Jul 30, 2010

Safe Environment Protocols Finalized

In his April 17/18 pastoral message to Catholics across the GTA, Archbishop Thomas Collins announced that he had extended an invitation to a group of lay people with relevant expertise to review the current procedures for Cases of Alleged Misconduct.

Our procedures have been in place since 1989 and reviewed twice, most recently in 2003. The procedures have been accessible for several years online through the Archdiocesan website and we continue to do all that we can to ensure these procedures are transparent and accessible for anyone who wishes to access them. They have served us well and fulfill all legal requirements under civil law in the province of Ontario. That said, His Grace felt, given the increased scrutiny on all church procedures regarding allegations of abuse, it was an appropriate time to have a lay committee review our current practices.

The Archbishop asked the lay committee to make any recommendations to him by July 31, 2010 and the committee has done so. For those who may be interested in how the process will progress from here, this is how things are shaping up for the next couple of months.

His Grace will be holding a series of four regional meetings with all priests of the Archdiocese in early September in which the updated procedures will be presented and reviewed. Following the final meeting with clergy, the procedures will be posted online and will remain publicly accessible. Appropriate communication will be sent to parishes throughout the Archdiocese asking parishes to inform their parishioners of the new procedures, their availability and to encourage Catholics to become familiar with the contents of the document.

So all in all, the announcement of the formation of the committee to the review of the document and presentation to all clergy in the Archdiocese will have taken place in the course of five months with the summer in the midst of it all. The review committee has taken their work seriously and worked diligently over the last several months to make this happen - we are grateful for their important contributions.

Full links and documents will be available in mid-September and we'll be sure to point you to the appropriate space once everything is ready to go.

Photo: CNN

Jul 28, 2010

A Break for Il Papa

The Holy Father is currently enjoying some downtime at his summer residence Castelgandolfo. Those who follow the Vatican know that in August, things generally shut down at the Vatican. No papal audiences, no daily news bulletin from the Press Office and appointments are rare.

Pope Benedict could use a break - he'll have a busy September which includes a trip to England where he'll beatify Cardinal Newman on September 19. If you'd like more information on the process to sainthood, you can check out one of our backgrounders on the topic here.

Meanwhile, Cardinal Marc Ouellet returns to Quebec City for a "farewell celebration" that will take place mid-August. The former Canadian prelate was also appointed Special Envoy to celebrations marking the 4th centenary of the baptism of Grand Chief Henri Membertou of the Mikmaq People, due to be held on Chapel Island, Nova Scotia, Canada, on 1 August.

The photo above also captures the Holy Father with a more secular piece of headgear, namely the ball cap which prompted some commentators to wonder aloud if he was cheering for the Angels?

Holy Father, may you experience a restful and relaxing break. Our prayers are with you.

Photo: Reuters

Jul 23, 2010

Canada's World Youth Day - 8 Years Later...

Hard to believe that eight years have passed since World Youth Days began in Toronto on July 23, 2002. We've seen a lot happen in the church since that time yet I would be hard pressed to remember a more inspirational, challenging, moving, joyful and demanding summer than that of 2002.

It seems like just a few sleeps ago we were welcoming the world to our country, pilgrims were experiencing the hospitality of our family of faith from coast to coast and Toronto was about to turn into Catholic City, with hundreds of thousands of pilgrims, bishops, Cardinals and a Pope as temporary residents. There was every reason to believe things would be fraught with chaos. Instead, these pilgrims injected faith, good humour, smiles and a happy disposition that would prompt even some of the most critical journalists, non believers and opponents of the church to remark that it was, indeed, a blessed experience.

Was it perfect? Absolutely not. Yet in my own experience having attended four international World Youth Days, it's in the imperfections that we find the most meaning. The bus that was too crowded to pack onto meant a walk with strangers that turned into discussions about faith, life, hopes and dreams. Food stations with hour long lineups meant gathering in small groups and sharing a pizza slice, fruit, hot dogs and cold drinks - you might say a modern day loaves and fishes scenario. A 12 hour walk back from the closing mass at World Youth Day 2000 in Rome, under 120 degree heat remains one of the highlights of my own personal faith journey.

In my dealings with journalists and Catholics from around the world, they still hearken back to those summer days in July 2002 with fond memories. Who could forget the sight of Pope John Paul II walking down the stairs as he arrived at Pearson International Airport, the days ahead providing what would be his final international World Youth Day appearance?

I guess what will stand out for me, aside from sleeping in my own bed for World Youth Day 2002, is the simple events, the blessings, the moments that you felt what you were experiencing was exactly what it means to be Catholic - hospitality, prayer, community, love.

Having the pleasure of traveling the last 43 days with the World Youth Day Cross leading up to the start of WYD is another one of my top 5 Catholic moments. Taking the cross to places where faith was a beacon of hope was like a daily chapter of Chicken Soup for the Soul - the community organization, parishes working together in collaboration, ethnic communities embarking on a project en masse, churches, schools, social service agencies, it all was a little overwhelming at times.

Certain moments are etched in the memory bank - a seniors centre where those in their declining years grasped the cross as if it were a final goodbye, closing city streets for this symbol of faith on its travels, greeted with full paparazzi in tow, recording every movement and appearance this chipped, fragile cross would make.

We also brought the WYD Cross to places where faith played no prominent role but perhaps its presence could provide comfort (nightclubs, casinos, shopping malls, prisons) and even to places that would be cool to just take the cross for a quick visit, like outside the top of the CN Tower (as pictured above).

So whether it was the World Youth Day Cross, pilgrims from a distant land welcomed at your parish, the sight of thousands of young people confessing their sins on the shores of Lake Ontario or a final mass that marinated pilgrims until the Pope arrived and the sun came out, it's hard to believe seven years have passed.

The summer of 2002 was a special one. The summer of 2010 in our city? I guess it will be remembered first for G20 security, protests, arrests and some damage to the downtown core. Instead of fencing in our city, maybe we just needed some more people willing to sing on the bus, share the food in their knapsacks and the prayers in their hearts?

Photos: Tim Lee Loy, Archdiocese of Toronto

Jul 20, 2010

The Cup Comes Home - Literally!

In Canada, of course, summer isn't summer without a good hockey story. We've only got a few more months until our beloved Maple Leafs take to the ice and at this point, without a game played, their chances to win the Cup are just as good as any other teams.

So hats off to our most recent Stanley Cup winners, the Chicago Black Hawks, and in particular, head athletic trainer, Jamie Patno (pictured above with his 11 month old son).

A longtime parishioner of Incarnation Parish in Palos Heights, Illinois, the dedicated staffer of the team decided he would use his day with the Stanley Cup to give back to his parish, the community and all those who helped support his own journey to the top.

A heartwarming story on stewardship and giving back, on these hot summer days, it's worth reading below, courtesy Catholic News Service about the Cup truly coming home.

Photo: Catholic News Service

Jul 15, 2010

Vatican Update on Procedures for Most Serious Crimes

Vatican Spokesman, Father Frederico Lombardi

The Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has released its new norms concerning the most serious crimes. These will garner much attention as the majority of the document deals with cases of clerical abuse and we all know how much coverage there has been of these cases in the last number of months.

Below you'll find a series of resources to help "unpack" the document which can be a little difficult to fully digest as we're dealing with Canon (or Church) Law throughout. Remember, these documents were not originally written in english so you have a translation to deal with on top of an already complex text. A couple of points to consider:

1) These "canonical" norms relate to the church's own internal investigations and norms, essentially our internal church discipline. Any victim is free at anytime to go to the civil authorities and, in many cases, dioceses help facilitate that communication but they do not initiate it. The victim comes first and their wishes are always respected. These norms in no way impact any civil investigation into cases of abuse.

2) The changes will allow the Vatican to speed up the process of laicization of a priest, commonly known by many as "defrocking" a member of the clergy.

3) New changes also extend the statute of limitations in cases from 10 years to 20 years and leave open the possibility for further extensions on a case by case basis.

4) Many of the implemented "changes" have been present in procedures for years but may have only appeared as footnotes or exceptions. In fact, many of the new norms were based on recommendations by then Cardinal Ratzinger almost a decade ago, when he was head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. They have now beed codified, embedded as it were, permanently in canon law.

Now to the resources:

1) Vatican spokesman Father Frederico Lombardi - The significance of the publication of the new "Norms concerning the most serious crimes". Fr. Lombardi shared these thoughts with journalists gathered for a press conference to release the new procedures.

2) A brief introduction to the modifications made in the Normae de gravioribus delictis, reserved to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith - essentially a communication from Cardinal Levada (head of the CDF) outlining the changes.

3) Letter to the bishops of the Catholic Church and to the Ordinaries and Hierarchs, regarding the modifications introduced in the Normae de gravioribus delictis

4) The full and complete norms as revised by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith

If you're looking for a journalistic analysis from a church perspective, consider checking out John Allen's take on the latest changes.

Shortly, we'll have more information to share on the Archdiocese of Toronto's review committee which has been working on an update of our procedures for misconduct since May.

We continue to remember all victims of abuse in our prayers and hope that these and other initiatives will demonstrate the church's commitment to dealing with this issue pastorally.

Photo: The Guardian

Jul 13, 2010

Annual Youth Rally Around the Corner...

Each year, hundreds of youth from across the Archdiocese and other southern Ontario dioceses, come together at the historic Martyrs' Shrine for a weekend of faith and fellowship. The program is modeled after World Youth Days and includes catechesis, reconciliation, youth festival and sleeping next to the historic Papal Altar where Pope John Paul II celebrated mass in 1984.

The 2010 edition of the Archdiocesan Youth Rally takes place July 23-25. This year's catechetical speakers include Toronto Auxiliary, Bishop Peter Hundt and Hamilton Auxiliary, Bishop Gerald Bergie. There will also be an evening concert by Spirit and Song Contemporary Christian Artist, Sarah Hart.

Staff at the Office of Catholic Youth (OCY) have been hard at work with the planning and logistics that go into any large scale event of this nature. They've also been trying to get the word out so that any young person involved in their parish is afforded the opportunity to join in the experience.

This year, a special subsidy has been made available by the Archdiocese to allow five young people from every parish to attend the rally free of charge. Contact your pastor or the OCY for more details.

Remember the rally is also an opportunity to explore the beautiful Martyrs' Shrine, the sacred ground where eight saints evangelized and ultimately sacrificed their lives close to 400 years ago. The Shrine suffered extensive tree damage from last month's tornado that struck the Midland area but amazingly, no structural damage took place although hundreds of trees came down, requiring an extensive clean up operation.

Below you'll find a compilation of pics from the 2009 rally to give you a flavour of the experience.

Remember, the OCY is also organizing a pilgrimage to World Youth Day 2011 in Madrid, Spain. Given the celebrations after this week's World Cup Victory, one can imagine that the spirit will kick it up even another notch or two when hundreds of thousands of young people make their way to Spain in what promises to be another historic event for the global church. We've yet to hear whether vuvuzelas will be welcome...

Photos: Office of Catholic Youth

Jul 9, 2010

Homegrown iApp Explains New Mass Translation...

A brand new application has arrived in the Apple store and for Catholics interested in evangelization through new technology, it's definitely worth a look. Cale Clarke, a passionate young Catholic from our Archdiocese, who serves as a lay pastoral assistant at St. Justin Martyr Parish in Unionville, took the bull by the horns and decided to develop a new application that would assist in educating our family of faith in understanding the new translation of the mass, expected to be implemented in Canada for Advent 2011.

Just a few weeks ago we talked about an iPad app developed by a priest in Italy to assist clergy in celebrating mass with the new translation. This application is different in that it's designed specifically for the Catholic in the pew or those wanting to learn a little more about the new translation. And at 99 cents, it's a bargain!

Congratulations to Cale for having the foresight to develop this exciting new tool that, for a whole new audience, will evangelize, educate and hopefully inspire!

We caught up with Cale - what follows below should shed some additional light about his work, passion for the faith and all about a brand new app that could have a profound impact on both our local and global church.

Around the Arch (ATA): Tell us a little bit about the work you do for the church.

Cale: I'm the Director of The Faith Explained Seminars , and I'm incredibly passionate about helping Catholics understand their faith in a deeper way. We can't truly love a person unless we know him, and so we must know what the Church teaches about Christ - who he is, and what the Christ life is all about - in order to love Jesus as we should.

I walked away from the Church myself as a young man (hopefully I'm still on the young side), and I have to say that the reason I did was that I didn't fully understand the faith as I should have. Not being well grounded in the reasons for belief, I was "easy pickins" for secular skeptics on campus. The greatest discovery of my life was the historical evidence for Christ and the Catholic Church.

ATA: How did you decide to come up with the idea for The New Mass app?

Cale: When I heard about the new English translation of the Mass, I realized that a massive catechetical effort would be needed to help people learn the new texts and responses. Of course, books and printed materials have their place, but in today's wired and mobile world, there was a need for something that people could carry with them in their pocket - a simple, easy-to-use, yet beautiful tool for helping them learn the new translation - hence, the idea for The New Mass iPhone app was conceived.

My good friend Batsirai Chada and I immediately set to work buildng it, and now it's been "born". I can't believe it's a reality; that people are already using it and learning about the New Mass on their iPhones and iPod Touches, all over the world!

ATA: Tell us a little bit about how it works.

Cale: For each major section of the Mass (the Gloria, the Creed, etc.), we have the current translation, the new text, as well as a brief commentary on the reasons for the change. I tried to focus especially on the many biblical allusions of the Mass texts. The Mass is saturated with Scripture! People can follow along with the Mass, and also use it to prepare for Mass. Best of all, you can use it with today's Mass as well as the new English translation that's coming.

ATA: What do you hope this tool will accomplish?

Cale: When I shared the New Mass app with Archbishop Collins, we talked about what a teachable moment this is for the universal Church. It's a God-given opportunity for Catholics to do far more than just learn some new responses, as we won't be able to go from memory anymore!

It's a chance to rediscover what the Mass is really about. It's the heart of our faith, "the source and summit" as the Church puts it, because the Mass is Jesus Christ himself. He is there in his physical, Real Presence - Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity. You simply can't get any closer to God this side of heaven!

ATA: How can people download the App?

Cale: You can download The New Mass App from the Apple App Store. We also have a website, just for the app, that links to this as well. And here's the official iTunes site for the app.

ATA: What are your own impressions of the new translation?

Cale: It's gorgeous. It's a more elegant and beautiful English translation, sticks closer to the official Latin text, and many great Scriptural allusions, as I mentioned before. Here's an example: just before we receive the Eucharist, instead of saying, "Lord, I am not worthy to receive you", we will say, "Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof". Now, this has nothing to do with the Eucharist and the roof of one's mouth! It's actually a quote from Matthew 8, where a Roman centurion tells Jesus that it's unnecessary for him to travel to his house to heal his servant. The Lord then marvels at the man's faith - which is exactly the faith we need to recognize Jesus' Real Presence in the Eucharist. These are the types of explanations I tried to put in The New Mass app.

ATA: What's next on the agenda for Cale?

Cale: I plan on doing a lot of speaking at conferences, parishes, etc., to help educate people about The New Mass. I'm so excited about this - I can't wait for people to learn more. So please contact me - I'd love to speak to your group. Other than that, I'll still be writing for Catholic Insight magazine and other outlets, and continuing to serve as a pastoral assistant at Saint Justin Martyr Parish. And, of course, we'll be continually updating The New Mass app, so watch www.thefaithexplained.com for more news as it happens!

Photos: Cale Clarke

Jul 5, 2010

Busy Days at the Vatican

It wouldn't be overstating things to say that the past seven days at the Vatican have been "dramatic". Of course, Canada was most directly impacted by the appointment of Cardinal Marc Ouellet to head the Congregation of Bishops, the office that one could argue most directly influences our global church.

It's sad that just about every media story referred to the "controversial" Cardinal of Quebec in mentioning Cardinal Ouellet. Most stories referred to his recent comments on abortion where the Cardinal essentially reiterated the church's position on the sacredness of life from the moment of conception to natural death in any situation. To Catholics who are familiar with the Catechism, it seems to me that any position but defending life at all stages would be the controversial one.

Weeks ago, the Cardinal was condemned by provincial politicians in an all party motion, somewhat interesting considering many of these political leaders vehemently defended the presence of the cross in their parliament just a few years ago. Perhaps it's a sense of symbols over substance.

Yet Cardinal Ouellet shook things up. He welcomed thousands of international delegates for the 2008 Eucharistic Congress, led prayerful processions in the streets, an outdoor mass in the pouring rain and considered the event his own mountaintop experience and moment of personal renewal. For a province where the roots of faith were planted in this country, the Cardinal made every effort to till the earth and turn over the sod in an attempt to cultivate new seedlings. He did it all with grace, class and clarity. It's most unfortunate he was not always provided the same courtesy.

No doubt the Cardinal will review the files and recommendations for Canadian bishops with particular interest, especially those in Quebec, considering that half of the province's 19 dioceses will be "open" with bishops turning 75 over the next two years, not the least of which will be Quebec City, the archdiocese whose shepherd also becomes the Primate of Canada.

The Vatican also announced that the Pontifical Council for New Evangelization would be established, in many ways an acknowledgement that an injection of energy, education and renewal for the church (especially in the west) is in order. It will be interesting to see how this office evolves and what initiatives are brought forward to stoke the fire of faith within our family of faith.

At the same time, a number of legal cases have intersected with the Vatican, including American lawsuits regarding sexual abuse along with a Supreme Court ruling that the "Vatican" can be sued. As well, the European Court of Human Rights (think Human Rights Commissions in Canada) is hearing an Italian case to determine whether public schools in the country have the right to display crosses in the classroom.

Finally, we have the strange and deeply concerning case in Belgium where the offices of the bishops' conference were raided and a number of officials including bishops were detained for more than nine hours while police confiscated files, cell phones and even drilled into the graves of deceased bishops searching for "secret documents".

Let's not forget that 38 new archbishops (including Archbishop Albert LeGatt of St. Boniface, Manitoba) received the pallium this past week at a ceremony on the solemnity of Sts. Peter & Paul. We pray for the newest shepherds and the next stage of the journey. May they lead their flock fervently!

Given all this, I'd say the Holy Father is certainly looking forward to a vacation. He heads to his summer residence, Castelgandolfo on July 7 and will remain there until early August.

And speaking of controversial, you can expect a full court press of negative media attention as the Pope makes his way to England in mid-September. The BBC has reportedly given the green light to a project entitled, "The Pope on Trial".

One can only hope that there will be some level of professionalism and integrity in the way the apostolic visit is presented. It's at times like these that the church needs to have professional communicators in place to swiftly and accurately refute any false information that is presented. Especially in a situation like a Papal Visit, where stories and events are literally evolving by the hour. Let's hope there's some good spokespeople at the ready to provide counter-balance.

John Allen of the National Catholic Reporter has an interesting take on the last seven days in his most recent column. John will be making a few appearances in Toronto this fall. He's always a popular speaker and I'm forever indebted for his pearls of wisdom, in particular his book "Conclave" which was an excellent primer leading up to the 2005 conclave that elected Pope Benedict XVI.

Well if nothing else, it's been an interesting start to summer. Who knows what's waiting around the corner?

Photos: Irish Times, Canadian Press

Jul 1, 2010

Happy Canada Day!

On this 143rd birthday of our country, we give thanks for our many blessings, the peace that we enjoy and the freedom that so many seek when they make their way to our soil to call Canada home.

May God bless our country and the people who inhabit this great nation!

Two clips below for you to get your dose of "Canadiana". First comes from the 2006 Winter Olympics in Torino with gold medalist Chandra Crawford exhibiting the template of how to receive your gold medal and sing unabashedly.

A second clip is just a good ol' Canadian ditty celebrating our nation along with a nice nostalgic montage.

Happy Canada Day to one and all.

Video clips: YouTube