Caring For The Whole Person

A conversation with two Catholics trained in neuroscience and psychiatry. During the discussion, we explored health, the unity of body and soul, and the nature of human well-being, synthesizing science and Catholic wisdom about the human person. A webinar in our Beauty of Creation Series.

DISCLAIMER: this is a philosophical and theological discussion of health and does not constitute medical advice.

Extra Resources Mentioned:

Movies that demonstrate the dynamic of the Masculine and Feminine Genius:

Our Guests – Fr Peter Turrone & Dr Natasha Fernandes:

Fr Peter has a background in medical science and neuroscience, working as a research scientist at Centre for Addictions and Mental Health (CAMH) on the side effects of antipsychotic drugs before he was called to the priesthood. After 5 years at the Newman Centre at UofT, Fr Peter is now Pastor of the Forest Hill parish in the Archdiocese of Toronto.

Dr. Fernandes is a general Psychiatrist and Assistant Professor who specializes in the care for adults with developmental disabilities. She works in the Adult Neurodevelopmental Services outpatient clinic and provides consults to the Emergency Department and Inpatient units at CAMH.

We Are Fratelli tutti

Catholic Conscience Video Series

Christian disciples journey into Pope Francis’ encyclical on fraternity and social friendship

Join us in conversation with Catholic leaders in ministry, apostolate, and public life, as we together read and explore Pope Francis’ encyclical, Fratelli tutti—on fraternity and social friendship—chapter-by-chapter through the lens of Catholic social teaching and the most pressing moral challenges of our times.

Hosted by our executive director, Brendan Steven, this series of conversations produced by Catholic Conscience goes prayerfully and deeply into the text of the encyclical—walking together through this extraordinary guide for loving and serving our neighbours in civic and political life, as offered by our Holy Father.

Catholic Conscience is Canada’s non-partisan Catholic civic and political leadership and engagement organization. Our mission is civic evangelization through Catholic social teaching: forming citizens in the full breadth of our faith’s social vision, and thereby forming our Catholic community into a diverse, influential, and gently persuasive family of voices within Canadian civil society and politics. We are deeply inspired in this lay apostolate by Fratelli tutti, and Pope Francis’s exhortation to political love. We are excited to present this series to you in celebration of this encyclical and in hopes of helping to unlock all it can offer for Catholic neighbours living generously for all Canadians, seeking to have real encounters with others, and to build real fraternity and solidarity with all.

*Expand each panel below to view each video.

A Christmas letter from your friends at Catholic Conscience

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being with him was life, and the life was the light of all people… And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.

JOHN 1: 1-4, 14




Dear friends of Catholic Conscience, near and far,
Aware of our sins, we often wonder why we have been so graced to serve in this apostolate. In that inadequacy, we take solace in Christ’s words to St. Paul. “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
Grace surprises us. It captivates us through our rawest wounds. It floods us with purpose and life. It awakens our senses to the glory of God’s presence now, here, in this, and every moment. It marks us as his own. It bathes this creation he entered, flesh and blood, as a newborn in Bethlehem, destined to transfigure mankind.
This grace lives on in our Church and in the People of God. For us, this grace lives on in each of you. For the graces of this apostolate are in your gifts and in your friendship. They help us bring Catholic social teaching to a world in desperate need of it.
We felt grace in watching almost twenty Catholic leaders in civic and political life come together in early 2020 to plunge into the depths of Catholic social teaching and recommit their vocations to God and neighbour. We felt grace in listening to brilliant Catholic experts share their insights with others eager to explore their faith’s wisdom for the challenges of modern times, in webinars covering topics as diverse as voting, dialogue, money, throwaway culture, and our ongoing Beauty of Creation series on science and Catholicism.
We felt grace in the 2021 Canadian federal election—watching so many dioceses and parishes share our resources; bringing together Catholic representatives from the three major parties to answer Catholic questions about their visions for Canada; presenting to and dialoguing with Catholics in events from coast to coast about voting, Catholic social teaching; and more. We felt grace in the growing readership of the Catholic Commons, and your generous emails sharing your thoughts, ideas, and prayers with us. We felt grace in exploring Fratelli tutti and its intense relevance for our lives as Christian disciples in public life today, alongside dozens of parishioners and guests with Toronto’s St. Basil’s Parish.
On and on this year, we felt grace through you. Whether you volunteer with Catholic Conscience, are an avid follower or webinar participant, have read one of our election guides. Whatever the case, we felt the grace of your presence.
We also felt grace in the suffering. The pandemic has been hard on us, and hard on you. We have lost loved ones or walked with loved ones suffering. In this pain, there is the grace of Christ’s prayer for us all, “that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” (John 17:23)
In everything that united us in 2021—joys, dreams, losses, pains—the oneness in sharing the Good News with you and in collaboration with you has been a true grace. Thank you.
A great saint once wrote that the children of God should always be sowers of peace and joy. Our mission is to share that peace and joy through Catholic social teaching, in a polarized world of ideologies, idolatries; hungry for a Christian humanism that will grace our public life. But for all Christians, we look to one place for these graces. This Christmas, we wait in anticipation for the source of our peace and our joy—Emmanuelle, God with us—and in turn, drawing from that source, we go out to share that peace and that joy with others, so the whole world might learn who he is and how his love saves us.

In that blessed spirit—and with our prayers for your flourishing in this season and always—we wish you, dear friends, a very merry Christmas. God bless you and all you do in our Lord’s service. May 2022 bring you grace, and truth, and Christ in every moment of your days.

Your friends in Christ,

Matthew Marquardt
President & Founder, Catholic Conscience
Brendan Steven
Executive Director, Catholic Conscience
P.S. To share with you in brief our impact together in 2021, please read below A Year for Civic Evangelization, a short overview of our apostolic activities these past twelve months.

Bearing the Image of God: The Nature of the Human Person

Catholic Conscience presents:
A webinar in our Beauty of Creation series
Bearing the Image of God: The Nature of the Human Person
Ft. Professor Sonsoles de Lacalle
In Partnership with: Society of Catholic Scientists

We spoke with Professor Sonsoles de Lacalle – physician, neuroscientist, professor, and Chair of Health Science at California State University Channel Islands – about gender, sexuality and identity, highlighting the synthesis between rigorous science and the Catholic intellectual tradition. We discussed our sexually dimorphous nature, masculinity and femininity, our inherent complementarity, the purpose of sexuality, healthy development and the importance of the family, among other things.


Sonsoles de Lacalle obtained her M.D./Ph.D. from the University of Navarra (Spain) in Neuroscience. In 1990 she moved to the US with a Fulbright Fellowship to train in research at the University of Chicago. Her academic experience includes teaching and research in a medical setting (University of Chicago, Harvard Medical School, and Ohio University’s College of Medicine) and in predominantly undergraduate institutions (CSU Los Angeles, Charles Drew University and currently CSU Channel Islands).

Her research has focused on structural plasticity and brain responses to selective cell loss, and the extent to which the aged nervous system reacts to signals that can promote synaptogenesis and neural regeneration. Dr. de Lacalle has mentored undergraduate, graduate and medical school students, directed training programs and served as Program Director in NIH grants. She has published in peer-reviewed journals and has presented many invited lectures at international symposia and universities.


On identity

  • O’LEARY, Dale, The gender agenda. Redefining equality, Vital Issues Press, Lafayette (Louisiana) 1997
  • TAYLOR, Charles, Sources of the Self. The Making of the Modern Identity, Harvard University Press, Cambridge 1989
  • BURKE, Cormac, Man and Values: A Personalist Anthropology, Scepter Publishers, New York 2008
  • TRIGG, Roger, Ideas of Human Nature. An Historical Introduction, Blackwell Publishers, Oxford 1999
  • O’CALLAGHAN, Paul, Children of God in the World. Introduction to Theological Anthropology. Catholic University of America Press, 2016
  • MACHOWSKI, Marty, God Made Boys and Girls: Helping Children Understand the Gift of Gender. New Growth Press; 1st edition, September 2, 2019
  • ANDERSON, Ryan T., When Harry Became Sally: Responding to the Transgender Moment. Encounter Books, 2019
  • SHRIER, Abigail, Irreversible damage: the transgender craze seducing our daughters. Regnery Publishing, 2020.
  • THE COMMISSION ON CHILDREN AT RISK, Hardwired to connect. The new scientific case for authoritative communities. Published by the Institute for American Values, 2002.
  • AMERICAN COLLEGE OF PEDIATRICIANS, Gender ideology harms children. In:, 2017.
  • SAMUEL, Ana, Sex, Gender and Identity.
  • Heyer, Walter, “I Was a Transgender Woman”, Public Discourse, 2015,
  • De Solenni, Pia, A Hermeneutic of Aquinas’ Mens Through a Sexually Differentiated Epistemology of Woman as Imago Dei, Apollinare Studi, 2000.
  • JOYCE, Helen, “The New Patriarchy: How Trans Radicalism Hurts Women, Children—and Trans People Themselves”, Quillette, December 4, 2018
  • SULLIVAN, Andrew, “The nature of sex”. NY Magazine 2019,
  • TRUEMAN, Carl R., The rise and triumph of the modern self: cultural amnesia, expressive individualism and the road to sexual revolution. Crossway 2020
  • PLUCKROSE, H. and LINDSAY, J., Cynical theories. Pitchstone Publishing 2020
  • SOHL, D., The end of gender. Debunking the myths about sex and identity in our society. Threshold Editions, 2020.
  • MITHEN, Steven, The singing Neanderthals: the origins of music, language, mind and body. London: Weidenfeld & Nicholson, 2005

On theology of the body

On creation

  • HAFFNER, P., Mystery of Creation, Gracewing/Fowler Wright Books, Leominster (England) 1995
  • RATZINGER, J., In the Beginning…: a Catholic Understanding of the Story of Creation and the Fall, T & T Clark, Edinburgh 1995
  • ELDERS, L.J., The Philosophy of Nature of St. Thomas Aquinas. Nature, the Universe, Man. Peter Lang, Frankfurt am Main 1997
  • SCHMAUS, M., God and Creation, Sheed & Ward, London 1969
  • WHITNEY,W.B., “Beginnings: Why the doctrine of Creation Matters for the Integration of Psychology and Christianity”. In:
  • JAKI, S.L., Cosmos and Creator, Scottish Academic Press, Edinburgh 1980.
  • THOMAS, Joseph, An Introduction to the Theology of Creation, Scepter Publishers

Pope’s tips for journalists, brief on Bill C-6, Catholic action after COP26, and more

Quick Commons


In the new Quick Commons feature, we’ll share three need-to-knows from this newsletter for your fast review.

  • Our next webinar in the Beauty of Creation series on Thursday, December 16 will cover our fundamental natures as human beings through science and the Catholic faith. Click here to register for the Zoom link.
  • Our new Parliament Brief feature will offer a closer look at Bills currently before Canadian parliaments, including proponents and opponents’ views of the Bill and Catholic social teaching relevant to the conversation. This month, we look at Bill C-6 on conversion therapy. Click here to read this month’s full Brief or scroll down for an abbreviated version.
  • Our new Catholic Social Teaching, Applied feature, will take a current issue or news story, and concretely apply CST values, virtues and permanent principles in analyzing it. Click here to read this month’s CST Applied analysis in full, or scroll down for an abbreviated version.

Coming up at Catholic Conscience

  1. NEXT WEBINAR IN THE BEAUTY OF CREATION SERIES: Join our conversation on Thursday, December 16 with Professor Sonsoles de Lacalle, who will share with us the dialogue between science and the Catholic intellectual tradition on the nature of the human person, including on gender, sexuality, and identity. For your free ticket and Zoom link, click here to register.
  2. ARE YOU CONSIDERING PUTTING YOUR NAME FORWARD TO BECOME A CATHOLIC SCHOOL BOARD TRUSTEE IN NEXT YEAR’S ONTARIO MUNICIPAL ELECTIONS? If so, send our executive director an email at We are organizing a special edition of our Catholic Leaders Mission program to offer formation and discernment for those seeking election as a trustee in 2022. If you are considering this opportunity or know someone who is, please reach out. We will be announcing full program details soon.

Parliament Brief

In this new, 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.


Where? Canada’s federal Parliament.
What? Bill C-6 would amend the Criminal Code to prohibit certain activities relating to conversion therapy, which the bill defines as a practice, treatment or service designed to change an individual’s sexual orientation to heterosexual or gender identity to cisgender or to reduce non-heterosexual sexual attraction or sexual behaviour.
How? The Bill would enact new offences to prohibit activities such as causing an individual to undergo conversion therapy against their will.

Why? Proponents of the bill maintain that conversion therapy is a harmful practice which should be criminal, and see the practices associated with conversion therapy treating LGBT people as deficient and in need of repair, and therefore contrary to their dignity.
What do opponents say? The bill’s critics generally do not take issue with the objective of criminalizing harmful and coercive conversion therapy. The critics maintain, however, that the definition of conversion therapy employed by the bill is so broad and inaccurate that it is in danger of capturing scenarios which do not fairly constitute conversion therapy.
A Catholic social teaching consideration: Men and women with homosexual tendencies must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided (Catechism of the Catholic Church, #358).
For a fuller summary of Catholic social teachings relevant to this conversation, and points to ponder in considering the merits of this proposal, read our full Parliament Brief by clicking here.

News Snips

(Painting: The Nickel Belt by Franklin Carmichael)

Here are three news items for you to ponder as a Catholic:

  1. CATHOLIC ACTION OUT OF COP26: The COP26 conference just concluded in Glasgow, where nations gathered to negotiate continued action in the face of climate change. Several of those involved have expressed disappointment at the lack of clear commitments at the conference: “At the end of two weeks of declarations, negotiations and protests, the COP26 United Nations climate summit in Glasgow produced a set of vaguely worded commitments that would allow the globe to heat up 2.4 degrees. An effort to ‘consign coal to history’ led by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson failed to sign on Australia, China, India and the United States, who together represent 70 per cent of the world’s coal consumption.” Yet Catholic civic leaders like Catholic Conscience advisor Agnes Richard see signs of hope: “Richard and the Laudato Si’ Movement around the world are going to be urging Catholic institutions and dioceses to sign onto the Laudato Si’ Action Platform — a Vatican-sponsored effort to get everything from parishes to Catholic hospitals to line up their investments, buildings, employment practices and purchasing policies with the values and objectives of Pope Francis’ 2015 encyclical… ‘When we ask our leaders for something, we must be prepared to say, ‘And this is what we’re going to do,’ Richard said. ‘We must live like we believe that God created the world and it is very good.’”

    A point to ponder: In Laudato si’ (208), Pope Francis writes that “We are always capable of going out of ourselves towards the other. Unless we do this, other creatures will not be recognized for their true worth; we are unconcerned about caring for things for the sake of others; we fail to set limits on ourselves to avoid the suffering of others or the deterioration of our surroundings. Disinterested concern for others, and the rejection of every form of self-centeredness and self-absorption, are essential if we truly wish to care for our brothers and sisters and for the natural environment.” In our own approaches to our relationship with the natural environment—at home, at work, in our parishes, in our communities—do we take care for the sake of others, or do we pursue self-interested actions? Can we use the Laudato si’ Action Platform to discern new ways forward that recognize the sacred dignity and value of the world we inhabit and the people who are our neighbours? For inspiration, consider the case of this Catholic school in London, Ontario—the first in the country to go carbon-neutral.
  2. FORMER GOVERNOR GENERAL LAUDS VOLUNTEERISM: At the 20th anniversary celebration of Cardus, a Canadian Christian think tank, former Governor General David Johnston argued that the strength of any community is found in its commitment to volunteerism: “I would extrapolate to say that if you to wish to judge the health of a community, calculate the number of volunteers per capita,” he said. “If it is up, so is the community. If it is down, so is that community.”
    A point to ponder: The Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church (419-420) says that “The activities of civil society — above all volunteer organizations and cooperative endeavours in the private-social sector, all of which are succinctly known as the ‘third sector’, to distinguish from the State and the market — represent the most appropriate ways to develop the social dimension of the person, who finds in these activities the necessary space to express himself fully… The relationships that are established in a climate of cooperation and solidarity overcome ideological divisions, prompting people to seek out what unites them rather than what divides them. Many experiences of volunteer work are examples of great value that call people to look upon civil society as a place where it is possible to rebuild a public ethic based on solidarity, concrete cooperation and fraternal dialogue.” Reading this, and reflecting on Johnston’s argument, is it concerning to consider that rates of volunteerism have been declining in Canada for several years, and have been severely reduced in the pandemic? What do the institutions of society, including communities, charities, governments, businesses, and others do to encourage individuals to give of themselves generously?
  3. A PENITENT POPE WILL BE COMING TO A WOUNDED NATION: In the B.C. Catholic, Michael Swan writes about the coming papal visit to Canada for the purposes of expressing contrition to and solidarity with Canada’s First Nations for residential schools and other sins. “This is a different Pope,” points out Canadian Catholic scholar Michael Higgins. “And of course the reason for his coming is different. He’s coming as a penitent. There’s no triumphalism this time. He’s coming to a bruised Church. He’s coming to, in many ways, an angry Church. There are many Catholics who are upset by what has happened. So, he’s coming to a wounded nation.”
    A point to ponder: In Fratelli tutti, Pope Francis writes that “Negotiation often becomes necessary for shaping concrete paths to peace. Yet the processes of change that lead to lasting peace are crafted above all by peoples; each individual can act as an effective leaven by the way he or she lives each day. Great changes are not produced behind desks or in offices. This means that ‘everyone has a fundamental role to play in a single great creative project: to write a new page of history, a page full of hope, peace and reconciliation.’ How can you contribute to peace and reconciliation between Canadians and our First Nations? Is there a local First Nations community in your area? How does your municipal, provincial, and federal governments form a relationship with that First Nation? Can the relationship be improved? What projects exist in the community that you could contribute to, to work together in building that relationship?

Catholic Social Teaching, Applied

(Painting: The Good Samaritan by Vincent Van Gogh)

In this new feature, we’ll 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’ 3 tips for journalists (Catholic News Service—November 15, 2021)

While honouring two journalists who have worked at the Vatican for more than four decades, Pope Francis lauded the journalistic vocation and offered his wisdom for journalists today. His tips for media included:

  • “Your mission is to explain the world, to make it less obscure, to make those who live in it less afraid and to look at others with greater awareness.”
  • “Journalists [should be] willing to ‘wear out the soles of their shoes,’ to get out of the newsroom, to walk around the city, to meet people, to assess the situations in which we live in our time.”
  • To report or recount what has happened and why, the pope said, journalists should not make themselves the star of the story or the judge of an event, but they do have to allow themselves “to be struck and sometimes wounded” by the stories they encounter.
  • Pope Francis also asked reporters to remember that “the church is not a political organization with left- and right-wingers, as is the case in parliaments. At times, unfortunately, our considerations are reduced to this, with some root in reality. But no, the church is not this.”



Brendan: The Compendium of Catholic Social Teaching (198) reads, Men and women have the specific duty to move always towards the truth, to respect it and bear responsible witness to it. Living in the truth has special significance in social relationships. In fact, when the coexistence of human beings within a community is founded on truth, it is ordered and fruitful, and it corresponds to their dignity as persons. The more people and social groups strive to resolve social problems according to the truth, the more they distance themselves from abuses and act in accordance with the objective demands of morality. The Pope’s “tips” for journalists bring to life this idea of truth as foundational to the proper ordering of the community.
A community founded in truth is fruitful. Media well-rooted in its vocation is oriented towards truth. Media’s unveiling of truth makes the world less obscure, in the Pope’s words, which means we as citizens can approach the world “less afraid” (more capable of living out the theological virtue of hope!) and thus approach our neighbours with greater openness and awareness. In this vision, media’s vocation of speaking truth makes possible charitable engagement with our fellow citizens. What a powerful vocation, so central to a functioning and loving society.
But we face a unique challenge these days: so many different “media” sources, many ideological, many of which reject the full dignity of their neighbours, many of which obscure the truth and instead promote distortions and dehumanization, many of which speak without accountability or reasonable norms, promote fear, and in turn harm awareness of and authentic connection to our neighbours. We face a real challenge when media moves away from their core vocation. Social disunity and damage results.
Matthew: Truth is a central theme for Pope Francis, as it has been for many popes before him, and for the founders of virtually all democracies.  The importance of truth bobs up many times in his plea for dialogue in Fratelli tutti:

Some people attempt to flee from reality, taking refuge in their own little world; others react to it with destructive violence. Yet “between selfish indifference and violent protest there is always another possible option: that of dialogue. Dialogue between generations; dialogue among our people, for we are that people; readiness to give and receive, while remaining open to the truth. A country flourishes when constructive dialogue occurs between its many rich cultural components…

Dialogue is often confused with something quite different: the feverish exchange of opinions on social networks, frequently based on media information that is not always reliable. These exchanges are merely parallel monologues…  Indeed, the media’s noisy potpourri of facts and opinions is often an obstacle to dialogue, since it lets everyone cling stubbornly to his or her own ideas, interests and choices, with the excuse that everyone else is wrong. It becomes easier to discredit and insult opponents from the outset than to open a respectful dialogue aimed at achieving agreement on a deeper level. Worse, this kind of language, usually drawn from media coverage of political campaigns, has become so widespread as to be part of daily conversation. Discussion is often manipulated by powerful special interests that seek to tilt public opinion unfairly in their favour.

Lack of dialogue means that in these individual sectors people are concerned not for the common good, but for the benefits of power or, at best, for ways to impose their own ideas…

The heroes of the future will be those who can break with this unhealthy mindset and determine respectfully to promote truthfulness, aside from personal interest. God willing, such heroes are quietly emerging, even now, in the midst of our society. (Fratelli tutti 199-201)

  1. How do we encourage “celebrity journalists” to engage in real dialogue (not just debate!) with each other—breaking out of ideological siloes—but also with the experiences of those whose human dignity and lived injustices might persuade them towards more humane approaches? Is there anything we, personally, can do?
  2. How do we educate young journalists and journalism students in a culture of “wearing out their shoes,” instead of depending so much on social media culture and commentary as today’s generation of journalists often do?
  3. At a time when truth is so obscured because of ideology, lack of clarity, divisive media, a sinful desire to have our own ideas affirmed rather than challenged by the experiences of others, a rejection of Church teachings, etc, how do we re-center truth back into our understanding of what it means to build a charitable and just society?
  4. How do we encourage media organizations that obscure truth and have lost sight of their vocation to reorient themselves back towards their critical role? How do we encourage media organizations that have already devoted themselves to balanced, truthful, and responsible reporting practices?

Catholic Social Teaching, Applied

(Painting: The Finding of the Saviour in the Temple by William Holman Holt)

As we approach the end of the Year of Saint Joseph, Pope Francis has begun a new series of reflections on the foster father of Jesus. His first reflection included this new prayer to Saint Joseph, written by the Holy Father himself:
Saint Joseph,
you who always trusted God,
and made your choices
guided by His providence
teach us not to count so much on our own plans
but on His plan of love.

You who come from the peripheries
help us to convert our gaze
and to prefer what the world discards and marginalises.

Comfort those who feel alone
and support those who work silently
to defend life and human dignity. Amen.

Bill C-6 on Conversion Therapy


Bill C-6 would amend the Criminal Code to prohibit certain activities relating to “conversion therapy”, which the bill defines as a practice, treatment or service designed to change an individual’s sexual orientation to heterosexual or gender identity to cisgender or to reduce non-heterosexual sexual attraction or sexual behaviour.

Specifically, the Bill would enact new offences to prohibit activities which include the following:

  • causing an individual to undergo conversion therapy against their will;
  • causing a[ny] child to undergo conversion therapy; and
  • doing anything for the purpose of removing a child from Canada with the intention that the child undergo conversion therapy outside Canada.

Proponents’ Position

Proponents of the bill maintain that conversion therapy is a harmful practice which should be criminal. They point to coercive and harmful quasi-medical treatments of the past, such as electroshock therapy, employed to change a person’s homosexual orientation. In addition, proponents see such practices as treating LGBT people as deficient and in need of repair, and therefor contrary to the dignity of LGBT people.

Critics’ Position

The bill’s critics generally do not take issue with the objective of criminalizing harmful and coercive conversion therapy. The critics maintain, however, that the definition of conversion therapy employed by the bill is so broad and inaccurate that it is in danger of capturing scenarios which do not fairly constitute not conversion therapy. For example, the bill contains no accommodation for parental communication e.g. a parent advising a child to wait before commencing irreversible transition treatments. Similarly, there is no exception for pastoral communication e.g. to abstain from non-heterosexual relations. In addition, because of a one-sided definition, the bill creates a one-way street for gender identity issues, only allowing treatments which move people away from their birth gender. For example, a youth with gender identity issues would be able to access assistance for a gender transition, but not assistance to identify with their birth gender. The bill would thereby criminalize the process of “de-transitioning.”

Relevant Catholic Teaching

The Church teaches that:

  • Men and women with homosexual tendencies must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. – 358 Catechism of the Catholic Church.  Everyone, man and woman, should acknowledge and accept his sexual identity.  Physical, moral and spiritual difference and complementarities are oriented towards the goods of marriage and the flourishing of family life. -224 Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church

  • The family is the primary unit in society. It is where education begins and the Word of God is first nurtured. The Church considers the family as the first natural society, with underived rights that are proper to it, and places it at the centre of social life.   Relegating the family to a subordinate or secondary role, excluding it from its rightful position in society, would be to inflict grave harm on the authentic growth of society as a whole.  The family possesses its own specific and original social dimension, in that it is the principal place of interpersonal relationships, the first and vital cell of society. The family is a divine institution that stands at the foundation of life of the human person as the prototype of every social order.  – 209-211, Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church

    The priority of the family over society and the State must be affirmed.  The Church teaches that the proper role of government and other human institutions is to foster human life and dignity by maintaining social conditions that enable and encourage us to serve God in one another, and thereby to promote that which is truly in the common interest. In virtue of the principle of subsidiarity, public authorities have no right to take away from the family tasks which it can accomplish well by itself or in free association with other families; on the other hand, these same authorities have the duty to sustain the family, ensuring that it has all the assistance that it needs to fulfil properly its responsibilities.

Points to Ponder

Consider discussing the following questions with your local candidates, elected officials, and the parties, and with your family, friends, neighbors, coworkers, and fellow parishioners.  On prayerful reflection, consider sharing your conclusions with your elected representatives by writing respectful and informative letters.

  • Do you agree with the bill in its current form? 
  • Does the bill, in its current form, adequately prevent harm to those, and particularly children, who may have possible homosexual tendencies?  If not, how should it be amended?
  • Does the bill, in its current form, adequately protect the rights of families, including the right of children to be educated by their parents?
  • Does the bill, in its current form, adequately safeguard the rights of parents, who will after all be called to defend their parental actions before the Creator of the universe?
  • Does the bill, in its current form, provide adequate protections for private conversations, which may – as stressed by Pope Francis in Fratelli tutti – if open, honest, and sometimes challenging, lead to growth and advancement of the common good?

Legislative History

Introduced by David Lametti (Liberal, MP for LaSalle-Emard-Verdun, PQ, Minister of Justice.

Green Thomism

Co-sponsored by the Society of Catholic Scientists ( Professor Christopher Thompson—professor of moral theology at the Saint Paul Seminary School of Divinity—joined us to explore his idea of Green Thomism, which “seeks to integrate the wisdom of St. Thomas Aquinas with the questions of environmental stewardship, sustainability, and awareness… [and] interprets the signs of the times to indicate the need for a renewal of some of the most basic principles of Thomistic thought: the goodness of created things, the purposive structure of created being, the inescapable embodied character of human existence, the capacity of reason to discern an order of creation which is to be respected, the contemplative nature of human happiness… All of these claims are rooted in St. Thomas’ vision of creation, the human person, and God; each of them has the capacity to enliven the best of what is happening in the ever-growing movement of environmental concern.”

We discussed:

Bringing our Church’s philosophical and theological tradition into environmental thinking;

  • The critical role of contact with nature in our spiritual lives;
  • Confidence in the natural world; and,
  • Building a relationship with the natural world informed by the immense Creation wisdom of our Catholic faith, and how such a relationship differs from a technocratic or transhumanist vision.


Christopher Thompson is a professor of moral theology at The Saint Paul Seminary School of Divinity where he also serves as the Academic Dean since 2006. He has written and lectured extensively on the subject of integral ecology, its place in the moral imagination and its implications for a theological appropriation of creation and the dignity of the human person. He also serves as a team mentor and formator on behalf of Catholic Rural Life, a national organization dedicated to the formation of rural pastoral leaders through professional and spiritual development. His book, The Joyful Mystery: Field Notes Toward a Green Thomism, (2017) outlines what he describes as a Green Thomism, the integration of ecological attitudes and the spiritual tradition inspired by the medieval saint, Thomas Aquinas. He has written and lectured extensively on such themes in the United States and around the world. He is one of the principal drafters of The Vocation of the Agricultural Leader, an international collaboration including global agricultural communities and the Vatican.


Joyful Mystery: field notes toward a Green Thomism
by Christopher Thompson

Catholic Rural life

The Vocation of the Agricultural Leader

Ecological Conversion

In Laudato si’, Pope Francis calls us to ecological conversion, and writes that “living our vocation to be protectors of God’s handiwork is essential to a life of virtue.” Watch our conversation with Sister Damien Marie Savino, a Franciscan Sister of the Eucharist and Dean of Science and Sustainability at Aquinas College, as we explore:

  • This call to ecological conversion and its meaning;
  • The Catholic idea of integral human ecology, and its synthesis with the health, environmental and ecological sciences; and,
  • The way forward for integrating care for God’s creation into our daily practices of discipleship.


Sister Damien Marie Savino, FSE, Ph.D., is a Franciscan Sister of the Eucharist and currently serves as the Dean of Science and Sustainability at Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, Michigan. In this position she oversees the Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Geography and Environmental Studies departments and the college’s Center for Sustainability. Sister Damien Marie received her Bachelor of Science degree in Biogeography from McGill University, her Master of Science degree in Soil and Plant Science from University of Connecticut, her Master of Arts degree in Theology from The Catholic University of America and her Ph.D. degree in Civil (Environmental) Engineering from The Catholic University of America. She has lectured and written widely on Laudato Si’ and integral ecology, as well as on themes related to ecological restoration and resilience theory, ecological health, ecology and theology, and science and faith.


The Interdisciplinary Encyclopedia on Religion & Science:

Placuit Deo – A letter to the Bishops on Salvation: what fulfills us and the tendencies of Gnosticism and Pelagianism:

Trans Mission: What’s the Rush to Reassign Gender?


  1. The Mutual Ennobling of Science and Faith: From Rev. John Zahm, CSC to Laudato Si’, University of Notre Dame Founders’ Day lecture, 2021:
  2. Christian Imperatives for Environmental Care, The Grand Dialogue in Science and Religion, Kaufman Interfaith Institute, Grand Valley State University, Allendale, MI, 2021:
  3. An Approach to Pope Francis’ Encyclical Laudato Si’, Talking with Francky, Salt and Light Media, 2021 (podcast):
  4. Dismantling Environmental Racism: Promising Tools in the Laudato Si’ Toolbox, The Catholic Information Center, Grand Rapids, MI, 2020:
  5.  Faith in a Time of Crisis: Salt and Light TV Special on Laudato Si’, 2020:
  6. Banana Peels and Climate Change: A Daily Examen, with Dr. Phil Sakimoto, 2019:
  7. Evangelizing through Land-Based Experience and Dialogue with Science, McGrath Institute for Church Life, University of Notre Dame, 2018:
  8. Entrusted with the Environment: GIVEN Institute, 2016:
  9. Sr. Damien: Pro-Life, Pro-Creation, The GIST, the CatholicTV Network, 2016:
  10. Women in the  Church, Salt and Light Media, Vatican Connections, 2014:

Journal Articles

  1. Savino, Sister Damien Marie (2021, in press). “Evangelizing through Land-Based Experiences and Dialogue with Science.” In John Cavadini and Donald Wallenfang, eds. Global Perspectives on the New Evangelization, Volume 3. Eugene, OR: Pickwick Publications.
  2. Savino, Sister Damien Marie (2021, in press). “No Such Thing as Catholic Chemistry? The Catholic Difference in Teaching Science,” Review for Religious, Special issue on Science and Religion.
  3. Savino, Sister Damien Marie and Clarage, James (2021). Reconnecting Catholicism with the Sciences: A Model for Teaching Science and Religion Core Texts. In Bridging Divides, Crossing Borders, Community Building: The Human Voice in Core Texts and the Liberal Arts, Selected Papers from the 23rd Annual Conference of the Association for Core Texts and Courses (ACTC), Dallas, April 20-23, 2017, eds., Tuan Hoang and Daniel Nuckols (ACTC Publications, ACTC Liberal Arts Institute).
  4. Clarage, James, and Savino, Sister Damien Marie (2021). Teaching the Big Bang and Cosmological Education in the Core. In Bridging Divides, Crossing Borders, Community Building: The Human Voice in Core Texts and the Liberal Arts, Selected Papers from the 23rd Annual Conference of the Association for Core Texts and Courses (ACTC), Dallas, April 20-23, 2017, eds., Tuan Hoang and Daniel Nuckols (ACTC Publications, ACTC Liberal Arts Institute).
  5. Savino, Sister Damien Marie (2018). Proposing an Examen for Living the Ecology of Daily Life and Building a Culture of Care. The Trumpeter: Journal of Ecosophy. Vol. 34, No. 1. Special issue on Laudato Si’.
  6. Disputatio on the Distinction between the Human Person and Other Animals: The Human Person as Gardener.” Paper presented at Expanded Reason Congress in Rome, co-sponsored by the Benedict XVI Foundation and the Universidad Francisco de Vitoria, European University of Rome, September 24 -26, 2018.
  7. Savino, S. D. M. and Hittinger, J. P. (2016). Loss of Creation and its Recovery Through Aquinas and Bonaventure. New Blackfriars, 97: 5–21. doi:10.1111/nbfr.12161
  8. Savino, Sister Damien Marie (2015). Facilitating Social-Ecological Transformation of a Vacant Lot on an Urban Campus: the Houston-Congolese Connection. Cities and the Environment (CATE): Vol. 8: Iss. 2, Article 4. Available at:
  9. Savino, Sister Damien Marie (2015). Nature, Soil, and God: Soils and the ‘Grammar of Nature.’ In Peter Casarella, ed., Jesus Christ: The New Face of Social Progress (pp 311-323). Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.
  10.  Savino, FSE, Sister Damien Marie (2009). Atheistic Science: The Only Option? Logos: A Journal of Catholic Thought and Culture,12(4), 56-73. 
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