Biographies of Selected Speakers at the World Congress of Families, Madrid 2012

Madrid, May 25-27, 2012

These brief biographies represent some of the speakers at this weekend’s event, with many more scheduled to present talks and workshops. Links to previous research by Catholics for Choice on these organizations are provided.

Austin Ruse
A self-described “professional Catholic,” Austin Ruse began his career on the religious right as a freelance writer, publishing articles in the National Catholic Register, The Wanderer and Catholic World Report. In 2006, Ruse became a deputy director of Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute (C-FAM)—an organization founded by Human Life International (HLI) in order to gain ECOSOC status at the UN (which HLI had been denied). Known for producing statements that are low on self-awareness and many notches up on a moral high horse, Ruse’s assessment of his own capacities as a lobbyist displayed a typical lack of self-editing:

“How do you become a lobbyist? You just send me an e-mail and you come to my office and in fifteen minutes you’re going to be a lobbyist. Seriously, it’s pretty much that easy…. You just come. I mean all I did was rent an office and get a phone and a computer and put a sign on the door and that was it. Wholly unqualified I am.”

Alveda C. King
Currently employed by Priests for Life as their Director for African American Outreach, Dr. Alveda King has a long history in the antichoice community. Building off the name and accomplishments of her uncle, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Alveda King has had a varied career—from college professor to a tenure in the Georgia State House of Representatives—in which one of the constants has been a rabid opposition to abortion. The subtlety and nuance that King brings to “family” issues can be grasped by considering in the title of one of her books, How Can the Dream Survive if we Murder the Children?, and by her spurious statement that Trayvon Martin, a teenager who died by gunshot, was a “late abortion.”

Rocco Buttiglione
Formerly the Italian Minister of European Politics and later the Minister of Culture and Tourism under Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, Rocco Buttiglione has a long history of supporting hyper-conservative stances. Regarding HIV & AIDS, for example, he said that AIDS is “divine punishment for homosexuality and drug use” at a 1989 conference on HIV/AIDS at the Vatican. On immigrants’ rights Buttiglione has stated that he thinks certain groups possess a high level of criminality while others, “those who are Catholic and Christian,” exhibit a very low level. He has also expressed notably conservative views on women’s rights, homosexual rights and reproductive rights. In 2004, Buttiglione sunk his own nomination to the European Parliament’s Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs when his views concerning homosexuality and the role of women were brought to light. Buttiglione referred to the former as “a sin” while on the latter he stated, “The family exists in order to allow women to have children and to have the protection of a male who takes care of them.”

Helen Alvaré
Before becoming a law professor with an interest in antichoice policies and litigation, Helen Alvaré began working with the National Conference of Catholic Bishops (NCCB) in 1987—first in the Office of General Counsel and later as the director of information and planning for the bishops’ prolife office. (It was Alvaré to whom Cardinal Dolan was referring when he recently told a story about the bishops hiring an “attractive, articulate, intelligent” laywoman to speak against abortion and said it was “the best thing we ever did.”) While working for the NCCB, Alvaré was the media liaison for the American Catholic bishops, testifying on their behalf before federal congressional committees and lobbying members of Congress on federal legislation concerning abortion and healthcare. Alvaré is currently a professor of law at George Mason University.

Ewa Kowalewska
Former President for the Forum of Polish Women and current head of Human Life International Europe, Ewa Kowalewska has fashioned a long career of making disturbing claims regarding prochoice activities and legally procured abortions. In 2007, after a woman who had been denied an abortion in Poland sought and won damages against the Polish government in the European Court of Human Rights, Kowalewska referred to the decision as “the greatest legal curiosum in court history of the European Council.” In a report compiled for HLI on abortion in Russia, Kowalewska made grotesque accusations about a provider from the International Planned Parenthood Federation, claiming that “doctors are paid off for misdiagnosing the miscarriage; nurses are bribed to falsify prenatal exams and convince mothers their child is either dead or handicapped.”

Steve Mosher
Since 1989, Steve Mosher has been the president of the Population Research Institute (PRI), a social think-tank whose academic merit can be judged by its creator, the anti-Semitic and homophobic founder of Human Life International, Fr. Paul Marx. While PRI’s alleged purpose is to “objectively present the truth about population-related issues,” Mosher has depicted those involved with international family planning as “killing machines.” He characterized the central cause of PRI as a series of “battles against the International Planned Parenthood Federation,” and has referred to the Global Fund for AIDS as the “Global Fund for Abortion, Prostitution and the Homosexual Agenda.” Though frequently billed as an anthropologist, a sociologist and an “expert,” Mosher’s bio fails to mention him holding a doctorate in any subject.He was expelled from a Stanford University PhD program after violating the anonymity of research subjects in China.

Douglas A. Sylva
Douglas Sylva is employed by the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute (C-FAM), where he is a senior fellow and a member of the board of directors. He is the co-editor of a recently published sensationalist work concerning demographics and international security, Population Decline and the Remaking of Great Power Politics.

Joseph Meaney
Co-founder and former vice director of Human Life International’s Rome Office and current director of HLI’s International Division, Joseph Meaney is also HLI’s director of international coordination, a role in which he disseminates HLI’s particular brand of misinformation on a global scale.

Cardinal Ennio Antonelli 
Cardinal Antonelli is president of the Pontifical Council for the Family and the only cardinal attending.

Bishop D. Juan Antonio Reig Plà
Bishop Reig Plà is the only bishop slated to speak. He is chairman of the Spanish bishops’ subcommittee for Episcopal Family and Defense of Life as well as vice president of the Episcopal Commission on Lay Apostolate. He is also a member of the Episcopal Commission for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Christine de Vollmer 
Christine de Vollmer is a founding member of the Pontifical Academy for Life and a member of the Pontifical Council for the Family.

Juan Ignacio Fernández Torres
Juan Ignacio Fernández Torres is currently director of advocacy for World Youth Alliance Europe. Though formerly based out of New York, he is currently based in Brussels, with his work focusing on European institutions, specifically the European Parliament and the Council of Europe.

An introductory report to the WCF is available here. 
A report from day one is available here.
A report from day two is available here.

For more on Catholics for Choice’s opposition work, please read Twenty Years of Taking Down the Opposition (page 21).

For more information about Opposition Watch, please contact Catholics for Choice at +1 (202) 986-6093 or cfc@catholicsforchoice.org.