Despite disruption, controversial pro-life group concludes successful convention
About 1,500 delegates from around the world attended Human Life International’s 14th annual world conference on life, love and family at the Hotel Radisson in Montreal between April 19-23.
The delegates heard from a number of prominent speakers, including Randall Terry, James Sedlak, Jim Hughes and Dr. Donald DeMarco.
Although the conference was met by two organized protests, the scene around the conference hotel was quiet otherwise. On opening night, a candlelight procession through the streets of Old Montreal after a Mass at Notre Dame Basilica was marred by a protest from a crowd variously estimated at 1,000 to 3,000. Demonstrators, many of whom were bused in from outside the city by organizers at the Universite de Quebec à Montreal, threw smoke bombs, firecrackers, glass-filled condoms, bottles, eggs and other objects at HLI delegates and about 200 helmeted and visored riot police.
While HLI delegates escaped harm, a Montreal police van was destroyed during the evening and an officer suffered minor injuries. Five protestors were arrested in connection with the demolition of the van.
On the third day of the conference, about 400 gay-rights activists picketed, marched and chanted in front of the conference hotel to coincide with the arrival of Operation Rescue and Christian Defence Coalition founder Randall Terry, but they dispersed quietly after several hours.
There had been some question prior to the conference whether Cardinal Turcotte of Montreal would allow Notre Dame Basilica to be used for the conference’s opening Mass, but in the end the Cardinal gave his approval. And Rev. Jean-Guy Hamelin, president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, sent HLI delegates a letter in which he welcomed them to Canada. “May the Holy Spirit guide your work to even greater fruitfulness,” he wrote.
There was also some question about whether Randall Terry would be allowed into Canada to deliver the keynote address at the conference’s banquet. He had just been released a few weeks earlier from five months’ house arrest on a conviction of conspiring to show a dead fetus to then U.S. presidential candidate Bill Clinton in 1992.
At the last minute, however, Canadian authorities granted Terry a seven-day entry permit. At a news conference on his arrival, Terry accused news media of co-operating with a pro-abortion, pro-homosexuality propaganda campaign.
“If abortion continues in Canada, it’s because your anchors and your editors don’t have the integrity and the courage to show the Canadian people the truth…Show a three-month abortion. You will find the vast majority of people not only repulsed by abortion, but clamouring for it to be made illegal.”
At the banquet, Terry told HLI delegates who gave him a standing ovation that he is currently expanding the scope of his nationally-syndicated radio program, Randall Terry Live, to attract a larger audience and is forming a leadership school designed for those who feel they have a calling to Christian leadership. He also revealed he is considering a run at a U.S. Congressional seat in the next few years.
Terry’s address otherwise focused on the importance of following God’s law. “We must bring our nations back under God’s law. If we don’t do that, we will perish.” He also advised delegates to “stop trying to placate those who are bent on your destruction.”
Media coverage in the days leading up to the conference had stirred controversy over statements HLI founder Father Paul Marx made in a book he wrote several years ago which noted that Jews have played a prominent role in the abortion movement. Although 44 Jewish people, including former abortionist Bernard Nathanson stepped forward to support the validity of Father Marx’s statements, B’nai Brith was prompted into its views by an article in the Planned Parenthood of America publication Front Lines Research.
HLI president Father Matthew Habiger said his organization will not change its approach despite various attacks against it. “Regardless of the reasons for the assaults, or the degree of their intent to retreat on any front.”
Malachi Martin was scheduled to speak at the conference’s luncheon, but in the end was unable to attend and was replaced by Father Ted Colleton. In response to the anti-Semitism charges, however, Martin said in a telephone message which was piped over loudspeakers at the luncheon that Christians and Jews must join in a unified effort in support of life and the family. “We face a common enemy,” he said. “We need each other…We must be sons of light…We must remember the love of our Father.”
At the conference’s work-shops, delegates heard about various fronts along which moral battles are currently being fought.
At a session which examined the abortion situation in Canada, Father Alphonse de Valk, editor of Catholic Insight magazine, and Campaign Life Coalition president Jim Hughes were optimistic about the current pro-life position.
“There are many more positive things going on than negative,” said Hughes. “We’re not going to go away. We’ll be here for the ultimate victory.”
He pointed to the fact that far fewer doctors want to be trained in abortion these days, thanks mainly to the advent of ultrasound technology which allows medical personnel to see the humanity of the unborn.
James Sedlak, the New York-based founder and president of Stop Planned Parenthood International (STOPP), cautioned that after decades of expanding influence, Planned Parenthood isn’t operating with short-term plans, but is looking ahead to the next 50 years in an attempt to change society further. “We have to look at our mission as changing society back.”
Sedlak said this is a difficult task in light of the $462 million a year in funding U.S. Planned Parenthood currently receives from various sources. He added the organization operates 112 clinics in the U.S. which perform 132,000 abortions per year and refer more than 80,000 women for abortions elsewhere.
Sedlak noted PP’s greatest source of income is the sale of birth control pills (BCPs) and devices. Because it is recognized in the U.S. as a non-profit entity, Planned Parenthood is able to get BCPs at vastly reduced rates and sell them at higher prices – mainly to youths and children.
“And don’t think Planned Parenthood is at the end of what it wants,” warned Sedlak. He outlined a future of free sex, licensing of births, immunization against pregnancy for children and world population control if the organization is not opposed.
“Now is a great time to start fighting it…In Canada, funding is not coming in like it used to.”
Media specialist Ted Baehr of Georgia, meanwhile, told delegates that the media are now the leading teachers of children, who watch between 18,000 and 40,000 hours of television in their first 17 years of life. This includes the viewing of 200,000 violent acts and 33,000 murders.
“Parents are leaving TV on as a babysitter,” he said. “It’s incredible the situation we’re facing. The kids have been corrupted.”
Baehr went on to address anti-Christian sentiments as expressed in the current movie Priest, but he said another movie due to be releases this coming Christmas contains the worst anti-Christian script he’s ever seen.
Crusade, starring Arnold Swartzenegger, will depict Christians as killers and cannibals, while depicting homosexual acts in abbeys and a Pope who incites murderous crusades. While the media are busy slandering the Christian faith, Dr. Donald DeMarco, a professor of philosophy at St. Jerome’s College in Ontario, outlined how various other forces are currently at work to stifle any discourse not deemed to be “politically correct.”
“Political correctness is a retreat masquerading as an advance,” he said. “There has been noticeable decline in academic freedom.”
De Marco said teachers are now afraid to say virtually anything in the classroom. “There is a terrible fear that if you rock the boat, you’re out,” he said.