By Hilary White TORONTO, November 28, 2006 (LifeSiteNews.com) – One of Canada’s most prominent Catholic journalists, Larry Henderson, the “face of the CBC,” has died following a long illness, at age 89. Henderson, who started with the CBC in 1940, was the first celebrity news anchor in Canadian television history, becoming “the face” of the national CBC news program two years after it was founded.
He is best remembered to Canadian Catholics and pro-life advocates, however, as the editor of Toronto’s Catholic Register who brought that magazine to prominence as Canada’s most important journalistic advocate of the sanctity of human life.
Under his 1973 to 1986 editorship of the Catholic Register, the newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Toronto, Henderson’s consistent emphasis on fidelity to Catholic teaching, especially on the sanctity of human life, helped double the paper’s subscriptions from 30,000 to 60,000. Today, unlike the faithful, paid subscriber base of the Register under Henderson, the paper depends especially on a diocesan mandated levy of 5% of each parish’s income.
Unlike most recent Register editors, Henderson often featured the Pope and Vatican documents prominently on the front page or near the front of the paper. He was never timid about calling politicians to account on moral issues or proclaiming or defending Church statements seen as politically incorrect by Church liberals or the media.
Fr. Leonard Kennedy, writing in Catholic Insight in 2002, quotes Joseph Borowski, the pro-life campaigner and Manitoba cabinet minister saying of Henderson, that he and his Catholic Register “ignited the fight for a baby’s life in Canada more than any paper I know. Without Larry, without the Register, I would never have had the support I did in my fight for the unborn against Canada’s abortion laws and Morgentaler.”
The Globe and Mail today reported that Henderson caused a “furor” by accepting paid ads in 1981 from Campaign Life that asked Ontarians to not vote for the Ontario Tories in the provincial election. Campaign Life complained that then premier Bill Davis and his party were major supporters of Prime Minister Trudeau’s proposed Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which the pro-life organization strongly opposed.
The Globe, implacably opposed to the Register’s pro-life stance, noted that the prophetic ads from Campaign Life warned the Charter would result in abortion-on-demand, homosexual “marriage” and adoption and the loss by women of financial support from their husbands.
Henderson’s editorial position urging Ontario voters to spoil their ballots in 1985, put him at odds with the Archdiocese of Toronto. He was forced out of the paper the next year and the Catholic Register began its adoption of new “liberal” Catholic trends. The “history” section of the Catholic Register’s website today makes no mention of Henderson’s outstanding editorship or the national prominence of the Register’s pro-life advocacy during his management.
In an article appearing in the November 26th edition of the Catholic Register, Mary Jo Leddy, a former nun and leading campaigner for the hard left in the Canadian Catholic Church, praised today’s Catholic Register for having discarded its former “conservative” positions.
Henderson’s early adventures included, in 1936, a period studying at the London School of Economics after which he spent three years in repertory theatre in England performing the lead in Doctor Faustus and playing Mercutio to Alec Guinness’s Romeo in Romeo and Juliet.
He served in the signal corps in North Africa and Italy during World War II and spent six weeks covering the Korean War in 1950. He spent the following three years travelling the world sending recordings for the CBC’s Headliners program back to Canada and hosting the show, Passport to Adventure.
In 1964, he joined CTV news as international affairs correspondent after which he focused on writing. Henderson is the author of several books on international affairs and founded the Larry Henderson School of Television in Toronto.
In 1970, after his retirement from broadcasting, he went to Tanzania on assignment for the Canadian International Development Agency where he helped organize that country’s national broadcasting corporation.
In 1993, Henderson wrote in Challenge magazine that after his conversion to Catholicism, despite the frustrations of a Church in turmoil, his great joy was knowing the “beauty of the Catholic system of belief”.
Read Fr. Leonard Kennedy’s tribute:
Larry Henderson: Journalist