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Priests for Life Newsletter

Volume 12, Number 2
March - April 2002

Articles

Bishops' Pastoral Plan Calls For Pro-life Petitions at Every Mass

Evangelizing Abortion Survivors

Priests for Life Survey finds Half of Parishes addressing abortion in Pro-Life Committees 

Prayer Intentions

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 that community.

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 unconditional love?

Dr. Philip Ney and Marie Peeters Ney have done groundbreaking research in this area and have written specifically about the challenges of evangelizing abortion survivors.

They have identified ten different types of abortion survivors:

  1. 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 80%.
  2. 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.
  3. Sibling survivors. These are people born into families where one or more of their siblings were aborted.
  4. 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!"
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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 doctors.
  10. 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 death."

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 activities.

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 pro-life Committee:

"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 care.

"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 of life
  • 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"

 

Prayer Intentions

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 Donation: $7

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 100.

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

Contact our Orders department at PO Box 141172, Staten Island, NY 10314; 888-PFL-3448, ext. 237; Fax - 718-980-3900; Email - Orders@priestsforlife.org

 

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