In early December, the Ontario Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a statement in response to the drive of the provincial government to increase abortion facilities throughout Ontario.
The current campaign gained momentum after the overwhelming Liberal electoral victory of September 1987 and the subsequent appointment of Elinor Caplan as Minister of Health. The planning for making abortion more widely available had begun two years earlier under previous Health Minster Murray Elston, who engaged Dr. Marion Powell to report on abortion “access” across the province.
Mario Powell was one of the three members of the federally-sponsored Badgley Committee, which proposed “women’s health clinics” across Canada in 1977. Her plan or so-called report was tabled by the Peterson government in January 1987 and adopted by the Liberal Cabinet in March.
The Bishops’ statement runs as follows:
It was with deep sadness that the Catholic Bishops of Ontario learn of the provincial government’s decision to broaden access to abortion in Ontario.
“This broader access will facilitate the destruction of innocent human lives. Whether such an agency of violent death is legal or illegal is surely not the issue. Never may we think of it as acceptable to Him who is the Author of life. His command is absolute: Thou shalt not kill. His promise is sure: Whoever receives this child in my name receives me. (Luke 9:48)
“We may be obliged to live under a government which encourages abortion but our conscience obliges us unceasingly to denounce and to oppose the taking of the lives of the innocent unborn.”
The statement was signed by Bishop John A. O’Mara, President of the Ontario Conference of Catholic Bishops, G. Emmett Cardinal Carter, Archbishop of Toronto, Bishop John M. Sherlock, Bishop of London, and Bishop Anthony F. Tonnos, Bishop of Hamilton.
In Toronto Cardinal sent the letter to all the parishes of the Archdiocese accompanied by a note expressing his desire that the statement be read out during Mass the following Sunday or that it be printed in the weekly bulletin.
Campaign Life Coalition Ontario also issued a statement, saying that the organization “shares the sadness of the Catholic Bishops of Ontario.” Addressed to MPPs, the statement asks “Will you have blood on your hands and souls for ever?” It went on,
“CLC calls upon all members of the Ontario Legislature who still believe in God’s law to resist Premier Peterson and the pro-abortionists around him.
“We especially call upon the many MPPs of the governing Liberal Party who have claimed to be pro-life, or who believe themselves to be opposed to the killing of the unborn.
“Yet this is the time of truth. You must act now, not privately as an individual, but publicly as a group. You must speak out publicly and reject the Powell Report and its implementation by Health Minister Elinor Caplan. (What bitter irony that a Minister of Health sees the killing of the unborn as one of her priorities.)
“You must band together and stop the current thrust towards abortion on demand. Indeed, you must reverse the process and demand that public funding of abortions cease altogether, through grants and payments of any kind. Funding is within provincial jurisdiction.
“Please do not think that silence and non-action will help you to escape the judgment of history or more importantly, the judgment of God.”