Weigel Wisdom on Henry Hyde

(photo: CNS photo)

“George Weigel is the kind of thinker who can write just a paragraph,” said a friend, “and it’s profound and worth reading.”  So it’s okay that I’m quoting Weigel on Henry Hyde from a year ago.

Our editorial remembers how Hyde saved more lives than any contemporary pro-lifer — in a hostile Washington like 2009’s.

Weigel might disagree with the editorial, but I find some support in his column.

Hyde “was the most consequential Catholic legislator of his time,” writes Weigel, who “loved the U.S. House of Representatives and who was, in turn, well-loved by its members, Republican and Democrat alike. By all accounts, he was the most brilliant extemporaneous debater in living memory, and while his comments could be sharp, they never drew blood, for Henry was, at heart, a gentle man.”

It’s Hyde’s coalition-building style we emphasize in “Henry Hyde’s 4 Rules for Pro-Lifers.” But just as important is his fidelity and the the hope (and even joy) he kept while facing long odds. The ending of Weigel’s piece sums that up well:

“In his office, there was a photo that surprised those visitors who only knew Hyde in his portly phase. It was a photo of Henry, playing for Georgetown, going up against DePaul’s George Mikan, the first of basketball’s great big men. That photo always struck me as a kind of metaphor for Henry’s life as a public man, and especially as the nation’s leading pro-life legislator. Henry was used to going against the odds, against the big battalions. He exulted in the battle because the battle was right. He was a happy warrior who could dish it out, take his licks, and come back to fight another day. He didn’t recognize the received wisdom that certain things couldn’t be done, so he went ahead and did them anyway. When he won, those who lost admired him, and some came to love him. When he lost, he lost well — and refused to abandon the cause.

“If the pro-life movement is the great civil rights movement of our time, then Henry J. Hyde was one of America’s greatest civil rights leaders. Today’s holy innocents, who welcomed him at his final homecoming on November 29, had no doubt about that.”
Here’s Weigel’s 2008 piece.

Here’s the Register applying Hyde’s lessons to 2009 in “Henry Hyde’s 4 Rules for Pro-Lifers.”

— Tom Hoopes

Pope Francis waves to pilgrims during his Angelus address August 30, 2020.

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