Toronto hospitals are performing abortions "without restriction," according to a prominent official of the Anglican Church of Canada.
Rev. Arthur Brown, rector of a large Toronto parish and a member of the National Executive Council of General Synod made the charge in connection with deliberations on a forthcoming report by a Task Force on Human Life.
The report is not expected to be completed until the end of 1973 and Father Brown said he and other pastors are impatiently awaiting it for guidance on new and complex moral situations.
He told bishops and other delegates from across Canada to the executive council that "all kinds of girls are going through our hospitals in metropolitan Toronto being aborted of pregnancies." His information, he said, comes from nurses and other hospital staff.
Father Brown claimed that staffs in some Toronto hospitals are aborting without restriction "under the guise of it being good for the total health of the mother."
Five years ago, he said, one Toronto hospital listed 28 abortions. Last year, the number was over 300, "ten times as many, or more."
He said "doctors are compromised by the destruction of human life" in this abortion situation. On becoming doctors, he said, they swear an oath to preserve life but due to the present situation "they are placed in a major compromised situation."
Father Brown said nursing staffs are upset over having to clean up after induced miscarriages and they come to him for guidance.
Archbishop E.W. Scott, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada expressed deep sympathy towards the position described by Father Brown but said the task force's report will take another year due to the complexities of the issues involved.
"It's becoming obvious that people are feeling a need for help in making decisions in these areas," Archbishop Scott said.
"Each case has to be evaluated in terms of the health of the mother and the possible health of the child, and not only on the question of the sanctity of life but also in the area of the quality of life."
Archbishop Scott emphasized that hospital boards deciding abortion cases should include persons representing moral issues as well as medical issues.
Besides abortion, the task force is studying the whole concept of when life begins and ends in relation to euthanasia, transplants, biological engineering and the vast implications of discoveries in biochemistry. Archbishop Scott said the study has become increasingly complex as it delves into the legal, medical, moral and social aspects of life. The task force is composed of lawyers, doctors, research scientists, housewives, social workers, theologians and others. It is also consulting with similarly concerned groups in the United States, Britain and other parts of the world.
A progress report will be presented to the General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada at its biennial meeting next May in Regina.
The Journal spoke with three chaplains and ministers who work closely with the dying and their families about the recent Supreme Court decision to strike down the ban on physician-assisted suicide. The Very Rev. Iain Luke, in the diocese of Athabasca, "expressed a theological concern that the statement suggests that 'dying and suffering around death, have no value', [but] he was also cautiously optimistic that the court's decision might actually provide a boost to palliative care". "For Luke, the church's most important role in response to assisted dying is to continue showing care and support for the dying and their families". The Rev. Keirstan Wells, co-ordinating diocesan health care chaplain for the diocese of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, "said she thinks the court ruling is a 'positive development' because if will give people that autonomy, should they desire it. But she also believes that the church must provide guidance for those who are thinking through such end-of-life decisions". The Rev. Joanne Davies, a chaplain with the diocese of Toronto, "does think that the ruling has a positive side, in addition to the challenges. 'It means that we're actually going to talk about death and dying and actually name it', she said. 'As I begin to look at, that's the best part .. that people will actually start to think about it, and that passage to death is one form of care'".
Having in mind the progress made, though slowly, during recent years in Governmental policy regarding the appointment of Chaplains to Penal Institutions and Mental Hospitals, and the Council's interest therein, General Synod requests the Council for Social Service to set up a Committee from members of this Synod and the Council, with power to co-opt specially interested persons to study the whole matter of chaplaincy services in such institutions and to impress governments with the necessity for such a programme. CARRIED in both Houses.
A task force in the diocese of New Westminster has recommended against a special chaplaincy for people with AIDS. Singling out diseases for special chaplaincies could create a ghetto for people who are afflicted. The report recommends special training for clergy and lay visitors to AIDS patients.
THAT General Synod instruct the Committee on Ministry to make provision in the agenda of each session of General Synod for a report on the work of chaplains ministering in penitentiaries and other prisons and correctional institutions and in psychiatric institutions.
That the General Synod, while recognizing that, among other reasons, many more secular institutions will probably arise in our Canadian social life, is of the opinion that greater attention should be given to the spiritual needs of inmates of all secular institutions than heretofore and expresses the hope that more of the clergy will find it possible to visit regularly such institutions and to seek opportunity to minister personally and corporately to all concerned;
In particular, the Synod expresses the hope that the authorities in all Provinces will provide for, and sustain, fully employed chaplains in provincial jails and mental hospitals; and that they will interest themselves in the training now being devised or given by the Church to special students and younger clergy as chaplains for such institutions; that this information and hope be communicated to the Departments of Governments concerned. ADOPTED in both Houses.
That this Synod expresses fullest sympathy with and endorsation of the proposal that full-time chaplains be appointed to the staffs of all major institutions of a penal or mental character in all the provinces of Canada,
And urges that such appointments be made only after consultation with the proper authorities of the respective Churches, and in the case of Anglican chaplains that all recommendations receive the approval of the Bishop concerned, and,
Further, the Synod calls to the attention of the Council for Social Service and to the authorities of the Theological Colleges of the Church the vital importance of offering specialized training in these fields in order that the Bishops may have a pool of men adequately prepared to undertake these services. CARRIED in both Houses.