Laws which legitimize abortion and euthanasia cannot be obeyed and must be resisted by conscientious objection, said Father Frank A. Pavone at a Mass for the pro-life movement in America July 4 at the Marian Shrine in West Haverstraw.
Father Pavone linked the history of the Independence Day holiday with the concept of conscientious objection to abortion and euthanasia, which has been called for by Pope John Paul II in his new encyclical, "The Gospel of Life," and by Cardinal O'Connor at an international health care conference last November.
Conscientious objection was a basic element in the founding of the United States in 1776, when the signers of the Declaration of Independence stated that the unjust rule of England compelled them to separate themselves from the mother country, said Father Pavone, national director of Priests for Life. The signers justified their move through appeal to a higher law based on the rule of God, he added.
Disregard for the right of life, precisely because it leads to the killing of the person whom society exists to serve, is what most directly conflicts with the possibility of achieving the common good. Consequently, a civil law authorizing abortion or euthanasia ceases by that very fact "to be a true, morally binding civil law," he said, quoting from "The Gospel of Life."
"The pope is not saying that such a law is a bad law; he is saying that it's no law at all," Father Pavone added. "They said the same thing in 1776."
Citing the Declaration, he noted that the U.S. government was instituted to secure the rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The rights themselves come from God, he said, and the government's primary goal is "to make sure some people do not define other more vulnerable people out of existence."
Since in its abortion laws the government itself has defined unborn children out of existence, he added, pro-life advocates have the obligation to resist such laws and witness against them.
"Do we want to be good citizens? Yes. Do we want to obey just laws? Yes. But we must obey God's laws first," he said. "We are the ones who are most American when we fight against abortion."
On the day of judgment, he said, "We will not stand before the President of the United States, we will not stand before the Supreme Court, we will not stand before the Congress, we will stand before Almighty God, who is Lord of lords and King of kings."
The abortion controversy is not a matter of "pro-choice wins or pro-life wins," he said. "If pro-choice wins, no one wins, because pro-choice is pro-death and no one wins when death gets the upper hand."
"If we have a nation that allows a mother to kill her innocent unborn child, then what is to stop a child from killing his or her innocent elderly mother or father, or one of us?"
He ended the homily by leading the congregation in a "Pledge of Recommitment to End Abortion."
"Never forget," he said, "our goal is not just to pass better laws. Our goal is to end abortion."
The main celebrant at Mass was retired Auxiliary Bishop George E. Lynch of Raleigh, N.C., who most recently was arrested in May for blocking a driveway at an abortion facility in Dobbs Ferry. The Mass was preceded by three holy hours and Benediction. Bishop Lynch, Father Pavone and Msgr. Philip J. Reilly, executive director of the Helpers of God's Precious Infants, gave meditations during the holy hours.