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Eye On the World

C-Fam president looks at UN through Catholic lenses

In the early Church, many Christian leaders asked the question, “What does Jerusalem have to do with Athens?” – implying that the Church of Christ had little to gain and much to lose by referring to learning from pagan Greece. Fortunately, saints like Augustine and Aquinas saw value in the ancients.

Today, some Catholics question the Church’s association with the United Nations, in view of that body’s many anti-life policies and promotion of contraceptives in developing nations. Austin Ruse, however, says it is possible for the Church to work with the UN on good initiatives while working against the harmful aspects.

Austin Ruse at home with his two children.

Ruse, age 54, has been head of the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute (C-Fam) since its founding in 1997. Over the years, he has led a number of effective efforts to slow or stop negative UN actions and proposals, mainly through calling attention to them via his e-mail blast (which started as the weekly “Friday Fax”) and other publications.

He oversees offices in New York City and Washington, D.C., and travels widely for the cause. Ruse lives in Arlington, Virginia, with his wife Cathy (formerly pro-life spokeswoman for the U.S. bishops) and their two children.

He corresponded with Fathers for Good about his life and work

Fathers for Good: Polls show that the USA has become more "pro-life" in recent years. What is your view?

Ruse: The pro-life movement is broad and deep and vast and caters to almost every taste. The movement has had a profound effect on public opinion. It is no surprise that the natural law is finally stirring in the hearts of Americans.

FFG: Can anything good come from the United Nations? Cite one or two positive trends or documents.

Ruse: If you believe in subsidiarity, then you must also believe in the United Nations. There are some issues that can only be solved, or at least advanced, by international cooperation. I think advances in immunization is a great example. Also, there is something quite valuable in the nations of the world sitting down and talking on a regular basis, which is what happens in the General Assembly. The Church places great importance in the United Nations and so should we as faithful Catholics, even though parts of the UN do great damage.

FFG: What can the average Catholic family man do to stem the tide of international agenda against life and family values?

Ruse: The average Catholic should stay home and take over the school board. The UN is a lagging indicator. Things will not change there until things change on the ground around the world. If someone feels called to do our work on an international level, they are more than welcome. But most should get involved at the local, state or national level.

FFG: You once wrote about your hipster lifestyle and friendship with Hunter S. Thompson. What turned your life around?

Ruse: My conversion is a long story, a truncated version of which is told in the book Chosen (Ignatius Press). However, like all converts, I was called by the Holy Spirit and thus began to see clearly the emptiness of my hipster life.  Make no mistake, one can be a hipster and a faithful Catholic. It’s just harder.