Priests for Life Newsletter
Volume 17, Number 2
Table of Contents
The sacredness of human life is a theme that permeates Scripture. It is not difficult to preach on this theme from any Biblical passage. Priests for Life offers to clergy an email service by which they will receive an email containing homily hints relating the Sunday readings to pro-life themes. (The email also includes general intercessions and a paragraph for the bulletin. To subscribe, request it at email@example.com. There is no charge.)
We continue here from the previous newsletter to trace biblical themes on the sanctity of life
5. The Bible teaches that God is a God of justice.
An act of justice is an act of intervention for the helpless, an act of defense for those who are too weak to defend themselves. In foretelling the Messiah, Psalm 72 says, "Justice shall flower in his days…for he shall rescue the poor man when he cries out and the afflicted when he has no one to help him" (Psalms 72:7,12). Jesus Christ is our justice (1 Corinthians 1:30) because He rescued us from sin and death when we had none to help us (see Romans 5:6, Ephesians 2:4-5).
If God does justice for His people, He expects His people to do justice for one another. "Be merciful as your heavenly Father is merciful" (Luke 6:36). "Go and do likewise" (Luke 10:37). "Do unto others as you would have them do to you" (Matthew 7:12). "Love one another" (John 15:17).
Abortion is the opposite of these teachings. It is a reversal of justice. It is a destruction of the helpless rather than a rescue of them. If God’s people do not intervene to save those whose lives are attacked, then the people are not pleasing or worshiping Him.
God says through Isaiah, "Trample my courts no more! Bring no more worthless offerings…Your festivals I detest…When you spread out your hands, I close my eyes to you; though you pray the more, I will not listen. Your hands are full of blood! Wash yourselves clean…learn to do good. Make justice your aim: redress the wronged, hear the orphan’s plea, defend the widow" (Isaiah 1:13-17).
Indeed, those who worship God but support abortion are falling into the same contradiction as God’s people of old, and need to hear the same message.
6. Jesus Christ paid special attention to the poor, the despised, and those whom the rest of society considered insignificant.
He broke down the false barriers that people set up among themselves, and instead acknowledged the equal human dignity of every individual, despite what common opinion might say. Hence we see Him reach out to children despite the efforts of the apostles to keep them away (Matthew 19:13-15); to tax collectors and sinners despite the objections of the Scribes (Mark 2:16); to the blind despite the warnings of the crowd (Matthew 20:29-34); to a foreign woman despite the utter surprise of the disciples and of the woman herself (John 4:9, 27); to Gentiles despite the anger of the Jews (Matthew 21:41-46); and to the lepers, despite their isolation from the rest of society (Luke 17:11-19).
When it comes to human dignity, Christ erases distinctions. St. Paul declares, "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave or free person, there is not male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus" (Galatians 3:28).
We can likewise say, "There is neither born nor unborn." Using this distinction as a basis for the value of life or the protection one deserves is meaningless and offensive to all that Scripture teaches. The unborn are the segment of our society which is most neglected and discriminated against. Christ Himself surely has a special love for them.
7. Scripture teaches us to love.
St. John says, "This is the message you have heard from the beginning: we should love one another, unlike Cain who belonged to the evil one and slaughtered his brother" (1 John 3:11-12). Love is directly contrasted with slaughter. To take the life of another is to break the command of love. To fail to help those in need and danger is also to fail to love.
Christ teaches this clearly in the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37), in the story of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31), and in many other places.
No group of people is in more serious danger than the boys and girls in the womb. "If someone…sees a brother in need and refuses him compassion, how can the love of God remain in Him?" (1 John 3:17).
8. Life is victorious over death.
This is one of Scripture’s most basic themes. The victory of life is foretold in the promise that the head of the serpent, through whom death entered the world, would be crushed (see Genesis 3:15).
Isaiah promised, "He will destroy death forever" (Isaiah 25:8). At the scene of the first murder, the soil "opened its mouth" to swallow Abel’s blood. At the scene of the final victory of life, it is death itself that "will be swallowed up in victory. Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?…Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Corinthians 15:54-57).
Abortion is death. Christ came to conquer death, and therefore abortion. "I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full" (John 10:10).
The final outcome of the battle for life has already been decided by the Resurrection of Christ. We are not just working for victory; we are working from victory. We joyfully take a victory that has already been won, and proclaim, celebrate, and serve it until He comes again to bring it to its fullness. "There shall be no more death" (Revelation 21:4). "Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!" (Revelation 22:20).
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Fr. Frank Pavone
The content and form of the General Intercessions (often referred to as "Prayers of the Faithful") do follow certain clear principles. They are general by nature. They are to reflect themes that are of concern to the entire Church. They are to embody the natural response of a Christian Community which, having been formed by the Word of God in the way they think and judge, now look at the world and what is going on in it. It makes sense, therefore, that these intercessions come at the point in the Mass just after the community has again heard God's Word proclaimed in the readings and the homily, and assented to in the Creed.
A frequent theme in these intercessions, and rightly so, is human suffering. The poor, the hungry, the sick, and those whose rights are trampled upon, are mentioned in these prayers. Indeed, the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World (Gaudium et Spes) of the Second Vatican Council begins by affirming that the joys and hopes, as well as the sufferings, of all humanity, are likewise the joys, hopes, and sufferings of the Church. The General Intercessions are a particular moment of solidarity with our suffering brothers and sisters.
Nor do we tire of repeating their needs, because with each passing day, new people are involved in these forms of human suffering. We as priests do not refuse to take a sick call simply because we have taken a thousand of the same kind before. We as a community do not refuse to repeat, day after day and week after week, the needs of the poor, sick, and dying.
What, then, of our brothers and sisters in the womb? The law has called them non-persons, and surgical abortion kills one of them every 23 seconds in the United States alone. Those killed today never died before, which makes abortion a new tragedy every day.
Nothing takes more human life.
It therefore makes good Christian and liturgical sense to include this form of human suffering and vulnerability in our General Intercessions as frequently as we include any other. A simple prayer for these children is a powerful expression of our solidarity with those who cannot even pray for themselves. This is why the U.S. bishops made the following appeal in their Pastoral Plan for Pro-life Activities (“A Campaign in Support of Life," 2001): “Parishes should include in the petitions at every Mass a prayer that ours will become a nation that respects and protects all human life, born and unborn, reflecting a true culture of life."
The abortion tragedy has so many dimensions, furthermore, that a different angle can be addressed each time. We can pray for the children in danger, for the mothers and fathers in despair both before and after abortion, for lawmakers, for medical professionals, for people in the pro-life movement, for the pro-life ministries of the Church, and so forth. In the light of such an immense tragedy, it really is the least we can do.
Priests for Life sends an email weekly to priests and parishes containing a set of general intercessions, based on the readings of each Sunday and containing petitions for a culture of life. Included on each email are also suggestions for the homily and a paragraph for the bulletin. Request this service by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
On hearing about “Priests for Life” for the first time, some people ask, “But isn’t every priest for life?”
Of course, not only every priest, but every Christian is, by definition, for life. We can go further and say that it belongs to the very meaning of being a human person that we affirm and welcome life.
The point, then, of the name “Priests for Life” is not to say that some priests are pro-life and others aren’t. The point is to say that because we’re pro-life, we should help one another say so more effectively. Priests for Life is a network, a resource, an encouragement for all priests to do what they are already committed to do by our ordination. It is, furthermore, a stimulus to all believers to do what they are committed to do by baptism.
The tragedy of abortion has called forth a universal response across professional lines. There are various groups of Doctors for Life, Nurses for Life, Lawyers for Life, Athletes for Life, Teachers for Life, etc. Isn’t every doctor for life?, one may ask. The point is that there is a need to affirm our pro-life commitment publicly.
Within the Church, the existence of the “Society of Jesus”(Jesuits) does not imply that they are the only followers of Jesus, nor is the title “Sisters of Charity” meant to imply that they are the only ones who have charity. Priests for Life is for everyone, and is a common commitment to become more effectively what we already are.
The effort to provide alternatives to abortion continues to grow in effectiveness across the nation, and the thousands of pregnancy resource centers are increasingly joining forces to serve the needs of mothers and babies wherever they may live. One sign of such growing effectiveness is “Option Line,” which offers a nationwide toll-free hotline and a website, connecting people in need with the pregnancy resource center closest to their home. The number is 1-800-712-HELP and the website is www.OptionLine.org.
A simple step every parish can take toward saving lives is to put a link from their parish website to Option Line, and to place the phone number in the parish bulletin.
Option Line consultants refer each caller to a pregnancy resource center in her area for answers to questions about abortion, pregnancy tests, STD's, adoption, parenting, medical referrals, housing, and many other issues. The toll-free number is available to callers 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Callers from across the country can reach a trained, caring person and then be connected to a pregnancy resource center near them for one-on-one help.
Option Line is a call center located in Columbus, Ohio, formed as a joint
venture between Care Net and Heartbeat International.
Care Net and Heartbeat International are faith-based organizations that promote women's reproductive health by ensuring access to accurate information about all pregnancy options and the provision of positive alternatives to abortion. As a result of the free services and caring support offered by these organizations and the 1800 participating Option Line pregnancy centers across North America, more than 1,000,000 women are empowered each year to make positive reproductive choices.
All centers to which calls are directed pledge to uphold the standards in the following Commitment of Care:
by Fr. Frank Pavone
Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas is a man you want to know if you care about human rights. Whether you’re talking about the poor in Africa or the unborn child scheduled to be killed by abortion, you will find an advocate for them in Senator Sam Brownback.
For us in the pro-life movement, Senator Brownback is a key ally. There are many in Congress who will vote the right way on pro-life bills. Fewer are they who will take initiatives to advance the cause – and not for purposes of political gain, but rather because the cause is right, and they believe the cause can, must, and will prevail. Sam Brownback is that kind of Senator.
In the Summer of 2004, the Human Life Review published an article by Senator Brownback titled, "Abortion and the Conscience of the Nation," Revisited. As you may recall, President Ronald Reagan, one of the most pro-life presidents in our history, wrote an essay called "Abortion and the Conscience of the Nation" in 1983. As Senator Brownback writes, "Twenty-one years later, and 31 years after Roe v. Wade, we need to revisit "Abortion and the Conscience of the Nation." We need to reflect on whether we are closer to – or further away from – having a culture of life. …We need to contemplate what personal and legislative steps we must take to draw out the best in the freedom-loving, life-loving American spirit."
Senator Brownback goes on to examine why the American conscience cannot continue to tolerate abortion any more than it tolerated slavery. He discusses how Mother Teresa of Calcutta influenced his life and thinking. He examines how Roe v. Wade has damaged our society. And he expresses the firm hope that we will win: "I believe that I will live to see the end of the abortion industry, and the sanctity and dignity of every human life affirmed. … Great labors remain before us, but the rights and lives of unborn children are absolutely worth our efforts."
The Senator makes those efforts, not only by sponsoring legislation like the Unborn Victims of Violence Act and the Unborn Child Pain Awareness Act, but also by taking the initiative to hold hearings in the Senate on various aspects of abortion. For example, on June 23, 2005, Senator Brownback convened a hearing in the Senate Judiciary Constitution Subcommittee on the topic, "The Consequences of Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton." He had Norma McCorvey (former "Jane Roe") and Sandra Cano (former "Mary Doe") there to testify, along with various legal experts. The Senator declared, "To put it simply, Roe was a mistake. A very, very costly one."
On March 3, 2004, Senator Brownback held hearings called "Examining the Impact of Abortion on Women," and he is a strong supporter of the Silent No More Awareness Campaign. On May 25, 2006, he held hearings on "The Consequences of Legalized Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia."
To see an example of encouraging leadership in the cause of life, read the Senator’s remarks and essays at www.priestsforlife.org/government/brownback.htm.
Fr. Frank Pavone, Fr. Mike Mannion, and Dr. Theresa Burke invite all priests, seminarians, pro-life leaders and activists to heed our Lord’s urging to “Come Aside and Rest Awhile” by attending a special retreat to be held June 29 through July 1 in Malverne, PA. The retreat will focus on the power of our unity in Christ to accomplish his work in the world, amidst a diversity of missions and ministries. It will be a time of healing and rejoicing, of challenge and of celebration. Fr. Mike Mannion has been a pioneer in the ministry of healing those wounded by abortion and has helped countless priests around the world to do the same. Dr. Theresa Burke, a pastoral associate of Priests for Life, founded Rachel’s Vineyard Retreats, the world’s largest ministry of healing after abortion. For more information on the retreat, please go to www.priestsforlife.org/retreats.
You are encouraged to remember the following intentions as you pray the Liturgy of the Hours:
March: That elected officials who support legal abortion may be converted and may work to protect life.
April: That God may bless and console the fathers of aborted children.
This 80-page booklet by Mark Crutcher of Life Dynamics in cooperation with Fr. Frank Pavone will train you to think like a pro-lifer and to effectively communicate the pro-life message to others.
Priests for Life: A Global Mission
This video introduces the viewer to the mission and message of Priests for Life.
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y El Movimiento Pro-Vida
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His Eminence Alfonso Cardinal Lopez-Trujillo
President, Pontifical Council for the Family
His Eminence Renato Cardinal Martino
President, Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace
Most Rev. Charles J. Chaput OFM Cap.
Archbishop of Denver
Most Rev. Edwin F. O'Brien
Archbishop of Military Services
Most Rev. John J. Myers
Archbishop of Newark
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Archbishop Emeritus of Atlanta
Most Rev. John W. Yanta
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Most Rev. Thomas J. Olmsted
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Most Rev. Ronald M. Gilmore
Bishop of Dodge City
Most Rev. Sam G. Jacobs
Bishop of Houma-Thibodaux
Most Rev. Robert J. Carlson
Bishop of Saginaw
Most Rev. Emilio S. Allue
Auxiliary Bishop of Boston
Most Rev. Rene H. Gracida
Bishop Emeritus of Corpus Christi
Most Rev. Paul V. Donovan
Bishop Emeritus of Kalamazoo
Most Rev. James D. Niedergeses
Bishop Emeritus of Nashville
Most Rev. James C. Timlin
Bishop Emeritus of Scranton
Most Rev. Francis A. Quinn
Bishop Emeritus of Sacramento
Most Rev. Albert H. Ottenweller
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Healing After Abortion
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