Mark Pickup

April 9, 2012

There was a television news story recently that told of a young single mother they called Marie (not her real name) who has a severe case of multiple sclerosis. Her condition has degenerated so quickly that she needs a nanny to care for her two small children.

Marie's pleas to the government for help were met with advice to put her children up for adoption. That was the bureaucratic answer. To make matters worse, the government threatened to apprehend her children. Marie was broken-hearted.

When her plight was featured on television I became enraged at the government's inappropriate response.

Her situation cut close to home for me. I remember the terrible early years after being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. I was filled with grief at losing my health and career. If my children had been apprehended, I think I might have lost my will to live.

People have breaking points. My family meant the world to me (they still do) just like Marie's family means the world to her.

I was not the only person to be outraged at the government's handling of Marie's predicament. Many Albertans were angry. They wanted to help Marie and quickly set up a trust fund to try and pay for the nanny she needed. They let their views be known, in no uncertain terms, to their provincial politicians to help Marie.

The timing was perfect. Marie's case came to public knowledge just as an election was announced. Government bureaucrats were ordered by the minister to assist Marie to care for her children and keep her family together.

There is an old principle in politics: If the politician at the top gets roasted, he/she is likely to share the heat down the chain of command. Apparently that's what happened with Marie's case. As of my writing this column, the threat of breaking up her family has passed and Marie will get the child care she desperately needs.

This was an example of community action changing things. Many citizens successfully stood up against a giant Goliath of government indifference. Rigid adherence to policies was wrong; creative solutions were needed that involved various departments and programs.

There is a role for Catholics to play in cases like Marie before they become desperate. She is not the only disabled Albertan to fall between the cracks of government services and programs.


The Catholic community can and should continually advocate in their towns and cities for a moral vision that protects and cares for the inviolable dignity of every person and the sanctity of the family. We are pro-life.

Being pro-life means so much more than opposing abortion and euthanasia. In its truest sense, being pro-life means that we uphold the value of every human life from conception to natural death.

We are concerned with the inalienable and natural human dignity of every human being. We must encourage people to reach their potential and remove impediments from them reaching their full inclusion in society.

In the wake of the scandal of the government's treatment of Marie, there needs to be policy changes to ensure other disabled parents get supports tailored to their situations and needs. We can be agents to encourage those changes.

The Catholic community can work with government not only in developing better policies but in service delivery to families impacted by disabilities. Government and community faith based partnerships must be strengthened, expanded and actively encouraged.


We are called to take the love of Christ to our communities. Faithful Catholics have a vital role to play in secular society. We must work toward a moral consensus that is committed to the inviolable dignity of every human life and the sanctity of marriage, under the lordship of Jesus Christ.

Many columns ago I wrote that the brotherhood of man needs the fatherhood of God. Why? Because the best human compassion and the finest of human intentions, without the love of God, will inevitably become selective, coercive and arbitrary - and turn the lives of the weakest among us into hell on earth.

The abortionist probably doesn't hate children per se, he thinks he does a favour for women in crisis pregnancies. The euthanasia advocate honestly believes he is eliminating suffering by killing the sick or disabled person. They operate outside a Christian moral consensus.

The Catholic Church, through its people, has been a resolute and faithful witness to a moral consensus that reflects the love of Christ.