Bishops' Pastoral Plan Calls For Pro-life Petitions at
Evangelizing Abortion Survivors
Priests for Life Survey finds Half of Parishes
addressing abortion in Pro-Life Committees
New Items from Priests for Life
Bishops' Pastoral Plan Calls For Pro-life
Petitions at Every Mass
In section IV of the US Bishops' Pastoral Plan for Pro-Life
Activities, A Campaign in Support of Life (November, 2001) we read,
"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."
We at Priests for Life have heard, from coast to coast, a constant call from
the laity for initiatives such as this. There are many reasons why such a step
is not only appropriate, but vital to the success of the pro-life cause and to
the integrity of the Church's witness.
1. Faith and worship are not disconnected from life. The first chapter
of Isaiah relates the anger of God toward those who come before Him with songs,
sacrifices, and incense, but are oblivious to the injustice around them.
"What care I for the number of your sacrifices? says the Lord…When you come in
to visit me, who asks these things of you? Trample my courts no more! Bring no
more worthless offerings; your incense is loathsome to me….When you spread out
your hands, I close my eyes to you; though you pray the more, I will not listen"
(Is 1:11-15). The reason for this anger is then indicated: "Your hands
are full of blood! (Is. 1:15). The problem was not that the worshipers
themselves were shedding the blood, but that they were doing nothing about the
bloodshed around them. The solution, therefore, came in these words: "Make
justice your aim: redress the wronged, hear the orphan's plea, defend the widow"
(Is.1:16). The God who rescues us expects us to rescue one another. At the
Eucharist, we celebrate and touch the Mystery of His rescuing us, sinners who
are helpless to save ourselves. It is therefore the appropriate and necessary
place to acknowledge, in prayer, our responsibility to intervene for our
helpless brothers and sisters.
2. The Eucharist is, by definition, the celebration of Life. "Dying
you destroyed our death; Rising you restored our life." The Eucharistic
sacrifice is the source of life and salvation, since it is, by definition, one
and the same sacrifice that our Lord made on the cross. In the Eucharistic
banquet, moreover, we receive the Bread of Life, the pledge that our call and
destiny are to be with Christ in the heights of heaven. Those who profess such a
faith and cherish such a hope are necessarily responsive to attacks on human
life. Such attacks, from whatever source they come, give a counter-witness to
the Eucharist. The Eucharist raises our humanity on high; attacks on human life
cast our humanity down. The Eucharist gives witness that we have a place on
God's throne; attacks on human life give witness that we are disposable. It is
not, then, an "intrusion" into the liturgy to express our concern for the
attacks on human life that occur in our world. It is, rather, a natural
corollary of the very meaning of the Eucharist.
3. We remember what we repeat. The call for respect-life petitions "at
every Mass" is appropriate because the repetition of a theme raises its
importance in our minds and hearts. Moreover, the repetition of a theme amidst
the most sacred action of our religion indicates its central importance to our
life of faith. This makes all the more sense when we reflect on how the victims
of abortion, infanticide, and euthanasia are at greatest risk of being
forgotten. Many of them are unseen, unnamed, and unknown. Discussion of
these topics is often taboo in media or educational circles, or, when it is
mentioned, the humanity of the victims is overlooked or directly denied. The
community of faith, united in love of the Creator and His creatures, counteracts
this inhuman dynamic by remembering, in prayer, the most forgotten members of
4. The Eucharist sends us forth to renew the earth. "The Mass is
ended; go in peace." When we dismiss the congregation, we are not simply asking
them to exit the Church. Rather, we are reminding them of the commission they
have been given by the Lord in baptism and confirmation to bring the truth and
grace they have received, in Word and Sacrament, to the rest of the world. The
Eucharist, as the Second Vatican Council teaches, is the "source and summit" of
all the life and activity of the Church. In an age which sees an unprecedented
attack on innocent human beings at the beginning and end of life, it is most
appropriate that the prayers of the faithful gathered for Mass make explicit the
need to respond to that problem.
We at Priests for Life are committed to assisting our brother priests to
carry out the bishops' call for a prayer at every Mass for the sanctity of life.
On our website, priests will find a suggested petition for every Sunday and
Feast Day of the year. Such petitions will be added regularly on the page
www.priestsforlife.org/prayers/intercessionindex.htm. Please spread the word!
Evangelizing Abortion Survivors
Priestly ministry in our day, especially to those born since Roe vs. Wade,
cannot ignore the phenomenon of "abortion survivors." What does growing up in a
society that tells you, by law and by dominant cultural thinking, that your life
was disposable and your birth was subject to the "choice" of someone else, do to
one's psychological landscape? How do the young view themselves and their peers
in the light of the fact that "the word person…does not include the unborn"?
(Roe vs. Wade, at 158). Moreover, how does being an abortion survivor affect
the way today's children and young adults hear the Gospel message of God's
Dr. Philip Ney and Marie Peeters Ney have done groundbreaking research in
this area and have written specifically about the challenges of evangelizing
They have identified ten different types of abortion survivors:
- Statistical survivors. These are people who survived in countries or
cities where there is a statistically high probability that they would have been
aborted. They come to know that the odds were definitely stacked against them.
In some parts of Eastern Europe, the chances of being aborted are as high as
- Wanted survivors. These are people whose parents carefully
deliberated about whether or not to abort them. They may have calculated,
consulted, and discussed the possibility.
- Sibling survivors. These are people born into families where one or
more of their siblings were aborted.
- Threatened survivors. These are children whose parents have used
abortion as a threat, even if they never considered it during the pregnancy:
"You wretched, ungrateful child...I should have aborted you!"
- Disabled survivors. These are people who, because of
developmental defects or other circumstances, would usually be aborted. In fact,
they often wonder whether their parents would have aborted them had they known
about the defects.
- Chance survivors. These are children who would have been aborted if
the mother had been able to obtain the abortion. The abortion was prevented by a
lack of money, time, permission, availability, etc.
- Ambivalent survivors. These are children of parents who could not
make up their minds about the abortion and delayed until it was too late. They
are often caught up in their parents' continuing ambivalence, and can wonder
whether they can still be terminated.
- Twin survivors. These are people whose twin was aborted. Twins
communicate, touch, and even caress each other in the womb. The loss of the twin
by abortion is deeply felt and often causes the survivor to be suicidal.
- Attempted Murder survivors. These are people who survived an actual
abortion attempt. Besides the physical harm that is often done, they suffer
intense psychological struggles, nightmares, confused identities, and a fear of
- Murdered survivors. These are children who survived an abortion for
just a short period of time, and were subsequently killed by the abortion staff
or left to die.
Abortion survivors, to put it simply, live on shaky ground. "If my mother
could have aborted me, what is my life worth?" These individuals live with a
sense of worthlessness and a feeling of impending doom. They suffer existential
anxiety and survivor guilt. They are "wanted" rather than "welcomed." When one
is "wanted," he or she meets the needs or demands of another. When one is
welcomed, on the other hand, his or her value is acknowledged despite others'
reactions or attitudes. One abortion survivor wrote, "My parents always said
they had wanted me. I often wonder what would have happened if they had not
wanted me? I feel I must stay wanted. Being wanted means existing."
Another wrote, "I had no right to exist. I am still a child trying to find
a place in this world…wandering around, carrying the weight of something on my
shoulders. I had so many unanswered questions which I could not ask because
nobody would answer and besides which I could not even formulate them. All my
life I have been running, running away from death, no from something worse than
The implications for evangelization are obvious. Because their very
existence is in question, abortion survivors do not allow themselves to grow, to
mature, to develop. There are multiple barriers to trust, including trust of God
and the Church. Deprived psychologically of their own intrinsic worth, they find
it difficult to acknowledge that of others. They have a fear of a personal,
loving God. When it comes to personal relationships, they both fear and crave
them. They are skeptical of the very existence of love.
Those engaged in the new evangelization need to understand the dynamics of
abortion survivors and the transgenerational harm caused by abortion. They must
appreciate the need to rehumanize individuals hurt by abortion, and to help such
people recapture their individuality and their worth.
The proclamation of Christ crucified, who was a survivor of Herod's rage, is
the essential focus for abortion survivors. In finding their relationship with
the Son of God, they will be led to the healing of their wounds, to ultimately
being able to say, "I have the right to be, just the way I am. I do not have
to fight for my existence. I am welcomed as I am."
Priests for Life survey finds Half of Parishes
addressing abortion in Pro-life Committees
The professional survey of US Catholic priests, commissioned by Priests for
Life through Wirthlin Worldwide and released in 2000, included the following
question: "Is there an organization in your parish or school that conducts
activities explicitly addressing the abortion issue?" Those who responded
"Yes" were 50%; those who responded "No" were 49%.
The question asked about committees either in the parish or in the school,
and only required that abortion be part of the theme of that committee's
In our travels to parishes and dioceses around the nation, the Priests for
Life Speakers' Bureau is prepared to meet with and train parish pro-life
committees, to help to get them started, and to provide suggested activities.
The US Bishops' Pastoral Plan for Pro-Life Activities, A Campaign
in Support of Life (November, 2001) says the following about the Parish
"Actively promoting a renewed respect for human life is the responsibility
of every Catholic. The parish pro-life committee assists in a special way by
helping to make the parish a center of life, a place where parishioners
understand the issues and the importance of meeting the needs of those who are
most vulnerable—especially mothers and their unborn children, and those who are
seriously ill or dying and their families. It may be a distinct committee, or it
might be a subcommittee of another parish organization. Whatever its structure,
its membership should include representatives of both adult and youth parish
groups, members of organizations that represent persons with disabilities,
persons of minority cultures, and those responsible for education and pastoral
"The chairperson of the parish committee is appointed by the pastor, and it is
important that the two be able to work well together. The chair recruits
volunteers to help meet the needs the committee serves. Parish committees should
be mindful of the need for renewal from time to time in regard to membership,
talents, and interests.
"The parish committee relies on the diocesan pro-life director for information
and guidance. The committee should play a vital role in parish life and enjoy
the strong support of priests and other key personnel. The committee should also
dovetail its efforts from time to time with other programs of the parish. For
example, in many parts of the country, parishes conduct programs where
parishioners study and discuss the teachings of the faith. Members of the
pro-life committee should take part in such programs and invite other program
leaders to take part in pro-life initiatives.
"The objectives of the parish pro-life committee are to
- coordinate parish implementation of the annual Respect Life Program,
promoting it to agencies and organizations in the parishes, especially schools
and religious education programs; and encourage parish discussion groups to use
the program as a basis for their discussions
- promote and assist pregnancy counseling and comprehensive maternity support
services, as well as post-abortion counseling and reconciliation programs, and
make these well known in the parish and local community
- develop or adopt, where feasible, a parish-based ministry to pregnant women
and their children
- encourage and support parishioners' involvement in services to help those
who are chronically ill, disabled, or dying and their families
- sponsor programs of prayer in the parish to pray for mothers and their
unborn children, for those who are dying, for those who are disabled, for
prisoners on death row and those they have harmed, and indeed for all who are in
need, that the culture of death that surrounds us may be replaced by a culture
- foster awareness of the need to restore legal protection to the lives of
unborn children to the maximum degree possible and to safeguard in law the lives
of those who are chronically ill, disabled, or dying
- keep parishioners informed of upcoming important legislation; and, at the
direction of the diocesan pro-life director, organize letter-writing, postcard
campaigns, or similar appropriate activities when important votes are expected"
You are encouraged to remember the following intentions as you pray the
Liturgy of the Hours:
March intention: For those who suffer persecution and discrimination for
speaking up for the unborn.
April intention: For the healing of fathers of aborted children.
New Items from Priests for Life
1. CD of Political Responsibility Talks
Fr. Frank Pavone's talks are now being placed on CD's. In preparation for the
elections of the year 2002, obtain our Political Responsibility CD, containing
one of the most powerful talks Fr. Frank gave on this topic prior to the 2000
Presidential election, as well as a homily regarding the same. Suggested
2. Who was the Jane Roe of Roe vs. Wade?
Priests for Life has produced a brochure for Roe No More Ministries, directed
by Norma McCorvey, who was the "Roe" of this landmark abortion decision of the
Supreme Court. She is now pro-life. This brochure will give you and your
parishioners an insight into her powerful journey. Suggested Donation $20 per
3. Death in the Delivery Room.
Abortion has now gone outside the womb, as some hospitals deliberately
deliver babies prematurely and kill them. This new brochure outlines the
testimony of a nurse who discovered this practice in her hospital, and let the
world know about it. Suggested Donation $20 per 100.
4. Addressing Abortion with Confidence.
This booklet is an updated and revised version of what we formerly called,
"Fathers, Let's Face our Fears about Abortion." It is helpful for clergy and
laity alike as a tool to increase priests' confidence in preaching and teaching
about abortion. Suggested Donation $3
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