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Priest tells audience to take up cross


Ken Eppes

North Texas Catholic - Fort Worth, TX


GRAPEVINE "There is no easy way to end abortion. It will require suffering," said Father Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life. In a talk at St. Francis of Assisi Church in Grapevine, he encouraged the people gathered and gave practical ideas for the "pro-life battle." Knights of Columbus Council 7099 sponsored the presentation, which began with a rosary and Mass.

With power in his voice belying his slight frame, Fr. Pavone proclaimed, "The worst thing in the world we can do is underestimate the tragedy of abortion. There is absolutely, without exception, no evil as bad."

Fr. Pavone said abortion is a moral absolute, "never justifiable." Taking issue with criticism that the pro-life movement is narrow in its focus, Fr. Pavone countered that that the movement focuses on life. That focus, he argued, is broad because life is the fundamental right underpinning all others.

Fr. Pavone, a native of Port Chester, New York, became active in the prolife movement in 1976. After his ordination to the priesthood in 1988, he spent five years in parish work on Staten Island, where the pro-life movement was a major theme of preaching and activity. Last year, his bishop, Cardinal John J. O'Connor, gave him permission to accept the position with Priests for Life. A sense of urgency propelled him into full-time pro-life work.

"The more I got involved," he said, "the more I saw two things. One was the proportion of the tragedy itself, how many abortions take place, and for reasons that just don't have to be. The second thing I saw is the deep blindness of the American public."

Fr. Pavone said denial sustains the ignorance. Besides not knowing the facts of abortion--that 4,400 abortions occur daily and the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision allows abortions at any stage of pregnancy--most people don't want to know them. That, he stated, mandates a major task of the pro-life movement, keeping the issue on people's minds, whether they want to think about it or not.

That is the purpose of picketing, he said. Whether or not people are persuaded, public demonstrations force people to confront the issue. He commended demonstrations at "abortuaries," saying the work inside goes slower when people are praying outside. However, he advised against confining demonstrations to abortion centers.

"Be everywhere," he said. "The woman having an abortion on Saturday is in the mall on Friday and on the street on Thursday." Fr. Pavone acknowledged that protest is not something most people are comfortable with. Instead of trying to expand their comfort zone, most try to stick with what is familiar. "That's not good enough," he said, "You can't fight abortion by remote control."

He told the audience that asking a woman to have her baby, instead of aborting it, is asking her to make a radical change in her life. People in the pro-life movement must be willing to change their lives to the same extent.

Last June, Fr. Pavone spent four days in Calcutta with Mother Teresa. Her message focused on teaching the pregnant woman to love. Love requires taking up the cross for the beloved. It says "Forget me, put the other first." She added that pro-life people must teach the mother to love by loving the mother and being on her side. Pro-life cannot mean love the child without loving the mother.

Mother Teresa says she tells women to give their babies to her if they cannot raise them. Fr. Pavone added that pro-lifers in the United States should be willing to do same thing.

"What a woman tempted to an abortion needs most," said Pavone, "is a friend. The reason most women have abortions is they do not think they have relationships in their lives strong enough to support their roles as mothers. Having the baby places the woman's relationship with the father of the child, and with her parents, at risk.

Promoting abortion under the term "pro-choice" is ironic, said Fr. Pavone. The woman gets the abortion, not because she has a choice, but because she feels she has no choice.

Emphasizing the importance of spreading information about alternatives to abortion, Fr. Pavone asked, "How many have phone numbers of places where a woman can get help?"

In a dialogue session after his talk, Fr. Pavone commented on the United Nations population conference just concluded in Cairo and on the recent violence against abortion practitioners.

He said Cairo was a victory because the Vatican made abortion the dominant point of deadlock and forced the world to look at the issue.


Priests for Life
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