Priests for Life Newsletter
Volume 6, Number 2
March - April 1996
Should we talk with Abortionists?
Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide: Counteract the Myths!
Abortion Promoters: Are They
Homily on Pro-Life During the Easter Season
Priests Profiles: Fr. Brian Mead
Isn't "Priests for Life" superfluous, unnecessary, even
divisive? Isn't every priest "for life"?
Is it Enough to Reduce Abortions?
Should we talk with Abortionists?
by Fr. Frank Pavone
I have had currently practicing abortionists visit with me on various
occasions. I have similarly welcomed staff members of abortion facilities, and
various leaders in the "abortion rights" movement.
Is there value or purpose to this type of interaction?
There certainly is, if we properly understand its context and avoid two
The context of dialogue is first of all the great dialogue of salvation which
God has with His people and which the Church has with the world. (See Vatican
II, Constitution on The Church in the Modern World #3, #23; Pope Paul VI,
Ecclesiam Suam). God takes the initiative in offering His people the gift of
salvation. The Church, missionary by her very nature, takes the initiative in
presenting the Gospel to the world and inviting all nations to freely respond.
Dialogue is rooted in the dignity of the human person. It acknowledges that
despite a person’s views or behavior, that person has human dignity. The Holy
Father writes in the Gospel of Life, "Not even a murderer loses his
personal dignity, and God Himself pledges to guarantee this" (EV #9). We
therefore approach the abortion provider as an equal and engage his/her
goodwill. The partner is seen as one willing and capable of seeking what is good
and true, and reasoning together.
In considering dialogue, two extreme positions need to be avoided.
The first is the idea that dialogue is useless or is a betrayal of the
pro-life cause. It is not useless, however. Dialogue helps clear up
misunderstandings and prejudices, even if it does not result in agreement. I
know of several instances in which through dialogue, abortion supporters became
aware, for the first time, of pro-life efforts to help women in crisis
pregnancies. I was able to help some abortionists understand why pro-lifers
(including me) were demonstrating against them. I helped them understand the
difference between rejecting someone’s actions and rejecting the person.
Nor is dialogue a betrayal of the pro-life cause. Discussing one’s position
does not require softening the position. Dialogue is not meant to look for some
"compromise" between "pro-life" and "pro-choice". It does not seek some middle
ground between life and death. There is none. It does not seek a society which
can encompass both a pro-life and abortion-rights philosophy. Such a society
Instead, dialogue seeks to communicate the truth, to help people understand
each other, and to create the climate in which truth can best be accepted and
Dialogue has value.
The other extreme is to overestimate or oversimplify that value, thinking
that dialogue will solve everything or that it is the only legitimate response
to the abortion crisis. Dialogue will not solve everything. In some cases,
promoters of abortion will show no interest whatsoever in talking with
pro-lifers. The goodwill that dialogue demands is sometimes lacking.
Dialogue, even under the best circumstances, is by no means the only
legitimate pro-life activity. "Let us love in deed and truth", St. John says,
"and not merely talk about it" (1 John 3:18). Abortion is not merely an "issue"
or a "controversy", it is a tragedy, and it has victims. The victims need a
defense, and they need it today. They cannot wait until everyone agrees to
Dialogue does, however, need to be practiced more frequently. Pro-life groups
and individuals should invite abortionists and abortion rights supporters to
talk. Pro-life training seminars should include training on how to talk with
them effectively. Numerous conversions from the pro-abortion ranks to pro-life
ranks have occurred as a result of the communications, respect, and love that
pro-lifers have offered. The reason is that the best way to convince someone of
the dignity of human life is to treat him/her with dignity. Many think the
preborn have no value because they think that their own lives have no value.
Many trample on the preborn because they themselves have been trampled upon by
others. The only way our message will get through to some of these people is if
we treat them with such respect that they think, "My life has some value." In
discovering that value, they might then find it easier to discover it again in
Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide: Counteract the Myths!
We need to lead the way in clearing up confusion about euthanasia and
assisted suicide. We need to counteract a few common myths surrounding the
controversy. (Quotes are from a May 1994 study by the New York State Task Force
on Life and Law entitled , When Death is Sought: Assisted Suicide and
Euthanasia in the Medical Context. The Task Force is at 5 Penn Plaza, New
York, NY 10001-1803 Tel. 212-613-4303.)
1. It is a myth that most terminally ill people seek suicide. "According to
available data, only a small percentage of terminally ill or severely ill
patients attempt or commit suicide." (p.9)
2. It is a myth that single events cause people to end their lives. "Contrary
to popular opinion, suicide is not usually a reaction to an acute problem or
crisis in one’s life or even to a terminal illness... Instead, certain personal
characteristics are associated with a higher risk of...suicide." (p.11)
3. It is a myth that requests for suicide represent a person’s true desires.
"Like other suicidal individuals, patients who desire suicide or an early death
during a terminal illness are usually suffering from a treatable mental illness,
most commonly depression." (p.13)
4. It is a myth that terminal illness has to involve unmanageable pain.
"Taken together, modern pain relief techniques can alleviate pain in all but
extremely rare cases." (p.40)
We will explore these issues more fully in future newsletters.
Abortion Promoters: Are They Too Spiritual?
By Fr. Frank Pavone
That sounds like a strange question, doesn't it? Yet the more I listen to and
read what abortionists say, the more I recognize a pattern. One of the mistaken
notions that feeds the abortion mentality is that what happens to the body
doesn't matter. Only the soul or spirit counts.
This is reflected in one woman's comment to me just prior to her abortion. "I
know God gave me the child, but I'm not ready now. So, I'm giving the child back
to God." It sounds so spiritual! It sounds downright good! In fact, what better
place can there be for the child than in the hands of God? Her comment, of
course, bypasses a critical reality: the child is about to be killed! The
child's body, which is just as much the child as is her soul, is about to be
crushed and destroyed. We have no right to deny or bypass that reality in order
to focus on the spiritual.
This mentality is also reflected in the following words of abortionist Norman
Matthews, who agreed to answer some questions for the pro-life newsletter
"Nehemiah News" in Cincinnati.
Q: Do you feel that you are ending the life of a human being when you perform
an abortion? Why or why not?
A: Perhaps. I do not know when a conceptus receives a soul. Nor do I feel
that anyone else knows.
Q: As a highly educated and trained physician, when do you feel life begins?
A: I frankly don't know.
Q: If a patient were to ask you "Is it a baby?", how would you respond?
A: Patients do ask that. I tell them that I don't know when a child receives
Catholic teaching against abortion is not rooted in the presence or absence
of the soul. The teaching is based instead on the dominion of God over human
life. As the Holy Father says in The Gospel of Life, "Even if the
presence of a spiritual soul cannot be ascertained by empirical data, the
results themselves of scientific research on the human embryo provide a valuable
indication for discerning by the use of reason a personal presence at the moment
of the first appearance of a human life: How could a human individual not be a
Furthermore, what is at stake is so important that, from the standpoint of
moral obligation, the mere probability that a human person is involved would
suffice to justify an absolutely clear prohibition of any intervention aimed at
killing a human embryo. Precisely for this reason, over and above all scientific
debates and those philosophical affirmations to which the magisterium has not
expressly committed itself, the church has always taught and continues to teach
that the result of human procreation, from the first moment of its existence,
must be guaranteed that unconditional respect which is morally due to the human
being in his or her totality and unity as body and spirit." (The Gospel of
Homily on Pro-Life During the Easter Season
Christ is Risen! "Death has no more power over Him!" (Rom.6:9) The central
fact of human history and the foundational truth of our Faith is celebrated in
the Easter Season. "Jesus Christ broke the chains of death and rose triumphant
from the tomb" (Easter Proclamation).
He broke the chains of death, furthermore, not only for Himself but for us!
If someone who died in your town were seen alive again, it would be an
astonishing event, but it would leave our lives, and the prospect of our death,
unchanged. But when Jesus Christ rose from the dead he overthrew the entire
kingdom of death. He robbed death of its power! By his Resurrection, He opened
the door for our resurrection! God is in the business of destroying
prophesied (Is.25:8). "O death, I will be your death" Hosea foretold
Since we are God's people, we are the people of life. We bear witness to what
God continues to do in our midst. We stand against death in all its forms. It’s
most destructive form, both in principle and statistically, is abortion. The
People of Life cannot ignore the taking of life. The People of Life cannot
espouse death as a legitimate option to solve a problem. Nor, in fighting the
power of death, can they ever doubt the outcome. Christ is Risen, Life is
Is it enough to reduce abortions?
Anything that people can morally do to reduce the numbers of abortions has my
But the goal of our movement and the obligation of our government is more
than reducing the occurrence of abortion.
We must break it in principle.
Abortion not only destroys human life. It makes a statement about human life.
It says some lives are disposable at the choice of others, and that the
government can authorize which lives can be disposed. The principle behind
abortion betrays the principle behind America: all are created equal. For
America to settle for making the betrayal of this principle "rare" is no less a
Did you Know?
Priests for Life relies entirely on private contributions, which are tax
deductible. Please help and be generous!
Protestants and Catholics Together!
Priests for Life has been officially accepted as a member group of the
National Pro-Life Religious Council, an interdenominational pro-life
association. NPRC accepts individual membership as well, from all Christian
denominations, and publishes a regular newsletter. Write NPRC, 109 2nd St. NE,
Washington, DC 20013. We thank our brothers and sisters of other Christian
denominations for their enthusiasm in working with Priests for Life!
Fr. Brian Mead
Fr. Brian Mead was ordained on May 17, 1969 for the diocese of Burlington,
Vermont. He spent some years assigned to Vermont Catholic Charities, where he
often counseled women who had had abortions. For the last ten years he has been
pastor of Our Lady of Grace in Colchester, Vermont.
At Our Lady of Grace, Fr. Mead and his parishioners have built a shrine in
memory of the unborn. Of course, this is a very common practice. There are over
500 of these shrines around the country often built with the sponsorship of the
Knights of Columbus. However, the shrine at Our Lady of Grace is a little
different. The tombstone has an opening for envelopes or papers. Those who have
had an abortion or participated in an abortion are invited to name the child and
symbolically bury the child by writing the name on a piece of paper and
"depositing" it in the tomb. Fr. Mead explains that this "burial" of aborted
children can bring "closure" for those who have aborted their children. Mothers
who have naturally miscarried are invited to name their children and deposit the
names as well.
The shrine at Our Lady of Grace has been the source of reconciliation for
many aborted women. Fr. Brian points out that when women come to the shrine,
they can ask forgiveness of their children. They also can identify with the
Blessed Mother because Mary, too, lost a child (on the cross). And just as Mary
forgave those who killed her child, so the women who come to the shrine can
forgive those who had killed their children.
Fr. Brian also has a small group of people, a pious association of the
faithful, who gather before the Blessed Sacrament once a week to pray for life
and for vocations.
Thank you, Father Mead, for all that you are doing for life. Reconciliation
and prayer are powerful spiritual weapons in the pro-life arsenal.
Isn't "Priests For Life" superfluous, unnecessary,
even divisive? Isn't every priest "for life"?
Every human being should be for life. Every Christian, by definition, is
called to stand for life. Every doctor is supposed to protect life. Yet to
counteract the crisis of abortion, we have groups like Doctors for Life, Nurses
for Life, Scientists for Life. We have Athletes for Life, Students for Life,
Teachers for Life, Lawyers for Life. The existence of these groups, and hundreds
of others, is meant to assist their members to use their skills, training, and
opportunities to defend and promote life. In this context, it would be strange
not to have a "Priests for Life." To be "for life" belongs to the essence of
the priesthood. The title "Priests for Life" does not mean, "We are for
life; other priests aren't." Rather, it means, "Being a priest means being 'for
life'." We help priests develop that aspect of their ministry. It is similar to
the existence of religious orders like the Society of Jesus or the Blessed
Sacrament Fathers. They are not the only ones who believe in Jesus or the
Blessed Sacrament. Rather, they emphasize what is central for all of us. So with
Priests for Life.
PFL on Radio
We have increased our radio outreach to the world through WEWN Catholic
Shortwave radio. Shortwave is easier to use than you think. Tune in to our
pro-life programs! For info, call WEWN at 205-672-7200 any time of the day or
night. There will be a live call-in show on abortion with Fr. Frank Pavone on
Thursday March 28 from 9-11pm Eastern time.
Material in this newsletter may be reproduced and distributed to spread the
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