22 July 2009

The Healthcare Debate

I've been following with great interest the current debate over healthcare in the United States. I don't claim to have read the bill (1000+ pages of legislation is daunting to say the least), but I'm going to comment on the situation anyway.

What I've read (from mainstream and fringe media, right, left and center) suggests that the system Obama is proposing is very, very similar to the current Canadian model. And that scares me. Americans deserve much, much better. I'm not even going to comment on the concerns that the proposed plan will fund abortions (as already happens in Canada) or that it will lead to rationing of healthcare (it does in Canada) or that it will lead to a utilitarian system where the disabled and elderly are not cared for because its too expensive (also a problem in Canada) because I think you all know where I stand on that issue.

Instead, I want to comment on this notion that free government healthcare is a good idea. I live the Canadian experience, and all I can say is thank God I'm healthy. The whole time I was going to university, I didn't have a doctor- I wasn't sick and didn't think I needed one. Now that I've settled into my career, I thought I'd find a doctor (my family and friends think that yearly physicals are a good idea, and apparently going 10 years without one is too long). So, I called every clinic in the area I'm now living in, and not one of them is accepting new patients.

Huh. I thought that under our universal medical care system, I could recieve medical care anywhere in the country. Apparently not. When I asked the clinics what I should do, they suggested I go to the ER for any problems.

Yeah, right.

I'm going to go to the ER for a physical.

And even if I did, and they would do it (which I'm sure they won't) what a waste of a) taxpayer money and b) ER resources. If the ER is busy dealing with people who should be seeing their GP, how can they help those who really need ER care? Our ER has essentially turned into a glorified walk- in clinic. Its a little ridiculous.

I also came across this story the other day. Apparently, this hospital has closed its maternity ward because there are no doctors to deliver babies in the city. Instead, expectant mothers are being told to go an hour away to deliver. This was supposed to be a temporary measure, but its been 6 months! Two women have already delivered en route to the hospital in the ambulance.

I don't know what the best solution is- the city can't seem to attract any doctors, but the patients are suffering. What happens when a women has a difficult or dangerous pregnancy/labour? Does a mother or child have to die before this situation is remedied? (I don't even want to think about the liability issues in this situation).

Anyway, my point is that the Canadian system is far from perfect. It is not something that other countries should try to emulate. Improve upon? Learn from? Sure- that's great, but this is not the route Americans want to take. Trust me.

The only "good" thing about Canadian healthcare is that its equal- rich or poor if you want treatment under the universal healthcare system, you will have wait equal lengths of time.

All I can say is, thank God for my health.

Pray for our neighbors to the south.

15 July 2009

The Difference with Differences

A few things have happened in the past few days that have reminded me how important it is that we all be witnesses in our everyday lives to our Catholic and Christian faith.

I was speaking to a person I consider to be a very strong, moral and ethical person today, but then he said something that caught me off guard. We were speaking about another person I'd just met, and he was giving me some background. He told me the person's daughter had Down's Syndrome and then said "and that's a bigger burden than anyone should have to carry. Poor guy."

I was so shocked, I didn't say anything. And by the time I recovered, we'd moved on in the conversation and I didn't feel up to bringing it back up. So now I'm blogging about it. Don't get me wrong- I know that the attitude society promotes is that people with disabilities are somehow less human or less worthy of life, but I'm shocked when people I respect say things like that.

Why is it "poor guy"? Why is it such a "burden"? Why is it a burden no one should have to carry? Doesn't he see the implication in his speech- that the daughter would be better off dead? I don't understand. I know that raising a child with a disability is not easy, but I don't think raising any child is easy. A disability might create more challenges, but it also has the potential for great blessings. I don't have a lot of experience with people who have Down's, but what I've seen is people who are more human, loving and caring than the vast majority of this world (myself included.) What do you say when people say things like that?

This brings me to the other recent experience- the area I am living and working in has a lot of immigrants, and these immigrants are visible minorities. Before I moved here I was aware that there are tensions as a result, but I can't help but wonder in the last few days if those tensions are excacberated by people's conduct.

I've noticed that when these immigrants (many of whom are now Canadian citizens, or at least permanent residents) deal with others, they are looked down upon as being unintelligent. I don't think they are- they don't always speak English well, but that doesn't make them stupid. And yet, people assume that because they don't speak English, they must be idiots, and they speak down to them, role their eyes or avoid dealing with them all together. And I see the frustration on the faces of these immigrants who are just trying to get though each day.

I can't imagine how scary and difficult it would be to leave my country and move to another one where, not only do I not speak the language, but I look like an outsider. I got a small taste of that in Italy this summer-I don't speak Italian and I'm so pale that I just screamed tourist and it was hard- and most people there wanted to help me.

Here, people seem to go out of their way to make things difficult for these immigrants. For example, I've seen people be denied appointments, or forced to come back 3 or 4 times because they didn't understand, yet if they spoke better English, someone would take the time to explain it for them.

Maybe the worst was a comment I heard today- "yeah he's Chinese, but his English is pretty good, so there's no reason to not help him."

To me this is the same attitude as the attitude towards people with disabilities. We are all human- equal in dignity and deserving of respect by virture of that inate dignity. Yes, some people are more work to deal with than others, but if we are all children of God, we should do the extra work, and be happy to do it.

If we call ourselves Christians, should our lives not be a witness of His gospel? We need to be Christ to each other, and we need to stop seeing everyone as other and start seeing everyone as our neighbor.

And maybe if we can do that, we can reverse this culture of death we seem to be spiraling further and further into.

09 July 2009


You may have noticed a few changes around the blog- especially the title. I've changed it from Catholic Law Student to Catholic Student-at-Law, not because I'm trying to be funny but to represent my new status.

I officially finished law school back in April, and I've now embarked on the final year before I become a lawyer- I am a student-at-law which essentially means I'm an apprentice. God willing, in a year I can call myself a Catholic Lawyer.

Anyway, the purpose of this blog remains the same, and I'm hoping to get back to more regular blogging, especially since I've settled down into one place with a solid internet connection. The content should be the same (although there will no longer be posts starting with "I heard in class today")

I'm glad you've stuck around to read the blog this long, and I hope you continue to read.

God Bless!


When I blog (or actually, when I do anything in life) I like to do it with the facts in hand so they can all be analyzed and examined. I don't want to spread false rumors or engender animosity, and that's what (I have learned) speaking without all the facts can do.

That said, I have been hearing something about the new diocese I have moved to (for work) that troubles me greatly. However, I have no facts, no evidence and no proof. I am attempting to get those things, but until I do, I'm not going to speak about it.

The rumors trouble me greatly though and are weighing heavily on my conscience and my soul. I'm not even sure if I should post this much, but I do want to ask everyone for prayers for the diocese, especially the leadership of the diocese.

I am praying there is no truth to these rumors and if there isn't, I will never mention them again. Until that point, your prayers are appreciated.

Actually, this has hit home to me that I hardly ever pray for those in authority in the Church, and I really should- we all should.

In advance, I thank you for your prayers

01 July 2009

CCCB report on Lifesite’s allegations against Development and Peace re: abortion

As I have hoped (and urged the bishops to do) the CCCB's report into Lifesite's allegations has been made public. You can read the report here . The report concludes:

"We believe the allegations by Lifesite News – that financial assistance by the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace (CCODP) aided projects related to the promotion of abortion – are not founded on the facts."

Before I comment, I want to note a few things about the report especially as they are things I was concerned about in earlier posts. First, the investigation was lead by Archbishop Martin William Currie of St. John's and Bishop of Grand Falls and Bishop Francois Lapierre of Saint-Hyacinthe. The investigatory commission also included Msgr. Carlos Quintana, C.S.S., Executive Director of the National Collection for the Church in Latin America of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Msgr. Mario Paquette, P.H., General Secretary of the CCCB and Development and Peace officials; Michael Casey, Executive Director, Paul Cliche, Deputy Director of the International Programs Department, and André Charlebois, Program Officer for Latin America. The report states that the D&P officials were involved to see to "travel arrangements and other organizing." I 'm noting this because my concern has been from the beginning that D&P officials might try to hinder and bias the investigation.

Another note- The CCCB commission did speak with the Mexican Catholic Bishops during the investigation. The report does not comment on what the bishops said, except to state that: "We regret that the Mexican organizations have so little or no relation with the Episcopal Conference of their country." I'm noting this because I find it interesting that the Mexican Bishops aren't involved with these groups, and I wonder why.



This could get to be a very long post, so I am going to quickly summarize my thoughts on the investigation here. The detailed analysis follows

  1. The investigation was a wasted effort because it did not investigate the allegations made by Lifesite, it investigated the allegations D&P claimed Lifesite made, which are two very different things.

  2. The investigation must have found something wrong with D&P because they did have some strong words for D&P (couched in the type of language Bishop's use) though they do not elaborate on what that may be.

  3. The Bishop's do not seem to have had all the information before they did this investigation because they claim Lifesite has avoided contacting the CCCB and establishing dialogue on this issue, yet Lifesite has been in contact with the bishop's from the start

  4. The only comment on any of the evidence gathered by Lifesite was directed to the piece of evidence showing that the 5 groups signed a report that advocated several positions in contradiction with the teachings of the Church (including abortion and contraception). The bishops merely stated that signing this was "imprudent" and concluded it was ok because they were merely showing solidarity with the other groups working for human rights.

My position on funding D&P has not been changed by this report. The report does not address Lifesite's allegations, nor does it address the very clear and very damning evidence Lifesite has produced which leads me to believe that D&P will continue to fund organizations that I believe support abortion. As I have stated from the beginning, if an organization I fund gives money to an organization that supports abortion- even if my money isn't directly used to support abortion- I am morally complicit in those abortions and therefore in a state of mortal sin if I know or suspect that is what the groups are doing. With all due respect to D&P and the CCCB, my soul is too important to leave to the hope that D&P is not involved, especially when I have seen clear evidence otherwise.

Detailed Analysis

Point 1

As I quoted above, the CCCB found that D&P did not aid projects related to the promotion of abortion. That is all well and good, and I'm glad that D&P isn't doing that, because that would be an even greater scandal than the one facing them. The allegations against D&P are that they are funding groups who support abortion- i.e. money D&P gives goes to worthy endeavors, but the groups are also involved in abortion related advocacy.

This is a very big difference. Essentially the allegation is that D&P is giving money to groups who use that money to build homes or dig wells for fresh water, but those same groups also support abortion. This is the problem- even if the D&P money isn't being used for abortions, the money D&P gives frees up other money to be used for abortion. Hence, those donating to D&P are still complicit in the abortions.

And, just to ensure that no one thinks I'm splitting hairs now because the CCCB investigation didn't come to the same conclusion as me, I point you to the very first post I wrote on this issue back in March where I made this exact distinction. Lifesite has been very clear from the start as to what the allegations are- it is D&P who has worked to distort those allegations. It appears to me that D&P succeeded in framing this debate the way they wanted it to go. Of course the CCCB finds no truth to these allegations- they are not the allegations Lifesite was making!

Point 2

While the investigation doesn't find any basis for the allegations against D&P they did express the hope that:

"The present circumstances encourage Development and Peace to be more vigilant in analysing requests for financial assistance and more demanding about receiving information from possible partners. While recognizing the good relations and communications that already exist between CCODP and the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, we would encourage Development and Peace to ensure more thorough consultations with the Bishops of Canada, particularly the two Bishops who are appointed as members of the Development and Peace National Council, especially when there are questions involving moral issues such as abortion and contraception." (Italics mine)

My question is, why did the bishops feel the need to make this statement? I can only see two possible reasons 1) they found something wrong, but don't feel they have enough evidence to make it public or 2) they are attempting to make those who find the evidence compelling feel better. I can't see the bishops just providing a sop for our consciences, so I think they must have found something. I base this on the fact that the report doesn't comment on what the Mexican Bishops have to say and that it doesn't deal with all the evidence against D&P. I hope that I'm wrong on this- not because I don't think there is wrongdoing, but because the bishops are then playing a very dangerous game with the souls entrusted to their care.

Point 3

The report also rebukes Lifesite for not opening dialogue with the CCCB on this issue. I'm wondering why the bishops say this- I think it has been very clear from the coverage Lifesite has given that they have been in dialogue- if they hadn't why would 4 bishops have spoken up and withheld funding from D&P? They have to have based a decision like that on more than one report from Lifesite. In their analysis of the report, Lifesite explains how it has tried to dialogue with the bishops on this, but that the CCCB was not willing to meet with them. To me, that makes the bishop's rebuke a little hypocritical and jeopardizes any trust I might have put into the report.

Point 4

Finally, the report deals with only one of the many pieces of evidence amassed against D&P's 5 Mexican partners. The piece it does deal with- the report signed by the 5 partners along with 45 other Mexican human rights organizations that expresses support for several things that violate Church teachings (including abortion and contraception)- DOES express support for abortion by those partners; the very thing Lifesite alleged the partners were doing. The bishop's response to this is that it was merely an "imprudent" decision, and, as if it makes it all better, they note that several religious groups, including Dominicans and Jesuits signed the same document because it merely expresses a desire for greater human rights in Mexico.


Two quick points here- first, if Dominicans and Jesuits are signing documents that violate Church teachings, the heads of their orders should be contacted, as should the Vatican, and an immediate investigation should begin. The CCCB should not be using that as an excuse for D&P's partners. That's like a kid saying it was ok to shoplift a candy bar because his two good friends did it to. What parent would accept that explanation? So why is the CCCB? Second, the bishops say it's ok because the 5 partners were just expressing their solidarity with other human rights groups. Uh huh. Isn't that the problem? If they are expressing solidarity with other groups, and that solidarity means they violate Church teachings, then aren't they a group no Catholic should support? Isn't that a little like a kid lying to his parents about going to a party he's not supposed to attend and then when he's caught just saying "oh well Jim and Joey and Mark and Sam were saying the same thing and I wanted to support them." Again, what parent would accept that? Mine certainly wouldn't.

Lifesite, in their response, claims that this piece of evidence (the report signed) was the "least significant." I don't know, it seems pretty significant to me. So if the CCCB just waves this piece away, why didn't they deal with all the other pieces. If this report is supposed to put to rest this controversy, then why didn't the CCCB deal with all the evidence? Why go all the way to Mexico if you aren't going to deal with all the evidence and allegations? What's the purpose of the investigation then.


I'm sorry- I still stand by my original conclusion. This report raises, in my mind, more questions than it answers. To be honest, I'd really like to know why the Mexican bishops have no involvement with these groups. If they are such worthy organizations, why don't the Mexican bishops deal with them? We can speculate until the cows come home, and it may be perfectly innocent but I want to know why, and I think the CCCB should have included in the report the testimony from the Mexican bishops they met with.

Since the CCCB didn't deal with all the evidence, how can I trust their conclusion? Even more importantly, they didn't address the right allegations, so how can I trust that D&P isn't complicit in abortion- they never investigated that! Not only that, this report only deals with the first 5 partners Lifesite made allegations against. As far as I know, the CCCB has no intention of investigating the other 14 partners Lifesite made allegations against. How can I possibly trust D&P with my funds when questions like this remain?

The bishops, at the end of the report state:

"The dignity of each human life is to be protected and promoted from conception to natural death. Thus there is an urgency to all that threatens the dignity and sacredness of human life"

If the dignity of each life is to be promoted (and it should be I think) why aren't the bishops being more careful to ensure that faithful Catholic's donations are not being used by groups who support abortion. Why are they resting on their laurels and producing short useless reports when there is the potential that human lives are being ended? How does that promote the sanctity of life? It doesn't and until they deal with this D&P will get no funding from me, and I will do everything I can to ensure that my family and friends don't donate to D&P either. Donations will still be made, but they will be made to organizations that I trust and know to follow Church teachings. Unfortunately, D&P no longer falls into that category.