By John-Henry Westen

 TORONTO, May 17, 2007 ( – Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty’s controversial remarks about the Pope have garnered a flurry of responses from Catholic groups.  The latest to respond has been St. Catharines Diocese Bishop James Wingle, the President of the Ontario Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Reacting to Pope Benedict’s recent affirmation that pro-abortion politicians may not be given Holy Communion, Premier McGuinty, who professes to be a Catholic despite his pro-abortion stand told reporters, “There are very few political leaders who would allow all of their actions to be informed exclusively by dictates of the church.”

“I have a different constituency than does the Pope. I am responsible for representing all kinds of people from all kinds of different backgrounds, different faiths, different cultures, different traditions,” added the Premier.  “There’s one particular aspect of myself that is in common with the Pope and (that is) I happen to be Catholic. But I have other responsibilities as well.”

In an interview with, Bishop Wingle said that Premier McGuinty’s comments were “disturbing”.  “If accurate, the remarks made by Premier McGuinty with reference to the Holy Father’s reminder to Catholic politicians of their duty to defend human life, are disturbing,” said the President of the Ontario Conference of Catholic Bishops.

“Use of the term ‘constituency’ to indicate the sphere of reference of the Pope is inaccurate,” said Bishop Wingle.  “The Pope is not speaking as a political leader. He is teaching a point of justice and moral truth to everyone. The Church is not dictating a political action, but in the person of the Holy Father, the Church is proposing the truth about human life and human dignity.”

“What the Pope is affirming,” he explained, “is that it is always gravely immoral to directly and voluntarily kill an innocent human being.” 

“This is not a matter of narrow personal view, nor is it a private or sectarian proposition. It is a statement about justice. The unborn child is a human being and to wantonly destroy the innocent life of another human being does horrendous violence to everyone concerned and brutalizes the society in which it takes place,” explained the Bishop.

“All persons in public life, especially civic leaders, have a duty to defend the dignity of human life,” he said.  “Faith reinforces this duty, but the dignity of human life is not a matter restricted to religious reference. We know this truth by reason. Faith strengthens the conviction about the inalienable dignity of human life accessible to all by reason.”

Bishop Wingle concluded stating, “No person can claim immunity from the truth. People in positions of civic leadership cannot legitimately espouse a form of schizophrenic split between what they know personally to be true and good, and the proposition of laws or policies that negate that truth and good.”

In addition to reactions from Campaign Life Catholic and Catholic Insight editor Fr. Alphonse de Valk which were reported by yesterday (see: ), the Canadian Organization for Life and Family (COLF), which was founded and is supported by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops has also responded to the Premier’s remarks.

COLF Director Michèle Boulva told that McGuinty’s comments are indicative of a “double misunderstanding”.  “First on what it means to be Catholic,” she said, “In a Catholic’s life there should be no division between one’s fundamental values.”   Boulva added referring to the Premier, “When he says I happen to be Catholic but I have other responsibilities as well, those things are not separated.  As a Catholic we have a responsibility to bring the light of the Gospel into society no matter where we work or what we do.”

The second misunderstanding, says Boulva, is about the notion of a separation between church and state.  “It doesn’t mean that religion or religious views should be excluded from public life,” she said. “People with religious views are full fledged citizens, they should be free to express their views and propose them in the public square.”

Chris Morley, Press Secretary in the Office of the Premier, told that “the Premier’s comments stand and are a matter of public record.” He also noted that the Premier declined to answer whether or not he would stop receiving communion because of the Pope’s statements and his continued political support for abortion.

© is a production of Interim Publishing.