Afghanistan goals need to be made clear

  • September 25, 2008
{mosimage}CORNWALL, Ont. - The president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops raised concerns about the war in Afghanistan and the Canadian government’s not making clear the goals of the mission there in his annual report to the bishops’ plenary here.

“If these goals are not articulated, it is difficult to determine bench marks, and almost impossible to evaluate successes and failures,” said Archbishop James Weisgerber.
As president, he had written to Prime Minister Stephen Harper last February, he said, asking for “greater transparency on issues surrounding the Afghanistan conflict.”

“To date, Canadians are no clearer about the Canadian role in Afghanistan,” he said.

He said the federal election is a good opportunity to remind the politicians of all parties of Pope Benedict’s words: “War is the worst solution for all sides.”

The Canadian bishops are met in Cornwall for their annual plenary Sept. 22-26. Weisgerber, archbishop of Winnipeg, addressed the bishops on the opening day.

Weisgerber touched on a number of other issues in his annual report.

Weisgerber raised the new policy the Canadian government seemed to be adopting concerning the execution of Canadians held in other countries.  He said he wrote the prime minister last December raising the bishops’ concerns and asking that the “life and dignity of each person . . . be respected without exception.”

He marked the “certain degree of sympathy for so-called mercy killing” that appeared in the news media when Robert Latimer received day parole after 10 years in prison for taking the life of his disabled daughter. The bishops’ executive committee is monitoring a “possible change in public and social attitudes” through the Catholic Organization for Life and Family (COLF), working with the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition.

The archbishop also noted the “regrettable decision” to award an Order of Canada to abortionist Dr. Henry Morgentaler, “with the problematic involvement, one way or another, by the Governor General and also the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada.”

Weisgerber also criticized the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario’s failed attempt to approve a new policy that would override a physician’s personal beliefs in order to meet the Ontario Human Rights Code. He noted the strong response by Toronto Archbishop Thomas Collins and the Catholic Health Association of Ontario “to this questioning of freedom of conscience and freedom of religion.”

He said the bishops must “encourage all the faithful to be better informed, more active and more articulate in protecting and defending the sacredness of human life and the inviolability of conscience.”

Weisgerber also reported on the continued restructuring of the conference, begun in 2004. He said the plenary would use the week to discuss a Permanent Council report on episcopal commissions and more flexible standing committees.

The thrust of restructuring, he said, was “to ensure that bishops as the members take ownership of their conference and its activities.”

Further discussion will be needed on how eparchial bishops of the Eastern churches might wish to participate in the assembly, he said, noting they have their own synods for decision making.

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