In this month in which we celebrate the anniversary of the Confederation of Canada, I would like to consider a statement on patriotism written by Archbishop Fulton Sheen several years ago. In it, he contemplated the freedoms that the American people have and how it is safeguarded in the United States.
In considering this, the Archbishop looked to who the American Founding Fathers looked to for inspiration. They first considered England where the theory was advanced that our liberties and rights are rooted in Parliament. They rejected this theory on the ground that if Parliament gives rights and liberties, then the Parliament can take them away. Next, they looked to France, where it was held that the liberties and rights of humanity are rooted in the will of the majority. The American Founding Fathers rejected this on the ground that if the rights of humanity are the gift of the majority, then the majority can take away the rights of the minority.
Not finding an answer elsewhere they decided that the foundations of human rights and liberties are something so sacred that no State, no Parliament, no Dictator, no human power could ever take them away, and so they rooted them in the one thing that does not change; God. This is a truth that extends beyond political borders.
With this in mind, we, here in Canada, should never forget that human rights have existed for a far longer time then our country has existed, or for that matter, any country has existed. Our human rights are not given to us by our elected Government, nor are they a result of the British North American Act of 1867, nor are they the result of the Patriation of the Constitution in 1982. Our human rights, and indeed the very rights of those who are given the responsibility to rule this country, are gifts from God and the more our Governments reject and ignore the true basis by which they have the right to rule, and the basis of all Canadian human rights, the farther they distance themselves from the beliefs that formed this country.
In our National Anthem, we pray! I know that there are a lot of people out there who do not want to think about that, or who are actively working to eliminate this prayer from our country, but when we sing our National Anthem we pray the words, “God keep our land glorious and free!” All Christians, indeed all people who believe in God, need to be prepared to defend the place of this prayer in our National Anthem. There are many out there who are working to erase these words from our anthem and we need to be more vocal about God’s place in our country.
Fr. Edward Gibney