The coming decade of scandal and shame

– in Philadelphia –

A horrible story is beginning all over again, like a déjà vu nightmare. What happened in Boston 10 years ago is beginning in Pennsylvania today.

Ten years ago next week, The Boston Globe broke the story about sexual abuse in the Archdiocese of Boston. The story of priestly criminality and episcopal negligence exploded, running on the front page of the Globe and its parent company, The New York Times, every day for weeks on end. A decade later, the scandals and their aftermath are still a searing experience. Continue reading

Speak ye in light

And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn — Luke 2:7.

So the Christian world will hear this night and tomorrow morning, as pilgrims listen again to those ordinary words steeped in biblical significance. There is nothing inherently Christian about “swaddling clothes,” for all babies are wrapped in something, but to hear of swaddling clothes brings the mind immediately to Bethlehem. Years ago, a misguided Catholic liturgist opted for “bands of cloth” instead of “swaddling clothes,” so for a while Canadian parishioners at Midnight Mass had the image of Mary dressing a wound rather than cuddling a baby. Continue reading

Stephen Harper’s half-hearted Christmas message

The Prime Minister of Canada released today a message for the Christmas season” which is both comically inept and offensive. A PMO famous for its exacting message control ought to be able to cobble together a decent Christmas statement, but apparently not. And no blaming this embarrassment on the junior assistant speechwriter in the office of the deputy associate director of communications. No, the PM himself took time to videotape this greeting to the Canadian Chamber of Commerce Christmas message, so he was fully aware of what was not in it. Continue reading

Even convicts deserve better

– in Miami, Florida –
This week before Christmas, prisons are on my mind. I visited an incarcerated friend here in Florida and, regardless of cause, it is sad to see children coming to give Christmas wishes to their fathers who are locked up. On Christmas Day itself, I look forward to being back home in Kingston, and visiting our prisons to offer Christmas Mass inside. Continue reading

Pray for the souls of two vastly different priests

Gaudete Sunday must have been rather memorable at the throne of judgment. On December 11, Cardinal John Patrick Foley died at the age of 76, after a long and distinguished life of service as Christian disciple and a Catholic priest. On the same day, Fr. Karl Clemens, a priest of the archdiocese of Kingston, died after a life marked by scandal and estrangement from the Church he served so poorly.

Cardinal Foley was a pioneer in the Catholic media, going to Columbia Journalism School soon after his ordination in 1962. A priest of the archdiocese of Philadelphia, he edited their Catholic newspaper from 1970 to 1984, and then was called to Rome to be president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications. It was there that he became known as the “Vatican’s voice of Christmas,” providing the commentary for some 26 years for midnight Mass, the world’s most watched religious broadcast. For those who knew him in person, rather than as a journalist, it was his kindness, humour and deep faith which made him an exemplary face of the Church. Continue reading