This time, the court hears the voice of the people

It is all too common (and often exasperating) when the ground beneath us shifts on morality issues and common decency. It is easy to shake our head and say, “This sort of stuff wouldn’t have happened in the Canada I grew up in.”

These shifts occur for many reasons, from the silent majority saying nothing about the latest “Politically Correct” silliness to politicians bowing to the pressure from small, but effective, special interest groups. Sadly, the courts are also to blame by too often protecting the rights of offenders ahead of the rights of victims and the community at large.

‘Remarkable work of grace’ in Boston, 10 years on

Is it over? Yes and no. It was 10 years ago this month that the sexual abuse crisis exploded in the archdiocese of Boston, with reverberations across the world.

Cardinal Sean O’Malley, sent to Boston in 2003 as archbishop to right the reeling ship, has written at length on the 10th anniversary. He is quick to argue that the sexual abuse crisis is not over. It’s not over principally because sexual abuse is not something a victim simply gets over. It’s also not over because the process of purification and penance is a path the Church cannot abandon.

What is so awful about promoting religious freedom?

One of the more baffling events since last May’s federal election has been the emergence of grouchy opposition to the Harper government’s Office of Religious Freedom.

Curiosity dates back to the election campaign itself when the Conservative pledge to create an Office of Religious Freedom within the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade attracted surprisingly little notice, much less alarm.

Make a new start with First Nations leaders

Decades of failed policies and broken treaties have created an appalling level of social and economic misery that affect every layer of aboriginal life. So the first thing needed to fix the problem is a decision about where to start.

To that end, First Nations leaders will meet with Prime Minister Stephen Harper and key government members on Jan. 24 in an Ottawa summit to address what Archbishop James Weisgerber of Winnipeg ranks as the most important issue facing Canadian society today —  forging a new relationship between the First Nations, Metis and Inuit people and the rest of Canada.

Culture has turned into Quebec’s new religion

QUEBEC CITY - It used to be that Quebecers who wanted to hear good preaching or be instructed on right and wrong went to Mass on Sunday and listened to their priest. The clergy were the principle arbiters of public and private morality in all spheres of life in Quebec. They preached on everything from how to dress, who to consort with (or not) and what to read, think vote and so on.

One famous saying from this era — “heaven is blue and hell is red” — was a not-so-veiled reference to  vote Conservative in elections. The Church believed the “red” Liberals stood for secular reform and social change that would lead people away from their faith. And that’s what happened, people eventually voted red in order to hasten improvements in material living standards and, as predicted, what eventually followed was a widespread abandonment of faith in Quebec.

Glad to see government has its priorities straight

One thing the “great gay divorce crisis of January 2012” has shown is that our government can move fast when it feels a need to get something important done. The same-sex marriage debacle lasted all of about three days and ended with the government assuring all gay couples who married here, but do not reside here, that not only is their marriage valid but they can come here any time to enjoy the weather, curling and get a divorce.

Meantime, the government’s office of religious freedom, promised almost a year ago during the federal election campaign, still sits in limbo with no details being released to the public about what such an office would look like or when it might open.

Fresh energy for the Church, 500 years in the making

CALGARY - Inglewood is an old neighbourhood in Calgary, the sort of place where you find a church nestled between modest homes, rather than surrounded by a vast suburban parking lot. But something new is happening here, or something old becoming something new — or perhaps even something new becoming something old.

The parish of St. John the Evangelist used to be an Anglican parish, but just a week before Christmas the pastor, Fr. Lee Kenyon, his wife Elizabeth, and almost the entire congregation of about 75 souls were received into full communion with the Catholic Church. Bishop Frederick Henry of Calgary received the group and graciously welcomed into his diocese a new parish. They call themselves an “Anglican Use” oparish, meaning that while fully Catholic and in communion with the bishop of Rome, they use a form of the liturgy more in keeping with their Anglican traditions.

Archbishop Collins - A wise choice

The title of “Cardinal” derives from the Latin word cardo, meaning hinge. When cardinals became integral to the Church many centuries ago, they were likened to hinges that let the gates of the Vatican swing open to the outside world. Cardinals were the hardware that, in a tangible way, connected the people to the Pope and the Pope to the people.

That function — advising the Pope and being his eyes and ears among Catholics worldwide — remains vital today and is why Archbishop Thomas Collins was such an astute selection for the College of Cardinals. As an archbishop in Toronto the past five years and in Edmonton seven years before that, Collins has been a sturdy hinge for the Canadian Church.

Out of the frying pan come joys of the season

As we settle into the new year, I can’t help reflecting on three gifts I received this Christmas.

All were thoughtful, one was unintentional, and all came from three wise women. Even a couple weeks later, they still make me smile for different reasons.

The first came from my beautiful and thoughtful wife. This present is the latest, state-of-the-art, high-tech, environmentally-friendly, non-stick, ceramic frying pan. A frying pan! I giggle just typing those words.

Predictions? I have a few for 2012.

Predictions are always a risky business, but since the new year infects many of us with a “crystal ball bug” I will venture that  changes are coming in free-speech legislation and in the rights of parents in public education. One private members’ bill and two court cases are well worth watching in this regard, and may even bring good news to Catholics involved with public advocacy.

A private members’ bill introduced by MP Brian Storseth last fall will, if enacted, revoke Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act, which deems discriminatory any action “likely to expose a person or persons to hatred or contempt” if they are “identifiable on the basis of a prohibited ground of  discrimination.” This section gives the federal human rights commission significant powers to penalize those publishing opinion online, including opinion based on religious belief.

One corner in Vancouver offers us two choices

Faithful readers may recall that I spend the last days of the year with hundreds of university students, ringing in the new year at the annual Rise Up Conference of Catholic Christian Outreach (CCO). This year it was the largest Rise Up conference yet, with more than 500 students in attendance. So large has the annual gathering become that CCO will stage two such conferences in 2012, one in the west (Saskatoon) and one in the east (Halifax).

There are a number of priests who attend every year, and we are always thanked repeatedly for our presence. The students love their priests, like to have us accompany them and rely on us for the sacraments. But as I said to Fr. Thomas Rosica, who has been to even more Rise Up conferences than the eight I have attended, we are the ones who are truly blessed, to see the Church as she ought to be — vibrant, joyful and youthful.