Globalization needs to take the whole person into account

Pope Benedict XVI’s encyclical Caritas in Veritate is a remarkable attempt to grapple with, along with much else, the threats and opportunities that have come to us all as results of international capital integration. The long letter is also a highly imaginative application of Christian thought to a matter that is very timely.

We feel the touch of the globalization Benedict speaks of when we buy some product — anything with a computer chip in it, a children’s toy, even food — that was once made in Canada or the United States, but that now comes to us from some remote spot in Asia. We see it in newspaper headlines announcing some new domestic plant closing and the transfer of the means of production to cheap labour zones elsewhere in the world.

    Charity and truth needed in a globalized world

    {mosimage}Understanding globalization, and how we should act in the face of it, are tasks every thinking Catholic must undertake. My experience of trying to sort out these matters suggests they are not easy topics to tackle.

    In the first place, the word globalization is awkward, abstract and impersonal, and it comes burdened with the connotation of a vast force free of human agency — something too inexorable even to think about. Also, there’s the daunting complexity of the phenomenon and the fact that its worst manifestations seem to be coming at us all at once: the near-death of international banking and capital markets last year, the ongoing flight of manufacturing jobs from the old lands of the Industrial Revolution to emerging economies on the fringes of the West, social conflicts erupting as huge movements of people from the developing world into the traditional bastions of Western culture take place — the list goes on and on.

      The hypocrisy of International Blasphemy Day

      {mosimage}Some strange news releases, media alerts and queries reach me on a regular basis, but the invitation to “International Blasphemy Day” stood out for a number of reasons. Who knew that blasphemers were being given the short end of the stick by society? From my perspective, it would be hard to know there was anything exceptional going on.

      The first article promised “Jesus as you’ve never seen Him before,” dripping “red nail polish around the nails in His feet and hands.” As it happens, some of the things we see at the office make a few dabs of nail polish look like amateur hour. I’ve seen crucifixes propped up by human waste, chocolate Jesuses with obscene touches and at least one Jesus look-alike contest (the latter two were Easter promotions, by the way). I’ve also helped get a Communion Host removed from the auction block on e-Bay, and encouraged YouTube to remove purported desecrations of a Host from its site.

        Pro-Life movement hurt by its militant supporters

        {mosimage}The current war by bloggers and voicemailers against Salt + Light Television and its CEO Fr. Thomas Rosica is a symptom that something has gone seriously wrong in the heart of the pro-life movement in Canada and the United States.

        The ultra-militants among the right-to-lifers, of course, have many reasons to feel frustrated. They failed to persuade Boston archbishop Cardinal Sean O’Malley to deny U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy a Catholic funeral in full sight of the world. They failed to get Fr. Rosica to hoist himself above the bishops and canon lawyers who gave the green light for the televised funeral service and throw himself into the campaign to denounce them. And their raving and ranting throughout this affair have almost certainly failed to cause a single person to join the struggle for the protection of the unborn.

          Pro-lifers compromise solemnity of death

          {mosimage}The reaction by some pro-life groups to the Catholic funeral given to U.S. Senator Edward Kennedy should shame all Catholics into serious reflection on what it means to be Catholic in the present age.

          For LifeSiteNews , a pro-life web page, the funeral was an expression of “human weakness and delusion.” In this event, “the tyranny of moral relativism triumphed. The false, very selective, ‘spirit of Vatican II’ social justice version of Catholicism dominated.”

            Web's anonymity unfair to those maligned

            {mosimage}The recent ruling of the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal in the case of Marc Lemire has been ably analysed for its discussion of constitutional law and the problems inherent in penalizing free speech in a democracy. Less discussed was its finding that the owners of web sites cannot normally be held responsible for the anonymous postings to message boards. This is probably true in any legal sense, but from the standpoint of professional editorial standards it is another matter.

            Offered by most online editions of major newspapers and broadcast outlets, these anonymous postings are an ongoing festival for the opinionated, the chatty, the venomous and those with time on their hands. Should publishers be including questionable facts and arguments against Catholicism, to take just one example, on boards that most readers are going to associate with that publisher, rightly or wrongly? A look at some of the offerings from a few church-related stories of the past summer suggest that some postings should be held to a higher editorial standard.

              Modern church emerged amid decadent 1500s

              {mosimage}When the young German monk Martin Luther visited Rome in the winter of 1510-1511, his experience of the city made the impending Protestant Reformation thinkable for the first time, and perhaps inevitable. Luther was appalled by the avid worldliness of Christian Rome and of its corrupt, ambitious, brilliant ruler, Pope Julius II. And not only Luther. Many other thoughtful Catholic clergy, thinkers and layfolk of the early 16th century were similarly scandalized by the avarice and show off of Rome’s elite, who had so conspicuously embraced pomp and splendour to the detriment of the work of Christian living and witness.

              From a spiritual perspective, then, the Rome that Luther discovered was going through the worst of times. But they were also the best of times for artists, architects and interior designers. In 1505, Julius had decided to tear down the much-venerated fourth-century basilica of St. Peter and start work on a huge, magnificent new church more suitable (in his opinion) for the capital of the Christian West. Great palaces were to be constructed to complement this new St. Peter’s, grand boulevards laid out, glorious piazzas and fountains built. In 1508, Michelangelo had begun the ceiling murals in the Sistine Chapel. In the same year, the artist-architect Raphael had arrived in Rome at Julius’ invitation, and founded a large business to supply the church and secular elite with the pictures and murals they desired.

                Episcopal Church troubles pain me

                {mosimage}One of the most painful events of my summer so far has been watching the Episcopal Church in the United States stab itself in the heart.

                This church was my spiritual home before I came to Canada in 1969. It was a good one to be in during my young years: biblical, yet theologically imaginative, rooted in Christian traditions far older than the English Reformation, blessed with splendid liturgy and a rich heritage of devotion. If I am not an Anglican today, it’s because I ceased to find that rootedness in Scripture and tradition in American or Canadian Anglicanism, and found it in the Catholic Church.

                  Give men a fair hearing

                  {mosimage}To mark this past Fathers’ Day, The National Post carried an interesting feature about negative images of men in general, and fathers in particular, in consumer advertising.

                  Most of the complaints centred on portrayals of clumsiness and laziness with household tasks. Some men have found the portrayals offensive enough to file complaints with the Advertising Standards Council, and a few have been upheld.

                    Dead Sea Scrolls open our eyes to first-century Judaism

                    {mosimage}The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls was the 20th century’s biggest archeological story.

                    It had the romance of the desert: Bedouin lads, poking into dry caves near the ancient Dead Sea settlement of Qumran in early 1947, find traces of a mysterious Jewish sect from the time of Jesus.

                    Coming when it did, on the eve of the post-war surge of new Bible translations, the unearthing of the scrolls caused astonishment by bringing to light the oldest texts of the Old Testament Scriptures in existence.

                      Pray for the artistic commitment to truth

                      Catholics who pray the Liturgy of the Hours know that the intercessions frequently guide us to petition God for the arts.

                      Not that artists nowadays care whether we pray for them or not. (They are more likely to be grateful that Christians no longer have the power to censor or suppress them.) It has been a long time, after all, since churches commissioned artworks that were important in the history of art, and since artists had anything better than contempt for Christianity, its teachings and institutions.