Preston Manning on the failure of right thinking

Preston Manning had an astringent warning for Canadian conservatives at the annual gathering sponsored by his eponymous think-tank.

“For conservatives, being right must mean more than just being right of centre. It must mean doing the right thing. There is no substitute for rock solid personal integrity,” he told the large “C” and small “c” faithful at the recent Manning Centre conference in Ottawa.

Though the words were delivered with Manning’s characteristic personal geniality and intellectual charity, their sting was palpable, particularly among those Conservative Party members still writhing after being flayed by National Post columnist Andrew Coyne. Coyne had carved the Conservative government’s political, policy and ethical failings with the surgical scrupulousness of an assembly line sadist handling the Friday night crowd at Mistress Cheri’s House of Pain and Shame.

A winding road to unity

VATICAN CITY - In the days after the hoopla of the consistory for new cardinals left town, a smaller but more historic group of pilgrims was making its way to the tomb of the apostle Peter and the seat of his successor.

A pilgrimage of thanksgiving arrived from Britain — some 100 members of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, the new “diocese” set up for former Anglicans who are now Catholics, but with the special task of preserving their Anglican cultural and liturgical patrimony. Some two years after Pope Benedict XVI made it possible with his document Anglicanorum Coetibus, the new structure is established in Britain and more recently also in the United States. The arrival of new Catholics from Britain, small in number but fervent in faith, was experienced as a “homecoming” by them, and a tiny step toward healing the breach of the divisions of the 16th century.

Don’t forget Christians caught in Israeli-Palestinian conflict

To paraphrase Winston Churchill, when it comes to human rights violations and protecting religious freedoms, Israel is the worst country in the Middle East — except for all the rest.

Sunday’s shifting solemnities

VATICAN CITY - Consistories for new cardinals are usually held on major feasts, and the most recent one had a lesson for the liturgical life of parishes.

Blessed John Paul II held six of his nine consistories on Petrine feasts — three for Sts. Peter and Paul (June 29), two for the Chair of Peter (Feb. 22) and one for his silver jubilee as Successor of Peter in October 2003. Benedict held his first consistory in 2006 on the Feast of the Annunciation, and his next two on Christ the King in 2007 and 2010. This year he chose the Chair of Peter, the feast which highlights the role of Peter and his successors in authoritatively teaching the deposit of the faith.

Anonymity and ignorance

On Feb. 17, the Supreme Court of Canada rendered its decision on a case that tested the right of parents to exempt their children from Quebec’s Ethics and Religious Culture (ERC) course. The case attracted many intervenors because the decision could impact other cases that question the lengths government can go to impose curriculum against parental wishes.

About one month earlier, the Ontario Catholic School Trustees’ Association released a report, “Respecting Difference,” which set guidelines for promoting equity and respect for all students in Catholic schools. It followed months of controversy surrounding “gay-straight alliances” in Ontario’s publicly funded schools. While there are differences between the two scenarios, both concern a provincial government trying to impose a school policy despite objections from parents.

Who needs parents when we are blessed with government?

Credit Air Canada with cluing me in to the bracing effects of the state sticking its imperious snout so deeply into Canadian society.

There I was on a recent cross-country flight waiting for someone in authority to give the malfunctioning in-flight entertainment system a good whack when the little screen was suddenly alight with visual metaphor. From the depths of one of the boundless bureaucracies that spend our quarter-trillion-dollar federal budget, we strapped in travellers were shown a videographic public service announcement on a matter so urgent it was deemed essential viewing for an audience that cannot escape.

The logic of the Gospel is a challenge, and remains so, even for cardinals

VATICAN CITY - Attending a consistory for new cardinals is something of an ambivalent thing. On balance it is a positive experience, a festive occasion to be sure. Yet there is also an uneasiness, for there are touches of worldliness about it which ought to make a Christian disciple wary.

A consistory is truly a celebration of something particularly Catholic, namely the Roman and Petrine dimensions of the Church. Such occasions of pride and joy strengthen the faith, as they reinforce the bonds of affection that unite Catholics with the successor of St. Peter. The link between the local bishop created a cardinal and the Bishop of Rome is evident enough, and it highlights the communion of all local bishops with the See of Rome, and therefore the unity of the Church universal.

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.