Truth to Power — The Journalism of a Benedictine Monk

By Dennis Gruending

I return to Saskatchewan every summer to visit friends and relatives and usually I drop in at St. Peter’s Abbey near Humboldt. I attended boarding school there in the 1960s and I retain a respect and fondness for the Benedictine monks. I spent several hours on my 2008 visit with Father Andrew Britz, the former editor of the Prairie Messenger, a newspaper published by the monks since 1904. Andrew, ill with Parkinson’s disease, asked if I would work with him to compile an anthology of his best writing during a long tenure as editor between 1983 and 2004. Our collaboration has resulted in a book called Truth to Power: The Journalism of a Benedictine Monk, which has been released by Kingsley Publishing of Calgary.

The book delves into debates and issues that have raged in Canadian church and society for the past twenty-five years: birth control, abortion, euthanasia, priestly celibacy, ordination of women, the church’s treatment of homosexuals, fundamentalism, ecumenism, sexual abuse, economic injustice, environmental abuse, and militarism. Andrew was, and remains, deeply committed to his church but he was fearless in speaking truth to popes and prime ministers, capitalists and clerics. His efforts were often not appreciated by those in power, not to mention some of his more traditional readers. There were discreet and at times public complaints about him to his abbot but Andrew’s monastic community protected him and allowed him to speak courageously. He called the church to a new age in the service of humanity.

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Gideon Levy says Israel demonizes Palestinians to justify occupation

By Dennis Gruending

Gideon Levy was once an army recruit and an aide to former Prime Minister Shimon Peres but he is now a veteran journalist who writes for Haaretz, Israeli’s oldest daily newspaper. He said that he feels compelled to tell his fellow Israelis a story they don’t like to hear about their country’s brutal occupation in the occupied territories of the West Bank and in Gaza. “I was brought up as a typical Israeli,” he says, “but in the late 1980s I started to travel to a place a half hour from my home, a trip that most Israelis never make. I started to go into the occupied territories, our own dark backyard.”

Levy spoke recently in an Ottawa university auditorium while on a seven-city Canadian tour to promote his most recent book, The Punishment of Gaza. A group called Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East sponsored the event. Levy said he was surprised that about 300 people attended his talk. “In Tel Aviv not this many people would show up to hear me,” he said.

What follows here are quotes from Levy’s half hour address, which he delivered entirely without notes:

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Canada’s long gun registry, facts and fiction

By Dennis Gruending

The House of Commons is poised to vote on the fate of the long gun registry. The Conservatives would scrap the registry and destroy all of its records but most other MPs want to keep it. The showdown in coming and the vote will be close. The Conservatives have orchestrated this issue and are trying to use it as a wedge that they hope will dislodge votes from NDP and Liberal MPs in rural and small town areas. For a long while it looked as though the politics of division was working, but there has been a growing chorus in support of the registry from police chiefs, emergency room physicians, nurses, people who run women’s shelters, labour unions and others. MPs on both sides of the issue are being lobbied furiously.

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Writing Clearly

Writing clearly & concisely

People often don’t think clearly about what they want to say. Lazy thinking produces fuzzy writing. English novelist and journalist George Orwell provided six rules for clear and concise writing that can improve your letters, articles, leaflets, speeches, and news releases. The points below are adapted from Orwell’s essay, Politics and …

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Working a Room

Meeting others is something that we all know how to do. But in public life you meet hundreds of
people, often in groups or in crowded rooms. The secret is to establish a personal link with each person, even in the briefest of encounters.

Your handshake should be brief and firm, but the grip should not …

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Responding to the Media

Taking media calls

Reporters may call for your reaction to comments or events. At times these may be cold calls, asking you to respond to something that you have not heard about. The stakes can be high, so be sure to negotiate the interview. You can respond immediately (if you feel prepared), or promise to call …

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Relaxation Technique

In preparing for a speech, news conference, interview or any public event, take time to find
somewhere to spend a few minutes to relax and get centered.

You can do this in a vehicle, a studio waiting room, a washroom, even on a chair in a crowded

Sit comfortably with your hands hanging loosely at your …

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Preparing a News Release

The timing of a release should be sensitive to news deadlines.

You need a headline, a date, a release date (usually Immediate) and a dateline (the location from where it originates).

Keep releases short (one page). Add biographical information or a Backgrounder on a second page
if needed. Put the most important information near the top of …

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