A Catholic Tribute to Richard Wilkins



This arrived earlier today from C-FAM, the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute, regarding the passing of Richard Wilkins:


Unsung International Pro-Life Hero Passes Away


By Austin Ruse


WASHINGTON DC, 30 November (C-FAM)  The story goes that Richard Wilkins was laying in his bed one night back in the 90′s and could not sleep.  He could not get something out of his head, the crazy idea that he was supposed to go halfway around the world to something called the UN Housing Conference in Istanbul.  Wilkins had never been to a UN conference before.  But he went.  


Because he was connected to something called the Kennedy School at BYU, they thought he was from Harvard and they asked him to speak.  He delivered a very strong message about the importance of the family.  Delegates sought him out, among them the Saudi Arabians.  Richard somehow convinced the Saudi’s to speak out at the conference, they only rarely do, but here they helped Richard block some dangerous anti-family language from coming into the document.


That was Richard, impetuous, passionate, convincing and effective.


Richard went on to be one of the most effective pro-life and pro-family advocates at the international level. He was a constant presence in the halls of the UN and delegates rushed to consult with him. As a law professor with great love in his heart for his fellow man, they knew they could trust him.


Richard founded the highly influential World Family Policy Forum, which was an annual gathering of high-ranking diplomats at Brigham Young University School of Law where Richard was a professor. Diplomats came from around the world for thee days of intense lectures, and networking that translated into a growing and more powerful coalition at the UN.


Sadly, the liberals at BYU — there are liberals everywhere — undermined Richard’s work. Every year he had to fight to maintain his program and his presence at the UN. Many of us would yearly write letters to the President of Brigham Young University to explain the importance of Richard’s work. Eventually, they got to him. His program was cut down to nothing.


Richard decamped to Qatar to live in the desert and to found a family policy institute under the sponsorship of the Sheika of Qatar, the third wife of Qatar’s Emir. This institute sponsored important conferences all over the world. Under Richard’s leadership Qatar has come to host the UN Year of the Family, which takes place in 2014.


One thing not widely known about Richard was that he was a talented thespian. He sang the lead every year in BYU’s production of A Christmas Story. Those who saw him speak knew there was an actor buried not too deep from the surface.


Only 59 years old, the morning after Thanksgiving Richard suffered a massive heart failure. He lingered unconscious in the hospital until Monday night when he passed away.


Tributes to Richard are coming in from around the world.


John Klink, long-time negotiator for the Vatican at the UN, said, “We have lost Richard the lionhearted. I am personally saddened not only at the loss of a valiant defender of life. Richard’s contributions were large—so large that they constitute a beautiful and lasting gift to humanity and a magnificent example of a life brilliantly lived.”


Anna Záborská, Member of the European Parliament for Slovakia and former President of the European Parliament Committee for Women’s Rights, said,  “We commemorate Richard Wilkins as an outstanding international legal expert highlighting the possible negative impact of the late EU Constitution, and the today’s EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, on family and life issues. Thanks to Richards’s international experience, we could finally limit the attempts of EU community against the natural family in the European Union. As I organize this week-end in Bratislava the first preparatory conference of central and eastern EU Member States for the 20th anniversary of the International Year of the Family, we will hold a minute of silence to honor Richards commitment to international policy making in favor of the natural family.”


Alan Carlson, founder of the World Congress of Families, said, “Richard was one of the greatest and most energetic advocates of the natural family. He was particularly effective on legal matters involving the family at the United Nations. Richard was a vital partner in making the Geneva World Congress the success that it was and set the stage and established standards for all of our future Congresses.”


Janice Shaw Crouse of the Beverly LeHaye Institute and Concerned Women for America, said, “Richard was one of the most dedicated and strategic members of our pro-life/pro-family coalition. He stood firm on principle while engaging opponents with charm and wisdom.  He understood the power of principle as well as the influence of personal relationships.  He will be sorely missed, both as a colleague and as a friend.”


Bill Saunders, Senior Vice President of American’s United for Life, said, “He was a wonderful lawyer and a great friend, perhaps even an irreplaceable man. A great and unexpected loss for not only his family, but for families around the world.”


We mourn his passing.


I have special (if relatively minor) reason to mourn the timing of Richard’s passing:  Our schedules were both extremely difficult, and we had always intended to get together to discuss Mormon-Muslim relations and various areas in which we might be able to collaborate or, at least, to help one another.  (A General Authority of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints had urged me — and perhaps Richard, too — to do that.)  And, more recently, he wanted to talk about my recent unpleasant experiences at BYU; I suspect, and I think that he may have suspected as well, that they’re related to the ideological forces that led to his early departure from the University.  But, now, these discussions won’t happen.


Procrastination is the thief of life.



"This song was originally going to be the 'Jaws' theme until John Williams changed his mind at the last minute"
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New Testament 197
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  • http://nathanrichardson.com Nathan

    Paragraph 4 makes my heart sick—to read that his incredibly important program was undermined and eliminated by fellow BYU employees. I don’t know if the people involved are LDS, but it boggles my mind how a Latter-day Saint could throw their backs into trying to eliminate something so good. What exactly do they think the Proclamation on the Family means when it says to “promote those measures designed to maintain and strengthen the family as the fundamental unit of society”? If it doesn’t mean efforts like this one started by Richard Wilkins, then what in the world does it mean? I’d honestly like to know how they’d answer.

    • danpeterson

      I think I’d better withhold comment, except to say that such things as this really, really concern me.

  • Louis Midgley

    It seems that there is a tendency within the current bureaucracy at BYU to avoid even the appearance of going against the grain of the current fads and fashions in academic disciplines. Professor Wilkins, whose work I very much admired, was clearly not in the current academic mainstream in his defense of the natural family.

    This is also true of Professor Peterson, with the FARMS Review (and his other endeavors such as Mormon Scholars Testify, his essays in Mormon Times, this blog), has annoyed bureaucrats who are either envious or troubled by his being what (in New Zealand) is known as a Tall Poppy. Professor Peterson stands out above many at BYU, some of whom have no interest in defending their faith. In addition, bureaucrats may see Dan as standing out and hence drawing unwanted attention. The irony is that only by standing out do we come close to being outstanding. In addition, bench players who become bureaucrats may resent those who star. Something like this could be the explanation for why Dan (and his team of editors) were given the boot and the flagship publication of the Maxwell Institute cancelled. I do not think that the Brethren were involved in any of this.

    I first met and got to know Elder Neal A. Maxwell in 1950. And I believe I know how he saw efforts to defend the faith and the Saints. I will publish an essay in which I set out an argument that for Latter-day Saints to go in a so-called different direction and hence to cease defending the faith is to dishonor Elder Maxwell’s name.

  • http://nathanrichardson.com Nathan

    I’m very much looking forward to that essay, Lou.

  • Louis Midgley

    Well, the essay I had in mind is entitled “Defending the King and His Kingdom,” and it has just been published (posted) on the Interpreter webpage. See http://www.mormoninterpreter.com/defending-the-king-and-his-kingdom/. I was not sure when it would be posted, since I do not keep track of the cue we have for publication. It is remarkable that with to this point only volunteer efforts, we have been able to post on the Interpreter website a new essay every Friday. For various reasons that I will not go into, this simply could not have happened with the now cancelled Review. Since I had a hunch that the Review would be closed down, “Defending the King and His Kingdom” was my effort to get in my last word.

    • danpeterson

      The powers that be tried to prevent Professor Midgley from getting in that last word. But they didn’t foresee Interpreter.

  • Louis Midgley

    The fact is that Professor Peterson also got his say. It appears that both of us seem to have a bit of what might be called exousia. This thought pleases me. If this displeased others, so what?