Deborah Gyapong, Canadian Catholic News

Deborah Gyapong, Canadian Catholic News

Deborah Waters Gyapong has been a journalist and novelist for more than 20 years. She has worked in print, radio and television, including 12 years as a producer for CBC TV's news and current affairs programming. She currently covers religion and politics primarily for Catholic and Evangelical newspapers.

OTTAWA - Winnipeg Archbishop James Weisgerber believes that “rebalancing the relationship” between First Nations peoples and the government may be the most important issue in Canada today.

To that end, he hopes the Jan. 24 summit in Ottawa between First Nations leaders and the federal government will finally address what he calls the “tremendous inequalities and great suffering” of Canada’s aboriginal peoples.

“The federal government has a lead role,” Weisgerber said. “We arrived (and) we made treaties that are supposed to be the basis on which we share coming together.”

OTTAWA - The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) has launched a new webpage that traces the relationship of the Catholic Church in Canada and its First Nations’ peoples.

The site sketches the history of relations with indigenous peoples, many of whom became part of the Church and “gave much to it.” It cites Joseph Chiwatenhwa, Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha and “Grand Chief Henri Membertou, who became the first aboriginal leader to be baptized by the French, as a sign of alliance and good faith in 1610.”

OTTAWA - Dan McTeague, one of about a dozen staunchly pro-life Liberals who lost their seats in the May 2011 federal election, looks forward to the revitalization of the once powerful Liberal Party.

As one of more than 3,100 delegates at the Liberal Biennial Convention here Jan. 13-15, McTeague said he hoped the party will be able to reach out to all Canadians, including the Catholic and ethnic voters who were the former pillars of party support.

Political scientists have credited the Liberal defeats in 2006 and 2008 to a growing collapse of Catholic and ethnic voter support. Last May, the Liberals were demoted to third party status behind the NDP and the governing Conservatives. The Liberals elected only 34 MPs, though their numbers have grown by one with the recent defection of a Quebec NDP MP to the Liberal ranks.

OTTAWA - Though the Prime Minister has repeatedly said his government will not allow the abortion debate to reopen, an Ontario Conservative MP said he is not worried about the risk as he contemplates bringing forth a private members’ bill on the matter.

“I’m pretty comfortable as a Member of Parliament raising this issue, because it is an issue with such human rights implications,” said Stephen Woodworth of Kitchener, Ont. “It should be everyone’s priorities to ensure that any law that involves fundamental human rights is informed by modern, medically accurate evidence, not some 400-year-old arbitrary legal argument.”

OTTAWA - Congratulations and praise for Cardinal-designate Thomas Collins’ elevation to the College of Cardinals Jan. 6 poured in from politicians, brother bishops and organizations across Canada.

“The appointment of Thomas Collins to the College of Cardinals is a great honour for His Grace as well as the archdiocese of Toronto and all members of the Catholic Church across Canada — a testament to his hard work and faithful devotion to the Church and spiritual life,” said Prime Minister Stephen Harper Jan. 6 in a message of congratulations.

Harper remarked on the leadership role the College of Cardinals plays in the Catholic Church and described Collins’ career as “long and distinguished.”

OTTAWA - Bishop Raymond Lahey, 71, received a 15-month jail sentence Jan. 4 for importing child pornography but was released after the judge gave him a two-for-one credit for the eight months he had already spent in prison. The judge also imposed a period of 24 months' probation with strict conditions.

After sentencing, a spectator began shouting obscenities at Lahey through the glass of the prisoner's box and called him a demon. Police rushed into the courtroom, but did not charge the man who said he was a victim of sexual abuse at the St. Joseph Training School for Boys in Alfred, Ont.

OTTAWA - After a solidarity mission to Haiti Dec. 15-21, Archbishop Richard Smith came away with a deep appreciation of the work Canadian Catholics are funding to help the poor through a range of Caritas partners.

“What I saw there was the Gospel in action, lives being changed,” said the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) president.

Smith also came away struck with the need for a long-term commitment to help renew the country devastated by a catastrophic earthquake two years ago.

Bishop Noël Simard will return to his native Quebec to lead the Valleyfield diocese.

On Dec. 29, Pope Benedict XVI appointed the former professor of bioethics and moral theology to the Valleyfield diocese where he will be installed in mid-February.

OTTAWA - The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) will proceed with a pastoral plan for life and family that will launch nationally in 2013 after a preparatory year in the dioceses.

In a mid-December letter to his brother bishops, CCCB President Archbishop Richard Smith confirmed the CCCB’s Permanent Council has given the proposed plan a green light after reviewing the practical aspects of the decisions made at the bishops’ annual plenary meeting in October.

“I am happy to confirm that we will proceed, as we had all agreed, with the elements of the pastoral plan for 2013 and for a preparatory year during 2012,” Smith wrote.

OTTAWA - Disgraced Bishop Raymond Lahey engaged in a number of homosexual “one-night stands” before settling into a 10-year relationship with a man, according to testimony Dec. 19 at Lahey’s sentencing hearing on child pornography charges.

Court also heard that Lahey has an addiction to Internet pornography but is probably not a pedophile and poses a next-to-zero chance of offending sexually or violently against children, according to a forensic psychiatrist. Dr. John Bradford, who examined Lahey, said Lahey has gay sadomasochistic fantasies where he is the submissive partner, although Lahey claims he has never acted on them.

The former Antigonish bishop, 71, pleaded guilty last May to possession of child pornography for the purpose of importation. He opted to go directly to jail before sentencing and has served seven and a half months.