I was standing in the vestibule of the church before Mass. A woman walked in, took a copy of the bulletin, and said under her breath, "I'll take this to read in case they talk about abortion."
I did, in fact, preach about abortion quite strongly that day. A few days later, I received a letter ... not from the woman, but from two other parishioners. The letter read,
"Hi! I'd like to begin this letter by thanking you for last week's homily. I was deeply moved and so was my younger brother, Paul. Although we are both young, I'm 17 and he's 12, we've been taught about how precious life is. But we did not fully understand what goes on in abortion, till your homily... We both would like to get on the mailing lists of pro-life organizations, if possible. See you at the next Mass!!"
St. Paul summed it up well. "Proclaim the word. Be persistent whether it is convenient or inconvenient; convince, reprimand, encourage through all patience and teaching." (2 Tim. 4:2)
The sanctity of life and the truth about abortion are certainly aspects of the "word" that the priest is to preach. Some say, "Abortion has no place in church." Then what does? Are people who worship God supposed to be blind to injustice? Are believers supposed to be unconcerned about what goes on in the world? Abortion kills 1.6 million babies a year!
In church we say we believe in "the Lord, the Giver of Life." Church is the place to talk about things that concern God, and God cares about the destruction of 1.6 million babies a year! The Bible says that those who worship God, but do not act to correct injustices, are not pleasing to God at all. (Amos 5:21-27, Isaiah 1:10-17)
Suppose for a moment that a clinic was set up in your neighborhood at which eight-year old boys and girls were routinely killed every day. What would you do? What would you expect the Church to do?
Morally speaking, every abortion takes the life of one who is as much of a person and has as much of a right to life as an eight old or any other human being! So many in our society who know this are wondering why we priests don't talk more about it and take more action to get our parishioners involved in the effort to save these babies and give their mothers life-giving alternatives. Many priests do, but far too many still do not.
"The greatest lies are told in silence." To be silent on abortion is not to be silent; it is, rather, to shout the message, "Don't be all that concerned about this!" And to the women in the congregation who have had abortions, the silence says, "Your pain doesn't matter, and what you did is no big deal."
St. Paul says, "If the trumpet sounds an uncertain call, who will get ready for battle?" (1 Cor. 14:8) In the battle for life, it is not a matter of "We win" or "They win." If pro-life doesn't win, nobody wins! It is time for all priests to take courage and to lead the way to victory for the pro-life movement. It is time for all parishioners to encourage their priests more than ever to speak the truth about abortion clearly and without compromise!
This is the purpose of ''Priests for Life," a movement that aims to unite priests in a common commitment to defend the sanctity of life, to provide them with resources, suggestions for homilies and activities, and to introduce them to other priests active in the pro-life movement. As a national effort only a few years old, Priests for Life welcomes input from clergy and laity alike, and is ready to assist any individual or group in their pro-life work.
I am privileged to be the national director of Priests for Life, succeeding Father Lee Kaylor, who founded it. Father James Heyd of the Archdiocese of Chicago is associate national director. There are 13 bishops on the Board of Directors. You may write to: Priests for Life, P.O. Box 141172, Staten Island, NY 10314.
As some pro-lifers have pointed out, unless we speak out fearlessly and act decisively against abortion, one could well put up this sign at our local abortion mills: "Babies killed here with the gracious permission of the local Christian community."