Where the Battle May Yet Be Fought

 

In a previous article, I suggested that the Church in Canada has capitulated to the fads and heresies of the day without a good fight. Let me fill in the details.
 

In the province where we spend the summer, the Church long ago abandoned all of its grade schools, high schools, and hospitals. Read that sentence again, closely. I am sure it was done for financial reasons, but the result is the same whatever the cause: In the entire province, there is not a single Catholic hospital and not a single Catholic school. Instruction of children has been ceded entirely to the state.

 



What that means, of course, anyone familiar with our public schools can tell. The children don’t receive very good instruction in any academic subject. (Since this is Canada, they graduate from grade twelve ignorant of both English and French literature and grammar; this is called bilingualism.) Vocational training has been abandoned. Again, like the “community event” and like what Mass has come to be, school is dominated by the imaginations of older women for the purported benefit of small children; there are a lot of school programs on how to recycle, but none on how to wire a house or sink posts underwater to build a jetty. Sex education is what it is in America, a creepy attempt to corrupt the young, in case television, video games, and old-fashioned sin have not already done the trick. Not that the parents in most cases would mind; the out-of-wedlock birth rate in Canada is approaching one in two.
 
So there are no Catholic schools. What about Catholic colleges? Canada does boast one or two defiantly Catholic colleges, out west. Let us pray for ten more like them. Most of the Catholic colleges, like the one near where we spend the summer, have slid into secularism and unbelief. Not by design; the schools merely failed to hire faithful Christians, and one day the trustees awoke and groaned or cheered to find themselves secular.
 
There are, however, a few small signs of hope. Church attendance is much poorer in Canada than in the United States, but Canadians have not the same allergic reaction to church-state relations that afflicts American secularists. That possibility of rapprochement between the state and the Church has allowed for a new Catholic Studies program at the local college, a victory won by compromise when the old theology department renamed itself Religious Studies and thereby declared its independence from the Church. There is also a fine Catholic Studies program at McGill University in Montreal; and St. Michael’s College retains its affiliation with the University of Toronto. But in our province there is not a single seminary; the few young men who discern a calling to the priesthood must be sent to Ontario, more than a thousand miles away.
 
All this means that there are no distinctly Catholic voices in higher education generally — no Catholic intellectual strongholds, no imposing outposts of resistance or rebellion. Perhaps that is too strong. There’s an excellent Canadian-English magazine, Challenge. There’s an excellent group based in Ontario, with chapters here and there across the country, striving to uphold the civil rights of Catholics. A few Catholic bishops have spoken out against abortion and same-sex pseudogamy; Fred Henry of Calgary is the bravest of these. But they are few, as there are few, or hardly any, Catholic homeschoolers, and no Catholic broadcasting. It is a country whose broadcast regulators long refused to allow EWTN access to Canadian homes (Red China, I believe, still refuses).
 
 
So we have, in one corner of the ring, the ogre of spiritually suicidal Canada, with its single-generation collapse in church attendance, from 70 to 17 percent weekly. All the schools from kindergarten to the doctoral dissertation; all the hospitals; all the ubiquitous social-service people; all the newspapers; all the broadcast media; all the public intellectuals; all the now-common assumptions among the ordinary people about the rightness of feminism and the normality of sodomitical relations; and all (or almost all) the chanceries and established Catholic groups. In the other corner, those Catholics who still understand that modernism, with its combination of personal sexual license and all-devouring state authority, is the mortal enemy not only of the Faith but even of the possibility of a thriving culture — something other than what is fed to the masses by the mass media and mass entertainment and mass education.
 
In one corner, people who snicker at the belief that Jesus is the Son of God, and the only Son of God, in Whose name alone we find salvation. In the other corner, people who still believe that Christianity is the true Faith and that no one comes to the Father but through Christ, but who have at their disposal no intellectual tradition to draw upon, and no serious training in the Faith. In one corner, we have one David Suzuki, popular and articulate exponent of environmentalism, probably the most recognizable face and voice in the Canadian media. He is an avowed atheist. In the other corner, nobody — or your local director of religious education.
 
I went once to speak to our local director — a very kind middle-aged woman. The people from Steubenville were coming to our diocese (again, a small sign of hope in troubled Canada), and my daughter wanted to sign up for the gathering. The director had heard of EWTN, but not Franciscan University. That might not be so bad, but then we talked a little about what I did for a living. As I said, she was kind.
 
I said that I had translated Dante. Said she, “I’ve never heard of him.”
 
Wishing to jog her memory and give her a way out, I said that he wrote a poem called The Divine Comedy, about traveling to hell and purgatory and heaven.
 
“Sorry,” she smiled. “I’ve never heard of that, either.”
 
 
We in America enjoy a few advantages that my Canadian friends do not. We still have a system of Catholic schools, and many of these have come to understand that they will not survive, nor will they deserve to survive, unless they frankly espouse the Faith and take up arms against the brutish folly of modern education. We still have some Catholic colleges and universities — about one-fifth or one-sixth of those that say they are “in the Catholic tradition,” or some other such nonsense, by which is meant that a priest crosses the quadrangle once a month, and that the Faith, when it is engaged at all, is the object of scorn and spite. Even at schools that have long ceased to be Catholic — Saint Louis University, for instance, whose administrators sued the government, claiming that it was not a Catholic school, and winning their case — there are some Catholic intellectuals of high profile.
 
We have a Catholic network, EWTN, and wide-reaching broadcasting (Catholic Answers Live), and Catholic magazines, and a vibrant cadre of Catholic Web sites, including InsideCatholic. We have at least a few dioceses that are well run, and a growing number of young people attracted to the sacral in language, gesture, clothing, music, and art. We even have intellectuals and homeschoolers and bloggers and ordinary Catholics reading Pope Leo XIII and understanding that if you are talking about Catholic social doctrine and you are not talking about the family (that is, about father and mother and children), then you are not talking about Catholic social doctrine.
 
What we don’t have yet is a Joshua or a Judah the Hammer, or a Paul with the sword of God’s word, or an Athanasius leading the orthodox into battle, when the world awoke and found itself Arian. In Canada, no battle was fought, and the fields are empty; not littered with martyrs, not littered with anything at all. In America, the battle can yet be fought. The bishops have no stomach for it. But if we would avoid the fate of our neighbors, fight we must.
 


Anthony Esolen is a professor of English at Providence College and a senior editor for Touchstone magazine. His latest book is
The Politically Incorrect Guide to Western Civilization (Regnery).

Anthony Esolen

By

Professor Esolen is a teaching fellow and writer in residence at Thomas More College of the Liberal Arts, in Merrimack, New Hampshire. Dr. Esolen is a regular contributor to Crisis Magazine and the author of many books, including The Politically Incorrect Guide to Western Civilization (Regnery Press, 2008); Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child (ISI Books, 2010) and Reflections on the Christian Life (Sophia Institute Press, 2013). His most recent books are Reclaiming Catholic Social Teaching (Sophia Institute Press, 2014); Defending Marriage (Tan Books, 2014); Life Under Compulsion (ISI Books, 2015); and Out of the Ashes (Regnery, 2017).

  • Len S

    Mr. Esolen, you wrote this:

    “What we don’t have yet is a Joshua or a Judah the Hammer, or a Paul with the sword of God’s word, or an Athanasius leading the orthodox into battle, when the world awoke and found itself Arian.”

    Not true. Our Athanasius is already here and about to speak. When he does the cultural situation will change drastically and the Catholic Church will be the almost undisputed cultural loadstar–almost unbelievably in view of the sex-abuse scandal.

    But he may need the initial help of persons such as you–not much help, to be sure, but a little.

    Is there any way he can get in touch with you? This is no joke. As you’ll see it is perfectly serious.

  • Len S

    Lodestar–not loadstar. Sorry!

  • Michael Hebert

    I read a lot of secular political and social opinion, probably more than I should. And I must admit that all that reading came very close to infecting my and claiming my soul.

    In the end, I find that secular thinking is seductive because it has so many answers, but makes no moral demands. It is a great comfort to live in a world where no one is ever strictly held to any moral principle. It does wonders for guilt.

    The problem is that there is nothing to hold it together. When I finally stepped back and looked at the truth, I found that it demands very little but offers nothing. We have to save the world, the secularists cry. Why? I ask. What is there worth saving? Nothing, they reply, nothing really. But let’s save it nonetheless.

    And every time secularists try to save the world, they end up emptying it of meaning. I am amazed that places like Europe and Canada have embraced abortion and dissolved the family, but seem entirely oblivious to the idea that the low birth rates are destroying their culture. Canada is empty enough. It is getting emptier.

    I’ll pray for Canada. I’ll pray that they realize that no nation on earth has ever saved itself through secularization.

  • Deacon Ed

    just speaking of Canada. You are detailing what soon awaits us in the USA unless Catholics seriously wake up. The danger of comparing what we “still have” to what Canada has already lost is that it can lull us into complacency – feeding into the hands of the secularists. St Lawrence, burned to death on the gridiron, pray for us.

  • Anon

    Er, there are plenty of Catholic schools in Canada, the out of wedlock birth rate is higher in the states, and Canada has one of the highest ranked education systems in the world….I think you should be more concerned about the States.

  • jay

    While I am a frequent reader of your writing and I do enjoy it, this article is poorly argued as well as poorly researched. I am from Canada and I know of Dante. Perhaps you should have asked two people.

    While I do agree that many a Catholic school has lost its Catholicity, I would say that it is roughly the same, marginally better or marginally worse than the Catholic schools in the more secularized parts of the US, which probably as a rough measure is more than the Catholic population of Canada.

    Finally there is a Catholic broadcaster in Canada it is called Salt & Light TV : http://www.saltandlighttv.org

  • Rob

    Finally there is a Catholic broadcaster in Canada it is called Salt & Light TV : http://www.saltandlighttv.org

    Salt + Light has been around since at least 2003, and EWTN was made available on the Bell satellite system in late 2004, I believe. We subscribed to both (until we gave up TV altogether).

  • John

    Despite the smattering of nitpickers, Dr. Esolen has stated the problem well. I am amazed at how Americans have willingly sold their cultural “birthrights” for poorly imagined “civil rights.”

  • Barbara

    It’s hard not to react out of anger or frustration when I read American authors saying things about Canada that are exaggerations in which a single situation applies across the whole country. Whether it be Michael Moore saying that our country is completely free of poverty because he visited some lower-middle class neighbourhood in Ontario (Really? REALLY? maybe you should tell that to the hundreds of homeless and drug addicts on East Hastings in Vancouver) or Mark Shea who is one of my favourite Catholic commentators calling us “the brown-shirt north” based solely on the actions of a couple of crazy bureaucrats in Alberta and Ontario with nothing better to do than tweeze the word “niggardly” out of every newspaper. Now Tony Esolen is telling Americans that “we’d better arm ourselves lest we become like the anti-religious abortion loving Nazis of the North,” points he bases, once again, on the singular scenario in one part of one province. Do I need to suggest that Mr. Esolen take a trip out to the Archdiocese of Vancouver which is one of the most active in the country? There are more Catholic churches in this city than there are from any other denomination, as well as at least three Catholic schools (that I know of, St. Mary’s, St. Francis Xavier and Our Lady of Perpetual Help) and one College (St. Mark’s/Corpus Christi). Since we’re judging the condition of a country of 30 millon people based on the situation in one part of it, I’m going to say that all of America is just like Hollywood.

    I get so tired of this. I’ve lived in this country my whole life. I was born here. This is still a free country in which people have the right to form their own conscience, not some dictatorship in which thought-police storm people’s homes in order to root out any sign of “ungoodthink”. It is also a country in which people like myself have the freedom to explore different religions, which I did, and which lead me to the Church. I am also free to practice my faith and to live up to its principles. No one is shutting Churches down and forcing the faithful to make obeisance to the state.

  • Chris Ryland

    Tony–

    Note that there *is* a great, small Catholic college (only 3-year, so far): Our Lady Seat of Wisdom Academy in Berry’s Bay, Ontario. It was founded by Michael O’Brien, the writer, his wife, and some friends, and has flourished into something quite impressive: seatofwisdom.org .

    And there’s a definitely strong Catholic presence in the Peterborough/Lakefield/Combermere areas of Ontario, northeast of Toronto. We visit there frequently from Ohio and are always greatly cheered by the wonderful people in that area.

    Plus, most (all?) of the bishops in Canada are now excellent, holy men, and they’re working to restore the Church.

    So there’s hope!

  • Tony Esolen

    Dear Len,

    Just e-mail me at aesolen@yahoo.com!

    Barbara and Anon:

    I love Canadians — but I do not love their government, and I most certainly do not love their anticultural elites. As far as freedom of religion and speech are concerned, tell it to Mark Steyn and Ezra Levant. Tell it to the Ontario high school that was compelled to allow a boy to bring his boyfriend to the prom. Tell it to all the people who were informed by Judge MacLachlin that they have no say in whether homosexual pseudogamy will be recognized as marriage by the state.

    Louis del Grande, the Canadian comic actor in a show called Seeing Things, tells me that Canada (particularly the cities like Toronto) is a spiritually empty place. The small villages of Nova Scotia, near where we spend the summer, are flooded with heroin and cocaine. So much for a traditional way of life. No, I am no expert on the whole of this vast country; but when your church attendance plummets from 70 to 17 percent in one generation, something is wrong. And the out of wedlock birth rate in QUebec is over 50 percent now.

    I agree that the current lineup of bishops is moderately encouraging. I tried to say as much … But may I now add that, as opposed to the states, there is in Canada no noticeable alliance between Catholics and evangelicals?

  • JR Bombadil

    Anthony,

    I appreciate your encouragement and insight. I’ve only recently discovered the work you do.

    We must all strive to be more Athanasian. I’ve recently had a rude awakening like Newman’s that Arian has struck again. However, in my neck of the northwoods, the seeds John Paul have sown are germinating.

    Keep speaking clearly. My hope is that more people here will wake up with all the “changes” going on.

    Our Lady’s call to penance at Fatima and Akita also come to mind.

  • JR Bombadil
  • JR Bombadil
  • Mary Kay

    Er, there are plenty of Catholic schools in Canada, the out of wedlock birth rate is higher in the states, and Canada has one of the highest ranked education systems in the world….I think you should be more concerned about the States.
    Absolutely correct. Someone said the same thing to him the last time he bashed Canadian Catholics, but he didn’t listen.

    While I am a frequent reader of your writing and I do enjoy it, this article is poorly argued as well as poorly researched. I am from Canada and I know of Dante. Perhaps you should have asked two people.
    While I do agree that many a Catholic school has lost its Catholicity, I would say that it is roughly the same, marginally better or marginally worse than the Catholic schools in the more secularized parts of the US, which probably as a rough measure is more than the Catholic population of Canada.

    Finally there is a Catholic broadcaster in Canada it is called Salt & Light TV : http://www.saltandlighttv.org

    Jay, again, absolutely correct. Of course, those and their friends who apparently have an unwillingness or inability to be self-critical will simply call you a “nitpicker” and belittle the number of comments that come up with those pesky facts that contradict what amounts to detraction and/or calumny on Esolen’s part.

    It’s hard not to react out of anger or frustration when I read American authors saying things about Canada that are exaggerations in which a single situation applies across the whole country. … Now Tony Esolen is telling Americans that “we’d better arm ourselves lest we become like the anti-religious abortion loving Nazis of the North,” points he bases, once again, on the singular scenario in one part of one province. Do I need to suggest that Mr. Esolen take a trip out to the Archdiocese of Vancouver which is one of the most active in the country? There are more Catholic churches in this city than there are from any other denomination, as well as at least three Catholic schools (that I know of, St. Mary’s, St. Francis Xavier and Our Lady of Perpetual Help) and one College (St. Mark’s/Corpus Christi). Since we’re judging the condition of a country of 30 millon people based on the situation in one part of it, I’m going to say that all of America is just like Hollywood.

    I get so tired of this. … It is also a country in which people like myself have the freedom to explore different religions, which I did, and which lead me to the Church. I am also free to practice my faith and to live up to its principles. No one is shutting Churches down and forcing the faithful to make obeisance to the state.
    Barbara, you nitpicker you. You really think that growing up in Canada gives you a better idea of what is going on than our august Dr. Esolen who is a guest in your country 3 months of the year? Silly you.

    Tony–

    Note that there *is* a great, small Catholic college (only 3-year, so far): Our Lady Seat of Wisdom Academy in Berry’s Bay, Ontario. It was founded by Michael O’Brien, the writer, his wife, and some friends, and has flourished into something quite impressive: seatofwisdom.org .

    And there’s a definitely strong Catholic presence in the Peterborough/Lakefield/Combermere areas of Ontario, northeast of Toronto. We visit there frequently from Ohio and are always greatly cheered by the wonderful people in that area.

    Plus, most (all?) of the bishops in Canada are now excellent, holy men, and they’re working to restore the Church.

    Chris, you’re being very charitable about Esolen’s repeated factual inaccuracies. Because he’s a fellow countryman of mine doing an Ugly American act, I have a little more leeway.

    Of course, Esolen might say he couldn’t be expected to know of a small rural town. Of course not. Perfectly understandable that the august Dr. Esolen, who knows so much about Canadian Catholics that he can base two entire articles on bashing them, just didn’t know about Our Lady Seat of Wisdom Academy. The school is only noted in the Newman Guide of faithful Catholic colleges – which many U.S. colleges did not make.

    You’re right, Chris, that there’s been a strong Catholic presence in the area you mentioned, one that rebuts Esolen’s insulting “no distinctly Catholic voices in higher education generally — no Catholic intellectual strongholds, no imposing outposts of resistance or rebellion.”

    The fact that there has indeed been a stronghold of Catholic presence for most, or all, of Esolen’s life – a presence that has drawn people from all over the globe simply because of its Catholicity – all of that doesn’t count because the august Dr. Esolen personally hasn’t heard of it.

    Tony Esolen, once again I will say that your singling out Canada for what is also happening in the U.S. is inexcusable. Let me – again – refer you to the Catholic Catechism 2477. The first time, you might not have been aware of it. But you’ve been informed/reminded and yet you persisted in detraction and/or calumny.

  • Tom

    Hello:

    Two points:

    Please don’t forget Redeemer Pacific College in any list of orthodox Catholic colleges in Canada. I am the president of the College, which is an associate college of Franciscan University of Steubenville. Redeemer Pacific will be in the Newman Guide this fall.

    Secondly, RPC is associate with Trinity Western University in Langley, BC, an Evangelical school. There is active Catholic/Evangelical cooperation in Canada–this is just one example.

    In Christ:
    Tom Hamel
    President, Redeemer Pacific College

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