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Saturday, November 21, 2020

Even children are impelled by the Holy Spirit to go out with Jesus as missionary disciples



We had a wonderful "Parish Vitality" conference today... thanks be to God the Father, Jesus Our Lord, and the Holy Spirit, guiding us.... Archbishop of Gatineau Paul-André Durocher gave us a wonderful conference based on his 2019 book "Called By Name, Sent in His Name: Reflections on an Outward-Bound Church." 

A lovely couple in a local family movement group are parents of a six-year-old girl. She is so enthusiastic about God: the Father and Jesus and the Holy Spirit; that she has been talking about God with her classmates at school. However she has been distressed with meeting fierce opposition from kids her age who disagreed with her in various ways about Jesus, saying to her: no he isn't real, or he never existed, or he isn't God, or you're stupid, and so on. 

This little girl definitely has a fiery relationship with God the Father in Jesus and is filled with burning divine love in the Holy Spirit according to her age, but she isn't yet fully "aware" of this in herself. As a result she has not yet learned how to "let God shine" through her and simply share her joy in peace and love which she knows she is receiving from God. 

Sooner or later most Catholic Christian parents will experience something similar with their children, either in their childhood or teenage or young adulthood; whenever their offspring become "taken up" with divine love in their own relationship with God. The challenge of this girl's parents at present is to coach her and help her understand that she is radiant, filled with the presence and the love of God; that because of God's presence she is never alone, but God is always with her, the Most Holy Trinity.

It is not her "job" to convince anyone; so she doesn't need to argue with her classmates who disagree with her, or to contradict or disprove what they say to her to oppose or rebut her. All she has to do is to continue to remain close to God, let God fill her with divine love, and be radiant: sharing with anyone who wants to listen how she knows Jesus and how she knows that she is loved by God the Father and by Jesus and by the Holy Spirit... of course, in accord with her age and ability to understand and to express what she already knows, feels, and experiences of God and his love for her and her family. 

This child's faith is authentic. Seeing her parents regularly go to confession, now at the age of six she asked to also have a confession, outside of and in advance of her preparation process in her parish. She wanted to meet Jesus in this way now and did not want to wait any longer. Her parents were supportive, knowing that she understands and was making a serious request. Thankfully they are connected to a priest who knows the family and was willing to welcome the child, to listen to her, and to see whether indeed she was ready to meet Jesus in Reconciliation; which she experienced as a great joy.

There are undoubtedly other children out there who, like this little girl, have many such experiences of Jesus and the Father and the Holy Spirit. Any who are impelled by the Holy Spirit to "go out" to others need to be coached; so they can simply relate their experiences with others. The "divine fire" wants to communicate itself to others, but if it is "covered up and jealously guarded" for too long, or the young are discouraged from sharing their faith out of the fear of the parents regarding potential opposition or persecution; then the winds of opposition will eventually threaten to snuff it out.

In the case of this little girl, if any of her classmates show interest and desire to also experience what she has experienced; then she can propose simple ways for them to open themselves up, to pray and call on God on their own as well as by praying together. Her parents and other disciple families they know can help her to learn how to pray with others and, if they are interested and want help, to lead them by the hand and introduce them to the Most Holy Trinity; knowing that God always does the rest and enters into a personal relationship with those who want this and are well disposed. She also needs to realize that God always remains mysterious to human beings in spite of the graced interior experiences of "light, warmth, presence, peace, love, and joy." It is right and good that God, the Divine Being, remains mysterious; after all, we remain mysterious to ourselves our whole life long. 

In a nutshell, I relate this experience of a six-year-old missionary disciple to illustrate one of our greatest challenges as a missionary Church, which is to put in place ways, means, and people to offer coaching in very practical ways to help people in their desire to actually "go out" to others and let the Most Holy Trinity "shine divine light" through them to others. It is crucial to coach enthusiastic disciples in their outreach; lest strong and protracted opposition snuff out their fiery flame of love and zeal for God. Too many such flames have already been snuffed out, but the Holy Spirit is ever ready and eager to fan the flames into a blazing divine fire within them once again.

Decades ago missionaries in India were told by devout Catholics that - although they were following Jesus - they were still going to Hindu or Buddhist gurus because they taught and coached people "how to pray"; whereas the missionaries did not do any of that but tended to focus only on liturgy, catechesis, sacraments, and works of mercy for social justice. This remains one of our greatest challenges and explains in part why our people have become "formed" over centuries NOT to GO OUT to others but only COME IN to their church for nourishment.... As Jesus sent out his disciples "two by two"; so we also need to provide for disciples to have "company on the road" of faith. 

The captain of the Titanic realized more than ever and to a tragic degree how difficult it is to turn a large ship on the ocean; so likewise is it difficult now for us to change our personal and ecclesial ways of being and doing. However, we are "in the yoke" with Jesus and, by the will of the Father, it is Jesus and the Holy Spirit who "do the heavy lifting". All we need to do is to "get with the program" and offer God our weakness, fragility, sinfulness, resistance, and fear, and the Lord will continue his work of transformation in and through us; that God may be glorified in each and every one of us, our families, and our parish faith communities. Like Peter, if we want to "walk on the water", Jesus will say "Come!" We are called to "make that leap of faith and trust."

Peace to one and all and to your families.

                                                   Pax + Caritas,       Fr. Gilles

Thursday, October 22, 2020

The Pharisees, Sadducees, Scribes, and Lawyers are at it again, only this time, instead of going after Jesus it's Pope Francis!

The nitpickers are at it again. This time it's articles covering the launch of a new Italian film on Pope Francis called "Francesco"; only it's not about him but about the many troubles and issues in the world about which Pope Francis cares a great deal such as: "the environment, poverty, migration, racial and income inequality, and the people most affected by discrimination". He cares about these issues because he cares about people; as well he should as Pope and as well we should, especially those of us who claim to be Christian.

I don't know about you but I for one am becoming not a little irritated at all those apparently so eager or taking such pleasure in attacking Pope Francis because he doesn't go through a litany of condemnations against every human evil imaginable - especially these people's pet peeves regarding "sexual sins" every time he opens his mouth. For people with this mindset everything has got to be black and white. They would have been the first to throw stones at the woman caught in the very act of adultery that the religious leaders brought to Jesus to trap him up over what to do with her. John 8 

The Mosaic Law was abundantly clear: such people must be stoned to death; however, not only the woman but also the man. Where was the man? If they caught her "in the very act of adultery" then there must have been a man. Why did they only bring the woman to Jesus? No doubt that the "one" who caught her in the act was the man himself, but on perceiving that one or more witnesses were about to catch them he decided to switch roles to that of accuser. 

Why did the woman not denounce him? Probably because women are more loving than men generally and it appears she chose to face the accusations alone rather than implicate him. Typical feminine selflessness versus typical male selfishness, and we know what the outcome would have been had Jesus not outsmarted the religious leaders who took on the role of Satan, "the accuser of mankind". 

If Jesus knew that one of those accusers was probably the man who committed adultery with her, since Jesus could read people's minds and hearts, why then did He not denounce the man? Instead he just "wrote in the dirt with his finger".... You see what God is like? He doesn't accuse; rather He gives us time to realize our fault so we can have the credit of changing our own mind and heart. John tells that the men - probably reluctantly because they were looking forward to making and example of the woman and stoning her to death - slowly dropped their stones and walked away, beginning with the eldest. Why the eldest? Because they had lived long enough to have realized by now that they were sinners too; whereas the younger men may still have needed to learn this hard lesson. It is much easier to accuse others than to admit our own sins. The truth is very painful; which is why God is so gentle. 

Well the religious leaders were furious with Jesus showing this woman gentleness and mercy, even forgiving her sins, and letting her go in peace. Why did these religious leaders have Jesus killed? Because he had the temerity to act friendly with known sinners when, in their view, he should have been accusing and condemning them. The ones who are most eager to insist on the full measure of the Law being carried out are generally the ones who have the most to hide; so they try to appear just and righteous themselves in the eyes of others by becoming the loudest accusers. 

So what as Pope Francis big "crime" this time? It wasn't even anything recent that he said or did, but a remark he made over a year ago in an recorded interview which didn't get televised at the time. This time for the sake of the film "Francesco", since the issue of homosexual unions came up, they used that bit of recorded interview. Here's what he said: "Homosexual people have the right to be in a family. They are children of God... You can't kick someone out of a family, nor make their life miserable for this. What we have to have is a civil union law; that way they are legally covered." 

What is so terribly wrong about what Pope Francis said in that previous interview? Those who attack Pope Francis do so because they can't stand the possibility that anyone might "be getting away with anything"... perhaps they might want "to get away with some things" but if they can't; then they don't want anyone else "to get away with anything" either. I won't go so far as to insinuate that Pope Francis' accusers are hypocrites, but it appears they would want the Pope - every time he opens his mouth - to rime off a list of condemnations of people who do all the things that they find bothersome. 

There were times in the past when the Church was a lot heavier on the "accusing and condemning" side of things. At the Second Vatican Council, the Holy Spirit reminded the Church that Jesus came to bring the Good News that: 

"Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. God so loved the world that He gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Those who believe in him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed. But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God." John 3:14-21 

As a result, since Vatican II the Roman Catholic Church has been rediscovering how to carry on the mission entrusted to her by Jesus, namely, to proclaim the Good News that we are to repent because the Kingdom of God is at hand. As Mark reported it in 1:15, Jesus went about declaring: "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news." Now Jesus did continue to proclaim this Good News in many ways, mostly be telling parables. Why did He do that? Because He knew, as his Father in Heaven knows, that we're a wretched bunch of sinners and we're generally not ready to repent completely... we need more time... until the day when our time is up.

Jesus never went around grabbing people by the scruff of the neck to yell into their faces: "Hey you! Don't you know what you're doing is wrong... it's against THE LAW! You're breaking one or more of the ten commandments; so STOP IT!" Jesus never does that... Satan is the one who goes around accusing everyone. Check out the Book of Job and you will find that it is Satan who does the accusing. 

You might turn around and argue that Jesus did accuse the religious leaders... so what about that? Yes, Jesus did accuse them, but only because they were HYPOCRITES who pretended to observe the Law so that people would admire them, but in their hearts, they didn't really love God and they hated their neighbours and had nothing but contempt for the poor and those who manifested some external signs that they might be in a sinful condition, or at least that they weren't observing the whole Law.

As if that wasn't bad enough, these Pharisees and Sadducees, Scribes and Lawyers made sure to impose the full weight of the Law on the people, especially on the poor and wretched whose hard lives made it impossible for them to keep the whole Law, and they refused to lift a finger to do anything to try to alleviate these burdens on God's people. Well their behaviour really stirred up in Jesus the wrath of God because He is a jealous God out of love and tenderness for his people, much like a mother springs to action whenever her children are threatened with harm. 

Saul was a Pharisee just like the ones who had Jesus killed and he fully approved and supported the stoning of the Deacon Stephen, our first Christian martyr. Saul went on a rampage to wipe out all the Christians he could lay his hands on until Jesus stopped him in his tracks. Once Jesus appeared to Saint Paul and he realized the error of his way of thinking. From then on, Paul preached it is impossible for us to make ourselves just before God by attempting to keep the whole Law. The Good News that Jesus brought is that God offers to CONSIDER US JUST if only we are willing to believe in Jesus his Son and to admit our sinfulness and poverty and do our best to accept his grace to repent, to change our lives, to turn away from our sinful ways and try to live as children of God. 

How do children of God behave? Jesus commanded us to love God with our whole self and to love our neighbor as our self. He even went further and commanded us: "Love your enemies and do good to those who hate you." Luke 6:27 Well, we certainly aren't loving our neighbor or our enemies by going around trying to "pin the tail on the donkey" for everyone who may behave in ways we don't approve or in ways we consider contrary to THE LAW.

Pope Francis' many accusers just can't stand it when he makes statements like the one he said on a plane 3 or 4 years ago in answer to a question from a journalist about homosexual unions: "Who am I to judge?" That one really sticks in their craw because they want CONDEMNATIONS. Actually Pope Francis' stance in the face of homosexuals or anyone else who may or may not be in a state of sin is the correct stance we should all adopt. Only God has the competence and clarity of vision to judge justly and mercifully. Of course society must have laws and police and courts and judges for the sake of a minimum of law and order. Check out what Saint Paul wrote to the Romans about judging (Rm 2).

However, when it comes to sexual morality, it's not only sexual behaviours that God would take into consideration but also the lives that people are living. Let's put it this way. A married man who has violent sexual relations with his wife, in effect raping her every time, will be judged far more harshly that two men or two women who are in a long term civil union by which they care for each other with tenderness and do their best to live good lives and possibly raise their children. 

No one is condoning expressions of human sexuality that are in discord with God's plan for marriage; however, when God looks at us, He doesn't only see our behaviour, but He looks deeply into our mind, heart, and soul as well as our body. Only God is competent and qualified to judge. We are not to compare ourselves to others or our behaviour to theirs; rather, we are to compare ourselves to Jesus, who is our model. 

Take another example. One day the religious leaders disputed with Jesus over what authority he was claiming by teaching the things He taught. He replied with a question of his own, but they refused to answer; so Jesus told them that tax collectors and prostitutes were entering the kingdom of heaven ahead of them. That really stuck in their craw. 

Jesus said to them, “I will also ask you one question; if you tell me the answer, then I will also tell you by what authority I do these things. Did the baptism of John come from heaven, or was it of human origin?” And they argued with one another, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say to us, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ But if we say, ‘Of human origin,’ we are afraid of the crowd; for all regard John as a prophet.” So they answered Jesus, “We do not know.” And he said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.“Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him; and even after you saw it, you did not change your minds and believe him." Matthew 21:23-27, 31-32 

Another dimension overlooked by Pope Francis' accusers is that our human society, humanity, isn't identical to the Kingdom of God. Our society is not a theocracy with God as King and everyone on Earth as subjects. Yes, we Christians believe that Jesus is in truth King of the Universe, but not all human beings know or accept that truth yet. Jesus is not the kind of King who goes around clobbering anyone who doesn't kneel down on sight. Remember how He behaved on the day He died? He went quietly, not shouting, not defending himself, quietly, like a Lamb to the slaughter. He loved even his accusers and tormentors and refused to raise his voice against them; letting them have as much time as possible to come to their senses on their own and realize what they had done. 

Islamic countries that abide by Sharia Law from the Qu'ran are in effect theocracies, societies regulated by religious law. If you are caught stealing, they cut off your hand. If you do it again they cut off your foot, and so on. Perhaps Pope Francis' accusers would want him to do something along those lines and condemn all the people whose behaviours these accusers don't like. These are not the Lord's ways.

Pope Francis is teaching us that civil society must have its laws for the common good. Under those laws he said that it would be good for two men or two women living together to have a civil union; so that they would be "covered" by civil law, like everyone else who tries to establish and live in a family. 

Those of us who claim to be Christians and try to follow Jesus and live as children of God live by a different set of "rules" which are actually more demanding. Jesus came to fulfill the Law by raising it to a higher standard: "Love one another as I have loved you." Are we ready to lay down our lives for those in homosexual households? Or for our enemies? Jesus did. He laid down his life for us, and we're all a pretty rough and tumble bunch of hard-hearted sinners. It's difficult to follow Jesus, in fact, it's humanly impossible; which is why we need to be filled with the Holy Spirit. We cannot save ourselves, but we can accept Jesus as our Saviour, confess our sins daily, and allow the Holy Spirit to fill us and makes us every day a little more like Jesus, a little more like Pope Francis! 

Monday, September 21, 2020

The Covid-19 Pandemic - an excuse to strangle the practice of religion?

Thursday, September 24th - 6:40 p.m. 

So the meeting will be tomorrow between the reps of the Table Interreligieuse du Québec and the Directeur de la Santé Publique. You know, we many not often say it, but we consistently pray for our governors, for those who hold public office and serve the common good. Well should we pray for them for their burdens of responsibility are often very heavy when they are not crushing. Saint Paul made it clear that, while we have been given a true belonging to the Kingdom of God initiated by Jesus; we nevertheless live in this world and for this reason we have a serious burden of responsibility to daily pray for those who govern us, our families and our communities. So, if you haven't already been doing it, please, join us in praying with sincere minds and enthusiastic hearts for the health, prosperity, and wisdom of our governors and the welfare of their families, not only tonight and tomorrow, but every day let us heartily pray for our political leaders and civil servants in our city, province, and nation. Peace to you and your families. 

Wednesday, September 23rd - 4:20 p.m. 

Well, many people have used up considerable quantities of ink and saliva these past few days about all these developments here in Québec. Finally, there is to be on Friday a meeting of the director of public health in Québec with representatives of the interreligious table in Québec. This will be the first time that a member of our provincial government will exchange words directly with representatives of the R.C. Church in Québec, the AEQ, the Assembly of Bishops of Québec since I don't know when, at least in the last six months. Yet, as Cardinal Lacroix recently explained, since the beginning of the outbreak of the Pandemic in Québec the bishops have tried to speak directly with the government but without success, without so much as a reply to their calls, and messages, and all attempts to communicate.

The proof came a few days ago with the government's unilateral decision to reduce the limit of the number of people to be allowed to gather for religious services from 250 to 50 and in orange zone to 25 despite the fact that until now no case of infection or contagion has been documented as a result of church Sunday services anywhere in Quebec in any of our churches. If the government had taken into account the actual measures in fact put into place everywhere in Québec in all of our churches they would have realized that there continues to be no danger of propagation in our churches themselves. For them to take it out on the churches and Sunday gatherings is a flagrant injustice and frankly a decision that is incomprehensible.

We acknowledge with gratitude the sense of social responsibility demonstrated by our government since the beginning of the outbreak of the Covid-19 Pandemic in Quebec. We listened and watched with great interest and assiduity the daily televised conferences by the director of public health and his colleauges. We sympathize with the social pressure that once again weighs heavily on their shoulders and wish to continue to support them as responsible partners. Besides, the bishops and all our churches were among the first to not only follow the public health protocols but in some instances we even anticipated them or surpassed them.

We call on our governors to target the actual active hot spots of contagion of the virus. If there is some concern over spontaneous gatherings that might take place after certain religious events; well then let's target those and leave Sunday services alone. None of our churches have had after Mass coffee since before the Pandemic outbreak. Since March our churches have actually forbidden such gatherings as those that might take place after Baptisms, weddings, funerals, Confirmations, first Confession, first Communion, and so on. Until recently these religious events were indefinitely postponed.

So since March there have been no such gatherings neither in our churches nor in our halls or even outside, neither planned nor spontaneously. Until the recent deconfinement our churches rather looked like places haunted only by ghosts where only priests, a few staff and volunteers dared to venture in order to set up and transmit on social media a Sunday or weekday Mass. As for the deconfinement itself, it was done gradually to the point that some churches still haven't reopened. We have only just begun in some places to plan for and allow funerals, weddings, and other sacraments. In any event, whenever such events are held it is always with rigorous implementation of public health protocols.

Furthermore, each person welcomed into our churches are met by carefully formed volunteers who assure they sanitize their hands and then explain to them where to go and how to maintain social distancing and keeping on their mask at all times while moving about or replying to the few dialogues during the Liturgy, walking in the aisles only in the direction indicated by the arrows on the floor, avoiding the closed benches, only members of the same household being able to sit together, and so on. 

Unlike bars and brasseries and restaurants, our churches don't welcome people who just spontaneously decide to go or who plan to go once in a while. Sunday Mass is an obligation and a necessity of faith for catholic christians because it is an integral part of their life as believers, as it is no doubt also for those who are believers in other religious traditions. The practice of the faith is not a private activity for our citizens but it is an integral part of their social life and of their belonging to our society. Any and all actions which forbid or render impossible the practice of the faith is a serious prejudice against the human and civil rights of every citizen. 

We sincerely and energetically want to cooperate with our governors, but please no longer take any measures which would have as direct effect making it impossible for citizens to practice their faith and, by the same token, strangle to death our churches instead of properly targetting the actual hot spots of the virus and its propagation.

Monday, September 21st, 2020 - 7:12 p.m. Montreal. Greetings dear Reader. By now you are no doubt aware of the measures taken yesterday and today to put severe restrictions on religious assemblies all over the province. This morning, in a state of shock, I first wrote my reflections in French on my blogue of that language in order to give expression to the anger if not rage that I felt under the effects of that shock. 

Before I give free rein to my thoughts in English, you may want to read - if you haven't already done so - the media statement of the Assembly of Québec Bishops - AEQ - released this morning. It catches the general sense of grave injustice created by the public health's severe restrictions on religious assemblies just published and intended to take immediate effect. Practically speaking, the Bishops of Québec are united in declaring that no changes will be made by any of the churches under their jurisdiction in the direction of further restrictions. They are quite satisfied with the already sufficiently drastic health measures that have so carefully been put into practice in all their churches; that they deem no further restrictions are necessary and that the hot spots of contagion are to be found elsewhere than in churches.

First, before going any further, let it be eminently clear that we generally are extremely grateful to our governments at all levels, to all our public servants, and to all those at the service of the general population for their devoted service and considerable efforts in promoting and defending the common good and the good health of all citizens in this land. We especially wish to thank and affirm the various agents of the public health system and the provincial leadership for public health for their untiring efforts since the outbreak of this Pandemic in Québec. To all of you, and you know who you are, THANK YOU! 

However, the fact remains that this latest policy of the public health leadership to further restrict religious assemblies throughout the province is a glaring act of public injustice to the point of being scandalous! 

Consider for a moment the general behaviour of citizens in our western democratic societies. Where do you expect to find the greatest contempt for the regulations published by public health authorities? In bars and brasseries or in churches, synagogues, and mosques? After sports events at the emptying of arenas or after religious services at the emptying of places of worship? I have nothing against bars and brasseries or sports arenas and fields as such, having frequented such establishments and places myself.

The fact remains that no emptying of a church has generated riots in which crowds smash windows and loot businesses as has happened more than once in this city after Canadiens' hockey games. No religious service in western religious traditions keeps people in worship longer than around 60 minutes, unlike the 1 to 3 hours people will generally spend in a bar or brasserie or sports event. No one leaving a place of worship after attending and participating in religious worship is at risk to leave intoxicated or in any other way debilitated or likely to pose a threat to public order and security.

Since the start of the Pandemic and the subsequent deconfinement you will no longer see gatherings around the coffee urn to chat and share news in the parish hall - there are no longer any spontaneous gatherings - in contrast to the many liberties taken by many citizens all over the province on sports fields and in all kinds of scheduled, planned and spontaneous events, coinciding with the upspike in cases of Covid-19 infections in Québec. In fact our religious leaders are still laboring over when and how to permit funerals, weddings, baptisms and other ESSENTIAL religious celebrations in the lives of people whose only "crime" is to have the audacity to have no choice but be different from general trends by wanting to practice their faith and religion.

I will be so bold as to declare my sincere belief that no gathering of citizens has imposed the public health measures with more rigour than the religious gatherings for worship of God in our churches since the beginning of the deconfinement: sterilization of hands on entering and leaving and before receiving Holy Communion; wearing of the mask during the entire celebration except for consuming the host; social distancing in the pews and also while moving around; no boiserous singing but only muted singing behind the mask; and no touching of others at the sign of peace. In short, worship has become very muted and subdued in comparison to before the Pandemic. 

A dear friend of mine is on the organizing committee of a Protestant church and, early on before the actual deconfinement was fully implemented everywhere, asked me to send him the protocols drawn up by the Diocese of Montreal, knowing as he did from experience how thorough and stringent our leaders have been in the past and continue to be today; even to the point of going beyond what is expected. He knew that with our protocols his local church would be ahead of the game and find itself well placed to put into place their own protocols for deconfinement.

As for Catholic parishes in the Diocese of Montreal, I have heard that some churches allow people to remove their mask while seated quietly in their pew, knowing full well that some people - especially the elderly but also those with respiratory restrictions - will breathe more easily without their mask. The only condition very clearly explained and enforced is that people put their mask back on for speaking their parts of the few dialogues during the service and before moving out of their pew for Communion or to otherwise move around.

From the sanctuary, very well distanced from the assembly, the priest, deacon if any, the reader(s), and singer remove their mask in order to be heard and then put it back on especially when about to move towards others, such as for the distribution of Holy Communion.

Altar servers have been banished from the sanctuary altogether and the priest alone prepares the offerings and accessories at the altar, first washing his hands before touching anything. The hosts to be distributed as Holy Communion after the consecration are placed before Mass at the end of the altar and far from where the priest will be standing; so that his breath will be a good meter away and not land on them. 

Despite all these measures carefully and strictly observed in our churches, in the past 24 hours or so civil authorities to all appearances casually targetted religious institutions as though churches and other places of worship had been deemed to be burning furnaces of contagion and the hotbeds of irresponsible and revolutionary behaviours. Where are the reports of misdemeanours on the part of any churches which supposedly might have failed to observe the protocols of public health? Where are the facts concerning the infection of members of churches or their personnel or volunteers? Which are those churches that, if they had cases of infection among their members or personnel or volunteers did not immediately put them in quarantine? Where are the data to substantiate this drastic claw back in deconfinement drastically reducing the limits for religious assemblies from 250 to 50 and even 25?

This situation is simply illogical. How are we to understand these restrictive measures targetting with no proven justification all places of religious worship without showing any effort to report facts and draw intelligent conclusions? Is there actual medical surveillance evidence clearly identifying churches as hotbeds of contagion? If not, then on what basis have these restrictive measures been taken? Could there be some hidden, even dark, agenda at work, perhaps even without the overt knowledge of the civil authorities or perhaps subconsciously determined to target and strangle the very practice of religion as such? Such an agenda would be dark indeed.

One can understand and grant how people for whom the practice of religion might be strange and incomprehensible could in their eyes see the practice of religion as a relic from the past when humanity was given to ignorance and superstition. It may even be that for such a person the practice of religion as such might be considered a dangerous rival to the institution of government for the attention of the population. In other words, certain people might conceive of the practice of religion as a threatening competitor for power in society, or even as an obstacle to governance, as a sort of threat to the effective unfolding of political and social power to govern. 

Notwithstanding some historical social abuses often quoted by the opponents of religion - and these aberrations were for the most part abuses that took place in the political and economic spheres when populations looked to church leaders to protect them from the excesses of exploitation by kings and princes and emperors - the historical record in fact shows that in Christianity - especially in Catholic Christianity - nothing could be further from the truth. Of course wherever you have people you will find differences of opinion. 

However, the fact remains that people who legitimately practice their religion - not those who simply claim to do so while practicing all manner of crime and abuse and violence while claiming to do so in the name of the deity - but those who are actually practicing their religion, and most especially those who are following Jesus and putting into practice his teachings and commands; well, such people are generally among the first to serve public order and peace. Many such people gave their lives during the declared wars of the 20th century and many of their names adorn memorials on the walls of their places of worship. 

We who are citizens of our country here would therefore we well situated to expect from those who hold power and govern the common good to take into account all these facts, the actual facts, and the actual behaviour of all those who continue to have the audacity to practice their faith and religion. Let them abstain from "taking it out on" and targetting religious assemblies of worship in what can only appear to be a vain and misguided attempt to contain the latest new outbreaks of Covid-19 infection. 

The actual causes of new cases of infection are most certainly to be found anywhere else than in our churches on Sunday mornings or Saturday afternoons or even during the week. I cannot speak for synagogues and mosques, but I suspect that their leaders and members could probably have the same assurance. So please, stop picking so randomly and unjustly on your fellow citizens who have the audacity and temerity to insist on practicing their faith and religion.

Here was the end of my first reflection in French this morning. Then, after a good lunch, conversation with fellow residents, and the opportunity to "take a step back", I added a few more thoughts which follow here below.

13:45... having taken a step back...

 If you don't already know it, dear Reader, please let me assure you that we Catholic Christians are pacifists. This morning while still in shock I wrote my consternation at these sudden restrictive measures specifically targetting churches and other places of religious worship. Failing the presentation of any factual evidence to support such restrictions which the public authorities could very well have provided, I could only ask myself a great number of questions on what possible motives might have spawned these drastic measures. 

Normally, the Catholic Christian outlook will give the benefit of the doubt when trying to understand the perplexing behaviour of others before questioning their intentions. At this point there appears to be no reason to believe that the cause is ignorance regarding the reality or identity or nature or behaviours of those folks who dare to practice their faith and religion. 

Having put aside ignorance, at this point we might also put aside malice as potential motivation for these restrictive measures; that is, the deliberate intention of strangling the civil rights of ordinary folks who dare to practice their faith and religion. 

So if it isn't ignorance or malice, one might conceive of unconsciousness or forgetfulness. It could just be an error of perspective, since churches are so many and so different one from the other. Under normal circumstances churches would welcome anywhere from 25 to over 1,000 people at any one time for a single religious service. This might cause churches as such to be a general category that might be difficult to define without giving it greater attention, observation, time, and care. One could see how it might seem easier when under great pressure to just sweep them all away with a single stroke, and "BAM!" Let's impose more restrictions on them all.

Now, without passing judgment on anyone's intentions, the fact remains that these sudden new restrictions  on assemblies for the purpose of religious worship remain incomprehensible, unjust, negatively discriminatory, and indefensible. They are nothing short of a public scandal. However, as it is a normal faculty of human beings to make mistakes from time to time; one can expect institutions governed by human beings to also make mistakes.

For this reason, we fully expect the public health authority to realize the unintended effects of these sudden and baseless restrictions to limit the number of people to be admitted to worship assemblies, and that it is highly desirable to rescind these new restrictions as soon as possible, even before we get to the days for worship this coming weekend: Friday for Muslims, Saturday for Jews, and Saturday afternoon and Sunday for Christians.

Here then is a sincere and good hearted plea to all levels of our public health institutions and all of their leaders - particularly at the provincial level - to make a public show of wisdom and solidarity with all of their fellow citizens who dare to practice their faith and religion and whose only "crime" is to insist on practicing their faith and religion publicly and not merely in the privacy of their homes. 

To retract these measures publicly will in no way be an admission of weakness on the part of public health authorities, but on the contrary, will be plainly seen as evidence of wisdom and humility, those qualities that are without doubt most desirable for every person at the service of the general population. Your public stature in our eyes will not be diminished in doing so, but on the contrary, will be greatly enhanced.

Wednesday, September 09, 2020

How can high level bankers and financiers hold their heads high in public?

I thought I'd open a savings account today until I received over a dozen sheets of paper, printed on both sides, from the bank with more fine print than it would take a lawyer to figure out. When I got to the tables indicating the interest rates, at first it looked really good. If I could manage to put together $5,000 I'd get 5% interest per year, which nowadays is pretty good, right? It seemed too good to be true; so I looked more closely and discovered that, in fact, that was too good to be true.

What is really being offered is 0.05% on a balance of over $5,000. That works out to 5 hundreths of one percent, or, to be even clearer, 5 ten thousandths. So for $5,000 that would amount to total interest per year of $2.50. I had to double check with the calculator, and sure enough, multiply 5,000 by 0.05% and that is what you get, $2.50.

It's a joke. The high level bankers are playing with the hard-earned money of the entire population of our countries and making record-breaking profits - I hate to think of how they must be treating their employees - and giving us just about nothing in return, except perhaps some security and guarantee against robbery and fraud. These past decades, banks have made insane profits, which may explain the foolhardiness with which they made speculative investments, some of which caused the financial crisis of 2007-2008. Those who made and promoted those risky investiments obviously didn't care about the people whose money they WERE PLAYING WITH. It was all about GREED and CAREERISM. 

The next step we might anticipate is that banks'll try to convince us that we should PAY THEM for the privilege of allowing them to play with our money, our hard-earned savings. That would be the limit. 

All that is because our entire financial and economic system is based on the principle of debt and credit. When you start out in life you have all your potential before you: youth, strength, ability to learn, ability and willingness to apply yourself to tasks and jobs, and much more. In the eyes of our financial and economic system, all of that - all of YOU - is worth NOTHING.

You have to take out a loan, to apply for credit, in order to have any value at all, and your value is only as much as you OWE. It's a new or old form of slavery which defines your worth by what value you have to the one who holds over you a debt. That is as close a definition of slavery as I can think of, with the exception of freedom of movement and of speech; although in many places these are limited as well. 

I recall reading somewhere that when industrialists and capitalists of the industrial revolution first offered salaries to workers - a specific wage for a specific duration of time worked - that citizens generally balked at the offer. They were actually offended because common sense told them that this arrangement was nothing more than a volunary form of slavery because their time would no longer be their own and they would, in effect, belong to the owners for the duration of their work period.

In actual fact, initially and for a number of decades, working conditions grew increasingly horrendous as capitalist industrialist owners of factories put the "squeeze" on workers to extract as much labor and output from them as they possibly could for as little remuneration as they could get away with in return. Typical factory, store, and restaurant workers in the early decades of the 20th century would work six days at 10 to 12 hours a day for $7 a week. It often cost them $6 a week to share a bed with other workers, which left them with only $1 a week to eat, clothe themselves, and buy medicine. Many poor women who were single parents had to "sell" themselves in order to feed their children. 

Original catholic activists like Dorothy Day and Catherine Doherty cried out loud on behalf of the poor. even embarrassing Church leaders - bishops and pastors - to finally come to recognize that the Church was doing NOTHING for the poor and poor workers. Before and after the "Great Crash" of 1929 there was nothing like health care, employment insurance, social welfare, retirement funds, or even soup kitchens. At best there was only a bit of simple neighborly help by those good people willing to notice and bring some limited comfort to the trouble of their neighbours. 

The very first soup kitchens were set up by Dorothy Day at the Catholic Worker New York in 1933 and by Catherine Doherty at Friendship House in Toronto in 1931, in Ottawa in 1936, in Harlem, New York in 1938, and in Chicago in 1941. Those movements rose and fell and engendered many others as social awarness and responsibility grew in the general population of our countries and in other lands as well. 

These prophetic leaders and activists and the movements they generated arose from their faith in Jesus as the Christ, the Lord, and by prayerfully looking to Him, his life, death and resurrection; seeking from the Gospels light that could be shed on the many ethical and social issues of the day that were having deleterious impacts on the lives of the general population: war and peace, wealth and poverty, the privileges of the rich and powerful versus the constraints on the poor and helpless, issues of exploitation and violence, the insensitivity of public and private institutions and of the ordinary citizen to the trials, tribulations, and suffering of the disenfranchized. 

Originally, Dorothy Day was caught up with the work, writings, speeches, and public manifestations by communist and socialist activists, but she shortly experienced a religious conversion and from then on she followed none other than Jesus Christ. Such as the faith and motivation of Catherine Doherty, who unlike Dorothy, followed Jesus Christ from her childhood. Having experienced the "downside" of communism in Russia from 1917 to 1920, Catherine strove all her life to bring the Gospel to bear on the troubles of the poor and oppressed in order to bring a better light to bear on their lives than anything that communists and socialists might claim to bring. 

Catherine read what the popes had been writing since the beginning of the industrial revolution about the plight of exploited workers and she won the approval of popes she met who encouraged her to persevere in her labours. Pope Paul VI even said to her that on her and her work and others like her depended the survival and progress of the Church herself. That is why she became such a thorn in the sides of bishops, cardinals, and priests who had not caught up to the rapidly deteriorating living conditions of ordinary people from the mid-1800's to the mid-1900's. It took time, but church people increasingly became aware and mobilized into action for the poor and dispossessed of the Earth. 

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Health Care - in Canada: Medical Care Act of 1966 - in Saskatchewan 1st provincial hospitalization plan in 1957 - in U.S.A. teachers set up first plan in Texas in 1929; Blue Cross began in 1936 and Blue Shield in 1939; Medicare and Medicaid came in 1965

Employment Insurance - in Canada: Unemployment Insurance Acts of 1940 and 1971 - in U.S.A. the federal-state Unemployment Insurance (UI) Program created in 1935

Social Welfare - in Canada: Social Welfare created in 1940's; in Québec in 1958; in Ontario the first step was the Workmen's Compensation Act of 1914 for destitute persons over 70 - in U.S.A. the National Welfare system was created in 1935; from 1910 to 1915 32 states enacted workers' compensation insurance 

Retirement Programs - in Canada: the Registered Retirement Annuity was created in 1957; followed by the Canada Pension Plan in 1965 by Lester B. Pearson - in U.S.A. the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad established in 1884 the first pension plan by a major employer (at 65 workers for 10+ years could retire for 20 to 35% of wages; in 1875 American Express created the first private pension plan for the elderly and disabled; by 1926 there were around 200 private pensions by larger employers. Plans continued to develop in the 1900's but less and less employers offered them since the 1990's. The U.S.A. never developed a country-wide pension plan, reflecting its capitalist foundations and principles. It's every man for himself and every woman for herself. You don't plan, you don't get. 

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We have forgotten the original reasons why people were willing to suffer brutality at the hands of police called by the capitalists when workers began to demonstrate in order to convince fellow workers to unite and form unions. They desperately wanted to win the authority to negotiate with the capitalist owners on behalf of the workers in order to seek better hours, safer working conditions, and better pay.

Human nature being what it is, many unions developed into caricatures of what they were originally intended and designed to be, trying to control plants and production and to dictate conditions to the owners without reference to the costs of production and the profit margins. In the past several decades many factories and businesses have closed or sold out because of unreasonable demands by unions, whose representatives lived on the union dues paid by the very workers whose jobs they destroyed. 

The best balance I have ever seen between workers, owners, and bankers is in the entirely worker owned and operated collection of companies developed originally in the Basque country of Spain in the 1950's by Catholics which has become a multinational corporation. Workers actually own the various companies and the supervisors and managers must report to them. 

Instead of companies being owned by a handful of people, who can sell the company and dismiss the workforce at any time and retire with their profits to the Caribbean, the companies are actually entirely owned, operated, and managed by the workers themselves. We're not talking about communists or socialists here, because initially these were good Catholics and I would suspect that a good number of them still are. They haven't upset political institutions but on the contrary have been the economic and social backbone of their peoples and states.

No worker loses his or her job unless they don't want to work, and they are evaluated by all the workers at general meetings. No one earns more than 5 or 6 times the one who earns the least. Their collective profits and pension funds are reinvested into more development, education, and savings. They have developed their own university, and all the towns in which they have companies and workers are doing very well because of the great benefits generated by this cooperative movement. This amazing, creative, and cooperative movement is called Mondragon Corporation. Check it out. 

Tuesday, August 04, 2020

DAY 146 of the COVID-19 WORLDWIDE PANDEMIC in 2020


Good morning sisters and brothers of Humanity on our Planet Earth in the Star System SOL.

I hope this finds you all well, and I hope that if you have rain, that you may find it soothing to listen to the rain fall.... I further hope that the following words will be soothing to any who may be feeling any kind of stress, for any reason at all, which is bound to happen to all of us from time to time....

For many years now I have come to understand in my own experience, I believe the Lord has taught me, that his ways are not our ways, as He says in the Old Testament so often to his people. One of the ways of the Lord is that He governs us under what Saint Pope John Paul II called "the law of the gift", which he liked to apply to Marriage, but it is also a universal principle eminently applicable to every dimension of our human life: God is a self-bestowing God, He gives Himself. The Father gives Himself to us through his only-begotten Son, the Son gives Himself as the human man Jesus and does so to the end on the cross and continues to give Himself now in the Holy Eucharist as well as in his being the divine "Word of God", and the Holy Spirit pours Himself into us as what Jesus called "living water".

God the Most Holy Trinity calls us to be governed by this same principle, never out of fear - see how often God says "Do not be afraid." The Word of God said this to his people whenever a heavenly messenger addressed a member of the Chose People, and Jesus also said this to his disciples and to people. We are to imitate God in the gift of self, and of course, this can only be done in freedom and with generosity, which means there can be no coercion.

I regularly have occasion to apologize, in a sense, for my enthusiasm, when this causes others to feel under pressure to be a certain way or speak a certain way or do a certain thing; which is generally very far from my intention. It is for each of us to understand that we stand freely before God and in the face of each other. One of the consequences of this is that we need to wait on one another for a response fully from freedom which in turn can allow for a movement, "un élan", an impulse of generosity, which itself generally is produced as a radiance of gratitude; gratitude for all that we have already received from this God who gives Himself so liberally, so completely, so extravagantly, and so universally.

Since the divine law which governs us is divine love, itself a process which unfolds in freedom and generosity, then we can breathe easily, and allow ourselves to open up to the three divine persons in trust, and rather than force ourselves into becoming saints, simply allow them to fill us with the Holy Spirit and gently guide us, from moment to moment and situation to situation, into living in a way by which we gradually make of our life more and more a gift of love for others, beginning with our spouse, then our children, then our immediate family of origin and our extended family, and finally to our neighbor, to the stranger, and even to any and all enemies.

If we truly love, then we do no wrong to our neighbour as Saint Paul wrote in Romans 13:10, and if we love Jesus, then we will obey his' commandments as reported in his Gospel by John in 14:15. Gratitude, love, freedom, and generosity are like a kind of spiritual dance which exists in the peace God gives and which generates divine joy. In turn these enhance the freedom, peace, and gratitude of all who observe them in others. I am very far from experiencing these in perfection, but I have tasted enough of them to know that they are true and real, and that they are precious graces from God, which are very highly desirable for ourselves and for others.

May we all be governed by these wonderful principles....

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

It may be legal, but it remains offensive

The year was 1969

Churchill Falls Labrador Corporation and Hydro-Québec signed a deal with the latter investing about half and taking the added risk of covering potential cost overruns in exchange for a long term fixed rate which, at the time, indicated no risk for the CFLCo due to the fact that energy prices in the world had been stable since 1950. It took a few years for the dam to be built and for electricity to begin to flow out, but already by then the world had dramatically changed.

The Montreal La Presse on February 16, 1971 reported the signing of an international deal initiated by OPEC, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, which - following on the Middle-East conflicts involving the State of Israel - decided to stop letting the world push them around. They had oil and the West wanted it; so they decided it was time for the West to pay the piper, as it were.

I recall seeing - from 1969 to 1972, the year that I learned to drive - the price of gasoline go from $0.29 to $0.39 and then to $0.49 for one imperial gallon. Around 1980 we went metric; so that would have been $0.064 to $0.086 to $0.108 per litre! We're talking 10 cents a litre here! Then during the '70's the price kept creeping upwards with OPEC firmly holding the reins: $0.54 per imperial gallon in 1973; $0.63 in 1974; $0.80 in 1975; $0.87 in 1977; $0.92 a gallon in 1978; and finally, in 1980, we went metric and now it was $0.296 a litre = $1.34,6 for one imperial gallon; while in the UK and Europe and even in the U.S.A. it was twice or three times that much.

Our world had radically changed in just a few years

So, while the ink on the agreement was barely dry and the electricity started flowing out of Churchill Falls, Hydro-Québec was making a mint and Churchill Falls Labrador was getting crumbs. It was a swift kick to the head and they realized they were screwed, and screwed for the next 65 years! Meanwhile, Hydro-Québec was waltzing to the bank like someone holding a humongous winning lottery ticket.

In the best of all possible worlds, either Hydro-Québec or Québec leaders or the population itself might have realized the lopsided stakes here, and someone could have taken the bull by the horns and said to Churchill Falls, "Look, I know we have a signed agreement, and we're not obligated to do any more, but, this is ridiculous. Here's what we'd like to do. You're stuck at the 1969 price which is now increasing geometrically with no sign of stopping. We have to pay back our investment, but it won't kill us to increase what you get to 10% maybe as much as 20% of whatever increases in price we get. If the price goes down, so will yours, of course." I don't know, anything along those lines would have been a civilized thing to do, a gentleman's offer and gesture, a sign that we still have some class.

But no. On the Québec side, we walked away like the proverbial lotto winner or casino winner, laughing all the way to the bank. As for the people on the other side, "f.... 'em!" "They signed just as we did; so they can live with it now." Yeah, right.

What we did is worthy of the worst rogue capitalism for which North America is known, and more especially, our immediate neighbours to the south. Just look at and listen to their leader, President Trump, and you'll see this brand of rogue capitalism at work. Any competitor is a enemy to crush to the ground so that it will never rise again.

Does this make any sense, but at all?

What about the facts?

Admittedly, without Hydro-Québec taking the risks and investing as it did, Churchill Falls would never have been built, and Newfoundland-Labrador would have nothing at all to show. So, according to the letter of the law, Hydro-Québec was and is fully entitled to a good return on their investment and proper compensation for taking the risks by assuming any potential cost overruns. It could have decided to invest on Québec territory instead. The "new Québec" after Jean Lesage's win in 1960 was only 9 years old and there was a lot of work to do to bring the province into the 20th century in many ways. Still, though, according to the CBC to Churchill Falls Labrador Corporation's $2 billion in profits, Hydro-Québec has taken in $28 billion! That's 1,400 %! That's a humongous amount of profit... no kidding!

To laugh at the other partner for a few years would be quite understandable and forgivable, but to "stick it to them" for the past 50 years and to go on "sticking it to them" until 2041 is a bit much, don't you think? Hell, we could triple their take at $6 billion and still get $24 billion for Hydro-Québec's coffers, according to those reports. That's doable. Clearly, we could do much better, which would help Newfoundlanders solve their current extreme financial crisis, and we'd still be taking in billions in PROFITS, because the price of electricity isn't showing any signs of collapsing!

How to understand this?

Clearly, the players here are not interested in being or living or acting as gentlemen. Heck, not even as people of the same species living on the same planet! It's all about making the maximum profit and to hell with everybody else.... "Hey Mom, look at how well we're doing over here!"

I have always been proud to be Canadian, proud to be a Quebecer, proud to be a Montrealer, but today, I am ashamed. I have friends in Newfoundland-Labrador, and when I see their questioning looks, I have no answer to give them, and I can only hang my head, because I have been silent for all this time in the face of a social scandal of human proportions. And this is only one of the many scandals and incongruities of our generations that we have witnessed and about which we have done little or nothing. Well, no more....

Sadly, it's past the time to wake up and smell our planet falling apart

The glaciers are melting at an exponential rate, to the point that scientists are embarrassed to make any predictions about how fast it will accelerate, but the writing is on the wall: sooner than we think, hundreds of millions of people living along ocean coasts will be flooded out and displaced. We think we've been in crisis mode with Covid-19? We haven't seen anything yet! Just wait until those millions of people cross into neighbouring countries just to survive and see what happens then....

We're like people in a rowboat on the ocean having an argument, and one guy decides to stick it to the others and punches a hole in the boat... "So there! That will show you who's boss around here!" Not so smart, as water quickly rises in the boat and the sharks circle around just on the other side...."

Even kids know all about getting along and cooperating. We were kids once and we learned that lesson, but we've forgotten it. Well, it's high time we learn it again, because time is running out. We of the human species currently occupying Planet Earth, we are in actual danger of going extinct, and it could very well happen in our lifetime; unless we wake up fast and start working together.

So, Hydro-Québec, buckle up and start talking nice to the other guys and gals

Okay, so I may be sounding naive here, right? But I'm a believer; so that means that I live primarily driven by hope. Why? Because I know that very soon we will all find ourselves standing in the presence of the Creator of the Universe, the One from whom we come and to whom we are all going, whether we believe that or not, and whether we like that or not. He is kind and gracious, but also just. He was warned us that if we are harsh to others, then we will get the same treatment. If we are kind to others, then we can expect to find kindness from Him as well.

So, Hydro, it's never too late! You can still come out of this smelling like a proverbial rose if you take the initiative and "make Churchill Falls Labrador Corp. an offer they can't refuse"... to give our good neighbors in Newfoundland-Labrador a break they sorely need and surely deserve. It's high time we do the right thing so we can look at ourselves in the mirror and, finally, not have reason to feel bad, to be ashamed of our cavalier treatment - FOR THE PAST 50 YEARS - of these good people. Yes, we took risks and were assured a good deal, but this has gone WAY, WAY, WAY beyond that. It's time.

Feel free to pass this on, to "pay it forward"

Even if we're stuck to a wheel chair and only able to type on a keyboard with the look of our eyes through an adapter, there's a lot we can each do to help make this world a little better. We can do a lot through just a few words at the right time, in the right place, to the right people.

As Pope Francis keeps saying, the Earth is our common home. So, I say, let's not treat it like a toilet, because that would mean that we are living in a toilet. Let's not treat it like a garbage dump, because that would mean that we are living in a garbage dump. Neither of those attitudes would reflect very well on us; so let's encourage one another to "rise to the occasion" and make a difference.

Check out the film "Tomorrow. Demain." to see how many people are already choosing a proactive course of action in their lives and improving the world around them for others.

Pope Francis will be receiving young people who want to make the world better be constructing an economy that puts people and our common home first, ahead of profits, and certainly not profits at all cost, even at the cost of destroying our common home. Check it out - the gathering planned for November 19-21, 2020 is being called "Economy of Francesco".

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Abortion is a failure of manhood more than a woman's choice

Are you shocked? I don't think any thinking person should be shocked by such a statement, at least no Christian or human being familiar with Christianity should find it shocking. Why is that?

From a Christian perspective on pregnancy

Today Roman Catholics and others observe the solemn memorial of the Nativity or Birth of John the Baptist. Of what significance might the birth of a baby boy two millennia ago be for humanity today?

True, his pregnancy was a pleasant surprise, even considered miraculous, because his mother Elizabeth was "getting on in years"... in other words, she was old, even elderly, well beyond child-bearing years. God had to send the Archangel Gabriel with a message for Elizabeth's husband, the priest Zechariah, while he made the offering of incense in the Temple in Jerusalem. The message is that God was granting him and his wife a favorable answer to their lifelong prayers for a child.

Because they were both beyond child-bearing years, Zechariah reacted with scepticism to the angel's message; as a result Gabriel struck him dumb until the day God's promise would be fulfilled.

When Mary, the bride of Joseph of Nazareth (they had not yet come to live together to seal their union), visited her cousin Elizabeth, who was now 6 (lunar) months pregnant, the child in Elizabeth's womb "leaped for joy" and Elizabeth was "filled with the Holy Spirit" and she proclaimed Mary blessed, for she too was now pregnant with a child by God's direct intervention.

Fine, but those women wanted to get pregnant and have a baby

True. Elizabeth had long wanted a child but was found to be barren; while Mary (Myriam) was too young to have even thought much about having a child. Tradition is though that she very much wanted God to grant Israel the long-awaited and promised Messiah who would save his people.

Granted that "ordinary" women today may not necessarily have any interest in having a baby at any time soon or even ever. That is the situation in the developed West but not necessarily elsewhere or at any other time in history. Why is that?

Let's recap historically relations between women and men / between men and women 

Throughout history, women have considered childbirth as coming to the fulness of their womanhood and that children were the "glory of woman" and having more children was simply adding to their wealth. It was a woman's joy, serenity, and satisfaction to have a man who respected her and prized her for all that she brought to their joint family.

To the extent that her man did not rise to the occasion, then to that extent did the woman suffer and was deprived of that satisfaction and blessing. If her man was not a good father, then the burden of parenting fell heavily on her shoulders alone, and the children were deprived of proper fathering.

Male adult human beings who rose to the occasion and became truly men manifested respect for all women and particular devotion and loving service to their own wife, whom they cherished for her own self and all the more for the children she bore to him to grow their family.

Such a man taught his children, both girls and boys, to respect their mother as he did his wife, and to show her nothing but love, obedience, and grateful attachment.

Saint Pope John Paul II on women (and by extension on men)

In 1995, in anticipation of the Fourth World Conference on Women to be held that September in Beijing, Pope John Paul II wrote his "Letter of Pope John Paul II to Women" addressed to all women in the world and to every woman. He acknowledged with regret all that has been done historically to deprive women of recognition of their own proper dignity and to exploit them in various ways and so to make their lives miserable and to hinder them from fully developing themselves and making their full contribution to human society. In particular, he wrote:
"9. Progress usually tends to be measured according to the criteria of science and technology. Nor from this point of view has the contribution of women been negligible. Even so, this is not the only measure of progress, nor in fact is it the principal one. Much more important is the social and ethical dimension, which deals with human relations and spiritual values. In this area, which often develops in an inconspicuous way beginning with the daily relationships between people, especially within the family, society certainly owes much to the "genius of women". 
Here I would like to express particular appreciation to those women who are involved in the various areas of education extending well beyond the family: nurseries, schools, universities, social service agencies, parishes, associations and movements. Wherever the work of education is called for, we can note that women are ever ready and willing to give themselves generously to others, especially in serving the weakest and most defenceless. In this work they exhibit a kind of affective, cultural and spiritual motherhood which has inestimable value for the development of individuals and the future of society."
Earlier in his text he recalled how it is related in the Book of Genesis that God created woman after he had created man; so that she could be a helper to him, and he to her. There is a profound truth told here that we human beings are created in God's image and likeness, and that we exist and live in God's image and likeness precisely in our complementarity as male and female, female and male.

It might be a startling deduction to say that whenever we act exclusively as male or exclusively as female - without the active complementarity of the other - then we can be expected to be and to act "less humanly" or "with less humanity". Men need to "make room" for women in order to develop, become, and act "more humanly"; just as women need to "make room" for men in order to develop, become, and act "more humanly".

A perspective on humanity - man and woman - uniquely shared by Jews and Christians

Even from an aesthetic, literary, and anthropological point of view, it is significant to note that the creation account relates how it was that during the 6 days of creation, God at each stage looked upon all that He had made "and God saw that it was good". It was only after the Creator had "created humankind in his image", creating them "male and female", and after having commissioned them to have dominion over all of creation - that is to assure order and proper development among all living and inanimate creation - and after having shown them all that they had to eat; that
"God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good." 
It can be said that woman - especially in light of chapter two of Genesis - was God's final creation, and from a certain point of view, his masterpiece. Pope John Paul II appreciates woman from this very point of view in coining the phrase "genius of women" to portray women's unique and irreplacable capacity and determination to give life and nurture life, especially with those who are the most vulnerable and needy.

There is an expectation, then, which is not specifically spelled out but which follows of necessity and logically, which is an expectation that men would rise to the occasion and acknowledge, first of all, this "genius of women" and, secondly, in deep gratitude show women the utmost respect and support with all affection of heart, respect of intellect, and generosity of soul. After all, only a fool would neglect or discard his most valuable treasure, only a brute would treat his treasure with contempt, and only a pirate would treat his treasure as a commodity to be sold, bought, or traded.

Sadly, men have all too often behaved towards women precisely as fools, brutes, and pirates; hence all the sad human history of the abuse and mistreatment of women and the inevitable consequences of impoverishment of the whole society. To the extent that male and female infants are abused with such harsh treatment; to that extent they are deprived of their full right and possibilities to become fully man, fully woman, and fully human.

How does this "truth" about humanity revealed by God shed light on our current situation?

It is logical and honest to derive from human history the conclusion that, left to her own devices, a woman would want to experience the fullness of her femininity, of her womanhood, and bear one or more children to a loving man, her husband, and in this way to make her unique contribution to build their family and help to develop society.

I would submit, then, that whenever a girl or a woman is inclined to reject this dimension of her being; it is very likely that this is primarily because she has been deprived of sufficient or even of any fully developed men in her family of origin. She has not known any man strong enough, developed enough, loving enough to assure her that as his daughter she is fully wanted, loved, appreciated, safe, and free to breathe, move, live, develop, rejoice, and have her being as woman. She has probably not known any brother with similar dispositions towards her. She may even have been abused in any number of ways, overtly or in hidden but equally damaging ways.

Why would such a woman, cut off from anything beneficial in her society, want to have children, only to have them share in the miserable conditions which she has known and in the despair of ever finding anything better?

Human society's criminal neglect of respect for the proper dignity of women

On the basis of this study, then, I would like to submit that the current trend of abortions worldwide is a true plague, a worldwide pandemic, far more serious than Covid-19. The various agencies that keep track of abortions publish a conservative estimate that there are some 40-50 million induced abortions (separate from miscarriages) worldwide each year, which translates to 125,000 to 137,000 daily.

Why would so many woman, who by their very nature would want to bear their children into the world and see them live and prosper; why would they submit themselves to the extremely violent procedure of having their baby poisoned by chemicals, or sucked out and shredded live by vacuum, or killed by means of any other equally violent procedure?

The facts speak for themselves. Rarely does the man who impregnated that woman accompany her to the abortion clinic. He may not even accept to take responsibility for his part in the conception of the infant. Even if he does take his responsibility and does accompany her, he still does not understand or refuses to acknowledge the violence of the abortion procedure, and failing to do so, he also fails in his role and responsibility to protect his woman from experiencing any harm to herself or her baby.

A further fact, which is undeniable due to the sheer volume of documentation and social tracking, is the growing absence of men in families and households: men are increasingly conspicuous by their absence as husbands and by their absence as fathers. The result is that the girls they have conceived are much more likely to experience lifelong abuse and misery, and the boys they have conceived are far more likely to die young by a violent death or sink into a miserable life of crime and violence. It is a vicious circle that begins and ends with men's failure to respect their women, from their mothers and sisters to those with whom they engage in irresponsible sexual relations.

This situation is "the human condition" and not just the crime of one generation

In God's self-revelation to the people of Israel, the Creator manifested his sympathy with all human suffering, and in particular, with this failure to connect in love and respect between the generations.
23 "Lo, I will send you the prophet Elijah before the great and terrible day of the Lord comes. 24 He will turn the hearts of parents to their children and the hearts of children to their parents, so that I will not come and strike the land with a curse." Malachi 3
It is clear, then, from this prophetic word given by the prophet Malachi in the 5th century B.C. that God renders the diagnosis that human society will remain "cursed" until and only until the hearts of parents turn to their children and the heart of children turn to their parents. The only effective remedy and prescription for this "dis-ease" can only come from God when He sends Elijah again to his people. Jesus acknowledged that John the Baptist was indeed Elijah come again to turn human hearts back to God and, consequently, back to each other.

So where to we go from here?

Since we are given to understand that, left to herself with true men in her life, any woman would want to bear to term and to life any child she would conceive, rather than destroy it; it remains, then, for us men to rise to the occasion and become those men God intended us to be and for our society to manifest in all that we say and do the utmost respect for women, all women, regardless of their state or condition in this life.

Every woman is God's masterpiece, the one most likely to make visible the Creator's generous giving and sustaining of life; for this reason alone she deserves every support to fully realize the fullness of her womanhood, whether or not she elects to have children of her own. It is only with the full support of the men in her life that, even in the face of an unwanted pregnancy, any woman would follow her own feminine nature and bring that life to term in order to allow it to live and have its opportunity to develop and have a life. It is then the responsibility of society to assure that any unwanted child find a home where it will be wanted, cared for, and loved for its own sake and not for exploitation.

There are many, many woman now on record who, having once been staunch defenders of women's rights to abort unwanted pregnancies, now have come to reverse their views with the conviction that the abortions they had were truly violent procedures that had lasting negative impacts on them, not to mention the deadly impact on the infant of ending its life. It is through faith in God that many of these women have experienced forgiveness and peace and were then able to forgive themselves and all those who failed to support them. Only with forgiveness were they able to experience deep healing in their own person and in their womanhood.

It is our place to acknowledge these women and be grateful for their courageous testimony in the face of aggressive opposition from those still committed to the defence of what they call women's right to choice. They don't realize the incongruity of their stance in denying the equal value and right to the choice to refuse abortion and instead choose to nurture life to birth and beyond.

As men fail to fully develop their manhood, they simultaneously hinder womanhood to develop

It is ironic but understandable that there is such opposition in our human society and culture and such aggressive resistance and even violent action against the Judeo-Christian Scriptures and convictions about the "culture of life". The "Ten Commandments" and all ethical thought related to them are said to put unfair limits on human beings' rights to choose and enjoy life. The evidence is in by now that the rejection of this "religious anthropology" results in the most dire consequences and misery. There is no such thing as "free sex" or "free enjoyment" of anything, because to every action there are all the inescapable consequences.

Human ingenuity and industry created "the pill" in 1961 to help regulate irregular cycles experienced by some women, but then it was found that it also acted as an abortifacient. It interrupted conception or the process of conception. Humanity embraced it with reckless abandon.

In 1968 Saint Pope Paul VI published for his encyclical "Humane Vitae" to everyone in the Church and to all people of good will, which was an eloquent reflection on the beauty of human love and family, he warned that to try to exert control over the human process of conception with artificial means of birth control would have dire consequences. He was ridiculed, as most true prophets usually are. Sadly, subsequent events demonstrated only too truly how right he had been.

When people claimed to have mastery over their fertility and "their own body", they simultaneously rejected God's authority and mastery over their mortal lives. The results have been catastrophic and uncontrolled separations and divorces, all time low respect for women by men, the reduction almost exclusively of woman to sexual objects, astronomical numbers of abortions, abandoned children, absent husbands and absent fathers, unfathered generations of children, increased crime rates among those unfathered children, increased rates of homelessness among children and youth as well as of prostitution and other crimes, increased rates of human trafficking and of the slave trade, especially for the purpose of sexual exploitation, increased rates of self-mutilation and suicide, increased desire for euthanasia or medical assistance in dying... and the list of woes goes on and on.

What if a woman really does want to be free to enjoy sex without consequences?

Human nature being what it is, I don't deny that a woman might indeed want to taste what appears to be the freedom from consequences with which some or even many men seem to enjoy their sexual pleasure. However, in such a case, I don't think it would be defensible to claim that such a stance may be an advancement, progress, or elevation for the woman; rather, it would be a step back, a descent into depravity, the kind that tragically far too many men for far too long have perpetrated, dragging down with them their unfortunate spouses and families.

The only men who can in any way enjoy sex without consequences would be those who ignore or silence their consciences, or who have so often trampled on them as to render them inert and unable to rouse them to better motives and higher goals. The killer may feel badly after the first murder, but with each successive one he will feel less and less badly about it and may end up justifying himself with the thought that their victims "deserved what they got". So too the thief may feel justified to take from the rich in order to alleviate his own poverty or that of others.

The impulse to "enjoy sex without consequences or responsibility" can only cause a person to change and become depraved, one who is more and more inclined to objectify others and use them as objects for their own pleasure, separating those others in their mind from any reality of being persons in their own right with a unique life, personal feelings, permanent value, and a proper destiny of their own.

Whichever of us, woman or man, still has a sense of what is right and what is wrong before God, then that one has a responsibility to care for oneself but also care for the other by resisting the other's plea to do what is wrong - however attractive that thing may appear to be or may be represented to be, or however frightening the right thing may appear to be. If one doesn't stand for what is right, then one becomes responsible not only for one's own downfall, but also for the downfall of the other. Like it or not, we're literally all in this together, and we either navigate or sink together.

South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem is defending women from pressure to abort

Elected in 2019 as the first woman Governor of South Dakota, Kristi Noem has signed several pieces of legislation to come to the defence of pregnant mothers and of unborn children, not least of which is a piece to criminalize pressure put on pregnant women / mothers to abort their child. Her personal and political priority is to defend and promote the family as the most important unit of society. This is a kind of socially responsible leadership that our world needs but has sadly been lacking far too long.

Governor Noem deplores the lack of serious commitment in her country overall to value the family, and worse, the apathy that allows any and all other considerations and motives to undermine and erode the family, in particular by failing to support the parents as well as the children. Governor Noem is certainly taking the lead among U.S. politicians and is truly setting an example for all of us, not just politicians, to emulate and to follow.

In light of the tragic reality of the unequal and unjust burden of responsibility left to be carried alone by women - especially when there is an unexpected pregnancy - it's high time for all of us to stop the accusatory and aggressively divisive rhetoric and for each of us take our responsibilities seriously, roll up our sleeves, and support and accompany pregnant women rather than dump the entire burden of responsibility for them to carry alone. It's time for men to "man up" and for women to "circle the wagons" and for men and women together to "bite the bullet". We'll all be better for it.

God's offer of forgiveness and life is still valid and on the table. It is up to each of us to accept.

From a strictly human point of view - in light of the inherent weaknesses in us due to the human condition - there at first appear to be no solutions in sight for any of these social ills, which are rapidly disintegrating the fabric of our society. The only truly effective solution ever devised is the one offered by God and clearly revealed for all of humanity to discover, consider, and welcome.

He sent his divine Son into this world with the indispensable help of a woman - his mother Myriam - to take on a human existence by which He came to be known as Jesus of Nazareth, son of Myriam of Nazareth and of Joseph the carpenter of Nazareth. By the manner of his life, ministry, signs and miracles, then by his passion, death, and resurrection, Jesus revealed and demonstrated the quality of God's stable and unrelenting love as that of the Father's unconditional love for us.

It is a love that desires to enter into a mutually loving relationship and therefore asks for a true return of love, and we can only return God's love in a true, honest, and transparent way. This requires that we admit the ways in which we have failed women, failed men, failed our children, failed our society, failed each other, and failed ourselves. We need to repent and seek forgiveness, but it is a wondrous forgiveness that has already been given to the last drop of Jesus' human blood.

God the Father's forgiveness and his offer of a relationship of love through his Son Jesus Christ, is a wondrous transformation that can only happen within us by the intervention and power of the Holy Spirit, and it is a gift ever awaiting our wanting it, our consent, our confession. Authentic love that seeks the good of the other is like true friendship - it cannot be forced or demanded - and like true friendship, it can only be freely given as a gift without strings attached. So it truly is up to each of us.