Appeared in the North Shore News – March 29, 2013
Sheer coincidence? Maybe not. God is reputed to move in mysterious ways his wonders to perform.
The sustained interest in the Christian religion, specifically the Catholic kind, as Easter approached, is striking – a surge mostly attributable to the election of Pope Francis. The new pope’s small breaks with Vatican formality and simplicity (a bus-riding pope, yet) have attracted the attention and, apparently, affection of millions, including non-Catholics and hard-eyed editors and reporters.
The new Vicar of Christ’s choice of name is significant. Paul Sabatier, in his still very readable 1901 study of St. Francis of Assisi, commented on how close during Francis’s lifetime the church came to pronouncing its greatest saint a heretic.
“More learned, the formal logic of the schools would have robbed (St. Francis) of that flower of simplicity which is the great charm of his life,” Sabatier wrote, and if he had had more ecclesiastic discipline, he would have had to observe it. Instead he could be “an unwitting heretic.”
Predictably, the media and some dissident or lapsed Catholics are pulling for such a “radical” pope, who would supposedly move the church into the 21st century and embrace the secular West’s ideas of progress: female clergy, acceptance of homosexuality, same-sex marriage.
Right. Like Canada’s “progressive” United and Anglican churches, the latter openly split. Their memberships have plummeted for decades – while the evangelicals flourish.
Nor is Pope Francis’s elevation the only current religion-based game in town. The scientific church (Pope Richard Dawkins, Vicar of Darwinism) has virtually excommunicated Thomas Nagel, a prominent scientist formerly in good standing, for arguing in his book Mind & Cosmos that the evolutionary view of nature is almost certainly false. A burning at the intelligentsia’s stake is surely ahead.
Canadian content: Prof. Stephen Pinker says Nagel – a professor of law and philosophy at New York University, and a self-described atheist – is centuries behind the times and his book “the shoddy reasoning of a once-great thinker.” And you thought only the medieval church was intolerantly dogmatic.
Joseph Brean explored at length Nagel’s present thinking in the March 13 National Post. I’d clumsily describe it as attacking the arch-orthodox belief that life as we know it began with chemicals in the ooze and, randomly over time, voilà, here is our indescribably complex and variegated world today. Nagel says this is “reductive materialism” that mechanistically places physics above biology and especially above human consciousness. The more we learn about life, he says, the less believable this gets.
I – raised in the United Church in bigoted Orange Ontario, by the way, unbaptized and not attending any church – end with this Sabatier quote recorded 51 years ago:
“No doubt Francis did not meet on the road to Sienna three pure and gentle virgins come from heaven to greet him; the devil did not overturn rocks for the sake of terrifying him; but when we deny these visions and apparitions, we are victims of an error graver, perhaps, than that of those who affirm them.”
So happy Easter.
. . .
Reader Linda C. tells a heartfelt story of a loved cat that went missing for six months and was found by Judy, a Yaletown resident, who reunited the pet with its joyous Washington State owners. Why, she asks, do the media report only downer stories? (Even this column? Guilty, m’lud.)
Well, Linda would. She’s saintly indeed. Last year she paid $1,700 to rescue the tiniest puppy from a North Shore puppy mill.
. . .
Activists Jean Lewis and David Marley will receive an award of excellence from the Canadian International Film Festival for their documentary on autism, Medicare’s Orphans, funded by West Vancouver’s Copeman Health Care and St. Francis-in-the-Wood Anglican Church (St. F. really does get around).
And last week, with a strong interview on Bill Good’s CKNW show, they launched their Civil Rights Now! campaign against unpunished abuse in care facilities. Worthy toil.
. . .
Vancouver Sun columnist Vaughn Palmer recited recent B.C. electoral history, crunched current poll numbers, and concluded there are 20 ridings that are the best bets for the Liberals to win on May 14, including “two on the North Shore.” Hmmm, but the Liberals hold all four North Shore ridings. Which two does Vaughn consider less than best bets for the ruling party?
. . .
Credit to the Conservatives for attracting some interesting candidates for the election.
Such as: Dan Brooks, running in Nechako Lakes, born and raised in Vanderhoof and owner of a nearby hunting and fishing lodge, has a degree in – rare indeed – classical Greek and Roman studies from the University of Waterloo. Qualified to write The Decline and Fall of the Liberal Empire? (Little in-joke for the historical types.)
Also remarkable: He and wife Ellen have seven daughters. Were they bitten by the 1954 film Seven Brides for Seven Brothers?
© Trevor Lautens, 2013