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DECEMBER 2001

WAR AND PEACE

MICHAEL McGRADE

We were 4 hours 15 minutes out of Sydney, 28,000 feet up, cruising at 888 km per hour and heading towards the Indian Ocean and Timor Sea, 2,889 kilometres from Singapore, with London still 17 hours away. Flight path information was just one of the multiple diversions available on a state of the art video entertainment system which helped kill time during a recent return trip to London. It was only three days after the 11 September atrocity and I was channel surfing while scanning several papers and books at the same time (surely a pernicious habit, as my late mother had often observed). Anyway, as if sitting in a metal cylinder hurtling along thousands of feet above mother earth was not enough to concentrate the mind, the unprecedented horror of Washington and New York certainly was. And what stood out above all else as I absorbed the eclectic images and writings on offer was not so much the rampant hypocrisy (condemnations of the unspeakable act by Yasser Arafat and Gerry Adams perhaps topping those by terrorist-pandering Western nations), but the self-deception at its heart.

Delusion and contradiction
As the United States mourned and reeled before the seismic attack on its "way of life", uplifting newspaper items about packed churches and sidewalk refrains of "God Bless America" competed with a lengthy propaganda video by Oprah Winfrey, eulogising yoga as the New Age answer to life's problems. Images of prayers being offered before lit candles and reports of the selfless faith of a Franciscan priest who lost his life ministering to the dying, were offset by numerous claims that most conflicts were rooted in "religious difference", and thus "universal peace" required the scrapping of "old dogmas." Commonly expressed hopes that the American nation might now take stock and return to the core Christian values on which it was built sounded hollow before the latest release movies on offer to the 400 passengers aboard, offering varying degrees of sex, violence, blasphemy, foul language and perversion - brilliantly produced, visually hypnotic, and utterly godless. Meanwhile, as world leaders denounced the murderous disregard for "innocent human life" and blathered about new alliances in a "new age" now required to ensure "world peace", I leafed through a pro-life report on the casualties of the remorseless demographic war being waged against the Third World and rapidly killing off post-Christian Europe, largely via contraception and abortion. It detailed the strategic lies and exaggerations of the UN and political elites about "overpopulation" and "environmental damage" which fuel that unholy war.

Back on terra firma, there was news: of the Church of England's (latest) insane decision to back the decriminalisation of cannabis; of new record levels of sexually transmitted diseases and promiscuity among British youth; of a Law Lord implying that the age of consent should be further lowered to reflect "ordinary life"; of the Greater London Authority's "ground-breaking" recognition and registration of "same-sex couples"; and of government funding initiatives to further normalise divorce following "a decision by Lord Irvine [Tony Blair's mentor] to switch support away from organisations which solely work to keep marriages going". The stench of societal decay was overpowering. The quagmire of delusion and self-contradiction deepened at every turn. Brandishing The Best of the Koran: Selected Verses for the Politically Correct (or so it would seem), Prime Minister Blair confidently reassured 21 religious leaders at a Downing Street summit that Islam was a religion of "peace and tolerance". The Royal Syncretist, Prince "Defender of Faith" Charles, then visited a mosque to proclaim his humanist creed of "tolerance, compassion and understanding". At the same time, as if to set the British Establishment's seal on the nation's twin plagues of pop-religiosity and shameless irreligion, the BBC, for the first time in its history, overlooked practising Christians to appoint a non-believer as its head of religious affairs. A divorced father of two unbaptised children and self-professed "open-hearted agnostic" who lives with his girlfriend, the new appointee tragically personifies his official brief: to produce programmes "reflecting spiritual life in the UK."

Rock 'n roll devotee Tony Blair and his barrister wife also embody this new, shiny, incoherent "spiritual life" of the nation. Most especially in the corrupting and self-contradictory pseudo-Catholicism paraded by the likes of Cherie Blair. A New Age dabbler and public advocate of contraception, women 'priests' and homosexual rights, Mrs Blair once conspired in her husband's regular sacrilegious Communions and together with him has openly courted the renowned heretic Hans Kung. Her faithless example has surely influenced her non-Catholic spouse for worse in the matter of true religion. A sadly missed opportunity which has left the Prime Minister mired in a "deeply felt religious faith", as a seasoned commentator wryly observed, "of the thoroughly decent, thoroughly ecumenical, thoroughly politically correct variety." A man, in other words, as rootless, aimless and confused as the country he is leading; a lost soul who finds elastic 'religiosity' more conducive to his ardent moral relativism than the discipline of authentic spirituality.

Regularly lampooned in England's satirical weekly Private Eye as the sanctimonious Rev. A.R.P. Blair of St Albion's Parish Church, the Prime Minister's comically earnest attempts to be seen as a man of spiritual substance and moral rectitude reached new heights in his messianic address to the annual Labour Party Conference on 2 October. It was 'globalist-statesman Blair', the latest persona from his wardrobe of alter egos, who took centre-stage in the aftermath of 11 September, lauding "the power of community asserting itself", extolling "the moral power of the world acting as a community" and urging us on to "re-order this world around us…." On he went, sorting out one international imbroglio after another - from the Middle East to the Congo to Zimbabwe - demanding "true democracy, no more excuses for dictatorship, abuses of human rights, no tolerance of bad governance…". Although this self-righteous crusade to transform the world before tea-time had the controlling, Utopian ring of a United Nations charter, for his efforts Mr Blair was widely lauded as "Churchillian". For mine, the holier-than-thou sermonising from a leader whose amoral government has taken cynicism, deceit, manipulation, control, cronyism, sleaze and profligate maladministration to new levels, while displaying unprecedented contempt for parliament, the civil service, the family and human life itself, was a performance best left to the lacerating parody of Private Eye.

Yet the outward hypocrisy which marked the speech merely reflected the massive delusions and inconsistencies at play within the Prime Minister himself: the pro-abortion-up-to-birth, pro-homosexual family man who in turn typifies the self-contradiction all around us, even and especially among those (of any political persuasion) with similar spiritual pretensions to the Prime Minister. Pro-life, pro-faith President Bush, for instance, not only compromised human life with his fence-sitting decision on stem cell research (despite a prior meeting with the Holy Father), but a week after the terrorist attacks allowed the swearing in of homosexual Michael Guest as U.S. Ambassador to Rumania (complete with live-in partner, as announced by Secretary of State Colin Powell). Two other prominent homosexual activists have been given top jobs in his administration, including a promoter of the homosexual agenda in Massachussets state public schools who was appointed Ambassador to Canada.

Popular nihilism
My general point is this: for all the religious symbolism and deeply felt pious outpourings evoked by 11 September, let's not kid ourselves. Yes, the sheer scale and graphic nature of the evil act momentarily awoke even the most soporific of minds and souls to otherworldly realities. Yet we live in an era which has given new meaning to the "banality of evil"; which has even franchised the killing of its unborn! We inhabit a world dominated from top to bottom by minds informed by an amoral media/entertainment industry - noted largely for its "absence of belief, lack of convictions and total surrender to the lowest common denominator values of the marketplace", as one secular journalist recently confessed - and by souls steeped in a nihilistic popular culture shaped by Hollywood libertines, Oprah-esque libertarians and rock 'n roll delinquents. Indeed, on a US telethon for the World Trade Centre victims a singer dutifully performed John Lennon's beloved atheistic "peace" anthem Imagine, its insidious line "Imagine there's no heaven" presented reverentially on the brief British news clip. Meanwhile, as fellow iconoclast Paul McCartney prepared to sing "a little song about freedom" [of the '60s stripe] at a fund-raising Hollywood-cum-rock extravaganza at Madison Square Garden, organisers could rightly boast that the event would have "world-wide impact" i.e. further vindicate the dissolute and deviant life-styles of ageing rock stars and the ubiquitous William Jefferson Clinton.

As ever, therefore, the present crisis reveals a dysfunctional elite preaching perverted notions of liberty and peace to a dysfunctional populace - both morally illiterate because spiritually blind; the logical legacy of the "Me! Now!" generation which 35 years ago dispensed with religion, the love of God and the fear of eternal damnation to institutionalise nihilism for its own selfish ends. Its political apotheosis was Bill & Hillary; who publicly thumbed their noses at Christian morality, shamelessly feigning religious belief while validating the sexual revolution at the highest levels. Its socio-political denouement was Bill & Monica; or, more precisely, the high popularity ratings they enjoyed throughout saturation coverage of their vice, lies and perjury.

War and Peace
The result of all this institutionalised and sinful disorder, of course, is total lack of peace - and, finally, war of one kind or another. It was all crystallised in an instant as I sat reading and watching and ruminating on the plane. Just as the latest notification of President Bush's declaration of war on terrorism flashed across the video screen, I opened an old copy of Christian Order (what else!) and found there (where else!) the plain truth: War, Our Lady told the children at Fatima, is a punishment from God for our sins! Yes, there are conventional wars and unconventional wars. They must be fought. But win, lose or draw them all, we are left alone with the only war that matters and, ultimately, the only one worth winning: the daily spiritual battle waged against sin within the mind and soul of every man and woman. Only victory in that eternal struggle can establish the virtues in each soul which produce the serenity and inner order that in turn gives rise to freedom from sin and thus social peace. This is what Archbishop Renato Marino, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the UN, meant when he told the Plenary of the UN General Assembly on 23 October 2001 that "Peace is first known, recognised, willed and loved in the heart." It is what St. Augustine meant when he wrote: "Pax est tranquilitas ordinis" (Peace is the tranquillity of order). But it is surely not what the likes of Messrs Blair and McCartney or the media mean when they speak in like terms. (Mr Blair proclaiming instead "education, education, education" as "the great liberator" and "greatest tool of all to defeat the forces of conservatism." Textbook Marxism.)

Since Western popular culture, then, represents the antithesis of St Augustine's maxim, we can only expect successful containment of Bin Laden and his deranged hordes to provide a mere lull in a permanently false peace. Because whatever happens, we are still left with what John Paul II calls endemic "social sin" - the accumulation of numerous personal sins - which is rooted in the debased spiritual currency of the '60s; the pseudo-religious posturing of the Clintons and Blairs which is simply "the religious equivalent of inflation: there's a lot of it out there, but it isn't worth anything."

Theological vacuum
And yet, consistent with the intrinsic inconsistency we face, we find that the onset of the present conflict has elicited widespread psychological denial about the disappearance of the old spiritual safety-blanket; a persistent assumption by many that the Christian capital painstakingly and often painfully amassed in the West over two millennia has not been squandered. Or, at the very least, a wistful hope that whatever Chrisitanity remains does still count for something; that there is sufficient capital left to provide a lifeline of context and meaning before a manic 'religious' adversary of centuries past who seems almost to have burst out of a Cecil B. De Mille blockbuster to threaten their godless "way of life", not just physically but - mother of all surprises - theologically!

A sequence of awakening, spiritual floundering and hapless wishful-thinking has thus ensued. It was typified by one British journalist who last October spent two very tough weeks with the supposedly pro-West anti-Taliban fighters in northern Afghanistan, where he found that his hosts gave no sign of rejoicing over reports of the latest Allied air and missile attacks against their Taliban opponents. Instead, the men "simply glared" while the mullah, he wrote, "turned his back on me, spat on the ground and walked away." Faced with this realisation that the northern militias hate the West as much as the Taliban, the writer reflected: "It comes down to a question of outlook, of aspiration and, when you get right down to it, of faith. I myself am the product of a Christian society and even if it is now actually more in name than practice, it has nonetheless instilled in me a belief in honesty, equal justice and opportunities for all." Hands on heart and Bibles in hand, Tony, Bill, Hillary and Cherie might have professed as much. Commenting on the vexed subject of Britain's notoriously lax asylum and immigration laws, another leading writer railed about London-based Islamic terrorists using faith as a front to undertake "activities aimed at destroying the British state and the Christian culture of our civilisation." This self-deluded scribe had clearly missed the glazed look which suddenly overcame one of his colleagues, a normally sharp and forceful newsman, when a Muslim ambassador compared Islamic fundamentalists to America's Christian fundamentalists, an opening to discussion of pivotal socio-religious issues which the clueless broadcaster was unable to pursue, even at an elementary level. Nor can he have seen the keen interest in the opinions voiced by a young Arabic man in a television audience instantly dissolve the moment he revealed in passing that he was a convert to Christianity, a springboard to real discussion but rather too inscrutable for the moderator or producer to possibly entertain. Recently asked by an interviewer about the fact that a Cross cannot be warn around the neck in Arab countries, the President of the Pontifical Institute for Arabic and Islamic Studies, Father Lacunza, responded: "Can you recall any time when the European Parliament seriously debated religious liberty?…. Perhaps there is fear of becoming an enemy of some Arab politician or leader." Or perhaps, like the media ignoramuses just cited, they simply wouldn't know where to start!

A Christian culture? A Christian civilisation? More a one-dimensional, sex-addicted, post-Modern construct; a secular artifice which panders to the basest human passions but lacks the wherewithal to address the numerous crises those passions engender in any more than the most superficial way. Since, as our man in Afghanistan rudely discovered, "when you get right down to it" all conflict, not just the present one, is "of faith"; is theological.

Mercy and Grace
And so, before the Islamic threat, whether demographic or militant, the post-Christian West finds itself defenceless, with nothing left to appeal to or defend except its false idol, liberal democracy, and the self-interest which at once sustains and fuels the self-contradiction that perpetually degrades it. When it comes to the crunch, it is doubtful whether such affluent societies with faith in nothing - except a rootless "way of life", material assets and peace at any price - can ever stand firm for long against overt or tacit hostility from alien civilisations with great faith in something, and willing to suffer and die for it. Certainly time appears to be short. We face a Nineveh scenario. The West must repent, do penance and return to God [Jonas 3], or pay a dreadful price [Luke 13 3:4]. It hardly seems coincidental that the 11 September attack and the 7 October retaliation took place respectively on the anniversary of the Muslim defeat at the gates of Vienna in 1683 and the Feast of the Holy Rosary (marking another rosary-led victory over the Turks at Lepanto in 1571). Nor, I suggest, is it without significance that one of the few buildings left intact within 6 blocks of the World Trade Centre was the church of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary, which arranged a simple shrine for the victims and was the only church in the area left open all day every day.

Like the grain ("the word") that falls on rocky ground or among the briers, however, we are finally left to wonder whether food for spiritual thought, even that evoked by the abiding images of 11 September and the pervasive religious symbolism in its aftermath, can ever take root in our wicked age or fail to be smothered and remain fruitless? [Mk. 4: 5-8; 16-20]. The answer, of course, is "yes…but" - it greatly depends on our individual witness to those within our own sphere of influence; on our preparing fertile ground for the workings of grace by refusing to hide the light of our faith under a bushel. "All Catholics," the Second Vatican Council reminded us, "are called to be apostles and participate in extending the Kingdom of Christ throughout the world for the greater glory of God the Father and to direct the whole Universe to Christ" [Apostolicam Actuositatem]. Amidst the universal chaos and incoherence which surrounds us, it is the living out of this apostolic mandate by faithful Catholics which testifies to the fact that "the divine order," as Dr. Harriet Murphy wrote last month, "is still underpinning what looks like an irredeemably compromised universe in precisely those souls already touched by the grace of God." Thus, in the manner of the first Christians who faced similar disorder and dissolution on an epic scale, it is up to us to order our own souls and live out the demands of our Faith in such an exemplary way that the neo-pagans (not to mention lukewarm Catholics) will be moved to conversion; to respond in turn through our personal example to the touch of God's grace in their own lives. We can do no better in this regard than become apostles of the Divine Mercy, which devotion Jesus Himself related to Saint Faustina at Christmas 1936 as follows - a final appeal to a sin-full world perpetually at war with itself, because essentially at war with Him:

"Write down these words, my daughter. Speak to the world about My Mercy: let all mankind recognise My unfathomable mercy. It is a sign for the end times. After it will come the day of justice. While there is still time, let them have recourse to the fount of My Mercy: let them profit from the blood and water which gushed forth for them. Do whatever is within your power to spread devotion to My Mercy. I will make up for what you lack. Tell aching mankind to come close to My merciful Heart, and I will fill them with peace."


* * * * * *

PRAYER FOR GOOD LEADERS

LORD, IF IT IS TRUE that countries are given the governments which they deserve, grant that we, the subjects, may merit to have good leaders over us. By our professed dependence upon Your strength, by our example in private and public life, by our prayer and charity, let us develop so Christian an environment within the State that those who are called upon to govern may reflect, and in their turn promote, the Christian ethic. Amen.

 

ISLAM IN EUROPE

Out of 750 million Europeans, there are presently 269 million Catholics, 171 million Orthodox, 79 million Protestants and 28 million Anglicans. But since Christians are contracepting and aborting themselves out of existence, Islam, with an annual growth rate of 6.5%, is set to become the second largest religion in Europe after Catholicism by 2014. According to the Central Archives of the Islamic Institute in Germany, there are currently 51.8 million Muslims living in Europe. The Institute relies on statistics issued individually by European countries. Russia, including Siberia and Tchetchnya, numbers 25 million Muslims, more than all the other countries, followed by the European region of Turkey (5.7 million), France (5 million) and Germany (3.5 million). Muslims are the majority in Turkey, Albania and Bosnia. In certain countries - Belgium, France, Italy and Spain - they have overtaken Protestants as the second largest religious force, after Catholics. In Austria, the numbers of Protestants and Muslims are equal. Numerically Muslims are only just behind the Orthodox in Bulgaria, Macedonia, Russia and Serbia.

In England, according to Christian Research estimates, if present trends continue the 620,000 active Muslims in this country as at 2000 will have risen to around 750,000 by 2005, with active Muslims due to outstrip practising Anglicans by about 2013 and Catholics shortly afterwards. Since the 1960s, the number of registered mosques in Britain have risen from 10 to almost 700. The total Muslim population is currently about 1.4 million and expected to rise to around 1.5 million by 2005. Practising Muslims are expected to outnumber all Christians in Britain who attend Sunday services by 2039. Sunday church attendance for all Christian denominations was 5-8 million in 1990, 5.04 million in 1995, an estimated 4.6 million in 2000 and projected to be 4.1 million in 2005. (The 2005 figure should break down to 31% Catholic, 26% Anglican and 43% all the smaller denominations.)

 

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