The Comment

Papal edicts and the Toronto Catholic District School Board

TORONTO – I had abandoned Canada’s broadcaster of record, CBC-Radio Canada. It seemed to me that it constantly missed the opportunity to find or define those unifying moments or issues that make us all feel that we are a part of something bigger than our meaningless selves. Lately, its leadership has once again focused on its not-so-subtle attacks on Catholic leadership.

Last week, the Pope doubled down on his calls for humanitarian ceasefires in two hotspots, Gaza and Ukraine. His was the expression of moral principle, or lack thereof, in conflicts where the “innocent” are never consulted. It is his job as the moral leader of approximately 1.4 billion self-professed Catholics around the world.

Pope Francis also published the Church’s “official position” (religious tenet) on matters pertaining to sexuality, to gender ideology, to surrogacy in reproduction and to abortion. Perhaps we needed an update. One should expect no less from the magisterium, the teacher.

In May of 1961, Pope John XXIII promulgated an encyclical, Mater et Magistra (mother and teacher), referring to the role of the church in a period of tumultuous changes as the world began to emerge from the depths of infamy brought on by World War II. It laid out a plan to work towards authentic community building in order to promote human dignity. I recall it giving special deference to the role of women.

In effect, it described what it means to be a Catholic. The encyclical had/has no application to those who were not. There was no compulsion, even for Catholics. Then, as now, one could disregard the teaching, but then they could not claim to be Catholic. No problem, unless one wanted to represent Catholic institutions in any official capacity – as in Catholic school trustees.

That may be where CBC coverage of Pope Francis’ edicts of last week is headed. However, it first decided to pronounce its verdict on the Vatican’s initiatives, via an interview with a self-identified gender ideology “advocate” – a trans individual who, as if on cue, condemned the Vatican for such hurtful thoughts and statements.

Contemporaneously, the Toronto District Catholic School Board (TCDSB) received a notice of Motion to debate and approve the flying of a Pro-Life flag in the month of May, a month Catholics generally dedicate to mothers and Mother Mary. Some trustees rushed to the barricades to defend “a woman’s right to choose”.

With all due respect to their zealotry, I do not think “choice” is the issue, nor is it about reproductive rights and fertility. Canada’s fertility rate, according to Statscan among women of child-bearing age (15-44 year old) is 1.3 children. To maintain its demographic sustainability, the country needs such women – no matter their origin, religion, race etc. – to give birth to 2.1 children. Clearly, no one is compelling women (regardless of their marital status) to bear children.

What is not as clear is if this is a public policy objective. Our population is aging. Live births are at a par with deaths as an occurrence in Canada. When the debate takes place at the TCDSB some of the erudite debaters may wish to address the issue of the cost to the health care system per termination of pregnancy and the number of such interruptions (therapeutic or surgical).

The numbers and dollars involved are stunning. Between hospitals and private clinics, independent agencies suggest an “industry” in the vicinity of $100 million annually – taxpayer funded. The “side-hustle” is a very lucrative use of the cast-off in an abortion (stem cells etc.). As I recall when I chaired a Parliamentary Committee on the issue, the lead researcher from a downtown Toronto hospital, if we don’t recover the detritus, it will all go into the garbage.

When does human dignity begin?

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