Tag Archives: Roman Catholic

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 remember 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

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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 very small 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 beliefs and the rules of any particular 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 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