Tony Gosgnach

The Interim

While other kinds of expression have been stifled by political correctness in Canada, Catholic-bashing still seems to thrive. However, the Catholic Civil Rights League is working to see that the anomaly is addressed.

The Toronto-based CCRL was founded inl985 with a desire to make the Catholic presence on the Canadian political scene more evident, as well as to deal with anti-defamation, says president Tom Langan.

“We see ourselves first of all as an educational endeavour involved in public policy analysis – talking to public policy makers and mobilizing scholarly and political philosophers,” he says. “We’re really about evangelizing and bringing the Good News in an intelligent, Catholic way out in the public sphere.”

Nonetheless, the League’s anti-defamation function remains important.
”It is vital that we have such a function because you do an injustice to society and to the Church when you allow lies about the Church or unacceptable attacks to go unanswered.”

Langan, a professor emeritus of Philosophy at the University of Toronto, points to a recent cartoon advertisement in the University of Ottawa’s student newspaper The Fulcrum as an example. The ad for “Liquid Pope conception fluid” was a graphic of Liquid Paper (a correcting fluid for wiping out typing mistakes) with the warning that the product contains “l00 per cent papal semen” and “you are applying every partner the Pope ever had.”

In Vancouver, the League pushed for the de-acquisition of an art exhibit at the Vancouver Art Gallery which depicted a bust of Pope John Paul II in a jar of the artist’s own urine.

“We wrote some letters,” says Langan. “The exhibit had no artistic merit and was just there to cause trouble.” He says the protest reached its summit when a demonstration in front of the gallery drew 800 people.

“We have been swamped with issues to deal with,” says Langan. Consequently, we’ve had little time to explain to Canadians why we need (the CCRL).”

He adds the League functions as a national organization, but informal chapters have been started in St. John’s, Ottawa, Calgary and Vancouver and others are forming in Winnipeg, Toronto, Montreal and Edmonton.

Langan is looking to expand the organization’s membership base from the current base of several hundred into the tens of thousands, so it can become a more powerful and credible voice in Canadian public life.

“All pro-life Catholics should get on board because we’re basically doing the same thing, though we’re doing it by slightly different means and in a more roundabout way.”

Aside from anti-defamation concerns, the League has been very active in the controversy over religious schools in Newfoundland. The province’s citizens voted by a narrow majority last September 5 to eliminate denominational rights in education. The League was also active in the Bill C-33 debate.

Langan says the League was formed as an outgrowth of the 26-year old U.S. Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, which now has 260,000 members and a large, full-time staff in New York. “They’re very present in the media,” he says. “They’re an extraordinarily effective organization.”

After a precarious first few years’ existence, the Canadian League established itself more solidly a year and a half ago with commitments from key people and support from a number of Canadian bishops.

The League has now moved into the electronic sphere with the establishment of an Internet public policy discussion group and a World Wide Web page.

Langan says despite numerous recent attacks against Catholicism, it isn’t his impression that such attacks have grown in number over years, or even over the centuries. “As society becomes more and more secularized, the underlying nihilism starts coming out. You get some pretty twisted people working in the symbol-manipulating parts of society ­—the universities, the press and so on.”

He sees it as the God-given job of the Church and lay people to lead others from sin and towards the salvation and love of Jesus Christ. ‘That makes some of the people who have decided what they do is not sin at all, but rather some form of liberation, extremely angry.”

He cites Catholics for being a little too silent when their Church and faith are attacked. “When the Church and faith are attacked. “When the Church is being maligned and misrepresented, it’s our job, especially the laity’s to counter it.”

Langan is halfway to completing Truth and Tradition, a five-volume magnum opus published by University of Missouri Press which examines the nature of reality and how we accept and appropriate truth.

For the future, Langan hopes the League will get into organizing local forums where serious issues are discussed in order to educate Catholics and, of course, he would like to see a great increase in membership.

For more information on the Catholic Civil Rights League, write to P.B. box 45138, 81 Lakeshore Rd. East, Mississauga, Ontario, L5G 4S7. Telephone (905) 566-9431. E-Mail

the CCRL’s WWW home page is at