Fr Bob Writes – October 11, 2015 – Thanksgiving

With election day looming, it is appropriate to share some reflections from Pope Francis on issues relating to how we should vote as Catholic Christians:

“Involvement in politics is an obligation for a Christian. We Christians cannot “play the role of Pilate,” washing our hands of it – we cannot. We must be involved in politics because politics is one of the highest forms of charity, for it seeks the common good. And Christian laypeople must work in politics. You will say to me, “But it isn’t easy!”…Nothing is easy in life. It is not easy; politics has become too dirty, but I ask myself : why has it become dirty? Why aren’t Christians involved in politics with an evangelical spirit? I leave you with a question. It is easy to say, “It is so-and-so’s fault.” But me, what do I do ? It is a duty! Working for the common good is a Christian’s duty! And often the way to work for that is politics. There are other ways: being a teacher, for example; teaching is another route. However, political life for the common good is one of the ways. This is clear”(June 7, 2013).

“The conscience is the interior place for listening to the truth, to goodness, for listening to God; it is the inner place of my relationship with him, the One who speaks to my heart and helps me discern, to understand the way I must take and , once the decision is made, to go forward, to stay faithful. ” (June 30, 2013)

The first quotation reminds us of our duty to participate in the election by casting a vote- we cannot simply shrug and say things like “one party is as bad as another ” or “my vote doesn’t count for anything.” The second quotation reminds us of our duty to vote according to our conscience, and our conscience must be “informed”. In other words, I must take time to learn about my faith, e.g. by studying the Catholic Catechism. But I must also take time to grow my prayer life, so that the Holy Spirit can “tune me in” to the will of God and guide my vote according to the values and principles of the gospel and Catholic teaching, which builds on the gospel

A recent bulletin contained a statement on assisted suicide issued by the Canadian Conference of Bishops, where mention was made of candidates’ silence on the question of assisted suicide and the appeal was made “We urge all the citizens of our country to raise this question of life and death at meetings with candidates, to stimulate a true debate worthy of our great country.” What is our response to this challenge? After Mass this weekend, non partisan election cards will be distributed, showing how the various parties stand on issues related to life. Please take one, and take to prayer and discernment where you, as a Catholic, should be placing your vote on October 19th.

Fr Bob Writes – Oct 4, 2015

From the beginning of creation, “God made them male and female.  For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate” (Mark 10).

These words of Jesus from our gospel this Sunday come at an appropriate juncture in the life of the Catholic Church, just between the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia, which was held September 22 – 27, and the upcoming Synod of Bishops in Rome from October 5 – 24, which has the theme: “The Vocation and Mission of the Family in the Church and the Contemporary World.”

St John Paul II once famously wrote: “The future of the world and of the Church passes through the family” (Familiaris Consortio, 75). It is not surprising, therefore, that marriage and the family have been the focus of a sustained all-out attack by Satan for the last fifty years. The upcoming Synod of Bishops have a very difficult task to forge a way forward for the Church to both hold to the original intention of God for marriage and the family, as stated in such texts as the one from Mark’s gospel quoted above, and try to find a response to the many ways in which marriage and family are lived in contemporary society.

The World Meeting on Families was conceived by St John Paul II in 1992 to strengthen the bonds of Christian families worldwide and has been held every three years since 1994. This most recent meeting was the eighth, and coincided with the first apostolic journey of Pope Francis to the United States. The theme of this year’s gathering was: “Love is our Mission: The Family Fully Alive.” As St John Paul II wrote in his encyclical, Familiaris Consortio: The family has the mission to guard, reveal and communicate love” (17). This mission arises from the “community of life and love” that begins with the married couple in the sacrament of matrimony, and is carried forward in the way each member of the family lives and embraces an authentic life of love, both within the family, and outside it.

During the coming year, the Knights of Colombus will be promoting two initiatives to strengthen Catholic family life. The first is Building the Domestic Church: The Family Fully Alive,” a program of family prayer, meditation and Scripture. The second is the Holy Family Pilgrim Icon prayer program. The September issue of the Knights magazine, Colombia, contains excellent articles on the role and mission of the family as “the way of the church.”   If you are the wife of a Knight, or a neighbour or friend of a Knight, ask him if you could have a read of the magazine when he has finished it. That way, you will be not only providing good spiritual nourishment for yourself, but also nudging your husband/neighbor/friend, to actually get on and read the magazine himself!!

Fr Bob Writes – Sept 27, 2015

Statement on Assisted Suicide issued by the Plenary Assembly of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops – September 18, 2015

Yesterday, we were at Saint Joseph’s Oratory in Montreal to celebrate the Year of Consecrated Life. The Oratory is a special place of prayer, inspired by the city’s own Saint Brother André Bessette who brought healing and hope to those in need. It honours Joseph, husband of Mary, Mother of Jesus. We venerate Saint Joseph as patron of Canada, and also as patron of a good death because he had Jesus and Mary at his side to comfort him in his dying. There in this sanctuary, where so many have found healing and consolation, we gave thanks for the thousands of women and men from all across our land who have given their lives to their brothers and sisters through prayer, health care, education, and other works of service and solidarity with the poor and marginalized.

Moved by the powerful example of their generosity and how they have promoted and protected human dignity in the many sectors of society, we affirm our nation’s long tradition of caring for the sick and the vulnerable. We cannot but express our outrage at the decision of the Supreme Court of Canada to create a new “constitutional right” in Canada, the so-called “right” to suicide. Nor can we suppress our profound dismay, disappointment and disagreement with the Court’s decision. The ruling would legalize an action that, from time immemorial, has been judged immoral: the taking of innocent life. Moreover, it puts at risk the lives of the vulnerable, the depressed, those with physical or mental illness, and those with disabilities.

In the face of the terrible suffering that can be caused by illnesses or depression, a truly human response should be to care, not to kill. Likewise, the response to the anguish and fear people can experience at the end of their lives is to be present to them, offering palliative care, not intentionally to cause their death. The need for palliative care should be one of the most pressing preoccupations of our country and its institutions. This is where the energies and resources of our elected leaders should be directed. This is why we advocate making high-quality palliative care, long-term care, and home care easily accessible to all Canadians.

We are in the midst of a federal election campaign. The candidates’ silence on the question of assisted suicide astonishes us. This question is fundamental for our society and its future. Have we relinquished the ability to debate the profound questions of life that touch us all? Are our politicians that terrified by the risk of awkwardly phrased responses, getting “off message”, or the ups and downs of public opinion polls? We urge all the citizens of our country to raise this question of life and death at meetings with candidates, to stimulate a true debate worthy of our great country.

The one-year period given by the Supreme Court is far too short for such a fundamental change in our laws to enter into force. We urge the government that is elected on October 19 to invoke the Notwithstanding Clause and extend this timeline to five years. If ever a legal decision warranted invoking this clause in our Constitution, this is it. We need to allow ourselves time to reflect before acting, time to consider seriously the consequences of our actions in dealing with this crucial moral issue.

Furthermore, we must at all cost uphold and protect the conscience rights of the men and women who work as caregivers. Requiring a physician to kill a patient is always unacceptable. It is an affront to the conscience and vocation of the health-care provider to require him or her to collaborate in the intentional putting to death of a patient, even by referring the person to a colleague. The respect we owe our physicians in this regard must be extended to all who are engaged in health care and work in our society’s institutions.

As Catholic Bishops, we speak in terms that are informed by reason, ethical dialogue, religious conviction and profound respect for the dignity of the human person. Our awareness is shaped by thousands of years of reflection, and by our actions as Christians in following Jesus. He showed most fully what it means to love, to serve, and to be present to others. His response to the suffering of others was to suffer with them, not to kill them! He accepted suffering in his life as the pathway to giving, to generosity, to mercy. One does not have to be a believer to recognize in Jesus’ life and action a supreme example of humanity. The values of Jesus of Nazareth are the basis for our views on assisted suicide. Canada has nothing to fear in committing itself to these profoundly human and life-giving values.

It is in this spirit of collaboration in building a society more compassionate, more respectful of the dignity of all human life, more just and more generous that we make this heartfelt cry. Remembering the humble witness of Saint Brother André, we invite all Canadians to build a society that respects the dignity of every person. May our call be heard with respect, attention and openness.