Do right by nature

{mosimage}World leaders are descending on Copenhagen this week for a UN climate conference that seeks an aggressive strategy to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions. Their ultimate goal is a new international agreement to replace the failed 1990 Kyoto accord.

It is an ambitious undertaking and, even before it starts, Canada has been cast among the villains. The UN General Secretary has singled out Canada as lacking stringent reduction targets. Former U.S. vice-president Al Gore has been targeting the Alberta tar sands as a threat to the planet’s survival. The left-leaning Guardian newspaper of London published a column that called Canada a “corrupt petro-state” that, more than any other nation, has been trying to sabotage a new climate agreement.

Church seeks media fairness

{mosimage}Perhaps the only thing tougher for a New Yorker than fighting city hall is taking on the mighty New York Times. So all Catholics should applaud New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan for publicly criticizing the anti-Catholic bias found not only on the pages of the The Times, but pervasive throughout the media. 

Dolan wasn’t speaking for Canada when he wrote an essay recently that labelled media prejudice against the Catholic Church “a national pastime.” But his comments apply on both sides of the border. Canada’s mainstream media, like its southern cousin, often operates with one set of rules for minority religions and another for the Catholic Church. Maybe it’s time we also got angry.

Recognizing the beauty of the Latin Mass

{mosimage}Earlier this autumn, the Oratorians who operate Toronto’s St. Vincent de Paul Church, my liturgical home base, decided to make the principal Sunday service, at 11:30, a celebration of the 1962 Latin Mass.

At first, I was dismayed by the strangeness of it all. The Mass in English had always seemed entirely reverent and otherwise satisfactory, at least the way the Oratorians do it; and it surely is a satisfactory way to thank God for His many blessings. (I have fortunately never witnessed one of those eccentric vernacular Masses the fervent Catholic bloggers complain about.)

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….” 

End indifference

{mosimage}In the time it takes to read this sentence, somewhere on the planet a child will die of starvation. That’s one dead child every five seconds, six million children this year, out of one billion undernourished people in the world, according to statistics from the United Nations.

Those are the eye-popping numbers rolled out at the opening of a three-day world food summit in Rome. Organized by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) , the summit was convened to study how to replace inadequate and inefficient aid programs with well-funded initiatives to make poor nations self-sufficient in food.

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.

Euthanasia is not appropriate care

{mosimage}It was bound to happen but it nonetheless came as a shock to hear doctors endorse the position that, when other treatments fail, it may sometimes be acceptable to simply kill the patient.

In effect, that is the position of the Quebec College of Physicians in a policy paper that says euthanasia can be an ethical and viable option for doctors when a patient, facing “imminent and inevitable” death, is suffering extreme pain. As put by one doctor: “We are saying death can be an appropriate type of care in certain circumstances.”

Fr. Raby inspires

{mosimage}Truth be told, the decision to publish a book of memorable Register columns by Msgr. Tom Raby was made before Pope Benedict XVI proclaimed this as the Year For Priests. But when The Little World of Fr. Raby, 1980-2007 arrived from the printer it was obvious we could not have selected a better project to celebrate the priesthood.

So, yes, there is excitement at The Catholic Register this month. The gentle words of wit and wisdom from Msgr. Raby, beloved Register columnist for almost 60 years, are back among us.

Just about anyone who has read our paper in the last half century will recall “The Little World of Fr. Raby,” the title atop his popular column that graced more than 2,000 issues of the paper. Failing health forced Msgr. Raby, then 88, to retire his column in 2007. But through the efforts of Managing Editor Mickey Conlon, Raby’s prose has been revived in a book that borrows the title of his popular column.

Media focus on divisiveness in Pope's invite to Anglicans

Pope Benedict’s recent announcement of provisions to permit some Anglicans to convert to Catholicism while keeping some of their liturgical forms and customs caused varied reactions in the Canadian press. Most news coverage was based on international wire services, but many headlines were rather curious, and the commentary ranged from genuinely knowledgeable to downright prejudiced.

Based on what we know at this point, the Vatican’s plan includes the preparation of an Apostolic Constitution that would allow groups of Anglicans to enter full communion with the Catholic Church while preserving elements of Anglican liturgy and custom. Under the terms of the Apostolic Constitution, the Vatican’s press release said, “pastoral oversight and guidance will be provided for groups of former Anglicans through a Personal Ordinariate, whose Ordinary will usually be appointed from among former Anglican clergy.” Many details have not been announced, but the constitutional changes would make provisions for married Anglican clergy to be ordained as Catholic priests, which has already occurred in a small number of individual cases.

Perhaps the most curious reaction is the assertion that the Pope is attempting to bump up Catholic membership at Anglican expense or “poaching,” as more than one headline and cartoon put it. Most appeared to mean it in a humourous way, and the accompanying news coverage made clear that Anglican-Catholic dialogue has been going on harmoniously for many years, and that the Pope’s invitation follows requests from groups of Anglicans who, sensing a loss of  community and tradition, feel a stronger tie to Rome than Canterbury.

How many Anglicans will take the dip in the Tiber?

The shock-waves set in motion by Pope Benedict’s invitation to Anglicans to convert en masse, bringing their legacy of spiritual thought and worship with them, continues to ricochet throughout the world.

Some Anglican prelates, most notably in the large churches of Africa, have dismissed the call out of hand. At least one sizable group of dissident Anglicans — the Australia-based Traditional Anglican Communion, which claims some 400,000 adherents worldwide — has announced its eagerness to “swim the Tiber,” as Anglicans say, as soon as possible. But at the time of this writing, no observer or Anglican leader is in a position to make any move, since the Vatican has yet to announce the terms and time frame of its surprising offer.

Only this much is really clear at the present time: Married Anglican male clergy who convert will be eligible for ordination and ministry as Catholic priests in the new ecclesiastical structures, which will take the form of non-territorial dioceses. It is not clear, however, whether these married priests will be allowed to serve outside that structure, in “ordinary” Catholic parishes, or whether Catholic laypeople who did not come over from Anglicanism will be welcomed in the new Anglican rite parishes. (I think it likely that both things will eventually happen: the first, because of the shortage of priests in Latin rite parishes; the second, because of the fluidity of parish affiliation that already exists in Catholicism.)

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.