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Priests for Life Newsletter

Volume 1, No.2
Spring, 1991


Open Letter To a Catholic Politician

Our Lady of Guadalupe: Patroness of the Unborn

Choose to Be Holy: A Homily

Quote from Tertullian

Praying for Life

Defending Life from All Threats

May We Recommend?

Board of Advisors


Open Letter To a Catholic Politician

Dear Catholic Politician,

 First, let me see if I am hearing you completely. You say you are a Catholic. You say you are personally opposed to abortion but support it professionally or politically because it's the law of the land. You respect other peoples' right to differ in conscience, and you believe abortion is a moral question not to be decided by legislation. If I understand your position correctly, I find it difficult to believe. It sounds like contrived compartmentalizing, as if you were one person at home or at church but another at work. Who invented the political convenience of a schizophrenic Catholic who personally believes one thing but politically promotes another? Don't all our actions still speak louder than words?

 Can you imagine politicians saying, "I am personally opposed to killing whales, and I believe their lives are valuable and endangered, but I support the right of Japanese and Russian fishermen, in law and in conscience, to kill the whales"? It simply does not ring true! We expect politicians to battle for what they believe; we expect them to try to educate and persuade and then change the law.

 Several years ago, in the middle of the peaceful peoples' revolution in the Philippines, I concelebrated Mass in the Manila Cathedral with Cardinal Jaime Sin, who preached what I thought was a rather political sermon. After Mass in the sacristy, I challenged the cardinal about getting too political in the pulpit. He responded firmly: "Fr. Miles, this is not politics. People are dying. This is religion!" For us Catholics, these life-death issues stand at the center of our practical ethical commitment. They are not optional concerns.

 We certainly do not want to excommunicate you. We want to communicate with you. Excommunication is a dire admission that communication has failed, that we were unable to persuade, that you have withdrawn from our communion. Communication, like our Catholic faith itself, is an effort to create holy communion. We are not asking you to impose your personal morality on a pluralistic society, just to follow your conscience --not just on abortion but on every social issue. As Thomas More says in Robert Bolt's play, A Man for All Seasons: "When statesmen forsake their private consciences for the sake of their public duties, they lead their country by a short path to chaos." We are asking only what we ask of every member of our family: to put your faith and Christian values into practice.

 We do not want to scare practicing Catholics from running for public office. Nor do we want to create the false impression with a largely non-Catholic electorate that Catholics are badgered by bishops and cannot be good independent public servants. The American experience has proved the wisdom and importance of separating the institutions of church and state, but one cannot separate religion and politics. Every issue involving human values in our society is both religious and political, with moral, ethical implications as well as social, political dimensions.

 We are calling you as a sister or brother in Christ to both wholeness and holiness. We are challenging you as our elected community leaders --the way we challenge our American Catholic parents --to set a heroic example of courage and virtue.

 --Rev. Miles O'Brien Riley San Francisco, CA

 This letter first appeared in the San Francisco Catholic (Aug. l990), and has been condensed, and reprinted with author's permission.

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 Our Lady of Guadalupe: Patroness of the Unborn

On December 12, 1531, the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to an Indian named Juan Diego and requested that a shrine be built and dedicated to her on the Hill of Tepeyac. There she could console and dispense her motherly affection to those who invoked her intercession.

Juan Diego, upon reporting this event to the bishop, was disappointed because the bishop didn't seem to believe him. Juan returned to the place of the apparition where Our Lady again appeared. She told him to return the next morning when she would give him a sign that would convince the bishop of the truth of her appearance and her request.

The following morning Our Lady told Juan to go to the top of the hill and gather Castilian roses which he would find there. Although he knew that only cactus grew there, he obeyed, and his simple faith was rewarded by the sight of beautiful roses growing where she had told him they would be. He gathered them and showed them to Our Lady who rearranged them for him. Juan returned to the bishop. As he opened his tilma (a type of pancho), the roses fell to the floor. All who were present were startled to see an image of Our Lady on the unfolded tilma.

Today this image is still preserved on Juan Diego's tilma, which hangs over the main altar in the basilica at the foot of Tepeyac Hill just outside of Mexico City. Some anthropologists have said that this image of Our Lady has elements of both an Aztec princess and a young Palestinian woman in the time of Christ.

When asked who the lady was, Juan replied in Nauatl (an Aztec dialect), Te Coatlaxopeuh, which means "she who crush the stone serpent." His answer recalls Gen. 3:15 and the depictions of Mary as the Immaculate Conception, her heel on the serpent's head. It is as the Immaculate Conception that Mary is addressed as patroness of the United States and Mother of the Americas. Most recently, the Virgin of Guadalupe has been given the title, "Patroness of the Unborn." This is very appropriate because the times in which she appeared in Mexico were not unlike our own. Paganism, which had demanded the sacrifice of thousands of human lives, was still rampant. Today, too, great sins are committed in defiance of the sanctity of human life. Legal abortion-on-demand in the U. S. has caused the deaths of millions of unborn children. The threats of infanticide and euthanasia are increasingly becoming realities. In the image of Guadalupe, Mary wears a black belt around her waist --for the Indians, an indication of pregnancy.* Our Lady of Guadalupe thus appeared as a pregnant mother offering her child to the New World. The Indians viewed the roses that fell from Juan Diego's tilma as a sign of new life. The Pro-life movement has adopted the rose as a symbol of respect for human life because the rose is so much like ourselves --beautiful but fragile. Our Lady addressed Juan Diego as "Juanito" (signifying in Nauatl the weakest or smallest member of the family), and as "Son", and spoke of herself as both his "Mother" and the "Mother of the One, True living God"—still another reason why Our Lady of Guadalupe should be entrusted with the unborn.

 Today she addresses to us the same words she addressed to Juan Diego, when he returned to her after his first visit to the bishop --anxious, discouraged, and heartbroken for not having properly carried out the task she had given him:

 "Hear and let it penetrate your hearts, my dear little ones. Let nothing discourage you, nothing depress you; let nothing alter your heart or your countenance. Do not fear vexation, anxiety or pain. Am I not here, your Mother? Are you not in the folds of my mantle, in the crossing of my arms? Is there anything else that you need?"

 Thus our Mother speaks to us: to the anxious --the expectant mother worried about a child born out of wedlock or of another child in a family already larger than the budget; to the discouraged --the prolife workers frustrated by the judicial system, the media, the organizations and even their own neighbors, all of whom seem to be aligned against them; to the heartbroken --the doctors, nurses, aides, the would-be mothers who have felt the sign of life, heard the whimpers and now know it was Life they took. She speaks to all of us. She is our fountain of Life. To whom else should we turn for the protection of those who are being denied not only life itself, but also the taste of the fountain of the life-giving waters of Baptism? Let us beg Our Lady of Guadalupe to protect the children of tomorrow and keep them safe, and let us pray:

 Dear Jesus, whose Blessed Mother chose life for You in her womb, send to us all those who are burdened with life, either theirs or that of their unborn. Ask Your Heavenly Father and the Holy Spirit to give us the wisdom, the strength, and the spiritual and physical means to love and care for them. Bless our efforts to help all who seek our help and inspire them to pass that help to others. Send more workers into our vineyard so that one day we may all be united in Your love to preserve and protect God's masterpiece. Amen.

 Our Lady of Guadalupe, Patroness of the unborn, pray for us.

Most Rev. Edward A. McCarthy, D.D., Archbishop of Miami

 *Editor's Note: Some scientists who have studied the image of Guadalupe have noted that parts of it were painted over to "enhance" it. The black belt may be part of the "touch-up".

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 Choose to be Holy: A Homily

The following homily was preached at the closing of the first "168 HOURS of Prayer for Life" in San Francisco on May 1, 1989. (See article, " Praying for Life, " elsewhere in this issue.) With some adaptation, it might be appropriate for a Father's Day homily.

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

 How strange it must appear to a non-believing world . . . indeed, how unbelievable! Just as the wisdom and miraculous powers of Jesus, the carpenter's son, seemed strange to the people of the Holy Land nearly 2,000 years ago, so too our claims today must seem strange to the world --our claims that the very same carpenter's son, Jesus, is the true Christ . . . the loving Savior of the world . . . the victorious Lord, Jesus, who is man and God Himself !

 We need to remember that our beloved Lord chose to come amongst us, that He chose to share our humanity, chose to begin His human life as a zygote, then embryo, then fetus --an unborn, then newborn. Let us never forget that Jesus chose His Mother— Mary the Immaculate One, Mary, Virgin and Mother --His Mother, she who was given to us as protectress, as intercessor, as nurturer, as spiritual Mother at the foot of the Cross.

 Jesus, brother and Lord to us, also chose His foster father, Joseph- a worker, a man who earned a wage, who lived a life of simple dignity. Joseph the humble, Joseph the "just" as Scripture calls him, a word that biblically means ever so much more than its English counterpart-for to be called "just" in Scripture also means "holy in the eyes of God."

 Joseph never speaks in the Scriptures, but he certainly is a man of action. Responding to the divine initiative presented to him by an angelic messenger, he chose to take the pregnant Mary as his wife; he chose to be guardian, protector and husband to her; he chose to be guardian, protector and, with Mary, teacher of Jesus.

 How desperately today's men need to see St. Joseph as a model father and a model Christian man! Joseph: ... just, humble, industrious; Joseph: ... teacher, parent, provider and foster-father; Joseph . . . chosen by Jesus to share profound and intimate family love; a man chosen to be shown reverence and honor by God's only begotten Son.

 Today the role of the man in the conception of a child is morally ignored --his choices denied; and that is why so much is said in error these days about abortion ---about a woman's "right to privacy," about women's "rights" over their own bodies, about her "right to choose." What about the rights of the man, the child's father, and the rights of the unborn child? If men and women looked to Mary and Joseph, if they honestly and freely chose to imitate them in their obedience to God, in their respect for their bodies in chastity, in their respect and reverence for life, and in their love for Jesus, there would be no abortions.

 Brothers and sisters, the saints are simply those people who live out the Gospel. We need to return to them, to again see them as models, to call upon them as intercessors who pray with and for us. Saint Bernardine of Siena, a priest, prayed thus in a reflection on St. Joseph:

 "Remember us, Saint Joseph and plead for us to your foster-child. Ask your most holy bride, the Virgin Mary, to look kindly upon us since she is the Mother of Him who, with the Father and the Holy Spirit, lives and reigns eternally."

 Let us add the following:

 "Joseph, brother, model, saint . . . patron of the universal Church . . . assist us in our struggle against the dark and evil forces which promote death over life. Enkindle in us the obedience to God, the reverence for Mary and the love for Christ Jesus that have made you the especially beloved foster father of God's own Son.

 "Joseph, pray for us, aid us, intercede for us: for you, with Mary and all the Saints and Angels reflect the glory of the Conqueror of Death, the Lord of Life who is Jesus Christ, Risen and Victorious, yesterday, today, tomorrow, and forever."

Amen. Alleluia!

--Reverend Robert P. Cipriano Associate Pastor, Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Assumption, San Francisco, CA



 ". . .we [Christians] may not destroy even the unborn child in the womb, while as yet that human being derives blood from its mother's body for sustenance. To hinder a birth is merely a speedier man-killing. It does not matter whether you take away a life that is born, or destroy one that is coming to birth. That which is going to be a human being is already a human being; in the seed you already have the fruit." Tertullian (ca.160-240 A.D.), Apology 9.

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 Praying for Life

Do you know offhand how many hours there are in a week? Ask San Francisco Catholics. They'll promptly tell you, "168 Hours," because that's the name of what has become an annual event at St. Mary's Cathedral ----168 HOURS: A Week of Continuous Prayer before the Blessed Sacrament for an End to Abortion. The first 168 HOURS was held in April 1989 during the week in which the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the Webster case. The second 168 HOURS took place this past October, Respect Life Month, and coincided with the nationwide week of prayer and fasting called for by various Marian groups (October 6-13).

In the early Spring of 1989, a coalition of nearly a dozen Catholic lay groups from San Francisco and the neighboring diocese of San Jose asked the newly appointed pastor of St. Mary's, Father Milton T. Walsh, to sponsor such a week of prayer. He responded enthusiastically. An active pro-lifer who has been arrested in Operation Rescue, Father Walsh shared the lay groups' conviction that abortion will end only when peoples' hearts are converted. Alongside all other pro-life activities, prayer and fasting are indispensable because, when all is said and done, only God can change men's heart.

 The organizers of the 168 HOURS resolved to involve the entire Catholic community— Eastern Catholics as well as Romans,, "pre-Vatican II" Catholics as well as younger generations, charismatics as well as traditional Catholics--and devised a prayer program accordingly. To encourage broad participation, an evening Mass was added to the regular schedule. At most evening Masses, choirs joined the congregation in song. In 1989 Archbishop John R. Quinn celebrated the opening Mass; in 1990 he celebrated a votive Mass of the Holy Innocents at the midpoint of the week. Auxiliary Bishop Patrick McGrath presided at another evening Mass. Masses of Reconciliation and For the Forgiveness of Sins were celebrated in English and Spanish. Pro-life homilies were given at every Mass.

 Since adoration of the Blessed Sacrament is a distinctively western (Roman) custom, Eastern Catholics were invited to participate by celebrating the Divine Liturgy. Father Abbot Boniface and the monks of Holy Transfiguration (Mt. Tabor)) Monastery in Redwood Valley, California, graciously agreed to celebrate the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom in English according to the Ukrainian Byzantine usage. For many Romans these liturgies were their first experience of an Eastern Catholic rite, and they were deeply moved.

 Confessions were scheduled from morn till night. Advertisements in the local newspapers invited to reconciliation those who had ever taken any part in abortion. Dozens of priests, including the Archbishop, celebrated the forgiveness and healing grace of the Sacrament.

 In organizing a day of prayer, or an all-night prayer vigil, one needs, on the one hand, to allow time for both private and vocal prayer, and one is challenged, on the other, to find vocal prayer acceptable to all participants. A schedule of times for vocal prayer ----both public (liturgical) and private ---was arranged to assure adequate time for personal silent prayer. In 1989 the Morning, Evening and Night Prayers of the Church were recited in addition to rosaries and the Angelus. In 1990 the other four Hours were added to the schedule; and the Office of Readings at 1 a.m. began each day's prayer. (Liturgists may take heart to learn of the warm reception with which the laity, once instructed, have greeted the opportunity to pray the Office. Morning and Evening Prayer are now recited daily in the Cathedral.)

 The response of clergy and laity to the 168 HOURS has been very positive. How successful the event has been, in the sense of changing hearts on the issue of abortion, is not, of course, something that can be measured in this vale of tears. We hoped, as we prayed, that lives would be saved. As a laywoman I have been very encouraged, however, by what seem to be certain indirect results of our prayer. Pro-life homilies are being heard with greater frequency throughout the archdiocese -an indication that some consciousness-raising has taken place. Pro-lifers, who have often labored alone and without support, are finding their efforts on behalf of the unborn affirmed openly by their pastors and fellow Catholics. Interest in the pro-life cause is rising within the Catholic community. What is more, traditional Catholics, for whom the Cathedral's modern architecture had become a symbol of all that seemed wrong in the post-Vatican 11 Church, now call the Cathedral their own; they have learned that the "New Mass" can be celebrated with great dignity and a sense of the sacred; their traditional devotions have been affirmed, and they have prayed rosaries side-by-side with the charismatics they once regarded with suspicion. The Vatican Council's recommendation that the laity be encouraged to pray the Liturgy of the Hours is being implemented. And, most important, many Catholics of good will for whom abortion was never a personal or pressing issue have begun to witness to their neighbors on the unspeakable evil and heinous crime that abortion really is.

Prayer works! Please don't neglect it in your fight for life.

--Mary Ann Eiler

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Defend Life from All Threats

Life is threatened by abortion, euthanasia, racism and war, says Holy Father in his Angelus reflection given Sunday, 3 Feb.1991. Reprinted with permission from L'Osservatore Romano, English edition, Feb.4,1991.

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

 Today is the "Day for Life" in Italy, a traditional occasion to reflect and pray, a concrete invitation to make a commitment to defend and promote human life from its beginning to its natural end. I feel the need to join my voice to that of the Italian bishops to say, once again, courageously and clearly that "the divine law, 'Thou shalt not kill' regards every person, and obliges every person regardless of his or her religious convictions, because it is the law which the Creator inscribed in consciences as a natural law" (General Audience, 30 Jan 1991). Politicians, therefore, administrators and those responsible for social services and health care must recognize in the love of life "the presupposition and fundamental contents of the promotion of the common good, and try every means possible to assure the economic, social and cultural conditions for an effective freedom in regard to life" (from the Italian bishops' message for Life Day).

 "Love for Life, choice of freedom." This is the day's theme and it moves us to consider the necessary connection between life and freedom. How can there be freedom where life, every human life, is not welcomed and loved? How can there be true social progress when people try to justify and legalize attacks and threats against human life, which is a free gift of God's providential love? When there is no respect for life, we are already in the kingdom of death: death of feelings extinguished by unbridled, alienating hedonism; the death of a moral sense, overcome by sterile, devastating selfishness, while consciences run the risk of being closed to the truth and unable to recognize the good which alone is capable of making people happy.

Life must always be defended, welcomed with love and accompanied with constant respect. As human beings and believers, we must never stop promoting the culture of life in the face of the culture of death. We must proclaim the inviolability of the right to life ---and to a life with dignity ---against abortion, an aberrant crime which has the qualities of totalitarianism in regard to the most defenseless human beings. We must proclaim this right against genetic manipulation which threatens the development of the person; against euthanasia and the rejection of those who are most feeble; against racism and homicidal violence of every kind. We must proclaim such a right against war— against this war which is continuing to be fought in the Persian Gulf with increasing threat to all humanity.

May Mary, Mother of all people, accept our prayer which echoes the anguished cry of the victims of abortion, hatred, war and attacks on life. May she support the weak and comfort those who are suffering unjustly. May she touch the hearts of those who reject the light of truth and, by killing, bring harm to humanity itself. With confidence we turn to you, Mother of mercy, Mother of life.

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 May we recommend?

Anthony Zimmerman, S.V.D., "How Proportionalism Corrupts Moral Theology," Pastoral and Homiletics Review 91, 2 (Nov. 1990) 26—32, 45.

A succinct summary and evaluation of the concept of "proportionalism" in moral theology, with particular reference to marital sexual ethics (contraception). Fr. Zimmerman criticizes proportionalism for ignoring or discounting what must be the central referent ---divine law ---in judging the morality of human acts. (MACE)

 Cormac Burke, "St. Augustine and conjugal sexuality," Communio," 17, 4 (Winter 1990), 545—565.

A sensitive and textually faithful interpretation of St. Augustine's teaching on marriage that refutes a popular misconception that St. Augustine's views of marriage and of marital sexual intercourse were tainted by his former Manichaeanism. Particularly helpful is Msgr. Burke's distinction between legitimate sexual desire and illegitimate concupiscence; his remarks on concupiscence have broader applications beyond the realm of sexual morality. (MACE)

Jos. R. Stanton, M.D.," 'Pre-fetal' Semantics: The Moral Excuse for Killing," American Life League Newsletter, Jan. 18, 1991.

Critique of faulty argumentation advanced by T.A.. Shannon and A.B.. Wolter, O.F.M., in their "Reflections on the Moral Status of Pre-Embryo," Theol. Studies 51(1990). Those authors resurrect the "pre-embryo" argument to deny humanity of the pre-born child, and dress up their anti-life bias with a few fancy frills; but, as the Spanish say, "A monkey dressed in silk remains a monkey nevertheless." Copies of Dr. Stanton's article may be obtained from ALL; telephone: 703-659-4171. (LK)

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Board of Advisors

Most Reverend John L. May Archbishop of St. Louis

Most Reverend Daniel E. Sheehan Archbishop of Omaha

Most Reverend John J. Myers

Bishop of Peoria

Most Reverend Rene Gracida

Bishop of Corpus Christi

Most Reverend Juan Fremiot Torres

Bishop of Ponce, Puerto Rico

Most Reverend Albert H. Ottenweller

Bishop of Steubenville

Most Reverend Paul V. Donovan

Bishop of Kalamazoo

Most Reverend James Timlin

Bishop of Scranton

Most Reverend Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. CAP.

Bishop of Rapid City

Most Reverend J. Quinn Weitzel,, M.M..

Bishop of Samoa-Pago Pago

Most Reverend George Lynch

Retired Auxiliary Bishop of Raleigh

Most Reverend John F. Donoghue

Bishop of Charlotte

Most Reverend Francis Quinn

Bishop of Sacramento

Most Reverend James Sullivan

Bishop of Fargo

Most Reverend James Niedergesses

Bishop of Nashville

President: Fr. Lee Kaylor

Treasurer: Fr. Frank Filice

Secretary: Fr. Robert Cipriano

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