Priests for Life Newsletter
Volume 4, Number 1
C O N T E N T S
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.
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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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
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.
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
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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