Helping our community for more than three decades

{mosimage}For more than 30 years, the Lenten season has been marked in a special way in the archdiocese of Toronto, with thousands of Catholics demonstrating their faith through a massive act of charity known as ShareLife.

In March 1976, then Archbishop Philip Pocock attracted the attention of the country with a major announcement about the Catholic Church in the archdiocese. Based on principles of faith, the archbishop removed Catholic Charities from the mainstream appeal. In making this announcement, he said, “I am prepared to take the responsibility of sustaining the services of Catholic Charities to the community.” Thus, ShareLife, the annual charitable appeal of the archdiocese of Toronto, was established.

Political grandstanding

{mosimage}U.S. President Barack Obama surrounded himself with political friends, the sick, the handicapped, churchmen and scientists on March 9 to trumpet his intention to separate politics from science. To enthusiastic applause he announced an executive order that will rescind a ban on government funding for embryonic stem cell research (ESCR).

What utter hypocrisy.

We all have a role

{mosimage}The latest economic report from Statistics Canada reinforces the need for swift and decisive action. Governments at all levels must implement policies that are prudent, just and comprehensive, but this is not their problem to solve alone. All of society has an important role to play.

Led by dramatic losses in the automotive and housing sectors, Canada’s gross domestic product shrank in the fourth quarter by an annual rate of 3.4 per cent. The national unemployment rate topped 7.2 per cent in January and will continue to rise, according to Finance Minister Jim Flaherty.

Children will better, not hinder, our world

{mosimage}This just in folks, children are bad for the environment — because humans are bad for the environment. But of course! I guess that makes some sense if the environment is the universal ultimate good of the world. And is that so? Do we value the world more than we value human life?

Even if the environment is the ultimate good, how does this argument work? Jonathan Pitt, the UK government’s Sustainable Development Commission chair, states that “Couples who have more than two children are being ‘irresponsible’ by creating an unbearable burden on the environment.” He, of course, leads by example, and has only two children. The assumption is that every couple with reproductive capacity will have only two children and thus this reaches, apparently, the level of replacement for the world population.

Excellent education

Too often you will pick up a newspaper and read about the trouble our kids have got themselves into. Today, you will pick up The Catholic Register and only find out the good.

And it’s not just the kids themselves. You can also read about the teachers, the administrators, the parents, all who contribute to the good that our Catholic schools are doing.

Sexual authenticity

{mosimage}It was the Marquis de Sade who first put into writing the idea that homosexuality is, for some, an inclination that emerges in childhood and remains more or less fixed throughout life. This view developed, over several centuries, into the modern notion of sexual orientation: same-sex attraction ceased to be a temptation or inclination from which some people suffered at various points in their lives and became something fixed, immutable and fundamental to the personality.

This understanding of same-sex attraction is held more or less universally in mainstream modern culture. Looking at the writings of the press, the gay and lesbian organizations and the North American psychological establishment, one gets the impression that the matter is very simple. Some people are born gay, some people are born straight and some people are born bisexual. It is as unnatural and unhealthy to expect a gay person to have heterosexual relationships as it would be for a straight person to seek out same-sex partners. Whatever your orientation is, it’s that way for life and it cannot be changed.

Making sense of Lent in economic turmoil

{mosimage}Lent is back big time and in a wholly unexpected manner. There is an odd, though understandable, confluence of pop culture, economic trends and the liturgical calendar this year that makes the essence of the Lenten season appropriate to Christians and non-Christians.

In the theatres Confessions of a Shop-a-holic (the film treatment of the Chick-Lit book whose title says it all) and The International (the thriller about a truly killer bank) each speak in their own way to a mood that has swept the world: true discomfort at unfettered greed at the personal and corporate level. Combine the movies with mounting job losses and continual admonitions that everything is just going to get worse and some of us could be forgiven for concluding that Lent, a time of abstinence, sacrifice and reflection, began some time ago.

Has fasting become a lost treasure?

{mosimage}Some would say that Christians in general have lost all sense of the why, the when and the how of fasting. Would you agree? Even if that assessment is only partially right, a review of the forgotten fundamentals might be beneficial.

There are three major themes in the history and practice of Christian fasting: Mystical longing for fulfilment, liberation through discipline and the relationship of fasting to works of charity and justice.

Life is for living

{mosimage}Could Francine Lalonde be thinking that the third time is a charm? It certainly appears that way as the Bloc Quebecois MP announced recently that she intends to table in Parliament, once again, a bill to legalize assisted suicide in Canada.

Lalonde’s first two attempts failed and never really were a threat to pass. And it could be said this time around that her efforts are bound to meet the same fate. After all, she is introducing her legislation as a private members’ bill, and it is very rare, almost to the point of impossible, for such a bill to pass.

Approaching Lent as a family unit

{mosimage}Each year at the beginning of Lent, my family receives a “Lifestyle Awareness Calendar” in our parish bulletin from the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace. The idea is to set aside small sums of money which accumulate for the Share Lent collection. Each day there’s a different donation suggestion, such as “15 cents for each glass of unpolluted water you drink today.”

My children go around counting the number of appliances, light bulbs, books or other items in our house, then we calculate how much to deposit in our collection container that day. On Sundays there’s a social justice issue to pray about — for example, South African women who struggle for just working conditions.

Reconciliation botched

{mosimage}The first weekend of February found me, like scores of other North American presidents of Catholic universities, in Washington, D.C., for the annual conference of the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities and because I sit on the board I arrived a day earlier. Just in time to get the very beginning of the Williamson imbroglio.

Bishop Richard Williamson is the controversial British bishop whose excommunication along with three other schismatic bishops has been lifted by Rome. A member of the traditionalist Society of St.  Pius X ,  he was excommunicated because of his illicit ordination by a presiding bishop who was warned by Rome not to proceed with his intended act of defiance. The followers of Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre are nothing if not obdurate. No doubt they preferred to call it holy stubbornness. The end result was the same: schism.