7th Annual Proudly Pro-Life Awards Dinner Honors Bishop James McHugh and Thomas Monaghan

By Richard W. Kimble

Pro-lifers from across the nation packed the Starlight Roof room of New York City's historic Waldorf-Astoria Hotel April 25, 2000, as the National Right to Life Educational Trust Fund hosted its Seventh Annual Proudly Pro-Life Awards Dinner. They were gathered to honor and pay tribute to Bishop James T. McHugh of Rockville Centre, New York, and Thomas S. Monaghan, founder of Domino's Pizza and chairman of the Ave Maria Foundation, Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Proceeds from the dinner will be used to further the educational efforts of National Right to Life Educational Trust Fund. The resources made possible by the annual dinner are crucial to the Trust Fund's ability to educate the American public on abortion's assault on innocent unborn life. This is now more important than ever.

Among the many vital projects paid for by the Trust Fund are legal briefs filed in crucial cases such as Stenberg v. Carhart, which the Supreme Court heard just last month, that involved Nebraska's ban on partial-birth abortions.


Honoree Thomas S. Monaghan, Father Benedict Groschel, CFR and NRLC President Wanda Franz, Ph.D., share a special moment.
Photo credit: Bill Molitor

Among the prominent pro-lifers attending this year's dinner were actresses Susan Howard (of the television series Dallas) and Margaret Colin (of movies such as Independence Day and The Devil's Own and the current TV series Now and Again); presidential candidate Alan Keyes; and former honorees Nancy DeMoss of the Arthur S. DeMoss Foundation, Wellington Mara, of the New York Football Giants, Chris Godfrey of Life Athletes, and Virgil Dechant, Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus.

Actor and writer Ben Stein, host of Comedy Central's Win Ben Stein's Money, once again served as our master of ceremonies. Former Commissioner of Major League Baseball Bowie Kuhn joined us as honorary chairman.

NRLC President Wanda Franz, Ph.D., used her remarks to reflect on the encouraging successes of the right to life movement in recent years. Dr. Franz noted that NRLC's increased efforts to educate the American people on the evils of abortion and euthanasia have helped lead to a reduction in the number of abortions and an increase in the demands for restrictions on abortions.

Dr. Franz observed, "When you support our educational work by donating to the Educational Trust Fund, you save lives and protect mothers from the deep hurt of abortion."

In her introduction of Bishop McHugh, Darla St. Martin, NRLC's associate executive director, described him as a man "whose contribution to the right to life movement must rank as one of the greatest in our history." For more than three decades Bishop McHugh has stood at the most important decision points in the pro-life struggle. In the early years of the pro-life movement he provided crucial assistance and guidance in building pro-life groups in many states.

Mrs. St. Martin credited Bishop McHugh with leading the pro-life movement to become ecumenical and interfaith. Because of the movement's ecumenism, she said, it has been able to grow in a way that the pro-life movement in many other countries has not. "He made his vision into our reality,'' she said.

Gail Quinn, pro-life director for the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, recalled Bishop McHugh's service as pro-life director for the conference before he became a bishop. She said the Pastoral Plan for Pro-Life Activities that he led in developing continues to guide the work of Catholic parishes.

In responding to his award, Bishop McHugh commented on the current political situation, particularly the "eight years of chaos Bill Clinton thrust upon us,'' and the "double threat'' posed for pro-life supporters in New York state, an allusion to the upcoming senatorial as well as presidential election.

But Bishop McHugh said pro-life supporters "have to lift ourselves above that'' and build "a new environment that supports life.'' The battle "may go on for another 30 years,'' but "we will go in confidence because the Lord is with us,'' he said.

Monaghan, who lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan, was honored as a supporter of pro-life causes in Michigan and throughout the United States. David N. O'Steen, Ph.D., NRLC executive director, complimented Monaghan for his tremendously successful business career. But, O'Steen added, "as remarkable as his business success has been, it pales in comparison to his defense of human life and his commitment to actually act on the teachings of scripture."


Monaghan's opposition to euthanasia played a crucial role in the defeat of a 1998 referendum which would have legalized assisted suicide in Michigan. Mr. Monaghan, who sold Domino's Pizza in December 1998, now devotes much of his time and fortune to pro-life causes.

Monaghan's Ave Maria Foundation is funding the Ave Maria School of Law, scheduled to open this fall, and has established the Thomas More Center for Law and Justice to provide legal counsel on issues of religious freedom, the family, and sanctity of life. Monaghan is also founder of Legatus, an organization for Catholic business leaders.

Elizabeth DeVos, who is past chairman of the Republican Party in Michigan and currently finance director for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, said Monaghan was one of the few donors who asked her if Michigan Republicans were committed to the right to life position before he contributed. When she assured him they were, he became the largest donor to the Michigan Republican Party, she said.

Mrs. DeVos attended the dinner with her husband Richard DeVos, President of the Amway Corporation.


NRLC Executive Director David N. O'Steen, Ph.D. (left) with Rabbi Marc Gellman. Rabbi Gellman is co-host of the "God Squad," which appears on ABC's Good Morning America.
Photo credit: Bill Molitor

Dr. O'Steen further stated, "You hear rumors of many famous people who are supposed to be secretly pro-life. Tom Monaghan is not one of them. While a quiet and humble man about his personal accomplishments, he is boldly, courageously, and proudly pro-life. We need more patriots like him."

Bowie Kuhn, former commissioner of Major League Baseball and the dinner's honorary chairman, described the personal side of Monaghan. Their friendship began when Monaghan purchased the Detroit Tigers in 1983 and has flourished ever since.

Kuhn and Monaghan are jointly involved in numerous Catholic charitable endeavors and Kuhn serves on the boards of Ave Maria Foundation and Ave Maria School of Law. Kuhn noted that Monaghan was "doing something to change the culture."