October 17, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Very early this morning, LifeSiteNews editor in chief John-Henry Westen made the 5-hour drive from his home to attend the public sessions of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops’ annual plenary meeting in Cornwall, Ontario. Then, after John-Henry was unexpectedly told he was not going to be allowed into the meeting this year, he drove 5 more hours back home – a very long, wasted day. It appears that some people associated with the CCCB, despite touting the words, have a different definition of the words “transparency” and “dialogue” than that held by LifeSiteNews and, I suspect, most of the public.

LifeSiteNews takes “transparency” to mean being clearly upfront with the facts. And so we take pains to accurately and objectively report the facts (if they are made available), quote people (if they will talk to us), point to solid evidence and professionally bring all this out into the open – “transparency.” We make a real effort to contact the parties involved, get their views, attend and report on their events, and obtain their responses to whatever information we have – “dialogue”.

Unfortunately, CCCB officials repeatedly decline to actually personally meet with us even after it was they who publicly proclaimed it was important that LifeSiteNews “dialogue” with the CCCB regarding our Development and Peace reports.

Genuine dialogue requires two parties in order to take place. If the one party that said dialogue was needed continually resists every serious effort made to engage in that requested private or public dialogue, then it is natural to conclude that the original request appears not to have been sincere. “Transparency” or genuine “dialogue” regarding uncomfortable realities about D&P and other matters seems to be something that some CCCB parties strongly want to avoid. This is an observation rather than a judgement.

Today would have been our third time covering the public sessions at the annual plenary. The first year was actually quite good. We applied for media accreditation, were accepted and were very graciously welcomed and assisted by the then-CCCB media relations person. He happily arranged a number of meetings for us with specific bishops at that plenary. One of those meetings was with Bishop Currie which was reported on LifeSiteNews. That was real “transparency” and “dialogue.”

And by the way, we were respectful and low key at these plenary meetings. We have not been remotely pushy or conflict-causing, which would have been inappropriate.

One curious thing we noted at that first plenary was that hardly any Canadian media were covering the event. The Catholic Register, LifeSiteNews, Fr. Tom Rosica and his Salt & Light TV team, and perhaps one other person were there. That was all. This seemed strange for such an important annual meeting of all of Canada’s bishops.

The next year was a very different story. The gracious media relations person from the previous year had retired. The same very few media were there, but there were now substantial new restrictions placed on each of those few media, except for Salt & Light TV which appeared to have considerable freedom to interview and film whoever they wished.

There was a notable coolness or tension. We and the other media were told to stay within a small, restricted media area and not to wander out and talk to any of the bishops. Under the new rules, all interview requests and specific questions now had to be submitted a few days before arriving at the plenary. At the plenary we learned that every interview request we made was declined.

This year, the same restrictions were in place. John-Henry submitted new interview requests and questions, but did not receive any response after repeated inquiries before the plenary.  John-Henry was told in Cornwall today that a response was sent rejecting his previously given accreditation, but it was not received.

He had assumed that he would still be able to attend the “public” sessions even if his interview requests were again declined. How wrong he was. And this time, as far as we can tell, the only media presence under the harsh new restrictions, is Salt & Light TV. Not even the Catholic Register is there this year.

Transparency? Dialogue? Welcoming the press? I don’t think so. You have to wonder what this is all about.

See related story
LifeSiteNews banned from public sessions of Canadian bishops’ meeting

See also the LifeSiteNews Development and Peace feature page.