Gospel of Life -- Study Guide
Paragraph Twenty-seven and twenty-eight
One of the many virtues we need in building the culture of life is,
in the words of this section, "the humility to listen well to both friend and
opponent on the abortion issue." It may seem that we have nothing to learn
from our opponents in this matter; after all, what kind of "dialog" is needed on
whether you can kill a child? It is true that there can be no compromise or
middle ground on the matter of abortion. But the following reflection of Fr.
Frank Pavone can shed some light on what the bishops mean in this section:
Bill Baird of New York is known by many as the "Father
of the Pro-choice movement." His name is on three Supreme Court decisions which
advanced the "right" to birth control and abortion, and he continues to crusade
for his cause today. Part of his crusade involves picketing the National Right
to Life Convention each year. Yet he doesn't only picket it, he attends it.
Wearing his registration badge, he attends the various workshops, visits the
exhibit booths, and interacts with the Conference participants in the hallways.
Through his presence at these conventions I have come to know Bill over the
years, and at my invitation he has visited my New York office and joined me for
At the Convention one year, I asked him to attend the Mass
that I was celebrating for the Conference participants. He graciously accepted
the invitation. In my homily, I stressed that the message of respect for life
applies even to those who promote abortion. A person's error or sin does not
remove his or her dignity, nor take away his or her right to be treated
At the conclusion of the Mass I said the following words,
after which the congregation erupted in applause:
"I hope I don't embarrass him or anyone else, but I
would like you all to know that Bill Baird has been standing at the back of the
room all during this Mass, respectfully observing all we have been doing. Bill,
I want to thank you for accepting my invitation to come to this Mass, and I want
you to know that we respect your life as much as we respect the life of any
Bill remained until every person left that room, and he
commented on the remarkable overflow of love that came from the people. He also
told me it was the first Catholic Mass he had ever attended.
Many remarked favorably about the Mass. Shortly thereafter,
however, I received a letter which read in part,
"I write this letter with a sense of dismay…Bill Baird
is an individual who has completely given himself over to Satan, it seems to me.
We cannot 'dialog' with evil as monstrous and craven as the butchery of unborn
human beings in their mother's wombs…"
I responded to the letter by pointing out that I do not
"dialog with evil." I dialog with persons. Neither Bill Baird, nor anyone
else who promotes abortion, ceases to be a human person with dignity. Many of
the actions they defend are evil; many of the ideas they espouse are
erroneous. But they are not the enemy.
The Pope, the Church, and the Lord Himself have always pursued
the path of dialog. This dialog can and does break down misconceptions that
those on the other side have about us and about the pro-life movement. And by
listening to them, it conveys a message beyond words: I respect your life so
much that I can take the time to listen to you, despite our disagreement.
Indeed, the most challenging word of the phrase "the dignity of every human
life" is the word "every."
Explain the basis and nature of dialogue, and how love for those who
oppose us is not the same as false tolerance or indifference.
What kind of virtues do we need to build a culture of life?
Click here to listen
to a talk by Fr. Frank Pavone (Real Audio format) called "Should we Talk to
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