Hope, dignity & Haiti

{mosimage}In a radio interview after Port-au-Prince had been destroyed, a Haitian-Canadian said she prayed the world would unite to build a new Haiti where abject poverty could be replaced by dignified poverty.

It was a stunningly poignant comment from someone grieving the deaths of both parents and the destruction of a beloved homeland. In her words, the abject poor have nothing whereas the dignified poor have at least meager means to acquire the basics of food, clothing and shelter.

Trying times continue for charities

Natural disasters that inflict heart-wrenching human suffering, such as we’ve seen in the Haitian earthquake, show us the best and the worst of the changes we’ve witnessed in recent years, particularly in the media.

Through the immediate spread of eyewitness accounts, often through the use of social networking tools such as Twitter and cellphone videos, we learn of the devastation almost as it happens. As a result, faster ways to send help to crisis areas and faster ways to donate money have developed very quickly.   

Don’t repeat Quebec’s error in English Canada

Working within the beauty of the Ottawa Valley I see many cars pass by from la belle province with license plates emblazoned with the motto je me souviens. 

These words are a declaration by the majority Francophone population to always  “remember” the struggles of la révolution tranquille (the Quiet Revolution), which transformed Quebec society into a modern secular state. Sadly, it is a state in which French Quebecers turned a deaf ear to the Catholic Church to heed instead the siren cry of the modern secularist project.

Flight 253 and Nigeria's growing radical Islamism

{mosimage}The botched terrorist attempt on an American airliner by 23-year-old Nigerian Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab has raised serious questions about airport security and terrorism. It has also raised concerns about the rights and dignity of innocent and law-abiding travellers in light of new security measures.

More troubling, however, are the unanswered questions about the role radical Islamism in Nigeria played in creating the environment for Abdulmutallab and future young African terrorists like him.

One church, many faces

{mosimage}Congratulations to Canada’s two new auxiliary bishops, Bishops William McGrattan, 53, and Vincent Nguyen, 43. Their recent ordinations and calls to serve the archdiocese of Toronto provide an injection of new ideas and fresh energy that can only benefit a Catholic community undergoing rapid growth both in sheer numbers and in challenges associated with the region’s ever-widening cultural mosaic.

Their backgrounds are strikingly different. McGrattan, the oldest of two children, was born and raised in the comfort of London, Ont.; Nguyen, one of nine children, was born near Saigon during the Vietnam War and fled to Canada with other “boat people” refugees in 1983. But they carry the same reputation of being skilled at listening, understanding and caring, essential qualities as they become vicars of an archdiocese in transition.

Discovering Jesus in the sounds of the Deep South

I first heard black gospel singing in the fields of my father’s cotton farm, deep in the American South. No sound was more Southern: slow, serious and melancholy, like the lives of those hard-up blacks who worked in the cotton patch.

In one sense, this sad, unforgettable music was foreign to a white child spending the day with his father in the fields. Yet in another, it was close, familiar: for Southern rural religion in those days, whether black or white, was very much a matter of supplicating the beloved Jesus for deliverance from the sorrows and tribulations of life. It probably wasn’t exactly orthodox, this near-exclusive adoration of Jesus and corresponding neglect of the remote Father and ungraspable Spirit. But such religion sprang from a true place in the heart, especially the hearts of rural black Southerners, and found expression in their sincere and devout melodies.

Security conundrum

{mosimage}The recent security measures announced by Ottawa may be good and ultimately necessary but they represent a troubling infringement on privacy and should be stalled until they can be brought to Parliament for a full and proper debate.

But that debate is not in the cards. Parliament was prorogued in December and will not resume until March. By then, according to Transport Minister John Baird, travellers in eight Canadian cities could be facing full body screening — virtual strip searches — as scanning machines are installed at airports.

Canadian government dishonest on KAIROS

{mosimage}By linking KAIROS with anti-Semitic organizations, Immigration Minister Jason Kenney has probably revealed more about the Conservative government than the church-based agency that has blindly (maybe naively) wandered into the government cross-hairs. None of it is flattering.

Speaking in Jerusalem on Dec. 18, Kenney told the Global Forum for Combating Anti-Semitism that the government had implemented zero-tolerance standards for anti-Semitism. Laudable so far. But when Kenney rhymed off several organizations that lost their funding due to unacceptable practices, the list included KAIROS, the multi-faith partnership of church groups that includes the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Lots of work needed to save vulnerable

{mosimage}Rimbocchiamoci le maniche is something my Italian father always says when there is much work to be done. Literally, it means to roll up one’s sleeves, but the idea behind it is to prepare ourselves for the hard work ahead. This could well be what we are being asked to do as Christians at the close of the UN Climate Summit in Copenhagen.

Depending on whom you ask, the accord that came out of the climate summit could be considered “realistic,” as maintained by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, an “essential beginning,” as stated by UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon, or “a weak and morally reprehensible deal,” according to the Catholic Church through its international development agencies CIDSE and Caritas Internationalis .

Blair's non-Catholic approach in Iraq

The year comes to an end with what may well be one of the most significant political admissions in recent history. Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair stated that even if he had known Saddam Hussein possessed no weapons of mass destruction he would still have declared war on Iraq. In other words, the WMD casus belli is, as many of us assumed, utterly bogus. It also seems likely that Blair never believed that there were any such weapons and that intelligence experts had told him and U.S. President George W. Bush this for months before the invasion.

It’s particularly important in the case of Blair because, unlike Bush, he still enjoys enormous international prestige, has a thriving political career and is known to be a highly sophisticated man. He was also received into the Roman Catholic Church with little scrutiny or apparent formation by a notably liberal British hierarchy. He had led Britain through a period of infamously anti-family, anti-marriage and anti-Catholic legislation and has never shown any contrition for his failings.

Obama upsets Catholic right - again

{mosimage}Whatever you think of the current U.S. president, one thing is beyond dispute: Barack Obama certainly makes life interesting for the Catholic right.

The latest kafuffle started with the appearance in early December of a New York Times profile of White House social secretary Desirée Rogers. In this piece, we learned that the Obama family had toyed with the idea of breaking with White House tradition and not putting up an antique manger scene in the East Room of the executive mansion. (A White House official later confirmed that there had indeed been a discussion of whether to make Christmas more “inclusive” — apparently by excluding the crèche.)