Father Frank Pavone’s Award Acceptance Speech

Eighth Annual Proudly Pro-Life Awards Dinner; The National Right to Life Committee; The Waldorf-Astoria, New York City

 

Fr. Frank Pavone

 
  4/25/2001
 

Eighth Annual Proudly Pro-Life Awards Dinner
 
The National Right to Life Committee
 
The Waldorf-Astoria, New York City

It  was so moving and fitting to see the tribute to Cardinal O’Connor. He ordained me to the priesthood at a time when -- and when isn’t there a time these days -- that we need priests so much in our parishes and in our institutions of each and every diocese. When I came to him with the burning desire to do Pro-Life work on a full-time basis and with the very beginnings of an organization known as Priests for Life that some had started already in California, he generously said, "Yes, go be the director of this group on a full-time basis. It was only with his encouragement and guidance that this organization has today become one of the most influential factors in fully equipping, fully energizing the Church, not only in the US but around the world. To Cardinal O’Connor therefore first of all, I again express my gratitude tonight.

Judge Clark mentioned my parents and Marion and Joe are here with us tonight. He also mentioned Anthony and Janet and Jerry. These are three of the thirty or so full-time staff people that serve the Priests for Life association. I have relied on them day after day, tortured them a little bit day after day, keep them busy from morning till night and sometimes literally the middle of the night, and I want to thank them for their constant loyalty. There are a number of other full-time staff people here, I think that they are scattered throughout the center of the room, but could you please stand up? One of them is also celebrating a birthday today, our receptionist, Brenda Marie. Happy Birthday!

You saw those powerful ads. And there is someone here tonight who really provided much of the genius behind these ads, and is actually the Dad of our Executive Director. Mr. Sal DeStefano, thank you not only for the ideas, but your constant encouragement and that of your whole family to our work.

The National Right to Life Committee, obviously as you all well know, does incredible work throughout the country . Let me, in continuing to thank so many people who are behind the work that I have done, mention the fact that my own initiation into the Pro-Life movement and my gradual and deepening understanding and appreciation for what abortion is, is in large part due to the fact that when I was a teenager growing up in Westchester County, the Westchester County Right to Life Committee was very active and very influential on me and I want to thank them. I know that some of them are here tonight. When I became a priest, the Cardinal assigned me to St. Charles in Stanton Island, I was greatly encouraged and supported in my local Pro-Life work there by the Staten Island Right to Life Committee, again a chapter of the National Right to Life Committee.

Brothers and sisters, let me ask you a question. Why did we have such a long election this year? You know that we can give a lot of answers to that question, but let me propose at least one perspective for your consideration. I don’t know about you, but as I was traveling around the country in the months before the election, I heard, more than I had ever heard before, the following kinds of statements. " I have never prayed so hard for anything in my entire life." "I forgot what fasting was all about, but now I am doing it everyday." There are groups and entire organizations that were on schedules of fasting and prayer and who knows what other kinds of penance and worship and prostration on the ground, all kinds of things. As the election got closer, usually you turn to the experts and they say, "Well I think this is how it is going to turn out" and "We think that is how it is going to turn out." The closer we got to the election, the less anybody knew. Even the experts, the closer we got, said that they really didn’t know; I can’t tell you.

And so the prayers intensified and the fasting intensified, and the people gathered together in churches, and in their living rooms and opened the scripture, begging, pleading with the Lord, because they knew what was at stake. It was not just the next four years or eight years, but the next forty years as the war of this Country would go on, not only in regard to abortion, but in regard to the countless Christian values. And there as the election day got closer, this veritable crescendo of prayer and sacrifice began to rise, and on election day, I think that God looked down on the whole thing and said, "You know what? I like this." So he reached down from Heaven and pressed a big pause button and He said, "Keep it up." We did and we did. Brothers and sisters, now we must continue to do the same. We must continue to do the same. He does not ask that we go to sleep. He does not ask that we rest on what we have accomplished. He asks that we now see a window of opportunity, indeed a door of mercy that has been granted to this nation and He says "Push through it! Move forward with even greater strength, greater intensity, not only in prayer and fasting , but in action."

You know, as I was going around preaching like crazy about the election, do you know what I was accused of doing? Some people accused me in the media saying, "Father Frank is calling for a Vatican takeover of America." I said, "No I am not; I am calling for an American takeover of America." And the work of the election is not finished. Not only do we need a Pro-Life man in the White House; we need, and we will get, a Pro-Life Senate in the United States. If our friends on the other side think that we made a little too much noise in regard to the presidential election, if I may be ungrammatical for a moment, "They ain’t seen nothin' yet." We are not going to settle down. We are not going to be quiet. We are not going to retreat into the walls in the sanctuaries of our Churches, or in the privacy of our living rooms just to pray about what happens in political life. The separation of Church and State, if you mean by that, the silence of the Church, then there is no such thing that we will tolerate or acknowledge.

Brothers and sisters, I talk a lot with the people on the other side of this issue. I am talking about practicing abortionists, I am talking about abortion rights activists, leaders, heroes, and heroines. I speak to these people. I listen to these people. I know a lot about what is going on inside the abortion industry and the abortion rights movement. And by the way, those are two different things. The propagandists are one group and the practitioners are another. For the propagandists it is very easy: send out press releases, have press conferences, prepare reports and talk about freedom, rights, and choices. For the practitioners it is another story: seeing women who are crying and screaming and dealing with the bloody parts of little babies. Two different groups of people, two different kinds of psychological and spiritual challenges. But I will tell you one thing true about both groups today. They are afraid. They are afraid and they are afraid for good reason. Not just because of what happened with the election, they are afraid because of you…of what each of you is doing each and every day, in this great movement. They are afraid because they see something that we ourselves must not miss. And that is that we are winning. And it is that we are making progress. They see something that we must not miss, and it is that the days of legalized abortion in this country are numbered. They see something and they are terrified at it. They see it and we must see it too, that no lie can live forever. That, as was said in the Civil Rights movement, "Truth pressed to the earth, will rise again." You can close the front door and it will come out the back door. You can close the back door and it will come out of the window. You can bar the window and it will come up through the roof. One way or the other, the truth prevails, and it is prevailing.

Do you realize that in the last decade, and this is not something you hear frequently, because it is based on information that can only be obtained by direct contact with the abortion industry, that there has been a decline in the number of abortion facilities in this country by a full 40%. Men and women by the thousands, not by the few, those are the few that we know publicly speaking about their former lives as abortion providers but not by the few, not by the dozens, not by the hundreds, but by the thousands are coming out of the abortion industry renouncing a life of killing babies. These that are leaving are not being replaced by young medical students, They are not being replaced and this is their biggest complaint, and at the same time, those who are still practicing are facing a threat by the Pro-Life movement which you and I and every pro-lifer must intensify and that is the rising of abortion malpractice litigation. These people must pay for the harm that they are doing. Yes, they are afraid, they are afraid because they see something that we must also see and that we must not miss, and it has been alluded to here tonight already, that the shift in public opinion , no matter whom you survey, the young people, the old people, the nurses , laypersons, or the professionals, the shift is moving in the direction of the Pro-Life sentiment in this country. It is moving and it is not going to stop.

Our goal is not just to make abortion illegal. Our goal, your goal is to make it undesirable, unavailable, and unnecessary in the eyes of those who might do it. In short, our goal is to make it unthinkable. That is our goal. Our goal is not simply to fight it. Our goal is not simply to speak out against it. Our goal is not simply to bear witness against it. Our goal is to end it, stop it.

So why is it so hard to reach that goal?

Brothers and sisters, it is because of pain. Not just the pain with which we are all familiar, of those who have been involved directly with the killing of an unborn child, most of the time not wanting to do it… not only that kind of pain, for which many programs of post-abortion healing, not only in the Catholic Church but across the board of religious affiliation has been so valiantly addressing, not just that. There is another kind of pain. It is the pain shared really in a way by a lot of us and by every American. It is the kind of pain which realizes, sometimes dimly, that there is an evil taking place in their midst. Realizing to some extent, that it is an evil, but at the same time realizing this: that if they take the time and trouble to look closely and carefully at what this evil is, they won’t be able to live with themselves unless they do something about it. There is going to be a price to pay. They are going to have to change their lives. They may lose some friends or positions or popularity and so it is a dilemma. I am not going to be able to live with myself if I face this evil and don’t act. I don’t want to pay the price that is going to come about if I do act.

So how do you resolve this dilemma? Isolate the issue. Tuck it away in a comfortable corner of the mind and get on with life, business as usual. The goal, the task that you and I are engaged in within this movement is to point out to our good brothers and sisters across this country that the price to be paid for ignoring this issue is far greater than the price to be paid for addressing it. We do that also by pointing out how it is connected with the other evils, ill, and concerns that they hold close to their hearts.

Brothers and sisters, you ask most of the American people whether abortion is wrong or not and they will say, "Yes, it is wrong." As a matter of fact, some polls say that half of the American people think that abortion is murder. But here is the problem. They see it as a wrong, but as a private wrong. It is wrong so I would never do it, but if someone else wanted to, then that is none of my business. Certainly, the government shouldn’t have anything to say about it. It is wrong, a private wrong and so they feel that they can isolate it, compartmentalize it, disconnect it from all other things that they are concerned about. Oh, we have to do something about the shootings in our schools and we have to do something about teen violence, crime, and all other kinds of problems. This movement will only succeed when we succeed in helping our brothers and sisters to understand that so many of the ills of our society are proceeding directly from abortion on demand.

Do you know what this is very much like? It is like the process of post-abortion healing for an individual woman. One of the aspects of the healing is for her to come to realize that so many of the problems that she has begun to experience in her life, problems which perhaps where not there before, now exacerbated for unknown reasons -- that part of the reasons for the added problems precisely is her abortion experience. When she can start to reconnect those things, she is on the road to healing. She is breaking out of denial. Denial which again, like I described what happens on a public level, compartmentalizes the issue, tucks it away in a comfortable corner of the mind. It just doesn’t want to think about it anymore. And as the process of healing the individual woman is to connect the problem of abortion with the other problems that she is experiencing, so it is with the healing of our society to connect abortion to the other problems that we are concerned about. To see that we will never make progress over these other issues until we deal with this one.

And so we are concerned, so many are concerned, justifiably, when students shoot other students in our schools. Do you know why students are shooting other students in our schools? We have taught them to do so. Roe v. Wade has taught them that they are not persons unless they are wanted and recognized by someone else. Roe v. Wade has taught then that there is no intrinsic value to their life. You are alive because of someone else’s choice. You are wanted, but not welcomed, which means, I take you as you are -- not "wanted," which means that you have to live up to some one else’s standards and expectations. Roe v. Wade has taught them that their lives are disposable and children will not stop killing children until grownups stop killing children. It is our job to stand up, not only to bear witness to this evil, but to bear witness indeed to how connected it is to all the other evils we suffer.

We are in fact, brothers and sisters, moving out slowly with agonizing difficulty but nevertheless moving out of the dark night of abortion in this land. Here tonight there are three other people I would like to point out. One of them recently, by no design of his own, came into the public spotlight, because going fishing one day with his cousin, he noticed a little inner tube floating in the water, and on that inner tube, what he thought was a child. And in fact going back, looking at it more closely, saw that it was a child. The child was none other than Elian Gonzales. The man who lifted him out of the water, is now also a man bearing witness publicly and courageously to the need to rescue those that are in the most danger of all, the unborn children. I want to introduce to you tonight someone I am proud to know, a friend and now a friend of the unborn, Donato Dalrymple. And this of course is the man in the famous and terrifying picture of the Federal Marshal coming in with his gun to take this child, is the man holding the child. Donato, we pray for you as you hold the unborn now closer to your heart than ever before.

And finally what a great joy it is to have two people here tonight and I offer them to you, my dear friends, as a sign of hope. Because that is my message to you, there is hope. The Roe v. Wade and the Doe v. Bolton decision, issued on the same day in 1973. Technically, the two women who are about to stand, should have been elated that day because they technically won. These are the two plaintiffs of those decisions, Mary Doe and Jane Roe, formerly Mary Doe and Jane Roe, both of them Pro-Life, both of them crying out to God and the American people and to the Supreme Court to stop this injustice... Crying out, "We were used, we were framed, we were deceived, and we are sorry." Meet Sandra Cano and Norma McCorvey.

My friends, the gates of Hell will not prevail against the Church. When we hear those words we usually think, well this means that the Church will survive the attacks that are launched against her. Yes, that is true, but think about it again. In a battle, a gate doesn’t get up and run onto the field to attack the enemy. A gate stands still to protect the city, from the attacks of the enemy. When the Lord says that gates of Hell shall not prevail, who is on the offensive, who is storming the gates? It is the Church, the Church is taking the initiative by storming the gates of Hell. The gates of sin must melt in the presence of grace. The gates of death must flee in the presence of you, the people of life.

Tonight I give thanks for you, because you have inspired me, you have inspired countless other people in all of the states from which you come. And you and I and countless other brothers and sisters together across this land, are and will continue to storm the gates of Hell and they will fall.

Go forward with confidence, God Bless you!