Skip to comments.Why are prominent pro-lifers swimming the Tiber?
Posted on 08/04/2011 8:36:59 AM PDT by NYer
When Bryan Kemper was getting started in pro-life activism about 20 years ago, he "was kind of paranoid at first" about working with Catholics, he said, having been taught by other Protestants that the Catholic Church was the whore of Babylon. "I was hellbent on saving all the Catholics," he recalled recently.
Kemper's younger self would likely be shocked to learn that he is part of a recent string of prominent pro-life activists including Lila Rose, undercover videographer of Planned Parenthood, and former abortion clinic director Abby Johnson who have decided to enter into full communion with the Catholic Church.
Kemper, now 44, had been baptized Catholic as a kid to appease his great-grandmother, but the faith was never practiced at home.
He spent his teen years doing and dealing drugs, getting kicked out of the military, and periodically living on the streets. His life began to change when he overdosed at a Grateful Dead and Bob Dylan concert in 1987 and a doctor "shared the hope of Christ" with him, he told Our Sunday Visitor.
|Former abortion advocates also converted|
The ranks of Catholic converts include at least two people who played a key role in the legalization of abortion in America.
Norma McCorvey was the "Jane Roe" of the 1973 Roe v. Wade case that legalized abortion in the United States. She later renounced the pro-choice position, and on Aug. 17, 1998, she was received into the Catholic Church and confirmed by Father Frank Pavone of Priests for Life.
Dr. Bernard Nathanson, who died Feb. 21, helped found the National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws (NARAL) in 1969. An obstetrician-gynecologist, he performed 5,000 abortions and oversaw tens of thousands more. In the late 1970s, as a Jewish atheist, he came to oppose abortion; he was received into the Church in 1996.
He soon "gave his life over to Christ" and immersed himself in pro-life work. In 1993 he started Rock For Life, which led to spots on MTV and the Lollapalooza music tour. Later on, he started Stand True Ministries, which challenges young people to take a stand against abortion.
Kemper eventually came to realize that his Catholic colleagues "loved Jesus, too," he said, but that didn't keep him from trying to convert them. But his efforts didn't turn out quite the way he expected.
"Twenty-three years of debating my Catholic friends caused me to study the Catholic Church," he said. And although Kemper "fought it so hard" for the past few years, his study led him this past spring to return to the Catholic Church.
Historical facts, such as St. Ignatius of Antioch's early-second-century writings on the Eucharist, confirmed Kemper's sense that holy Communion was more than just a symbol. And he came to believe that "there's no possible way that God can be pleased with 40,000 denominations, and there had to be one truth," he said.
While in Brussels for the March for Life Belgium at the end of March, he talked with a monsignor and made "a pretty heavy-duty confession." After affirming the Nicene Creed at Mass, he was able to receive Communion.
In May, Kemper became the director of youth outreach for Priests for Life, and he's now preparing for confirmation with Priests for Life's president, Father Frank Pavone.
Tip of the iceberg
Kemper's story is far from unique among pro-lifers, said Father Pavone.
"When you see these leaders go through this [conversion], it's really a tip-of-the-iceberg phenomenon, because it's happening on the grass roots very commonly."
As Father Pavone travels around the country, people regularly tell him, "I became a Catholic through my pro-life activism."
There are several factors that lead pro-lifers toward the Church, Father Pavone said: the Church's consistent position on pro-life issues, its strong philosophical tradition and the trust that develops between Catholics and non-Catholics "rubbing shoulders" in the pro-life trenches that helps make non-Catholics more receptive to learning about the Faith.
Father C. John McCloskey, who has played a part in the conversions of several public figures, added that many people "learn about the Catholic Church for the first time through their involvement with pro-life."
Shaped by the saints
Rose was raised in an interdenominational church by devout parents who homeschooled her and her seven siblings. From an early age she was surrounded by the writings of saints such as Justin Martyr, Athanasius, Augustine and Thomas Aquinas. As a young teen, she read Catholic author Michael O'Brien's novel "Father Elijah" and Mark Twain's "Joan of Arc," which got her interested in the lives of the saints.
"All of these things began to influence me and shape my spiritual perspective from a young age," she told OSV. "I would debate with my very hard-core Calvinist friends about justification or transubstantiation or different principles of the Catholic faith."
As a sophomore at UCLA, Rose "stumbled across" an Opus Dei center near campus, attended a Mass and found a spiritual "mentor" in the woman sitting next to her. A year and a half later, on March 15, 2009, Rose was received into full communion with the Catholic Church.
Although Rose was impressed by the pro-life writings of Catholics such as Mother Teresa and G.K. Chesterton, "It wasn't the pro-life movement that brought me to the Church," she said, so much as her education and exposure to the saints.
Leaving abortion behind
Johnson rose to national prominence in 2009 when, after witnessing an ultrasound-guided abortion, she left her job as director of a Planned Parenthood clinic in Texas and became a pro-life advocate.
After her pro-life conversion, Johnson and her husband, Doug, no longer felt welcome at the pro-choice Episcopal church they'd been attending.
Although Doug was adamant that they would not become Catholic, Johnson saw something special in her new Catholic pro-life friends in the Brazos Valley Coalition for Life. "I just saw how Christ was really real every day in their lives, and I thought, 'I want that too.'"
One Sunday they attended Mass after missing another church service, and they realized that the Catholic Church was where they belonged.
They completed their RCIA classes in the spring, and Johnson said they were awaiting an annulment ruling before they can receive what she most looks forward to about becoming Catholic: the Eucharist.
"It feels like torture to have to wait," she said, "but it just confirms that we're in the right place and that this is what we really want and that this is really God's desire for us."
I’m one of the prolife converts! Excellent article!
In describing his conversion, Adasevic said he "dreamed about a beautiful field full of children and young people who were playing and laughing, from 4 to 24 years of age, but who ran away from him in fear. A man dressed in a black and white habit stared at him in silence. The dream was repeated each night and he would wake up in a cold sweat. One night he asked the man in black and white who he was. My name is Thomas Aquinas, the man in his dream responded. Adasevic, educated in communist schools, had never heard of the Dominican genius saint. He didnt recognize the name."
Wow! This is fantastic! A young seminarian recently shared with me about his call from God (after he had left the Church) and it also involved a dream...he had the same dream 3 times.
The Holy Spirit is very active. ;-)
Because it’s the most consistent denomination when it comes to life. No other approaches it. Not only is it church policy, but the vast majority of Catholics, leaders or followers, actually subscribe to it.
Unfortunately, too many see it as a “tradable political issue”. IOW, if one candidate is pro-job and another is pro-life, there’s this logic that says that’s an even trade off. “Life” is not an issue. It’s the premier God-given right.
Amen. There are a lot of really good things going on in the Church. God is raising up a zealous, faithful Remnant. There is great reason for Hope, even as the temporal world itself swirls down a horrifying abyss.
You are so right! I am quite excited about what God is going these days!
Goes to show that God is calling more people home in faith conversion.
Don't drink the Kool-Aid:
...The disagreement over Notre Dame and Obama is essentially the same as the disagreement among clashing American Catholic camps over the issue of the moral and legal status of abortion itself. In fact, 61 percent of the attend less often Catholics believe that abortion rights should be protected in all or most cases, as opposed to 30 percent (still an interesting number) among the attend weekly Catholics.How Catholic Universities Support Planned Parenthood
-- from the thread Those consistently complex Catholic voters
Because its the most consistent denomination when it comes to life.
and more. like gay marriage, women priests, reading the Quran in church and “Chrislam”, etc.
certainly i admire many of my Baptist brothers and sisters.
their faith, Bible knowledge, etc.
but the Catholic Church has built-in “checks and balances”,
that prevent most “drift” and inconsistencies.
however, most important, sincere praise to ALL Christians, who fight for the unborn lives, that God has created.
(and thanks to NYer for posting this)
I pray daily for the Church to deal more forcefully and publicly with the openly scandalous in our midst.
Um...did you just admit that contraception and abortion are related there, Alex? ;)
I believe that many people recognize instinctively, if not consciously, that abortion is almost universally a symptom of unchastity. The Catholic Church is the only religious body that has authoritative, complete, rational, and consistent teaching about chastity. This virtue is not universally observed, of course, any more than other virtues always are, but it is stated, by the Catholic Church, in terms that fully rational and well-intentioned persons cannot dismiss.
well, it’s natural. Which church group in the West has consistently stuck to its beliefs? No matter what tides come in one way or the other?
doesn’t matter — we’re not here to be liked. We must keep on telling the world that accepting homosexual acts is wrong, abortion is wrong, etc. etc. — we’ll get continuously hit for this, but that’s to be expected
We are called to duty and the problem is when we focus on preaching to non-Christians and forgetting to preach to ourselves
I just cannot understand the logic that killing a baby is acceptable in the liberal world.
You phrased that perfectly. Could not have been more accurate. Thank you.
That's the result of the 'Seamless Garment' gang. I forget if it was Bernadin or Weakland that started it.
Um . . . because they’ve decided evolution isn’t so bad after all?
I am protestant, I will never become Catholic. I will work with Catholics, however and have no problem with that. My problem lies in that I would have to trely on the word of a single human beings to be in charge of my faith. Humans are evil creatures from birth and I will never rely on anyone else than God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit to save me.
I guess I don't really see the relevance to Catholicism per se of the opinions of people who can't be bothered to order their life according to the precept "a Catholic is required under pain of grave sin to attend Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation". If you can't do that, in what sense are you really living as a Catholic? And if you aren't living as a Catholic, in what sense, beside the merely juridical, are you a Catholic at all?
Someone whose relationship to the Church (setting aside their relationship to God -- but a Catholic ought not to see their relationships to God and to the Church as separable items) doesn't even rise to spending one hour a week (plus one hour or less on 5 or 6 other days a year) has none of what lawyers call "standing" to associate their opinions with Catholicism as a belief system.
This thread is about pro-lifers who are joining the Catholic Church, not pro-lifers who are associating themselves with people whose connection with the Catholic Church is marked mostly by their own disobedience to it.
Actually, the point of the original "Seamless Garment" idea --- and the first person I heard preach it was Mother Teresa's great friend and promoter Eileen Egan --- was exactly the opposite of what you describe: it was that "respect for life" is unbroken and seamless, i.e. NOT a patchwork quilt where you could gash a huge hole in one square of cloth but patch it with another.
Even "Seamless Garment" as preached by Cardinal Bernardin, back in 1983, similarly was based in a consistiency thing, starting with "You can never intentionally kill any innocent person, born or unborn, period."
The problem came in when the patchwork people (the "pro-choice" liberal Democrat Catholics, prominently Mario Cuomo and his posse) turned the concept upside-down and started saying it's OK to throw the baby to the wolves if you're also antiwar or pro-food-stamp or something.
And Bernardin --- and most other USCCB Bishops ----let them get by with it: they did not confront, challenge and repudiate them.
That was the hell-bent scandal of it all.
I love conversion stories. They remind cradle Catholics about all the wonderful reasons the Catholic Church possesses the fullness of faith.
The story of the man who was visited by Aquinas in a dream, though he’d never heard of him, is especially moving.
The Holy Spirit is still guiding the Church. The faithful will have nothing to fear. I am so deeply grateful that I am Catholic and can continue to discover deeper and deeper beauties of the faith.
My problem lies in that I would have to trely on the word of a single human beings to be in charge of my faith. Humans are evil creatures from birth and I will never rely on anyone else than God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit to save me.
By "single human", I am presuming you are referring to papal authority. Since you share our love for Scripture, let's take a closer look at what it says. Christ stated that the Church, not Scripture should be the final authority: "And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the Church: but if he neglect to hear the Church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican." (Matthew 18:17 ) Christ did not state to refer to or consult Scripture for disputes and correction. He said to go to the Church as It is the final authority in Christianity. In addition, St. Paul states that the Church, not Scripture is "THE pillar and ground of the truth." (1 Timothy 3:15) Since the Church alone is mentioned as the pillar of truth, then It alone has the right to discern the truth and interpret Scripture. For if individuals could correctly interpret Scripture, then all interpretations would be exactly the same as there can only be one Spiritual Truth for the plural of the word "truth" never appears in Scripture. The Church is Christ's bride (Ephesians 5:29) and has "no spot, wrinkle or blemish" (Ephesians 5:27). Christ also stated that the gates of Hell will not prevail against His Church (Matthew 16:18) so how can the Church commit error? Individual clergy may commit sins, even popes commit sins because in the Church there are both "weeds and wheat" (Matthew 13:30).
In its 2000 year history, not one pope has ever erred in matters of faith or morals. That is testimony to the work of the Holy Spirit in safeguarding the Church established by Jesus Christ.
I think I had a fair caveat built into my post. Western Catholicism has its tares, but it has a lot of wheat, too. Non-western Catholicism adheres even more closely to the pro-life position espoused by the Catholic church. I can’t really speak to Orthodoxy, if one is including other strands of catholicism. (I don’t include Anglicanism). I assume the Orthodox are also pro-life, but I don’t know that.
Why are prominent pro-lifers becoming Catholic? Pro-lifers seek the Truth, and “The Truth is Self-Authenticating.”
And as Cardinal Newman so succinctly put it, “To be deep in history is to cease to be a Protestant.”
When you study the history of the pro-life movement, and the legalization of abortion, you realize abortion was legalized because contraception was legalized and culturally accepted.
And contraception was legalized and culturally accepted because in 1930 protestantism changed its historical condemnation of contraception.
There is only one Church which has not caved on contraception, so there is only one Church with a cohesive, TRUTH based approach to all pro-life issues.
Pro-lifers know it, and are flocking to that Church.
The Orthodox are also pro-life, but they have a tendency to not delve into legalese as we Westerners (Catholic and non-Catholic) tend to do at times
That was just one that I found right away, just for arguments sake. Not one human is free from error, not a single one. This is why I will never place faith in humans. Christs Church is not simply the Catholic Church. If you and I both agree that in Christ alone you can be saved, then we are OK.
Fantastic words from you!
**I will never become Catholic**
Never say “never.”
Abby Johnson’s husband, in a quote in the article said the same thing. Today Doug and Abby Johnson are pro life Catholics.
Perhaps God has other plans for you, ever think of it that way?
The one man, Jesus Christ, is who the Catholic faith is founded on. No problems for billions of Catholics!
Place your faith in the Holy Spirit. All the popes have, and I know for sure Pope Benedict XVI does!
Written by a former num and on a countercult website.....good source there....smiling.
BTW, countercult would mean anti-Catholic.
I think the most important thing is for all those of faith to find the home for faith for their full commitment to an orthodox practice of their commitment to Christ. Some find it in their denomination, other leave the Roman Catholic Church for a Protestant denomination, and other take the reverse route.
All of these options are better than the course we had thirty to fifty years ago where many in all denominations fell away from Christ or choose a church as a social, a cultural or community action vehicle because all of the denominations had fallen away from othodoxy.
Email from 40 Days for Life (which BTW, everybody, was started by Catholics!)
While we’re waiting to announce the BIG NEWS about this
fall’s 40 Days for Life campaign (next week) we wanted
to invite you to attend an important event!
As you know, 40 Days for Life is a POWERFUL way to save
lives in your community. Over just the last four years,
your prayers and participation have contributed to
amazing results around the world:
* 400,000 participants have joined in prayer and
fasting, peaceful vigil, and grassroots outreach
* 1,332 individual campaigns have taken place in 387
cities across all 50 American states and 10 countries
* Reports document 4,313 lives spared from abortion —
and those are just the ones we know about
* 53 abortion workers have quit their jobs and walked
away from the abortion industry
* 14 abortion facilities completely shut down following
local 40 Days for Life campaigns
You're right! And that includes you!
This is why I will never place faith in humans. Christs Church is not simply the Catholic Church.
No one is suggesting you place your faith in a human. On the contrary, our Lord anticipated just such a dilemma and established a Church, entrusting it to Peter and his successors, with the promise that the gates of hell would not prevail against it. And they have not, though many have tried. More importantly, the Catholic Church acknowledges that Christ is the Head of the Church.
Your fear of human error is justified, however, when it comes to interpreting scripture, the assertion that individuals can correctly interpret Scripture is false. What began as one interpretation, outside the church established by Christ, has now evolved into more than 30,000, all claiming to have the truth. The assertion that individuals can correctly interpret Scripture is false. Even the "founder" of Sola Scriptura (Martin Luther), near the end of his life, was afraid that "any milkmaid who could read" would found a new Christian denomination based on his or her "interpretation" of the Bible. Luther opened a "Pandora's Box" when he insisted that the Bible could be interpreted by individuals and that It is the sole authority of Christianity.
Can there be more than one interpretation of the Bible? No. The word "truth" is used several times in the New Testament. However, the plural version of the word "truth" never appears in Scripture. Therefore, there can only be one Truth. So how can there be over 30,000 non-Catholic Christian denominations (and growing) all claiming to have the "Truth" (i.e., the correct interpretation of the Bible)? For that matter, aren't ALL non-Catholic Christians as individuals claiming "infallibility" when it comes to interpreting the Bible? Catholics only believe in the infallibility of the Papacy as an office. Which is more believable - one office holding infallibility or 400 million non-Catholic Christians who can't agree on the interpretation of Scripture all claiming "infallibility?" When it comes to interpreting Scripture, individual non-Catholic Christians claim the same infallibility as the Papacy. If one were to put two persons of the "same" non-Catholic Christian denomination (i.e., two Presybterians, two Lutherans, two Baptists, etc.) in separate rooms with a Bible and a notepad and ask them to write down their "interpretation" of the Bible, passage for passage, shouldn't they then produce the exact same interpretation? If guided by the Holy Spirit as Scripture states, the answer should be "Yes." But would that really happen? History has shown that the answer is "No." Now, in the case of Catholics, the Church which Christ founded and is with forever (Matthew 28:20) interprets the Bible, as guided by the Holy Spirit, (Mark 13:11) for the "sheep" (the faithful).
Is the Bible to be taken literally - "word for word?" No. The Bible doesn't state anywhere that It should be taken literally. The Bible was written by different authors with different literary styles at different times in history and in different languages. Therefore, the writings should be interpreted with these circumstances in mind. The Bible is a religious book, not a scientific or a history "textbook."
Does the Bible state It is the sole or final authority of Christianity? No. Neither this statement nor anything even close to it appears anywhere in the New Testament. In fact, Christ said that the Church is to resolve disputes among Christians, not Scripture (Matthew 18:17). What did Martin Luther, the Protestant Reformer, state about the Bible? In his "Commentary On St. John," he stated the following: "We are compelled to concede to the Papists that they have the Word of God, that we have received It from them, and that without them we should have no knowledge of It at all." Regardless of what non-Catholic Christians may think or say, according to secular, objective historians, the Catholic Church alone preserved Sacred Scripture throughout the persecution of the Roman Empire and during the Dark Ages. All non-Catholic Christian denominations owe the existence of the Bible to the Catholic Church alone. Why did God choose the Catholic Church to preserve Scripture if It is not His Church?
To have the Bible as the only and sole authority of Christianity is to invite chaos into His Church. There are at least 5 Protestant denominations created every year based on a different interpretation of the Bible. Theoretically, anyone who owns a Bible can create their own denomination based on their own interpretation of Scripture. Taken to its logical conclusion, chaos is what happens when the doctrine of "Sola Scriptura" is applied. And Christ stated "A tree is recognized by its fruit" (Matthew 12:33) and the doctrine of Sola Scriptura produces "bad fruit" (disunity, confusion and separation).
You are not alone in your concerns! Many christians have had to address this at one time or another. The following article is written by one, like yourself, caught up in how to address "Bible alone" doctrine with fellow christians.
Catholic convert here, after 20 years as a Protestant/ non-denom, etc. — no one tells ME what to believe. It’s me and the Lord all the way, and He would not lead me astray.
The majority of Catholics vote Democrat, so how are they following an anti-abortion route?
Here is an example of the California voters and pro-life/pro-abortion voting for leaders and issues, the Catholic Church opposed prop 71, but Catholics supported it.
The majority of catholics don’t live in America. Even with them, though, I consider them the same as my conservative, evangelical, Baptist relatives in W. North Carolina. The tradition of being democrat hasn’t yet been replaced by careful consideration.
I, too, was a democrat once upon a time.
Catholics poll low on pro-life which befits their voting and would account for the pro-Obama vote.
If you post a graph, you need to attribute it and give some parameters about it.
If the stem cell bill was officially opposed by the Catholic Church, then there was something going on with that bill. I’m guessing that it didn’t distinguish between types of stem cells, but that’s purely a guess, so I’m as likely to be wrong as right.
Again, if you assume that Catholics are roughly 25% of the US population, and that only 2/3rds of that are voting age Catholics, then we’re talking about something like ((300/4)*.67=50.25) 50 million people out of a world-wide church of more than a billion. That’s 5%.
All you had to do was ask, it is a Gallup poll.
My point was that the church leadership was against it, but the rank and file Catholics were overwhelmingly for it, and voted for it because of their politics.
‘”The U.S. Catholic Bishops’ Pro-Life Secretariat and the California Conference of Catholic Bishops have weighed in strongly against Prop 71. Their main reasons urging a NO vote are:
Drawing stem cells from an embryo always destroys the human embryo, thus aborting human life.
From a social justice perspective, cloning embryos for the sole purpose of killing them is unjustified and manipulative and the Prop 71 denies funding for adult and umbilical cord blood stem cell research, while launching the State into a costly bond issue at a time when money is badly needed for health, education, police and fire services.
Embryonic stem cell research makes exaggerated promises of immediate help to people suffering from a of number debilitating diseases, while in fact adult stem cells mostly from bone marrow transplants have already helped patients with leukemia, Parkinson’s disease, spinal cord injury and dozens of other conditions.”’
I am not a Catholic myself, and don’t see myself ever converting to Catholicism, but I have to give the Catholics credit. Whenever I go to the abortuaries, 90% if not higher of those outside praying, counseling, protesting, etc, are Catholic.
The Protestants and Baptists all talk a good game on abortion, but where the rubber meets the road it’s the Catholics who show up.
Thanks, truthsearcher! You post the truth!
** The tradition of being democrat hasnt yet been replaced by careful consideration.**
So true. The change is happening, but it’s slow and will take a long time.