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In Canada, as in America and elsewhere, Catholic political leaders ignore the teachings of the Church
Americans disgusted with their own politicians who identify themselves as Catholic but support legal abortion should look next door.
Canada just reelected Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as chief of its government. He defeated Erin O’Toole, in a robustly open, democratic, systematic election on Sept. 20.
The names tell it all. Trudeau, from Montreal, is as French as crepes suzette. O’Toole is as Irish as Paddy’s pig. Both openly say that they belong to the Catholic Church. Both insist that abortion on demand, and for that matter, same-gender marriage, must be lawful in Canada.
Since 1970, when abortion on demand began to be allowed, eight men and one woman have served as prime minister in Canada. Five of them — Pierre Trudeau, the present incumbent’s late father, Brian Mulrooney, Jean Chretien, Paul Martin and now Justin Trudeau — were elected, and served, while professing to be faithful Catholics. These five have dominated Canadian life and molded public policy for a generation. All, without a single exception, supported, or support, abortion politically.
Catholic Americans obviously focus their attention on their own political leaders and demand that bishops in the United States do something, but politicians of this type represent a worldwide problem, and a worldwide scandal, from Argentina to Austria, and it is nothing new, occurring during five consecutive papacies — St. Paul VI, John Paul I, St. John Paul II, Benedict XVI and now Pope Francis. Probably thousands of bishops have seen it, trembling as they see the wider picture.
Impatience with American bishops as they approach their discussion about the Eucharist should be tempered by realizing the global, and historic, scope, and core, of the problem. As Pope Francis said only weeks ago, flying from Slovakia to Rome, abortion, plain and simple, is killing a human being. It is hard to find anything as evil.
The conduct of these politicians reveals, however, more insidious problems confronting not only traditional morality, the Catholic Church, institutional religion itself, but belief in a higher power.
It is clear. Fewer and fewer people judge themselves by standards beyond, and outside, themselves. “Feelings,” instincts or hunches rule the day.
Second, and consequently, churches of all varieties mean less and less when it comes to defining and applying morality. Churches, and their representatives, are intruders, not welcomed resources.
Third, and inevitably, any notion about God is fuzzy and scattered.
Fourth, does God even exist?
No one can delve deep into the consciences of every politician in this category to have held office in the past half century, but it is not inappropriate in the least to note the harm that they have abetted. Abortion is legal probably in most places in the Western world.
How different things might have been, and might be, if Catholics in public office stood on the principles unambiguously, publicly, often loudly and without pause spoken by the Church to which they say that they adhere!
Again, without belittling abortion, how blessed it also would be if political leaders of Catholic origins pressed for policies that agree with Church understandings of morality, from health care to nuclear weapons.
The final, critical point in this less than happy reflection is that in the major countries, except China and Russia, and in many others, political leaders serve only because people elect them, as, for example, Canada’s prime ministers.
No prime minister has been seated in Canada, ever in its history, without going through the prescribed, constitutional, democratic, free process. Ireland, with its Catholic history, has never known a dictator. Neither has traditionally Catholic Belgium. Voting majorities put advocates for abortion in high office in these places.
Badly needed across humankind is the realization that people made bad judgments, as often as not. People need God. He is there for them.
Msgr. Owen F. Campion is OSV’s chaplain.