There has been plenty of comment already about the federal government requiring applicants for certain summer employment programs to pledge support for its permissive abortion policies as a condition for participation in such programs. These comments came essentially from aggrieved organizations that had to curtail some of their activities as a result of these rules, and from commentators, including me. Of greater natural interest was a recent generally circulated letter from the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Toronto, Thomas Cardinal Collins. Cardinal Collins is a very judicious man who never strays out of his proper areas of concern and is far from a controversialist. Canada, too, has had its share of attention-seeking clergy, such as Calgary’s Bishop Fred Henry, endlessly opining on economic matters like the personification of Lenin’s useful idiot, an earnest Christian socialist, or Bishop Remi de Roo, another anti-capitalist bishop, whose sails, however, were deprived of wind when it was revealed that he had squandered millions of dollars of church money in unauthorized real estate and horse-breeding ventures.
Cardinal Collins is a moderate, unpretentious, pleasant, highly intelligent and thoughtful man, what all civic-minded people, co-religionists or not, wish in a cardinal archbishop. In his letter, the cardinal writes on behalf of “thousands of groups across the country,” making it clear that he is not speaking only of his own denomination, nor of faith-affiliated organizations only, and not for reasons confined to varying opinions about abortion. He cites a summer camp for deaf children, employment for developmentally challenged young people, students working as gardeners for the summer and groups assembled to welcome newcomers to the country among the community services in his archdiocese that would be negatively affected.
The cardinal writes on behalf of ‘thousands of groups across the country’
Among those he cited as being in solidarity with him were the Canadian Council of Christian Charities, the Canadian Council of Imams, the Rabbinical Council of America, and the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada. And he wrote that many of his parishes “are holding collections to support local groups denied funding this year,” and asked for contributions for them (at bit.ly/donatesummerjobs).
What is potentially of more lasting importance, Cardinal Collins wrote, is that “We should all take notice when a government claims to value the faith communities but requires them to profess a set of values which is against their faith in order to be eligible for government funding. The government must abide by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms in its treatment of law-abiding individuals and groups. The fundamental freedoms of conscience and religion, thought, belief, opinion, and expression, as guaranteed in the Charter, must be respected and affirmed in legislation, regulations, and policy.” He added that “we continue to pray for all those in elected political office,” and urged everyone to write a “respectful communication” of “deep concern” to their local MPs (via savesummerjobs.ca). The authorities could not ask for a more polite reproof, but that does not mean that it does not constitute a serious challenge.
We should all take notice when a government claims to value the faith communities but requires them to profess a set of values which is against their faith
The first step in sea changes in society are rarely noticeable. Cardinal Collins has not crossed the Rubicon. But the Boston Tea Party was a bunch of irritated Americans disguised as native Indians seizing trunks of tea and throwing them into the harbour. In his diary on July 14, 1789, though the Bastille was stormed and a couple of pickpockets and a notorious rake were released, King Louis XVI wrote that nothing of interest had occurred. In November 1917, the young Isaiah Berlin, then of St. Petersburg, was assured by his wise uncle that the Bolsheviks would be gone in three weeks.
In the one case as in the other, that is perhaps true — that the intent was good. But it is authoritarian and assertive of rights the state, and a mere professional regulator exercising a legislated empowerment, do not possess. It is an early foretaste of a bitter chalice that our democratic authorities and their anonymous, officious underlings cannot resist forcing upon those they govern, unaccustomed and reluctant as we are to resist. A dual offensive is underway, of anti-theism and of political correctness in the atomization of society into infinite numbers of sub-groups, each symbolically pandered to as the traditional majority is implicitly derided for oppression of its constituent groups. Any resistance to anything on religious grounds is silently regarded as superstitious idiocy and denounced as blurring the distinction between church and state, a meaningless and fatuous charge in contemporary Western society. That is merely a diaphanous cover for the state brushing aside a straw man in search of votes and in the name of modernism.
It is an early foretaste of a bitter chalice that our democratic authorities and their anonymous, officious underlings cannot resist forcing upon those they govern
Cardinal Collins has given what may be ‘all the warning they are going to get’
Cardinal Collins has given what may be “all the warning they are going to get,” (in the immortal words of Col. Reginald Dyer, as he ordered his men to fire on the agitating crowd at Amritsar in 1919, well portrayed in the film “Gandhi”). The right of a person to believe that the unborn also have rights, including the right not to be exterminated, is a conscientious and defensible, though debatable, position. In taking the step it has in the relatively marginal area of government-assisted summer employment, the federal government has entered a minefield. With rare exceptions, those who govern are rarely sophisticated or agile navigators through dangerous policy areas. The policy opposed by Cardinal Collins is outrageous, oppressive, and verges on evil, and is almost certainly illegal. Those in elected authority show no sign of realizing this, which makes it likely that their discovery of that fact will be most disagreeable. In this matter, the federal government has the legitimacy of temporary executive office, of being politically correct; the cardinal has the legitimacy of being morally and legally correct. It is a quietly announced contest, in all senses, of wrong and right, good and bad.