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A lesson in spiritual poverty

Over the years, I have come to appreciate two great examples of Jesuit missionaries in action.

The first was the one given by St. Francis Xavier in India, Japan and finally attempting to enter China. Francis’ great love for God and God’s people, and his desire to do everything for the greater glory of God, consumed him until the end.

The second was that of the Jesuits in the Paraguay Reductions, which were portrayed in the film The Mission. Francis and the Reductions exemplify for me the zeal, determination and dedication which every missionary must possess.

The religious voice is one that needs to be heard

At a recent conference on religion and the media, a colleague from the Toronto Star announced his paper was getting rid of its full-time religion beat. That should have been a grand moment for me and the National Post, the paper I write for.

When he told the assembled group of about 50 esteemed representatives from various churches of the Star’s decision, it was a perfect opening for me to discuss how the Post was putting an even greater emphasis on religion. It was hard not to crow.

If we can’t save the dolphins, what hope do we have ?

“Man’s inhumanity to man makes countless thousands mourn.” So wrote Scotland’s bard, Robert Burns, nearly three centuries ago. Today, thanks to a DVD called The Cove, man’s inhumanity to dolphins is making countless thousands protest. Online petitions against the senseless slaughter of dolphins that occur annually in a cove at the Japanese village of Taaji have embarrassed the Japanese government — particularly after The Cove won the 2010 Oscar for best documentary.

Each September dolphins are driven towards a cove on the Japanese coastline by fishing boats that lay down a “wall of sound” that serves to terrify the dolphins, which have acute hearing. Fleeing from the noise, the dolphins can effectively be herded into one small, secure cove at Taaji, where they are penned in by nets. Marine museums and commercial aquariums come to Taaji to select specimens for a lifetime of captivity. The dolphins that are not selected are slaughtered and their meat marketed through Asia, often misleadingly labelled as whale meat. The dolphins contain worrisome — indeed sometimes toxic — levels of mercury.  Nevertheless, until recently dolphin meat was a staple in the compulsory lunches that Japanese schools provide to students.

Ethics and purpose must be returned to world finance

Is it okay to endanger the economy of a country by aggressively backing financial instruments then bet against them?

It appears that American banking giant Goldman Sachs thinks so and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernacke isn’t sure. Yes, the Security and Exchange Commission has charged Goldman Sachs with fraud, but this is not the first time an investment institution has been raked over the coals, usually with very little result. Business as usual is not to be stopped.

The great Canadian Christian right conspiracy

Marci McDonald is a conspiracy theorist who thinks she has zeroed in on a conspiracy that threatens everything Canadians love about Canada but one that the rest of us are wilfully blind to notice, except of course for those intimately involved in the conspiracy.

I know this because she tells me so for 432 pages in her new book The Armageddon Factor: The Rise of Christian Nationalism in Canada. Tells me so repeatedly with varying degrees of emphasis and alarm. She knows this conspiracy exists because she discovered it while everyone else in the media was too lazy, too smug or too indifferent to notice what was going on all around them. The problem with being a conspiracy theorist is that you tend to see the conspiracy everywhere and the fact that others don’t see it is just further proof of how insidious and effective the conspiracy is.
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Motherhood — nothing beats it

When I was a single, adventurous career woman travelling on business many years ago in Hawaii, I never imagined that an irresistible invitation to embrace motherhood would come to me on the footpaths of the Honolulu Zoo.

I was scheduled to deliver a communications seminar the next day, feeling a little smug about the fact that I was being paid to travel and work in Hawaii, as I lined up to buy my entrance ticket. The woman in front of me was surrounded by four, five or maybe six children. She had one in her arms, one in a stroller, and the rest were clinging to her wrist, waist or leg.

The Church must make amends to save its soul

The recent revelations of sexual abuse by some Roman Catholic clergy and alleged cover-ups by some bishops reveal a growing concern of a structural problem within the Church that goes beyond the misdeeds of a few bad people within the ministry.

At the heart of every case of clergy sexual abuse is the fracturing of faith, religion and trust, and the erosion of hope in a God of love and a Church of compassion and communion. Every new allegation is like a dagger to the very soul of who we are as a family of God. Each new case causes more brokenness, darkness, anger, shame and pain. Every act of clergy sexual abuse is an onslaught on the dignity of the human person, a distortion of religion as a value and the desecration of the very identity of the Catholic faith. Clerical sexual abuse eats at the moral authority of a Church working to heal a broken world.

Bring Canadian troops home now

The fact that Brigadier-General David Menard, the Commander of Canadian forces in Afghanistan, called for an inquiry into his own conduct — specifically into the circumstances in which his rifle discharged at the Kandahar airbase last March 25 — will hardly inspire confidence in the troops under his command and among the Afghan civilians they are defending.

Canada might be new to modern warfare, our generals might be rusty on how to load a rifle, but we yield to none in knowing about inquiries. Indeed, conducting inquiries seems to be the only Canadian growth industry immune to the vicissitudes of the economic cycle.

Put the blame where it really belongs - on the abuser

I got a call one day from a good friend who was disturbed by how some of her family and friends might respond to a television program. I did not see the program, but it was about the sex scandal in the Catholic Church.

Here’s how I respond to well meaning friends, family and associates who try to enlighten me about the problems in the Church.

Where's the peace and love?

As the international Jewish community united in protest against a perceived slight spoken in a Good Friday homily by a Vatican official, I wondered why Catholics continue to remain silent amid the suffering of our brothers and sisters in faith in the Holy Land.

This silence has been particularly baffling in the years since the erection of the towering walls that surround some Palestinian cities of the West Bank. Movement from one Palestinian city to the next — and into Jerusalem itself — is prohibited for most Palestinian Catholics. Even those few granted travel or work visas from Israel are subjected to excessive scrutiny. These restrictions prevent Catholics from worshipping in the holy sites of Jerusalem. Seminarians located in Bethlehem are unable to acquire visas to pray in Jerusalem even though it is just a 15-minute drive away.

When shepherds grow old

{mosimage}Jesus spoke fondly of shepherds. From the earliest days of His boyhood He would have been familiar with the roaming shepherds and their sheep. Eventually, He would give pastoral meaning to the image of a shepherd and thereby endear the hearts of His people to their God. That image would become inscribed forever as part of the universal language of the church.

On a recent visit to Jerusalem, in the region of Galilee, I came within arms length of a flock of sheep being cared for by a leathered-skinned shepherd, crosier-like staff and all. It was an extraordinary moment that caused biblical images and meaning to spill over into my consciousness.

The shepherd of the field and the ecclesiastical shepherd have little in common when it comes to lifestyles. But they have a great deal in common when we speak of the themes of care, responsibility, dedication and uninterrupted concern for their flock.