Justin Trudeau’s campaign stop at St. Charles College, a Catholic high school in Sudbury, was criticized by pro-lifers, defended by the local bishop, cancelled, and then held anyway.

Trudeau, who supports abortion, same-sex “marriage,” and has criticized the hierarchy of the Catholic Church as “old men,” was scheduled for a campaign-style visit at St. Charles Dec. 21, just before the Christmas break. Local and national pro-life activists condemned the visit as a “grave scandal” during which Trudeau could recruit Catholic youth to his Liberal leadership candidacy.

LifeSiteNews.com reported that Gina Tullio, communication officer for the Sudbury Catholic District School Board, said Trudeau’s “people” approach them about hosting the event and said the speech would focus on “youth leadership.” Trudeau’s campaign is predicated on bringing in new, younger voters to the Liberal Party.

Suresh Dominic, president of Campaign Life Catholics, a division of Campaign Life Coalition, said in a press release that, “Trudeau’s virulent opposition to key Catholic moral teachings on abortion and homosexual ‘marriage,’ while deceptively calling himself a faithful Catholic, makes it grossly inappropriate for the school to give him a platform.” He added: “The Board may be inviting spiritual harm to children who, seeing Justin’s anti-Christian witness, may come to believe that it is acceptable for a Catholic to support the grave sins of abortion and homosexual ‘marriage’.”

Nora Ryan, leader of Campaign Life Sudbury, said, “it’s disappointing to think that he would be invited because we all know that as far as the Roman Catholic Church is concerned, it is definitely against abortion, and we know that he is not.” Ryan and other pro-life activists planned to protest the school board.

Sault Ste. Marie Bishop Jean-Louis Plouffe defended Trudeau speaking to a Catholic high school in his diocese, saying the event will be an “inspiration” to the students. “Mr. Trudeau is a practicing Catholic, married in the Church with two children. He is not estranged from the Church in any way,” Plouffe said in a statement to the school board. “In many ways he can be a source of inspiration to the youth.”

Teresa Pierre, president of Parents as First Educators, said in a press release that the bishop’s stance was at odds with Pope Benedict XVI’s insistence that pro-abortion politicians should not be given a platform at Catholic institutions. She wondered: “How can we tell our children that they must obey the church’s teachings on marriage and the family when the church itself lionizes and brings into its schools people such as Justin Trudeau who publicly criticize those teachings?”

After Bishop Plouffe’s statement was issued, Catherine McCullough, the board’s director of education, defended Trudeau’s impending talk in an interview with the online Sudbury Northern Life. “Lots of students have been very inspired by him,” she said. “He’s very charismatic. He speaks about the power of youth.”

The board did not budge from its position despite two protests against it, but on the morning of the event they cancelled school buses but left the school open due to reports of snow in the northern Ontario city. It was announced that Trudeau, who was touring in Sudbury and Sturgeon Falls, would not make the St. Charles College event. That appeared to be a ruse as he showed anyway and addressed about 100 students and staff according to the St. Charles College website, which said Trudeau talked about “youth empowerment.” One student, Krista Wilcox, said he inspired her to “really think about changing the way I live.”

Originally the school anticipated Trudeau addressing 1000 students. Campaign Life Catholic’s Dominic said, “we continue to disapprove of the board’s decision to allow Justin to speak at the school, but we are thankful for the weather that limited Justin’s exposure to only 100 people.”