The priest's service provides what the world can't provide itself

About a dozen years ago I was at a dinner party in the home of people I had not previously met. When our hostess discovered that I was a seminarian, she shrieked with perverse delight, announcing to all, “Wait until my husband hears about that!”

Bring back decency

no swearingAmerican comedian George Carlin earned celebrity in the 1970s with a standup routine that saluted   seven words you can never say on television. But, regrettably, time proved Carlin wrong. Many of those profane words are now routinely heard in Canadian family rooms during TV prime-time hours.

That is hardly news to anyone who spends even a few minutes each evening watching TV. But a study out of Los Angeles by an advocacy group called the Parents Television Council (PTC) shows how startling far society’s decency metre has swung.

Freedom of speech often not what it's cracked up to be

Three recent incidents provide insight — and perhaps a warning as well — about how Canadians interpret the right to freedom of speech, especially when it comes to unpopular topics. Like any legal and constitutional principle, some interpretation is involved. The old saw about not yelling “fire!” in a crowded theatre applies here because constitutional principles must be balanced against factors such as public safety and the impact on others, among other things.

Projecting Christian truth

In his Oct. 24 Catholic Register column, Michael Coren reports that he has been deluged by e-mails from “people complaining about how some journalists use their Catholicism as a rather self-indulgent vehicle for their own secular politics.”

While not singled out by name in the column, I am clearly among the rascals whose writings Coren’s correspondents (and Coren) dislike. I am replying to this criticism here, because I believe that Coren’s column raises interesting questions about the nature and scope of Catholic journalism, and indeed the Catholic practice of everyday life, that deserve to be answered.

Sagrada Familia elevates the pilgrim’s heart to God

At the heart of every culture is its cult. Cult includes what is worshipped, what is placed at the centre of communal life, what is deemed worthy of the greatest exertions of talent and treasure.

That cult is concretely expressed in buildings — what is built and how. A culture which puts up churches cheek by jowl, small country chapels and magnificent urban cathedrals, expresses itself in one way. A culture which builds enormous shopping malls, sports facilities and entertainment complexes expresses itself in another.

No questions about Anglican bishops

 Rt Rev'd Andrew Burnham SSCWith the stroke of a pen, the Catholic Church gained five new shepherds on Nov. 8 when a quintet of Anglican bishops resigned from their troubled Church to be welcomed by the Vatican.

We often see athletes change teams, musicians change record labels, tycoons change banks, but bishops don’t change churches. Not usually. So what should we make of this bold decision?

Enough already! Let’s call a jihadist a jihadist

May we now speak of the Muslims who want to kill us?

Isn’t that way out of line? Surely Islam is a religion of peace, from which we have a lot to learn?

Let’s then dispense with the disclaimers: Christians and Muslims have often lived together in peace. Only a minority of Muslims are homicidal fanatics. Terrorism is a corruption of Islam. Fine.

Stop the slaughter in Iraq

Baghdad coffinsIt’s long past time the world opened its eyes to the horrors being inflicted on Middle East Christians and, in particular, the forgotten faithful of Iraq. It’s time to sit up and take action to end their suffering.

The slaughter in Baghdad last week of more than 50 Sunday worshippers, including priests, women and children, inside Our Lady of Salvation Church was just the latest outrage in a litany of kidnappings, murders and bombings that began shortly after Saddam Hussein was deposed by the 2003 American invasion of Iraq. Hundreds, if not thousand, of Christians have died.

Tony Judt: A righteous man in an unrighteous age

The recent death of historian and essayist Tony Judt at age 62 has shut down a remarkable wellspring of straight talk about the modern world and its woes, and left-thinking people everywhere bereft of one of our time’s finest political and moral voices.

His books helped make Judt famous. Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945 (2005), for example, is a majestic best-selling survey that has, in the words of a reviewer, “the pace of a thriller and the scope of an encyclopedia.’’

But it was the essays from the decades on either side of 2000, gathered into the outstanding book Reappraisals: Reflections on the Forgotten Twentieth Century (2008), that earned Judt an international reputation as a fearlessly sceptical critic of modern political pieties. His best-known texts today, after the great Postwar, are surely his contributions on politics and current affairs to such journals as The New Republic, The Times Literary Supplement and The London Review of Books, and especially The New York Review of Books.

The Church's 'Israel problem'

Do Catholics have an Israel problem? The recent Middle East synod of bishops ended last weekend with a bitter exchange with Israeli authorities, who accused the synod of singling out Israel for critical treatment, and of making a serious theological error regarding the covenant with the Jews.

Respected Vatican journalist John Allen wrote that acrimony was expected between the region’s Arab bishops and Israel, but that it took so long to surface was the surprise. Arab hostility to Israel is intense and commonplace — it is routine to hear Israel blamed exclusively for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and also for all manner of problems that stretch anywhere from Algeria to Afghanistan. Catholics in the region, almost entirely Arab, are not immune from this anti-Israeli hostility. Indeed, because Catholics are a tiny minority in an otherwise Islamic Arab world, they are often tempted to demonstrate their Arab bona fides by vocally demonstrating that they are not friends of Israel. A synod of bishops held in the Middle East itself would have had a constant anti-Israeli refrain. But held in Rome, the Vatican, which prizes good relations with Jews, restrained for the most part the anti-Israeli rhetoric.

We'll be watching the new school boards

school boardsToronto voters mostly ticked the box called status quo when selecting Catholic school trustees in the recent municipal elections. That’s their right, of course. But we hope for the sake of Catholic education that returning trustees don’t interpret this spirit of forgiveness (or is it apathy?) as a signal to resume business as usual.

Six of the eight Toronto trustees who stood for re-election were returned to office. The list included a former board chair, Angela Kennedy, who had been bounced from office last summer after being found guilty of conflict of interest.