Monday, October 26, 2009

Municipal Elections

This will be of little interest to my readers outside of Saskatchewan, but this Wednesday is municipal election day in all the urban municipalities in Saskatchewan, as well as all school divisions.

In municipal elections, it's often difficult to tell the cats from the mice. (If you didn't understand that reference, see below.) Every candidate, it seems, is in favour of lower taxes, improved services and reducing crime. (Some day, I want to meet the candidate who's in favour of higher taxes, poorer services and more crime. Clearly that candidate is a lunatic, but I'd just be really curious to meet him or her.)

In any event, if you're from my side of the political spectrum and you want to figure out which candidates share your progressive values, check out

Anyway, for those of you who didn't get the reference to mice and cats, you badly need to watch this video:

Saturday, October 24, 2009

In a good cause

As some of my readers will know, in the Navy part of my life, I have been raising money for the Terry Fox Foundation by participating in the Great Canadian Head Shave. I promised I'd even shave off my beard if I personally raised more than $1,000.

Well, the $1,000 mark was easily passed. All told, the Captain and I raised $2966.17 (don't ask about the 17 cents). Then, as we finished, one of the young officers offered to shave his head for what he could raise right there on the drill deck. That extra $50 put us over the $3,000 mark.

If there is anyone who'd like to kick in a little extra, it isn't too late.

Now, here are some pictures.


And here we go

Almost there

After - and all in a good cause.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

It seems to me I've heard that song before

Yesterday, Vatican officials issued an Apostolic Constitution (meaning a big, bureaucratic policy paper) setting out conditions and a process for Anglicans who want to be united to the Roman Catholic Church while "preserving elements of the distinctive Anglican spiritual and liturgical patrimony." To my knowledge, the Apostolic Constitution itself is not currently available online, but the Vatican's news release is here. The best aggregations of links can be found at Thinking Anglicans and at Episcopal Cafe's The Lead.

Naturally, the secular media are all over this story. And naturally, most of their coverage makes it clear they haven't the foggiest notion what they're talking about.

This is hardly the first time that Benedict XVI has chosen to meddle in the affairs of the Anglican Communion. As Josef Cardinal Ratzinger, he was given to issuing (semi-disparaging) statements about Anglicans to coincide with major Anglican Communion events. When dissident Episcopalians met in Plano, Texas in 2005, he wrote them a letter (purportedly on behalf of John Paul II) to encourage the schismatics as they strategized to destroy the Episcopal Church.

However, if Benedict's intent is to open the doors to a flood of converts from Anglican Churches to Rome, I suspect he'll be disappointed. Every few years, someone hatches a new scheme which will open the floodgates only to find the flood is a trickle.

The process outlined in the Apostolic Constitution is consistent with Rome's Pastoral Provision for "Anglican Use" parishes in the United States. When the Episcopal Church started ordaining women, Rome thought they'd see, if not a flood at least a steady stream, of Episcopal converts. To ease the path, they established a process for groups of Anglicans to act corporately (sort of synchronized swimming the Tiber) and to use an adapted version of the American 1928 Book of Common Prayer. At the end of the day, there was no flood nor even a steady stream. There was a brief trickle, and all told there are only about seven Anglican Use parishes in the entire US.

Again, this was nothing new. Rome's skewed analysis of Anglican sensibilities dates back much farther. One of the clearest examples was the lead up to Leo XIII's 1896 bull Apostolicae Curae which declared Anglican orders "absolutely null and utterly void." Both the theological reasoning and the ecclesiastical politics behind the document are multilayered. One of the factors in Pope Leo's finding was the pressure from the Roman heirarchy in England who were convinced a negative finding would result in a mass of conversions from the high church party of the Church of England. Disappointment reigned.

Anglicanism's relationship with Rome is complex - almost as complex as Anglicanism's relationship with itself. My old dogmatics professor, Eugene Rathbone Fairweather (aka ERF) was a member of the first Anglican Roman Catholic International Commission. ERF once told us that there were many loud debates that occured during his time on the commission, but that there had never been a single occasion where all of the Anglicans were on one side and all of the Roman Catholics on the other.

In the catholic heart of every Anglican there beats a desire for the unity that Christ willed for His Church. Though I was never so afflicted myself, "Roman Fever" (a flirtation with converting) has been known to infect more than the occasional Anglo-Catholic. On the other hand, the odd Roman Catholic has been known to find their way to Anglicanism - including the current Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church and the most recent Bishop of Rochester (UK).

In the meantime, I off you this, with apologies to both Simon and Garfunkel.

It’s an Apostolic Constitution,
the perfect made-in-Rome solution,
where ritual will not be bland
and women priests would all be canned
and independent thought is banned
by Benny – it’s a one man band

Romeward bound
I wish I was
Romeward bound
Rome, where my thoughts escaping
Rome, where my music’s playing
Rome, where the Pope lies waiting
Silently for me

A personal ordinariate
Tridentine mass, imagine that
and Cardinal Newman’s Oratory
the incense and the rosary
the pious pomp of liturgy
reminds me that I long to be

Romeward bound
I wish I was
Romeward bound
Rome, where my thoughts escaping
Rome, where my music’s playing
Rome, where the Pope lies waiting
Silently for me

Tonight I’ll sing my songs again
Ill play the game and pretend
But all my words come back to me
In shades of mediocrity
Like emptiness in harmony
I need someone to comfort me

Romeward bound
I wish I was
Romeward bound
Rome, where my thoughts escaping
Rome, where my music’s playing
Rome, where the Pope lies waiting
Silently for me
Silently for me
Silently for me

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Communion, Community and our Common Life

Three significant articles I want to link you to today.

Resist the Anglican Covenant - A retired English Bishop, Peter Selby, recently spoke to Inclusive Church's Word on the Street conference. His topic was When the Word on the Street is Resist, which was a response to recent ramblings from the Archbishop of Canterbury and from some other bishops who want to see authority in the Anglican Communion concentrated in the hands of Primates and Prince Bishops. Among his points:

His first key contention is that if Anglicans are to be a communion they need to set out what are the patterns and convictions that make them recognisable as such in a form to which the various provinces can sign up; and they need restraints - self-restraint principally but if need be imposed restraints - to prevent provinces from doing things which would make them unrecognisable to others.

There are several difficulties about this way of arguing, one of which I regard as fundamental. One might ask whether the history of the church bears out such a notion as having operated in the decision-making of churches over issues of considerable importance; and in particular one might ask whether the history of Anglicanism supports requiring that way of undertaking and then sanctioning developments. Is it the case that provinces have not acted on new ideas until they had consulted with other provinces and taken the teaching of ecumenical partners into account? Is it not rather the case that quite controversial decisions have been taken because they seemed to be right, and it has taken time for it to become clear whether they were legitimate developments or not?

In other words, a significant portion of the argument in favour of a punitive Anglican Covenant as proposed is based on revisionist history - or, to put it a little more frankly, falsehood.

Please go read the whole thing. And as this matter moves forward, many of us will have to consider the continuing steps of resistance to this curializing attack on Anglican tradition.

God and Politics - Former Member of Parliament Dennis Gruending, also a former official with the Canadian Conference of (Roman) Catholic Bishops, recntly wrote an article for the 20th anniversary of The Hill Times, the "local newspaper" on Parliament Hill, regarding the role of religion and religious groups in Canadian politics. He has reposted the article at his blog, Pulpit and Politics. Among his points:

The Conservatives are assiduously courting those evangelicals, Catholics, and certain Jewish voters as well to join their political coalition. That has caught the attention of other parties. The NDP has responded by creating Faith and Social Justice Commission, which attempts to mobilize a religious constituency on their behalf. Michael Ignatieff has given Toronto-area Liberal MP John Mackay the task of reaching out on behalf of his party to evangelical Christians.

The CCF-NDP had significant roots in the Social Gospel movement. The first leader of the party was a former Methodist clergyman. The second was an Anglican lay reader. The fourth a Baptist clergyman. Yet there is also a strong anti-religious (and specifically anti-Christian) element, seeming centred in the Ontario section of the party. I recall an attempt to hold an unofficial Christian Socialist Caucus meeting at a federal convention in the early '80s triggered a bitter and viscious debate on the floor where several speakers demanded such a group not be allowed to meet on the convention site or have its meetings announced, and one speaker even demanded that participants be expelled from the party. (Of course, federal conventions sometimes serve to bring together wingnuts who don't really represent anyone at all.)

Unlike that Christian Socialist Caucus (which never really became an organized group), the Faith and Social Justice Commission is an officially recognized group with a mandate which includes outreach to religious progressives.

One of the things I find curious in Dennis's article is that, while the Conservatives are, naturally enough, reaching out to religious conservatives among all faiths, and while the NDP is reaching out to religious progressives of all faiths, the Liberal Party version of religious outreach involves one MP and one subset of believer. Yet another example of the Liberal Party operating in a political paradigm at least 20 years out of date.

We do not walk alone - Apparently the newest Nobel Laureate and his family chose to worship at St. John's Episcopal Church on Lafayette Square this morning. To their credit, the parish did not adjust the preaching rota, so the Obamas (Obamae?) heard a sermon from seminarian Mike Angell. And, as befits his name, the preacher had a serious message. You can read the whole sermon here. And here is the closing paragraph and challenge:
We do not walk alone. Take a moment and look around this sanctuary. None of us walks this way alone. Christianity has consequences, and none of us can face those consequences alone. There is a danger to read the story of the rich man individualistically. We can make it a story about a man who has to individually choose whether or not he will follow Jesus. When Jesus invited the rich man to follow him, he invited him to join a community, a community boldly living life together in a new way. These followers of the way were later called Christians. Jesus walks beside us, and we walk beside our sisters and brothers, the body of Christ. Christianity has consequences, and none of us can face them alone.
Hat tip to Episcopal Café - The Lead.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Sing You Sinners

Dearheart and I went to see Tony Bennett this evening. He was stunning - including a performance of Fly me to the Moon sans sound system.

So, here are a couple of videos.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Torture is a war crime

Torture is wrong.

Torture is wrong at a number of different levels.

From a military / investigative standpoint, torture is stupid.


Anyone who believes that torture has any military or investigative value is simply too stupid to be put in charge of anything at all, ever.

People who are being tortured will, eventually, say anything in the vain hope of having the torture stop.


You want that 20-year old Iraqi to confess to kidnapping the Lindbergh baby in 1932? Torture him long enough, and he'll admit it. And he'll probably be prepared to say that he was the second gunman on the grassy knoll. And that he was the real mastermind behind the Great Train Robbery. The fact that all these things happened decades before he was born is irrelevant. He'll confess to them just to make the pain stop.

Certainly he may also tell you things that are true. But there will be no way to tell what's true and what he's saying because he thinks it's what you want to hear. And the effort of confirming what's true (if anything at all) and what isn't diverts resources away from doing useful things. Things like actually investigating.

If you believe in the value of torture, you are simply stupid.

Dick Cheney, this means you.

Now, the stupidity of torture, of course, isn't the worst thing about it.

The really hideous thing about torture is the way it dehumanizes both its victims and its perpetrators.

Torture is a war crime.

And any official who has condoned, permitted, directed or approved torture is guilty of a war crime.

More guilty, I would argue, that even those who performed the torture first hand.

George Walker Bush, 43d President of the United States, this means you.

But even you, George Walker Bush, are not beyond the reach of grace.

And the thinking person's conservative, Andrew Sullivan, offers you a way to atone for your grievous sin.

In a column in The Atlantic this month, Andrew Sullivan (the only conservative commentator on American politics who is at all worth reading - or at all capable of critical thinking) sets forth clearly and conscisely how the best possible outcome would be for George Walker Bush to come forward and take personal responsibility for approving the violation of American and international law.

Structuring his column as an open letter to 43, Sullivan begins by making the case that forcing the former President to do the right thing would be destructive to his country.

I have come to accept that it would be too damaging and polarizing to the American polity to launch legal prosecutions against you, and deeply unfair to solely prosecute those acting on your orders or in your name. President Obama’s decision thus far to avoid such prosecutions is a pragmatic and bipartisan one in a time of war, as is your principled refusal to criticize him publicly in his first months. But moving on without actually confronting or addressing the very grave evidence of systematic abuse and torture under your administration poses profound future dangers. It gives the impression that nothing immoral or illegal took place. Indeed, since leaving office, your own vice president has even bragged of these interrogation techniques; and many in your own party threaten to reinstate such policies in the future. Their extreme rhetoric seems likely to shape—to contaminate—history’s view of your presidency, indeed of the Bush name, and the world’s view of America. But my biggest fear is this: in the event of a future attack on the United States, another president will feel tempted, or even politically compelled, to resort to the same brutalizing policy, with the same polarizing, demoralizing, war-crippling results. I am writing you now because it is within your power—and only within your power—to prevent that from happening.

He then makes the case that the only way for the United States to recover any sort of moral integrity is for the former President to man up and be accountable.

Examine the moral and ethical question. Could any moral person who saw the abuse of human beings at Abu Ghraib, Bagram, Camp Cropper, Camp Nama, and uncounted black sites across the globe and at sea believe it was in compliance with America’s “respect” and “law and freedom”? As president, your job was not to delegate moral responsibility for these acts, but to take moral responsibility for them. You said a decade ago: “Once you put your hand on the Bible and swear in [to public office], you must set a high standard and be responsible for your own actions.”

The point of this letter, Mr. President, is to beg you to finally take responsibility for this stain on American honor and this burden on a war we must win. It is to plead with you to own what happened under your command, and to reject categorically the phony legalisms, criminal destruction of crucial evidence, and retrospective rationalizations used to pretend that none of this happened. It happened. You once said, “I’m worried about a culture that says … ‘If you’ve got a problem blame somebody else.’” I am asking you to stop blaming others for the consequences of decisions you made.

Go. Read the whole thing. It's more than worth it.

Then pray that George Walker Bush will read it. Read, mark, learn and inwardly digest it.