SYRACUSE, N.Y. - Fr. Frank A. Pavone, national director of Priests for Life, addressed members of Friends for Life at their annual spring luncheon on April 27th; his topic was "Whose Life Is It, Anyway?" It was an electrifying talk, and demonstrated the reason why Fr. Pavone is in such great demand as a speaker for the cause of life.
Mother Teresa chose him to address the clergy of India on life issues; that is but one of many tributes to his compelling gifts, skills, and insights in this field.
Fr. Pavone began by declaring flatly that the fight to save innocent life is "the greatest movement in the history of the world" because "our cause is rooted in the human heart." Our struggle - by necessity - leads us to cooperate across denominational lines. This, he said, is much like our cooperation with paramedics to save an accident victim, where we never even think to inquire about the religion of our rescuers. Saving life is paramount; all else seems trivial.
Moses is a favorite hero to the speaker; he found many similarities between the great prophet and we who today work to save the unborn. Moses felt completely unqualified to challenge the mighty pharaoh, he didn't have "the expertise" to do the job, he complained to God in the burning bush - "a soft, gentle, life-giving flame, like our life-saving cause." The lesson here, said Father, is that "God chooses those who don't know what they're doing. " Like Moses, "this cause has embraced us and won't let us go. "
By joining the battle for innocent life, he said, we have made a lifelong commitment. A "big iron door shuts behind us when we join the cause, and we can't go back on the brothers and sisters who are counting on us to save them" from the abortionists and the likes of Jack Kevorkian. We must not waver, he said, for God is telling us --as He did to Moses -- "I'll be with you."
Fr. Pavone pointed out that President Clinton's shameless veto of the ban on partial-birth abortions can turn into a psychological advantage for the pro-life movement. It graphically brought the horror and ugliness of abortion into public view, thus defeating the past strategy of concealment and silence on the part of the baby-killers. He even suggested that the TV industry go a step further and do abortions "live" as they do all other types of surgery. After all, he said, abortion "is the most widely performed surgery in America," and why shouldn't viewers see exactly what goes on in abortion mills? In them, he continued, "even the abortionists are ashamed of what they're doing and want to keep it hidden."
He further noted that Clinton's veto is based "on falsehood, not on truth." because "there is absolutely no circumstance in which partial-birth abortion is necessary to save the mother's life or health, and this is from the medical experts, not just a religious opinion." Even the late Dr. James McMahon, infamous for doing the skull crushing infanticide (Partial-birth abortions), admitted that he "had moral compunctions" with the procedure, and had been heard to say "frankly, to me, it is a child."
Dr. McMahon justified his gruesome baby-killing by insisting the child "belongs to the mother," inferring that she has the right to destroy him if she so chooses. Pavone then posed the hard questions. "When does the mother's ownership cease? Did Susan Smith own her kids? If she did, then why was it so wrong for her to drown them? Perhaps we belong to the state, and it can decide who lives or dies. If the state owns us, then Roe v. Wade is OK. "
Or, he said, perhaps we belong to ourselves, and can therefore claim complete personal autonomy. This position opens the door to euthanasia. "It's my life; I can end it as I choose."
The real answer is none of the above. These suppositions miss the target by a mile, he thundered, "Life is not something you own; it's not a disposable thing like a throwaway pen; life is you!" As humans we are a composite of body and soul this is what we are, not what we own. If we don't belong to our mother, or the state, or ourselves - then to whom do we belong? To God, and to no one else. Both the Old and the New Testaments proclaim this resounding truth. Even Derek Humphry, the ardent suicide advocate, writes in his book Final Exit: "If you consider God as your Master, then read no further" (p. 21) Fr. Pavone commended him for being honest on this point.
The dynamic priest praised the diversity of the human race; "there is beauty in our differences," he said. But society cannot function without a uniform set of rules; these rules bind it together and without them there would be utter chaos. Individuals may believe or think criminal thoughts (it's OK to steal or commit murder), but may not act out these thoughts, or anarchy will result; society falls apart. Believing in abortion or euthanasia is one thing, but doing them is supremely evil. The sanctity of life is the most fundamental principle of all; without it no society can long endure, he said.
His insights were almost breathtaking in their depth and breadth. For instance, he said that the choice of whether or not to have a child is "a valid choice," a "personal choice" which spouses have some discretion to make. But the choice to kill a child "is nobody's choice." Similarly, the decision to treat or not treat a patient can also be valid; "there is no religious rule that we must use all available treatments" to keep someone alive. But, to intentionally kill a patient "is a choice we can never make" because the patient's life is merely entrusted to us; it is sacred; it "belongs to God."
"There is no such thing as a worthless life," he proclaimed. Even gravely ill patients are still persons, not things or vegetables. As Christians, we must offer our love, support, and care; we can ease their pain; we must always respect their dignity as persons who belong to the Creator. "We preach Christ crucified, " he noted. "He saved us by suffering on the cross. . . . Our suffering joins us to Him. It improves us and binds us together as brothers and sisters in Him. " Suffering can have great benefits -- a view in stark contrast to the world's conventional wisdom.
Fr. Pavone's final thoughts were upbeat. He sees the abortion mentality/movement "collapsing under its own weight" because it is a "dead end" leading to even more death by euthanasia, the ultimate "dead end." Our job, he said, is "to help it collapse sooner rather than later." In all our pro-life efforts, we must include "forgiveness, healing, and reconciliation." And "we must have confidence life will win! Life must win -or death wins." An unthinkable possibility!
He concluded his rousing address by bringing his audience back to the "unqualified" Moses who faced the toughest choice of his escape from Egypt as he stood trapped at the edge of the Red Sea. What to do? Surrender to Pharaoh's pursuing army or drown in the watery depths? God settled the issue, He ordered "the impossible" -- split the sea and go forward! We in the right-to-life movement seem to be in the same predicament as Moses. We can "give up" to the seemingly invincible forces of anti-life; or we can "speak up" and attempt the impossible task of rescuing our threatened unborn, ill, and elderly from the sea of death which eagerly waits to snatch away their most precious gift of life.
For Fr. Pavone, there can be only one choice. It is God's choice. As He guided Moses, so He guides us. The priest proclaimed for all to hear: "God says to us - 'Tell the pro-life movement to go forward'. "
This truly charismatic speaker sat down to a standing ovation.