Monday, September 24, 2007

Five Commandments

Fr. Frank Pavone
National Director, Priests for Life

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Much of the success of our pro-life efforts depends on our own humility. As we lead or participate in pro-life groups, whether on the local or national level, five commandments can significantly enhance our efforts.

1. Keep an open mind about what the best strategies and tactics are. Is this the right time for a state, for example, to introduce laws to ban abortion entirely, even if those laws might be struck down by a court? This is a matter of strategic disagreement, not dogma. Good pro-life people will come down on different sides of the question. Those who are convinced that they should work for such laws should do so with courage and grace; those who are not convinced should not criticize others.

Should pro-life people display graphic images of aborted babies in public? Again, people will disagree. But as long as the First Amendment is in place and there isn't a command in Scripture to avoid this tactic, those who don't think it's a good idea should not go on a dogmatic crusade to stop it.

Never confuse authority with expertise. Just because a bishop, for example, has authority in the Church, doesn't mean he knows the best pro-life strategies, and just because a lawyer is hired by a bishop, doesn't mean that the legal advice becomes dogma when the bishop signs off on it.

2. Rejoice when others who are not in your group do similar work. In Mark 9:38-40 we read, "Teacher," said John, "we saw a man driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us." "Do not stop him," Jesus said. "No one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, for whoever is not against us is for us."

The problem here was that this unnamed man didn't work in the same office as John and the other apostles. He belonged to a different organization. The apostles fell into the "turf wars" trap. They forgot that God is sovereign, that the Spirit moves where he wills, and that you cannot imprison the Word of the Lord. We are called to do God's work, not to control God's work. (For a similar story, see Numbers 11:24-29).

3. Remember that you don't own your donors, God does. People who donate to pro-life work do so freely, and usually donate to more than one organization. They do so because they see that work is being done and is having an impact. If you want a donor to stick with you, be sure to keep increasing the impact of your work. Remember, the money that's out there is not a pie, which only has so many pieces, but a river that keeps on flowing!

4. Ask not what other groups can do for you; ask what you can do for other groups.

5. Remember how much we can accomplish together if we don't care who gets the credit.

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