Embarrassments in the Campaign—but So What?

In one of the classic scenes from the classic movie “Casablanca,” French police captain Louis Renault kowtows to Nazi pressure and closes his friend’s nightclub on the most hypocritical of pretexts. He professes to be shocked—shocked!—to learn that there is gambling going on therein…and a moment later happily receives his evening’s winnings from an employee.

Canada’s political parties are likewise currently running about in tremendous shock. They’re shocked to find that the costume-loving prime minister, who badly misjudged sartorial expectations during a state visit to India, has quite a record of showing up in insensitive costumes at talent shows and parties.

They’re shocked to find that the Conservative Party has included candidates, even a leader, whose publicly expressed views about certain matters of sexuality are, well, conservative.

They’re shocked to find that the People’s Party of Canada, a grassroots organization arising largely because many Canadians feel marginalized by the other parties and by the media, have included supporters who hold views that, at best, can be called . . .  marginal.

And they’re shocked to find that the leader of the Green Party publicly professes admiration for Jesus Christ, only to be shocked again when she then trips over herself trying to make clear that her personal views are her personal views and must not in any way be construed to  indicate anything significant about her party or her leadership of it. Right. Got it.

That leaves only the leader of the NDP, who hasn’t had much of interest to say so far in this campaign but must be having the time of his life being shocked by everything going on around him…or being worried that his turn is coming next.

Christians, however, ought to be among the Canadians least shocked by any of this. Christian theology makes it plain that the best of us are capable of pretty significant sin, as well as stupidity, and that we cannot expect the best of us to run for high office. Power attracts all sorts of people, so we can expect all sorts of behaviour. And that’s what we’re getting these days—if not here, then south of the border and across the ocean as well.

[For the rest, please click HERE.]

Canadian Politicians, Who Are You, Really?

“I’m a good Catholic, but I disagree with the pope.”

There have been Roman Catholic Christians differing with papal pronouncements for centuries, but the modern watershed moment occurred in 1968. Shortly after the remarkable innovations of the Second Vatican Council (1962-65), a not-so-reformist Pope Paul VI promulgated the encyclical letter Humanae Vitae (“Human Life”) to forbid Catholics from using artificial means of birth control. 

Coming almost a decade after “the pill” was approved in the United States (1960), this command proved quickly to be too hard for many Catholics to obey. Millions, not just a few here and there, began to think of themselves as good Catholics even as they flatly defied an authoritative teaching from Rome.

Ever since then, and now in Canadian federal politics, we are encountering Catholics who say they are, indeed, good Catholics but they refuse to follow Catholic teachings. What are voters to make of this, particularly when the leaders of our two major political parties, Justin Trudeau and Andrew Scheer, are of this sort?

It’s one thing to say that one is a faithful Catholic and yet on this or that matter one disagrees with Catholic teaching: “I otherwise subscribe to Catholic doctrine, but on abortion I hold a different view.”

That’s not what Catholics are supposed to say. Papal authority is basic to being Catholic, according to the Catholic Catechism (paragraphs 874-913). So there is a problem of consistency here—“I’m a good Catholic, which by definition means I submit to the authority of the pope, but I don’t actually submit to the authority of the pope in at least one major instance”—but at least we have clarity.

It’s also okay to say, “I’m a good Catholic, but I don’t see the time being right to move ahead with a bill on abortion. The votes won’t be there, so I think we need to attend to other matters crucial to Catholic values and see if we can fight the abortion battle another, better day.” In fact, that’s very okay. That’s the kind of realism we can appreciate in a politician.

Neither situation, however, is the case with Catholics Trudeau and Scheer. Instead, we have a different distinction. Either implicitly (Trudeau) or explicitly (Scheer), we have people who claim to (still) be Catholics, and yet who promise never to support Catholic teaching regarding abortion in Parliament because, they say, the “Canadian people” don’t want them to deal with abortion, so they won’t.

Three problems here.

[For the rest, please click HERE.]

It’s Time to Play “Political Catchphrase Bingo”!

Ah, you who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter! (The Prophet Isaiah 5:20)

So the writ has dropped and the Canadian federal election is officially on. Are you ready to play Political Catchphrase Bingo? Let’s begin a list of problematic clichés we’ll need to be spotting during the campaign.

Middle Class  This term implies that there are only two classes in Canada, since almost no rich people in Canada, except for Conrad Black, want to admit that they’re rich. (Ask them and they’ll say they’re merely “comfortable” and “don’t own a plane.”)

It also implies that somehow the middle class deserves politicians’ intentions more than do people in the other class, the poor. Perhaps that’s because middle-class life is so hard in Canada, compared with, say, previous generations or the rest of the planet. (Excuse me while I pause the Blu-Ray playing on my 60” middle-class TV with 7.1 surround sound that I got at Best Buy last month.)

Or perhaps that’s because poor Canadians are so abundantly provided for that they aren’t actually…poor. Yes. That’s why. So now politicians can focus on the wellspring of power, the majority of voters who see themselves as “middle class.”

Social Conservatives  These are the loathsome folk who vote Conservative, or maybe now PPC, in hopes of…well, of what? Of putting women back in the kitchen? Of requiring businesses to close on Sundays? Of making schoolchildren recite the Lord’s Prayer every morning?

There aren’t many of those folk in Canada. But “social conservatives” in fact is code language for “prolifers”—whom opponents try all they can to link to The Handmaid’s Tale. Prolifers, alas, are rather at sea just now, having discovered that Andrew Scheer is just the Catholic version of Stephen Harper: prolife enough to get nominated, but not prolife enough to actually legislate—or come within a kilometre of legislating—about abortion.

Community  Canada is a community of communities, so it’s sometimes said. But sometimes a putative community is nothing of the sort: not an actual society that links people of common identity and concern in a single conversation, structure, and agenda. Sometimes a “community” is just a faux-polite way of lumping all “those people” together—like someone who refers to “the Sikh community” or “the Jewish community” or “the Chinese community” but who isn’t herself actually Sikh, Jewish, or Chinese. (If she were, she’d have a clue about how diverse and even fractious those “communities” are.)

[For the rest, please click HERE.]