At the recent Family Life International Conference held in Albury from 26-30 January, special guest Monsignor Reilly addressed audiences in halls filled to capacity. Five hundred participants from all over Australia also heard talks by Bishop Julian Porteous (see pages 10-11) and Steven Mosher (director of the American-based Population Research Institute) and many others who work to communicate the pro-life message.
"Mons" Reilly began peaceful prayer vigils outside abortion clinics in New York over twenty years ago, saying that going to pray there is "going to the modern day Golgotha", adding that the current Western spiritual crisis requires a concerted spiritual response. These vigils have now spread to over 90 countries including Australia and have encouraged thousands of women to turn away from abortion at the last moment and seek help.
Steven Mosher reminded his audience that the dire 19th century Malthusian predictions of overpopulation have not eventuated. Indeed the average per capita income of each person in the world has risen steadily as has the level of health care for infants.
He noted that the Malthusian doom continues to permeate three groups in particular - the radical population controllers, the radical environmental movement and the radical feminists who reject marriage and see children as a burden. This amounts to virtually a hatred of humanity and the propagation of the idea that the population must be reduced by any means - abortion, sterilisation or contraception.
Rather than spending money on helping those with malaria and AIDS in developing countries, the neo-Malthusians give 'aid' in the form of abortion and sterilisation kits, sending the message that the only solution to health problems of the poor, is to kill the poor. Mosher explained the global population will begin to decrease before 2100 and pointed out some of the demographic realities which have ensued from global abortion.
He noted the 55 million "missing people" in the United States who could have saved the increasingly crippled pension funds with their tax payments, the fact that the population of several European countries (Europe has a low fertility rate of 1.3 children) will shrink radically and some may virtually disappear, Italy among them. "Pity about the Italians, I'll miss them", said Mosher.
Also he noted the 400 million "missing people" in China (mainly girls), a number greater than the entire population of the US, and the stagnation of the Japanese economy which is not likely to improve given the country's ongoing demographic decline (the birth rate has been below replacement since 1964), and which is an indicator of things to come in other countries of the world.
Dr John Obeid, a senior specialist in geriatric medicine, spoke of his work with the dying and of the need to "be with" those who are terminally ill. He emphasised, contrary to various "Dr Death" advocates, that a high level of palliative care is available today.
Sydney author and teacher Eamonn Keane spoke eloquently of the pillars of Western civilisation and how to counteract their erosion ideologically and spiritually.
There were other inspiring speakers at the conference, including Sister Moira Debono, a member of the Religious Sisters of Mercy of Alma Michigan and a lecturer at Notre Dame University in Sydney; Fr Terence Mary Naughtin OFM, a counsellor of those with various addictions, especially those involved with homosexuality; Sister Yvonne Berecry, from the Daughters of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, who was a missionary in Papua New Guinea and is now a Helper in Sydney; Fr John Rizzo from the Priestly Fraternity of St Peter, who has worked in Australia and New Zealand and who spoke of the "demonic" presence of abortion contrasted with the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist; Fr Peter Murphy, who completed his doctorate at the Urban University in Rome and is now parish priest at Lavington, Albury; Fr Scott Armstrong, a parish priest in Wagga and doctoral candidate at the John Paul II Institute in Melbourne; and Fr Greg Jordan, a Jesuit priest whose activities in evangelisation are so numerous that they would take several pages to list.
Especially evident at the conference was the group of medical practitioners and specialists who took a keen interest in the bioethical issues surrounding the use of the contraceptive pill for non-contraceptive purposes.
This elicited many questions from the audience with discussions highlighting the need for organisations of Catholic professionals which might include medical practitioners, nurses, psychologists and social workers. This would allow for the discussion of the theological and philosophical implication of various issues such as stem cell research, genetic research, palliative care, pregnancy support and secular pressure on Catholic professionals to conform.
The fields of medicine and the social sciences have elicited many moral issues which cause ongoing quandaries for various professionals as to how to act according to the Church's teachings in an increasingly secularised society.
Clearly evident at the conference was the lively, predominantly young group of Albury Catholics, many of them active pro-life supporters. Indeed, Albury has become a pro-life powerhouse in Australia with its intelligent, dedicated group of Catholics, some of whom, like Dr Van Marburg and Dr Paul Evans, have moved there for a better life with their families, away from larger cities. These Albury Catholics were congratulated warmly by those at the conference as an inspiring sign of contradiction and witness in our morally arid times.
DVDs of the Albury Conference talks can be ordered from FLI on (02) 9519-9111. Wanda Skowronska is a registered psychologist based in Sydney