Abortion isn't the only issue, but it is the fundamental issue faced by the Church today, said Father Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life.
Fr. Pavone spoke with The Messenger, after celebrating Mass on June 1 at St. Mary parish in lowa City. He also spoke in Iowa City at Regina High School and St. Wenceslaus parish.
"If life were not sacred then what would be the big deal about poverty, unemployment," and the many other social problems apparent in the world, he said.
"Abortion is the number one biggest problem... it is undermining the society," Fr. Pavone said.
By recognizing the seriousness of abortion and confronting the issue head on, "we have a very important opportunity to turn this around," he said.
Priest for Life is a national organization that guides priests and lay people toward becoming more active opponents of abortion. It attempts to address the fears, especially among priests, about publicly addressing abortion, and offers assistance in the form of literature and support to those already involved and those trying to become more active in the prolife cause.
In his homily at St. Mary's, he told eight priests concelebrating and about 100 people in attendance, "Jesus Christ and his Church bring together the unity of the human family," but "nothing destroys the unity of the human family more than abortion."
"It's not surprising that the world can't come together when they can't even bring together the mother and the child," he said.
He spoke of the celebration of the Eucharist as Christ's victory over death and as one of the most effective means to fight abortion.
He said, "that's why I urge my brother priests to support life." They represent Christ and should follow his example.
During the interview, he said priests aren't giving abortion the attention it deserves.
According to Fr. Pavone, abortion doesn't have to be the theme of every homily, but it should be mentioned often. He said a priest should talk about it at least as often as he would if it were already born children who were being killed everyday.
"If we get this wrong, we get everything wrong," he said.
"Practically speaking, there is nothing in our society that takes more lives," Fr. Pavone said. "Just from the point of view of the number of victims, abortion is on the top of the list" of social ills.
One of the ways he tries to help priests become more active in the pro-life cause is by trying to identify what keeps some priests from speaking about abortion from the pulpit.
He has written a pamphlet, "Fathers, Let's Face Our Fears About Abortion: A Message to Clergy," that addresses 22 reasons priests give for not preaching about abortion.
Some examples of the types of fears he attempts to address include:
· Question 6-Am I afraid of "dividing my parish?"
· Question 12-Do I have trouble relating abortion to Scripture?
· Question 18 - Am I afraid of "political issues?"
· Question 22 - Am I uncertain about the credibility of the teaching itself?
Priests who aren't talking about abortion need to ask themselves what abortion is doing to their people, he said. There are a lot of people hurting out there because of abortion, especially women who have had abortions.
When the priest doesn't talk about abortion, a woman who has had one might think one of three things: he doesn't care, he doesn't understand or there's no hope for me, Fr. Pavone said.
"These women should not despair. They should realize that there is healing out there," he said.
According to Fr. Pavone, the number one thing a priest hears after giving a homily on abortion is "thank you."
Fr. Pavone said priests can help people understand that you are either pro-life or pro-abortion. Saying that you are pro-choice, but personally oppose abortion is not an option for Catholics, he said.
Those who say they are pro-choice "are forgetting the victim... it's not just a question of morality... it's a question of somebody being in danger today," he said.
People need to understand the fullness of the evil of abortion, he said.
"They understand that it's wrong, but they don't understand how wrong it is," Fr. Pavone said. He recommends that anyone who has a doubt about the evil of abortion should watch one of the videos available that shows an abortion performed.
"You can never really grasp how evil it is with just words," he said. "If people see what abortion is, they will see that there is a difference between something being wrong and being 'so wrong.'"
In regard to the planned open of two abortion clinics in the Quad Cities, he said the Catholics of the diocese "should do everything they can to help places that offer alternatives to abortion."
Planned Parenthood plans to open its doors this summer and the Emma Goldman clinic in Iowa has announced that it plans to open a new clinic within the next years.
We need to "make it clear to the people of the community that we're there to help," he said.
If the clinics do open, Catholics should begin prayerful protest in front of the clinics.
He cautioned, "our conduct should always be with gentle and kindness... we're opposing evil and should "be there prayerfully and peacefully."
He also said, referring specifically to Common Ground groups, that dialogue can be a useful tool in some cases.
"I think it's a very good thing to dialogue with those who want to dialogue," as long as no attempt is made to compromise our views on abortion.
"There is no common ground between life and death," he said.
Pavone comes from the Archdiocese of New York.