Protected Speech

 

Fr. Frank Pavone

 
  9/9/2002
 

For years I have been preaching that the best way to defend our right to free speech is to exercise it without fear. Ironically, the same reason that the meaningless slogan "pro-choice" sounds so meaningful to Americans is also the very reason that pro-life people can successfully convey their message -- that is, we protect freedom. There is no freedom to kill. But one of the key freedoms is to express our message -- any message -- no matter how disagreeable it might be to those who receive it.

We in the Church grossly underestimate and under-utilize the power of the pro-life message to confront and transform our culture. Just ask yourself for a moment where the pro-life message is being proclaimed to people who don't want to hear it. If someone in your community does not go to Church and would never go to a public pro-life talk, how and where will they hear the message that abortion is violent and must be stopped?

Will they hear it if they go to a County Fair, by means of a pro-life booth where literature is distributed? Maybe, but not frequently enough.

How about on the street corners, where pro-life people can gather and distribute literature and hold signs? Well, here's where we become less American than the Constitution. We are perfectly free, legally and morally, to exercise this option. But we shoot ourselves in the foot. We tell ourselves it can't be done, long before anyone else tries to tell us. Either we're confused about its legality, or we don't want to "turn people off" (and this, essentially, is a judgment on them, because we presume that we know how well disposed their heart is to receive the message), or we think that we have to be popular to be successful (we think this whenever it has been too long since we've read the Acts of the Apostles).

Then, of course, we don't want to disturb children. I'm not talking here about graphic images of aborted babies. We are afraid to disturb them even with words about abortion, as I saw in a meeting where a Catholic parish and school rejected the idea of putting up a sign that says "Abortion Kills Children" because it might give the children nightmares. The irony is that at that very time, the first-graders in that same school had made and posted in the hallways drawings of skeletons and bottomless pits with the words "Drugs Kill." (You figure it out!)

A pro-abortion Constitutional attorney in New York was recently offended by a banner towed by an airplane; the banner depicted an aborted baby. Yet she wrote in Newsday that there is no legal way to stop such activity. The Supreme Court has ruled time and time again that speech isn't truly free if people can't shock or offend you.

When pro-abortion people are defending our right to express our message more than we are exercising that right, something is wrong.