ST. FRANCIS — Abortion is a human and civil rights issue, according to the niece of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Alveda King, an outspoken pro-life advocate, was in Milwaukee March 10 and 11 to discuss the social impact of abortion, particularly on the African-American community. She was joined by Fr. Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life. The two have worked together on pro-life issues for several years.
"It’s amazing how the African-American community can know what’s right" and not speak out, King said. "Abortion is socially and spiritually irresponsible. A baby has the same civil rights we all do. African-Americans should be more sensitive to the plight of a person."
Nationally, African-American women make up 13 percent of the population, but have 33 to 40 percent of the abortions.
"For our part, we constantly point out ... that the rate of abortion (in the African-American community) is out of proportion," Fr. Pavone said. "It should be cause for concern. We want to ask, ‘aren’t you paying attention? An act of violence is killing your own people.’"
While the two emphasize the evils of abortion in their talks, they don’t limit themselves to it. Fr. Pavone said he "had a lot to say" about politicians who advocate for human rights and "couldn’t care less about abortion."
"If you take away the right to life, you can’t do anything else," he said. "We put the emphasis on abortion because we care about other issues. We must get the foundation secure."
The Diocese of La Crosse asked Fr. Pavone for a statement on then-Bishop Raymond L. Burke’s pastoral letter, sent last November, and notification to Catholics in elected office telling them they could not receive Communion in the church if they "continue to support procured abortion or euthanasia."
The documents were released in the Jan. 8 edition of The Catholic Times, the La Crosse diocesan newspaper.
"The bishop is not saying that these politicians are not welcome in the church," Fr. Pavone said. "The issue is consistency. If they want to be in union with the church, then accept what it teaches. Some of the politicians, in response, said there should be separation of church and state. In this case, they should stop complaining when the church does its job. It’s not just the Catholic Church that tells us to reject abortion, but human decency. I would be afraid if people concluded that opposition to abortion is solely a Catholic teaching. It’s an act of violence."
"This is not the time for the church to lose hope and heart," said King. "It’s not about Republicans and Democrats, but about the rights of all people, including the unborn."
King addressed those who find her strong denunciation of abortion to be hypocritical.
"I’m a woman, I’m divorced," she said. "I think of the woman at the well when I think of myself. At the end, when Jesus gave her living water, he said ‘go tell your husband and others the truth you have received.’ (I’m) divorced, (I) had an abortion. (She went on to have six children.) But I’ve repented, and I believe God has forgiven me. If we never sinned, Christ would not have had to shed blood. I admit the things I have done are sinful. Can you do the same thing?"
Fr. Pavone said "credibility is always restored through repentance. (With regard to the clergy sex abuse scandal), priests have done wrong things, bishops have mismanaged things, but the church is always in the process of constant repentance. We begin every Mass by repenting our sins.
"In the longer view of history, the scandal caused by not appropriately responding (to sexual abuse of children) will be dwarfed by the scandal of the dismemberment of 4,000 children a day (through abortion). There’s a failure there. The question is there, if society is concerned about the church’s response to protecting minors from sexual abuse, the hypocrisy and credibility of those who criticize is severely undermined when they don’t raise their voice about children killed by abortions."
King also spoke on the stem cell issue.
"There’s a universal rule of unexpected outcomes," she said. "Things are begun with good intent, but the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Stem cell research, abortions, cloning, gay marriage — the outcome of any of those is disastrous. Anytime you go against the divine will of God — trying to play God won’t work.
"How can you have abundant life if you aren’t pro-life?"