This time, it's right that the bombs fly

At the time of this writing, missiles and bombs launched by the United States, Britain and France are raining down on Libya, provoking yet another crisis in the political conscience of the West. We must ask ourselves hard questions. Is such military intervention by our governments justified in this instance? By what authority, and under what circumstances, does any sovereign power have the duty to attack another country?

Catholic citizens must also ask themselves what, if anything, in the Church’s social teaching prepares us to deal with the urgent possibility that many Libyans could be killed if the regime in Tripoli succeeds in crushing the current rebellion.

The set of principles for the conduct of just and justifiable warfare was crafted in the Middle Ages in a bid to govern international conflicts. The idea behind the doctrine of just war was noble and optimistic. It held that, in a fallen world where war is a constant fact of life, some semblance of civilization could prevail even in violent confrontations.

Libya intervention brings no clarity to the duty of moral intervention

Canadians have entered another war. This time in Libya, along with a range of allies, led diplomatically by Europeans and Arabs, and militarily by the Americans.

The Holy Father was circumspect in his comments on March 20, saying that his heart was full of “trepidation” and “apprehension.” But should Pope Benedict have been celebrating this latest war instead?

The world does not need the Church to be a cheerleader for war, which always represents a failure of politics to secure liberty and justice. But what of those occasions when armed force is necessary to secure liberty and justice against a malevolent regime — as is the case in Gadhafi’s Libya? While war itself brings its own horrors, if it is a moral duty, ought not the attempt to discharge that duty bring encouragement from Christian pastors?

The Pope’s latest book shows he is the most learned man alive

Why does Pope Benedict XVI bother to write books? Long before his election to the See of Peter he was established as a leading theologian of his generation. Being universal pastor of the Church is a crushing job, so why add to it by embarking on a massive scholarly project?

Evidently the Holy Father enjoys writing theology. The deeper reason though is that Benedict knows, with all humility, that he is better at it than anyone else. Just as the soon-to-be-Blessed John Paul II knew that he had a special gift for leading massive, history-changing public manifestations of the faith, Benedict likely concludes that if the Lord wanted him as Pope then he should do what God gave him the talent to do.

Quebec struggles to deal with its spiritual death

A culture expresses itself in what it chooses to build. Ancient Egypt gave us the pyramids, tombs of their god-kings. Medieval France gave us the Gothic cathedral. Twenty-first century Texas gives us a $1.2-billion football stadium.

Recently the Quebec provincial government and the Quebec City municipal government announced $400 million in funding for a new hockey arena. It will be the new home of what remains, as of now, an imaginary Quebec City NHL team.

Juxtapose that with the news, reported in The Catholic Register last week, that Quebec’s Catholic bishops have asked the province to assist with the maintenance of the hundreds of historic churches that are no longer sustainable by the dwindling number of Quebeckers who practise their faith.

Personal animus comes through in artist’s nonsensical works

Toronto artist Peter Alexander Por is an angry man.

As I found on a visit to his controversial show of paintings and sculptures at Toronto’s Bezpala Brown Gallery (which ended Feb. 25), Por is angry, in a general way, with the mostly 20th-century tyrants who have killed millions of people and made life miserable for many millions more. Most of the 30 canvasses on display are crudely sketched portraits of Hitler, Stalin, Mao Tse Tung, Pol Pot and other modern political monsters, emblazoned with the numbers of those who, Por claims, died as a result of their wars and persecutions. Though we have heard such statistics before, these numbers still have the power to stagger and amaze: Mao (4.5 million dead), Ayatollah Khomeini (700,000), Rwandan leader Theoniste Bagosora (one million), Pol Pot (two million), and so on.

The passing of Archbishop Zycinski is a great loss for the Church

One of the brightest lights in the Catholic episcopate died suddenly in Rome on Feb. 10, at only 62 years old.

I just met Archbishop Jozef Zycinski once — almost 17 years ago now. It was July 1994, and he was then the bishop of Tarnow, a rural diocese just outside Krakow. I was a student on the celebrated seminar led by Fr. Maciej Zieba, the Polish Dominican, and his American friends, Michael Novak, George Weigel and the late Fr. Richard John Neuhaus. Bishop Zycinski came to speak to us about religion and public life in the newly liberated Poland.

Hollywood keeps dumbing-down the demonic

“What were you expecting?” the veteran demon-fighter Fr. Lucas (Anthony Hopkins) asks his young apprentice Michael (Colin O’Donoghue) after an uneventful exorcism in The Rite, now playing in movie theatres across southern Ontario. “Spinning heads? Pea soup?”

At those lines, you could almost feel a satisfied smile go around the audience. The vivid allusion, everybody knew, was to The Exorcist (1973), Hollywood’s first and best attempt to do a film about Catholics casting out devils. It was director Mikael Håfström’s heavy-handed way to remind movie-goers of what was already, by that point, perfectly obvious: that The Rite is meant to be a serious contribution to that horror sub-genre, the demon movie, created by The Exorcist almost 40 years ago.

It isn’t, but certainly not for lack of trying.

‘Fr. Oprah’ has become a bore, not some noble man fighting the evil Church

MIAMI

Alberto Cutié is back — not that he really ever went away. He has a small Episcopal parish here in Miami, and is flogging his new book, getting ready for his own TV show.

You remember Fr. Oprah, no? Ordained for the archdiocese of Miami in 1995, the photogenic and bilingually articulate priest developed a successful radio and television ministry, becoming something of a Latino celebrity — hence the nickname. In May 2009 a tabloid newspaper published photographs of Cutié on the beach with his mistress, conducting himself in a manner contrary to his priestly promises.

Hateful taste in art

On Jan. 29, a small private art gallery in Toronto issued a press release publicizing an upcoming show that includes a portrait of Pope Benedict riddled with bullet-like holes and a representation of U.S. President Barak Obama crucified on a cross. As its own headline put it, “Pope shot, Obama crucified…”

The release commented casually about the sex abuse scandal in the Church, even though it’s not clear that the exhibit itself does. Most media outlets paid little attention to the release. Those that did handed the gallery publicity it could only dream about. After all, attacking the Church may generate a few angry letters and phone calls but it won’t harm your reputation in media and arts circles.

Where has the Irish Church leadership been for the past two decades?

What will the Apostolic Visitation of Ireland accomplish?

In response to the sexual abuse crisis there, Pope Benedict XVI decided last spring to send five bishops to carry out a visitation — ecclesiastical parlance for an investigation — of the archdioceses and seminaries of Ireland. He chose quite a high-powered team: Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor of Westminster (retired), Archbishop Thomas Collins of Toronto and Archbishop Terrence Prendergast of Ottawa. They have each been assigned one Irish archdiocese, and Archbishop Timothy Dolan has been assigned the Irish seminaries. The visits are ongoing in these months, and final reports are due at the Vatican by Easter.

Militant Islam is winning

In the nearly 10 years since 9/11, the preoccupying question has remained: Was the jihadist violence of that day representative of Islam or a perversion of it?

From Sept. 12 onwards, everyone from U.S. President George W. Bush to the Prince of Wales has assured us that Islam is a religion of peace. The vast majority of commentators in general, and Christian thinkers in particular, have accepted that. After all, there have been long periods in history of peaceful Islamic rule, and across the Islamic world today, jihadist extremism is fought against by Muslim leaders themselves.

Daniel Pipes, one of the strongest critics of radicalized Islam, makes the point clearly: “It’s a mistake to blame Islam, a religion 14 centuries old, for the evil that should be ascribed to militant Islam, a totalitarian ideology less than a century old. Militant Islam is the problem, but moderate Islam is the solution.”