Happy 20th Birthday C-Fam
Let me tell you a story….
In the summer of 1997 a small group of pro-lifers set up shop in a tiny windowless office within a stone’s throw from UN headquarters in New York.
There were three of them full time.
They had answered the call of the Papal Nuncio to the UN that such an office needed to be opened in order to become an expert on UN matters and to work every day on behalf of the unborn child and the family, which was then as now under attack from the hard left.
I was one of those three. And the organization was called the Catholic Family & Human Rights Institute. We called ourselves CAFHRI. Shortly thereafter we changed that unwieldy acronym and changed it to C-Fam (that suggestion came from my old friend Bob Love who was then the Managing Editor of Rolling Stone Magazine).
The founder of C-Fam was Theresa Bell, then Executive Director of Human Life International—Canada. C-Fam lived for three years on a generous annual grant from HLI and we will always remember and always be grateful.
Others who can be counted as founders include Christen MacEachern Piroch, the young lady who I happened to meet one day when I was looking to change my life. We also remember Tom McFeely as a founder. A Canadian journalist, Tom taught us how to write straight news, rather than opinion, in the Friday Fax.
Other memorable staff members from those early days include Diana Kilarjian who still stays in touch and sends us nice checks every once in a while. Also, Douglas A. Sylva who was key to our work for several years. Doug created our research program and began our White Paper Series. Also, Hannah Russo who was my longtime assistant and has served these past several years from home as our Director of Development. Her son Rocco lived his first two years in our office.
There is so much to tell about these past twenty years.
The Friday Fax, which I did not want to do and is the best thing we have ever done, has now been published continuously since 1997. We have published more than 1,000 stories at a total of more than 750,000 words and created a global community in the process. We have broken dozens of major stories and have covered the UN unlike any other pro-life group in the world.
Our research program has become the go-to source for UN-focused research and policy analysis on our issues. Under Dr. Susan Yoshihara, with the amazing help of Dr. Rebecca Oas, we have provided findings and recommendations that cannot be found anywhere else; from short briefing papers to longer monographs to books published by Susan Yoshihara, Doug Sylva and me. UN delegates, academics, journalists and activists from around the world have come to rely on our research.
Our legal studies program, led by Stefano Gennarini, J.D. has become an important source of document analysis for UN delegates. He is the documents maven to dozens of UN delegations. The Edmund Burke Fellowship that Stefano fosters is the next generation of leaders in law and international relations who care about life and family matters at the international level.
Our International Youth Coalition (IYc) has brought dozens of young people to the UN and into UN issues. This is led by Dr. Marianna Orlandi, the multilingual wunderkind who came to us a few years ago from Italy.
We have held major conferences all over the world.
For five years we created and hosted the European Summit of Civil Society Leaders that brought together pro-life and pro-family leaders in various European capitals and that created a powerful coalition of groups whose impact on the European Union and national capitals is felt to this day.
We have held more than ten major conferences at UN headquarters including in our first year when we hosted, with the Holy See, Germany, and Italy, a series on the natural law that was standing room only in the Dag Hammarskjöld Auditorium.
We have run half a dozen global campaigns including one to defend the Holy See that radical groups wanted to remove from the General Assembly. We gathered more than 4,000 groups from all over the world who stood in defense of the Holy See including the largest Evangelical and Muslim groups in the world. We ran a campaign in defense of the pro-life clause of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that garnered 600,000 signatures.
Under the direction of C-Fam’s Executive Vice President Lisa Correnti we have never been more effective in assisting UN delegations during actual negotiations. Lisa has also carved out a leading role for C-Fam in Washington DC — in the House, Senate, and the State Department — on matters of human rights and international law. Under Dr. Marianna Orlandi, we are now very involved in negotiations at the Organization of American States.
In short, C-Fam has played an integral role in protecting the unborn child from an international right to abortion, protected the family from efforts to redefine it, maintaining a sound definition of gender, and ensured that sexual orientation and gender identity has not become a new category of nondiscrimination in international law, something that would threaten religious freedom around the world.
I want to salute all those C-Fam employees, interns and others who have made C-Fam a reality.
I want to thank our allies who have worked with us at the UN all these years including our friends at SPUC, Human Life International, United Families International, National Right to Life, Family Watch International, HazteOir, Family Policy Institute, Real Women of Canada, and so many others I am not recalling as I write this.
I want to thank all the delegations who have worked with us that are too many to list but certainly would include the Holy See, a delegation on which many C-Fam employees have served.
I also want to thank all those who have prayed for us, which includes whole congregations of Nuns!
And lastly, I want to thank our benefactors without whose support we would have closed long ago.
My pledge to you is always the same. We will remain faithful. We will remain brave. We will never stop. All for the glory of Our Lord and Our Lady.