BETHLEHEM - Catholic priests in the Palestinian Territories want Pope Francis to press Israel to allow greater freedom of movement, especially access to holy sites in Jerusalem, and they expect the issue to be addressed when the Pope meets with Israeli leaders in Jerusalem on May 26.

Published in International

If there's anything religion is not, it is most certainly not a refuge from politics. Pope Francis is still several days from arriving in the Holy Land, but the politics of his visit are already raging.

May 7, 2014

Time to meddle

These are trying times to be a politically hopeful citizen. At almost every turn, politicians at all levels of public life are exhibiting scandalous behaviour and dishonouring what should be the honourable profession of advancing the common good.

Published in Editorial

Native leader loses track of the facts at St. Kateri’s canonization

The making of saints is a joyous affair, with a gracious spirit abounding toward all, and a determined effort to ignore any discordant notes. I recall, for example, at the beatification Mass for Cardinal John Henry Newman my surprise at seeing Bishop Remi De Roo, the retired bishop of Victoria, sitting not a few paces away from Pope Benedict XVI. Bishop De Roo had been keeping a determinedly low profile since leaving his diocese plagued by financial scandal, so it was a surprise to see him at all.

Yet there he was, ebullient at Newman’s beatification, taking the great cardinal as inspiration for his own theological vision. The Holy Father, for his part, was inspired enough by Newman that he departed from his usual practice and conducted the beatification himself. Between Benedict XVI and Bishop De Roo there is a vast difference as to the proper interpretation of the Second Vatican Council and other theological matters, and the former would be astonished that the latter would claim Newman for his positions. But it was a beatification, the saints belong to the whole Church, and so the gracious thing to do was not to notice the incongruity of it all.

It is inevitable that new saints are used for partisan purposes by various factions in the Church. Sometimes the Holy See attempts to forestall the attempt to use the saints in this fashion, as for example when Pope John XXIII and Pope Pius IX were beatified on the same day, or when Pope John Paul II and Pope Pius XII were declared venerable on the same day.

The canonization of Kateri Tekakwitha on Oct. 21 was characterized — wittingly or not — in such factional terms by Phil Fontaine, former national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, who was present in Rome for the canonization. Fontaine had been in Rome in 2009, accompanied by Canadian bishops, to receive an apology for the treatment of native children in residential schools. So he speaks with some authority on relations between native peoples and the Catholic Church. But what he said in Rome cannot go unremarked.

“(The canonization) makes it possible, very much possible, to bring our community — the First Nations — very much closer with the Catholic Church. There was rupture for too long,” he told Catholic News Service.

“The canonization makes it possible to share our daughter with the universal Church,” he continued. “If you link the two events (the 2009 visit and the canonization), it is all about imparting reconciliation. It is an opportunity for us to say, ‘We accept your apology, we forgive, and so now let us begin taking the important steps of healing and reconciliation.’ ”

Healing and reconciliation need to be rooted in truth, and what Fontaine said is not rooted in the truth of Kateri’s life. Kateri’s choice to be baptized and practise her Catholic faith meant that her own people persecuted her, so much so that she left her native village in present-day upstate New York and moved to the Christian mission near Montreal, where she died at age 24.
As to whether she belongs to her native tribe or the universal Church, the answer is that she belongs to both. But if she was forced to choose, it is clear that Kateri would have chosen her faith. In fact, that is what she did at considerable cost.

More objectionable is Fontaine’s treatment of the canonization as a sort of super-apology, as if the Church gave native Canadians a saint to compensate them for their suffering. That would make Kateri an instrument of factional jockeying rather than a model of holiness. Moreover, it neglects the fact that in the complex history of the Church and native peoples, Kateri is an example of native persecution of Christians, not the other way around.

“St. Kateri was persecuted for the faith she held so tenaciously,” Prime Minister Stephen Harper said in his statement. The prime minister did not mention who persecuted her. Good manners today mean that we don’t mention the aboriginal peoples who made martyrs — sometimes brutally so — of Christians, but an objection must be made when Kateri is advanced as an occasion of “accepting” an apology from the Church. The truth of history is exactly the opposite.

Fontaine was a discordant voice in his remarks to Catholic News Service. Most voices — aboriginal and otherwise — did not see this as the latest installment of an ongoing conflict between natives and the Church, but a blessing for both. It was, and St. Kateri may well obtain from God the gift of reconciliation for the First Nations peoples, but reconciliation requires first that the truth be told.

Published in Fr. Raymond de Souza

On May 1 in Ottawa I had the pleasure of delivering a speech to politicians and others at the annual National Prayer Breakfast. Below is an abridged version of that address.

My topic is “Faith in our Common Life: Why Politics Needs Religion.” But permit me to say a few words first about why politicians need religion.

Exactly one year ago, many of you were in the final moments of a federal election campaign. It was a Sunday and the people’s verdict was to be rendered the next day. On a typical Sunday morning I am found in my parish on Wolfe Island, in the St. Lawrence River across from Kingston, but a year ago I was in Rome awaiting the pronunciation of a rather different judgment. Pope John Paul II was declared blessed.

Published in Fr. Raymond de Souza

OTTAWA - A Conservative backbencher is using a private member’s motion that could re-ignite the abortion debate in Parliament.

MP Stephen Woodworth, who represents the Ontario Kitchener Centre riding, tabled a motion Feb. 6 that Parliament appoint a special committee of 12 members to review the section of the Criminal Code that states a child becomes a human being “only at the moment of complete birth.”

Though Woodworth told journalists he was not addressing abortion in his motion, Justice Minister Rob Nicholson issued a terse statement, saying “The Prime Minister has been very clear, our government will not reopen this debate.”

Published in Canada

TORONTO - The separation of church and state is a concept engrained in the identity and culture of Western democracy as a means of protecting religion, not eliminating it, according to the Very Rev. Lois Wilson.

But that definition has become less and less believable, Wilson told a few dozen young adults gathered in downtown Toronto at a Theology on Tap event that questioned what role religion should play in forming the public policy of a secular state.

Published in Canada: Toronto-GTA

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.

Published in Robert Brehl

OTTAWA - Dan McTeague, one of about a dozen staunchly pro-life Liberals who lost their seats in the May 2011 federal election, looks forward to the revitalization of the once powerful Liberal Party.

As one of more than 3,100 delegates at the Liberal Biennial Convention here Jan. 13-15, McTeague said he hoped the party will be able to reach out to all Canadians, including the Catholic and ethnic voters who were the former pillars of party support.

Political scientists have credited the Liberal defeats in 2006 and 2008 to a growing collapse of Catholic and ethnic voter support. Last May, the Liberals were demoted to third party status behind the NDP and the governing Conservatives. The Liberals elected only 34 MPs, though their numbers have grown by one with the recent defection of a Quebec NDP MP to the Liberal ranks.

Published in Canada
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