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Fr. Edward Markley, O.S.B.St. Bernard Abbey / Facebook

CULLMAN, Alabama, January 16, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) ― A Benedictine priest who once took a sledgehammer to an abortion business has died.

Father Edward Markley, a Benedictine monk of St. Bernard Abbey in Cullman, Alabama, died on January 14. He was 79. His funeral will be held in the Abbey church Thursday.

Markley believed so strongly in the right to life of the unborn child that on May 12, 1984, he took a sledgehammer to an abortion facility in Birmingham, Alabama and smashed two suction machines.

According to the Interim, the priest was given a suspended sentence of five years in prison for each piece of equipment he destroyed, on the condition that he stay away from the clinic. However, in January 1986, he took part in a pro-life march through Birmingham which took him past three abortion businesses.

For breaking the conditions of his probation, Markley was ordered to serve his sentence in jail. The sentencing judge told him that he would not be eligible for parole and would have to serve a full five years.

The Benedictine priest had previously served a 30-day sentence in 1985 for spraying the Women’s Community Health Center in Huntsville, Alabama with red paint on Father’s Day, 1984. According to, “a judge ordered Markley to pay a judgment of $2,400 to the center and two employees, but Markley refused and would not voluntarily surrender, so deputies from Madison and Cullman counties arrested him at St. Bernard’s Abbey…”  

Fr. Edward Markley, O.S.B.

The late Bishop Joseph Vath of Birmingham approved of Markley’s actions.

“If we are convinced that abortion is the taking of innocent life according to God’s revealed word, he is not acting unjustly according to God’s law in defending the innocent unborn ones,” Vath said in a statement at the time. “The right to life certainly supersedes the right to property or to privacy.”

The Interim reported in November 1986 that Markley’s friends said the priest had not found the beginning of his five year sentence “bad.”

“Fr. Markley has taught criminology courses in the past, and is reported to have said that he is pleased to get some firsthand knowledge of the subject,” the pro-life paper stated.  

Markley was born on September 5, 1939. He took his vows as a monk at St. Bernard Abbey on June 12, 1960. According to the Interim, he studied at Catholic University of America from 1964 to 1965. Markley was ordained to the priesthood on June 10, 1966. The Interim reported that he coached at the high school affiliated with the monastery, where he worked with students who became pro-life activists, including John Cavanaugh-O’Keefe, one of the founders of the Rescue movement, and Father William Ryan.

Markley’s Benedictine community posted a tribute to him over Facebook, saying:

It is with heavy hearts that Abbot Cletus and the monks of St. Bernard Abbey announce the death of our confrere, Father Edward Markley, O.S.B.

Serving the abbey, our schools, and the Diocese of Birmingham and Archdiocese of Mobile in a variety of capacities over the years, [Father Edward] touched many lives with his pastoral concern, his love for following Christ, and his deep spirituality and prayer life. He was a exemplary monk, who will be greatly missed by his brothers. He died peacefully at the abbey around 8:20 this morning, in the presence of his brother monks, who had been keeping vigil with him for several days.