These three charming men are Scott Schittl of Life House Ireland, Joe Scheidler of the Pro-Life Action League, and Michael Sullivan of the Thomas More Society. They are happy and smiling, not merely because they are resplendent in matching uniforms of suit and tie, green anti-choice badge, receding hairline and neat grey beard, but also because they are at the launch in Chicago of Life House Ireland in March of this year. (For some reason, Life House Ireland has deleted the page about this from its website, but luckily Google has it cached.)
Schittl, Scheidler and Sullivan would also make excellent dark-comedy characters, if only they could remain within their own fantasy worlds, and not interfere with the real world where real people live. Schittl is an Irish American immigrant then emigrant, who promotes anti-choice propaganda to Irish Americans by citing the leaders of the 1916 Easter Rising. Scheidler is an anti-choice activist and author, one of whose books I had banned from the Catholic bookshop Veritas twenty years ago. And Sullivan is a board member of Life House Ireland who, without any irony, believes that Ireland is a key to the re-evangelization of the world.
As Geoff’s Shorts recently revealed, Scott Schittl is an Irish-American who spent so long in 60a Capel Street in Dublin (the overcrowded Tardis of Catholic campaign groups), that Niamh Ui Briain wrote in Solas magazine that:
“Scott Schittl was so much a part of everything at 60a Capel Street that it scarcely seemed possible he could ever leave… During his time in Ireland Scott both initiated and was the driving force behind many important pro-life projects.”
However, after he got Irish citizenship, Schittl inevitably decided, like so many Irishmen before him, to cross the Atlantic for a new life. He is now heading up a new anti-choice group in America called Life House Ireland.
So how closely linked are his old and new groups? Well, they are coy about their connections, but as Geoff’s Shorts also recently revealed, Father Maurice Colgan, who is the Spiritual Director of the Life Institute in the 60a Capel Street Tardis, says that:
“Life House Ireland works jointly with one of the most inﬂuential Irish pro-life organizations, the Life Institute, located in Dublin, Ireland, and I can attest that their efforts are invaluable in keeping Ireland abortion-free.”
So how do you promote a political message about modern Ireland to modern Irish Americans? Well, Schittl had the right idea. Here is how Schittl began an article about abortion published this June on the website of the New York State Board of the Ancient Order of Hibernians:
“On April 24, 1916 Padraic Pearse, Tom Clarke, Joseph May Plunkett, Thomas MacDonagh, Eamonn Ceannt, James Connolly, and Sean MacDermott let their men to strike for Irish Freedom. Their heroic act – and that of the men fighting with them – has been known ever since as the Easter Rising, for that fateful day in 1916 was, in fact, Easter Monday. As we, ourselves, have just celebrated Easter, and the date of the Rising is now behind us, I would like to take this opportunity to introduce you to an organization called Life House Ireland.”
An excellent start by Schittl. It reminds me of the famous story of a Fianna Fail politician, addressing a crowd outside Mass from the back of trailer, who emotionally let the crowd know that “I have a man standing here beside me who fought and died for Ireland in 1916!”
Schittl goes on to explain that Life House Ireland (somewhat like God every Sunday) could do with some money. Schittl says Life House needs money “to help support the pro-life movement in Ireland,” and they have had a successful start to this fundraising:
“So far, we have visited many AOH Divisions and Boards – where the men have shown great interest and support as demonstrated in the attached photo from Summit County St. Brendan’s Division 3. Following our presentation, the brothers of St. Brendan’s unanimously approved a $500 donation plus committed all their 50/50 proceeds from their St. Patrick’s day celebrations. We would like to visit as many more as possible, and are eager to travel to visit you.”
What a great picture that paints. So ‘the men’ (of many AOH Divisions and Boards) have shown ‘great interest and support’ in preventing women from controlling their own bodies, and ‘the brothers’ (of AOH St. Brendan’s) are giving cash to Schittl, raised at St Patrick’s Day celebrations, seemingly without consulting the donors.
As an aside, Schittl says that the great interest and support shown by ‘the men’ is demonstrated in an attached photo from Summit County St. Brendan’s Division 3 of the Ancient Order of Hibernians. Sadly, the photo is not published on the online version of the article, but I did find this unrelated photo on the website of Summit County St. Brendan’s Division 3 of the Ancient Order of Hibernians. Maybe these are some of ‘the men’? Who knows?
Having started with a rousing 1916 reference, what better way for Schittl to end than by comparing the European Courts with Perfidious Albion?
“This is a new ‘struggle’ – we don’t want this interloping European court telling Ireland to kill its Children. It’s that simple, and this type of freedom is essential if Ireland is to retain true independence… As we remember Easter Week of 1916, let’s also pray that Ireland will not go down the road of the Culture of Death, but rather, that she is helped to retain one of her finest traditions – that of being pro-life.”
It’s mildly amusing for Schittl to suggest that the leaders of the Easter Rising were opposed to the Culture of Death, whatever that might be, but what is even funnier is the set of tags that the Ancient Order of Hibernians website adds to the bottom of his article:
“Tags: April 24 1916, Attac, Eamonn, Easter Monday, Fateful Day, Fundamental Issue, Heroic Act, Irish Americans, Irish Constitution, Irish Freedom, Irish Independence, Irish nation, Irish People, James Connolly, National Director, Plunkett, Precious Gift, Slider, Thomas Macdonagh, Tom Clarke, Urgent Situation”
Joe Scheidler is an anti-choice activist and author, who spoke this June at Life House Ireland’s First Annual Irish Festival for Life. Anti-choice activists say that Scheidler ‘defined pro-life direct action,’ which I am sure he and they are very proud of.
In reality, Scheidler produces horrible propaganda, encouraging people to infiltrate and disrupt the work of abortion clinics, including in a book that I had banned from the Irish Catholic Bishops’ bookshop in Ireland twenty years ago.
Veritas in Abbey Street in Dublin is one of my favourite bookshops. Over the years I have bought such classics as ‘An Exorcist Tells His Story’ by Fr Gabriele Amorth, the Chief Exorcist at the Vatican who believes reading Harry Potter leads to evil, and ‘The Catechist’s Magic Kit: 80 Simple Tricks for Teaching Catholicism to Kids,’ a compendium of simple magic tricks that faithfully follow the catechism of the Catholic Church.
In 1992, Veritas was stocking Scheidler’s book ‘Closed – 99 Ways to Stop Abortion’. I bought a copy. It was offensive and insensitive, and it contributed to creating the type of atmosphere of active intrusion into the affairs of pregnant women that the supporters of the anti-choice amendment in 1983 had assured us would not happen.
It outlined ‘inflammatory rhetoric’ that it advised anti-choicers to use, including ‘holocaust’, ‘abortuary’ and ‘death camp’. It described how American anti-choicers hired a private detective to find an eleven-year-old pregnant girl and her mother to ‘try to talk them out of an abortion’. It included chapters titled ‘Use the Horror Stories’, ‘Special Clinic Closing Programs’ and ‘Warn the Garbage Man You’re Hauling Corpses’. It outlined how to enter abortion clinics pretending you want an abortion, then disrupt the work inside the clinic.
Sadly for Scheidler, the book also included, in a chapter entitled ‘Receive the Abortionists’ Mailings’, a list of names, addresses and phone numbers of American organisations that promoted abortion.
At that time in Ireland, strange as it may seem to normal people today, it was illegal and indeed unconstitutional to publish contact details, including phone numbers, for abortion clinics in other countries. And the law was actually being implemented, with British magazines being seized if they included such details in articles or adverts.
As any law-abiding citizen would, I made a formal complaint about the book to the Attorney General, the Minister for Justice, the Gardai and the Censorship of Publications Board. I asked them to take whatever action was needed to ensure that this bizarre law was implemented as stringently in this case as it had been in other cases.
The following week, my mother, who could pass more easily than I for a traditional Catholic, called in to Veritas and asked for a copy of the book. She was told that it was out of stock. She asked if she could order a copy. They said it could take some time. She said that was fine, that she could wait, and that she had heard it was an excellent book. It was only then that the staff informed her, in almost a whisper, that they had been told to remove it from the shelves because of a complaint.
For good measure, I and my late wife Anne Holliday, and Patrica McKenna (in her pre-MEP days) then formed a satirical campaign group to call for the removal of British telephone directories in Ireland, as they could also be used to obtain the telephone numbers of abortion clinics. In honour of the anti-choice group SPUC (Society for the Protection of the Unborn Child), we called our group SPUCIT (Society for the Prevention of Unauthorised Communication of Information by Telephone).
Michael Sullivan is perhaps best described by his own short pen-picture at the end of an article he wrote earlier this year on the Catholic Vote website. That reads:
“Michael C. X. Sullivan is special counsel to the Thomas More Society, a board member of Life House Ireland, and the founder of the Divine Mercy Project. He lived in Ireland for 10 years and believes that Ireland is a key to the re-evangelization of the world.”
Sullivan’s article, How the Irish are Saving Civilization (Again)!, starts by citing Thomas Cahill’s theory that the Western world would still be barbarian savages running around in animal skins, raping and pillaging our neighbors, if not for the Irish monks.
Sullivan then brings us forward several centuries and observes:
“However, the barbarians are back, but the Irish are fighting. Today, a new savagery, one more clinical, legal and political, has overtaken Europe with the collapse of Christian culture there. A darkness has covered Europe in its embrace of abortion as a juridical ‘right’.”
He outlines how and why Ireland is a central battleground for the global anti-choice movement:
“Ireland’s pro-life public policy is under extreme attack right now and there is a 50/50 chance that abortion may become legal by the end of the year… The pro-life forces in Ireland are in full crisis mode trying to respond to this David versus Goliath attack .. Ireland has been targeted because it is strategically vital for the global pro-life movement…
As a result of its pro-life policy, Ireland has the best maternal health statistics in the world. Just across the Irish sea, England has five times more maternal deaths per capita than in Ireland. Ireland’s very existence tells the world that banning abortion is positively correlated with the best health care outcomes for women and children…
Keeping Ireland pro-life is enormously important in the global fight for life. Yet the Irish pro-life forces are in need of our help because the attack coming from Europe and funded by America is daunting.”
In response, Sullivan explains, Life House Ireland has been created with the help of the Thomas More Society, a national public interest law firm that was initially established in 1997 to defend Joe Scheidler and others against a class action lawsuit brought by the American National Organization for Women.
Sullivan says that Life House Ireland’s mission is to keep Ireland pro-life, and to grow Ireland as a powerful global force for re-planting a culture of life throughout Europe and the World.
Then he ends with the pen-picture explaining, without any irony, that Ireland is a key to the re-evangelization of the world.
The Ancient Order of Hibernians, including the Irish Brigade Division #1 of the Medina Ohio Ancient Order of Hibernians
Schittl, Scheidler and Sullivan have found natural bedfellows in the Ancient Order of Hibernians, the oldest and largest Irish Catholic organization in the United States.
In April 2012, the Irish Brigade Division #1 of the Medina Ohio Ancient Order of Hibernians wrote in an online news update that:
“We had two special guests, all the way from Ireland to make us aware of Life House Ireland (and while Scott Shittle may be an American ex-pat, Tim Jackson definitely hailed from Ireland – he sounded a lot like Paul Harvey). Life House Ireland is an American organization and is working with The Life Institute (based in Dublin, Ireland) to keep Ireland pro-life and abortion free.
Apparently a series of laws emanating from Britain are working their way through Parliament and may well pave the way for Ireland to experience a ‘Roe v.Wade’ event, from which the pro-abortionists hope to change current laws.
Think back to 1970 … if you knew that you could donate money to a cause that would have prevented or abated the Roe v. Wade decision, would you have done so? That is the choice before us now. We will be taking up a collection at the April meeting for this cause (and your donation is tax deductible!).”
There are three things that fascinate me about this article on the website of the Irish Brigade Division #1 of the Medina Ohio Ancient Order of Hibernians.
Firstly, I love their name. I think it is my favourite name ever of any group anywhere. It is impossibly cumbersome and delightfully self-important at the same time. It is like Dad’s Army on steroids.
Secondly, I love that they are unwittingly announcing that Life House Ireland in America is working with the Life Institute in Ireland, for the political purpose of influencing legislation, and that they are donating money for this purpose, seemingly unaware that this is a link that Life House Ireland and the Life Institute try not to boast about.
And thirdly, I love that they instinctively describe the European Court judgments about abortion in Ireland as:
“Apparently a series of laws emanating from Britain…”
You can almost hear the AOH-oiled cogs grinding away in their brains. Something bad… affecting Ireland… upsetting Catholics… it must be emanating from Britain!
Sure isn’t that where all of our problems have come from?