Ryan T. Anderson, the president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, was the featured speaker at the Archbishop’s Pallium Lecture on Thursday, March 31, at the Brookfield Convention Center. (Photo by Larry Hanson)

The Archbishop’s annual Pallium Lecture came roaring back after a hiatus of a few years due to the pandemic.

Featuring prominent national speaker Ryan T. Anderson, the event drew 700 people to the Brookfield Convention Center on Thursday, March 31. Fr. John LoCoco served as master of ceremonies for the event. More than three-quarters of the people in attendance raised their hands when asked by if they were attending their first Pallium Lecture.

Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki was pleased with the response.

“I think it demonstrates not only the popularity (of Anderson), but also the significance of the issue,” Archbishop Listecki said. “It’s been something where we’ve been able to envision how we would like to do it and once again bring (the Pallium Lecture) to the fore and to the attention of people.”

“We’re so happy because the Church has such a deep intellectual tradition and we want to make sure to share it with people,” said Lydia LoCoco, the Archdiocese of Milwaukee’s director of community relations, who was tasked with reimagining the event following the pandemic. She said she wasn’t surprised at the response, “Because I know Ryan Anderson is hugely popular, especially with young people.”

Anderson, the president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, spoke for almost an hour on the topic of “Religious Liberty is Important but it’s Not Enough.” Anderson has been at the forefront in the defense of marriage for many years, and has been cited by Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas in two Supreme Court cases. He discussed some pertinent Supreme Court decisions and those that are approaching. His book, “When Harry Became Sally” is a scathing look at the ills of gender theory.

Religious freedom is an issue Archbishop Listecki is passionate about and has written about in his “Love One Another” weekly blog and his “Herald of Hope” columns in the Catholic Herald.

“It’s time that we (as Catholics) step up and we do the things that are necessary to confront those who would diminish our right to religious freedom,” Archbishop Listecki said. “We see religious freedom being diminished on all levels. We have to be the voices to raise the consciousness of what’s happening in our society.”

Anderson highlighted several topics of religious freedom that are happening in society, including Catholic organizations being forced to fund transgender surgeries and abortions through healthcare mandates, people being sued for refusing to participate in gay weddings and Catholic schools being challenged on their right to hire teachers who espouse Catholic values.

“That’s going to be our vocation, to ensure that all of our man-made laws square with the natural law and the eternal law,” Anderson said. “When this doesn’t happen, there are consequences. Ideas have consequences; bad ideas have victims. This is what we have seen more or less for the past 50 years of the sexual revolution. Think about the bad ideas that came out of the sexual revolution and the laws that have been enshrined in these bad ideas. Something like 65 million unborn babies have been denied life; (there are) millions of children who have been raised without their fathers, women who have been used and abused by men, men who are addicted to pornography and live in their parents’ basements. Increasingly there is a generation of girls and young ladies who are alienated from their bodies and told by doctors that testosterone and surgery are the way to go.”

The essence of the discussion was that court victories and laws that favor life are just the first step in winning hearts and minds to ensure laws are in congruence with the natural law.

During the question and answer portion of the talk, Anderson was asked about the pending result of the Dobbs vs. Jackson Women’s Health Organization Supreme Court case. The case deals with the constitutionality of a 2018 Mississippi state law that banned abortions after the first 15 weeks of pregnancy. There is hope among Pro-Life advocates that a positive result could spell the end of Roe vs. Wade, which legalized abortion in 1973.

“It’s time for the court to finally admit they got (Roe) wrong,” Anderson said. “The court has admitted they’ve gotten it wrong before. Some of the most important Supreme Court decisions have been overturning bad, such as racist, decisions that denied that Blacks were citizens.”

He said anything short of a full repeal of Roe would be unacceptable, and said he believed they will overturn it.

“I think we win this,” Anderson said. “I think it not only upholds Mississippi’s law but it also overturns Roe, at which point we can expect pro-choice activists to pretend like the sky is going to fall, and then several weeks later, we will all discover the sky did not fall. Unfortunately, the largest, most populated states … all already have incredibly permissive state laws on abortion. What will happen is we will have large pro-choice states and Pro-Life states like Texas, and then we will have a patchwork. We’re going to have to work not only through the 50 states but also at the federal level to enact laws that will protect all human beings in all stages of life in all 50 states.”