The top Catholic official in Quebec has angered politicians and women's rights advocates alike after speaking at an anti-abortion rally over the weekend, and repeating the church's stance against abortion in all cases.

Speaking at the Campagne Pro-Vie conference in Quebec City on Saturday, Cardinal Marc Ouellet suggested that abortion is never acceptable, including in cases where a woman has been raped.

Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Josee Verner described the comments by Ouellet -- a Catholic cardinal once touted as a possible candidate for the papacy -- as "unacceptable."

Over the weekend, Ouellet applauded the Harper government for its stance against funding abortions in the developing world. But Verner moved Monday to distance her government from the remarks.

"The government did not put forward the agenda for maternal and child health (at the G8) to go get congratulations from the cardinal," Verner said in an interview with The Canadian Press.

"I don't want to be disrespectful towards him, but this wasn't our objective."

Justice Minister Kathleen Weil said there is no debate on the matter.

"This issue is settled. It's been settled in Quebec for a number of years. Women have access to abortion. There's no legislative measures that restrict a woman's right to abortion," she said.

A spokesman for the Archdiocese of Quebec City says Ouellet was simply stating Church doctrine when a reporter asked him about rape and abortion.

On the weekend, Ouellet was speaking to an audience of about 200 people when he applauded the Harper government's G8 move and added, with respect to rape: "Why should we push a woman who has been the victim of a crime to commit one of her own?"

In an exchange with reporters later he said:

"I understand very well that a woman who's been raped is dealing with trauma and that she needs to be helped. But she needs to do so with respect for the being that is in her womb. It is not responsible for what happened. It's the rapist who is responsible. But there's already a victim. Do we we need to have another one?"

He said taking a human life "is always a moral crime" and, he added, a fetus is a human life.

Between 2002 and 2006, approximately 30,000 abortions were performed in Quebec.

With files from The Canadian Press