Canada: ramifications of the Crown losing a polygamy case

This worrisome bit came in from a friend:


I used to tell my students that after "gay marriage", the next social/legal barrier to crumble in the West will be against polygamy. The students looked at me incredulously. But I saved the best for last. After polygamy will come pedophilia: the fall of the barrier protecting minors from sexual acts with majors. Then they just looked at me stunned.

The logic is obvious. If marriage cannot be legally defined in the traditional way in order, at least, to protect children, then all barriers to forms of marriage are arbitrary. You cannot argue that having two parents of the same sex is any worse for children then having multiple spouses at the same time.

The pedophila argument is different, of course. It depends on the age that society judges an individual mature enough to make up his own mind about sexual relations. But the setting of any age above, say, 12 is arbitrary. Therefore what’s arbitrary implies an unjust discrimination.

From The Gazette, a Canadian paper.

The Crown likely will lose polygamy case against Blackmore

Lawyers warn that religious freedom would protect multiple marriages

MICHAEL SMYTH, Canwest News Service

Published: Saturday, January 10

Somewhere, right now, Winston Blackmore must be smiling.

The self-styled "Bishop of Bountiful" – Canada’s most high-profile polygamist leader – is being handed a show-trial platform to prove what he’s been saying for years: Taking multiple wives is a religious right and freedom, protected by the constitution.

As counter-intuitive as that might sound to people, he will have a very strong case. In fact, he will probably win, delivering the polygamist leaders in Bountiful a huge moral and legal victory.

B.C. Attorney-General Wally Oppal’s heart is in the right place. He cares about the women and children of Bountiful and believes they are being exploited. He’s trying to protect them.

But by bringing such a weak case against Blackmore and co-accused James Oler, Oppal’s efforts seem bound to backfire.

Blackmore’s lawyers will argue the fundamentalist practice of polygamy goes back more than 150 years in North America. They’ll point out polygamy is practised widely and openly around the world, including in places like Afghanistan, where Canadian soldiers are fighting and dying to preserve freedoms in that country.

They’ll argue the traditional interpretation of marriage between one man and one woman has been thrown open to wide liberal interpretation now that same-sex marriage has been legalized in Canada. And they’ll be right on every count.

I’m not saying I support polygamy, because I don’t. I’m just pointing out the reality: There’s a reason nobody has been charged with polygamy in this country for more than a century. It’s because the lawyers themselves know the charges won’t stick.

The experts in Oppal’s own ministry have said for years the Criminal Code section outlawing polygamy is outdated and unenforceable.

"It is in direct conflict with the freedom of religion guarantees in Section 2 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms," concluded one legal opinion sought by the B.C. attorney-general’s office. Several others said the same thing.

A 2005 study done for the federal Justice Department recommended the law against polygamy be repealed and the practice decriminalized, noting a conviction would result only in a "light penal sentence" anyway.

In other words, even if they buck the odds and the Crown can prove polygamy is still illegal in Canada, Blackmore would probably get a slap on the wrist. And the whole legal circus will cost taxpayers a fortune to boot. So what’s the point here?

Oppal should have followed the example set by the U.S. authorities who took down polygamist "prophet" Warren Jeffs on more serious charges like sexual exploitation. That’s the kind of charge that can be proven and stick in a court of law.

Instead, Oppal is proceeding with the flimsiest case possible. And the ramifications of losing are serious.

Consider this: If the polygamists win in Bountiful, what will be the reaction of Canadian Muslims? Many Muslim countries allow polygamy, though Canada currently does not allow Muslim immigrants to bring multiple wives into the country.

But if polygamy is recognized as a constitutional right in Canada, there’s nothing to stop Muslim groups from demanding recognition of their polygamist marriages and suing to have their multiple wives and children allowed into the country.

Is that what Canadians want? Will that stop the exploitation of women and kids? Wally Oppal should be careful what he wishes for.


That’s not all it will lead to.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. Soon we’ll see what kind of freedom of the press Catholic bloggers have… or not.

  2. “But the setting of any age above, say, 12 is arbitrary. Therefore what’s arbitrary implies an unjust discrimination.”

    But 12 itself is also arbitary.
    And what would be the arbitary definition of, say, implied consent for those who are very young?

    Democracy inclusive of every expression of fallen human nature is doomed to self-destruction even as it begins.

  3. Jacob says:

    Is Vatican City open for immigration?

  4. Heaven is open for immigration.

  5. Please pray for our country: Canada.

    I always teach people that much disorder in the world today have to do with seperating sex from its purposes: love & life.

    We, Catholics in Canada, need prayers to defend Life and Family here in Canada.

  6. Allena says:

    THis is exactly what I’ve been saying about it. If we consider that originally abortion was only for rape, incest and the life of the mother, and what’s happened to it? Now it is for any reason, regardless of how stupid. The exceptions were wrong, and all the legislation for abortion is also wrong, but it’s an uphill battle now.

    It is a well known fact that some homosexual communities are promoting pedophilia. Kevin Jennings, Obama’s committee chair to the homosexual community wrote this:

    “One Teacher in Ten, GLSEN founder Kevin Jennings reported the story of a 15-year-old boy named “Brewster” who came to him in 1989 for assistance. Jennings said the boy was having difficulty in school and did not know why. However, during a speech in Iowa five years ago, Jennings stated that “Brewster” had confided to him that he had a sexual encounter with an older man in Boston. Jennings claims he responded to the teen by saying, “I hope you knew to use a condom.” The apparent case of sex abuse was not reported to authorities.“

    This group is getting millions to promote pedophilia, there are more citations of this agenda in the literature that this group is passing out to children aged 12 and up!

    The book “Growing Up Gay/Growing Up Lesbian,” recommended on the GLSEN website for kids in grades seven to 12, describes two 10-year-old boys in a very graphic sexual encounter (pp.99-100). In the same book, an adult man named Eliot reflects on his youth:

    “My first experience was with a much older man, a friend of Derek’s [his father]. … When I was 15, he must have been 29, 30 … I seduced him. … It was a wild night. We did everything.”

    What is this? Pedophilia literature, and this group can pass it out to your kids at school, and you wouldn’t even know it. A 15 year old “seducing”??? Two ten year olds?? Ten year olds play with legos, not engage in anal sex. Who taught them how? These books?

    Then when you consider that Obama passed legislation to include sexual education to Kindergarten and up in Illinois, well what for? If children are to be protected, then why do they need HIV prevention? The bill, I forget what it was numbered (maybe someone else remembers?) said that it was to prevent HIV infection between consequential sex partners, but how can children consent? Supposedly it was to protect children, but the words, abuse, rape, molestation or any other negative word was never used to describe sexual actions with children. Only consensual sexual relations. This will be the next “gay”.

    Lastly according to the CDC, the only growing community of HIV and AIDS is in the the gay community, between males. So, if we are trying to protect children, and prevent HIV infection, then why is this bill written to be so open ended and even allow these behaviors, by defining them as consensual? If children need protecting then it would logically be from people infected with HIV, and here in America, that is highest in Male gays with active sex lives. So, if children are in danger of infection, then it’s from pedophilia, but it’s being labeled by this administration as consensual.

  7. Andrew, UK and sometimes Canada says:

    There may be a silver lining in this terrible episode. While, yes, this case sets disturbing trends for the definition of marriage, as a precedent it may end up being a boon to Catholics.

    If the Crown loses its case based on the defendants’ religious freedoms then it sets the precedent of religious freedoms trumping other rights. In other words, disturbing as this case is, it could position religious freedom as more important than our other rights. This may help Catholic hospitals and other Catholic institutions to protect themselves against legislation.

    Polygamy will not be recognised as a constitutional right de jure, even though it may become so de facto, but rather the precedence of religious freedom over other freedoms will be established. True, this opens the door to all sorts of crazies (Scientology, Wiccans, etc) but Catholics will benefit from it.

  8. Brian Anderson says:

    Any chance of the provincial government using the “not withstanding clause”, if the
    crown loses? Or would that not apply in this case?

  9. Don’t fool yourself.

    Error has no rights.

    Error always seeks to further limit the rights of what is right.

  10. Andrew, UK and sometimes Canada says:

    Fr George,

    I agree with you that error is opposed to truth. In fact, we must remember that God gives rights, and governments simply recognise them.

    Nor do I agree in any way with this sect.

    I was only pointing out some of the possible legal ramifications of a decision against the Crown. Considering that religious “rights” (see above definition) have long taken backseat to other rights in Canada, I simply wanted to point out that this may reverse the trend.

    This particular case is certainly not the way I would have wished religious rights to take precedence over others, nor do I know if this case would even be a successful precedent for arguing that religion trumps other considerations, but it is a possibility. And if the argument is available (say, to prevent a gay wedding reception in a church hall – a real case) then we might as well use it.

  11. dymphna says:

    The pedophilia thing is already softening. If a priest is involved the media screams but if it’s a cute female teacher and a 13 year old boy notice how the reporting is almost sympathetic? Notice how many people are not ashamed to joke about how “lucky” the kid is?

  12. Bruce says:

    When I came back to the Church in 2003 I was looking for some good Catholic novels. A friend recommended Michael O’Brien. So I read Eclipse of the Sun. I loved the book but thought some of it was a little farfetched. Everyday O’Brien seems like a prophet.

    Halifax, Canada

  13. Edward Martin says:

    There is another article written in the Catholic Register on this topic. As one of the experts states, why would it stop at polygamy? Why not group marriages? An enforceable definition of marriage is long gone, the politics of inclusion triumph.

  14. A friend of mine reckons that the taboo over incest will fall before the taboo over pedophilia. I think the logic is that incest can occur between consenting adults whereas pedophilia cannot by definition.

    Who knows? The frightening thing is that natural horror at these crimes is defenceless before the inexorable march of liberal ideology. God help us all.

  15. Brian Anderson says:

    Has not the taboo over ephibophia all but gone in many place. It was sometime
    in the 90s that the American Psychiatric Association removed this disorder
    from its list of deviant sexual orientations. Correct me if I am wrong.

  16. Allena says:

    Do we even want to know what ephibophia is? I don’t know what it is….I’m afraid to google it.

    I do know that, “If it feels good, then do it” is quickly becoming the norm here. Whether it’s right or wrong is disregarded as irrelevant.

  17. Maureen says:

    Since traditional Muslim law for marriage and consummation practices include marrying girls who haven’t even vaguely hit puberty and doesn’t include any age limit whatsoever (following the example of Mohammed’s consummated marriage with Aisha, who was nine), the religious rights issue will mean that the pedophilia thing will go first.

  18. Given all the ground that’s been cleared
    so far, I can’t understand the hold up with
    necrophilia legalization.

  19. moon1234 says:

    While polygamy is not currently allowed, remember that Moses, Abraham, king David and many other holy men were polygamists. Polygamy was even sanctioned by the church in france for a time during the middlle ages when disease and war decimated the male population. The Church even leaves polygamy open to reintroduction in the event some future event requires its use.

    We should be focused on the illegal minor abuse that exists in so many of thosse sects that practice polygamy.

    Islam also has very stric rules concerning polygany. The man must treat all wives the same. This usually means eac wife must have he own home, etc. Polygamy in rare in islam due to the very high financial costs. It is usually resticted to the elite and rich. Most Imams also discourage it.

    Homosexuality, abortion, pedophilia are all crimes much more damaging than polygamy.

  20. Nan says:

    The US doesn’t have a history of exempting people from the law due to religion; polygamy is unconstitutional regardless of religius opinion as is use of peyote.

    In addition, there have been court-ordered restrictions on freedoms of parents to make religious decisions regarding minor children, such as various religious sects that believe in faith healing which is detrimental to children who are not provided with medical treatment.

    While states have the ability to modify their age of consent, the problem of coercion arises when adults are telling a minor to marry another adult; this is distinct from cases such as the young children who tried to run away to Africa to marry.

  21. JL says:


    “Ephebophilia” refers to a sexual attraction to adolescents–as opposed to pedophilia, which is officially defined as a sexual attraction to pre-pubescent children. Both are very bad news.

  22. magdalene says:

    “Homosexuality, abortion, pedophilia are all crimes much more damaging than polygamy.”

    It is not so much as the ‘degree of evil’ that is being opened up like a Pandora’s box but that intrinic evils are being championed in many and various ways. The raping of a 13 year old ‘wife’ in polygamy sounds plenty damaging to me! It is still about the using of women and girls for selfish desires and lusts.

    Yes, the preying on of children is evil but the movement is to say a 10 year old can give ‘assent’. Teach sex to impressionable children in the formative years and encourage the practice with the same or opposite sex and society creates terribly warped individuals. This all tears at the fabric of the family and when the family fails, as it is happening, society will fail, and the country will fail; it will fall under the weight of its decadance.

    The evil one is clever. Get one evil approved, and mandated legal and then on to the next.

    As Catholics we absolutely must stand up for the Truth. The Truth is God’s law; it is not a matter of a religion. This is natural law written in the heart of every soul. We use and abuse and make it legal so the perpetrators arenot prosecuted.

    Evil, the society is defending evil. There is nothing of the common good here at all. Those who oppose the evils will one day need to be silenced you know.

  23. Isn’t divorce and re-marriage simply serial polygamy?

  24. Mark says:

    Edward Martin is right – there is no logical stopping place, except barbarism.

    Anyone interested in one very possible future for our civilization should google on “polyamory”.

    Notice the rave reviews Wikipedia gives to this “lifestyle”. From other websites, also notice how far along in its legal and political development this movement already is. Contracts, flag and other symbols, media talking points, necessary medical tests (a big concern here), events, “philosophy” and “history” of his movement, etc. are already more or less worked out.

    Catholics and our allies -and we need all the allies we can get now – need to join together for a basic re-evangelizing of our culture, before it collapses socially. And we need to stop being concerned about being called names.

  25. Ben Trovato says:

    It seems to me that we may well be witnessing the beginning of the end of our current civilisation. That may seem unthinkable, but history shows that it is not. And the collapse of morality, along with major financial crises, are often signs that the end is nigh…

  26. ED2 says:

    Is it true what moon1234 says-“The Church even leaves polygamy open to reintroduction in the event some future event requires its use”?

  27. Scott W. says:

    “Yes, the preying on of children is evil but the movement is to say a 10 year old can give ‘assent’.”

    And as Mark Shea pointed out, it won’t be long before some bright puts the question, “What’s so great about consent anyway?”

    And just a note for any future charges of slippery slope: One shouldn’t cry slippery slope when one is at best ambivalent and at worst simply ducky with where we propose something slides.

  28. Credo says:

    The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that “polygamy is not in accord with the moral law.”

    As Christians, God’s law is that marriage is between one man and one woman. It really makes no difference whether it was permitted under the Old Covenant or not since Christians are bound to the New Covenant. Furthermore, we must trust in God that following His laws, which He has gives to us as Christians, is what is best for His people.

    Here’s the full paragraph from the Catechism:

    para.2387 “The predicament of a man who, desiring to convert to the Gospel, is obliged to repudiate one or more wives with whom he has shared years of conjugal life, is understandable. However polygamy is not in accord with the moral law.” [Conjugal] communion is radically contradicted by polygamy; this, in fact, directly negates the plan of God which was revealed from the beginning, because it is contrary to the equal personal dignity of men and women who in matrimony give themselves with a love that is total and therefore unique and exclusive.”179 The Christian who has previously lived in polygamy has a grave duty in justice to honor the obligations contracted in regard to his former wives and his children.


  29. Credo says:

    The acceptance of polygamy in the legal definition of marriage in Canada would cause problems for religious freedom since it would then become “hate speech” to state, or write about, the immorality of it publicly.

    This has been a major problem in Canada since same-sex unions became legal; there seems to be a consistent stream of “human rights” litigation cases against Christians who publicly disapprove of the homosexual lifestyle. For example, EWTN programming is restricted in Canada and certain programs are banned from airing if there is mention of the Church’s teachings on homosexuality.

    Moreover, with the legalization of polygamy, it would then follow that schools would have to teach children that it is an acceptable lifestyle just like they are now being taught that same-sex unions are.

  30. Johnny Domer says:

    It annoys me that the same liberals who practically want to hang polygamists are also incredibly supportive of gay marriage. The moral distinction they have in place for condemning the former and supporting the latter seems to be this: homosexuals are the sort of people who live in Manhattan, vote for Obama, and with whom they wouldn’t mind having a cup of coffee; polygamists, on the other hand, own guns, live in Utah, sure as hell didn’t vote Obama, and dress like extras on Little House on the Prairie. If both practices involve consenting adults, I really don’t see how proponents of gay marriage can logically support the one and condemn the other, outside of the fact that homosexuals don’t creep them out and polygamists do. However, I know how I can logically condemn both practices: insist that marriage be defined as between one man and one woman, nothing else.

  31. Andrea says:

    …Polygamy was even sanctioned by the church in france for a time during the middlle ages when disease and war decimated the male population. The Church even leaves polygamy open to reintroduction in the event some future event requires its use.

    – by moon1234

    I’d really like to see proof of this, especially your last sentence.

  32. Blaise says:

    In Canada, historically a Catholic country,the truth about marriage and the purpose of the marital act was undermined by the Canadian Catholic Episcopate in 1966, that is those who were to uphold the natural law. Monsignor Vincent N. Foy states in “Humanae Vitae and Canada, Forty Years After”:

    “On Sept. 9, 1966, the CCCB addressed a document ‘To the House of Commons Standing Committee on Health and Welfare: on Change in the Law of Contraception.’ The bishops said in part: ‘We consider Article 150, which forbids giving information about contraception, as well as the sale or distribution of contraception an inadequate law to day… a large number of our fellow citizens believe that this law violates their rights to be informed and helped towards responsible parenthood in accordance with their personal beliefs.’

    “They went so far as to say ‘We do not conceive it our duty to oppose appropriate change in Article 150 of the Criminal Code. Indeed, we could easily envisage an active co-operation and even leadership on the part of lay Catholics to change a law which under present conditions they might well judge to be harmful to public order and the common good.’”

    Is it any wonder, Canada is in the abominable state it is now when those who were to uphold the fullness of truth about marriage and the natural law didn’t? And then the Canadian bishops responded to Humanae vitae in 1968 with the dissenting Winnipeg Statement.

    Contraception has developed the utilitarian attitude towards the human person that one can be used for one’s sexual gratification….and thus has led to the acceptance of adultery, homosexual “marriage”, polygamy, pedophilia, and no doubt beastiality will be permitted one day as well. Contraception has undermined marriage and the family. Why is anyone surprised at the acceptance of polygamy in Canada?

  33. Edward Martin says:

    Perhaps this case is a blessing in diguise for those of you \”south of the border.\” Until recently if anyone opposed to same-sex marriage were to say \”changing the definition of marriage will lead to polygamy and all types of non-traditional marriages\” they would most definitely been told they were alarmist or perhaps crazy.

    Soom you might be able to point north and and say \”look what is happening in Canada!\”. As was stated earlier same-sex marriage may seem fine to those of a liberal bent, but polygamy is “icky”. I realize that we have different constitutions and I am no scholar, but I believe they both really on the concept of individual freedoms

  34. wmeyer says:

    Ben: I agree that we may be witnessing the end of our civilization. Toynbee said that civilizations die by suicide, not by murder, and that has been popping into my thoughts with increasing frequency.

    If the FOCA is passed, religious freedom will have been trumped. Catholic hospitals and Catholic physicians will have no freedom from performing abortions. If the Congress passes amnesty legislation, millions of fresh new Democrat voters, almost all at the bottom of the economic scale, will ensure Democrat victories for the next few decades, at least. Add in the passage of “single payer healthcare” (socialized medicine), and the country will become effectively a single-party political entity. And that’s not healthy, regardless of which party is in power.

    Surveys indicate that 85% of Americans self-identify as Christian. So why are the secular progressives able to keep winning?

  35. Bruce says:

    “In Canada, historically a Catholic country”

    Are you sure this is correct Blaise? I thought Canada was mostly a Protestant country historically? The only places in Canada that Catholics were every in the majority was Quebec & parts of New Brunswick.

  36. Andrew, UK and sometimes Canada says:

    Bruce…I don’t have precise statistics but I remember being quite surprised to learn that somewhere between 40-50% of Canadians identify as Catholic, though they don’t go to Mass in those numbers.

    Quebec, of course is almost wholly Catholic for counting purposes, and made up nearly half the population historically. There are Francophone communities with Catholic roots in New Brunswick, Manitoba, and parts of Ontario.

    Then there’s the significant Irish contingent and descendants in Ontario and the Maritimes.

    Then there’s a large German contingent and descendants out west, which encompasses the various Protestant denominations but also Catholic Germans. Add to this the Ukranians and other Eastern Europeans out west who are either Roman or Byzantine Rite.

    Plus conversions, immigration, Latin Americans, and the odd assortment of Catholics from everywhere from Goa to Liverpool who ended up in Canada.

    Unfortunately the Quebec Catholic church got too close to politics in the past and forever lost a sizeable part of their flock, plus some shocking abuse scandals from the sixties and onwards. But having hit rock bottom, there is the occasional sign of Pope Benedict’s smaller but stronger Church now.

  37. John says:

    Any chance of the provincial government using the “not withstanding clause”, if the
    crown loses? Or would that not apply in this case?

    Comment by Brian Anderson — 18 January 2009 @ 10:29 am

    The notwithstanding clause could be used here, though since I believe this is a criminal matter, the legislation would probably have to be enacted by the federal government.

  38. Maggie Reinholdt says:

    Please bear with me, I’m young and searching and this is probably a stupid question. Shouldn’t we, as Catholics, support freedom of religion?

    I’m so confused my head hurts. If the government can start overriding religious beliefs based on their idea of “the common good”, couldn’t they decide that Catholicism has objectionable and divisive beliefs? Could they then start saying no more homeschooling and citizens can only worship at a state-sanctioned church? As deplorable as polygamy is, should the religious freedom be protected for our own sake? I’m so confused.

  39. wmeyer says:

    Maggie: You may be young, but your fears are well grounded. The Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA) would require Catholic hospitals and physicians to provide abortions. That is certainly an assault on religious freedom, in general, as well as an assault on the Catholic Church, in particular.

  40. Maggie Reinholdt says:

    Thanks for responding WMeyer. I’m just starting to explore these questions. You raise an excellent example with FOCA but because religious freedom is a constitutional right, could physicians really be expected to provide abortions? Wouldn’t the outcry be too loud and, frankly, reasonable? How could someone be forced to do something they find morally reprehensible?

    It made me think of another case – the Jehovah Wittness’s stance on blood transfusions. I’ll have to investigate how that’s been handled by the gov’t in the past, i.e. if a child required a blood transfusions to live, would the religious belief be overridden?

  41. Byzshawn says:

    If the Crown should lose this case it will lead to all kinds immoral relations. This is just like the Lawrence V. Texas case here in the U.S. Justice Scalia wrote in his dissent at the time that striking down sodomy laws would lead to the legalization of gay marriage, incest, and polygamy (and who knows what other horrors). Canada is already far out in front with the legalization of gay marriage. Sadly, I fear we won\’t be far behind.

    Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on us!

  42. Ed says:

    Fr. Z – “Wrong response for a Catholic”

    This response, from another thread and directed to someone apparently too overwrought to pray, seemed excessively terse to me. A priest could lead such a prayer, in a case, say, such as this thread’s subject.

    I went out on the web, searching for a right prayer, a prayer for Canada, a prayer for healing, perhaps.

    What I found after a brief search was an article well worth reading:

    “Ancient prayer draws new interest in Canada”

    I don’t know the reputation of the Catholic Register, but a burgeoning of Catholic prayer groups in Canada seems a useful, encouraging bit of news, to counterbalance potentially overwhelming political developments in that country and our world over.

    These Catholics found a right response, with strong encouragement from engaged clergy. I know that in your areas of expertise, you are very engaged, Father. There are others out there, as well, as we read each day in your blog.

  43. Mark says:


    You ask very good questions. I would say that what’s at issue here is the nature of our American culture, which still is unquestionably Christian – a mixture of Protestantism and Catholicism. Ideally, the government should be at the service of our culture – to protect it militarily, provide its necessary material and legislative infrastructure, but then go no further.

    The problem as I see it, is that some groups, by misusing the power of the government, attempt to dictate cultural terms to the rest of us. Issues that should first be discussed, digested, accepted, or rejected solely within the cultural realm (before becoming law), acquire an undeserved coercive power when they bypass this cultural process and are seized on by the State – usually the judicial branch. For example, attempts to push thru “hate speech” laws clearly aim at forcing this cultural dialog on a given issue to stop. To be honest, the many divisions among the Christian factions don’t help here.

    To me, the separation of Church and State implies that there are certain cultural processes from which the State is barred. Only after we the people had the necessary time to discuss this or that issue, as we are doing now for example, can the legislative branch be authorized to do its job.

    On a remotely related subject, totalitarian regimes aim at much more than merely to control the economy. Their real aim is to force each subject to give up his God given power to make un-coerced moral choices, and accept the dictates of the State instead. What sometimes stands in their way is the shield of the Church. However, we are light years away from such a situation. I also sincerely hope that in the future we’ll be spared such a trial.

  44. James II says:

    Compare the statement of the Canadian bishops on contraception and its legality with that of His Grace the Archbishop of Dublin, +John Charles MC QUAID, Primate of Ireland:

    “1. For some time past, in this Diocese, statements have been made by various categories of people in the daily press and in magazines concerning the regulation of birth. Any writer or speaker who wishes to venture into the area of the doctrine of the moral law is gravely obliged to understand correctly and to state accurately the objective moral law as the teaching authority in the Church explains that law.

    In a Diocese, there is only one teaching authority who, under the Pope and in union with him, is competent, by virtue of his sacred office, to declare the authentic and objective moral law that is binding on all the Faithful of his Diocese, both priests and lay folk. That authority is the Bishop.

    Accordingly, to correct the confusion that has been caused in the minds of the Faithful of this Diocese, we hereby formally declare the doctrine of the objective moral law concerning the regulation of birth: every action which, either in anticipation of the marriage act or in the accomplishment of that act, or, in the development of the natural consequences of that act, proposes, either as an end or as a means, to make procreation impossible, is unlawful in itself. In other words, any such contraceptive act is wrong in itself.

    This is the constant teaching of the church. This is the teaching recently reaffirmed by the Pope, supreme Teacher of the Law of God in the Church of Christ. Much is being written about conscience, as if conscience can make right that which is wrong in itself. Conscience is a judgment by which an individual decides from general principles that a particular act is good or bad. That judgment is for each man the rule of his moral conduct but his judgment, if it is to be right according to the objective moral law, must agree with that law. A man, through blameless ignorance or confusion, may be mistaken in the judgment that a particular act is right. Because of that blameless ignorance or confusion he is excused from personal sin; none the less his judgment is false and his action is wrong in itself. Hence the serious obligation binding on every man to inform himself correctly, especially in the Sacrament of Penance, concerning what is objectively right and wrong, so that, in his particular judgment, he may act only in agreement with the moral law.

    Our Divine Master has Himself established in His Church the teaching Authority that, with full certainty, can declare, make clear and defend the moral law. To observe that law, we need not merely knowledge but grace that will sustain our weakness, in even the most difficult circumstances of human life. That grace we can always obtain by humble prayer and by the reception of the Sacrament in which we meet the Author of grace Himself. “Come to Me,” He has urged, “and I will refresh you, for my yoke is sweet and my burden light.”

    May the Mother of God, by her most powerful intercession, obtain for the Faithful of this Diocese, priests and lay folk, the signal grace loyally to accept in all their life the doctrine of the moral law that the Church unfailingly affirms.

    Lenten Regulations in the Diocese of Dublin.
    17th February, 1971.

    2. Our faithful people continue to be assailed by public pleas for civil divorce and contraception. Civil divorce is proposed as the right of minorities, contraception is proposed as the right of married persons to control birth.

    The words ‘right’ and ‘control’ lend a false appearance of reason and morality but civil divorce is evil and contraception is evil. There cannot be, on the part of any person, a right to what is evil. A right is the moral power of a human person to do or to possess or to exact. Being a moral power, it can be founded only in reason and in the objective moral law. Its purpose is to give to the human person the moral power or authority freely to choose what leads him securely to his final end, which is God. Civil divorce and contraception are each a violation of the objective moral law, a very grave offense against God, the Author of that law. Our faithful people, as by an instinct of the Faith, grasp at once this truth and will be guided by the Church which has been founded by Jesus Christ Himself to be the authentic interpreter of the objective moral law.

    Archbishop’s House, Dublin 9.
    22nd March, 1971.

    3. Confusion continues to be spread among our faithful people by the frequent and inaccurate use of terms such as planned or responsible parenthood. The natural use of marriage is not a merely animal act to which human beings are driven by blind instinct. It is a reasonable human act to which, according to the law of God the Creator, responsible human beings mutually consent. In that sense, the natural use of marriage is planned and is responsible but, if by planned is meant the spacing of births by contraception, then that use of marriage is not in agreement with the law of God. It is not planned according to the rational nature of man as such. It is not responsible for it is not a deliberate act that, by its agreement with the law of God, assists man to reach his final end.
    By contraception is meant every action which, in anticipation of the marriage act, or in the accomplishment of that act, or in the development of the natural consequences of that act, proposes, either as an end or as a means, to make procreation impossible.

    Any such contraceptive act is always wrong in itself. To speak, then, in this context, of a right to contraception on the part of an individual, be he Christian or non-Christian or atheist, or on the part of a minority or a majority, is to speak of a right that cannot even exist.

    When one considers the use of marriage by Christians who have received the Sacrament of Marriage, the natural use of marriage is not only a reasonable, responsible and planned action; it is also a sanctified act that can merit an increase of God’s grace and a reward in eternal life. This is the authentic teaching o[ the Church, guardian, by Christ’s own appointment, of the Sacrament of Matrimony.

    Confusion is further being spread by an often inaccurate use of terms such as private and public morality. The use of a contraceptive by an individual person is an act that primarily concerns that person and as such is a matter of private morality. Publicly to make contraceptives available is a matter of public morality.

    Given the proneness of our human nature to evil, given the enticement of bodily satisfaction, given the widespread modern incitement to unchastity, it must be evident that an access, hitherto unlawful, to contraceptive devices will prove a most certain occasion of sin, especially to immature persons. The public consequences of immorality that must follow for our whole society are only too clearly seen in other countries.

    If they who are elected to legislate for our society should unfortunately decide to pass a disastrous measure of legislation that will allow the public promotion of contraception and an access, hitherto unlawful, to the means of contraception, they ought to know clearly the meaning of their action, when it is judged by the norms of objective morality and the certain consequences of such a law.

    To add to the confusion, it is being suggested that our society ought to be brought into line with the outlook of other countries. Hitherto, we have endeavoured to legislate according to the established beliefs and standards of our own people. One can conceive no worse fate for Ireland than that it should, by the legislation of our elected representatives, be now made to conform to the patterns of sexual conduct in other countries.

    It is also being suggested that such uniformity of sexual outlook and practice can, in some obscure way, assist the reunification of our country. One must know little of the Northern people, if one can fail to realize the indignant ridicule with which good Northern people would treat such an argument. It would indeed be a foul basis on which to attempt to construct the unity of our people.

    It may well come to pass that, in the present climate of emotional thinking and pressure, legislation could be enacted that will offend the objective moral law. Such a measure would be an insult to our Faith; it would, without question, prove to be gravely damaging to morality, private and public; it would be and would remain, a curse upon our country. “

  45. Maggie Reinholdt says:

    Hey Mark – interesting post but when you write the state’s “real aim is to force each subject to give up his God given power to make un-coerced moral choices, and accept the dictates of the State instead.” – how would that come about? Attrition?

    James II – I can see the truth of what you’ve posted but I don’t think a theocracy can ever be the answer. Consider Thomas More’s “I would give the devil benefit of law for my own sake” speech from A Man for All Seasons. Put a theocracy in place and then another religion takes control – what then? No, citizens must be free to make up their own minds – and I’ll endure this freedom for my own freedom’s sake.

  46. Blaise says:

    Regarding one of the previous posts by Ed which along with comments indicated he was not sure about the Catholic Register here in Canada: Recently the editor of the Catholic Register wrote a very favourable report of Hans Kung’s new book, Disputed Truth, Memoirs II, published by Novalis Press (they make the misselettes found in every parish in Canada). See an article here, entitled, Novalis, Kung, and Truth ( So,in other words, the Catholic Register is not in conformity with the Vatican II council document Intermirifica…

    The editor of the Catholic Register has recently, as well, been appointed to a newly created position with Novalis Press as Publishing Director.

  47. Both Church and State are obliged to follow the Natural Law.

    The Church is obliged to assist in the interpretation of Natural Law.

    Error has no rights and prudence remains a virtue.

  48. Andrew, UK and sometimes Canada says:

    Blaise is right…The Register would not be favoured reading on this blog. Though like most Tablet-like magazines I think they keep a tame traddie on staff for “balance” and the occasional small article.

  49. Edward Martin says:

    Blaise & Andrew I was suprised to see such an article in the “Catholic Register”. Don’t worry I don’t have a subscription!

    To update, I read this morning that the lawyer for the defence will be using the change of definition of marriage to include same-sex as part of the defence.

  50. Ed says:

    Blaise, Andrew, and Edward Martin –

    “The Register would not be favoured reading on this blog”.

    “Don’t worry I don’t have a subscription!:”

    Appreciating the POV on the venue, the content of the article was the point of the posting; the question of right responses for a Catholic faced with political developments contrary to Christ.

    I am familiar with the ministry this article mentions, the Intercessors of the Lamb; a Catholic apostolate in Oklahoma, USA.

    “The main apostolate of the Intercessors of the Lamb is to pray for our priests.”

    This is an apostolate that I know is in alignment with “favoured” responses on this blog; an urgently needed response. Their online resource is worth a look, as their vocation is worth considering, in terms of right responses:

    “Our goal is to develop and foster a deep interior life in the hearts of God’s people so that they might become, within themselves, ‘a house of prayer’ as God is within Himself. Because it is the life that prays, our own personal relationship with Jesus is the root and power of all effective intercession.”

    It is interesting that this apostolate is working to develop prayer groups among the laity in Canada, and that their work is bearing fruit. I can hope that, although the Register may not be the most trustworthy Catholic venue, the information presented in this article does go to the heart of right responses that we might espouse, as alternatives to merely intellectual critiques of politics.

    That is how I unpacked Fr. Z’s brevity; the right response for a Catholic is to pray to God, humbly but urgently.

  51. Ed says:

    Also, briefly, here’s and excerpt from first page of the Intercessors of Lamb winter 2008 newsletter:

    “It is no surprise that the world today is being told to destroy
    childhood altogether. “Abort life! Don’t have too many children!
    Pursue the grandeur of adulthood.” The enemy does not want
    us to look upon the innocence and vulnerability of being little,
    otherwise we might understand and our eyes might be opened to
    the gift and the mystery of spiritual childhood – so precious in
    the sight of God.”


    “This is our mission. This is our calling. This is our Promise and our inheritance. Only a child who knows and has experienced the unfailing and unconditional love of the Father, will have the power to lay down his life for his fellow man, sure beyond any doubt and fear, that the Father is in control and will never let go of him. Let us begin now. Let us begin here. And let it begin with me!”

    This is a very targeted response indeed, to the political developments this thread explores. As we celebrate and give thanks for every “brick” that comes to light through this blog, every TLM we learn is taking place, there are other kinds of bricks, other kinds of right responses available to us.

    This may be helpful to know for some who feel overwhelmed; who need upholding.

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