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NRL News
Page 18
June 2010
Volume 37
Issue 6

University Faculty for Life Holds 20th Annual Meeting

By Wanda Franz, Ph.D.

The 20th annual meeting of University Faculty for Life (UFL) was held in Washington, D.C., June 4 and 5 at The Catholic University of America. The program was full of excellent presentations by many pro-life members of faculties in universities and colleges from around the country and Canada.

Founded in 1989, UFL is an ecumenical advocacy group that promotes research, dialogue, collaboration, and publication among faculty. Its mission includes the areas of abortion, infanticide, and euthanasia. The annual proceedings are available for the use of the pro-life community.

It was impossible to attend all of the talks because there were parallel tracks for the panels and addresses that forced the attendees to make choices. The content was wide-ranging. Examples of the variety of different presentations included discussion of a course on abortion being taught at New York University, discussion of conscience clauses for medical personnel, the move toward assisted suicide in England, philosophical analysis of the abortion issue, abortion in the case of fetal abnormality, the dangerous work of the World Health Organization, and issues in pro-life feminism.

Richard Doerflinger of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities talked about his work with the Health Care Reform Bill. Professor Hadley Arkes delivering the closing banquet address and discussed the strategy of the Born-Alive Infant Protection Act.

I would like to talk about my impressions coming away from the sessions that I was privileged to hear. Francis Zapatka, professor emeritus at American University, gave an analysis of three beautifully written sermons by the then-Bishop Clemens von Galen of Münster, Germany.

These sermons, delivered between July and August 1941, boldly spoke out against the Nazi German program of euthanasia aimed at the sick and disabled. The sermons had a huge impact because they publicized the actions of the Nazis and were re-printed outside of Germany and widely dispersed.

At the time, the Nazis were afraid to punish von Galen, “The Lion of Münster,” but it was clear they were only waiting for the triumph of Nazi Germany to settle “old scores” after the war. The Nazis were forced to scale back the euthanasia program as it applied to the disabled. Sadly, we all know that the euthanasia program proved to be a “rehearsal” (as many scholars have described it) for the “final solution” of killing 6,000,000 Jews and any others whom the regime considered “undesirable.”

Fr. Robert Sokolowski of The Catholic University of America spoke on the theological perspectives of pro-life theory and action. He discussed the need for two important virtues for those engaging in pro-life work. The first is courage. He emphasized that this involves both physical courage to face personal danger, such as that faced by the above-mentioned Blessed Clemens von Galen, but also psychic courage to stand up to social and cultural pressures that affect us today.

The second virtue is patience, which is obvious, since the enormous task of saving the unborn and the medically dependent elderly is going to take much longer than all of us would like. However, he emphasized that patience is also important because it allows us to avoid falling into emotional states that are detrimental to us personally and to the movement as a whole. These negative states are feelings of revenge, anger, and despair, which limit our effectiveness.

The next talk I want to mention is that given by David Solomon of the University of Notre Dame. His topic was an examination of the way in which Notre Dame, as an institution, has responded to the cultural crises brought about by expanded support for abortion and euthanasia in the last 40 years. He was at the university in 1973 when Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton were handed down by the Supreme Court. The reaction of then-President Theodore Hesburgh was to call for three conferences to address the issue.

Solomon summarized the effect of these meetings as an attempt to find an accommodation by the institution so as to live comfortably with the new regulations regarding abortion and, especially, to live comfortably with the Democratic Party and its Catholic embodiment, the Kennedy family. He showed that this approach is still present at the institution as demonstrated by the recent scandal over inviting the most pro-abortion President in American history to receive an honorary degree at the graduation ceremonies. Clearly, what is lacking here is the kind of moral courage displayed by Blessed Clemens von Galen.

The talk that I gave dealt with the Will to Live document that is available from our Robert Powell Center for Medical Ethics. It is a life-affirming alternative to so-called “living wills,” and spells out what treatment people would want. It helps people to protect themselves legally from the pro-death dangers lurking in our medical system.

I drew attention specifically to the dangers of rationing in the Obama health care system: we are standing on the brink of a whole new threat to life that demands our courageous response. We are once again in great need of courageous leaders on the model of Bishop von Galen, the “Lion of Münster.” Each of us should use him as our personal model and work to protect our sick, elderly, and disabled from this threat to life.