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.

Quebec churchOTTAWA - Quebec’s Catholic bishops have asked the province to consider better ways to help maintain the churches and religious buildings associated with the provinces’ cultural heritage.

The request by the Assembly of Catholic Bishops of Quebec’s religious patrimony committee was made in a Nov. 11 submission to the province’s Parliamentary commission of culture and education, but not made public until early February.

In it, the bishops suggested revisions to Quebec’s Cultural Property Act.

The bishops pointed out large sums of money are needed to maintain and restore churches and historic buildings belonging to religious communities. Otherwise, church properties will continue to be sold to developers who may turn them into condominiums or concert halls, they said.

OTTAWA - Fr. Raymond Gravel, a Quebec Catholic priest and Bloc Quebecois MP from 2006-08, has launched a defamation lawsuit against

Gravel, who is incardinated in the Joliette diocese, is seeking $300,000 for the attack on his reputation and consequent pain and suffering, and another $200,000 in punitive damages for what he calls a voluntary, intentional and malicious attack. He said has reported that he is pro-abortion, a charge he denies.

The lawsuit, if successful, could put an end to, said its editor.

OTTAWA - A bill that could reshape society’s understanding of human sexuality by granting protected status to transgendered and transsexual people passed a final vote in the House of Commons and has gone to the Senate.

NDP MP Bill Siksay’s private members’ Bill C-389, which would add gender identity and gender expression to the Criminal Code and the Canadian Human Rights Act, passed 143-135.

Most Conservatives voted against the bill Feb. 9, including Prime Minister Stephen Harper, while the leaders of the Opposition parties all supported it.
GATINEAU, Que. - As Quebec marked Suicide Prevention Week Jan. 30-Feb. 5, the province’s Select Committee on Dying with Dignity held hearings here testing support for legalized euthanasia and assisted suicide.

The irony did not escape Linda Couture, who directs Living With Dignity, a grassroots, non-religious organization that has been monitoring the hearings as the committee travels across Quebec.

The committee made up of members of Quebec’s National Assembly (MNAs) has been holding public hearings in cities across Quebec since September. Couture has attended most of them. The committee wraps up its hearings at the end of February and will then work on a written report.
OTTAWA - Egyptian protesters are mostly males aged 25-34 who are highly educated, plugged into the world’s social media and networks but frustrated because they can’t find work, said Carl Hétu, national secretary of CNEWA Canada (Catholic Near East Welfare Association).

“They are now asking for their share,” he said, noting the plight of young people is similar in countries all over the Middle East.

The issue in Egypt is whether the Muslim Brotherhood, a radical Islamist group, will try to appropriate the movement, he said. But the Muslim Brotherhood is not the only player, he added, noting that the elite of Egypt “will not let go” and will be faithful to President Hosni Mubarak.
Stephen HarperOTTAWA - As the Conservative Party celebrates its fifth anniversary in power, it is recognizing a major reason for the success: a swing in the Catholic and the ethnic vote away from the Liberals.

It’s quite a change. It wasn’t so long ago that the Liberals could count on the Catholic and ethnic vote overwhelmingly going its way. In fact, a 2005 study by André Blais of the Canadian Political Science Association found that in the preceding 40 years, Catholics in English Canada were 18 per cent more likely than non-Catholics to vote Liberal.

But that changed when Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the Conservatives were elected in 2006 to a minority government, and returned two years later.
OTTAWA - Whether it is marriage, conscience rights, parental rights to educate their children or hot-button issues like prostitution, the real battles are taking place in the courts rather than in Parliament, say those on the front lines.

Catholic Civil Rights League president Phil Horgan said that changes to social policy are no longer coming from the legislative framework where politicians persuade their fellow citizens in elections and then get the support of other legislators to pass changes into law.

When the state does enter into areas of social policy — like Quebec’s Ethics and Religious Culture course and the recent related prohibition on religious instruction, prayers or songs in day cares run by religious groups — it has become almost impossible to combat that kind of secularism in legislatures.
OTTAWA - Canada’s Catholic bishops have issued a countercultural message to young people inviting them to lead lives of chastity.

“Today, chastity is often mistakenly associated with being old-fashioned, with a fear of passion or with sexual inhibition,” said the eight-page pastoral letter to young people on chastity issued Jan. 27 by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Episcopal Commission for Doctrine. “But in reality it is much more than simply the absence of sexual relations.

“Chastity calls for purity of mind as well as body,” the document stresses. “If we are not working to develop a pure heart or a pure mind, then our bodily actions will reflect this. If we have no control over our desires or passions, then we cannot be trusted in either the big or the small things.”
OTTAWA - A joint committee from the Catholic Church and the United Church of Canada are in the draft stages of a shared statement on marriage, despite being on opposing sides of the marriage debate.

The draft is the result of six years of focused dialogue on marriage and it could be another two years before it is made public. It will be a joint statement but not a consensus document, said Julien Hammond, an Edmonton archdiocese ecumenical officer who has participated in the dialogue on behalf of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB).

“The readers will be surprised the dialoguers have so much agreement,” he said.
Margaret O'GaraOTTAWA - The Catholic Church in Canada has agreed to begin a formal theological dialogue with Evangelicals. 

“It’s a new thing in Canada,” said Margaret O’Gara, a theology professor at Toronto’s University of St. Michael’s College who has been involved in Protestant, Anglican and Orthodox dialogue for the past 35 years. She will be among the Catholic participants.

“We all have the expectation that this will be a personally enriching experience and that, hopefully, we will contribute to the strength of the Church in Canada,” said David Freeman, who is strategic interface vice president for the Christian and Missionary Alliance in Canada.

Freeman will be the Evangelical co-chair of the dialogue, with Regina Archbishop Daniel Bohan as the Catholic co-chair.

The first set of meetings will take place March 24-25 in Toronto.