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THE WITCH HUNT AGAINST BRETT KAVANAUGH

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A couple of weeks ago, the Democratic Senator from California, Diane Feinstein, brought the public’s attention a letter accusing Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of attempted rape. According to the letter, an intoxicated Kavanaugh, then a seventeen-year-old high school student in Maryland, had pinned a fifteen-year-old girl – later identified as Christine Blasey Ford – down on a bed at a party, groped her, and attempted to remove her clothing. Kavanaugh covered her mouth to prevent her from screaming. The encounter ended when another man, Mike Judge, jumped on them. Ford claims to have been in fear for her life.

Both Brett Kavanaugh and Mike Judge have strongly denied the allegations that have been made against them. Kavanaugh indicated his willingness to testify in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee and stated that:

“This is a completely false allegation. I have never done anything like what the accuser describes – to her or to anyone. Because this never happened, I had no idea who was making this accusation until she identified herself yesterday. I am willing to talk to the Senate Judiciary Committee in any way the Committee deems appropriate to refute this false allegation, from thirty-six-years-ago, and defend my integrity.”

In addition, the Senate Judiciary Council also received a letter, signed by sixty-five women, attesting to Kavanaugh’s sterling character.

Similarly, Mike Judge also released a statement saying:

“I did not ask to be involved in this matter nor did anyone ask me to be involved. The only reason I’m involved is because Dr. Christine Blasey Ford remembers me as the other person in the room during the alleged assault”

Judge continued:

“I have no memory of the alleged incident. Brett Kavanaugh and I were friends in high school but I do not recall the party described in Ford’s letter. More to the point, I never saw Brett act in the manner Dr. Ford describes.”

Regardless of the outcome of any vote, it is clear that the accusations made against Brett Kavanaugh will have long-ranging political consequence. If Kavanaugh is not appointed, the Republicans may very well lose their opportunity to appoint an originalist to the Supreme Court. It is unlikely that the Senate would be able to vet and confirm any nominee for the Supreme Court in the six weeks leading up to the election. And it is very possible that that election could culminate in a Democrat-controlled Congress. On the other hand, if Kavanaugh is confirmed the Democrats will certainly use the accusations as a political weapon to be wielded against Republicans.

Political consequences notwithstanding, the accusations made against Brett Kavanaugh are, in and of themselves, deeply suspicious. Christine Blasey Ford has failed to provide any evidence or corroborating details which could help prove the validity of her story. The alleged incident occurred almost forty years ago, bears no witnesses aside from the two men accused, and has no physical evidence.

What is truly amazing is that anyone is willing to believe Ford’s accusations in the first place. Ford, a registered Democrat who has financially supported numerous left-wing causes, waited until the man she was accusing was about to become a Supreme Court Justice, has changed her story numerous times, and is unable to remember the time or the location the alleged incident took place.

And any attempt to compel Ford to provide further information have been met with stonewalling and accusations of victim blaming by her supports. When her lawyer, Debra Katz was asked by CNN’s Alisyn Camerota whether Ford should ask other girls at the party to come forward as witnesses, Katz snapped: “that’s not her job to do that. If this is going to be investigated, it should be done by investigators.” It is hard to believe that any just society would condemn a man on such a preposterous lack of evidence.

At some point, society is going to need to have a discussion about what credible accusations of sexual assault look like. One would be hard pressed to argue that an accusation that bears no witnesses, no evidence, and no corroborating details should be powerful enough to destroy a man’s life or career. It is not acceptable that accusations which can be neither proven nor disproven should be used to take someone’s liberties from them.

PRIESTS SHOULDN’T BE FORCED TO VIOLATE THE SEAL OF THE CONFESSIONAL

Pope Francis hears confession during penitential liturgy in St. Peter's Basilica at Vatican

Priests and Ministers of Religion in South Australia will be required to report child abuse confessed to them under new laws that come into effect in October.

The Children and Young People (Safety) Act 2017 has replaced the Children’s Protection Act 1993. The Attorney General’s Department has claimed that these changes will “better protect children from potential harm, and align with the recommendations of the recent Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sex Abuse.”

These new laws represent a disturbing phenomenon. Namely, the use of a highly emotive issue as a means for undermining the rights and freedoms of others. This law, and others around Australia (the ACT Parliament has passed similar laws with almost universal support), blatantly violates both religious liberty and the right to privacy.

Confession is one of the most important aspects of the Catholic Faith. Comprising one of the seven sacraments (the others being Baptism, Eucharist, Confirmation, the anointing of the sick, and Holy Orders), Catholics believe that an individual who confesses his sins is speaking directly with God. Whatever is confessed remains between that individual and God.

The privacy of the Confessional is known as “the Seal.” The Vatican has had strict rules on the privacy of the confessional since 1215 and Priests are bound by a sacred vow not to break the seal. A Priest who breaks the seal, even after the penitent has died, faces excommunication.

Some critics have accused the supporters of these new laws of undermining religious liberty and of targeting the Catholic Church. The Archbishop of Canberra and Goulburn, Christopher Prowse, criticised the law, say: “The Government threatens religion freedom by appointing itself an expert on religious practices and by attempting to change the sacrament of confession while delivering no improvement on the safety of children.”

Some priests have even claimed that they would rather go to prison than break the seal of the confessional.

At some point, people are going to have to realise that children are not the centre of the universe. They are going to have realise that their safety is not so important that it trumps the rights and freedoms of everybody else. The laws passed by the Parliament of South Australia are an absolute violation of religious liberty and the separation of church and state.

Countries like Australia have had a great tradition of separating politics from religion. Now it seems that this distinction only goes one way. It is seen as totally unacceptable for the Church to use its power and influence to affect politics, but for some reason it is seen as perfectly acceptable for the state to interfere in religion.

One cannot help but cynically suspect that politicians in South Australia are using children as a backdoor method for allowing the all-seeing eye of the state into relationships that were once deemed absolutely private. That which is confessed to a Priest ought to remain absolutely private. The contents of my conscience (or anyone else’s, for that matter) are none of the state’s business.

Those who support this blatant attack on the rights and liberties of others should ask themselves what their opinion would be if the law violated their private relationship with their doctor, lawyer, or psychiatrist.

THE LADY VANISHES

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This week for our cultural article, we will be examining Alfred Hitchcock’s (1899 – 1980) 1938 film, The Lady Vanishes.  Set primarily on a train bound for England from Central Europe, Hitchcock’s film weaves an intriguing and intense narrative around characters united and divided by their snobbery, self-centredness, complacency, and nationalism.

The Lady Vanishes is one-part comedy, one-part murder mystery, and one-part thriller. The film’s first act is rather comedic in nature. A recent avalanche has blocked the train lines, forcing most of the residents to remain at the hotel overnight. The hotel in question becomes so overbooked and so strained in its resources, that two of its guests are forced to sleep in the maid’s quarters. This first act draws the audience in with its lighthearted attitude and its mixture of verbal and physical humour. Not even the murder of a folk singer outside the hotel is enough to distract us from the revelry.

The first act ends with the disappearance of the film’s titular character, Miss Froy (May Whitty, 1865 – 1948). From this point, the film becomes a murder mystery with Iris Henderson (Margaret Lockwood, 1916 – 1990), a wealthy socialite, and her helper, the musicologist Gilbert Redman (Michael Redgrave, 1908 – 1985), searching for her. Here Hitcock begins to play subtle tricks on our minds. We, like Iris Henderson, know Miss Froy exists, but the other characters deny ever having seen her. Simultaneously, Hitchcock plays with our curiosity and our frustration. Eventually, Miss Froy is found and the film then climaxes with a thrilling and action-packed third-act.

Eventually, Miss Froy is found and the film then climaxes with a thrilling and action-packed third-act. This act becomes a fight for survival as the film’s British characters are forced to fight against unnamed foreign forced outside.

Throughout the Lady Vanishes, themes of nationalism and class-snobbery pop-up.  The film’s British characters and arrogant and insular in their attitudes. When it appears that they are about to be killed by foreign police officers, one Brit rather proudly exclaims: “They can’t do anything to us. We’re British subjects.” This is juxtaposed by the subtle undercurrent of politics, exemplified by the film’s antagonists, who may or may not be in league with Fascist Italy.

Then there’s the notion of social class and the snobbery and divisiveness that goes with it. (A reality Hitchcock, as the son of a trader, was quite familiar with). Hitchcock cynically links money and title together by having Iris return to England to marry Lord Charles Forthingale for no other reason than to appease her father, who is reportedly “aching to have a coat of arms on the jam label.” Then there’s the cricket-obsessed Charters (Naunton Wayne, 1901 – 1970) and Caldicott (Basil Radford, 1897 – 1952) representing the idle upper-class. (These two would become popular stock characters in numerous films, radio plays, and television shows).  And then there’s the travelling lawyer (Cecil Parker, 1897 – 1971) and his mistress (Linden Travers, 1913 – 2001) who avoid contact with those they deem beneath them, and who are perfectly prepared to lie to protect their precious social status.

The Lady Vanishes has frequently been credited as Hitchcock’s last great British film.  Hitchcock masterfully weaves elements of mystery, suspense, humour, international politics, class-snobbery, and nationalism together to form an intriguing story. The Lady Vanishes is still as intriguing today as it was nearly eighty years ago.