The Woeful Wages of the Winnipeg Statement

Fort Garry Hotel, Winnipeg

All things betrayeth thee, Who betrayest Me. (The Hound of Heaven, Francis Thompson)

In a recent essay, titled Wherefore Canada, I cited reasons for what appears to be Canada’s oncoming collapse. Among them were such factors as the escalating loss of Catholic Christianity in Canada – once the glue that bound this nation together into a welcoming edifice  that had long made Canada an envy of the world.

In that essay, I focused mainly on Pierre Trudeau and his legacy of abortion, which began in 1968, as the reason why 1967 – as Canadian historian Pierre Berton described it – was Canada’s “last good year”.

This is true as far as it goes, but a very thoughtful priest contacted me after the piece was posted to remind me of the parallel devastation caused by the notorious Winnipeg Statement which  further advanced Trudeau’s agenda while simultaneously challenging Pope Paul VI’s landmark encyclical Humanae Vitae.

How right this holy priest of 51 years service was to remind me of how devastating that document was and continues to be.

Here are the details.

Humanae Vitae

Around the time when Canada’s then-justice minister Pierre Trudeau was pushing the legalization of abortion by promoting the idea that the government has no place in the nation’s bedrooms, Pope Paul VI issued his landmark encyclical Humanae Vitae.

The date was July 25, 1968 – the feast of Saint James the Greater – in a year that soon became recognized as among the most critical in modern history. In that year, the forces of liberalism were loudly demanding more ‘sexual freedom’ while the forces of reality were counselling restraint. At the heart of it all was the advent of the birth control pill, making contraception widely available and revolutionizing the entire moral order. A moral order which, until that time, had regarded even providing information about contraception a punishable crime.

The ‘pill’ changed all that. It also became a direct threat to the souls of countless Catholics who imagined that their sexual ‘liberation’ was at hand if only Holy Mother Church would approve its use.

That was not to be. For the simple reason that Holy Mother Church had/has not the power to alter or cancel God’s natural law on which all life and its order is based, and which, through the sacrament of marriage, represents the union of Christ and His Church.

“Marriage, then, is far from being the effect of chance or the result of the blind evolution of natural forces,” the Holy Father wrote. “It is in reality the wise and provident institution of God the Creator, whose purpose was to effect in man His loving design. As a consequence, husband and wife, through that mutual gift of themselves, which is specific and exclusive to them alone, develop that union of two persons in which they perfect one another, cooperating with God in the generation and rearing of new lives.

“Hence to use this divine gift while depriving it, even if only partially, of its meaning and purpose, is equally repugnant to the nature of man and of woman, and is consequently in opposition to the plan of God and His holy will.”

This means that to practise contraception cheats both husband and wife of full participation in the sacrament of marriage itself: “To experience the gift of married love while respecting the laws of conception is to acknowledge that one is not the master of the sources of life but rather the minister of the design established by the Creator. Just as man does not have unlimited dominion over his body in general, so also, and with more particular reason, he has no such dominion over his specifically sexual faculties, for these are concerned by their very nature with the generation of life, of which God is the source.”

The Devastation of Disobedience

Therefore, Holy Mother Church – bound to uphold the truth of marriage and life itself – is obliged to declare that the direct interruption of the generative process already begun and, above all, all direct abortion, even for therapeutic reasons, is to be absolutely excluded as lawful means of regulating the number of children. Equally to be condemned, as the Magisterium of the Church has affirmed on many occasions, is direct sterilization, whether of the man or of the woman, whether permanent or temporary.

Similarly excluded is any action which either before, at the moment of, or after sexual intercourse, is specifically intended to prevent procreation – whether as an end or as a means.

“Neither is it valid to argue, as a justification for sexual intercourse which is deliberately contraceptive that a lesser evil is to be preferred to a greater one, or that such intercourse would merge with procreative acts of past and future to form a single entity, and so be qualified by exactly the same moral goodness as these,” the Holy Father directed.

So absolute is God’s natural law, in fact, that to ignore it, overrule it or abuse it, to indulge one’s own purposes, can result only in pain, disorder and destruction.

This teaching is further detailed in paragraph 17 which describes the consequences of using artificial methods of contraception: “It opens the way to marital infidelity and a general lowering of moral standards. Woman is reduced to an instrument for the satisfaction of lust. It places a dangerous weapon in the state’s hands, with the possibility of forcible population control and genetic engineering.”

Is there anything in paragraph 17 that hasn’t been confirmed in the course of this now-emasculated culture’s deadly rejection of this encyclical? And doesn’t the ongoing destruction  continue  53 years on after its loud rejection by those Catholics who believed they knew better?

Just as they do today when confronted directly with contraception’s evil fruits – including the failed marriages, destroyed families and lost children. They do not repent. Instead, most double down.

Nor do they connect their seeking out the reassurances of psychologists and psychiatrists and even sympathetic priests to quiet their unhappiness and mental anguish resulting from their disobedience. No, they reason: Their problems are based in the growing complexities of our modern society which has swallowed whole the promises of sexual liberation, not as inherently sinful but as necessary to a happy and fulfilled life.

What folly!

What arrogance too, to dismiss both the magisterial teaching of Humanae Vitae and to assume that because of it, Holy Mother Church must therefore be hopelessly outdated in a world long since devoted to moral relativism and the false notion that the Truth itself is unknowable and, at best, merely an opinion, allowing them to fatuously dismiss the warnings of such encyclical  supporters as Charles Rice, former Professor of Law at Notre Dame University: “Contraception is the defining evil of our time. Its legitimization leads inevitably, not only to abortion and euthanasia, but to a host of evils including promiscuity, divorce, pornography, and homosexuality. The contraceptionist denies to God the right to be God. In this light, the contraceptive movement is diabolic, a replay of the original script.”

Denying God’s Right to Be God

And in the contraceptionist’s corner was a coterie of Canadian bishops who also disagreed with the encyclical. Which is why two months after Humanae Vitae was issued, they met in Winnipeg to make their dissent public.

The facts are these: On September 23, 1968, several Canadian bishops met in Room 305 of the Fort Garry Hotel in Winnipeg. Three days later, they emerged with the Winnipeg Statement, which has never been rescinded and whose impact is still being felt throughout Canada today.

In the end, this band of ‘progressives’, said to be led by Fr. Gregory Baum (later laicized) and others, exerted their intellectual powers to publicly disagree with their Pontiff in what has long since been described as the Statement’s most offensive paragraph – n. 26. “Counselors meet others who, accepting the teaching of the Holy Father, find that because of particular circumstances they are involved in what seems to them a clear conflict of duties, e.g. the reconciling of conjugal love and responsible parenthood with the education of children already born or with the health of the mother. In accord with the accepted principles or moral theology, if these persons have tried sincerely, but without success to pursue a line of conduct in keeping with the given directives, they may be safely assured that whoever chooses that course which seems right to him does so in good conscience.”

By stating in the Winnipeg Statement that they would not be faithful to the unchanging Tradition of the Roman Catholic Church, the Catholic Bishops of Canada thus suggested that it was no longer forbidden for Catholics to use contraception. And though an attempt was made in 1998 by the Canadian Catholic Bishops to retract the Statement under secret ballot, it did not pass, meaning the Statement still stands. As does this clear rejection of the truth of Humanae Vitae as the bishops’ response to the Holy See’s request to stand firm with the Pope on the Church’s teaching.

And while the bishops may have assumed that the consciences of the flock had been properly formed through prayer, sacraments and excellent catechesis, their declaration was taken as public ‘permission’ to use contraceptives.

With utterly predictable consequences, as expressed by one of its most ardent critics, the late Monsignor Vincent Foy, a long-time contributor to Catholic Insight: “Thousands of times, couples have used this ‘killer paragraph’ to justify their use of contraceptive Pills and devices, whether abortifacient or non-abortifacient.”

In Monsignor Foy’s view, Winnipeg was their opportunity to stop the errors already widespread in seminaries, colleges, pulpits and confessionals. “Instead, it was an affirmation and confirmation of all the dissent which preceded it. This incredible betrayal of Catholic teaching on the intrinsic evil of contraception was a factor in the passing of a bill by the Liberal government under Pierre Trudeau, legalizing contraception (June 27, 1969).”

The consequences have been devastating. Historically, this may also have been the point when the  de-Catholicization of Canada began its march through Canadian hospitals, universities and schools which today fly Pride flags as perhaps an unintended sign that these nominally Catholic institutions no longer belong spiritually or philosophically to the teachings of Jesus Christ who, two thousand years ago, founded Holy Mother Church on the rock of His apostle, Saint Peter.

The ‘Right’ to Sexual Slavery

Today, the expected ‘freedoms’ that dissent was supposed to produce has led to every kind of human depravity imaginable.

Almost daily we hear updates on the rising number of deaths by euthanasia – over 8,000 last year (and 853 in the first four months of this year in Ontario alone). This, in an area where, along with abortion as evidence of the de-sacralization of life, the scope is ever widening and the safeguards are failing, exemplified by the passing of Bill C-7 in February which came with amendments to expand the categories of the killable under Canada’s Medical Aid in Dying (MAiD).

This while new pressures are applied to the acceptance for all expressions of human sexuality as right and good, while ignoring their incalculable consequences, ranging from sexual disease and infertility to depression and suicide. Add to this the loss of the countless children who have never been born, as expressed so ruefully by Monsignor Foy when he revisited the issue in 2010 and again cited the consequences of the Canadian bishops’ ongoing rebellion: “Our Canadian Bishops became complicit in infant homicides through contraceptives and the prevention of millions of persons who should have been and never will be.”

And the devastation continues as new generations of Canadians come of age with the secular mindset responsible for Canada’s collapsing birthrates which, in turn, point to what sociologists describe as a “civilizational crisis”. This is caused by choosing to remain childless, either as a commitment to “environmentalism” by reducing one’s alleged “carbon footprint” or, more likely, the pursuit of self and its ephemeral demands. All of which means coming generations of Canadians who have no physical commitment to this country. Nor are they invested in the future itself which, in earlier generations, meant having a stake via one’s children and family.

What Civilizational Crisis?

Still, if Canadian Catholics are paying attention to their nation’s decline, it isn’t apparent. Having heard the bishops advice in the Winnipeg Statement which, in essence, suggested that Church teaching on marriage-related sexual behaviour was simply too difficult to observe, Canadians took this as wholesale permission to do as they liked. And, one presumes, their consciences – not as strongly formed as the bishops supposed – followed suit.

Nor does it appear to have occurred to them that all those individuals who eagerly made laws allowing contraception and abortion half a century ago should now find themselves and their self-indulgent homeland failing spontaneously, the Covid-19 pandemic notwithstanding.

The question now is: Has Covid merely hastened the decline of Christianity in Canada? This was raised recently by Fr. Raymond de Souza, who noted the plan by Canada’s most historic Catholic diocese, Quebec City, to dramatically redeploy its dwindling resources, because the number of people frequenting its parishes is a “tiny part of the population”. This follows the pattern of the last decade when the Archdiocese of Quebec City reduced its parishes from 200 to 38, which, in turn, have been organized into 29 large “pastoral units” for which there are not enough priests and other personnel. “So, 22 of the 29 pastoral units will become 10 “missionary units.”

Will the Catholic Church in Canada be gone by 2040, he asks? “Certainly not, but largely because immigration to Canada has brought far more Catholics than it has Anglicans… yet “in those parts of Canada where there is relatively little immigration, Catholic institutions are already unable to sustain themselves.”

And what are Canadians to make of the burning and/or vandalization of 48 churches so far since the location of mostly unmarked grave sites near residential schools became international news? The highest concentration of fire-related attacks on Christian places of worship has been in British Columbia, mostly on First Nations land. Yet the general response has been an indifferent, even bored, dismissal, while calling it “sad”.

“Sad?” Fr. de Souza exclaimed. “It’s sacrilege!”

Yet as these desecrations continue, in recent months, Canadians have also been witnessing a disturbing spate of the vandalizing and tearing down of many Canadian historical statues. Is this further evidence of Justin Trudeau’s Post-National State’s spontaneous combustion? In a ‘post-national state’ whose incomprehensible and unchecked government spending has led to its declaration that the national budget cannot be balanced before 2070?

I ask the question again: Will there still be a Canada? The Canada blessed and spiritually enriched by the blood of martyrs?

Loucheness on Display

And is there not a direct link between the louchness of Canada’s laws – from the legalizing of cannabis and pushing gender ideology to the ongoing infusion of poisonous pornography – and the nation’s apparent and rapid decline? Has Canada’s increasing “soft immorality” – based in its cultural permissions to pursue any impulse whatsoever – produced a culture echoed in Saint Paul’s letter to the Romans (I, 26-27)? “For this reason God gave them up to dishonourable passions. Their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in their own persons the due penalty for their error.”

Regardless, none of the above could have happened without the blindness that rejecting God’s natural law always causes. And just as that moral blindness becomes almost total as the social devastation and the loss of souls piles up, history also shows that entire populations become equally paralyzed over how to reverse the incoming tsunami of their own making.

As described so peerlessly by American economist Thomas Sowell in his masterwork The Vision of the Anointed – Self-Congratulation as a Basis for Social Policy in which he describes the inevitable consequences of Man relying only on himself to order his world. Personally and publicly.

“Dangers to a society may be mortal without being immediate,” Sowell writes. “One such danger is the prevailing social vision of our time – and the dogmatism with which the ideas, assumptions, and attitudes behind that vision are held.

“Human beings have been making mistakes and committing sins as long as there have been human beings. The great catastrophes of history have usually involved much more than that. Typically, there has been an additional and crucial ingredient – some method by which feedback from reality has been prevented, so that a dangerous course of action could he blindly continued to a fatal conclusion.”

He provides examples: “Much of the continent of Europe was devastated in World War II because the totalitarian regime of the Nazis did not permit those who foresaw the self- destructive consequences of Hitler’s policies to alter, or even to influence, those policies. In earlier eras as well, many individuals foresaw the self-destruction of their own civilizations, from the days of the Roman Empire to the eras of the Spanish, Ottoman, and other empires. Yet that alone was not enough to change the course that was leading to ruin.”

The fundamental problem? “Today, despite free speech and the mass media, the prevailing social vision is dangerously close to sealing itself off from any discordant feedback from reality,” Sowell concludes.

That reality is God, from Whom most of the world – formerly known as Christendom – has separated itself. Historically such separation has always resulted in disaster as the inhabitants watch transfixed as their once grand bus hurtles off a cliff with the driver still gripping the wheel.

That reality includes the laws of God which are absolute. Which means that the only way to reverse any of this is to return to Him in full contrition. And if Canadians will humble themselves and pray and seek God’s face and turn from their wicked ways, He will hear from heaven, as He did in 2 Chronicles 7:14, and forgive their sin and heal their land.