Deborah Gyapong had the opportunity to meet Pope Francis in Rome in May of 2015.

A fond farewell to reporting Catholic news for Canadians

  • October 18, 2019

After 15 years as the Ottawa correspondent for Canadian Catholic News, contributing frequently to The Catholic Register, Deborah Gyapong retired on Sept. 30. Below she shares some final thoughts on her career.

OTTAWA -- When I began writing for Canadian Catholic News in October 2004, my first assignment was to cover the annual meeting of Canadian bishops in Cornwall, Ont. 

The venue — a large gym converted into a conference hall, with lines of tables draped in black, reflected a bureaucratic rather than religious atmosphere. But as I came to know many of the bishops personally, I saw much holiness, fatherly love and suffering borne with patience. 

I wish other Catholics had the opportunity to see what I have witnessed up close. Being a bishop is its own road to Calvary. Bishops are subjected to constant criticism from all sides, yet so many remain joyful and good-humoured. 

My first big national story dealt with the Supreme Court of Canada and same-sex marriage. Paul Martin’s Liberal government had sent the court questions on whether a redefinition of marriage to include same-sex couples was constitutional. The answer was yes and by July 2005 same-sex “marriage” was the law of the land. 

The debate and the law that resulted caught Catholic leaders by surprise. The arguments they mustered either came too late or too few listened. It was that way throughout my 15 years of reporting on the Church in Canada from Ottawa. As a result, on a long list of issues important to the Church, it’s been a downward trajectory, like being trapped in an elevator with broken cables plummeting down the shaft.

Court decisions and resulting laws put religious rights and freedoms constantly under attack. A recent example is a Supreme Court decision in 2018 that upheld the authority of provincial licensing bodies to deny accreditation to a proposed law school at Trinity Western University, a private Evangelical institution, because of a school covenant that requires faculty, staff and students to refrain from sexual activity outside of traditional marriage.  

The potential implications of this ruling are that any Catholic who tries to be faithful to the Church’s moral teachings on sexuality some day could be barred from professions that require government licensing, such as medicine, law and education. 

Those who believe life is sacred from conception to natural death have also seen their freedom of expression and association diminished. When I started out, the Liberal Party had a substantial pro-life caucus that voted and spoke freely on matters of conscience. Today, every Liberal candidate must support a “woman’s right to choose.” All major political parties except the Conservatives make a similar demand.

Then came the Liberal government’s pro-abortion litmus test in 2018. It restricted Canada Summer Jobs grants to applicants who checked a box attesting they were pro-abortion. The most offending aspect of the attestation was removed in 2019, but there’s nothing to stop a future government from initiating a loyalty oath or values test for anyone applying for a job in the public service or seeking government benefits.

Canada, which has been without an abortion law since 1988, embarked on another dreadful experiment in 2016 with the legalization of euthanasia. Preceded by a Supreme Court decision that struck down Canada’s laws against assisted suicide, the new law has already faced court challenges for being too restrictive and is seeing its feeble safeguards chipped away. All this has been accompanied by medical professionals facing assaults on conscience rights for those who refuse to be involved directly or indirectly with abortion, euthanasia or other morally objectionable practices.

I have learned much about these issues from the many dedicated groups leading the fight to preserve religious freedom and the right to life: the Catholic Organization for Life and Family, Campaign Life Coalition, the Catholic Civil Rights League, Cardus, Right Now, the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, Living with Dignity, the Physicians’ Alliance Against Euthanasia and so many more. Likewise, I relied on people from Development and Peace and Citizens for Public Justice for instruction on the Church’s care for the poor, for those in the global south, for human rights and for the environment. These issues have not been my particular passion, but I hope I was fair when covering them.

But enough on the darkness. What I enjoyed most about writing for Canada’s Catholic newspapers was the opportunity to share good news — news about men called to become priests or priests who learned the Pope had named them a bishop, and news about women deciding to start a new order of religious sisters. I’ve loved covering such faith-filled Catholic groups as Catholic Christian Outreach, NET Ministries, the Companions of the Cross, the Queenship of Mary, the Marian Devotional Movement, the New Evangelization Summit, the Spiritual Motherhood of Priests — so many bright lights of hope and evangelization, evidence that, despite setbacks, the Catholic Church is young and vibrant in Canada.  

I am so happy to be Catholic and part of this big and sometimes fractious family. Yes, the skies are darkening. But in the darkness I expect to see miracles, healings, lives transformed by grace.

It’s been a great 15 years, working with some wonderful people. Thank you to all who accompanied me on the journey.

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