WASHINGTON - Priests for Life has launched a massive media campaign to remind Catholics o£ their political responsibility to support life during the 2000 election season.
Father Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life, announced the start of the "Campaign for Life 2000" at a July 18 news conference at the National Press Club in Washington. He was flanked by nearly two dozen priests from 14 states.
"The educational effort we announce today is unprecedented in the magnitude and variety of the ways we are getting the message out," Father Pavone said.
"We intend to employ every means known to humanity," he said. "We will utilize the churches, by means of preaching and teaching. We will take the message to the streets with peaceful demonstrations and other First Amendment activities.
"We will mail information to clergy across America. We will utilize phone banks to encourage the clergy in this effort We will submit articles and purchase ads in major newspapers," he said. "What we are doing here today is exactly what the Church has done for centuries: defending human life, and challenging the government to do the same," Father Pavone said.
Calling the campaign "completely non-partisan," he said, "Lawmakers and voters in both major parties have a wide range of positions" on abortion. "No matter what nation or period of history we are speaking of, when a human government attempts to legitimize an act of violence, the Church declares that such an attempt is devoid of all authority or juridical validity," he said.
"No president, congress, court or king has the authority to permit even a single abortion. When we elect our lawmakers in America, we influence the moral character of this nation for better or for worse," he said.
Father Pavone said he wanted to make it clear from the outset that Priests for Life was speaking "as clergy, enunciating the teachings of our Church in matters regarding the fundamental rights of the human person."
"We are not endorsing candidates, commenting on any electoral races, or presenting any political strategies," he emphasized. "We represent no organization here today but ourselves."
The priest added, however, that "Americans of every faith and of no faith join us on a daily basis" in voicing their opposition to abortion and working for laws to protect life in the womb.
He said Priests for Life bases its message on the 1998 document of the U.S. bishops, "Living the Gospel of Life," and the 1999 statement of the bishops' Administrative Board, "Faithful Citizenship."
First, he said, Catholics and all believers have an obligation to vote, and should do so in an informed and responsible way and should never cease to be believers when they enter the voting booth.
"Our message here is not that we want to control the way people vote. The message is one of integrity: don't claim to be a believer if you don't act like one, and don't claim to be a member of the Church and then misrepresent its teachings," he said.
Second, Father Pavone said, any candidate or policy is to be evaluated above all on how it impacts human life and dignity. He said abortion is not the only problem in society but it is "the preeminent human rights issue."
"Anyone who identifies himself as `prochoice' on abortion contradicts the teachings of the Catholic Church," he said.
"There is not more than one Catholic teaching on abortion. Furthermore, this is not only a Catholic issue, but one of fundamental human rights," he said.
Addressing supporters of abortion who profess a faith other than Christianity, or profess no faith at all, Father Pavone said, "We say that your position contradicts the Declaration of Independence and its assertion that we all have an inalienable right to life."
To these supporters of abortion who profess Christianity Father Pavone advised, "Stop being a scandal to the Gospel of Jesus Christ!"