Priests for Life Newsletter
Volume 7, Number 3
May - June 1997
Calling All Deacons
What is the Pontifical Council for the Family?
PFL Responds to Religious Coalition for Reproductive
Priest Profiles: Msgr. James P. Lisante
Calling All Deacons
My brother priests and deacons,
From the first day I became involved in Priests for Life, I stressed that
this clergy association included full membership for deacons. I now want to
re-emphasize this aspect of our association and take steps to make it more
widely known. I need your help to do so.
When I studied theology at Dunwoodie, I served
as Master of Ceremonies, and it was in that capacity that I was privileged to
work with the candidates for the permanent diaconate in the Archdiocese of New
York. After my ordination, I continued to be involved with the formation program
for deacons, teaching various courses in dogmatic theology and Scripture.
In the parish in which I served for the first five years of my priesthood
(St. Charles in Staten Island), I experienced the benefit of having three
permanent deacons on the staff. We could not possibly have had the pastoral
impact we did have without these men.
In my travels throughout the United States, I have met many deacons and have
seen deacon programs in various stages of growth.
Both from the perspective of my experience with
the deacon formation program and with the pro-life movement, I am convinced that
we are at a moment when permanent deacons can play a special pastoral role in
the mission outlined for the Church in The Gospel of Life.
There are certain aspects of flexibility in the ministry of the deacon which
are not present in that of the priest. Often there is more room for specialized
ministries such as those focusing on pro-life issues. Furthermore, the
experience most deacons have as husbands and fathers brings a powerful dimension
to their preaching and counseling on life issues.
We are grateful at Priests for Life for the large number of deacons who have
signed up as members, and for the opportunities we have been given to present
workshops for deacons and deacon candidates. We have also received a large
number of requests that a special program of "Deacons for Life" be initiated.
Our staff will therefore follow up on this idea starting immediately. We will be
in contact with deacons throughout the nation and strengthen the network of
communication among them regarding pro-life issues. All of this would take place
within the structures we have already established for Priests for Life. Because
deacons already may have full membership in the association, there is no need to
form a separate one. "Deacons for Life" would be a chapter of the Priests for
Life association which now is given special emphasis and shares in all the
benefits and resources of the wider organization.
We would like you to take the practical step of
informing any deacons on your pastoral staff about this initiative and about
the fact that they are welcome to have full membership in this association.
Please share with them the PFL newsletter,
and if they are interested in our clergy pack, please encourage them
to contact us.
The diaconate is a blessing in the Church,
given by Christ Himself and calling the whole Body of Christ to the greatness of
service to His people. Today we lift up all deacons, their wives, and their
families, praying that their ministry be fruitful and that they receive the full
measure of the Life which they proclaim.
Fr. Frank Pavone
You are encouraged to remember the following intentions as you pray the
Liturgy of the Hours:
May intention: That people may have a greater awareness of the dangers of
June intention: For the success of efforts to represent the pro-life message
in the secular media.
What Is the Pontifical Council for the Family?
From the beginning of its existence, Priests for Life has had close contact
with the Pontifical Council for the Family. At the present time, Fr. Frank
Pavone is working there as an official of the Council.
What is this Council and what are its duties?
The overall mission of the Catholic Church throughout the world is
coordinated by a number of Congregations and Councils in the Vatican, each of
which is assigned certain areas of responsibility. Assistance is thereby given
to the Holy Father in his role as the Universal Pastor of the Church. There is,
for example, a Congregation that oversees anything pertaining to the
administration of the Sacraments, another that oversees Catholic education, and
The activity of the Church for the defense of human life and for the pastoral
care of the family falls under the responsibility of the Pontifical Council for
Pope John Paul II created this council on May 9, 1981. During the previous
year, a special assembly of bishops in Rome had discussed the role of the
Christian family in the modern world.
The Council collaborates with the other departments in the Vatican and with
bishops throughout the world. It follows the activities of pro-life and
pro-family organizations throughout the world and assists them with the help of
the staff based in Rome as well as members and consultors throughout the world,
including married couples.
The specific focus of Priests for Life, namely, the defense of human life
from abortion and euthanasia, is one of the areas on which the Council for the
Family focuses. Other areas that the Council oversees include contraception, sex
education, the rights, theology, and spirituality of the family, and marriage
preparation. Part of the educational efforts of the Council includes publication
of its journal Familia et Vita.
Priests for Life acknowledges in a special way the leadership of the
President of the Pontifical Council for the Family, Alfonso Cardinal Lopez
Trujillo. He has been a prophetic voice in the Church for years on the dignity
and rights of the human person. We look forward to his continued leadership and
likewise thank him for his support of Priests for Life, on whose advisory board
he has served from the beginning.
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Priests for Life Responds to Religious Coalition for
Sadly, there exists in our nation a group called the "Religious Coalition
for Reproductive Choice" (formerly called the Religious Coalition for Abortion
Rights). It has representatives from about 38 denominations, and claims that the
right to choose abortion is consistent with the Gospel.
The member group which claims to be Catholic is "Catholics for a Free
Choice." In 1993, however, the United States bishops formally declared that
Catholics for a Free Choice "has no affiliation, formal or otherwise, with
the Catholic church....many people, including Catholics, may be led to believe
that it is an authentic Catholic organization. It is not."
Having examined the literature of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive
Choice, Fr. Frank Pavone has issued the following statement:
Choice in Christ
A Statement in Response to the "Religious Coalition for
Fr. Frank Pavone
Priests for Life
As ministers of the Gospel of Life, Priests for Life are
concerned about misrepresentations of that Gospel by those who profess Christian
faith and at the same time promote a "reproductive choice" of the destruction of
human life by abortion. This "pro-choice" stance is defended by invoking freedom
of religious belief and conscience, individual liberty, and the defense of the
health and wholeness of the mother carrying the child.
What is the Choice?
We certainly support "reproductive freedom" in the sense that
a man and woman must be free from coercion in making, before God, the personal
judgment about the number and spacing of children they will bear.
But there is a big difference between choosing to have
a child and choosing to kill a child. To determine whether one can have
another child, before that child exists is quite legitimate. To eliminate them
once they already exist is not legitimate.
Freedom of Religion and Conscience
Some appeal to "freedom of religion and conscience" to decide
whether the baby in the womb is in fact a human being with the right to life. We
point out that the humanity of the child is as definitive scientifically as the
humanity of the parents. The point at which a unique life begins is clear from
To leave such a basic right as life, furthermore, to be
determined by another's religion or conscience puts us all in danger. What do
you say to a person who, "in conscience" no longer "believes" that you
are human? Whatever you say is worthless to him, because he can say, "Why should
I listen to a non-human?" If we do not allow the right to one's possessions to
be subject to another persons's religion, neither should one's right to life be
God has given us personal liberty as a tremendous gift which
cannot be despised. The Christian message, proclaimed in Scripture, not only
reveals the existence of such liberty, but shows that its fullness is found
precisely in Christ. Redeemed and transformed by Him, we find ourselves sharing
a life and liberty, which is no longer merely our own, but Christ's. (See
Rom.12:2,Gal.2:20). Far from being separate sources of purely private liberty,
we become one Body (Eph 4:15-16, 1Cor12:12). Our union with Christ does not
squelch or destroy our personal liberty, but enhances and strengthens it.
(Jn.8:31-32;14:12). By this very dynamic, we freely choose the love of Christ
and one another, and this involves precisely the rejection of what is contrary
to love and to the Gospel (Col.3:5-11). It involves the rejection of acts which
destroy others. Abortion is one such act. Christian love ultimately means, "I
sacrifice myself for the good of the other person." Abortion means, "I sacrifice
the other person for the good of myself" (See 1Jn.3:11-12,16).
If a doctrine of liberty includes the destruction of the
child in the womb, even when the child's humanity is acknowledged, why should it
not also include the newborn, or you, or me. Where is the principle that would
prevent the liberty that destroys some of us from destroying all of us?
The Woman's Well-being
Some defend the choice of abortion by appealing to the
preservation of the mother's health or "wholeness."
We assert that one is never whole when one destroys another.
The promise of wholeness through abortion is false and
illusory. Two decades of legalized abortion in America provide abundant evidence
of wounded bodies and souls, and a wounded society.
Religion that is not grounded in reality is a disservice to
humanity. Religions which present abortion as a legitimate choice, but ignore
the fact that abortion harms women, will rightfully deserve the criticism made
by some of our secular counterparts that such religion enslaves people and
hinders authentic human progress.
Even more crucially, Churches that fail to discern the harm
inflicted on women by abortion will be ill-suited to provide them the
compassion, healing, and forgiveness they desperately need. More and more of our
sisters and brothers are feeling and will feel the need for such healing. To
whom will they turn? They will find little comfort from those who have opened
the door to abortion or told them it is wrong only if they believe it is wrong.
Unfortunately, the damage inflicted by abortion does not likewise yield to one's
beliefs about whether it is real.
An international body of former abortion providers has formed
under the title of the Centurions, who cry out, "Surely, these were innocent
lives!" They are reaching the truth about abortion more quickly than some
Christian communities. When our society has come to the dead end to which
abortion leads, may the Church be ready to bring healing and lead the world once
again to affirm and choose the Gospel of Life!
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Priest Profiles: -- Msgr. James P.
By Anthony DeStefano, Executive Director
Msgr. James P. Lisante has been a member of Priests for Life for several
years. Ordained in 1981, he has long felt a special calling to speak out on the
life issues. In 1985, he was appointed Director of the Office of Family Ministry
in the diocese of Rockville Centre, in New York. His primary responsibilities
involved the pro-life cause, family life and pre-Cana preparation.
Monsignor Lisante writes a well know and popular syndicated column for the
Catholic Press. His articles on family life and respect life, which are
published in The Long Island Catholic and other Christian newspapers
around the nation, reach almost six million families and have been cited by the
Catholic Press Association in its "best regular column" category for three
Monsignor is the author of the best-selling book, Of Life and Love,
published by Resurrection Press. His latest book is called Let's Talk: The
Gospel Challenge for American Catholics (Resurrection Press). It was the
recipient of an award from the Catholic Press Association as being among the
best "popular presentations of the Catholic faith."
Monsignor is also the weekly host of a Cablevision program called Let's
Talk. This show, the recipient of an award from the United States Catholic
Conference, is produced by Telicare and airs through Cablevision of Long Island.
Monsignor Lisante chairs the Alexander Roberts Fund for disabled children.
His work with these special children is aided by the generosity of many noted
individuals. These have included the late film director, Frank Capra, film
director John Avildsen; authors William F. Buckley, Jr., Daniel Berrigan, S.J.,
John Knowles; actors Michael Moriarty, Milo O'Shea, Patricia Neal, Don Murray,
Maxwell Caulfield, and the late Margaret Hamilton and Helen Hayes. Monsignor's
work has also enjoyed the strong support of notable church leaders such as John
Cardinal O'Connor, Basil Cardinal Hume, Cardinal Roger Mahony and John Powell,
Often a spokesperson for the Church, Monsignor Lisante has appeared on The
Donohue Show, Ted Koppel's Nightline, and ABC's radio's Religion
on the Line. He was Fox Television's special correspondent/commentator
during the visit of Pope John Paul II to the United States.
Monsignor Lisante is currently the pastor of Saint Thomas the Apostle Parish
in West Hempstead, N.Y. He can be reached at (516) 489-8585. (Fax (516)
Priests for Life is blessed for having such an outstanding and articulate
defender of human life as a member.
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LIST OF OUR EPISCOPAL BOARD OF ADVISORS
His Eminence Alfonso Lopez Trujillo
President, Pontifical Council for the Family, The Vatican
Most Reverend Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M., Cap., D.D.
Archbishop of Denver
Most Reverend John Francis Donoghue, D.D.
Archbishop of Atlanta
Most Reverend Rene H. Gracida, D.D.
Bishop of Corpus Christi
Most Reverend John J. Myers, D.D., J.C.D.
Bishop of Peoria
Most Reverend James S. Sullivan, D.D.
Bishop of Fargo
Most Reverend James C. Timlin, D.D.
Bishop of Scranton
Most Reverend Juan Fremiot Torres, D.D.
Bishop of Ponce
Most Reverend John Quinn Weitzel, M.M.
Bishop of Samoa Pago-Pago
Most Reverend Paul V. Donovan, D.D.
Retired Bishop of Kalamazoo
Most Reverend James D. Niedergeses, D.D.
Retired Bishop of Nashville
Most Reverend Albert H. Ottenweller, D.D., S.T.L.
Retired Bishop of Steubenville
Most Reverend Francis Quinn
Retired Bishop of Sacramento
Most Reverend Daniel E. Sheehan, D.D., J.C.D.
Retired Archbishop of Omaha
Most Reverend George Lynch, D.D.
Retired Auxiliary Bishop of Raleigh
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