With the 40th anniversary of Pope Paul VI’s Humanae Vitae so recently behind us, it is worth noting the strength and courage of the pro-life movement in the United States. Yes, the ubiquitous culture of death still surrounds us daily, but more and more courageous individuals and organizations are rising to stem the tide. As the culture of death stagnates, the men and women who rise to fight it are becoming more mature, sophisticated, and effective in their battle plans.
Among these, wading headlong into the fray with a new executive director and an expanded mission, is the Culture of Life Foundation.
In November 2007, the Culture of Life Foundation appointed a new executive director, Jennifer Kimball. Kimball carries a licentiate from the Athenaeum Pontificium Regina Apostolorum in Rome, and has experience working at the UN and on other humanitarian ventures. In an interview with PRI, Kimball said that this experience led her to see how many of these programs were missing a real understanding of the human person, and how many in our society are fundamentally unable to articulate who humankind is.
This, says Kimball, is what led her to pursue her later studies in bioethics, and what led to her eventual appointment as executive director of the Culture of Life Foundation.
The Culture of Life Foundation still retains the academic mission it has had since its foundation in 1997, Kimball assures us. Formed with the blessing of John Paul II, and born out of the late Pope’s desire for greater involvement of the laity, the Culture of Life Foundation comes from the Pope’s express desire to combat the culture of death. The Foundation’s primary purpose for many years was to educate policy-makers on the life issues, and to influence their decisions by helping them understand the sacredness of their work.
The Foundation sports some significant victories in these areas, to boot. For example, they studied stem-cell research diligently and informed policy-makers that embryonic stem cell research is never possible without the destruction of human life. Their work, Kimball says, led to President Bush’s call for alternate sources of stem cells, and for the government’s increased awareness of the ethical issues involved in this research.
Today, Jennifer Kimball is expanding the Foundation’s reach and broadening its focus. To her, the mission is now twofold, consisting of both “academic debate and furthering an understanding” of the issues among the laity. Policy-makers have matured in their understanding of bioethics, she says, and it is now time to turn the Foundation’s vast academic wealth toward the people who really need the message: common voters.
The Culture of Life Foundation’s goal, she says, is to tackle “those top issues that remain somewhat enigmatic to many of us. We can tackle those, do the research, respond with all the proper principles and provide those to our policy-makers while, at the same time, taking our findings and wrapping them up in a form that the general public can understand.”
This is done primarily by means of “e-briefs,” which carefully word delicate bioethical questions in language that laymen can understand. These briefs come out bi-weekly, and address the “4 pillar areas” of culture of concern. “Those 4 pillar areas,” says Kimball, “are life, human sexuality, family, and bioethics. And our briefs are designed, by academics, actually, to inform on the issues in about 1100 to 1200-word average.”
The Foundation does not spend so much time on political tactics and maneuvering; that is the work of other organizations. Rather, the Culture of Life Foundation sees its mission as that of “changing minds and hearts,” by informing people of the nuts and bolts of these moral issues. Ultimately, it is the common people who need to be informed and whose ideas need to be changed. It is this that will finally turn back the culture of death.
“We’ve got to take these issues to the public,” says Kimball. “It’s not enough to only inform policy-makers, and in order to reach the public we have to use modes such as radio, television, email, public conferences, public events, small networks, and ultimately to reach the people in the pews.”
PRI supports the work of the Culture of Life Foundation, and we wish Jennifer Kimball the best in her efforts to inform the American people about bioethical issues.
[CE editor's note: Our own intiative in the area of bioethics recently opened. Click here for our Catholic Bioethics channel.]