Donald DeMarco, Ph.D.

The fall of icons

Donald DeMarco, Ph.D.
By Donald DeMarco Ph.D.
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May 30, 2012 (HLIAmerica.org) - A writer who practices his art at home does not want to turn his place of residence into a library warehouse. And so, every so often, in order to maintain a dynamic equilibrium between acquisitions and dispersals, he must sift through his material and separate the transitory from the enduring. It is a practice akin to gardening in which one separates the weeds from the perennials. Some material remains stubbornly attached to time, while other material becomes the stuff of history. Or so one believes. It is not an exact science.

I was engaged in such sifting recently and enjoyed the serendipitous feeling of discovering literary items that seemed to improve with time. One item, however, arrested my attention in a jarring manner. It was the cover feature for the July 17, 1989 issue of Time: “Death By Gun: America’s Toll in One Typical Week.” Why would I hold onto this issue for more than two decades? I surmise that it was to remind me of the many mature souls who die violently before their time, their lives coming to an end in great numbers, like falling leaves. The words “before their time,” convey a piercing sadness: what could be, will not be. There can be no turning back.

Time dedicated a 28-page portfolio in this issue to memorialize the deaths of 464 Americans who were killed by gunfire over the course of a single week. In order to further humanize this harrowing statistic, it provided the faces of most of these casualties. Re-visiting this issue is like walking through a cemetery, but even more poignant because one knows that all these deaths were unnecessary. Each face evoked a shudder. The old Roman, Terence, was right: “I am man, I consider nothing human alien to me” (Homo sum, humani nihil a me alienum puto). It is the nature of any genuine pro-life sensibility to moved by the death of anyone.

The more I studied the specific causes of these deaths, however, the more I realized that these tragedies were not so much the result of guns, but from a loss of the will to live and the inability of people to get along with each other. A large proportion of the deaths were by suicide. How many suicides took place that week, I wondered, in which the gun was not the instrument of death? The real enemy of life lurked deeper than the gun.

On page 18 I saw a face that I recognized. It belonged to Thomas Stallcup who, at age 67, turned a shotgun on himself. In his heyday he played shortstop for the Cincinnati Reds under the name Virgil Stallcup (what a great name!). I was once the proud owner of his baseball card. He was No. 108 in the 1951 Playball series. His portrait displayed the epitome of joy and confidence. The fact that his career stats were indeed modest (his lifetime batting average is .241) did not matter. To young baseball card collectors, he was an icon, a success story, a hero larger than life. And now, Time informs me, this erstwhile role model is now a grim statistic who has been absorbed by an even grimmer statistic — 464. The fact that the photo that Time selected was the same one that appeared on his card, made the pictorial announcement of his death morbidly ironic. Icons are not supposed to fall!

Hollywood stars are also regarded as larger than life, though the disparity between their image and their behavior is the embarrassing grist for tabloid journalism. We believed in Virgil Stallcup, we youthful, naïve baseball card collectors. It is shocking to learn that there came a time in his life when he may not have believed in himself.

Life, as the poet John Keats describes it, is “A fragile dew-drop on its perilous way from a tree’s summit” (Sleep and Poetry). The great paradox is that our greatest value, life, travels with fragility as its constant companion. Hence, the profound poignancy of human existence. “We are all in the same boat in a stormy sea,” wrote G. K. Chesterton, “and we owe each other a terrible loyalty.”

Why, we may ask, does society view those who try to prevent suicide as humanitarians, and those who try to prevent abortion as fanatics? Both these cohorts are defending life. No “seamless garment” here. It is fair to conclude that our society is ambivalent about life. The fragility can be fearful, and the storms can be startling. And that’s the core of the problem. Life demands courage, support, faith and hope. It does not arrive without its challenges. And who amongst us can meet these challenges alone?

We have detached “choice” from community and are now paying a heavy price on a community level. We have been duped by the myth of autonomy. Yet, not even Major League baseball players are autonomous, though they may appear to be when looking invincible on their bubblegum cards. None of us is larger than life. Nonetheless, each of us is larger than being a mere individual. We are communal beings called to love each other. That’s not how we get ourselves on baseball cards, but that may be the best way to avoid being part of the kind of grim statistic that Time assembled more than two decades ago.

Donald DeMarco, Ph.D., is a Senior Fellow of HLI America, an educational initiative of Human Life International. He is Professor Emeritus at St. Jerome’s University in Waterloo, Ontario and adjunct professor at Holy Apostles College and Seminary. He writes for the Truth and Charity Forum.


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Quebec groups launch court challenge to euthanasia bill

LifeSiteNews staff
By LifeSiteNews staff

As announced when the Quebec legislature adopted Bill 52, An Act respecting end-of-life care, the citizen movement Living with Dignity and the Physicians’ Alliance against Euthanasia, representing together over 650 physicians and 17,000 citizens, filed a lawsuit before the Superior Court of Quebec in the District of Montreal on Thursday.

The lawsuit requests that the Court declare invalid all the provisions of the Act that deal with “medical aid in dying”, a term the groups say is a euphemism for euthanasia. This Act not only allows certain patients to demand that a physician provoke their death, but also grants physicians the right to cause the death of these patients by the administration of a lethal substance.

The two organizations are challenging the constitutionality of those provisions in the Act which are aimed at decriminalizing euthanasia under the euphemism “medical aid in dying”. Euthanasia constitutes a culpable homicide under Canada’s Criminal Code, and the organizations maintain that it is at the core of the exclusive federal legislative power in relation to criminal law and Quebec therefore does not have the power to adopt these provisions.

The organizations also say the impugned provisions unjustifiably infringe the rights to life and to security of patients guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms. They further infringe the right to the safeguard of the dignity of the person, which is also protected by the Quebec Charter.

In view of the gravity of the situation and the urgent need to protect all vulnerable persons in Quebec, they are requesting an accelerated management of the case in order to obtain a judgment before the Act is expected to come into force on December 10, 2015.


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Colorado baker appeals gvmt ‘re-education’ order

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By LifeSiteNews staff

A Colorado cake artist who declined to use his creative talents to promote and endorse a same-sex ceremony appealed a May 30 order from the Colorado Civil Rights Commission to the Colorado Court of Appeals Wednesday.

The commission’s order requires cake artist Jack Phillips and his staff at Masterpiece Cakeshop to create cakes for same-sex celebrations, forces him to re-educate his staff that Colorado’s Anti-Discrimination Act means that artists must endorse all views, compels him to implement new policies to comply with the commission’s order, and requires him to file quarterly “compliance” reports for two years. The reports must include the number of patrons declined a wedding cake or any other product and state the reason for doing so to ensure he has fully eliminated his religious beliefs from his business.

“Americans should not be forced by the government – or by another citizen – to endorse or promote ideas with which they disagree,” said the cake artist’s lead counsel Nicolle Martin, an attorney allied with Alliance Defending Freedom. “This is not about the people who asked for a cake; it’s about the message the cake communicates. Just as Jack doesn’t create baked works of art for other events with which he disagrees, he doesn’t create cake art for same-sex ceremonies regardless of who walks in the door to place the order.”

“In America, we don’t force artists to create expression that is contrary to their convictions,” added Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Legal Counsel Jeremy Tedesco. “A paint artist who identifies as homosexual shouldn’t be intimidated into creating a painting that celebrates one-man, one-woman marriage. A pro-life photographer shouldn’t be forced to work a pro-abortion rally. And Christian cake artists shouldn’t be punished for declining to participate in a same-sex ceremony or promote its message.”

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In July 2012, Charlie Craig and David Mullins asked Jack Phillips, owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop, to make a wedding cake to celebrate their same-sex ceremony. In an exchange lasting about 30 seconds, Phillips politely declined, explaining that he would gladly make them any other type of baked item they wanted but that he could not make a cake promoting a same-sex ceremony because of his faith. Craig and Mullins, now represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, immediately left the shop and later filed a complaint with the Colorado Civil Rights Division. The case now goes to the Colorado Court of Appeals as Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Craig.

“Jack, and other cake artists like him – such as those seen on TV shows like ‘Ace of Cakes’ and ‘Cake Boss’ – prepare unique creations that are inherently expressive,” Tedesco explained. “Jack invests many hours in the wedding cake creative process, which includes meeting the clients, designing and sketching the cake, and then baking, sculpting, and decorating it. The ACLU calls Jack a mere ‘retail service provider,’ but, in fact, he is an artist who uses his talents and abilities to create expression that the First Amendment fully protects."

Celebrity cake artists have written publicly about their art and the significant expressive work that goes into the artistic design process for wedding cakes.


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Prisoner of conscience Mary Wagner appeals her conviction

Tony Gosgnach
By Tony Gosgnach

TORONTO -- As promised, Mary Wagner has, through her counsel Dr. Charles Lugosi, filed a formal notice of appeal on numerous points regarding her recent, almost two-year-long court case that ended on June 12.

Justice Fergus O’Donnell of the Ontario Court of Justice rejected every application made by the defence – including for access to abortion center records, public funding, standing for a constitutional challenge and for expert witnesses to be heard – before he found Wagner guilty and sentenced her to five months in jail on a charge of mischief and four months on four counts of failing to comply with probation orders.

He further levied two years of probation, with terms that she stay at least 100 metres away from any abortion site. However, because Wagner had spent a greater time in jail than the sentence, she was freed immediately. She had been arrested at the “Women’s Care Clinic” abortion site on Lawrence Avenue West in Toronto on August 15, 2012 after attempting to speak to abortion-bound women there. She then spent the duration of the trial in prison for refusing to sign bail conditions requiring her to stay away from abortion sites.

Wagner is using the matter as a test case to challenge the current definition of a human being in Canadian law – that is, that a human being is legally recognized as such only after he or she has fully emerged from the birth canal in a breathing state.

Wagner’s notice states the appeal is regarding:

  • Her conviction and sentence on a single count of mischief (interference with property),
  • Her conviction and sentence on four counts of breach of probation,
  • The order denying public funding,
  • The order denying the disclosure of third-party records,
  • The order denying the admission of evidence from experts on the applicant’s constitutional challenge concerning the constitutional validity of Section 223 of the Criminal Code,
  • The order denying the admission of evidence from experts concerning the construction of Section 37 of the Criminal Code,
  • The probation order denying Wagner her constitutional rights to freedom of speech, freedom of expression, freedom of conscience and freedom of religion on all public sidewalks and public areas within 100 metres of places where abortions are committed,
  • And each conviction and sentence and all orders and rulings made by O’Donnell.

In the notice of appeal, Lugosi cites numerous points on which O’Donnell erred:

  • He denied Wagner her constitutional right to make full answer and defence.
  • He denied Wagner her right to rely on Section 37 of the Criminal Code, which permits “everyone” to come to the third-party defence and rescue of any human being (in this case, the preborn) facing imminent assault.
  • He decided the factual basis of Wagner’s constitutional arguments was a waste of the court’s time and that no purpose would have been served by having an evidentiary hearing on her Charter application because, in the current state of Canadian law, it had no possibility of success.
  • He misapplied case law and prejudged the case, “giving rise to a reasonable apprehension of bias and impeding the legal evolution of the law to adapt to new circumstances, knowledge and changed societal values and morals.”
  • He accepted the Crown’s submission that it is beyond the jurisdiction of the courts to question the jurisdiction of Parliament legally to define “human being” in any manner Parliament sees fit.
  • He ruled Section 223 of the Criminal Code is not beyond the powers of Section 52 of the Constitution Act, 1982.
  • He ruled Section 223 of the Criminal Code does not violate the Preamble to, as well as Sections 7, 11(d), 15 and 26, of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
  • He denied Wagner standing to raise a constitutional challenge to the validity of Section 223 of the Criminal Code.
  • He ruled that Section 223 of the Criminal Code applied generally throughout the entire Criminal Code and used it to deny unborn human beings the benefit of equal protection as born human beings under Section 37 of the Criminal Code.
  • He denied the production and disclosure of third-party records in the possession of the “Women’s Care Clinic” abortion site, although the records were required to prove Wagner was justified in using reasonable force in the form of oral and written words to try to persuade pregnant mothers from killing their unborn children by abortion.
  • He denied Wagner the defence of Section 37 of the Criminal Code by ruling unborn children did not come within the scope of human beings eligible to be protected by a third party.
  • He ruled Wagner did not come within the scope of Section 37 because she was found to be non-violent (in that she did not use physical force).
  • He ruled the unborn children Wagner was trying to rescue were not under her protection.
  • He denied Wagner the common-law defences of necessity and the rescue of third parties in need of protection.
  • He denied Wagner public funding to make full answer and defence for a constitutional test case of great public importance and national significance.
  • He imposed an unconstitutional sentence upon Wagner by, in effect, imposing an injunction as a condition of probation, contrary to her constitutional rights of free speech, freedom of expression, freedom of conscience and freedom of religion.

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Among the orders Lugosi is seeking are:

  • That an appeal be allowed against conviction on all counts and that a verdict of acquittal be entered on all counts,
  • That Section 223 of the Criminal Code be found unconstitutional  and contrary to Section 52 of the Constitution Act, 1982, as well as the unwritten constitution of Canada,
  • That the sentence be declared unconstitutional and contrary to Section 52 of the Constitution Act, 1982, and the unwritten constitution of Canada or that a new trial be conducted, with Wagner permitted to make full answer and defence, be given standing to make a constitutional attack on Section 223 of the Criminal Code, with the admission of expert witnesses,
  • That the Women’s Care Clinic abortion site be made to produce third-party records pertaining to patients seen on August 15, 2012 (when Wagner entered the site),
  • And that there be public funding for two defence counsels at any retrial and for any appeal related to the case.

No date has yet been established for a decision on the appeal or hearings.

A defence fund for Wagner’s case is still raising money. Details on how to contribute to it can be found here.


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