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!

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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

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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.

Subsidiarity In Action

“It is clearly laid down that the paramount task assigned to government officials is that of recognizing, respecting, reconciling, protecting and promoting the rights and duties of citizens.” —Pope Saint John XXIII, Pacem in Terris

Subsidiarity is among the most misunderstood and under-appreciated principles of Catholic social teaching. What does it mean that “all societies of a superior order must adopt attitudes of help—there of support, promotion, development—with respect to lower order societies,” in the words of the Compendium? How can this principle come to life in the ways government makes decisions for the common good, and why does the citizen-participation it enables matter?

As Ontario’s Advocate for Community Opportunities, Jamil Jivani plays a unique role, acting as an interlocutor connecting the needs of local, disadvantaged communities through the vast bureaucratic apparatus and to the decision-making power of the provincial government. His work focuses on those traditionally underserved by government and lacking in gainful economic opportunities. In a sense, his work is one way subsidiarity is brought to life.

Together with Jamil, we’ll explore how his life experiences brought him to this role, including growing up in an immigrant community that struggled; the nature of his work as Advocate and the changes he has been able to champion; and why it matters that the communities he serves have a stronger voice in shaping government decision-making.

Jamil’s work:

Jamil’s substack address: https://substack.com/profile/4341252-jamil-jivani

The Canada Strong & Free Network: https://canadastrongandfree.network/

Jamil’s twitter handle: @jamiljivani

Premier’s Council on Equality of Opportunity: https://www.ontario.ca/page/premiers-council-equality-opportunity

A Catholic Vision of the Good Society

In economics, culture, and politics, there are many competing methods of measuring the good of a society, or to what degree a society enables human flourishing. Some look at GDP, others the Cost of Living Index, a Happiness Index, or the Community Well-Being Index.

But what would a Catholic Index of Well-Being look like? What might it measure? What should Catholics think about when they weigh what a good society looks like when it comes to human dignity, the common good, solidarity, and subsidiarity—the permanent principles of Catholic social teaching? In this inaugural economics workshop presented in partnership with the St. Monica Institute for Education and Evangelization, we bring together theologians, policy thinkers, and experts in Catholic social teaching to discuss what a theoretical Catholic Index of Well-Being might include.

We cannot know how to pursue human flourishing and the good society unless we think through what it looks like. During this event, we intend to do some of that thinking, using the immense wisdom and vision of human flourishing inherent in Catholic social teaching.

MEET OUR GUESTS

Christine Firer Hinze is Professor of Theological and Social Ethics, Chair of the Department of Theology and emerita Director of the Francis and Ann Curran Center for American Catholic Studies at Fordham University; and 2021-22 president of the Catholic Theological Society of America. Her teaching and research focus on foundational and applied ethics, especially the dynamics of social transformation, Catholic social thought, and economic and work justice for vulnerable women, families, and communities. Her publications include three books: Comprehending Power in Christian Social Ethics (Oxford, 1995); Glass Ceilings & Dirt Floors: Women, Work, and the Global Economy (Paulist, 2015); and Radical Sufficiency: Work, Livelihood, and a U.S. Catholic Economic Ethic (Georgetown, 2021); two co-edited books; and scores of scholarly essays in books and journals such as Theological Studies,The Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics, The Journal of Catholic Social Thought, Studies in Christian Ethics, and Studies: Irish Theological Quarterly

Msgr. Martin Schlag holds the Alan W. Moss endowed chair for Catholic Social Thought of the John A. Ryan Institute in the Center for Catholic Studies at the University of St. Thomas (Minnesota), where he is full professor with dual appointment in the department of Catholic Studies and the Opus College of Business. He is also the Director of the Markets, Culture and Ethics Research Center at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross in Rome, and Honorary Chair of the Program for Church Management. Born in New York, raised in England and Austria, Msgr. Schlag has authored more than 80 publications, among them: (together with Domènec Melé) Humanism in Economics and Business: Perspectives of the Catholic Social Tradition, The Handbook of Catholic Social Teaching: A Guide for Christians in the World Today, and The Business Francis Means: Understanding the Pope’s Message on the Economy.

His latest books are:
Martin Schlag and Giulio Maspero, After Liberalism? A Christian Confrontation on Politics and Economics (Cham, Switzerland: Springer, 2021)
Martin Schlag, Holiness Through Work? Commemorating the Encyclical Laborem Exercens (in print; Southbend: St. Augustine Press)

What it means to be a people

THE CATHOLIC COMMONS

What it means to be a people

Catholic Conscience Newsletter
March 2022


A LETTER FROM BRENDAN

As we collectively watch the humanitarian horror unfolding in Ukraine, Pope Francis, as always, says it best: “War is a failure of politics and of humanity, a shameful capitulation, a stinging defeat before the forces of evil.”
 
We have seen an outpouring of solidarity with Ukrainian victims of war, whether fleeing their country or staying and suffering the consequences. Where has this solidarity come from? It is, in part, the example of the Ukrainians themselves. Their commitment to their place, their sovereignty, and to each other, has inspired a response the world over.
 
Why? One answer that comes to mind: they show us what it means to be a people. In Fratelli tutti, Pope Francis writes, “The concept of a ‘people’, which naturally entails a positive view of community and cultural bonds, is usually rejected by individualistic liberal approaches, which view society as merely the sum of coexisting interests… Political charity is born of a social awareness that transcends every individualistic mindset: Social charity makes us love the common good, it makes us effectively seek the good of all people, considered not only as individuals or private persons, but also in the social dimension that unites them. Each of us is fully a person when we are part of a people.
 
We do not need a war to discover that we are a people. That’s why your mission in the world, for your neighbours, from God, matters. It is your calling to contribute to the common good. Because you and I belong to each other, to everyone, and we need each other. We need you, to be a people—and in turn, as Pope Francis says, you become fully a person when you are part of a people. It’s one reason we are so passionate at Catholic Conscience about equipping you through Catholic social teaching to serve and love your neighbours in civic life, however you are called.
 
Please send me an email at brendan@catholicconscience.org if you’d ever like to chat. We’re here to help!
 
Peace and joy,
Brendan

Coming up at Catholic Conscience

A Catholic Vision of the Good society

April 7, 2022

Click here to register.



Catholic School Trustees Workshop

NEW DATE: May 28, 2022

Click here for more information.


A Catholic Vision of Caregiving in the Age of Isolation

June 16, 2022

Click here for more information.

Parliament Brief

This month we consider legislation directed toward development of a Canadian national strategy for implementation of a basic income guarantee.  Such initiatives offer opportunities for profound individual and social growth. However, they are complex, and raise a number of issues relevant to Church social teaching. 

Bill S-233 – An Act to develop a national framework for a guaranteed livable basic income

  • Introduced by Senator Kim Pate on December 16, 2021.  At second reading in the Senate; not yet introduced in Commons. 
  • On stated premises that:
    • “every person should have access to a liveable basic income”;
    • “the provision of a guaranteed livable basic income would go a long way toward eradicating poverty and improving income equality, health conditions and educational outcomes”;
    • “the provision of a guaranteed livable basic income would benefit individuals, families and communities and protect those who are made most vulnerable in society, while facilitating the transition to an economy that responds to the climate crisis and other current major challenges;” and
    • “a guaranteed livable basic income program implemented through a national framework would ensure the respect, dignity and security of all persons in Canada;”

The Act would require the federal finance minister to “develop a national framework for the implementation of a guaranteed livable basic income program throughout Canada for any person over the age of 17, including temporary workers, permanent residents and refugee claimants.”

  • The framework established by the Finance Minister would be required to include:
    •  A determination as to “what constitutes a livable basic income for each region in Canada, taking into account the goods and services that are necessary to ensure that individuals can lead a dignified and healthy life, as well as the cost of those goods and services in accessible markets”;
    • “national standards for health and social supports that complement a guaranteed basic income program and guide the implementation of such a program in every province”;
    • assurances that “participation in education, training or the labour market is not required in order to qualify for a guaranteed livable basic income”; and
    • assurances that “the implementation of a guaranteed livable basic income program does not result in a decrease in services or benefits meant to meet an individual’s exceptional needs related to health or disability.”
  • The bill requires only development of a plan, with annual reports to Parliament. No specific steps toward implementation are proposed by the bill.

READ THE FULL BRIEF BY CLICKING HERE

News Snip

CANADA HAS OPENED ITS DOORS FOR WAR-RAVAGED UKRAINIANS. DOES IT HAVE THE CAPACITY? Global News reports that Canada has announced two new programs to help Ukrainians come to Canada on a temporary or permanent basis, as the conflict in Ukraine causes a wave of thousands of refugees. Chris Friesen, chair of the Canadian Immigrant Settlement Sector Alliance, said not having a defined target in terms of the number of arrivals, or a timeframe, “makes it nearly impossible to plan adequately… For us to be ready to receive Ukrainians in our communities across Canada, we need to ensure that we have the capacity to respond effectively.”

Points to ponder: In his encyclical Fratelli tutti, on social friendship and fraternity, Pope Francis writes extensively about a solidaristic response to the plight of refugees. In sections 129 and 130 of the encyclical, he writes that “Our response to the arrival of migrating persons can be summarized by four words: welcome, protect, promote and integrate. For it is not a case of implementing welfare programmes from the top down, but rather of undertaking a journey together, through these four actions, in order to build cities and countries that, while preserving their respective cultural and religious identity, are open to differences and know how to promote them in the spirit of human fraternity. This implies taking certain indispensable steps, especially in response to those who are fleeing grave humanitarian crises. As examples, we may cite: increasing and simplifying the granting of visas; adopting programmes of individual and community sponsorship; opening humanitarian corridors for the most vulnerable refugees; providing suitable and dignified housing; guaranteeing personal security and access to basic services; ensuring adequate consular assistance and the right to retain personal identity documents; equitable access to the justice system; the possibility of opening bank accounts and the guarantee of the minimum needed to survive; freedom of movement and the possibility of employment; protecting minors and ensuring their regular access to education; providing for programmes of temporary guardianship or shelter; guaranteeing religious freedom; promoting integration into society; supporting the reuniting of families; and preparing local communities for the process of integration.”

Which of the above do you think we have inadequately implemented in Canada? Can we more effectively help Ukrainians fleeing? Are we listening to the voices of the Canadian Ukrainian community, in identifying the needs of those fleeing the conflict?

If you’d like to more deeply explore what Fratelli tutti has to say about welcoming refugees and migrants, watch our conversation with Deacon Rudy Ovcjak—head of the Office for Refugees at the Archdiocese of Toronto, Canada’s largest private refugee sponsor—by clicking here.

Prayer

For March 2022, Pope Francis has called on Catholics everywhere through the Worldwide Prayer Network apostolate to pray 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.”
 
POPE FRANCIS’ PRAYER FOR A CHRISTIAN RESPONSE TO BIOETHICAL CHALLENGES
 
Good Father, source of Life in abundance,
We know that you call us to be custodians of the gift of life that we receive from you.
 
May your Holy Spirit give us courage and strength to put in the centre of our interests
The life of every human being from beginning to end,
 
That faced with the challenges of bioethics we know to practice this gift in all times and circumstances,
 
As your Son Jesus, our brother and friend, defended it.
 
Give us courage and discernment to denounce what takes life away,
And practice compassionate love to give life to others.
 
Amen.

Basic Income

As Catholics we are bound to inform ourselves concerning social developments, particularly those of civic interest, and to consider them in light of the Church’s social doctrine.

This month we consider legislation directed toward development of a Canadian national strategy for implementation of a basic income guarantee.  Such initiatives offer opportunities for profound individual and social growth. However, they are complex, and raise a number of issues relevant to Church social teaching. 

“Street vendors, recyclers, carnival workers, small farmers, construction workers, seamstresses, the different kinds of caregivers: you who are informal, working on your own or in the grassroots economy, you have no steady income to get you through this hard time … This may be the time to consider a universal basic wage which would acknowledge and dignify the noble, essential tasks you carry out. It would ensure and concretely achieve the ideal, at once so human and so Christian, of no worker without rights.”

-POPE FRANCIS
(APRIL 12, 2020, LETTER TO THE POPULAR MOVEMENTS)

Bill S-233 – An Act to develop a national framework for a guaranteed livable basic income

  • Introduced by Senator Kim Pate on December 16, 2021.  At second reading in the Senate; not yet introduced in Commons. 
  • On stated premises that:
    • “every person should have access to a liveable basic income”;
    • “the provision of a guaranteed livable basic income would go a long way toward eradicating poverty and improving income equality, health conditions and educational outcomes”;
    • “the provision of a guaranteed livable basic income would benefit individuals, families and communities and protect those who are made most vulnerable in society, while facilitating the transition to an economy that responds to the climate crisis and other current major challenges;” and
    • “a guaranteed livable basic income program implemented through a national framework would ensure the respect, dignity and security of all persons in Canada;”

The Act would require the federal finance minister to “develop a national framework for the implementation of a guaranteed livable basic income program throughout Canada for any person over the age of 17, including temporary workers, permanent residents and refugee claimants.”

  • The framework established by the Finance Minister would be required to include:
    •  A determination as to “what constitutes a livable basic income for each region in Canada, taking into account the goods and services that are necessary to ensure that individuals can lead a dignified and healthy life, as well as the cost of those goods and services in accessible markets”;
    • “national standards for health and social supports that complement a guaranteed basic income program and guide the implementation of such a program in every province”;
    • assurances that “participation in education, training or the labour market is not required in order to qualify for a guaranteed livable basic income”; and
    • assurances that “the implementation of a guaranteed livable basic income program does not result in a decrease in services or benefits meant to meet an individual’s exceptional needs related to health or disability.”
  • The bill requires only development of a plan, with annual reports to Parliament. No specific steps toward implementation are proposed by the bill.

Catholic Social Teaching

The Church has much to say about the purpose and nature of a just economy, founded on principles of life and human dignity—including the dignity of work—the common good, subsidiarity, and solidarity; the fundamental values of truth, freedom, justice, and charitable love; and Christian virtues such as wisdom, humility, prudence, and good stewardship.

Pope Francis has spoken frequently of the urgent need to revisit economics, of a just economy shaped to encourage and enable the true human development of all souls.  In The Joy of the Gospel, for example, he observed that:

Money must serve, not rule! The Pope loves everyone, rich and poor alike, but he is obliged in the name of Christ to remind all that the rich must help, respect and promote the poor. I exhort you to generous solidarity and to the return of economics and finance to an ethical approach which favours human beings.  (58)

We can no longer trust in the unseen forces and the invisible hand of the market. Growth in justice requires more than economic growth, while presupposing such growth: it requires decisions, programmes, mechanisms and processes specifically geared to a better distribution of income, the creation of sources of employment and an integral promotion of the poor which goes beyond a simple welfare mentality. I am far from proposing an irresponsible populism, but the economy can no longer turn to remedies that are a new poison, such as attempting to increase profits by reducing the work force and thereby adding to the ranks of the excluded. (204)

  • The principles of solidarity and human dignity speak clearly of the need to ensure that all adults are able to secure meaningful, fulfilling employment within the scope of the abilities that have been given to them by God, and which will support a dignified home and living conditions, particularly for families.
  • The principles of solidarity and subsidiarity suggest the need for balance between ensuring that everyone has the basics required for a dignified life and the obligation of every individual to avoid unnecessarily burdening others, by working and caring for themselves within the scope of their abilities. 
  • Pope Francis and the Compendium have both warned against the false charity of permanent welfare programs which promote long-term dependencies among those living in poverty.
  • Recent social experiences have suggested that a society imbued with a sense of commonality, wisdom, and prudence, including a sense of common purpose and the availability of dignified work, is more likely to be viewed by its members as a happy society than one which promotes radical individualism and pits individuals against one another in a perpetual battle for more conspicuous wealth and consumption.

Clearly an initiative of the nature called for by Bill 233 is a worthy, perhaps even a necessary idea.  But it would also appear to be a deeply complex issue calling, among other things, for basic agreements on the nature of life and work, and the purpose of an economy as prerequisites to avoid useless or even harmful activities. 

It is incumbent upon Catholics to participate in the adoption of such initiatives, on the basis of sober reflection grounded in the full range of social teachings of the Church.

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 on engaging in 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.

  • The bill specifies as among its primary purposes the assurance of human dignity and the eradication of poverty; yet it defines neither.  Is it possible to address such goals without defining them?
  • Which of the criteria enumerated in the Bill’s stated premises are likely to “ensure the respect, dignity and security of all persons in Canada”?
  • Is it possible to define either poverty or dignity without social consensus on the meaning and purpose of life?  If we accept, with the Church, that the purpose of life is for each of us to increase our closeness to God by doing God’s work with all the time, talent, and treasure that have been entrusted to us (see, eg Matthew 25), we might conclude that poverty consists lacking the means to engage in meaningful, dignified work – raising families, for example, while serving others and celebrating God’s love.  Is this reflected in criteria mandated by the bill for consideration by the Finance Minister?
  • Is it, in fact, possible to eradicate poverty?  Christ himself warned us that “the poor you will always have with you” (Matthew 26:11); possibly because each of us, now and in all generations past, present, and future will be judged on how well we attempt to address poverty in this life – whether we simply throw money at the impoverished or, as Pope Francis says, “take on the smell of the sheep” by walking with the poor, working to create meaningful and fulfilling opportunities for all, and gently guiding everyone toward responsible use of their gifts. 
    • Do the criteria mandated by this Bill promote such a goal? 
  • Clearly, the Bill contemplates the creation of vocational training opportunities.  Is that enough, or does government bear a greater responsibility, for setting an economic framework that enables and encourages job growth through free enterprise, for example through development of tax benefits tied to the creation of living-wage jobs as an alternative, for example, to automating jobs that might otherwise support skilled artisans? 
  • What measures does the Bill contemplate for evaluating the overall state of the national economy?  As Pope Francis and the Church suggest, mere reliance on growth of domestic product (GDP) has historically tended to emphasize profit over human well-being.   Is it possible to apply measures tied to human happiness, health, and cultural growth, for example?
  • The Bill contemplates providing a living income to everyone over the age of 17, regardless of family status or willingness to work or seek education.  What effects might that have on the well-being of families, or society as a whole?

Sources:


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