Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Editorial: Conscience matters

  • May 12, 2022

Elsewhere in this issue of The Catholic Register, former Ontario MPP John Milloy makes an eloquent case for why and how Catholics should sustain involvement in political life.

Following Pope Francis, who has drawn a line of continuity with Pope Benedict XVI, Milloy argues it is our obligation as faithful citizens to make politics the object of the Catholic call to charity. His experience informs his reasoning as to why it is not an option for us to shrug off democratic responsibilities.

Well-timed for the looming Ontario provincial election, Milloy identifies key issues consonant with Gospel truth and Catholic social teaching. We agree with him they are critical political questions Catholics need to think through thoughtfully and in a spirit of self-sacrifice. There is one concern to add. It’s a question that should be asked all incumbents of would-be representatives at the federal and provincial levels.

It is this: “Do you agree Catholic citizens should be welcome to bring Catholic conscience, and raise Catholic-informed voices, to matters of public debate, policy formation and parliamentary conduct?” A cautionary note might be: “Think carefully; there’s a vote riding on your answer.”

The question matters profoundly because we are at a point in Canadian political life when matters that matter to consciences formed by Catholic faith are being declared illegitimate for public discussion. During the last 60 years, Catholics have become increasingly circumspect about speaking theological language in the civic sphere. Now, only isolated anti-papist fanatics bother to accuse Catholic politicians of taking orders directly from the “Purrrrrpppple Whoooore of Rome.”

But as we saw in the recent absurdist parliamentary theatrics over potential change to abortion laws in the foreign country to the south, we are in some ways worse off than in the time of blatant anti-Catholic bigotry. There is no concern we will use legislative jiggery-pokery to lure all and sundry to the One True Church. The point of attack is when we speak in secular language on secular issues from secular perspectives shaped by the wisdom and truth that informs Catholic conscience.

So, we had Prime Minister Trudeau leaping ahead with vows to pass legislation that will make it impossible for any parliamentarian to introduce bills affecting abortion provision. He even, reaching for the impossibly far too far stars, promised to prevent future parliaments from considering such measures.

Considerably worse was the demand by Quebec Premier Francois Legault that no political party in the province be permitted to offer candidates who identify as pro-life and anti-abortion. It is nothing less than a demand for the disenfranchisement of faithful Catholic citizens. It is an intolerable attack on our faith. Most pernicious of all, it was met with a shrug by most of the media-political nexus.

Catholic citizens should insist such dangerous disregard for our conscience rights is unconscionable. We must demand that those to whom we grant our votes believe likewise.

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