Columns

From the category archives: Columns

Glen Argan

True satire defends what is sacred, rather than belittling it

January 26, 2015

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The terrorist attacks that killed 12 people at the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo on Jan. 7 have rightly been described as acts of "indescribable barbarity." They were a direct assault on the sanctity of human life and the peaceful order of democratic society. However, before we make the French cartoonists into innocent martyrs to the cause of free speech, we ought to reflect on the nature of satire. The terrorist attack has created a rush of people who defend the right of cartoonists to lampoon people's most basic beliefs and to treat nothing, absolutely nothing, as sacred.

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Pope Francis' new cardinals pay a high cost for being disciples

January 26, 2015

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Most of the news coverage of the new appointments to the College of Cardinals has focused on the geographic shift that can be seen in the appointments. This is fair enough as the appointment of cardinals from such Catholic hinterlands as Thailand, Myanmar and Tonga is striking. Just as striking is the fact that the archbishops of traditional centres of Catholicism, such as Turin and Venice, have been overlooked. If Pope Francis aims to have the College of Cardinals better represent the relative Catholic populations of the different regions of the globe, that will be a good thing. To this point, however, the shift in "representation" from Europe and North America to the so-called peripheries has been minimal.

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When will the west care about African people?

January 26, 2015

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As brutal as the terror attack was on the Charlie Hebdo magazine in Paris, it hardly compares in savagery with the Jan. 3 attack on several villages in northeastern Nigeria by the terrorist Boko Haram, which left as many as 2,000 people murdered. There are many "reasons" why the world's attention was riveted on Paris and not Baga, Nigeria. First, there are few journalists in the remote Baga region, Boko Haram having made it clear that it will shoot journalists first and ask questions, well, never. Second, the Nigerian conflict is an ongoing war while the Paris attack was (somewhat) out of the blue. Third, the Nigerian government is so ineffective that it barely responded to the massacre and, at this writing, the country's president, Goodluck Jonathan, still has not commented publicly on the killings.

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At Cana in Galilee, Mary is mother of the new creation

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January 26, 2015

In setting the scene for the beautiful story of the wedding feast at Cana (John 2.1-11), the evangelist writes first that the mother of Jesus was at the wedding, only then adding that Jesus and his disciples were also present. This would lead one to believe that the story is to be about the mother of Jesus – in John's Gospel, she is never called Mary – with Jesus playing a secondary role. In one sense, this is true. It is the mother of Jesus who first takes note of the fact that the wine has run out, and it is she who informs her son of this fact. In doing so, she receives what can only be interpreted as a stiff rebuke.

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Pope's address to curia can help us find our own failings

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January 12, 2015

Pope Francis' Dec. 22 address to the Roman curia drew considerable media attention for its alleged implied criticisms of Vatican bureaucrats. The pope listed 15 "curial diseases" which weaken people's service to the Lord, sins such as thinking one is indispensable, excessive busy-ness, the "terrorism of gossip" and "the disease of a lugubrious face." Reports on the pope's address in media were headlined in ways such as the following: "Merry Christmas, you greedy gossipers" and "Francis gives Roman curia officials coal for Christmas."

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U.S. gov't turns a blind eye in the face of torture

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December 29, 2014

While one should certainly be appalled by the findings of the U.S. Senate intelligence committee's report on CIA torture, one should not be surprised. The CIA, after all, is a spy agency charged with obtaining confidential information about possible threats to national security. That it would actively avoid and impede White House and congressional supervision about its techniques for obtaining information should also be no surprise. A spy agency needs to get information from unwilling sources, and it is disingenuous to think that such information is always obtained over a cup of coffee in a relaxed setting. When it resorts to torture, as the CIA did on numerous occasions, political oversight becomes an obstacle to carrying out the mission.

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No honour in Wild-Rose defections

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December 29, 2014

Despite widespread public opinion that people involved in politics are only in it for their own personal gain, most likely the exact opposite is true. Most candidates in provincial and federal elections stand for office with little likelihood of winning, let alone snagging a front row spot at the public trough. Those candidates are aided by scores of helpers and donors who have even less to gain – maybe some new friends or the feeling of contributing to a cause in which they believe. Nevertheless, when one gets closer to the wheels of power, a transformation often occurs.

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Parishes urged to take up missionary call

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December 29, 2014

The call for parishes to move from maintenance to "the reinvigoration of the missionary calling" is not new. But, in Canada at least, it has never been put forward with as much fervour and detail as one finds in the Canadian bishops' statement, The Missionary Dynamic of the Parish Today. (See story on Page 7.) A "profound conversion" is needed in how parishes are run and parishioners need to move beyond their comfort zones to spread the faith. Nevertheless, most parishes are not sitting idly by waiting for everything to be made right at the parousia. They are beehives of activity. Some activities might well be termed "maintenance"; many others, even if not explicitly missionary, have a mission component.

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Feast of Mary, Mother of God, had wild origins

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December 29, 2014
GLEN ARGAN
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER

The beginning of each new year is marked in Catholic churches around the world as the feast of Mary, the holy mother of God. While this feast is generally a quiet one, its peacefulness betrays the excitement that surrounded the declaration of the Council of Ephesus in 431 that Mary is mother of God, Theotokos. The movement that led to that declaration might be seen as having begun with the Edict of Milan in 313 which legalized Christianity in the Roman Empire and brought an end to the era of persecution of the Christian faith.

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With concerted effort, poverty, suffering can be sharply reduced

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December 15, 2014

In Edmonton, significant progress has made been in eliminating homelessness. The WCR's last issue reported that since the city began its Ten-Year-Plan to End Homelessness five years ago, more than 3,200 formerly homeless people have been housed and 84 per cent of those people have successfully retained their housing. As well, in the first several years of the initiative, the number using overnight shelters declined, a situation that has changed this year due to the large influx of people seeking jobs here. The success of the Edmonton initiative shows that, while eliminating homelessness may be impossible, genuine progress in overcoming seemingly intractable social problems can be made if a community forms the will to do so.

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