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Priests for Life Newsletter

Volume 1, No. 4
Winter 1991-92


Against the World for the World: Homily on Mark 10

The Holy Father to Pro-Life Leaders

The Nurturing Network

Board of Advisors

Oral Contraceptives or Abortifacients: Evidence That Requires a Conclusion


Against the World for the World: Homily on Mark 10

I. Jesus Against the World

 As we encounter Jesus in the tenth chapter of Mark, he is on the way to Jerusalem. The shadow of the cross darkens his footsteps. And fidelity to the Father's will deepens his sense of purpose.

 The implacable malice of the Pharisees confronts Jesus with the question whether it is permissible for a husband to divorce his wife. The question of divorce was a burning question at this time—much discussed by the rabbis, and much in the minds of the people— for one thing, because of Herod's marriage to his brother's wife, the condemnation of which led to the death of John the Baptist.

 Divorce was commonly practiced, and thus part of the social life of the time. Asked the question, then, Jesus first of all affirms that Moses did not approve divorce, but tolerated it because of the hardness of people's hearts. Jesus then goes on to answer the question of divorce by turning to the revelation of God in the second chapter of Genesis:

 At the beginning of creation God made them male and female; for this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and the two shall become as one. They are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore let no man separate what God has joined.

 And Jesus concludes,

Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her; and the woman who divorces her husband and marries another commits adultery.

 Reflecting now on this, we must make several observations. First, Mark 10 does not contain everything the New Testament has to say about divorce. Second, Jesus returns the issue of marriage and divorce to the original plan of God, to the original creation. This must be the norm, not the indulgence of Moses in the face of the people's stubbornness. We note also how evident Jesus makes it that the common viewpoint of the contemporary society and its practices cannot be taken as the norm. In fact, Jesus forthrightly declares that viewpoint and the accepted practice of the day to be wrong and in conflict with the plan of God.

 Jesus stands against the world.

 Then he receives the children. The apostles are angry and try to keep them away. In the literature of the time, children are presented either as examples of unreasonable behavior or as objects to be trained. Here, in the Gospel, we find something new. Jesus treats the children as persons and holds them up as a primary example of how the kingdom must be received. And here, too, Jesus stands against the world. And He continues the journey of the Cross.


II. The Church Against the World

 Like Jesus, and in fidelity to Him, the Church must stand at times against the world and against public opinion. Indeed, for Cardinal Newman, this quality of the Catholic Church is one of the marks of its authenticity:

 "On the whole, then, I conclude as follows: if there is a form of Christianity now in the world which is accused of gross superstition . . . a religion which is considered to burden and enslave the mind by its requisitions, to address itself to the weak-minded and ignorant, and to contradict reason and exalt mere irrational faith, . . . a religion . . . which is felt to be so simply bad, that it may be calumniated at hazard and at pleasure, . . . a religion which men hate as proselytizing, anti-social, revolutionary, as dividing families, corrupting the maxims of government, . . . the enemy of human nature, . . .a religion which they consider the champion and instrument of darkness . . . if there be such a religion now in the world, it is not unlike Christianity as (the first three centuries) viewed it, when first it came forth from its divine Author." ( Newman, Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine, chapter 6, #30)

 For Newman, then, the fact that the Catholic Church is still described, hated and ridiculed in the same terms in which the Church was described, hated and ridiculed in the first three centuries is one of the proofs of the authenticity and continuity of the Church of this time with the primitive Church.


III. The Church for Life

 Among the reasons today for hatred and ridicule of the Church is her teaching on human life. This comes to mind against the background of Jesus acknowledging the dignity of the child and ordering that the children not be kept from Him. The Church, like Jesus, does not deal in ambiguities. For the Church, abortion is an "unspeakable crime." It is an unspeakable crime because it is the destruction of innocent human life and an affront to the sovereignty of God over life. It is an unspeakable crime because, as it rips the unborn child from the mother's womb, it rips the future from that child's grasp. Abortion is an unspeakable crime because it enhances the psychology of violence and erodes human sensibilities as it deadens conscience and repudiates one of the deepest human and humanizing instincts, the love of a mother for her child. Abortion is the axe laid to the root of human rights because, when the right to life is no longer sovereign, all other rights are in jeopardy.

 There is no doubt that women face situations fraught with excruciating anguish and victimization. There is no doubt that illegal abortions have caused death to many women. There is no doubt that, in general, freedom of choice, placed within the framework of the common good, should be a prerogative of life in a democratic society. But no amount of anguish and exploitation, no tragedy connected with illegal abortion, no freedom of choice can be allowed to obscure the fact and the truth that abortion is the destruction of innocent human life and cannot be morally justified on those grounds.

 The situation in our country in regard to abortion is marked by hatred and violence. It is also marked by deception—as when freedom of choice is exalted but never said to be what it is, the freedom to destroy the innocent human life of the unborn child; as when those who promote abortion are called pro-choice, not pro-abortion; but those who are pro-life are not called pro-life but anti-abortion or anti-choice. The battle is being waged through manipulation and deception, through smoke and mirrors masking the reality of what is at stake. The unborn child is called a fetus—a legitimate scientific term—but in the public forum used as a way of masking the human reality of the child in the womb.

It is necessary, then, that the Church give itself up to prayer, as during this Week of silent adoration in the Cathedral. For we know and we believe that

...the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength. (I Cor. 1:25)

In prayer, the Church stands against the world—for the world.

--Most Rev. John R. Quinn Archbishop of San Francisco

Note: Delivered in St. Mary's Cathedral, San Francisco, on Oct. 6, 1991, at the Opening Mass of the 3rd Annual 168 Hours of Prayer for an End to Abortion.

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 The Holy Father to Pro-Life Leaders

Note: The following was delivered last Nov. 15 to an international assembly of pro-life directors convened by the Pontifical Council for the Family. Reprinted with permission from L'Osservatore Romano, Nov. 18, 1991, Engl. ed.

 2.... [D]ear brothers and sisters, throughout the Church and, through her, throughout all humanity, the good news of the value of human life resounds: no person is born by accident; each person is the result of an act of God's creative love and is called, from the moment of conception, to eternal communion with God. In an age when so many people forget who the person is, whence he comes and where he is going, there is an imperative need to arouse in people an ever greater sense of wonder at and gratitude for the greatness of every human life, even of a person who is infirm....Every life is a priceless resource, because it is a unique, unrepeatable gift from the Lord, the giver of Life: "For with you is the fountain of life" (Ps. 35 [36]: 10); "I give them eternal life" (Jn 10:28). To a world which, overcome by a technological mentality, tends to lose its sensitivity to the great mystery of the human person, you must repeat this wonderful news of God's love for everyone, which is part of our faith in God the Creator of Heaven and earth, of all that is seen and unseen.

 3. All life, without exception, must be accepted and loved....

 From conception every human being is a person, and it is a distortion of the truth to consider the unborn child, in his innocent greatness, as an aggressor. Unfortunately, today it can be said that attitudes and initiatives exist which are against the acceptance of life which first lead to the moral disorder of contraception and then to the abominable crime of abortion. Such an anti-life mentality, whatever its intentions and concerns, is in itself and of itself inhuman and wrong. It is the primary duty of society and of each of its members—private citizens, public officials and legislators—each according to his or her own responsibility, to create a climate that is receptive to life. There is need for a political policy that is clearly in favour of life and the dignity of woman, God's co-worker in giving the gift of life. When a child is unwanted by his or her parents, structures and modes which welcome life must intervene, even though it is always the parents, those who have constituted the family, who are directly responsible for the newborn child. The family, the "sanctuary of life", must receive effective support so that each child may truly enjoy the right to be born into a normal family consisting of a father, mother, brothers and sisters, in an indispensable loving atmosphere (cf. Donum Vitae, II. A. 1).

4. Having been accepted, the child is to be raised, cared for and helped in his integral development so that he can achieve human maturity. In fact, if a person does not learn to love and does not feel loved, he will never learn who he really is; rather, he will become an insoluble mystery to himself.

 There is an absolute need for the creation of an atmosphere of love for the person in himself and for himself, which instills in each person the joy of living, serving, working and developing friendly relations with all people. In this regard it is necessary to improve educational methods, mass media, and to clean up the moral environment and other aspects of culture, which today is frequently deaf to the values of the spirit. The first essential structure capable of doing this is definitely the family; in it a person has his first character shaping experiences and receives his first, most valuable lessons about truth and goodness, and thus learns to love and be loved.

 We must be committed to protecting and promoting the family based on marriage, in which the mutual gift of the man and woman creates a climate of love wherein the child can be born and grow. We are all called to promote an environment that is favourable to the family, and therefore, to fatherhood and motherhood; where increasingly favourable conditions are created for the family to develop its own resources; fidelity, fertility, intimacy enriched by openness to others, etc. The family must become the centre of every social political policy.

 5. Last of all, please allow me to remind you that your greatest strength lies in the quality of your witness to human dignity, the family and life, in mutual collaboration and with respect for legitimate diversity. Great and powerful are the forces which the culture of death overtly or covertly disposes of today: human selfishness and its result, consumerism; a superficial feminism which fears motherhood; an increasing materialism which is incapable of understanding the superiority of spiritual values; last of all, the pressure of economic interests, which act with merciless cruelty. In this context I turn to you in the same words which St. Paul addressed to the first Christians of the Roman community: "Do not be conquered by evil but conquer evil with good" (Rom. 12:21). Your weapons are those of the Gospel. It contains an unfailing hope, because it rests on the firm foundation of the resurrection of Christ, death's Conqueror.

 6. Our Lady is the promoter of life par excellence; in her womb she conceived Life itself (cf. Jn 11:25; 14:6), gave birth to him and received him with great love, even in her poverty in Bethlehem. May she, together with her Son, bless all the mothers of the world, all the families, "sanctuaries of life", and you, your families, your movements, your nations, in which I hope you may be light, salt and leaven. I impart my Blessing to all of you.

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The Nurturing Network

What do you say, Father, what practical solutions can you give to the young woman still in college, or to the recent graduate who has just landed her first professional job, who seeks your advice about her crisis pregnancy?

"The baby's father walked out on me when I told him, and if my parents find out, they'll throw me out" or "they won't keep paying to put me through college. Then what will I do?"

"I've just gotten the first real break in my career. If my boss finds out I'm pregnant, he won't think much of my sense of responsibility, and all my years of training will be up in smoke. How can I have this baby and a future for myself, too?"

"What choice do I have but to have an abortion?"

These are not rhetorical questions. The woman asking them wants real answers and a real alternative to abortion.

Pro-abortion forces, armed with the rhetoric of "choice," have worked long and hard to convince the public that only they offer a real solution to the problem of a crisis pregnancy. To suggest, however, that abortion is ever a solution is one of the most monstrous lies ever perpetrated. It is also one of the most difficult lies to disprove to a woman up against the hard reality that there is a new life in her womb, a life she is too panicked about to want or to love.

There are other choices, of course, real choices, made possible through pro-life groups like Birthright, through parish and diocesan programs, and through the help of individuals. Thousands of babies are saved every year in this country through such efforts. But because they are by their very nature confidential and local, they do not attract much media attention--and thus the lie that pro-lifers care only about abstract principle, not about real women, is perpetuated. Better publicity for existing efforts is only part of the answer. The Catholic community must also expand its commitment and seek new ways to enable women in crisis pregnancies to share the gift of life with their children.

One young Catholic wife and mother has undertaken to tackle this problem on a monumental scale and with the professional vision and acumen that formerly enabled her to reach top management levels at Bendix Corporation. In 1986 this former business woman, Mary Cunningham Agee, founded The Nurturing Network—a non-profit, nondenominational, equal opportunity organization that works through a network of colleges and universities, businesses and more than 9,000 individual members, all across this nation to provide a real alternative to abortion to any woman experiencing an unplanned -- and probably unwanted -- pregnancy.

 Headquartered in Boise, Idaho, The Nurturing Network (TNN) offers professional guidance, skilled counseling, nurturing homes, quality medical services, confidential college and employment transfer, financial assistance, career programs, adoption counseling, adoption services, and practical training in the responsibilities of parenthood. Each woman who turns for help to TNN receives personalized attention.

 A typical client, having learned of TNN through a friend or the media, places a toll free call to TNN's Life-Line (1-800-TNN-4MOM) and speaks immediately with a professionally-trained counselor in the Boise headquarters. A detailed evaluation of her specific needs is made and a comprehensive, individually-tailored plan of assistance is offered. If she needs to change colleges or jobs, if she needs a place to live, if she wants the fact of her pregnancy kept secret from family and friends, transfers are arranged. Because TNN is nation-wide, it is possible for a woman in Peoria or Gainesville to move to Los Angeles or New York, or to hundreds of other places, and preserve her dignity, continue her studies or her career, and save her baby.

 We at P.F.L. commend this practical, life-saving and life-sustaining ministry, and invite you to contact TNN directly for further information. You may wish to inform your parishioners and friends about TNN's ministry, and encourage their participation: by offering homes for mothers in need or professional employment for qualified women; by volunteering professional time and experience; by convincing colleges to accept such women as transfer students; through tax-deductible contributions; or by spreading the news to every community in this country that there are real choices. Abortion is not the answer, and TNN is one ministry that can make these choices available.

To contact TNN, please write or call: Mary Cunningham Agee, Director, The Nurturing Network, 910 Main Street, Suite 360, Box 2050, Boise, Idaho 83701; 208-344-7200. Toll-free: 1-800-TNN-4MOM.

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Board of Advisors of Priests for Life

His Eminence, Alfonso Cardinal Lopez Trujillo

President, Pontifical Council for the Family

Most Reverend John L. May

Archbishop of Saint 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, D.D.

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: Rev. Lee Kaylor

Secretary: Rev. Robert Cipriano

Treasurer: Rev. Robert Kiefer

Editor: Mary Ann Eiler

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 Oral Contraceptives or Abortifacients? Evidence that Requires a Conclusion

Editor's note: This article is quite technical but extremely useful in understanding & explaining the abortifacient properties of oral contraceptives. (Reprinted by permission and with revisions from the Couple to Couple League's Family Foundations, Vol. 17, No.6, May/June 1991, p.16. Dr. Weckenbrock is the pharmacist advisor to the CCL.)

Oral contraceptives--the most commonly used form of birth control in the U.S.--are available in two forms: a simple progestational agent, and a combination estrogenic-progestational agent. The mechanisms of the two differ significantly, but both aim at a primary, contraceptive, action (suppressing ovulation), and at secondary actions (impacting other aspects of a woman's fertility). These secondary actions are not strictly contraceptive. The combination pill works in at least four ways. Its primary action is to suppress ovulation by inhibiting the release of the Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH) and the Luteinizing Hormone (LH) to prevent the growth, development and release of the ovum. The same hormones that attempt to suppress FSH and LH also affect the endometrium of the uterus, the normal production of cervical mucous, and the peristalsis of the Fallopian tube.[1-4] The progestin-only mini-pill also attempts to suppress ovulation, but is much less effective in doing so because of its low dosage. It must rely more heavily, therefore, on the secondary-- abortifacient--mechanisms, which act on the development of the endometrial tissue, etc. The following evidence supports these statements.

 In an early study (1964), researchers Goodman and Gilman, referring to the effect of progesterone on the uterine lining, state that even that if ovulation occurs, nidation would be unlikely because of the "bizarre endometrium developed under the influence of most of the suppressants."[1] In 1970 Peel and Potts supported this observation and stated that break-through ovulation occurs in two to ten percent of cycles.[2] It can occur to any woman in any cycle. Note that both of these studies were conducted at a time when the permissible dosages of oral contraceptives were relatively high, and the strictly contraceptive action was, therefore, more certain. (Estrogen is primarily responsible for suppression of FSH.) In 1988, however, all oral contraceptives containing more than 50 mcg of estrogen were withdrawn from the U.S. market. Since breakthrough ovulation occurred in the older, higher dosage pill, one would expect a greater chance of breakthrough ovulation at the new, lower estrogen doses. To be effective, the new pills would have to rely more heavily on secondary actions. This is difficult to demonstrate scientifically because research has focused on the incidence of cancer, blood clots, etc., while breakthrough ovulation has attracted very little interest as a topic of research.

 Nevertheless, a few current studies do support the conclusion that breakthrough ovulation occurs.[5-8] Thus, a standard reference, Contraceptive Technology, reports: "Ovulation is not always suppressed by the combined oral contraceptive agents containing 50 mcg or less of estrogen.... These agents are probably only 95 to 98 percent effective in suppressing ovulation. The nearly 100 percent effectiveness of these agents and of progestin-only contraceptives is due to the other highly effective actions of the progestins on the cervical mucous and the endometrium and tubal environment." This means that in a cycle influenced by oral contraceptives,[3] if a viable ovum is made available for fertilization by sperm introduced at the appropriate time, the creation of a new human being, though unintended, can occur. Once again, the frequency of occurrence of fertilization under such conditions has not been studied due to an apparent lack of interest in the scientific and medical communities. What is clear is that when ovulation, sperm migration, and fertilization occur, a new life seeks to implant himself or herself into the endometrium, now altered by the synthetic hormones. In the literature distributed with prescriptions of the Pill, it is noted that such alteration impedes implantation. This is the earliest kind of abortion: a new life has been living by this time for at least six, possibly nine days, before it passes through the uterus and is lost in what is thought to be, and has all the appearances of, a normal menstruation.

 The legal community also acknowledges the abortifacient properties of birth control pills (as well as of IUDs). Thus, in arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court on April 26, 1989, Mr. Frank Susman, legal counsel for the Missouri Abortion Clinics, stated to Justice Scalia that "the most common forms of . . . contraception today, IUDs, low-dose birth control pills, which are the safest type of birth control pills available today, act as abortifacients. They are correctly labeled as both."

 Clearly, birth control pills (and IUDs), which primarily work by preventing implantation, are acting as abortifacients, not contraceptives. To knowingly use chemicals to cause the abortion of a pre-born baby nine days old is no less immoral than to abort that same baby at nine weeks or in the ninth month. A deliberate abortion is an abortion.

 --Paul Weckenbrock, R.Ph.

 1. Goodman, L., and Gilmore, A. (1970) The Pharmacological Basis of Therapeutics, 4th Ed., New York: McMillan Co., pp 1559-1560.

 2. Physicians' Desk Reference, 43rd Edition, (1989), Medical Economics Company.

 3. Hatcher, R., M.D., et al. (1988-1989) Contraceptive Technology 14th Rev. Ed., New York: Irvington Publishers, Inc.

 4. Peel, J. & Potts, M. (1964) Textbook of Contraceptive Practice, Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, pp 98 & 99.

5. VanderVange, N. (1988) ``Ovarian Activity During Low Dose Oral Contraceptives," Contemporary Obstetrics & Gynecology Ed. by G. Chamberlain.

 6. Killick, S., Eyong, E., and Elstein, M., (Sept.1987) "Ovarian Follicular Development in Oral Contraceptive Cycles," Fertility and Sterility, Vol.48, No.3.

 7. VanderVange,, N. (1984) "We are close to Lowest Steroid Dosage in the Pill," News and Views Newsletter, Organon Int'l. (W. Korteling,, Ed.)

 8. VanderVange, N. (Dec. 1986) "Seven Low Dose Oral Contraceptives and Their Influence on Metabolic Pathways and Ovarian Activity," Thesis, Rijksuniversiteit te Utrecht, Holland. (Summary by Van Riessen, S.J).)


Tell us about Your Pro-Life Work

 Have you had success in turning teens on to greater respect for life? In establishing a pro-life program or project in your parish or community? In sparking your parishioners' involvement? Please write and share your experiences in any aspect of pro-life work with our brother priests.

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