It was a moment to remember. Bernard Cardinal Law had just reminded his listeners of the “great legacy” John Cardinal O’Connor had left us – “the reminder that the church must always remain unambiguously pro-life.”
At these words, St. Patrick’s Cathedral broke into a thunderous, standing ovation, while pro-abortion politicians squirmed in their seats, and then rose reluctantly in silent tribute to a Cardinal who rarely lost an opportunity to speak out for the poor, the oppressed, and the unborn. One union took a full-page ad in the New York Times, hailing him as “the Patron Saint of working people.”
That he was, but he was also a patron to the pro-life movement, and an example of the kind of commitment to pro-life education that is absolutely essential if we are to hope that the current “culture of death” can be transformed into a culture of life.
O’Connor was a man very much in the world, though not of it. His ability to mix it with mayors and governors is reflected in the book “His Eminence and His Honor,” which he co-authored with former Mayor Ed Koch. The book was a candid exchange on issues as diverse as racism, gay rights, homosexuality, housing, homelessness, abortion, and euthanasia, yet it demonstrated more than anything else that dialogue can be conducted on the basis of mutual respect.
To O’Connor, such a dialogue is urgently needed to heal the deeper wounds that divide us as a nation.. . . Nevertheless, his relationship with some of his own was visibly chillier than his camaraderie with Koch. Without naming names, O’Connor was emphatic in stating that “bishops . . . are no longer amused by politicians who don’t practice their Catholicism in their political life.”
O’Connor also recognized that priests, too, can unfortunately get caught up in the spirit of the times. He indicated his willingness to go anywhere and do anything to help the troubled priest; but he has also reached out compassionately to people and communities scarred by encounters with dysfunctional clerics.
Sadly, religion today is in decline by almost every measure – in sheer numbers of adherents, influence on public policy, frequency and intensity of religious practice, conformity to doctrine, vocations, and – more significant than anything else – the decline in belief and practice among the young. Everything about our social and political life today suggests that a post-Christian era is here, but to the optimists among us, there is at least some real hope of renewal.
Fortunately, John O’Connor was such an optimist. Yet that never blinded him to the sense of hopelessness behind the pain we see in much of society today, a pessimism that saps our moral energies, as evil often does, and leaves us helpless and confused.
In a talk to the Harvard Law Forum, O’Connor summed up his views.
“There is a profound and pervasive anxiety, rooted in the reality that as a people we do have a heart, a warm and generous heart, but one that is experiencing an enduring heartache because we suspect that we have lost our way, that too many laws are morally sterile, too many public policies simply don’t work, and can’t be made to work for the good of all. We seem to have an acute anxiety that we are doing some things terribly wrong.”
It was thoughts like these that prompted me to seek an interview with the Cardinal for his thoughts about “A Nation in Need of Healing.” The complete interview can be downloaded in pdf format using the link below.
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Dennis M. Howardis the founder and President of The Movement for a Better America, Inc., and has worked actively in journalism and creative marketing for over 60 years. He is well known for his research into the economic and social impact of abortion, and correctly forecast the market crashes of 1974, 1987, and 2000. He forecasts difficult periods ahead for the U.S. and world economies and for institutions like the Catholic Church. His estimates suggest the U.S. toll in lost GDP from 54,7 million abortions already exceeds $42 trillion and will continue higher at a rate of $2.5 trillion a year.
Dennis is an innovator who has helped launch more than a dozen magazines and newspapers and literally hundreds of new products. He now runs The Movement for a Better as a think tank for pro-life research and communications. He began his career as a founding staff member of The Sun Herald, a lay-edited Catholic daily newspaper in 1950, and later served on the city desk of the NY Journal-American. He was an award-winning investigative reporter and also made major contributions to such publications as The Advocate of Newark, NJ, The Sign, Marriage, U.S. Catholic, Our Sunday Visitor, National Catholic Reporter, Worldview, America, and Commonweal, among others. He later moved on to Madison Avenue, where he worked for such clients as Waring, Cessna, Toshiba, Matchbox, Baker Industries, Time, Dun’s, Aviation Week, Westinghouse International, and AT&T.
His wide-ranging experience in creative communications has contributed to the innovative approach he takes to using the media to help build a pro-life, pro-family majority in America. His talk show appearances and Campaign for Life ads have already reached millions of people. His ads take a positive, compassionate approach because his research confirms that “It all comes down to touching hearts and changing minds.” Dennis is a frequent public speaker and talk show guest. He speaks on such topics as:
Can America Survive the Abortion Boom?
The Economic Impact of Abortion The Church Today: Growth or Decline? Pro-Life Strategies for the 21st Century
You may contact him at mbaforlife @ gmail.com or by calling 973-796-8338