When I spoke at the March for Life event in Washington, D.C., in January, I thanked the Catholic Church for its faithful leadership on the abortion issue. It was the Catholic community that mobilized immediately after the Roe v. Wade ruling, in part because it had been grappling with the issue of abortion long before the Supreme Court rendered its horrific ruling in 1973.
That heritage and sincere commitment to defending life was evident in Father Lawrence W. Carmody, a local priest here in Colorado Springs who died last week after a battle with cancer. Father Bill was a pro-life giant who lived out his convictions with clarity and compassion.
One fellow advocate called him “the best friend of preborn children in Colorado Springs.” Over the years, our team here at Focus had the pleasure and privilege of working alongside Father Bill. Based on our time working and observing him, as well as talking with others who loved him, here are the four things that made him such an effective advocate. I think all four are characteristics that we should emulate.
1. Father Bill was faithful.
Every week for more than 20 years, he prayed by our town’s Planned Parenthood clinic. In the blazing hot sun, as snow fell, whether he was accompanied by several hundred fellow advocates for life or holding vigil by himself, Father Bill was there.
Not only was he faithful in prayer, but Father Bill was faithful in service. He spearheaded the effort to get a mobile pregnancy center, started the Project Rachel program in 1994 to help men and women suffering from the traumatic effects of abortion, and directed the local Respect Life office.
How many women were helped because he showed up? How many babies were saved because Father Bill kept at it day after day, year after year? Only God knows, but I think the number is more than we might imagine.
2. He built relationships and brought people together.
Father Bill cared about people, and he brought them together for the sake of life. If a Protestant homeschooling family showed up to pray at Planned Parenthood, he’d join them. If another pro-life group in town needed to raise funds, Father Bill would assist with the fundraising.
His ability to nurture relationships with all kinds of folks helped the cause. For example, Father Bill helped coordinate a Roe v. Wade 40th anniversary prayer service in Colorado Springs a few years back. In characteristic Father Bill fashion, the event was held in a multi-cultural Protestant church and attended by Catholics, Evangelicals, blacks, whites, and Hispanics. His bridge building and desire to work with anyone who was pro-life helped moms and their babies. He was a unifier, and that benefitted the pro-life cause.
3. Father Bill was an active citizen.
In a time when some people are afraid to advocate on behalf of biblical principles in the public square, Father Bill knew the importance of life-affirming laws. Because of that, he was a mainstay at the Denver capitol, testifying so often on life issues like abortion and assisted suicide that he joked state legislators “are getting tired of seeing me up there.” His faithful witness helped pass laws that protect the vulnerable and save lives.
4. Father Bill was an authentic pro-lifer.
Despite being completely invested in the pro-life cause, Father Bill also loved the men and women inside the Planned Parenthood clinic. He was on a first-name basis with the staff. He was friends with the office’s security guard.
So when a disturbed man shot and killed two people at the Planned Parenthood clinic about 15 minutes from Focus on the Family last November, Father Bill was devastated. Immediately, he called the security guard and asked if anyone was hurt. He also expressed his sorrow to higher-ranking Planned Parenthood officials. He attended a vigil at All Souls Unitarian Universalist Church where Vicki Cowart, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Rocky Mountains, was also in attendance. And when media outlets interviewed Father Bill, the priest was unequivocal in his response:
“I am absolutely heartbroken about this,” he told the news media. “I’m against all violence, and whether you’re in the womb or outside the womb, killing’s wrong.”
The pro-life movement has many men and women like Father Bill who are similarly committed and genuine in their beliefs. They’re willing to do the sometimes lonely work of defending life. They’re willing to be personally invested in their communities and in the cause. They’re not intimidated, they’re always compassionate and they never compromise. They love so much they inspire others to good deeds and make everyone around them better.
I give thanks to the Lord for the life and ministry of His servant, Reverend Lawrence W. Carmody.