Tag Archives: Roman Catholicism

There is no odor so bad as that which arises from goodness tainted. — Henry David Thoreau

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“Do you think religion inherently good?” This was a rhetorical question posed to the class when I was a student at Queen’s University in 1986. The class was in a course in the history of Christianity. The question was posed by Professor William P. Zion who was on the faculty of the department of religious studies and the Queen’s Theological College. He was also a Russian Orthodox Priest, Father Basil. We were young students who never stopped to think about this. Professor Zion answered the question for us, telling us, “no, religion is not inherently good.” He cited the fact that historically Christians gathered to watch people burned at the stake as a witness to their faith. Professor Zion had a bit of fun with the class in posing this question, but what made me recall this memory is the fact that the majority of humanity practices some kind of religion. I appreciate and understand the appeal of religion for people. I was a pious Roman Catholic myself for several years. Interestingly, it was Father Basil who supported and encouraged me to accept my gayness and continue practicing my faith. I concur with Professor Zion in that I do not think religion is inherently good. This puts me in a bind at times as I interact with people of various faiths, who view their faith as inherently good, right and desirable, both personally and informally in my daily life. Continue reading

The Christian does no harm even to his foe. — Tertullian

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In Christianity what is the appropriate response to aggression backed by force? There are, of course, the familiar precepts found in the gospels to “turn the other cheek” and “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,” but does this necessarily rule out the use of force to deter such an act of aggression? On August 18, 2014, Pope Francis addressed this question in commenting on attacks perpetrated by ISIS against ethnic and religious minorities in Syria and Iraq. He endorsed the prospect of a United Nations intervention, noting:

In these cases, where there is an unjust aggression, I can only say that it is licit to stop the unjust aggressor […] I underscore the verb ‘stop.’ I’m not saying ‘bomb’ or ‘make war,’ just ‘stop.’ And the means that can be used to stop them must be evaluated. […] After World War II, the idea of the United Nations came about: It’s there that you must discuss, ‘Is there an unjust aggression? It seems so. How should we stop it?’ Just this. Nothing more.”(Business Insider)

The Vatican’s ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, clarified the Pope’s comment, stating, “Maybe military action is necessary at this moment.” (Business Insider) Is this standpoint consistent with Christian teachings?

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Art is permitted to survive only if it renounces the right to be different, and integrates itself into the omnipotent realm of the profane. — Theodor Adorno

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The religious and the secular came to a head at the offices of the newspaper Charlie Hebdo in Paris when Saïd Kouachi and Chérif Kouachi, French citizens of North African ancestry, armed with Kalashnikov rifles opened fire, killing 12 people and wounding 11 in an Islamist terror attack. The attackers were heard shouting “Allahu akbar,” and “the Prophet has been avenged.” Charlie Hebdo, a satirical newspaper published weekly, produces satire in the form of caricatures, scrappy opinion pieces and jokes from a left-wing perspective. Among the targets of its brand of satire are the three Abrahamic faiths: Roman Catholicism (Christianity), Islam and Judaism. The caricatures published in Charlie Hebdo quite often consist of crude representations of religious figures such as Pope Benedict and Mohammed. Not surprisingly, this offends many people and generates controversy. The publishers of Charlie Hebdo were prepared to die to defend their right to freedom of expression; whereas, the Islamist attackers were prepared to kill to defend their faith. In the aftermath of the terror attack, differences of opinion concerning the right of freedom of expression and of religious liberty came to the fore. What was it that motivated the publishers of Charlie Hebdo and the Islamist attackers that resulted in this atrocity? 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 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

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 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