Nearly a year after LifeSite first broke the story of the $135,000 donation from the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace (CCODP) to the pro-abortion World March of Women (WMW), the CCODP has finally disassociated itself from the feminist project. The reason given by CCODP for the move is the CCODP “has learned that the International Organizing Committee has responded to [U.S.] President [George W.] Bush’s funding cuts to international family planning projects by calling on national WMW organizing committees to rally in support of choice for abortion.”

The B.C. Catholic newspaper reported that the decision was made after consultations with the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB), specifically Bishops Fred Henry of Calgary and Francois Thibodeau of Edmundston, N.B., who are the CCCB members on the National Council of the CCODP.

Early on in the controversy over the WMW pro-lifers pointed out repeatedly the overt and uncompromising pro-abortion and pro-homosexuality stance of the WMW’s top organizers. The WMW document itself, both the international and the Canadian version, demonstrated these concerns. However, these messages were often met with hostility from those organizations supporting the WMW including the CCODP, the CCCB, and the Catholic Women’s League (CWL).

The current release by the CCODP announcing the split with the WMW tells a different story. The first two paragraphs of the release indicate how “proud” CCODP was “to have supported the World March of Women.” The letter suggests that the action to support abortion is “new” and that withdrawal from the WMW is motivated by this recent action.

However the pro-abortion stand of the WMW was clearly demonstrated in dozens of articles published all over the world long before this most recent venture into pro-abortion activism on the part of the WMW. Early last year, Diane Matte, coordinator of the International Committee of the World March of Women, rejected a request by a pro-life group to participate in the march. She wrote to the pro-life group in question that at the international WMW meeting held on January 28, 2000 it was “unanimously decided that the demand to have a ‘pro-life’ contingent at the World March is unacceptable to us since the anti-choice position defended by your organization is in clear contradiction with the objectives pursued by the march.”

Bede Hubbard, spokesperson for the CCCB told LifeSite that the CCCB “never endorsed the World March of Women,” only the objectives of the WMW which it agreed with.

On Feb. 15, CCCB president Bishop Gerald Wiesner of Prince George, repeated the face-saving line of CCODP that the decision to pull out was based on “recent developments” with the WMW, when in fact, the WMW has been pro-abortion all along. The CCCB letter states that the decision of the CCODP to pull out of the WMW was a “difficult but principled decision” which showed “the integrity” of CCODP.

However, considering that neither the CCODP letter nor the CCCB letter even hints at remorse or apology for the spending of over $135,000 on the pro-abortion WMW, for the encouragement of Catholic participation in the WMW, or for the verbal antagonism directed against those who dared to voice objections to the WMW by CCCB, and CCODP officials, the real purpose of both organizations recent statements remains in question. Pro-life observers have wondered if lost donations to the CCODP due to its WMW support, played a part in the sudden turn-around in the CCODP stance on the WMW. The timing of the announcement, just prior to Lent, seems to suggest some support for this hypothesis since Lent is the time CCODP seeks donations in Catholic parishes across the country.

Some Canadians, dismayed at the stance of the CCCB, incorrectly assume that the bureaucratic organization speaks for all Canadian bishops. The actual status of CCCB pronouncements was clarified during the debate over the WMW. Bishop Nicola De Angelis, auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Toronto and Spiritual Advisor for the Catholic Women’s League (CWL) of Ontario, issued a letter on the WMW in June. The letter clarifies that “the CCCB Executive and the Conferences of Bishops, as stated in Canon Law, are purely administrative bodies. They have no canonical power to issue decrees on any matters related to faith and morals. Indeed their [statement in support of the WMW] was a personal statement which was not meant to, and could not speak on behalf of all the Bishops of Canada.”

The CCCB’s endorsement of the march last year led to an unprecedented public division of the bishops, with a number of prominent bishops taking sides for and against Catholic participation in the project. The WMW also divided the Catholic Women’s League. Several prominent diocesan CWL groups withdrew from the project, and half a dozen parish CWL groups withdrew from the CWL altogether.

In a letter released Feb. 16, CWL national president Vivian Bosch said, “The March ended for us with the rally October 15, 2000 on Parliament Hill …. The Catholic Women’s League of Canada has always made it clear that some of the demands being made could not and would not, be supported by the League.”

Ms. Bosch continued, “We applaud the initiative President Bush has taken and will continue to put pressure on the Canadian government to take similar stands that demonstrate respect for a life at all stages. The Catholic Women’s League of Canada will continue to be unwavering in its commitment to life issues and in no way support any initiatives calling for support of abortion rights.”

As the WMW did, and has continued to, support abortion, however, the last line of the letter contradicts the contents of the letter, which admits the CWL’s earlier support for the WMW.