OTTAWA, June 2, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) — Ordinary pew-sitters will only start engaging seriously to end the greatest assault on human rights – abortion – once religious leaders start educating them on the issue from the pulpit, said Canada’s most prominent pro-life leader in an exclusive interview with LifeSiteNews.
Jim Hughes, National President of Campaign Life Coalition, said in a wide-ranging interview that religious leaders need to know that “your silence is killing us.” He spoke with LifeSiteNews May 11 after giving the keynote address at the Rose Dinner that followed the National March for Life in Ottawa.
“[Religious leaders] have to educate the people in the pews so that they can take on their responsibility as laypeople, in order to make a difference [in terms of] running for public office, voting for candidates that are truly pro-life and not pro-abortion ones,” he said.
Uninstructed pew-sitters might as well be handing the tools used for abortion to abortionists when they vote for politicians who will not stand for life, he added.
Hughes, who has been working in the pro-life movement for forty years, said that educating young people to continue the fight for justice for the pre-born is one of the most important responsibilities that the older pro-life generation has.
“It's very difficult to do that because sometimes the young people think that everything started when they were born. And of course, we all know that we’re only providing building blocks [upon] a strong foundation that was laid for us by those who came before us. And if we can get that across to the younger generation too, so that they see that they are just adding more blocks to that structure, that will be a wonderful job if we're able to accomplish it,” he said.
Christianity has always condemned abortion as murder. Early Christian documents condemning abortion include the Didache, where the Apostles teach, “Do not murder a child by abortion or kill a newborn infant.”
Some Christian churches, however, have fallen away from this teaching. The Catholic Church continues to teach that abortion is a “moral evil” and a “grave offense” against human life. This teaching remains “unchangeable,” states the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
While Pope Francis has condemned abortion on numerous occasions, he criticized faithful Catholics early in his pontificate for being “obsessed” with abortion. Catholic social teaching, however, has always held that the “right to life” is the first and most fundamental of rights, upon which rests all other human rights. If the “right to life” is not granted to each and every human being, no other rights are secure.
“The inalienable right to life of every innocent human individual is a constitutive element of civil society and its legislation” [italics in original], states the Catechism.
When asked about his hopes for the future of the pro-life movement in Canada, Hughes said he would like to see more education on the issue for the young and more involvement from religious leaders.
“My hopes for the future would be that more and more young people would be educated on the issue, that more churches would begin speaking about these issues. And they are not doing that now. And [once this happens] then the parents and the grandparents can educate their children and grandchildren about all of it. But if they don't hear this in church while they're there, it's going to be a harder battle,” he said.
Hughes said that the pro-life movement first and foremost is a movement of people who pray and allow God to use them as instruments in his hands.
“And once you have prayed, and put everything into God’s hands, then you go out and try to do the best that you can. And you deal with all the little things. What's your relationship like with your spouse, or your parents, or your siblings, your children, your grandchildren…And that's where you have to start,” he said.
During his keynote speech at the Rose Dinner following the National March for Life, Hughes said that people keep asking him when he is going to retire.
“I don’t know how you retire. How do you stop doing this work when the babies are still being killed and the seniors are at risk,” he said.
Quoting Fr. Richard John Neuhaus, founder of the journal “First Things,” Hughes said that older pro-lifers must be in the fight “for the duration.”
“[Neuhaus said] you’re there to mentor to the younger people. And you stay until they close the lid and tighten the screws. So, that’s about it,” said Hughes.
“All of us should be looking at this whole situation and saying what is it that I can do, and then you go out and do the best you can,” he added.
Hughes quoted St. Mother Teresa who once said that the pro-life movement consists of “ordinary people doing extraordinary things for God.”
“I have met the most unbelievable ordinary people across this country, people like you and me, who are doing their little thing, where they are — heroic people — and it brings me to tears to think of some of them,” he said.
Interview with Jim Hughes
LSN: What has kept you going all these years in what many would classify as an impossible job?
Jim Hughes: The March here, the whole effort, is all a wonderful thing, a great opportunity to stand up and do what the good Lord wants us to do, since he created every single being in his own image and likeness. And he's teaching us too that we have to reach out and help those people who are at our feet, those people who asked for our help, and others who won’t, but we know that they need it and we can reach out to them and make a difference in their lives.
LSN: Looking back over the past 40 years, what has been the most disturbing development and what has been the most encouraging one?
Well, the growth of the youth movement has been very encouraging. But, the inability of the older folks to mentor to them quickly enough to ensure that they don't make the same mistakes that we older people did [is a problem].
I would say that the fact that nowadays with all these great new technologies, etc., it is impossible for the media to say that when a woman is pregnant she's got a blob of tissue or a collection of cells, because all the young people know that's a lot of bunk, that right from the beginning a person is a human being whose DNA is present, and they're all different.
Now we have to knock down this idea that even if it is a human being, the woman has somehow a right to kill that child. Nobody has the right to kill an innocent human being. None of us do. And we have to fight the culture so that we restore a culture of life in this country, in fact, establish a new culture of life in this country with this great respect for one another.
LSN: Humor is one of your signature characteristics, where did that come from and why do you feel it is important?
Well, actually I'm just telling things straight and they all turn out funny. So, that's why people laugh. When I'm giving straight answers to questions etc., they all start laughing at them. So, I figure I'll just keep trying my best to tell the straight answers and let the chips fall where they may.
My great friend Fr. Ted Colleton, who was an Irish missionary to Kenya for 30 years and then to Canada for over 30 years, he told me that when you use humor, people relax a little bit. They don't see you as some sort of an ogre. And as a result of that, they stop and listen. When you can get them to listen, then the Holy Spirit has that opportunity to touch their minds and hearts, and away we go. So, we sort of work together.
LSN: How has prayer figured into your life and helped you do what you do?
Well, I just empty myself and let Him [God] fill me up. I can tell you that when a hoard of media was coming to my office in Toronto one time, I thought, ‘Oh I don't want to do this.’ So I went over to Saint Michael’s Cathedral where the Blessed Sacrament was exposed and I sat there and I said, ‘Okay, fill me up, because I'm empty.’ So He filled me up and I said, ‘Thanks very much.’ It's like going to a gas pump, and I was filled back up, and I thanked him, and I went back and faced all the media hoards and then when they were all gone I shut the door and said a prayer of thanks.
LSN: What is your take on the state of the pro-life movement in Canada and the world today?
Unfortunately, a lot of people have decided that they don't need their local right to life groups, and that they can get all the information they need from the Internet. But, unfortunately, on the Internet, there is a lot of misinformation as well. And we really rely upon those veterans of the movement to get across to the younger people exactly what has happened in the past so that they don't go and try to reinvent the things that didn't work.
It's very difficult to do that because sometimes the young people think that everything started when they were born. And of course, we all know that we’re only providing building blocks [upon] a strong foundation that was laid for us by those who came before us. And if we can get that across to the younger generation too, so that they see that they are just adding more blocks to that structure, that will be a wonderful job if we're able to accomplish it.
LSN: What are your hopes for the future of the pro-life movement in Canada?
My hopes for the future would be that more and more young people would be educated on the issue, that more churches would begin speaking about these issues. And they are not doing that now. And [once this happens] then the parents and the grandparents can educate their children and grandchildren about all of it. But if they don't hear this in church while they're there, it's going to be a harder battle.
LSN: What is the number one thing that you would urge all Canadians to do at this time?
Well, first off, pray. And once you have prayed, and put everything into God’s hands, then you go out and try to do the best that you can. And you deal with all the little things. What's your relationship like with your spouse, or your parents, or your siblings, your children, your grandchildren? Conversely, what is your relationship like with your grandparents, your parents, etc?
And that's where you have to start. If you don't start there and clear up all of those things… I can remember I spoke in Manitoba, just after 911. And I said to them — I was speaking in three churches — I said to them if you are still not talking to your brother-in-law because he borrowed your chainsaw and broke it and didn't fix it, if you're still uptight about your sister-in-law who wore the same dress to a wedding reception etc., you had better straighten that out.
Well, I could see the people looking at each other and I thought, ‘I think we've hit the mark there.’ That's pretty well it, I think.
LSN: What would you most want to say today to all those in leadership roles in the pro-life and pro-family movements in Canada?
I would, first of all, thank them for their efforts. Then next I would say you have a responsibility to pass on this knowledge to the next generation. And I would encourage them to do that. And I think by doing that, the whole movement grows and becomes stronger.
LSN: What is your message to religious leaders?
The first thing I would say to them is, ‘Your silence is killing us.’ [Religious leaders] have to educate the people in the pews so that they can take on their responsibility as laypeople in order to make a difference [in terms of] running for public office, voting for candidates that are truly pro-life and not pro-abortion ones. You might as well be handing the vacurettes and the scalpels and whatnot to the abortionists if you're voting for politicians who won't stand up for life.