LONDON, Ontario, January 20, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) - The head of a Catholic educational fund in the Diocese of London, Ontario that is hosting an address next month by abortion activist Stephen Lewis says she was fully aware of his publicly anti-Catholic positions and repeated denunciations of both the Catholic Church and Pope Benedict XVI.
“Basically what we say is that even though he holds those views, the Foundation doesn’t agree with them,” said Mary Anne Foster, executive director of the Monsignor Feeney Foundation for Catholic Schools.
The Foundation, which raises funds in order to “enhance educational experiences through the arts,” is hosting “an evening with Stephen Lewis” on February 16th at $45/ticket.
Lewis, the former UN Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa, is a long-time proponent of abortion, and has publicly attacked the Church’s efforts to promote a culture of life.
At the infamous Cairo conference on population and development in 1994, Lewis slammed the Vatican for opposing abortion and contraception, calling their statements “torrents of thinly veiled misogyny.”
Also a major advocate of condoms, Lewis has said that Pope Benedict XVI, in opposing condoms in the fight against HIV/AIDS, is “sending a message which ultimately kills people.”
“His words were, frankly, irresponsible and damaging and it was like inviting death,” he said.
On the same issue, he has said that the Pope is “living on the moon,” and presents “another example of complete indifference to the vulnerability of women, who are so hugely and disproportionately affected by HIV/AIDS.”
When LifeSiteNews asked Foster if she was concerned that giving Lewis a platform would appear as an endorsement of his views, she said, “No. We’re not endorsing that.”
“He is an expert on global health and Christians should be open to learning from him just on that level,” she explained. “He’s only coming to speak here in London about poverty, children, and education. That’s all he’s speaking about.”
Regarding Lewis’ objectionable views, Foster said, “We’ve already told him that those are not up for discussion and they are not going to be part of any speech.”
Asked if they will take any public steps to distance themselves from Lewis’ anti-Catholicism, she said, “If people have asked, we’ve, you know, basically what we’re hoping is the same thing, that he’s just here to speak on poverty, children, and educational issues. Most people are happy with that. Ninety percent of the people that have purchased tickets are Catholic.”
A poster for the event on the London Catholic District School Board’s website lauds Lewis as a “celebrated humanitarian,” and describes him as “one of Canada’s most influential commentators on social affairs, international development and human rights.”
The Diocese of London’s spokesman, Mark Adkinson, refused comment.
In 2001, Bishop James Wingle, former Bishop of St. Catharines and then-Bishop of Yarmouth, objected to Lewis giving a keynote address for the Catholic Health Association of Canada. He said the organization “ought not to lend support to people who have positions contrary to Catholic teaching,” and that he would “counsel them to be more sensitive in their picks in the future.”
“It is an on-going concern for the whole Church that in all the things we do that we do not convey ambiguous or confusing messages,” the bishop added.
Most Rev. Ronald Peter Fabbro, C.S.B.
Bishop of London
1070 Waterloo Street
London, ON N6A 3Y2
Tel: (519) 433-0658 #224
Fax: (519) 266-4353
Mary Anne Foster, Executive Director
Monsignor Feeney Foundation
4474-135 Blakie Rd.
London, ON N6L 1G7
Phone: (519) 652-3033
Fax: (519) 652-3077