ROBERT: Hello, and welcome! My name is Robert Colquhoun. I’m the International Outreach Director for 40 Days for Life. With me on this podcast is Paul Hanrahan, the Executive Director of Family Life International in Sydney, Australia. Paul, how are you today?
PAUL: Good, thank you.
ROBERT: Very good. It’s a real privilege and honour. People have been speaking very positively about you all around the places I’ve visited in Australia so far. We were just talking how you first got involved in the pro-life movement and some of the first steps that God made in your heart to become a full-time pro-lifer. Can you just tell us a little bit about that story about how you first got involved in pro-life work and how he led you to a full-time position?
PAUL: Yes. Well, I came back to my faith around the time my first child was born. Five months after he was born my mother died. I found out several years later how my mother had offered a suffering when she was dying for that. She told a family friend. I guess that’s the inspiration, my mother, and how many have been led back to their faith, or into the faith, because of their mother’s prayers. It’s a very humbling experience. I knew I didn’t know my faith, and I wanted to learn it. My wife when we got married wasn’t a Catholic and had no interest in becoming a Catholic. But me, wanting to learn my faith and changing my whole life and living differently especially, treating others differently, and she ended up wanting to become a Catholic, which was a great blessing for us when she entered the church only a few years after that.
So in 1994 I was at an apologetics talk. There was a big pro-life vigil being organized in the city. They were trying to recruit people for that at this apologetic talk and I put my name down for it. That was basically the start, in 1994. In May was the first pro-life vigil I ever went to. I had absolutely no interest in praying outside abortion clinics before that, and for some time maybe after. Before long I was involved in a committee to help organize ongoing regular vigils. It was through my involvement with that and Human Life International, [Gile Istance] was one of the founders of Human Life International in Australia and was very instrumental in recruiting me for the Helper’s vigils and all the vigils we had then that became the Helpers of God’s Precious Infants vigils after we connected with
Monsignor Reilly a couple of years down the track, from Brooklyn, New York. He came here. Sister Dorothy Rother, who worked with him, came here. We had training days. So we started to develop a very serious pro-life apostolate that was effective outside abortion clinics here in Australia in Sydney. At the same time, people in Melbourne had been founded, pro-life vigils, doing the same thing. Monsignor sent and Sister Dorothy, to different locations around the place. So if you like, it was a significant year, ’94, for a lot of things getting started. ’95 and ’96 when he came here.
As I got a better understanding of pro-life and how a lot of things joined up, how contraception was instrumental in the abortion culture that we have, and the acceptance of that, how sex-education impacted the contraceptive culture, how homosexuality and sterile practices were all associated with this somehow, loss of faith, the breakdown in family life, all of that seems connected. Gile saw that. She actually said to me, “If something happens to me, Paul, I’d like you to take over because you seem to understand this.” That was mainly due to people like herself. I had a wonderful theology teacher that I studied privately with, a Jesuit priest named Peter Paul Little. Peter Paul Little died on the Feast of Peter and Paul in 1999. I tell people if he’s not in Heaven, I’m in a lot of trouble. He was a fantastic priest, old-fashioned Jesuit.
PAUL: We were, as a family requested him. Our youngest son, we found out, was on the way just after Father Little died. He is named after him.
PAUL: Yeah. All those influences in my life happened around the same time. 1997 there was a Human Life International conference in the United States Gile sent me to. She paid for me to go over there. It was just after we had moved into a new house with my father who then moved into the flat with that house. It wasn’t the most convenient of times. We had one little young child – we had four children at the time. One was only about 15 months old at the time. I went away for a few weeks to this conference and to go and stay with Monsignor Reilly, go down to Raleigh, Virginia, I sat at the Human Life International Headquarters. I didn’t know if you knew about that.
PAUL: Father Marx, Paul Marx, was the founder of Human Life International. He was another priest saint in the pro-life movement and had a big influence on us. So I got exposed pretty early in my time with pro-life to a lot of the issues, but a lot of the key-players, if you like, in the pro-life movement around the world.
PAUL: I soon realized that pro-life movement basically was a very big family, a network of people who thought the same and who were the same. It’s shared similar experiences. How you could be anywhere in the world or talk to anyone from anywhere in the world and have so much in common and be like brothers, or like brothers and sisters. It’s a very moving thing to start to realize that. How God can work through all those different people in different places and how you can work together and how you can encourage each other and that sort of thing. That was ’97.
In ’99 Gile, one of the co-founders of Human Life International here in Australia, which by the way had started as Australian Catholic Pro-Life Advocacy Association. They changed their name to HLI in ’93 after Gile met Father Paul Marx and became a branch of Human Life International. But Bead retired, wanted to retire as the President of the organization here and I took his place. That was on a part-time basis, so with a young family, mortgages, a financial planning business, it was not easy. I did that for about three years. I said to Gile, “You might as well be Executive Director, or President, whatever we want to call it, as you are here all the time.” She was here day to day.
She wanted to step out of it again, around about 2007 or 2008. She handed it over to another young guy who had been on the fringes and had come to the city from the country. Scott took over for a little while but found maybe he wasn’t cut out for that and had other interests. He had a young family and didn’t want to live in Sydney. It didn’t have to be in Sydney, but basically a lot of the contacts and supporters are here. We have supporters around the country. We’re involved in pro-life groups around the country. But essentially, the nub of it all is here in Sydney, and he wanted to move to the country.
So I was in the process of selling my financial planning business. The people I was selling it to I was working on contract for and they basically didn’t need me anymore. In 2010 they paid me out and told me they couldn’t use me anymore. I had to make some decisions about my working career and whether I wanted to stay in that area to do some related, get involved in a related way or back to financial planning with someone else. Everything was pointing me toward taking over Family Life International, but Gile, Scott and other people were encouraging me to do it. So I did. That was October 2010 when I officially took over.
ROBERT: So what are the projects you’ve worked on since 2010? Which conferences, projects? Which have been the successful ones? What have you found works? What have you found more challenging in the promoting a culture of life?
PAUL: We’ve had ever since I’ve been involved, Helpers of God’s Precious Infants, which is based on the structures and methodologies that Monsignor Reilly knew of. We have helped get them established and support those sort of groups around this country in different cities. When I started, 40 Days for Life had started in Sydney that same year. 2010 was our first year that happened. That was in March through April that year. I participated in that 40 Days for Life. The Executive Director of Family Life International at the time, Scott McAndry, is the one who introduced it to Sydney. It started in Brisbane, the first in Australia was in Brisbane the year before that. So it was quite new to Australia.
When I started in 2010 at the end of the year we had already started looking at plans for the following campaign for the Lenten season in 2011. In 2011 and onwards I’ve basically been the campaign director for every 40 Days for Life campaign here in Sydney. I’ve also done training and support programs for people in other locations, especially in Adelaide, Aubree, and over in New Zealand in Auckland last year.
I met David Bereit a few years ago when he was out in Australia. A couple of times we had discussions. He’s a very nice man, a very impressive man. I liked 40 Days for Life, how it gelled with the whole pro-life movement. I don’t like the idea particularly of two campaigns a year. I understand why they do that, but when you’ve got pro-lifers on the street several days a week every week of the year, I can’t plan on 40 Days for Life as a good way of wearing people out, run that too often. I like it though as a way to attract people to the pro-life movement, to make it, call it [inaudible] if you like to, to actually highlight the issues. Holding it once a year, especially during Lent, is marvellous to do that.
We’ve had very successful campaigns here in Sydney. Up to 500 people participating in the beginning, opening and closing processions. 1,000 or so during the whole course of the campaign. We’ve had bishops leading those opening and closing campaigns and being involved. The cooperation of a lot of clergy and support. It’s been a very big success here in Sydney. On top of our working with the ongoing pro-life vigils, the Helper’s vigils and other groups, there’ve been quite a lot of turnarounds.
ROBERT: That’s great. Has that been one of the main blessings you’ve seen is the turnarounds from the campaign?
ROBERT: What’s the abortion centre like in Sydney? Is it…
PAUL: There are several abortion centres, 8 or 9.
ROBERT: But where the vigil site you’ve organized 40 Days campaign?
PAUL: Pro-Term is the foundation. Pro-Term Foundation is the oldest abortion mill in New South Wales, and one of the oldest in Australia. We’ve had a big impact on the numbers there, us being there on a regular basis. Especially since I’ve started full-time at Family Life International, we were able to go from just holding Saturday vigils to Thursday, Friday and Saturdays, which were their three main days of operation for killing.
PAUL: Now we’ve had Saturday pretty much, except 3-4 times a year, they are closed most Saturdays. Fridays now the last three months about one over three months, closer to four months, they’ve had no one going in. So they are down to two days and the numbers those days are lower than when we started the three day campaigns. So along with 40 Days for Life and the increased regular activity, it’s had a big impact on the number of abortions at this place. Staff have left. We’ve had a couple of staff leave. We’ve actually helped those staff leave.
PAUL: A lady who I’d known for 15 years worked at this place, the place we were at previous. We always thought she pretty much hates me. That’s how it always was. When I see her now I have immunizations for various allergies, dust and pollens basically. Australia’s famous for that. She works there.
PAUL: She – the change in her behaviour towards me is remarkable to the point that people are astounded. When they first noticed her talking to me and being very friendly…
ROBERT: Change of heart.
PAUL: Very much. So she hasn’t now been at this place all year. So getting close to a year that she hasn’t worked in abortion. We just pray for her a lot, and others we know that have been there and left. Other people who are still working there, but with just the ongoing communication we tell them we are praying for them. You notice their attitude change. The smugness, sarcasm and insults stop. They become polite. Just changes you see when you’ve done it as long as I have, when you’ve done this sort of thing. You pick up maybe the subtle changes quicker than some people.
ROBERT: What do you think it is about Monsignor Reilly? You mentioned the Helpers. What do you think it is about his technique, his tone, and also 40 Days for Life that’s so appealing and so successful? What is it about the approach?
PAUL: The approach. Monsignor Reilly had been involved in pro-life for a long time. In fact, he says he was doing rescue when Randall Terry was still in shorts. Randall Terry in the United States is famous for his starting Operation Rescue that was happening before he was around in other words. A lot of people internationally who know about American politics would know about the Republican Representative Chris Smith. He got arrested, Chris Smith, when he was a student at Harvard, with Monsignor Reilly outside of Bernard Nathanson, the famous abortion convert in New York. Monsignor had done a lot of these things. He said, “Something is missing. We’re forgetting something.” He goes, “I know. God.” Basically, that’s right. We were trying to win…
ROBERT: On our own terms.
PAUL: On human ground, on secular grounds. And it’s not going to happen. If you know anything about abortion, you know it’s satanic. I tell people like 50 million abortions a year for the last 40 years, 2 billion and counting. Not to mention the children of those aborted babies that would be around. We’re missing a lot of people God sent to us that would’ve benefited mankind.
PAUL: I read a report, I can’t remember his name. But an economist, a mathematical economist who worked out the numbers and what it’s cost America, the 55 million or so abortions in the last 40 years in the United States. When you extrapolate that out with the children they’d have had, he’s something like more than 126 million missing people. That’s cost the U.S. economy $16 Trillion, which is about the size of their debt. They wouldn’t have it in other words. The economic impact, the social impact, anyone again understands this, sees the horror of this. It’s satanic. There’s no other word for it. Not involving God, not going there in prayer is pointless, and the only thing that works is that. So Monsignor Reilly’s Helpers of God’s Precious Infants and the 40 Days for Life program essentially are built around prayer and understanding that on our own we can’t beat this.
So this conversions that happened with the staff, and the turnarounds that happened with people going by and the people walking past who are influenced, and after a while even people who are quite hostile soften their approach and can be a lot more sympathetic to your views, and eventually be influenced by those views. The women who go past and have had an abortion, or three abortions, or eight abortions and horror numbers like this, and had wished someone was there to say, “We’ll help you.” The babies that you get to hold in your arms that were going to die in these places. All of the insults, all of the abuse, all of the threats means nothing when you hold just one of these babies. If you did this for the rest of your life, for every day of your life and you made a difference to one it would be worth it.
ROBERT: Of course.
PAUL: People have forgotten that. But to have literally seen hundreds of these cases, that’s a huge blessing. You don’t need more motivation than that. But it’s the prayer that matters.
ROBERT: Where do you see signs of help for the pro-life people in Australia being involved, where are signs of change and where can you see society heading in the right direction?
PAUL: Lots of little things again. There are certainly signs of hope. Some of the biggest signs of hope would be the, what do you call it? March for Life in Washington on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade and the numbers of young people especially at that. We have a Day of the Unborn Child that we have had in Sydney since 2000. We get several thousands, and again, large numbers of young people, young families, and single young people involved in that. Bishops that lead that procession, it goes from St. Mary’s Cathedral here in Sydney and around the streets. We get police escort.
It’s also the aging of the people that are supportive of the abortion culture that promote it – the feminists, the atheists, the anarchists are basically aging populations. When they try to organize counter-protests, the lack of numbers and the lack of young numbers tells you some things.
The number of people that go past, younger people going past, a lot of things like that, we hand out. We were at these places as well, rosaries, miraculous medals. I have people go past, “I’m Jewish.” Or, “I’m Muslim.” I say, “That’s ok. You can pray the rosary as well.” They take rosary beads from us and how to pray the rosary. People are – I think people instinctively know something is wrong with the secular culture and the rejection of God and are looking for answers. If they’ve got any goodwill and are prepared to listen, they usually understand why you’re there and are very congratulatory. They say, “good on you, you’re doing a good job.” They might ask questions about this, that and the other example. What about all the usual things? Especially when you’ve got good answers for those things. They’ve never heard it before. They go, “Yeah, that makes sense.” We’ve seen a lot of those things.
I’ve spent a lot of time – I tell people I’m the easiest bloke in the city to find. You just have to look at that street corner and I’ll be there most times. But it teaches you plenty. I’ve – if I had the decision to make between keeping Family Life International going, which is involved in much more than support of pro-life apostolates, education and we do seminars and a lot of things, put out publications, etc. But if I had to choose between the street and Family Life International, I’d choose the street. Because I know what an impact it’s had. Stand down there some days and not see anything in particularly. See there on other days and get a lot of abuse. See me not get anywhere. But God’s apportioned the grace where He will. It might be in London, or New York, Bryan, Texas. You never know. We are linked. We are a family. God’s directing where the graces go, where the troops are.
ROBERT: There’s some pro-lifers in England who say that Britain’s a very secular country and we need a secular approach to pro-life activities, religious pro-life activity might just alienate the more general population. We’ve already mentioned how we need God’s with pro-life efforts as well. What would you say to those people that think pro-life efforts should purely come from a secular perspective in a secular country?
PAUL: Yep. Not only do they say that in England, Robert, they say it here in Australia.
ROBERT: I’m sure they do!
PAUL: Which is every bit as secular I’m sure as England. Most of the problems we have in our two countries are much the same and stem from the same problems. There is quite a few things to say about that. The first is, if there’s all these pro-lifers who are Muslim, Jewish, atheist or whatever else, where are they? Why aren’t they organizing their own events? When we hold an event like 40 Days for Life, or when we do the Day of the Unborn Child procession in Sydney, everyone is welcome. But they don’t come to that. They don’t make their presence known. They don’t tell us that, or contact Family Life International. It’s well understood it is the sponsor of these events not just in Sydney but in other places. Why don’t they call us and say, “We’d come except for that.” Why don’t they start their own 40 Days for Life campaigns? There are about 8 or 9 abortion facilities in Sydney. They could run it concurrently at any one of those. I’d help them. But they don’t.
So the first thing is, they’re non-existent. It’s a hypothetical without any substance, basically when people put that. It’s an embarrassment they have in expressing their faith in public. Now that I think is the problem we should be dealing with. Any time I have this discussion I can’t help but think of our Lord’s own words. “If you deny me before men, I will deny you before my Father in Heaven.” I think that’s what it amounts to because we already discussed, as you said, that this is satanic in nature. It’s pure evil.
It’s not only destroying lives, more importantly as Monsignor Reilly stresses, it destroys souls. Our principle reason for being there is salvation of souls. The babies, one way or another are with God. They have no personal sin. They’re not going to hell. They are going to be with God. Whether you believe that those children have undergone a baptism of blood and enjoy the beatific vision, or whether they are going to be in a place like limbo, it was always understood they would be living eternity in a perfect state of natural happiness. They are – that’s done. But their mothers and fathers, doctors and nurses, those who participate face damnation. Our first obligation has to be to them, and to bring them back to God and eternity with Him.
If you have a secular approach, that’s not going to happen. There’s no way you’re going to influence somebody to have a conversion of heart and to look at going and kneeling before God and repenting of the sin if you don’t bring God to that place. If you don’t bring God to that place, those things don’t even exist and your success, even in saving lives, will be diminished. Pretty much that’s what I say.
ROBERT: Australia works very much on the state-level on many laws. Can you explain some of the different pro-life laws in different parts of Australia, how they vary from state to state?
PAUL: There are no pro-life laws, but there are plenty of pro-abortion laws. Some are worse than others. Recently in Tasmania they passed just last year they passed, this year, sorry. They passed a bill that obligates doctors and nurses to be involved in abortion. If you don’t, if you have a conscience objection, you have to refer to someone who doesn’t. If you are a counsellor, a nurse or a doctor, that’s the case. If you – these laws included bubble zones with a 300 meter perimeter. That’s ridiculous alright, because that includes in Hobart’s case, the Catholic Church just up the road. So if you were walking past with a 40 Days for Life shirt on for argument’s sake, or arrived at the Catholic Church with it on, you could be arrested technically. So a whole lot of nonsense that happened down there.
The interesting thing that was pretty well no public prayer outside of abortion clinics in Hobart, or in anywhere in Tasmania. I think it speaks to the principle that if you don’t exercise your rights, they will be taken from you. I think these laws in a smaller state, a smaller parliament, our very left-leaning parliament at the time, were put through to basically be a test ground for Victoria and New South Wales. In Victoria they also have very poor laws. They don’t include the bubble zone, but everything else they do include that Tasmania has. Abortion is legal up to term in those states now.
On the other end, that’s also basically the case in the rest of Australia and the ACT in South Australia. There are variations of those laws in several states and territories that are not as bad as Victoria and Tasmania. In New South Wales and Queensland, there are still laws on the statute book in the Crimes Act that criminalize some abortions at least, pretty much all abortions, but it’s been judicial decisions that’s given them the opt-outs or the exceptions. Those exceptions, of course, have grown. But we still have those laws, and in fact, an abortionist in Sydney in 2006 was prosecuted and found guilty under those sections of the Crimes Act.
So, our position at Family Life International is law matters. The laws educate and persuade. We need to keep those laws in. We don’t need to do things that would chip away at them or allow people like the Green Party or other left-wingers who are tried for now decades to get rid of those laws. Clearly it bothers them, even though the abortion is effectively seen as legal in New South Wales, the fact that they’re technically not, they don’t like it. They know that can change in a hurry, and they try their best to get rid of it. Major parties in New South Wales that have governed, and much the same in Queensland, really don’t want to visit the abortion debate. So those attempts to repeal those laws have failed and not even gotten off the ground. But they continue to come up.
So a lot of the abortions in New South Wales could be seen to be technically illegal. Even though they’re funded by Medicaid, a national medical scheme, insurance scheme, of course not attended to by the authorities, police and judiciary of course. Even if the police wanted to arrest somebody they’d have to deal with the judiciary that would be pretty much hostile to that position. At the moment we’ve gotten a situation where we’ve got to hold ground and try.
This is a battle of hearts and minds, not just at the level of the death centres themselves, the abortion mills, but right through society where so many people are uninformed, uneducated, and in fact have been propagandized by the other side to a point where they just chant their slogans back at you without any thought to them. So we’re very much dealing with a culture that not only doesn’t seem they can’t think, they don’t want to think about these things. It’s a woman’s issue. It’s a woman’s right, all these sorts of things. So where I think education is a big part of our mission, and that’s what Family Life International of Australia is involved in. Publications, seminars, and conferences are a very important aspect of what we do here.
ROBERT: In terms of the issues being interconnected – contraception, abortion, and some of the other issues you deal with, can you explain how those issues are interconnected with the variety of issues you deal with and how they complement and encourage each other?
PAUL: At the end of the day, Robert, it’s well known how a lot of these got started. Margaret Sanger and Marie Stopes who Sanger encouraged to take up the same sort of organization, they understood contraception. Especially Margaret Sanger. Marie Stopes probably wasn’t as radical in her views in a lot of things, but Margaret Sanger was a eugenicist and she was a supporter of the Nazi’s views, spoke at their conferences and had them speak at her conferences. She understood that to have a large number of people sterilized by force would’ve been impossible at the time. To get them to voluntarily do it was going to be a challenge, unless you get them addicted to sex.
So sex education and contraception were the ways to put those two things together. Encourage people into sexual appetency and indulgence, and then given them a ways to at least temporarily sterilize themselves. That’s contraceptives. But of course all contraceptives have failure rates for all sorts of reasons, so every abortion mill around the world will actually point to the fact that more than half of the abortions they do are because of failed contraception. So it’s well-known that contraception leads to an increase number of abortions, not a lowering of abortions, as a lot of people might think. So once people have got into that whole way of life, it’s the way they think. If you think you are in control of your fertility, when you lose control and a baby eventuates, that baby is going to be at risk of being put to death.
That’s what we’ve got basically. The eugenics culture that exists with the powers that be in the western world and the imperialism that’s imposed on developing countries in Africa, South America and Asia, and the peddling of these contraceptive drugs that are often at an experimental stage is horrific when you think about it, the damage that they are doing. It’s clearly all linked.
ROBERT: It’s the foundation point for the abortion culture, is the contraception culture.
ROBERT: Paul, it’s been a real pleasure being with you today. Thank you so much for your wonderful answers. We’ve reached our time limit now, but thank you so much for your time.
PAUL: Thank you, Robert.
ROBERT: And for the wonderful answers you’ve given us all.
PAUL: Pleasure. God bless you.