Fr. Frank Pavone
Priests for Life
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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