Marie Vandenberg
The Interim

A motion to dissociate the Ontario Catholic Women’s League from the World March of Women 2000 was defeated 71 to 43, with 6 abstentions, during the CWL’s provincial conference in Waterloo July 9-12.

The feminist anti-poverty event, which has received the endorsement of the CWL’s national leadership, as well as the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, became the subject of intense controversy among Catholics, when The Interim’s on-line service, LifeSite News, revealed in April that the goals of the march include legalized abortion and same-sex marriage. Since then, seven bishops have denounced the event, and three have expressed support. CWL groups across the country, including the entire British Columbia-Yukon contingent, have passed resolutions against it.

Susan Schadenberg, a member of the CWL from London,said that although the march was not on the Ontario conference agenda, provincial president Betty Anne Brown discussed it on the first day of the business meetings. Brown allegedly said, “We must stand with our sisters,” and that failure to participate would “disassociate ourselves from the care of the poor, and women.” Mrs. Brown has been a staunch supporter of the march.

Another member, Annelise Steden of Cambridge, made a motion that the CWL disassociate itself from the march. Mrs. Brown allowed fourteen delegates to make two-minute presentations, after which the floor was closed to further comments or discussion. Following this, a vote was called, and on seeing the results, she stated that the motion to have the CWL withdraw from the March of Women was rejected.

One delegate, not satisfied with the pronouncement, asked for the official count. Mrs. Schadenberg said, “It was a disheartening time for all pro-life advocates in attendance.”

Fr. Wayne Mills of Timmins reportedly said that this March had become a “personal agenda item” for the executive.

At the end of June, Bishop Nicola de Angelis, auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Toronto and chaplain to the Ontario CWL, wrote a letter to Mrs. Brown, remarking on her decision to circulate letters from the three bishops in favour of the march prior to the conference. “In all fairness, I would suggest that you circulate as well the official statements of other bishops,” he said.

Of the march objectives, he wrote, “it is my firm conviction that we cannot mix good and bad objectives in the hope that good results might be achieved.”

Bishop de Angelis noted that, according to canon law, the bishops’ conference is a purely administrative body with no power to issue decrees on matters related to faith and morals. The competence and authority of each diocesan bishop remains intact.

Noting that the CWL of the Archdiocese of Toronto voted overwhelmingly against the march at its diocesan convention June 7-8, the bishop wrote, “I hope that the 68 per cent vote against the March … is not neglected nor minimized because this vote clearly represents the decided majority opinion of our CWL women …. If we don’t listen to the people at the grassroots level we do a disservice to the CWL, to our families and to the Church as well.”

Bishop de Angelis was unable to attend the convention, due to illness.