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The Catholic Register offers its readers dependable information and opinion as a joyful servant of God's pilgrim church.

The past eight years gave proof that the College of Cardinals got it right in 2005 when they shrugged at Joseph Ratzinger’s birth certificate and made him Pope.

Non-European pope not beyond realm of possibility

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Cardinal Collins notes decision will be made for the good of the Church

Register for digital age

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The Catholic Register turns 120 this year. For 12 decades it has been a national Catholic voice delivered weekly to the homes and churches of Canada.

The gold standard

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Pope Benedict XVI barely had time to catch his breath after announcing his resignation before speculation began about his successor.

An admirable man

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Losing a pope to retirement is unprecedented in modern times. So the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI came like a thunderbolt on a sunny day. No one seemed to expect it, but maybe we should have.

Faith and charity

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Charity can exist without faith but faith without charity is illusory. That fundamental truth was underlined by Pope Benedict XVI in his message for Lent in which he said faith and charity are coupled and inseparable.

Killing is not care

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The Criminal Code, Parliament and the Supreme Court have been consistent and clear on the matter of euthanasia and assisted suicide. Both offences are serious crimes as prescribed in law and as upheld in various votes by the nation’s top legislative and judicial bodies. Yet the Province of Quebec is bulling ahead with a chilling attempt to circumvent the law by decriminalizing euthanasia through a legislative sleight-of-hand.

In mid-January, the PQ government of Pauline Marois trumpeted a report suggesting doctors should sometimes be allowed to kill patients. Naturally, that is not how the report is worded. It speaks of “medically aided death” and suggests that euthanasia is just another “part of the continuum of care” provided by doctors. So on some days doctors will deliver a baby, or remove tonsils, or treat cancer, and on other days they will deliver care by killing the patient.

This is an offensive notion, of course, and it must be opposed forcefully by society in general and by the federal government in particular.

By June, Quebec is expected to propose legislation to declare euthanasia is a medical procedure and therefore strictly a provincial matter beyond the reach of the Criminal Code or Parliament interference. Assumedly, the Quebec government has lawyers who feel confident in making that argument even though it strikes most reasonable people as far-fetched to claim killing someone can be equated with providing them with medical care.

This legislative end-around follows a resounding rejection two years ago of a private member’s euthanasia bill introduced by Bloc Quebecois MP Francine Lalonde. She lost that vote 250-57. The Supreme Court had rejected euthanasia in a 1993 decision. Two years after that, a senate committee concluded euthanasia should remain a criminal offence. Although euthanasia is legal in some countries, Canada, to its credit, has consistently rejected it.

Even Quebecers are unconvinced. The “Dying With Dignity” committee crossed the province for two years hearing submissions. Sixty per cent of people or groups opposed euthanasia. Many doctors are appalled that their oath to “do no harm” could be perverted to countenance killing.

“This act is abhorrent to us as doctors and should appall Quebecers who care about social justice and building communities that care about the most vulnerable,” said Dr. Catherine Ferrier, spokesperson for a group called The Physicians’ Alliance for Total Refusal of Euthanasia.

Instead of writing laws to kill sick and suffering people, politicians in Quebec and across Canada should be increasing the number and improving the quality of palliative care centres. Euthanasia is a deplorable solution for old age, illness and infirmity. The focus should be on providing comfort and care, and building a society that treats all life with dignity and respect.

 

It’s a start

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Sculpting a legacy is a central subplot in the second term of any American president. To that end, Barack Obama has started writing a key chapter to his story by squaring himself as the president who stood up to America’s powerful gun lobby.

A jewel turns 75

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“Great music,” Pope Benedict once said, “awakens profound sentiments and almost naturally invites us to lift up our mind and heart to God in every situation of human existence. Music can become prayer.”

St. Michael’s Choir School in the heart of downtown Toronto has been making great music and prayer for 75 years. It is celebrating its diamond jubilee this year much as you’d expect — by singing at several special events, topped by a spring tour to Italy which includes a performance at St. Peter’s Basilica.

The choir school is truly a jewel in the crown of the Canadian Church and richly deserves gratitude and congratulations from the hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of people whose Sunday Mass experience over the decades has been enriched by St. Mike’s melodious graduates.

In addition to singing at St. Michael’s Cathedral, the school has moulded generations of cantors and organists who have taken the gift of music to countless parishes. Along with others, these St. Mike’s grads bring liturgical harmony not only to parishes in the Toronto and area, but their voices brighten pews across Canada and, in some cases, internationally. Many have become teachers themselves and share their passion with new generations of church musicians.

Enriching parish musical life was always the main objective of the school’s founder, Msgr. John Edward Ronan. He opened St. Mike’s with 18 boys. A talented musician and prolific composer himself, Ronan’s students learned musical theory, classical piano as well as singing. They came to him with raw singing ability and graduated ready to serve the Church as well-rounded musicians.

Success was almost instant. By the 1940s, the choir had recorded the first of nine albums. In 1955 it was welcomed as an affiliate of the Vatican’s Pontifical Institute of Sacred Music, only the sixth choir school so honoured. The choir began touring in 1967 and, at dozens of concerts around the world, sang for prime ministers, popes and a queen. At every stop, the boys of St. Mike’s faithfully harmonized the borderless language of music with the universal message of the Church.

The school also shaped young talent that found success in non-liturgical musical genres. Two popular 1950s singing groups, the Crew Cuts and Four Lads, were alumni. Likewise for tenors Michael Burgess and John McDermott, jazz singer Matt Dusk, pianist Stewart Goodyear and opera stars Michael Schade and Robert Pomakov. But they are the school’s secondary stars.

In Colossians, St. Paul teaches: “With gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God.” The boys of St. Michael’s have been faithful to that teaching for 75 years. They have made joyful music and given proof to the Pope’s words that music can become prayer.

 

Wrong tactic

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Canada’s First Nations have legitimate grievances that warrant sympathy and government action, but hunger strikes are an unacceptable tactic to bring about change.

Christmas wishes

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The birthplace of Jesus will be quieter than usual this Christmas. Many Christians who had planned pilgrimages to Bethlehem cancelled their trips when war flared last month between Israel and Hamas. Bethlehem was spared the rockets, but many missiles were aimed at nearby Jerusalem and so, unlike a year ago when Bethlehem had 140,000 December pilgrims, the lineups will be shorter this week at the Church of the Nativity.