CATHOLIC NEW YORK
July 20, 2000
Priests for Life Launches Campaign to Bring Issues
by John Burger
With a full-page ad in The New York Times and a press conference in
Washington, D.C., Priests for Life this week kicked off a nationwide campaign to
remind voters and elected officials of the responsibility to protect human life.
"What we are doing here today is exactly what the Church has done for
centuries: defending human life and challenging the government to do the same,"
said Father Frank A. Pavone, a priest of the archdiocese who directs Priests for
Life (PFL), at a press conference at the National Press Club in Washington,
D.C., July 18.
Clergy of various denominations from across the country joined him as he
announced Campaign for Life 2000.
"When a human government attempts to legitimize an act of violence, the
Church declares that such an attempt is devoid of all authority or judicial
validity," he said.
He added that laws allowing abortion are not merely bad laws, "they are no
laws at all."
He said the campaign wants to convey
three messages, drawn from the U.S. bishops' statements, "Living the Gospel
of Life: A Challenge to American Catholics," and "Faithful Citizenship:
Civic Responsibility for a New Millennium."
The messages are that Christians have a responsibility to be
informed and active in the political process; that the most fundamental right is
the right to life, and any candidate or policy is to be evaluated on how it
impacts human life and dignity; that no public official of any religion can
responsibly take a "pro-choice" position on abortion because it contradicts the
teachings of the Church, the meaning of the Gospel and the principles of the
Declaration of Independence, which recognizes an "inalienable right to life."
Father Pavone said the campaign will not endorse candidates
or single out individual political races. "Our message here is not that we want
to control the way people vote," he said. "The message is one of integrity:
Don't claim to be a believer if you don't act like one, and don't claim to be a
member of the Church and then misrepresent its teachings."
Ads will run in other national newspapers, and three
television commercials will be aired. In one, Father Pavone quotes from "Living
the Gospel of Life," urging lawmakers who support legal abortion to "consider
the consequences for their own spiritual well-being, as well as the scandal they
risk by leading others into serious sin." Another spot calls abortion "the most
important issue" of the political season.
"I want the public to understand abortion as it is, as an act
of violence," Father Pavone said . He called on television to "show the American
people what an abortion is."
During the press conference, Father Pavone said he was
grateful to Cardinal O'Connor for allowing him to direct PFL. "The instruction
and inspiration he leaves to us has shaped our efforts and will do so for years
to come," he said.
Anthony DeStefano, executive director of PFL, said the
organization allocated $250,000 for print advertising and was willing to
spend as much as $1 million in the campaign. It has about 46,000 members,
including 6,000 priests, and an annual budget of $4 million, raised through
Other plans include street demonstrations, newspaper op-ed
articles, distribution of the bishops' documents and encouraging priests to
preach about the sanctity of human life from the moment of conception and to
personally bring that message to candidates and elected officials.
"It is our hope that our public comments will motivate
candidates or office-holders who do support abortion to approach the members of
their clergy and discuss these issues in private and confidential settings,"
Father Pavone said. He added that PFL priests will be available for such