NEW YORK (CNS) — Charlie Camosy, associate professor in the theology department at Jesuit-run Fordham University, spoke to Jeanne Mancini, president of March for Life, in advance of this year’s annual march in Washington Jan. 19.
She talked about changes in the event and the crowd she has seen over the years, the efforts to unify pro-lifers on a variety of life issues and her own pro-life views.
For her, abortion is “the single most significant social justice cause of our time.”
Here’s Camosy’s Q-and-A with Mancini:
Q: You’ve been going to the March for Life for many years now. What are some ways that the march has changed since you first started attending?
A: The rally is a little shorter, the crowds have grown, the age demographics have decreased, marcher signs are more diverse and creative. What hasn’t change is that the weather often presents extra opportunities for making a sacrificial pilgrimage! Plus that the event is primarily staffed by generous volunteers, and most importantly the issue. Mostly, that we are there — for the 45th year in a row — to protest the human rights abuse of today — abortion.
Q: One thing that struck me from when I first started taking high school students to the march nearly two decades ago was the hyper-religiosity of the event. As a theology teacher, I shared many of these commitments, but it made a number of my students uncomfortable and I don’t think they returned after high school. The hyper-religiosity of pro-life activists also seems to keep more moderate folks from identifying with the movement more generally and our policy proposals from getting wider traction — especially in a culture which – wrongly — sees much of what we do as imposing our religion. Religious commitments are nothing to be embarrassed about, obviously, and many grass-roots movements for basic justice and rights were very religious. But do you see a tension to navigate here?
A: Our experiences differ, so I find it hard to answer this question — but broadly I would say no. There are a lot of religious signs, but my experience is that it is mostly young people who attend the March for Life. Young people are attracted to this cause because it is the single most critical social justice issue of our time. They are so enthusiastic — it is contagious! Perhaps that excitement and motivation could be interpreted as “hyper-religiosity,” but I see it as attractive unbridled zeal for ending abortion and building a culture of life. Of course, there are always a few “outliers” and some people are led to the pro-life movement through their faith. But, overall — this is a movement filled with vibrant, passionate, life-affirming young people. I’m older, reserved and suspicious at my age, and I find their confidence and trust inspiring. I love the lack of cynicism in many young people, and admire their hope and goal to “abolish abortion.” At the front of the march when we’ve had some counter-protesters, I’ve watched young people being spit on and mocked and respond with Christian messages of love. Basically, I agree with St. John Paul II, who said that young people are the best “ambassadors for life.”
Q: Especially with the campaign and election of Donald Trump, divisions and fissures within the pro-life movement have become more pronounced in the last couple years. Do you think the March for Life has the chance to contribute to the unity of pro-lifers who disagree about these political matters?
A: We certainly seek to unify and I hope we are successful. I’m convinced that disunity is our biggest enemy. As an organization we quietly do what we can behind the scenes within the movement; whether arranging group meetings or making strategic introductions to draw groups and pro-life leaders together. In a more public way we always seek to have a bipartisan lineup of speakers, although admittedly that has gotten harder in recent years.
Q: What vision did you have in mind when you started running the March for Life? How does the current march reflect who you are as a pro-lifer?
A: When I first became president of the March for Life, it was a surprise, and it happened very quick following the death of MFL founder Nellie Gray. In the beginning, I had some goals, but not an overall big picture vision. These goals included trying to break into mainstream media — especially showing our enthusiastic young marchers; having a shorter and very engaging rally; positive messaging grounded in the attractiveness of life; drawing in people of all faith; and embracing social media. I believe that we have been successful in these goals and we continue to be more success in these goals each and every year. My ultimate goal is to work myself out of a job by working to make abortion unthinkable and enact laws that reflect the inherent dignity of the human person.
Q: Suppose a reader is on the fence about attending the march. In your view, what should she consider as she makes a decision whether or not to attend?
A: I was just reading an email from a business owner who attended for the first time last year. To paraphrase her, the March for Life is a life changing experience that will restore your hope in the goodness of humanity. I would add to that, how can you not attend? Abortion is the single most significant social justice cause of our time. Every single one of us carries that burden on us and needs to do everything possible to bring it to an end.
Join the CatholicPhilly.com family
CatholicPhilly.com works to strengthen the connections between people, families and communities every day by delivering the news people need to know about the Catholic Church, especially in the Philadelphia region, and the world in which we live.
By your donation in any amount, you and hundreds of other people become part of our mission to inform, form in the Catholic faith and inspire the thousands of readers who visit every month.
Here is how you can help:
- A $100 gift allows us to present award-winning photos of Catholic life in our neighborhoods.
- A $50 gift enables us to cover a news event in a local parish, school or Catholic institution.
- A $20 gift lets us obtain solid faith formation resources that can deepen your spirituality and knowledge of the faith.
- A small, automated monthly donation means you can support us continually and easily.
Won't you consider making a gift today?
Please join in the church's vital mission of communications by offering a gift in whatever amount that you can ― a single gift of $40, $50, $100, or more, or a monthly donation. Your gift will strengthen the fabric of our entire Catholic community and sustain CatholicPhilly.com as your trusted news source. Thank you in advance!
Make your donation by credit card here:
Or make your donation by check:
222 N. 17th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103
PREVIOUS: Poll shows a strong majority of Americans want restrictions on abortion
NEXT: Ritual, consistency lead to better participation at Mass, study suggests
Share this story