Monsignor Harry J. Byrne, JCD * * * Comment/

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Location: 3103 Arlington Avenue,, Bronx, NY 10463, United States

April 9, 2009


In Canada in the 1970s,the abortion debate between pro-choicers and pro-lifers heated up. But, curiously, a rift developed within the Catholic camp. A group, termed "revivalist Catholics" by the media, bitterly attacked not only pro-choice doctrine but also the personages who favored it as evil. They also attacked the Canadian bishops, who favored a different tactical approach. Some responses to my last posting about Notre Dame's invitation to President Obama, indicate that Catholics are similarly divided today.

My post said nothing about whether it was wise or prudent for Notre Dame to have invited Obama. It questioned what to do about the invitation already extended. I proposed some answers to the questions of retired bishop John Quinn. Would retracting the invitation reduce the number of abortions? What would be the effect on the image of the Church? I think the answers are quite obvious.

The issue comes down to the legitimacy of dealing with a thoroughly pro-abortion Obama. Our bishops in their "Faithful Citizenship" document explain how a Catholic, clearly opposing the "pro-choice" position, could in light of other considerations vote for such an individual. Obama holds many positions in thorough accord with Catholic social justice doctrine. Pax Christ,a Catholic organization headed by Bishop Gabino Zavales, auxiliary bishop in Los Angeles, has just commended Obama for his Passion Sunday address in Europe,in which he said we will seek US ratification of the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.

A couple of responses I received chastised me for sharing Obama's views on abortion, which I certainly do not, and for other items unworthy of a priest. I have written articles condemning abortion in several publications.(Two that I can cite off hand: AMERICA magazine for 1-12-1991 and 6-21-2001.) In 1969, abortion-permitting legislation failed in the NY legislature by one vote; in 1970, it succeded by one vote. Assemblyman Al Blumentahl, the bill's sponsor, campaigned in early 1970 to win public support for his bill. At a "town hall" forum near St. Joseph's, where I was pastor,Blumenthal held forth. I was able to take the floor and debate calmly and effectively with him. A couple of extremist anti-abortion chaps screamed and yelled. They made a bad impression on the crowd; my approach received respectful attention.

Example of a pro-life tactical mistake: Prior to the 2000 election, pro-choice Hillary Clinton and pro-life Rick Lazio were campaigning for the NY seat in the US Senate. Catholic Charities of Rockville Centre arranged for nineteen Candidates' Nights throughout that diocese. Pro-choice Clinton and pro-life Lazio or their representatives would contend at these Candidates' Nights. Bishop James McHugh, the then RVC bishop and the Chair of the Pro-Life Committee of the USCCB,scuttled the arrangements because he did not want pro-choice advocates speaking on church premises. An opportunity was lost for voters to hear where each candidate stood and thus add to the prospects of Lazio.

Another example: In that 2000 election, politically astute Michael Brown and his Conservative Party endorsed Lazio and threw him their votes. The not-so-politically-astute Right-To-Life Party put up a John O. Adepope as its unwinnable candidate, thus siphoning off its voters who otherwise probably would have voted for Lazio.

Another example: In the two pastorates that I was privileged to serve, St. Joseph's on East 87th Street, and Epiphany on East 22nd Street, Candidates Nights were a regular feature, open to the entire neighborhood. In, I think, 1978, big hatted Congresswoman Bella Abzug, said to have been "born screaming", was unseated by Bill Green. At a Candidates' Night" at St. Joseph's, she bitterly attacked a tuition tax credit pending before Congress that would have benefitted parents of parochial school students. Green, spoke in support of the bill. I had become friendly with Bill and had discussed the bill with him. He clearly gathered votes that evening. For many reason, probably including his support of the tax credit bill, he prevailed over Lady Abzug in the election. (I will check details and dates.) Bella and Bill were both pro-choice. But it was helpful to have them present. The audience, heavily parishioners, came to know where each stood on the tax credit and other bills.

Final example: In 1992, Congressman Bill Green faced a challenge from Carolyn Maloney. At Epiphany, we held a Candidates' Night. A third minor candidate, whose name I do not recall,was on hand. All were pro-choicers and they knew where we stood. In the middle of the evening's discussion, the doors burst open. A group of extremist right-to-lifers rushed in, brandishing jars containing fetuses! We had to call the police in order to continue the evenings discussion. The well-intentioned intruders succeeded only in bringing discredit on the cause that we shared with them. Outsiders and parishioners were appalled at their behavior. Maloney prevailed in the election.,

As we face the Notre Dame situation, we can well reflect on the questions posed by Bishop John Quinn, which were summarized in my previous posting.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Monsignor Byrne,

I have never met you, but I would like to assure you that your name has been well known to all those of us in the Catholic pro-life movement in the New York area for years. It is synonymous with those who have betrayed our cause rather than become its champions. For decades, you have exemplified the critical problem we have had - clergy who are outright opposed to the prolife movement in the United States. What would you say to someone who lived directly across the street from a concentration camp/killing center in Germany while thousands, if not millions, of innocent Jewish and other people were slaughtered every year and who did nothing to stop this? What would you say to this person who knew full well what was taking place in this camp, but who went calmly about his business - eating fine meals, sleeping peacefully at night, even celebrating the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass (yes, I've pegged myself as an orthodox Catholic by using this terminology) and not once even crossed the street to raise his voice in prayer or offer one single Ave in reparation for the slaughter, or to help guide or protect the souls caught up in the diabolical activity? What would you say to this person who did nothing, knowing that this person's whole vocation was to do the opposite of what he did?

Monsignor Byrne, you were the Pastor of Epiphany Parish for at least a decade, and maybe more. One of the worst killing centers in the city, perhaps in the entire country, was situated only a few hundred feet from where you lay your head every night. You did NOTHING. You NEVER spoke out against this killing center or the diabolical activities practiced there. And you will have to answer for this. You did not place yourself between the killers and one innocent soul being led to the slaughter. Not one. We in the pro-life movement prayed for years that you would have a change of heart. Our prayers went unanswered. You are also well known among your brother priests, who - judging from their comments to me - are clearly well aware of who you are and what you stand for, and whose side you are on in this fierce and deadly war. And, be assured, you are NOT on our side. You know this as well as I do. Let's end the hypocrisy on top of everything else.

I see that you are no less than 88 years of age. This is a sign that you have been granted some singular graces - you must have done some good things for God, as well. Our Lord has granted you a long life in the hope that you will use this extra time to finally repent. I beg you not to let Him down. We are in the final days of Lent. Today is Good Friday. I personally still have hope that you may be saved, but you really need to stop defending the indefensible, and placing yourself at odds with the Holy See. I know that this is difficult for you since you harbor so much animosity towards the Holy Father, and against this Pope in particular. From what I further understand, you have been deeply involved in Democratic politics for many years. Those in the know have told me that you have long placed the Democratic Party before your responsibilities as a priest and before the welfare of the Catholic Church, the Mystical Body of Christ. This might explain your behavior over the years, but it certainly does not excuse it.

I am no spring chicken, and I have found in life that priests who are fanatically opposed to the pro-life movement in the Church, and who are vociferous opponents of the Holy See, usually are harboring something else in their minds and hearts that they are trying to justify. Only you can answer this one - it is between you and God. Please know that as we end this Holy Triduum, you will be especially in my prayers. Forgive my bluntness in this message, but time is of the essence for you, Monsignor.

April 10, 2009 at 1:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is it any wonder when Catholics read the first comment that they dismiss the "pro-life" movement as simply a grop of pro-fetus nuts and cranks? These sad people do much harm to the cause they seek to champion.
As Catholics it is not our call to judge if others are "saved."

April 13, 2009 at 3:43 PM  
Blogger Joe said...

Don't sweat the small stuff about the last comment. Just remember that opinions are like assholes, everybody has one.This is true, especially opinions with no name attached.
You know the good you have done for many, many years and you don't have to answer to anyone.

April 29, 2009 at 5:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Don't mess with my grandcousin!

May 13, 2009 at 10:41 AM  

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