A few weeks ago I received a telephone call from a local representative of my Knights of Columbus chapter. He was looking for my membership dues. I advised him that I had considered resigning from the Knights many years ago because I was quite frustrated by their weak and ineffective pro-life efforts and that I would be promptly sending along my resignation.
Although I indicated that I was reluctant to enter into a conversation on the subject, a troubling discussion nevertheless ensued, one which I hope to be the substance of a future blog posting.
However, since my telephone call I found a number of times my mind racing back to an address I gave to the Knights several years ago while I was employed by the Right to Life Association of Newfoundland and Labrador.
Address to Knights of Columbus State Convention May 21, 2006
On behalf of the Right to Life Association of Newfoundland and Labrador
By Eric Alcock
Public Relations and Resource Coordinator
Worthy State Deputy and State Executive, Worthy Supreme Warden, Worthy District Deputies and brother Knights:
Several weeks ago I answered the phone at the Right to Life office and found a desperate 31 year old father on the other end of the line. He was at his wit’s end because he had just discovered that his girlfriend, and the woman he hoped to marry, had booked an appointment in three days’ time to have an abortion. A select group of this woman’s friends recently took on the mission of shielding her from all conversations and visits by her boyfriend until the dastardly deed could be accomplished. This father had only within the last 24 hours put all the pieces together and become aware of the plan. His question to the Association was whether he had any legal rights as the father to prevent the taking of his child’s life. Unfortunately I had to tell him that he has no rights whatsoever. The man was dismayed. His hopes were dashed.
After 30 years of living with abortion; after thirty years of promoting and defending life in this province, my brother knights, can we say this is acceptable? We have not been successful in even helping fathers to have a say in whether their unborn children are killed. How can we accept such failure and defeat?
I thank the Knights for giving me the opportunity to address this very subject today.
I’d like to first of all note that in this room are the most influential persons in the province of NL. Perhaps you find this statement surprising—maybe even amusing, but I maintain that it is true and I’ll tell you why.
Firstly, our Bishops (who are in Rome with the Holy Father at this time), successors of the apostles, are commissioned by Christ Himself. The Bishops are, by Divine Will, the Pastors of the Church, with the task of teaching the Gospel, of sanctifying and of being spiritual guides, in vital communion with the Successor of Peter, otherwise known as the Vicar of Christ and our Holy Father. Secondly, all Knights present have taken a boundless pledge to serve the Pope and to uphold Church teaching.
I’ve been involved with church ministry for 25 years and never have I seen before a group of Christian men taking a solemn vow to uphold the cross, the Church and the Holy Father in the remarkable way that they do. God delights in such a people. God is with them if they take seriously their duties and vows. Knights take a solemn vow, as solemn as it gets. And it makes us far more accountable. After what I’ve seen and heard so far in my three degrees, would anyone blame me for expecting a lot from the Knights?
That is why I say I stand among the most influential persons in the province, those to whom society looks, knowingly or unknowingly, for leadership. And as long as we stand united in the will of God, there is nothing we cannot achieve. That does, in fact, make us the most influential persons, for the good of society or for the misery of society should we fail. Our Lord Jesus Christ promised that against His Church, the gates of hell shall not prevail. No other group can claim such power or such protection. Certainly no other service group can make this claim.
I became a Catholic two years ago after being in Christian ministry as a non-Catholic for 25 years. I remember in my last appointment as a Salvation Army officer I traveled a number of times to a Cathedral in our area and spoke a few times to a very well respected and learned priest about my sympathies for the Catholic Church. Sadly, if I had listened to this priest I would not be a Catholic today. To him there just wasn’t any real difference in any of the churches, Catholic or Protestant. They all had their good points and bad points and according to him we really need to get past the idea that one is better or truer or more legitimate than the other. This priest was actually more Protestant in his thinking than he was Catholic. It’s possible that he might have even realized that himself, I don’t know.
But on the contrary, I believe just exactly what the Church teaches—that there is but one holy Catholic Church and its true teachings are contained in the Catechism of the Catholic Church and its leader is truly the legitimate successor of Peter and the Vicar of Christ. Those who believe this practice the true Catholic faith and are faithful to the Pope…..which places them in communion with him and also with Christ.
Again, that is why I say I stand among the most influential men in this province—men who have sworn fidelity to the Holy Father and to Mother Church, and who thereby claim to be in communion with Christ. All of God’s power, blessing and protection is thereby upon us. Let me ask then every Knight here—is there ANYTHING we cannot accomplish? God is with His Church, His Bishops, and yes, the Knights of Columbus as well… if they stand in the will of God in all their endeavours.
This brings me back to the Right to Life Association, the only organization in Newfoundland and Labrador dedicated solely to the promotion and defense of life, the only organization leading the fight to preserve life in our province. I wish I could say it was churches leading the fight, as it should be. I wish I could say it was the Catholic Church. I wish brother Knights that I could say it was the Knights. This would make me extremely proud. But that’s not the case. The only organization in the forefront of the fight and in the heat of the battle is the Association.
Let me explain something to the Knights about the Right to Life Association. The RTLA is an Emergency Response Team, and it will be in emergency response mode until churches return to normal duty. It’s a ragtag group of people who responded to a crisis in the spiritual and moral makeup of our land; a crisis that immediately began to take the lives of thousands of the most innocent and vulnerable souls that God gives to our society. Don’t be surprised at the passion and tenacity of our membership. Don’t be surprised that every day we still have a small group who conduct a prayer vigil in front of the abortuary in penance and in protest.
Don’t be surprised at my passion and my persistence. I’m in emergency mode too. And I will be until the laws of this land protect every human being equally. This is precisely the attitude that Pope John Paul II advocated in his encyclical on the Gospel of Life. One of the questions I bring before you today is this: If brought to a court of law, is there enough evidence to convict the Knights as a whole of being in emergency mode also?
In the 10 year period 1993 to 2003, the Association’s total annual income fell nearly 50%, from $110,000 to $57,000, an amount that some individual Councils regularly donate every year to charitable causes. We all know that there is a critical point at which an organization is no longer viable or credible financially. The Right to Life Association is teetering at that point right now.
There can be no doubt that the financial situation of the Association is an expression of the value that Newfoundlanders as a whole place on respect for life. Let the Knights themselves look at what they raised in total throughout our province last year. Let them also look at what they gave in total to the cause of life. I don’t have the figures…you do. I’ve been afraid to ask, to be honest. I’ve seen some recent news reports, and I didn’t find them encouraging at all. But I’m not here to embarrass anyone. I’m here with a vision and a plan, and I believe things can change.
This tragic trend in our society happened on our watch. It was on our watch that a huge number of Catholics everywhere in North America abandoned the teaching of the Church and the Holy Fathers especially on the age old truth about sexuality. This abandonment led to the false reproductive right of abortion. My fellow Knights, this is our problem! It is not only someone else’s problem. We contributed to this awful state and we must, with God’s help and strength, do everything we can to turn the ship around. Our children depend on us. Our grandchildren depend on us. Our Church depends on us. We are the Knights. Who else, other than bishops and priests, are sworn to defend her teachings?
It’s been a very poor showing—it says much about what we are prepared to tolerate as long as it is not our own child. Must we wait until the abortionist’s knife threatens our own child or grandchild? Don’t be surprised then when that day comes! And when it does, we will be just as powerless as that young 31 year old father who called me. It’s too late when they come for us or our children…and be assured, that day will come if we continue in our apathy and our indifference. We will get out of this battle what we put into it and so far we are reaping a bitter harvest. Jesus said,
“Inasmuch as you have done it unto one of the least of these my brothers, you have done it unto me.”
We must win over our brother Knight, God forbid, if he is bogged down in apathy—we must win over our Grand Knight, God forbid, if he is an obstacle to defending life—we must find a way to win over our priest, God forbid, if he is indifferent and we must find a way to restore our bishop God forbid, if he fails in his defense of life.
I’ve been on a six month subsidized contract with the Association. They really couldn’t afford to hire me. Ironically half my wages are paid by our government, a government that last year permitted and arranged for the killing of 105,000 young children still in the womb. So my time is up in two months. But someone needs to keep doing this job. I’ll be the first to suggest stepping aside if there’s a more qualified and willing individual to do it. But regardless of who it is that does this job day after day, the job must go on if we are to make gains for life. Someone must do it. If the Knights wish to make an impact in this province for Life, then here is a God given opportunity to do it. This job cannot be done by a volunteer. The issue of abortion is one that must be taken back to Christians and to church leaders. It will take a professional to do so; an individual with vision, energy and perseverance. It will take someone who has had in-depth experience working in the Church, as well as with church leaders.
A few weeks ago I conducted my first presentation to a local church assembly in St. John’s. I had previously met with the pastor and shared with him the Association’s new initiative to reconnect with churches and gain their support in the fight against abortion. I discussed my vision for accomplishing this and the pastor committed to supporting the Association. He arranged for a church wide meeting and promoted it in his Sunday services. About forty people showed up for the presentation and we were able to sign up twenty three new members that evening, with contributions and pledges amounting to over $1000. I’ve been told that the Association has never heard of such remarkable response.
But the fact is that we are engaged in the noblest cause in the world today and God is with us if we’ll put our whole hearts into it! The Holy Father has said just exactly that. Why should we be so surprised? Remember I spoke about the most influential men in this province—men who have sworn fidelity to the Holy Father and to Mother Church, and who thereby claim to be in communion with Christ. If we completely live up to this, all of God’s power, blessing and protection is thereby upon us. I ask the Knights again—is there ANYTHING we cannot accomplish?
Some of you fellow Knights are businessmen. You know what it costs to have a qualified professional working in your business and playing a key role in its success. Such a person could cost you fifty thousand dollars annually or much more and that individual would be worth every penny of it to your business. The Knights could underwrite such a position for the Association and ensure that constant gains are made in promoting and defending Life. We could start to close the gap on the huge numbers of little unborn children being killed yearly in this province. We could even set an example for other State Councils in Canada to do the same. I’ve been told the Supreme Knight will be visiting our state soon. I’m sure he would like nothing better than to hear that the Knights of NL have taken bold and strategic measures in defense of life in this province. If our Knights have such a will then surely they could under gird the Association in this way.
Sometimes God gives us only a short window of opportunity. I suppose it’s because He always gives us one last chance to turn things around before it’s too late. Perhaps He wants to see if we, His people, will stand up and be counted for the Gospel, for the Holy Father, and for the Church, when it really matters the most. I believe this is such a time. I see an opportunity here for the Knights to clearly demonstrate their commitment to the stated priorities of the Knights of Columbus. What can help to save these little unborn children who cry out to us from the womb for protection? Nothing can help any more than supporting the Right to Life Association.
If it were your child who was inches away from the cold knife of the abortionist, how much would you donate if the Association were the only ones there to speak up for your child? I guarantee you that you would be personally launched into emergency mode. Are we not supposed to treat our neighbours in danger the same as we would our own family? …in fact the same as we would treat Christ?
This is the direct command of Christ, of His Church and of the Holy Father, who speaks and warns daily of the need to defend the unborn. I subscribe by email to the daily news from the Vatican. The solemn teaching and warnings about the sanctity of life are a constant and daily theme of the Holy Father, as it was of Pope John Paul II. In fact, John Paul gave a solemn warning in 1993 before a crowd of one half million youth in Denver and proclaimed that the nation which did not successfully defend life was heading for grief, trouble and affliction. We are such a nation. We have not been successful to date.
It is still a common practice among some Catholics to pray specifically each month for the personal prayer intentions of the Holy Father. I will close by sharing with you the Holy Father’s prayer intention for this very month of May. This is what His Holiness asks: “that public institutions may, with suitable laws, promote and defend human life from its conception to its natural termination."
I appeal to the Knights to do all in their power to see that this prayer of the Holy Father soon comes to pass throughout our land.
Thank you brother Knights.