WASHINGTON (CNS) -- In what the founder of Priests for Life called a return to its roots, the organization has decided not to seek church recognition as a society of apostolic life that would accept and ordain its own seminarians.
Instead Priests for Life and the related Missionaries of the Gospel of Life will continue to help priests, seminarians and lay Catholics around the country become "more effectively pro-life" within their own parishes and communities, said Father Frank Pavone in a telephone interview Sept. 9.
"We got it right the first time," he told Catholic News Service, noting that he founded Priests for Life in 1991 as a way to "infuse the existing structures" of the church and society with the pro-life message.
Priests for Life and the Missionaries of the Gospel of Life will be one entity, "without the founding of a canonically distinct community," said a joint statement from Priests for Life and the Diocese of Amarillo, Texas.
Father Pavone, who was originally ordained as a priest of the New York Archdiocese, was incardinated in the Diocese of Amarillo in March 2005 and became the first member of the new Missionaries of the Gospel of Life the following year. He will remain a priest of the Amarillo Diocese, he said.
"It seems best that the association remain focused specifically and exclusively on the pro-life work itself, and leave to dioceses and religious communities the specific task of forming men for the priesthood," said a Sept. 8 news release from the organization. "Priests for Life is always working, however, to supplement that training, both before and after ordination, with specialized training in the many facets of the pro-life movement."
In a Sept. 8 letter to supporters, Father Pavone said the pro-life movement was "entering yet another phase of this battle."
"We are closer to victory than ever before, and now is the time to redouble every effort and to push over the finish line," he said. "Now is the time to cut off any 'dead wood,' any projects that aren't bearing fruit, any expenditures and efforts that are not actually moving us toward the goal of ending abortion, and any bureaucracy in our structures that is hindering rather than advancing the mission."
Father Pavone said the organization would "vastly scale down the building projects that we have in the works." The Missionaries of the Gospel of Life broke ground in August 2006 for a new house of formation and international headquarters in Amarillo.
"A big central headquarters isn't necessary. A small one suffices," the priest said. "I don't want to divert all kinds of attention and resources to building anything that may prove superfluous. We're closer to victory than ever before. The focus now needs to be getting the job done, not setting up more structures for plans to get it done in the next generation."
Father Pavone said he also planned to dedicate himself to finding ways to collaborate with other pro-life leaders and organizations.
"Gathering leaders for retreats and strategy sessions, and building bridges of communication and collaboration that didn't exist before, continues to be one of the most important things in which I am involved," he said. "These efforts for unity are bearing fruit and many leaders have approached me about how we can harvest that fruit and begin more joint efforts, rather than just pursuing, on parallel paths, the work of our individual organizations."
Father Pavone also announced a series of new online training programs for clergy and laypeople, which he said would provide "simple 'how-to' resources for getting the pro-life job done."