CATHOLIC NEW YORK
May 3, 2001
'We Are Winning'
New York priest receives Proudly Pro-Life Award at Manhattan dinner
By Brian Caulfield
Accepting the Proudly Pro-Life Award at an annual dinner sponsored by the
National Right to Life Committee (NRLC), Father Frank A. Pavone, national
director of Priests for Life, said that the tide of public opinion is
turning against abortion on demand, and supporters of abortion are
Advocates of abortion have become more active in recent months because of
President Bush's pro-life views and statistics that show a shift in the
attitudes of Americans toward more traditional values, he said.
"They see something that we ourselves must not miss - that we are winning, we
are making progress," he told the 700 pro-life advocates in attendance. "The
days of legalized abortion in this country are numbered ... The shift of public
opinion is moving in the direction of pro-life sentiment."
As he delivered his speech April 25 in the Waldorf-Astoria in Manhattan,
evidence of his point about increased abortion advocacy was seen on the street
outside the hotel's Park Avenue entrance, where about 200 demonstrators stood
behind police barricades, shouting loudly, carrying signs and handing out
literature denouncing the views of Father Pavone and the pro-life movement in
The rally was called by state Sen. Eric T. Schneiderman, representing parts
of Manhattan and the Bronx, who sent out a letter two weeks before the dinner
accusing Father Pavone of condoning criminal activity at abortion clinics,
allying himself with those who commit violent acts and employing "deceptive,
In a statement released at the dinner, Father Pavone, a priest of the
archdiocese based on Staten Island, called "absurd" the claim that he supports
violence against abortionists. He said that for the past two years Priests for
Life has offered a $50,000 reward for anyone providing evidence that
leads to the conviction of a person who has performed a violent act against an
If abortion supporters "are successful in stigmatizing an organization like
ours, which is so opposed to violence of any kind and so in line with the
teachings of the Church, they will be able to defame any Church-related,
pro-life organization in the future," Father Pavone said.
He premiered four 30-second television advertisements which were shown on the
grand ballroom's large screen. Illustrating the hurt and loss that abortion
causes in the lives of many women, the ads promote post-abortion healing with
the theme "The doors of the Church are open." They are scheduled to run in major
cities at popular viewing hours as part of a two-year, $12 million campaign
sponsored by Priests for Life and presented in cooperation with Project Rachel
abortion healing programs in 130 dioceses throughout the country. Cooperation
with Project Rachel is a change in strategy which took place last month after
Father Pavone met with Cardinal William H. Keeler of Baltimore, Md., chairman of
the bishops' Pro-Life Activities Committee (CNY, April 25).
The eighth annual black-tie dinner, at $500 a plate, raised money for the
National Right to Life Educational Trust Fund in Washington, D.C., which
supports the grassroots efforts of committees in all 50 states and backs the
production of pro-life media campaigns.
A seven-minute video tribute to Cardinal O'Connor, recipient of the first
Proudly Pro-Life Award in 1994, was shown during the dinner. Father Dennis Day,
a pastor from Idaho and a leader in the NRLC said in an introduction to
the video that the cardinal was "a hero of our movement. He was not only a
voice. He took action for life."
The master of ceremonies was actor and author Ben Stein, who provided equal
portions of humorous and thought-provoking commentary. Reflecting on the more
than 1 million unborn babies aborted each year who "will never get to live and
breathe and know their God," Stein called the political debate over abortion "a
"It's a civil war between the privileged who have all the political power and
those without such power who have all the moral power," he said.
Citing a study that suggests the reduction in crime in America is due partly
to the fact that abortion has eliminated a high number of poor people, Stein
said, "Every abortion doesn't prevent a crime. Every abortion is a crime." He
wondered how some people on the political left who oppose capital punishment of
convicted criminals could accept a study which suggests that, "murdering
potential criminals is a way to reduce crime."
Also honored with a Proudly Pro-Life Award was Lawrence D. Garvey, a pioneer
in the cellular phone industry and a major benefactor of the NRLC's media and
lobbying campaign against partial-birth abortion.
In addition to offering a tribute to Cardinal O'Connor, Wanda Franz,
president of the NRLC, recalled the contributions of two other pro-life leaders
who died last year, Bishop James T. McHugh of Rockville Centre, and Gov. Robert
P. Casey of Pennsylvania. She said that Casey, a Democrat who was denied a
national voice in his party because of his pro-life views, believed that "social
justice is impossible without full protection of the law for the most innocent"
babies in the womb.
Bishop McHugh, who worked for most of his priesthood on pro-life issues at
national and international levels, was instrumental in the founding of state
organizations that coalesced in 1973 into the National Right to Life Committee,
Ms. Franz said.
Introducing Father Pavone was William P. Clark, a judge who served in a
number of Cabinet posts under President Ronald Reagan. Mentioning Father
Pavone's "whistle stops" across the nation and pro-life media campaigns in the
months before the election last year, Clark said that the priest "won the
presidential election" for Bush without once endorsing him. Striking a rally
tone in his half-hour speech, Father Pavone said that much work remains to be
done on the personal and political levels to reduce the number of abortions,
help women who want to keep their babies and reach out to those who are hurting
from past abortions . He said that the election of President Bush, who
has already undone some pro-abortion measures of the Clinton years and is likely
to sign a federal ban on partial-birth abortion if it is presented to him, is
only one step.
"The work of the election is not finished," Father Pavone continued. "Our
goal is not just to make abortion illegal, our goal is to make it undesirable,
unavailable and unnecessary in the eyes of those who might support it. Our goal
is to make abortion unthinkable."
Key to the effort will be making "pro-choice" people see that abortion is at
the heart of other problems they feel strongly about. For example, he stated,
the shootings by students at schools over the past few years should be seen in
the light of abortion. Since the Roe vs. Wade decision of 1973, young people
have grown up believing that their right to life is based on whether they are
wanted and that killing can solve personal problems.
"Children will not stop killing children until parents stop killing
children," he said.
He introduced two women who were the anonymous plaintiffs in the Roe and Doe
vs. Bolton cases which codified abortion on demand - Norma McCorvey and Sandra
Cano, who are now strong pro-life advocates. He also introduced Donato Dalrymple
of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., who rescued Elian Gonzalez from the ocean after the
young boy's mother drowned trying to escape from Cuba. Dalrymple, 41, who worked
to keep Elian in this country before the Clinton administration sent him back to
Cuba, told CNY that just as he saved Elian from drowning, he wants to save
unborn babies from abortion through his witness to life.
Father Pavone has been under rhetorical attack from abortion supporters since
announcing his ad campaign. In his letter, Sen. Schneiderman attempts to
associate Father Pavone with James Kopp, accused of killing Buffalo abortionist
Barnett Slepian, and unnamed "anti-choice terrorists."
He wrote, "Father Pavone, while claiming to denounce violence, openly
advocates criminal activity to harass abortion providers, and is closely allied
with Joseph Scheidler's violent Pro-Life Action League," referring to the
The Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights called the letter libelous
and its president William A. Donohue demanded that Schneiderman apologize.
Schneiderman told CNY that the criminal activity he refers to is the trespass
that some pro-life advocates engage in to block clinic entrances and gain
entrance to the facilities. He added that pro-life leaders such as Father Pavone
have refused to acknowledge what he sees as their role in encouraging
"unbalanced" people in the movement to commit acts of violence by consistently
referring to abortion providers as baby killers.
In his statement, Father Pavone said that as a priest and teacher of the
Catholic faith, he is obliged to speak and write about the Church's stand that
peacefully breaking a trespass law is morally legitimate to save a life. "To
attack me for saying this is in fact to attack the entire Catholic Church, the
bishops, the pope and our freedom of religion," he said.