Catholic Transcript Magazine of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford Connecticut

As we celebrate the 175th Anniversary of the Archdiocese, we look back… on July 20, 1971 when parishioners settled on a site for the new St. Thomas the Apostle Church, Oxford.
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Q. Some time ago, in one of your columns, you referred to a French geneticist who was a leading champion of reverence for life in the face of widespread abortion. I think he once addressed the United Nations on abortion. Do you recall who he was and how I could read up on him?

A: Yes; the scientist about whom the questioner is asking here is undoubtedly Professor Jérôme Lejeune, who died in April 1994. Probably the most respected geneticist in the world, he discovered the nature and origin of several diseases linked to genetic factors, including Downs Syndrome (Trisomy 21). But his greatest contribution to the world was his defense of every human life in the context of the culture of death associated with direct abortion.

I was privileged to hear him lecture at the Vatican during a conference on moral theology in November 1998. Moreover, I was to meet with him, together with Nobel Laureate Dr. Joseph E. Murray, of Harvard Medical School, during the Spring of 1994. In the interim, Dr. Lejeune had died. (Dr. Murray had shared the Nobel award in 1990 with another physician for the first successful human kidney transplant.)

Professor Lejeune had suffered substantially from his adamant stand in defense of human life. After speaking during a debate at an international conference on health sponsored by the United Nations Organization in New York, he excoriated pro-abortionists with, “Here we see an institute of health that is turning itself into an institute of death.” That evening, recalled his daughter Clara in her biography of him, Dr. Jérôme wrote his wife, “This evening I lost my Nobel Prize.” (Life is a Blessing; San Francisco: Ignatius, 2000)

In her biography Clara also documents that her father was literally hated simply for telling the truth about the infant in the womb. She recalls that as a teenager she even saw graffiti on the wall of Paris’s Medical School with exclamations such as “Lejeune is an assassin. Kill Lejeune!” and “Lejeune and his little monsters must die.” (The tyranny of the ignorant?) Once, she wrote, during a debate, “it was impossible for him to take the floor. The audience was yelling, and he was hit in the face with raw calves’ livers and tomatoes…”

Among other indignities, Dr. Lejeune was unjustly humiliated by tax regulations, “political correctness,” all kinds of “investigations,” even overt acts of vandalism (e.g., slashing the tires on his car).

When Pope John Paul II visited France for the last time, I recall reading, the Pope stopped to pray silently at Professor Lejeune’s grave as he was driven from the airport. This simple reverent gesture by the Holy Father incited a flurry of fresh venomous attacks upon the famed geneticist, as well as a new Satanic cry by the secular media for abortion “rights.”

It was St. Pope John Paul who appointed Dr. Lejeune first President of the Pontifical Academy of Life, a post he held but 33 days. (Which occasioned the geneticist’s remark, “I’m dying while on special duty.”) It was he who conceived and structured the Pontifical Academy of Life. “We want to thank God today,” declared Pope John Paul, “…for everything that Professor Jejeune has been for us, for everything that he did to defend and to promote the dignity of human life…”

Without question we need more great men and women like Jérôme Lejeune. Editor Philip Lawler has correctly described him as “one of the greatest Catholic men of the 20th century.”

alertAt the Spring Assembly of the U.S. bishops, Cardinal Joseph Tobin suggested that a delegation ofbishops go to the border to see for themselves what was happening to newly arrived immigrants, families and children. On July 1 and 2, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the U.S. bishops conference, and five other bishops conducted a pastoral visit to the diocese of Brownsville, Texas. Stops included Mass at the Shrine of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle with the community, a visit to anHHS/OBR Shelter and Mass for the families there, a visit to the Customs and Border Patrol processing center in McAllen, TX, and a press conference at the end of their visit. Catholic News Service accompanied the bishops on their border trip. 

  1. Backgrounder and analysis of the bishops’ trip to the border: Cardinal DiNardo told CNS, “You cannot look at immigration as an abstraction when you meet” the people behind the issue.
  2. At final press conference, Cardinal Daniel Dinardo said the church was willing to be part of any conversation to find humane solutions because even a policy of detaining families together in facilities caused “concern.”
  3. Bishops serve soup to immigrant families at a center run by Catholic Charities and listen to their stories. Scranton Bishop Joseph Bambera said he found hope in hearing the people in the room talk about what’s ahead. They didn’t speak of making money but of finding safety for their children, he said, driven by “the most basic instinct to protect your family.”
  4. At an opening Mass he Basilica of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle-National Shrine near McAllen, Texas, Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville told Massgoers, “The bishops are visiting here so they can stop and look and talk to people and understand, especially the suffering of many who are amongst us,”

A delegation of U.S. bishops goes on a fact-finding mission at the U.S.-Mexican border to learn more about Central American immigration detention.

Following their visit to an immigrant detention center, U.S. bishops said they are even more determined to call on Congress for comprehensive immigration reform.