Ed Mechmann is the director of public policy for the Archdiocese of New York. The following letter is posted on the archdiocesan web site.
“November 7, 2016
by Ed Mechmann
Yesterday, Fr. Frank Pavone, the leader of Priests for Life, went live on Facebook to endorse Donald Trump for President. That’s his right as a U.S. citizen, and one can agree or disagree with that as a matter of course. But the way he did it was absolutely appalling, and deserves to be repudiated by all of us who consider ourselves to be pro-life in the fullest meaning of that word.
What did he do? He used a dead aborted baby, laying naked and bloody on an altar, as a prop for his video.
Yes, you read that correctly.
A priest of the Catholic Church publicly displayed on a sacred altar a dead baby who was the victim of a terrible crime as part of a propaganda video in favor of a political candidate.
It is hard for me to express in calm, measured terms, the revulsion I feel about this. I know that the pro-life movement has long had a debate about the use of graphic images to reveal the reality of abortion. The discussion has always focused on a cost/benefit analysis of their effect of the viewer versus the risk of alienating those who don’t want to see such things, especially on women who are post-abortive and have not yet healed.
But that’s all beside the point. The real question is, what about that baby as a human being? That baby is an individual human person, someone’s son or daughter, made in the image and likeness of God, unique and unrepeatable, and deserving of our love and mercy. To use her body in this way is to treat that poor lost girl or boy as an object to be used — which is the antithesis of love — and not as a brother or sister to be mourned.
Who would ever wish that their body be used in such a way? Who would ever want that for a loved one? Can any of us imagine that being the right way to treat the remains of our dead son or daughter?
And to place that baby’s body on an altar, which has been sanctified for the celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass? To treat the altar of God as if it’s a mere podium for a political speech?
The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches us that “The bodies of the dead must be treated with respect and charity, in faith and hope of the Resurrection.” There is no ambiguity there.
A human being has been sacrificed and the altar of God has been desecrated, all for politics. Everyone who respects the dignity of every human person should reject and disavow this atrocity.”
Bishop Patrick J. Zurek of the Diocese of Amarillo, Texas, has stated he will be opening an investigation. The bishop wrote,
– Priests for Life, Inc., is not a Catholic institution, but a civil organization, and it is not under the control or supervision of the Diocese of Amarillo.
– Father Frank Pavone has posted a video on his Facebook page of the body of an aborted fetus, which is against the dignity of human life and is a desecration of the altar. We believe that no one who is pro-life can exploit a human body for any reason, especially the body of a fetus.
– The Diocese of Amarillo deeply regrets the offense and outrage caused by the video for the faithful and the community at large. The action and presentation of Father Pavone in this video is not consistent with the beliefs of the Catholic Church.
I think very highly of Fr. Pavone for his many years of courageous witnessing to the sanctity of life and the evil of abortion. However, activists working even for the best of causes and with the purest of intentions can some times, in the passion for their causes, exceed that which is decent and right. One should never ever use the Holy Mass, the Holy Eucharist, or even the altar on which the Holy Sacrifice is offered, for purposes other than divine worship. And as for placing a real aborted child on an altar – this is shocking beyond belief. It is an act of sacrilege towards our Eucharistic Lord by means of the body of a murdered child, which should have been immediately given a proper burial.
Of course I can understand Fr. Pavone’s point, but this was a sickening way to make it. In fact, it violated the very point he was trying to make; namely, that all human life should be shown the profoundest respect, and this respect must extend to include the bodies of the deceased. The video is also an appalling example of the dehumanizing effect abortion has had even on those who are strongly opposed to it. I dare say that, with this video, Fr. Pavone has himself fallen into this dehumanizing trap.
Where religion and activism meet, true religion is often the casualty.