This is an exciting time to be a Christian, a Catholic, a Filipino and a pro-lifer. Just this year alone many pro-life bills in US Congress have already been moved forward, with many more coming down the pipeline. The youth are being awakened and activated in record numbers. The generation that grew up with abortion as a “human right” are finally acknowledging and recognizing the havoc that it has wreaked on family, society and country. We are at a crossroads. And though we can not turn back the hands of time, we can certainly move forward.
If one had any doubts at all that the culture of life is gaining ground in this country, such doubts would have been laid to rest on July 16, when CFC-FFL held its Pro-Life Summit at the Hyatt Regency in O’hare, Chicago. The ballroom was hopping at 7:30 in the morning, when we started out with the Holy Rosary and Consecration prayer to our Blessed Mother. The Most Reverend Francis Kane, Auxiliary Bishop of Chicago, presided at the Mass following. He commended CFC-FFL for its continued commitment in upholding the traditional values of marriage and family. More than 700 people, from Illinois and beyond, were in attendance as the Summit officially started after the Mass.
Four powerhouse speakers of the pro-life movement came, beginning with Fr. Frank Pavone, National Director of Priests for Life. He started out by telling us that pro-life isn’t simply a political or activist movement, or an ideology or philosophy. Neither is it a white or Republican movement. It is a foundational aspect of our spirituality. Our goal is to end abortion completely, but to do so we need to acquire virtues that will guide us in our work. Taking from his book Pro-Life Reflections for Every Day, Fr. Frank affirmed these virtues that we pro-lifers need to cultivate : a spirit of joy, serene confidence, deep compassion, radical solidarity, readiness for public witness, and a passion for justice. We need to reach out boldly, but with compassion, sorely needed as we engage those who have unfortunately fallen into an anti-life mentality. Fr. Frank emphasized, “They are not our enemy. They are temporarily captive to the enemy and our goal is to set them free in Jesus Christ.” We should look beyond the surface, and see our interlocutors as fellow strugglers in the daily quest to choose right from wrong. We too have aborted God’s will in our own lives, and we go into this battle because we repent of our own sins. There is great need for humility, including a proper understanding of what it is. Humility isn’t about staying hidden or quiet; it is subjugating and conforming our will to the One who gave us free will. It is being where God wants us to be, and being ready to serve whenever and wherever He wants us to serve.
We serve by being vigilant and proactive. Susan B. Anthony List’s Marjorie Dannenfelser spoke next, with a quiet, moving conviction. She spoke about women’s role today in building a culture of life. As pro-life women, we are often seen by pro-choicers as a threat to the status quo. Many of our policies today aren’t truly for the good of women but are sold as such. We must eradicate this kind of “compassion” that leads to the gas chamber. She led us in praying the Litany of Humility, again highlighting the need for this virtue in our work. She called it “the binding force” that attracts people and emboldens our movement. What was most encouraging was her insistence that we have the power in our hands. “We have everything for truth to prevail. All we need is a sense of urgency.” Indeed, this is not the time for complacency. We need to get pro-life people elected into office – people who will make a difference both in the national and international arena, and who will work to pass laws that protect both women and the unborn. At CFC-FFL we need to heed this call and heed it now.
Joe Scheidler of Pro-Life Action League is currently doing Face the Truth tours, and he gave us a lighthearted yet serious peek into his experiences as a long-time pro-life activist. In his work, he has had to endure the angry reactions coming from the other side: hateful words, knives and guns, paint in his eyes. But he reminded us that the fight is worth it. “One blastocyst is more precious to God than the entire universe.” “Christ didn’t come to save the elephants.” He lamented the loss of our sense of morality. He bemoaned the fact that our young adults often go into marriage ill-prepared, not having even talked about issues so important today, like divorce and abortion. We live in a society where these are deemed acceptable, and so we must continually engage in battle to turn things around. He ended with a quote from Shakespeare’s Henry V: “For he to-day that sheds his blood with me / Shall be my brother;” … and those who were not here in this movement “Shall think themselves accursed they were not here / And hold their manhoods cheap.”
With twelve minutes in the program left to spare, Dr. Ligaya Acosta, Regional Coordinator for Human Life International-Asia, came armed with information-packed slides and a presentation on the Reproductive Health bill currently pending in Philippine Congress. An avid promoter of contraceptives for 28 years, she shared a unique perspective on how we got to where we are now. Her conversion did not happen overnight, and their family’s journey has been fraught with trials, but through the process she has come to depend completely on our Lord. The facts she presented about the bill left no doubt as to its diabolical nature and its deceptive origins and goals. Citing documents outlining the agenda behind the bill, she confirmed the verbal engineering and manipulation behind what is in truth a concerted effort to market and legalize abortion in the Philippines.
But trust a Filipina to bring out the humor in a situation that is anything but funny. She had the audience in stitches, laughing at the ridiculous propositions of the RH bill. And despite the time constraints, she was able to focus on the pertinent issues: its coercive mandates, its emphasis on indoctrination of the youth through comprehensive sexual education, its use of euphemisms to push ignoble ideas, its distortion of traditional values and its ultimate end, the promotion of “reproductive health” as a human right, including access to “safe and legal abortion”. There was much to be shocked and angry about, but it is important that we remember what Fr. Frank shared earlier. The late Bernard Nathanson, former abortionist turned pro-lifer, said that the leaders of the pro-choice movement were able to accomplish as much as they had because they took a gamble that the Church would be silent. Well, if in some respects the Church was indeed silent in the past, She is not silent now. And we are, after all, the Church.
Fr. Frank explained WHY being pro-life isn’t an addition to being Christian – it’s part and parcel of who we are. Marjorie Dannenfelser answered the question of WHEN we need to be active in the movement, and the answer is NOW. Joe Scheidler showed us HOW we can be bold and fearless in the face of opposition, knowing that truth is on our side. Dr. Acosta presented us the WHAT – all the reasons, big and small, why we need to get involved in this fight. We fight this not just in our own backyard, but on an international scale. Like droplets of water falling onto a vast ocean, we may view our own efforts as minuscule, but let’s not forget that these droplets ripple. Just as the effects of Roe v Wade and all that makes up the culture of death reach down through the years, what we do in the here and now will reverberate through future generations. We owe it to our children and our children’s children to deliver a crushing blow to defeat the culture of death. If we are able to stop the anti-life movement here in the US, we will be doing much to prevent its reaching the Philippines and other shores. Likewise, anything we can do to prevent the passage of the RH bill in the Philippines will ultimately help the pro-life movement anywhere we are, here in the US and around the globe.
There is much to grieve: the loss of innocence, of decency, of spirituality and morality. But as Fr. Frank has pointed out, we as Christians can grieve and rejoice at the same time. We choose to rejoice, because in Christ’s resurrection, the victory has already been won. And we can make a renewed commitment to proclaim truth in our homes, our Churches and our communities, and help to regain what we have lost. Ora et labora. There is much to be done, and we’ve got our work cut out for us. Now more than ever, it’s a time to pray and fast, and to keep our noses to the grindstone until the job is accomplished. With God’s grace, anything and everything is possible. (Stef, CFC FFL Ohio)