By Elishama |

Continued from my previous article, Objective Truth is the New Hate Speech, pluralism is the first of four "Cardinal Virtues of Secularism" discussed here.

Pluralism is the doctrine that holds reality to be either unknowable or to have multiple forms (i.e. pluriform). If unknowable then all claims as to its nature and meaning are equally valid insofar as they are all unverifiable opinion. If pluriform then reality cannot be reduced to either one or two ultimate forms but is made up of many mutually irreducible ways of being. This outlook leads in ethics to the claim that there are many independent sources of “value.” In religion it assumes that all beliefs are equally valid. Culturally it emphasizes heterogeneity over hegemony. “Diversity” is a popular buzzword used to describe this mentality. It is treated as a self-evident good and something to be strived for. Politically this has established itself in the West as ideological “multiculturalism”.

Pluralism as an observable fact is obviously true. There are many different belief systems and ethical opinions out there. No one would deny that. Pluralism as a philosophical conclusion from this fact is not as obviously true. Just because there are differences of belief or opinion does not mean that all beliefs or opinions are equally true. In fact they cannot be. Opinions and beliefs that diametrically oppose each other (e.g. God exists vs. God does not exist; moral norms are absolute vs. moral norms are relative; the world is round vs. the world is flat) cannot both be true if they are speaking categorically of the same thing.

Ravi Zacharias, a Christian apologist of Indian Hindu background, observed:
“One of the most fallacious ideas ever spawned in Western attitudes toward truth is the oft-repeated pronouncement that exclusionary claims to truth are a Western way of thinking. The East, it is implied, accepts all religions as equally true. This is patently false. Every religion, without exception, has some foundational beliefs that are categorically nonnegotiable and exclude everything to the contrary. You see, truth by definition is exclusive. If truth were all-inclusive, nothing would be false. And if nothing were false, what would be the meaning of true? Furthermore, if nothing were false, would it be true to say that everything is false? It quickly becomes evident that nonsense would follow. “Even Buddhism, which is often held up as being the example of ‘religious tolerance,’ is not exempt from dogmatism. Buddhists forget or downplay the fact that Buddha was born a Hindu and rejected some of the fundamental precepts of Hinduism. Buddha’s own statement was that truth mattered more than conformity. What, therefore, takes place in popular thought is a reflection of the way culture has been engineered to deal with truth issues.” (“Living an Apologetic Life,” Just Thinking, October 2003)
“Pluralism,” in its popular contemporary usage is simply a euphemism for relativism and subjectivism.

Relativism and subjectivism are not new: Protagoras, the Greek sophist (c. 500 B.C), maintained that the individual was the standard of truth. Plato cited him as saying, "man is the measure of all things." Consequently, any given thing "is to me such as it appears to me, and is to you such as it appears to you" (Cratylus, 386a). Shakespeare quoted 16th century French essayist Montaigne to similar effect: "There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so" (Hamlet, Act 2, Scene 2).

Relativism says truth is not fixed by any outside (objective) reality but determined by one’s own (subjective) perception of it. Thus it holds that truth is not discovered but invented. Truth is not unchanging but ever changing.

This, of course, is self-contradicting. The contradiction lies in the fact that the subjectivist claims that truth really, objectively, is subjective; the one unchanging truth is that all truth is ever changing. The one discovered universal truth is that truth is not discovered or universal but manufactured by the individual or culture.

Let us critique relativism using some of the common cliches or slogans associated with it.

That's True For You But Not For Me

On the surface relativism sounds relaxed and easygoing – accepting of all viewpoints. But relativism has one absolute: This I know to be true, all truth is relative (a universal claim that there are no universal claims, and so self-falsifying.) On this point it is dogmatic and rejects out-of-hand any contrary claim.

One can ask someone who recites “true for you but not for me” that if my absolutist view is only true for me why isn't his relativist view only true for him? Does he want me to adopt his view? (Self-excepting fallacy: He is applying the statement to everyone but himself). If his position is true then why argue it? The most he can do is present it. And if others shrug their shoulders and ignore it they are only giving it the acknowledgment his claim implies it deserves. It’s true for him but not for them.

This view is based on a failure to distinguish between the subjectivity of our judgments and the objectivity of truth. The subjective aspect of truth lies in the claim a person makes about the veracity of his judgment. The objective aspect lies in the agreement between his judgment and the reality he is judging. The objective aspect is the primary one. The truth of a statement resides in its correlation to reality not in its relation to the individual judging it.

In an essay on “Truth” philosopher Mortimer Adler writes:
“But the ancient controversy in which Socrates engages with the sophists of his day, who were willing to regard as true whatever anyone wished to think, seems to differ not at all from Freud's quarrel with those whom he calls intellectual nihilists. They are the persons who say there is no such thing as truth or that it is only the product of our own needs and desires. They make it 'absolutely immaterial,' Freud writes, 'what views we accept. All of them are equally true and false. And no one has a right to accuse anyone else of error.' ... If all opinions are equally true or false, then why, Aristotle asks, does not the denier of truth walk 'into a well or over a precipice' instead of avoiding such things. 'If it were really a matter of indifference what we believed,' Freud similarly argues, 'then we might just as well build our bridges of cardboard as of stone, or inject a tenth of a gramme of morphia into a patient instead of a hundredth, or take tear-gas as a narcotic instead of ether. But,' he adds, 'the intellectual anarchists themselves would strongly repudiate such practical applications of their claim.”

But So Many Disagree, Relativism Must Be True

This is confusing the difficulty of discovering truth with the impossibility of finding it. It confuses the absoluteness of truth with the tentative knowledge we often have of it. No one is denying that truth can be elusive. No one said truth is easily known without effort, conflict, and possible error. The challenge is to struggle to discover it.

Likewise, the fact that individuals and cultures have differed as to whether particular actions are right or wrong does not make right and wrong subjective. The Aztecs believed human sacrifices right, Jews thought it wrong. This divergence does not mean it was okay for the Aztecs to sacrifice innocent people any more than it makes it right for the Southern slave owner to treat vulnerable human beings as property. What is culturally relative is opinions about what is right and wrong, not right and wrong itself.

Yet even opinions as to right and wrong are not wholly relative. No culture has ever existed which taught a totally different set of values. For example, honesty, justice, courage, wisdom, self-control were never all thought to be evil, and lying, theft, murder, cowardice, and selfishness were never all thought to be good. Disagreement is not over the existence of right or wrong, nor over the goodness of courage and badness of cowardice, but over what constitute right and wrong and what entails courage and cowardice. Moral principles are generally agreed upon (i.e. are transcultural), it is the particular content and application of these principles that causes disagreement and confusion.

Your Values Are Right For You But Not For Me

When someone told the great British essayist Dr. Samuel Johnson that one of his dinner guests believed that morality was a sham, Dr. Johnson responded, "Why, sir, if he really believes there is no distinction between virtue and vice, let us count our spoons before he leaves!"

Moral subjectivism has been conditioned into us by use of terms like “personal values” instead of terms like “moral laws” or “ethical principles.” The very word “law” suggests something more definite and objective. We do not speak of “subjective laws.”

Many people who claim to be relativists are not consistently so. We simply cannot function without a common moral standard of existence.

Paul Copan tells a story he claims true:
Throughout a course a student challenged one of his professors by claiming all morality is relative and so one cannot judge others by one's own standard. What is right for you is not necessarily wrong for me & vice versa. At end of the course the student handed in the final exam for which he had studied well. When his mark came in, instead of the “A” he expected there was an “F”. Shocked & infuriated he stormed into the professor’s office demanding an explanation. "This is unfair!" he exclaimed. "Did you say unfair?" responded the professor, "By who's moral standard, yours or mine?"
It has been said that a person tends to stop being liberal when it is his toes being stepped on. The same holds true of the relativist. Willis Player’s comment on “liberals” can be equally applied to relativists: “A liberal is a person whose interests aren't at stake at the moment.”

Do Whatever You Want So Long As You Don't Hurt Anyone

This is a common approach to the dilemma of pluralistic moral views. It has an air of legitimacy about it because it sounds similar to the most basic and commonsensical principle of morality, what is in fact the first precept of 'natural law' philosophy: “Do good and avoid evil.” However, as it stands the first proposition is erroneous and the second too ambiguous.

The first proposition, to “do whatever you want,” is a very subjective and selfish guideline. It is not the same thing as saying “Do good” or “Do what is right.” Doing “what you want” takes as its primary reference point one’s internal subjective disposition and desires. Doing what is “good” or “right” takes as its primary reference point an external objective criteria by which you judge the moral propriety of actions arising from internal dispositions and desires. What I “want” may sometimes coincide with what is “good” or “right” but not necessarily.

The second proposition, so long as you “don’t hurt anyone” is too ambiguous. What makes "hurting someone" an absolute value if all values are relative? It seems like an arbitrary sneaking in of an absolute moral principle where before all was said to be relative. Can one demonstrate its absolute character? And if one can then moral relativism is proven false.

Does the "not hurting anyone" norm have any exceptions (such as in cases of self-defense or law enforcement)? If it does what principle determines the exceptions? Is this like a personal game where one makes up his own rules and then makes exceptions to his rules? Why must I play the game by another person’s rules?

Also, elaborate on what exactly is meant by "hurt"? Is it being used narrowly here to mean only bodily injury? Or does it include emotional or psychological injury as well? Does it include injury to one's own or another person's moral character or reputation? Does it include harm done to one's own or another's spiritual life or soul? These types of injuries can often have profounder consequences than many physical injuries. If it includes all these then I can more willingly accept it since it encompasses a more complete understanding of human nature and its well-being. Unfortunately, used as a cliche such an understanding is rarely considered and I suspect not intended.

photo credit: Templestream Gump Meme - And then, for no particular reason, bad was good & good was bad via photopin (license)
By Elishama |

The first thing to be established is whether Catholic beliefs actually do upset many people? If they do not then this piece is misguided from the beginning. We know the misdeeds of professed Catholics – high and low, past and present – have upset many, including ourselves. But is it just the sins of the messenger that disturb or is it also the message itself? Do the doctrines and moral teachings of the Church, independent of the worthiness or unworthiness of their advocates, cause controversy, even hostility, with a large portion of the general population (including many Catholics)? I think they do and it is easy to demonstrate. One need only state directly, succinctly and without qualification certain Catholic teachings in order to elicit a negative visceral reaction from many individuals:
  • There is only one true God, the God the Church teaches and worships. 
  • Jesus Christ is the one and only Saviour of mankind. 
  • The Catholic faith is the only completely true religion. 
  • All of us are subject to Original Sin and its consequences and so in need of God’s forgiveness and grace. 
  • All salvation comes from Christ and, directly or indirectly, through His Church. 
  • There is an everlasting Hell to which unrepentant sinners will be consigned. 
  • The hierarchy of the Church has a religious and moral authority given to it by Christ Himself to which all believers must submit. 
  • The Church teaches objective moral norms that are true and certain for all people. 
  • The pope under special circumstances can speak on matters of faith and morals with infallibility. 
  • Ordination to the sacramental priesthood is possible only for males. 
  • Holy Communion in the Catholic Church is typically forbidden to non-Catholics. 
  • All mortal sins must ordinarily be confessed to a priest in order to receive God’s forgiveness. 
  • A true sacramental marriage is a permanent bond that divorce cannot end thus making remarriage while one’s spouse is still alive immoral. 
  • The use of artificial contraception is immoral. 
  • Homosexual acts are immoral.
  • Premarital sex and cohabitation are immoral.
  • In vitro fertilization is immoral.
  • Abortion is immoral.
  • Fetal stem cell research is immoral. 
  • Euthanasia is immoral.
Why do these teachings provoke in many an almost spontaneous negative reaction? Why do they elicit intellectual skepticism and emotional anger? Why can they put believing Catholics at the receiving end of harsh criticism and possible rejection from incredulous friends, colleagues, and family members?

Cognitive Filters

While there are a number of venues for exploring this situation, I will look at a very important one that is largely ignored. It is ignored because it involves an implicit set of philosophical beliefs widely held in our society but rarely questioned. These philosophical assumptions determine the way we approach truth claims, moral positions, and ideas. They form a kind of cognitive filter through which ideas are sifted to determine their acceptability or unacceptability. These intellectual presuppositions may be reinforced by one’s personality, moral character and family background but they largely arise from the cultural milieu. Constant exposure and habitual use of them makes their influence nearly imperceptible. Yet they have a profound effect on the way we understand and judge.

When ideas or issues come to the fore that are perceived as having a bearing on one or more of these underlying presuppositions only those views conforming to them are evaluated positively. All others are either spontaneously rejected or held in suspicion and doubt. This includes Catholic beliefs. The presuppositions are never questioned. What is questioned is anything that is perceived as challenging or contravening them.
"Everybody has his filter which he takes about with him, through which from the indefinite mass of facts, he gathers in those suited to confirm his prejudices. ...Rare, very rare are those who check their filter." -- Henri de Lubac
In our modern “multicultural” society there are several interrelated moral presuppositions that have become so dominant that they are increasingly accepted as the norms by which other values and ideas are to be judged. Much of the media and political discussion that goes on today is filtered through them: whether that discussion be about legalizing marijuana, affirmative action, crime and punishment, social welfare, immigration policy, religious beliefs, homosexuality, abortion, public education, universal health care, or embryonic stem cell research. These presuppositions are brought to such debates and unquestioningly assumed by many to be the measure by which one discovers the right path for society to take. They are treated as if self-evidently true and good. In this sense they are analogous to the classic four Cardinal Virtues.

Plato's Four Classic Cardinal Virtues

A virtue is a moral habit ordered to what is good and exercised with a certain consistency and ease. As a habit it is like second nature to us, so much so that not to act accordingly becomes more difficult than to act on it. For example, a person possessing the virtue of honesty is disposed to telling the truth and does so with a consistency that makes him trustworthy in word and action. If such a person unpreparedly tells a lie often you can tell right away because he is so awkward and obvious at doing it. It is out of character. A dishonest person can spontaneously tell a lie without even flinching. He has developed it to a vice (i.e. a moral habit ordered to what is evil).

Plato first elucidated the four classic Cardinal Virtues. They are Courage, Temperance, Justice, and Prudence. As “cardinal” virtues they are the good actions or attitudes upon which other virtues are “hinged” or depend. For example, courage is the ability and willingness to deny oneself, even suffer, in order to realize a greater good. Courage is necessary if one is going to make much progress in the spiritual and moral life. We must be willing to stand up for what we know is right even if it causes others to oppose us; even if it costs us financially, in friendships or in family relations. We have to be willing to stand up to ourselves as well if we are to avoid being driven by our emotions, passions, and desires to the detriment of our character. If we do not gain the virtue of courage then we will not truly possess the virtues of chastity, honesty, industry, fidelity, love, etc. In fact neither will we truly possess the other cardinal virtues since they are interdependent.

Cardinal 'Virtues' of Secularism

I call the new moral presuppositions the “Cardinal Virtues of Secularism.” This is only by analogy to the classic cardinal virtues. What I am suggesting here is that moral standards have dramatically changed in recent decades and with that has come a new criterion of moral evaluation. Our moral judgments (which, despite protests to the contrary, all of us make) are now determined in relationship to other hinge "virtues.” These new “cardinal virtues,” like the earlier ones, are interrelated. Each is determined by and reinforces the others. They are considered fundamental attitudes necessary for all Canadians to possess in a "multicultural" secular society. Not to properly possess these qualities is judged reprehensible. They are thus civic virtues. These new "Cardinal Virtues" are:
  • Pluralism: A relativistic attitude toward truth, religion and morals.
  • Tolerance: A non-judgmental approach to contrary opinions and moral choices/lifestyles.
  • Equality: Giving equal value to personal and cultural differences.
  • Autonomy: Emphasis on individual freedom in moral decision- making.
Much of the reason why Catholic beliefs upset so many people is that these four presuppositions colour the way people look at them. They evaluate Catholic beliefs not by their truthfulness but by whether they meet the cultural norms of being non-absolute, tolerant of differing opinions and actions, in fact treating them as equally valid, and affirm the individual’s right to act as he sees fit. Virtually everyone in our secular society has been indoctrinated to some degree in these modern “virtues” – they are taught throughout our education system, propagated by the entertainment industry and news media, mandated by the government and courts, and praised by peers.

Truth is Relative?

In the Introduction of his bestseller, The Closing of the American Mind (1987), the late philosopher Allan Bloom well described this situation as he met it in the classroom:

"There is one thing a professor can be absolutely certain of: almost every student entering the university believes, or says he believes, that truth is relative. If this belief is put to the test, one can count on the students' reaction: they will be uncomprehending. That anyone should regard the proposition as not self-evident astonishes them, as though he were calling into question 2 + 2 = 4. These are things you don't think about. The students' backgrounds are as various as America can provide. Some are religious, some atheists; some are to the Left, some to the Right; some intend to be scientists, some humanists or professionals or businessmen; some are poor, some rich. They are unified only in their relativism and in their allegiance to equality. And the two are related in a moral intention. The relativity of truth is not a theoretical insight but a moral postulate, the condition of a free society, or so they see it. They have all been equipped with this framework early on, and it is the modern replacement for the inalienable natural rights that used to be the traditional American grounds for a free society. That it is a moral issue for students is revealed by the character of their response when challenged – a combination of disbelief and indignation: ‘Are you an absolutist?,’ the only alternative they know, uttered in the same tone as ‘Are you a monarchist?,’ or ‘Do you really believe in witches?’ The latter leads into the indignation, for someone who believes in witches might well be a witchhunter or a Salem judge. The danger they have been taught to fear from absolutism is not error but intolerance. Relativism is necessary to openness; and this is the virtue, the only virtue, which all primary education for more than fifty years has dedicated itself to inculcating. Openness – and the relativism that makes it the only plausible stance in the face of various claims to truth and various ways of life and kinds of human beings – is the great insight of our times. The true believer is the real danger. The study of history and of culture teaches that all the world was mad in the past; men always thought they were right, and that led to wars, persecutions, slavery, xenophobia, racism, and chauvinism. The point is not to correct the mistakes and really be right; rather it is not to think you are right at all.

“The students, of course, cannot defend their opinion. It is something with which they have been indoctrinated. The best they can do is point out all the opinions and cultures there are and have been. What right, they ask, do I or anyone else have to say one is better than the others? If I pose the routine questions designed to confute them and make them think, such as, ‘If you had been a British administrator in India, would you have let the natives under your governance burn the widow at the funeral of a man who had died?,’ they either remain silent or reply that the British should never have been there in the first place. It is not that they know very much about other nations, or about their own. The purpose of their education is not to make them scholars but to provide them with a moral virtue – openness." (pp. 25-6) -- Allan Bloom

"Men go by their sympathies, not by argument." -- John Henry Newman

"Most men, when they think they are thinking, are merely rearranging their prejudices." -- Knute Rockne
The prevalence of these new cardinal 'virtues' explains why, in our contemporary secular culture, defending Catholic belief, or simply upholding that there are objective moral norms and universal truths, has become controversial. It can bring down upon you hostility and rejection. The Catholic faith assumes that truth is objective: That reality is one and the same for all (though not equally recognized as such by all); that life’s experiences are only properly understood within the context of human life’s deeper meaning and purpose, and that decisions need to be made in light of this. The problem with this approach is that modern Western people do not just doubt the articles of Catholic faith, they doubt in principle that there is an objective truth or real and knowable purpose to life on which a faith or decisions can be based. They are skeptical of claims to a knowable objective truth, especially in the realm of morality.

It is not that objective morality and absolute truth have been demonstrated not to exist or to be unknowable. This is not a logical conclusion people have come to based on sufficient evidence. Rather it is a moral expedient and political stance made necessary by a social vision. Objective truths go contrary to the type of “inclusive pluralistic” society being promoted. In this new society one must be willing to assume, in principle, the equality of differing morals and ideas. This is a prerequisite attitude. Thus the denial of objective truth is more an act of the will than of the intellect; more a choice not to entertain any exclusivistic truth claims than a conclusion based on rational proof.

Rationalizing Verus Reasoning

“He who will not reason, is a bigot; he who cannot is a fool; and he who dares not, is a slave.” -- William Drummond
The tendency to reach conclusions by rationalizing instead of reasoning has always existed. It is a universal human weakness. Professor Alice von Hildebrand noted its consequence in her philosophy classes:
“Thirty-seven years of teaching have taught me that convincing arguments will only carry the assent of those willing to accept the conclusion drawn. Numerous are those who will never be convinced because their will stands in the way: the conclusion is not to their taste. It is sadly true that false arguments will ‘convince’ those who welcome their conclusion.” -- Alice von Hildebrand
Often the implicit conclusion that the student is welcoming – and measuring all moral arguments by – is whether or not it supports, or at least accommodates, his/her desire to sleep with his/her girlfriend/boyfriend. Today such self-serving subjectivism has been promoted into a dominant and respected cultural ideology.

The virtues needed in our society that permit such a state of affairs are the four we shall discuss. They are the civic 'virtues' of our pluralistic secular culture. The average Canadian never thinks to question these secular virtues. Even if it came into his consciousness to do so I think he would be very hesitant. For to question them is to risk having to acknowledge certain ideas as true and other ideas as false; that some actions are good and other actions are bad; that some people can be in the right and others in the wrong. It will demand that he take a stand, and an unpopular one at that! This will threaten his peace and comfort. Moreover, it will label him (in the minds of others if not his own) as intolerant, bigoted, and arrogant. It may cost him friendships, family ties, and the esteem of his colleagues. So while intellectual confusion definitely exerts a strong influence in this matter, it is not alone. Conformism and cowardice are other factors.
“We will never know how many acts of cowardice have been motivated by the fear of appearing not sufficiently progressive.” -- Charles Peguy
As alluded to above, the unwillingness to admit there are absolute truths and objective moral norms can have a very personal basis. To admit the reality of such norms may force one to admit that he is living by falsehoods, has perpetrated evil, and that the one in the wrong may be oneself. Better to deny the existence of any objective truth or morality or, at least, that it is knowable. Easier to retreat into familiar and comfortable cliches that validate subjective choices rather than judge objectively. Better to deny reality than to violate the Cardinal Virtues of Secularism. For these soft and comfortable virtues can give one today the facade of being a good person and a good Canadian.
“Nothing is easier than self-deceit. For what each man wishes, that he also believes to be true.” -- Demosthenes

"It is not always the same thing to be a good man and a good citizen." -- Aristotle

“The people who are the most bigoted are the people who have no convictions at all.” -- G. K. Chesterton
In my next post I'll examine the Cardinal Virtues of Secularism in order to see what merit there is in them and how they are often misunderstood and misused.

By Fr. Tim McCauley |

The billboard may have caught my eye, but something deeper drew me to the current exhibit at the National Gallery, a retrospective on the life's work of the Canadian Indigenous artist Alex Janvier. The art itself is intriguing, and Janvier's own experience of residential schools encourages reflection on the interplay between Christianity and native culture.

His earliest works, at age 15, were religious commissions by the school; "Our Lady of the Tepee" (1950) is an ideal example of the inculturation of the Gospel, as Janvier portrays Mary with native features and includes Indigenous iconography such as a tepee. As Janvier developed his skill, he leaned toward abstract art, but many of his pieces are much more engaging and accessible in comparison with other artists encased in an unrelenting monotony of style. (Even those unfamiliar with art can instantly recognize a painting by Jackson Pollock, with his non-technique of pouring and flinging his paint on the canvas, or a work by Piet Mondrian with his weary discipline of geometric shapes and straight lines). Janvier's work can be delightful in its diversity.

The beginning of the exhibit presents us with a series of mandala-circle works with a sparing use of calligraphy-style wisps of paint. But then his style evolves continually. One of Janvier's early abstract works, "Eternal Struggle," (1966) conveys the sense of a profusion of life in a dense jungle, with orange, blues, greens and whites in semi-floral patterns, twisting and converging in a vortex. All human beings struggle to express our souls in the external world, through art, work, and relationships. Someone once described the soul as a diamond. But it can also be a furnace of passionate and conflicting emotions, an explosion of colours of inchoate beauty that cries out for meaning and form. However, abstract artists tend to be suspicious of any external imposition of meaning. They prefer to explore colours without obvious form and "pure" emotion without intrusion from the intellect.

"Fly, fly, fly" (1981, oil on linen) is a prime example of the potential of such art to elicit feeling. The indistinct image reminds one of a praying mantis or other stick insect, twisted and splattered on the surface of the linen. The word "chthonic" comes to mind, as if we were seeing an alien creature raised from the underworld, a fascinating but disturbing image. Of course artists can help us explore our unconscious. But to which image are they drawing our gaze -- to a monster lurking in a cave, or the image of God reflected in a diamond?

My second time at the exhibit I met a German art student who compared Janvier favourably to German expressionists, while also remarking on Janvier's unique style. He combines cheerful colours with dark themes. The expressionists normally shun soft colours such as light blue and pink, which Janvier freely employs. In 1989, Janvier explored memories of his residential school experience in 33 paintings, some of which are included in the exhibit. There are faceless children in stiff uniforms, suggesting an imposed conformity, yet all is rendered in bright colours! It evokes a sense of the irrepressible energy of the human soul.

In the context of the current cultural narrative of all residential schools being an unquestionable evil of relentless oppression, it is interesting to note, as the writers of the exhibit inform us, that the first school that Janvier attended encouraged him to explore his talent. The place of his "oppression" taught him to express himself. One wonders if, without those teachers at the residential school who recognized and encouraged his artistic gift, would there be an exhibit today? This might indicate the need for a more honest appraisal of the legacy of residential schools, recognizing the mix of good and evil in all human institutions and in every human being.

Near the end of the exhibit, almost as an afterthought, is a casual drawing of a priest entitled "Old Rev." The commentary of the creators of the exhibit is most instructive. We are informed that "Old Rev" was "instrumental in suppressing Dene culture through his teaching of Christianity which was presented as superior to their beliefs." First, let us make a clear distinction between people and truth. The European Christians who came to Canada were in no way superior, as human beings, to the native people. We are all sons and daughters of the one God. Furthermore, as John Paul II remarked, on his visit to the Martyrs' Shrine in 1984, "Jesus Christ, in the members of His Body, is Himself native." At the same time, the truth of God that Christ came to reveal -- that the Divinity is not an arbitrary power or a jealous demiurge, but a loving Father who created everything out of nothing, and desires only our good and our happiness -- this teaching is eminently superior to the half-truths of many pagan myths, whether they be Greek, Roman or Norse, Huron, Ojibwe, or Dene.

It is right for us to be outraged by religious hypocrisy. For anyone -- whether priest or nun, parent or teacher -- to tell children stories of Jesus but treat them with a sense of superiority, indifference, anger or cruelty -- such people bear the weight of serious scandal. From my own experience growing up in the Anglican Church, I can testify to the scars that such treatment leaves in the souls of children, and our collective need for healing. But it is wrong for us to blame God for the suffering in our lives, and a tragic conclusion for our own souls and our own happiness if we allow the weakness or malice of human beings to prevent us from coming to know Christ and the truth He reveals.

The current secular spin on the missionary efforts of Christians toward Indigenous Canadians would like to airbrush out of history personalities like Joseph Chihwatenhwa, a Huron native of the 17th century. When he met the Jesuit missionaries, he found that the truth of God they proclaimed corresponded with his own personal spiritual quest. By a supernatural instinct, he had already been withdrawing his spirit from some of the pagan practices into which he had been born. For instance, he and his wife had been married only once, and refused to indulge in the not uncommon practice among the Hurons of spouse sharing. They avoided feasts imbued with pagan ritual, and to the genuine astonishment of the Jesuits, neither he nor his wife smoked tobacco! When the missionaries told him about Christ, the truth resonated with something deep in his spirit, and he was drawn to belief as a fulfillment of his own deepest desires. (It is worth noting that after Joseph was murdered in secret by Iroquois raiders, many of the Jesuit priests regarded him as a saint in heaven, and there is a movement today for his canonization).

There is still so much potential in a fruitful dialogue between European Christian culture and native Canadian traditions, to enrich all Canadians. A true Christian ethos will always have a deep respect for nature as a gift and revelation of the Father-Creator. But secular European/Canadian culture can manifest a brutal, instrumental, capitalist and exploitative view of nature. Indigenous Canadians, for one, can help us all offset this danger. They have dwelt in this land for centuries, almost as if their flesh was formed from the clay of this particular Canadian earth. One of Janvier's painting, Nehobetthe (Land Before They Arrived, 1992), captures the magnificent natural diversity of Canada, with images of deer, bison, moose, rabbits, beavers, and eagles. Indigenous people can help us root ourselves more deeply in the land in which we dwell, living in our bodies grounded in the earth, rather in the virtual reality of our minds, detached from the smells and sounds of the world around us, cut off from other people and our own selves.

My hope and prayer for Janvier and others like him is that they will continue to explore the "colours" of their soul, their own inner emotions, in our common "eternal struggle" both to express ourselves and discover God. Form does not oppress colour, but fulfills it. The Christian message does not oppress the human person, but liberates him. God is for us, not against us. He is on the side of human beings of whatever ethnic background, for we are all His beloved children. Christ Himself gives us the tools to express ourselves in the art of life, and by His death and Resurrection, frees us from all forms of slavery and oppression, restoring our dignity and joy as beloved sons and daughters of our common Father.

Photo Attribution: Morning Star (Detail), Alex Janvier, 1993, file AlexJanvier MorningStar.jpg, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License

Being a longtime practitioner in the areas of social marketing and strategic communications, I spend more time thinking about politics and government than is good for any normal human being.

One of my current areas of interest is the ongoing societal train wreck in the U.S. flowing from the hotly contested 2016 Presidential Election. One day, being more than a little baffled by the hysterical reaction of Democrats to their Election loss, I found myself recalling a song made popular in the 1960s by singer Eydie Gormé called “Blame it on the Bossa Nova”. In this catchy ditty, a young woman relates how she fell madly in love with a stranger after just one dance. Pondering this mystery, she considers a number of possibilities – including the stars above and the tune the band played. After much consideration, she lays the blame squarely on the Bossa Nova, that much-loved Brazilian style of music, which for her is now the dance of love.

After struggling unsuccessfully to get that tune out of my head, it occurred to me that this particular song has a lot to say about the growing dysfunction now seen in the United States and the tendency of many U.S. voters, politicians, and media figures to blame everyone but themselves for the mess their country is in. For it nicely describes the confusion, immaturity and denial of reality currently rampant in America that can only be outdone by a 1960s heartthrob song.

The Election from Hell

Let’s be honest. The 2016 Presidential Election campaign was nothing short of toxic – drawing on vast reserves of flapdoodle, slander, vitriol and false news (to use the current euphemism). In short, it was a mess and no one came away smelling good.

To begin with, Trump is no saint – a fact he frankly admitted during the campaign when he said he had been an immature 59-year-old way back when. Fair enough. Unfortunately, he also had (and continues to have) an incredibly thin skin – a flaw frequently demonstrated during the campaign when he said and did things that showed he was almost pathologically incapable of sloughing off criticism. Finally, there were his policy flip-flops and his recourse to what would later become known as ‘alternate facts’.

But flawed as Trump might have been, Hillary’s faults were, if possible, even worse. All of which made her opponent seem like a choir boy by comparison – at least to those voters who did not have permanent residency in Boston, New York, Washington or California. One such fault involved her personality and presentation – which made her seem cold and uncaring. Nor did her policies ring any bells – promising as they did yet more Obama-style foreign policy fiascoes, a ramped up war on the unborn, and continued attacks on American workers via illegal immigration, the outsourcing of jobs offshore, and the loss of industries and projects that might otherwise provide good jobs (such as pipelines, drilling and coal mining).

My own ‘favorites’ were her rock-solid support for unrestricted abortion, the likelihood of a continued assault on the working class and her seeming desire to make the already bad relationship with Russia even worse. But, hey, that’s just me.

The First Stage – Denial

Sadly for the Democrats, Trump won and Hillary lost. And, as crazy as the election had been, the real fun began minutes after the votes were tabulated. For it was then that American ‘progressives’ plunged into paroxysms of anguish, despair, and grief. From all appearances, a significant portion of them had concluded that civilization as they knew it had now come to an end. Reacting much as a young child might upon learning that Santa Claus did not exist, these sorely vexed individuals acted out their angst on T.V. screens around the world – displaying behavior that was embarrassing to everyone except them.

But this was just the beginning. For what followed was a form of political psychodrama which saw many Hillary fans follow a course of adaptation that closely resembled Swiss-American psychiatrist Kübler-Ross’ vision of how people deal with grief. They engaged in denial. And the Bossa Nova effect kicked in with a vengeance – with one explanation after another being put forward to fix blame on someone or something else in hopes of avoiding responsibility for the stunning electoral loss. Possible scapegoats included: the hacking of voting machines, voting irregularities, Russian interference, the FBI director, flaws in the Electoral College, racist and sexist voters, false consciousness on the part of working class voters and women, etc., etc., etc. The list goes on and on. The only explanations that didn’t get much air time were the obvious ones – namely, that Clinton had been a bad candidate, the Democratic Party had lost touch with the people, and Americans had grown tired of being insulted by snooty elites.

The Next Stage – Anger and Violence

But demanding recounts, launching lawsuits and bullying members of the Electoral College can only take you so far, right? Which no doubt explains why American ‘leftists’ have now chosen to enter Kübler-Ross’ second stage of grief – the anger phase. And what a display of anger it has been – with sit-ins, boycotts, celebrity hissy fits, tirades, biased reporting and ‘false news’ from the mainstream media.

Some of this anger has taken the form of verbal violence by a myriad of celebrities, politicians, media analysts and the odd dress designer seeking to establish her street creds by publicly declaring that she would not ‘dress’ Trump’s wife.

More troubling has been the recourse to actual physical violence – an unhappy phenomenon that continues today. My ‘favorite’ outrage to date is the recent riot at the university campus in Berkeley California – an institution which by an ironic twist of fate was the home of the free speech movement in the 1960s. Apparently, free speech is no longer as hallowed a virtue as it once was – as seen by the cancelling of the February 1, 2017 speaking engagement by Breitbart editor, Milo Yiannopoulos, due to the actions of some less than peaceful activists. Venting their rage, some in the crowd took out their frustrations on a number of ATMs, whose connection to Milo I still find difficult to see.

Fears of a Possible ‘Soft Coup’

Of course, such actions by overheated academics, students, media types and celebrities cannot hope to overthrow the Government by themselves. Rather it would require concerted action by what political scientists refer to as, “the Deep State’, that network of business, political, bureaucratic, legal and media elites who according to some are the real sources of power and influence in society.

While it is by no means clear that such an event is likely in the future, there nevertheless are some worrisome indications that something unpleasant may be going on behind the scenes – as seen by rumors that the push back to Trump may be more organized and well-funded than was previously thought to be the case. One sign of this is the opposition seen among Washington bureaucrats – which involves leaking documents, working more slowly than usual to gum up the wheels of government and coordinating their resistance with some opposition figures in the political sphere. One particularly striking case of bureaucratic resistance involved the recent refusal of the former Acting Attorney General to obey a lawful order, which not surprisingly led to her dismissal.

Sadly, this may be just the beginning - as seen by a suggestion in RT News, the media organization owned by the Russian Government, that a ‘soft coup’ may well be in the cards.[1]

At first glance, such a claim seems ridiculous. However, there are already some in the U.S. who are talking about impeachment or even a military coup.[2] All of which suggests that even more extreme action may not be far off – especially if some of America’s elites decide that anything is better than Trump.

Summing Up

So what does it all mean? Is the situation really all that serious? And if it is, how did it come about and how can Americans fix it?

To my mind part of the answer comes from William Butler Yeats’ poem, The Second Coming, in which he states:
“Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.” [3]
Written in 1919, following the carnage of the First World War, Yeats’ somber vision of the world seems particularly apt in our own age as daily news reports and our own personal experience reinforce the sense that something has gone terribly wrong with Western civilization.

This is particularly true of the United States of America which every day seems to more closely resemble the Weimer Republic of the 1930s – which proved so woefully inept at restoring Germany’s national pride, addressing the nation’s economic woes and quelling the incessant street fighting which raged between Communists and Nazis.

Happily, this is not a perfect analogy. For, contrary to what anarchists, Democratic Party surrogates, and some media personalities might claim, Trump is no Hitler. The U.S. economy is not a basket case as was the case with Germany prior to Hitler’s rise to power. Nor do anti-Trump activists (violent and otherwise) pose a threat even close to that of the German Communist Party in the 1920s and 1930s.

Even so, this is a time of real danger in American history which presents challenges of a magnitude not seen since the time of Lincoln. Handled badly, the result could be a grim one for the American people – and for the rest of us, given the rather frightening future prospect of a nation gone mad, which possesses an arsenal of some 6800 nuclear warheads.[4]

As to the roots of this crisis, Yeats’ contention that the West’s problems were of a spiritual nature remains as true today as it was in 1919. For the collective madness currently playing out in America’s streets, universities, governmental institutions, media, and, yes, abortion clinics did not occur overnight. Nor is it the fault of any one person – not Trump, not Clinton and not any other person you might care to cite. Rather, this is a crisis that has been a long time in coming – dating back at least to the 1960s and almost certainly even further back. And there is more than enough blame to go around for all of the players and institutions (including churches that no longer believe their own foundational truths and parents who fail to live the faith and pass it on to their children).

Given how long it has taken Americans to get to this point, it is reasonable to assume that it will probably take an equally long time to repair the nation’s institutions and culture. But to fix things Americans will need to turn away from the “Blame it on the Bossa Nova” denial of reality that currently seems to be such a popular theme in American politics and culture.

For it’s not the stars up above. It’s not the tune the band played. It’s not the ‘evil Republicans’ – that increasingly shop-warn centerpiece of the ‘progressive’ narrative. And it’s not the supposedly racist, sexist, homophobic and Islamophobic Christians the Left and its media allies want us to hate and fear. Rather, to quote the immortal words of the comic strip, Pogo, “We have met the enemy and he is us”.

American power – while not always positive – nevertheless has been a source of stability. And at times it has been a force for great good. It would be a huge tragedy if America were to continue tearing itself apart. But stranger things have happened – the history of the Roman Empire providing an excellent example. Unfortunately, the world that follows such a collapse is always soaked in blood – an event whose consequences I would not wish on anyone.

In the meantime, those of us living outside the United States are left watching a drama over which we have no control. All we can do is love our families, trust in God and pray fervently that good sense will ultimately prevail among our friends to the South.

And if common sense does not prevail, well, as Abraham said to Isaac, “God will provide” – which is more than enough for anyone.

[1] Catherine Shakdam. “The soft coup – US Establishment goes to war with President Trump”. RT News. January 31, 2017. Retrieved from:

[2] Rosa Brooks. “3 Ways to Get Rid of President Trump Before 2020”. Foreign Policy. January 30, 2017. Retrieved from:

[3] William Butler Yeats. “The Second Coming”. Retrieved from:

[4] Arms Control Association. Nuclear Weapons: Who Has What at a Glance. Retrieved from:

photo credit: By Gage Skidmore from Peoria, AZ, United States of America (Flickr) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

By Johanne Brownrigg |
There is certainly something in the wind. Gale force winds. Eventually when I think about what has been happening in Ontario, I am reminded of the Big Bad Wolf telling the Three Little Pigs: “I’ll huff and I’ll puff and I’ll blooooowww your house down!” Kathleen Wynne means it.

In June 2015, just as most Ontario parents were wrapping up the school year and gearing up for summer childcare and holidays, the first of three puffs came.

The Affirming Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Act, banned psychiatric therapy for children preventing doctors from “carry[ing] out any practice that seeks to change or direct the sexual orientation or gender identity of a patient under 18 years of age.” It also banned funding for “any services rendered that seek to change or direct the sexual orientation or gender identity of a patient, including efforts to change or direct the patient’s behaviour or gender expression,” In all this, Bill 77 over-rides parental authority by making it virtually impossible for the ones who want to seek help for their children. National Post columnist Barbara Kay covered the story with aplomb.

About a year and a half later, this same government introduced Bill 28, the All Families are Equal Act, which like Bill 77, passed without a peep from the Progressive Conservatives at Queens Park. The social experiment on Ontario children continues using “equality” as the cover for creating law that does away with references to mother, father and natural parents from Ontario statutes, and removes the presumption in law that children have only two parents. As John Sikkema points out in his National Post piece, “Up to four unrelated and unmarried adults can sign a contract entitling them to be legal parents to a child without being biological parents, applying to court for declarations of parentage, or adopting.”

What could go wrong?

The third but probably not final gust has been tabled recently. It will be up for debate in February but will easily pass since there is no Official Opposition to Wynne’s social agenda. Bill 89, titled Supporting Children, Youth and Families Act is reviewed here, again by John Sikkema from ARPA. Now the decision for foster care placement has to consider the gender identity and gender expression of children, if their parents appear to reject these notions. Parents who question their children’s gender dysphoria could trigger teacher reporting and even a Children’s Aid intervention. It signals a seismic shift to imposing gender identity, independent of sex, onto families. There is still time to quickly lobby your MPP against voting for this bill.

These fundamental changes to the understanding of parents, let alone parental authority, have taken place with the backdrop of the sex-ed curriculum. There is still a diversity of parents rejecting it. Too much, too soon is the unified objection. But this diversity and this unity is not the photo-op of the day.

A fury has been unleashed and I see only one reason. The big ol’ family is a glaring obstacle to a new family. The one that doesn’t love its children. The one that calls the State, mommy. Kathleen Wynne and our lame-duck Leader of the Opposition, are intent on de-constructing that ol’ one.

She will huff and puff and blooooow your house down. The question remains the same as it has been down through the ages. On what have you built your house?

Image credit:Fair use, Link
By Isabelle O'Connor |


A Quebec woman deplores the fact that the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) in Montreal, obliged her to travel to the United States, sometime in 2016, by referring her there for the abortion of her twenty-seven week preborn child, as permanent impediments prevented her from travelling abroad.

In the end, the woman obtained the abortion somewhere in Quebec, sometime in 2016, but only, she claims, with the assistance of renowned patient rights advocate MrJean-Pierre Ménard

Since then, Mr. Ménard wrote to the Quebec College of Physicians asking them to review their abortion guidelines so as to allow for the practice of all abortions in Quebec, without restriction.

Mr. Ménard deplores, in his letter, that establishments avail themselves of the power to refuse abortions, and likens them to hospital therapeutic abortion committees, which were declared unconstitutional.

Are ethics committees unconstitutional? 

In the 1988 Morgentaler Decision, the Supreme Court of Canada declared hospital therapeutic abortion committees unconstitutional, that is true. The reason given, however, was that the latter lead to late-term abortion, deemed a threat to women’s security. So any instance that takes into consideration the risks involved with late-term abortion for the woman is directly in accord with the spirit of the Morgentaler Decision.

What is at issue here is patients’ right to informed consent: the patient has the right to know if a procedure will constitute a threat to their health or life. Also at issue is the right, and duty, of caregivers to refuse treatment if the latter calculate that a procedure will be harmful to their patient. (No mention here of caregivers’ right to objection of conscience, on moral grounds with regards to the preborn child, a right that we will leave outside the present debate.)

Is there a right to abortion in Canada?

The Supreme Court of Canada was never presented with the question of the existence or institution of a right to abortion, although, in the Morgentaler Decision, two out of the seven judges claimed that no right to abortion exists, one acknowledges such a right, another is ambiguous, and the three others do not address the issue, which is normal as the question is not asked.

In Canada, abortion is decriminalized. With Sections 223 and 238 of the Criminal code, the only people who are indictable of a criminal offence are:
  1. a. anyone who, by an action of theirs performed before the birth of a child, brings on the death of the child once the child has completely proceeded outside a woman’s body, alive, whether the umbilical cord has been severed and whether the newborn has breathed or not, and
  2. b. any woman who allows for this.
With late-term abortion, this poses a problem in that whatever the method used, live births are not inevitable (and in fact are on the increase, see sources), and some of these children might have sustained some harm from the abortion attempt but may not otherwise be dying per se. How then to dispose of the child? Methods have been devised under the auspices of “palliative care” that can, however, be likened to newborn homicide by neglect to provide the basic necessities of life (food, water, heat, air, etc.).

Decriminalization of abortion started in 1969, with the Omnibus Bill, which allowed abortion in hospitals only, and only to save the life or health of the woman. Then, with the Morgentaler Decision of 1988, private clinics won their cause and abortion was no longer limited to hospitals.

This did not have the effect of opening the door to abortion on demand (for any reason and at any time during pregnancy), as the Supreme Court, in the Morgentaler Decision, also decreed that it was indeed constitutional for both the federal government and “the provinces” to manage the practice of abortion and access to abortion (not the “right” to abortion) according to factors deemed relevant, including, said the Court, “State interest in protecting the preborn child at some point in pregnancy”.

So, provincial medical colleges in conjunction with their national counterparts, have developed abortion guidelines taking into account certain factors. These factors are not specified but it is possible to assume that they may include risks for the woman as well as the risk of having to deal with a live birth.

The abortion on demand that is demanded is not a constitutional reality. Nothing obligates a caregiver, or an institution, to provide treatment they deem counter-indicated. Nothing obligates a caregiver to bow to the arbitrary decision of health care plans to treat abortion as always medically necessary, as the very law that regulates these health plans, i.e. the Canada Health Act and its provincial counterparts, stipulates that it is incumbent upon physicians and their colleges to determine what is medically necessary.

The Daigle Decision of 1989, for its part, decrees that no one can stop a woman from requesting an abortion based on the right to life of a preborn child. The right to life of the preborn child as a “human being” claimed under the Civil Code of Quebec and the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms is rejected by the Court, and the Court adds that it would be very difficult to prove such a right exists under Common Law, in the rest of Canada, because of legal precedents against it, but that this does not invalidate the openness of the Court to a State interest in protecting the preborn child at some point in pregnancy, as the Court had expressed in the Morgentaler Decision.

The Daigle Decision is not synonymous with a right to demand abortion. The possibility that a woman requests an abortion without interference does not cancel out her right, either, to informed consent (knowing whether the procedure will threaten her security) nor does it cancel out the right, and duty, of caregivers to refuse a procedure if it is medically counter-indicated.


As the Supreme Court of Canada decreed in its Morgentaler Decision, and as Mr. Henri Morgentaler himself describes in his 1982 book Abortion and Contraception (must reading for anyone still not convinced that abortion is the ultimate form of violence against women), the risks and consequences of legally-induced abortion increase exponentially with each week of gestation.

To arbitrarily declare, as do the provincial health insurance plans, all abortions “medically necessary” (or medically indicated), is contrary to the right to security of the woman as well as to the her right to informed consent, and also contrary to the Canada Health Act, which devolves the duty to determine what is medically necessary to physicians and their instances of collegiality, and not to the provincial health insurance plans.

This systematic usurpation of medical authority on the part of provincial health insurance plans leads to the impression of a right to abortion in Canada. There is no right to abortion in Canada. Ethics committees and abortion guidelines do not transgress any right, and are not only constitutional, but represent a professional necessity and duty to allow for the exercise of women’s right to security and informed consent.

What needs to be done today with regards to the late-term abortion issue at hand is for genetics counselling programs for all pregnant women (the major source of late-term abortion) to be abolished because of:
  1. a. the risks of late-term abortion for women,
  2. b. the risks of genetic testing for the child, and
  3. c. how test results mostly give genetic predisposition probabilities when the expression of illness also depends on environment and lifestyle. And seeing as caregivers and institutions now lament the live births they cannot seem to avoid, unless they have recourse to more invasive and difficult methods, and the trauma and legal and health challenges these represent, genetic counselling programs should be cancelled because of
  4. d. this risk of live birth.
If these programs are not abolished, then, in accordance to the right to informed consent, they should include a reference to:
  1. a. existing organizations specializing in open, semi-open or closed adoption of healthy and ill or handicapped children;
  2. b. existing resources facilitating social integration during difficult pregnancy (study programs, residences);
  3. c. programs for post-abortion healing like Rachel’s Vineyard, in which thousands of women are registered to come to terms with the physical and psychological fallouts of their abortion and, for many, the suicidal tendencies they are no longer able to contain through various forms of repression, including substance abuse; and
  4. d. the pamphlet entitled “The two types of abortion injury” that can be downloaded from
Finally, to open up on a whole other discussion: to declare abortion in early pregnancy “relatively safe”, one cannot, as have all courts and legislatures in the world having studied the issue, rely on official abortion morbidity and mortality statistics, which both Statistics Canada and the World Health Organization deem “not representative of reality”, due to an array of factors. See my three research reports on the matter at

I say this in all humility but it is important for people to understand: No one has ever before unearthed this statistical subterfuge of world-wide proportions and ramifications. It needs to be milked for all it’s worth. In my mind, this is gold. Please help with my fundraiser to have the press release at wired to all Canadian media. A total of $1,985 plus tax is required. Cheques can be made out to “Vivere Publications” and mailed to the organization at 15, rue Principale Nord, Montcerf-Lytton, Quebec, J0W 1N0. This is urgent and very timely with regards to current events. Thank you for your interest and support. Will keep donors updated!


The Case of the Refused Late-Term Abortion

Le Devoir, December 20, 2016, « Forcée de recourir à un avocat pour obtenir un avortement », (Forced to Hire a Lawyer to Obtain an Abortion), Amélie Daoust-Boisvert

Le Devoir, December 22, 2016, « Les avortements tardifs doivent pouvoir être faits ici, dit le CSF », (Late-term abortions must be done here, says CSF), Amélie Daoust-Boisvert
“CSF” = Conseil du statut de la femme : a Quebec government institution that does not seem to have an official name in English, so we will freely translate it as “Council on the Status of Women”.

Le Devoir, December 24, 2016, « Avortements tardifs : Un accès parsemé d’obstacles », (Late-term abortion: Access still Marred with Hindrances), Amélie Daoust-Boisvert

The Study on the Concerning Rate of Live Births Following Late-Term Abortion Attempts

La Presse, Marc Thibodeau, October 14, 2016, « Avortements tardifs - Le Collèges des médecins préoccupé » (Late-term abortion – Physicians’ College ‘Concerned’ » :

Auger, N., et al, “Abortion and Infant Mortality on the First Day of Life”, Neonatalogy, Vol. 109, No. 2, February 2016. See abstract at

By Fr. Tim McCauley |

The rebels are still fighting the Empire, both in the Star Wars saga and in the American psyche. The enduring popularity of this myth-generating enterprise gives us some insight not only into America but also the world in which we live. First, a disclaimer of sorts: I am a Canadian born in the States. Though my parents emigrated when I was an infant, I have an enduring attachment to America; when I returned for two years as an adult, I was received into the Catholic Church, a time of precious memories for me. Therefore, I am at odds with certain forms of nationalism on both sides of the 49th parallel, as I believe it is possible for the same person to love both Canada and the United States. On my part, any analysis or critique of America is not schadenfreude, but sympathy, and even encouragement to my American cousins to keep fighting the good fight.

I am a fan of the Stars Wars epic, but after somewhat wearisome repetitions on a theme, I began to wonder: what's up with the Death Star? They destroyed it in the first and third movies of the original trilogy and again in last year's "The Force Awakens" (well, it was a "Death Star" planet), and now they are stealing the plans for the Death Star in the latest installment (prequel to "A New Hope"), in order to destroy it. This may reflect a paucity of creativity among the writers; however, they may also be responding to a phenomenon in the collective imagination -- that the Evil Empire never goes away. The rebels must keep rebelling, and keep destroying the Death Star, again and again and again.

In human experience, it is true that the spiritual battle is always with us, whether we like it or not. The world, the flesh and the devil are aligned against us, the latter in implacable hostility. We must wage war for our own good, happiness and salvation. As St. John reminds us, "the whole world is under the Evil One," and Jesus himself testifies that the devil is the Prince of this world, the original Evil Emperor.

Chesterton wryly observed in Orthodoxy that "to the orthodox there must always be a case for revolution; for in the hearts of men God has been put under the feet of Satan. In the upper world hell once rebelled against heaven. But in this world heaven is rebelling against hell. For the orthodox there can always be a revolution; for a revolution is a restoration."

Well and good. But I also wonder if there is something peculiarly American about Star Wars. In the original, it is no coincidence that swashbuckling Luke and Han Solo speak with American accents, while the uniformed minions of the Empire enunciate in the Queen's English. This is the historical narrative of the founding of America, of heroic rebels throwing off the yoke of an autocratic and abusive Empire, an appealing story that has influenced the global imagination through pop culture.

I recall the year I volunteered with a religious order in Woonsocket, RI, spending one day a week in a Catholic school, in a grade 7 class of mostly Spanish-speaking students. I couldn't help but notice how the children were drilled with the basic facts and slogans of the American Revolution. I myself remember, as a child watching American cable TV, being captivated by sing-along educational infomercials about the "shot heard round the world, it's the start of the revolution." Every nation has its founding myth. Rome has its Aeneid and America has the Revolution. "Myth" in this sense does not refer to sheer fantasy, but far exceeds mere facts about the past. It is history embellished and raised to mythic status, so that the story of a nation's origins shapes the current identity of its citizens, instilling in them a grateful patriotism, inspiring them in the pursuit of common goals, and so on.

Canadians always seemed jealous. Americans had a heroic and glorious Revolution, while we had a cup of tea. And a polite conversation. England defeated France in the Seven Years War ending in 1763. The "Evil Empire" of Britain actually wanted to impose its will, with the ultimate goal of turning French Catholics into English Protestants. But it never happened. Why not? Thank you America. By way of threat, your presence saved French Catholics. Revolutionary grumblings in New England sufficiently spooked the British rulers into governing differently up north. Inspired perhaps more by realpolitik than compassion, they clearly understood that disenfranchised French subjects would be fodder for rebellion. Accordingly, the British passed the Quebec Act of 1774, which introduced crucial changes to former legislation: reference to the Protestant faith was removed from the oath of allegiance, and the act formally recognized freedom of religion for all French Catholics. So effective was the modus vivendi achieved that the French-Canadian militia fought next to British regulars to repel American invaders in the War of 1812.

Canada was built on compromise not revolution. This is no declaration of moral superiority, but an observation of the facts of history. It has shaped the Canadian psyche differently from the American. We have our issues, and for years Canadian conservatives cast envious eyes at the solidity and sanity of American traditional values, while bemoaning our culture of judicial activism bent on re-moulding society along ideological lines. Having said that, for better or worse, Canadians are still more inclined to trust government, and less likely to sniff out traces of tyranny and wave the banner of revolution against oppression. (This "trust" can border on non-chalance, and engender a dubious passivity toward the Nanny state, but that's another issue).

A founding myth can perpetuate itself in public consciousness in an interesting way. For example, we were founded on a Revolution; therefore, we have to keep fighting for our rights . . . because . . . we are always oppressed? Non-American historians have occasionally referred to the Revolution as the First Civil War, as Americans were fighting fellow Americans as well as British soldiers. In this line of thinking, the Civil War was like a second Revolution, this time of the Southern States against the North. (But it was also a Revolution in the most positive sense, of the moral conscience of the North against the practice of slavery in the South). The recurring theme of Revolution leads us to wonder: is it part of our identity to be always fighting for our rights? Is it part of our identity to always feel oppressed for whatever reason?

In our own imagination, expressed through our modern myths and pop culture, we need to be clear that our primary identity is not that of rebels against the Evil Empire, but of sons and daughters of the Good King. There is a risk that people on both sides of the political spectrum identify themselves primarily as rebels against the Empire or victims of oppression. The libertines feel oppressed by so-called European white male supremacy, and their absolutist truths concerning sex, marriage and two genders. Then white males feel strangled and oppressed by political correctness and official double-speak. The danger of adopting a victim mentality is to view reality in keeping with our false identity. We feel oppressed, so we look for signs to confirm our suspicion that we are indeed oppressed. And since we are always oppressed, we must always be rebelling.

Ronald Reagan once took flak from liberals by calling the Soviet Union an "Evil Empire." For decades, the Cold War provided the West with clear moral lines and a strong sense of purpose. Do Americans, or human beings in general, always need an "Evil Empire" to unite us and help form our identity? Can a people be motivated by the sort of rebellion and revolution described by Chesterton? In the human psyche, because of original sin, we must confront the reality of slavery and oppression, and our need for the constant Revolution of Christ, that rebel Jesus who saves us from the dominion of darkness, the Empire of Satan. Such is the ultimate truth, but is it too spiritual to unite the masses?

We often hear that America was founded on Christian principles. This is true, even if the founders' vison borrowed more from Enlightenment Deism than being grounded in a bold, Christocentric understanding of reality. The power of the authentic "myth" of Christianity is inexhaustible, with endless potential in every age for what St. Paul called the "renewal of the mind," a purification and restoration of the imagination, a vision that inspires and unites. In "Rogue One," the heroine Jyn breathes new life into the doubtful rebels by reminding them, "Rebellions are built on hope." As one reviewer put it, she is anti-totalitarian and pro-hope. That's one thing on which we can all agree. Hope -- true Christian hope -- springs eternal.

photo credit: Marcos Nozella Vader and Luke via photopin (license)
By Elishama |

In Stirling, Scotland, there is an old and impressive church near Stirling Castle. It is the Church of the Holy Rude (“Rood” is an old English word for “cross”). It was in this church that the infant son of Mary Queen of Scots was crowned King James VI of Scotland. The construction of the present church was begun in 1414 and took over a century to complete. In 1656 a disagreement between two of the church’s Presbyterian ministers and their followers led to a wall being built across the centre of the church (between the nave and the choir). There were then 2 congregations in the same building - the East Congregation and the West Congregation. That dividing wall remained for almost 300 years, until the two congregations finally reconciled in 1936.

The wall across the centre of the Church of the Holy Rude made scandalously visible the division that existed within that particular Christian community. But it also acts as a symbol of the visible division that exists worldwide between Christian believers. This is not a new problem. It is old. To a certain degree it has been around since the very beginning.

Preserved as part of the canon of Sacred Scripture are two letters Saint Paul wrote to the Christians of Corinth. While a new and relatively small community, quarreling had divided them. So much so that each faction identified itself with a different leader of the Church: some said that they belonged to Paul, others to Apollos, still others to Cephas (Peter). And while one group said that they belong to Christ, they did in such a manner as to simply be yet another faction (1 Corinthians 1:12).

Paul warned them that such divisions are extremely harmful. He told them that Christ has never been divided (and the Church is the Body of Christ). Was he, Paul, ever crucified for them? (1 Cor. 1:13) Only one Person suffered, died and rose for all. They were not baptized in the name of Paul but were baptized in the name of Christ. Paul and Apollos were merely servants of the Lord through whom the Corinthians came to believe (1 Cor. 3:5). Therefore all divisions amongst them were deplorable and must end.

Saint Paul told them that they should be in agreement and united in mind and purpose (1 Cor. 1:10). In another of his letters, to the Ephesians, Paul makes the need for unity forcefully clear. Notice in this passage how many times he uses the word "one" to get his point across:

"There is one body and one Spirit, just as there is one hope to which God has called you. There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism; there is one God and Father of all people, who is Lord of all, works through all, and is in all" (Ephesians 4:4-6).

Dissention and division are a result of our fallen human nature. It exists within families, in workplaces, and within nations. It exists in parishes – like the Church of the Holy Rude – and it exists within Christianity at large. Every year between January 18th and 25th churches around the world observe the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. So let us briefly examine the great divisions within Christianity.

Almost one thousand years ago a man, Cardinal Humbert, walked into the Hagia Sophia Cathedral in Constantinople and laid a piece of paper on the high altar. It was a bull of excommunication. This event symbolically marked the formal division between the Eastern and Western halves of Christianity – between the Orthodox churches and the Catholic Church – that had been brewing for centuries.

Exactly five hundred years ago this year another man, Martin Luther, is said to have walked up to the entrance of All Saints Church in Wittenberg, Germany, and nailed a piece of paper to its doors (his “Ninety-five Theses”). This symbolically marked the beginning of the Reformation, and division between Protestant Christianity and Catholicism.

While not the only divisions that have occurred, these mark the three main bodies with which most Christians today can be identified. And each of these three bodies struggles with their own internal divisions and conflicts.

Protestantism has thousands of denominations that are separated by theological disagreements, doctrinal emphases, politics, or structural organization. The Orthodox churches suffer from divisions according to culture, language, nationality, and numerous overlapping jurisdictions. And the Catholic Church has seen its own internal factionalism, especially since the Second Vatican Council, frequently typified as between progressives and traditionalists.

Yet the Second Vatican Council states in its Decree on Ecumenism that Christ the Lord founded one Church, and one Church only. In spite of this Christian communities differ in outlook and go their separate ways, as if Christ were divided.

Yet such division, the Council states, openly contradict the will of Christ, scandalizes the world, and damages the sacred cause of preaching the Gospel to every creature.

That is why Christ prayed for unity amongst those who believe in Him: “I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me” (John 17:20-21).

And so in communion with Pope Francis “let us ask the Lord Jesus, who has made us living members of his Body, to keep us deeply united to Him, to help us overcome our conflicts, our divisions, and our self-seeking, ... and to be united to one another by one force: the power of love which the Holy Spirit pours into our hearts”.

Leonard Cohen, poet laureate, singer-songwriter, prophet, visionary, and Jewish-Buddhist fascinated by Christ, was also a modern knight-errant, and a more faithful disciple of the Absolute than many sitting idly in the pews.

Cohen's voice broke into my world with his 1992 song "The Future." It is no exaggeration to say that I was stunned by his clairvoyance. It seemed that one of the prophets of old had arisen:
You don't know me from the wind
You never will, you never did
I'm the little Jew who wrote the Bible
I've seen the nations rise and fall
I've heard their stories, heard them all
But love's the only engine of survival
Your servant here, he has been told to say it clear, to say it cold:
It's over, it ain't going any further
And now the wheels of heaven stop
You feel the devil's riding crop
Get ready for the future: it is murder.
Even darker imagery emerges: "Destroy another fetus now, we don't like children anyhow. I've seen the future . . . it is murder."

This unforgettable song also includes those stark and astonishing words "Give me Christ or give me Hiroshima." Critics can analyze precisely what he meant -- is it Cohen speaking or is he adopting someone else' voice? Others may claim to know for certain exactly what he believed, but allow me to point out how extraordinary it is that someone would utter such words in any context -- conversation, poetry or song.

Cohen once admitted, "I'm very fond of Jesus Christ. He may be the most beautiful guy who walked the face of this earth. Any guy who says 'Blessed are the poor. Blessed are the meek' has got to be a figure of unparalleled generosity and insight and madness...A man who declared himself to stand among the thieves, the prostitutes and the homeless. His position cannot be comprehended. It is an inhuman generosity. A generosity that would overthrow the world if it was embraced because nothing would weather that compassion. I'm not trying to alter the Jewish view of Jesus Christ. But to me, in spite of what I know about the history of legal Christianity, the figure of the man has touched me."

Sometimes Cohen confused me, when he seemed to lurch between the flesh and the spirit. He dedicated "The Future" to Rebecca de Mornay, whom my age-group remembers from the steamy sex scene with Tom Cruise in Risky Business. So Leonard Cohen was engaged to Rebecca de Mornay, but then became a Buddhist monk? Perhaps it's not so odd. Great souls on pilgrimage often proceed by fits and starts on their journey to the promised land. I was also reminded that many skeptical Westerners, alienated from their own traditions, will flirt for a time with Eastern religion, often as an experimental foray in university days. However, anyone who spends five years in a Buddhist monastery is serious, very serious. Upon further reflection, I actually admired Cohen for this, and my respect for him deepened.

Like a medieval troubadour, Cohen sang of his lady-loves, and in his own way explored the tension in our culture between courtly, romantic love and religious aspirations.
Your faith was strong but you needed proof
You saw her bathing on the roof . . .
How many people know by heart the rest of the line?
Her beauty in the moonlight overthrew you
She tied you to a kitchen chair
She broke your throne, and she cut your hair
And from your lips she drew the Hallelujah.
Such lyrics suggest that Jews and Christians are permitted to say "Hallelujah" outside the liturgy, because there is indeed something sacred in life, love and sex.

Perhaps Cohen did have a tendency to idealize or idolize the female body, but he never stopped there. In his own understanding of the "theology of the body," he knew that the body revealed the soul, and that you could not properly love one without the other. Dante had Beatrice to lead him to Paradise, and Cohen had any number of women . . . Suzanne or Marianne or Rebecca. And even though Cohen did not achieve the great synthesis of Dante, between romantic and spiritual love, he did speak to our times, and his inner journey, on public display, enlightened and inspired us.

It is not uncommon for men in our culture to have multiple sexual partners in their lifetimes. What is rare however, is to encounter a soul of such profundity, passion and brilliance that he can gather all the raw material of sensual experience and heat it in the furnace of the spirit, refining it like silver, into a precious jewel of a song that actually assists us in contemplating the hidden beauty of life, and giving us courage to plumb the depths of our own sufferings and joys.

Cohen is both an embarrassment and inspiration to Christians: embarrassing because in his duels with God, he was closer to Truth than Christian Pharisees who honour God with their lips, while their hearts are far from him, hardened and blinded by years of habitual religion confined to externals. He is an inspiration in his intellectual honesty, confessing that no educated person on earth can safely ignore Christ; now that He has come into the world and spoken to us, everyone must eventually make a personal decision about His claims.

In many ways, Cohen was one of Kierkegaard's knights of infinite resignation, who came ever so close to being a knight of faith. For Kierkegaard, the knight of infinite resignation is a passionate man who loves deeply: "He is not afraid of letting love creep into his most secret, his most hidden thoughts, to let it twine in innumerable coils about every ligament of his consciousness . . . he feels a blissful rapture in letting love tingle through every nerve . . . " But then he realizes, for various reasons, that this love can never be fulfilled. He resigns himself to this reality, somewhat like a Buddhist who sees suffering as caused by desire, rather than the Christian view of infinite desire as a promise of perfect and complete fulfillment. The knight of faith, despite all rational arguments, believes that his love will be fulfilled, and in the "absurdity" of faith reaches out to the infinite.

Cohen spent hours "sitting at the table" with the Lord, questioning, debating. In the song "Treaty" from his last album, he laments:
I seen you change the water into wine
I seen you change it back to water too
I sit at your table every night
I try but I just don't get high with you.
In a "A Better Way," from the same album, his gravel voice intones:
It seemed a better way
When first I heard him speak
But now it's much too late
To turn the other cheek
Sounded like the truth
Seemed a better way
Sounded like the truth
But it's not the truth today.
It's not the truth today because the world has drifted from Christianity or too many Christians are hypocrites? Cohen is not the only one, among great minds drawn to Christ and His teaching, to be scandalized by the stumbling block of the reality of this world, and the poor example of Christians who fail to put into practice the teaching of the Master.

He stood at the edge of the sea of faith, contemplating a leap into those dark waters, leaning forward then back again, fascinated then repelled, hopeful then resigned. Though he never took the plunge, he was a man after God's own heart. In an age of superficiality, pusillanimity and mendacity, here was an Israelite in whom there was no guile, a man who was not afraid to be a man, and to wrestle with God. Here was a knight who was faithful to his quest.

Near the end, he also longed for his rest. In the title track of his last album "You Want It Darker," released less than a month before his death, Cohen expresses himself in the words of Abraham and Moses, "Hineni, Hineni. I'm ready, my Lord." In another song from his 2012 album "Old Ideas," Cohen prays,
Show me the place
Where you want your slave to go
Show me the place
I've forgotten I don't know
Show me the place
For my head is bending low
. . . Show me the place
Help me roll away the stone
Show me the place
I can't move this thing alone
Show me the place
Where the Word became a man.
Lord, show him the place. To this restless seeker after beauty, love and life, to someone who admired you, perhaps from a distance, and whom I dare say was your servant, show him the place of refreshment, light, and peace. Hallelujah, Hallelujah.

Photo credit: By Gorupdebesanez (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
(image modified)