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Unhelpful debate sponsored by the Catholic diocese

Unhelpful debate sponsored by the Catholic diocese

TORONTO – In a country where identity politics has become a central value of the political infrastructure, the largest group of Canadians – Catholics – get no respect by Leaders of any political Party. Some pandering, yes, consideration of their issues, none.

That’s why the Cardinal’s sponsored debate on federaI issues of relevance to Catholics was an almost total waste of time. The Leaders avoided it.

It is as if everyone already assumed that Catholics either hold unacceptable views in a secularized environment or that their “allegiances” are divided between Church and State; morality and pragmatism; missionary zealotry and science.

Canadian attitudes haven’t changed much since I was in high school. We are capable of keeping and making the compromises Life requires. But now leaders demand adherence to a new Orthodoxy: theirs, exclusively. They not only fear debate on matters of substance, they tolerate no views other than their own. Theirs is a “mirror mirror on the wall…” approach to the national leadership.

The new Orthodoxy provides slavish semi-automated responses – talking points – to virtually every question. A Cole’s notes version of the old Catholic Catechism, but without the explanations.

I have Catholic upbringing that highlighted the need to know, constant examination of conscience (empirical evaluation), dedication to a higher authority (not of this world) and commitment to the Golden Rule. Obsequious obedience to temporal Lords was not part of the curriculum.

Many other Canadians have had similar upbringing. The Moderator, a venerable journalist, Don Newman, must have been such a one. In a moment of frustration with repeated references to talking points by candidates obviously anxious not to take a stand on “prickly issues”, he suggested voting for any of them might be challenge. I looked for redeeming qualities.

It’s tough. Like most Canadians, Catholic and otherwise, I look for a vision of Canada, and, within tolerable limits, how we are going to get there. Alas, the campaign is descending increasingly into a contest of darts and arrows flung with the singular purpose of scratching or wounding “the other guy”.

Unfortunately, that attracts moralizing and judging of character. Since we all live in glass houses, we should be loath to cast any stones. However… here we are: Liberals are to blame for “children su.ering climate anxiety” (really? What is that?); Conservatives have “a secret agenda” on Abortion, sorry, a “woman’s right to choose”.

Former Prime Minister Jean Chretien used to quip that he was ecstatic to share the same views his mother expressed on the matter, especially since he was the 18th in an 18-children brood. Surely the purpose of an ethics-based debate would have dealt with a rational discussion on the merits of having a society defined by the number of times (frequency) a pregnancy ends in abortion and why. Not if it should be performed, but when and under which circumstances.

According to the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada, there were 90,030 abortions performed in the country in 2017 (based on data compiled by the Canadian Health Institute, a government organization). This translates into 13.1 abortions for every 1000 women of child-bearing age.

If this is a moral issue, then there a lot of “sinners” out there. If not, then, then is it an economic one and who’s paying? Either way, it’s clear, to me at least, that we are well beyond “a woman’s right to choose”, or whether it is significant to know if someone is “personally in favour” of it.

There were no women in the debate to address either question, or to tell us we are right to ask the questions.

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