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

Our consumer society is afflicted by a “commercial contamination” that spikes in December. As Christmas approaches, we stay busy decorating, partying, drafting our wish list or buying and wrapping gifts for others.

In this mad rush we too often become guilty of neglecting the authentic peace, joy and spirit of Christmas. This is a season to celebrate Christ’s coming with prayer and reflection and also a time to look beyond our own family and friends to reach out in joy, charity and prayer to the forlorn and forgotten.

Show genuine care

By

Before Canada’s federal and First Nations leaders hold a summit in late January to address the shameful state of native reserves, they should read Megan Blair’s plea for help in this issue of The Register.

They should feel the pain, share the despair and experience the sorrow she witnesses daily. A registered nurse in Moose Factory, Ont., Blair’s patients include the sick and dying from Attawapiskat, the small northern village that is Canada’s new symbol of neglect for its First Nations peoples.

“The poverty is immense,” she writes. “But it is not just a poverty of material things. It is a poverty of spirit. There is so much hopelessness and suffering.”

Mind God’s gift

By Catholic Register Editorial

It was hardly news on Nov. 28 when federal Environment Minister Peter Kent dismissed the Kyoto protocol as a “big blunder.” Like the Liberals who signed the climate-change treaty in 1997, the Conservatives have made little effort to honour Canadian promises to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

But Canada is not alone. As 190 nations gathered in Durban for a climate conference, the spirit of Kyoto, if not the treaty itself, was vanishing faster than the icebergs it was supposed to save. Kyoto was doomed by the many countries that cynically signed on and then did nothing and by a handful of big countries, such as the United States and China, that snubbed the treaty all along and gave big polluters like Canada an excuse to renege.

Toss Section 13

By Catholic Register Editorial

Bills introduced from the backbenches of Parliament are typically cast adrift unless the government opts to throw them a life preserver. So we applaud Justice Minister Rob Nicholson for tossing a lifeline to a private member’s bill that seeks repeal of Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act.

Section 13 comprises the paragraphs of an otherwise worthwhile act that makes hate speech a punishable offence. Hateful language, however transmitted, is abhorrent and society has an obligation to combat it robustly. But Section 13, which evolved from legislation in the 1960s to silence racist telephone hotlines, is manifestly flawed and its repeal is long overdue.

Offering real hope

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The Vatican is accustomed to accounts of miraculous recovery. But it didn’t take a miracle for Sharon Porter to captivate a recent gathering of cardinals, scientists, theologians and philosophers. Her story is not miraculous, just remarkable.

Porter suffers from systemic scleroderma, a dreadful auto-immune disease that causes hardening of the skin and internal organs, mobility problems and severe pain. There is no cure. But three years ago Porter’s own adult stem cells were used to rebuild her immune system and today she is virtually symptom free.

Why this matters in the Vatican is that, through the Pontifical Council for Culture, it recently signed a five-year, $1-million initiative with NeoStem, Inc., an American specialist in stem-cell research. Like the Church, NeoStem believes it is immoral — and unnecessary — to obtain stem cells by destroying embryos. It has aligned with the Church to promote adult stem cell research that is effective and ethical.

Opening doors

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As anyone who has tried to sponsor a parent or grandparent into Canada can attest, our family reunification program is broken. So the immigration minister deserves credit for renovating it.

It’s unfortunate, however, that recent reforms announced by Immigration Minister Jason Kenney to reduce a backlog of reunifications could adversely affect other desperate immigrants and refugees. The reforms will make it easier for the parents and grandparents of new Canadians to come here, but asylum seekers, economic migrants and people seeking humanitarian exemptions into Canada will soon be competing for fewer spaces.

Celebrate life

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The birth of a baby should always be a celebration of God’s will being done. But much of the joy accompanying the arrival of tiny Danica May Camacho on Oct. 31 was offset by joyless fretting about the future of the planet.

Danica May, born in Manila, was one of several babies symbolically presented to the world on Halloween as the planet’s population reached seven billion, according to the United Nations Population Fund. She was the second child born to Catholic parents who subsist on the meagre salary of a Filipino bus driver. Naturally, they were delighted to welcome a new baby into their family.

Canada has a role

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The death of dictator Moammar Gadhafi has silenced the guns and heralded a homecoming for 600 Canadians who participated in NATO sorties over Libya. But Gadhafi’s brutal exit should not mark the end of Canadian engagement in the North Africa nation.

Like the days that followed the overthrow of repression in Iraq and Egypt, Libya is entering uncertain and potentially dangerous times, particularly for its religious minorities. In Iraq, Saddam Hussein’s removal sparked widespread persecution and a mass exodus of Christians. In Egypt, Hosni Mubarak’s overthrow has emboldened Muslim extremists to terrorize Coptic Christians.

Guard our freedoms

By

Jesus and His apostles and countless martyrs through the ages were executed for proclaiming their beliefs. Today, in many parts of the world, Christians are still killed for giving voice to religious conviction.

In 21st-century Canada, people of faith seldom face physical threats but, despite Charter guarantees of religious freedom, they risk being hauled in front of a human rights tribunal if a third party is offended by an expression of faith. In these quasi-courts, an accused person can be censured, fined, forced to apologize and ordered to pay their accuser’s legal fees.

Rally for life

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On Oct. 22 a group of hopeful young Christians is holding a rally for people of all ages that deserves widespread attention and support.

The youth wing of Campaign Life Coalition will gather at Queen’s Park in Toronto to urge the provincial government to stop funding abortions with taxpayer money. The target of their protest will be the Ontario government, but the message should resonate with provincial governments nationwide.

Stand up for modesty

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Even people who abhor the unrelenting sexualization of Western culture are generally reluctant to speak out on the topic. Who needs the attention? Who wants to be called a prude?

So there is a lesson for all in the simple protest of a Northern Ireland farmer who recently told pop superstar Rihanna to put on a shirt or get off of his land.

“I do not believe young ladies should have to take their clothes off to entertain,” he said. “I’m entitled to hold that opinion.”