I’m pro-life in that it is a deeply held principle and it determines how I vote. But I’m not part of the pro-life movement and I do not know much of the history. I do feel that the movement is my people, but I also feel that we are greatly outnumbered (in the US, polls suggest otherwise) because there are few pro-life heroes. There are the pro-life leaders of activist groups, a small number of courageous politicians, and a smaller number of religious leaders, who all speak out against abortion, but the culture is permeated with unabashedly pro-abortion voices.
Reading Donald DeMarco’s Apostles of the Culture of Lifeis a welcome and necessary tonic to the idea that we are alone, that people in positions of influence never provide a pro-life witness.
I learned a lot from Apostles of the Culture of Life, a collection of more than 50 vignettes of prominent people who witnessed for life. Some are well-known like Jean Vanier, who saw the humanity in severely mentally disabled individuals and created community for their humanity to flourish. Pro-life leaders like Jack Willke, Joe Scheidler, Fr. Ted Colleton, Judie Brown, Joan Andrews, and Jerome Lejeune are featured. Their stories are worth knowing.
What was most surprising and rewarding was the inclusion of athletes like Boston Celtics legend Bob Cousy, New York Giants owner Wellington Mara, painter William Kurelek, and actor Alec Guinness (Obi-Wan-Kenobi from Star Wars). I had no idea they were pro-life.
I should note that not all the stories are about opposition to abortion or euthanasia. Most are obviously pro-life (Mara funded pro-life initiatives, Kurelek painted grisly scenes of abortion-soaked hospitals and donated proceeds from his sales to Birthright and Toronto Right to Life), but some are not. Cousy’s pro-life witness was his model marriage and his doting care for his sick wife; Guinness’s was his modesty and conversion to Catholicism in an industry not especially conducive to humility or religion.
Authors such as Malcolm Muggeridge, C.S. Lewis, G.K. Chesteron, and Marshall McLuhan all make appearances, as do academics and intellectual activists such as Mary Ann Glendon, Charles Rice, and George Gilder. Some of these vignettes will inspire reading these familiar names anew, differently or deeper.
Most of the chapters are a mere five pages, and thus it makes for wonderful snippet reading – if you can put the thin volume down. For those, like myself who cannot, the short biographies will invite you back into the pages of DeMarco’s brilliant book.
Oswald Clark, an occasional contributor to The Interim, is an economist and lobbyist based in Washington.