Recently, here in Ontario there has been a small news item that may have caught your eye. The Halton Catholic District School Board voted not to allow fundraising for charities, groups or institutions whose activities would violate Catholic Life Principles, ie: that would support abortion, mercy-killing, contraception or destructive embryonic stem cell work, etc. This was done through the well titled motion, “Upholding the Sanctity of Life Through Donations to Charities and Non-Profits”. There has been much pushback from students, media and even the Ontario Catholic Teachers’ union. You might be saying, “why would the board have to even consider such a measure?” But the truth of the situation, when we think about it, is fairly obvious. Catholic morality has to be defended in practical and constant ways.
Amnesty International, for example, has an ostensibly laudable goal – to work for the release of prisoners of conscience. As a high school student and university student, I wrote letters to several of these prisoners. This was a good thing and, in a way, it was an extension of a work of mercy – to visit the imprisoned. But several years ago, Amnesty International took up the case of the extension of legalized abortion throughout the world and polluted their initial high (and effective) work. I stopped my support when I found this out.
This is not the place to rehash the principles of material and formal co-operation that all clergy reading this article remember from our seminary moral theology courses. No one is forcing schools or students to raise money for any charities. It is an entirely voluntary act. Instead, we need to look more closely at several points in this debate. Some of the loudest voices are saying, “But these are established charities and we have always done it before. To stop now is to take ourselves out of the mainstream of schools. And besides the charities do good work except for that troublesome problem of supporting abortion, etc. and we are taught to do good and thereby put into practice our social justice teaching”
- First. We can’t know everything and sometimes we can find ourselves supporting a wrong, evil or immoral activity. When we find that out, we are obliged to stop.
- Second. Major charities can be involved in evil and immoral activities. Many large universities have voluntarily engaged in immoral research practices such as deliberately being involved in sacrificing preborn lives in embryonic stem cell research. The size and respectability of the institution does not make a difference to morality. Our hospitals routinely kill the preborn, elderly and weak. Brick walls and super-hyped promotion machines should not put a gloss on evil
- Third. When we find out that we have engaged in activities we must stop even at a cost. Many decades ago Toronto Archbishop Pocock found out that the United Way of Toronto supported the abortion and contraception purveyor Planned Parenthood and he pulled out Catholic charities from the United Way. It was a very unpopular move in the eyes of the secular community and decidedly a move from the mainstream but it was right. Fourth. We must always remember that evil is seductive. If it can worm its way in and put on a respectable face, it is effective.
“Evil has a mien of so frightful a face, We first do shudder then endure, Then embrace.” (Alexander Pope)
Easter is the eternally living, death-defying refusal to accept the victory of evil. We cannot weary, stop, or acquiesce in evil. We can endure, defy, work against, and suffer until with the grace of God in the power of the Risen Christ, the Easter victory is won in or battle for the lives of all the people in our nation and our world.