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Fr. Frank Pavone Back on the Front Line of the Fundamental Human Rights Movement of our Age: The Right to Life
By Deacon Keith Fournier
July 31st, 2012
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)
When the official history of the great human rights movement of our age is written - and make no mistake it will be written - there will be several women, men, associations, movements and organizations holding a deserved place of honor. Right at the top of that list will be an indefatigable Catholic Priest and Champion for Life named Fr Frank Pavone and the vital association which the Lord of Life called him to found, Priests for Life. I recently had the joy of speaking at length with my friend of many years. I asked him about the events of the last several months and have incorporated his responses in this article.
WASHINGTON, DC (Catholic Online) - When the official history of the great human rights movement of our age is written - and make no mistake it will be written - there will be several women, men, associations, movements and organizations holding a deserved place of honor. Right at the top of that list will be an indefatigable Catholic Priest and Champion for Life named Fr Frank Pavone and the vital association which the Lord of Life called him to found, Priests for Life.
Let me explain. The great human rights movement of our age is the struggle to restore to the Civil and positive law of this Nation - and the rest of the nations - the legal recognition of the fundamental Human Right to Life. This Right to Life informs the foundation of all other rights and is revealed by the Natural Law which can be known through the exercise of reason. The Natural Law is binding upon all men and women.
Without recognizing this first Right to life there can be no recognition of any other derivative rights. In fact, the entire infrastructure of human rights is placed at risk. All true Human Rights are goods of human persons. When there is no human person there can be no rights endowed upon them or exercised by them.All the "rights talk" in the world will not change that.
Civil Rights are those human rights which are first recognized - and then properly protected by - civil government. The American founders stood in the trajectory of Western civilization in their insistence that human rights are not given or bestowed by government but by the God in whose Image we have all been created. Truly just governments are instituted precisely to secure these human rights. The first among them is the Right to Life.
There is no more urgent work in the contemporary culture than the work of the movement called "Pro-Life". That is precisely because the Right to Life movement is the foundational human and thus civil rights movement. We have failed to hear the cry of our youngest neighbors in the first home of the whole human race. When we allow their killing for any reason and by any means - and then actually call it a "right" - we profane the very word. We also place our future survival as a Nation at risk.
When we allow their innocent blood to be shed and then protect the evil act with the Police Power of the State we betray our claim to being a civilized people. When we deny them the Freedom to be born we undermine the very understanding of ordered liberty upon which our Nation was founded. Those engaged in the Pro-Life movement assert with the American founders that there are truths that are self evident - such as our equality before God - and rights which are inalienable - such as the Right to Life.
When we are victorious in this monumental struggle - and we will be victorious - there will be many heroes whose sacrifice and courage will be recounted in our history books. They will be celebrated by our children and grandchildren as Champions of Life who overcame the current culture of death, replacing it with a new Culture of life. When recognition of the fundamental Human Right to life is restored to the Civil and Positive law, these heroes will be remembered, honored and imitated.
Right at the top of that list will be a Catholic Priest named Fr. Frank Pavone. He may be of small physical stature, like David of the Old Testament story, but he has a heart which is huge and the courage of a spiritual warrior. Fr Frank Pavone has wielded his small smooth stones and sling mightily in the battle against the Goliath of the contemporary Culture of Death and that giant staggers as a result.
I have had the privilege of calling Fr Frank my friend for several decades. In all that time I have always found him to be a faithful Catholic Priest of genuine holiness, simplicity of life and heroic virtue. That is why I am happy to report that this great man is back on the front line of the Pro-Life battle. I recently had the joy of speaking at length with my friend of many years. I asked him about the events of the last several months and have incorporated his responses in this article. However, as always, his actions speak the most loudly.
For example, on Friday, July 27, 2012, Father Frank issued the following statement about a funeral service he attended in Charlotte, North Carolina: "On Friday morning, July 27, I will stand proudly with my brothers and sisters of Operation Save America to honor the body of an aborted child for whom we will offer a memorial service in which the public will have an opportunity to participate. We have also arranged for the burial of the child."
"It is not often that we have the bodies of aborted babies. Unfortunately, the act by which their lives are dishonored and their bodies dismembered takes those bodies and discards them with the medical waste. But once in a while, we are able to retrieve these bodies."
"When we do so, we give them the honor that others have denied them. The act of violence that killed them is done in secret; we believe that the act of reparation that honors them should be done in public. The cold-hearted killing was done in darkness; the broken-hearted mourning should be done in the bright light of day."
"We will have an open casket at this memorial service so that people can see the bruised body of this baby. The body is intact, having been killed by prostaglandin abortion, which induces violent contractions that bruise and ultimately kill the child. Seeing the child awakens the conscience to the fact that abortion kills real people, and must be put to an end without further delay."
See what I mean? Courageous men put their lives on the line. They never back down from speaking the truth! Fr Frank Pavone is such a courageous man. Hopefully, most of our readers have heard by now that the Vatican has affirmed, contrary to some errant reports, that Fr. Frank was never suspended from priestly ministry. In fact, lest there be any further confusion, he is now free to exercise his priestly ministry worldwide.
This is a very important matter to get clear. The word "suspension" was inaccurately used in some reports to imply that there was some alleged wrongdoing on his part. There was not. During this entire period of time Fr Frank was simply asked to limit his travel and ministry to his own Diocese. He did as his Bishop asked and continued full priestly ministry in his home Diocese.
In fact, he did what good priests do when they love the Church. He trusted that the Lord works through her. He remained faithful to his vows, to his priestly ministry, to the Bishop and to the canonical process offered by the Church which he loves and serves with such dignity. As a student of Church history I recognized the pattern of fidelity in his behavior and my esteem for him only grew. He fully expressed his concerns about the matter and allowed the Holy Spirit to work through the Church.
Now, this Champion of the Unborn, the infirmed, the disabled and the elderly is back on the front line rattling the Gates of Hell. I had to share the good news with our readers around the globe. The Vatican has also once again expressed its high regard for the work of Priests for Life the importance of Fr Frank being able to carry it out, with the generous permission of his Ordinary, around the world.
Two examples of that Vatican support concern collaborative projects coming up. The Pontifical Council for the Family and the Secretariat of State has invited Priests for Life to help sponsor the training conference for Catholic Non Governmental Organizations (NGO's) in September. Pope Benedict XVI has called for a World Day of Life which will be celebrated on June 16, 2013 with events in St. Peter's Square. Fr Frank and Priests for Life will lead a national pilgrimage to take part in the event.
Fr Frank is a priest of the Diocese of Amarillo, Texas. However, given the nature of the global apostolate of Priests for Life, he is, with the help of Rome, working to build a new canonical structure by which he and other priests can give their lives for the unborn. I ask our readers to pray for this important effort.
I know that such a global network of priests - fully available for the Pro-Life apostolate - has always been at the heart of the vision the Lord gave to Fr Frank Pavone. Over the years I have collaborated with him on several efforts including Deacons for Life. There are challenges associated with building such a worldwide ecclesial movement or association.
For example, where are the resources and personnel going to come from? When priests give their lives to the missions, to education, to ministry to the sick and poor, they need a base of support. So it is with Priests who seek to now give themselves to ministry to our first neighbors, those whom Blessed Teresa of Calcutta rightly called the "poorest of the poor", the unborn.
Church history is filled with examples of the Holy Spirit guiding the Church as she recognizes such ecclesial movements and associations and provides canonical structures which accommodate their vital work in the heart of the Church for the sake of the world. That is precisely what is underway concerning Priests for Life. No- one at Priests for Life has ever questioned the structure of authority in the Church. What they seek is the best vehicle which will enable them to provide the time, attention, and resources needed to protect the lives of the unborn.
Some are asking whether the events of the last several months and the attendant confusion affected Priests for Life financially. I asked Fr Frank that question directly in our discussion. As always, he was forthright in his response. "A little, yes. But many people give to Priests for Life precisely because they want to see the Church do more, not less, about abortion."
I am numbered among them and I invite our readers to do the same. You can read about the many apostolic works of Priests for Life and join them in their mission by going here.
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