I said I wouldn’t comment again until a resolution had been reached, but this weekend’s developments cannot go unanswered. Some of Father Pavone’s supporters in the pro-life movement have descended on Amarillo, Texas, with tactics normally reserved for the enemies of life. Banners being towed by planes showing aborted babies, and trucks sporting images of aborted babies circling St. Mary’s Cathedral and school, a campaign to vilify Bishop Zurek…
It’s twisted, and it’s wrong. It’s also starting to alienate allies.
Here is a comment from a mother of a child being besieged with such disturbing photos, as written at Deacon Greg Kandra’s blog:
My children attend St. Mary’s Cathedral School. I wish someone in this group protesting would realize that my kids shouldn’t be able to view these pictures. They are outside of a school. My kids shouldn’t have to be around pictures of dead fetuses. If they have a problem with the bishop’s decision, they need to wait until he comes back, or get a petition going. Hello????
I agree with her. I don’t want my children seeing those images either. They are too young and not ready emotionally for such a sight. This is thuggishness, holding children and parents hostage until the activists get their way.
Is this what Father Pavone is all about? Is this his great life’s work? I think not, but people are asking why he hasn’t called off the dogs.
Bishop Zurek didn’t come to town and immediately change course, which is still his episcopal prerogative, anyway. He allowed Father Pavone to continue on in his ministry and launched an investigation of the finances and the prudential use of monies after receiving complaints from clergy and laity alike. That’s his responsibility.
Then he took further action (however clumsily and uncharitably) when he didn’t like the answers he was getting, which is also his responsibility. And now, here we are. Trucks sporting pictures of murdered babies circling a Catholic school until Father Pavone’s friends get their way.
This is not how the Holy Spirit works. He unites. He does not divide.
It also might just work, but it will come at a terrible, terrible price. It is already creating a split in the pro-life community and causing Father Pavone to lose more stature than Bishop Zurek could with ten more letters like the first. It’s called a Pyrrhic Victory. From Wikkipedia:
The phrase is named after King Pyrrhus of Epirus, whose army suffered irreplaceable casualties in defeating the Romans at Heraclea in 280 BC and Asculum in 279 BC during the Pyrrhic War. After the latter battle, Plutarch relates in a report by Dionysius:
The armies separated; and, it is said, Pyrrhus replied to one that gave him joy of his victory that one more such victory would utterly undo him. For he had lost a great part of the forces he brought with him, and almost all his particular friends and principal commanders; there were no others there to make recruits, and he found the confederates in Italy backward. On the other hand, as from a fountain continually flowing out of the city, the Roman camp was quickly and plentifully filled up with fresh men, not at all abating in courage for the loss they sustained, but even from their very anger gaining new force and resolution to go on with the war.
In both of Pyrrhus’s victories, the Romans suffered greater casualties than Pyrrhus did. However, the Romans had a much larger supply of men from which to draw soldiers, so their casualties did less damage to their war effort than Pyrrhus’s casualties did to his.
The bishops are watching and taking careful note. We want more involvement from them, more outspokenness. We want more priests involved in the pro-life cause. How many bishops in their right mind would consent to further involvement if they suspect that this circus would arrive at their door should they dare to discharge the duties of their office, should the need arise?
The beauty of Priests for Life has been the visage of priests sent by their bishops to bring the heart of the Church to this fight. Priests acting in communion with their bishops, strengthening the hearts of the faithful who wage spiritual and political war on the storm troopers from Hell itself.
This siege on the Cathedral and children in Amarillo is a distortion of that visage. It suggests a loss of mission and perspective. We Catholics like our priests in union with their bishops. This has become ugly.
Father Pavone needs to call off the dogs. He needs to stress respect for his bishop in all matters. He needs to lead the movement in prayerful discernment and focus the faint of heart on God’s providence, which is boundless. He needs to protect the children at St. Mary’s School, especially as he is a priest of that diocese, and they are being assaulted in his name.
Not so far from Amarillo is the site of one of the great Pyrrhic victories in American history, The Alamo.
General Santa Anna had himself a victory there, even though he lost twice as many men as the Texians. However, he was perceived as so cruel that the battle cry, “Remember the Alamo” would lead to his defeat shortly thereafter.
Making war on children in order to muscle a bishop into submission to activists has the potential to make Amarillo not only Father Pavone’s Alamo, but ours as well.