It is with great sadness that we must report that the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) has missed the opportunity to defend the unborn child once again. For the fourth time in 20 years – 1968, 1980-81, 1987 and 1988, the CCCB has let the unborn infants down. (See front page stories.) Each time this has happened for slightly different reasons. In 1980-81, for example, the CCCB refused to deal with the Charter of Rights – and its lack of protection for the unborn – because of opposition from the Quebec bishops. It issued a condemnation of the neutron bomb instead.
Following the January 1988 Supreme Court decision, pro-lifers had hoped that the CCCB would not only stand fast but would finally speak the horrible truth about killing unborn babies loudly and clearly, nay, shout it from the rooftops so as to disturb the conscience of every politician and every Canadian. The message, they disturb the conscience of every politician and every Canadian. The message, they hoped, would be that killing the unborn is never, never permissible, no matter how many Morgentalers, no matter what the arguments, no matter what the reasons. They hoped and prayed for a ringing declaration and decisive leadership to lead Canada back to sanity.
At first the CCCB took a strong stand, asking for immediate redress. In Toronto, Cardinal Carter consulted with pro-life leaders and then sounded the trumpet on February 29. Other individual bishops followed suit. But from then on it was downhill.
Among CCCB advisors in Ottawa, the clarion call soon gave way to headshaking. Among bishops there was the revealing comment from the Bishop of Victoria, Remi De Roo: “We don’t want extremists dividing the country and having politicians running scared looking over their shoulders.” In this light one wonders about the words of Scripture: “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace on earth: it is not peace I have come to bring but the sword.” (Mt. 10.34)
Events show that by mid-March the determination to go all out in battle for the unborn child and let the chips fall where they may, was not – or no longer – present among the executive group of bishops. By mid-June, Archbishop James Hayes on behalf of the CCCB recommended the compromise of voting for Amendment A to all MPs and Senators. It should be understood that the vast majority of the 100 or so members had not been consulted on this decision.
The unanimous reaction of 200 pro-lifers at Charlottetown, including some 50 national directors (many of whom are Catholic) is an indication how the CCCB’s decision has been received by those aware of what is involved. They treated the tepid attitude and compromising letter of the CCCB executive as unworthy of the Catholic Church and unrepresentative of themselves. Actually, they were stunned by the fact that the CCCB proved willing to accept the re-legalization of abortion in order to achieve some small (presumed) advantage over the abortionists.
Pro-lifers have long believed that Canada’s crisis is not economic but spiritual. Making the care of the personal welfare of Canadians a priority by pouncing on economic issues as the Churches – including the Catholic Church – have done over the past 20 years, does not satisfy the needs of the time nor those of salvation. What is needed is the re-evangelization of Canada, to be achieved not by political compromises and religious accommodations but through the faith and sacrifice demanded by the Gospel.
The story of the unborn child is the story of God’s love for us. This story once begun never ends because God’s love for us has no end: sin alone, which is the rejection of divine love, can interrupt it.
God’s love for us is not even destroyed by abortion. God loves us with an infinite, eternal, immutable and most faithful love. He himself expressed it most tenderly:
“Does a woman forget her baby at the breast or fail to cherish the son of her womb? Yet even if these forget, I will never forget you.”
Even if pro-lifers are unsuccessful in their duty of defending unborn babies because of the sin of this world, they cannot surrender. They must still imitate the Giver of Life and remain faithful to their task to the end.