Priests for Life Newsletter
Volume 1, No. 4
C O N T E N T S
Against the World for the World: Homily on Mark 10
The Holy Father to Pro-Life Leaders
The Nurturing Network
Board of Advisors
Oral Contraceptives or Abortifacients:
Evidence That Requires a Conclusion
Against the World for the World: Homily on Mark 10
I. Jesus Against the World
As we encounter Jesus in the tenth chapter of Mark, he is on the way
to Jerusalem. The shadow of the cross darkens his footsteps. And fidelity to the
Father's will deepens his sense of purpose.
The implacable malice of the Pharisees confronts Jesus with the question
whether it is permissible for a husband to divorce his wife. The question of
divorce was a burning question at this time—much discussed by the rabbis, and
much in the minds of the people— for one thing, because of Herod's marriage to
his brother's wife, the condemnation of which led to the death of John the
Divorce was commonly practiced, and thus part of the social life of the
time. Asked the question, then, Jesus first of all affirms that Moses did not
approve divorce, but tolerated it because of the hardness of people's
hearts. Jesus then goes on to answer the question of divorce by turning to the
revelation of God in the second chapter of Genesis:
At the beginning of creation God made them
male and female; for this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and
the two shall become as one. They are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore
let no man separate what God has joined.
And Jesus concludes,
Whoever divorces his wife and marries another
commits adultery against her; and the woman who divorces her husband and
marries another commits adultery.
Reflecting now on this, we must make several
observations. First, Mark 10 does not contain everything the New Testament has
to say about divorce.
Second, Jesus returns the issue of marriage and divorce to the original plan of
God, to the original creation. This must be the norm, not the indulgence of
Moses in the face of the people's stubbornness. We note also how evident Jesus
makes it that the common viewpoint of the contemporary society and its practices
cannot be taken as the norm. In fact, Jesus forthrightly declares that viewpoint
and the accepted practice of the day to be wrong and in conflict with the plan
Jesus stands against the world.
Then he receives the children. The apostles are angry and try to keep them
away. In the literature of the time, children are presented either as examples
of unreasonable behavior or as objects to be trained. Here, in the Gospel, we
find something new. Jesus treats the children as persons and holds them up as a
primary example of how the kingdom must be received. And here, too, Jesus stands
against the world. And He continues the journey of the Cross.
II. The Church Against the World
Like Jesus, and in fidelity to Him, the Church must stand at times
against the world and against public opinion. Indeed, for Cardinal Newman, this
quality of the Catholic Church is one of the marks of its authenticity:
"On the whole, then, I conclude as follows: if there is a
form of Christianity now in the world which is accused of gross superstition . .
. a religion which is considered to burden and enslave the mind by its
requisitions, to address itself to the weak-minded and ignorant, and to
contradict reason and exalt mere irrational faith, . . . a religion . . . which
is felt to be so simply bad, that it may be calumniated at hazard and at
pleasure, . . . a religion which men hate as proselytizing, anti-social,
revolutionary, as dividing families, corrupting the maxims of government, . . .
the enemy of human nature, . . .a religion which they consider the champion and
instrument of darkness . . . if there be such a religion now in the world, it is
not unlike Christianity as (the first three centuries) viewed it, when first it
came forth from its divine Author." ( Newman, Essay on the Development of
chapter 6, #30)
For Newman, then, the fact that the Catholic Church is still described,
hated and ridiculed in the same terms in which the Church was described, hated
and ridiculed in the first three centuries is one of the proofs of the
authenticity and continuity of the Church of this time with the primitive
III. The Church for Life
Among the reasons today for hatred and ridicule of the Church is her
teaching on human life. This comes to mind against the background of Jesus
acknowledging the dignity of the child and ordering that the children not be
kept from Him. The Church, like Jesus, does not deal in ambiguities. For the
Church, abortion is an "unspeakable crime." It is an unspeakable crime because
it is the destruction of innocent human life and an affront to the sovereignty
of God over life. It is an unspeakable crime because, as it rips the unborn
child from the mother's womb, it rips the future from that child's grasp.
Abortion is an unspeakable crime because it enhances the psychology of violence
and erodes human sensibilities as it deadens conscience and repudiates one of
the deepest human and humanizing instincts, the love of a mother for her child.
Abortion is the axe laid to the root of human rights because, when the right to
life is no longer sovereign, all other rights are in jeopardy.
There is no doubt that women face situations fraught with excruciating
anguish and victimization. There is no doubt that illegal abortions have caused
death to many women. There is no doubt that, in general, freedom of choice,
placed within the framework of the common good, should be a prerogative of life
in a democratic society. But no amount of anguish and exploitation, no tragedy
connected with illegal abortion, no freedom of choice can be allowed to obscure
the fact and the truth that abortion is the destruction of innocent human life
and cannot be morally justified on those grounds.
The situation in our country in regard to abortion is marked by hatred and
violence. It is also marked by deception—as when freedom of choice is exalted
but never said to be what it is, the freedom to destroy the innocent human life
of the unborn child; as when those who promote abortion are called pro-choice,
not pro-abortion; but those who are pro-life are not called pro-life but
anti-abortion or anti-choice. The battle is being waged through manipulation and
deception, through smoke and mirrors masking the reality of what is at stake.
The unborn child is called a fetus—a legitimate scientific term—but in the
public forum used as a way of masking the human reality of the child in the
It is necessary, then, that the Church give itself up to prayer, as during
this Week of silent adoration in the Cathedral. For we know and we believe that
...the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God
is stronger than human strength. (I Cor. 1:25)
In prayer, the Church stands against the world—for the world.
--Most Rev. John R. Quinn Archbishop of San Francisco
Note: Delivered in St. Mary's Cathedral, San Francisco, on Oct. 6, 1991, at
the Opening Mass of the 3rd Annual 168 Hours of Prayer for an End to Abortion.
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The Holy Father to Pro-Life Leaders
Note: The following was delivered last Nov. 15 to an international
assembly of pro-life directors convened by the Pontifical Council for the
Family. Reprinted with permission from L'Osservatore Romano, Nov. 18,
1991, Engl. ed.
2.... [D]ear brothers and sisters, throughout the Church and, through
her, throughout all humanity, the good news of the value of human life resounds:
no person is born by accident; each person is the result of an act of God's
creative love and is called, from the moment of conception, to eternal communion
with God. In an age when so many people forget who the person is,
whence he comes and where
he is going, there is an imperative need to arouse in people an ever greater
sense of wonder at and gratitude for the greatness of every human life, even of
a person who is infirm....Every life is a priceless resource, because it is a
unique, unrepeatable gift from the Lord, the giver of Life: "For with you is the
fountain of life" (Ps. 35 : 10); "I give them eternal life" (Jn 10:28). To a
world which, overcome by a technological mentality, tends to lose its
sensitivity to the great mystery of the human person, you must repeat this
wonderful news of God's love for everyone, which is part of our faith in God
the Creator of Heaven and earth, of all that is seen and unseen.
3. All life, without exception, must be accepted and
From conception every human being is a person, and it is a distortion
of the truth to consider the unborn child, in his innocent greatness, as an
aggressor. Unfortunately, today it can be said that attitudes and initiatives
exist which are against the acceptance of life which first lead to the
moral disorder of contraception and then to the abominable crime of abortion.
Such an anti-life mentality, whatever its intentions and concerns, is in itself
and of itself inhuman and wrong. It is the primary duty of society and of each
of its members—private citizens, public officials and legislators—each according
to his or her own responsibility, to create a climate that is receptive to life.
There is need for a political policy that is clearly in favour of life and
the dignity of woman, God's co-worker in giving the gift of life. When a
child is unwanted by his or her parents, structures and modes which welcome life
must intervene, even though it is always the parents, those who have constituted
the family, who are directly responsible for the newborn child. The family, the
"sanctuary of life", must receive effective support so that each child may truly
enjoy the right to be born into a normal family consisting of a father, mother,
brothers and sisters, in an indispensable loving atmosphere (cf. Donum Vitae,
II. A. 1).
4. Having been accepted, the child is to be raised, cared for and helped
in his integral development so that he can achieve human maturity. In fact,
if a person does not learn to love and does not feel loved, he will never learn
who he really is; rather, he will become an insoluble mystery to himself.
There is an absolute need for the creation of
an atmosphere of love for the person in himself and for himself, which instills
in each person the joy of living, serving, working and developing friendly
relations with all people. In this regard it is necessary to improve educational
methods, mass media, and to clean up the moral environment and other aspects of
culture, which today is frequently deaf to the values of the spirit. The
first essential structure capable of doing this is definitely the family;
in it a person has his first character shaping experiences and receives his
first, most valuable lessons about truth and goodness, and thus learns to love
and be loved.
We must be committed to protecting and
promoting the family based on marriage, in which the mutual gift of the man and
woman creates a climate of love wherein the child can be born and grow. We are
all called to promote an environment that is favourable to the family, and
therefore, to fatherhood and motherhood; where increasingly favourable
conditions are created for the family to develop its own resources; fidelity,
fertility, intimacy enriched by openness to others, etc. The family must become
the centre of every social political policy.
5. Last of all, please allow me to remind you that your greatest
strength lies in the quality of your witness to human dignity, the family and
life, in mutual collaboration and with respect for legitimate diversity. Great
and powerful are the forces which the culture of death overtly or covertly
disposes of today: human selfishness and its result, consumerism; a superficial
feminism which fears motherhood; an increasing materialism which is incapable of
understanding the superiority of spiritual values; last of all, the pressure of
economic interests, which act with merciless cruelty. In this context I turn to
you in the same words which St. Paul addressed to the first Christians of the
Roman community: "Do not be conquered by evil but conquer evil with good" (Rom.
12:21). Your weapons are those of the Gospel. It contains an unfailing hope,
because it rests on the firm foundation of the resurrection of Christ, death's
6. Our Lady is the promoter of life par
excellence; in her womb she conceived Life itself (cf. Jn 11:25; 14:6), gave
birth to him and received him with great love, even in her poverty in Bethlehem.
May she, together with her Son, bless all the mothers of the world, all the
families, "sanctuaries of life", and you, your families, your movements, your
nations, in which I hope you may be light, salt and leaven. I impart my Blessing
to all of you.
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The Nurturing Network
What do you say, Father, what practical solutions can you give
to the young woman still in college, or to the recent graduate who has just
landed her first professional job, who seeks your advice about her crisis
"The baby's father walked out on me when I told him, and if my parents find
out, they'll throw me out" or "they won't keep paying to put me through college.
Then what will I do?"
"I've just gotten the first real break in my career. If my boss finds out I'm
pregnant, he won't think much of my sense of responsibility, and all my years of
training will be up in smoke. How can I have this baby and a future for myself,
"What choice do I have but to have an
These are not rhetorical questions. The
woman asking them wants real answers and a real alternative to abortion.
Pro-abortion forces, armed with the rhetoric of
"choice," have worked long and hard to convince the public that only they offer
a real solution to the problem of a crisis pregnancy. To suggest, however, that
abortion is ever a solution is one of the most monstrous lies ever
perpetrated. It is also one of the most difficult lies to disprove to a woman up
against the hard reality that there is a new life in her womb, a life she is too
panicked about to want or to love.
There are other choices, of course,
real choices, made possible through pro-life groups like Birthright, through
parish and diocesan programs, and through the help of individuals. Thousands of
babies are saved every year in this country through such efforts. But because
they are by their very nature confidential and local, they do not attract much
media attention--and thus the lie that pro-lifers care only about abstract
principle, not about real women, is perpetuated. Better publicity for existing
efforts is only part of the answer. The Catholic community must also expand its
commitment and seek new ways to enable women in crisis pregnancies to share the
gift of life with their children.
One young Catholic wife and mother has undertaken to tackle
this problem on a monumental scale and with the professional vision and acumen
that formerly enabled her to reach top management levels at Bendix Corporation.
In 1986 this former business woman, Mary Cunningham Agee, founded The Nurturing
Network—a non-profit, nondenominational, equal opportunity organization that
works through a network of colleges and universities, businesses and more than
9,000 individual members, all across this nation to provide a real alternative
to abortion to any woman experiencing an unplanned -- and probably unwanted --
Headquartered in Boise, Idaho, The Nurturing Network (TNN) offers
professional guidance, skilled counseling, nurturing homes, quality medical
services, confidential college and employment transfer, financial assistance,
career programs, adoption counseling, adoption services, and practical training
in the responsibilities of parenthood. Each woman who turns for help to TNN
receives personalized attention.
A typical client, having learned of TNN through a friend or the media,
places a toll free call to TNN's Life-Line (1-800-TNN-4MOM) and speaks
immediately with a professionally-trained counselor in the Boise headquarters. A
detailed evaluation of her specific needs is made and a comprehensive,
individually-tailored plan of assistance is offered. If she needs to change
colleges or jobs, if she needs a place to live, if she wants the fact of her
pregnancy kept secret from family and friends, transfers are arranged. Because
TNN is nation-wide, it is possible for a woman in Peoria or Gainesville to move
to Los Angeles or New York, or to hundreds of other places, and preserve her
dignity, continue her studies or her career, and save her baby.
We at P.F.L. commend this practical,
life-saving and life-sustaining ministry, and invite you to contact TNN directly
for further information. You may wish to inform your parishioners and friends
about TNN's ministry, and encourage their participation: by offering homes for
mothers in need or professional employment for qualified women; by volunteering
professional time and experience; by convincing colleges to accept such women as
transfer students; through tax-deductible contributions; or by spreading the
news to every community in this country that there are real choices.
Abortion is not the answer, and TNN is one ministry that can make these choices
To contact TNN, please write or call: Mary Cunningham Agee, Director, The
Nurturing Network, 910 Main Street, Suite 360, Box 2050, Boise, Idaho 83701;
208-344-7200. Toll-free: 1-800-TNN-4MOM.
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Board of Advisors of Priests for Life
His Eminence, Alfonso Cardinal Lopez Trujillo
President, Pontifical Council for the Family
Most Reverend John L. May
Archbishop of Saint Louis
Most Reverend Daniel E. Sheehan
Archbishop of Omaha
Most Reverend John J. Myers
Bishop of Peoria
Most Reverend Rene Gracida
Bishop of Corpus Christi
Most Reverend Juan Fremiot Torres
Bishop of Ponce, Puerto Rico
Most Reverend Albert H. Ottenweller
Bishop of Steubenville
Most Reverend Paul V. Donovan
Bishop of Kalamazoo
Most Reverend James Timlin
Bishop of Scranton
Most Reverend Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap.
Bishop of Rapid City
Most Reverend J. Quinn Weitzel, M.M..
Bishop of Samoa--Pago Pago
Most Reverend George Lynch
Retired Auxiliary Bishop of Raleigh
Most Reverend John F. Donoghue, D.D.
Bishop of Charlotte
Most Reverend Francis Quinn
Bishop of Sacramento
Most Reverend James Sullivan
Bishop of Fargo
Most Reverend James Niedergesses
Bishop of Nashville
President: Rev. Lee Kaylor
Secretary: Rev. Robert Cipriano
Treasurer: Rev. Robert Kiefer
Editor: Mary Ann Eiler
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Oral Contraceptives or Abortifacients? Evidence that Requires a
Editor's note: This article is quite technical but extremely useful in
understanding & explaining the abortifacient properties of oral contraceptives.
(Reprinted by permission and with revisions from the Couple to Couple League's
Family Foundations, Vol. 17, No.6, May/June 1991, p.16. Dr. Weckenbrock is
the pharmacist advisor to the CCL.)
Oral contraceptives--the most commonly used form of birth control in the
U.S.--are available in two forms: a simple progestational agent, and a
combination estrogenic-progestational agent. The mechanisms of the two differ
significantly, but both aim at a primary, contraceptive, action (suppressing
ovulation), and at secondary actions (impacting other aspects of a woman's
fertility). These secondary actions are not strictly contraceptive. The
combination pill works in at least four ways. Its primary action is to suppress
ovulation by inhibiting the release of the Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH)
and the Luteinizing Hormone (LH) to prevent the growth, development and release
of the ovum. The same hormones that attempt to suppress FSH and LH also affect
the endometrium of the uterus, the normal production of cervical mucous, and the
peristalsis of the Fallopian tube.[1-4] The progestin-only mini-pill also
attempts to suppress ovulation, but is much less effective in doing so because
of its low dosage. It must rely more heavily, therefore, on the secondary--
abortifacient--mechanisms, which act on the development of the endometrial
tissue, etc. The following evidence supports these statements.
In an early study (1964), researchers Goodman and Gilman, referring to the
effect of progesterone on the uterine lining, state that even that if ovulation
occurs, nidation would be unlikely because of the "bizarre endometrium developed
under the influence of most of the suppressants." In 1970 Peel and Potts
supported this observation and stated that break-through ovulation occurs in two
to ten percent of cycles. It can occur to any woman in any cycle. Note that
both of these studies were conducted at a time when the permissible dosages of
oral contraceptives were relatively high, and the strictly contraceptive action
was, therefore, more certain. (Estrogen is primarily responsible for suppression
of FSH.) In 1988, however, all oral contraceptives containing more than 50 mcg
of estrogen were withdrawn from the U.S. market. Since breakthrough ovulation
occurred in the older, higher dosage pill, one would expect a greater chance of
breakthrough ovulation at the new, lower estrogen doses. To be effective, the
new pills would have to rely more heavily on secondary actions. This is
difficult to demonstrate scientifically because research has focused on the
incidence of cancer, blood clots, etc., while breakthrough ovulation has
attracted very little interest as a topic of research.
Nevertheless, a few current studies do support the conclusion that
breakthrough ovulation occurs.[5-8] Thus, a standard reference, Contraceptive
Technology, reports: "Ovulation is not always suppressed by the combined
oral contraceptive agents containing 50 mcg or less of estrogen.... These agents
are probably only 95 to 98 percent effective in suppressing ovulation. The
nearly 100 percent effectiveness of these agents and of progestin-only
contraceptives is due to the other highly effective actions of the progestins on
the cervical mucous and the endometrium and tubal environment." This means that
in a cycle influenced by oral contraceptives, if a viable ovum is made
available for fertilization by sperm introduced at the appropriate time, the
creation of a new human being, though unintended, can occur. Once again, the
frequency of occurrence of fertilization under such conditions has not been
studied due to an apparent lack of interest in the scientific and medical
communities. What is clear is that when ovulation, sperm migration, and
fertilization occur, a new life seeks to implant himself or herself into the
endometrium, now altered by the synthetic hormones. In the literature
distributed with prescriptions of the Pill, it is noted that such alteration
impedes implantation. This is the earliest kind of abortion: a new life has been
living by this time for at least six, possibly nine days, before it passes
through the uterus and is lost in what is thought to be, and has all the
appearances of, a normal menstruation.
The legal community also acknowledges the abortifacient properties of birth
control pills (as well as of IUDs). Thus, in arguments before the U.S. Supreme
Court on April 26, 1989, Mr. Frank Susman, legal counsel for the Missouri
Abortion Clinics, stated to Justice Scalia that "the most common forms of . . .
contraception today, IUDs, low-dose birth control pills, which are the safest
type of birth control pills available today, act as abortifacients. They are
correctly labeled as both."
Clearly, birth control pills (and IUDs), which primarily work by preventing
implantation, are acting as abortifacients, not contraceptives. To knowingly use
chemicals to cause the abortion of a pre-born baby nine days old is no less
immoral than to abort that same baby at nine weeks or in the ninth month. A
deliberate abortion is an abortion.
--Paul Weckenbrock, R.Ph.
1. Goodman, L., and Gilmore, A. (1970) The Pharmacological Basis of
Therapeutics, 4th Ed., New York: McMillan Co., pp 1559-1560.
2. Physicians' Desk Reference, 43rd Edition, (1989), Medical
3. Hatcher, R., M.D., et al. (1988-1989) Contraceptive Technology
14th Rev. Ed., New York: Irvington Publishers, Inc.
4. Peel, J. & Potts, M. (1964) Textbook of Contraceptive Practice,
Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, pp 98 & 99.
5. VanderVange, N. (1988) ``Ovarian Activity During Low Dose Oral
Contemporary Obstetrics & Gynecology Ed. by G. Chamberlain.
6. Killick, S., Eyong, E., and Elstein, M., (Sept.1987) "Ovarian
Follicular Development in Oral Contraceptive Cycles," Fertility and
Sterility, Vol.48, No.3.
7. VanderVange,, N. (1984) "We are close to Lowest Steroid Dosage in the
Pill," News and Views Newsletter, Organon Int'l. (W. Korteling,, Ed.)
8. VanderVange, N. (Dec. 1986) "Seven Low Dose Oral Contraceptives and Their
Influence on Metabolic Pathways and Ovarian Activity," Thesis, Rijksuniversiteit
te Utrecht, Holland. (Summary by Van Riessen, S.J).)
Tell us about Your Pro-Life Work
Have you had success in turning teens on to greater respect for life?
In establishing a pro-life program or project in your parish or community? In
sparking your parishioners' involvement? Please write and share your experiences
in any aspect of pro-life work with our brother priests.
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