Report of the Catholic Organization For Life and Family To the 2003 Plenary Assembly of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops And the Knights of Columbus

Tuesday, October 28 2003

The following is a summary of the publications and activities of the Catholic Organization for Life and Family(COLF) from 1 July 2002 to 30 June 2003.


Families: Messengers of the Compassionate Love of Christ

Each Spring COLF reflects on certain aspects of family life. This year we created a leaflet that looks at solidarity between families, with a special focus on single-parent families, who are both the object and source of solidarity.

No matter what a family’s circumstances are, no matter how it suffers or what challenges it faces, when it opens itself to another family, it is a reflection of God – tender, faithful and merciful. It becomes a messenger of the compassionate love of Christ for us all.

Resources on Marriage

To assist members of the Catholic community to participate in the public debate on marriage, COLF prepared and posted on its website a number of resources. They included four Backgrounders on:

1. Catholic Teaching and Public Statements on Marriage;
2. The Law on Marriage in Canada;
3. Recent Statistics About Marriage and Other Unions; and
4. Frequently asked questions about granting same-sex partners the legal right to marry.

COLF also included on the website suggested elements for letters on marriage by individuals on marriage to the Minister of Justice or a Member of Parliament.


COLF has published as a promotional tool a set of four bookmarks. Quotations on life and family from Evangelium Vitae and the 1994 Letter to Families are on the front of the bookmarks. The quotations are “A people of life and for life”; “The task of accepting and serving life involves everyone”; “The family is the sanctuary of life”; and “The family is the centre and the heart of the civilization of love”. The other side of the bookmark contains COLF’s mission, co-ordinates and publications.


Presentation to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Health on Bill C-13, An Act Respecting Assisted Human Reproduction 

On 19 November 2002 COLF appeared before the Standing Committee on Health to make a presentation on Bill C-13. The presentation was made by members of the COLF Board of Directors: Archbishop Terrence Prendergast, S.J., and Dr. Bridget Campion. They affirmed the positive aspects of the bill and recommended that “humans at the embryonic stage, no matter how they came into existence, be protected in the same manner as their vulnerable counterparts at any life stage”.

Message on the occasion of the National March for Life in Ottawa, 14 May 2003

On the occasion of the National March for Life, COLF reflected on the theme of the March, Life: The Only Choice!

The message made the point that:

“We regularly make decisions that affect our own lives and the lives of others. What sets us apart as humans is this ability and freedom to choose. But the fact that we can choose doesn’t necessarily mean that we will choose well. In fact, having the ability to choose does not determine in any way the morality or the value of the choice we make. The Catholic tradition has always insisted on the fact that we must choose what is good.

Message on the 35th Anniversary of the Encyclical Letter, Humanae Vitae

On 30 June 2003, COLF issued a message for the 35th anniversary of Humanae Vitae entitled The Church Says “Yes” to Love.

The message states in part:

“Paul VI’s prophetic outlook and the anthropological facts that led him to describe what characterizes marital love provide guideposts enabling us to uncover the real meaning of married love. Such love is relational at heart; it produces openness, communion and creativity. The sexual dimension of the love of a man and a woman is a mutual gift that overflows and is designed to bear fruit. The ultimate fruit is a child.”

Letter to the Minister of Health on embryonic stem cell research and marriage

As a result of a decision taken at the 28 June COLF Board meeting, a letter was sent to the Minister of Health on 4 July 2003 regarding the current legislative vacuum on the reproductive and genetic technologies and the lack of Government leadership on marriage.



COLF collaborated closely with the CCCB in the development of its presentation to the House of Commons Justice Committee on 13 February 2003, on the Discussion Paper on marriage. COLF Board member Dr. Marlene Smadu was asked to present the brief to the Justice Committee with Archbishop André Gaumond who is a member of the CCCB Executive. There was also continuing collaboration in responses to numerous judicial and political initiatives.

Meeting of Presidents of Episcopal Conferences of America, Santo Domingo

From 1-5 September 2002, the Presidents of Bishops’ Conferences of America met in the city of Santo Domingo on the theme The Situation of Perspectives of The Family and Life in America. COLF assisted in the development of Speaking Notes for the CCCB President, Bishop Jacques Berthelet, C.S.V.


On 20-21 March 2003, COLF held its fifth annual Seminar on biotechnology, focusing on the patenting of higher life forms and xenotransplantation. The Seminar brought together bishops, scientists, lawyers, ethicists, theologians and Church staff to examine these complex issues.

Participants expressed concern about protecting human genetic integrity, preventing the objectification and commodification of human life, and recognition of the value of all life forms. For forum participants the fundamental questions are what it means to be human and what is our relation to the rest of creation.


COLF Board members Grant Ertel and André Normand and their wives, Janet Ertel and Monique Normand, represented the CCCB and COLF at the fourth world meeting of families in Manila. The theme of the meeting was The Christian Family: Good News for the Millennium. It brought together families from all over the world to celebrate being a real community of life and love.

The concluding statement of the meeting celebrates the Christian family as Good News in six specific areas: 1) Good news for life; 2) Good news for society; 3) Good news for the poor; 4) Good news for the youth; 5) Good news for the world; and 6) Good news for the Church.


1) Throughout the year, members of the Board and staff are invited to participate in public forums, give media interviews and make presentations on a variety of topics.

2) Regular mailings (by post and email) of documents on life and family were made to the 60 diocesan contact persons, National Executive of the CWL, the State Deputies of the Knights of Columbus and to the members of the Table provinciale de pastorale familiale du Québec.

This report is respectfully submitted by the COLF Board of Directors: 

Dr. Bridget Campion, Coburg ON – Moral theologian, specialist in health care ethics
Mr. Grant Ertel, Waterloo, ON – Businessman, Past State Deputy, Knights of Columbus
Ms. Andrée Leboeuf, St-Augustin-de-Desmaures, QC – Graduate nurse
Most Rev. Pierre Morissette, Bishop of Baie-Comeau, QC
Mr. André Normand, Gatineau QC – Retired director from a financial institution, Past State Deputy, Knights of Columbus
Most Rev. Terrence Prendergast, S.J., Archbishop of Halifax and Apostolic Administrator of Yarmouth, NS
Dr. Noël Simard, D.Th., Ottawa, ON – Moral theologian, specialist in bioethics
Dr. Marlene Smadu, Regina, SK – Registered nurse and adult educator