Archive pour juillet 2007


juillet 31, 2007

Pierre Trudeau has topped the list of 10 « worst Canadians in an online survey conducted by Canada’s top history magazine, The Beaver.

      Others who made the list include Dr. Henry Morgentaler, Celine Dion, killers Karla Homolka, Paul Bernardo and Clifford Olson, Brian Mulroney, Jean Chretien, Stephen Harper and Conrad Black.

      Perhaps Trudeau is on the list because he is the only prime minister most Canadians remember.  I spent last week in Maine and any discussion of Canadian politics by Americans raised Trudeau’s name.

     Trudeau was the architect of multiculturalism, official bilingualism and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.  I attended his funeral at Notre Dame Basilica in 2000. His death provoked a national outpouring of grief.  All along the route of his funeral train from Ottawa to Montreal Canadians stood and applauded.

     I would not rate Pierre Trudeau our greatest prime minister.  My choice for that hnour would be Mackenzie King.  But to argue that Trudea is one of our worst Canadians is rubbish.

    Somewhere on my list of worst Canadians would be Jaques Parizeau and Don Cherry, the CBC’s resident racist.

     Who would be on yours? 




juillet 30, 2007

A new British film « The Great Global Warming Swindle » (not yet in Canada), goes head to head with Al Gore’s « An Inconvenient Truth », and advances the theory that scientists, politicians and the media have conspired to scare people into believing that humans are causing climate change.  The film’s producer, Martin Durkin, argues that carbon dioxide does not drive climate change since it has not done so in the past.  He also argues that climate researchers manipulated their findings to secure more funding. 

         Have you seen Gore’s film?  What did you think? 

         Is the whole muss and fuss about climate change the result of a vast left wing conspiracy?  Or are we heading toward a hot Armageddon?


juillet 29, 2007

Here I am safe and sound after a glorious week in Maine.

We crossed the border at Stanstead without incident either way.  Going through American customs on the way over, the chap asked to look at our trunk which he did cursorily, then waved us on our way.  On the way back into Canada, a smiling young woman asked us a couple of questions and speeded us on our way.  My understanding is that the next time we see her she will be armed.  Does the fact that Canada’s  border personnell will be armed make you feel any safer of less safe?  Imagine a shootout involving the car ahead of you.

      Also recently a female judge in British Columbia ruled that border guards will henceforth require a warrant from a judge to seafch your car. Of course the government is appealing this ruling.  Does the policy a border gaurd needs to get a warrant to search your car make you feel safe or less safe?

     What is your own experience crossing the Canada=U.S. border or any other?  


juillet 21, 2007

Did you know that grief counsellors are standing by in London in case Harry Potter is « offed » in his seventh and last book?  Last night a thousand people (including many adults) stood in line at Chapters’ Ste-Catherine street store to obtain Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

      Am I the only person in Canada who has not read a sentence of the Potter series? My wife is a big fan.  I enjoyed C.S. Lewis’ Narnia books and to a lesser extent Tolkien’s Ring books.  But not a line of Potter.

       I an not hostile to Potter. But there are those who are.  J.K. Rowling’sbooks have endured the wrath of religious conservatives the world over.  There have been book burnings, book bans and even a declaration by one high prelate in the Vatican that Harry Potter is « the devil ».  One American literary critic, decrying the large number of adults who avidly read the Potter books, suggests that this « looks like a bad case of cultural infantilism ».

       Have you read all, any, or none of the Potter books?  Would you recommend them to a child, to an adult?  What do you think has provoked this mass hysteria with 123 million books sold? 


juillet 20, 2007

Isn’t it remarkable that a candidate’s religious faith has come so strongly to the fore this early in the American presidential campaign?

Then perhaps it’s not so surprising.  No fewer than 85 per cent of Americans claim they are Christians.  So the candidates are jumping over each other to declare their personal religious beliefs.

       Hilary Clinton comes from a Methodist background.  She’s talked of her prayer life and her bible reading.  Unfortunately a large number of the voters don’t think she’s sincere.  Mitt Romney comes from a Mormon background and says he worships the Lord Jesus Christ as his saviour.  Most voters believe him but they don’t think Mormonism is a Christian religion.

        Rudy Guliani claims to be a Catholic.  But he’s on his third marriage (his children don’t speak to him) and he’s pro choice.  Certainly evangelical Protestants don’t support him.  They are waiting for Fred Thompson to throw his hat in the ring.  Senator Obama never misses an opportunity to trumpet his Christian faith.

     Does a candidate’s religious faith influence whether or not you would vote for him or her »

     If a candidate was an avowed atheist but clearly competent and able could you vote for him or her?

     In our own country from the time of Pierre Trudeau in 1968 until Stephen Harper in 2005, there were five consecutive Roman Catholic prime ministers (except for a few months of Kim Campbell.)  They included Trudeau, Joe Clark, John Turner, Jean Chretien and Paul Martin. 

      Do you think their religious faith made any difference to the way Canada was governed? 


juillet 19, 2007

This afternoon in a Chicago court room Judge Amy St. Eve granted Conrad Black bail until his sentencing on November 30, retained his passport, raised his bail, restricted his movements to Chicago and Palm Beach, Fla., and said she would rule later on whether or not he could return to his home in Toronto.

           What should Canada’s stance be if Black is allowed to return to Canada?  Of course, he is no longer a Canadian citizen and he is a convicted felon.  And Prime Minister Harper has said Black should receive no special treatment from Canadian immigration officials.

           But would special treatment be needed?  Under existing regulations Black could be allowed into Canada as a temporary resident.  As many as 1,000 people a year with criminal convictions entailing sentences of a decade or more are let into Canada every year.

            There is a side to Conrad Black that has been lost in all these legal proceedings. As I wrote in a letter published in The Gazette this morning that I worked for Conrad Black for somel years when I hosted a talk show at CJAD when Black controlled the station through Standard Broadcasting.  On the several occasions I met him I found Black charming, challenging and informed. It is sad that this positive side of Black hasd been so little noted during his trial and conviction.

      I agree with the editorial in today’s Gazette saying that « Black is a Canadian; it’s churlish to pretend otherwise. »

       Would you agree that Black should be allowed to return to his home in Toronto while waiting for his sentencing at the end of November?


juillet 18, 2007

Remember when several American Catholic Bishops said they would refuse John Kerry communion because he was pro-choice and Bishop Henry of Calgary threatened Prime Minister Paul Martin with the same penalty.

       Well the drums are beating again.  Rudy Guiliani is a Catholic who supports the pro-choice side.  Presumably Guiliani will stay well away from the Archdiocese of St. Louis where Archbishop Raymond Burke is again threatening to use the Eucharist as a political sledgehammer.

         In Scotland Cardinal Keith O’Brien recently told Catholic politicians that support for abortion was incompatible with the reception of Holy Communion.  In Australia, Cardinal George Pell warned Catholic MPs they faced excommunication if they voted to allow embryonic stem-cell research.   The Cardinal’s warnings were described by a Catholic cabinet minister as « a clear and arguably contemptuous incursion into the deliberations of of the elected members of this parliament. »

        Does a Catholic prelate have the right to threatent democractically elected members of  legislatures with severe penalties if they do not follow the Church’s moral teachings on such  issues as abortion, same-sex marriage and stem-cell research?

        The principle behind the above position seems to be that on certain issues Catholic politicians have a duty to be the voice of the Church in the lawmaking process, and to repeat what the Church tells them to.  But that is not the politician’s duty as contained  in the theory of parliamentary democracy as outlined by Edmund Burke.  Poliiticians, in that theory, stand for election making clear what moral principles they embrace e.g. Catholics can vote against Guiliani if they disagree with his pro-choice position. 

        But in the legislature the elected Catholic member takes part in the debate and makes an honest judgement.   That has to include the possibility, in such issues as abortion and gay marriage, that the politician might see reasons why the application of Catholic teaching might be ill advised in the circumstances.   For example, the politician might conclude that to press for an extension of the criminal law, in a way that the great majority in the country might object to, risks undermining the consent of the public on which the legitimacy of the criminal law ultimately rests.  The movement from « sin » to « crime » must involve judgements of practicality, expediecy and the common good.

      Put another way, if a Catholic MP fails to oppose legislation that permits abortion or samesex marriage, then the MP will have been persuaded that there are perfectly good reasons, such as the wish to reflect the views of their constituents, their judgement of what serves the common good, or their fears of reviving back-street abortions.  In all these cases, if the Catholic members are in good faith, they should not be denied Communion.

      In other words, an MP,  in Edmund Burke’s terms, is not, and can never be, simply a delegate of the Pope or a Cardinal Archbishop.

      No clearer answer on this issue has ever been given than the one John Kennedy gave to the Protestant ministers in Huston in the 1960 campaign.

      « I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute; where no Catholic prelate would tell the President – should he be a Catholic – how to act and no Protestant minister would tell his parishoners how to vote .. I do not speak for my church on public matters and the church does not speak for me. »

Finally, wherever we come down on the above issue, I presume no one thinks the Eucharist should be tossed around like a political football.


juillet 17, 2007

Isn’t it curious that there is a huge debate in the United States which has an abortion law while there is little debate on abortion in Canada which doesn’t have one.

        Pierre Trudeau, a Roman Catholic, introduced a Canadian abortion law in 1969.  The Supreme Court overturned this law in 1988. Four consecutive Roman Catholic prime ministers did nothing to re-instate the abortion law.  Stephen Harper, although a social conservative, has refused to reopen the abortion debate and despite the anathemas on abortion hurled by the likes of Bishop Henry in Calgary, there is lttle effective agitation in Canada to put abortion back in the criminal code.  

          Abortion is not a salient issue in Canada’s general elections partly because the anti-abortion faction from the Pope down is so dogmatic.  The only legislation that would satisfy the Roman Church’s strict criteria would be the recriminalization of abortion, with stiff jail sentences for all concerned.  No candidate who stood on such a platform would have any chance of being elected.

         A concerted push by the Catholic Church to start a movement in favour of such a radical change in the law would have exactly the opposite effect — doubly so, if bishops were seen to be pressuring Catholic MPs to toe a Catholic party line.   (Sensibly few Canadian bishops try to intimidate Catholic members of Parliament on the issue of abortion)

       Indeed it could be argued (as Clifford Longley writes in The Tablet) that the Church’s hard line line on abortion for the last 20 years of so, may have led to more abortions, not fewer. The argument in the public square that abortion is murder « because the Catholic Church says so », is not going to persuade anybody.  Indeed, non-Catholics cannot be bound by the teaching authority of a Church they do not belong to. 

       I daresay many devout people of other faiths oppose abortion.  But when faced with the recent example of an 11-year old girl in England made pregnant because of an incestuous rape, most of them would say it is legitimate to choose the lesser evil.  That would be my choice.

        There is always some satisfaction in being smugly right.  Certainly hurling around dogmatic statements that abortion is murder is much easier than constructing a credible case against abortion that might attract non-Catholic support.  But there is no sign of that in Canada or anywhere else.


juillet 16, 2007

In 1991, Joe Kennedy (son of Bobby Kennedy) obtained a a civil divorce from Sheila Rauch Kennedy which she accepted.  What she refused to accept was the annulment Joe Kennedy received from the Church two years later.  Outraged that this annulment meant there was no marriage in the first place (it had lasted 12 years) and that her two sons were bastards, Sheila Kennedy (an Episcopalian), fought the annulment tooth and nail.

          In 1997 she wrote a scathing book accusing her former husband of pedddling his family’s influence to obtain the annulment.  She provided Vatican authorities with boxes of documents, including numerous letters, showing that her Marriage to Joe Kennedy was valid.  After nine years the Roman Rota (the Vatican’s divorce court) ruled against the annulment and recognized the original marriage.

      Is it any wonder that so many Catholics and non-Catholics are cynical about this process? In any one year there are approximately 40,000 decrees of nullity issued from American marriage tribunals alone.  Some people call an annulment « Catholic divorce ».  Others call it a healing process.  Most people would probably agree on this:  the Church’s system for marriage annulments needs to be reformed.  But don’t hold your breath — it will not happen any time soon.

       Too bad.  Annulments enable the couple to receive communion.  The rejection of an annulment prohibits them from doing so.  What a pity.  So much hypocrisy and cynicism. 


juillet 15, 2007

The Roman Catholic Diocese in Los Angeles has reportedly agreed to pay 660 million dollars to settle sexual abuse cliams by 500 plaintiffs.  This represents more than a million dollars each, the largest priestly sex abuse settlement in American history and brings the total payment by the national church to almost a billion dollars.  Some orders — the Servites, the Claretians and the Oblates — have refused to particpate in the payment.

      David Clohessy, the national director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests said all the plaintiffs should be proud. « They should feel incredily proud and Catholics should be very grateful to them.  Without their courage, dozens of predators would still be unknown and maybe working in parishes today, and we would know absolutely nothing about who covered up these crimes. »

       Think about it.  Cardinal Mahoney has agreed to pay out nearly three-quarters of a billion dollars in damages that his priests caused sexually abusing children.  And not one person — not the Cardinal, not any of his cohorts, have offered to resign.  Does it strike you the main reason they coughed up such an enormous sum of money (and not their own money) was to convince the government not to prosecute?

          Or to put this another way.  The trial on the sex abuse charges was scheduled to start this morning at 9:30.  Did it take 660 million dollars to protect the Cardinal from going into the witness stand and explaining in open court why he covered up for priests abusing little children?

          Put this way, the Cardinal makes Conrad Black look like a piker.