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.

The Canadian funding of a Mexican human rights organization was cut following a letter from the archbishop of Mexico City that directly accuses the Jesuit-founded body of supporting pro-abortion groups.

The Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace (D&P) cut the funding for Centro PRODH, whose director recently had speaking engagements cancelled in Ottawa and Cornwall, after Mexican Cardinal Norberto Carrera said the organization "does NOT represent the sentiments of the Church and has been characterized by its support and encouragement of groups and activities that are an affront to Christian values."

"With respect to the theme of defence of life, the organization has supported pro-abortion groups and promoted the purported woman's right over her body, against unborn life," said a translation of the letter obtained by The Catholic Register.

Carrera's letter was sent to the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, which two years ago cleared Centro PRODH of similar accusations.

Members of D&P in Francophone Canada have demanded restoration of funding to the Mexican human rights organization that apparently endorses a campaign for legal access to first trimester abortions throughout Mexico.New funding rules and the process of setting new directions for the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace (D&P) are running into stiff opposition in Quebec and New Brunswick.

Members of D&P in Francophone Canada used their regional assembly meeting to demand restoration of funding to Centro PRODH, the Mexican human rights organization that has drawn heat for apparently endorsing a campaign for legal access to first trimester abortions throughout Mexico.

D&P had ended its funding relationship with Centro PRODH based on doubts expressed by Mexico’s conference of Catholic bishops. In April Archbishop Terrence Prendergast and D&P cancelled an Ottawa speaking engagement with Centro PRODH executive director Fr. Luis Arriaga. Arriaga was photographed accepting an award from an organization that promotes legal access to abortion.

TORONTO - Traumatized, guilt-wracked victims of human trafficking don’t often disclose what’s happened to them. Despite the reluctance to talk, Toronto’s Covenant House deals with a constant stream of both international and domestic victims, said social work manager Helen Winters.

“We don’t know how many youth who come in here have been involved in trafficking. We know they come through here with trauma, with addictions,” Winters said of the downtown Toronto agency that aids young street people. “The tip of the iceberg are the ones who actually reveal to us.”

Lately, many of the international victims turning up at its doors have come from Africa. There have always been aboriginal girls off reserves and runaways from small towns. In some ways it’s an old story. Men who hang around shopping malls, hostels and bus stations offering a little kindness and attention to vulnerable, lost young women.

“Often the pimps will act like a boyfriend. They’re special. They (the pimps) will wine and dine them. Then they use and abuse them,” said Winters.

TORONTO - Though she escaped more than a year ago, it’s still difficult for Irais Martinez to hold back tears when she recalls how she was trafficked into a sweatshop in Brampton, Ont.

It’s hard for the 27-year-old psychology graduate from Mexico to think of herself as a victim.

“I feel like I hurt myself without my permission,” she told The Catholic Register.

She hasn’t explained to her parents what happened to her since she came to Canada.

“It’s not easy to tell them, ‘Oh, I was involved in human trafficking.’ ”

Her case to stay in Canada is before the Immigration and Refugee Board, and she knows she faces extra scrutiny because she is Mexican. The IRB has rejected the vast majority of Mexican cases in recent years. The situation makes Martinez “really, really angry.”

For the sixth year in a row Canada’s birth rate has inched up, but a polarized job market and pressure on young couples to obtain and pay for their education before starting a family is pushing mothers up against a biological wall.

Statistics Canada reported the nation’s fertility rate for 2008 was 1.68 children per woman, up slightly from 1.66 per woman in 2007. The 2008 fertility rate produced 377,886 babies, a 2.7-per-cent increase over 2007.

Much of the increase can be attributed to the population bulge of children of baby boomers, the so-called “echo generation,” now in their 20s and 30s.

“Canada, in terms of fertility, is the middle of the pack (compared to other Western nations),” said Vanier Institute for the Family director of programs Katherine Scott. “Obviously, we’re below the replacement rate of 2.1.”

TORONTO - There are about 6,900 languages in the world. Anthropologists and linguists believe 90 per cent of them will be extinct by the end of this century. But Scarboro Mission priest Fr. Ron MacDonell is doing his best to save one of them.

MacDonell works with the Makushi people deep in the Amazon rainforest, near the border between Brazil and Guyana. Working with his parishioners, MacDonnell has produced a trilingual book of Makushi myths in Makushi, Portuguese and English.

The English title for the collection of 30 legends and folk tales is Jaguars, Tapirs and Foxes.

Years in the making, the book is only MacDonell’s latest effort to give momentum to Makushi language and culture. In 2008 he published a Makushi dictionary and since 2006 he has worked with native Makushi speakers to broadcast Makushi lessons on the Raraima diocese’s FM radio station.

PORT ROYAL, N.S. - Canada's Jesuits returned to the scene of their earliest footsteps in Canada to help mark 400 years of service in Canada May 22.

About three dozen Canadian Jesuits and some 100 guests gathered to mark the landing, 400 years to the day, of Jesuit Fathers Pierre Biard and Ennemond Massé at Port Royal in what is now Nova Scotia. Halifax Archbishop Anthony Mancini presided at a jubilee Mass that was part of the day-long celebrations at Port Royal National Historical Site.

The reconstructed Habitation on the shores of the Annapolis Basin, near the Bay of Fundy, provided a back drop for a brief dramatic re-enactment of Biard and Massé’s landing at the site. The original Habitation had been built by French fur traders in 1604 but had been abandoned to Mi’kmaq control when the Jesuits arrived. It became the base for two years of missionary activity before the Jesuits returned to France.

TORONTO - A leaked private e-mail between two Australian bishops that was critical of Toronto Archbishop Thomas Collins briefly threatened to halt the process of forming a Catholic Anglican ordinariate in Canada.

The message from Traditional Anglican Communion primate Archbishop John Hepworth to Melbourne’s Catholic Bishop Peter Elliott accused Collins of “the wanton destruction of their (Anglican Catholic Church of Canada) communities, the absolute disregard for their ecclesial integrity, and the brutish manner in which these edicts are being communicated.” Hepworth said that he and Anglican Catholic Church of Canada Bishop Peter Wilkinson would immediately place “on hold” further steps toward creating an ordinariate in Canada.  

Collins has been put in charge of the processes of forming an ordinariate for ex-Anglicans in Canada under the terms of the 2009 apostolic constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus.

In a statement posted to the archdiocese of Toronto’s web site May 16, Collins said his job was to offer the terms of Anglicanorum Coetibus to any and all former Anglicans, not just the Traditional Anglican Communion, of which the Anglican Catholic Church of Canada is a member.

TORONTO - The United States failed the most basic test of the Golden Rule in its reaction to the 9/11 attacks, but killing Osama bin Laden could be justified on the basis of the do-unto-others rule, Fr. Harry Gensler told a gathering of Golden Rule enthusiasts at Scarboro Missions May 11.

The Jesuit author of 14 books on ethics and logic would have preferred that bin Laden be captured. And the American priest is appalled by celebrations over his death. But an argument for killing bin Laden could be made using the Golden Rule as a starting point, he said.

“You have to be able to say that if I do all those things, the acts of terror, etc., then I’m willing that I should be killed,” said Gensler, a philosophy professor at John Carroll University in Cleveland.

On the broader question of all of the ways the United States has employed its military in response to the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks, America can’t claim a Golden Rule justification for its actions, according to Gensler.

Wafi Shara shows the bullet she was struck with during an attack on a Baghdad church. (Photo by Michael Swan)TORONTO - Wafi Shara lived through the attack on Baghdad’s Syriac Catholic cathedral Oct. 31, 2010, but the bullet Italian doctors removed from her leg still holds her captive.

Shara spends all day in a tiny, two-room apartment in midtown Toronto praying, crying and wishing to be reunited with her brother Wafi Youssif. The damage to her leg has left her with limited mobility. She’s in a strange city with few friends, working hard to improve her English.

While her brother would prefer to come to Canada, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees staff are recommending him for the United States. Youssif is now trying to decide whether to remain in Jordan and hope someone in Canada can sponsor him, going back to Baghdad where he fears for his family’s safety or going to the United States where he knows no one.

In Toronto living on about $600 a month, Shara carries with her the fears that became part of life in Baghdad as the city descended into rounds of violence and sectarian cleansing of neighbourhoods. She asked us not to photograph her face  for this article.

As she lay wounded underneath a pew in Our Lady of Salvation Cathedral, Shara saw her niece Raghda escape into the vestry. Shara thought perhaps her niece had been smart to get out of the main part of the church. In the end, Raghda was the only one of about 50 people crammed into the vestry who was killed.

Shara now finds herself in the country her niece dreamed about in Baghdad. The 61-year-old single Shara finds it a bit cruel that she is now in Canada in her niece’s place.

“She is the bridge for me to come to Canada. She wished to come to Canada,” said Shara.

The former school teacher lived with her brother in Baghdad and helped raise Raghda. Separated from the city she once loved and from almost all of her family, Shara wants nothing more than to be reunited with her brother.

“I am alone here. I live alone. I want him here with me.”

With her wound still fresh, Shara was evacuated from Baghdad to Italy for surgery and physiotherapy. There she met with Pope Benedict XVI before Canada stepped in to sponsor her as a refugee. Until and unless she has her brother back at her side, safely here in Canada,  Shara remains in limbo — the journey still not completed and so many left behind.

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