Truth & Journalism in Elections – Homelessness – Carbon Taxes – Sustainable Living– Global Rosary

THE CATHOLIC COMMONS

Truth & Journalism in Elections – Homelessness – Carbon Taxes – Sustainable Living – Global Rosary

December 2023

In Good Conscience

The goal of our newsletter is to help readers become familiar with current events and help them practice relating those events to Catholic social teaching, in order to help them to properly form their consciences.  We are not trying to promote specific social decisions or to stir up controversy.   If we say something that upsets you, don’t blast us, help us understand your point of view.

Our Newsletter – a means to invite reflection.

Readers will have noticed that the content and format of our newsletter has evolved over the past several years.  We like to think it’s headed in a good direction:  in addition to the kinds of announcements and events one normally expects in a newsletter, we are trying to develop a new Catholic form of educational news commentary.  Within each issue we strive to present several items of social concern, drawn from the full range of issues faced by society, by setting down one or two alternate points of view, a summary of relevant Catholic teachings, and a few questions to promote reflection.

Our goal is not only to help readers become familiar with current events, but to help them practice relating those events to Catholic social teaching, in order to help them in forming their own individual consciences properly.  Each Catholic should form his or her own views by reading, staying engaged with society, and praying constantly.  We should never blindly follow others or apply rules inconsistent with our faith.  Within the fair bounds of Catholic social teaching there remains ample room for healthy disagreement, dialog, and growth.

So if you should happen to read something here that angers or upsets you, before you turn off your computer and shoot an angry email at us, please sit back and ask yourself: should I be angry or upset?  Is this item I’m reading inappropriate advocacy, or an invitation to reflect within fair Catholic bounds?   We are trying to help you, not stir up controversy. Catholic Conscience will never intentionally attempt to persuade any person toward any specific resolution of a social issue.  We aim simply to introduce the fair bounds of our Church’ social doctrine and promote new ways of asking questions and seeking answers.

Don’t get mad, join the talk!  Write us at info@CatholicConscience.org, tell us how we can improve.  Share your thoughts so we can all learn.

New Global Rosary Crusade

Catholic Conscience is not a large organization, but thanks to you it has grown into an established, credible initiative with a truly global reach.  Our online resources now reach approximately 40,000 readers per year, including what appear to be regular followers in approximately 100 countries.  A significant portion of you seem to want to be more engaged.  We think it’s time we got together, at least online, and started getting to know one another.   What better way could there be, than to start by praying?

On Monday, January 1, Catholic Conscience will launch its global Rosary crusade for civic leaders and civic participation.  Normally we’ll pray on Wednesdays.  We’re starting with Monday, January 1, however, to coincide our launch with the World Day of Peace and the Solemnity of our Patroness Mary, the Mother of God, placing our hopes for peace and justice in the Blessed Mother’s loving hands.

There is no cost, of course, but in this uncertain and challenging time for the Church, we ask you to register at www.CatholicConscience/Rosary/

Better Late than Never:  Our 2022 Annual Report

We continue learning, and building a regular annual calendar to do things like thank our generous donors and them, and our readers and collaborators, how we’re doing.  So here at last is our annual report for 2022.  Though it’s late, it’s also positive:  2022 was a year of definite growth, reaching more voters, more activists, more classes, and – thank you! – more donors. We continued to learn, and to apply lessons to continued fine-tuning of our outreach. We received our first intercontinental inquiries, worked hard to adapt, and won our second national journalism award.

It’s clear that many people in many countries want to see increased respect, deeper justice, and a renewed political focus on the common good and its primary object: the authentic development of human souls.  We will continue trying to feed that hunger.

 

Of Common Interest

We cannot leave the problem of ensuring that future generations have everything they need to thrive entirely to our governments.  We have to do what we can in our own lives, too.  But in a complex and competitive world, what can we do?

Care for the Environment – Living Sustainably

What can we, as individuals, do to help preserve our environment?

We live in a time of ecological crisis – a crisis now widely believed to present a threat to all life, including human life, and to which each of us has to a greater or lesser extent contributed.  Every Pope since at least Saint John XXIII has warned us of the need to do better in caring for our planet, for the benefit of future generations as well as our brothers and sisters in other parts of the world, and ourselves.  The cry has become desperate.

Citizens have worked for years to spur their governments to action.  Many governments have responded, some more promptly than others.  But while the need for action is generally accepted, opinions can vary widely when specifics are discussed.  Is enough being done, or have we, the voters, failed to communicate a clear, resolute message to our elected leaders?  In the interim can we, should we, as individuals, be making any contribution?  If so, how can we help?

Catholic principles of subsidiarity, solidarity, and responsibility  – which can trace their roots to the Parable of the Talents in the Gospel of Matthew – suggest that individuals are obliged to do everything we can, personally as well as through our governance structures, by example, exhortation and voting.

In his encyclical Laudato si’, Pope Francis said:

A very solid scientific consensus indicates that we are presently witnessing a disturbing warming of the climatic system. In recent decades this warming has been accompanied by a constant rise in the sea level and, it would appear, by an increase of extreme weather events, even if a scientifically determinable cause cannot be assigned to each particular phenomenon. Humanity is called to recognize the need for changes of lifestyle, production and consumption, in order to combat this warming or at least the human causes which produce or aggravate it. It is true that there are other factors (such as volcanic activity, variations in the earth’s orbit and axis, the solar cycle), yet a number of scientific studies indicate that most global warming in recent decades is due to the great concentration of greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide, methane, nitrogen oxides and others) released mainly as a result of human activity. – Laudato si’, Para. 23

 What sorts of things can we try as individuals?

Living a truly sustainable modern life is a very difficult, very complex task.  In some cases it may be impossible.  Everything we buy, use, or consume comes at some environmental cost, and it can difficult or impossible to determine how much damage any proposed action or a purchase might cause.  Purchasing anything that was not produced, formed, and acquired entirely within arm’s reach, for example, must be transported, generally multiple times.  And transportation inevitably causes environmental harm – even walking requires shoes and clothing which require cleaning and maintenance, and eventually wear out.

Battery-powered vehicles serve another example.  On balance, they are quite possibly less harmful than gasoline-powered vehicles.  Yet they too come with significant environmental costs: material for the vehicles must be mined, formed, joined, painted, and delivered, including structural parts, motors, tires, seats, and of course batteries.  Batteries typically contain hundreds of pounds of poisonous chemicals which are not easily recycled once the battery has worn out.

It must also be remembered that recycling processes – all of them – come with environmental costs, in the form of energy consumption, purification, and re-processing into new useful forms, in addition to both collection and redistribution.

The old advice of “reduce, reuse, recycle” still holds.  Reducing consumption is the surest way to contribute, reusing things which may require cleaning and/or refurbishment is second, and recycling is third – and still ahead of simple disposal.

It can also be difficult or impossible to cut through advertising and other claims of “green” or “environmentally beneficial” products.  How do we know that products with such labels really are produced, packaged, and distributed in environmentally-friendly ways?

In such circumstances, how can we possibly proceed?

  • Pray for guidance, and act prudently!

    For Catholics the first step must be prayer. In particular, contemplating such complex questions, we should pray for guidance.

    Prudence is important too.  We are called by Christ both to act prudently and to try our best.  (See for example Matthew 25).  Even when we have little control, we should control what we can as wisely as we can, and pray about the rest. It’s not all up to us, we have to turn to God, too.  Remember the miracles of the loaves and fishes – Christ multiplies small devout offerings manifold.  If we do what we can, and pray, he will help.  (Matthew Chapters 14,15; Mark Chapters 6,8; Luke Chapter 9; John Chapter 6.)

  • Educate yourself, and monitor new developments

    We must educate ourselves, and keep ourselves educated, keeping up with the latest and best practices and trying to choose wisely. Much attention is being given to the idea of helping individuals live in greater harmony with the earth, and tools for doing so are developing rapidly.  We have listed a few examples below.  We should pray, look for helpful tools, and try the ones that look most useful to us in our circumstances.

  • Start practicing better habits
    One we’ve found the tool(s) that make sense, let’s try them out and try to live a more eco-friendly lives.
  • Keep praying
    Keep praying for yourself, your family, your neighbors, your government(s), and the world. Remind the Lord of the miracles he has worked for those in need who have asked.

Sample resources

Here are some examples of online resources that may be helpful to you.  Please note:  we have not exhaustively investigated these resources, and do not endorse them for any specific purposes other than inspiration and investigation.  Please investigate before using – and let us know if you see any concerns or have any further suggestions.  For us, this is an ongoing project.  We can use your help.

  • The Laudato si’ Catholic environmental movement maintains a web page with advice and links to resources to help you simplify your life and learn sobriety in the use of resources and energy.
  • The Catholic University of America offers tips for reducing or eliminating the use of trash requiring landfills or incinerators.
  • The Environmental Working Group offers Eat Well Guides to help you find restaurants, farms, and markets near you for locally-sourced, sustainable food products in selected American cities.
  • Learn about your personal emissions footprint, and learn to live within it
    As quoted above, in calling for action to end non-sustainable activities, Pope Francis wrote in Laudato si’ that “most global warming in recent decades is due to the great concentration of greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide, methane, nitrogen oxides and others) released mainly as a result of human activity.”

    In recent decades, proposals have been made  for identifying each human being’s fair share of greenhouse gas production, and encouraging individuals abide by that allotment.  A 2021 report by the Hot or Cool Institute,  a not-for-profit said to be driven by principles of well-being and prosperity, fairness and justice, and living within ecological limits, and associated with the Club of Rome, the Institute for European Environmental Policy, and others, suggests that individuals should be making choices that result in no more than 2.5 tons of Carbon per person by 2030, and 0.7 tons by 2050 if the 1.5 degree cap suggested by the United Nations and most scientists is to be met.  Currently, North American emissions are closer to 13 tons per person, compared to 8.5 tons in the UK, 5 tons for China, and 3 tons for India.    No country on earth, the report states, is currently living within sustainable goals.

    To help us learn to live within our limits, several organizations are developing interactive online calculators to help us monitor our release of greenhouse gasses.  One such calculator is provided by the Nature Conservancy at https://www.nature.org/en-us/get-involved/how-to-help/carbon-footprint-calculator/

  • Stay engaged, and vote
    Finally, we should all be staying engaged with our elected representatives, keeping ourselves informed about party policies, proposed government policies, and the performance of our governments, and voting.

In many parts of the world, the COVID-19 pandemic has left an alarming legacy of homelessness.  Is homelessness important?  Who’s responsible for addressing it?  In a complex and competitive world, what can we as individuals do?

Solidarity, Human Rights, and Subsidiarity:  homelessness after COVID-10

Tents are seen setup underneath the Toronto’s Gardiner Expressway as Homeless Camp in this photo dated October 24, 2023. Photo: Catholic Conscience.

Many of us in different cities around the world have noticed what appears to be a marked increase in the level of homelessness following the COVID pandemic.  Reports from multiple jurisdictions suggest we’re not wrong.  A report from Australia’s University of New South Wales  , for example, notes that homelessness is increasing while promises made during the pandemic of “building back better” are not being realized.  The Associated Press reported on December 15  that homelessness in the United States has surged a “dramatic” 12% to its highest reported levels, at least in part due to soaring rents and a decline in temporary assistance provided during the pandemic.  Increased homelessness levels were also reported in Europe, by the UK’s The Guardian.

Homelessness is said to be one of the most durable and complex problems known to humankind.  Observers have defined several different varieties , including:

  • living on the streets, also known as sleeping rough or primary homelessness
  • moving between temporary shelters, including houses of friends, family, and emergency accommodation, also “couch surfing” or secondary homelessness
  • living in boarding houses without a private bathroom or security of tenure, or tertiary homelessness
     

Homelessness has many causes, including mental, physical, social, and spiritual health, unemployment, and the cost and availability of housing.   As with many human challenges, solutions within most cultures will require both definition of appropriate and workable goals, and a large variety of solutions.  One single solution will seldom work for everyone.

The Church includes housing among a list of human rights fundamental to the authentic development of persons, emphasizing the State’s responsibility to provide it in ways sufficient to meet that purpose.  But the Church does not look solely to the state.  Rather, given the importance of housing, the Church emphasizes the responsibility of all members and levels of society in ensuring that humans have what they need for true growth.   (Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, 166, 167).

The responsibility of all elements of society to provide adequate housing offers a dramatic illustration of the relationship between the principles of solidarity and subsidiarity, worthy of sober reflection.

Catholics bear responsibility both as individuals and as a Church.  During the pandemic, many dioceses and parishes took direct action.  In the midst of the pandemic, the diocese of Halifax-Yarmouth in Nova Scotia, Canada responded by encouraging parishes to provide space in their churchyards, along with basic structures having both light and heating; bedding; and other necessities.  Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston in Texas implemented a Rapid Re-Housing Program, working with the Houston Housing Authority and the NGO Coalition for the Homeless to rescue people who had recently found themselves homeless by providing apartments and connections to other Catholic Charities services to set them back on the track to self-sufficiency.

And what of our individual responsibility?  Of course, we should constructively consult our elected representatives and follow the policies of candidates closely, voting for candidates we believe will support effective action.  But we can also do more.  Countless organizations dedicating to helping those without homes stress the importance of looking people in the eye and acknowledging them as human beings – even considering, if conversation is safely possible, learning their names and greeting them as we pass.  We can also consider contributing to such organizations, as volunteers and donors.

The Economist has published a set of essays lamenting the state of today’s journalism and expressing concern for coming elections.  A primary source of that concern is the loss of “a common base of facts,” which hinders open, frank conversation from multiple points of view.  How can Catholics keep themselves informed?  How can we help improve news coverage?

Truth, Media, & Good Governance – Moving toward and respecting the truth

A recent set of essays published by The Economist laments the state of Western journalism, emphasizing the importance of the seemingly lost principles of truth, balance, and open discourse in politics.  Speaking with specific reference to the importance of communication pertaining to elections, the authors examine challenges faced by voters and others hoping to pull reliable news reports from a babbling sea of fragmented voices – many of which pander to their audiences in order to keep readership numbers up, sometimes to the point of ignoring facts that aren’t helpful to the positions they promote while focusing on favorable and even fabricated facts.

It requires effort to create and nurture a political culture in which people can argue constructively, with disagreement and comprise, the authors observe, citing US sources as early as Presidents Thomas Jefferson and James Madison.  The author of one essay – a former editorial-page editor of the New York Times – argues that the Times has abdicated its pledge to pursue the news “without fear or favour” along with a promise to promote intelligent discussion from all informed points of view.  Speaking from personal experience, he charges that the Times’s claims to integrity and true independence have been undermined by ideological journalists and “commercial staff” who do not believe that readers can be trusted with “potentially dangerous ideas or facts.”

The loss by society of the ability to center conversations on “a common set of facts” is a primary them of the essays.

Church Teaching

Truth is fundamental to any just form of governance. Without it, no democracy can survive. Even when – as we always should – we seek consensus, that consensus must be founded on truth.

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…  Modern times call for an intensive educational effort and a corresponding commitment on the part of all so that the quest for truth cannot be ascribed to the sum of different opinions, nor to one or another of these opinions.  Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, 198

In other words, the Church, too acknowledges the need for a common set of facts.

Points to Ponder

  • How can we, as Catholics, discharge our duty “to move always toward the truth, to respect it and bear responsible witness to it?”

It seems clear that a first step involves identifying responsible news sources: individuals and organizations who undertake to report truthfully, in a balanced way, in accordance with stated values, and who are willing to faithfully present all viewpoints within the contours of those values.

An important point in identifying such news sources is to seek out the values they purport to hold, and to confirm that their reporting is consistent with them. If these values are sufficiently consistent with the values held by other news sources, and by society itself, then the common moral base these values represent will serve as a reliable and convenient source for common sets of facts.

It is also important to support well-meaning, balanced news sources.  If sustainable support is not available, it can be very difficult to maintain professional, consistent coverage of topics citizens out to care and be informed about.  Unfortunately, it can be easier to fall back on free rants and exhortations that merely reinforce what we already believe, or what we want to believe, than to consider alternative and often challenging points of view.

With journalism – indeed, all social discourse – in this state, we cannot afford to be complacent.

  • How is it possible to identify sources of news reliably reported in accordance with values consistent with Catholic values?

This can be difficult.  First, one must be familiar with Catholic social values.  But this is the easy part.

Many news sources publish or at least make reference to the values they seek to uphold on “About” pages of online resources, and in columns printed in longer documents.  It may be safest to try such sources first, checking the consistency between Catholic teaching and reported value statements, and making an effort to keep the publishers honest through commentary or other forms of feedback.

Since it can be difficult to find sources of the broad spectrum of news coverage that can be helpful to living a faithful live of civic participation, it may be necessary to start with both the best secular news sources we can identify and the broadest faithful Catholic coverage we can find, and encourage them to grow towards one another.

Examples of Catholic news sources include the following.  Unfortunately, in many cases they tend to focus on internal church news – bake sales, the bishop’s latest homily, etc. – and ignore things like the stock markets, deforestation, housing proposals, and the like.  Perhaps we can engage with these news sources and gently encourage them to broaden their perspectives without losing their faith-based values.

We at Catholic Conscience will continue working to collect listings of more-reliable sources of general, broad-based news, and to share them in future issues.

Of Common Concern

Of the many issues facing society today, the environment remains one of the most urgent and controversial.  Carbon tax proposals serve as prime examples.  What principles and values should Catholics consider in reflecting on such issues?

Carbon Taxes: Solidarity, Subsidiarity, Governance, and Prudence

As the world navigates the complexities of the climate change issue, the implementation of a carbon tax has become an unavoidable reminder that political and practical choices and actions often have complex and unforeseen consequences – they can, for example have impacts not only on the environment, but on individuals who have to deal with the consequences of those choices and actions.

The Canadian Government’s rationale for a carbon tax is that it addresses the costs associated with the effects of climate change. In short it is a “price on carbon pollution in Canada.” The intention of the tax is to create a dent in emissions and thereby help to shape people’s behaviour, since the more energy costs rise, the less they’ll be consumed, resulting in a decrease in carbon emission rates.

Many political leaders agree.  Others say the tax is unfair, ineffective, and puts unnecessary burdens on the working class. In the case of Saskatchewan, politicians say the federal government is showing favoritism to one area of the country over another with the exemption on home heating oil it provided in the Atlantic provinces.

With 90 per cent of Saskatchewan households using natural gas to heat their homes, indications are Premier Scott Moe will have his province’s energy ministry stop collecting carbon tax on natural gas beginning Jan. 1 unless taxes on heating fuel are repealed across the nation.

The Saskatchewan Legislative Assembly voted unanimously to not remit the tax unless the federal government offers an exemption as they did for home heating oil in the Atlantic provinces.

Others, however, believe taxation is needed to battle climate change, an issue that many Catholics and people of good will view as a crucial moral issue that needs to be addressed, the argument being that if we do nothing, we are putting future generations at risk.

The resulting carbon tax debate raises challenging questions about how to balance our duties toward environmental stewardship and care for our common home with the principle of solidarity with our fellow humans.

Catholic Teaching

The Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, a brainchild of Pope Saint John Paul II, was published in 2004 by the Pontifical Council for Justice & Peace. Read together with and informed by the Gospels, the Old Testament, the Catechism, and subsequent papal documents, it provides a comprehensive statement of Catholic Social Teaching, touching on all aspects of social life, from the family to International Relations, and from the sanctity of life to the environment, the economy, human rights, civil liberties, and obligations; the economy, good governance, and social institutions such as the Church, schools, governments, and civil society. (https://catholicconscience.org/catholiccivics/)

Chapter Seven of the Compendium explains that:

Taxes and Public Spending as Tools for Shaping Society

  1. Tax revenues and public spending take on crucial economic importance for every civil and political community. The goal to be sought is public financing that is itself capable of becoming an instrument of development and solidarity. Just, efficient and effective public financing will have very positive effects on the economy, because it will encourage employment growth and sustain business and non – profit activities and help to increase the credibility of the State as the guarantor of systems of social insurance and protection that are designed above all to protect the weakest members of society.

Public spending is directed to the common good when certain fundamental principles are observed: the payment of taxes [739] as part of the duty of solidarity; a reasonable and fair application of taxes;[740] precision and integrity in administering and distributing public resources.[741] In the redistribution of resources, public spending must observe the principles of solidarity, equality and making use of talents. It must also pay greater attention to families, designating an adequate amount of resources for this purpose.[742]

Civic Cooperation

  1. Cooperation, even in its less structured forms, shows itself to be one of the most effective responses to a mentality of conflict and unlimited competition that seems so prevalent today. 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.

Natural Law and the Limits of Civic Obedience

  1. Recognizing that natural law is the basis for and places limits on positive law means admitting that it is legitimate to resist authority should it violate in a serious or repeated manner the essential principles of natural law. Saint Thomas Aquinas writes that “one is obliged to obey … insofar as it is required by the order of justice.”[823] Natural law is therefore the basis of the right to resistance.

There can be many different concrete ways in which right [of resistance] may be exercised; there are also many different ends that may be pursued. Resistance to authority is meant to attest to the validity of a different way of looking at things, whether the intent is to achieve partial change, for example, modifying certain laws, or to fight for a radical change in the situation.

Points for reflection: 

For example, does the application of exemptions to carbon tax for fuels which are used more in one part of a country than another touch upon the principle of solidarity – a Catholic term meaning that ‘since we are all parts of the one living body of Christ, what hurts them also hurts us’? Why or why not?

Would the Government of Saskatchewan be justified in refusing its legal duty by retaining a tax that has been collected in the name of the common good? Or would retention be an appropriate use of its right to resist what it considers and unfair taxation law?

Might the principle of subsidiarity – that individuals and lower groupings of society should be encouraged and enabled to take responsibility for themselves, rather than relying on higher or larger groupings – help to inform this analysis? Would provinces be better positioned to come up with their own incentives to reduce carbon emissions than the federal government?

What relevance, if any, does the virtue of prudence bear on such a topic?  Section 1806 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church defines prudence as “the virtue that disposes practical reason to discern our true good in every circumstance and to choose the right means of achieving it… it guides the other virtues by setting rule and measure. It is prudence that immediately guides the judgment of conscience.”

In situations, for example, where risks associated with an issue are not clearly defined and no one certain correct answer is apparent, might prudence suggest that perhaps the safest course might be the best one to follow?  Would such reasoning apply to continued addition of carbon and other gasses to the atmosphere?  What might future generations, looking back to today, discern as a prudent choice for us in the here and now?

Sources:

Events

Catholic Journalism: Telling Truth in Charity

The Canadian Catholic News is offering a 12-week, non-credit course covering the foundations of Catholic journalism, including the theological foundations, basic journalism skills such as the interview and what makes a good story, and ethics for the Catholic newsroom. The format includes lectures, discussions and assignments.  The pool of six highly-experienced and highly-qualified instructors is drawn from across Canada.  Registration and more information are at:  canadiancatholicnews.ca/journalism/

Weekly Rosary

Catholic Conscience is inaugurating a series of weekly Rosaries, with intentions for civic participation and civic leaders.  We will start on Monday, January 1, at 11AM Eastern Time in North America (UTC -5) to celebrate the World Day of Peace and the Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, then shift to Wednesdays at the same time, starting on January 10.  Are all welcome.  There is no fee, but as a precaution we are asking participants to register at catholicconscience.org/rosary

Voters Guides and Elections

  • We remain busy preparing voter guides for coming elections. The following are on our list in the following order, bearing in mind that in some cases elections may be called early.  If you would like us to prepare a guide for your jurisdiction, please contact us at info@CatholicConscience.org.  Warning:  we may ask you to help.
    • Canada Federal Election – nominally set for 20 October 2025, but there are concerns of an early call
    • British Columbia Provincial Election, set for 19 October 2024
    • New Brunswick Provincial Election, set for 21 October 2024
    • Saskatchewan Provincial Election, set for 28 October 2024
    • US Presidential Election, set for 5 November 2024
    • UK Federal Election, set for January 2025

Prayer

Our Lady of All Nations

Near the end of the Second World War, Ms Ida Peerdeman of Amsterdam began to experience what she reported as apparitions of the Virgin Mary.  During these experiences the Blessed Mother asked that a prayer be recited throughout the world:

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Father, send now Your Spirit over the earth. Let the Holy Spirit live in the hearts of all nations, that they may be preserved from degeneration, disaster and war.

May the Lady of All Nations, who once was Mary, be our Advocate. Amen.

Let us join Ms Peerdeman in recalling this prayer frequently.

 

Donate

We’re busy, and growing. To help citizens and students around the world understand the beauty and the truth of Catholic Social Teaching, we need to engage educated, balanced, and fair-minded individuals in many countries. Your contribution can go a long way.

An Officer and a Prophet

THE CATHOLIC COMMONS

An Officer and a Prophet

April 2023

Seeking Human Dignity in a Complex World

Our world is rapidly growing more complex.  Individuals seeking to thrive in business, education, retirement, child rearing, or even grade school require ever-increasing and sometimes seemingly unfair levels of moral, technical, and verbal sophistication.  We hear reports of rising levels of social anxiety, particularly among children and teenagers.[1]  On the other hand, mere subsistence seems ever easier to accomplish, and ever more widely accepted.  Social assistance in the form of basic health care, education, and housing are becoming more universally available, and increasing numbers of people in need are availing themselves of them.  But more is said to be needed.[2]   In various countries there is talk of the establishment of a basic income,[3] which in accordance with some proposals might not be tied to any requirement for attempts to find employment.

While as Mahatma Gandhi famously observed “the world has enough for everyone’s need, but not everyone’s greed,” the proportion of income received by the top 10% of income earners has risen over the latter half of the past century and the cost of living seems to be on the rise despite overall increases in wealth and reductions in wealth inequality over the past two centuries.[4]  Many seem to drift inexorably toward subsistence at the doubtful charity of the rich.[5]

Are these trends sustainable?  Why is it ever more difficult for a single wage earner to find fulfilling work that will support a dignified life for a family?  And what of the Church’s assertion that fulfulling, creative work is an essential part of human existence?[6]

What will happen as fewer and fewer of us are able to find a balance that brings fulfillment and dignity without harming others, including our own children?

These are not simple questions, and they might be susceptible to any number or variety of solutions if we pay attention and act now.  How can we identify answers; and which will we, as a family of human societies, choose?

This month we continue evolution of the format of our newsletter, in the hope of fostering conversation on the role of the Catholic conscience in shaping democratic society.

[1] See, e.g., https://www.apa.org/monitor/2022/10/child-anxiety-treatment

[2] https://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/—ed_protect/—soc_sec/documents/publication/wcms_817574.pdf

[3] See, e.g., https://basicincome.org/news/2014/01/european-union-more-than-280000-sign-initiative-asking-the-european-council-to-consider-basic-income/; https://thehill.com/hilltv/what-americas-thinking/512099-poll-majority-of-voters-now-say-the-government-should-have-a/; https://www.ndp.ca/news/ndp-mp-introduces-national-framework-guaranteed-livable-basic-income 

[4] Max Roser (2013) – “Global Economic Inequality”. Published online at OurWorldInData.org. Retrieved from: ‘https://ourworldindata.org/global-economic-inequality‘ [Online Resource]

[5] https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2022/04/economic-inequality-wealth-gap-pandemic/

[6] Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, 255-266

In Good Conscience

Dwight Eisenhower, an Officer and a Prophet

By any standard, US President Dwight Eisenhower was a remarkable individual.  Born into a large middle-class family in the US midwest, he graduated from the West Point Military Academy prior to America’s entry to World War I.  During the Second World War he led Allied armies in major military campaigns in North America and France.  After the war he served as president of Columbia University, and as the first Supreme Commander of NATO until he was elected president in 1952.  While his administration was not perfect, as president he served with the same values of truth and honor that had kept during his military career. He sought non-aggressive containment of communism and the reduction of federal deficits.  He supported Taiwan as the legitimate government of China, and opposed invasions of Egypt by Israeli, British, and French troops, and of Hungary by the Soviets.  He helped end Senator Joseph McCarthy’s campaign of domestic terror and division, and signed the Civil Rights Act of 1957, sending Army troops to enforce integration of schools in Little Rock, Arkansas.

Our people expect their President and the Congress to find essential agreement on issues of great moment, the wise resolution of which will better shape the future of the Nation.

–          President Eisenhower’s Farewell Address

In his farewell address to the nation this career warrior, who in the process of devoting his life to the defense of his nation had witnessed and participated in the exponential growth and power of military technology, reminded the world of the importance of trust between leaders and voters, and of respect and cooperation among political rivals.  He also warned the world to be wary of partnerships between government and industry, and of living non-sustainable lives:

Throughout America’s adventure in free government, our basic purposes have been to keep the peace; to foster progress in human achievement, and to enhance liberty, dignity and integrity among people and among nations. To strive for less would be unworthy of a free and religious people. Any failure traceable to arrogance, or our lack of comprehension or readiness to sacrifice would inflict upon us grievous hurt both at home and abroad.

“Crises there will continue to be. In meeting them…  there is a recurring temptation to feel that some spectacular and costly action could become the miraculous solution to all current difficulties. A huge increase in newer elements of our defense; development of unrealistic programs to cure every ill in agriculture; a dramatic expansion in basic and applied research-these and many other possibilities, each possibly promising in itself, may be suggested as the only way to the road we wish to travel.”

“This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is [a] new… experience. The total influence – economic, political, even spiritual – is felt in every city, every state house, every office of the… government…  We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted.  Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.”

Likewise, the president warned of giving too much power to technocrats:  “Today, the solitary inventor, tinkering in his shop, has been over-shadowed by task forces of scientists in laboratories and testing fields. In the same fashion, the free university, historically the fountainhead of free ideas and scientific discovery, has experienced a revolution in the conduct of research. Partly because of the huge costs involved, a government contract becomes virtually a substitute for intellectual curiosity. For every old blackboard there are now hundreds of new electronic computers.  The prospect of domination of the nation’s scholars by Federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money is ever present and is gravely to be regarded….  in holding scientific research and discovery in respect, as we should, we must also be alert to the equal and opposite danger that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific-technological elite.”

Eisenhower also voiced concern over misuse of the environment:  “As we peer into society’s future, we – you and I, and our government – must avoid the impulse to live only for today, plundering, for our own ease and convenience, the precious resources of tomorrow. We cannot mortgage the material assets of our grandchildren without risking the loss also of their political and spiritual heritage. We want democracy to survive for all generations to come, not to become the insolvent phantom of tomorrow.”

The President closed with an appeal for peace – a peace based on justice:  “Down the long lane of the history yet to be written America knows that this world of ours, ever growing smaller, must avoid becoming a community of dreadful fear and hate, and be, instead, a proud confederation of mutual trust and respect.  such a confederation must be one of equals. The weakest must come to the conference table with the same confidence as do we, protected as we are by our moral, economic, and military strength. That table, though scarred by many past frustrations, cannot be abandoned for the certain agony of the battlefield.”

This remarkable and prophetic speech is less than 2000 words long, requiring 5-10 minutes to read.  It remains more valid today than ever.  Consider, for example, current controversies concerning the conduct of governments and pharmaceutical companies during the COVID-19 pandemic, and controversies regarding banks and unified, virtual currencies.

Of Common Interest

Good Governance, Rights & Obligations

  • C-11 – An Act to amend the Broadcasting Act
    Still Debated in Canadian Parliament

    An act pending in Canadian Parliament, intended to control aspects of internet messaging, continues to be debated.  Some parties have called for protection for artists and other content creators, while others focus on protection of free speech rights.  Current debate might be well summarized by statements made in debate on March 30.  According to the Canadian Parliamentary website:

    Mrs. Rachael Thomas, a Conservative MP from Lethbridge, Alberta, said:
    Mr. Speaker, what we just heard from the government is that it has moved closure on Bill C-11 and our discussion with regard to the amendments that came back from the Senate.  Closure means that the government is shutting down debate. I find this rather interesting because, really, Bill C-11 is a censorship bill, so we have a government that has moved a censorship bill and now is moving censorship on that censorship bill. Let us talk about a government very committed to censorship; it not only wants to censor what Canadians can see, hear and post online through Bill C-11, but the government also wants to censor us as opposition members in our ability to speak to the bill.  It should be further noted that the Quebec government, under Premier Legault, issued an open letter asking to be heard with regard to this legislation, because it has significant concerns. It asked that the bill be referred to committee, but it was not.

    Mr. Peter Julian, New Democrat MP from New Westminster—Burnaby, B.C., replied:
    Madam Speaker, there is no doubt that Bill C-11 is needed. We have seen a hemorrhaging of our artistic and cultural sectors. We have seen the loss of thousands of jobs. What Bill C-11 would do, in effect, is allow for more support for our cultural sector and more ability for Canadians to find Canadian content, to actually see Canadian artists and hear messages from other parts of Canada. This is absolutely essential.  That being said, two parties have approached this differently. The NDP approach Bill C-11 with the idea of improving the bill. We brought in important amendments to uphold the freedom of speech, to ensure indigenous peoples and racialized Canadians would be a bigger part of broadcasting and their content would be more available online.  Conservatives have been throwing wacky conspiracy theories onto the floor of the House of Commons, hour after hour, comparing Bill C-11 to what goes on in North Korea. There is nothing about mass starvation, prison camps or systemic torture in Bill C-11.

    • Can the rights and legitimate expectations of artists, authors, and other creators, who derive their livelihoods from their works – hopefully at a level that will support a dignified living for themselves and their families – be balanced with the rights of all citizens to free speech, which is fundamental to the preservation of truth in democratic debate?  If so, how best to do so?
  • Child Services Agencies Threaten Investigation and Possible Action Against Parents of School Children Accused of Using “Improper” Gender Pronouns at School

    Parents of schoolchildren in Ontario report having received calls from child-protection agencies threatening investigation, and potentially removal of their children from their homes, on the basis of reports from public school officials that the children have improperly used the gender pronouns “he,” “she,” and “they” at school.  The parents have felt compelled to seek legal advice at their own expense.

    • According to the Church, who bears primary responsibility for all aspects of the education of their children, including matters of moral and social concern – parents, or the state?
    • Do public institutions have a legitimate power of enforcing the use of gender pronouns?
  • Does it matter, in answering this question, whether the childrens’ choice of pronoun is supported by demonstrable scientific fact?
    • To the extent public institutions have a right to enforce non-traditional use of gender pronouns, does that right extend to the removal of children from their parents’ homes?  What legitimate corrective actions might attach to such a right?

 

Life & Human Dignity

  • Canada’s Euthanasia Program Troubles the World – But Hopes are not yet Extinguished
    Citing a case in which a 61-year old depressive citing only loss of hearing as a justification was put to death, the Associated Press has joined other voices in reporting that Canada’s laws regarding Socially-Assisted Death (SAD) are troubling to most of the world – even where such laws have been generally accepted.  AP notes that even human rights advocates who support euthanasia are alarmed that Canada’s proposals “lack necessary safeguards, devalue the lives of disabled people and are prompting doctors and health workers to suggest the procedure to those who might not otherwise consider it.  Equally troubling, advocates say, are instances in which people have sought to be killed because they weren’t getting adequate government support to live.”The article also quotes Canadian Human Rights Commissioner Marie-Claude Landry as saying that euthanasia “cannot be a default for Canada’s failure to fulfill its human rights obligations.”At the same time, the Catholic Register reports that temporary shelving of a proposed expansion by Parliament of access to SAD for those suffering only from mental illness offers an opportunity for citizens to speak up in defense of life, and to minimize social culpability in killing.   The newspaper urges Catholics to listen respectfully to others who may support SAD in general, but who join the Church in opposing expanded access to it.

    • Palliative Care as Humanitarian and Moral Alternative

      Many voices have advocated palliative care as the proper moral and humanitarian alternative to socially-assisted death (SAD).  For example, in response to Bill 11, a proposal to expand the definition of “End of Life Care” to include a right to publicly-financed SAD currently before the legislative assembly of Quebec, the Assembly of Catholic Bishops of Quebec have published a statement detailing their objections on obvious moral grounds, urging instead that the province join them in vigorously supporting both advocacy and measures adapted to improve access to good quality palliative care, particularly in the home, in all regions of the province, noting that “accessible palliative care is essential in order to assist persons to live their last moments in decency and dignity.”

As noted in the AP article cited above, opponents of SAD have sometimes accused Canada of promoting SAD as a cheaper and quicker alternative to palliative care.  Many observers have noted that palliative care is both underfunded and not equally available across all regions of Canada.  The Canadian Catholic Bioethics Institute (CCBI) has begun a series of reports concerning the relative costs and availability of SAD and palliative care, reporting that interim chair of the Canadian Human Rights Commission Charlotte-Anne Malischewski “advises the federal government to take a closer look at what has happened since the legalization of euthanasia before extending the procedure for other situations.”  Ms. Malischewski is reported to have written to Global News: “In particular, (Parliament) needs to focus on the many worrying accounts of individuals who have accessed or are considering accessing MAiD because Canada is failing to fulfill their fundamental human rights,” (emphasis added), noting that “In an era where we recognize the right to die with dignity, we must do more to guarantee the right to live with dignity.” As CCBI observes, “Catholic teaching… does not condone ‘the right to die with dignity’ when euthanasia is meant, but affirms that a natural, peaceful and as pain-free as possible death – its meaning of ‘dignity’ – is a human and spiritual need.”

Others have noted concerns about failures to fund palliative care as a moral and humanitarian alternative.   The charts below, taken from Albertan provincial and Canadian federal annual reports, seem to indicate that although the number of socially-administered deaths in Alberta are rising steadily, and despite the promises of virtually all parties to increase the number of available beds, exactly one (1) new palliative care bed has been made available within the province in the last four years.

Click on image for a larger view.
  • Sign of Hope in Spontaneous “Outpouring” of Worship at Christian University in Kentucky
    The Church times reports that a morning prayer service at a Methodist University in Kentucky spontaneously evolved into nearly two weeks of non-stop worship, involving thousands of people who drove hundreds of miles to join.  “The so-called Asbury Revival,” the paper reports, began when students stayed on in the chapel, praying and worshipping.  Social media posts began to draw others until the university could no longer cope with the influx.  An estimated 15,000 to 20,000 people ultimately participated.
  • Detransitioning Transgender Patient Sues Doctors and Counsellors
    Catholic rights group PAFE (Parents as First Educators) has noted reports that a woman from Orillia, Ontario, regretting both hormone treatments and “gender reassignment surgeries” she underwent to remove her breasts and uterus in order to express herself as a male, is suing eight doctors and counsellors who guided her through the process, on grounds that they insufficiently promoted consideration of other alternatives.  The woman is said to be the first gender reassignment patient in Canada to launch such a suit.  The Economist reports that similar lawsuits are being instituted in the United States.

Stewardship of Creation

  • Canadian Net-Zero Emissions Accountability Act S.C. 2021, c. 22
    Assented to 2021-06-29
    Canada’s most recent major environmental action was the 2021 passage of the Net-Zero Emissions Accountability Act, which was intended to encourage corporations and other carbon emitters to adhere to Canadian and international goals for emissions reduction.  According to the government of Canada, the Act:

    • enshrines Canada’s commitment to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, and provides a framework of accountability and transparency to deliver on it,
    • establishes a legally binding process to set five-year national emissions-reduction targets as well as develop credible, science-based emissions-reduction plans to achieve each target,
    • establishes the 2030 greenhouse gas emissions target as Canada’s Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) under the Paris Agreement emissions reductions of 40-45 percent below 2005 levels by 2030, and
    • establishes a requirement to set national emissions reduction targets for 2035, 2040, and 2045, ten years in advance. Each target will require credible, science-based emissions reduction plans to achieve it.


Activists within the environmental community have voiced concerns, however.  Among other things, as reported in our last newsletter, a growing body of scientific groups are now asserting that in our complacency and fixation with personal comfort, we have passed the point where the reduction of emissions is likely to save the planet, and now need to actively remove carbon from the atmosphere.  Examples of responses to the Net-Zero CEAA include:

  • The Carbon Removal Alliance, an association of companies promoting carbon-removal technologies based on a variety of mechanical and chemical processes, states that “the world needs carbon removal, fast. On top of rapid emissions cuts, the world needs gigatons of permanent carbon removal within the next three decades to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.”The Alliance also points out that “new technologies take time to develop; we can’t wait until 2050 and assume permanent carbon removal technologies will magically appear,” and sees the carbon crisis as “a trillion-dollar market opportunity.”
  • The Fraser Institute queries whether in effect the Act is a “placebo,”, noting that the Act includes no legally-binding requirement to require emissions targets to be met by the federal government or anyone else, and adds nothing to previous commitments on reduction or transparency other than “enshrining” them as legislation.
  • Others assert that ‘net zero’ targets are hopelessly unrealistic, not necessarily effective to begin with given that carbon levels are only one piece in the overall environmental picture, and that catastrophizing and group thinking have become common in environmental discourse to such an effect that challenging consensus and status quo – a key ingredient to the advance of science – can be career limiting. Many climate alarmist arguments rely upon Malthusian thinking – the assumption that a future outcome is inevitable, by confining trend analysis to too few variables. As economist Bjorn Lomborg has argued, even with shrinking land mass, the net effects of these events will be largely insignificant, as they happen over long periods of time, and world wealth will have increased considerably over the next century, thereby mitigating many of the potential negative effects of climate change.

Would it be wise for each of us to consider the wisdom of using massive mechanical-chemical systems to remove carbon from the atmosphere?  What would the net cost of such an endeavour and what side effects could it create, including the increase in other forms of technology and pollution required to compensate for potential decreases in productivity and wealth generation?  Would that simply misplace the problem while allowing new and continued forms of human abuse of God’s creation and self-indulgent complacency, as pointed out 62 years ago in President Eisenhower’s speech?

The Laudato si’ Movement, joined by activists such a Greeen Party Leader Elizabeth May, calls for immediate and concerted effort by the Church, and offers a variety of suggestions.

Family, Community & the Common Good

  • Elder Care – the Option of Multi-Generational Homes  

According to the Canadian government, the elderly constitute one of the fastest-growing segments of Canadian society, and three quarters of that segment live in nursing homes.  But many observers – including for example the Canadian Health Coalition and the CBC – have expressed concerns about the type and level of care seniors in homes are receiving.  According to the CBC, “data analysis of the most serious breaches of Ontario’s long-term care home safety legislation reveals that six in seven care homes are repeat offenders, and there are virtually no consequences for homes that break that law repeatedly.”

The Canadian Health Coalition notes that “seniors’ care often falls outside the scope of the Canada Health Act, which only covers services provided by doctors and hospitals,” and that “there are less beds available in hospitals and long-term care facilities now due to funding cuts. In some regions, people are waiting several years for a long-term care bed. At the same time, many seniors admitted to long-term care facilities could likely remain at home if they had access to adequate home care.”  “Canada needs a National Seniors’ Care Strategy,” the Coalition concludes, “to ensure that all seniors can access quality care, regardless of where they live. We must take action now to ensure consistent funding, standards of care and staffing levels across the country. All Canadians deserve to age with dignity and respect.”

Do other options exist?  It is the custom of many North American families, of course, that the children move away from home – often hundreds or thousands of miles away – in search of better work and better homes, leaving their parents far behind.  It is seldom that senior parents live with their adult children.

Yet there is another option, and it comes with signs of hope:  news source Axios reports that as a result of the pandemic and other pressures, nearly 20% of Americans now live in multi-generational homes, and that “people buying new homes are increasingly looking for houses that can accommodate multiple generations of a family.”

Why not?  The Fourth Commandment enjoins us to honour our parents, and the Church teaches that the family is the fundamental unit of society.  Many other cultures, including many Asian cultures, encourage the practice, and find that their families are stronger and their children less anxious and better prepared to fit into the world.

What, if anything, can or should be done in North America to enable and encourage children to share housing with their parents, and to continue to look after them as they age, rather than consigning them to homes?

An Economy to Serve People

  • Artificial Intelligence:  Will it Increase or Decrease Work Opportunities?

    The World Economic Forum recently advised  workers that “they should not fear AI,” as “it will lead to long term job growth.”  Although “Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies” driven by AI will fundamentally change the world and the way we work and live, AI “may not” lead to massive unemployment. “Instead,” WEF asserts, “AI technology will create more jobs than it automates.”  The WEF admits, however, that “these newly created jobs will require new skills and necessitate significant investment in upskilling and reskilling young people and adults,” and that “businesses and governments can – and must – work together to address this transition and embrace the positive societal benefits of AI.”

Catholic Saint Thomas University quotes Elon Musk as admitting that “computers, intelligent machines and robots seem like the workforce of the future. And as more and more jobs are replaced by technology, people will have less work to do and ultimately will be sustained by payments from the government.”

“This is a scary proposition,” the University observes, “in that what will we do if all the work is done by AI or robots? Isn’t life tough enough? Don’t we have enough economic disparity and can barely make ends meet today? To add insult to injury, many of the analyses seem to center on displacing the low wage workers. As if they didn’t have enough disadvantages already, their entire economic class will be wiped out is the feeling we get from the news cycle. This is evidenced by robotic warehouses and chatbots or automated customer service and we can really feel the changes all around us.”

American University in Washington D.C. seems to agree:  “As with past advances in automation, AI will lead to increased levels of productivity, specialization in job roles, and an increased importance of ‘human skills’ like creativity, problem solving, and quantitative skills. Although AI will increase economic growth, these gains will not be evenly distributed. Rural communities that already face high levels of job insecurity will come under additional strain. AI will benefit labor in some industries but threaten it in others. Automation will complement job roles in high-growth fields like healthcare, where there is no substitute for highly skilled practitioners, but replace jobs in industries relying on standard routines.”

The Church teaches that not only is work an essential part of life, but when we work in accordance with our inner passions – our individual vocations – it is a joy.  And it is also an obligation to one’s family, neighbors, and nation.  Man must work, both because the Creator has commanded it and in order to respond to the need to maintain and develop his own humanity. We are heirs of the work of generations and at the same time shapers of the future of all who will live after us. (See, e.g., 274, Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church)

  • If more jobs are created, but they are only created for those who have the interest and capacity to work in fields related to artificial intelligence, what happens to those who glory in the dignity of other fields, including agriculture and labor, or routine but essential administrative tasks?
  • If all but a few are made dependent on government subsidies, as the quotation from Mr Musk seems to suggest, who will decide on the level of subsidies, and qualifications for receiving them, and the level of living they will support? And what those put out of work do with themselves?
  • If ultimately government is expected to support, say, 90% of the population at the expense of the other 10%, how can we be sure that government will continue to govern with the good of all in mind, rather than the few who have employment, or control work or capital?

Solidarity

Interfaith Business Resource Groups.  In an increasingly aggressive secular world, it is encouraging to report that we have received direct reports of large corporations fostering interfaith resource initiatives, and that these initiatives can involve Catholics.  We hope to follow this as it develops, and to see corporations publish public-facing reports.  So far, they are keeping their efforts quiet.  Some prayer might not go amiss here.

Seattle Bans Caste Discrimination.  According to the US PBS, the city of Seattle, Washington, recently became the first US city to ban caste discrimination.  The caste system, PBS explains, is a “complex cultural system that classifies people as upper and lower and lowest at birth.”   Quoting expert Guarav Pathania, PBS reports that surnames, skin tones and dialects are commonly used in efforts to determine people’ castes, with the result that members of so-called lower castes are excluded from social gatherings and harassed with casteist slurs.

PBS explains that although the caste system was outlawed in India in 2013, “thousands of years of caste-based discrimination continue to inform and affect people’s socioeconomic status, job opportunities and access to resources in the U.S. and elsewhere.”

The Catholic Church teaches that all forms of discrimination based on anything not entirely within an individual’s free control are wrong.  “The unity of the human family is not yet becoming a reality,” the Comendium laments.  “This is due to obstacles originating in materialistic and nationalistic ideologies that contradict the values of the person integrally considered in all his various dimensions, material and spiritual, individual and community.    In particular, any theory or form whatsoever of racism and racial discrimination is morally unacceptable.” Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, 433.

The Church also teaches:

  • the principle of solidarity, or acceptance of the truth that the good of one is the good of all, and the other is as important as the self; that injustice done to another is an injustice that affects everyone. (Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, 193)
  • the principle of subsidiarity, namely that each element of society should serve its proper purpose and support others in serving theirs, so that each individual, and smaller groups of people, may be allowed to make for themselves all the decisions that can responsibly be left to them, rather than to larger groups or greater authorities.  This is one of the fundamental social teachings of the Church, since it helps to ensure that each individual is empowered to find his or her own way to God.

It would seem that the city’s action is unquestionably aligned with each of these principles.

The Church also teaches the importance of good stewardship, including the efficient application of public revenues, and has acknowledged that some functions of government are most efficiently implemented at national or international level, rather than the local level.  All recent Popes, for example, have supported the idea that some forms of arms control, finance, and protections for civil rights and the environment are best administered at the national and international level.

It’s worth considering, as an exercise, whether all people in the United States are already under the protection of federal and state constitutions from the types of abuse brought with caste and other forms of discrimination; and that the principle of subsidiarity promotes the idea that each element of society should serve its proper purpose, and support others in serving theirs. What is the proper purpose of a municipal government, particularly in legal regimes that already have adequate protections in place?  Is there a need for a US city to add additional protections against abuses that are already outlawed?  If not, what might motivate the adoption of such an ordinance?  What other uses might be made of resources devoted to developing, implementing, and monitoring such bans?

Of Common Concern

PEI Election – Can Early Election Calls Harm the Democratic Process?

On April 3, Progressive-Conservative candidate Dennis King won re-election as Premier of Prince Edward Island, and a majority in the legislature, after calling the election six months early and giving voters and opposition parties less than a month to prepare.  While the victorious King hailed the election as a vindication of “positive politics” and promised humility and kindness in his dealings with opposition parties, some observers have questioned his both motives and the democratic validity of setting the date early and allowing so short a time for reflection and conversation.

CBC News reported that in his victory speech on April 3, Mr. King promised humility and kindness after winning 2nd term as P.E.I. premier, proclaiming “My friends, we should make no mistake… Island voters tonight rendered a verdict and they rendered it loudly and they rendered it clearly. And that verdict is that positive politics is alive and well on Prince Edward Island.”

In a related article, however, CBC reported that fewer than 70 per cent of registered voters had turned up at the polls, by far the lowest voter turnout in the province for the last six decades – PEI is famous for having an engaged electorate.  An Island political observer was quoted as saying, “That’s something that I hope this government looks at because, quite frankly, that was a cynical response to an early election call.  My gut tells me that they [voters] were not engaged, that this was not an election that they thought was necessary.” CTV news quotes the same observer as saying that Mr. King’s party enters its second term “carrying baggage,” in that it can no longer blame the previous government for problems. “Now they have to take responsibility,” Mr. Desserud said. “The charm of the leader starts to wear a bit thin.”

Premier King was quoted as calling opposition members “very capable individuals,” saying that he has worked with them in the past and looks forward to working with them in the future.  “I’ve been the same since I started. I’m not going to change now,” he told CTV.  “I’ll seek their input. I’ll try to work with them the best I can, and I think we’ll deliver a good government for P.E.I.”

  • Church teaching

    The Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church teaches that truth is one of the four fundamental values of Catholic social teaching, along with freedom, justice, and charitable love; and that

The Church values the democratic system in as much as it ensures the participation of citizens in making political choices, guarantees to the governed the possibility both of electing and holding accountable those who govern them, and of replacing them through peaceful means when appropriate.  Society, the Compendium says clearly, has a right to information based on truth, freedom, justice and solidarity.

Truth is fundamental to any just form of government. Without it, no democratic government can survive. Even when – as we always should – we seek consensus in our democracies, that consensus must be founded on truth, if it is to endure, and not on currently-popular fads or preferences. It is the firm conviction of the Church that there exists an eternal, external truth – a truth that exists outside of us and is not defined by humans – and that are bound to it. That truth is God, and is given to us through the living Word of God, Jesus Christ. Options and preferences based on current circumstances can vary over time, but not the deepest truth. The deepest truth is not subject to political whim or advantage.

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.

Modern times call for an intensive educational effort and a corresponding commitment on the part of all so that the quest for truth cannot be ascribed to the sum of different opinions, nor to one or another of these opinions.

Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, 198, 406-410

It would seem obvious that in some cases, such as electing a government to lead a province over a period of four years, time might be required to develop a mature conversation on the issues, based in truth, and to allow developed social conversation.

  • Points to Ponder
    • It is commonplace, and apparently accepted by voters, for parties in Canada not to issue platforms more than about three weeks before an election. Presumably, it requires at least that length of time to ensure that they are as up to date and as enduringly relevant as they can be, in the circumstances surrounding an election, and to publish them.

      It also takes time for voters to read, digest, and consider them responsibly before voting.

      In this case, the platforms – which were all published less than three weeks before the election – total 157 pages in length:  the Green is 31 pages long, the Liberal 47, the NDP 35, and the Progressive Conservative 44.

      • Is it fair to expect voters, reporters, or others to read and digest 157 pages of partisan material, compare it, and consider it responsibly prior to voting, with less than three weeks time, particularly in these very busy days we live in?
      • Who gains from pulling surprise early elections? The voters?  The people?
      • Even when elections are conducted with ample warning, it is common practice among Canadian political parties to wait until 3 or 4 weeks before an election to publish their platforms. Given that platforms used by voters to elect governments can fairly be viewed as social contracts, and that parties should know their policies and proposals well in advance, what is the purpose of waiting until so close to an election to publish platforms?  Who gains, and who loses, by such approaches?
      • Catholic Conscience has notice that some parties tend to remove all traces of their platforms and proposals from their websites immediately after an election is completed, thereby making them difficult for voters and other civic students to access. What is the purpose of such a practice?  Is it fair to voters?
      • What can, or should, be done to ensure that adequate time for developed conversation and due contemplation is available for voters who hope to prepare for elections, and that adequate records of the positions of parties are maintained for public reference?

Events

May 29, 2023:  Alberta General Election
Catholic Conscience resources: https://catholicconscience.org/canada/alberta/election2023/

October 1, 2023: Northwest Territories General Election

October 3, 2023: Manitoba General Election

August 3, 2024: Australia General Election

November 8, 2024: United States Federal Elections

Prayer

Eisenhower’s address

This month’s prayer is taken from President Eisenhower’s farewell address, which can be found at:
https://www.archives.gov/milestone-documents/president-dwight-d-eisenhowers-farewell-address

We pray that peoples of all faiths, all races, all nations, may have their great human needs satisfied; that those now denied opportunity shall come to enjoy it to the full; that all who yearn for freedom may experience its spiritual blessings; that those who have freedom will understand, also, its heavy responsibilities; that all who are insensitive to the needs of others will learn charity; that the scourges of poverty, disease and ignorance will be made to disappear from the earth, and that, in the goodness of time, all peoples will come to live together in a peace guaranteed by the binding force of mutual respect and love.

Donate

We’re busy, and growing – the harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Please consider helping if you can. This year we plan to move into at least four new jurisdictions, and we may face surprise elections elsewhere. While most of our labourers are willing to help us for free, that doesn’t seem right to us. It takes time to do the job right, and we like to offer stipends. As Saint Paul said, “a worker deserves her pay.”

Faith & Reason Series: Cathonomics & Integral Ecology

“The main tenets of socialism, community of goods, must be utterly rejected, since it only injures those who it would seem meant to benefit, and is directly contrary to the natural rights of mankind; “once the demands of necessity and propriety have been met, the rest that one owns belongs to the poor, and “based on a purely economic conception of man, the system of neoliberalism considers profit and the law of the market as its only parameters, to the detriment of the dignity of and the respect due to individuals and peoples.” From the beginnings of Catholic Social Teaching to today, the church has never shied away from criticizing the failings of economic and environmental ideologies, from socialism to capitalism, and others that lie in between. In this Faith & Reason event, economist, and advisor to the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, Anthony Annett, will share the richness of Catholic social thought on economics and the environment, showing how it transcends the secular ideologies that surround us. Moderated by Peter Copeland of Catholic Conscience and the St. Monica’s Institute, on behalf of the Newman Centre at the University of Toronto.

Truth & Light:  Truth in Journalism – Mysteries of Light

THE CATHOLIC COMMONS

Truth & Light: Truth in Journalism – Mysteries of Light

January / February 2023

Thanks to all of you, the word is spreading. 

In 2017 – our first year – we had a few hundred website visits and hosted perhaps half a dozen local parish events.  Last year we had tens of thousands of visits, including page views from virtually every country on earth, and by making use of local volunteers we supported live events far removed from our point of origin.  Our materials were used by classes, discussion groups, and voters in dozens of countries, and we were invited to consult on elections on three continents.

Our first major annual report will be ready for sharing soon.  In the meantime, many thanks to all of you, including not only our site visitors but those who partnered with us remotely and of course several very generous donors.  It’s an exciting privilege to be able to contribute in these ways.

We give thanks in prayer.

In Good Conscience

A milestone for the Mysteries of Light

Although it slipped by unnoticed by many people, the anniversary of a tremendous gift to humanity passed last year:  the Luminous Mysteries of the Rosary, proposed Pope Saint John Paul II, turned twenty on October 16.  These mysteries, being focused on Christ’s mission and teachings, are of primary significance for the true progress and welfare of society.

Together with the Mass, Adoration, and several other forms of prayer, the Rosary is among the most powerful forms of Catholic Devotion.  The Rosary’s power has been demonstrated over and over again, through hundreds of years of history – in the legacy of Guadalupe; at Lepanto, Lourdes, the Rue de Bac, Fatima, Hiroshima, Amsterdam, Vienna, Akita, Kibeho, and Medjugorje, and in countless profound personal graces granted to many millions of people.

It is a very ancient prayer, evolved from earlier forms which include monastic recitation of the psalms and taking the shape we recognize nearly 1000 years ago.  For many centuries it consisted of contemplative recitation of 150 Hail Marys, and it has always been intended as a way of promoting reflection on the life of Christ:  originally, his birth and infancy, his passion, and his resurrection and ascension, along the descent of the Holy Spirit and the Assumption and Coronation of his Mother.

In his 2002 apostolic letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae, Saint John Paul II proposed the addition of five new decades, devoted to reflection on the light brought to us through the mission, the teachings, and the person of Jesus Christ:

…the whole mystery of Christ is a mystery of light. He is the “light of the world” (Jn 8:12). Yet this truth emerges in a special way during the years of his public life, when he proclaims the Gospel of the Kingdom. In proposing to the Christian community five significant moments – “luminous” mysteries – during this phase of Christ’s life, I think that the following can be fittingly singled out: (1) his Baptism in the Jordan, (2) his self-manifestation at the wedding of Cana, (3) his proclamation of the Kingdom of God, with his call to conversion, (4) his Transfiguration, and finally, (5) his institution of the Eucharist, as the sacramental expression of the Paschal Mystery.  Each of these mysteries is a revelation of the Kingdom now present in the very person of Jesus. 

The Baptism in the Jordan is first of all a mystery of light. Here, as Christ descends into the waters, the innocent one who became “sin” for our sake (cf. 2Cor 5:21), the heavens open wide and the voice of the Father declares him the beloved Son (cf. Mt 3:17 and parallels), while the Spirit descends on him to invest him with the mission which he is to carry out.

Another mystery of light is the first of the signs, given at Cana (cf. Jn 2:1- 12), when Christ changes water into wine and opens the hearts of the disciples to faith, thanks to the intervention of Mary, the first among believers.

Another mystery of light is the preaching by which Jesus proclaims the coming of the Kingdom of God, calls to conversion (cf. Mk 1:15) and forgives the sins of all who draw near to him in humble trust (cf. Mk 2:3-13; Lk 7:47- 48): the inauguration of that ministry of mercy which he continues to exercise until the end of the world, particularly through the Sacrament of Reconciliation which he has entrusted to his Church (cf. Jn 20:22-23).

The mystery of light par excellence is the Transfiguration, traditionally believed to have taken place on Mount Tabor. The glory of the Godhead shines forth from the face of Christ as the Father commands the astonished Apostles to “listen to him” (cf. Lk 9:35 and parallels) and to prepare to experience with him the agony of the Passion, so as to come with him to the joy of the Resurrection and a life transfigured by the Holy Spirit.

A final mystery of light is the institution of the Eucharist, in which Christ offers his body and blood as food under the signs of bread and wine, and testifies “to the end” his love for humanity (Jn 13:1), for whose salvation he will offer himself in sacrifice.

It is clear that these mysteries provide fertile ground for reflection on the challenges facing society, and as well as inspiration for the mission we share with you of civic evangelization.  And they have special implications for the quest for truth in public discourse.

The addition of these reflections to such an ancient prayer, in our own time, is a remarkable gift.

Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, that we may be worthy of the love and the promises of Christ.

Of Common Concern

Truth, Journalism, and Responsible Citizenship

Two of the fundamental values taught by the Church’s social doctrine – in line with the IXth Commandment – are truth and freedom:  every individual must have freedom to freely make his or her own choices in his or her search for truth; and the truth illuminates the path to God, informing our ability to love our neighbours.  Yet human society, having been given 2000 years to reflect on the message of Christ, continues to struggle with lies and distortions, even emanating from the highest of social offices.

Even after two world wars that killed millions of innocent people; after the trial and failure of multiple flawed forms of government that killed millions more, including fascism, radical nationalism, and communist atheism, our own freely-chosen democracies have allowed cultures of soothing lies, fantasies, and distortions to take root and lure us – ourselves – passively away from the truth.  We too often fail to teach children the critical thinking skills that might otherwise help them perceive more clearly and rapidly ignoring the laws of physics, chemistry, and biology, along with God’s other clearly-stated commandments, and to understand that they are seldom the sole legitimate arbiters of their own “truths.”  Despite the warnings of as many as three generations of sincere scientists, we continue to cause irreparable damage to our environment, solely for our own short-term convenience.  Too many popular “news” sources have chosen deliberately to reject long-established ethical principles of journalism intended to foster the revelation of truth through objective, patient, and diligent investigation, and balanced reporting, by reasonable people of good faith and good will.  Rather, they have adopted the course of open partisanship and manipulation, abandoning all pretense of objectivity, balance and respect for alternative, fact-based points of view.  For some of these “news” sources, deliberately bearing false witness is their primary stock in trade, and a major source of profit.

It would seem that our society is rapidly approaching a crisis which may be harmful to many, many people, including all future generations.

It’s time to sit back and quickly, quietly, and sincerely reflect on the nature of truth, and how we hope to arm ourselves with it. Our recently deceased, beloved shepherd Benedict XVI offers a good starting point in his eloquent 2009 encyclical Caritas in veritate.  Two further opportunities are offered in the near future.  Both are easily accessible, being offered online to everyone who is interested:

On March 10 and 11, EWTN and Franciscan University will host a seminar “Journalism in a Post-Truth World.”  Registrants can attend online or in person in Washington D.C..  Registration is available at https://franciscan.edu/journalism-in-a-post-truth-world/.

Beginning February 21, the Saint Monica Institute, in partnership with the Catholic Register and B.C. Catholic newspapers, is offering an 8-week online seminar “Telling Truth in Charity,” introducing the ethics, mechanics, and purposes of Catholic reporting and communications.  Registration is available at https://learning.saintmonicainstitute.ca/products/Introduction-to-Catholic-Journalism.aspx

Those having an interest in truth, and particularly those interested in helping the cause of truthful, charitable journalism, are encouraged to register for either or both of these courses.

Of Common Interest

Life & Human Dignity

Whistleblower reports 38-week old baby euthanized and aborted in Montreal – the Catholic Register has shared a report of the abortion of a 38-week old baby in Montreal, which apparently involved euthanizing the baby in utero prior to the procedure.  As reported, the case raises deep questions of our handling of the homeless and those struggling with substance abuse.  https://www.catholicregister.org/item/35235-whistleblower-claims-38-week-old-unborn-baby-aborted-in-montreal

Hospital orders no resuscitation for woman despite contrary instructions from husband, and urges husband to euthanize her – despite multiple firm instructions from her husband, a British Columbia hospital ordered that efforts to resuscitate her be denied, and urged her husband to authorize euthanasia.  Canada is rapidly gaining a reputation as a leading culture of death.  How far will we allow it to go?  https://canadiancatholicnews.ca/2023/02/01/hospital-put-do-not-resuscitate-order-on-elderly-woman-then-urged-husband-to-euthanize-her/

Stewardship of Creation

Scientists continue to warn that we are passing thresholds of no return in trying to limit warming of the atmosphere – Researchers from Oxford University, the German Institute for International and Security Affairs, the Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change, and the University of Wisconsin at Madison have published the “1st Edition” of a report “The State of Carbon Dioxide Removal.” The report strongly suggests that we have passed the point at which capping carbon emissions will be sufficient to avoid catastrophic environmental damage.  When will we be willing to adopt sustainable lifestyles?  https://www.ox.ac.uk/news/2023-01-19-co2-removal-essential-along-emissions-cuts-limit-global-warming-report

Family, Community & the Common Good

A teacher fired by her school for reporting an 11-year-olds’ plan for gender identity transition says that the public education system has lost its way.
https://www.ncregister.com/interview/public-education-has-lost-its-way-says-teacher-fired-by-school-for-telling-father-of-11-year-old-girl-about-her-gender-identity-transition

An Economy to Serve People

Job elimination through automation – the Government of Canada reports that “significant advances in artificial intelligence have raised questions about the role of workers in an era when robots and algorithms are increasingly able to perform many job duties, including those previously believed to be non-automatable,” like doctors, lawyers, and architects.  How can we build societies that support jobs that provide dignified living standards to workers?  Proposals have been made for partial measures like ‘basic incomes’ – some of which are separated from any expectation that recipients seek work – but are these measures viable as true remedies, or do they just help divert us from addressing the real problems?  How can the deeper problems be addressed?   https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/11f0019m/11f0019m2020011-eng.htm

Solidarity

Catastrophic earthquake devastates Syria and Turkey – On February 6 an earthquake struck southern and central Turkey, and northern and western Syria, resulting in more than 37,000 deaths.  It was followed by more than 2,100 aftershocks, including on that nearly as strong as the original.  Rescue efforts were hampered by a large winter storm and killing trapped survivors through hypothermia.  As many as 1,000,000 people have been left homeless.

Many national bishops’ conferences issue appeals, and many organizations are organizing drives for relief funds, including:

    1. Caritas USA – https://www.caritas.org/
    2. Development and Peace – https://www.devp.org/en/

Events

Thursday, February 23, 2023:  Cathonomics & Integral Ecology – Live Event

Anthony Annett, PhD., senior advisor at the Sustainable Development Solutions Network, will speak on the subject of treating people and the environment in accordance with the inherent dignity of each as a part of the Faith and Reason lecture series, live at the Newman Center Catholic mission at the University of Toronto.  Registration is available at https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/faith-reason-event-cathonomics-integral-ecology-tickets-529797597877 for this free-will offering event.

Prayer

A prayer to our Patroness in the search for truth

Saint Benedicta of the Cross, born Edith Stein in Breslau, Germany on Yom Kippur of the year 1891, was the youngest of 11 children in a devout Jewish home.  From earliest youth she consciously and continually strove to find the truth.  Her search led her to universities, the battlefields of World War I, and ultimately to the Carmelite order: having chanced upon and read the autobiography of Saint Teresa of Avila, she announced to a friend “this is truth” and began the conversion that led her to the Carmelites.  Despite the efforts of her order to save her, she was eventually arrested by the Gestapo and sent to the gas chambers at Auschwitz.  The last words she was heard to speak in the convent were addressed to her sister, who had chosen to follow her: “Come, Rosa, we are going for our people.”

Saint Benedicta left the following comment in her writings:  “During the time immediately before and quite some time after my conversion I … thought that leading a religious life meant giving up all earthly things and having one’s mind fixed on divine things only. Gradually, however, I learnt that other things are expected of us in this world… I even believe that the deeper someone is drawn to God, the more he has to `get beyond himself’ in this sense, that is, go into the world and carry divine life into it.”

As our model of devotion to the search for truth, we pray to Saint Teresa to help us find our way along the path of light:

Dear Sister Teresa Benedicta of the Cross,
Child of the Day of Atonement – Yom Kippur,
Daughter of Abraham,
Bride of Christ,
Seeker of truth,
Scholar of the Church,
Handmaid of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel,
Servant of the Suffering Servant,
Presence of mercy,
Victim of victimizer,
Embracer of the Cross of Christ-like love,
Martyr of Auschwitz,
Imitator of Jesus,
Conqueror of evil,
Friend of God, Edith,
Please pray for us.
Intercede for us, as you did for your people and for all people, in the cause of truth, so that society may find its way in nurturing the true humanity and welfare of all.

Amen.

Saint Edith Stein, Sister Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, Pray for us.

https://www.catholicculture.org/culture/liturgicalyear/prayers/view.cfm?id=1319

Donate

We’re busy, and growing – the harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Please consider helping if you can. This year we plan to move into at least four new jurisdictions, and we may face surprise elections elsewhere. While most of our labourers are willing to help us for free, that doesn’t seem right to us. It takes time to do the job right, and we like to offer stipends. As Saint Paul said, “a worker deserves her pay.”

Faith & Reason Series: The False, Bad, and Ugly: Looking for Faith and Beauty in Movies and other Dark Mirrors

Professor Randy Boyagoda argues that the great interest, in recent years, in horror movies is indicative of a suppressed but enduring desire for faith and beauty. Situating his discussion in the context of the Catholic intellectual tradition, Professor Boyagoda makes a case for how to best cultivate an openness to the transcendent in mundane times. Hosted by Peter Copeland of Catholic Conscience and the St. Monica Institute.

The Human Dignity of Frank – Identity, Values & the Purpose of Government – Mary, Star of Evangelization

THE CATHOLIC COMMONS

The Human Dignity of Frank – Identity, Values & the Purpose of Government – Mary, Star of Evangelization

November / December 2022

Mary, Star of the New Evangelization

On the cross, when Jesus endured in his own flesh the dramatic encounter of the sin of the world and God’s mercy, he could feel at his feet the consoling presence of his mother and his friend. At that crucial moment, before fully accomplishing the work which his Father had entrusted to him, Jesus said to Mary: “Woman, here is your son”. Then he said to his beloved friend: “Here is your mother” (Jn 19:26-27).

These words of the dying Jesus are not chiefly the expression of his devotion and concern for his mother; rather, they are a revelatory formula which manifests the mystery of a special saving mission. Jesus left us his mother to be our mother. Only after doing so did Jesus know that “all was now finished” (Jn 19:28).

At the foot of the cross, at the supreme hour of the new creation, Christ led us to Mary. He brought us to her because he did not want us to journey without a mother, and our people read in this maternal image all the mysteries of the Gospel. The Lord did not want to leave the Church without this icon of womanhood.

Pope Francis, Evangelii gaudium, 285.

In Good Conscience

The Human Dignity of Frank

Recently an old and dearly loved friend nearly lost an adult daughter to COVID.  The daughter, who is in her 30’s, developed pneumonia; and even after that was overcome something caused her heart to race at more than 160 beats per minute for more than two weeks.  No cause could be identified, and there was fear of permanent damage to her heart, or her brain, or both.  Finally the rate was brought down, but only through the use of drugs that came with significant side effects – and without entirely curing the problem.

Her heart still races after even mild walking, or while simply standing, and she has developed long periods of being unable to think clearly.  There’s no guarantee that any of it will get better.  Being a respected engineer, she’s worried about losing her job, but that could be the least of her problems: she’s drifting toward depression, worrying about losing her children’s affection, and asking her mother “what use will there be for me?”

It made me think about the sanctity of life, the importance of being proper stewards of whatever circumstances God chooses to give us, the evil of socially-assisted death (which I call “SAD”, as I refuse to propagate the insidiously euphemistic “MAiD”), and a man I once met named Frank, who turned out to be one of the great inspirations of my life.  I pray that in this day of disposable lives no one has offered him a needle; and if they did, I hope he suggested that they find something else to do with it.  And I hope that no one either considers or suggests a needle for my friend’s daughter.

I was a 45 year old child stumbling along my way to Emmaus when a gentle soul named Porfirio finally succeeded in driving the lesson of the parable of the talents at Matthew 25:14-30 into my head.  Porfirio gently explained that God made us all, every one of us, and he made us all in different sizes and shapes, with widely varying mental, physical, and emotional abilities, and different degrees of wealth, initiative, and advantage.  But he didn’t do it so that some of us could indulge ourselves, shouldering weaker people aside while we grab whatever we can.  He gave things to us to see what we can make of them.

God created everything, Porfirio pointed out, and God still owns it, including us and all our talents; and we are meant to be devoting all our time and strength in this life to doing God’s will.  Some of us were given a lot, others not so much, but it doesn’t matter:  whatever we were given was given in accordance with God’s deliberate will, to see what use we can make of it, particularly in helping others put their own gifts to work.  It’s not about me, or you, or them, it’s about all of us doing what we can to take care of ourselves, to make things better for everybody while gently gathering them before the Shepherd’s gate.

This came as a life-changing realization for me.  It fit with everything I had felt instinctively, and gave it a shape and a name.  Among other things, if it weren’t for Porfirio, I probably wouldn’t have met Frank.  I became a better steward of my own life.

But as life-steward I’m not in Frank’s class.  I met Frank at a hospital on the west side of town, a dozen years ago when a fellow parishioner and I were sent to visit one of our elderly members.  As we came through the main doors we were greeted by a young man lying on a gurney, maybe 35 years old and clearly quadriplegic. But he gave us – and everybody else that walked through those doors – a big smile, and said good morning and exchanged brief pleasantries with us.  While my partner checked at the desk to find our where our parishioner was, I watched several more people come through the door, every one of them greeted by Frank in similar fashion – especially the obvious regulars like the postman, who shouted, “Frank, how’s life this morning?”  To which Frank responded that it was a beautiful day, and he liked the sunshine.

I stopped the postman on the way out a few moments later, and asked him about Frank.  According to the postman, Frank had been born quadriplegic.  Obviously, then, he had never gone outside for a stroll, or ridden a bike, or played baseball, or known many other joys.  I believe he had never so much as brushed his own teeth, or wiped his own bottom. If he wanted to read a book or change the channel, someone would have had to turn the pages or hold the remote.  According to the postman, Frank’s parents had cared for him until they passed, at which point Frank had become a ward of the government and delivered to the hospital – where he found people who not only took care of him, but made time in their busy day to roll him down to the front doors every day so he could say hello to people, and then rolled him ‘home’ again later.

Frank wasn’t given much, other than a set of loving parents and a lot of good people at the hospital, but he made what he could of it, and he did it with a deeply inspiring joy.  And he accepted help from others cheerfully, allowing them to be good stewards of their time and abilities.

I think of Frank a lot, along with Christ’s observation at Luke 12:48, particularly when I’m feeling tired or misused: “Much will be required of the person entrusted with much, and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more.”  Wherever he is, I’m confident that God is smiling at him.

Of Common Concern

Identify, Values and the Purpose of Government

A few days after he was elected in 2015, the prime minister of Canada gave an interview to the New York Times Magazine.[1]  After remarking on stylistic changes he intended to make to his predecessor’s office decor and the novelty of finding himself prime minister, he turned to the new directions in which he planned to lead his country, contrasting those also with the legacy of his predecessor.  He spoke of identity, inclusion and values, concluding with the observation that:

‘‘There is no core identity, no mainstream in Canada. There are shared values — openness, respect, compassion, willingness to work hard, to be there for each other, to search for equality and justice. Those qualities are what make us the first post-national state.’’

This comment merits reflection.  What, for example, does it mean to say that a country having a population of 38 million people has “no core identity, no mainstream,” that there exists no  common denominator worthy of mention?   Is the lack of a national identity a good thing?  And what does it mean to say that a country lacks an identity, but shares values?  Are values not at least a primary component of any society’s identity, if indeed they are not the sole determinants?  And what is a post-national state?

The Church has provided some teaching on these matters to guide us in our reflections.

Church Teaching

In respect of human identity, section 35 of the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church teaches that:

  1. Christian revelation shines a new light on the identity, the vocation and the ultimate destiny of the human person and the human race. Every person is created by God, loved and saved in Jesus Christ, and fulfils himself by creating a network of multiple relationships of love, justice and solidarity with other persons while he goes about his various activities in the world. Human activity, when it aims at promoting the integral dignity and vocation of the person, the quality of living conditions and the meeting in solidarity of peoples and nations, is in accordance with the plan of God, who does not fail to show his love and providence to his children.

In addition to love, justice, and solidarity, the Church has provided a comprehensive framework for consideration in establishing and maintaining social relationships – including everything from our families to the international community.  In other words, the Church has provided a set of principles, values, and virtues that define a Catholic social identity:

Values:                 Truth, freedom, justice, love

Principles:           Life & human dignity, the common good, subsidiarity, solidarity

Virtues:                Wisdom, humility, prudence respect

These principles, values, and virtues are proposed by the Church for use in guiding every aspect of social life.

Section 366 of the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church speaks in defense of the special value of social identity, or culture:

  1. Special attention must be given to specific local features and the cultural differences that are threatened by the economic and financial process currently underway: Globalization… must respect the diversity of cultures which, within the universal harmony of peoples, are life’s interpretive keys. In particular… religious convictions are the clearest manifestation of human freedom.

In sections 12-14 of Fratelli tutti, Pope Francis warned of threats to national and regional cultures which might explain the perceived weakening of Canadian national identity:

  1. “Opening up to the world” is an expression that has been co-opted by the economic and financial sector and is now used exclusively of openness to foreign interests or to the freedom of economic powers to invest without obstacles or complications in all countries. Local conflicts and disregard for the common good are exploited by the global economy in order to impose a single cultural model. This culture unifies the world, but divides persons and nations, for as society becomes ever more globalized, it makes us neighbours, but does not make us brothers. We are more alone than ever in an increasingly massified world that promotes individual interests and weakens the communitarian dimension of life. Indeed, there are markets where individuals become mere consumers or bystanders. As a rule, the advance of this kind of globalism strengthens the identity of the more powerful, who can protect themselves… In this way, political life becomes increasingly fragile in the face of transnational economic powers that operate with the principle of “divide and conquer”.
  1. As a result, there is a growing loss of the sense of history, which leads to even further breakup. A kind of “deconstructionism”, whereby human freedom claims to create everything starting from zero, is making headway in today’s culture. The one thing it leaves in its wake is the drive to limitless consumption and expressions of empty individualism. Concern about this led me to offer the young some advice. “If someone tells young people to ignore their history, to reject the experiences of their elders, to look down on the past and to look forward to a future that he himself holds out, doesn’t it then become easy to draw them along so that they only do what he tells them? He needs the young to be shallow, uprooted and distrustful, so that they can trust only in his promises and act according to his plans. That is how various ideologies operate: they destroy (or deconstruct) all differences so that they can reign unopposed. To do so, however, they need young people who have no use for history, who spurn the spiritual and human riches inherited from past generations, and are ignorant of everything that came before them”. 
  2. …Let us not forget that peoples that abandon their tradition and, either from a craze to mimic others or to foment violence, or from unpardonable negligence or apathy, allow others to rob their very soul, end up losing not only their spiritual identity but also their moral consistency and, in the end, their intellectual, economic and political independence. One effective way to weaken historical consciousness, critical thinking, the struggle for justice and the processes of integration is to empty great words of their meaning or to manipulate them. Nowadays, what do certain words like democracy, freedom, justice or unity really mean? They have been bent and shaped to serve as tools for domination, as meaningless tags that can be used to justify any action.

Points to ponder:

  • The list of values cited by the prime minister – openness, respect, compassion, willingness to work hard, to be there for each other, to search for equality and justice – seem largely consistent with the principles, values, and virtues of Catholic social thought.  But:
    • Are they complete?  Which Catholic principles, values, and virtues are missing in the prime minister’s list, or are perhaps present in ambiguous form?
    • Important considerations with any list of values and principles are: how they are emphasized, how they might balanced, ranked or weighted against one another, and how they are defined. How does Catholic Social Teaching propose that social values should be defined, emphasized, rankd and weighed? As they might be presented by the prime minister, how do these values align with Catholic teaching?
    • The Church teaches that truth is an indispensable characteristic of all proper social discourse, including particularly all aspects of governance – especially democratic governance.  Is truth represented in the prime minister’s list?  If so, how?  If it is present, why would it not be named explicitly?  If not, why would it be missing?
    • The Church teaches that the most fundamental of all social principles is the dignity of human life, from conception to natural death.  Is respect for human life and dignity represented in the prime minister’s list?  If it is present, why would it not be named explicitly?  If not, why would it be missing?
    • Are subsidiarity, solidarity, freedom, the common good, wisdom, or humility represented in the prime minister’s list?  If so, how?  If not, why not?
  • Post-national or otherwise, is it possible to effectively govern a group of people who share a geographical space but no other common identity?
    • For example, it would seem that a common identity might include a common understanding of the meaning and the purpose of life.  If no such understanding exists, what is the purpose of government?
    • How can peace and cooperation – good order, if you will – among citizens be maintained, if there is no common understanding of life’s purpose or of human or social identity?

[1] https://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/13/magazine/trudeaus-canada-again.html

Of Common Interest

The Ontario Court of Appeal is set to hear a case about striking down a math proficiency test mandated by the Ontario government for school teachers.

The Ontario government sought to require a math proficiency test for new teachers yet the Divisional Court struck it down “as infringing equality provisions in the Charter because it found the test had a disproportionate effect on racialized teachers when it was first implemented” in 2021. The government purports that the court used “too low of a threshold to determine discrimination,” as “only one round of the new test administered to teacher candidates.” A date has not been set for the appeal.

The Canadian Press. (2022). “Ontario’s top court to hear government’s appeal of mandatory teacher math test case.” Global News. September 28. Available from

https://globalnews.ca/news/9162716/ontarios-top-court-to-hear-governments-appeal-of-mandatory-teacher-math-test-case/ Accessed October 25, 2022.

The Canadian Parliament is considering several environmental bills:

  1. S-5 (increase environmental regulation and pollution prevention power)
    This Senate Government Bill, sponsored by Sen. Marc Gold [Non-affiliated: Quebec (Stadacona)], was introduced and first reading carried February 9, 2022.[1] It is at debate at second reading in the House on October 24, 2022.  If passed, it would amend the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 to, “recognize that every individual in Canada has a right to a healthy environment as provided under that Act” and “provide that the Government of Canada must protect that right as provided under that Act, and, in doing so, may balance that right with relevant factors.”As currently presented, protections under the act would include, among other things, requiring that the Minister of the Environment and the Minister of Health develop a plan that specifies substances to which those Ministers are satisfied priority should be given in assessing whether they are toxic or capable of becoming toxic; provide that any person may request that those Ministers assess a substance; and require the Minister of the Environment to compile a list of substances that that Minister and the Minister of Health have reason to suspect are capable of becoming toxic or that have been determined to be capable of becoming toxic.
  2. C-235 (building a green economy in the Prairies)
    This Private Member’s Bill was sponsored by the Hon. Jim Carr (Liberal, Manitoba: Winnipeg South Centre) and First Reading carried February 7, 2022. Second reading in the House was completed on June 1, 2022. It is at consideration in the Standing Committee on Industry and Technology.

If passed, the Act it would require the Minister of Industry, in collaboration with the Minister of the Environment, the Minister of Transport, the Minister of Finance, the Minister of Natural Resources and any minister responsible for economic development in the Prairie provinces, to develop a framework for local cooperation and engagement in the implementation of federal programs across various sectors to build a green economy in the Prairie provinces, and to include measures that promote economic sustainability and growth and employment in the Prairie provinces.[2]

S-243 (enact climate commitments) PM Liberal First Reading
This Senate Public Bill was introduced by Senator Rosa Galvez [Independent Senators Group, Quebec (Bedford)] on March 24, 2022.  It is at debate at second reading as of May 12, 2022.

If passed it would enact the Climate-Aligned Finance Act which… would require companies and other entities to establish climate commitments and obligations,‍”[3] together with action plans and targets.

[1] https://www.parl.ca/legisinfo/en/bill/44-1/s-5

[2] https://www.parl.ca/legisinfo/en/bill/44-1/c-235

[3] https://www.parl.ca/DocumentViewer/en/44-1/bill/S-243/first-reading

Canada’s MAiD regime contrasts starkly with laws in other developed countries

Canada’s lack of safeguards for MAiD is drawing international attention as it starkly contrasts those in other countries.[1] For example, in 2021 “the German parliament began exploring the legalization of assisted suicide for the terminally ill — but only after they had undergone mandatory counselling.” In 2022, “a member of the U.K. House of Lords introduced a bill to legalize assisted death for British citizens deemed to have less than six months to live.” French President Emmanuel Macron is expected “to open a national debate over the possibility of legalizing assisted suicide.”

Trudo Lemmens, University of Toronto researcher, was quoted in a New York Times feature: “Canada has the least safeguards of all of countries that allow it…It’s a state-funded, state-organized, medical system providing end of life.” The British medical journal, The Lancet, also quoted Lemmens that in Canada: “rates of assisted suicide and euthanasia that are quickly bypassing Belgium and the Netherlands,”

In an Associated Press article, director of the Canadian Institute for Inclusion and Citizenship at the University of British Columbia, Tim Stainton, “described the Canadian assisted dying regime as ‘probably the biggest existential threat to disabled people since the Nazis’ program in Germany in the 1930s.’”[2] 10,064 Canadians succumbed to MAiD in 2021, including 219 of whom “‘whose natural deaths were not reasonably foreseeable.’”

In 2021 United Nations special rapporteurs, wrote “there is a grave concern that, if assisted dying is made available for all persons with a health condition or impairment, regardless of whether they are close to death, a social assumption might follow … that it is better to be dead than to live with a disability.” In a September article from Reason magazine, the author wrote: “When the government runs the system, the right of citizens to end their own suffering can be twisted to serve the state.”[3]

[1] Hopper, Tristin. (2022). “FIRST READING: To countries considering legal euthanasia, Canada a model of what not to do.” National Post. September 23. Available from

https://nationalpost.com/news/canada/first-reading-to-countries-considering-legal-euthanasia-canada-a-model-of-what-not-to-do Accessed October 25, 2022.

[2] https://apnews.com/article/covid-science-health-toronto-7c631558a457188d2bd2b5cfd360a867

[3] https://reason.com/2022/09/07/some-canadian-health-care-patients-say-theyre-being-encouraged-to-just-die-already/

Quebec’s college of physicians supports euthanizing babies

Pediatric palliative care specialist at McMaster University, Dr. David Lysecki, explained that “[w]ith surgery and life-support,” babies “born missing the upper layers of their brain” “can sometimes” be kept “alive for years.”[1] He recounts some families asking, “‘If they’re going to die at the end of this anyway, maybe three weeks from now, and we don’t believe they’re going to have meaningful positive experiences between then and now, why must we all have to go through this period of waiting.’” In December 2021 Quebec’s college of physicians released its statement in support of “the idea of newborn euthanasia in cases with a very poor prognosis and ‘extreme suffering that cannot be relieved’…extending MAID to 14- to 17-year-olds and encouraged more public discussion about endorsing euthanasia for seniors ‘tired of living.’”

Kerry Bowman, clinical ethicist and University of Toronto professor, said that “substitute consent changes everything, ‘because it’s not the wishes and values of the patient anymore. It’s the wishes and values of the parents.’”

[1] Kirkey, Sharon. (2022). “Canadian parents have asked for medically assisted death for babies, doctors say.” National Post. October 13/Updated October 14. Available from https://nationalpost.com/news/canada/canada-maid-medical-assistance-in-dying-children Accessed October 25, 2022.

C-230 to protect conscience rights defeated with no published debate

This private member’s bill was introduced by Kelly Block (Conservative: Carlton Trail—Eagle Creek, SK) and first reading carried February 4, 2022.  If passed, it would have amended “the Criminal Code to make it an offence to intimidate a medical practitioner, nurse practitioner, pharmacist or other health care professional for the purpose of compelling them to take part, directly or indirectly, in the provision of medical assistance in dying,”[1]  or to dismiss from employment or to refuse to employ a medical practitioner, nurse practitioner, pharmacist or other health care professional for the reason only that they refuse to take part, directly or indirectly, in the provision of medical assistance in dying.

The Bill was defeated at second reading in the House on October 5, 2022.  The parlimentary website reported no debate on the topic.

[1] https://www.parl.ca/DocumentViewer/en/44-1/bill/C-230/first-reading

Events

Every Thursday in November 2022:  Listening to Indigenous Voices – Live Event

An intimate, beginner-level, 4-part series on truth, justice, healing, and reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples, brought to us by the Sisters of St Joseph of Toronto and intended for those who consider themselves beginners on reconciliation with our Indigenous sisters and brothers.  For more information and to register for this live event in Toronto, visit csj-to.ca/ltiv

November 8, 2022:  US Midterm Elections

Our voter’s guide for November’s US midterm elections has been posted at https://catholicconscience.org/usa/2022midterm/.  We welcome suggestions for improvement.

November 24, 2022:  Faith & Reason – Building Communities & Networks – Hybrid

A panel of committed, Catholic young adult professionals, including a young resident physician, a lawyer, an academic, a communications specialist, and a governmental policy analyst, look at ways of building supportive professional communities in a splintered and aggressively secular world.  Hosted by Peter Copeland, animator for Catholic Conscience. Attend this event in-person or virtual online.

https://www.newmantoronto.com/events.html

or

https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/faith-reason-lecture-building-sustaining-supportive-relationships-tickets-461811339147?aff=ebdsoporgprofile

January – April 2023:  Certificate in Ethical Journalism – Online Course

In partnership with the Saint Monica Institute for Education and Evangelization, Catholic Conscience will provide the first in a series of courses leading to a certificate in a form of journalism grounded in truth and charity.  All interested students are invited.  The world needs fair and balanced journalism, seeking to inform and grounded in values of truth and charity.  For details, watch https://CatholicConscience.org and https://SaintMonicaInstitute.ca.

Prayer

A prayer to our Patroness, from Joy of the Gospel

Pope Francis, Evangelii gaudium:

  1. …Through her many titles, often linked to her shrines, Mary shares the history of each people which has received the Gospel and she becomes a part of their historic identity… There, in these many shrines, we can see how Mary brings together her children who with great effort come as pilgrims to see her and to be seen by her. Here they find strength from God to bear the weariness and the suffering in their lives. As she did with Juan Diego, Mary offers them maternal comfort and love, and whispers in their ear: “Let your heart not be troubled… Am I not here, who am your Mother?”
  2. We ask the Mother of the living Gospel to intercede that this invitation to a new phase of evangelization will be accepted by the entire ecclesial community. Mary is the woman of faith, who lives and advances in faith… Today we look to her and ask her to help us proclaim the message of salvation to all and to enable new disciples to become evangelizers in turn.

With Mary we advance confidently towards the fulfilment of this promise, and to her we pray:

Mary, Virgin and Mother,
you who, moved by the Holy Spirit,
welcomed the word of life
in the depths of your humble faith:
as you gave yourself completely to the Eternal One,
help us to say our own “yes”
to the urgent call, as pressing as ever,
to proclaim the good news of Jesus.

 Filled with Christ’s presence,
you brought joy to John the Baptist,
making him exult in the womb of his mother.
Brimming over with joy,
you sang of the great things done by God.
Standing at the foot of the cross with unyielding faith,
you received the joyful comfort of the resurrection,
and joined the disciples in awaiting the Spirit
so that the evangelizing Church might be born.

Obtain for us now a new ardour born of the resurrection,
that we may bring to all the Gospel of life
which triumphs over death.

Give us a holy courage to seek new paths,
that the gift of unfading beauty
may reach every man and woman.

Virgin of listening and contemplation,

Mother of love, Bride of the eternal wedding feast,
pray for the Church, whose pure icon you are,
that she may never be closed in on herself
or lose her passion for establishing God’s kingdom.

Star of the new evangelization,
help us to bear radiant witness to communion,
service, ardent and generous faith,
justice and love of the poor,
that the joy of the Gospel
may reach to the ends of the earth,
illuminating even the fringes of our world.

Mother of the living Gospel,
wellspring of happiness for God’s little ones,
pray for us.
 

Amen. Alleluia!

Donate

If you are able, please consider a donation.  We’re growing faster than we can keep up. Your donation will help us to expand our resources to support our mission.

Carbon Emissions During the Pandemic – Quebec Elections – News, Legislation, and Events

THE CATHOLIC COMMONS

Carbon Emissions During the Pandemic – Quebec Elections – News, Legislation, and Events

August / September 2022

Mary, Queen of Heaven

On August 22nd the Church celebrated the feast of Mary, Queen of Heaven.  Marian feast days are always dear to the heart of Catholic Conscience, which is consecrated to her, co-chair of our Board of Patron Saints.

Why do we celebrate Mary as Queen of Heaven?  The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, DC offers beautiful answer[1]:

[1] https://www.nationalshrine.org/blog/celebrating-marys-queenship-of-heaven-and-earth/#:~:text=According%20to%20Catholic%20tradition%2C%20as,as%20mother%20to%20the%20Savior

Why We Honor Mary as Queen

The Memorial of the Queenship of Mary was first instituted in 1954 by Pope Pius XII. According to Catholic tradition, as Christ is king of the world and saves the people from their sins, Mary is queen over the earth because of her role in the story of divine redemption, serving as mother to the Savior. Pope Benedict XVI described this relationship, saying:

The small and simple young girl of Nazareth became Queen of the world! This is one of the marvels that reveal God’s Heart. Of course, Mary’s queenship is totally relative to Christ’s kingship. He is the Lord whom after the humiliation of death on the Cross the Father exalted above any other creature in Heaven and on earth and under the earth (cf. Phil 2: 9-11). Through a design of grace, the Immaculate Mother was fully associated with the mystery of the Son: in his Incarnation; in his earthly life, at first hidden at Nazareth and then manifested in the messianic ministry; in his Passion and death; and finally, in the glory of his Resurrection and Ascension into Heaven.[2]

How Mary Serves as Queen

Just as Christ our king came and offered himself as a servant, Mary also offered herself as a servant to God, obedient to his will. As Pope Benedict XVI once noted:

Mary… is Queen in her service to God for humanity, she is a Queen of love who lives the gift of herself to God so as to enter into the plan of man’s salvation. She answered the Angel: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord” (cf. Lk 1:38) and in the Magnificat she sings: God has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden (cf. Lk 1:48). She helps us. She is Queen precisely by loving us, by helping us in our every need; she is our sister, a humble handmaid.

Join us this month in a prayer to the Queen of Heaven, Santa Maria, Reina de los Angeles

[2] https://www.vatican.va/content/benedict-xvi/en/angelus/2010/documents/hf_ben-xvi_ang_20100822.pdf

In Good Conscience

Elizabeth II, Queen of the United Kingdom

Elizabeth was not Catholic – she was head of our sisters and brothers in the Anglican Church.  Yet she is reported to have been a devout Christian, who lived her faith not by empty words but by the piety of a lifetime of innumerable good works and dedication to duty and to public service for the benefit of others, expressing for many years her deepd for the environment and other social issues, and the poor: a dutiful and hard-working servant of Christ.

According to the Catholic World Report,[3]

She was a resolute proponent of the practice of religion, whether Christian or not. She used her most recent Christmas Day message to call for interfaith harmony. On the occasion of the Diamond Jubilee marking the 60th year of her reign in 2012, she and the duke of Edinburgh attended a multi-faith reception at Lambeth Palace hosted by the archbishop of Canterbury.  “Faith plays a key role in the identity of millions of people, providing not only a system of belief but also a sense of belonging. It can act as a spur for social action,” the Queen said.

“Indeed,” she continued, “religious groups have a proud track record of helping those in the greatest need, including the sick, the elderly, the lonely, and the disadvantaged. They remind us of the responsibilities we have beyond ourselves.”

CWR also reported that Elizabeth enjoyed “a deep vibrancy of faith,” and read Scripture daily.  In a time of political divisiveness, nationalism, and demogogery, and despite the fact that she was but thrust into her role as Queen while still by her father’s early death from lung cancer, Elizabeth was widely viewed as remarkable among monarchs: hard-working, humble, and prudent, seeking continually for wisdom and drawing from the Christian Gospel.

Let us add Elizabeth II to our prayers, that she might continue to guide a troubled and divided world.  And let us pray for more leaders like her.

[3] https://www.catholicworldreport.com/2022/09/08/breaking-news-queen-elizabeth-dies-at-96/

Of Common Concern

Carbon Emissions & the Pandemic: A Lesson in Science, Wisdom and Prudence

An article[4] published late last year by the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) has answered a question that has been on the minds of environmentally-conscious people since the beginning of pandemic lockdowns:  how much of a break did the immense slowdown in commuting, air travel, and other forms of polluting activity give to the earth’s atmosphere?  In a few words, the answer was ‘not much, and things may be more challenging than we thought.’

Authors of the article concluded that the most immediate lesson for earth’s occupants was that relationships between emissions and climate change are even more complicated and harmful than environmental scientists had previously believed.  For observers and philosophers, an even larger lesson may be that despite the enormous benefits it brings, science is neither omniscient nor omnipotent. It is a great tool for humanity, but it is neither the beginning nor the end: neither the alpha nor the omega.  We are reminded once again that there is no substitute for patience in the pursuit of scientific study, or prudence in all of our wordly activities.  Science provides us with invaluable revelation and understanding of facts, which can, when wisely applied with a rational eye toward the moral consequences of the choices that stand before, guide us toward proper stewardship of the planet for the sake of our children and grandchildren.

The article describes a study, published November 9 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, arising from a workshop sponsored by the California Institute of Technology, that included participants from about 20 universities in the US and elsewhere, as well as US federal and state agencies and several independent laboratories.  The study looked at four types of emissions:  carbon dioxide, methane, nitrogen oxides, and microscopic nitrates.

To authors of the study, the most surprising conclusion was that while carbon dioxide (CO) emissions fell by 5.4% in 2020, the amount of CO in the atmosphere continued to grow at about the same rate as in preceding years.  “‘During previous socioeconomic disruptions, like the 1973 oil shortage, you could immediately see a change in the growth rate of CO,’ said David Schimel, head of JPL’s carbon group and a co-author of the study. ‘We all expected to see it this time, too.’”

However, data from NASA’s Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 satellite suggested that while a significant (5.4%) drop in emissions occurred, atmospheric concentrations continued to rise within the normal range of year-to-year variation.  Another surprise was that the ocean absorbed less  carbon monoxide from the atmosphere than it had in other recent years.  Probably, NASA explained, this was because there is already so much carbon stored in the ocean that the reduced content of CO in the atmosphere just caused some of it to be released.

A further surprise related to sudden drops in nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions.  “NOx chemistry is this incredibly complicated ball of yarn, where you tug on one part and five other parts change,” said the study’s lead author, Joshua Laughner.  Unexpectedly, the NOx reductions – as beneficial as they were in  helping to reduce air pollution, also limited the atmosphere’sability to clean itself of methane, and other leading greenhouse gas.

Points to ponder:

  • What does the fact that these and other troubling effects were unexpected, even by environental scientists at NASA, say about the omniscience and omnipotence of science view that is too often expressed in popular culture?
  • What do these results say about the wisdom of continuing to put poisons into our environment, even when we don’t understand the long term consequences?
  • Who loses, when we put long-term poisons into the air, the ground, or the water? Do we ourselves pay the consequences, or is the bill to be left for our children, our grandchildren, and others to pay? How do we prevent those costs and consequences from falling upon those in other parts of the world?  Upon those in future generations?  Upon other species, for example in terms of loss of habitat and loss of biological diversity, upon which our own survival in turn depends?
  • How do, or should, we take steps to ensure that those who cause environmental harm are made responsible for its mitigation, rather than permitting those harms to affect others?

[4] https://climate.nasa.gov/news/3129/emission-reductions-from-pandemic-had-unexpected-effects-on-atmosphere/

Of Common Interest

Retired CRTC chair calls for revision of C-11 to exclude user-generated content to respect freedom of speech

  • During a Senate communications committee meeting on June 21, 2022, CRTC chair Konrad von Finckenstein argued that “the latest federal attempt to regulate the internet must be revised to protect free expression. He stated: “It is Canadian consumers who choose what we want to watch.”

“Bill C-11 Challenged in Senate.” Blacklock’s Reporter. June 22. Available from: https://www.blacklocks.ca/bill-c-11-challenged-in-senate/ Accessed June 29, 2022.

 

Attack on Catholic church in Nigeria on Pentecost Sunday leaves over 80 dead

  • More than 80 people are reported to have died on June 5, 2022,  when “explosives detonated and gunshots rang out” at St. Francis Catholic Church in Owo, Nigeria. Police said that the gunmen “were disguised as congregants… inside the church and opened fire at worshippers… while other armed men…fired into the building from different directions and at worshippers as they tried to escape.” Usman Alkali Baba, Nigerian Inspector-General of Police “has ordered a ‘full-scale’ and ‘comprehensive’ investigation into the incident and has deployed specialized police units to help track down the assailants.”

Bwala James, Josh Margolin, and Morgan Winsor. (2022). “Over 80 feared dead in attack on Catholic church in Nigeria, sources say.” ABC News. June 9. Available from: https://abcnews.go.com/International/80-feared-dead-attack-catholic-church-nigeria-sources/story?id=85262564 Accessed June 29, 2022.

Tim Hortons app tracked “too much” personal information without consent

  • On June 1, 2022, the Canadian federal privacy commissioner’s was published. An investigation by the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada along “with similar authorities in British Columbia, Quebec and Alberta” “into the Tim Hortons mobile app found that the app unnecessarily collected extensive amounts of data without obtaining adequate consent from users.”68 The app was to collect “granular location data for the purpose of targeted advertising and the promotion of its products” however Tim Hortons “never used the data for those purposes.” The Financial Post reported “that the Tim Hortons app tracked users’ geolocation while users were not using the app.” In a teleconference with journalists Canada’s privacy commissioner, Daniel Therrien, stated: “The location tracking ecosystem, where details of our daily lives are treated as a commodity to be exploited to sell us products and services such as a cup of coffee, heightens the risk of mass surveillance.” Although the “app was not compliant with privacy laws” Tim Hortons has “taken measures to resolve the issues.”

CBC News. June 1. Available from: https://www.cbc.ca/news/business/tim-hortons-app-report-1.6473584 Accessed June 29, 2022.

Canadian government intends to intervene in Supreme Court Challenge of Quebec’s secularism law

  • Quebec’s Bill 21 was adopted in 2019 and “bars state workers in positions of authority, including teachers, judges and police officers, from wearing religious symbols on the job.” The government intends to intervene in the Supreme Court challenge of state secularism. In a news conference on May 25, 2022, Justice Minister David Lametti said, “We have always said since the beginning that we have some concerns with this bill (21) and that we were going to leave some space for Quebecers to express themselves before the courts.” Quebec Premier François Legault stated, “It makes no sense that Minister Lametti…even before the decision of the Court of Appeal, says he will go to the Supreme Court to challenge Bill 21.” “[T]he minister responsible for state secularism” and “for the French language,” Simon Jolin-Barrette, said, “It’s a Quebec law, it’s none of the federal government’s business.”

Authier, Philip. (2022). “Federal government to join Supreme Court challenge of Quebec’s Bill 21 secularism law.” The National Post. (May 25, 2022). Available from: https://nationalpost.com/news/quebec/ottawa-will-join-supreme-court-legal-challenge-of-bill-21-lametti-says/wcm/f9d86414-cedb-4206-b77b-5aed4a744cee Accessed June 29, 2022.

Human Rights Watch report finds educational technology collected students’ personal data

  • According to a Human Rights Watch report written by Hye Jung Han, students “who used online educational technology during the pandemic had their personal data secretly harvested and sent to advertising companies.”78 The “products “had the capacity to monitor children and collect data on ‘who they are, where they are, what they do in the classroom, who their family and friends are, and what kind of device their families could afford for them to use.’” According to the HRW, “Of the 164 online learning products examined, nearly 90 per cent were found to be ‘risking or infringing on children’s rights and children’s privacy in some way or another.’” The HRW “investigated the online learning platforms endorsed by 49 governments…for children’s education during the pandemic between March and August 2021.” CBC Kids—which was recommended “for pre-primary and primary school-aged children” by Quebec’s Education Ministry—was included as a case study. According to the report, the website used “canvas fingerprinting” which “tracked its users’ activities across the internet.”

Gollom, Mark. (2022). “Educational tech, including CBC Kids, harvested personal data from children, new report claims.” CBC News. May 25. Available from: https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/cbc-kids-personal-data-educational-technology-1.6465739 Accessed June 29, 2022.

Legislative Update

🇨🇦 CANADA

House of Commons


C-18 – Online News Act – 2nd reading and referral to committee, May 31, 2022
Gov’t bill, to regulate online news and news providers

C-27— Act to enact the Consumer Privacy Protection Act, the Personal Information and Data Protection Tribunal Act, and the Artificial Intelligence and Data Act and to make consequential and related amendments to other Acts – 1st reading
Government Bill, Liberal, June 16, 2022.

C-230 – To Protect Conscience Rights – debate at 2nd reading, March 28, 2022, Conservative private member’s bill

C-257 – Protect Against Discrimination Based on Political Belief – 1st reading
Conservative Private member’s bill

C-243 – Elimination of the use of forced labour and child labour in supply chains – 1st reading
Liberal Private member’s bill

C-246—Act to amend the Constitution Act, 1867 (representation in the House of Commons; require at least 25% of the total members in the House of Commons be from Quebec, Private Bill, Bloc Quebecois – defeated at 2nd reading June 8, 2022.

C-255 – Financial assistance for Canadians with disabilities to improve access to post-secondary education – 1st reading, NDP Private member’s bill

C-273 – Repeal a provision that authorizes the correction of a child by force- 1st reading
NDP Private member’s bill

 

Senate


S-5 – Strenthening Environmental Protection for a Healthier Canada, 3rd reading complete June 22nd, 2022

S-201—Act to amend the Canada Elections Act and the Regulation Adapting the Canada Elections Act for the Purposes of a Referendum (lower voting age from 18 to 16), Public Bill, debate at second reading May 17, 2022

S-203—Act respecting a federal framework on autism spectrum disorder (to support those with autism, their families and caregivers), Public Bill, 3rd reading completed May 12, 2022

S-210 – To Restrict Young Persons’ Online Access to Explicit Material, referred to committee

S-223 – New Offences Related to Trafficking in Human Organs – public bill, 2nd reading

May 18, 2022

S-232  -Decriminalization of Illegal Substances, debate at 2nd reading, May 12, 2022

S-233 – Framework for a guaranteed livable basic income – Debate at 2nd reading, June 7, 2022

S-243  To enact climate commitments – debate at 2nd reading, May 12, 2022

S-250 — An Act to amend the Criminal Code (sterilization procedures; 14 year imprisonment maximum for sterilization procedures conducted without consent, not performed by a medical practitioner) – 1st reading June 14, 2022

S-251—Act to repeal section 43 of the Criminal Code (Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s call to action number 6; schoolteacher, parent or person standing in the place of a parent is no longer justified in using force by way of correction toward a pupil or child, who is under his care, if the force does not exceed what is reasonable under the circumstances, Senate Public Bill, 1st reading June 16, 2022.

 

Supreme Court

 B.J.T. v. J.D., 2022 SCC 24, child custody ruling owed deference, appeal court may only change a ruling if there was a material error, serious misapprehension of the evidence, or error in law, biological ties carry minimal weight in best interest of child; appeal allowed and order of the hearing judge restored, written reasons issued June 3, 2022.

Events

Platform Comparison Cover Image

Catholic Conscience Guide to the 2022 Quebec General Election

Our voter’s guide for the October 3 general election in Quebec has been posted at https://catholicconscience.org/canada/quebec/october2022/.  We will update it as conditions allow, as the elections approach.  We welcome suggestions for improvement.

Platform Comparison Cover Image

Catholic Conscience Guide to the 2022 Ontario School Trustees Election

Our voter’s guide for the October 24 election for Ontario Catholic school trustees has been posted at https://catholicconscience.org/canada/ontario/trustees-election-2022/.  It is being updated constantly as we receive completed questionnaires from candidates across the province.  We welcome suggestions for improvement.

Platform Comparison Cover Image

Catholic Conscience Guide to the 2022 US Midterm Elections

Our first-cut voter’s guide for November’s US midterm elections has been posted at https://catholicconscience.org/usa/2022midterm/.  We will update it as conditions allow, as the elections approach.  We welcome suggestions for improvement.

Season of Creation

The Global ecumenical event “Season of Creation” continues, with the aim of celebrating the beauty and bounty of Creation and bring awareness to crucial issues. This year’s theme is “Listen to the Voice of Creation.”  Learn more here https://seasonofcreation.org/

Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty

In July the Vatican endorsed the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty:

COP27

In November, COP27 will continue the conservation about emissions reductions and loss & damage/adaptation financing https://cop27.eg/#/vision#goals

COP15

In December, COP15 will be convened in Montreal to continue the conversation on global biodiversity. It may not sound as flashy as the carbon stuff, but the outcomes of this convention is critical for the well-being of our planet https://www.unep.org/events/conference/un-biodiversity-conference-cop-15

Faith & Reason Lecture Series with Rod Dreher

Co-presented with the Newman Centre and the St. Monica Institute: a Faith & Reason lecture and discussion with Rod Dreher.

Saint Monica Institute Consecration

Thomas Cardinal Collins delivered opening remarks at the launch of the St. Monica’s Institute in the Archdiocese of Toronto on September 24th, 2022. He spoke about the purpose of the institute, and the holy wisdom embodied by St Monica throughout her life.

Session 1: Catholic Education

Dr Ryan Topping, Professor and Dean at the Newman Theological College in Edmonton delivered a talk on signs of hope in Catholic Education.

Session 2: The Family and The Parish

This was the second session of talks on September 24th, 2022 at the launch of the St. Monica’s Institute for Education and Evangelization, led by: Connie Price, M. Div, PhD, Co-Director of Program, Associate Director of Catechesis, Archdiocese of Toronto Patrick Douglas, Co-Director Administration, Associate Director Family Life and Special Projects Carissa Douglas, Author, Illustrator, Producer, Little Douglings and Douglings Adventures

Session 3: Public Square

Brendan Steven, Executive Director Emeritus and current Animator with Catholic Conscience interviewed three younger Catholic professionals about the challenges and opportunities in their respective professional domains. This session was a part of the St. Monica’s Institute launch on September 24th, 2022 at St. Augustine’s Seminary, in the Archdiocese of Toronto.

Blessing and Consecration Mass

Blessing and Consecration Mass for the opening of the St Monica Institute in the Archdiocese of Toronto, on September 24th, 2022

Prayer

O Mary Immaculate Queen, look down upon this distressed and suffering world. You know our misery andour weakness.O thou who art our Mother, saving us in the hour of peril, have compassion on us in thesedays of great and heavy trial.

Jesus has confided to you the treasure of His grace, and through you He wills to grant us pardon and mercy.In these hours of anguish, therefore, your children come to you as their hope.

We recognize your Queenship and ardently desire your triumph. We need a Mother and a Mother’s Heart.You arefor us the luminous dawn which dissipates our darkness and points out the way to life. In yourclemency obtain for us the courage and the confidence of which we have such need.

Most Holy and Adorable Trinity, You Who did crown with glory in Heaven the Blessed Virgin
Mary, Motherof theSavior, grant that all her children on earth may acknowledge her as their Sovereign Queen, that allhearts, homes, and nations may recognize her rights as Mother and as Queen.

Mary Immaculate Queen, triumph and reign!

Amen

Donate

If you are able, please consider a donation.  We’re growing faster than we can keep up. Your donation will help us to expand our resources to support our mission.

Rights, entitlements, and desserts – 2022 US midterm elections – news, legislation, and events

June / July 2022

THE CATHOLIC COMMONS

Rights, entitlements, and desserts – 2022 US midterm elections – news, legislation, and events

June  / July 2022

Last week the Church celebrated the feast of St. John the Baptist – one of the most familiar of Gospel personalities.  St Luke explains that John was the miraculous child of Zechariah and Elizabeth, and reminds us with each bead of the Rosary of his mother’s exclamation:  “And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and she exclaimed with a loud cry, ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!’”

John, himself being an as yet unborn child, acknowledges the already perfected humanity of his unborn cousin Jesus from his mother’s womb.  Could there be any stronger affirmation of the urgency of protecting all human life once it has been conceived?  Moreover, on St John’s feast day this year – which as a double blessing coincided with the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus – a much anticipated decision of the United States Supreme Court overturned the Roe v. Wade decision from the 70s, which has been interpreted as protecting a woman’s choice in favor of rights her unborn child may have to life.

There is food for thought in this decision.  While we as Catholics steadfastly maintain that the right to life must be absolutely preserved from conception to natural death, it is also true that few societies are making adequate efforts to support families in distress.  What should our governments, our societies, and we ourselves, as individuals, associations, and as a Church, be doing to help nurture both mother and child?

We will revisit this matter in a coming newsletter.  In the meantime, as Quebec celebrated their fête Nationale on St Jean Baptiste Day, and as the rest of Canada celebrated Canada Day, let us pray to the patron saint of most French Canadians:  St-Jean-Baptiste, priez pour nous / pray for us / ora pro nobis!

Of Common Interest

What is Canada prioritizing in COVID recovery measures?

Reference: https://www.canada.ca/en/department-finance/news/2022/06/keynote-address-by-the-deputy-prime-minister-on-making-life-more-affordable-for-canadians.html

In a June 16 address, deputy prime minister Chrystia Freeland outlined Canada’s 5-point plan to combat inflation following the pandemic.  The plan consists of (1) increased support for the Bank of Canada’ inflation-fighting role, (2) applying “supply-side economics” to address a labour shortage by fuelling growth through investments in immigration, skills, child care, and housing, (3) fiscal restraint (noting that the government spent more than $300 billion “to help Canadians make it through the pandemic”; (4) ensuring the availability of good middle class jobs (Minister Freeland stated that in coming out of the pandemic, “more Canadians have a better job than ever before,” though she did not define what she meant by that); and (5) helping Canadians directly with “the challenge of affordability” by increasing government benefits for workers, seniors, those needing homes, child care, dental care for most Canadians.

Points to Ponder

The stated purpose of the plan is to “make life more affordable for middle class families.” But is the plan true to that aim?  A question, which first arose in the government’s election platform, is the extent to which the government has emphasized GDP over human well-being.  Rather than focusing solely on bald growth of GDP, would our governments do better to show deeper concern for families by using some variety of “wellness factors,” as promoted by some political parties?  For example, Minister Freeland explained that “On child care, the economic argument is clear; it is economic malpractice to force women to choose between their family and a career… Our economy greatly needs every mother who wants to go back to work as long as she has the comfort of knowing that her children are being well cared for and well taught.”

Which is a higher goal:  to provide jobs that might allow a parent, whether mother or father, single or married, to stay with his or her family, or to allow a single working parent support his or her spouse and family with a dignified home; or to maximize national production in conditions which require both parents to work in order to afford a house while relegating the children to day care?  How certain are we of the wisdom of relinquishing control over child care, in addition to education, health care, and the press, to the government?  Historically, have governments faithfully respected parental wishes in providing education?

The plan also relies on growth in the work force by continuing to focus immigration on skilled, educated workers, without reference to the global plight of record numbers of displaced people.  Which are more likely to be able to support themselves at home, skilled and educated workers, or those dispossessed of property and opportunities?  It more important that Canada help those who have been forced to flee their homes, or to continue building a materially wealthy society?

Is it, perhaps, time to take a deeper look at our economic goals and the underlying purpose of our economy?  Or at our own actions?  What can we do, as individuals, organizations, and a Church?

Funding for expanded access to abortion announced by Canadian government

Reference: Legal Scan

The Canadian government announced allocation of $3.5 million in funding for two initiatives intended “to improve access to abortion services and reproductive health information in Canada,” including more than $2 million “to improve information and referral services” and “help cover travel and accommodation costs for people seeking abortions;” and $1.4 million “to help train health care providers to perform abortions and ensure facilities have the capacity to provide the service.” The funding is part of a spending commitment of $45 million announced in the recent federal budget. Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos stated: the initiatives demonstrate the Canadian government’s “unequivocal commitment to ensure comprehensive and accessible reproductive health care for all in Canada.”

Points to Ponder

How much does the Canadian government spend each year on counselling or assistance for distressed women and families in finding alternatives for babies they don’t want, didn’t plan for, or can’t support?  What options are available?  What can or should Catholics offer, either as a church or as individuals and associations?

31-year-old woman, unable to secure an affordable apartment, nears final approval for Socially-Assisted Death

Reference: Legal Scan

A 31-year-old Toronto woman was reported to be near final approval for socially-assisted death, which she sought because she was “unable to secure an affordable apartment that doesn’t worsen her chronic illnesses.”  The woman was reported to have been diagnosed with Multiple Chemical Sensitivities (MCS), which triggers “rashes, difficulty breathing, and blinding headaches called hemiplegic migraines that cause her temporary paralysis,” and to have explained that “I’ve applied for MAiD essentially…because of abject poverty.” She began working on MAiD applications in the summer of 2021 and found that applying for medically assisted death “has been surprisingly easier” than being relocated to an apartment that is wheelchair accessible and has cleaner air. One of the woman’s doctors is reported to have observed that “none of the doctors contacted her to learn about the efforts to help Denise find housing first…despite research showing that people with multiple chemical sensitivities often improve in chemically cleaner environments.”

A GoFundMe page, organized by David Fancy, professor of drama arts at Brock University and a disability rights advocate, in aimed toward raising funds to help the woman find better accommodations.” A senior policy analyst with the Income Security Advocacy Centre in Toronto, is reported to have said “With the right support, I have no doubt people with disabilities can live well in society. We all want people with disabilities to know that their lives have value.” David Lepofsky, disability advocate and Visiting Professor of Disability Rights at Osgoode Hall Law School, said, “We’ve now gone on to basically solving the deficiencies in our social safety net through this horrific backdoor.”

Others are helping.  What can we do, as individuals, organizations, and a Church?

Legislative Update

🇨🇦 CANADA

House of Commons

  • C-18 – Online News Act – 1st reading Gov’t bill, to regulate online news and news providers
  • C-230 – To Protect Conscience Rights – 1st reading Conservative Private member’s bill
  • C-257 – Protect Against Discrimination Based on Political Belief – 1st reading Conservative Private member’s bill
  • C-243 – Elimination of the use of forced labour and child labour in supply chains – 1st reading Liberal Private member’s bill
  • C-255 – Financial assistance for Canadians with disabilities to improve access to post-secondary education – 1st reading, NDP Private member’s bill
  • C-273 – Repeal a provision that authorizes the correction of a child by force- 1st reading NDP Private member’s bill

Senate

  • S-210 – To Restrict Young Persons’ Online Access to Explicit Material – referred to committee Senate Public bill
  • S-223 – New Offences Related to Trafficking in Human Organs – 2nd reading Senate Public Bill
  • S-232  – Decriminalization of Illegal Substances 1st reading
  • S-233 – Framework for a guaranteed livable basic income – Debate at 2nd reading
  • S-243  – To enact climate commitments – 1st reading Liberal Private member’s bill

Of Common Concern

June / July 2022

Rights, entitlements, and “desserts”: what do they mean?

A common theme in current social discourse is the rapidly-expanding list of postulated civic rights, focused on the expectations of individuals in their dealings with other members of society.  Expectations concerning entitlements to life, death, speech, income, respect, and physical and emotional self-expression are constant topics in the news, social media, and mass entertainment, as well as political campaign materials.  Although these expectations are most often referred to as “rights,” other commonly-used terms include “entitlements” and things we “deserve.” The terms frequently appear to be used interchangeably.

What does it mean when we say that individuals have “rights” to things, or are “entitled” to them, or “deserve” them?  For example, what does it mean to say that one has a “right” to dignity or respect, or that he or she “deserves” it?  Does that mean that we as a society have a duty to establish a social framework that frees individuals from unjust obstructions in their efforts to accomplish or acquire such things, or are we personally expected to provide demonstrable material, monetary, or emotional support to all those in the class of rights holders, in accordance with their individual concepts of dignity?  Does it mean that others around us are subject to our own enforceable demands for approval and material support, at their expense and no matter what we ask?  In other words, if I want something I am “entitled” to, can I be required to work for it, or must it be given to me on request, either by individuals or society?

Does the scope of a right depend on its nature?  For example, if I am entitled to a sense of personal dignity, and decide that ownership of a large car is critical to that sense, does my right mean that I am free to find a job and work for the car, or must the government – or even my neighbor – provide one for me?  If I decide that my sense of personal dignity requires me to change my gender, or modify my facial appearance or other aspects of body, is it fair for me to pay for those modifications myself, or should others be required to pay for them?

If, on the other hand, I have a right to clean, breathable air, and the air around me is polluted and unhealthy, do I have a reasonable expectation that the government, industry, or others will take steps to ensure that breathable air is available to me, or am I on my own to find breathable air?

Catholic Teaching

At least one Catholic dictionary defines a “right” as a subjective moral power, residing in one or more persons, “to do, hold, or extract something,” which functions through appeal to the free and voluntary will of others as a product of their intellects.  “Right” in this sense is to be distinguished from “might”, i.e. a physical force or power to take something away from another.

The Church also teaches that every legitimate human right and freedom is associated with one or more corresponding duties on the part of the rights holders and sometimes others as well.  At a minimum, for example, with respect to each legitimate right there exists a corresponding Christian duty on the parts of both the rights holders and others to examine their consciences and discern what, if anything, each of them should do about it.

Catholic social teaching identifies the following human rights:

  • the right to life, an integral part of which is the right of the child to develop in the mother’s womb from the moment of conception;
  • the right to live in a united family and in a moral environment conducive to the growth of the child’s personality;
  • the right to develop one’s intelligence and freedom in seeking and knowing the truth;
  • the right to share in the work which makes wise use of the earth’s material resources, and to derive from that work the means to support oneself and one’s dependents; and
  • the right freely to establish a family, to have and to rear children through the responsible exercise of one’s sexuality.

The source and synthesis of these rights is “the right to live in the truth of one’s faith and in conformity with one’s transcendent dignity as a person.”

The Church acknowledges that some rights are fundamental, and arise by virtue of our human nature, in that each unique human person is created in the image and likeness of God. These “inalienable” rights flowing from God can be recognized by positive law, such as the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, but not are conferred by them, or subject to regulation by the state. This means they cannot be taken by the state, for they do not belong to the state. In the view of the Church, any law which fails to recognize such freedoms or purports to override them is unjust. Thus, for example, a series of historical court precedents exist which deprived legal personhood status from various groups, including black slaves in the USA, women in Canada, and currently the unborn.  In the Church’s view, each of these decisions exceeds the power of the state.

Also at play currently is an increasingly popular model whereby the right of one purports to generate a duty requiring the active participation of another in the exercise of their right. For example, a person may be forced to attend a social event or ceremony, contrary to their conscience, on pain of losing their employment or other form of public condemnation. A doctor, for example, may be compelled to provide euthanasia.

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.  Or perhaps consider engaging on the issue more intensively, by participating in advocacy organized by civil society organizations or by joining and participating in a political party or other movement.

  • Is the Catholic definition of “right” consistent with secular definitions? Consider, for example, whether consistent legal definitions are provided in accepted law dictionaries, judicial decisions, and documents such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
  • What, if anything, is the difference between a right, an entitlement, and something one deserves, particularly when used in political party platforms, campaign speeches, or civic debate?
  • How does one decide that new rights or entitlements should be declared, and what the contours of those rights are? Are they binding on the governments that declare them?  Do they impose obligations on other social institutions, such as the Church, schools, businesses, or individual families?  On individuals not related to the holders of the newly-declared rights? Do I have a right to declare my own further rights and thereby impose burdens on others?
  • Where there exist gaps between a right-holder’s needs and support that is legitimately available through ultimately coercive governmental programs, is it possible that other social institutions might step in? For example, is it possible that charities and other voluntary associations could step in to fill gaps?  Might that allow individuals an opportunity for meaningful public service?
  • Some observers, including Pope Francis, have questioned the motivations of those who promote what seem to be frivolous, radically-individualist rights as part of an aggressive process of “deconstructionism,” in which all traditional notions of right and wrong are not only challenged, but presumptively dismissed as primitive and archaic. The Holy Father suggests that such persons may be intentionally driving people apart in order to manipulate them:

A kind of “deconstructionism”, whereby human freedom claims to create everything starting from zero, is making headway in today’s culture[, leaving] in its wake the drive to limitless consumption and expressions of empty individualism. [They who seek power] need the young to be shallow, uprooted and distrustful…

Is it possible that, deliberately or otherwise, large segments of our population – including not only our young people but everyone who can be described as “consumers” – are being manipulated for purposes other than those consistent with their authentic growth as human beings who in fact are entitled to and deserve a social framework that enables and encourages them to seek truth?  If so, what can or should be done about it?

  • What, if anything, is the relation between the exercise of civic rights and exercise of the Christian virtue of humility, or the Catholic principles of subsidiarity and the common good? In Veritatis splendor, Pope St. John Paul II observed that:

[Man’s] history of sin begins when he no longer acknowledges the Lord as his Creator and himself wishes to be the one who determines, with complete independence, what is good and what is evil. “You will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Gen 3:5): this was the first temptation, and it is echoed in all the other temptations to which man is more easily inclined to yield as a result of the original Fall.

  • As Pope Benedict XVI put it, “as history demonstrates, a democracy without values easily turns into open or thinly disguised totalitarianism.” Should we be concerned by mounting claims that the duty of state neutrality requires certain viewpoints to be adopted and others suppressed?

Sources:

  • Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church
  • Modern Catholic Dictionary, Fr John Hardon
  • Pope Francis:  Fratelli tutti (2020)
  • Saint John Paul II:  Veritatis splendor (1993)

Events

New Catholic Conscience Video: The Way of Mercy – Catholics on the Journey of Reconciliation

An inspiring examination of the history, state and future of Canada’s reconciliation with Indigenous peoples.

Click here to view the event page.  Also available on our Youtube channel, at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kZfSnkT0zZg

Platform Comparison Cover Image

Catholic Conscience Guide to the 2022 US Midterm Elections

Our first-cut voter’s guide for November’s US midterm elections has been posted at https://catholicconscience.org/usa/2022midterm/.  We will update it as conditions allow, as the elections approach.  We welcome suggestions for improvement.

Video: Identity in Catholic Social Teaching

Farther Kevin Belgrave and Dr. Josephine Lombardi of St Augustine’s Seminary in Toronto explore Catholic notions of the nature and importance of human identity.  Hosted by Catholic Conscience’s Peter Copeland and Brendan Steven.

Click here to view the event page.  Also available on our Youtube channel, at https://youtu.be/lZ5z8sy006o

Prayer

Pope Francis recently called all Catholics to prayer for a Christian response to contemporary bioethical challenges. Pope Francis writes:

“Let us pray that we may give a Christian response to bioethical challenges. It is evident that science has progressed, and today the field of bioethics presents us with a series of problems to which we must respond, not hiding our head like an ostrich. Applications of biotechnological must always be used based on respect for human dignity. For example, human embryos cannot be treated as disposable material, to be discarded. This throw-away culture is also applied to them; no, that can’t be done. Extending that culture this way does so much harm. Or allowing financial gain to condition biomedical research.

“We need to understand the profound changes that are taking place with an even more profound and subtle discernment. It’s not a matter of curbing technological advances. No, we must accompany them. It’s about protecting both human dignity and progress. That is to say, we cannot pay the price of human dignity for progress, no. Both go together, in harmony. We pray for Christians facing new bioethical challenges; may they continue to defend the dignity of all human life with prayer and action.”

Donate

If you are able, please consider a donation.  We’re growing faster than we can keep up. Your donation will help us to expand our resources to support our mission.

Identity in Catholic Social Teaching

There are few ideas more valued in modern culture than that of identity, claims to which are sacrosanct. Whether identity is conceived of as discovering that which is innate and fixed or the product of our decisions and cultural environment, so long as it is authentically chosen and self-defined, it is thought to be right, good, and a source of well-being and happiness. Identity is also shaped by consumerism, branding, politics—a long list of contemporary idols. In this workshop, we will explore the facets of identity, their ideological manifestations—and the seeds of the truth they might contain—in light of the fullness of truth found in Catholic social teaching.

MEET OUR GUESTS

Dr. Josephine Lombardi is an award-winning author and documentary film maker who has worked as a parish minister, university campus minister, high school chaplaincy leader, teacher educator through O.E.C.T.A., professor of Religious Education, Brock University, retreat facilitator, faith formation consultant, and program coordinator in the Diocese of Hamilton. Presently, she is Associate Professor of Pastoral and Systematic Theology, and Director of Lay Formation for St. Augustine’s Seminary in Scarborough, Ontario. She has done media work in radio and television and has been an advisor to the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops in the area of doctrine and Catholic-Muslim relations. Her books On Earth as it is in Heaven and Experts in Humanity have been featured on Salt and Light TV. Experts in Humanity was awarded first place in the category of Family Life by the Catholic Press Association of the United States and Canada in 2017.

Fr. Kevin Belgrave was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Toronto in 2008. After completing his doctoral studies in moral theology, he joined the academic and formation faculty of St. Augustine’s in 2014. He currently serves as the Director of the Institute of Theology and teaches a number of courses in moral theology, including bioethics, foundations of moral theology, human sexuality, and Catholic social teachings. In addition to his responsibilities at St. Augustine’s, Fr. Belgrave is actively involved in ongoing consultation and pastoral work in the Archdiocese of Toronto in a number of areas related to moral theology, and is a popular speaker and workshop leader for events throughout the Archdiocese of Toronto.

A Catholic Vision for Caregiving in the Age of Isolation

Our contemporary culture is marked by a paradox. On the one hand, we have more collective wealth and potential for leisure than ever, advanced technological capacity, and options for third-party caregiving from long-term care to in-home nursing. Yet, we are more isolated than ever, seem to have no free time, and many people feel uncared for, or even disposable. How can a Catholic vision of care-giving and human dignity heal this wound in our culture? How can we actualize that vision in this crucial moment for the future of dignified aging, amid strained healthcare systems, an aging population, and legalized euthanasia? You’re invited to join our webinar exploring these crucial questions, featuring:

  • Dr. Ellen Roderick, Co-Director of the Diocesan Centre for Marriage, Life and Family at the Archdiocese of Montreal
  • Dr. Charles Camosy, Associate Professor, Department of Theology at Fordham University

For those who would like to join our mission to evangelize civic life by forming Catholic citizens through Catholic social teaching, we welcome donations.

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