Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Capitalism - to suck us dry or to build us up - it's our choice

Mondragon Cooperative Movement

Dramatic change brought about by the Industrial Revolution

In high school history we studied how England was the motor that drove the industrial revolution. Before that time, all “business” was done in homesteads, that is, in homes. Wool was spun and woven into fabric at home and people would sell their produce. Better quality got better prices generally. Then someone invented the “cotton gin”, a machine which processed and wove cotton much faster than by hand, and the industrial factory was born. As jobs were created, people moved from urban areas, left their homes, and moved to proximity to these factories, and the modern city was born. The American Ford is credited with bringing the assembly line to the production of his automobiles, but he did not invent the industrial factory.

Dramatic conflicts between capital and labor

In the 19th century, the 1800’s, there were terrible conflicts between capitalist industrialists and workers. That is primarily because the way factories developed, the work week consisted of 6 days of 10 to 12 hours. Initially people didn’t mind working so long because they were accustomed to long hours on their small subsistence farms. However, factory work was heavy work, and over time, people realized their hours were too long, their work week was too long, and they were suffering fatigue and worse health problems.

The owners, capitalist industrialists, for the most part were not humanists and generally took a dim view of the workers’ complaints and demands for better conditions. Setting aside reason and compassion, they resorted to the police and coercive methods of the state to impose on the workers resolutions favoring the owners.

Trade unions and the new "middle class"

It took a long time but eventually, by the early to mid 20th century, trade unions emerged with sufficient power and representative authority to effectively negotiate better conditions and payment on behalf of workers, including all kinds of benefits. By then, the capitalist industrialists didn’t mind too much making those concessions because they were now making very healthy profits. This was particularly true of the industrial expansion occasioned in North America during WWII. By the 1950’s there emerged a new “middle class” which enjoyed stable employment, excellent remuneration, and valuable benefits. 

Globalization shatters the "American Dream"

This “utopia” lasted only a few decades until the 1970’s and 1980’s with the advent of globalization. American presidents struck down much of the legislation developed in previous decades to protect workers, with the result that there were no longer any obstacles to prevent corporations from exporting jobs to countries where they could pay much lower wages and not be obliged any longer to provide benefits.

As a result, America is no longer the “land of the American dream”; rather, it is increasingly becoming a wasteland. It’s inner city cores are often a dangerous dead zone of abandoned homes ruled by lawless street gangs, and small towns across the nation are resembling more and more the exploited towns in third world countries. How could such a great nation come to this in so short a period of time? That is the question.

One model of capitalism has a stranglehold on western societies

The answer has to do with the model of capitalism at work in the U.S.A. and most of the western world, but also in the rest of the world that has until now admired America and its capitalism. It is a capitalism that champions a few of the basic human values such as the right to private property, the right to work, the right to generate and to accumulate wealth, and so on. However, its basic model also has some flaws. In particular, the wealth generated by most capitalist corporations is accrued almost exclusively to the major shareholders – who hold majority decision-making power and authority – and also to the senior officers and the members of the board.

A realistic economic analysis of what is going on

In all of these corporations, with few exceptions, the workers are not share holders and have no say in the governance and decision making of the corporation. With the advent of globalization as a new trend in business and economics, corporations gave themselves the freedom  to export jobs away from the more expensive home base where they had developed in previous decades in favor of countries where, for various reasons, they could pay much cheaper wages and not have to provide benefits, or not as many.

Why is America becoming an economic wasteland?

This shows that in this model of capitalism, corporations manifest zero loyalty to the populations that gave rise to them and their success. They show no qualms about abandoning those populations, putting them all out of work, pulling up their stakes, and moving out. They do not consider it their concern or responsibility that their former employees go without work, lose their homes, and suffer all the harsh consequences of sudden impoverishment. 

Worse still, these corporations show little interest in taking their fair share of responsibility for the general development and well being of society, what we could call the common good. The burden of maintaining public infrastructures for the most part rest squarely on the shoulders of citizen tax payers; while corporations export their assets to foreign tax havens precisely to avoid paying taxes on their accumulating wealth. If we step back and look at the bigger picture of our western societies, we see the following devastating consequences:

1.      Traditional capitalist corporations take zero responsibility for the well being of their workers.

2.      They show zero concern for the well being of the communities and societies which gave them rise and / or where they currently operate; avoiding as much as possible sharing the burden of maintaining public infrastructures.

3.      They do not hesitate to abandon the populations which gave rise to their success for more profit elsewhere.

4.      Many of them move much of their wealth to foreign tax havens to avoid their corporate social responsibilities.

5.      In an age when workers are no longer illiterate but well educated, corporations still refuse to allow them to participate more fully in the management and profit of the corporation.

6.      Due to competitive pressure from Japanese auto makers, some corporations began to introduce incentives to employees who proposed innovations that improved productivity, but these workers remained outsiders with one time rewards their only benefit.

7.      These corporations, by their very nature, create inequality by separating the small minority of people who are major shareholders, senior officers, and board members from the workers and the general population.

It doesn’t have to go on this way. At present, most of our corporations suck the marrow from the bones of our society and then, when they can make more profit elsewhere, there is nothing to hold them here and they simply leave us high and dry. Unless we choose for ourselves better ways of doing business for ourselves, we and our society will inevitably go down the drain. The choice is ours to make, alone, individually, but also collectively.

Our choice is NOT between capitalism / democracy OR communism / Marxism / socialism

Anyone who spoke this way 50 years ago would have been branded a communist by capitalist industrialist interests. Why did they do this, and why might they do it again? The answer is very simply because they don’t really like competition, not fair competition anyway. They say they thrive on competition, but only when they can rig the game in their favor. That’s how I used to play Monopoly with my 9-year old sister when I was 15. I liked to win and didn’t care about her feelings. Time goes by and we grow up, or at least, we should grow up. Why do you think that most corporations have such big budgets for their lawyers? They need lawyers in order to exploit the best possible interpretations of laws in their favor.

Our choice IS between 

greedy irresponsible capitalism VS cooperative socially responsible capitalism

In politics this is the difference between dictatorship / oligarchy VS participation democracy

What if there is a better way to do business? It would be a way whereby decisions would not be made by senior officers and the profits would not go to a small minority of people. Instead, the workers would own, operate, and manage their own company as a cooperative and democratic venture. After the cooperative company paid its fair share of taxes, taking full responsibility for its corporate existence on an equal footing with the general population, the profits would go 100% to the workers according to a formula something like this:

10% of all profits invested in the education of the workers’ families – in their own schools and university

45% of all profits would be reinvested into the cooperative company for innovation and development.

45% of all profits would go to the worker / owners / members of the cooperative company, but not in immediate cash; rather invested yearly back into the cooperative company for innovation and development of more coops, and to be given to them for their retirement.

This is an alternative version of capitalism – unlike the one we find oppressive and heartless which rewards only major shareholders, senior officers, and board members and sucks dry the marrow of the bones of society and leaving only ruins in their wake – this new innovation has proven since 1956 that we can do it differently and better by together freely turning over the ownership, operation, and management of the company to the worker members. The workers become full participating and voting members of the cooperative and they make all the important decisions for their corporation at the annual general meeting; for which they prepare thoroughly at a series of local meetings on work time. There are no minority millionaires because the whole society benefits from stable work and prosperous living conditions, which in turn enrich and elevate the entire society. How can this work?

Rule #1 – Workers together hire and fire and evaluate the efficiency of managers

Rule #2 – Best paid workers cannot earn more than 8 X the lowest wage. In practice it is 4.5 to 6 times at most.

It all began with a poor priest and a handful of his poor parishioners.

Here's a 35 minute interview to help us understand how the 120 coops of Mondragon Corporation and over 100,000 workers operate... in which workers participate cooperatively in management, innovation, and profits. 10% of profits is invested in education, 45% innovation & development of the corp & growing more coops, 45% to the workers but not in cash; rather in capital investment in the corporation which comes to them in retirement... fascinating....

Richard Wolff on Mondragon Cooperatives

This is not the only example of innovation and enterprise that puts human beings at the center of any business operation, thereby enriching workers and stabilizing and developing the whole society. There have been and continue to be others. Many believe that these alternative ways of bringing people together cooperatively for work and human development are the future of humanity and they can be seen in such imaginative fiction as the Star Trek universe. 

In our real world, Pope Francis has been writing and speaking about these issues, encouraging everyone to develop new business practices and new economics that do just that, put people at the center rather than profits. As Mondragon Corporation successfully shows, when we put people first and at the center, there will definitely be profits, but these profits will benefit everyone, not only a few, and the whole of society.

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Hope through resistance in the midst of troubled times

We are grieving the death and loss of a friend these days, one who in many ways went through hell these past several years. As we prepare for his funeral, my spirit has wandered far and wide among the travails of our times, and have stumbled upon some remarkable social commentators.

Could Venezuela's "social meltdown" happen to us?

First, I was shocked to see video clips of the profound meltdown experienced by the people of Venezuela. It seems that the cause of their trouble is primarily that their economy has been almost entirely based on their oil revenue; such that when the bottom fell out of the price of oil, so did that of their economy. What made things worse is that successive governments had promised and delivered extensive social programs and almost free gasoline, which in turn rendered much of the population more passive and receptive than active and productive. Infantalizing adults is never a good thing, as any parent with 30-year-olds who never left home sadly discover.

As I looked at those desperate people wandering the devastated streets in some sectors and the rich carrying on almost as normal; I could picture our own societies going through the same troubles without stretching the imagination too far. The question arises: why do we so often allow ourselves to become so passive and wait for government and other institutions to do for us what it is really up to us to do for ourselves?

What will happen to us, to our nation, to our world, in the next 100 years?

The next dot in this series of dots was an interview with Dr. George Friedman (Founder and Chairman of Geopolitical Futures) ten years ago in 2009 on the topic of America's domination in the 21st century. He comments on how it is that the United States of America came to exercise such unparalleled influence in the world. Then he gave a conference at the World Government Summit in March 2017 to the United Arab Emirates, where he mourned the passing of the period which began in 1945 after the war period of 1914 to 1945. He declared "the end of the myth of two things: the belief that multilateral institutions will solve all of our problems if you get somebody from Harvard to manage it - it's more difficult than that - and secondly, do not look at the GDP but look at how the GDP is distributed, because that will tell you what your future will look like."

What's really going on?

In Boston last April long time MIT professor, historian and social critic Noam Chomsky gave an almost sympathetic explanation of why the western world economy is in such trouble, which means that ordinary citizens are in so much trouble. The CEO's of banks and large corporations are caught in the system which these entities make up, and they have no choice, really, but to make the decisions which the entities are designed to make, because if they don't, they will simply be replaced by someone else who will. Another observation he made is that whereas in the past Israel's 50-year policy of assimilating the West Bank was done more or less secretly, now with President Trump's support it is now being done in the open. Chomsky wonders what would happen if the U.S.A. were challenged to follow or keep its own laws internally and internationally, because until now the government has for the most part served unbridled capitalism. At least, that is what I take away from this lecture.

It's really up to us, whether we know it or not, do it or not

Next, I listened to a conference given by journalist and author Chris Hedges in January 2011 on the "Death of the Liberal Class", in which he talks about the "technocrats" that George Friedman talks about as well. Whereas our western society used to support liberal arts on university campuses in order to provide young adults with the opportunity and means to learn how to think, develop their social conscience, and explore ways to fashion life, work, and society with values; recent U.S. presidents have dismantled government regulation of corporate banking and business interests with the result that universities have become highly and narrowly specialized to serve the business world rather than life.

Health care for profit is only one example he cites of the ways in which public and private institutions can no longer be expected to support the rights of citizens individually or of the population of the nation as a whole. Those institutions in effect only serve themselves and those who own them. In "America: The Farewell Tour" Chris Hedges notes that if people are to continue to hope in the face of the increasingly harsh conditions of our time, the only way to go forward is for them to resist the control these institutions have over our lives and to resist any way we can in accord with our values. I take away that this means by way of non-violent resistance coupled together with personal initiative and responsibility.

It's okay to criticize capitalism after all - a talk at Google

A further dot in this fascinating series of dots was a talk given by Professor of Economics Emeritus, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Richard Wolff at Google in June 2017. Under the title "Democracy at Work: A Cure for Capitalism" he explains why thinking stagnated for 50 years in the U.S.A. in economics - it was because of the Cold War. In a collective need to oppose the Soviet Union, Americans felt it necessary to uncritically defend and promote capitalism as it was practiced in the West.

I was astonished to listen to and hear his review of Karl Marx's analysis of capitalism and realize that this is the first time I've heard an unbiased account of Marx. Until now I think I've only heard either communist interpretations of Marx or western condemnations of communist interpretations of Marx, but no unbiased understanding of Marx. The contrast, therefore, in economic theories, is between capitalists who are concerned with the price of things and Marx who prefers to begin with what could be called the pool of labor or of available workers and work time and energy.

What is called neoliberal economics is what has come to dominate western societies. Our version of capitalism is based on a free market economy that doesn't want government regulation, intervention, or ownership but leaves everything to the private sector. The problem for the citizen and the general population is that this version of capitalism has only one value, and that is profit. Jobs, the value of work and labor, public infrastructures, the common good, none of it matters or exists for this version of capitalism. In recent decades, U.S. presidents have legislated deregulation of industry and corporations, with the result that jobs have been exported and unemployment increased, along with the public debt. There are other ways of doing business.

Wolff cites examples of people who have begun successful businesses that from the beginning don't operate for the profit of small boards of directors or shareholders, as do all current capitalist corporations. Instead, from the ground up, these new enterprises are composed of people who come together to produce products or services entirely owned and operated by the workers themselves. They are not communists but democrats living in democratic countries, and they are doing so well that capitalist enterprises cannot compete with them. Such initiatives have been emerging since the 1950's but only now are they coming to light, because the taboo against "communism", "Marxism", and "socialism" as political systems is eroding and people are beginning to understand that it is possible to hold economic views of labor that are not political but favor workers.

One such enterprise in Spain has been so successful that it has become a huge conglomerate of small businesses owned and operated by workers - over 100,000 of them. These successful businesses that put people first, as Pope Francis has been promoting in his writings and teachings, operate on the basis of two simple rules.

Rule # 1. Workers together hire and fire all workers and evaluate the efficiency of managers.

Rule # 2. The highest paid worker cannot get more than 8 times than what is earned by the lowest paid worker.

These rules create a form of capitalism that puts people first, not unbridled profit and greed. It effectively eliminates the disparity we now have between rich and poor, as in most large corporations in which the small minority of people at the top and on the boards earn 350 times more than the lowest paid workers. Also, many of these corporations export their assets to tax havens outside the countries where they operate, putting the entire social burden for the maintenance of public infrastructures on the shoulders of the citizens who end up being doubly exploited in both earning less and in having to pay more taxes. Capitalist enterprises owned and operated by the workers do neither; they neither create inequality nor avoid their social responsibilities, but effectively bring wealth to everyone. American capitalism claims that benefits will "trickle down" from the top to everyone, but in reality, they don't.

Listening to these social commentators has been very enlightening, and like in the documentary "Tomorrow / Demain", they open the door and put on display amazing initiatives already being taken by people to address the crisis of our times.

Tuesday, June 04, 2019

Abortion - how has it come to this?

The way it once was and the way it is now

I recall being in grade school when, during Geography class, we learned that during the Greek Empire unwanted newborn babies were left out in the wilderness for the wild animals to take and eat them. My young spirit was terrified and shocked. That was in the 1950's.

It's all in the numbers

Since only 1980 worldwide there have been a reported 1.5 billion - that's 1,537,040,242 abortions - and counting... with over 17,244,307 this year alone so far.... Check the number of abortions for yourself at this link.

How has it come to this? It is estimated that had the world population continued to increase as it was in 1970, the world population today would be around 14 billion, or roughly twice what it is today at 7,708,602,806 and counting. The world population was estimated at 3,706,618,163 in 1970 which means that we have increased since then by around 4,001,984,643 people.

Let's look more closely at these big numbers. From an estimated 14 billion we could be today, based on the population of the world in 1970, and given that we are now 7,708,602,806 and counting, the difference - the number of people who have not come into our world - can be estimated at 6,291,397,194 people. If we subtract the reported number of abortions - 1,537,040,242 abortions - and counting, the difference in the reduction of births comes to 4,754,356,952 births that have not taken place.

1970 world population      3,706,618,163
2019 world population      7,708,602,806 
Growth                              4,001,984,643
2019 projection from 1970         14,000,000,000
2019 world population                 7,708,602,806 
Difference from today actual       6,291,397,194 people
Actual Growth since 1970           4,001,984,643
Projected growth since 1970     10,293,381,837

So, from 3.7 billion in 1970 we could have increased by 10.2 billion to 14 billion but only increased by 4 billion to 7.7 billion. Our increased 4 billion taken together with the projected difference of 6.2 billion souls, of these projected 10.2 billion new people there might have been today, 4 billion have actually been born, 1.5 have been reported killed by abortion; while another 4.7 billion have been avoided through some form of family planning. 

Taking into account all of these figures, that means that, simply by better managing their fertility, couples have reduced the number of their births. However, there have undoubtedly been more abortions than have been reported, simply due to the social taboos associated with having an abortion as well as the constellation of emotions women experience after having had an abortion or even in anticipation of having an abortion: regret, guilt, loss, grief, shame.... It may very well be, then, that since 1970 there have perhaps been as many as 2 to 3 billion abortions. If that is so, then the figures would look more like this.

1970 world population      3,706,618,163
Live births since 1970       4,001,984,643
Estimated abortions         2,500,000,000              Reported abortions          1,537,040,242
Reduction by planning      3,791,397,194                Reduction by planning     4,754,356,952

That means that, best case scenario, since 1970 for every 8 live births there have been 3 abortions and another 9 conceptions have been avoided, or, worst case scenario, for every 8 live births there may have been 5 abortions and another 7 conceptions would have been avoided.

However, this does not take into account the effects of employing contraceptive devices and drugs, some of which prevent fertilized ova from nesting or developing and which, in effect, are an early form of abortion. Given the aggressive marketing strategies of the network formed by big pharma multinationals and the widespread use worldwide of contraceptives on the one hand, and on the other hand, the pro abortion lobby groups; it is likely that of the total number of avoided live births - around 6.3 billion - probably less than 1 billion pregnancies may have been avoided by responsible parenting.

Estimated live births avoided since 1970                                                   6,291,397,194 people
Reported abortions                                                                                     1,537,040,242
Estimated unreported abortions                                                                 1,000,000,000
Estimated embryos destroyed by contraceptive interference                    3,000,000,000
Estimated conceptions avoided by responsible parenting                           754,356,952

So, how did we come to this?

We may no longer appear to be so barbaric as to leave, as the Greeks once did, our unwanted newborns out in the wilderness for wild animals to devour, but we are nowhere near being more enlightened. Our barbarism has simply acquired more sophisticated methods. 

As a modern society, we promote the widespread use of contraceptive devices and drugs - thereby profiting from those sales - and simultaneously encourage irresponsible sexual experimentation and expression without any serious promotion of genuine love in action, faithful relationships, openness to life, or trust in God. When unwanted pregnancies inevitably occur, we manipulate troubled pregnant women - often young and poor - into thinking that abortion is their desired solution, by concealing from them what an abortion actually does or what its effects will actually be.

A typical abortion procedure employs a powerful suction device that literally shreds the fetus into bloody pieces - modern imaging shows the fetus trying to escape the threat but failing - when the device doesn't cause damage to the woman's internal organs. There are regularly unreported deaths but they remain invisible due to the shame experienced by all those involved and the conspiracy of silence around the abortion industry. Check out the documentary "Blood Money - The Business of Abortion" Directed by David K. Kyle and narrated by Dr. Alveda King, niece of the late Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Junior. 

Men and women can obtain help as they try to deal with an unexpected pregnancy at one of the following sites. Campaign Life Coalition is unashamedly an advocate for life and you can be certain that they will help you explore all your options, knowing as they do through the accumulated experience of women especially, but also of men, that abortion is a decision and an act with grave consequences and that, once done, you cannot take back or undue; no matter how much you may regret it. There are also services across Canada that help you discover the intense need for adoption by infertile couples distressed in their inability to have children. 

Contrary to popular impressions, there is real help out there

Pregnancy Support Centers - hosted by Campaign Life Coalition in Canada

Canada Adopts - Canada's adoption meeting place

We have allowed ourselves to be victimized by a worldwide program of disinformation

There are many more sites on the Internet, even in Canada, which give the impression they offer information and help in exploring options, but since they are open and committed to abortion as a viable solution, we do not recommend them. There has been, since 1970 worldwide, a very powerful lobby - backed by untold millions if not billions of dollars - that has effectively changed the culture around and understanding of abortion.

The actual horror of shredding a baby in the womb to bloody pieces has been covered up in a whole constellation of euphemisms designed to be attractive in appealing to our natural human inclination to favor our freedom. So such words are used to promote abortion as: product of conception, blob of tissue, choice, women's rights, reducing the embryo to simply a part of a woman's body, safe, problem free, clinical, sterile, confidential, no one has to know, and so on.

product of conception - yes, a pregnancy is the product or effect of conception, but it is also a human life. Once conception takes place, human experience assures us that a human being will result as inevitably as the sun rises each day. 

blob of tissue - There have been such remarkable advances in Biological Science that there is no doubt now that from the very first moment of conception - before that first fertilized cell even divides - that it is only one thing, one possibility, a human being. It contains everything it needs to grow and develop and become a fully grown baby ready to be born into this world. All it needs is a welcome nest and all the love that a mother and father can give.

choice - it is a choice to have an abortion, but it is also the murder of a defenseless human being most worthy of our welcome and protection.

women's rights - It is true that far too long women have been dominated and ill used by men and that they enjoy the full dignity of their humanity just as much as men do. We applaud the developments in our world that have brought women in most nations to enjoy more fully the rights and duties that come from their human dignity. 

part of her own body - While an embryo is "housed" within the hosting environment of a woman's uterus - which is designed to "nest" that dependent being until maturation and birth - the fetus is not part of her body because it is autonomous. The woman does not need the fetus in order to live, and the only thing that the fetus needs from its mother is nutrients. The fetus has its own independent systems which develop over time: heart and circulatory system, respiration, assimilation and digestion, and so on. The womb transfers nutrients to the embryo and in turn it eliminates waste through its umbilical cord to the mother's elimination system. It is a perfect design and a wonder of engineering. Even DNA tests reveal that the embryo is not identical to the mother but an independent and autonomous being existing in its own right and for its own sake. The fact that it is innocent and defenseless does not mean that it has no human dignity or rights.

safe - Given what an abortion actually entails - sucking an embryo out and shredding it in a bloody and violent process - no abortion is truly safe even for the mother, and certainly not for the baby, because it always results in the baby's death, a most horrible and violent death. 

problem free - Women who have problems with their abortion generally do not report it, either because they died as a result of the procedure, or because of the shame they experienced. Families are likewise in no position to boast about the fact that their wife, or daughter, or sister, or girlfriend was hurt or killed by the procedure. The abortion industry has shown itself to be very capable at hiding accidents and damages caused to women during an abortion procedure. See the documentary "Blood Money - The Business of Abortion". This industry is "self interested" in its claims that abortion is safe, because if the truth were fully known, women would think long and hard before taking such a risk with their own health and life, not to mention their baby, however unwanted it may be.

clinical, sterile - Since abortion was taken off the criminal code and legalized, it is true that abortions are often performed by medical doctors. The instruments used may or may not actually be sterilized after each use, but this takes 20 minutes to heat them up and longer to cool them down; so in practice, this step is often skipped (Cf. "Blood Money"). When the term "clinical" is employed in association with abortion procedures, it evokes the "safe" and "scientific" environment of a hospital, but unlike any hospital, abortion procedures are not designed to improve the health of either the baby or the mother. At the very least, the procedure will execute the baby in a very violent way. Even if there is no real damage to the woman's body, in her awareness of herself, she witnesses the violent destruction of what had been living within her. At the very least, she will be wounded in her self identity as a female human being capable of conceiving and bearing life. Many women after an abortion have trouble in the future with conceiving a second time. See the documentary "Blood Money - The Business of Abortion".

confidential - All those who favor and promote abortion as a solution to an unwanted pregnancy do so in denial of the violent reality which actually takes place in the course of an abortion, even one that is done in a "clinical" and "sterile" setting. Part of the strategy to persuade a woman to go through with the abortion is the promise that the procedure will remain "confidential", that is, that "no one needs to know about it". The only problem with this lie is that the woman herself will know. She will feel that little life sucked out of her, and the procedure will necessarily be experienced by her as invasive and disturbing. Apparently, no one will ever warn a pregnant woman about these very real risks and consequences. This is very disturbing, when you consider all the other warnings our society gives the general population about so many other things that are far less deadly or damaging. See the documentary "Blood Money - The Business of Abortion".

So, where does that leave us?

I am a Christian man, a Roman Catholic, and a priest. However, I am not the only one who is very concerned about all of these issues. It matters that children are being robbed of their innocence by being introduced too early to what we could call "the pleasures of sexual experimentation" without the truly human context that makes our human sexuality and fertility the blessing intended by God our Creator. Without that context of authentic human love and genuine family life, we end up with the mess in which we now find ourselves. Our culture unashamedly promotes "pleasure without consequences or responsibility" and the end result is that our society has become infanticidal.

The so-called "sexual revolution" of the 1960's has produced generations of children without fathers, women without husbands, men without families, mere children or adolescents having children, and adults with consciences troubled by the regrettable murder of their "unwanted children". The propaganda boasted that sexual freedom would make woman "like men" in their newfound ability to "enjoy sex". It was a lie because, unlike men, women are designed to conceive and bear life. There is no way for a woman to avoid her true nature as a female human being other than tearing out of herself all that makes her distinctively "woman".

We men are responsible for "hosting" this monstrous lie and for the devastating consequences that countless girls and women have suffered since then until now. It may have appeared to men to be an advantage for women to "be sexually liberated", but all it has meant is that men have found it easier to "have their way" with girls and women. Neither of us has truly gained, but we both have lost much. Women have surrendered their human dignity in allowing themselves to "be used" by men, and they continue to pay the price, and it is exorbitant.

Men have not fared any better. Whenever a boy or man "takes advantage" of a girl or woman, he is by the same token diminished in his own human dignity, because we have been designed to cultivate the earth and to protect and take care of others, not to exploit them. Much if not all of the tragedy and sadness of human history has been caused by men who abandoned their calling to cultivate the earth and to protect and take care of others.

The "bill" is very expensive

The end result of this so-called sexual revolution is the current crisis of manhood and of womanhood we now witness on planet Earth. Boys who grow up avoiding their responsibilities to care for others but instead exploit them turn into nothing more than "pirates", living without principle, dignity, or true goal. Girls who grow up trying to escape rather than enter into their full dignity as female human beings turn into nothing more that caricatures of "liberated men", trying to become like men instead of becoming who they truly are.

Our human fertility, instead of being a powerful capacity to be treasured and cultivated, becomes a problem to be treated as a sickness and medicated. We surrender to the temptation to "use" and "take pleasure" and avoid the challenge and the calling to "become someone" by truly caring for others.

Thanks be to God that He continues to care for us and love us, offering us fullness of life in love

You are not likely to read in the mass media, or even in much of social media, how woman and men are being restored by God to their full human dignity. It's true, and it's happening all around us. All over the Earth women and men who, either regretting an abortion or fearful of seeking an abortion, turn to God instead. When they turn to God with their whole being, they find in God the source of life and love. This is particularly true of Christians because of the way in which Jesus Christ revealed God to us more intimately and fully than ever before in human history.

At no time in any other religion has the one true God shown himself to be more committed to giving us life or restoring us to life when we were in danger of death or forgiving us for our sins and crimes and instilling in us a new life, a life transformed.

Roman Catholics, Eastern Rite Catholics, and Orthodox Christians are particularly blessed in that they can meet Jesus, the resurrected and living Lord, in the person of the priest through the encounter which we call Confession, or the Sacrament of Penance, or Reconciliation. When a believer confesses to a priest, it is Jesus himself who is there receiving their confession, and when the priest gives them absolution, it is Jesus himself who forgives them; just as He forgave sins while on Earth.

This experience of God's mercy forms us and opens up for us and within us a new capacity to receive the love, mercy, and forgiveness of God, and to go on to love God back in gratitude, and to turn around and love others better, because we finally become able - by the grace and divine action of God - to love ourselves authentically, that is, to live a new life in which we begin to assume the fullness of our human dignity as perfectly designed by the Creator of the Universe.

The most Holy Trinity does not work these wonders within us merely for our own sake, as good and true as this is, but also so that we might - as Saint Paul wrote - become ambassadors of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:11-21) and share with the whole world this good news first brought to the Earth by Jesus of Nazareth, son of Mary and Son of God the Father. It is the Holy Spirit, poured into us for the first time at Baptism, who empowers us to truly become and live as children of God (John 1:12-13) in the midst of a depraved generation. Philippians 2:14-15

So, please feel free to share this good news as widely as you can. If this page can help you get started, then please feel free to go ahead and share it. May every gesture you make in favor of life and out of love for your neighbor become an opportunity for God to abundantly bless you!

Christ is risen, alleluia! He is truly risen, alleluia!

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit; as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, forever and ever. Amen. Alleluia!

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Value of life - harm of abortion - what to do?

Life is generally recognized as a value. On that basis, death is seen as a loss; so abortion then could also be seen as a loss. Does that mean that clergy should preach vigorously and frequently against abortion and in favor of defending and protecting life from conception to the grave?

I view this question as simplistic in a way. We don't live in a vacuum or in static time. For centuries the clergy in most places on Earth were very straightforward on moral issues, with the result that there were very strong taboos against abortions, and everyone believed that they are wrong.

As people in the West left the Church from the 1950's through the 1990's - to the point that in Québec most French churches with a capacity of 1,000 to 1,500 people (and where 5 to 8 Sunday Masses used to bring 5,000 to 12,000 people, adults, teens, children, and elders every Sunday of the year) now only see a few hundred people at one Mass on any given Sunday. Ethnic and English language parishes have fared better generally, but they have also declined, especially in recent years.

Vatican Council II (1962-1965) brought a different approach to preaching. For centuries people would hear series of sermons on specific themes, such as moral issues; with the general effect over time that all the serious thinking was done by "specialists" or "professional religious". Meanwhile what was neglected was the ability of the faithful to think for themselves and discover on their own the truth of the Gospel and of the Church's Tradition.

Sermons were now to be replaced by "homilies", which were to be reflections on the Word of God with a view to take up what had been neglected for centuries, namely, accompanying the faithful on the journey of faith in a personal relationship with the living God, the most Holy Trinity, through the development and equipping of their conscience; so that all might "put on the mind of Christ" as St. Paul regularly taught.

"Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus." Philippians 2:5

"For who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ." 1 Corinthians 2:16

"Instead, put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires." Romans 13:14

"You were taught to put away your former way of life, your old self, corrupt and deluded by its lusts, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to clothe yourselves with the nw self, created according to the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness." Ephesians 4:22-24

We are called to set aside the old, depraved way of living and in its place embrace the new life exemplified by Christ Jesus and offered to us by Him, patterning ourselves after his example and dedicating ourselves to a life of faith and devotion, love, forgiveness and mercy, truth and service. Colossians 3

The one who brings conviction to our consciences is the Holy Spirit, the Giver of Life, and the One who reminds us of all the truth as taught and witnessed by Jesus, and who gives light to mind, heart, and soul to understand all things as God understands them.

It was often felt that from the early 1800's to the mid-1950's that the Church barged into people's consciences and decided for them, with the result that we had a fairly uniform and complacent society in which only the most desperate and disobedient and distant would dare to seek out an abortion. The orphanages were full of abandoned children who at least survived their own birth.

If we are to give the benefit of the doubt that clergy were motivated by genuine love for the people, then we can only surmise that this more authoritarian approach was taken because they were unable or found it difficult to form people in their consciences or ultimately to trust them to abide by their own consciences. It was more direct and perhaps felt to be simpler to dictate to people's consciences and just tell them what to do and what to avoid.

The rather uniform collective behavior typical of these closed societies was more a function of conformity, but not necessarily a deliberately chosen morality or or enthusiastically sought after sanctity. Societies become "closed societies" when there is a general consensus and desire or need to do all that is possible in order for the collectivity to survive and carry on its way of life and values. These mechanisms are much more about society than about the Church, sociology not theology.

As a result the society has generally turned away from the Church as a moral or spiritual guide and in seeking answers and meaning people are going anywhere but to the Church or Christianity or the Word of God. That is why our Diocese, as with all the others, is at a point of going back to basics, to how Jesus himself began his ministry, namely, a personal relationship with God the Father in the Holy Spirit through Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior.

We have no choice but to follow Jesus and imitate the Master. He did not snuff out the smoldering wick nor break the bent reed, but instead proclaimed a good news. He only spoke in judgement against those who tried to prevent the little ones from coming to Jesus. He himself said that He came not to judge but to save.

There are those even today, and they are not few, who would want the clergy to go back to going on crusades against abortion. The problem is that those who go to Church today generally do so because they want to. For the most part, they already know that abortion - among other acts - is wrong or a great harm, because they are listening to the Holy Spirit. They perceive that gentle voice within their conscience, each to the varying degrees of their development of conscience. The ones who are being fooled into thinking that abortion is just a procedure and that what is taken out during an abortion is merely "a lump of flesh", and not a human life, are far less likely to be in Church at any time but are very numerous and most likely not in Church but "out there".

It is a commonly held view that, as a result of this high handed and authoritarian approach "laying down the law" and condemning lists of sinful behaviours, we shoved the Holy Spirit out of the way by preaching fire and brimstone from the pulpit. The fruits are that we alienated a whole population away from God because we were no longer preaching the good news as Jesus intends.

We are not going back to fire and brimstone because it doesn't work. We don't avoid preaching on moral issues, but the primary focus is on the good news of God's love and mercy. Once people begin to really understand that God loves them, that Jesus died in order to offer them a new way of life, and to accept God's love and mercy as a free gift; then love supernaturally prompts them to want to love God back and to avoid offending Him.

People are thinking for themselves now, whether we like it or not, and they feed on whatever they can find on the Internet for the most part. There are new waves of evangelists, Catholic as well as from all of the other Christian denominations, who proclaim this good news of God's love coupled with his call to repentance. It is good that in our churches we echo this proclamation of the kerygma, of the essential teaching which Jesus initiated and exemplified in his life, preaching, miracles, passion, death, resurrection, ascension, and sending of the Holy Spirit.

We also reach out to the general population who, for the most part, are not going very often if at all to any church, through "40 Days for Life" when Pro-Life people hold placards near abortion clinics and manage to reach a few people but also bear the brunt of contempt from others. This is an action in which all can take part, a work of mercy accessible to all. It is not difficult for anyone to get in touch with their local Pro-Life organization such as Campaign Life Coalition in Canada or to simply go through the "40 Days" website. Here is the webpage for Montreal, Québec, Canada.

We pray. We preach the good news as well as we can. We try to form missionary disciples who give witness out in the world to the truth, the way, and the life, and whenever possible, engage in chats about moral issues to accompany people in their searching. Anyone can take their relationship with God more seriously and make a point to pray every day, and even several times a day.

Unless more young men find the courage in God's love to answer Jesus' call to follow Him as bearers of his priestly ministry, in a short time our parishes will no longer have priests to celebrate the Sunday Liturgy, at all; so this issue of insisting on the evils of abortion from the pulpit will be moot. We are all responsible to pray for vocations - for those whom God is calling to the priesthood, or to religious life, or to consecrated virginity, celibacy for the kingdom of God, and of course, Marriage / Matrimony and family life.

Our Archbishop is right. This is not our Church, but the Church of Jesus Christ. We all need to listen to Him, because He is the Master and Lord, and no one else. It is not up to us to devise strategies for resolving the Church's and the world's issues and problems. Jesus is the King, and He needs willing and obedient (listening) servants, soldiers, friends, and missionary disciples.

In light of this perspective, like Saint Paul and the other apostles, we realize that we live here in exile and that our true home is heaven, the kingdom of God, which is already begun on Earth in the minds, hearts, and souls of believers, and in whom God has already begun to reign. Jesus declared "And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent." John 17:3

Our duty to the state is to obey its laws and to pray for its leaders.

"First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone, for kings and all who are in high positions, so that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and dignity. This is right and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires everyone to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth." 1 Timothy 2:1-4

One of the state's laws relates to elections; so Christians are no different in this regard from other citizens: we have a duty to vote. We can try to vote for candidates who support life and oppose abortion; however, it is not beyond some candidates to manipulate these issues as well. Our Church teaches us that we are to employ our minds and hearts and vote the best we can according to our conscience. We are no longer in the days when clergy reminded people that heaven was blue and hell was red in reference to the colors of the two major parties of the day. To the best of their ability, citizens need to hold accountable those who stand for public office, are elected, and carry the mantle and burden of authority and public service.

When we cannot find candidates who are on record for supporting life, we can prick their consciences by writing them with all due respect and kindness, to try to open up dialogue on these issues. We can become a catalyst for change for the good.

Some will cancel their vote when they find no pro-life candidate; while others will vote for the lesser of possible evils. No one can or should dictate such outcomes, in my opinion. The Catechism of the Catholic Church offers common sense guidelines to assist the faithful in their deliberations before voting in public elections. When there are no other options, it may be reasonable to vote for the lesser of possible evils in accord with the short list of available candidates.

From what we can see here in Canada, our southern neighbor, the American Church, has been much more aggressive in dictating to the consciences of the faithful, going so far as to excommunicate RC politicians who voted for abortion services, just to give one example. However, the general failure of the American episcopate to properly manage the clergy sex abuse has now had an adverse effect on the consciences of the general population, both Catholic and non-Catholic. The more strident the clergy have been against abortion, the more people are losing respect for that voice.

The role of the clergy is to accompany people and help them form their conscience, not to try to manipulate public behavior and policy with "moral strong arm tactics". Jesus did not come into our world to initiate "power plays" either in secular government or in religious leadership. Rather, Jesus came to appeal to individual consciences to welcome his Father's love and turn away from evil.

We need to take our cues from the Master. Jesus Christ is risen from the dead, simultaneously sitting at the Father's right hand and dwelling among us here on Earth. He is King of the nations. He is the only Saviour and Redeemer of mankind, the beloved Son of the Father, and the Father's command to us is: "Listen to his voice."