Death of pro-life hero mourned across Canada

Fr. Alphonse de Valk died at age 88 on April 16 at Toronto’s Scarborough General Hospital. (File photo Canadian Catholic News)

Fr. Alphonse de Valk, CSB, died in Ontario on April 16 after a lifetime of speaking out against abortion as a modern day evil in Canada

By Bryan Dryden, Canadian Catholic News

[Ottawa – CCN]  – Canada’s pro-life movement and the Catholic Church has lost one of its most prominent and respected voices that was never shy to speak out against the culture of death in modern society.

The death of a “passionate defender of life” is being mourned across the country since the news that Fr. Alphonse de Valk, CSB, died at age 88 on April 16 at Scarborough General Hospital in Ontario.

“He put faith into action,” Campaign Life Coalition president Jeff Gunnarson told the Canadian Catholic News.

“He exemplified what we all look for in a priest,” Gunnarson said. “He was always there to support and write about the pro-life cause and warn about the culture of death. He was the poster boy for faith in action.”

De Valk, founder and former editor of the Interim and Catholic Insight magazines, had a long association with the Campaign Life Coalition, Canada’s most prominent pro-life organization, and also helped form the Catholic Civil Rights League (CCRL) in 1985.

The current president of the CCRL, Toronto-based lawyer Phil Horgan, said he was “blessed to know” Fr. de Valk.

“The League was pleased to honour him with our Exner Award in 2013, the year that section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act was repealed. I had acted as his counsel in defending him and Catholic Insight against charges of ‘hate speech’ under that provision of the CHRA, which he successfully opposed,” Horgan said.

The CCRL’s Exner Award honours people for their devotion to Catholic principles in public life.

“Fr. de Valk was a passionate defender of life, and of free speech, and stood for a robust understanding of freedom of conscience and religion,” Horgan added.

In a previous profile published in the Interim, de Valk talked about his love of serving the Lord. “Being a priest is a tremendous vocation. It allows you to do so many things for people but always to live on the highest possible level of ideals,” he said. “It certainly means serving the Lord in the world and for me the intellectual apostolate of teaching, growing in study and doing the will of God. To be a priest is to preside at the liturgy, to teach the faith and to do everything that Christ did as a Priest.”

It was that devotion to his calling and his steadfast opposition to the culture of death that abortion is but one example, that made him a hero to pro-life Canadians, the CLC’s Gunnarson said. “He was a great Catholic priest who was always committed and dedicated to his calling and that was reflected in his furtherance of the pro-life and pro-family cause,” Gunnarson said.

“He was a man who you could always turn to and always could count on to fight for the pro-life cause,” he said of Fr. de Valk, who in essence acted as the CLC’s in-house chaplain for years.

In fact, he was more than willing to put himself in harm’s way to further the pro-life cause, having been arrested on numerous occasions for protesting at abortion clinics and he even spent a night in jail because of his pro-life activities.

“His witness to the Gospel of Life was always centred on his relationship with Jesus Christ, in his case, through the priesthood,” the CCRL’s Horgan said.

Born on Easter Sunday in 1932 in Rotterdam, Netherlands, Fr. de Valk immigrated to Canada in 1951 and and he eventually joined the Congregation of St. Basil and was ordained as a priest in 1965. Much of his early work within the Church was done as a teacher at St. Thomas More College in Saskatoon and in Edmonton at St. Joseph’s College.

On the CLCs’ Facebook page there are numerous comments praising Fr. de Valk’s work as a pro-life advocate and the impact he had on the pro-life movement in Canada.

Fr. de Valk will be buried at the Basilian plot at Holy Cross Cemetery in Thornhill, On., but a funeral Mass will be held at a later date because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. In lieu of flowers mourners are asked to make contributions to the Basilian Fathers Retirement fund based in Toronto.