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Palmsonntag, a deeply biblical vision

The beautiful installation called Palmsonntag (Palm Sunday), by German painter and sculptor Anselm Kiefer, is the most brilliant, deeply original Christian artwork I have ever seen on display at the Art Gallery of Ontario. Readers interested in art should catch this show before it leaves Toronto on Aug. 1

Like some Baroque depiction of a saint’s martyrdom, Palm Sunday refers immediately to an occasion that lies largely beyond the margins of the work, in this case the liturgy for the Sunday before Easter.

If we can’t save the dolphins, what hope do we have ?

“Man’s inhumanity to man makes countless thousands mourn.” So wrote Scotland’s bard, Robert Burns, nearly three centuries ago. Today, thanks to a DVD called The Cove, man’s inhumanity to dolphins is making countless thousands protest. Online petitions against the senseless slaughter of dolphins that occur annually in a cove at the Japanese village of Taaji have embarrassed the Japanese government — particularly after The Cove won the 2010 Oscar for best documentary.

Each September dolphins are driven towards a cove on the Japanese coastline by fishing boats that lay down a “wall of sound” that serves to terrify the dolphins, which have acute hearing. Fleeing from the noise, the dolphins can effectively be herded into one small, secure cove at Taaji, where they are penned in by nets. Marine museums and commercial aquariums come to Taaji to select specimens for a lifetime of captivity. The dolphins that are not selected are slaughtered and their meat marketed through Asia, often misleadingly labelled as whale meat. The dolphins contain worrisome — indeed sometimes toxic — levels of mercury.  Nevertheless, until recently dolphin meat was a staple in the compulsory lunches that Japanese schools provide to students.

Ethics and purpose must be returned to world finance

Is it okay to endanger the economy of a country by aggressively backing financial instruments then bet against them?

It appears that American banking giant Goldman Sachs thinks so and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernacke isn’t sure. Yes, the Security and Exchange Commission has charged Goldman Sachs with fraud, but this is not the first time an investment institution has been raked over the coals, usually with very little result. Business as usual is not to be stopped.

Let there be light

Ottawa Peace TowerWhen children want to become magicians they are taught to say hocus pocus. When adults want to become politicians they are taught to say transparency and accountability. In both cases, the audience eats it up. Children, though, grow up to realize that people aren’t fooled by hocus pocus alone, while politicians never seem to learn.

Our elected representatives, regardless of party, are forever calling for  government to be more open and transparent. They understand that voters want to know what their government is doing, how it is doing it and what it costs. Simple, really.

Leadership lacking in pro-life movement

Cardinal Marc OuelletWhat a difference a year makes.

The 2009 National March for Life in Ottawa drew a record 12,000 enthusiastic supporters but was virtually ignored by the media. Twelve months later, the annual March attracted roughly the same number of pro-lifers to Parliament Hill but this time earned national TV coverage and front-page headlines in some large dailies.

The great Canadian Christian right conspiracy

Marci McDonald is a conspiracy theorist who thinks she has zeroed in on a conspiracy that threatens everything Canadians love about Canada but one that the rest of us are wilfully blind to notice, except of course for those intimately involved in the conspiracy.

I know this because she tells me so for 432 pages in her new book The Armageddon Factor: The Rise of Christian Nationalism in Canada. Tells me so repeatedly with varying degrees of emphasis and alarm. She knows this conspiracy exists because she discovered it while everyone else in the media was too lazy, too smug or too indifferent to notice what was going on all around them. The problem with being a conspiracy theorist is that you tend to see the conspiracy everywhere and the fact that others don’t see it is just further proof of how insidious and effective the conspiracy is.
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Non-violence is the only path to peace

The news from the frontier between Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories is seldom good, and usually awful. Headline after headline in the mainstream media confirm the popular (and hardly inaccurate) view that the border is a place of violence and danger, where Israeli soldiers daily face death and injury from suicide bombers and armed militants, and Palestinian citizens are constantly liable to harassment and arrest.

Against this baleful backdrop of discord and suffering, however, a new and more hopeful story has begun to emerge.

Life issues are rarely off the radar

This year’s March for Life took place against a backdrop of legislative initiatives at both ends of the life spectrum. As this column is being written before the march in Ottawa, there’s no way to know if the event will be covered in the media. But life issues continue to be prominent in the news.

The unborn victims of violence bill in the last parliament and the April 14 private member’s bill aimed at ending the coercion of women into abortions they do not want both received plentiful coverage and sparked strong reaction. The proposals caused a rash of letters to the editor and talk-show panels.

Catholic by action

Catholic School teacherWhat defines a Catholic school teacher?

That question came to mind amid recent media reports about aspiring young teachers returning to the Church, converting to Catholicism or pretending to be faithful to get hired at a Catholic school board. Two Toronto papers ran stories suggesting that some graduates of teachers’ colleges have been trying to wriggle their way into Catholic schools under false pretences. These include lapsed Catholics feigning  rebirth and non-Catholics receiving the sacraments or converting solely to obtain a pastoral recommendation.

Motherhood — nothing beats it

When I was a single, adventurous career woman travelling on business many years ago in Hawaii, I never imagined that an irresistible invitation to embrace motherhood would come to me on the footpaths of the Honolulu Zoo.

I was scheduled to deliver a communications seminar the next day, feeling a little smug about the fact that I was being paid to travel and work in Hawaii, as I lined up to buy my entrance ticket. The woman in front of me was surrounded by four, five or maybe six children. She had one in her arms, one in a stroller, and the rest were clinging to her wrist, waist or leg.

Give change a chance

new missalLast week a reader wrote us to apologize because he realized he’d been too harsh last January in criticizing design changes we’d made to The Register. Upon reflection, he concluded, the paper was now easier on the eyes and the changes were a “tremendous improvement.”

We mention this not to praise ourselves, but because a new translation of the Roman Missal has been approved by Pope Benedict XVI  and, with change in the wind, it is worth remembering there is virtue in being open-minded and even-tempered. As our reader realized, given time, change can be good.