Over 300 pro-lifers, including more than 30 clergy, attended a recent ecumenical pro-life dinner in Wheeling. Entitled "Laity and Clergy Outreach Dinner," the event was sponsored by the Ohio County Chapter of West Virginians For Life.
The major emphasis, of the dinner was the unification of clergy and laity of all denominations on the issue of abortion. The dinner featured three speakers: Karen Cross, Executive Director of West Virginians For Life and WV Director of American Victims of Abortion; Donn S. Chapman, United Methodist pastor and founding board member of Project Multitude of Pittsburgh; and Father Frank Pavone, National Director of Priests for Life.
Cross gave poignant testimony of the traumatic effects of abortion in her life. In a soft tone of voice which seemed on the verge of breaking several times during her address, she recounted how two abortions had affected her life in many detrimental ways. "Abortion had a profound effect on my life and everyone I knew," Cross said. "After my abortions, my life became meaningless. Nothing mattered anymore."
Cross described a living hell of nightmares, alcohol and drug abuse, which she says she may have inflicted on herself as a reminder of "crimes committed against my children."
It wasn't until she became involved with the pro-life movement through a Crisis Pregnancy Center—and later, with West Virginians For Life—that healing and self-forgiveness began.
Chapman urged the clergy present to take a much stronger stand on abortion and to help motivate their congregations to become active in the pro-life movement. "Church, we're right on this issue!" he stressed. "It's not enough to believe pro-life...we must act pro-life!" Chapman commended Pope John Paul II for his hard-line stand against abortion at the Cairo conference in September, and also Mother Teresa of Calcutta for her powerful speech at a National Prayer Breakfast.
The keynote speaker of the evening was Father Frank Pavone. "Did you know that 18 babies have been saved from abortion because of our dinner tonight?" he said. "Statistics show that for every 50 hours a single pro-lifer spends working to fight abortion, one [baby's] life is saved."
Father Pavone spent much of his time critiquing pro-choice positions. "Every major social concern in the world is based on the right to life," he said. "If you don't have the right to life, every other right is meaningless." Father Pavone urged pastors to keep preaching the basic facts on abortion to the public. Pavone suggested a two pronged plan of action to defeat abortion—from the pulpit, and in the streets. He said recruitment of parishioners into the pro-life cause should be the church's Number One priority.
He exhorted all present to make a deeper commitment to ending abortion. "Go tell them!" he said. "Abortions are not taking place in the halls of Congress. They're taking place here, down the street. The problem is not that Clinton is in the White House- it's that we are in our houses! Brothers and sisters, go forward!"
(Voltz is president of a Belmont County, Ohio, pro-life group and a freelance writer living in Martins Ferry, Ohio)