I came across this article from the Calgary Herald and read it with interest. Bishop Fred Henry is a notable character in Calgary and for that part to the Alberta Government. He has on many occassions been willing to take to task the government of the day in this province.
The details behind this story are explicit – and not quite the reason I have included it in today’s blog. The reason I highlight it is the very good argument regarding rights and freedoms. I think for the most part the average person sees freedoms as flowing out of rights. Bishop Henry argues that the reverse is true. And I agree.
Imagine if we applied this logic to other topics?! The rights of men and women, regardless of the issue should never trump the freedoms we enjoy as citizens. If rights overule freedoms we will impose further restrictions and diminish freedoms for us all.
We’ve dangerously begun to pursue personal rights to the detriment of our country. Canadians are no longer free – no, we have become imprisoned in a world of political correctness and a war of opposing rights.
While Bishop Henry’s focus is on the use of marriage commissioners – the larger case is held in this contrast of freedoms vs. rights and seeing them in the right order.
“Wrong ruling on same-sex marriageFor The Calgary Herald January 20, 2011
Regrettably, both the Jan. 16 Herald editorial, “Right ruling on same-sex marriage,” and the Saskatchewan Appeal Court got it wrong regarding marriage commissioners.
Religious belief is intertwined with our nation’s history, the spirit of the founding fathers and mothers of our nation, our national anthem, and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms which begins “Whereas Canada is founded upon the principles that recognize the supremacy of God and the rule of law.”
Immediately, the Charter proceeds to list our fundamental freedoms. The first one is the freedom of conscience and religion. The second is freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression.
Only after, not before, asserting our fundamental freedoms, does the Charter begin to spell out rights — first democratic rights, then mobility rights, followed by legal rights, then equality rights, etc.
Freedom of conscience and of religion is a primary and inalienable right of the human person; what is more, insofar as it touches the innermost sphere of the spirit, one can even say that it upholds the justification, deeply rooted in each individual, of all other liberties. Of course, such freedom can only be exercised in a responsible way, that is, in accordance with ethical principles.
A commitment to human rights is not alien to any authentic quest for religious or moral truth because it flows from the very nature of the human person and emerges naturally in all authentic religious, moral and cultural traditions as they move to express more deeply the truth of human life. It is significant that nations with widely varying religious heritages have embraced the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
The proposed legislation adequately balanced the interests of all parties, ensuring that same-sex couples had access to marriage, and that marriage commissioners had protection for their religious beliefs. It is disappointing that the court did not see the wisdom of this balanced approach.
The court did, however, leave open the possibility of introducing a “single entry point system,” such as that used in Ontario, under which “a couple seeking these services of a marriage commissioner would proceed, not directly contacting an individual commissioner, but dealing with the Director of the Marriage Unit or some other central office.”
This whole scenario, however, is not just about marriage commissioners and there is a need to examine the ideology that produces such judgments, as the challenges that they propose will return on different stages and with similar theatrical garb.
We might well ask: “Who’s next?”
Are physicians and surgeons going to lose their right not to perform a service or offer advice when doing so would be to act contrary to his or her conscience or religious and ethical principles?
Of course, every patient does have the right to good medical care. This does not translate, however, into a right to demand that a physician set aside deeply held moral and religious convictions in order to accommodate every wish of the patient, e.g. termination of a pregnancy, euthanasia, sterilization, etc.
Such an expectation would constitute a terrible violation of the freedom to act in accordance with conscience or religion, which is a fundamental right of every citizen, regardless of occupation. If a conflict arises between a physician’s right to freedom of conscience and the desires of a patient, the physician need only communicate clearly and respectfully to the patient the limits of his or her medical practice.”
Fred Henry is the Catholic Bishop of Calgary.
© Copyright (c) The Calgary Herald
In the movie Polar Express there is a scene where a little boy, feeling fearful, a bit rejected, certainly lonely, remains on the Polar Express while all the other children hop off to see Santa. The children are excited because the Conductor has told them “one of you will receive the first gift of Christmas from Santa. Who wouldn’t want to get off the train and join the celebration in the town square? Who wouldn’t want to hope that they would be chosen?
So why does he stay on the train?
Could it be a feeling of unworthiness? Perhaps he tells himself “I’m never going to be chosen because I’m not tall/short/good/talented/handsome/etc enough”. There’s alot of people I meet who seem to let go of opportunity because of what “they tell themselves”.
“People never believe what you tell them, they might believe what their friends tell them, but they always believe what they tell themselves.” (Tribes by Seth Godin)
So what do you tell yourself…about yourself? How we talk to ourselves is more important than how anyone else talks to us. Just because someone tells you, you are too tall/short/…no good/not talented/…not handsome etc doesn’t mean it is true. It is no more true than if I told you the world is flat, Google makes typewriters or the world will end in 2012. What you believe is what you tell yourself.
So why not change the story? Why not create a new conversation?
It is possible. Sometimes you just have to be willing to step off the train.