In 2010, after I had lived in Italy about two years and had begun to understand the byzantine complexities of this country’s politics, Emma Bonino decided to run for the office of governor of the region of Lazio. Once I found out what kind of person she was, I was seized with the urge to buy a crate of spray paint and go around Rome writing, “10,000 bambini assassinati non abbastanza per Emma ‘la Bicicletta’ Bonino,” on all her posters. “10,000 murdered babies not enough for Emma ‘the bicycle’ Bonino.” I thought of it every time I got off the train at St. Peter’s station in Rome where her face was plastered on nearly every surface. Somehow, I was disuaded from this course of action, and now I wish I had done it. Instead I wrote a few articles about her, and what she stood for, by way of an introduction to English speaking pro-life readers.
In the late 90s, just before I left Vancouver and West Coast secular leftism forever, I had a conversation with a friend who told me to watch carefully the progression of this new thing that was coming; World Wide Web, and what it was going to do to our civilisation. This was 1995, and he predicted that it would be a bigger game-changer than Gutenberg’s press, bigger than the steam engine, bigger than the telephone, even than television. And he was right.
Once again, as though we had nothing better to do, the traditional Catholic internet world is aghast! appalled! outraged! at something Pope Francis has said. Must be Tuesday.
At first I thought, are we still doing this? Then I read the excerpt of the homily from his daily Mass at Casa Santa Martha: “Christians who obstinately maintain ‘it’s always been done this way,' this is the path, this is the street—they sin: the sin of divination.”
Ah… I see…
I must admit I laughed yesterday to read an article from the New York Times saying that Norwegian “refugee” officials had, rather tentatively and with many apologies, launched “training sessions” for their Islamic migrants in European standards of sexual behaviour. This was admitted to be an effort to try to teach them “right from wrong.” Cynic that I am, my first thought was, “Do you know?”
I suppose it requires the point of view of a traditionally-minded Catholic to see the bizarre irony of the morally bankrupt European secularists preaching their deranged version of sexual morality to Muslims. It’s like watching a contest to see which set of norms are more degrading and dehumanizing.
The Basilica church is packed and there is a large contingent of Franciscans in choir as well as an assortment of local prelates and visitors. People are standing in the back and they’ve put out the folding chairs along the side aisle. The Asperges is finished, and I park my wheelie shopping cart carrying my computer in the alcove in the back of the church next to St. Benedict’s statue. I know I have nothing to worry about. This is Norcia. I gave up locking my bike a few months after I got here.
Remnant Editor's Note: I was spending a few quite hours after Mass today editing some articles for The Remnant's last issue of 2015 (delayed by the holiday weekend, but to be mailed on Monday), when suddenly something rather startling happened. Halfway through Hilary White's latest, I became convinced I was reading one of the more important articles I've read in some months and felt compelled to share a taste of it here. Why? Because, clearly, our society is being systematically driven mad and at an accelerated rate of speed. The question Hilary is asking is this: What part does the Internet play in expediting our societal madness?
Today I want to swing the camera outwards to the wide world and ask what do we see has been the effect on our civilisation of the nearly total take-over of our institutions by the online culture and internet technology. What is it doing to our cultures? What effect has instant global communication had on geopolitics? What about the gruesome spectre of Islamic jihad?
Christians and others are worried, and rightly, about the internet’s content. Quite apart from the porn, there is serious concern that the material we are being fed is nonsense; trite, shallow and banal “think pieces” on pop culture trivia and the doings of celebrities. There is a running joke on social media: “What would they think of us in the Middle Ages if we told them, ‘I have in my pocket a device which gives me access to all the accumulated knowledge of mankind. And I use it to look at cat videos.’”
You can’t play Catholic in NuChurch: So what now?
One of the things I keep saying over and over is that we are entering a period of great clarity in the Church. It is becoming impossible to continue to adhere to what I have called the “Catholic conservative compromise” – events and persons are forcing closed that comfortable conservative middle ground. (Noteworthy: this Catholic “conservative” phenomenon is mainly an American thing, born out of the political alliance between Protestants and Catholics over the life issues during the Reagan era. It is practically nonexistent in Europe where there are only two categories and not much in the way of pro-lifeism.)
We can no longer hide behind the nostrums of American Catholic conservatism that carefully ignores the contradictions in the data.
Thoughts on the last Sunday of the year...
This morning I woke up to two surprises. As usual, I staggered blearily off to the kitchen to give the kitties their breakfast, put the coffee on and went out for my daily breath of fresh air while it was perking. Every morning this little ritual reminds me where I am – the ancient town of Norcia in the mysterious Valnerina – and why I live here. I stand on my front step and look out at the valley, the trees, the sheep pasture at the bottom and the fields stretching up the lower slopes of the mountains on the opposite side. I look at it and let it sink in, listen to the birds, breathe in the clean air, think about how ancient this place is and how many wars and fears have come and gone and left almost no mark on its people.
Today, I hugged my coffee cup to my chest as I stood, because it was cold. So cold that the peaks and upper slopes were covered in white. Not much, but enough that it meant the winter had come, and with it our town’s quiet, peaceful time. The last of the tourists will go away and it will be just us and the sheep and the cows and the ravens and wild boar, and perhaps the occasional wolf.
Perhaps especially among those who have converted to Catholic Tradition from mainstream neo-Catholic conservatism, the combination of intellectual and aesthetic sensitivity and the single-minded persistence required for making such a momentous shift can be as much a burden as a gift. Passion is almost a defining characteristic of Catholic Traditionalists, and that passion can be both a boon and a pitfall, particularly for the managing of our emotional lives.