Domenic Canonico, Staff Writer

The Notre Dame Center for Ethics and Culture announced last month on Respect Life Sunday that it will award the Notre Dame Evangelium Vitae Medal to Chris and Marie Smith, in honor of the couple’s commitment to defending the sanctity of human life.

Named for Blessed Pope John Paul II’s 1995 encyclical on human life, the Evangelium Vitae Medal is an annual honor awarded by the Center to individuals who work “to proclaim the Gospel of Life by steadfastly affirming and defending the sanctity of human life from its earliest stages,” according to the Center’s website. The award consists of a specially commissioned medal and a $10,000 prize to be presented at a banquet in the spring.

Chris Smith, US Representative for the Fourth Congressional District of New Jersey, and his wife Marie, Director of the Parliamentary Network for Critical Issues, have dedicated their careers in the public square to fighting for human rights and the dignity of life.

First elected to Congress in 1980, Rep. Smith serves as the Co-Chair of the bipartisan Pro-Life Caucus in the House and has established himself as one the most successful legislators in authoring bills that eventually become law.  Such include the groundbreaking Stem Cell Therapeutic and Research Act of 2005, which created a national program for the ethical use of non-embryonic stem cells, and the Federal Health Benefits Amendment of 1983, which prevented taxpayer funding of abortions in federal employee health plans.

Rep. Smith’s legislative achievements are not limited to beginning of life issues; he has worked to protect human dignity in various ways, authoring three landmark laws to combat human trafficking and other laws to protect veterans’ benefits and support Autism research.  He is a senior member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and chairman of the subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organization.  Rep. Smith chairs a number of bipartisan congressional caucuses in addition to Pro-Life, including the Autism, Human Trafficking and Refugees caucuses. He has previously served on a number of human rights and veterans’ affairs committees.

Mrs. Smith has been active in the pro-life movement for the past 40 years, beginning with her role as chair of the pro-life group at her alma mater, the College of New Jersey.  She is the former International Director of Feminists for Life, and she has served as a Holy See observer and delegation member at various conferences at the United Nations and the Organization of American States.

In her current capacity as Director of the Parliamentary Network for Critical Issues (PNCI), the global outreach arm of Gospel of Life Ministries, Mrs. Smith works with pro-life groups and lawmakers to help elected officials more effectively advance pro-life legislation in their assemblies.  She advocates ways to reduce maternal mortality while protecting the lives of children in the womb.

Based in Washington, DC, PNCI is a non-partisan organization that Mrs. Smith founded to help pro-life elected officials around the world unite and strategize to advance change in the law and build and maintain pro-life leadership in the world’s capitals.

O. Carter Snead, William P. and Hazel B. White Director of the Center for Ethics and Culture, praised the couple for their dedication to the cause of human dignity.

“Through their tireless efforts to battle human trafficking and promote human rights, particularly the right to life of the unborn, Chris and Marie Smith provide a powerful witness to the dignity of all human life,” Snead remarked.  “We are honored to award them the Notre Dame Evangelium Vitae Medal.”

Rep. and Mrs. Smith met while in school at the College of New Jersey, where they were both active in the pro-life group.  They have been married for 35 years and have four children and two grandchildren.

Past recipients of the Evangelium Vitae Medal include Mother Agnes Mary Donovan and the Sisters of Life; Helen M. Alvaré, law professor at George Mason University; and Richard Doerflinger, associate director of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities.

Domenic Canonico is a sophomore PLS and ACMS major.  He recently read The Little Prince and felt warm and happy inside.  If you want to talk about your feelings, email him at