Canadian priest returns Order of Canada award in protest of Morgentaler


Dr. Hans MorgentalerToronto, Jul 3, 2008 / 05:49 pm (CNA).- The awarding of the Order of Canada to Dr. Hans Morgentaler, an abortionist who helped overturn anti-abortion laws in Canada, has prompted a past honoree to return the decoration amid calls for Morgentaler's award to be revoked. The Catholic bishops of Canada have also added their voice to the fray, saying the selection of Morgentaler "discredits the Order of Canada" by decorating a man who has "attacked the most vulnerable, the unborn."

The 85-year-old Morgentaler, who is sometimes referred to as "Canada's Father of Abortion" and "Canada's Father of Secular Humanism," is credited by some with leading the charge to legalize abortion under all circumstances in Canada. He began his efforts by opening an illegal abortion clinic in Montreal in 1969.

In 1988 the Canadian Supreme Court issued a ruling, which bore Dr. Morgentaler's name, striking down abortion-restricting provisions in the criminal code, ruling they violated a woman's constitutional right to "security of person."

On Tuesday the Canadian Governor-General's office confirmed Morgentaler has been named as a member of the order and will receive his insignia at a ceremony at a later date.

Father Lucien Larre, a priest in Coquitlam, British Columbia who was awarded the Order of Canada in 1983 for his work with troubled adolescents, said on Wednesday he was "compelled in conscience to return my Order of Canada to Ottawa."

According to a news release from the Archdiocese of Vancouver, Father Larre said he did not want to show any disrespect for the Governor General and he was not condemning Morgentaler or his sincerity.

"But I believe in my heart that he is horribly wrong and that the advisory committee made a terrible mistake," he said.

Recipients of the Order of Canada "should be an inspiration to most Canadians," he said, but elevating Morgentaler to the Order of Canada "degrades" the award for those who believe in the sanctity of human life.

The priest said he was not acting as a representative of the Archdiocese of Vancouver but as a "private citizen struggling with a matter of conscience."

Father Larre founded several Bosco Centers for disabled, emotionally disturbed and addicted adolescents.

Dr. Morgentaler spoke to the press about his award at his Toronto clinic on Wednesday.

"I'm actually surprised that the reaction is not more violent than it is," Dr. Morgentaler said, according to the Globe and Mail. "There are many groups, especially on the fundamentalist side and the Catholic right, who are adamantly opposed to the rights of women to have abortions, especially safe abortions."

A July 2 press release from the Catholic Organization for Life and Family (COLF) called for the award to be revoked.

"In 1988," the group said, "a Supreme Court decision that bears his name removed all legal barriers to abortion at any stage of pregnancy - since then, nearly two million future citizens have lost their lives to abortion. Is that the outstanding achievement that has been a service to this nation?

"Canada has its heroes, and they deserve to be recognized; however, it is neither heroic nor admirable to cause the death of unborn children, the most vulnerable of all Canadians. COLF therefore urges the Harper Government to take the necessary action to ensure that the decision to award the Order of Canada to Dr. Morgentaler be revoked."

The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a July 2 statement in response to the announcement of Morgentaler's award, calling it a "serious error."

The statement cited the motto for the Order of Canada, "Desiderantes Meliorem Patriam," which means "They desire a better country."

"Far from improving our country," the bishops said, "Mr. Morgentaler's actions continue to create controversy and division in our nation. In the name of freedom of choice, he has encouraged the development of a culture of death and has thus attacked the most vulnerable, the unborn."

"Awarding such a decoration in this context discredits the Order of Canada. It amounts to an inadmissible affront to the numerous Canadians who dedicate their lives to the protection of the most vulnerable, especially the unborn."