Why Catholics United for Life?By Theo Stearns
The Supreme Court decision, Roe v. Wade in 1973, actually transformed my life.
For years our community of friends in California had been searching for the truth about the meaning of life.
That year we joined a small Protestant congregation while never really considering the Catholic faith.
After January 22, doctors were urging me to have an abortion for health reasons.
This raised a fundamental question: In light of the legalization of abortion, is human life simply dispensable when inconvenient?
Or might it just as well end if human life itself has no unique and absolute value?
It was this that compelled us to see that the Catholic Church alone had a firm and clearly articulated teaching, rooted in the fullness of truth about the meaning of life, against the destruction of human life in the womb.
My baby was born in August, and before Christmas many of us had entered the Church.
A political solution only?
Having considered abortion and its social implications, we were bound to do something.
But the pro-life movement of the 1970s generally held to a widespread consensus on opposing abortion: for action, focus primarily on reversing Roe v. Wade; in education, stick to teaching about the humanity of the preborn babies; in religion, avoid it becoming a religious issue and don’t identify yourself as Catholic.
This was based on the belief that Roe v. Wade could be quickly reversed and that the clear facts about the humanity of the unborn would be compelling enough to convince most people.
There were historic reasons for the concern about the movement being characterized as the Catholic Church “shoving its morality down” the nation’s throat, especially since no other Christian denomination at that time was outspokenly opposed to Roe v. Wade.
So why Catholics United for Life?
Our conversion gave us a different viewpoint.
For us, the Church was a “package deal” – it possesses the truth about man.
Based on this truth, it is the ultimate moral guide for mankind.
We decided to start a new organization called Catholics United for Life, but many were on our doorstep literally pleading with us not to do this.
We decided to submit to our bishop this question: Should there be a part of the pro-life movement that promotes the Church’s teaching for life and against abortion?
Our community‘s conversion to the Catholic faith was intimately connected to defending unborn human life from abortion.
Of the few pro-life organizations existing in California in 1974, none was doing what we had the strong intuition to do, promoting the full teaching of the Church on the evil of abortion.
In the face of opposition to forming a Catholic pro-life organization, we decided to submit our plan to our bishop.
After a few weeks, a letter came from Bishop Mark Hurley of the Santa Rosa Diocese. “Yes,” the bishop wrote, there should be a “Catholic” part of the pro-life movement.
Thus Catholics United for Life was formed, beginning with a banquet featuring Bishop Hurley as the keynote speaker.
The bishop publicly gave CUL his blessing and support.
One of our first questions was: How can we actually influence and help mothers considering abortion?
While undertaking the work to end abortion itself, we believed we should be stopping abortions immediately.
There were babies to be saved!
The Supreme Court decision was less than two years old.
Counseling and referrals for abortion services were provided by the county health department.
Abortions were performed at the county hospital.
Our response was to set up a table in the parking lot of the health department with literature about abortion.
Every woman entering was offered information and help if she was considering abortion.
We began to pray the rosary at the main entrance of the hospital.
This was considered by many to be radical and an embarrassment to the Catholic community.
Requests were made to the bishop to stop us, but he did not. Soon others joined us.
We had entered the Church unaware of the conflicts existing at that time, especially the widespread dissent to Humanae Vitae.
We knew that being pro-life also meant being anti-contraception, a position not appreciated by many Catholics, including many priests.
What struck us was the lack of education and information for Catholics on that clear teaching of the Church that had attracted us.
The silence — and worse, the opposition and misinformation in parishes — was alarming.
This realization brought us to the decision that something more needed to be done.
We needed to find some sort of printing press.
By early 1975, we had acquired a small printing press to put into action our conviction that the moral teachings of the Catholic Church needed to be known and lived, especially by Catholics, in order to end abortion.
Our intuition defied the conventional wisdom of people of good will and greater experience, but we were tenacious and began to send out a CUL newsletter to a tiny mailing list while continuing to offer alternatives to abortion and publicly praying the rosary.
We also joined the Third Order of St. Dominic, the Order we considered to be pro-life by its very constitution because St. Dominic began by preaching against the anti-life Albigensians.
One day that winter, a priest came unannounced to our door.
We were surprised because he actually wore the clerical garb of a priest, something rarely seen in those days.
He was Father Joe Fessio, a Jesuit from San Francisco. Seeing an old school bus in our driveway, he suggested that, not being able to go to Rome for the holy year, we might all go together on a pilgrimage to the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
This initiated a twenty-one day grueling and eventful journey from Santa Rosa to Mexico City.
It was before the miraculous tilma of Saint Juan Diego that we placed Catholics United for Life under the patronage of the Mother of the Americas.
We returned to continue the work of CUL. Fr. Fessio returned to found the Ignatius Institute.
By 1978, we were growing in numbers and squeezed into two houses in a very poor city neighborhood.
We had to find something else.
That year Pope Paul VI died, and all of us sat around one small television and watched as a new pope, John Paul I, was elected.
Meanwhile we were packing to move into a larger home in Coarsegold, which seemed nothing more than a post office located in the mountains above Fresno.
We arrived during the funeral of John Paul I and the election of Pope John Paul II.
From this time much would change in the work of Catholics United for Life.
We encountered, for the first time, a free-standing abortion mill.
It was owned by two of the most infamous abortionists, Edward Allred and Kenneth Wright. Father Arthur Klyber, C.Ss.R, would become our chaplain so that we would have the blessing of daily Mass.
These would form the future of Catholics United for Life.
|Community life||Apostolic Life|
Our community life is based on the desire to live a life faithful to Christ and the teachings of His Church. We have a chapel where we are able to center our lives around the Blessed Sacrament. As well as being lay Dominicans, we also have the privilege of having a directory specifically approved of by the Dominican Order for the families of St. Martin’s.
Mary Frances Musk is St. Martin de Porres Community’s Prioress. She is married to Dennis Musk. She has nine children and twelve grandchildren.
We believe that strengthening the family is the heart of strengthening society.
The main apostolate of St. Martin de Porres is that of evangelization in the spirit of St. Dominic. We accomplish this through our publications which outline the Church’s teachings on topics from family life to doctrine. We also work with faithful Catholic Organizations, enabling them to promote the Gospel and a new Culture of Life through the printed word.