Report of the Catholic Organization For Life and Family To the 2004 Plenary Assembly of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops And the Knights of Columbus

Monday, October 18 2004

The following is a summary of the publications and activities of the Catholic Organization for Life and Family from 30 June 2003 to 30 June 2004.


Marriage Matters

Given the Canadian social context and faced with the federal government’s intention to redefine marriage to include same-sex partners, COLF published a popular reflection on the origin, nature and objectives of marriage.

The 12-page brochure, Marriage Matters, responds in clear and accessible language to the 12 most frequently asked questions about the possibility of marriage by same-sex partners. It has been an overwhelming success with several reprintings, orders from all five continents and a distribution of 184,376 as of 30 June 2004.

The Christian Family: Good News for the World

This year’s annual message for the family emphasizes that the Christian family is the first school of life and faith and good news for the world.  It recalls that the Christian family is the place where each person is called to follow Jesus Christ on the path of the service of life. It is the privileged place where children discover, thanks to the tender care of their parents, their inestimable worth in the eyes of God and their mission to be at the heart of the Church and at the heart of the world.

The message is set out in accessible language in a colourful six-page leaflet that can be easily inserted in parish bulletins. It is a useful tool for those involved in sacramental preparation, religious preparation, youth and family ministry, retreats and parish celebrations of the family.

Over One Million Leaflets!

Since April 1997, COLF has produced 12 leaflets on various subjects concerning life and family.  Over one million copies have been distributed in dioceses across Canada as well as in other countries.  This number does not include the figures for Marriage Matters mentioned above.


Letter to the Minister of Health, The Honourable Anne McLellan, on the Morning After Pill

The Chairperson of COLF, Bishop Pierre Morissette, wrote to the Minister of Health on 27 November 2003 about the government’s intention to make the morning after pill available without a prescription. The following points were made: the pill’s potential to act as an abortifacient; its inaccurate description as “emergency contraception”, and the physical and psychological risks to women. Bishop Morissette asked the Minister of Health to reconsider the decision to make the pill available over the counter, and to provide more accurate information about the nature of the pill and the safeguards for women and their unborn children.  The letter was reissued on 19 May 2004, following the Minister of Health’s announcement there would be one final consultation.

Letter to the Canadian Association of Pharmacists on the Morning After Pill

Bishop Pierre Morissette wrote to the President of the Canadian Pharmacists Association on 30 June 2004, requesting assurances on three matters: 1) that should the morning after pill be available without a prescription across Canada, women be informed of its potential to act as an abortifacient; 2) the implementation of safeguards against frequent use; and 3) protection of the freedom of conscience and religion of pharmacists who do not wish to distribute this pill.

Letter to Members of Parliament on the Redefinition of Marriage

On 23 January 2004, COLF Chairperson Bishop Morissette sent all members of Parliament the brochure Marriage Matters, expressing the hope they would consider it a constructive contribution to the current debate.

Message on the Occasion of the Annual March for Life, 13 May 2004

In a message on the occasion of the annual March for Life, Life: A Right, A Mission, A Responsibility, COLF recalled that choosing life is the only choice that respects God’s plan for humanity. The message states in part:

Choosing life means defending the life and dignity of each person, from his or her conception right until his or her natural death. It also means walking with all those who cross our path, so that they might flourish while responding to God’s daily call. God’s plan for life involves loving both God and our neighbour, who has been created in God’s image.


 Bill C-6 (formerly known as Bill C-13), An Act Respecting Assisted Human Reproduction

Archbishop Terence Prendergast, S.J., who is a member of the COLF Board, represented the CCCB on 26 February 2004 before the Senate Committee studying Bill C-6. Dr. Bridget Campion, also a member of the COLF Board, made a separate presentation on the same day with a panel of ethicists. COLF provided background material for both Archbishop Prendergast and Dr. Campion.

Letter to the Minister of Foreign Affairs on an International Ban on Cloning

COLF collaborated in the development of a letter to the Minister of Foreign Affairs from CCCB President Bishop Jacques Berthelet, C.S.V., on 24 September 2003, asking Canada to work at the United Nations for a comprehensive international ban on all forms and techniques of cloning human beings.

CCCB Message on Marriage: Marriage in the Present Day

COLF collaborated in the preparation of a message on marriage, Marriage in the Present Day, which was released on 10 September 2004. It has two parts: Marriage as a Human Institution, and Marriage in the Light of Faith and the Catholic Tradition.

Intervention in the Supreme Court of Canada in the Reference on Marriage

The CCCB has been granted intervener status in the Supreme Court of Canada in the reference on marriage. The COLF Board and staff reviewed and provided comments on the draft application to intervene as well as the draft factum (final written argument). Some of the suggestions were incorporated into the final texts.

32nd Meeting of the Bishops of the Church in America, San Antonio, Texas

The 32nd meeting of the Bishops of the Church in America took place in San Antonio, Texas, 16-19 February 2004. Inspired by section 46 of the Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Americathey discussed the forces that are endangering the family in the different regions of America and the pastoral responses in each of the three regions.

COLF contributed to the development of a vision statement on the family which, with some amendments, served as the final declaration of the meeting. COLF also contributed to the development of speaking notes for Archbishops Brendan M. O’Brien and V. James Weisgerber.  Ms. Michèle Boulva, from the COLF staff, accompanied the CCCB delegation to San Antonio.

Election 2004: Responsibility and Discernment

COLF collaborated in the development of the statement issued by the CCCB Social Affairs Commission for the election, Election 2004: Responsibility and Discernment.  The document highlighted four main themes: Respect for the Life and Dignity of the Human Person, Support for Marriage and the Family, Preferential Option for the Poor, and the Common Good.


On 19-20 March, COLF hosted its sixth annual seminar on biotechnology for about 35 people, including bishops, scientists, physicians, lawyers and theologians. This year the topics were two challenging end of life issues: medically assisted nutrition and hydration, and the definition of death.

Fifteen resource persons from across the country made presentations on a number of specific topics including the following: general moral principles with respect to withholding and withdrawing of treatment, reflection on the meaning of suffering and dying in today’s world, the medical facts, case studies, the ethical debate about medically assisted nutrition and hydration, key legal decisions on medically assisted nutrition and hydration, the limits of heroic medicine, brain death, and new issues in organ transplants.  Once again it was evident that ethical and moral reflection cannot keep up with the rapid scientific evolution and technological progress.


  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 or email) of documents on life and family were made to the 60 diocesan contact persons, the National Executive of the CWL, the state deputies of the Knights of Columbus and to the members of theTable provinciale de pastorale familiale du Québec.
  3. After almost eight years of devoted service, Ms. Diane Dupras left COLF to join the Dominican monastery in Berthierville. She was replaced by Ms. Michèle Boulva, who was a journalist.
  4. Three members completed their second and final mandate with the Board at the meeting of 26 June 2004: Archbishop Terrence Prendergast, S.J., Dr. Bridget Campion and Mr. Grant Ertel were thanked for their generous and gracious service to COLF’s mission for life and family.

This report is respectfully submitted by the COLF Board of Directors and Staff

Board of Directors: