"The only good thing that we owe to Plato and Aristotle is that they brought forward many arguments which we can use against the heretics. Yet they and other philosophers are now in hell." Girolamo Savonarola, Italian Dominican friar (1452 - 1498)
When Reform Party MP Rob Ringma suggested that business owners should be allowed to demand that gays and ethnics move to the back of the store, if it meant that they could lose business otherwise; Canadians were appalled.
When at about the same time, Reform MP Dave Chatters suggested that schools should be allowed to fire gay teachers, there was more public outcry. But when Reform MP Art Hangar planned a trip to Singapore to investigate 'caning' as a form of youth punishment, enough was enough.
One of the few moderates in the party, Jan Brown, publicly spoke out against the rampant racism of the 'God squad' and the fact that Preston Manning refused to put an end to it.
What was telling was that when Ringma attended the next caucus meeting, he repeated his comment and received a standing ovation, and while Manning was under pressure to temporarily suspend him, he also suspended Brown. Instead, she quit. (1)
For the 1997 election a young man was plucked from the Fraser Institute to run under the Reform Party banner for her seat in Calgary Southeast. This would be the beginning of the political career of Jason Kenney.
Kenney had already earned a reputation as a defender of ancient religious tradition, and the Edmonton Journal suggested that Kenney had "finally found his pulpit" (2), and the Alberta Report would later refer to him as the "new Savonarola." (3)
Jason Kenney and the Incarnation of Girolamo Savonarola
"It would be good for religion if many books that seem useful were destroyed. When there were not so many books and not so many arguments and disputes, religion grew more quickly than it has since." Girolama Savonarola
Comparing Jason Kenney to Savonarola was an astute observation. The fifteenth century friar was a fierce defender of ancient tradition, and staunchly opposed relativism, much like Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI), who influenced the teaching at St. Ignatius in San Fransicso when Jason Kenney was a student.
Savonarola was known for his book burning, destruction of what he considered immoral art, and hostility to the Renaissance. Hostility to change. He would later be executed, but even today has many followers, who would prefer that religious teaching would stick to a perceived "truth" and not be open to interpretation or debate. The infallibility of the Bible.
This was the climate at St. Ignatius in San Francisco when Jason Kenney was studying "humanities". In fact the school was started in protest to the Second Vatican Council, which was an attempt to modernize the church's teachings, to adapt to a changing world.
When the new president, Rev. Stephen Privett, took over the Jesuit-run school in 2001, he dismissed the two directors of the institute, and began to clean up some of the radical teachings, that were creating so much controversy.
It was also referred to as a "cult". They were militantly anti-abortion and anti-homosexuality. In fact according to the Western Catholic Reporter, Jason Kenney, "... as a university student leader made headlines in California trying to ban abortion groups from the university and fighting against gay rights in San Francisco." (5)
"Since its founding 25 years ago, the institute has functioned as an enclave of strict orthodoxy at the relatively liberal university [of San Francisco] ... Privett accused Fessio and other institute lobbyists of "McCarthyite" tactics." (4)
It was probably because of incidents like this that the University of San Francisco began looking at the teachings of the separate St. Ignatius, operating on their campus. Hence the arrival of Privett. But the orthodox Catholic students, were not going down without a fight:
However Privett said he "... checked with his Jesuit superiors and found no indications that Rome has intervened in the bitter theological dispute" and Fessio was exiled by the church.(6)
Conservative Catholics upset over a bitter shake-up at the University of San Francisco say they may soon have the pope on their side. The Rev. Joseph Fessio, founder of the conservative St. Ignatius Institute, said he has met in Rome with Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the Vatican's chief guardian of orthodoxy, and his concerns have been passed on to Pope John Paul II.
"The Holy Father is aware of what has happened and is watching closely," Fessio said. (4)
To go to such lengths, Rome and the Jesuit hierarchy must have discovered disturbing evidence. But it does give us some insight in Kenney's narrow minded thinking. It may have been an indoctrination, because he is not a man who challenges himself, and allows no challenges to his thinking.
St. Ignatius during his time not only fought new ideas, but fought the clergy who promoted new ideas. When Kenney went against Pope Paul's denouncing of the Iraq War, he said that:
Jason Kenney's Catholic beliefs even trump the Pope. Religious arrogance at it's most profound. One might argue that he was challenging religious doctrine, but he was clearly on the wrong side of the debate.
"... the determination of whether a particular war is just lies exclusively with the responsible public authority, not priests or bishops. In this case "the responsible public authority would be President Bush and me ..."
"So I take issue with those bishops who made what sounded like magisterial pronouncements about the legitimacy of that conflict," Kenney said in response to a question. "They did not have the authority to make such a declaration. They can offer an opinion which I would take very seriously but ultimately I am called upon by the Church itself as a responsible public authority to make a credential decision." (5)
1. Hard Right Turn: The New Face of Neo-Conservatism in Canada, Brooke Jeffrey, Harper-Collins, 1999, ISBN: 0-00 255762-2
2. Jason Kenney Has Found His Pulpit, By Lawrence Martin, Edmonton Journal, March 11, 1999
3. Requiem for a Lightweight: Stockwell Day and Image Politics, By Trevor Harrison, Black Rose Books, 2002, ISBN: 1-55164-206-9, Pg. 47
4. Pope's Help Sought in Theology Clash at USF: School protests over orthodox institute, By Don Lattin, Elizabeth Fernandez, Chronicle Staff Writers, March 28, 2001
5. Promote human dignity - Kenney: Politician says faith and politics do mix, By Ramon Gonzalezwcr, Wetern Catholic Reporter, June 3, 2003
6. Fessio Exiled: Jesuits Shun Invitation to Support New College, By Christopher Zehnder, San Francisco Faith, May 2002