Last Updated:Friday - 09/24/2010
March 5, 2001
Common good! What's that?
Once again shining light on the moral skeletons in our closet, Bishop Fred Henry has zeroed in on federal Tory leader Joe Clark's "scandalous behaviour" in declaring himself pro-choice on abortion. In doing so, Henry is forcing Canadian Catholics to examine the bigger scandal of Catholic politicians who have legalized abortion, defended legal abortion and who now portray it as a right.
This is a major problem for our Church in Canada - that so many of the Catholic laity elected to public office espouse views directly opposed to the teaching of the Church. This is true on abortion, but it is also true in regard to their neglect of the gross disparity between rich and poor in our world.
Invariably, these dissident views are defended by bromides such as, "You can't legislate morality, "Every person has the right to control their own body" and "A rising tide lifts all boats." How were Catholics so poorly educated in their faith that they could mouth such platitudes of rank individualism without seeing their outright contradiction with Christ's declaration, "Whatever you do to the least of my brothers and sisters, you do to me" (Matthew 25:40)?
At the WCR, we get phone calls from people who say, "You can't mix politics and religion." In one sense this is true: Priests don't run for public office; the Church (normally) doesn't tell people for whom to vote. But basically this is one of our great secularist heresies. It reduces religion to prayer and public worship, and sees it as having no implications for society.
Certainly this was not the view of Jesus who overturned the tables of the economic exploiters outside the Temple and who demanded concern for the poorest and weakest members of society. Nor is it the view of Pope John Paul who wrote of "a crisis within democracies themselves, which seem at times to have lost the ability to make decisions aimed at the common good."
The common good! We live in a society obsessed with the private good - whether it be making millions on day trading, winter holidaying in Mazatlan or continuing economic expansion with little thought for the poor or the environment.
The situation cries to heaven for a renewed awareness of the common good. Bishop Henry is one who provides constant reminders of how our love for the private good and our idolatry of the individual's right to choose (whether at the VLT or the abortion clinic) leaves a trail of victims, both bloody and unbloody.
But it is the laity who must take the lead in making the common good Canada's leading priority. And here is where our performance has been shameful. We have a long list of Catholic prime ministers over the past 33 years who presided over a regime of more than two million unborn Canadians killed by abortion and a growing gap between rich and poor. At times this gap has been deliberately abetted by government policy rather than by simple negligence.
Last fall, Pope John Paul made St. Thomas More the patron of politicians. More's life, the pope said, is a reminder that politics and morality cannot be separated. "His life teaches that government is above all an exercise of virtue," the pope said.
Too often, Catholic politicians provide a striking contrast with Thomas More, who loved the Church's teaching to the point of giving his life.
Instead of virtue, they seek "social peace" on abortion. At election time, they pat themselves on the back for their feeble efforts at social justice, all the while forgetting that the recommendations of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples have been left to gather dust.
Our peace is a charade and it won't last unless our society recommits itself to a system of objective morality. As Catholics we need to stop selling out to the prevailing secularism and put forward leaders who will imitate Thomas More's heroic concern for what is good and right. Faith and daily life ought to be one. Thank you, Bishop Henry, for the reminder.
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