Month: April 2020

Catholic Conscience’s E-Newsletter

April 2020 Common Good Catholic (Newsletter)

Living with Christian hope during the worst pandemic of our lives

 Dear friends,

These are strange and unsettling times. Every day we read and hear fresh news about the COVID-19 pandemic, provoking anxiety and fear. For myself, times like these make me especially thankful for the gift of faith. One of my favourite lines from Scripture is Luke 22:42, “Yet not my will, but yours be done.” We trust God will lead us through this trial and closer to Him. In these strange times, our Pope’s pastoral mastery is a constant comfort. I’m sure many of you participated in the global rosary the Holy Father led on March 19. Pope Francis once described the church as a battlefield hospital: “The thing the church needs most today is the ability to heal wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful; it needs nearness, proximity.” The Church as healer, as hospital for the wounded, is a vision that has never felt more relevant than now.

Here at Catholic Conscience, all of you—and all Canadians—are in our prayers. This is the first edition of our new monthly e-newsletter, jam-packed with the latest updates on Catholic citizenship and the work of our community in the world. We hope it comforts you and fills you with Christian hope in these dark times. We just completed Catholic Conscience’s strategic planning process, with many new programs and events to come. But for now, like you, we await the passing of this trial. We stand with you—together in solidarity!

With love,
Matthew Marquardt & Brendan Steven



For Catholics, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul is a household name—many parishes have a Vincentian conference dedicated to serving Christ by serving our most vulnerable neighbours. The primary method of Vincentian service is person-to-person contact: building community and relationship by visiting vulnerable neighbours in their homes, providing food vouchers, clothing vouchers, and other supports. With the COVID-19 pandemic those home visits have been suspended, but Vincentians continue to serve. One Toronto conference is mailing community members food vouchers. The Greater Toronto Central Council, which oversees all Vincentian conferences in the GTA, continues their special works serving many of those most vulnerable to COVID-19: the elderly, the sick, those living with disabilities, addictions, and other challenges.

We must work together as a community to protect and uplift those people Christ loved most—the most vulnerable are those he most identified with. Consider a donation to the Society of St. Vincent de Paul Greater Toronto Central Council to support their work in this difficult time.

Click here to see their website.
Click here to donate.


Serving in the “field hospital” with prayer and quiet service

Pope Francis once described the Church as a “field hospital” for healing wounds. That mission has never felt more apt in the era of the coronavirus pandemic. Matt and Brendan discuss what it means to love and serve our neighbour in this crisis, and how Catholic citizens must rise to this moment. In the words of Pope Francis: “Prayer and quiet service—these are our victorious weapons.”

Read the full conversation by clicking here.


Spiritual Resources for the COVID-19 Pandemic
Usually we will use this section to highlight upcoming events and initiatives you can participate in—but of course, all events are currently on-hold. That has included a suspension of public Masses. How can we stay connected to the life of the Church and our life as Christians, even as we remain indoors and physically distant from each other? The Archdiocese of Toronto has compiled these excellent spiritual resources for this moment, including instructions on how to receive a Spiritual Communion—click here and learn more.
We may not be praying together in church, but we are all praying together in spirit!


FRIENDLY NEIGHBOUR HOTLINE: To help vulnerable seniors during the COVID-19 pandemic

University Health Network’s OpenLab in Toronto is helping vulnerable seniors—the group most at risk during the COVID-19 pandemic—by mobilizing volunteers to deliver groceries and other household essentials. The service gives priority to seniors living in low-income housing. Since this initiative was first announced on March 13, 2020, close to 600 volunteers have stepped forward to offer assistance to the thousands of seniors living in low-income housing across the city. Together, they operate the Friendly Neighbour Hotline, a single phone number seniors living in low-income housing in Toronto can call, connected to a network of volunteers throughout the city who can help with picking up groceries and household essentials during this difficult time.

If you’re looking for a way to support your vulnerable neighbours in Toronto during this crisis, this is a great way to do it!

Click here to learn more and become a volunteer.


Photo of Pope Francis

FROM THE HOLY FATHER: The Pope’s special Easter Message for social movements
“Our civilization—so competitive, so individualistic, with its frenetic rhythms of production and consumption, its extravagant luxuries, its disproportionate profits for just a few—needs to downshift, take stock and renew itself.” These are just some of the extraordinary words of Pope Francis in a special letter addressed to social movements around the world—inspiring words as the Pope calls on organizations like ours to continue our work building a more just and humane world.
“I hope that this time of danger will free us from operating on automatic pilot, shake our sleepy consciences and allow a humanist and ecological conversion that puts an end to the idolatry of money and places human life and dignity at the center.”
Click here to read more excerpts from this beautiful letter.

Join Pope Francis for daily Mass online
The COVID-19 crisis has brought a new and special closeness between the Pope and the global Catholic community, no matter where we live. Since the start of the pandemic and the closure of public Masses around the world, Pope Francis has begun to livestream his daily Masses from Santa Marta chapel in Vatican City. After the live stream, a video of the Mass is posted on the Vatican News website.

Click here to watch recent Masses and the latest Mass with Pope Francis—join him in praying for all of us affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.


Revolution of the Heart, the Dorothy Day Story

A new documentary on the life and Christian witness of Dorothy Day—the legendary American Catholic convert and political activist—is bringing new light and attention to the example of this extraordinary woman. Though American, Dorothy’s personal and public commitment to Catholic social teaching—in her own life and in her political activism—is legendary. She is a shining example of what it means to be an active Catholic citizen.

Through Dorothy Day’s journey from young, communist journalist, to her awakening as co-founder of The Catholic Worker newspaper and “houses of hospitality,” sheltering and feeding New York City’s homeless during the Great Depression, emerges a portrait of a selfless woman who followed her heart to better the lives of those less fortunate.

You can watch the entire documentary for free via PBS by clicking here.



O Mary,
you always shine on our path
as a sign of salvation and of hope.
We entrust ourselves to you, Health of the Sick,
who at the cross took part in Jesus’ pain, keeping your faith firm.
You, Salvation of the Roman People,
know what we need,
and we are sure you will provide
so that, as in Cana of Galilee,
we may return to joy and to feasting
after this time of trial.
Help us, Mother of Divine Love,
to conform to the will of the Father
and to do as we are told by Jesus,
who has taken upon himself our sufferings
and carried our sorrows
to lead us, through the cross,
to the joy of the resurrection. Amen.

Under your protection, we seek refuge, Holy Mother of God. Do not disdain the entreaties of we who are in trial, but deliver us from every danger, O glorious and blessed Virgin.

REFLECTION: Seven Social Sins

At Catholic Conscience we like to speak in terms of the principles, values, and virtues of Catholic social thought, since they tend to consist of broad, positive, general exhortations to seek and do good.  The Church has also stressed, however, the important concept of social sin, for times when we have collectively gone too far.  In this time in which every person on earth has been forced to sacrifice and suffer with us through Lent, perhaps it is good to reflect upon sinful aspects of our society.

The Church teaches that social sin includes “every sin against the rights of the human person… and every sin against the physical integrity of the individual; every sin against the freedom of others, especially against the supreme freedom to believe in God and worship him; and every sin against the dignity and honor of one’s neighbor. Every sin against the common good… is also social sin.”

As the world suffers through the horror of a virus our bodies have not yet learned to respond to, and as too many of us continue to put material desires before the health and well being of others and the planet, how are we as a society doing?

The concept of a grouping of seven social sins originated in the 1920s, as a complement to the traditional seven deadly sins of the individual.  The original version, announced in a sermon in England, was adapted by Mohandas Gandhi in the struggle for Indian independence, and later by a Vatican Bishop.  The following listing was created by Catholic Conscience, with reference to the earlier listings and with special reference to the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church:

  1. Politics of fear, hate, or exclusion
  2. Abuse of creation
  3. Society without love
  4. Acquisition or retention of unjust wealth
  5. Commerce or industry without morality
  6. Science without humanity
  7. Perpetuation of ignorance

The First Social Sin:  Politics of Fear, Hate, or Exclusion

Oppression, marginalization, and unjust discrimination in any form are inconsistent with any proper form of government. If the purpose of life is to seek truth, and if that truth is God, then such practices are not only likely to hinder individuals in their search, but they are wholly inconsistent with the exhortations of our Creator, which teach clearly that we are to seek God in one another, and that we are to care for anyone within our reach who needs help.

It would be unjust, for example, for a government to place one class of citizens under restraint, or expose them to unnecessary harm, or ignore them altogether, in order to benefit another group – for example by putting the economic interests of one group above the health of another. In our battle with the new Coronavirus, are we providing guidance and assistance in an even-handed, just form, considering all, or have some of us considered requiring other groups to suffer so that we might maintain our material wealth?

It’s important to remember that we are collectively responsible for the actions of our societies (Matthew 25:31-46), particularly when we live in democracies and decline to participate meaningfully.

Forms of problematic political behavior include:

  1. Government by fear, division, or abuse.
  2. Derogation of conscience rights; interference with free, responsible speech.
  3. Military or police oppression.
  4. The adoption of unjust or non-sustainable social, economic, or legal structures.

The Second Social Sin:  Abuse of Creation.

“Man and woman are created in relationship to others above all as those to whom the lives of others have been entrusted. With this specific vocation to life, man and woman find themselves in the presence of all the other creatures. Their dominion over the world requires the exercise of responsibility, it is not a freedom of arbitrary and selfish exploitation… All of creation in fact has value and is “good” in the sight of God, who is its author. Man must discover and respect its value. This is a marvellous challenge to his intellect, which should lift him up as on wings towards the contemplation of the truth of all God’s creatures… (Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, sections 112, 113.) According to the New Testament, all creation, together indeed with all humanity, awaits the Redeemer: subjected to futility, creation reaches out full of hope, with groans and birth pangs, longing to be freed from decay (Compendium section 113).

Our responsibility for all creation extends not only to each of our fellow creatures now, but to all creatures of all generations. In building and maintaining our economies, in our work, in our leisure activities, we cannot escape this responsibility.

As a society, how are we doing? As we make choices each day, and encourage each other in their choices, do we have the good of others – now and in future generations- in mind?

The Third Social Sin:  Cultures of Indifference.

“The opposite of the love of God, of God’s compassion,” Pope Francis has said, “is our indifference: ‘I’m satisfied; I lack nothing. I have everything. I’m assured of my place and this life and the next, since I go to Mass every Sunday. I’m a good Christian.’ But walking down the street, I pass others, who lack shelter, food, proper clothing, and I look the other way so that I not need to see them.”

Too often, as a society, we do the same thing with refugees, the unemployed, the underemployed, the elderly, the young who are struggling to find homes and raise families… the list goes on and on. Recent UN reports have suggested that the world now produces enough to maintain everyone in a comfortable – if not luxurious – lifestyle. As the Pope has put it, “there’s enough for everyone’s need, but not enough for everyone’s greed.”

What can we, as voters and engaged citizens, do about it? What are we doing about it? With the Pope, let us pray to the Lord “that He heal humanity, starting with us. May my heart be healed from the sickness of the culture of indifference.”

The Fourth Social Sin:  the Unjust Accumulation of Wealth

“The world has enough for everyone’s need, but not enough for everyone’s greed.” – Mahatma Gandhi (often quoted or paraphrased by Pope Francis).

It is certainly true that effort should be rewarded, that the willingness to work hard should be valued more than laziness. In the words of the Compendium of Social Doctrine of the Church, “no Christian, in light of the fact that he belongs to a united and fraternal community, should feel that he has the right not to work and to live at the expense of others (cf. 2 Thes 3:6-12). Rather, all are charged by the Apostle Paul to make it a point of honour to work with their own hands, so as to “be dependent on nobody” (1 Thes 4:12). (Compendium Section 264)

But there are limits. Christians are “called to practise a solidarity which is also material by sharing the fruits of their labour with “those in need” (Eph 4:28)… “Behold, the wages of the labourers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, cry out; and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts” (Jas 5:4). (Compendium Section 264)

How are we doing as a society?

The 2030 Sustainable Development Goals proposed by the United Nations and unanimously adopted by all UN Member states in 2015, observe that “Billions of our citizens continue to live in poverty and are denied a life of dignity. There are rising inequalities within and among countries. There are enormous disparities of opportunity, wealth and power… Unemployment, particularly youth unemployment, is a major concern… It is also, however, a time of immense opportunity. Significant progress has been made in meeting many development challenges. Within the past generation, hundreds of millions of people have emerged from extreme poverty. Access to education has greatly increased for both boys and girls. The spread of information and communications technology and global interconnectedness has great potential to accelerate human progress, to bridge the digital divide and to develop knowledge societies, as does scientific and technological innovation across areas as diverse as medicine and energy.” (see paragraphs 14 and 15)

If the purpose of our lives on earth is to seek truth, and if that truth is God, and if God told us that we are to care for those around us, how do we address the fact that in many parts of the world families live in abstract squalor within miles of immensely affluent homes and activities?

The Fifth Social Sin:  Industry without Conscience. 

“The Church’s social doctrine insists,” the Compendium notes, “on the moral connotations of the economy… The relation between morality and economics is necessary, indeed intrinsic:  economic activity and moral behaviour are intimately joined one to the other…”  (Compendium, sections 330-331)

Pope Francis says it more simply: “economies are meant to serve people,” he points out, rather than the other way around.  He has frequently spoken out against economies of exclusion and the encouragement of a throwaway culture designed to fuel profits at the expense of people, the quality of life, and the environment.  “We have created new idols,” he explains.  “The worship of the ancient golden calf has returned in a new and ruthless guise in the idolatry of money and the dictatorship of an impersonal economy lacking a truly human purpose…  The problem, he explains, is the single-minded focus on profits:  “This imbalance is the result of ideologies which defend the absolute autonomy of the marketplace and financial speculation. Consequently, they reject the right of states, charged with vigilance for the common good, to exercise any form of control. A new tyranny is thus born…”

The result?  Tragedies like Bhopal and, in Pope Francis’s words, “the reduction of man to a single need: consumption.”  For example, deliberate attempts to addict generations of young people to tobacco smoking.

Happily, there are signs that his message is taking root.  In August of 2019, the Business Roundtable, a US lobby that represents many of America’s largest corporations, revised its decades-old definition of the purpose of a corporation as solely to maximize shareholder return.  Following pressure from civic organizations, the public, and young employees, the group redefined legitimate stakeholders to include customers, employees, suppliers, and the communities in which they exist.

It’s a small step, and the road will be hard:  Business Roundtable’s resolution is not binding, and the urge to maximize profit is very strong.  But it’s a sign of hope.

The Fifth Social Sin includes at least the following:

  • Creation and exploitation of false needs, promotion of unsustainable consumption.
  • Exploitation of workers, or by workers.
  • Interference with dignified work, e.g., unnecessary automation.

The Sixth Social Sin:  Technology without Humanity.

Science and technology have unquestionably brought good things to the world:  wonders have been achieved in medicine, transportation, communication, and security, for example.  But it is also clear that sometimes, in search of power and the satisfaction of greed, we choose to develop technologies in ways that are not primarily intended to improve life on a human scale.  We build machines intended primarily to kill, to control, to make money by putting people out of work or distracting them from things that matter.

Where are the lines?  Airplanes can carry either people or bombs.  How do we tell which one is better for people than the other?  How do we build a world where ploughshares are valued more than swords?

The Seventh Social Sin:  the Perpetuation of Ignorance.

If our first priority in life is to seek the truth so that we can serve God properly, then anything that interferes with that effort raises concerns – and things that are deliberately meant to hinder us could be considered sin.

Many things can hinder the search for truth: the deliberate termination of human life at any time between conception and natural death, for example, along with any means of denying others their dignity or access to the necessities of life. Likewise deliberately attempting to distract others from truth.

Too often our society distracts us, in too many ways – for example:

• By promoting unprincipled education, or acquiescing in it
• By promoting unprincipled or unconscionable entertainment, such as salacious media and opportunities for substance abuse
• By promoting vanity, frivolousness, or self-centeredness
• By manipulating the news for improper purposes, or promoting irresponsible journalism.

Each of us bears not only a responsibility for our own education, but a responsibility for what is passed to others by society in the name of education, news, or entertainment.

“The lamp of the body is your eye. When your eye is sound, then your whole body is filled with light, but when it is bad, then your body is in darkness. Take care, then, that the light in you not become darkness.” Luke 11:34-35

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