(LifeSiteNews) — This second part of Steve Jalsevac’s interview with Jim Hughes, former president of the Campaign Life Coalition (CLC), begins where the previous part left off: Jalsevac asking Hughes about the Americans he worked with in the pro-life movement. If you missed Part 1, click here to watch the video and read the summary.
Hughes once again mentioned abortionist-turned-pro-life-warrior and Catholic convert Dr. Bernard Nathanson, as well as Nellie Gray, yet also mentioned that he learned a good deal from Connie Marshner and Paul Weyrich, both pro-life strategists. He also told Jalsevac about a black Baptist pastor who asked him why he wasn’t discussing Henry Kissinger’s report, National Security Study Memorandum 200, to President Richard Nixon about preserving American dominance.
“It was how the United States would continue to hold onto their world dominance, providing they had access to raw materials that they would need,” explained Hughes. “And they named seven countries, I believe it was. And they wanted them because of their maybe it’s their potash or their rubber, whatever. I don’t remember exactly what it was, but here’s how we’re going to go about doing it. We’re going to try to entice them with great funding that we can provide. And if that doesn’t work, we’ll destabilize their governments. And if that doesn’t work, then we’ll bomb the hell out of them.”
Hughes said that he was aware of the document, as former Jesuit Father Malachi Martin had already warned him about it. Hughes had sent former Canadian diplomat Gilles Grondin to Martin to discuss the document after Martin requested a meeting with Hughes. It was around the same time, Hughes continued, when St. John Paul II contacted CLC through the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) concerned over activities of various non-governmental organizations (NGOs) at the United Nations (U.N.) pushing various anti-life initiatives.
After Grondin and pro-life activist (and eventual Catholic priest) Louis Di Rocco went around the world to discuss pro-life activities and study NGO activities, CLC warned the CCCB about the push, to what Hughes called “lukewarm effect.”
“I think three members of the hierarchy in total expressed some interest or concern,” Hughes told Jalsevac. “One, send us a $1,000 donation, one sent us $200, and I think the other one sent us some money out of his own pocket.” Since CLC could not convince the CCCB of the danger, a group of pro-lifers went to the UN headquarters in New York City themselves to investigate, returning with what Hughes referred to as “horror stories.”
CLC attempted to intervene because of the anti-life initiatives, eventually gaining a reputation at the U.N. and gaining recognition as an NGO. To the time of the interview’s recording in November last year, Hughes explained, CLC still had an active presence in the U.N., establishing “as allies” representatives from up to 30 different countries, not all of them Christian. At one point, Hughes recalled, CLC noticed that multiple NGOs with anti-life agendas were working in various countries, and notified their ambassadors in Ottawa.
“They changed the people that were going to the United Nations meetings with other people that they trusted,” said Hughes. “But at least we rang the bell and said, ‘Hey, alert, alert! This is what’s happening!’” Hughes maintained that early on in CLC’s work at the U.N. both Ireland and Malta were receptive to them.
When asked what the role of the Vatican was at the U.N., Hughes said that the Holy See’s delegation was “very strong,” and that CLC worked with the Vatican delegation up to before COVID on workshops at the U.N.
Listing the names of pro-lifers he especially remembers most, Hughes named Joe Borowski, “the first pro-life hero in Canada,” Linda Gibbons, Gwen Landolt, Gilles Grondin, Winifride Prestwich, who revealed that the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) was funding abortion, and Mary Wagner.
He also mentioned several Catholic clergymen, including Fathers Ted Colleton and Alphonse de Valk, as well as Archbishop Emeritus of Ottawa Terrence Prendergast. Hughes recalled specifically that Archbishop Prendergast once asked him how many bishops showed up at the March for Life, to which Hughes responded that the normal amount was two or three. At one point, Hughes continued, about 20 bishops, including cardinals and the papal nuncio to Canada, attended the March.
One of the nuncios, whom Hughes described as “very good,” once told him that he had to meet with St. John Paul II to discuss the state of the CCCB while at lunch with him, Gilles Grondin, and the former Canadian ambassador to the Holy See. Hughes asked the nuncio for a couple of days, spoke to his wife about it, who in turn asked him why he would speak to the Pope when the Pope could speak to bishops. The following morning, Hughes called Bishop Austin Vaughan, an auxiliary to Cardinal Archbishop John O’Connor of New York, asking him if O’Connor would “take the information to the Holy Father for us.”
Vaughan went to Canada and visited Hughes, and was with Hughes when pro-lifers were attacked at a conference hosted by Human Life International. Demonstrators were throwing batteries and coins at the pro-lifers, Hughes remembered, and set fire to a police car. He also related meeting a young girl from New England, whom he suspects was about 16 at the time, who described coming out of Mass and into the cacophony caused by the demonstrators that “it was like I had died, and before I could get to the pearly gates, I had to first walk past the gates of hell.”
Hughes also recounted an occurrence that happened at Holy Communion at Mass. “It was interesting that at a particular time during the service, after what the Catholics call Holy Communion, there was a silence in the church – all you could hear was the screaming outside, it was so loud,” he told Jalsevac. “And then all of a sudden it was like a peace came over the entire congregation, and people looked up and looked at one another because they all were feeling it at the same time. And others said when they went out, despite the fact that it was cloudy that day, that the clouds opened up and they could see what appeared to be a cross in the middle of all that.”
When Vaughan returned to New York, O’Connor related CLC’s information to St. John Paul, Hughes continued. The information related to the saintly pontiff resulted in the removal of two bishops. Hughes further said that when he was asked how he knew which course to take as a Catholic in the pro-life movement, he said he would simply look to Rome. Hughes maintained that St. John Paul II’s influence among Protestant pastors was such that some asked him after the Pope died who would take his place.
Speaking of the Protestant pastors, Hughes recalled especially Reverends Ken Campbell and Ron Marr. Marr presided over a committee of seventeen people to discuss the inclusion of God in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms before it took effect, 15 of whom were Protestant pastors, the other two being Hughes and Landolt. The committee met at Massey Hall in Toronto, and garnered protests. Not one member of the committee, meanwhile, was a Catholic priest.
When asked why such was the case, Hughes thinks that priests were “afraid to speak up,” fearful of repercussions from diocesan chanceries or other actions taken against them, as well as diminished donations. Hughes also observed that Protestant pastors were removed by the boards of their congregations over their outspoken stance on abortion, and Jalsevac noted that Protestant congregations have more control of their pastors.
Speaking specifically to things that happened to him, Hughes told Jalsevac about an incident in which his house was staked out and that he was followed by two men while driving at a time he was campaigning for a particular political candidate, because CLC often worked to influence elections and ridings.
He had a car phone at the time and called the police, telling them his situation and his location. When the police pulled the two men over, one of the officers spoke with Hughes. When Hughes explained that he was passing out leaflets for a pro-life candidate, the policeman said “Morgentaler,” referencing Henry Morgentaler, the abortionist. When he said he hated Morgentaler, Hughes said that he should hate what Morgentaler did and not the man himself. The police found tire irons in the pursuing car, Hughes supposing that they followed him to “bash” him. While the police could not do anything about the incident, they gave Hughes’ pursuers a warning. Hughes later learned that he “could get them for watching and besetting or some other things, but [the policeman] didn’t tell me at the time.”
Hughes also mentioned a lawsuit filed against him and about 17 other pro-lifers after picketing in front of the house of Bob Rae after he switched his party membership from the New Democratic Party to the Liberal Party. While two groups of abortuaries attempted to intervene at the government’s expense, Hughes recalled, the lawyers representing the pro-lifers represented them pro bono. Hughes also remembered the media being “very sneaky” during the case, someone from a major newspaper calling Hughes asking him if he knew a particular justice who “[spoke] out.” When Hughes had someone from CLC look for the Justice’s card in CLC’s files, had the card removed, and said that CLC did not have a card with that justice’s name on it.
Hughes met Mother Teresa in 1988 after a group of Evangelical pastors asked Hughes to organize a meeting with her.
Hughes had someone from CLC call the saint’s spiritual director, Father Lawrence Abello, who agreed to send her to Canada. Hughes had Grondin accompany her, much to the appreciation of the pastors, Hughes told Jalsevac. While in Canada, Mother conducted press conferences “chiding the media for not telling the truth about abortion and whatnot,” and at a rally in Ottawa turned to Hughes and said, “The beautiful thing about the pro-life movement is that it’s ordinary people doing extraordinary things for God.”
While in Canada, Mother Teresa also visited Frank and Marg Mountain while Frank was in the hospital after suffering life changing injuries in a car crash. Recalling the incident, Hughes remembers being told that Mother did not visit hospitals, though said that she would after convincing from Grondin. Eventually, Hughes got Mother to write a four-page letter of support for David Packer, a Toronto police man who refused to guard an abortuary. When she visited CLC’s office, Hughes said that people were “flipping out” and that she gave medals to those whom she met.
Hughes described the office as a one-room office with a volunteer secretary who came in three times a week. According to him, people from St. Michael’s Hospital across the street would sometimes come to the office to give donations. He recalls that filmmakers Peter and Patricia Gerretsen would come in and give checks, Peter coming in to leave a check from Gerretsen Productions, and Patricia coming in to give from her personal account. Hughes also told Jalsevac about how CLC was running low on money one month to pay the rent for its office in Toronto, when during the office’s daily prayers a woman came in an dropped off a $5,000 check without staying to talk.
Hughes also gave a list of organizations that came about as a result of CLC, including The Interim newspaper, which came about as a successor to CLC’s monthly newsletters. The Interim would eventually lead to the founding of LifeSiteNews.
Speaking to The Interim, Hughes told Jalsevac about how he met Sabina McLuhan, the newspaper’s editor and daughter-in-law of Catholic media theorist Marshall McLuhan, over coffee at his church after Mass.
When he asked her what she did, she said she liked to write. He asked to see a sample of her writing the following Sunday because he was starting a newspaper – something he did to help get people information that the media wasn’t discussing. She showed him the sample the following Sunday. He also related a story about McLuhan, recalling that a waitress at fundraiser in Brampton, Ontario, wanted to speak to her, Hughes approached by another woman and one of the event venue’s chefs. McLuhan figured that she was going to be scolded for one of her writings in The Interim, though the waitress wanted to thank her for convincing her daughter not to get an abortion.
“I looked over and they’re all crying, and I thought, ‘Oh, they’re giving her the gears again,’” Hughes told Jalsevac. “So I got up and went over and she’s beckoning me away … So when she came back and sat down through tears, she said, ‘The mother read my column in the interim newspaper. She was so moved by it, she put it in front of her daughter’s plate before breakfast.’ And her daughter came down and she said, ‘I want you to read that.’ And the girl read it and broke into tears and she said, ‘Mom, I’m pregnant. I was going for an abortion.’ And so as a result of that column that she wrote, the girl didn’t have the abortion and now had a little three-year-old boy. So it was all happy.”
Hughes explained that he recruited people the way he did McLuhan – find people who were talented, encourage them to use it, and train them if you have to. If the person would be good in politics, he should be encouraged and never abandoned by those who helped them get elected so that they don’t abandon their pro-life views.
Listing other organizations that came out of CLC, Hughes mentioned REAL Women, the Family Coalition Party (which later became the New Reform Party of Ontario), Tories for Life, Liberals for Life, 40 Days for Life, and that he brought Life Chain to Canada.
“My job, I saw it as a connector,” said Hughes. “Somebody came with a project or whatever, and they needed help, they needed support, and I connected them to the support. And that’s how it all came together. It wasn’t me. It was just everybody together.” Looking at his success, Hughes said that any success he had was the work of God, with the failures being attributed to the fact that the wrong person was in the wrong job. “I’m here because I feel like I was called to do it,” he continued. “And I’m so blessed to have said yes each time.”
Recalling what some of the more memorable developments that happened in his time in the pro-life movement, Hughes told Jalsevac that he brought in American politicians to speak to Canadian Members of Parliament (MP) for events of the Pro-life Caucus in Ottawa as well as at other events, including Nathanson, New Jersey Republican Chris Smith, and others. He also spoke to meeting various people in his time in the pro-life movement, telling Jalsevac a story about visiting a sauna in the middle of winter with Borowski and the song “Dear Brother,” describing two babies in the womb.
Counting his disappointments, Hughes told Jalsevac that he thought that the clergy would be more involved in the pro-life movement, or watching people he helped get into political office abandon their pro-life views. He also mentioned the passage of the Charter of Rights, saying “it wasn’t expected to be that bad,” and that ordinary people and evangelicals would ask him why he did not call on God more often. He used this to tell Jalsevac that he was once invited to go to an Ash Wednesday Mass with the women in his office one year, which then led to his attendance at daily Mass.
Among the unexpected things that Hughes encountered in his work, he cited former Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s decision to invite him to be a member of the Canadian delegation to the canonization of St. Andre Bessette in 2010. He recalled that the Canadian ambassador to the Holy See told him and Cecelia Forsyth from REAL Women, who was also a member of the delegation, to be prepared as 50,000 people were going to see them exit St. Peter’s Basilica. He also remembered that the ambassador told them that it would be three hours between bathroom breaks.
“And so the doors opened and there were all these people,” recounted Hughes. “And so then as I walked to my place, I passed the Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus, who was there, must have expressed shock that I was there.”
He also mentioned the trips he took with International Right to Life to Honduras and the Philippines, as well as a trip he took to Auschwitz, which he described as “eerie.”
Later in the interview, Jalsevac and Hughes discussed the impact Life Chain had. Hughes told Jalsevac that Dan Di Rocco, one of CLC’s “key leaders,” once calculated that about a million people in Canada see Life Chain per year. Hughes recalled that CLC one attempted to calculate the number of babies that had been saved by Life Chain, contacting women who opted not to have abortions after seeing it. They declined, explaining that they would not like their children to know that they once contemplated killing them.
Hughes said that he put time with his family before his pro-life work, having made a calendar with the help of his wife to keep track of family affairs. He told Jalsevac that his wife once told him that if he got arrested, that would be the end of his pro-life work. “If they come and arrest you, that’s fine,” Hughes quoted her. “But you’re not to go attempting to get arrested. That’s not the goal. The goal is to save the lives of the children.”
Speaking to how pro-life work affected his personal life, Hughes said that he thinks he likely took God for granted in the beginning of his work. He also said that he realized how important his prayers were in his work and that he started to empathize with people when working. “I didn’t have that empathy before,” he told Jalsevac. “And remembering that every single human being was created by God the same way I was.”
Hughes said that he recalled reading in a newspaper that most people were depressed. He recalled that one April, sitting on his veranda, he began waving at people in a passing bus. He would do this every day reading the morning newspaper over tea before heading to work. He eventually had to stop because the trees covered his line of view when the leaves returned in spring, opting to go to a nearby bus stop to wish people a good morning, which initially caught people by surprise.
“Now when I go by, almost everybody says, ‘Good morning,” he related.
“I made sure that I am cautious,” Hughes continued before telling a story of a woman he helped.
“‘What about that woman over there?’ ‘Yeah.’ ‘Her sister just died, and she’s alone.’ ‘Oh.’ So I was at church, and I had to take up the collection, and the collection basket on the end of the long handle. So when I got to her, I hit her on the top of the head with a collection basket, and people around her desk gasped! But she laughed! And now, even to this day, she’ll say to me, ‘You know, when I was having my bleak periods, there you were, hitting me on the head.’”
Hughes further related that when he was in Florida and saw a woman at a craft fair making angels for various things, such as faith or hope. Having bought some of the angels, he mailed them to the hospital where the woman’s sister was. The woman in turn pinned them onto a corkboard behind the head of the bed. “She said that ‘those little things that you did made a big difference to me,’” said Hughes.