Pro-life priest receives award, calls abortion ‘institutionalized murder’

FRAMINGHAM -- Abortion is a demonic force that only God can and will defeat if we get on our knees and marshal the spiritual force of our Catholic inheritance, said Father Thomas Euteneuer, president of Human Life International.

“Every time you go to Mass, make it a priority to ask for the conversion of the clergy. The key that binds and loosens is given to the Church,” he said Sept. 14 in accepting the Framingham Knights of Columbus pro-life priest-of-the-year award.

“We’re fighting against the devil himself. We have institutionalized murder,” said Father Euteneuer, 45, to a crowd of several hundred at St. Tarcisius Parish Hall.

An ex-Marine with 12 years experience in diocesan work, he now heads the world’s largest pro-life missionary group. HLI, based in Fort Royal, Va., was begun in 1981 by Father Paul Marx and reaches affiliates in 80 countries.

Father Euteneuer has visited 51 of them. “All cultures, across the board, have an innate respect for life, marriage and family as a natural endowment of culture,” he said in an interview.

But that basic intuitive respect can be deadened by “a relentless campaign of misinformation and distortion about abortion as a ‘woman’s right.’”

“Abortion is an abomination,” he said. “We need to be faithful to God’s truth. We don’t need to hit people over the head with the message because truth has its own beauty and authority.

“But be prepared for the onslaught. Be prayerful and let the chips fall where they may. When we walk into battle with Our Lady, the Mother of Life, we’ll always be protected.”

HLI’s efforts are most successful in Third World countries, Father Euteneuer said. For example, the small Central American country of Nicaragua recently outlawed all abortions, defying enormous pressure from international culture-of-death forces.

“But this wasn’t just a political victory,” he said. “It was a spiritual tour-de-force. Convents of nuns were praying; the Church led the way and people stood up. Nicaragua pulled this out of its national soul.”

How does the soul of Massachusetts compare in this spiritual battle?

“A serious conversion of heart” is needed, Father Euteneuer said. “Massachusetts is not much different from the rest of the opulent western world except that the decadent forces promoting the degeneration of culture seem to be more aggressive in their promotion of the anti-life, anti-family agenda.

“Priests need encouragement. Especially here, priests need encouragement,” he said. “If the clergy are strong, people will come out behind them. Remember the Battle of Jericho? Priests led the charge. Our priests should sound the battle cry to those working in abortion clinics that their salvation is at stake,” he said.

During his three-day visit, Father Euteneuer joined people from various parishes, from Operation Rescue Boston and from Massachusetts Citizens for Life in praying outside three abortion sites: Boston’s Planned Parenthood, Women’s Health Services in Brookline and Framingham Union Hospital.

Although more than half the 23,300 abortions reported in 2005 were done in clinics, a number of hospitals also perform them. Catholics should at the least tell hospital officials they oppose this, said Father Euteneuer.

“We have an obligation not to remain silent in the face of evil,” he said. “Yet based upon the parable of the weeds among the wheat, the Church recognizes that we often have to live and work in situations of great evil, yet without compromising our values.”

Say, for example, a Catholic was a patient or worked at a hospital that also performed abortions or sterilizations, or dispensed contraception. Of course, the Catholic could not morally agree with or cooperate with these acts, but he could still remain employed there or use other hospital services -- provided his involvement was only with morally unobjectionable activities, Father Euteneuer said.

“However, there is a long-standing Christian tradition of conscientious objection to institutions where evil acts are performed,” he added. “One can exercise this conscientious objection in a radical way by resigning employment as a witness against them, by speaking out against abuses from within, or simply by boycotting their services and protesting them from without.”

His visit included a stop at the Boston office of A Woman’s Concern, where he praised the lifesaving work of this eastern Massachusetts pregnancy help network. He spoke to Boston University’s Catholic Center and called young pro-life activists “the greatest hope we have for the future.”

In fact, Father Euteneuer said in a separate interview, if laity and clergy of all ages will “return to full Catholic orthodoxy and a zealous missionary spirit, then the Catholic Church, as the fullest expression of the Church that Christ founded, will actually transform our society.

“As for the laity, their mode of evangelizing our world is above all by fully accepting the Church’s teaching on sexual morality,” he said.

Sixty percent of abortions are the result of failed contraception, he noted; birth control is a corruption of God’s plan for sexuality.

The clergy’s responsibility is “to preach the whole truth of Christ to our people,” he said. “I for one will never be silent about the things people really need to hear for their salvation because I have to appear before the throne of God one day to render an account of my ministry.”

Finally, he said, all Catholics need to pray for a rebirth of moral courage. “One day we will see America again abortion free,” he predicted. “We will only do that with God, with Our Lady, and on our knees.”