Madonna House returns Order of Canada to protest against abortionists’ award

  • July 14, 2008

{mosimage}OTTAWA (CCN)—Members of the lay apostolate Madonna House returned the Order of Canada award their foundress received in 1976 to protest the appointment of abortionist Henry Morgentaler.

“The awarding of the Order of Canada to Dr. Morgentaler compels us to protest in the most forceful, peaceful way available to us,” said Mark Schlingerman in a prepared statement to media gathered at Princess Gate, the main entrance to the Governor General’s residence July 8. “Not only do we find his medical practice at the dark side of the medical profession but his inclusion in the awards diminishes them.”

Schlingerman joined a small delegation from the 200-member community headquartered in Combermere, Ontario, in presenting Catherine de Hueck Doherty’s snowflake medal and citation to Yves Bastien, a senior official representing the Chancellery of Honours in the Governor General’s office. Both CTV and CBC sent satellite trucks to the event, as did several other national media outlets.

Bastien received the medal and framed citation, and then quickly departed up the long tree-lined drive to the residence without comment to the media.

Doherty, a friend of Catholic Worker movement founder Dorothy Day and contemplative monk Thomas Merton, founded Madonna House more than 60 years ago. Its members live by begging and combine a radical commitment to Catholic social teaching with a deep commitment to prayer and to making ordinary life holy.

A Russian refugee who was baptized Russian Orthodox but later converted to Roman Catholicism, Doherty drew from the spiritual traditions of both the East and the West.

The investigation for her possible canonization began officially in 2000.

Though Doherty died in 1985, Schlingerman said she would have returned the Order of Canada were she alive, even though the award meant a great deal to her. In the statement, he cited a letter she had written shortly after receiving it, saying that the medal included Madonna House, her “beloved family.”

“As far as the medal is concerned you are all in it, for there would be no Madonna house without you,” Doherty had written.

Noting that the award to Morgentaler “dishonored” the Order, Schlingerman pointed out that the Latin motto on the snowflake medal comes from the Book of Hebrews and means, “they desire a better homeland.”

He said the verse needs to be completed: “they desire a better homeland, their heavenly homeland. That is why God is not ashamed to be called their God, since he has founded the city for them.”

Madonna House priest Father David May said they wanted to stress the Christian foundations of Canada through pointing out the context for the motto.

He said he hoped other Order of Canada recipients would follow their example and return their awards, noting they would be delighted if the Governor General would rescind Morgentaler’s appointment. Madonna House is the first group to actually return their foundress’ award, but the first to announce he was turning in his Order of Canada was Father Lucien Larre, a Coquitlam, B.C. priest who founded the Bosco Centres for emotionally disturbed and addicted adolescents. He told B.C. Catholic he felt “compelled in conscience to return my Order of Canada to Ottawa.”

Former New Brunswick lieutenant-governor Gilbert Finn, 87, also plans to return his award. The Acadian businessman and former rector of the University of Moncton told Radio-Canada he had written both the Prime Minister and the Governor General that he was returning his insignia and that he no longer wants to part of the Order because he does not share Morgentaler’s values.

Leo Goski of Regina Saskatchewan wrote to the local paper that he was returning the Order of Canada his late uncle Monsignor A.J. Goski received for helping immigrants settle in this country.

“With the appointment of Henry Morgentaler to the membership, my respect for the medal has diminished entirely,” he wrote to the Regina Leader Post. “Because of this I am sending the medal back to the Governor General and urge anyone else who has the medal to do likewise. I realize this is not my medal but it is the pride of our family and I know that Monsignor would not want to be a party to this disgusting appointment.”

The abortionist whose court battles resulted in the Supreme Court of Canada’s striking down Canada’s abortion laws 20 years ago, was among 75 appointments to Canada’s highest civilian honor announced on Canada Day, July 1. Morgentaler has said he personally has performed about 100,000 abortions. In the 20 years Canada has been without an abortion law, about two million legal abortions have taken place.

Susanne Stubbs, the director general of women at Madonna House, called Catholic teaching on abortion a “quintessential issue,” but added they had no judgment towards women who have gone through “the unfortunate experience” of abortion.

Nor do they judge Morgentaler. In their statement, the group said they were “choosing to place truth before honors.”

Comments (0)

There are no comments posted here yet

Leave your comments

  1. Posting comment as a guest. Sign up or login to your account.
Attachments (0 / 3)
Share Your Location

Please support The Catholic Register

Unlike many media companies, The Catholic Register has never charged readers for access to the news and information on our website. We want to keep our award-winning journalism as widely available as possible, which has become acutely important amid the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. But we need your help.

For more than 125 years, The Register has been a trusted source of faith-based journalism. By making even a small donation you help ensure our future as an important voice in the Catholic Church. If you support the mission of Catholic journalism, please donate today. Thank you.