By Hilary White

CALGARY, May 9, 2007 ( – In 2005 when the Canadian Centre for Bioethical Reform (CCBR) was preparing to move to Calgary, the group that had met with remarkable successes across the country did not expect to lose the support of the Catholic bishop who is arguably the most outspoken on life and family issues.

CCBR has been immensely successful as a pioneer in Canada of the use of large graphic images of aborted children juxtaposed with other forms of historical genocide. The displays, called the Genocide Awareness Project (GAP), erected at university campuses and similar settings are accompanied by trained volunteers who discuss the issues with passers by. The group now plans to bring the GAP to the next level with trucks rolling the images down the highways during commuter rush hours.

But in February this year, over a year after the group’s arrival in Calgary, Bishop Fred Henry released a letter to all his parishes, school boards and Knights of Columbus chapters saying he was “withdrawing all support” from the group, objecting to their use of graphic images of abortion, the central aspect of CCBR’s work.

Stephanie Gray, executive director of CCBR, spoke with saying they are disappointed with the bishop’s position.

When the group first met with Bishop Henry, Gray said he praised their work in general but “expressed reservations on graphic images.” She said, “He didn’t embrace us but he didn’t forbid Catholics to get involved.”

The Bishop, she said, was “uneasy” and thought the approach did “some harm” but “recognized the morality of the strategy.” Gray and CCBR took this statement as indicating that there is nothing morally objectionable about the GAP approach and began contacting local parishes and schools.

Henry’s position has apparently hardened, however. In his February 14th letter, while he praised the group’s “strong, clear and articulate presentations on behalf of life,” the bishop wrote that the GAP violated the moral principle that “the end…does not justify the means.”

He wrote, “In no way may these pictures be construed as healing, nor can the project be described as ‘tough love’ and I am not in favour of this kind of pedagogy. It is not good news and in my opinion does more harm than good to the pro-life cause.”

Gray said that although the bishop’s letter has not yet cost the group any financial supporters, it has hurt them. “So far, all the emails we have received have been in favour of us and expressing deep disappointment in Bishop Henry,” she said. However, Gray said that the group has lost speaking opportunities in one school and at one parish.

Perhaps worse, shortly after the letter was released, the diocesan post-abortion healing ministry, Project Rachel, refused to meet with Gray’s colleague, Jose Ruba and Gray was removed from the Diocesan Life Education Committee. Both groups and the parish cited the bishop’s letter.

Gray said, “Those are only the things we know about. We don’t know how many more people there are in parishes who might have been interested in us, who are now being put off.”

The success of GAP can be measured by the dramatic increases in calls and visits by pregnant women, often students, to local crisis pregnancy centres in areas where the displays have appeared. But the fact that the photos have arguably saved lives, does not stop them from regularly coming under attack, frequently most vociferously from fellow pro-life activists.

She told that although Bishop Henry denied CCBR the opportunity of answering his objections before the letter was distributed, the group’s website has been adjusted to answer them.

Bishop Henry’s office had not responded to calls by deadline.

Questions 14-18 of the CCBR FAQ page respond directly to Bishop Henry’s objections:

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