The shadow of Peter fell on America

{mosimage}Last month Pope Benedict XVI made his first visit as Pope to the United States of America. Many were concerned about the impact the German Pope would have on a rather beleaguered church. They asked if Benedict would be able to “connect” with people as his predecessor John Paul II had done. After all, Benedict arrived in America at age 80 while John Paul II was a mere 59 when he visited for the first time in 1979. 
Benedict did more than connect. He bonded. He moved multitudes. He showed remarkable courage, wisdom and compassion.
Until last week many people both within and outside the church in North America simply didn’t know Joseph Ratzinger, and some didn’t want to know him. They knew only half truths about a man who was called “the Vatican doctrinal watchdog” and who was often portrayed as a strict, distant, scholarly bookworm who lacked the charisma and flair of his predecessor on the throne of Peter.
The papal visit included a royal White House welcome on the pontiff’s 81st birthday, an address to Catholic educators, a major and a minor address to the General Assembly of the United Nations and the staff (not many political leaders acknowledge the little people who make the big organizations work). 
Jews in a Manhattan synagogue were blessed by a visit from the German Pope on the eve of Passover. And clergy and religious were strengthened and moved to tears in Manhattan during a magnificent liturgy on Fifth Avenue.
The media did not miss the deep significance of the Holy Father’s private and moving meeting with victims of clergy sex abuse at the Vatican embassy in Washington. The Pope was unafraid to enter into the pain, confusion, sadness and evil of the sex abuse crisis. He let people know that he listened and understood and the Pope will continue to act so that such a disaster would never repeat itself.
Benedict reached out as a gentle, grandfatherly shepherd and blessed disabled and suffering young people while their parents and caregivers stood nearby and wept. It was a very rare occasion to hear Benedict speak about his youth in Nazi Germany when he addressed tens of thousands of young people at the outdoor rally: “My own years as a teenager were marred by a sinister regime that thought it had all the answers; its influence grew — infiltrating schools and civic bodies, as well as politics and even religion — before it was fully recognized for the monster it was,” said the Pope, who deserted the German army near the end of the Second World War.

Dictatorship of relativism the greatest challenge

Editor’s note: The following is an excerpt from an address by Archbishop J. Michael Miller, CSB, coadjutor archbishop of Vancouver, to the Ontario Catholic School Supervisory Officers annual general meeting April 17.

According to the Holy Father, a major challenge to the church of the 21st century and one which presents “a particularly insidious obstacle in the task of educating” is the massive presence of relativism in society and in schools. Indeed, relativism has become a sort of dogma, and “it is considered dangerous and ‘authoritarian’ to speak of truth, and the end result is doubt about the goodness of life — is it good to be a person? is it good to be alive?” This “dictatorship of relativism,” as expressed by Benedict XVI, manifests society’s profound crisis of truth, a crisis which inevitably influences teachers, parents and students.

Grandmas left legacy of faith, hope, service

My paternal grandmother died 19 years ago, at age 81. This year marks the 100th anniversary of her birth. To honour her life and her legacy, one of my uncles is compiling a booklet of memories.

Viewing pornography is wrong

{mosimage}From time to time I am asked to do speaking engagements and more often than not I’m asked to speak on the controversial subject of human sexuality. I just returned from an awesome retreat where organizers urged me to give my usual, no-holds-barred talk on sexuality to over 150 adults.

Who's afraid of Charles Darwin?

{mosimage}For the next year at least you are going to be hearing a lot about Charles Darwin. There is a growing worldwide movement to declare Feb. 12 Darwin Day. Next year is the 200th anniversary of his birth and the push is on to use the occasion to mark the triumph of scientific reasoning.

Catholic bishops green with energy

{mosimage}Why doesn’t the church say something about ecology and the environment? Why doesn’t the church get with the program? Such questions never fail to surface after I give a talk on Christianity and ecology. 

Graham Greene, an ecclesiastical rebel

For many readers the notion of a Catholic novelist is simply Graham Greene. There is none better. After all, novels like The Power and the Glory, The Honorary Consul and Monsignor Quixote are replete with Catholic figures and themes. Other works, like The End of the Affair, The Heart of the Matter and  A Burnt-Out Case, are strong Catholic meat, even if inedible for those of a more pious taste.

Don't blame Poland for Nazi crimes

{mosimage}In his March 16 column, “Resist the culture of death,” John Bentley Mays argues that without the complicity of the local Polish population, the Nazis could not have carried out their murderous designs. The exception was Denmark, where collaboration was not forthcoming, and was actively resisted, and the Nazis could make no headway with the Holocaust, he says.

Death of a pet comes with happy ending

{mosimage}When a pet dies, it’s often a child’s first experience with death. This was the case with my son and his  Betta fish, Noel, a Christmas gift several years ago.

The eclipse of human dignity

{mosimage}Human beings have an inalienable dignity. This means that their dignity is an aspect of their being that cannot be removed. If people are treated in accordance with who they are, they will be treated with dignity. 

Don't step back on Vatican II reforms

{mosimage}Recently it would appear that top Vatican officials are joining the attack on liturgy changes approved by Pope Paul VI after the Second Vatican Council.