At the end of their last Plenary Assembly, on October 23, 2009, the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops expressed their desire to be more involved in pro-life work. That was welcome news at the time. However, last week marked 9 months since that lofty promise and we haven’t seen much action. On the contrary, we’ve seen regression. That being said, it’s still not too late to move forward.
Last October at the Plenary, Bishop Ronald P. Fabbro (London) was part of a panel presentation on the topic. He emphasized the importance for bishops to assume greater leadership in pro-life activities.
Referring to the recent debate on euthanasia and assisted suicide, as well as debates on other life issues, Bishop Fabbro noted the importance of being pro-active in framing the questions. “If Bishops don’t step up,” he said, “others will who may present a distorted view of the Church’s teaching. We need to inform our people on the foundations of our faith.”
In his presentation, Archbishop Blanchet noted the tensions and difficulties that have emerged among individuals and groups involved in defending the right to life from conception to natural death. He stressed the importance being united in thought and action, and proposed a dialogue involving all parties in the “pro-life movement”. Such a dialogue, he said, would help lessen difficulties within the movement and also help establish common ground.
In their reflections, the Bishops stressed there was an important link between the sacredness of human life and the quality of life. They also noted the importance of activities for life at the diocesan level. (Source)
So just to recap, they seem to have three broad areas where they’ve committed to act (deliverables):
- More proactive teaching on life issues
- Dialogue with pro-life groups
- More activities at the diocesan level
Here we are, 9 months later, enough time for a couple to conceive and bear a new child. However, the CCCB still hasn’t given birth to any of these deliverables. It sounded so promising, but it has fallen flat.
The most disconcerting aspect, to me, is deliverable #2: dialogue with pro-life groups. This was the easiest part, by far. But what did we get instead? A heinous and slanderous document issued by Development and Peace containing these vicious attacks:
“These groups are part of the far right wing fringe element of North American society and have themselves been associated with groups and individuals who have resorted to violence to publicize their cause and achieve their objectives.”
“These single-issue militant advocacy groups, particularly those focusing on anti-abortion advocacy, continuously misrepresent facts and distort reality to serve their purpose.”
Despite the fact that the document was widely and publicly distributed in mid-March, it took D&P until the end of June – more than three months — to issue an apology, and only after being threatened with a defamation lawsuit.
The outrageous D&P document had been forwarded to some bishops in March by a number of concerned Canadians, but it still took more than three months for the apology to come. Besides, to my knowledge, none of the bishops have since apologized for D&P’s actions.
I’d say that the CCCB has actually regressed on deliverable #2 rather than made any progress. Wouldn’t you?
That being said, pro-lifers are willing to put that incident behind us and move forward with some positive cooperation with the CCCB. Let’s forget the past and build the future.
To do this, the bishops need to do more than issue a letter or press release condemning euthanasia and assisted suicide. That’s a start, but it’s not nearly enough. No offense, but very very few people read the press releases issued by the CCCB. Moreover, the mainstream media often won’t provide any coverage and most parishes won’t mention them.
If the bishops are serious about this, they need to work with pro-life groups to take more concrete actions from a pastoral perspective. Here are some concrete examples:
- They should reform marriage preparation courses so that the Theology of the Body becomes mandatory teaching. They should also instruct engaged couples about the evil of contraception and abortion.
- They should encourage their parishioners to be active in the pro-life movement by volunteering their time and by making donations to pro-life ministries.
- Every bishop should participate in pro-life marches across the country each May because it isn’t very difficult to book off 1 day per year for a good cause. Fortunately, we’ve seen increased participation in the last two years. This is good news. It needs to grow.
- They should take a public stand against politicians who support abortion, telling them that they cannot receive communion.
- They should publicly rescind the Winnipeg Statement.
Do you think I’m too demanding? I don’t. Anything short of such actions will just be the same old, same old. Anything short of such actions won’t make a dent in the growing apathy among Canadian Catholics.