Father Frank Pavone likes to challenge the way people think.
The mainstream media will not tell you that abortion exploits women; Father Pavone will.
Those in favor of legal abortion call themselves "pro-choice"; Father Pavone points out that they seldom offer any choice but abortion.
Many women who are pro-abortion call themselves feminists; Father Pavone says that authentic feminism is pro-life.
Many so-called feminists claim that without legal abortion, women cannot compete in a male-dominated society; Father Pavone tells them that women's dignity is inherent, not something given through a surgical procedure.
These are just some of the responses to pro-abortion arguments Father Pavone articulated at the Respect Life Retreat held Feb. 2-4 at the John Paul II Center for the New Evangelization.
As national director of Priests for Life, Father Pavone has heard all of the arguments and doesn't hesitate to point out, "There's no way to justify baby killing."
Sponsored by the archdiocesan Respect Life Office, the retreat attracted 40 participants. According to Mimi Eckstein, director of the Respect Life Office, they liked the retreat so much, they suggested inviting Father Pavone back next year. "He tied a lot into Scripture, giving them a scriptural foundation for what they're doing," Eckstein explained.
In one of his eight presentations, Father Pavone stressed the point that being pro-life is being pro-woman. "We are the authentic defenders of women's rights," he told his audience, encouraging them to make this clear to the public.
He reminded them that authentic feminism rightly objects to treating women as property. Therefore, he asked, why would feminists treat their children as property? Furthermore, he asserted, authentic feminism argues that the value of women's lives should not be determined by men. Why, then, should the value of a child's life be determined by his or her parents?
Father Pavone also emphasized that "the pro-life movement is essentially a movement of love." He said, "If we love anyone for the sake of God, we must love everyone. If we say we love the babies, we also love the mothers equally. Prochoicers ... think you can separate mother and baby. We say you can't separate them. You can't love one without loving the other, and you can't hurt one without hurting the other."
Father Pavone knows many women who have been hurt by abortion. He said that he has counseled women who still suffer from abortions they had 50 years before. "We are learning by practical experience more than ever before that women do not find fulfillment through abortion."
Using the Blessed Virgin Mary's trip to see her pregnant cousin Elizabeth as an example, Father Pavone challenged his listeners to reach out to pregnant women. "Mary teaches us that being close to God means paying attention to others.... The purpose of our religion is to make us more attentive to the needs of those around us."
Ordained in the Archdiocese of New York in 1988, Father Pavone said that he became involved in the pro-life movement in high school when he joined a group of students going to Washington, D.C. to attend the March for Life. His sense of urgency about the matter then grew gradually until three years ago, when he asked Cardinal John O'Connor if he could be dispensed from his other priestly duties to work full time on the abortion issue. When Cardinal O'Connor granted his permission, Father Pavone founded Priests for Life, an organization that now includes more than 2,000 members.