G. Emmett Cardinal Carter, 79, retired Archbishop of Toronto, attended a three day special meeting for Cardinals in Rome in early April to discuss pro-life issues.  Before leaving for Rome he had indicated a desire to discuss Canada’s (defeated) abortion Bill C-43 at the meeting.


As reported in the May 1991 issue of The Interim (p. 23), this move led Campaign Life Coalition (CLC), on behalf of its many Catholic supporters, to implement an earlier decision to seek advice from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on the issue.


As a result, in April, CLC sent a full set of documentation on Bill C-43, in English and French, to the Congregations’ President, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger.  The documentation includes the text of the Bill, various commentaries, the Bishops’ brief and other relevant material such as the defence and explanation of Bill C-43 by Justice Minister Kim Campbell.


The events recalled


CLC and with it almost the entire Canadian pro-life movement, rejected the view that anyone could vote for Bill C-43 in good conscience.




Canadian pro-lifers held


–          that Bill C-43 was the result of a government caving in to the media, and to radical feminists who articulate the modern anti-family and anti-child mentality;

–          that in matters of life and death, legislators have a duty to vote for what is right.  This makes the law a teacher of truth, thereby defending the common good;

–          that Bill C-43 was deliberately deceitful.  It was intended to mislead the country.  By placing abortion in the Criminal Code it implied respect for life, and by its attendant propaganda it implied a compromise between fetal and women’s rights.


In reality, both the text of the Bill and the explanations of two successive Ministers of Justice confirmed that on the part of the government there was no intention of protecting unborn life whatsoever.  Abortion was to be permitted at any stage of the pregnancy right up to moments before birth and could be performed in any place for any reason whatsoever. (The bill listed four:  life, health, mental and psychological reasons).


The purpose of placing abortion in the Criminal Code was not to protect unborn life, but to inhibit medical quacks and to guarantee legitimate medical personnel full federal protection and an absolute guarantee of freedom to commit abortions.  In other words, Bill C-43 was an abortion on demand bill, approving abortion both in principle and in fact.


The bishops


As pro-lifers will recall, with respect to Bill C-43, the President of Catholic Bishops, Robert Lebel, took a very different view, namely:


–          That “abortion is a  complex issue”;

–          That  Bill  C-43  was the product of legislators’ “thoughtful approach” reflecting the “high quality of the debate”;

–          That “there is  some basic agreement on how to protect women…from social…conditions which discourage having children”;

–          That “authentic pluralism…means that no one group has the right to impose its particular point of view”;

–          That “this bill accepts that human life has intrinsic value from the beginning”; and, finally,

–          That the following amendments were needed: “a more restrictive definition of health; procedures to ensure that the health standard is protected; informed consent; sanctions differentiating between those who perform abortions and the pregnant women involved; a conscience clause to protect health care workers.”


(Bishops’ Brief, January, 1990)


When the hearings ended on February 28, 1991, the government would not accept any amendments from anyone, as it had said it wouldn’t before the hearings started. Thereupon the bishops let it be known that, while disappointed, they still thought Bill C-43 “better than nothing.” They kid not indicate, however, how this Bill would save the life of even a single unborn baby.


Campaign Life Coalition (Pres. Jim Hughes), Campaign Vie (Pres., Gilles Grondin) and Alliance for Life (Pres., Marilyn Bergeron) didn’t bother to suggest amendments. They knew the government wouldn’t accept them


In fact, no amendment short of a total reversal of the contents could crack the pro-abortion cast of this Bill.


Cardinal Carter reports from Rome


On May 11, Toronto Star religion editor Michael McAteer, reporting on a second interview with the Cardinal, found that “because of a tight agenda Carter never did get to raise the question in the full assembly of the Cardinals.”


Thus, when New York’s Cardinal John O’Connor reported on the legal state of abortions in the United States and Canada, he simply presented the situation in Canada as understood by the Canadian Bishops: “that this bill is flawed and certainly leaves too wide an opportunity for abortion, but it is better than nothing.”


Cardinal Carter did raise the issue with one of the English-speaking groups to which he was assigned, he told the Star. The group included Cardinals Bernard Law of Boston, James Hickey of Washington, Joseph Bernardin of Chicago and George Basil Hume of England. According to the Toronto Cardinal “this group supported unanimously the Canadian Bishops’ position.”


Campaign Life Coalition has indicated it will pursue the matter further.


As noted, unlike the Cardinal, it has submitted all relevant documents to Rome to allow the congregation a comprehensive overview and investigation.


Mr. Jim Hughes, CLC President, says he doesn’t expect a reply until sometime in 1992.