Changing hearts for life

Restoring hope in real happiness is the key to building a consensus against abortion, euthanasia

By Jean Parietti

Camille Pauley
After 20 years of pro-life work, Camille Pauley sees progress being made, but says much work remains to create a “culture of life.”

 

Camille Pauley was a young teenager when she fully grasped the tragedy of abortion.

Her neighbors, evangelical Christians, invited her to come with them to protest outside a local abortion clinic. “I knew what abortion was and I knew it was wrong. I had never done anything about it,” said Pauley, a lifelong Catholic.

After 20 years of pro-life work, Camille Pauley sees progress being made, but says much work remains to create a “culture of life.”

Standing in front of the clinic that day, Pauley saw women come and go. “Watching them go in pregnant and watching them come out without their baby, and [seeing] how broken they were … the reality of it hit me,” she said.

“That was a defining moment for me that this was a wrong that I needed to do something about.”

Teaching what really matters
Pauley grew up in New Mexico, the third of Joachim and Lucille De Blasi’s six children. Her father taught his children the faith and made sure “we didn’t just memorize our faith, we understood it,” Pauley said. While he encouraged them to use their hearts and heads, “my mom was very big in using our hands and feet” — to go out and do something, Pauley said.

Pauley Family
Camille and Michael Pauley with their children, Elizabeth, left, and Juliette. Photo: Courtesy Camille Pauley

Heading off to college, Pauley thought about going into law or politics. But in 1993, after earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees, she became a lobbyist and director of education for Human Life of Washington. The work included pressing the state Legislature to change abortion laws and training pro-life speakers around the state.

“I really enjoyed it, but I really felt the biggest impact I could have was in educating people,” she said.

While at Human Life, Pauley became an assistant to Jesuit Father Robert Spitzer, who was on the board and had just designed a new pro-life educational approach. “The direction of my life really changed when I met him,” Pauley said.

She helped write his first book, Healing the Culture: A Commonsense Philosophy of Happiness, Freedom, and the Life Issues, typing while he dictated. The book turned into a two-year project, she jokes, because “I would interrupt him so much to ask questions. We would spend so much time dialoging” about concepts like human happiness and intrinsic human dignity.

“To this day I’m still working with him on his pro-life project,” said Pauley, who co-founded Healing the Culture with Father Spitzer in 2003. She serves as president and CEO of the organization, which aims to build a pro-life culture by teaching people the deeper meaning of happiness, quality of life, love and freedom.

Building social consensus
Just as Pauley’s focus has evolved during 20 years of pro-life work, she sees a transition in the pro-life community’s efforts since Roe v. Wade became law 41 years ago.

Visible actions like the annual March for Life in January remain important, she said. “It’s unifying for all the hundreds of thousands of people in the pro-life movement. Any movement that has been successful has to show the public that you’re strong.”

In the last 10 years, though, the pro-life movement has become “so sophisticated in its understanding that you have to change people’s hearts,” Pauley said. “You cannot just show them pictures.” People have abortions, not because they don’t know what an unborn baby looks like, she said, but because “deep inside, they’ve lost hope about what real happiness is.”

With society promoting things like independence, money, fame and power as the keys to a happy life, people lose hope of finding the deep meaning in life that comes from “self-sacrifice, compassion for the weak and vulnerable, unconditional love, and total surrender to God,” Pauley said.

Restoring that hope is “our most important job in the pro-life movement,” she said. “Then you will build a social consensus against abortion and euthanasia, and then you will change the law.”

 

Five ways to be pro-life

Camille Pauley, CEO 
and president of 
Healing the Culture, offers these ways you can be pro-life every day.

1. Say a decade of the rosary for people who are tempted to take human life in times of great difficulty or trial.

2. If the issue of abortion or euthanasia comes up in conversation with colleagues or friends, let them know you are pro-life. Your witness will do more than you know.

3. Talk frequently with young children about the special value of babies in the womb, and about our extra responsibility to take care of people who are elderly or sick. Help them to see these people as really special and very important.

4. Attend the March for Life every year. Your presence is essential for building momentum in the movement.

5. Vote in every election.

 

NORTHWEST CATHOLIC – January/February 2014