On the last weekend in May, Campaign Life hosted its second annual Life and Family Conference at St. Michael’s College School in Toronto. Over 750 people, mostly from Ontario, participated in the many workshops and lectures, and attended the two major attractions, the premier Toronto showing of Dr. Bernard Nathanson’s Eclipse of Reason and the gala dinner honouring Father Ted Colleton.
The weekend opened on the Friday night with a showing of Eclipse of Reason, introduced by Dr. Nathanson. The school auditorium was packed with over 600 people, a few of whom found either the heat of the graphic sequences of a second-trimester abortion too much to manage and left the hall.
In the question and answer period following the viewing, the audience seemed greatly reassured when Dr. Nathanson reiterated that the abortion sequence was only filmed after the mother had been carefully counseled about the after-effects of abortion and had been offered full support if she decided to carry the baby full term.
Saturday’s events consisted of lectures and workshops covering various facets of pro-life work, both educational and political, and introducing participants to new issues influencing the struggle to protect the unborn.
Three workshops discussed Natural Family Planning, both in philosophy and practice. Catherine Bolger spoke on “sex Education: should we or shouldn’t we?” Her workshop was followed by a presentation from Paul and Teresa Tomory who discussed some of the problems arising in the new Family Life programme scheduled for Ontario Catholic schools. Cornelia Ferreira presented her analysis of the child abuse programme in Ontario schools (this analysis is published in this issue of The Interim.)
Physicians for Life representative Dr. Dennis Xuereb, spoke on “New technology in genetics and obstetrics: where does it lead?” and a member of the Catholic Doctor’s Guild discussed the Vatican Document on Life and Procreation.
Pro-life activism was stressed at the conference. Joe Borowski and Father Ted Colleton discussed “Radicalism and civil disobedience.” Mary Lynn McPherson spoke on counseling, both before and after an abortion. Dan McCash and other Harbord Street regulars taught participants how to save babies through sidewalk counselling. And Patricia Armstrong, from the Canadian Youth Pro-life Organization focused on “Activating the youth.”
Political action, both within the present parties and from the perspective of the new pro-life provincial party, received much attention. Paul Dodds, legal counsel for Campaign Life, and Mary Ellen Douglas, president of Campaign Life Ontario, answered the question, “Who is pro-life?” in politics. Representatives from the Family Coalition Party led workshops on why a new provincial party had been formed and the day’s workshops culminated in an FCP rally, during which leader Don Pennell introduced some of the candidates preparing to run in the next provincial election.
Other workshops focused on teaching pro-life in the schools; pro-life in the schools; pro-life in the media; and the effects of the feminist movement in society and the churches. Laura McArthur of Toronto Right to Life presented her analysis of the Powell Report and the Liberal government’s response. Shirley Pennell from REAL Women of Canada discussed the implications of Canada’s ratifying the UN Convention on Women. Rev. Hudson Hilsden discussed the implications of the homosexual rights movement, and a founding member of Courage Toronto spoke o how this organization helps homosexual Catholics live faithfully within the Catholic Church.
The final activity of the conference was a gala dinner and roast honouring Father Ted Colleton. 350 guests enjoyed the light-hearted humour aimed at activist Father Ted and his rebuttal of the “roasters.” The “Roasters” were Joe Borowski of Alliance Against Abortion in Manitoba; Helen Burnie, one of the leaders of the picketers on Harbord Street in Toronto; Paul Dodds, legal counsel for Campaign Life; Angela Costigan, the lawyer who has defended Father Ted in court; Larry Henderson, former editor of The Catholic Register and now contributing editor to Challenge magazine. Father Gary McCarthy of the Spiritan order; Sabine McLuhan editor of The Interim; and Father Sean O’Sullivan, publisher of the Catholic Register. A special guest was “Ronald Reagan,” who honoured Father Ted for his contribution to the U.S. chain and lock industry. The master of ceremonies for the event was Jim Hughes, president of Campaign Life.