In regard to the recent  fad, please click on this to go to the founder’s site and read about it in his own words.  I immediately sensed the problems with this, mainly because it was touted as being a substitute for, not an introduction to, sustained pro-life activism.  I sent the following out to my local list shortly before Lent..(begin quote)

Many of us have seen promotions for an effort that involves sending empty red envelopes to the White House to signify a life lost to abortion.  While I applaud the motivation behind this effort, I am ambivalent towards it for several reasons.


·         These things are going to the White House.  We need to be realistic about the way mail is handled there.  These things will never get to Obama.  Some White House mail clerk will ask his/her boss about them and will be told to pitch them.  Remember - these are government workers.

·         It's targeted at the wrong people.  It's not enough to try to pursuade Obama.  Remember - he was elected to office.  The folks whom we need to pursuade are those who voted for him in the first place.  For that reason, nothing will ever take the place of grass-roots work.

·         More importantly, I'm concerned that some, especially those who have hitherto not been involved in pro-life activism, will be deceived (mostly self-deceived) into thinking that this action will suffice for effective pro-life work.  It won't; hence, my suggestions below.


The envelope thing seems to be an easy thing to do.  Therein lies another problem; it's too easy !  If we're going to be serious about stopping abortion, we need ongoing, long-term commitments.  We need to invest ourselves significantly in prayer and action if we're going to turn this hell-bent culture of ours around.  We need to do things that will produce tangible results, and not merely engage in symbolic gestures that only serve to make us giddy with the illusion of "doing something".  We, each and every one of us, needs to get out in front of the crying need, and we need to do so in a committed fashion.  Of course there are family obligations, etc that may prevent an investment of bulks of time, but surely once a month (at least) cannot be too much to ask for most of us.


Lent is approaching.  I cannot think of a more worthwhile lenten exercise than to begin to pray in front of your local abortion mill.  Think of prayer, fasting and almsgiving - the three traditional disciplines:

1) prayer - joining others to pray the Rosary to offer reparation for abortion

2) fasting - from sleep, leisure, comfort zones, etc to be in front of the abortuary

3) almsgiving - to offer aid to women and babies, perhaps save some lives  (end quote)


I also had a bit of discussion with the founder of the project, as I was troubled by a quote attributed to him: “Otto says it's a small act that could make a big statement.  People are not going to get into an argument, he says. They're not going to stand in front of an abortion clinic. But they are going to buy an envelope and cast this vote for life.”  To which I replied, “This reticence is not something to be coddled; it must be challenged and rebuked.  Until these people get off their duffs, find their voices and spinal columns, get out of their comfort zones and march on out there, whether they like it or not, abortion will continue unabated. For such folks who dig in their heels and refuse to get in the front lines, the red envelopes will be only a placebo, a conscience salve.”  That seemed to end the discussion, as he did not reply to that email.

I relayed the above to my own list, and another’s.  Some strong reactions were elicited.  One person on my list told me I was struck from her list, and asked to be removed from mine.  Some reactions from the other list were really quite indicative of a “get-with-the-program-or-else” mindset.  Frankly, I was surprised by the rancor and downright lack of logic on the part of some.  Here’s one gem: “she could go over and help distribute the 2 million red letters that did arrive there with her personal little gripe that this is just a gimmick”.  So I should take time from the abortuaries and other responsibilities to mess around with these things?  Here’s another: “the more she complains the more she looses the graces given to her for all of her efforts..”  So if one raises honest questions about a particular action, they are fair game for vilification as a complainer?  Because I raised those questions, I forfeited actual grace?  Hopefully careful examination and “thinking through” will reveal the true ridiculous basis behind these wild statements.

Here’s perhaps the most indicative of the mental lock-step mentality: she “has to make room in her mind about new and fresh ideas from her pro-life "family" and put her support behind them.”  Note that imperative “must”.  Here we see a dangerous mindset in play.  That is an attempt to induce good people to swallow hook, line and sinker any idea that happens to be floated out there, without bringing their intellect and experience to bear on their judgment of the idea.  Note that all I did was to try to evaluate the red envelope idea on its own merits and all possible outcomes.  Ladies and gentlemen, we’re supposed to exercise the virtue of prudence.  To insinuate that one must support an idea simply because it’s “new and fresh” is not prudent.

I still stand by my criticisms of the red envelope idea – not of the originator, but of the idea itself.  Yes, I know that over 2 million of these things were sent.  But is that really such a good thing?  “But it only cost 42 cents!” someone told me.  Did it?  2 million+ envelopes times 42 cents makes over $840,000.00 postage that was wasted on this.  Ladies and gentlemen, that could have funded many a sonogram for crisis pregnancy centers to actually save babies.  How many homes for pregnant ladies could have been funded with that?  But no, that postage money literally went into a recycle bin.  And that’s just the postage; the envelopes themselves had to cost something.

Here’s another telling comment: “the pro-life movement needs to be energized from time to time.”  Well, what does mean to “be energized”?  How does one get “energized”?  Does it mean to engage in activities that only cause folks to feel good, to get a “warm-fuzzy”?  If that is what they mean by “being energized”, I greatly disagree that such is something that people truly need.  Now they may want it, but they don’t need it.  “Want” and “need” are not synonyms!  What we truly need to is to be obedient to Our Lord, regardless of whether or not we feel “energized”.  As an example, it has recently come to light that Mother Teresa of Calcutta experienced no spiritual consolation after her initial sense of calling to her work; yet she kept right at it.  Now certainly she had great recourse to prayer and the sacraments, and made copious use of these resources.  That’s what we truly need – nothing else.

Lest folks think I’m just a lone spoil-sport stick-in-the-mud party-pooper, I’d like to point out that other pro-life leaders saw and voiced similar problems.  Please click here to read what Brian Gibson of Pro Life Action Ministries had to say about the Red Envelope project as contrasted with real activism.  His words on this matter are excellent and bear repeating.

During the troubled days that are likely to follow, we need to buckle down to serious business, more than ever before.  Please forego the attractive but useless distractions and let’s get to prayer and activism.  Let’s take up our Crosses and follow Him.