Paul and Judie Brown’s history with the great and unforgettable Father Paul Marx, OSB goes back to their earliest days in the pro-life effort. It was in 1977 that Paul Brown¸ then executive director of Life Amendment Political Action Committee (LAPAC), travelled to Syracuse, New York, with LAPAC president Sean Morton Downey, Jr. to speak at a pro-life rally. His fellow participants included Anita Bryant and Father Marx. But soon after Paul and Sean arrived in Syracuse, they learned that Father Marx had just that evening been thrown out of a rectory because he refused to accommodate a request from the cathedral’s pastor to avoid the subject of contraception during his homilies the following Sunday morning. Father Marx took it in stride and wrote it off to dissenting priests who abhorred Pope Paul VI’s totally pro-life encyclical Humanae Vitae. Father Marx asked Paul Brown if he could spend the night in the LAPAC hotel room, sleeping on the floor. Of course, Paul ordered a bed for Father Marx, and on that evening, a lifelong friendship began.
That was the beginning of a very long and fruitful relationship that found the three of us, Paul, Judie and Father Paul, constantly in trouble with either local priests or local bishops. But such is the stuff that stalwart pro-life Catholics are made of and anyone who knew the intransigent Father Marx would have to agree. None of us ever backed away from the magisterial teaching of the Church, and we never apologized for her teaching. It is also safe to say that, led by Father Marx, we never shied away from controversy.
In fact, I would have to say now, on this very sad occasion, as we mourn the loss of one of the greatest Catholic priests ever to grace the pro-life movement with his presence, that without Father Paul Marx, his indomitable presence and his intransigent attitude toward those who ignored the fullness of truth, many of us, starting with Paul and Judie Brown, would never have understood how high the stakes are in this pro-life struggle. And they are higher today than they have ever been.
To illustrate, Judie fondly recalls the time that she, then employed by the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC), decided to send a copy of Father Marx’ commentary “Are you really pro-life?” to the more than 2,000 NRLC chapters. The commentary, written in 1978, dealt with the fact that nobody could be truly pro-life if he or she did not oppose contraception. Naturally, Judie thought that everyone understood that this was the case, since the Browns had been so well educated by Father Marx. However, the truth is that many, including the NRLC’s executive committee members, did not agree. As a result, they instructed Judie that if she ever sent something like that out again, she would be terminated. My, oh my! To say the least, this is part of the reason why Judie finally resigned from the NRLC.
Father Marx left an indelible imprint on so many lives, and Paul and Judie Brown are but two of them. So it is safe to say that, as we mourn the loss of this greater- than-life Catholic priest par excellence, we can also praise God that Father Marx had such a positive effect on so many of us. He left a legacy that time, confusion and dissent from truth can never erase. As he said to Judie in one of his precious handwritten notes to her, sent several weeks ago, “You are doing great work. Never give in to compromise!”
We promise you, Father Marx, we never will! Thanks to your example, how could we?
All of us at American Life League owe Father Marx so much. In the midst of our mourning, we are joyful in Christ for having known him, been educated by him and fought the good fight with him. Father Paul Marx, OSB … may you rest in the peace of Christ as millions of angels sing your praises with songs of praise and adulation.
We will miss you and we love you, Father Marx!