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.

‘Remarkable work of grace’ in Boston, 10 years on

Is it over? Yes and no. It was 10 years ago this month that the sexual abuse crisis exploded in the archdiocese of Boston, with reverberations across the world.

Cardinal Sean O’Malley, sent to Boston in 2003 as archbishop to right the reeling ship, has written at length on the 10th anniversary. He is quick to argue that the sexual abuse crisis is not over. It’s not over principally because sexual abuse is not something a victim simply gets over. It’s also not over because the process of purification and penance is a path the Church cannot abandon.

What is so awful about promoting religious freedom?

One of the more baffling events since last May’s federal election has been the emergence of grouchy opposition to the Harper government’s Office of Religious Freedom.

Curiosity dates back to the election campaign itself when the Conservative pledge to create an Office of Religious Freedom within the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade attracted surprisingly little notice, much less alarm.

Fresh energy for the Church, 500 years in the making

CALGARY - Inglewood is an old neighbourhood in Calgary, the sort of place where you find a church nestled between modest homes, rather than surrounded by a vast suburban parking lot. But something new is happening here, or something old becoming something new — or perhaps even something new becoming something old.

The parish of St. John the Evangelist used to be an Anglican parish, but just a week before Christmas the pastor, Fr. Lee Kenyon, his wife Elizabeth, and almost the entire congregation of about 75 souls were received into full communion with the Catholic Church. Bishop Frederick Henry of Calgary received the group and graciously welcomed into his diocese a new parish. They call themselves an “Anglican Use” oparish, meaning that while fully Catholic and in communion with the bishop of Rome, they use a form of the liturgy more in keeping with their Anglican traditions.

Out of the frying pan come joys of the season

As we settle into the new year, I can’t help reflecting on three gifts I received this Christmas.

All were thoughtful, one was unintentional, and all came from three wise women. Even a couple weeks later, they still make me smile for different reasons.

The first came from my beautiful and thoughtful wife. This present is the latest, state-of-the-art, high-tech, environmentally-friendly, non-stick, ceramic frying pan. A frying pan! I giggle just typing those words.

Predictions? I have a few for 2012.

Predictions are always a risky business, but since the new year infects many of us with a “crystal ball bug” I will venture that  changes are coming in free-speech legislation and in the rights of parents in public education. One private members’ bill and two court cases are well worth watching in this regard, and may even bring good news to Catholics involved with public advocacy.

A private members’ bill introduced by MP Brian Storseth last fall will, if enacted, revoke Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act, which deems discriminatory any action “likely to expose a person or persons to hatred or contempt” if they are “identifiable on the basis of a prohibited ground of  discrimination.” This section gives the federal human rights commission significant powers to penalize those publishing opinion online, including opinion based on religious belief.

One corner in Vancouver offers us two choices

Faithful readers may recall that I spend the last days of the year with hundreds of university students, ringing in the new year at the annual Rise Up Conference of Catholic Christian Outreach (CCO). This year it was the largest Rise Up conference yet, with more than 500 students in attendance. So large has the annual gathering become that CCO will stage two such conferences in 2012, one in the west (Saskatoon) and one in the east (Halifax).

There are a number of priests who attend every year, and we are always thanked repeatedly for our presence. The students love their priests, like to have us accompany them and rely on us for the sacraments. But as I said to Fr. Thomas Rosica, who has been to even more Rise Up conferences than the eight I have attended, we are the ones who are truly blessed, to see the Church as she ought to be — vibrant, joyful and youthful. 

A new year, another chance for change

We were eastbound on a VIA train between Kingston and Montreal midway through the Christmas week when we got news of a horrifying accident ahead.

A man and woman had been killed when their pickup truck somehow jumped a barrier on Highway 20 at the west end of the island of Montreal. The truck plunged onto train tracks below and was hit by an eastbound VIA train.