Father Frank Pavone's sermon at the National Memorial for the Preborn in Washington,.D.C. (full text)
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Father Frank Pavone's sermon at the National Memorial for the Preborn in Washington,.D.C. (full text)
Friday, January 25, 2013


Sermon at Memorial Service: Recall Abortion

Reverend clergy, elected officials, and brothers and sisters in Christ,
Jesus Christ is Lord!

We are here to recall something this morning, and to do so in unity across the Body of Christ.

We are here to recall the powerful works of God and the destructive work of abortion…to call it to our own minds, to call it to the minds of others. And we are here to demand a recall of abortion -- to take off the shelves a faulty product and a failed promise, and to banish it from our nation forever!

We stand in unity this morning. We recall the great truths that we all affirm together. We stand on those truths and we proclaim them to the world.

We are here to recall our need for God: we recall our sins, our emptiness, and the fact that we cannot save ourselves.

We recall God's mighty deeds in Christ.
We stand in unity today and we proclaim that Jesus Christ is Lord. There is only one who has dominion over human life and death, and his name is Jesus Christ. There is only one who is the hope of humanity, the Savior of all, the source of justice and the essence of peace, and his name is Jesus Christ.

We stand in unity today and we proclaim that in Jesus Christ, God has become one of us, has humbled himself to share in our humanity, and has died for our sins.

We stand in unity today and we proclaim that there was a day when an angel rolled a stone away from a tomb, and revealed it to be empty. We proclaim that Jesus Christ broke the bonds of death and rose victorious from the grave. And in so doing, he not only destroyed his death, but ours. He overturned the entire kingdom of death, and therefore he overturned the power of abortion.

We stand in unity today and we proclaim that he will come again, on a day nobody knows, and every eye will see him, even of those who pierced him!

We recall today who we are in him.

The great battle for the sanctity of life is not simply about when life begins; it is about the fundamental questions of who we are and whose we are.
In Jesus Christ, we not only see the Father, we see ourselves.
He reveals to us the eternal God, and he reveals to us the meaning of our own humanity.
As he told us in today's Gospel passage from John, On that day, you will have no further questions to ask me.  

In revealing us to ourselves, Christ reveals who we are to one another -- brothers and sisters, whose lives have been entrusted to one another by the Creator. We are our brother's keepers!

We believe and proclaim that Jesus Christ exalts human life to his throne. Our destiny, as spoken by our Lord in Revelation 3:21, is to sit with him on his throne! That is how much he loves human life!

And that is why the Church cannot turn the other way when that same human life is thrown in the garbage.

We cannot credibly announce the gospel to the world if we are ignoring abortion or tolerating it in any way.

We recall abortion today.
We recall the most destructive decision and costly error ever made by a human authority, the Roe vs. Wade decision.
We recall what abortion is, because in Christ we have the courage to both face the truth and call things by their proper name. 

We recall, and must recall to others, what the abortionists themselves admit about abortion, that it is dismemberment and decapitation, that it tears children apart and brings out the skull in fragments rather than as a unified piece.

Brothers and sisters, if abortion can be called right, if it can in the least way be tolerated, then

We are not our brother's keeper after all
We are not made in the image of God
We are not called to serve

If abortion can be tolerated, if it is anything less than an absolute wrong, then

Justice is not just
Truth is not true
Love is not effective
Christ is not on his throne
And God is not God

But as it is, God is God and Christ is on his throne, and therefore we are our brothers' keepers, and abortion is the greatest violation of human solidarity, justice, love and peace.

 It is the Gospel of Jesus Christ, moreover, that we proclaim in response to this evil. Jesus Christ does not only bring us the Gospel; He is the Gospel, and, as he told us in many ways, He is Life itself. 

Therefore the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Gospel of God's love for humanity, and the Gospel of Life are one and the same, unique, indivisible Gospel. The message we proclaim about life and against abortion is not something added onto the Gospel or the Church's proclamation of it; rather, it is part and parcel of the Gospel itself.

A Church silent about abortion is a Church silent about the Gospel.

It has been said that the world is tearing up the photos of what it means to be human, but the Church is keeping the negatives!

The pro-life movement arose, not primarily as a response to Roe vs. Wade, but as a response to Jesus Christ. That response is the same dynamic through which we see Christians through the centuries rescuing children who had been abandoned in the Roman Empire, establishing schools, hospitals and missions for the needy, rescuing slaves and fighting segregation.

And the circumstances of our time demand another particular incarnation if you will, an expression and manifestation of this fundamental Christian response: the movement that works to end abortion and restore full protection to children in the womb.

It has been 40 years since that protection was completely deprived from every unborn child in America. The plaintiff of Roe, Norma McCorvey, who sends her prayerful greetings to our gathering today, now works with us to end abortion.

We look back today over these forty years, and we recall our journey, just as the nation recalled, the other day, the journey of the civil rights movement. We welcome to this service, in light of that, Dr. Alveda King, niece of Martin Luther King, Jr. and fulltime Director of African-American outreach for Priests for Life.

Forty years, of course, represents the length of a generation, and the amount of time it took the Israelites to journey to the promised land after having been set free from Egypt.

The journey, however, did not have to take 40 years. The Book of Deuteronomy tells us it would have taken only eleven days!

The problem, as Scripture reminds us, is that the Israelites failed to trust, and they failed to trust because so often they failed to recall.

Too easily, and far too often, they forgot.

They forgot his mighty deeds.
They forgot his mighty promises, his reliability and his faithfulness.
And this forgetfulness led to grumbling, division, and even the temptation to choose other leaders and go back to Egypt!!

This is why, in our Christian faith, recall plays such a crucial role. Do not forget the works of the Lord! This, of course, is at the heart of the Passover ritual, where the history of God's mighty power is recalled in detail. 

This remembrance is also at the heart of the Lord's Supper: Do this in remembrance of me.

Even in the secular life of our nation, we acknowledge the need to remember both the pain and the glory of key events: Never forget!, we declare, in regard to days like September 11, or Pearl Harbor Day.

And so we remember the sad day of Roe vs. Wade, and we remember our own pro-life journey. It is appropriate today to remember what initially got us involved in the pro-life movement, what troubled us so much about abortion that we felt we had to get involved in fighting it. It helps us to recall the troubles we have had in doing what is right, for those troubles too are a fulfillment of what we have heard in this Gospel passage: you will have trouble in the world; but have courage, I have overcome the world!

And what we have recalled to ourselves we recall to others. We speak. We hand on our testimony. The transmission of the Christian faith through the centuries has, in fact, been a history of testimony. Jesus is the testimony of the Father. Paul hands on his testimony of conversion. And so it continues through the centuries, as Augustine hands on his confessions and countless others cry out, Do not forget the works of the Lord!

That is why one of the most powerful aspects of the pro-life movement today, and one of the most prominent aspects of the events of this day, is the Silent No More Awareness Campaign. We have seen here at this service already the testimony of a man and woman who recall their abortion, and recall the saving power of Jesus Christ.

The power of this witness will be repeated today in Washington and tomorrow at the Walk for Life in San Francisco. At both events, coordinated by the co-founders of the Campaign, Janet Morana and Georgette Forney, men and women who know the pain of abortion and the power of Christ will share their experience publicly. They will recall what has happened and they will demand a recall of the destructive procedure that they were deceived into buying.

And their voices are being heard, as the Campaign provides them a platform at these marches, on the internet and social networking, on television and radio, and in Churches and legislative hearings.

The evidence comes to us daily of the hearts and minds changed, and lives saved, thanks to these testimonies. Indeed, we remember the works of the Lord, and the sorrow we have is turned into joy.

Therefore the Christian Church must rise up to meet this hour. We must rise up, we must speak up, we must act up.

We must make it clear to those in our midst who are tempted to abort their child that we recall them, that we recall their confusion and despair, and are ready to meet it with compassion and hope.

We must make it clear to those in our midst who every day recall the child they aborted and recall their grief and pain, that we recall them, too, and that we have good news for them, that we have someone to introduce them to, that we have a Savior who lifts us up out of the darkest sin, and that his name is Jesus Christ.

We must recall mothers and fathers and families to their original dignity.

We must recall to their proper status the children in the womb.

We must recall the medical profession to its proper and noble role: healers of life, not takers of life.

We must recall the government to its fundamental role: to protect the rights God has given us, not to be God over us.

We must recall public servants to their fundamental duties. We need public servants who know the difference between serving the public and killing the public. And if they don't, they do not belong in public office.

In particular we address today, as the Church of Jesus Christ, a solemn call to repentance, a call to all who serve in public office and have tolerated and supported abortion.

  • A call to the Republican Party to live out more courageously and consistently the words of its platform concerning the right to life of the unborn.

  • A call to the Democratic Party to change the words of its platform regarding the unborn, to stop promoting child-killing as a right, and to return to its roots and truly stand up for the poorest of the poor, the weakest of the weak, the most marginalized of the marginalized, the child in the womb!

  • A call to the President of the United States, to change his position from one that supports and promotes abortion to one that acknowledges and supports our youngest neighbors.

  • A call to our government at every level: hear the voices of those who recall their abortion, who share their testimony with us, and recall abortion; take it off the market, rid America of this failed and destructive product, this false and empty promise.

We must recall the Churches to their role and duty to both announce good and denounce evil, and to reclaim the confidence that the Lord places in us by telling us he has overcome the world, and that the gates of hell will not prevail against the Church. That is not simply about the Church withstanding attacks. It is about the Church taking the initiative against the culture of death, and causing the gates to fall.

We recall the Church to her duty to proclaim that abortion is the very opposite of love. Love says, "I sacrifice myself for the good of the other person." Abortion says, "I sacrifice the other person for the good of myself." And isn't it amazing, that the very same words used by the culture of death to justify abortion are the words used by our Lord to proclaim life and salvation and love: This is my body!

We recall the Church to acknowledge, furthermore, the sacrifice it is going to take to end abortion. We have been promised trouble in this world, and we know trouble comes when we address abortion.

When we speak about it in Church, we're told it's too political.
When we speak about it in politics, we're told it's too religious.
In the world of media the topic is too disturbing.
In the world of business it's too distracting.
In the world of education it's too controversial.
In the streets it's too disruptive.

So if abortion is wrong, where do we go to say so? 
We go into the Churches, into politics, into the media, into the business world, into education, and into the streets!

Over these forty years, some Churches didn't want to rescue or get too political, because they didn't want to get into a legal hassle with the government. But now, not having taken the fight to the government, they find that the government has taken the fight to them with the HHS mandate!

And in that regard, we also know our response: We will obey God rather than men!

In the world, we will have trouble. We cannot adjust this battle to fit our lives; we are called to adjust our lives to fit this battle -- a battle defined by the fundamental call expressed by Saint John: we too are called to lay down our lives for the brethren.

And we must do this all in unity.

We must go beyond dialogue, to "biologue" -- to living out the demands of this hour. 

We must profess and announce the Christian teaching on life, in ever better and clearer ways, but together we must cross the threshold from teaching to action. We can't just tell people about the war between the culture of death and the culture of life; we have to show them how to fight it, and how to win it.

This is not a message we are to simply speak within our Churches. We must reach those who need to hear it, wherever they may be. We must go into the highways and byways and find them, not because we have an invitation, but because we have a commission.

So let's go door to door, let's combine resources and break through the ceiling of the advertising world and the major media and make our presence and our compassion known.

Let's map out a plan together; let's begin meeting together -- we are the ones, here in this room -- let's begin meeting together and think strategically and map out a plan to end abortion.

This is a non-partisan movement. It does not take its birth from or owe its loyalty to any political party, but rather insists that every political party be free of the illusion that it can deny the right to life.

This is an interdenominational movement. It embraces people of every faith background, and even welcomes people of no religious faith who nevertheless embrace the vision of equal protection for every human life.

This is a non-violent movement. Bloodshed is never the answer to bloodshed, and respect for life respects also those who set themselves against our beliefs and purposes.

This is a compassionate movement, that will bring hands full of hope and hearts full of mercy to all women and men who suffer the temptation to abort or the pain of having done so.

This is a diverse movement. There is no age requirement; there are no ethnic boundaries. The movement  embraces a wide variety of strategies and tactics, and a kaleidoscope of professional backgrounds and life experiences. Everyone has a role in defending life.

And this is a movement that draws fresh beginnings every day. Some of our brothers and sisters complain that we are still talking about the "same old issue." They're tired of it, and they often cease responding.

The same old issue? 

Is that how we are expected to respond when called to tend to the sick. "This is the same old thing; I've seen it a thousand times." Is this how we respond to a call in the middle of the night to take care of a dying member of the congregation?

The fact is that this person never died before! It's a new tragedy that demands a new response!

And yes, we are called to be inconvenienced, to be disrupted and interrupted. When life is in danger, everything stops…and energies coalesce around the saving of that life, because everything else depends on it.

At that moment converge the mission to feed the poor, to tend to the sick, to educate the child, to bear witness to the Gospel for that person, to express our solidarity with them in a thousand ways. At the moment one's life is threatened, our whole calling to recognize, love and serve that person is at stake, not just one aspect of it.

I therefore call upon you today, my brothers and sisters, not only to commit yourselves to the mission of ending abortion, but to make the defense of the unborn your priority.

And there's no turning back.

When faced with trouble and opposition, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. reminded the civil rights activists that no dogs were going to turn them around, no water hoses were going to turn them around, no police clubs or jail sentences were going to turn them around, and no injunction were going to turn them around.

And I say to you today in the pro-life movement: no Planned Parenthood is going to turn us around, no biased media is going to turn us around, no HHS mandate is going to turn us around, and no Obama administration is going to turn us around.

It's been forty years. The Promised Land is in front of us! And we are going to enter it together!


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