Well known pro-life activist Bishop Austin Vaughan, Auxiliary Bishop of New York, used his November 7 and 8 visit to Toronto to emphasize the critical value of public witness and proclaim the worth of every human life.

At the start of his visit, sponsored by Campaign Life Coalition, the bishop, who had addressed 400 participants in the Ontario CYPLO conference a week earlier, joined pro-life picketers outside the Scott abortuary.

Following the celebration of Mass at St. Michael’s Cathedral, where he exhorted people to turn to prayer, Bishop Vaughan was welcomed by Bishop Pearse Lacey to a clergy luncheon held at Blessed Sacrament church in Toronto, before visiting long-time activist Leo Beecher, who is in hospital recovering from a stroke.

An audience of over 200 heard the bishop’s keynote address, in which he described himself as “not by nature an activist.”  He said that while he once had problems with Operation Rescue activists like Joan Andrews, he was forced to confront himself with the question “Why am I not doing what she is doing?”

What finally forced him into Operation Rescue was the stark realization, during a 1988 primary election, that not one candidate even mentioned abortion.  He decided then that abortion could no longer, be a non-issue.

Since then the 63-year-old past president of the Catholic Theological  Society of America has participated in fifteen rescues and has served four jail terms, ranging from one to ten days.

Regarding attitudes, he suggested that most people of his age have settled into a pattern, not approving abortion while feeling that it was inevitable.  Urging his audience to action, he said, “Please don’t make what, by hindsight, was the mistake I made for 15 years – which others made – feeling that the whole thing was being taken care of by those in charge.  As a result we did nothing effective for 15 years.  The situation would not be so bad if we had not allowed it to be so bad.”

Stressing compassion and forgiveness, he urged listeners to reach out to women contemplating abortion and to those suffering after abortion.

In his closing comment he reminded those present of the last judgment, suggesting that one question from God may well be, “When I was an unborn baby did you let them murder me?” He concluded, “I don’t want to face that kind of question.”