Canada’s pro-life movement and the Catholic Church are mourning the death of a “passionate defender of life” who was never shy to speak out against the culture of death in modern society.
Rev. Alphonse de Valk died at age 88 on April 16 at Toronto’s Scarborough General Hospital.
“He put faith into action,” said Jeff Gunnarson, president of Campaign Life Coalition. “He exemplified what we all look for in a priest. 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.”
Father de Valk, founder and former editor of the Interim newspaper and Catholic Insight magazine, had a long association with the Campaign Life Coalition and also helped form the Catholic Civil Rights League (CCRL) in 1985.
CCRL president Phil Horgan, said he was “blessed to know” Father de Valk, whom Horgan successfully defended against charges of ‘hate speech’ for Catholic Insight articles outlining Catholic teaching on same-sex attraction during the same-sex marriage debate.
Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act made it an act of discrimination to communicate anything “likely” to expose an enumerated group to contempt or hatred. The act was repealed in 2013 after Catholic Insight spent about $30,000 defending itself. The league honoured Father de Valk that year with its Archbishop Adam Exner Award for Catholic Excellence in Public Life.
“Father 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 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 made him a hero to pro-life Canadians, 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.”
Father de Valk was essentially the CLC’s in-house chaplain for years and he was willing to put himself in harm’s way to further the pro-life cause. He was arrested on numerous occasions for protesting at abortion clinics and 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,” Horgan said.
Born on Easter Sunday in 1932 in Rotterdam, Netherlands, Father de Valk immigrated to Canada in 1951 and eventually joined the Congregation of St. Basil. He was ordained in 1965 and taught at St. Joseph’s College in Edmonton and at St. Thomas More College in Saskatoon.
Father de Valk will be buried at the Basilian plot at Holy Cross Cemetery in Thornhill, Ont. 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.