Christian Elia

Rights league chooses new executive director

  • July 11, 2014

TORONTO - The Catholic Civil Rights League of Canada has chosen Christian Elia as its new executive director. 

Elia will take over the role that has been vacant since Joanne McGarry died in April. 

“I wish that it wasn’t under such unfortunate circumstances (but) I endeavour to carry on the good work that she has done,” said Elia, a professor at Niagara University’s College of Education. “We are talking about a continuation, we are not talking about a revolution. I have always been very interested in faith in the public sphere or faith in the public square; that is what I bring to the Catholic Civil Rights League.” 

The league is a lay organization that combats anti-Catholic defamation and brings Church teaching to bear on public debate. 

Elia officially took over the office on June 30 and quickly realized how big the shoes are that were left behind by McGarry. 

“I have no problem telling you the truth and the truth is that it is overwhelming right now,” he said. “It is a big surprise the constant number of e-mails and phone calls that come in.” 

League president Philip Horgan has full confidence in the new executive director. 

“We are so pleased that Christian Elia has agreed to take on this most important role,” said Horgan. “The position of executive director of the Catholic Civil Rights League requires a facility with media and communications, knowledge of the faith and a passion for seeking a fair hearing of the teachings of the faith in the public square. As a member of our board for the past few years Christian has already been engaged in much of this important work.” 

And while Elia said he wants to keep things moving as they were under McGarry, one priority will be expanding social media. By utilizing this form of communication Elia hopes to tap into the demographic he worked with while serving as director of the Office of Catholic Youth for the Archdiocese of Toronto. 

“Although I wish to start slowly because I want to do it properly I really want to take advantage of social media,” he said. “Not just because it is simply the future, it is the present where we are. I want to engage a lot of the younger people, the people that I have met and people I would have known or the type of young adults I dealt with regularly when I was involved in youth and young adult ministry.” 

This will allow the Catholic Civil Rights League to draw on “those who are on fire for their faith,” as Elia put it, but it will also help break down the general misconceptions about Catholicism. 

“The biggest mistake is the concept ... that there is such a thing as faith being a private belief,” he said. “It is incorrect, it is wrong and it is not genuine if you say that you are Catholic privately and then all of a sudden you put on a different cloak when you enter a building. You are not contributing to a pluralist society by doing that, you are actually making it difficult for people to see what forms your decisions because you are acting more as a chameleon than a person with genuine integrity.” 

But before tackling this head on, Elia wants to broaden his network of contacts. 

“I am very cognizant of the fact that we are a national organization. I want to nurture the relationships that we have with our members. So I’ll be relying on our regional directors in every province.” 

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