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Priests for Life Newsletter

Volume 6, Number 2
March - April 1996

 mccorveyff4.jpg (67856 bytes)Contents

Should we talk with Abortionists?

Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide: Counteract the Myths!

Abortion Promoters: Are They Too Spiritual?

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 extremes.

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 cannot survive.

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 flourish.

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 defend them.

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 the babies.



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 a soul."

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 human person?"

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 Life, #60)


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 (Hos.13:14).

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 victorious!


Is it enough to reduce abortions?

Anything that people can morally do to reduce the numbers of abortions has my support.

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 betrayal.


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!


Priests Profiles:

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 pro-life message.

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