A letter from Canada, as it were. Those in the United States who assume that Canada is irrelevant should realize that the social and moral policies of the country tend to move south rather quickly. In other words, what begins in Canada often spills over to the U.S. and is eventually embraced by Americans.
The abortion issue is particularly pertinent because many politicians on the American political left and within organized liberalism revere the Canadian model and want to replicate it. That model includes publicly funded abortion at any stage of a pregnancy. If a woman is under age and living at home, the medical authorities have no obligation to inform her parents—and may be prosecuted if they do so. To publicly question this now-established wisdom is to risk media and political crucifixion, and even the country’s Conservative Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, has said that he has no intention of reopening the abortion debate.
Until recently it looked as though it couldn’t get any worse. But we were wrong.
My friend Fr. Stefano Penna, who holds a doctorate in philosophy from Yale, is one of the most intelligent, thoughtful, and balanced men I know. A native of Saskatchewan and the Canadian prairies, he is now in charge of training Catholic seminarians for nearly all of western Canada. He wrote recently to me. “Just sent this to the liberals: four generations of Liberal voters ended for my family today. Justin’s anti-free speech and anti-life diktat is appalling. You just lost the 26 votes of my clan. I will have no choice as a lecturer and teacher who engages over 10,000 people a year across Canada but to vocally advocate against Trudeau liberalism.”
The reason for Fr. Penna’s letter was that the leader of Canada’s Liberal Party—long considered the natural party of government—publicly stated that he will no longer accept as Liberal candidates for the Canadian House of Commons any men or women who object in any way to abortion on demand. Justin Trudeau, son of former Liberal leader and Canadian Prime Minister Pierre, did not say that he was pro-choice or that his party supported abortion; rather, he said that anyone who did not blindly support the pro-abort view would not be welcome within the party ranks. Trudeau may well be Canada’s next Prime Minister, and his party might rule Canada for many years to come.
Justin Trudeau is a Catholic, as have been almost all of the leaders of the Liberal Party, under which so many of the Church’s moral beliefs have been attacked, condemned, opposed, and removed from our country’s way of life. Trudeau was married as a Catholic, receives the sacraments, and often describes himself as a faithful member of the Roman Catholic Church. He is seldom reprimanded when he does so.
The New Democratic Party (NDP), a socialist and social democratic party that has governed several provinces, is currently the federal opposition but has never formed a national government. As soon as Trudeau made his latest comments, the NDP immediately made it clear that it also banned pro-life candidates. The NDP leader’s enthusiasm in making it clear that it wasn’t only the Liberals who had enshrined baby slaughter was, frankly, nauseating.
That leaves Canada’s Conservative Party, currently the largest party in parliament and the reigning government. There are hundreds of pro-life Conservative or Tory candidates, dozens of pro-life Tory MPs, and several pro-life Tory cabinet ministers. All of that is encouraging, and it is difficult to imagine a time when pro-lifers would be banned from running for the Conservatives. That said, however, the one or two Tory MPs who have dared to introduce even mildly pro-life legislation have been quickly criticized and even ostracized by the party machine, and even senior ministers who are pro-life say little, if anything, in public about their views. It’s also clear that at the grassroots level, there are campaigns in certain areas to remove pro-life candidates and replace them with socially liberal alternatives.
The irony is that millions of Canadians oppose abortion but have long voted Liberal. They’ve had to hold their noses a little but have explained and justified their decision by pointing out that while Liberals have been dreadful on the issue, they have never persecuted pro-lifers or stopped them from running as MPs. Actually, that’s not entirely true, but there were just enough pro-life Liberal MPs to make the dubious claim appear genuine. Liberal pro-life voters also argued that the NDP was worse and that Conservatives refused to genuinely oppose abortion. That is all true, but now everything has changed. In the name of protecting choice, the Liberals have removed actual choice from every Liberal man or woman who objects to any aspect of abortion.
But liberalism and support for the Liberal Party run deep among Catholics in Canada, and I know some senior Catholic clergy who still go weak at the knees at the mere thought of Justin Trudeau and his clan. Put directly, the Catholic Church’s leaders in Canada have for too long appeared to prefer establishment acceptance to standing firm and loud on central issues. One or two [bishops] make their concerns clear, but they are few and their opposition amounts to words rather than action. Of course, it is difficult to take on a leading and powerful politician and, yes, doing so will result in problems and conflict. But how much worse must it get before the Church’s religious and lay leadership draws a line in the sand and makes it clear that the Liberals have been knocking down Catholic sandcastles for decades?
There was a time when Catholics voted Liberal because they were Irish or other immigrants and viewed the Conservatives as the party of wealth, Anglicanism, and even anti-Catholicism. But that was a long, long time ago. Yet Catholic voting patterns—not unlike those of other communities—tend to be very slow to change. Combine this with years of appalling catechesis of ordinary Catholics—many of whom have no idea what they are to believe, why they are supposed to believe it, or why the Church opposes abortion specifically—and we have a recipe for disaster.
This is all the more reason for the episcopacy to speak out: not with anger or as politicians but with love and as shepherds. Souls of both the born and the unborn are in colossal danger.
The United States is not Canada, of course, but the two nations have numerous, even eerie, similarities. When we see our religious leaders appearing to be just a little more friendly with anti-life politicians than is absolutely necessary, we must politely but firmly remind them of their role; when allegedly Catholic politicians tell us that they support us, but there really is nothing they can do to protect the unborn, insist that there certainly is and that plenty of braver people are prepared to take their places in public office.
Friendly Canada—Catholic Canada—has said too little about life for too long and now faces the consequences. It’s too late to wait and to remain silent; it was too late a very long time ago indeed.