We are all exiles

{mosimage}The appearance of a new Ron Hansen novel is always the occasion for careful scrutiny and delicious pleasure. He is the finest contemporary Catholic fiction writer in the United States, in my view (sorry Anne Rice), and his latest — Exiles — is one of his finest.

The author of several novels of inventive power and historical elasticity (Hitler’s Niece, Mariette in Ecstasy and The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford), Hansen delights in mixing historical fact with possibility, religious feeling with erotic need, saintly endeavour with the cold winds of reason.

    Blinded by science

    {mosimage}The cheapest shot against scientists, who rail loudly and at length against religious believers, is that they are scientific fundamentalists. It’s a cheap shot simply because science is supposed to be open, inquiring, rational and devoted to truth wherever it is to be found.

    So when scientists set out to act like fundamentalists and do so in the manner of the Inquisition, the first reaction has to be disbelief. The second has to be a sober look at the growing phenomenon of scientific fundamentalism.

      Is personal virtue required in democracy?

      {mosimage}The primary function of the state is to ensure justice for all. This noble idea resonates nicely through the particularities of the fair wage, anti-discrimination policies, affordable housing, universal health care and social justice.

      Justice, however, is a virtue. Moreover, it is, in its essence, not bureaucratic, but personal. Politicians, nonetheless, who love to talk about justice, rarely understand this. In general, they assume that justice is imposed on people by a liberal government, forgetting, somehow, that a society is nothing without its constitutive people. If there are no virtuous people, there is no social justice.

        A very special family vacation

        They say you can’t go back and revisit the past, but that’s exactly what we did last month. My family went back to the Muskoka resort where we first vacationed decades ago.

        My parents had stumbled across the place after years of vacationing at housekeeping cottages. It cost more, but it was a real treat not to have to pack groceries, bedding and towels for six, along with each family member’s personal items, and try to cram them all into the car. And how wonderful it was to have someone else preparing, serving and cleaning up after meals and organizing activities. It was truly a time of relaxation and fun.

          Catholic schools have made great contributions

          {mosimage}It is both predictable and tiresome. And it is never, to my mind at least, entirely honest. What I am talking about is the political hot potato that is publicly funded Catholic education in the province of Ontario and the pseudo-debate that revolves around it.

          In his Aug. 11 column, Jim Coyle of The Toronto Star spoke of the courage of NDP leader-wannabe Michael Prue’s invitation to the membership to enter into “a grand dialogue” regarding the economic effectiveness and justice of a policy/convention/tradition that continues to fund a separate Catholic school system. Why are we surprised? Especially, given the often furious and polemical debates surrounding the last provincial election and John Tory’s advocacy of “faith schools.”

            Envisioning Canada without poverty

            {mosimage}The Catholic Register deserves our praise for printing three moving pages of Michael Swan’s portraits of poverty (“The human faces of poverty among us ,” Aug. 17-24). Swan reflects on the well-known passage, “The poor you will always have with you…” He wonders why we who profess to be followers of Jesus keep the poor out of sight and out of mind.

              Celebrating St. Paul Ecumenically

              {mosimage}Ecumenists were particularly delighted when, in his first address to the College of Cardinals following his election, Benedict XVI clearly put the Roman Catholic Church on notice that he would work without sparing energy to bring about the unity of the Christian church. It proved nothing short of embracing ecumenical continuity, giving testimony to an endeared legacy of his predecessor Pope John Paul II.

              To date evidence of that energy has clearly manifested itself throughout the early years of Benedict’s active pontificate.

                It's always something

                I have a disease. It started in a finger on my left hand and within a couple days moved to a finger on my right hand. I first noticed the unusual pains a few months after my 40th birthday. 

                By that summer, I was practically bedridden. A misdiagnosis didn’t help. In fairness to the doctor, he didn’t have much to go on. In fact, even a couple of years later a specialist was still saying maybe you do have arthritis and maybe you don’t. 

                  Unborn would benefit from Bill C-484

                  {mosimage}In the past year there have been a number of high-profile cases where pregnant women have been attacked and killed. And in each of those cases the perpetrators were charged with only one murder, that of the mother.

                  Bill C-484, a private member’s bill, was introduced in Parliament in the fall of 2007. The proposed legislation — An Act to Amend the Criminal Code (injuring or causing the death of an unborn child while committing an offence) — is also known as the Unborn Victims of Crime Act. The bill has now passed second reading and has been sent for study to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, where it now sits.

                    Conscience next victim of liberal agenda

                    {mosimage}A pro-life doctor friend recently told me that if things get really bad here in terms of religious freedom, he’ll move to the United States. Not so fast: his dream escape is dissipating before his eyes.

                      Parish youth ministry needs to be a priority

                      {mosimage}My two daughters spent a week at camp this summer — in the mountains of northeast Georgia. That’s a long way to travel, I know, 990 kilometres to be exact. But it’s an experience they couldn’t get around here, at least not to my knowledge.

                      The camp, Covecrest, is operated by Life Teen, a non-profit, Eucharist-centred Catholic ministry focused on leading teens into a closer relationship with Christ. Originally a single-parish program in Arizona, Life Teen can now be found in more than a dozen countries.