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Red Tape, and the Blood of Martyrs

Red Tape Cosme Tura. St. Sebastian.
Esto fidelis usque ad mortem, et dabo tibi coronam vitae. [Ap 2:10]
(The Lady caught in red tape. [Unknown source] and Cosme Tura. St. Sébastien. Source)

1) Introduction

What relationship could there be between red tape, and a person who bears witness to his or her faith in Jesus Christ, despite the deadly tortures of the executioners?

Of course, anybody who has tried to reason with a government clerk about some piece of red tape knows what pain is! Sometimes, when we are lost in a maze of forms, or a jungle of regulations, we're somewhat under the impression of being "martyrs"! (Except that real executioners, as opposed to the government, have a left hand that is aware of what the right hand is doing).

Seriously, is there some kind of relationship between red tape, and Catholic martyrs? For mere mortals, no, but for a sociologist, both are social data , subject to scientific laws.

2) Martyrs as sociological data

For a sociologist, what is a martyr? Somebody who makes a choice. For a sociologist, a choice is a choice. Somebody who chooses to sell his grandmother to buy a bowl of macaroni and cheese, is somehow like a bad Catholic who chooses to disown his faith, in order to keep his paycheck.

A sociologist cannot, given his science, know whether the Catholic religion is true or not. It's a bit as if there was a big box, in which there could be either a grandmother, or just a few sandbags. A good sociologist won't claim he knows what is in that box. But he can observe society, and see that there is a group of people out there who adamantly claim that the box contains their grandmother. The sociologist can then observe what the members of this group do, when they are offered a bowl of macaroni and cheese in exchange for the contents of the box.

Our sociologist doesn't perform these experiments because he is fascinated by macaroni, but because he is fascinated by the mechanisms that make societies work. One of these mechanisms is the moral strength to stand for one's convictions, which could be compared to the sails of a sailboat. The other mechanism would be contact with reality, which could be compared to the rudder of that sailboat.

Religious fanatics, according to our sailboat metaphor, have very large and strong sails, but no rudder. They have the force and courage to defend their beliefs, but their beliefs have lost touch with reality. Bad Catholics, for their part, might have a good rudder (they are in contact with reality, and know that God is more important than a paycheck, for example), but they have no sails anymore, since they are willing to sacrifice what is most important to them, for something cheap.

3) Red Tape Fever

What happens in a society which still has a good "rudder", but whose "sails" are in tatters because of the weakness of the moral fiber? I'm not a sociologist, but there might be a correlation between the abundance of red tape, and the absence of the blood of martyrs. What do we do when our politicians sell our grandmother to buy themselves a bowl of macaroni? We add an "Ethics Commissioner", as if there weren't enough laws already telling them to be honest. What do we do when people cheat on their income tax return? We add more forms, more paper, more taxes on tips, taxes on selling, taxes on buying, taxes on twiddling your thumbs, etc. What do we do when beer-propelled morons drive recklessly on our roads? We add "Demerit Points", posters along the roads, hours to the driving course, we form a "Committee on Road Rage", and of course more taxes to pay for car insurance, etc.

When citizens know what a good behavior is, but they still chose a bad behavior, it's not a "rudder" problem, but a problem with the "sails", the moral fiber. A society having that disease will be able to stack layer upon layer of red tape, without solving the problem.

4) Atheists as socio-markers

Our sociologist could study societies even more thoroughly, and realize that all groups are not equal. For some people, the box cannot even possibly contain a grandmother, and they can choose only between more or less tasty bowls of macaroni. How can you blame an atheist when he cheats the IRS? According to his convictions, we are the chance result of purposeless evolution, our moral laws are only social conventions, and death is just the dissolution of a bunch of atoms. This bunch of atoms temporarily enables an epiphenomenon of matter to be aware of pleasure and pain, and it can even have a name like "Wayne" or "Julia". Why not dump toxic chemicals in a river? Why not cheat the IRS? Why not just drive away after having a fender-bender with an empty car in an underground parking lot? For an atheist, all these things are no more than bunches of atoms, mere conventions, epiphenomena.

Careful! The sociologist doesn't judge the atheist! He just observes that the atheist has smaller "sails" than the Catholics, at least in theory. The atheist has less good reasons to consider that certain things are sacred, untouchable, infinitely worthy. The sociologist could hypothesize that in a given society, if the Catholics have a weak moral fiber, then that of the atheists will be even weaker, and all those people who could be considered "between" these two "extremes" would also trend downward. In other words, the Atheist could be used as a kind of "socio-marker".

Of course, our sociologist is fully aware that many self-proclaimed "Catholics" are in fact practical atheists, and that many people describing themselves as atheists have a strong faith in Human dignity and Justice. Their faith doesn't mesh with their other convictions, but it is a faith in something divine. The sociologist also knows that in real life, things are not black or white, but more often just shades of grey. But the sociologist sees things from thirty-five thousand feet, where individual differences disappear, and large trends tend to show up. He sees that the "distance" between goods varies, and that this "distance" will be greater for a real Catholic than for a real atheist.

Catholics don't have a choice between their grandmother and a bowl of pasta, but between what is most worthy, God, and a bowl of mud (whether this mud is a paycheck, a professional reputation, or even the life of that rag temporarily wrapped around their soul). According to Catholics, a martyr is someone who gives up nothing, in exchange for Everything!

The behavior of Catholics could therefore be an excellent sociological indicator for the health of a society's moral fiber. As Catholics are more willing to disown Jesus publicly, the society in general will have a greater tendency to be sick.

5) The sickness of Catholicism in the Province of Quebec

What is happening today in Quebec? A sociologist studying Catholics would be terrified, and probably would quickly move out of the Province, a bit like a seismologist who would detect warning signs of a huge earthquake. The Church is devoured by red tape, as is seen by the "Guidance Document on the Process of the Guidance Convention for the Future of Christian Communities" (it's the real title!). Translated into plain English, the document is called "The Diocesan Demolition Derby". But I digress.

What is more worrisome is that the rare persons still claiming to be Catholics and faithful to the Pope are filled with a lustful passion for macaroni and cheese. I have been meeting for several months now people who observe as I do the sad state of the Catholic Church in Quebec, and who in private are fearless in proclaiming their faith in Jesus Christ and their loyalty to the Magisterium of the Church. On the other hand, when I suggest that they go public with their profession (and put it on the Internet, for example), these otherwise reasonable people start spewing amazingly contorted sophisms to justify their love of macaroni.

The Catholic Church in Quebec is sick, and its sickness is contaminating the whole Province. All Quebecers, whatever their beliefs, are being harmed by the perverse effects of the lack of courage of Catholics (see among others The Spiritual Water Table).

6) What would have happened if Jerusalem had been in Quebec?

What if Saint John the Baptist had been like the Quebec Catholics of today? First of all, we would have moved out of the desert, and found a job as a salesman in a shopping mall. He would have had a hearty laugh, and a beer belly. He still would have baptized, but part time, and in private ceremonies.

"I used to baptize in the Jordan river, but there were too many Herodians in town. I saw that the Lord was calling me to continue my apostolate in a more discrete way."

Fortunately for Quebec, our Patron Saint didn't do this. On the contrary, he continued to baptize publicly, and to preach clearly things that connected with people's daily lives. That is why he made a sermon on Herod and his adultery.

"Thou shall not take thy brother's wife!"

At the dawn of the New Testament, John the Baptist, unable to refrain from speaking of the law of the Lord and rejecting any compromise with evil, "gave his life in witness to truth and justice", and thus also became the forerunner of the Messiah in the way he died (cf. Mk 6:17-29)
[John-Paul II, Veritatis Splendor,  #91].

Jesus also had the choice. Nobody forced him to preach publicly.

Imagine an absurd situation. What if Jesus had been like today's Catholics in Quebec? He would have been Professor of Hebrew Studies at Jerusalem University, and would have performed discreet miracles (like fixing the coffee machine at work, when nobody was looking).

One day, his students would have run into his office, out of breath and dismayed: "Professor Christ! Professor Christ! Your Mother arrived today in Jerusalem, and she told the money-changers in the Temple:

"This is a Temple of prayer! Do not change the House of My Father into a den of thieves!"

Jesus would have shrugged his shoulders and said:

"That Virgin Mary, she is so arrogant and naive! All she has to do is practice her religion in a discreet and socially acceptable way, like everybody else."

An odorless, colorless and sanitized Jesus.

Fortunately, Jesus is God, and He didn't run out of courage.

By their eloquent and attractive example of a life completely transfigured by the splendour of moral truth, the martyrs and, in general, all the Church's Saints, light up every period of history by reawakening its moral sense. By witnessing fully to the good, they are a living reproof to those who transgress the law (cf. Wis 2:12), and they make the words of the Prophet echo ever afresh: "Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness!" (Is 5:20).
[John-Paul II, Veritatis Splendor,  #93].

The Catholic Church is our Mother, and in Quebec, our Mother is an abused woman. Some of the people who savagely kick her in the face are priests. Meanwhile, the other priests turn away, and pretend they didn't see anything. Back in their parishes, these timid priests perform linguistic miracles to write sermons that displease neither the wolves nor the sheep.

Odorless, colorless and sanitized sermons.

The Catholic Church, Virgin and Mother, sobs on her knees, covered with wounds. A few rare faithful try to say:

"Shouldn't we at least speak out against this situation? Shouldn't we at least tell everybody we love our own Mother?"

And these faithful are roughly upbraided by some religious leaders in Quebec.

7) Conclusion

You can laugh or cry, or both, but I've heard the following arguments, whereby supposedly good Catholics have refused to publicly profess their faith.

I believe in God, the Father Almighty...

"I can't publicly profess my faith today, because today I'm baking bread, and it takes me five hours to bake a batch."

"Of course I'm willing to profess my faith on the Internet! As long as my name doesn't appear on the web site."

I believe in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord...

"It's insulting for a Catholic deacon to be offered the possibility of professing his faith publicly."

I believe in the Holy Spirit...

"Professing publicly my faith on the Internet? No, because there are too many bad jokes on your web site."

I believe the Church, One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic...

"Certainly not! There are far too many wolves in the sheepfold!"

...in the resurrection of the flesh, in Life everlasting.




I'm ready Lord. Just say the word.

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