President-elect Barack Obama was called the most radically pro-abortion candidate ever, and yet millions of Catholics voted for him. One of his campaign pledges was to champion the Freedom of Choice Act, which would nullify every state abortion regulation.
The Anchor asked two leading pro-life priests to comment: Father Frank Pavone, director of Priests for Life, and Father Thomas Euteneuer, president of Human Life International.
Q - Is there hope for a strategy to defeat the Freedom of Choice Act?
Fr. Pavone: “Yes, we can certainly defeat FOCA. It is so extreme, that provided members of Congress realize what it says, and provided their constituents are educated about it, they will realize that it’s totally out of step with where the American people are regarding reasonable restrictions on abortion. We’ll keep the public updated at Priestsforlife.org/legislation.”
Fr. Euteneur: “FOCA is a piece of legislation and must be fought in the legislative process. With a minority of legislators who are now pro-life, it seems that prayer and fasting may be the average person's only real recourse to stopping this.”
Q – About 80 U.S. bishops proclaimed abortion and life to be the defining issues in the election. Is this new-found courage of bishops speaking up a hopeful sign that there might again be a true Catholic vote in the future?
Fr. Pavone: “Many were encouraged by the number of bishops speaking up, and I have been saying for years that the number of such statements would increase each year. This shows hope that there will be a new effort to educate people on the abortion issue. Now that doesn’t mean there has to be – or even can be – a ‘Catholic vote’ on a whole host of issues, simply because on so many specific matters of public policy, there’s more than one proposal that is compatible with Catholic teaching. But that’s not the case with abortion. There’s no proposal of legal abortion that’s compatible with Catholic teaching, and therefore, on that issue, there can be a reliable Catholic vote.”
Fr. Euteneuer: “The new-found courage of the bishops during this election season was certainly a welcome development. I do believe that such a show of leadership was too little, too late, but we’re all happy to see the change. It’s my hope that it will turn into an avalanche of conviction on the part of the bishops to use their God-given authority to draw a very clear line for politicians and parishioners alike and define more clearly what it means to be Catholic in word and deed.”
Q- How can clergy reach young people who aren't in church to hear the message?
Fr. Pavone: “YouTube, Facebook, and MySpace have to be utilized, as well as new internet social networks like LoveToBeCatholic.com, which is the Catholic equivalent of You Tube. We’ve been utilizing these sites with great response. My videos on the abortion procedures, for instance, have been viewed in their entirety by more than half a million young people in the span of a few weeks.”
Fr. Euteneuer: “The more our church leaders show conviction and clarity of principles, the more the Church, which is perennially true and beautiful and good, will attract the young people of the modern age.”
Q - Should we focus more on prayer and fasting for our president-elect’s conversion?
Fr. Pavone: “We should always pray for all the pro-abortion public officials, that they may be converted. But politicians are converted by political pressure. One way we can pressure them is through the ‘Is this what you mean?’ campaign, by which we publicly quote the abortionists (graphically describing the dismemberment of babies), and then ask the pro-abortion official, ‘When you say the word ‘abortion,’ is this what you mean?’”
Fr. Euteneuer: “We must always pray for the conversion of our leaders just as all the saints did, but the grace of conversion must be accepted in order for it to be efficacious, and unfortunately, Mr. Obama does not seem to need God because he believes he is one. Nevertheless, we will pray!”
Note: To join Human Life International’s St. Michael Prayer Campaign for the Conversion of Abortionists, see HLI.org. PriestsforLife.org offers seasonal novenas, rosary meditations and liturgical resources. To sign a petition sponsored by Americans United for Life to oppose the Freedom of Choice Act, go to FightFOCA.com.
New strategies emerge
The pro-life movement can and must regroup, stressed national lay leaders and political experts during a post-election teleconference and webcast. Moderator Father Frank Pavone of Priests for Life urged people to regularly network through www.ProLifeStrategy.com.
Highlights culled from the November 5 panel discussion:
Michael Schwartz, chief of staff to Oklahoma Republican Senator Tom Coburn: We can’t allow ourselves to be a subset of the Republican Party; we must be a two-party movement. Move the focus back to the states, because action doesn’t happen on the federal level until it happens there first. Every pro-abortion legislator should have a primary challenger in 2010.
Peggy Hartshorn, president Heartbeat International (HeartbeatInternational.org): The Holy Spirit isn’t bound by who’s in power. Advertise the phone number 1-800-712-HELP and the website PregnancyCenters.org everywhere to let people know assistance is nearby. Women see single parenthood and adoption as worse than abortion. Spread the message that children are a gift.
Joe Scheidler, director Pro-Life Action League (ProLifeAction.org): It’s awfully hard to change laws until you change people’s hearts. We’re training more people in sidewalk counseling, in one-on-one discussion. Although some oppose our use of graphics, they work powerfully. If everybody could bring one person around to the pro-life position weekly, the country would be converted.
David Bereit, national director 40 Days for Life Campaign (40DaysForLife.com): Neither Utopia nor Armageddon will come through politics; this is a spiritual battle that we can win one baby at a time. Abortions don’t happen in the White House. You can take action where you live. Our last campaign saved at least 543 babies. Clinics closed for days and one shut down. We need to put our trust in God, pray and fast like we never did before, and work as a united front.
Janet Morana, co-founder Silent No More Awareness Campaign (SilentNoMoreAwareness.org): We need more women and men to stand up and say that they regret their abortion. For every one of the 50 million babies killed, there’s a woman and man who’ve been affected. Many need help and healing. We aim to have a thousand people at the March for Life with us in January to show Obama that abortion has a face.
Brad Mattes, executive director Life Issues Institute, Inc. (LifeIssues.org): We can’t give up, but we need to focus on what we can do. Make it personal goal to educate five people a month. It’s crucial because education is the foundation on which we build legislative and political victories. We need to change hearts and minds; we cannot walk away from this life or death battle.
Daniel McConchie, vice-president Americans United for Life (AUL.org): Laws come about as a reflection of what’s happening in the culture. Remember William Wilberforce fought against the slave trade for 45 years before he prevailed. We can work incrementally to show people people abortion is an atrocity. Get involved at the state legislative level; lawmakers there are rarely contacted by constituents so they listen. Go to AULAction.org to see what’s going on in your state.
Bryan Kemper, president Stand True (StandTrue.com): We had 250,000 kids participate in our “pro-life day of silent solidarity” with the unborn. At least 56 girls cancelled their abortions. Using Facebook, MySpace, and other technology we can educate, equip and activate young people to stand up and be a voice for their generation.
Matt Locket, Bound 4 Life (Bound4Life.com): You don’t see the growing youth movement on the news, but there is a passionate, consecrated remnant that God is raising up. He’s reeducating us on the importance of prayer and fasting for our leaders. Remember- the Apostle Paul’s prayer and fasting helped mature the early Church. I see a determination in young people who realize this is more important than ever.
Kristen Hawkins, executive director Students for Life of America (StudentsForLife.org): The campus pro-life movement is strong and growing. We’ve started 254 new groups, a 35 percent increase, in two years. Reaching out to feminists, at least starting a dialogue with them, is necessary, because 45 percent of all abortions are done on women in college. We need to build our movement’s infrastructure for political action in 2010 and 2012, and work on getting Congress to defund Planned Parenthood.
A quote from the late Congressman Henry Hyde concluded Hawkins’ message: "When the time comes, as it surely will, when we face that awesome moment, the final judgment, I've often thought, as Fulton Sheen wrote, that it is a terrible moment of loneliness. You have no advocates, you are there alone standing before God - and a terror will rip your soul like nothing you can imagine. But I really think that those in the pro-life movement will not be alone. I think there'll be a chorus of voices that have never been heard in this world but are heard beautifully and clearly in the next world -- and they will plead for everyone who has been in this movement. They will say to God, 'Spare him, because he loved us!'"
- Gail Besse