Stories for the Left Column of the Columns Page
There have been few, if any, papal documents like Pope Francis' Laudato Si', On Care for our Common Home. Nor, for that matter, has there ever been a Church document like Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel). In these two treatises Pope Francis profoundly alters what it means to be Catholic today. Catholics for centuries have been raised on adhering to a prescribed set of beliefs and following the precepts of the Church – go to Mass on Sundays and holy days, make an annual Confession, provide for the material needs of the Church, etc.
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As Canada celebrates its 148th birthday as a nation, we rejoice in the respect and harmony that mark our multicultural country. This attitude of respect for those of diverse backgrounds and commitments is the quality which provides the foundation for a country marked by peace, freedom and prosperity. Without a respectful multiculturalism, we would have none of those things. During his 1984 visit to Winnipeg, St. John Paul II lauded Canada's "atmosphere of respect for cultural diversity".
Fifty years after his murder on June 22, 1965 in the Dominican Republic, efforts are being made to remember Scarboro Father Art MacKinnon. According to a report in The Catholic Register, Bishop Brian Dunn of Antigonish was to celebrate a memorial Mass for MacKinnon in his childhood home of New Waterford, N.S. MacKinnon, the son of a Cape Breton coal miner, was 27 in 1959 when he was ordained a priest and soon after was sent to the Dominican Republic where the Scarboro Fathers were active.
Dublin's Archbishop Diarmuid Martin is surely correct in his call for the Church to examine its failure to communicate its teachings in a country which not long ago lived and breathed Catholicism. The May 22 referendum in which 62 per cent of voters said the country should legalize same-sex marriage indicates something important is not getting through. Indeed, if a similar referendum were held in Canada, Catholic support for same-sex marriage might well exceed that in Ireland.
The truth has been told; reconciliation is yet to come. Reconciliation with Canada's Aboriginal people – over the residential school morass, yes, but also over the whole range of issues afflicting indigenous people – will require political will. During the nine years of the current federal government, there has been no hint of a political will to put relations between Canada's original peoples and the dominant settler culture on a more equitable footing. The Harper government began its term in office by walking away from the Kelowna Accord, a landmark agreement that would have gone a long way toward dealing with some of the pressing issues facing Aboriginal communities.
The murder of Edmonton police Constable Daniel Woodall is but the latest example of the tremendous danger faced by men and women in blue during the course of the daily work. This killing follows on the heels of the murder of RCMP Constable David Wynn in St. Albert in January. We extend our sympathy to the wives and children of both officers who will bear the brunt of these heinous acts for the rest of their lives.
Does creating jobs for Canadians rate higher than respecting human lives and human rights in Saudi Arabia? The Canadian government would seem not to care. Federal government approval of a $15-billion arms deal with the Saudis last year was given without performing a required assessment of the country's human rights record. The government proudly announced the sale of light armoured vehicles (LAVs), known colloquially as tanks. But when researcher Ken Rubin dug into the sale, the department of foreign affairs gave no evidence that it is monitoring human rights in the oil-rich country and said it has not assessed the human rights situation there for the past two years.
Anti-religious secularism would appear to have won the game in Western civilization. The highest value today, a value which cannot be questioned, is that of human freedom. The autonomous individual is king (or queen) in our culture, and any societal force which attempts to limit that autonomy is playing a reprehensible game. The Church - the Catholic Church above all - is, not without reason, cast as the main opponent of the culture of individualism. It is the Church, so the theory goes, that "imposes" moral obligations and duties on its flock and would like to do so for the whole of society.
The role of a university president is varied and always interesting. I can truly say I was prepared for the bulk of the issues that have come my way, but there are still some that have caught me by surprise. Sometimes an issue can emerge that is so unexpected that it leaves me speechless. One of the most unusual matters I dealt with last year was a formal complaint about our answering service.