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Canadian-written report denounces Catholic Church (Rwanda).

New York--Our columnist Rory Leishman sends the following account: In a report on the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, the Organization of African Unity accuses the Catholic Church of "heavy responsibility" for the tragedy. Stephen Lewis, former Canadian ambassador to the United Nations, was one of the "eminent persons" on the African-led panel that produced the report. The document was written by Gerald Caplan, a long-time advisor to the New Democratic Party of Canada.

Writing in the Globe and Mail on July 12, Lewis and Caplan state that "Roman Catholic missionaries concocted a bizarre racist anthropology pitting allegedly superior Tutsis against allegedly backward Hutus."

There is no documentary evidence in the OAU report to support this charge, which implies that Catholic missionaries in Rwanda systematically violated the anti-racist teachings of the Magisterium. In a 1939 encyclical, Summi Pontificatus (On the Unity of the Human Race), Pope Pius XII denounced as a pernicious error "the forgetfulness of that law of human solidarity and charity which is dictated and imposed by our common origin and by the equality of rational nature in all men, to whatever people they belong."

The encyclical further affirmed that "the nations, despite a difference of development due to diverse conditions of life and of culture, are not destined to break the unity of the human race, but rather to enrich and embellish it by the sharing of their own peculiar gifts and by that reciprocal interchange of goods which can be possible and efficacious only when a mutual love and a lively sense of charity unite all the sons of the same Father and all those redeemed by the same Divine Blood."

Lewis and Caplan charge that "the Catholic hierarchy, with its unique influence in Rwanda, ... failed to condemn the genocide while it was being planned, while it was occurring, or since." Yet on April 10, 1994, three days after the killing began, Pope John Paul II pleaded for the killers to stop. And on the following day, the Catholic bishops of Rwanda called for a return to peace, denounced the "troublemakers" and summoned the military to protect everyone, regardless of ethnic group.

Lewis and Caplan concede in their report for the OAU that "on 3 May 1994, the Pope issued a strong condemnation of the genocide." Yet the Pope first used "genocide" to describe and denounce the atrocities in Rwanda on April 27. Boutros Boutros-Ghali, then serving as secretary general of the United Nations, did not follow suit until a few days later.

As an overall assessment, Lewis and Caplan state that the role of the Catholic church in Rwanda, "is one about which it would be hard to feel proud at any time." In support of this allegation, they claim that, "because abortion has been illegal in Catholic Rwanda since colonial times, doctors report that many women require treatment for serious complications due to self-induced or clandestine abortions of rape-related pregnancies."

Editor's note: Stephen Lewis was appointed Canadian ambassador to the U.N. by Prime Minister Brian Mulroney. Today he is under-secretary at UNICEF. As leader of the Ontario NDP he was the first Canadian politician to call for legal abortions in 1965. Gerald Caplan is cut from the same cloth. The wife of Stephen Lewis is Michelle Landsberg, who from time to time screams at pro-lifers from the pages of the Toronto Star.
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Publication:Catholic Insight
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:6RWAN
Date:Sep 1, 2000
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