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YOUNGSTOWN Attacks were a sign from God, 2 residents say



Published: Sun, September 23, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



A priest and an anti-abortion activist say God sent America a wake-up call.

By IAN HILL

VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER

YOUNGSTOWN -- The Rev. William Witt believes God wants to give Americans a message: Stop trying to push me out of your lives.

So, Father Witt said, on Sept. 11, God allowed terrorists to fly planes into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a field in rural Pennsylvania.

"The bombing of the World Trade Center is a wake-up call to people to get back to God and start keeping the Ten Commandments," he said.

Similar statements: His comments are similar to statements made soon after the attacks by the Rev. Jerry Falwell, a nationally known Baptist minister and chancellor of Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va. During a broadcast of the Christian television show "The 700 Club" on Sept. 13, Falwell put blame for the attacks on Americans who have pushed God out of their lives.

"All of them who have tried to secularize America, I point the finger in their face and say, 'You helped this happen,'" he said.

Falwell named civil liberty groups, abortion rights supporters and feminists as culprits in the attacks. He later apologized, stating that "I blame no one but the hijackers and terrorists for the barbaric happenings of Sept. 11."

Father Witt, a pastor emeritus at St. Brendan Church in Youngstown, stressed that he is "not guided by [Falwell's] teachings."

"I try to echo the thoughts and words of Pope John Paul II," Witt said.

Representatives of the Catholic Diocese of Youngstown could not be reached to comment Saturday.

Father Witt talked about the terrorist attacks after a pro-life prayer service Saturday morning across from the Mahoning Women's Center on Market Street, which provides abortion services. About 20 people attended.

The priest stressed that he doesn't believe God encouraged the terrorists to kill thousands of people, noting that, "God does not will evil, but he allows it."

God's permission: The terrorists were allowed to attack that Tuesday morning because many Americans have rejected God and allowed a "culture of death" to gain prominence in this country, he said.

The legalization of abortion is evidence of the growth of that culture of death, said the priest, who also is the founder of the anti-abortion group "Friends of Life."

"There's an enormous war going on between the culture of life and the culture of death," Witt said. "The culture of death is taking over in America."

Marti Runyan, vice president of Mahoning County Right to Life, compared the terrorists to the doctors who perform abortions.

"Terrorism takes many forms," she said, adding that she also believes God wanted to send Americans a message by allowing the attack. That message, she said, echoing Father Witt's comments, is that Americans should obey the Ten Commandments.

"When you break one of the commandments, you break them all," Runyan said. The commandments order believers not to commit idolatry by worshipping money, murder by killing unborn babies through abortion, or fornication by living with another person outside marriage, she said.

Friends of Life holds anti-abortion prayer services at 9:30 every Saturday across from the Mahoning Women's Center. The owner of the center could not be reached to comment Saturday.

hill@vindy.com




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