Nine months later: Still waiting for CCCB to act on pro-life promises

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):

  1. More proactive teaching on life issues
  2. Dialogue with pro-life groups
  3. 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.

13 thoughts on “Nine months later: Still waiting for CCCB to act on pro-life promises

  1. What a timely article, Steve. Though, I can’t say I’ve seen any of the “regression” you mentioned.

    My priest mentioned something about this only yesterday. He didn’t go into detail and I didn’t think to pry but he said some of his up and coming homilies were going to make a lot of people uncomfortable. He went on a bit about contraception and alluded to other prolife matters.

    I did take the opportunity to ask about D&P. He assured me our bishop was very orthodox and very politically savvy. “Because you haven’t heard anything”, he said, “doesn’t mean nothing is going on”.

    We were both in a hurry so the conversation ended quickly. I don’t know if the homilies he mentioned are his idea or under the direction of our bishop.

  2. I think that it’s very important for the bishops to publicly rescind the Winnipeg Statement because I think it has provided a solid foundation for the mess we’re in. Can we at least get the teaching right from the bishops? What am I supposed to teach my kids? That it’s ok to use artificial methods of contraception in marriage if their consciences are ok with it? That’s nonsense, and it’s that kind of nonsense that’s darkening our minds.

  3. Nine months!!!! For goodness sakes, mothers (with a little help from above!) have had babies in less than that time. It is time for the bishops to stop sitting on their hands and get moving.
    It was so encouraging to see the number of priests and bishops at March for Life this year. The number of clergy seems to be growing.
    As for the Winnipeg Statement- do not mince words. Reject it clearly and forcefully. Busy Catholic parents deserve the whole truth of the faith, especially from our dear bishops.

  4. John, I understand your concern. Only two years ago the CCCB put out a statement on Humanae Vitae printed by Lifesite:

    PASTORAL MESSAGE OF THE CANADIAN CONFERENCE OF CATHOLIC BISHOPS ON THE OCCASION OF THE 40TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE ENCYCLICAL HUMANAE VITAE

    See: http://www.lifesitenews.com/ldn/2008/sep/08092903.html

    It’s a great statement.

    I wondered if our present bishops have reasoned reaffirming Catholic teaching of Humanae Vitae by pastoral letter avoids public scandal of declaring the signatories of the Winnipeg Statement heretics.

    I’m not even sure if one bishop and declare another bishop a heretic. I wonder if that’s a papal matter. Anyone?

  5. The letter you refer to, often dubbed “Liberating Potential”, is definitely a great statement. However, nothing came of it. It remains some elegant words on a piece of paper. The Winnipeg Statement, on the other hand, has been actively implemented throughout our churches. The D&P scandal suggests that Liberating Potential did not come from the heart.

    As I wrote at the link below, Liberating Potential did not undo the Winnipeg Statement.
    http://catholic-dialogue.blogspot.com/2009/12/in-september-2008-canadian-conference.html

  6. Steve, sorry that I tend to post more when I disagree than when I agree, but I have to point something out that you might have missed…

    Archbishop Prendergast and Cardinal Ouellet held that press conference in May where they said “The Abortion debate is on”. I think this might be the beginning of their promise to take leadership in pro-life issues.

  7. Your comments are always welcome here, Neil.

    I remember that press conference by Archbishop Prendergast and Cardinal Ouellet. It was a great day for Canada! I didn’t mention it in my post because it wasn’t a CCCB event, but rather a public stand by two individual bishops, apparently acting alone. It always seems to be the same bishops that do all the pro-life work in this country. The rest of the CCCB is missing in action.

    I looked through the CCCB web site and I couldn’t find anything related to that press conference. No words of support. They didn’t even report that it happened. At least they let Cardinal Ouellet post an article on abortion on the CCCB blog, although it wasn’t directly connected to the press conference. There wasn’t any mention of the March for Life either on the CCCB website.

  8. Steve,

    Maybe the CCCB just doesn’t have time to keep their Website up to date. All the National March for Life from 2001 thru 2008 are posted. And articles mentioning Humanae Vitae go all the way back to 1998. (I’m not saying that is the total over all, just those are the dates posted) There is also lots on abortion and contraception.

    I think you’re forgetting many good men by suggesting only two bishops, Prendergast and Ouellet, do all the prolife work. You’re omitting some wonderful, orthodox bishops like Miller, Henry, Collins, Marchand (Remember him? He supported denying Communion to NDP MP Charlie Angus) and Bishop Fabbro (He issued letters to all 149 parishes in the diocese listing the restrictions put on NDP MP Joe Comartin Re: Bill C-38), the list goes on.

  9. The reason the CCCB website stopped reporting on the March for Life after 2008 is because of the D-P scandal brought to light by the organizers of the March. The CCCB is still pouting about it.

  10. Bishop Fabbro is turning a blind eye to fetal euthanasia occurring in a Catholic hospital in his diocese. He’s also housing a known dissenter (Fr Prieur) in his seminary, of all places, to corrupt the future priests.

  11. That’s true, its individual bishops, not the CCCB as a whole.

    I’m sure things will change in a few years once a certain generation retires. I wish I understood what went wrong with that generation.

  12. Bishop Fabbro is not turning a blind eye, to anything.

    I will not make a judgement against Bishop Fabbro et al so early in the game. I cannot know all the details prior to the completion of the investigation started by the bishop or the still unknown results of the review by the Vatican. We were told these types of things can take a long time. If the results have been released I have not seen them.

    Instead I will judge Bishop Fabbro by the works I know. He has always been pro active and outspoken on prolife issues. There are considerable examples available on Lifesite and the CCCB websites of Bishop Fabbro’s good works. He is also one of the few bishops to take a public stand against a politician and a enthusiastic participant in the March for Life.

    I will not participate in a trial by media against him or any other man including Fr Prieur. Instead, I will hold my tongue and reserve my opinion for the results of Bishop Fabbro’s investigation and the Vatican review.

    In some ways this reminds me of the unwarranted attack on Bishop Wingle. That too premature and unfair.

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