Becomes latest abortion supporter to address Catholic event

In recent years, it has become almost common-place for Catholic institutions to honour abortion advocates by inviting them to be guest speakers at their fundraisers and other events. The latest outrageous invitation scandalizing faithful Catholics and pro-lifers is the announcement that the pro-abortion leader of the Progressive Conservative party, Joe Clark, will be the keynote speaker at the Red Mass in Toronto later this month.

The event, hosted by the St. Thomas More Lawyer’s Guild, will be held Sept. 19. The Red Mass will be celebrated by Toronto’s Cardinal Aloysius Ambrozic at St. Michael’s Cathedral and will be followed by a dinner at which Clark will speak. The Red Mass is an annual gathering of lawyers, judges and politicians and has its roots in the 13th century. It signifies the fire of the Holy Spirit’s guidance for those who pursue justice in their daily lives.

Joe Clark, a former prime minister, outraged pro-lifers during the 2000 federal election when he flaunted Catholic teaching by proudly announcing that, “I am a Roman Catholic, I am pro-choice … Anyone who knows anything about the Roman Catholic Church knows that (abortion) has been an issue of division for quite sometime.” Clark went so far as to use social issues, including abortion and same-sex rights, as a wedge issue in a desperate attempt to take votes from the Canadian Alliance, his party’s main competition in the 2000 election. Also, in June, Clark served as the marshal for the “gay pride” parade in Calgary.

So why did a Catholic lawyers’ guild invite such a notorious, pro-abortion politician? St. Thomas More Lawyers’ Guild president Todd McCarthy told LifeSite News that Clark was selected “not because of his views on any particular issue, but because of his stature as a former prime minister.” Asked about the inappropriateness of the selection, McCarthy did not answer the question directly, saying instead that it followed in the tradition of the St. Thomas More Lawyers’ Guild of Toronto, which invited former Liberal prime minister John Turner to give the keynote address in 1992. Turner, like Clark, is a pro-abortion Catholic politician.

The decision to invite Clark was a shock, considering that the Tory leader – who at the time had yet to announce that he may step down as party leader – has been publicly rebuked by his own bishop, Fred Henry of Calgary. Last year, Bishop Henry openly criticized Clark on television, noting the inappropriateness of Clark calling himself a Catholic while being pro-abortion.

Unfortunately, the federal Tory leader has been totally unapologetic. Bishop Henry told LifeSite: “I don’t know why he has been chosen. He has been disappointment as a Catholic. He has taken positions contrary to the teaching of the church. I am surprised he would be invited to speak at the Red Mass dinner.”

Bishop Henry added that Clark should use the Red Mass as an opportunity to recant his stance against church teaching on abortion.

Interim columnist Fr. Ted Colleton said he was “astonished” at the announcement. He noted the stark difference between Clark’s comment that he is a “Roman Catholic and pro-choice,” to Thomas More’s last words as his head lay on the chopping block: “I die the king’s good servant, but God’s first.”

Although the keynote speech at the Red Mass has been delivered by notable pro-life and Catholic leaders such as Fr. Richard John Neuhaus, editor-in-chief of First Things, the event has also had other notorious speakers before, including Turner. As such, Fr. Alphonse de Valk, editor of Catholic Insight, told The Interim that it might be better to discontinue the practice of having the Red Mass, as Vancouver Archbishop Adam Exner did several years ago. He said that if organizers “cannot do any better,” than invite speakers such as Clark, “it is preferable not to have a Red Mass at all.”

Furthermore, “The Red Mass creates problems by the fact that non-practising Catholics show up feeling obliged to go to Holy Communion.”

While Clark is not expected to address the abortion issue, pro-lifers have long argued that it is inappropriate for Catholic institutions to honour pro-abortion politicians by inviting them as guest speakers. Jim Hughes, national president of Campaign Life Coalition, told The Interim that it scandalizes the faithful and confuses the general public, who wonder if church teaching on abortion can be compromised.

de Valk said inviting pro-abortion politicians “gives credibility to the person who has publicly disregarded the pro-life stand, without which the principle of the protection of human life cannot survive.”

Clark is just the latest pro-abortion politician honoured by such a speaking invitation. Last year, former prime minister John Turner, who as Pierre Trudeau’s justice minister introduced legislation that led to abortion on demand, was the guest speaker at Cardinal Ambrozic’s annual fundraising dinner.

A Catholic hospital in Hamilton hosted former U.S. president Bill Clinton, a notorious abortion promoter, two years ago. The Catholic Health Association of Canada has, in recent years, featured speakers such as David Suzuki, who supports radical population-control programmes, and Stephen Lewis, who in the 1960s became the first elected Ontario politician to call for the legalization of abortion.