Calling abortion "the single most urgent moral crisis of our nation," Father Frank A. Pavone, the New York archdiocesan priest who is national director of Priests for Life, urged House of Representatives Speaker Newt Gingrich to give priority to the abortion issue this election year.
"What is more central to political issues than the question of who belongs to the political community?" Father Pavone asked in a private Capitol Hill meeting with the Georgia Republican March 5.
Gingrich listened carefully and pledged to keep working on abortion issues, Father Pavone told CNY.
The meeting followed Father Pavone's morning, address to the House pro-life caucus in which he urged the congressmen to hold public hearings to "break the silence and secrecy with which the abortion industry has shrouded the abortion procedure."
"We have not even begun to have a national debate about abortion," he said in his 45-minute address "Though abortion is the most commonly performed surgery in America, most people have never seen it or even heard it described."
Through public hearings, Congress has the opportunity to compile "a book of evidence on what abortion does to babies and women" comparable to l8th-century writings exposing the horrors of the slave trade which led to its abolition in England, he said.
He told caucus members that Priests for Life, whose mailings reach more than 40,000 priests and deacons nationwide, aids clergymen in their pro-life efforts as they guide their people in appropriate political action. Even within the limits of a tax-exempt organization, which prohibit advocacy of particular candidates, a wide range of activities is open to the Church in shaping public policy, he added. A primary goal of his organization is to encourage the implementation of the U.S. bishops' documents on political responsibility and pro-life activities, since too often priests are unclear on how far they can take political action, he said.
"We have heard enough of what churches cannot do in the political arena," he said. "It is time to talk about what they can do and to help them do it."
Father Pavone was invited to speak by Rep. Michael P. Forbes, a Republican from Long Island, who accompanied him to the meeting with Gingrich. The pro-life caucus chairman is Republican Rep. Christopher H. Smith of New Jersey.
Forbes told CNY that Father Pavone is a motivated and passionate speaker with a unique gift in articulating the pro-life message. Although he was "preaching to the converted" members of the pro-life caucus, his message will help keep them grounded in the truth, he added.
"We in the pro-life movement should adopt Father Pavone's strategy of demanding that the pro-abortion forces look, listen and see the realities of what abortion really is," Forbes said. "The time has come to buttress our arguments with cold, hard facts."