A Catholic priest who was a prominent figure on the Canadian pro-life scene since even before abortion was legalized in this country has passed away at the age of 93.

Father John Mole, a Missionary Oblate of Mary Immaculate, died peacefully at the Oblate residence in Ottawa on Feb. 14. Born in England and ordained a priest in 1947, he soon developed an interest in media communications, especially in their written form, and went on to teach the subject first at Ottawa University, and then at St. Paul University. Along the way, he developed a friendship with famed media guru Marshall McLuhan and founded the School of Communications at St. Paul. Mole also spent many years as a military chaplain.

After 1970, he wrote extensively on catechesis and liturgy, and went on to found the Word of God Hour, which sought to impart further understanding of the Gospel readings in Catholic churches every Sunday.

According to Ottawa resident Mark Bell, who knew Mole for decades and studied under him at St. Paul University, the priest’s voice already came to the surface of the abortion issue in the late 1960s, when it emerged that efforts were underway to legalize the procedure on a widespread basis.

“He was the Catholic Hospital Association’s spokesman at the time and he put out a press release that generated a lot of interest,” said Bell. “He also went into the pulpit and gave public warnings on what was happening in the country. He initially took a very strong leadership role in drawing attention to the issue … That was unprecedented. You don’t normally find that kind of thing.”

During the late 1970s, Mole’s pro-life work became somewhat limited because of his concentration on other activities, such as military chaplaincy, but even then, his writings had a pro-life “flavour” about them.

Mole jumped back into the pro-life fray in a bigger way in the 1980s, when he was introduced to Human Life International founder, Father Paul Marx. Under the HLI umbrella, Mole began to give academic pro-life presentations throughout the world and issued a number of books and audio cassettes on the subject. By 1999, he was fittingly awarded HLI’s Pro-Lifer of the Year Award in Toronto, in recognition of contributions to the cause that dated back decades.

In the early 1990s, Mole’s spiritual meditations on the shed blood of Jesus Christ laid the foundations for the 2001 startup of the Precious Blood and Life Apostolate, whose main emphasis is on drawing a connection between the acceptance of contraception and the resulting onset of abortion. Mole remained a spiritual adviser and a member of the board of the apostolate.

One of his most influential publications was the 2000 book, Whither the Roman Rite?, which talked about the legitimacy of the old Latin Mass (which was generally replaced by vernacular languages after the Vatican II council) and how a place should be maintained for its legitimacy in current practice. The publication of that book garnered front-page coverage in no less a publication than the Ottawa Citizen.

On the social communications front, Bell credits Mole with furnishing a richer understanding of the subject. “He had very profound insights that he was able to mine from the historic record and insert into a contemporary context. He far surpassed the more secular models that were being presented to students.”

Bell hopes to keep alive and perpetuate Mole’s writings as he takes over as president of the Word of God Hour from the deceased priest. “This is a rich inheritance that I’ve been able to receive from him,” he said.

Bell added that Mole certainly “carried the cross for decades” as an apostle for life. “Pro-life was embedded in a lot of his teachings … He was humble in his ways of doing it. He wasn’t necessarily the brashest apologist for the unborn, but he certainly was an effective and scholarly voice.”