Priests too deferential in the past
that the church has survived for more than 2,000 years. It is obvious that the faith of Catholics does not depend upon how good or bad some bishop or priest is.
Christ himself was not able to pick 12 perfectly good people. Judas betrayed him and Peter denied him three times. Catholics should not be so surprised that we have not been successful in choosing only good and holy priests and bishops.
In the local church there has been the tendency to place priests and bishops on pedestals as if they were incredible and stainless supernatural creatures. Priests and bishops have the same faults and qualities as a cross-section of any other sector – lawyers, doctors, carpenters, teachers.
Most priests are good people who have studied extra years and who work seriously to serve God and the church. For most, serving the church means serving the people in the community.
What needs to happen at this point is for priests and laypeople to explore together how all of this could have happened and to change the structures that allowed it. It also means that both groups should be allowed to participate in the process of reorganizing the way diocesan finances are handled.
The majority of people in Cape Breton are Catholic so it is very important that the church function in a healthy and effective way. According the Second Vatican Council, the church has this double focus – bringing people closer to God, and continually reforming and renewing society. There are many problems in Cape Breton and it is part of the church mission to solve them either directly or indirectly.
Biofuel has become the new buzzword in Nova Scotia energy production. Proponents proclaim it to be environmentally neutral, sustainable and cost-effective.
In fact, David Wheeler of Dalhousie University recommended to the government late last year that biofuel become a key component in future power production in the province.
Supporters say wood that is now viewed as waste – treetops, stumps, branches and species like alder and willow – will be harvested and burned in power plants. Harvesters will make money; power companies will save on oil imports; everybody wins.
Not so fast. This harvesting sounds suspiciously like clear-cutting gone wild. Under current forestry practices, the so-called waste branches and treetops, now left behind, providing some nutrients for the forest that has been clear-cut. If biomass harvesting means cleaning out the sweepings and leaving not even minimal cover, the wildlife which now struggles to hang on in our ever-decreasing forests will face even greater stress.
Most current sites that have been clear-cut are hidden from the view of those driving on the main roads. Nova Scotians, however, will become upset when now and again they get a glimpse of the land from the air or when a particularly egregious clearcutting site is publicized.
Last fall, Jamie Simpson, a forester with the Ecology Action Centre, brought attention to a clearcut in Upper Musquodoboit. He had been alerted by local residents and by hunters who were shocked at the aftermath left by Northern Pulp Company.
In a move very similar to the actions of the Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society charge against Mayor John I have seen pictures and articles on the front page of the Cape Breton Post that have tugged at my heartstings about people suffering and dying in Haiti. The Feb. 5 picture of the dead dog, apparently left to freeze to death, broke my heart in a thousand pieces.
I am not insensitive to human suffering. But humans can ask for help. Even in the most extreme circumstances, humans understand what is happening to them even if they may not understand why.
That poor dog died in confusion, not knowing what was happening or why, and having no expectation of rescue. Morgan, the Registered Professional Foresters Association of Nova Scotia accused Simpson of breaking the foresters’ code of ethics and said he had brought foresters into disrepute. The association did not refute Simpson’s claim against the clear-cutting but simply said he should have shut up about it.
Another issue is whether the forests can sustain the intense harvesting that electricity generating stations would require. Those people who support using biomass for energy production say it will be done in such a way as to protect the viability of the province’s forests. But how can the forests power our generating stations without being stripping bare?
The people of the province would best keep a skeptical eye on this issue as it develops in the next few years.
To see the eventual result of overharvesting of forests in countries with a somewhat comparable climate and geology, look to the west of Ireland and the moors of England. They once were covered in forest but hundreds of years of overcutting have left heath and grasslands.
With our modern technology, we will not need centuries to strip our forests.