Friday, January 8, 2010

The Devil is in the Details

The Courage of Our Convictions

Maybe you remember some of those old bank heist flicks.  The ones I am thinking of are the ones where the bad guys are cracking the safe, using a stethoscope to hear the tumblers fall on a combination lock.  From time to time, I sometimes hear those tumblers fall into place during the night, not literally, but figuratively, and last night was one of those nights.

The blessing to me of blogging this past year has been not what I have written, but what I have read, and the people I have met, and above all the lessons I have learned.  I have met and encountered people who have the Courage of their Convictions.  I confess that I have also observed people who wouldn't know a conviction if they tripped over it, and for whom stop signs are options.  But, to those who have the Courage of their Convictions, I salute you.

One person I met this past year was Stephen Boissoin.  He was really the first in this experience to show me about Courage of Convictions.  Stephen stood up for what he believed, and what he knew from his own personal experiences, when he wrote a letter to the Red Deer Advocate now almost 8 years ago.  He was focused on an issue that as a youth pastor was seriously affecting the youth he ministered to.  He had the Courage to call it out, and then for most of these past 8 years to stand by what he said, through Alberta HRC investigations, then Kangaroo Court, and finally in appeal at the Alberta Court of Queens Bench.

Now, I never understood "The devil is in the details" before, but this situation of Stephen's helped me get some focus on it.  Readers of this blog know that I wrote more about his situation, probably than anyone else in the blogosphere did last year.  I talked and met with him, and worked through things we disagreed on, and I prayed with him as well.  I am not an expert on Stephen or his situation, but I worked my way through a lot of details trying my best to discern the truth.

But, the devil is in the details means that skipping the details either because they are inconvenient to your own cause, or because you are too lazy to work the details, lets the devil twist in your head those details you did pick up on.  So, in this case, Darren Lund, Lori Andreachuck, then of the Alberta HRC, and others picked and chose among the mine field of the details, only those that supported their purposes, and made assumptions and wild claims to further their support of what they perceived the truth to be.  The details contain the truth, but only if you seek it. So, God too is in the details, to those who seek the truth.

Stephen never wavered from his original statement, and his stated purpose, but the devil used the laziness of others who did not seek the truth in the details, to make this into a monumental case.  Stephen was bloodied but not bowed by the experience, and his faith strengthened.  He never doubted that God was in control and that all would be well in the end.

I have also been touched by Barbara Farlow, the mother of Annie.  Barbara and her husband have been seeking the truth about how their daughter lived 89 days, after what appears a miraculous healing of the effects of fetal anomalies that are almost always fatal, and almost suddenly was dead.  This is a perfect example of the devil being in the details, as the Farlows seek the truth, but are prevented by red tape, and some malice from getting to the details of Annie's death.   But, they are dogged in their determination, and will continue that search until they can do no more.  They have COURAGE, and abundant faith, and I intend to write about their situation this year, as I discern the truth in communication with them.

But, there is one other person, that I think displays the Courage of His Convictions as much as these others, and a submission to the truth that is slightly different.  Father Michael Prieur, professor of moral theology and other things at St. Peter's Seminary in London, Ontario and ethicist for St. Joseph's Hospital there, has for all the years of his priesthood, including 41 of them at the Seminary, been a seeker of the Truth.  He knows that the devil is in the details, and so each and every day, in his work, he seeks out more of the truth, in more of the details.  He knows the process of discernment of God's will and practices it every day.

He supported the Winnipeg Statement in 1968, when the Bishops of Canada presented a Canadian view of Humane Vitae for the faithful, which by the way few read or understood in its time, but which over the last several years has gotten plenty of negative attention.  Why did he support that statement?  His reasons are simple.  First, he is in submission to his own Bishop, and for him as an ethicist for the diocese, his submission is of great importance to him.  Second, the Bishops had submitted that statement to Rome for review, and Rome accepted it as written.  He sleeps the sleep of angels, because he knows that he has done his best.

He also has been criticised for guidelines that St. Joseph's Hospital has for dealing with situations of lethal fetal anomalies, of which he has been a party.  It could be humorous, if it is was not sad, to see bloggers taking off on Father Prieur about those guidelines, because once again the devil is in the details.  Those who have criticised Father Prieur for the guidelines have taken one or two actual facts, some dubious assumed facts, and tried to make whole cloth out of rags.  The guidelines (remember GUIDE LINES), which are modeled after guide lines in other jurisdictions, that have been approved in Rome, are materially as they have been for many years, are not the result of one man sitting alone in a dark room, and saying: "Eureka, I have found it!"  Father Prieur is part of a team of caring professionals, who have tried to provide guidance to the faithful in particularly difficult times for them.  The guide lines have always had the approval of his bishop, and for his part Father traveled the world meeting with other ethicists, to discern and then provide his input on thorny issues.  Because he knows that the devil is in the details, he has made ferreting out the details his life's work.

To those who would criticize Stephen Boissoin, or Father Prieur, and to those who would try to prevent the Farlow's from finding out the truth of their daughter's death, I say The Devil is in the Details, but for those who have the Courage of their Convictions, the truth is there to be found, because God too is in the details.

To those who criticize Stephen or Father Prieur, I also remind you of the words of that famous fictitious philosopher of the cinema, Pollyanna: "If you look for the good in people you will surely find it."  To that I add, "woe to you if you fail to look for and to find Christ in your brothers and sisters."

To those who try to hide the truth from the Farlows, their God is bigger than your god, and the truth will come out eventually.

These folks and some others I failed to mention have helped me to build the Courage of My Own Convictions this past year, and I am grateful to them for teaching me these lessons.

May God, in his tender love and mercy continue the good work that He has begun in each one of you as long as you may live.


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