This letter and enclosures were mailed to all of the 62 bishops of Canada on April 17….
April 17, 2009
Feast of St. Anicetus, pope and martyr
The Bishops of Canada
You will find enclosed herewith a copy of a disturbing report about a group in Nicaragua which is heavily involved in trying to overturn that country’s law against abortion. The pictures in this report were submitted to me by a young woman who visited this group’s headquarters in Managua, and whose eye witness testimony is included in the report. The group in question is funded by the CCCB’s development and aid agency, Development & Peace.
At the date of this writing, Development & Peace has been funding 33 anti-family partners in 17 countries on 3 continents, many of whom openly support abortion, and some of these, remarkably enough, do so on their own websites. At this time, we are unsure if there are more of these pro-abort groups funded by Development & Peace, although it is highly probable. (See an index of the reports here: http://www.catholic-legate.com/?p=1567).
Let me caution you that unless a serious, thorough reform of Development & Peace occurs with a heavy emphasis on promoting a culture of life both in terms of D&P’s internal philosophy and external funding decisions, the credibility of the Canadian bishops on Life issues will suffer proportionally.
I hope that you will take the time to read the entire report and educate yourselves on the activities being conducted in your name and with the money of faithful Catholics. I have also provided a report entitled, “10 Recommendations to the Bishops of Canada on Life and Family Matters”. I hope you will take the time to read it as well. (The entire package and hyperlinked documents can be located at this address: http://www.catholic-legate.com/?p=1596.)
The cup of iniquity, your Graces, floweth over.
Sincerely yours in Christ, the Judge
John Pacheco, Director
The Rosarium of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Development & Peace Funding Feminist Group Who Seeks to Loosen Nicaragua’s Abortion Laws
***A SoCon or Bust Exclusive Report ***
As the Development & Peace Abortion drama was unfolding a few weeks ago, I received an e-mail from a young lady whom I had had the good fortune to meet during the 40 Days for Life campaign last Autumn in Ottawa. After reading the original news story by LifeSiteNews.com about D&P’s five Mexican pro-abortion partners, I began to research a sample of D&P’s other partners from around the globe and post my findings on this blog as well as send them to my e-mail list. One of those emails caught the attention of this young lady whom we will call “Conchita”, and she contacted me with a rather timely personal testimony. She had returned from a visit to Nicaragua some time ago and was prepared to recount the events surrounding her trip to SoCon or Bust. The following report details the remarkable account of my interview with her.
- A witness visited one of D&P’s partners in Nicaragua.
- This Centre, located in the capital city of Managua, was full of pro-abortion posters (pictures provided below).
- The Director admits that the Centre lobbies politicians and government officials to change the country’s ban on abortion.
- The Director also confirms that the Centre is being funded by D&P, a fact that is also verifiable on D&P’s own website.
- The Centre offers educational workshops on contraception, abortion, “family planning”, and “health and sexuality”.
- In addition, it writes, produces, and hosts theatrical productions whose actors belong to the “National Feminist Committee” and whose productions are presented on streets of Managua to address issues such as teen pregnancy, abortion and “reproductive rights”.
Last year, Conchita was contacted by an acquaintance, and asked if she would like to travel on a faith-based education trip. The purpose of the trip was to visit and learn about various social justice and poverty relief projects in Nicaragua. Conchita accepted the invitation.
When she arrived in Nicaragua, she was given an itinerary of what her group would be doing while she was on this visit. As she reviewed the itinerary, she happened to notice one of the scheduled destinations was a Women’s Clinic whose director was described as “a member of the Feminist and Women’s Movement”. Before asking to describe her visit to this Women’s Clinic, I reviewed the itinerary myself. According to this itinerary, one of the places Conchita also visited was an education facility run by a group called “CANTERA” which was described as a “Development & Peace Partner”. CANTERA is also listed as one of Development & Peace’s Nicarguan “partners” of their Latin American Program, p.106. As Socon or Bust had learned in its previous research into groups in Latin America (see D&P Latin American Partners under “Nicaragua”), CANTERA was also one of the “partners” engaging in questionable and controversial programs regarding “social reconstruction of masculinity” and co-operating with groups which promote “reproductive health”. When I questioned Conchita about the visit with CANTERA, I asked her if she had noticed anything particularly strange or disturbing. At first she said there was nothing particularly troubling, but then paused on reflection and added that the staff had mentioned that they were taking some “gender courses”.
There were other disturbing aspects of Conchita’s trip which she described, but are beyond the scope of this report. Suffice it to say, the effects of Communism, Marxism, and liberation theology are still well rooted in much of Nicaraguan society, and it was evident in some of the places she visited. The women’s clinic, however, was the most disturbing event during Conchita’s trip. In fact, the itinerary does not even describe it specifically as a women’s clinic per se, even though it caters only to women. The itinerary describes the clinic and its director this way:
“Meet with Luz Marina Torres, Director of the March 8th Women’s Collective and Member of the Feminist and Women’s Movement.”
No legitimate Catholic organization who is genuinely concerned with the plight of the unborn child would have agreed to financially support such a group, especially when their very name should, at the very minimum, immediately provoke some tough questions. Being in tune with the “buzz words” of the pro-abortion forces, Conchita picked up on the significance of these words and suspected the Centre was advancing an anti-life and anti-family agenda. She was right, of course. But, for some inexplicable reason, Development & Peace saw no potential problem with such a group and remained clueless or willfully blind when they began funding them no later than 2004 (see “Report on Results 2004-2005“, page 146). The March 8th Collective is also listed as one of Development & Peace’s Nicarguan “partners” in their 2006-2011 Latin American Program, p.106
The March 8th Women’s Collective began in 1986 as a feminist outgrowth of the Contra-Sandanista civil war that rocked Nicaragua during the 1980s. It is named after the International Women’s Day which occurs on March 8th every year. This is the day where feminists around the world flex their muscles and demand their “reproductive rights” among other anti-family policies. The Centre itself, one of 27 such centers around the country, is located in the Northeastern part of the city in a very small building. In addition to providing medical services to the poor women of the surrounding neighbourhoods, the Centre serves as a headquarters for one hundred and sixty activists who do “outreach in the fourteen neighborhoods the Centre works with most directly. Through them, word of mouth brings about 25 women a day to the Center for free legal, medical, psychological and social services. They come seeking child support, divorce, an end to abuse, help with wanted and unwanted pregnancies, birth control information, counseling, social contact and relief from the pressures and isolation of the home.”1 (Abortion has been completely illegal in Nicaragua since November, 2006. Before then, the law permitted so-called “therapeutic” abortions with the consent and approval of three doctors.) Since there is an underground economy for abortions in Nicaragua, it is unclear what kind of help with unwanted pregnancies the Centre is offering.
In addition to the Centre offering educational workshops on contraception, abortion, “family planning”, and “health and sexuality”, the Centre also writes, produces, and hosts theatrical productions whose actors belong to the “National Feminist Committee”. They even take their show on the road to the streets of Managua and address issues such as teen pregnancy, abortion and “reproductive rights”. Besides these “educational” and theatrical workshops, the Centre is also politically active, sending proposals to the National Assembly that would legalize abortion in Nicaragua. The Centre’s director, Luz Marina Torrez, has been one of the most public and vociferous supporters of abortion in Nicaragua, and has been consistently on the front lines of advancing the social principles of the Sandanista Revolution and the culture of death. She stated that the Centre’s work “is about stimulating communication and discussion about difficult topics. In this play we bring to light a topic that is a harsh reality in the life of many Nicaraguans. Abortion should be taken seriously and be an area of social and government policy.”2 In other words, the March 8th Women’s Collective is a propaganda centre for abortion, contraception, and other Marxist-feminist causes. It is within this setting that Conchita made her providential visit.
On the day of her visit to the Centre, Conchita was pondering whether she should wear her “PROLIFE” T-shirt, but providentially for her and this report, decided against it. When she and her group reached the Centre, she noticed people milling about outside of the entrance which is pictured here:
Above the entrance was a small wooden sign with the word “Clinica” inscribed on it:
Social revolutions rarely advertise themselves for what they truly are. Instead they typically attach themselves to some collective good like legitimate health care or other noble purposes, like preventing “violence against women and children”. In the case of the sexual revolution, the recipients of otherwise legitimate charity are then introduced to the feminists’ deadly causes like “reproductive and sexual rights” and brainwashed into thinking that everything the feminists provide is moral and good. It is also very gradual and natural, like the proverbial frog in the pot of water which is about to be boiled. Abortion is never demanded outright as a human right. The typical line with D&P’s partners, as we will soon discover with this Centre in Nicaragua, is to demand abortion in the hard cases like rape, incest, or where the life of the mother is threatened. They know very well that the third-world populations still have a natural aversion against the violence of abortion and have Christian, Catholic sensibilities towards human life. So when abortion is proposed, it is done so in the most favourable light – a false light which portrays those who oppose these rare exceptions as heartless and draconian. Then, once those concessions are granted, these groups work to broaden the exceptions until abortion is permitted on demand and without restriction. That’s the name of their game. Borrowing the euphemisms of the sexual imperialists who were successful in imposing abortion on the populations of the industrialized world, the “Clinica” sign on top of the door frame at the entrance of a “women’s centre” in a third world country is not so remarkable.
As the group and Conchita entered the building, they were welcomed by the Centre’s staff and were ushered into a waiting area where they were seated for about 15 minutes before their short tour would begin. Conchita says there was nothing particularly memorable for those first few minutes, except for two bumper sticker-sized signs which were hanging on two office doors to her immediate left. The signs read “Yo defiendo el aborto” which translates into English as “I defend abortion“.
Shortly afterwards, the Centre’s director, Luz Marina Torres, appeared and escorted the group through the corridors towards a large meeting room at the back of the Centre. On the walls were the Centre’s banner (see above) and the Mission statement which is produced here:
Translated loosely, the Mission Statement reads (emphasis mine):
March 8thWomen’s Collective
Promote citizen participation of women, youth and adolescents of both sexes to defend their human rights, with emphasis on Sexual Rights and Reproductive Rights and Gender Violence, through processes of awareness raising, training, and advocacy organization in District VI of the municipality of Managua and Esquipulas, Matagalpa.
VisionIn 2010, strengthen the collective leadership, feminist vision, institutional, program and financial management from the individual to the collective.
When Conchita and the group arrived at the large meeting room, Ms. Torres began by giving some background about herself by declaring herself a feminist and a former member of the Sandanistas and supporter of the revolution. Her role at the Centre was to help educate women about their rights and establish various gender courses at the Centre and others around the country. The Centre also provides health services to women from the surrounding poor neighbourhoods. The health clinic staffs one female doctor who performs internal examines and one counsellor.
Ms. Torres then continued her presentation amid a huge poster that spanned almost the length of the back wall. Its message could hardly be mistaken:
The poster reads:
Forcing a girl to carry a pregnancy.
We demand the return of therapeutic abortion.
The major advancement of the pro-abortion movement is to redefine language and push their euphemisms. As the above poster aptly demonstrates in describing what “violence is”, the semantic and euphemism war has been raging on the life issues surrounding abortion and “reproductive rights”. These non-governmental organizations almost invariably use “violence against women” to push their feminist agenda. It is true in Canada. And it is true in the developing world. Their audacity to equate laws which prohibit abortion to “violence against women” can only be matched with their refusal to acknowledge that it is abortion itself which is the violence – both against women and the child they want to kill. Their own concocted ideological violence has displaced what real violence is.
When Ms. Torres was asked why the Centre promoted abortion, she confessed to the group that she herself had had one, and that she did not agree with abortion except in the case where the woman’s health was at risk or in the case of extreme poverty. She did not volunteer a reason for procuring her own abortion, although it is doubtful that either of the two reasons she cited for her own abortion applied in her case. She claimed abortion was “very traumatic” and “violent” but nonetheless necessary. She decried the current state of the abortion law in the country and all of the “back alley” abortions because of the absolute prohibition on abortion.
Conchita challenged Ms. Torres on the poster hanging on the back wall and asked her if abortion was as violent as she claimed, then how could it be described as “therapeutic”? Ms. Torres offered a non-answer: “if it is medical”, she responded, “it is therapeutic”. She went on to admit that the Collective works with politicians and government officials to change the ban on abortion. Ms. Torres also added that the Centre was funded by Development & Peace.
There is a group in Nicaragua called Puntos de Encuentro, “Meeting points”. Their abortion page features an editorial in which they express their total support for legalization of therapeutic abortion. They have several links, articles and discussion groups about the topic. They also present a “Directory” of other groups. The first on the list is D&P’s Colectivo de Mujeres 8 de Marzo, Nicaragua.
There is also a lobby group called “Campaign 28 September for the decriminalization of abortion in Latin America and the Carribean”. In its September 2006 newsletter, there is a list of member groups on the last page, including D&P’s Colectivo de Mujeres 8 de Marzo, Nicaragua.
The International Planned Parenthood Federation (with their logo on the front page) co-wrote a letter to President Obama to thank him for enabling US funding to abortion groups in other countries. There are 7 pages of co-signors at the end, including D&P’s Colectivo de Mujeres 8 de Marzo, Nicaragua.
10 Recommendations to the Bishops on Life & Family Matters
1. Wake Up: The Development & Peace Abortion Scandal has demonstrated a profound lack of vigilance among the bishops in ensuring that Catholic offerings are directed towards the proper causes. This cannot be dismissed as an isolated event or pinned solely on the gross negligence or even massive betrayal of church bureaucrats. The buck stops with the bishops and the bishops must take the responsibility. This type of activity has been going on for many years, if not decades. The bishops were well aware of the problems and the twisted philosophy of Development & Peace back in 2000 (if not many years before then) when they were confronted with D&P’s support for the radical feminist March for Women right here in Canada. Did the bishops really believe the philosophy undergirding the motivation for this support did not extend to D&P’s other programs here in Canada or abroad? Does not a good and vigilant shepherd ask the very basic and obvious question to D&P bureaucrats: “If you are supporting this pro-abortion, feminist group here in Canada, what other objectionable programs and activities are you funding with the money I am sending you?” In many respects, this whole scandal is not really about D&P at all, but really about how the bishops are exercising their pastoral ministry with the management of our money and the attention they pay to Life related issues. Indeed, what good steward sends hundreds of thousands of dollars (and ten million dollars collectively) each year without reading the Annual Reports the bureaucrats prepare for them on where our money is going? And, if some of them are reading these reports, why are the names of some of these so-called “partners” like The 8th of March Women’s Collective and Women Advocates Research and Documentation Centre not being identified as potential problems? And why are they not paying attention when faithful Catholics, year after year, voice their objections and sound the alarm to what Development & Peace has been doing?
Recommendation: The bishops need to wake up. They also need to become acquainted BY NAME with the international groups and movements who are viciously attacking not only the sanctity of human life but the Church itself in the developing world (Exhibit A and B) so that, when they come across the groups’ names in a report, the bells start to go off. They also need a language course in the euphemisms which the pro-abortion forces employ to push their agenda, so they can take action to counter their efforts when they see the “buzz words” of these programs.
2. Take Control: The Development & Peace scandal has highlighted a grave weakness in how the bishops are managing the funds entrusted to them. Much of this is rooted in the otherwise noble Catholic principle of assuming the good intentions of other people. In this day and age, however, this principle has to be applied much more conservatively and judiciously, considering the culture of death we live in and the influences that culture has on professing Catholics. In other words, trust has to be earned and not presumed. Indeed, the bishops should not automatically trust anyone (not even fellow bishops, if the truth be told) without first confirming the facts from third party sources.
Recommendation: The bishops need to take control over their own dioceses and stop delegating matters of enormous consequence to large, unaccountable structures or to people they do not know or should not trust.
3. Pro-Life Funding: Over the past 40 years, the bishops of Canada have done very little to oppose abortion. The efforts that have been undertaken have been rather negligible in proportion to the gravity of the issue. With the Development & Peace fiasco and other embarrassing episodes in the Canadian Church’s history like the Winnipeg Statement, one can honestly say that, far from being the stumbling block for the culture of death, the Canadian episcopacy has been its enabler. This must stop immediately. Furthermore, there is a severe imbalance in the importance the bishops place on certain secondary issues at the expense of the most critical issues of our time concerning the sanctity of human life. We see issues like the political causes D&P advances, the environment, the war in Afghanistan, and other issues being given equal or even more prominence than issues surrounding the dignity of the human person. D&P receives close to $10 million from Canadian Catholics every year for very questionable causes, and those are causes even beyond the condom distribution centres in Togo, Nigerian education centres on condom application, and abortion-totting propaganda in Brazil that D&P enables. How many millions do the Canadian Bishops set aside annually for fighting abortion in this country or internationally? $530 Million dollars since 1967 would have gone along way to undermining the abortion juggernaut in Canada and around the world. Your heart is where your sacrifice is. And money is sacrifice.
Recommendation: Development & Peace should be reconstituted to commit funds to authentic poverty and disaster relief, as well as to launch initiatives to strengthen the family and vigorously oppose abortion.
4. Pro-Life Education: The D&P fiasco has revealed a huge gap in the coordination and communication between the bishops and pro-life activists “on the ground”. The pro-abortion forces are very well organized, use carefully crafted language, have a coordinated and well-oiled propaganda machine, and are very well financed. There can be no effective mobilization or success against them unless the bishops become well acquainted with the latest news on the abortion front and the tactics of our opponents. Information is power in the 21st century, and without it, the war is already lost.
Recommendation: The Canadian Bishops should establish a method of ongoing communication with pro-life organizations in order to be informed and to coordinate strategies for mobilization when the need arises. At the very least, pro-life organizations should make a presentation at the bishop’s conference every year. If this line of communication existed, the Development & Peace fiasco would have been averted.
5. Pro-Life Activism: Every year the bishops of Canada are invited to the annual National March for Life in Ottawa, and every year, unlike the American bishops, few of them show up – either at Parliament Hill in Ottawa or the regional rallies established for that purpose. This demonstrates a lack of leadership and concern for the plight of the unborn in this country. Where the bishops should be leading us as our fathers in faith, they are missing in action. It only further solidifies the opinion of many Catholics in Canada that the bishops’ priorities are not ordered properly, and they are not treating the issue of abortion seriously enough. Like any human rights movement, the leaders need to be present as a sign of unity and resolve for the movement to expand and gain momentum. The bishops are supposed to be our leaders. They are supposed to be our fathers. Do not fathers lead their families? Is it acceptable for any father to miss a birth date of his child? Or to “delegate” someone else to attend? No. That’s not acceptable and neither is it acceptable for the bishops to shirk this responsibility. It is critical that we see them in the flesh, leading us in these marches.
Recommendation: May 14, 2009 represents the 40th year that abortion was legalized in Canada to the day. Faithful Catholics are again asking the bishops to reflect on their commitment and responsibility to the cause of protecting the unborn, and to join us at the March for Life. Whatever they are doing that day, they should cancel it, show up, and prove to us that they aim to put their priorities straight.
6. Catholic Action: We live in a society that has had no law regulating abortion for over 20 years and we’ve endured legalized abortion for 40 years. There are over 100,000 conventional abortions in this country every year, not counting the chemical ones procured through the abortion pill or the birth control pill. Our birthrate is plummeting. Divorce is commonplace. Sodomy is given official sanction. The family is besieged on all sides. Every social indicator points to a dying culture and a crumbling civilization. For the past 40 years, the Church in Canada has done little, if anything, to stem the tide. Every action is a reaction to the next attack, and the reaction is invariably too little, too late. We are always on the defensive and never on the offensive. We are like the proverbial sitting duck just waiting to be picked off by the next anti-Catholic bigot. In a short time, the conscience rights of Catholic medical professionals will be overridden to serve the dominant pro-abortion ideology. After that, more pronounced persecution against Catholics will follow, including frontal attacks on religious liberty.
Recommendation: The bishops should establish a council of Catholics from diverse backgrounds and experiences to develop strategic means to combat this attack. The bishops should also be prepared to put some real money in fostering Catholic activism in protecting our civil and religious rights, instead of funding our enemies in different parts of the world who seek to weaken and even destroy the Church.
7. 40 Days for Life: For the past 2 years, Canada has participated in the international 40 Days for Life Campaign. The mission of the 40 Days for Life campaign is to bring together the body of Christ in a spirit of unity during a focused 40 day campaign of prayer, fasting, and peaceful witness in front of the abortion mills, with the purpose of repentance, to seek God’s favor to turn hearts and minds from a culture of death to a culture of life, thus bringing an end to abortion in North America and around the world. The results are very encouraging and remarkable with an average of over 500 babies being saved across North America during each campaign which is held during Spring (Lent) and Fall every year. This past Lent, five Canadian cities participated. Unfortunately, only Ottawa and Toronto had the endorsement of the local bishop.
Recommendation: The bishops of Canada should reflect on their passivity and apathy towards their opposition towards abortion and reflect carefully on what Scripture teaches about Christians who are “lukewarm” in seeking after justice for the “least of these”.
8. Catholic Politicians: For 40 years Catholic politicians have been thumbing their noses at Catholic teaching on the sanctity of human life and their own responsibilities as Catholics to stand for the truth in their public as well as private lives. Just how long will this scandal continue before the Bishops of Canada enforce the Church’s own canon law (Canon 915)? And just how long does a dialogue on abortion with a politician have to last before a bishop finally asks him not to present himself for Communion? 1 month, 6 months, 1 year? His whole 25 year political career?
Recommendation: The bishops of Canada should do what Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas did when he directed Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius to refrain from presenting herself for Holy Communion until she takes “the necessary steps for amendment of her life which would include a public repudiation of her previous efforts and actions in support of laws and policies sanctioning abortion.”
9. Catechesis on Contraception: Pro-life activists have long recognized that abortion is a symptom of a much more fundamental problem. Abortion is a symptom of a crisis of meaning in life, but more proximately, it demonstrates the lack of understanding of the purpose of sexual intimacy. Abortion is a sign that the Church has not adequately catechized her children or the culture at large about the noble and sublime purpose of the natural sexual act or its cheap counterfeit of contraception. Wherever contraception is introduced, abortion follows. That reason alone should give us reason to pause. Contraception allows the mentality of “no to life” to eat away at couples like a spiritual cancer. When they engage in contraception, the sexual act is saying “no to life”. Therefore, if the woman gets pregnant, the very act which was saying “no” is now faced with the biological reality of “yes”. And so there is disunity and strife between the act and will of the couple during sex on the one hand and the result on the other. There is no unity between the act (contra-life) and the fruit of that act (life). Creation is superseded and the results are usually disastrous. While not always true, abortion is the logical answer to failed contraception. The “no” in sex does not usually give way nine months later to the “yes” in birth. Within the contraceptive act, the couple is lying to one another about who they are. Instead of communicating themselves to one another as they were created, they are communicating to each other in a way they are NOT. In other words, the man is not giving himself over to his wife the way God had intended. He is giving himself over to his wife the way he wants to i.e. without his fertility. And just as few marriages can survive with one spouse continually telling the other spouse lies, neither can a man continually lie about who he is within the sexual act with no adverse consequences resulting within the relationship with his wife. Is it any wonder that divorce rates in Canada ballooned shortly after contraception was legalized? That is no mere coincidence, but rather an acknowledgement that few relationships can survive without respecting the truth of the human body as God has created it. As St. Paul reveals, sex can be a form of worship because we are participating in God’s creative power through the mutual sacrifice of one spouse to the other, and therefore giving glory to our Creator in our bodies. A partial gift to God was found unacceptable to God when Ananias and Sapphira withheld part of their gift to the Christian community (Cf. Acts 5:1-11). Conversely, contraception is a false worship since it does not respect God or His creation or involve a complete and total self giving from one spouse to another. The object of worship is no longer God but oneself. Because the sex act is no longer respectful of the natural order, it cannot be said to be a legitimate form of worship and witness to God’s creation. Therefore it is idolatrous in nature. It is sexual idolatry.
Recommendation: Every person seeking to enter the Catholic Church or be married within in it should be required to complete a six month course on the Theology of the Body. In addition, each bishop should heavily promote parish “missions” and teaching programs within their dioceses on this subject. The bishop should visit many parishes in his diocese and teach the course IN PERSON in order to attract interest. If an Orthodox bishop in Georgia can promise to personally baptize any baby born to parents who already have two or more children to encourage parents to have more children, the Catholic bishops in Canada should take his lead with teaching the theology of the body personally. The bishops should pay attention and “Go and do likewise.”
10. Winnipeg Statement: The disastrous legacy of the Winnipeg Statement and the rebellion of the Canadian bishops against Humanae Vitae at that time continues to ruin our culture. Despite repeated attempts and pleas for the bishops to repent and retract the document, the bishops continue to ignore the role their predecessors played in spreading the contraceptive cancer not only in Canada but throughout the English speaking world, and have, by their silence and negligence, been complicit in the dissent from Humanae Vitae. One Australian bishop, Bishop Peter J Elliott, recently lamented how the Winnipeg Statement was “the worst” response of all of the national bishop conferences’ responses at the time. If Pope John Paul II can apologize for 2000 years of misdeeds on the part of the Church’s ministers and lay people, cannot the Canadian bishops do the same for 40 years of dissent and silence on this issue and the specific role they played in it? 2000 years of the misdeeds of the Church’s children are but a grain of sand when compared to what the Winnipeg Statement has wrought.
Until now, there has been little admission by the Church’s bishops, but that has now changed and we are finally getting some straight talk from a high ranking Cardinal no less. In an article which is reproduced below from The Record and Inside the Vatican, Cardinal Archbishop Christoph Shonborn is perhaps the first high ranking prelate in the Catholic Church to identify the elephant in the room that has been standing there for the past 40 years. It is a refreshing and frank admission of the truth. Pay particular attention to the highlighted text.
Reporters only recently noticed a remarkably tough address delivered by Austria’s most Senior Catholic prelate, Cardinal Christoph Schonborn, last year in Jerusalem on the lack of leadership in the Church in 1968, and since, on the immorality of birth control….The blistering attack, in which Vienna’s Cardinal Archbishop Christoph Schonborn accuses a number of his predecessors of lacking the courage to speak out against birth control and blames them in part for the declining birth rate in Europe, was delivered to a Neocatechumenate meeting in Jerusalem on March 27, but only appeared late in 2008 on the website of the Viennese archdiocese. From there, journalist Christa Pongratz-Lippitt picked up the story, reporting on it on November 8 in The Tablet of London. Schonborn said that, after the publication of the 1968 encyclical Humanae Vitae which reiterated traditional Church teaching condemning as immoral the use of birth control, many bishops’ conferences around the world – including those of Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands, the US and later Australia – issued statements assuring the faithfully that the issue was a matter of conscience. These bishops, Schonborn said, “frightened of the press and of being misunderstood by the faithful,” distanced themselves from the Church’s teaching. Now, Europe is “about to die out,” and part of the reason is the lack of commitment by the bishops to the Church’s true, fruitful, loving and beautiful pro-life teaching, Schonborn said. Schonborn has told Inside the Vatican in the past that he is “very worried” about the plummeting population in Austria. “I think that it is also our sin as bishops, even if none of us were bishops in 1968,” he said in the talk. Bishops have not had, or did not have, the courage to ‘swim against the tide’ and say yes to Humanae Vitae, he said. The Cardinal, who is close to Pope Benedict XVI, particularly criticised two of the many 1968 bishops’ conference declaration on Humanae Vitae, which all stressed the importance of the individual conscience. He singled out the Maria Trost Declaration, whose signatories included Cardinal Franz Koenig, the late archbishop of Vienna, president of the Austrian bishops’ conference and a Father of the Second Vatican Council, and Konigstein Declaration, whose signatories included Cardinal Julius Doepfner, the late archbishop of Munich, president of the German bishops’ conference and another Council Father. Cardinal Schonborn accused the signatories of “weakening the People of God’s sense for life” so that when “the wave of abortions” and increasing acceptance of homosexuality followed, the Church lacked the courage to oppose them. There were a few memorable exceptions in 1968, the cardinal said, one of which was Krakow, where a group of theologians led by the archbishop and cardinal of Krakow, the future Pope John Paul II, drew up a memorandum which was sent to Pope Paul VI, urging him to write Humanae Vitae. “I think this witness by a martyr-bishop of the so-called Silent Church carried more weight than all the expertise Pope Paul VI had drawn up on this subject,” Cardinal Schonborn said. “It led him to make this courageous decision. I am convinced in my inner being, even if I have no historical evidence, that this text from Krakow helped to give Pope Paul VI the courage to write Humanae Vitae.” Schonborn thanked the Neocatechumenate families for having large families which produce many vocations, and he thanked Popes Paul VI, John Paul II and Benedict XVI for discerning between the different charisms and, following the example of St Paul in 1 Corinthians 14, saying which are of God. He asked God to forgive all bishops and give them courage to say “yes” to life. Speaking from Melbourne, Bishop Peter Elliott told The Record Cardinal Schonborn’s comments were correct. “What Cardinal Schonborn said is true – and it’s time it was stated openly 40 years down the track,” Bishop Elliott of Melbourne said. Bishop Elliott, a former official with the Pontifical Council for the Family in Rome for ten years has also just written an article for the Council’s journal setting out the widespread pattern of rejection and undermining of Humanae Vitae that took place in the Church up to and including the level of national bishops’ conferences around the world. Bishop Elliott says that he was effectively excluded from membership of the Australian Catholic Theological Association for many years because of his support for Humanae Vitae. In the article he also recounts the experience of meeting with Bishop Bernard Stewart of the Diocese of Sandhurst in the 1970s and watching as the bishop cried and apologised to him while recounting how the Australian Catholic Bishops’ Conference had voted to adopt a weaker stance on Humanae Vitae. Part of the damage caused by such weakness led many Catholics into believing the Church’s teaching was not binding, on birth control and sterilisation, he writes. The international trend for bishops’ conferences to back-pedal on support for Humanae Vitae was the most tragic episode in the saga of the encyclical, he recalls in the article. Bishop Elliott says that 40 years after Pope Paul VI’s courageous and prophetic encyclical, which also made him something of a martyr for promulgating it, he detects a mood of indifference within the Catholic community in Australia. In many parishes, teaching on birth control is a “non-issue”. “No-one speaks about it. Rarely do articles appear in Catholic journals on this controversial topic. It is not included in homilies, even if prudence would require a certain reserve and delicacy when preaching at Sunday Mass because children are present,” he writes. And yet, he says, “In spite of some problems it is easy to explain the core message of Humanae Vitae and to promote natural spacing of childbirth. From Inside the Vatican Magazine with additional reporting from The Record. (Source)
Recommendation: To date, The Rosarium of the Blessed Virgin Mary has collected 1761 signatures (960 online and 801 on paper) to have the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops retract the Winnipeg Statement. The on-line petition is still active. We are also calling on each bishop individually and IN THEIR OWN NAME and on behalf of their own diocese to repudiate the Winnipeg Statement BY NAME and to apologize for the massive betrayal of selling us, their children, into sexual slavery these past 40 years. The scheduled Pro-Life Mass on May 14th at 10AM at Notre Dame Cathedral in Ottawa is a good time and place for this retraction. Many of us will be in attendance waiting for those courageous bishops to utter those words: “We repent of the Winnipeg Statement”. The crucifixion of our Lord and his innocent unborn children must end now, but it won’t end until there is repentance among the fathers. For as the fathers lead, the children will follow.
John Pacheco, Director
The Rosarium of the Blessed Virgin Mary