Raphael Challenges Pro-Life and Black Communities to
Build Bridges of Communication
National Right to Life Convention Prayer Breakfast, Keynote Speaker
Fr. John Raphael, SSJ, told the pro-life attendees that the pro-life
community and the African-American community have much in common
regarding the respect for human life but have not connected with
each other sufficiently.
black priest from New Orleans and chairman of the Josephite Pro-Life
Committee, Fr. Raphael has worked for nearly 20 years to raise the
consciousness of Blacks regarding the plight of the unborn. He
sponsors regional workshops for pro-life education.
talks, he finds that African-Americans nod in agreement. But when it
comes to voting, even the most pious pro-lifers will vote for a
pro-abortion candidate because of social-cultural reasons. Fr.
Raphael believes that the black population needs to be convinced
that the life issue is so important that they would insist that
whoever asks for their vote should be pro-life.
dramatic focus on this issue arose May 17 when pro-abortion
President Barack Obama gave the commencement address and was given
an honorary degree at Notre Dame. This was an intense experience for
Fr. Raphael, who is a 1989 Notre Dame graduate.
the election, while the African-American boys in the high school in
New Orleans where Fr. Raphael teaches were ecstatic that an
African-American man could break the racial barrier to become
president, Fr. Raphael had been carrying on a pro-life information
abortion statistics, parallels between abortion and slavery,
comparison of the number of black deaths from abortion to total
black deaths (pointing out the genocide happening when blacks
comprises 13% of the population but have 37% of the abortions),
highlighting Planned Parenthood’s concentration of abortion clinics
in minority neighborhoods, and relating the history of Margaret
Sanger’s “Negro Project” to reduce births among blacks.
know, these facts did not change “the racial mandate” in a black
community bursting with pride in a black leader who could become the
U.S. president. But after Obama was elected, Fr. Raphael pointed out
that the “Obama Abortion Agenda” was real and had real victims.
was announced that Notre Dame would honor Obama, Fr. Raphael was
dismayed at the position this put him in, and the Church as well. If
it was okay with Notre Dame to honor a pro-abortion president, then
it must be okay with the Church. He felt he was suddenly transformed
into “a quirky priest with a personal agenda.”
Raphael chose to participate in the Rally for Life at Notre Dame on
May 17. He shared that the religion writer for the local newspaper,
in a front page article, gave a fair and balanced explanation for
his participation in the pro-life rally.
African-Americans, he said, responded angrily, both to the article
and to Fr. Raphael. Nevertheless, he felt that, after years of
trying to provoke anger at abortion and getting only a yawn, the
newspaper article did more to draw attention to the issue than
black priest from New Orleans arrived at the rally, he was welcomed
with open arms by the pro-lifers. But Fr. Raphael commented that to
his black brothers and sisters he was “an enigma at best and a
traitor at worst.” So he asked himself why these two communities
have not been able to connect with each other better. He pointed out
that black culture has been forged out of suffering and is a world
often alien to white pro-lifers.
concerns seem to stand in contradiction: the racial issue and the
life issues. Logically, of course, these two concerns are not in
contradiction. Yet social and political history have placed them in
opposition. Is it possible to overcome this divide?
Raphael urged a strong bridge of communication between the pro-life
and black communities to educate the average African-American on the
importance of protecting the lives of unborn black children. This
needs to be done in terms that are meaningful within the black
community, one that speaks about their fight for justice and relates
this to the injustice to black mothers, families, and unborn
children in the abortion agenda. In addition larger resources need
to be devoted to this educational work, building on those efforts
public relations also should let the public know of all the good
work pro-lifers have done for years helping pregnant women of all
races, before and after birth, with generous support, he said.
“Being pro-life is ... a way of life that places specific burdens
and responsibilities on us,” Fr. Raphael emphasized. “But victory
belongs to the children of God.”