{mosimage}It had been a busy day at the office and as I walked into the house I was psyching myself up for an evening of parenting.

As the father of a large family there is always someone who needs attention. Any given night could include a trip to the arena or basketball court, dropping one of the older children off at their part-time jobs, or helping Emma and Hope with their homework.

{mosimage}Phil Fontaine is leaving the Assembly of First Nations in July after serving three terms since 1997 as National Chief. He will be missed. His accomplishments are many but perhaps Fontaine aptly summed up his own legacy in one succinct sentence: “We are now in a position to say we forgive.”

Fontaine’s years as National Chief were sewn together by a thread of reconciliation. That single theme — establishing harmony and friendship with the rest of Canada — dominated his tenure. Fontaine understood that a two-way relationship of fraternity and trust would only occur when First Nations peoples received a sincere apology for the many wrongs suffered over the decades. Then would come the difficult part: they’d have to forgive.

Under Fontaine’s leadership, reconciliation was a journey with three roads. First came a multi-billion-dollar compensation settlement between the federal government and First Nations people stemming from the national scandal of the residential schools. That was followed by last June’s apology in the House of Commons from Prime Minister Stephen Harper on behalf of all Canadians. Third came a Vatican audience at which Fontaine received an expression of sorrow from Pope Benedict XVI for the  conduct of some church members.

{mosimage}I entered the Catholic Church, ten years ago, with my eyes wide open. Or so I believed at the time.

Like everyone else who doesn’t live on a desert island, I knew about the clergy abuse and cover-up scandals that had begun to rock the church a decade before. In defending my decision to become a Catholic against non-Catholic friends and family, who were appalled that I had joined a church in which such abuse had taken place, I adopted a hardly unusual line of argument.

The Catholic Church, I told them, is constructed of crooked, diseased wood, liable at any time to produce bad fruit. The stink of this fruit had brought its existence to the attention of church authorities, who, after some initial foot-dragging, began to clean out the orchard and compensate those who had been poisoned. The system had worked, at least to my satisfaction. This argument belonged, of course, to the “few bad apples” variety.

Poor choice

The recent decision of the Catholic Principals’ Council of Ontario to have abortion supporter Stephen Lewis address its 2010 annual conference can be likened to the recent event that took place in South Bend, Indiana (I refuse to call the South Bend institution of education by its name, for it no longer has anything to do with Our Lady).

Lewis’ position and work regarding human life, especially in Africa, is well known. I do respect his compassion. However, it is incomprehensible to have the leaders of publicly funded Catholic schools listen to his misguided ethics at the risk of dividing the Catholic educational community. I wonder if the Principals’ Council approached trustees and especially the bishops of Ontario with their desire to have Lewis speak to them.

I feel that publicly funded Catholic education in Ontario is being hijacked by a new, self-appointed and self-important intelligentsia who have no regard for church teaching and tradition, forgetting that its mission is intimately connected to the mission of the universal church — the salvation of souls.

Steve Catlin
Hamilton Ont.

{mosimage}Christ’s command to forgive seventy times seven may lose some of its poignancy if the worst thing you’ve had to forgive this week was a co-worker hurting your feelings.

Imagine, however, if the killer of your wife and children lives across the street, you both shop at the same stores, you see him every day. Now imagine that scene being replayed across the countryside 100,000 times.

{mosimage}History may record it as throwing good money after bad, but the governments of Canada and Ontario had little choice but to go blue-collar and join the Barack Obama assembly line to keep General Motors going.

As announced on June 1, the government of Canada contributed $7.1 billion and Ontario another $3.8 billion to an American plan to try to save General Motors. Taxpayers in Canada now own 11.7 per cent of the once-giant automaker.

{mosimage}Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted (Matthew 5:4)

When someone you know loses a loved one to death, you want to reach out but may feel unsure of what to say or do. Perhaps you haven’t lost someone close, and it’s difficult to appreciate what your friend is going through and anticipate his or her needs. Allow me to share some advice.

Don’t agonize over what to say. Keep it simple and heartfelt — for example, “I’m so sorry,” “My heart goes out to you,” “I’m here for you” or perhaps even “I’m at a loss for words.” Avoid platitudes such as, “It’s for the best,” or “You still have a lot to be thankful for.”

{mosimage}For years, I took my local church choir for granted.  Sunday after Sunday I would hardly notice the music unless I heard a favourite piece or an obvious mistake.

Then one day an acquaintance complimented me on my voice and suggested I join him in the choir.  I easily discounted the compliment, but it struck me that the quality of my worship might improve if it were more active.

{mosimage}At one point at the Oliphant commission, former prime minister Brian Mulroney shamelessly harrumphed: “I have never knowingly done anything wrong in my entire life.”

Sadly, he may have been telling the truth — not that he has never done anything wrong, but this vainglorious man, apparently lacking a civilized notion of propriety, may genuinely be unaware that egregious unethical behaviour is wrong.

{mosimage}Much of the media focus on the recent papal visit to the Holy Land was an evaluation of the pontiff’s relationships with Muslims and Jews. However, in the land of  Christianity’s foundation, Christian church members wanted only to know that they are not forgotten, not alone and that their story of struggle is known by their spiritual leader.

They dreamed in hope that the visit would result in some good news for them.

{mosimage}When it comes to Hollywood trash, you can’t beat the combined efforts of director Ron Howard, novelist Dan Brown and actor Tom Hanks.

Angels and Demons, their first collaboration since The Da Vinci Code, features the usual slanders against the Catholic Church, along with dollops of the occult, a suppressed secret society and a smattering of advanced science. The official Vatican newspaper has described the resulting farrago as “harmless entertainment.” I’m not so sure.