Senior Catholics have attacked a well-known pro-life priest for the “absolutely appalling” act of displaying a dead, recently aborted, foetus on a church altar in a bid to highlight the need to seek out pro-life candidates at the polls across America today (8 November).
In a video posted live on Facebook, Fr Frank Pavone, who is head of the pro-life campaign group Priests for Life, is seen standing behind the bloodied foetus while preaching on the need for Catholic voters to back the Republican candidate Donald Trump, who has asserted his anti-abortion stance throughout the campaign.
In a message accompanying the Facebook video, he wrote: “Today I am showing you a child who was killed by abortion and entrusted to us by a pathologist for burial. We have had a funeral for this baby, who rests in a Memorial Chapel, but today I am showing him to you because in this election we have to decide if we will allow this child killing to continue in America or not.
“Hillary Clinton and the Democratic platform says yes, let the child-killing continue (and you pay for it); Donald Trump and the Republican platform says no, the child should be protected, ” reads the post.
As the polls opened across the US on Wednesday morning, the 44-minute long video, which has been posted on YouTube, had been viewed more than 323,500 times.
Critics within the church have been quick to condemn the publicity stunt. Ed Mechmann, director of public policy for the Archdiocese of New York, described the use of an aborted baby as a political prop as “absolutely appalling”.
“A human being has been sacrificed and the altar of God has been desecrated, all for politics,” Mechmann said in a blog post on the archdiocese official website. “Everyone who respects the dignity of every human person should reject and disavow this atrocity.”
“The issue here is the dignity of the child that was used, and violating the dignity of his or her body on an altar of God – which is supposed to be used for divine worship. It really is a profane violation,” Fr Thomas Petri, vice-president of the Pontifical Faculty of the Immaculate Conception in Washington DC, told Catholic News Agency.
But Pavone defended his actions on the Renew America website, saying: “the issue is not how I’m treating a baby”. “The issue is how the abortionists, supported by the Democrats, are treating these babies.”
“We are living in the midst of a ‘holocaust', and our nation faces a choice on 8 November between electing people, like Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party, who will continue that holocaust and have us pay for it, and Donald Trump and the Republican Party, who are committed to working to bring it to an end. This choice is neither confusing nor difficult,” he added.
Pavone, a high-profile anti-abortion activist, has clashed with leaders of the Catholic Church on several occasions. Archbishop of New York, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, is reported to have cut all ties with Pavone, following his failure to allow Priests for Life to undergo auditing.
A spokesman for Dolan, who is also chairman of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops Committee on Pro-Life Activities, said the archdiocese does not have a relationship with Pavone and had no comment on the video, the UK Independent website reports.