Priests urged to be assertive

 

Steve Neill

  The Catholic Virginian-Richmond, VA
  7/19/2004
 

Father Frank Pavone, director of Priests for Life, hopes that more priests in the United States will become more assertive in proclaiming the pro-life message of the Church, but understands that some are concerned about the reaction from their parishioners.

"They’re not sure they can handle the criticism and the opposition that might come," Father Pavone told The Catholic Virginian during the national Right to Life Convention held July 1-3 in Arlington.

"But the reaction is usually ‘thank you’ if we preach it the right way," he said, adding that this reaction even comes from those who disagree if the message is given with respect.

Father Pavone, a priest of the Archdiocese of New York, explained that it is important that those who preach against abortion can condemn injustice "without condemning those who did it."

"We’re here to help," Father Pavone said in a meeting with The Catholic Virginian before the convention’s opening address. "I tell the priests that we’re not pointing our finger in condemnation, but reaching our hand out in help."

The time is now critical, the priest said, for the Church to get its message out "to speak up for unborn children and restore their protection under the law."

While he believes in the consistent ethic of life, Father Pavone has problems with what some call the Catholic Score Card in which candidates for political office are questioned on different issues and their scores are added up with those having the highest score presumably being the candidates who reflect the Catholic Church position on the issues.

"The problem is you’re giving every issue equal weight," Father Pavone said.

He sees abortion as the foundation of the Church’s pro-life message. He likened all life issues to being the parts of a house.

"If you attack the foundation, the whole house collapses," he said.

"Our emphasis on abortion is not because we’re not concerned about the other issues, but because we are," he said.

Father Pavone feels that once people really understand what abortion is and why it is wrong, more will get active in pro-life organizations.

The issue is all the more important this year, he said, because it is an election year.

"When you look at who you’re going to vote for, ask does the candidate acknowledge that every human being has a right to life," he said.

Later in a workshop on "Increasing Effectiveness in Pro-Life Religious Denominations," Father Pavone said most church-goers he knows agree that abortion is wrong.

"But here’s the crux of the problem," he said. "They think that if someone else has an abortion, it’s none of their business.

"The line they find it very difficult to cross is the idea that ‘I’m going to stop someone from having an abortion.’"

Father Pavone asserted that the same people would do what they could to save someone’s life if anyone was losing their life.

Sharing the workshop with Father Pavone was Dennis DiMauro, a father of three young daughters who is president of Northern Virginia Lutherans for Life and president of the Potomac Chapter of the Virginia Society for Human Life.

He admitted that he found some Christians who say they are pro-life still want to avoid getting involved. He urged those who carry the pro-life banner "to get the message out." He suggested that organizing a pro-life youth group could inspire parents.

"Get involved with youth, start a pro-life youth conference," Mr. DiMauro said. "Through the child, you reach the parents as well."

Father Pavone recommended that Catholic pro-lifers in a parish might work with people in other parishes and use the resources already in place. "There’s sometimes too much parochialism and it’s not effective," he said.

And working with other pro-life denominations should increase effectiveness, he asserted.

"In being efficient you get the job done right," he said. "Being effective, you get the right job done.  "It is also important not to overlook pro-life people who are already active in the movement.

"When people say you’re preaching to the choir, I always say the choir needs choir practice," Father Pavone said.