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Priests for Life Newsletter

Volume 7, Number 4
July - August 1997
 

CONTENTS

The Priests for Life Commitment Pledge

Second World Meeting of the Pope with Families

25 Years of Roe vs. Wade

Eye Has Not Seen: Guest article by Bishop James Timlin

 

The Priests for Life Commitment Pledge

Introduction

Thousands of priests across the United States have joined the association Priests for Life, because they recognize in it a positive and helpful approach to dealing with the tragedies of abortion and euthanasia. It is a ministry of encouragement, focused on talking about what we can do rather than on what we cannot do. It is a ministry of fellowship, focusing on how we can cooperate with everyone in our society concerned with the defense of human life, rather than on criticizing the efforts of anyone. It is a ministry of unity, focusing on the priest's ecclesial union with his bishop, rather than being critical of those appointed to shepherd the flock.

Those who join the association make certain very simple pledges. We have printed below the Clergy Commitment Pledge of our organization. A few explanatory comments follow it.

 

Priests for Life Clergy Commitment Pledge

As an ordained priest/deacon of the Catholic Church, I acknowledge that an essential part of my ministry is to proclaim and defend the dignity of the human person.

As a sign of my commitment to this call, and in order to help strengthen my brother priests and deacons and be strengthened by them, I have become a member of the Priests for Life Association, an officially recognized Private Association of the Faithful.

As a member I pledge to pray with perseverance for a deeper respect for human life in our society, and especially for an end to abortion and euthanasia.

I pledge to clearly and consistently preach and teach about the sanctity of life to all those entrusted to my pastoral care.

I pledge to cooperate with the projects and programs of Priests for Life, to the degree that I am reasonably able to do so and within the policies set by my Ordinary.

I pledge to lend support and encouragement to other members of the Association and to the wider pro-life movement when the appropriate opportunities arise.

I am confident that the Victory of Life has already been won through the Cross and Resurrection of Christ, and that by proclaiming, celebrating, and serving the gift of Life, the Church will transform the culture of death into the Kingdom of Life.

Comments

You will note that the pledge indicates that membership in this organization is for Catholic priests and deacons. There is also a lay auxiliary membership, and we also rejoice when ministers and the faithful of other denominations associate themselves with our work. They are invited to cooperate with us and to take advantage of our educational materials.

The pledge points out that the defense of the human person is integral to the ordained ministry. It is not something optional or foreign to it.

The first motive mentioned for joining the association is the networking value it provides. The more visible our pro-life efforts are, the more we strengthen each other. Through this network, clergy make contact with others whom they may never have come to know, and with whom they can share valuable experience in this dimension of ministry. The status of the association under Canon Law is then mentioned.

Prayer, preaching, and teaching are then mentioned as key aspects of the pledge. These are standard aspects of the work of the priest and deacon. It is the conviction of Priests for Life that what we need more than a new structure is to fully activate the structure we already have. If we infuse our normal activities with a greater attentiveness to the tragedies of abortion and euthanasia, we will make significant progress to overcome these evils. While Priests for Life provides suggestions and resources for prayer, preaching, and teaching, we do not hold our members to any particular form of devotion or style.

Cooperation with Priests for Life projects is then mentioned, always within the context of union with one's own Ordinary. The idea behind this association has never been to come into a diocese in order to promote one or another program or activity. The idea, and the reality, is that we have gone into dioceses in every one of the 50 states precisely in order to assist the clergy to work together with their bishop in the way he directs and according to the local circumstances. At the same time, we provide the benefit of the experience our network has, and the numerous contacts with all groups in the pro-life movement.

The pledge ends on a note of supreme confidence. In this battle, we are not just working for victory; we are working from victory. Victory is our starting point, because Christ has robbed death of its power. Therefore, we ask clergy and laity alike to carry out their pro-life work with profound peace of soul and a joyful spirit. It is our palpable joy for life which, when seen by the world, will attract it to our message.

If you have not yet signed our commitment pledge, we invite you to do so today by filling out the membership form in this newsletter. A formal copy of the pledge will then be sent to you to sign and keep.

God bless your efforts for life!

Fr. Frank Pavone

 

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I Will Draw All People to Myself:
A Theological Reflection on the Significance of the Second World Gathering
of Families with the Holy Father.

Fr. Frank Pavone
Pontifical Council for the Family, Rome

 

October 4-5, 1997 will see a great gathering of families from throughout the world with the Holy Father in Rio de Janeiro. It will be a festive gathering, rooted in a common reflection on the Word of God and in the celebration of the Holy Eucharist. Its theme will be "The Family: Gift and Commitment, Hope for Humanity."

The first aspect of the theme reminds us that the family is a gift. It is not a mere human creation, but begins with God's initiative. Because He has spoken, we cannot change the message. Because He creates the family, we cannot refashion it at whim. Because His word is the truth, we can be liberated from the divisive forces of error pulling us in so many contradictory directions. An attentive hearing of God's word about the family will therefore mark the events of Rio.

Receiving such a gift in turn requires a commitment, the second major point of the theme of Rio. This commitment, simply put, is the response of love. On the cross, Christ showed that love means self-giving. We are called to sacrifice ourselves for the good of the other person, rather than sacrificing another person for the good of ourselves.

In short, we are called to live the words by which Christ gave us the Eucharist. Strangely, those who promote philosophies and lifestyles contrary to the good of the family use these very same words: This is my body. "This is my body," some will say, "so I can do what I want, whether it is free sex, abortion, or anything else. It's my body and I will live as I please." But what does our Lord say? "This is my body, given up for you." He does not cling to His body so that others die; rather, He gives it away so that others may live. We do the same, thanks to the grace given to us in the Eucharist, which will be the culminating event of the Rio gathering.

When families live in this way, the world has hope. The third dimension of the Rio theme, and its climax, is hope. This hope will be celebrated in the presence of the Vicar of Christ, who in his own ministry calls on the world not to be afraid to hope! Sins against life and family are so often sins of despair. But the task of our day and the nature of our mission as the People of Life are to say, "Have hope! The power of life is stronger than death. The power of live is stronger than hate. The power of the family is stronger than all the forces which threaten it!" May the Second World Meeting of Families with the Holy Father in Rio de Janeiro kindle this hope in every human heart.

Priests for Life asks you to promote awareness of the Rio event in any way you can. The United States bishops have arranged a travel package for those wishing to attend. Please consult your local diocese for information on diocesan and national arrangements.

 

 

25 YEARS OF ROE V. WADE

It may seem a little early to be preparing for the Annual January 22 March for Life in Washington DC. But given the fact that most parish and school calendars have already been planned, and that some people may need to raise money to go, it is not as early as we may think.

This year, there is yet another reason to plan ahead. The Roe vs. Wade and Doe vs. Bolton decisions, which together legalized abortion in America through all nine months of pregnancy, were handed down on January 22, 1973. That makes January 22, 1998 the 25th anniversary of legalized abortion on demand in our country!

Awareness of this anniversary should permeate all our pro-life activities this year. In a particular way, it should spur us on to make this coming March for Life the largest one ever!

The Court spoke, and the People Speak

In 1973, seven out of nine justices declared that the children in the womb are not persons under the Constitution. They thereby excluded a whole segment of the human family from the protection of the law, and from the recognition that all are created equal.

On every single day of the 25 years that have since passed, the older brothers and sisters of these children throughout America have called on the nation to restore love and protection to them. And each year tens of thousands of pro-lifers have come to Washington, DC on the anniversary of that tragic decision.

This January 22, they will come again.

This January 22, they should come again in greater numbers than ever before.

You can be sure that the defenders of abortion will be rejoicing on the 25th anniversary of Roe vs. Wade. You can help assure that on that day, the voices defending the children will be louder than the voices defending abortion!

The March for Life

The March for Life is a great annual family reunion for the pro-life movement. Tens of thousands from across America arrive by bus and plane, and gather for a midday rally on the Ellipse, between the White House and the Washington Monument. They are encouraged by speeches from pro-life leaders, legislators, and clergy. Miss Nellie Gray, who has led the March from the beginning, effectively calls the participants to focus on the goal of the pro-life movement: full protection of each and every human person from fertilization!

After the rally, the march itself takes the crowd on a route from the Ellipse to the Supreme Court, where prayers and hymns continue, and friends greet each other. Many also go to lobby their elected officials at this time. Not only is the whole event well organized and peaceful, it is enthusiastic and joyful, and marked by a vast majority of energetic young people.

Although most participants come only for the march itself, there is actually an entire convention in the days preceding it. Participants are educated in the life principles and taught practical strategies for defending life. This convention is open to all. The entire event concludes with a beautiful banquet, the Rose Dinner.

 

But What Good Does the March Do?

1. It gives voice to the children. Yes, abortion continues unabated. But it does not continue unchallenged. The presence of marchers in Washington is a prophetic call to the government and to the nation. When a tragedy goes on and on, the voice of protest must only increase, not fall silent.

2. It gives encouragement to our friends in government. Those in Congress who support the right to life need to hear from us. They need to see that we are out there in great numbers, so that they can continue to call for an end to abortion.

3. It encourages us. Participants come away from the march invigorated and inspired for another year of work. They see those laboring with them across the country, and know they are part of a great movement.

4. It trains young leaders. I received my own inspiration to be active in this movement when I attended the March for Life as a high school student. Countless other young people receive similar inspiration from this event each year.

See You in DC!

Let's go ahead and make January 22, 1998 the largest March Washington has ever seen! Let's announce and plan it starting today. And let's look forward to seeing each other in Washington!

For information on the March for Life, contact March for Life, PO Box 90300, Washington, DC 20090, or call 202-543-3377.

 

EYE HAS NOT SEEN

by Bishop James C. Timlin
Bishop of Scranton

 

It has long occurred to me that there may be some connection between the declining numbers of people who believe in Christ’s Real Presence in the Eucharist and the rise in abortion of unseen children in the womb.

Think about it for a moment. You can't see, touch or feel the body of Christ in the Body of Christ though the faithful’s "Amen" gives at least lip service to the fact of His presence. Neither can we see the unborn child except through somewhat hazy images on an ultrasound picture which we still can’t touch or feel or behold as a reality right in front of our eyes.

Yet as Catholics we know the Eucharist is the Body and Blood of Christ because Our Lord and Savior told us so. And not only that, He, in the greatest act of humility known to humanity, as the Creator of the universe, became a tiny one-celled human being in the womb of His mother Mary. At precisely that historic moment, the unborn child was sanctified for all ages to come building on beliefs before the coming of Christ that the unborn child was a human being who was not to be killed by abortion.

Similarly, we as human beings know with God-given knowledge that what women carry in their womb, the product of the union between male and female human beings, is a human being--only smaller and less developed than we adults who feel free to rip them from their protective home. Eye may not see and ear may not hear but faith and experience tell us what God has ready for us after nine months of waiting.

Ironically, so many who support abortion as a private matter for a woman to decide have turned a blind eye and deaf ear to the scientific advances such as surgery on very young unborn children, still insisting that what is aborted in a partial birth abortion, for example, is only a clump of tissue.

But it is not surprising that if we can turn our back on our own human progeny, we can reject the reality of God made man to share our sufferings, to understand as only "one of us" could the pain and joy of this word. Yes, it is an awesome mystery, but to paraphrase Our Divine Master in regard to both the unborn and the Eucharist: Doubt is useless; what is needed is trust.

Is there an answer hidden in these mysterious cases of blindness? Perhaps it lies in the growing practice of Eucharistic Adoration where, through patient endurance, Christ will reveal the truth about Himself and unborn children, the truth that will set us free.

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