Ian Hunter

Ian Hunter

Ian Hunter is Professor Emeritus in the Faculty of Law at Western University in London, Ont.

Ninety-five years old, in failing health, evangelist Billy Graham has summoned his energies to write what will almost surely be his last book: The Reason for My Hope. As I read it, I was struck by the extent to which Graham’s prose carries out the “new evangelism” to which Pope Benedict XVI insistently called the Catholic Church.

Cradle Catholics sometimes miss the wonder of the universality of their Church: universality in two senses — the “here comes everybody” that overpowers the new convert, and the geographic universality of the Church being everywhere in the world so no one is ever without a home.

Just about my least favourite question (unfortunately, often posed these days) is: “What do you think of the new Pope?”

In his Songs of Innocence William Blake wrote: “The strongest poison ever known / Comes from Caesar’s laurel crown.”

One of the capital sins recognized in the medieval Church was acedie (or accidie, the older spelling) which the Catechism misleadingly equates with sloth. Actually, acedie is worse than sloth. The Oxford dictionary defines sloth as “laziness or indolence” but defines acedie as “spiritual torpor” or “black despair.”

One of the capital sins recognized in the medieval Church was acedie (or accidie, the older spelling) which the Catechism misleadingly equates with sloth. Actually, acedie is worse than sloth. The Oxford dictionary defines sloth as “laziness or indolence” but defines acedie as “spiritual torpor” or “black despair.”

Firing Line, the PBS public affairs program hosted by the late William F. Buckley, Jr., not only won an Emmy Award (in 1969) but set a broadcasting record as the longest-running television show: 1,504 episodes over 33 years. The last Firing Line was in 1999.

Wonderful, wonderful news! John Paul II, the globe-trotting Polish pope who led the Church for 27 years will be canonized by Pope Francis, probably before the end of the year. So, too, will Pope John XXIII, best remembered for calling the Second Vatican Council. But it is John Paul “The Great” who is my subject.

In his first letter to Christian converts living at Corinth, St. Paul told them that death was “the last enemy” but, take heart, a defeated enemy. For two millennia the Church has proclaimed and pondered this message — but what does it mean? What happens to us after death?

The Catholic Church teaches that the selection by cardinals of a new pope is guided by the Holy Spirit. Despite this teaching, many pundits (including some Catholics who should know better) prepared lists of favourites, debated frontrunners, discussed the pros and cons of each and sometimes even proposed odds.

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