The Church’s Way


Abortion will end.

The premise of Priests for Life is that abortion will end through the Church, because Christ has conquered death, and it is He who works through each of us to bring this victory to every segment of our society.

By the “Church,” I mean the entire Body of Christ. Pope John Paul II, in The Gospel of Life, told us, “No single person or group has a monopoly on the defense and promotion of life. These are everyone’s task and responsibility” (EV 91). He says this after asserting that the effort must be ecumenical and, in fact, must include the involvement of all people of good will.

The United States Catholic Bishops have provided marvelous guidance on how the pro-life effort of the Catholic Church should be undertaken, and at the conclusion of their national Pastoral Plan for Pro-life Activities, they echo what John Paul II said in the quote above. They write, “We hold in high esteem all who proclaim and serve the Gospel of life. Through their peaceful activism, education, prayer, and service, they witness to God’s truth and embody our Lord’s command to love one another as he loves us. We assure them of our continuing prayers. And we renew our appeal to all in the Catholic community to join with them and with us in building a ‘culture of life.'”

That openness to others, that esteem for those who work for life in every denomination, and even outside the realm of Christianity, is essential for success – and that attitude is inherently a Catholic attitude. The word “Catholic,” after all, means “universal.”

Those of you who follow my work know that we begin by energizing and activating the priests, who are called, by their ordination, to reach out well beyond the boundaries of the Catholic Church, and in fact to be spiritual fathers.

Back in 1994, I gave a talk to priests and lay leaders in the Philippines at the invitation of the local bishops. In that talk I said the following:

“It’s not any easier to raise up a spiritual family than a physical family. Some people look at the priest and say: “Well, he’s not married, he doesn’t have any children, his life must be easier.” Oh, no. To think that it’s easier is to fall into materialism. Why materialism? Because we see physical realities as the only real reality. Spiritual realities are real ones too! And people ask us always: “Gee Father, can priests have children?” Sure! In fact, if we don’t have children, born of our preaching of the Word and our administration of the Sacraments, there is no growth in faith. Think of those who, through our priestly ministry, hear the call of Christ to come into the Church, or overcome obstacles to faith and prayer, or receive new life by the sacraments. These are our spiritual children! If we are not of the mind that we are to be generative, that we are to bring spiritual children into the world, then we are practicing what might be called a clerical contraception. We are ordained to bring forth life and to do so generously.” (For the full talk, see )

That’s where we need to start. Let’s pray that our priests be spiritual fathers bringing forth many children who will work hand in hand with all people to build the culture of life!

Fr. Frank

The Judge

You may have seen the ads for the book, “The Judge.” If not, you don’t want to miss it. Paul Kengor, professor of political science at Grove City College, has recently authored The Judge: William P. Clark, Ronald Reagan’s Top Hand (Ignatius Press, 2007).

It has been a blessing for me to have Judge Clark and his wife Joan as friends for many years. Just last night I was with them again at their ranch in Shandon, CA and at the beautiful chapel they have on their property. (We were also joined yesterday by Cardinal Christoph Schonborn, Archbishop of Vienna, and the lead editor of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.)

Judge Clark is a man of many accomplishments – and arguably the most important American Catholic in the collapse of communism and the end of the Cold War. He is also a man of great humility, gentleness, and faith.

He is a pro-life giant, and has always been. His ranch in California has hosted pro-life leaders many times, and he continues to encourage the movement in many ways.

You will be blessed by this new book, and by getting to know “the Judge.”

Fr. Frank

Dear Friends,

What’s this I hear from some people that they might “sit out” the Presidential election because they aren’t comfortable with the likely choice of candidates?

Since when are elections supposed to make us “comfortable?” Since when do we exercise that right to vote, for which people fought and died, only when it’s easy and clear-cut, and our choices are just the way we want them to be?

At Mass we pray, “I confess to Almighty God…that I have sinned…in my thoughts and in my words, in what I have done, and in what I have failed to do…”

What we fail to do can make us just as guilty as what we do. A sin is a wrong choice, and to decide not to do something is just as much of a choice as to decide to do something.

A sin of omission is still a sin – and we are still responsible for the results.

What, then, makes us think that we are more responsible for the results of voting than for the results of not voting?A vote is not a philosophical statement. It is a transfer of power. It is a pragmatic act to preserve, as much as possible under the circumstances, the common good, and to limit the evils that threaten it.

And in the pragmatic matter of elections, what matters is not how closely a candidate measures up to my preferences and convictions. Instead, it’s a question of who can and will actually get elected. It does little good if the person I felt most comfortable supporting doesn’t get to actually govern and implement those positions I like so much.

The vote can be used just as much to keep someone out of office as to put someone in.

If we fail to use that tool, however, and as a result the person who gets elected is far worse and does far more damage than the other person we did not like, then we still share responsibility for the damage that will be done.

Elections have seasons. In the earliest phases, the field is wide open. We can recruit candidates, or decide to run ourselves. We build up the name recognition and base of support for the person or people who would make the best candidate. This takes years of work.

Then the season of primaries arrives, during which voters choose between the candidates who have been recruited and who have been building up their strength.

Then the general election season arrives, and we may find that we don’t like any of the names on the ballot. At that point, we have to shift our thinking and focus on “better” rather than “best.” The reality usually is that one of several unsatisfactory candidates will in fact be elected. So we use our vote to create the better outcome and to limit the damage. That’s the shift that some fail to make.

And we are still responsible for what we fail to do.

Fr. Frank

Elections Thoughts

Dear Friends, 

This Tuesday is Super-Duper Tuesday.

We’ve come pretty far down the road in this Presidential election cycle, and the wide-open races on both sides of the aisle have narrowed significantly. Tuesday, of course, is another significant step in the process, when some 22 states have primaries or caucuses.

I’d like to offer two thoughts on the process.

One is participation. We need to reach out to like-minded people and urge them to participate in the process, let their voices be heard, and have an influence on this election.

The second thought regards how we decide whom to vote for.

Along with the obvious need to evaluate the candidates’ positions on the issues, starting with the foundational ones, we also have to consider that having the right positions on an issue does little good unless the candidate with the right positions actually gets elected.

Therefore, one should consider – from whatever side of the issues one is coming – whether his or her candidate has the ability to win against the possible opposing candidates in November.

That is a consideration which many people miss, but which is essential.

And, of course, let’s all pray that the election process of 2008 will bring our nation forward on the path of virtue and righteousness.

Fr. Frank Pavone