April 30, 2001
IN THE NEWS
"Fr. Pavone's rapid ascension as a leader of the movement against
abortion rights and his close ties to the top of the Vatican hierarchy are
so remarkable that he has been referred to as the Pope's 'Vicar for Life."'
Good news? Not for the "vicars of death" at the Institute for Democracy
Studies, from whose November newsletter, IDS Insights, we quote. (IDS
Insights describes itself as an "investigative newsletter highlighting
anti-democratic groups and trends [our emphasis].") It seems that Father
Frank Pavone's Priests for Life (PFL) has shot right to the top of the
infanticide-obsessed Left's Enemies List - why, you'd think the dismembered
baby was becoming an endangered species.
Well, not yet. But Priests for Life's national crusade to win Catholic
votes for George W. Bush (see eye # 178) did have a big payoff - in
what turned out to be the crucial state of Florida, Catholic voters were 26%
of the electorate and went for Bush 52 to 44 percent. The group is giving
agita at a more local level, too. According to a recent Catholic World
News (CWN) report, after a March 18th St. Patrick's day parade in
Newark, Father Peter West, a New Jersey-based PFL staffer, was "physically
thrown out of a Catholic school hall while a pro-abortion politician was
being honored inside." The not-so-honorable Catholic pol was Jim McGreevey,
Democrat candidate for governor and also the parade's grand marshal.
Sporting stickers saying "McGreevey Supports Partial-Birth Abortion" and "St
Patrick Is Pro-Life," Fr. West and 15 other pro-lifers crashed a post-parade
gathering at St. Patrick's School and gave McGreevey a copy of the US
Bishops' document, Living the Gospel of Life: A Challenge to American
Catholics, which McGreevey said he would read." (We're sure it's right
by his bed.)
Trouble began, the story goes on, when "Father West was approached by
a woman who shouted at him saying, 'How many children did you
raise?.'.. (Playing the celibacy canard - now that's real class.) During an
ensuing "debate," when some McGreevey supporters denied that their guy
supported partial-birth abortion, West "produced a newspaper article"
proving otherwise. Accused of "harassment" by "a man in plain clothes, who
identified himself as a police officer," West and a companion were then
"pushed out the door, nearly causing them to fall down a flight of stairs."
(You couldn't make this stuff up.) The story does have a "happy" ending:
"After strenuously pointing out the irony that a Catholic priest had been
ejected from a Catholic school by abortion supporters as a pro-abortion
politician was being honored inside, the pro-lifers were allowed back into
the school." ...
On April 25, Fr. Pavone was honored by the National Right to Life
Committee at its annual black-tie dinner at the Waldorf-Astoria hotel here
in Manhattan. The same morning, the Institute for Democracy Studies (IDS)
released a 28-page "briefing paper" titled Priests for Life: A New Era in
Antiabortion Activism. Here's its opening salvo: "The National Right to
Life Committee's decision to give its Proudly Pro-Life Award to Priests for
Life's Fr. Frank Pavone marks a dangerous new era in the attack on a woman's
constitutional right to abortion. What is new is that the Catholic hierarchy
and the Republican-supported National Right to Life Committee are openly
backing militant direct action. Pavone has explicitly justified criminal
trespass against abortion clinics and encouraged 'rescues' which block legal
access to healthcare facilities." (Father "Capone," get ready for RICO.)
We'd heard IDS board member Al Ross announce on Democracy Now -
the mostly-Marxist Pacifica Radio show - that a protest was planned
for the Proudly Pro-Life dinner, so last Wednesday evening we sauntered up
Park Avenue for a look-see. Turn out was pretty pathetic. About 150 (mostly)
women were chanting stuff like "It's my body and I'll choose if I want to,"
accompanied by (no kidding) a tuba player. Manning the megaphone was a
youthful looking New York State Senator named Eric Schneiderman - the
event's organizer. (The next day CWN reported that Schneiderman, in an April
11 letter to constituents, accused Father Pavone of "openly advocat[ing]
criminal activity to harass abortion providers.") Standing alongside him was
Frances "Just Say Nope to the Pope" Kissling, and New York City mayoral
hopeful Alan Hevesi, who managed to look both smarmy and silly as he
"worked" the tiny crowd.
We stationed ourself in a doorway facing the protesters who were
cordoned off along the avenue in front of the hotel. We were taking notes
when we noticed a tuxedo-clad gent walk over and start taking pictures. We
thought he might be a pro-lifer on his way into the dinner and, when we saw
him crumple up a particularly vile piece of propaganda being handed out to
passersby, ventured aloud that we "didn't think he'd want to read that."
Well he turned out to be quite a chatty type, mildly vexing since our
mission was to report on the event, but only mildly since it was good to
encounter a fellow traveler. And one who wasn't afraid to utter "sanctity of
human life" only six feet away from a bunch of banshees wailing "Hey ho,
what do you know? The right to life has got to go," and "Right to life, your
name's a lie, you don't care if women die." Lending him only half an ear as
we scribbled down chant lyrics and sign copy, we thought we heard him say
something like, "I had the experience of helping save one of the most
important lives in the world." "Really?" we absentmindedly mumbled. "Yeah,"
he went on, "Elian Gonzalez."
It took a moment but your trusty info-babe finally got it: "You mean
that literally," we gulped, "about saving Elian Gonzalez?" He nodded. "I
pulled him out of the sea," said the guy in the tux. "I'm Donato Dalrymple."
As soon as he said it we knew it was true. He was the man in the infamous
(Pulitzer-Prize winning) photograph sheltering a terrified little boy in his
arms as a United States government employee waved an MP-5 submachine gun at
them. "Father Pavone invited me to this dinner." Funny. The man who a year
ago was snapped trying to protect the most famous child on the planet from
Janet Reno's Holy Saturday Raiders was now snapping pictures in front of the
Waldorf like any ordinary out-of-towner might, and yakking with yours truly.
As New York Post Gossip Queen Cindy Adams likes to end her column: "Only in
New York, kids, only in New York."
"Pavone Preaches Violence" proclaimed one protester's sign. Another
read "F*** Pavone." Smearing the Pope's "Vicar of Life" may give
Schneiderman et al. a short-term fund-raising bo but it's bound to
further marginalize the abortion-monger Left. Will Senator Hillary Clinton,
having won New York's Catholic vote, publicly dis a group called Priests
for Life? A group that on April 4, the anniversary of Martin Luther King's
assassination, announced that it was "offering $50,000 to anyone providing
authorities with information leading to the capture of fugitives wanted for
abortion clinic shootings." Needless to say, the IDS report didn't
report on that.
"We Reject All Violence" banners the Priest for Life website. People
who murder abortionists, insists Father Pavone, are themselves "living out
the pro-choice philosophy," that is, "killing to solve a problem." The
"rescues" that IDS says Pavone "encourages" are described - along with a
slew of other peaceful protest activities - in a PFL handbook, Our Media
is the Streets:
Thanks to Congress's 1994 Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act
(FACE), and Bill Clinton who signed it, the kind of direct action King
engaged in is now a federal offense, punishable by jail time and subject to
heavy fines and civil liability suits. The PFL handbook neither recommends
nor condemns "rescues." It does, however, include the entire text of Dr.
King's April 12, 1963 "Letter from a Birmingham Jail," so readers can "see
how many powerful parallels there are at this moment between the principles
Dr. King enunciated in his quest for racial justice, and the principles the
pro-life movement enunciates in the quest for justice for the unborn." King
had been slammed by fellow clergymen for leading "technically peaceful"
demonstrations like sit-ins, which, they worried, "incite to hatred and
This is the rap against pro-lifers today-even ones who don't engage in
(now practically non-existent) sit-ins. Having made physical action like
"rescues" a federal offense, the Left has moved on to speech itself. Some
recent examples: A bill is making its way through the California State
Legislature which would, says a Focus on the Family report, fine
pro-lifers "up to $ 10,000 for nonviolent acts" like sidewalk counseling.
("This is where the hate starts," says Ca. State Senator Steve Peace, a
supporter, "This is where young minds get confused, distorted,
manipulated.") In Weston, Wisconsin, high school psychology teacher LeRoy
Miller was told he could no longer show students a video about fetal tissue
research and body-parts trafficking after a parent complained her daughter
had been "biased" against abortion by what she saw. And last month in Tempe,
Arizona, the Crisis Pregnancy Centers of Greater Phoenix were harassed by
city officials because they wanted to pray before their annual Walk for Life
March (praying on public property did prevail). All this is
groundwork, we suspect, for an eventual assault on pro-life advertising
speech. Pavone is a big target because PFL is spending big bucks: a
$5,000,000 "media blitz" is planned for this year.