The Rev. Frank Pavone’s commitment to defending all life is evident in the gentle yet ardent manner in which he speaks. Through his work as national director of Priests for Life and his many other roles, his tireless efforts to protect all life continue to inspire pro-lifers across the world.
Father Pavone is a Roman Catholic priest dedicated to defending life from conception to natural death. He was ordained in 1988, and since 1993 has worked solely in pro-life ministries. He is the national director of the church’s largest pro-life ministry, Priests for Life. His concern for life extends to post-abortive families as the national pastoral director of the Silent No More Awareness Campaign and Rachel’s Vineyard, a retreat for post-abortive mothers and fathers. Among his many other roles, he is also president of the National Pro-Life Religious Council, and he has written several books about abortion.
Last week, LifeNews had the pleasure of interviewing Pavone at the National Right to Life annual convention in Virginia.
LifeNews: How did you become involved in the pro-life movement?
Pavone: I was in high school when I first became interested in the movement. The way that happened was through the March for Life. It was so impressive because it was bitter cold, but yet there were these tens of thousands of people marching. They were serious and aware that this was a very sad tragedy, but they were happy and filled with faith. The combination of that impressed me right from the start, as well as the diversity of the crowd. It just struck me how this is a big movement and a big issue, and my interest in it only grew from there.
LifeNews: Has working so closely in the movement changed your perspective on pro-life issues?
Pavone: It has given me the understanding of pro-life issues from the perspective of everybody involved: the mom and the dad who feel they have to resort to abortion; the pro-life activists who are fighting it; the people who have had abortions; the people who are working in the abortion facility; the abortionists themselves; the legislators and the challenges they face; the medical people and the role they have in the movement. These are perspectives that I would not be able to get without being in the movement.
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LifeNews: As someone who has had an influential role in the movement for quite a while, what do you think is the future for the pro-life movement?
Pavone: Victory is the future. As we said in the civil rights movement, no lie can live forever. The truth about abortion is coming out. Even if we sat back and did nothing, the truth would eventually come out. We have to do something, because we have to speed up that process and assure that there are as few victims as possible. We definitely will see victory over this evil. America has always resolved questions of the exclusion of groups of people from the law, in favor of inclusion. We excluded blacks and slaves, eventually included them. We excluded women from many basic rights in society, we eventually included them. It’s always a story of more and more inclusion, so that will apply to the unborn as well. As far as the future of the movement, it will be one victory after another until we see the full protection of the unborn.
LifeNews: You met with Mother Teresa and Saint John Paul II. How did they encourage you in your defense of life?
I worked at the Vatican under his [John Paul II’s] pontificate in the office that deals with pro-life issues for the Church. At that time, he had just written the Gospel of the Encyclical of Life, which lays out not only the teachings of the Church on abortion, but the game plan for ending it. His writing of that encyclical was at the beginning of my Priests for Life work. Here we had the Church saying in a very exclusive way that this was the most important issue, and why. And my interaction with him was always very encouraging. It was clear to us he had an understanding not just of the issue, but of the passion we had for the unborn.
As far as Mother Teresa, I went to see her in India in ’94. It was the same dynamic as with John Paul II. You knew that she understood exactly where we were coming from. She was always encouraging what I call the more direct, radical approach. For example, I told her when I visited her that President [Bill] Clinton – who was in office at that time – had just signed the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Law, so that if you peacefully blockade an abortion facility, or even interfere physically in any way, you would be breaking the law. Her response to me was, “Well Father, if we had that law in India, I would have been thrown in jail many times. Because I go to the places where they do the abortions, and I take the women by the arm and I pull them away. And I say come with us. Come with us and our sisters will help you and your baby.” She was so plain, simple, and direct about the response needed to abortion. The inspiration she gave to me and so many others [was to] tell it like it is, plainly and directly, and to act in a direct manner to save these babies.
LifeNews:How should pro-lifers prepare for the coming election?
First of all by participating together in prayer. We have a special prayer campaign at ElectionPrayer.com. Secondly, by engaging others in the process of voting. Obviously we have to be registered and ready to vote. We can get voter registration forms and bring them to events. We can encourage churches to register voters. Thirdly, understanding the positions of both the parties, and also of the candidates. When we put a candidate into power, we aren’t just putting that person into power, we’re putting a party into power. And when you put a party into power, you’re putting a philosophy into power. A lot of people feel morally uncomfortable with the choices that the election presents to them. We have to vote in such a way that we put the best of the alternatives available to us into office. That doesn’t mean we’re compromising, it means we’re trying to reduce the amount of damage that is going to be done to the unborn. If you sit out the election, you’re still influencing the election, because you deprive somebody of your vote who you otherwise would have helped. It’s not compromising any principle when I choose the best option, even though it is not as good as I would like it to be.
LifeNews: Do you have a quote or saying that inspires you?
Yes, there are many. One of them is, “We are not just working for victory, we are working from victory. Victory is our starting point.” That is a quote I use to inspire others, but it inspires me as well. [There are] many others, sometimes scriptural quotes. There are quotes from historical figures who have stood of the oppressed, like Eli Wiesel who just recently died, a holocaust survivor. He’s the one who said, “Silence never helps the oppressed, but only the oppressor.” That’s completely applicable to the unborn.
LifeNews:What are some of your hobbies?
I play the organ. I like roller coasters. I’ve always lived by the water so I like to go on the beach, walking on the boardwalk. And some rowboat activities. For work, I learned how to build databases, and sometimes I do that just for fun.
LifeNews:What would you suggest to someone interested in helping to spread the pro-life message?
Look for every opportunity to do it, and always be guided by the advice, “Do not be afraid.” You can’t judge what to say by whether people are going to get mad at you or not, because the fact is people are. We have to say things because they are the truth, and the truth that needs to be heard in that particular circumstance. Spread the message. Utilize social media to the full. Keep informed. To spread the pro-life message, we have to know the pro-life message. The more we know about it, the more effectively we’re going to be able to spread it.