Yesterday, Quebec City Cardinal Marc Ouellet and Ottawa Archbishop Terrence Prendergast spoke out against abortion yesterday in a 41-minute press conference. You can view the entire press conference here . They 1) said if Canada does not fund abortions abroad they should seriously consider defunding abortion at home, 2) called upon Canada to have an open and honest abortion debate, 3) described abortion a serious violation of human rights and a “serious moral disorder” while denying that it was a panacea for women facing unwanted pregnancies, and 4) urged the government to take steps to cut abortion in half, perhaps through limits on when abortions can be done.

The media’s coverage in English Canada has generally been abysmal — for those outlets that covered the important press conference. The print editions of the four Toronto dailies virtually ignored the story (the National Post had a photo but no article) even though a press conference by two of Canada’s leading Catholic bishops apparently stirring the pot on the most contentious issue facing our nation should be an imminently newsworthy event to cover. The CBC and CJAD both highlighted an odd interpretation of Cardinal Ouellet comments by focusing their reports on the notion that he was “clarify[ing] his position on the issue” and  “soften[ing] his words” but if you watched the press conference, he was actually amplifying his position and going on the offensive. Most media outlets, including the Canadian Press, focused on Ouellet’s comment that “I am not making a judgement on the woman … Only God knows all the elements of her final judgement of conscience.” This is hardly backtracking or softening or defending; it is articulating the time-honoured Catholic distinction between condemning the sin (the action) but not the sinner (the person). The problem with making such a presumably straight-forward comments is that the average journalist misunderstands it because they don’t share the Christian view that only God should be making moral judgements about people; journalists believe the Christian Right is all about being judgemental, so when the Cardinal says he is not being judgemental he appears to be softening his approach.

As for the brief CanWest story on the press conference, I simply do not understand what this means: “Critics believe Ouellet is showing his true colours by further pressing an issue that has been in the news for weeks with Stephen Harper’s decision not to fund abortions under its global G8 maternal-health initiative.” True colours? Is Cardinal Ouellet letting the cat out of the bag that he is indeed a Catholic Cardinal upholding Catholic moral teaching about abortion? The Montreal Gazette ran a different CanWest story that did not include the aforementioned reference.

If you don’t have time to watch the video of the press conference, highlights aspects of Cardinal Ouellet’s and Archbishop Prendergast’s comments that were ignored by the media. To point out just two examples, one from each bishop.

Cardinal Ouellet said:

“I deplore this attitude of many of our representatives who do not appear willing to face up to the injustice our country condones in offering no legal protection for a child in its mother’s womb.”

Archbishop Prendergast:

“It is impossible to further the common good without acknowledging and defending the right to life, upon which all the other inalienable rights of individuals are founded and from which they develop. There can be no true peace unless life is defended and promoted.”