Archive for April 2014

Papal saint making

April 28, 2014




In a marvelous sleight of hand on Sunday Pope Francis canonized two recent popes, John Paul l and John XXlll,

Much to the chagrin of those in the Curia, he waived the necessary “second miracle” and brought the great John XXlll into the vaunted company of the saints.

Nothing the Curia could do as the pope has total control of saint making.

The putative ‘miracles” are an embarrassment anyway. Who can tell what constitutes real healing ?That doctors can’t explain it means nothing as there is much the medical community does not know about disease and wellness.

The problem is what kind of a God answers some prayers and not others? A bit arbitrary as Pope Francis knew as he ushered Angelo Rocalli into “sainthood.”. And two year old babies still die of cancer. Did their loved ones not pray enough. The question is absurd. Nevertheless the double play was a brilliant stroke as many Catholic commentators pointed out.


They figured Francis was cornered after Pope benedict rushed his former boss onto the fast track. As much papal politics as anything. The thinking is the canonization would de facto bless his whole pontificate and his attempt to turn the reforms of Vatican ll back


Many in the curia never welcomed Vatican ll,”the greatest change in Catholic thinking” ever according to the great apartheid fighter the late Durban archbishop Denis Hurley.

John’s pontificate lasted but five years but he changed the sclerotic Catholic church forever and now Pope Francis has stated that there is no going back on the great council.


JP ll was a global superstar and quite good on human rights and a trenchant critic of consumerism.

Sadly “ad intra”, that is inside the Church he was not a good pope.This very good man had may great flaws not the least was raising so many Yes man to the head of major Catholic Sees thus stalling the necessary reforms of Vatican ll. He created a monoculture which hindered the evolution of Catholic moral teaching and he attempted to impose a one size fits all template on the whole Church.

The great Chicago theologian David Tracy predicted that it wouldn’t work and it hasn’t.The Church in Poland had been frozen in time, authoritarian in nature(as some would argue it had to be next to the communist behemoth) but this model was hardly a model for an increasingly educated lay Church. The result was massive defections in the educated Catholic world. His attempts to ban female ordination forever, almost declaring it de fide, central to faith was embarrassing.The theology which attempted to justify this exclusion was intellectually barren and an insult to the rich Catholic tradition which honours the role of the spirit and the “signs of the times.” In Pope John XXlll’s final encyclical Pacem in Terris (1963) he flagged this sign as one that needed serious attention.

Secondly, the part that women are now playing in political life is everywhere evident. This is a development that is perhaps of swifter growth among Christian nations, but it is also happening extensively, if more slowly, among nations that are heirs to different traditions and imbued with a different culture. Women are gaining an increasing awareness of their natural dignity. Far from being content with a purely passive role or allowing themselves to be regarded as a kind of instrument, they are demanding both in domestic and in public life the rights and duties which belong to them as human persons.

This glaring sign of the time, an authentic irruption of the Spirit in history was ignored by subsequent popes.It has come to haunt the institutional church and render it gulty of sexism in the eyes of a majority of believers.

But his greatest weakness so devastatingly portrayed in Maureen Dowd’s NYT column of April 27 was his presiding over the greatest scandal in modern church history,the pedophilia crisis. More on this tomorrow.

Dan Heap, presente!

April 26, 2014


Dan Heap “on the march”.

They threw away the mold when Dan Heap left this earth on Friday. I do not expect to meet his likes again—as a politician or clergyman.


Imagine an Anglican priest picketing his own church for its failure to speak on the horrific genocide in the USA assault on Vietnam—over 2 million innocents killed. That was Dan in 1966. That was the first time i heard about Dan Heap.


Holy feces, Batman there are clergy like this?


Dan opened up new vistas on the gospel of peace and in my own city.


I first met him in the 70s when as a city councillor he was supporting Caesar Chavez. I called off basketball practice and took the team to City Hall for a rally on behalf of the California Grape pickers, I told him how much I appreciated his steadfast moral compass.


Then I learned that in the 60s as an Anglican priest he had. worked for 18 years in a paper box factory. He thought it a good way to show solidarity with workers and support the union movement.


Now we can’t even get Catholic priests or bishops to walk in the Labour day parade. But I digress.


Dan was intense, not a great speaker but his flame burned brightly for just causes—peace, immigration, poverty—he was always there working for the common good. people instinctively knew he was the real thing. Along the way he mentored people like Olivia Chow and the late Dan Leckie.


In 1982 in what was considered a safe Liberal seat Dan knocked off the Trudeau secretary Jim Coutts in the Spadina riding and spent 12 years in parliament.


Once i got him out of bed when the Feds tried to keep the valiant peacemaker Phil Berrigan out of Canada. One phone  call from Dan and Phil was let go.


After his years in Parliament he just kept on keeping on, always worshipping at Holy Trinity Anglican church next to our shrine to consumer excess, the Eaton Centre.


In 2006 Dan was going into the dark with Alzheimers and I happily attended his last eucharist as a clergyman.

One could never talk about Dan without mentioning in the same breath his amazing wife Alice who died in 2012.

They were a formidable justice couple.



How blessed to have such models in my own city.

State funeral for the common good

April 23, 2014




De mortuis nisi bonum,(About the dead speak nothing but good is an ancient Roman truism. Pretty good advice.


Anybody could sympathize with the Flahery family as the ex-finance minister on the cusp of retirement suddenly died. But we should always separate the man from his deleterious policies.

The media coverage was execrable, the political class and the cheerleaders of the powerful appeared to have amnesia regarding the deleterious effects of Flaherty’s consistent attack on the common good and his defense of the corporate class.

It was shocking to hear the nonsense peddled about Jimbo. who had to be pulled into stimulus spending like the rest of the world. The guy was out of it and if it weren’t for Paul Martin we would have gone down the sink hole of ridiculous mortgages. people forget that in 2006 Flaherty bewitched by wild west financial antics of the states gave the green light to the zero down 40 year mortgages. Only when he saw the catastrophe unfolding south of the border did he switch. Nice one, Jimbo.

Flaherty cost the common good—read social programs– billions of dollars by slashing corporate tax from 22 % to 15 5, the lowest of the G 7. Then he watched his pals in the corporate sector sit on their cash. Canada since 2006 gave up $220 billion in tax cuts. The Fifth Estate did a show on tax evaders, the offshore renegades who are costing us billions. Flaherty cut federal overseers…and then there were the tainted meat scandals…on and on. The market gets a free rein. Business can police itself. Yada, yada, yada.

That would have paid for a lot of decaying infrastructure. The obsession with military spending (who’s about to attack us?) cost us more billions. Hidden from sight by all the talking heads was his adamant refusal to entertain the Tobin Tax which would have kicked in billions for the suffering globe…then those CBC cuts (starvation), his role in Ontario as hit man for Mike Harris and his awful attacks on the public good.

And how about the refusal to fund the CPP…and give seniors a decent retirement. Not on Jimbo’s watch.

Dedicated to public service?


I think not—dedicated to starving the public service.

Sad to see a man die in his prime but Jimbo was not a very good friend of commons.

Condi in the Land of Amnesia

April 21, 2014

Opening Plenary: Tony Blair, Condoleezza Rice


As the great polemicist Gore Vidal once called it,the UNited Sates of amnesia, our neighbor to the south rolls merrily on, “the cradle of the best and the worst” as Leonard Cohen called it.

Wherever capital is king amnesia will reign. People just are unable to concentrate, or even remember. Celebrity and surface seem to rule. The sizzle not the steak reigns.

Hello Ford Nation!

Case in point the University of Minnesota just ponied up $150,000 for the pleasure of listening to arguably the worst American Secretary of State in living memory Condoleeza Rice.



One can write reams on Ms Rice’s career as a black woman used by GW Bush to push his odious policies in the middle East. This was allude to by the 200 faculty members (”Cradle of the best”) who protested the terrible case of amnesia as to rice’s role in the Bush admin. The faculty members wrote “ bears responsibility for substantial violations of civil liberties and civil rights.’ Students dressed in Gitmo jumpsuits to remind people of her horrible record. This was a woman who consistently defended American preparation for terrorist attacks on the Trade Centre—you remember the middle eastern gentlemen who signed up for plane lessons but were uninterested in learning how to land. The worst failure in intelligence in US history. The woman was a disaster yet she can command $150,000 for her speech,”Keeping faith with a a Legacy of Justice.”

You can’t make this stuff up.The words justice and the Bush admin simply can not go together.

What kind of a university shells out this amount of coin for such nonsense?

The University of Minnesota a proud member of the United States of Amnesia.

Good Friday: the power of the state

April 18, 2014


Jesus the Palestinian Jew lived under occupation, a rather brutal one at that. The Romans pauperized the local population under heavy taxation and legal theft of foodstuffs which found their way back to Rome.
Ironically the descendants of Palestinians still live under occupation in modern day Israel.


The STATE was and is an agent of crucifixion. Jesus along with thousands of others paid the ultimate price—one usually paid by those considered a threat to the state and its imperial power. Jesus’ promotion of God’s reign (malkuth Yahweh) was the ultimate threat to Roman anti- reign. The state murdered him, another victim of capital punishment.
The State still crucifies people,either directly like Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot or other homicidal maniacs.
Most often the State becomes a proxy for larger states like the American empire and their compliant thugs like the Shah, Pinochet, Rios Montt in Guatemala,Somoza in Nicaragua, the puppet regimes under Russia.
Unfair trade practices, powerful monopolies such as Monsanto, protection policies keep the poor on the cross throughout the world.
The State also is an agent of crucifixion of the earth,an almost autistic promoter of climate change. we are witness in our time to the ongoing active extinction of species.


On Good Friday the state continues to crucify.

The Mob and Good Friday

April 17, 2014



The Mob is an agent of crucifixion. We see the mob in Jerusalem screaming “Crucify him and give us Barabbas” The Mob is always with us today usually as an uninformed voice screaming for vengeance, personal gain over public good.No taxes, it screams in Rob Ford’s Toronto.It never links taxes with livable cities and social cohesion

These voices have grown exponentially with the rise of the internet,a notorious anarchic place for uninformed opinion. Often these voices are faceless and anonymous, silent in the wake of human suffering, voluble in the promotion of private goods over public squalor, often racist and sexist as well.

The Mob is the bystanders who do nothing to advance redemption. It sits out history’s great drama and brays just as it did in the time of Jesus. This is the mob today.


St. James

April 14, 2014



As we know (a known unknown) from the New Testament, Jesus reveals his true nature when he appears before 3 of his most beloved disciples on the Mount of Transfiguration. This inner circle, composed of Peter, James and John, have been venerated for 2000 years as the most prominent of the sainted 12 apostles.


And now taking a cue from medieval Christian memory and typography, Canada has after 20 years at last perfected its own secular version of the canonization process. For years, the Liberals had exclusive celebration rights with the early sainthood of the sometimes difficult but much admired, St.Pierre. And then the NDP realized an opportunity to elevate their own much “beloved” St. Jack. This, of course, left the PC’s holding the halo, so to speak. But not to be outdone and with an untimely death of their man coming like a bolt out of the blue, the PC’s at last make their “santo subito” contribution to the Canadian  sainthood trifecta with the recent glorification of St. James.

How strangely embedded is the deep human need for cultic mythology! One wonders if this Is this the flip side of our newly minted medieval re-imaging of Canada’s soldiers as “warriors” after our participation in Bush’s “crusade?”



Next up…St. Stephen?

Go figure…


The Venerable Bob is an esteemed member of CRAIC

The tin ear bishops

April 13, 2014



Wilton Gregory the Atlanta bishop was shamed into selling his mansion after Germany’s Bishop of Bling was outed in Germany “We are disturbed and disappointed to see our church leaders not setting the example of a simple life as Pope Francis calls for” a parishioner wrote. Gregory who seems like a decent guy ate humble pie. Decent, yes but totally out of touch

“As the shepherd of this local church, a responsibility I hold more dear than any other, certainly more than any configuration of brick and mortar, I am disappointed that, while my advisers and I were able to justify this project fiscally, logistically and practically, I personally failed to project the cost in terms of my own integrity and pastoral credibility with the people of God of north and central Georgia,” he wrote in The Georgia Bulletin.

Now there’s an understatement..

You wonder just what guys like this are thinking—particularly given the still ghetto conditions in Georgia. And Gregory is a black man.

Well, privilege and isolation are no respecters of color. The celibate life too often isolates people from the harsh realities of this world. Too often there has been little accountability. Many never answer to the people they are sworn to serve.
One wonders if these people ever internalized the gospel. As one critic of Gregory sputtered, “Jesus was born in a stable.”



Now Pope Francis humble life style is starting to shame a whole class of bishops.
But New Jersey, Newark Archbishop John Myers still resists he is spending $500,000 to add a three-story, 3,000-square-foot addition to his already spacious retirement home. The new wing will include an indoor exercise pool, a hot tub, three fireplaces, a library and an elevator.

And this is Newark,an almost bombed out city.

Camden, New Jersey is worse,an almost wholly derelict city but that has not stopped Bishop Dennis Sullivan for spending $500,000 to buy a historic 7,000-square-foot mansion with eight bedrooms, six bathrooms, three fireplaces, a library, a five-car garage and an in-ground pool. The diocese said Sullivan needs the space to entertain dignitaries and donors.Sorry, Sully it doesn’t wash.


Pope Francis  has set a high bar for “the princes.”

Money or democracy

April 10, 2014


American democracy has come to this.
Last weekend a bunch of Republican hopefuls appeared before the ultra Zionist billionaire Las Vegas gamer Sheldon Adelson and in cringe-inducing acts of self-abasement proved their bona fides to the pro-Israeli hawk.
Imagine the scene, grown men summoned to Adelson’s Venetian Hotel to plead their case to the Republican Jewish Coalition which is wholly owned by the casino magnate.
Why not? Adelson and his wife gave $93 million to Republican PAC’s last year.
The notorious union buster of Wisconsin, Scott Walker brought up his father’s trip to Israel and get this, he actually put a menorah next to his Christmas tree. Wow how ecumenical. Walker also told Adelson that his Matthew’s name actually comes from the Hebrew. Double wow.
The worst beggar however was governor Chris Christie of New Jersey. In a spectacular gaffe in the eyes of Adelson, Christie actually referred to the Occupied Territories, a stupendous blunder in the eyes of the uber-Zionists. Of course, Christie had to beg forgiveness for this piece of candor.
In a scathing piece in the New York Times David Firestone said what needed to be said:
The ability of one man and his money to engender so much bootlicking among serious candidates, which ought to be frightening, has now become commonplace. Why talk directly to voters when you can get a billionaire to help you manipulate them with a barrage of false television ads, as the Koch brothers are doing with Republican Senate candidates around the country.
These Republican hacks should heed a great Jewish American, Justice Louis Brandeis:
We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can’t have both.


The testing sickness

April 4, 2014



The assault on the dignity of each child proceeds in the United States of Amnesia. The obsession on standardized testing as a central marker in public education is well funded—but the kick back has started all over the States—teachers, parents have risen up and said NO—not to testing itself but to the over reliance and malicious use of it.
The following reminds me of a line from a long-forgotten columnist in the Globe and mail, Richard Needham who once opined that “A school trustee isone who has had a child described to him—but has never actually met one.

A teacher-blogger in New York City wrote:
I have a grandson who just started second grade.

I look at this techno-trash and pray that his teachers are not required to pay attention to it.
If this is the kind of “work” that comes out of Tweed (the headquarters of New York City’s “Department of Education”), I have advice for the next Mayor:
Clean out the whole bunch of people who make up these charts, graphs, instructions, mumbo-jumbo statistical nonsense.
Clearly, none of them has ever been a teacher of first grade.
Probably, none of them has ever had a child.
Maybe, none of them ever was a child.
They see children as data.
They see teaching and learning as a statistical exercise.
They value metrics, not children.
Please, Mr. Mayor, send them all packing.
Let them go back to the corporate world where they belong.
Keep them far, far away from children and their teachers.