Cultural Renewal

  • Small Talk

    The smoke-free posse burgles Santa's pipe; the Globe and Mail's Jeffrey Simpson busts a howler, and our editor-in-chief warns of bishops bursting their buttons.

    The National Post couldn't resist putting it on the front page. The editor of a new edition of 'Twas the Night Before Christmas has edited out Santa's pipe and his head wreathed in smoke. It's the work of "smoking cessation advocate" Pamela McColl, who writ...

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  • Publisher's Letter: The Ultimate Ends of Advent Memories

    Is not childhood the time in our lives, replicated perhaps only at the very end of life and at moments of deepest spiritual awareness, when meaning actually comes before information? Don't we, if we are Christians, know the crucial importance of a Baby Jesus even if we're unclear on the logistics of what a Baby Jesus is or where to find him?

    Every Advent, my memory goes back to a moment when my son was six years old and our priest asked him if he would carry the Baby Jesus up the aisle on Christmas Eve.

    I could tell how honoured he was to have been asked and, in a character trait forming...

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  • The Challenge to Triviality

    The Dark Knight Rises plot was a hybrid of Robin Hood, the Bolshevik Revolution, a Twilight Zone episode, and some biblical allegory. But did anybody notice connections? The plot themes predictably explored the nature of wealth, hegemony, power, and what happens when the structures of society break down into anarchy. And of course, the blurry line of stealing from the rich (or in modern sensibilities, the emasculation of the wealthy) is presented as a radical solution to complex problems.

    Recently—late, I know—I went to see The Dark Knight Rises. Sure, it was a wonderfully entertaining and a frivolous way to spend a couple of hours of my life . . . but this is not a movie review. This film has been analyzed to death everywhere, includ...

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  • Publisher's Letter: A Blooming Danger

    Killing education with Ontario's Bill 13.

    As the current school year began, words attributed to a 15-year-old student at a Windsor, Ont., high school exposed the destructive nature of the provincial government's Bill 13. The legislation, formally known as the Accepting Schools Act, was pas...

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  • Secular Does Not Mean What You Think it Means

    What exactly would a secular charter look like? Well, see if you can figure it out from the CBC's report: Maybe something got lost in translation. But, there's not much clarity to be gained by the reports in Le Journal or Le Devoir either. What I glean is this: . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

    The Parti Québécois (PQ) announced yesterday that, if elected in Quebec's upcoming election, it would introduce a secular charter.

    What exactly would a secular charter look like? Well, see if you can figure it out from the ...

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  • Human Common Ground

    On my one visit to Disneyland, I received an unexpected lesson in the difference proper training for true service can make. A Disney worker nearby very politely asked me to take a step back. It was the moment for my Mr. Cranky Pants stand.

    ...

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  • False Hopes and Dreams

    While the majority of the 211 players drafted will not make the big stage, a few will make an impact and maybe a handful will play a game that will allow them to be a part of the NHL elite. Does this small probability of success mean that the players shouldn't even try or that they should give up because they are unlikely to be the best, to be special?

    This past Friday night, hundreds of young men with natural talent and physical prowess descended upon the Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh, PA, hoping and praying they would hear their names announced by a National Hockey League team in the 2012 NHL draft...

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  • Taking the Heidelberg Catechism to Work

    But what does it mean to be a witness of Christ? Where do we look for evidence of this kind of witness?

    Peter Stockland's excellent blog this week reminds us that "we are called to engage in the political life of our country not to win but to witness. We are called as witnesses o...

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  • Tipped hands and missed opportunities

    The recent debate between the Ontario government and concerned Catholic parents and educators (over the McGuinty government's anti-bullying bill, discussed in this space last week) highlights the need for a more robust understanding and public discourse about the interplay between freedom of conscience and religion, advancing public policy, and the role of government in a diverse society. Whatever the merits of Bill 13, it is lamentable that the reported public debate has been reduced to a putative clash between religion and "fundamental values" such as respect and tolerance, and to a dispute about the name of clubs designed to promote understanding between students of different sexual orientations. Freedom of conscience and religion is itself a fundamental value, one that legislators tend to ignore or curtail when there is an apparent clash with other fundamental values. A more robust understanding of the value of freedom of conscience and religion in a highly diverse society is long overdue.

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  • An Offense Against Charity

    Within a month, we've had two cringe-inducing high-profile examples of the syndrome. The first was during the recent Alberta election campaign. It involved a candidate for the Wildrose Party, a Christian pastor who infamously felt the need to tell the world via his blog that gays would spend eternity in a lake of fire.

    It always amazes me how Christians clamouring to be heard in the public square are so often convinced they are best understood with both feet in their mouth.

    Within a month, we've had two cringe-inducing high-profile examples of the syndrome. The fir...

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  • A Convivial Culture

    Convivium might just have been Father Richard's favourite word. There are other candidates—winsome and egregious come to mind—but he loved that word, convivium. He was the only one I knew who used it in ordinary conversation but, of course, his conversations were rarely ordinary. "Convivium" strictly means "to live together," but it connotes a banquet or feast, indicating that a certain supply of rich food and fine wine are, if not required, at least desired.

    The second issue of Cardus's newest publication enterprise, Convivium, is off the press and Father de Souza's "Sea to Sea" column includes an account of a conversation he had with the late Father Rich...

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  • From Sea to Sea

    Father Raymond J. de Souza's continuing survey of religion, culture and public life.

    In the riveting 2008 film Doubt, Meryl Streep plays Sister Aloysius, who is convinced—but without proof—that a local priest is molesting a young boy. She seeks the aid of her fellow sisters in her attempt to build a case against the priest. One of th...

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  • Taking the Wide(r) Angle

    Theologian photographer, Christophe Potworowski makes the church newly visible in the world.

    Photography sounds easy. You see something you like, you click, and there you go. Yet most of the time, we end up photographing not what is in front of us but what is in our minds. We make reality fit our preconceptions: "This would make a great picture, it...

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  • Standing Up To Power

    When Quebec politicians are assaulting religious freedom in private schools, daycares and even private assemblies it's time to get off our knees.

    One Saturday evening in March 1988, I was sitting at a table in the restaurant atop the World Trade Center with about 20 other people. The occasion was a dinner with Monsignor Luigi Giussani, the Italian theologian best known for the movement he founded, Co...

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  • Quebec's Religious State

    If the Quebec government is compelling school kids to invent fantasy religions, is the endgame to have us all worshipping the state and nothing but the state?

    My son, 11, came home from his Quebec public school the other day with the news that one of his assignments in the State-mandated Ethics and Religious Culture (ERC) program would be to invent a new religion. I was delighted, of course, and offered to help, ...

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  • Publisher's Letter: Will Christopher Hitchens Matter?

    Even on his death bed, the anti-theist crusader could not see the power that being changed can give.

    Novelist Ian McEwan's requiem for his friend Christopher Hitchens is the most revealing of the published farewells to the anglo-American controversialist who died of cancer in December.

    Its revelation lies in McEwan's perspective next to Hitchens as ...

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  • Morning and midnight in Montreal

    So the crew at CBC Montreal's Daybreak deserve a break for missing a genuinely important discovery hidden in an otherwise banal report about a problem few knew existed and no one cares about anyway. Yet amid the, ummmm, utterly fascinating engineering details explaining precisely why the Metro is such a Hell pit, Daybreak's research turned up a clip from the early 1960s of then Mayor Jean Drapeau inaugurating the system.

    Even the best morning radio isn't meant to be the wakey-wakey equivalent of the evening CBC show Ideas, or similar thought-provoking programming.

    So the crew at CBC Montreal's Daybreak deserve a...

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  • The Vanity of Foxes

    Last fall, a stone's throw from Parliament Hill, Father Raymond de Souza made a case that launching journals, and writing and editing them, is the work of foxes. He didn't say foxes. But he did say it "requires a certain boldness of spirit. Another word for that is vanity. You can't be a columnist without being a little bit vain.

    Atop my bookshelf sits a stuffed hedgehog, in perpetual birthday euphoria, named Archilochus. Among the more fecund maxims of his namesake—a Greek poet of the seventh century B.C.—is the now famous: "The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big...

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  • Reasonable freedom of religion

    Canadians of all religious faiths—and even those who care only about protecting Charter freedoms—should cross their fingers that she wins. "I'm not sure why I'm the one who has to make the effort to come back when they're the ones who didn't show up," Celani said after Tuesday's brief hearing before Judge Jean-Pierre Bessette. "It doesn't make sense, but then nothing about this does. It's ridiculous."

    Paula Celani will be in a Montreal courtroom Nov. 1 fighting a fine for attending an illegal Roman Catholic Mass.

    Canadians of all religious faiths—and even those who care only about protecting Charter freedoms—should cross their fingers tha...

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  • Seamless Garments

    Which makes it all the more important to look for a bit of healthy roughage in his speeches. Amidst all the laudatory cream of that eulogy, this stood out for me:

    Stephen Lewis is one of those people who, if we had to live off of words, would subsist on a diet comprised mainly of adjectives and adverbs. His speech is attractive, but it...

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  • It's never too late

    Even those who have elevated the belief to the status of shibboleth, however, may hiss "heresy" at the idea that Allen's ability to infuse his creative sensibility into our experience of one of the world's great cities may have just been replicated with his new movie about Paris. Minimally, it is a film with full power to reframe memories of Parisian monuments and cityscapes within the realm of sunny reverie, which is its openly ironic ambition. On its surface, Midnight in Paris is as light and yellowed as a love letter written but not sent until far too late. In the story, the love letter in question is the one would-be novelist Gil Pender (Owen Wilson) writes to the city itself through the magic realist device of stepping back into the Paris of Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Stein, Eliot, and their confreres in the literary Golden Age of the 1920s.

    An article of faith among urban culturalists is that God did not really create New York City. He outsourced to Woody Allen.

    Even those who have elevated the belief to the status of shibboleth, however, may hiss "heresy" at the idea that Allen'...

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  • Language crimes and the horrible "youth movement"

    Forward progress isn't simply a sports cliché. It's more than mere redundancy. It's gibberish. Each word actually means something distinct. To make your living using words, then to treat them as if they are as empty as the foam on a stadium beer cup, is a form of fraud. It's also an intellectual assault on listeners.

    We all have our most maddening moronic media catch phrases. Mine used to be football announcers talking about a running back's "forward progress" being stopped at, say, the thirty-five yard line.

    Forward progress isn't simply a sports cliché. It's mo...

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  • Dying in Public

    I haven't gone to a better place, or a worse one. I haven't gone anyplace, because Derek doesn't exist anymore. As soon as my body stopped functioning, and the neurons in my brain ceased firing, I made a remarkable transformation: from a living organism to a corpse, like a flower or a mouse that didn't make it through a particularly frosty night. The evidence is clear that once I died, it was over.

    Much is being made of the final blog post of a 41-year-old Vancouver blogger. In it, he very honestly and poignantly describes his battle with cancer, his love for his wife and family, and ...

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  • How to Change the World

    1. Notice what you care about 2. Get started 3. Learn as you go along 4. Stay together "Simple, but not easy," she warned us.

     recently learned that there are four simple steps to change the world:

    1. Notice what you care about 2. Get started 3. Learn as you go along 4. Stay together

    In November I joined some 460 people on th...

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