By Tanya Connor
STILL RIVER-The national director of Priests For Life, Rev. Frank A. Pavone,
offered help and a challenge for local priests, praised pro-lifers and said they
thirst for specialized retreats and foster ecumenism. He spoke with The Catholic
Free Press at St. Benedict's Abbey last Friday just before giving a retreat
there to local pro-lifers.
Priests For Life was started on the West Coast by Rev. Lee Kaylor of San
Francisco, and after a couple years gained official Church approval in 1991, Fr.
He said it focuses on the issues of abortion and euthanasia, does not endorse
violence, and does not plan or sponsor activities which break the law. But it
does not condemn those who peacefully block abortion clinics, he said. He said
they are morally in the right because they are saving lives by moral, peaceful
means, and the law is prosecuting them because it does not recognize as persons
those they are saving.
The main work of Priests For Life is to train priests to understand the
abortion issue, preach about it, assist women who are considering one or have
had one, and to help them assist their people in understanding the issue and
getting involved, he said. It also helps priests meet and support each other, he
He said he would want to tell priests in the Worcester Diocese that "We exist
for them," and are ready to help them however they need it. Fighting abortion is
not optional for priests, he said.
He said he would also challenge them to help their people see the urgency,
that abortion is the "fundamental issue of our time" because it takes 4,400
human lives a day and is sanctioned by the government and because of what it
says about life. While other issues are important, they stem from the right to
life, he explained, noting that people have the right to food, clothes and other
things because they have the right to life.
He said he finds clergy open to him and supportive of the pro-life movement
and that people are looking for their leadership in it.
Priests For Life also has a booklet which offers a rationale for doing
different kinds of street activities such as prayer vigils, pickets and life
chains and tells how to do them, he said. It is a service to prolifers to give
them as much training as possible, he said, adding that they need to be
acquainted with the issue, understand the mind-set of those promoting abortion
and know the resources available to them.
"Defending Life," a 13-week series of half-hour shows about abortion, by Fr.
Pavone, is to be aired starting May 1 on Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN).
The series covers the abortion procedure, laws, alternatives, post abortion
healing and forgiveness, "how to answer pro-choice slogans," Scriptural teaching
about abortion, and a discussion between a former abortion provider, a survivor
of abortion and her mother, according to a press release about it.
Priests For Life also works with lay people, doing things such as last
weekend's retreat, Fr. Pavone said.
People in the pro-life movement thirst for a retreat "that will specifically
nourish their pro-life activities," he said, adding that being in the movement
has its particular challenges and also can draw a person close to God.
"Being pro-life is very simply because God is life," he said. "We are
pro-life because we want to be like Him. In Christ we find out what love means."
He said abortion is the opposite of love-Christ sacrificed Himself for the good
of others, while abortion sacrifices another for the good of self. The pro-life
movement demands love for those its members cannot see, those who cannot love
them back, he said.
And pro-lifers face court challenges and get accused of having bad motives
and being against women, he said, so a retreat allows them to ask why they are
doing work. He indicated they do it for love of both mother and baby because
"love is indivisible," and they challenge society, "Why does love of the mother
have to require sacrifice of the other?"
A retreat allows them to come closer to God, the source of love, which will
help them in their work, he said.
Fr. Pavone said he thinks there will be more pro-life retreats in future, and
that in addition to ones he gives, Rev. Michael Mannion, now in Washington D.C.,
oversees "Come Aside and Rest Awhile" Retreats.
Last weekend's retreat was to focus on how the gifts of the Holy Spirit help
the pro-life work and, organizers' requests, was to be silent between talks to
allow for prayer, Fr. Pavone said. It was to provide spiritual foundations
rather than practical guidelines for how to work in pro-life activities, he
Asked what the fruits of such a retreat are, he replied, "It keeps people
going--we want to see more progress than we often see." And it helps people do
their pro-life work with peace and joy, he said, adding that when fighting such
a great evil they have to be careful not to let evil overtake them and get angry
"People lose friends at times over their pro-life work," and it takes an
emotional, mental and financial toll on them, he said.
"I think it fosters the unity of the movement too," he said. "If people are
centered on God and strong in their spiritual life, they will have less of a
tendency to be selfish, divisive or overly critical."
Asked about some people, including Catholics, being turned off by the
pro-life movement, Fr. Pavone said they should look at the source of their
knowledge about it. He said the movement does a lot that the media does not
cover. He indicated that when something "stupid," such as violence, happens, the
media ask him if it will have a negative effect on the movement and he responds
that it will not if they cover the good the movement does.
"The people in the pro-life movement are some of the greatest in the world,"
He said he works a lot with ministers of other denominations and that in the
pro-life movement he has found the ecumenism he had been longing and praying
for. There are few, if any, things that foster practical day to day ecumenism
like the pro-life movement does, because people are "in the trenches together,"
seeing together the emergency taking place out there, he said.
This does not minimize their differences, which are important to be look at,
he said, but differences do not have to keep them from working together.
Priests for Life in the News