Justin Trudeau and the Doctrine of Double Truth

Douglas Farrow, Professor of Christian Thought and Kennedy Smith Chair of Catholic Studies, McGill University.

Canadian prof: Justin Trudeau’s ‘doctrine of double truth’ leads to suppression of freedom

LifeSite News

Thaddeus Balinski

A McGill University professor said that Justin Trudeau’s pronouncements supporting abortion while at the same time describing himself as “very religious, very Catholic,” are an example of a “doctrine of double truth” that leads to suppression of freedom of conscience and freedom of religion.

Justin Trudeau’s views indicate “something can be fundamentally wrong according to sound religion, but fundamentally right according to sound politics,” said Douglas Farrow, Professor of Christian Thought and Kennedy Smith Chair of Catholic Studies, in a lecture delivered on October 29 as part of the CREOR Lecture Series on Religion, Secularity, Toleration at McGill’s Birks Heritage Chapel. [Full Text]

Assisted dying: When what if becomes what is

Calgary Herald

Peter Stockland

If tone and body language are at all reliable indicators, within the coming year, Canada’s Supreme Court will strike down current laws against assisted suicide.

The justices hearing the Carter case on Oct. 15 gave no visual or audible signs of sympathy to the federal government’s argument that the laws ruled constitutional in the 1993 Rodriguez case should still be deemed constitutional 20 years later.

By contrast, those on the bench appeared eagerly engaged by the position of opposing counsel that Criminal Code prohibitions against counselling suicide and assisting suicide violate the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin and Justice Rosalie Abella were particularly active in querying the “blanket prohibition” of the current law, and its contribution to the “suffering” of those who want help to kill themselves.

All those who assert with certainty how any of this will translate are, of course, themselves unreliable. No one outside of the court itself will know before we all do. But the tableau last week at least gave credibility to the “what ifs” of Canada suddenly opening the legal door to assisted suicide. . . [Full text]

British Pregnancy Advisory Service head says abortion is just birth control

Sean Murphy*

In a column published in The Independent, Ann Furedi, CEO of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, argues that the existing English abortion law should be scrapped because abortion is simply another form of birth control.

Today, abortion is understood to be a fact of life. We expect to plan our families using the contraception that is freely available cost-free on the NHS. But we know that contraception is not infallible, and nor are we. We draw comfort from knowing that abortion is available as a back up to our chosen method of birth control. The existing laws are not fit for purpose – and the way abortion is provided today begs a simple question: why have a law at all?

This is consistent with earlier statements she has made.  In 2010 she told New Zealanders that abortion is required as a part of family planning programmes because contraception is not always effective. She noted that abortion rates do not drop when more effective means of contraception are available because women are no longer willing to tolerate the consequences of contraceptive failure.[TVNZ]

Furedi’s comments indicate that pressure to provide abortion is likely to increase even where contraception is readily available, thus increasing potential for conflicts of conscience among health care workers who do not wish to be involved with the procedure.  They also demonstrate a categorical refusal to acknowledge a critical factual distinction: that preventing the conception of an infant by contraception is not the same as killing an infant by abortion.  This distinction central to the reasoning of health care workers and others who refuse to participate in abortion, though they may have no objection to contraception.

Joint intervention in Carter v. Canada

Selections from oral submissions

Supreme Court of Canada, 15 October, 2014

Sean Murphy*

The Catholic Civil Rights League, Faith and Freedom Alliance and the Protection of Conscience Project were jointly granted intervener status in Carter by the Supreme Court of Canada.  The joint factum voiced concern that legalization of physician assisted suicide and euthanasia would likely adversely affect physicians and health care workers who object to the procedures for reasons of conscience.  The factum was supplemented by an oral submission.

Links to annotated selections from the oral submissions relevant to freedom of conscience are provided below.  In each case, readers can access the Supreme Court webcast through the linked image.  Time stamps are cited to allow the relevant section of the webcast to be located.  On the Supreme Court website, use  “full screen” view when dragging the slider button to the desired time stamp.

Joseph Arvay, Q.C. (Counsel for the Appellants)

Jean-Yves Bernard (Counsel for the Attorney General of Quebec)

Harry Underwood (Counsel for the Canadian Medical Association)

Robert W. Staley (Counsel for the Catholic Civil Rights League, Faith and Freedom Alliance, and Protection of Conscience Project)

Babies born alive during abortion will receive no help from the Council of Europe, documents show

LifeSite News

LifeSite News Staff

The Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe is unwilling to take up the issue of babies who are born alive and left to die or killed after an unsuccessful late-term abortion.

Reports from medical workers suggest that many of children born alive during botched abortions are “evacuated” along with hospital waste or left to die in another hospital room or in a storeroom, despite signs of life. Others receive lethal injections or are smothered.

Documents furnished to LifeSiteNews show that a written question from a Spanish member of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe submitted to the Committee at the beginning of this year will receive no answer, because the ministers could not reach consensus about what should happen in such an instance. [Full text]

Moral Conscience Through the Ages: Fifth Century BCE to the Present

THE (Times Higher Education)
Review by Tom Palaima
Reproduced with permission

Richard Sorabji
Oxford University Press, 240pp, £20.00
ISBN 9780199685547
Published 30 October 2014

Always let your conscience be your guide,” sings Jiminy Cricket, conscience personified as a kindly bowler-hatted cricket, to Pinocchio in Walt Disney’s 1940 film classic about a wooden puppet being transformed into a real-life boy. It is one of the few significant social pronouncements about the role of conscience in making us human not found in Richard Sorabji’s compact history of the ideas that important thinkers and doers, beginning with Euripides and Plato and ending with Martin Luther, Thomas Hobbes, Henry David Thoreau, Leo Tolstoy, Friedrich Nietzsche, Sigmund Freud and Mahatma Gandhi, have had about how a conscience works, where it comes from, and what good it is, if any – Nietzsche had no use for conscience, believing that modern men “inherit thousands of years of the vivisection of conscience”.

Sorabji’s close reading of subtle arguments spanning 25 centuries, as he transliterates key Greek and Latin terms and does his best to define their particular meanings in different periods, enables us to see how later figures took up or rejected earlier ideas. Gandhi, for example, came to believe unshakeably in his “still small voice within” – no Jiminy Cricket for him – as “the true voice of God”, as it steeled his commitment to non-violent social actions. Gandhi’s voice of God, we learn, sounded a lot like Tolstoy in his 1894 treatise The Kingdom of God is Within You and Socrates in Plato’s Apology, set in 399BC.

The Greek word for conscience first appears in passages in the work of late 5th-century playwrights where characters wrestle with what we would call moral choices, or defects in Sorabji’s view. The Greek compound verbal formation expresses the notion of a shared knowing (sun: “with” and oida: “know”, literally “I saw and I still see”), Latin con-sciens. The precise meaning of conscience is further complicated by the abstract nouns used for it that are derived from other verbal roots, eg, sunesis and the Latinised sunderesis. The notion of with-ness is the common element.

The key question is: shared with whom? In Sorabji’s view – surprisingly given the role that conscience plays in our interactions with others – we share our thoughts about moral behaviour and moral choices with ourselves. Conscience splits us into two people. From this come expressions like “I could not live with myself” and feelings of having a voice within or a cricket or guardian angel advising from without, as in Freud’s superego or Socrates’ daimōn.

Sorabji also argues that the original concept of conscience, ie, “sharing knowledge with oneself of a defect”, was a largely secular idea. Stoics and Christians turned conscience into a religious concept associated with the law or will of gods or God. Michel de Montaigne, Hobbes and John Locke began a resecularisation process that continued through Thoreau’s civil disobedience and then on to conscientious objection to armed service during the First World War.

But what does a largely secular idea in ancient Greek look like in context? Sorabji gives few original source passages at any length. Conscience appears as a daimōn in Plato’s Apology and arguably also in Euripides’ Orestes, where grief is called a terrible goddess in a kind of chiasmus. So how the Greeks viewed daimones becomes relevant to whether conscience ab origine is secular or religious or something in between. And Hesiod’s thoughts two centuries earlier in Works and Days about daimones as immortal and beneficent guardians of justice should be relevant, too.

Tom Palaima is professor of Classics, University of Texas at Austin.

Promises, promises

Canadian law reformers promise tolerance, freedom of conscience

What happens after the law is changed is another story.

Sean Murphy*

Now let me finally cut to the chase, to the heart of this appeal.  The most vociferous opposition to our challenge comes from some church groups, and some disabled organizations.  To the church groups we simply say that we respect your religious views, but they cannot, in this secular society,  trump our clients’ constitutional rights.  And no one is suggesting that a physician who has a religious objection to assisting a patient with his or her death must do so.
Joseph Arvay, Q.C., Oral Submission to the Supreme Court of Canada,  Carter v. Canada, 15 October, 2014


With the passage of the Quebec euthanasia law and the pending decision in Carter v. Canada in the Supreme Court of Canada, physicians, medical students, nurses and other health care workers opposed to euthanasia and assisted suicide for reasons of conscience are confronted by the prospect that laws against the procedures will be struck down or changed.  They may wonder what the future holds for them if that happens.

Will they be forced to provide or assist with something they find morally abhorrent?  If they refuse to do so, will they be disadvantaged, discriminated against, disciplined, sued or fired?  Will they be forced out of their specialty or profession, or forced to emigrate if they wish to continue in it?

The realpolitik of law reform

These questions have been largely ignored, since much of the public debate about euthanasia and assisted suicide has been about whether or not the procedures should be legalized, not about what effect legalization might have on freedom of conscience, particularly among health care workers.  Opponents of legalization understandably decline to raise the issue because they are concerned that doing so would compromise the message they want to deliver.

Advocates of legalization, on the other hand, generally recognize that support for euthanasia and assisted suicide may begin to evaporate if it appears that they intend to force unwilling physicians or health care workers to participate in killing patients.  In particular, they do not wish to alienate members of the health care community who, on principle or as a matter of prudent self-interest, would not support such a coercive policy.  Instead, they adopt a reassuring posture of respect for freedom of conscience and tolerance for opposing views within the medical profession.

It is instructive to see how this strategy has been applied in the case of the Quebec euthanasia law and the Carter case, and then to consider how it was applied in the case abortion, another morally controversial procedure.  While we cannot predict the future, we are now in a position to judge the worth of the assurances given when abortion was legalized over forty years ago, and to apply that judgement to assurances now being made about euthanasia. [Full Text]

Project intervenes in the Supreme Court of Canada

News Release

Protection of Conscience Project

Today the Protection of Conscience Project joined the Catholic Civil Rights League (CCRL) and Faith and Freedom Alliance in a joint intervention at the Supreme Court of Canada in Carter v. Canada, a case seeking the legalization of euthanasia and physician assisted suicide.

The appeal necessarily involves the issue of freedom of conscience for healthcare providers.   An indeterminate number of healthcare providers consider killing patients or assisting in suicide morally or ethically abhorrent. Their views  are consistent with the current Canadian legal framework, which would be fundamentally changed if euthanasia and assisted suicide were legalized.  Such a change in the law would generate demands that physicians and other healthcare providers directly or indirectly participate in what they consider to be gravely immoral activities.

In the event that the Supreme Court strikes down the criminal law as it relates to euthanasia or assisted suicide, the intervention urged the Court to “make clear to the legislature that any legislation in this area must protect the freedom of conscience of healthcare providers,” ensuring that “healthcare providers are not directly or indirectly coerced into becoming parties to killing patients or assisting patients kill themselves.”

In a Backgrounder on the intervention, Project Administrator Sean Murphy notes the need for robust protection for freedom of conscience among healthcare providers if the law is changed. In that case, he argues, direction from the Court will be needed “to correct a dangerous error that has become increasingly widespread: that the state or a profession may impose upon people a duty to do what they believe to be wrong – even if that means killing people.”

Elsewhere, he observes that the history of abortion law reform in Canada demonstrates that healthcare providers “cannot rely on mere promises of tolerance and respect for freedom of conscience.”

” The greater the demand for a procedure -whether the demand arises from the number of patients or from ideological rights claims –  the sooner objecting health care workers will face discrimination, harassment and coercion. ”

The intervention was presented on behalf of the interveners by Robert Staley, with the participation of Ranjan Agarwal, Jack Maslen, and Sheridan Scott, all of Bennett Jones LLP, together with CCRL President, Philip Horgan.  27 interventions were approved by the Court.

A decision is expected in the Spring of 2015.


Conscience Versus the Spirit of the Age

Address to the Thomas More Lawyer’s Guild,
Toronto, Ontario, Canada (October, 2014)

Jason Kenney*

In this text of his address to the annual Red Mass dinner hosted by the Thomas More Lawyers’ Guild of Toronto in October 2014, then federal Minister of Employment and Social Development Jason Kenney called on assembled lawyers to defend conscience rights as a bulwark against the spirit of the age running roughshod over us.

It is a great honour to be invited to speak from this distinguished podium, which has been graced by people far more worthy than I, to invoke the life, legacy and lessons of our patron saint, Sir Thomas More.

I say “our” patron although I am not a member of your honourable legal fraternities at the bar and the bench. I labour in a much less august vineyard, that of the political vocation. But in the Jubilee Year of 2000, Saint John Paul II decided to add to Saint Thomas More’s already heavy burden as the patron saint of lawyers by also giving him the impossibly difficult task of acting as the patron saint of politicians.

Earlier this evening, we heard the Gospel reading, “Woe to you, lawyers!” Lest you feel put out, please remember that the most prominent politicians in the gospels are King Herod, Pontius Pilate and Caesar, so the politicians fare much worse!

Poor Saint Thomas, shining light of the Renaissance, the greatest jurist and statesman of his era, martyred for this faith—and his eternal reward is now to keep watch over politicians and lawyers. I suspect that he envies Saint Jude, who is charged only with hopeless causes. . .  [Full text]

Spare parts child or saviour sibling?

Sunday Star Times

Michelle Duff

A woman is pregnant with New Zealand’s first “made-to-order baby,” chosen for its genetic makeup to save its sibling’s life.

The baby was selected from other IVF embryos as a genetic match for its sick older sibling and will donate stem cells at birth.

Critics say the process is a slippery slope towards treating children as commodities.

The cells will be harvested from the baby’s umbilical cord blood and used as a transplant for the older child, which might save it from life-threatening sickle cell anaemia. The parents already have several children, and the sick child is the oldest.

The creation of Baby X comes as outgoing Health Minister Tony Ryall approves the expansion of genetic testing, which will open the door for doctors to select “saviour siblings” to help save existing children sick with certain diseases. . . [Full text]