John Westen

Cardinal Ambrozic 1930-2011: a LifeSiteNews donor, and a complex relationship

John Westen
John Westen
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TORONTO, August 26, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) - It may come as a shock to many that the late Cardinal Aloysius Ambrozic who reigned as Archbishop of Toronto from 1990 till his retirement in 2006 was a staunch supporter of the pro-life cause and a donor to LifeSiteNews.  However, that fact is a good example of the complex relationship which he had with the pro-life movement.  A relationship best characterized in his own words which appear at the conclusion of this reflection.

One of the most difficult stances Cardinal Ambrozic made in support of life was to stand up publicly against Development and Peace and many of his brother bishops represented by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops over the March of Women in 2000.

Very much like the 2008 Development & Peace (D&P) scandal, LifeSiteNews had in 2000 discovered that D&P was funding a pro-abortion and pro-lesbian feminist cause known as the March of Women.  While the March was also in support of legitimate women’s rights such as relief of poverty, oppression, and discrimination against women, the organizers were decidedly pro-abortion and pro-lesbian, and included those motifs powerfully in the March of Women agenda. 

While the US bishops totally boycotted the March for those reasons, LSN was shocked to find D&P and the CCCB backing the March. However, Cardinal Ambrozic led the way for a handful of bishops to publicly object to the participation and funding of the pro-abortion March.

The Cardinal instructed ShareLife to cut funding to D&P by $15,000 in protest to the Catholic agency’s support for the March.  In a letter to all priests in the Toronto archdiocese, Cardinal Ambrozic wrote, “many of our clergy and laity have queried the involvement of Development and Peace.” The letter continued, “the association of D&P with this group is indeed unfortunate and we need to make a definite statement to disassociate our archdiocese with this movement through D&P.” 

It sure wasn’t easy though for Cardinal Ambrozic to bear the criticism he received over his leadership in this regard, especially from his brother bishops.  To indicate how severe the division was it is instructive to recall that despite his public protest, D&P and the CCCB released a public letter of reaffirmation of their support for the March of Women.

Beyond that, six Canadian bishops concelebrated a Mass for the March of Women - all at a time when only one Canadian bishop (a retired one) was celebrating the Mass for the annual March for Life in the national capital. 

Cardinal Ambrozic’s personal positions were not always shared by those within his chancery.  At times communication with the Cardinal was difficult.  He often felt pushed by pro-life Catholics to undertake difficult choices and at times tempers flared.

Back in 2002 LSN blew the whistle on the annual Toronto Red Mass dinner hosted by the Toronto Catholic Lawyer’s Guild. The annual dinner which is followed by the Red Mass - usually celebrated by the Archbishop of Toronto - was having a keynote address by former Prime Minister and Progressive Conservative Party Leader Joe Clark - a Catholic who supported both abortion and same-sex unions. 

As the date for the dinner approached various Catholic lawyers and politicians told LSN they were boycotting the dinner due to the scandalous selection of the keynote speaker.  However, organizers of the dinner were still assuring LSN that the Cardinal was to attend, and celebrate the annual Mass.  The communications office at the Archdiocese refused to answer when we queried several times to confirm.

Then, just a couple of days prior to the event, LSN received a call from Suzanne Scorsone who was at the time the communications director at the Archdiocese.  The information conveyed was that the Cardinal would not be attending the Red Mass dinner.  “He had another commitment,” LSN was told. 

The Cardinal did however say the Red Mass.  With former Prime Minister Clark sitting there front and centre, Archbishop Ambrozic unleashed a homily that likely still remains with many to this day.

Speaking of “the suffering of the babies who are being aborted,” the Cardinal said, “Somehow the people who are pro-abortion ... think that somehow they don’t feel the horrible pain that accompanies every death. I don’t know one piece of living flesh that doesn’t feel the pain when life is being gouged out of it.”

On the family front in the culture war, Cardinal Ambrozic also undertook challenging actions.  His interventions often came at the behest of pro-life activists who sometimes pressed uncomfortable nerves.

  • As early as 1999 he spoke out against a Supreme Court ruling granting spousal benefits to practicing homosexual couples warning presciently that it would “serve to undermine our traditional understanding of marriage and family, and the nature of spousal and conjugal relationships.”
  • By 2003 as the same-sex ‘marriage’ battle was in full swing he sent a letter to all Toronto parishes urging priests, “It is imperative that we speak publicly and clearly about what is referred to as the ‘same-sex marriage’.” 
  • In 2005, he wrote the Prime Minister asking for legislation to protect traditional marriage and warning that public schools would be forced to teach children that homosexual ‘marriage’ was equivalent to traditional marriage.
  • He had priests read out a message at all Masses encouraging the Catholics to take political action on the issue.
  • He backed the now famous marriage rally in Ottawa which saw 15,000 Canadians make a last ditch effort to protect marriage.

More troubling though than merely having to take part in the culture war in the public square was having to clean up the mess in-house.

Weeks after LSN revealed that a Toronto priest had filed an affidavit in support of same-sex ‘marriage’, Cardinal Ambrozic suspended Fr. Tim Ryan’s priestly faculties.

Another Toronto priest, Fr. Karl Clemens, announced on television he was ‘gay’ and thereafter attempted to run for Catholic school trustee.  Cardinal Ambrozic put out a release to Catholic voters noting that in addition to the fact that Fr. Clemens, was not permitted to say Mass in public, had no permission to run for elected office.

Cardinal Ambrozic again found himself bearing the rage of homosexual activists for refusing to confer a degree on a nun whose doctoral thesis celebrated lesbianism.

Another powerful example of the cardinal’s leadership on the life and family issues took place at World Youth Day in 2002. Cardinal Ambrozic received thunderous applause as he responded to a question on abortion in a Catechesis session. Asked about abortion and embryonic stem cell research the Cardinal said, “the Church will forever be opposed to it. I don’t feel the Church has any choice in the matter” - a response which elicited heartfelt approval from his the several hundred youth in attendance.

Responding bluntly on the issue of embryo research he said: “You don’t have to produce babies and kill them in order to experiment.” Buoyed by the supportive youth, the Cardinal made some of his most outspoken remarks calling the media “pro-abortion” for their slanted coverage of life issues.

While he may have appeared rough around the edges to many a pro-life leader, at heart Cardinal Ambrozic held them in very high esteem.  His own words, penned in 1993 give the strongest evidence of that, acknowledging too the challenges that pro-life activists were for him at times.  His contributions to LifeSite came in the form of $500 cheques accompanied by little encouraging notes, all in his own hand. 

The following is the last paragraph of the April, 1993 statement penned by Cardinal Ambrozic, titled, “Never Cowed by the Threats of the Wicked”,

Who might be closest to martyrdom in our own situation? Would it be those who struggle for the life of the unborn? They may at times be carried away in their zeal appearing to claim that “it is either their way or no way”. If it were not for them, however, our Church would be as mealy-mouthingly ineffective on pro-life issues as is many another Christian community. Our pro-life people are not daunted by the haughty disdain of the media, nor are they afraid of being branded as zealots. We may be tempted to seize upon one or another tactic of theirs as an excuse for not speaking out more often, failing to consider the possibility that our silence is forcing them to be more vocal. We ought to ask ourselves whether our “reasonableness” might be due to our fear of public opinion. Were it not for our sisters and brothers in the pro-life trenches, we, the “sensible ones”, would become the object of attack-if our politically correct media should think us worth attacking.

May God bless you Cardinal Ambrozic. We pray you rest in peace.


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Quebec groups launch court challenge to euthanasia bill

LifeSiteNews staff
By LifeSiteNews staff

As announced when the Quebec legislature adopted Bill 52, An Act respecting end-of-life care, the citizen movement Living with Dignity and the Physicians’ Alliance against Euthanasia, representing together over 650 physicians and 17,000 citizens, filed a lawsuit before the Superior Court of Quebec in the District of Montreal on Thursday.

The lawsuit requests that the Court declare invalid all the provisions of the Act that deal with “medical aid in dying”, a term the groups say is a euphemism for euthanasia. This Act not only allows certain patients to demand that a physician provoke their death, but also grants physicians the right to cause the death of these patients by the administration of a lethal substance.

The two organizations are challenging the constitutionality of those provisions in the Act which are aimed at decriminalizing euthanasia under the euphemism “medical aid in dying”. Euthanasia constitutes a culpable homicide under Canada’s Criminal Code, and the organizations maintain that it is at the core of the exclusive federal legislative power in relation to criminal law and Quebec therefore does not have the power to adopt these provisions.

The organizations also say the impugned provisions unjustifiably infringe the rights to life and to security of patients guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms. They further infringe the right to the safeguard of the dignity of the person, which is also protected by the Quebec Charter.

In view of the gravity of the situation and the urgent need to protect all vulnerable persons in Quebec, they are requesting an accelerated management of the case in order to obtain a judgment before the Act is expected to come into force on December 10, 2015.


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Colorado baker appeals gvmt ‘re-education’ order

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By LifeSiteNews staff

A Colorado cake artist who declined to use his creative talents to promote and endorse a same-sex ceremony appealed a May 30 order from the Colorado Civil Rights Commission to the Colorado Court of Appeals Wednesday.

The commission’s order requires cake artist Jack Phillips and his staff at Masterpiece Cakeshop to create cakes for same-sex celebrations, forces him to re-educate his staff that Colorado’s Anti-Discrimination Act means that artists must endorse all views, compels him to implement new policies to comply with the commission’s order, and requires him to file quarterly “compliance” reports for two years. The reports must include the number of patrons declined a wedding cake or any other product and state the reason for doing so to ensure he has fully eliminated his religious beliefs from his business.

“Americans should not be forced by the government – or by another citizen – to endorse or promote ideas with which they disagree,” said the cake artist’s lead counsel Nicolle Martin, an attorney allied with Alliance Defending Freedom. “This is not about the people who asked for a cake; it’s about the message the cake communicates. Just as Jack doesn’t create baked works of art for other events with which he disagrees, he doesn’t create cake art for same-sex ceremonies regardless of who walks in the door to place the order.”

“In America, we don’t force artists to create expression that is contrary to their convictions,” added Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Legal Counsel Jeremy Tedesco. “A paint artist who identifies as homosexual shouldn’t be intimidated into creating a painting that celebrates one-man, one-woman marriage. A pro-life photographer shouldn’t be forced to work a pro-abortion rally. And Christian cake artists shouldn’t be punished for declining to participate in a same-sex ceremony or promote its message.”

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In July 2012, Charlie Craig and David Mullins asked Jack Phillips, owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop, to make a wedding cake to celebrate their same-sex ceremony. In an exchange lasting about 30 seconds, Phillips politely declined, explaining that he would gladly make them any other type of baked item they wanted but that he could not make a cake promoting a same-sex ceremony because of his faith. Craig and Mullins, now represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, immediately left the shop and later filed a complaint with the Colorado Civil Rights Division. The case now goes to the Colorado Court of Appeals as Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Craig.

“Jack, and other cake artists like him – such as those seen on TV shows like ‘Ace of Cakes’ and ‘Cake Boss’ – prepare unique creations that are inherently expressive,” Tedesco explained. “Jack invests many hours in the wedding cake creative process, which includes meeting the clients, designing and sketching the cake, and then baking, sculpting, and decorating it. The ACLU calls Jack a mere ‘retail service provider,’ but, in fact, he is an artist who uses his talents and abilities to create expression that the First Amendment fully protects."

Celebrity cake artists have written publicly about their art and the significant expressive work that goes into the artistic design process for wedding cakes.


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Prisoner of conscience Mary Wagner appeals her conviction

Tony Gosgnach
By Tony Gosgnach

TORONTO -- As promised, Mary Wagner has, through her counsel Dr. Charles Lugosi, filed a formal notice of appeal on numerous points regarding her recent, almost two-year-long court case that ended on June 12.

Justice Fergus O’Donnell of the Ontario Court of Justice rejected every application made by the defence – including for access to abortion center records, public funding, standing for a constitutional challenge and for expert witnesses to be heard – before he found Wagner guilty and sentenced her to five months in jail on a charge of mischief and four months on four counts of failing to comply with probation orders.

He further levied two years of probation, with terms that she stay at least 100 metres away from any abortion site. However, because Wagner had spent a greater time in jail than the sentence, she was freed immediately. She had been arrested at the “Women’s Care Clinic” abortion site on Lawrence Avenue West in Toronto on August 15, 2012 after attempting to speak to abortion-bound women there. She then spent the duration of the trial in prison for refusing to sign bail conditions requiring her to stay away from abortion sites.

Wagner is using the matter as a test case to challenge the current definition of a human being in Canadian law – that is, that a human being is legally recognized as such only after he or she has fully emerged from the birth canal in a breathing state.

Wagner’s notice states the appeal is regarding:

  • Her conviction and sentence on a single count of mischief (interference with property),
  • Her conviction and sentence on four counts of breach of probation,
  • The order denying public funding,
  • The order denying the disclosure of third-party records,
  • The order denying the admission of evidence from experts on the applicant’s constitutional challenge concerning the constitutional validity of Section 223 of the Criminal Code,
  • The order denying the admission of evidence from experts concerning the construction of Section 37 of the Criminal Code,
  • The probation order denying Wagner her constitutional rights to freedom of speech, freedom of expression, freedom of conscience and freedom of religion on all public sidewalks and public areas within 100 metres of places where abortions are committed,
  • And each conviction and sentence and all orders and rulings made by O’Donnell.

In the notice of appeal, Lugosi cites numerous points on which O’Donnell erred:

  • He denied Wagner her constitutional right to make full answer and defence.
  • He denied Wagner her right to rely on Section 37 of the Criminal Code, which permits “everyone” to come to the third-party defence and rescue of any human being (in this case, the preborn) facing imminent assault.
  • He decided the factual basis of Wagner’s constitutional arguments was a waste of the court’s time and that no purpose would have been served by having an evidentiary hearing on her Charter application because, in the current state of Canadian law, it had no possibility of success.
  • He misapplied case law and prejudged the case, “giving rise to a reasonable apprehension of bias and impeding the legal evolution of the law to adapt to new circumstances, knowledge and changed societal values and morals.”
  • He accepted the Crown’s submission that it is beyond the jurisdiction of the courts to question the jurisdiction of Parliament legally to define “human being” in any manner Parliament sees fit.
  • He ruled Section 223 of the Criminal Code is not beyond the powers of Section 52 of the Constitution Act, 1982.
  • He ruled Section 223 of the Criminal Code does not violate the Preamble to, as well as Sections 7, 11(d), 15 and 26, of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
  • He denied Wagner standing to raise a constitutional challenge to the validity of Section 223 of the Criminal Code.
  • He ruled that Section 223 of the Criminal Code applied generally throughout the entire Criminal Code and used it to deny unborn human beings the benefit of equal protection as born human beings under Section 37 of the Criminal Code.
  • He denied the production and disclosure of third-party records in the possession of the “Women’s Care Clinic” abortion site, although the records were required to prove Wagner was justified in using reasonable force in the form of oral and written words to try to persuade pregnant mothers from killing their unborn children by abortion.
  • He denied Wagner the defence of Section 37 of the Criminal Code by ruling unborn children did not come within the scope of human beings eligible to be protected by a third party.
  • He ruled Wagner did not come within the scope of Section 37 because she was found to be non-violent (in that she did not use physical force).
  • He ruled the unborn children Wagner was trying to rescue were not under her protection.
  • He denied Wagner the common-law defences of necessity and the rescue of third parties in need of protection.
  • He denied Wagner public funding to make full answer and defence for a constitutional test case of great public importance and national significance.
  • He imposed an unconstitutional sentence upon Wagner by, in effect, imposing an injunction as a condition of probation, contrary to her constitutional rights of free speech, freedom of expression, freedom of conscience and freedom of religion.

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Among the orders Lugosi is seeking are:

  • That an appeal be allowed against conviction on all counts and that a verdict of acquittal be entered on all counts,
  • That Section 223 of the Criminal Code be found unconstitutional  and contrary to Section 52 of the Constitution Act, 1982, as well as the unwritten constitution of Canada,
  • That the sentence be declared unconstitutional and contrary to Section 52 of the Constitution Act, 1982, and the unwritten constitution of Canada or that a new trial be conducted, with Wagner permitted to make full answer and defence, be given standing to make a constitutional attack on Section 223 of the Criminal Code, with the admission of expert witnesses,
  • That the Women’s Care Clinic abortion site be made to produce third-party records pertaining to patients seen on August 15, 2012 (when Wagner entered the site),
  • And that there be public funding for two defence counsels at any retrial and for any appeal related to the case.

No date has yet been established for a decision on the appeal or hearings.

A defence fund for Wagner’s case is still raising money. Details on how to contribute to it can be found here.


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