Responsible Citizenship Means Putting God's Laws Before Man's Laws, Says Father Pavone

Bruce A. Tomaselli

Document Publication: The Catholic Register-Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown, PA

Publication Date: May 03, 2004

"We have a sturdy tool that crushes the head of the baby," testified a physician recently in an abortion hearing on Capitol Hill.

"That way it is easier to remove the arms and legs of the baby. It feels as though you’re grabbing salad from a bowl."

That grim testimony was just one of many examples heard that day.

"We have to take back our government. It is time for us to tell the courts that they no longer have the authority to do what they are doing," said Father Frank Pavone.

Father Pavone, national director of Priests for Life, discussed life issues at a gathering sponsored by the Pro-Life Committee of Saint Rose of Lima Parish, Altoona.

The event, held on Monday April 19 in the new Saint Rose of Lima Maria Parish Center, was entitled "Responsible Citizenship," an appropriate topic for an election year.

Priests For Life was started in 1991 to help priests around the world spread the Gospel of life to their people.

The mission of Priests for Life is to unite and encourage all clergy to give special emphasis to life issues in their ministry. It also urges them to take a more active and vocal role in the pro-life movement, especially on the issues of abortion and euthanasia.

Father Pavone, born in Port Chester, New York, became the national director of Priests for Life in 1993. Under his guidance the staff has grown to 45 full-time paid employees.

A nationally known figure, he was asked by Mother Teresa to address the clergy of India on life issues. He also spoke at the pro-life caucus of the United States House of Representatives. He’s taken his antiabortion and life message to all 50 states and has appeared on national broadcasts such as Hannity and Colmes and The O’Reilly Factor.

Norma McCorvey, the "Jane Roe" of the Supreme Court's abortion Roe vs. Wade, called Father Pavone "the catalyst that brought me into the Catholic Church."

His message is a simple one: "Man's laws must not supercede God's laws. Our founding fathers established a Republic bound to that ideal. They warned us against democracy that puts human utility above the laws of our creator," explained Father Pavone. Those thoughts exacted a loud applause from the large gathering.

According to Ann Zelnosky, chairperson of the St. Rose Pro-Life Committee, "this crowd is much larger than I anticipated. I was uptight worrying about the turnout, and in the last two days, the response has been tremendous." So much so that church officials had to scramble to provide more seating. We must obey God rather than man and we give absolute loyalty always and only to Jesus Christ, Father Pavone reminded. "Jesus said that 'all authority is given to me on heaven and earth.'"

Father Pavone referred to a book he feels is a very important work, Original Intent. It discusses what our founding fathers intended in the Declaration of Independence. "This book explains their intentions. Children today are not hearing or reading about those original intentions."

He said James Wilson, a signer of the constitution emphasized that we must obey two kinds of laws -- divine and human.

Father Pavone added that Alexander Hamilton also addressed that issue, "The law dictated by God Himself is superior. No human law is of any validity if contrary to this notion.

"Our founding fathers didn't create a democracy, they warned of it," Father Pavone said. Democracy supersedes God’s law and this is not what was intended. "They understood that people cannot go beyond Divine law."

The Church experienced a major gain in the battle against abortion and other life issues with the passing of the Unborn Victims of Violence Act (HR 1997) on April 1.

President Bush signed the act into law, which recognizes an unborn child as the second victim when a violent federal crime is perpetrated against a pregnant woman.

Sister of Saint Joseph Rosella Lacovitch is assistant director of the diocesan Family Life Office. One of her duties is to promote Respect Life Issues. "Naturally, I am delighted with the passage of the Unborn Victims of Violence Act." It is also known as the Laci and Conner’s Law after Laci Peterson and her unborn son, Conner, whose disappearance and subsequent death gained national attention.

Peterson, of California was nearly eight months pregnant when she disappeared in December of 2002; Laci and Conner’s bodies were found the following April.

Sister Rosella said equally remarkable is that an addendum to the law, which would recognize only the mother as a victim, was defeated in February. "This means the bill acknowledges the rights of the child and recognizes the unborn child as a victim," said Sister Rosella in a telephone interview. This is a blow to abortion clinics and planned parenthood groups, she added.

"This is a big step for Pro-Life because this means that anyone causing death or injury to a child in the womb, can and will be charged with a separate offense in addition to any charges related to the mother," Sister Rosella explained. "An unborn child’s life is now recognized as a life to be acknowledged."

She said this will have a rippling effect on how we view Roe vs. Wade. "The Catholic Church is delighted," she said.

Bishop Elio Sgreccia, vice president of the Pontifical Academy for Life, commented on Vatican radio about the new law.

"Undoubtedly, it is, juridically and ethically, a very important event." He noted that the U.S. Supreme Court decisions have focused on the principle of women’s rights. But the new law shows "there is another priority in principle: that the fetus represents a human being who has juridical importance who must be respected as man," he said.

Father Pavone said there were a number of efforts we can pursue on behalf of life issues. He said we must change the minds of our legislators and only then can we get man’s laws to be dictated by divine law.

One of the most under - utilized tools we have, he said, are letters-to-the-editor. "Many groups are coming together to write letters for each other," Father Pavone explained.

He reminded know your candidates and how they feel about the issues. Voting is very important and we must make every effort to get everyone eligible voter to the polls on election day. "The Church as an institution does not back candidates, but you can."

Father Pavone said we can't shy away from the issues -- we need to get back to governing ourselves.

"It all boils down to who shows up and votes on election day. That is within your power to influence," concluded Father Pavone to a standing ovation.

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