Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of June 2, 2003
Promote human dignity - Kenney
Politician says faith and politics do mix
By RAMON GONZALEZ
WCR Staff Writer
Legislators of any faith or no faith have a responsibility to "promote the inviolable dignity of the human person," says Canadian Alliance MP Jason Kenney.
The Calgary Southeast MP, a prolife activist who was drawn into the Catholic Church by Pope John Paul II, actively supported the invasion of Iraq, where an estimated 13,000 combatants and civilians were killed.
The pope said the war was morally unjustified and called on Catholics worldwide to oppose it. Kenney disagreed.
Speaking at a May 24 meeting of the Men of Integrity, Kenney noted many Christian politicians don't speak out on what they believe in for fear of being perceived as trying to impose their religious faith on society.
That's particularly true of the last six prime ministers, who were personally opposed to the "deliberate destruction of human life" but failed to manifest that conviction in their political life.
"As a Catholic legislator I cannot and do not seek to impose my Catholic faith on anybody," Kenney said. "But that does not preclude us from speaking on behalf of the promotion of the inviolable dignity of the human person. Those are common values that all people of faith and no faith can grasp and understand."
Kenney, who became a Catholic in the mid-1980s while attending university in San Francisco, was the guest speaker at a Men of Integrity Breakfast at Providence Renewal Centre. Some 50 men attended. The event's theme was, Can you be a Man of Faith and also a Politician?
Kenney believes politics and faith do mix, although that goes against the grain. At the breakfast he declared politics his God-given vocation, something he felt inclined to from a young age. Actually, he had a sense his life could unfold in two directions: politics or the priesthood.
But politics always came naturally to Kenney, a gifted speaker and coalition builder who as a university student leader made headlines in California trying to ban abortion groups from the university and fighting against gay rights in San Francisco.
"Even though I had natural political skills, I thought this couldn't be right," he said of this strange mixture of faith and politics. Then he read Pope John Paul's encyclical The Gospel of Life and became convinced politics and faith can go together.
The encyclical describes political activity as "a necessary form of charity in the promotion of the Gospel," Kenney explained. "It made a big impact on me."
Kenney said his decision to join the Church was confirmed by meeting Mother Teresa of Calcutta an hour after he was received into the Church. That led him to volunteer at an AIDS hospice run by the Missionaries of Charity.
Political activity is "a necessary form of charity n the promotion of the Gospel."
- Jason Kenney
Her Christ-like love and kindness towards the marginalized deepened his commitment to his faith. "That was a moving experience because it demonstrated to me what charity really is."
Kenney credited Pope John Paul with drawing him into the Church. "You can still hear in that aging voice the personification of love and moral authority unlike any other in the world," he said.
But the pontiff's moral authority was outweighed by Kenney's interpretation of his public responsibility as an MP. While the pope prayed for peace and called on his flock to follow suit, Kenney was busy in Calgary organizing rallies to show support for the invasion.
At the breakfast, he said he supported the attack on Iraq because it was the only way to liberate the Iraqi people of the tyranny of Saddam Hussein.
Church documents make it clear, he said, that in certain instances "lethal violence can be used in the defence of life."
And he said the determination of whether a particular war is just lies exclusively with the responsible public authority, not priests or bishops. In this case "the responsible public authority would be President Bush and me," he explained.
"So I take issue with those bishops who made what sounded like magisterial pronouncements about the legitimacy of that conflict," Kenney said in response to a question. "They did not have the authority to make such a declaration. They can offer an opinion which I would take very seriously but ultimately I am called upon by the Church itself as a responsible public authority to make a credential decision."
Added Kenney: "I believe in prudence that there was an obligation, ultimately, eventually to use limited, proportional force to remove one of the world's most dangerous fascist dictators . . . who used chemical and biological weapons against his own people."