We Know Not What They Do

MARK STEYN

In the diversified Dominion, we must be sensitive toward persons of colour, persons of orientation and persons of gender, but we can be sneeringly contemptuous of persons of faith.


Marie-Reine-du-Monde Cathedral

On Thursday morning, I read the National Post’s report on the desecration of Montreal’s Marie-Reine-du-Monde cathedral and the accompanying editorial, “Where’s the outrage?” Then I picked up The Gazette to see what my local paper had to say on the subject. It wasn’t on Page 1, or Page 2, 3, 4 ... I ploughed my way through to the end of the news section and, figuring I must have missed it, worked my way back to the front. I started on the “B” section: nothing there either.

Later that day, browsing through the “Adults Only” classifieds on Page C8 and trying to choose between “Ally (massages & services by gorgeous & playful women)” and “Aux Bonnes Mains (new ladies, warm hands),” I happened to notice a short, unsigned report at the foot of the opposite page, underneath a picture of a hockey-playing robot named for our late viceroy Lord Stanley: “Seven charged after attack on cathedral,” it said. Page C9. Back of the classified section. A bit of filler space. If “Club Strip (Nancy, Marilyn & Caroline + adult toys)” had only taken out a bigger ad, maybe the sacking of a Roman Catholic cathedral in the heart of downtown wouldn’t have made it into the paper at all.

The Gazette’s offices are a mere stone’s throw — or, in this case, a sanitary napkin’s throw — from Dominion Square, but passersby weren’t in any danger of being crushed in the stampede of reporters. “There’s a burning cross outside the cathedral? It’s being stormed by a gang in ski masks while worshippers are at prayer? A couple of American tourists are trying to stop them smashing the vestry? Hold the front page!” barked the editor. “On second thoughts, hold Page C9. Unless, of course, Octopussy Live Private Erotic Shows calls in a display ad.” And, apparently, most other editors feel the same. As far as I can tell, only two other English-language papers picked up on the incident — The Sarnia Observer and The Guelph Mercury. Never mind “Where’s the outrage?” Where’s the story?

If I sound a little bewildered, it’s because I’ve spent the last month watching George Dubya Bush try to shake off the “anti-Catholic bigot” tag he’s been saddled with ever since he spoke at Bob Jones University and was perceived by the media as having failed to distance himself sufficiently from some anti-Catholic sentiments expressed by Bob Jones III or Bob Jones IV or whichever the hell Bob it was in 1978 or 1955 or whenever. By contrast, the International Women’s Day groups protesting in Phillips Square, from where the tampon commandoes launched their assault, are not being required to “distance” themselves from the “anti-Catholic bigotry” of their more robust sisters. Constable Sylvie Latour of the MUC police is at pains to emphasize that there’s no evidence of any “hate crime.” Concordia history professor Graeme Decarie argues that, unlike attacks on synagogues and mosques, this one was motivated by serious “policy” differences.

He’s referring to the fact that the Collectif Autonome Feministe believes that the Catholic Church oppresses women by being anti-abortion. Never mind that all major religions are anti-abortion. Or that, in Quebec, the Church is doing such a great job of oppressing women that the Province now has the highest abortion rate in the Western world — which, if nothing else, suggests that those ski masked feminists might have more usefully thrown their condoms and contraceptive pills at their own kind.

Now it’s true that, if devout Catholics in ski-masks had stormed an abortion clinic and attempted to confiscate, say, the scissors that are used to puncture the baby’s skull in so-called “partial birth abortions,” the Gazette editors might have moved the story up to Page C4, next to the “Cars Under $2,000” ads. But it’s not really a comparative thing. In the Attack of the Tampon Commandoes and the massive media shrug that followed, the secular future of the Western world can be glimpsed in all its narcissistic nullity. Insofar as most of us give any thought to the concept of a “secular” society, we assume it means the right of your neighbour to worship at the church of his choice and the right of you and your buddy Chip to bunk off and play a couple of rounds of golf on Sunday morning. But, after you’ve raised a generation or two in a spiritual vacuum, you begin to realize it doesn’t stop there: That’s one reason, incidentally, why the most anti-religious society of all — the Soviet Union — has now degenerated into a gangster state. But, even in dear old Blighty, according to the Church of England’s insurers, at least 12 of its churches are badly vandalized every day. Until a quarter-century ago, one of the particular pleasures of the English countryside was strolling along a rural footpath and spying a small 12th-century church rearing up from the fields and copses. They were unlocked, so that anybody who happened upon them and wished to seek God’s grace within would be able to do so.

They are not unlocked now. They’re barricaded. Most anything of value has been removed. The stained glass windows are covered with steel mesh, because vandals, in the absence of anything worth stealing, like to smash them — just for a lark. It is not necessary to be an Anglican or Catholic, Jew or Muslim to weep for a world so spiritually stunted that, instead of marvelling at the ageless splendour of these shrines, looks at them as just something else to smash up. Doubtless the Collectif Autonome Feministe would wish to distinguish itself from grunting, moronic Brit thugs, but, on the barren plains of their hearts, in their inability even to comprehend the spiritual impulse, they’re exactly the same. G. K. Chesterton said that people who no longer believe in God will believe in anything. But even he would never have expected to see a cathedral trashed by people who believe in ... condoms.

But what else is there? Two years ago, The Mirror, a Montreal “alternative” weekly, published an advertisement on Page 3 for Resurrection, “the queer dance event of Easter weekend.” The photograph showed an oiled, muscular hunk, entirely nude except for several phallic symbols on his glistening washboard stomach and a neon cross discreetly covering his crotch. For reasons I can’t entirely discern, he was flanked by two urinals.

This queer dance event was a benefit for Montreal Queer Pride/Divers Cite ‘98, whose sponsors were only too happy to display their famous corporate logos underneath the twinkling stud. It never occurred to Canadian Airlines, American Airlines, Glaxo Wellcome and the rest that on the Holiest day in the Christian calendar appropriating their most sacred imagery for a queer dance event — using the cross as a kind of codpiece — might be offensive to some. In the diversified Dominion, we must be sensitive toward persons of colour, persons of orientation and persons of gender, but we can be sneeringly contemptuous of persons of faith.

As the Pope recognized yesterday, the Church has done bad things. But, even non-believers have to acknowledge that Western liberal society is built on Judaeo-Christian foundations: Try throwing sanitary napkins in Jeddah or Tehran and see where it gets you. Menstrual fetishists are a fine symbol of our present-tense culture: We celebrate the time of the month because we’re barely capable of remembering anything before that.

The early Apostles wouldn’t have been surprised. As Paul wrote in his Second Epistle to Timothy: “In the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers ... Heady, high-minded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God ... Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof.”

“A form of godliness” is a good way of putting it: You elevate your “pleasures” and their attendant paraphernalia — condoms, abortion clinics — into a new creed of “tolerance” and “diversity” that eventually supplants Christian morality. No news is good news, and God news is no news at all, at least at The Gazette. On the matter of AIDS and homophobia, the gay crowd has a good slogan: “Silence = acceptance.” On the accelerating anti-Christian hatred in Canadian society (which is really a form of societal self-hatred), we have been silent and accepting for too long.

 

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT

Steyn, Mark. “We Know Not What They Do.” The National Post (March 13, 2000).

Reprinted with permission of The National Post.

THE AUTHOR

Mark Steyn is a columnist for Britain's Telegraph Group, the Chicago Sun-Times, the Atlantic Monthly, and many other publications. He is the author of America Alone: Our Country's Future as a Lone Warrior, Broadway Babies Say Goodnight: Musicals Then and Now, and The Face of the Tiger: And Other Tales from the New War.

Copyright © 2000 National Post


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