Priests for Life Newsletter
Volume 8, Number 2
March - April 1998
The Holy Spirit and Abortion, Part Two
Abortion and the General Intercessions
Preaching on Euthanasia
Priest Profile: Fr. John
Teaching on Contraception
Priests for Life Prayer cards
The Holy Spirit and Abortion, Part
Fr. Frank Pavone
Pontifical Council for the Family, Vatican City
"Come, Holy Ghost, Creator Blest."
The words of this well-known hymn affirm that the Holy Spirit is the Creator
of all things. In the Creed, we say we believe that the Father is the "maker of
heaven and earth." Yet so is the Holy Spirit. As the Catechism of the
explains, "Inseparable in what they are, the divine persons are also inseparable
in what they do" (n. 267).
The Bible begins by declaring that when God created all things, "a mighty
wind swept over the waters"(Genesis 1:2). The word "wind" here is the same as
"spirit" or "breath." We can see an echo of this in the English word
"respiration." "Spirit" is in the middle of it! So it is no accident that God,
in creating the first man, "blew into his nostrils the breath of life"(Genesis
2:7). On the first Easter night, when He appeared to the apostles, the Risen
Christ "breathed on them and said, Receive the Holy Spirit"(John 20:22),
and on Pentecost, the Spirit came with "a noise like a strong driving wind"(Acts
In the beginning the Spirit brought about creation. Through the Paschal
Mystery, He brings about the new creation, pouring forth eternal life.
The movement of the Spirit is in one direction: life. He gives it, He
restores it, He elevates it, and He will raise it from the dead. "If the Spirit
of the one who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, the one who raised
Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also, through his
Spirit that dwells in you" (Rom. 8:11).
Therefore the movement of the thoughts and choices of those who are united
with the Holy Spirit is also in the direction of life. St. Paul can therefore
contrast the works of the Spirit, including "peace, patience," and "kindness,"
with those of the flesh, which include "hatreds, outbursts of fury," and "acts
of selfishness"(see Gal. 5:18-23).
Into which list would acts of dismemberment be placed, or acts of ending a
baby's life with scissors? Into which list, according to the descriptions of
those who perform it, would the abortion procedure fall? It is amazing that so
many Christians who can easily see that slapping someone in the face is not
consistent with life in the Spirit, somehow think that tearing a child apart
sometimes can be.
Some choices, no matter what our motives or circumstances, cannot ever be
reconciled with the movement of the Holy Spirit in our soul. Abortion is one of
Nor can one say, "I follow the Holy Spirit, but abortion is not my problem."
Can we follow the one who gives life, and remain unconcerned about the taking of
life by a procedure that claims more victims than any crime, disease, or war?
The Holy Spirit is everywhere. The taking of life, wherever it occurs, is of
concern to Him. No matter how far away I may be, in body or mind, from the act
that takes life, if I am close to God, then that act is of concern to me.
Abortion in the General
Fr. Frank Pavone
International Director, Priests for Life
In my seminary days, each student was responsible, on a rotating schedule, to
prepare the general intercessions for the Eucharistic Liturgy of that day. This
was an aspect of our liturgical training, of course, whereby we would apply the
principles we had learned in the classroom.
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
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 abortions kills one of them every 20 seconds. Those killed
today never died before, which makes abortion a new tragedy every day.
Nothing takes more human life.
Does it not make 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? Is not a simple prayer for these children a powerful
expression of our solidarity with those who cannot even pray for themselves?
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 supplies prayer materials for parishes. Contact Priests for
Life, PO Box 141172, Staten Island, NY 10314 or call 888-PFL-3448.
Homily Hints: Preaching on Euthanasia
Rev. Richard Hogan
Associate National Director
Priests for Life
In preaching against euthanasia, in a sense we are very handicapped because
we are trying to defend the obvious: life is good. Everyone intuitively knows
(from one’s own experience) that life is good and yet those who advocate
euthanasia deny this most obvious truth. How does one defend what should be as
clear as the hand in front of one’s face? How does one prove (to someone who
denies it) that the sky is blue? The argument: "Just look" usually is not
It is a myth to think that terminally ill people normally want to end their
lives. Life is good! And the terminally ill know it. They appreciate it as
perhaps no one else can. Under that kind of deadline (excuse the pun), every
moment becomes precious. We do unfortunately see relatives of the terminally ill
advocating euthanasia and assisted suicide. In other words, euthanasia is
advocated by those who should be the care-givers and the supporters of the ill.
It turns out that euthanasia is most strongly urged by those who stand to gain
by someone’s death. They gain time (they do not need to spend time with their
sick relatives) and they gain relief because they do not need to watch someone
else’s illness. Ultimately, euthanasia is most strongly advocated for selfish
reasons. Life is good! Death is an evil, except, it seems, when
someone has something to gain by death. That motive for death is as old as the
Another approach is to reduce the argument for euthanasia to its bare
essentials. In effect, those who promote death argue that certain problems make
life not worth living. Certain problems, they say, cause suffering. Suffering is
bad. Suffering should be eliminated. So far everyone can agree. The way to end
suffering, since the underlying cause (e.g., disease) cannot be eliminated, is
to kill the one suffering. Death ends suffering and so death (euthanasia) is
good, concludes the argument.
If you apply this same argument to a family, to a workplace, or to a social
situation, the absurdity of the argument is clear. If there is an argument
between a husband and wife, a dispute between the boss and an employer, a
resentment in a friendship, all these cause suffering. Suffering is bad and
should be eliminated, and so the husband should shoot the wife, the employee the
boss, and the friend should kill his or her friend. Some would say that in these
cases the underlying problems could be cured: not always. In some relationships,
the problem seems as insoluble as cancer! But if anyone actually murdered his
wife, his boss, or his friend, society would treat him as a criminal or as
mentally unbalanced and rightly so! Life is good, death is bad,
even in the case of a terminally ill patient or a crisis pregnancy!
There is more to say on this subject. However, it seems to me essential to
focus on the heart of the argument: Is life always good or not? The entire
Judaeo-Christian tradition affirms that life is always good!
Priest Profile-- Reverend John S.
By Anthony DeStefano
Executive Director of Priests for Life
It takes a special kind of person to head one of the largest, busiest, and
most successful diocesan pro-life offices in the world.
By all accounts, John Cardinal O’Connor picked the perfect man for the job
when he appointed Rev. John S. Bonnici as Director of the Family Life/Respect
Life Office of the Archdiocese of New York in 1996.
Fr. Bonnici, a brilliant and extraordinarily energetic young priest, is
particularly adept at handling the intense, high-paced, work schedule which his
position demands. Born in Manhattan, he received the calling for the priesthood
early—at nine years old. He attended Cathedral Preparatory School, and did his
undergraduate work at St. John’s University, where he majored in both philosophy
Continuing his stellar academic career in Rome, Father studied for five years
at the Pontifical Gregorian University, receiving his S.T.B. in Theology. After
being ordained at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York in 1991, he returned to
Rome to get his licentiate in moral theology from the Lateran University. He
then received his S.T.D. in Moral Theology from the John Paul II Institute of
Marriage and Family in Washington D.C., before returning to New York.
At the tender age of 32, Fr. Bonnici now has the difficult task of
coordinating all of his diocese’s many faceted pro-life programs. "People don’t
expect a young person in my role; they’re looking for someone a little older,
with a little gray hair," he says matter-of-factly. "But I always tell them
that’s coming." In fact, viewing youth as strong point in the job he has, Fr.
Bonnici believes his age can help him in trying to "set an example for young
people on issues of morality."
The Family Life/Respect Life Office he heads is responsible for covering the
entire spectrum of life issues. The Family Life portion deals with marriage
preparation and enrichment, educational programs on parenting, and
bereavement—including programs for women and men who have suffered the loss of a
child through abortion, stillbirth or miscarriage. The Respect Life division
tackles the abortion problem head-on. Providing a slew of educational resources,
the Office goes into parishes, conducts workshops, talks to Right-to-Life
Committees, and meets with legislators whenever possible. Euthanasia is also
addressed, particularly on the educational and legislative fronts.
Fr. Bonnici explains the philosophy which drives all of the office’s
activities: "We serve the human person from conception to natural death. All of
our programs on all fronts—pastoral, educational and legislative—reflect this. I
think we have a responsibility to educate, to present the truth in a loving,
pastoral manner that invites people back to Christ."
Father is also a tireless traveller and a speaker in great demand. Known for
his high level of erudition and yet an uncanny ability to make complex moral
subjects understandable, he regularly gives classes, work shops and lectures all
around the country. In July, for example, he was the key note speaker at a major
conference on Cloning in Washington D.C.; in September, he spoke at the Totus
Tuus Family Conference in Catholic Familyland in Ohio; in October, he
represented the Archdiocese at the Second World Meeting of Families with the
Pope in Rio De Janiero.
Father Bonnici’s unbounded energy reflects a spirit of optimism which some
might think out of place in today’s "Culture of Death."
"Yes, the shadows reflected by our culture are wide and far-reaching," he
comments. "But I am optimistic. A new generation is coming forward. There is a
yearning for the truth. When Christ is not in the equation, despair is
inevitable. But more and more young people are at daily Mass—and they’re there
because the want to be. That’s a very positive sign."
Fr. Bonnici can be reached at the Family Life/Respect Life Office of the
Archdiocese of New York, 1011 First Ave., New York, NY, 10022. Tel: (212)
371-1000; Fax: (212) 371-1011, Ext. 3485.
Teaching on Contraception
We often receive inquiries about the Church's teaching on contraception. We
bring to your attention our audiotape, "Why Contraception is Wrong." It is
currently available from our main office. One of the programs on our Defending
Life Television Series #2 also is dedicated to this topic. This program, along
with the entire series, will be made available soon on video cassette.
Some contraceptive methods are not contraceptive at all, but cause early
abortions, as we have described in previous newsletters. Yet even "pure
contraception" is a strong root of abortion, "despite their differences of
nature and moral gravity," as the Pope points out in The Gospel of Life, n. 13.
At the same time, we cannot forget that there are many roots to the abortion
tragedy. The loss of the sense of the dignity of life directly fosters abortion.
Moral relativism is a major foundation of abortion. Legal positivism is the
basis for abortion in many court arguments. Materialism and individualism have
their part to play. Other roots include a dualistic view of the human person and
an "over-spiritualism," as we have described in previous issues of this
Priests for Life remains committed to fostering the entire teaching of the
Church on the life issues, with a practical focus on abortion and euthanasia. We
offer our praise, gratitude, and collaboration to those groups which focus in a
particular way in educating the public about contraception.
We ask our readers to be alert for people who
can translate our materials from English into any of the other modern languages.
Please alert Anthony at our main office, by email (firstname.lastname@example.org)
or any other convenient means. We are blessed to have the volunteer help of some
experts in the Spanish language already. Please remember that a translator in
this case would need a familiarity with the terminology of the Church and the
Prayer Cards to Remember Your
Priests for Life is happy to offer remembrance cards for the intentions of
the living or for the repose of the deceased. These cards, which have been
specially designed, say that the designated intention will be remembered in the
prayers and Masses of the Priests for Life Association. They can be obtained
from the Staten Island office (PO Box 141172, Staten Island, NY 10314) and the
offering is left entirely up to you.
Have you visited our Website?
Something new is added to the Priests for Life
website literally every day from Rome. You will find some Priests for Life
information here that you cannot get anywhere else, and an easy table of
contents listing what has been newly posted each day. You will also see a new
look to the site, and will be able to hear Fr. Frank's audio tapes! We thank
Michael Galloway and the staff of Catholic Online for all the work they have
done on our site. Visit http://www.priestsforlife.org today, and
have your friends do the same!
We ask you to remember the following intentions this month when you pray the
Liturgy of the Hours:
March intention: That children may witness to their peers about the
sanctity of life.
April intention: That religious, by their consecration, lead many to
discover that true freedom is found in obedience.