MARYVILLE DAILY FORUM
August 23, 2000
PFL has message for politicians, voters
By Dr. Ed Echeverria
On July 21, Priests for Life (PFL), a national association of catholic
priests committed to a vision of respect for every human life, ran a
full-page ad in the New York Times.
A few days earlier, Fr. Frank Pavone, National Director of PFL, made some
remarks to the press
at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. Fr. Pavone began by calling
attention to the following documents of the Catholic Church on matters
relating to abortion. That is, the U.S. Bishop's statement,
Living the Gospel of Life: A
Challenge to American Catholics (Nov. 1998) and the statement
Citizenship: Civic Responsibility for a new Millennium (USCC
Administrative Board, Sept. 1999). Underlying this call is the teaching of
the Catholic Church in the Second Vatican Council's Pastoral Constitution on
the Church in the Modern World: "At all times and in all places, the Church
should have the true freedom to teach the faith, to proclaim its teaching
about society, to carry out its task among men without hindrance and to pass
moral judgments even in matters relating to politics, whenever the
fundamental rights of man or the salvation of souls requires it."
In this light, PFL have an urgent message for American voters, candidates for
public office and lawmakers.
To American voters, PFL's message is not to control their vote, but rather to
urge them to make an informed choice, one aware of the implications of their
choice, including the moral and spiritual implications. With this in mind, PFL
has the responsibility to instruct voters "on the moral principles that should
inform their voting decisions." The most basic of all human rights is the right
to life. Surely, then, candidates for public office and their policies should be
evaluated first and foremost on how they impact human life and dignity. Of
course, abortion is not the only issue we should measure against this standard.
Yet, abortion is the premier human rights issue of our day. "Abortion is a
violent act that destroys a human being. We call upon those who do not admit
this to demonstrate the contrary and upon those who do admit it, but would still
defend it, to demonstrate why legalized abortion does not violate our nation's
recognition (in the
Independence) of the unalienable right to life and of equality before the
"We are not speaking here," adds Fr. Pavone, "about imposing religious
beliefs by law, but rather about defending (the) value (of human life) that is
as fundamental to the state as it is to the Church." The Church teaches that
human life itself must be valued, but this doesn't make this proposition a
Catholic issue. Rather, that human life itself must be valued is a matter of the
fundamental rights of the human person. The Church also teaches that stealing or
murder is wrong. Does that mean non-Christians are at liberty to steal or
murder, or that laws against stealing or murder involve imposing religious
beliefs on the nation?
Of course not: "Abortion not only contradicts the teachings of the Catholic
Church, but it contradicts the Gospel, as well as the principles of the
Declaration of Independence. To supporters of abortion who profess a faith other
than Christianity, or profess no faith at all, we say that your position
contradicts the Declaration of Independence and its assertion that we all have
an inalienable right to life." To those self-professed Protestant Christians who
would allow abortion, or worse, even actively support it as a positive good, we
say, "Stop being a scandal to the Gospel of Jesus Christ." To those
self-professed Catholic Christians who do the same, especially in their role as
public servants, we add the Bishop's words, "We urge those Catholic officials
who choose to depart from Church teaching oft the inviolability of human life in
their public life to consider the consequences for their own spiritual well
being, as well as the scandal they risk by leading others into serious sin. We
call on them to reflect on the grave contradiction of assuming public roles and
presenting themselves as credible Catholics when their actions on fundamental
issues of human life are not in agreement with Church teaching. No public
official, especially one claiming to be a faithful and serious Catholic, can
responsibly advocate for or actively support, direct attacks on innocent human
As Christians, it makes no sense to say that one is "personally opposed" to
abortion while supporting its legality and even public funding. As the Second
Vatican Council reminds us, "One of the gravest errors for our time is the
dichotomy between the faith that many profess and the practice in our daily
lives." To those who say they don't support abortion as such, but merely support
the woman's freedom to choose (abortion), we say this view implies that abortion
is something quite right for women to choose. Choosing abortion could not,
evidently, be wrong, because we are not at liberty to choose that which is
wrong. Besides, "abortion is no more a matter of 'freedom of choice' than
slavery a matter of
of Jurisprudence at Princeton University).
Finally, PFL appeals to the media on two counts. One, why don't you show the
American people what abortion is? Why not ask abortion supporters to defend
their claim that so-called fetal life has no value? Isn't medical science firmly
on the side of the life of the unborn child? What do ultrasound and genetic
screening, indeed, fetal surgery clearly show but simply that every unborn child
is a distinct, unified, self-integrating organism? If this is true, why not
challenge abortion supporters to argue against the biological fact that the
unborn child is fully human?
Furthermore, why not challenge them to show how a late-term abortion is not
killing an infant? Why not ask them to defend the claim that the "choice"
between giving birth and abortion is morally neutral, just a matter of opinion?
Moreover, why not ask the to explain how the absolute freedom to choose abortion
is compatible with even the slightest respect for the life of the unborn child?
Shouldn't life itself be valued rather than carelessly thrown away?
When are we going to see and act on the insight that, as Father Pavone
says, "When our laws permit violence against little babies, incidents like the
Columbine High School shootings are the logical outcome(?)"
Two, because PFL is pro-child and pro-woman, it appeals to the media to
repeat the offer it makes to any woman anywhere, regardless of her ethnic,
racial or religious background. "If she is pregnant and feels unable to continue
that pregnancy, she can come us, to our Churches, to me personally and we will
see to it that she and her child receive all the help they need. And to anyone
who suffers the pain and grief that follow abortion, we declare that the doors
of the Church are open. We are ready to assist you to find the forgiveness,
healing and peace that you seek."