Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Mixed Blessings

The first thing I want to say about syndicated columnist Gwynne Dyer is that he is the one journalist I consistently read more or less to the bottom of the page. He appears regularly in the Daily News and is a trusted source on world politics. The other sources are the rest of the household via radio news, especially the international feeds my wife listens to in the middle of the night when she is not sleeping. I first heard of Gwynne some years ago, when he brought out a documentary on the CBC about military weaponry. I was long ago trained on army stuff, both small and large, and I occasionally like to let my thoughts drift back to those times, with a view to looking at the changes since.
The next encounter with Mr. Dyer's intelligence, basically a formidable one, was during the first Gulf War, when he struck me as one of the few observers who seemed consistently to know what he was talking about. He was instance, much in contrast to a tall, handsome, self-assured Fisk correspondent busy telling us at one point how the Americans didn't stand a chance. I won't go into his list of reasons, but I will mention that his spirit was interesting, similar to, at one point, that of Saddam Hussein and his cabinet, and at another point to that of some nonsense coming off the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, albeit on a subject in no way connected with the Gulf War. The Father of Lies really does get around.
The next  time Gwynne was of interest was when he phoned my wife, in her capacity as director of the Nelson Museum, to ask about venues for speaking in our area. She took the chance to pass on the family compliments about his accuracy on the Iraq situation.
And then some months ago, possibly as long as two years or so, he began mounting the strangest attacks on religion. The first was on its relative uselessness, especially in Great Britain. He was raised in Newfoundland,  but now resides in London. This puzzling outburst emerged just around the same time as I had been reading, in L'Osservatore Romano, of how many areas of Africa were in such turmoil that only the churches had both the organization and integrity to be useful to the suffering public. How was it that a man ordinarily so well researched on the military and political situation in any part of the globe he chose to analyze, could be so stupid or perverse about the obvious? I thought of writing him, I thought of a letter to our own daily, but decided to let it be, as John Lennon said. Every dog gets his first bite free.
The second time was even stranger. He told us that Jesus was illiterate.
 I have no idea how he came to this conclusion. Certainly not from reading the Bible or paying attention when he was a lad in catechism class in Saint John. Early in his public career, the words plainly say that Christ read the lesson in his own home town synagogue, and later, we are told that he knelt and began writing the personal sins of the Pharisees accusing the woman of adultery. Then, for an educated man at least, there are the simple principles of metaphysics, or natural theology. It is impossible for the Creator to lack any ability, simply because he is the author of all abilities. But the modern universities will insist on granting degrees to people who refuse to study philosophy in organized and humble fashion, and Gwynne must have been one of these.
I think I have read that some Moslems believe that Mohammed was illiterate, but Mohammed never claimed to be Allah. Possibly Gwynne got the two founders confused.
This time I wrote. There was no reply, no journalistic curiosity, and that's a shame, because had we got into a dialogue about the real history of abusive clergy, including possible Vatican negligence, he might have got himself a real story  instead of that  masterpiece of error he concocted last week about the current Pope. Dyer will have to apologize somewhere down the road, because the truth of Benedict is that it is precisely he that has made the modern Church accountable, if only because the information he's been fed from this part of the world since 1983 has rendered such accountability the only option.
I'm back to teaching school. Even being the principle again. As the final term of the year kicks off, little Joe Ratzinger gets the gold star for attentiveness; little Gwynnie Dyer sits in the corner wearing the dunce cap.

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