By John-Henry Westen and David Curtin

The Interim

An international series of feminist demonstrations calling for, among other things, legalized abortion and gay rights has won the endorsement of Canada’s Roman Catholic bishops – and a hefty $110,000 donation from the bishops’ official social justice agency, the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace (CCODP).

The World March for Women in the Year 2000 is also being supported by the Catholic Women’s League of Canada (CWL) and the Ontario Catholic Teachers Association.

The CCODP’s donation puts the agency in the “$100,000 and more” category as a “financial partner” – a distinction shared only by the government of Canada and the government of Québec, according to the official World March for Women website. In an e-mail message to LifeSite Daily News editor John-Henry Westen, Development and Peace spokesman Jack Panozzo confirmed that, over the period between 1997 and 2000, the CCODP will have donated $110,000 to the March. The CCODP is funded by collections taken up at parish Masses across the country.

In a letter dated Feb. 17, 2000, Prince George B.C.’s Bishop Gerald Wiesner, president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB), endorses the March as one of the “many splendid celebrations” of the Jubilee Year 2000, and explicitly supports two of the goals of the demonstrations – ending poverty and ending violence against women. In a footnote to the letter, Bishop Wiesner says that the CCCB endorses only “the March’s objectives of ending poverty and violence against women in keeping with the position of the Holy See at several recent International Conferences.” Thus, “it does not interpret the terms ‘reproductive health,’ ‘sexual health,’ and ‘reproductive rights’ as including abortion or access to abortion. Nor [does] it accept ambiguous terminology concerning unqualified control over sexuality and fertility insofar as it could be interpreted as societal endorsement of abortion or homosexuality.”

Contrary to the bishop’s qualifications, however, the organizers of the March unequivocally advocate abortion and homosexuality. Under the category “Demands to eliminate violence against women” in the official “World Demands of the March,” section V-2 demands that “all states must recognize a woman’s right to determine her own destiny, and to exercise control over her body and reproductive function.” In keeping with this abortion mandate, the march also demands “that States harmonize their national laws with” the pro-abortion International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women.

Sections V-10 and V-11 demand that “based on the principle of equality of all persons, the United Nations and States of the international community recognize formally that a person’s sexual orientation should not bar them from the full exercise of their rights.” March organizers further demand “that the right to asylum for victims of discrimination and persecution based on sexual orientation be adopted as soon as possible.”

The fact that pro-abortion activism is one of the objectives of the March is clear even to some of the other major Catholic supporters of the event. CWL Ontario provincial president Betty Anne Brown, for example, advises local CWL presidents that if they order kits from the March organization, they should remove the “document outlining the national demands for the March” and other materials, since they identify “the right to free, public abortion services” as a key demand of the March organizers.

Ms Brown argues such a step is appropriate, since the CWL does not support this aspect of the demonstrations. Unfortunately, the result could be that some CWL members will take part unwittingly in an event which is, in fact, intended to support abortion. Although the CWL clearly realizes that the March is intended to promote abortion, among other things, the organization has nonetheless decided to officially urge their membership to participate. A letter from CWL national president Sheilah Pellerin to diocesan presidents says, “it is our hope that this will be an all-council endeavour.”

Perhaps alluding to potential controversy over his endorsement of the event, Bishop Wiesner notes that “there will be a diversity of perspectives on the implications of the objectives” of the March, but that “this is part of the challenge and richness of living in a pluralistic society that welcomes the right of all to take their place at the table and express their sincerely held beliefs.”