Ernesto Cardenal, priest, poet, politician

Ernesto Cardenal, priest, poet, politiciancirca 1979

I took the photo that you see here of Nicaragua’s Father Ernesto Cardenal in the Mexican city of Puebla in February, 1979. Catholic bishops from all over Latin America were meeting there and the new pope, John Paul II, was on hand to inaugurate the gathering. I was there as a freelance reporter for Maclean’s magazine. The Vatican had already begun the process of reeling in its priests, theologians and some bishops from pronouncements that had been made at a similar meeting in Medellin, Columbia in 1968. There the bishops had promulgated a “preferential option for the poor” — not a popular thing to do in a continent where the division of wealth was scandalous and dictators sat in many of the palaces.

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Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish falsely criticized

Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish has some critics

I was interested to read a recent Toronto Star column by Haroon Siddiqui about the Palestinian medical doctor and peace activist Izzeldin Abuelaish. Dr. Abuelaish was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for his work in promoting peace between Palestinians and Israelis. Siddiqui says that in spite of those credentials (or perhaps because of them) some Palestinians in Canada think that Abuelaish is being used by Israelis and the West in a propaganda war against Muslims, and that he is selling out.

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Mar Musa cleric Paolo Dall’Oglio tours Canada

Frescoes at Mar Musa monastery, Syria

Rev. Paolo Dall’Oglio, an Italian Jesuit priest who spent decades restoring the ancient Mar Musa monastery in Syria, has taken the unusual step of touring Canada to call for action that would …

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Bill McKibben on global warming catastrophe

Bill McKibben in Rolling Stone magazineon global catastrophe

The American teacher and environmentalist Bill McKibben is one of the most convincing writers around on the topic of global warming. He has just published an article in Rolling Stone magazine in which he talks about “three numbers that add up to global catastrophe.” Let’s follow him through those numbers but a couple of preliminary points before we do.

Global warming occurs when carbon dioxide and other gases pumped into the atmosphere heat up the planet as a by-product of our burning fossil fuels. There is by now a growing and near overwhelming scientific consensus about this reality. There are to be sure those who continue to deny the science, much as some people still deny that the handling of asbestos causes cancer.  Some of them are sincere but frequently the claims are made by or on behalf of industries that profit from business as usual.

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Preston Manning's controversial Riddell Program

Preston Manning promotes Clayton H. Riddell Program at Carleton University

Carleton University in Ottawa has received a metaphorical black eye in its attempt to keep secret the details of an agreement that created its one-year Master’s degree in Political Management. The program was brokered by former Reform Party leader Preston Manning and funded by Calgary oil magnate Clayton H. Riddell. After a year of stonewalling, Carleton was ordered by the information and privacy commissioner of Ontario to adhere to a request by Canadian Press to make the agreement public.

It turns out that the Riddell Foundation gets to appoint two of five people to the program’s steering committee. The university also appoints two members and Manning acts as the chair. That committee has what Canadian Press describes as “sweeping power” over the program’s budget, academic hiring, its executive director and curriculum. In publicity surrounding its launch in 2010, the program was described as “cross-partisan” in nature, but people with political connections to Manning are prominent on both the steering committee and the academic staff.

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U.S. Catholic bishops fight Obama’s Affordable Care Act

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that President Obama’s Affordable Care Act for health reform is constitutional but the country’s Catholic bishops remain staunchly opposed. When the president signed the ACA into law in 2010, the bishops claimed that it would force insurers to pay clients who received abortions and birth control services and advice. The president moved to assure the bishops that public money would not be used to provide for abortions, but that still left contraception. The president also made an exception there which, he says would exempt the employees of churches. The bishops say that doesn’t go far enough, and they want the exemption to apply to employees in all Catholic institutions, including hospitals and schools. In short, the bishops are prepared to scuttle health care reform for 300 million Americans because of its limited provision for contraception as an insured service.

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Medicare's 50th anniversary, it's biblical

Tommy Douglas, proposed medicare

We are approaching an important anniversary in Canada, which doesn’t appear to be getting the same amount of attention as are events to celebrate the War of 1812. It was on July 1, 1962 that publicly administered …

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Erin Wilson on U.S presidents and religious rhetoric

Scholar Erin K Wilson was intrigued to read a comment from an historian that Western societies see themselves as secular, even if they contain large minorities who are actively religious, while Muslim countries and others see the West as Christian. That observation gave rise to a number of questions that Wilson attempts to answer in her book, After Secularism: Rethinking Religion in Global Politics, which places a special emphasis upon the connection between religion and politics in the United States. Her primary question is, What elements still exist within Western societies that could give the impression that the West is Christian? Secondly, What impact do these perceptions have on the relationship between Western and non-Western states and non-state actors within global politics?

Wilson argues that scholars have underestimated the impact that religion has had, and continues to have, upon politics and public life in Western societies. She understands “the West” to include Europe, Great Britain, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the U.S.

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