Glen Argan

Glen Argan

Glen Argan, former editor of Western Catholic Reporter, writes from Edmonton. See www.glenargan.com.

St. Paul’s hymn of love in 1 Corinthians 13 is commonly used as the New Testament reading at weddings. It is a good choice as it is a reminder that love can be difficult and that it requires husband and wife each to go beyond their comfort zone for love to be real.

Although St. Francis de Sales is counted among the great saints, the first I heard of him was in his role as patron saint of writers, journalists and the Catholic press. I remained with that meagre knowledge for years until I encountered then-Bishop Thomas Collins who was and is a great fan of St. Francis.

Few, if any, people in the 20th century thought as deeply about the nature of hope and eternal life as Pope Benedict XVI. Before being named Archbishop of Munich in 1978, Joseph Ratzinger published a theological tome on death, immortality, resurrection, the last judgment and the human destinies of Heaven, purgatory and hell. As Pope Benedict, he wrote an encyclical Spe Salvi (On Christian Hope) based on the belief that Christians know their lives are not empty, that they have an eternal destiny.

As the COVID pandemic began three years ago, many asked what the new normal might be once it subsided. In that question, there was an optimism, even hope, that a massive amount of suffering and death would smarten us up, spur us to become more concerned for the needs of others. 

It has been more than four months since the end of Pope Francis’ visit to Canada to meet with Indigenous people and apologize for the Catholic Church’s involvement and acts of terror in the Indian residential school system. It’s long enough for the next steps in the journey of reconciliation to have been at least discussed. Yet, there has been next to nothing.

Since my teenage years, I have wondered what a better world would look like. What sort of society should we hope for? I also wonder if our world did become better, would we even know that to be the case. That is, what criteria would enable us to determine when the state of the world had improved?

People in the modern Western world are often shocked when they read Plato’s Republic and see the great philosopher criticizing democracy as one of the lowest forms of governing society. For Plato, democracy and tyranny (the lowest form) are as one with the tyrant merely the most self-centred type of ruler. 

The world today has numerous crises — climate change, pandemic, growing discrepancies of power and wealth, the nuclear threat and war, not only in Ukraine but wars in places that go underreported. Perhaps the greatest crisis is the lack of leadership capable of dealing with these substantive crises.

The overriding “reform” of the Second Vatican Council was a renewed call to mission to the world. The reform of the liturgy, the expanded sense of Church as the pilgrim people of God, the openness to ecumenism and the paring back of Catholic triumphalism are all to be of service to that central idea.

The aspect of the proposed Alberta sovereignty act which most gives me pause is not the legal chaos into which it will throw this province if enacted — although that is worrisome enough — but the spirit of division which it seeks to codify in law.