Morgentaler honour?

Yes, those words will be meaningless to most Americans, but Canada’s highest civilian honour, the Order of Canada – similar to a knighthood – has been given to, among several dozen honorees this month on the occasion of Dominion Day (as it used to be called more meaningfully), July 1, the Auschwitz survivor who got abortion legalized in Canada by performing tons of them illegally, even in front of documentary cameras, and even going to jail for it, before getting the Supreme Court of Canada to outlaw outlawing it in 1988: Dr. Henry Morgentaler.

Whatever one thinks about abortion, it’s inappropriate to give a national honour in Canada to someone who is not only politically controversial – lots of good people are politically controversial – but considered by millions of good, sincere, law-abiding, even progressive,* Canadians – leaving to one side the hate-spewing anti-abortion extremists – to be a butcher of innocent, viable human beings, and at their most defenceless: in the womb, by their own mothers.  Morgentaler is officially cited “For his commitment to increased health care options for women” and for his services to humanism and civil liberties.  I’m not aware of what he may have done for the latter two areas, but throughout Canada his name means one thing, legalized abortion – just like “Jane Roe” in the States.  Can you imagine “Roe” (of Roe v. Wade fame, the appellant being kept officially anonymous at the time) getting the Presidential Medal of Freedom – again, whatever you think of abortion?  Not even the most “liberal” US President would think of doing so, even if s/he wanted to; it’d tear the country apart.

Furthermore, using the Order of Canada to enshrine the abortion euphemism “health care options for women” in the national Honours system is not only offensive, it just demeans Honours; it sounds Nazi or Bolshevik, like something out of 1984.  OK, that opinion may depend on what you make of abortion in the first place.  And clearly I oppose the liberalization of abortion since the 1960s in the US and Canada and elsewhere.  But drawing back to the matter of the honour itself, millions of good, sincere, law-abiding, even progressive, Canadians – leaving to one side the hate-spewing anti-abortion extremists – might consider instead that he worked for decreased health care options for children!  Should someone get an award for that?!

As the newspaper article describes, Canadian Honours are supposed to be apolitical, non-ideological.  (So anti-abortion activists lamenting that it happened under a “Conservative” Party government don’t get it.)  Her Majesty’s Canadian Ministry, aka the government of the day, is supposedly not involved, and neither is The Queen herself AFAIK.  I don’t even know how much discretion the Governor General herself has in the face of the recommendations of the Advisory Committee, before the fact anyway.  Honours are supposed to reflect Canada as a diverse yet unified nation.  This kind of thing just divides.  George W. Bush is ‘a divider, not a uniter;’ and so is this honour, for Canada.

That said, I’m not sure that, bestowed, it can or should be revoked just on account of the firestorm of criticism – for the very same, apolitical, reasons.  But it does raise a question, for good or for ill, about the people and/or the process that chooses honorees.  Britain’s recent cash-for-honours scandal was nothing new there,** and Canadians designed their Honours system in the 1960s explicitly to try to avoid scandal and the taint of politics, corruption, etc.  Furthermore, not only are honours in a Monarchy a national feel-good exercise; the Sovereign is fons honorum, the Fount of Honours, so in theory they reflect on her.  Scandal in honours dishonors The Crown itself, and thus symbolically the whole nation.

However you feel about abortion, this bestowal of an honour is dishonorable.

(*–I don’t know what George Parkin Grant thought of Dr. Morgentaler personally, but he bitterly opposed the idea of legalizing abortion, as a signal turn from ‘progressive conservative’ ideals.)

(**–It’s not frequent there, but not exceedingly rare either.)

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Orthodox vision of human rights?

Last week the quadrennial Council of all Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church from throughout the world promulgated a statement, The Basic Principles of the Russian Church Teaching on Human Dignity, Freedom and Rights, discussed here by Interfax’ religion service.  It’s been a topic of discussion and continuing work since the release of the year 2000 Council’s The Basis* of the Social Concept of the Russian Orthodox Church, as well as of course ongoing human rights criticism of Russia, Serbia, and some other Orthodox and neighboring countries, the spread of the U.S./NATO/EU eastward into the former Warsaw Pact and the Commonwealth of Independent States, the Western-backed ‘color revolutions’ in Georgia, Ukraine, and threatening in Belarus and Mongolia, as well as notable contradictions in Western human rights and election practices itself.  It doesn’t seem available on the Web in English yet, but Interfax emphasizes its confrontation with what some Russians, using a term echoing the “militant atheism” reference to Communism, are now calling “militant secularism”:

According to the authors of the Orthodox vision of human rights released Thursday, “blasphemy shall not be justified by the rights of artist, writer or journalist.” Under the pretence of human rights protection, civilizations “should not impose their lifestyle patterns on other civilization{s}” and the human rights protection “should not {be used cynically to} serve interests of certain countries.”

The right to education provides for gaining knowledge with a view to cultural traditions and visions of a family and a person. Most world {cultures} are based on religion, therefore, any comprehensive education and upbringing should include the basics of religion which created the culture where such person lives,” the Basics read.

The document also states that private life, vision and people’s will should not be subject to “total control”. “Manipulation of people’s conscience and choice by government agencies, political powers, economic and information elites is dangerous for the society. It is also unacceptable to collect, concentrate and use information on any aspects of person’s life without his/her consent,” the Basics’ authors believe.  {Corrections, emphases, and clarifications Tiernan’s.}

Of course, most Russians living today well remember the abuses alluded to in the last paragraph!  I can’t endorse it without seeing it in detail, but I commend its reading, at least, to all of us who seek to deal rightly with Eastern Europe, the Orthodox World, and ultimately the whole Two-Thirds World.

(*–Sometimes translated as Bases, the plural of Basis.)

Russian Heiress hopes for Monarchy

Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna, considered by many to be Head of the Romanov Imperial Family and heiress to the Russian Throne, gave an interview the other day that was not at all the Western stereotype / propaganda of “Tsarism”!

By all means, I believe in the future of monarchy in Russia, or rather, I want to believe that the values of this system will be understood and valued by Russians again…. {Today} people still feel the weight of the hundred year’s long antimonarchist propaganda. It takes time for the people to understand that the monarchy is a progressive and up-to-date system which combines the best experience of a centuries-long history of Russia and modern reality…. And we do not intend to get involved in any political struggle, we only would like to be helpful to this country…. It is too bad that they pay no attention to efficient democratic monarchy systems in Europe. If their republican views concern Russia only, that means they consider Russia as a second rate country.

Wikipedia profiles Her Imperial Highness, and here’s her official website.  HIH’s remarks remind me of the attitude of Crown Prince Alexander of Serbia, and even the renewed public service of deposed King Symeon II of Bulgaria, recently Prime Minister of his country and still serving in the government.