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 pro-life.
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 first good.”
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 www.priestsforlife.org.