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Priests for Life Newsletter

Volume 13, Number 2
March-April 2003

Lenten Preaching on Life
A Note from the Vatican
Silent No More: A New National Campaign Begins
Celebrating the Annunciation
General Intercessions
Recommended Reading
Prayer Intentions
From the Abortion Providers
Reminder for Priests
Good News

Lenten Preaching on Life

Basic themes

The season of Lent prepares the faithful, through a special emphasis on penitence, to celebrate the Paschal Mystery and to renew the vows of their baptism. It is also a time of final preparation of catechumens to receive the new life in water and the Holy Spirit.

This double meaning of Lent incorporates and illumines why the Church is pro-life and provides a liturgically consistent way of preaching about it throughout this time of year.

The dynamics of baptism are those of life, welcome, and mutual responsibility. Baptism immerses us into the death and resurrection of Christ, by which death in all its forms is destroyed. Moreover, God's sovereign choice is the first step in the process. He has chosen us, and He has chosen our brothers and sisters in the family of the Church that comes about through baptism. Hence we learn that we have responsibility not only for those we "choose," but for those whom God chooses to entrust to our care.

The penitential preparation for baptism -- whether for its reception or renewal -- is necessary precisely because the dynamics of sin lead us to exalt our own "choices" over and above the moral demands of justice and charity. Sin, furthermore, obscures our judgment about the dignity and rights of others, and makes us all too ready to ignore them. Hence, the sacrament by which we become brothers and sisters in One Body is also the sacrament of "enlightenment."

Penitential practices

The works of charity that constitute a fundamental form of penance can include reaching out to those in need of concrete assistance in their pregnancy. Volunteering at pregnancy resource centers is a perfect way to do this, as is the effort to make such centers better known in the community. A common fund could be established, for example, to purchase an ad in the paper or the Yellow Pages. Giving to such a fund is, in fact, helping the poorest of the poor.

To stand up in any way for the unborn child can be a penitential act, since it often brings unwarranted criticism, even from fellow worshipers who should be doing more themselves to end abortion.

Sacramental preparation

The vows of baptism call us to reject Satan's "empty promises." Chief among them in our day is the empty promise that abortion is a solution to our problems, as individuals and as a society. Preparing people for the sacraments necessarily includes providing insights into this most urgent moral issue of our day.

The doctrines of the Eucharist, Confirmation, and the Holy Spirit provide profound insights into our pro-life commitment. (Contact us for the brochures and tapes that explain these connections in detail.) Meetings with sponsors for baptism and confirmation provide an opportunity to explain their obligation to strengthen others to understand and be faithful to the demands that the sanctity of life places upon us.

 

A Note from the Vatican

On November 24, 2002, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued a "Doctrinal Note on some questions regarding the participation of Catholics in political life." The document can be found in its entirety on the Priests for Life website at www.priestsforlife.org/magisterium/dicasteries/02-11-24cdfpoliticallife.htm.

The date of the publication of such documents is often significantly linked to the contents. In this case, the date was the Solemnity of Christ the King. The Christian acknowledges that Jesus is Lord not only of individuals, but of nations. His word is final not only in the way people live their private lives, but also in the way they organize themselves politically.

An initial key point of the document is that the faithful are called to "exercise their proper task of infusing the temporal order with Christian values." Christianity is not a religion that has an open door to heaven but a closed door to earth. Instead, it is open to both. The citizen of heaven is called to be a good citizen on earth, and preparation for heaven implies filling the earth with truth, justice, and peace. This effort is to be made regardless of the magnitude of evil in the world. Some religious groups consider efforts to improve this world as "washing the windows on the Titanic." But for Catholics, participation in the political process is neither worthless nor dirty, but virtuous.

The document then examines the problem of "relativism," and also seeks to articulate the proper understanding of the rightful autonomy of Church and State. The Catholic Church stands for religious freedom, and does not believe it is the role of the state to impose sectarian beliefs and practices by law. Yet the rightful distinction between Church and State does not divorce either entity from the demands of morality. This is the third term in an often oversimplified equation. There are demands of morality that flow from human nature and the common good. The state, and those who serve in public office, have the obligation to serve the human person and the common good. The values involved here -- such as life itself -- transcend sectarian differences and legitimate pluralism.

The kind of relativism often found (and imposed) in modern political life is one by which the legislator, even if a believer, is expected to view all opinions and convictions about values, morality, and what constitutes the common good, as equally valid. From this flows the "duty" to keep a clear separation between one's public role and one's personal beliefs.

Catholic teaching, again, does not hold that all personal and sectarian beliefs should or can be translated into law. To attempt to criminalize all sin would lead to absurd and unenforceable scenarios. But fundamental rights, starting with life, are to be defended by the state without exception or compromise. If a public official is not personally convinced of someone else's fundamental rights, he or she has no right to publicly obstruct them.

Section 6 of the document summarizes these points in the following words:

"Promoting the common good of society, according to one’s conscience, has nothing to do with «confessionalism» or religious intolerance. For Catholic moral doctrine, the rightful autonomy of the political or civil sphere from that of religion and the Church – but not from that of morality – is a value that has been attained and recognized by the Catholic Church and belongs to inheritance of contemporary civilization.[

"All the faithful are well aware that specifically religious activities (such as the profession of faith, worship, administration of sacraments, theological doctrines, interchange between religious authorities and the members of religions) are outside the state’s responsibility. The state must not interfere, nor in any way require or prohibit these activities, except when it is a question of public order. The recognition of civil and political rights, as well as the allocation of public services may not be made dependent upon citizens’ religious convictions or activities.

"The right and duty of Catholics and all citizens to seek the truth with sincerity and to promote and defend, by legitimate means, moral truths concerning society, justice, freedom, respect for human life and the other rights of the person, is something quite different. The fact that some of these truths may also be taught by the Church does not lessen the political legitimacy or the rightful «autonomy» of the contribution of those citizens who are committed to them, irrespective of the role that reasoned inquiry or confirmation by the Christian faith may have played in recognizing such truths."

We will continue commentary on this document in future newsletters.


Silent No More: A New National Campaign Begins

This past January, as our nation reached the 30-year mark of Roe vs. Wade, something new took place at pro-life marches from coast to coast. Women who have had abortions gathered with signs saying "I regret my abortion." Many of them spoke about their experience. Following is an excerpt from an article by Georgette Forney, Executive Director of NOEL and Co-Founder of Silent No More.

"This mobilization of women will be the beginning of a national campaign to raise awareness about the negative after-effects of abortion and speak the truth about abortion's emotional, spiritual and physical consequences for women. The campaign is entitled: "Silent No More - Women speak out about their abortion experience." The campaign will also seek to reach the many women who are suffering in silence, offering them abortion recovery, help and resources. Please spread the word about the campaign. Encourage women who regret their abortion to participate in it!

"The campaign is being sponsored by a partnership between NOEL (the National Organization of Episcopalians for Life)*, the Justice Foundation and Priests for Life. In addition, we have also developed an ad hoc coalition of abortion recovery programs to provide the support and healing for women who come forward when they learn help is available.

"As a woman who had an abortion at age 16, I believe we are the voice that hasn't been heard. There is a lot of talk about whether or not abortion should be legal, but very little attention is given to the women who have actually had abortions. I regret having an abortion and I know that there are millions of women who feel the same way. The truth is abortion affects us physically, emotionally and spiritually. It's time to speak honestly about the pain we've lived with and we want to help women who are hurting find healing. After 30 years it's time to listen to the women who have experienced it. Silent No More needs to connect with women who regret their abortion and are ready to speak out. During the events, each woman is encouraged to participate by sharing a brief testimony, and the rest of the time holding a sign that reads "I Regret My Abortion." While the campaign is encouraging women to speak publicly, we recognize not everyone is comfortable doing so. Therefore, we also invite women to join us and simply hold a sign as their testimony."

You can find more information about "Silent No More" at www.HelpAfterAbortion.com. You can read hundreds of post-abortion testimonies by going to www.priestsforlife.org/postabortion/postabortiontestimonywomen.htm.

*NOEL was renamed Anglicans for Life in March 2007

Celebrating the Annunciation

We encourage you to celebrate with special emphasis the Feast of the Annunciation this year. The following prayer may be useful, and you will find other resources at www.priestsforlife.org/annunciation.htm.

Redeemer in the Womb

Lord Jesus Christ, You took our human nature upon Yourself. You shared our life and death, our childhood and adulthood.

You also shared our time in the womb. While still God, while worshiped and adored by the angels, while Almighty and filling every part of the universe, You dwelt for nine months in the womb of Mary. You were our Redeemer in the womb, our God who was a preborn child.

Lord Jesus, we ask You to bless and protect the children who today are in their mothers’ womb. Save them from the danger of abortion. Give their mothers the grace to sacrifice themselves, in body and soul, for their children. Help all people to recognize in the preborn child a brother, a sister, saved by You, our Redeemer in the womb.

In Spanish

Redentor en el Vientre

Señor Jesucristo, compartiste nuestra misma naturaleza. Nuestra vida y nuestra muerte, nuestra infancia y nuestra madurez.

También compartiste nuestra vida dentro del vientre maternal. Siendo Dios, adorado y alabado por los ángeles, Tú que llenas a plenitud todo el universo, viviste nueve meses dentro del vientre de María. Eres nuestro redentor en el vientre, nuestro Dios en condición pre-natal.

Señor Jesús, te rogamos, bendice y protege a los niños que se encuentran en los vientres de sus Madres. Sálvalos del peligro del aborto.

Dale a sus Madres la gracia que necesitan para que puedan sacrificarse en cuerpo y alma por sus hijos. Ayuda Señor a la gente para que puedan reconocer en los niños, aún antes de nacer, a un hermano o hermana, que ha sido redimido por Ti, nuestro Redentor en el vientre.

 

General Intercessions

The bishops have requested a pro-life prayer in the petitions at every Mass. Priests for Life provides, on our website, suggested intercessions based on the readings for each Sunday. We offer these, furthermore, both in English and in Spanish. They are prayers for a culture of life, and thus cover a broad spectrum of life issues. See www.priestsforlife.org/prayers/intercessionindex.htm, and please bring it to the attention of other priests!

 

Recommended Reading

The Ashes that Still Remain - Rev. Thomas Koys

The author of this book is a member of the Chicago chapter of Priests for Life. Using his knowledge of the Civil War and his love of the Catholic Faith, Fr. Koys draws lessons from both to give his readers a deeper understanding of the pro-life movement.

Published by CMJ Marian Publishers, Oak Lawn, IL
ISBN #1-891280-43-0
This book may be ordered from Priests for Life (orders@priestsforlife.org)

Sterilization Reversal - A Generous Act of Love - John L. Long, Ed.

In this book, twenty couples share their stories about how repentance led them to reverse surgical sterilizations that either the husband, or wife, or both had undergone. This is a helpful pastoral resource to awaken the consciences of married couples.

Published by One More Soul, 1846 N. Main St., Dayton, OH 45405-3832; Tel. 800-307-7685; OMSoul@OMSoul.com; www.OMSoul.com

 

Prayer Intentions

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

March intention: That God may strengthen those who suffer ridicule and rejection for their pro-life convictions.

April intention: That God may bless and console the fathers of aborted children.

From the Abortion Providers…

"The physician will usually first notice a quantity of amniotic fluid, followed by placenta and fetal parts, which may be more or less identifiable." (Warren Hern, Abortion Practice, p.114, in section on First Trimester Abortion).

 

Reminder: All priests are asked to sign and return the statement regarding political responsibility that was in our previous newsletter. You can view it at www.priestsforlife.org/elections/politicalresponsibility.htm

Good News: Fr. Frank Pavone has been elected President of the National Pro-life Religious Council (www.nprcouncil.org), an ecumenical organization through which many denominations work together to end abortion. This group can be a good resource to introduce to local ecumenical clergy councils.

 

 

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