained motion, you then will need to chose an appropriate TIME and also to allot yourself "sufficient time" in order to accomplish your chosen goal, which is to change your mood and to feel better. This also means letting go of any thoughts that may come to you about past time, for the past has passed and you can no longer do anything to change it. In order to be fully available to yourself in the present moment for this physical activity it is important that you leave all the past behind in order to be fully in the present. Similarly, it is important that you simply let go of any thoughts or considerations about future time - the near future or the far future or any future - that may at any moment come to you. Notice such thoughts and let them go... return to walking or.... Notice... let it go... keep walking... breathing....

The human mind and imagination and memory are busy faculties that can generate considerable activity... please resist any dark temptation to berate yourself or judge yourself or be harsh to yourself over any such thoughts about the past or the future... you are only human and such thoughts naturally come in due course until the day we die. That you may have such thoughts is no big deal... I only ask that, if and when such thoughts that are not about the present might come to you, that you simply acknowledge them - just notice them - and immediately put them aside, let them go, refocus on the present and your physical activity which you continue to freely choose to do because you would like to feel better. These and any other "distractions" that may "flow" within you are merely functions of being a living human being, and the wonder of it is that we all have within us an amazing capacity to "manage" all this "traffic" within us and allow much of it to gently "slip into the background" by acknowledging it and gently letting it go by refocusing our whole attention on our present freely chosen activity, this walk or... whatever it is. This is actually much easier to do when I allow myself to enjoy my walk or other physical activity.

IMPROVING TOWARDS COMPETENCE and PERSEVERING TOWARDS APPROPRIATE LOVE OF SELF

Overcoming obstacles in the pursuit of our goals is a human vital strength which brings profound satisfaction the more we exercise this function and actually overcome obstacles and go on pursuing our goals or, in this case, our singular goal.

So, to the extent possible for you, all I need to add is ENJOY, HAVE FUN, no matter what "dark thoughts" may come within you or cause resistance in giving yourself permission to do this, or to even think of feeling better.... If nothing else works, then please trust me, and just decide to do it for your own good.

Reader, if you wish, you can invite someone to freely to engage in a similar exercise for themselves, for their own good. Of course, if you do, then this would add a dimension of solidarity for you with each other, but your motivation would be to do it for your own good first of all, to change your mood and / or to feel better, such as to feel better after feeling stressed or emotional in any other way or agitated or worried, etc. It may be too distracting initially to do the same activity together at the same time, unless of course you are already accustomed to doing so. However, if running or swimming or walking has been part of a "training mode"; then this would be entirely different. In training you are setting a specific time or distance for yourself, which is a completely different motive. This time, the duration or distance are not at all the goal, but simply "to feel better". So you may want to do it is such a way that, once you do realize you have come to feel better, you won't have to far to go to return home; lest you overexert, get tired, and unravel your benefit of "feeling better".

As you pursue this course and actualize your vital human strengths, you will find yourself learning, improving, and achieving levels of competence. In time and as you persevere in the pursuit of your goals in efforts to give meaning and purpose to your life in accord with your chosen values, you will experience within you an authentic love of self, which is a visceral conviction that you are doing all you can to welcome and embrace the gift of your life and to live your life as fully as you can for your own good and the good of all. There is no greater goal than to live your life as a gift of love. There is no greater love than to give one's life that others may also live.

THE PRINCIPLE OF SELF-REPRESENTATION

While we all have these vital human strengths, in order to actualize and develop them fully, it helps to become more aware of our use of them. One way to do this is for an interested person whom you trust to take interest in your experience and engage in conversation with you about a specific activity, such as the walk or swim or cycle you chose in order to change your mood and feel better. As this interested person asks you specific questions about your decision and activity, your desire to answer them will cause you to go back into your memory of the walk. As you recall your experience and hear yourself relate elements of the experience in order to reply to your friend's questions, hearing yourself in the telling will cause you to REPRESENT YOURSELF TO YOURSELF, in other words, you will bring to full awareness in the present what you did, how you did it, why you did it, what obstacles you overcame, and so on....

HAVE FUN....

Peace to you and to your families....

                Pax + Caritas,       Fr. Gilles

Friday, January 24, 2020

God's plan to bring us into abundance of life

Dear Reader and Fellow Pilgrim on the Journey of Human Life,

The 3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time will be, beginning with this New Year 2020, The Sunday of the Word of God. In the Gospels especially we meet Jesus who found so many creative ways of describing the Father's will for us to have life in abundance now and in eternity. One day Jesus defined eternal life in John 17:3: "And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent."

So, we can truthfully say that the Word of God, the Bible, is "God's plan to bring us into abundance of life on Earth and in eternity". This sounds wonderful, but on considering who and what we are, and into which state of awareness and condition of living we are hearing these words and "taking them in" to consider them; we begin to make some difficult observations....

1.  There is a big "hole" in the middle of the human heart which no one call fill except God the Father with Jesus and the Holy Spirit. When we expect other human beings to fill this empty place - which makes us feel isolated, alone, lonely, abandoned - it never works, because only God can fill our empty heart, mind, and soul.

2. This is not bad news or a tragedy... it is really good news... because God fully intends to "move in with us" if only we let Him, if we let Them, the Holy Trinity, make themselves at home in us. God made us this way so that we would become motivated to pay more attention to God and welcome the divine presence within us.

To this end there are many ways God has given us to help us open the doors of our mind, heart, soul, and body to the divine presence: in what comes next you will see words highlighted in blue and underlined - these are called "hot links" that when you click on them with the mouse pointer, they open up your browser which lets you go on the Internet to other websites, where you will find teachings and instructions useful for you:

See these links: the Holy Mass, praying with the Word of God in the Bible, the most holy Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Liturgy of the Hours, contemplating God and in silence "visiting with Him", praying in front of a beautiful holy image or statue, going for a contemplative walk, and much more about prayer and God.

3. We are also made for human companionship, but this doesn't work very well when we go out looking for companions, just like we do when we go shopping for things we need for ourselves or our home. People are not things that we can go looking for in order to find them. The opposite is true: we are the ones that others can find.

4. God's plan for companions to find one another is really quite simple... it is like fruit growing on trees. When the fruit become ripe, all living things are attracted: people, birds, animals, and insects. The goodness of the ripe fruit makes the fruit attractive. It is the same with us. We need to do what the fruit does - we need to welcome God's vitality and grace in order to grow, mature, and ripen. That we grow and become ripe is God's affair, his work, his worry, and sometimes his problem. Our part is to keep paying attention to God and all day long to make room for God and his love inside of us.

5. If we do this and do our best to put God first all day long and every day, then in time we will become "ripe" and others will be attracted to us and companionship will become possible between us and them. It is important not to worry or obsess about "getting" a companion; instead, we need to look around and begin to notice others more, to see what is happening to others around us, to notice when they are in need, and each day not to close our heart to others in their need, but rather to consider what we might do to help them or lighten their load, such as: to offer a sincere and heartfelt smile, to offer assistance, to get their groceries along with our own for a person that is house bound, and so on....

6. In the meantime, Dear Reader, you can look for opportunities to meet other people, such as "Singles for Christ" in the "Couples for Christ" movement. If you decide to check out this movement or any other, go just for the sake of finding out what is their purpose, and simply to meet other people. We all belong in community, and when others welcome us, it is a good thing. Just be careful not to allow any lonely feelings to push you to "go shopping" for companionship. Instead, do your best each day to live the five points listed above this one.

Please take this to heart and try doing these things, and then let me know how it goes....

Peace to you and your family.... Happy New Year!

Monday, January 13, 2020

Boeing 737 Max - What about the common good?

What are we to think of the ongoing crisis in aviation concerning the Boeing 737 Max? Evidence in the U.S.A. is accumulating that there is something structurally wrong with this model, which was a redesign in order to put in larger engines in response to its competitor in Europe. The result appears to have been that the plane tends to put its nose down instead of gliding effortlessly; as planes are supposed to do. Rather than solve this mechanical fault it was decided to make a software solution which would require new training for pilots. The result has been two fatal crashes and for now the planes are all grounded. There is a wrestling match between Boeing and the FAA regulating agency and, now, public opinion.

So what are we to think? There is a growing groundswell of advice for people to avoid any flights on any Boeing 737 but with flight cancellations and changes this may be beyond anyone's control.

For me the underlying issue is much deeper and much more serious, because it stems from the human condition. Charles Dickens was so taken with it that he wrote many novels to express all the human trouble he observed. It comes down to each individual's choice in the face of their human limitations, faults, and disturbing inclinations.

A person either chooses to make relentless daily efforts to master their impulses, inclinations, passions, bad habits, weaknesses, sins... or they don't. The person who settles with their faults, shuts down their conscience by considering moral questions as irrelevant, and sets out to look after their own interests first or exclusively becomes a person who represents a very real and serious threat to the rest of society, because this is a person who sets out to use, manipulate, and exploit others. To use an analogy, that person becomes a shark that considers all other people as so many fish on the "menu" to be consumed at will.

In a society as sophisticated as the U.S.A., this scenario is taken to complex levels in which the legal system, the medical system, the political system, the banking and financial system, government agencies, and transnational corporations, become transformed by a preponderance of "sharks" who employ the full weight of their resources - such as teams of lawyers, engineers, architects, and other professionals - to obtain results which are the complete opposite of the common good originally intended by human laws and customs. The rich, powerful, and influential push their own agendas and "to hell" with everyone else.

The Boeing problem is a mere pimple on the rear end of American society, but the real problem is far worse and much more serious a threat to the common good. America boasts it is the best society in the world, but its form of democracy and capitalism favors the less than one percent who are the rich, the powerful, and the influential who grab the levers of control of the dynamics of the whole society in order to look after their own interests, euphemistically called "American interests", but they turn events away from the common good and toward their own private interests. In public they create a mirage of the opposite, declaring unashamedly that they are doing everything in their power to serve the common good, but in private and in practice, the opposite is true.
The results are everywhere visible in the U.S.A. Consider "Corporate America" and the growing number of thriving little towns turned into ghost towns after the Walmarts of this world have squeezed all the juice out, put all the little businesses out of work, and abandoned their empty store to move on to another town in order to do the same there. American corporations are securely locked into a form of capitalism whose only interests are the profit and well being of the owners, board members and officers, and the controlling share holders. The profit and well being of everyone else, including all their workers, are of little or no consequence; such that with little or no notice they move jobs out of the country or eliminate them altogether with no apology or any sense of wrongdoing.

Then there is the medical system and public health. There are the 1 out of 4 Americans who don't have health coverage at all - the "working poor" - whose values prevent them from taking welfare but who can't afford health insurance. The bulk of Americans who do have health insurance are often told their condition isn't covered. Insurance companies - life as well as health and others too - have lots of staff whose job is to full exploit the exclusions in the contract to save the company as much money as possible and refuse as many claims as possible.

Then there is the legal system which tolerates hordes of "ambulance chasing lawyers", sharks, who encourage desperate people to sue for almost anything, whether legitimate or reasonable or not, and the judiciary system that tolerates and allows wrongful suits, driving the legal costs way out into space. People with the money to hire teams of lawyers trained in all the ways of exploiting laws to profit their employers destroy the lives of people they sue, and the judiciary is often without the wisdom of Solomon and gives its stamp of approval to such miscarriage of justice.
Then there is the food industry which has so industrialized agriculture that they are depleting the soils and turning them into deserts while producing foods that are less and less nutritious, also taking pains and employing lawyers to pressure small farmers out of their family farms in order to seize their property and turn it into huge agribusiness fields. A new strategy is the biological modification and copyrighting of seeds and suing small farmers out of their right to use normal seeds and in the end causing them to lose their farms so they can grab them.

Then there is big pharma which has industrialized medicine and exerts considerable power over the medical system and has pressured, bought, or sued legitimate alternative medical practices and practitioners out of existence, going so far as to create by malicious rumor suspicion of alternative doctors and going so far as to destroy their practices and even drive them to mysterious deaths.
Then there is the banking and financial system that in the U.S.A. has one of the most if not the most unforgiving rule book. All too often contracts clearly state that should the borrower default in their payments beyond a certain limit that their property reverts to the bank or financial institution and they are out on the street. Any number of life crises as indicated above can put people in a situation of hardship where they are unable for a time to pay their mortgage or taxes. When that happens, if they have no rich relatives to help them or insufficient income, they are consumed by the "sharks" and join the ranks of the homeless.

In society that final recourse rests on government. It is the role of government to rule the nation on behalf of its citizens and to ensure the common good by regulating the many rabid human tendencies which tend to exploit the weak and helpless. America came closest to having such a government as an outcome of WW II when in the 1950's a large middle class came into being with an abundance of well paid jobs, good homes, and good health care. Then from the 1960's and 1970's on - coinciding with the government's insane warmongering in Viet Nam and subsequently other nations - American presidents led governments that progressively deregulated all of these fields of action in order to favor the rich, powerful, and influential by simultaneously disenfranchising the common citizen.

One of the results of all of these situations can be observed on late night TV in the "GREAT U.S.A." where people sell schemes for getting rich by gobbling up homes and properties of people who have fallen on hard times and are very late in paying their mortgages or taxes. Banks and financial institutions are the first to take over properties in default of their mortgage payments, but when the banks haven't already seized people's homes, entrepreneurs can grab them simply by paying the back taxes and the people who owned those homes are on the street.

A second result is the poor condition of infrastructures all over the U.S.A. - decrepit utility grids, bridges, dams, roads, sewage systems, and so on - because the rich, powerful, and influential refuse to pay their fair share and insist the burden fall squarely on the common citizen and taxpayer. Rather than do that, governments allow conditions to further deteriorate. Remember what happened to New Orleans when the poor condition of the levees allowed the hurricane to destroy much of the city and make permanently homeless any number of residents.

This is just a brief sketch of the scandalous condition of America's public institutions, and the Boeing problem appears to be wrong in the eyes of public America only because the callous disregard of its agents for the common good was so negligent that they exposed to public view what all the other sharks manage to keep hidden from view. The proof of that is how the current president manages to persuade much of the population that he is acting in their interests at the very same time that he is acting on behalf of all the rich, powerful, and influential and not at all for the common good. There are a few exceptions, such as the way in which at the United Nations he leads the American presence and delegation in hindering the efforts of those bent on forcing the nations into adopting abortion policies against their own nations' values in favor of preserving human life.

Please don't get me wrong... I have met many Americans during my seven decades of life on Planet Earth, both in the U.S.A. and elsewhere around the world, but especially here in Canada. Rarely have I not liked or even admired those Americans I have known. It is ironic that there can be so many very fine Americans while they endure such perverse public institutions. Their government buildings have emulated Greek architecture, as the Romans also did, in part because from the beginning they have seen themselves as successors to the Roman Empire.

Like them, they now interfere worldwide in the affairs of other nations, going so far as to bring down governments they consider unfavorable to their interests. No governments anywhere can be permitted to truly serve the common good in the genuine interests of the general population, because in their view the supreme interests are those of the rich, the powerful, and the influential. The general population can only be allowed the crumbs that fall from the tables of the rich, if there are any, but if not; then that's just too bad.

American public institutions are not particularly more blameworthy than you or I, because they are simply more visible manifestations of the human condition, and what Christians call the original sin. Once human beings turn away from the benevolent will of their Creator and God, they no longer have any solid moral grounds for their thoughts or feelings, for their choices or decisions, for their deeds or behavior. Once we treat God as if He doesn't exist, the way is clear for us to take his place. America makes this most eloquently clear by constantly deciding what is to be considered good or evil, but always in accord with its current definition of American interests.

We in Canada are not far behind with our frenzied public enthusiasm for doing away with unwanted babies and anyone who may be tired of suffering or even of living, just as easily as we are publicly eager to redefine not only marriage but even what it means to be a human person, a man or woman. Without God there can be no moral compass, and I feel deep pity for people without God. It is still good news, no, great news, that God does not so easily abandon us as we abandon Him. During these Days of Christmas we have found once again great joy in celebrating the One who came to dwell among us - Emmanuel - Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ, the Messiah, the true Savior of the world.

DISCLAIMER:    It is possible that I may have been inaccurate in one or other of my statements above or in the details. What I have written is nothing of my own but simply an accumulation of other people's observations as reported in countless articles, reports, public inquiries, public investigations, books by professionals, public scandals, American citizens I've been privileged to meet and know, other eye witnesses, and other reliable sources of information that I have been privileged over the past 5 decades to see, hear, or read. Where I am in error, I apologize, and am quite eager to receive authentic evidence to the contrary; upon reception of which I will gladly revise my views.

Peace to you and your family, and a very Happy, Healthy, and Holy New Year 2020!

Sunday, December 15, 2019

A family activity: Reading Pope Francis' Letter "On the Meaning and Importance of the Nativity Scene"

Good Day Brothers and Sisters in Jesus Christ,

Pope Francis has written a letter to us inviting us to contemplate the meaning and gift of Jesus' coming to us, which we celebrate at Christmas... Parents might want to share each of the thoughts in it with your children... a little each day....

The Diocese of Montreal gives a brief summary of his letter: https://www.diocesemontreal.org/en/news-and-info/latest-news/pope-writes-apostolic-letter-significance-christmas-creche

Here is the letter itself: https://www.diocesemontreal.org/sites/default/files/2019-12/Pope%20Francis_Ap%20Letter_2019-12-01_admirabile-signum.pdf

Peace to you all and blessed preparation for the celebrations of Christmas and extending this joy into the 12 days of Christmas.... Even the poor, sick, oppressed, and suffering are able to turn their attention away from their distress to take joy in our God who at every moment and in every circumstance comes to share in our lives, to be with us where we are, so that we may not be alone and take comfort from his love for us.

We take heart at the good news that our distress will not last forever but will come to an end when the Lord commands. This relief enables us to turn to our neighbor, especially the one in need, to extend a smile, a comforting word, a helping hand....

Blessed continuation of Advent and entry into the joy of the Christmas Season!

                Pax + Caritas,       Fr. Gilles


Monday, November 25, 2019

Is the Pope a heretic, or are we Pharisees, Sadducees, Chief Priests, Scribes, or Lawyers?


Is the Pope a heretic, or are we Pharisees, Sadducees, Chief Priests, Scribes, or Lawyers?

Thanks be to God for Catholic TV and Radio

Like many Roman Catholics I have been pleased to watch programs on EWTN and Salt + Light. I was in seminary when in 1981 Mother Angelica listened to the Holy Spirit and boldly had the first TV and Radio studio built. It was seen as a remarkable act of God and an act of mercy for his Church and for all his children, the people of our time. 

Who are we to accuse this particularly fine Pope of heresy?

To my dismay, and that of many, perhaps countless R.C. Christians, there are now some who in the name of reporting news are joining voices that accuse Pope Francis of heresy. A number of analysts suspect that the primary motive of these accusations – which have been shadowing Pope Francis almost from the start of his pontificate – is that certain people don’t like the Pope’s call and efforts at reform in the Church. 

Is this a contemporary echo of what happened to Jesus?

The more I reflect on this and pray about it, the more apparent it seems to me that Pope Francis is being offered by our Lord Jesus an opportunity to suffer what He also suffered during his short 3-year mission on Earth. Jesus tried to reform the Temple’s practice of cluttering up the “Court of the Gentiles” with merchants selling sacrificial animals and bankers changing currencies. The Court of the Gentiles was part of the Temple intended by God to be a place where interested Gentiles could come for conversation with Jews about God.

Jesus’ efforts to reform the faith of Israel included reminding people about God’s mercy towards sinners, and to remind people that not doing any work to honour God on the Sabbath Day did not excuse anyone from the duty of performing works of mercy towards those who presented themselves in their need on that day.

Jesus’ reform met with severe criticism, unjust arrest, and false accusations, trumped up charges, unjust condemnation, incarceration, torture, and execution. It is obvious that Pope Francis is not the innocent and holy Son of God, but he is a good, just, and righteous man, a true believer, a devout Catholic Christian, a holy priest, an exemplary bishop with a long commitment to pastoral care of all the faithful and a predilection for the poor, and now, finally, an exemplary pope. 

Who were the Pharisees, Sadducees, Chief Priests, Scribes, and Lawyers who accused and executed Jesus?

First of all, they were all men. Second, they were men of privilege, because they enjoyed the highest of all privileges obtainable in their society: education, wealth, and position of influence. Third, in principle, they belonged to the ruling classes, which exist to cultivate order and harmony by their service to their society.

What balance exists between privilege and responsibility, wealth and the common good, power and service? 

Such privileges come with social obligations towards the rest of the population who, through no fault of their own, have little or no access to any or all of those privileges. Those who accumulate to themselves the lion’s share of a society’s resources cannot escape from the truth that all the resources of Planet Earth belong to all for the common good of humanity as a species. Privilege enjoyed without responsibility towards the rest of society could define despotism. Wealth enjoyed without assuring public services could define tyranny. Power wielded without serving the common good could define totalitarianism.  

How could men convinced of their righteousness and religious devotion be so wrong?

The Pharisees, Sadducees, Chief Priests, Scribes, and Lawyers who arrested, accused, and executed Jesus were to all appearances prominent men, religiously devout, and dedicated to their religion and its faith practice. How could they be so wrong about Jesus? How could they fail to see what was obvious to ordinary people, namely, that Jesus was a good and righteous man, a holy man, yes, and possibly even the Son of God? 

The only explanation I can see is that they were unwilling or unable to be self-critical. They were convinced of their perfect record in obeying all of God’s laws, prescriptions, and observances. Jesus had to remind them that they were forgetting the heart of God’s Law which is mercy. They didn’t buy it. They wanted everyone to be clearly identified as the sinners that they were, in accord with all their external failures to perfectly observe all the religious laws and prescriptions. They were mad as hell that Jesus accused them right back of interior sinful intentions and desires, because their good reputation mattered more to them than God’s judgement. Jesus took them to task for their hardness of heart and unwillingness to alleviate the people’s burdens.

How can people be so convinced that Pope Francis is a heretic? What is bothering them so much about him?

Frankly, after having read so many texts by those who accuse Pope Francis, and listening to a few people I know who feel the same way, I can only conclude that in our own day we have – without realizing it – slipped into the hard heartedness and hard headedness of the Pharisees, Sadducees, Chief Priests, Scribes, and Lawyers who arrested, accused, and executed Jesus. 

We / they want it to be very clear who the “sinners” are, so that we can be clearly distinguished from “them”. Those who don’t like Pope Francis, or are angry with him, or despise him or some of his statements and his attitudes towards “them”: those who identify as LGBT etc., or any other issue distasteful to them, disagree with his efforts to reform the Church. They believe the Church is fine the way it is and doesn’t need reform.

How can we who are convinced of our righteousness and religious devotion be so wrong?

Surprisingly, or shockingly, I believe that we could characterize what happened to the religious leaders in Jesus’ day and is happening to the critics of Pope Francis as “vestigial adolescence”. One of the defining characteristics of adolescence – as a child emerges from childhood and begins to notice all that is wrong with the world which they are inheriting from the generations of adults who have gone before them – is shock at the mess they see and anger at the deficiencies in the inheritance we are bequeathing to them. 

When an adolescent gets stuck in that shock and anger – which are perfectly normal reactions to an abnormal situation – the shock and anger compel them to rebellion and misbehaviour which can harden into juvenile delinquency. By definition, a juvenile delinquent is an adolescent who is angry at the world, sees everything that is wrong with the world, but has no sense of personal fault or responsibility. The delinquent’s eyes are exclusively focused on all that is wrong “out there”, but unable to be aware of anything that might be wrong “in here”, that is, within me. If I cannot admit anything that is wrong with me, by the same token I am unable to appreciate anything that is right and good with me. This is a different kind of hardness of heart

The advent and development of a new professional field: that of the psychoeducator

If you search “psychoeducation” on the web, there are indications that this professional was developed around 1980 and much is made of developments in Germany. However, in the French society of Québec, Canada, in 1940 a priest founded Boscoville, inspired by the American “Boys’ Town”, and in the 1950’s and 1960’s they developed the process of re-education into a process of awareness raising and responsibility. Today there is a postgraduate degree in psychoeducation which produces licenses psychoeducators who participate in the province’s health and social services. 

The primary discovery during those decades of development was that when an interested person who accompanied a delinquent took interest in whatever good they were doing – rather than constantly harping on all that they had done wrong – in trying to speak about the good they had done, the delinquents began to exist in their own eyes. From that point on, they could begin to choose to take responsibility for their own life, and by the same token, had less need to blame the rest of society or to find fault with others. 

It is a well established principle in the Christian life that the best way to avoid becoming obsessed with the faults of others is to assiduously examine one’s own conscience and regularly confess one’s own faults and work on replacing bad habits with habits of virtue. 

Why are some Catholics / Christians critical of others rather than “walk humbly with their God”? (Micah 6:8)

Eurasia and the Middle East – a heritage of empires

This part of the world went through successive empires, invasions, wars, and eventually the development of nations. Human nature being what it is, the various peoples accumulated experiences of domination and exploitation by monarchs and invading tribes. At times they enjoyed benevolent rulers, but it didn’t last. Some nations developed empires of their own: the Ottomans, Austria-Hungary, Germany, Spain, Portugal, Holland. They in turn expanded, conquered, and exploited other peoples. 

The Americas

The European nations and empires set their sights on the “new world” and some settlers came to escape the tyrannies they had known there. Unfortunately, the settlement of the Americas collided with native peoples, and the general policy practiced by the settlers in effect carried out the results found in genocide. The native peoples of the Americas were, more or less completely, wiped out or subjugated in destructive ways.

The United States of America

Most prominent among American states is the U.S.A. which has taken the name of “America” to itself. From the beginning, those who developed this nation have taken a posture of superiority towards all others with whom they have had dealings. They took over much of the Spanish colonies in the south and west, and even so far as the Philippines. Through various policies over the centuries they have exerted such influence and power over other states in the Americas; that few if any have enjoyed similar freedom to develop their own forms of government and effectively care for their own populations. Holding other nations back or assuring that they are ruled by dictators or governments willing to do American bidding is seen as a duty to assure “American interests”. 

It is increasingly becoming apparent to American citizens that government policies pursued in the name of “American interests” are not necessarily oriented towards the common good of citizens, but rather towards the good of the largest and most influential corporations. In other words, more and more of the resources in the land are at the service of profiting the very small minority of people who own those corporations. There are too many documentaries to be counted that report the American countryside resembles more and more a third world or undeveloped society. Companies exploit an area for profit and abandon it when it suits them.

The legal system, the health system, large corporations, and the military industrial complex are extremely efficient at assuring their own interests and development; while citizens experience that increasingly none of these players have any interest in the well being or development of citizens, families, or communities. This dimension of America is deeply infected by the virus of profit and greed that excludes the common good. We could call the virus “American capitalism”. 

Canada

Like the U.S.A., in World War II Canada had the impression of standing on a higher moral ground than the people of Europe, where the war was principally being fought. However, we were not very hospitable to Jewish refugees trying to find a safe haven from the Nazi death camps. We didn’t object very strongly to the bombing of civilians in Germany and other nations. We weren’t overly sad at the atomic bombing of civilians at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but only too glad that those atrocities may have accelerated an end to the war.

The death of western civilization

Sadly and embarrassingly, Canada is now on the forefront of those championing “open season” on humanity: abortion on demand, euthanasia increasingly on demand, and what will be next? When a society no longer acknowledges the existence of a Creator, God, let alone any responsibility of gratitude and worship towards the Divine Being; it is a very short step for human beings to begin behaving as though they were god, exercising with reckless abandon power over life and death. What we found so abhorrent in Hitler we now embrace with hardly a qualm of conscience. 

Is there any remaining sense of the common good on the Earth?

One reason that America, Canada, European nations, Japan, China, India, and many nations have at some point been great and retain a capacity to be great nations is the existence within them of great people. Human beings attain greatness when they develop depth of conscience and greatness of spirit, which becomes manifest in their positive contributions to their own society and to other societies.

Poland

Citizens of Poland have with great effort maintained a collective sense of identity and survived very harsh and destructive regimes. Many of their citizens have shown greatness, and now they must meet the challenge of a form of capitalism that focuses primarily on personal profit without due consideration for the common good. They must now contend, like most nations on the Earth at this time, with the virus “American capitalism”. 

Africa and Latin America

The nations and peoples of Africa and Latin America have been exploited by the ancient empires of Greece, Babylon, Chaldea, Syria, Assyria, Egypt, Rome, and others. These were replaced by the Arabic Empire which came to be known later as Islam, the best known and longest lasting version of which was the Ottoman Empire. In turn it was displaced by the European empires and now by the American Empire. For a time they were caught in the cold war between the U.S.S.R. and the U.S.A. With the fall of the former, there now is only the latter. It is becoming increasingly obvious that the American empire – particularly through its transnational corporations – is greatly interfering in the development of nations and their ability to look after the proper interests of their own peoples.  

Japan

The Japanese have long been impressive as a people. Their rise from medieval society and poverty at the end of World War II into an economic powerhouse and highly developed, educated, and sophisticated society has been truly remarkable. The whole world has been impressed with their response as a society to natural or other disasters, at which time their whole society mobilizes as though a single man. Their practice of wearing masks in public transit in order to avoid spreading respiratory infections is very impressive. However, not even the Japanese have been able to resist the virus of “American capitalism”. They are having so few children that their whole population is tipping into old age. Their development has not been without fear for the future. 

China

We westerners have been effectively brainwashed into seeing only the harsh violence of the communist revolution when we consider China and its people. As a child I was deformed with stories of missionaries tortured and killed. The narrative given to us came from our own societies which had been formed by their own interests as empires of exploitation and conquest. When missionaries came from European nations to the Americas – as they did to Asia, Africa, and Oceania – they travelled on the same boats that brought soldiers on a mission of conquest and exploitation.

The Communist Revolution in China had as its first goal the elimination of outside empires and their policies of conquest and subjection for exploitation. Only recently have I discovered that 80% of Chinese in China today self identify as Han. They are an almost completely homogeneous people and their language is Mandarin. Their current rapid progress is due to the hybrid development of capitalism and private ownership and enterprise with a central government operating according to communist principles. 

The Basque economic revolution

One of my most astounding discoveries in the past year has been to hear and read about a different form of capitalism that not only exists but is thriving in our world. In 1956 a Roman Catholic priest encouraged his unemployed and impoverished people not to wait for capitalists to come and invest in creating jobs for them but to go ahead and do it for themselves. Well, they did. Today, the Mondragon Corporation includes over 100 companies entirely owned and operated by the workers themselves. 

Workers evaluate supervisors instead of the other way around. Profits are not siphoned off for the benefit of a handful of owners or share holders, because the workers all have equal shares in the company and together they operate develop it. They set up their own university to assure the development of cooperation as a more beneficial form of capitalism, more beneficial for the whole of society, because the corporation reinvests in the nation in which its owners, the workers, dwell. The corporation pays its fair share of taxes, rather than seeking refuge in foreign tax havens.

Mondragon Corporation reinvests 10% of profits into education, 45% into research and development, and 45% into the worker / owners’ pension funds; where until they retire they are reinvested into the Corporation’s ongoing development and growth. The highest paid worker earns not more than 5 to 6 times the least paid worker, unlike American corporations where the difference is more like 300 times more. Is the success of Mondragon due to the strong sense of collective identity enjoyed by the Basques? Can others emulate and reproduce their success? Can cooperation co-exist with American capitalism and, in time, even replace it? 

Are we any longer capable of recognizing goodness, righteousness, and mercy, or of practicing them?

We are descendants and products of genocidal empires and plutocracies. We modern homo sapiens are ever more convinced of our superiority and inversely willing to recognize any external authority. To put it in a Roman Catholic context, the Pope cannot possibly be infallible because everyone else already is. While it is shocking to see TV reporters and commentators taking what appears to be glee in insinuating if not outright accusing Pope Francis of heresy; it is not surprising, and it is disappointing. 

Because of our political en economic heritage, but especially because of our human nature, we are almost incapable of recognizing authentic goodness, true righteousness, and divine mercy when we see them. It appears that we have very little appetite for practicing such virtuous attitudes and behaviours. However, the situation is not without hope, because it is merely further evidence that we stand in need of a Saviour. Thanks be to God that He has given us One: Jesus, his only-begotten Son, for whose coming once again we now have the privilege of preparing through yet another Advent Season.

Blessed Advent to you and your family!

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Green for our environment but toxic for human life?

So now more and more people are showing concern for the environment

There is without question in our day - last summer and now the fall of 2019 - a rapid awakening and excitation of human awareness and related movement of human uprising over the rapid changes to the global environment of Planet Earth. The science is massively in and it is no longer logical to deny these changes: rapid melting of glaciers and ice caps, warming and acidification of the oceans and seas with resulting coral deaths and algae blooms, rising of sea levels, intensification of tropical storms and other storm systems, increasingly severe material damage and human injury and death due to severe storms, flooding, and, ironically, droughts, and the rapidly increasing occurrence of extinctions of living organisms.

We would expect this shift in human awareness and concerns to move citizens to shift from political parties lethargic to take remedial actions for the environment towards parties apparently committed to take remedial if not radical actions to stop further degredation of the global environment, such as in Canada the Green Party.

I joined the Green Party of Canada before the previous election, but when I received no coherent reply to certain questions, in the end I decided to vote for another party in order to bring to an end what I perceived at the time as dictatorial use of the PMO - Prime Minister's Office - to silence MP's and cut short dialogue and in effect limit cooperation.

My questions to the Green Party of Canada and its leadership touch on questions often considered to be moral issues, but actually my question addresses the very foundation of the term "green".

This political party is "green" and calls itself Green because it intends to champion the cause of the natural environment of Planet Earth for its own sake and for the good of humanity dwelling in and living as part of this natural environment. That's very good.

So "green" means doing all we can as human beings to protect and favor the flourishing of all living things on this planet, on the earth, underneath in the soil, on and in the waters - fresh waters and salt seas and oceans - in and on the trees, and in the air throughout the atmosphere. So we are "green" when we protect, care for, cultivate, and make judicious and good use of all living things. We are just beginning to understand that his also means to care for the soil with all its microorganisms which play such a crucial role in the development and productivity of plants, our main food source.

So what then is my question or problem?

Why, in not only the Green Party of Canada but also in the other parties that claim to champion the cause of our natural environment, do all these people consider the philosophy and policy of "green" to be inapplicable to human beings?

Women's health and well being

We Canadians are in great solidarity, for the most part, in continuing to commit ourselves to the gains made in the past century towards achieving, maintaining, and assuring equal rights and opportunity, health care and social services for women and children as well as for men.

It is true that there were women who suffered injury and even death when attempting to have an abortion when these were offered by doctors with questionable credentials or competence and in clinics under poor conditions. The Government of Canada brought these medical procedures into the health care system; so it is now less likely for a woman to suffer such injuries or death.

A woman's right to choose

Much propaganda is imposed on the whole population around a woman's right to choose her care. It is misdirecting and misleading propaganda because it obscures something else that is happening when a woman has an abortion. The unborn baby is terminated, killed, sucked out in a violent and bloody act or poisoned and burned by some sort of intense saline solution, both painful procedures from the point of view of that baby.

We go home content to know that we are upholding women's rights to choose their proper health care, but why are we so unwilling to uphold those same rights for the most vulnerable among us, the baby that has yet to be born into this world and cannot yet speak up for itself?

More pertinently for this discussion, why are we continuing to impose abortion as the only solution for issues of pregnant women's health care in those cases where the pregnant woman does not want the baby, is not able to afford the baby, is not ready to have that baby, or whatever the reason may be?

Why not champion babies as well as women whenever possible?

Why are we so unwilling to champion both lives, that of the pregnant woman as well as that of the unborn baby? All too often, the oppressive attitudes and social conditions known to hold women as captive as slaves in previous centuries persist today, but in a different mode.

A pregnant woman may not have the support of the male who fathered that baby, either because they are not married or because he does not want the baby or not yet, or because he is afraid for whatever reason. Under difference circumstances, she may be alone or young and still living with her parents. The conditions and circumstances will be as varied and different as women are unique.

It is almost impossible to believe that women would be so callous as to have no feelings whatsoever about a new life growing within them. It would be a rare woman who would consider a new baby as a dangerous enemy to be destroyed as soon as possible, but not unreasonable or difficult to understand how a woman might find the pregnancy itself, the change in her circumstances, as problematic.

We as a people have sufficient moral character and social fortitude, I believe, to champion both lives. Political parties - especially one so bold as to call itself "green" - should be able to not only preserve the practice of medical abortions within the health care system, but also to develop a far more robust support system across Canada to encourage all pregnant women troubled by their pregnancey to get the help they need in order to give their new baby - however unwanted by them - a chance to live.

Pregnant women need real support in real time, not oratory or political speeches

These women would need support throughout their pregnancy and then, after the birth, support as they get ready to surrender their baby for adoption. Instead of living through their months of pregnancy with dread and then having to endure the life long effects of having experienced the highly invasive procedure of abortion - no thinking human being can deny the violence of terminating this human life; these women wound discover the option they have of carrying their unwanted baby with love, knowing that they will lovingly transfer their baby to a set of parents willing and eager to do so.

For women who would avail themselves of this option to give birth to their baby, it would be better for the baby, better for the adoptive parents in the case of an adoption, better for the mother to not have the burden of having ended a life, better for the mother who in the end decides to keep her baby, better for the "absent father" who may experience a change and choose to take responsibility for the child as well as for its mother, better for the whole family that can rejoice in the welcome of a new life rather than conceal under cover of secret the termination of that life, and better for Canada.

Now that would be a more truly "green" policy and practice, if not entirely green.

Is contraception green? Could it be green if we wanted it to be green?

What about contraception? Again the propaganda would have us not touch this by claiming it has to do with a woman's right to choose her own health care. How is it health care for us human beings to treat our own human condition as something that needs to be medicated?

Human fertility is not a disease, but one of our natural abilities and powers, the power to procreate as well as to form a lasting bond of spousal and family love and care. Ironically, there are perfectly effective ways for human beings to regulate their fertility and "plan" their family that are completely green, that don't involve subjecting either the woman or the man to invasive chemical concoctions that almost always have side effects, some of which are very troubling.

There has probably never been so much infertility in human history as there has been since the introduction and regular use of the contraceptive pill. The propaganda around the introduction and later the continued marketing of the pill claimed to "free women" from the confines of their fertility cycle, but the evidence since 1961 shows the opposite effects. Women have never been so reduced to the level of a commodity or object to be used as since then. When people had a little more respect of the mystery of human fertility, men in particular but also women were more inclined to have respect for their bodies and their whole self.

When the respect or more basic "fear" of fertility was removed, the floodgate was opened for women to conduct themselves "as freely as men", but the result was not Utopia or Paradise on Earth. If truth be told, women are less happy or fulfilled now than ever before.

How can we be "green" when we assist in our own social disintegration?

For men the collapse has been even more complete and tragic. Whatever their faults may have been in previous generations, at the very least most men could at least be credited for showing respect for the women in their lives and for women of all ages in general. The sexual revolution accompanied by the launch of the pill made it easy for men to reduce women to objects for their pleasure, in one stroke surrendering or abandoning their male role of protector and reducing themselves to narcissists.

The ravages are everywhere to be observed and lamented: selfish and uncommited adult women and men, disintegrated families, single parents that are mostly mothers, absent or non-existent fathers, unfathered lost rebellious adolescents, adult children who never leave their parents' home and never grow up or take full responsibility for their life and contribution to society, ever increasing violence in a downward spiral sapping the life from human society. Individual citizens can and do try to do all they can to cultivate life in their own home and family and around them, but the "ungreen" human policies of our political parties will not do anything to remedy the situation but only ensure that it gets worse.

Medically assisted dying

The reason we now have a law in Canada obliging medical staff to aid people to hasten their dying is because a good cause was made for those people who apparently were suffering to a degree that had become impossible to endure any longer. It has proven difficult if not impossible to argue against the new policy now enshrined in law. We who are currently living on Planet Earth have developed a high intolerance for pain and suffering, perhaps losing sight of the values human being have nonetheless found in their suffering since the dawn of time.

Not unlike pregnant women who are troubled by an unexpected pregnancy combined with the lack of support, or in some cases their perceived lack of support, for continuing their pregnancy and bringing the baby to term - for whatever eventual outcome - there is a similar crisis in the case of those who want to hasten the time of their death.

Normal human beings under normal circumstances generally want to live and to live as long as they possibly can. Life is worth living as Bishop Fulton Sheen used to say. That perspective can and does change when people get sick or are injured and suffer and experience pain on various levels.

Why are our public institutions so intent on imposing abortion as the only solution to an unwanted pregnancy? Now in this case, why are our public institutions so intent on imposing medical aid in dying as the only solution for the person who wants an end of their suffering?

Encouraging or supporting a patient to hasten the ending of their life through in effect a medical execution makes a very violent statement about the value of human life. It is understandable that one who is dying and enduring suffering and pain they no longer feel able to sustain could, then, in the absence of any other solution, desire to die. Those who are in such a painful situation could also be expected to not want to kill themselves but prefer to welcome their death as coming from outside. What is unfortunate is that this new law in Canada in effect and in truth makes of medical healers and practitioners nothing less than executioners.

How is this a "green" policy and practice?

Our societies are not stuck in the stone age. Incredible advances have been achieved just in the past few decades in caring for the dying. Just a few generations ago when people reached a point when the medical staff could no longer heal them, the medical staff tended to scatter and abandon them. Why? Because it is uncomfortable for medical staff to admit they can no longer offer healing to patients who are, in effect, dying. Medical staff would normally want to help their patients, but in the absence of anything to do, it is easier to simply stay away and let the family and friends, if any, take over.

What's to prevent us from creating a national Palliative Care program?

A whole new branch of medicine has developed since the 1970's called palliative care. It is medical care that simply has a different goal than the regular medical establishment which seeks to heal. For palliative care, the goal is to temper pain and suffering with expert medical care and medication, but also and more importantly to provide the patient with a supportive environment and opporunity for them - with or without their family and or friends if any - to ponder and make sense of their life, to realize the value and contribution of their life, to discover what they have accomplished but also to learn from what they have failed or been unable to do. Most of all, this complex medical goal in the giving of quality palliative care is to help the patient make of their death a meaningful moment, if not the most meaningful moment of their life.

Now these would be more completely "green" medical policies, don't you think?

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Canadian Federal Election Guide for Roman Catholics and Other People of Good Will


Roman Catholic Public Election Guide

(Intended for use in Canada for federal and provincial elections)

Is voting for a pro-abortion, pro-euthanasia party a mortal sin?

It is clear that to talk or write about abortion or euthanasia must be done with great sensitivity, because the action of ending a pregnancy or ending a human life are very serious and poignant issues that have profound impacts on those struggling with them. When people face an unexpected or unwanted pregnancy or face a pregnancy that is wanted but comes at an inopportune time; there can be great anxiety felt by those directly concerned. All too often, the pregnant woman may find herself alone and without any support, and fear alone may pressure her to end her pregnancy, or the pressure to do so may be put on her by others around her and at times even from health and social service agents. The same kind of pressure may be felt by those who suffer from disability, chronic or prolonged pain and feel like a burden.

These are culture of life issues, and there are many others, not the least of which are newly developing trends around human gender. These are perhaps the most important issues in our federal election because they have direct bearing on life itself for every citizen. Catholics and other people who treasure the sanctity of life are the only people who can publicly manifest this importance. The election is a prime opportunity to do this.

As you may or may not know, the Diocese has posted on its website "Let'sVote Responsibly" – a message from the AEQ for the 2018 provincial election which in many ways makes points applicable in this federal and indeed any federal or provincial election. A link to the CCCB's Federal Election Guide will lead you to further links to several statements by the CCCB on various moral and ethical issues facing Canadians, most notably abortion, euthanasia, and the right to life and dignity. Ours are very challenging times, but we have a new opportunity every day to put our trust in God and to give witness to the truth which is always good news. The CCCB Election Guide makes this important point:

"Exercising the right to vote means making informed and discerning judgments about the options available. There are times, however, when making a decision about who to vote for may prove very difficult. The Church reminds us that “in this context, it must be noted also that a well-formed Christian conscience does not permit one to vote for a political program or an individual law in which the fundamental content of faith and morals is replaced by the introduction of proposals differing from this content or opposing it.”

The implication is that a Catholic could not vote for parties that have explicit pro-choice and pro-euthanasia policies in their platform. This does not mean that a person needs to only vote for parties that do not endorse abortion or euthanasia. While these may not wish to bring these issues up or allow caucus members to bring them to the Commons, they may at least allow MPs or candidates to hold pro-life views and vote accordingly.  The Campaign Life Coalition (CLC) advice is that a Catholic (or other person who shares culture of life values) would check to see what candidate in their riding has pro-life views and vote for that person. 

A key point here is that abortion and euthanasia are not morally equivalent to any other election issue, e.g. foreign policy, economy, etc... The right to life is the first human right from which proceed all other rights... While our society and culture may comfortably hold views that fail to consider the unborn as human beings; from the earliest days Christians have always held abortion in abhorrence, according the unborn respect for their human dignity. The basic human right is the right to life; then come liberty and well being.

Once life is assured, the next right is liberty. Once life and liberty are assured, the next right is to seek and assure well being or happiness. One person’s right to liberty cannot trump another person’s right to life; nor can one person’s right to well being trump another person’s right to liberty, and certainly not their right to life. Our culture has acquired an intense repugnance for pain and suffering, to the point that freedom from pain and suffering has come to be considered by some to be more important than the value of life itself. This is so in spite of the abundance of evidence that for human beings, meaning and purpose are not contained in what happens to us; rather, human beings have a capacity to give meaning and purpose to what happens to us.

Christians have always held that life and death belong to God. Human beings are not wise enough to determine when a life should end. Taking it upon oneself to put an end to one’s life or to the life of another is unwise and usurps the rights and authority of our Creator God. He made us and our lives belong to Him. Our reluctance to trust in God is the primary cause of much human suffering and many destructive human decisions and behaviors. It is an act of love to provide the dying with palliative care, to help pregnant women, and to take interest and accompany on their journey any who suffer.  

There are 100,000 abortions a year in Canada. The Catholic Organization for Life and Family (COLF), co-sponsored by the CCCB and Knights of Columbus Supreme Council, noted “Canada, with China, North Korea, and Vietnam are the only countries which have no restriction in law with regard to abortion.” Most of the major parties support abortion over the full term of the pregnancy until birth.  President Trump stopped U.S. international funding to abortion organizations but the Liberal government now funds Planned Parenthood and other organizations to perform abortions around the world. 

Canon Law does not define what is or is not a mortal sin, distinct from the discipline of theology, and defers to her in matters of moral theology. Canon Law is inspired by the Church’s theology, forbidding abortion from the earliest days, and its statutes clearly reflect this. In law we speak of delicts (a.k.a. as crimes), and these are very precisely defined.  Note that a delict MUST be clearly and explicitly defined as such in canon law. With regard to those who directly procure an abortion, the law imposes several restrictions or imposes penalties: 

Canon 1041: irregularities impeded ordination – actually procuring an abortion makes a person irregular for the reception of orders
Canon 1398: latae sententiae ex-communication of anyone who effectively procures an abortion, “the killing of the foetus, in whatever way or at whatever time from the moment of conception”.

On a more local level, a bishop does have the authority to decree statutes and laws that apply to his diocese, and may impose penalties in this manner.  With regard to abortion, the legal landscape varies from place to place. The document “Forming consciences for faithful citizenship” was issued by the USCCB as a guide for Catholics in the US which states: http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/faithful-citizenship/upload/forming-consciences-for-faithful-citizenship.pdf      

34. Catholics often face difficult choices about how to vote. This is why it is so important to vote according to a well-formed conscience that perceives the proper relationship among moral goods. A Catholic cannot vote for a candidate who favors a policy promoting an intrinsically evil act, such as abortion, euthanasia, assisted suicide, deliberately subjecting workers or the poor to subhuman living conditions, redefining marriage in ways that violate its essential meaning, or racist behavior, if the voter’s intent is to support that position. In such cases, a Catholic would be guilty of formal cooperation in grave evil. At the same time, a voter should not use a candidate’s opposition to an intrinsic evil to justify indifference or inattentiveness to other important moral issues involving human life and dignity.

35. There may be times when a Catholic who rejects a candidate’s unacceptable position even on policies promoting an intrinsically evil act may reasonably decide to vote for that candidate for other morally grave reasons. Voting in this way would be permissible only for truly grave moral reasons, not to advance narrow interests or partisan preferences or to ignore a fundamental moral evil.

In the U.S.A. during the 2004 presidential campaign Cardinal Ratzinger stated that voters would be "cooperating in evil" if they voted for a political candidate precisely because of their permissive stand on legalized abortion or  euthanasia. He further stated that voting for these candidates for other reasons of commensurate gravity in spite of their stand on abortion / euthanasia was justifiable in principle. Ratzinger… supported the denial of Holy Communion to these politicians… but bishops should only withhold communion after meeting with, teaching and warning politicians first.

So, to answer your question – voting for a pro-choice or pro-euthanasia candidate may be considered a mortal sin if the intent of your vote is to specifically advance the cause of abortion or euthanasia.  If not, then it will not be considered a mortal sin. Voting for a candidate who supports the value of human life from conception to natural death is a just way to promote public consciousness of the inherent value of human life and also honours the rights of our Creator God.