The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity – W. B. Yeats, “The Second Coming”
Unfortunately, these oft-quoted lines ring true now even more than when they were written in 1920. They point to one of the most peculiar tragedies of modern culture: while Error asserts itself aggressively with unblinking self-confidence, Truth can barely clear its throat – and then only to apologize for itself.
This pathetic phenomenon shows itself most startlingly in relations between contemporary Christian institutions and “post-Christian” society. Take, for example, recent attempts by certain Roman Catholic hospitals in this country to “balance” their “historic mission” with the demands of the secularist government bureaucrats who pay the bills, and their efforts to “respect their faith traditions” while embracing every anti-Christian, politically-correct pressure group that comes down the pike.
In the last several months, we’ve run a series of articles on an especially sad situation at St. Joseph’s Health Centre in London, Ont. Late-term abortionist Fraser Fellows, who’s on staff at the hospital, has long been a thorn in the side of some key St. Joe’s “stakeholders.” Even now, however, when that thorn has caused a festering wound in the institution – concerned Londoners have begun a daily picket outside the facility – the powers-that-be refuse to pluck it out. Apparently the pain involved in doing so is too much even to contemplate.
Worse still, the hospital insists that it doesn’t even have a right to fire an employee whose livelihood contradicts their “historic mission” about as flatly as one could imagine. Representatives say that since they’re confident he hasn’t actually committed any abortions on site, he’s abiding by their ethics policy, and is in good standing.
Some believe that such an accommodation renders a religious institution nothing more than a shell; and in the case of St. Joe’s, it would be hard to argue that this isn’t literally the case. Whether the hospital realizes it or not, it has said, essentially, that St. Joe’s is nothing but bricks and mortar. For if it is irrelevant whether a prominent staff member kills babies for a living, as long as he does it outside the hospital’s walls, the very idea of a Catholic healthcare institution has become a legalistic fiction. If such an institution is not a living entity made up of individuals who share the same genuinely Christian health care mission, it is nothing.
In recent years, similar confusion has become evident at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto. Under pressure from a furious and relentless mob of homosexual, feminist, and media militants, the hospital has consistently downplayed – and perhaps even compromised – its religious mission.
The confrontation came about because of the government-mandated takeover of Wellesley Central Hospital by St. Mike’s. Wellesley ran a major HIV/AIDS clinic, and catered to the ideology of the gay “community” in the neighbourhood. The hospital also committed abortions – by some accounts, 1,500 each year. In spite of the fact that St. Mike’s is a leader in HIV/AIDS treatment, and in spite of the fact that abortion clinics are as plentiful as doughnut shops in downtown Toronto, a coalition of homosexuals and feminists embarked on a bitter, shrill campaign to block the merger, or, better still, to force St. Mike’s to become a “public” institution (presumably a neutral process whereby the hospital would abandon Catholicism and replace it with feminism and various other ascendant “isms”).
To be fair to St. Mike’s, the hospital did not apologize for its refusal to provide abortions. Also, hospital spokesmen cited St. Mike’s outstanding record in the very areas where the institution was accused of falling short. Unfortunately, however, these points were made in a rather naively genteel way, as if St. Mike’s opponents were sincerely interested in “dialogue,” and not, as it was plainly obvious, in destroying the hospital’s very foundations.
Moreover, not only was the hospital’s defence amazingly tepid, St. Mike’s actually seemed to be trying to placate its enemies, even at the risk of offending the sensibilities of its own constituency. When the merger controversy first emerged in 1995, the hospital pointed to its “spousal” benefits program for gay employees. As the attacks intensified, it began a PR campaign with the gay “Rainbow Flag” behind an image of St. Michael the Archangel.
Last year, in response to yet another media diatribe on how the hospital was “imposing” its beliefs on others, St. Mike’s CEO Jeffrey Lozon corrected the columnist in question, saying that “the work of St. Michael’s Hospital is not rooted in the religion of our staff and physicians, but in a philosophy of compassion …. Our philosophy is non-denominational.”
Of course, these things did little to satisfy the ideologues encircling St. Mike’s. In fact, smelling blood, they grew more vicious still.
We’re not sure which is more frightening: the ever-increasing strength and boldness of the culture of death, or the self-defeating appeasement strategy of those few remaining institutions in which the culture of life (supposedly) still holds sway. No; scratch that. Appeasement is definitely much more alarming. History – especially the history of the culture wars of the last few decades – shows us again and again that we are in the most grave danger of all when we resort to such a tactic in the face of evil. So when are we going to learn?
David Curtin, Editor-in-Chief