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Priests for Life Newsletter

Volume 8, Number 3
May-June 1998


Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948-1998

Spirit of Truth

Homily Hints: Reflections on Humanae Vitae 30 Years Later

Priest Profile: Fr. Charles Brooks

Associate Director Travels the Nation on Behalf of Life

Priests for Life Phone Directory

Monthly Prayer Intentions



The Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948-1998

Fr. Frank Pavone

On December 10, 1948 the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted and proclaimed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This year, therefore, marks its 50th anniversary, and provides us an opportunity to examine some themes in the Declaration which deserve special emphasis.

The Declaration asserts, "everyone has the right to life" (Article 3). This, of course, is the most fundamental right, since no other rights can be exercised if one does not exist. Yet this insight of common sense is easily forgotten these days. The Secular Humanist Manifesto II (1973), for example, lists many "rights," including "the right to suicide," but not the "right to life"!

The Universal Declaration, furthermore, refers to human rights as "equal and inalienable," and declares that human beings have "inherent dignity" (Preamble). This is a key theme. In other words, governments can neither bestow nor remove human dignity from a human being. Governments, rather, exist to preserve and protect rights that are inherent, that is, rights which reside by definition within the human being precisely because he or she is a human being, and not because he or she has earned or been awarded those rights by some outside entity.

Article 6 of the Declaration says that everyone has the right to be recognized as a person before the law. This, of course, was directly contradicted by the holding of the US Supreme Court, Roe vs. Wade, when it said, "[T]he word 'person,' as used in the Fourteenth Amendment, does not include the unborn."

In articles 18 and 19, the Universal Declaration asserts the right of each person to freedom of religion and opinion on various matters, and the right to exercise that religion and express that opinion. Later in the Declaration, however, Article 30 rightfully states, "Nothing in this Declaration may be interpreted as implying for any State, group or person any right to engage in any activity or to perform any act aimed at the destruction of any of the rights and freedoms set forth herein." For example, if I claimed to practice a religion that required me to kill another human being every Sunday as part of the worship service, although I have freedom of religion, I do not have the right to destroy the life of the other human being.

This applies also to abortion. The right to life, which is inherent and incapable of being annulled by any government, may not be trampled upon in the name of religious freedom. It is a favorite position of the defenders of abortion to claim their "right to believe what they want" and to "have their own opinion" about the status and value of the child in the womb. But the right of someone to live cannot fall simply because someone else's belief does not recognize that right.

Fifty years after this Universal Declaration, let us renew our efforts to bring all nations to a strong respect for each person's inherent rights, most fundamentally the right to life.

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The Spirit of Truth

We continue here with part three of our series on the relationships between the pro-life effort and the Holy Spirit, to whom the year 1998 is especially dedicated.

--Fr. Frank Pavone

I have always found one of the most fascinating aspects of theology to be the study of the gifts of the Holy Spirit: wisdom, understanding, knowledge, counsel, fortitude, piety, and fear of the Lord. Each has its own characteristics. Each has its own ways of lifting us up and transforming our lives.

The gift of knowledge helps us to see created things for what they really are. Together with a knowledge of God, we need a proper knowledge of creation, so that we may neither despise it nor worship it.

How do I understand reality? How do I proceed, then, to treat the created realities around me?

The Holy Spirit gives us a proper understanding of creation because He is the Spirit of Truth. "But when he comes, the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth" (Jn. 16:13). He frees us from the lies we tell ourselves and each other. He frees us from the blindness which sin brings, a blindness that distorts our knowledge of God, creation, and our very selves.

Pope John Paul II has written of "how the value of life can today undergo a kind of 'eclipse'" (The Gospel of Life, #11), leading to such evils as abortion and euthanasia. We need the Spirit of Truth to lead us out of this eclipse.

The conviction that the child in the womb is not worthy of protection is not merely a statement about the child in the womb. It is a statement about all of us. It reflects a distorted answer to the fundamental question, "What is a human person?"

The Risen Christ proclaims in the Book of Revelation, "I will give the victor the right to sit with me on my throne" (Rev.3:21). We will not only worship before the throne of God. We will sit with Him on the throne! That is the destiny of the human person! The Spirit bears witness to the greatness of our destiny by crying out "Abba, Father!" within us. The Spirit enables us to see the greatness of our calling, and the greatness of the same call given to every human being, including those yet in the womb.

This confronts the lie of abortion, which throws human beings in the garbage. Such an action in itself contradicts the Gospel. How can one who believes that the ultimate destiny of human beings is in the heights of heaven allow such human beings to be thrown away as trash?

Abortion does not only break the fifth commandment, Thou shalt not kill. It breaks the eighth commandment, Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor. To speak of or treat a human being as less than human is to bear false witness, to lie about his/her dignity.

We need You, O Spirit of Truth! Visit your people, and open their eyes and hearts once again to the greatness of human dignity and the sanctity of every life! Guide individuals and nations to recognize and defend the true meaning of human life. Amen.

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Homily Hints

July 25, 1998 is the 30th Anniversary of Humanae Vitae. I therefore offer a few reflections that might be incorporated into a special homily on this theme.

Fr. Frank Pavone

Reflections on Humanae Vitae 30 years later...

Five years ago, on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of this encyclical, one diocesan newspaper had a copy of the encyclical on the front page with the headline, "Why did this 25-cent pamphlet cause so much trouble? ...Because it was right!"

That is the heritage of this prophetic document. It was and is right, because it simply bears witness to the truth. But it is right in a tragic way, because all the things which Pope Paul VI said would happen if the meaning of human sexuality were not recognized and respected are in fact happening. In this sense, the strength of the encyclical increases with time.

Pope Paul VI wrote the encyclical against a majority view of the commission which advised him. Furthermore, despite the bitter theological dissent that followed the encyclical, the body of official teaching on this subject in the present Pontificate is stronger and larger than it has ever been in Church history. (John Paul II, in fact, has said that to see contraception as licit is tantamount to denying that God is God.) Because of this, the encyclical has been as much a lesson in ecclesiology as in moral theology. It has been a clear signal for the modern age of what has always been true, namely, that the Church does not derive her teaching from mere human analysis or the trends of the day, but from a Gospel that has been entrusted to us once and for all from above.

One should note that the encyclical's message is broader than the rejection of birth control. It is a declaration of the dominion of God over human life, and of the full beauty of human sexuality. The problem of our age is not that it is obsessed with sex, but that it is afraid of it--afraid of the full dimensions of its claim on human commitment, self-sacrifice, and generosity--afraid of the fact that authentic sex does not let us get lost in ourselves and our pleasures, but demands that we give of ourselves for the good of the other, including the children God may give us.

Finally, an aspect of the Church's teaching contained in the encyclical but not so widely emphasized is that we do recognize the circumstances in which it is quite legitimate for a married couple to avoid pregnancy. Such a judgment must be based on objective circumstances and carried out within the moral law. But to claim that the Church teaches that parents may in no way plan their families is not only contrary to Catholic teaching, but opens the door to unnecessary but all too common criticism from the world, who thinks we are out of touch with reality. Pope Paul's marvelous encyclical is, on the other hand, quite in touch with reality--with the full truth about human love and life.

Let us preach that truth with joyful confidence!

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Priest Profile--- Fr. Charles Brooks

By Anthony DeStefano

Executive Director

As a lay person, it is always a great privilege for me to write these biographical sketches of the priests who make up our organization. It never ceases to amaze me how incredibly diverse, exciting and heroic the lives of those in the clergy can be.

Case in point: Fr. Charles Brooks, pastor of St. Edwards Church in Mackville, Wisconsin.

Fr. Brooks was ordained on May 29, 1965. He entered the seminary right after grade school, and has been a priest for 33 years! For 16 of those years he was a Chaplain in a Wisconsin hospital. It was there that he first "fell in love with the idea of healing," and fully realized how beautiful the gift of Life is, in all its aspects and at every stage of existence.

This new understanding led Fr. Brooks to become deeply involved in the Pro-Life movement in Appleton, Wisconsin. He helped organize the annual March for Life there, put together many pro-life fundraising events, led processions with the Blessed Sacrament in front of the local abortion facility, and also did a significant amount of picketing and even Rescuing. For this last activity, Fr. Brooks spent time in jail and had to pay what he calls, "some pretty hefty fines."

In 1987, Fr. Brooks gained national notoriety by starting something known as "Enduro for Life."

"Enduro" comes from the word "endurance," and in this context refers to the power to persevere in a challenging sports activity, especially a long distance race. Always an avid outdoorsman, Fr. Brooks came up with an extremely novel yet effective way of drawing media attention to the pro-life cause. In 1987, he mounted a snowmobile and rode for 24 hours straight around a track, setting a United States Snowmobile Association World Record for continuous miles logged in a snowmobile. The trophy he was awarded proclaims: "One Man, 24 Hours, 1409 Miles."

Fr. Brooks made this grueling run six winters in a row! It would be an understatement to say that he achieved his goal. Enduro for Life attracted a tremendous amount of TV, radio and newspaper coverage, not only in Wisconsin but all across the nation. The phrase "Enduro Run," which he himself coined, has since become part of standard racing lingo.

"I wanted to do something that would really make people take notice," Fr. Brooks says. "And they did. We got plenty of media attention during those six years--- and it was all for Life.

"You see," Fr. Brooks explains, "as priests, we must not only pray for an end to abortion, we must be active. True prayer calls us to action. It requires us to speak out against abortion. I would love to see more priests in this country get involved in local pro-life activities--- preaching, organizing, making a real commitment to Life. That's the only way we will ever be victorious in this struggle."

Fr. Brooks can be reached at St. Edwards Church in Mackville, Wisconsin. His phone number is (920) 733-2887.

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Associate Director Travels the Nation on Behalf of Life

Fr. Richard Hogan

I have always enjoyed travel and so my current duties with Priests For Life (which include many trips) are a tremendous opportunity. Typically, I begin my trips from St. Paul, MN where I live. (Many people think I live on the east coast because the PFL office is there. But I am a resident of what one radio announcer in our area called fly-over land. Everything between the Atlantic--east of the Hudson and the Potomac--and the coastal mountains of California qualifies as fly-over land.)

The first question put to me when I land somewhere (almost anywhere) is about the weather in Minnesota. "Isn't it cold there now?" This is even asked in the middle of July when it can be close to 90 degrees in the Twin Cities!

After the weather discussion is handled, the people greeting me at the airport launch into a discussion about the killing mills in their area. Also included in this conversation is a description or outline of the current political and legislative climate regarding abortion in their area. In general, I just listen because this information is extremely helpful to me. I discover the local "hot" buttons and I know very well that there will be questions regarding these at my talks. In addition, listening to the information provided helps me understand the various and complementary pro-life forces in the area. The pro-life movement is blessed with a super-abundance of sometimes divergent efforts. (There has been nothing to compare with the pro-life movement since the abolitionist movement pre-dating the civil war. That, too, had a tremendous number of different groups each contributing their talent, treasure, and point of view.)

Most trips involve preaching at the Sunday Masses in a parish. I cannot count the number of parishes I have visited in the two and a half years I have been with PFL--I suppose the office could because we have computer records! While one sees the inspiring unity of the Catholic Church (despite what many people believe, the liturgy is fairly standardized from place to place), each parish has different traditions which give it a different character within the broad unity of the Church. I have always been received with wonderful hospitality and kindness. I could not begin to list the kindnesses I have received from my brother priests.

Trips usually include a discussion with grade school (above fifth grade) children and high school students (although not always). I usually try to present some material to older students if there is a college or university in the area. Often, I will use video footage of the unborn child. The "oohs" and "aahs" from this photography are gratifying to hear. In the subsequent discussion, I compare the pro-life struggle to the struggle against slavery and point out that the culture of death forces are using the exact same arguments that were used to promote slavery before the war between the states. (The parallels are actually astounding: they are the same!) Usually, this is very effective with all ages. Most people are aghast at slavery. I also point out to the students that they should go home and thank their parents for giving them life. Thanks to the Roe vs. Wade decision, after all, they were legally designated to be outside the realm of constitutional protection! This usually brings the issue very close to home and makes it personal.

Most trips include a discussion or talk with the active pro-life community of the area as well as a meeting with priests. We also make an effort to visit with any representatives or politicians who are in the area. On a recent trip, I was able to visit with a Congressman who was in his district for the weekend. Almost all trips include the rosary or some other prayer in front of an abortion mill.

While I always try to write notes to those who have arranged for the trips and invited me, I want to thank publicly all the people, the heroes of the pro-life movement, who have welcomed me into their communities, homes, and parishes over the last two and a half years. With all of you (and the millions I have not yet had an opportunity to come to know), the pro-life effort cannot but succeed!

-- Rev. Richard M. Hogan

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Priests for Life Phone Directory

Please note our new numbers.

Main Office (Staten Island, NY) -- Phone: 321-500-1000; Fax: 321-225-8271

Travel Arrangements Phone -- 540-636-4855 Fax: 540-636-4890

Media Office -- Phone: 540-785-4733 Fax: 540-785-6232


Prayer Intentions

You are encouraged to remember the following intentions as you pray the Liturgy of the Hours:

May intention: That Mary, Mother of Life, give all mothers courage in their pregnancies.

June intention: That those who have had abortion find mercy in the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

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