Pope Francis: modernity’s suppression of freedom of conscience is diabolically inspired “polite persecution”

Sean Murphy*

In the course of a morning homily discussing the martyrdom of St. Stephen in Jerusalem,1 Pope Francis linked the “cruel persecutions” of early Christians with the Easter Sunday mass murder of Pakistani Christians three weeks ago by Taliban killers.

However, the Pope also identified “another kind of persecution that is not often spoken about.”   In addition to the “clear, explicit type of persecution” like the slaughter of Christians who profess their belief in Jesus Christ, there is a second kind, he said, one ““disguised as culture, disguised as modernity, disguised as progress.”

“It is a kind of — I would say somewhat ironically — polite persecution.”

This “polite persecution” is not against those who merely profess Christian beliefs, he explained, but against those  who want “to demonstrate the values of the Son of God.”  This “polite persecution” does not use bombs or guns, but the force of law.

“We see every day,” said the Pope, “that the powerful make laws that force people to take this path, and a nation that does not follow this modern collection of laws, or at least that does not want to have them in its legislation, is accused, is politely persecuted.”

This denial of freedom includes the legal suppression of conscientious objection, now notably advocated by powerful interests and some politicians in Canada who want to force participation of even objecting health care workers and institutions in euthanasia and assisted suicide.

“God made us free, but this kind of persecution takes away freedom!”

Canadian health care workers who refuse to provide or facilitate homicide or suicide now face the kind of threats described by Pope Francis,2 who explained how “polite persecution” works.

“[I]f you don’t do this, you will be punished: you’ll lose your job and many things or you’ll be set aside.”

Calling this “the persecution of the world,” the Pope warned that its leader is the one identified by Jesus Christ as “the prince of this world” (i.e., Satan).

“The prince of this world” can be recognized, warned Pope Francis, “when the powerful want to impose attitudes, laws against the dignity of the children of God, persecute them and oppose God the Creator: it is the great apostasy.”

The Christian’s path, he concluded, is always beset by these two kinds of persecution  that bring “much suffering,” so Christians must be confident in the presence of Jesus “with the consolation of the Holy Spirit.”


1. “Pope’s Morning Homily: Denial of Conscientious Objection Is Persecution.  At Casa Santa Marta, says devil is behind the persecution brought by culture and modernity.”  Zenit, 12 April, 2016

2.  See, for example, Attaran A. “Doctors can’t refuse to help a patient die – no matter what they say.” iPolitics, 13 November, 2015 (Accessed 2015-11-24).  In response, see Murphy S., “Amir Attaran and the Elves.” Protection of Conscience Project, 15 November, 2015;

Doctor-assisted dying: Why religious conscience must be part of the debate

The Globe and Mail

Lorna Dueck

The competing rights of freedom of conscience, freedom of religion and access to physician-assisted death are at an impasse in Canada. When the Supreme Court last year struck down Criminal Code prohibitions on doctor-assisted death, the issue of conscience rights jumped urgently into the national discussion. A religiously informed conscience complicates things further, and thousands of health-care professionals and hundreds of religiously based health-care institutions are demanding that their Charter rights be protected.

If the recommendations from the parliamentary committee for new legislation are accepted and approved by the June 6 deadline, Canada would be by far the most liberal country in the world for medical assistance in dying. It would also become the most repressive on conscience rights, because the committee recommended that conscientious objectors refer death-seeking patients to another doctor or health-care facility – something that many people informed by a sense of duty to God and neighbour cannot do. . . [Full text]


Defend Integrity

The Catholic Register


Doctors hold a favoured place in society because they are seen as models of compassion and integrity. They are admired as healers and moral leaders, virtuous people, widely respected. If you can’t trust your doctor, who can you trust?

But there is a legitimate concern that a current undertaking by the Ontario College of Physicians could lead to erosion of that stature. The College is conducting a review of its human-rights-code policy amid some pressure to purge religious freedom and conscience rights from everyday medical practice. First step is an ongoing consulting process that is seeking professional and public input.

Here is The Register’s input: leave the current policy alone and do nothing to undermine a doctor’s autonomy to assert their Charter rights of freedom of religion and conscience. [Full Text]

Submission to the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario

Christian Legal Fellowship

RE: Physicians and the Ontario Human Rights Code Consultations

The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (“CPSO”) has invited feedback from al 1 stakeholders in regard to its review of Policy Statement #5-08. Physicians and the Ontario Human Rights Code (”the Policy”). In particular, the CPSO has asked if the Policy provides useful guidance, whether the Policy fails to address any issues, and any other ways in which the Policy should be improved. The Christian Legal Fellowship (“CLF”) appreciates the opportunity to participate in this discussion, as we did in the prior CPSO consultation on Human Rights in September of 2008, and makes the following introduction and submissions.

The CLF is a national charitable association that exists to strengthen the spiritual life of its members, and encourage among Christians in the vocation of law the integration of faith with contemporary legal, moral, social and political issues. The CLF’s membership consists of approximately 550 lawyers, law students, professors, and others who support its work; with approximately one third of its members in the Province of Ontario. It has 14 chapters in cities across Canada and student chapters in most Canadian law schools. While having no direct denominational affiliation, CLF’s members represent more than 30 Christian denominations working in association together. As an association of Christian professionals, we welcome the opportunity to address the issues which the CPSO have raised in this consultation process.

The CLF has intervened in numerous legal cases relating to matters of conscience and religious freedom at the appellate and Supreme Court level. The organization also engages in policy consultations raising issues that impact, among other things, religious freedom and human rights. CLF is therefore knowledgeable and well-positioned to comment on this CPSO policy.

In reviewing the Policy, there are three broad areas of concern for CLF. First, we submit that the Policy fails to recognize that physicians have the right to freedom of religion and conscience. Second, the Policy fails to recognize that the law protects physicians with religious beliefs from engaging in activities that violate their religious beliefs, their moral beliefs and their conscience. Third, the Policy obligates physicians, in “some circumstances” to actively refer a patient for services which violate the beliefs or conscience of the physician.

(l)        Physicians have the right to freedom or religion and conscience.

In its current format, the Policy mentions “personal beliefs and values and cultural and religious practices are central to the lives of physicians and their patients”. This description fails to acknowledge the legal status of beliefs and religion. In fact, conscience and religion, thought, belief, opinion and expression are protected as fundamental freedoms by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.Further, the Human Rights Code2 upon which the Policy is based, protects from discrimination on the basis of creed.3

The Policy also precludes physicians from sharing their religious beliefs with patients: “physicians should not promote their own religious beliefs when interacting with patients, nor should they seek to convert existing patients or individuals who wish to become patients to their own religion”. While this conduct may not be appropriate in all circumstances, a blanket prohibition is problematic and a clear violation of freedom of religion and expression.

Religion as a protected freedom is more than the right to privately think or believe certain ideas and principles. It is broadly defined and demands robust protection. Freedom of religion encompasses the right to entertain religious beliefs of one’s own choosing, the right to declare religious belief openly and without fear of hindrance or reprisal, the right to manifest those beliefs by worship and practice, by teaching and dissemination.4It precludes forcing an individual to act [lacuna] conscience. Under the law, physicians must be afforded the ability to align their practices with their conscience in these controversial areas and others, and that right must be made clear in the CPSO Policy.

CLF therefore urges the CPSO to modify its Policy to reflect the principles outlined above, ensuring it accurately reflects physicians’ rights pursuant to the Charter and the Human Rights Code.

Please note the endorsements that follow. CLF would be pleased to provide further assistance in any way the CPSO believes would be appropriate. Thank you for your consideration of our submissions.

Christian Legal Fellowship

1. The Constitution Act1982, Schedule B to the Canada Act 1982 (U.K.), 1982, c. 11.

2. Ontario Human Rights Code,R.S.O. 1990, e. H .19.

3. Ontario Human Rights Commission: Policy 011 Creed and the Accommodation of Religious Observances, October 20, 1996. While creed is not a defined term in the Code, the OHRC has adopted the following definition of creed in its Policy: “Creed is interpreted to mean “religious creed” or “religion.” Tt is defined as a professed system and confession of faith, including both beliefs and observances or worship. A belief in a God or gods, or a single supreme being or deity is not a requisite … The existence of religious beliefs and practices are both necessary and sufficient to the meaning of creed, if the beliefs and practices are sincerely held and/or observed. “Creed” is defined subjectively. The Code protects personal religious beliefs, practices or observances, even if they are not essential elements of tne creed provided they are sincerely held.” Policy page 4-5. ” In the case of discrimination in the workplace, both management and the union have a duty to accommodate. In Central Okanagan School District No. 23 v. Renaud the Court noted that although the principle of equal liability applies, the employer has charge of the workplace and will be in a better position to formulate measures of accommodation. The employer, therefore, can be expected to initiate the process of taking measures to accommodate an employee. Nevenhelcss, the Court also noted that they will not absolve a union of its duty if it fails to put forward alternative measures that are available. In short, when a union is a co-discriminator with an employer it shares the obligation to remove or alleviate the source of the discriminatory effect.” Policy page 9. “Conclusion: Religious pluralism poses a challenge in any multicultural society, especially one as diverse as ours. Although the law is developing rapidly in this area, an informed spirit of tolerance and compromise is indispensable to any civil society, as well as to its capacity to make opportunities available to everyone, on equal terms, regardless of creed [or other protected right].” Policy page 16. “R v. Rig M Drug Mart l 1985] I SCR 295 at336-337

COLF urges Catholics to speak up for physicians’ conscience rights

The Catholic Register

Deborah Gyapong

OTTAWA – The Canadian Organization for Life and Family (COLF) is urging Catholics to “speak up” as the Ontario College of Physicians and Surgeons reviews is policy on conscience rights.

“In 2008, a similar policy review by the College very nearly resulted in a serious threat to conscience rights within the practice of medicine in Ontario,” COLF warned. Public input has been welcomed, COLF said, encouraging people insist the college protect conscience rights.

“No physician should be forced to act against his or her conscience by providing health care services (for example: contraception, abortion, sterilization, etc.) contrary to their moral and religious beliefs,” COLF said. [Full text]