Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City told diocesan pro-life leaders gathered in Louisville Aug. 5-7 that they are part of the “most important human rights effort of our time and our age.”
Eighty-five directors of pro-life ministry from 63 dioceses around the country gathered this week at the Brown Hotel in downtown Louisville for the Diocesan Pro-Life Leadership Conference.
The theme of the conference, sponsored by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, was “Christ, Our Hope.”
Archbishop Naumann, who serves as the chair of the USCCB’s Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities, delivered the conference’s opening keynote address Aug. 5. In the talk — titled Life Will Be Victorious, which is also his episcopal motto — he thanked the diocesan pro-life leaders for helping their bishops and dioceses “build a culture of life in this particular moment in time when the church is wounded by the clerical sexual abuse scandal; at a time of pro-life promise with the current composition of the U.S. Supreme Court; and a time when supporters of legalized abortion are incredibly motivated and energized.”
“This is a moment of great opportunity as well as a moment of great peril for our culture and society,” Archbishop Naumann said.
During the three-day conference, participants attended a variety of break-out sessions led by experts in law and medicine, diocesan leaders and parish priests.
Sessions addressed topics related to overturning Roe vs. Wade, ministry to people after abortion, hospice and palliative care and assisted suicide.
During his keynote address Aug. 5, Archbishop Naumann acknowledged the pain and anger caused by the clergy sexual abuse crisis and encouraged his listeners to persevere as leaders in the church.
He noted that Bishop Robert Barron’s 2019 book “Letter to a Suffering Church: A Bishop Speaks Out on the Sexual Crisis” describes the scandal as a “diabolical masterpiece” that has “corroded Catholic credibility” on a variety of fronts.
The pro-life effort was affected, too, Archbishop Naumann said.
“It cannot be denied that it has impaired the voice of the church in speaking to our culture about the great moral evils of our time,” he said. This does not “absolve us of speaking boldly and strongly at the same time with humility. But, we must continue to teach the truth and speak it with love.”
He noted that Bishop Barron’s book addresses the question “Why remain Catholic in these difficult times?”
The archbishop added, “For you, I think the question becomes even more powerful: ‘Why remain a leader within the church who has these problems?’ ”
The church is an “earthen vessel” but holds a great, great treasure,” he said. He went on to list three reasons to remain Catholic and a leader in the church.
First, the church speaks of God in an age when “we see a growing atheism and a growing return to a paganism.”
“There is a God. But not just that there’s a God, but to know of a God of revelation, of a God that has pursued us, that sent his son into the world to share our humanity so that we could share in his life.
“That is the privilege of all of us as Catholics, but especially as Catholic leaders, to share with our world,” he said.
Another reason to persevere is the saints, he said.
“There would be no scandals in the church if its members, particularly we the clergy, faithfully followed our moral teaching,” he said. “Many saints were previously great sinners yet we do not venerate them for their sin but the transformation of their lives by God’s grace,” Archbishop Naumann said.
Quoting Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, he said the saints were motivated to live “heroic lives of virtue” for the chance to encounter the person of Jesus Christ.
“Catholicism affords us many opportunities to experience encounters with Jesus,” he said.
The third reason to persevere, the archbishop said, is the magisterium. The magisterium is the church’s authority to give authentic interpretation of the Word of God.
“The magisterium is a great gift even though it’s entrusted to weak individuals, he said. “But it’s through this gift the Holy Spirit remains with the church and keeps us constant in our teachings.”
Three individuals received national awards for their work in the pro-life movement Aug. 5 at the 2019 People of Life Awards and Dinner Banquet held in the undercroft of the Cathedral of the Assumption in downtown Louisville.
Pro-life leaders from dioceses around the country attended the awards dinner, sponsored by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. The honorees were Cheryl Holley, Marian Desrosiers and Chuck Donovan.
The People of Life award recognizes Catholics who answer the call to pro-life work as outlined by St. John Paul II’s 1995 encyclical “Evangelium Vitae,” a news release from the USCCB said.
The award honors those “dedicating themselves to pro-life activities and promoting respect for the dignity of the human person,” the release said. “It is bestowed in honor of their significant and longtime contributions to the culture of life.”
Cheryl Holley is the director of the Josephite Pastoral Center in Baltimore and is on the board of the Gabriel Network, which serves pregnant women and children in Maryland and Washington, D.C. Holley has worked to unite pro-life communities through ecumenical and multicultural efforts for three decades.
Chuck Donovan, a native of Louisville, is the president of the Charlotte Lozier Institute, the education and research arm of the Susan B. Anthony List political action committee. Donovan has been involved in the pro-life movement for four decades. He served as legislative director of the National Right to Life Committee from 1979 to 1981, in leadership at the Family Research Council and as co-chair of the Heritage Foundation’s Religious Liberty Working Group.
Marian Desrosiers is honored for work in the Diocese of Fall River, Massachusetts. In addition to her time as the diocesan pro-life director, she also led the diocese’s Project Rachel Ministry, which provides pastoral care for individuals who have been involved in an abortion, for 25 years. Today, Desrosiers is the director of advancement at Bishop Connelly High School and continues to serve women and their children in her diocese’s Women’s Transitional Home.
The honorees join 34 other People of Life award recipients since the Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities established the award in 2007.