The Christian Roots of Democratic Principles

In the pagan view of government, the law came from the mouth of the king and the people counted for nothing. They had neither input nor recourse against those who ruled over them.

But the Lord Jesus taught that people are called to be sons and daughters of God, and therefore they do count. He taught that authority means service, and that public officials are ministers of God and accountable to Him. This transformed politics, and government became representative and protective of human rights.

This is why we can elect our leaders, and lobby them once they are in office. This is why Christians have a political responsibility.

Some still doubt whether the pulpit is the place to talk about elections. But in fact, if there were no pulpits, neither would there be any elections.

The Founders’ Perception of Liberty

As we prepare to celebrate Independence Day, we should reflect on what our Founding Fathers did when they established this nation. Their concept of liberty was rooted in dependence upon God. The Founders held that it is only when God is seen as the source of our right to life can that right be secure from tyrranical governments who would threaten it. That is why the Declaration of Independence says that the right to life is bestowed by the Creator, and that governments exist to secure that right.

Can anything be more American than to work to restore this foundation of our government, and to secure the right to life? Let us be fearless and unashamed to say we are pro-life, and to teach others that our American independence demands it.

An Inherent Contradiction

Our Priests for Life headquarters is within easy driving distance of the Statue of Liberty in New York. This statue is a strong symbol of the welcome our nation has given to people from around the world. Fittingly, engraved on the base of this monumental statue are the words from Emma Lazarus’s poem, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”

As we prepare for the celebration of Independence Day, let’s remind ourselves and others that this welcome can make no sense if we are afraid to welcome the children in the womb. America is a haven for those escaping oppression in far-off lands. Why should it be a land where we oppress the unborn by the violence of abortion?

Hearts & Laws are Intertwined

Some people say that the solution to the abortion problem is to change people’s hearts.

In fact, changing people’s hearts is the solution to every problem that the world faces.

But that doesn’t mean that we don’t have laws. The fact is that while there are people around whose hearts are not in the right place, there have to be laws to restrain their heartless activities. As Martin Luther King Jr. said, the law cannot get the white man to love me, but it can stop him from lynching me.

We also should not overlook the power that laws have to shape minds and hearts. When our children learn in school that something is legal, they are learning that such a thing is right.

Whether regarding abortion or anything else, both hearts and laws must be changed.

Independence Day Novena

The celebration of our nation’s independence is an important moment to reflect on the blessings of God, the meaning of freedom, and the task to expand the blessings of freedom to our unborn brothers and sisters who are still enslaved by our nation’s abortion policies.

That’s why Priests for Life begins today a special novena of prayer for our nation, in preparation for Independence Day. You can download the prayer at priestsforlife.org.

The prayer reminds us that our Founding Fathers took inspiration from the Gospel in founding this nation, and that our task is to secure liberty and justice not just for some, but for all, including the unborn.

Please visit priestsforlife.org, download the Independence Day Novena, and invite your family, pro-life groups, schools and parishes to take part in it.

Settled Law? Not so Fast…

Fr. Frank Pavone
National Director, Priests for Life

Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan reportedly “considers abortion rights to be settled law” (USA Today, May 21, p. 5A). And we can expect during her confirmation process to hear a number of Senators echo that assertion. Yet America’s courts and legislatures have a proud history of changing “settled law.”

America has, on various occasions, recovered the recognition of the equal dignity of those who were deprived of their rights and suffered violence which was given legal cover under a different name. This legal cover was often mistakenly recognized by the Supreme Court for a while, but then such decisions were overturned.

Dred Scott v. Sandford (1856) is the most commonly cited instance. The slaveholder’s right to property eclipsed and subsumed the slave’s right to freedom. But the Constitution was eventually amended to correct the error.

Decisions like Lochner v. New York (1905) show us another error: employers’ right to contract eclipsed and subsumed the workers’ rights to humane conditions and hours. These abuses were corrected by subsequent Supreme Court decisions like Muller v. Oregon and Bunting v. Oregon.

The “Separate but equal” doctrine of Plessy v. Ferguson (1896) sanctioning segregation was overturned by Brown v. Board of Education some 58 years later.

Erroneous decisions like Hammer v. Dagenhart (1918) institutionalized child labor. But this was overturned 23 years later by United States v. Darby. A new development — a “pedagogical moment” — occurred here in Constitutional law. The question was whether constitutional rights applied to children too. The answer was yes.

Many reversals of Supreme Court cases came about when new evidence was brought forward that made it clear that someone’s rights, not previously recognized, were being violated. Thus, Louis Brandeis brought forward the facts about how workers were being harmed.

We are now witnessing the same trend regarding the children in the womb. Evidence that has been around for quite some time demonstrating their humanity is finding its way into legislatures and courts. One of the most striking instances comes out of South Dakota.

Federal courts have upheld South Dakota’s law requiring that abortion providers tell women that the procedure destroys a “whole, separate, unique, living human being.” This came about because of the evidence presented to the court regarding the humanity of the unborn child.

With hundreds of embryological sciences, and massive evidence of the harm abortion does to women, such evidence, combined with new legal concepts, can challenge Roe vs. Wade in the same way its erroneous ancestral decisions were challenged.

The day after Roe vs. Wade was decided, the New York Times headline read, “Supreme Court Settles Abortion.” Yet it has remained the most unsettled issue on our national landscape.

The facts above should shape the way that senators, Supreme Court nominees, and all the rest of us speak about Roe vs. Wade and the so-called “right” to choose an abortion. History should shape our language, and should strengthen our hope that abortion policy can change again just as radically as it did in 1973.

Pro-Life Freedom Rides

Pro-life Freedom Ride Campaign to Start in Birmingham
July 23

What: Pro-life Freedom Rides Launch (events and caravan)

Where: Birmingham, Alabama and Atlanta, Georgia

When: Friday, July 23 – Saturday, July 24

Who: Dr. Alveda King, Fr. Frank Pavone, the Priests for Life Pastoral Team, and African-American Leaders from across the nation

Contact for further information: 718-980-4400 or toll free 1-888-735-3448 or email: mail@priestsforlife.org

Details:

Friday, July 23

7pm-9pm: Rally (Assembly/Concert) at Birmingham Jefferson County Convention Complex (BJCC) Theatre, 2100 Richard Arrington Jr. Blvd. North, Birmingham, AL 35203, 205.458.8400 / www.bjcc.org – (detailed information for the BJCC and Greater Birmingham)

Saturday, July 24

9am-11am: Prayer Vigil at Killing Center. Planned Parenthood: 1211 27th Place South, Birmingham, AL 35205

11:30am: Pro-life Freedom Ride Caravan departs Birmingham for Atlanta (An invited group of pro-life leaders with ride in the Freedom Ride bus. Interested pro-life activists and families are welcome to drive in their own vehicles in this pro-life caravan. We will drive (without stopping) the 2 and ½ hour drive to Atlanta. Vehicles may join up with or leave the caravan at any time as they need to.

4:00pm (ET) – Pro-life Service at the tomb of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. at the:

King Center in Atlanta
450 Auburn Avenue Northeast
Atlanta, GA 30312
404 893-9882
www.thekingcenter.org

Refreshments to follow.

The Foundation of All Other Rights

Some pastors do not speak about abortion because they are afraid of being single-issue people. As clergy, we necessarily address a multitude of issues, and should embrace a consistent ethic of life. Numerically, abortion is one issue; but it is one issue like the foundation of a house is one part of the house. There is a hierarchy of moral values, and as many Church documents state, the dignity of life is the fundamental one. The reason every other issue is an issue to begin with is that human beings have a right to life. We do not, therefore, address abortion because we are unconcerned about other issues, but precisely because we are concerned about them, and realize that we cannot make progress on them unless the foundation itself is secure.

Attention Pastors: Please Speak Out!

Why don’t more pastors speak out against abortion? Some of them actually do not know how to connect the issue with the Scripture readings. They know that the readings are supposed to be the basis of their homilies, but they do not find many references to the unborn child or to the killing of such children.

But the themes of pro-life are on every page of Scripture. Homilies are not simply Scripture lessons. Rather they apply the great Biblical themes to the day to day challenges that believers face as they live their lives.

So, for instance, the Bible is clear that only God has dominion over human life – he made it, he cares for it, he owns it. That is why no human being can own or kill or devalue.

–Fr. Frank

The Founding Fathers Were Pro-Life

I recently assisted in putting together a conference for hundreds of pastors, who received new courage in preaching the Word of Life. My friend David Barton of Wallbuilders gave a message in which he pointed out that public officials who don’t recognize the first inalienable right, life itself, will not be likely to recognize other inalienable rights we have. He showed specific voting records, and how those who get it right on life will also get it right on economic issues. He summed it up by saying, “If they can take your life, they’ll take your money, too.”

The founding fathers did write about abortion, and did declare that the right to life is the first right that government must recognize and protect. Those who fail to do so fail to govern.

–Fr. Frank