Peter Stockland

Peter Stockland

Peter Stockland is publisher of Convivium magazine and a senior fellow at Cardus.

There was a small moment at a recent McGill University conference that put the very large debate about public religious faith into clear perspective. Rabbi Lisa Gruschcow, appearing on a panel called Taking the Temperature: Religion and Secularism in Canadian Society, spoke eloquently and effectively about the delicate balancing of neutral secular governance with public manifestations of religious freedom.

Convivium magazine’s recent event in the heart of Canada’s financial district counted as an overwhelming success for me for one reason alone.

May 9, 2013

It defies logic

At a recent debate on euthanasia and assisted suicide, the proponent for medicalized killing was making the predictable argument on the grounds of personal autonomy.

April 25, 2013

Seeking the answers

Only those who have run marathons fully understand the event’s power to shred body, soul and psyche. Runners of half-marathons don’t half understand that power because the full 42.1 kilometres does not split arithmetically in two. It is commonly said the marathon truly begins at 30 kilometres.

As someone who can smell the incense from the last pew of the church, it was no challenge for me to sniff the billows of the beer coming off Ralph Klein.

March 28, 2013

I am that I am

Imagine being the universe and waking up one day to find you’re 80 million years older than you thought. Or, worse, to find the whole world now knows you’re so much older than you’ve been letting on.

That has to be an awkward moment even for a cosmos that’s seen, well, everything in its 13.81 billion years of existence...

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With all eyes fixed on Rome, it’s not surprising that Paula Celani’s moment of victory in a Montreal courtroom has gone almost unheralded.

The battle over legalization of euthanasia and assisted suicide in Quebec just shifted to the side of the angels. On Feb. 19, a group of more than 300 courageous and very determined doctors took out attention-grabbing newspaper advertisements declaring bluntly that their role will never be to “kill” their patients. Calling themselves the Physicians’ Alliance for Total Refusal of Euthanasia, they issued a manifesto rejecting the whole ideology under which doctors would be complicit in administering lethal doses of drugs to patients.

February 13, 2013

Chained by arrogance

Cardinal Joseph Zen had a wise and timely reminder at a dinner hosted by Convivium magazine earlier this month. We must never forget, the former bishop of Hong Kong said, that the size of the cage is irrelevant in matters of fundamental freedom.

In a recent blog for Cardus — the think tank that among its many other good works publishes Convivium magazine — I cited an item sent to me by a regular correspondent. It was, I wrote, a brilliant, step-by-step summary of the way in which so-called “social progress” has occurred during the past 30 years at the expense of long-standing Canadian tradition, custom and especially faith.

The summary read as follows:

o Find an extreme position calling for radical change and self-define it as moderate.

o Get your fellow travellers on The Long March through the unionized newsrooms of the nation to adopt your language.

o Define all who oppose you as intolerant extremists.

o See above re: fellow travellers, and repeat at teachers’ conventions nationwide. Concerned about their social status, teachers will adopt whatever position is portrayed as most fashionable.

o Bake in oven for two terms of government, use quasi-judicial bodies to institute pogroms against your opponents and, bingo, you have progressive social change no matter how much it might feel like a boot stomping on your face.

The only serious addition I offered was expanding item four to include professional associations: lawyers, doctors, Indian chiefs.

It turned out there’s more, and it came from an academic friend:

o Argue for a supposedly moderate change that goes just beyond generally accepted conventions and principles.

o When some people raise objections, accuse them of engaging in specious slippery-slope arguments, insisting that, of course, we certainly do not mean to advocate for those alleged consequences, and it is offensive to be so misrepresented.

o All the while secretly intend the normalization of precisely those furthermost implications down the road

o Once the change argued for is effected, argue for the next supposedly moderate, incremental change that will bring us closer to the realization of the desired (but temporarily too controversial) more radical outcomes. This involves reminding society of how its enlightened embrace of the previous change should lead them to consent to the next step, and mock those who object by pointing out that the sky hasn’t fallen.

These precepts explain the “how” of surreptitious social “progress” that has led to such travesties as the de facto abolition of the constitutional rights of parents to have schools that teach their children what it means to be Catholic, and Quebec’s pending abolition of our foundational Christian understanding of what it means to be human.

Having defined the “how,” however, neither set offered a proposal for what is to be done. Still, simply identifying the steps of the process creates the expectation that someone, somewhere, has some explaining to do. And that opens the door to challenging the dangerous presuppositions at the heart of the radical upending of our society.

Those presuppositions are:

o Any self-proclaimed “progressive” measure is always an essential step demanded by the “forward movement” of history, and its achievement is inevitable.

o The onus is always on those who are hesitant to adopt such “progressive” measures to show why they should not be adopted.

The deficiencies of both become obvious. The second one is grossly unjust and requires the logical fraud of having to prove a negative. The first contains a childish tautology: we want to do this because it’s progress, and it’s progress because we want to do it.

What this means is that the following demands should be made of anyone who proposes any self-defined “progressive” vision:

o State definitively what the historic end point of your progressive vision will be.

o State truthfully your confidence in your ability to forecast that particular historic end point.

o State plainly what existing natural rights and protections must be sacrificed for your progressive vision to be achieved.

o State concretely how your vision of progress differs from a reversion to barbarism.

Such demands are not obstructionist or reactionary. They are the simple precautions any sane people will take before agreeing to changes in the makeup of their society. The final question, of course, is whether it’s already too late for sanity.

(Stockland is the Director of the Cardus Centre for Cultural Renewal in Montreal.)