For priests who are hesitant or uncomfortable about openly preaching against abortion, Father Frank A. Pavone has some answers.
Concerned about the feelings or reaction of a woman present who has had an abortion?
"Your silence doesn't help her." Father Pavone says. "She's already suffering. She doesn't need us to begin her suffering."
Afraid of alienating people?
"Abortion itself is alienating," he said. "We must speak up against this anemic version of Christianity that doesn't require us to talk about injustices."
Fearful that the congregation will take it too personally and respond that the people who don't come to church are the ones who need to hear the message?
My response is 'Then go out there and tell them.' When we say at the end of Mass 'Go in peace' that's not just an invitation to clear out the church. It means go and tell others what you know.
Father Pavone is the national director for Priests for Life, a national organization of priests who are committed to teaching and upholding a consistent ethic for life with particular emphasis on abortion and euthanasia. At the invitation of the Pro Life Office he spoke to a group of diocesan priests Feb.14 at the Catholic Center in Akron.
A priest who commits his entire vocation to life issues, particularly abortion, Father Pavone has no loss for words when countering pro-abortion claims. He has studied, spoken and written about the issue since before his ordination in 1988, and now travels the country speaking to parishes and any other groups willing to hear the message.
When he preaches about abortion there are three important points he always makes.
"Abortion doesn't have to happen. There are alternatives. For any woman, of any age, race, religion or ethnicity, there is help," he said.
It's important for priests and lay people to be aware of organizations that serve the needs of women experiencing a crisis pregnancy and help link such women to those groups.
There is healing and forgiveness after an abortion. "The doors of the church are always open. I know a woman who has had 22 abortions. Even she will be welcomed back. Even she will be forgiven when she repents of her sins. Even she can become a saint," he said.
The challenge the church faces is in presenting itself not only as an advocate for unborn babies, but for their mothers as well, he said. That means not only offering appropriate assistance when they face an unwanted pregnancy, but also accepting them into the church family and offering them forgiveness if they have an abortion.
"Don't be fooled by the slogans," Father Pavone said.
He cited the example of abortion advocates arguing that keeping abortion legal means it is a safe procedure.
"It is never safe for the child, and it isn't always safe for the mother. More women are suffering from legal abortions than have ever suffered from illegal abortions." he argues, noting that bad medical practices within the abortion industry give women a false sense of assurance.
Pro-choice is another slogan Father Pavone attacked. Women are well within their right within moral guidelines to decide when to have a child. "But once she's pregnant, she already has a child. Now they're arguing for the right to kill a child."
He pointed to the irony of Christ's words at the Last Supper, "This is my body," being a slogan for pro-abortionists. When Jesus spoke those words, it was to convey a self-sacrifice, his willingness to lay down his life for the sake of others. When pro-abortionists speak them, it is to convey an unwillingness to offer self for the good of another.
"It is the reversal of love." Father Pavone said.
The 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion during all nine months of pregnancy contained a frightening parallel to at least two other such decisions in modern history, he said.
The decision stripped the unborn of an legal rights as a person, the same conclusion reached by the German Supreme Court in 1932 regarding German Jews and by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1857 regarding blacks.
In the case of Jews and blacks, the decisions were later reversed and rights were restored. Father Pavone says he's still hopeful that the decision legalizing abortion can be reversed as well.
"If we teach that our human destiny is to be elevated to the throne of God, how can we accept these same beings being thrown in the garbage?"
Whitehouse is a freelance writer in Akron.