By Dorothy Timbs
Three years ago (summer of 2002), I was a law clerk at the National Right to Life Committee. A perk of my internship was the opportunity to attend the NRL annual Convention in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. If I recall correctly, Priests for Life had a booth set up with various pieces of pro-life literature.
During one brief interval between sessions, I had the opportunity to chat briefly with Father Frank Pavone. Since I have been a committed Christian from the Protestant tradition, this was actually my first personal encounter with a Catholic priest - ever! What a blessing that it was Father Frank. In the course of our conversation, Father Frank briefly explained the related evils of contraception and abortion.
Most Catholics might find it hard to believe that a committed pro-life Christian would be ignorant to the intrinsic evil of contraception. Yet the vast majority of Protestants have either 1) never heard of the notion or 2) immediately disagree with it and dismiss it because they do not understand such a strange idea.
Still, the Catholic Church's teaching immediately struck a chord inside my heart that I could not ignore. I wanted so badly to talk more about it with Father Frank! Since time constraints made this impossible, Father Frank instead very graciously handed me a brochure titled, "Abortion and Contraception: Fruits of the same tree." Little did we know that God would use this simple gesture in a mighty way in my own life and also the lives of many others.
The brochure offered a concise teaching on the very heart of the issue of abortion and its evil counterpart, contraception. It was just enough to plant a seed in both my heart and mind. Again, I was unable to forget this teaching, so I decided to do some further research on the issue immediately.
This led to hours of study on various aspects of contraception. I read articles on the history of the legalization of contraception in the United States, and was surprised to learn that it was spawned by the eugenics movement, and spearheaded by one Margaret Sanger. I learned that the advent of the pill, contrary to feminist thought at the time, served not to liberate women, but to objectify and exploit them by placing the sole responsibility upon their shoulders for family planning, while men were invited to enjoy newfound sexual promiscuity. This, in turn, led to the sexual revolution, the breakdown of families, and abortion on demand. And the pill was supposed to be good?
On the other hand, I was captivated by the beautiful alternative to it all- Natural Family Planning. All this new information brought me to a new place in my understanding of the life issue. I learned that being pro-life is so much more than just simply being against abortion. It is to be "whole-life."
I read John Paul II's Theology of the Body, nothing less than a brilliant expression of truth. Again, this changed my entire outlook on the life issue and was a guiding hand in my quest to understand this idea of life-giving love in the sacrament of marriage. It became apparent to me that I was drinking truth deeply during this time, as I learned for the first time that the renewing of the marriage vows is a beautiful, life-giving, gift of self at its core - a sacramental expression of the self-giving, relational, familial love of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The conjugal act, when properly understood and expressed, is quite a powerful expression on earth- when we cooperate with God, we have the power and privilege to participate in God's plan to bring forth life!
I continued to delve deeper in my studies. I concluded, after some time for reflection, this was truth as I had never known it before. I felt that others needed to hear about it! So, since I was President of my law school pro-life chapter (Regent University), I organized a Symposium on the issue.
I brought in a panel of speakers who spoke on contraception in Christian marriage- what does the Church teach, and what does the Bible say? As I mentioned previously, these were all new concepts for Protestants and I anticipated that the topic of discussion for this Symposium might be particularly foreign/disturbing to some. But I was amazed to see how much support and interest was generated by the Symposium! Since it was an interesting topic, it was well attended and since the hearers were open to truth, the message was well received! Paul Schenck [a Pastoral Associate of Priests for Life], who was one of the panelists, was an especially gifted, articulate messenger of truth.
God used this Symposium as another opportunity to get the whole life/pro-life ethic to sincere Christians who love God and love truth. And as I knew it would, truth defended herself again. I have even received news of couples who are expecting, whose marriages and ideas about family changed as a result of the dialogue.
On a more personal note, I continue to be drawn to the truth that I discovered was guarded so beautifully by the Catholic Church. I wondered, why have all the other Christian denominations abandoned this truth that was once so unassailable? Could the Catholic Church be right on other things as well? I began to study more about the authority of the Church and with that came a plethora of theological questions.
Now, almost three full years after Father Frank handed me the brochure (and many, many books later), I find myself nearing the conclusion of the RCIA program here at St. Mary's in Washington, D.C. I am truly at a cross-roads in my Christian walk. By God's grace, I will go forward at Easter to be received into full communion with the Catholic Church.
Father Frank will always have a special place in my heart, and to think this all started with the smallest of gestures- handing me a brochure on contraception!
To God alone be the Glory,