Cardinal Aloysius Ambrozic R.I.P

On Aug. 26 Toronto Cardinal Aloysius Ambrozic passed away at the age of 81 after a lengthy illness. He was a priest for 56 years and bishop for 35, including serving as the ninth archbishop of Toronto from 1990 to 2006.

The pro-life movement lost an ally, albeit a complicated one. While some activists have complained to The Interim over the years for the lack of pro-life leadership, the record shows that he did speak out on life and family issues.

In 2000, he spoke out against Development and Peace supporting the March of Women, in which the Catholic bishop’s international development arm funded an event that promoted abortion and lesbianism. D&P claimed it was supporting the March’s opposition to poverty and discrimination but Cardinal Ambrozic stressed that any participation was illicit because of the morally objectionable components of the event. He instructed ShareLife to cut funding to D&P by $15,000 to protest its financial support of the March of Women. Furthermore, in the letter to Toronto archdiocese priests he stated the “association of D&P with this group is indeed unfortunate and we need to make a definite statement to disassociate our archdiocese with this movement through D&P.” Development and Peace and the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops repudiated the cardinal’s objections by reaffirming their support for the March of Women.

In 2002, he did not attend the Toronto Red Mass dinner hosted by the Toronto Catholic Lawyer’s Guild because it invited former prime minister Joe Clark, a pro-abortion Catholic, as its keynote speaker. However, he did celebrate the Red Mass during which he brought up abortion in the homily. Speaking of “the suffering of the babies who are being aborted,” he said, “somehow the people who are pro-abortion … think that somehow they don’t feel the horrible pain that accompanies every death. I don’t know one piece of living flesh that doesn’t feel the pain when life is being gouged out of it.”

During World Youth Day in Toronto in 2002, he received thunderous applause when he said about abortion and embryonic stem cell research: “The Church will forever be opposed to it. I don’t feel the Church has any choice in the matter.” He also said that, “you don’t have to produce babies and kill them in order to experiment,” and he lashed out at the media for its pro-abortion, pro-ESCR coverage.

Sometimes his support for pro-life was quiet, as when he financially supported and sent hand-written notes of appreciation for their pro-life message.

Campaign Life Coalition national president Jim Hughes said in a statement that Cardinal Ambrozic was “a pro-life supporter and in many instances took a strong stand against the anti-life mentality that permeates our society.”

Cardinal Ambrozic also spoke out on the issue of family and marriage. In 1999, he criticized a Supreme Court ruling granting spousal benefits to practicing homosexual couples warning presciently that it would “serve to undermine our traditional understanding of marriage and family, and the nature of spousal and conjugal relationships.” In 2003, he urged all parish priests in the archdiocese to “speak publicly and clearly” about same-sex “marriage.”

In 2005, he issued a public rebuke to prime minister Paul Martin for forcing a vote on same-sex “marriage” and called for legislation protecting traditional marriage. He warned that SSM would lead to an increase in gay activism as marriage would confer respectability to the homosexual lifestyle. He encouraged his parish priests to call upon parishioners to take political action on the issue and endorsed the large marriage rally on Parliament Hill.

In 1993, Cardinal Ambrozic wrote a letter on martyrdom entitled, “Never Cowed by the Threats of the Wicked.” In it he said: “Who might be closest to martyrdom in our own situation? Would it be those who struggle for the life of the unborn? They may at times be carried away in their zeal appearing to claim that ‘it is either their way or no way.’ If it were not for them, however, our Church would be as mealy-mouthingly ineffective on pro-life issues as is many another Christian community. Our pro-life people are not daunted by the haughty disdain of the media, nor are they afraid of being branded as zealots. We may be tempted to seize upon one or another tactic of theirs as an excuse for not speaking out more often, failing to consider the possibility that our silence is forcing them to be more vocal. We ought to ask ourselves whether our ‘reasonableness’ might be due to our fear of public opinion. Were it not for our sisters and brothers in the pro-life trenches, we, the ‘sensible ones,’ would become the object of attack – if our politically correct media should think us worth attacking.”