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(LifeSiteNews) — Ultimately, the ruthless persecution of Fr. Frank Pavone and the desecration of his sacred priesthood calls for an extraordinarily courageous response from the faithful. Given this, upon hearing the news of beloved Fr. Pavone’s censure, I was prompted to write about some painful, personal details of my life for the first time on a public platform. I am pro-life “to the bone” now, but I wasn’t always, and Fr. Pavone was someone who helped me along my journey to discovering the unfeigned yet sublime truths about the dignity of human life.

I was raised in a staunchly anti-Catholic, Calvinist, pro-contraception home, and my siblings and I were given little to no education on the value of human life. My parents were good and loving in so many ways, and I thank God for them every day, but they were sorely ignorant. One of my close family members delivered a stillborn infant because she had used an intravenous form of birth control (which has now been made illegal) that slowly killed the child she conceived when it didn’t function as it was “supposed” to. I believe that this traumatic experience wounded her beautiful heart in unspeakable ways, from which she has yet to recover.

Furthermore, when my brother’s girlfriend became pregnant when I was around 12 years old, I asked her a question I was to regret for the rest of my life. She was about 18, and they had only been dating for a handful of months. “So, are you going to have an abortion?” I asked her nonchalantly, with a note of assumption in my voice. But thanks to God’s amazing, providential love and grace, she didn’t buy in to my tempting inquiry. “No! I would never do that,” she told me, with a horrified look on her face. I didn’t understand why she seemed so offended and defensive. I had always been taught in public school that an abortion is just what you do if you get pregnant at an inopportune time, or in a difficult situation – and I believed it. In most public-school systems these days, being “pro-choice” or shall I say, pro-murder, is presented as the only so-called responsible option when a woman is dealing with an unwanted pregnancy.

At age 17, I left home and went across the country alone to join AmeriCorps, a Democrat-funded service program created by Bill Clinton, similar to the PeaceCorps. AmeriCorps held their meetings at Planned Parenthood, and we team members were asked to chip in and volunteer for their organization at times, which I willingly did. I didn’t know what “services” Planned Parenthood provided – I was told they helped poor women, and if I helped them, I would be doing a charitable, noble thing. To top it off, one of my AmeriCorps roommates had had five abortions, and I couldn’t help but empathize with her reasoning. Her parents had undergone a brutal divorce, she had no faith in God, and she was terrified to get married and raise children. Another of my AmeriCorps teammates was an 18-year-old who was being completely shunned by her Mormon family and friends because she had undergone an abortion out of desperation. I felt great compassion for her, and we became very close friends.

As a young person who had developed friendships with women who resorted to abortion in trying situations, and had been fully indoctrinated by the anti-Christian, pro-death governmental school system, the conclusion I had drawn about abortion was that it was something that people did because they thought it was the “best” thing to do, and it wasn’t “fair” to bring a baby into the world outside the womb unless you wanted to do so. Like far too many young people these days, I had been brainwashed to embrace the Culture of Death and see its revolting ritual of abortion as something normal and even just. The Evil One had corrupted my worldview, but thankfully this corruption would not blind me forever.

But at age 22, after years of prayer, rigorous study, fasting and research, I came home to the loving arms of Holy Mother Church, and slowly began to embrace her infallible dogmas and teachings, including those of the Gospel of Life. Soon after my conversion, I lived with Mother Teresa of Calcutta’s religious sisters for about three years and devoted much of my energy to the pro-life movement. I spent day after day praying and protesting peacefully at abortion clinics, not to mention making Holy Hours and praying countless rosaries for the pro-life movement.

For three months, I served as a housemother in a home for unwed mothers and babies awaiting adoption in Washington, D.C. In this lovely, sacred little home, brought into existence through a cooperative effort between Mother Teresa and Britain’s Princess Diana, I spent nearly every hour of every day holding and feeding a very chubby little black baby. His down-and-out mother was addicted to drugs and felt she really couldn’t care for him, so she was offering him up for adoption. To this day, I still cherish the thought of him. I pray for him so often, and I marvel at the reality that his life was one that could have been snuffed out as easily as one kills a fly. If the sisters hadn’t reached out to his mother, she would have probably had an abortion and his beautiful body would have been mangled and destroyed forever. It was such an honor to hold him in my arms for three months and care for him until loving parents adopted him. He had been spared by God’s infinitely loving hand; he had been given a chance to live, breathe, explore, work, play, and to live for his Creator and carry on his family name.

After leaving my work with Mother Teresa’s sisters, I continued to be very active in the pro-life movement by helping out with Forty Days for Life and publishing hundreds of pro-life articles. However, as a convert, I grew somewhat scandalized by the fact that the U.S. Bishops and other diocesan priests did not seem to be outspokenly pro-life or even genuinely supporting those who were—that is, until I met Fr. Frank Pavone. When he came to North Dakota to give a talk to the Right to Life foundation, I was stunned to see a cleric speaking so boldly and passionately about the Gospel of Life. I asked him a deeply controversial question, and he didn’t shy away from giving a profound, authentically Catholic answer in response, despite being in front of a large crowd. At last, I had encountered a priest who wasn’t afraid to be openly pro-life to the core. Listening to him talk confirmed my decision to become Catholic, after all.

READ: Saving babies through song: Christmas carols at abortion mills are changing mothers’ hearts

A few years after I met Fr. Pavone, I gave birth to precious, conjoined infant girls. In a very traumatic, shocking way, they died soon after they were born. Knowing there were priests out there like Fr. Pavone made me more comfortable to come to the Church when I needed help working through my grief, and thank God I did, because I couldn’t have made it through alone.

I find news of his censure incredibly jarring and disturbing. I cannot help but think of the babies who may die because he is “under the gun” and his work may be seriously impeded from now on. And I cannot bear to think of how many priests may now hesitate in being overtly pro-life out of fear of having their faculties stripped as well.

Furthermore, I think of how I was sexually attacked by a priest who gravely violated Canon Law as I was receiving the Sacrament of Confession from him, using it to promote his agenda of sexual abuse.

It took me ten years to come forward with the news of what that priest had done to me, and when I finally did file a formal report, I found that other women had reported him as well for the same thing. The last time I checked, the only punishment he was given was being taken out of ministry for a couple of years. He is an active priest today with a parish of his own, and yet good Fr. Pavone has been, supposedly, “laicized.” It is a scandalous outrage and a disgrace, not to mention a clear sign that the Church has been infiltrated by the “smoke of Satan.”

If you see smoke, there is a fire, and if God’s Church is burning from within, we must take heroic measures to help put out the fire that is smothering its very life. We must peacefully but boldly defend persecuted priests because without them, the Church will not even resemble the Crucified One anymore, for He bore more persecution than anyone else who ever lived. We belong to the Church Militant, not to the “Church Defeated,” and we must join our hearts with the psalmist who once prayed, “Blessed be the Lord my God, who teacheth my hands to fight, and my fingers to war. My mercy, and my refuge: my support, and my deliverer: My protector, and I have hoped in him: who subdueth my people under me (Psalm 144).”

Are you in?

Amanda Evinger is the mother of six, and the author of A Homeschooling Mother’s Planner and Devotional (Tan Books). A freelance journalist, her work can be found at the National Catholic Register, the Latin Mass Magazine and other publications.