The Catholic Diocese of Little Rock announced today that former Bishop Andrew McDonald passed away at the age of 90.
Bishop McDonald served in Little Rock from 1972 to 2000. While he may be remembered for his years of ministry as a Catholic priest and bishop, I want to highlight an important legacy he leaves behind: His pro-life work.
Bishop McDonald stood for life during a time when many believed abortion “on demand and without apology” was inevitable. He organized the Respect Life office at the diocese, and he helped lead the annual March for Life in Little Rock.
Bishop McDonald was also a supporter of the Unborn Child Amendment—now Amendment 68 to the Arkansas Constitution—preventing public funds from being used to pay for abortion. In 1988 I helped lead the effort to pass the Unborn Child Amendment, and was able to start Family Council in part because the amendment campaign succeeded.
After we passed the Unborn Child Amendment in 1988, Bishop McDonald wrote me one of the kindest letters I have ever received congratulating our success. We had tried unsuccessfully to pass the amendment in 1984 and 1986. In his letter, Bishop McDonald related the story of Robert the Bruce who is credited with coining the phrase “If at first you don’t succeed, try try again.” That story had special significance to me because it was one my mother read to me often as I was growing up. Hearing it from Bishop McDonald and receiving such high praise from him for our work is something I will never forget.
There have been many pro-life leaders and organizations in Arkansas through the years—including Arkansas Right to Life, the various crisis pregnancy centers, and others. I am grateful for every person who has publicly affirmed the sanctity of human life. There is no doubt, however, that the pro-life landscape of Arkansas would look very different today had Bishop McDonald taken a more passive stance on the issue.