By ROY J. HORNER Record Local News Editor
Pulpits, priests and congregations are part of Father Frank Pavone's grand
strategy for uniting the Catholic community against the church's foes in the
ongoing fight over unborn human life.
Enthusiastic and focused, the 36-year-old priest, who was ordained for the
Archdiocese of New York in 1988, serves as the national director of Priests for
Father Pavone said his organization is on a mission to make the entire
pro-life movement united, purposeful and strong through widespread involvement
of all Catholic clergy and laypeople.
"Priests for Life is not just for priests," Father Pavone said at a talk at
the Knights' of Columbus family life symposium last Saturday, April 1, in
Louisville. "I want to see this as a key in this movement, throwing all of us
together, all of us behind our priests and with our priests and encouraging
Priests are the key to overcoming the U.S. culture's emphasis on death,
especially in the arena of the abortion debate, he said. He said they must take
advantage of their pulpits to "more clearly and more vigorously enunciate" the
church's teachings on the sacredness of the unborn.
The Catholic Church has an advantage over Planned Parenthood and the other
abortion advocates, Father Pavone said.
"First of all, we (Catholics) have a structural reason why they (the priests)
are key because Planned Parenthood and these other providers of abortion have
nothing in comparison to what we have in this nation," Father Pavone explained.
"We have over 19,000 parishes from coast to coast. People come to them every
day. And a priest gets up in the pulpit and words come forth from his mouth to
"We have over 9,000 schools of every level of education," he added. "We have
a vast structure of communication. We don't need to build up the structure all
over again. We need to infuse it with the zeal and clarity, the courage that
will get this pro-life message out to the people who are coming to us."
During the symposium, the Knights of Columbus of Kentucky honored Father
Pavone with their "Rosemary Schrode Award" for outstanding service to the
pro-life movement. He also made a presentation the day after the seminar to a
group of Louisville archdiocesan priests and deacons.
In his talk at the seminar, Father Pavone underscored the importance of
priests and the Catholic Church being involved in the pro-life issue by
recalling a recent encounter he had with a man who was working for the abortion
industry in Pittsburgh.
"He knew that their biggest obstacle and their biggest enemy is the church,
and particularly the clergy," Father Pavone said. "They will do everything
possible to express their sarcasm and their hatred for religion and Christ and
the Bible and the priesthood and the papacy, precisely because they know that we
are their biggest obstacle for accomplishing their purposes."
Father Pavone said that priests must explain that there are reasons that are
"not a matter of opinion" that abortion is wrong. One of these reasons is that
each individual person belongs to God, he said.
"We do not belong to our mother so that the mother by her choice can dispose
of us," Father Pavone said. "Nor do we belong to the state, whereby the state
can pass a law that says you no longer deserve protection of your life ... and
the roots, the foundations of the very commandment 'thou shalt not kill' need to
be taught by the church through the clergy."
With about 4,400 abortions performed each day in the U.S., the "consistent
ethic of life" is "all the more reason to give priority to abortion," Father
Pavone said. "It is the fundamental issue."
Father Pavone said that some priests are timid about speaking from the pulpit
about abortion for many reasons. But he also noted the "heroic things" priests
are doing for the prolife movement and the "courageous, sacrificial" stands they
are taking for the unborn.
To help clergy overcome any apprehensions about preaching against abortion,
Father Pavone said he has come up with 22 tips, which he had printed on a fact
sheet entitled "Father, Let's Face Our Fears About Abortion."
He said that lay people need to be sensitive of their priests and should
respectfully approach them about addressing abortion with their congregations.
Just because a priest "is not actively speaking against abortion" does not
mean he isn't pro-life, Father Pavone said.
"Here's the dilemma," Father Pavone said. "If he starts preaching about it
very vigorously and very convincingly, people might come to one of three
conclusions, none of which reflects very well on the pastor. Number one,
'abortion used to be okay but now it's not okay.' Number two, 'it was always
wrong but he just now figured it out.' Or number three, 'it was always wrong and
he knew it but he was silent.' "
Lay people, he said, need to be sensitive to the psychological fact that for
a priest to speak against abortion when he hasn't in the past "is a public act
of humility and repentance."
For those priests whose dilemma is a fear of offending someone, Father Pavone
advised speaking "with the utmost care and compassion" for the women who have
had abortions and their families.
He also noted that like anyone else, priests are affected by criticism and
praise. Bishops, laypeople and the priests' peers are all a source of pro-life
strength for the priests.
"We at Priests for Life seek to provide the peer-to-peer support and
encouragement," Father Pavone said. "You (lay people) need to provide the
support that you can give, and believe me, it matters."
Father Pavone said society must be made aware of the spiritual, moral and
practical assistance the pro-life movement so quietly and unselfishly gives to
any woman in a problem pregnancy, even if she has the abortion, before and after
Priests for Life in the News