The Vatican and Occupy Wall Street

Pope Benedict may or may not bless the Occupy Wall Street movement. But an Eastern European former Marxist atheist intellectual has told protesters that they should really preoccupy themselves with the Holy Spirit.

Leading up to November’s G20 economic meeting in France, and as the Occupy Wall Street movement entered its second month, media whoop-whoop made it sound like Benedict’s arrival at the barricades was imminent.

The story turned out to be a torque job so clumsy it would make an apprentice mechanic at Dollar Bill’s Easy Autos blush.

Christmas stamps honour the beauty of Kingston’s St. Mary’s Cathedral

KINGSTON - We are justly proud of our Cathedral of the Blessed Virgin Mary of the Immaculate Conception, and so should Catholics across the land, for Kingston is the mother church of all English Canada. I count it a great blessing that I offer the Holy Mass there every Sunday night. Now Canadians from sea to sea shall have the opportunity to honour our cathedral with every letter and card they send.

On All Saints Day, Canada Post unveiled its Christmas stamps for 2011 at a special ceremony in our cathedral. Three images from the cathedral’s magnificent stained glass windows were selected. The angel appearing to Joseph will grace the domestic stamp, the Nativity the American stamp and the Epiphany was chosen for the international stamp.

Are changes to monarchy rules out of respect, or indifference?

Commonwealth summits come and go, with often nothing more dramatic taking place than Queen Elizabeth having to smile benignly upon some less-than-benign leaders of various unlovely regimes. This week in Perth, Australia, will be different. It is expected that the 16 heads of government from those countries where Her Majesty is head of state will agree to modifications in the rules for succession. If they all agree, the British parliament will amend the 1701 Act of Settlement to i) remove male primogeniture in favour of simple primogeniture, and ii) remove the prohibition on heirs to the throne marrying Catholics.

Currently, males are preferred in the order of succession, even if they have an older sister. It seems rather incongruous to speak of unfairness in a hereditary monarchy, as heredity is always arbitrary, but it is generally accepted that treating sons and daughters equally would be more fair. Since 1701, the two longest reigning and most successful monarchs have been queens, Victoria and Elizabeth II — reigning nearly a combined 125 years — so the distaff side has taken a rather distinguished turn even under current norms.

Life lessons taken from a baseball flick

It’s been said that baseball is like church. Many attend, but few understand.

That may or may not be so. But while watching Brad Pitt’s new hit movie Moneyball, my mind kept wandering and I couldn’t help but think “this isn’t just a baseball movie. It’s about life; a metaphor about relationships, limiting irrational emotion and making improvements day after day.” (No doubt my wife’s mind was wandering in a different direction seeing Pitt up there on the big screen.)

Good baseball movies tend to hit my sentimental side and make me think of things beyond the game or the particular movie, from Field of Dreams and The Natural to Bang the Drum Slowly and The Pride of the Yankees.

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.