MONTREAL, QC, May 19, 2010 – The Catholic Civil Rights League today called on La Presse newspaper to distance itself from some remarks by one of its columnists, Patrick Lagace, who Tuesday expressed the wish that Cardinal Marc Ouellet, archbishop of Quebec and Catholic Primate of Canada, would “die a slow and painful death.”
Cardinal Ouellet addressed a pro-life rally on the weekend. Among other remarks, he lauded the exclusion of abortion from Canada’s proposed G8 initiative on maternal health and lamented the absence of any abortion law in Canada. Later, in response to questions from a reporter, he affirmed Church teaching that life begins at conception and stated that this means abortion would be wrong even in cases of rape.
Quebec’s airwaves and cyberspace were aflame with commentary, from Quebec politicians as well as journalists and women’s group leaders. Parti Quebecois leader Pauline Marois said she was “completely outraged” by the Cardinal’s remarks. Federal Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Josee Verner — whose international maternal-health policy the Cardinal supports — declared that Cardinal Ouellet’s remarks were “unacceptable.” So far as the League is aware, no one said why it was surprising that a senior prelate would uphold Church teaching in his public statements.
In one particularly strident reaction, a Montreal La Presse columnist expressed his wish that Cardinal Ouellet would die a slow and painful death.
Columnist Patrick Lagace compared Cardinal Ouellet to the Iranian imam, Kazem Sedighi, who recently suggested scantily-clad women were to blame for natural disasters. The column was titled, “The Scorn of Kazem Ouellet.”
“We’re all going to die,” Lagace wrote. “Cardinal Ouellet will die someday. I hope he dies from a long and painful illness. . .
“Yes, the paragraph I’ve just written is vicious. But Marc Ouellet is an extremist. And in the debate against religious extremists, every shot is fair game.”
Comments Joanne McGarry, executive director of the CCRL, “The League has been involved in media debates on life issues for 25 years, long enough to know that abortion is an issue on which people disagree, sometimes profoundly. That is why civil debate and dialogue are important. The statement of Patrick Lagace is below any standard of journalistic fairness or respect, and is frankly hateful. If La Presse has any regard for its reputation, it will apologize and distance itself from its columnist’s remarks.
“This type of remark is tantamount to saying that people who oppose unlimited access to abortion should be denied the right to speak. Some commentators think that views based on religious considerations are out of place, but religion is one of the elements that shape our values and to that extent it is intolerant to reject views just because they come from a religious leader.”
As too often happens, Ms. McGarry added, some of the more general reaction to the cardinal’s statements contains a strong implication that the Church and its followers should not be involved with public debates. It’s a sentiment that emerges particularly in discussions about abortion, euthanasia, definition of marriage and funding for faith-based schools.
Quebec diocese clarification (en francais).
Catholic Civil Rights League (www.ccrl.ca) assists in creating conditions within which Catholic teachings can be better understood, cooperates with other organizations in defending civil rights in Canada, and opposes defamation and discrimination against Catholics on the basis of their beliefs. CCRL was founded in 1985 as an independent lay organization and has chapters across Canada. The Catholic Civil Rights League is a Canadian non-profit organization entirely supported by the generosity of its members.
For further information: Joanne McGarry, Executive Director, 416-466-8244; firstname.lastname@example.org