Canadians have entered another war. This time in Libya, along with a range of allies, led diplomatically by Europeans and Arabs, and militarily by the Americans.

The Holy Father was circumspect in his comments on March 20, saying that his heart was full of “trepidation” and “apprehension.” But should Pope Benedict have been celebrating this latest war instead?

The world does not need the Church to be a cheerleader for war, which always represents a failure of politics to secure liberty and justice. But what of those occasions when armed force is necessary to secure liberty and justice against a malevolent regime — as is the case in Gadhafi’s Libya? While war itself brings its own horrors, if it is a moral duty, ought not the attempt to discharge that duty bring encouragement from Christian pastors?
Bernadette Soubirous was a French peasant girl who went out with friends to gather firewood for her family one February morning in 1858. Bernadette lived in Lourdes in stunning poverty. She was a terrible student and there was nothing about her or her family that was the least bit notable.

She was also sickly, suffering all her life from debilitating asthma. That ailment prevented her from carrying on with her friends to gather firewood that February day. So she waited by a grotto.

Most know what happened next. She saw a beautiful woman, with roses on her feet. No one else had ever seen this vision but over the following weeks crowds came to see Bernadette as she knelt in front of the grotto. It was the transformation in Bernadette’s face that transfixed the crowd. For reasons not explained by the intellect, those who gathered knew they were witnessing something extraordinary.
It was a sad day for the pro-life movement when Alberta’s bishops announced a boycott of Edmonton’s March for Life because some participants insist on hoisting placards displaying graphic images of aborted fetuses. It was sad because, while sympathy abounds for the bishops’ concerns, their leadership is essential in this struggle. And sad because their withdrawal underlines a deepening rift that is harming the pro-life movement.

In a letter on behalf of the Alberta bishops, Archbishop Richard Smith said they disapprove of the large images of aborted fetuses that have become increasingly prominent at the annual march. Such images, said Smith, offend the dignity of the aborted baby and can be upsetting to women who had experienced abortion and to children attending the march.

He said the bishops felt compelled to withdraw from the May 12 event when organizers admitted they were powerless to ban graphic imagery. “It is not that they will not do so; they simply can’t because it is beyond their control,” Smith said. ”We want to make it clear that the bishops are not affiliated in any way with such expressions and do not approve of them.”
Those who follow the public voice of Pope Benedict XVI will know that secularism and its negative influence on religion has moved front and centre in his vocabulary. The fact is that when the Pope speaks the Catholic world does listen, but of course not all obey.

As a result of Benedict’s attention to secularism, many Catholics and other Christians, not to mention the inter-religious world, have become more keenly aware of the negative presence and influence of secularism within our communities and our family life. We do not have a full and complete treatise of secularism by the present pontiff. We can expect, however, that Benedict will use every opportunity to be a voice of opposition to secularists.

Perhaps one of his most scathing criticisms is his view that secularism is a modern-day heresy. Secularism contends that government, society and other entities should exist separately from religion and/or religious beliefs. Clearly, such was not always the case in the past. For several generations in Quebec, for example, religion clearly sought to override secular society. As a result of the backlash to that imbalance, Quebec today is struggling to maintain its religious identity and the imbalance now favours the secularists.
I often think of Lent as a spiritual boot camp, a 40-day period to make a deliberate daily attempt to get closer to God by eliminating the distractions that are a barrier to forming a better relationship with Him.

As a mother, Lent is also a time when, in addition to rededicating my own spirituality, I do my utmost to get the entire family to put their spiritual lives on the front burner.

So this year the family began Ash Wednesday at 8 a.m. Mass. We ended the evening with a family rosary. In between I had a 10-minute conversation with my teenagers at the kitchen table while my husband was out of town on business.
The World Health Organization estimates 15 million people in the developing world need HIV medication but only five million can get it. That leaves 10 million forsaken souls, mostly women and children, denied life-sustaining drugs that abound in rich nations.

So we commend the 172 Members of Parliament who voted in favour of  private member’s Bill C-393 to make cheaper, generic drugs available to the world’s poor. The bill amends the Access to Medicine Regime which launched in 2004 like a fresh breath but ultimately got choked by red tape. The new legislation promises more drugs to more people in less time.

To become law, however, the bill must be passed by the Conservative-dominated Senate, which means the Senate must act immediately because in the event of a spring election the legislation will die. Although the bill could be reborn with a new Parliament, it would begin at the bottom rung of a long legislative ladder with no guarantee of ever reaching the Upper Chamber. Meantime, people are dying.
Why does Pope Benedict XVI bother to write books? Long before his election to the See of Peter he was established as a leading theologian of his generation. Being universal pastor of the Church is a crushing job, so why add to it by embarking on a massive scholarly project?

Evidently the Holy Father enjoys writing theology. The deeper reason though is that Benedict knows, with all humility, that he is better at it than anyone else. Just as the soon-to-be-Blessed John Paul II knew that he had a special gift for leading massive, history-changing public manifestations of the faith, Benedict likely concludes that if the Lord wanted him as Pope then he should do what God gave him the talent to do.

Shahbaz Bhatti predicted his murder. In Ottawa last month, Pakistan’s minister of minorities explained to Jason Kenney that he never married because it would be unfair to leave behind a widow and children. He told our correspondent Deborah Gyapong of death threats and said he was ready to die for his beliefs.

“I was struck by how resigned he was about his expected martyrdom,” Kenney would later say.

Bhatti was ambushed March 2 as he got into his car in Islamabad. A Catholic, he died because he refused to hide beneath a cloak of silence that shrouds Pakistan’s detestable blasphemy laws. He was a man of profound faith, principle and courage who would not be cowed by the religious bigots and zealots who abound in Pakistan.

In a subtle nod to the famous Scopes Monkey Trial of 1925, some Quebeckers are calling the case of Saguenay Mayor Jean Tremblay the “Prayer Trial.”

In the Scopes case a small-town Tennessee high school teacher, John Scopes, faced charges of teaching evolution in a trial that pitted church against state and traditionalists against modernists. The trial sparked a local furor and national debate that made international headlines.

Tremblay’s case is unlikely to attain such notoriety but, from the perspective of church vs. state, the two cases do indeed bear some resemblance.

I have never met Linda Gibbons. I’m not sure I’d want to. After all, this 63-year-old grandmother must be a very dangerous person. She has spent almost all of the last 20 years locked up in jail.

Gibbons’ story began in 1994 when the NDP formed the Ontario Government and then Attorney-General Marion Boyd obtained a court injunction to prevent anyone from offering up a public protest within a 60-foot “bubble zone” around abortion clinics.  

Gibbons believes abortion is tantamount to murder. You do not have to share her view to recognize the moral imperative it creates. So Gibbons stands on the sidewalk outside abortion clinics and prays silently. Sometimes she goes further; sometimes she goes so far as to hold up a sign that says: “Why, Mom, when I have so much love to give?”

A culture expresses itself in what it chooses to build. Ancient Egypt gave us the pyramids, tombs of their god-kings. Medieval France gave us the Gothic cathedral. Twenty-first century Texas gives us a $1.2-billion football stadium.

Recently the Quebec provincial government and the Quebec City municipal government announced $400 million in funding for a new hockey arena. It will be the new home of what remains, as of now, an imaginary Quebec City NHL team.

Juxtapose that with the news, reported in The Catholic Register last week, that Quebec’s Catholic bishops have asked the province to assist with the maintenance of the hundreds of historic churches that are no longer sustainable by the dwindling number of Quebeckers who practise their faith.