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U.S. bishops’ “pro-life giant” steps down after almost 40 years

Richard M. Doerflinger, associate director of the U.S. bishops’ Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Washington, testifies in January 2014 in favor of a House bill that would make the Hyde amendment’s ban on federal funding of abortion a permanent part of the law. Doerflinger retired April 29 after nearly four decades at the bishops’ conference.

As the U.S. bishops’ legislative point man for pro-life issues for nearly four decades, Richard Doerflinger has been armed both with an encyclopedic knowledge of life-related bills in Congress and state legislatures, and a droll sense of humor.

So when asked about the irony of his intention to retire to Washington State – where assisted suicide is now legal – Doerflinger said he will be able to have a firsthand look at the impact of that law, and he added, “I don’t intend to be seeking care from a doctor who would do that.”

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops recently announced that Doerflinger would be retiring as associate director of its Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities, effective April 29. For the veteran pro-life advocate, his last days in the office proved to be a season for introspection, as well as cleaning up and recycling.

Interviewed by Crux on April 27, Doerflinger sat at his desk, surrounded by neatly stacked mounds of paperwork and bulging boxes on the floor nearby.

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