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CCCB: an uncertain trumpet.

The Apostle Paul asked: "If the bugle gives an uncertain sound, who shall prepare for battle?" That's a good question for members of the Episcopal Commission for Social Affairs of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops. In preparation for the impending federal election, the Commission has issued a lamentably indistinct bugle call for Catholic voters in the form of a public statement, "Election 2004: Responsibility and Discernment."

To begin with, the Commission offers the trite observation that, "As citizens, Canadian Catholics have an obligation to be interested in political life and to exercise their civic responsibilities by participating in the electoral process, particularly by voting." That's true enough, but for the great majority of Canadian Catholics, the key question is not whether, but for whom, to vote.

In this respect, the Commission noted: "The Gospel does not give Catholics a specific program of social and political action. Each Catholic must exercise political discernment and prudential judgment. Within a democratic society, there exists a range of legitimate political approaches."

Quite so. But of course, that range of legitimate approaches is circumscribed by basic moral principles. Thus, the Gospel and the Church have made clear that it is illegitimate for any politician or party to manifest indifference for the poor, yet Christians can reasonably disagree on the best means of alleviating poverty.

Take the case of foreign aid. Currently, Canada allocates about 0.22 per cent of its gross domestic product to overseas development assistance. That's about the same as Britain and twice as much as the United States. But it's not nearly enough for the Commission. It says Catholic voters should ask of the political parties and candidates: "How will they increase overseas development assistance to 0.7 percent of Canada's Gross National Product?"

A tripling of Canada's foreign aid might well be appropriate, but that is surely a matter for prudential judgment on which Christians might reasonably disagree. The Commission can cite nothing in the Gospel or the teaching of the Catholic Church to support its view that 0.7 per cent of GNP is the one and only right amount.

This is not to suggest that all political issues are ambiguous. On some vital policy matters, there is no room for disagreement among Christians. Chief among these issues is abortion. No one has put the matter better than Pope John Paul II:

"Direct abortion, that is, abortion willed as an end or as a means, always constitutes a grave moral disorder, since it is the deliberate killing of an innocent human being.... No circumstance, no purpose, no law whatsoever can ever make licit an act which is intrinsically illicit, since it is contrary to the law of God which is written in every human heart, knowable by reason itself and proclaimed by the Church."

In conformity with this teaching, the Commission suggests as the first question for Catholic voters to ask: "What is the position of the candidate and his or her political party on protecting the right to life of all human beings, from conception to natural death?"

Paul Martin, Jack Layton, and most other Liberal, New Democratic Party, and Bloc Quebecois MPs have already given their answer: they will oppose any attempt by any pro-life MP to end Canada's disgrace as the only democracy in the world that provides no legal protection whatsoever for the life of even a healthy and full-term baby in the womb.

In the face of such a cruel and barbaric policy, what should Catholic voters do? On this key point, the Commission on Social Affairs of the CCCB is silent.

Yet the answer is obvious: The Commission should have instructed Catholic voters that they cannot in good conscience support any political party that condones policies like abortion, euthanasia, and so-called gay marriage that run clearly contrary to fundamental principles of the Christian faith as affirmed by the Gospel, the constant teaching of the Catholic Church, and the most solemn pronouncements of Pope John Paul II.

With such a statement, the Commission would have issued a clear and distinct bugle call for the upcoming election. Alas, the members of the Commission chose not to do so. On behalf of the CCCB, they have emitted only an indistinct and confusing sound that is bound to leave many Catholic voters no less morally confused and benighted on vital political issues than our Catholic prime minister.

Rory Leishman is a national affairs columnist for The London Free Press in London, ON. Home page is
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Title Annotation:Columnist; Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops
Author:Leishman, Rory
Publication:Catholic Insight
Geographic Code:1CANA
Date:Jun 1, 2004
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