Saturday, January 02, 2021

Human sexuality - gift of God which, used otherwise skews our vision, but used in accord with His plan, calibrates our vision to blessedness

My purpose in these posts is to bring a variety of Christian and other writers in a desire to share significant writings that in my estimation contribute to the common good and directly or indirectly give glory to God and extend the Lord's work of salvation to all of humanity. G.S.


 The most casual observer notes that our human sexuality is at the center of life or even dominates our existence on this Earth of Men and Women. In the very midst of this worldwide Covid-19 Pandemic in transition from 2020 to 2021, we can also note developing around us a multiplicity of views, attitudes, "styles", policies, and even definitions of human sexuality.

Facing this veritable chaos, a question demands to be answered by this generation as it has always done to human beings in the past: "Is there or is there not a Creator God?" immediately followed by the further question: "Subsequently, if a Creator God exists; then what about us in regards to Him?"


To start off, let's explore what in our day has perhaps become or is becoming the dominant opinion around the world. No, God doesn't exist and there is no Creator. OR There may be a god but he is insignificant. In this category of human perspective, we are all of us - we the human beings living on planet Earth in the Sol star system - alone in life. There is no God, nor any Creator; therefore there is no plan or "design" for our being or for our life.

All opinions are of equal value and we must at all costs not impose anything on anybody. This position seems inspired by a "utopian" perspective by which one perceives or at least hopes to head towards a society, a world, a humanity in which there would be mutual and universal respect for one another. It is the beautiful dream of a perfect world. 

Hold on a minute! Let's wake up from this beautiful dream long enough to observe the reality around us but also the reality animating us within. Unless one is in total denial, one must admit that we are very far from this beautiful utopian dream for humanity and human life. What do we make of human dramas marked by suffering? How do we understand the crimes or faults, the departures from the objectives of this utopian destiny? What do we do with the delinquents who, disturbed, disturb others?

There is no avoiding the evidence that in a world without God, without a Creator, there remains only brute force that tries to manage to impose a certain order on this chaos. If the working definition of a god is "an all powerful being"; then in a world without god, the one in charge is the person who manages to impose on others one way or another by imposing on everyone: either by the power of ideas or by power itself. This situation condemns us to live in a whirlwind of opinions, each opinion as valid as any other; but this whirlwind is terrifying and devastating precisely because it is without universal principles, without laws of nature, without fundamental or absolute truths.

If a single person can't be "right"; then no one can be "right". If there is no truth existing outside of us; then all "truths" can claim to be equally valid, and no single truth can impose itself by its own light. A perspective, a world, a society, a humanity, a universe without god or creator is doomed to perpetual chaos and limitless wars - whether at the level of ideas or that of action.


A little depressing this perspective without god, isn't it? It's all the more serious if this is really and without any recourse our only true reality. However, to be fair, let's explore for a moment another perspective - notably the one that affirms that there is God, only one true God, and that He is our one and only Creator.

By definition, if a god existes, it must be all powerful; therefore it must be the one and only God. Going forward logically, God must necessarily be our Creator and the Creator of the Universe as we know it. Further, it would be illogical to postulate regarding God that He might be "less" than we are ourselves, we human beings with all of our faults.

For example, God could not possibly be a worse parent than us, than the best parent among us. As a "parent", God must necessarily be more just, more understanding, more patient, more loving, more expert for our formation, and more respectful of our freedom than the best parents are towards their own children.

Another example: God could not be a worse architect than us, than the best architects of all human history. We admire the best, the most beautiful, the most durable structures ever built in human history such as the pyramids, the Pantheon, the Parthenon, and so on.

In our day, even agnostic and atheist scientists find themselves admitting to the evidence - as they push beyond the limits of human knowledge in the domains of astronomy, astrophysics, biology, and other domains as well - that there is everywhere in the universe such a logic, such structures, such beauty, such complexity, and such a quantity of digital information embedded in the very nature of everything; that the being at the origin of all that exists must necessarily manifest unlimited intelligence, goodness, and extravagant generosity....


According to the best that psychology and biology and other related anthropological sciences have to offer; human beings are not "fully equipped" for life until early adulthood, which does vary from one culture to another. All cultures agree though that human beings before puberty are still children, and the changes initiated in them by the process of puberty are the necessary developments that enable children to transition into adults; which of course would be in accord with their culture and society. 


During pregnancy, the new human being grows and develops through stages at an exponential rate until all the necessary elements and organs are sufficiently developed for independent biological existence. After birth, during the initial year of life, the baby is all about its skin all over its body and its mouth. Everything goes into the mouth and it just loves being in the water. During this first stage of human growth and development in the world, each person spontaneously acquires and manifests one of two preferred ways of being in the world: passive / receptive OR active / captative. The first waits and expects to receive; while the latter "goes and gets" what it needs and wants. The preference remains with us for life and is by far "easier" for us; while the other "mode" requires effort every time. 


Transitioning into the next phase - roughly between 12 and 30 months - the infant becomes a toddler propelling itself along the floor and through spaces with increasing speed and delight. Simultaneously, the toddler "handles" things, beginning to learn to "do things". The toddler begins to speak with more effectiveness and satisfaction and learns to make use of the toilet and even to leave diapers behind. The toddler begins to learn about rules and ways of being and doing "in this family" and "in this house". 

During this second stage of human growth and development in the world, each person spontaneously acquires and manifests on a different level one of two preferred modes of living itself: retentive OR eliminative. Initially, this preference arises during the toilet training stage, but it is a mode of living which generalizes itself to most if not all aspects of living: with cleanliness, but also with money, with other material objects, with doors and windows, with speech, and so on. As in the previous stage of development, the preferred "mode" remains with us for life and is by far "easier" for us; while the other "mode" requires effort every time. 


Then, almost as if by magic, somewhere around 30 months - two and a half years of age - the toddler suddenly become an individual: "Me do it." "I can do it." "Let me." Initially, this declaration is more bravado that fact; since the child is merely beginning to learn to do a plethora of actions and tasks. The key here is in the emerging sense of individuality, of personhood, of human identity. This key change is to be heartily welcomed and encouraged. Another extremely important and life-changing development at this stage of life is the child's emerging ability to understand other dimensions of time, namely, the past and the future. Until now, when the parent was not visible or audible, it seemed as though that parent no longer existed. Now the child begins to understand that the parent can be in another room or even out of the house but still exist. The child also begins to understand the delay until tomorrow. The child's life becomes far more complex and of course richer. 


Now that the child has become an individual boy or individual girl, they look upon their parents with new eyes. The boy recognizes that he is like his father but unlike his mother, and he spontaneously wants to "shine" in her eyes. The girl recognizes that she is like her mother but unlike her father, and she spontaneously wants to "shine" in his eyes. Each child senses the same gender parent as "in the way" of their desire as a kind of competitor for the opposite gender parent's affections; which is generally believed to be the irritant at the source of the nightmares that crop up between the ages of 3 and 6. It is believed important for the same gender parent to console the nightmaring child and bring it back to its own bed; in this way developing more intimacy with the same gender parent and dispelling that parent's "threatening" quality. 

It is important for the child's further development to have a clear sense of being "like" one parent and "unlike" the other parent in terms of human sexuality. There is a myriad of variation in the qualities and characteristics pertaining to either gender, and many of these qualities and characteristics can belong to both; being as they are primarily human as opposed to masculine or feminine. 

As it happened during the first and second stages of human growth and development, each person is equipped by virtue of their gender to acquire and manifest now at this stage on a third level one of two preferred modes of being in relation to others: masculine / intrusive OR feminine / inclusive. In principle, this preference emerges gradually from the moment of conception, but it is a mode of living in the dimension of relating to others; which necessarily is affected by myriad other factors, not least of which is the family of origin and its relational and emotional environment. 

As in the first and second stages of human development, the "inherent or preferred mode" remains with us for life and is by far "easier" for us; while the other "mode" requires effort every time. However, if the boy's father is not kind or loving or admirable in any way, he may turn towards his mother and begin to "prefer" her feminine or inclusive mode of relating. Conversely with the girl who may turn towards her father and begin to "prefer" his masculine or intrusive mode of relating. 

The possibilities are almost endless, but one thing seems certain: the most effortless path is that of the child who makes itself at home in its biological gender and embraces it as the preferred way of being and relating to others. Having a solid sense of identify based in its own natural reality brings a sense of peace and greater ease in relating to others and to the world. One can then choose the other mode as and when it is necessary or useful; without losing or clouding one's own sense of sexual identity. Men tend to be more spontaneously intrusive and require effort to be more inclusive; vice versa, women tend to be more spontaneously inclusive and require effort to be more intrusive.  


As we can see, with the passage of time, the human person develops and emerges from within the original "sprout" which was the newborn infant; at each stage becoming more and more complex and developing more and more characteristics, abilities, skills, dimensions of temperament, colors of personality, preferences, and ways of being in the world and relating to others. By the age of six or so, the child is ready to "launch out into the world" and society. In most societies it is the age to start going to school and often to also begin learning a variety of skills relating to survival, trades, and hobbies. 

It is also the age for participating more actively and energetically in society. Initially, boys tend to gravitate to other boys, and girls to other girls. There is almost always some mixing and matching, but primarily, the boys need one another in order to further develop who they are as boys, just as the girls need one another in order to further develop who they are as girls. 

In their intrusive mode, boys often find fun in "poking" at the girls, teasing them, and generally "getting a rise out of them". Conversely, in their inclusive mode, girls often will "strutt their stuff" in the presence of boys, also teasing them, and generally testing their ability to "attact the boys' attention".  


Not too many would disagree with the observation that puberty effects a veritable revolution in the previously gentle and gradual development of the human being until the age of twelve or thirteen. The age varies in accord with any number of biological and socio-demographic variables, but generally speaking, most boys and girls begin to experience their body producing hormones disrupting their life and further developing physical attributes that until then remained receded or undeveloped. 

Boys experience new fascination with girls, experience rushes of masculine hormones in the company of girls, and initially don't know what to make of their newly erecting male member. In the absence of good formation and male mentoring, boys generally have recourse to their peers and to shady sources of information, and in our day - which is not only sad but tragic - to pornography. 

It makes perfect sense in the "grand design" of our human development that puberty and the revolution it stirs up should not happen until now, precisely at that moment when the boy child and girl child are at the apex of their human development and human skills pre-puberty. They are ready for the challenge of this new stage in their development, which becomes clearer when we consider the underlying purpose embedded in these changes.



For the boy becoming a man, he won't actually be a man yet for at least a few more years. As this time goes by, the greater challenges of life that yet await him will require him to become capable of mastery over his own life. He will need to be able and willing to control his own impulses; lest he become a criminal, an alcoholic, a libertine, or any other perversion of a male human being obsessed only with his own self and cavalier about everyone else. Such a perverted male human being is a drain on society at best and a dangerous threat at worst. 

Many of the current ills of society derive precisely from men who lacked the essential male mentoring that would have put them on the path to further maturation as men and as fathers. In the absence of such male mentoring; they become phantoms of men and a danger to any who approach them. Failing to give the male support needed by their women companions, the children they engender grow up without a proper father and are at risk to become the next wave of irresponsible men and insecure women. 

It's not hard to understand how the period between puberty and adulthood for the young man allows for the passage of sufficient time in order to become "master of his own house", that is, to not only master his own human impulses, but further to develop his ability and willingness to be a good companion and support for the women friendships he develops. All this is in view of eventually finding the right partner for marriage and parenting for family life. 


For the girl becoming a woman, she won't actually be a woman yet for at least a few more years as well. As this time goes by, the greater challenges of life that yet await her will require her to develop her innate capacity to give and to nurture life, which is the peculiar "genius of woman". It is easier for girls in large families to "test their abilities" by helping to nurture and take care of younger siblings. Some girls practice their skills by babysitting their neighbors' children or younger cousins. Unless girls have proper female mentors; they are at risk to enter into a kind of "perpetual adolescence" in which they become obsessed with their own appearance, the satisfaction of their own desires, and get caught up in never-ending competitiveness with their peers. 

A different dynamic which can be equally destructive is that by which woman let themselves be drawn into competitiveness with men on the merry-go-round of careerism in business and public service. As they are forced to enter into male dominated tracks, they can lose sight of their own nature and calling as women; which can be very disorienting and personally destructive. 


It is no coincidence that in its western origins marriage has been called "matrimony", which translates literally as "the burden of the mother". It is also why the woman is called the bride and the man is called the bridegroom. The Creator clearly put the focus on the woman who has within her an innate capacity to receive life, to cultivate life, to bring forth life, and to nurture that life to independence. It is a wonderful, beautiful, and extremely fulfilling task, but the Creator designed her to carry out her call and mission in the company of and with the support of her chosen man, her husband, and the father of their children. He is called bridegroom because his calling initially and for the long term is to "groom" or care for his wife, the mother of their children. 

Parenting deepens a man's sense of fatherhood by constantly pushing him beyond his limits today to discover wider expanses and depths of meaning and character within himself; that he is then called to manifest in the world in support of his wife and the mother of their children and also to assist her in raising their children and in working with her to mentor them. By supporting his wife, cherishing her and loving her, he demonstrates to all their children what it means to be a man and the inestimable value that the woman their mother has. 

Parenting deepens a woman's sense of motherhood by constantly pushing her beyond her limits today to discover wider expanses and depths of meaning and character within herself; which she is called to manifest in the world as she nurtures their children, works with her husband to mentor them, and supports her husband and the father of their children. By supporting her husband, respecting him and loving him as she nurtures and raises them; she demonstrates to all their children what it means to be a woman and the inestimable value that the man their father has. 

The more we study the nature and possibilities of womanhood and manhood, and of motherhood and fatherhood; the more clearly there emerges a distinctive design of complementarity between women and men. While single parent women or men actually do accomplish wonders in single-handedly raising children; nevertheless, even these rely on and benefit from the support and assistance of parents and extended family and even friends and neighbors. If it is true that it takes a village to raise a child; then the presence and active participation of a mother and a father are all the more indicated. In fact, until recently tons of studies had been done on the role of the mother; it is only in the past few decades that increasingly more studies have been done on the role and contribution of the father. The previous conviction that the father's presence and role were superfluous is increasingly being disproven. 


The least that can be said about human sexuality is that it is a power. Like any power, it can be used in accord with its inherent nature and purpose or it can be used in uncharacteristic or unusual ways. Men and women can play at "seducing" others for the perverse pleasure of "conquest" and the associated "pleasure of the hunt". Others may simply opt to indulge in sexual activity for the inherent pleasure of arousal and the related "climax". However, it is not difficult to find consensus on the fact that trivial sex supplies no lasting satisfaction. More significantly, casual sex works against the natural process of human development and maturation; in effect imprisoning the casual sexual activitst in a perpetual state of adolescence, with its incapacity to find or give meaning to life, or to engage in deep relationships. 

Life for people on this path is a battlefield littered with casualties and corpses of the vanquished. There are no lasting or deep friendships here, but only the sad companionships of those who share the battle. How do people end up as casualties on such battlefields? It seems to generally begin with the absence of proper mentors and the initially innocent curiosity which, without mentoring, becomes fascination and then obsession. Engaging in sexual exploration "in the shadows" is fraught with danger, all the more so because our human sexuality is a genuine "power" which is by its very nature oriented to the good of giving life. In the original design by the Creator of the marriage between one woman and one man, this power is a mutual giving of life through love, which then extends the life-giving power to all those generated by their union and loving friendship.   


In the Creator's original design of human beings in a complementary "dual nature" as woman and men, what emerges as of foremost importance is their mutual ability to "see one another" as persons. This was eloquently and beautifully, artistically expressed by Director James Cameron in his blockbuster movie "Avatar" when he has the Navi people greet one another with the expression "I see you!" as they mutually gaze deeply into one another's eyes. See here for a reflection on the process of eroticization.

The trouble with casual sex, sexual play, pornography, and sexual addictions - in fact with any and all uses of our human power of sexuality outside of the loving relationship of husband and wife - is that we risk allowing our eyes and our spirits to wander away from contemplating in love one another's unique personhood and dignity; in order to divert our attention to one another's body parts for the "thrill" that the sight of them can generate within us. By then, the other is already no longer a person with all their dignity, but merely reduced to an object of my desire for my own pleasure. You no longer exist for your own sake or with your own value and dignity, but you are reduced to an object. Herein lies the tragedy.

As in any addiction, it is very difficult if not impossible for a person to get off that merry-go-round by oneself alone. As pornography has exponentially developed and "infected" tens and hundreds of thousands of people; simultaneously, God has raised up public service minded people to develop and offer help for all those who wish to be free of addiction and be restored to the original design and purpose of their human sexuality in the context of a well-balanced sense of identity and dignity. 


If you pay attention to the tons of ink that has been spilled and of saliva that has been expended in the defense of "different or alternative" views of human sexuality that would "discover" or "create" or "set free" or "design" any number of alternative "genders"; what these pretty much all have in common is that they are all "about ME". Throughout human history, the highest human ideals have almost always been about selflessness. The heroes have been those who put themselves at the service of others or of the common good, and who even risk or lay down their lives for others. By contrast, the "lobbies" that champion alternative sex or genders are lobbying governments to lay down laws to coerce the rest of society to conform to their "specific interests" and go so far as to forbid anyone with gender dysphoria from obtaining the benign therapy they need and seek in order to find interior peace and harmony.

The writing is on the wall and is clearly discernible for anyone with eyes to see and ears to hear; as Jesus is quoted as having said some two millennia ago. 


My purpose in these posts is to help spread the contributions of a variety of Christian and other writers in a desire to share significant writings that in my estimation contribute to the common good and directly or indirectly give glory to God and extend the Lord's work of salvation to all of humanity. G.S.


© 2004-2021 All rights reserved Fr. Gilles Surprenant, Associate Priest of Madonna House Apostolate & Poustinik, Montreal  QC
© 2004-2021 Tous droits réservés Abbé Gilles Surprenant, Prêtre Associé de Madonna House Apostolate & Poustinik, Montréal QC

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Saturday, November 21, 2020

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

My purpose in these posts is to bring a variety of Christian and other writers in a desire to share significant writings that in my estimation contribute to the common good and directly or indirectly give glory to God and extend the Lord's work of salvation to all of humanity. G.S.


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

My purpose in these posts is to help spread the contributions of a variety of Christian and other writers in a desire to share significant writings that in my estimation contribute to the common good and directly or indirectly give glory to God and extend the Lord's work of salvation to all of humanity. G.S.


© 2004-2021 All rights reserved Fr. Gilles Surprenant, Associate Priest of Madonna House Apostolate & Poustinik, Montreal  QC
© 2004-2021 Tous droits réservés Abbé Gilles Surprenant, Prêtre Associé de Madonna House Apostolate & Poustinik, Montréal QC

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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!

My purpose in these posts is to bring a variety of Christian and other writers in a desire to share significant writings that in my estimation contribute to the common good and directly or indirectly give glory to God and extend the Lord's work of salvation to all of humanity. G.S.


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! 


My purpose in these posts is to help spread the contributions of a variety of Christian and other writers in a desire to share significant writings that in my estimation contribute to the common good and directly or indirectly give glory to God and extend the Lord's work of salvation to all of humanity. G.S.


© 2004-2021 All rights reserved Fr. Gilles Surprenant, Associate Priest of Madonna House Apostolate & Poustinik, Montreal  QC
© 2004-2021 Tous droits réservés Abbé Gilles Surprenant, Prêtre Associé de Madonna House Apostolate & Poustinik, Montréal QC

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Monday, September 21, 2020

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

My purpose in these posts is to bring a variety of Christian and other writers in a desire to share significant writings that in my estimation contribute to the common good and directly or indirectly give glory to God and extend the Lord's work of salvation to all of humanity. G.S.


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.


My purpose in these posts is to help spread the contributions of a variety of Christian and other writers in a desire to share significant writings that in my estimation contribute to the common good and directly or indirectly give glory to God and extend the Lord's work of salvation to all of humanity. G.S.


© 2004-2021 All rights reserved Fr. Gilles Surprenant, Associate Priest of Madonna House Apostolate & Poustinik, Montreal  QC
© 2004-2021 Tous droits réservés Abbé Gilles Surprenant, Prêtre Associé de Madonna House Apostolate & Poustinik, Montréal QC

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Wednesday, September 09, 2020

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

My purpose in these posts is to bring a variety of Christian and other writers in a desire to share significant writings that in my estimation contribute to the common good and directly or indirectly give glory to God and extend the Lord's work of salvation to all of humanity. G.S.


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. 


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. 


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. 


My purpose in these posts is to help spread the contributions of a variety of Christian and other writers in a desire to share significant writings that in my estimation contribute to the common good and directly or indirectly give glory to God and extend the Lord's work of salvation to all of humanity. G.S.


© 2004-2021 All rights reserved Fr. Gilles Surprenant, Associate Priest of Madonna House Apostolate & Poustinik, Montreal  QC
© 2004-2021 Tous droits réservés Abbé Gilles Surprenant, Prêtre Associé de Madonna House Apostolate & Poustinik, Montréal QC

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