Priests for Life Newsletter
Volume 7, Number 4
July - August 1997
The Priests for Life Commitment Pledge
Second World Meeting of the Pope with Families
25 Years of Roe vs. Wade
Eye Has Not Seen: Guest
article by Bishop James Timlin
The Priests for Life Commitment Pledge
Thousands of priests across the United States
have joined the association Priests for Life, because they recognize in it a
positive and helpful approach to dealing with the tragedies of abortion and
euthanasia. It is a ministry of encouragement, focused on talking about
what we can do rather than on what we cannot do. It is a ministry of
fellowship, focusing on how we can cooperate with everyone in our society
concerned with the defense of human life, rather than on criticizing the efforts
of anyone. It is a ministry of unity, focusing on the priest's ecclesial
union with his bishop, rather than being critical of those appointed to shepherd
Those who join the association make certain very simple pledges. We have
printed below the Clergy Commitment Pledge of our organization. A few
explanatory comments follow it.
Priests for Life Clergy Commitment Pledge
As an ordained priest/deacon of the
Catholic Church, I acknowledge that an essential part of my ministry is to
proclaim and defend the dignity of the human person.
As a sign of my commitment to this
call, and in order to help strengthen my brother priests and deacons and be
strengthened by them, I have become a member of the Priests for Life
Association, an officially recognized Private Association of the Faithful.
As a member I
pledge to pray with perseverance for a deeper respect for human life in our
society, and especially for an end to abortion and euthanasia.
I pledge to clearly
and consistently preach and teach about the sanctity of life to all those
entrusted to my pastoral care.
I pledge to
cooperate with the projects and programs of Priests for Life, to the degree that
I am reasonably able to do so and within the policies set by my Ordinary.
I pledge to lend
support and encouragement to other members of the Association and to the wider
pro-life movement when the appropriate opportunities arise.
I am confident that
the Victory of Life has already been won through the Cross and Resurrection of
Christ, and that by proclaiming, celebrating, and serving the gift of Life, the
Church will transform the culture of death into the Kingdom of Life.
You will note that the pledge indicates that membership in
this organization is for Catholic priests and deacons. There is also a lay
auxiliary membership, and we also rejoice when ministers and the faithful of
other denominations associate themselves with our work. They are invited to
cooperate with us and to take advantage of our educational materials.
The pledge points out that the defense of the human person is
to the ordained ministry. It is not something optional or foreign to it.
The first motive mentioned for joining the association is the
networking value it provides. The more visible our pro-life efforts are, the
more we strengthen each other. Through this network, clergy make contact with
others whom they may never have come to know, and with whom they can share
valuable experience in this dimension of ministry. The status of the association
under Canon Law is then mentioned.
Prayer, preaching, and teaching are then mentioned as key
aspects of the pledge. These are standard aspects of the work of the priest and
deacon. It is the conviction of Priests for Life that what we need more than a
new structure is to fully activate the structure we already have. If we infuse
our normal activities with a greater attentiveness to the tragedies of abortion
and euthanasia, we will make significant progress to overcome these evils. While
Priests for Life provides suggestions and resources for prayer, preaching, and
teaching, we do not hold our members to any particular form of devotion or
Cooperation with Priests for Life projects is then mentioned,
always within the context of union with one's own Ordinary. The idea behind this
association has never been to come into a diocese in order to promote one or
another program or activity. The idea, and the reality, is that we have gone
into dioceses in every one of the 50 states precisely in order to assist the
clergy to work together with their bishop in the way he directs and according to
the local circumstances. At the same time, we provide the benefit of the
experience our network has, and the numerous contacts with all groups in the
The pledge ends on a note of supreme confidence. In this
battle, we are not just working for victory; we are working from
victory. Victory is our starting point, because Christ has robbed death of its
power. Therefore, we ask clergy and laity alike to carry out their pro-life work
with profound peace of soul and a joyful spirit. It is our palpable joy for life
which, when seen by the world, will attract it to our message.
If you have not yet signed our commitment pledge, we invite
you to do so today by filling out the membership form in this newsletter. A
formal copy of the pledge will then be sent to you to sign and keep.
God bless your efforts for life!
Fr. Frank Pavone
I Will Draw All
People to Myself:
A Theological Reflection on the Significance of the Second World Gathering
of Families with the Holy Father.
Fr. Frank Pavone
Pontifical Council for the Family, Rome
October 4-5, 1997 will see a great gathering of families from throughout the
world with the Holy Father in Rio de Janeiro. It will be a festive gathering,
rooted in a common reflection on the Word of God and in the celebration of the
Holy Eucharist. Its theme will be "The Family: Gift and Commitment, Hope for
The first aspect of the theme reminds us that the family is a gift. It is not
a mere human creation, but begins with God's initiative. Because He has spoken,
we cannot change the message. Because He creates the family, we cannot refashion
it at whim. Because His word is the truth, we can be liberated from the divisive
forces of error pulling us in so many contradictory directions. An attentive
hearing of God's word about the family will therefore mark the events of Rio.
Receiving such a gift in turn requires a commitment, the second major point
of the theme of Rio. This commitment, simply put, is the response of love. On
the cross, Christ showed that love means self-giving. We are called to sacrifice
ourselves for the good of the other person, rather than sacrificing another
person for the good of ourselves.
In short, we are called to live the words by which Christ gave us the
Eucharist. Strangely, those who promote philosophies and lifestyles contrary to
the good of the family use these very same words: This is my body. "This is my
body," some will say, "so I can do what I want, whether it is free sex,
abortion, or anything else. It's my body and I will live as I please." But what
does our Lord say? "This is my body, given up for you." He does not cling to His
body so that others die; rather, He gives it away so that others may live. We do
the same, thanks to the grace given to us in the Eucharist, which will be the
culminating event of the Rio gathering.
When families live in this way, the world has hope. The third dimension of
the Rio theme, and its climax, is hope. This hope will be celebrated in the
presence of the Vicar of Christ, who in his own ministry calls on the world not
to be afraid to hope! Sins against life and family are so often sins of despair.
But the task of our day and the nature of our mission as the People of Life are
to say, "Have hope! The power of life is stronger than death. The power of live
is stronger than hate. The power of the family is stronger than all the forces
which threaten it!" May the Second World Meeting of Families with the Holy
Father in Rio de Janeiro kindle this hope in every human heart.
Priests for Life asks you to promote awareness of the Rio
event in any way you can. The United States bishops have arranged a travel
package for those wishing to attend. Please consult your local diocese for
information on diocesan and national arrangements.
25 YEARS OF ROE V. WADE
It may seem a little early to be preparing for the Annual January 22 March
for Life in Washington DC. But given the fact that most parish and school
calendars have already been planned, and that some people may need to raise
money to go, it is not as early as we may think.
This year, there is yet another reason to plan ahead. The Roe vs. Wade and
Doe vs. Bolton decisions, which together legalized abortion in America through
all nine months of pregnancy, were handed down on January 22, 1973. That makes
January 22, 1998 the 25th anniversary of legalized abortion on demand in our
Awareness of this anniversary should permeate all our pro-life activities
this year. In a particular way, it should spur us on to make this coming March
for Life the largest one ever!
The Court spoke, and the People Speak
In 1973, seven out of nine justices declared that the children in the womb
are not persons under the Constitution. They thereby excluded a whole segment of
the human family from the protection of the law, and from the recognition that
all are created equal.
On every single day of the 25 years that have since passed, the older
brothers and sisters of these children throughout America have called on the
nation to restore love and protection to them. And each year tens of thousands
of pro-lifers have come to Washington, DC on the anniversary of that tragic
This January 22, they will come again.
This January 22, they should come again in greater numbers than ever before.
You can be sure that the defenders of abortion will be rejoicing on the 25th
anniversary of Roe vs. Wade. You can help assure that on that day, the voices
defending the children will be louder than the voices defending abortion!
The March for Life
The March for Life is a great annual family reunion for the pro-life
movement. Tens of thousands from across America arrive by bus and plane, and
gather for a midday rally on the Ellipse, between the White House and the
Washington Monument. They are encouraged by speeches from pro-life leaders,
legislators, and clergy. Miss Nellie Gray, who has led the March from the
beginning, effectively calls the participants to focus on the goal of the
pro-life movement: full protection of each and every human person from
After the rally, the march itself takes the crowd on a route from the Ellipse
to the Supreme Court, where prayers and hymns continue, and friends greet each
other. Many also go to lobby their elected officials at this time. Not only is
the whole event well organized and peaceful, it is enthusiastic and joyful, and
marked by a vast majority of energetic young people.
Although most participants come only for the march itself, there is actually
an entire convention in the days preceding it. Participants are educated in the
life principles and taught practical strategies for defending life. This
convention is open to all. The entire event concludes with a beautiful banquet,
the Rose Dinner.
But What Good Does the March Do?
1. It gives voice to the children. Yes, abortion continues unabated.
But it does not continue unchallenged. The presence of marchers in Washington is
a prophetic call to the government and to the nation. When a tragedy goes on and
on, the voice of protest must only increase, not fall silent.
2. It gives encouragement to our friends in government. Those in
Congress who support the right to life need to hear from us. They need to see
that we are out there in great numbers, so that they can continue to call for an
end to abortion.
3. It encourages us. Participants come away from the march invigorated
and inspired for another year of work. They see those laboring with them across
the country, and know they are part of a great movement.
4. It trains young leaders. I received my own inspiration to be active
in this movement when I attended the March for Life as a high school student.
Countless other young people receive similar inspiration from this event each
See You in DC!
Let's go ahead and make January 22, 1998 the largest March Washington has
ever seen! Let's announce and plan it starting today. And let's look
forward to seeing each other in Washington!
For information on the March for Life, contact March for Life, PO Box
90300, Washington, DC 20090, or call 202-543-3377.
EYE HAS NOT SEEN
by Bishop James C. Timlin
Bishop of Scranton
It has long occurred to me that there may be some connection between the
declining numbers of people who believe in Christ’s Real Presence in the
Eucharist and the rise in abortion of unseen children in the womb.
Think about it for a moment. You can't see, touch or feel the body of Christ
in the Body of Christ though the faithful’s "Amen" gives at least lip service to
the fact of His presence. Neither can we see the unborn child except through
somewhat hazy images on an ultrasound picture which we still can’t touch or feel
or behold as a reality right in front of our eyes.
Yet as Catholics we know the Eucharist is the Body and Blood of Christ
because Our Lord and Savior told us so. And not only that, He, in the greatest
act of humility known to humanity, as the Creator of the universe, became a tiny
one-celled human being in the womb of His mother Mary. At precisely that
historic moment, the unborn child was sanctified for all ages to come building
on beliefs before the coming of Christ that the unborn child was a human being
who was not to be killed by abortion.
Similarly, we as human beings know with God-given knowledge that what women
carry in their womb, the product of the union between male and female human
beings, is a human being--only smaller and less developed than we adults who
feel free to rip them from their protective home. Eye may not see and ear may
not hear but faith and experience tell us what God has ready for us after nine
months of waiting.
Ironically, so many who support abortion as a private matter for a woman to
decide have turned a blind eye and deaf ear to the scientific advances such as
surgery on very young unborn children, still insisting that what is aborted in a
partial birth abortion, for example, is only a clump of tissue.
But it is not surprising that if we can turn our back on our own human
progeny, we can reject the reality of God made man to share our sufferings, to
understand as only "one of us" could the pain and joy of this word. Yes, it is
an awesome mystery, but to paraphrase Our Divine Master in regard to both the
unborn and the Eucharist: Doubt is useless; what is needed is trust.
Is there an answer hidden in these mysterious cases of blindness? Perhaps it
lies in the growing practice of Eucharistic Adoration where, through patient
endurance, Christ will reveal the truth about Himself and unborn children, the
truth that will set us free.
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