A Mere Comments reader has forwarded to me very good news to report about the Catholic Church in Canada, which I'll save for a coming post. Meanwhile, here is an example of some of the outrage in the Canadian press, over Cardinal Marc Ouellet's quiet-spoken but clear affirmation of the evil of abortion. The author, one Patrick Lagace, rehashes the same wearisome non-arguments that we hear in the United States. It is the twenty-first century, not the nineteenth, don't you know! As if the morality of an action depends upon what time it is; and as if the last ugly century did not put to rest forever the notion that mankind's moral progress is uninterrupted and predictable, rather than being at best fitful, with an advance here marred by degeneracy there. What the author means, and what he is not honest enough to say, is simply this: "We in Quebec now want to take off our pants when and with whom we please, and to the devil or the dumpster with the unwanted children we may conceive!" It is no more dignified than that.
And then, like the click of a cheap timepiece, comes the assertion that Cardinal Ouellet is just like a certain vicious Iranian imam. Such is the stupidity of the press. Cardinal Ouellet is, like most prelates in the United States and Canada, a moderately liberal fellow, for better and for worse; he accepts most of the assumptions behind a welfare state; he has made his peace with democracy; he views reason and faith as friendly to one another (as do I, naturally); he believes that one ought to render unto Caesar what is Caesar's, a command that would be incomprehensible to the faithful Muslim, for whom the mosque is the state and the state is the mosque. But he also believes that Christians have not only the right but the duty to proclaim the moral law, not for themselves alone but for the common good, regardless of what might be popular at the moment. And this, the journalist Lagace cannot abide. This is what earns Ouellet the title of "fundamentalist." Allow me to interpret. A "fundamentalist" is anyone who believes that people do not have the moral right to fornicate or commit adultery, and who does not believe it is right to dispense with the unwanted child that might result. It does not matter that Cardinal Ouellet is not a Biblical literalist. It does not matter whether he is a Thomist, after the Laval school of Charles DeKoninck, or a Platonizing Christian, after the manner of Dietrich von Hildebrand; it does not matter whether he holds a sunny view of democracy and the Church's relationship to it, as did Jacques Maritain, or whether, like such conservatives as Frederick Wilhelmsen, he views democracy as beset with its own intractable problems. In the ill-educated and ill-tempered world of western journalism, one does not actually have to learn anything about the figures one accuses. Does the Cardinal believe that public nudity ought to be outlawed? Fundamentalist! That people should not have the right to kill their children in the womb? Fundamentalist! That divorce is a social evil? Fundamentalist!
Who, pray tell, is the fundamentalist here? Who is performing the equivalent of employing a proof-text? Who is divorcing moral assertion from reasoned argument? It is typical of the secular left, and rather predictable. When one believes that good and evil are not objective realities to be discovered by the practical reason and to be honored in custom and law, and when, moreover, one dispenses with God's revelation, which does not override reason but clarifies matters for us, giving our reason a boost — then nothing remains but to believe that "good" and "evil" are subjective and relative to the evaluator and his society. I don't mean to say that Monsieur Lagace has thought the matter out so explicitly; indeed it is characteristic of the contemporary journalist not to think at all. But, absent a law and a Lawgiver to which and to whom we must all, individually and as a people, give homage, the State comes to fill the void, and what is "right" will be determined by those who shout the loudest, or who have the most money, or who fill the positions of greatest prominence and prestige. Moral argument collapses, and people shout, "It's right because I say so!" Which is essentially what Lagace, in the matter of abortion, is doing.
Had he stopped there, it would have been bad enough, but he continued, noting that Cardinal Ouellet had also weighed in on end-of-life issues. The Cardinal, it seems, does not believe that the State has the right to allow people to kill themselves when they are terribly sick, or, more accurately, to enlist the assistance of physicians in killing themselves. Such a retrograde, this Cardinal! He believes what just about everybody believed when I was a child — and Monsieur Lagace may be surprised to learn that I am far from two hundred years old. Let us be absolutely clear here. Cardinal Ouellet believes in the inestimable value of every human life, from conception to natural death. He believes that every being of human origin is to be regarded as holy — because every such being is in fact holy. It is those who champion assisted suicide who believe that certain lives are worthless, that their suffering has no value. I am reading an excellent book by the president of Gonzaga University, Robert Spitzer, S.J., called Healing the Culture; in it the author makes the point that sometimes it is only through suffering that we confess that we are vulnerable, and that our hearts go out towards our fellow sufferers in love. Cardinal Ouellet would understand; Monsieur Lagace does not read such books.
So Lagace ended his article by wishing that Cardinal Ouellet would die "a slow, painful death," so that he would know what it was like to have only skin on your bones and to be vomiting up your own excrement. A slow and painful death — like that of Jesus, perhaps? Or that of John Paul II? Or Therese of Lisieux? But what really astonishes me is that any press would print such a thing. Imagine if Cardinal Ouellet had said, "I hope that Beverly McLachlin," pro-abortion chief justice of the Canadian supreme court, "dies a slow and painful death." First, no one would publish that statement, and second, there would be calls from Vancouver to Saint John's for the Cardinal to resign. What kind of person can wish such a thing? I do not like Beverly McLachlin. I think she is a foolish and dangerous politician — and I have on this site pasted her for upholding what I called the Judy Jetson Theory of International Jurisprudence: "But Daddy, it's all the rage on Pluto!" But I do not hope that she dies a slow and painful death. What a disgusting thing to wish! I hope she dies a blessed death, in union with her Savior. I hope the same thing for other politicians whom I believe to be naive or dangerous or treacherous or just plain wrong — for that mixed-up erstwhile Baptist Bill Clinton, for instance. But that is because, unlike Monsieur Lagace, I believe in God — and therefore the State assumes its legitimate place, somewhat lower on the list of my concerns. It is not the ultimate reality. I am not, as Monsieur Lagace is, a secular fundamentalist. I am not like those people who rejoiced some years ago when it appeared that Dr. James Dobson was dying. Monsieur Lagace apparently is.
One last word. The article by Lagace shows the fatuousness of laws against "hate speech." His words were, after all, steeped in hate. But his target was only a Catholic Cardinal, so he needn't worry. Bishop Fred Henry of Calgary a couple of years ago dared to say that homosexual behavior was objectively disordered — as the Church teaches. He was accused of "hate speech." He wasn't prosecuted, but others in Canada who have said as much have been. The secular left — those fundamentalists among whom I have lived all my professional life — have no way of understanding the moral arguments of such people as Fred Henry and Marc Ouellet, because they have lost their religious faith and have demoted reason to the utilitarian and technological. Therefore they accuse their opponents of hate. Hate is one thing they do understand. There is a good reason for that.