Human Rights Act foils reasoned debate

{mosimage}Editor’s note: the following is a letter sent to Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach by Calgary Bishop Fred Henry June 23 on the Alberta Human Rights Commission.

Dear Premier Stelmach:

I have raised the issue of the Alberta Human Rights Commission several times with you in the past 18 months. On each of those occasions, you said that you understood the issues and shared my concerns. However, the situation is continuing to deteriorate across our country and the various levels of governments are seemingly non-responsive.

No to free trade with Colombia

{mosimage}In April 2001 my friend Kimy Pernia Domicó, leader of the Embera Katio, travelled from his home in Colombia’s rainforest to Quebec City to join tens of thousands of others from across the Americas in a resounding call for an end to the now defunct Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) project.

Kimy knew that free trade would bring more hardship to his people. The Urrá I dam, a project that received partial financing from Canada’s Export Development Corporation, had already threatened their very existence.  Since the dam construction, fish in the river disappeared and the Embera — robbed of their main source of protein — fell sick from malnutrition. The standing water created outbreaks of malaria and the dam’s reservoir flooded Embera homes and lands.

Kimy knew he was risking his life by speaking out against the injustices his people had endured, but he also knew it had to be done.  

Anti-religious atmosphere is becoming oppressive

It is not easy being an advocate for Catholic schools. At one time the parallel existence of a parochial school system was seen ideally as a complement to its public counterpart; sometimes it was perceived as welcome competition and sometimes as a threat to the public system. Usually it was seen as exotic, a byproduct of a 19th-century political accommodation, a customary feature of the provincial landscape.

Condos don't fit St. Basil's neighbourhood

{mosimage}It was only last November that John Bentley Mays gave the seventh annual Somerville Lecture at the Newman Centre in Toronto.  The subject of his excellent talk was the future of the Christian urbanism in Toronto.  In it he says that, although major decisions are being made that will affect the “living textures and structures of the secular city for generations to come,” any form of Christian intervention in the debate is “oddly lacking at the present time.” He says that he cannot understand this lack of participation, adding: “However it is explained, the public silence of Christians about the contemporary city must be accounted a significant failure of imagination and will that should concern all believers.” 

Deus caritas made flesh

The trees fluttered to and fro in a brisk autumn breeze. The scene at the back of St. Isaac Jogues Church was one filled with the sound of people tapping their feet to the music as the air was filled with the tantalizing smell of hamburgers and hot dogs cooking on the barbecue. Our pastor warmly greeted my family as he mixed and mingled among the crowd.

You are never in trouble walking with Jesus

{mosimage}It’s 2 a.m. It is that time of the day when a man filled with stress lays in his bed staring at his alarm clock. I ask Jesus to help me sleep, but sleep doesn’t come.  

Humankind has unique place in God's plan

{mosimage}In April, after four Canadian seal hunters were killed in the Gulf of St. Lawrence when their ship capsized while being towed, the animal rights activist Paul Watson provided a provocative quote. Speaking for his organization, which engages in direct action to protest abuse of marine wildlife, he said: “The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society recognizes that the deaths of four sealers is a tragedy but Sea Shepherd also recognizes that the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of seal pups is an even greater tragedy.”

St. Paul's passes the test of time

{mosimage}As a Lenten discipline, I re-read the earliest documents of Christianity, namely the letters (or Epistles) of St. Paul. It is easy to forget that when Paul wrote these letters there were no Gospels, nor anything else of what today we call, with easy familiarity, the New Testament. My purpose was to see if, across two millennia, St. Paul’s authentic voice could still be heard.

Zimbabwe needs a national unity government

{mosimage}To many, the electoral crisis in Zimbabwe is a case of a greedy dictator and his ruling party refusing to give up power to a democratically elected opposition. Zanu PF and president Robert Mugabe have led the nation since independence from Britain in 1980.

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.