The Companions of the Holy Family, an organization of lay Roman Catholics, mounted a successful conference April 7, on the family at Toronto’s St. Anselm’s Church. It was highlighted by the presence of Edouard Cardinal Gagnon, a Canadian stationed in the Vatican, who is President of the Pontifical Council for the family.

The Cardinal was kept busy during his stay in Toronto. He delivered an address at a dinner on Friday night, gave a sermon at a Mass on Saturday morning, followed a whole day’s program of talks after that, and finally answered questions relating to the issues which had been raised.

A number of the talks dealt directly or indirectly with abortion, including Father Colleton’s characteristically humorous but incisive denunciations of it, Louise Summerhill’s discussion of Birthright and problem pregnancies, and Richard Bastien’s thoughtful demonstration that the “religion” of secular humanism professed by many pro-abortionists is not the tolerant and un-dogmatic point of view which is pretends to be.

As well, Father Tom Lynch spoke on having faith in young people; Catherine Bolger on bonding between mother and child; Don and Posie McPhee, operators of Nazareth Centre for families, on natural family planning and living out the principles of Humanae Vitae; a group of parents connected with Hawthorn School for Girls on how and why their school came into existence; and Giuliano Silano on a papal statement on the family, Familaris Consortio.

Cardinal Gagnon’s main message was clear and simple: stand up for the truth, even if, in our day, doing so often requires courage and heroism. He made a special point of emphasizing the dignity and responsibility of women. Many of the major hospitals in Canada were founded by women, he noted, and in French-Canadian families like his own, the mother was the primary educator and in many ways the dominant influence.

Parents are the first and in many ways the best teachers of their own children, and when they surrender their own responsibility completely to the school the results may be tragic, he declared.