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Happy 100th birthday to pro-life hero Msgr. Vincent Foy!

Patrick B. Craine Patrick B. Craine Follow Patrick

Msgr. Vincent Foy has been a hero to Canadian Catholics and pro-life advocates for decades. Today he celebrates his 100th birthday. On this occasion we want to remind readers of Msgr. Foy’s tremendous impact and offer tribute for his 76 years of priesthood.

Here is some background on him that we published in an article last year marking his 75th anniversary of priesthood.

The monsignor, currently the oldest priest in the Archdiocese of Toronto, at the age of 98, and reportedly the only priest in the history of the Archdiocese to reach the 75-year mark of priesthood, spent most of his priestly life in service of the Sacrament of Marriage through his work in canon law, both in Toronto and Rome.

He is probably best known for his persistent criticism of The Winnipeg Statement, the 1968 statement issued by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops in response to Pope Paul VI’s encyclical Humanae Vitae, which had reiterated the Church’s long-standing teaching against artificial contraception.

Msgr. Foy accused The Winnipeg Statement of undermining the Church’s teaching against contraception, and saw it as jeopardizing the sacredness of life itself.

Jim Hughes, National President of Campaign Life Coalition, told LifeSiteNews that he’s known Foy for 50 years and worked with him in the pro-life movement for 35. “Whenever I had a difficult moral question I went to him. And when I talked to other priests, they’d say to me, better contact monsignor.”

“He’s an example to everybody. A wonderful example to pro-lifers because of his steadfastness. He just refuses to give an inch. I thank God that He sent him so we can take advantage of his knowledge. Thank God I’m still around and he’s still around to celebrate his 75 years of priesthood.” 

Foy focused his criticism of The Winnipeg Statement on the now-infamous Paragraph 26, which suggested that in some circumstances couples who ignored the teachings of Humanae Vitae on contraception could do so “in good conscience.” However, he harshly criticized the document as a whole for making obedience to the Church dependent upon one’s point of view. 

He argued that the Statement is the reason why “Catholics can no longer presume the orthodoxy of their Bishops’ Statements whether on the economy, the role of women in the Church, or abortion.” 

However, at the time Foy often seemed like a lone voice speaking out against the Winnipeg Statement, with many Canadian Catholics welcoming the document. An editorial in the Catholic Register in 1968, for instance, lauded the fact that “we can now become a truly Canadian Church in the deepest sense of the word.” 

Foy agreed that the Statement constituted a decisive break with the teaching of the Universal Church, and set up something like a ‘Church of Canada,’ but he considered the fruits of this break to be “adultery, fornication, venereal disease, homosexuality, pornography, radical feminism, sterilization, violence, child abuse, corrupt family life education, abortion and euthanasia.” 

On the other hand, he said, in Humane Vitae, the Church clearly discerned that there is a “threat to marriage and married love in illicit contraception, direct sterilization and abortion.” 

According to the website dedicated to his writings, in the 1940s Monsignor Foy earned a Doctorate in Canon Law and served as Vice-Chancellor of the Archdiocese of Toronto and Secretary of the Toronto Archdiocesan Matrimonial Tribunal, Secretary of the new Toronto Regional Tribunal, which he served later as Defender of the Bond and Judge. In 1957 he was named Presiding Judge of the Regional and Archdiocesan Tribunals.  In the same year he was named a Domestic Prelate (Monsignor) by Pope Pius XII.  For many years he was Director of Catechetics of the Archdiocese. He is a founder and honorary member of the Canadian Canon Law Society.

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