In recent days, social media has been abuzz regarding a video posted by Fr. Frank Pavone, head of Priests for Life (U.S.A.), in which the body of an aborted child was openly displayed on an altar. Many were rightly disturbed, shocked and horrified by such an action. While Priests for Life Canada would certainly concur with the need for the public to be aware of the stark reality of abortion, we are deeply disturbed by such actions.
First, a child is due the same respect given through adult funeral rites which honour the dignity of the human person and respect for the body of the dead. Catholic funerals do not display the body as an exhibit. Even at wakes, it is rare that a body that had suffered violence would be displayed. This is to avoid reactions of shock or even disgust and would detract from the teachings of the Church to treat the body with respect. Funerals should not be used for sensation but to pray for those affected by the death.
Second, it is never allowed that we alter the rite of a Catholic funeral by having the body of the deceased on the altar during Mass or any at any other time. In our day, with so much confusion regarding funeral rites and the proper respect to be shown to the human body, we need to encourage the same respect for all human bodies, born and unborn.
In closing, we would like to make it clear that Priests for Life Canada is completely independent of Priests for Life (U.S.A.), and although we, along with many other pro-life organizations, do share common goals and objectives, we cannot concur with all of their actions and the recent actions of Fr. Pavone are not supported by Priests for Life Canada. Priests for Life Canada shares the same concerns as recently issued by Fr. Pavone’s Ordinary, Bishop Patrick Zurek of the Diocese of Amarillo:
“Priests for Life Inc. is not a Catholic institution, but a civil organization and is not under the control or supervision of the Diocese of Amarillo. 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.”
Priests for Life Canada supports the investigation around the release of this video that is now being undertaken by the Diocese of Amarillo. We continue to pray for all of the good work done by Priests for Life (U.S.A.)
Fr Thomas Lynch
President, Priests for Life Canada
Meanwhile, National Catholic Register has this:
Father Pavone told the Register that the baby was temporarily entrusted to Priests for Life “through a Protestant pastor who obtained it through a pathologist who obtained it from an abortion facility.”
He said the pastor came to him to arrange for a burial service to be held, where people could see what had been done to the baby — just as people saw the body of 14-year-old Emmett Till, whose mother insisted he have an open-casket funeral so people could see how the African-American teenager had been tortured and killed by Mississippi white supremacists in 1955.
According to Father Pavone, he put the pastor in touch with a funeral home for burial. But the baby’s body had not been laid to rest after the service, as Father Pavone revealed the minister reached out to him some time later.
“As the election proceeded and intensified, he indicated to me that the baby was still under his auspices, so to speak; he had access to the body,” Father Pavone continued. “We talked again about showing people again the reality of the aborted child, and so we did that.”
Father Pavone did not identify the pastor, and he declined to provide a general time frame that would indicate when these conservations took place, which he felt might identify him.
…Dominican Father Pius Pietrzyk, a canon lawyer based in Rome, told the Register that he believes Father Pavone’s actions were “imprudent,” but that the law prefers handling such things through “pastoral or an administrative” actions rather than judicial penalties.
The priest said that the treatment of the body is not “specifically covered by canon law.” However, Father Pietrzyk pointed out that Canon 1399 allows a bishop to punish violations not specifically enumerated in the code, “when the special gravity of the violation requires it and necessity demands that scandals be prevented or repaired.”