Essays in Idleness


That the blind shall see

“Lo, we are going to Jerusalem, and everything written by the prophets about the Son of Man shall be fulfilled.”

This is how the Gospel begins in today’s Quinquagesima Mass. The Twelve to whom Christ was speaking were, as we are given to understand, at a loss. They must have assumed He was speaking in riddles, as they must have assumed He often did. No disrespect would have been meant by this. I had once a cat who would look rather earnestly into my face, when, as a boy, I explained everything to her. She did not, of course, understand one word, yet she listened intently, and respectfully (not all cats do this). But the Twelve were not cats, and as the prophecies were fulfilled, they did at least begin to follow.

The difference between a human and a cat is something I’ve been trying to explain lately. The challenge is surprisingly great. Clearly, not one of the nine judges on the bench of Canada’s Supreme Court is capable of grasping the distinction, and would let human beings be put down as if they were sick cats. A poll showed at least 87 percent of the Canadian public had been idiotized to the same fatal degree. God help them; God save us from them.

Many things a human cannot understand, but therein lies the beginning of wisdom. What we cannot see in prospect we can sometimes see in retrospect: be patient. Even today, among the intelligent and faithful, there are many things Christ said that we don’t understand; and I do not mean arcane things about worlds we have never visited. We have spent our whole lives down here on Earth. We might think we know our way around here, that we are prepared for any eventuality, that we’ve parsed things out. And then we turn the slightest corner, and see that we understood nothing: that Christ’s simplest, almost childish parables passed right over our clever little heads.

Mea culpa. I have reached the age when a writer — by fate not choice in my own case — thinks back over what he has written, through decades. Passages come to mind, now acutely embarrassing. I will give a minor example. Yesterday I wrote, “The asinine notion that this indicated two Saint Valentines first surfaced in the nineteenth century.” On re-reading later I recalled that I had fallen for that nonsense myself, and repeated it in some column many years ago, perhaps quite confidently as if it were established fact. It took me many years to learn that standard reference sources are crawling with lies, passed on from one glib trusting fool to another; and therefore to investigate what one is taking for granted. How often the source of the stream is poisoned. I should have sniffed it out at the time, for the cheap plausibility of the statement, combined with its use in ridiculing tradition, carried in itself the profound moral stench of the liberal mind.

Ecce enim: Father Hunwicke this morning, in his own post on Quinquagesima, scooped me (yet again) on a like point of shame. He writes on the “Hymn to Love” in this morning’s Old Mass (I Corinthians 13). Everyone knows it, hardly anyone understands it:

“What a bore clergy find it, as yet another engaged couple want Uncle Bob to read it at their wedding. Read, however, in the context of the blistering attack Saint Paul is making on the failings of the Corinthian Christians, its cutting irony, verging on sarcasm, is rather fun. Whenever Saint Paul says, ‘Love is not X’, he is mightily suggesting that the Corinthians are X. But it isn’t irony Kevin and Sharon think they’re getting.”

That epistle was read, entirely without irony, at my own wedding, more than thirty years ago, where other shallow sentiment was in plentiful supply. I look back in memory over a hundred guests, and at my own face in time’s mirror, and realize that we didn’t get it. We took it all as a Hallmark card — as perfumed fluff — whereas Saint Paul is specifically savaging perfumed fluff. Or more precisely, savaging us.

Quinquagesima announces Lent. In the old monastic practice, meat had already been withdrawn at Septuagesima; then dairy from today. But the fast would become serious on Ash Wednesday. Why, the modern asks, did people put up with such inconveniences? Because not going to Hell was important to them.

In the Gospel, Christ is healing the blind man; in the Epistle, Paul is trying to open the Corinthians’ eyes. Lent is similarly proposed — the inner penance and the outward cheer — not as some kind of fat-free diet, but as a cure for blindness.


Let me take this occasion to wish gentle reader a happy and reverent usus antiquior Valentine. The indubitable patron of star-crossed lovers, entreated in prayer to find help in uncrossing them, should be of particular interest to those seeking reasonable annulments, yet I’ve never heard him mentioned in that connexion. That the world now puts many obstacles in the way of true love — especially that between a man and a woman — could go without saying. By far the largest, to my mind, are easily available contraception and divorce.

Valentine was a third-century priest and martyr at Rome. A basilica was raised over his tomb beside the catacombs at the second mile of the Flaminian Way along the feet of the Parioli hills, by Pope Julius I in the fourth century. (Today, the site is well within and under the Roman suburbs.) This, according to the archaeologists, was repeatedly enlarged through subsequent centuries, and by the eleventh a convent and cloister was attached. It went into decline, but the ruins were still quite visible in early modernity, before they were washed out by floods (caused by modern human idiocy). That it was verily a memorial to Saint Valentine is attested from fragments of verses once chiselled into the basilica itself, celebrating Valentine by name.

No problem with this, so far, and there should never have been a problem. Valentine, who came from Terni in southern Umbria, was martyred at Rome under the emperor Claudius Gothicus, “the Cruel.” He was clubbed then beheaded for defying emperor’s orders, then justifying his action by Christ. Legend suggests there was a ban on marriages, which the psychopathic ruler had decreed because he thought his troops were being cissified by attachment to their wives and families. Valentine’s defiance took the form of marrying many Christian couples secretly. In his final incarceration he is said to have passed a last note to the gaoler’s daughter, whom he had converted (along with her father), hence: “From your Valentine.” This may be interpreted according to the holiness of the reader’s imagination. The mediaeval adumbrations were chaste; the post-modern mind, crippled by narcissism and pornography, seems incapable of imagining that any “love between two persons” might exist without at least some attempt at copulation.

The cult of Valentine spread both from Rome, and from his native Terni. The asinine notion that this indicated two Saint Valentines first surfaced in the nineteenth century. It was championed by liberal scholars in the twentieth, and other Valentines were solicited through the historical record as far afield as northern Africa. By the 1960s, we had scholars arguing that, on the contrary, there had been no Saint Valentine, only some otherwise nondescript guy who must have paid for the construction of the basilica, and been honoured as the modern rich are, when they endow some wing of a hospital or whatever.

This was the sort of mental garbage in circulation about the time Annibale Bugnini (who incidentally came from Terni himself), decided to suppress the Commemoration of Saint Valentine. Veneration by millions of the faithful over seventeen centuries had now been clouded with uncertainties by a few godless pointy-heads. In an act of barbaric desecration, the feast of Saints Cyril and Methodius was shunted from July 7th, to “occupy” February 14th, with the usual carnage following all down the line. And that is why gentle reader must turn from his Novus Ordo to his Vetus Ordo missal to begin recovering his Catholic heritage: on this as on the other three hundred and sixty-five possible days of the year.

Had I world enough or time, today, I would ramble into a broad and rather amateur review of at least six modern schools of hagiography which, since the later nineteenth century, have vied to replace that attested through the many centuries of Catholic practice. (A seventh seems to be under construction, on the fly, by our current Holy Father.) To keep it very short, the time-honoured practice was to consider the proposed saint’s earthly life in the light of Christ’s, and having found an inspiring cause, to test it by the evidence of miracles both in and after that life. This last was crucial, for the Universal Church does not create but only recognizes a Saint; invariably the devotees of the Saint have recognized him first, and the last word is from Heaven. Let me use the example of John Henry Newman, who to my mind was certainly a saint, but whom Rome has not yet canonized. (He was however beatified at Birmingham by my beloved Pope Benedict XVI in 2010, who from the depth of his own learning and holiness was well-placed to appreciate Newman’s cause.)

As usual in modernity, faith in Christ has been replaced by reliance on transient “scientific research.” This latter discounts or eliminates everything for which hard material evidence is lacking, and thus plays to the extreme self-regard of today’s credentialled intellectual — who assumes himself, in defiance of overwhelming contrary evidence, to know better than the men of previous centuries who made decisions based on evidence then freely available.

Meanwhile “Valentine’s Day” is now under siege from the opposite direction, for as I discover on a quick Internet search it is judged highly politically incorrect, by the kind of trolls who contrive to impose their own crassly irreligious tenets upon our children. But they at least have faith that Valentine was a religious figure, commanding popular adoration, so God bless them even as we strive to root them out of our public life.


It is my parents’ wedding anniversary today: curiously the sudden resolution of their own little fix as “star-crossed lovers,” in 1948. (It was “pure chance” that their opportunity occurred on Valentine’s Day.) Both are now dead, but if an Ave were to be said for them by any reader, I believe Saint Valentine would carry it to them.

Mercy vans

For a pragmatic solution to the innumerable practical problems with Canada’s new court-ordered euthanasia regime, flagged in yesterday’s Idlepost, we might look to the Jinguan Auto Company of Chungking (now spelt “Chongqing”) in the People’s Republic of China. The company, which makes a wide range of specialty products, including bullet-proof limousines and executive command vehicles for Communist Party officials and the new rich, also makes China’s popular mobile execution chambers. And they are eager to develop new export markets.

These vehicles are a showpiece of modern engineering and design, a miniature surgical station and organic disposal unit on wheels, all fitting onto the standard chassis of their largest mass-market microvan. Each of the several hundred now serving China’s national and provincial authorities carries a professional team of four, who can be raced to any location along the country’s autobahns at a handsome 80 miles per hour.

Once the paperwork on your unwanted granny is done, and she has been thoughtfully sedated, staff in the nursing home need no longer trouble themselves. The “mercy van” team can be scheduled for same-day arrival. They tie your granny onto their own gurney, and roll her to the van for quick, painless despatch. Better yet, even before leaving the nursing home parking lot they can harvest granny’s organs, pack and refrigerate, then compact the leftovers for cremation. The van then races to a state hospital to drop off the organs, and deliver the “bio-hazard” to the same incinerator as the aborted babies go into. Alternatively, as I was told by a researcher for the Falun Gong, the latter package can be recycled as a valuable high-protein ingredient in Chinese pet food, thus completing a perfect environmental recycling loop.

Not only do you save estate money on granny’s funeral home expenses and cemetery plot (a modest memorial service will help with “closure”), but as her assigned heir you might be entitled to a cut from that lucrative organ trade, which has proved a big revenue earner in China itself. Ailing but wealthy “organ tourists” fly in from all over to benefit from the country’s reliable supply of human body parts.

At around $125,000 a pop, plus shipping and sales tax, these vans would be a bargain for hard-pressed Canadian medical bureaucracies. They can pay for themselves many times over. Here is a cost-effective solution to what might otherwise become an incredibly complex euthanasia service, with multiple redundant local execution facilities; and the vans can serve remote communities where the costs would not otherwise even be considered.

I should mention that the vans include fixed video cameras so the authorities may check that everything is done tickety-boo: sodium thiopental to make granny unconscious, pancuronium bromide to stop breathing and finally, potassium chloride to finish her off.


In yesterday’s post I also mentioned the many forward-looking contributions of Germany’s hyper-progressive Nazi Party, before and during the last World War. Mobile gas chambers were among their high-tech inventions, with sealed stalls into which carbon monoxide was pumped from the van’s own exhaust pipes — a triumph of efficient engineering and environmental concern. After testing a small prototype, I gather on Jewish children from a psychiatric hospital in Poland, a larger model was developed which could carry and process up to fifty customers at a time, while driving to the nearest freshly opened mass grave. Organs could not be profitably harvested in those days, but some valuables could still be had from stripping the prisoners before loading, plus field dentistry on gold fillings, and so forth.

As every progressive knows in his heart, technology is constantly improving, and there is no social problem to which we cannot find a technical solution, provided that we are willing to think “outside the box” of oppressive, traditionalist moral constraints inherited from the Middle Ages.

The right to choose evil

I have received many replies to my recent Idleposts touching upon “physician-assisted suicide,” the latest “human right” created by Canada’s activist, forward-looking Supreme Court, which now rewrites our laws freely. They are seldom first in the world on any issue, but since the Omnibus Bill of the Trudeau government gutted our Criminal Code in 1969, they have shown much enterprise getting to the front of the avant-garde. They may not have been the pioneers of abortion-on-demand, for instance, but made us the first, and since, the world’s only jurisdiction to allow abortion with no restrictions whatever, from conception to live birth if not later. It seems a point of pride with them, to stay one step ahead of the Joneses to our south, though it should be said the Americans catch up quickly.

According to the standard media account, death-on-demand was a Swiss specialty, before being popularized in the Low Countries. Judge-assisted death-on-demand has followed in two of the United States; and is now quickly spreading through what was once Christendom — even to Germany, where the term “euthanasia” acquired a bad reputation in light of the way it was used through the period 1933–45.

Media enthusiasts for “assisted suicide” are too shy to mention the truly pioneering work of the Nazi Party, arguing when they must that most of the many millions of deaths were not strictly voluntary. But the Nazis used the same arguments as our own euthanasia activists, to start, and were very keen on “progress.” Verily, they were the great Autobahn for physician-assisted everything since hallowed by progressives, from anti-smoking legislation to the slaughter on high-speed highways, which is why I am fond of the expression, “The Autobahn to Hell.” They were heroic Darwinians, and the idea of moving nature along a little faster, with respect to “useless” people, slightly preceded their more far-reaching programmes for Jews, Gypsies, homosexuals, and others on the principle, “every minority a wanted minority.”

Among their first efforts was, for instance, the Kinder-Euthanasie pilot project, in which thousands of mentally and physically handicapped children — “an expense to society and a tribulation to their parents” — were turned over at parental request for “special medical care.” Of course, the parents did not know what would happen to them. No one in Germany ever knew what was happening anywhere in those days, let alone in front of their faces, as we learnt later in the Nuremberg Trials — where quite a few “assisting physicians” were prosecuted. These included those who, like Hitler’s personal physician and Reich Commissar for Health and Sanitation, Karl Brandt, had previously received the highest awards of the state. (Josef Mengele got away, however.)

Canada’s own Doktor Mengele, the late Henry Morgentaler, who personally executed many thousand unborn babies, actually received an Order of Canada “for his commitment to increased health care options for women,” along with the highest award of the Canadian Labour Congress for his “outstanding service to humanity” — favours which, prior to his profitable abortion clinics, had included vasectomies and inserting IUDs. The paradox was in his own background as a Jew from the Lodz ghetto, who saw the inside of Dachau as a child. (He was hardly the only man twisted by the experience.)

“We must remain vigilant in defence of a woman’s right to choose,” he famously said, and said, in self-celebration. And now the “right to choose” death over life, for oneself as for others, is fully roosted in Canadian law.


As a visitor to nursing homes (though shamefully much less since my mother died), I retain contacts among many gerontophiles. I have heard from several since last Friday, expressing their desolation at the Supreme Court decision. Let me quote one especially well-placed:

“This decision will blow apart our ability to do what we do. …

“Our work force is largely female, visible minority, and Christian: just try finding someone to pick up replacement shifts on Sundays. Love is truly the fuel for our staff, most of whom see their careers as a calling. …

“Physicians do not provide care alone, they depend on a team. If a physician wants to kill a patient, what of the rest of the staff? Are they to be made unwilling stooges of the decision of the physician to provide this ‘service’? …

“I once worked in acute care, when observant Catholics (and others with religious objections to abortion) were screened out of the Surgery Suite while abortions were performed. This could never be done in Long Term Care. The facilities could not possibly run with staff opposed to this legalization of murder, as the scheduling of staff around the physicians’ decisions when to give the fatal injections would be impossible.”

As I’ve mentioned before, Christians are under siege throughout the medical professions, and even being a “visible minority woman” will not help if you oppose the Culture of Death. But when they have been driven out, or already where they are missing, the pressure increases on the old, the frail, the disabled, the depressed, the mentally afflicted, the terminally ill — to “do the right thing” and die. “Informal” euthanasia is, as I am vividly aware, well-established in many such institutions, precisely where Christian and other religious influence has disappeared.

It is worse than this, however; for I am also aware that many of the old, having lost control over their own daily lives, live in “paranoid” fear that their attendants are trying to kill them. Every injection, every little wax cup of pills, is a source of terror to them. They trust some staff, do not trust others. Indeed, being a voluble pro-lifer may be the best way to earn their confidence.

Among those still fully witted, but often in pain, the “right to choose” provides a terrible ordeal. Another of my correspondents describes this reality:

“The true horror, besides the actual killing of abortion and euthanasia, is the dreadful ‘option’ it presents to people. Where abortion is illegal, a woman facing an unwanted pregnancy can immediately dismiss killing her baby, and therefore enjoy a certain peace of mind. The decision has been made by external factors. Where killing pre-born babies is legal and paid for by the state, the ‘choice’ is hers, so there is no peace of mind: she vacillates back and forth between her natural motherly instinct, and wanting to get rid of a ‘problem’. She is also faced with immensely increased pressures from parents, boyfriends, &c, urging her on to murder so their own lives can go back to ‘normal’.

“With euthanasia being legal and paid for by the state, the sick person’s mind will be bouncing around like a ping pong ball with the highs and lows of illness. On a bad day he or she will want to ask for suicide, and then on a good day, want to reverse the decision. Obviously, too, there will be a decline in palliative care because it will seem absurd to go to any lengths to ease suffering when a permanent solution is as close as the nearest thanatist killer doctor.”

Here we see in operation a great truth once comprehended not only in church but throughout the Western legal tradition: that “he who deviseth evil soweth discord” (Proverbs 6:14). The “right to choose” evil — death on demand — does not stop at murder. Even among those not murdered, it acts as a tremendous destroyer of souls.

Yachting news

It is pleasing to see a man travelling in style. Erkan Gürsoy, age sixty-eight, took the northern route for his latest visit to his native Turkey, which is usual when flying to the Old World from British Columbia. But he gave this a twist by avoiding the airlines. Instead he negotiated the Northwest Passage, then crossed the rough Atlantic (weathering a hurricane), in a 36-foot aluminum yacht of his own construction. The Altan Girl, and her master, arrived safely at Çanakkale (near Troy in the Dardanelles), somewhat dimpled by the ice. Polar bears were also among Mr Gürsoy’s perils, as I gather from reports.

Most solo sailors come from inland locations, I have noticed, and this one from the Turkish interior. My theory is that people raised along the coast would know better. My own frankly escapist sailing fantasies owe much to a childhood spent mostly well inland, so that I was fully four years before I’d even seen an ocean. I remember that first encounter vividly. It turned out to be larger than I had expected.

Mr Gürsoy makes his living in Nanaimo manufacturing aluminum boats, mostly as tenders for larger vessels. He calls his stock-in-trade the “non-deflatable” — the hulls ringed around with fat aluminum irrigation tubing. He has a patent on that, and while admitting that his craft are rather ugly, notes that they are hard to sink. (From photographs I see that he is not much into concealing welds, either.) They are also rather noisy, for those riding inside, and they do bounce about on the waves. But on few other ships can one drum so impressively, to discourage those pesky bears, when trapped in ice that is crushing you like a pop can.

Clearly, from the accounts I have read, and by the full Aristotelian definition, a magnificent man.

I have designed many yachts myself, most of them for solo voyaging in the High Arctic, or the Southern Ocean. I have not, however, sailed one around the world, as Mr Gürsoy did with another vessel of his own design, twenty years ago. Typical inlander, he waited until he was actually at sea to learn the art of navigation. Not knowing any better is an important component of heroism, I believe. (It could be why men are more heroic than women.)

Nor have any of my designs been built, truth to tell. I just doodle them on the page, while reading the memoirs of sea voyagers; my knowledge of naval architecture having come almost entirely from the same source.

My favourite model is a development of the inshore Dutch fishing botter: absurdly wide of beam in relation to length, and very shallow of draught, but with a deep leeboard to hold a course when it matters. Too, a hinging mast, to avoid the bridges over canals, which I would also tie down for the duration of big blows on the open water — so to still have a mast when the blow were over, and a solid breakwater in the meanwhile. The interior would be adapted for arctic survival, and to accommodate doodling. I dislike aluminum, with a fixed passion, and have selected wood. This hard-fastened coracle (the old Dutch mariners could not abide a straight line) would pop like a cherry pit out of squeezing Arctic ice. Or else it would crush like a box of matches, but there you go. You cannot know what will work until you try it.

I have various other models, including a ketch adaptation for an old American fishing pinky; but with two masts I’m afraid that would require more crew. Yet ah, to exaggerate the rising tail, to a high seat projecting behind the tiller, on which to recline like a sleepy gondolier.

Among my more ambitious designs is to modify an icebreaker-class research vessel, with a few dozen berths. My thought was to found a little shipping company, to restore passenger service along traditional ocean routes, for people refusing to be pressed for time, or through airports. Not bourgeois vacation cruising, mind — God never wants that — but a civilized passage from A to B, with ports of call, and perhaps a little oceanographical dipping along the way, for those who’d appreciate some fresh air, decent food, and intelligent conversation. Crew would include musicians, and a reactionary chaplain; and on the boat deck, instead of a pool, a fine usus antiquior chapel.

Whereas, I should think, solo sailing is for the more contemplative types. Since Joshua Slocum’s first circumnavigation in the Spray, the idea of a floating hermitage has been widely disseminated. (His Sailing Alone Around the World was among the formative books of my childhood.) But Captain Slocum remains almost alone in understanding how such a passage should be conducted: in no particular hurry, and with an ingeniously designed self-steering mechanism that leaves one turning pages in a cabin full of books.

One could have as much in a log cabin, I suppose, with fewer distractions and less risk of drowning, but that might be too easy. For as Prince Hal says, “If all the year were playing holidays, to sport would be as tedious as to work.”

The original Falstaff

This business of Shakespeare being Catholic — in thought word and deed, though subtle enough to avoid getting drawn and quartered — flourishes in each examination of detail. Here is a specimen for a day on which I have “nothing more to say,” or to do for that matter, beyond watching Lake Ontario freeze over. (Perhaps that will accelerate tomorrow.)

The character Falstaff in the History plays began with the name “Oldcastle.” This created something of a scene, because Sir John Oldcastle was a real historical character, and his proud descendants were prominent at Court — the top one, the seventh Lord Cobham, becoming suddenly Lord Chamberlain, and therefore licenser of plays. (By happenstance he died soon after, or we might never have had Macbeth, Hamlet, Lear, Othello, nor heard much more from Ben Jonson, neither, nor from the effervescent Thomas Nashe, nor other closet Cath-o-licks who’d sharpened their wits on this dull anvil.)

Now, Oldcastle was a Protestant “martyr” — an unspeakable Lollard from two centuries before, who’d been hunted down to the Welsh Marches and properly euthanized. And here was Shakespeare depicting him as a charismatic low-life drunkard, a duplicitous liar and compulsive thief. The fan started hitting the apples, and Shakespeare’s company must have told him it was time to stop it. The name would just have to be changed.

That is why you will find lines in Henry IV, Part One, whereon the name “Falstaff” appears, which scan one syllable short of the meter. It is because Will Shakespeare did the last-minute white-out on “Oldcastle,” scrawling “Falstaff” over the top. (But leaving in a gorgeous pun on Oldcastle’s name.)

So where did the Bard get “Falstaff” from?

It was the name of another old Puritan hero, who didn’t have any descendants.

Now, if that ain’t cute, I don’t know what is.

And another

Enthusiasts for “physician-assisted dying” should remember the name Clayton Lockett. He was “lethally injected” by a doctor in an Oklahoma prison nine months ago. This didn’t work as expected. The injectee was writhing on the gurney for a long while. I will spare gentle reader a fuller description. The execution was “called off” by the prison director after twenty minutes or so. He’d been phoning around the state, asking for advice. The blinds were pulled down over the spectator windows by panicking staff. Finally, forty-three minutes into his agony, Mr Lockett succumbed to a heart attack. Perhaps gentle reader remembers this item from the colourful history of botched executions. Opponents of capital punishment in the media gathered much sympathy for the late Mr Lockett — a felon whose convictions included murder, rape, forcible sodomy, kidnapping, assault and battery.

A nurse tells me of her experience with morphine. In one case she administered 2 milligrammes to a big hulking rugby player, who promptly stopped breathing. In another it was 70 milligrammes to a tiny wisp of a teenage girl who then screamed that it wasn’t working. On the other hand, she reads that the anaesthesiologists in Holland, where euthanasia is now commonplace, have got killing people down to a fine art. She assumes they will helpfully share their protocols.

So perhaps this is an unreasonable objection. It is only the first time a doctor murders his patient that he may fumble ineffectually about. With experience and the right training, we can expect him to become a cool, efficient killer, who hardly ever has a “bad hair day.”

If in fact he does his own needlework. It frightens my nursing correspondent that, “the only people who really know how to use those drugs are the gas-passers and Emerg and ICU nurses. Wonder when some doc is going to figure out it’s easier for him to write an order for a nurse to give a fatal dose of propofol than for him to get trained in administering it himself.”

My nurse, you see, is a serious Catholic. She got into the trade to help ill people, not kill them off. She could curl your ears with many other tales from the front line, e.g. standing up to careless doctors, prescribing potentially lethal doses of this and that.

Gradually, nurses and doctors who adhere to the Hippocratic Oath will be weeded out of our monopoly healthcare system.

Under the Orwellian title, “Consultations on Policies and Transparency By-laws,” the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario is pushing the envelope against conscientious objectors. If, for instance, they won’t perform abortions, they must refer the applicant to a doctor who will, thus presenting them with the “right to choose”: be complicit in the killing, or find a new trade. New “end-of-life” guidelines are coming down the same pipe. Catholic doctors are already being told that, if they want to remain faithful to their life-affirming creed, they should get out of family practice.

Note that this tyranny is gratuitous. The CPSO could publish an easily accessible list of doctors who would be happy to kill your baby, your granny, your rich uncle, your bipolar aunt, your annoying teenager, your unemployable husband, your simple brother, or anyone who could conceivably be talked into signing his own death warrant in one or another state of mind. Or over whom you might eventually contrive to get power of attorney. But this isn’t good enough. Not only do the activists want evil, they want decent people to be complicit in the evil; and the power to destroy them if they refuse.

But back to my nurse, who wonders where all these “assisted suicides” will take place. “Are people going to turn up in Emerg and announce they can’t take it anymore, and must be murdered immediately? It blurs the lines if we’re setting someone up with an I.V. in one bay to kill him, while pumping the stomach of a psych patient in the next one, to interrupt a suicide.”

The self-regarding geniuses on our Supreme Court, all nine of them, did not bother to think that through — that, or innumerable other conflicts of purpose that their judgment creates, and which will keep coming back to them for adjudication. They triggered a Hurley-burley, tossing a bombshell into Parliament that the Members will be likely to duck, thus leaving all fallout to chance, including the chance that, as already with abortion in this country, all law restricting euthanasia will be vacated. With a short sophistical paragraph, and language gratuitously vague, they overturned centuries of legal precedent. Their irresponsibility is astounding.

What I find most monstrously hypocritical in the pitch for euthanasia is the pretty picture, of “death with dignity,” with all the family and friends gathered round. It is such a howling lie.

People so depressed they want to be dead do not come from that country. Their despair has everything to do with the absence of family and friends, and the indifference to their loneliness and pain, suffered wherever they have been warehoused. The country in which there were family and friends, and neighbours, and religion, and doctors who came to your house, is gone. That was an antediluvian country. The “social conservatism” that glued it together has been washed away.

This is the new country, founded upon contraception and divorce; the country of cradle-to-grave bankrupt care, and activist judge-made law and lawlessness, where faire is foule and foule is faire.

And this is the new love, that has replaced our backward Christianity — for the old, the frail, the disabled, the depressed, the mentally afflicted, the terminally ill. It comes in a syringe, supplemented when necessary.

At least despatch them with something that works, every time, and requires minimal intelligence to operate. May I suggest the Spanish garotte?

Another day

“Arise!” would be how the Introit began this morning. That is why Sexagesima is also called “Exsurge Sunday” in the Calendar of the Ages: … Exsurge, quare obdormis, Domine? … Or in the colloquial: “Get up, why are you sleeping, God?” This of course from a Psalm; and David, king and minstrel, is not so impious as first sounds. “Help!” might be offered as a paraphrase, for what he is crying.

Those in possession of the old missal — and I would hate to think any of my readers were so poor, or so disorganized, as to be without one — may, even if they must live in Babylonian exile from the Old Mass, keep up with it in spirit. Each Sunday provides a new masterpiece of poetic construction, and as today’s Mass unfolded — through Introit, Collect, Epistle, Gradual, Tract, Gospel, Offertory, Secret, Communion — the whole Christian life was expounded. Read it attentively, then read it again, with as much Latin as you can bring to the English crib, and soon you will discover how much is there. Follow, too, the Chapters, Psalms, Antiphons through the Canonical Hours (Lauds, Prime, Terce, Sext, None, Vespers, Compline, and Matins or night watches towards the following day), and you will see that it is part of a vast music. It continues ceaselessly; while you, for your part, come in and go out.

But for today, beginning from that Introit, that cry to the Lord to come and help us, such a vision unrolls: of things as they have been, recently, and as they have been since Adam, and as they now are. In the Epistle, Paul, “Doctor of the Gentiles,” resorts to autobiography to explain what evangelization is all about, and the inconveniences that may attend it along the way, should we be as he was, “in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils from my own nation, in perils from the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils from false brethren.” Those are the earthly rewards of striving, and he gives details, such as how many lashes he took each time, or what it is to be wet, cold, naked, and hungry. He then confesses his own terrible weakness — how more than once he pleaded with God to give the job to someone else. And the answer came: that power is made perfect in infirmity; that the grace he’d been given was sufficient and so, get on with it.

Infirmity — pain, and often desolation — can be used to make us perfect. Note, mark, flag this passage. Take it deeply into the heart and never part with it.

The length of this Epistle stands out, contributing to its liturgical force. Saint Paul stands before us as a real man, who is calumniated, and has a few things to say, and does not intend to shut up. It is a passage of extraordinary power, and once attuned to its meaning, phrase by phrase, the singing of it carries across the bridge of time, and we are in all ages.

Against this in the Gospel, the parable of the sower: of the seed, of the Word. It is dispersed by wayside, it falls on stony ground, and into thorns that choke it. Christ, now anticipated by Paul, turns to explain exactly what He means by this — to those who have not heard because they were not listening; to those who like what they hear, but will not root themselves against the winds of temptation; to those choked by the cares, the riches, and the pleasures of this world. But when it lands in the hearts of good men, the seed yields fruit an hundredfold. …

Haec dicens, clamabat: He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.”

The Mass plays forward in time, but may also play backward, and synthesize, or then piece out, and the effect is to unburden us of the temporal chains we have been clanking. Throughout there is movement, simultaneous as well as sequential, in voice, echo, and modulation, as music. From the unfolding of a fugue by Bach we may learn something of the shape I am trying so feebly to describe: the unity that emerges from an incredible diversity of sharply unique phrases, and actions. The homily itself is only part of the music, harmonic only if the preacher knows its place. For the Mass is comparable to no revival meeting, no concert or recital, no lecture or class or “presentation.” It is something that is done, and is being done within the hearts of all those present, removed in the moment from their earthly concerns and drawn into the Presence of Our Lord, to be blessed, and amended. Even to say it has a teaching function, is to say too little: the Mass is as Our Lord within it.

The Church does not pray in mono. The picture of souls lost has been carried into the flood, at Matins: the sea and ship of Noah upon the torrent; the terrible image of the drowned in their numbers like specks. The wood of Noah’s ship is the wood of the Cross and of our salvation. The Reconciliation with Christ, and the Restoration of His creation to the beauty of its first Day, is glimpsed in evocations of Noah’s rainbow. The purpose in our penitence is coming into view, in the distant prospect of the Resurrection.

But for now we toil, in a very dark labour.


To the enormity of what happened in our public life on Friday, there has been no reply. Many bishops responded, but had nothing very forceful to say. They do not seem to realize the horror of what was done in our Canadian Supreme Court: the suffocating stench of it. They treat it as one more item of news, already passing from the news cycle, as if bishops were pundits. From polls we learn that the vast majority of those now living in this country — nine in ten — glibly subscribe to the new public doctrine, that puts humans on a level with dogs and cats. We now know from those numbers that only a tiny proportion of Canadians can be Christian, whatever they may fondly call themselves; that in the main, the inhabitants of this country do not think their own lives worth living, except for pleasure.

Exsurge, Domine! … What a vision of souls, falling like snowflakes into Hell.

O Lord, pray for us, and come to us in our bottomless squalor.

The insanity offence

There is no further need of slippery slope arguments, once we have reached the bottom of the calving glacier. Last night I devoted a few hours to reading through Canadian media commentary (there was almost no reporting) on yesterday’s Supreme Court decision that mandates “physician-assisted suicide” (now glibly abbreviated to “PAS”). As an additional Shrovetide penance I read the Judgment itself. It is apparent that the country is now morally and mentally dead, though still locomoting on the zombie principle. The unanimous judgment of the court was echoed in nearly unanimous cheering that another victory had been achieved for “human rights.”

A few of the more thoughtful paused to view the slope, now that we have slipt; nowhere could I find a coherent ethical argument, nor the observation that the Justices had not tried to make one, founded in natural law, or in anything. Neither journalists nor judges bothered to acknowledge overturning the central premiss and entire heritage of Western law — the sanctity of human life. Indeed, the only legal history they review is extremely recent.

The journalists go a little beyond the judges, in using flagrantly emotional arguments which they identify as “rational,” and mocking conscientious arguments as “emotional.” Most then announce that a debate in which they could never have participated — given their cruel intellectual limitations — is now closed because the Oracle has spoken.

My excuse for them is that they were raised in a state of complete confusion, on basic principles of law. “The sanctity of human life” was effectively overturned by the legalization of abortion — the murder of an unborn child. That provided the slippery slope to this one. It was compounded in Canada by the legalization of suicide, which is self-murder. The principle in law had been coherent: “You may murder no human being.” It was made incoherent.

That is why the battle was not fought at the top of the hill. It was surrendered at the start, and all resistance was restricted to feeble rearguard actions, such as petition signing. Those opposing the murder of the old, the frail, the disabled, the depressed, the mentally afflicted, the terminally ill, find that they can now do so only on the ground that it makes them feel a little queasy. But once it has been established that some people can be murdered, no line can be drawn, and we are not only down the slippery slope, but at sea.

In this instance we needed at least one journalist to call attention to the judges’ actual argument. A right to “physician-assisted suicide” was found in Section 7 of our (Trudeau-bestowed) Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and in the words, “Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of the person and the right not to be deprived thereof except in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice” (whatever that now is).

Ludicrous enough: that such rights could include a right to be murdered by a doctor, on request. But to make some more plausible link, all nine judges signed on to the idea that, unless he is guaranteed this new right, the citizen may feel compelled to kill himself while he is still able to do so — thus becoming deprived of life, liberty, and security, in toto. The state is thus held responsible in advance for a citizen’s free act, and must make amends for forcing him to commit the suicide that he did not commit, by killing him at the expense of the taxpayer.

Someone should have mentioned that this reasoning is insane.

How to perform miracles

Propter incredulitatem vestram, “because of your unbelief.” This is why, Christ patiently explained to his disciples, they were unable to cure the little boy of epilepsy. “If you will have faith as a grain of mustard seed, you shall say to this mountain, Move: from here, to there. And it will move.” But then, on the little matter of demon removal, He explains nonchalantly: “This kind is cast out by prayer and fasting.”

Mad, totally mad, I can remember once thinking. And if He hadn’t just cured the little boy, no one would have taken him seriously.

A fortnight ago, NASA released the sharpest pictures yet of the Andromeda Galaxy, only a few hundred kiloparsecs away: the nearest spiral to our native Milky Way. Four hundred and some high-resolution snapshots from the Hubble telescope were assembled in a mosaic presenting nearly one-third of Andromeda — from part of its galactic bulge at the left, to the outskirts of the disc at the right. About one hundred million stars are in the frame, a representative sample of the brightest. (What can you expect with less than two billion pixels?) Gentle reader is invited to go look, on the Internet. I especially like the dark passages: the intricate “dust lanes” that reveal structure, within structure, within structure.

Children love to ask how many stars there are, and tend to press until you tell them, “Forget it, kid.” We cannot even count the galaxies: perhaps half a trillion? Not that galaxies are the only things we see. But this is large, and travelling around the speed of light, only to the next galaxy, we would need about two-and-a-half million years. “No need to hurry,” I once told a dear little boy. “We’re going to collide with it in another four billion. You’re young yet, you have to be patient.”

Now, all of this exploded from a single cosmic egg, infinitesimally smaller than any grain of mustard seed. Or rather, that is the most plausible current account, consistent with what we can measure. Again, I refer to that Hubble mosaic for some context. (And wonder what could explode from a cosmic egg the size of the full grain.)

No human brain can possibly wrap around this; the nearest I’ve seen come is that of Saint Thomas Aquinas who, as gentle reader may know, signed off on trying to describe what had been shown him, saying, “All that I have written now appears as so much straw.”

Straw: blowing from the tomb of Lazarus.

The older I grow, the less I know; but the better I understand that Christ was not exaggerating.


Domine, salva nos, perimus. The little fishing boat, awash in the tempest, and Christ is sleeping through the whole thing. With these words the fishermen awoke him: “Lord, save us, we are perishing.” To which Jesus yawned, “O ye of little faith,” then rose and calmed the sea: Tunc surgens, imperavit ventis, et mari, et facta est tranquillitas magna. (Everything is better in Latin.)

I haven’t met anyone else who could do this; I would have remembered if I had. There have been saints, however, who have performed miracles. The explanation is obvious: it would be their great faith. In moments I have imagined how it might be possible; in dreams I have even hovered above the ground. In waking life, I have not faith enough to make the pot pour me another cup of tea. This is inept, and I confess it.

We are constrained within the various mechanical “laws,” I would suggest, only because of our bad living. We are right to feel a certain frustration with them; wrong not even to try busting out, from this abject condition of slavery. But what it will take is not an organized rebellion.

Sanctity alone can lift us out of this place; sanctity alone by Grace, in faith receiving — it is the only way out. In this, it seems, we may begin to see, that in a perfect faith would be a perfect freedom.

The cull

Today is a special day up here in Canada, worth remembering for a long time: the last day in our public life before our Supreme Court ruled on what the psycho faction likes to call “euthanasia.” The pagan mind thinks suicide is an option, but after tomorrow, every life in the monopoly public healthcare system is worth whatever the death committees decide. With the passage of time, their budgetary constraints will weigh ever more heavily upon them.

There has been no debate, and could be no debate, as I muttered recently about abortion: all decent humans being on one side. The Canadian media, on the other, buried the story as hardly worth their time. In the extremely rare circumstances in which ethical arguments against killing people were allowed to creep onto an op-ed page, the comboxes quickly filled with vile locutions from that psycho faction. I use the word advisedly: one must alas read such comments to appreciate what I mean.

Unless, of course, our Supreme Court should elect to surprise us. But when one looks down the row of men and women who warm that bench, hope is not indicated: Lasciate ogni speranza, voi ch’entrate. Their adherence to the Culture of Death has been consistent; their respect for the ancient usages of law, whimsical at best. Madame Justice has been on record for years, explaining the nature of the decisions they render, as a College of Vestals sweeping before the Sacred Flame.

As any death sentence, their decision should be taken quietly. There is no point in crying out. The ideologues of “progress” are ruthless, and the old, the frail, the disabled, the depressed, the mentally afflicted, the terminally ill, must never look to them for “mercy.” They have their own definition of this term, and among the stipendiaries of Eugenics and Auschwitz, the short way is best.


Next morning update: The Supreme Court has ruled as predicted, and unanimously. There was a cosmetic limitation to hard cases, and special requests; but as we know, and they know, from the legalization of abortion, this will be ignored. Later, when the rhetorical cover has served its purpose, it will be formally rescinded.

One thinks of the illustrious G. Gordon Liddy. Asked once by a judge if he was trying to show contempt for the court, he replied: “No, your honour, I was trying to conceal it.”

Some free advice

In addition to, “Can’t anyone here play this game?” I have many favoured quotes in Stengelese. Indeed, one of my several motives for getting into Heaven is to hear Casey Stengel chatting with Thomas More. Both were talented managers.

“The secret of managing is to keep the guys who hate you away from the guys who are undecided.”

“Now there’s three things that can happen in a ball game: you can win, you can lose, or it can rain.”

“Been in this game one hundred years, but I see new ways to lose ’em I never knew existed before.”

“You got to get twenty-seven outs to win.”

“I couldn’t have done it without my players.”

“Nobody knows this yet, but one of us has just been traded to Kansas City.”

“That boy couldn’t hit the ground if he fell out of an airplane.”

“Wake up muscles we’re in New York now.”

“Being with a woman last night never hurt no professional baseball player. It’s staying up all night looking for a woman that does him in.”

“Good pitching will always stop good hitting and vice-versa.”

“You have to have a catcher because if you don’t you’re likely to have a lot of passed balls.”

“If you’re so smart, let’s see you get out of the Army.”

“They say some of my stars drink whiskey. But the ones who drink milkshakes don’t win many ball games.”

“I die the king’s faithful servant, but God’s first.”

(Readers are invited to guess which quotes were Stengel’s and which were More’s.)


But it is, “Can’t anybody here play this game” that keeps coming to mind when I observe developments in the Middle East. As I hope gentle reader will soon discern, each of the quotes is relevant to the current situation.

The response to it in the West, and particularly from the United States government, is incompetent on a scale so breathtaking that I sometimes miss my slot as a daily news pundit. (And by inviting Netanyahu to address the U.S. Congress, Boehner proved himself as dumb as Obama.) What distresses me is not that characters like Obama and Kerry say “terrorism” has nothing to do with Islam. They are politicians: of course they spout drivel. Rather, I am appalled by the evidence that they actually believe what they are saying.

This goes beyond noticing that the terrorists cry Allahu Akbar! after every strike. To understand current events one must notice the war being fought within Islam. And this is not as hard as it might seem. It is a war between not one, but two radical factions: Shia fanatics, and Sunni fanatics.

“Al-Qaeda,” “the Caliphate,” “Hamas,” and some other groupings, though rivals for the leadership, are united in their aspirations for the Sunni side. Revolutionary Iran and its proxy Hezbollah provide the united leadership for the Shia side. Every formerly Western-allied government in the region, including that of the Wahabi sheikhs in Saudi Arabia, fears both sides; but they fear Iran more. And after Iran, they probably fear Turkey, which has the potential of becoming patron to the fanatic Sunnis on the analogy of Iran.

We could get into blaming Islam itself for the mess, but that won’t be necessary for today’s purpose. It is only necessary insofar as we must understand that the words Allahu Akbar are not uttered lightly, and are not insincere.

While both sides look forward to murdering us next, their attention is first focused on murdering each other. Attacks on Western targets must be understood in this context: for neither party is so naive as to think they can out-gun us, or even out-gun Israel. Moreover, many of their stunts (including video beheadings) are designed to manipulate Western public opinion — against themselves, in order to win allies within the region. The “Je suis Charlie” demonstrations in France, for instance, were a godsend to the Sunni fanatics: they triggered massive anti-Western demonstrations among less fanatic Muslims across the Middle East, and thereby magnified their claim to represent Islam.

A good general knows better than to be manipulated by goads. He keeps his eye on the chessboard, and thinks several moves ahead. He acts in apparent indifference to his opponent’s last move, and may even invite more of the same. He is looking for checkmate, not to trade pawns. But in the words of a gorgeous Israeli paratrooper I once chatted with (she was female, incidentally), our leaders are trying to play chess with checkers pieces.

So note the disposition of the board. The Iranians, on the cusp of obtaining nuclear weapons if they do not have them already (I would bet they have), are the party that other regional states most fear (except Syria, the Iranian client we should be trying to lure away). And this for very good reasons. They also fear their domestic Sunni radicals, but they know the Shia party is much better organized and armed, and has the more realizable ambition to destroy them. This view is the opposite of senseless.

Now, fools, or let us say those too clever by half, will next suggest we play one enemy against the other. Let Hitler bleed himself mooshing Stalin, or vice versa. This is crazy, in addition to evil. The winner of that conflict then becomes our much more powerful adversary. Our task is to defeat the Sunni “terrorists” — by military means where necessary — without giving the slightest advantage to the ayatollahs. To negotiate with the latter, semi-secretly seeking their help against their worst enemy, is the stupidest course available; and it is the one the Obama administration is banking on.

Do I have to explain more?

Hard “realpolitik” would recognize both threats, and propose to defeat them respectively by quite different tactics. The allies we require are just the sort the Bush administration was cultivating, but which the Obama administration alienates with batty lectures on “human rights,” and other empty pieces of performance art, intended to undermine them. Our common interests are not permanent, and therefore they can only be allies, not friends: but this is war. In the first place we must communicate to such as the Egyptian and Saudi governments that we understand the game, know how to play it, and are once again (like Bush) as good as our word. Negotiate with your allies, not with your common enemies, or you will find yourself without allies pretty fast.

Our common interest with the Israelis — who are friend, not ally — is to move attention away from them. Our obsession with solving the insoluble “Israel/Palestine” conflict plays directly into our enemies’ hands, by enhancing an issue that galvanizes their existing supporters, and can only win them more. (Nor do you win allies by selling out your friends.) Quietly help Israel get ignored, which is exactly what our regional allies are doing, and exactly what Boehner wasn’t doing.

Beyond this: never try to solve an insoluble problem; you have better things to do than make it worse.

The fish commands it

I dread attending Mass on the Feast of Saint Blaise. This is because I am superstitious. It is the day when, by tradition, we get our throats blessed with the crossed candles. Experience tells me I will get a sore throat, just after. (A blaising sore throat, no?) Perhaps this has not always happened, and I omit from memory the times it has not, but it has happened more than once. Thus my delight in reading Father Zed this morning, who reports the same experience. As a priest he also mentions that every time he blesses a car, it gets in an accident. On the other hand, one of his customers re-assured him: “Imagine, Father, what would have happened had you not blessed it.”

Do blessings work? My fear is that they do, invariably. This is why I hesitate to pray for the virtue of courage. No sooner have I done this than it seems the Holy Spirit has put me in a spot, where courage will actually be necessary. That was not precisely what I asked for, I might think; but of course, according to Thy Will, not mine. And one forgets the part about practising the virtues.

Now, it is good that I disabled Comments many months ago, for otherwise the global village explainer would show up to say the reason people get sore throats around the beginning of February is that it falls in the dead of winter. He would then add that I should get a flu shot; after making some patronizing remark about his toleration of Catholics. … Plausible, plausible. … I get so sick of plausible.

Of course, it was worse for Saint Blaise himself, when he prayed. He had his head sawed off with steel combs, if I have the story straight, from the early fourth century. (Hence his patronage of the wool industry.) I believe Marco Polo passed his tomb at Sebaste in Armenia, on his way to Cathay. But it is hard to see Saint Blaise, through the accretion of legend that became associated with his name, as his reputation spread, in death as in life for “medical interventions.” Peasants everywhere swore by him, to judge from the huge number of Saint Blaise parishes, raised throughout Christendom East and West within the first thousand years of his leave-taking.

In life, he was said to have saved a child choking on a fishbone. He effected many other miraculous cures, of animals as well as people. Indeed, he seems to have been a kind of precursor to Saint Francis of Assisi. Whole flocks, afflicted by some pestilence, were led to him for his restorative blessings, and individual sick animals were drawn to him for help. They would mysteriously obey him. In my favourite of the stories, a poor woman came to Blaise, because a wolf had made off with her piglet. The holy man had words with the wolf, who returned the piglet to the woman, unharmed.

Thinking, “What could I say about Saint Blaise?” last night, I then woke this morning from a dream I imperfectly remember. But one phrase stood at the top of my mind: “The fish commands it!”

I have used this for my heading, in the belief it must have some secret meaning. Gentle reader may not easily see the point, but really, I can’t do everything for him.