Most Americans say abortion is wrong, but don't do anything about it. They disconnect it from other pressing social issues of the day. Our job as pro-lifers is to reconnect abortion with those other issues so that "no one can say (abortion) is wrong, but it's none of our business. It is inescapably our business," declared Father Frank Pavone.
A near-capacity crowd of 3,500 or more listening to the national director of Priests for Life at the Eucharistic Congress last weekend voiced their agreement with loud and sustained applause. One of three keynote speakers, Father Pavone spoke on "This is My Body: A Consistent Ethic of Life and Love," at a morning session June 16 in the America's Center.
There is no gap between social justice and pro-life issues, Father Pavone stressed. They are all linked. For example, the tragic spectre of abortion can be found in such other social ills as euthanasia, children killing children and capital punishment, he said. In each case, "we solve our problems by disposing (of) the person."
Father Pavone, who helps coordinate pro-life activities throughout the world as an official of the Pontifical Council for the Family, compared tackling these social issues without first addressing abortion to building a home without a foundation. It just won't work. "We will never make progress in those other areas if we don't protect the dignity of the unborn," the New York native charged.
He continued, students are shooting students in schools because we taught them to do this under the guise of the Roe vs. Wade philosophy that violence against the unborn, who are not recognized as persons, is OK. "We taught them life is disposable."
To great applause, Father Pavone stated unequivocally, "Children won't stop killing children until parents stop killing children."
The Eucharist, the 42-yearold clergyman said, is the antidote to abortion because it teaches us the true meaning of love. God sacrificed his only son for us; that's love, Father Pavone said. Love means sacrificing yourself for the good of the other. Abortion, where people sacrifice others for the good of themselves, is the exact opposite.
The nationally-syndicated columnist, whose work appears in the Review, pointed out that God, through Jesus, used the four words, "This is my body," to save the world by giving up his son for us. Ironically today, the devil mocks God by using those very same words as an argument to destroy life, he noted.
When we receive the Eucharist, Father Pavone said, Jesus welcomes us. In turn, when we receive him, we are saying we welcome all persons, too, including the unborn. We don't say Amen and then break off a piece of the Host and give it back.
"No person can rightly receive Jesus if they are not welcoming all persons," Father Pavone said. "You can't reject some of his children. There are no exceptions: There is no such thing as a pro-choice Catholic," he said to loud applause.
Father Pavone encouraged his listeners not to get discouraged no matter how difficult the fight against abortion is. "Victory is our starting point. We will prevail," he said,, "The days of abortion and the culture of death are numbered."
When people grow weary of the covenant with death, they will begin searching for why they have rights and freedom, and will learn that the true reasons are in order to freely give themselves in love to others, he said. "When they go in search of this, they will find you, the people of life." His presentation concluded with the showing of a video highlighting the song, "This Is My Body."
Following the session, Father Pavone said, "The thing we have to keep in mind is that the Church does not just say, 'Abortion is wrong; don't do it.' The Church says what the Lord says to us in the Eucharist, 'I am with you,' so that the people of God go in the midst of the sufferings of the woman in crisis pregnancy or the terminally ill person and we say, 'I am with you, so I will give you the strength to do what's right.' That's where real freedom comes in, where we empower people to do what they know is right. And that's then how we overcome these problems, by giving that day-to-day service, in our families, in our parishes and in the community."
Father Pavone added he hoped people would not be afraid of the price they have to pay in their fight against abortion. They may lose friends or find the work more burdensome than when they began, but they should persevere despite the obstacles. That point was central to his talk, Father Pavone said, that "we would accept this suffering necessary to advance the Gospel, whether it's on the life issues or in other ways. And that's key, to keep going through the suffering."
Among the hundreds coming to hear the pro-life priest were staunch pro-life supporters Tony and Connie Dunn, parishioners of Immaculate Conception Parish in Dardenne. Tony Dunn called Father Pavone's talk "very powerful."
Dunn said he was "very pleased" to hear the priest say "there can't be a pro-choice Catholic. I strongly believe that," he said. "And I just wish that this message could be enforced upon all of our legislators, our senators and our representatives, particularly on the national level - and strongly stated by our bishops and the leaders of our Church. I pray for the people who have had abortions or are contemplating abortions, and hope that they can find another solution other than the drastic solution of abortion... Prayer is our answer."
Ascension of Chesterfield parishioners Kathleen Filer and her husband Tony, brought their three children, Collette, Joey and Rachel, to meet Father Pavone after his presentation.
"I am just so happy that he's working in this area, and I'm grateful for him," Kathleen Filer said. "He says wonderful things, and they're all true."