Archive for the ‘religion and spirituality’ Category


juin 25, 2008

Obama is-pro choice. So how in the world can he be the pro- life candidate in the American election? Easy. Most of the data now show that the pro-choice approach is more effective at achieving what the American public views as pro-life goals: reducing the number of abortions, preventing late term abortion, than the pro-life approach,

In some ways the key problem here is not killing developing babies but preventing unwanted pregnancies. The pro-choice movement and pro-choice politicians like Obama are the ones who champion wider access to birth control, and birth control is one of the only ways to reduce unintended pregnancy and abortion. (The Catholic church forbids all use of artificial birth control).

Obama will remind the voters that it’s the pro-choice movement and pro-choice elected officials who have fought for health insurance coverage for contraception as well as to bring new and more effective contraceptives to market.

So what about abstinence pushed by the pro-life forces? In a word, it doesn’t work. Obama supports the comprehensive sex-ed programs that have been proven to work. McCain supports no sex-until-marriage-programs which ave been proven to fail. (Cardinal Martini is one of the few Catholic leaders who wants the Church to recognize the fact that the majority of younger people are sleeping together, many with the consent of their parents.)

Obama could remind the voters that only 11 per cent of sexually active women don’t use contraception and from this 11 per cent comes 50 per cent of the nation’s abortions. It is in that context that pro-life groups have been spearheading campaigns to prevent Americans from accessing birth control.

The right to life approach, which McCain has pushed for decades, is actually at the root of the problem: leading to more abortions.

Obama supports policies that will reduce abortions. McCain supports policies that will increase them.

Is there any doubt about who is the real pro-life candidate in this election?



juin 17, 2008

Most would agree that young people are staying away from church in droves. None has been more affected by this phenomenon than the Catholic church.

What is the problem? It would seem there is an almost total disconnect between what the septuagarian celibates in the church leadership teach and the lived experience of young people especially in sexual matters. Rules and regulations from the top are simply irrelevant to the church’s youthful constituency.

Fortunately, every once in a while a church leader emerges who gets it. One such is the Jesuit Cardinal, Maria Martini, now a respected biblical scholar and theologian based in Jerusalem. It is reported that the Cardinal came second to Cardinal Ratzinger in the last papal conclave. (What a great pope, Martini would have made). The Cardinal says that instead of condemning sex before marriage, the Church needs to listen patiently to young people.

Cardinal Martini writes in a book of essays that outright bans on sex before marriage are alienating young people from the Church. He adds that many young people « no longer take the Church as a dialogue partner or its teachings seriously. »

« No bishop or priest can fail to notice the physical closeness between people before marriage. We must change our attitude on this (Italics mine) if we want to protect the family and promote marital faithfulness. Illusions and prohibitions will achieve nothing. »

Cardinal Martini adds that most parents have come to accept that their children cohabit before marriage, and that acknowledgement had brought the generations closer together, nurturing « a new tenderness. »

Do you agree with Cardinal Martini that the Church must change its attitude toward premarital sex?

Or do you continue to think that premarital sex is wrong?

Will outright bans on premarital sex help the situation?

Or would it be more helpful to rescind the prohibitions and listen to young people?


juin 3, 2008

The Attorney-General of British Columbia, Wally Oppal, has named a special prosecutor to weigh charges against individuals in the village of Bountiful which houses a community of polygamists.

Bountiful has been a headache for B.C. officials for years. But there are conflicting opinions on whether polygamy (punishable by five years in the penitentiary) is protected by the Charter as a religious right. Some legal scholars argue that the ban on polygamy is unconstitutional.

The Attorney-General disagrees: « I happen to think that the law regarding polygamy is a valid law and if people are violating that law, it’s up to us to prosecute. » Among other things, Mr. Oppal believes there is sexual abuse and exploitation of women in Bountiful.

If that is so, why not just go ahead and lay charges that women and children in Bountiful are being abused? These offenses are covered by the Criminal Code.

Let us go further and pose the question: why should polygamy be a crime at all? Is it evident that a situation where a man has three wives and ten children is inherently evil and should be punished by the criminal code. It is not evident to me. Where is the exploitation if the women agree freely to this arrangement? Where is the sexual abuse in such a loving family. Remember, the courts in Texas have just over- turned a decision that would separate children from their polygamous parents because there was insufficient evidence of any abuse.

So if there is abuse and exploitation, prosecute the polygamists under the relevant clauses of the Criminal Code. But if there is just a loving polygamous family (one husband and several wives) let them live in Bountiful in peace. Remove polygamy from the Criminal Code as an offense punishable by five years in prison. That would remove any necessity of referring cases to the courts to determine whether polygamy as an exercise in religion violates the Charter.

Do you agree polygamy should no longer be a crime?


mai 29, 2008

The Australian bishop whose « devastating critique » of sex abuse in the Church (Confronting Power and Sex in the Catholic Church: reclaiming the Spirit of Jesus) became a controversial bestseller last year has come under fire from the American hierarchy at the start of a month-long US tour.

Retired Sydney Auxiliary Bishop Geoffrey Robinson was « den[ied] permission  » to speak in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles by Cardinal Roger Mahony after a statement from the Australian bishops cited « doctrinal difficulties » in Bishop Robinson’s « questioning of the authority of the Church. »

Cardinal Mahony wrote to Bishop Robinson warning him to « cancel the entire speaking tour. » The tour which began in Philadelphia includes stops in New York, Seattle, San Diego and Boston. Bishop Robinson is scheduled to speak in suburban Encino on June 12.

Critics alleged that the move by Cardinal Mahony — one echoed by bishops in other dioceses where Bishop Robinson is to speak – had less to do with « safe[guarding] the teachings of the Church » than Mahony’s desire to contain the fallout from the abuse scandals, which saw Mahony pay $660 million to victims last summer.

The Church-reform group, Voice of the Faithful, protested over what it saw as an attempt to « silence » a « courageous Catholic. » Last week the group awarded the bishop its « Priest of Integrity Award. »

Bishop Robinson says: « My book is about the response to the revelations of sexual abuse within the Church. Sexual abuse is all about power and sex, so it is surely reasonable to ask questions about power and sex in the Church … We must be free to follow the argument wherever it leads. »

The American cardinals and bishops trying to silence Bishop Robinson will argue they must protect the people in the pews (« the faithful ») from being scandalized.

I would suggest ordinary Catholics are scandalized allright – not by Bishop Robinson – but by the hierachical heavy-hitters who are tying to muzzle their brother.

Do you agree?


mai 23, 2008

The Bouchard-Taylor report on the accomodation of immigrants has recommended that Quebec be neutral as regards religion i.e. a secular state.

To that end judges, Crown prosecutors, police officers and prison guards should be banned from wearing religious signs or symbols, but teachers, public servants and health professionals should be allowed to do so.

Most controversially, the Commission recommended that the crucifix be removed from the walls of the National Assembly to reassure religious minorities of the secularity of the legislature. The crucifix was first placed over the speaker’s chair when Maurice Duplessis was premier in 1936.

Bouchard and Taylor argue the crucifix has to go because, they say, it associates the state « with a single religious affiliation rather than addressing themselves to all citizens. »  But the Globe and mail says this morning: « Wouldn’t its removal tell Quebec’s Catholic majority that they have to give up something they hold dear because of the newcomers? And how would that contribute to social harmony? »

Premier Charest stepped up immediately to shoot down any banning of the crucifix: « The crucifix is about 350 years of history in Quebec that none of us are ever going to erase and of a very strong presence, in particular, of the Catholic church, and that’s our reality. » The other parties in the National Assembly backed the premier on his refusal to remove the crucifix.

Charest’s opposition to banning the crucfix did not sit well with the MOntreal Gazette: « The suggestion to move the crucifix was hardly one of the report’s most important rcommendations, but it gives critics an easy symbol to focus on. Charest’s motion [retaining the crucifix] seems to play to the very fears and forces he was trying to restrain when he commissioned the report in the first place. »

Do you think the crucifix should be removed from the National Assembly?  Does it favour one religion?

Or should the crucifix be retained, if not as a religious, at least as a cultural symbol?


mai 20, 2008

Today the Supreme Court hears a case involving A.C., a 14 year-old Winnipeg girl who is a Jehova’s Witness. A.C. believes she has the right to prevent doctors from running roughshod over her religious beliefs and forcing a blood transfusion on her. However, she was forcibly given a transfusion (on a judge’s order) to replace blood she had lost through Crohn’s disease.

A.C. described her ordeal this way: « Having someone else’s blood pumped through my veins, stressing my body, caused me to reflect on how my rights over my body couldbe taken away by a judge who did not care enough to talk with me … I will not violate Jehovah God’s command to abstain from blood. »

One of the issues before the Court is when a mature minor can be forced to accept treatment, even though they have the mental capacity to make treatment decisions.

However, the Crown takes a different view: « Legislation regulating marriage, voting, driving, drinking, contracting, will-making and many other areas establish minimum ages which in turn, deny privileges or impose disabilities on those persons younger than a certain age. »

In your opinion should a 14-year-old Jehova’s Witness be able to refuse a blood transfusion on religious grounds?


mai 16, 2008

Tomorrow Montrealer Autumn Kelly will marry Peter Phillips, son of Princess Anne (and the first of the present Queen’s grandchildren to marry) at Windsor Castle.

Recently the Sun newspaper ran a headline: « Royal’s girl to ditch Catholics. » The headline referred to the fact that Autumn Kelly, who grew up in an Irish Catholic family in Pointe Claire, had abandoned her ancestral faith and joined the Church of England so that her husband-to-be would not have to give up his place (number 11) in the line of succession to the British throne. The 1701 Act of Settlement bars monarchs or their heirs from becoming or marrying Catholics. In other words, it is part of the British constitution that the monarch must be a Protestant.

The irony here is that Peter Phillips has more chance of being hit by a double-decker bus that he has of ascending the throne from his eleventh position in line. Which begs the question why would Autumn Kelly apostatize from her faith to marry a royal who had little or no chance of ever becoming the monarch in any case?

This curious case leaves a blot on tomorrow’s royal wedding. There have been calls to abolish the Act of Settlement, which is deeply controversial among Catholics. Cardinal Cormac Murphy- O »Connr, the leader of Roman Catholics in England and Wales told the Daily Telegraph the Act was ‘clearly discriminatory against Catholics. » After all, Catholics pay taxes and fight in Britain’s wars. Supporters of the Act argue that, because the monarch is head of the Church of England, he or she must be Anglican.

After her engagement was announced Autumn Kelly’s mother was quoted as saying her daughter « is very proud of her faith. »  So proud, apparently, she was willing to trade it in for a sinecure in the bosom of the royals.

Do you think Autumn Kelly should have become an apostate to please her royal groom?

Do you think the Act of Settlement, barring Catholics from the British throne, should be repealed?


mai 15, 2008

This Friday the Holy Cross Lutheran church in Newmarket, Ontario, will become the first Lutheran church in Canada to ordain a gay man, 45-year-old Lionel Ketola.

However, if tomorrow’s plan goes forward, the congregation could face anything from a verbal warning to expulsion from the national church organization according to Bishop Michael Pryse of the Evangelical Lutheran church of Canada.

While Bishop Pryse has worked to establish full church status for gays, he said many Lutheran congregations simply aren’t ready for such a sweeping social shift: « Most members of our church aren’t going to be happy. »

In the United States two congregations have ordained lesbian pastors who are in stable relationships.

Mr. Ketola says he « feels thrilled and very privileged. I feel excited about the opportunity to offer a public witness that really has the potential to open up safe spaces in the church for queer people. »

Do you agree the Lutheran church should ordain gays who are in relationships?

Today the Supreme Court of California ruled that gay marriage is legal in the state.


mai 8, 2008

It would seem too many people beat the drums for sexual abstinence by imparting false information: that abstinence-until-marriage materials incorrectly suggests that HIV can pass through condoms because the latex used in condoms is porous. (Cardinal Lopez Trujillo, the Vatican’s septuagarian celibate in charge of family values also peddled that canard); another abstinence advocate described condoms as « flimsy pieces of rubber » that students should not trust.

According to surveys in the U.S. 46.8 per cent of all high school students reported having had sexual intercourse. For high school seniors this figure reaches 63 per cent. The mean age for first sexual intercourse in Canada is 16.5 years.

The executive director of the American Public Health Association said ethical and human rights concerns arise when abstinence is presented as the only option.

John Santelli, professor of Population and Family Health at Columbia University, says: « The demographic reality is that abstinence-only is out of touch with the reality of young people. »

Do you agree?


mai 6, 2008

New figures from Great Britain suggest marriage in in steep decline.

If present trends continue, one in 10 marriages will end in five years and a staggering 45 per cent of couples will divorce. In fact, marriage is at its lowest level of popularity since records began in 1962. Now 43 per cent of children are born to mothers who are unwed and 2.2 million people cohabit. Seventy per cent of Britishers think there is nothing the matter with sex before marriage. I t would also seem that the highest rate of marriage is among the more affluent.

Figures also suggest that the married state brings the most benefits – better health, longer life, better sex, greater earnings for men and better outcomes for children. Women benefit as much as men.

So why are so many younger less affluent people eschewing marriage altogether?

The reason I hear most often personally is what is important is your commitment, not a piece of paper or a formal ceremony. Either you have the commitment or you don’t. If you do, a marriage certificate adds nothing to it; and if you don’t, a marriage certificate won’t help anyway.

A Catholic marriage consultant in London, seems to agree with the above: « If commitment, consent and covenant are present in a relationship, if promiscuity is missing and there’s a spiritual aspect to the commitment, doesn’t that have a real value too? »

Do you believe marriage is on the rocks?

Does a certificate or a ceremony add anything to a mature commitment? (Perhaps it should be noted that cohabitations have a much higher break-up rate than marriages).