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A Central Document

 

Fr. Frank Pavone
National Director of Priests for Life

March 27, 2000

   
 

In February, the Holy Father met with the people who work most closely with him on the theme of the defense of human life, and he reflected with them on what he called "a document that I consider central to the whole of the Magisterium of my pontificate." He was commemorating the 5th anniversary of Evangelium Vitae (The Gospel of Life), which was issued on March 25, 1995. It has been called "the Magna Charta of the pro-life movement."


Some of the key points which the Holy Father made in his address are guiding points for our pro-life work.


First of all, he calls us to hope. "…There is no reason for the existence of a resigned mentality that leads to maintaining that laws that are contrary to the right to life -- laws that legalize abortion, euthanasia, sterilization, and the planning of births with methods contrary to life and the dignity of matrimony, present an inevitability and are, in addition, virtually a social necessity. On the contrary, they constitute a germ of corruption of society and its fundamentals. Civil and moral conscience cannot accept this false inevitability, just as it does not accept the idea of the inevitability of wars and of inter-ethnic exterminations."


Pro-life work must be done with the strong conviction that we can indeed turn the current situation around.


Secondly, he points out the need for "a renewed and harmonious commitment to the modification of unjust laws that legitimize and tolerate such violence." This is an especially important consideration in an election year, especially in a country whose Declaration of Independence states that among the very purposes of government is to secure the right to life. We cannot continue to elect those who betray that foundational principle.


In the same context, with words recalling the encyclical itself, the Holy Father urges, "Do not leave anything undone in the attempt to eliminate legalized crime or at least to limit the damage of such laws." The call to "at least" limit the damage refers to situations in which we can accomplish intermediate goals which, while not eliminating all abortion, may reduce the numbers. We need to do what is possible now while not failing to articulate the final goal we must reach in God's time.


A third point of the Holy Father's recent address is particularly relevant to priests and other ministers: "A genuine pastoral plan for life cannot be simply delegated to specific movements, however meritorious, that operate in the sociopolitical field. It must always be an integral part of the ecclesial pastoral plan, which has the responsibility to carry forward the proclamation of the 'Gospel of life.' "


In other words, fighting an evil like abortion is not an optional activity, nor an isolated project, to be left to those "who feel it is their call." It is everyone's call. The defense of the right to life is central to concerns for social justice, peace, and evangelization. The Gospel of Christ, after all, is the Gospel of Life.

   
 
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