Why many Catholic universities ‘betray’ when it comes to abortion: Former Catholic university president
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TORONTO, May 19, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) — When it comes to defending the sanctity of human life, many Catholic colleges would rather “betray their Catholic values” than appear out of step with the secular majority, the former president of St. Michael’s University told the Virtual March for Life Rally last week (interview starts at 1:56:28).
David Mulroney made his remarks during an interview with Josie Luetke, youth coordinator with Campaign Life Coalition, Canada’s national pro-life, pro-family lobbying group which organizes the annual March for Life.
The country’s largest pro-life event, the March marks the legalization of abortion on May 14, 1969. This year the event was moved online because of coronavirus pandemic restrictions.
A graduate of St. Michael’s University and former Canadian ambassador to China, Mulroney said he was asked to return as president when his alma mater was going through a crisis.
Affiliated with the University of Toronto, St. Michael’s “was struggling because it had lost its identity, it had lost its way. So student life was in crisis; the academic life and reputation of the university was in crisis,” said Mulroney, president from 2015 to 2018.
There’s a “real link” between the two, and Catholic universities that have a strong sense of their mission “also tend to be very strong academically,” he said, adding that a stellar example of this is Our Lady Seat of Wisdom College in Barry’s Bay, Ontario.
“I hired some really good people who helped me to work to change some of this” and “one of the things we worked on was to reach out to pro-life students and to encourage participation in the March for Life,” he said.
Mulroney indicated that there is a reason many Catholic universities are soft when it comes to abortion. What he “saw around the abortion issue at St Michael’s,” Mulroney said he also witnessed “around the table” during quarterly meetings with the presidents of Canada’s Catholic universities.
“Around that table was a great deal of fear in the university among academics and among administrators that they might somehow fall afoul of the secular powers that be.”
Catholic universities are often “federated with large, secular universities,” added Mulroney.
“And too many Catholic administrators and teachers would rather betray Catholic values than look somehow apart or out of step with the secular majority.”
As president, he encouraged pro-life students at St. Michael’s to “go out and find allies,” which included Toronto’s Cardinal Thomas Collins, who marched with the students, the Newman Centre, and the Sisters of Life.
“We also worked with other educational institutions, including evangelical institutions where that respect for life, the flame for life burns so brightly,” he said.
Mulroney advised pro-life students to “go and see your president and ask him or her to support you in your pro-life efforts and if he or she won’t, ask why. Write to the board of the university and ask for their support as well, and find allies, and be proud of your pro-life convictions.”
That was echoed by Florence Lavergne, formerly the Ontario coordinator of the National Campus Life Network (NCLN), who pointed out in a subsequent interview with Luetke that “the age group that has the most abortions are the university ages, so we know it’s the most vulnerable group, so that is why we need to be present there.”
Universities tend to be very “pro-choice” as institutions, with a pro-abortion women’s centre typically funded the student union found on most campuses, she told Luetke.
These are “very much pro-choice places. You’re not welcome to go there if you are pro-life…they’re very upfront.”
Moreover, students in health or social sciences will likely feel they are a minority, and encounter pro-abortion faculty, as Lavergne did when studying at Ottawa University, where one of her professors was an abortionist who told students she went into medicine for that reason.
At the same time, most students don’t have any opinion on the matter, and are “just the mushy middle,” said Lavergne, who is currently finishing her Master’s in Interdisciplinary Health Sciences.
“So, I think the average person is very easy to reach.”
She advised pro-life students to get training before becoming involved in pro-life activism “just to know how to answer the common arguments that come up.”
“When you’re doing activism or any sort of pro-life thing actually, at that moment you’re the face of the pro-life movement, so you want to represent it well,” Lavergne said.
Students can get involved by volunteering at a crisis pregnancy center, working on the campaign of pro-life politicians, or starting high school pro-life clubs, she said.
University students can check the NCLN website to see if there is a pro-life group on their campus and if not, consider starting one.
“I would say it’s not enough to just be pro-life if you’re not doing anything about it,” observed Lavergne. “So that’s the extra step that I challenge every pro-lifer to do.”