Archived entries for Religion

St. Joseph’s Oratory

st_josephs_oratoryOn my Montreal Top Ten must-see sites is surely St. Joseph’s Oratory, which crowns the western flank of Mount Royal and is the largest church in Canada. It also boasts the second-largest dome of its kind in the world, after St. Peter’s

The basilica is best known for the pilgrims who pour into it seeking healing for blindness, handicaps, and illness. The people who come here are known as “knee walkers,” because they ascend the basic’s imposing central wooden staircase, praying prostrate the entire way. A piece in the Montreal Gazette looks at the interesting ritual that attracts dozens of faithful each day — mostly immigrants to Canada.

A below-ground votive room in the basilica is one of Montreal’s most haunting places, filled with 10,000 lit candles and walls lined with thousands of crutches of those apparently healed through prayer at the church

Quote of note

The rhetoric keeps coming from Mainers opposed to the state’s new anti-discrimination statute. Pastor Sandy Williams, in a Coalition for Marriage email newsletter, said yesterday, “Because simple and unthinking people fall for the mere sloganeering of a statement like ‘discrimination is wrong,’ it works very well as a political tool.”

Globe story reports, “Long before a controversial court ruling in Massachusetts set off a national debate on gay marriage, most of New England had already agreed on a simpler point: Discrimination based on sexual orientation should be prohibited under state law, to ensure that gays and lesbians have equal access to basic needs like jobs and housing. Most of New England, that is, except for Maine.”

“Maine is the only New England state without such language on the books. Voters here will consider the question again on Nov. 8, for the third time in seven years, and residents on both sides of the issue say it is time for the long-running battle to end.”

One Freeport woman told the Globe, “I think it’s a waste of energy and money, and in this amount of time there’s not going to be a change in people’s views. Is this going to be an ongoing thing, with no resolution?”

• A balanced op-ed from the Bangor Daily says, “Before you become fed up with the debate over gay rights or the gay agenda, whether gays are made or born and whether they can be unmade and reborn, notice that the referendum question has nothing to do with any of these. It is about rights, or, for those with conspiratorial minds, special rights.”

Vatican to sniff out the gays

ratzinger2The Times broke with a story late last night that the Vatican has instructed investigators to sniff out “evidence of homosexuality” at the Catholic Church’s 229 seminaries in the United States. The move could be the first step toward an outright ban on gay priests in the church. An American archbishop leading the effort said, “anyone who has engaged in homosexual activity or has strong homosexual inclinations,” even those who have been celibate for ten years or more, should be removed from the seminary and the priesthood.

“The issue of gay seminarians and priests has been in the spotlight because a study commissioned by the church found last year that about 80 percent of the young people victimized by priests were boys. Experts in human sexuality have cautioned that homosexuality and attraction to children are different, and that a disproportionate percentage of boys may have been abused because priests were more likely to have access to male targets – like altar boys or junior seminarians – than to girls.”

“It is unknown how many Catholic priests are gay. Estimates range widely, from 10 percent to 60 percent.” the paper reported.

No Islamic law for Ontario

shariaA major political dogfight that has festered for months in Canada has drawn to a close. For now. One day after hundreds of thousands of people joined protests around the world to voice displeasure with Ontario’s plan to allow Sharia, or Islamic law, to be used to resolve marital and property disputes in the province, Premier Dalton McGuinty shot back Sunday and said the religious laws will not be allowed on his watch. McGuinty’s move ended months of speculation over whether or not Sharia would be allowed in Canada’s most populous province.

Just last week it seemed Sharia would come to Canada after a top justice minister in Ontario said the government could not legally prevent its existence. The move would have made Ontario the only Western jurisdiction to allow Islamic law. Protests began to mount, with objectors saying Sharia would bring with it increased discrimination against women and an unconstitutional sanctioning of religion by the state.

The ban on Sharia means an inevitable prohibition on religious tribunals used by Christians, Jews, and other religious sects. The premier said Sunday, “I’ve come to the conclusion that the debate has gone on long enough. There will be no Sharia law in Ontario. There will be no religious arbitration in Ontario. There will be one law for all Ontarians.”

An Islamic outing

qatar_gayIt will be interesting to see if Sharia law kicks in and sends the crown prince of Qatar to prison — and possibly death — for the recent revelation that he is gay. Al Jazeera reports that Crown Prince Tameem Bin Hamad Al-Thani was outed in a U.K. gay magazine after getting into a minor spat at a London nightclub with his partner and local youth.

Qatar is a an Islamic state and according to Al Jazeera, “The scholars of Islam, such as Malik, Ash-Shafi`i, Ahmad and Ishaaq said that (the person guilty of this crime) should be stoned, whether he is married or unmarried.î The incident comes just weeks after the high profile hangings of two gay youth in Iran, the stonings of gay men in Nigeria, and the beheading of a gay couple in Saudi Arabia

Hookers workin’ the church

church_statueAm I the only one who sees the sad irony in the news from suburban Vancouver that prostitutes and drug dealers have been using church property to conduct business and sell their “goods”?

In related news, prostitutes in western Canada are mobilizing in an effort to decriminalize the world’s oldest profession, saying it would protect them from serial killers, violence, and exploitation. Some are supporting a sanctioned “Brothel Zone” in the city. Canada has a law that makes it illegal to communicate for the purpose of prostitution and restricts bawdy houses, making it necessary, prostitutes say, for them to seek out clients in often unsafe areas. In both Vancouver‘s Downtown Eastside and in Edmonton, serial killers have been connected with the disappearances and deaths of dozens of sex trade workers.

Gay marriage rift pits US,
Canada vs. Anglican Church

The Anglican Consultative Council has voted to exclude the U.S. and Canadian Anglican Churches from the faith’s policy-making body after the North American branches refused to back down from their accepting stance on gay marriage on the ordination of gay clergy. The issue stems from the 2003 appointment of the openly gay Gene Robinson as Bishop of New Hampshire.

Rev. Susan Russell, who leads the American gay Christian group Integrity said the spat over gay clergy members is “not a matter essential to the faith…The more important question to me right now is, ‘Is this an issue that should split a communion when our attention should be focused on people dying of malaria and children with AIDS in Africa?'”

Archbishop Hutchison of the Anglican Church of Canada said: “Our hope is that the discussions and debates of the past few days will provide the impetus for the discussion about homosexuality and the role of gays and lesbians in the church to begin in those parts of the Anglican Communion where they have not yet begun.ä

• From Australia: Anglicans show US, Canada the door

Phelps in Boston

phelpsYou have to wonder what the world is coming to when the conservative-leaning Boston Herald runs a photo like this one and it actually accompanies a gay-friendly article. And don’t you just love when people use their children to spew hate speech?

Fred Phelps and his band of crusaders struck suburban Boston (Bedford, Dracut, and Lexington) this week. According to the Herald, “Dracut attracted the hate group’s attention after a student wrote an essay about gay talk show host Ellen DeGeneres. Bedford flew a rainbow flag at John Glenn Middle School, and Lexington grabbed headlines when a parent demanded to be notified when his child was taught about gay lifestyles.”

The schools were quick to circumvent the protestors and worked to ensure that students didn’t have to see the protestors. One of Phelps faithful told reporters that they came to the Bay State because, “There’s no voice here speaking for God. These children, these people, are entitled for once in their life to hear the unapologetic, unvarnished truth about what the Lord their God requires of them.” Or something like that.

Pope Says Gay Unions are False

Pope Benedict yesterday condemned “pseudo marriages between people of the same sex” at a conference on families in Rome.

”The various forms of the dissolution of matrimony today, like free unions, trial marriages and going up to pseudo-matrimonies by people of the same sex, are rather expressions of an anarchic freedom that wrongly passes for true freedom of man,” he said.

In previous church doctrine he has declared, “‘It is only in the marital relationship that the use of the sexual faculty can be morally good. A person engaging in homosexual behavior therefore acts immorally … This does not mean that homosexual persons are not often generous and giving of themselves, but when they engage in homosexual activity they confirm within themselves a disordered sexual inclination which is essentially self-indulgent.”

Polygamists Say Public is Jealous of Lifestyle

bountifulThe women of a polygamous community in Bountiful, B.C., have spoken out against what they consider to bemisperceptions about their lifestyle, but told television reporters this week that teenage girls will no longer be allowed to enter into plural marriage. The sect opened their homes to reporters this week for a self-described, “Summit on Polygamy.”

One Bountiful woman described her group’s unusual habitation arrangements: “Polygamy is a team of players that care about each other.” Another added, “When something tragic happens, sister wives can be a great support…It is very beautiful and can make a happy secure family.”

A leader of the sect told reporters that jealousy was probably prompting the media scrutiny. “We’re not bad guys…We just want to live normal happy lives just like everybody else. You just get this wild imaginations in your head, which most jealousy is.”

A local resident called the community “Canada’s dirty little secret,” and disputed claims that children of Bountiful enjoy their life. “They’re brainwashed,” she says. “They’re going to tell you they’re happy.”

The colony of about 800 people north of the Idaho border is run by the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (not to be confused with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints), a splinter group founded by former Mormons.

The Uncertainty of the New Pope

The new Pope Benedict, formerly Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, has been called “a combative watchdog,” and “an intimidating enforcer,” who punishes liberal thinkers, and keeps the Church in the Middle Ages.

Just what this means for the church’s stand on homosexuality and other controversial issues remains to be seen, but the writing on the wall is probably not very good. Consider these tidbits:

Ratzinger was the author of the 2003 Vatican statement that declared gay marriage, “immoral, unnatural and harmful.” He is a staunch opponent of contraceptives and condoms to combat HIV. In Deutschland, The Chicago Tribune reported his fellow Germans are split on his selection: “Many blame Ratzinger for decrees barring priests from counseling pregnant teens on the range of their options.”

He also takes a unique position on abuse of minors. As the priest sex scandal rocked the U.S. Catholic Church, Cardinal Ratzinger told reporters they were deliberately distorting the scope of the problem, and that clergy were no more prone to abusing minors than anyone else.

Ratzinger said, “I am personally convinced that the constant presence in the press of the sins of Catholic priests, especially in the United States, is a planned campaign, as the percentage of these offences among priests is not higher than in other categories, and perhaps it is even lower… In the United States, there is constant news on this topic, but less than 1% of priests are guilty of acts of this type…The constant presence of these news items does not correspond to the objectivity of the information nor to the statistical objectivity of the facts. Therefore, one comes to the conclusion that it is intentional, manipulated, that there is a desire to discredit the Church. It is a logical and well-founded conclusion.”

About the new pontiff, my friend Michael writes, “This remark perfectly emulates how the Catholic Church is just not in touch with reality…or the Catholic flock it represents. Little does our new Pope Benedict know it was never about the numbers it was about the cover-up! It was about the Catholic Churches poor understanding of how the real world functions, i.e. people are made to take responsibility for their actions…It was foremost about the church leadership and how they feel they can do no wrong.”

Next pope notoriously anti-gay?

Will the next pope be more gay friendly? (Equality Jo’burg)

Will the next pope be anti-gay? (Bay Area Reporter)

Death and Discourse

I’m not going to comment on the impending passing of the Pope, but will instead share this passage from Margaret Wente:

“We kept a brain-dead woman breathing in and out for 15 years because her parents convinced themselves that miracles are possible. At the same time, half the world has been praying for the Pope, as if there’s something shocking about an 84-year-old with kidney failure and Parkinson’s disease facing death.”

“I’m not surprised we’re so irrational about death. I try to give as little thought to my own demise as I possibly can. Like everybody else, I desire death with dignity. I also have a totally natural desire to live as long as possible, preferably forever. It has occurred to me that these two desires are probably incompatible, but I’d rather not think about it.”

“If only all the answers could be tidy, crisp and clear. But the questions often turn out to be messy, complex and baffling. And you can never know for sure what your answers will be until the questions are real. Maybe you’ll have some choices to make, and maybe you won’t, and maybe you’ll be able to have things your way, and maybe not.”

• Is Jerry Falwell next in line?

• Lives Lived: Janice Platner, 54, former director of GLAD, in P’town

The Pope’s Legacy

Now that he is dead, I wonder what the legacy of Pope John Paul II will be. A few points to consider:

• In January 2005, the Pope reaffirmed his staunch no-condoms stance, instead exacerbating the spread of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections, especially in heavily Catholic Africa and Latin America. Two years earlier, the Vatican said, “Relying on condoms is like betting on your own death,” while the Nairobi archbishop said, “AIDS… has grown so fast because of the availability of condoms.”

• In February 2005, the Pope released a new book in which he called gay marriage “evil” and drew parallels between abortion and the Holocaust.

• In the summer of 2004, the Vatican denounced the “lethal effects of feminism,” a movement seen as undermining children, families, and encouraging homosexuality. At the same time, the Pontiff restated his objections to allowing women into the priesthood.

• In his first public statement on homosexuality, in 1986, the Pope said, “Although the particular inclination of the homosexual person is not a sin, it is a more or less strong tendency ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil; thus the inclination itself must be seen as an objective disorder.”

• From The Nation “Is the Pope Crazy?

The Collision of Politics, Medicine, and Blog Readers

I’ve never received more comments than I did yesterday after posting a portion of an email from a friend regarding Terri Schiavo (see entry below). While I don’t necessarily agree completely with his searing feelings — or those of the miffed readers — I am pleased that people are engaged in this issue, actually getting angry and debating their feelings about the right to life.

“If the tawdry public battle over Terri Schiavo’s life proved anything, it is that we have failed to work through the complex ethical issues that often attend death in our time,” the Globe and Mail wrote today on their editorial page.

BC Students Reject Anti-Gay Discrimination

About 80% of the Boston College student body voted this week in favor of a nonbinding referendum calling for the inclusion of sexual orientation in the college’s nondiscrimination clause. A spokesman for the Catholic school in Chestnut Hill said the school’s leaders are opposed to adding sexual orientation to the nondiscrimination policy.

University of Florida Hires Gay Advocate

UF has hired a full-time advocate for gay and lesbian students and staff, a marked shift for the institution that once pushed to drive gay students and professors off college campuses.

• Drunk dialing is the new social faux pas.

• In a new series starting today, The Buffalo News examines the Church of Scientology’s links to a murder in western New York. “Scientologists espouse a philosophy of personal and spiritual growth, but the church’s critics say it comes at too high a price,” according to the article.

Calgary Bishop Calls Gay Acts “Evil”

The Catholic Bishop of Calgary said today in a letter to parishes that, “the state must use its coercive power to proscribe or curtail” homosexual activity “in the interests of the common good.” He said, “An evil act remains an evil act whether it is performed in public or in private.”



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