Michael Swan, The Catholic Register

Michael Swan, The Catholic Register

Michael is Associate Editor of The Catholic Register.

He is an award-winning writer and photographer and holds a Master of Arts degree from New York University.

Follow him on Twitter @MmmSwan, or click here to email him.

A broad spectrum of Canadian churches have published election guides for voters heading to the polls on May 2. Both the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops and Catholic Charities have published guides. Human beings can’t choose to be political. We’re born that way. Politics is how we act together and human beings are fundamentally social.

“The political community and public authority are based on human nature,” said the Second Vatican Council in its Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World (Gaudium et Spes). “And therefore they need belong to an order established by God. Nevertheless, the choice of the political regime and the appointment of rulers are left to the free decision of the citizens.”

Those free decisions are supposed to bring us closer to justice, according to Pope Benedict XVI.

“Justice is both the aim and the intrinsic criterion of all politics,” the Pope wrote in the 2005 encyclical Deus Caritas Est. “Politics is more than a mere mechanism for defining the rules of public life. Its origin and its goal are found in justice.”
Bishop GreccoTORONTO - Ongoing controversy over abortion and the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace may be having a negative effect on overall fundraising for ShareLife.

Each time Development and Peace faces public allegations that some of its partners are linked with organizations advocating legal access to abortion, ShareLife is contacted by angry donors threatening not to give, said ShareLife spokesman Bill Steinburg.

“Whenever they call we always remind them that by doing so they’re having an impact on the huge family of more than 40 agencies that do a lot of work here on the ground, helping our own communities,” Steinburg said.

Early this month, speaking engagements by a Mexican priest to promote Development and Peace’s overseas work were cancelled in Ottawa and Cornwall following allegations that the Jesuit priest’s human rights centre is associated with an organization that supports decriminalization of abortion. In cancelling the Ottawa events, Archbishop Terrance Prendergast said that support by Fr. Luis Arriaga’s centre for groups sympathetic to abortion is “incompatible” with Church teaching.
Marie WilsonTORONTO - An apology is not the end of it and treaties are not dusty history for Canada’s native people is the message Marie Wilson has for Canadians who would rather not talk about what happened in residential schools.

Wilson is one of three commissioners who make up the Indian Residential Schools Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The trio have five years to document the history of the national network of schools mandated by the government but mostly run by churches.

There may be truth but there won’t be any reconciliation if mainstream, urban Canadians don’t acknowledge the legacy of the schools, Wilson told about 70 people at Toronto’s Regis College April 6, where she delivered the annual Martin Royackers Lecture.
Many Catholics are only vaguely aware of the evangelicals among them — the religious brothers, sisters and priests whose lives are shaped by three vows.

The insiders know the vows as the “evangelical counsels.” They commit every nun, brother and religious order priest to poverty, chastity and obedience. Every religious community interprets these three vows through their own charism — the founding spark or reason for their order’s existence.

The vows do not apply to secular priests, that majority of priests who were trained and ordained by their diocese.

Though some religious communities have grown smaller over the last half-century, Dominican Father Francois Mifsud insists that the evangelical counsels are more relevant than ever.
A monk prays in the silence of the Benedictine’s Westminster Abbey in Mission, B.C. Salt+Light Television is airing its look inside the walls of the abbey in This Side of Eden on Palm Sunday, April 17.If you strip life down to its essentials you don’t strip out beauty. You produce lives entirely devoted to beauty.

In This Side of Eden we’re invited into the lives of Benedictine monks at Westminster Abbey in Mission, B.C., during Holy Week. The simplicity of their daily round of work and prayer feeds into the most solemn and significant liturgies of the Christian calendar — Palm Sunday, Holy Thursday, Good Friday, the Easter Vigil.

All this unfolds before the camera in one of the most extraordinary settings. Surrounded by mountains and nestled into the temperate rain forest of the B.C. coast, Westminister Abbey Church is a modern architectural gem constructed in the early 1980s with 7,000 square feet of stained glass. The church and abbey are filled with contemporary frescoes, paintings and sculpture — much of it by one of Mission’s monks, Fr. Dunstan Massey.
A rabbi holds up matzos during a Passover Seder. More Christians are experiencing this at interfaith Seders. (CNS photo)Christians can’t think of the Easter Triduum, let alone live through it, without thinking of the Passover. Increasingly, Christians are letting that thought lead them to an authentic experience of the Jewish Passover in interfaith Seders.

A Seder is a family meal that ritually re-enacts the Exodus story. It’s the beginning of the Jewish celebration of Passover. Foods served at the Seder are connected directly with the Exodus and the story of Israel’s escape from Egypt is retold, reading the Haggadah aloud through the course of the meal. The Haggadah is a sort of expansion of the Bible story with roots in the Mishnah, a collection of Jewish writings based on oral tradition.

“It’s a story of liberation,” explains Beth Porter. “We’re really meant to appropriate that story for ourselves as we sit at the Seder table — to think about our own journey from bondage to freedom.”
TORONTO - When last year's ShareLife campaign did a little better than the organization's cautious projections, local charities benefited to the tune of $305,000.

Catholic Charities distributes the largest portion of ShareLife money to 31 Catholic agencies at work in and around Toronto. It allocates the money in November, long before ShareLife raises the bulk of the money during Lent.

"People say, maybe we've got this backwards. Maybe we should raise the money and then make the commitment," said Catholic Charities executive director Michael Fullan. "I've called the ShareLife campaign an act of faith, because it really is."

Coming in a bit higher than projections last year allowed Catholic Charities to distribute one-time extra grants to a number of agencies at the beginning of 2011.
Karen HamiltonThe number one demand churches are making from campaigning federal politicians is a concrete plan to reduce and end poverty in Canada.

The Canadian Council of Churches reiterated the ecumenical priority in a letter to all the national party leaders March 31.

"The issue of poverty, certainly our Scriptures call us to that over and over and over again," Canadian Council of Churches general secretary Rev. Dr. Karen Hamilton told The Catholic Register.

The eight priority issues listed in the CCC letter largely repeat the priorities laid out last year by international faith leaders gathered in Winnipeg just before the G20 Summit in Toronto.
Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason KenneyChanges to Canada's refugee system are being denounced  by the sponsorship community as a cap on compassion and generosity.

A February letter from Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney  to churches and non-profits that sponsor refugees revealed plans to limit the number of refugees Canadians would be allowed to sponsor under the Private Sponsorship of Refugees program. Kenney calls it a "different kind of stewardship." The government is also unilaterally altering its contracts with Sponsorship Agreement Holders, ending all agreements as of Dec. 31, 2011.

"Putting a cap on the number of refugee applications can mean putting a limit on the generosity of Canadians," said Canadian Council for Refugees director Janet Dench.
April 6, 2011

Truth still matters

Lack of honesty the root cause of most problemsWith campaign jets soaring over the land and campaign buses rolling down highways, it’s sometimes easy for Canadians to be cynical about the honesty of politicians. But truth in politics still matters to Canadians, and politicians recognize it, said Prof. Richard Feist, dean of the faculty of philosophy at Ottawa’s Saint Paul University.

“The incumbent party certainly does not say something like, ‘Well, so what if we were defeated on non-confidence, or not providing (information).’ ” said Feist. “They want to talk as if ‘No, we were defeated on the budget.’ ”

Feist runs the Masters in Public Ethics program at Saint Paul, training civil servants in the philosophy of honesty. Truth, who tells the truth and whether citizens can recognize it, is important in how we run our politics and how we run our country, he said.