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Empowering you to build a pro-life, pro-family world.

Empowering you to build a pro-life, pro-family world.

Empowering you to build a pro-life, pro-family world.

Is the Pro-Life Movement Too Obsessed with its Agenda?

This week I am writing to you from Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, on the eastern coast of Africa, where Dr. Brian Clowes and I are participating in HLI’s Anglophone Regional Conference. Maybe you have seen a few of my posts on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook. We are meeting with seminarians, priests, religious, lay leaders, university students and professionals, over 60 participants representing 15 countries from across Anglophone Africa, including HLI’s affiliate country leaders. This conference has a threefold purpose: to provide ongoing pro-life training, discuss current issues affecting life and family in Anglophone Africa, and create goals and objectives for the upcoming year.

Though the violent affront against life and family covers nearly every corner of the world, it is most prevalent in Africa, where billions of dollars are spent every year to forcibly reduce the African population. For nearly four decades, HLI has collaborated with Church and secular pro-life leaders in Africa to expose and confront the agenda of the peddlers of death and create healthy structures to assist, protect, and serve life and family on this most precious continent. One must also understand that violence against life is not restricted only to the womb, but is used also to threaten those already born, as witnessed in societal and domestic violence, governmental corruption, and human trafficking, to name but a few examples.

The assault against human life and the family in Africa is growing, and urgently requires a concerted and effective response. Please keep Dr. Brian, Emil Hagamu, HLI’s Regional Director in Anglophone Africa, myself and these 60 pro-life leaders in your prayers, as we work towards developing a plan to identify and combat the encroachments of the Culture of Death in Africa.

This Week’s Column

“I must repeat that I categorically reject every accusation or suspicion concerning the Pope’s alleged “obsession” with [abortion]. We are dealing with a problem of tremendous importance, in which all of us must show the utmost responsibility and vigilance. We cannot afford forms of permissiveness that would lead directly to the trampling of human rights, and also to the complete destruction of values which are fundamental not only for the lives of individuals and families but for society itself.” – St. Pope John Paul II

Perhaps you have heard the following argument – deceptive and purposely misleading – from abortion supporters: “You pro-lifers are so obsessed with saving babies before birth, but you don’t lift a finger to help them after birth. While you’re so busy trying to stop abortion, you don’t do anything to help the poor, end slave labor, stop gun violence, end the death penalty, or save the environment. How can you claim you’re really ‘pro-life’?”

It’s a tiresome argument. But it’s also an effective one. Those who use it powerfully arouse people’s natural sense of justice, and then deftly turn their outraged attention to an unpopular group who, they suggest, have obsessively and erroneously focused on one “narrow” issue at the expense of all the others, thereby perpetuating injustice.

I couldn’t help but think of this tactic as I read a recent article by Catholic journalist Austen Ivereigh in Crux.

You may recall that, a few weeks ago, I wrote a column responding to another article by Ivereigh, in which he defended a recent decision by the Pontifical Academy for Life (PAV) to appoint Anglican Rev. Nigel Biggar, who supports abortion up to 18 weeks, to the newly reconstructed Academy. I believe it was a bad decision, and still do. Ivereigh does not.

In a second article following up on the first, Ivereigh further explains the rationale behind that decision, describing how the PAV envisions significantly “broadening” its mandate. In Ivereigh’s words, this is part of an effort to help move the PAV beyond a “culture of ideological purity, even fanaticism” that has rendered it “both unattractive and ineffective” (hard words!). While the PAV will still combat abortion and euthanasia, Ivereigh says it will also turn its attention to gun violence, refugees, pollution, the death penalty, and the small arms trade.

By way of contrast, Ivereigh specifically criticizes Human Life International for an alleged too-narrow focus, writing:

Human Life International, for example, describes its mission as confronting the ‘evils of abortion, contraception, euthanasia/assisted suicide, and the redefinition of marriage,’ but makes no mention of the small arms trade or the death penalty…

He might well have gone further than that. He could also have observed that HLI also makes no mention of unjust wages, poor working conditions, human trafficking, government corruption, reckless overfishing of the oceans, or the scourge of predatory loan sharks in our mission statement, all of which are injustices worthy of attention.

The reason is obvious: while as individuals, HLI staff members may be gravely concerned about some or all of these issues, they simply don’t fall within our mandate.

Indeed, I doubt Ivereigh or anyone else would employ a similar argument to critique any other movement or non-profit. They would not, for instance, ask the Red Cross why they don’t put more resources into saving baby seals, or Greenpeace into feeding the homeless, or the American Cancer Society into helping refugees, or Occupy Wall Street into fighting human trafficking.

The whole argument appears to stem from a mistaken understanding of the origin, nature, and purpose of the term “pro-life.” Or perhaps it reflects a more intentional effort to redefine the term away from those roots. The result, however, is something so vast and nebulous as to be practically useless as a rallying point or descriptor of a particular movement.

It’s worth recalling that what we now know as the “pro-life” movement was originally created for one purpose, and one purpose only: to end the deliberate, legalized slaughter of innocent unborn human life, a slaughter perpetrated on such a vast industrial scale as to have no precedent in human history.

As horrific as they may be, other injustices pale in comparison to this monstrous holocaust.

And indeed, insofar as any pro-life organization has cautiously turned its attention to any other issue – embryonic stem cell research, surrogacy, contraception, euthanasia, gender ideology, attacks on marriage, assisted suicide, etc – it has been because that issue in some way directly contributes to, or is, of the same kind or quality as the killing of the unborn. In all cases, we are dealing with grave, widespread, intrinsic evils, all united under the broad umbrella of bioethical issues.

The same, however, cannot be said of many of the other issues that Ivereigh believes should be imported under the pro-life umbrella. Environmental issues, gun violence, the small arms trade, poverty, human trafficking, and a myriad of other issues all certainly matter. And insofar as these injustices are perpetrated by human sin they may even share a cousinship with abortion.

But many of them are highly complex and admit of many possible solutions, and some are not even intrinsic moral evils, such as in the case of the death penalty. For as the Catechism of the Catholic Church clearly states, the Church does not “exclude recourse to the death penalty, if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor.” (CCC, #2267)

To subsume all of these issues under the “pro-life” label is not to create a new, better pro-life movement. Instead, it is to fatally scatter our limited energies and resources, and to unnecessarily foment confusion and division within the pro-life ranks.

One fears that the architects of what Pope St. John Paul II called the “Culture of Death” will be only too pleased to see the Vatican’s pro-life powerhouse turn its limited resources away from the areas of their most concerted attacks.

Indeed, it is troubling that this effort to dramatically broaden the pro-life label appears motivated too much by a concern with currying worldly favor and popularity. Certainly, we must be “wise as serpents,” and make reasonable efforts to make our message as palatable to the world as possible. But this must never come at the expense of principle, or the effectiveness of the pro-life cause.

We commend and encourage those who fight other injustices in the world. But at Human Life International, we recognize the link between the intrinsic evils of contraception and abortion and their interconnections to other bioethical issues. This is why HLI’s mandate is so focused.

“Abortion flows from contraception”, said Father Paul Marx, and “once a people and nation accept contraception, abortion follows.” The direct attack on marriage, i.e. contraception, stems from a distorted vision of the human person and sexuality and has given rise to abortion and other perverse behaviors diametrically opposed to human dignity and its intrinsic value. HLI’s mission – I dare say priority – is to expose this deceptive violence and its direct attack against the dignity of marriage, and at the same time stop the legalized, industrialized, and deliberate slaughter of tens of millions of innocent human beings.

This is our mission, and, as unpopular as it may be with the world, we won’t ever apologize for it.

About Fr. Shenan J. Boquet

Fr. Shenan J. Boquet has served as president of Human Life International since 2011. He was ordained in 1993 as a priest of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux, Louisiana. As HLI’s president, Fr. Boquet collaborates with fellow laborers in the pro-life and family movement in over 80 countries, offering the Sacraments, giving seminars and trainings, appearing on numerous media outlets, and encouraging people of all walks of life to live as faithful advocates for a Culture of Life and Love. He is available for interviews and bookings on behalf of HLI by emailing


  1. Mrs. Donna Wright on July 29, 2017 at 5:34 PM

    Thank you Fr. Boquet . Well written!!! I totally agree! The other argument, by Invereigh, does not hold any weight. It is faulty logic and a diversion tactic. Thank you for ALL you do for life. God Bless you always, Mrs. Donna Wright

  2. nancy freundt on July 29, 2017 at 5:41 PM

    The more you delay your understanding of who is Pope Francis and the role he is playing in these prophetic times, the worse will be for those who seek to be faithful to our Lord Jesus Christ and the doctrine He gave us.
    This is only the beginning of the worst suffering for the Church. Soon confusion will be so vast, that if the days were not shortened…
    There is no worse blind man than the one who doesn´t want to see and there is no worse deaf man than the one who doesn´t want to hear. Just have a look at whom was appointed as head of the Pontifical Academy for Life, and there is no more need of further proof to understand the horror which is about to come.

  3. Caitriona Connolly on July 29, 2017 at 5:57 PM

    God bless you Fr Bouquet for this eloquently yet plainly articulated article defending a ‘pure’ prolife position.
    As Monsignor X a friend of mine, who represented the Vatican at the Council of Europe’s BioEthics meetings, has said on occasions- it was always the brightest in the Church who started the various heresies….so we’ll wait and see the ‘fruits’ this ridiculously open minded policy of including opponents / broadening of issues in the PAV will produce….but personally, I believe the writing is big and bold, on their door.

  4. Kathleen Goryl on July 29, 2017 at 6:28 PM

    I agree the PAV appointee that accepts abortion up to 18 weeks is a mistake. That is the slippery slope at work. That is the same argument the left used with “same sex marriage”. They called it “marriage equality”. These people already had equality, the same right to marry someone of the opposite sex as everyone else. Now instead of “equality”, everyone is forced to accept the liberal lefts’s view of marriage.
    Life is the defining issue of our time. Does our church respect the sanctity of life and the dignity of the human person from conception to natural death or not? Emphatically, yes! Not only is that God’s plan, but if everyone held to that principle, would we not have world peace?

    • Kevin on July 30, 2017 at 11:39 AM

      Marie, Unfortunately, there are many cases where extremely violent prisoners injure, or kill, other prisoners, or guards. You cannot lock them in a cell and never let them out, get medical care or anything else that is dangerous contact with other humans. The Catholic Church is right on this; there should be few capital punishments and it should be left to the legal, well-formed government.

    • scragsma on July 30, 2017 at 2:52 PM

      Well said, Kevin.

  5. Marie on July 29, 2017 at 9:43 PM

    This is an excellent article, and I agree with everything except for one subject: the death penalty. I believe that even the death penalty is wrong, because it is also taking a life. Christ died for every soul, even murderers; I believe that a murderer should be given a sentence of life imprisonment rather than the death penalty, which gives that person a chance to repent before death.

  6. Marie Fordtner on July 30, 2017 at 12:52 AM

    Pope Francis asked for prayers from the balcony when first elected. After visiting Medjugorie I learned that we need to pray for clergy. I am feeling less respect for him coming subconsciously and am praying more for him. Fortunately, he seems to think his views are already in the magisterium and do not need formal announcements so we will not have to believe anything ex cathedra. I graduated from a Jesuit College with great teachers in 1955 but during 1960’s, something happened. The priests I had did not change. The newer ones would sit down during Mass and let women take over. A holy priest joined his brother in protests.
    A praise for lesbian weddings and women ‘priests’ seems to have gone away (or underground) after I wrote a letter of protest. Two of my cousins’ kids are going there and I feel responsible for any weirdnesses, but Jesuit opinions and books I take with a big grain of salt. The danger personally that I face is throwing out good stuff with the bad. The devil is just a concept but not an actual reality!!! What rubbish and what a triumph for Lucifer!

  7. Tom Partlow on July 30, 2017 at 7:57 AM

    I would like to see a new group of people emerge in the Church, who are focused on prayers of exorcism. Clearly, the enemy is of “principalities and powers” so why not focus our time and talents in this area? Perhaps we could join together each day and pray the prayers of exorcism such as found at maybe even gather for “Pride” parades to pray against the evil.

    • dpiroch on November 4, 2017 at 8:40 PM

      Thanks for your comment, Tom. Some exorcism prayers are meant to be said by exorcists and priests only, and it can be dangerous for laypersons to say them. Focus rather on praying the wonderful St. Michael Prayer, “St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle, etc.” Here is the full prayer.

  8. Linda Walter on July 30, 2017 at 9:20 AM

    How do we get Biggar out of the PAV!? This is obviously a divide and conquer tactic. You never see these social justice or cafeteria catholics praying for life at the side walks. In my experience they are not interested in life issues at all. God help us. Keep up the good work Fr. Boquet! God bless you.

  9. Maureen Andrzejewski on July 30, 2017 at 10:26 AM

    Yes! Fr Boquet, thank you for never shrinking from the truth! Your words are edifying to me and others who recognize the truth. I am praying for you.


  10. LaVonna Brown on July 30, 2017 at 11:16 AM

    Right on Fr. Bouquet—your unwavering, steadfast holding to truth and remaining solid in the face of opposition and criticism—May God’s grace be abundant to you as you move forward in your mission–Thank God for your leadership—we depend on you to defend our Catholic truths and to keep the teachings of our Church uncontaminated; may you remain tough and strong and unwavering in that commitment to speak out refusing to give in and just go along with ‘opinion’; it’s a challenge to seek out and find the truth of a matter sometimes–you Fr. are a reliable source.

  11. Conrado Dayrit on July 30, 2017 at 11:17 AM

    Christ our Lord had Judas Iscariot. (Mt 10:4)
    Today, His Holy Catholic Church has many Judases. (Rev 2:2)
    Like weeds among wheat, they will be with us up to the end of time because that’s how God wants it. Then, they will be uprooted and thrown into everlasting, unquenchable fire. (Mt 3:12, 13:29-30, Rev 19:20)

  12. Barbara Karg on July 30, 2017 at 12:07 PM

    Thank you Father Boquet and Human Life International for always upholding the truth of the Catholic Church. You are in my prayers.

  13. Terence J. Hughes on July 30, 2017 at 12:35 PM

    Dear Father Boquet:
    There are still some good Jesuits. When God gave Satan the 20th Century (Leo XIII), his first satanic goal was to take over the Society of Jesus. On the academic front he has largely succeeded. I read Pope Francis’ Monday sermons in The Wanderer every week and they sound like Jesus talking. But his actions have the smoke of Satan (Paul VI). It may be that God has allowed another Antipope to occupy the Chair of Peter. Not new in His Church.
    A time of testing…
    Terence J. Hughes, Professor Emeritus, University of Maine

  14. scragsma on July 30, 2017 at 2:56 PM

    Good commentary, Fr Boquet. Still, my first reaction when I hear the accusation that pro-lifers don’t care about [x,y,z] is “How do you know we don’t?”

  15. Loretta Hoffman on July 30, 2017 at 8:43 PM

    Dear Fr. Boquet,
    In this age of confusion, moral relatavism and spiritual darkness, you bear the light of Christ to the world! God bless you for your courageous work for the Culture of Life and Love. You are indeed a gift from God whom I appreciate very much. I pray that God will bless you abundantly and protect you from the evil one and his minions around the world. I am also in agreement with everything you write regarding life and marriage issues. I wish that all of the priests of the world would be giving the same messages as you do to their congregations and not be afraid to do so. I encourage you to continue to fight the good fight for as long as God gives you life. May God strengthen you and give you a long life. The vulnerable of this world, young and old alike, need you as our advocate! Please continue to keep us informed. Thank you for your exercise of the Spiritual Works of Mercy in your ministry.

  16. Dan on July 30, 2017 at 11:07 PM

    Great article Fr Boquet,
    Adding clarity to some people’s foggy interpretation of pro life’s mandate.
    Keep up the great work you do in your Ministry with HLI.
    We are on the side that eventually wins !!!

  17. Dr. Robert Schwartz on July 31, 2017 at 9:34 AM

    Thank you, Father Boquet, for the clear explanation and defense. We Catholics can use the phrase, “Adoption is the best option,” to further our respect for life.

    What bothers me is the acceptance of abortion by people who simply don’t think it through. Abortion is “death by murder,” yet it hardly fazes those I know.

  18. Sister Lucy Frein, R.S.M. on July 31, 2017 at 12:08 PM

    Father Boquet, your paper is outstanding! If you have a way of getting it out for the public, please do. God bless you!


    Sister Lucy Frein

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