Requiem for a Moral Lightweight
Today is election day. It has been a terrible week for me health wise (a terrific cold and sinus infection - missed three days of work) and I have not been able to go door-to-door campaigning for my local Conservative candidate as I have been doing. It's been very frustrating for me. Of course, my frustration is somewhat eased by the fact that this election looks to be resolved in favour of the Conservative Party of Canada.
By this time tomorrow the Right Honourable Paul Martin PC, MP should be a failed asterisk in the history books. A man whom people said was so full of promise turned out to be full of something else, .... mainly himself.
Someone far wiser in the affairs of national politics than I am (and a member of Her Canadian Majesty's Privy Council) told me several months ago that one could gauge the measure of the man by the fact that from the very moment he accepted high office from Jean Chretien he set into motion a national campaign to undermine and unseat him. That wise friend told me that that says all you really have to know about Mr. Martin's values, Canadian or otherwise.
There is more, of course. He told the people of Canada that, "I am a practicing Catholic, in fact a strong Catholic. But I am a legislator and I believe in the separation of church and state." I'd go further. I say Paul Martin is the kind of man who believes in the separation of man and church. Mr. Martin's position may be acceptable in one whom professes no religious belief, but it is a ridiculous position to hold for someone of faith to hold. In fact it can't be held, only asserted.
Take Jack Layton for example. As far as I know, Mr. Layton is not a man of faith. He is known to be, and professes to be a socialist. Fair ball. But how ridiculous would Jack Layton be seen to be if he were to state publicly, "I am a socialist. In fact I am a strong socialist, but I also believe in the separation of philosophy and state." And what if, having so pronounced, Jack Layton proceeded to assert numerous public policy positions completely antithetical to basic socialist principles. You would think him a liar, or a fool, or both. So would I. So what then should we think of Paul Martin?
As a Catholic I cannot tell you how repelled I am by a man who says he is a strong Catholic and who then publicly champions political causes (e.g., abortion) antithetical to what he says are his core beliefs. You simply cannot hold that human life is sacred and begins at the moment of conception (the teaching of the Church) and then vigorously defend as a human right "a woman's right to choose" to kill the life in her womb. Such a position is, as Bishop Fred Henry of Calgary has rightly said, morally incoherent.
You can assert that human life does not begin at conception (a scientifically indefensible position to be sure) and that abortion is therefore acceptable. But once you accept the Catholic view that human life begins at conception, you are duty bound to protect and nurture that life. The political protection of all our human rights are dependent on that primal right. Once it goes, and it has, all other rights cease to be inalienable (as our American cousins say) and they become contingent. A contingent human right is no right.
So what, you may say. Paul Martin is only separating his personal views from his duty as a Prime Minister, you may say. To do otherwise is to invite Popery and all its pomps into the governance of Canada, you may say. I do not agree. People of faith have the right to express their deeply held moral views publicly and to try and see them enshrined in law. That's democracy.
A person, like Paul Martin, who is prepared to act so publicly and so contrary to their professed basic moral beliefs in order to wield political power is a person who must never be trusted with high political office. There must be an intimate connection between what a leader believes and what they do. That connection is what gives us strength and results in what we call strength of character. Mr. Martin's character is being judged today and the people, having recognized his lack of character are casting him from office.
He failed as Prime Minister not so much because he inherited (and was part of) a government that was running a major kickback scheme in Quebec with characters that seemed to be drawn from Mario Puza?s novel "The Godfather." That alone was reason to toss him and his party from power, but it alone would not have done the job. Nor is he being thrown out of office just because Liberal Party members had escalated personal entitlements from the public purse to a nauseating new level for Canada.
The electorate has not supported him because they understand on some visceral level that he is weak in character and lacks any coherent vision for the country. It is vain to seek clarity of political purpose from one who lacks personal moral clarity. Paul Martin failed to be true to the underlying moral code he himself professes. Because he is morally incoherent he has been weak. Because he is weak I do not respect him and will not be sad to see the back of him.
That's the Canada in which I believe.