Fr. Frank Pavone and his anti-abortion group Priests for Life held a press conference yesterday to launch their new ad campaign directed at the upcoming presidential election. At the same time, the Feminist Majority Foundation and the Institute for Democracy Studies jointly called attention to Fr. Pavone’s endorsement of anti-abortion extremists and militant tactics. The FMF/IDS press release, issued the day of Pavone’s news conference, illustrates that Fr. Pavone justifies extremist tactics like criminal trespass, and highlights the relationship between Pavone and prominent anti-abortion extremists, many of whom have been jailed for their anti-abortion activities. Notably, the Priests for Life Web site includes links to dozens of anti-choice organizations, including notorious, violent groups like Lambs of Christ, Operation Rescue, and Joseph Scheidler’s Pro-Life Action League.
President Eleanor Smeal said, “We hope that Priests For Life’s announcement making choice a priority in voting is a turn of strategy from harassment at clinics. We welcome voters making abortion a top priority in the upcoming presidential election.”
Pavone said Catholics (including politicians) have a “responsibility to protect life,” and made statements revealing his disregard for the separation of church and state, according to representatives of the Feminist Majority Foundation who were present at the press conference. Pavone further made an analogy to stealing, saying that the American judicial system punishes thieves, who are condemned by the church; why, he extrapolated, does the judicial system refuse to punish “murderers” who violate the Catholic church’s teachings on abortion? In a related press release, Rev. Barry Lynne of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State reacted: “When churches try to force dogma on all Americans through the political process, it seriously undermines the separation of church and state.”
According to the Associate Press, the Priests for Life ads are scheduled to run in the New York Times this week, with television spots to follow in mid-August, and will plead with pro-choice Christian politicians to “stop being a scandal to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.” Pavone admitted that not all Catholics agree with his anti-choice stance. In fact, Catholics for A Free Choice notes that 59% of all Catholic women of childbearing age practice contraception, similar to the rate of 60% among the general population of American women.