Bishop's Blog

Hearing the Screams

There is story told about passengers on a small commuter plane who are waiting for their flight to leave. They’re getting a little impatient, but the airport staff has assured them that the pilots will be there soon, and the flight will take off immediately after their arrival. The entrance opens, and two men dressed in pilots’ uniforms walk up the aisle – both are wearing dark glasses, one is using a seeing-eye dog, and the other is tapping his way up the aisle with a cane. Nervous laughter spreads through the cabin; but the men enter the cockpit, the door closes, and the engines start up. The passengers begin glancing nervously around, searching for some sign that this is just a little practical joke. None is forthcoming.

Soon the plane is moving faster and faster down the runway, and people at the windows realize that they’re headed straight for the water at the edge of the airport runway. As it begins to look as though the plane will never take off, that it will plow into the water, panicked screams fill the cabin – but at that moment, the plane lifts smoothly into the air.

The passengers relax and laugh a little sheepishly, and soon they have all retreated into their magazines, secure in the knowledge that the plane is in good hands. Up in the cockpit, the co-pilot turns to the pilot and says, “You know, Bob, one of these days, they’re going to scream too late, and we’re all gonna die.”

Here are three examples of screams that I have heard recently:

1. On the campaign trail for the Progressive Conservative leadership, Jason Kenney blasted David Eggen, the Minister of Education for “lobbing rhetorical bombs” at the schools which are run by the Baptist Christian Education Society. Kenney suggested that the minister and his officials should not seek conflict in the media. According to the CBC, “If they have a concern or issue with individual schools, they should discretely and with respect and civility sit down and try to find a solution.”

The Baptist Christian Education Society’s board chair, Spruce Grove pastor Brian Coldwell, stated in August that the board’s two schools, which have a total of about 200 students, will not permit gay/straight alliances nor provide “polygender washrooms.”

There is no evidence that these Christian schools have a serious bullying problem, but a government problem – the imposition of the rainbow ideology where it doesn’t fit. Eggen responded in the media that he would “not rule out” cutting funding to the schools, which comprises about 70 percent of the private schools’ instructional revenue.

It’s ironic that a government committed to wiping out “bullying” is going to do so by being a bully, i.e. by repeatedly and habitually using force, threat, or coercion to abuse, intimidate, or aggressively dominate others. This is an imbalance of social and economic power being used to facilitate a unwelcomed social re-engineering agenda.

2. At World Youth Day in Krakow, Pope Francis screamed: “There are genuine forms of ideological colonization taking place. And one of these I will call it clearly by its name – is [the ideology of] ‘gender’. Today children – children! – are taught in school that everyone can choose his or her sex. Why are they teaching this? …In a conversation with Pope Benedict, who is in good health and very perceptive, he said to me: ‘Holiness, this is the age of sin against God the Creator.’”

3. Finally, a “silent scream,” as it was not heard by the politically correct establishment, ostensibly because it questions many of the LGBTQ orthodoxies.

Sexuality and Gender published in August by a couple of scientific heavyweights, Dr. Lawrence Mayer and Dr. Paul McHugh, examined nearly 200 peer-reviewed studies in sexual orientation and gender identity. Four of the report’s most important conclusions are:

  1. The belief that sexual orientation is an innate, biologically fixed human property –“that people are born that way”– is not supported by scientific evidence.
  2. The hypothesis that gender identity is an innate, fixed human property independent of biological sex – so that a person might be “a man trapped in a woman’s body” or “a woman trapped in a man’s body”– is not supported by scientific evidence.
  3. Only a minority of children who express gender-atypical thoughts or behaviour will continue to do so into adolescence or adulthood. There is no evidence that all such children should be encouraged to become transgender, much less subjected to hormone treatments or surgery.
  4. Non-heterosexual and transgender people have higher rates of mental health problems (anxiety, depression, suicide), as well as behavioural and social problems (substance abuse, intimate partner violence), than the general population. Discrimination alone does not account for the entire disparity.

“You know, Bob, one of these days, they’re going to scream too late, and we’re all gonna die.”

☩ Frederick Henry
Bishop Emeritus

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Seeing with New Eyes

The world has again been stunned by a jihadist attack, after two knife-wielding men burst into a church in a suburb of Rouen, France, killed an elderly priest — Fr. Jacques Hamel — during morning mass, and took hostages.

Sr. Danielle, one of the nuns who attended the mass said that the men, armed with knives, forced the priest to his knees before cutting his throat. “They recorded it; it was like they were performing a sermon in Arabic around the altar. It was horrific.”

Two nuns and one parishioner exited the church, followed by the attackers, one of whom was carrying a gun, who charged police shouting “Allahu akbar” (God is great). The attackers were shot dead by police.

The perpetrators have been named as Adel Kermiche and Abdel-Malik Petitjean, both 19. Both attackers were known to the French security services, having tried to reach Syria to join the so-called Islamic State (IS) and been turned back. IS said two of its “soldiers” had carried out the attack.

During the press conference on the flight back to Rome after World Youth Day, a journalist, Antoine Marie Izoarde, asked the Holy Father: “Why do you, when you speak of these violent events, always speak of terrorists, but never of Islam; never use the word Islam?”

Pope Francis responded: “I don’t like to speak of Islamic violence, because every day, when I browse the newspapers, I see violence, here in Italy … this one who has murdered his girlfriend, another who has murdered the mother-in-law … and these are baptized Catholics!

There are violent Catholics! If I speak of Islamic violence, I must speak of Catholic violence … and no, not all Muslims are violent, not all Catholics are violent. It is like a fruit salad; there’s everything. There are violent persons of this religion … this is true: I believe that in pretty much every religion there is always a small group of fundamentalists. Fundamentalists. We have them. When fundamentalism comes to kill, it can kill with the language — the Apostle James says this, not me — and even with a knife, no? I do not believe it is right to identify Islam with violence. This is not right or true.

I had a long conversation with the imam, the Grand Imam of the Al-Azhar University, and I know how they think … They seek peace, encounter … The nuncio to an African country told me that the capital where he is there is a trail of people, always full, at the Jubilee Holy Door

And some approach the confessionals — Catholics — others to the benches to pray, but the majority go forward, to pray at the altar of Our Lady … these are Muslims, who want to make the Jubilee. They are brothers, they live …

When I was in Central Africa, I went to them, and even the imam came up on the Popemobile … We can coexist well … But there are fundamentalist groups, and even I ask … there is a question … How many young people, how many young people of our Europe, whom we have left empty of ideals, who do not have work… they take drugs, alcohol, or go there to enlist in fundamentalist groups?

One can say that the so-called ISIS, but it is an Islamic State which presents itself as violent … because when they show us their identity cards, they show us how on the Libyan coast how they slit the Egyptians’ throats or other things … But this is a fundamentalist group which is called ISIS … but you cannot say, I do not believe, that it is true or right that Islam is terrorist.”

I certainly don’t know how I would answer the question asked on the spur of the moment. I can understand the meandering of Pope Francis in trying to avoid identifying Islam with terrorism. After all, we all know so many tolerant and peace loving Muslims. With our Western eyes, we tend to see social alienation, unemployment, lack of adequate housing or education, feelings of hopelessness and the absence of ideals as the underlying causes of terrorism.

We have to see things with jihadist eyes. Those who slit throats or carry out suicide bombings clearly believe that their actions do owe much to their religious faith.

It is not politically correct to say so, but violence was definitely part of the rise and expansion of Islam. At the time, no one found anything blameworthy in Muhammad’s military action since wars were part of the Arab Bedouin culture. Today, the problem is that the fiercest Muslim groups continue to adopt that model.

In the Qur’an, there are verses in favour of religious tolerance, and other verses that are aggressive and openly opposed to tolerance. Therefore, the doctors of the Islamic law are obliged to say that they do not agree with those who choose to adopt the verse of the sword as normative, even if they cannot condemn them. There are two different choices, the aggressive and the peaceful, and both of them are acceptable. There is a need for an authority, unanimously acknowledged by Muslims, that could say: from now on, only this verse is valid. But this has not happened and helps to explain some of the silence of Imams and other Islamic leaders

This means that when some fanatic slits the throat of an old man or bombs women and children in the market place in the name of pure and authentic Islam or in the name of the Muslim tradition, nobody can tell them: “You are not true and authentic Muslims.” As Fr. Samir Khalil Samir, S.J. puts it, “All they can say is: ‘Your reading of Islam is not ours.’ And this is the ambiguity of Islam, from its beginning to the present day; violence is a part of it, although it is also possible to choose tolerance; tolerance is a part of it, but it is also possible to choose violence.”

We also need new eyes to revisit one of the themes of Pope Benedict XVI’s address given at the University of Regensburg in 2006, as how we understand God’s nature has implications for whether we judge particular human choices and actions to be unreasonable. This is not just an issue for academia but where the rubber hits the road.

☩ Frederick Henry
Bishop Emeritus

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