National Affairs Rory Leishman

National Affairs Rory Leishman

More than 70 per cent of voters in the 2015 federal election supported candidates and parties committed to unrestricted abortion on demand. What can account for such appalling disregard for the sanctity of human life?

While politicians, intellectuals and journalists bear much of the blame, church leaders should also be called to account.

According to Statistics Canada, 67 per cent of Canadians still list themselves as Christians. Clearly, some leaders of these Christians have little or no concern for the sanctity of human life. For example, the United Church of Canada published a 32-page “2015 Federal Election Kit” that took a position on everything from a new seed act for farmers to the alleged need for legalized transgender rights, but made no mention of abortion or euthanasia. Leaders of the Anglican Church of Canada did no better. In “Compassion, Justice, and Reason: An Anglican Approach for Election 2015,” they urged voters to back candidates who care for God’s creation and will strive to“renew the life of the earth,” but  ignored the far more urgent need to elect legislators who will strive to safeguard the life of babies in the womb.

Of course, the United Church and the Anglican Church no longer count for much in Canadian politics, because they, like other so-called mainline Protestant denominations, have been depleted by a drastic decline in active members over the past 50 years. Average weekly attendance nationwide was merely 150,819 for the United Church in 2013, whereas for the moribund Anglican Church of Canada, it was already down to 44,155 in 2001.

In comparison, the Catholic Church and evangelical Protestant churches in Canada are thriving. Close to 50 per cent of Canadian adults identify themselves on census forms as either Catholics or Evangelicals.

Moreover, the Catholic and Evangelical churches are pro-life. But what did these churches do to uphold the sanctity of human life in the 2015 election?

Alas, precious little.

The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada issued election guidelines that were hardly any better than those served up by the mainline Protestant denominations.

Granted, the Catholic and Evangelical guidelines noted that respect for human life and the natural family are important electoral considerations. The fatal weakness of the guidelines was their failure to indicate the overriding importance of these life and family issues. As a result, anyone who relied on electoral advice coming from the Evangelical Fellowship or the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops might have been easily misled into supposing that such secondary matters as “introducing equitable fiscal policies for companies and individuals” – whatever that means – are just as important as “demanding the right to life for even the smallest among us” or “raising our voices against practices like physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia.”

Consider, in contrast, the forthright electoral issued by Cardinal Raymond Burke in 2004, when he served as Archbishop of St. Louis: “There is no element of the common good, no morally good practice, that a candidate may promote and to which a voter may be dedicated, which could justify voting for a candidate who also endorses and supports the deliberate killing of the innocent, abortion, embryonic stem-cell research, euthanasia, human cloning or the recognition of a same-sex relationship as legal marriage.”

To emphasize the primacy of life issues, Burke explained: “We must ask ourselves whether it is fair to our unborn brothers and sisters to help put someone in office who will not lift a finger to save their lives because we favor that candidate’s position on health care reform, education, the death penalty or some other issue. If we were in their stage of human development, would we want them to make such a decision regarding us?”

Surely not. Why, then, did Canada’s Catholic and Evangelical leaders not also urge the faithful to oppose any politician who backs abortion on demand?

Money would seem to have been one factor:  The Evangelical Fellowship warned in its guidelines for voters that any church that supports or opposes a candidate or political party risks loss of its charitable status.

“So what,” the faithful might well respond.

No threat to life and liberty – let alone any fear of merely economic sanctions – could deter the Apostle Paul from proclaiming the truth as God gave him to see the truth. Christians today should be no less bold.

As it is, by failing to provide clear and unambiguous electoral advice in conformity with the fundamental principles of traditional Christian morality, even otherwise faithful Catholic and evangelical leaders in Canada bear considerable responsibility for the catastrophic election of a record number of MPs who flout the natural family and the sanctity of human life.