Whitney Houston and the challenge of our 40s

The death of singer Whitney Houston at age 48 set off an interesting discussion around the dinner table about the 40s decade. Why are the 40s so dangerous for some, especially the famous?

Think about all the great stars who’ve perished in their 40s: Judy Garland, Elvis Presley, John F. Kennedy, George Orwell, John Lennon, John Candy (who grew up in Holy Cross parish in Toronto) and so many more. Many, but not all, contributed to their early death through lifestyle choices.

A very special day for NAC

ROME - In her more than 150 years, the Pontifical North American College will never have a day like Feb. 18, 2012. Pope Benedict XVI will elevate to the College of Cardinals not one, but two, former rectors of the seminary in Rome. Both Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York, who served as rector from 1994-2001, and his immediate predecessor, Archbishop Edwin O’Brien, Grand Master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, will receive the red hat.

Some politicians just can’t understand what’s good for the goose...

Politicians given enough rope will invariably hang themselves, figuratively speaking of course.

Such is the case with Parti Quebecois justice critic Veronique Hivon, whose clamor for legalizing euthanasia and assisted suicide should, if there is any justice, now be choked off for good and all.

Madame Hivon came hard out of the chute to condemn Quebec Tory Senator Pierre-Hugues Boisvenu for his recommendation, later withdrawn, that our most notorious convicted killers be left alone in their cells with a length of state-supplied rope.

A caring man worthy of the red hat

A consistory for new cardinals is a serious affair. Forgive me then for telling a story about Thomas Christopher Cardinal-designate Collins that is less than serious, but with a serious point about the man. Which is how Toronto’s new cardinal usually does it himself — serious substance in a man who does not take himself too seriously.

On Feb. 18, Collins will receive the red hat, a cardinal’s biretta fashioned from watered silk. One of my first encounters with him involved another hat — a toque, to be precise.

God save our Queen!

In one of those happy liturgical coincidences — or better, providences — Feb. 6 brought the following reading from the First Book of Kings at Mass:

“The elders of Israel and all the leaders of the tribes, the princes in the ancestral houses of the children of Israel, came to King Solomon in Jerusalem, to bring up the ark of the Lord’s covenant from the City of David, which is Zion. All the people of Israel assembled before King Solomon during the festival in the month of Ethanim (the seventh month). When all the elders of Israel had arrived, the priests took up the ark; they carried the ark of the Lord and the meeting tent with all the sacred vessels that were in the tent. (The priests and Levites carried them.) King Solomon and the entire community of Israel present for the occasion sacrificed before the ark sheep and oxen too many to number or count.”

Self-indulgence before Lent

Faith and Las Vegas are an oxymoron. But these two seemingly paradoxical thoughts rattled around in my head as we walked down the busy, glittery Las Vegas strip the other day for the first time.

Sure, Sin City has different types of temples filled with moneychangers of a modern ilk. These temples are named Caesar’s Palace, the Mirage, the Venetian, Bellagio and a host of others. And, sure, churches are hidden so far out of sight that you’d think illusionist David Copperfield made them disappear.

Prayer, sport and whose side is God on?

Super Bowl Sunday marks the end of the football season and a look back at the year that was. On the field it was the year of the quarterback, with Drew Brees, Tom Brady, Matthew Stafford, Eli Manning and Aaron Rodgers all putting up eye-popping numbers. Off the field, the chatter was about one quarterback, Tim Tebow of the Denver Broncos.

His improbable story was captivating enough, coming off the bench in mid-season to lead his team to the playoffs with one last-minute victory after another. It was his Christian faith, though, that sparked an international discussion about whether faith had a place in sports, whether God was on Tebow’s side or whether Tebow thought God was on his side, or whether in fact God thought He ought to be on Tebow’s side.

A welcome debate

The January issue of the Canadian Medical Association Journal included an editorial proposing that the gender of an unborn child be withheld from parents until 30 weeks gestation to prevent gender-based abortions, a practice that typically targets females.

While screening for the sole purpose of sex selection is illegal in Canada, and not believed to be widespread, there is convincing anecdotal evidence that it does occur, particularly within ethnic communities where sons are more valued than daughters.

Sounding the alarm on our abortion problem

Prime Minister Stephen Harper gave Canadians a wake-up call with his recent warnings at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. The problem is that even those who hear the alarm might rise to the wrong bell.

Harper was candid that our country’s solid economic performance in comparison to Europe and the United States masks a frightening demographic threat. Bluntly put, the number of Canadians nearing retirement is rising; the number of younger Canadians available to replace them is falling. The outcome of that stark reality, Harper said, will require his government to simultaneously undertake serious reform of federal pensions, particularly the Old Age Supplement, and immigration policy.

Fighting back against Obama’s divide-and-conquer approach

It’s rare that a bishop indicates publicly how he intends to vote. But recent events provoked just such a response in the United States.

President Barack Obama announced on Jan. 20 that his health care plan would require all employers to purchase health insurance for their employees which would cover contraception, sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs. While churches with a moral objection would be exempt, universities and hospitals would not be. The upshot would be that Catholic institutions would be forced to purchase products directly contrary to the dictates of a conscience properly formed by the teaching of the Church.

This time, the court hears the voice of the people

It is all too common (and often exasperating) when the ground beneath us shifts on morality issues and common decency. It is easy to shake our head and say, “This sort of stuff wouldn’t have happened in the Canada I grew up in.”

These shifts occur for many reasons, from the silent majority saying nothing about the latest “Politically Correct” silliness to politicians bowing to the pressure from small, but effective, special interest groups. Sadly, the courts are also to blame by too often protecting the rights of offenders ahead of the rights of victims and the community at large.