—Father Frank A. Pavone is confident
the pro-life movement will eventually prevail in the tumultuous struggle over
abortion. Why? Because pro-lifers have the truth on their side, he said.
Father Pavone, national director of the New York-based Priests for Life, will
speak at St. Paul's Church, 16 Park Ave., Whitesboro, Wednesday, May 10 at 7
p.m. He was invited to speak by the Oneida County Right to Life Committee.
Priests for Life encourages priests, deacons and others to speak out on the
pro-life cause. The group was established in San Francisco by Father Lee Kaylor
and was recognized by the Catholic Church in 1991. Father Pavone became its
national director in September 1993. He has been featured in newspapers, on
radio shows and on the Eternal Word Television Network's Mother Angelica Live.
A native of Port Chester, he was ordained in November 1988.
Father Pavone said one message he gives during speaking engagements is that
priests have a unique role to play in the pro-life movement, both in educating
people and helping them to do something about abortion.
He also speaks of the "marvelous opportunity right now to turn this abortion
tragedy around. "
"I tell pro-lifers that without a doubt we will prevail, not necessarily
because we have more money or more influence in the media or more positions in
government, but precisely because we have the truth," he said. "We have the
truth in every aspect of this particular issue—morally, scientifically,
philosophically, psychologically - whatever angle you examine abortion from, the
pro-life position prevails."
An important message, he said, is "that to be pro-life means to be
"We are not people who stand against women," he said. "We are standing for
them and with them. Because women's rights and dignity are not served by giving
them the option of killing their child. The fact is, most of the women going to
get abortions are not doing so because of freedom of choice. They're doing so
because they feel they have no choice. It is the pro-life movement that stands
with them to give them real choices. "
The SUN recently spoke with Father Pavone about his work.
Q: How did you become involved in Priests For Life?
A: I've been involved in pro-life work since I was in high school. As the
years went on, the more I learned about the abortion tragedy the more the alarms
started to go off in my mind - that number one, this was a tragedy of immense
proportions that demanded a full response, and number two, that while this was
happening, so many people were unaware of what was happening or were choosing to
Once I became a priest I began preaching more about it. The more I preached
about it the more people were grateful to hear the truth and began to want to do
something about it. So I found myself involved more and more in pro-life
I reached the point finally where I was convinced I wanted to do this kind of
work full-time. Priests for Life had already been established on the West Coast,
so I joined.
Q: What initially drove you to take up the pro-life cause?
A: It was a growing awareness of what this tragedy is. I often think, what
would people's reaction be if suddenly the killing of 7-year-old children were
legalized and authorized by the state? People would just rise up in revolt and
they would say this is wrong. Yet somehow, when it happens seven years earlier
while these children are in the womb, everything changes. Suddenly it's a right
or a freedom or a choice. It was this blindness that so many people seem to have
that really was alarming me.
When I was a senior in high school I went on the annual March For Life in
Washington (D.C.). That event (in 1976) really impressed me. I saw all these
people from all around the country marching and praying. I just saw people who
were very committed to this cause and I began to think more about the importance
Q: How do you feel about the rise in violence surrounding the abortion
A: To me it's a fruit of the "choice" mentality. For decades, the pro-choice
people have been saying that it's OK to choose to end a life to solve a problem.
And now some people—thankfully very few—have come along and said, "Well, it's OK
to end a life to solve a problem." It's a different problem they're talking
about and it's a different person's life they're ending, but the mentality is
the same. These unfortunate incidents really show that certain choices are wrong
and certain choices should not be allowed. I've asked the pro-abortion people
—who obviously lament the killings that have occurred just as we do—why they
lament these killings, because they were illegal or because they destroyed a
life? If it's because they destroyed a life, then we've been saying the same
thing all along— life is sacred.
Q: How is the pro-life movement responding to these incidents and the
associated negative publicity?
A: One of the things that we point out is, the solution to violence can never
be violence. To inflict evil is not a way to solve any problem.
The second thing we point out is there is a very severe media distortion. For
example, some reporters have called me from the secular media and asked, "Well
Father, how will this affect your work?" It would not affect the movement so
badly if these people were to call me during the course of the year about the
good things the pro-life movement is doing. We get all the calls from the media
when something terrible happens but the day-to-day work of saving babies and
helping these women —they ignore it.
The real face of the pro-life movement is that it's a movement that has been
extremely peaceful. What's interesting to me is that these incidents of
shootings have taken place only since the Clinton administration has been in
office. It's interesting because this administration has increasingly curtailed
the peaceful and legal activities which pro-life people have used for 22 years.
And if you keep curtailing peaceful activity then some people unfortunately feel
driven to violent activity.
The government has to look at its responsibility. If they want to stop
violence, they need to give people enough breathing space to exercise their
opposition to abortion.
Q: In light of recent legislation moving through Congress, how should
people get mobilized on the right-to-life issue?
A: First of all, I think they need to look at it as a local phenomenon. It's
very important, of course, that people try to influence Congress and so forth,
but I think it's helpful if people look at abortion as a problem of the local
community. The abortions aren't taking place in the halls of Congress; they're
taking place down the street.
Let's take the parish as a unit. Do the people in the parish first of all
know the basic facts about abortion? One of the things people need to do is come
together and actually see some of the videos that show what an abortion is.
Secondly, do they know the local assistance centers that are available for
women in crisis? If there isn't one in the community, could they start one? And
if there is one, could they refer people to it? A very good parish project would
be to spread information to every home as far as where women can turn to find
There are so many good materials out describing abortion and why it's wrong.
People really need to make a concerted effort to get the truth out, to educate
These are things people can do before the laws change. There's more than one
way to stop abortion. Making it illegal is one of the goals, but we can do a lot
before that happens.
Q: Sometimes you hear people complaining about their priest or bishop's lack
of involvement in the pro-life issue. Do you feel you get support from other
A: Very much so. I'm meeting with priests constantly and their response
is always quite positive when I approach them in a positive way. What I say to
people who complain in the manner you describe is, don't approach your priest by
way of saying, "Father, you're not doing your job." Rather, approach him this
way: "Father, we value your leadership. We need your leadership and we want to
share with you what motivates us in our own involvement."
Sometimes it's just a matter of the priest not having the information at hand
that can help him to be more involved. We provide, for example, homily
materials. A lot of priests are very willing to speak about this if they're
given some specific materials that show them how to link up the abortion issue
with the Scriptures. Then they take it and run with it.
Q: Pope John Paul II, in his latest encyclical, Evangelium Vitae, calls
for greater adherence to the Church's pro-life beliefs. What will this mean to
Catholics—will it change their behavior?
A: I think the encyclical will have a major impact because it is not only a
very strong statement, it's a very positive statement. I see the encyclical as a
celebration; it's a hymn to life and to the victory of life.
Notice how the pope titled it— The Gospel of Life. One of the first points he
makes in the document is that when we speak of the gospel of life we're simply
speaking of the Gospel. It's not a different gospel—it flows from the very heart
of everything we've been taught since we've been children. When we talk about
Jesus coming to save us, he comes precisely to give us life.
I think by the pope pointing out that the church's pro-life stance is right
at the heart of the Gospel, hopefully it will help Catholics to see that this
"pro-life" issue is not something extraneous, it's not something optional, it's
not somebody else's agenda being thrust onto them. It's not simply a political
issue, it's a gospel issue, and we can be at home with being pro-life. If people
are at home with being pro-life then they're going to be able to integrate it
into their day-to day habits.
Q: How do you feel about Catholics who say they are pro-choice?
A: The very phrase, "pro-choice," is a meaningless phrase—if they would face
what the choice is, it would be a little easier to see the contradiction.
Pro-choice sounds very good because free will is a gift from God. It
distinguishes us from rocks and plants and so on—we have free choice.
The question, of course, is whether a particular choice is good or bad. Well,
it depends on what you're choosing. When people say pro-choice they're
conveniently avoiding what the choice is. They don't like to say pro-abortion
because that begins to pinpoint what you're choosing and people know that
abortion is a bad thing.
What I say to the person who says they're pro-choice is, first of all, let's
be honest. What is the choice? The choice here is the killing of a child. Can a
Catholic be in favor of that? Clearly the answer is no. Not only can a Catholic
not be in favor of that, no decent human being can stand up and say, "I am for
the choice of killing another person."
Priests for Life in the News