A Future of Catholic Reform?


Pope Francis, since his election in March of 2013, has been heralded by major news outlets as progressive and open minded. Pope Francis looks to be a Pope of firsts, being the first elected Pontiff from the Americas, the first Jesuit Pope, and the first non-European Pope in over 1200 years.

On Monday morning, in a press release Pope Francis announced major revisions to the Vatican bureaucracy. These reforms, coming in the wake over scandals involving the Vatican Bank, are the largest reforms to happen to the Vatican in over 25 years, since Pope John Paul II issued the apostolic constitution in 1988. The intent of these overhauls are to increase transparency in the institution by setting up a powerful economy council headed by the new Secretariat for the Economy position, a role filled by the Australian Cardinal George Pell.

The Vatican’s Istituto per le Opere di Religione (Institute for the Works of Religion, abbreviated IOR), commonly referred to as the Vatican Bank, has been under scrutiny for several years for a scandal relating to money laundering. Since 2009, the Bank has had an ongoing investigation of multiple cases of money laundering, involving several members of the Bank including Ettore Gotti Tedeschi, the ex-president of the IOR.

The new Economy Council, headed by the new Economics Secretariat Cardinal George Pell, consists of 8 Cardinals from numerous nations around the world and 7 economic experts. This council is appointed control all economic, personal procurement and administrative functions of the Holy See, tasked with the goal to improve transparency and consolidate existing management structures.

The news of this reform comes two days after the appointment of 19 new Cardinals by Pope Francis. Many of these Cardinals, 16 of which are under the age of 80 (permitting them to vote in the Papal Conclave), come from the developing world.

I think that this type of reform that is being initiated by Pope Francis is crucial to the Church at this time. After the numerous political scandals involving the Vatican Bank, Child Abuse and exposed internal corruption, the Church appears to be suffering from significant internal issues. The Church also has a public image issue. A common problem plaguing the Holy See is the lack of appeal to modern audiences, specifically youth. Its doctrine often seems out of touch with the common issues that many of its followers have day to day, from economic issues in first world counties to the rapid change of lifestyles in developing nations. Pope Francis has been praised by media for his seemingly down to earth rhetoric, his moderate view can hopefully realign official catholic doctrine to a more personal, meaningful message to the Church’s billion followers.

Article: http://wapo.st/1ds7Zdh

State-sanctioned discrimination



Through the United-states constitutional rights, citizens are entitled to their own religious freedom. That being said, everyone is able to receive service from any business as long as they meet the requirements for service. This article nevertheless goes against certain individual freedom rights given to every citizen in Arizona. I believe that the Arizona bill is upright disrespectable to various citizen within the state. Even if your religion forbids one of same-sex relationship, it should not follow through the services offered. The business is meant to offer benefits for both sides but to refuse others based on their sexual preference is irrational.


Everyone of every religion despite his or her sexual orientation should not let themselves become a victim or witness to such scandal. I believe that essentially this discrimination will only in effect reduce stability within the state itself. I believe that even though religion is an important aspect to many in their way of life, religion itself should not be allowed to affect others who do not believe in it. In what way would it be fair to be discriminated against for something just because your religion does not abide by someone else’s decision?  Should people with tattoos or plastic surgery also not be approved of certain services just because your religion is against it?  Should a Sikh business owner not provide service to everyone just because they cut their hair and it’s against their religion?


I believe that as religion becomes a set of beliefs and rituals, which one abides to within their lifestyle it does not necessarily have to extend to the involvement of others. In addition, its absurd to think that services such medical treatment can be denied. This issue can be a matter of life and death and a conflict of religion belief should not be able to interfere with it. A matter of such caliber should be able to bypass conflicts such as these to a certain extent.  


The Republicans say that this bill was put in order for religion freedom rather than discrimination but I believe it will only generate more conflicts.  I believe that nothing good can possibly come out of it; United-states are only bound to have an increase in the amount of discriminations within the country. Religion should not the cause of such conflicts among citizens but instead clear the spiritual path for those in who believe in it.


Shorten url: bit.ly/1gUchig

Religious Persecution and Oppression

Can you imagine through torture and turmoil, persecution and hate crimes, holding on tightly to your own beliefs with a heart full of rapture and love? Every day, across the globe, this is what people of numerous religions have to face. Christians, Muslims, Baha’is, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists – name a religion and you can likely assume that at one point its followers have been persecuted, or will be. One might even claim that this is a component of being a religious follower. When we observe these individuals we become aware of their reality, and see the strength that they have in their beliefs; we see that the persecution and torture they face often makes them firmer in their beliefs. It is astounding what humans can endure when their faith is tested. We expect these people to fall, to collapse under the pressure of their lives when all that they have is taken away, but instead we see an incredible response of strength illuminating from them.


There are many directions that this discussion could take. Should I discuss the persecution of religious believers by governments, or the uproar this causes in neighbours and friends of believers? Or perhaps I should discuss how this does not merely happen in non-democratic nations, how it happens right here in Canada and in the United States. Perhaps the best route to take is to discuss the common theme that runs throughout this entire issue: that the human race will not stand for this or any kind of persecution based on beliefs.


In one article from the Huffington Post http://huff.to/1f9gCsY Anthony Vance discusses how the religious minority of Baha’i’s in Iran have been persecuted since the birth of their religion and are still, to this day, being persecuted, simply because they are part of a religion that arose after Islam. They are restricted from pursuing any form of higher education, prohibited from working in many types of businesses, some are threatened and attacked on the street, and many are imprisoned with little explanation from the government. Vance discusses in this article, that the global community is becoming much more aware of this issue and as a result have responded with overwhelming intolerance to the persecution and support for the Baha’i’s and have, in fact, requested a call for action from the government of Iran.


In another article from the Huffington Post http://huff.to/MO4OGw Imam Muhammad Musri speaks out against the actions of many followers of his own Muslim faith, in order to stand up for those individuals of many different religions, who are being persecuted. He states that a large number of Muslims, in fact, disagree with this kind of harmful oppression. Once again we see that the global community will not stand for these kinds of injustices. Even if it requires speaking out against believers of one’s own religion, for the sake of justice and protection, friends and strangers, will stand up to fight religious persecution and injustice.


– AE #205

“We study the past to understand the present; we understand the present to guide the future.” — William Lund


Many base their numerous every day tasks on this concept presented by William Lund. We can only analyze the previous events that have occurred and hope to understand it. There is no absolute, stable, or certain method of predicting the future; not even the weather (especially in Calgary). Hypotheses predict affairs based on assumptions made by those with enough evidence from the past to simply estimate. Everything we know and are is based on transpired matters. So why do we think that religious history is insignificant? It seems trivial to confidently state religion is simply fading into the background. As far a religious history goes (practically time immemorial), religion and spirituality will always be a part of the human essence. Christian adherents, although the leading religion, are dropping. Reginald Bibby, a renowned religious scholar, concludes the upkeep of religion must be obtained through family focused activities. Today’s youth is becoming more and more disinterested by the traditions their preceding generations found mandatory and worthwhile. Church, as a standard example and classical in the sense of Roman Catholics, has become a dreary service. During which the younger generations revolutionize society, technology and all other aspects of ones life, we sit back and hold that religion is absolute, through an hour that has grown increasingly valuable to all. My greatest concern is, what is the issue of interpreting religion as the era sees fit? Martin Luther restored the bible to explain what he conceived to be the purest information possible from bible, creating a rejuvenated form of catholicism. Why not? Nobody needs to re-write sacred texts, or even adhere to them, to feel correct in their religion. This is the generation of change and individuality! Feeble attempts such as televised services have been tried. It is prevalent that religion no longer excites people. As Irving Hexham declared while explaining the purpose of yet another religious textbook, there may not be a satisfying product on the market, nobody is excited about it, and there is no new way of presenting the material. I find this analogy with the textbook and actual religion extremely helpful in exploring this topic. People need a fresh way of understanding the “higher power” that is omnipresent in their lives. A new divinity, scripture, or religion all together is not necessary, as many new movements have attempted; simply a new way to make it their own on a level of individuality. Maybe the new religion is “spirituality”. People are still looking for a purpose, a meaning of life, which can rarely be satisfied by a secular life. By learning and appreciating the past, specifically that religion cannot be absolute, religion can evolve as other domains have.


With the events that have been laid out recently in Denmark the ministry of agriculture has declared “animal welfare takes precedence over religion,” outraged many members of the Jewish and Muslim community in Denmark. As stated in the article there was “immediate accusations of anti-Semitism and Islam-phobia from Jews and Muslims,” which is not hard to believe when the Halal and Shechita religious slaughter of these animals hardly meets the cruelty faced in many factory farmed animals in Denmark.

The issue here is that European law states that the only legal and humane way to kill these animals is if they are stunned before having their throats slit, whereas when an animal is sacrificed for religious rites the animal is required to be alive, fully healthy, and most importantly conscious. After hundreds, if not thousands, of years of Jews and Muslims performing this ritual act they have mastered the skill of killing the animal while preventing its suffering, however the agricultural ministry sees this act as inhumane due to the fact the animal has not been stunned.

The major argument surrounding this new law is the fact that the factory livestock which lives out its days in cramped concrete cells, being force fed, and ruthlessly stunned and killed for consumption is being compared to the Halal and Shechita slaughters which the animals are generally given a better overall life, even though the last minutes of their existence they are not stunned before having their throats slit. However, even though the practice has been banned in Denmark, Muslims and Jews are still able to order more kosher meats from other areas, which is slightly ironic.

When it comes down to it, this new law has ironic tendencies, such as the mass murdering of livestock for public consumption rather than the ritual killing for religious practices which, realistically, are done in a more humane fashion when looking at the overall quality of life for the animals. The second issue with this new law is that it does create an issue with religious freedom and has a lingering effect of antisemitism and Islam-phoibia which in turn will only create a greater hostility among these religious groups and others.

Who is to say that Halal and Shechita slaughter is worse than factory killings and create a ban on these religious acts? Apparently Denmark’s ministry of agriculture, but, who is to say that his decision to outlaw these practices because of their inhumanity is right when the factory killing of livestock for mass consumption is in itself just as inhumane.

http://bit.ly/1jSVVJJ  Original link 

Is the Catholic Institution in Need of Humanity?

Some religious institutions could be regarded as vehicles of morality, and as the communicators of the good of divinity for the betterment of humanity. However, this notion may be far from real when we look into the behaviour of some religious authorities, which instead of promoting the good, seem to be more congruent with the unjust.

                  There is no doubt that the Catholic Church has been involved in many disturbing controversies in the last few years, which absolutely oppose the loving teachings of Jesus Christ. Besides the Church’s public intolerance of people’s sexuality and lifestyle, the institution has damaged the most vulnerable members of society: children. This blog is not only about the sexual predation of some priests towards the innocence of childhood, but about the survival of children from an episode of abusive, racist and unjust political-religious regime in Canada.

                  The nation’s Residential Schools were an educational regime that went from the late 1800s until the 1990s, and focused in the indoctrination of Aboriginal children. It was run mostly by Christian faith schools, where about 70% were Catholic run, with the support of the federal government. It is estimated that approximately 150,000 Aboriginal children attended these schools throughout its duration.

According to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, an estimate of 4,100 children died in 130 schools around the nation, and the number of deaths is expected to rise as the federal and provincial governments are in the process of releasing documents. These children perished from diseases, malnutrition, building fires, drowning, negligence, abuse, and suicide. These do not include the inconclusive fates of the many children that went missing. The Commission also estimates that many schools had up to a 60% mortality rate, and it is obvious that the government of Canada was well aware of this as it was recorded. In relation, some documents imply that the federal government carried medical and nutritional experiments on the attending Aboriginal children. Thus, I believe there is no doubt that the children which were able to complete or leave this horrific system regard themselves as survivors, and when reading some of their testimonies, there is clear evidence of psychological distress and post-traumatic stress disorder.

                  In 2006, there was a settlement of $1.9 billion reached for reparations from the federal government and the participating religious institutions, payable to the survivors of the system. The government, and the Anglican, Presbyterian and United Churches fulfilled their payment in full. However, the Catholic Church was supposed to pay $29 million into the Aboriginal Healing Foundation, but lowered it to $18 million to cover ‘expenses’, from which it is still outstanding $1.6 million in payments. The federal government has expressed outrage for the Catholic Church’s cover of their legal fees at the expense of the victims. In addition, Catholic groups committed to fundraise $25 million, and only a small part of that amount has been collected.

This, in my opinion, is truly an undignified situation from an institution that is supposed to promote the good, virtue, faith, and the word from the God of millions of people. An institution of such power and size, which claims morality, should not behave in the greedy ways of many multinational corporations. In turn, this institution should promote justice and provide the requested reparations, which in my opinion, are not enough to cover over a century of heinous crimes. However, the faith of the religion itself is not the one to be criticized, since there are good, conscious and just Catholics. Thus, perhaps Catholic authorities should look into many of its carrying and loving believers, and perhaps restructure the institution from the bottom up, from a more humane perspective, from the people that would give the Catholic faith a good representation. Perhaps the institution needs to become more humanized, since it seems that it has, ironically, divorced from humanity.




All information gathered from the following sources:


CBC News



The concept of belief and suicide bombings


Belief is one of the most strongest and abstract tool of the human mind. It can give rise to customs, culture and religion. In fact, our very existence can be a product of belief, who knows? Many existentialists believe that we have existential needs like need to be loved, a chance to be forgiven, unbiased justice and fairness- which leads to faith in God, a sanctuary of the ever curious and unsatisfied human mind. However, what we see is not all that exists; it’s not very long that we discovered that human eyes can perceive a very tiny slot of the electromagnetic spectrum, much of the phenomenon that exists beyond human physical capability is left to the mind. I mean I cannot even see my eyelids with my own eyes! The concept of solipsism from an epistemological view suggests anything perceived by human is an illusion. This makes belief our only option to understand reality and beyond. Death and afterlife are a very clever choice of events to lead people to believe in God: it’s impossible to take an account of a dead person, it’s the greatest enigma.


 In the minds of the wrong person, belief can be the tool of destruction and devastation- it can be religious like suicide bombings or ideological like anti-Semitism- the holocaust. I believe religion is an attempt, going on for millennia, to harness this power of belief to do what is righteous. Now what is righteous needs justification which needs further justification and leads to infinite regression and infinite conflict. Most Islamic researchers agree that suicide bombing is haram (forbidden) in Islam, in fact suicide is one the most sinful crimes anyone can commit. However some “scholars” argue that the semantics of the word suicide in suicide bombing is a misnomer. Whichever way you put it, it’s someone bombing himself up killing himself and many others to achieve, what he believe was the only option for justice, hoping his deed would undoubtedly land him in heaven. But it’s tragic, that nowadays many of the bombings are merely part of an elaborate political scheme, to strike fear and terror about certain groups who in the name of religion are actually seeking political power. Innocent people are being killed in large numbers. These conversions into brainwashed weapons of mass destruction, is the best way to spread their “message”. In Islam it’s a ubiquitous proverb that “killing a single innocent human is like killing the whole of humanity, saving an innocent being is like saving the whole of humanity”. Suicide bombing has become a major issue trending in Muslim dominated countries, there are tons of news articles out there, matter of fact in the time of my writing there was a suicide attack “Ottawa man killed in Somalia suicide bombing, attack blamed on Al-Qaeda affiliated Al-Shabaab” 10 others were also killed.(Refer:2) I for one am pretty sure this is not what “God” intended. It’s a tragedy because nothing good is ever going to come out of it, it is neither a Holy nor a just war. Most of these bombings are based on political grounds while those poor souls, unbeknownst of the real intentions of their “masters”, bomb their life away believing there is heaven waiting. (Refer: 3) Many of these bombers are children. It horrifies me and disgusts me, to know how the human mind can be molded and belief be exploited to satisfy the lustful needs of the “leaders”. The term jihad which is now synonymous with the word “murder” actually means ones battle with his/her nafs (lust, immoral desires and ego). Islam means attaining peace by submitting your will to God, taking away innocent lives is not what the religion preaches.


In Peshawar Pakistan, 9 people were killed in a restaurant; it is believed that the suicide bomber primarily targeted the shitte Muslim minority just as the government and Islamist militants prepared to meet for peace talks. Among the 30-40 injured were a number of very young children.(Refer:1) It sickens me, how Islam is misinterpreted, twisted and shaped to brainwash victims to the point of killing themselves just to get their unjust claims across. A tool as powerful as religion, to infiltrate into the very depths of a person’s moral, in the wrong hands is very dangerous. The holy books are to people as a constitution is to a state. It requires proper interpretation to discern what is moral and just to humanity. People should use their head and heart before the act of believing. Because believing in humanity is what keeps it alive.








Jediism a religion?


            In Ashley Collman’s article “The Real Church of Jediism” (accessed at http://dailym.ai/1gW1H8C) Collman details the beliefs of and interviews adherents of the newly arisen religion of Jediism. Based upon ideas from the fictional universe of George Lucas’ Star Wars franchise, the notion of Jediism being a legitimate religion would indeed seem strange to many, however Collman’s article makes notes that “While it may sound like a crazy concept, Jediism already shares a lot with mainstream religions.” (par 10) I wholeheartedly agree with Ms.Collman’s conclusion, however I feel it might be even more helpful to support this point, by defining religion, showing how Jediism fits this definition, and establishing what parallels it has to the great religious traditions of the world.


            On the question of defining religion, there is indeed no single accepted mainstream definition of the term. However for the sake of this argument I will be using Dr. Ninian Smart’s definition of religion, which I feel sufficiently, defines religion as most people would understand it. A scholar of religion, and founder of one of the first religious studies departments in Britain (Hexham 16) Ninian Smart defined religion as “a set of institutionalized rituals , identified with a tradition and expressing and/or evoking sacral sentiments directed at a divine or trans-divine focus seen in the context of the human phenomenological environment and at least partially described by myths or by myths and doctrines” (Hexham 17) On the first point of religion having “a set of institutionalized rituals” Collman’s article provides us with a video of an adherent been sworn into the Jedi religion, an excellent example of ritual in Jediism. In the video an adherent of the Jedi religion recites the “Jedi creed” and vows to uphold its tenants, a ritual reminiscent of baptismal vows in many Christian denominations.


Moving on from ritual and down the list of Ninian Smart’s requirement for a religion we come to “evoking sacral sentiments directed at a divine of trans-divine focus” Jediism’s concept of the force certainly seems to fall under the category of a “divne or trans-divine focus” with Collman comparing it to the “holy ghost” (Collman par 1) Further down in Collman’s article we find a Jedi adherent explaining the force to being similar to “Magic” and explaining that “-it’s everywhere. You can find it in the Bible. When Moses parted the Red Sea – how did he do that? With energy. With the Force.” (Collman par 4) Given the example of the Biblical tale of Moses parting the Red Sea it would certainly give us the impression that the force is the dynamic aspect of a God working through men, much as the Holy Spirit does in Christian theology. However, in any of the  online literature I’ve found on Jediism, the force’s nature seems to be left pretty ambiguous other than that it is “a ubiquitous and metaphysical power that a Jedi (a follower of Jediism) believes to be the underlying, fundamental nature of the universe” (“Temple of the Jedi Order: Doctrine of the Order”, 2014)  Here then the idea of force is not inherently theistic and might be more comparable to the Taoist concept of Tao or the Hindu concept of Brahman, than to a personal God of sorts. However, even if not considered “divine” this idea of force as a universal principle still falls under the notion of “trans divine” and thus fits Smart’s definition of religion (which of course includes non-theistic religions like Taoism or Buddhism.)


Finally we come to the aspect of “myths and doctrines” and when it comes to doctrines it appears Jediism certainly has its fair share. Collman’s article notes “For members of Jediism, the point of religion is not to secure some spot in the afterlife, but to do right for humankind on earth which translates to a lot of community service time.” and turning to prominent Jediist website “Temple of the Jedi Order” we find  a list of “3 Tenants, 16 Teachings, 21 Maxims, etc.” (“Doctrine of the Order”, 2013) that lay out a code of moral beliefs and practices akin to that of any of the great world religions. What “myths” are central (if any) to Jediism is a bit more of a perplexing question. Turning again to Collman’s article we find an adherent briefly explain that “her religion doesn’t seek to turn fictional characters like Yoda or Obi-Wan Kenobi into idols.” (par 3) so it is made clear that the mythology of the Star Wars franchise is not overly essential to the Jedi religion. Whether or not adherents find inspiration or spiritual meaning in that particular mythology may very well be a completely different story. According to the “Temple of Jedi Order” a prominent Jediist website, “It is unlikely that the Jedi way conflicts with other beliefs and traditions.”(“Temple of the Jedi Order: The Church of Jediism”, 2014) This inclusive attitude allows one to perhaps import myths from other spiritual traditions, and then interpret them through the lens of Jediism, as was done by the earlier mentioned adherent interviewed by Collman, who mentioned the idea of Moses utilizing the force (par 4.)


            In Summary Collman works hard to explain, and it appears even defend the Jediist religion. Though she does not explain why exactly it constitutes a religion, as I have shown above, she gives many excellent points that can be used to prove this, and to compare it with the great world religions of the world. Though it may sound strange, and to some worthy of ridicule, I stand by the conclusions of Collman in that Jediism is a legitimate religion, and in the end is no more worthy of ridicule or praise than any of the world’s other prominent religious traditions. Small as it may be now, perhaps with time Jediism will become large enough to gain some more recognition and respect, as a legitimate religious tradition. 

All human beings at one time or another have attempted to find purpose in what it means to exist in the universe. Millions have found solace in believing detailed writings of religious texts that tell stories of the beginning of time, or values surrounding life. Many religions go as far as to set guidelines of how one should behave or how one should act towards churches and gods. Recently the French government determined that the Church of Scientology has gone too far with what they ask of their followers.


The Cour de Cassation, France’s highest appeals court, rejected The Church of Scientology’s appeal on several convictions of “organized fraud”. The church was convicted of taking advantage of several elderly members by making them attempt to pay for unnecessary materials at a religious bookstore.


The interesting part about the article comes from Scientology’s claim that they are being treated unfairly when given the context of other religions similar practices towards taking money from followers. Representatives are upset over how their beliefs might be treated as “untrue or fraudulent, but not say the same thing about Protestants or Catholics”.  I personally see a major difference since their “donations” should only be seen as a clever version of racketeering.  The ridiculousness that I can purchase a ticket into heaven is a cheap technique. The beauty of religion is the freedom to choose the path that’s shines brightest. I have the freedom to pursue my own ethics, my own goals, and if I choose to associate them with a religion then so be it. No religion should have the right to twist my moral authority or force practices upon me.


The argument could be made that a majority of religions ask for donations from their followers, this is true. For any religion of this scale to function and be productive some source of income has to exist. In my opinion Scientology brings it all to a new level by instead of requesting money for the betterment of the entire religion, it tricks followers into thinking it will better for the individual. Sounds like a scam to me.



J.J      #205

Misconceptions of Rap



Rap music as grown into a vastly popular genre over the most recent decade, and consequently has developed stereotypes that follow along with it. Artists in this “rap game” are stereotyped to be involved with drugs, sex, hookers, violence, and many more illegal activities.


Texas born rapper Lecrae Moore was influenced by the Christian hip-hop group “The Cross Movement”, who were made up of people who had been shot from gang affiliations, girls who were extremely promiscuous in the past, and other people who had come from the same violent background as Moore.


Since the beginning of his career, Moore has become a world-renowned “hybrid” rapper with some of his titles reaching the top of the billboards. Despite these amazing feats, he is still criticized by his fans for appearing on stage and touring with non-Christian rappers such as Wu-Tang Clan and J Cole. Moore is often criticized as “forsaking his beliefs” for performing with other rappers, just because they are non-Christians.


So the question that resides here is: Why is it seen as taboo for Christian rappers to appear on tour, or record with, people who are not of the same faith? Moore describes the constant banter with his fans over the matter as “a constant uphill battle” to defend his faith towards Christianity. There is such a large misconception towards the rap genre, and the second that people see Moore involved with groups such as the Wu-Tang Clan, they instantly assume that both groups uneducated thugs that must be up to no good.


Moore has “embraced an assimilation into the mainstream and its formative institutions, hoping to shape it from within.” Attempting to break the bonds of rap stereotypes is not an easy task to accomplish, and may as well be close to impossible. Moore, and many others, are part of a group of artists attempting to change these views on the music industry. Although many artists do fit the stereotype that seems to be cemented onto rap music, it is important to realize that not everybody is the same, and there are those, such as Lecrae Moore, that are trying to change the world, one song at a time.


If you would like to listen to some of Moore’s music, click on the link below:



Here is a link to the article: