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Priests for Life Newsletter

Volume 12, Number 1
January - February 2002


I am A Man

US Bishops Announce New Pastoral Plan

Please Put a Life-Saving Number on your Bulletin

Prayer Intentions

A Ministry of Encouragement: Priests for Life, the Bishops, and Pro-life Projects

Priest Profile -- Fr. Joseph Looney

I am a Man

January 15 is the national holiday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday. February is Black History month. The Civil Rights movement, and the evil of segregation which it fought, have many inspiring lessons for our current struggle to achieve justice for the unborn. One of the signs carried by Negroes who peacefully marched for their rights said, simply, "I am a Man." The need for society to rediscover the humanity of its oppressed members is a key link between the Civil Rights movement and the pro-life movement.

In his famous "I Have a Dream" speech at the march on Washington on August 28, 1963, Dr. King used a vivid image which today is just as applicable to the unborn: "We've come here today to dramatize a shameful condition. In a sense we've come to our nation's capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was the promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note in so far as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check; a check which has come back marked 'insufficient funds.' We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity in this nation. And so we've come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice."

The pro-life movement refuses to believe that there are "insufficient funds" for the unborn. We refuse to believe that somehow our nation is incapable of opening the doors of equal protection to the tiniest and youngest human beings.

It is also helpful for us to recall the criticism Dr. King -- now a national hero -- once endured for the demonstrations he organized. These criticisms came from clergy who, while agreeing with Dr. King's ultimate goal, disagreed with his strategy. Those clergy wrote to him, "We are now confronted by a series of demonstrations by some of our Negro citizens, directed and led in part by outsiders. We recognize the natural impatience of people who feel that their hopes are slow in being realized. But we are convinced that these demonstrations are unwise and untimely. We agree rather with certain local Negro leadership which has called for honest and open negotiation of racial issues in our area."

Dr. King's response was his famous Letter from a Birmingham Jail. In it he wrote, "You deplore the demonstrations taking place in Birmingham, But your statement, I am sorry to say, fails to express a similar concern for the conditions that brought about the demonstrations. I am sure that none of you would want to rest content with the superficial kind of social analysis that deals merely with effects and does not grapple with underlying causes. It is unfortunate that the city's white power structure left the Negro community with no alternative…You may well ask: 'Why direct action? Why sit-ins, marches and so forth? Isn't negotiation a better path?' You are quite right in calling for negotiation. Indeed, this is the very purpose of direct action. Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored. My citing the creation of tension as part of the work of the nonviolent resister may sound rather shocking. But I must confess that I am not afraid of the word "tension." I have earnestly opposed violent tension, but there is a type of constructive, nonviolent tension which is necessary for growth."

Again, the same answer must be given today to those who fail to see the value of pro-life demonstrations.

Finally, the following word to the clergy was spoken by Dr. King at his last speech before he was assassinated:

"I'm always happy to see a relevant ministry. It's alright to talk about 'long white robes over yonder,' in all of its symbolism. But ultimately people want some suits and dresses and shoes to wear down here. It's alright to talk about 'streets flowing with milk and honey,' but God has commanded us to be concerned about the slums down here, and his children who can't eat three square meals a day. It's alright to talk about the new Jerusalem, but one day, God's preacher must talk about the new New York, the new Atlanta, the new Philadelphia, the new Los Angeles, the new Memphis, Tennessee. This is what we have to do."

We cannot afford to let our preaching become disconnected from the injustices around us. That is why we cannot afford to be silent about abortion, just as the preachers in Dr. King's day could not afford to be silent about segregation.


US Bishops Announce New Pastoral Plan

Fr. Frank Pavone, Co-Founder of Priests for Life, praised the US Bishops for their revised Pastoral Plan for Pro-life Activities: A Campaign in Support of Life. This document, which can be found at, was approved at the November 2001 meeting of the US Bishops in Washington DC. The original version of the pastoral plan was issued in 1975, and then a Reaffirmation was published in 1985.

The new document, Fr. Pavone noted, draws heavily from two important sources given to us since the last version, namely the Holy Father's encyclical Evangelium Vitae, and our own bishops' 1998 statement "Living the Gospel of Life: A Challenge to American Catholics."

The new statement calls on the whole Church to implement a vigorous plan involving public education, pastoral care, public policy, and prayer and worship. It is significant that the document specifically states, "Parishes should include in the petitions at every Mass a prayer that ours will become a nation that respects and protects all human life, born and unborn, reflecting a true culture of life." Priests for Life will continue to provide suggested intercessions. See the prayer section of our website at

The revised Pastoral plan points out, as the bishops have done in the past, that a commitment to the consistent ethic of life is compatible with giving "urgent attention and priority" to the abortion issue, saying it "necessarily plays a central role." The document also points out the link between abortion and contraception, as well as the link with Capital Punishment, which "diminishes the value we place on all human life."

Fr. Pavone pledged the intense efforts of Priests for Life to promote this new document, and to assist priests to be familiar with it and implement it at the parish level, in conjunction with the programs of their local bishop.

Other statements of the US bishops, as well as of the Holy Father and other bishops around the world, on the abortion issue can be found in a very large collection on the Priests for Life website at


Please Put a Life-Saving Number on your Bulletin

There is an easy way to save lives in your community: Place, as a permanent item somewhere on the cover of your parish bulletin, a phone number where people can find alternatives to abortion.

The number itself is up to you. We can provide suggested hotline numbers that are accessible anywhere in the nation, and which connect people to local pregnancy resources. Alternatively, you can choose a diocesan or other local resource. That part is up to you.

We are providing the idea, because we know (from our experience and from polling data) that most pastors are favorable to this idea. We provide the following answers to some of the most frequently asked questions:

1. I want to keep the bulletin simple.

This idea only takes a few words to implement. See the sample wording below. Concern about the layout of the bulletin is valid, but certainly subordinate to the actual service we provide the community, especially when that service saves lives.

2. If I put a pregnancy assistance number on the bulletin, many other groups will want their numbers there as well.

We face this problem all the time, but as pastors, we make decisions based on the most urgent needs. It is certainly praiseworthy to place other types of hotline numbers on the bulletin as well; we do not suggest that this should be the only one. At the same time, the bishops have identified abortion as the most urgent moral problem of our day, and nothing else claims more victims.

3. I need to know more about whom people are calling when they dial these numbers.

We encourage you to use the number you are most comfortable with, and this may involve contacting your local diocesan or community resources for abortion alternatives. We can provide information on the various national hotlines, and we encourage you to call them yourself to ask whatever questions you need to ask before using their number.

4. My community is rather elderly, and therefore this would not be a concern of theirs.

The people of your parish may be too old to have a child, but they are never too old to save one. They can certainly spread the information to their grandchildren, and others, that help is available for those in crisis.

5. People don't read the bulletin.

At least some people do, and it is better that those who do have this life-saving information than if they do not have it.

6. People may not be attracted to a "national" hotline.

A local number can be used. Furthermore, most of these national numbers will refer the individual to the helping centers nearest to them.

The notice on the bulletin can take, for example, one of the following forms:

There are alternatives to abortion. Call 1-800-848-LOVE

Pregnant and in need? Call 1-800-848-LOVE

Pregnancy assistance services (nationwide): 1-800-848-LOVE


Prayer Intentions

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

January intention: That Judges may decide cases in a manner consistent with the fundamental right to life.

February intention: For the protection of the free-speech rights of pro-life groups and individuals.


A Ministry of Encouragement: Priests for Life, the Bishops, and Pro-life Projects

From its inception, Priests for Life has had the philosophy that it exists to serve the existing structures and programs of the Church's respect life mission. Priests for Life is not an arm of the USCCB or the Bishops' Committee for Pro-life Activities. We are a "Private Association of the Faithful" according to Canon Law (#299).

The relationship of Priests for Life to the wider Church should be understood in the context of the relationship between a priest and his bishop. In other words, we want to assist priests as they carry out the pro-life dimensions of their ministry, and as they do so in the context of the pastoral programs laid out by their own bishop, according to the need of the local diocese.

This is reflected in that part of our "Clergy Commitment Pledge" which reads, "I pledge to cooperate with the projects and programs of Priests for Life, to the degree that I am reasonably able to do so and within the policies set by my Ordinary."

The official commentary on the Pledge states, "Cooperation with Priests for Life projects is then mentioned, always within the context of union with one's own Ordinary. The idea behind this association has never been to come into a diocese in order to promote one or another program or activity. We come into dioceses everywhere in the country precisely in order to assist the clergy to work together with their bishop in the way he directs and according to the local circumstances. At the same time, we provide the benefit of the experience our network has, and the numerous contacts with all groups in the pro-life movement."

Our hallmark, in other words, is flexibility. We will help in the way the diocese wants us to help. It may be to provide a clergy seminar on the latest trends in pro-life preaching and counseling, or to prepare a teaching booklet on some specific aspect of the movement on which a diocesan program focuses.

Priests for Life is a networking hub for the entire pro-life movement, which consists of elements belonging to every political and religious affiliation, as well as those of no religion at all (see, for instance, We are therefore able to provide expert advice and networking. Such advice and information can assist a diocese or parish to further develop its respect life outreach. We will often make the public aware of specific pro-life initiatives that we think are useful. Our role is to provide information, make connections, increase awareness, and foster healthy debate about pro-life strategy. The role of setting policy is different, and belongs to others.

To sum up, when we are invited to a diocese, we follow its policies to the letter, and if a diocese wants assistance in developing those policies, we have an expertise that we are happy to share.

To schedule a Priests for Life priest to speak in your area, contact our travel coordinator at Travel Office, PO Box 236695, Cocoa, FL 32923; Tel: 888-PFL-3448, 321-500-1000; Travel Dept. Fax: 603-908-3075; email:


Priest Profile -- Fr. Joseph Looney

By Anthony DeStefano, Executive Director

Fr. Joseph Looney preached his first sermon at the tender age of 4 years old--- to his kindergarten class! It seems there was a lot of talk among his classmates how wonderful Kris Kringle was, and the future priest felt inspired to stand up and proclaim to everyone that "God was more magical than Santa Clause!"

That same spirit of faith, fearlessness and disregard of negative peer pressure has characterized Fr. Looney's entire life. Influenced strongly by his father, a bus driver who used to take him to watch his church's drum core practice, and later by one of his teachers, Sr. Mary Elaine Lavin, a Sister of Mercy, Fr. Looney was ordained to the priesthood on June 24, 1967. His first assignment was St. Justin's in Hartford, Connecticut. He later went to Sacred Heart, in Waterbury, and finally, to St. Margaret's, also in Waterbury.

Fr. Looney has been a major pro-life activist since the moment he was ordained. Before the term "sidewalk counseling" was even coined, Fr. Looney was on the streets, talking to women, handing out pamphlets and picketing abortion clinics in Connecticut. Arrested once for leading a peaceful protest, Fr. Looney soon became friends with famed pro-life activist, Joseph Scheidler.

The encyclical Humanae Vitae, published in 1968, made a very strong impression on the newly ordained priest. He recognized early on the close connection between the contraception mentality and abortion, and consequently expanded his pro-life activities to include efforts against pornography and very public protests against artificial contraception. Possessing a tremendous flare for media, Fr. Looney achieved great notoriety in the 1980's and 90's by staging so-called "condom roasts," in which boxes of prophylactics were burned openly at the state capitol. Such media events attracted the ire of many in the secular press. Even Playboy Magazine reported on Fr. Looney's "subversive" activities.

Passionate about the right to life, Fr. Looney believes that "abortion comes from fear, while life comes from faith." He insists that, for the pro-life movement to be successful, priests need to "say that to the people, and show them what it means to live by faith through our celibacy, our prayer life, and by our prophetic witness." Fr. Looney also says that priests need to publicly identify themselves as pro-life, and at the same time as pro-mercy. "We're not there to put women down," he says, "but to give them a hand up."

Fr. Looney can be reached at St. Margaret's Church, at 289 Willow Street, Waterbury, CT, 06701. His phone number is: (203) 754-6101.



Priests for Life
PO Box 236695 • Cocoa, FL 32923
Tel. 321-500-1000, Toll Free 888-735-3448 •