Pro-lifers came under attack at the annual meeting of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) held at St. Paul’s University in Ottawa in late August. Most Rev. Bishop Robert Lebel, president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, presented an annual overview of CCCB activities.


Under the section dealing with abortion he stated that he “became the scapegoat” for “some pro-life groups and right-wing people” due to the CCCB’s Brief regarding Bill C-43 submitted to a parliamentary committee meeting in late January. This Brief, which was printed in full and analyzed in detail in The Interim (see may 1990 issue), gave qualified support to the Mulroney government’s law which will allow almost total unrestricted access to abortion in Canada.

In his address delivered to the CCCB conference, Bishop Lebel insisted once again that he believes that an imperfect abortion law is better than no law at all. Ignoring The Interim’s and pro-lifers’ reasoned arguments and references to a Vatican document that clearly states that Catholics cannot support an immoral abortion law, the Bishop chose to portray pro-lifer as poorly informed and unable to understand differences between “legal and moral levels.”

The bishop also described how he and CCCB staff had to respond to letters from a number of bitter and angry Catholics, “not a few of whom” he said, later changed their minds after discovering that they had been “wrongly informed.” Bishop Lebel said he found his experience dealing with the aftermath of the bishops’ brief “boring, time-consuming and, sometimes, very painful.”

In his address Bishop Lebel did not mention that Campaign Life Coalition and all other pro-life bodies in Canada strongly rejected Bill C-43 when it was introduced by the government. He chose to adopt the language and attitude of the secular media which go to great lengths to portray pro-lifers as being all of a certain type of mindset and “right wing” in the political sense. Referring to “persisting and male violent insinuations about the quality of our relations with Rome,” Bishop Lebel stated once again as he did in an official statement issued last January, that the CCCB is seen in Rome “as close to the Pope and the Roman Congregations.”

(For complete text on abortion, see “Legal, I became the scapegoat” in this issue).

Newfoundland child abuse

In his presentation, Bishop Lebel appeared to endorse the Winter Report which was commissioned to deal with the Mount Cashel scandal where Newfoundland Catholic priests were implicated in the sexual abuse of orphan boys. The report, which was highly critical of Newfoundland Archbishop Alphonsus Penney, also questioned the Catholic Church’s insistence on priestly celibacy. Steering clear of blaming celibacy for the behaviour of pedophile priests, the report nevertheless, did give the impression that celibacy and the Church’s view of sexual matters, including homosexuality, are suspect. Bishop Lebel expressed no reservations about the report and called upon his fellow bishops to take it “seriously” and “implement” it where possible. (See front page story: “Is Archbishop’s resignation necessary?”)

The CCCB conference, which will form a basis for the Canadian delegation’s presentation to a month-long Vatican Synod in Rome in October, was largely dominated by the homosexual scandal issue. The abortion issue hardly came up for discussion, and was not even addressed in the report submitted to the conference by the Episcopal Commission for Social Affairs.

In a section entitled: “Justice in Canada,” the report cited the work that had been done by the commission regarding the GST, nuclear energy projects, unemployment insurance legislation, etc. Nothing was mentioned about abortion, the growing aggression of militant homosexuals, or the policy of public health bodies and the media to push condoms to deal with AIDS.

Although the CCCB deals on an individual issue level with abortion and euthanasia, it clearly views general “social issues” in a very narrow sense. The Episcopal Commission For Social Affairs is exclusively dedicated to putting forth positions on American politics in Central America, native rights in Canada, refugee legislation, South African politics and issues of like nature. However, several bishops did request that the CCCB speak out as soon on suicide and euthanasia – the killing of the elderly and the sick.