Report on the President, Canadian Conference of Catholic bishops

Plenary Assembly, August 23, 1990

Section on Abortion

(Parts were translated from the French)


“…Bill C-43 on abortion has been the cause of much work and concern on our part and, it must be said, a difficult test of our patience.

“On November 9, 1989, on behalf of the conference, I made a declaration in which we voiced our disappointment with this bill which was too weak and did not offer sufficient protection for the intrauterine life.

“On January 31, we presented a report to the parliamentary committee which was set up to discuss this bill. In it, we affirmed the sacred character of life and that the position of the Church on the moral aspect of abortion would not change. In conscience and in any circumstance, what is called abortion is not permitted.

“But the legislators had asked for our opinion as pastors to the least feasible way for the legislation to be reconciled as much as possible with the moral ideal. Our efforts, combined with those of other groups, had succeeded in keeping this matter in the Criminal Code and avoiding the gestational approach. It was thus a question of putting as much of it as possible into this legal framework. We also wanted to avoid a pure and simple refusal of the bill which would have thrown us back into a legal vacuum.

English Original

“Our submission has been badly and falsely reported in important newspaper, on the one hand; on the other, some pro-life groups attacked our position as unfaithful of the teachings of the Church and the Pope. They did not accept or did not understand the difference we pointed out between the legal and the moral levels.

“As president, I became the scapegoat of the conference for some pro-life groups and right wing people. We received hundreds of letters of bitter protest and denunciation. The general secretaries and some members of our staff helped me to answer all signed letters; we attached to our letter a copy of our submission: the result was that not a few among our “pen-friends” wrote us a second letter to apologize because they had been wrongly informed about our position.

“I felt the experience boring, time consuming and sometimes, very painful.


“Our position was even compared to the role of the Nazi doctors in the concentration camps, who decided that one would live and a certain other was “kaput.”

“I express my wholehearted appreciation and thanks for the support that our position received form the members of our conference, before and after the presentation of the report. The latter was drawn up in conformity with the guiding principles adopted by the permanent council during the preceding year.

“After the adoption of the bill in the House of Commons, we once again expressed our disappointment. We were asked to support efforts to change the law in the Senate, but we did not want to run the risk that the bill be killed. There are two things that we do not accept: the bill voted in third reading in Parliament; the prospect of falling back into a legal vacuum. We believe the second prospect is worse. That does not mean, however, that we accept the first. Between two evils, one can be worse than the other. I do not understand why we are pestered about it. It seems to me that one does not need to be too clever to understand that.

“Henceforth we are going to direct our efforts toward education, the formation of consciences to show what abortion is about. We are going to reaffirm the position of the Church which, for us, is that of right reason, attempting to make people understand by appealing to their intelligence and to their hearts.

“It is also understood that we are going to strive to see that our society, as a whole, has a greater acceptance of life by a moral reform in matters of sexuality, justice and responsibility. I have asked that a list be made of all the organization which, throughout the country, offer alternative solutions to abortion and help for pregnant women…”