President Donald Trump’s visit to Pope Francis in late May made more headlines in the United States, but an especially dramatic encounter at the Vatican occurred a week later when Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau met the pope.
Trump is not, and he has never been, a Roman Catholic, but Prime Minister Trudeau identifies as a Catholic. Born and bred in heavily Catholic Montreal, his Catholic legacy is as deep as his fluency in French. His wife, Sophie, identifies as a Catholic. They were married in a Catholic church. They are rearing their children as Catholics.
Yet, for beginners, the prime minister confronted the pope with the very forward request that the Holy Father “apologize” to the native people of Canada for all the “abuse” the Church brought upon them in schools and orphanages. Take that, Sts. Jean de Brebeauf, Gabriel Lalemant and Isaac Jocques, and all the priests who left everything familiar and secure in France to bring the peace of Christ to the native people of Quebec! They more accurately reflect the legacy of the Church in Canada.
Beyond this blunt demand, the prime minister brought plenty of political baggage to Rome. His support of abortion on demand rivals the shouts of the most boisterous pro-abortion advocate in the United States.
Not long ago, the Democratic Party in this country moved toward adopting a pro-choice position as part of its overall charter. This move followed action by Canada’s Liberal Party, Trudeau’s party, actually a few years ago, in which Trudeau demanded that no one should run for any Canadian public office on the Liberal ticket unless he or she endorsed an unrestricted right to abortion.
Recently, the prime minister stated the Canadian foreign policy will favor, if not insist upon, pro-abortion provisions in its aid to, and dealings with, foreign states. He supports legalized euthanasia, another radical departure from Catholic teaching.
Canada’s bishops have loudly denounced these policies, and Church law leaves them with few other alternatives, but their appeals and warnings seem to have had little effect on Trudeau.
Ultimately, it gets to a point that also applies in this country regarding elected political figures who identify as Catholics but support immoral laws. All are in office because they were chosen in free elections, and on so many occasions in states or congressional districts with a substantial number of Catholic voters.
In Canada, Prime Minister Trudeau became head of the Canadian government for one reason. He won the election, to a great extent, because he and his Liberal Party colleagues had a majority even in Quebec with its Catholic tradition.
The prime minister, with his youth and eloquence and poise, could do so much to advance the Church’s ideals of justice and human dignity, including the dignity and right to life of the unborn and dying.
Immediately after assuming the prime minister’s position, Trudeau flew to London to pay his respects to Queen Elizabeth II, who under the Canadian constitution is queen of Canada and Canada’s head of state. Reporters and television cameras were there when they greeted each other.
Then the queen asked a question: What it is he had been doing in office?
Canadians, to whom Trudeau ultimately is responsible, and indeed people elsewhere who revere the right to life of all human beings, given Canada’s prominence and involvement in the world, could ask the same question.
The tragedy is that Justin Trudeau is hardly unique among today’s political leaders.
Msgr. Owen F. Campion is OSV’s chaplain.