Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Alberta Premier Rachel Notley take a tour of YWCA during Trudeau's visit in 2016. Photo by trumpvstrudeau/Flickr

Glen Argan: Healthy society cannot exist under state-imposed ideology

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  • January 25, 2018
Canadian Catholics should perhaps be upset with governments that trample on our basic rights. Whether our silence reveals resilience or indifference may be determined by the test of time.

Last month, the federal Liberal government announced it will only give grants for hiring summer students to organizations which vow to support safe and legal abortion. Other groups might respond to such blatant disregard of their rights to freedom of conscience and religion with fury and marches on Parliament. But not Catholics. While we may criticize the government’s actions at Sunday morning pancake breakfasts and while our bishops have issued a statement rebuking the new policy, we remain largely quiet.

The summer jobs edict follows on the heels of Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland’s declaration last June that abortion rights and “sexual reproductive rights” are at the core of Canadian foreign policy. Earlier, Prime Minister Trudeau promised $650 million to promote advocacy for abortion rights in countries around the world. These government forays into cultural imperialism also received minimal response.

Alberta Catholics were also quiet in November when Premier Rachel Notley mischaracterized the Catholic school superintendents’ concerns about a new sex education program. Somehow, the premier got the notion that for the superintendents, mutual consent is not essential to proper sexual relations, thus implying that rape is morally acceptable.

The magnitude of these lies about our faith and usurpations of religious freedom is not the same as in nations where Christians are often murdered and their churches demolished. Still, massive repression of religious freedom can grow step by step rather than with a sudden murderous onslaught.

Most notable in these efforts to push Catholicism out of the public square is a change in society’s understanding of “liberation.” Not long ago, liberation referred to freedom from political oppression and freedom of conscience. Today, it has come to mean the ideological reshaping of key institutions such as the family, Church and school.

Well, a lot did need to be changed. High on the list of longstanding injustices needing reform were the destruction of the cultures of Indigenous peoples, male domination of leadership roles and rigid, unquestioning obedience to authority. Governments participated in such injustices and needed to change their ways.

However, the most successful way to change society’s attitudes is through respect, discussion, compromise and the formation of friendships. Exclusion of some will give way to respect for all when we know the stories of those of a different race or faith. Stereotyping becomes difficult. But when government imposes its ideology, freedom is undermined and a toxic situation ensues.

The Liberal summer jobs policy will convince no one to alter their views on abortion nor will it engender respect for women in difficult pregnancies. It is a brute exercise of power whose transparent agenda is to make the Catholic Church and its teachings go away.

We and our beliefs will not go away. If history has lessons, one is that you make a religion stronger by persecuting it. That faith will flower more brightly under a repressive regime. With Christianity, this has repeatedly been the case from ancient Rome to the Soviet Empire.

A free and healthy society cannot exist under a state-imposed ideology. A healthy society requires the virtue of friendship among people with diverse backgrounds, freedom to form a wide variety of voluntary associations and respect for those who express a plethora of opinions, no matter how distasteful some of those opinions may be. The health of society is diminished when advocacy for basic human rights, such as the right to life, is suppressed.

Ironically, the relative passivity of Canadian Catholics in the face of the assaults on our rights may testify to our commitment to a free society. Our default position, like that of most Canadians, is that justice is found not through the exercise of brute power, but through striving to live in harmony with others. We rarely fight back, but assume the best in others and believe that, despite appearances, most things will work out for the better.

Such an attitude may befuddle the federal government whose methodology is that might makes right. Audaciously, the Liberals are trying to impose their pro-abortion morality around the world. Instead, they are making it clear that they are out to sea without a moral rudder.

(Glen Argan lives in Edmonton and has been an editor in the Catholic press for more than 30 years.)

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