The acceptance of the legalization of abortion stems from materialist culture, which prioritizes personal convenience over the lives of others, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, archbishop of New York, said in a keynote at the 20th annual Cardinal O’Connor Conference on Life on Jan. 19.
The O’Connor Conference, the largest collegiate pro-life conference in the United States, was founded by Georgetown students in 2000 to promote intellectual discourse on the sacredness of human life both within and beyond the Georgetown student body, according to the conference website. The conference is named after the late Cardinal John O’Connor (GRD ’70), who dedicated his life to advocacy for the preservation of human life, and held annually on Georgetown’s campus.
This year’s conference examined “Pro-Life Priorities: Advancing a Culture of Life.” Five anti-abortion advocates spoke on a panel: author and professor Steven Aden, chief legal office and general counsel at Americans United for Life; Daniel Williams, U.S. religion and politics historian; Jeanne Mancini, president of annual anti-abortion rally March for Life; Catherine Hadro, Catholic television host and producer; and Catholic theologian George Weigel.
Members of H*yas for Choice, an unrecognized pro-reproductive rights student group on campus, carried signs and protested outside the morning of the conference in Healy Circle.
Anti-abortion advocates have already won the argument on abortion, according to Weigel; the next step is convincing those who are pro-reproductive rights to change their beliefs.
“We’ve won the argument for the last 40 years,” Weigel said. “We’ve won the scientific argument. We’ve won the political theory argument, and I think we’ve won the moral argument. What we haven’t won sufficiently is hearts.”
The anti-abortion stance is an inherently Christian value, according to Aden.
“Only a Christian, in my view, can do that,” Aden said. “Only a Christian can show compassion and care, not just to the mothers and babies, but to those who are trapped in the abortion industry.”
Dolan commended those in attendance, both students of Georgetown and those who had come from outside of the university.
“It’s humbling to be with you, especially you young people, who I claim to be genuine confessors of the faith, courageous apostles who year after year in the capital of the nation built to serve a republic, to serve a nation founded on certain inalienable rights, with that, the right to life put first,” Dolan said.
Throughout the week leading up to the conference, HFC shared posts on its Facebook and Instagram pages protesting the conference because of the speakers’ views on marginalized communities and the Catholic Church’s abuse crisis.
O’Connor has faced criticism for his repeated condemnation of the LGBTQ community. He supported the prohibition of LGBTQ Catholics from the property of the Brooklyn Diocese and opposed the 1986 passage of a New York City bill that banned discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, according to The New York Times. O’Connor also attempted to block AIDS education and prevention programs in New York at the height of the AIDS epidemic, which disproportionately affected the LGBTQ community.
Dolan moved $57 million off the archdiocesan books into a cemetery trust fund in an attempt to shield church finances from damage suits by victims of childhood sexual abuse, according to The New York Times. In 2003, Dolan authorized payments of as much as $20,000 to sexually abusive priests as an incentive to ensure they left the ministry quietly.
Members of HFC and the larger Georgetown community gathered to protest in Healy Circle early Saturday morning. More than 30 people joined in flyering, carrying signs and chanting protests against the speakers and namesake of the conference.
“Dolan protects child rapists; he is not welcome on our campus,” the protestors chanted. “His name is not a source of pride; O’Connor watched as queer folks died.”
HFC protests the conference annually to provide an opposing viewpoint to the opinions perpetuated by the speakers, according to Elianna Schiffrik (SFS ’21), HFC co-director of communications.
“Our goal for the protest was to make our disapproval of the conference and its various speakers known, and make it clear to Georgetown administrators and attendees that the conference does not represent our Georgetown community,” Schiffrik said in an interview with The Hoya.
Schiffrik also published a viewpoint in The Hoya on Jan. 16 encouraging Georgetown students to protest the conference.
The conference was sponsored by the Office of the President, the Office of the Provost, the Catholic Chaplaincy at Georgetown, the College of Nursing and Health Sciences, the Office of Public Affairs, the Georgetown University Law Center and the Georgetown Institute of Politics and Public Service.