Justice Demands That Human Life Be Defended!
Father Frank Pavone- It is dismaying to hear some pro-life politicians calling for a “truce” on social issues like abortion – possible White House contenders Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels and Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour among them. Their suggestion is that it’s more important to do whatever is necessary to get elected than to worry about issues that appear to be intractable.
This tactic is akin to the pro-life and pro-abortion movements agreeing to disagree, an option often considered a reasonable one. It does not require that either side change its views, but simply agrees to allow the different views, and the practices that flow from them.
Sorry, but this is a proposal we in the pro-life movement can’t accept. There can be no truce.
First of all, to ask us to “agree to disagree” about abortion is to ask us to change our position on it. Why do we disagree in the first place? When we oppose abortion, we disagree with the notion that it is even negotiable. We do not only claim that we cannot practice abortion, but that nobody can practice it, precisely because it violates the most fundamental human right, the right to life. To “agree to disagree” means that we no longer see abortion for what it is – a violation of a right so fundamental that disagreement cannot be allowed to tamper with it.
To “agree to disagree” is to foster the notion that the baby is a baby only if the mother thinks it is, that the child has value only if the mother says it does and that we have responsibility only for those we choose to have responsibility for.
Certainly, there are many disputes in our nation about which we can “agree to disagree.” Various proposals, programs and strategies can be debated as we try to figure out how best to secure people’s rights. But these legitimate areas of disagreement relate to how to secure people’s rights, whereas the abortion controversy is about whether to secure or even recognize those rights at all. We can agree to disagree whether certain government programs should be allowed, but not whether acts of violence should be allowed. “Agree to disagree” seems like a neutral posture to assume, but it neutralizes what can never be neutral; namely, the right to life.
Furthermore, the abortion dispute is not merely about conceptual disagreement – it’s about justice. It’s about violence, bloodshed and victims who need to be defended. In the midst of a policy permitting thousands of babies a day to be killed, to “agree to disagree” means to cease to defend the absolute rights of these victims.
We don’t fight oppression by “agreeing to disagree” with the oppressor. It is precisely when the oppressor disagrees that we have to intervene to stop the violence. The fact that the oppressor does not recognize the victim as a person does not remove our obligation to the victim. In the face of injustice, we are not simply called to disagree with it, but to stop it.
Worse even than the notion of agreeing to disagree is the suggestion that abortion is irrelevant as an issue in the 2010 elections because it is “settled law.” No issue is less settled than abortion. More importantly, America’s courts and legislatures have a history of changing “settled law.”
Many reversals of Supreme Court cases came about when new evidence made it clear that someone’s rights, not previously recognized, were being violated. Thus, Louis Brandeis brought forward the facts about how workers were being harmed.
We are now witnessing the same trend regarding children in the womb. Evidence that has been around for quite some time demonstrating their humanity, and their inalienable right to life, is finding its way into legislatures and courts.
With hundreds of embryological studies, and massive evidence of the harm abortion does to women, such evidence, combined with new legal concepts, can challenge Roe v. Wade in the same way its erroneous ancestral decisions were challenged.
The day after Roe v. Wade was decided, the New York Times headline read, “Supreme Court settles abortion.” It has remained the most unsettled issue on our national landscape.
The Gates Of Hell Shall Not Prevail Against It!
Father Frank Pavone-The need to end abortion is our world’s first obligation at the moment, because nothing takes more lives, and no right other than life itself is more necessary to secure if all our other rights are to be preserved.
The war against the unborn can only ultimately be stopped by and through the Church. When we mobilize the Church, when we fully activate and encourage the Body of Christ to use the natural and supernatural gifts given to us to overcome the Culture of Death, then victory will be achieved.
Imagine the vast structure of the Catholic Church. In the United States alone, we have nearly 19,000 parishes, 8,000 schools, and over 41,000 priests. Each diocese and parish has means of communication with the people they serve on a daily basis. Just from a natural, sociological point of view, this is a vast network of interaction and communication, geared precisely to helping people love God and neighbor. Imagine what can happen if our priests infuse that vast structure with clear, vigorous, and compassionate pro-life teaching and action.
The Church is the only institution that has a Divine guarantee that it will prevail over the culture of death. “The gates of hell will not prevail against it,” the Lord said (Mt.16:18). In a battle, a gate does not go into the battlefield to attack the enemy; rather, it stands still to defend the city against the attack of the enemy. It is the Church that is on the offensive against the gates of hell. Those gates cannot withstand the power of heaven. The gates of death fall in the presence of eternal life. Sin melts in the presence of saving grace. Falsehood collapses in the presence of living truth.
To fully exercise those gifts and apply those tools to the specific problem of abortion, therefore, does not so much require more structure as it does more spirit, more awareness, more courage, and more determination to use both the means and the opportunities we already have.
We will win; after all, it’s an unequal praying field.
Father Frank Pavone-I begin by asking the question, “Why do we pray at all, when God already knows his own will and intends to carry it out?” As we know, in the model for all prayer, the Our Father, our Lord taught us to pray, “Thy will be done.” All our prayer is based on that attitude. But certainly we don’t need to remind God to do things he’s going to forget.
So why do we pray? Because God wants us to be involved in what he is doing! Of course he’s going to do his will. But our prayers really change things, because God wills that his decisions will rely in part on whether we pray and act.
One of his firm decisions, which in fact represents the purpose of salvation history, is that he will destroy death. And we can actually hasten the process and spread the victory of life.
“The Lord will destroy death forever!” This marvelous declaration from Isaiah 25:8 should sustain us daily in our pro-life efforts. When we pray to end abortion, we are not just asking God to do us some favor or to grant a request. It’s much more momentous than that. When we ask him to end abortion, we are pleading for the fulfillment of his great plan of conquering death.
It was about this that God first spoke when he promised in Genesis 3:15 (the “first gospel”) that the head of the serpent would be crushed. It was for this that Jesus himself died and rose again; it is for this that every Church ministry exists. Proclaiming the Gospel means proclaiming life! As Paul explains in 1 Cor. 15, as in Adam all die, so in Christ shall all be made alive, but each in his own order. Christ is the first to rise from the dead; then all things are to be made subject to him, and in him, all will rise at the end of time. “Then shall come to pass the saying that is written: Death is swallowed up in victory!” (1 Cor. 15:54).
When Scripture talks about the new and eternal Jerusalem, urging us to look forward to that day when we will all be gathered around the throne, it declares, “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying out nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away” (Rev. 21:4). That is why we pray to end abortion, because we are caught up in a mighty dynamic of history, over which God presides. Our prayers are a great Amen to a process in which we are all involved and which culminates in the eternal victory of life!
Attention Pastors: Please Speak Out!
Fr. Frank Pavone Speaking Out on Abortion
Priests For Life – Why don’t more pastors speak out against abortion? Some of them actually do not know how to connect the issue with the Scripture readings. They know that the readings are supposed to be the basis of their homilies, but they do not find many references to the unborn child or to the killing of such children.
But the themes of pro-life are on every page of Scripture. Homilies are not simply Scripture lessons. Rather they apply the great Biblical themes to the day to day challenges that believers face as they live their lives.
So, for instance, the Bible is clear that only God has dominion over human life – he made it, he cares for it, he owns it. That is why no human being can own or kill or devalue.
Fr. Pavone Answers Why Pastors Do Not
Preach About Abortion
Priest for Life – Many ask why pastors do not preach more about abortion. One reason that some give is that they do not want to hurt the people in the congregation who have had abortions.
Now it is certainly true that there are people in the congregation who have had abortions, and it is also true that they have pain.
But if they are in pain from their abortion, and the pastor is silent about the topic, what are they to think? They could conclude that the pastor doesn’t know about their pain, or doesn’t care about it, or that though he knows and cares, there is no hope.
But none of these is true. He does know, he does care, and there is hope – and that is precisely why he needs to speak up.
Father Frank Pavone-An important perspective to consider on the question of whether pro-abortion politicians should receive communion is the teaching of Jesus about the need to reconcile with our brothers and sisters before coming to the altar.
23 “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.”
Those who allow abortion are not reconciled with their unborn brothers and sisters. To fail to see the equal dignity of children in the womb with children outside the womb is prejudice. To consider the unborn as “non-persons” and unworthy of Constitutional protection is an insult. And to consider one’s unborn brothers and sisters as “tissue” or “parasites” is name-calling of the worst kind.
Those who do this have to go first and be reconciled with their unborn brothers and sisters before they can present their gift at the altar.
Communion is bestowed in the context of the Sacrifice of the Mass. That sacrifice is not only the sacrifice of Jesus, but of each of us along with Jesus. We offer him everything – our thoughts, our opinions, our relationships, our choices. We bring our gift to the altar, because we want to be reconciled to God. But those who want to be one with God must be one with their neighbors – all of them.
To be reconciled with our neighbors, we first have to recognize them. The command “Love your neighbor as yourself” actually means “Love your neighbor as a person like yourself.” Recognize that no matter how different your neighbor may seem, he or she has equal dignity to you, and therefore demands your respect and love. Failure to protect the unborn is rooted in the failure to recognize them, which is the most fundamental kind of failure to love. The abortion controversy then becomes a matter of expressing beliefs rather than stopping bloodshed.
To be reconciled with our neighbors, furthermore, we have to respond appropriately to their needs. “How can God’s love survive in one who has enough of this world’s goods but turns his back on his brother when he sees him in need?” (1 Jn. 3:17) Is there anyone more in need than the child in the womb? Is there any need greater than to have one’s life saved from a lethal threat?
To be reconciled to our neighbors, we must avoid false witness. To hold, in word or action, that the unborn are of less value than the rest of us, is to “bear false witness against your neighbor.” If we are doing that, we are not ready to present our gift at the altar.
Communion means union, and union requires reconciliation. This applies to every citizen. How much more does it apply to those who, as public officials, have the opportunity to pass laws that either grant or remove protection from their most vulnerable neighbors?
Father Frank Pavone-Abortion does not only break the Fifth Commandment, “Thou shalt not kill.” It breaks all the commandments. In this and following columns, let’s reflect on how each Commandment illumines and strengthens our pro-life commitment.
The First Commandment is “I am the Lord your God; you shall not have other gods besides me.” There are many ways of having false gods. Pope John Paul II once wrote that to think we are the ones who decide whether a child should be created is to say that God is not God. At the root of the contraceptive mentality, and at the root of the so-called “pro-choice” mentality, is idolatry. We place our choices before God’s choices. We break the first of all the commandments. In the Old Testament, we read that God’s people committed idolatry when they sacrificed their sons and daughters in the fire to demons. Until we end the child sacrifice of legal abortion, we are guilty of the same kind of idolatry. We are called instead to worship the Lord of Life!
The Second Commandment is “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.” This does not only mean that we shouldn’t use the Lord’s name in cursing when we are angry. It also means that we should not use God’s name or His Word to justify actions that he abhors.
There are religious groups and individuals in our society who do exactly that when it comes to abortion. They say they are “prayerfully pro-choice.” Groups like the “Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice” claim that God’s word allows abortion. They hold “pro-choice” Bible studies, and they even carry out pro-choice liturgies to bless the “choice” of those who abort.
This is a distortion of God’s word and an abuse of his name. It is a direct violation of the second commandment. We are called instead to honor the name of God by honoring the lives he creates.
The Third Commandment requires us to Keep Holy the Lord’s Day. Scripture tells us the Lord rested on the seventh day. This was not because he was tired, but rather because he was foretelling the Sabbath day that Jesus would rest in the tomb after his work of offering the sacrifice of his passion and death. On that day the Lord preached to the dead and bid them to leave the place of death and to come with him into life eternal.
Keeping holy the Lord’s Day, then, reminds us that God is on the side of human life. It also reminds us that he is Lord of life. All our activities and choices are under him, which is why we pause on the Lord’s Day to worship him in Church.
Father Frank Pavone-James 2:10 states, “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.” In some way, then, abortion breaks all of the commandments. It violates love, which sums up the commandments. We continue in this and the following column to reflect on how each Commandment illumines and strengthens our pro-life commitment.
The Fourth Commandment is “Honor your father and mother.” The Lord worked through our parents to bring us into being; he asked for their collaboration, for their generosity, in bringing about a plan that he had decided on from all eternity – that we should exist to love and serve him. This commandment points to the dignity of human procreation. It also points to the profound privilege and responsibility that parents have in being open to life and in being ready to protect the lives that God entrusts to their care. Those who claim a right to abortion are violating the fourth commandment. No parent is the owner of his or her children. God alone owns and rules human life. And he entrusts to parents the awesome gift of welcoming that life with joy.
The Fifth Commandment states, “You shall not kill.” The literal translation of this commandment forbids murder. This is not about a prohibition on killing cattle for food or on killing bugs for our safety. Nor is it an absolute prohibition on repelling an aggressor. The commandment means that we do not have authority to murder the innocent. Babies are always in that category. The commandment against directly, deliberately killing a baby or any other innocent person is absolute.
From this commandment comes the prohibition on abortion, at any stage of pregnancy and for any reason whatsoever. The commandment is based on God’s absolute dominion over human life. He alone gives and takes the lives of human beings; he alone governs who comes into the world and who goes out, and when, and how.
The Sixth Commandment says, “You shall not commit adultery.” In keeping with the understanding that commandments are like chapter headings, and that there are many other actions included under each one of them, this commandment prohibits us from abusing the gift of human sexuality and marriage — and with good reason. These gifts are given to us for our good as a human family. When we use them as God intends, they serve life. But when we abuse them, they lead to death, not just spiritually, but physically. When we speak to our nation about the tens of millions of children ripped apart by abortion, let’s challenge them to realize that one of the ways we arrived at that holocaust is that we ripped apart the very meaning and purpose of human sexuality.