The issue of free speech on university campuses comes up almost every year. Over the past five years at least half-a-dozen student pro-life clubs have faced restrictions, outright bans or the threat of bans. Controversy around their speaking events, including the shutting down of speakers, is not uncommon.

In recent years presentations by conservative speakers have been cancelled or moved off campus due to “security concerns.” Meanwhile, pro-choice and other very liberal speakers are usually welcomed on the same campuses, suggesting the issue with conservative speakers is less about security than about their unpopular and presumably unwanted viewpoints.

Reconfiguring the episcopate

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How do you reform an episcopate and provide new leadership for the Church in a particular nation? Canada is now the model for the Church universal on how it can be done.

The dramatic appointment of Christian Lépine as the new archbishop of Montreal, only six months after he was ordained an auxiliary bishop of the same diocese, has drawn attention to Canada as the exemplar of how an episcopate can be reconfigured for the challenges of the new evangelization.

Just 18 months ago, in the fall of 2010, Cardinal Marc Ouellet, former archbishop of Quebec City, arrived in Rome as the new prefect of the Congregation for Bishops. The prefect is the most senior advisor to the Holy Father on the appointment of bishops. High on the new prefect’s agenda was the renewal of the bishops of Quebec, with a number of retirements pending.

Firings over crucifix a wake-up call

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The British government’s flagrant insult to the cross is more than a religious issue. Though it is clearly anti-Christian, it is yet another example of chipping away at Western society and the ideals that make it the envy of the world.

People from all over the world for years have flocked to Western democracies to experience freedom, raise families and live better lives. And, for the most part, the West has welcomed them with open arms. There has been discrimination, but in the larger scheme of things, rising tides lift all boats and as newcomers arrive, our society rises with them.

New heights for anti-Catholicism in America

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WASHINGTON, DC - In the long history of anti-Catholicism, the epithets vomited at the Church and Catholics are numerous and colourful: Whore of Babylon, anti-Christ, mother of harlots, heretical, pagan, idolatrous, satanic, alien, ignorant, anti-intellectual, slavish and a personal favourite, the “two-horned monster of Rome,” which is how a few rabid Orthodox monks protested Blessed John Paul’s visit to Greece.

So it was a novelty to encounter another anti-Catholic image: the battered woman. Last week Catholics were told: “You’re better than your Church, so why stay? Apparently, you’re like the battered woman who, after being beaten down every Sunday, feels she has no place else to go.”

Preston Manning on the failure of right thinking

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Preston Manning had an astringent warning for Canadian conservatives at the annual gathering sponsored by his eponymous think-tank.

“For conservatives, being right must mean more than just being right of centre. It must mean doing the right thing. There is no substitute for rock solid personal integrity,” he told the large “C” and small “c” faithful at the recent Manning Centre conference in Ottawa.

Though the words were delivered with Manning’s characteristic personal geniality and intellectual charity, their sting was palpable, particularly among those Conservative Party members still writhing after being flayed by National Post columnist Andrew Coyne. Coyne had carved the Conservative government’s political, policy and ethical failings with the surgical scrupulousness of an assembly line sadist handling the Friday night crowd at Mistress Cheri’s House of Pain and Shame.

A winding road to unity

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VATICAN CITY - In the days after the hoopla of the consistory for new cardinals left town, a smaller but more historic group of pilgrims was making its way to the tomb of the apostle Peter and the seat of his successor.

A pilgrimage of thanksgiving arrived from Britain — some 100 members of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, the new “diocese” set up for former Anglicans who are now Catholics, but with the special task of preserving their Anglican cultural and liturgical patrimony. Some two years after Pope Benedict XVI made it possible with his document Anglicanorum Coetibus, the new structure is established in Britain and more recently also in the United States. The arrival of new Catholics from Britain, small in number but fervent in faith, was experienced as a “homecoming” by them, and a tiny step toward healing the breach of the divisions of the 16th century.

Don’t forget Christians caught in Israeli-Palestinian conflict

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To paraphrase Winston Churchill, when it comes to human rights violations and protecting religious freedoms, Israel is the worst country in the Middle East — except for all the rest.

Sunday’s shifting solemnities

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VATICAN CITY - Consistories for new cardinals are usually held on major feasts, and the most recent one had a lesson for the liturgical life of parishes.

Blessed John Paul II held six of his nine consistories on Petrine feasts — three for Sts. Peter and Paul (June 29), two for the Chair of Peter (Feb. 22) and one for his silver jubilee as Successor of Peter in October 2003. Benedict held his first consistory in 2006 on the Feast of the Annunciation, and his next two on Christ the King in 2007 and 2010. This year he chose the Chair of Peter, the feast which highlights the role of Peter and his successors in authoritatively teaching the deposit of the faith.

Anonymity and ignorance

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On Feb. 17, the Supreme Court of Canada rendered its decision on a case that tested the right of parents to exempt their children from Quebec’s Ethics and Religious Culture (ERC) course. The case attracted many intervenors because the decision could impact other cases that question the lengths government can go to impose curriculum against parental wishes.

About one month earlier, the Ontario Catholic School Trustees’ Association released a report, “Respecting Difference,” which set guidelines for promoting equity and respect for all students in Catholic schools. It followed months of controversy surrounding “gay-straight alliances” in Ontario’s publicly funded schools. While there are differences between the two scenarios, both concern a provincial government trying to impose a school policy despite objections from parents.

Who needs parents when we are blessed with government?

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Credit Air Canada with cluing me in to the bracing effects of the state sticking its imperious snout so deeply into Canadian society.

There I was on a recent cross-country flight waiting for someone in authority to give the malfunctioning in-flight entertainment system a good whack when the little screen was suddenly alight with visual metaphor. From the depths of one of the boundless bureaucracies that spend our quarter-trillion-dollar federal budget, we strapped in travellers were shown a videographic public service announcement on a matter so urgent it was deemed essential viewing for an audience that cannot escape.

The logic of the Gospel is a challenge, and remains so, even for cardinals

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VATICAN CITY - Attending a consistory for new cardinals is something of an ambivalent thing. On balance it is a positive experience, a festive occasion to be sure. Yet there is also an uneasiness, for there are touches of worldliness about it which ought to make a Christian disciple wary.

A consistory is truly a celebration of something particularly Catholic, namely the Roman and Petrine dimensions of the Church. Such occasions of pride and joy strengthen the faith, as they reinforce the bonds of affection that unite Catholics with the successor of St. Peter. The link between the local bishop created a cardinal and the Bishop of Rome is evident enough, and it highlights the communion of all local bishops with the See of Rome, and therefore the unity of the Church universal.