We have heard it often in the Mass and throughout the liturgical year: “protecting life from natural conception to natural death” is a stalwart of Catholic teaching. Despite that, America now approaches 48 years of legalized abortion and over 60 million children have died from abortion in the US alone. Though Catholic teaching has not and will not bend on that fundamental right to life, we know that many of those getting abortions confess to be people of faith.
Because the anniversary of St. Pope John Paul II’s Evangelium vitae is approaching its 25th anniversary, it is appropriate to select one impactful paragraph from the 1995 Encyclical:
Laws which legitimize the direct killing of innocent human beings through abortion or euthanasia are in complete opposition to the inviable right to life proper to every individual; they thus deny equality of everyone before the law. Evangelium vitae (the Gospel of Life) no.72
We know that laws don’t change hearts, but hearts change laws. We can be effective change agents by pursuing a heart change among women of child bearing age. We can also be effective change agents by pursuing those most impacted by abortion.
After almost 50 years of legalized abortion most people beyond the age of reason either know someone who has had or have been directly impacted by abortion. Studies show that 1 in 4 women will have an abortion by the age of 45 and 50% of all abortions are performed on someone who has already had one. Abortion does not discriminate by race, religion, or national origin or for that matter even gender. Many are impacted by abortion decisions including parents, grandparents, siblings, extended families and even the ones who drove someone to the abortion facility.
Recent consumer research conducted by Shapard Research in Oklahoma City show that at least 33% of those surveyed had experienced an adverse change after abortion and of those Catholics surveyed; 44% agreed they had an adverse impact. And though these women confessed the faith, when asked how many went to religious services; 80% said rarely or never. We can ask ourselves Why? It could be personal condemnation and or the “feeling” of judgment and condemnation in the churches they attended. In the same study, respondents were asked if they knew where to go for help for their loss: 90% did not know.
The following are some actual “verbatims” from those who experienced abortion (from the research) :
- It brings a deep guilt, sadness and feeling of loss
- I’m haunted by it
- I deeply regretted doing this
- That person is me and it has been over 20 years since I had the abortion and it still hurts me a very great deal
These statements reflect the guilt and self-judgement women are imposing on themselves. Many carry the burden of their abortion as a weight they believe can never be taken away.
Any mortal sin separates (excommunicates) a person from God, but the sin of abortion is not unpardonable. We need to correct that myth. ALL Priests are able to absolve those sins!! Consider what Pope Francis wrote in an Apostolic Letter in 2016:
“I wish to restate as firmly as I can that abortion is a grave sin, since it puts an end to an innocent life. In the same way, however, I can and must state that there is no sin that God’s mercy cannot reach and wipe away when it finds a repentant heart seeking to be reconciled With the Father”.
What can you do (and just sending someone to the confessional may not always be the best first step). Be compassionate: circumstances before and around abortion are complicated. Listen. Listen and Listen some more. You may be the first to hear about the abortion
Don’t judge the sin yourself (especially reactions of “aghast” and repulsion) instead educate yourself about abortion and its impact physically, and psychologically to open the door to more conversation that can bring healing…. we have been silent enough, indifferent enough even ignorant enough……We need to shift the paradigm because unresolved loss is killing our families, our churches, and our community.
For more information on healing from abortion, talk to your Priest or Deacon, Respect Life Coordinator (in the bulletin) or contact www.supportafterabortion.com
Or contact the author of this article: firstname.lastname@example.org