SOMERVILLE — Political pressure is a necessary tactic toward
ending abortion, but even more important is the power of prayer and outreach to
pregnant women in crisis.
Father Peter J. West, associate director of Priests for Life,
lectured at Immaculata High School and offered homilies at Masses at Immaculate
Conception Church Jan. 10-11, to raise awareness of the pro-life cause.
Priests for Life, based in Staten Island, N.Y., is a pro-life
network of over 40,000 priests and deacons dedicated to educating Catholics on
the realities of abortion and “pro-choice” politics, while inspiring priests and
laity to be more effective witnesses to pro-life.
The pro-life weekend was organized by the Pro-Life Outreach
Committee of the parish’s social ministry under the leadership of Kevin Dugan.
Father West spoke compassionately about showing troubled
pregnant women the physical reality of the child developing within them, while
offering encouragement and support to them in overcoming family and personal
difficulties they may be experiencing. At the same time, he soberly presented
the extreme political and social pressure brought to bear on women to encourage
abortion of unplanned or unwanted pregnancies.
“Pro-abortion activist groups will be making a renewed and
concerted effort with the new national administration to promote their agenda
into law,” Father West said.
He cautioned that with super-majorities in the House and
Senate, along with a pro-choice president, there will be significant pressure to
push a legislative agenda that was thwarted by the past administration.
Chief concerns include the use of federal dollars to publicly
fund abortion and United Nations’ population control efforts, pro-abortion
judicial appointments, nullification of state parental notification laws and
disallowing medical personnel and Catholic hospitals from abstaining for reasons
of conscience from performing abortion or counseling abortion.
These and other major provisions which not only extend the
legality of abortion but promote its use are embodied in a proposed Freedom of
Choice Act, which the 111th Congress will be considering.
Father West advised his audience that letter writing and
public witnessing such as the upcoming March for Life on Washington, D.C., are
powerful means to let Congress know that a significant voting block is
While political pressures serve their necessary purpose,
Father West emphasized the power of prayer, especially the rosary, for bringing
about change in people’s attitude toward protecting life. This coupled with
individual efforts and private organizations such as the pregnancy resource
centers provide alternative choices to the culture of abortion.
According to Father West, pro-life efforts do not require any
special expertise, but often are most effective by simply being available to
pregnant women in need and being supportive in an effort to convince the mother
that keeping her baby is a viable option.
Reiterating the power of prayer, Father West testified to the
effectiveness of a program called 40 Days for Life. This program, which
originated in Texas, involves people praying in front of abortion clinics for a
period of 40 days, often coinciding with Lent. According to Father West, there
are numerous documented cases of mothers reconsidering their action and turning
away from an abortion. But even when a life is not saved, “It is like being with
Jesus at the foot of the cross,” he said.
Father West cautioned his audience that they must be in this
struggle for the long haul. As with the early Church, success may be long in
coming, noting that it took until the fourth century before the Roman emperor
was persuaded to ban infanticide. By comparison, with Roe v. Wade the Church is
just beginning its struggle.
He enjoined the faithful that they must not allow the argument
that this is a “women’s health issue of no concern to men.” Nor is it a matter
where the Catholic Church is imposing its moral doctrine on others. Like the
earlier issues of slavery and civil rights, the pro-life issue is one of
fundamental human rights.
He concluded with a quote from the 19th century observer of
American democracy, Alexis Tocqueville, that “America can only be great if it is
Then showing the seriousness of the pro-life struggle, he
ominously quoted George Mason, regarded as Father of the Bill of Rights: “As
nations cannot be rewarded or punished in the next world they must be in this.
By an inevitable chain of causes and effects providence punishes national sins,
by national calamities.”
Father West began his ministry with Priests for Life in 1998
after serving seven years in pastoral ministry and being a pro-life activist
since 1986. Based in Staten Island, N.Y, the organization’s website is