Quebec’s euthanasia debate must be getting horribly confusing when even a Catholic priest doesn’t know the right answer to whether the practice should be legalized.

It must be doubly so when the priest is also a former MP who knows — or should know — that euthanasia can be made legal only by amending the federal Criminal Code.

Yet here was Fr. Raymond Gravel, the one-time Bloc Quebecois MP for a Montreal-area riding, musing about whether killing the elderly, the weak and the suffering might be just what the doctor ordered for Quebec’s health care system.

Rejoice in the day the Lord has made

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OTTAWA - “I have never been in a church this big,” said one soon-to-be ex-Anglican priest to Archbishop Terrence Prendergast of Ottawa in the sacristy of St. Patrick’s Basilica on Divine Mercy Sunday.

The occasion was a solemn Mass in the “Anglican Use” to receive some 40 members of the Anglican Catholic Church of Canada into full communion with the Catholic Church. The several dozen new Catholics will form a quasi-parish that, while fully Catholic, will celebrate the Eucharist according to approved liturgical books which draw upon their Anglican heritage.

What happened to the art of civil discourse?

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No doubt, some people will be offended by this column. Seems whatever is said about Catholicism offends someone these days. Even the most benign comment is challenged. Instead of listening to and discussing other points of view, there is a tendency to shout at those who see things differently.

Think I am exaggerating? Take a quick spin on blogs, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and elsewhere and you’ll easily find the shouting, name-calling and misunderstandings. (Just Google “Catholic faith arguments” or “contraception” or “women priests” as starting points and then simply click away.)

A nation’s story is not told only in politics

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OTTAWA - About a month ago it was cardinals’ week here in the nation’s capital. Our chaplaincy at Queen’s University was hosting the visit to Canada of the archbishop of Bombay, Cardinal Oswald Gracias. Given that it was his first visit to our country, and that he was flying into Ottawa, it was arranged that he would visit Parliament. The Speaker of the Senate, Noel Kinsella, received him and gave him a tour of the red chamber and the speaker’s offices. Afterward, the Speaker of the House of Commons, Andrew Scheer, hosted a dinner in Cardinal Gracias’ honour.

Trampling on rights

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Something unsettling is happening when conscience becomes a dirty word in a liberal democracy. Yet most Canadians seem unfazed by the increasing tendency to treat our fundamental right to freedom of conscience as if it were some unspeakable anti-social offence.

The denial of conscience rights to marriage commissioners in Saskatchewan, the obliteration of parental rights in Quebec, the imposition of state sexual ideology on Catholic schools in Ontario — these should all be causing deep concern. In none of these cases, after all, have the aggrieved parties taken the law into their own hands. They have not shouted fire in a crowded theatre, the time-honoured test of the limit of free speech. All they have sought is their Charter-protected right to be exempted from legal or regulatory obligations that violate their deepest and most sincerely held beliefs.

Into the silence

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Holy Week is not a particularly tranquil time for a priest.

In the midst of all the activity, I find Good Friday is the most resonant. My favourite service is actually extra-liturgical, the preaching of the Seven Last Words in our cathedral. It’s a two-hour service of readings, hymns and meditations, reflecting upon the seven times Jesus speaks from the cross. I have been preaching the Seven Last Words for nine years now, accompanied by the students at Newman House, who provide the music and do the readings.

Resurrecting age-old argument

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There has been much fuss recently about ancient burial boxes and whether the bones of Jesus remain here on Earth.

In March, an Israeli antiquities collector was acquitted of forgery charges concerning a Roman-era burial box inscribed “James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus.” If genuine, the ossuary could be a direct link to Jesus and His family.

And next week, Vision TV will air The Jesus Discovery, a documentary by Toronto filmmaker Simcha Jacobovici that claims to cast new light on the Resurrection. It bills itself as: “Part archeological adventure, part biblical history, part forensic science, part theological controversy, The Jesus Discovery is a story that will carry around the world.”

Quebec committee ‘manipulative’ on end-of-life care

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A Quebec legislative committee’s call for legalized euthanasia might be a grave danger to Canada’s health care system. Its immediate and unquestionable menace, however, is the damage it does to democracy.

For the moment, the Select Committee on Dying With Dignity’s all-party report presented March 22 to the province’s National Assembly is in parliamentary and pre-election limbo. There is reason to hope its mad demand for legalizing doctor-administered assisted suicide in Quebec by 2013 will be lost in the dust of politicians hitting the campaign trail.

Is D&P worth donating to? You decide

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The question arises because last June I wrote in this column that CCODP “has a tenuous claim on Catholic dollars because, aside from fundraising in Catholic parishes, they have a tenuous relationship with any distinctively Catholic mission. In their operations they are largely — and by their own proud design — indistinguishable from any number of peace and justice NGOs working in the developing world.”

The bishops of Canada take a different view and, in a March 22 statement, urged Catholics to redouble their generosity during the annual Share Lent campaign. In Kingston, our own archbishop sent a message to all parishes to that effect. I included it in my parish bulletin in the space usually reserved for my own message.

Catholics have the right to free speech in the public square

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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.