MP Peter Fonseca, fourth from right, with a Knights of Columbus honour guard at the Mass for the relic of St. Francis Xavier at the Mississauga parish named after the saint. Photo from Facebook

Fr. Raymond J. De Souza: Catholic politicians fail to walk the walk

  • March 12, 2018

In January, I had the great blessing of preaching at the Holy Mass for the relic of St. Francis Xavier in the parish in Mississauga named after him. There was an immense congregation, and in the very first pews were various political figures from the federal Parliament, provincial legislature and city hall.

What were they doing there? Well, they were invited, and every elected official knows that if there is going to be a parade — or a procession — it is best to get out in front of it.

Why were they invited? It’s part of a long tradition that sees political leadership at community events — including religious events — as a recognition of the value of those communities and churches and the contributions they make to the common good. There is something important to that, which is why my friends who organized the Mass at St. Francis Xavier made the invitations.

That being acknowledged, I think it is now time for those Catholics of sincere goodwill and immense good works who issue such invitations to reconsider them.

Take, for example, Peter Fonseca, a Liberal MP from Mississauga. He supports the requirement that all those applying for the Canada Summer Jobs program “attest” to their support for abortion in order to qualify. He was at St. Francis Xavier Parish. When I asked him later about the job program, he said, in effect, that Catholics should just sign the form and take the money. In fairness, he was literally giving me the party line, so in charity we must assume that he does not actually think that the federal government knows better than Catholics do about what will and will not violate their consciences.

Nevertheless, his public position is that nearly all those gathered at St. Francis Xavier should be disqualified from the jobs program unless they are willing to say what they don’t believe. He supports an egregious violation of our religious liberty.

No doubt many in the congregation that day watch Salt + Light TV. Because of Mr. Fonseca and his colleagues, Fr. Thomas Rosica is making an emergency appeal for $100,000 to replace the money S+L used to receive to hire summer students. Good for Fr. Rosica in taking a strong stand against the totalitarian impulses of Justin Trudeau.

Why, though, do we seek the honoured company of those, like Mr. Fonseca and his fellow MPs, who are working to exclude us from Canadian public life?

To be sure, the doors of the Church are open to any and all who come to seek God. The doors of the confessional, as Pope Francis frequently reminds us, are especially open. But should we invite those who maltreat us to places of honour?

Each year in Kingston we host the St. John Fisher Dinner to support the work of our Catholic Christian Outreach missionaries on campus. I have never invited political figures as a matter of course. Our current MP, Mark Gerretsen, is Catholic, as was his predecessor. Unlike Fonseca, Gerretsen chose not to reply to my question about his position on the jobs program. We can presume that he also follows the party line.

Would I want our young people to follow the model offered by Fonseca and Gerretsen? They chose, for the sake of a Liberal Party nomination, to adhere to the abortion absolutism of Justin Trudeau. They now choose to limit the religious liberty of Catholics, to punish Christian shelters and summer programs, to put a gaping hole in the budget of Salt + Light. Is that worthy of honour at a Catholic event?

King Henry VIII and St. John Fisher — and St. Thomas More — had a clear disagreement about whether the state could tell the Church what to believe and how to act. At a dinner honouring St. John Fisher — or a Mass honouring St. Francis Xavier — should we invite those who take the side of King Henry VIII?

There are, in the complexities of Church and state, still some reasons for doing so. But simple inertia is not one of them. We need to re-examine our default habit of inviting to Catholic events those who seek to drive Catholics to the margins of our common life.

At the very least, perhaps we should append to our invitations an “attestation” similar to that of Trudeau’s government. I would suggest that our invitations include this:

“In order to confirm your presence, simply check the box attesting to the following: ‘The core values of the attending guest must respect the fundamental freedoms of Canadians, including freedom of conscience and religion. Guests must promise to defend the Catholic community against government encroachment on these freedoms and must attest to certain other values as well; namely, the belief that human life is sacred from conception until natural death’.”

And if they can’t so attest, and therefore cannot attend, will they be missed?

(Fr. de Souza is the editor-in-chief of and a pastor in the archdiocese of Kingston.)

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