Editorial: Conscience Matters

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Elsewhere in this issue of The Catholic register, John Milloy, former MPP for Ontario, eloquently explains why and how Catholics should continue to be involved in politics.

Following Pope Francis, who drew a line of continuity with Pope Benedict XVI, Milloy argues that it is our duty as faithful citizens to make politics the focus of the Catholic appeal for charity . His experience informs his reasoning as to why we cannot shirk our democratic responsibilities.

At the right time for the impending provincial election in Ontario, Milloy identifies key issues in accord with gospel truth and Catholic social teaching. We agree with him that these are crucial political issues that Catholics need to think about thoughtfully and selflessly. There is one concern to add. This is a question that should be asked of all holders of potential representatives at the federal and provincial levels.

It is this: “Do you agree that Catholic citizens should be welcome to raise Catholic awareness and raise informed Catholic voices on issues of public debate, policy-making and parliamentary conduct? A warning might be: “Think carefully; there is a vote on your answer.

The question is profoundly important because we are at a time in Canadian political life when issues important to consciences shaped by the Catholic faith are being declared illegitimate for public debate. Over the past 60 years, Catholics have become increasingly circumspect about the use of theological language in the civic sphere. Now only isolated anti-papist fanatics bother to accuse Catholic politicians of taking orders directly from the “Purrrrrpppple Whoooore of Rome”.

But as we have seen in the recent absurd parliamentary comedies about the potential change of abortion laws in the foreign country to the south, we are in some ways worse off than in the days of blatant anti-Catholic bigotry . There is no fear that we will use legislative scheming to draw everyone to the one true church. The point of attack is when we speak in secular language about secular issues from secular perspectives shaped by wisdom and truth that inform the Catholic conscience.

Thus, Prime Minister Trudeau has taken a leap forward by promising to pass legislation that will prevent any parliamentarian from introducing bills affecting abortion. He even, reaching out to the impossibly too distant stars, promised to prevent future parliaments from considering such measures.

Far worse has been Quebec Premier Francois Legault’s demand that no political party in the province be allowed to nominate candidates who identify as pro-life and anti-abortion. It is nothing less than a demand for the disenfranchisement of faithful Catholic citizens. This is an intolerable attack on our faith. Most pernicious of all, it was met with a shrug by most of the media-politics nexus.

Catholic citizens should insist that such dangerous disregard for our rights of conscience is unconscionable. We must demand that those to whom we give our votes believe the same.

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