Ray Flynn: A Real Pro-Life Catholic Democrat

rayflynn1

Following the Bart Stupak betrayal, several pundits declared the end of the pro-life Democrat. For months, Congressman Stupak and a small group of Catholic House members had held out against Obamacare, insisting it be stripped of funding for abortion. But when the bill returned from the Senate with abortion funding intact, Stupak revealed himself to be a “hollow man” and caved in to pressure from the White House.

Yet there remain within the Democratic Party men and women who deserve the support and recognition of the pro-life community. Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-IL) remains strongly pro-life, for one, and I still have hopes for newly elected Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), in spite of his vote against the Obamacare repeal.

 

But the man all pro-life Democrats should be looking to for leadership is former Boston Mayor Ray Flynn. Flynn served as mayor from 1987 to 1993, before President Bill Clinton appointed him ambassador to the Holy See.

Before I ever met Flynn, I had heard the story of his return from the Vatican in an attempt to meet with Clinton after the president had vetoed the partial-birth abortion bill. I’m told Ambassador Flynn waited for hours outside the Oval Office, though I could never confirm whether he was finally able to speak with Clinton.

But I saw firsthand evidence of Flynn’s pro-life commitment the night I attended a dinner in San Francisco in honor of Archbishop William Levada, before the archbishop left to head up the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

It was August 2005, and the San Francisco hotel ballroom was crammed full, with more than 2,300 attendees there to honor the archbishop. I sat at a table with my friends Bill and Marjorie Campbell, and we all watched and listened as one city or state official after another paid tribute to Archbishop Levada — but not without some jibe about his protests against abortion and his opposition to same-sex marriage.

The archbishop took it all in with a friendly smile, but as the evening wore on, I wondered whether anyone was going to pay him the tribute he really deserved. After all, he was the archbishop who had stood up for life and marriage in one of the most liberal cities in the country.

Then to the podium came Ray Flynn, who until that time I had not noticed in the room. Flynn got right to the point. Instead of making a joke out of the archbishop’s witness, he called it “courageous,” thanking him for defending life and marriage in a city where these positions usually provoke public ridicule and sometimes worse.

The crowd had to listen to Flynn; and as he was a lifelong Democrat, a former mayor of Boston, and Vatican ambassador, they had to respect him. Flynn knew firsthand the price to be paid for being pro-life in the stronghold of the Democratic Party. His speech on that occasion remains for me one of the most powerful Catholic testimonies I’ve ever witnessed.


I was reminded of Flynn’s remarkable speech today
when I received an email from him containing remarks he made at the dedication of the Pope John Paul II Hall at the Polish Community of Our Lady of Czestochowa Roman Catholic Church in Worcester, Massachusetts.

Bishop Robert Hennessy presided at a special Mass at Our Lady of Czestochowa Church, and Marek Lesniewski-Laas, honorary consul of the Republic of Poland, delivered greetings from the Polish government. But Flynn, who was born in the neighborhood, spoke personally of the Holy Father he got to know so well while serving at the Vatican:

I spoke with the pope on numerous occasions and traveled to several countries with him, but his personal kindness to my family will be what I will always be most grateful for. I was with him in Boston long before he became Pope, and was in Rome when he died.

When Pope John Paul II is beatified on May 1, 2011, in Rome, thousands of Americans will travel to the Vatican to witness the special event, while millions more will watch on Catholic television. Young people need to be reminded of the very positive impact that John Paul II had on our culture and society. He spoke out on issues when it wasn’t very popular, and reminded us about the dignity of every person.

Ray Flynn is a Democrat who embodies precisely what he admired so much about John Paul II — a man who speaks the truth to a society that doesn’t want to hear it.

Deal W. Hudson

By

Deal W. Hudson is ​publisher and editor of The Christian Review and the host of "Church and Culture," a weekly two-hour radio show on the Ave Maria Radio Network.​ Formerly publisher and editor of Crisis Magazine for ten years, his articles and comments have been published widely in publications such as the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Washington Post, and U.S. News and World Report. He has also appeared on TV and radio news shows such as the O'Reilly Factor, Hannity & Colmes, NBC News, and All Things Considered on National Public Radio. Hudson worked with Karl Rove in coordinating then-Gov. George W. Bush's outreach to Catholic voters in 2000 and 2004. In October 2003, President Bush appointed him a member of the official delegation from the United States to attend the 25th anniversary celebration of John Paul II's papacy. Hudson, a former professor of philosophy for 15 years, is the editor and author of eight books. He tells the story of his conversion from Southern Baptist to Catholic in An American Conversion (Crossroad, 2003), and his latest, Onward, Christian Soldiers: The Growing Political Power of Catholics and Evangelicals in the United States, was published in March 2008. He is married to Theresa Carver Hudson, also a Baptist convert, and they have two children, Hannah and Cyprian who was adopted from Romania in 2001.

Crisis Magazine Comments Policy

This is a Catholic forum. As such:

  1. All comments must directly address the article. “I tell you, on the day of judgment men will render account for every careless word they utter.” (Matthew 12:36)
  2. No profanity, ad hominems, hot tempers, or racial or religious invectives. “And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:32)
  3. We will not tolerate heresy, calumny, or attacks upon our Holy Mother Church or Holy Father. “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:18)
  4. Keep it brief. No lengthy rants or block quotes. “For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.” (James 4:14)
  5. If you see a comment that doesn’t meet our standards, please flag it so a moderator may remove it. “Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness.” (Galatians 6:1)
  6. All comments may be removed at the moderators’ discretion. “But of that day and hour no one knows…” (Matthew 24:36)
  7. Crisis isn’t responsible for the content of the comments box. Comments do not represent the views of Crisis magazine, its editors, authors, or publishers. “Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of God… So each of us shall give account of himself to God.” (Romans 14:10, 12)
MENU