Deborah Gyapong: November 2007

Friday, November 30, 2007

Cardinal Ouellet's apology met with praise and suspicion

Christianity Today has picked up my long story on the response to Cardinal Ouellet's letter of apology.

OTTAWA -- Cardinal Marc Ouellet's apology to Quebeckers for the past sins of some Catholics in that province has provoked an unprecedented response -- both positive and negative -- across the country.

Some have described it as risky but prophetic act of leadership. Others have called it a calculating political move in his battle against the mandatory ethics and religious culture course Quebec plans to impose on public and private schools next fall. Others say the apology did not go far enough. Some reports have painted him as isolated -- a lone voice not supported by his brother bishops inside Quebec or the rest of Canada.

On November 21, Ouellet, writing as Archbishop of Quebec and Primate of Canada, issued an open letter to Quebec papers inviting Catholics "to perform an act of repentance and reconciliation" that he promised would continue during Lent as a lead-up to the 2008 Eucharistic Congress in Quebec.

"I recognize that the narrow attitudes of certain Catholics, prior to 1960, favoured anti-Semitism, racism, indifference towards First Nations and discrimination against women and homosexuals," Ouellet wrote. "The behavior of Catholics and certain Episcopal authorities with regards to the right to vote, access to work and promotion of women, hasn't always been up to par with society's needs or conformed to the social doctrine of the church."


Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Brilliant post at One Cosmos about Christian virtues run amok

Please read Gagdad Bob's entire post over at One Cosmos. It is brilliant. (H/t Dr. Sanity)

He writes:

I have written a number of posts on the dynamics of this pathological process, which I thought that Polanyi had been the first to recognize. But Chesterton also writes of how "the modern world is full of the old Christian virtues gone mad. The virtues have gone mad because they have been isolated from each other and are wandering alone." Most every destructive policy put into place by the left can be traced to some Christian virtue gone mad -- i.e., feed the hungry, so steal from "the rich" and call it "giving," or defending abortion on the basis of the sanctity of "liberty," or encouraging every manner of deviancy under the guise of "tolerance." They have the bizarre idea that it is "easier to forgive sins" if "there are no sins to forgive" -- except for the sin of believing they exist.


Chesterton writes that "there is a thought that stops thought. That is the only thought that ought to be stopped." It is the thoroughly irrational thought that our thoughts have no relationship to reality and that truth is therefore inaccessible to human beings. This radical skepticism was "the ultimate evil against which religious authority was aimed," which is why, "in so far as religion is gone, reason is going. For they are both of the same primary and authoritative kind. They are both methods of proof that cannot themselves be proved. And in the act of destroying the idea of Divine authority we have largely destroyed the idea of that human authority by which we do a long-division sum. With a long and sustained tug we have attempted to pull the mitre off pontifical man; and his head has come off with it."

For if the converse were true -- i.e., the blind materialism of natural selection -- "it does not destroy religion but rationalism," for it nullifies the mind that can know truth. It is the equivalent of "I am not; therefore I cannot think."

Read the whole thing.

This piece is part three in a series. Part one is here. Part two is here. Enjoy.

Labels: , , ,

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Volunteer sector depends on churchgoers

OTTAWA - Canadian society stands to become a much bleaker place if religious attendance continues to decline as it has over the past two decades.

“The whole country is going to suffer a significant loss in terms of civility,” warns University of Lethbridge sociologist Reginald Bibby.

Carleton University social sciences professor Paul Reed sees fragility in the volunteer sector, the tiny fraction of Canadians who provide the bulk of assistance to others.

Since Reed became involved in the creation of the web site, he said anecdotal evidence from volunteer organizations of their need for volunteers has been pouring in.

“They are desperate across this country. You have no idea.”

His scientific research has been probing the characteristics that make up this cadre of volunteers who are so crucial to the smooth running of society.

Feminization of the church--a source of hope? or concern?

The Catholic Register has put my piece on the feminization of the church on its website.

OTTAWA - When Reginald Bibby researched his book Fragmented Gods back in the 1980s, he recalls the hostility he encountered among some Catholic women who wanted more gender equality in the church. Two decades later, he sees a big change.

“In more recent years, Catholic women are seizing the opportunity to be involved,” he said, noting the church was tapping into “an amazing human resource tool.”

While Bibby sees the involvement of lay women in the church as a “major source of hope for the Catholic Church in Canada,” others are raising concern about a growing feminization of the church — at least on the parish and diocesan level.

Bibby agreed research and anecdotal evidence show women predominate among churchgoers in most North American Christian denominations, though his studies show men and women are equally likely to be open to church attendance if they think it is worthwhile.

Yet as Catholic author Leon J. Podles wrote in The Church Impotent: The Feminization of Christianity: “Women go to church, men go to football games."

There's more here.

Most interesting book review

I found this book review in The Nation by Jane Smiley fascinating. I happen to be a fan of some of the influence Francis Schaeffer had on the Evangelical World. The book in question is a warts and all memoir by his son.

Frank Schaeffer Goes Crazy for God


[from the October 15, 2007 issue]

In the spring of 1973, I was hitchhiking through Europe with my Marxist husband, and we stopped in Switzerland to visit a friend who was staying at a place called L'Abri. I had never heard of L'Abri (except through my friend), but the setting of the community's chalets--an Alpine hamlet overlooking the Rhone Valley--was beautiful, as was the weather, and as soon as I arrived I noticed an invigorating rejection of all forms of asceticism. Everyone--teachers, students, helpers--was good-looking and well dressed, and the food was delicious. They put us up for two nights and engaged us in conversation for three days. I felt only mildly uncomfortable at first, but then I happened upon an earnest conversation between some quite normal-looking young men about "Satan," in which "Satan" was a being or a person actively attempting to undermine the best efforts of these guys to live a "godly" life. I admit I was shaken. I think I said something on the order of "You've got to be kidding," and when they professed their sincerity, I began to wonder what sort of place I had stumbled into.

On the second night, we attended a lecture given by a man named Os Guinness. He was tall, with a British way about him, respectable looking. He talked for an hour in a reasonable way, much like a college professor. The message of his lecture was simple--he convinced me that I was going to die and that it could happen at any moment. In the last five minutes of the lecture, when he was sure he had us staring aghast into the abyss, he offered conversion to a Calvinist sort of Christianity, based not on works but on grace. Everyone breathed a sigh of relief--just being at L'Abri showed to one and all that they were saved. Not me, though--I was caught up in the mythological speculations of Robert Graves's The White Goddess. And not my husband, either--that religion was the opiate of the masses was second nature for him. We left the next day, unconverted. But it took me a long time to forget that I could die at any moment.

Though I saw Francis Schaeffer and Edith Schaeffer from across the room, and spoke at length to both Debby and Udo Middelmann (a Schaeffer daughter and son-in-law), one person I did not meet was Frank Schaeffer. If I had, I might have recognized a kindred spirit.

Frank Schaeffer was about 20 or 21 at that point, married, living at the commune and painting pictures. He was in a lull between an antic and obstreperous boyhood and an anarchic, irreverent and confused adulthood. He has now written his memoir, Crazy for God: How I Grew Up as One of the Elect, Helped Found the Religious Right, and Lived to Take All (or Almost All) of It Back. It offers considerable insight into several issues that have bedeviled American life in the past thirty years, and while it isn't scholarly, when taken in conjunction with his other works (notably the Calvin Becker Trilogy), it gives us not only a handle on the mess we are in but also quite a few laughs (if you can believe that).

There's more.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Cardinal Ouellet apologizes for past wrongs committed by Church officials in Quebec


An Open Letter to Quebec Catholics by Cardinal Marc Ouellet published today in Quebec newspapers and on the website of the Archdiocese of Quebec has caused a media uproar in the French-speaking province. Cardinal Ouellet, both the Archbishop of Quebec and the Primate of Canada, apologized for historical attitudes of some Catholics which promoted "discrimination against women and homosexuals."

He noted also that those "narrow attitudes of some Catholics, before 1960, have promoted Anti-Semitism, racism," and "indifference to the First Nations."

Here's the CBC coverage. Of course the CBC goes after the disaffected and the negative for their response. The story led the National tonight.


Iraqi Muslims asking their Christian neighbors to come home

This story and photo essay by Michael Yon was touching and hopeful. I meant to post a link much earlier.


Who would make good women bishops

I don't believe women should be priests or bishops, but I thought this post by Damian Thompson was kind of funny.

He writes:

Now it’s true that the C of E doesn’t ordain women bishops, but that policy will change and then the awful truth will dawn. The vast majority of today’s women priests aren’t bishop material: a lot of them are a bit wet and soppy, big on “nurturing” and ever so politically correct.

The really tough women Christians, in fact, are on the other side of the altar rails.

As many a male vicar has discovered to his cost, you don’t mess with the ladies who do the flowers. Now they really would make formidable bishops.


Monday, November 19, 2007

Great article about Courage, a ministry for gay Catholics

Great article by Alicia Ambrosio in last week's Western Catholic Reporter.

About 20 years ago Michael became aware that he was attracted to other men.
This was disconcerting as he believed his beloved Catholic Church condemned
people with an attraction to people of the same sex, yet he could not deny that
he was attracted to other men.

This sent Michael searching for answers. Why did he feel this way?
Would God really condemn him? How could he live with a same- sex attraction? If
it was impossible, as he believed, to be attracted to people of the same sex and
be Catholic, then where did he fit in?


Decision expected soon on papal visit to Canada

The Catholic Register has picked up my story on a recent visit to Rome by a CCCB delegation

OTTAWA - No decision has been made by Vatican officials on the possibility
of a papal visit to Canada to attend next June's Eucharistic Congress in Quebec City, Canadian church officials

A delegation from the Canadian Conference of
Catholic Bishops
(CCCB) met with Pope Benedict XVI Nov. 8 told him they
hoped he would participate in the 2008 International Eucharistic Congress in
Quebec City June 15-22.

“We had a very intense conversation about the Congress,” said CCCB
President Archbishop James Weisgerber of Winnipeg. “He was very clear that no
decision has been made as yet.”“We talked about the centrality of the Eucharist
in the life of the church and the constant need of the Church to renew its faith
and understanding of the Eucharist.”

The Congress coincides with the 400th anniversary of the founding of Quebec
City, but Weisgerber said their discussion focused mostly on the event’s
international character as “broader than simply a Canadian event.”A papal visit
to the United States has been confirmed for April, but Weisgerber noted the
timing revolved around when the United Nations could receive him. A final
decision on the Pope’s visit to Canada is expected at the end of November or
early December.

Read the rest here.

Labels: , ,

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Ecumenism on the agenda for College of Cardinals

CNS has a story looking ahead to the gathering of cardinals in Rome next week.

Then, as each cardinal kneels before him, the pope hands him a scarlet biretta -- the "red hat" -- whose color signifies a cardinal's willingness to shed his blood for the faith. It's a moment that always prompts applause from pilgrim cheering sections.


Although most of the attention will focus on the public events, the consultative session with cardinals is an important part of the program. Pope Benedict, continuing a tradition of his predecessor, convened the cardinals at his first consistory in 2006 to get their input on issues that included dialogue with Islam and outreach to Catholic traditionalists.

This time, the focus is on ecumenism.

"I am very happy and I am very grateful that the Holy Father has chosen this theme," Cardinal Walter Kasper, the Vatican's chief ecumenist, told Vatican Radio.

The cardinal said the session would include a report on the state of ecumenism, followed by a general discussion among the cardinals. The results of a recent Catholic-Orthodox meeting will be taken up, but the discussion will be much wider, covering relations with Oriental churches, Protestant churches and Pentecostal movements, he said.

Cardinal Kasper said the opportunity to examine ecumenical themes with all the world's cardinals was particularly important because "ecumenism is a mandate from Our Lord. It is not an option, it is an obligation for the church."

I wonder if the Traditional Anglican Communion's request to come into communion with the Holy See will be mentioned during this session.


Spiritual void a nationwide problem

Here is a the promised link to a longer version of the response to Cardinal Ouellet's Bouchard Taylor Commission brief on The Catholic Register's website. While the experts I spoke with greeted the cardinal's brief with respect and praise, this cartoon that appeared in a Quebec newspaper reveals how his brief has been greeted by many of the so-called cultural elite of that province.

My prediction? The ideas of that cultural elite will be headed for the recyling bin a lot faster than the cardinal's. Here's an excerpt of my piece. Follow the hyperlinks for the whole article.

In Montreal, McGill University Christian studies professor Douglas Farrow agreed, describing Ouellet’s intervention as “courageous and insightful leadership from the top but it’s not clear who’s following.”

“One of the important distinctions to which he is drawing attention is the distinction between the state and civil society,” Farrow said. “He is arguing that the manifestations of religion in society are part of the fabric of society and belong to the citizens, to the people, and they give continuity to the people in their identity.”

Farrow sees Ouellet as fighting against the notion of the state “imposing an identity on people or denying them their identity.”

Those who support religious freedom are on the “same side as the cardinal,” he said. “They realize if you press the homogenizing power of the state too far, you wipe out the power of minorities to be minorities. It suppresses everyone.

“The whole country was established on political and social and philosophical foundations in which the Christian religion played an enormous role,” he said. “Some of the difficulties we are facing today are difficulties that arise from having moved off that foundation.”

Farrow called for an honest assessment of these foundations and an examination of the society’s drift away from them, a drift that in some cases has become an “outright repudiation.”
Go here for the rest of the story and links to a translation of Cardinal Ouellet's brief.

Labels: , ,

Friday, November 16, 2007

An introduction to the Theology of the Body

Great piece on the Theology of the Body by my friend Patricia Murphy in this week's Catholic Register. And it is available on line. Read the whole thing.

She writes:

It is helpful to begin by identifying just a few of the most pressing questions of our day. Have you recently heard, or asked: Are the apparent differences between men and women really all that significant — or are they simply reflections of social conditioning? Or, why doesn’t the Catholic Church “get with the program” and revise some of its teaching on sexual ethics? Or, as amazing as the Internet is, why do we tend to worry about those who seem to spend so much of their lives online, making virtual friends and living a “second life”? On a different — but related — note, why do we get up every Sunday and go, in person, to Mass, rather than simply take time to pray at home, alone? Finally, have you ever wondered what could be so morally problematic about “in vitro” fertilization or perhaps same-sex “marriage”?

If one were trying design a bumper sticker that would capture the fundamental concern and insight of Pope John Paul’s teaching on “theology of the body,” it would have to be that “matter matters.” And in its own way, each of the above questions forces us to confront the meaning and significance of the created material world, and especially of the human body.

“Theology of the Body” is the name usually given to a series of 129 catecheses on “Human Love in the Divine Plan” given by Pope John Paul II between 1978 and 1984 at his weekly general audiences in Rome. These catecheses were actually taken from an earlier manuscript, written in Polish, in the 1970s, by then Cardinal Karol Wojtyla.

With so many enormous challenges facing the church and world, one can’t but wonder, why did Pope John Paul devote so such time and attention to a “theology of the body”?

In his 1994 work, Crossing the Threshold of Hope, John Paul himself explains: “As a young priest I learned to love human love. If one loves human love, there naturally arises the need to commit oneself completely to the service of fair love. . .” Perhaps these words speak for themselves.


Interesting article about Traditional Anglican Communion's approach to Rome

Interesting article in The Telegraph about the Traditional Anglican Communion's approach to Rome, as well as some speculation about the response among some bishops.

Not sure how accurate the "if they convert en masse" is to describe the TAC's approach, as what we're hoping for is to be "united but not absorbed." That means we would stay Anglican in liturgy and ethos, with whatever adjustments the Holy Father requires to bring us into communion. But it does not necessarily mean our becoming Roman Catholics, though I personally would not have a problem with a Personal Prelature model to preserve Anglo-Catholic liturgy and ensure that Anglican Use churches can pass on their heritage to succeeding generations.

Damian Thompson writes:

The 80-year-old Pontiff is planning a purification of the Roman liturgy in which decades of trendy innovations will be swept away. This recovery of the sacred is intended to draw Catholics closer to the Orthodox and ultimately to heal the 1,000 year Great Schism. But it is also designed to attract vast numbers of conservative Anglicans, who will be offered the protection of the Holy Father if they convert en masse.

The liberal cardinals don't like the sound of it at all.

Ever since the shock of Benedict's election, they have been waiting for him to show his hand. Now that he has, the resistance has begun in earnest - and the Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, is in the thick of it.

"Pope Benedict is isolated," I was told when I visited Rome last week. "So many people, even in the Vatican, oppose him, and he feels the strain immensely." Yet he is ploughing ahead. He reminds me of another conservative revolutionary, Margaret Thatcher, who waited a couple of years before taking on the Cabinet "wets" sabotaging her reforms.

Read it all here.

Labels: ,

Union official files complaint claiming religious discrimination

Canadian Christianity picked up my story on a human rights complaint against PSAC and the Treasury Board on religious freedom grounds. Read it all here.

OTTAWA -- The president of an Ottawa Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) local has filed a human rights complaint against both his union and his employer on religious freedom grounds.

Treasury Board employee David MacDonald, who works for Industry Canada, claims he has been "discriminated against and harassed based on my religious beliefs."

As a Catholic, MacDonald objects to PSAC's public advocacy of same-sex marriage and the union's anti-heterosexism policy that violates his conscience and deeply-held religious beliefs.

"The hostility towards Catholics is very open and the fact that they are trying to rid heterosexism, which would include Catholics, is very troubling," MacDonald said in an interview. "This adds to the feeling of being uncomfortable within the workplace."

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Most Canadians want law to protect the unborn

The Western Catholic Reporter runs story on polls showing most Canadians want a law to protect the unborn here:

The abortion debate is supposedly "settled" in Canada, but polls consistently show two-thirds of Canadians want laws to protect unborn life.

For the past six years, LifeCanada, a pro-life educational organization, has commissioned scientific polls that consistently show only one third of Canadians support the status quo of no law restricting abortion at any stage of pregnancy.

If so, why do most political parties treat the issue as politically radioactive?

"To a large degree if has to do with the brainwashing of the Canadian population and politicians, of course, into believing that those who bring up the issue of abortion will immediately be branded as fanatics," said Liberal MP Tom Wappel (Scarborough Southwest), a Catholic who has spent 19 years defending life and family on Parliament Hill.

There's more here.


The Sheepcat slices and dices column on the TAC

The Sheepcat analyzes John Bentley Mays Catholic Register column on the approach by the Traditional Anglican Communion (TAC) to the Holy See here.

He writes:

The TAC is unusual in having affirmed from the outset its "intention to seek and achieve full sacramental communion and visible unity with other Christians… who hold the Catholic and Apostolic Faith." Unity regrettably is not such a priority for some of the other groups that have been splintering off from Anglicanism. In liturgy and ecclesiology many of the Anglicans least willing to accommodate TEC's heresies are far indeed from Rome.

The logic of schism is self-perpetuating. The more isolated the community, the harder it will find to be drawn to the fullness of the Catholic faith, having once defined its existence in opposition to and separation from what it sees as the corruption of other ecclesial bodies. If the mindset is one of avoiding the taint of bishops who are soft on homosexual sin and lax with regard to scriptural authority more generally, then such groups will find ample reason to steer clear of the Catholic Church, because we have corruption aplenty.

The more fruitful question, of course, is which body has, despite the shortcomings of individual members of its hierarchy, faithfully preserved the teaching handed down from the Apostles. But that's not how members of a splinter group are apt to see it. So let us pray for the unity of all Christians--and trust that in his own perfect timing God will reveal a way forward through the thicket.

Read the rest here.

Labels: ,

Cardinal Ouellet's warnings need to be heeded throughout Canada

A shortened version of the story I filed is in the Western Catholic Reporter. Will update with a link if a paper runs a longer version.

Cardinal Marc Ouellet's assessment of Quebec's spiritual void, his passionate defence of her Christian history and his warning about the threat of fundamentalist secularism should be heeded in the rest of Canada, say religious freedom experts.

Ouellet's Oct. 30 brief to the Bouchard-Taylor Commission studying reasonable accommodation has drawn vitriolic responses from some columnists in Quebec, but those on the forefront of religious freedom battles see his intervention as timely and courageous.

"It is an excellent recognition of the fact of secularist dominance and a corresponding anti-religiosity in the culture and in the media," said Iain Benson, executive director of the Centre for Cultural Renewal.

Peter Lauwers, a constitutional lawyer who often represents Catholic interests before the courts, noted Ouellet's insistence that "there must be space in the public square for religious identity."

"His warning about the dangers in ignoring history and in radical secularism will resonate across Canada," he said.

McGill Christian studies professor Douglas Farrow agreed, describing Ouellet's intervention as "courageous and insightful leadership from the top but it's not clear who's following."

Read it all here.

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

It's called Christmas with a Capital "C"

I haven't had much success in trying to upload YouTube videos to my blog.

But here's a link to a great video for anyone who is tired of hearing or seeing Season's Greetings or Happy Holidays as the Christmas season approaches.


Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Why don't Canadian Christian writers get any respect in their home country?

Marcia Laycock, author of One Smooth Stone, laments the fact that Canadian authors get no respect from local media. A newspaper she writes a column for refused to run a review of her award-winning novel. Here's part of what she wrote to the editor of that paper.

Frankly it's extremely frustrating - both to me and to my fellow Canadian
authors who have won awards, been on T.V. and radio across the country, yet
continually hear that we are "nobodies" and therefore not worthy of notice.Yes,
the argument that, "we go with the top names," is a common one. My response is,
the "top names" do not live in this country. The "top names" do not minister in
our communities and speak to the hearts of Canadians in a way only Canadians
can. And the "top names" certainly don't need the exposure - their books are
already being stocked by Walmart and Cosco.

I understand that you can cover only a minimal number of books in the paper
and that many want the visibility. But I ask, why do you focus on books from the
US when there is a burgeoning and exciting Canadian publishing industry growing
in our own country? You said - "We have tended to choose books by people such as
Frank Perretti, Davis Bunn, Anne Rice and Ted Dekker (because) they have
crossover appeal" But those names would be no more familiar to unbelievers that
names like Deborah Gyapong or Paul Boge or Nancy Lindquist - all award-winning
Canadian authors whose books are, in my opinion, equal to or better than the
names you mentioned.You also mentioned that you have online readers from around
the world. What about your Canadian readers in Alberta and Saskatchewan? Do they
not deserve to know that God is doing a tremendous work in the Canadian
Christian publishing industry by raising up authors of faith who are following
God's call?

Read it all. I appreciate that she mentioned me in her letter. Marcia's manuscript for One Smooth Stone won the 2006 Best New Canadian Christian Author award.

Labels: , ,

Can you recognize grace in others when you lack it yourself?

My friend the Sheepcat sent me a link to this most interesting blog post, concerning the new president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Cardinal George.

In it Fr. John Zuhlsdorf writes:

At the end of the conference, by the way, Cardinal George, the new president of the USCCB, made an interesting observation that probably zoomed over the heads of some of the journalists. He spoke about how the journalists create "realities" by their choices of what to report on and how they write it. He raised the rhetorical question if those created realities correspond to reality.


Some years ago I heard Card. George exhort (and simultaneously beat the stuffing) out of Catholic journalists at a meeting of the Catholic Press Association in Chicago. He said that journalists have the primary duty to report not so much on the doings of clerics (this was before the scandals erupted), but rather about the life of grace among all the people of God. He said that in order to report on the life of grace, journalists must recognize grace at work.

He said they could recognize grace at work only if they too were in the state of grace.

The huge room full of journalists laughed.

I was at one of the closest tables, maybe 15 feet away. I saw the muscles of the Cardinal’s jaw flex and tighten. Then he really let go and… ZOOM… I am sure they understood little of what he was beating them with, it was so elegant and profound.

But he said it and I have never forgotten.
I wish I could have heard this. Most interesting.

Can you recognize grace at work if you are not in a state of grace? I'm inclined to agree with the cardinal.

Monday, November 12, 2007

John Bentley Mays on Anglican- Catholic quest for unity

John Bentley Mays writes an interesting op ed on Anglican/ Roman Catholic unity talks and the dilemma posed as the Traditional Anglican Communion (TAC) asks to come into communion with the Holy See.

He writes:

But some Anglicans are not willing merely to live in an alternative structure outside the mainline church. Last month, the bishops and other leaders of the Traditional Anglican Communion (TAC), an umbrella group that claims 400,000 adherents in 12 countries, petitioned Rome for “full, corporate, sacramental union” with the Catholic Church. The full text of the petition has not been made public and Anglican leaders have declined interviews pending a reply from the Vatican. It’s enough for now to note that, for the first time since the Reformation, hundreds of thousands of Protestants are now knocking at our door, asking to be admitted en masse.

But before shouting a merry “Welcome Home!” to them, it’s worth thinking about the pickle into which the recent tumults in Anglicanism are putting Catholic officialdom.

Up to this point, the Catholic Church’s talks with Anglicans have proceeded on the understanding that there was a single Anglican body in the conversation — the one made up of those churches who recognize the spiritual leadership of the Archbishop of Canterbury. But should the Anglican Communion fragment into so many pieces, as now seems possible, who, exactly, will Catholics talk to? The liberal, mainstream denomination, which ordains women and (in the United States, anyway) approves the ordination of openly gay priests and bishops? Or the breakaway Anglicans who do neither, and are therefore of one mind (in this respect, anyway) with Catholicism?

And what’s to be done about those Anglicans who are now seeking full union with the Catholic Church? For Catholics to treat with a whole bloc of disaffected Anglicans runs counter to Vatican policy regarding the Anglican Communion. Were the Vatican to admit the TAC to membership, the move would almost certainly be viewed by Anglican mainstreamers as gravely divisive to the up-to-now usual Catholic-Anglican relationship, and it might squash future ecumenical encounters altogether.

The entire text is worth reading. You can find it here.


Friday, November 09, 2007

More from Theodore Dalrymple on religion

A great essay by Dalrymple at the New English Review here:

The rise of evangelical Christianity as a political force in America has provoked a reaction by the freethinking intelligentsia that sees in that rise a threat of theocracy. Whether this threat is real and genuinely feared I rather doubt; surely the American political tradition and the Constitution itself are strong enough to prevent a theocracy from ever arising in America. But all intellectuals love bogeymen to shadow-box: I do so myself on occasion.

It is true that the evangelicals exert a strong influence; but that is what democracy is about. There are, after all, a lot of them in the country and they cannot be disenfranchised. No doubt they have a moral vision that they wish to impose on the country, but so does everybody else. To argue that a woman has a right to an abortion because she is sovereign over her own body is no less a moral position than that to kill a conceptus is ethically equivalent to shooting a man in cold blood in the street. Personally I think that both these positions are wrong, and that so long as the debate is posed in these terms it will remain crude and generate a lot of hatred. But evangelical Christian political influence in a democracy in which there are millions of evangelicals is perfectly normal, and implies no slide into theocracy; and it is worth remembering that the whirligig of time brings in his revenges.

Labels: , , ,

Thursday, November 08, 2007

The Cardinal's brief has relevance for the rest of Canada

Joe Sinasac, editor and publisher of the Catholic Register, posts an editorial on Cardinal Ouellet's presentation before the Bouchard Taylor Commission.

He writes:

While Quebec is, of course, a “distinct society” with its own particular history and customs, Cardinal Ouellet’s analysis has some validity in other parts of Canada. Though regular participation in Christian churches has not fallen nearly as much in the other provinces as it has in Quebec, there is a distinct fear of true religious belief and practice. Particularly in the media and among some educated elites, those who are faithful adherents of any of the great Abrahamic faiths are often scorned as superstitious throwbacks to another age.

Outside Quebec, we too have demonstrated our fear of the stranger, particularly those who look different and don’t embrace our empty culture of narcissism and consumerism. We too have a spiritual void in our society. The Reasonable Accommodation Commission should remind us that bigotry and prejudice are not all that far away.
An English translation of Cardinal Ouellet's brief is here.

Electronic media "short-circuiting" family time

The Western Catholic Reporter has picked up my story on a study of the impact of the use of electronic media on families:

The Vanier Institute of the Family has released a sobering report on the
effects of electronic media on Canadian families.
Culling information from a
range of studies, the report states the average worker's time with his or her
family has been cut by 45 minutes per day.
Those who spend more than an hour
a day on the Internet spend less time socializing, not only with their spouse,
but also with their children and friends.
Information once only available to
adults is at the fingertips of children who more and more frequently have their
own computers and televisions.
While television use is down to about three
hours a day on average, the number of television sets per household is up, with
26 per cent of toddlers having a set in their bedrooms.
"Tuning in used to
be a family activity as everyone hunkered down together in front of the
electronic hearth," says the report entitled Good Servant, Bad Master?
Electronic Media and the Family.

Labels: ,

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Pope Benedict please come to Canada in 2008

The Catholic Register is carrying my story on the petition.

Here's your opportunity to make your voice heard if you want Pope Benedict XVI to come to Quebec City for the 2008 International Eucharistic Congress next June.

This event, which coincides with the founding of Quebec City 400 years ago, could be a watershed moment sparking a revival that could spread not only through Quebec but also through the rest of North America, as Quebec is the cradle of evangelization of the whole continent.

Former Quebec Justice Minister Marc Bellemare has started a petition that he hopes Cardinal Marc Ouellet will bring with him when he goes to meet with Benedict at the end of this month.
You can sign it electronically via this website:

You can also click on a button to download the petition so you can bring it to your parish. At the bottom of each page, there is information on where to send the filled-out petitions.

If you have trouble with the fact that the petition and website are in French-only, Suzanne Fortin of Big Blue Wave has provided a translation.

The petition says:


Translated: I wish for Pope Benedict XVI To come to Quebec in June 2008 during the 49th International Eucharistic Congress.

Prenom=First Name

Nom=Last name

Courriel: Email address

Sign it now. The time is short.

And....even if you are not might want to consider signing this.

In July 2006, I interviewed Ron and Fran Parker, who founded the National House of Prayer.

This is part of what I wrote back then for Catholic papers:

OTTAWA (CCN)—In the summer of 2005, graffiti adorned the stone front of the former convent for Les Soeurs de la Sagesse (Sisters of Wisdom) in Ottawa and a few of its windows were broken. It had been vacant for three years.

Built in the 1920s as a rectory for priests, it had been turned into a convent where, in the 1970s, some of the sisters became involved in the charismatic renewal and mentored those who needed a Catholic framework for their new spiritual experiences.

Time passed, the sisters grew older and the Ottawa archdiocese eventually sold the building to a developer. But zoning regulations and limited parking prevented the company from turning the imposing stone structure into condos. The former convent went up for sale again with a $1.8 million asking price.

Rob Parker , a former Baptist minister, and his wife Fran discovered the building and put an offer on it last summer, even though they had little money of their own.

By the fall of 2005, through a strange set of circumstances and odd coincidences some might describe as miraculous, the Parkers were able to buy the building for $900,000.
They call it the National House of Prayer. With the help of small and large ministry partners who help with the mortgage and operating costs, the building sports a new roof, restoration is underway inside and out, and the National House of Prayer is already housing and training teams from across Canada that are committed to praying for political leaders and for Christian revival.

For Rob, the building has come full circle. “They had a passion for Jesus, these nuns, and reaching out for the Gospel,” he said in an interview. “It already was a house of prayer.”

Rob believes that a Canada is on the threshold of a Christian revival. He said he and others sense “it’s coming from the Catholic Church. In Quebec, even.” He has noticed the passion for Christ among the younger generation in the Catholic Church.
Also, when I interviewed well-known evangelical pastor Dr. Neil Anderson last summer, he told me he was reading the Pope's latest book Jesus of Nazareth.

Here's an excerpt:

How does he like it?

“Good!” he said, in a telephone interview from his home in Nashville, Tenn., where he is promoting the 15th anniversary re-release of The Bondage Breaker, a book that has sold more than 1.2 million copies worldwide. He also has a new book out, Restored: Experience Life with Jesus.

Anderson said any evangelical would find the pope’s book “very good.”

“He’s very conservative,” he said. “It’s interesting to see what impact he is going to have.”

He also had no objections to the pope recent liturgical reforms, even though his most of his readership may not come from liturgical traditions. For Anderson, throwing out some of these liturgies may be part of the problem.

“We’ve dummied down the church so much,” he said, noting everywhere he goes, he finds people who can remember saying the Nicene Creed every Sunday years ago. “Now almost nobody is.”

“That should be the fountain of our faith,” he said. “The deity of Christ is core Christianity to me. And yet somehow or another we just walked away from it. I think we’re taking a toll for that as a church internationally.”

Labels: ,

Monday, November 05, 2007

Seeker-friendly Willow Creek model fails to produce disciples say leaders

Willow Creek has released the results of a multi-year study on the
effectiveness of their programs and philosophy of ministry. The study’s findings
are in a new book titled Reveal: Where Are You?, co-authored by Cally Parkinson
and Greg Hawkins, executive pastor of Willow Creek Community Church. Hybels
himself called the findings “earth shaking,” “ground breaking” and “mind
blowing.” And no wonder: it seems that the “experts” were wrong.
The report
reveals that most of what they have been doing for these many years and what
they have taught millions of others to do is not producing solid disciples of
Jesus Christ. Numbers yes, but not disciples. It gets worse. Hybels laments:
Some of the stuff that we have put millions of dollars into thinking it
would really help our people grow and develop spiritually, when the data
actually came back it wasn’t helping people that much. Other things that we
didn’t put that much money into and didn’t put much staff against is stuff our
people are crying out for.
If you simply want a crowd, the “seeker
sensitive” model produces results. If you want solid, sincere, mature followers
of Christ, it’s a bust.

Great Mark Steyn piece on pop culture

Thanks to Dr. Sanity, I was directed to this great essay by Mark Steyn in The New Criterion, marking the 20th anniversary of the publication of Allan Bloom's The Closing of the American Mind.

Steyn writes:

culture” is more accurately a
“present-tense culture”: You’re celebrating
the millennium but you can barely conceive of anything before the mid-1960s.
We’re at school longer than any society in human history, entering kindergarten
at four or five and leaving college the best part of a quarter-century later—or
thirty years later in Germany. Yet in all those decades we exist in the din of
the present. A classical education considers society as a kind of iceberg, and
teaches you the seven-eighths below the surface. Today, we live on the top
eighth bobbing around in the flotsam and jetsam of the here and now. And,
without the seven-eighths under the water, what’s left on the surface gets
thinner and thinner.

Dr. Sanity adds:

Most of the 'present-tense' culture that Bloom wrote about in 1987 has
become even more cut-off from any esthetic and intellectual roots; and is even
more shallow, meaningless, repulsive and mind-bogglingly ugly than would have
been thought possible a mere two decades ago. By looking at the postmodern
evolution of popular music, we can begin to understand the enormity of the
cultural problem we face.

Follow the links above to read both in their entirety.

Labels: ,

Friday, November 02, 2007

Spiritual void a problem in Quebec--Cardinal Ouellet

The Catholic Register (great site to bookmark and check regularly) has posted my story on Cardinal Ouellet's brief to the Bouchard Taylor Commission on reasonable accommodation here.

OTTAWA - The collapse of Catholicism, not the demands of religious minorities, is responsible for Quebec’s profound anxiety over reasonable accommodation, according to Cardinal Marc Ouellet.

The archbishop of Quebec and primate of the Catholic Church in Canada waded into the reasonable accommodation debate with a defense of Quebec’s Catholic heritage in his Oct. 30 presentation before the Bouchard-Taylor Commission in Quebec City. The commission is travelling throughout the province, investigating the causes of the current tension concerning minority religions.

Ouellet described Quebec society as having rested on two pillars over the past 400 years: the French culture and the Catholic religion. Those foundations made it possible to integrate other components of its pluralistic identity. The francophone majority’s religious identity has weakened, making society fragile.

“The real problem in Quebec is not the presence of religious symbols or the appearance of new religious symbols in public spaces,” he said. “The real problem in Quebec is the spiritual void created by the religious and cultural rupture.”

There's more.

Labels: , , ,

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Cardinal Ouellet addresses the Bouchard-Taylor Commission

Cardinal Ouellet told the Bouchard Taylor Commission Oct. 30 that the reason behind the present anxiety over reasonable accommodation in Quebec is the collapse of Catholicism, not the demands of religious minorities.

Here's a video of his presentation. It seems the part he read was a shortened version of the brief he submitted, which is brilliant. What he said in this brief can be extrapolated for the rest of Canada, too. While not a collapse of Catholicism per se, it is a collapse of the Judeo-Christian worldview.

I have written a story on this. Once it gets posted electronically I will supply a link.