Bishop's Blog

Tweedledum and Tweedledee

My mom often used the expression - "tweedledum and tweedledee". My dad explained that it meant - "six of one, half a dozen of the other." For example, two matters, persons, or groups can be very much alike, as in Uncle George says, he's not voting in this election because the candidates are tweedledum and tweedledee.

I later discovered that these terms were actually invented by John Byrom, who in 1725 made fun of two quarrelling composers, Handel and Bononcini, and said there was little difference between their music, since one went "tweedledum" and the other "tweedledee." The term gained further currency when Lewis Carroll used it for two fat little men in Through the Looking-Glass (1872).

Reflecting on our federal political leadership, I thought that the terms applied rather well to Prime Minister Harper and leader of the opposition, Thomas Mulcair.

The former has repeatedly said that he doesn't support re-opening the abortion debate. The latter says that his MPs flatly oppose reopening the abortion debate and proceeds to clarify by adding - "No NDP MP will ever vote against a woman's right to choose."

Now we have a new player, I call "tweedledum-dumb", our want-a-be Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau with his own brand of bilingualism. He pledges open nomination races and at the same time: "I have made it clear that future candidates need to be completely understanding that they will be expected to vote pro-choice on any bills." Apparently, logic isn't his strong suit.

All of our current political leaders need to study a bit more history, medicine, law and philosophy.

Canadians do not possess a constitutional right to abortion.

On January 28th 1988, the Supreme Court of Canada , in the Regina v. Morgentaler decision, struck down the existing abortion law. They did not establish a constitutional right to abortion.

The 5-2 Supreme Court decision is split into no fewer than four separate judgments. No member of the Court intended theirs to be the last word on the subject. It was only the law in front of them at the time that they found unconstitutional - Section 251 of the Criminal Code.

Regrettably, our Members of Parliament are content to play a political game with life refusing to even discuss the question. Furthermore, their cowardice and silence is inconsistent with scientific facts and places them in compliance with the destruction of thousands of human lives.

Clearly, the legalistic view of the pre-born child as an extension of the mother, which some people favouring abortion still cling to, has proven to be outdated. Differences between pre-born babies and other people are not in species (human or not) but in size, level of development, environment, and degree of dependancy.

In addition, the Canadian Constitution and our history, do not include a negative secularist bias against religious pluralism and the guarantees of freedom of conscience and religion as many of our politicians and media pundits assume. On the contrary, both seek to protect religious freedom by equally encouraging, promoting and enforcing religious pluralism. Both envision not merely diversity of religion or faiths but the active engagement, not mere tolerance, of such diversity, and not in isolation, but in relationship to one another.

Specifically, it is important to remember and apply the interpretation given to Section 2(a) of the Charter: Freedom of Conscience and Religion by the Supreme Court of Canada in the R. V. Big M Drug Mart Ltd (1985) case. The Justices addressed what is embodied in freedom of religion:

"A truly free society is one which can accommodate a wide variety of beliefs, diversity of tastes and pursuits, customs and codes of conduct ...The essence of the concept of freedom of religion is the right to entertain such religious beliefs as person chooses, the right to declare beliefs openly, and without fear of hindrance or reprisal, and the right to manifest religious beliefs by worship and practice and dissemination (para.94).

Freedom can primarily be characterized by the absence of coercion or constraint (para.95).

... The Charter safeguards religious minorities from the threat of 'the tyranny of the majority.'" (Para.96)"

Why are Harper, Mulcair and Trudeau not listening? Why are we letting them get away with it?

☩ Frederick Henry
Bishop Emeritus

Related Offices Bishop's Life & Family Resource Centre (LFRC)
Related Themes Abortion Conscience Moral and Ethics Life Issues

2014 World Day of Prayer for Vocations

My Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ

The Fourth Sunday in Easter is known as Good Shepherd Sunday and is the World Day of Prayer for Vocations to the Priesthood and Consecrated Life.

The call to married life was my parents vocation. It was just as truly a vocation as my call to priesthood. The question is not: "Do I have a vocation?" Every person does. The questions is "What is the Lord's call to me personally?" Discernment is not a choice between good and evil, since evil could never be God's will. Rather it is a choice between competing goods. Vocational discernment involves determining which of these genuine goods is the Lord's desire for me.

Pope Francis reminds us of the foundation for our respective vocations:

"Many times we have prayed with the words of the Psalmist: "It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture" (Ps 100: 3); or: "The Lord has chosen Jacob f or himself, Israel as his own possession" (Ps 135:4) .... .. the way of belonging to God comes about through a unique and persona/relationship with Jesus, which Baptism confers on us from the beginning of our rebirth to new life .... every vocation, even within the variety of paths, always requires an exodus from oneself in order to centre one's life on Christ and on his Gospel. Both in married life and in the forms of religious consecration, as well as in priestly life, we must surmount the ways of thinking and acting that do not conform to the will of God. It is an exodus that leads us on a journey of adoration of the Lord and of service to him in our brothers and sisters. "

We need to ask God to continue to send workers for his Church. Having a a sufficient number of priests is a precise and inescapable indicator of the vitality of faith and Jove of individual parishes and diocesan communities, and evidence of the moral health of Christian families. Don't be afraid to suggest the priestly vocation to our youth, and to consider having a period of prayer/adoration for vocations in your parishes once a month.

I want to express heartfelt gratitude to our international priests, who with great generosity have heard the Lord's call, have left their home and family, and have "put out into the deep" and responded to our call to help us meet our pastoral needs because we are short of home-grown priests. Their faith and servant-witness instruct us about basic evangelization and should inspire all of us to work hard to nurture vocations to the priesthood and religious life.

I am happy to announce that Colin O'Rourke will be ordained to the priesthood on Saturday, July 5 at 11:00 am in St. Mary's Cathedral. We also have 10 other seminarians at St. Joseph 's Seminary engaged in priestly formation, study and discerning their call. We also need your financial assistance. Tuition, room and board subsidies for seminarians are dependant upon revenues taken from our Seminary Fund. In addition, we support our international seminarians with a modest living allowance. I am once again asking for your help by way of a second collection. Please be generous. Thank you.

☩ Frederick Henry
Bishop Emeritus

Related Offices Bishop's Vocations
Related Themes Religious Life Vocations Priesthood Married Life Prayer Life Family Marriage

My First Meeting with St. John Paul II

As auxiliary bishop of the Diocese of London, I made my first ad limina visit in 1987. An ad limina visit is made every five years by diocesan bishops. It entails venerating the tombs of the holy Apostles Peter and Paul, officially visiting the four major Basilicas as part of the pilgrimage experience, meeting with the various officials of the Secretary of State, the Curia and their respective Congregations, Pontifical Councils, and Tribunals.

The unquestionable highlight is, of course, meeting the Successor of Peter, the Bishop of Rome who in this case was Pope John Paul II.

We met with the Pope on four occasions: our personal audience (Bishop Sherlock and me), the group audience (the assembly of the Bishops of Ontario), a weekday mass with the Pope in his private chapel, and finally lunch with the Pope in his private dining room.

Most of our days were tightly determined and structured before we got to Rome e.g. where we would stay, time-date-place for daily Eucharist, with whom we would meet, where, what we would like to discuss with each Congregation, who would lead the discussion from our end, etc. The only wild cards were the Curia’s agenda and the Pope’s schedule. Although we knew that the group audience would likely be the last event, we didn’t know until a day or two beforehand about the timing of the other three.

I would like to share my story about the mass with the Pope. I remember it as if it was earlier today: About mid-visit, in our temporary mailbox, at the Christian Brothers Residence where we are staying, we each receive a personally addressed sealed envelope which contains an invitation in raised gold script inviting us to concelebrate mass with his Holiness at 7:00 a.m. the following day. We are instructed to be at the Bronze Doors of the Vatican – right side Colonnade of St. Peter’s Square at 6:30 a.m. Very impressive!

We have to get organized. There are twenty of us. We are living about 45 minutes to an hour from the Vatican. Public transit doesn’t start until about 6:00 a.m. We will need several taxis to make it on time – a challenge in itself. We build in an extra cushion of at least 15 minutes. That means we leave the residence about 5:30 a.m., which in turn, means rising by 5:00 a.m. for a shower, shave, and maybe 4:45 a.m. if I want a coffee before leaving.

Being more than a bit excited, I wake up early, although the alarm was set as a backup just in case. I manage a coffee before we leave. I couldn’t help but notice that even the usual non-morning people are there, alert and talkative! By the grace of God, we even get the needed taxis and are at the bronze doors 20 minutes early.

As we enter through the bronze door, we are greeted by the Swiss Guard dressed in full colourful regalia. The first guard is standing on a raised dias, at ease, until he spots the episcopal ring, and then he snaps to attention, salutes, and pounds the bottom of the long speared pole on the dias which makes a loud echoing noise. I am fascinated by this recognition but resist the temptation to back up and make him do it all again. We present our invitation to another guard and wait for the other bishops to assemble.

We are eventually ushered up a flight of stairs, across a courtyard to the papal apartments, where we are greeted by gentlemen in brown tuxedos, get into a small elevator and are taken up to the fourth floor. Exiting the elevator, I am all eyes and trying to take in the patterned marble floors, the sculptures, all the paintings: including those on the ceilings, and the picturesque views of St. Peter’s Square from the corridor windows. We are led to the papal library. There has been a lot conversation and joking up until now but suddenly it turned deadly silent. Red vestments are already laid out for us on a large boardroom table and we vest in silence, form a process, and enter the Pope’s private chapel.

John Paul is already there at his pre-dieu with his head in his hands – I think that I can see a furrowed brow. This was definitely my lucky day, I end up in the front row, no tall bishop and his mitre to look around, and the Pope is so close I could almost reach out and touch him. I can’t believe it, I’m there with the Pope and he’s praying, and eventually, it dawns on me that I should be praying too.

Finally, he finishes his prayers before mass. Gets up, turns and greets us and proceeds to vest. Mass begins and I’m still in 7th heaven, until he gets to the Collect and says: “Let us pray.” There is a noticeable period of silence, he prays, and finally coming back to reality, I pray. This is all going by too fast!

After the readings, I sit down and prepare myself for the homily of my life. However, the Pope doesn’t preach but goes back to his chair sits down, closes his eyes and prays. I am so disappointed but finally get over it, and pray too.

This pattern seems to go on all the way through mass. Whenever there is an opportunity for silence and personal prayer, the Pope prays and so do I. I’m sure you know what’s coming. After communion, he returned to his chair, sits and prays. So do I. I’m getting into the rhythm by now.

When mass is concluded, he returned to his chair for his thanksgiving prayer. The proper etiquette is you don’t leave the chapel until the Pope does. So I sit and pray. Finally, he finishes, acknowledges our presence and we form a procession and leave the chapel.

One of the other bishops nudges me and whispers: “Cripes, I haven’t prayed so much for so long.” I said: “Yes, I know and I think that was his point. He wanted us to understand that to be a good Pope, you need a strong personal relationship with Jesus and a commitment to prayer, and if you guys are to be good bishops, so do you.” It was a classic teachable moment.

By extension, I would say if you want to be a good disciples, you too need good role models, a commitment to prayer and a personal relationship with Jesus.

☩ Frederick Henry
Bishop Emeritus

Related Offices Bishop's Office of Liturgy
Related Themes Saints Liturgy Prayers Mass Prayer Life

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