Canadian Bishops Go Green

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by Christine Niles, M.St. (Oxon.), J.D.  •  ChurchMilitant.com  •  August 19, 2015   

Their new federal election guide devotes more time to environmental reform than to saving the unborn

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OTTAWA, August 19, 2015 (ChurchMilitant.com) - Canada's bishops have issued an election guide that devotes more time to environmental concerns than it does to protection of the unborn.

Issued this month by the Episcopal Commission on Peace and Justice, a national commission of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB), the document purports to provide guidance to lay faithful on how to vote for politicians. Most striking is that the guide only devotes a single line to fighting for the lives of the preborn (which are killed to the tune of at least 65,000 per year in a country with the laxest abortion laws in the world), while devoting multiple admonitions on immigrants' and workers' rights as well as an entire section on the environment.

The first section, titled "Respect for life and human dignity: from conception to natural death," offers examples of what the bishops deem essential to "choosing life." The right to life of "the human embryo and the foetus" is one duty on the list, along with the obligation to fight capital punishment and poverty, among other things. The guide fails to list a hierarchy of duties by priority, and gives the impression that fighting poverty is equal in importance to fighting abortion.

This is problematic, as it represents the seamless garment theory — a notion coined by Chicago cardinal Joseph Bernardin that equates the importance of protecting the unborn with fighting poverty, hunger, oppression, capital punishment and the like. The Catholic Church has always held, however, that abortion is an intrinsic evil and can never be justified, whereas capital punishment can be justly applied in some circumstances, and therefore cannot rank in level of gravity as the crime of abortion. 

Nowhere in the document is there any mention of contraception — a historical sticking point for the Canadian bishops, who issued the notorious Winnipeg Statement, which rejected Humanae Vitae and its re-affirmation of Church teaching that artificial birth control is intrinsically evil. Issued in 1968 only two months after Humanae Vitae, the Canadian bishops have never formally retracted the heterodox statement.

An entire section of the 2015 election guide is devoted to environmentalist concerns, and includes admonitions for:

  • Implementing responsible stewardship practices for the environment;
  • Honoring international agreements to reduce greenhouse gas emissions;
  • Reducing our dependence on fossil fuels;
  • Taking steps to control urban pollution;
  • Introducing forms of transportation that are less harmful to the health of citizens and the environment;
  • Encouraging companies to invest in renewable energy and energy efficiency;
  • Developing natural resources without harming the quality of life in communities;
  • Protecting water as an essential resource;
  • Bequeathing a sustainable and healthy environment to future generations.

In other sections, multiple sentences are devoted to immigrants' and workers' rights. The guide also encourages the elimination of "nuclear, chemical and biological weapons" as well as "strict worldwide controls on the sales of small arms and personal weapons"; ensuring "pay equity between men and women"; facilitating "access to drinking water"; and standing "in solidarity and dialogue with Indigenous communities," among other concerns.

ChurchMilitant.com reached out to pro-life leaders in Canada and the United States to get their response to the election guide. Patrick Craine, Canadian Bureau Chief for LifeSiteNews.com, says that the guide "is a real problem because it confuses this basic point and thus gives Catholics cover to vote for pro-abortion, pro-same-sex 'marriage' candidates."

The guide gives a laundry list of policy proposals without any indication of their relative weight. I would say it's guilty of the same distorted "seamless garment" notion that we've recently criticized Abp. Cupich for, when he said we should be "no less appalled" by unemployment as we are by Planned Parenthood's sale of aborted babies' body parts.

Michael Hichborn, president of the Lepanto Institute, told ChurchMilitant.com that "this guide is almost a carbon copy of the Sustainable Development Goals" and "is particularly disturbing in that it makes absolutely no distinction between those matters which are intrinsically evil, such as abortion and contraception, and those matters which bear no moral weight at all, such as reducing a dependence on fossil fuels."

What really sticks out about this guide isn't so much in what it says, but in what it doesn't say. There is absolutely no mention of homosexuality, homosexual adoption or same-sex "marriage" in this document at all. This is an egregious dereliction of duty, considering the issues surrounding homosexual activities are the keystone issues of our day which will ultimately determine the survival or destruction of Western civilization as we know it.

Canada's Episcopal Commission on Justice and Peace is tasked with assisting "the Canadian Bishops in their role as moral teachers in accordance with the social teachings of the Church and the CCCB's pastoral objectives." ChurchMilitant.com reached out to the Commission for comment, but as of press time has received no response.

Patrick Craine's full comments follow:

A Catholic must always vote for the pro-life, pro-family candidate. In Canada there is no issue that comes anywhere near the gravity of these two issues, so voting here is generally a simple affair. In every federal election, there is a pro-life candidate in almost every riding, whether from the Conservative Party or the Christian Heritage Party, so you vote for that candidate.

The bishops' election guide, which looks essentially like a recycled version of the bishops' guide from 2011, is a real problem because it confuses this basic point and thus gives Catholics cover to vote for pro-abortion, pro-same-sex "marriage" candidates.

The guide gives a laundry list of policy proposals without any indication of their relative weight. I would say it's guilty of the same distorted "seamless garment" notion that we've recently criticized Abp. Cupich for, when he said we should be "no less appalled" by unemployment as we are by Planned Parenthood's sale of aborted babies' body parts.

Many of the issues the guide raises are important, such as caring for the poor, but the way the guide is framed gives them undue weight. In other cases the guide presents policy proposals that are actually more about certain bishops' personal political inclinations than anything. One that sticks out for me is pay equity, which is a complex issue that goes far beyond the Church's recognition of the equal dignity of the sexes. Catholics can reasonably debate an issue like pay equity, but the guide presents it as a requirement of the Faith, and I would say very much misrepresents Catholic teaching in doing so.

Frankly, I would urge Catholics not to use or promote this guide and follow the one offered by Campaign Life Coalition, which is based on Pope Benedict's very clear teaching that there are certain "non-negotiable" issues that need to come first at the ballot box: for example, abortion, same-sex "marriage," euthanasia and cloning. In the Canadian context, those are the kinds of issues a truly Catholic election guide should focus on.

Euthanasia is especially crucial right now, and the bishops should be using their moral authority to make it a major election issue. Our Supreme Court has just thrown out our ban on euthanasia, and the next government will be charged with responding.

 

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