Last Updated:Friday - 09/24/2010
April 12, 2004
WCR Letters to the Editor
Budget offends morality
Is social pathology a sin and is the Church's role merely to observe it, and not try to mitigate the damage done by it?
Take, for instance, the latest provincial budget. Subsistence welfare rates - slashed 11 years ago - were not increased for the poor. They weren't even indexed to the cost of living. Seniors and the handicapped, hardly scraping by, were snubbed.
Alberta is scandalously awash in petrodollars. It's had colossal resource revenues - deliberately and grossly underestimated - and therefore huge budget surpluses for the last five years.
But it's a place where people are used to serve the vaunted economy and not vice versa. To matter, you must not be poor, disabled or old. You have to be productive, specialized and efficient - like a machine.
Once every four years, we hire servants to manage our collective affairs, but they are unaccountable to us on an ongoing basis. They can't be fired in mid-term.
They do produce a budget once a year. However, if you are old or disabled or poor, the budget is not for you. They are not your government; they belong to those who don't need but get huge subsidies and tax breaks - those with power and privilege. And that's democracy?!
According to the great Canadian film (The Corporation) currently being shown in Edmonton, giant corporations - considered persons under the law - exhibit the severest forms of psychopathology. Because it invariably identifies with them, so does the provincial government.
Where are the rights of the pro-lifers?
Abortions have been going on now for decades in our city. Ever since I can remember many of us have been involved in the pro-life movement trying to change our culture from one of death to one of life. The majority has said they do not want to fund abortions with their taxes.
And why should they? Abortion is "an unspeakable crime." It destroys the child, injures the mother and surely affects the extended family of the victim. It sears the consciences of those involved.
Imagine being an abortionist or nurse or anesthetist party to the murder. Picture being a judge or policeman or guard who arrests and condemns those who would protest, like Linda Gibbons heroically did a few years ago in Ontario. Their actions remind me of Mel Gibson's Pontius Pilate, trying to take the heat off himself only to find himself in hot water later, regardless.
Of course, also party to this culture of death are the pharmacists who sell birth control pills and abortifacients which destroy human life. Not to mention those who encourage our young people to be promiscuous by handing out condoms or promoting immoral videos and music. So all this leads to a negative birthrate in Canada - not enough tradesmen or professionals to keep the country going.
The University of Alberta pro-life group was recently forbidden to display the Genocide Awareness Project (GAP) in Edmonton. Will the rights of pro-lifers be recognized alongside those of Morgentaler?
Schools often only link to Church
Auxiliary Bishop Richard Grecco tells the story of a Catholic school trustee who sent four children to Catholic high schools and the other four to the public system(WCR, April 5, "Schools mistakenly become surrogate parishes").
As young adults, those who went to the Catholic schools lost interest in the faith while those who went to the public schools continued to practise their faith as adults.
Bishop Grecco seems to suggest that sending youth to a Catholic high school is dangerous to their faith. The danger (it is suggested) is that the schools are becoming surrogate parishes, going beyond their mandate to assist the local parish.
As Bishop Grecco is speaking from the Ontario context, allow me to suggest that there are other problematic areas that need to be studied. I speak as an educator with more than 20 years teaching religious education and other subjects in the Catholic system.
For most students - perhaps 90 per cent - the school is not the surrogate parish but the only link that they have to the organized Church. They do not have parishes.
They do not attend church and for the most part their parents do not attend church either.
In Ontario, students in Catholic schools do not need to be Catholic, but they must agree to attend religion classes. One year the student who received a prize for the highest mark in the religion program was a Hindu who simply approached religion just like any other subject and actually found it interesting. A majority of Catholic students resent the obligatory religion course.
All teachers in the Catholic system are qualified to teach religion. While many religion teachers are superbly qualified with theology and religious education credits, most teachers have only a one-course qualification certificate which has no prerequisite.
In no other subject area can a teacher be "qualified" with no background or academic preparation.
No one would accept a "math" teacher who had no background in mathematics. But religion is considered to be a subject that everyone can teach, and even non-Catholics have been assigned to teach religion.
When I was absent from school I would specifically leave instructions for the supply teacher "not to teach" so that I would not need to undo the damage and confusion that unqualified persons could bring to the classroom.
In many schools, religion is the "feel good" course where failures are not acceptable to the administration.
The theory is that all students should succeed somewhere, but they cannot be given a credit for math or science (the "real" courses) if they do not achieve the identified outcomes.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer talked about "cheap grace." Perhaps the Catholic system has simply made religion such a cheap commodity and such a ridiculous package for those with brains enough to see through the system, that those who attend Catholic schools become immunized against "faith formation" and belonging to a "faith community."
The bishop suggests that schools are faith communities. Our Catholic high schools have the same number and types of problems as public high schools. There are crosses on classroom walls, there might be a student Mass once a month, and morning prayers over the P.A. system but is that what defines a "faith community"? As a teacher with experience in both public and separate systems - I do not think that one system was more "Christian" than the other.
Good and generous teachers are equally abundant in both systems. Energetic and challenging students who are a delight to work with you find in both systems.
Perhaps the Catholic community needs to re-examine the need for Catholic schools. In those provinces (Quebec and Newfoundland) where Catholic schools have been eliminated, are there fewer or more youth participating in Church programs?
The great World Youth Day event with superstar attraction Pope John Paul demonstrated that the youth captive in Catholic high schools throughout the Greater Toronto area were for the most part unmoved and uninvolved.
Is the traditional parish the solution or just another part of the problem?
Suffering society deserves a share
Another provincial budget was handed down recently and it is a moral disgrace. While the gambling industry benefited from $45 million of taxpayers' money going to subsidize horseracing, seniors were snubbed and there wasn't a penny for the poor. Blaming the impoverished for their own plight has been standard operating practice by the Alberta government.
There are many citizens who, despite the astounding abundance of this province, live in mean and degrading circumstances. There are those who are in want, those handicapped by grinding poverty, those deprived of good fortune by the simple lack of opportunity through no fault of their own. The state-capitalist system is not designed to provide enough decent-paying jobs for everyone.
There are those who are made helpless by circumstances beyond them, the handicapped, the disabled, the sick, the homeless, the working poor and welfare recipients. There are slums and ghettos and depressed areas, and in them there is suffering and despair enough to be a blight on any society claiming to be a democracy.
And yet the right-wing politicians holding office, with their "fiscally responsible" agenda, believe that government should not try to uplift and elevate the socio-economic state of certain citizens. There is no more absurd a spectacle than the civil servant wielding power who truly believes his own propaganda.
Money stolen or withheld from the poverty-stricken and the defenceless is an assault on the Body of Christ.
Pay attention Christ's Body suffering today
No, I still haven't seen the movie The Passion of the Christ.
But as I reflect on Christ's Passion I think also of the Body of Christ suffering today.
With all of the attention this movie received, perhaps Mel Gibson could do a sequel to his movie entitled That Was Then, This is Now, showing suffering in our world at the present time - abortion, war, injustice, poverty and the list continues.
As we remember Christ's suffering 2,000 years ago, maybe today we could do more than stand helplessly in the crowd.
Recognizing Christ in these people suffering in our global village today, what are we shouting right here, right now?