Bryan Kemper, Lila Rose and Abby Johnson have followed different paths into the Catholic ChurchBy Kevin Birnbaum - OSV Newsweekly, 8/14/2011
(Our Sunday Visitor) When Bryan Kemper was getting started in pro-life activism about 20 years ago, he "was kind of paranoid at first" about working with Catholics, he said, having been taught by other Protestants that the Catholic Church was the whore of Babylon. "I was hellbent on saving all the Catholics," he recalled recently.
Kemper's younger self would likely be shocked to learn that he is part of a recent string of prominent pro-life activists — including Lila Rose, undercover videographer of Planned Parenthood, and former abortion clinic director Abby Johnson — who have decided to enter into full communion with the Catholic Church.
Kemper, now 44, had been baptized Catholic as a kid to appease his great-grandmother, but the faith was never practiced at home.
He spent his teen years doing and dealing drugs, getting kicked out of the military, and periodically living on the streets. His life began to change when he overdosed at a Grateful Dead and Bob Dylan concert in 1987 and a doctor "shared the hope of Christ" with him, he told Our Sunday Visitor.
Former abortion advocates also converted
The ranks of Catholic converts include at least two people who played a key role in the legalization of abortion in America.
Norma McCorvey was the "Jane Roe" of the 1973 Roe v. Wade case that legalized abortion in the United States. She later renounced the pro-choice position, and on Aug. 17, 1998, she was received into the Catholic Church and confirmed by Father Frank Pavone of Priests for Life.
Dr. Bernard Nathanson, who died Feb. 21, helped found the National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws (NARAL) in 1969. An obstetrician-gynecologist, he performed 5,000 abortions and oversaw tens of thousands more. In the late 1970s, as a Jewish atheist, he came to oppose abortion; he was received into the Church in 1996.
He soon "gave his life over to Christ" and immersed himself in pro-life work. In 1993 he started Rock For Life, which led to spots on MTV and the Lollapalooza music tour. Later on, he started Stand True Ministries, which challenges young people to take a stand against abortion.
Kemper eventually came to realize that his Catholic colleagues "loved Jesus, too," he said, but that didn't keep him from trying to convert them. But his efforts didn't turn out quite the way he expected.
"Twenty-three years of debating my Catholic friends caused me to study the Catholic Church," he said. And although Kemper "fought it so hard" for the past few years, his study led him this past spring to return to the Catholic Church.
Historical facts, such as St. Ignatius of Antioch's early-second-century writings on the Eucharist, confirmed Kemper's sense that holy Communion was more than just a symbol. And he came to believe that "there's no possible way that God can be pleased with 40,000 denominations, and there had to be one truth," he said..