Tag Archives: austin ruse

Littlest Suffering Souls: Children Whose Short Lives Point Us to Christ

Austin Ruse
TAN Books, 2017
132 pages, hardcover, $24.95

During my 13-year tenure with the National Catholic Register, one of the most memorable stories I penned was about Brendan Kelly, a leukemia-stricken Down syndrome child, whose Make-A-Wish wish was to meet the pope. I can still picture the image of four-year-old Brendan shaking Pope John Paul II’s hand. Brendan died at 16 . His story and that photo, and the moving stories of six other children are lovingly told in Ruse’s powerful book.

These stories teach what it means to love God like a child. The children’s awe-inspiring witnesses are a beautiful testament to how even the most profound suffering can be transformed through faith.

Order:  TAN Books, Amazon

The raucous Synod and a call to action

The optics weren’t very good. In fact, the optics were downright embarrassing.

Austin Ruse

Austin Ruse

The Ordinary Synod on the Family that concluded after a raucous three weeks in October gave the world, including the Catholic world, the impression that Church doctrine was up for grabs, albeit after a debate and — of all things — a vote.

It was exhilarating for some that the Church was considering changing doctrine that would allow those living in sincere, yet persistently adulterous relationships to take Communion and that the Church would find some sort of blessing in couplings based, at least in part, on sexual acts that are mortally sinful. Such prospects were both embarrassing and horrific for others who saw Church doctrine begin to crumble with the damage both inevitable and incalculable.

The “progressives” in this debate insisted that changing Church “praxis” would not change Church doctrine, though I become immediately suspicious when Church types start bandying about the word “praxis.” The “conservatives” insisted, rightly it seems to me, that changing practice is tantamount to changing doctrine and that such a change amounts to nothing less than heresy.

The optics were especially bad in the Vatican pressroom. Given that the proceedings were private and the interventions of the bishops were not released, outsiders were left largely with the spin of Vatican pressmen. In the case of English speakers, that of Fr. Thomas Rosica.

Early on Rosica announced that the Synod fathers were discussing the gay issue quite a bit and that the feeling was the Church needs to be less harsh concerning gays and certainly more welcoming. Archbishop Charles Chaput contradicted Rosica almost immediately, saying the issue was discussed hardly at all.

In the midst of this mess came a messy book by Vatican journalist Edward Pentin about how the Extraordinary Synod a year before had been hijacked by the progressives and how the German bishops — along with those tasked by the Pope with organizing and running the meeting — conspired to advance what’s come to be known as the German Proposition to allow Communion for the divorced and civilly remarried.

The book comports with a letter that several senior cardinals sent Pope Francis at the start of the Synod on Oct. 5 in which they made similar charges that the Synod was being jiggered for a particularly progressive outcome. The letter became quite controversial with some identified signers backing away and with the Pope delivering a talk to the Synod in which he condemned what he called the “hermeneutic of conspiracy.” The conspiracy, however, seemed to be quite real.

It was hard to see that the Synod wouldn’t go off the tracks from the very beginning. People forget that well before it began, the Vatican sent around, of all things, a survey asking for the bishops to poll the laity about their concerns. Naturally, the progressives latched onto the survey and used it as a tool to advance their agenda.

As the Synod progressed, it became clear the conservatives were routing the progressives. The progressive fallback was that these nettlesome decisions should be left to the bishops’ conferences or to individual bishops, but even this failed in the end. The final document can be read as a victory for the conservatives, for the most part anyway. Communion for adulterers was left out. Celebration of homosexuality was left out.

Progressives celebrated and some conservatives bemoaned a final paragraph that talked about “discernment,” “conscience,” and “internal forum,” which is fancy-talk for speaking with your spiritual director and your bishop. Some think those four words are the key to progressive victory in the end. After all, if after discussions in the “internal forum” and proper “discernment” of your “conscience” you decide that after leaving your first wife for another, you are fine with receiving the Body and Blood of Christ, so be it.

The final document is non-binding. The Synod of Bishops is not a part of the hierarchical Church and can only inform the Pope who will now write an “apostolic exhortation” on the topic of the family.

Catholics are advised to pray. Some say that is all we can do. But that is simply not true. Catholics must do much more than pray. They must act. Legates are in a unique position to gain access and make their case to bishops — their own and others. There is a lull in the fighting, but the fighting is not done — yea, not until the consummation of the age.

AUSTIN RUSE is president of C-Fam, a New York and Washington, D.C.-based research institute on life and family matters. He is a Knight of Malta and a recipient of Legatus’ Cardinal John J. O’Connor Award.

Awaiting Francis

Will the Holy Father tackle the tough issues when he visits the United States? . . . 

by Judy Roberts

As excitement builds for Pope Francis’ historic visit to the United States in September, many Catholics are hoping the Holy Father will seize the opportunity to speak out on the issues that most concern them.

During his six-day trip, Pope Francis will address Congress and the United Nations, meet with President Obama, and preside over the first World Meeting of Families to take place in North America. Each venue would seem to offer him a platform for concerns like the plight of persecuted Christians, threats to religious freedom and the family, and the dangers inherent in embracing contraception and abortion.

Meeting with Obama

Leonard Leo

Leonard Leo

What the Holy Father will say remains to be seen. According to a White House statement, the Pope’s Sept. 23 meeting with President Obama will cover such issues as “caring for the marginalized and the poor, advancing economic opportunity for all, serving as good stewards of the environment, protecting religious minorities and promoting religious freedom around the world, and welcoming and integrating immigrants and refugees into our communities.”

However, parts of the Pope’s conversation with President Obama are likely to be private, giving the Holy Father an opportunity to discuss concerns that are not necessarily on the agenda.

Leonard Leo, a member of Legatus’ Northern Virginia Chapter, said the Pope and the President obviously share some similar perspectives on economic and immigration issues. However, Leo said he hopes the meeting will focus on areas where there is not agreement, such as the sanctity of human life, the natural moral order in relation to marriage, and freedom of conscience.

“We’re having a crisis in our country on the issue of conscience,” Leo said. “I think that the Holy Father having a dialogue with the President on that issue would be very useful. It may or may not have an impact, but I think it’s important.”

Leo, who is executive vice president of the Federalist Society and co-founder of the Catholic Association and the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast, said he also thinks the Holy Father will be in a good position to articulate the underpinnings of the Church’s teachings on life and traditional marriage, which are not widely understood.

Leo said he also hopes that Pope Francis will be able to discuss religious freedom with President Obama.

“The President’s vision is freedom of worship,” he said. “He’s perfectly happy to have us say our prayers in the pews. He’s not particularly happy with seeing religion in the public square, and America has a long history of embracing freedom of religion, which pertains to freedom of conscience.”

Religious freedom and the U.N.

Austin Ruse

Austin Ruse

Austin Ruse, president of the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute, said he expects that the Holy Father will challenge President Obama on a broader understanding of religious freedom and freedom of conscience.

“Religious freedom is certainly ripe for conversation,” he said, both in the context of Christian businesses that want the right to refuse participation in same-sex weddings and those that object to providing abortifacient contraceptives in their health plans.

Ruse, whose group monitors and seeks to affect social policy debate at the United Nations, said when Pope Francis visits the U.N. on Sept. 25, he would not anticipate him talking about abortion, population control and contraception — concerns that are known to roil the international body. At the same time, he said, he will be disappointed if the Pope doesn’t mention them.

“He already says that we shouldn’t obsess on these types of issues, so I suspect that he will follow his own advice, which will be unfortunate because the African countries in particular are most upset at the imposition of this radical sexual ideology on their countries by U.N. agencies and western non-governmental organizations.”

Ruse said Pope Francis will likely talk about the environment, poverty, global inequality, human rights, and perhaps the plight of Christians in Africa and the Middle East — issues of concern to the U.N. on which the Holy Father has spoken.

“All these are very good things,” Ruse explained. “Tucked in among them I would love to hear him talk about what he himself has referred to as the gender ideology, which is being imposed on the developing world by western elites.”

On his return flight from the Philippines earlier this year, the Pope warned wealthy western nations against forcing this ideology — which holds that gender is not biological, but cultural — on developing nations by tying it to foreign aid and education.

Leo said the most important issue the Pope can address at the U.N. concerns what the international community is going to do about the persecution of Christians around the world. Neither the U.N. Council on Human Rights nor the General Assembly is doing enough about it, he said. “That’s what the Church can bring to bear at a meeting of the U.N. because we can speak with persuasive force and expertise.”

World Meeting of Families

Archbishop Charles Chaput

Archbishop Charles Chaput

Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia — where the Pope will take part in the World Meeting of Families from Sept. 26-27 — told Legatus magazine it’s obvious that family life is a signature concern of Francis’ pontificate.

In light of that, he said, “I think the Pope will press Catholics to take their faith more seriously and to conform their hearts and their behaviors to the truth of Catholic teaching about the family. That’s the only guarantee of a healthy family, and healthy families are the only guarantee of a healthy and humane society.”

Added Ruse: “I think it’s going to be a remarkable moment for him to speak to American Catholics about the importance of family and religious belief.” Ruse said he hopes the Pope is in a “rally-the-troops” mood because it’s a time when the American people are in need of leaders who will lead, particularly in the wake of court actions that have overturned the will of the people expressed in votes to define marriage as a union between one man and one woman.

Archbishop Chaput said he thinks Francis’ popularity means his U.S. visit will have a positive effect on Catholics who have drifted from the faith.

“Our work will begin after the Pope returns to Rome,” he said. “We need to live the kind of Christian witness that will draw alienated people more deeply back into the Church.”

JUDY ROBERTS is Legatus magazine’s staff writer.

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No finer time to be Catholic

AUSTIN RUSE writes that despite media outrage at the Church, this is our time . . .

Austin Ruse

Austin Ruse

Everyone knows there is a war going on in this country — a war on the Church, a war on religious believers, a war for souls: our individual souls and the soul of our country.

We grew up believing that we lived in a pluralistic society where Catholic, Protestant, Jew, believer and non-believer stood equal before each other and the state. Recent events have shown that this notion is now practically quaint. Not content with banning prayer in school, not content with chasing believers off of public land, the state now hounds religious believers in their personal and professional lives.

We may no longer live in a pluralistic society because now it seems we live under an official state religion. This official state religion does not allow pluralistic disagreement. This state religion pushes upon us a new god, a jealous god, an angry god who insists that our children take their pills, read and recite their sexual propaganda, and joyfully accept their dogmas — and that we should reach into our pockets and pay for it.

We look around and everywhere we see catastrophe. More than 1 million abortions a year. Marriage collapsing. The LGBT agenda on the march, including into our living rooms. Pornography exploding. And now we see the federal government encroaching dangerously on our freedom of religion, something guaranteed by our Constitution. Recent court decisions show that we may not practice our faith in ways once guaranteed to us. Now even nuns must pay for contraception.

But this makes sense. Writer William Gavin points out that ever since the French Revolution wherever the radical left has gained power, they have sought “to dismantle, destroy, marginalize, or make impotent the Roman Catholic Church,” the only institution in the world that has never waivered on protecting the unborn child and a proper understanding of marriage. The radical left cannot let this stand.

You may think my message is bleak and all that’s left to us is private devotion and despair. And none of that is my message. In fact, I say this is time for rejoicing. How blessed are we to be here now when everything seems lost. How blessed are we to be called by Him to defend his creation and Holy Mother Church right here, right now.

There is so much to be done and so few of us to do it. But in the present age of trouble I see haloes hanging from the lowest branches of the trees. All one need do is reach up and grab one!

There are models for us all around, for we have lived when great saints have walked the earth: John Paul II. Gianna Molla. Josemaría Escrivá. Mother Teresa. Padre Pio. Benedict Groeschel. We lived when they lived. You may not have noticed it, but we are living through an epoch unheard of in the history of our Church. In the span of only a few years, starting in 2004, this is what we saw:

We saw the release of The Passion of the Christ, a purely Catholic vision that literally swept the world. That same year, we saw a dissident Catholic running for president and a global debate broke out about the proper reception of the Eucharist. Within only a few months of that began the final sickness and death of our beloved John Paul the Great. His funeral was a global event. But that’s not all.

The world held its breath as we waited to know the new pope and the world celebrated the elevation of Benedict XVI. Not long after, our national debate over health care put the Catholic Church toe-to-toe with the president of the United States over the question of abortion.

And then Benedict stepped down, Francis was elevated, and practically everything he says is reported on the front pages around the world. I don’t believe we have ever seen the world gazing so intently and for so long upon our Holy Mother Church. The world is obsessed with us!

Some look at our present age of catastrophe and dream of other times, finer times, times where the faith was more widely lived, perhaps with torchlight processions through the streets. Some long for the 1950s. Some long for the Middle Ages.

But I say this: Never was there a finer time to be a faithful Catholic than right now. Our descendants will be envious that they could not be here with us when things may have looked bleak. But they will see this time was suffused with glory!

AUSTIN RUSE is president of the Center for Family & Human Rights (C-Fam). This is an abridged version of the speech he gave at the 2015 Legatus Summit. To receive a copy of the talk, email him at: austinruse@c-fam.org.

Huckabee among three new Summit speakers

Gov. Mike Huckabee, Harry Kraemer, Austin Ruse to speak at 2015 Legatus Summit . . . 


Gov. Mike Huckabee

Legatus is pleased to announce three dynamic speakers for its upcoming 2015 Summit in Naples, Florida. In addition to the speakers already scheduled (see below), Legatus members will hear from the following:

Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee.


Harry Kraemer

Harry Kraemer is the former CEO of Baxter International, Inc., and is a professor at Northwestern University’s Kellogg Graduate School of Business. Kraemer is a highly regarded speaker whose CEO experience and Catholic perspective will certainly be appreciated by Legatus members.

Austin Ruse

Austin Ruse

Austin Ruse is the president of the Center for Family and Human Rights (C-Fam), a non-profit research institute dedicated to reestablishing a proper understanding of international law, protecting national sovereignty, and the dignity of the human person. An expert on UN matters, he has briefed members of the U.S. House and Senate, White House, National Security Council, journalists, and Church and non-government leaders from around the world. He has appeared on major news network programs and is published in First Things, Washington Times, Crisis Magazine, National Review Online, Weekly Standard, Human Events and Touchstone. The title of Ruse’s talk is “No Finer Time to be a Faithful Catholic.”

Other Scheduled Speakers:

• Author Chris Crowley
Paul Darrow, Courage ministry
• New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan
Jennifer Fulwiler, author and convert
• Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez
• Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal
Al Kresta, Ave Maria Radio
Fr. Robert Sirico, Acton Institute founder
Pam Stenzel, Chastity author and activist


Mike Schwartz: Son of Thunder

The legendary pro-life leader’s final testament before succumbing to Lou Gehrig’s disease . . . 

Joseph Schwartz (far left) accepts the Cardinal John J. O’Connor Pro-Life Award from Peggy Hartshorn (a member of Legatus’ Board of Governors) and Fr. Frank Pavone on Jan. 25

Joseph Schwartz (far left) accepts the Cardinal John J. O’Connor Pro-Life Award from Peggy Hartshorn (member of Legatus’ Board of Governors) & Fr. Frank Pavone on Jan. 25

In his final days, Michael Schwartz could hardly hold himself up. He had to be propped up with pillows. Though his voice was little more than a whisper, his words bristled with passion.

It’s likely that you don’t know his name. Mike was a behind-the-scenes person, but he was more. Hardly a pro-life leader in America was not at one time welcomed by him, mentored and taught by him, prayed for by him. He was in fact a leader of leaders.

His life’s trajectory was likely set when one of his young friends gave him a copy of National Review. He and his fellow students at the University of Dallas formed the Sons of Thunder, one of the first pro-life groups in America. They promptly occupied a Planned Parenthood facility in Dallas and promptly got arrested.

For his whole professional life, Mike was at the center of all the most important pro-life activities. With Nellie Gray and others, he founded what became the March for Life. Mike went on to work for Paul Weyrich at the Free Congress Foundation. He became legislative director for Concerned Women for America, and later Sen. Tom Coburn’s chief of staff.

Michael Schwartz

Michael Schwartz

Mike was not a namby-pamby Christian. He was salty. Talking about the Supreme Court or the “gutless Republicans in the U.S. Senate,” his eyes would narrow, and his lips would tighten across his teeth and he would hold forth like an Old Testament prophet. Sometimes this got him into trouble.

He once said publicly that the Supreme Court justices shouldn’t be impeached, “they should be impaled.” It wasn’t just abortion he cared about. Mike said that the scourge of pornography caused young men to become homosexuals. He was one of the first in this country to sound the alarm bell about the sex scandal of Catholic priests. He called abortion murder. Mike was salty and fearless.

His last pro-life testament was a strategy memo that he formally presented to a large group of pro-life leaders who met in Washington, D.C., around the March for Life — which turned out to be his last public appearance, a few weeks before his death.

The memo is a masterwork, a summa of a life spent living and thinking about the cause of the unborn. Mike believed that even if Roe were overturned, we would still be faced with massive numbers of abortions and “instead of eliminating abortion by outlawing it, we first need to outlaw it by eliminating it.”

He wrote: “When the total number of commercial abortions committed is no greater than 100,000 and the total number of abortion shops is less than 100, then we can say that the cancer has been shrunk sufficiently to cut it out.”

To end abortion, Mike called for prayer (specific prayers for women and for abortionists by name), service to pregnant women, and legislation aimed almost exclusively at putting abortionists out of business in the states.

He called for “facilities regulations,” requiring all abortion workers be bonded so as to expose the criminal past of many of them, establishing an Abortion Injury Compensation Fund to be funded by a tax on all abortions, and several other very clever ideas, many of which are already being carried out.

You may never have met Michael Schwartz, but much of what you know about the pro-life cause first came to life in his head and at his hands.

He was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease only two years ago. This man, who always carried some book about theology in his pocket, knew the disease was a blessing. He was joyful about it to the end. It was a final test, a final penance that he carried out with the sporting spirit of a true Christian and a Son of Thunder.

Mike breathed his last on Feb. 3, 2013, in the company of his beloved wife of 42 years, his many children and his grandchildren. Requiescat in pace, Mike. At only 63, you left us way too soon.

AUSTIN RUSE is the president of the Catholic Family & Human Rights Institute. Originally published on Feb. 8, 2013, this article is reprinted with permission from The Catholic Thing — TheCatholicThing.org


A pro-life warrior’s fond, final farewell

Michael and Rose Ann Schwartz meet Pope John Paul II at the Vatican in March of 1991

Michael and Rose Ann Schwartz meet Pope John Paul II at the Vatican in March of 1991

On Jan. 25, Michael Schwartz received Legatus’ Cardinal John J. O’Connor Pro-Life Award and The National Pro-Life Religious Council Award. He was too ill to attend, but his son Joseph accepted the award on his behalf, delivering his father’s heartfelt gratitude in the speech below, Michael Schwartz died of Lou Gehrig’s disease a week later on Feb. 3, 2013.

I am honored to be present with you this morning and humbled to receive such recognition. I have learned many things in over 40 years of pro-life activism.

It is not enough to be right when it comes to the issue of abortion. Abortion is murder, and an attack on women. This is true. Perhaps 15-20% of the adults in this country hold to the pro-life position. The same percentage of adults on the other side want to see the rights to kill the unborn continued. The majority of American adults are conflicted. They do not like abortion, but do not believe laws should be passed to prohibit it.

It is for this reason that we need to be persuasive. We have not begun to do that well. Our rhetorical style turns people off. Gory pictures turn people off. We are often viewed as judgmental fanatics who want to harass women. We need to make the cause attractive. The enemy has done so by artificial lies — the lie of “choice.”

Women exercise their choice in leisure, in education and in careers. It is something they look forward to and enjoy. This is not the case when it comes to abortion. I have never heard of a woman wanting to get pregnant for the purpose of having an abortion. Abortion is what happens to a woman when she runs out of choices. She does not seek for her baby to die. She is alone and frightened and sees no solution for her dilemma.

The next lie is women’s rights. In the entire history of our common law tradition, no mother has ever been prosecuted for undergoing an abortion. The mother is always the victim of the crime. The prosecution always went after the abortionist.

For most of the 20th century — from 1920s to the 1960s — the abortion industry was run by organized crime. It was a sideline to their prostitution industry. The purpose of abortion was to keep women enslaved. So where do you see women’s rights here? The right to be victimized and the right to be a slave, injured, abused and violated.

The reason why women feel the pressure to undergo abortion is that they are afraid — afraid to lose their job, rejected by parents, beat up by boyfriends and get thrown out of school. For them, abortion is the path of least resistance.

Thus, women in such situations need friends and support. Pregnancy resource centers need to provide community. As a community, we need to do everything to strengthen these alternatives. I recommend that every believing church adopt a pregnancy center. That does not mean just write a check. It means encouraging the congregation to donate time, talent and treasure to their sisters in need.

As part of this partnership, churches should regularly invite the staffs of their local centers to meetings of the congregation. This should be done because a lot of Christian girls are not sure they will find forgiveness. They will feel more confident in their forgiveness when they know that parents, friends and others are supporting this ministry of love.

Last year I attended the pro-life rally in D.C. and saw three women carrying a sign that read: “Good women have abortions.” My heart went out to them. I knew they were burdened with guilt. Good people will do all kinds of sin. We have to put aside the scarlet letters and condemnation and show that we really do care about those who are frightened, alone and in trouble.

Therefore, I propose that in every believing church, when we worship, that we offer prayers not for some vague end to abortion, but instead for immediate help for the women in danger. We should pray for the protection of every woman who is at risk for abortion, that she will find the help and support she needs. The focus is to be upon the mother. Secondly, we need to pray for the abortionist who should be named. Before the throne of grace, we should pray for his or her conversion and forgiveness.

As this important cause is furthered, may our nation and watching world see and hear the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.


Cardinal John J. O’Connor Pro-Life Award

Richard Doerflinger
Chuck Donovan

Cardinal Raymond L. Burke
Steve & Vivian Koob
Thomas S. Monaghan
Dan Zeidler

Alveda King
Sam & Gloria Lee
Monsignor Philip Reilly

George W. Bush
Kathleen Eaton
Cardinal Francis George
Johnny Hunter
Dinah Monahan

John Haas
Molly Kelly
Janet Morana

Chris & Joan Bell
Denise Cocciolone
Sisters of Life
Sr. Paula Vandegaer

Joan Byrum
Peggy Hartshorn
Thomas W. Hilgers
Jerry Horn
James Hughes
Bernard Nathanson

James Bopp Jr.
Fr. Tom Euteneuer
Karen Garnett
Magaly Llaguno
Barbara Lyons
Germaine Wensley

Theresa Burke
Mark Crutcher
Nellie Gray
Fr. Frank Pavone
Austin Ruse

Sal Bando
Bishop Victor Galeone
Sen. Rick Santorum
Joseph Scheidler
Phyllis Schlafly
John & Barbara Willke

Judie Brown
Sam Brownback
Greg Cunningham
Fr. Paul Marx
Colleen Parro
Deby Schlapprizzi

Rep. Henry Hyde


Legatus conference rejuvenates pro-life advocates

Legatus members find that the pro-life movement is coming together like never before. . . 

Kathleen Eaton has been working full-time in the pro-life movement for nearly 30 years. But even with her depth of knowledge and experience, Eaton says she left the annual Legatus Pro-Life Conference full of enthusiasm.

“I came back from the conference on fire for my ministry and the issue of life,” said Eaton, who runs a number of crisis pregnancy clinics and shelters in Southern California.

Legates like Eaton from across the country received in-depth education on the pro-life movement’s challenges during the three-day conference held in Washington, D.C. Attendees not only heard from pro-life experts, but they also attended a special Mass at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.

Fr. Frank Pavone

Fr. Frank Pavone

The May 6-8 conference began with Mass and a reception at the Hilton Washington. Austin Ruse of the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute gave the opening address on the “legal and political conspiracy to impose abortion on the world.”

Many attendees said that one of the highlights was a panel discussion with prolife leaders like Janet Morana (Priests for Life), Fr. Thomas Euteneuer (Human Life International) and Eric Scheidler (Pro-Life Action League). They discussed bringing the pro-life message to the grassroots.

“I realized that our battle won’t be fought in Washington,” Eaton said, a member of Legatus’ Orange Coast Chapter. “It has to be grassroots, fought in our communities and our churches.”

Austin Ruse

Austin Ruse

But Campaign Life Coalition president Jim Hughes, a member of Legatus’ Toronto Chapter, said pro-life legislation has to accompany grassroots change.

“The law is the great educator,” he said. “In a new poll, over 90% of women said they wouldn’t have an abortion again if it were illegal.”

Delegates also attended the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast on May 8. The keynote speakers were U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and Archbishop Raymond Burke, head of the Vatican’s highest court.

The archbishop discussed the Notre Dame scandal in his address.

“The profound granting of an honorary doctorate at Notre Dame University to our President who is as aggressively advancing an anti-life and anti-family agenda is a source of the gravest scandal,” he said, referring to Notre Dame’s May 17 commencement. “Catholic institutions cannot offer any platform to, let alone honor, those who teach and act publicly against the moral law.”

The entire Legatus event was geared toward enhancing members’ understanding of the complex issues facing Catholic leaders in our day, said Laura Sacha, Legatus’ conference director.

“Members have their own chapter experience, which is essential,” she explained. “But our conferences allow them to learn from and network with like-minded leaders from across the country. Everyone who attends our summits and conferences grows from the experience and goes away more excited about being Catholic.”

Patrick Novecosky is the editor of Legatus Magazine.

The fight for life at the United Nations

Sixty years ago South American delegates to the body that created the Universal Declaration of Human Rights tried to get explicit protection from abortion for the unborn child. The Soviet Union tried to get a universal right to abortion. Both failed. The compromise language says: “Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.” To you and me that certainly looks like a prohibition on abortion, but that is not how it’s interpreted by the powers-that-be at the United Nations and in many places around the world.

This year the U.N. celebrates the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration, one of the founding documents of the U.N. and the modern human rights movement. It was negotiated in the shadow of the Nazi holocaust. The document was heavily influenced by Catholic thinkers like Jacques Maritain and also by those delegations of faithful Catholics from Latin America.

It is a good document, expressing essential Catholic teachings of the freedom and dignity of the human person: freedom of conscience, freedom to worship and many other aspirations of every human heart — aspirations placed there by God Himself.

The Universal Declaration was used to great effect in the Cold War. American policy makers and freedom fighters on the ground around the world used it effectively to help those enslaved in the grip of Godless totalitarianism. We could use it as a tool in our day too, but sadly the lingua franca of human rights has been greatly devalued by the growth of phony rights.

Some years ago, during a U.N. negotiation, one of my staff members took a picture of a meeting. In the picture was a pro-abortion radical who represented the Girl Scouts at the U.N. She complained loudly that by taking her picture we violated her human rights. Such is the debasement of human rights.

Hearkening back to the founding argument, many have never given up on making abortion a universally recognized human right. At the U.N. level this is being led most notably by the European Union, along with their allies in the U.N. agencies and U.N. bureaucracy. Over the years they have tried to get an explicit right to abortion in various U.N. documents. They have failed because they have been stopped by a coalition of U.N. member states and non-governmental organizations such as my own, the Catholic Family & Human Rights Institute (C-FAM). But they are sneaky and sly. Though they have lost these debates, they have found a way to advance their cause far from the democratic process.

The U.N. has committees called treaty monitoring bodies. When a government ratifies a treaty, they must explain to one of these committees how they are implementing the treaty. These treaty bodies have highly limited power to ask questions and write reports. What they have done — like bureaucrats everywhere — is grab more power. They have taken it upon themselves to reinterpret these treaties in more and more radical ways and then to try and impose this new interpretation onto sovereign states. Keep in mind that these treaty monitoring bodies are made up of unelected radicals unconnected to sovereign states. They are mostly academics and representatives of radical pro-abortion groups.

The treaty monitoring body of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, one of the implementing treaties of the Universal Declaration, has interpreted that treaty as including the right to abortion. That’s right — the right to life passage in that treaty is now interpreted as guaranteeing a right to abortion! The major treaty monitoring bodies routinely find a right to abortion in everything.

When the Universal Declaration of Human Rights hits 60 years old in December, there will be celebrations galore. A few months ago we noticed that a group called Marie Stopes International was running a petition campaign asking the U.N. to formally interpret the Universal Declaration as including a right to abortion. Marie Stopes is a British group which, like International Planned Parenthood Federation, is one of the world’s largest and richest abortion providers.

We noticed something else about their campaign. Their petition drive had been running for a year and had only gotten a few hundred signatures! We reported on this in our organization’s weekly Friday Fax report, which goes to nearly 100,000 people all over the world. Marie Stopes was shamed into taking their failed campaign down.

We decided to do something else. We launched a campaign of our own. Our petition asks governments to begin interpreting the Universal Declaration as protecting the unborn child from abortion and also protecting the traditional family, which the Declaration defines as between one man and one woman. We are at nearly 170,000 signatories from all over the world after only a few weeks. We could go to 200,000, maybe more. The petition has been translated into 12 languages and is rapidly circling the globe.

A coalition of 12 groups from around the world will present our petition in the official U.N. press briefing room at 11 a.m. on Dec. 10. The truth always will out.

Austin Ruse is president of the Catholic Family & Human Rights Institute (C-FAM), the only pro-life group working exclusively on pro-life issues at the U.N. He has spoken to many Legatus chapters and several times at Summits. He welcomes your comments at austinruse@c-fam.org.