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T.O. Post-F.

Whether Toronto Mayor Rob Ford gets indicted or re-elected, the most pressing priority for the city will be to change the local and global narrative. A city with self-proclaimed aspirations to be “world class” has by association with this disturbing governance failure achieved the desired celebrity, albeit missing two key consonants. But more than mere reputation is at stake. A special city needs to refashion its self understanding, so as to begin to heal the divisions laid bare by this tragic-farce in leadership, and to set a vision for its future that better represents its amazing latent potential. In many ways Toronto also represents civil and social skills that the world desperately needs, so the rehabilitation may be of service to others hoping to develop the reality that we native Torontonians take for granted, and have let be tarnished these last months.

The ancient Greek word from which community is derived is koinonia. As well as convey precepts of “communion” and “joint participation,” the word means “a gift jointly contributed – a contribution.” With this perspective, what “gifts” does Toronto embody? What of our specialness can we reflect more precisely to ourselves as citizens, and contribute to the world around us?

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The Day the Rabbi Came to Stay

On Monday night my wife and I had an Orthodox rabbi and scholar from Jerusalem as an overnight guest.  As Toronto-based Roman Catholics, we have had the privilege of gracious encounters with persons of other faiths.  And in our work and writings, my wife and I both have been active in inter-religious learning and dialogue. Still, the experience of having a rabbi eating with us, and sleeping in our guestroom study, involved a degree of familiarity that was at once a great honor and adventure.

The Rabbi and I had set up this meeting to continue a conversation that began in Amman, Jordan two years ago. Now face-to-face, we wanted to explore possibilities for extending the dialogue that is occurring between faiths in pockets around the world to include the business community. Very simply, the idea is to draw upon the vast wisdom from the world’s religious traditions as a resource for energizing thoughtful, ethical management. In the course of several hours we laid out a conceptual framework for testing this hypothesis, recognizing that there are many obstacles to such a conversation, but confident that the effort and risks would be worth it, given that so many of the social and environmental expectations for corporate performance now involve inherently moral considerations. (more…)

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Overcoming the Ethics of Antipathy

One of the difficulties we have in sustaining ethical conversation on perplexing issues is that our social discourse today is patterned much more on confrontation and competition than on understanding and collaboration. Whether it is in relation to BP’s oil spill in the Gulf, or to the Vatican’s handling of the clergy sexual abuse scandal, it seems that we use our outrage primarily to condemn those who hold a perspective different than our own. Whatever the ethical claim of the issue, it becomes secondary, because what matters most is scoring points against rivals.

As Roman Catholic, I could not help but follow with a heavy heart the articles and commentary untangling the problem of pedophilia in the Church. Almost as disorienting as this tragedy has been the reaction amongst Catholics posting comments on these articles or analyses. All too often the posts evaded the key ethical questions posed by the situation and instead sought to vilifying or caricature those on the opposite side of the liberal-conservative spectrum. Outrage has become an excuse for venting rage. Even within an institution defined by a morality of compassion and forgiveness, we seem unable to practice the generosity in our discourse that would suggest a common commitment to principles, and a shared valuing of the historical gifts of the institution.

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