Two Staten Island-elected officials blasted state Sen. Eric Schneiderman yesterday for labeling the head of Island-based Priests for Life, the Rev. Frank Pavone, "an extremist."
Borough President Guy V. Molinari said the Manhattan Democrat "appears to be a publicity hound" and criticized Schneiderman's call for New Yorkers to protest Father Pavone's appearance last night at a National Right to Life Committee dinner in the Waldorf Astoria Hotel, Manhattan.
"He is way off base attacking Father Pavone for expressing his pro-life views before a pro-life audience. It is difficult for me to understand how Senator Schneiderman can be upset with Father Pavone and single him out for public protests," said Molinari. "I have known Father Pavone for a number of years, and I have the greatest respect for him."
City Councilman James Oddo (R-Mid-Island) said Schneiderman's statements were an attack "not only on Father Pavone, but on anyone who believes in, and defends, the sanctity of life.
"It continues to amaze me that the shield of political correctness applies to every other group, except those who are involved in the pro-life movement," said Oddo.
In a letter this week to the National Abortion Rights Action League, Schneiderman grouped Father Pavone with such other "enemies of choice" as James Kopp, the recently arrested prime suspect in the 1998 killing of Dr. Barnett Slepian, the Buffalo obstetrician and abortion provider.
Schneiderman charged that Father Pavone "openly advocates criminal activity to harass abortion providers."
The letter was denounced Tuesday as "incendiary" and "outrageous" by Catholic League President William Donohue.
"Father Pavone has decried acts of violence and instead vigorously appeals for nonviolent approaches on the part of pro-life activists," said Molinari. "To suggest that Father Pavone is in the same class as James Kopp, a suspect in the shooting of Dr. Slepian in Buffalo, is absolutely outrageous."
Abortion-rights supporters have accused Father Pavone, a priest at St. Charles R.C. Church in Oakwood and the founder of the national priests' group, of endorsing different kinds of blockades of abortion clinics. Father Pavone has said that he views these kind of tactics as "morally acceptable" but has no plans to adopt them.
Father Pavone also has condemned the use of violence against abortion clinics and doctors. After Kopp's arrest last month, the Staten Island priest said his group offered a $50,000 reward to anyone providing information leading to the capture of fugitives wanted for abortion clinic shootings.
"The abortion issue is highly sensitive and clearly there are radical viewpoints on both sides. However, it is important that regardless of one's position on the issue, that we learn to respect each others views," Molinari said. "Father Pavone has justly earned respect for his rational approach, to this issue, and I am terribly offended that Senator Schneiderman has made such accusations about a Staten Islander who chooses to express his views on the issue."
Last month, Father Pavone announced the launching of a $12 million, two-year advertising campaign directed at women who have had abortions, including a billboard campaign, television ads and a series on pro-life issues to be broadcast later this year on the Catholic cable channel, Eternal Word Television Network. EWTN provides part of the programming carried on Staten Island Cable Channel 82.