Chen victory a defeat for judicial bureaucracy

In the decades since the Donald Marshall case forced upon Canadians the realization that the criminal justice system could make terrible mistakes, the news of wrongful convictions has become rather more common. The latest news from British Columbia, that Ivan Henry was acquitted after spending 26 years in prison, is regrettably another case on a long list. Mr. Henry was not a model citizen before his arrest, but it still beggars belief that his forcible appearance in a police line-up, restrained by two officers, was not considered an obvious tainting of the process. Continue reading

A place where dreams go to die

- in Winnipeg -
My host was frank: “Winnipeg is a city where there is literally a wrong side of the tracks.”

It’s called the North End, reached by a bridge over the vast railyards. It’s the rough part of town. On Saturday night a killer shot three people, apparently randomly, leaving two men dead and a 13-year-old girl recovering from a bullet in the abdomen. In the North End, killings in the course of robbery, drug dealing, prostitution and generalized gangbanging are sadly predictable. On Tuesday, Statistics Canada confirmed that Winnipeg is the homicide capital of the country. Continue reading

The Church’s ‘Israel problem’

Do Catholics have an Israel problem? The recent Middle East synod of bishops ended last weekend with a bitter exchange with Israeli authorities, who accused the synod of singling out Israel for critical treatment, and of making a serious theological error regarding the covenant with the Jews.

Respected Vatican journalist John Allen wrote that acrimony was expected between the region’s Arab bishops and Israel, but that it took so long to surface was the surprise. Arab hostility to Israel is intense and commonplace — it is routine to hear Israel blamed exclusively for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and also for all manner of problems that stretch anywhere from Algeria to Afghanistan. Catholics in the region, almost entirely Arab, are not immune from this anti-Israeli hostility. Indeed, because Catholics are a tiny minority in an otherwise Islamic Arab world, they are often tempted to demonstrate their Arab bona fides by vocally demonstrating that they are not friends of Israel. A synod of bishops held in the Middle East itself would have had a constant anti-Israeli refrain. But held in Rome, the Vatican, which prizes good relations with Jews, restrained for the most part the anti-Israeli rhetoric. Continue reading

Radical Islam is synod’s elephant in the room

Two Sundays ago, on October 10, Pope Benedict XVI opened the special Synod of Bishops for the Middle East. The synod participants joined the Holy Father for a solemn Mass to begin two weeks of discussions about the situation of Christians in the Middle East — a small minority that is getting smaller in many places.

Sudan is not part of the Middle East, but what happened in Khartoum that same Sunday morning illustrates the challenge of radical Islam faced by Catholics in the whole region, stretching from North Africa, across the Arabian Peninsula and into south Asia. During Mass, the archbishop of Khartoum, Cardinal Gabriel Zubeir Wako, came close to being killed. A Muslim man, Hamdan Mohamed Abdurrahman, rushed toward the cardinal armed with a dagger, only to be stopped a few steps short of his intended target. Continue reading

How could it happen in Tweed?

- in Tweed, Ontario -

It remains hard to fathom that it happened here, even after days of hearing the gruesome details of what Colonel Russell Williams did to his victims. Great evil indeed lurks in the heart of man, but that it could lurk here, in Tweed, seems somehow surreal. It is all the more horrible that evil acts were done in such a wholesome place. We prefer that the wickedness which man does be done somewhere else, in places mean and cruel, that we might think that the darkness of man’s heart belongs only to certain places, places far from here. Continue reading