"What would happen if every faithful Canadian Catholic took it upon himself or herself to have at least one respectful personal conversation a day objecting to the forced march off a cliff that is state-organized medical killing?" Register file photo

Laity must join bishops in answering affronts to the Church

  • June 19, 2012

I cannot abide bishop bashing.

The habit in some Catholic circles of remorselessly denouncing and denigrating our prelates for perceived failures to lead, to act, to show courage, to boss the world about, sets my teeth on edge.

It is difficult to imagine a role outside the world of electoral politics that requires a broader back, a thicker skin and a finer ability to manage expectations than that of a North American Catholic bishop in 2012.

At the same time, I understand viscerally the frustration amounting almost to despair that many lay Catholics experience from unconscionably vicious political assaults on our faith such as Ontario’s Bill-13.

I share the sense of isolation and powerlessness in front of death threats to Canada’s moral order represented by the recent B.C. Supreme Court decision striking down federal euthanasia and assisted suicide laws.

My first impulse in such cases is the common one of wondering to myself, to my friends and even out loud in public what Church leaders are doing to confront such catastrophes.

Indeed, when the grotesquely misnamed Accepting Schools Act was passed in the Ontario legislature earlier this month, I was quoted in the National Post as being “mystified” at the response of Catholic bishops and the Church hierarchy in general.

The moment I saw my word “mystified” published, I regretted its use. It implies a sarcastic judgment that I in no way intended. I don’t understand the bishops’ response, but that is not a euphemism for saying the response should have been something else — i.e., something I would have preferred.

I do think it is imperative there be a clear response to the assault and, yes, frankly my personal preference would involve storming (constitutional) barricades with (rhetorical) cutlasses drawn.

Better (calmer?) minds than mine are, thankfully, positioned to evaluate what the most effective response should be. It would set my teeth on edge no end to have the time they need for strategizing turned into yet another opening for bishop bashing.

Avoiding that undesirable response need not, however, mean sitting passively back and waiting for Church leaders to do all the heavy lifting. While they speak for the Church, we as lay Catholics have both the prerogative and the obligation to speak out against affronts to faith and morals. Rather than aiming and firing upward, we should all answer the call by addressing the threats horizontally, that is by what is directly in front of us in the lives we live as Catholics each day.

For whatever newspapers are still worth as opinion formers, hundreds of thousands of Catholics should be deluging letters to the editor mailboxes daily. Ditto open line shows. Of course, every available means of social media should serve the cause of Catholic resistance to what is being forced upon us.

It need not end there. What would happen if every faithful Canadian Catholic took it upon himself or herself to have at least one respectful personal conversation a day objecting to the forced march off a cliff that is state-organized medical killing?

We remain, after all, in the millions across this country. We remain a strong majority. There is no reason on Earth that we should hesitate to use our majoritarian influence to protect our Church and its teaching.

It is true the political opinions of the faithful properly span the democratic spectrum. On specific issues, and even approaches, our differences are a sign of the catholicity we share.

Surely, however, we all agree the Church herself must not be made to bow before the state’s raw monopoly on force that is exercised through its legislatures and courts. Surely we agree our constitutional rights to freedom of religion and conscience, guaranteed through the Charter and more ancient safeguards, are worth speaking up for.

If we feel hesitation, here is an image that might help us overcome natural reluctance. In the next issue of Convivum magazine, we have a 10th anniversary retrospective on World Youth Day 2002 in Toronto. As part of the look back, we asked those who attended to tell us their most compelling memory of WYD 2002. The one mentioned time after time was the almost overpowering visual of Pope John Paul II walking down the steps of the arrival aircraft even though he was elderly, ill and struggling just to stand.

Using all the strength he could muster, the Bishop of Rome stood up for us. Why would we, in return, do any less for all the bishops who lead us in our faith?

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