Let They Who Are Without Sin...

Good luck to Cheri DiNovo today, the NDP candidate in the riding of Parkdale-High Park, which is having a by-election. I thought long and hard about writing this post, and I finally decided that I couldn’t stand idly by. Cheri DiNovo deserves to win the by-election in Parkdale-High Park because the Liberal campaign has highlighted that they aren’t worth the trust of the voters.

Before this week, I didn’t even know there was a by-election in Parkdale-High Park. I’d never heard of Cheri DiNovo, and I didn’t particularly care if the Liberals won or lost. By-elections are usually irrelevant. But then I ended up with a front row seat as the Liberal campaign against the NDP candidate slipped into gutter politics. It started innocently enough with questions on the Canadian Cerebus’ blog about six sentences made in one of Minister DiNovo’s sermons (discussed further here). It escalated with a whole series of posts by Jason Cherniak implying that DiNovo was advocating the ordination of pedophiles. And it is receiving considerable attention because Liberal blogger Warren Kinsella says the following on his blog:

September 11, 2006 - Homolka is a Christ-like “scapegoat”? Not quite.

DiNovo is indeed DiNutso, as Pierre Bourque observed.

September 12, 2006 — This irritates me, I must confess. Reporter Karen Howlett states in the Toronto edition of the Globe — you’ll have to look it up, the national newspaper elves place their stuff behind fifteen subscription walls, as if it were holy writ - that the NDP candidate in Parkdale-High Park, WHO STATED THAT KARLA HOMOLKA HAD BEEN “SCAPEGOATED” LIKE CHRIST, had been quoted “out of context.”

Just like that. No call to an expert, or some other half-hearted attempt at validation. Just Karen (and her editor, presumably) telling you, as a fact, that DiNutso had been “quoted out of context.” That’s the reality, as determined by the tall foreheads at the national newspaper, take it or leave it.

I’d normally point out, at this point, that folks like Karen routinely snort when a politician alleges that they’ve been quoted out of context. But it would be a waste of time.

Cherniak and I and others feel that DiNutso did, in fact, compare Homolka to Christ. Jason then posted the link to the relevant “sermon,” so that people can judge for themselves.

Karen doesn’t do that for her readers. She just tells them what reality is.

When it isn’t.

September 12, 2006 — The Star’s genial provincial columnist has emailed me, demanding to know whether I am involved in the Parkdale High Park Liberal campaign. I’m not, at all at all, but you can guess where THAT is going; next thing you know, they’ll be saying I attended top-secret Conservative strategy meetings at the Albany Club!. I’ll post the email exchange shortly.

In related news, Howlin — Howie Hampton alleges that his opponents, by correctly quoting his quixotic by-election candidate, are in the “gutter.” Says the guys whose party called the late, great Bob Hunter a pedophile to win another by-election. That was then, this is now, etc. What a turkey.

Leaving aside the Homolka-as-Christ-scapegoat analogy, how about this email, received from a regular reader:

Hi Warren,

There is another sermon that Cheri “DiNutso” DiNovo wrote right after Pope John Paul II passed away last year. The sermon also appeared as an article in NOW Magazine.

Remember this is what she wrote after Pope John Paul II died, within a week of his death. I guess she couldn’t find it in herself to give a grace period of reflection after his death and talk about the good things he accomplished before going into a tirade on him and the Roman Catholic Church (and the mainstream culture for ignoring women). Also, remember Parkdale-High Park has a large Polish population. Roncesvalles even has a Polish Festival every year.

Without further ado:


Some selective quotes:

  • “A block down the street from our church on Roncesvalles, a golden statue of John Paul II is covered in flowers and candles from folk, many of them Polish and other Eastern Europeans, for whom he was a powerful symbol in the resistance against totalitarianism.

    The churches were where people gathered — workers, intellectuals, students — to combat a repressive regime. Yet in Rwanda, where the repressive regime had a Roman Catholic face, the churches became killing grounds, and a faithful Roman Catholic Christian man, Roméo Dallaire, watched, unable to do anything but watch. No help came to him from any of the world’s great men.”

  • “John Paul II at a speech to the United Nations in 1994 condemned the use of birth control. An AIDS activist interviewed shortly thereafter said this would directly condemn hundreds of thousands to death, many of them women and children.”

There’s more in there too. Now, the Pope wasn’t perfect but I think she should at least have the decency to respect his passing before blaming him for the deaths in Africa from AIDS not to mention for blaming the Roman Catholic Church for Rwanda. I think she went too far with what she wrote.

I don’t know how much this matters or maybe I’m making a bigger deal of it than I should be but I’m not that religious of a person and I think what she said was wrong, so there will definitely be Eastern Europeans in the Parkdale-High Park riding that find this even more uncomfortable. I can’t get over that she wrote this right after his death.

She definitely is DiNutso.

September 13, 2006 (excerpt —jb) …Here’s what I would have told Urquhart, had he deigned to reply, or had he bothered to preoccupy himself with the real story. The real story is that the NDP candidate, based on her writings, has said some extraordinarily offensive, completely unacceptable things that voters are entitled to know about. Voters are entitled to know, for example, that she likened Homolka’s situation to that of Christ, or that she suggested that Pope John Paul was responsible for millions of AIDS deaths in Africa. Having been told about those things, voters can then decide whether they feel she deserves their vote. (And, by the way, had a Liberal candidate said anything even remotely similar to the offensive things she has said, it would be the subject of a Rob Benzie front-page indictment. Believe it.)

So, this is what DiNovo said that Kinsella found “extraordinarily offensive”:

Now I don’t know about you but I am absolutely appalled by what I see in our newspapers lately so I’m going to rant about it for a moment. Every day we are subject to what I consider a kind of sadistic pornography. Now I know it sells papers but every day we pick up the Star or the National Post or the Globe and we see the picture of Karla Homolka on the front cover. I can only imagine what this does to the families of the victims. I know what it does to me. Here’s what it does to me, trying to follow Christ. What it does is detract from the news on the 8th page in much smaller type and smaller headlines that says things like “800 People Have Died Since the Iraqi Elections”. It detracts from headlines on page six that talks about what’s happening in Cuba at the American detention camp in all of our names. It detracts from the news on the fourth page about the horrors of what we have done to our Islamic brothers and sisters. That’s what it does and it allows us to create a scapegoat, remember Jesus was a scapegoat, and just pour all our hatred and frustration on this one woman. How sick is that? What it prevents us from doing mostly is to look in the mirror at our own sinfulness/separateness from God and do something about that.

I did a wedding a couple of weeks back and one of the musicians sat down and told me that a sex offender had just been released from prison and was going to take up residence on her street and she was saying, “I’ve got a twelve year old daughter.” And I said to her, “You know that sex offender is probably the least likely person in all of Canada to do anything to your daughter.” Karla is the least likely person in all of the world right about now, to do anything to anyone. She going to be dogged by paparazzi everywhere she goes. She’s going to be hunted like a wounded animal. It’s going to be sick. She’s not going to be going anywhere and doin’ nothin’. Who is, meanwhile? The people most likely to abuse children are in the children — s own house, relatives, stepfathers, people they know. The second most likely people to abuse children or to hurt someone are people in positions of respect, that’s right, doctors, priests, ministers, lawyers, people that families turn to and trust. Isn’t it weird that we focus on this one woman’s image and we forget all about that?

What, pray tell, is offensive about that? It’s a bit rich that Kinsella criticizes Karen Howlett for deception since, when comparing Kinsella’s summaries on his blog to what DiNovo actually said, it is clear that she is being quoted out of context.

I encourage you all to go and read the full sermon, and not just the annotated highlights on Jason Cherniak’s blog, but it is worth noting that Cherniak misses the point. In his words:

After reading this passage, there is no doubt in my mind that Rev. DiNovo cares more about redeeming the pedophiles than she does about protecting the poor mother’s daughter from the sex offender who moved into the neighbourhood. I don’t know if she is naive or just foolish. All I know is that I hope to God she does not end up in the legislature. This woman is ten times worse than what we already have from the Ontario NDP. Stop the insanity!

Cherniak is making a faulty inference based on a false dichotomy — that you cannot forgive a sinner and at the same time protect children. DiNovo has not said anywhere that children do not need to be protected from sick individuals. What she has said is a chief tenet of Christian theology: that for as long as they live all sinners (and that means us) have a chance of being redeemed in the eyes of God. She is also saying that there is a fine line between justice and vengeance, and too often we prefer the latter to the former in dealing with our criminals.

I myself wish that Karla Homolka were still in prison. She isn’t, and this is largely the result of a botched investigation. But DiNovo is not saying that Homolka doesn’t deserve the sentence that was imposed on her by a court of law, nor the stronger sentence a court of law could have imposed if it had been in full possession of the facts.

Calling someone a scapegoat does not imply that they’re innocent. In fact, they make a better scapegoat if they’re not. There is no doubt in my mind that the media circus around Homolka these days is doing nobody any good. It is distracting us from the other serious issues that are out there. And we as a society seem inordinately fond of violence. It’s like an insatiable hunger, at times, that the media seems driven to try and fill.

Who among us can say that she’s wrong about this, really? And even if you disagree with her argument, what is it about her argument that disqualifies her from office?

Certainly, it is a grave and sick distortion to say that these words indicate that DiNovo supports pedophilia, as some bloggers have done.

As for her comments on Pope John Paul II, it has to be noted that she is not the only one to find the Papacy’s opposition to birth control to be a disastrous policy for Africa. Liberal supporters themselves have said as much during the man’s passing. Heck, even Catholic Liberal Party supporters have said as much.

I have little choice but to believe that Kinsella knows this, as does Cherniak. How else can one read these passages and cherry-pick only those comments that would attract controversy if taken out of context. Their twisting of DiNovo’s words suggests that they are either ignorant of the key tenant of Christian theology to love one’s enemies regardless and thus completely misunderstanding her point, or they are deliberately misconstruing her words for political reasons. And, to add insult to injury, Kinsella makes fun of her name. Either way, it’s low. The voters of Parkdale-High Park, if not the voters throughout Ontario, deserve better.

In responding to criticisms from many sources, across the political spectrum, about the dirty nature of the Liberal Party’s campaign in Parkdale-High Park, Mr. Kinsella doesn’t actually deny the complaints. Instead, he cites an earlier slight from his friend John Tory, made in 1993 in which he approved an ad mocking Jean Chretien’s facial paralysis. He points to former NDP MPP Marilyn Churley’s charge that Bob Hunter was a pedophile, based on a work of fiction Hunter wrote which featured teenage prostitutes in Thailand (which, sadly, do exist). In the Conservatives’ case, he can’t even make a direct link between his complaint, and the complainant (Conservative candidate David Hutcheon).

It’s worth noting that both of these attacks Kinsella cites as justification for the Liberal campaign’s low approach, turned the voters against the attackers; so if we hold Sylvia Watson to those standards, she deserves to lose votes. But that’s not the point. What really gets me angry is that the “Well, he did it first” justification is the classic response by a spoiled brat when called to the carpet by his parent or teacher. Turnabout is not fair play. And one does not need to be ideologically pure in order to criticize when somebody else is doing something wrong.

And if it helps, let me say that I belong to no political party. I have participated in no political campaigns. During elections, I have only ever worked as a poll clerk or a deputy returning officer for Elections Canada. I am just a voter.

And as a voter I am disgusted by the smears that have taken place here. Cheryl DiNovo has done nothing to merit these attacks, except expound on Christian forgiveness and raise the possibility that she might win in Parkdale-High Park. By twisting DiNovo’s words, the Liberals are doing nothing to highlight the reasons to vote for Sylvia Watson. They’re inadvertently highlighting the fact that they have nothing to offer the voters of Parkdale-High Park themselves, and implying that McGuinty’s record in this province is not worth championing.

It’s worth noting that DiNovo doesn’t appear to have stooped in the gutter herself, save to defend her own character. No, I haven’t heard her speak (and there’s still a day to be proven wrong), and I have heard that the all candidates’ debates were heated, but had DiNovo said something remotely along the lines of “my opponents are reptilian kitten eaters from another planet”, I’m sure that Kinsella and Cherniak would have pounced.

Kinsella says:

Pointing out a candidate’s offensive statements in an election isn’t “down and dirty.” In a democracy, it’s the job.

Well, speaking as a mere voter, I would say that making innocuous statements into offensive ones isn’t worthy of a democratic campaign. The actions here highlight the moral bankruptcy today that is the worst of Canadian politics in general, and the Liberal Party in particular. It highlights that there is no longer anything in Canadian politics for Canadians to aspire to. It frankly begs the question of why I bother to vote.

But if I were in Parkdale-High Park, I would vote for Cheryl DiNovo.

Further Reading

Update: A Ticket from the Grammar Police

I should note an e-mail sent to me by Janet of the fine blog, The Walrus Said:

I hate to be difficult, but “let they who are without sin” is grammatically incorrect. It’s supposed to be “them”. Them is the object of the verb let, who is the subject of the verb are.

I don’t normally do this to people, but seeing as you are a writer, I thought you’d want to know.

BTW, the original quote in the King James Version goes like this: “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.” John 8:7.

No problem. Mistake noted.

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