Montreal Social Action Office responds

By  Brian Mcdonough, Catholic Register Special
  • February 5, 2009
{mosimage}In the article “Catholic protest not pro-Hamas, organizers say ” by Michael Swan (page 3 of The Register Week of Feb. 1, 2009), there are several statements in respect of the demonstration, held in Montreal on Jan. 10, that could lead to serious misinterpretations regarding the position of the Social Action Office of the Catholic archdiocese of Montreal.

The third paragraph begins with the following sentence: “McDonough did not publicly distance his office from slogans such as ‘There is no God but Allah and the jihadist is the beloved of Allah,’ and ‘O Nasrallah, o beloved, strike, strike Tel Aviv’ before  media reports and video of the demonstration went across Canada.” Yet, in a telephone interview with The Register on Jan. 19, I stated at least three or four times that the Social Action Office unequivocally opposes, rejects and condemns any slogans or placards that promote hatred for Jews and the destruction of Israel. This position, repeatedly asserted by me, appears only in the ninth paragraph, near the end of the article. Readers, however, will remain with the impression that I have refused to distance the Social Action Office from such anti-Jewish slogans.
Mr. Swan said to me Jan. 26 that he had written the article the way he did because he considered that what was newsworthy was the fact that the Social Action Office had not distanced itself from such slogans before the Canadian Jewish Congress distributed its videos of the demonstration. As I said to Mr. Swan, the overwhelming majority of the 10,000 people who were marching on the cold Saturday afternoon were responding to an invitation calling not only for an end to the Israeli blockade and invasion of Gaza, but also for an end to Hamas’ firing rockets into Israeli territory. Those groups chanting in Arabic the slogans mentioned above must have been small groups on the fringe of the demonstration. How could the Social Action Office be expected to distance itself from the words of extremely marginal groups before the CJC distributed its videos which so selectively focused on these marginal groups? The way the third paragraph of the article is written lends credence to those who have been actively seeking to turn the public’s attention away from the dramatic humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

The first paragraph states that the demonstration was “an event organized by the archdiocese of Montreal’s social action committee.” I never made such a claim. The Social Action Office, as well as many other Catholic organizations, gave its support to a declaration in which the reasons mentioned above are stated for participating in a peaceful demonstration. To state that the Social Action Office organized this demonstration is extremely misleading.

Finally, the article states in its fourth paragraph that the CJC’s president was waiting to hear from the protest organizers and referred to the archdiocesan social action committee. The Social Action Office only received a letter from the CJC on Jan. 16, to which it responded on Jan. 20. I understand that The Register has publication deadlines, however, the article clearly gives the impression that the Social Action Office has not responded.

(McDonough is director of the Social Action Office for the archdiocese of Montreal.)

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