By Roy J. Homer
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (CNS)-Two pro-life activists speaking at a statewide Knights
of Columbus symposium April 1 said Catholic priests and women need to be heard
more in the fight against abortion.
Father Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life, and Helen Hull
Hitchcock, director of Women for Faith and Family, told 200 people at a family
life symposium that too little is heard from those who support the Church's
opposition to abortion and artificial contraception.
Many priests are timid about speaking from the pulpit about abortions, said
Father Pavone. But they must use their position to make clear it is "not a
matter of opinion" that abortion is wrong. He has published a list of 22 tips to
help priests preach against abortion.
Lay people should be sensitive to the reasons their priests may not preach
about abortion and respectfully approach them about addressing the subject with
their congregations, Father Pavone said.
Just because a priest is not actively speaking against abortion does not mean
he isn't pro-life, according to Father Pavone.
"Here's the dilemma," he 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."
Those conclusions, according to Father Pavone, include: "Abortion used to be
OK but now it's not OK." "It was always wrong but he just now figured it out."
"It was always wrong and he knew it but he was silent."
For a priest to speak against abortion when he has not done so previously "is
a public act of humility and repentance."
Priests are the key to overcoming the U.S. culture's emphasis on death,
especially in the abortion debate, said Father Pavone.
Priests use their pulpits to "more clearly and vigorously enunciate" the
Church's teachings on the sacredness of all life.
The structure of the U.S. Church gives it a built-in advantage over
organizations that support legal abortion.
"We have over 19,000 parishes from coast to coast," he explained. "People
come to them every day. And a priest gets up in the pulpit and words come forth
from his mouth to those ears."
"We have over 9,000 schools of every level of education," he continued. "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."
In her presentation and in an interview with The Record, newspaper
of the Louisville Archdiocese, Mrs. Hitchcock said she frequently finds herself
and her organization shut out by those who do not want to hear from articulate,
well-spoken Catholic women who support the Church's teachings.
"The only women they are interested in really are women who are rejecting the
Church and this is another way of undermining the Catholic faith," Mrs.
Hitchcock told The Record.
"The existence of Women for Faith and Family would not be necessary if it
weren't for the fact that there's so much anti-Catholicism in the name of women
that's going on right now," she continued. She said her group has more than
She told the symposium audience that defense of the Church is occurring on a
worldwide battlefield in response to activities of groups such as the United
Nations, which Mrs. Hitchcock describes as openly hostile to the Church for
opposing abortions and Catholics for a Free Choice, which supports legal
Catholics for a Free Choice has been denounced by the U.S. Catholic bishops
for using "Catholic" as part of its name while at the same time rejecting Church
The group was granted credentials as a non governmental organization to the
upcoming U.N. Conference on Women in Beijing, while Women for Faith and Family
was denied permission to participate, according to Mrs. Hitchcock.
"They do not stand for women's rights," she said. "They stand for women's
Catholic women have a responsibility to speak out in defense of their Church,
If a bishop defends Church teaching, especially in the areas of sexuality,
his opponents ridicule him for his vow of celibacy and say he is unqualified to
speak, Mrs. Hitchcock said.
A man who promotes the Church's teaching about women or who "supports normal
English language" in liturgical texts instead of inclusive language is called
"chauvinist pig," she said.
"That's why there are some jobs that we have to do," said Mrs. Hitchcock.
"Catholic women nowadays are much better educated and more articulate than they
were in earlier generations. And because of those increased gifts that we have,
we have a stronger obligation to speak out."
Priests for Life in the News