Avatar's sappy, 'dumbed down' spirituality

Hardly a week into its inaugural run, Hollywood’s big Christmas release, Avatar, evolved from just another holiday blockbuster into a full-scale cultural phenomenon. It skipped past $1 billion in box office receipts faster than any film in history and by the end of January it had become the first movie ever to gross more than $2 billion.

Millions have seen Avatar, critics have heaped praise on it and it’s currently up for nine Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director (James Cameron.)

Ignatieff's sad argument

{mosimage}In previous editions, The Catholic Register has called abortion-on-demand Canada’s greatest collective sin and our government’s inaction on the issue our greatest national shame. Now opposition leader Michael Ignatieff is calling on the government to export our abortion culture overseas as part of an otherwise worthy government initiative to provide basic health care for sick and dying women and children.

Bishop Fred Henry and Archbishop Thomas Collins got it right when, respectively, they called Ignatieff’s comments “pathetic” and “astonishing.”

Important Canadian periodicals feel government's wrath

The economic downturns in North America over the last 100 years, paradoxically, have often been times of strong creative upsurge in the arts. American painting, poetry, theatre and music flourished in the 1930s, despite the crushing Great Depression. In the midst of financial turmoil in the 1970s, the Canadian non-profit parallel gallery movement covered the country with incubators for visual artists who would later go on to national and international careers.

Such innovation in difficult moments has traditionally been made possible by active public-sector investment, without which the many small-scale artistic enterprises that dot the cultural landscape would languish. Since the Second World War, Canada has believed that this public investment in new art, film, theatre, music and the other arts is an important contribution to building a national artistic fibre strong enough to resist the powerful cultural influence of the United States. But this long-standing conviction has become old hat in the Harper government’s ruling circles, if Ottawa’s recent changes in magazine funding policy are anything to go on.

Pius XII - Examining the Catholic-Jewish divide

{mosimage}The last time Rabbi Roy Tanenbaum and Redemptorist Father Paul Hansen shared these pages they discussed the idea of Jesus as Torah . With the help of Christian-Jewish Dialogue of Toronto we’ve invited them back to discuss the controversy surrounding the possible sainthood of Pope Pius XII, who was pontiff during the Holocaust.

The Vatican moved Pius closer to possible beatification by declaring him “venerable” in December.

The honor of the Olympics

{mosimage}The Olympic Games can be too political, too commercial and too often a platform for cheaters. Yes, they are flawed, and in that they resemble God’s children — damaged but worthwhile, imperfect but noble, scarred but wonderful.

The Winter Games open in Vancouver on Feb. 12 and we hope Canadians slow down to absorb and enjoy this 16-day spectacle because, despite the warts, there is much to celebrate.

Haiti's church in need

{mosimage}The self-described Friends of Haiti took a commendable first step on Jan. 25 when this coalition of wealthy nations, in Montreal for a conference chaired by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, committed to a multi-billion-dollar, multi-year plan to rebuild Haiti.

But there was at least one major reconstruction project overlooked in Montreal even though it is urgent to the Catholic population of the impoverished people of Haiti: Who will help rebuild their church?

The daring and beautiful belongs in God's church

{mosimage}For centuries of Western history, Christian churches were the outstanding expressions of the architect’s art and craft. There are many reasons why this is no longer the case. Among them is the widespread decline of church-going and revenues, and the opinion that churches should occupy a more low-profile place in the urban fabric, and, not least important, an attitude of alienation (if not hostility) on the part of the church-going public toward the accomplishments of modern architecture.

But as long as new churches continue to be built, the opportunity of making them excellent and beautiful remains open. Catholics surely should not settle for second-rate church buildings in the Toronto archdiocese.

Hope, dignity & Haiti

{mosimage}In a radio interview after Port-au-Prince had been destroyed, a Haitian-Canadian said she prayed the world would unite to build a new Haiti where abject poverty could be replaced by dignified poverty.

It was a stunningly poignant comment from someone grieving the deaths of both parents and the destruction of a beloved homeland. In her words, the abject poor have nothing whereas the dignified poor have at least meager means to acquire the basics of food, clothing and shelter.

Trying times continue for charities

Natural disasters that inflict heart-wrenching human suffering, such as we’ve seen in the Haitian earthquake, show us the best and the worst of the changes we’ve witnessed in recent years, particularly in the media.

Through the immediate spread of eyewitness accounts, often through the use of social networking tools such as Twitter and cellphone videos, we learn of the devastation almost as it happens. As a result, faster ways to send help to crisis areas and faster ways to donate money have developed very quickly.   

Don’t repeat Quebec’s error in English Canada

Working within the beauty of the Ottawa Valley I see many cars pass by from la belle province with license plates emblazoned with the motto je me souviens. 

These words are a declaration by the majority Francophone population to always  “remember” the struggles of la révolution tranquille (the Quiet Revolution), which transformed Quebec society into a modern secular state. Sadly, it is a state in which French Quebecers turned a deaf ear to the Catholic Church to heed instead the siren cry of the modern secularist project.

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.