Saturday, June 28, 2008

Open Letter: HRC

[An open letter to Msgr. Mario Paquette, P.H., General Secretary, Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops]

Msgr. Paquette,

I am somewhat dismayed that the Bishops' Conference has not spoken up on the recent controversy on Canada's federal and provincial human rights commissions. Freedom of speech, press, and religion are all under threat from the radical agendas these commissions facilitate.

There are several prominent cases, such as the complaints against author Mark Steyn, MacLean's Magazine, Ezra Levant, and recently Stephen Boisson, a Protestant minister in Alberta. Even Bishop Fred Henry has been the victim of an HRC assault.

The means these commissions use stand in stark contrast to the legislative and judicial foundations on which our country was founded - there is no due process, no right to a speedy trial, no truth as defense, and no obligation to display harm done. The accuser's legal costs are covered by the state, whereas the accused person must pay all his own bills. The process can go on for years before the HRC invariably pronounces guilt and imposes fines, public apologies, and even recanting of deeply held beliefs.

As one familiar with the history of the early Church, I must wonder... how long do we have before they start burning us at the stake?

I know the Conference frequently speaks out on social issues, such as the recent letter to the G8 leaders reminding them of their responsibilities for the poor and to care for the planet.

The issue with our abusive Human Rights Commissions is, in my opinion, far larger in its implications for humanity and Christianity than environmental or social concerns. I encourage the Conference to speak out with all due haste, requesting the respective governments to tear down the HRCs, or at the very least, retool them so they incorporate the same basic legal practices that our real courts do.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008


Today I fixed my dishwasher.

The heating element on the bottom was sheared right in two, and the machine took over three hours to finish what it, in its crippled state, considered a "cleaning" cycle. So I ordered a new element from Sears. It arrived today, and when I got home the first thing I did was install it. HAR! I am SO manly! I didn't even procrastinate!

It is the pride of men everywhere to be able to fix things.

I also re-attached the head of a princess doll today.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to glue a mug back together.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

"Are You Not a Bishop?" is covering the International Eucharistic Congress in Quebec quite extensively, and they included a talk by Bishop Louis Tagle of the Philippines. In it he tells a story of a life-changing event:

One Saturday morning [...] I saw a woman selling fruit and vegetables in a corner. She was one of those who went to Sunday Mass regularly. It was only 10 in the morning but she was already closing her store. So I asked her the reason. She told me, 'I belong to a prayer group. We have a big assembly this afternoon. Some tasks were assigned to me. So I want to be there early.'

Upon hearing this, the pragmatic side of me surfaced. I responded, 'The Lord will understand if you extend your working hours. You have a family to support. [...] I am sure the Lord will understand.'

With a smile, she said, 'But Bishop, the Lord has been faithful to me. [...] We may not be rich but we have enough to live by. Why will I fear?' Then looking at me tenderly, she said, 'Are you not a bishop? Are you not supposed to be encouraging me in faith?'

I was quite embarrassed. But for me it was an experience of spiritual worship. I, the religiously and culturally accepted presence of God, was revealed to be a faltering representation of God.

All too often I encounter priests and bishops who haven't learned that lesson, and continue to hold the faithful to a low standard of spirituality. I've mentioned before that often when I ask a priest to help me grow in holiness, his response is, "Don't bother, you're fine." I can understand that they have witnessed countless people over the years who have absolutely no faith at all, so when they encounter people who attend Mass weekly they are amply satisfied. But there is so much more to our faith than just "showing up."

But in those moments when priests try to talk me down, have I ever had the courage to say what I think? This woman took the risk of offending the bishop by letting him know that she held a higher standard for herself (and for him) than he did, and he grew from it.

So I extend the challenge to myself and to my readers: the next time you encounter a priest or bishop whose words leave you feeling discouraged in your faith, issue a gentle rebuke in the fraternal love of Christ. Ask him to have a higher standard for you, and not to grow weary or discouraged at the lack of faith around him.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The Wheels on the Bus

In an effort to save some money (I've yet to be convinced of the positive environmental effects) I've started riding the bus to and from work.

It's a unique experience; full of surprises. For one, the movies are wrong: bus riders do NOT sing "The Wheels On The Bus" or "Hail To The Bus Driver" as they merrily commute. No, instead they just sit there with sad little looks on their faces. Most of them hide their eyes behind sunglasses, even when it's cloudy, or bury their noses in books, or block out attempts at conversation by sticking earbuds in their ears. And judging from the bass rhythm which seeps out, they're not listening to "The Wheels On The Bus."

I, too, am guilty of plugging my ears with the tunes I've placed on my newly purchased iPod Shuffle. But I've made a concerted effort to remove my sunglasses when I'm not facing the sun.

For those of you who don't take the bus, there is an unwritten seating protocol once you board. If there is one other passenger on the bus and he's in a 2 person bench, it's very bad form (unless you know the person) to sit in the other seat on that bench. Instead, you are expected to uphold a certain symmetry by sitting on the opposite side of the bus an approximately equidistant (fig. 1) measurement from the back of the bus as the other passenger is from the front of the bus, or vice versa.

When the bus is more full but some benches are still empty, you should always leave an empty bench in between you and the next person in front of you (fig.2). This is because your comfort zone, or personal body space, is based on what you see in front of you. Additionally, this sends a message to the other passengers, "I don't want to be here any more than you do, so let's just agree to leave each other alone and hope this ends soon." It is irrelevant that your choice of seat intrudes upon the same personal body space of the person behind you; at this point as a bus gains passengers, there is no alternative. Body space will be intruded upon; it is only a matter of time now.

Now, we start to reach the area of most concern: the seats are mostly full, and strangers have to start to double up. You can see it on the faces of people as they board a near-capacity bus: "Who's not going to talk to me? Who's safe? Who looks too intimidating or is likely to smell funny?" They scan the other passengers and make a decision.

Once you've made a decision, it's unacceptable to change your mind, unless one of the following conditions is met:
  • You see somebody you know, seated alone, and move to sit with that person
  • An entire 2-person bench opens up
Only in these two circumstances are you absolved from your duty to remain your seat-buddy's traveling companion. If you misjudged and picked a smelly person, too bad. You have to tough it out.

I must emit some kind of uninviting aura, and I'm not sure how to feel about it. For inevitably, the new passengers on the bus will sit with anybody else before they resign to the only available seat left and sit with me (fig.3).

Buses are great places to find masters of body language. If somebody seated in a window seat wishes to disembark but is blocked by his seat buddy, all he has to do is put his book away, fold up his newspaper, cap his beverage, adjust his coat, or some other subtle sign indicating, "I'm ready to end the charade of community and take my leave from this dismal conveyance." The supreme masters can do it with a slight tilt of the head; the occasional-riders have to the pull the 'stop request' cord, even if it's already been pulled. You know a total newbie when he turns to you, takes his earbuds out, and uses words to the effect of, "Excuse me please, this is my stop."

Whatever the method, once you've indicated that you need to leave, you are usually on a bus so crowded that people are standing in the aisles (fig.4). The horde responds quite adeptly to a passenger making his way to an exit; it's a grand demonstration of a collective, although silent, sigh of relief: "Thank goodness! One less person to tolerate."

Yes, taking the bus is a real adventure in sociology and psychology.

Plus, I can listen to a whole lot of music.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Child # 5*

Well, many of you may have heard already, but for those of you who haven't...

My wife is pregnant!

This will be our fifth* baby! The due date will probably be somewhere in February.


Funniest Gag Ever

Friday, June 06, 2008


Thanks to my buddy and fellow convert Owen for sketching my escape from Convergys!

I do believe he's shutting his down his "A Sketch for $2" series, so if you want him to doodle something for you, hurry up!

Monday, June 02, 2008


Yes, I've been to Cork, Ireland (I loved the cathedrals in that area), but that's not the subject of this post.

Nor am I writing about the fascinating science behind the harvesting and utilization of cork (from Quercus suber) to seal wine bottles.

Instead, I wish to rant about yet another intrusion into the dignity of man. And I do mean man.

Popular Science is waxing enthusiastically about the future of male contraception. One of the new methods will be a small plug medically inserted at the mouth of the vas deferens, which essentially bars the door so sperm cannot get out. If you check out the photo gallery in that link, you'll see the cutest little graphic which helps us get the idea:

According to the article, over half of men surveyed are willing to assume the gift of infertility, presumably out of undying love for the women in their lives.

Now perhaps I'll offend some of my more sensible readers by saying this, but I can't for the life of me understand why anyone would purposefully cause a fully functional body part to stop working. Especially when there is a safer, better, and morally sound alternative. Any man who pursues infertility is doing it for one reason and one reason alone: consequence-free sex.

Some may wonder how this alternative, known as Natural Family Planning, is any different from an artificial method, since, when one is seeking to avoid pregnancy, the end result is the same. But we must remember that ends do not justify means. The methods we use matter.

So despite the exciting new technology, artificial male contraception is just as scandalous and selfish as the female variety, if not moreso - for men are already, by their impregnable nature, more able to walk away from the byproducts of sex. Women, if you have any sense, you'll forbid your man from indulging himself in this demeaning act of self-mutilation.