Frequently Asked Questions about Priests for Life

1. Why do we need “Priests for Life?” Isn’t every priest “for life?”

With few exceptions, priests are pro-life -- we just help them to say so. Precisely because being “for life” is integral to being a priest, this organization helps them to be even more confident, equipped, and effective at doing what they were ordained to do: proclaim, celebrate, and serve the Gospel of Life! We network priests with one another and provide, by word and example, the encouragement they need to carry out the pro-life dimensions of their ministry in union with their local bishop. Priests for Life is not some kind of elite club of priests who are more pro-life than the rest. Rather, Priests for Life is a sign and stimulus to the rest of the Church to encourage everyone to rally to the defense of the most defenseless members of the human family, the unborn.

2. What is the mission of Priests for Life?

Our mission statement identifies four key goals of our activity:

a. unite, encourage, and provide ongoing training to priests and deacons who give a special emphasis in their ministries to protecting unborn children and ending abortion;
b. instill a sense of urgency in all clergy to teach about the abortion issue and to mobilize their people to help end abortion;
c. assist clergy and laity to work together productively for the cause of protecting the unborn;
d. provide ongoing training and motivation to the entire pro-life movement in its specific mission of ending abortion.

3. How does this differ from the Bishops’ Secretariat for Pro-life Activities?

First of all, Priests for Life offers a unique priest-to-priest ministry of encouragement and networking around the country. By constant visits to local communities, our priests help their brother priests connect with a ministry that helps them communicate with priests in other parts of the nation on pro-life issues.

Second, Priests for Life reaches the public directly, serving the pro-life movement both within and outside the Catholic community.

With our large staff and multimedia outreach, we are able to reinforce the bishops’ teachings on abortion by bringing that teaching to large numbers of people both inside and outside the Church. We are able to bring the pro-life message into arenas that the Church otherwise does not have the time, resources, or personnel to reach.

On the other hand, the bishops’ “Secretariat for Pro-life Activities” is an office of the US Bishops’ Conference that serves the bishops and their dioceses as a resource.

4. Do Priests for Life priests speak in parishes and give seminars and retreats?

Yes, the Priests for Life pastoral staff speaks in parishes, at diocesan events, in seminaries, and at pro-life events held by many organizations. We also conduct retreats for priests, deacons, seminarians, and lay people.

On our travels we conduct a wide range of other activities as well, including prayer vigils, media interviews, one on one meetings with lawmakers, events in schools, and much more.

5. Is Priests for Life political in its approach?

Priests for Life is committed to proclaiming and applying the teachings of the Church on political responsibility, as expressed by the United States bishops in “Living the Gospel of Life” (1998). We are completely non-partisan; neither are we afraid of the fact that people, upon understanding the Church’s teaching on the primacy of the right to life, will draw the practical conclusion that they should vote for a pro-life candidate. Our business is not to work for any particular party, but neither is our business to obscure the concrete implications of the Church’s teaching in the political arena.

6. Do the bishops support Priests for Life?

Priests for Life receives a constant stream of letters from bishops across the nation thanking us for the service we provide to the priests and laity of their dioceses. Bishops regularly invite us to join them for clergy seminars, pro-life masses, and other events.

Moreover, the US Bishops’ Pastoral Plan for Pro-life Activities states,“This plan foresees dialogue and cooperation between the national episcopal conference and priests, deacons, religious, and lay persons, individually and collectively. We seek the collaboration of every Catholic organization in this effort.” We at Priests for Life are committed to providing such collaboration. It should be noted here that the Pro-life Committee of the Bishops’ Conference does not have the role of “endorsing” pro-life organizations. Rather, it seeks to encourage all those who are working to promote the Gospel of Life, as the Pastoral Plan indicates.

Some of the recent letters we received include the following statements:

“Priests for Life has been arguably one of the most important movements in the history of North American Church.” -- Most Reverend Robert J. Baker, Bishop of Charleston, South Carolina

“Fr. Pavone’s new book helps us to strengthen our convictions with clear teaching and compelling motivation.” -- Most Reverend Anthony M. Pilla, Retired Bishop of Cleveland and Past President, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

See more comments at

7. Is Priests for Life funded by dioceses, the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, or the Vatican?

No. Priests for Life is funded by the generous and regular contributions of individual laity and priests across the country. Priests for Life is a 501 (c) 3 organization and therefore donations are tax-deductible and are made out to “Priests for Life.” We raise our money mostly through direct-mail fundraising. You can also donate at our secure site,

8. Does Priests for Life have a Board of Directors?

Yes, the Priests for Life Board of Directors is composed of priests and laity who oversee the operations of the corporation in accordance with all federal and state laws. Among its other duties, the Board sees to it that annual audits are conducted, and these have demonstrated from year to year the fiscal responsibility of the organization.

9. Who started Priests for Life?

Priests for Life actually started in San Francisco by a number of priests who wanted to activate and encourage their brother priests in the pro-life cause. Fr. Lee Kaylor was the first President of the organization. He came to know Fr. Frank Pavone and Fr. Jim Heyd, and eventually asked them to serve in leadership capacities. It was in 1993 that Fr. Frank Pavone became the first full-time director of Priests for Life, with the permission of Cardinal John O’Connor, and Fr. Jim Heyd became the first part-time Associate Director, with the permission of Cardinal Joseph Bernardin. At that time the headquarters of Priests for Life moved from San Francisco to New York.

10. Does Priests for Life cover more issues than abortion?

Priests for Life exists to end abortion, and that is a big enough goal for any individual or organization.

Saint John Paul II, particularly in his encyclical “Evangelium Vitae” (1995), and the United States bishops, particularly in their document “Living the Gospel of Life” (1998), point out why abortion has to be primary in our concerns. At the same time, and consistent with those same documents, Priests for Life points out the linkage among all the life issues, and the fact that our concern for life must be consistent. Therefore Priests for Life does provide preaching resources on related issues such as contraception and the death penalty (see and

However, as Cardinal Joseph Bernardin pointed out years ago and as the US Bishops’ Pastoral Plan for Pro-life Activities still points out, acknowledging the “consistent ethic of life” does not mean that all issues are of equal importance, and does not remove the right of organizations and individuals to focus on one or more particular issues.

Priests for Life, therefore, focuses exclusively and unapologetically on abortion.

11. Is Priests for Life just for priests?

No, because priests are not just for priests. Priests are called to serve, nourish, and stir into flame the gifts of the whole Church for the building of the Kingdom of God. The great task of transforming society into a Culture of Life, starting in the family and extending into the realm of business, media, politics, and every other arena, belongs to the laity by virtue of their baptism and confirmation. Priests for Life seeks to help the laity do so, and to help priests to provide such help more effectively.

Therefore, Priests for Life serves the entire Church. Lay men and women can join Priests for Life as “lay associates.” Priests for Life offers pro-life training, networking, and encouragement for the laity.

12. What is the status of Priests for Life in Canon Law?

Priests for Life, like the Knights of Columbus and EWTN, is an independent organization inspired by Catholic teaching and committed to work in unity with the Catholic Church. None of these three organizations are, however, what is called a “canonical entity” (like a parish or religious order would be.)

13. Is Priests for Life a “radical” pro-life group?

Priests for Life is a national pro-life organization that is highly respected by parish priests and by Cardinals at the Vatican, by local ministers and leaders such as Dr. James Dobson, by ordinary citizens and celebrities, by diocesan respect life directors and by members of Congress, and even by those who disagree with us. Some of the feedback we have received can be read at Priests for Life is recognized by the United Nations as a non-governmental organization with all the rights that attach to such groups; is invited to participate in and often lead national and international pro-life strategic planning; is a valued friend of national pro-life groups everywhere; and has been invited to hold Congressional briefings.

The meaning of the term “radical,” of course, is relative to the person who uses it. If by “radical” one means that a group is committed to certain unchanging principles - like the sanctity of life - and is willing to challenge anyone and everyone to observe those principles, to go against the tide of public opinions and political correctness, and even to die for the cause of life, then yes, we proudly wear the label, because it is consistent with the demands of discipleship.

14. Does Priests for Life reject the use of violence?

Yes. Violence is never an answer to violence. We have publicly rejected violence against abortionists, as can be seen by our public statements and articles at

15. Does Priests for Life endorse political candidates?

No. We are not allowed to do so by laws governing 501 (c) (3) tax-exempt entities. We do, however, teach what the Bible and the Church teach about political responsibility, and we urge all citizens (including those who lead organizations) to speak up and work for the candidates of their choice.

Moreover, we do point out the positions of elected officials on abortion, inform citizens of what they say and how they vote on abortion, praise those who have a pro-life position, and criticize those who support abortion. All of that is perfectly consistent both with the law and with the duty of the Church to equip God’s people to make a difference in the world.

16. Does Priests for Life have a paid staff?

Yes, Priests for Life employs approximately fifty employees.

17. Does Priests for Life propose policies different than the policies dioceses already follow?

The role of Priests for Life is distinct from that of the hierarchy or the official structure of a diocese. Priests for Life is a movement which motivates, encourages, informs and equips the faithful to carry out the work of defending life.

As such, Priests for Life does not seek to set policy for a parish or a diocese. The role of deciding official policy belongs to the diocesan bishop and those to whom he entrusts particular responsibilities.

Priests for Life, on the other hand, is a resource of expertise, information, networking, and pastoral experience on various dimensions of the pro-life effort. Many dioceses use our information in forming and implementing their policies. We gladly share the insights and resources we have. And we expect to be part of the conversation in which we are all engaged as we try, together as one Church, to chart the best course and find the most effective means of building a culture of life.

It is important, of course, on the part of those who are responsible for setting diocesan policy on pro-life matters, that they not build walls between themselves and the many pro-life groups from whose expertise they can benefit. The US Bishops’ Pastoral Plan for Pro-life Activities, which offers guidance to dioceses, in fact, states,

“This plan foresees dialogue and cooperation between the national episcopal conference and priests, deacons, religious, and lay persons, individually and collectively. We seek the collaboration of every Catholic organization in this effort.”

18. Even though Priests for Life doesn’t endorse candidates, doesn’t it favor the Republicans?

Priests for Life proclaims the Gospel of Life and the demands that Gospel makes on public policy. That message is the same no matter what positions the national political parties take on life issues. Obviously, if one party takes a position against abortion and another takes a position for it, then pro-life teaching – whether enunciated by the bishops, by Priests for Life or by any other group, is, in effect, going to benefit the pro-life party. Yet that is because of the position the party takes, not because the pro-life groups choose to support that party.

Our primary spokesperson, Fr. Frank Pavone, is neither a Republican nor a Democrat, and serves as a resource to groups and public officials on both sides of the aisle. It is clear, however, that the Democrat Party has hardened and made even more extreme its support for abortion – even in the latest stages of pregnancy and even after the baby is born alive. In this political climate, it is clear that the only political, legislative and judicial path forward for restoring protection for the unborn is to elect more Republicans.

Furthermore, the fear of clergy, Churches, and educational organizations speaking clearly about these political realities is highly exaggerated, especially now that President Trump has made it clear that all citizens – including clergy – should be free to speak their mind, even in matters relating to politics. That is pretty consistent with what the Second Vatican Council declared when saying,

"At all times and in all places, the Church should have the true freedom to teach the faith, to proclaim its teaching about society, to carry out its task among men without hindrance, and to pass moral judgment even in matters relating to politics, whenever the fundamental rights of man or the salvation of souls requires it" (Vatican II, Gaudium et Spes, 76).

19. What is the structural relationship between Priests for Life and Rachel’s Vineyard?

The worldwide work of Rachel’s Vineyard is a ministry of Priests for Life and operates under the umbrella of Priests for Life. The founders and directors of Rachel’s Vineyard, Dr. Theresa and Kevin Burke, are employed by Priests for Life as full-time Pastoral Associates. Fr. Frank Pavone, National Director of Priests for Life, serves as National Pastoral Director and Chairman of the Board of Rachel’s Vineyard.

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