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

Quick Commons


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

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

Coming up at Catholic Conscience

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

Parliament Brief

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


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

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

News Snips

(Painting: The Nickel Belt by Franklin Carmichael)

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

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

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

Catholic Social Teaching, Applied

(Painting: The Good Samaritan by Vincent Van Gogh)

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

Pope Francis’ 3 tips for journalists (Catholic News Service—November 15, 2021)

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

Catholic Social Teaching, Applied

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

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

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

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

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