While some pro-life organizations have tried to activate the Church for pro-life by criticizing the bishops, Priests for Life has instead promoted their teachings and documents, encouraged their initiatives, and served the clergy and laity of their dioceses through seminars, parish weekends, and materials provided without charge.
To work in harmony with the bishops, it is important to understand their role in relationship to the pro-life movement.
A careful reading of the bishops’ own Pastoral Plan for Pro-life Activities, as well as of the many documents of the Magisterium about the structure of the Church, tells us that the bishops do not see themselves as sitting at some master control switchboard, creating strategy and projects for pro-life organizations. In fact, the pro-life committee of the US bishops’ conference does not even see its role as giving “approbation” to pro-life groups. Rather, as confirmed by correspondence between the committee and Priests for Life, the committee sees its role as encouraging all those who are engaged in promoting the Gospel of Life. Catholics are to be in union with the teachings of their bishops. But they are responsible for implementing those teachings through their own new initiatives. Moreover, the pro-life movement reaches far beyond the Catholic Church.
Who, then, “directs” the pro-life movement?
The answer is that the movement is not a single entity that anyone directs; it is a movement, which gives rise to many entities. It starts in the depths of the human heart and soul, moved by the call of conscience. It begins to take shape around the kitchen table and the telephone, the email and the coffee shop. It coalesces into county groups and parish committees, pregnancy centers and lobbying efforts.
It is the role of bishops to herald the Gospel of Life by their preaching, teaching, and stirring into flame the gifts of God in the hearts of the laity. They are a sign of Christ among us, proclaiming reconciliation for all who have had abortions. They are good shepherds and servants of the People of Life.
And it is to that people that the movement belongs.