Tuesday, November 15, 2016

My Guest Blog Over At Patheos

I have written a guest blog for Steel Magnificat on Patheos

My Pro-Life Paradigm Shift

Talking a little about Fr. Pavone and talking about being pro-life

"My idea of the dignity of the person has become much broader because of this."

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

May Baby Choice Finally Be Laid to Rest

I am often a Johnny-come-lately when it comes to stories like this. I like to see them unfold first. More often than not, there are details that emerge over time. The reactions to the story, as well, become part of a bigger picture. So, I wait, I watch, I read most of what has been written and I research related articles. Sometimes I end up writing about it. Sometimes I don’t because I think that others have pretty much said all that can be said. Often far better than I ever could have. In this case, there have been many blogs and articles written. I will be linking to a good many of them at the end of this post. However, I am thinking there is one point of view that may have gotten lost in the shuffle. One voice that still needs to be heard, a voice that cannot speak up for itself. After reading all the articles and connecting all the dots it has occurred to me that there is still one thing that is left to be done.

Many by now are probably aware of the controversy created by Father Frank Pavone of Priests for Life. On Sunday, Father Pavone posted a video on Facebook of the remains of an aborted baby laying naked on an altar. In the video Father Pavone stands behind the altar voicing an appeal that we vote for Donald Trump for president. Which was almost immediately followed by an overwhelming reaction from Catholics denouncing the video as wrong on many levels.

Scott Eric Alt wrote a piece detailing how the action was a desecration of the altar. His article was picked by many outside news sources. Along with Alt, many writers from Patheos such as Mark Shea, Matthew Tyson and Keith Michael Estrada, to name but a few, denounced the video because of the desecration of the altar and the total lack of reverence for the dignity of the human person that should have been shown towards the remains of the baby. Some of them writing several articles each.

One writer, Mary Pezzulo also wrote more than one article on Patheos. A particular post, Has Father Pavone Kept Mummified Human Remains For More Than A Decade?, caught my attention.

In her article Mary writes: Alert reader and commentator Patricia Larson Guilfoyle recently posted the following, on my post about Father Pavone’s desecration of an infant and an altar earlier today:

A dead baby VERY SIMILAR to this one was put on public display in Charlotte before the 2012 Democratic National Convention. When asked what happened to the baby’s remains after the “event,” which featured the baby in an open casket on the sidewalk outside a Catholic church (which was closed at the time), Father Pavone would not say anything other than that he has a memorial to the unborn in New York that his ministry manages. The reason I note the similarity between the two sets of remains is that the bruising and discoloration are due to the effects of a saline abortion, a late-term abortion procedure no longer performed in the U.S. (Dilation & Curettage has been the preferred method since the mid-1990s). More than one person involved with the Charlotte “event” told me the baby’s remains are kept in a container with formaldehyde, and that Father Pavone had custody of the container.

Mary then adds "This is a very good point. When I looked at that photo of the deceased infant, and I don’t recommend you do, I was convinced I’d seen it before too."

It astounded me that there were Catholics that thought that keeping the remains of an aborted baby in formaldehyde, so thatit could be trotted out for various events would by any stretch of the imagination, in any dimension of reality, be deemed acceptable. It astounded me even more to think that Catholics did know this and ignored it for the sake of a cause.  Regardless of how good that cause may be.

One comment to a blog post does not, however, a reliable source make.  Although it can pique one's interest to investigate further. In my investigation I came across a couple of references from 2006 and 2007

Pavone in July 2006 traveled to Jackson, Mississippi, to brandish a fetus in a jar of formaldehyde, and ultimately bury it, in conjunction with Operation Save America protests of Mississippi’s only abortion clinic. Jackson police commander Lee Vance described Pavone’s possession of the fetus as “a legal issue.” Pavone in the end opted not to bury the fetus, which he said he had shown in protests in several other locations around the country, but vowed to bury it later in the year in Alabama.

And from 2007

Father Frank Pavone, director of Priests for Life, said the fetus, which is being preserved in a formaldehyde-like solution, will be buried in Alabama in a few months. Pavone said the fetus was aborted at about 18 weeks. It has been used in demonstrations in New York and Columbus, Ohio, he said, and will be in several more before being buried.

Eventually I discovered an archived article from the Catholic News Herald that details the event in 2012. The following are portions of that article. Emphasis in bold are mine.

Protestors said “Baby Choice” was a victim of a second-trimester saline abortion…The body of the intact Caucasian fetus, at 20-22 weeks gestation, was covered with black spots where the salt solution burned off the top layer of her skin.
The only information that Father Pavone disclosed about the baby, dubbed “Baby Choice,” was that he had acquired her from outside North Carolina and brought her to town so that her funeral could coincide with the demonstration.

“The baby whom we honored last week was entrusted to a colleague of mine, who came to me to ask if we could arrange for burial. When I told this colleague that there would be a memorial service held by Operation Save America, and that I would be speaking at it, she arranged to entrust the body to us for this service,” Father Pavone said in an email Tuesday, adding, “Many of the public events like Operation Save America holds involve memorial services. There may or may not be a baby to bury. Different babies, at different times, have been made available, and we have subsequently had burials for them.”
“Baby Choice” has been the name given to various fetal remains obtained and displayed by anti-abortion groups including Americans Against Abortion, Operation Rescue/Operation Save America and Priest for Life over the past three decades.

The first “Baby Choice” appeared in 1985, and is similar to the baby memorialized in Charlotte last week: a girl at the same gestational age, who died from the same abortion procedure, featuring similar black burn marks on the skin.

Father Pavone said the baby in Charlotte was not the original 1985 “Baby Choice.”

In a July 26 release from Priests for Life, he noted, “It is not often that we have the bodies of aborted babies. Unfortunately, the act by which their lives are dishonored and their bodies dismembered takes those bodies and discards the with the medical waste.

“But once in a while, we are able to retrieve these bodies. When we do so, we give them the honor that others have denied them. The act of violence that killed them is done in secret; we believe that the act of reparation that honors them should be done in public. The cold-hearted killing was done in darkness; the broken-hearted mourning should be done in the bright light of day.”
However, two Operation Rescue/Operation Save America members described the baby as not being recently deceased, saying they have used her in similar demonstrations elsewhere.

Organizers insisted that they treat the baby’s remains with dignity and respect as part of their fight to end abortion.
Dr. Patricia McEwen – whom the Priests for Life office referred inquiries to about “Baby Choice” and now serves with Operation Save America, Life Coalition International and Doctors for Life International – said she first met “Baby Choice” in 1991, and that the baby regularly travels around the country in anti-abortion demonstrations. The baby is the victim of “a very old saline abortion,” McEwen said, and is kept in formaldehyde when not being used in demonstrations.
“We’ve gotten attached to this little one. She’s the evidence of our sins, of our crimes against the little ones,” said evangelist Rusty Lee Thomas of Operation Rescue/Operation Save America, who said he once carried “Baby Choice” on a six-month walk across America in 2004. “It’s not like we want to exploit her or anything like that…”

The article goes on to say: Father Pavone said he buried “Baby Choice” on July 29 in Staten Island, N.Y., where Priests for Life is headquartered, in a plot that the organization has reserved…One of the Operation Rescue/Operation Save America protest organizers said he did not know beforehand of plans to lay the baby to rest and said that a symbol such as “Baby Choice” remains important to their cause,
Not all pro-life advocates felt this was appropriate. Later in the article it was noted that:

Maggi Nadol, director of the Diocese of Charlotte’s Respect Life Office, did not attend the demonstration, and there were no other local pro-life leaders visibly present. On Tuesday, Nadal said, “Respect for Life calls us to treat the human body with dignity.” Nadol said she could understand a situation where an open casket was used in a service for an unborn child once. But she expressed concern about it. “If the body is being used as a tool to bring people together, it is deceit.”

It seems that Patricia Larson Guilfoyle's comment on Mary Paluzzo's blog was correct in the fact that the remains of the baby from 2012 were preserved in formaldehyde and used for multiple demonstrations over a period of years. Is it, however, the same remains used in the most recent video?

Father Pavone has presided over many funerals for aborted babies. Often they are open casket public events that coincide with demonstrations. In 2006 or 2007 the baby was named Rebecca; in 2010 there was Abel; 2011 the baby was Esther; we read about baby Choice in 2012; in early 2013 there was Daniel and then Daniel Pavone later that year; Amos was the name of the baby in 2014. In all of these cases the baby is described as intact and from the second trimester. They are also described as heavily bruised and discolored due to a prostaglandin abortion. Were they all the same baby? In the long run it really doesn't matter if there was one baby or several. Either way, the remains of aborted babies, rather then actually being buried, find their final resting place by being preserved in a solution at a memorial and then are "disinterred" when deemed necessary to make a point. It seems this has been a common and ongoing practice. It also seems that it hasn't really been that big of a secret. The rest of us just haven't been paying attention or didn't connect the dots.

Many have speculated that the baby in Father Pavon's video was not actual remains but rather just an image. There are, in fact, two videos. One that was posted on Facebook and another much shorter video that was posted to YouTube. The baby is in a different position in each video so when comparing the two you can see that it is actual remains and not merely an image. Father Pavone says in each of the videos that it is a baby. That was the point after all. However, if there are still doubts, Snopes.com investigated the story and here is part of what they reported.

A spokeswoman for the Catholic clergy activist group, Priests for Life, confirmed that the fetus was real and was given to the organization by a pathologist under a strict agreement on confidentiality, although she was able to tell us that it was aborted in the second trimester of pregnancy. The group has dubbed the fetus "Baby Choice."
In the video, Fr. Pavone has the fetus on an altar, which the spokeswoman said is located in a room that is sometimes used for Mass at the organization's headquarters in Staten Island, New York. The Priests for Life group originally performed a funeral service for the body, which is preserved in formalin and normally kept in a memorial chapel. On the Sunday before the contentious 8 November 2016 presidential election, Fr. Pavone put it on wider display and urged the religious to vote against legal abortion by ousting Democratic lawmakers…

Is this "Baby Choice" the same "Baby Choice" from 2012? It doesn't really matter. It is the treatment of the babies regardless of if there has been one or several.

Father Pavone has said that it is not about his treatment of babies but rather how the abortionists have treated the babies. Respectfully, I beg to differ. It is ALL about the treatment of these babies be it the abortionist's or ours. Their wrong does not make ours right. The very point of pro-life advocacy is predicated on the dignity of every human life. Their dignity in life and their dignity in death. They are persons not symbols. They are not opportunities to advance a cause or to force people to recognize the horrors of abortion. When we receive their bodies we don't own them. We cannot arrogantly determine that they be used for a greater good. How dare we? When we receive their bodies we give them reverence and respect by performing the final work of mercy of burying the dead. Not a temporary burial so that we can take them out and use them for our own purposes. A permanent burial. We then allow them to rest in peace praying that the Lord grant them eternal rest and allow his perpetual light to shine upon them. Anything else is an assault on their person hood and dignity that mirrors in attitude those who assaulted them physically and took their lives.

We will never convince others of the dignity of children in the womb if we treat them as possessions whose bodies we may use according to our own determinations. We can show all of the images and videos we want to try to shock people into the reality of the desecration through abortion. But that is not what  people will see. Instead they will see the hypocrisy of our own disregard of those little bodies and our lack of recognition of that child as a unique, individual person and a child of God.

My purpose in writing this post is to shine a light on this situation in order to advocate for Baby Choice and his/her immediate, final and permanent burial. Cardinal Dolan of the archdiocese of New York does not have a connection to Priests for Life but he may have jurisdiction of the proper interment of this child's remains. Bishop Patrick Zurek of Amarillo Texas is the bishop over Father Pavone. These two bishops may be able to jointly insist that Baby Choice be permanently laid to rest as well as future remains that Father Pavone may receive.

Church regulations state that fetal remains "must be respected just as the remains of other human beings." This would include a timely burial and treating the remains with reverence for the sake of the dignity of the child and that the risk of scandal may be avoided.

I am praying for Father Pavone that the Lord will give him a new understanding regarding this. 

The one thing left to be done is for Baby Choice to finally be laid to rest.

For what it's worth

The following are links to some of the blog posts and writers that have written their opinions on this controversy

Scott Eric Alt - To Give a Defense


Mary Peluzzo - Steel Magnificat


Mark Shea - Catholic and Enjoying It

Keith Michael Estrada - Proper Nomenclature

Matthew Tyson - Mackerel Snapper

Rebecca Bratten Weis - Suspended in Her Jar

Sam Rocha

Anthony Lane - The Impractical Catholic http://impracticalcatholic.blogspot.com/2016/11/fighting-sin-with-sacrilege-dumb.html#.WCPvZYWcH4h

Elizabeth Scalia