By Patrick B. Craine

FREDERICTON, New Brunswick, September 9, 2009 ( – A lecturer in religious studies at St. Thomas University (STU) in Fredericton, New Brunswick has begun volunteering as an escort at the city's Morgentaler abortion facility.

Dr. Christopher Levan, a minister in the United Church of Canada, serving at Wilmot United Church, holds a lectureship at STU.  According to the university's course list, he will be teaching two sections of Introduction to Religious Studies in both the fall and winter semesters. learned about Levan's activities with the Morgentaler facility after a woman who regularly stands in vigil at the Morgentaler facility sent around an e-mail claiming that she witnessed Dr. Levan acting as an escort.  She said last Tuesday was the first time she had seen him, and that she discovered his identity because the director of the abortion center introduced him to the other escorts.

Dr. Levan told in an interview today that he has only done escorting once so far, but plans on continuing.  He's doing it, he says, because he has a problem with the “harassment of women going into the abortion clinic,” referring to activities of the regular pro-life protestors who stand outside.

“Not that they're in any way vindictive or mean,” he said, “but their signs are sometimes. And these are women who have a legal right to this particular medical procedure and there is enough distress without having to run the gauntlet of [people] who want to change their mind.”

“It's currently a legal medical procedure, is it not?” he asked.  “And in a society that is pluralistic, that allows people to make those kind of choices, they're allowed to make that choice, aren't they?”

“So what I'm doing,” he said, “is I'm making sure that the women who make that choice, who make it with, I assume, whatever sincerity they are capable of making it, are allowed to make that choice without the recrimination of those who have not been party to the difficulty they have gone through in making that decision.”

Dr. Levan insisted that he personally disagrees with abortion. Commenting on the “I Regret My Abortion” pro-life sign carried by a woman outside the abortuary, he said, “I want to say to her 'I regret them too.'  Absolutely.  I'm not standing there because I agree with abortion, but people having made that choice deserve the dignity of being able to go and get the procedure without having to be guilted or in some way told that they are guilty of a heinous crime.  Because they are not.”

“Abortion is a regrettable, regrettable procedure that women are legally allowed to choose in this province,” he emphasized.

Dr. Levan's view of abortion is completely in line with the position of the United Church, as he indicated to LSN.  In 1980, the community promulgated their policy on abortion, which stated that “abortion is acceptable only when, after careful consideration, the medical, social, and/or economic situation makes it the most responsible alternative.”  In this and other policy statements on abortion, they have urged the government not to regulate abortion and to ensure access to it throughout the country.

St. Thomas University, however, is a Catholic university that continues to highlight its Catholic identity. In its mission statement, the university states, “We are a liberal arts institution whose roots are in the faith and tradition of the Roman Catholic Church.” According to the teachings of the Catholic Church on the issue, abortion is a grave and intrinsic evil that results in the death of a unique human being endowed with the fundamental right to life. Catholics who in any way obtain or help a woman procure an abortion automatically incur the Church's most stringent punishment – excommunication.

Levan is a prolific writer, with books such as God Hates Religion, Sin Boldly, Living in the Maybe, and Knowing your Ethical Preferences.  Besides his support for abortion, he has advocated openness to homosexuality, arguing, for example, in a 1995 article that homosexual practice is not condemned in Scripture.

Professors of religious studies at STU have something of a history of conflict with the Catholic Church. The former acting chair of the department and current professor, Dr. Alexandra Bain, has converted from Catholicism to Islam and gave a keynote address at the CWL's 2006 provincial convention after which she ridiculed the Trinity.  Further, STU president Dr. Michael Higgins, who specializes in religious studies, and is a former president of St. Jerome's University at Waterloo, famously scolded Pope Benedict in 2006 for his comments on Islam at Regensburg, calling them “grossly stupid.”

LSN left a message with the Bishop of Saint John, Most Reverend Robert Harris, who is also the chancellor of STU, but did not hear back by press time.  A message left for STU's media director was also not returned in time.

Contact information for St. Thomas University:

Dr. Michael Higgins, President and Vice Chancellor
Mary Jones, Administrative Assistant
Email: [email protected]
Phone: 506-452-0537
Fax: 506-452-0633
Margaret Norrie McCain Hall Room 400

General Inquiries
St. Thomas University
51 Dineen Drive
Fredericton, NB
Canada, E3B 5G3
Phone: (506) 452-0640
Fax: (506) 450-9615


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