The passing of Father Alphonse de Valk, C.S.B., yesterday, April 16th, 2020, is the passing of an era[i]. Many of our readers may recall with a rosy-tinged hue the ‘glory days’ of the nascent pro-life and pro-family movement, in the wake of the damage done by Pierre Trudeau and cronies, legalizing and normalizing all sorts of mayhem – from abortion to divorce to contraception to sexual deviance – the bitter fruits of which we are witnessing today, under his even-more ideological and inept son.
Father de Valk was always, right to the end of his strength and vitality, and even beyond, at the forefront of the battle against these evils. A priest for over half a century – we celebrated his fiftieth anniversary five years ago, in 2015 – Father de Valk was a faithful member of the Congregation of Saint Basil, and spent many years of his priestly ministry teaching in their various educational apostolates, as part of their charism, not least his own beloved Saint Michael’s College School,.
Yet his zeal did not end there, for was also the founder and editor-emeritus of both the Interim and Catholic Insight magazine, which he began in 1993 as a beacon of Catholic culture and hope, and which ran in its familiar and well-read print form until 2015.
Born in 1932, Father de Valk was ordained on December 11 in 1965, (a ‘late vocation’ as he called himself, at the quite Christ-like age of 33), three days after the close of the Second Vatican Council. About being a priest, in which vocation he never faltered, Father de Valk had this to say:
“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. 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.”
More or less summarizing what the Council and the Church have always taught.
Father de Valk began a doctorate in history in the early seventies, but, with abortion having just been legalized, he decided to dedicate his life to the aforementioned pro-life and pro-family cause – we might say, ‘battle’ – as the more important, necessary and immediate. As Father put it, he did not want to be like the German professor writing ironically in the midst of World War II about the ‘Fall of the Babylonian Empire’, all the while bombs were reducing his city to rubble.
Thus began a very fruitful and productive priestly, intellectual and prolific apostolate, with hundreds of articles, essays, pamphlets and books in the cause of life and true Catholic culture. Again, in his own words:
“As a historian, my entrance into the pro-life movement came from a realization that an error in principle in a grave matter of life and death either has to be reversed or it will destroy society. Anti-Semitism in Germany between 1918 and 1939 should have been redressed because the Nazis made use of it and it destroyed Germany. Likewise, legalized abortion will destroy Western societies unless we redress it.”
And redress it he did. Father de Valk did not balk at criticizing the culture of death and those who supported it, or were too pusillanimous in fighting against it, when such was their duty, including, sadly, members of his own priesthood. All in all, he wrote, taught and acted in the spirit of truth, humility and charity, without which no growth in virtue, and no good fruit, is possible. His vivid words and lively writing style will stand the test of time.
A true pro-life witness, he put his words and beliefs into action. Father de Valk spent countless hours faithfully praying in front of Morgentaler’s abortuary, being arrested and incarcerated for one fateful evening. He was one of the ‘fourteen’ pro-lifers sued by the immoral and reckless NDP government under Bob Rae.
As if this were not enough, Father de Valk is the co-founder of the Catholic Civil Rights League (1985), whose mission is to maintain a Catholic presence in the secular culture, as well as the Family Coalition Party (1987), to provide a solid, pro-life political presence, both of which have done untold good in witnessing to life and family. He was also involved in the Marian movement of priests, to promote sacerdotal spirituality.
We should all be grateful to Father de Valk for his untiring work as a priest, a scholar, a writer and a witness for God and His people, especially the most defenceless. He was, as the saying goes, and was said of his predeceased friend and fellow priest, Monsignor Foy, “a great son of the Church”. We could use a few more ‘great sons’ like them. May God reward Father de Valk with an eternity with Him, Our Lady, and all the saints and angels in eternity, where we all may hope to meet merrily one day.
[i] (We are indebted to the Interim article on Father de Valk’s 25th anniversary for much of the biographical material and quotations. Editor)