On November 15, Gerald Emmet Cardinal Carter issued a pastoral letter on abortion in response to the Morgentaler acquittal (November 8).

During the federal election campaign, Morgentaler had attacked an earlier letter by the Cardinal, issued in August, arguing on television and radio, as he had done many times before, that abortion was opposed only by Catholics and, among Catholics, really only by the hierarchy.

Readers familiar with the history of the abortion controversy both here in Canada as well as in the USA, will know that this was the standard strategy of the pro-abortionists in the sixties and early seventies.  Blame the Catholic only and get everyone else on your side; then divide the Catholics by blaming celibate, old men who supposedly know nothing of the real world and who are simply imposing their private reactionary views on mankind!

In November, Morgentaler also tried another tactic.  In a telegram to the Cardinal Archbishop he claimed that threats against him and his Toronto abortuary were the result of the pastoral letter.  Morgentaler (who, by his own admission, has snuffed out almost 20,000 human lives) claimed that the Cardinal’s letter was inflammatory but “my aim is not to insult anybody, my aim is to explain and to ask for respect for people who have different opinions.” (Globe & Mail, November 28)

The text of the letter follows:

Office of the Cardinal

355 Church Street

Toronto, Ontario M5B 1Z8

November 15th, 1984

To the Clergy and Faithful

of the Archdiocese of Toronto

The present era of the Catholic Church, following upon the Second Council of the Vatican, is one of greater openness, considerable evolution and some confusion.  Some traditional values and doctrines are being re-defined and, at times, contested.

This can be a healthy sign in some areas, particularly in the areas of regulations where the debate focuses on means rather than ends.  But it would be a grievous error to imagine that the Church has lost its right or its need for unity in favour of an exaggerated pluralism.  Moreover, even in this generation of sociological leadership, where majorities are always presumed to be right, there are issues in which the vast number of faithful Catholics who are in accord and in consensus.

Such is the teaching of the Church on abortion.  No subject has attracted wider attention or more opposition in some quarters.  But the conviction of the sacredness of human life from the beginning to the end is not “up for grabs” in the Catholic Church.  The consensus is overwhelming.  It begins with the Pope.  Modern Popes, one after the other, have reaffirmed the sacredness of human life at all moments, without exception.  Our present Pontiff, John Paul 11, has perhaps been the most articulate on the subject.  His words spoken to us here in our own Canadian land still ring in our ears,

This unspeakable crime against human life which rejects and kills life at its beginning sets the stage for despising, negating and eliminating the life of adults and for attacking the life of society. (Vancouver, September 18/84)

We have assisted at a long series of clear declarations from hierarchies around the world, from the Canadian Bishops’ Conference, from our regions, notably the Bishops of Ontario, and finally from individual bishops exercising their right and duty to preach the gospel of sacredness of human life.  A consensus of teaching was never more in evidence.

The purveyors of death to unborn children would convince us that we are divided or hesitant on the issue.  We are not.  We are more united on this matter than on any other one and we will stay that way.  We reject as fallacious and criminal that, a woman who has conceived a child, has the choice of killing it.  Even nature revolts at the idea.

Our laws do not sufficiently protect the unborn.  Even where partial protection is afforded the law is being flouted.  This is not just a Church matter.  This is the killing of innocents.  As citizens as well as believers in God’s law we cannot stand idly by. As your Archbishop I declare that our position is without equivocation.  I urge all Catholics, all Christians and all who respect human life to work together to curb and, if possible, eliminate this abomination.

Devotedly yours in Our Lord,

G. Emmet Cardinal Carter

Archbishop of Toronto.