NATIONAL CATHOLIC REGISTER
July 30, 2000
Priests for Life Target Voters Via Airwaves
by JOSHUA MERCER
Register Staff Writer
WASHINGTON - Should priests be speaking to politicians?
Media outlets from the National Public Radio to the Los Angeles Times
thought not after
Priests for Life unveiled a million-dollar multimedia campaign July
18 to educate Americans
But "what we are doing here today," said the organization's director, Father
"is exactly what the Church has done for centuries: defending human
life and challenging the government to do the same." He added: "We will not be
intimidated nor frightened into complacency, by those in the government and the
media who would prefer us to keep silent behind the walls of the Church
The New York-based organization plans a blitz of advertisements in newspapers
on television, timed with the national conventions, educating
Americans about the
evil of abortion and also taking to task Christian politicians who
protect abortion laws.
"To those who would allow abortion and claim to be Christian, we say: 'Stop
being a scandal to the Gospel of Jesus,'" Father Pavone said.
The magnitude of the outreach effort caught the attention of The
Washington Post, ABC News,
NBC News and the Associated Press - all of which sent journalists
to cover the press conference at the National Press Club. The Register
first broke the news of the campaign June 11.
Father Pavone used the opportunity to challenge the secular media to show
Americans an actual performed abortion so they will understand its true nature.
"Our position on abortion would be much easier to understand, and the problem
much easier to solve, if the television media would accept the challenge which I
have made nationwide and repeat today: Show the American people what an abortion
is," he said.
One reporter, who didn't mention her media outlet, asked rather curtly if
Priests for Life had any ties with extremist organizations that advocate the
killing of abortion doctors. Father Pavone cordially thanked the reporter for
the question and stated that Priests for Life has no ties with any such
individual or group.
Father Pavone then told reporters about a conversation he had with a friend
who had asked
him what he thought of a man who had killed abortion doctors. "He's
pro-choice," Father Pavone
said of the killer. "He thinks that sometimes it's OK to end a life
to solve a problem."
Father Pavone said that the outreach effort intends to educate Americans
about the U.S. bishops' 1998 statement "Living the Gospel of Life: A Challenge
to American Catholics" and the 1999 statement "Faithful Citizenship: Civic
Responsibility for a New Millennium."
He explained that both Christians and Catholics are not to abandon their
religious understandings when they vote.
"The eyes that read the Word of God are the same eyes that read the names of
the candidates on the ballot," said Father Pavone. "The hands lifted up to God
to say 'Amen' to his teachings are the same hands that push down the lever in
the voting booth."
But Americans United for the Separation of Church and State said the
advertising campaign "may violate federal law" because under the federal code,
churches and other similar tax exempt groups are strictly prohibited from
intervening in political campaigns.
This project raises serious legal questions," said Barry W. Lynn, executive
director of the Washington-based organization. "We will be watching closely and
will not hesitate to report violations of the law to the Internal Revenue
Father Pavone insisted that the new initiative would be strictly nonpartisan.
Father Pavone said that no final date or place has been set for the launch of
the television commercials but that they wouldn't start before the end of
'We are not endorsing candidates, commenting on any electoral races or
presenting any political strategies," said Father Pavone. "Moreover, I stress
that we conduct these efforts as clergy, as pastors. We publicly speak about
whether support for abortion does or does not conform to the Gospel. We do not
speak publicly about the standing of any particular person."