Margaret Somerville

What is there to hide?

Margaret Somerville
By Margaret Somerville
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“‘Curiouser and curiouser!’ cried Alice (she was so much surprised that, for the moment she quite forgot how to speak good English).”

Two current abortion-in-the-public-square situations in Canada show abortion is much more than a pro-life versus pro-choice conflict, it’s a pro-democracy versus anti-democracy one.

The furor over Stephen Woodward’s private member’s motion in Parliament to discuss whether the unborn child is a human being has been front and centre in the media. Politicians, including the prime minister, and pro-choice advocates have attacked the motion by insisting either there’s nothing to discuss or debate must be silenced. But these are anti-democratic stances taken in our primary democratic institution, in relation to a foundational societal value — that of respect for human life.

Likewise, a recent change in Ontario law to restrict access to abortion information manifests the same clash between pro-democracy values (pro- freedom of speech, pro-transparency, pro-accountability, and so on) and anti-democracy values (denial of these rights). Contrary to strong contemporary trends in the opposite direction, this change moves Ontario from an earned trust position (“Trust me, because I’ll show you that I can be trusted by keeping you fully informed”) to a blind trust position (“Trust me, because I know what’s best for you and will decide for you, so you don’t need information.”)

Effective January 1,  section 65 the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA) was amended to exclude records relating to the provision of abortion services. This means “individuals no longer have a right to make access requests under Part II of FIPPA to an institution for records in the custody or under the control of that institution relating to the provision of abortion services.”

All information relating to abortion held by government institutions or departments in Ontario is now secret. We know doctors billed for over 44,000 abortions in Ontario in 2010, but this type of information will in future be hidden from the public.

This change has ethical implications. It might also raise legal issues. For instance, a right to freedom of speech is seriously curtailed if one is prevented from obtaining the facts needed to form one’s opinion. And we often speak of such restrictions, when they are imposed in non-democratic countries, as a breach of human rights.

This amendment to section 65 was slipped in, it seems silently, as part of Bill 122, an act to increase the financial accountability of organizations in the broader public sector, hardly a title that would alert one to its presence.

Hansard does not record any debate in the Ontario legislature or at the committee hearings on Bill 122 on this change. There appear to be no media reports, which makes it unlikely most Ontarians were aware of it and could have expressed their views to their MLAs prior to its enactment.

FIPPA is meant to augment the transparency, openness and accountability of all levels of government for their decisions and actions, and our right, as Canadian citizens, to participate in democracy and democratic decision-making. My guess is that if the same approach were taken to information on breast cancer, people would be outraged.

The Ontario government might have enacted this law as a response to two kinds of fear: The fear that abortion information could trigger violence between its supporters and opponents, and the fear of political fallout if that happened and from the facts on abortion becoming known.

In the past, the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long Term Care has refused a request under FIPPA for information regarding OHIP records related to abortion, citing “danger to life and physical safety”, “danger to security of a building”, “endangering the safety of service providers”, and a danger of pro-life “violence”, if the information were released. On appeal, the Ontario Information and Privacy Commissioner ordered the ministry to disclose the requested statistics.

A similar situation arose in British Columbia, with an initial denial of access to information on abortion being overridden, on appeal, by the BC Information and Privacy Commissioner. The BC legislature then stepped in to exempt abortion information from disclosure, although the exemption is narrower than Ontario’s.

In 1999, a nurse from Calgary’s Foothills General Hospital leaked confidential documents on terminations of pregnancy on genetic grounds to the Alberta Report. The Calgary Regional Health Authority won an injunction preventing the Report from using the information.

The Court of Queen’s Bench ruled that the patients’ and doctors’ rights to privacy outweighed the public’s right to know what goes on in a hospital, which is correct with respect to personal, nominal information.

Apart from the fear politicians have that whatever they say regarding abortion will lose them votes, the Ontario MLAs might also be trying to pre-empt a pro-life argument that has become increasingly prevalent — that we shouldn’t use public health-care funds for abortion. That argument would be much less compelling if it can’t be shown that multimillions of taxpayer funding are being spent on it.

The government might also want to avoid de-funding abortion, because of the highly vocal outrage that would generate in the pro-choice lobby. Or perhaps, politically, they just want the issue of abortion to go away and hope that secrecy of information will help to achieve that outcome. But that’s not how democracy is supposed to work.

Margaret Somerville is Samuel Gale Professor of Law and Director of the McGill Centre for Medicine, Ethics & Law and is an international leader in the discussion of complex ethical questions in medicine. This article reprinted with permission from mercatornet.com.

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Cardinal Walter Kasper Catholic Church of England and Wales / Flickr
Hilary White Hilary White Follow Hilary

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Kasper: Cardinals defending Catholic teaching on marriage are attacking Pope Francis

Hilary White Hilary White Follow Hilary
By Hilary White

ROME -- Cardinal Walter Kasper, who unveiled a plan at last February’s consistory of cardinals to admit divorced and civilly remarried Catholics to Communion without receiving sacramental absolution, is claiming again in the Italian press that he has Pope Francis’ backing. Kasper said the cardinals who are opposing his plan are, in fact, targeting the pope himself.

In interviews published over the last two days in Italy and Germany, Kasper has depicted himself as a victim of an “ideological” campaign.

“They claim to know on their own what truth is, but Catholic doctrine is not a closed system, but a living tradition that develops,” Kasper said yesterday in the Italian paper Il Matino.  “Some of the next Synod want an ideological war. The doctrine of the Church is open, but they want a crystallized truth.”

Responding to the publication of a book of essays defending traditional teaching by five cardinals and other theologians, Kasper said, “The target of the controversy is not me, but the Pope.”

Asked whether he expects a “doctrinal war in the Synod” Kasper said, “I certainly don’t want it. They perhaps want it. I think of a pastoral Synod.” He added that the pope “also wants a pastoral synod.”

“I’m not naïve,” Kasper said. “I knew that there are other positions, but I didn't think that the debate would become, and now is shown to be also, without manners.”

“Not one of my fellow Cardinals ever spoke to me. I, instead, [spoke] twice with the Holy Father. I agreed upon everything with him. He was in agreement. What can a cardinal do, except be with Pope? I am not the target, the target is another one.”

Kasper again claimed that Pope Francis knew what he was going to propose and fully approved of his speech.

“They know that I have not done these things by myself,” he said. “I agreed with the Pope, I spoke twice with him. He showed himself content [with the proposal]. Now, they create this controversy. A Cardinal must be close to the Pope, by his side. The Cardinals are the Pope's cooperators.”

In another interview with the Tablet, a liberal Catholic magazine in the UK, Kasper said that he has the “impression” that Pope Francis is open to his idea. “I hope the bishops will listen to the voice of people who live as divorced and remarried – the sensus fidei. They should listen and then next year they should decide what is possible and what is not possible.”  

Since his consistory keynote speech, there has been a steady stream of interviews and articles by some of the Church’s highest-ranking cardinals and bishops explaining repeatedly why any change to Catholic teaching is impossible. The Church teaches, in keeping with the words of Christ in the Gospels that marriage cannot be broken unless one spouse dies, and that therefore those who divorce and remarry are living in a state of mortal sin as adulterers. Only if they pledge to change their lives and receive absolution in the sacrament of confession can they be allowed to receive Holy Communion.

But Kasper’s plan does not include any attempt to directly change Catholic doctrine on the indissolubility of marriage or the nature of the sin of adultery. Kasper himself has also said that Catholic teaching is impossible to change, coming as it does directly from the words of Christ in the Gospel. He says he merely suggests that the Church could “tolerate” a “second marriage” of which it does not approve.

On the second day of the consistory, following Kasper’s speech, Pope Francis opened the proceedings by praising Kasper’s “deep” and “serene” thoughts in theology, and asking for unity among those cardinals present. “This is called doing theology while kneeling,” Francis said.

In an interview given in New York in May, Kasper, who is one of the hierarchy’s most prominent old-school “liberal” theologians, said that couples in what the Church calls “irregular unions” who live chastely “as brother and sister” are indeed exercising “heroic” virtue, but that such heroism is “not for the average Christian.”

At the same time, Bishop Johan Bonny of Antwerp, known as one of Europe’s more “progressive” Catholic prelates, has published a 22-page open letter to the Synod bishops, translated into several languages. Bishop Bonny has asked for the Synod to move beyond the restrictions placed on Catholics by the 1968 encyclical Humanae Vitae that confirmed the Church’s ban on birth control and restore the supreme place of individual “conscience” over Catholic doctrine.

Bishop Bonny called for the Synod bishops to close the “gap” between “the moral teachings of the Church and the moral insights of the faithful.” He asked the to Synod to “restore conscience to its rightful place in the teaching of the Church.”

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He dismissed Pope John Paul II’s document Familiaris Consortio, which upheld the traditional teaching on marriage and sexuality, saying that in it “the judgment of personal conscience on methods of family planning features rarely if at all.”

“Many believers, particularly those belonging to ecclesial organisations and ‘centre field’ Christians, were no longer able to agree with the dogmatic texts and moral statements coming from Rome,” Bishop Bonny wrote of the years following Humanae Vitae’s publication. Afterwards, a “succession of documents on sexual, family-related and bio-ethical issues, and with the highest doctrinal authority, was faced with increasing incomprehension and far reaching indifference.”

He complained that the doctrine of Humanae Vitae has since been “enforced with a firm hand,” which has created “exclusion and missed opportunities.”

“This discord cannot continue,” the bishop wrote. “The bond between the collegiality of the bishops and the primacy of the bishop of Rome that was manifest during the Second Vatican Council must be restored and without delay.”

“Whenever I speak with people,” he wrote, “I’m unable to repeat certain formulations from church doctrine without appearing unjustifiably judgmental, without hurting them deeply and without giving a mistaken idea of the church.”

“What do I expect from the forthcoming Synod? That it will restore conscience to its rightful place in the teaching of the Church in line with [Vatican II document] Gaudium et Spes.”

Vatican journalist Sandro Magister wrote today that the rhetoric continues to escalate in the final days before the opening of the Synod, which will make no final decisions and be followed by another meeting of bishops in October 2015.

Magister wrote that the Synod has come to “resemble Pope Francis in one thing,” explaining that “it admits no predictions on how it will develop, far less on how it will end.”

“This is the way the pope wanted it: open to free discussion even on the most divisive points, like for example whether or not to give communion to divorced Catholics who have remarried in a civil ceremony.”

Magister said that Francis started the speculation by allowing the Synod’s preparatory questionnaire to be distributed to the laity in parishes – “on all the questions concerning the family, from contraception to communion for the divorced, from de facto couples to marriage between homosexuals.” This, he said, was taken up by the German episcopate, “igniting expectations of liberalization in the discipline of the Church.”

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Don Feder

The only way to beat our demographic crisis is to confront the Sexual Revolution

Don Feder
By Don Feder

Editor’s Note: The following address was delivered by Don Feder, communications director for the World Congress of Families, at the International Forum: Large Family and the Future of Humanity in Moscow September 10-12, 2014.

If current trends continue, we won’t run out of energy or other natural resources in the foreseeable future. We will run out of people. This global catastrophe will be the result of rapidly declining fertility, known as Demographic Winter.

In 1960, worldwide, the average woman had 5 children. Now, that number is 2.6 and falling – in other words, a decline of almost 50 percent in a little more than 50 years. Today, 59 countries with 44 percent of the world’s population have below-replacement fertility. Many developed nations have fertility rates of 1.5 or lower, with 2.1 needed just to replace current population.

This didn’t happen spontaneously. Demographic Winter is the direct result of the Sexual Revolution – which first became noticeable in the late 1960s, not coincidentally, about the time birth rates began to fall.

The dogma of the Sexual Revolution – which has become ingrained social wisdom in the West -- might be summarized as follows:

  1. Sex is the most important aspect of existence;
  2. When sex is consensual, it’s always good;
  3. The primary purpose of sex is pleasure, not procreation or the physical expression of love;
  4. The primary purpose of life is pleasure;
  5. Inhibitions lead to neuroses and must be overcome;
  6. Sex has nothing to do with morality; and
  7. Sex should not only be guilt-free, but free of consequences -- hence contraception, hence abortion, hence abandonment of marriage.

The prophets of the Sexual Revolution include Sigmund Freud,  “researchers” like Alfred Kinsey and Masters and Johnson, pornographers like Playboy founder Hugh Hefner, and feminists like Margaret Sanger, Betty Friedan, and Simone de Beauvoir.  In the United States, the Sexual Revolution is spearheaded by groups like Planned Parenthood, the National Organization for Women, the (homosexual) Human Rights Campaign, and the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the U.S. (SIECUS).

The impact of the Sexual Revolution on fertility cannot be overstated.

For the first time in history, just under half the world’s population of child-bearing age uses some form of birth control. By 2015, the global contraceptives market will generate an estimated $17.2 billion annually.

Overwhelmingly, this is financed by governments, businesses or international aid agencies. Other species have become extinct. Ours may be the first to finance its own extinction.

Worldwide, there are approximately 42 million abortions a year.  That’s more than twice the number of military deaths in World War II.

From a demographic perspective, we’re not just losing 42 million people annually, but also their children, grandchildren and other descendants down through the ages. We are, quite literally, aborting our future.

The flight from marriage has affected fertility even more profoundly than contraceptives. In France, in 2010, more people began living together than married.

In the United States, in 1960, 59 percent of 18-to-29-year olds (those in their prime childbearing years) were married , compared to only 20 percent today.

Once a central reality of existence, marriage is increasingly optional. In its place have come cohabitation, casual liaisons and out-of-wedlock births. Not surprisingly, fewer marriages – especially early marriages -- result in fewer children.

Just as Demographic Winter is the result of the Sexual Revolution, the latter is the result of something called Cultural Marxism – a movement associated with Antonio Gramsci, the Frankfurt School and Herbert Marcuse.

Cultural Marxism was their answer to the failure of worldwide revolution after the First World War. Gramsci believed family and church gave workers what communists called a “false class consciousness” that made them immune to the appeals of Marxism.

The solution, then, was to destroy the family and religion – and what better way to do that than to foster sexual license and a society oriented toward mindless pleasure and away from hearth and home.

While there’s no proof that dramatically declining fertility is what Cultural Marxists wanted, it’s the natural consequence of creating a highly eroticized society where family is viewed as an obstacle to self-fulfillment and children as a burden.

We won’t find our way out of the forest of Demographic Winter until the Sexual Revolution is overthrown -- its prophets exposed and its dogma debunked.

Ultimately, the Sexual Revolution is about death – abortion, contraception, sexually-transmitted disease, pornography and promiscuity, in place of marriage, fidelity, procreation, and responsibility.

To combat both the Sexual Revolution and Demographic Winter, we must embrace a philosophy of life. For does not the Bible tell us: “I have set before you this day life and death, blessing and curses. Therefore, choose life so that you may live – you and your children.”

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Cardinal Dolan greets worshipers and guests on the steps of Saint Patrick's Cathedral in Manhattan after Easter mass on April 8, 2012 in New York City. Lev Radin / Shutterstock.com
Lisa Bourne

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Catholic leaders criticize Cardinal Dolan’s defense of gay group at St. Patrick’s Parade

Lisa Bourne
By Lisa Bourne
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New York Cardinal John O'Connor on the cover of the New York Post on January 11, 1993. http://rorate-caeli.blogspot.com/

New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan defended his decision to serve as grand marshal for the 2015 St. Patrick’s Day Parade on Wednesday, in the wake of widespread criticism from Catholics after he praised the organizing committee for allowing a homosexual activist group to march.

“If the Parade Committee allowed a group to publicize its advocacy of any actions contrary to Church teaching, I’d object,” Dolan stated in his weekly column. On the contrary, he argued, “The committee’s decision allows a group to publicize its identity, not promote actions contrary to the values of the Church that are such an essential part of Irish culture.”

Austin Ruse, president of the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute, was not impressed with the cardinal’s argument. This is precisely about publicizing advocacy contrary to Catholic teaching,” he said.

“As a Catholic father I find there is rapidly contracting space where this shameful agenda is not stuck in the faces of my children,” Ruse told LifeSiteNews. “The Church should be protecting our children rather than abetting those who prowl about the world seeking the ruin of innocent souls."

Pat Archbold, a popular blogger at the National Catholic Register and who runs the Creative Minority Report blog, lambasted Dolan for suggesting the embrace and promotion of “gay identity” can be separated from the sin of homosexuality.

“This identity is not a morally-neutral God-given attribute such as male or female, black or white,” he said. “The identity is with the immoral choice to engage in immoral behavior.”

“The best that can be said in this situation is that these people choose to proudly identify themselves with an intrinsic disorder.  But in reality, it is worse than that,” he continued. “The people find their identity and pride in sin.  Either the Cardinal knows this or he doesn't, either way Cardinal Dolan reveals himself unequal to his responsibility as a successor of the Apostles.”

The parade committee changed its longstanding policy on September 3 after decades of pressure from homosexual groups. Upon being announced as the parade’s grand marshal later the same day, Cardinal Dolan said he had no trouble with the decision at all, calling it “wise.”

The organizers had never prohibited any marchers, but did not ban issue-focused banners and signs, whether promoting homosexuality or the pro-life cause.

Cardinal Dolan stated in his column Wednesday that he did not oppose the previous policy.

“This was simply a reasonable policy about banners and public identification, not about the sexual inclinations of participants,” he explained.

“I have been assured that the new group marching is not promoting an agenda contrary to Church teaching,” he said as well, “but simply identifying themselves as ‘Gay people of Irish ancestry.’”

The homosexual activist group that will march is called OUT@NBCUniversal, which describes itself as the employee resource group for LGBT & Straight Ally employees at the media giant.

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The network held the broadcast contract for parade coverage. Reports indicated the contract was about to expire, and that NBC joined in pressuring on parade officials.

Cardinal Dolan conceded in his column there were many thoughtful reasons for criticizing the parade policy change, and noted that he shared some of them.

“While a handful have been less than charitable in their reactions, I must admit that many of you have rather thoughtful reasons for criticizing the committee’s decision,” he said. “You observe that the former policy was fair; you worry that this is but another example of a capitulation to an ‘aggressive Gay agenda,’ which still will not appease their demands; and you wonder if this could make people think the Church no longer has a clear teaching on the nature of human sexuality.” 

However, he said, the most important question he had to ask himself was whether the new policy violated Catholic faith or morals.

In stressing that homosexual actions are sinful while identity is not, Cardinal Dolan said, “Catholic teaching is clear: ‘being Gay’ is not a sin, nor contrary to God’s revealed morals.”

Making opinion paramount, the cardinal offered that the parade committee “tried to be admirably sensitive to Church teaching,” and even though the original policy was not at all unfair, the committee was “realistic in worrying that the public perception was the opposite, no matter how often they tried to explain its coherence and fairness.”

“They worried that the former policy was being interpreted as bias, exclusion, and discrimination against a group in our city,” Cardinal Dolan wrote. “Which, if true, would also be contrary to Church teaching.”

When the decision was announced and Cardinal Dolan named the parade’s grand marshal, Philip Lawler, director of Catholic Culture and editor for Catholic World News, called it a significant advance for homosexual activists, and a significant retreat for the Catholic Church.

Pointing out in his column that the media will be correct to concentrate on that narrative at next March’s event, Lawler identified what he said is almost certain to be the result of the 2015 St. Patrick’s Day Parade.

“Next year there will be only one story-line of interest to the reporters who cover the annual parade in the world’s media capital: the triumph of the gay activists,” Lawler wrote.

“Photographers will be competing for the one ‘money’ shot: the picture of the contingent from OUT@NBCUniversal marching past the reviewing stand at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, under the benign smile of Cardinal Timothy Dolan.”

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