Robert Sargent Shriver, Jr (1915 - 2011)
I only met Sargent Shriver once, in the late 1980s, and it was only on the telephone. He was a close friend and associate of the man who hired me to come to Washington in 1980, but that man had retired several years earlier, and the distinguished gentleman couldn't find his friend's telephone number. So I gave it to him, and that was that.
Tonight I attended his wake, at the parish church in Georgetown where I was once a sacristan. I slipped into a back pew, and I prayed the rosary for him. It seemed like the right thing to do at the time. The place was filled to capacity, with one person after another, proclaiming one encomium after another, and everybody applauding each other. Unfortunately, and knowing this crowd as I do, it is doubtful that he will be remembered for this:
Shriver and his wife were signatories to a full-page July 1992 New York Times advertisement protesting the Democratic Party’s embrace of abortion politics.
Titled “The New American Compact,” the ad denounced abortion as a drastic reversal of American progress towards liberty and justice for all. It declared the pro-abortion Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade to be “the most momentous act of exclusion in our history” which deprived every unborn human being of the “most fundamental” human right to life.
The ad also called for support for policies that help both mother and child, saying “We can choose to extend once again the mantle of protection to all members of the human family, including the unborn.”
If such choices are made, the signatories predicted, “America will experience a new birth of freedom, bringing with it a renewed spirit of community, compassion, and caring."
Columnist Father Raymond J deSouza, writing in Canada’s National Post, said of him: “Shriver was the most outstanding statesman in a tradition that has almost entirely disappeared -- the principled Catholic man of the left.”
No, I cannot imagine we will see the likes of him or his devoted wife again, not for a long time. And the most unique part of his legacy will go unnoticed, even by those who claimed to know him so well.
I only met him on the phone, and I don't know much. But I know that.