Common differences

{mosimage}The release of the Bouchard-Taylor report May 22 on reasonable accommodation of religious and ethnic differences in Quebec offered a useful corrective to some of the alarmism creeping into public debate on this issue. As one of the first official and systematic examinations of how Canadians integrate newcomers into our midst, it holds valuable lessons for all of us.

Restoring credibility

{mosimage}No one says being an Ontario Catholic school trustee in these times is easy. The vast majority of trustees recognize, too, that theirs is a vocation with few rewards and a grinding workload. So the temptation to ease that burden in questionable ways may be understandable — even as succumbing to it is never acceptable.

St. Basil's development touches a nerve

{mosimage}The residential towers now sprouting up across downtown Toronto regularly rouse the ire of citizens. People don’t like these structures for all kinds of reasons: because they cast long shadows, because they increase local traffic, because they make bad fits with the often low-rise neighbourhoods that surround them. But until now, I’ve never heard people objecting to a high-rise development because it threatens to eat up a parking lot.

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.

The party's over and the poor weren't even invited

{mosimage}Economists — practitioners of the “gloomy science” — are gleefully telling us the party’s over. The boom times have disappeared, pffft, into thin air, replaced by recession and unemployment. But statisticians are now saying that most Canadians were not even invited to the party to begin with.

Farming for food or energy?

{mosimage}At last, the food crisis now afflicting millions of the Earth’s poorest people has caught the attention of the well-off nations of Europe and North America. One has to wonder whether we would have ever woken up had not riots and protests broken out earlier this year in a dozen countries across Africa, Asia, the Caribbean and Latin America.

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.

Thanks for 100 years

{mosimage}A century ago, on Sept. 23, Msgr. E. Alfred Burke, a priest of the diocese of Charlottetown, started a small organization that would go on to do very big things indeed. It was the Catholic Church Extension Society of Canada, now known as Catholic Missions In Canada (see article here).

Grandmas left legacy of faith, hope, service

My paternal grandmother died 19 years ago, at age 81. This year marks the 100th anniversary of her birth. To honour her life and her legacy, one of my uncles is compiling a booklet of memories.