Standing up for Don Cherry - a good ol’ Kingston boy

In Kingston and Wolfe Island, where I work and live, Don Cherry occupies a rather unique place. He grew up in Kingston and has a summer cottage on Wolfe Island. Here, he is one of our own.

In a larger sense, too, Cherry is considered by many across Canada to be just that — one of our own in a way that few are. For that reason, from time to time the whole nation erupts in a great Cherry controversy. The Globe and Mail employs a full-time columnist apparently for that reason alone. So for almost a fortnight, much attention was paid to what Grapes said Oct. 6 on the inaugural Coach’s Corner of the hockey season. On Oct. 15, in his regular spot, he apologized.

It’s a strange world the Supreme Court lives in

It’s a strange, strange world when best-intended efforts to help impoverished drug addicts in Vancouver end up threatening to impose euthanasia on vulnerable Montrealers.

Stranger still is when the risk arises from the genuine desire of judges on Canada’s Supreme Court to do the right and merciful thing.

The things they’re aiming at, and profiting from, our ‘tweens’

Two recent events at our house got me thinking about Tipper Gore.

Remember her? She is the former wife of Al Gore who years ago fought against profane language in music, particularly rap and heavy metal genres, and violent imagery in media. She was dismissed by many as, at best, a meddling mom and, at worst, an enemy of free speech.

Fr. Bob an ‘old preacher’ with a few things to say

Fr. Robert J. Bedard, founder of the Companions of the Cross, died on Oct. 6. He was a great sign of hope for the Church in Canada, a truly original pioneer in the new evangelization.

Fr. Bob, as he was known to all, and I were not friends, but certainly had many friendly encounters over the years. Our last meeting stands out for it captured so much about Fr. Bob.

In defence of our first liberty

On Oct, 3, Fr. de Souza was invited to address a consultative meeting of Canadian religious leaders convened by John Baird, Minister of Foreign Affairs, about the decision of the federal government to establish an Office of Religious Freedom within the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade. What follows is an adaptation of what he said.

Just last spring I offered on Parliament Hill, in my capacity as chaplain of the St. Thomas More Society — an informal association of Catholic parliamentarians — a memorial Mass for Shahbaz Bhatti, the slain Pakistani minister, killed for his advocacy of the rights of religious minorities. That Mass, obviously Catholic, was attended by MPs and Senators of different parties, including many who were not Catholic, or even Christian. It was a sign that religious liberty is not an issue of special pleading by religious believers alone, much less religious believers of only one kind or another.

This morning I only speak for myself, but I would note that Pope Benedict XVI dedicated his annual message for the World Day of Peace 2011 to the importance of religious freedom.

When media push the envelope, push back

In a recent episode of the Canadian TV series Rookie Blue, a priest is tackled by a pair of police officers who show little patience with his explanation: A penitent had threatened to do something stupid, hence the priest, baseball bat in hand, chased him up the street. In the ensuing dialogue, one officer notes, “He’s a priest. He can’t be lying.” The other counters, “Pff, priests lie. Ever see that wafer that they call bread?”

The snide reference to the Eucharist offended many Catholic viewers, some of whom forwarded complaints to me as well as to Global Television, the originating network. In my own message to the network, I pointed out there must be countless, less offensive ways to convey a character’s skepticism about clergy and organized religion. The scene and its dialogue were unfortunate, given that the rest of the episode contained little if anything that would be regarded as offensive. (I had never watched the show before. When I saw the title in listings I had simply assumed it was yet another American crime offering.)

Where we fail to see Christ’s presence

An American novelist I know recently found himself front-page news because of parental complaints about the language in one of his books.

The work, which is on the recommended reading list in the local public school system, belatedly drew the ire of a couple who protested that the frequent swearing and vulgarity of certain characters offended their family sensibilities.

According to a front-page story in the Charleston, S.C. Post and Courier, James Pasley and his wife want author Bret Lott’s novel, The Hunt Club, deleted from their son’s high school reading list. They have been loud enough that county school authorities have convened a hearing to try to resolve the issue.

Arrogance on full display in papal snub

It’s not right to characterize a people by their elected representatives. Who among us would advise our visitors that the Canadian character is what one witnesses, say, in the House of Commons during Question Period? So the fact that many members of the German federal parliament (Bundestag) boycotted Pope Benedict XVI’s speech in that chamber last week ought not be held against the German people.

But it should be noted for what it says about the German political culture. That so many — perhaps as many as a hundred members from the Green, Left and Social Democratic opposition parties — could be so rude and so closed-minded is a discouraging sign that all is not well in the heart of Europe. Remember that last year in Great Britain, the Queen extended a most gracious welcome to the Holy Father, and the entire assembled ranks of British political life — including all former living prime ministers — did Benedict the honour of welcoming him to the Palace of Westminster. Or a few years back, when President George W. Bush gave an extraordinarily warm and festive welcome at the White House, and even gave a formal dinner for the Pope, despite the fact that popes don’t attend such dinners. So the cool reception from a significant part of the German parliament is certainly not the normal courtesy the Holy Father is usually shown.

There is always hope, and there is always faith

Do you believe in miracles?

It’s an age-old question. Songs and movies have been written on the topic. Sporting events have taken the issue as their own: consider the “Miracle on Ice” or the “Immaculate Reception.” TV evangelists and so-called “doctors” the world over have gotten rich selling miracle healing and miracle cures.

Sometimes, the question touches us so personally and so profoundly that we can’t get it out of our mind. Can we definitely give all credit to God’s grace? Is God not working through the actions of humans, such as doctors, nurses and others? 

I found myself in this state the other day.

A tale of two funerals

Enough has been written about the Jack Layton funeral, but indulgent readers may permit me to add a final thought to what I have written elsewhere. Not so much about how Mr. Layton chose to organize his final parting, but rather to note the contrast between two funerals.

A few days after Jack Layton was feted at Roy Thomson Hall, the funeral Mass for Cardinal Aloysius Ambrozic was offered at St. Michael’s Cathedral. The difference was like black and white.

In the concert hall, Rev. Brent Hawkes and others went on at great length about carrying forth Mr. Layton’s vision of an “inclusive” social movement. And the massed ranks of the proudly progressive stood and applauded lustily, all the while patting themselves on the back for their broad-mindedness — which is anatomically hard to do at the same time, but the spirit of the occasion demanded it.

‘Low-rent absurdity’ case shows our frightening times

MONTREAL - Paula Celani will be in a Montreal courtroom Nov. 1 fighting a fine for attending an illegal Roman Catholic Mass.

Canadians of all religious faiths — and even those who care only about protecting Charter freedoms — should cross their fingers that she wins.

Celani actually showed up to fight the case this week. Alas, three public sector “witnesses” expected to testify against her were no shows so the matter was delayed until the day after Halloween.