Canadians concerned with preserving human life and the traditional family have a steep road ahead of them – one that will require an enormous effort to traverse. Nonetheless, in a united fashion, they must rededicate themselves to the cause and create a culture of life.

That was the message brought by a longtime pro-life activist and the editor of Canada’s leading Catholic magazine to the Spring Dinner of the Catholic Civil Rights League in Toronto on June 6.

Father Alphonse de Valk is a co-founder of the CCRL, as well as the founder of Catholic Insight magazine, which he has edited since its inception. After coming to Canada from Holland in 1951 at the age of 19, he worked at various jobs, including on a farm, in a textile factory, in a leather tannery and in accounting. Joining the Order of St. Basil, he was ordained a priest in 1965 and went on to teach at Saskatoon’s St. Thomas More College as well as serve as principal of St. Joseph’s University College in Edmonton.

While in Saskatoon, he became the first Canadian to publish an English magazine of Catholic culture and opinion – The Chelsea Journal. In 1974, he authored the book Morality and Law in Canadian Politics: The Abortion Controversy. He has written numerous booklets, leaflets, essays and articles.

Moving to Ontario in 1984, he began working full-time in the pro-life field, mostly as a writer and editor, and founded Catholic Insight 15 years ago. He continues going strong at the age of 75.

At the dinner, he recounted the history of Canada’s descent into an anti-life, anti-family culture, noting that it began in earnest in 1969 with the passage of the Trudeau government’s Omnibus bill, which legalized abortion and homosexuality.

“The ink wasn’t dry when homosexuals in Toronto opened bathhouses – public bathhouses,” Fr. De Valk recalled. “The law was broken right away.”

It would be another 10 years, however, before the chair of the Canadian Human Rights Commission would take things a step further and recommend that “sexual orientation” be included in the Canadian Human Rights Act. Then, although the composers of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms declined to include sexual orientation when that document was adopted in 1982, subsequent activist court decisions – especially in the 1995 Egan v. Canada case – led the term to be “read into” the Charter.

Fr. De Valk said court and human rights tribunal activism set in motion a flurry of developments, including forcing mayors to accept “gay pride” events in their cities, persecution of a Christian teachers’ college, the court-ordered adoption of human rights protections for sexual orientation by provinces, the imposition of gay-friendly texts in school classrooms, the persecutions of a Christian printer, bed-and-breakfast owners, a man who quoted Bible verses on homosexuality in a newspaper ad and more.

Homosexual agitation moved to a new level with the release of a report prompted by the Law Commission of Canada that declared marriage to be obsolete and that called for all relationships to be treated equally. The Marc Hall fiasco threatened the capacity of Catholic school boards to control moral behaviour in their schools and the 2002 Halpern v. Canada case saw Ontario Superior Court judges rule that denying homosexuals the right to “marry” violated their Charter rights.

Similar developments have been taking place internationally, said Fr. de Valk. Brazil is now working through a law that proposes to make “homophobia” illegal and will have the effect of criminalizing priests. A controversy over giving homosexuals the right to civil unions in Italy has led to the head of that country’s Catholic bishops receiving bullets in the mail on two occasions. Posters have sprung up in public places depicting Pope Benedict shaking hands with Hitler.

In Britain, a new Equality Act means Catholic adoption agencies must place children with homosexual couples, gay-friendly curricula are taught from Kindergarten and Catholic schools cannot teach doctrinal beliefs as absolute truths.

Fr. de Valk said the word “homophobia” was first used in 1969 and has come to be used as a weapon to stigmatize religious communities and destroy the credibility of religious thought. The agenda is a new war on religion, as all Catholic teaching is now regarded as homophobic. Homosexual fundamentalists have no respect for those with whom they disagree: “In brief, they are now intolerant,” he said.

There is little by which to be encouraged on the Canadian institutional church front, said Fr. de Valk. Dissent runs rampant – Pope John Paul II’s encyclical The Splendour of Truth, for example, was met with protests by no fewer than 60 Quebec theologians. The situation was worse when the same Pope put an end to debates over women’s ordination in 1994. Those same theologians, numerous chancery office personnel and the Canadian Religious Conference publicly denounced the Pope’s move.

At the top, Canadian Catholic bishops have excessively emphasized social justice issues to the detriment of life and family concerns in recent decades, said Fr. de Valk.
What is to come? Moves are already being made to enshrine rights and protections for other sexual orientations, including trans-sexual, trans-gendered and “two-spirited.” Ontario Human Rights Commission head Barbara Hall has already spoken in support of that, while MP Bill Siksay has put forth a private member’s bill on the issue.

Catholic writer Vittorio Messori has observed that internationally, top non-governmental organizations, corporations and lobby groups are “entrenched” in anti-Catholicism. Especially guilty of this are the World Health Organization, homosexual activists, pharmaceutical corporations and environmental organizations.

In closing, while reminding his listeners of the steep road ahead, Fr. de Valk referred to Pope John Paul II’s encyclical, the Gospel of Life, which exhorted Catholics and others to be in the service of life and preach life principles to all humanity and to the ends of the earth. “With humility and gratitude, we know we are the people of life, for life,” said Fr. de Valk. “That is how we present ourselves to everyone.”

He quoted Pope Benedict XVI, who has said that the church’s principal action in its relations with the world is to “reawaken the spiritual energy, without which justice cannot prevail and prosper.” Finally, he cited Canadian columnist David Warren, who has said that what is needed in Canada is a “far more vocal and tactless constituency” to Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s right.

“We have to start shouting,” said Fr. de Valk. “We have to make the forced acceptance of homosexuality an election issue. We have to yell and shout. Therefore, we have to be united … We have to act in solidarity with whoever is being attacked.”

Also at the dinner, two Archbishop Adam Exner Awards for Catholic Excellence in Public Life were presented by the CCRL. One was given to Fraser Field, founder and managing editor of the B.C.-based Catholic Education Resource Centre, and one to Jim Hughes, national president of Campaign Life Coalition. The award was created in 2004 to mark the retirement of Archbishop Exner, the archbishop emeritus of Vancouver and the league’s chaplain. The award honours outstanding achievements in the service of the faith by Catholic laity.