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Priests for Life Newsletter

Volume 10, Number 6
November - December 2000

 

Articles

Priests for Life Holds Press Conference and Places Full Page Ad in NY Times

Voter Info Guide

Quotes from our Bishops

Prayer Intentions

Get Out the Vote

Homily Helps

 

 

Get Out the Vote!!!

"Every voice matters in the public forum. Every vote counts. Every act of responsible citizenship is an exercise of significant individual power. We must exercise that power in ways that defend human life, especially those of God's children who are unborn, disabled or otherwise vulnerable" (US Bishops, Living the Gospel of Life, 1998, n. 34).

Priests for Life urges every priest to encourage his people to exercise their responsibility to vote!

 

Priests for Life Holds Press Conference and Places Full Page Ad in NY Times

On July 18, 2000, over 20 priests, invited from 14 different states, joined with Fr. Frank Pavone at the National Press Club for a press conference about abortion and the upcoming elections. The room was filled with cameras and reporters from the nation's largest media outlets, and many stations carried reports about it on the evening news. Political talk shows across the country also began commenting on the effort. Three days later, a full page ad appeared in the New York Times, echoing the same message and signed by Fr. Frank and by 46 other priests, representing 39 states. (Note: the signatures were representative; the ad was not meant to gather a large number of signers.)

Following are some excerpts from Fr. Frank's remarks at the press conference:

What we are doing here today is exactly what the Church has done for centuries: defending human life, and challenging the government to do the same. No matter what nation or period of history we are speaking of, when a human government attempts to legitimize an act of violence, the Church declares that such an attempt is devoid of all authority or juridical validity.

When we elect our lawmakers in America, we influence the moral character of this nation for better or for worse. When our laws permit violence against little babies, incidents like the Columbine High School shootings are the logical outcome.

It should be understood from the outset that we are speaking here today as clergy, enunciating the teachings of our Church in matters regarding the fundamental rights of the human person. We are not endorsing candidates, commenting on any electoral races, or presenting any political strategies.

Our message here is not that we want to control the way people vote. The message is one of integrity: don't claim to be a believer if you don't act like one, and don't claim to be a member of the Church and then misrepresent its teachings.

No public official of any party or religion can responsibly take a "pro-choice" position on abortion. Anyone who identifies himself as "pro-choice" on abortion contradicts the teachings of the Catholic Church. There is not more than one Catholic teaching on abortion. Furthermore, this is not only a Catholic issue, but one of fundamental human rights. Catholic teaching holds that stealing is wrong. That doesn't mean that non-Catholics can steal. Nor does it mean that laws against stealing are an imposition of one group's religious beliefs on the nation.

The educational effort we announce today is unprecedented in the magnitude and variety of the ways we are getting the message out. We intend to employ every means known to humanity, short of space travel, to reach people with this message. We will utilize the Churches, by means of preaching and teaching. We will take the message to the streets with peaceful demonstrations and other First Amendment activities. We will mail information to clergy across America. We will utilize phone banks to encourage the clergy in this effort. We will submit articles and purchase ads in major newspapers. Our NY Times ad is available to you here today. We will deal with these themes in our regular radio and television programs, which air nationwide, and on our web page. We are currently preparing TV commercials and planning media buys. Our priests on staff will teach these themes in their regular nationwide travels to local communities and in visits to elected officials. We are ready to spend $1million on this effort. We will do everything that needs to be done within the boundaries of what we are allowed to do by civil and canon law.

Some in the media have interpreted our effort to be an attack on certain specific candidates for office. This is not the case. Voters are free to elect whom they choose. But to be free, one has to be informed of the implications of one's choice, including the moral and spiritual implications. It is our mission, as spiritual leaders, to instruct them on the moral principles that should inform their voting decisions.

Our educational effort is completely non-partisan. Lawmakers and voters in both major parties have a wide range of positions on the abortion controversy and may at any time change those positions. No matter who changes positions, or what positions they change, our message always remains exactly the same.

If a candidate were to approve of shooting sprees, or race riots, the primary question is hardly what party or religion they belong to. The question is, Is that position compatible with public service?

Nor is our effort an issue of "What is the Church going to do to pro-abortion politicians?" …This is an issue of what the voters are going to do when they vote as people who oppose violence against little babies and hold that the government should protect all life.

Moreover, I stress that we conduct these efforts as clergy, as pastors. We speak publicly about whether support for abortion does or does not conform to the Gospel. We do not speak publicly about the standing of any particular person. It is our hope that our public comments will motivate candidates or office-holders who do support abortion to approach the members of their clergy and discuss these issues in private and confidential settings, and we pledge our readiness to be available for that kind of pastoral service to anyone who desires it.

Finally, may I appeal to you in the media to repeat the offer we make to any woman anywhere, no matter what her ethnic or religious background, that if she is pregnant and feels unable to continue that pregnancy, she can come to us, to our Churches, to me personally, and we will see to it that she and her child receive all the help they need. And to anyone who suffers the pain and grief that follow abortion, we declare that the doors of the Church are open. We are ready to assist you to find the forgiveness, healing, and peace that you seek.

VOTER INFO GUIDE

As of the time of this writing, we expect a voter's guide, containing information on the positions of candidates in the upcoming election, to be available on the website of the US Bishops, www.nccbuscc.org 

We urge you to use this resource for your parishioners and organizations.

 

Quotes from our Bishops

The following can be used as bulletin inserts or quotes for homilies, articles, and presentations:

 

"The Gospel of Life must be proclaimed, and human life defended, in all places and all times. The arena for moral responsibility includes not only the halls of government, but the voting booth as well. Laws that permit abortion, euthanasia and assisted suicide are profoundly unjust, and we should work peacefully and tirelessly to oppose and change them. Because they are unjust they cannot bind citizens in conscience, be supported, acquiesced in, or recognized as valid" (US Bishops, Living the Gospel of Life, 1998, n. 33).

"We encourage all citizens, particularly Catholics, to embrace their citizenship not merely as a duty and privilege, but as an opportunity meaningfully to participate in building the culture of life. Every voice matters in the public forum. Every vote counts. Every act of responsible citizenship is an exercise of significant individual power. We must exercise that power in ways that defend human life, especially those of God's children who are unborn, disabled or otherwise vulnerable" (US Bishops, Living the Gospel of Life, 1998, n. 34).

"We get the public officials we deserve. Their virtue -- or lack thereof -- is a judgment not only on them, but on us. Because of this, we urge our fellow citizens to see beyond party politics, to analyze campaign rhetoric critically, and to choose their political leaders according to principle, not party affiliation or mere self-interest.." (US Bishops, Living the Gospel of Life, 1998, n. 34).

"Sometimes it seems few candidates and no party fully reflect our values. But now is not a time for retreat. The new millennium should be an opportunity for renewed participation. We must challenge all parties and every candidate to defend human life and dignity, to pursue greater justice and peace, to uphold family life, and to advance the common good" (Administrative Board, US Bishops, Faithful Citizenship, 1999, p.5).

"We hope the campaigns and elections of the year 2000 become turning points in our democracy, leading to more participation and less cynicism, more civil dialogue on fundamental issues and less partisan posturing and attack ads. Let us turn to a new century with renewed commitment to active citizenship and to full democratic participation" (Administrative Board, US Bishops, Faithful Citizenship, 1999, p.5).

"Catholics are called to be a community of conscience within the larger society and to test public life by the moral wisdom anchored in Scripture and consistent with the best of our nation's founding ideals. Our moral framework does not easily fit the categories of right or left, Democrat or Republican. Our responsibility is to measure every party and platform by how its agenda touches human life and dignity" (Administrative Board, US Bishops, Faithful Citizenship, 1999, p.8).

"For Catholics, public virtue is as important as private virtue in building up the common good. In the Catholic tradition, responsible citizenship is a virtue; participation in the political process is a moral obligation. Every believer is called to faithful citizenship, to become an informed, active, and responsible participant in the political process" (Administrative Board, US Bishops, Faithful Citizenship, 1999, p.9).

Prayer Intentions

You are encouraged to remember the following intentions as you pray the Liturgy of the Hours:

November intention: That elected officials carry out their responsibility to protect the vulnerable.

December intention: For an end to the practice of capital punishment.

 

Get Out the Vote!!

Another election is upon us. You, the clergy, have spent countless hours of preaching, teaching, and counseling to form your people in the Word of God. Many other priests have likewise assisted them in past years. They have said "Yes" to the Lord in the privacy of their hearts, their homes, and their Churches.

Now they have the opportunity to make their "Yes" resound publicly by voting in an informed and responsible way. Now they have the opportunity to bring the fruits of your hard work to bear upon the public life and policies of our nation, and shape those policies according to the Lord's Word.

The People of God are called to change the world. We, their shepherds, encourage them in this task. In these days, let us do so by urging each of them to exercise the duty, the privilege, to vote.

The following reflection from our booklet, Reflections on the Political Responsibility of Christians, can be used to encourage your parishioners to do so:

The bishops gathered for the Second Vatican Council explicitly taught, in the document Gaudium et Spes, that we have an obligation to vote.

Now if a priest tells you that you need to do something, you will presumably take that seriously. If a bishop tells you, you will take it even more seriously. What if a few thousand bishops tell you that you need to do something? That is the case here!

We don't tell you whom to vote for…We shouldn’t have to! Our job as ministers of the Gospel is to form people in the principles and to call forth their ability to evaluate the situation they face in each election.

Some people feel their vote does not count, does not make a difference. Let's ask a question. How many people do you suppose think that way? And how many people thinking that way is too many? If there are too many people thinking that way, the best thing you can do to start changing that is to not think that way yourself!

Another document which is central to these considerations is the US Bishops' 1998 statement Living the Gospel of Life: A Challenge to American Catholics. The bishops exhort us, "We encourage all citizens, particularly Catholics, to embrace their citizenship not merely as a duty and privilege, but as an opportunity meaningfully to participate in building the culture of life. Every voice matters in the public forum. Every vote counts. Every act of responsible citizenship is an exercise of significant individual power. We must exercise that power in ways that defend human life, especially those of God's children who are unborn, disabled or otherwise vulnerable" (US Bishops, Living the Gospel of Life, 1998, n. 34).

 

 

Homily Helps

Following are brief reflections on how the Sunday readings, from October 8 to November 5 inclusive, relate to the theme of abortion and political responsibility. We urge all clergy to address this theme at some point before the elections, as well as throughout the year.

27th Sunday B - October 8

The Gospel declares that the Kingdom of God demands openness to the children. Abortion directly contradicts this, both in national policy and personal choices.

Moreover the teachings on the unity of man and woman in today's readings are a good starting point to emphasize the Church's teachings on the dignity and equality of women. To be pro-life is to be pro-woman. We do not say that the child is more important than the mother, but that both are equal.

28th Sunday B - October 15

The prayer for wisdom (First reading) is one we should make not only for ourselves, but for our national leaders, and those who seek elected office.

Wisdom in practice is reflected in the Gospel passage. It starts with observance of the commandments, and the first one our Lord mentions is "You shall not kill." The commandments are the path to life, for individuals and nations. In our system of democracy, we the people govern the nation, and do so especially by exercising our right to vote. When we enter the voting booths, we do not cease to be Christians, exercising the wisdom God gives.

29th Sunday B - October 22

The Gospel makes it clear that the Christian is called to serve. Those in public office are also called to serve. This means taking account of the needs of all and protecting the lives of all. Abortion does exactly the opposite. It ignores the most fundamental rights of an entire segment of the public. Support for abortion cannot be reconciled with public service, and it is up to the Christian community to make this clear to the rest of the nation.

30th Sunday B - October 29

The first reading speaks of the promise of return from exile. One of the causes of the exile was the fact that God's people fell into the practice of child-sacrifice (see 2 Kings 24:3-4).

Our nation allows child sacrifice, most vividly exemplified by partial-birth abortion. Yet God gives us an opportunity to come back to him as a nation, including the mothers with child (First reading), and to see again (Gospel) the dignity of every life. Our national elections give each of us a chance to participate in bringing our nation back to moral uprightness before God.

31st Sunday B - November 5

Both the first reading and the Gospel teach us that our first allegiance is to God alone. In preparing to vote this week, therefore, we remind ourselves of what the bishops have said in their 1998 document Living the Gospel of Life: " we urge our fellow citizens to see beyond party politics, to analyze campaign rhetoric critically, and to choose their political leaders according to principle, not party affiliation or mere self-interest (n.34)."

Again, as they wrote in Faithful Citizenship (1999), "Our moral framework does not easily fit the categories of right or left, Democrat or Republican. Our responsibility is to measure every party and platform by how its agenda touches human life and dignity."

 

 

Priests for Life
PO Box 141172 • Staten Island, NY 10314
Tel. 888-735-3448, (718) 980-4400 • Fax 718-980-6515
mail@priestsforlife.org