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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Jesus walked among us for a few hours in Cardinal Jean-Claude Turcotte

Pastor’s Reflection to St Luke Parish – Réflexion du Curé à la Paroisse St Luc

Après la Consécration de l’Autel et de l’Église, où allons-nous ?

Now that our Altar and Church have been consecrated, where are we going?

La Consécration a été un moment marquant et déterminant pour moi, un moment décisif, et une grande et profonde grâce. At first, I was just overwhelmed by it all as the time of preparation gave way to the experience and the press of people, many of whom had the jitters and passed them on to me by asking me last minute questions. Si ce n’eut été du Cardinal, je n’aurais pas pensé à demander à Bishop Bob de faire sa part dans le texte et faire la bénédiction et l’envoi des enfants après le Notre Père.

Was it not amazing how the faithful who attended the Consecration Liturgy soaked up the Archbishop’s presence like people in the desert when they come upon fresh water in an oasis? Naturally, as I explained to a number of parishioners – I will write a reflection on this for either the website or bulletin or both – Cardinal Turcotte is our Archbishop, our chief Pastor. He has what is called the fullness of the Sacrament of Holy Orders, ordained three times; deacon, priest, and bishop. In addition, he was personally chosen by Pope John Paul II to be our Archbishop and shepherd the Church of Montreal.

When an Archbishop walks among the people – especially if he is a humble man of prayer and conscientious in manifesting pastoral charity to all whom he meets – it is much as when the Pope walks among the people. These men, personally chosen by Jesus through no merit of their own, are the poor instruments Jesus is pleased to use in order to continue his walk among us until the end of time. That is why people – even atheists – inexplicably melt into tears when the Pope passes by them, and they feel compelled to follow him: Jesus has touched them as Elijah touched Elisha, as Jesus himself touched throngs of individuals as He walked the roads of Palestine. This is what Holy Orders is, in three degrees.

Il en va donc de même avec notre Archevêque, et bienheureux ceux et celles qui se sont déplacés pour le recevoir et participer à cette Liturgie Sacrée qu’il nous a fait la grâce de présider. Nous avons été touchés par Jésus Lui-même, qui en toute génération se donne du mal pour choisir de pauvres instruments humains pour en faire ses représentants, Lui l’Époux de son Épouse l’Église, que nous sommes tous ensemble. Naturellement, cela aide que Monsieur le Cardinal Jean-Claude fait des efforts pour correspondre à cet appel qu’il a reçu du Seigneur. Avant même de venir, il s’informe de nous, il relève tous ce qu’il a observé de nous au fil des ans, même à distance, et il a beaucoup prié pour nous. Donc, à son arrivé, il avait déjà été précédé par la grâce de la sollicitude du Seigneur pour nous.

It was his smile, his demeanour, his warmth in word and gesture – like waving to the children in the choir in front of him – that demonstrated his joy at being among us like an unspoken or non-verbal “word” expressing the truth of who we are, all together, in God’s eyes, the redeemed and beautiful Bride of Christ Jesus, his Beloved Son. These are only some of the reasons why we responded so readily to the presence and service of our dear Archbishop during the few hours he spent with us. In him, Jesus walked among us in a personal way for a few hours, despite – no I dare say precisely because of – the Cardinal’s human frailty, unique character, approaching age and fragility, in short, all that makes him so human and sympathetic.
En tant que communauté paroissiale de foi, nous avons été ravivés et rappelés à notre vocation de cellule de l’Église universelle, comme l’Église domestique qu’est toute famille, et renouvelés dans notre participation à la mission que Jésus avait été envoyé par le Père pour commencer et confier à des êtres pécheurs et fragiles, mais pardonnés, sauvés, relevés, transformés, et envoyés dans le monde. Relisez l’homélie de notre Archevêque sur mon site web ou celui de la Paroisse, et notez ses dernières paroles.

So as a Parish we have been refreshed and recalled to our vocation as a cell of the universal Church, like every family which is a domestic Church, and we have been also renewed in our participation in the mission which the Father sent Jesus to begin and entrust to sinful and fragile human beings, whom He forgave, saved, lifted up, transformed, and sent out into the world. Reread the Cardinal’s homily on my website or that of the Parish and note in particular his last words.

Fellow Canadians, it's time to stand up for local television

Do you know our cable and satellite companies pay for the right to broadcast American local television signals but by law have free access to Canadian local television signals; so that CRTC regulations under the authority of the Canadian government are directly depriving our local Canadian television stations of any revenue from Canadian broadcasting cable and satellite companies? Part of the money we pay for our cable and satellite services are in turn paid out to US television companies but not to Canadian television companies. What's wrong with this picture?

You too can get the basic text of this letter and make it your own. Click here.

Secretary General
Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0N2

Dear Secretary General:

RE: Broadcasting Notice of Consultation CRTC 2009-614

Most of the factual information in my letter to you has been prepared by local television broadcasters, but I have informed myself and make my own the general direction of this information and lobbying campaign. In that light, please accept the following comments in response to the above-referenced Notice of Consultation.

Local television is where people in communities across Canada come together to learn about events that touch our everyday lives. Without local television, we would lose part of our voice, and viewers would have fewer choices in quality programming that reflects our unique Canadian identity.

It is not entirely clear to me how it came about in the beginning that laws and rules were put in place to give cable and satellite companies free access to local television broadcasters' signals for distribution through their wired and wireless broadcasting services. Perhaps it made sense to give what were then new broadcasting services an initial advantage to allow them to take off. If that is the case, then one would think it is time to revisit this legal protection. Cable and satellite companies are no longer fledglings, and their preferential treatment is now jeopardizing the local television companies that allowed them to begin operation to begin with.

Local television can no longer share our communities' stories on advertising alone. To compete with the hundreds of channels currently on the dial, our system needs to evolve and allow local TV stations to negotiate with Canada's cable and satellite companies for a fair market price for their signals. As a Canadian citizen I find it an outrage that local TV is obliged to offer their signal free to cable and satellite companies, while these are willing to play the game differently across the border and pay US TV companies fair market value. What's wrong with this picture?

Moreover, I am deeply concerned that my cable company is already charging me for local television service through my basic cable rate, and yet, is threatening to charge me more for local television. I believe it's time for the CRTC to protect consumers like me by regulating basic cable rates. This solution will provide more transparency and prevent cable and satellite companies from increasing my basic cable rate whenever they wish.

I urge the CRTC to do what is right and fix our broken television model by providing local TV stations with the right to negotiate for their signals and to protect consumers with the regulation of basic cable rates.

I authorize you to consider me personally represented by those Canadian citizens who are currently requesting the opportunity to appear before the Commission in person at the December hearings to further elaborate on these issues.

Yours sincerely,

Gilles A. Surprenant, Canadian, Dollard-des-Ormeaux, QC

Monday, October 19, 2009

The Interrogation of Michael Crowe

I stumbled upon this 2002 made for TV movie about a true story that happened in the San Diego area of California in the years prior to the film. My revulsion and outrage surprised me, as I don't recall ever having such a strong reaction to the testimony about a true story, at least not with this intensity.

I've heard and read many times before about stories of erroneous accusation and conviction, and my own faith is based on Jesus Christ, who was falsely accused, summarily sentenced and executed around 33 A.D. I need to write as I reflect and attempt to understand the nature of my outrage.

How is it conceivable that policemen, detectives, representatives of the law would torment an innocent boy until they succeeded in breaking him and extracting from him a phony confession to suit their own hasty theory to explain the murder of his little sister? Mind you, long gone are my illusions that torture and the extraction of phony confessions only happened in the Middle Ages, or today only happen in "third world" countries, or totalitarian states. Could it be that in some ways America fits into one or both of these categories? Unthinkable, or is it?

For more than two days the detectives mercilessly manipulated and tormented the boy, without his parents' knowledge, and demonstrated they had no interest in discovering the truth about his little sister's murder, because in their genius brains, they had already come to an absolutely certain explanation of what happened. No element of evidence or testimony that did not fit their theory mattered or merited their attention or investigation. What kind of person or character does such things?

Most of the Americans I've ever met were wonderful people. What I don't understand is how their America has evolved to no longer represent them. Take for example their latest debate over health care. It seems evident to any outsider who knows of America and listens to the debate, as it is to many Americans, that some form of publicly funded health care system that would take the monopoly for health care out of the hands of insurance and health business interests would be better for the whole population, especially the 75 million plus citizens who can't afford insurance, let alone health care. Yet no one expects it to change, because America seems irrevocably committed to capitalism above human beings, profit over life, corporate health over human health.

I've always heard the americanism that money talks, and I never believed it until now. Those who can afford lobbyists in government circles can wear down and tie up legislators and under the threat of paralysis influence legislative outcomes in their favor, and the ordinary citizen is powerless to do anything about it. American cities begin to look more like "third world" cities all the time, with the sharp contrast between desperately poor and desperately rich increasing. We read articles about the disappearance of the middle class in America.

Perhaps part of what has come to be is simply the fruit of what was in the beginning, when, as in Canada, European settlers invaded the land inhabited by the first nations, spread contagion among the native population, and engaged in "ethnic cleansing" exercises whenever they could get away with it. Then again part of what we are derives from the arrogance with which we set ourselves apart from our European ancestors and as morally superior.

Part of what outrages me about the tragedy visited upon the Crowe family by those police detectives who didn't do their job is the arrogance with which they decided what the truth was in advance of a thorough investigation. Why is that? Have they become so accustomed to dealing with real criminals that they can no longer recognize a normal person when they see one?

What could possibly explain the way in which they mistook the boy's distraught state over the death of his sister as the guilt of a murderer? His behaviour didn't fit their image of a grieving brother. His mother noted that they didn't know him. Isn't that part of the reality of life, that we cannot possibly tell whether a person is telling the truth or not unless we know them well? Actions speak louder than words, and the parents knew the boy couldn't and wouldn't have done any harm to his sister, no matter what disagreements or rivalry there may have been.

In the world of science, scientists are also investigators, and they are true scientists when they follow what is called the scientific method. Facts precede theories that are to be elaborated in order to explain the patterns detected in the facts. Any scientist who starts out with a theory before investigating is limiting, narrowing his field of investigation, consciously or subconsciously eliminating fields of data potentially hazardous to his precious theory.

That is bad enough in science, but in law the results are extremely damaging to real people. It wasn't enough that the Crowe family experienced the devastation of the brutal murder of their little girl. The police department, who are supposed to be able to tell the difference between the victim and the criminal, trampled all over this family, doing them further harm. I understand that laws have been made brutal in order to deal harshly with hardened criminals, lest these do unending harm to society with impunity, but what happens when these brutal laws are applied to innocent citizens?

What would happen to these macho detectives were they to be subjected to their own tactics, I wonder? Take away all their supports and rights, torment them for days on end, lie to them about what is happening and fabricate all kinds of evidence and testimony against them.... and do it in convincing and brutally intimidating ways.... I wonder whether their arrogance would take a hit, whether they might change.

However, the 1969 movie starring Jack Lemmon and Sandy Dennis comes to mind.... "The Out of Towners". I had always remembered that the man in the story wisened up at the end and began listening to his wife and to others, but I watched it again recently, and he didn't really change. What is it about people that causes them to love the sound of their own voice, as they go on and on making judgements about everyone and everything as though they alone possessed all the truth and no one else knows anything. I found it hard to watch the movie this time and had to fast forward through most of it.... I just couldn't take the abuse with which he treats his wife, putting her down as though she were stupid and never listening to anything she says. At least a dozen times, if he had shut up and said, "OK dear, let's try your idea." their troubles would have come to an end and they would have gotten some rest and comfort, but no, he just wouldn't do it.

Perhaps there are psychopaths who are that way because they suffered a major arrest in their psychological development in infancy or childhood, and perhaps there are psychpaths who are made that way by some of the institutions we have created in society that intimidate, threaten, and hinder people from behaving, feeling, thinking, and speaking like true human beings.

I shudder to think that some of the people keeping the darkness at bay as members of our police forces are institutional psychopaths, people who no longer listen to what their ears hear, no longer see what their eyes look at, no longer feel what their heart observes. If such people take over, then no one is safe anymore, not even in their home or in their bed. We are not far from those places in the world when they come and take you away in the night, sometimes even with the pretention of doing it in the name of society, the government, or some political or religious ideal. The KKK may no longer be thriving, but some of its principles and strategies seem to have wormed their way into mainstream society, and into the forces of law and order.

What was motivating the detectives who badgered, tormented, brainwashed, and extorted the young Michael Crowe? Did they need to fill their quota of convictions for the month? Did they have a personal issue with "Dungeons and Dragons" through some family connection or personal experience? Can they not tell the difference between a moody or shy teenager and a teenage criminal? How could they be so cocked, trigger happy, obsessed with their theory that they cut short and botched their investigation? How could they be so callous as to feel nothing themselves for the state of the victim's family and become impervious to what the members of that family were feeling? There's a black hole of unanswered questions here that beg to be answered.

Despite the good nature and character of so many Americans, I am troubled by the America that has a love affair with its guns and weapons, that is "high" or "hooked" on authority, with wearing a badge, with being part of a uniformed service. They may have been through a gruelling and mind-numbing formation process, but they have no right to spend the rest of their careers passing the abuse and manipulation on to the very people they are called to protect.

I've met a few American lawmen, police in Massachusetts when my car was stolen, and a state trooper who drove me home, and they were wonderful. I now wonder whether they would have been just as wonderful if I had resembled someone on a poster or a description of someone who had committed a crime they were investigating. America's love affair with power and might, with influence and right, seriously question me about ever wanting to set foot there again....

I have long have been troubled with France's love affair with the guillotine, and their legal system that convicts you as guilty simply upon accusation, granting you the right to prove your innocence, but if you can't, then, well, off with your head. From this side of the border, it doesn't look like American law is much better. If the police think you're guilty, then your chances have suddenly been shrunk to close to nothing.

I'll close on this thought. At one time, during sleepless nights, I'd watch some of those American late night infomercials. One of the get rich quick schemes had to do with buying up property for back taxes and then making a killing on resale. I began to wonder, how can people get rich doing that unless there are a lot of properties in that situation. Most of these are homes. Why are so many Americans, living in the richest country in the world, losing their homes? Then while on sabbatical in Chicago in the Fall of 2004 I found out one of the reasons: no health care insurance. People get sick, are in an accident, or give birth, and suddenly they find themselves penniless and homeless. Why would anyone want to live in such a country where anyone can take away your livelihood, your very life, with full protection of the law and even the encouragement of the whole society?

Well, simply put, because of America's love affair with being a "land of opportunity". Here as in the ocean, the sharks do best. Americans live in a society caught in a stranglehold at the hands of lawyers, health care and insurance industries, and every corporation that can afford lots of lawyers and lobbyists in the capital.

Why must the Crowe family go on suffering? Why won't the police simply give them the closure and satisfaction they seek? Because everyone is scared to death of the lawyers.... life is worth nothing where money matters. To my mind, that is a novel definition of hell. Yes, indeed, there is such a place after all, and not just on Earth....

I admire this family for standing up for themselves, for their dead daughter, and for their son, who in addition to being tormented with grief for his sister was cruelly tortured under false pretenses and falsely accused by police who were hasty and sloppy, and psychopathic with their institutional blindness. Bravo to the producers, directors, and most of all, the actors who brought this human tragedy to the light of day which it deserves and long awaited. Perhaps someday, the good American people I have known will be represented and protected by officials worthy of the best among their citizenry. As I said above, I have no doubt there are marvelous people of great integrity in the courts, in police stations, in the military, and in government, and it's a shame that there aren't more of them, and that they have to suffer the indignity of such poor representation.

As a Roman Catholic priest, I know what it feels like to be poorly represented by the weakest and most depraved among us. It is, sadly, part of our human condition, for which we have only one Saviour, our Lord Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory now and forever.