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:


Creation through the Eyes of a Scientist: Experiencing God’s Creation

How important is it that scientific theories are beautiful, simple and elegant? How important is the way in which scientists do their work, to the discoveries they make and the theories they formulate? Join us in conversation with Geoffrey Woollard, a structural biologist, computer scientist in training and co-host of our Beauty of Creation series. Together, we’ll explore the role of beauty, simplicity, elegance, and seeing God in the practice of doing science, as well as recap the ground we’ve covered in the Beauty of Creation series as a whole, looking ahead to new syntheses.

Geoffrey Woollard was trained as a biophysicist and structural biologist. His scientific passion is energy, information, causality, and life at the microscopic scale. Geoff is now working on his PhD at the University of British Columbia where he seeks to apply perspectives from computer science, statistical learning theory, optimization, and high fidelity physics simulations to describe the 3D shapes of molecular life. He is the President of the Vancouver chapter of the Society of Catholic Scientists.

Further References:

William A. Wallace – the Modelling of Nature
Benedict Ashley, OP – The Way towards Wisdom
Benedict Ashley & John Deeley – How Science enriches Theology
Mariano Artigas
‘Philosophy of Nature’
‘Knowing things for Sure’
‘The Mind of the Universe’ – understanding science and religion
Stacy Trasancos – Particles of Faith
Stacy Trasancos – Science was Born of Christianity
Christopher Baglow – A Catholic History of the Fake conflict between Religion and Science
Rodney Stark – Bearing False Witness
Ronald L. Numbers (ed.) – Galileo goes to Jail: And other Myths about Science and Religion
Paul Haeffner – Creation & Scientific Creativity: A study in the Thought of Stanley Jaki
Robert Rosen – Life Itself
Tom Mccleish – the Poetry and Beauty of Science
Anthony Rizzi – Institute for Advanced Physics

War in Ukraine, Bishops launch Reconciliation Fund, combatting human trafficking, and more

THE CATHOLIC COMMONS

War in Ukraine, Bishops launch Reconciliation Fund, combatting human trafficking, and more

Catholic Conscience Newsletter
February 2022


A LETTER FROM BRENDAN

Dear friends,
 
I’m writing this letter on the Feast of the Chair of St. Peter. It is a feast that celebrates, essentially, the office of St. Peter, that of our Pope—the rock upon which Christ builds his church, a sign of our unity as Catholics. No matter where we live, what language we pray in, the work we do or the lives we have been gifted, as Catholics, we all look to St. Peter’s successor for leadership.
 
We honour many great Popes in our history. Pope St. John XXIII, who inaugurated the Second Vatical Council; Pope St. John Paul II, who helped bring about the downfall of Soviet communism; Pope Benedict XVI, one of the 20th century’s greatest theologians; Pope Francis, who so inspires a new generation of Catholics to love and serve others with merciful and generous hearts. The lives and service of the Popes remind us of the power of a single person, seeking Christ’s will in all things, to do so much good for the world. But here’s the secret: that’s not just true of the great and famous, like Popes, presidents, or prime ministers. It is true of each and every one of us. It’s true of you. Our every action ripples with meaning for others.
 
Let me illustrate this with a story. Catholic Conscience runs a program called the Catholic Action campaign, which encourages Catholics to vote during elections, and to discern their vote through the lens of Catholic social teaching. Sometimes we hear from parishioners that their votes don’t matter. Maybe they live in a riding that one party always wins, or they don’t see how a single vote can make a difference alongside tens of thousands of others in their riding, or millions more on a national scale.
 
I like to tell them the story of my old boss, the Member of Parliament for Kitchener—Waterloo in Ontario. I had a great high school gig helping to write his correspondence. He first won election in 2008, against an incumbent who had been MP since 1993. The final vote count was unbearably close—a mere 47 votes. Upon a mandatory judicial recount, that margin shrunk to 17. My boss became MP by a mere 17 votes.
 
Think about that. 17 people—less than the size of a high school class. If 17 people had decided to stay home on that fateful day, or chose to do something else but vote, we would live in a different world.
 
Every civic act matters. Your vote matters. That letter you write to your city councillor matters. Your decision to volunteer for a charity, join a political party to vote for its leader,  start a new initiative, or run for office yourself—your faith that leads to good works matters. At Catholic Conscience, we try to gently inspire you to go forth and do those good works, with Catholic social teaching at the heart of your enterprise. You never know when you’ll be one of those 17!
 
Here’s three quick things you might be interested in, happening at Catholic Conscience right now:

  • We’re inviting parishioners to join our Catholic School Trustees Workshop. If you’re considering running for trustee in this year’s Ontario municipal elections, we highly encourage you to join the workshop—you’ll hear from current and former trustees, as well as other experts, on everything from what trustees do, to why Catholic education matters, to how Catholic social teaching informs the ways we think about the well-being and integral human development of students. Click here to learn more, including how to apply!
  • Our Beauty of Creation webinar series is coming to an end but keep an eye open for the resumption of our Catholic Civics Workshops! We are finalizing this year’s series of events featuring conversations on the concrete application of Catholic social teaching to contemporary issues. Webinars this year will cover topics as diverse as the economy, identity, Reconciliation, works of mercy, and more! Keep an eye on our Facebook page for the announcement of our April webinar, on a Catholic social vision of the good society—most especially its economic life.
  • I recently authored an article for The Hub, a Canadian publication, on what the Conservative Party of Canada can learn from Pope Francis as they select a new leader to replace Erin O’Toole. If you’re interested in reading my thoughts, you can click here for the full article. Very few Canadians are members of political parties—less than 0.01%, in fact—but only party members can vote for that party’s leader, and these individuals often become our prime ministers and premiers. Consider purchasing a party membership for any party holding a leadership race, so you can participate in the process and help select who fills these important roles!

As always, we ask for your prayers—that God might use this lay apostolate for His purposes and as He desires! We continue to pray for you all. But we also ask for you to pray for our brothers and sisters in Ukraine, now suffering the terrible consequences of violence and war. At the bottom of this newsletter, you’ll find the Pope’s plea to the faithful to pray and fast for peace on Ash Wednesday. Please join us in doing so!
 
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

Catholic School Trustees Workshop_ePoster

Catholic School Trustees Workshop
May 28, 2022
Click here for more information.


We Are Fratelli tutti

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


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

Parliament Brief

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

Parliament Brief, February 2022: Human Trafficking

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 intended to strengthen Canada’s response to the scourge of human trafficking, by (i) creating reporting requirements for businesses marketing goods made by forced labour, (ii) enabling the Border Services Agency to deny entry to goods identified with forced labour, and (iii) creating new offenses covering those who traffic in human organs.

The Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church notes that the worldwide, “solemn proclamation of human rights is contradicted by a painful reality of violations, wars and violence of every kind, in the first place; genocides and mass deportations, the spreading on a virtual worldwide dimension of ever new forms of slavery such as trafficking in human beings, child soldiers, the exploitation of workers, illegal drug trafficking, prostitution.” (158)

“The rights of children,” the Compendium continues, must also be legally protected.  “The situation of a vast number of the world’s children is far from being satisfactory, due to… the lack of health care, or adequate food supply, little or no possibility of receiving a minimum of academic formation or inadequate shelter. Moreover, some serious problems remain unsolved: trafficking in children, child labour, the phenomenon of “street children”, the use of children in armed conflicts, child marriage, the use of children for commerce in pornographic material, also in the use of the most modern and sophisticated instruments of social communication… These are criminal acts that must be effectively fought with adequate preventive and penal measures by the determined action of the different authorities involved.” (244-245)

The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops recently published a pastoral letter on the issue of human trafficking in Canada. In it, they write that “Buying sex is the most common reason for trafficking human persons. In such transactions, one person provides a tangible item or good (e.g., drugs, money) in exchange for sexual services from another person. The buyer is both directly (by violating the person’s body) and indirectly (by financially supporting the system holding that person in bondage) responsible for the harm done to the prostituted person… The most common factors involved with entry into prostitution include being poor, being female, having experienced violence and/or neglect, and having a low level of education. According to the Canadian Federal Government’s National Strategy to Combat Human Trafficking 2019- 2024, ‘Individuals at greatest risk of victimization in Canada generally include women and girls and members of vulnerable or marginalized groups such as: Indigenous women and girls, migrants and new immigrants; LGBTQ2 persons; persons living with disabilities; children in the child welfare system; at risk youth and those who are socially or economically disadvantaged.’

READ THE FULL BRIEF BY CLICKING HERE 

News Snips

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

  • CANADIAN BISHOPS LAUNCH INDIGENOUS RECONCILIATION FUND: With the rescheduling of the upcoming Indigenous delegation to visit the Pope at the Vatican, Canada’s bishops have also announced the creation of a new charity, the Indigenous Reconciliation Fund. The charity will disperse the $30 million to be raised by Canadian Catholics over the next five years. Kinoshameg, from Ontario’s Wikwemikong Unceded First Nation, will be one of three Indigenous directors of the Indigenous Reconciliation Fund, set up by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops to receive contributions from 73 dioceses across Canada. “There’s always hope for that (new relationships),” Kinoshameg told The Catholic Register. “If I didn’t believe in that I wouldn’t have accepted this.” The Catholic Register editorial board writes that “Temptation loomed to temporize by pleading COVID hardship and pushing off the call to lead. They stood steadfast. They committed in September to $30 million for residential school healing. Now we see signs of the Church moving forward and also of the Holy Spirit moving through it. All should bow our heads and give thanks.”

Points to ponder: What could you do to support this new Indigenous Reconciliation Fund in your own parish? Are there Indigenous communities that live near your town or city? Consider learning more about them—their history, their relationship with your own community—as well as learning about the history of residential schools that has led us to this moment in our history.

  • CANADA’S CRISIS IN HEALTH CARE CAPACITY: Catholic Conscience’s President & Founder, Matthew Marquardt, was recently quoted in a B.C. Catholic article about Canada’s limited hospital and ICU capacity—a challenge which has come to the fore amid the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the B.C. Catholic, total national health-care funding already accounts for 11 per cent of Canada’s GDP—the seventh highest of the 44 countries measured in 2020- ‘21 by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. Yet OECD charts show that Canada ranks just 16th in life expectancy and 23rd in mortality from avoidable causes. “It’s difficult to overstate the importance of health care,” Matthew said in an email interview. “The Church teaches us that the purpose of life is for each of us, being a lost child of God, to find our way back to God, helping each other as best we can along the way. In that light, it’s easy to see that in the Church’s view the purpose of government is to provide a social, legal, and economic framework that enables us and encourages us to do that.” The Church also recognizes the fundamental importance of health care.  “What does that mean for health care in Canada? In Canada, we have entrusted social responsibility for basic health care to our governments,” Marquardt said. “Among the implications of that is that we have a primary responsibility to look after ourselves … But when we need help, we are expected to look to the government for assistance, and government has accepted that responsibility.”

Points to ponder: Consider some of the questions Matthew raises in the article—“So we need to ask ourselves, is government doing its job properly?  If not, how can that be corrected?  Is the answer to instruct government to review its policies and assumptions, revisit its structures, funding, and approach, and ensure that we are being provided with adequate health care in an efficient matter? Should we consider allowing other social institutions, including for example non-profit and other benevolent associations, or even private, for-profit entities, to have a greater role in the provision of health-care services?”

  • NEW BILL PUTS CONSCIENCE RIGHTS BACK IN FOCUS: Cardinal Thomas Collins, Archbishop of Toronto, has shared his support for a new bill before the federal parliament protecting conscience rights for healthcare workers who refuse to participate in medically assisted suicide. If passed by Parliament, the legislation would make it an offence to intimidate or coerce a medical professional to take part in delivering medical assistance in dying, so-called MAiD. It would also prohibit firing or refusing to hire a health-care worker for the sole reason of refusal to participate in MAiD. The Canadian Medical Association, which represents 75,000 medical doctors and learners, has endorsed the principle of freedom of conscience. “As detailed in our policy on medical assistance in dying, we support our members in exercising their freedom of conscience — both for those who choose to provide or participate in medical assistance in dying and those who do not.”

Points to ponder: Part 422 of the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church says that “Freedom of conscience and religion concerns man both individually and socially. The right to religious freedom must be recognized in the juridical order and sanctioned as a civil right; nonetheless, it is not of itself an unlimited right. The just limits of the exercise of religious freedom must be determined in each social situation with political prudence, according to the requirements of the common good, and ratified by the civil authority through legal norms consistent with the objective moral order. Such norms are required by the need for the effective safeguarding of the rights of all citizens and for the peaceful settlement of conflicts of rights, also by the need for an adequate care of genuine public peace, which comes about when men live together in good order and in true justice, and finally by the need for a proper guardianship of public morality.” Apply these principles to the issue of freedom of conscience for medical professionals here in Canada. Consider discussing with others in your family and friend circles your thoughts about this issue.

Catholic Social Teaching, Applied

In this feature, we apply the principles, values, and virtues of Catholic social teaching to the analysis of a contemporary issue or news of public relevance. For a summary of these core teachings of our faith, click here. This is an abbreviated version—click here to read the full analysis on our website.

APPLYING CATHOLIC SOCIAL TEACHING TO: ONTARIO’S REPORT ON THE FUTURE OF WORK AND EMPLOYMENT BENEFITS
Report: The future of work in Ontario, Ontario Workforce Recovery Advisory Committee

The nature of work is changing. The COVID-19 pandemic has helped drive an absolute transformation in the ways Canadians work—bringing to bear new questions about the dignity of work, most especially for essential workers like healthcare staff and grocery store workers, those working primarily from home, or the many whose lost working hours due to lockdowns, relying more than ever on precarious work. Remote work has increased, as has work in the gig economy—whether app-based delivery services, or otherwise. The Government of Ontario launched a Workforce Recovery Advisory Committee to analyze the many shifting realities of the labour market, and propose changes to various government programs that support workers.

The Government of Ontario has announced it intends to implement several of the committee’s recommendations, including:

  1. Appointing an expert to design and test a portable benefits program, where contributors could be employers, workers, and the government;
  2. Introduce the “right to disconnect” from work email and work obligations after regular hours, to enhance work-life balance; and,
  3. Give basic employment rights to gig or platform workers in the app-based space, like termination pay, minimum wage, regular payment of wages, and more.

OUR ANALYSIS:

CST CONCEPT—THE DIGNITY OF WORK

The Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church says that work has a “particular dignity” which makes it more than just an impersonal element of productivity. Work, it says, “is an expression of the person.” The final goal of work is the human person—work must be oriented to the subject who performs it. That’s why the dignity of work is tied so crucially to the dignity of the human person—work is at the heart of who we are, as co-creators with God, in the model of Christ, who also worked.

That’s why it is crucial that work be dignifying. Work, says the Compendium, is “superior to every other factor connected with productivity”, especially in regards to capital—referring, of course, to the money and other material goods which are products or elements of the economy. In Part 279, the Compendium states that:

The relationship between labour and capital often shows traits of antagonism that take on new forms with the changing of social and economic contexts. In the past, the origin of the conflict between capital and labour was found above all “in the fact that the workers put their powers at the disposal of the entrepreneurs, and these, following the principle of maximum profit, tried to establish the lowest possible wages for the work done by the employees”. In our present day, this conflict shows aspects that are new and perhaps more disquieting: scientific and technological progress and the globalization of markets, of themselves a source of development and progress, expose workers to the risk of being exploited by the mechanisms of the economy and by the unrestrained quest for productivity.

This is important context in considering efforts—such as Ontario’s—to address the new realities of working that we engage in today. It used to be common for workers to remain with the same firm their entire lives, to be part of unionized workplaces, to have access to steadier and more consistent work. Today we see a proliferation of work that does not rely on traditional employment hours, or regular wages. Instead, time is banked, tips are depended on, hours are determined by the employee rather than the employer. Yet benefits programs in Ontario are often-tied to such traditional employment. For the less traditional employees—like those of app-based companies—benefits are harder to come by.

We must consider—for the sake of solidarity and the dignity of work, how can we reform these programs so they capture the full measure of employment categories today?

CLICK HERE TO READ OUR FULL ANALYSIS

Prayer

Pope Francis has asked all the faithful to join in a day of prayer and fasting this coming Ash Wednesday for peace in Ukraine, as Russian military forces invade the country, unleashing violence across the land.

“Once again the peace of all is threatened by partisan interests,” the Pope said, calling on those “with political responsibility to examine their consciences seriously before God, who is the God of peace and not of war, who is the Father of all, not just of some, who wants us to be brothers and not enemies.”

We share with you this prayer Pope Francis wrote for peace in our world, and ask you to join us in prayer and fasting on Ash Wednesday this year.


POPE FRANCIS’ PRAYER FOR PEACE

Lord God of peace, hear our prayer!

We have tried so many times and over so many years to resolve our conflicts by our own powers and by the force of our arms. How many moments of hostility and darkness have we experienced; how much blood has been shed; how many lives have been shattered; how many hopes have been buried… But our efforts have been in vain.

Now, Lord, come to our aid! Grant us peace, teach us peace; guide our steps in the way of peace. Open our eyes and our hearts, and give us the courage to say: “Never again war!”; “With war everything is lost”. Instill in our hearts the courage to take concrete steps to achieve peace.
Lord, God of Abraham, God of the Prophets, God of Love, you created us and you call us to live as brothers and sisters. Give us the strength daily to be instruments of peace; enable us to see everyone who crosses our path as our brother or sister. Make us sensitive to the plea of our citizens who entreat us to turn our weapons of war into implements of peace, our trepidation into confident trust, and our quarreling into forgiveness.

Keep alive within us the flame of hope, so that with patience and perseverance we may opt for dialogue and reconciliation. In this way may peace triumph at last, and may the words “division”, “hatred” and “war” be banished from the heart of every man and woman. Lord, defuse the violence of our tongues and our hands. Renew our hearts and minds, so that the word which always brings us together will be “brother”, and our way of life will always be that of: Shalom, Peace, Salaam!

Amen.

Human Trafficking

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 intended to strengthen Canada’s response to the scourge of human trafficking, by (i) creating reporting requirements for businesses marketing goods made by forced labour, (ii) enabling the Border Services Agency to deny entry to goods identified with forced labour, and (iii) creating new offenses covering those who traffic in human organs.

Governments and the Church alike recognize new forms of the ancient evil of using human beings as property. 

Human Trafficking

“Cowardice asks the question, is it safe? Expediency asks the question, is it politic? Vanity asks the question, is it popular? But conscience asks the question, is it right? And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but one must take it because it is right.”

-Martin Luther King, Jr.

Bill S-211 – To enact the Fighting Against Forced Labour and Child Labour in Supply Chains Act and to amend the Customs Tariff

  • Introduced by Senator Julie Miville-Dechêne on November 24, 2021.  Not yet introduced in Commons. 
  • The summary states that the Act is intended honor Canada’s commitment to the war on human trafficking by (a) imposing obligations on various government institutions and private-sector entities to report on measures taken to prevent and reduce the risk that forced labour or child labour is used by them or in their supply chains and (b) providing an inspection regime applicable to businesses and other entities; and (c) prohibiting the importation of goods manufactured or produced by forced labour or child labour as those terms are defined in the Fighting Against Forced Labour and Child Labour in Supply Chains Act.
  • No Charter Statement has been published, as this is a private bill.

    Bill S-223 – An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (trafficking in human organs)
  • Introduced by Senator Salma Ataullahjan on November 24, 2021.  Passed in the Senate and awaiting second reading in Commons. 
  • The Act would amend the Criminal Code to create new offences in relation to trafficking in human organs.  Importantly, it extends criminal liability to Canadian citizens and permanent residents who traffic in human organs, even when they do so outside Canada.

    It also proposes amendment of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act to provide that a permanent resident or foreign national is inadmissible to Canada if the appropriate minister is of the opinion that they have engaged in any activities relating to trafficking in human organs.

Provincial legislation on Human Trafficking — Ontario, Combating Human Trafficking Act, June 1st, 2021

  • The new legislation includes two new acts – theAnti-Human Trafficking Strategy Act, 2021and the Accommodation Sector Registration of Guests Act, 2021 – as well as amendments to the Child, Youth and Family Services Act, 2017 and the Prevention of and Remedies for Human Trafficking Act, 2017. Together, the acts build on the government’s response to combat human trafficking by:
  • Increasing awareness of the issue, supporting a long-term provincial response and emphasizing that all Ontarians have a role to play in combatting human trafficking;
  • Supporting more survivors and the people who support them in obtaining restraining orders against traffickers, with specific consideration for Indigenous survivors;
  • Strengthening the ability of children’s aid societies and law enforcement to protect exploited children;
  • Increasing penalties for persons, including traffickers, who interfere with a child in the care of a children’s aid society; and,
  • Clarifying how and when police services can access information from hotel guest registers to help deter trafficking and identify and locate victims, while establishing the power to include other types of accommodation providers, such as short-term rental companies.

Catholic Social Teaching

Like all other social initiatives, proposals for the battle against trafficking in humans should be considered in light of the full range of the Church’s social doctrine, including particularly the fundamental values of truth, freedom, justice, and charitable love; the principles of life and human dignity, the common good, subsidiarity, and solidarity; and Christian virtues such as wisdom, humility, prudence, and good stewardship.

It seems clear that trafficking is primarily an affront  to the principles of human dignity, the common good, and solidarity, and the values of freedom, justice and charitable love.

The Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church notes that the worldwide, “solemn proclamation of human rights is contradicted by a painful reality of violations, wars and violence of every kind, in the first place; genocides and mass deportations, the spreading on a virtual worldwide dimension of ever new forms of slavery such as trafficking in human beings, child soldiers, the exploitation of workers, illegal drug trafficking, prostitution.” (158)

“The rights of children,” the Compendium continues, must also be legally protected.  “The situation of a vast number of the world’s children is far from being satisfactory, due to… the lack of health care, or adequate food supply, little or no possibility of receiving a minimum of academic formation or inadequate shelter. Moreover, some serious problems remain unsolved: trafficking in children, child labour, the phenomenon of “street children”, the use of children in armed conflicts, child marriage, the use of children for commerce in pornographic material, also in the use of the most modern and sophisticated instruments of social communication… These are criminal acts that must be effectively fought with adequate preventive and penal measures by the determined action of the different authorities involved.” (244-245)

The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops recently published a pastoral letter on the issue of human trafficking in Canada. In it, they write that “Buying sex is the most common reason for trafficking human persons. In such transactions, one person provides a tangible item or good (e.g., drugs, money) in exchange for sexual services from another person. The buyer is both directly (by violating the person’s body) and indirectly (by financially supporting the system holding that person in bondage) responsible for the harm done to the prostituted person… The most common factors involved with entry into prostitution include being poor, being female, having experienced violence and/or neglect, and having a low level of education. According to the Canadian Federal Government’s National Strategy to Combat Human Trafficking 2019- 2024, ‘Individuals at greatest risk of victimization in Canada generally include women and girls and members of vulnerable or marginalized groups such as: Indigenous women and girls, migrants and new immigrants; LGBTQ2 persons; persons living with disabilities; children in the child welfare system; at risk youth and those who are socially or economically disadvantaged.’

Pope Francis has described human trafficking as a “crime against humanity,” because it denies the human dignity of the victim, seeing him or her only as a piece of merchandise to be used to enrich or give pleasure to another.  “In its multiple forms,” the Holy Father said, human trafficking “is a wound in the humanity of those who endure it and those who commit it… trafficking is an unjustifiable violation of the victims’ freedom and dignity, which are integral dimensions of the human person willed and created by God. This is why it must be considered, without a doubt, a crime against humanity.” (NCR, April 11, 2019)

In 2014, Pope Francis established an annual International Day of Prayer and Reflection against Human Trafficking, to coincide with the feast of Saint Josephine Bakhita, patron of trafficking victims.  He was motivated, in part, by estimates that human trafficking is a $150 billion annual business supported by profits generated at the expense of 25 million victims worldwide.  (Catholic News Agency, February 8 2022).

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.

  • February 22nd is Human Trafficking Awareness Day in Canada.  How might we, as individuals and nations, use the day to improve our understanding of the causes, evils, and solutions for human trafficking?
  • Are you able to recognize the signs of trafficking? Would you like to stay informed on the topic, and become active in fighting it? The Collaborative Network to End Exploitation is active in education, advocacy, and action.  Learn more, and get involved, at www.CNEE.ca.
  • All national political parties have called for continued commitment to the fight against trafficking.  What more, if anything, could be done to fight this evil? In their recent pastoral letter, the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops writes that “Exiting prostitution is a complex process that most often takes numerous attempts and several years to achieve. Some women might never get out of prostitution. Research by Melissa Farley revealed that of 854 prostituted persons from 9 countries, including Canada, 89% of the women wanted to escape prostitution but were forced to remain because they had no other option for survival. Only a small percentage are fortunate enough to be able to exit… Many barriers to exiting need to be addressed in the healing process. Some obstacles include lack of safe housing, poor employment histories, physical and mental health issues, low educational levels, financial instability, and age of entry. There is a correlation between the age of entry and the number of barriers experienced in attempting to exit. Those who enter prostitution as children encounter a greater number of barriers than those who entered as adults. A key component in any process of exiting is returning the power for decision making back to the survivors, so that they can recover their self-determination.” What can different sectors of society—the Church, the government, local communities, the private sector, or the wider non-profit or charitable sector—do to support those who want to escape situations of human trafficking? What can we personally do to help?

Sources:

God’s Revelation through Nature Scientific and Theological Perspectives

In this webinar, we asked – how do scientists understand theology and theologians understand science? How can we see the logos – the order, rationality, beauty, and intelligibility – in nature through the extraordinary coherence of physical reality? What does nature tell us about God? The team at Catholic Conscience were grateful for the occasion to have a wide-ranging exploration of these matters with Rev Dr Giuseppe Tanzella-Nitti.

Meet our guest:

Fr Giuseppe is a Full Professor of Fundamental Theology at the School of Theology, Pontifical University of the Holy Cross in Rome, as well as an Adjunct Scholar of the Vatican Observatory. He was formerly part of the Italian C.N.R. fellowship and an astronomer at the Astronomical Observatory of Turin. He is also a member of the International Astronomical Union and is currently Editor in Chief of the Interdisciplinary Encyclopedia of Religion and Science

You can find his work on his website and look forward to his forthcoming book – ‘Scientific Perspectives in Fundamental Theology: Understanding Christian Faith in the Age of Scientific Reason’, published by Claremont Press.

Further resources:

  • John D. Barrow, The Artful Universe (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995)
  • Marco Bersanelli and Mario Gargantini, From Galileo to Gell-Mann. The Wonder that Inspired the Greatest Scientists of All Time (Conshohocken: Templeton Press 2009)
  • Alister McGrath, The Re-enchantment of Nature. Science, Religion and the Human Sense of   Wonder (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 2002)
  • Alister McGrath, Re-Imagining Nature: The Promise of a Christian Natural Theology  (Hoboken: Wiley-Blackwell, 2016)
  • Tom McLeish, The Poetry and Music of Science. Comparing Creativity in Science and Art   (Oxford: Oxford University, Press 2019)
  • Michael Heller, The World and the Word (Tucson AZ: Pachart, 1986)
  • David C. Lindberg, Ron L. Numbers (eds.), God and nature. Historical essays on the   encounter between Christianity and science (Berkeley – London: University of   California Press, 1986)
  • Giuseppe Tanzella-Nitti, Scientific Perspectives in Fundamental Theology, Claremont Press, CA, forthcoming (Spring 2022)
  • Giuseppe Tanzella-Nitti, “The Book of Nature and the God of Scientists according to the Encyclical Fides et ratio”, in The Human Search for Truth: Philosophy, Science, Faith. The Outlook for the Third Millennium (Philadelphia: St. Joseph’s University Press, 2001), 82-90
  • Giuseppe Tanzella-Nitti, “The Two Books prior to the Scientific Revolution,” Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith 57 (2005), n. 3, 235-248
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