Announcing the Catholic School Trustees Workshop, new Fratelli tutti series, and more


Announcing the Catholic School Trustees Workshop, new Fratelli tutti series, and more

Catholic Conscience Newsletter
January 2022


Hi, I’m Brendan. It’s nice to meet you! As executive director of Catholic Conscience, I’m one of the people behind this newsletter, and the work of our apostolate.

It’s important we get to know each other. Why? Because Catholic civic and political engagement—our mission at Catholic Conscience—is all about friendship and fellowship. Two words you don’t often hear in politics! But friendship is how I got started here.

Three years ago, I met our founder, Matthew Marquardt in a coffee shop in downtown Toronto. Matt had been doing a lot of good work engaging Catholics during elections. I know a little about elections. I had spent ten years prior to this engaged in partisan politics—working on campaigns, for politicians, and seeing how ideologies skewed the truth and beauty of life while undermining human dignity. After meeting Matt, I felt the Holy Spirit calling me to join Catholic Conscience’s mission, bringing the Gospel into public life by forming citizens through the full breadth of Catholic social teaching—citizens like you! (If you’re curious to hear the full origin story, this podcast has all the details)

That’s why we’re here: for you. This apostolate is about all of us. I am confident that learning about the incomparable wisdom of Catholic social teaching and discovering how God wants you to serve your neighbours will change your life for the better—and change the communities and country we love! Whether you’re called to vote with Catholic social teaching at heart (this one’s for all of us), or called to run for office; called to volunteer for a cause, work for government or a political party, or called to start a new ministry or company; whatever the case may be, here at Catholic Conscience we ask, how can we help you do the good you’re meant to do by equipping you with the knowledge and wisdom of Catholic social teaching?

The good you are meant to do matters for all of us. In this issue of the Catholic Commons, you’ll read about a keynote speech the Pope gave last year talking about a global retreat from democracy into authoritarianism—the kinds of societies where people can’t give the fullness of their gifts to their neighbours for the common good of all. Responding to that speech, Matt writes in Catholic Social Teaching Applied that one of the greatest crises of our times is the lack of active citizen participation in public life. This lack of participation deprives our communities of many gifts, leaves numerous social issues under-addressed, and prevents us from building the culture of human dignity, subsidiarity, solidarity, and the common good that Christ desires. This is a huge problem! We need everyone all-in, well-formed in the tenets of our faith. Great Catholics are great citizens, after all, and they bring others to Christ through the love they bring to public life.

This big challenge has been our focus here ever since I started on this journey with Matt. Three years later, Catholic Conscience now reach Catholics across the country, and we’ve done a lot to shape a new generation of Catholic leaders for public service as voters, politicians, civic-minded servant-leaders, and more. But it all started with that coffee between strangers—the beginnings of a friendship between Matt and I that has become a site of incredible grace in my life.

We all need friendship right now. These are wondrous but challenging times. Catholics can build a better society and politics when we learn Christ’s vision for our communities through Church teaching and discover how God is asking us to, in the words of the Catechism, “participate, each according to his position and role, in promoting the common good.”  Thank you for joining us on that journey of service—I hope we help you become the disciple God made you to be!

Here’s four quick things you might be interested in, happening at Catholic Conscience right now:

  1. Our next webinar in the Beauty of Creation series on science, Catholicism, and civic life is coming on February 5th: exploring God’s revelation in nature with an associate of the Vatican Observatory (Isn’t it amazing the Vatican has an astronomical observatory?), Rev. Dr. Giuseppe Tanzella-Nitti. Click here to register—the event is totally free!
  2. Are you interested in running for election as a Catholic school board trustee? We’re hosting a one-day workshop on Saturday, April 9th alongside the St. Monica Institute and Ontario Catholic School Trustees’ Association designed to help those discerning. It’s a friendly, hospitable space to learn from experts about trustees and what they do, explore the Catholic vision for education and student well-being, and discover whether you want to serve your community in this profoundly impactful way. Learn more and find out how to apply by clicking here.
  3. In our Christmas message and on Facebook, we shared some details of our impact together through Catholic Conscience in 2021. If you didn’t see A Year in Civic Evangelization, you can click here and check it out!
  4. We just launched a new videos series, diving into Fratelli tutti—Pope Francis’ encyclical on social friendship and fraternity—chapter-by-chapter with Catholic leaders. You can watch the full series by clicking here. We’re passionate about this encyclical and how deeply it connects to our mission. We hope the series helps you discover the fullness of wisdom in Pope Francis’ words!

Please send me an email at if you ever have an idea or want to learn more. God bless you—please pray for us, that this apostolate may be fruitful for the building of our Lord’s Kingdom! We are praying for you, and I look forward to seeing you soon.

With joy,

Coming up at Catholic Conscience

God’s Revelation through Nature: Scientific and Theological Perspectives
February 5, 2022
Click here for more information.

Catholic School Trustees Workshop
April 9, 2022
Click here for more information.

We Are Fratelli tutti

We Are Fratelli tutti
Available On Demand
Click here to watch now.

Parliament Brief

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In this monthly feature, we will share with you a summary of one Bill currently being considered by a Canadian parliament and the dialogue around that Bill: its purpose, a short summary of the views of its proponents and opponents, and what elements of Catholic social teaching might be utilized to shed light on the proposal. A condensed summary will be offered in our newsletter. You can visit our website for the full brief.


This month we review a government-sponsored Bill currently being considered by the Canadian Parliament, intended to eliminate mandatory minimum sentences for certain drug-related crimes, as a part of a federal policy to treat drug abuse as a health problem, rather than a criminal matter.

The Act summarized below is intended at least partly to advance the government’s shift toward treatment of addictions and substance abuse as health issues, rather than criminal matters.  A broad range of health professionals, police officers, and others have spoken in support of the change.

Bill C-5 – An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the Controlled Drug and Substances Act

  • Government Bill, introduced in Commons on December 7, 2021. 
  • The summary reads: “This enactment amends the Criminal Code and the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act to, among other things, repeal certain mandatory minimum penalties, allow for a greater use of conditional sentences and establish diversion measures for simple drug possession offences.”
  • Status: The Bill’s first reading was completed December 7, 2021. The Bill is in the process of undergoing Second Reading.
  • Charter Statement:

    Overview of Bill
    Bill C-5 would make a number of amendments to the Criminal Code and the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act that seek to fulfill the Government of Canada’s commitment to address systemic inequities, including the overrepresentation of Indigenous Peoples, Black, and marginalized Canadians, in the criminal justice system. There are three areas of proposed reform in the Bill: (1) the repeal of all mandatory minimum penalties of imprisonment (MMPs) for offences under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act and the repeal of MMPs for a tobacco offence and some offences involving the possession or use of firearms under the Criminal Code; (2) changes to increase the availability of conditional sentences under the Criminal Code; and, (3) changes to the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act to promote the use of diversion for simple possession of drugs.


News Snips

Three recent news stories for you to ponder as a civic-minded Catholic:

  1. CATHOLICS INSPIRE LOCAL MP TO ENDORSE CORPORATE ACCOUNTABILITY LAW: Have you ever met with your local Member of Parliament? You’d be amazed how few people ever reach out personally to their local representatives—but these conversations can convert hearts and make a real difference.

That was the recent experience of the parishioners of St. Joseph’s Parish in Sarnia:Conservative MP Marilyn Gladu has joined with Development and Peace – Caritas Canada in endorsing a proposed new international corporate accountability law. “We need a law in Canada that will require Canadian companies to act that way in the world — to prevent human rights abuse and environmental harm overseas and include real consequences for companies that fail to take adequate steps to prevent harm,” Gladu said in a 36-second video Development and Peace posted to its Facebook account just before Christmas. The Sarnia-Lambton MP made the video after hearing from Development and Peace members at St. Joseph’s Parish in Sarnia about their support for model legislation requiring Canadian corporations to monitor and report on human rights throughout their supply chain. Luke Stocking at D&P (and a Catholic Conscience board member!) says: “Any time you can get a Conservative to endorse a campaign demand like the one we have right now, it’s only a good thing for building political consensus… It’s not partisan. We’re not engaged in partisan politics. We’re remaining faithful to the social teaching of the Church.”

Point to ponder: Participation is a core principle of Catholic social teaching. Is there a local ministry, apostolate or group you are part of, which is passionately engaged on a particular issue? Have you tried reaching out to your local politicians to engage them in this issue—even if you think they won’t agree because of the political party they are part of?

  1. POPE ENCOURAGES BUSINESS LEADERS WHO TRY TO PUT EMPLOYEES FIRST: In a recent audience, Pope Francis had some encouraging words for Catholic business leaders—including managers and entrepreneurs—seeking to live out the fullness of their faith in their vocations: Pope Francis also told the business leaders that what he has told pastors about “smelling like the sheep” applies to them as well and involves knowing their employees, their talents, dreams and struggles. And, he said, the best exercise of authority is to share it when possible, recognizing and encouraging every employee to contribute what he or she can to the business.

The Christian manager is called to consider carefully the place assigned to all the people in his or her company, including those whose duties might seem of lesser importance, because each is important in God’s eyes,” he said. Even if being the boss sometimes means making tough decisions, there should be a general approach of allowing “each person to give the best of himself or herself, to feel that he or she is participating, to bear his or her share of responsibility and thus contribute to the good of the whole.”

Point to ponder: All of us collaborate with others in our professional lives. Some of us have individuals who we are directly responsible for as leaders and managers. The Catholic social teaching principle of subsidiarity—that matters ought to be handled by the smallest, most local, competent authority—applies to institutions, but also applies to people. Do you allow those you work with the maximum freedom within their competency to execute their work responsibly and creatively, encouraging them to take ownership in using their gifts? How can you improve in this?

  1. CONSIDERING UNIVERSAL BASIC INCOME THROUGH THE LENS OF CATHOLIC SOCIAL TEACHING: One of the challenges we face as civic-minded Catholics is how to take the principles and ideas of Catholic social teaching and apply them in the real world, especially in how we think about political ideas and policy proposals. Brendan recently sat down with Dr. Brett Salkeld at the Archdiocese of Regina for a podcast discussion of one idea—a universal basic income—and together they used Catholic social teaching as a frame of analysis, considering the pros and cons. “A good stance, I think, for a Catholic going into a policy debate is to know that a) there will be no silver bullets, and b) there will be unintended consequences of almost any policy,” said Brendan. You can listen to Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4 of the conversation by following those links.

Point to ponder: After listening to the conversation, what aspects of Catholic social teaching do you think Brendan and Brett didn’t consider but are nonetheless relevant when analyzing the issue? What other facts should be taken into consideration when reviewing proposals for a universal basic income, beyond the principles highlighted in the podcast?

Catholic Social Teaching, Applied

In this feature, we use Catholic social teaching’s values, permanent principles, and virtues to analyze one contemporary issue or news story relevant to our public life. For a summary of these core teachings of our faith, click here. This is an abbreviated version – click here to read the full analysis on our website. 

Pope Francis in Greece: “We are witnessing a retreat from democracy.” (America Magazine—December 4th, 2021)

During a keynote speech in Athens, Greece—“where democracy was born”—Pope Francis expressed his grave concerns with a worldwide movement away from democracy and called for a “change in direction.”

  • “Democracy requires participation and involvement on the part of all; consequently, it demands hard work and patience. It is complex, whereas authoritarianism is peremptory, and populism’s easy answers appear attractive.”
  • “Universal participation is something essential; not simply to attain shared goals but also because it corresponds to what we are: social beings, at once unique and interdependent.”
  • “Let us help one another, instead, to pass from partisanship to participation; from committing ourselves to supporting our party alone to engaging ourselves actively for the promotion of all.”

Written by Matthew Marquardt

Pope Francis, speaking in Athens to the president and other Greek governmental and civil leaders, renewed his plea for recommitment by world democracies to the foundational values of truth, freedom, justice and charity.

Pope Francis made specific reference to other nations as well as Greece, citing rising threats of populist nationalism and enculturated consumerism as particular concerns.

As an antidote to such problems, the Holy Father called citizens of all countries to active participation in their societies.  The Church, of course, has long advocated active participation at all levels of society, in accordance with the depth of the gifts that have been entrusted to each individual by God.  The Pope would appear to support the notion that widespread involvement by properly formed voters is key to the democratic success.

Although Canada, thankfully, is not yet critically threatened by populism, our democracy does indeed appear to be under attack, an attack that is abetted by our own lack of participation…


The early new year is a difficult time for many, when seasonal depression and loneliness are high—challenges made all the more acute because of the pandemic. Dorothy Day (pictured above) knew what suffering meant as a disciple of Christ and lived a life where such suffering was put to the purposes of God. She once wrote:   “Compassion—it is a word meaning ‘to suffer with.’ If we all carry a little of the burden, it will be lightened. If we share in the suffering of the world, then some will not have to endure so heavy an affliction.”
  Brendan, our executive director, recently wrote a reflection about this quote and its timely reminder that “to place oneself entirely at the service of others [amid suffering] is the surest path to brilliant joy.” You can click here to read the full reflection.

In this hard season, may we all reach out to others in our lives and help carry a little of their burdens—so that none of us must endure so heavy an affliction.  
An excerpt from her personal journal

So I resolved then to be more careful not to omit certain devotions that I let myself off from on account of my irregular life and fatigue. After all, when I have been working from seven until twelve at night, or traveling fifteen hours by bus, I can realize all the more these words, “Can you not watch with me one hour?” (Matt 26:40). That, I have resolved, is to be my motto for the coming year, in order to foster recollection.

“Can you not watch with me one hour?”

I shall remember this whenever I am tired and want to omit prayer, the extra prayers I shall set myself. Because after all I am going to try to pray the simplest, humblest way, with no spiritual ambition.

Morning prayers, in my room before going to Mass. I always omit them, rushing out of the house just in time as I do. If I were less slothful it would be better….

Around the middle of the day to take, even though it be to snatch, fifteen minutes of absolute quiet, thinking about God and talking to God.

The thing to remember is not to read so much or talk so much about God, but to talk to God.
To practice the presence of God.

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