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Priests for Life Newsletter

Volume 8, Number 2

March - April 1998 


The Holy Spirit and Abortion, Part Two

Abortion and the General Intercessions

Preaching on Euthanasia

Priest Profile: Fr. John Bonnici

Teaching on Contraception

Translators Needed

Priests for Life Prayer cards

Our Website

March-April Intentions



The Holy Spirit and Abortion, Part Two

Fr. Frank Pavone
Pontifical Council for the Family, Vatican City


"Come, Holy Ghost, Creator Blest."

The words of this well-known hymn affirm that the Holy Spirit is the Creator of all things. In the Creed, we say we believe that the Father is the "maker of heaven and earth." Yet so is the Holy Spirit. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church explains, "Inseparable in what they are, the divine persons are also inseparable in what they do" (n. 267).

The Bible begins by declaring that when God created all things, "a mighty wind swept over the waters"(Genesis 1:2). The word "wind" here is the same as "spirit" or "breath." We can see an echo of this in the English word "respiration." "Spirit" is in the middle of it! So it is no accident that God, in creating the first man, "blew into his nostrils the breath of life"(Genesis 2:7). On the first Easter night, when He appeared to the apostles, the Risen Christ "breathed on them and said, Receive the Holy Spirit"(John 20:22), and on Pentecost, the Spirit came with "a noise like a strong driving wind"(Acts 2:2).

In the beginning the Spirit brought about creation. Through the Paschal Mystery, He brings about the new creation, pouring forth eternal life.

The movement of the Spirit is in one direction: life. He gives it, He restores it, He elevates it, and He will raise it from the dead. "If the Spirit of the one who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, the one who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also, through his Spirit that dwells in you" (Rom. 8:11).

Therefore the movement of the thoughts and choices of those who are united with the Holy Spirit is also in the direction of life. St. Paul can therefore contrast the works of the Spirit, including "peace, patience," and "kindness," with those of the flesh, which include "hatreds, outbursts of fury," and "acts of selfishness"(see Gal. 5:18-23).

Into which list would acts of dismemberment be placed, or acts of ending a baby's life with scissors? Into which list, according to the descriptions of those who perform it, would the abortion procedure fall? It is amazing that so many Christians who can easily see that slapping someone in the face is not consistent with life in the Spirit, somehow think that tearing a child apart sometimes can be.

Some choices, no matter what our motives or circumstances, cannot ever be reconciled with the movement of the Holy Spirit in our soul. Abortion is one of them.

Nor can one say, "I follow the Holy Spirit, but abortion is not my problem." Can we follow the one who gives life, and remain unconcerned about the taking of life by a procedure that claims more victims than any crime, disease, or war?

The Holy Spirit is everywhere. The taking of life, wherever it occurs, is of concern to Him. No matter how far away I may be, in body or mind, from the act that takes life, if I am close to God, then that act is of concern to me.


Abortion in the General Intercessions

Fr. Frank Pavone

International Director, Priests for Life

In my seminary days, each student was responsible, on a rotating schedule, to prepare the general intercessions for the Eucharistic Liturgy of that day. This was an aspect of our liturgical training, of course, whereby we would apply the principles we had learned in the classroom.

The content and form of the General Intercessions (often referred to as "Prayers of the Faithful") do follow certain clear principles. They are general by nature. They are to reflect themes that are of concern to the entire Church. They are to embody the natural response of a Christian Community which, having been formed by the Word of God in the way they think and judge, now look at the world and what is going on in it. It makes sense, therefore, that these intercessions come at the point in the Mass just after the community has again heard God's Word proclaimed in the readings and the homily, and assented to in the Creed.

A frequent theme in these intercessions, and rightly so, is human suffering. The poor, the hungry, the sick, and those whose rights are trampled upon, are mentioned in these prayers. Indeed, the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World (Gaudium et Spes) of the Second Vatican Council begins by affirming that the joys and hopes, as well as the sufferings, of all humanity, are likewise the joys, hopes, and sufferings of the Church. The General Intercessions are a particular moment of solidarity with our suffering brothers and sisters.

Nor do we tire of repeating their needs, because with each passing day, new people are involved in these forms of human suffering. We as priests do not refuse to take a sick call simply because we have taken a thousand of the same kind before. We as a community do not refuse to repeat, day after day and week after week, the needs of the poor, sick, and dying.

What, then, of our brothers and sisters in the womb? The law has called them non-persons, and abortions kills one of them every 20 seconds. Those killed today never died before, which makes abortion a new tragedy every day.

Nothing takes more human life.

Does it not make good Christian and liturgical sense to include this form of human suffering and vulnerability in our General Intercessions as frequently as we include any other? Is not a simple prayer for these children a powerful expression of our solidarity with those who cannot even pray for themselves?

The abortion tragedy has so many dimensions, furthermore, that a different angle can be addressed each time. We can pray for the children in danger, for the mothers and fathers in despair both before and after abortion, for lawmakers, for medical professionals, for people in the pro-life movement, for the pro-life ministries of the Church, and so forth.

In the light of such an immense tragedy, it really is the least we can do.

Priests for Life supplies prayer materials for parishes. Contact Priests for Life, PO Box 236695, Cocoa, FL 32923 or call 888-PFL-3448.


Homily Hints: Preaching on Euthanasia

Rev. Richard Hogan

Associate National Director
Priests for Life

In preaching against euthanasia, in a sense we are very handicapped because we are trying to defend the obvious: life is good. Everyone intuitively knows (from one’s own experience) that life is good and yet those who advocate euthanasia deny this most obvious truth. How does one defend what should be as clear as the hand in front of one’s face? How does one prove (to someone who denies it) that the sky is blue? The argument: "Just look" usually is not effective.

It is a myth to think that terminally ill people normally want to end their lives. Life is good! And the terminally ill know it. They appreciate it as perhaps no one else can. Under that kind of deadline (excuse the pun), every moment becomes precious. We do unfortunately see relatives of the terminally ill advocating euthanasia and assisted suicide. In other words, euthanasia is advocated by those who should be the care-givers and the supporters of the ill. It turns out that euthanasia is most strongly urged by those who stand to gain by someone’s death. They gain time (they do not need to spend time with their sick relatives) and they gain relief because they do not need to watch someone else’s illness. Ultimately, euthanasia is most strongly advocated for selfish reasons. Life is good! Death is an evil, except, it seems, when someone has something to gain by death. That motive for death is as old as the world!

Another approach is to reduce the argument for euthanasia to its bare essentials. In effect, those who promote death argue that certain problems make life not worth living. Certain problems, they say, cause suffering. Suffering is bad. Suffering should be eliminated. So far everyone can agree. The way to end suffering, since the underlying cause (e.g., disease) cannot be eliminated, is to kill the one suffering. Death ends suffering and so death (euthanasia) is good, concludes the argument.

If you apply this same argument to a family, to a workplace, or to a social situation, the absurdity of the argument is clear. If there is an argument between a husband and wife, a dispute between the boss and an employer, a resentment in a friendship, all these cause suffering. Suffering is bad and should be eliminated, and so the husband should shoot the wife, the employee the boss, and the friend should kill his or her friend. Some would say that in these cases the underlying problems could be cured: not always. In some relationships, the problem seems as insoluble as cancer! But if anyone actually murdered his wife, his boss, or his friend, society would treat him as a criminal or as mentally unbalanced and rightly so! Life is good, death is bad, even in the case of a terminally ill patient or a crisis pregnancy!

There is more to say on this subject. However, it seems to me essential to focus on the heart of the argument: Is life always good or not? The entire Judaeo-Christian tradition affirms that life is always good!


Priest Profile-- Reverend John S. Bonnici, STD

By Anthony DeStefano
Executive Director of Priests for Life


It takes a special kind of person to head one of the largest, busiest, and most successful diocesan pro-life offices in the world.

By all accounts, John Cardinal O’Connor picked the perfect man for the job when he appointed Rev. John S. Bonnici as Director of the Family Life/Respect Life Office of the Archdiocese of New York in 1996.

Fr. Bonnici, a brilliant and extraordinarily energetic young priest, is particularly adept at handling the intense, high-paced, work schedule which his position demands. Born in Manhattan, he received the calling for the priesthood early—at nine years old. He attended Cathedral Preparatory School, and did his undergraduate work at St. John’s University, where he majored in both philosophy and pre-med.

Continuing his stellar academic career in Rome, Father studied for five years at the Pontifical Gregorian University, receiving his S.T.B. in Theology. After being ordained at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York in 1991, he returned to Rome to get his licentiate in moral theology from the Lateran University. He then received his S.T.D. in Moral Theology from the John Paul II Institute of Marriage and Family in Washington D.C., before returning to New York.

At the tender age of 32, Fr. Bonnici now has the difficult task of coordinating all of his diocese’s many faceted pro-life programs. "People don’t expect a young person in my role; they’re looking for someone a little older, with a little gray hair," he says matter-of-factly. "But I always tell them that’s coming." In fact, viewing youth as strong point in the job he has, Fr. Bonnici believes his age can help him in trying to "set an example for young people on issues of morality."

The Family Life/Respect Life Office he heads is responsible for covering the entire spectrum of life issues. The Family Life portion deals with marriage preparation and enrichment, educational programs on parenting, and bereavement—including programs for women and men who have suffered the loss of a child through abortion, stillbirth or miscarriage. The Respect Life division tackles the abortion problem head-on. Providing a slew of educational resources, the Office goes into parishes, conducts workshops, talks to Right-to-Life Committees, and meets with legislators whenever possible. Euthanasia is also addressed, particularly on the educational and legislative fronts.

Fr. Bonnici explains the philosophy which drives all of the office’s activities: "We serve the human person from conception to natural death. All of our programs on all fronts—pastoral, educational and legislative—reflect this. I think we have a responsibility to educate, to present the truth in a loving, pastoral manner that invites people back to Christ."

Father is also a tireless traveller and a speaker in great demand. Known for his high level of erudition and yet an uncanny ability to make complex moral subjects understandable, he regularly gives classes, work shops and lectures all around the country. In July, for example, he was the key note speaker at a major conference on Cloning in Washington D.C.; in September, he spoke at the Totus Tuus Family Conference in Catholic Familyland in Ohio; in October, he represented the Archdiocese at the Second World Meeting of Families with the Pope in Rio De Janiero.

Father Bonnici’s unbounded energy reflects a spirit of optimism which some might think out of place in today’s "Culture of Death."

"Yes, the shadows reflected by our culture are wide and far-reaching," he comments. "But I am optimistic. A new generation is coming forward. There is a yearning for the truth. When Christ is not in the equation, despair is inevitable. But more and more young people are at daily Mass—and they’re there because the want to be. That’s a very positive sign."

Fr. Bonnici can be reached at the Family Life/Respect Life Office of the Archdiocese of New York, 1011 First Ave., New York, NY, 10022. Tel: (212) 371-1000; Fax: (212) 371-1011, Ext. 3485.


Teaching on Contraception

We often receive inquiries about the Church's teaching on contraception. We bring to your attention our audiotape, "Why Contraception is Wrong." It is currently available from our main office. One of the programs on our Defending Life Television Series #2 also is dedicated to this topic. This program, along with the entire series, will be made available soon on video cassette.

Some contraceptive methods are not contraceptive at all, but cause early abortions, as we have described in previous newsletters. Yet even "pure contraception" is a strong root of abortion, "despite their differences of nature and moral gravity," as the Pope points out in The Gospel of Life, n. 13.

At the same time, we cannot forget that there are many roots to the abortion tragedy. The loss of the sense of the dignity of life directly fosters abortion. Moral relativism is a major foundation of abortion. Legal positivism is the basis for abortion in many court arguments. Materialism and individualism have their part to play. Other roots include a dualistic view of the human person and an "over-spiritualism," as we have described in previous issues of this newsletter.

Priests for Life remains committed to fostering the entire teaching of the Church on the life issues, with a practical focus on abortion and euthanasia. We offer our praise, gratitude, and collaboration to those groups which focus in a particular way in educating the public about contraception.


Translators Wanted

We ask our readers to be alert for people who can translate our materials from English into any of the other modern languages. Please alert Anthony at our main office, by email ( or any other convenient means. We are blessed to have the volunteer help of some experts in the Spanish language already. Please remember that a translator in this case would need a familiarity with the terminology of the Church and the pro-life movement.


Prayer Cards to Remember Your Intentions

Priests for Life is happy to offer remembrance cards for the intentions of the living or for the repose of the deceased. These cards, which have been specially designed, say that the designated intention will be remembered in the prayers and Masses of the Priests for Life Association. They can be obtained from the Staten Island office (PO Box 236695, Cocoa, FL 32923) and the offering is left entirely up to you.


Have you visited our Website?

Something new is added to the Priests for Life website literally every day from Rome. You will find some Priests for Life information here that you cannot get anywhere else, and an easy table of contents listing what has been newly posted each day. You will also see a new look to the site, and will be able to hear Fr. Frank's audio tapes! We thank Michael Galloway and the staff of Catholic Online for all the work they have done on our site. Visit today, and have your friends do the same!


Prayer Intentions

We ask you to remember the following intentions this month when you pray the Liturgy of the Hours:

March intention: That children may witness to their peers about the sanctity of life.

April intention: That religious, by their consecration, lead many to discover that true freedom is found in obedience.


Previous Newsletters


Priests for Life
PO Box 236695 • Cocoa, FL 32923
Tel. 321-500-1000, Toll Free 888-735-3448 •