Longtime activist Rev. Frank Pavone counters this frustrated mindset with challenge, encouragement, plain facts, and a healthy dose of strategy. He explores biblical, moral, historical, and legal reasons Christians belong in the public square and challenges both churches and individual Christians to full engagement.
Pavone argues convincingly that the battle against abortion not only can be won, but must be won. The soul of our nation depends on it.
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How You Can Play A Part in Ending the Greatest Evil of Our Day
By Frank Pavone
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2015 Fr. Frank Pavone
All rights reserved.
In the Public Square
IN JANUARY 2014, THE NOMINALLY CATHOLIC GOVERNOR OF New York, Andrew Cuomo, publicly declared that people "who are right-to-life" were among those who "have no place in the state of New York, because that's not who New Yorkers are." Cuomo merely said out loud what others of his mind-set say among themselves.
He was, of course, wrong on many different levels — morally, civically, and prophetically. Not only do pro-lifers belong in the public square but we will also one day own it. To accomplish this, we must first know why we belong and then understand what we need to do to prevail.
ACCEPTING THE PRICE
The fifty-six men who signed the Declaration of Independence did not do so lightly. When they signed, "with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence" and "pledge[d] to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor," they did so knowing their signatures could cost them their lives and their fortunes. As to "sacred honor," that could not be taken away, but under duress, it could be surrendered.
First among the "unalienable rights" the signers pledged to protect was "life." Legalized abortion clearly violates the principles they risked all for. It is not simply a "bad policy" or an "unjust law," but rather, it marks the dissolution of this nation's most fundamental contract with its citizens. The battle against abortion demands — no less than the founding of this country demanded — a steely resolve and a willingness to accept the price of engagement. I make a plea in these pages that we accept these risks. If need be, we have to be prepared to lay down our lives for our unborn brothers and sisters.
We cannot escape risk in this battle. Nor can we fit the battle into our lifestyle. We must fit our lifestyle into the battle and interrupt our patterns of convenience and comfort as need be. The champions of abortion do not rest. Neither can we. The battle to defend the children in the womb — that one segment of humanity whose rights are most cruelly denied — is a battle for humanity itself. And it is worth everything.
There are certain battles in life and in history that call for the commitment of every fiber of one's being, every ounce of one's life and strength, for the whole of life. Ending abortion is one of them. That's the power of this cause. And that's the essence of this book: a call to cast off the shackles by which we limit ourselves, because those indeed are the most powerful shackles of all. We are responsible for breaking out of our denial, our fear, and our unwillingness to sacrifice for the cause of life.
I remember the day early in my priesthood when the iron door closed behind me. I knew then I had to devote my life to this battle. It is a battle that, once commenced, can never be abandoned. I judge no one else's commitment, and I respect the limits that others face. In the final analysis, victory will not require vast multitudes of people, but rather relatively small numbers willing to take immense risks. I am hoping the readers of this book will be among them. For me, compromise and moderation are not options. I am reminded of the stirring words of abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison when asked to moderate his stand against slavery:
I am aware that many object to the severity of my language; but is there not cause for severity? I will be as harsh as truth, and as uncompromising as justice. On this subject, I do not wish to think, or to speak, or write, with moderation. No! No! Tell a man whose house is on fire to give a moderate alarm; tell him to moderately rescue his wife from the hands of the ravisher; tell the mother to gradually extricate her babe from the fire into which it has fallen — but urge me not to use moderation in a cause like the present. I am in earnest — I will not equivocate — I will not excuse — I will not retreat a single inch — AND I WILL BE HEARD. The apathy of the people is enough to make every statue leap from its pedestal, and to hasten the resurrection of the dead.
Our language need not be severe. Our goal, after all, is to make converts, not enemies, but we must be prepared to call things by their names and do what Saint Paul said we must do regarding the works of darkness: "Expose them!" (Eph. 5:11). To accomplish this, we would do well to emulate Garrison's tenacity. Like Garrison in his crusade against slavery, we must not equivocate. We must not retreat a single inch. We must be heard!
OWN THE PUBLIC SQUARE
Soon after a major election in which many pro-life candidates had won, I received several encouraging e-mails about the homily I had given on Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN) just before Election Day. "I never in my life put so much effort into and felt so good about my vote," wrote one correspondent who took it upon herself to research all the relevant candidates and share what she learned. "I will in the future remember what I heard this morning and always research my candidates and not just vote in haste. Wouldn't it be great if everyone went through that effort, maybe things would change for the better?"
Soon after, I heard from a correspondent who was inspired to do something he rarely did — vote! To do this meant fixing a flat on a rainy day even before going to work. "I felt a strong compulsion to go and make my voice and vote count for all the pre-born babies that will never get the chance to vote," he wrote. "I knew that I was responding to God's call to do my part. I was so energized when leaving the polling station I forgot completely about all the obstacles impeding me casting my vote."
When I begin to respond to so many of the misconceptions about "separation of church and state," I think of these e-mails. They exemplify how church and state are supposed to work together. The Church — and by "the Church" I mean the spectrum of Christian churches, the entire Body of Christ — does not set up the voting booths, but it motivates and equips people to go into them and make a difference. The Church does not write the laws, but bears witness to the truth of God to which those laws must correspond. Politics is not our salvation; Jesus Christ is. But fidelity to Him includes doing our part as faithful citizens, and to exercise our rights as citizens appropriately, we have to understand the relationship between the Church and the state, and how both of these entities are responsible for protecting and safeguarding the right to life.
After Jesus rose from the dead, He said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age" (Matt. 28:18–20 esv). Having been given "all the authority in heaven and on earth," those disciples who saw Jesus after His resurrection would confirm, as Mark reported, "The kingdom of God has come with power" (Mark 9:1). To understand the mission of the Church, and her relationship with the state and with politics, we must first understand the person of Jesus Christ, who rules the universe with all authority, all power, and all dominion.
To prevail in the public square, we must take the Incarnation seriously. Jesus is really God and Man. If we look at the different heresies in regard to who Jesus is, we find the source of the misunderstanding about the nature of the Church and its relationship to the world, to the state, and to politics. For example, there is the old heresy that says Jesus only appeared to be human. He didn't really exist as a human being. He didn't really suffer. He didn't really die. This gave rise to a form of Christianity that is actually overspiritualized, and an overspiritualized Church can easily end up being overly disengaged from the world.
Then there's the other extreme, that Jesus Christ was a man and nothing other. Although specially appointed by God, He was still a man, who did not really share the divine nature. If that's the starting point for an understanding of Jesus Christ, it reduces the Church to just another human institution, like the state, one whose power is only political, only human, and whose goal is an earthly paradise. If we see the Church as only spiritual or only human, we lose sight of its distinct identity and its distinct contribution to the political arena. In reality, Christ and therefore the Church are both human and divine. The Church encompasses everything that's human. The Church takes humanity seriously. For the Church, "matter" matters.
In a similar vein, the problems that we face today regarding the sanctity of life, marriage, and sexuality reflect a mistaken view of the human person. When people say, "My body, my choice" or "I can do what I want with my body," what do they really mean? Is your body a thing that you do something with, or is it you? The Church has always proclaimed that the body is an aspect of the person. So the body is not a mere object that you do something with, like, say, a hammer or a car. Your body is you. As soon as you say, "I can do what I want with my body," you create a separation between yourself and your body. You're over here and your body is over there, and you're doing something with it. So often, in fact, we hear people who have done something they know to be wrong, even criminal, speak as though they were somehow removed from the person committing the wrong.
This is not the Church's view of the human person. The Church encompasses everything that is human and takes matter so seriously that the physical body is the person just as much as the spiritual soul is. In other words, the Church proclaims a living unity of body and soul. The Church exists precisely because the Kingdom of God has broken into the world. Both its origin and its destiny are from above. We're not seeking to build up some kind of earthly paradise, but neither can we forget that we are, indeed, living on earth today.
So what is the relationship between the Kingdom and the world? After Jesus said, "All authority ... has been given to me," He told the apostles — and us by extension — to go and change the world.
"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations," said Jesus (Matt. 28:19 NASB). All humanity, every human being ever created, is called to follow Christ and to share the benefits of the new and everlasting covenant. The Church has a commission: to make disciples of all the nations, to carry out everything Jesus has commanded. No one is exempt.
The same people who belong to the Church also belong to the state. Because one and the same person belongs to both, there is a necessary connection. The connection is rooted in us as individuals, and in our actions. And when we begin to ask whether our actions are good or bad, right or wrong, we enter the arena of morality. When the state looks at our actions, it's concerned about right or wrong in terms of the law. When the Church looks at our actions, it is concerned about right or wrong in terms of our relationship with God and our eternal salvation. We have been called to be part of the Kingdom of God, and yet at the same time we have to organize ourselves politically in our society.
The Second Vatican Council's Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World is one of the richest documents ever issued, especially on the subject of the relationship between church and state, and it's useful to Christians of all stripes. The document acknowledges that the Kingdom of God has broken into the world, and therefore the Church exists. The state exists as well, as we are reminded every April 15, if not more often. How, then, does the growth of the Kingdom relate to human activity and the growth of nations and states?
The analysis contained in the document is marvelous. It argues that the progress of humankind is not to be confused with the growth of the Kingdom of God. They are distinct. We are not, however, to see Church and state as totally separate. All of the good that God's grace enables us to accomplish in this life — the acts of justice, of brotherhood, of peace — is not lost in the Kingdom of God. God does not overlook the good that we are able to do as individuals, as groups, and as nations. Rather, God uses these good efforts as building blocks of the Kingdom. The good things we produce in this world will endure in the world to come.
The document reminds us, however, that the Kingdom is brought to its fulfillment only by the Second Coming of Christ. We do not look for an earthly paradise. We do not look for a utopia. We look for Christ to come again. But while looking for Him to come again, we do not wait passively. We wait actively. To be sure, every good that we do in this world is compromised by evil and error and is somehow even deformed and tainted by sin. Yet we move forward in bringing about as much good as we can because we know that when He comes again, He is going to take the good we have been able to bring about in this world and purify it. He is going to lift it up.
As we wait actively, we must also remind ourselves to act judiciously. Passion does not preclude good judgment and a measure of reserve. The Church, starting with Jesus Himself, has looked at the state with reservation, saying both yes and no. Importantly, the Christian "no" to the state is based on the very nature of Christianity as a "kingdom ... not of this world," the phrase Jesus used when Pilate asked Him whether or not He was a king (John 18:33–36 NIV).
When the spies of the chief priests asked Jesus about paying tax to the emperor, He asked whose image was on the coin and was told "Caesar's." Said Jesus, "Then give back to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's" (Luke 20:24–25 NIV). Implied in what Jesus said is, that which bears the image of God — namely, human beings, including Caesar himself — belongs to God. So here Christ established the framework: Caesar himself belongs to God. The state itself belongs to God. Caesar must obey God!
The Church has always held that the state does not contain the fullness of human hope or embrace the totality of human existence. Nor can we allow the state to claim our absolute loyalty and obedience. The state exists for the human person, not the other way around. Our destiny ultimately is not the here and now, but the new heavens and the new earth. So we can never put our ultimate hope and trust in what the state can do for us. This is the Church's "no" to the state. This understanding frees us from the myth of political salvation. The Church does not ask us to put ultimate hope and trust in any political party, candidate, or system. We can and should enter the public square, but it does not hold our destiny.
At the same time, the Church says a profound "yes" to the state. This affirmation is rooted in the simple reality that all authority, all power, comes from God. The fact that there is an earthly, civil authority that we need to obey becomes part of our obedience to God. Scripture is filled with examples of this. Even when the state and the powers of civil authority persecute believers, believers are exhorted to be good citizens.
Chapter 29 of the book of the prophet Jeremiah talks about the people being taken into exile in Babylon. They are not told to rebel. They are not asked to overthrow the Babylonian authorities. What they are called to do is "build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare" (Jer. 29:4–7). In other words, we are to seek the welfare of the state, even if the state treats us unjustly.
In the New Testament, Peter said, "Maintain good contact among the Gentiles, so that in case they speak against you as wrongdoers they may see your good deeds and glorify God. ... Honor all men, love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the emperor. ... Let none of you suffer as a murderer, or a thief, or a wrongdoer ... yet if one suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed" (1 Peter 2:12, 17; 4:15–16). There are several other examples as well, including the exhortation to pay taxes and Jesus Himself paying the temple tax. Saint Augustine has a beautiful passage on the Church's "yes" to the state. In The City of God he wrote:
We all know how often the Body of Christ, his Church, is persecuted by the rulers of this world, but in what way do Christians injure the worldly state? I ask again, in what way do Christians injure the worldly state? Perhaps Christ their eternal King has forbidden soldiers to enroll in the service of worldly authority? Did not he himself say when the Jews attempted to trap him, "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God's"? Did he not pay taxes with a coin taken from the fish's mouth? Did not one of his followers, a close companion on his journey, say to his colleagues, to Christ's fellow citizens, "Let everyone submit to civil authority" and order the Church to pray for the emperor? In what way then are Christians the State's enemies? In what way are Christians not subject to the kings who rule this earth?"
Excerpted from Abolishing Abortion by Frank Pavone. Copyright © 2015 Fr. Frank Pavone. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
Introduction: Us and Them xi
1 In the Public Square 1
2 The World of Roe 27
3 Time for Repentance 41
4 The Irrepressible Spiritual Imperative 57
5 Freedom of Speech 71
6 Freedom of the Pulpit 91
7 Proof of Passivity 113
8 Open Windows 133
9 Collision Course 149
10 Mother and Child 175
11 A Foundation of Love 193
Appendix: The Beloved Community and the Unborn 205
About the Author 223