Canada’s Catholic bishops have taken a stand against the expansion of abortion through Ottawa’s coercion of provinces to fund private abortuaries.

The January 19 Ottawa Citizen reported that Ottawa Archbishop Marcel Gervais said Health Minister Allan Rock’s promotion of abortion funding made his “blood boil” and rebuked Catholics Rock and Prime Minister Jean Chretien for their government’s support of abortion.

“The fact that we do not have a law to protect the rights of the unborn … should not lead us to quietly accept abortion as a right, as a medically necessary procedure. Life is at issue here.” He urged Catholics to “raise a stink” about the feds bullying of provinces to fund abortuaries.

A source with the archdiocese told The Interim there has been a lot of support for the archbishop’s comments but that neither Rock nor his office has contacted them. The federal Health Ministry did not respond to repeated requests by The Interim for an interview.

According to the Citizen, Catherine Lappe, a senior adviser to Rock, said the minister supports “a woman’s right to choose, but irrespective of that, the provinces have determined that abortions are medically necessary, and the minister has responsibility under the Canada Health Act to ensure that medically necessary services are provided under provincial health care plans.”

Peter Ryan, President of Campaign Life Coalition New Brunswick, told The Interim that Ottawa is interpreting the fact provinces fund hospital abortions as an admission on their part that abortion is medically necessary, but says the CHA does not require the funding of private facilities and that the federal government is wrong to try to coerce provinces to do so.

One province that caved to Ottawa’s threats is Manitoba, raising the ire of Winnipeg Archbishop James Weisgerber, who urged priests to oppose public funding of Morgentaler’s Winnipeg abortuary. On February 1, Archbishop Weisgerber also wrote to the provincial health minister to say many “citizens object strongly to the use of their tax dollars to fund a procedure which they deem to be morally offensive.”

The Catholic Organization for Life and Family, an agency of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, sent a letter to Rock expressing its concerns about Ottawa forcing abortion funding. Bishop Bertrand Blanchet said the bullying tactics of the government are “particularly offensive to those who appreciate that abortion is unique in that it involves not only the health of the mother, but the very life of another human being.” The letter also stated, “We deplore this failure to protect the unborn child who is so vulnerable and in need of our care.”

Campaign Life Coalition national organizer Mary Ellen Douglas told The Interim that while the strongly worded statements are certainly welcome, Catholic pro-lifers should also recognize Church leadership is only doing what it should have done all along – namely to speak out forcefully about the evil of abortion. That said, she urged Catholics to support their bishops for adding their voice to the debate.

Fr. Alphonse de Valk, editor of Catholic Insight, told The Interim the bishops have not gone far enough. While he said “they are right to raise the issue,” he added it is time to excommunicate Catholic politicians who flaunt their pro-abortion positions.

“They are mocking the teachings of the Church,” he said. “They feel they can support abortion because there is no penalty attached to being a Catholic and at the same time pro-abortion.”

He cited in particular Chretien, Rock and Tory leader Joe Clark, noting the two federal leaders both campaigned in the recent federal election as Catholic supporters of abortion.

In a press release February 22, Fr. de Valk called for Rock to be excommunicated “for the common good.” “Politically, Catholics like Rock do as they please. It’s about time the Church do as she must.”

“Catholics who directly participate in causing an abortion are excommunicated automatically,” noted Fr. de Valk. “All others commit lesser sins according to the extent and degree of their participation. The latter is called ‘material cooperation.’ Allan Rock has reached the highest degree of material cooperation. Not only does he approve of abortion, he also legislates to make it as widely available as possible.”