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A New Chapter in the Pro-life Movement

Contact: Jerry Horn, Priests for Life, 540-220-0095

MEDIA ADVISORY, Sept. 9 /Christian Newswire/ -- September 1 was my 15th anniversary as National Director of Priests for Life. This is a good point, therefore, at which to reflect aloud with you on some of my perspective right now on the pro-life movement and the steps we need to take in the immediate future.

From 1976, when I attended the Annual March for Life in Washington as a high school senior, to 1993, when I dropped everything else I was doing to devote myself full-time to the protection of my unborn brothers and sisters, a fire was growing within me. It was a passion for justice, focused on the single greatest injustice of our day: abortion. As the fire raged full-force, it made me realize that every ounce of my strength, and every moment of my time, must be devoted to ending this holocaust.

Since then, every hour of my days and nights has been focused on this mission, and I have been inspired to a limitless degree by all those around me who have the same focus, the same passion, and live it out to the extent that their own vocations permit. There has not been a day that I have looked back. There has not been a day that I have not felt the enthusiasm of the very first day of this mission.

I am convinced at the present moment that our movement is entering yet another phase of this battle. We are closer to victory than ever before, and now is the time to redouble every effort and to push over the finish line. Now is the time to cut off any "dead wood," any projects that aren't bearing fruit, any expenditures and efforts that are not actually moving us toward the goal of ending abortion, and any bureaucracy in our structures that is hindering rather than advancing the mission.

There is a new thirst for unity in our movement, and I have been committed to promoting that unity in various ways since 1993. Gathering leaders for retreats and strategy sessions, and building bridges of communication and collaboration that didn't exist before, continues to be one of the most important things in which I am involved. These efforts for unity are bearing fruit, and many leaders have approached me about how we can harvest that fruit and begin more joint efforts, rather than just pursuing, on parallel paths, the work of our individual organizations. More leaders than ever are ready to do this.

Moreover, people who want to support the pro-life movement financially are looking for that kind of active unity and collaboration. They are looking for convincing plans that have a promise of success and that meet the varied needs of the movement rather than the vision of just one organization. Various leaders on the national level, including myself, have been formulating such plans and it is time to invest even greater effort and attention to bringing them to fruition.

My team and I have therefore enacted a number of changes, in order to best use your resources and ours to hasten the day of victory.

For one thing, Priests for Life is not going to have its own seminarians. We started down that road a couple of years ago, convinced that we had to leave no stone unturned in looking for ways to advance the pro-life cause within the Church. We tried it, but it began to divert too much time, energy, and resources away from the primary purpose of our organization. (See the article below for more information.) Experience has proven that it's best to stay with the original design of Priests for Life, namely, that the dioceses, seminaries, and religious communities take care of training men for the priesthood, and that we take care of specialized training in the pro-life cause, both for priests who want to work with us full-time, and for all the priests, deacons, seminarians, and laity in the Church (and outside the Church).

In regard to that training, I'm announcing this week a whole series of new training programs that we will provide for clergy and laity alike. These are being developed into online courses that can be followed from the comfort of one's home, and that will draw on the wisdom and experience of pro-life leaders nationwide, and provide simple "how-to" resources for getting the pro-life job done!

Another one of the matters I want to let you know about is that we're going to vastly scale down the building projects that we have in the works. After all, we are a missionary organization. My suitcase and those of our whole pastoral team are never unpacked. Moreover, we come into people's homes and cars through television, radio, and internet on a daily basis. Both of those dynamics suggest that a big central headquarters isn't necessary. A small one suffices. Again, our current approach is working, so I don't want to divert all kinds of attention and resources to building anything that may prove superfluous. We're closer to victory than ever before. The focus now needs to be getting the job done, not setting up more structures for plans to get it done in the next generation. The time is now.

Now is the time to stop all the cautious dancing with language and plainly challenge our citizens to elect pro-life candidates.

Now is the time to stop lamenting that we're not reaching abortion-minded women and instead, simply go to the places where they obviously are – the abortion clinics – and be present at those killing centers twenty-four hours a day, 365 days a year, until the killing stops.

Now is the time to stop worrying about those who aren't doing their job, and partnering more closely with those who are. It doesn't take a majority to get the job done; it takes a minority who risk everything and stop at nothing.

We have entered a new phase of the pro-life movement. Come with us. It's time for victory.

Fr. Frank Pavone
National Director
September 8, 2008

Priests for Life/Missionaries of the Gospel of Life

Priests for Life/Missionaries of the Gospel of Life have been engaged in a process of review, with the help of all our advisors, regarding the best structure to accomplish our mission of ending abortion.

At the same time, we have undertaken a review of our pro-life strategies, the needs of the movement, and the best use of our strengths against the weaknesses of the abortion industry. This review has taken into account the strategic discussions and practical partnerships we have with pro-life leaders on a daily basis, concerning the needs of the movement and the fastest way to accomplish our goals.

Priests for Life, as a Private Association of the Faithful, has been successful in moving toward these goals, mobilizing hundreds of thousands of people into every facet of the pro-life movement, educating countless more through the media, building up the largest pro-life organization in the nation, fostering political responsibility among the People of God, healing women and men hurt by abortion and helping them speak out in organized ways, and inspiring and networking the clergy.

From the beginning, the approach of Priests for Life has not been to create new structures, but rather to infuse the existing structures (of Church, media, government, and other organizations) with more awareness, motivation, and effectiveness for the fight against abortion. That approach continues to bear fruit, as we are often the only pro-life presence amidst the many environments in which we travel.

Yet when Fr. Frank Pavone began traveling the country in late 1993, many young men who felt a call to the priesthood began approaching Priests for Life, asking if it was a community they could join to do full-time pro-life ministry. That led Fr. Frank to initiate discussions in 1995 – first with Cardinal John O'Connor, who had established the Sisters of Life -- about the possibility of Priests for Life eventually giving rise to some kind of community or society that could accept and ordain its own seminarians. (Fr. Frank had already begun thinking about that in 1991 when Cardinal O'Connor announced the establishment of the Sisters of Life.) Those discussions continued through a decade, as the mission, spirituality, and ministerial experience of Priests for Life continued to mature.

Meanwhile, apart from any community or society, more priests received permission to do the work of Priests for Life on a full-time basis, and the full-time lay pastoral associates also grew in number. Priests for Life became one of the most well-respected and influential groups in the pro-life movement.

The discernment, therefore, that had to be undertaken along the way, and into the present, was whether to conserve our energies and our focus on our abortion-related mission, fulfilling it through the Pastoral Team that had come together and could continue to expand in its current structure, or taking on the additional responsibilities of training men for priesthood and life in a community.

Moreover, as opportunities arose for owning land and constructing buildings, some of our bishop advisors and donors asked why we would need to do that if the functional model we already had was working sufficiently. It was a valid question, though not a determinative one.

Permission was eventually obtained to establish a community, and the decision was made to move forward, not because all the questions had been resolved, but because there was enough certainty to test out this approach. It was our conviction that we should leave no stone unturned in the effort to marshal the forces of the Church against abortion.

Evaluating the situation two years after the founding of the community, however, it seemed best to have one canonical entity rather than two. Currently, therefore, there is only the Association Priests for Life, which will also be called "Missionaries of the Gospel of Life." There is not a separate Society of Apostolic Life. As a Private Association of the Faithful, moreover, Priests for Life does not have its own seminarians.

It seems best that the association remain focused specifically and exclusively on the pro-life work itself, and leave to dioceses and religious communities the specific task of forming men for the priesthood. Priests for Life is always working, however, to supplement that training, both before and after ordination, with specialized training in the many facets of the pro-life movement.

The ministry of Priests for Life/Missionaries of the Gospel of Life will continue to be to train, equip, and encourage the faithful – clergy and laity – to build the Culture of Life. Both laity and clergy may work full time for the association. Moreover, our lay associates will continue to receive training in our spirituality and mission, and can make promises to live out that spirituality and mission as Missionaries of the Gospel of Life.

Some of the same reasons that delayed the founding of a community (about which discussions began in 1995 and led to the founding ten years later), are the same reasons that now make it seem best that Priests for Life remain an Association of the Faithful. These include:

a) As has been mentioned, the mission has met with significant success within the bounds of its current assets of personnel, buildings, and resources;

b) Priests for Life makes extensive use of media, therefore making a specific geographical locale for its ministry less relevant to the overall impact;

c) Priests for Life pastoral team members are itinerant missionaries, and this also lessens the importance of having a centralized location or sinking roots deeply into any one place;

d) The specialty of this ministry is the pro-life cause, and energies and resources should be placed on that rather than on formation of men toward ordination;

e) There is an inherent urgency to the mission of defending the unborn and vulnerable, and that goal is within reach. At the same time there is an inherent delay factor in forming a community and training men not only for ordination, but then giving them adequate priestly experience in order then to specialize and work effectively with other priests to show them how to strengthen the pro-life dimensions of parish work. That is hard to do when one has never done parish work.

In the light of all these factors, therefore, Priests for Life/Missionaries of the Gospel of Life will continue as a single Association of the Faithful, focusing on its specific pro-life mission, without the founding of a canonically distinct community. We believe that this realignment will best assist us and our collaborators to more quickly and effectively reach the goal of restoring protection to unborn children.

Joint Statement from Priests for Life and the Diocese of Amarillo

Fr. Frank Pavone, Director of Priests for Life, sought in 2005 to institute the Missionaries of the Gospel of Life, a Society of Apostolic Life that would accept and ordain its own seminarians. 

The ensuing three years brought discernment and discussions to determine what canonical structure and relationship between Priests for Life and the Missionaries of the Gospel of Life would most effectively fulfill the purposes of both entities in restoring protection to unborn children.

In 2008, the decision was reached that there should be only one entity encompassing Priests for Life and the Missionaries of the Gospel of Life without the founding of a canonically distinct community.  The resulting entity, PFL/Missionaries of the Gospel of Life, is not a Society of Apostolic Life.  This change means that the Missionaries of the Gospel of Life are not a community that accepts its own seminarians and priests. Rather, it will continue to encourage and assist priests, seminarians and laity in their pro-life commitment, consistent with its mission since 1991.

Protecting the unborn and defending the most vulnerable in our society is at the very heart of the Church's mission, and she commends PFL/Missionaries of the Gospel of Life for their many laudable contributions toward that end, while strongly encouraging them to continue to work in close relationship with the bishops in combating abortion and bringing about a culture of life.

Priests for Life is the nation's largest Catholic pro-life organization dedicated to ending abortion and euthanasia. For more information, visit www.priestsforlife.org.