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.

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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WOODBRIDGE, Ont. - If Pope Benedict XVI wants to declare saints, former prime minister John Turner sees no reason why he shouldn't get in on the act. Turner declared three "living saints" of his own at the annual Tastes of Heaven fundraising dinner for Catholic Missions In Canada.

"Rome may not reach you but I'm telling you, you are saints," Turner declared to three missionaries at the May 6 dinner in Woodbridge.

As a long-time supporter and honorary chair of the Tastes of Heaven event, Turner was chosen to hand out the St. Joseph Award to three northern missionaries. Soeurs de Sainte-Chretienne Sr. Bernadette Gautreau and Sr. Jeannette Berger received the award for a half-century of service in Fox Lake and John d'Or Prairie in the Little Red River Cree Nation. Oblate Father Joseph Baril was given the award for 57 years with the Cree of James Bay, the Inuit of northern Quebec and communities in Labrador.

He's still a bishop and the proper title is still "The Most Reverend" Raymond Lahey, but the former bishop of Antigonish, a confessed hoarder of child porn, is very likely to set canon law history by being dismissed from the clerical state.

New norms to deal with priests who use child pornography became Church law just a year ago. In May 2010 a new list of grave acts to be judged by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) included the possession, acquisition or distribution of pornographic images of a minor under 14 years old for the purposes of sexual gratification by whatever means and using whatever technology.

Lahey is likely be the first bishop transferred to the lay state (defrocked) as a punishment for possessing child porn after he pled guilty to charges in an Ottawa courtroom May 4.

It's hard to say how long it will take, but the congregation has a clear mandate from Pope Benedict XVI to prosecute such cases, said Chad Glendinning, a canon law professor at Ottawa's Saint Paul University.

TORONTO - Practical steps toward establishing an Anglican Ordinariate for Canada were taken at the University of Toronto’s Newman Centre May 1.

About 25 Anglicans and ex-Anglicans met to discuss their personal decision to seek union with the Catholic Church and how they would fulfill the conditions of Anglicanorum Coetibus, the apostolic constitution which governs how groups of Anglicans will be able to retain Anglican liturgical and pastoral traditions even as they become Catholics.

Ex-Anglican Canadians have been asked to send individual letters to Toronto Archbishop Thomas Collins by May 31 seeking inclusion in the Anglican Ordinariate. This will indicate to Collins how many people would eventually make up the ordinariate. The ordinariate is analogous to a diocese without the usual territorial borders.

Bishop Richard Grecco and the diocese of Charlottetown no longer own all the Catholic parishes in Prince Edward Island.

The diocese of Charlottetown, which covers all 49 parishes on Prince Edward Island, has reorganized itself so each parish is now separately incorporated as a non-profit, charitable corporation. In the old “corporation sole” arrangement, the parishes were, legally speaking, the property of the diocese, and thus of the bishop.

This kind of corporate reorganization has been gradually taking place across Canada since a Dec. 14, 2005 letter from then-apostolic nuncio Archbishop Luigi Ventura to Canada’s bishops asking them to abandon the corporation sole and bring their corporate structures into line with the Church’s 1983 Code of Canon Law.

The big motivator for the change has been the recent history of lawsuits and bankruptcies over sexual abuse cases.

“If there is a court case and the court demands a huge sum, they demand that the diocese use all its assets to pay it,” explained Grecco. “Well, the parishes belong to the diocese’s assets.”

TORONTO - Once a Liberal bastion thanks to immigrants, ethnic voters in Toronto have given Conservatives the majority they sought.

"The Conservative ethnic ground game paid off in the end," said Jonathan Luk, the graduating president of the University of Toronto Chinese Catholic Community.

Chinese voters in both the 416 and 905 regions responded to values the Conservative Party championed, Luk said. The party took 30 of 44 Greater Toronto Area seats, a key component in gaining a majority government after Stephen Harper presided over two consecutive minority governments.

"When we talk about basic issues — the safety of our society, being tough on crime, respect for tradition and respect for hard work — these are values that Chinese people value," Luk said. "I also see Catholic voters are no different when it comes to those things."

For Tamils, who found themselves featured in an early Conservative attack ad, the community is hoping the new NDP official opposition and the first-ever Tamil Member of Parliament can hold the Conservatives to account for its immigration policies, said Jessica Devi Chandrashekar.

"Those who came out and voted were people who have bared the brunt of the recession and have been unable to reunite with their families because of the Conservative immigration policies," said Chandrashekar. "In Scarborough-Rouge River, a riding comprised mostly of the ethnic vote, (voters) made history in electing Rathika Sitsaiebasan for the NDP. Rathika is the first Sri Lankan Tamil MP elected outside of Sri Lanka. This has enormous significance for Tamil Canadians."

Chandrashekar is one of a new generation of voters, some of whom responded in this election in ways never seen before. Vote mobs organized on Twitter and Facebook swept university campuses, demanding young people seize the power of the ballot.

"I am 27 years old and born in Canada. This was my first time voting," said Chandrashekar. "I am looking forward to becoming more involved in the political process in Canada and the continued changes that the election in 2015 will bring."

The peace vote in Toronto was not overjoyed with the Conservative majority.

"A Conservative majority would be a bad thing for the cause of peace," wrote Deacon Steve Barringer of Pax Christi Toronto in an e-mail as results came in on election night. "They have a poor record of listening to interest groups of any kind."

Pax Christi plans to ramp up its protests in response to Conservative military and foreign policy.

"We will be looking at more aggressive programs, up to and including demonstrations and even civil disobedience against what we believe may be immoral policies," Barringer said.

Barringer puts his hope in a strong opposition from the New Democrats.

"We believe that Mr. Layton will listen," he said.

Catholic eco-theologian and University of Toronto religious studies professor Stephen Bede Sharper is also putting his hope in the NDP opposition, bolstered by the first-ever Green Party seat in Parliament.

"With the NDP's emergence, we now have a solid shot at a party that constitutes a real opposition to the Harper government, with the issues of social justice, workers' rights and the widening gap between rich and poor constituting central, rather than ancillary, political concerns," Sharper wrote in an e-mail to The Catholic Register.

TORONTO - It was a big day for Toronto's Poles, starting at 4.00a.m. when they gathered round their televisions to watch Pope Benedict XVI declare his predecessor blessed - one step removed from sainthood.

These photographs follow the Polish celebration in Mississauga and on Roncesvalles Avenue in downtown Toronto - two places where Poles live, work, shop and pray.

They witness the joy and pride Poles derive from the memory os Pope John Paul II.

View the images in the slideshow that is embedded below or click here to load a larger version in a new window.

You can use the small icon, to view the slideshow in full-screen mode.
This slideshow has annotations  for each image which you can turn on with the "captions" button in the bottom right corner of the player.


Knights of ColumbusA pro-life message on church property can’t be construed as a violation of Ontario’s Human Rights Code, a human rights’ tribunal has ruled.

“Freedom of religion must not be interpreted in a way that voids the positive dimension of the freedom (the right to hold beliefs, practice and disseminate them) of any meaning,” wrote Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario adjudicator Michelle Flaherty in an April 5 decision in favour of a Knights of Columbus council in l’Original, Ont.

The francophone Chevaliers de Colomb attached to the parish of Saint-Jean Baptise, an hour-and-a-half southeast of Ottawa, found itself on the defensive over a monument erected on the church’s front lawn. An inscription on the monument read (in French), “Let us pray that all life rests in the hands of God from conception until death.”
Jim Webb, right, awards the Magis Award to Fr. Bill Addley, who accepted on behalf of Our Lady of Lourdes parish. (Photo by Michael Swan)CONCORD, ONT. - Jesuit Father Bill Addley took one for the Our Lady of Lourdes team at the fifth annual Provincial’s Dinner April 13. In its 125th year in downtown Toronto, the Jesuits awarded their parish with the Magis Award and pastor Addley was there to accept the plaque.

“We gratefully and humbly accept it,” said Addley.

The award is bestowed annually by Canada’s English-speaking Jesuits on someone or some community that lives out the ideal of the magis. Magis is Latin for more. St. Ignatius, founder of the Jesuits, urged his followers to constantly ask what more they could do for Christ. Jesuits ever since have called this constant search for more the magis.