Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Good Samaritan and a culture of life

In another blog posting, I wrote about A Modern Day Good Samaritan Living in Toronto. The article was about the charity started by Dr. Andrew Simone and his wife Joan to help the hungry and poor children of the world. The organization is called, Canadian Food for Children. Just days ago, I received the summary of the shipments made and the total weight of the food, clothing, tools and other non-perishable items sent to different parts of the world in 2011.

They have sent shipments to the following countries: El Salvador, Ghana, Grenada, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Kenya, Liberia, Malawi, NIcaragua, Peru, Philippines, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Tanzania and Zambia. In total, the charity has sent out 293 containers that weighed 4,117,888 kilograms or 4,540 tons of food and other items. I'm sure that many children and families in the world are a little better off because of this Canadian charity. I hope during Advent, Christmas and throughout the year you're inspired to support and pray for this apostolate. Your donations and prayers will be helping, like the Good Samaritan, build the common good by promoting a culture of life.

Today's secular world can seduce us into the false notion that we can get closer to God by using certain psychological techniques. The individual can do just about everything. But the Holy Spirit, according to St. Francis, comes to us not by any human made methods; it comes through penance, prayer, alms, purity, and charity. Saint Francis himself writes humbly and insightfully on the subject. We can see this from the following quote which comes from a letter by St. Francis of Assisi, (Opuscula, edit. Quaracchi 1949, 87-94). It's part of the Roman Catholic Office of Readings for his the feast day on October 4.

"Furthermore, let us produce worthy fruits of penance. Let us also love our neighbors as ourselves. Let us have charity and humility. Let us give alms because these cleanse our souls from the stains of sin. Men lose all the material things they leave behind them in this world, but they carry with them the reward of their charity and the alms they give. For these they will receive from the Lord the reward and recompense they deserve. We must not be wise and prudent according to the flesh. Rather we must be simple, humble and pure. We should never desire to be over others. Instead, we ought to be servants who are submissive to every human being for God’s sake. The Spirit of the Lord will rest on all who live in this way and persevere in it to the end. He will permanently dwell in them. They will be the Father’s children who do his work. They are the spouses, brothers and mothers of our Lord Jesus Christ."

Dr. Simone, his wife Joan and supporters of his charity continue to be witnesses to this "permanent" presence of the Holy Spirit. Will the rest of us be "the spouses, brothers, and mothers of our Lord Jesus Christ"?

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Baby Jesus belongs everywhere and he comes for all of us

As we begin the Season of Advent to prepare for Christmas, Everyday for Life Canada wishes to share this inspirational video produced by Grassroots Films. The setting is New York City, but it could be Toronto, Rome or any other city. Bethlehem is eternal; it's everywhere and anywhere. The message is universal. The film can be used to propose to us all the simple question: will we recognize Baby Jesus--the Blessed Sacrament-- when he comes? Watch the video and, if you feel inspired to do so, answer the question for yourself.

Here's the summary of the film, "God in the Streets of New York City literally documents the carrying of Jesus through the streets of New York City. The monstrance which is used to carry the Blessed Sacrament is one of six that were blessed by Blessed Pope John II before his death to mark the celebration of the Year of the Eucharist. The film depicts the contrast between the everyday chaos of the busy streets -- complete with traffic, construction and police cars -- and the peaceful presence of Jesus. There is always an opportunity to meet Jesus face to face. It poses the question: will you recognize him?"



We hope you enjoyed watching this spiritual film. May the Season of Advent be filled with blessings, prayers and God's grace for you and your family.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

(Part I) University Catholic education course: another name for deceptive Catholicism

From August to October 2011, Niagara University in Ontario offered, as they have been doing for a number of years, a course to prepare Catholic teachers to teach in the Primary/Junior Division. On the surface the course looks like any other university course of study: it has an outline, student assignments and resources. However, on a closer examination we find that it has little Catholic content and provides new teachers with few pedagogical tools to enable them to carry out their vocation. The instructors in my opinion are not doing their jobs. Why hasn’t the Toronto Catholic School Board made them responsible and accountable for what they are failing to do? Are our Catholic trustees and the Religion Department aware of what’s being taught to prospective Catholic teachers? Let’s take a closer look at some of the course content.

The program

The course is called, “EDU 690: Foundations in Catholic Education.” Here’s the entire course description:

“The course is designed to enhance the professional knowledge, skills and dispositions of candidates preparing to teach in Catholic schools in Ontario. To that end, this course will begin by introducing teacher candidates to the Catholic educational tradition in Ontario, discussing topics such as: the history of Catholic education in Ontario, the philosophical underpinnings of a Catholic school system and the theological background and pedagogical skills necessary for the implementation of the Religious Education and family Life Curriculum. Emphasis will be placed on developing skills to enhance the integration of Gospel values across the curriculum, and promoting an understanding of teaching as a vocation rooted in the ministry of Jesus. Support systems presently available to Ontario Catholic teachers will be made available.”

This outline says what you would expect it to say in order to cover the “foundations in Catholic education”, but as we discover, the actual content completely deviates from this goal. The outline is deceptive.

Teaching methodology

The instructors tell prospective teachers that the method of teaching for the course “will reflect an adult context on the significance of faith and faith growth for themselves and for their students.” Further, “adult models of learning” will allow for “individual reflection” and teachers are “encouraged to reflect on their own faith journey and understanding of the Church, particularly as it relates to their vocation as a Catholic educator.”

So a new Catholic teacher is presented a model of teaching that is based on just reflecting, feeling, personal views and journeying. What has happened to the content of the course? Has teaching methodology been reduced to opinion alone? It’s the content of the Bible, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the lives of the saints and the history of Catholic education, at least in Ontario, which should shape Catholic teaching.

Course objectives

Prospective teachers will:

-reflect and affirm their personal faith;

-evaluate where they are in relationship to the Catholic community and as teachers;

-learn teaching skills from “the Canadian Catechism Program"- Born in the Spirit, We Are Strong Together and Fully Alive.

This idea of only affirming and believing in the power of one’s personal faith is at odds with the First Commandment: “I am the Lord your God: you shall not have strange Gods before me.” The instructors are provoking God in word and deed. The philosophy of a subjective, personal faith is essentially asking teachers to accept a New Age practice, which is totally against Church teaching and an abuse of their position as Catholic educators.

Required assignments

Here are two assignments that teachers are required to do: (1) write a spiritual autobiography and (2) a reflection paper about a retreat. In the retreat paper, teachers are to list three insights they learned and explain how they will use them to create community in the classroom. The spiritual autobiography needs to contain information about the teacher’s relationship to God from early childhood to life as a teenager and then as a young adult into adulthood. A couple of pages of this requirement must address how the teacher sees suffering, prayer, sin, doubt, justice and peace. The assignment will not be marked on content. The grade will be assigned based on how well the teacher has followed the outline.

With this personalized evaluation scale every teacher will no doubt receive the highest of grades. If all content is equally valid, then why bother to offer a university level course about Catholic education? There is something duplicitous here. How can any teacher be properly evaluated when the content of the assignment is irrelevant? This teaching approach rejects both faith and reason. But another important question is, who has approved this very subjective university course as a valid preparation for future Catholic teachers? Martin Luther in his Ninety-Five Theses was excommunicated for doing much less than this.

(Please read Part II of this article in the next blog entry. Thank you.)

(Part II) University Catholic education course: another name for deceptive Catholicism

Some course readings

One of the reading assignments given to the teachers is Fr. Raymond Devettere’s “The False Gods We Sometimes Teach.” Teachers are told that Church, prayer, worship and sacraments are “meaningless caricatures” and thus not to be taught. A number of false notions of God are also described. These include, “the God of prize and punishment”, “God the torturer”, “Big daddy God”, “The God of the stare” and “the God of the tease.” These ideas of God are to be thrown out and replaced by a personal “God” of one’s own making. God can be considered female and one instructor tells teachers that he changes Bible language to suit his purposes.

Another reading traces the stages of faith development by James Fowler. According to Fowler there are seven stages: the “intuitive”, the “mythic-literal”, the “synthetic-conventional”, the “individualistic”, the “reflective”, the “conjunctive” and the “universalizing.” In defining the conjunctive stage, teachers are told that “ now one’s faith expression is no longer that of parents, Church or tradition, but one’s own.” This is the highest form of faith because it’s one’s own. And universalizing faith, which is said to be that of a saint, applies to only two percent of the population. This “faith is more than beliefs or even a way of life, but is one of total commitment to the ongoing, guiding presence of God or whatever the person recognizes as the Ultimate authority.”

Why aren’t the teachers also told that Fowler’s stages have no basis in science or mere common sense? He merely attached his ideas to Piaget’s and other theories of cognitive development. Church teaching about faith has nothing to do with making it up on a personal level. Faith is knowledge and trust in God; it’s a gift from God so we can obtain salvation. We choose faith with our own free will and it helps us to love God and our neighbor. We grow in faith through prayer. The course makes no mention of any of this, and so we can only assume that the instructors don’t believe it themselves. They make no room in the course for the Apostles’ Creed and the belief in a Triune God. If this is the case, why are they pretending to teach a course on the foundations of Catholic education? This is sheer incompetency, willful or otherwise, and a complete disservice to new teachers.

“It’s all about you

The last part of the course description is a section called, “It’s all about you.” The following headings are used: “language”, “touch”, “body image/awareness”, “puberty and sexual information” and “values.” This entire section, which is not even mentioned in the course summary, is all about exploring teachers’ views about sexuality as well as considering how their own family life shaped them. Topics such as masturbation, menstruation, same-sex attractions and sexual intercourse are included. Why was all this talk about sex not mentioned in the course description?

When dealing with the subject of “touch” teachers are to think about the kind of touching that took places in their homes. Here are two questions from the body/awareness and image section: “How was nudity dealt with in your home as you were growing up?” and “How do you feel about nudity in your own home now?” About puberty they are asked: “Do you remember the experience of your first wet dream or first period?” and on the topic of values there’s this question: “What did your parents think about sex outside of marriage?” and also about “children having sexual feelings” and “birth control.” The section concludes by asking teachers to list five qualities that would make them good sexual educators. What happened to the course’s stated goal about Catholic education?

Conclusion

The content of this entire course is misleading and disturbing. The instructors write a course description for would-be Catholic educators, but then do not follow it. It is similar to reading tempting descriptions on a restaurant menu, ordering and then receiving substandard and even totally different food.

Instead they include material on human sexuality not mentioned in their outline, and go on to promote a view of the human person that contradicts the teaching of the Catholic Church. The instructors should be held accountable by explaining how all this explicit talk about a teacher’s personal view on human sexuality fits in with preparing teachers to be effective Catholic teachers in the Primary and Junior grades. It’s clear that in this part of the course the instructors have another goal: to indoctrinate and prepare Catholic teachers to teach, not the Gospel values, but values according to the misguided and immoral agenda of the Equity and Inclusive Education Strategy.

This preparatory course has no intentions whatsoever to help new teachers teach the Catholic faith and prepare them to work in Catholic schools. The instructors have a personal agenda about their views of God, of human sexuality and of Catholic education. Sadly, they want new Catholic teachers to accept these liberal views about sexuality and the Church. In essence, the course subverts Catholic teaching. The instructors are not teaching the Catholic faith but are advancing their own propaganda. The moral problem with the whole course is founded on a lie: it doesn’t honestly cover the topics it describes in its outline. Those who have approved this as a Catholic course for future teachers should have a lot of explaining to do. If you or any teacher that you know has taken this course, at the very least you should ask for a complete refund.

Friday, November 18, 2011

"Virtuous Leadership" not just Occupy Wall Street is what the West really needs


Virtuous Leadership: An Agenda for Personal Excellence; Publisher: Scepter Publishers, Inc.; Date: 2007

Allan Bloom makes this comment in The Closing of the America Mind: “There is one thing a professor can be absolutely sure of; almost every student entering the university believes, or says he believes, that truth is relative. If this belief is put to the test, one can count on the students’ reaction: they will be uncomprehending. . . The relativity of truth is not a theoretical insight but a moral postulate, the condition of a free society, or so [the students] see it. They have all been equipped with this framework early on, and it is the modern replacement for the inalienable natural rights that used to be the traditional American grounds for a free society.”

In Virtuous Leadership: An Agenda for Personal Excellence, the author Alexandre Havard outlines a plan for those who want to pursue excellence in leadership. In terms of good leadership, Havard takes Bloom’s observation about university students’ view of truth in the post-modern world and turns it on its head: there is a prescriptive truth about great leadership; it’s never relative. Good and true leaders are not free to do what they want when they want. In fact, leadership is a principled discipline shaped by exercising moral and theological virtues. A good leader begins with a plan to live a more virtuous life; this always includes being ready to serve others and help them improve along the way to excellence. True leadership is virtue in action.

Havard says that his ideas have been inspired by Solzhenitsyn’s Gulag Archipelago and by Josemaria Escriva, the founder of Opus Dei. In the Russian writer, he sees a witness to truth and one who fought valiantly against the evils of Communism. In the Catholic priest and saint, he admires the challenge proposed with the words from St. Matthew, “be perfect as my heavenly Father is perfect.” The theme that animates much of the book is that through virtuous leadership human beings can accomplish great things with their lives, but true excellence in that role is achieved only by humbling asking for God’s grace.

The book is divided into five sections. The first two parts deal with the essential virtues needed for virtuous leadership: prudence, courage, self-control, justice, humility and magnanimity. This is followed by sections which look at leadership as self-fulfillment; nobody is innately a leader. Leadership develops from virtuous character training skills which need to be learned and applied to life. The final section addresses how Christian leaders, as well as those who are not Christian, can further infuse their actions with the theological virtues of faith, hope and charity.

Christian leadership must by definition connect to the transcendent if its actions are to be sanctioned and blessed with sanctifying grace. At this level, the virtuous leader wants to lead by the willingness to help others in order to better mankind while trying to do the will of God. Leadership, viewed this way, becomes a vocation to a higher calling.

The essential point is that there is nothing relative or selfish in living out virtuous leadership. Leaders need to make sacrifices in order to change their lives and become virtuous. This takes place when leaders use their free will to make determined choices. Havard stresses this point in Chapter three, titled “Just Say No.” He says the first step in becoming an excellent leader is to have the strength of character to know oneself and understand the world around us. The good leader must learn to say no to egoism, to cynicism, to materialism, to individualism (“doing your own thing”) and no to political correctness. Here’s how the author puts it: “Human freedom is not liberation from external influences, which is impossible in any case. Rather, it is a question of ‘freely’ choosing the influences you ‘freely’ choose to submit to. One who chooses wisely has a chance of becoming a magnificent human being.” (Page. 49)

A leader must strive to build an objective truth. A good leader cannot let whims and preferences get in the way of living and creating an environment where virtuous living is promoted and lived. Letting people be lead by their egos and greed will eventually result in some individuals taking advantage of others. According to Havard, when virtues are lived, they shape character and provide the formation for good leaders. The only power that a true leader has is through a preparedness to serve others and God.

This service relationship will give rise to a sense of trust. It’s an approach which aims to do away with the usual conflict that one finds between leaders and those that are lead. Its goal is to foster greater co-operation because the authentic leader cares for others, has their welfare at heart and wants everyone to become better persons by striving to live virtuously. Good leaders will use the economy and the financial system to build the common good, not exploit it for greed and self-interested. Just think how fruitful this leadership model would be both in our personal lives and as we try to resolve the current global financial crisis.

Since 2008, the media has been telling us that the world has been trying to deal with a financial crisis. The real problem is a spiritual and moral crisis. Politics has come unhinged from ethics and faith. There has been no shortage of opinions from leaders, in both business and government, trying to explain and correct the huge mess. Virtuous Leadership is a much needed and refreshing antidote to the bromides being offered. As it maps out and defines the essence of leadership, this book proves all too well that a Christian approach, in dealing with the tough issues of the day, can offer very practical and valuable solutions. Ironically, Havard’s book is the ultimate self-help book on leadership even though its transcendent message is a call to serve others, if we want to truly help build the common good. Verbally massaging ourselves with self-help leadership books, even those found on the bestseller list, that indulge in self-referential rhetoric will not produce great leaders.

Virtuous Leadership should be mandatory reading at all the international business schools. The book’s contents are healthy food to nurture student souls and minds as they prepare for the world of work. I humbly urge The Schulich and Rotman School of business here in Toronto include this book as part of their curriculum. This is important because students who are now taking courses in the MBA programs will need the required skills and ethics to become excellent future leaders.

Lastly, leadership, for Havard, ought to be seen not as something deserved, but as a gift like divine grace. The award winning Canadian author, Margaret Visser, in her latest book The Gift of Thanks makes a number of observations about grace which aptly help to describe virtuous leadership. In her words: “Grace includes acts of ‘ordinary’ kindness such as forbearance, disinterested encouragement of others, taking someone else’s part and not because it is in one’s own interest to do so, making decisions out of confidence in another’s worth, opening oneself to somebody not ‘one of us’. These and thousands like them are daily acts that call forth gratitude, the reflection of grace received. They go to create the ‘fabric’ of decent social relations, helping to ‘knit’ societies together.” (Page 379) This mindfulness is an example of leadership in action and in service of neighbour. We could rightly call it Christian leadership.

In the end, it’s also realizing that everything, including self-fulfillment and superior leadership, is a gift from God. Those who are part of the Occupy Wall Street protest I'm sure could find the real reason for what they are doing in this book. If you’re a parent, a community leader, a business or government leader or anyone who is remotely thinking or now execising a leadership role, I highly recommend Virtuous Leadership as required reading.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Love and Responsibility: a book ahead of its times

Title: Love and Responsibility, Author: Karol Wojtyla (John Paul II), Publisher: Ignatius Press, 1981 English Translation: H. T. Willetts

How many countless times have you heard and used the word “love”? It’s so commonly used when talking about human relationships and in just about every other aspect of our lives. We readily attach “love” to people but also to food, to animals, to objects, to activities, to landscapes… in short, to just about anything including the Creator. But what is real and true love when we apply the word to another person, to marriage, to family, to a vocation and to God. In Love and Responsibility, John Paul II, using evidence from the scriptures and science, offers a comprehensive view of the meaning of authentic human love and the human person. I’ll say this at the start of my review: if you truly want a definitive guide to a better understanding of human love, divine love and the essence of being human, read this book.

The author begins his main analysis by making an important distinction between two major principles which define love and the human person: the utilitarian and the “personalistic norm”. The utilitarian principle is essentially the idea that human beings seek pleasure as the highest value and this pursuit essentially governs human relationships. The “utility” notion sees people as a means to an end; persons can be used as objects to maximize pleasure and self-gratification.

Instead, the commandment to love God and our neighbor is the basis for what John Paul II refers to as the personalistic norm: “Man’s capacity to love depends on his willingness consciously to seek a good together with others, and to subordinate himself to that good for the sake of others.” (Page 29) This is in complete contrast to the utilitarian view which turns human beings into things because it doesn’t take into account the commandment of love; it fails to see the whole person. Human beings cannot be reduced to a physical activity or to a human feeling because they resemble their Creator. God alone has the unique copyright for every person; each human being is endowed with “supernatural” or spiritual attributes. Human beings, then, to be properly understood, one must take into account this part of their nature. Moreover, the love of God and of neighbor is in total opposition to the utilitarian principle, which merely seeks to satisfy the self through pleasure; it’s purely egotistical while the personalistic is essentially altruistic.

Since human beings are endowed with an innate higher value beyond the physical, persons cannot be loved fully if they are considered objects to be used and to be consumed. For John Paul II, the authentic guide to human behavior and relations is “love, which is the content of the commandment of the Gospels, can be combined only with the personalistic and not the utilitarian norm.” (Page 41)

In the meaning of personalistic norm rests the author’s central idea: human beings, if they truly love, are to behave ethically and morally in relations with others, including the sexual, because as persons we are made in the image and love of God. This simple but profound statement embraces the whole person and best reflects the modern understanding of the human person in terms of biology, sociology, psychology and anthropology. John Paul II’s definition of authentic human love fully integrates faith and modern science.

True human love is always more than a human sexual urge; it’s neither just a feeling nor a mere physical attraction. It’s a love, a relationship with another person prepared to build the common good; it’s a love that is unselfish and ready to sacrifice for the other; a love that willingly renounces sex in pursuit of chastity; a love which makes virtuous living meaningful and a love that is fully realized in a marriage, a vocation and fidelity to the Word. It’s a love centered on the sacrifice of the Cross.

Love and Responsibility began as a series of lectures, given at the Catholic University of Lublin, in 1958-59. They were the work of a pastor, long before he became pope, who tried to honestly address the pastoral experiences and concerns of his flock. It took another 22 years before the present book was published. Its popularity over the years has made way for many editions and it has been translated from Polish into numerous languages.

This is a work that was and continues to be ahead of its times. Before the sexual revolution (a revolution which wrongly stressed the utilitarian approach to life and sexuality) was about to explode, John Paul II was arguing strongly that truthful answers to human sexuality must be based on a complete view of the human person. We need to consider the human person as a being with physical, spiritual, social, intellectual and emotional needs. This is why we will fail to understand human relations, especially when considering love and sexuality, if we separate them from an affirmation of the value and dignity of the person. Love and Responsibility reveals a profound, authentic truth about love and the human person.

John Paul II has written many articles on family ethics and the philosophy and theology of the body. So the subject matter of Love and Responsibility, the nature of responsible love is, also, the fruit of writing, thinking, loving and living the topic himself. The author convincingly argues that each person becomes a subject and an object of responsible love through his actions and the actions of and others. Each person is free to choose the good. And so every life, if all human choices and actions are grounded on virtuous living, in its truest sense ought to be an unfolding story of love: the love of God, the love of spouse, the love of family and the love of vocation. This is the reason why God created human beings: to love each other the way God loves us. This is the perfect love and the perfect plan for every human being. Can there be a more wonderful and inspirational invitation in terms of living one’s life? John Paul II, like a loving parent, is never afraid to both instruct and to challenge his reader.

The book is divided into five chapters titled: “The Person and the Sexual Urge”, “The Person and Love”, “The Person and Chastity”, “Justice towards the Creator” and “Sexology and Ethics”. There’s a thoughtful introduction which provides a lot of useful background information by the translator, H. T. Willets. Readers and researchers will find the index and the detailed notes valuable.

As well, there’s the author’s introduction which contains this insightful summary: “The present book was born principally of the need to put the norms of Catholic sexual morality on a firm basis, a basis as definitive as possible, relying on the most elementary and incontrovertible moral truths and the most fundamental values or goods. Such a good is the person, and the moral truth most closely bound up with the world of persons is ‘the commandment to love’- for love is a good peculiar to the world of persons. And therefore the most fundamental way of looking at sexual morality is in the context of “love and responsibility”.

Are you interested in knowing more about what authentic Christian love is? Read the book. Do you want to strengthen your marriage, your family life and your view of love? Read the book. Do you know of a couple getting married and you want to give them the perfect gift of love? Buy them the book. Do you know some young people in your family or circle of friends dating, exploring what it means to be in love and may soon be considering marriage? Buy them the book. I wish this book were part of every marriage course in every parish in the Archdiocese of Toronto. It would help couples discover how to truly love each other in order to find happiness and fulfillment. John Paul II with this book argues not only why religion belongs in the public square, but why the public square needs faith to get the important life questions right.

By now you know that I highly recommend this book. And if you are an admirer of John Paul II, you will love him even more after reading this book. Love and Responsibility is proof that he is truly one of the great and original independent minds in human history. He’s God’s gift to us, and one more reason to love God.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Student mental health often forgotten with so much attention to bullying

With all the current attention being paid to bullying in schools you would think it was the number one safety and heath problem. It's not. It's mental health problems that put at risk the well being of many students and their academic work. More resources should be allocated to address this serious health issue. In my last eleven years as a teacher in an alternative class for students in the care and treatment program with the TCDSB, I enrolled in my class hundreds of students. I can attest to the fact that every student in the program was in one way or another suffering from depression. Of course, you would expect this from a student population in crisis, but mental health is also a widespread health problem in the regular schools as well. Let's look at some of the information available on the subject. The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health reports the following statistics:

Prevalence and incidence

* 1 in 5 Canadians will experience a mental illness in their lifetime. The remaining 4 will have a friend, family member or colleague who will.
* Mental illness affects thinking, mood or behaviour and can be associated with distress and/or impairment of functioning, with symptoms that vary from mild to severe.
* About 20% of people with a mental disorder have a co-occurring substance use problem.
* Schizophrenia affects 1%, major depression impacts 8% and anxiety disorder 12% of people.

Who is affected

* 70% of mental health problems and illnesses have their onset during childhood or adolescence.
* Young people age 15-24 are more likely to report mental illness and/or substance use disorders than other age groups.
* Women were 1.5 times more likely to meet the criteria for a mood or anxiety disorder than men.
* Canadians in the lowest income group were 3-4 times more likely than those in the highest income group to report fair to poor mental health.

Access

* Only one-third of those who need mental health services in Canada actually receive them.
* 71% of family physicians ranked access to psychiatrists in Ontario as fair to poor.
* While mental illnesses constitute more than 15% of the burden of disease in Canada, these illnesses receive only 5.5% of health care dollars.

Stigma

* Just 50% of Canadians would tell friends or coworkers that they have a family member with a mental illness, compared to 72% who would discuss diagnoses of cancer or 68% diabetes in the family.
* Only 12% of Canadians said they would hire a lawyer who has a mental illness, and only 49% said they would socialize with a friend who had a serious mental illness.
* 46% of Canadians think people use the term mental illness as an excuse for bad behaviour; and 27% are fearful of being around people who suffer from serious mental illness.

Cost to society of mental illness and addictions

* In Canada mental illness is the second leading cause of human disability and premature death
* Every day, 500,000 Canadians are absent from work due to psychiatric problems.
* Mental Health is the number one cause of disability in Canada, accounting for nearly 30% of disability claims and 70% of the total costs.
* $51 billion is the estimated cost of mental illness to the Canadian economy in terms of health care and lost productivity.xxi
* $34 billion is the cost of mental illness and addictions to the Ontario economy.

So one in five people will suffer from mental illness, and 70% of the problems begin with young children and adolescents. There's an enormous cost for this both financially and emotionally. Nevertheless, in the face of these facts, our Ontario provincial government will spend billions on all-day kindergarten and has spent millions more in implementing the misguided Equity and Inclusive Education Strategy. The claim is that this all necessary to combat bullying against students with different sexual orientations or with same-sex attractions. This is nothing but deceptive talk promoting a political agenda.

Certainly all that money going into questionable early childhood education and the resources would be better spent on helping students in our schools deal with their mental health. According to the World Health Organization, depression will be the single biggest medical burden on health by 2020. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that "Life and physical health are precious gifts entrusted to us by God. We must take reasonable care of them, taking into account the needs of others and the common good." (2288)

Thursday, November 3, 2011

An open letter to the newly elected president of the CCCB

Our prayers and best wishes are with Archbishop Richard Smith of Edmonton, the newly elected president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops. As baptized Christians, as parents and united in the spirit of Christ, we write this open letter. (In the photo, from left to right, are Mgr. Patrick Powers, P.H., Secretary general, Mgr. Pierre Morissette, Archbishop of Toulouse Mgr. Robert Le Gall and Archbishop Richard Smith)

To: Archbishop Richard Smith, President of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops

Dear Archbishop Richard Smith:

To begin with we congratulate you as the newly elected President of the Bishops of Canada. It’s reassuring to know that at the last Plenary Assembly, held in Cornwall 17-21 October, 2011 the Bishops of Canada "reviewed activities from the past year, shared their pastoral experiences and discussed the life of the Church as well as the major events that shape society." We’re certain that of central importance to Catholics is the workings of committee to promote a culture of life and family in Canada. This is an important initiative, but respectfully the bishops could do more, and here’s why.

We’re writing as concerned Catholic parents and Canadian citizens who continue to see the moral decay that our society is experiencing with the serious issues of abortion, contraception and the negative changes to marriage and family life. It was forty-three years ago that the encyclical Humanae Vitae was published. The evil results of not following its teachings have transformed our views, but sadly and more importantly our actions. Here in Canada, and elsewhere in the world, we have come to accept more and more a culture of death, a culture that continues to devalue life at all stages. We see it in the number of abortions done every year. We see it in the current efforts to legalize euthanasia. We see it in the law which has redefined traditional marriage and in the widespread acceptance and the use of contraceptives.

It’s now forty-three years since the Canadian bishops made some controversial statements in reference to Humanae Vitae. One was with respect to contraception that there were three situations in which “whoever chooses that course which seems right to him does so in good conscience.” (Paragraph 26) This statement, now generally known as "The Winnipeg Statement" certainly does not honestly reflect the wisdom of the encyclical, and it has been misleading in terms of theology. If we let individuals or governments choose what’s right and wrong, we then permit actions which may be carried out in “good conscience” but may in fact be immoral. We “render unto Caesar the things...that are God’s.” (Matthew: 22:21) A good example of this is today’s widespread use of contraceptives among Catholic families. In turn, this facilitates the notion for husband and wife to regard each other as objects of sexual pleasure. As well, it has reduced our reproductive rate in Canada to well below the replacement level. This is the real moral and economic crisis of our times. The West is in denial as it experiences a demographic winter.

While it’s no doubt commendable for the bishops to have a committee examine how we can promote life and family, would it not be more effective to say to Canadian Catholics to simply and to completely follow the teachings of Humanae Vitae? Language is very important in shaping thought. Words affect our thinking and this in turn shapes our actions. When we subvert the true meaning of words like “conscience” we distort the very language that guides our thinking and living. The misuse of words can easily lead to dishonest talk and unjust laws. It was in September 22-26, 2008, that the Canadian Bishops met and issued a pastoral letter titled, “Liberating Potential.” It calls on all Catholics to once again examine the value of the encyclical Humanae Vitae and to start rebuilding a culture of life in Canada.

This was a good start to erase the error of "The Winnipeg Statement." However, the Canadian Bishops should have gone further then and now. As you know, we’re celebrating in 2012-2013 the "Year of Faith". We pray for all our bishops and urge them to correct the past mistake and now proclaim the Truth. It would be a wonderful way to mark the "Year of Faith." A huge moral wound which has detrimentally hurt many programs, institutions and Catholic publications would to be healed. As Shepherds, the "Year of Faith" is an opportune time to give the flock the perfect example of admitting to having made an error and now wanting to correct it. Canadian Catholics deserve more than a committee in an effort to build a culture of life in Canada. In Jesus we find mercy with no end, but we need to acknowledge our failures.

We sincerely hope and pray that you our Catholics leaders, our Bishops have the courage and humility to do this. It could serve as a culminating moment in Canadian Catholic history when the Shepherds paved the way for the rebirth of the Church and a culture of life and family in Canada. No ad hoc committee alone can accomplish this.

Thank you for time and attention to this very important matter. Best wishes to you in your new position. Our prayers are with you all.

Yours respectfully,
Lou and Michelle Iacobelli