London’s Bishop Sherlock denounces misrepresentation of his endorsment

The Interim

One of the feared outcomes of the support by Catholic leaders of the pro-abortion World March of Women 2000 has been realized. Abortion advocates are implying in their literature that Canada’s Catholic bishops are fully in support of the march without reservations.

The Toronto Organizing Committee of the World March of Women has been distributing a pamphlet on the march called “Women are marching.” The pamphlet notes that “the cuts to social programs have … jeopardized access to safe, legal abortion.” Listed under “the Toronto World March Organizing Committee demands” are four goals, two of which read: “No roll back of reproductive rights. We support a woman’s right to chose on abortion and full access to free abortion,” and “Full rights for lesbians.”

The pamphlet was distributed recently at the Canada Pavilion at the Canadian National Exhibition. Pro-lifer Christine Majta received the pamphlet at the March of Women table. Ms. Majta informed LifeSite News she was told by one of the women that the Catholic Church supported the March and was handed a flyer titled “Canadian Catholic Bishops Respond Pro-March!”

The material lists in large bold type the names of Bishop John Sherlock of London, Archbishop Marcel Gervais of Ottawa, Bishop Fred Henry of Calgary, and Bishop Gerald Weisner, president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB). It also quotes Bishop Sherlock’s attack on pro-lifers who opposed Catholic participation in the march: “If pro-life people had their way, we would all be living in a ghetto and crying about how unclean the rest of the world is.”

In a statement Sept. 22, Bishop Sherlock denounced the use of his words to imply he supports the pro-abortion aims of the march. “Unfortunately, some careless remarks of mine about the limited focus of some pro-life efforts, remarks for which I have sincerely apologized, have been taken out of context by some pro-abortion advocates to suggest that I support a pro-abortion agenda for the March of Women. This is completely false.”

Bishop Sherlock reiterated that he, like the other Catholic bishops who have come out in favour of Catholic participation in the feminist event, is only endorsing those demands of the march which concern the elimination of poverty and violence against women.

As pro-life Catholics predicted, however, at least some of the organizers of the march are unwilling to allow the bishops to qualify their support of the event. In addition to their misrepresentation of Bishop Sherlock, they quoted in their material the Feb. 17 letter of Bishop Weisner, in which the bishop endorsed the march on behalf of the executive of the CCCB.

The letter, a warm and enthusiastic endorsement of the march as one of the most “splendid” celebrations of the Jubilee Year, was quoted at length, with one crucial section excised. That paragraph noted in diplomatic language that the CCCB does not “interpret” the demands of the march concerning “reproductive rights” and homosexuality to be an endorsement of abortion or the gay agenda.

It was clear from the beginning of the controversy earlier this year over Catholic participation in the march that the organizers intended the event to be explicitly pro-abortion and pro-gay, and would not tolerate dissent from participating organizations. In a letter to a pro-life group in Vancouver, international march coordinator Diane Matte wrote that the pro-life philosophy was incompatible with the goals of the march and that pro-life organizations were not welcome to participate.

The Interim’s investigation earlier this year revealed that the Catholic groups endorsing the march did not raise abortion or homosexuality as an issue in their dealings with march organizers, prior to the eruption of the controversy over the event.

Catholic endorsement of the event severely divided the Catholic Church in Canada. While the four bishops mentioned above strongly supported the march, seven publicly opposed it.

The Catholic Women’s League, whose national executive endorsed the event, was also put in turmoil. While the diocesan councils of Vancouver, Prince George, Toronto, Hamilton, and Peterborough, and the entire provincial council of B.C. and the Yukon, passed resolutions against CWL participation, pro-march resolutions were passed at the Ontario and national CWL conventions this summer.

As The Interim went to press, at least two parish CWL councils had withdrawn from the CWL in protest, and at least three others were considering doing so.With files from LifeSite news