Liberal leader Justin Trudeau's announcement that pro-life individuals will no longer be allowed to seek federal Liberal nominations is a calamitous move against social justice and human dignity in Canada. All three major parties have now placed themselves foursquare against one of the most basic human rights – the right to life.
A few years ago, the late Jack Layton took the same stance in the New Democratic Party – those who support the life of the unborn will not be allowed to run as NDP candidates.
A Conservative can still run and get elected to Parliament as a pro-lifer. However, the edict of Prime Minister Stephen Harper is clear – you can be personally opposed to abortion, but you cannot do anything to stop it. You can think pro-life thoughts, but you dare not act on them.
This, despite the fact that two-thirds of Canadians declare themselves opposed to the current situation in Canada – that an unborn child can be aborted at any stage of pregnancy for any reason. This majority of view of Canadians – a view that calls for a law restricting abortion – is adamantly opposed by the political elite.
How did Canada reach this point? How will we get out of this obscene quagmire?
It was not long ago – roughly 30 years – that Catholic priests sat in the House of Commons bearing witness to a consistent ethic of life. Fathers Bob Ogle and Andy Hogan defended the right to life of the unborn as well as the rights of Canadians marginalized by economic structures. Several lay Catholics, including Edmonton's Douglas Roche, also carried that torch.
However, when those MPs stepped down or were defeated in elections, there were fewer and fewer people to whom that torch could be passed on. The Christian and Catholic voice – long a prominent one in federal politics – was marginalized. Yes, many committed Christians sit in Parliament, but one no longer hears the voice of Catholic social teaching in that arena.
Partly this is due to the widespread view that politics and religion should not be mixed. It is also due to a lack of enough Catholics who are educated in the Church's social teaching to come forth and offer themselves as candidates.
The temptation now is to abandon politics because no party allows one to raise a Catholic voice with integrity. Politics, however, is always impure, always the realm of sometimes distasteful compromise.
More than ever, there is a need for Catholic laity to become educated about Church social teaching and to speak its truth in all corners of public life, including politics. Catholics must gain the courage to witness to the rights to life, dignity and religious freedom in hostile environments.
More than ever, there is also the need for extra-parliamentary activity, the sort of quiet work done by pro-life groups as well as the public witness of events like the March for Life.
The Catholic Church is increasingly called upon to be counter-cultural. Our faith and our humanity call us to stand up in public against the tidal wave of assaults on human life and dignity.