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Forty years ago this fall, I was seeking a topic for my master's thesis in philosophy. My advisor, a renowned Catholic ethicist, said to me, "You should write something on euthanasia. It will come down the pipe in a few years." His logic was brief, but impeccable: The inviolable value of human life had been violated with the legalization of abortion. Once human life has been made a relative value, it would be attacked on other fronts, euthanasia being the next.
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Right from the word "go," Pope Francis has stirred a variety of emotions among both the faithful and the wider society. When he asked the crowd assembled in St. Peter's Square to bless him on the night he was elected pope, we had every reason to believe we were in for something different. So it is with his long-awaited exhortation on marriage and family life, Amoris Laetitia (The Joy of Love). Many are parsing the supposed key sentences in the document to determine whether the pope changed or watered down Church teaching on the indissolubility of marriage.
Jesuit Father Daniel Berrigan was a radical to the core. Today, it is harder to see that since the cause for which he was most noted - an end to war - has become the Church's cause. That, however, was not always the case, and it certainly was not the case during the Vietnam War. Few U.S. bishops denounced the war, the Knights of Columbus heartily endorsed it and the air was full of the misplaced patriotism of "My country, right or wrong."
In early June, Canada will enter a new dark chapter in its history: Legalized medical killing by euthanasia and assisted suicide. As the law is being prepared for passage, I was invited to give input to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. (The assisted suicide bill is euphemistically labelled "medical assistance in dying.") I wish with all my heart things had not come to this point where medical killing is being legalized for suicidal sick and disabled people whose deaths are, as the bill states, "reasonably foreseeable" (whatever that means).
'Before you get serious about Jesus, first consider how good you're going to look on wood!" Daniel Berrigan wrote those words and they express a lot about who he was and what he believed in. He died May 1 at age 94. No short tribute can do justice to Dan Berrigan. He defies quick definition and facile description. He was, at once, the single-minded, obsessed activist, even as he was one of the most complex spiritual figures of our generation. He exhibited both the fierceness of John the Baptist and the gentleness of Jesus.
Springtime and the living is busy. Of course, the usual dusty duties demand to be dealt with. The secret to keeping this season of rebirth joyful is to turn winter-weary eyes to the garden. That place of growth can be anything from the front flower and vegetable beds to a plot of land borrowed from a friend or a neighbour's flower pot on the window sill. Flowers and herbs are beautiful. They fragrantly nourish the soul with their beauty and, in the case of herbs and some flowers, their taste.
We lost another friend this week. I first met him in 1994. I suppose when you get over 50 those things start happening, especially for your friends. I have schizophrenia. Lots of our friends have serious mental illnesses. Unfortunately, that also means they have a shorter life expectancy, as much as 25 years less than the general population. Some of this is because of the medication. Some of this is because of the higher rate of smoking among the mentally ill.
In an ancient, fifth-century Roman church in Trastevere lies the body of a young woman named Cecilia. Cecilia, a well-born, wealthy woman died because she would not renounce Christ. Her Roman persecutors tried to kill her discreetly, by suffocating her in her bath at home. The young woman survived and, while bearing the torture, sang. Finally, a soldier used his sword to cut her neck, but failed to kill her instantly. Her body was initially buried in the catacombs of St. Calixtus. After a few centuries, she was to be moved to the church in Trastevere.
I have been thinking lately about what it means to be powerless. If a car is powerless, it cannot move. If the power goes out in my house, I cannot use my appliances. We don't like the idea of not having any power. Money gives us personal power. Our media devices give us power. But Jesus says something amazing in the Gospel of John: "Without me, you can do nothing" (15.5). We should let that soak into the core of our being.
Pope Francis repositioned the entire global debate around climate change when he released the first-ever encyclical on Christian responsibility to protect the environment. Laudato Sí was timely, morally incisive and prophetic. Now, almost one year later, we have an historic opportunity to direct the way Canada will address climate change. Will faith communities show up - in timely, incisive and prophetic ways - or leave the moral and ethical issues surrounding climate change up in the clouds?