Fr. de Valk honoured at dinner
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This past Summer, Fr. Alphonse de Valk, an 80-year-old Basilian priest active in the pro-life movement since the early 1970s, retired as editor of Catholic Insight. On Oct. 18, 300 supporters attended the testimonial dinner co-sponsored by Campaign Life Coalition, Catholic Insight, LifeSiteNews, and The Interim, at Toronto’s Spirales restaurant to honour Fr. de Valk’s heroic championing of the pro-life cause and faithful upholding of the teachings of the Catholic Church.
CLC national president Jim Hughes served as the master of ceremonies for the evening which featured dinner, musical entertainment, several speakers, and an open microphone for members of the audience to say a few words.
Speakers included LifeSiteNews co-founder Steve Jalsevac, Interim editor Paul Tuns, Family Coalition Party leader Phil Lees, newly appointed Catholic Insight editor David Beresford, Catholic Insight board member Janice Glover, and Catholic Civil Rights League executive director Joanne McGarry.
Among those speaking from the floor, included pro-life lawyer Angela Costigan, LifeSiteNews editor John-Henry Westen, Our Lady Seat of Wisdom Academy’s Keith Cassidy, long-time Peterborough pro-life activist Paul Morgan, and CLC’s Bill Mullally.
Jalsevac noted that Fr. de Valk was often ahead of his time, noting that more than a decade before same-sex “marriage” entered the political vocabulary, Fr. de Valk’s warnings of the dangers to life, family, and religious freedom posed by the growing gay movement and their agenda of special rights for their lifestyle.
Lees told the story of the FCP founding, in which Fr. de Valk played a key part, and how the broad support within the pro-life movement the party had hoped for never materialized. He said that the FCP was distributing 10,000 pamphlets in NDP MPP Cheri de Novo’s High Park riding on the issue of the provincial bathroom bill that passed in the Spring. Lees said it would be great to have Fr. de Valk in the office the day after the literature drop “to answer phone calls” from the media or angry constituents.
Lees also noted that FCP founding leader Don Pennell sent his regrets because of a family issue in Michigan that had to be dealt with.
Beresford said he only knew Fr. de Valk through Catholic Insight, a magazine subscription he maintained even when he cancelled others. He noted the transition of editorial responsibilities over the Summer provided a personal glimpse into the humility of his predecessor which will provide an example of how to edit the magazine going forward.
Tuns noted that Fr. de Valk was the longest serving editor of The Interim through its first 20 years and provided personal stories of how his long-tenured predecessor continued to influence the paper. Tuns said Fr. de Valk insisted that court judgement and government policies be attributed to their authors and not mere institutions, giving as an example that a same-sex “marriage” case more than a decade ago was written not by a “court” but by specific justices. Tuns said that Fr. de Valk, trained as a historian, insisted on attributions and making those in positions of authority own their decisions. Tuns said such style makes journalism, the first draft of history, much stronger.
The evening concluded with a classic Fr. de Valk speech in which he thanked the Lord for calling him to the priesthood and his order, the Basilians, for their support for nearly 40 years in his pro-life work. He then provided a brief tour de force of the pro-life and pro-family cause in Canada from Pierre Trudeau’s Omnibus Bill and the Canadian bishop’s dissent on Humanae Vitae to the creation of same-sex “marriage.” Fr. de Valk said the evolution of sin into virtue over the past half century has led to “absolute absurdity.”
Fr. de Valk noted that upon returning to Canada in 1969 from Germany where he researched his thesis on post-war Catholicism – a topic so broad the priest wondered why his advisor thought he could ever tackle the topic – he dropped his doctoral studies to fight against legalized abortion and to provide a voice for the unborn. He described his involvement in the Saskatoon pro-life community as a chaplain for the student pro-life group and the local right-to-life group. He praised the grassroots movement for its steadfast upholding of the sanctity of human life, even when the political and ecclesiastical leadership was lacking.
A number of dignitaries could not make it, some because the Red Mass – an annual Catholic event for the legal community — held the same evening. Others were traveling or too ill to attend. Those sending their regrets included Catholic Civil Rights League president Phil Horgan, retired professor and former Catholic Insight associate editor David Dooley, Dr. John Shea, Fr. Tony van Hee, Fr. Norman Fitzpatrick, and Fr. Daniel Callam.
Among the dignitaries in attendance were hockey legend Leonard “Red” Kelly, Silhouettes in the Snow author Grace Petrasek, Elizabeth Ring-Cassidy of the de Veber Institute, Fr. Louis Di Rocco, and REAL Women founder Gwen Landolt.