28 November 2008


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.


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.

06 November 2008

Health Care Directive

In Health Law, we've been working on advanced directives- the things you sign to talk about the medical decisions you want made on your behalf if you become unable to consent to treatments, or lose capacity to give instructions, and we had to draft our own. It was very tough- trying to put Church teachings on end of life care into words- I don't know that I succeeded in mine- I'm not signing it until I think about it some more, but it's really important. (Once I figure out how to draft mine, I will post it)

The first thing I want to say is be very, very, very careful as to how you word these. The second thing I want to say is make sure you ask your lawyer (if you are using one) what he uses to make them up. If he says the firm uses a precedent, you need to be very careful in the instructions you give, and ensure that you read over it and ask LOTS of questions about what it entails. Why? Because many directives do not follow the teachings of the Church regarding end of life care.

When you are coming up with your instructions, take time to think it through. Talk to a priest you trust. Do not let anyone (the lawyer, the home care facility, the hospital) rush you, because it is important. The following are my thoughts on what you should include, but please don't consider this exhaustive advice- it is merely information you need to consider. If you already have an advanced directive (also known as a health care directive) please review it.

As Catholics, we need to ensure that we don't allow our health care directives to permit passive assisted suicide (which is legal in most countries, including Canada and the US). Passive assisted suicide is removing or withholding treatments and allowing someone to die. Those treatments can include basic things like food and water. If that is removed, you starve/dehydrate to death. This is an inhumane practice, but is allowed.

For women, you want to include a clause regarding what you want done if you are pregnant.

When you appoint a proxy (a person who will make decisions in the event you cannot), make sure you choose someone who will make decisions in line with church teachings. If you want, you can explicitly state that they have to make decisions based on Church teachings.

Do you want to donate your tissues for therapeutic purposes? For medical research?

This is not a long list, but just some of the things I am considering for mine. As a final plug, I want to advise everyone to ensure they have a will, power of attorney and a healthcare directive, and advise you to get them drafted by a lawyer to ensure they meet all the legal requirements. Don't think that just because you are young, you don't need one. None of us know when we will be called home to God, and I ask you prepare your affairs so your family (who will be grieving) doesn't have to think about these things.

In the case of all of them, if you don't plan ahead, the courts can make the decisions for you, and that should scare you more than anything else I can say. J Also- please discuss these issues with your family- they NEED to know what your wishes are in advance.

Finally, if you envision you health care directive being needed sooner rather than later (or you have family who might need it) let them know that EMS personal are trained to look on the fridge for a plastic pouch containing the directive. If you've got questions, don't hesitate to ask.

05 November 2008

The Positives of the Election

I decided to look at the election results from a new perspective this morning and be positive about them. However, after looking at them all day, I'm afraid I can't be positive. The cause of life lost yesterday. Not only in the presidential, senate and congress races, but also in the ballot measures. (Aside for the 4 family victories, there's not much to be positive about.) Americans seem to have soundly rejected life.

Washington passed I-1000 which legalizes euthanasia and assisted suicide. (Supposedly only for those with a terminal illness and less than 6 months to live, but if Oregon, the Netherlands, Belgium and Switzerland are any indication it won't remain that way.) The truly scary thing about I-1000 that goes further than Oregon and actually requires the doctor who prescribes assisted suicide to state the underlying illness was the cause of death. Read it here yourself. Washington State now has the dubious distinction of becoming the 4th place in the world to legalize assisted suicide and euthanasia. Washington is no longer a safe place to be elderly, disabled, have a terminal illness or suffer a serious accident.

Michigan approved Prop 2 which allows the unrestricted and unregulated destruction of human embryos for experimental purposes. Since Roe v. Wade in 1973, 50 million humans have been aborted. How many more have died as lab experiments or in the In-Vitro process, let alone by the pill? How many more will now die in Michigan?

In California, Sarah's Law (Prop 2) which would have required parents to be notified 48h before their underage daughter had an abortion failed. The purpose of this law was to catch predators that were using abortions to cover up the rape of young girls.

In South Dakota, a measure to ban abortion failed.

In Colorado, an attempt to define personhood beginning at conception failed.

Not only that, Obama's Chief of Staff, Rahm Emanuel has a 0% pro-life record.

And to top it all off, Catholics helped Obama to win.

A Sad Day for the Unborn

Sorry this post is late- I just got home from watching the election results. Today the American people elected Barak Obama as their president. That is their right; he won in a democratic election. However, in making that choice, they also turned their back on the unborn and the vulnerable. I fear that President-elect Obama will pass measures, especially the Freedom of Choice Act. I fear that many laws already passed to protect the unborn will be repealed. I fear that millions more will be aborted. For that, I am greatly saddened.

America has long been a beacon of hope in the world, standing proud, ready to defend the ideals upon which she was founded. Tonight, I feel that beacon was diminished- diminished because of all those lives that will never be lived as a direct result of policies Obama will sign into law. I hope and pray I am wrong, but I fear that America tonight took its first step closer to the Canadian system and situation.

But that is not a reason to lose heart- it needs to be a wakeup call for everyone working for the cause of life. Don't let this night make you think the cause is hopeless, because it isn't. There are many, many things that we can still do, and that we must do to save as many lives as possible.

May God bless America on this dark night tonight. May God bless the whole world, and give strength to all who fight to bring His word to the world.


03 November 2008

And it all comes down to tomorrow

Commenting on the American Election seems to be the thing to do today in the blogsphere, and I guess I am going to be no different. For better or for worse, our neighbor to the south will elect a new president tomorrow. I believe that the American people have two very different options in Obama and McCain. One ticket will swing America drastically left, and will, I fear, destroy all the protections Amercians have created in the last 35 years for the unborn. The other ticket offers put an experienced hand on the reins, and holds that every life is worthy of the protection of human rights.

For any Catholic, the choice is very clear. The US Council of Bishops has enunciated their position in the document Faithful Citizenship. It states that "There are some things we must never do, as individuals or as a society, because they are always incompatible with love of God and neighbor. Such actions are so deeply flawed that they are always opposed to the authentic good of persons. These are called "intrinsically evil" actions. They must always be rejected and opposed and must never be supported or condoned. A prime example is the intentional taking of innocent human life, as in abortion and euthanasia." The bishops go on to state that "The direct and intentional destruction of innocent human life from the moment of conception until natural death is always wrong and is not just one issue among many. It must always be opposed." As Catholics, that means we can never vote for someone who supports abortion or euthanasia if there is an option to vote for someone who does not support those intrinsic evils. In the choice for president, Americans have that choice. Over 100 Bishops in the US have, in their official capacity, supported this proposition.

If you would like to know exactly how Obama and McCain stand on this issue, watch the clip from the Saddleback Church debate. Obama stated that the answer to the question of when a baby gets human rights is "above his paygrade." McCain stated clearly they are entitled "at the moment of conception."

Two Americans have written a beautifully articulated Open Letter to our Fellow Catholics on Election Eve. I would encourage you all to read it, because it articulates the Catholic duty to vote much better than I ever could.

It is my greatest hope and prayer tonight that Americans will vote for life tomorrow, and I invite you all to join the thousands of Catholics around the world praying and fasting tomorrow for that exact result. And, regardless of the outcome, enjoy watching the results roll in… 2 elections in 3 weeks! I'm in political junkie heaven!