Father Paul Marx, O.S.B., was often referred to as “the father of the international pro-life movement” and was called an “Apostle of Life” by Pope John Paul II (1991). Fr. Marx traveled over three million miles visiting all 50 states and 91 countries in his over 40 years of pro-life advocacy to defend the sanctity of human life.
Fr. Marx was ordained to the priesthood on June 15, 1947 by the Order of St. Benedict. After nearly two decades on the faculty of St. John’s University, his order permitted him to dedicate himself to the fight for life and family full-time. Seeing the advance of anti-life forces before most did, he founded the Human Life Center in 1972 at St. John’s University in Collegeville, Minnesota.
On November 17 1979, Fr. Marx had an audience with Pope St. John Paul II. After describing to the Holy Father his international work, Fr. Marx remembered, “For an uncomfortably long time, the Pope looked at me as if in prayer, and then finally said, ‘You have lots of experience. You must bring this pro-life, pro-family movement all over the earth; and if you do that, you will be doing the most important work on earth.'” Two years later, the Human Life Center became Human Life International (HLI), the world’s first and largest international pro-life organization. Fr. Marx was president of HLI until his retirement in 1999.
Fr. Marx held a Doctorate in Family Sociology from the Catholic University in Washington, D.C. He authored over one dozen books, including The Death Peddlers: War on the Unborn (1971), Death Without Dignity: Killing for Mercy (1982), Confessions of a Pro-Life Missionary (1988), Fighting for Life (1989), The Flying Monk (1990), The Warehouse Priest (1993), and his autobiography, Faithful for Life (1997).
Reflecting on his work establishing the global pro-life movement, Fr. Marx said, “As I travel, I am often asked ‘what is my basic and deepest conviction after 36 years of pro-life work, visiting 91 countries and writing 11 books on the subject.’ Without hesitation, I tell such serious questioners: Once you have widespread contraception, you get… a pervasive, metastasizing moral cancer that destroys the Church, the family, the youth, and the nation… While we need a variety of pro-life groups hacking away at the anti-life monster, it is enormously futile and indeed grossly shortsighted to overlook the chief source of baby-killing, which is contraception.”
Fr. Marx’s legacy is a pro-life organization that is truly holistic, defending the dignity of human life and the foundation of marriage and family that it rests upon.
President Ronald Reagan once wrote in a personal letter to Fr. Marx saying, “You can be proud of all you’ve done to summon this Nation and others to reflection and positive action on issues affecting the sanctity of human life. God bless you.”
Fr. Marx died just short of his 90th birthday in March 2010. Known to friends and colleagues almost as much for his sense of humor as he was for his passion for truth and justice, he liked to point out that he was born 10 days before the late Pope John Paul II, who encouraged him to bring the pro-life movement to the world.