Priests for Life Newsletter
Volume 10, Number
September - October 2000
Priests for Life Praised for Stand Against Capital
Words from Cardinal Keeler
A Special Offer from Priests for Life
The importance of the abortion issue to voters
Priests for Life Headquarters Dedicated to Cardinal
Priests for Life Praised for Stand Against Capital
Priests for Life is grateful for all the work of Catholics
Against Capital Punishment (PO Box 3125, Arlington, Va. 22203,
www.igc.org/cacp). Earlier this year, the group's National Coordinator recently
sent Fr. Frank Pavone a letter which we reprint here in full:
Catholics Against Capital Punishment
February 28, 2000
Dear Father Frank:
"I want to express my appreciation to you for having sent CACP a copy of the
text of your e-mail message to Celeste Fitzgerald of the New Jerseyans for a
Death Penalty Moratorium group, in which you eloquently restated your
organization's opposition to the death penalty. If it is all right with you, we
would like to include it as a news item in the next issue of our newsletter,
CACP News Notes.
"My wife Ellen and I have been impressed by your frequent calls, in both your
PFL newsletter and your syndicated column, for an end to capital punishment.
We're convinced that your efforts have been most instrumental in generating a
growing awareness among many Catholics who were once in favor of the death
penalty but who now embrace the sacredness of all human life, from the innocent
pre-born to the condemned criminal.
"Please pray for members of CACP that we may be able to mirror your success;
that is, in terms of changing the hearts of fellow death penalty opponents who
unfortunately tolerate and defend the killing of the pre-born. Please ask the
Lord to give us the courage and the diplomatic skills to convince them that
abortion is also a form of violence that destroys human life, contravenes God's
will, and diminishes us all."
Words from Cardinal Keeler
Archdiocese of Baltimore
Office of the Cardinal
November 12, 1999
Dear Father Pavone,
I wish to congratulate you for the leadership you give to Priests for Life
and for the encouragement you give to our clergy around the United States in
promoting efforts on behalf of the Culture of Life.
May the Lord grand that there be continued close collaboration between
Priests for Life and our NCCB Committee for Pro-Life Activities. The more we who
are committed to the cause of life can act in concert, the more effective will
our labors be.
With cordial and prayerful wishes, I remain
Sincerely yours in Christ,
Cardinal William H. Keeler
Bishops' Committee for Pro-Life Activities
Photo: Fr. Pavone confers with Cardinal Keeler recently after Mass at the
Cathedral of Mary Our Queen in Baltimore.
A Special Offer from Priests for Life
A set of materials to help people understand and exercise their political
responsibility is available from Priests for Life. Emphasis is placed on the
1998 document of the US Bishops, Living the Gospel of Life: A Challenge to
American Catholics, as well as the 1999 statement of the Administrative
Board of the USCC, Faithful Citizenship: Civic Responsibility for a New
Millennium. The materials include:
* The full texts of the two documents mentioned above;
* A new booklet by Fr. Frank Pavone, Reflections on the Political
Responsibility of Christians;
* Three audiotapes which probe the relationship between the mission of the
Church, the political process, and the right to life;
* Two brochures, Caesar Must Obey God, and Religious Beliefs,
Abortion, and the Law;
* Camera-ready bulletin inserts drawing quotations from the
above-mentioned bishops' documents.
This educational material highlights the central importance of the most
fundamental of all rights, the right to life. It is useful material for adult
education groups, special evening talks, and for the parish bookrack.
Order your material by calling 888-PFL-3448, or emailing
firstname.lastname@example.org, or writing Priests for Life, PO Box 141172, Staten
Island, NY 10314.
Additional commentary and information is posted on our website, at the
political responsibility page: www.priestsforlife.org/government/polresp.html.
You are encouraged to remember the following intentions as you pray the
Liturgy of the Hours:
September intention: That Christians may faithfully carry out their
October intention: For parish respect life committees and their volunteers.
"The inviolability of the person, which is a reflection of the
absolute inviolability of God, finds its primary and fundamental expression in
the inviolability of human life. Above all, the common outcry, which is justly
made on behalf of human rights -- for example, the right to health, to home, to
work, to family, to culture -- is false and illusory if the right to life,
the most basic and fundamental right and the condition of all other personal
rights, is not defended with maximum determination . . . " (John Paul II, The
Vocation and the Mission of the Lay Faithful in the Church and in the World,
"We believe that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is a "Gospel of life."… We cannot
simultaneously commit ourselves to human rights and progress while eliminating
or marginalizing the weakest among us. Nor can we practice the Gospel of life
only as a private piety. American Catholics must live it vigorously and
publicly, as a matter of national leadership and witness, or we will not live it
at all" (US Bishops, Living the Gospel of Life, 1998, n. 20).
"Bringing a respect for human dignity to practical politics can be a daunting
task. There is such a wide spectrum of issues involving the protection of human
life and the promotion of human dignity. Good people frequently disagree on
which problems to address, which policies to adopt and how best to apply them.
But for citizens and elected officials alike, the basic principle is simple:
We must begin with a commitment never to intentionally kill, or collude in the
killing, of any innocent human life, no matter how broken, unformed, disabled or
desperate that life may seem. In other words, the choice of certain ways of
acting is always and radically incompatible with the love of God and the dignity
of the human person created in His image. Direct abortion is never a
morally tolerable option" (US Bishops, Living the Gospel of Life, 1998,
"Adopting a consistent ethic of life, the Catholic Church promotes a broad
spectrum of issues …Catholic public officials are obliged to address each of
these issues as they seek to build consistent policies which promote respect for
the human person at all stages of life. But being 'right' in such matters can
never excuse a wrong choice regarding direct attacks on innocent human life.
Indeed, the failure to protect and defend life in its most vulnerable stages
renders suspect any claims to the 'rightness' of positions in other matters
affecting the poorest and least powerful of the human community" (US Bishops,
Living the Gospel of Life, 1998, n. 23).
"Respect for the dignity of the human person demands a commitment to human
rights across a broad spectrum…Yet abortion and euthanasia have become
preeminent threats to human dignity because they directly attack life itself,
the most fundamental human good and the condition for all others. They are
committed against those who are weakest and most defenseless, those who are
genuinely 'the poorest of the poor'" (US Bishops, Living the Gospel of Life,
1998, n. 5).
"We get the public officials we deserve. Their virtue -- or lack thereof --
is a judgment not only on them, but on us. Because of this, we urge our fellow
citizens to see beyond party politics, to analyze campaign rhetoric
critically, and to choose their political leaders according to principle, not
party affiliation or mere self-interest.." (US Bishops, Living the Gospel
of Life, 1998, n. 34).
"One of our greatest blessings in the United States is our right and
responsibility to participate in civic life. The Constitution protects the right
of individuals and of religious bodies to speak out without governmental
interference, endorsement, or sanction. It is increasingly apparent that major
public issues have clear moral dimensions and that religious values have
significant public consequences. Our nation is enriched and our tradition of
pluralism enhanced when religious groups contribute to the debate over the
policies that guide the nation" (Administrative Board, US Bishops, Faithful
Citizenship, 1999, p.8).
On Respect Life Sunday, 1 October 1989, Cardinal Joseph Bernardin issued a
statement entitled "Deciding for Life," in which he said, "Not all values,
however, are of equal weight. Some are more fundamental than others. On this
Respect Life Sunday, I wish to emphasize that no earthly value is more
fundamental than human life itself. Human life is the condition for enjoying
freedom and all other values. Consequently, if one must choose between
protecting or serving lesser human values that depend upon life for their
existence and life itself, human life must take precedence. Today the
recognition of human life as a fundamental value is threatened. Nowhere is this
clearer than in the case of elective abortion. At present in our country this
procedure takes the lives of over 4,000 unborn children every day and over 1.5
million each year."
The importance of the abortion issue to
Two recent polls give us some measure of the importance of the abortion
issue to voters.
The Polling Company and Global Strategy Group, Republican and Democrat
polling firms, conducted a bipartisan poll from May 22-24, 2000 and surveyed
1,011 likely voters. The following question appeared:
Of all the issues that are important to you as a voter, how important will
abortion be to you in deciding how you will vote in the 2000 presidential
8% Most important issue
27% Among my top three issues
32% Important, but not among top three
18% Not that important
12% Not at all important
2% Don’t know/Refused
Among those who cite abortion as one of the three most important issues
influencing their vote (35% of the electorate), they are more likely to be
pro-life (45%). This is consistent with polls conducted in previous election
cycles by other polling companies, showing that for those to whom abortion
matters, the pro-life vote is stronger.
A Wirthlin poll conducted several months earlier interviewed 500 Catholic
priests across America, and two of the questions with their results follow:
How important is the abortion issue to you personally in deciding which
candidate to vote for?
74% Total Important
37% Extremely important
37% Very important
25% Total Not Important
4% Not very important
21% Somewhat important
1% Don't Know/Refused
How important do you believe the abortion issue should be for Catholics in
deciding which candidate to vote for?
73% Total Important
31% Extremely important
42% Very important
26% Total Not Important
3% Not very important
23% Somewhat important
2% Don't Know/Refused
On the overall position of Americans on abortion-related policy, the Polling
Company - Global Strategy poll found that only 11% of likely voters agree with
the position of abortion anytime, anyone, anywhere. A whopping 48% of voters are
essentially pro-life, favoring abortion being outlawed in all circumstances
(10%), legal only to save the life of the mother (11%) or legal only to save the
life of the mother or in cases of rape or incest (27%). Add to this the 24% of
voters who say they are pro-choice, but would outlaw abortion after the first
three months of a woman’s pregnancy, and a full 72% of likely voters hold a
position on abortion which is ‘first trimester (49%) or less (24%).’
Priests for Life Headquarters Dedicated to
Priests for Life has moved into a new headquarters this summer. As
our previous location, it is on Staten Island. The new office occupies close to
10,000 square foot, every one of which is being utilized to the full.
We are happy to announce that we have named our new headquarters the John
Cardinal O'Connor International Headquarters of Priests for Life. We offer the
following reflection in the Cardinal's memory:
Every bishop takes a motto, and the Cardinal's is "There Can Be No Love
Without Justice." This, indeed, was the theme of his life on earth. He both
preached and lived "love" not as some vague abstraction or spiritual entity
separate and disconnected from the things of this world.
His, rather, was a practical and involved love, which had as its centerpiece
the dignity and rights of the human person. He was an advocate for the unborn,
the infirm, the immigrant, the worker, the victims of prejudice, hunger, and
violence. And he did all this because he was clearly focused on and motivated by
the Gospel of eternal salvation as taught by the Catholic Church.
Some may be confused by what they see as "dichotomies" in the Cardinal's
life. He passionately condemned the act of abortion, yet reached out to women of
every age, religion, and ethnic background to give them help in crisis
pregnancies. He taught clearly that homosexual activity is a sin, yet opened the
State's first AIDS-only unit and personally tended to AIDS patients.
These are not dichotomies at all. It all made sense to the Cardinal. What
held it all together was the dignity of the human person. That dignity demands
that we offer the person the full truth about the meaning of their lives, their
freedom, their choices, and that we ourselves respond to that truth by serving
I am particularly grateful to Cardinal O'Connor because he ordained me to the
priesthood and authorized me to lead the Priests for Life movement.
The Cardinal constantly urged us never to be discouraged in carrying out the
mission of the Church. Led by his shining example, let us redouble our efforts
to bring that mission to its fulfillment.
-Fr. Frank Pavone, National Director
The priests on our full-time staff are ready to present seminars to
the priests, deacons, and seminarians of any diocese that invites us. We have
more than helpful educational materials. The unique contribution made by Priests
for Life is that we are a peer-to-peer network across the country, and by
means of this network, priests can test and share with brother priests their
ideas and experiences regarding pro-life dimensions of ministry. For more
information, call us at 888-PFL-3448.
The Priests for Life website, www.priestsforlife.org, continues to
receive wide recognition. We recently received web statistics indicating our
site is in the top 6% of most popular sites in the world, receiving higher
recognition than major pro-abortion websites. During these weeks, give special
attention to our section on political responsibility,