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Priests for Life Newsletter

Volume 4, Number 1
1994

C O N T E N T S

Fathers, Let's Face Our Fears About Abortion Blessed Sacrament Brought to Abortion Mill
Alternatives to Abortion: Phone Numbers National Youth Day
Consistent Ethic: Specific Agenda Update from Chicago Priests for Life Chapter
Homily Excerpts from Respect Life Sunday A Powerful Parish Project: Project Truth
Quick Notes: Pro-Life Means Pro-Woman Quotable Quotes of Encouragement
Abortion, Justice and Worship

 

Fathers, Let's Face Our Fears About Abortion

Priests for Life has been receiving a lot of input from clergy about the reasons some have for not being more involved in the fight against abortion. Let's try to address them.

1. Am I afraid of being perceived as "right wing, " "fanatical, " "traditionalist, " or out of step with my people? The question to ask here is, "Why was I ordained?" If we were ordained to shepherd our people, to lead them, then our concern becomes helping them see and practice the truth. We are not to be led around by any factions either on the "left" or on the "right." Rather, we are to lead our people to truth. If in doing so we are labeled, so what? If people can influence us by labels, isn't that weakness on our part? What do we do when they "label" us simply for being a priest or a Catholic?

2. Am I afraid of being a single issue priest? From one perspective, there is no ground for this fear. We address many issues. The real fear is, "What will happen if I address abortion even once?" From another perspective, there is only one issue, because if there isn't life, then there can be no other rights and no people to discuss them.

3. Will I endanger our tax-exemption by speaking on abortion? No. The law does not forbid us from speaking on public policy issues. Mr. Mark Chopko, General Counsel for the USCC, reminds us that "participation in the public debate on important issues inevitably overlaps with positions taken by certain candidates. Nonetheless, issue-oriented speech is protected by the First Amendment... even within the section 501 (c) (3) regulatory framework." (Memorandum, June 26,1992).

4. Will I drive away women who have had abortions? We preach on abortion to save such women, and to protect other women from making the same mistake. A letter we received from a woman who had an abortion urges us not to fear speaking out. "I can't help but think that if I heard in church that abortion was wrong. . . I might have chosen to keep my baby instead of killing my baby." As we condemn abortion, we also proclaim forgiveness and healing. Experts in post-abortion healing tell us that it is absolutely essential that the woman "stop using the mechanisms of defense, such as denial, self-repression, and rationalization of abortion. (Dr. Philip Mango, "The Consequences of Abortion and Their Treatment," August 1990). She must face the fact that her baby was killed. We can help on the path to healing by proclaiming the truth about abortion and the reality of forgiveness. When we address abortion, it tells her, "We care." Our silence tells her, "We don't care."

We will deal with other fears in future newsletters. The bottom line in all of this is the fact that lives are on the line. Is a baby's life worth the price I may pay for addressing abortion?

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Alternatives to Abortion: Phone Numbers

 Where do you send the woman who is tempted to abort her child? Besides local crisis pregnancy centers, various national assistance centers are available. One of these, providing guidance, medical assistance, and nurturing homes is The Nurturing Network, Call 1-800-TNN-4MOM. Another, providing referrals throughout the nation is LIFECALL, l-800-526-LIFE.

 

Pro-Life Retreat

 Priests for Life and the Apostolate for Family Consecration would like to co-sponsor a priests' retreat at the Apostolate's Center in Bloomingdale, Ohio. If you are interested, please let us know and we will work out the dates.

 

 We Need Your Help

 Priests for Life is not funded by any diocese or organization, and hardly has much of a treasury. Yet we want to reach every priest in the nation and promote programs and activities to get priests more involved. If you think this is a pro-life priority, can you please help us with a generous donation? Gifts are tax-deductible. THANKS!

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Consistent Ethic, Specific Agenda

Fr. Frank Pavone

We are all familiar with the phrase "consistent ethic of life." Made popular by Joseph Cardinal Bernardin of Chicago in a talk he gave at Fordham in 1983, the phrase refers to the attitude we take toward human life in its every circumstance and condition. If human life is sacred, then it is sacred always and everywhere. If the destruction of innocent human life is to be opposed, then that opposition must exist no matter what the cause of destruction may be. We oppose abortion because innocent life is killed. We oppose shootings of pedestrians because innocent life is killed. We oppose ANY killing of the innocent. That is consistency. That is an ethic, an attitude.

But an attitude is not the same as an agenda. To have a "consistent ethic" of life does not mean--and cannot mean--that we are expected to do everything. "He who attacks everywhere, attacks nowhere." Sure, we are concerned about all attacks on the dignity of life. How we translate that concern (i.e. ethic) into action (i.e. agenda) requires more than consistency. It requires prudence. It requires an examination of which attacks on life are most devastating, of where we can best apply our talents, and of what must be done first.

Of all the attacks on life, none is more widespread and devastating than abortion. The sheer magnitude of it outweighs anything else. Moreover, the attitude of those who attempt to justify it as a "right" adds to its offensiveness. (Do we have organized efforts to push for the "right" of stabbing children in our streets?) Furthermore, the primary victim in abortion is the most defenseless of all.

In terms of our agenda, therefore, we must place abortion first. Some hesitate to do this, invoking the "consistent ethic of life." But that is an ethic, not an agenda. The National Conference of Catholic Bishops in 1985 stated, "Focus on abortion and the Church's firm commitment to a consistent ethic of life complement each other" (Reaffirmation of Pastoral Plan for Pro-Life Activities). Three years later, Cardinal Bernardin himself stated, "Some people... have used the consistent ethic to give the impression that the abortion issue is not that important anymore, that you should be against abortion in a general way but that there are more important issues, so don't hold anybody's feet to the fire just on abortion. That's a misuse of the consistent ethic, and I deplore it." (Interview with National Catholic Register, June 22, 1988). The following year, the National Conference of Catholic Bishops unanimously passed the Resolution on Abortion which states, "At this particular time abortion has become the fundamental human rights issue for all men and women of good will."

Consistent ethic? Absolutely! Specific agenda? Stop the bleeding where the bleeding is the worst: fight abortion! Fathers, do not be intimidated or confused. Do not let anyone distort a valuable teaching, the consistent ethic of life, into a tool against the very fight for life.

For more information on this topic, I refer you to Fr. Joseph M. Connors, SVD, "The Consistent, Consecutive Ethic of Life" available from WORDLIFE, P.O. Box 1319, Silver Springs, FL 32688.

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Excerpts of Homily
on National Respect Life Sunday at Holy Name Cathedral, Chicago

Bishop John Gorman October 3, 1993

Two weeks ago, a Chicago newspaper carried an editorial that was very striking in its candor and sweeping in its charge. It situated the violent death of yet another foreign tourist in Florida within the larger climate of senseless violence in the United States. The editorial said, in part: ". . . the whole world has been alerted to a frightening reality too many Americans still refuse to confront. This nation, from sea to shining sea, has become a dangerous, violent place." Why is all this happening?

Many of the most serious problems we face as a nation stem from lack of respect for human life. History reveals that such respect does not come naturally to humans. Our Christian notion of original sin helps explain why we must learn to respect life --every human life -- from conception to natural death, and in all its circumstances.

The prophet Isaiah says that God looked for justice among his people, but found, instead, bloodshed, injustice --violence! Some of the hearers might have objected that they had not killed anyone personally. However, the Scriptures recognize that when we tolerate evil in our midst, we share responsibility for the erosion of public morality.

Let us recommit our efforts to bring an end to all the threats to human life. May we find wisdom, strength, and courage from the Word of God and this Eucharist to work for justice, harmony and peace.

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 Quick Notes

Fr. Frank Pavone is willing to travel to address clergy and laity and to help form local Priests for Life chapters. About six new ones are now underway. Please call us.

PRO-LIFE means PROWOMAN. Addressing the harm abortion does to the mother is an effective way to start teaching about it in your parish or school. Priests for Life has about 1,100 case studies of women who had abortions and write in their own words how it affected them. Contact us, or the Elliot Institute, PO Box 979, Springfield, Ill. 62791. You can't love the mother by killing the child. Let's love them both.

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Homily: Abortion, Justice, and Worship

In the Old Testament prophecies of Christ, we frequently encounter the word "justice." Jeremiah, for example, says that the Messiah will be called "The Lord our justice." The psalmist declares, "Justice shall flourish in His time." The word "justice" furthermore, has a specific meaning for the prophets. An act of justice is an act of intervention to save the helpless, to rescue the needy. The one who worships the God of Justice, therefore, is expected to DO justice, to protect the weak and provide for the needy. In the absence of this, worship is displeasing to God.

In Amos, the Lord declares,

"I hate, I despise your feasts... Take away from me the noise of your songs. . . I will not listen. But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an everflowing stream." (Amos 5:21-24)

In Isaiah we read,

"When you spread forth your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, l will not listen; for your hands are full of blood. . . Seek justice, correct oppression." (Isaiah 1: 15, 17)

We who know Christ, the King of Justice, must do justice for the pre-born, who are most in need of intervention. So many attend Mass and receive the sacraments, and yet pay no attention to the pro-life struggle or, worse, take a "pro-choice" (i.e. pro-abortion) position. The warnings of the prophets apply to them.

Christ in the Eucharist is Justice Incarnate. In the miracle of the Mass, we have the definitive victory of justice over evil, of life over death. We have there Christ's Risen Body, and His renewal of the Passion and Resurrection, which destroys the power of death. In the Eucharist, we touch the final victory of justice for the pre-born and for all humanity. The prayers of the offertory ask that God will take what "earth has given and human hands have made" and let it become "the Bread of Life." Likewise, he takes our human efforts on behalf of justice for the preborn, and transforms them into victory. What He does in the Eucharist, He will ultimately do in the whole universe when He comes again.

In the Eucharist, the power of abortion is broken. We are given a foretaste of definitive, eternal life and justice. May all who love justice find refuge in the Eucharistic Lord, and allow Him to bring us to victory!

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Blessed Sacrament Brought to Abortion Mill

In the summer of 1992, Bishop James Sullivan of Fargo, North Dakota (a member of our Board of Advisors) brought the Blessed Sacrament in solemn procession to an abortion mill. A thousand people participated in the event, the first of its kind. They were very moved, and sensed the deep spiritual warfare between Life and death, as they prayed and adored the Lord outside the mill. A video of the event, called "The Battle Lines are Drawn," is available from Carmichael Audio-Video, Inc., 5135 Leavenworth, Omaha, NE 68106. Can we have similar events in other dioceses? Let us know your thoughts.

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National Youth Day

Youth of America will respond to the Pope's call in Denver to proclaim the Gospel of Life by gathering in Denver once again from August 4 to 7, 1994. Initiated by Youth for Life in California, this event is open to young people ages 12 through 39 and will take place in the McNichols Sports Arena. Prominent Catholic figures are being invited to present teachings on the Faith and on the sanctity of life. Priests for Life has been asked to serve as the spiritual director of the event. For more information on registration, write to Youth for Life, P.O. Box 4431, Mountain View, CA 94040, (415) 940-1280.

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Update from Chicago Priests for Life

Over the last few months, Chicago Priests for Life have been getting more and more established. Our regional director, Fr. James F. Heyd, now has two assistants, Frs. Charles Fanelli and Tom Koys. Membership in Chicago increased to approximately 25 priests along with the help of many dedicated lay associates who will assist in our apostolate. Fr. Jim is in the process of establishing regional chapters throughout the Midwest. In addition, along with our National Director, Fr. Frank Pavone, he spent time in Washington and New York deliberating on how best to organize Priests for Life around the country.

In Chicago, a number of objectives have been accomplished. Monthly prolife holy hours and periodic Hope and Healing Masses (for post-abortion healing) are underway in parishes; peaceful prayer vigils continue at abortuaries; Deacons for Life is being organized; efforts geared toward prolife advertising (i.e., billboards) are planned; a pro-life Mass with Cardinal Bernardin was celebrated in Chicago before the March on Washington; lastly, a coalition of Chicago churches (Catholic and Protestant) is forming to fight abortion.

In conclusion, we are acting upon certain plans which were planned months ago. May God continue to bless and guide us.

Fr. Jim Heyd

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A Powerful Parish Project

Educate your parish on abortion by using "Project Truth," an evening of video presentations geared to expose the horror of abortion and the greed and deception that fuel the abortion industry. Part of the video portion shows former abortionists telling the story of how and why they stopped killing babies. This is guaranteed to move people out of their denial about abortion. Write to Priests for Life for a "Project Truth" packet.

From Our Brother Priests

Msgr. Cornelius J. Burns from San Francisco sent in a quote from Orestes Brownson that can help our work:

"Ask not what your age wants, but what it needs; not what it will reward, but what, without which, it cannot be saved; and that go and do; and find your reward in the consciousness of having done your duty, and above all in the reflection that you have been accounted to suffer somewhat for mankind."

 

 Encouragement from the Pews

We receive letters constantly, urging us to speak out on abortion:

"I believe abortion should be spoken about in Church... we need our bishops and priests to have courage and speak out." -- a married woman from California

"If priests don't preach about abortion in Church, teens will only hear the lies, and where will the Pro-Life movement be then?" --a teen from NY

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[PFL Previous Newsletters]

 

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