Some years ago while I ordered lunch at a restaurant in the food court at the University Centre, at the university where I work, I asked the young man serving me if he and his family celebrated the Day of the Dead. I had gotten to know him a little in snippets of conversation we had during times he served me, and I learned he was from Mexico. He replied that they did not as this was a Catholic custom, adding, in referring to himself and his family, “we’re Christian.” I was startled by the remark, though it was not the first time I was confronted with this point of view. The first time I remember being confronted by someone with this attitude toward Roman Catholicism was when I was in my first year at university. I was introduced to people from different Christian denominations on campus and at a meet and greet I was speaking to a man who asked to which church I was a member. When I told him I was a Roman Catholic, he retorted “I used to be Catholic, but now I am a Christian.” Later during my years at university, I was given a book by an acquaintance who was forever trying to get me to join his Church, the title escapes me, but it was the account of a Pentecostal Christian and the subtitle was a young Catholic encounters Christ. Continue reading
A good friend and hunting buddy of mine, Omer, is an observant Muslim whose family immigrated to Canada from Pakistan. Omer is an educated man as is the rest of his family. He is someone I have known several years and with whom I have enjoyed many in-depth discussions, learning about his faith and the culture in which he grew up before coming to Canada. He tells me that family honour and shame are taken very seriously by some elements of Pakistani society. The phenomenon of honour killing is a reality for these elements of Pakistani society, particularly in the rural and tribal regions. Family honour is taken so seriously in this culture that if a family member (typically a girl or young woman) brings shame on the family the whole family suffers. They become untouchables; they are deemed unfit to associate with and most certainly are not welcome to marry into other families. The only way family honour can be restored in such a case is in killing the family member who brought the shame onto the family. This understanding of family honour is bound up in religion (Islam) and a culture in which men dominate. He certainly does not approve of this behaviour. He recognizes it as a problem that Pakistani society must address. Continue reading
When I started school, grade one to be precise, in Frontenac County in 1967 religious instruction was still part of the public school curriculum. While my family was Roman Catholic at the time, my mother and father were public school supporters. I recall every morning my teacher, Miss Boss, would read us a Bible story as part of our morning opening exercises. One of the first stories I remember she read to us was that of the parable of the Good Samaritan. At the time the nuances of the story were lost on me; it served as a basic moral lesson for me and my classmates that the Samaritan had done the right thing in helping the injured man, unlike the Priest and the Levite. Likewise so should we if confronted with a similar circumstance. It was not until many years later when I was a student at Queen’s University that I came to understand the story and the moral more fully. Continue reading
The papacy was in a very precarious position when Pope Pius IX convened the First Vatican Council on June 29, 1868. The drive for Italian unification was underway, with revolution in 1848 that led to the exile of Pius IX in the castle of Gaeta in the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies from November 24, 1848 until his return to Rome in April 1850. The revolutionaries declared a Roman Republic comprised of the Papal States and in accordance with the ideals of the Enlightenment religious liberty and tolerance was enshrined in the new constitution by article 7 of the Principi fondamentali. Prior to this development only Christianity and Judaism were allowed by law to be practiced in the Papal States. The independence of the pope as head of the Catholic Church was guaranteed by article 8 of the Principi fondamentali. While providing constitutional guarantees of religious liberty and papal authority over the Catholic Church, the framers of the Constitution of the Italian Republic curtailed the temporal authority of the Pope which was referred to as an “historical lie, a political imposture, and a religious immorality” by a reform minded priest, Abbé Arduini. (as cited in Wikipedia) However, by June 1849 the Roman Republic was overthrown by a French military intervention and Pius IX restored in office, returning to Rome and reclaiming governance of the Papal States. Continue reading
Recruitment is defined among other things as “the action of finding new people to join an organization or support a cause.” (Oxford Dictionaries) It is so common to come across the claim that gays recruit others into being gay, that you choose to be gay, that someone lured your into this “lifestyle.” Speaking on behalf of myself, I can say that no one recruited me into being gay. Same-sex attraction manifests itself naturally in me. It is who I am. During my formative years in the latter half of the 1970s, the only impression I had of homosexuality was not good. Aside from a steady stream of disparaging, anti-gay jokes, remarks and slurs commonly in use at the time), there were a series of news reports about police raids on bathhouses in Toronto, culminating in Operation Soap in 1981. The impression of the “gay lifestyle” presented to me came up short if it was intended to win me as a recruit. I have written about my experience in how I came to accept that I am gay in previous posts, see Tap, Tap, Tap…, for example. It was a long and challenging process that dragged on over several years. I tried desperately to ignore, suppress, will even pray away the feelings of same-sex attraction. For a long time, I really wanted the gayness to go away. Continue reading
How often have I heard it said that it is the precepts of Christianity that are the foundation of Western civilization? My typical response when confronted with this claim is to roll my eyes and think “that old chestnut.” This is particularly the case when the claim is framed so egregiously by the likes of Glenn Beck who stated, in referring to origins of the United States, “it is God’s finger that wrote the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. This is God’s country; these are God’s rights. I have no idea what he wants us to do with them, other than protect them, and stand with Him.” (As cited in Tony’s Curricublog) While it is easy to dismiss such claims as stuff and nonsense, it is worth considering the role of religious belief in the growth and development of Western civilization, its transition from the primacy of Christian doctrine in public life to the rise of liberal democracy and the rule of law in the secular nation state, though not in the way many religious folk, such as Glenn Beck, imagine it to be. Continue reading
Recently, Mika and I attended a meeting of gay and lesbian Catholics. Several people of all ages were in attendance. We had a very interesting discussion and it was very nice meeting these people. Among those present was a young gay man, Jesse, who has faith in Christ and the Roman Catholic Church. Jesse, like so many gay people, just wants to find conjugal love and companionship with someone who happens to be the same sex. Jesse took the time to write a heartfelt letter to Pope Francis, explaining who he is, that he is gay, leading a very normal life, hoping to have married life with a man someday and asking for acceptance in the Church. He expressed some concern he might face excommunication for what he wrote, but we assured him this is not very likely. What he can realistically expect is a polite reply from the appropriate branch of the Vatican bureaucracy thanking him for his letter and reminding him that as Roman Catholic it is expected that he abstain from sex outside of marriage. That the Church does not accept same sex relationships at present leaves him in a bind.