Father Frank Pavone calls for defending the unborn
By Todd M. Aglialoro
SAN DIEGO - "If human life is disposable at one stage, it is disposable at
any stage," says Father Frank Pavone. "Abortion is not a problem,
Getting Catholics to realize the gravity and immediacy of the crime of
abortion, and to act accordingly, was the central topic when Father Pavone, a
priest of the Archdiocese of New York and national director of Priests for Life,
spoke to approximately 120 gathered at Mission San Diego de Alcala's St. Francis
Center Jan. 3.
As director of Priests for Life -- an association of Catholic priests giving
special emphasis to promoting and defending the sanctity of human life -- Father
Pavone travels the country and the world motivating clergy and laity alike to
heighten their awareness of and active opposition to abortion.
The young priest's talk followed on the heels of a presentation made to
diocesan priests and deacons the night before, where he reminded them of Pope
John Paul II's words, "Because God has joined all people to himself by the
Incarnation, an attack against human life is an attack against God," in an
effort to stir them to greater enthusiasm for defending life as part of their
special priestly ministry.
Father Pavone's Jan. 3 remarks began with a short but stirring glimpse at the
ideological battle over abortion. The slight, wiry priest - unmistakably a New
Yorker with his accent and gestures - dispelled the notion that those in the
pro-abortion ranks deny the humanity of the unborn. In light of the evidence, he
said, that is impossible. The pro-abortionist's mentality, then, is even more
sinister, one that says "of course it's a human being; we have the right to
destroy him or her anyway."
Father Pavone touched on the paradox of groups like the Religious Coalition
for Reproductive Rights: self-styled religious individuals of the sort who wear
"I'm Pro-Choice and I Pray" buttons. "Nothing is more contradictory than
abortion and the gospel of Jesus Christ. If our destiny is the heights of
heaven, then how can we put people in garbage cans?"
Shifting to the thrust of his mission, Father Pavone outlined ways for lay
people to encourage their priests to get more involved in pro-life activity. The
first and hardest way, he insisted, is by example.
By developing a solid foundation of lay leaders and workers, priests will be
more encouraged to devote their time (always in short supply, he reminded;
especially for pastors) to things like prolife homilies, organizing pro-life
prayer hours, distributing educational materials and the like.
Also important, said Father Pavone, is communication. "If you want to
influence a priest, develop a strong relationship with him. Invite him to
dinner," he said. "When a priest asks you what you want to do, have answers
ready." said Father Pavone. "Do your homework, give him several options."
Father Pavone gave several other tips for communicating with priests about
fighting abortion, but then admitted that the main question for the average
Catholic to ask is "What am I doing about it myself?"
Besides constant prayer, Father Pavone stressed the most crucial point: "If
we're going to talk about abortion, we need to read, study, stay 'in the know.'"
He recommended reading some of the regular pro-life publications, as well as
encouraging "networking with other pro-lifers."
During the question-and-answer session, Father Pavone addressed the
phenomenon of "over-spiritualization" of the abortion debate. His response to
those who say Catholics can be "prochoice" because the Church has never defined
when the soul enters the body?
"So what? We're talking about little babies being torn apart. We're talking
about abortion, not theology."
The Church's teaching on abortion, he continued, is not based on when the
soul enters the body, but "on God's dominion over creation- the baby is a human
being and God has dominion over human life."
Another question dealt with the consistent ethic of life, or so-called
"seamless garment" theory, which, said Father Pavone is basically sound in
holding that all issues dealing with life -- abortion, capital punishment,
poverty -- deserve attention, but can be misused to "diminish the importance of
abortion as 'one issue out of many.'"
Abortion is not one issue of many, said Father Pavone, but "the fundamental
issue, the greatest tragedy. These babies are being killed not because of what
they've done, but precisely because they exist." Thus, he said, accusations
leveled at prolifers that they "don't do enough about other issues." are
fallacious. "Did you ever hear people complain about AA because they're only
concerned with alcoholics? Do you go to the Society for the Blind and ask, 'What
are you doing for the deaf?"
In closing his remarks, Father Pavone urged the audience not to lose heart,
for though the evil of abortion may loom stronger than ever, it can be defeated.
"And it will be, because in the end the victory belongs to life."
Priests for Life in the News