From the Director
A Challenge: Abortion
Deserves Special, Unique Attention
My Brother Priests,
Thank you for taking the time to read our Priests for Life
newsletter. As I meet more and more of you, it is clear that you are deeply
concerned about the abortion tragedy.
Yet the concern also arises that there are many issues and
many special apostolates, and that whatever special attention or activity we
give to the fight against abortion, we also have to be ready to give to other
issues and groups who represent those issues. We may therefore be tempted to say
no to some special efforts to fight abortion, because, after all, we don't want
everyone else lining up.
May I challenge this way of thinking.
I firmly embrace the consistency of our life ethic, namely,
that every human life is always sacred. The Church is to speak out whenever and
in whatever way the human person is attacked.
But what other "issue" destroys 4400 innocent lives every
day, in the United States alone, and calls it a "legal right"? What disease?
What war? What natural or unnatural calamity? What injustice?
I am perfectly willing to be fair. If someone asks you to
have a monthly holy hour for an end to abortion and you agree, and then someone
else comes along and points out a tragedy claiming at least 4400 lives a day,
then I agree you have just as much reason to have a monthly holy hour for that
intention as well. Neither one would take priority. (This leaves aside, of
course, the added aspect of abortion being a legal act with wealthy, powerful,
media-connected groups promoting it and the fact that its victims can neither
protest nor pray.)
Please let reality break through abstract concepts of, "What
I do for one, I do for the others."
At the time of the Persian Gulf crisis several years ago, our
Churches were full. I heard no complaints at that time to the effect that we
were not concerned with other people dying that day. The Gulf crisis was
appropriately a focal point at that moment. Were there some new crisis tomorrow,
we would not hesitate to focus on that in prayer as well.
But abortion is a new crisis tomorrow, just as it was a new
crisis today, when 4400 more people died who never died before. I see no more
reason not to deal with this than reason for not dealing with the next sick call
or funeral because there have been so many already.
Yes, abortion is the most devastating crisis we face. Don't
be afraid to give it special treatment. No other problem approaches its
magnitude. No other victims need you as much.
Fr. Frank Pavone
Homily: A "No" to
"But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who
persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes
his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and
the unjust" (Matt.5:44-45).
We can accept the teachings on the Holy Eucharist and the
Trinity, on heaven and the Immaculate Conception. But try the one on forgiveness
and love of enemies. It may be the hardest of all.
Love of enemies is not a feeling. Nor does it mean we pretend
we have no enemies. We do, for there are always people who stand against what we
Forgiving injuries does not mean pretending the injury didn't
hurt. It did, and it was wrong.
But who is our enemy? Our enemy is still our brother, our
sister. His/her wrongdoing does not erase the image of God in his/her very
being. Nor does it erase the fact that Christ's blood was shed for our enemy.
To love our enemy means to want what is good for him/her, and
to try to achieve it. The Lord mentions prayer as a practical starting point of
love. When we pray for another, we keep that person under the cover of our love.
We act like God. If we refuse even to pray for the wrongdoer, then we have
allowed the wrongdoer to interfere in our own relationship with God.
Some people say "Amen" to the restoration and use of the
death penalty. They may feel that it "serves them right" and brings the
"satisfaction" of revenge. Not necessarily.
Nor is that what we are called to seek. The death penalty
feeds the notion that death is a solution to our problems. "Eliminate the
person, and you have less to worry about." Think again. The person is not the
evil. The evil is to be eliminated; the person is to be loved. That's neither a
naive platitude nor a rhetorical distinction. That's a challenge from the One
who did the same to us.
Pro-Life Themes in the Advent Liturgy
The introduction to the lectionary, when speaking of the
Sundays of Advent, says, "Each gospel reading has a specific theme: the Lord's
coming in glory at the end of time (first Sunday), John the Baptist (second and
third Sundays), and the events which immediately prepared for the Lord's birth
(fourth Sunday)" (No.11).
We focus, in other words, on the first and second comings of
the same Christ, and on the one who teaches us how to prepare for His arrival,
namely, by repentance. "Reform your lives! The reign of God is at hand." The New
Testament readings complement and expand on John the Baptist's exhortations of
repentance. St. Paul urges, "Let us cast off deeds of darkness" (1 Advent A),
and "Live in perfect harmony with one another" (2d Advent A), He speaks of faith
as an obedience (4th Advent A). St. James encourages, "Be patient .... Steady
your hearts" (3rd Advent A). The Old Testament prophets, furthermore, describe
the results of the Messiah's coming, "One nation shall not raise the sword
against the other" (1 Advent A), "There shall be no harm or ruin on all my holy
mountain" (2d Advent A). "Then will the eyes of the blind be opened ... sorrow
and mourning will flee" (3rd Advent A). "Immanuel" (4th Advent A).
The preparation for Christ's coming is reform, and the
promise of His coming is reconciliation. The two, furthermore, are linked. If
the Messiah comes to restore harmony between nations, people, and even animals
("Then the wolf shall be a guest of the lamb....the baby shall play by the
cobra's den"), then the people of the Messiah are to repent of whatever destroys
that harmony. If the Messiah comes to bring justice ("He shall judge the poor
with justice and decide aright for the land's afflicted"), then the people of
the Messiah are to work to eliminate injustice. The "justice" referred to in
Isaiah ll is an act of intervention to save the helpless. The "spirit of the
Lord" which rests on the Messiah and likewise on His people, leads them to and
prepares them for the work of justice, as the structure of this passage
indicates. This same Spirit will later be called the Advocate.
Abortion is an injustice against the most helpless, and
attacks the harmony of human relationships at their most fundamental and
sensitive point, the relationship of mother and child. Preparing for the Lord's
coming therefore requires a total rejection of abortion. The promise of His
coming heralds a new harmony between mother and child.
The focus on the Virgin and Child at the end of Advent
The Second Vatican Council reflects upon the relationship
between the coming of Christ and our activity to prepare for it. In the
Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, we read, "Far from diminishing
our concern to develop this earth, the expectancy of a new earth should spur us
on, for it is here that the body of a new human family grows, foreshadowing in
some way the age which is to come....When we have spread on earth the fruits of
our nature and our enterprise -- human dignity, brotherly communion and freedom
-- according to the command of the Lord and in his Spirit, we will find them
once again, cleansed this time from the stain of sin, illuminated and
transfigured, when Christ presents to his Father an eternal and universal
kingdom...." (#39). In other words, the spirit of Advent should naturally
bolster our pro-life efforts, and the progress we make in promoting human
dignity becomes the "building blocks" for the eternal kingdom.
Advent leads the Church to the Silent Night when God Himself
is revealed as one of us. This season leads us to the joy of His birth (which,
incidentally, is the opening theme of The Gospel of Life). If God has
joined His nature to ours, how can we ever allow our nature to be despised? If
He has come to bring us Divine Life, and will return to take us to the skies,
how can it be all right to throw people in the garbage? May His birth shed
protection on all about to be born, and as we work to end abortion, may we "wait
in joyful hope for the coming of Our Savior, Jesus Christ."
Join a nationwide youth response to the Holy Father's call to
defend life and evangelize! Ask for the newsletter of Youth for Life at PO Box
612410, San Jose, CA 95161 (408) 955-9935. It's free!
Advent Book Recommendation
Redeemer in the Womb makes for excellent Advent
reading and pro-life reflection. Written by John Saward and published by
Ignatius Press, this work helps us focus on that phase of Christ's life spent in
Mary's womb. Christ joined all humanity to God in Himself. That includes the
humanity of the pre-born. We were all once pre-born children, and so was God.
Certainly we, as human beings and as representatives of God, have something to
say about the pre-born!
Come to DC!
Will we see you in Washington DC for the Annual March for
Life on January 22? You are encouraged to come for the educational Convention on
January 20 and the Mass at the Shrine on the 21st.
For details call 202-LIFE-377.
FREE educational videos are available on the subject of
abortion. Ideal for parish presentations---Contact Vickie at 201-947-3090.
You don't want to miss this book, Lime 5, which
devastates the lie that legal abortion is safe. Due in
January; inquire at 817-380-8800.
Also look in February for Dr. Bernard Nathanson's book The
Hand of God, the account of his journey from abortion to the Church--Regnery
Press, Washington, DC.
Abortion Hurts Women
Fr. Richard M. Hogan, Associate Director
Each year the number of women who have had abortions
increases. As these numbers increase, it is becoming more and more clear that
these mothers are harmed by abortion.
The most frequently asked questions by women who come to
abortion clinics are: "Will this procedure be painful?" and "Is it a baby?" The
staff at the abortion mills often lie. They say the procedure will not be
painful. How could it not be? The abortion procedure involves ripping a child
from the womb. We need to remember that biologically the child is very firmly
attached to the mother. The staff of the abortion mills also lie when they tell
the women that they are not carrying a baby.
Beginning with the lies, the entire procedure is an attack on
women. The mothers who have abortions risk higher rates of infertility,
infection, and even death. They risk life-long guilt and depression. And yet
they are rarely told this, even when they ask.
It should not surprise us that women are victims of abortion.
Objectively, abortion is a very serious sin. Sin hurts the sinner as well as
others. We know from Genesis that we are created in God's image and likeness.
Created like God, we are called from our very creation to imitate God. We should
act like God. This is not an external requirement imposed upon us. Rather, it is
internal. It is a requirement stemming from our structure as images of God.
When I see an image of myself in the mirror, the image does
what I do. People, as images of God, should do what God does. Unlike the animals
who do not have free will, we can choose to act contrary to the way we are made.
However, if we try to act contrary to the way we are made, we try to undo what
God did when He created us. We try to make ourselves into something other than
images of God. This hurts us. We might compare it to trying to redesign our
bodies by amputation. Such an attempt would hurt us. Sin is an attempt to
redesign ourselves. It is an attempt to remake ourselves into something other
than images of God and it hurts us. For these reasons, Pope John Paul II has
said that sin is a suicidal act.(1) If sin is a suicidal act and abortion is a
sin, then it is a suicidal act. The more serious the sin, the greater the harm.
Sin hurts the sinner. Abortion hurts women very seriously. When we oppose
abortion and try to persuade mothers to continue to carry their children, we are
trying to protect women from harm. It is not the pro-aborts who are for women,
it is we. We love both the child and the mothers and want neither to come to any
harm, physical or spiritual.
1 See Pope John Paul II, Apostolic Exhortation on
Reconciliation and Penance, (December 2, 1984), no. 15.
Fr. Thomas Keller
For Fr. Thomas Keller, pastor of Our Lady of Good Counsel
Church in Little Rock, Arkansas, the news that property next to the local
abortion mill was for sale was an opportunity to advance the pro-life cause.
In January 1994 he bought the property, and has established
The Life Center. It's statement of purpose reads, "Built by Fr. Thomas Keller
for the protection of human life from the moment of conception; for the
promotion and protection of spiritual, emotional, and mental life and health,
and for the promotion and health of physical life."
The building is used for the state office of Arkansas Right
to Life, has a prayer and reading room, contains a mini-gym for recreational
exercise, and displays an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Patroness of the
Unborn. The building was blessed by Bishop Andrew J. McDonald, Bishop of Little
Thank you, Fr. Keller, for this very visible and lasting
initiative to promote human life, right next to a building that routinely
destroys it! Thank you for being one of the many priests for life!