#34: Forced Speech Comes to Canada? Dr Jordan Peterson and Senator Don Plett

#34: Forced Speech Comes to Canada? Dr Jordan Peterson and Senator Don Plett

The question mark is facetious. More and more men of good will around the world are waking up to what happened on June 19, 2017. That was the day Bill C-16 got Royal assent and became law in Canada. It adds “gender expression” and “gender identity” as a protected ground to the Canadian Human Rights Act and to the Criminal Code provisions dealing with hate propaganda, incitement to genocide, and aggravating factors in sentencing.

Trans-lation? Misgendering someone (say, a “non-binary” or “trans person”) in Canada is now against the law, alongside hate propaganda, and incitement to genocide. Its defenders are playing a game called antics with semantics as to whether it compels speech. We’ll see what the real world punishments are soon enough.

I sat down with the highest profile critic of Bill C-16, University of Toronto psychology professor Jordan Peterson, and Sen. Don Plett of Manitoba, one of the few Canadian Senators who opposed the bill’s passage. Was this bill adequately debated? How does it manifest Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s mandate to institutionalize what is essentially a totalitarian impulse? What’s really going on here?

In this two-guest conversation, Dr. Peterson and Sen. Plett tell us what might constitute the next right step in abolishing and rolling back the effects of the law that imposes an extremist agenda on 9.75% of Canadians. America, you may be next.

Elections matter, almost as much as culture.

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#33: Marxism vs Catholicism, with Tim Stanley

#33: Marxism vs Catholicism, with Tim Stanley

British historian, journalist, and broadcaster Tim Stanley sees connections among ideas and movements. Take the modern conservative movement, for instance. He produced a documentary for the BBC titled How Marx Made the Right  in which he credits Karl Marx as a major causal factor in the rise of the Right in the 20th century.
In this interview, you’ll gain insight into life as a Catholic convert working in the public maw of secular Great Britain (or the “U.K.” as the more nondescript nomenclature goes) and into the importance of participating in the process of public story telling, which is another way of describing the media’s “news coverage” function: facts + value = story.
Tim earned his PhD in history at Trinity College, Cambridge, and has taught US history at Sussex, London and Oxford. Reticent to be called conservative, he says,  “I prefer traditionalist – the Amish seem to know what they’re doing.” Either way, he speaks clearly about the need to preserve the foundations of the great thing called western civilization.

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Only the lonely

Loneliness is hard. Hard for a couple of reasons.

First, there’s the randomness of it. You can be stricken at seemingly random times and settings that seem, on the surface, to be counter-intuitive: at a friend’s wedding party, in the bosom of the Christmas season, or during summer vacation. One minute you’re happy floating in the moment, the next, you’re in a funk of sadness.

Second, loneliness has a way of sneaking up on you unawares. Before you know it, its tentacles are firmly around you with their melancholic squeeze, quick and mighty.

There is a third reason, at least for Christians, and that’s the twinge of guilt that can accompany loneliness. Don’t I believe that God loves me and has a plan for my life? If I’m in the state of grace, why am I feeling so lonely all of a sudden? Isn’t joy the default setting for Christians?

I’m not talking about clinical depression necessarily, but of good old fashioned melancholy. There is a German word that captures the heart of it, sehnsucht. As with many German words, sehnsucht is difficult to translate. It means, variously, longing, pining, and craving.

The concept is universal enough that C.S. Lewis crafted a proof for God’s existence around it, in Pilgrim’s Regress and in sections of his spiritual autobiography, Surprised by Joy. The idea is not new having been hinted at the message contained in the famous line from The Confessions of  St. Augustine, “Thou hast made us for thyself O Lord and our hearts are restless until they rest in thee.”

In the Afterword of a later edition of Pilgrim’s Regress, Lewis takes up this theme and gives it some granular, emotional detail:

“That unnameable something, desire for which pierces us like a rapier at the smell of bonfire, the sound of wild ducks flying overhead, the title of The Well at the World’s End, the opening lines of ‘Kubla Khan,” of the morning cobwebs in late summer, or the noise of falling waves.”

Lewis uses Joy as a synonym for sehnsucht, so there’s an ambiguity to it. The experience is one of being caught, enmeshed in between the pointed longing and its (partial) satiety. And on this Lewis builds his argument:

Major premise: every natural desire (say, hunger, erotic longing, thirst, etc.) has a corresponding object of satisfaction in this world (respectively, food, sex, drink, etc.) that is exquisitely fitted to each desire.

Minor premise: there exists a deeper natural desire for total communion, for complete acceptance and love that does not have a corresponding object of satisfaction in this world.

Conclusion: there must exist an object of satisfaction to this deeper longing beyond this world. This is what men mean by God, or heaven.

This “proof” is not scientific in the way that Aquinas’s Five Ways are. It doesn’t depend upon the cause-effect relation. It more closely resembles Pascal’s Wager. It’s probabilistic: is it unreasonable to conclude that that mysterious, deep longing – which is so insistent and “heart-pangy” – has a supernatural source of satisfaction. As mortals with bodies, we’re made to exist as dependent upon earthly things like food, sex, and drink if we are to flourish and propagate. But we also have souls (we are souls and bodies – strange creatures indeed!). Is it not perfectly reasonable to believe that the spiritual craving has a transcendent Object?

The alternative is to believe that, while every natural desire has a corresponding object of satisfaction, the much more potent, all-consuming longing is destined to be unrequited forever.

We are made for communion. Our challenge is to overcome the gulfs between us, especially those between spouses. Some people marry so they won’t be lonely. Not a smart plan, because even the most heroically giving husband or wife is still mortal—all too limited in what he or she can give. No, loneliness is an ineluctable part of this life.

Next time you’re feeling lonely, give a listen to the music of Morten Lauridsen, the greatest living American choral composer. I pray you find in it an oasis from the desert of loneliness. Even better than any music is silence. Robert Cardinal Sarah wrote a book about its sublime power;  and for a classic book on the more philosophical side, there is Loneliness  by Clark Moustakas.

Loneliness can be the occasion for an unexpected, unlikely breakthrough of divine grace, if (a mighty big if) we candidly admit we’re feeling it. If we skip past admitting it, we can become vulnerable to falling for false substitutes for the intimacy we need, whether it’s having that third glass of wine, that frenetic shopping spree, that porn site, or that gossip binge.

We are made for others and for the Other. “It’s not good for the man to be alone” (Genesis 2:18), which is why God gave us the great adventure of marriage. But He also eventually gave us Himself in the flesh, Jesus who shed tears, felt excruciating loneliness in the garden of Gethsemane for our sake, and who brings the Holy Spirit to us irrespective of our subjective state.

Armed with that knowledge, we can move from loneliness to solitude because we’ve seen it against the much greater backdrop of consolation.

#32: How the Natural Law Sort of Explains Everything—John Lawrence Hill

#32: How the Natural Law Sort of Explains Everything—John Lawrence Hill

It’s the moral law written in your heart. It’s thing you can’t not know. And it underpins civil law and morality. It’s the natural law. Starting with the Greeks, and “baptized” by St. Thomas Aquinas, natural law is the fundamental way that we operate morally. Rooted in God’s eternal law, natural law has to do with what rational beings must do, and avoid doing, to perfect themselves.
This can get pretty nerdy fast. Fortunately, this episode’s guest (a former atheist who became a Catholic in 2009) is gifted at breaking natural law down into bite-sized morsels.
John Lawrence Hill teaches constitutional law at Indiana University, and has a new book titled After the Natural Law: How the Classical Worldview Supports Our Modern Moral and Political Values

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The Most Natural Law Ever

Have you ever had the experience of reading a book and wished for the life of you that you had a chance to ask the author a few key questions about that book?

It happened to me recently and on a very important subject, the natural law. Before I drop the other shoe, let me say that I’ve been fairly fascinated by the natural law every since I first learned of it and then witnessed it being mocked (but not refuted). I have a chapter in my book Sex Au Naturel: What It Is and Why It’s Good For Your Marriage on the natural law, which is the foundation on which Pope Paul VI built his 1968 Encyclical against contraception, Humanae Vitae, “Of Human Life.”

Now I don’t happen to think that Humanae Vitae is the best-argued papal document in history (it’s certainly not Paul VI’s best, which I regard as Mysterium Fidei, the Encylical on the Eucharist he wrote four months before the Second Vatican Council ended.) But it is authoritative, and it is binding on Catholics because its norms are taught infallibly through the ordinary magisterium.

What’s striking about the document is the explicit source of authority invoked by Paul VI. While there are 16 biblical footnotes but they’re not employed as proof texts), and not sacred Tradition per se, but an appeal to the church’s competence to interpret the “natural moral law.” He gets right to it near the start of his text (emphasis mine):

“No member of the faithful could possibly deny that the Church is competent in her magisterium to interpret the natural moral law. It is in fact indisputable, as Our predecessors have many times declared, that Jesus Christ, when He communicated His divine power to Peter and the other Apostles and sent them to teach all nations His commandments, constituted them as the authentic guardians and interpreters of the whole moral law, not only, that is, of the law of the Gospel but also of the natural law. For the natural law, too, declares the will of God, and its faithful observance is necessary for men’s eternal salvation” (HV #4).

So the Church’s competence extends not just to preaching the gospel or interpreting the morality of the Bible, but to properly interpreting the natural moral law, which he later simply calls the natural law. Upon our obedience to the natural law depends our salvation.

In his great Summa Theologica St. Thomas Aquinas gives us a simple definition: natural law is “nothing else than the rational creature’s participation in the eternal law” (I-II.94). God makes man in a particular way, in HIs image and likeness, with the innate knowledge of what to do and what to avoid in order to perfect his nature. It’s our inner moral-regulator, discernible by our conscience. St. Paul in Romans 2:4-15 assures us that this law is “written on the heart” and that the Gentiles — those who don’t have the revelation of Moses — will be held accountable for their obedience to it. As J. Budziszewski puts it, it’s what we can’t not know.

Each one of us must do good and avoid evil if we are to become to persons God made us to be. Not without God’s grace, we must choose our way into our character, and hence our destiny, for good or for ill. Neither dogs nor dolphins can do this. But in man it is universal. Right and wrong are categories everyone, even the most rank materialist, presumes and acts upon every day. Referring to the natural moral law as the Tao in The Abolition of Man, C.S. Lewis showed just how universal it is with many cross-cultural examples of bad behavior that’s punished and good behavior that’s rewarded.

Space here forbids a full account of why contraception is wrong from a natural law perspective (I cover this in my book), but this is a good spot to drop the other shoe: the book I was reading is After the Natural Law: How the Classical Worldview Supports Our Modern Moral and Political Values.

Its author is John Lawrence Hill, a recovering atheist and now professor of law at Indiana University. After the Natural Law is an adventurous ride through the Greeks and Romans, onto the revelation of Christ and the great synthesis wrought by Aquinas, an ending with some sobering thoughts about how the modern world started to go south after the Enlightenment.

I reached out to him and  interviewed him,  and now you can enjoy the same enlightening conversation about how the natural law lies behind and beneath what we call our morals and our politics. Watch the interview here.


Patrick’s summer reading picks

Those hazy, lazy, dog days of summer are upon us…a great blessing to fill our minds with insights and wisdom from experts in sundry fields. Per my recent YouTube video, here are my Top Ten book recommendations (plus a bonus, at no extra charge):

1 The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, by Mark Twain. The endlessly funny hijinks of young Tom, his major crush on Becky Thatcher, and his friendship with Injun’ Joe. Too bad Twain’s books have been sullied by the “classic” albatross, guaranteeing that no one will read them voluntarily. The gang secretly observing their own funeral = worth the investment of the book. All delicious in their political incorrectness.

2. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain. A kind of sequel to the Tom Sawyer saga. On the surface, these Adventures are about the telling of Huck’s backstory with his drunkard father “Pap” and his running away from his abusive circumstances. But the spine of the story is really his friendship with Jim, a slave on the lam toward a “Free State. Modern readers must get past the dated language and Twain-geared phonetic dialogue to appreciate the pathos and humanity of the story, which is about Huck’s slow and subtle moral conversion as regards Jim, both of whom seeking the respective versions of freedom. Plenty of rich irony and gallows humor along the way.

3. Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc by Mark Twain. Okay, so I’m on a Mark Twain kick. Work with me. Mark Twain, lifelong agnostic, was nonetheless fascinated by the 15-year-old French Catholic saint. Twain spent 12 years researching and two years writing this masterpiece of a biography. St. Joan seems to manifest the very qualities of lost goodness we see in Tom and Huck. Of all Twain’s books, he loved this one best of all.

4. Peace of Soul by Fulton J. Sheen. This is Venerable Sheen at the height of his writing powers, unloading liberal amounts of insights into the limits and pomps of Freudian psychoanalysis that was becoming popular in post-World War II America. The great man forcefully and lucidly locates the false premises of Freud’s system and shows where the Catholic anthropology gets man right, especially in and through the Sacrament of Confession.

5. Cliches by Betty Kirkpatrick.  Ever wonder about the original context of cliches? “Let sleeping dogs lie.” “It takes two to tango.” “Kick the bucket.” “Crazy like a fox.” This fun romp through the origins of 1500 English language cliches (I was going to say common cliches, but that’d be a tautology) is perfect for sheer reading enjoyment. It’s light but not fluffy. More like low-cal, high flavor, as reading enjoyment goes.

6. Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeon. This is a book I badly needed to read. Glad I found it. Silicon Valley CEO guru McKeon gives example after example of stuff you really shouldn’t be doing but have become oddly attached to doing — why exactly? If, like me, you’re turned off by “self-help books,” Essentialism is more about “helping yourself” than following navel-gazing New Age cliches. After a few pages, McKeon will have you starting your own version of decluttering and you’ll feel good about doing less, but with much more focus and brio.

7. Why I Don’t Call Myself Gay by Daniel Mattson. This book and the next on the list are by recent guests on The Patrick Coffin Show. Both are important books for those trying to navigate the Kulture of Krazy in which evil is good, and good evil. Mattson spend years looking for love and solace in The Gay Community [tm] and found only emotional agony and alienation from his true self. He discovered chastity, the love of Jesus Christ for him, and with that love his deepest identity as a beloved son of God. The subtitle spells it out: How I Reclaimed My Sexual Reality and Found Peace.  

8. After the Natural Law by John Lawrence Hill. The good professor of law at Indiana University was a committed atheist until God found him and made him a Catholic in 2009. This very readable, substantial, book explains how the natural law — and the classical worldview that rise to it — forms the basis of our civil laws, “western civilization,” and is the foundation for the very idea of personal conscience. A bracing ride, especially for legal-historical-cultural fans.

9. Defending Marriage: Twelve Arguments For Sanity by the unredoubtable Anthony Esolen. Here is a one-stop-shop source for what’s at stake in the debate over “gay marriage” and the divorce-and-remarriage laxity that helped bring us to the Supreme Court Obergefell v Hodges decision. Esolen, the esteemed guest on Episode 12 of my podcast, writes like a dream: elegant prose that manages to be at once forceful and poetic. The Medieval-era translator and man of letters keeps cranking out high quality books, and Defending Marriage is one of them.

10. Seabisquit by Laura Hillenbrand. Major modern writer at work here, crafting the true story of the Depression-era race horse, an unpromising equine runt named Seabisquit. Hillenbrand’s narrative traces the tale of how the horse, the trainer, and the owner all fall in together, each with respective wounds to be healed and races to be won, come what may. Skip the very average movie adaptation. Stick with Hillenbrand’s resplendent prose.


11. Green Dolphin Street by Elizabeth Goudge. Where do I start? This sweeping 19th century story careens from an island in the English Channel to the wilds of New Zealand, with steamships, an earthquake, mistaken identity, and an account of the superiority of steadfastly loving a difficult spouse as opposed to “falling in love” with the glow of romance. The rights to Green Dolphin Street were bought by MGM and adapted into a terrific film in 1948 starring, among other stars, the incandescent Donna Reed. And what a Catholic ending! That’s all I’m going to say. You’re welcome. Happy reading, and watching.


Click here to watch the video.

#31: Let’s Drop the “Gaydentity” Label with Dan Mattson

#31: Let’s Drop the “Gaydentity” Label with Dan Mattson

It’s the third rail of both the world and the Church. Anyone who touches it risks social electrocution in the form of the argument-stopping (?) accusation of bigotry and hatred.
It’s homosexuality. Regarding homosexual behavior, the teaching of the Catholic Church, following the Bible, is abundantly clear. Implementing it in a human and pastoral way, however, can be a challenge.
Dan Mattson’s up for it.
Drawn into the gay lifestyle for many years and rescued by the bracing message of chastity, Mattson’s story is living proof of a number of things: that one’s deepest identity is as a son or daughter of God the Father, not as a “gay person;” that no one is exempt from the call to chastity, which frees us from the slavery of impurity; and that the Church is very close to those with same-sex attraction.
Dan, a professional musician, tells his riveting, powerfully honest story in Why I Don’t Call Myself Gay: How I Reclaimed My Sexual Reality and Found Peace  and in this interview, he expounds on the important details. Dan Mattson subverts all the stereotypes, with his joie de vivre and earthy sense of humor. I recommend that you share this one with friends, family members, and pastors who are looking for a winsome presentation of an authentic Catholic anthropology regarding homosexuality.

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#30: Fake vs. Real News from “the Vatican” with Edward Pentin

#30: Fake vs. Real News from “the Vatican” with Edward Pentin

Fake vs. Real News from “the Vatican” with Edward Pentin
The mainstream media love to quote “Vatican sources,” or “the Vatican,” or “the Holy See today said…” What is “the Vatican” and who speaks for it?
I sat down with, to my mind, the best Vaticanista journalist writing today, Edward Pentin, the British-born Rome correspondent for The National Catholic Register, and author of The Rigging of a Vatican Synod: An Investigation into Alleged Manipulation at the Extraordinary Synod on the Family.
We cover a multitude of bases of interest to news junkies, especially the kind who pay attention to things papal. If you’ve ever scratched your head over the latest allegedly official Vatican pronouncement, or tried to understand what Pope Francis just said (or, more frequently, is alleged to have said), don’t miss this interview.

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Je Suis Charlie Gard

The heart-rending case of young Charlie Gard of England puts a most important question before us: Whose life is it anyway?

If a young child is very sick, surely the parents, working in close concert with doctors, have the right to the final say regarding continued palliative or curative treatment for the child, or, God forbid, the question of disconnection from extraordinary measures of intervention.

Charlie was born with an exceedingly rare mitochondrial disease that usually spells early death in infancy, although some patients have survived to their teenage years. What began as a basic disagreement between Charlie’s parents and their doctors at Great Ormond Street Hospital in London mushroomed into an international debate.

Under today’s English jurisprudence – buttressed by an unsuccessful appeal to the Supreme Court of England, and another before the European Court of Human Rights, it turns out Charlie’s parents do not, in fact, have that final say.  (Did anyone think the latter Court would have lifted a finger to reduce the speed of the train?)

Chris Gard and Connie Yates were further told they would not be permitted to transfer their son to another medical facility, including to the famed Bambino Gesu hospital in Rome, which offered to help if the UK decisions were overturned, nor to the United States thanks to nearly $2 million raised on GoFundMe.

All these options were denied to Chris and Connie.

Surely they could they take him home, give him a bath, stroke his hair while he died in their arms?

No. Not allowed.

As of this writing, all of Charlie’s life support systems have been disconnected in his sterile bed in Great Ormond Street Hospital. Despicable.

This sets a scary precedent for other parents in the UK, and, by for those in any country where non-medical government oligarchs get to serve as final arbiters of human life.

What has the Catholic response been? The “certain trumpet sound” St. Paul says should accompany a call to battle (1 Corinthians 14:8)? Not quite. As if to accompany the tepid statement by the Catholic Bishops Conference of England and Wales, the increasingly obtuse Pontifical Academy For Life, under Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, released this unhelpful statement.

Not all Catholic leaders played it cautious, if not lukewarm, and that is Pope Francis himself, who reached out directly on social media, tweeting, “To defend human life, above all when it is wounded by illness, is a duty of love that God entrusts to all.” (June 30, 2017)

Note the word duty.

Interestingly, l’affaire Charlie has put Pope Francis on exactly the same page as another world leader with whom he’s had his share of disagreements. President Donald Trump tweeted on July 3, “If we can help little #CharlieGard, as per our friends in the U.K. and the Pope, we would be delighted to do so.”

As a father, I have no idea what kind of anguish and anger Chris Gard must be feeling right now. Both are justified emotions. As a Catholic, I just wish more middle management in the Church would have followed the Holy Father’s lead – as even President Trump was delighted to do.

In September of 2006, my wife and I faced a similar trial to that of Chris and Connie with the news that our beautiful daughter Naomi Rose had Partial Trisomy 9, and would not likely reach her day of birth. Like her tough-willed Peruvian mother, however, Naomi proved to be an extraordinary fighter.

We had her little self with us for 15 glorious, if tear-drenched, days. Like Charlie, Naomi was not a candidate for any kind of curative treatment. But her doctors and nurses never threatened any of the harassing absurdities to which Charlie’s parents were subjected. Guided by sound and wise moral counsel, and the every-present grace of God, we somehow did the impossible and selected the hour of her death, which was a morally certain conclusion.

I will never forget the day of her disconnection, the story of which is found here 

I pray it will bring consolation to the Chris and Connie’s of this vale of tears.

As you can tell from her photo, Naomi could be Charlie’s sister. In a real sense, she is.