Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Why I Stay Indoors These Days

This is a spring cankerworm - Paleacrita vernata. They have invaded our neighbourhood. The above picture was taken from our living room window. Notice the 2 pairs of posterior appendages, thus distinguishing it from the fall cankerworm, Alsophila pometaria. (Gee, don't I sound like I know what I'm talking about?)

Now imagine about 100,000 of these little guys in your front yard. I'm making an honest guess here - that's no attempt at hyperbole. Here's a bigger shot, with the worms circled in red (the one that appears to be on the mailbox is actually on the window):

Now I normally think caterpillars are quite fascinating, but that scientific detachment goes the way of the dodo when they all hang on silken threads from the trees around our yard. I can't go outside - heck, I can't even open the door - without being accosted by these webs. These worms have their own little internet in my neighbourhood. If I walk under a tree I invariably get thread in my hair, and I've brought more than a few of the worms themselves into the house unknowingly.

Apparently dropping from thread is one of their defense mechanisms, plus it's a way of looking for food when populations are large and there isn't enough food.

The city is already actively spraying to control the populations of these pests, and I say good for them. Our area should be done soon. I can't wait.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Ad Limina Comments - Atlantic Edition

I am trying to keep close tabs on the Canadian bishops' Ad Limina visits to Rome, ever since my interest was sparked back in March by a dissenting appeal for reformed morality from the Canadian Religious Conference (see these three posts).

The Pope met with the bishops of Quebec earlier this month, and the Atlantic bishops are there now. Ontario sends its bishops in September, and the Western bishops will go in October. See the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops' site for the exact schedule.

The Atlantic bishops presented comments delivered by Antigonish Bishop Lahey, the central theme of which is that the faithful in Atlantic Canada "live in a society that is increasingly affected by globalization, a globalization that is not merely economic but increasingly socio-cultural." This is due to the availability of the same media everywhere, which presents an almost universally secular message, causing the faithful to become uncatechized. Accordingly, the bishops are making "evangelization and catechesis [their] first priority."

I love the Pope's response. He recognizes that the faithful have lost hope, and:

One of the more dramatic symptoms of this mentality, clearly evident in your own region, is the plummeting birth rate. This disturbing testimony to uncertainty and fear, even if not always conscious, is in stark contrast with the definitive experience of true love which by its nature is marked by trust, seeks the good of the beloved, and looks to the eternal (cf. Deus Caritas Est, 6).

In other words, if the Atlantic bishops want to effectively catechize, they must first encourage the faithful to breed by promoting trust in God's goodness and love. I can definitely confirm the need to believe my own material & emotional needs will be met before jumping out and having a large family. That trust in God is what is missing in a lot of Catholic communities in this country.

He also says that to educate the faithful effectively, the bishops must ensure that "the intrinsic relationship between the Church'’s Magisterium, individuals'’ faith, and testimony in public life is preserved and promoted." In other words, don't allow dissenting doctrines to steer you off course theologically or morally. Hold fast to the teachings of the Church. Only in truth is freedom found. Only in freedom can love flourish.

The Pope also specifically calls for young adults in Atlantic Canada to take on the challenge of catechizing the youth. "Their example of Christian witness to those younger than themselves will strengthen their own faith, while bringing to others the happiness that flows from the sense of purpose and meaning in life which the Lord reveals."

The theme of the Pope message (FR, EN) to the Quebec bishops was one of Eucharistic promotion, specifically calling for more adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. The messages he's sending to Canada can no doubt be applied to all our communities, but I'm eager to see what insights he has for the West.
Howwwwwl... Er, I Mean "Baaa-aaaa!"

In perusing the news reports of Pope Benedict's visit to Poland this past week, one thing caught my attention. The BBC website carried a story about the temporary ban on ice cream sales in John Paul II's hometown of Wadowice, citing health concerns with the risk of the dairy product going bad in the summer temperatures. "That's why we're banning takeaway sales on the day many pilgrims will be arriving in Wadowice," said local health inspector spokeswoman Bozena Okreglicka.

Scrolling down the article, the BBC also makes mention of the fact that many TV ads have been banned during the papal visit. Ads for contraceptives and lingerie have been suspended, as has an ad "featuring a couple appearing to have sex promoting the 'multiple pleasures' of LG Phillips television sets...."

Here's their reasoning:

"There is always the risk that the faithful may feel hurt if programming devoted to the Pope's visit is interrupted by frivolous ads," Zbigniew Badziak, head of advertising for Telewizja Polska, the state-run TV network, told the Associated Press news agency.

It's interesting that Badziak would demote such scandal to the level of frivolity, but the most offensive part of this whole idea is the fact that the network realizes these ads are morally repugnant to people of faith, but they only start respecting us because the Pope's in town. Bah. (On a similar note, will they stop doing abortions in Quebec City when the Pope visits Canada?)

If you're going to be corrupt, be consistently corrupt. Don't pretend to have a conscience if you don't really have one. Let money drive your bottom line, like it always does. Don't occasionally interrupt it for reasons that should always apply. It's just like guys who don't speed when there's a cop around. The illegality and risk associated with speeding do not diminish when the police are absent. If you're going to speed, at least be a man about it and have the guts to drag race the cop sitting next to you at the red light. If you're going to air ads that offend Catholics, do it when the Pope's in town too.

If we Christians are to let our light shine before men to glorify our Father in heaven, should not the servants of Mammon let their darkness consistently hover over men too?

But that's not how the devil works. He is the father of lies, and likes to pretend he's an angel of light. "Beware of false prophets, who come to you in the clothing of sheep, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. By their fruits you shall know them." (Matt. 7:15,16)

Lord, grant me the gift of discernment, so I can see the lie for what it is.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Woof Woof

Yes, today's saint is St. Bernard, of Menthon.

Also known as
Bernard of Montjoux; Bernard of Aotha


28 May


Nobility. Priest. Archdeacon of Aosta in 996. Evangelized to the people of the Alps for over 40 years. Vicar-general of Alpine diocese. He started a patrol that cleared robbers from the mountains, and he established hospices for travellers and pilgrims to Rome. The large dogs, trained to search for lost victims in the mountains, are named for the Saint.

c.923 at Menthon, Savoy

1008 at Novara

1681 by Pope Innocent XI

Alpinists, mountain climbers, mountaineers, skiers, travellers in the mountains

man in a mountain setting holding a bishop's crozier; white dog

A Worthy Gooooooooooooooooal!

If you haven't already heard of this, prepare to be stunned.

Germany is hosting the World Cup this year, and has decided that the raging hordes of soccer fans (they're estimating over a million will show up) need the support of organized legions of legal prostitutes (to the tune of 40,000 women) to keep them from rioting. Funny how they didn't need that for World Youth Day, eh?

The argument for/against legalized prostitution for me is quite simple. They always say the reasons to legalize prostitution (which Germany did in 2002) is to lower the crime rate and to control the spread of disease.

Naturally, if you decriminalize things, there are fewer crimes to commit, and thus the crime rate lowers. The behaviour of society, however, doesn't improve.

As far as the spread of disease is concerned, it's nonsense to claim that "safe sex" will reduce the rate of disease transmission. On the surface of things, one can see how that argument makes sense, but in reality condoms fail due to unquantified human factors far more often than mere laboratory tests fail. The only way to reliably prevent the spread of disease is to encourage proper moral behaviour. In this article about the reduced rate of AIDS transmission in Uganda, the New Republic Online states that "Uganda's experience suggests that abstinence and fidelity may be the keys to whipping AIDS in Africa.... if South Africa had employed Uganda's approach from the moment the virus began showing up there roughly one decade ago, its epidemic would have turned the corner in the year 2000 and started going down."

Plus the whole "committing one sin to mitigate the consequences of another sin" argument has its faults too. Our Catechism states that every action which "proposes, whether as an end or as a means, to render procreation impossible is intrinsically evil." Using a condom as a means to avoid disease transmission also renders procreation impossible (or at least unlikely, but the intent is the same). Plus "the sexual act must take place exclusively within marriage. Outside of marriage it always constitutes a grave sin and excludes one from sacramental communion." For the obedient Catholic, what more does one need?

But one of the primary reasons this action by the German government is so abhorrent is because many of the prostitutes there, legal or otherwise, have been forced into the trade through the machinations of organized crime, or even through ill-conceived government legislation. There is a huge problem of human trafficking in Europe that is only encouraged by this type of state-endorsed promiscuity.

My favorite monk has asked all his visitors to sign a petition encouraging the German government to reconsider the organization of state-sponsored brothels to service the World Cup fans. Please sign up!

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Anonymonics Anonymous

(Try saying that five times fast!)

Recently the question has come up why I don't show my real name on my blog. I've revealed it to more than a few of my online contacts once I develop somewhat of a trust in them, but overall I've preferred to leave myself as a John Doe.

I had numerous reasons for this. Identity theft is a concern, as is the security of my family, should somebody somewhere someday be offended by one of my right vs. wrong posts. I'm also not too sure how much I'd want somebody just showing up on my doorstep one day, having done an amateur's search for my street address. And I think I don't want to give my potential future political foes any ammunition by being able to trace some of my more inflammatory statements back to the real me.

But I can't think of a single blogger (of my favorites anyway) who also maintains a veil of secrecy over his or her name. Few people out there are concerned about that revelation.

I think my chosen anonymity may stem from my difficulty with true communion with other people. I maintain my distance, so as not to be hurt. This is something I am really working on improving in my life. I'm trying to take more risks, to build more bridges, to remember more names.

So in that spirit I am no longer anonymous.

My name is James V. Kautz (you can still call me Doogie). And to make it easier for the identity thieves out there, my social insurance number is 646 745 149. My bank card PIN is 4378. My email password is "gringoes17."

Ok, so I'm not quite that stupid. But my name is James V. Kautz.

Pleased to meet you!

Thursday, May 25, 2006

"Rachel's OK"

I thought I'd share a very uplifting experience my wife and I recently had.

During a time of prayer with some friends, a girl praying over my wife said to her, "I have a feeling that God has a message for you, but it doesn't make any sense."

With some trepidation, my wife asked what the message was. Our friend responded, "Rachel's OK."

Immediately my wife burst out into tears, and our curious friend inquired what the message meant.

You see, a few years ago we had a miscarriage. She was about 2 months along, and although there was no way "scientifically" to determine the sex of our lost child, we had a sense that she was a girl, and that her name was Rachel Liberty. That was a trying time, but we became convinced that she was in heaven and was watching over us.

Around the same time that my wife was being prayed over, I was in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament in a moment of deep communion with Christ. I perceived him telling me that my dear little Rachel, waiting under the Tree of Life, had been shown the whole of my life and had responded by asking for special intercessor status. Christ agreed to her request and said that only the prayers of his own mother would be more powerful for me. [Please know that I understand this as a purely private revelation, and it cannot possibly be regarded on the same level as magisterial authority.]

Our friend had known we had a miscarriage but had never known we had chosen a name. She had no idea who this Rachel was that she was delivering a message on behalf of, but she faithfully delivered it anyway. I thank her for that step of faith. You know who you are.

Sometimes the veil of eternity is lifted for a moment, and we are allowed a brief glimpse of the glory of God. Sometimes he allows those moments to connect, to strengthen us in times of trial. Sometimes he uses those connected moments to relay a message of love and encouragement.

The love of God never ceases to amaze me.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006


For those of you among my legion of online fans who have wondered where the heck Doogie got to these last few days, let me put you and your freshly gnawed fingernails at ease. [Forgive me, my ego is dancing a jig right now.]

I'm still here.

This post is untitled because no title can possibly fit. I've just spent a weekend on a TEC retreat and can't really put the experience into words, for reasons which you can only know if you go on a TEC retreat yourself (see the "Other Web Sites" section in the above link to find a local TEC).

You should go. Really, I really, really mean that. If you're Catholic (or can at least tolerate Catholicism in your quest for closeness with Christ) you should go. Don't ask me for more information, as I can't provide it.

What I can share however, is how God touched my life over this last weekend.

Of the many things I am, some of the more unpleasant ones include angry, hurt, and scared. I'm not sure what causes these emotions in me. So I brought them to Christ in prayer and asked him to fix me. What he has revealed to me is that my "introvertedness" is really just me hiding. It's not an innocent personality trait; it's almost a disorder of sorts.

An image came to me of a small concrete bunker surrounded by coils of barbed wire in the middle of a vast wasteland. That's where I hide when surrounded by people; even if I venture out of the bunker and act like a fun-loving, chair-jumping, sudden-piggyback-ride-imposing extrovert, there is still an emotional barrier between me and the people I'm with. The barbed wire is still between us. As soon as the distraction of fun is gone, I usually encounter an uncomfortable silence between me and whoever I'm with where I don't know how to really commune with them. So I have to do something else really bizarre to hide the discomfort.

This behaviour makes real intimacy hard in marriage. It also makes real communion with the Church rather difficult. God and the Saints can reach me in my bunker, but earthbound mortals have no chance.

So I prayed for God to break it apart. I prayed for him to ignore my cries of protest as he swings his wrecking ball of love at my fortress of solitude.

Currently, it still stands, but it's not quite as intact as it used to be. I now know that I must be present to my earthly brothers and sisters. This bunker should not be a part of my life. God intends for me to be able to function without it.

I do realize that there is still great merit to be found in private meditation and reflection, but the fruit of that reflection should be able to be shared with the community. That's why I'm posting this online for the world to see.

Also, I ask my new friends from TEC to be patient with me, and to hold me to this growth. If I come to a social event and slink away unnoticed, please notice. If you detect a sudden distance in my eyes in the middle of a conversation, clap, or shout, or wave some cheese around, or do something to pull me through the barbed wire. I want that communion; I need it!

Thursday, May 18, 2006

A Hullabaloo over a Kerfuffle

So there's this movie I've heard of called "The Da Vinci Code" which apparently is based on the first book ever to slander Christianity, and it's got a bunch of my fellow Catholics in a frenzy.

Ok, sure, I can understand why some people are upset. Our "rights" have been trampled. "Diversity" is non-existent; would Hollywood ever produce a movie full of lies about the prophet Muhammad?

I saw puh-shaw. Big honking deal. This ain't the first time anybody has called Christianity a lie, and it won't be the last.

Regarding all the hubbub and protests, Bishop Fred Henry of Calgary has said, "Such action would certainly make great media headlines but it would only play into the hands of those who are designing the advertising and marketing strategy for the movie."

Duh. His Grace is on to something here, folks. Get a clue.

Besides, the movie doesn't even sound that great. According to Cannes Film Festival reviewer Igor Soukmanov of Unistar Radio in Belarus, "As a Hollywood movie, it's a very nice picture." Gee, Igor, and I bet the girl you took with you had "a very nice personality." Sounds like a veiled insult to me.

My point is, if you don't want this movie to do well, ignore it. Heck, even go see it. Maybe it'll be worth a laugh or two, like this movie which was so bad it had me in stitches.

And ultimately, don't act so surprised when the secular world attacks the Truth of our faith. It's what they do.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

This is the Funniest Thing I've Ever Seen in My Life

Yeah, I know, I always say that. But still, this is really funny.

From Best of the Web Today:

Two Guys

Guy Goma was waiting in the reception area at the BBC's headquarters in London the other day when someone came in looking for a guy named Guy. The Mail on Sunday reports that Goma raised his hand, whereupon he was "ushered into a studio and fitted with a microphone" for an interview.

The producer had the wrong Guy, and Goma was introduced as Guy Kewney, "an IT journalist and founder of" who was scheduled for an appearance to comment on a trademark lawsuit between the Beatles' Apple Corps and Apple computer. The video (which you can download or stream) is hilarious; the look of panic on Goma's eyes when he realizes what's going on is priceless.

Screenshots can only capture a fraction of his panic. Seriously, check out the whole video.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Lesson for Today

Today is the memorial of St. Isidore the Farmer. Right away that name's gotta grab you, eh?

From Catholic Forum:

Accused by fellow workers of shirking his duties by attending Mass each day, taking time out for prayers, etc., Isidore claimed he had no choice but to follow the highest Master. One tale says that when his master came in the morning to chastise him for skipping work for church, he found angels plowing the fields in place of Isidore.

Who says God isn't concerned with our earthly affairs? If he'll send angels to do our corporal work when we answer the call to do heavenly work, who can dare to say that God is a mere taker, who doesn't give us any real practical help in our lives?

Also interesting to note is the fact that he and his wife, Blessed Mary of Cabeza, "became convinced it was the will of God that they not have children, and they lived together chastely the rest of their lives, doing good works." This after having one child and losing him while he was still young.

It's easy to say they were merely afraid of losing future kids and that's why they didn't "come together again." But isn't it possible that they really heard the call of God here? Could Isidore and Mary be a source of hope and inspiration for Catholics in marriages where one spouse has AIDS and they must therefore abstain?

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Mother's Day

My wife was treated to a special breakfast treat today: my own version of "Nagafuki Surprise" from the Bud Light commercial.

If you haven't seen that ad, it features a guy reading a menu in a Japanese restaurant. He inquires what the Nagafuki Surprise is; the waitress only tells him it comes with a Bud Light. That's enough argument for him. He boasts to the ladies at the table, "I've been to Japan," does a karate chop move, then adds, "Can't surprise me!" The meal arrives, and it looks something like the main course above. He picks it up with chopsticks, but suddenly something like a hybrid between a starfish and an octopus jumps out and latches onto his face. The restaurant staff, watching eagerly, then shout "Surprise!"

The guy tilts his head and we hear him mumble, "Tastes kinda funny." To which the waitress responds, "It lay eggs now. Enjoy!"

My wife can't stand that commercial; it's one of the few things on TV that grosses her out. So this was a bit of a gag breakfast, but it sure was yummy.

Of course, it didn't spring up onto her face and start laying eggs.

I toasted some whole wheat English muffins and then carved out the insides and stacked the four crusts. Then I scrambled some egg, milk, cheeses, and chopped up asparagus stalks and packed it inside the muffin crusts. The spiky things poking out are asparagus tops, of course.

Rounding out the plate is some crumbled marble cheese and fresh strawberries. To drink was Swiss Chocolate Almond coffee.

I sure love my wife! She's a great mother; I couldn't have asked for a better woman.

I'm going to make her day today.

Saturday, May 13, 2006


So it's over. My Ottawa Senators have been defeated in overtime, losing the Eastern Conference semi-finals to the Buffalo Sabres 4 games to 1. Winger Jason Pominville scored on a short-handed overtime goal. Hey, at least he's a Canadian kid.

I hate to say it, but good for Buffalo. They sure outplayed the Sens. Not that they necessarily had to; Ottawa made too many mistakes, too many turnovers, too many blind passes in the first two games, and it cost them.

In hockey, like life in general I suppose, you can't undo your mistakes. You have to live with them, and if they hurt you down the road, you can't say you didn't deserve it.

Interesting to note is that Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson shaved his playoff beard today. That tells me that if superstition is fake, it sure acts real from time to time. I wonder which team he'll be playing for next season? How about trying to scoop up UFA Joe Sakic from Colorado? Hmm.

I'm getting very good at recovering from CPDS (Consistent Playoff Defeat Syndrome). I've had a lot of practice.

I'm still a Sens fan, and that will never change. But for the rest of this Stanley Cup run, I think I'll be cheering for Buffalo. Usually I'll cheer for the team that plays the team that beat my team (got that?), but I hold no ill will against the Sabres. They earned this by playing tight in both ends.

Of course, I'll never be so gracious towards the Leafs. Pi-tooey.
Oh My Grammar Goodness

There's an old joke about a haughty, proper British schoolmarm who goes to pay a visit to a friend. The friend's young boy answers the door. "I would like to speak to your mother," she states. "She ain't here," the boy replies. Taken aback by his poor form, the lady responds, "Young man, where is your grammar?" To which the boy says, "She's in the kitchen."

Those who know me best know that I have exceedingly high standards for grammar and proper word usage. Not to say I've never made a mistake, but I'm quite knowledgeable about the basics. I never confuse "their," "they're," or "there." Same with "your" and "you're." I know when to use an apostrophe (although I am a little fuzzy on the whole plural abbreviation thing, like "CD's" or CDs"). I know always to put my quotation marks on the outside of my punctuation. I know never to split an infinitive... or is that to never split an infinitive... nah, I was right the first time.

So when I see comments like this on a teacher's forum discussing internet grammar:

Student's Perspective

Hi everyone. I have used Internet Lingo in the past. It didn't affect the grammar used for my schoolwork. Although, I stopped in fear that it would. I am the student assistant of a Language Arts teacher, and have noticed student's accidentally using Internet lingo in their schoolwork. That's why I believe people should try to always speak and write correctly.


That's torture to read. GAH!!! There should be no comma after "although," the apostrophe in "student's" is incorrectly used, and "to always speak" is a split infinitive. This is the work of a student assistant to the Language Arts teacher... scary to think he or she was presumably the brightest student in the class.

My education is limited to my high school diploma and a single year of Bible college. Yet in that time I managed to pick up better usage of the English language than most of my peers in any sphere of my life. My high school used the A.C.E. curriculum which had an excellent self-paced course in English. Having had a long-standing love of writing, I soaked it up and found immediate application for most of what I learned.

Then in college they had a basic English course required for all freshmen, which I aced (no pun intended!). The reason they had this requirement, and I've since learned that most post-secondary schools have it too, is that most new students simply cannot string 500 words together with any coherence.

Some people might say, "Y duz it mater?" To them I reply, "I beg your pardon? I didn't quite get that."

So for those of you needing help with your grammar and word usage, whether it be online, personal, or professional, I encourage you to find a site like GrammarNOW! or the English Grammar Book to make your writing more intelligent.

I'll close with this hilarious witticism from Winston Churchill:

After receiving a Minute issued by a priggish civil servant, objecting to the ending of a sentence with a preposition and the use of a dangling participle in official documents, Churchill red pencilled in the margin: "This is the sort of pedantry up with which I will not put."

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Confessions of a Hockey Fan on the Brink

So it's 3:30 AM and I can't get back to sleep. My dreams are of nothing but the NHL playoffs, and the Ottawa Senators' 2 game deficit to the Buffalo Sabres. I see Sabers netminder Ryan Miller laughing as he intercepts a bad pass and skates the puck down the ice, deking out the Sens defense and scoring on a blinking Ray Emery.

The wife, of course, thinks I'm completely off my rocker.

You must understand, I'm a rabid Sens fan. I've followed them ever since I was interested in hockey, which admittedly has only been about 7 years. When we lived in Ottawa a lot of our friends, and even the 70 year old priest who married us, were Sens fans, and I just kind of absorbed it all by osmosis.

I'm the kind of Sens fan who will still cheer them on if they are swept out of contention yet again. But I'm not counting them out just yet. I knew going in to the playoffs that if Ottawa faced Buffalo it would be their most challenging series to win, against East or West. I also predicted a six game series, with the first two wins going to Buffalo and the last four to Ottawa.

So we'll see.

But why on earth can't I sleep? I think I'm too emotionally invested in this team. Not that I'm bailing on them, but gee, if it's interrupting my sleep patterns... I gotta wonder if they can get their sleep. I'm sure they can.

But isn't that what a fan is and does? After all, "fan" is short for "fanatic." And anybody who can simply shrug off their team's rough loss and not have a rough next day at work is somewhat... balanced, I guess. Huh.

So I'm trying to justify being an unbalanced fanatic. Perhaps that's not a stretch for a believer in God. As a Christian I must recognize that I am not capable of providing balance to my life. I must recognize that God is so awesome that I cannot help but be a fanatic for him. Of course, I don't mean "fanatic" in the religious terrorism sense, but rather defined as "a person marked or motivated by an extreme, unreasoning enthusiasm, as for a cause." Yes, unreasoning. There is no reasoning with God. He is beyond reason. We must shut down our intellects and simply believe, as would a little child.

As would a guy who still thinks the Senators are gonna pull off one of the greatest Cinderella stories of hockey history.

Friday, May 05, 2006

The Liberals Were Right

Here's what I saw today:


With guns.

In Canadian cities.

In Winnipeg.

At the corner of Marion & Archibald.

In broad daylight.

Well, ok, it was cloudy and raining.

I am not making this up.

Hey, I shoulda known: I didn't choose my Canada.

The "soldiers with guns" are here to participate in the weakly-protested Exercise Charging Bison 06, with the goal of training new troops on how to "develop independence of thought and action at the lowest group level, while reinforcing individual soldier skills within the context of a Full Spectrum Operations environment." This, according to a letter sent out to every residence in Winnipeg by the 38 Canadian Brigade Group Headquarters.

There are a couple dozen protesters who don't want our soldiers learning how to function in a bustling urban environment. Example: this fruitcake, who said, "It is abhorrent that they will be training to put down legitimate resistance movements - –and we need to ensure that they are not welcome." I suppose they'd rather have them wander into Kandahar totally clueless. Maybe then we could lose a bunch to more suicide bombers - sorry, make that "legitimate resistance movements" - and have another great debate about what proportion of the flagpole should be below the flag. That was fun, wasn't it?

Personally, I've got nothing but admiration, gratitude, and support for these troops. They've left their families behind (something I don't think I could ever do) and have stared the enemy in the eye. And that's just the nutbars sleeping on couches on the curbside.

But still, the Liberals predicted during the election campaign that this would happen if we elected a Conservative government.

Oh, wait a minute... what's this on the letter... "The planning for Exercise CHARGING BISON 2006 began last spring."

Under the Martin Liberals.

Hmm. Fancy that.
The Compromise Solution

More and more I am hearing cries from various groups for the Church to change her stance on various moral issues. Usually these issues are derivative of vices that people don't want to feel guilty about anymore.

Take condoms, for instance.

A lot of people have sounded off on the issue of condoms being recommended by the Southern Africa Catholic Bishops Conference as a method to allow married couples, with one partner infected with HIV, to experience sexual intimacy without putting the life of the other at risk.

I empathize with couples in that situation, although their numbers must be infinitesimally small. But I fear their tragic plight is being exploited by the enemies of the Church. Just like they used this lady back in the early 70's.

If Pope Benedict suddenly said, "Ok, world, it's morally permissible for married couples to use condoms to prevent the spread of sexually transmitted diseases between each other," you can bet the critics of the Church's stance against the immorality of contraception would be silenced, and we'd hear no more objections from them. They will have gained the sole exemption they sought.

Yeah, right.

Our enemies are looking for any way to erode the Rock of Peter, and they will chip away tirelessly at our foundations. A futile effort, but still they try.

Nine years ago, I toured Ireland with the Challenge Team and spoke in schools to promote chastity. The students often asked us very candid questions after the talks, and many wanted to know what our opinion on condoms was. We would talk about the failure rate (in laboratories and in real life) and about how they're not necessary if you're practicing chastity anyway. But I was astounded at how many young boys said they refused to use condoms when they had sex with their girlfriends because the Church said it was a sin.

Really, in that case, I think the consideration of what the Church identifies as sin is rather far from the boy's mind.

I get so tired of the demands for the Catholic Church to start loosening its definitions of sin to bring more people into parishes. That is a losing strategy. Any parish that holds to orthodoxy, that honours the Blessed Mother, that proclaims its fidelity to the magisterium, and that homilizes on the hard truths of the faith has always brought hordes of people into its fold. Young people especially are looking for a faith that challenges them, instead of a faith that says they can do no wrong. But when parishes loosen their grip of the basics of Catholic morality, decay sets in and in a few decades all you've got left is a bunch of grey-haired ex-hippies who had 1 kid each, and those individual kids are somewhere in Amsterdam or Singapore doping up, having rejected the flimsy faith of their parents.

Some would object that only perfect people could be welcome in a morally rigid Church. Not so. The marketing strategy of the Church acknowledges that her key demographic is sinners. She wants her pews to be full of them. What she doesn't want is to be filled with sin.

The expectation for anybody entering the Church is that he or she renounces sin and embraces God. You can't have it both ways. The standard the Church holds us to is not a human one, and it's not one that we can change, even if the Pope himself wanted to. We are living the truth as God has revealed it to us. Truth doesn't change.

Truth is also strangely attractive. Once you get a taste of it, you want more and nothing will stop you from finding a reliable source of it. You can't do without it. It's like a drug, except there is no delusion or risk associated with it. Rather, there is astonishing clarity and security.

Yet we are continually encouraged to cut the truth with lies. The world claims we may pick and choose the truths we like and ignore the ones that find us wanting, in hope they will just go away.

That won't happen. Truth is relentless. And thank God it is, or we'd never find it by ourselves.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Open Embrace... Unless It's Hard

A while back a Protestant couple, Bethany and Sam Torode, wrote a book called Open Embrace in which they detailed their journey to a sexuality within conformity to Catholic teachings; specifically to practice Natural Family Planning and to do away with artificial contraceptives.

Catholics around the world lauded them for their discovery, as it was evidence of the plain, discernible truth of the immorality of contraception.

Sadly, the Torodes have reneged on their discovery.

In an open letter on their site, they explain their reasons.

Reading it is almost repugnant to me. They try to justify their decision to use barrier methods by stating:

We now fully believe in the power of the Resurrection and we no longer live our lives constantly on the alert for "selfishness." Yes, we are marred by sin, but God has given us new hearts with his image strongly growing in them -- which means our deepest desires are true and good.

In other words, "When we love God all our desires are holy, and thus selfishness is a virtue. I can do no wrong." What a magnetic lie. What utter claptrap.

This is a prime example of how Protestants flip-flop on so many of the great moral issues of the day, and why their various subgroups can never agree when one has flipped and the other has flopped. Aren't they all following the voice of God, and thus not in the wrong? The lack of a central teaching authority, which does not simply make up the rules, but rather receives them in the fullness of revelation from Christ himself, is to blame. Shades of Henry VIII in the Torodes here today.

They claim that a lifetime of abstaining during ovulation, the peak time of a woman's sexual desire, is a "theological attack on women." As for the more extended times of abstinence, such as after pregnancy and during menopause, they "didn't know" the self control would be "more harmful for a marriage than good."

Now I'm the kind of guy who can read between the lines quite well, and what I see in their letter is a capitulation to the world's overwhelming pressure to view sex as an end in itself. They hadn't broken out of the contraceptive mentality when they wrote their book. While they claim to see sexuality as something beautiful, they still don't get it.

Interestingly, they had also recently become members of the Greek Orthodox Church. This is a step I've seen several almost-converts taking when they can't get over the stigma of Catholicism. They just can't submit to an absolute authority unless it agrees with what they believe.

G.K. Chesterton, of happy memory, famously said, "We do not really want a religion that is right where we are right. What we want is a religion that is right where we are wrong." That assumes we are willing to admit we can be wrong about something, about anything. That assumes we want to be right about everything, even if it's hard or requires that we change.

But some people refuse to turn off their brains when they turn their lives over to Christ. Some people are too damn smart for their own good. There is a universe of wisdom in Christ's instruction to become like little children (Matthew 18:3,4). Children accept what they are taught, if it's taught well. They listen, if the speaker is gentle. They obey, if the reward is worth it, or if the punishment is frightening.

That's what being Catholic means to me. Sure, some will say that I'm demeaning myself by shutting off my intellect when it comes to the mysteries of the faith.

Let 'em. My Father will take care of me.