CORNWALL, Ontario, October 17, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) - After driving five hours to attend the Canadian bishops’ annual plenary assembly in Cornwall Monday, LifeSiteNews editor-in-chief John-Henry Westen was shocked to learn that he was barred from attending the public forum as a representative from the press.
Westen had just attended Mass with the bishops and other delegates at the NavCanada Centre, where the bishops will meet from Oct. 17-21, when he learned from CCCB media relations director René Laprise that LifeSiteNews’ application for media accreditation had been rejected. The pro-life and pro-family news agency has attended the plenary meeting for the last two years.
Editor-in-Chief John-Henry Westen at the NavCanada Centre after being denied access to the Canadian bishops' plenary assembly.
“We regret to inform you that your request has been denied and you will not be granted access to this year’s meeting,” wrote Laprise.
“The leadership of our Conference has expressed serious concerns over the manner in which positions have been taken by your organization,” he continued. “Our Executive Officers in turn have indicated that the CCCB Media Relations Officer should exercise caution in dealing with your organization.”
“It’s unfortunate that the executive made this decision,” said Westen. “The public letter that the CCCB issued over Development & Peace back in 2009 made an ‘urgent appeal’ that LifeSite’s leadership establish a ‘frank and transparent dialogue’ with Canada’s bishops. But they have since rejected every offer of dialogue we have made.”
“This latest rejection even of our media presence at this public forum is rather sad and shows a real unwillingness to countenance our presence let alone dialogue,” he added.
The CCCB’s executive will change after this year’s plenary meeting, but the current executive members are: Bishop Pierre Morissette of Saint-Jérôme, CCCB President; Archbishop Richard Smith of Edmonton, CCCB Vice-President; Bishop Douglas Crosby of Hamilton, CCCB Co-Treasurer; Bishop Paul-André Durocher of Alexandria-Cornwall, CCCB Co-Treasurer.
LifeSiteNews’ presence at the plenary the last two years allowed the agency to report several key pro-life developments that otherwise risked going unreported.
Perhaps most significantly, LifeSiteNews was able to report on the courageous stand taken by Archbishop Thomas Collins of Toronto and Archbishop Terrence Prendergast of Ottawa when they broke protocol at the 2009 plenary to rise and demand that D&P not proceed with “business as usual” after the funding scandal broke earlier that year.
“I’m extremely disappointed at the actions of the CCCB in regards to the attendance of LifeSiteNews at its annual assembly,” said Jim Hughes, national president of Campaign Life Coalition. “At a time when even more transparency is needed in the Church, the veil of silence and secrecy is drawn.”
“I would urge all concerned pro-lifers to respectfully communicate their concern to their local bishop,” Hughes added.