A Study Guide to Evangelium Vitae (The Gospel of Life)

Priests for Life

A spiritual guide to the Encyclical of Pope John Paul II By the Clergy & Pastoral Associates of Priests for Life On the 10th Anniversary of the Encyclical

"This spiritual guide to Pope John Paul II's Evangelium Vitae will be of great help to all who are looking for ways to implement the spirit of this great encyclical in their daily lives - respecting, protecting, loving and serving every human life."  -- His Eminence Cardinal Roger Mahony, Archbishop of Los Angeles

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Introduction: A Special Encyclical

Fr. Frank Pavone, National Director

The Gospel of Life (Evangelium Vitae) is not just another document. It is literally a celebration. It celebrates Christ, who is personally the Gospel and the Life. It celebrates humanity, love, and true freedom.

The Church knows how to celebrate; the world has forgotten. The Church knows how to receive and give life and love. In fact, the very meaning of life is to give and receive love (see number 81). But the world has become too preoccupied with usefulness, efficiency, and productivity (number22). The world is too busy with its frantic flight from all suffering and death (number 64, numbers 66-67). It flees these because it has forgotten what they mean. It sees them only as things to be avoided and controlled.

Ironically, such forgetfulness envelops the world even more in the very things it tries to escape. And in the midst of its slavery to death, the world shouts about freedom, all the while fearing it will be shackled by the one who brings true freedom, namely, Christ.

The world needs "good news", that is, Evangelium. The document begins, "The Gospel (Evangelium) of life is at the heart of Jesus' message. Lovingly received day after day by the Church, it is to be preached with dauntless fidelity as good news to the people of every age and culture" (number 1).

Life is joyful, so it is to be proclaimed (number 80-82), celebrated (number 83-86), and served (number 87-89). The message of life is not optional, or added on to the Gospel, but is at the heart of the Gospel. The Gospel of Life is simply the Gospel of Christ, for He is Life (see number29). The Church is inescapably pro-life (number28) precisely because she is feminine. The Church is the Bride of Christ and Mother of believers -- and, in fact, of all humanity (number3).

The earth today is covered with innocent blood, which cries out from the ground to the God who made it (see number 7-9, Gen. 4:2-16). But thanks be to God, there is another Blood that cries out to heaven more eloquently (see number 25, cf. Heb.12: 22,24). The cry of the Blood of Christ brings mercy to those who shed the blood of their brothers and sisters. The shed Blood of Christ teaches the meaning of love, which is to sacrifice oneself for the good of the other person. It reverses the dynamic of the culture of death, which sacrifices the other person for the good of oneself. The Blood of Christ, one drop of which can purify a billion worlds, gives us strength to carry out the "great campaign on behalf of life" which is called for by this encyclical (number 95). The pro-life movement itself, in fact, is a sign of hope and victory (number 26). The encyclical looks to the day when "death will be no more" (Rev. 21:4 see number105). That time is coming, and that promise is, in a nutshell, the Gospel of Life.

Introduction to the Study Guide

James Pinto, M.Div.

John Paul II’s magnificent tome on the sacredness of human life - Evangelium Vitae - The Gospel of Life - was released in Rome on the Feast of the Annunciation, March 25, 1995. The Encyclical was the result of a request by an Extraordinary Consistory of Cardinals that met in 1991 to "address the problem of threats to human life in our day."

The Cardinals unanimously asked the Holy Father to "reaffirm with the authority of Peter the value of human life and its inviolability in the light of present circumstances and attacks today." The Holy Father states his intentions for the document when he says it is "meant to be a precise and vigorous reaffirmation of the value of human life and its inviolability and at the same time a pressing appeal addressed to every person, in the name of God: respect, protect, love and serve life, every human life!"

This study guide is designed to be used by an individual or group as a side-by-side companion with the Encyclical itself. Each section of the Encyclical should be prayerfully read, followed by use of the study guide as a "springboard" to delve more deeply into the text and to stimulate reflection and discussion. The study guide has a summary statement for each section of the Encyclical followed by a series of questions that refer the reader back to aspects of the Gospel of life found in that particular section. Continual returning to the text helps emphasize that the Encyclical itself is the primary source of instruction and the basis for individual and group applications of the Gospel of Life. An "Application-Life Step" number assists in implementing the teachings of the Encyclical for daily living. Space is provided for the writing of answers and reflections. A Glossary at the conclusion of the study guide assists the reader in clarifying some key terms contained in the Encyclical.

It is our hope, that on the tenth anniversary of Evangelium Vitae, this study guide will further facilitate the original intent of its writing, again, as stated by the Holy Father: "This present Encyclical… is meant to be a precise and vigorous reaffirmation of the value of human life and its inviolability and at the same time a pressing appeal addressed to every person, in the name of God: respect, protect, love and serve life, every human life!"

Summary of the Introduction to The Gospel of Life

James Pinto, M.Div.

The Holy Father introduces us to the great theme of the Gospel of Life and issues a universal call to share this "good news" with "dauntless fidelity." The origin of the phrase "Gospel of life" is elaborated upon and includes both divine revelation and natural law in its development. The incomparable worth of the human person is affirmed and contemporary threats against life are chronicled. The history of the Encyclical’s development is shared and we join with the Holy Father in meditating upon and proclaiming the Gospel of Life.

*Prayerfully read each number of the Encyclical and then allow the study guide questions/applications to assist you with further reflection and discussion.

Reflection/Discussion Questions for the Introduction to The Gospel of Life:

1. What is the message of the Gospel of Life and to whom should it be proclaimed? (See numbers 1-2)

2. What is the relationship between the Gospel of life and the natural law, which is an "echo in the heart of every human person?" (See number 2)

3. The Pope (in numbers 2-3) lists "threats and crimes against humanity." Can you make additions to his list?

4. What is the Holy Father’s "urgent appeal" to the "people of life?" (number 6)

Application-Life Steps:

How will you personally implement the Holy Father’s "urgent appeal?" List some of the Life Steps you are or will be taking to "build an authentic civilization of truth and love."

"My Brother’s Keeper" Summary of Chapter I

James Pinto, M.Div.

The Holy Father connects the present day threats against human life with the roots of violence revealed in the biblical account of the first murder. Cain’s slaying of his brother Abel gives us great insight into the struggle of the human heart and the consequences of shedding innocent blood. The questions of the Lord ring out as clear today as then: "Where is your brother?" and "What have you done?" The horror of the cry of innocent bloodshed in the ears of The Almighty, "The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground," is brought to bear upon the sins against life in our own time.

The antidote to sin conceived in the heart, and acted upon in deed, is the "sprinkled blood" fulfilled in Christ. This blood "redeems, purifies, saves and also clarifies to man that "his vocation consists in the sincere gift of self."

Reflection/Discussion Questions Chapter I

1. Why must freedom be yoked to truth? (See, numbers 19-20)

2. How does the "eclipse of the sense of God" impact man’s relationship with God, culture, and others? (See numbers 21-27)

3. What are some of the benefits of the "sprinkled blood of Jesus?" (See number 25)

4. What are some of the signs in culture and society that point to the ultimate victory of God’s plan for life?

5. How is the biblical story of Cain and Abel still relevant to the current battle between the culture of death and the culture of life?

Application-Life Steps:

1. The Holy Father states that: "the family is the Sanctuary of life." What Life Steps are you taking to make your family a "Sanctuary of life?"

2. The Holy Father calls us to be, "unconditionally Pro-life." Pray this Prayer of Commitment and then list some practical Life Steps that you will take to be "unconditionally Pro-life." Let us pray Fr. Pavone’s Commitment Prayer:

Prayer of Commitment

Lord God, I thank you today for the gift of my life,

And for the lives of all my brothers and sisters.

I know there is nothing that destroys more life than abortion,

Yet I rejoice that you have conquered death

by the Resurrection of Your Son.

I am ready to do my part in ending abortion.

Today I commit myself

Never to be silent,

Never to be passive,

Never to be forgetful of the unborn.

I commit myself to be active in the pro-life movement,

And never to stop defending life

Until all my brothers and sisters are protected,

And our nation once again becomes

A nation with liberty and justice

Not just for some, but for all,

Through Christ our Lord. Amen!

2 (continued) My Life Steps to be "unconditionally Pro-life:

The Eternal Gift: Summary of Chapter II

Dr. Paul Chaim Schenck

In Chapter II (See numbers 29-50), Pope John Paul II emphasizes the comforting truth that "Life is always a good." (See number 34). Why is this the case? Because human life "is a manifestation of God in the world, a sign of his presence, a trace of his glory." Human life, above all other life, is a superlative gift of God, to be gratefully received, cherished, protected and extolled. (See number 39)

The Gospel of Life declares that life is a gift to each and every person. Bodily life, however, is not an end in itself; rather, it is a beginning of the journey toward Eternal Life. "The dignity of life is linked not only to its beginning, to the fact that it comes from God, but also to its final end, to its destiny of fellowship with God in knowledge and love of him." (See number 38) The prospect of living eternally with God invests our earthly lives with intrinsic and transcendent value and dignity. Thus, "the sacredness of life rises to its inviolability, written from the beginning in man’s heart, in his conscience" (See number 40). The Holy Father points to the full breadth of the inviolability of each and every human life, ranging "from caring for the life of one’s brother… to showing concern for the stranger, even to the point of loving one’s enemy. (See number 41) Invoking the Second Vatican Council, he calls special attention to the specific responsibility…for human life as such, which reaches its highest point in the giving of life through procreation by man and woman in marriage." (See number 43)

Reflection/Discussion Questions:

1. The Holy Father establishes that the Gospel of Life "is not merely… about making changes in society," but states that The Gospel of Life "is concrete and personal," and consists in the proclaiming of what, or more specifically, whom? (See number 29, number 1).

2. "The words and deeds of Jesus and…his Church are not meant only for those who are sick and suffering or…neglected by society. They affect the very meaning of every person’s life…"(numbers 32-33). Reflect on the seeming paradox of the uncertainty of life and the affirmation of its value. How does suffering relate to the sanctity of life?

3. Although man instinctively loves life, this takes on new breadth and depth in the divine dimensions of this good. How does the eternal dimension of life enhance the earthly dimension? (numbers 36-39).

4. Reflect on the extent of the statement "The deepest element of God’s commandment to protect human life is the requirement to show reverence and love for every person and the life of every person." How do we, as human beings, citizens, and Christians, show such reverence and love for the unborn, the sick, the sad, the elderly, the disabled, indeed, everyone?

5. The Holy Father states, "Human life finds itself most vulnerable when it enters the world and when it…embarks upon eternity." (44) Reflect on the meaning of marriage, conjugal love, procreation, and family life in respect to beginning and end of life decisions. (numbers 42-47)

Application-Life Steps:

1.    Pope John Paul speaks of our following Christ’s example of giving up his life for others. How can we, as Christ’s people, imitate his sacrifice within the pro-life movement? In what ways can we give up some aspect of our own lives in order to save others?

2. Share a testimony of your own, or another’s personal sacrifice that resulted in the saving of another’s life. In what way does this story encourage us to continue to labor in the pro-life movement, in spite of hardships?

"Doers of the Word" - Summary of Chapter III

Rev. Walter Quinn, OSA

The All-Holy God, because of His Infinite Love for humankind, commands all, without exception, to keep His Holy Law if we wish to reach heaven. God's Commandment is never separated from His Love.

The Holy Father points to three essentials of a truly human civilization, Life, Law and Love. All three have their origin in God Himself. Thus, God's Law is a holy Law. He further indicates that both earthly and eternal life are sacred as only God Himself can give us the means (Grace) by and through which we can reach heaven and share in His Divine Life: In Deuteronomy 32:39 God says, "I who bring both death and life." Each life from conception to natural death therefore must be treasured, cherished and protected by all.

Love is immeasurable, limitless, eternal, selfless and effusive; these attributes accurately describe God's own infinite love, which is why God, from His infinite Love, directly and individually creates each human soul in His own image and likeness.

Life therefore remains always a very precious gift of God and in a special relationship to God, who is Life's sole end, and who will punish every violation of His Holy Law or commandment to not kill.

Reflection/Discussion Questions:

Read carefully numbers 52-62

1. Why is God's Law (commandments) holy?

2. Why is Life sacred, a precious gift of God?

3. Why did God create us, for what purpose? What is the role of LOVE with God, with Man?

4. What is the solemn Church Teaching on cherishing, preserving each and every human life? Are there any exceptions? (numbers 56-57).

5. Reflect on what makes abortion a particularly grave evil? Does the Pope call it murder? Is there a new human life at conception? (numbers 58-59)

Application/Life Steps:

How can I challenge the members of my community to treasure, cherish and protect all innocent human life? ( number 68).

In what ways can I uphold Truth itself as objective and immutable? In what ways can I speak of its sublime origins? ( numbers 69-71).

How can I be sure that when I vote, I do not cooperate in evil? ( numbers 72-77).

Proclaiming and Demonstrating the Gospel of Life: Summary of Chapter IV 

Rev. Denis G. Wilde, OSA

After crafting the scriptural, theological and anthropological basis for the Gospel of Life, Pope John Paul II exhorts us to carry the Gospel forth in various ways. Evangelization is "inextricably linked to preaching, celebration and the service of charity" as it calls its followers to action "according to individual charisms and ministry" (number 78).

In number IV (numbers 78-101) the Gospel is to be brought to the public square "to the heart of every man and woman … to make it penetrate every part of society" (number 80) just as the Apostles left the upper room on Pentecost and took to the streets in Jerusalem (Acts 2). The Holy Father now promotes an array of human response from all walks and professions to encompass what it takes to respect, defend and promote life. These opportunities are always driven by the Spirit, the "Lord and giver of Life" (see Nicene Creed) who testifies to "Jesus…the only Gospel" beyond whom "we have nothing further to say or any other witness to bear." (numbers 80) For Jesus remains our full hope for the patient and formidable, yet joyful and rewarding task ahead to defend life. And as such, "You did it to Me!"

Reflection/Discussion Questions:

1. Before encouraging various professions to appropriate capacities in the struggle to defend life, the encyclical gives a fine summary of the "consequences of this Gospel." Take some time to grasp each phrase, placing in proper context the relationship of the ideas to one another (specifically number 81, par. 2).

2. "I give you thanks, Lord, that I am fearfully, wonderfully made" (Ps. 139:14). Celebration, prayer, wonder, gratitude and heroism are words the Holy Father savors and applies to His discussion on human life (numbers 83-86). The culture of death lacks these. Interrelate a few of these concepts to see how they enrich your appreciation for what this great gift of Life is all about.

3. Distinguish between the typical political population approach and addressing the demographic situation while responsibly respecting the dignity of life (number 91)

4. Take some time to reflect, perhaps alone, on the tenderly reassuring words addressed to post-abortive women (number 99, last paragraph). Use it as a meditation and share your stirrings from some of the most striking phrases that the Pontiff uses here. What does the phrase "you will become promoters of a new way of looking at human life" mean for you?

5. Some Catholics sometimes see being pro-life as a limiting way of thinking as if not broad enough to include non-Catholics. On the contrary, in reality, some of the greatest expressions of true ecumenism spring from the basic common bond on defending human life. Discuss number 101 to clarify well for yourself and your group just how non-sectarian, and in fact how all-inclusive is the issue at hand, "the value at stake… which every human being can grasp by the light of reason" around the world.

Application/Life Steps:

The Encyclical exhorts all to have "the courage to adopt a new lifestyle consisting in making practical choices" (number 98). What particular practical choices are you prompted in your own life to change? Perhaps some inspiration will come from referring to how the Holy Father addresses teachers, catechists, theologians (number 82); or health care personnel, doctors, pharmacists, chaplains (number 89); or youth, educators, media (number 98); and the "celebration…of prayer and worship found in the family’s ... life of love and self-giving" (number 93), as well as any other promptings of activism or use of time as a volunteer.

Share a success story you have had in changing hearts, even if it is your own, in the specific direction of promoting, defending, rescuing, and saving human life. How do you account for the "success"?

Affirming Life: Summary of The Conclusion

Rev. Peter J. West

In the conclusion of Evangelium Vitae Pope John Paul II draws our attention back to the Lord Jesus who is the "Child born for us’. By his death he became the source of eternal life. The person most closely associated with the Gospel of Life is the Blessed Virgin Mary. When Mary said yes to the message of the Archangel Gabriel she became the Mother of the Incarnate Word who rescued human life from eternal death. She is Mother of Life by whom everyone lives. The Church sees in Mary "the incomparable model of how life should be welcomed and cared for."

The Book of Revelation speaks of a great sign, a woman clothed with the sun who is with child.  This passage symbolizes both Mary and the Church. The Church, like Mary, bears Christ within herself and offers him to the world. The Church’s spiritual motherhood is achieved only through pangs of childbirth, the constant tension that believers face with the forces of evil. When Jesus was brought to the Temple as an infant the prophet Simeon prophesied that Jesus would be a sign of contradiction and that a sword of sorrow would pierce Mary’s heart. The prophecy was fulfilled at Calvary as Mary stood by the cross of her Son. Mary becomes the Mother of the Church when Jesus says, referring to St. John the Apostle as a symbol of all believers, "Woman, Behold your Son." Mary is the New Eve, mother of the living, mother of all believers.

The Dragon stood before the woman waiting to devour the child. The dragon symbolizes Satan and all the powers of evil opposing Christ and his Church. This evil was first directed against Mary causing her to have to flee to safety in Egypt. The child is every person, especially every helpless baby, whose life is threatened. Christ has united himself in some way with every person by his taking on our human flesh. He taught, "Whatever you do to the least of my brethren you do to me." Thus rejection of human life in whatever form is really a rejection of Christ himself.

We should be hopeful, because eventually the culture of death will be defeated. Christ is the master of all the events of history. He has power over life and death. Life and death contend, but Christ by his Resurrection has conquered to the forces of death. Mary is a sign of hope and comfort for us as we make our way to heaven where suffering and death shall be no more.

In his final prayer the Pope calls on Mary as the Mother of all the living entrusting to her the cause of life. Especially calling for protection of the pre-born babies in danger of abortion, the poor, all victims of violence, and of the elderly and sick killed out of misguided mercy. He prays that the glory of God will be made manifest by all believers in Christ and for all people of good will to build a civilization of truth and love. This is a prayer that all who value life should pray everyday.

Reflection/Discussion Questions:

1.Why is the Blessed Virgin Mary so closely linked to the Gospel of Life?

2.Why does the Church see Mary as the New Eve?

3. How does the Church understand the passage in Revelation 12:1 when it refers to ‘the woman clothed with the sun"?

4. Pope John Paul II says the Church’s spiritual motherhood is only achieved through the pangs of childbirth. What does this mean in terms of the experience of the members of the Church as they seek to promote the Gospel of Life?

5. Why does the Pope say that the rejection of human life in any form is really a rejection of Christ?

Application/Life Steps:

In the Pope’s final prayer he prays that all believers will live and courageously proclaim the Gospel of Life. In what ways can people such as you proclaim the Gospel of Life?

All people of good must work together to build a civilization of truth and love.   What is a practical application of this prayer in your life?

Helpful Reflections/Essays on Evangelium Vitae, Ten Years Later:

The Good News of Life!

Commentary by Dr. Alveda King, Pastoral Associate, Priests for Life

As a non-denominational Christian, I find myself challenged by the gauntlet for life laid forth by the Catholic Church. We as human beings must be pricked by the sharp sword of truth wielded in the insightful lessons to be learned in The Gospel of Life. My Lord Jesus Christ says in the Holy Bible, "I am come that they may have life, and have it more abundantly." (John 10:10) My uncle, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, "the Negro cannot win, if he is willing to sacrifice the lives of his children for personal comfort and safety." Following the life and example of my Lord Jesus, and having the same DNA as Dr. King, I constantly find myself asking, how can the dream survive if we murder the children?

The trauma of abortion hit home for me in the early nineteen-seventies, with an involuntary abortion by my private physician, and a subsequent tragic and fatal decision to abort a second child just after Roe v. Wade was handed down. Little did I know that I was contributing to America’s heinous culture of death. After all, babes in the wombs, and lives like Terri Schiavo’s are like slaves, awaiting a verdict for life or death.

Now, half way through the first decade of this new millennium, in the face of two iniquitous decisions by the United States Supreme Court, the decision not to stop the starvation of Terri Schiavo by removing her feeding tube, and the denial of Norma McCorvey’s sincere desire to reverse the Roe v. Wade case, in light of her understanding of the sanctity of life, after she was duped by her attorneys to become their pawn in the nefarious cause, I find myself longing for The Gospel of Life, and seeking solace in God’s word for the days to come.

In Psalm 37 (in the New Living Bible) the Lord instructs:

"Don't worry about the wicked. Don't envy those who do wrong. For like grass, they soon fade away. Like springtime flowers, they soon wither. Trust in the LORD and do good. Then you will live safely in the land and prosper."

Psalm 73 teaches about the wicked:

"These fat cats have everything their hearts could ever wish for! They scoff and speak only evil; in their pride they seek to crush others. They boast against the very heavens, and their words strut throughout the earth. And so the people ask: "Is the Most High even aware of what is happening?" Look at these arrogant people – enjoying a life of ease while their riches multiply. Was it for nothing that I kept my heart pure and kept myself from doing wrong?"

The psalmist quickly remembers God, and writes:

"Then I realized how bitter I had become, how pained I had been by all I had seen. Yet I still belong to you; you are holding my right hand. You will keep on guiding me with your counsel, leading me to a glorious destiny. Whom have I in heaven but you? I desire you more than anything on earth."

Please, as you study the words of this fine work The Gospel of Life, take heart; be encouraged, for God is truly still on the throne! As Dr. King, Jr. once said, "There are some difficult days ahead, but we will get there. Just let your light shine in the darkness, study to show yourself approved. Be ready in season and out of season with the truth of the love of God, and the Gospel of Life. We shall overcome!"

Dr. King is a minister of the Gospel of Life, a pastoral associate of Priests for life, and the daughter of slain Civil Rights leader, Rev. A. D. King (brother of Dr. ML King). She is a proud and blessed mother, grandmother, author and songwriter.

Evangelium Vitae – A Word of Forgiveness

Kevin and Theresa Burke

In The Gospel of Life (section 99), Pope John Paul II specifically singles out women who have suffered the agony and pain of an abortion experience. Speaking for the entire body of Christ and the Catholic Church, his words reveal a personal message of hope and encouragement: "You are not alone. You have not been forgotten."

Ultimately, once a woman has made a decision to abort, it is a clear indication that her difficult challenges have resulted in absolute despair. Afterwards, in the midst of heartbreaking grief and shame, despair is also the greatest obstacle to recovery and reconciliation. But through our hope in Christ Jesus, the painful reality of the past need not stain the present or dictate the future.

In order to heal, we must first know where we are wounded, uncovering all the places in our hearts where we have experienced hurt, abandonment, rejection, betrayal and deception. We need to understand how and why we have allowed ourselves to be manipulated. We examine these things so that we can come to a fuller understanding of who we are before God, our weaknesses, our strengths, and our particular temptations. Honesty begins by admitting that we have been deceived. A child has died; a part of our very self has died; and our spiritual relationship with God has been deeply damaged.

Jesus tells us with great authority and love, regardless of your past, "Do not be afraid!" Hope and trust in the mercy of God will gives us the strength and freedom to step out in faith. Repentance strips away self-contempt and hatred toward self and others and replaces it with humility, grief and tenderness. Repentance is an about face from denial and rebellion to truth and surrender ----from Death to Life.

Love is the ingredient that gives birth to mercy. It is precisely a mother’s love for her child that causes all the grief and heartache that constitutes post abortion trauma. It is precisely her love that drives the search for healing and reconciliation.

Rachel’s Vineyard Retreats (www.RachelsVineyard.org), pave the way for mothers and fathers to journey through the profound reality of their experience. The process utilizes exercises for grief work and spiritual mediations, with the sacraments of Eucharist and Reconciliation at key points in the weekend.

God’s love is incarnational, which means that we will experience the Love of God the Father through other people. The post abortion healing movement is made up of people who have offered themselves to be instruments of His compassion. With the help of others and the eyes of mercy, we are free to explore the truth and embrace it without denial or distortion, but with eyes that shift gently to the full spectrum of what is true.

Truth is a person. Jesus Christ is truth. We will embrace the truth by embracing Christ and His mercy will flood our hearts with grace. What is this grace? Grace is the very life of God within our soul.

As the power of Jesus is manifest in the healing of so many souls, we see a rising multitude of persons reconciled to God and their aborted children. They are truly committed to building a Culture of Life. Only the crucified and Risen Lord could bring such beautiful fruit out what is a tragic and painful journey. He shows us so clearly the journey and the hope when he embraced his own cross that led to the glory of His Resurrection.

It is the prayer of the Church that all those who are burdened by abortion may begin to find reconciliation and peace. Every member of the Church is called to make known the great forgiveness of Christ.   The Church stands ready to be an instrument of Jesus’ compassion to assist us in bearing one another’s burdens. May the words in the Gospel of Life, and our prayers and actions, be steps on the road to reconciliation. 

Evangelium Vitae - A Glossary of Terms from Evangelium Vitae

(Terms are listed in the order they first appear in the encyclical, and most definitions from Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary.)

Inviolability: in·vi·o·la·ble

1 : secure from violation or profanation

2 : secure from assault or trespass :


Inestimable: in·es·ti·ma·ble

1 : incapable of being estimated or computed

2 : too valuable or excellent to be measured or appreciated

Hippocratic Oath:

The ancient oath of fidelity taken by physicians and health care practitioners.

The Hippocratic Oath is the result of its author’s discovery of nature’s inclination towards wholeness and having reflected upon what is essential as well as what is contrary to assisting the natural inclination and end of health and wholeness. Not only in terms of what one will or will not do or say to those coming for healing, but also in terms of one’s dependence on a higher power that is the source of nature’s inclination towards wholeness. (From Fr. Stephen Torraco)

Promethean Attitude:

From Greek Mythology. Prometheus was a proud and strong Titan who is chained and tortured by Zeus for stealing fire from heaven and giving it to mankind.


1: done, made, or acquired by stealth :

2: acting or doing something clandestinely

Demographics: de·mo·graph·ics

The statistical characteristics of human populations (as age or income) used especially to identify markets

Natural Law: (The Pocket Catholic Dictionary)

1: As coming from God, the natural law is what God has produced in the world of creation; as coming to human beings, it is what they know (or can know) of what God has created.

2: It is therefore called natural law because everyone is subject to it from birth (natio), because it contains only those duties which are derivable from human nature itself, and because, absolutely speaking, its essentials can be grasped by the unaided light of human reason.

Nicene Creed:

The confession of faith of the Catholic Church (and most other Christian churches).

Caprice: ca·price

1: a sudden, impulsive, and seemingly unmotivated notion or action b : a sudden usually unpredictable condition, change, or series of changes

2 : a disposition to do things impulsively

Decalogue: deca·logue

The Ten Commandments

Proccured: pro·cured

"To get possession of : obtain by particular care and effort.  

To get and make available for promiscuous sexual intercourse."

Eugenics: eu·gen·ics (The Pocket Catholic Dictionary)

An extreme form of eugenics advocates the compulsory breeding of the select, contraception among the poor, and sterilization and euthanasia for the unfit. A moderate form promotes the study of how to reduce the number of mentally and physically handicapped without resorting to coercive measures. The Catholic Church strongly supports the idea that people have a right to use suitable, licit means to improve their own physical and mental condition and that of their children. But the Church condemns eugenicists who, in their narrow outlook, exalt eugenics as the supreme good and who, therefore, use illicit means to promote their goal. Eugenics has contributed substantially to the practice of contraception, sterilization, abortion, and euthanasia.

Euthanasia: eu·tha·na·sia

"Direct euthanasia consists in putting an end to the lives of handicapped, sick, or dying persons. It is morally unacceptable." (Catechism, 2277)

Palliate/Palliative: pal·li·ate/pal·li·a·tive

"To reduce the violence of (a disease)."

Utilitarianism: util·i·tar·i·an·ism

1: a doctrine that the useful is the good and that the determining consideration of right conduct should be the usefulness of its consequences

2: As a philosophical idea, it views a person’s usefulness as the measure of their value. As such, it is incompatible with Catholic Moral Theology and social teaching.

Hedonism: he·do·nism -- the doctrine that pleasure or happiness is the sole or chief good in life

About the Authors

Fr. Frank Pavone is a widely requested speaker who has traveled to every state and five continents, working with clergy and pro-life groups. He has been National Director of Priests for Life since 1993, has served in the Vatican's Pontifical Council for the Family. He is Pastoral Director of Rachel's Vineyard, and also President of the National Pro-life Religious Council, and a Senior Advisor to Faith and Action, the only Christian Mission to the US Supreme Court.

Mrs. Janet Morana, serves as Associate Director of Priests for Life and Co-Founder of the Silent No More Awareness Campaign. Prior to working full-time for Priests for Life, she taught in New York City public schools. She appears on Fr. Frank's television series "Defending Life," and produces the TV series "Gospel of Life."

Priest Associates

Fr. Walter Quinn, OSA, began serving Priests for Life on a full time basis in mid-1999. He is an Augustinian priest with some 40 years of parish experience, and is available for speaking engagements.

Fr. Peter West, Priest Associate of Priests for Life and a priest of the Archdiocese of Newark, New Jersey, travels the nation inspiring activists, who always find his message stirring. He has done a lot of youth work as well as counseling to divert women from abortion.

Fr. Denis Wilde, OSA, an Augustinian priest and a former professor at Villanova University, likewise travels the country as a full time Priest Associate of Priests for Life. He gives special emphasis to post-abortion issues, as well as the use of music to communicate the pro-life message. He will even be available to present classical piano recitals for the pro-life cause.

Pastoral Associates

Mr. James Pinto, Jr. serves as a pastoral associate of Priests for Life. He served as a priest in the Anglican Tradition for over 20 years and entered into full communion with the Roman Catholic Church in 2003. He is recognized nationally as an advocate for the poor, for racial reconciliation, and for the right to life.

Dr. Paul Chaim Schenck was raised Jewish, and became a Christian along with his twin brother Rob. Both became Christian pastors, and Paul served for 21 years as a minister in the Anglican tradition. His pro-life activism brought him all the way to the Supreme Court in the case Schenck vs. Pro-Choice network, which was decided in his favor in 1997. In 2004, Paul was received into the Catholic Church by Fr. Frank Pavone and joined Priests for Life.

Dr. Theresa Burke founded the international Rachel's Vineyard retreat ministry, bringing healing to those who have had abortions. She recently joined the Priests for Life staff, and continues to train post-abortion counselors and priests. She is the author of Forbidden Grief, a key resource for understanding the harm abortion causes.

Mr. Kevin Burke is executive director of Rachel's Vineyard. As an associate on the Priests for Life staff, he coordinates this ministry and lends his expertise in the areas of the impact of abortion on men, as well as other issues related to marriage, family, and human sexuality.

Dr. Alveda King, niece of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., is a minister of the Gospel, educator, author, and civil rights activist. She holds that preserving the lives of the unborn is the most pressing moral issue of the day. She joined the Priests for Life staff in 2005 as Director of African American Outreach.


As an Association of the Faithful, recognized and approved under the Canon Law of the Catholic Church, and working in harmony with the goals of the Bishops' Pro-Life Committee and the local diocesan respect life offices, Priests for Life seeks to:

Unite, encourage, and provide ongoing training to priests and deacons who give a special emphasis to the "life issues", especially abortion and euthanasia, in their ministries;

Instill a sense of urgency in all clergy to teach about these issues and to mobilize their people to help stop abortion and euthanasia;

Assist clergy and laity to work together productively for the cause of life;

Provide ongoing training and motivation to the entire pro-life movement.

Provide counseling and healing to all affected by abortion and euthanasia.

All pro-life groups, whether Catholic or Protestant, recognize the benefit of the leadership of the clergy in the pro-life movement and often yearn for more of it. The pro-abortion community also sees the key role such leadership plays, as reflected in former abortionist Dr. Bernard Nathanson's comment to the clergy, "We would have never gotten away with what we did if you had been united, purposeful, and strong."

Means to Fulfill our Goals

With the co-operation of bishops and their respect life offices, Priests for Life provides a bi-monthly newsletter to priests and deacons. It is also available to the general public. We offer pro-life seminars and retreats to both clergy and laity. With the permission or their respective ordinaries, the National Director and his associates travel the country full time to meet with priests and pro-life groups.

Priests for Life offers a wide range of audio and videotapes and brochures, and regularly uses the media of television, radio, and the press to spread the message of life.

Our Educational Resources

Priests for Life has been providing pastoral and educational material to clergy and laity of all denominations for over a decade. This material includes additional commentaries on Evangelium Vitae in audio and written form, Church documents, analysis of the pro-life movement and its strategies, insights into the thinking of the pro-abortion movement, homily suggestions, bulletin inserts, prayer resources (including General Intercessions for Mass based on the readings of each Sunday of the year), entire retreats on audio tape and CD, and numerous television series available on video and DVD.

In particular, our "Resources for Clergy" packet is useful for pastors, priests, and deacons across denominational lines.

A full catalog of our products can be seen at www.ProLifeProducts.org.

Funding comes solely through tax-deductible donations, and supporters can contribute online at www.priestsforlife.org/donate.

Priests for Life
PO Box 236695 • Cocoa, FL 32923
Tel. 321-500-1000, Toll Free 888-735-3448 • Email: mail@priestsforlife.org