March 2008

Social justice and religious rights

I've been thinking a lot lately about the duty of Christians to promote the dignity of the human person, given that we are created in the image and likeness of God. Modern society typically codifies the practical dimension of this dignity in the forms of legal charters, such as the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. In such charters, there is usually an operational equivalence principle, in that the legal text does not elevate one right or freedom over another (i.e. they are held in a legal balance with each other).

The (supposedly) conflicting religious and civic duties of Catholic politicians

Archbishop Terrence Prendergast of Ottawa recently made quite a stir when he stated that, in certain situations, he might be compelled to refuse communion to Catholic politicians who fail to uphold Catholic moral teaching in the exercise of their functions (in particular, in the question of abortion). In addition to print media commentary on the issue, you can also listen to a radio interview he did on the topic.

The Armenian Primate visits the Canadian Centre for Ecumenism

As I’ve mentioned before, I am actively involved in the work of the Canadian Centre for Ecumenism. Today the Centre received a special guest: Bishop Bagrat Galstanian, the Armenian Orthodox Primate of Canada. Bishop Galstanian was accompanied by Deacon Hagop Arslanian, his assistant and representative for ecumenical affairs.

Torture therapy

Or at least, that’s what it felt like……

OK, so I’ve been having knee problems for many years now. The thing is, no doctor I’ve seen has been able to figure out why, as the knee itself seems fine, and the problem is so intermittent.

Joe Cannon, this one's for you: Marriage, divorce, and annulments

Last Tuesday (March 11) I was interviewed on the Joe Cannon show (940 AM Montreal) regarding the so-called "new sins from the Vatican". I found this whole affair to be a tempest in a teacup, and I said so on the air. Joe was a challenging interviewer (he clearly likes to keep things punchy), but I found him quite fair. At one point, though, he said he didn't understand one thing: how a Catholic priest can give communion to a confessed murderer, and not to a divorced and remarried couple.

Aggravating bureaucracy

One of our foreign priests has been having trouble getting his Social Insurance Number renewed. Just to explain the way this works: when a guest worker is in Canada he does not obtain a permanent S.I.N. (gotta love that acronym) but a temporary one that must be renewed periodically. Fr. Cameroon (we will call him) went to a Service Canada outlet to do exactly that…..twice…..and still got nowhere. So he contacted me to see if I could help him.

Supper with a friend and her family

This evening I visited with a friend of mine, someone I’ve known since my college days. Yael is now a doctor, is married to a fine man (he must be a fine man, he has an excellent scotch collection) and has 3 kids. We go way back, as I say: she actually got me my first real job back in 1988, scooping ice cream at a Baskin-Robbins. Mmmmm….ice cream…..

Welcoming foreign priests

One of my major responsibilities is to coordination the welcome given to foreign priests coming to the diocese, and to help them integrate with us. This is not always easy, given legal and cultural barriers that sometimes exist. So today, I presided over a very interesting gathering: a group of missionaries, immigrant priests and diocesan officials whose common purpose is to find a way to make the proper welcome of our brother priests from other lands.

On the spirituality of snowstorms

We had a massive snowstorm last night, so much so that it took me 25 minutes this morning to get out of the parking lot of the Cathedral (where I live) in order to reach St. Brendan’s parish (where I was preaching). I dug my car out, backed up 10 feet, dug my car out again, backup up another 10 feet — you get the picture. At one point I was actually asking myself if this was worth it, given that the pastor *had* offered that I could stay home, but I nevertheless managed to make it to the parish by 9:01 (mass normally starts at 9).

Spiritual direction day

Today was a day devoted to spiritual direction: I had one appointment after another for people coming for counsel and (in some cases) confession. Obviously I can’t get into details, but let me confirm that it was a day full of blessings.

One method of spiritual direction I developed some time ago that has actually been very useful was something I call the My personal scriptures approach. Check it out, you never know if it might be useful to you.

Re-booting the Canadian Centre for Ecumenism

In my post of February 25 I mentioned how the Canadian Centre for Ecumenism recently held its annual general meeting, and how it was not easy to organize. One of the steps I proposed recently to the Board of Directors was to have an ad hoc committee take a look at how we can increase the membership in the Centre and streamline the requisite processes. I’ve been taking care of the legwork for those meetings, and today was another one. The committee met over lunch at the Cathedral residence, and I’m really pleased with how things are turning out.

Building a new database

One of the key challeges of working in diocesan human resources is the sheer size of those resources: we have over 600 priests on our lists, and then the deacons and mandated lay people as well. And this does not count, of course, the thousands of committed Christians active in their parish (and other) milieus. We want to be able to support all these people, but just getting to know who they *are* is already a challenge in itself.

But then again, that is why God invented database software.