Flight 253 and Nigeria's growing radical Islamism

{mosimage}The botched terrorist attempt on an American airliner by 23-year-old Nigerian Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab has raised serious questions about airport security and terrorism. It has also raised concerns about the rights and dignity of innocent and law-abiding travellers in light of new security measures.

More troubling, however, are the unanswered questions about the role radical Islamism in Nigeria played in creating the environment for Abdulmutallab and future young African terrorists like him.

Lots of work needed to save vulnerable

{mosimage}Rimbocchiamoci le maniche is something my Italian father always says when there is much work to be done. Literally, it means to roll up one’s sleeves, but the idea behind it is to prepare ourselves for the hard work ahead. This could well be what we are being asked to do as Christians at the close of the UN Climate Summit in Copenhagen.

Depending on whom you ask, the accord that came out of the climate summit could be considered “realistic,” as maintained by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, an “essential beginning,” as stated by UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon, or “a weak and morally reprehensible deal,” according to the Catholic Church through its international development agencies CIDSE and Caritas Internationalis .

Changing government priorities close the door on KAIROS

{mosimage}Canada’s International Development Agency (CIDA) has cut off funding to KAIROS, Canada’s main ecumenical social justice group which, for decades, had maintained a stable and respectful relationship with CIDA. KAIROS brings together 11 national churches and faith-based organizations that collectively represent 18 million Canadians. But due to CIDA’s abrupt about face the future existence of KAIROS is now in doubt.

The decision to wholly terminate a long-standing program relationship (a four-year cost sharing arrangement worth about $9 million, of which CIDA contributes  about $7 million) means KAIROS must make sharp funding cuts to more than 20 ecumenical and citizens’ organizations around the world. CIDA says that KAIROS was just not a “fit” with the agency’s emerging priorities. But those who watched this story unfold think KAIROS was a victim of CIDA’s moving goal posts.

Web's culture of opinion must not be ignored

{mosimage}John Gabriel, an Internet games theorist/programmer, in 2005 developed what has become known as the Dickwad Theory of the Internet. It can be expressed as follows: One person + anonymity + audience = one “dickwad” opinion.

This theory is often used to discount opinions posted in the comment sections that accompany most news web sites. The often virulent and brutish tone of such postings has resulted in most authors, analysts and commentators developing a tin ear to these virtual opinions. Fr. Raymond de Souza, a columnist for the National Post, expressed this well: “I could write a column on mowing the lawn and before long the comment threads would degenerate into cracks about pedophilia….” 

May we hear the voices of our African brethren

{mosimage}They say we are running out of water, but I wonder if we should also be worried about running out of listening. Who these days would ever take several weeks out to listen to anyone about anything? But that’s exactly what several hundred of us did last month in Rome at the second Synod for Africa.

The theme was The Church in Africa in Service to Reconciliation, Justice and Peace: “You are the salt of the earth ... you are the light of the world.” Pope Benedict attended 13 of the 20 General Congregations (plenary sessions) and, except for prayer and a greeting, he just listened attentively.

Finding a Catholic home

{mosimage}Coming from an Anglican family of church musicians, I was received into the Catholic Church just over five years ago on the Feast of Sts. John Fisher and Thomas More. Some other members of my family have also converted, but not all of them. Until now, we have been aware that becoming Catholic meant relinquishing some of our cherished heritage. So the Apostolic Constitution announced by the Vatican is quite a gift for my family and an answer to literally years of prayer.

Two years ago, when news first spread of the request from the Traditional Anglican Communion (TAC) for union with the Holy See, it was apparent that TAC Primate John Hepworth was serious about his vision for “the end of the Reformation of the 16th century.” The Oct. 20 announcements in the Vatican and London bring that vision one great step closer to being fulfilled.

Finding the highs in the valley of lows

{mosimage}This past month has been a very dark period for the Canadian Catholic Church. And it isn’t over. As Ron Rolheiser has said, “in times like these it is most instructive and healing to sit quietly in humility, in sackcloth and ashes.”

In spite of the media coverage — obsessive, unrelenting, merciless and yet fully understandable — it is important to still keep perspective, to remember we are a redeemed people, a people of hope. And so, I don’t intend to add to the commentary on the Bishop Raymond Lahey Affair — as it has been dubbed — in part because I have already done that in other media, but also because we could all do with a respite, an antidote, no matter how passing its effect.

Bishop Raymond Lahey - What would Jesus do?

{mosimage}ANTIGONISH, N.S. - I am inclined to believe that most Roman Catholics thought the high-watermark of the sexual abuse of children by clergy had already been reached and perhaps was even receding. The allegations against Raymond Lahey, recently resigned bishop of the diocese of Antigonish, would seem to prove otherwise.

Locally, these revelations have introduced dark and foreboding days for the parishioners of this Maritime diocese. At the writing of this article I am in my home diocese of Antigonish attending a family wedding. I can report first hand that newscasts and local newspapers keep the embers of the alleged accusations against Bishop Lahey hot and brightly burning. The environment is blue with sadness as people seek to deal with their anger, disappointment and outright frustration. In the days since the allegations against the bishop broke, the agonizing consequences seem as though they will never go away.

Catholic Ireland is still standing

{mosimage}It is a strange business trying to make sense of Irish Catholicism. In recent years pundits of various colour and hue have sounded the death knell of the Irish Catholic Church. Books have been written about the agonizing last days of a once proud church; editorialists and commentators have announced with triumphalistic emphasis the demise of, well, Irish Catholic triumphalism; cartoonists and satirists have had a heyday with errant priests and libidinous bishops; documentary makers have worked the very entrails of Catholic history and its dark infamy.

And yet the Irish Catholic Church is still very much around. Cowed admittedly, humbled undeniably, but still in working order.

Stephen Harper's controversial non-controversy

{mosimage}It is hard to imagine how many heads have rolled over a wafer. Or more precisely, a host.

And I am not talking about U.S. vice-president Joe Biden, past Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry, the pre-Roman Tony Blair of England or the scandal-hounded Silvio Berlusconi of Italy. This is closer to home; a New Brunswick-made furor.

The departure of the publisher of the Telegraph-Journal of Saint John, New Brunswick — Jaime Irving of the storied Irving dynasty — along with editor Shawna Richer, ostensibly because of  the coverage of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s communion debacle, appears to be the final act in a uniquely Canadian melodrama.

Lord, to whom should we go?

{mosimage}Was the recent Anaheim decision of the 76th General Convention of the U.S. Episcopal Church just one more aftershock in the life of the Anglican Communion, or was it a new and quite serious quake whose thunderous presence and effects were felt all the way to Canterbury, England? We are speaking about the decisions of the U.S. Episcopal Church’s General Convention to bless same-sex unions and to permit the appointment, to all orders of ministry, persons in active same-sex relationships.

The latter decision is of earthquake proportions and sends deep and permanent fissures throughout the worldwide Anglican Communion. This decision, overwhelmingly approved (99-44 with two abstentions), opens wide the doors for the consecration of bishops in active gay relationships and gives final confirmation to the first such bishop, Gene V. Robinson, ordained bishop of New Hampshire in 2003.