Archive for June 2011

Amira Hass laments

June 29, 2011

Amira Hass, the daughter of a Holocaust survivor and presently reporting for the Israeli daily Haaretz is surely one of the bravest journalists in Israel. She lives and works in the Occupied Territories and reports from there regularly.

This partial interview was furnished by The Mark when she was here during Luminato

THE MARK: You are currently here in Toronto, which is home to a rich and vibrant Jewish culture and a community that identifies very strongly and proudly with Israel. As an Israeli citizen who has dedicated her life to reporting on, and fighting against, the occupation, what is your message to those that feel so deeply that Israel is under threat and must be defended?

HASS: In a way, I am sorry for them. It’s a shocking departure, or deviation, from a very recent history of Jewishness. To be so blind to oppression and repression looks to me to be very contradictory to what it means to be Jewish. I have been raised, as a Jew, to know that wrongdoing is something that we Jews should come out against. So, when I see this blindness, it really makes me sorry.

Of course, no invitation to Hass was proferred by the major synagogues which seems to have forgotten the legacy of the Prophets. No rabbi in his/her right mind would dare invite even a mild critic of Israel inside its doors.

But lest we be too hard on the synagogue, there is not much prophecy left in the mainline Christian bodies either.


Oh how we long for the voice of Abe Heschel

It is customary to blame secular science and antireligious philosophy for the eclipse of religion in modern society. It would be more honest to blame religion for its own defeats. Religion declined not because it was refuted, but because it became irrelevant, dull, oppressive, insipid.

or this:

Religion is ready to offer comfort; it has no courage to challenge. It is ready to offer edification; it has no courage to break the idols, to shatter callousness.

A Pro-Union Party? No way says CTV

June 27, 2011

No! Say it isn’t so! It can’t be! How dare they?

Such was the tenor of the remarks of the Ottawa reporter on a national CTV 11 PM newscast.

Reporting on the NDP filibuster this guy whose name momentarily escapes me reported that the NDP had the actual gall to defend people who made $54,000 and had 7 weeks vacation! His tone was,”What world are these people living in?” Don’t these people know there are unemployed people in Canada and they are lucky to have a job?

Such is the misplaced anger at unions which attempt to insure living wages and decent working conditions. These guys want a race to the bottom.Labour as cheap meat on the hoof, unable to live with dignity in the city—or anywhere in Canada for that matter. Not noticed of course was the Tory move to actually put a lower offer of settlement on the board that the Crown corp did.

The kicker on this guy’s slanted rant was that the NDP was in danger of becoming a “pro-union” party. Now we would not want that, would we?

CTV of course is a private corporation.

It’s one good reason why we need a national broadcaster like the CBC which attempts at least to keep its editorial voice out of news stories.

Spirit moving

June 19, 2011


After years of dialogue and experience with the often-unrealized reforms set in motion by the Second Vatican Council, the American Catholic Council, a coalition of representatives of organizations, communities and individuals, calls for a representative assembly of the Catholic Church in the United States to consider the state of our Church.

We do this because the Signs of the Times reveal a serious deterioration in the life of the Catholic Church in our country: We see:

Closed parishes, broken communities, and unavailable sacraments.
Sexually-abused children and young people and ineffective clerical response to correct this institutional sin.
Dwindling financial support and widespread fiscal mismanagement.
Paternalistic, monarchical leadership that is often unresponsive, repressive, and ineffective.
A seriously compromised social justice mission–because internal institutional justice is lacking.
Catholics abandoning the Church with demoralizing frequency.
A community starved for a spirituality that fits our modern lives, consistent with out maturity, experience and education.
We acknowledge co-responsibility for these conditions–for no community can be governed without its implicit or explicit consent. We “consent” with financial and personal support, with participation, or, often, with passivity.

We do not challenge the faith we were given or the essential beliefs of our creeds and councils. We do know that this faith is not tied to the governance structure of any one historical period or culture. We seek a Church in which all the baptized have an effective voice in decision-making and a ministry worthy of their calling.

We are wise enough to know that we shall never have a perfect Church. We do not, however, want to be far from a Church that is free and honest, even if it is one in which we are called at times to uncomfortable accountability and responsibility.

We seek a Church that is inclusive, compassionate, trustworthy, and representative.

We seek a Church that actively listens to the Spirit in its people and that worships and evangelizes in the fullness of that inspiration.

We seek a Church that addresses the spiritual hunger of all Catholics, including marginalized and former Catholics.

We seek to multiply the bread of the Eucharist so that a malnourished Catholic Community can encounter Christ with all the healing power of his sacramental presence through the preservation of parish community and a radically inclusive theology of ministry.

We seek reform of the governing structures in our Church so that they reflect the better aspects of the American experience: a democratic spirit, concern for human rights, freedom of speech and assembly, and a tradition of participation and representation.


We take as our norm the Gospel and the life-giving elements in our Tradition, especially the earliest history of our Church and the renaissance promised by the Second Vatican Council. We are guided, furthermore, by the wisdom gained from decades of intensive reform and renewal efforts in the post-Vatican II Church of the United States.

Jesus called all to the Reign of God without reservation. The ministry and table fellowship of Jesus found place for the marginalized and the previously uninvited, for the adversaries and the advocates, for friends and religious leaders, for the poor and the rich, for the searching and for those who do not search, for women and men.

The disciples of Christ became a New Testament community of Churches, democratic in believing the Spirit was given to all. These communities were never perfect. St. Paul tells us there was factionalism as well as harmony and confusion as well as clarity. Nonetheless, these communities proved themselves reliable and became the embodiment of the living Christ. They selected their leaders and held them accountable. They recognized a wide diversity of charisms and ministries, validated not by one person or office, but by the community at large.

The inclusive, collegial model lasted for centuries. It led to a global Church, the conversion of the Roman Empire, and the first Ecumenical Councils. It created a spiritual and sacramental Tradition that continues to enrich our lives. A Church from below proved itself trustworthy with the Gospel and responsive to the creative Spirit.

We summon those who share our vision or question it, those who want the Church to be more than it is now, and those who yearn for the renewed and reformed Church that the Gospel, Vatican II and the Signs of our Times require.

In the words of Cardinal Dearden, we are conscious that we are “only the workers, not the Master Builder.” But, together we can fashion a charter of rights and an expansive ministry, a social justice agenda, and an inclusive community.
With God’s help and with the Spirit at work in all of us, we can become Christians, such that the world will marvel at our love for one another and at the service we give the human family. We do not despair of this possibility. If you do not, join us.

American Catholic Council
PO Box 3106, Barrington, IL 60010

Stupidity under capitalism

June 13, 2011

My friend from California asked me how can Americans be so dumb.He was referring to the absolutely extraordinary spectacle of the US Congress cheering on Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s suicidal justification of apartheid there.

It is a good question.

My increasingly stock-like answer is stupidity increases in direct proportion to a country’s unblinkered embrace of laissez faire capitalism and its promotion of relentless “choice”. Turbocapitalism in effect acts as a eraser machine, scrubbing memory and critical thinking in the name of the constantly new.People are virtually unable, given their addiction to television, computer, text messaging etc. to keep their eyes and attention on what truly matters.It is
a soft and deadly seduction.

Max Frisch once said that “Technology is the knack of so arranging the world that we do not experience it.” The massive invasion of modern technology in our lives which often sidelines citizens as actors not participating agents, has been a Faustian bargain. The dishwasher which freed parents from the drudgery of a mundane task also short circuited the conversations they use to have when they “washed and dried”.

The TV watching which exploded in the 50s prevented a whole generation from learning musical instruments or becomong handymen.The 20 plus hours of TV, computer games, ridiculous pseudo-reality shows leached time from serious reading and the ability to discern and critically evaluate.Everybody had an opinion but few were truly informed so “distracted from distraction by distraction” were they.

Maybe modern tech as we know it had become a “weapon of mass distraction.”

That these yahoos in the US congress who have never visited the country which has become “an army with a flag” could cheer policies so inhumane is truly incredible and sad. They would never tolerate such policy in their own “land of the free”.This discrimination in Israel so blatant and inhumane they had rejected in the Civil Rights years. How easily they have internalized such unexamined propaganda easily refuted by first hand experience.

Now they have been manipulated so successfully that they are making international fools of themselves.

All under advanced capitalism.

Catholics as children

June 8, 2011

Detroit Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron warned his priests and deacons June 3 that they could be “dismissed from the clerical state” if they participate in a eucharistic liturgy June 12 closing an international American Catholic Council convention in Detroit.

The ACC, a coalition of liberal Catholic groups seeking changes in the church, said Vigneron’s warning brought a sharp spike in visits to its Web site, and in registrations for the convention.

The problem aside from Vigneron’s sad-making infantilization of his priests was that the ACC told him that there would be no such attempt.

It raises the decades old question: Can the Catholic Church tolerate much less embrace adult believers?

Vigneron is your classic JP ll “My way or the hwy” bishop who brooks no dissent even on non-infallible positions. He is simply another Roman imposition on the longsuffering and shrinking People of God (Catholic div) in Detroit.

Never was the ACC needed more as a balance to the right wing Republican bishops.

Among featured speakers on the ACC agenda is Sr. Joan Chittister, former prioress of the Benedictine Sisters of Erie, Pa. James Carroll,Boston Globe columnist and prolific writer longtime advocate of change Anthony Padovano and several other prominent Catholics…including Hans Kung by film.

A foundational document will be the core of this important conference. John Quinn and I representing newcatholictimes. org will be attending.

In light of these principles and precepts, we, mindful of our baptism, eager to be fully citizens of the United States and thoroughly Catholic, articulate this Catholic Bill of Rights and Responsibilities.
1. Primacy of Conscience. Every Catholic has the right and responsibility to develop an informed conscience and to act in accord with it.

2. Community. Every Catholic has the right and responsibility to participate in a Eucharistic community and the right to responsible pastoral care.

3. Universal Ministry. Every Catholic has the right and responsibility to proclaim the Gospel and to respond to the community’s call to ministerial leadership.

4. Freedom of Expression. Every Catholic has the right to freedom of expression and the freedom to dissent.

5. Sacraments. Every Catholic has the right and responsibility to participate in the fullness of the liturgical and sacramental life of the Church.

6. Reputation. Every Catholic has the right to a good name and to due process.

7. Governance. Every Catholic and every Catholic community has the right to a meaningful participation in decision making, including the selection of leaders.

8. Participation. Every Catholic has the right and responsibility to share in the interpretation of the Gospel and Church tradition.

9. Councils. Every Catholic has the right to convene and speak in assemblies where diverse voices can be heard.

10. Social Justice. Every Catholic has the right and the responsibility to promote social justice in the world at large as well as within the structures of the Church.

Doors Open,Minds Closed

June 4, 2011

Doors Open is an annual cultural feast in the city Canada loves to hate: Toronto. Close to 150 buildings of architectural, historic, cultural and/or social significance open their doors to the public and the top of the list for us on May 29 was the R.C. Harris Water Treatment Plant at the east end of Queen Street. We lived right across from it (1969-71) and often walked around it, took our daughter on walks, read on the side of the hill behind the plant.

Then in 1987 came the greatest novel ever written about Toronto, Michael Ondatje’s The Skin of the Lion.As many know the climax of the book comes when the plant becomes a target for demolition.

Then came 2001 and the panic set in. Nobody had access to this extraordinary art deco beauty dubbed The Palace of Purification. The plant produces up to 950 million litres of water per day and is a tribute to public servants who insure us that the elixir of life reaches us without contamination.

Marble and bronze are featured throughout this gorgeous site which of course could never be built today because of the obtuse thinking of mayors like Lastman and Ford, philistines with no sense of beauty at all.Doors Open but minds closed.

‘What was moving about the day was the the constant stream of Torontonians who desperately wanted to see this jewel-10-20,00 as one guide estimated. Public servants now denigrated by the visionless right wing as “the bureaucracy” and probably deserving of less money, patiently took the public through the whole purification process.there were panel discussions, artists etc.

One good reason to live in this magnificent city.