Pavone defends commentary on Robin Williams' death

Matt C. Abbott
© Matt C. Abbott
August 15, 2014
Reproduced with Permission

Like many people, I reacted to the suicide of noted actor and comedian Robin Williams with sadness. He was a talented and entertaining man. A comedic genius.

Suicide is, understandably, a very sensitive topic - one that most people don't like discussing. And the media typically don't publicize suicides, unless, of course, it's the suicide of a celebrity. But it is indeed a significant problem in our society. In fact, that's probably an understatement. According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, "Every 13 minutes someone dies from suicide and it is among the top ten causes of death in the U.S."

Williams reportedly suffered from severe depression (I, too, have suffered from depression for a number of years), the early stages of Parkinson's, and had battled alcohol and drug addiction in the past.

There's one aspect of Williams' past - "an abortion that took place in the 1970s" - that was written about by Kevin Burke of Priests for Life. Click here to read his blog post. Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, at least one reporter from a mainstream media outlet reacted negatively to it.

Abby Ohlheiser of The Washington Post , in the publication's "Style Blog," devotes most of her article to Rush Limbaugh's remarks on Williams' death, but mentions, in bristling fashion, Burke's commentary and Priests for Life.

I asked Father Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life, to comment on The Post 's not-so-friendly mention of his organization.

Father Pavone's response is as follows:

Yes, indeed, the post remains and will remain on the Priests for Life website. When things happen, people comment on them, and connect them to other things that people should also be thinking about. There is in our society a deep denial about the deep damage that abortion does. Instead of reinforcing that denial, we should be breaking it. Priests for Life does that unceasingly.

Our medical advisors, for instance, who have done extensive psychiatric research on the damage of abortion, point out that much of what passes for depression is actually grieving. Yet people in our society who are grieving over the loss of the children they killed by abortion are told by many that there is simply nothing to grieve, because the reality of the child vanishes in some imaginary realm of choice.

Abortion is the killing of unborn children, and it is killing many men and women because of the suicidal effects of it. What happened to this particular man [the exact thinking of Robin Williams at the time of his death], we do not know. But we do know he committed suicide and we do know he lost a child by abortion, and it is simply normal and natural to point out that there is a medical connection between the two, whether or not that connection actually occurred in his life.

Today, people will in fact kill themselves because of an abortion in their past. If we keep reinforcing the denial about that and if refuse to talk about it, their blood is on our hands.

Also, Kevin Burke has written a follow-up commentary in which he clarifies:

I never in my article claimed his suicide was a direct relationship to his abortion loss. Only God and Williams understand the pain and torment that led him to such a desperate act. I tried to make the case based on my professional experience that there is a possible connection between his addiction struggles and his abortion loss.

For those who are neutral or pro-abortion rights, you will have a difficult time understanding my perspective. In fact, those that support abortion rights dismiss any negative after-effects from the procedure. Research and the testimonies of hundreds of men and women clearly reveal serious emotional, physical and spiritual suffering after abortion...and the benefits of an abortion recovery program.

I believe that in the 1970s (like millions of other couples), during a time of vulnerability, anxiety and fear, Williams and his partner participated in the death of their unborn son or daughter. Is it unreasonable when the media is saturated with stories about his addictions to suggest a connection? I did not see similar outrage from articles that touched on his struggle with addiction.

Finally, please understand that my vocation is to educate the public about the after-effects from abortion and, most importantly, the good news of healing recovery programs. My desire was not to sensationalize the tragic death of Robin Williams, but in that painful and confusing death to bring light to what may be one area of pain in this man's life - with the hope that others might see in their own story how abortion loss may be part of their addiction issues and other symptoms. My hope is that the story would lead others to find reconciliation and healing.

Regarding suicide, the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches (paragraphs 2281, 2282):

Suicide contradicts the natural inclination of the human being to preserve and perpetuate his life. It is gravely contrary to the just love of self. It likewise offends love of neighbor because it unjustly breaks the ties of solidarity with family, nation, and other human societies to which we continue to have obligations. Suicide is contrary to love for the living God.

If suicide is committed with the intention of setting an example, especially to the young, it also takes on the gravity of scandal. Voluntary co-operation in suicide is contrary to the moral law.

Grave psychological disturbances, anguish, or grave fear of hardship, suffering, or torture can diminish the responsibility of the one committing suicide.