Following is the text of an address given Jan. 22 by Ray Flynn, former U.S. ambassador to the Vatican (1993-1997) and former Boston mayor (1984-1993), at the Rhode Island State Capitol.
Today marks the 40th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in the landmark Roe v. Wade abortion decision. The decision was thought to once and for all settle the controversy, which had divided our nation. Instead, it has continued to divide Americans like no other issue in our lifetime.
People gathered here and all across the country have become more determined in their resolve to reverse and amend the high court’s mandate, but Washington politicians have been successful in blocking every effort — even when polls clearly show that a large number of mainstream Americans call themselves pro-life.
However, a relatively small number of well-organized and well-financed groups of political activists have been able to exercise a significant amount of power and influence with politicians and the media. But as many national media reports have recently pointed out, the pro-choice forces are steadily losing credibility.
A majority percentage of people now call themselves pro-life and want the law changed. We saw this clearly spelled out in the recent cover story in Time magazine.
The people are speaking out, but politicians are ignoring them. These politicians are politically obligated to pro-choice forces, but, increasingly, more and more young people believe in the dignity and respect of all people, including the unborn, and making their voices heard.
But you pro-life champions already know that. You have, time and time again, had the courage and determination to work for what you believe. In my opinion, you are “modern-day heroes like Mother Teresa.”
You're not rich elites, and I don’t see too many fur coats or expensive gowns like we saw yesterday on TV in Washington, D.C. I didn’t see any limos pulling up to the Rhode Island Capitol today, like we saw yesterday. And we certainly won’t see the media describing the celebrities in the audience here today, as we did yesterday in the nation’s capital.
No, but I do see a lot of good, decent, hardworking Americans who love their country and have respect for the dignity of all of God’s children, rich or poor, young or old, black or white, brown or red, male or female, born or unborn. Yes, that's what I see here today. I see a lot of young women, future leaders of America: college students; working mothers and grandmothers; women who are pro-life, pro-family and pro-poor.
Speaking of modern-day heroes, I was asked to tell you a little story about how much I valued my friendship with certainly another modern-day hero, Mother Teresa, whom I worked with in helping young unwed mothers and the homeless over the years.
I first met Mother Teresa many years ago, while a student at Harvard Graduate School of Education and a member of the Boston City Council. I heard her deliver one of the most-inspiring speeches I ever heard at Harvard University, when she talked about the dignity of the unborn. I’m convinced Mother Teresa opened many hearts and minds with her inspiring commencement address that day.
Now, for the story. Years later, when I was mayor of Boston, I was in my City Hall office when I received a telephone call from Cardinal John O'Connor from New York. “Mayor,” he said, “Mother Teresa is coming to Boston, and she would like to meet with you. She said you and she are friends.”
“Yes, of course,” I replied.
Well, that very afternoon, two nuns showed up at my office to let me know that the Nobel Peace Prize recipient asked if I could meet the very next morning in a “minority neighborhood” of Boston. Obviously, I was happy to meet with her.
At the meeting, and after the pleasantries, she got down to business. “Mayor, God has blessed your city with many beautiful children and mothers. But, presently, they are without homes, right here in your wonderful city of Boston. God willing, you can make nice home for his special children and mothers right here on this street.”
What she wanted was for the city of Boston to turn over three vacant two- and three-family buildings to her religious order to create housing, daycare and recreation space for unwed mothers and their infants and young children.
City attorney Joe Mulligan was with my wife, Kathy, at the time. Joe advised us that we didn’t have the authority under the City Charter to give the property away to any group, regardless of the need or merit. It could only be sold through a public auction, with the property going to the highest bidder. All the back, uncollected taxes would have to be paid to the city by the new owner.
Repeated explanations [were given] by me, with an emphatic, “I’m sorry, Mother, but the law does not allow the mayor or anyone else to deed over this or any other parcels of property.” The meeting lasted almost an hour, with Mother Teresa smiling and assuring us how lucky we were to be able to help these beautiful children.
After each moving presentation, we responded with the same apologetic refusal. However, I did agree to voluntarily raise several hundred thousands of dollars, which I felt would be enough money to get one house in an open auction. But, even with that, she said the children needed three houses.
The deadlocked meeting finally ended when my press secretary informed me that a lot of media were waiting outside on the porch. I did not call for a press conference, so it must have been Mother Teresa’s staff who did. Besides, I didn’t have anything positive to say. Saying No to Mother Teresa is not a good story.
When we got out on the porch, there were at least 10 TV cameras and reporters all around us, waiting for the news. I saw the president of the union, the president of one of the leading banks and a host of prominent people. “What are you doing here?” I asked.
“Your office called us; they said you needed us here.”
Just then, Mother Teresa stepped in front of the cameras to tell everybody how fortunate the people of Boston are to have such a nice, caring man as their mayor. I looked at my housing advisor and whispered to him, “What the h--- is going on here?” He shrugged his shoulders and said, “I don’t know; I’m Jewish.”
I knew I was rolled, but there was nothing I could do about it. Do you think I would win the next election if I refused her request? Not on your life.
Several months later, if you drove up to that street, you could hear the voices of little kids and babies playing, and you could see single mothers holding their infant babies.
In the future, don’t believe all that you hear when somebody says Boston politicians are pretty savvy. Maybe we could take a lesson or two from a saint. I often wonder how God is able to deal with her in heaven.
Three last quick points: We all need to be more involved in civic and political events. One, this religious-freedom mandate in Washington should have been a wake-up call for us. We must continue to fight this blatant violation by the federal government of our constitutionally protected religious liberties.
Two, what about the hypocrisy of elitist Hollywood moviemakers, many of whom were special guests at the inauguration yesterday in Washington?
We hear President Obama excoriate the use of guns and violence in our society — especially with children, which I support him on — in his inaugural address, and then we see the same people who promote and glorify guns and violence in the movies and on TV participating at various inaugural events.
Take note of the current violent movie Gangster Squad. Children [are] watching all the senseless violence and murder on TV, the movies and video games, while powerful politicians and the media say nothing.
Lastly, we must contact our elected officials in Washington to support medical research and development on adult stem-cell technology. This new technology offers great hope and promise for the future in helping people, including my special-needs 6-year-old grandson Braeden, who can’t walk without falling down and can’t talk. Thousands of children like him are depending on science and God for help.
Please pray for these children and work for a more caring and loving America.