Bishop's Blog

“Heal the wounds, heal the wounds, so many wounds...”

In my lifetime, the mainstream liberal culture first championed divorce; divorce was followed by contraception and the proliferation of pornography; contraception by abortion and euthanasia; euthanasia by homosexual conduct; and homosexual conduct by the entire abolition of distinctive gender.

But all these assaults are really attacks on the primal truth of the book of Genesis, "Male and female he created them" [Gen. 1:27].

For the creation of man as male and female is a truth about marriage, and thus against divorce; complementarity—"bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh"—thus against pornography; about fertility, and thus against contraception; about human life, and thus against abortion and euthanasia; about the holiness of natural marital sex, and thus against homosexual acts; and especially against the notion that the two created sexes are arbitrary impositions on mankind.

The cutting edge of liberal culture is the attempt to label the two created human sexes, male and female, as arbitrary and unjust impositions on humanity. This involves an attempt to separate sex from gender, that is, the biological fact (human anatomy and chromosomal cellular structure) of the two human sexes from their social and cultural expressions, which they term "gender," and which is seen as totally socially constructed and in no way grounded in nature.

Then, using such a phenomenon as hormonal treatment and "sex-change operations," they begin to deny the very stability and reality of the two created sexes. After that, they claim that whether or not one undergoes such an operation, one's subjective feeling about what sex/gender one is trumps the physical facts of one's body.

From there it is only a short step to the notion that male and female are only two out of a nearly infinite number of possible expressions of human sexuality.

In justifying the transformation that he has undergone, Bruce Jenner, now presenting himself Kaitlyn Jenner, consistently says something along these lines: "Deep down, I always knew that I was a woman, but I felt trapped in the body of a man. Therefore, I have the right to change my body to bring it in line with my true identity."

Notice how the mind or the will—the inner self—is casually identified as the "real me" whereas the body is presented as an antagonist which can and should be manipulated by the authentic self.

The soul and the body are in a master/slave relationship, the former legitimately dominating and re-making the latter. For Biblical people, the body can never be construed as a prison for the soul, nor as an object for the soul's manipulation. Moreover, the mind or will is not the "true self" standing over and against the body; rather, the body, with its distinctive form, intelligibility, and finality, is an essential constituent of the true self.

For Biblical people, human love is never a disembodied reality. Furthermore, love—which is an act of the will—does not hover above the body, but rather expresses itself through the body and according to the intelligibility of the body. To set the two in opposition or to maintain that an inner act is somehow more important or comprehensive than the body is simply a modern destructive illusion.

Given the widespread support for transgender thinking in our culture, if you dare to speak disapprovingly of Jenner's actions, you better be prepared for a hostile bombardment by those who would silence anyone who dares to challenge any of the tenets of LGBTQ lobby. You are instantly labelled "transphobic," and told to get with the times!

With the enshrinement of tolerance as one of society's prime principles, it is rather hard to speak the truth in love.

Pluralism is a demographic fact. Nothing more, nothing less. It does not imply that all ideas and religious beliefs are equally valid. The fact that we live in a diverse country requires that we treat each other with respect.

Tolerance is a working principle that enables us to live in peace with each other and their ideas. Most of the time it is a good thing. But it is not an end in itself, and to tolerate or excuse a grave evil in society is itself a grave evil. Catholics have a duty not to "tolerate" other people but to love them, which is a much more demanding task. Justice, charity, mercy, courage, prudence – these are Christian virtues; but not tolerance. Real Christian virtues flow from an understanding of truth, unchanging and rooted in God, that exists and obligates us whether we like it or not. The pragmatic social truce we call "tolerance" has no such grounding.

Pluralism does not require us to mute our convictions. Nor does it ever excuse us from speaking and acting to advance our beliefs about justice and the common good in public. The Church upholds natural law, and social diversity within the bounds of natural law. The Church still believes in rightly ordered ends, hence in cooperating virtues more than in competing "values." It expects people to give a moral account of their values, not merely to identify and celebrate them.

The importance of ecology is no longer disputed. We must listen to the language of nature and we must answer accordingly. There is also an ecology of man. Man too has a nature that he must respect and that he cannot manipulate at will. Man is not merely self-creating freedom. Man does not create himself. He is intellect and will, but he is also nature, and his will is rightly ordered if he listens to his nature, respects it and accepts himself for who he is, as one who did not create himself. In this way, and in no other, is true human freedom fulfilled.

The acceptance of our bodies as God's gift is vital for welcoming and accepting the entire world as a gift from the Father and our common home, whereas thinking that we enjoy absolute power over our own bodies turns, often subtly, into thinking that we enjoy absolute power over creation. Learning to accept our body, to care for it and to respect its fullest meaning, is an essential element of any genuine human ecology. Also, valuing one's own body in its femininity or masculinity is necessary if I am going to be able to recognize myself in an encounter with someone who is different. In this way we can joyfully accept the specific gifts of another man or woman, the work of God the Creator, and find mutual enrichment [Pope Francis, Laudato Si, 155].

The centerpiece of his encyclical is his focus on "integral ecology" [Ch. 4], by which he means the connectedness between natural and human ecology. The intrinsic worth of nature, and of the human person, are to be respected as one whole. Without accepting and protecting the continuity of all life, we cannot truly love and care for creation in an integral way.


☩ Frederick Henry
Bishop Emeritus

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What Happened to Time?

When Pope Francis announced a Holy Year — an Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy — beginning on 8 December 2015, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception and to conclude on the Solemnity of Christ the King, 20 November 2016, I wanted to declare a “Time-Out!” Inside, I’m protesting: “Slow down! What’s going on? What happened to time?”  

The latter question reminded me of the speed of life lived:

“When as a child I laughed and wept, time crept.

When as a youth I dreamed and talked, time walked.

When I became a full grown man, time ran.

And later as I older grew, time flew.

Soon I shall find while travelling on, time gone.”

[Inscription on the clock in Chester cathedral.]

At the beginning of the Year of Consecrated Life on 29 November 2014, the vigil for the first Sunday in Advent, Pope Francis selected three aims of the Year for Consecrated Life:

1. To look to the past with gratitude.

We have a beautiful graced history in which God called individuals to follow Christ more closely, to incarnate the Gospel into a particular way of life, to read the signs of the times with the eyes of faith and to respond creatively to the needs of the church and the world.

2. To live the present with passion.

We strive to listen attentively to what the Holy Spirit is saying to the Church today, to be interiorly united to Christ – “For to me to live is Christ” [Phil 1:21]. The radical living of the three vows of poverty, chastity and obedience empowers and witnesses to such a loving response. This loving response inspires in our hearts the desire to live in unity to be men and women of community.

3. To embrace the future with hope.

Amidst the many uncertainties, the call is to practice the virtue of hope, the fruit of our faith in the Lord of history, who continues to tell us: “Be not afraid … for I am with you” [Jer. 1:8].

In our diocese we have kept these three aims before us in celebration and pastoral planning.

However, rather than allow us to quietly conclude the Year of Consecrated Life on 2 February 2016, Pope Francis “jumped the gun” and declared a Holy Year — an Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy — beginning on 8 December 2015, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception and to conclude on the Solemnity of Christ the King, 20 November 2016.

As a result we have an overlap of the “Years.” What’s behind all of this?

Pope Francis explains: “I have chosen the date of 8 December because of its rich meaning in the recent history of the Church. In fact, I will open the Holy Door on the 50th anniversary of the closing of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council. The Church feels a great need to keep this event alive. With the Council, the Church entered a new phase of her history. The Council Fathers strongly perceived, as a true breath of the Holy Spirit, a need to talk about God to men and women of their time in a more accessible way. The walls which for too long had made the Church a kind of fortress were torn down and the time had come to proclaim the Gospel in a new way. It was a new phase of the same evangelization that had existed from the beginning. It was a fresh undertaking for all Christians to bear witness to their faith with greater enthusiasm and conviction. The Church sensed a responsibility to be a living sign of the Father’s love in the world.

We recall the poignant words of St. John XXIII when, opening the Council, he indicated the path to follow: ‘Now the Bride of Christ wishes to use the medicine of mercy rather than taking up arms of severity… The Catholic Church, as she holds high the torch of Catholic truth at this Ecumenical Council, wants to show herself a loving mother to all; patient, kind, moved by compassion and goodness toward her separated children.’ Blessed Paul VI spoke in a similar vein at the closing of the Council: ‘We prefer to point out how charity has been the principal religious feature of this Council… the old story of the Good Samaritan has been the model of the spirituality of the Council… a wave of affection and admiration flowed from the Council over the modern world of humanity. Errors were condemned, indeed, because charity demanded this no less than did truth, but for individuals themselves there was only admonition, respect and love. Instead of depressing diagnoses, encouraging remedies; instead of direful predictions, messages of trust issued from the Council to the present-day world. The modern world’s values were not only respected but honoured, its efforts approved, its aspirations purified and blessed… Another point we must stress is this: all this rich teaching is channelled in one direction, the service of mankind, of every condition, in every weakness and need.’”

The documents of the Council are a compass guiding the ship of the Church in our time. The Second Vatican Council is the starting point for a new relationship between the Church and the modern age in order to show our world the requirements of the Gospel in all its greatness and purity proclaiming that “Jesus Christ is the face of the Father’s mercy.” By his words, actions and his entire person he reveals the mercy of God. Pope Francis describes the mercy of God as his loving concern for each of us. “He desires our well-being and he wants to see us happy full of joy, and peaceful. This is the path which the merciful love of Christians must also travel. As the Father loves, so do his children. Just as he is merciful, so we are called to be merciful to each other.” [MV 9]

In keeping with the Year of Consecrated Life and the orientation of Pope’s Francis call for an Extraordinary Year of Mercy, I invited the Congregation of the Sisters of Our Merciful Jesus to establish a Calgary Novitiate at The Ranch in Balzac. Unfortunately, they were unable to do so. After consultation and prayer, I decided to establish a juridic person, the Public Association of the Christian Faithful in the Diocese of Calgary, the members will be known as Sisters of the Community of Divine Mercy. Sr. Katrina Le and Sr. Annunciata Cornelio will formally transition to this new community on November 15, 2015. They are both a contemplative and active community, and they profess the evangelical counsels of chastity, poverty, and obedience. Their mission is to share in the work of redemption by glorifying and pleading for Divine Mercy for the whole world as witnessed by the life of St. Faustina Kowalska and St. John Paul II.

Our prayer is to look at the past with gratitude, to live the present with passion, and to embrace the future with hope.

☩ Frederick Henry
Bishop Emeritus

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Baseball and the Election

Despite the great recent excitement about the resurgence and success of the Toronto Blue Jays, I want to focus on and apply something once said by Casey Stengel. Stengel was a longtime major league New York Yankee (and Mets) Hall of Fame baseball manager whose unique way with the English language became known as "Stengelese." He once said, "I've always heard that it couldn't be done, but sometimes it don't always work." That's typical Stengelese.

Casey held a position on the board of directors for a California bank. According to a story that originally appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Casey described his duties this way: "There ain't nuthin' to it. You go into the fancy meeting room and you just sit there and never open your yap. As long as you don't say nuthin' they don't know whether you're smart or dumb."

Stephen Harper, Justin Trudeau and Thomas Mulcair are saying ­"nuthin" about many of the issues that Canadians are debating and trying to figure out how to address. Have they not heard that "man does not live on bread alone?" Are they smart or dumb?

The Supreme Court of Canada struck down S.14 and S.241b of the Criminal Code. It also created a new interpretation for Section 7—"right to life"—of the Charter, and used ambiguous language in its decision. I share the opinion of many that the Supreme Court decision was irresponsible and dangerous. The Supreme Court held the decision for 12 months. Therefore, the current law is in place until February 5, 2016. What's going to happen then? Hello, is anybody there?

The clock is ticking. Canada faces a decision of historic importance and potentially momentous change. Whether we support or oppose a lethal injection option, we need to talk and hear to what our leaders propose.

What are they prepared to do to increase access and provide quality palliative and hospice care?

What do they think about the protection of the conscience rights of health care workers?

The establishment of a panel, prior to the dissolution of parliament, is not enough. Why are our prospective leaders so mute? Is there some kind of agreement or conspiracy not to raise this issue?

I would hope that before we vote, our leaders will say "sumthin."


☩ Frederick Henry
Bishop Emeritus

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