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


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

Catholic Conscience Newsletter
February 2022


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,

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.’


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.

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.



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?



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.


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!


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