Fr. Frank Pavone
National Director of Priests for Life
February 11, 2002

One of God's priests is in jail.

No, it's not for sexual misdeeds, it's not for mishandling money, and it's not for any sinful act.

It's for praying.

This priest, Fr. Norman Weslin, has been in jail since November 5 for peacefully praying on a public sidewalk in front of an abortion mill. He had been told not to by an injunction, but did so anyway. He will remain in jail until April 3. At Christmas, he completed a 39-day water-only fast.

Fr. Weslin has been battling the evil of abortion for decades, and calling forth the generosity of others to do the same. He categorically rejects all forms of violence, and the group he established is called the "Lambs of Christ." Nevertheless, he is considered one of the "violent extremists" by the pro-abortion groups.

But it is not the attitude of the pro-abortion groups that bothers me as much as the attitude of some within our own Church who won't go near Fr. Weslin with a 30-foot pole. They've probably been given "expert" legal advice that any semblance of association with him may get them and their institutions into trouble. Or perhaps they have received "expert" public relations advice that any semblance of association with him may tarnish their image as reasonable and balanced proponents of the Gospel of Life.

I would never advocate throwing legal advice or public relations advice out the window. I pay quite a bit of money to obtain such advice myself in my work with Priests for Life.

But Fr. Norman Weslin is a priest, and it seems to me that our Catholic Faith requires a bit more than the wisdom of law and public relations. Our Faith sees in him another Christ, and in these days especially, the suffering Christ. His hands have been anointed. They consecrate the Eucharist and absolve sin. And as a priest, Fr. Weslin should enjoy the strong fraternal support of his brother priests, and the active support of the Catholic faithful.

Going to jail is not popular. Yet Fr. Weslin believes that while Jesus Christ's babies are being legally slaughtered by the thousands each day, God wants at least one of his priests in jail. It is not that Fr. Weslin seeks jail; it is that he is willing to endure it if it is the price to pay for taking a stand for the babies.

Some say the price is too high. But what if the law said you could not go to Mass, or told priests they could not preach the Gospel? Many Christians have been and still are in such circumstances. What then? Do we obey God or man? Sometimes, jail is the only place for a just man to be. Bishop Austin Vaughan, now deceased, taught and lived the same thing. He realized one day that the three people depicted on his bishop's ring had all endured jail -- Peter, Paul, and Jesus.

Then, as now, God's Priest was in jail.


The following passage from Pope John Paul II's Encyclical "The Gospel of Life" is a fitting reflection:

Abortion and euthanasia are thus crimes which no human law can claim to legitimize. There is no obligation in conscience to obey such laws; instead there is a grave and clear obligation to oppose them by conscientious objection. From the very beginnings of the Church, the apostolic preaching reminded Christians of their duty to obey legitimately constituted public authorities (cf. Rom 13:1-7; 1 Pet 2:13-14), but at the same time it firmly warned that "we must obey God rather than men" (Acts 5:29). In the Old Testament, precisely in regard to threats against life, we find a significant example of resistance to the unjust command of those in authority. After Pharaoh ordered the killing of all newborn males, the Hebrew midwives refused. "They did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but let the male children live" (Ex 1:17). But the ultimate reason for their action should be noted: "the midwives feared God" (ibid.). It is precisely from obedience to God—to whom alone is due that fear which is acknowledgment of his absolute sovereignty—that the strength and the courage to resist unjust human laws are born. It is the strength and the courage of those prepared even to be imprisoned or put to the sword, in the certainty that this is what makes for "the endurance and faith of the saints" (Rev 13:10). (Evangelium Vitae, n.73)

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