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Wednesday September 30, 2009

CCCB Plenary Presenter Advocated Obama as the ‘Pro-Life Candidate,’ Was Criticized by His Bishop

Rather than ‘supporting’ women’s ordination, the presenter has said that he merely questions the authoritative status of that particular Church teaching.

By Patrick B. Craine

TOLEDO, Ohio, September 30, 2009 ( – The presenter at next month’s plenary assembly of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB), Dr. Richard Gaillardetz, argued during last year’s U.S. election cycle, to the dismay of his bishop, that notoriously pro-abortion President Barack Obama was the “pro-life candidate” in last year’s election, because of his social policy regarding poverty and healthcare.

In addition, in response to LSN’s first story on Gaillardetz, the professor of Catholic studies at the University of Toledo who is scheduled to speak to the Canadian bishops on the topic of the priesthood, has insisted that he does not in fact support women’s ordination, but merely questions the authoritative status of the teaching.

Dr. Gaillardetz, who sat on Obama’s National Catholic Advisory Council during his presidential campaign, published an op-ed column in the Toledo Blade last September entitled ‘Who really is the pro-life candidate?’.

“I have come to believe that the true ‘pro-life’ candidate is not the one who champions opposition to Roe v. Wade but lacks any substantive plan that will actually reduce abortions,” he writes. “The true ‘pro-life’ candidate is the one who is supporting social policies proven to reduce abortions, policies that would extend substantial financial and health-care assistance to poor families facing unplanned pregnancies.”

He points out what he considers to be “practical problems” that could result from laws against abortion. After emphasizing the “dim prospects” of a court reversal of Roe v. Wade, he writes, “This is to say nothing of the practical problems associated with legal enforcement of anti-abortion laws (are we really prepared to throw poor unwed mothers into jail?) or the fact that illegal and unsafe abortions would almost certainly continue (thereby extending the tragedy by putting many more women at risk).”

“There is a pro-life candidate out there,” he concludes, “and it turns out he’s a Democrat!”

Bishop of Toledo Leonard P. Blair responded to Dr. Gaillardetz’s article in the same newspaper a week later, criticizing him for departing from the Catholic position articulated by the U.S. Bishops. “Lest Mr. Gaillardetz’s teaching position and self-identification as a Catholic create any misunderstandings,” he writes, “it should be pointed out that his opinions regarding the issue of abortion, and Roe vs. Wade in particular, do not reflect the clear and consistent moral position of the United States Catholic bishops.”

Referring to the battle against slavery in the U.S., the bishop says, “Our nation was not content with simply reducing the number of slaves or easing their condition. It was the very institution of slavery that was morally abhorrent and incompatible with the principles on which our nation was founded.”

He points to the “morally flawed thinking” engendered by Roe v. Wade, which “effectively rendered the definition of human personhood flexible and negotiable,” and “has also implicitly excluded unborn children from human status.”

He then goes on to quote from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ 2002 statement on the 30th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, which stated, “Roe vs. Wade cannot stand as the law of this great nation. … We are committed, no matter how long it may take, no matter the sacrifices required, to bringing about a reversal of this tragic Supreme Court decision. … Roe vs. Wade must be reversed.”

In a clear reference to Obama, the bishop indicates that “some lawmakers would reverse [the gains made in the enactment of hundreds of pro-life laws] and boost the abortion rate by invalidating all such laws, through extreme measures such as the proposed ‘Freedom of Choice Act’ in Congress.”

“No one supporting such legislation can claim in good faith to be working to reduce abortions,” he says. “The failure to protect and defend life in its most vulnerable stages renders suspect any claims to the ‘rightness’ of positions in other matters affecting the poorest and least powerful of the human community.”

LSN reported earlier this week on Dr. Gaillardetz’s dissent from Church teaching, highlighting his support for women’s ordination in light of his invitation to address the CCCB on the topic of the priesthood.

The following morning, however, he responded to LSN’s original request for comment by calling the story “a blatantly irresponsible piece based on an unofficial and unreliable source,” and accused LSN of not “seeking [his] perspective.”

However, the primary claims made in the story regarding Gaillardetz’s dissent from Church teaching were gathered directly from two of his own articles, which were cited and are available freely on the internet.

In his response, Gaillardetz objected in particular to the allegation that he had advocated women’s ordination. “I have NEVER written that I support women’s ordination,” he said.

While the professor had originally insisted on a second story to clarify his positions, when LSN assured him that we would clarify and correct any problems in a follow-up story, he refused to be interviewed.

Gaillardetz also denied that LSN had contacted him prior to publishing the first story. However, after LSN pointed out the discrepancy, given that the initial request from LSN to which he responded was time-stamped before the story’s publication, he corrected his statement and indicated, rather, that LSN had not waited long enough for a response.

The original allegation that Gaillardetz advocated women’s ordination was supported by the fact that he has three articles posted to a website advocating women’s ordination, and, based on a line from the page for the relevant article, ‘Infallibility and the Ordination of Women’, he has allowed that website to use his article for the promotion of women’s ordination. The page states: “here re-published on with permission from the author and the editor of Louvain Studies.”

Nevertheless, rather than supporting women’s ordination, according to Gaillardetz, he, in fact, merely questions the infallibility of John Paul II’s ‘definitive’ teaching on the issue. “Out of the seven books and 100 articles I have written,” he said, “I have published exactly one article on the topic, and in that article I addressed the very technical question of the appeal to the infallility [sic] of the ordinary universal magisterium to this particular teaching.”

See Gaillardetz’s Toledo Blade article here.

See Bishop Blair’s response here.

See related coverage:

Canadian Bishops’ Plenary to be Addressed on the Priesthood by Women Priests Advocate

Commentary: Obama Aide – Not Our Goal to Reduce Abortions

Think Obama’s Plans Will Reduce Abortion? “This is Delusional” Says Princeton Prof

Exposing the ‘Abortion Reduction’ Scam