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When Worlds Collide

September 5, 2014 Frontpage No Comments

By DONALD DeMARCO

We are twofold creatures, both spiritual and corporeal. We are, according to a medieval maxim, Homo duplex. This duality, however, puts us at odds with ourselves. St. Paul’s phrase, “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matt. 26:41), has universal implications. Unity, harmony, and peace are not characteristic of human beings in general. Man is often the principal architect of his own his own dilemma.
The tension between spirit and flesh creates a personal problem that has been a great source of interest for philosophers, theologians, psychiatrists, and writers throughout the centuries.
This tension, however, also has political implications. We are linked to this world, yet there is something in our nature that aspires to something beyond the merely terrestrial. For this reason, every civilization has granted a place for religion of one kind or another. William James, in his classical study, The Varieties of Religious Experience, comes to the conclusion that all religions have two basic characteristics. The first is an “uneasiness,” the sense that there is “something wrong with us as we naturally stand.” The second is in the form of a solution, namely that “we are saved from the wrongness by making proper connection with higher powers.”
The universal religious impulse has a solid basis in human anthropology. Nonetheless, the political solution propounded by the likes of Hobbes, Machiavelli, Rousseau, Marx, Comte, and many others, is to stifle the religious impulse and turn man into a functionary for the state.
Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, George Orwell’s 1984, and Fritz Lang’s motion picture Metropolis all present horrifying images of soulless man who belongs exclusively to the state.
Our own increasingly secular society is trying very hard to absorb religious man into the world. Catholics tend to resist this absorption. The kind of Catholic that secularists prefer is one who is a caricature of what a member of the Roman Catholic Church is supposed to be.
A case in point occurred recently in Canada when the pro-abortion New Democratic Party denounced the Harper government’s appointment of an active pro-life Catholic as Canada’s new ambassador to the Holy See.
On Friday, August 1, 2014, the Conservative government announced top-ranking Knight of Columbus, Dennis Savoie, as envoy to the Vatican. New Democratic Party foreign affairs critic, Paul Dewar, denounced the appointment, calling it “outrageous,” citing a speech back in 2009 in which Savoie compared abortion to the terrorist attack on 9/11.
In that keynote speech at a Knights of Columbus “culture of life” dinner in Quebec, Savoie compared the roughly 3,000 deaths from the 2001 terrorist attack on New York’s World Trade Centers to the roughly 3,000 daily deaths of preborn children by abortion. “Why were we so stunned and bewildered,” he said, “by the 3,000 deaths on 9/11 when we’re so silent about the 3,000-plus deaths that occur each day in North America from abortion?”
According to Dewar, by making such a comparison, Savoie is imposing his personal opinions and making inappropriate comparisons. Dewar objects to Harper’s appointment because Savoie is not a caricature of a Catholic. Thus, Dewar’s hopes are dashed that the new appointment will not convert the Vatican to the views of secular Canada.
On the other hand, Jonathon Van Maren of the Canadian Center for Bioethical Reform stated that “children being torn from their mother’s wombs in the most grotesque fashion across North America day in, day out, is very comparable to a ‘terror attack’” (LifeSiteNews, August 6, 2014).
It is interesting to note that around the same time that the prime minister was announcing his new ambassador to the Vatican, Dr. Ben Carson, a neurosurgeon and the author of six best-selling books, said that people criticize some ancient civilizations for practicing human sacrifice, but when it comes to abortion in the United States, “aren’t we actually guilty of the same thing?” The former director of Pediatric Neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions made his remarks on the Focus Today television show (online), hosted by Perry Atkinson. “The good thing,” Dr. Carson went on to say, “is the American populace is moving closer and closer to understanding that abortion is murder. Every year we’re getting better on that regard.”
The world of God and the world of man continue to collide, just as the spirit and the flesh are at war within the person. God will ultimately prevail. In the meantime, the call is out for Catholics to be true Catholics and to accept unfair criticism with patience, courage, and grace.

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(Donald DeMarco is a senior fellow of Human Life International. He is professor emeritus at St. Jerome’s University in Waterloo, Ontario, and an adjunct professor at Holy Apostles College and Seminary in Cromwell, Conn., and a regular columnist for St. Austin Review. Some of his recent writings may be found at Human Life International’s Truth & Charity Forum.)

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