Fr. Frank Pavone

Defending life in unity

Fr. Frank Pavone

Each year, when the sad date of the Roe vs. Wade decision (January 22) is observed, Christians are in the midst of also observing the annual Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (January 18-25). This Providential convergence teaches us something both about the pro-life cause and about Christian unity.

In regard to the pro-life cause, it brings to mind Pope John Paul II's words in The Gospel of Life:

“Service of the Gospel of life is thus an immense and complex task. This service increasingly appears as a valuable and fruitful area for positive cooperation with our brothers and sisters of other Churches and ecclesial communities, in accordance with the practical ecumenism which the Second Vatican Council authoritatively encouraged. It also appears as a providential area for dialogue and joint efforts with the followers of other religions and with all people of good will. No single person or group has a monopoly on the defense and promotion of life. These are everyone's task and responsibility. … [O]nly the concerted efforts of all those who believe in the value of life can prevent a setback of unforeseeable consequences for civilization.” – (March 25, 1995, EV, #91)

The convergence of these dates also reminds us that efforts at authentic Christian unity are not limited to the important dialogues that take place, but also include carrying out the Christian mission side  by side. In this regard, exactly two months after issuing The Gospel of Life, Pope John Paul II issued Ut Unum Sint, his encyclical on Christian Unity, in which he writes:

“Many Christians from all Communities, by reason of their faith, are jointly involved in bold projects aimed at changing the world by inculcating respect for the rights and needs of everyone, especially the poor, the lowly, and the defenseless…Christians who once acted independently are now engaged together in the service of this cause, so that God’s mercy may triumph” (May 25, 1995, "Ut Unum Sint," n. 43).

 

This year, on January 25, the day that the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity concludes, the Pope will preside at an interdenominational service in Rome as an official event of the Year of Faith. On that very same day, Christians will march together in the streets of Washington DC for the annual March for Life. On that morning, I will preach at the interdenominational National Prayer Service that will mark this occasion. It will be held in DAR Constitution Hall from 8:30 to 10:30 am. (See NationalPrayerService.com.) We will have leaders and representatives from denominations across the entire spectrum of Christianity. Then later in the afternoon, men and women of the Silent No More Awareness Campaign -- an interdenominational effort -- will give public testimony at the steps of the Supreme Court to their experience of the pain of abortion and the healing that comes in Jesus Christ.

This joint worship, action, and witness is what Christian Unity is all about, and it is at the heart of being Catholic.

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Emily’s ‘abortion video’

Fr. Frank Pavone
Fr. Frank Pavone
Image

Various people have asked me what I think about the young woman, Emily, who filmed her abortion.

Actually, Emily did not film her abortion. She filmed her smiles and sighs during a procedure which we take her at her word was an abortion. But to really film an abortion, you have to film the arms and legs of the baby being ripped apart and the head being crushed. That’s not so good for abortion clinic PR. (See www.priestsforlife.org/images/abortion-images-galleries.aspx).

Furthermore, as Pastoral Director of Rachel’s Vineyard and the Silent No More Awareness Campaign, the world’s largest ministries dealing with the aftermath of abortion, I have ministered to many women whose initial response to abortion was relief and who, when the relief wore off, entered the darkest phase of their lives. Their stories, at AbortionTestimony.com, are getting more and more attention. Perhaps that’s why abortion salespersons feel the need to get a ‘positive abortion story’ out there. We have nothing but compassion for Emily. When she hits bottom, our door will be open for her, too.

Reprinted with permission from Priests For Life

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The pope, the president, and the right to life

Fr. Frank Pavone
Fr. Frank Pavone

Pope Francis and President Obama met in Rome today, and the meeting has naturally generated commentary, both before and after the fact, including by the President himself at the National Prayer Breakfast last month.

I am confident that the meeting itself will bear good fruit. I am not so confident that the commentary about it will bear as much fruit.

What I mean is that I believe we are heading for a media and blogosphere circus in which commentary after commentary will reinforce the error that we can promote “human rights” and “social justice” while ignoring the most fundamental right of the most vulnerable people: the right to life of the children in the womb.

It’s not because I think the Pope or his advisors aren’t fully committed to protecting them. They certainly are. And I have had the privilege of conversing with the Pope about the pro-life efforts of the Church.

But there is a profound contradiction between Obama’s position in favor of abortion and the Church’s position against it, and my concern arises from the fact that so much commentary makes light of this contradiction, either by saying it’s not important, or by pretending it’s not there.

And sometimes this impression is given in commentary even by those who share the Church’s pro-life position.

Miguel Diaz, a Catholic theologian who served as Obama’s ambassador to the Vatican until recently, commented, “Some said that under [Pope John Paul II] and [President Ronald Reagan] there was a meeting of the minds, and it’s potentially true again under Obama and Francis around the issues of social justice.”

But in reality, that is not potentially true at all.

The contradiction between Obama’s position and the Pope’s position on the right to life is a contradiction about the very core and foundation of social justice. Without the right to life, everything else falls. Pope Francis himself made reference to this in his recent Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium, when he said,

“[D]efense of unborn life is closely linked to the defense of each and every other human right. It involves the conviction that a human being is always sacred and inviolable…Once this conviction disappears, so do solid and lasting foundations for the defense of human rights, which would always be subject to the passing whims of the powers that be.” (n. 213)

Pope John Paul II, about to be canonized as a saint, made a similar point 25 years ago in another Apostolic Exhortation, Christifideles Laici,

“[T]he common outcry, which is justly made on behalf of human rights — for example, the right to health, to home, to work, to family, to culture — is false and illusory if the right to life, the most basic and fundamental right and the condition for all other personal rights, is not defended with maximum determination.” (n. 38)

And Cardinal Renato Martino, who served as President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, that is, the Vatican’s office charged with fostering the understanding and pursuit of social justice within the whole Church, explained,

“The Holy Father speaks of the protection of life as the fundamental realization and respect for human rights. Without that realization, without that respect for the right to life, no other discussion of human rights can continue.” (Interview on EWTN, 2004.)

That’s the kind of commentary we need to see about the discussion between the President and the Pope.

Reprinted with permission from PriestsforLife.org.

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We will not give Obama his pinch of incense

Fr. Frank Pavone
Fr. Frank Pavone

W. A. Criswell, in The Offense of the Cross, points out,

The Roman Empire was the most tolerant, the most liberal, the most wise, and the most accurate in its handling of the many provinces and religions of its empire of any kingdom that ever existed. Men could worship, have temples, and do as they pleased. And yet the Roman Empire and the Caesars persecuted the Christians. Why? For one simple reason: the Christian refused to compromise his faith with any other religion whatsoever.

That refusal to compromise is seen in the response of the apostles themselves to the command not to teach in the name of Jesus: “We will obey God rather than men!” As it was in the beginning, so it is now. Christians in America face another one of those key moments – seen frequently in Scripture and Christian history – of conflict between the commands of civil authority and the demands of their faith. And believers of other traditions are standing with them as well.

The Obama Administration, implementing one of the provisions of “Obamacare,” has declared its intent and goal to increase access to various “preventive services” that include contraceptives and abortion-inducing drugs. This is an open, publicly-announced plan. Numerous Americans, and the religious traditions they embrace, teach that such “drugs and services” are immoral to use. Therefore, they oppose this plan.

But the conflict goes deeper than that. If those believers are also employers who offer their employees health insurance, the Obama Administration is requiring them to cooperate in the plan by making coverage for those drugs and services an essential part of those health insurance plans.

And that’s where we say “No!” If the government wants to expand access to these immoral – and in some cases lethal – activities, it’s going to need to do it without us. We do not want to be involved.

And that is the argument regarding the HHS mandate, and the theme of the multiple lawsuits that have been introduced against it. We at Priests for Life filed the fourth of what are now dozens of such lawsuits launched both by religious groups and for-profit businesses.

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On Tuesday, March 25, the Supreme Court is hearing two consolidated cases on behalf of two of those businesses, Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Woods, run by believers who refuse to cooperate with the mandate. The Court will consider, among other things, whether the Religious Freedom Restoration Act applies to for-profit corporations to protect them from this mandate.

In a separate action, the Supreme Court is also being asked to take up the matter of the non-profit and religious entities who object to the mandate, and whose rights under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act are not in doubt. We at Priests for Life have petitioned the Supreme Court to hear our case, and this Friday, March 28, the Justices will consider whether or not they will do so.

The claim that the government is making is that it is in fact exempting the religious groups like Priests for Life from following the mandate. In fact, President Obama himself addressed this in his February 2 interview with Bill O’Reilly. The President said, “Here’s the way this thing works. All they have to do is sign a form saying they don’t — they are a religious institution —And — and they get what they want.”

In other words, the form we are being asked to sign states that we object to the mandate because of our institutional religious convictions. Then, our insurance policy will not have to include coverage of the objectionable drugs and services.

At first glance, that sounds quite reasonable to sign. But what the government says further is that upon us signing the form, and receiving the names of our employees on the plan, they will make separate provision to cover the objectionable drugs and services. In other words, by signing the form, we are still part of implementing the plan to provide access to those drugs and services. The form is an authorization; our employees are covered precisely because they are our employees. It’s not a matter of who pays for it; it’s a matter of being the gateway to the immoral activities.

President Obama, in his O’Reilly interview, seems to indicate that he understands this. He said, “The problem is they don’t want to sign the form — Because they think that that somehow makes them complicit.” Exactly right. And Mr. President, that’s not only what we and the other religious plaintiffs think; that’s precisely what our religion teaches. And the freedom to follow that teaching is precisely what you and the law need to respect.

All this may seem like a big deal to be making over the signing of a form. But to go back to W.A. Criswell, he points out, “When the Christians were invited just to bow down before the Roman image, their lives could be spared if they would merely take a pinch of incense and put it on the fire that burned in the presence of the image of the Roman Caesar. The Christian died rather than compromise with a pinch of incense.”

Whether it’s about government incense or a government form, we will obey God rather than men.

Reprinted with permission from PriestsforLife.org.

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