Last Updated: Tuesday - 01/04/2011
January 29, 2001
No more political ads in WCR
From the Editor's Desk
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER
EDMONTON — The WCR will not, in the future, publish advertisements from political parties and politicians, except for those running for positions as Catholic school board trustees.
Publishing political advertising has long been a conundrum for the WCR. Many politicians and political parties support at least some policies that go against Catholic teaching. The Catholic Church, for example, opposes abortion and euthanasia and it calls for greater justice for the poor and vulnerable. Should the WCR publish ads from parties and politicians that oppose the Church's stands even if they do not state their opposition in their ads?
Well, at first blush, no, it shouldn't. Our task is to help people understand their faith and to act in accordance with it. This should be reflected in ads as well as in the news and editorial copy.
This does not mean that anytime a reader or readers believe that an event or action promoted in an ad goes against Church teaching, we'll reject that ad. Until the Church has condemned that activity, we're likely to accept the ad.
We have, however, tended to treat political ads differently than others. We have accepted political ads as part of a general view that says Catholics ought to be involved in the political process and, we hope, bring Catholic values to bear in it.
Further, if we accept ads from one party, we have to accept them from all. This is a stance that in every federal or provincial election has brought protests from readers who would prefer us to exclude ads from one or two parties but presumably accept them from others.
However, to accept ads from some parties and not others is, I believe, untenable. It, in effect, would put the WCR in a position of telling Catholics who not to vote for.
In particular cases, the Catholic bishops of a country might decide to advise Catholics who is and who is not worthy of their support. The WCR has never pre-empted the bishops on such a decision.
However, in recent years, the political situation in Canada has changed. Many of our leading politicians, both federal and provincial, have become vociferously pro-abortion to an extent that has not been previously seen. They have drawn a line in the sand on this issue that makes it morally impossible for us to be seen as, in some way, counselling people to vote for them.
Abortion is certainly not the only issue about which Catholics should be concerned. We ought to take a vital interest in how government assists all "the poor" - the sick, the imprisoned, the hungry, the disabled, etc.
Issues surrounding government assistance to the poor tend to fall into shades of grey - more of this, less of that. Some parties make the claim, not without basis, that for the government to redistribute wealth too aggressively would lead eventually to the impoverishment of all.
Thus, it is a prudential decision to conclude that the government is not pursuing redistribution aggressively enough. It is a prudential decision that has been stated by the Canadian bishops and by the WCR, but it is nevertheless a prudential decision.
But the abortion issue is clear cut. To support legal direct abortion is a fundamental and major injustice. That is why, for example, the Knights of Columbus, will not allow politicians who favour legal abortion to address their meetings.
To see the weight of our political system supporting legal abortion so strongly leads me as the WCR's managing editor to make another prudential decision - that it is time for us withdraw from the acceptance of political advertising.
This decision also means that politicians committed to Catholic values will no longer be able to advertise in our pages. This is an unfortunate consequence. But we can no longer take the position that publishing the ads of pro-choice politicians is an unwanted side effect of showing this form of visible approval for Catholic involvement in politics.
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