Archive for the ‘Church & Culture’ Category

Israel fails in “rebranding”

February 23, 2017

What a bust!

Israel is now tied with North Korea as the pariah nation par excellent. For years now it has been attempting to rebrand itself as a tourist mecca. As a frequent visitor, it is indeed a fabulously interesting place—if you can look beyond a 50 year occupation and the daily humiliation of another people.

A week in the West Bank would cure anybody, even a rabid tribalist of total support. Forget a trip to Gaza the only democracy in the Middle East will not allow you to visit and see what 3 brutal killing rampages has done there in the last decade.

The state has tried desperately to “pinkwash” over the ugly facts by talking about the liberal charms of Tel Aviv (never Jerusalem, too many Muslims with a highly conservative ethos). So they promote the country as a haven for gays. See how liberal we are !

Also a failed attempt to “greenwash” the awful ecological mess Israel has created there. The settlements have been dumping untreated waste directly into a sewage canal that runs through the occupied West Bank, affecting Palestinian villages along its banks.The toxic chemical waste has for years been dumped on agricultural land, with villagers reporting a rash of skin diseases and respiratory problems.

Israel has been dumping waste, including hazardous and toxic waste, into the West Bank for years as a cheaper and easier alternative to processing it properly in Israel at appropriate hazardous waste management sites,” according to Palestinian Environmental Authority (PEA) deputy director Jamil Mtoor. The Israeli government has banned plans by the Palestinian Authority to build pipes and pumps to treat and divert wastewater away from the affected villages.

As part of its greenwashing Israel crows about its “reforestation”—such as Canada Park—built over destroyed Palestinian villages.

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All in all, the rebranding has been a bust and now the latest failed venture. The US Campaign for Palestinian Rights reports the following:

With the Academy Awards fast approaching this Sunday, it’s been a full year since Israel offered all-expenses-paid trips to 2016 Oscars host Chris Rock and 25 top nominees including Mark Ruffalo, Michael Fassbender, Kate Winslet, Matt Damon, Mark Rylance, and Cate Blanchett. The Israeli tourism ministry organized the trip with hopes that the superstars would use their platforms to show Israel in a positive light, countering worldwide outrage over Israel’s oppression of Palestinians.

So what happened? It was an utter failure. One year later, it appears that not a single star visited Israel. Last night, the AFP wire service ran this extraordinary headline appearing in many media outlets, “Israel invited 26 Oscar stars to visit. So far none has.”

Bringing celebrities to Israel has long been part of a “Brand Israel” strategy to improve the country’s image abroad. As Israeli tourism minister Yariv Levin explained last year, “These are the most senior people in the film industry in Hollywood and leading opinion-formers who we are interested in hosting. Their visit will have enormous resonance among millions of fans and followers, including social media.” But as of this week, the Israeli tourism ministry would not confirm any visits by the stars, and there was no evidence of trips on social media.

It seems that the harder Israel tries to improve its image, the worse it fails. Yesterday’s news comes on the heels of former Super Bowl star Michael Bennett and several other NFL stars also choosing to #SkipTheTrip that they were offered by Israel.

Far from achieving their desired effect, these propaganda trips give us an opportunity to create broader awareness about the Israeli government’s brutal policies and attempts to whitewash them. While not every celebrity will turn down such offers, our cultural boycott campaigns are ensuring that every celebrity facing the choice must now consider the Israeli government’s cynical motivations and the impact on Palestinian communities struggling to survive.

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That’s why days after the Oscars trips were announced last February, the US Campaign helped organize a coalition of Palestinian, Israeli, European, and U.S. organizations to launch a #SkipTheTrip campaign including a petition to the stars, individual letters to actors, and a comprehensive social media strategy. The dynamic campaign included creative memes, a comical video, and a satirical invitation from the legendary Brian Eno highlighting the types of “holiday” experiences one could have visiting Palestine like being interrogated, tear-gassed, beaten, and shot at.

One should not ever lose hope about the many Jews of conscience within and without Israel who for years have seen through the blatant propaganda or hasbara.

It was the veteran Israeli diplomat to West Germany Yohanan Meroz (d. 2006) who coined the expression “hasbarable.” Some things you simply can not spin and the shocking brutalization of a civilian population is one of them.

Haaretz columnist Gideon Levy gave voice to this truism in June 2011: “Hasbara will not overcome the unequivocal fact that Israel has been an occupying power for more than four decades. No propaganda can persuade people of good conscience that we’re right as long as millions of Palestinians are living without rights.”

The Pope, Trump and capitalism

February 21, 2017

On Friday Feb 17 Pope Francis spoke to a meeting of popular movements in California.His encouraging words need to be unpacked.

The direction taken beyond this historic turning point, the ways in which the worsening crisis gets resolved, will depend on people’s involvement and participation and largely on yourselves, the popular movements. Sooner or later, the moral blindness of this indifference comes to light, like when a mirage dissipates, the wounds are there, they are a reality. The unemployment is real, the violence is real, the corruption is real, the identity crisis is real, the gutting of democracies is real. I know you have committed yourselves to fight for social justice, to defend our sister Mother Earth, and to stand alongside migrants. I want to reaffirm your choice,” he wrote.
Yes , taking to the streets is a good, a necessary mobilization Francis says.

Is he referring to the fake populism of Trump. Doubtlessly.

Matthew Fox:

We all have to wake up. Young people have to get away from their addictions to the social media, and realize that this is serious business, politics and life itself. And we’ve got to stand up and be counted.

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How can people duped by Trump really believe the billionaire has their interests at heart? Are they too wounded and betrayed by the Democratic Party to fall for the narcissist?Many are.

Capitalism with its power to confuse people, divert their energies, accept the status quo of dramatic inequality is the real enemy here.
Pope Francis:

 
The economic system that has the god of money at its center, that sometimes acts with the brutality of the robbers in the parable, inflicts injuries, that to a criminal degree, have remained neglected. Globalized society frequently looks the other way, with the pretense of innocence, under the guise of what is politically correct, or ideologically fashionable. One looks at those who suffer, without touching them.

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Where are the Catholics in this equation? 52% of US Catholics fell for Trump.

 
The leadership is nowhere. It has turned inward, placed the church not the kingdom at the center of their lives. The right wing JP ll/Ratzinger bishops have betrayed the gospel and short circuited the renovation movement of Vatican ll. This has left a huge hole in the institution. Many progressives have left disgusted by the right wing turn and the ecclesial coverup of the pedophilia scandal.

Add to this the local church is operating out of a charity not a justice model, presided over by many foreign born priests who do not bring a progressive theology to bear on issues of social justice, ecology and gross inequality. This is the dilemma of many good priests who have to deal with this situation. many of their allies have left the church so they battle on. God bless them! Meanwhile the Pope is left to fend off attacks from within by disgruntled appointees of the last two reactionary papacies.

A shonda and hillul hashem

January 10, 2017

Religions are never pure. All have their outliers. Nixon had his rabbi, Baruch Korff, Catholicism had its Fr.Coughlin and those scandalous popes of the Borgias. There is no end to wacky mullahs without learning and credibility. Israel has ist share of rabbinic posers who sanctify occupation and and anti-Arab hostility. So Trump now has his rabbi to bless what? Who knows.

Now that the Donald has a 16 year old singer to headline his inaugural he has his rabbi. Marvin Hier could not resist his 15 minutes

 

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But wait. all is not kosher in the Jewish community.

Hier’s friend Rabbi Moskovitz publicly upbraids him.

Rabbi Marvin Hier should not give a blessing to this President at the Inauguration next week. I appreciate Rabbi Hier’s work at the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles (a community where I too was a rabbi for 13 years). He has done a great deal to advance the cause of racial/religious tolerance and to fight anti-Semitism. Rabbi Hier also previously served in my current community of Vancouver, British Columbia, where he is still spoken of in high regard. But Rabbi Heir is wrong on this issue and his lack of rabbinic judgement reflects poorly on all rabbis.

 

A rabbi is a symbolic exemplar. When we appear or speak publicly we represent more than ourselves, we represent Judaism. Not just “the Jewish people” but also the moral/ethical code of the Jewish tradition. The Talmud instructs us, “It is not the place that honors the person, but the person that honors the place.” (Ta’anit 21b). It is not an honor for Rabbi Hier or the Jewish religion to be associated with Mr. Trump’s campaign rhetoric, it is a shanda, a disgrace.

 

When asked what blessing he will bestow Rabbi Hier stated that he will offer readings, recite an original prayer and give Mr. Trump and incoming Vice President Mike Pence each a personal blessing. Not a blessing for the nation, but upon the man. At present Mr. Trump’s venomous insults continue unabated by his new station, and are inseparable from the high office he is about to occupy. Thus to bless Mr. Trump in this most public of way is to bless all that he has said and stands for. Rabbi Hier’s participation as a Rabbi gives a Jewish hechsher, a kosher certification to the swearing in of a man whose social conduct, rhetoric and fomenting of hate and division are directly at odds with Jewish tradition (and the work of Museum of Tolerance that Rabbi Hier leads). I firmly believe that it would be hillul hashem (a desecration of G-d’s name) to give a rabbinic imprimatur to this man at this time.

Bad religion—once again in israel

December 22, 2016

In a letter faxed to hoteliers in Jerusalem, two of the city’s chief rabbis warned against displaying Christmas trees on their premises.

 

Baah humbug.Start talking about compassion and human dignity.

“As the secular year ends we want to remind you that erecting a Christmas tree in a hotel contravenes halacha [Jewish law] and that therefore it is clear that one should not erect [a tree] in a hotel,” the letter reads, according to the Times of Israel. “It is also appropriate to avoid hosting parties to mark the end of the secular year.”

 

Don’t tell us what to do.This is a democracy.

The Israeli daily said the letter could be interpreted as a “veiled threat” to hoteliers who risk losing their kosher licenses. This flies in the face of recent developments, including a March 2015 ruling by Israel’s Chief Rabbinate that lifted a ban on Christmas trees in hotels and tied the criteria for kosher certification more closely to the preparation of food.

 

It’s not kosher!

Christmas trees and other symbols of non-Jewish traditions rankle some Israelis; the country’s ultra-Orthodox rabbis are known to criticize their display. In a separate incident reported by Israeli media, a rabbi at Technion Institute of Technology in the city of Haifa warned students against entering the student union building because of a Christmas tree there, arguing that the tree was “not a Christian religious symbol, but even worse, a pagan one.”

 

Save me from all fundamentalisms!

50 years ago Roger Laporte immolated himself

November 9, 2015

Roger-LaPorte

On November 9, 1965, at the age of 22, Roger LaPorte set himself on fire in front of the United Nations building in New York City to protest the Vietnam War. He was a former seminarian and a member of the Catholic Worker Movement. Despite his burns, he remained conscious and able to speak at the hospital. When asked why he set himself on fire, La Porte replied, “I’m a Catholic Worker. I’m against war, all wars. I did this as a religious action.” La Porte died the next day

It is hard for most people to comprehend such an act of self-destruction putatively for a higher cause.Obviously Laporte like many Americans was appalled at the fire engulfing ordinary Vietnamese at this time—all supported by US tax dollars and a misguided militarist adventure. Laporte obviously was a highly sensitive person who deeply felt the unmerited suffering of those he considered family. Laporte looked around and saw virtually no rejection of the US appalling assault on the Vietnamese which took over 1 million civilian lives. His own catholic church was virtually mute. we will never know what his thinking was even though we shudder at his actions.

Yet Laporte was not alone.
Two years earlier On June 11, 1963, a Vietnamese Buddhist monk, Thich Quang Duc, immolated himself at a Saigon intersection to protest Buddhist persecution by its Catholic president and US proxy Ngo Dinh Diem.

There were others too.

On March 16,1965 an 82 year old Jewish-American pacifist Alice Herz went the same route.

The most shocking was the self-immolation of Norman Morrison a 31 year old Quaker from Washington, D.C. Standing outside the office of Defense Secretary Robert McNamara, Morrison handed his 1 year old daughter Emily to a bystander he torched himself. His wife said that [S]he was a powerful symbol of the children we were killing with our bombs and napalm–who didn’t have parents to hold them in their arms.”

That amazing Catholic pacifist Fr.Charlie McCarthy wonders why Laporte has been forgotten.

Thich Quang Duc, is revered by Vietnamese Buddhists as a bodhisattva (saint), the intersection where he set himself afire has a monument and park dedicated to him and his intact heart is preserved as a relic of the spirit of compassion in a glass chalice. Alice Herz, who was also a refugee from Nazi Germany, has a plaza named after her in Berlin. Shingo Shibata, the Japanese philosopher, established the Alice Herz Peace Fund in her memory. Norman Morrison has a road named after him in the Vietnamese city of Da Nang. In Hanoi a street is named after him and the Government of Vietnam has issued a postage stamp in his honor. An HBO film about him has been made and poems and books have been written about him. Roger LaPorte’s charred dry bones lay in the ground of section 1, row 11 of Saint Alphonsus Cemetery in Tupper Lake, NY. —long dead, long gone and long forgotten.

McCarthy’s rationale:

By political and ecclesial necessity and arrangement the warriors, dead or alive, are fawned over, but the billions of non-warriors they maimed and destroyed must be kept out of sight, out of mind and out of memory, lest they reveal the immensity of the evil the honored warriors and their honorable puppet masters, have done to fellow human beings, who did them no harm and who intended to do nothing harmful to them. In other words the non-warrior victims of the warrior heroes must be expunged from history, must become as if they never existed, or if they existed were of no worth. The victorious warriors and their controllers, who carefully manage the memory of the past, so as to assure that in the future the young will experience being used as violent and lethal warriors as nobly heroic, must drown them in the vastness of time. The non-warrior victims of the honored and obedient warriors and their sting-pullers are, on the other hand, consigned to historical oblivion as unworthy of being remembered, as they were unworthy to continue life. To such a community of the dead has Roger Laporte been consigned—“unwept, unhonored and unsung.”

Reuben Slonim: Toronto’s last prophetic rabbi

October 10, 2015

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Reuben Slonim: Toronto’s last prophetic rabbi
Wednesday, October 14, 2015 @ 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm
Beit Zatoun

612 Markham St. at Bloor Toronto 1 minute from Bathurst subway stop
Reuben Slonim (1914-2000) was the first Canadian-born rabbi to head a Canadian congregation. After the Six Day War of 1967 said that Israel might win the war, but it would lose the peace if it did not show magnanimity towards the Arabs. He maintained that the deepest ethical values of Judaism were being jeopardized and betrayed by Israel’s blatant ghettoization and suffering of another Semitic people, the Palestinians. Fired from his congregation and called an “Arab lover” and an “enemy of the Jews” Slonim never flagged in his defence of Jewish universalist values. Reuben Slonim’s brave defense of Palestinian rights has stood the test of time and he deserves to be honoured as one of the great rabbis.

Ted Schmidt former editor of Catholic New Times was a good friend of Rabbi Slonim.

Brant Rosen, a rabbi for our time

September 26, 2015

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It is rabbis like Brant Rosen of Tzedek Chicago’s synagogue who will lead Judaism back to a more prophetic understand of biblical faith. Over the last many decades as many Jewish critics have written. Judaism has been suborned by Zionism, a historic Abrahamic faith co-opted by a nationalist ideology. Often at the centre of the community’s life was Israel, a modern state not the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

Lest Catholics begin to point any fingers, Roman Catholicism in advanced capitalist countries have settled for the Constantinian arrangement where our critical biblical justice faith has been too easily linked with the flag and predatory capitalism. Even last night on Bill Maher’s TV show, this aggressive atheist, raised a Catholic and commenting on Pope Francis, wondered how could Republicans call themselves Catholics. Instead of Israel at the centre of their spiritual life right wing Catholics have raised the free market as their god and abandoned the poor and the environment. But I digress.

Rabbi Rosen on the holiest day of the Jewish liturgical calendar, Yom Kippur (this year on September 22) dared to lead a Confession Communal Complicity. Every year on Yom Kippur that gem of the Hebrew scriptures the Book of Jonah is read as it challenges the whole community to rethink its values.

Rosen wrote a unique confession called the Al Chet which is part part of the Vidui – or Confession – in which the congregation stands up and publicly confesses the sins of their community.

The congregation rises and publicly confesses the sins of the community and since Israel is part of American Jewish landscape, you can see where this is going.

Al chet…we say together

For the wrong we have done before you…
for forgetting that we were all once strangers in a strange land;

for preferring militarized fences to open borders.

for supporting trade policies and murderous regimes that for drawing lines and turning away those who come to our country seeking a better life.

for demonizing migrants as threats to be feared;

for labeling human beings as “illegal.”

For all these, source of forgiveness, forgive us, pardon us, receive our atonement…

for buying into and promoting the ideology of American exceptionalism;

for oppressing other peoples and nations in the name of American power and influence;

for profiting off of weapons of death and destruction;

for contributing to the increased militarization of our nation and our world.

for expanding our military budget while we cut essential services here at home; for believing that militarism and violence will ensure our collective security.

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for a brutal and crushing military occupation

for blockading 1.8 million Gazans inside an open air prison;

for repeatedly unleashing devastating military firepower on a population trapped in a tiny strip of land.

for wedding sacred Jewish spiritual tradition to political nationalism and militarism;

or rationalizing away Israel’s oppression of the Palestinian people.

This direct naming of Israel’s humiliation of the Palestinian occupation indicates to me that the prophetic is alive still, small though it may be, in the Jewish community. Rosen makes no bones about this. He is a virtual Jeremiah for our time.His target is idolatry, empire and arrogance.

May his numbers increase.

Jeremiah in Anata

August 28, 2015

Comes a welcome announcement from another “Jew of Conscience” Jeff Halper, the driving force behind the Israel Committee against House Demolitions.The ICAHD team has been working overtime to save Israel from itself.The message arrived today.
Between July 19th – August 3rd, ICAHD hosted its 13th annual rebuilding camp, constructing its 188th and 189th homes, one in the West Bank town of Anata to which we return every summer and the other a large tent-structure suitable for housing a family in the Jordan Valley. Rebuilding is a  key part of ICAHD’s resistance to Israeli occupation, and especially to Israel’s policy of demolishing Palestinian homes (about 46,000 on the Occupied Territory since 1967). We rebuild demolished homes as political acts of resistance, which means 189 joint actions of Israeli, Palestinian and international activists.

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This year we built a home for the Fhedat family of Anata. The Fhedat family are really two families, that of the husband and wife and the husband’s widowed sister-in-law; there are 11 children altogether. An impoverished Bedouin family, the Fhedats were forced to demolish their own home by the Israeli authorities or face a violent demolition by the IDF and a stiff fine of $15-20,000.
Now Anata which is situated in the shadow of the separation wall is about 4kms northeast of Jerusalem and most believe it is the home of one of the great prophets of the Hebrew bible, Jeremiah of Anatoth. The latter railed against the royal temple ideology of the corrupt leaders who believed they had a stranglehold on the Holy One. Jeremiah read Hebrew history beyond the power politics of kings like Zedekiah. With typical hubris the last few kings of Judah while claiming divine sanction had for gotten the covenant, that Jews had once been sojourners in Egypt and slaves of Pharaoh. In like manner the modern state of Israel has forsaken biblical Judaism and substituted a nationalist Zionism which has marginalized the original inhabitants of Palestine.Jeremiah reminded his contemporaries that there will only be hope for you “if you do not oppress the alien, the orphan and the widow or shed blood in this place (7:5,6).The same goes for modern day Israel.

In Anata today we see the bible come alive. ICAHD rather than oppressing the widow of the Fhedat family is raising her up. Jeremiah 587 years before Jesus, spoke for God,“Just as I watched over them to uproot and tear down, and to overthrow, destroy and bring disaster, so I will watch over them to build and to plant,” declares the LORD 31:28.
ICAHD in the biblical Anatoth has chosen to build up and to plant. Since 1967, Israel contravening international law has engaged in collective punishment. It has of destroyed ing about 46,000 homes in the Occupied Territories.

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Jeremiah through ICAHD lives today in Anata.

The reluctant prophet Fr. George Zabelka

August 11, 2015

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I remember when “the reluctant prophet” George Zabelka  came through Toronto years ago.He died in 1992 but his memory and witness stays with me.

A very humble guy who became converted to the nonviolent gospel. A guy who “said nothing” when one of the greatest crimes in history took place: the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki

Years later (2005) I met a priest from Augusta, Georgia Bob Cushing who was been relieved of his duties in his parish because of negative backlash resulting from his decision to travel on a pilgrimage to Japan to apologize to the Japanese people for the United States’ use of atomic bombs on two of their cities 60 years ago.

The bishop. Kevin Boland wrote him saying “I am concerned about your using your position as an ordained priest of the Catholic church to foster and nourish your agenda as it pertains to your opinions about World War II,”

The nonviolent gospel of nonviolence is named as “your agenda’. Amazing.

Cushing stated the obvious that Americans have never dealt with the bombings, which Pope Paul VI called “butchery of untold magnitude.”

The Catholic Worker true to its mandate is promoting the film which includes witness from our friend in the peace movement, a survivor herself, Setsuko Thurlow. Their intro follows:

This film is not simply a biography; it is a visual testament that reflects the breadth of Christian doctrine and a view that the heart of Christianity is living a discipleship of Christ as active non-violence.

As a young priest and active duty officer in World War II, Father George Zabelka was the chaplain who offered spiritual reassurance to the crews of the bomber planes (right before the planes left the ground) that dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Father Zabelka remembers that he did not object before the planes took off although he knew what the planes were ordered to do. The severity of those attacks and devastation for civilians caused by those bombs prompted Father Zabelka to question what level of killing is acceptable and to what ends.

The conflict grew for him between his identity as a Catholic priest and his identity as a military chaplain who had given religious
sanction and moral clearance to the bomber crews. Father Zabelka questioned if it is possible to be a Christian and also to partake inthe ethos of war and militarism.

After Father Zabelka left the armed forces at the end of WWII, he resolved his question through experiencing the civil rights movement,the ideas of Martin Luther King, Jr., the theologies of nonviolence and the protest movements against the Vietnam War, nuclear proliferation, the military industrial complex, and militarism.

In the end Father Zabelka found affirmation of his belief that a discipleship of Christ rejects violence, protests violence, and aspires to live for the good news of peace, bearing love not arms.

Tone deaf climate change Canadian bishops

July 29, 2015

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An article in the BC Tyee once again points out the ‘do nothing on social justice” bishops named by John Paul ll.
Writer Ian Gill, presumably a Catholic looked for signs in Vancouver of any Catholic insitutional action on history’s major moral issue, climate change.

Don’t bet on it, brother Gill, These guys have shown themselves tone deaf on anything north of the pelvic area.Weird coming from celibates. none of these JP bishops have forged a pastoral plan to deal with the issue.Sad,indeed.

Gill writes:

Here in Vancouver, birthplace not of Christ, but anyway Greenpeace, I have searched for signs that Rome’s encyclical on the environment hasn’t accidentally been tossed in the recyclical here in our self-styled Greenest City on Earth. The signs are not promising.

“The Gospel is meant to be lived on its feet — taken places,” offered Fr. Eugenio Aloisio at a recent Sunday mass in East Vancouver’s Church of Saint Francis of Assisi, which seemed like a logical place to listen out for a local interpretation of Laudato Si’, the encyclical otherwise known as Praise Be: On Care for Our Common Home.

After all, the Pope took his name from the divine champion of the natural world, Saint Francis, although judging by the homilies emanating from the eponymous church on Napier Street, East Van is a long way from Assisi. Our pastor has offered little more than a passing reference to the encyclical, and no exhortations to parishioners to change their ways. The Gospel, at least that part of it that relates to climate change, has clay feet (Daniel 2; 31-33) in my neighbourhood.

Trickle-down ecology

Up at the devoutly LEED Gold certified offices of the Archdiocese of Vancouver at West 33rd and Willow, the B.C. Catholic newspaper put a link to Laudato Si’ on its website and has reprinted some news and commentary from elsewhere, but if our archdiocese’s half-million faithful are going to be stirred into action, it won’t be from anything they’ve read so far in B.C. Catholic.
So if it is going to take perhaps months, maybe years, for the climate change encyclical to trickle down to actions in the Archdiocese of Vancouver, or anywhere else for that matter, here is something Canadian Catholics can do right now and act upon in just a few short weeks: take a vow to not vote for the Tories — and then don’t. No self-respecting and God-fearing Canadian Catholic, not a single one of them, should vote for Harper. Nor should any of them run for his party. Nor should any of them work for his party.
Why? Because Harper’s brand of economic and social evangelism directly contradicts virtually everything the Catholic Church now claims to stand for.

Reporting in The New York Times when the encyclical came out last month, Justin Gillis wrote: “Polls suggest that evangelicals are the American religious group least likely to believe that global warming is real or caused by humans.” On the evidence of Harper’s profane and unsacred term in office, Catholics should be the first to cast him out. And since, as Douglas Todd of the Vancouver Sun reported around the time of the last federal election, about half of Canada’s Catholics voted Conservative back then, that would be a lot of casting out by a lot of Tory faithful.

That alone would probably condemn Harper to electoral oblivion, but don’t count on it. One by-product of the encyclical has been the predictable backlash by industrialists and right-wing politicians who claim, as summarized by Gillis in the Times, that “the Pope should stick to religion and stop meddling in matters in which he has no competence.” Or as David Brooks opined in the Times in a singularly tone deaf column, “The innocence of the dove has to be accompanied by the wisdom of the serpent — the awareness that programs based on the purity of the heart backfire.”