Dedication of the William Bentley Ball Memorial Archive at Faith and Action
Even though January 22, 2012 was the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, it became a day of rejoicing as Rev. Rob Schenck welcomed Mrs. Caroline Ball, widow of the late great Supreme Court lawyer William Bentley Ball, along with their daughter Mrs. Virginia (Ginny) Duncan, and her husband Mr. Sandy Duncan to Faith and Action, which houses the new William Bentley Ball Memorial Archive and a view of the very Supreme Court where Mr. Ball argued for justice and religious liberty.
About William Bentley Ball (1917-99)
Admitted to practice before the U.S. Supreme Court in 1969, William (Bill) Bentley Ball, Esq. argued nine cases as lead counsel and assisted in 25 other Supreme Court cases. In his many appearances before the Supreme Court and federal courts, Bill Ball defended religious freedom as the first freedom and a fundamental human right, second only to life.
He graduated from the University of Notre Dame School of Law in 1948 and upon graduation, he practiced corporate law at Grace & Company and Pfizer, Inc. 1955-60, he served as founding faculty member of the Villanova University Law School. 1960-68, Bill served as executive director and chief legal counsel for the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference in Harrisburg. In 1968, he founded the law firm Ball, Skelly, Murren & Connell in Harrisburg, which then served as legal counsel for the Catholic Conference. He also was active in the Pennsylvania Equal Rights Council, the Christian Legal Society, and the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights.
William Bentley Ball wrote articles for prestigious law journals.
A treasury of articles by and about him is available online at First Things.
Considering all Bill’s accomplishments, Caroline said her beloved husband had a small staff and did most of the work on his own.
William Bentley Ball’s intellectual treasures will be archived at WilliamBentleyBall.org.
Celebrating William Bentley Ball
Rob said, “You’re all friends or family or connected in some way to us and we’re so happy to have the Balls with us at Faith and Action, which is the hospitality and outreach center to our elected and appointed officials. Faith and Action’s mission is to bring classical Christian moral instruction into the conversation, into the debates around public policy and we do that from this platform. What a pleasure it for us to host the tribute to a great man, William Bentley Ball, in this facility.
“This is a great day for rejoicing,” said Rob before he sent all guests to partake of a feast.
Faith and Action staffers Peggy Nienaber and her twin sister Patty Bills welcomed and served the Ball family along with Greg Cox of our communications team. Peggy, of course, oversaw the renovation of our second floor room into the William Bentley Ball Memorial Archive.
The archive contains a striking photographic portrait of William Bentley Ball shown above, his desk, his Supreme Court briefs, news clippings about him, his favorite law and classical books, and books he authored, namely “Mere Creatures of the State: On Education, Religion and the Courts” and “In Search of a National Morality: A Manifesto for Evangelicals and Catholics.” It also features some his drawings and handwritten poems.
“Married Togetherness,” one of Bill’s love notes to Caroline, is on display and it goes like this:
I’m not you, and you’re not me,
And neither one should try to be.
It’s not a question of being either;
A loving us is really neither.
After everyone had dined, Faith and Action cofounder Fr. Paul C.B. Schenck of our partner organization the National Pro-Life Center on Capitol Hill, blessed the archive with assistance from Deacon Keith Fournier, the executive director of the William Bentley Ball Memorial Archive. Paul’s wife Becky was there with the couple’s youngest daughter. Other guests included Day Gardner of the National Pro-Life Center on Capitol Hill, Crista Childs of Priests for Life, and Father Denis Wilde, O.S.A., a Priests for Life associate.
Paul explained how the memorial archive ended up at Faith and Action.
“I was aware of the work of William Bentley Ball, somewhat like I’m aware of the work of George Washington or Erasmus or some grand and almost mythic personality. Much of the work that we have the blessing and privilege of being a part stood on the foundation that includes William Bentley Ball.
“Then when I became a lowly priest of the Catholic Diocese of Harrisburg and was floundering around and just getting my sea legs, a knock came on my door and a woman presented herself as Ginny Duncan – no association in my mind with the mythic William Bentley Ball. She directed the Office of Ministry with People with Disabilities and I was very pleased to meet her.”
Paul leads the Respect Life Office in his diocese and further explained: “Ginny said she was a zealous pro-lifer who wanted to work together and cooperate between our two offices, and I was thrilled with that. Then she said her dad was Bill Ball, William Bentley Ball. I said fine, that’s nice to know too. Then it started processing. This is the daughter of William Bentley Ball!”
Soon after meeting Fr. Schenck, Ginny offered him the entire collection of her father’s books, Supreme Court briefs, and personal artifacts from his law office.
Paul said the more Ginny told him, the more he realized that Faith and Action would acquire the treasures of a visionary who was much like Blessed Pope John Paul II – a visionary who helped establish legal precedents for people of faith and religion, precedents that would help Americans in the 21st century and beyond.
Ginny thanked Paul, Rob and the Faith and Action team. She said, “I just want to mention that we tried to contact several places to see if they were interested because my father’s belongings were in my basement, my mother’s basement and a carriage house at his law firm – everywhere. And it was deteriorating by the moment. So I thought we’ve got to do something or it’s all going to be lost.”
Paul and Ginny agreed that God wanted William Bentley Ball’s archives at Faith and Action in the very neighborhood where he championed human rights at the U.S. Supreme Court.
Greg treated everyone to a recording of William Bentley Ball’s booming voice as he argued a case before the Supreme Court, and after everyone celebrated the Ball family, Rev. Dr. Allen Church of the Reformed Presbyterian Church-Hanover Presbytery offered a closing prayer.
The next day, immediately after Faith and Action’s 2012 National Memorial for the Pre-Born and Their Mothers and Fathers, Fr. Paul Schenck celebrated Mass for the Ball family and other Catholic pro-life pilgrims at Faith and Action headquarters.
Tony Melendez, the Catholic artist who describes himself as the “successful toe-pickin’ guitar player and vocalist, born without arms and a club foot” brought “the sound of hope and courage” to that Mass as he played guitar and sang the praises of Jesus Christ. Tony was accompanied by his brother and manager Jose Melendez, as well as fellow musicians Patrick Smith and Roland Guerrero. So even Tony’s performance was a tribute to William Bentley Ball, who had championed cases for the disabled.
Faith and Action is grateful to offer the world William Bentley Ball’s wisdom and grateful for his beautiful life.