Tag Archives: Roman Catholic

“Nothing is more deceitful,” said Darcy, “than the appearance of humility. It is often only carelessness of opinion, and sometimes an indirect boast.” ― Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

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Jacinda Ardern, Prime Minister of New Zealand, posing with Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada and Sadiq Khan, Lord Mayor of London.

 

I remember in 1968, my mother enrolled me in a class at the Holy Family parish in Kingston, Ontario. The class was to prepare me for my First Communion. I was seven years old, and in the class, I received my first lessons from the Roman Catholic Church in its perceived need that I learn humility. I have fleeting memories of the classes–on the whole, I think I enjoyed attending them. After our lesson, we got to play games like hide and seek. One night we got to watch That Darn Cat. The experience that lingers in my memory was delivered by the young woman who taught the course. She told us that Jesus, as a boy did not talk back to his parents and teachers; neither did he fight with other children. I think the children in the class took this lesson to heart. The experience was not unreasonable in and of itself–Christianity, Roman Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant, teaches that we should try to be like Jesus. Knowing that I talked back to my parents on occasion and got into scraps with my siblings left me feeling a little abashed–so I did my best to follow the example set by the boy Jesus. I learned at that early age that I am not perfect–that despite it, I should strive to do good and avoid doing evil. At the time, I did not appreciate that it was easy for the boy, Jesus, as He was Divine, unlike the rest of the children in the class and me. Continue reading

Piety is not a goal but a means to attain through the purest peace of mind the highest culture. — Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832)

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Years ago I remembered while having a discussion of theology with a group of friends, one in the group referred to himself as a pious atheist. I was taken aback by his comment as piety and atheism were not terms I associated with one another. Piety is most commonly associated with religious belief and practice. Since then I gave this notion a great deal of thought: is secular piety a possibility? This question is worth considering in light of the reality that how one expresses their piety in an increasingly secular society such as Canada has become a contentious issue of late as is evidenced by the controversy surrounding the proposed Quebec Charter of Values (Charte de la laïcité or Charte des valeurs québécoises). The stated aim of the charter is to ensure there is a clear separation of religion and state and that public employees have religious neutrality. What this means is the wearing of ostentatious religious symbols or garb on the job will be prohibited. Continue reading

Miracles, in the sense of phenomena we cannot explain, surround us on every hand: life itself is the miracle of miracles. — George Bernard Shaw

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A miracle is a form of religious experience, essentially an event without a rational explanation attributed to the divine. What I first remember learning about miracles as a boy in grade school. Religious instruction, Christian, was part of the public school curriculum in Ontario in the mid-1960s when I started school. My first grade teacher, Miss Boss, read bible stories to the class every morning before we started the day’s lessons. If memory serves, I was most impressed by the story of the loaves and fishes. A year later, at junior school in England, one of the teachers, Mrs. Checketts, told us the story of Jesus raising a girl from the dead. As Mrs. Checketts related the story to us, “He called to her spirit “Talitha koum!” (which means “Little girl, I say to you, get up!”) and she was returned to life.” Again, I was duly impressed, but as I grew older I began to wonder about the veracity of these accounts and of miracles in general. I have come to wonder, also, just how common is it for people to continue to believe in miracles and how a miracle is identified in the present. Continue reading

If a believer demands that I, as a nonbeliever, observe his taboos in the public domain, he is not asking for my respect, but for my submission. ― Flemming Rose

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Religion is part of the fabric of Canadian society; Canadians hold a plurality of beliefs. The most recent census data (from the 2001 census) show that Christianity remains the most widely held and practiced religion with Roman Catholics in the majority at 43.2 %. People of non-Christian faiths make up a tiny percentage of the population: Muslims 2.0 %, Jewish 1.1 %, Hindus 1.0 %, Sikhs 0.9 %, Buddhist 1.0 %. Freedom of belief and conscience is enshrined in Canadian law; it is guaranteed in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in section 2 Fundamental Freedoms. That said, it is important to note that religion is a matter of private conscience. Canada is a secular nation-state. There is no state religion in Canada. Religious belief is something one chooses; no one is forcing you to adhere to a particular set of ideas and the rules of any specific religious institution. Issues are arising in the present over the accommodation of religious folk in the secular, public realm of Canadian society. Continue reading

Much of what is called Christianity has more to do with disguising the ego behind the screen of religion and culture than any real movement toward a God beyond the small self, and a new self in God. — Richard Rohr.

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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

“Dignity is not negotiable. Dignity is the honor of the family.” — Vartan Gregorian

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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

“Every man has a right to utter what he thinks truth, and every other man has a right to knock him down for it. Martyrdom is the test.”–Samuel Johnson (1709-1784)

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Martyrdom is a concept with which I have been familiar since I was very young. From my Roman Catholic background growing up I remember reading accounts of the lives of saints, many of whom were martyred in the most grisly fashions imaginable. In the summer of 1969 my family, myself, my three siblings, our mother and father and my mother’s parents toured Europe, traveling in a Volkswagen van. Among the sights we saw were a number of art galleries where I viewed a great many works of art depicting the martyrdom of various saints. The martyrdom of Saint Sebastian is one of the more memorable depictions I recall, but it was the depiction of one event in particular from the Bible that really made an impression on me: that of the Massacre of the Innocents. From the first time I heard that story read to me I was troubled by it. I struggled to understand why God would allow such an atrocity. In one version of the story, written for children, I remember reading that we should find solace  in that the mothers of the slain baby boys would have found comfort had they known their murdered sons were the first Christian martyrs. This raised a question for me I have pondered over the years: can children be martyrs? Continue reading

“The law of humanity ought to be composed of the past, the present, and the future, that we bear within us; whoever possesses but one of these terms, has but a fragment of the law of the moral world.” — Edgar Quinet (1803-1875)

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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 a 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 the 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 French military intervention and Pius IX restored in office, returning to Rome and reclaiming governance of the Papal States. Continue reading

Merrily rides the huntsman bold, Blithesome and gay rides he … — Brothers Grimm

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“Funny, you don’t look it” is a typical response when people learn I am a hunter. Aside from the fact I am gay, I am a gentle and thinking man. People find it hard to believe that I can choose to hunt down and kill a game bird or animal. Yes, hunting, unlike my gayness, is an ethical choice I make. It is a moral choice I keep to myself a great deal of the time as I find I have more venom spat at me for choosing hunting than for being gay. I concealed that I am gay and in a relationship with Mika from most of my hunting buddies. My hunting buddies are men and women from a plurality of ethnic and religious backgrounds. They are generally conservative. I feared I might lose them as friends and hunting buddies if they knew the truth or at the very least they would be uncomfortable knowing. It turns out they were not bothered in the least and are happy for me, that I am in a long term relationship with Mika. We remain, friends and hunting buddies, taking to the field in pursuit of game, enjoying our sport. Everyone who takes up hunting has their reasons for doing so, but as for me, I have had a lifelong passion for hunting, the outdoors and wildlife. Continue reading

Tell the Devil to go to Hell

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Tell the devil to go to hell,” good advice given to me by a priest who heard my confession at St. Mary’s Cathedral. I was a student at Queen’s University and practicing Roman Catholic in the 1980s. My confessor was speaking figuratively, of course. Neither he nor I believed to “tell the devil to go to hell” involves addressing the creature sporting horns, a tail and cloven hooves. The devil in the context of our discussion was a metaphor for humanity’s evils. What my confessor told me is that I should heed the dictates of my conscience in choosing to good and avoid doing evil. What made me think of this was thoughts shared by Pope Francis in a sermon, in which he intimated that atheists are redeemed. That is, they do not face damnation when they choose to do good and avoid doing evil. This sermon raises an interesting point. I understood that in practicing Roman Catholicism, redemption and sanctification is granted via the grace of God through faith in Christ. I am no longer a practicing Roman Catholic, though not an atheist. I am a Deist. I listen to the dictates of my conscience in trying to do good and avoid doing evil, in effect telling the devil to go to hell, and until hearing the news of Pope Francis’ homily, understood, from the perspective of Catholic teaching, I am putting my soul at risk of damnation. Continue reading