Sometimes “Respect” Can Blind Us

At least for the moment, Giovanni Maria Vian is editor of the Vatican’s newspaper L’Osservatore Romano. He caused a stir recently with his comments about President Obama, and by doing so, unwittingly revealed what’s at the heart of the abortion controversy. Vian stated, in an interview with the newspaper Il Riformista, “Obama has not upset the world… His speech at Notre Dame has been respectful toward every position. He tried to engage the debate stepping out from every ideological position and outside every ‘confrontational mentality.’ To this extent his speech is to be appreciated.”

Wow. “Respectful toward every position.” To put it plainly, that’s nonsense. The position that is precisely excluded is the position of the unborn child… the position that demands absolute respect and protection for that child, not because we have come to some consensus about it, but because the child deserves it now, without compromise or delay.

It is the position that says it is not equivalent to every other position, and that we cannot ‘agree to disagree’ about abortion. Why not? Because when someone is carrying out violence against someone else, you don’t sit back and ‘agree to disagree’ with the perpetrator. You intervene to stop the perpetrator and to protect the victim.

But the fact that this is the forgotten position should be no surprise, because ultimately that is the problem. The child in the womb is the forgotten member of our society.

And the tragedy of the forgetfulness that excludes these children is never more clear than when the society and its leaders who forget at the same time claim to be seeking justice for everyone, advocating for everyone, respecting everyone, and remembering everyone.

One cannot relegate the soul, the energy of the pro-life movement just to a “position” on which one can have a civil “disagreement.” The position of pro-life advocates is in a different category, because abortion itself is in a different category. We don’t settle for civil disagreements about racism, segregation, genocide, terrorism or other human rights violations. It’s only the human rights of that forgotten brother and sister in the womb that seem not to matter enough.

The position that sees abortion as a deal-breaker, a show-stopper, is precisely the position toward which the President is not respectful. It’s the position that allowed people to vote for him, though they said they opposed abortion. Yes, abortion is evil, they admitted. It’s just not a deal-breaker. It’s the position that prevented so many from seeing a problem with honoring President Obama with a law degree at Notre Dame. Sure, we disagree with him on abortion. But it’s not a show-stopper. We wouldn’t give the degree or the platform to a racist, but this is different. It’s the position that allows people to ignore the question of whether a Supreme Court nominee is for or against abortion. So what? It’s not like we’re putting an advocate of violence on the Court, right?

It’s time for the blindness to end. If abortion is murder, let’s act like it.

Fr. Frank Pavone


Father Frank A. Pavone is an American Roman Catholic priest and pro-life activist. He is the National Director of Priests for Life and serves as the Chairman and Pastoral Director of Rachel's Vineyard.

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  • mamreilly

    Fr. Pavone,

    As always, you are out there shining the light of the Truth and exposing the fruitless works of darkness, no matter where they originate. Satan has been very effective at infiltrating Catholic institutions (universities, primary and secondary shools, newspapers, websites) to sow deception and confusion and create the divisions within the Church.

    Thank you for your tireless efforts to protect the unborn and all those who are being marginalized.

    Yours in Christ.

  • elkabrikir

    Thanks, Father Pavone. You always radiate Veritas Splendor.

    At least ten years ago, over our mug of breakfast coffee, my husband asked, “If abortion is really murder, are we doing enough to stop it?” The answer was, “No.”

    Sadly, it still is.

    This is a battle that must be fought until no other people are at risk for murder in the womb ANYWHERE in the world.

    Seems like a tall order, I know, but with the correct strategies and God’s grace this scourge against the littlest among us will be eradicated from global laws.

    Father Pavone, thanks for keeping our unseen, unborn brothers and sisters before us and giving them a voice.

  • Les

    I have reviewed the speech you made this year at the Spring commencement ceremonies for graduates of Notre Dame University. I understand the points you made in regard to fair-minded debate and respect for other viewpoints. However, I would like to clarify something in regard to the fundamental pillars of your philosophy toward abortion and embryonic stem cell research: who speaks for the children that are killed while we debate?

    Perhaps you do not believe man can know precisely when a child is imbued with a soul, but I suspect that you would agree that once that event occurs, that person is undeniably a human being – a person. If we cannot know precisely when this happens, how can we justify the killing of that being strictly on the basis of how one feels?

    Consider an adult accused of murder. Certainly in many cases witnesses or others involved may “feel” and believe with all their heart that a suspect is guilty, yet that is insufficient cause to convict. We must be convinced of guilt through circumstance and fact before we can convict, and if we do not possess sufficient knowledge to make such a judgment then we are compelled to protect the suspect. Why would this not be true for the unborn, who no one accuses of any crime and who only exists as the result of external circumstances?

    You might argue that the idea of the soul is in itself an item of faith and religion and is not shared by everyone. However if this point could be proven then perhaps we would not be having this debate. Does this then justify proceeding along the lines that since we cannot know, we can do what we like?

    I am willing to listen but until I hear you reasonably address this point, and explain why we can allow destruction of the unborn despite our inability to know the status of their soul, I must in all conscience oppose you in every way I am able.

  • neiders

    Good information as usual from you Father.
    Can you please get some of the information about the odd George Tiller practices, that you gave on Fr Groeschel’s program for these readers. Even in light of the fact no killing is ever acceptable it provides a fuller picture of him that should be made available to a wider group. Otherwise he may be picked up as a Pro-Choice martyr, and even they would not approve of his bizarre practices.

  • Jim McFillin


    The unborn child in the womb is not respected or acknowledged as a person with rights. If we were in a theater with 4000 people, and I started killing a person every 25 seconds would anyone stop me? Would anyone say stop?

    For the unborn baby it’s all about being wanted. Standing in front of a Planned Parenthood in MD, I had a woman yell at us, saying this was an “unwanted baby.” She actually said “baby.”

    Some Pro-life people, and all abortion supporting people do not recognize this personhood. How could 52% of catholics vote for a pro-abortion guy? They don’t think this evil is really evil.

    May God have mercy on us.

    Jim McFillin
    Great Mills, MD

  • margaretmary

    I’m not sure how your comment fits in here. Would you explain? Thanks.

  • Les

    Sorry, it was an extract of a letter I sent to the President. I erred in pasting it in.