ROME - Getting into St. Peter’s Square for the canonization Mass of Sts. John XXIII and John Paul II was not for the faint of heart.

Published in Canada

The following is excerpted with permission from John Paul II: A Saint for Canada by Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB, published by Novalis Publishing, www.novalis.ca.

Published in Papal Canonizations

OTTAWA - It’s been 15 years since Archbishop Luigi Bonazzi, Canada’s new apostolic nuncio, has served in Canada, and now that he is back, he has to reacquaint himself with a country he barely got to know first time around.

Published in Canada

TORONTO - With a death toll estimated at 5.4 million and climbing and a campaign of rape reshaping the nation, Congolese religious leaders arrived in Canada with a petition signed by more than one million Congolese and a request that Canadians support practical measures for peace at the United Nations.

“You have a voice and your voice is strong to stop this war. You have the means to stop this war. And you have a way,” Bishop Ntambo Nkulu Ntanda of the United Methodist Church in the Democratic Republic of Congo told The Catholic Register.

The bishop was part of a delegation that visited the Toronto School of Theology at the University of Toronto in mid-September. The delegation was at the university to speak to students about the effects of the war after meeting earlier in Ottawa with Canadian government officials.

The war in the Congo has officially been over since the Sun City Agreement installed a government of national unity under President Joseph Kabila in 2003, but in the eastern provinces militias and government troops continue to battle for control over lucrative mines. The most notorious of the militias, the M23 Movement, has had the quiet backing of the Rwandan government and finds refuge across the border.

In June United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay called M23 leaders “among the worst perpetrators of human rights violations in the Congo, or in the world.” Human Rights Watch reports that since June M23 fighters have deliberately killed at least 15 civilians. They have also raped at least 46 women and girls — the youngest just eight years old. They killed a 25-year-old pregnant woman because she resisted and two other women died from wounds inflicted by their rapists, the organization says.

While the UN has one of its largest peacekeeping missions stationed in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the troops lack basic equipment and the mandate is so weak it would be better to describe them as an observer mission, said Prof. Raymond Mutombo.

“We do not specifically ask Canada to reinforce the UN mission with troops as such,” said Mutombo. “But the request we’ve placed is to support our petition to the United Nations.”

The petition asks for a more robust peacekeeping mandate for troops.

“Canada certainly could do it,” said John Seibert, executive director of Project Ploughshares, a Kitchener, Ont.-based ecumenical think tank dedicated to peace and defence issues supported by the Canadian Council of Churches.

Canada wouldn’t have to dedicate large numbers of troops to the Congo to make a difference, Seibert said. Canada’s French-speaking officer corps, tactics, heavy transport equipment and communications equipment would give the UN mission a huge advantage over rebel groups that employ drugged-up child soldiers with AK-47 automatic rifles.

“Look at the equipment and experience gained in the Afghanistan mission — highly mobile, tough as nails, people who know how to interact with cultural difference,” said Seibert.

Getting the international community to condemn Rwanda has been a tough sell, said Mutombo.

“From 1994 when the genocide took place in Rwanda, the international community has been taken hostage,” he said.

Guilt over the international community’s inaction during the Rwandan genocide prevents criticism of its government.

“(Rwandan President) Paul Kagame is still held in some esteem because of his stopping the genocide and bringing stability to Rwanda,” said Seibert. “That does not give him a get-out-of-jail-free card on activities in the DRC.”

Much of the fighting is over control of coltan, or more formally columbite-tantalite, an essential ingredient in the capacitors at the heart of cellphones, tablet computers, hearing aids, pacemakers and other products. As of 2009, 44.3 per cent of the world’s coltan originated in the Congo, compared to just 3.7 per cent in Canada.

Research In Motion, the Canadian company whose Blackberry phones constitute about 10 per cent of the world’s smartphones, has a “responsible minerals policy” and a “supplier code of conduct” to ensure it does not use conflict minerals in its phones. But corrupt businesses in Rwanda working with M23 rebels are able to disguise the origins of coltan they sell on the international market, according to the Congolese Church leaders.

“Coltan is just a mineral. Human life is more than a mineral,” said Ntanda. “Human life is being destroyed for no reason. People are being killed for no reason.”

The Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace said it hears the same demands for international intervention to stop the violence from its partners in the Congo, said program officer Serge Blais. Development and Peace works extensively with the Congo’s Catholic bishops on projects that encourage people to engage in the democratic process.

Published in Canada: Toronto-GTA

Ste. ADÈLE, Que. - At their annual plenary Sept. 24-28 the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) are examining the prevention of clerical sexual abuse as part of its packed five-day agenda.

The 90-plus bishops gathered from across Canada will receive the updated guidelines prepared for submission to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, conference president Archbishop Richard Smith said in his annual president’s address at the Mont-Gabriel Hotel here Sept. 23.

“Of course our ongoing response must extend far beyond the articulation of protocols and procedures to an embrace in love and compassion of any person, family or community affected by this scourge,” Smith said.

The reflections will also deal with the impact of the clerical sexual abuse crisis on the ministry of priests and how bishops can provide better support. It will also look at the conditions that increase the risk of sexual abuse with an eye to prevention, according to the CCCB program for the week, most of which is closed to visitors and news media.

“How do we foster healing? How do we ensure safe environments? What are the situations that could facilitate boundary violations?” Smith asked, stressing that those in ministry must provide an “unblemished” example.

For the first time, a federal cabinet minister will address the plenary assembly. The off-the-record discussion with Immigration Minister Jason Kenney arose out of suggestion by previous CCCB president Bishop Pierre Morissette that there be more conversation with government representatives, said Smith, now in his second year of a two-year term as president.

“Over the last few years particularly, a number of you have posed questions about Canadian immigration and refugee policies,” Smith said, noting the bishops “as pastors of the Church are to give particular care for refugees and others displaced because of violence and poverty.”

The relationship between Kenney and the bishops has been contentious in the past, with Kenney firing back at a letter from the CCCB’s justice and peace commission critical of anti-human smuggling legislation the commission feared risked harming refugees more than smugglers. Kenney accused the bishops of relying on bureaucrats who “cut-and-pasted” talking points from immigration advocacy groups.

The session with Kenney will also give bishops an opportunity to talk about the difficulties they have with bringing priests in from foreign countries to serve in their dioceses.

The bishops will also reflect on a pastoral response to the suffering caused by the economic downturn.

“We often hear it said that Canada has not been impacted as seriously as other countries,” Smith said. “While that may be true, nevertheless it is of cold comfort to the unemployed or those struggling to find affordable housing.”

Smith used a theme of unity to organize the many initiatives and programs of the CCCB over the past year, noting the mission of bishops is to serve the Church’s unity.

The CCCB adopted a national plan for life and family that is now underway, that is another sign of unity “in our witness to the beauty and sanctity of life,” he said, noting respect for life continues to erode in Western society.

“Every society needs the assurance its caregivers can be entrusted with the lives of its vulnerable members — those in the womb, children, the elderly, the handicapped and the infirm,” he said. “The grave crimes of abortion, euthanasia and assisted-suicide seriously undermine that trust. These are real threats not only to the individual but also to the common good.”

The bishops are summoned to find ways to “reinforce the central ideals of Christian family life, and to celebrate the love and nurturing that many families today achieve despite difficulties,” he said. Smith said the CCCB would be calling on diocesan life and family offices as well as the Catholic Organization for Life and Family (COLF) for help in this endeavour.

The meetings on the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace have an hour dedicated to reports by the bishops on the agency's board and from the Standing Committee for Development and Peace.

Published in Canada

OTTAWA - To a nearly empty House of Commons Sept. 21, Conservative MP Stephen Woodworth made a final impassioned final plea for an “open-minded, evidence-based study” of the 400-year-old Criminal Code definition of a human being.

He spoke last, after MPs on both sides of the House spoke against or in favour of his private member’s Motion 312 that would establish a parliamentary committee to examine the Criminal Code’s subsection 223(1) that says a child is not a human being until the moment of complete birth. Opposition MPs argued the Motion represented a “backdoor” to re-criminalizing abortion and violating a woman’s right to control her own body.

But Woodworth disagreed.

“About abortion, I say this: recognizing children as human before the moment of complete birth will not resolve that issue,” Woodworth said.

“Even Justice Bertha Wilson, who championed abortion rights in the Morgentaler decision, wrote that Parliament should ‘inform itself from the relevant disciplines’, the very proposal embodied in Motion No. 312.

“Recognizing the reality that children are human beings before complete birth will affirm the hallowed principle that human rights are universal, not a gift of the state that can be cancelled by subsection 223(1),” he said.

Only between 30 and 35 MPs attended the final hour of the House of Commons' agenda dealing with private member’s business on a rainy and gloomy Friday afternoon, with members coming and going.

But the diplomat’s gallery was surprisingly full with several members of the pro-life movement present, including Linda Gibbons, a grandmother who has spent a total of nine years in prison for silently praying outside abortion clinics in Toronto.

The government’s chief whip, MP Gordon O’Connor, sat in the House as if taking careful note of Conservative MPs who rose to speak in favour of the Motion. O’Connor had told the House in the previous hour of debate the government would not support this motion or allow the abortion debate to be reopened.

Though he did not speak in the second hour, his presence in the nearly empty chamber spoke volumes. At one point, he crossed the aisle and sat for several minutes at the same desk as NDP justice critic Francoise Boivin, a vociferous opponent of Motion 312. Boivin had been singing O’Connor’s praises in the previous week for arguing as she has that the motion is an attempt to recriminalize abortion.

Minister of State of Foreign Affairs Diane Ablonczy also sat in the House, though from her body language — head down, poring over reading material, seemed to indicate she was disengaged from the debate around her. While traditionally private members’ business is a free vote for MPs, many are watching to see what publicly identified pro-life cabinet ministers will do when Motion 312 comes to a vote and whether they will break with the government’s stated opposition to the ban.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Natural Resources Minister MP David Anderson was the highest-ranking Conservative to risk the prime minister’s ire by speaking in favour of the motion. He opened by saying he had received 200 e-mails urging his support the previous evening alone.

“I have had over 1,500 responses encouraging me to support Motion No. 312,” he said. “I find it interesting that many of them have come from young women. I think that is a rebuke to the opposition members, reminding them that there are young women in this country who believe in what is being proposed in today's motion.

“We need to recognize that a majority of Canadians believe that human life begins long before a person is born. We can understand that if the evidence establishes that a child does in fact become a human being before the moment of complete birth, then subsection 223(1) has some major problems and it is actually a law that dehumanizes and excludes a whole class of human beings from legal protection.”

“The member for Kitchener Centre's desire to open up this debate has an end goal of changing the legislation to enable the fetus to be declared a human being,” argued NDP MP Irene Mathyssen. “We are all very aware that such a change in the definition will place Canada directly on the regressive path to banning abortions.

“A fertilized egg is not a class of people, and I am offended that the member would shamelessly misrepresent the women's rights movement as an example of why we should open the door to changing abortion rights in Canada,” she said.

NDP MP Sylvain Chicoine told the House “the debate is closed in the minds of Canadians.”

He said Woodworth was either “contradicting himself” or “hiding his real desire to turn women who have abortions into criminals.”

When the debate ended, the new Deputy Speaker NDP MP Joe Comartin asked for a voice vote on the motion. The “nays” were far louder than the “yeas” to the CCN journalist sitting in the gallery. Comartin called it a second time and still the nays were louder. But there were more “yea” voters sitting in the House.

“In my opinion the yeas have it,” he said. However, at least five MPs stood up, meaning a final vote will be held Sept. 26.

Published in Canada

OTTAWA - An Ottawa conference Sept. 27-29 marking the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council will examine how to “hand on the
Gospel today” in light of Vatican II’s teachings, said Saint Paul University theology professor Catherine Clifford.

“One of goals is to promote the pastoral renewal of the Church,” said Clifford, an organizer of the Vatican II: For the Next Generation Conference. Co-sponsored by Saint Paul’s Vatican II and 21st Century Catholicism Research Centre and Novalis, the conference will begin a week before bishops from around the world gather in Rome for the Synod on the New Evangelization.

“The world we live in today is very different from the world 50 years ago,” Clifford said. “Many of the questions are not the same questions the bishops were reflecting on in 1962-65 in the Council.”

When Vatican II opened 50 years ago, it took place against the backdrop of the Cold War, less than 20 years after the end of the Second World War, said Clifford. Since then there has been a marked shift to the global integration of societies and culture, she said.

“It’s an era of an unprecedented migration of peoples,” she said. “The population of the world has more than doubled; the population of the Catholic Church has more than doubled.

“The majority of Catholics live not in Europe and North America but in the Southern hemisphere. We are a very different Church than we were 50 years ago.”

Though poverty and social injustice remain challenges, “in some ways those issues are far more complex than they were 50 years ago,” she said.

Another sign is the growing recognition of the dignity of the human person that is probably even stronger than it was 50 years ago, when the civil rights movement in the United States was gaining momentum, she said.

The conference will feature a keynote address by Cardinal Peter Turkson, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and one of the names that frequently appears in speculation about future popes. The cardinal will speak on “Vatican II: A Council of Justice and Peace.” He will also receive an honorary doctorate at a special convocation in the university chapel on Sept. 28.

Other conference attendees include dogmatic theology professor Christoph Theobold, S.J., from the Centre Sèvres in Paris, France, and Boston College systematic theology professor Richard Gaillardetz. The conference will feature a panel of bishops and advisors who participated in the Council, including Bishop Remi De Roo and Bishop Gerard J. Deschamps, and advisors Gregory Baum and Leo Laberge, omi.

See www.ustpaul.ca or e-mail vaticancentre@ustpaul.ca.

Published in Canada

OTTAWA - The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (CCCB) annual plenary Sept. 24-28 in Ste. Adele, Que., will mark many firsts this year, from distinguished guests to reflections on topics as diverse as the Second Vatican Council and the worldwide economic crisis.

The gathering, which is expected to draw 80 bishops from across Canada, comes on the eve of several historic events that will also be addressed: the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council Oct. 11, the Synod of Bishops on New Evangelization Oct. 7-28 in Rome and the canonization of Kateri Tekakwitha on Oct. 21.

“(The plenary) is always such an important moment in the life of the Canadian Church,” said CCCB general secretary Msgr. Patrick Powers. The CCCB executive and secretariat staff “always look forward to the many, many things that will be decided upon in the course of that meeting.”

Among the highlights of this year’s agenda is the visit of Ukrainian Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk who will offer a reflection Sept. 25 after having presided at the worldwide Ukrainian Catholic Church Synod of Bishops in Winnipeg Sept. 9-16. He has made pastoral visits to various cities in Canada over recent months to mark the 100th anniversary of the arrival of the first Ukrainian Catholic Bishop Nyktyta Budka to Canada.

Msgr. Jeffrey Steenson, the new Ordinary for the United States’ Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter, will also attend. The Ordinariate was erected in January to provide a home for people from the Anglican tradition who wish to become Catholic while maintaining aspects of Anglican liturgy and patrimony under the Holy Father’s 2008 Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum coetibus. Toronto Cardinal Thomas Collins, the episcopal delegate for Anglicanorum coetibus in Canada will give a report on progress, Powers said.

Immigration Minister Jason Kenney will also hold an off-the-record discussion with the bishops. Powers said it will be a “give and take” session on a range of concerns, from recent legislation that impacts refugees, to the parish refugee sponsorship programs. Many dioceses have a significant number of foreign priests, Powers said, “so (Kenney) is well-placed to help the bishops understand the various things that are happening.”

The canonization of Kateri Tekakwitha gets prominent billing. Saint-Jean-Longueil Bishop Lionel Gendron, the CCCB co-treasurer who heads a temporary secretariat to co-ordinate events in Canada and in Rome surrounding the canonization, will make a presentation on this significant event to the Church and to native Catholics.

To mark the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council, Laval University theologian Gilles Routhier, who is an expert on the Canadian contribution to Vatican II, will deliver a talk.

The Canadian bishops elected last year as delegates at the Synod on New Evangelization will inform the plenary of the content of their Synod interventions, Powers said.

The bishops will also hold a discussion on the upcoming Year of Faith instituted by Pope Benedict XVI.

The bishops will also hold a dinner for Montreal Cardinal Jean-Claude Turcotte who retired this year as archbishop of Montreal, and Collins, who received his cardinal's red hat last February.

The bishops also have a packed agenda of presentations and reports that happen every year, such as reports from organizations like the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace, the Canadian Aboriginal Council, the Catholic Organization for Life and Family and other groups. The episcopal commissions will report as will standing committees, such as communications and Development and Peace. The bishops will address fiscal matters and adopt a new budget.

Published in Canada

WINNIPEG - Ukrainian Catholic bishops from four continents gathered for a final celebration Sept. 16 as they closed their weeklong Synod of Bishops.

One of their emphases was on the role of the laity, and the final "gala," as it was billed, included the Hoosli Ukrainian Male Chorus, an honour guard and the Selo Ukrainian Dancers.

Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of Kiev-Halych, the elected head of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, challenged his audience of 800 to live Christian life to the fullest and not as "lukewarm, nominal Christians."

"If we allow ourselves to be overcome so we don't pray or enter into liturgy, we will cease to be a Church," Shevchuk said. "We are called to be people of prayer, gasping for the air of the Holy Spirit.

"Sometimes our churches are more like Ukrainian museums. We need vibrant parishes, a place to encounter the living Christ. May our encounter today fill us with new faith, energy and perseverance."

Reinvigorating Ukrainian parishes is part of Vision 2020, the long-range pastoral plan for the Ukrainian Catholic Church, which was suppressed for decades under Soviet rule.

After an opening Divine Liturgy in Winnipeg Sept. 9, the 38 bishops in attendance moved to Portage La Prairie, a city of about 13,000 west of Winnipeg. Focusing on the theme "The Role of the Laity in the Life and Mission of the Church," they heard presentations and reports before breaking into smaller thematic groups.

A statement issued at the end of the synod said the bishops acknowledged the role of the laity in preserving the faith when the Church was suppressed in the 20th century, and they issued a pastoral letter to the laity; it was not immediately available in English.

"The laity must be collaborators with the bishops and priests in pastoral work and, with their giftedness and by their talents, contribute toward the building up of the body of Christ," the statement said.

The bishops proclaimed a patron of Ukrainian Catholic laity: Blessed Volodymyr Pryjma, a choir director from the parish of Stradch, Ukraine, who in 1941 was tortured and murdered by Soviet paramilitary agents in a forest after taking Communion to a sick woman with his priest.

They also pledged to support Ukrainians who have emigrated from their home country.

Bishop Borys Gudziak, newly named bishop for Ukrainian Catholics in France, Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg and Switzerland, told Catholic News Service before the synod began that in the last 18 years, Ukraine has lost up to 15 per cent of its population to emigration.

"People have been leaving in droves," he said, noting that, in many countries, the Ukrainians are illegal and living on the margins of society.
Gudziak was one of four bishops elected to the permanent synod for the next five years. Others were Archbishop Volodymyr Vijtyshyn Ivano-Frankivsk,

Ukraine; Bishop Ken Nowakowski of New Westminster, B.C.; and Bishop Jaroslav Pryriz of Sambir-Drohobych, Ukraine.

Next year's general Synod of Bishops will be Aug. 11-13 in Kiev, Ukraine, and will have as its theme the new evangelization.

Published in Canada

The days may be numbered for union support of contentious political causes, something the Catholic Civil Rights League has been working towards for years.

While the league has been concerned about union support for same-sex marriage and other issues in opposition to Catholic teaching, the tipping point for political change may be the Public Service Alliance of Canada’s (PSAC) recent support for separatist candidates in the Sept. 4 Quebec election.

Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre, parliamentary secretary to the transport minister, promised to urge his cabinet colleagues bring in legislation that would allow employees to opt out of paying union dues.

“I cannot imagine how it could possibly be in the interests of a Canadian public servant for the union to back a separatist party,” Poilievre told the Globe and Mail. “And yet that is precisely what PSAC has done.”

The rights league became involved in the union dues issue back in 2004 when it fought for the rights of Catholic PSAC member Susan Comstock to have part of her $800 yearly mandatory dues diverted to charity because the union campaigned for same-sex marriage, contrary to her religious beliefs.

“We’ve always thought that, with good reason, union members should be able to put their request in writing so a portion of mandatory dues could be diverted to charity,” said league executive director Joanne McGarry. “The ability to opt out of the union is another possibility.”

At issue is “the ability of union members to have a say in how their money is spent so they don’t have to fund something they find morally repugnant,” she said.

Industry Canada employee Dave MacDonald, a former PSAC local president who represented Comstock in her grievance process, said the changes Poilievre proposes are “important because the PSAC, among others, have ceased to be an organization focused on improving workers’ rights and become a political organization.”

“As a Catholic, I am offended that my union dues are used to fund court challenges on abortion and same-sex marriage, gay pride parades and similar causes which have no correlation to the workplace,” he said. “Moreover, the Comstock case showed the extent to which the leadership in the PSAC was hostile to their own members who did not endorse their extreme political agenda.”

The Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association (OECTA) built a war chest for Premier Dalton McGuinty, despite religious freedom concerns raised by the Ontario bishops and Catholic school trustees about the Ontario government’s policies that would impose Gay-Straight Alliances on Catholic schools. McGarry said she encountered Catholic teachers who insisted OECTA did not represent their point of view.

“I’m sorry, but they do,” she said. “That’s your money; they do represent you.”

Legislation is not the only way to make change, she said. She urged union members to become involved in the running of their unions so they have a say on policies. But McGarry stressed the importance of religious freedom and conscientious objection.  

“If someone’s in a position where union membership is a condition of employment, they should be able, for serious reasons, to divert their dues.”

MacDonald, who has a private immigration law practice outside his work for government, is concerned Poilievre’s proposals might end unions if everyone is able to opt out of paying dues altogether.

“I believe a good compromise, and one that I believe the Church agrees with, is to keep unions in line with the rights of charities (including churches) regarding political activities,” he said. “That is, they should be able to do some political activities providing they are related to the stated objectives of a labour union.”

Lobbying government on job security, wages, health and safety would be okay, as would communicating messages on these issues to members, he said.

MacDonald said reform would be welcomed by the vast majority of members because it would make “a union that was interested in protecting worker’s rights rather than espousing political viewpoints that are not shared by the majority of its members.”

Union leaders have reacted angrily against Poilievre’s proposal, with Canadian Labour Congress Leader Ken Georgetti accusing the Conservative government of trying to silence its critics.

Meanwhile, Conservative MP Russ Hiebert’s private member’s bill C-377 that would bring more accountability to how union dues are spent passed second reading last March and is now before the House of Commons finance committee.

Published in Canada

There was a time when I hated the wedding feast at Cana. Couldn’t stand to read it; couldn’t stand to hear it. But it was only a year or two, and it passed. One doesn’t remain in the seminary forever.

During my theological studies at the Gregorian University in Rome, I took the usual list of introductory biblical courses: Pentateuch, prophets, synoptic gospels, Pauline letters and, of course, the corpus of St. John. The whole lot of them were mostly useless in understanding the Scriptures as the word of God revealed to His people and received in the life of the Church.

The Johannine course was worse than useless; it actively damaged my faith. Not because it was heterodox or stupid, but because by subjecting John 2 — the wedding at Cana — to an excruciating examination according to textual criticism, the depth and breadth of John’s Gospel lost its power, suffocated by a welter of secondary and obscure historical and literary analysis. We would have not known from the course that, for example, St. Augustine had written volumes on John’s Gospel. It was deadly. The only saving grace was that time limited us to only one chapter, leaving the rest of the Gospel uncontaminated for spiritual nourishment.

All of which was brought to mind by the gracious comments offered by my friend Fr. Thomas Rosica upon the death of Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini.

“Cardinal Martini was for me a mentor, teacher, model Scripture scholar and friend,” wrote Fr. Rosica. “He has influenced my life, teaching, pastoral ministry in a very significant way over the past 30 years. When many colleagues, students and friends have asked me these past years how I maintained my faith and hope in the world of Scripture scholarship and teaching, I often told them: ‘I had three Martinis a day.’ ”

Why would people ask Fr. Rosica how he maintained his faith and hope in the world of Scripture scholarship? Wouldn’t the normal expectation be that studying the Scriptures would deepen one’s faith? The question is counter-intuitive only to those unfamiliar with the world of Scripture scholarship. The entire field is often deadening to faith, as the Scriptures get picked apart, reduced to entrails of a lost civilization, rather than the lifeblood of the living body of the Church.
Fr. Rosica praised Cardinal Martini because he was an exception to this norm. He could take the Scriptures apart like a scholar and put them back together again as a Christian disciple and pastor. Cardinal Martini put his biblical scholarship to pastoral use with his famous lectio divina sessions in Milan’s cathedral, where the cardinal and youth would read the Bible together, both literally and spiritually in the heart of the local Church.

Martini’s influence touches Canada and not only in the work of Fr. Rosica. Cardinal Thomas Collins, both in Edmonton and now in Toronto, regularly leads lectio divina in his cathedral on the Martini model. Archbishop Terrence Prendergast of Ottawa is well known to Catholic Register readers for his weekly scriptural commentaries, now published in book form. Collins and Prendergast are both Scripture scholars called to be bishops.

And of course, the one greater than even Cardinal Martini, Joseph Ratzinger, has demonstrated how the highest levels of biblical scholarship can be combined with the life of faith in his multi-volume Jesus of Nazareth.

Despite the example of these pastors, the study of Scripture in the theological faculties has largely remained unchanged. Fortunately, Catholics today can more easily free themselves from the deadening effects of such scholarship, and reclaim the life-giving fruit of biblical study for themselves. 

To begin with, there are the works of Pope Benedict, Collins and Prendergast. One thinks also of the vast publishing of Scott Hahn, who writes books for both beginners and scholars. One of his books that helped me most recover from my biblical courses was A Father Who Keeps His Promises. I used it earlier this year with my students as part of our pilgrimage to the Holy Land.

There are also the works of Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, preacher of the papal household for more than 30 years. His preaching, translated into English and widely available in print and online (www.cantalamessa.org), is fresh and contemporary. I remember one Good Friday sermon, preached in the presence of the Holy Father in St. Peter’s, in which he dismantled John Lennon’s “Imagine.”

I recommend to seminarians and lay people that they find a great biblical preacher that resonates with them, and discover the Scriptures through that preacher’s eyes. The Fathers of the Church are the deepest source, of course, but closer to our own time and in English, I always profit from Blessed John Henry Newman, Msgr. Ronald Knox and the Venerable Fulton Sheen.

Cardinal Martini chose a verse from the psalms for his tombstone: Your word is a lamp unto my feet and a light to guide my path. Due to scholars who are also disciples, that word is shining a little brighter today.

Published in Fr. Raymond de Souza

Klaas Bos, the founder and owner of the Classical Organ Centre in Norwich, Ont., first fell in love with the instrument in his native Holland.

“When I was back in Holland, I immigrated (to Canada) in 1989, I got interested in organs. A lot of times, like on a Saturday afternoon, we’d go to an organ dealer and play a couple songs,” Bos told The Catholic Register.

While there, he got to know an organ dealer who, being wheelchair bound, would ask Klaas to assist him with deliveries and in fixing small parts.

“I got acquainted with the organs, like the ‘guts’ side of it,” said Bos.

After moving to Canada, Bos wanted to get back in the organ business, and decided to start up a market for European-style organs.
“I bought myself a ticket, went back to Holland and met with seven of the dealers that I knew personally and I knew wouldn’t ‘pull the skin over my nose,’ ” laughs Bos.

So, in 1992, the Classical Organ Centre was born, with an emphasis on the Content brand of instruments — a make of pipe organ from the Netherlands that was not common in the Canadian market.

“It was not known here, so this was a big step for me to do,” said Bos.

“Obviously, trying to market something that people know is a lot easier than trying to market something that people don’t know about. But, I thought to myself: ‘I’m going to stick to my guns.’ ”

That attitude has paid off, as Classical Organ now exclusively sells the Content brand, a move Bos feels secures his company a certain niche in the organ industry.

“The capabilities that are in the Content organs, they go far beyond what any other organ in the industry can do at this moment, especially with the new Cantata series,” said Bos. “Everything is totally adjustable.”

The Content brand, while digital, allows for a user-friendly set up that can be easily modified to suit the needs of the setting or player. The style of play can be adjusted to suit different voicing, such as a more European-style Baroque sound to a Romantic sound, from a symphonic pipe organ to a cathedral pipe organ.

Additionally, the Classical Organ Centre will also accommodate existing manual pipe organs by creating a hybrid instrument — the melding of some the original pipe work with an electric instrument so that both components can act together.

“We set it up for the customer — we ask them what do they like, where do they want to be. From there we follow up a bunch of times to see if that’s exactly where they want it,” said Bos.

“For all these extra features and options, the price doesn’t go up.”

From a performance standpoint, Bos also notes that the sheer adaptability of the Content organ can allow the player a multitude of different musical experiences that he may not have previously been able to have.

“When I started, I was always a more Romantic-style player,” said Bos. “Now, because it’s just a matter of hitting a button and you have a totally different organ, I’m getting more interested in Baroque music and symphonic music.

“Because it’s on here, I practise with it and see the value of the different organs.”

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Published in Music News

Canadians and Britons are more open to physician-assisted suicide than Americans, a recent poll by Angus Reid Public Opinion has found.

Eighty per cent of Canadians and 77 per cent of the English said that doctors should be allowed to assist terminally ill, fully informed and competent patients to kill themselves. But only 56 per cent of Americans agreed.

The poll found 10 per cent of Canadians and nine per cent of Britons firmly opposed to physician-assisted suicide no matter who asks for it. Nearly one third — 29 per cent — of Americans said it should never be allowed. On the flip side, three-quarters of Canadians and Britons said physician-assisted suicide should always be allowed under specific circumstances, whereas only half of Americans thought so.

The problem with polls is that few respondents understand what’s meant by physician-assisted suicide, said Rita Marker, Patient Rights Council executive director.

“Those who are answering this poll could be viewing it as removing life support,” she said in an interview from Steubenville, Ohio. The Patient Rights Council is independent, but closely aligned with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Murky notions of palliative care and its availability fuel a fear-based response to polls on physician-assisted suicide in Canada, said Alex Schadenberg, executive director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition.

“Most Canadians support euthanasia or assisted suicide because they fear dying in pain or experiencing uncontrolled symptoms,” he wrote in an e-mail to The Catholic Register. “Fear is a normal human response and it should be respected.”

The poll reveals nothing new about British attitudes to physician-assisted suicide, said Charles Wookey, assistant general secretary of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales.

“So far as the UK is concerned, in terms of opinion surveys this doesn’t surprise me,” he said. “What we’re seeing here to a degree is an instinctive, compassionate response from a society that prizes individual autonomy very highly.”

The Angus-Reid survey found 86 per cent of Canadians, 84 per cent of Britons and 69 per cent of Americans agree with the statement that “Legalizing doctor-assisted suicide would give people who are suffering an opportunity to ease their pain.”

People who believe laws against assisted suicide protect the vulnerable from social, economic and medical pressure to commit suicide face a major education challenge, said Wookey.

“It means there’s a very, very clear job for the Church to do, particularly in secular society,” he said.

But the Church can’t do it without allies, according to Wookey.

“What’s essential in this debate in this country is for it to be conducted in secular terms,” he said. “It’s an unfortunate fact that the religious argument or arguments based on the appeal to faith tend clearly not to persuade people who do not share the faith. They invite the response, ‘Don’t impose your faith-based views on the rest of us.’ ”

British bishops have teamed up with disability rights organizations and palliative care professionals to form an alliance called Care Not Killing — a purely secular platform to engage the public policy debate.

“When people are taken through the arguments and begin to understand first of all the quality of palliative care and what palliative care can provide, and secondly what the public policy consequences are for the most vulnerable members of society of a change in the law — what it might actually lead to — then very many people do actually change their minds,” said Wookey.

Getting people educated about the issue is essential because without a full debate economic issues will enter the equation, said Marker.

“We have to recognize the fact that all health programs are trying to save money,” she said. “By trying to save money the question is, will those health programs — if you say assisted suicide is a medical treatment — will they then do the right thing or the cheap thing?”

In Canada, availability and understanding of palliative care is key, said Schadenberg. He points to a 2010 Environics poll  that found 71 per cent of Canadians want governments to prioritize palliative care over euthanasia and assisted suicide. The 2011 Parliamentary Committee on Palliative and Compassionate Care report Not To Be Forgotten is a start, he said.

“The real answer is to care for the needs of Canadians who are living with terminal conditions, chronic pain or disabilities,” said Schadenberg.

Angus-Reid’s online survey polled 1,003 Americans, 2,019 Britons and 1,003 Canadians between July 4 and 5. The margin of statistical error is plus or minus 2.2 per cent for Great Britain and plus or minus 3.1 per cent for Canada and the United States.

Published in Canada