National Catholic Register


‘A Dozen Reasons Life Is Winning’

Father Frank Pavone of the Priests for Life comments on Pope Benedict’s recent comments on Catholic politicians and Communion, certain Catholic congressmen’s statements on the Pope, and election outlooks for 2008.

BY Tom McFeely

June 10-16, 2007 Issue | Posted 6/5/07 at 9:00 AM


FATHER FRANK PAVONE said these are hopeful times for American pro-lifers.

The national director of Priests for Life points to the recent Supreme Court decision upholding the federal ban on partial-birth abortion and to Pope Benedict XVI’s recent comments about Communion and pro-abortion politicians as particularly favorable developments.

He spoke May 15 with contributing editor Tom McFeely about the current pro-life landscape in America, and about the development of his new priestly order, the Missionaries of the Gospel of Life.

Pope Benedict XVI made some important remarks to reporters during his flight to Brazil May 9 about pro-abortion politicians and their reception of Communion. What was the Pope saying to the Church about this matter?

The Pope was simply reinforcing the existing canon law of the Church, and recognizing the right of the local bishop to declare or impose an excommunication in certain circumstances. So it’s not surprising that he did that.

But he was also reaffirming Catholic doctrine about the Eucharist. Communion means union with Jesus, and when one does not recognize the right to life of other human beings, then that person is putting himself or herself out of union with Jesus and with his teachings.

The act of Communion is one that says, “I want to be in union, not only with the truth that Jesus revealed, but in union with the love he instills in us.” It’s really a biblical foundation here that we are reasserting, when we say that politicians who don’t acknowledge the right to life exclude themselves from Communion.

It’s really a reflection of what Jesus said about when you bring your gifts to the altar and realize your brother has something against you — leave your gift there, and be reconciled with your brother. So we can think of that in terms of, if I come to the altar and I have unforgiveness or I have hatred in my heart for someone, well then I’m not ready to receive Communion because being in union with Jesus means being in union with all of those whom he made and loves and redeems. In other words, all human beings.

So I have to go first and be reconciled with my neighbor. This applies to the unborn neighbor.

The politician who looks at that unborn neighbor as someone who’s disposable or as one who has no basic rights or is not deserving of protection is not reconciled with that unborn neighbor and therefore has to reconcile first.

We have to recognize their humanity, affirm their rights, sustain and protect their dignity. And then we’re ready, in terms of the unborn, to be in union with Jesus.

That obviously applies not only to politicians but to everyone. So the Pope is reaffirming things that are fundamental and basic.

On May 14, 18 House Democrats issued a statement publicly repudiating the Pope’s remarks regarding reception of Communion by pro-abortion politicians. What’s your response to this statement by these Catholic Congressmen?

They claimed that they are in favor of preserving every life, but of course this is contradictory. If they are not preserving the lives of the unborn, then they are not preserving every human life.

It’s not just that they have a problem with the faith or with the Pope. The problem starts way before that. The problem is on a basic human level. We’re talking about the violent destruction of a human being — are you or are you not going to do something about that?

Looking at the 2008 presidential campaign as it is beginning to unfold, what are some of the pro-life considerations?

The campaign is still in its very early stages, but it’s good that it’s early. Because now is the time that we have more freedom to choose who’s going to be on the ballot.

We do have pro-life candidates out there in the field. To help people to know who these people are, two websites that I use are and These are places that people can go to get the lay of the land when it comes to the candidates.

You find the one you think is best, and then you work very hard to give that person name recognition, let people know what their positions actually are. It’s very important to look at the voting records if it’s a person who already holds or has held public office in the past, and to build up the person’s base of support urging other people and organizations to support them.

All of this is very important activity at this stage of the process. And, of course, abortion will be a critical issue again in this race.

What is your reaction to the presidential candidacy of Rudy Giuliani, and his statements that he is “personally opposed” to abortion but also supports a woman’s “right to choose”?

He has, as many people have tried to do, been trying to please both sides in the abortion controversy. And while it is certainly possible for both sides to agree together, for example, to reduce the number of abortions, these are ultimately two incompatible positions.

There is no way to please both sides of that particular divide. And that divide is ultimately the most important political question, because it is all about who belongs to the political community.

So if Rudy Giuliani and others try to say, “Well, I am personally opposed to abortion but at the same time I want to give the right to choose,” it’s self-contradictory. It’s like saying, “I’m opposed to rape and I’m not going to do anything to stop it. I’m opposed to child abuse and I’m not going to interfere with somebody’s choice to do it.”

That kind of position completely ignores the victim, and so it’s just an inappropriate position for any candidate to have.

Last month, in its Carhart v. Gonzalez decision, the Supreme Court upheld the federal ban on partial-birth abortions. What is the significance of this decision to the effort to end all abortions?

This was a great decision. I was present for the oral arguments in the Supreme Court, and was involved in one of the briefs that was submitted to the court, followed this thing very closely.

We expected it this victory, and we expected by this [5-4] margin. And it’s a tremendous step forward, although it’s simply a ban on one procedure.

First of all, that itself is very significant, because if we are ultimately going to be able to ban all procedures, we have to be able to ban one.

Second, the decision itself lays into the court’s jurisprudence on abortion a certain trajectory. We are now moving in the direction of far less-privileged status for abortion under the law. The abortion advocates basically want the so-called “right to abortion” not only to be recognized, but they want it also to enjoy the kind of status that our right to free speech and religion have.

And this court has said with this decision, No, they’re not going to give this privileged status to abortion. They’re going to recognize the rights of the states to regulate abortion.

And in fact, the decision emphasizes that the state has an interest in protecting the dignity even of unborn children. So we have here a step forward — a significant victory that should not be underestimated.

Obviously it is not the final goal. We have much to do to get to the final goal, but we should be grateful that this is a step in the right direction. And it’s also a fruit of the hard work that so many people did in the elections, whereby they chose the president and the Senate who ultimately confirmed the two justices who voted in the majority in this case.

In 2005, you founded a new order of pro-life priests. How are things progressing with this initiative?

The Missionaries of the Gospel of Life is the new community we have founded, born out of the work of Priests for Life. It’s the same mission, the same spirituality.

We have seminarians now — we have four men now who are fully immersed in the program. We begin by having them in Amarillo, Texas, where we’re based, and giving them an immersion in the pro-life movement and taking them to various parts of the country so that they can experience the work of the movement firsthand.

Then, they use Holy Apostles College and Seminary in Cromwell, Conn., to begin their studies for the priesthood.

Beside the seminarians, we’ve got a number of priests right now looking into joining us. Those who are already priests can transfer into this community if they want to do pro-life work on a full-time, permanent basis.

We also have lay associates of two types. First of all, laypeople can join the community, so they would be the equivalent of brothers in a religious community. We call them lay missionaries. This would be for single men, of course.

And then, similar to having a third order, we have the lay associates. These would be men and women, married or single, who already are doing pro-life work but want to do it now in the context of this spirituality and of this community that has been approved by the Church.

People can then study that spirituality and then profess their promises as Missionaries of the Gospel of Life. They can get more information about how to do that at

Surveying the pro-life landscape in America right now, how does the overall picture look to you?

It looks very promising.

I have been giving a talk in these days called, “A Dozen Reasons Why the Pro-Life Movement is Winning.” There are definite signs of progress; we are moving in the right direction in terms of abortion. And I have every confidence that we are going to be celebrating the restoration of protection to our unborn brothers and sisters sooner than most of us would guess.

We don’t know exactly what will bring about the definitive end to legal abortion. It will probably be in a way which is surprising to all of us. But we certainly see the signs of progress, some of which we’ve mentioned already.

You know, some people ask, “Can we ever end abortion, because there’s always sin, there’s always wrongdoing?” Of course there is, but the fact is we did end the institution of slavery in this country, we ended the Holocaust.

These massive, institutionalized evils can be brought to an end, and we are on the road to doing that with abortion.

Tom McFeely is based in

Victoria, British Columbia.