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President’s Page: Honoring Father Paul Marx

We are gathered at this banquet to honor Father Paul Marx. All of us are in Father Marx’s debt to one degree or another. My debt is particularly heavy.

In fact, I owe Father Marx many debts. He helped to bring me into the pro-life movement. He helped to bring me into the Catholic faith — so I owe him the debt of my soul. He taught me the link between contraception and abortion — and so I owe the gift of my children in part to him. He founded the Population Research Institute in 1989, and then in 1995 asked me to come and lead it, so I owe him the gift of my apostolate. And he continues, he tells me, to pray for our work every day.

These are all debts that I can never repay. But I can acknowledge them and express my gratitude. I can publicly say, “Thank you, Father Marx.”

Into the Pro-Life Movement

I was the first American social scientist to do research in China since the Communist revolution in 1949. By the time I had left China, I had seen a brutal campaign against life. I had witnessed third trimester abortions, forced abortions, and forced sterilizations. I was aware of the abandonment and infanticide of newborn baby girls. The one — child policy was leaving millions of dead babies — and wounded mothers — in its wake.

When I began to speak out against what I had seen, two things happened. The first was that senior Chinese officials began suggesting that I had not been in China to do academic research at all, but to spy.

The second thing that happened was that my colleagues at Stanford started behaving strangely. Not that anyone questioned the truth of what I was reporting about China’s one-child policy. But they were concerned that my criticism would upset Beijing, that it would derail U.S.-China relations and — revealingly — that it would hinder their own plans to do research in China in the future.

So they decided to shoot the messenger. Stanford University launched an investigation of my China research that was to drag on for five years, from 1981–86. Meanwhile, I was scratching out a living by writing and lecturing.

One day I got a call from a man who identified himself as a Catholic priest. (I couldn’t recall ever having spoken to a Catholic priest before,) “I’m holding a conference,” he said in a soft voice, speaking quickly. “I’d like you to come.”

“I can’t afford to pay you,” he told me, “but you can bring your books and sell them.”

So I went to Father Marx’s conference that year, and then almost every year after that. And a funny thing happened at these conferences.

First of all, I got to know Father Marx and discovered that he and I had a lot in common. We both loved children. Father came from a family of 14, while my wife and I now have eight children at home. We were both frugal to a fault. We were both workaholics and borderline insomniacs.

Second, I got to know you, the members of the pro-life movement. You were far different from what I had been led to expect. I had been taught at Stanford that pro-lifers were eccentric, even dangerous, radicals. I had listened to the sneers of Planned Parenthood about fetus-loving fanatics.

The pro-lifers I met at Fr. Marx’s conferences quickly gave the lie to these characterizations. Unlike Planned Parenthood, which profits from the misery of women, they were defending the rights of innocent unborn children with no thought of personal gain or interest. They were loving, kind, and charitable.

Before long, thanks to Father’s conferences, I became openly, proudly pro-life. For this I want to say, “Thank you, Father Marx.”

Into the Faith

Father’s invitation to speak at his conference also marked an important step in my spiritual growth. I had recoiled from the evil I had encountered in China and began to seek the good. If you seek the good, I have since learned, you will find God. But at the time I didn’t know where to look.

It was through Father’s conferences that I was first exposed to the fullness of the Truth. Speakers like Alice von Hildebrand, Prof. Charles Rice, Donna Steichen, and Father Marx himself showed me the high road to heaven. This whole process took several years — I am a slow learner when it comes to some very important things.

By 1989 I had decided that I was going to enter the Church. I enrolled myself in the local RCIA program. My growing family was then living in Southern California. You know what that means.

The RCIA classes were taught by a well-meaning man, who had some very non-traditional ideas. He once drew a triangle and a circle on the blackboard. The triangle, he told us grimly, represented the old hierarchical notion of the Church with the Pope at the top, the cardinals next in line, followed by the bishops and finally the laity at the very bottom. Then he turned to the circle. This, be smilingly told us, represented the new understanding of the Church, in which all members of the community of believers are fundamentally equal.

I found this symbolism completely unsatisfactory. I was seeking an anchor by which to order my existence, a compass by which to judge right and wrong. I wasn’t interested in sitting around in a circle with others equally rudderless. I wanted a triangle that would point me up to authority. I wanted a hierarchy at the apex of which sat Peter, the Rock upon which Christ built His Church. I wanted aboard the Barque of Peter, the unsinkable aircraft carrier of our faith.

I sought authoritative answers in the “catechism” we had been given. But I found that this book could hardly bring itself to mention the Ten Commandments, much less the moral and ethical issues that arise when one makes a sincere effort to follow them. It had little time for the teaching authority of the Church but spilled much ink over the notion of community, over the injustices of capitalism, over the non-Christian notion that sin resides in social structures, not in individual actions. It was liberal social activism dressed up as theology, not the moral compass that l was looking for.

In desperation I called Father Marx. “Father,” I told him. “If this is all there is to the Catholic faith, I’m not sure I want to go through with this.”

“Don’t do anything hasty,” he said in that soft, quick way of his. “I’ll send you a good catechism.”

Three days later there was a catechism in my mailbox. The author was the famous Jesuit. Fr. John Hardon. Many of you know Fr. Hardon’s catechism and would agree that it is one of the best summaries of our faith in existence.

So I stayed the course, largely because of Fr. Marx’s timely intervention. And on a glorious Easter Sunday in 1991 I entered the Church. For this, too, I want to say, “Thank you, Father Marx.”

The Link Between Contraception and Abortion

From my time in China, I was absolutely committed to fighting abortion. No one can view the cesarean abortion of a woman seven and one-half months pregnant and come away in favor of the act. But it took me longer to understand the link between contraception and abortion.

Father Marx was the one who showed me that couples who contracept are much more likely to resort to abortion in the case of an unplanned pregnancy. He taught me that the use of contraceptives, abortifacients, and sterilization is offensive to human dignity in many ways, but not least because of its connection to abortion and euthanasia. He taught me that there was a natural means of birth regulation built into the human reproductive system. And he led me to the works of Pope John Paul II who said in 1979 that “the glory of the marital vocation is to bring forth life which will last forever.”

Father Marx’s instruction in Natural Family Planning had important consequences in my life. My wife and I began having children at the rate of one every two years or so — near the human reproductive maximum. The end result was a houseful of children — we have eight little images of God at home — that we are now busily raising.

My Apostolate

As the years went by I felt increasingly drawn to pro-life, pro-family work. My growing family had something to do with this, as did Father’s continuing invitations to speak at his conferences. The publication of The Gospel of Life, with its eloquent defense of the unborn, was another turning point. My wife and I began praying that I would be able to put aside my other work on China, on defense and security issues, and work full-time promoting the Culture of Life. I wanted to spend God’s great gift of time saving babies.

That prayer was answered in 1995 with a call from Father Marx, “I would like you to come and work for me,” he said. “We need a president for Population Research Institute.”

I knew the organization. Father had founded it in 1989 to make the case for people, debunk the myth of overpopulation, and fight against inhumane population control programs. As we discussed the details of our future work together I grew ever more enthusiastic. I would be standing shoulder to shoulder with “The Apostle of Life,” himself. Together we would stop population control in its tracks. Together we would make the world a safer place for babies.

Then we got to the question of salary. “Can you work for free?” Father Marx said hopefully. I told you he was frugal.

“No, Father,” I answered slowly. “With five children and one on the way, I don’t think so.” But he did get me to agree to take a pay cut.

Father and I have accomplished a lot over the past six years:

  • We have fought the population controllers to a standstill from China to Peru, in country after country around the world, calling into question their inhumane sterilization, contraception, and abortion campaigns.
  • We cut Clinton’s population control budget by several hundred million dollars, saving countless lives around the world.
  • We have urged governments in the direction of pro-natal policies, such as the recent increase in the US child Tax credit. As that credit rises from $600 to $1,000 per child over the next ten years, the birth rate in the US should benefit.
  • We fought for the doubling of adoption tax credits, from $5,000 to $10,000. This should save many children, who would otherwise be abandoned, especially in China.
  • We have always made the case for people, that they are the ultimate resource, the one resource you cannot do without.
  • We have pointed out, in the media and on the Internet, that the world is not overpopulated, that there is plenty of room on God’s green earth for all of us. We also know for certain that heaven is not overpopulated. After all, did not Our Lord tell us that there are many mansions in His Father’s house? And it is our job as Christians to fill those mansions.

None of this work would have been possible without the vision and continuing support of Father Marx.

Do Whatever He Tells You

Because I owe Father so many debts my motto has always been to “do whatever he tells me.” One example of this is my book Hegemon: China’s Plan to Dominate Asia and the World. I had given a talk on the growing military threat from China to an Australian group, and the talk, later published, somehow found its way into Father’s hands. Write a book on the subject. Father said.

So I did. This book, inspired by Father, has had quite an impact. I’ve lectured at the CIA, consulted with the FBI, and testified at a congressional security luncheon. The book is being read by the Bush Administration, over at the Pentagon, and by senior commanders in the armed forces.

Just recently I turned again to Father Marx for advice. “What should I write about next?” I asked him. “Should I tell my conversion story? Or should I write about falling birthrates worldwide, calling it something like The Coming Extinction of the Human Race?

“Why not both’?” he answered.

Starting Apostolates Worldwide

I’ve traveled with Father Marx around the world. It is a remarkable experience to visit different countries with Fr, Marx because it doesn’t matter where you go, he’s already been there.

When you travel with Father you are greeted at the airport by the leader of the local pro-life group, which wouldn’t exist were it not for Father Marx. Take Pro-Life Philippines, for example, the largest and most effective pro-life group in that country. According to Sr. Pilar Verzosa, the head of ProLife Philippines, the organization was born when Father Marx visited the country in 1972 to warn that abortion, sterilization, and contraception were coming. Father gave a number of public lectures, urging the Filipino people to get organized to meet this threat, leaving pro-life literature wherever he went. He encouraged Sr. Verzosa to take the lead, and gave her a generous check to help with expenses. Today, nearly thirty years later, Pro-Life Philippines is still going strong.

This same story could be repeated in country after country around the globe. Father Marx is best known for starting pro-life organizations in the United States, including Population Research Institute, but he is actually the godfather of dozens of groups, most of which are overseas. It is not surprising that Planned Parenthood has called Father Marx “public enemy number one.”

The Holy Father called Father Marx the “Apostle of Life.” What a model he is to our children and to ourselves. What Shakespeare is to poetry, Mozart to music, Babe Ruth to baseball, Father Paul Marx is to the pro-life movement. He has displayed in his life courage, vision, and tirelessness, and an array of other virtues that enable him to surmount obstacle after obstacle that the devil placed in the way. To see how he has lived his life, with every waking second devoted to the cause of life, is to see much more vividly what it means to be committed to the pro-life movement.

This is not to say that he is flawless any more than Babe Ruth was a perfect baseball player or Mozart a perfect musician. It is merely to say that, if Father Marx had not lived, such tireless devotion to the pro-life cause would hardly have been believed possible.

Continuing Fr. Marx’s Legacy

How do you thank someone who has done so much for you and the pro-life movement in general? My initial thought was to establish a Founder’s Award, and to make Father Marx the first recipient. But when I ran the idea past him, he just shook his head. “Keep your money,” he said, “Spend it on the work.”

I should have known. Father is not interested in monuments or memorials, in plaques or statues, but in the continuation of his life-saving work of saving babies around the world.

As his chosen successor, I shall do my best.

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