15 December 2008

Merry Christmas!

I know, I know, it's not Christmas yet.

However, Christmas holidays are about to begin for me, and that means I will be returning home to the land of dial-up internet *shudder* I love my family very much, and I love being home with them even more, but they have yet to hop onto the "newfangled high speed internet train you city folks seem to like so much." I refuse to use dial-up; the wait drives me crazy.

So, this is the last post until I am back at school on January 5, 2009. I hope you will all start checking the blog again at that time.

As much as I wish it wouldn't, I know life and legal issues will be in the news over the next few weeks, so I invite you to check out lifesitenews.com daily for the latest happenings all over the world.

God Bless you all and have a holy and blessed Christmas season (and remaining Advent season too), and I will speak to you again in the new year.

12 December 2008

My Mind is Still Reeling

I woke up this morning to an e-mail laying out the practice of a London, ON Catholic hospital perform "early induction" abortions, and I just had to post it right away.

Early induction is used when a child in utero is determined to have a severe disability of some kind. The doctor induces labor at 21 weeks (when even a healthy child would have a very hard time surviving) and the child is allowed to die when it is born.

This is eugenics.

And there is credible evidence that it is occurring at at least 1 Catholic hospital.

This procedure goes directly against Catholic teachings on life, but Fr. Michael Prieur, the chief bio-ethicist at the hospital (and also a professor of Moral and Sacramental Theology at St. Peter's Seminary) claims the action is actually pro-life. Fr. Prieur stated that it's been going on at the hospital for 20 years. When asked, the Bishop of London refused to comment.

Obviously, unless I have all the details, I don't want to condemn anyone, but the evidence that Lifesite news has collected is very damning. Several people I respect, including Jim Hughes of Campaign Life Coalition, and Alex Schadenberg of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, have spoken out against this. Don't take my word for it. Read the special report here.

If it's true, something needs to be done now to save the lives of children. I am asking all of you to take the time (I know it's busy right now) to write a letter to the Bishop of London, and the Cardinal Prefect for Congregation for Doctrine of the Faith (in Rome) asking them to investigate this allegation, and expressing your horror at the action if it proves to be true.

Also, please tell everyone you about this, and ask them to write a letter as well. (Snail mail tends to get more response than then e-mail, but do whatever you have time for)

Addresses:

Bishop Ronald Fabbro
Diocese of London
1070 Waterloo Street, London, Ontario N6A 3Y2
Phone: 519-433-0658 Fax: 519-433-0011
E-mail: info@rcec.london.on.ca

His Eminence William Cardinal Levada, S.T.D.
Cardinal Prefect Congregation for Doctrine of the Faith
Piazza del S. Uffizio 11
00193 Rome
Italy
email: cdf@cfaith.va
011 39 06 6988 3357
011-39-0696100596 FAX

Sadly, while I don't approve, I expect this from a secular hospital. I DO NOT expect it from a Catholic Hospital. I guess this just proves there are bad apples everywhere. When Catholic priests are practicing eugenics, and their Bishops have "no comment at this time" we are in trouble.

Mother Mary, pray for us, and pray for Fr. Prieur.

11 December 2008

Just For Fun


I've noticed that the tone of this blog has been rather depressing for the last little while. Also, I'm in the middle of finals right now, so I thought we could all use something to lighten the mood. This link is to a clip from The Daily Show with John Stewart from Monday, December 8. It's his take on the recent Parliamentary Crisis and I think it's absolutely hilarious.

Trust me; it will make you laugh so hard you cry.

Enjoy!

(As for me, it's back to studying… only 3 more finals to go! Enough procrastination!)

10 December 2008

Fighting for the lives of our children

As many of you know, I first became interested in researching euthanasia and assisted suicide as a result of my Disability and the Law class; specifically the paper I wrote on the Groningen Protocol in the Netherlands that allows doctors to euthanize infants because of their disability. At the time, the Netherlands was the only country to allow the euthanization of children.

There is now disturbing news from Scotland that they want to join in the fun by allowing children the right to choose assisted suicide. Read the story here. Obviously they are not targeting directly, but the MSP (equivalent to a Canadian MP) proposing the assisted suicide legislation feels that since we allow children (at 12 years of age) in family law a say in which parent they want to live with after a divorce, children should also be allowed to choose assisted suicide.

What?

Yeah, that analogy made no sense to me either.

And, she goes further; since children with capacity who are under 12 are allowed a say in which parent they live with, we should extend the right to assisted suicide to those younger than 12 as well, if they are mentally competent to make that decision.

The bill begins by allowing terminally ill people the right to assisted suicide, but it goes farther by saying that "Assisted suicide would also be possible for patients who unexpectedly became incapacitated to an "intolerable" degree, or who simply find their life "intolerable" - although the latter case would require the doctor to seek a second opinion from another health professional."

Wait a minute.

You mean the terminally ill don't have to get a second opinion? As soon as they say "kill me" (with a mandatory 15 day cooling down period, but we've seen how well that's worked in other countries) they can die? No, no, no! Studies prove there is a link between depression and requesting/committing suicide. EVERYONE who requests suicide should not just get another medical opinion, but also psychiatric help to see if a) they are depressed and b) help them with their depression. Anything else is laziness on the part of medical professionals.

Scotland is a beautiful country (ranks at #1 for me) with a proud history and deserves much better than this from its politicians. (Much like every other country that has or is contemplating assisted suicide) The people of Scotland are wonderful, generous people who have bravely fought off evil doers in the past. I hope and pray there are still some brave souls in that country who will fight this new evil with the same courage that their ancestors fought off every invading force from the Romans to the British.

And I will leave you with a thought, from the Declaration of Abroath signed in 1320, which acted as a Declaration of Independence for the Scottish people in their fight against the British. It states "It is in truth not for glory, nor riches, nor honours that we are fighting, but for freedom -- for that alone, which no honest man gives up but with life itself." Yes my friends, that is what we are still fighting for; the freedom to live our lives.

09 December 2008

Thanks for your signatures!

About six weeks ago I blogged about the petition by C-FAM to have the UN interpret the Declaration of Human Rights as protecting unborn children from abortion. Lifesite news reports that they are presenting that petition tomorrow with 330,000 signatures. They think they will be presenting far more signatures than the pro-choice group who is hoping to enshrine abortion as a human right.

I want to thank everyone who signed the petition and who passed it onto others. This is what happens when we speak out. I truly believe that those who oppose abortion on demand are the majority, but far too often we are a silent majority. Petitions' like this are an easy way for us all to get involved in the protection of life. Keep your eyes out for opportunities and keep praying!

God Bless.

08 December 2008

Montana Becomes 3rd State to Legalize Assisted Suicide

Very bad news out of Montana this weekend- courtesy of an activist judge, Montana became the 3rd state and the 6th jurisdiction to legalize assisted suicide. Unlike Washington and Oregon however, Montana's legalization was done, not by the elected legislature (or the American equivalent) but by a judge deciding to reinterpret the law.

While my understanding of the American jurisprudential chain is limited at best, it is certain that this case will be appealed. Already there are groups preparing amicus briefs to start the appeal. I have been unable to find a copy of the decision to read for myself, but the decision was made by District Court Judge Dorothy McCarter. (As far as I understand the American legal system, the District Court is similar to our Federal Court Trial Division; they answer questions based on federal statutes.)

The action was brought on behalf of Richard Baxter, a terminally ill 75- year old man, 4 physicians and Compassion and Choices (formerly the Hemlock society). The ruling held that any mentally competent terminally ill residents of Montana have a right to "die with dignity." This includes the right to "obtain a prescription for a lethal dose of medication that the patient may take on his own if and when he decides to terminate his life."

Baxter actually compared himself to pets. "I've just watched people suffer so badly when they died, and it goes on every day. You can just see it in their eyes: 'Why am I having to go through this terrible part of my life, when we do it for animals? We put them out of their misery. I just feel if we can do it for animals, we can do it for human beings."

Obviously this man is suffering, but helping him to kill himself is not the answer. He says he is unbearable pain, but that is no reason to kill him. Instead of killing someone, let's try helping them; giving them good palliative care. Why are there 4 doctors fighting to help him kill himself instead of trying to treat him?

Today is the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. Lets ask Mary to intercede for this world, because the news every week seems to be bleaker and bleaker.

UPDATE: (Tues 1:20pm) Richard Baxter died of leukemia before learning that the court had found in his favour See story here

05 December 2008

Abandoned Children

In our backwards society, people create embryos in Petri dishes for many reasons. One reason is a misguided effort to have children- parents who are unable to conceive naturally turn to In Vitro Fertilization. In this process, several children are conceived by uniting the egg and sperm. Some of those embryos are then implanted in the mother's womb, in the hope that one will implant and be carried to term. Make no mistake, conception is occurring in this process. I could speak about the fact that several embryos might implant and then the mother undergoes selective reduction abortion so she only carries one child to term, but I want to reflect on another part of the in vitro process- the extra embryos that are created and then frozen and stored in case the parents want to make use of them.

These embryos are children; but they are left in suspended animation, sometimes for years, while their parents decide what to do with them. Today, a report came out showing that the parents of these children are torn with what to do with the remaining embryos. In the survey of 1000 parents, 20% of the respondents indicated they were likely to keep their children frozen "forever." Other options for "disposal" (such a clinical term for ending a life) include donating the embryos to research, thawing them and then destroying, reproductive donation, implanting in the mother at an infertile time and a ritual disposal ceremony. One of the most horrific lines (to me) from the report is this "others [embryos are] cultured in a lab dish to let it flourish for a few moments before death."

This is one of the reasons the Catholic Church disapproves of in vitro- children are killed in the process; IVF is not a moral option for procreation. In the United States alone, almost half a million children are currently frozen as unwanted embryos. Many of these children will never have a chance at life, and some of them will be destroyed by their parents because they are no longer wanted. I don't understand how anyone can go through the IVF process knowing that some of their children will die. I wonder how many people who chose IVF actually understand what it means. I wonder how many people realize they are creating children- not potential children- but children, completely genetically different from the parents, that they will then kill, or leave suspended forever.

I have never been in the position of being unable to bear children, but should I ever face that, I think I would recognize how incredible selfish the IVF process is. With so many children who need loving homes, why can't parents just adopt? I know the adoption process is long and expensive, but then, so is IVF, and there is no moral issue with adoption.

One option that has been developed to deal with leftover embryos is a snowflake adoption. Through this, parents of embryonic children can donate their embryos to infertile couples who adopt them- the embryos are implanted into the adoptive mother who carries the child to term; giving life to a child who would either have been destroyed, donated to science or left frozen indefinitely. The embryos used in this process are known as "snowflakes"

The law in this area has yet to really catch up to the technology. In the few instances where it has dealt with embryonic adoption, it tends to look at it through human tissue laws, or property law because the law does not recognize these embryos as children. In my quick search of Canadian law, I found no cases dealing with snowflake children.

The Church has not articulated a clear position on this. The understanding that the three competing views are all founded on is that the creation of these embryos was immoral because it separated the sexual act from reproduction. They diverge based on what should be done with them:

  1. The embryos should never have been created. Implanting them in an adoptive mother results in treating them like property (they are bought and sold on the open market) and further separates sex from reproduction. Leaving them frozen violates their inherent human dignity, so they should be destroyed and left to God's infinite mercy.
  2. Implanting the embryo's further separates sex from reproduction, but destroying them keeps is murder and cannot be countenanced; therefore they should be left frozen until they die naturally from deterioration or disaster.
  3. Destroying them and leaving them frozen both violate their human dignity, so they should be available for adoption.

Until the church takes a clear position on the issue, it is open to every Catholic to come to their own conclusion on the basis of due consideration. I personally think a snowflake adoption is the correct way to go. The families who adopt these children are giving them a chance at life, and I don't think there can be anything more beautiful than that. I do however detest the buying and selling of these children- they are humans and should be treated with all the respect and dignity that implies. I worry that the law (in areas where this has been dealt with) treats the embryos as property that can be bought and sold, and even disposed of in a will. Until our society comes to recognize the value of life, this problem will continue, and we will have increasing numbers of children left frozen.

May God have mercy on the souls of all involved in the evil practice of IVF and bless abundantly those who adopt these abandoned children.

04 December 2008

Royalty I approve of

I want to commend Grand Duke Henri of Luxembourg on his stand against euthanasia. His country is trying to follow the example of its neighbors Belgium and the Netherlands by legalizing euthanasia. The Grand Duke has the constitutional power to veto laws, and he has pledged to use his veto to prevent the law from coming into force. The veto has not been used since 1912.

To get around this, the Luxembourg Parliament is going to strip him of his veto power, which will render him a complete figurehead. While they may have the power to do this, the Grand Duke is following his conscience, and will not allow himself to be complicit in the murder of his people. This is a very principle stand, and I applaud him and ask that God bless him abundantly, and I pray that this stand will change the hearts and minds of his people so they withdraw their support for euthanasia.

Thank-you Grand Duke for demonstrating the courage of convictions we all need to have in this fight. It might cost us our jobs, or our prestige, but what does that matter compared to saving lives? We cannot be silent. God Bless!

UPDATE (Fri 12:07pm): While I doubt the Grand Duke has facebook, there is a facebook group supporting his actions. Please join it at http://www.facebook.com/home.php#/group.php?gid=37870554817

Do no harm

With the success of I-1000 on the Washington state ballot, two states have now legalized assisted suicide, but both of those states recognize doctor assisted suicide. In these systems a doctor either prescribes a lethal dose of medication, or helps to administer the medication. This fact chills me almost more than the whole concept of euthanasia and assisted suicide in general, because I believe it irreparably damages the doctor's relationship with their patients.

The Hippocratic Oath, which pre-dates the birth of Christ, tells doctors and physicians to "do no harm." The oath says "I will neither give a deadly drug to anybody who asked for it, nor will I make a suggestion to this effect." So, any doctor who prescribes assisted suicide is violating that oath, or, as is more common, they are simply not taking the oath in the first place. But this worries me, because it seems we are taking a step back to the dark ages; the pre-Hippocrates times. Hippocrates created the oath in recognition of the fact that going to a doctor was dangerous business- you had to hope you paid the doctor more to heal you than you enemy paid him to kill you. Hippocrates didn't like this- he thought people should be free to seek treatment and know that the physician ministering to them would do everything he could to help them. Thus, the Hippocratic Oath- an oath taken by doctors for over 2000 years was born. It was created so people could feel safe visiting a doctor.

Physician assisted suicide threatens this, because you don't know that your doctor will actually work in your best interest. You don't know that he or she won't give you a deadly drug, or make subtle and not so subtle suggestions that you take it. You don't know that your doctor won't have spoken to your children or caregivers and have been convinced by them that you are "better off dead." If doctors continue to administer lethal prescriptions, patients cannot trust their doctors.

For this reason, it is so important that everyone talk with their doctors; just like you would a lawyer. Find out where they stand on palliative care and assisted suicide, or other medical ethical questions, and make sure they know you position as well. Communication is key, and if your doctor doesn't have the same pro-life values as you do, it is time to find another doctor. Another thing you should ask is if they took the Hippocratic Oath; increasingly medical schools are not requiring grads to take the Oath.

It's a scary world when we can't trust the people who are supposed to heal us to actually do no harm.

02 December 2008

Ahhh Secularism

I ran across a very interesting article in the paper the other day, and I find myself very amused by it. Not the topic of the article at all; that I find beautiful, but the fact that it is news at all. It's a short article about a man and women who shared their first kiss ever at the altar last Saturday. The couple both teach abstinence in the Chicago Public School System.

I did some searches on the article, and on many news websites, the article is posted in the "News of the Weird" section. Really? Has our society gone so far down the path of secularism that a couple who saves physical intimacy for marriage is viewed as "weird"?

I know the idea of not kissing before marriage may seem a trifle "out there" but it's more common (at least in Catholic relationships) than you might think. Without trying hard, I can think of three couples who've married in the last few years who shared their first kiss at the altar. I think it's beautiful. It's all part of the idea of courtship. Courtship is the idea of getting to know someone with marriage in mind. It begins with the understanding that sex is something special and sacred that should be shared only between a married couple. I can't speak for the couple in the article, but I can say that the courtship model is one that all Catholic's should follow in searching for a spouse. It saves a lot of the hurt and pain the current dating model produces.

I just wish that the secular world could see the beauty in the Catholic teachings on sex and marriage. They are there to keep everyone happy and healthy, in mind, body and soul. If the world could see that, women wouldn't be degraded through pornography, and children wouldn't be viewed as a punishment. But that perfect world is a long ways away. However, as long as there are couples out there who live their faith, we will do ok. And if it has to end up in the "News of the Weird" at least people are hearing that people do live the counter-cultural life we are called to. Congrats Mr. and Mrs. Fabien! Many prayers for your long and happy marriage!

01 December 2008

Children, Children, Children

Reading the title of this post, you would be forgiven for thinking that it was going to have something to do with children; maybe some family law, or Church teachings on family. Well, it doesn't. It has everything to do with the childish antics coming out of Ottawa over the last few days. Last Wednesday, when the trash talk started, I laughed it off, and thought it was just more parliamentary BS; or a trial balloon that, once floated, would quickly be shot down. Apparently I was wrong. I am no longer laughing; instead I dread checking any one of my news sources, and everything I read sends a sharp chill down my spine.

For those who aren't aware, or who haven't managed to follow the convoluted stuff coming from Ottawa, here is a brief rundown, followed by my opinion on it all.

THE FACTS

Prime Minister Harper (duly elected on Oct 14, 2008) announced he was considering cutting taxpayer money to political parties because of the economic crisis. (In 2003, then PM Jean Chretien announced each party would get $1.95 for every vote they received.) This cut was to be a largely symbolic gesture of belt tightening. Essentially, if PM Harper was going to ask Canadians to tighten their belts because of the economic crisis, he felt the politicians in Ottawa should do no less. (It's the whole leading by example thing that we all seem to have become unfamiliar with- sorry, I will try to stop editorializing in the recitation of the facts).

The leaders of the other 3 political parties quickly announced this was a partisan policy by PM Harper and was only being suggested because it would hurt them far more than it could hurt the Conservatives. (The Conservatives stand to lose about $10 million, the Liberals about $7.7 million, the NDP and the BQ about $3.3 million and the Greens about $1.7 million- not exact numbers.) However, in terms of money fundraised by each party, that would be about 2/3 of the other parties financial support.

On Thursday, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty delivered his economic update. In it, he proposed to cut the funding to political parties, prevent civil servants from striking for 1 year, and several other matters, all ostensibly geared to help keep Canada's economy afloat in the current world economic turmoil.

Even before Minister Flaherty had finished his economic update, the opposition parties were talking about a coalition government if they voted down the economic update. Their reason is that they have lost confidence in PM Harper to govern as the country needs during this economic crisis. Currently, PM Harper's Conservatives are 12 seats shy of having a majority in Parliament. That means that if the Libs, NDP and BQ get together, they can vote down any measure Harper proposes. As of a few minutes ago, Stephane Dion sent word to the Governor General that the three parties were prepared to govern if the Conservative government falls. The only other option is to have another federal election, 6 weeks after the last, at a cost of about $300 million.

EDITORIALIZING

That is a very short rendition of the facts, and leaves out a lot of details, but that's because I want to do what I do best- offer my opinion on it all.

The Economy

Ostensibly this whole constitutional crisis is about the current economic climate. (I don't believe that for a second, but, let's assume that's true.) There is no denying that economies all over the world are in trouble- you only have to look at the stock markets and the price of oil. Before I go any further, I want to make it clear that I am not an economist, nor have I ever taken a post secondary class on economics. But, correct me if I'm wrong, this whole crisis started because people were spending more than they had. People were living off of credit- buying homes they couldn't afford to make payments on, using the equity in their homes to purchase cars and RV's they couldn't afford, borrowing against lines of credit and racking up credit card debt like there was no tomorrow. Well, tomorrow has arrived, and the post-easy credit hangover has set in.

And yet, what is the approach of the Coalition of 3? Well, to spend more of course. Huh?

That's right, spend more money- stimulate the economy.

What? I'm sorry, but if I personally am living beyond my means, how is getting into more debt going to solve the problem? Isn't that what caused the problem in the first place? And, I know that we are talking about a whole economy here, not just one person, but I think the same principle still makes sense here. Are there going to be people who lose their homes and jobs? Yes, that's what happens in an economic downturn. Does it suck for those people? Yes, it does. I would really appreciate it if someone could explain to me how pouring billions into the Big 3 automakers will solve that problem. Sure, it will let those people retain their jobs for awhile, and allow them to continue paying their mortgages for awhile, but it doesn't fix the problem- it's a band aid solution. Unless the automakers (or whatever industry we are talking about) determines why people are no longer buying their products and makes the appropriate changes, they will continue to lose money. At the end of the day, pouring money in without huge restructuring and changes to business plans won't do anything, except delay the inevitable for a few more years, when the industry will again come hat in hand asking for more money, because, shocking! The last handout is gone and nothing has changed.

The right approach, in my view is to not give any money to a business that is failing. I don't approve of handouts. And I think that's where the Conservative government is coming from. We don't solve problems by spending more, we solve problems by tightening our belts and giving up cable and the annual Caribbean vacation until the crisis is over. Unfortunately, that policy isn't going to gain them any votes in a country that has decided that handouts are just business as usual.

Politics as Usual

But like I said, I don't think anything actually going on in Ottawa right now has anything to do with the economy. I think all 4 (yes all 4) political parties are trying to use the economy as an excuse to further their own agenda. That agenda, as always, is to get more votes. For the Liberals and the Conservatives, it's about getting a majority government. Interestingly, it is the NDP and BQ who are best poised to further their agenda's right now- both major parties lack a majority, so they have to make deals with the other parties to accomplish anything. Essentially, the NDP and BQ are in a position to blackmail- i.e. we won't support you unless you do x.

When Chretien brought in the $1.95/vote in 2003, I didn't like it. I think that if you want to be a political party, you should have to support yourself- if people like your ideas, they will help you to fund your political ambitions; if they don't like them, then there is no reason that you should exist. And I think that if the government is going to ask us all to tighten our belts, they should do the same, so cutting the subsidies doesn't bother me in the least. (Although if they really want to show themselves willing to tighten up, they should all accept a pay cut, but we all know that will never happen.)

It also offends me that the other parties would even attempt to form a coalition government, or threaten to bring down the house in the middle of an economic crisis. On Oct 14, Canadians elected a minority government. That means the will of the people is that everyone gets along for the good of the country. The problem with that is there is a fundamental disagreement about what the good of the country is. The Liberals, NDP and to some extent the BQ think that we need to spend our way out of an economic crisis. The conservatives think that belt tightening and tax cuts are the way to ride it out. So, the problem is that they will never agree, and I don't think that they will be able to govern effectively- every money bill is going to be a confidence motion and as long as we have a minority government, we are going to talk about an election constantly. I don't want another election- I think it will return the same results.

But I also don't want a coalition government- that offends democracy. The people of Canada voted the parliamentary make up that we have right now, and that needs to be respected by those in power. If the BQ, NDP and Libs form a coalition, they are ignoring the will of Canadians- in essence they are denying democracy. And yes, I know the constitution allows for this, but only if the coalition can provide stable governance. If we look at the Italian example, it should be clear that coalitions almost never work, and never last more than a year.

Assuming this coalition doesn't go anywhere (and I don't think it will) for the next 2 years, we are going to play an elaborate game of chicken every time PM Harper wants to do something. And, if the Libs don't blink first, we will go to the polls. Tactically, I think if the Liberals were smart, they'd go along with what Harper wants- phrase it in terms of trying to work for the best interests of the country, so they can deny they agreed with his policies when the time comes- for about 2 years. At that point they will have a new leader (likely Ignatieff) and money back in the party coffers to fight an election. Also, this is not going to be a short economic downturn, so 2 years from now, no matter what Harper does, we will likely be in a worse economic situation then we are now. The Libs can say they let Harper try to do it his way, but his way doesn't work, and I think that platform would win them a majority (unfortunately). But they don't seem to want to do that.

So that's my long winded opinion on what I think of the mess in Ottawa. Bottom line is that given the makeup of the constitution, the composition of Parliament and the ideological underpinnings of the parties in Ottawa, we can't expect anything different. And Canadians will suffer for it- either we will spend $300 million on an election every 6 months for the next few years (like Italy does) or we will spend billions on bailouts that don't work and will just artificially pro-long the crisis. (I recommend you read some of the new articles being written on the Great Depression- academics on both sides of the spectrum say that FDR's new deal actually prolonged the depression.

Honestly, I would like to see Harper given a chance- he is an economist by trade- something none of the other parties can boast of, and I think if we give him 4 or 5 years, he can turn this around before it becomes a major depression (remember the stock markets didn't return to 1929 levels until 1954), but I don't think that will happen. Instead of doing what is best for Canadians, the politico's in Ottawa will do what is best for them.

At the end of the day, Canadians will lose, and will lose big.

God help us all.


UPDATE: (5:33 pm Monday) Apparently we can blame the antics in Ottawa for today's Toronto Stock Market loss, and the continuing slide of the loonie. Investors don't see a country that is preparing for bloodless coup d'etat as a good investment option. If that doesn't prove that the Ottawa politoco's don't care about anything but their own self advancement, I don't know what does. Don't say you are trying to save the economy when you are actually forcing it to drop faster! Argh!

UPDATE: (10:14 pm Monday) A rally across Canada for democracy has been scheduled for this Saturday. Most major centers have a rally planned. If you have the time, please plan on attending it. We need to show the coalition of 3 that Canadians won't stand for this outrage. Details can be found at RallyforCanada.com. If you are on Facebook, an event has been set up here. Everyone needs to contact their MP to express their opinion, and don't hesitate to contact Mr. Harper, Mr. Dion, Mr. Layton, Mr. Duceppe and the Governor General. All to often Canadians are silent. We need to speak now.

28 November 2008

Updates

Thought I would give you updates on the current status of pro-life groups on university campuses that have been facing different challenges.

University of Calgary

As I reported here, the U of C was threatening to arrest or expel members of Campus Pro-Life (CPL) who erected the GAP (Genocide Awareness project) at the U of C. Despite those threats, the brave members of CPL went on with the GAP display on Wednesday and Thursday of this week. Even though the U of C had Calgary Police on hand on Wednesday, the display stayed peaceful and the U of C, despite all their bluster, didn't do anything either day. This may not be the end of the story though- CPL has been advised that the U of C might proceed with some civil action.

I would like to commend the students who took this brave stand and stood up for the unborn. They faced possible arrest or the end of their academic careers, but they still stood up for what was right. I congratulate them all.

I would also like to congratulate the Calgary media, especially the Calgary Sun and Calgary Herald, who recognized that the U of C's actions were wrong because they attempted to deny the free speech right that all Canadians should have. Both the Sun and the Herald ran editorials and columns about the situation. Neither paper endorsed the pro-life agenda, and several columnists wrote against it, but the papers recognized that the students have the right to express their opinion, and that is a start in the right direction.

At the end of the two days, CPL ran its GAP display. Some students protested with their own signage about human rights abuses in China (I'm not sure how that relates?) and heated discussions could be heard. That's what should be happening on a university campus. Hopefully this will be the end of it, and the university administration will take no further action, but if they do, CPL's members can at least know that they've done the right thing.

University of Guelph

The news from U of Guelph is not a positive. If you remember, I posted here about Guelph Life Choice being denied club status. The decision was supposed to be made yesterday by the Central Student's Association (CSA) but they, once again, refused to make a decision (reported here). Instead, they are setting up an "unbiased tribunal" (yeah I bet- sorry I will stop editorializing) to make the decision. However, while the terms of reference for the tribunal are put together (by the end of December) and the members of the tribunal are picked (in January) Life Choice has been granted interim club status, and it sounds like they have big plans between now and then. My prayers are with them in this endeavor, and I hope that by some miracle an independent, unbiased tribunal is chosen. If not, they will face a long, uphill legal battle, but in the end I think they will win. Not only is right on their side, but in this case, the law is as well. The sooner the CSA recognizes that, the better for everyone involved.

(picture courtesy of Lifesite news)

“We don’t know a millionth of one percent about anything”

When I was still a naïve young child/teenager, I loved quotes. I searched out all the quotes I could find that I liked, and I (with my limited artistic ability) wrote them up very nicely and put a design around them, and then posted them in my bedroom where I could read and think about them all the time. There were all kinds of quotes up there; some from science fiction sources, philosophers, politicians, from the classical world- they came from all over the place.

As a result of several discussions I've had today, I was reflecting on what I know and how that shapes my worldview and my understanding of it and that made me recall a quote on my wall from Thomas Edison- it's the title of my post, and it reads "We don't know a millionth of one percent about anything." I remember when I found this quote, I was blown away. I wasn't at the point yet where I wondered about context, and I never asked, like I was tempted to do today "well, what was Edison speaking about?" That's the legal side of my mind that wants to put everything in a little box. When I first found the quote, I just took it at face value; Edison meant exactly what he said- we don't know a millionth of one percent about anything. I've resisted the urge to look up the context and too keep my understanding to the child-like understanding of my youth and ignore the legal side of me that wants to delve deeper and deeper into it until it reaches the point where it means nothing.

We live in a world that is on the go 24/7. I read several newspapers (online), about twenty different blogs, have created a private news listing from an online service, follow two online forums and I am on three different news services mailing lists. Plus, I like to watch the news, and just randomly see what stories I can come across while surfing the net. And I do this daily. When I look at this, I think it's probably a little bit (if not a lot) over the top. But I don't know how to stop- I read so many sources because I don't trust the media, and I want to see things from every possible perspective so that I can piece together the "facts" given by the left and the right wing and hopefully come out to the truth somewhere in the middle. The only time I don't do this is when I go back to my parents (mostly because they only have dial-up and I can't handle waiting). Obviously, I don't need to follow all of this, because I don't miss it while I'm at home.

So, why do I do this? What drives me to spend about two hours a day reading news? Two things and they are really related. First, I want to be informed; I want to know what is going on in the world on a regular basis, especially around pro-life issues. If I am going to be a voice for the voiceless, I need to know when and where the weak are oppressed, and honestly, the mainstream media does a lousy job of telling the rest of us about what is going on; that necessitates reading a large number of varied sources to pick it all up. The second reason is I need to be informed is so I can give good rebuttals in my debates on issues that matter to me. After all, if there is one thing the left likes to do, it is to make analogies. You have to know what the analogies are to rebut them.

I also like to post on this blog about pro-life legal issues going on in the world, but to be honest, at best I post 1 a day. In reading all the reading I do, there are probably 6-7 different pro-life related stories every day. So, in my roundabout way, the purpose of this post is to encourage you to go to www.lifesitenews.com to stay updated on what's going on regarding life issues. (One of the services I subscribe to is an e-mail digest from Lifesite news).

While there is a lot to do every day, staying informed and educating yourself is important. So, with whatever spare time you do have, I encourage you to stay updated on the news, and talk to your friends and family about it. That's one way to keep the prolife message in the forefront of people's minds.

But, at the end of the day, just remember Thomas Edison: "we don't know a millionth of one percent about anything."

26 November 2008

Be not Afraid

As Catholics, we are called to be salt of the earth and light to the world, but so often we fail at this. We fail to speak out and up for the poor and vulnerable. I know that I have. I can't even begin to count the number of times I've thought "I should say something" but I haven't. Generally, it's out of fear- fear for what others will think, or fear of how it will reflect on my academic career. But I've begun to realize just how important it is to speak up; how powerful my voice can be. Society doesn't want us to speak up or speak out on the basis of values and principles, which is why it is so happy when we don't out of fear. The greatest fear of the people who are pushing us down the road to immorality in our society is that we will speak out. They know that voices have power.

I asked myself why people don't speak out- why are we so afraid. And the best answer I can come to is that we have very few examples of people speaking out. We should be able to turn to the church for examples, and solid pro-life clergy, especially at the higher levels are few and far between. I don't mean to accuse the clergy of not being pro-life; I am sure many are, but they seem to be just as afraid to speak out as the laity.

We are a church founded out of the greatest act of love and sacrifice the world has ever seen. Jesus didn't stay silent when things were wrong. Jesus lived his life boldly, and should provide us with the only example we need. As Catholics, we know that persecution is a part of life. We know that the road isn't an easy one, but that's no reason not to walk it. We are called to holiness, and called to be saints. Well, the fact is, many saints were martyred. They believed so strongly that they were willing to give up life itself. We are called to do nothing less.

So, where are the clergy in all this? Until the recent American election, I'd rarely heard priests and bishops speak out on pro-life issues. While I can't claim to have read every speech and pronouncement of every priest and bishop, until the recent election, I'd only ever heard 2 members of the clergy speak out on pro-life issues. The first is Bishop Fredrick Henry of Calgary; the second is Father Michael Bedard of Saskatoon. And I thank both men for having the courage to speak and teach the church's teachings. But, I wonder, where are the rest of the clergy?

Apparently I'm not the only one who has asked that question. That hit home today when I read a speech made by Tom Wappel to Catholic Clergy. Tom Wappel is a recently retired Liberal MP. Tom is also Catholic and pro-life. He is a long-time member, and former co-chair, of the Parliamentary Pro-Life caucus. He was an MP for twenty years and says he can essentially count on one hand then number of times he was asked to speak on life issues (his passion) to a group of Catholics. He said he never, in twenty years, heard from a member of the clergy above the rank of Monsignor. And then he posed a very good question, "Well, why should we be [speaking about life issues] if no one else is? Why should we be knocking our heads against a brick wall if no one is noticing, if no one is listening, if no one is offering encouragement, or appears not to be offering encouragement." That's not just directed at clergy, it's directed at ALL of us who claim to be pro-life.

At the end of his speech, he offered a list of 13 things that he thinks parishes should be doing to be more pro-life, and I think they are all great suggestions. They are directed at the parish priest, but many of them can be implemented by members of the laity who are involved in their parishes, so I'd suggest everyone take a look at them, and if you are active in your parish, propose some of them. If you aren't active, maybe it's time you ask yourself why; and then get involved. Because if you are too busy to speak for the vulnerable, who will?

Please don't get me wrong, I love the church, and I love her priests. I know that they are all busy men who work long hours offering the sacraments, acting as hospital chaplains, running a parish and a million other things. But I'm not asking them to take anything more on; I'm just asking them to teach what the church teaches to the parishioners. Many of them only show up once a week for an hour on Sundays (some even less often than that). But in that hour, the priest has an amazing opportunity to speak to them. We need to stop worrying about whether they will return the next week if they don't like the message. That's not what's important. What is important is Truth. People will hate the church, or leave the church or disagree with the church for many reasons. We can't stop that, but at least if the priests preach on ALL the church's teachings, they know what they are turning their back on. Then, the decision is theirs; and the priest has done his job.

I'm sure that drafting a homily is not an easy thing to do; trying to come up with something that all ages and vocations will get something from. And I know you don't want to be graphic with little children in the audience. But there are ways to discuss pro-life issues with children present. Seeing our clergy courageously speak for life will embolden all of us, and reinforce the teachings of the church. The clergy should lead us all, should teach us all, so please, SPEAK. Use the voice and opportunity you have been given.

And, laity- when your priest does speak on life issues; THANK-HIM; not just after mass, but write him a letter. Write the bishop a letter congratulating the priest. We are all quick to complain when we don't like something, but how often do we praise people when we do? If I (and you) am afraid sometimes to speak out, think about what the priest must be feeling as he stands before the congregation to preach. Give our priests some encouragement, so they can embolden us. As JPII reminded us "Be not afraid." Speak up for those who have no voice. And, always, always, pray for our clergy and pray for our MP's. The moment we stop praying is the moment we lose this battle.

25 November 2008

Conversations with Law Students

I had lunch with a classmate of mine today, and we started talking about "the way the world should be" and we got talking (well, I got talking) about the problems inherent in our system; i.e. the fact that Bishop Henry in Calgary was brought before the Human Rights Tribunal for sharing his views- based on Catholic Teachings- on homosexuality. Eventually, I got to the point where I expressed my view that in a perfect world, we would have a Catholic monarchy as our political system. (Remember, I'm saying perfect world, where said monarch would recognize the pope and follow church teachings in everything- not the example of the late middle ages). I want a system based on the Judeo-Christian value system.

Unsurprisingly, my classmate thought this was a terrible idea, because to have a system based on Judeo-Christian values would be me forcing my views on everyone else in an impermissible fashion. I tried to get the point that my classmate's system (i.e. the current system) still forces it's values (though they are a different set) onto people, but I was unable to get my classmate to see my point. My classmate tried to point out to me that my real complaint isn't with the system, but with the enforcement of the system.

I don't mean for this to become a post about the merits of the system, or how to fix the system, my point is simply that dialogue becomes impossible many times at law school because people are not willing to see or change their viewpoints. I don't want to knock my classmate; several good points were made and raised, that I didn't defend all that well (my own lack of preparedness) but I worry about the lack of dialogue and discussion in general on university campuses across Canada.

If few people are prepared to have an open dialogue (and this classmate was) our fight is going to be harder than we thought. We need to change hearts and minds, but that can only be done if people are willing to listen. We also need to know our positions inside and out, so that we can adequately debate it- which I didn't do well today. The problem I have is that I spend so much time discussing how I want to change the world with likeminded people that I fail to see the obvious flaws in my own argument. I think that is something we all do. That's why it's important to have friends with different opinions and beliefs; so you can run your ideas by them. That's why I was happy to have this discussion today, even if it didn't go well.

Talking is what we need to do. Educate yourself, and then speak out- use the voice God gave you.

24 November 2008

Further Movements on the Pro-Death Front

A few weeks ago, I wrote the Call to Arms post about euthanasia and assisted suicide (EAS), and I pointed out that the pro-death advocates are doing everything they can to make EAS legal in Canada. They are a slick, sophisticated machine, and the next part of their plan is marching on smoothly. They are either manipulating, or have taken over the media, and are using the media to show EAS in a positive light. Case in point is the coverage of an upcoming criminal trial in Quebec.

Stephane Dufour's trial begins tomorrow in Quebec. He is charged under s .241 of the Criminal Code with helping his uncle to commit suicide- by hanging. That's right, the charge is assisted suicide, and he assisted in the hanging. His uncle was unable to kill himself, so dear sweet nephew Stephane helped him to hang himself. The media coverage is turning this into a debate about whether EAS should be legal in Canada, but the legal question to be answered at trial is if Mr. Dufour assisted in the suicide or not- there is no great public policy question to be answered here- it was answered in R. v. Rodriguez when the Supreme Court found that s. 241 is constitutional. But that doesn't matter to the media. They are reporting that this case is all about the "right to die".

Yahoo's poll of the day today was "Should Canada legalize assisted suicide" and when I voted, it was 59% yes, 41% no. While the poll is not scientific, it does show that we have a lot of work to do. The pro-death movement, assisted by the media has made great strides in changing public opinion by relabeling the terms of the debate.

Read the Lifesite News version of the story here.

Read the Canadian Press version here.

Note the way each group uses language to make their point.

And be very, very worried about the mainstream media's coverage of the issue. In the Call to Arms post I encouraged everyone to contact their MP's about their feelings on EAS. I forgot to mention the HUGE role that the media plays in presenting and covering the issue. So, the task now, if we are to win in the court of public opinion (which of course the politicians listen to) is to make sure the media presents both sides of the story. The way to do that is by writing to your papers, TV stations and news websites. Give them feedback- let them know what you think about both the issue and their coverage of it. If a columnist writes a piece you disagree with, respond- e-mail addresses can invariably be found at the bottom of the column. If it is an online piece, leave a comment in the comment section. It doesn't take much time, and you might not think it will do anything, but it does. It lets the media know what its readers/viewers are thinking.

The time for passivity is gone. We need to speak now, before it is too late. Read and watch the news attentively, and whenever life issues come up, address them- discuss the news at work or school or with friends the next day, and, for the sake of LIFE, let the media outlet know how you feel. Our power comes from our voice, so let's use it!

21 November 2008

Valley View Centre

I began today feeling like I was back in kindergarten because we were going on a field trip. I'd mocked the trip, and tried to think up a dozen ways to get out if it so I wouldn't have to waste my Friday. But in the end, I could come up with no compelling excuse not to go, so like a good little student I showed up at 7:30 this morning to embark on a trip to Moose Jaw. And I'm glad I did.

While I could say a lot about my Law and Disability class (and I have) it has been a really good class to get me thinking and considering ideas and viewpoints I've never considered before, especially around the area of disability. It, more than any other class I've taken at law school has made me re-evaluate how I view others, and to broaden my understanding of being "pro-life." Our field trip today was to the Valley View Center in Moose Jaw, SK. The VVC is one of the few remaining institutional care homes left in Canada for persons with cognitive disabilities. See the Saskatchewan Government Fact Sheet here.

As we approached the facility, I had no idea what to expect; my prof hadn't told us much about the facility, except to mention that there was controversy over its very existence. Some organizations want nothing more than to see it shut down because they view any form of institutional living as a violation of human rights. The Friends of Valley View want to keep it open, and the reason my prof gave was because it is home to the residents who live there, and moving somewhere else would be traumatizing to them.

We were told at the very start of the visit that the VVC allows very few visitors in because it is the home of the residents, and just as you and I wouldn't want a bunch of strangers to suddenly walk into our home, they wouldn't want it either. That really hit home to me. They broke us up into groups of two or three to see the facility, and I was amazed by it. As the staff member who showed me around pointed out, the VVC is its own little community with every service you could imagine available on site for the benefits of the residents; a doctor's office, dentist, even a barber shop/beauty salon.

What stood out to me as we saw VVC was, first, just how big the place was. Currently there are just under 250 residents, but at its peak the VVC was home to over 1400 people. However, all the residents I met seemed very happy and very content. The people who work at the VVC are very friendly, and obviously care a lot for the residents. As we walked around, we were told of the huge culture shift the VVC has undergone, even in the last few decades. The current model and vision statement is "living life to the fullest," and based on what I saw, the VVC is doing a wonderful job of that. They are trying to make the place a home, not an institution, despite the solid concrete walls everywhere. The homes have been personalized with photos and drawings, and they are currently preparing for Christmas by decorating. It seemed like every second verbal resident I met was asking about when the Christmas Party was- it seems to be the event on the social calendar that everyone is looking forward to.

Leaving the VVC, I don't have a problem with the institution being open. The people who live there are cared for and loved, and the people who work there genuinely seem to enjoy their jobs. And I can certainly see the argument of the Friends of Valley View that it is a home for people, and it's not right to take that from them. But I also understand the other side; our culture has shifted, and we no longer believe that institutionalizing people is the best way to do things. Living in the community is better for all involved. My prof called the current situation a "détente"- neither side is really talking about the other side, and the idea at present seems to be let everyone who lives there be, but no new residents will be accepted. That means in a few decades the centre will close, simply because there are no more residents left.

I found myself thinking about the centre, and people with intellectual disabilities specifically on the ride home. While there is definitely an economic argument to made for institutional living, an economic argument can also be made for group home living as well. But economics isn't everything, and I think that as the culture of death continues to pervade this world, we need to have people with disabilities living and working in the greater community just so we can all learn that they are people as well, people who deserve the full protection of human rights. When we talk about assisted suicide and euthanasia, and also the termination of unborn children with "defects" we are talking about discrimination on the basis of disability. The more that people interact with people with disabilities of all types, the better equipped we will all be to be citizens. People with disabilities are no more different from "normal" people than black people are from white people, or women are from men. Yes, there are differences in our abilities, but we all have something to offer to the world, and we should all be allowed to offer it to the world. No one should be hidden away because they are "different," but at the same time, we have to make accommodations for the differences to enable everyone to live the fullest life they can. Funny, that's also the VVC's vision statement. In a perfect world, the residents of the VVC wouldn't have to live there to get the love and care they do; it's something we would all provide in the greater society as a whole.

Too bad the whole culture of death and viewing people as burdens gets in the way.

20 November 2008

More on the Death of Free Speech

Canadian campuses are at it again. This time it's Queens University in Kingston, ON. In a creative twist on taking away the right to free speech, Queen's has hired "student facilitators" who will act as conversation cops on campus. Their job is to step into any conversation they overhear that they deem offensive, racist or bigoted.

What?

Yeah, that's right; students at Queen's can no longer have conversations without fear of conversation cops. Any conversation you have might be eavesdropped on, and someone can jump in to "educate" you if they feel you are speaking in an offensive manner.

Read the story here

Has anyone ever heard of the Charter and the right to freedom of expression? Oh right, I forgot, it only applies if you are on the politically correct side of the debate. Otherwise, the so called "tolerant" won't tolerate a thing you say. If someone uncomfortable with being called out, the administration thinks that's a good thing, because that forces them to think about what they are saying.

So, I'm wondering a couple of things. First, what happens to Catholic students or students of other religious faiths who believe that, oh, let's say homosexual marriage is wrong and make a statement to that effect? If the conversation cops hear, they get to interfere? What about the right to free speech? What about the right to freedom of religion? Second, what about pro-life students. Does this mean pro-life conversation can be shut down because it is offensive? What kind of university is Queens trying to be? Obviously not one that believes in an open and honest dialogue on issues affecting the world at large.

Apparently we are trying to create an atmosphere of "inclusivity." Well, I don't know about you, but I certainly don't feel like it will be an inclusive atmosphere if I have to look over my shoulder every time I have a conversation with friends.

It's disgusting that this can occur in a public institution. I invite everyone to contact Queens and express their disgust at this policy.

I just don't know what else to say. What's happening Canada? Why is no one speaking out about this? Who's standing on guard for thee?

19 November 2008

The Death of Free Speech in Canada

A few weeks ago, I blogged about the problem of university campuses denying pro-life groups club status. Today's post is about a new twist on the denial of free speech on university campuses. The University of Calgary is threatening to arrest or sanction members of the Campus Pro-Life (CPL) group next week when they bring GAP (Genocide Awareness Project) to the U of C. GAP is a graphic visual display comparing abortion to other genocides around the world by showing pictures of aborted children, and pictures of other genocides around the world. The U of C says that CPL can only display the GAP boards if they face them inward so no one can see them unless they choose to walk into the circle. Read the full story here. However, the U of C doesn't make any other group turn its display boards inward. Several local media outlets have picked up this story, including the Calgary Herald who wrote an editorial on the issue.

The U of C is denying the members of CPL their Charter right to freely express their opinion. CPL has done the GAP project before, but it has always been a peaceful display. That hasn't stopped the U of C from claiming that the display might insight violence, and that is reason enough to shut it down. University campuses are supposed to be a bastion of free speech, but if my 6 years on campus has taught me anything, it's that free speech is only allowed if it is speech that the campus administrators approve of. If they don't approve, it's no longer free speech, it's hate speech. And, shocking, that's exactly what the U of C is claiming.

If the U of C is truly pro-choice (not pro-abortion) then they should have no problem with a display that shows the consequences of abortion. However, you and I both know that pro-choice really means pro-abortion in the world today, but pro-choice is a less charged term than pro-abortion. It's as though they do not trust the students, faculty and staff of the U of C to actually evaluate the issue of abortion. What are they afraid of if people see this display? Yes, it is graphic, but the truth often is. The U of C is a public institution, funded by taxpayer dollars. As such, they are bound by the Charter, and their students have the right to free speech that they do not have the right to censor.

I want to congratulate all the members of CPL who believe so much in the duty to protect the unborn that they are willing to face arrest and possible academic sanctions. That is a courageous action, and an action that will increasingly need to be taken if campuses continue down the path of denying free speech. May God Bless them and give them the strength they need next week to stand up for free speech, and more importantly the unborn.

Interesting Documentary

Really short post tonight/this morning because I just finished my paper.




This video has been posted around the blogsphere today, but it is well worth watching- it's the results of a poll done immediately after people voted in the American Election, and is attempting to show the media bias in the coverage of leading up to the election. After doing the interviews, the author also commissioned a study to see if the results would be duplicated in a more scientific process.

Results of the poll are at www.howobamagotelected.com. Check it out; it's very interesting, and I can't wait to see the final documentary.

18 November 2008

What it Means to Be Human

In working on my paper, I ran into a bioethicist named Wesley Smith. He began life as an attorney, but has moved into bioethics full time. He's a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute and does work on pro-life issues, especially around euthanasia and assisted suicide. I also discovered that he has a great podcast, and it does a great job of explaining the issues in bioethics today in a way that is easy to understand. There is a debate going on in the academic world that has HUGE ramifications for everyone, but we are not aware of it- the fight over human exceptionalism. Essentially human exceptionalism is the idea that humans have a special status in nature because of our unique capacities and inherent dignity. This gives us special rights, like the right to life, and obligations to care for the rest of creation.

In academic circles, the idea that humans are exceptional and above the rest of animals is coming under fire. I was not aware of this debate until I started working on this paper and I suggest you all start educating yourselves on this. I don't know enough to speak well to it, but I do recommend that everyone go listen to his podcasts- they are short, generally on 6 or 7 minutes, and are well researched and explain issues relation to "what it means to be human."

The podcast can be found here. It can also be subscribed to on iTunes.

14 November 2008

Thank-you St. Thomas!

The postings on this blog have been melancholy and even negative since the American Election, but I am happy to link to some wonderful news for the pro-life movement. A Serbian abortionist, Dr. Stojan Adasevic, responsible for 48,000 abortions over 26 years has recanted his pro-abortion position, and become a leader in the Serbian pro-life movement!

This change of heart was brought about by his re-conversion to the Orthodox faith, and a series of dreams. In the first dream, he saw children playing and laughing in a beautiful field, but they ran away from him in fear. There was a man, dressed in a black and white habit staring at him. He told Dr. Adasevic that he was Thomas Aquinas, and that the children were those that he had aborted. Educated in communist schools, Dr. Adasevic had no idea who Aquinas was. The next day, Dr. Adasevic was faced with a woman who came in for her 9th abortion (in former Soviet countries, abortion is a method of birth control). When he performed the abortion, the child's heart came out still beating. At that point he realized he'd killed a human being.

From that point on, he refused to perform any more abortions, resulting in his salary being cut in half, his daughter losing her job and his son being prevented from attending university. A few years later, after much pressure from the government, he was about to give up, when he had another dream. St. Thomas told him he was doing a good job and needed to keep going. After that, he joined the pro-life movement and has been instrumental in bringing the truth about abortion to Serbia.

Dr. Adasevic has also begun to read the writings of St. Thomas, and has pointed out that influenced by Aristotle (and the lack of science in his day), St. Thomas felt human life began 40 days after fertilization. He thinks that this might be St. Thomas's way of making up for that error.

I think that this is an absolutely beautiful story of conversion, and while Dr. Adasevic will always have to live with the knowledge that he took 48,000 lives, like St. Paul, he is trying to make amends for the evil he has done by speaking out against it. My prayers are with him, and I ask you all to join in praying for doctors around the world who perform abortions; that they may learn the truth of what they are doing and repent. And while we are at it, let's ask St. Thomas to pray for them as well.

Read the story here.

13 November 2008

Musings on Faith and Fellowship

Humans are social creatures; we thrive on interaction with other people. We develop relationships with other people, and generally are at our best when we are around others. That's something that I have forgotten recently, as I have been working on my paper. As you may have guessed, law school is not exactly the most Catholic- friendly place you can spend time. And yet, the way this semester has gone, I have been spending most of my time at law school.

Tonight I had the privilege of being reminded that Catholic community and fellowship are beautiful, and so important in life. I think it would be impossible for me to live my faith in isolation. Once in awhile you just need to spend time with those who have the same values and beliefs as you. Debates are always an interesting challenge, but I truly appreciate the times when you can speak with others and not have to defend every statement you make.

In short, to stay balanced and healthy, you need to reconnect with people who share your values; the people who make up your community. And I have to say that I am very grateful to be a part of the body of Christ and share in that fellowship. Today was a great reminder that a career cannot be the be all and end all of your life. My faith is the most important part of my life, and I need to renew that faith regularly to keep my life balanced. Part of that faith is in engaging with the Church community.

12 November 2008

With Great Power (Part 2)

In yesterday's post I talked about the power that lawyers, by virtue of their profession, have and the responsibility to use that power for the good of all. I also talked about how the legal profession tends to be rather unethical, as a result of the way that law school is taught. Today I want to talk about what that means for anyone trying to be a Catholic, and a lawyer.

There are some days when I feel like a Catholic cannot be a lawyer and remain a Catholic. For example, I had a professor tell a class that "There will be times when your personal values conflict with what your client wants you to do. As long as it isn't against the law and doesn't violate your professional obligations, you should do what your client wants. Even if you have a personal ethical dilemma, you need to remember it's not about you; it's about what the client wants. You have a duty to do what the client wants." I've had several Profs tell me that, and spoken with enough practitioners to see that it is going to be an issue throughout my career.

I just don't know how that can be reconciled with my Catholic faith. If I believe that something is wrong, because that's what my faith teaches, how can I help my client do that, even if it is not illegal? As a lawyer, I will have both ethical obligations to serve my client, and the duty to live out my Catholic faith. Obviously my faith has to come first, but what does that mean to my legal career? That is the issue that I seem to be wrestling with.

I think an example is needed, and the best one I can come up with is family law. I know that I am going to be required to do some family law in my first few years, and that will include some divorces. However, I also know that JPII stated that Catholic lawyers should refrain from aiding in divorces. How can I help a couple divorce when I believe, as a matter of faith, that nothing we do on earth can set aside a union blessed and created by God?

And yet, I feel that law is what I am supposed to do with my life. I believe my prof was right when he said we will have a lot of power and can do a lot of good. So, I guess that means I will just have to keep going, and when ethical dilemmas arise, I will have to trust that God will show me a way through the dilemma. But, as I told a classmate in my first year, my faith comes first, and I will not compromise it. Not for anyone or anything.

I realize these two posts have been rather personal and lack a lot of practical value. What I hope the readers can take from this is the importance of knowing your lawyer, and knowing where they stand on ethical issues. There are lawyers who are unethical, and you don't want them representing you. When you choose a lawyer, remember that you are the one hiring the lawyer, not the other way around. Feel free to question them, and give them hypothetical scenarios to figure out where they stand. It's your right to know where they stand, so you can know where you stand. This advice applies to any professional you deal with- accountants, dentists, doctors etc. The other thing you need to remember is to never give people more power than they deserve. Just because someone is a professional, or in a position of authority, is no reason to simply accept what they say. Question everything, and never let anyone brush you off without answering your questions.

11 November 2008

“With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility” (Part 1)

Yes, I've stolen the post's title from Spiderman, but hear me out. One of my profs has spent the last two years telling us about the power we will have as lawyers. I've been reflecting on that for the past few days. If he is correct (and he's given us enough anecdotes that I think he is) I will have the opportunity to do great good. I will graduate with 119 other people, and, as lawyers, we have that same opportunity to do great good. My concern is will we (and the grads from the 19 other Canadian Law Schools) use that power for good or evil? For better or for worse, lawyers form the core of the Canadian political system. They are the politicians, and perhaps more importantly they are the policy advisors who draft legislation. They are also the people who become the judges who interpret (and rewrite the law). There is a lot that they, and soon, I can do, if we choose to act in an ethical manner.

However, the sad truth (based on societal perceptions of the legal profession and my own observations) is that the profession doesn't do a lot of good. In fact, I think it could be said we are responsible for a lot of evil in the world. A year or so ago I ran across this article by Patrick J. Schiltz. It's titled "On Being a Happy, Healthy and Ethical Member of an Unhappy, Unhealthy and Unethical Profession" Though it's an American piece, I think it's very relevant for Canadian lawyers as well. He begins the article saying:

Dear Law Student:
I have good news and bad news. The bad news is that the profession
that you are about to enter is one of the most unhappy and unhealthy
on the face of the earth—and, in the view of many, one of the
most unethical. The good news is that you can join this profession and
still be happy, healthy, and ethical. I am writing to tell you how.

It's a long article, but that paragraph essentially sums up the whole thesis of the paper, but for anyone wanting to know what legal life is really like, I suggest reading it. Here are some nuggets:

"And because your life as a lawyer will be filled with the mundane, whether you practice law ethically will depend not upon how you resolve the one or two dramatic ethical dilemmas that you will confront during your entire career, but upon the hundreds of little things that you will do, almost unthinkingly, each and every day."

"The system does not want you to apply the same values in the workplace that you do outside of work (unless you're rapaciously greedy outside of work); it wants you to replace those values with the system's values. The system is obsessed with money, and it wants you to be, too. The system wants you—it needs you—to play the game… It is very difficult for a young lawyer immersed in this culture day after day to maintain the values she had as a law student. Slowly, almost imperceptibly, young lawyers change."

"Unethical lawyers do not start out being unethical; they start out just like you—as perfectly decent young men or women who have every intention of practicing law ethically. They do not become unethical overnight; they become unethical just as you will (if you become unethical)—a little bit at a time. And they do not become un- ethical by shredding incriminating documents or bribing jurors; they become unethical just as you are likely to—by cutting a corner here, by stretching the truth a bit there."

A few years ago, I ran into an interesting opinion on why lawyers become unethical. It's because of the way we are taught in law school. We spend three years learning how to twist the law to our own purpose. The legal system is an adversarial one, and as lawyers we have to be zealous advocates for our clients- that's what they teach us. But that means we spend three years learning how to find loopholes in the law. That's what clients pay us for. If that's what we are taught, is it any wonder that the profession lacks ethics?

This post is ending up longer than I expected, so I'm going to split it into two parts. I've tried to establish that the profession has problems with ethics that stem from the entire law school program, and tomorrow I'm going to write about some of my experiences with these ethical difficulties. Most of my classmates don't see ethical issues, but I think that as a Catholic, I have spent more time thinking about these ethical difficulties and what they will mean for my life, and how I can practice ethically.


10 November 2008

Lest We Forget

Tomorrow on the eleventh day of the eleventh month at the eleventh hour we pause for a moment of silence to remember. We remember those who have and are fighting and dying for our freedom. They are the men and women who served in WWI, WWII, the Korean War, Afghanistan and countless other locations in the world. They are the people who are willing to die for their country.

I am proud of my family, on both sides, who have defended and died for this country. I am told my grandfather used to say "I may not agree with you, but I will defend to the death your right to say it." That's what he and other veterans fought for. We seem to be at risk of losing that right in this country, but tomorrow is no the time to worry about that. Tomorrow is a day of remembrance, so please, at 11am tomorrow pause for a moment of silence, and say a prayer for all our veterans and their families.

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders Fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders Fields.

- John McCrae

We will remember them.

07 November 2008

A Call to Arms

In recent days I've blogged a lot about euthanasia and assisted suicide (EAS) - specifically the Washington I-1000 Initiative, and the troubling response of my legal classmates to the issue. It's also the part of the issue I'm writing my paper on, so it's something I've been doing a lot of thinking and reading about.

And I've come to the realization that we, as Catholics and as pro-lifers need to get our act together on this issue. I've spoken to pro-lifers who think that dealing with abortion is more immediate because 2000 babies are dying every week from abortion in Canada (and 3000 in the US) and a million every week worldwide, and that is a genocide. We are losing millions of children to this and we have to fight with every fiber of our being against it. However, the forces of the culture of death have begun to marshal around the issue of EAS, and we also have to do something about that.

In some ways, we are in a better position to prevent EAS than we are to prevent abortions right now, and we need to keep it that way. Currently, those of us fighting against EAS are in the same position pro-lifers were in before Roe v. Wade (US) and before R v. Morgantaler (Canada). Right now, the law in Canada doesn't allow for either euthanasia or assisted suicide. Euthanasia is prosecutable as murder, and assisted suicide has its own charge in s. 241 of the Criminal Code. We need to keep it that way! But the only way for us to do that is to be vocal about it. We need to speak about the issue, and we need to create strong arguments against it. Because, as abortion has shown us, once it's legal it's really hard to change the law, and trying to put in "protections" haven't been all that successful.

Right now, we are in a position to launch an offensive battle against EAS. If we don't launch it, we will end up playing a catch-up, reactive, defensive action against the forces of death, just like we are with abortion. So, you ask, how do we fight this battle?

The battle is going to be won in the halls of Parliament, the courtrooms of our nation and in the media. That's where we need to fight this.

In 2004, Bloc Quebecois MP Francine Lalonde introduced a private members bill that would allow EAS. This bill was defeated, not by a vote in Parliament, but by the 2006 election being called. Again in 2006, she introduced another EAS bill. It again was only defeated by dying on the order paper when the 2008 election was called. You can read the 2004 bill here and the 2006 bill here. We don't know how Parliament will vote on this issue. However, she has said that she will reintroduce the same bill in the current Parliament at her earliest opportunity. There is now a group in BC, in the wake of the Washington decision, pushing for EAS to be legalized in Canada.

If they go the legislative route, the only people who can stop EAS are the MP's. I encourage everyone to contact their MP frequently about this issue, and all life issues. Whenever you hear a story in the news, forward it to them, with your opinions about it. MP's represent YOU and have a duty to do what the majority of their constituents want. The only way they know what their constituents want is if they hear from them, so please contact your MP. You can find your MP's name and contact information here.

If this battle is fought in the courts- and there is a good chance that it will be, because I think Parliament will be afraid to deal with this issue because it's a political hot potato (just like the same-sex marriage issue) it will be a long expensive battle. The only way to help the fight here is to make sure the organizations that fight this with intervener status, like the Council of Canadians with Disabilities and the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition have the funding to do it. (Intervener status means they have a right to make submissions before the court deciding the issue.)

The final, and perhaps most important battleground is the media, because it is the media that Parliament and the courts will look to when making "public policy" decisions, which is what these are. They are looking for consensus among Canadians about what they want. We need to fight this battle against death in the forefront of public opinion. We need to challenge the terms that the pro-death crowd uses- terms like "dying with dignity" and "unbearable pain and suffering." A public battle is fought and won by gaining the hearts and minds of the population. The population is very busy and likes catchy phrases that sound good that they can repeat without really learning anything about it. We need to challenge the meaning of those terms- ask them to be defined. We need to redefine them for our benefit. If you want a good example of where this has been done before- look at the pro-choice movement. Pro-lifer's have science on their side, but the pro-choicers won because they had the language. We need to make sure that the terms the media uses are terms we want them using. That can only be done by having a public dialogue on the issue.

Consider this a call to arms.

Rally the troops.

Get ready to fight, because this is going to be a long hard fight.

Those of you who are prayer warriors; start praying.

And let's win this battle without losing the legalization fight. We can if we start fighting now.

We don't need compromise and appeasement, we need to save lives.