Supreme save

Canadian hockey fans should celebrate a U.S. court decision against the NFL

Americans love sports, and the commercialization of sports. So to combine both in the national pastime — litigation — is almost irresistible. The history of the National Football League, the nation’s premier sports commodity, could effectively be told as a history of licensing agreements and lawsuits. On Monday, a lawsuit over licensing was settled by the U.S. Supreme Court, which handed the NFL a decisive 9-0 defeat. That is good news for sports fans, including Canadian hockey fans — even as they settle in for another all-American Stanley Cup final. Continue reading

How motherhood stopped being a motherhood issue

Motherhood issues are not what they used to be. When Stephen Harper selected maternal and infant health as Canada’s signature issue for next month’s G8 and G20 meetings, he likely thought it about as controversial as maple syrup. After all, who could be against providing basic hygiene and health care to pregnant women and their offspring? For lack of basic medicines and primary health care, women in many poor countries suffer needlessly, as do their infant children. Maternal deaths in childbirth and reductions in infant mortality are among the easiest developmental issues to tackle; a relatively small investment yields significant reductions in lives lost. Continue reading

Religion in the public square

- in Vatican City -
Thanks to Iceland’s volcano, I was stranded here in Rome for a few extra days. That’s hardly a sacrifice, and it allowed me to attend a most promising “conversation” sponsored by Canada’s embassy to the Holy See.

The conversation was about “religion in the public square in Canada,” and the very fact that it took place speaks well of Canada’s ambassador here, Anne Leahy, and our foreign ministry.

Part of the embassy’s celebration of 40 years of full diplomatic relations between Canada and the Holy See, the conversation brought together the Holy See’s “foreign minister,” Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, and two Canadian experts on the role of religion in public life: Solange Lefebvre, a professor of religion, culture and society at the University of Montreal and Iain Benson, a constitutional lawyer and former executive director of the Centre for Cultural Renewal. Continue reading

Building better things, living better lives

- in Vatican City -
My path to the priesthood went through the study of economics, so the past week I’ve spent at the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences is about as pleasant a task as I could imagine. For many, the Vatican gardens would be ruined by several days of papers on economics, but I recognized it as a blessing. The dismal science it is not!

The academy is made up of a few dozen world-class social scientists, including two Nobel laureates in economics, both of them non-Catholic. I have spent my entire adult life on the university campus, but as an observer at these annual meetings, I get a taste of what university life should be but rarely is. Here we have the exploration of a problem of general interest by scholars who can speak out of their specialty to a general audience of intelligent people. The university norm is that scholars avoid general audiences and problems of general interest in favour of specializations so obscure that even their colleagues have trouble following their research. Continue reading