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Father Gustavo Gutiérrez receives honorary degree

Saint Paul University lauds liberation theologian

Fr. Gustavo Gutierrez (centre) receives honorary doctorate from Saint Paul University in Ottawa

Saint Paul University in Ottawa has conferred an honorary doctorate on the Peruvian theologian Father Gustavo Gutiérrez during a November 7 ceremony in the university’s chapel. …

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Canadians on the Camino de Santiago

Pilgrims' Progress

Canadians on the Camino de Santiago

For most of September and into early October my wife Martha and I walked the Camino de Santiago in northern Spain. I had planned to post occasionally to my Pulpit and Politics blog but …

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Pacifism and Remembrance Day 2013

Pacifist Fr. Daniel Berrigan being arrested, Wikipedia

A friend and I taught a night course at the Ottawa School of Theology and Spirituality in 2012 about Christian pacifism. Had you asked me when I began if I was a …

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Climate change and Canadian churches

Climate change: adding an ethical perspective

The International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has released its most recent report. The blue ribbon group of scientists concluded that is 95 percent certain that global warming is occurring, that it is caused mainly …

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Pope Francis and the Argentine generals

Pope Francis and the Argentine generals

Pope Francis has completed his first days in office. Much has been made of his frugal lifestyle, his apparent simplicity and his sense of humour. Those are admirable traits and it is also refreshing to hear a religious leader talking about solidarity with the poor rather than the prosperity gospel preached by so many. On the other hand, virtually every knowledgeable commentator cautions that we should not expect changes to the hierarchy’s conservative doctrinal positions on matters such as birth control, the ordination of women or of married men. Francis may prove to be a humble man and a pastoral leader, but the substance of the message likely will not change as much as the manner of its delivery. The media has gone overboard in covering the selection and installation of a new pope. It is great television – the backdrops of St. Peter’s Square and the Vatican, the suspense, the white smoke, the pope’s first appearance on the balcony. But now at least some journalists and commentators are getting down to work, as they should, to tell us more about the man who has been elevated to this position of prominence and power.

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Pope Benedict XVI as communicator

Pope Benedict XVI as communicator

Pope Benedict XVI has left the scene and I want briefly to look at his performance as a communicator. A past anecdote may be instructive here. I worked in communications with the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) for four years in the early 1990s. Those were not easy days for the church. Issues regarding the sexual abuse of children by clerics and the church’s role in residential schools were becoming hot topics and causing great angst.  I recall asking one of the bishops if we should do some public opinion polling. He was amused and replied, “Bishops don’t ask for advice, they provide it.”

When Benedict succeeded Pope John Paul II in 2005, much was made of their different personalities.  John Paul had been widely hailed as a great communicator while Benedict was considered to be more cerebral and introverted. John Paul was indeed a charismatic man but his communication was mostly all one way. He believed, as popes and bishops have over the centuries, that they are the repository of God’s wisdom and it is their duty to share it with the rest of us.

In that fundamental way, there was virtually no difference between the two popes. Now, on the  threshold of a new papacy, we are being told that we should not expect the message to change, no matter who is elevated.  Cardinal Thomas Collins of Toronto likes to say that Moses did not descend from the mountain with Ten Suggestions in hand. The church’s message apparently is fixed.  What is at stake in communicating that message is not a change in substance but rather in the style of delivery.

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Pulpit and Politics, best stories 2012

I worked for years in newsrooms and each December we would produce what we called Year Enders, which summarized the most significant stories that we had covered in the past 12 months. In that tradition, I have reviewed Pulpit and Politics for the year past and this is a brief summary of what I have found.

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