Potential priests try out the pro-life life
Sunday, June 26, 2005
By BRANDI DEAN
Potential priests got their first taste this weekend of a life devoted to
opposing abortion, and Planned Parenthood got its first taste of what having
them in Amarillo will be like.
This weekend marked the first discernment retreat for men considering joining
Missionaries of the Gospel of Life, the
national religious society being founded in Amarillo by the Rev. Frank Pavone to
focus full time on ending abortion. The group took time out of the planned
seminars to join the weekly protest at Planned Parenthood of Amarillo and the
Texas Panhandle, where they heard a short speech from Pavone and recited the
"This great nation has its flaws," Pavone told the 70 or so assembled in
front of the clinic. "But it always gives us the right to protest those flaws.
We come out, first of all, because we are human beings. When another human being
is in danger, whenever another human being's life is being threatened, then
decent human beings go."
Claudia Stravato, executive director of the local Planned Parenthood, said
the protest was larger and included more men than the clinic usually sees. As a
result, she said, many of the patients chose to drive around the block several
times, waiting for the group to break up before coming in, even though the
clinic had men waiting to escort patients to and from their car.
"Those were people who depend on us for health care," she said. "I saw one
lady drive around four times."
Even though the clinic doesn't offer abortions, the protesters made it no
secret that they'd rather women didn't go in at all. Rita Diller, family life
director for the Catholic Diocese of Amarillo, said as much in one prayer.
"May this facility be permanently closed," she prayed.
And Stravato is wondering just how far the new group will go to see that
happen. After talking with Pavone she's not worried about violence from him, or
anyone currently in the diocese. But she's not so sure about the pro-life
activists the society is bringing in from all over the country.
"This is not going to end," Stravato said. "(Pavone) is the head of all this
stuff in the U.S., and now he's headquartered in Amarillo, and Amarillo hasn't
quite figured that out yet."
But Pavone said Stravato shouldn't have any special cause for concern - the
local Planned Parenthood wasn't going to be singled out.
"She's looking at us and the fact that we're coming to Amarillo," he said.
"But whether it's Amarillo or Anchorage, this is a national movement, and every
Planned Parenthood in the country has reason to be afraid - not of violence, but
of the message that we're giving. (The members of the society) will be praying
here to a certain extent, but we're going to send these guys out. Claudia should
start talking to her friends."
As for the new priests coming to town, Pavone said they'll go through the
same interviews and psychological evaluations that all potential priests go
through. He doesn't believe anyone violent would make it through the process.
And at least one of the men at the discernment retreat said he wouldn't join
any group that was violent.
"Blowing things up, acts of violence have no place in the pro-life movement,"
said Matt Cushing, who came from Overland Park, Kan., for the retreat. "It
destroys what we're fighting for. We're trying to show that every person has
value. What about the people you blow up? They have a value, too."
But he's not shy about his devotion to defeating abortion. Cushing said he
was already considering the priesthood and had wished there was a way he could
devote his ministry to pro-life work. Now that there is, he is seriously
considering doing so.
"There's nothing more important than human life," Cushing said. "If they're
not around, we can't baptize them."