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Exceptions to divine principle?

Pro-life reflections on abortion bill C-43

The debate over Bill C-43, engineered in 1990 by then Prime Minister Brian Mulroney as "compromise" abortion legislation, continues to disturb the prolife forces. The bill was narrowly approved in the House of Commons but defeated in the Senate in January 1991 by a vote of 43 to 43.

What was most disturbing was that the delegation from the CCCB, the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, under the presidency of Bishop Lebel of Valleyfield, Que., supported the controversial legislation even after Brian Mulroney flatly rejected their proposed amendments which, they had said earlier, were mandatory to make Bill C-43 acceptable.

On the other hand, the bulk of pro-life activists in the country, including Campaign Life Coalition, Alliance for Life, and REAL Women, continued to oppose the Bill as unacceptable both from a practical pro-life view and from a doctrinal Christian point of view (see, e.g., C.I. Jan/Feb, 96, April 97, and Dr. Dooley's article just ahead, pp....? ) In other words, this legislation wasn't only legally and politically controversial for Canadians at large, but led to a split between Catholic pro-life activists throughout the country on the one side and CCCB staff in their Ottawa offices on the other. At the time, The Interim newspaper published a 12-page line-by-line critique of the CCCB submission, showing its inadequacy. It behooves us therefore, to continue paying close attention to the arguments involved.

Below, retired Vancouver lawyer, Humphrey Waldock, author of Blind Goddess: Law without Christ (reviewed in CI in May 1998) explains the necessity of adhering to God's principles when considering the legitimacy of any bill which purports to regulate the killing of the unborn.

A "health" exception to the abortion section of the Canadian Criminal Code was introduced in 1969 but twenty years' practice had proved that the gaping hole caused by the word "health" had rendered the divine principle utterly nugatory: there was abortion on demand.

In January 1988, the Supreme Court of Canada in R. v. Morgentaler struck down the abortion section, inviting Parliament to enact a new section. The Conservative government, in response to general indignation, introduced Bill C-43, which was passed in 1990 by the House of Commons. It provided as follows:

287. (1) Every person who induces an abortion on a female person is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years, unless the abortion is induced by or under the direction of a medical practitioner who is of the opinion that, if the abortion were not induced, the health or life of the female person would be likely to be threatened.

The Canadian Senate defeated the bill by a tied vote under pressure from both the pro-life movement and the abortion movement, although the bill was supported by a wide range of those who opposed abortion on demand, including the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops.

The "realistic" supporters of the bill said that a weak abortion statute is better than no law at all; they said that they would have been able to save at least some lives with that section, however weak it was; they cited the words of Pope John Paul II in Evangelium vitae, para.73:

When it is not possible to overturn or completely abrogate a pro abortion law, an elected official, whose absolute personal opposition to procurement abortion was well known, could licitly support proposals aimed at limiting the harm done by such a law and at lessening its negative consequences at the level of general opinion and public morality.

And in para. 90, where he urges legislators to make those choices which, taking into account what is realistically attainable, will lead to the reestablishment of a just order in the defence and promotion of the value of life.

The issue at hand

Since then, from time to time, "realists" have uttered recriminations against pro-lifers, blaming them for the lack of any legislation to control abortion. The "realists" have grasped at the clear proclamation at the beginning of the section proposed in Bill C-43, which condemned the killing of unborn human life, but they have underestimated not only the exception, but also the deadly general effect of exceptions upon divine principle and authority.

General commentary

First, 'exceptions destroy principles.' How? Why? Exceptions discriminate and offend against Section 15 of the Charter; for example, in Rodriguez where an exception in favour of doctor-assisted suicide was sought, Justice A. Hollinrake, (1993) 22 B.C.A.C 266 at 290-291, held that if Parliament has legislated exceptions to a principle, it shows that the principle is not absolute, so that the court becomes entitled to interfere. During argument in the Supreme Court of Canada in Rodriguez, questions were asked by the judges: "Why limit suicide to the terminally ill?" "Why limit euthanasia to the conscious?" "Why not for physical or mental handicap?" "Why not for crime or political persuasion?" "Why limit agents to doctors?" No sound answer could be given.

One exception justifies another and another, because each exception discriminates in favour of the next one; exceptions to a rule become a rule of exceptions; exceptions to the principle accumulate until exception becomes the principle. Remember the history of exceptions in divorce, contraception, and pornography.

Other principles

Secondly, one exception to one principle justifies exceptions to all other principles. In Rodriguez, Justice Beverly McLachlin, for the minority in the Supreme Court of Canada, [1994] 3 S.c.R. 519, supported her assault upon the Christian principle of sanctity of life at p. 601:

As my colleague [Justice] Sopinka would have it: "Active participation by one individual in the death of another is intrinsically morally and legally wrong."

The answer to this is that Parliament has not exhibited a consistent intention to criminalize acts which cause the death of another.

When exceptions finally make all principles irrelevant, the Author of those principles becomes first irrelevant, then despised, and lastly hated. This is because God and His principles are one; "....and the Word was God" (John 1:1).

From Evangelium vitae (Gospel of life, 1995), para 48:

"It is thus the Law as a whole which fully protects human life... Detached from this wider framework, the commandment is destined to become nothing more than an obligation imposed from without, and very soon we begin to look for its limits and try to find mitigating factors and exceptions...

"To celebrate the Gospel of Life means to celebrate the God of life.... We must celebrate Eternal Life from which every other life proceeds.... Life grants life.... The Principle of Life, the Cause and sole Wellspring of Life..., every living thing must contemplate it and give it praise: it is Life which overflows with life" (para 84).

God's principles must never be compromised. Individual breaches may be tolerated or forgiven, but as each statute is didactic as well as penal, in legislation each principle must be resolutely defended. Discretion whether to enforce the principle is available in individual cases; mercy and forgiveness are also available; but the "realists" blur the distinctions between God's principles and His other means of adjusting human affairs through mercy, forgiveness, and discretion. We may compromise in order to advance God's principles, but never may we compromise God's principles in order to save lives.

From Evangelium vitae:

"God's commandments teach us the way of life. The negative moral precepts, which declare that the choice of certain actions is not morally acceptable, have an absolute value for human freedom: they are valid always and everywhere, without exception" (para 75).

Lives may be given up for a greater good, in particular for the Gospel. As Jesus said:

"Whoever would save his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life for my sake and the Gospel's will save it" (Mark 8:35).

The "pragmatists" claim that they would have been able to save at least some lives; however, any saved by the compromise would have been outnumbered by those lost by the destruction of Divine principle and authority; the pragmatic compromise would have failed to comply with the principles of double effect in several ways.

Man made God

Thirdly, the "realists" have agreed to the proclaiming of the substitution of scientific opinion for divine wisdom: doctors, as well as God, shall have the privilege to decide what human life is worthy of life; bring on eugenics, bring on Auschwitz.

From Evangelium vitae:

"No thing and no authority can recommend or permit in any way the killing of an innocent human being, nor can it be consented to. There are no privileges or exceptions for anyone" (para 57).

"While public authority can sometimes choose not to put a stop to something which--were it prohibited-- would cause more serious harm, it can never presume to legitimize as a right of individuals--even if they are the majority of the members of society--an offence against other persons caused by the disregard of so fundamental a right as the right to life" (para 71).

The function of law is threefold: (1) the vis directiva, directing man to heaven; (2) the vis normativa, proclaiming the norms, principles, and standards for man to aim at; and (3) the vis coactiva, compelling miscreants not to interfere with the innocent (D'Entreves, Natural Law, page 131).

As for Bill C-43

1. The bill directed man away from heaven because it

(a) proclaimed that Parliament may derogate from divine principle;

(b) licensed the medical profession to kill (like so many agents 007);

(c) coopted the legal profession to justify a Holocaust;

(d) opened a door for the courts to derogate further from divine principle via the Charter discrimination principles.

2. The bill was repugnant to the norms needed to achieve heaven because it

(a) sanctified human sacrifice;

(b) proclaimed that doctors may determine whether human life is worthy

(c) invited exceptions to become the rule in all moral issues;

(d) implied that pregnancy may be unhealthy.

3. The bill failed to protect the innocent because it

(a) was calculated to prevent no abortions, according to Morgentaler, and Ministers of Justice Kim Campbell and Doug Lewis;

(b) would have given a foundation for arguments by analogy to attack all other Christian principles with exceptions;

(c) would have given no foundation to any argument to defeat a bubble zone, an injunction, or government funding of abortion.

Not law

Therefore the bill failed to qualify as law in any functional sense whatever. It would have caused continuing erosion of divine principle; the government, the Members of Parliament, and the pragmatists would have contented themselves by saying that everything possible had been done; gradually the "conscience of the nation" would have been "darkened" so that it would have accepted abortion upon demand as an inevitable fact of life, just as it has accepted divorce, pornography, obscenity, fornication, homosexuality, prostitution, and all the other perversions of the Culture of Death (Evangelium vitae, para. 24).

The culture of death--not theology

Bill C-43 did not qualify under Evangelium vitae, para 73, as it could not "limit harm" or "lessen the negative consequences," nor did it qualify under Evangelium vitae, para. 90, because it could not "lead to the reestablishment of a just order in the defence and promotion of the value of life"; it was not just or orderly, nor was it defensive or promotive of the value of life. It would have been "a law without freedom in place of freedom without law" (Evangelium vitae, para. 23). The bill was a sham.

Martin Luther King wrote a famous letter from Birmingham jail in 1963 to eight white clergymen, including four bishops, who had "realistically" condemned his non-violent civil disobedience as "extremism." He pointed out that the "moderate" Christian clergymen were "the great stumbling block" to the civil rights movement rather than any of its frank opponents. The same applies here; the worst stumbling blocks that now obstruct the pro-life movement are sincere, well-meaning Christian "realists" who compromise Divine Principle. Alas, they have been seduced by the Devil to betray God, his principles and his people. Pragmatic compromise of Devine Principle is not Christian.

Let us therefore refrain from recrimination about the stillborn bill, and join Pope John Paul II in Evangelium vitae, para. 90:

"For this reason I urgently appeal once more to all political leaders not to pass laws which, by disregarding the dignity of the person, undermine the very fabric of society."

Chapters 160 and 575 in my book The Blind Goddess discuss the dangers of exceptions. The Blind Goddess is offered in two versions: a student edition in a spiro binder for $125.00 and a professional edition in a hard-cover three- ring binder for $150.00 which I hope to update from time to time, God willing.
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Title Annotation:Canada's abortion bill C-43
Author:Waldock, Humphrey
Publication:Catholic Insight
Geographic Code:1CANA
Date:Sep 1, 2000
Words:2124
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