By Steve Jalsevac
TORONTO, Ontario, November 25, 2008 (LifeSiteNews.com) – In a period of just one-half hour last Wednesday, recently retired Catholic Liberal Member of Parliament Tom Wappel related the shocking history of the past 20 years’ of near total disinterest from the local and Ottawa Catholic establishment for his many pro-life and pro-marriage efforts in Parliament.
Wappel, who was introduced at the Campaign Life Coalition Catholic (CLC) clergy luncheon as the Dean of the Pro-Life movement on Parliament Hill, despite his criticisms, was nevertheless charitable and constructive in his remarks. He humbly offered 13 recommendations for priests to consider, (https://www.lifesitenews.com/ldn/2008/nov/08112513.html) which he said could greatly improve the situation that he and fellow pro-life MPs had to endure for many years – a situation which undoubtedly made their often heroic efforts far more difficult.
Wappel began his address by noting that his experience with the Catholic clergy was, to his surprise, no better than his experience with clergy of other denominations. This was the case even though he was a Catholic and was well known to publicly espouse “classical Catholic doctrine with respect to life issues.”
The six-times elected Scarborough West MP related that he was asked to speak only twice at functions at two of the six Catholic churches in his riding, and not at all at the other four – in 20 years. As well, of the two large Catholic high schools in the riding, he spoke only twice at one and at the other, “a total of zero times.”
The MP, who CLC President Jim Hughes introduced as “a man who has made many sacrifices for the unborn,” stated, “I always found it strange that, given the kinds of things that I was standing for in the public arena, that I would never have been invited to one of the Catholic high schools in the riding.”
As for interest, support or encouragement from bishops in his Toronto archdiocese, the largest in Canada, Wappel related that he “never had, to the best of my recollection, ever a meeting with any bishop in Toronto at any time” and “never received an encouraging letter from anyone in the clergy above the rank of Monsignor.” He says, “I spoke once, I believe, to one Catholic women’s group” and was never “asked to speak to any Knights of Columbus group in my riding,” even though he was a knight himself.
Wappel was a long time co-chair and constant leading figure in the Parliamentary Pro-Life Caucus in Ottawa during most of his years as an MP. Despite that, he stated, “I have never had a meeting with the CCCB (Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops) although I suggested it numerous times on a variety of issues that came up over the last 20 years, that it might not be a bad idea for the CCCB to sit down – with not just me – but a number of members of parliament and talk strategy and talk about what is going on up there.”
He further related, “Did any Catholic clergy come to see me in Ottawa? No. Why? I don’t know the answer for that.” Wappel also noted, “In the time that I have been involved in the pro-life movement on Parliament Hill, we did meet once with Bishop Gervais of Ottawa,” the leading Catholic figure in Canada’s capital city. After this history Wappel concluded, “Why should we (pro-life MPs) be knocking our heads against a brick wall if no one is noticing, if no one is listening, if no one is offering encouragement, or appears not to be offering encouragement?”
He encouraged the clergy present to not “be too critical if you think that members of Parliament in general are weak on the life issues. They need help. They need encouragement. They need prayers. When there is no communication from the clergy then it is no surprise that there is no communication from the flock – at least not to me.” However, other Members of Parliament have related very similar experiences to Campaign Life Coalition leaders.
Wappel, who at one time ran for the Leadership of the Liberal Party, then listed and commented on his 13 practical recommendations for the clergy and Church hierarchy to consider. He emphasized to the priests that it was important to “have your parishioners, wherever possible, get involved in the public life of the country. If you and Catholics are not involved, then your life will be run by others, whether you like it or not.”
While listing those recommendations Wappel mentioned the next crucial issue that required action by the clergy. He urged them to prepare the Church now to be far more politically effective for what he warned “is coming down the pipe in this Parliament and others – euthanasia. It is coming – the Justice Department is already doing discussion papers on euthanasia and there are private members that are bringing forward Bills to allow euthanasia in this country – all cloaked under the right to die with dignity.”
After his experience of years of weak support from the churches for the efforts of pro-family MPs who tried to halt the advances of homosexual rights which culminated in the redefinition of marriage, he urged the clergy to not let the same thing happen with the euthanasia issue.
Wappel pleaded, “I don’t want us to be asleep at the switch and to be doing with euthanasia what we did with same-sex marriage – which is far too little, far too late. Now is the time to engage with parishioners. Now is the time for the leadership of the Church to engage with the public decision makers and work towards solutions that will prevent this kind of completion of, what I call, the unholy trinity – abortion, same-sex marriage, euthanasia.”
“Tom Wappel’s 13 Recommendations for Catholic Clergy and Bishops”
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Tom Wappel – A Parliamentarian Who Will be Greatly Missed
Long-Time Pro Life Canadian MP Tom Wappel Announces Retirement