Fr. Pavone's rapid ascension as a leader of the movement against abortion rights


Document Publication: Catholic Eye - Sacramento, CA

Publication Date: April 30, 2001


"Fr. Pavone's rapid ascension as a leader of the movement against abortion rights and his close ties to the top of the Vatican hierarchy are so remarkable that he has been referred to as the Pope's 'Vicar for Life."' Good news? Not for the "vicars of death" at the Institute for Democracy Studies, from whose November newsletter, IDS Insights, we quote. (IDS Insights describes itself as an "investigative newsletter highlighting anti-democratic groups and trends [our emphasis].") It seems that Father Frank Pavone's Priests for Life (PFL) has shot right to the top of the infanticide-obsessed Left's Enemies List - why, you'd think the dismembered baby was becoming an endangered species.

Well, not yet. But Priests for Life's national crusade to win Catholic votes for George W. Bush (see eye # 178) did have a big payoff - in what turned out to be the crucial state of Florida, Catholic voters were 26% of the electorate and went for Bush 52 to 44 percent. The group is giving agita at a more local level, too. According to a recent Catholic World News (CWN) report, after a March 18th St. Patrick's day parade in Newark, Father Peter West, a New Jersey-based PFL staffer, was "physically thrown out of a Catholic school hall while a pro-abortion politician was being honored inside." The not-so-honorable Catholic pol was Jim McGreevey, Democrat candidate for governor and also the parade's grand marshal. Sporting stickers saying "McGreevey Supports Partial-Birth Abortion" and "St Patrick Is Pro-Life," Fr. West and 15 other pro-lifers crashed a post-parade gathering at St. Patrick's School and gave McGreevey a copy of the US Bishops' document, Living the Gospel of Life: A Challenge to American Catholics, which McGreevey said he would read." (We're sure it's right by his bed.)

Trouble began, the story goes on, when "Father West was approached by a woman who shouted at him saying, 'How many children did you raise?.'.. (Playing the celibacy canard - now that's real class.) During an ensuing "debate," when some McGreevey supporters denied that their guy supported partial-birth abortion, West "produced a newspaper article" proving otherwise. Accused of "harassment" by "a man in plain clothes, who identified himself as a police officer," West and a companion were then "pushed out the door, nearly causing them to fall down a flight of stairs." (You couldn't make this stuff up.) The story does have a "happy" ending: "After strenuously pointing out the irony that a Catholic priest had been ejected from a Catholic school by abortion supporters as a pro-abortion politician was being honored inside, the pro-lifers were allowed back into the school." ...

On April 25, Fr. Pavone was honored by the National Right to Life Committee at its annual black-tie dinner at the Waldorf-Astoria hotel here in Manhattan. The same morning, the Institute for Democracy Studies (IDS) released a 28-page "briefing paper" titled Priests for Life: A New Era in Antiabortion Activism. Here's its opening salvo: "The National Right to Life Committee's decision to give its Proudly Pro-Life Award to Priests for Life's Fr. Frank Pavone marks a dangerous new era in the attack on a woman's constitutional right to abortion. What is new is that the Catholic hierarchy and the Republican-supported National Right to Life Committee are openly backing militant direct action. Pavone has explicitly justified criminal trespass against abortion clinics and encouraged 'rescues' which block legal access to healthcare facilities." (Father "Capone," get ready for RICO.)

We'd heard IDS board member Al Ross announce on Democracy Now - the mostly-Marxist Pacifica Radio show - that a protest was planned for the Proudly Pro-Life dinner, so last Wednesday evening we sauntered up Park Avenue for a look-see. Turn out was pretty pathetic. About 150 (mostly) women were chanting stuff like "It's my body and I'll choose if I want to," accompanied by (no kidding) a tuba player. Manning the megaphone was a youthful looking New York State Senator named Eric Schneiderman - the event's organizer. (The next day CWN reported that Schneiderman, in an April 11 letter to constituents, accused Father Pavone of "openly advocat[ing] criminal activity to harass abortion providers.") Standing alongside him was Frances "Just Say Nope to the Pope" Kissling, and New York City mayoral hopeful Alan Hevesi, who managed to look both smarmy and silly as he "worked" the tiny crowd.

We stationed ourself in a doorway facing the protesters who were cordoned off along the avenue in front of the hotel. We were taking notes when we noticed a tuxedo-clad gent walk over and start taking pictures. We thought he might be a pro-lifer on his way into the dinner and, when we saw him crumple up a particularly vile piece of propaganda being handed out to passersby, ventured aloud that we "didn't think he'd want to read that." Well he turned out to be quite a chatty type, mildly vexing since our mission was to report on the event, but only mildly since it was good to encounter a fellow traveler. And one who wasn't afraid to utter "sanctity of human life" only six feet away from a bunch of banshees wailing "Hey ho, what do you know? The right to life has got to go," and "Right to life, your name's a lie, you don't care if women die." Lending him only half an ear as we scribbled down chant lyrics and sign copy, we thought we heard him say something like, "I had the experience of helping save one of the most important lives in the world." "Really?" we absentmindedly mumbled. "Yeah," he went on, "Elian Gonzalez."

It took a moment but your trusty info-babe finally got it: "You mean that literally," we gulped, "about saving Elian Gonzalez?" He nodded. "I pulled him out of the sea," said the guy in the tux. "I'm Donato Dalrymple." As soon as he said it we knew it was true. He was the man in the infamous (Pulitzer-Prize winning) photograph sheltering a terrified little boy in his arms as a United States government employee waved an MP-5 submachine gun at them. "Father Pavone invited me to this dinner." Funny. The man who a year ago was snapped trying to protect the most famous child on the planet from Janet Reno's Holy Saturday Raiders was now snapping pictures in front of the Waldorf like any ordinary out-of-towner might, and yakking with yours truly. As New York Post Gossip Queen Cindy Adams likes to end her column: "Only in New York, kids, only in New York."

"Pavone Preaches Violence" proclaimed one protester's sign. Another read "F*** Pavone." Smearing the Pope's "Vicar of Life" may give Schneiderman et al. a short-term fund-raising bo but it's bound to further marginalize the abortion-monger Left. Will Senator Hillary Clinton, having won New York's Catholic vote, publicly dis a group called Priests for Life? A group that on April 4, the anniversary of Martin Luther King's assassination, announced that it was "offering $50,000 to anyone providing authorities with information leading to the capture of fugitives wanted for abortion clinic shootings." Needless to say, the IDS report didn't report on that.

"We Reject All Violence" banners the Priest for Life website. People who murder abortionists, insists Father Pavone, are themselves "living out the pro-choice philosophy," that is, "killing to solve a problem." The "rescues" that IDS says Pavone "encourages" are described - along with a slew of other peaceful protest activities - in a PFL handbook, Our Media is the Streets:

Pro-lifers might block the doors to the abortion mill with their bodies or with other objects. When police try to remove them, they will go limp, thereby refusing to abandon the children scheduled to die. The time it takes to open access to the mill allows sidewalk counselors to plead with the mothers to spare their children. Rescues are not acts of civil disobedience or protests primarily meant to get a message to the public. Instead, they are simply efforts to save people about to be killed. Breaking a law of trespass to prevent killing is perfectly justified in this and other circumstances.

Thanks to Congress's 1994 Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act (FACE), and Bill Clinton who signed it, the kind of direct action King engaged in is now a federal offense, punishable by jail time and subject to heavy fines and civil liability suits. The PFL handbook neither recommends nor condemns "rescues." It does, however, include the entire text of Dr. King's April 12, 1963 "Letter from a Birmingham Jail," so readers can "see how many powerful parallels there are at this moment between the principles Dr. King enunciated in his quest for racial justice, and the principles the pro-life movement enunciates in the quest for justice for the unborn." King had been slammed by fellow clergymen for leading "technically peaceful" demonstrations like sit-ins, which, they worried, "incite to hatred and violence."

This is the rap against pro-lifers today-even ones who don't engage in (now practically non-existent) sit-ins. Having made physical action like "rescues" a federal offense, the Left has moved on to speech itself. Some recent examples: A bill is making its way through the California State Legislature which would, says a Focus on the Family report, fine pro-lifers "up to $ 10,000 for nonviolent acts" like sidewalk counseling. ("This is where the hate starts," says Ca. State Senator Steve Peace, a supporter, "This is where young minds get confused, distorted, manipulated.") In Weston, Wisconsin, high school psychology teacher LeRoy Miller was told he could no longer show students a video about fetal tissue research and body-parts trafficking after a parent complained her daughter had been "biased" against abortion by what she saw. And last month in Tempe, Arizona, the Crisis Pregnancy Centers of Greater Phoenix were harassed by city officials because they wanted to pray before their annual Walk for Life March (praying on public property did prevail). All this is groundwork, we suspect, for an eventual assault on pro-life advertising speech. Pavone is a big target because PFL is spending big bucks: a $5,000,000 "media blitz" is planned for this year.

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