The decision on the part of the Obama administration to move forward on embryonic stem cell research has provoked anger from the Vatican. Ironically at the same time the announcement was being made there was startling news suggesting that experiments in adult stem cell research was proving significantly more promising than Embryonic. In the United Kingdom, money being raised by Catholic Pro-Life groups is being directed at intensifying the Adult Stem Cell research. The Obama Administration move comes in the face of organized opposition on the part of the U.S. Bishops.

Canadian Bishops Weigh in on Census Debate

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The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops have called on the Harper Government to reverse its decision to cancel the 'long form census'. The Bishops argue that the information gathered in the 'long form census' helps in planning and 'meeting the needs of Canadians'. The controversy has pre-occupied the Canadian political scene for much of July. The Bishops have joined in with most economists and social service organizations as well as the majority of provinces in opposing the decision to scrap the mandatory long form census, which is normally distributed to about 20% of Canadian Households. The Conservatve government is standing by its decision and has the support of libertarians and some conservative think tanks.

 

Anne Rice Leaves Catholic Church and Christianity but not Christ

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Anne Rice, famous her Vampire novels as well as her novels about Christ announced late last week that she was leaving the Catholic Church and Christianity. On her blog and in an interview with NPR she explains that the decision is prompted by the Church's stance on same sex marriage and contraception. The story is getting huge play with hundreds of news stories and thousands of comments, some deeply supportive and others some what cynical. I interviewed her a couple of years ago and was struck by how deeply she thinks about issu. The story of her return to the Church is heartfelt and moving. I suspect we haven't heard the last of this story.

The Truth about Residential Schools

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The story that needs to be read, absorbed and reflected on appeared in the Toronto Star this weekend. It is a gripping though somewhat tragic recap of the progress, or actually lack of progress, being made by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in wrestling with the history and impact of the Indian Residential School System. Everyone has a stake in getting this story right and Linda Diebel's article is an important starting point. Ironically also dealing with education is this story out of last week's Assembly of First Nation's general assembly. The relationship between the Church and Canada's Aboriginal People's is not without controversy but if you haven't checked out how it all started, you should take a look at this piece by Carolyn Girard in the Catholic Register last month.

Making Sense of the Economic Crisis and Church Social Doctrine

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Most countries in the world are still wrestling with the fallout of the collapse of the financial markets in the fall of 2008. In the U.S. there is an intriguing argument brewing over what if anything the USCCB should be advocating in terms of Government intervention in the economy. The Acton Institute, a conservative/libertarian economic think tank has recently decided to dwell on the meaning of the Church's doctrine of subsidiarity and how it should or shouldn't be applied to current economic thinking. Catholic Culture in the U.S., a news aggregator and commentator on all matters Catholic has also weighed in, but with a slighty more intense assertion about the real meaning of 'social doctrine'. It's worth reading both and as a thought experiment, substitute the word Canada everytime the words America, The United States or U.S.A are used.

On the Papal Front

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Benedict XVI tends to attract attention, even if it is for something as relatively meaningless as the factoid that he is now the 7th oldest Pope in history. But the more interesting news the past few days is the extent to which the former professor and active intellectual continues to turn out new books. His latest one is aimed at the children among us or in us all. And if telling the story of Jesus and the Apostles in a child-friendly way isn't sufficient, don't worry, he is not done yet. He is at work on the third and final volume of his 'Jesus of Nazareth' scheduled to be published in the spring of next year.

Most of the attention he is garnering these days, at least in Britain, concerns his forthcoming Papal visit. While some, Dawkins and company, mainly are speculating about ways of arresting the Pope when he arrives on British soil, others are clamouring for tickets to his scheduled masses. And if trying to score a ticket to the masses is insufficient entertainment, much of the intellectual buzz surrounds the Beatification of Cardinal Newman, something that Michael Coren has written about recently. By the way, in case you were worried, the British Government now has a plan to insure that his Holiness is not arrested when he arrives.

Linking abuse with ordination a cheap ploy

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Without doubt the story that snagged everyone's attention this week, and not always positively, came out the Vatican. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith outlied new procedures dealing with major crimes. News organizations as different as The New York Times , The Muslim News and The Catholic Register rightly felt compelled to cover the story. Unfortunately, few in the mainstream media seemed able to resist the cheap urge to link the new rules on the ordination of women and new procedures for dealing with the sexual abuse of children. And even fewer could resist using the conjunction as an excuse for ridicule or indignation. The indignation rings a bit hollow given that The New York Times ran their editorial condemming the new procedures as inadequate almost a week before the new procedures were published.

One of the clearest explanations of the announcement and the history behind it is found in a column by Fr. John Zuhlsdorf, whose explanation of the reasoning for the 'conjunction' of the two 'crimes' actually makes logical sense if not public relations brilliance. It's this lack of deft touch when it comes to public communication that most concerns R.R. Reno, senior editor at First Things. Reno steps back in a provocative editorial and asks if the entire scandal has still worrisome surprises and twists to come.

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Pope is evangelizing in midst of storm

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It may not seem like it but there are other issues demanding attention as the secular media focuses on the sexual abuse scandal. At the end of June, Benedict XVI announced the creation of the Pontifical Council for new evangelization. The Boston Globe, in a detailed examination of a new campaign by the Archdiocese to 'Call Catholics Home', and Foreign Policy magazine's examination of Benedict's hope to re-evanglize Europe give a real sense of the issues being confronted at the global and local levels. And it is not an issue the new Prefect of the Congregation For Bishops, Cardinal Marc Ouellet is unfamiliar with. In 2008, the then Primate of the Canadian Catholic Church penned a fascinating essay on evangelization and the Province of Quebec.

U.N. study supports Vatican approach to AIDS

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Mid-week, news broke on the results of a new U.N study released at the World Aids Conference in Vienna. According to some reports, the study gives credence to the Church's long held belief that changes in behaviour are effective in dealing with the scourge of AIDS. The 'odd' thing is that as of Thursday morning only Catholic news outlets were reporting the story.

Good riddance to Toronto’s zone of conflict

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For many citizens of Toronto, this writer included, the time that has passed since the G20 summit of world leaders in the city has been a season of grief. For the Christians among us, it has also been a time of prayer for the city — that the bitterness will not linger, that the healing of the few physical and many more moral injuries will be swift.

We have been outraged by the damage wreaked on shops and banks by a small band of hooligans, whom the police did nothing to stop. The reputation of our city as a place of calm and justice has been damaged by police strong-arm tactics against peaceful demonstrators and bystanders. And we were offended by the stripping of Torontonians of their rights to freely walk streets distant from the justifiably sequestered G20 site.

Web makes it easier for cheaters to prosper

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Spurred on by new technology, particularly the Internet, cheating in Canadian high schools and post-secondary institutions is evolving to the point that students and teachers differ over what qualifies as cheating, according to research recently released by the Canadian Council on Learning (CCL).

According to the CCL study, nearly three-quarters (73 per cent) of first-year students across Canada admitted to committing one or more serious acts of academic dishonesty on written work while in high school (including cheating on essays or assignments) and nearly 60 per cent admitted to serious acts of cheating on tests in high school. The survey included 20,000 students at 11 post-secondary education institutions.