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The Florida Catholic

September 16, 1994

Priests urged to oppose abortion

"We offend God if we do not address the issue"

Matthew R. Gomez

MELBOURNE All priests are pro-life but not enough talk about it during Mass, according to a fellow clergyman.

Father Frank A. Pavone, national director of Priests for Life, told a group of pro-life supporters in Melbourne that priests need to be more involved in the pro-life cause.

"The direction comes from the top," he said. "The pope has consistently addressed the sanctity of human life. The Holy Father has asked us to oppose abortion and promote life, but some priests are fearful of approaching the topic at Mass."

Father Pavone said some clergy members are afraid a consistent anti-abortion message will wash over parishioners, and may appear insensitive to women who have had abortions. The New York priest said the truth of the issue must be spoken, and there may be a few hurt feelings.

"When Jesus asked the apostles to go out and make disciples of all nations, he did not, tell them to only speak to those who wanted to hear the message," said Father Pavone. "People often try to suppress the truth by ignoring the message, but it is a risk priests must take in order to end abortion."

The group of pro-life supporters gathered Sept. 9 at Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Melbourne, roughly 10 miles away from the Aware Women's Clinic, an abortion provider. Father Pavone joined a rosary procession outside the abortion facility the next day. He also spoke with a gathering of priests from Several Brevard County parishes about their role in helping to end the evil of abortion, "There has to be a priestly presence in the pro-life cause," he said. "Catholics look to us for guidance, and we had better be there for them. Abortion is more than just a single issue. All life, divinely created, is at the foundation of our faith "

The New York-based Priests for Life is an association that provides pro-life information and encouragement for Catholic clergy. Father Pavone said his organization understands the concerns of priests regarding the abortion debate, but said they must press on despite any fear of offense.

"We offend God if we do not address the issue," said the priest. "If we are silent on abortion, we are hurting these women who have made a terrible mistake that they no doubt regret. If we do not speak against abortion, we send a signal that we either don't know or don't care about the suffering of women exploited by the abortion industry. Preaching the truth will not hurt them."

Father Pavone said his organization offers homilies, Scripture verses, and other practical information to help priests address pro-life topics at the pulpit. He has witnessed only two people ever leave a Mass because the priest spoke vigorously against abortion.

"Think of the women who can be saved from making the same mistake of killing a baby," he said. "All parishioners need to hear it today, tomorrow, and next week. Abortion hurts babies, and it hurts women. Our responsibility is to prevent the suffering of our people."

Father Pavone likened the silence of priests on abortion to the actions of Pontius Pilate at Jesus' trial.

"Don't let the yelling of the crowds silence the voice of your conscience," he said. "Pilate did that. He was not an evil man. He was a weak man. As priests, we need to be strong in our opposition to abortion. Silence and weakness plays into the hands of the devil.

"Some parishioners may be alienated by the pro-life message, but our first concern is not to have the parishioners alienate themselves from God."

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