The Fall of Roe Can Bring Healing

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Ever since a draft copy of the Supreme Court decision regarding abortion has been leaked, social media has been awash with arguments and testimonies from both sides.  

It seems to me this is good for the pro-life movement.  

Whatever the political ramifications of the leaking of the possible Supreme Court decision about abortion, it presents an opportunity to try to educate the public about precisely what an abortion is; and, perhaps even more importantly, it is an opportunity to reach out to those who have had abortions and facilitated abortions.  

Pro-aborts have been whining and threatening and appear to have a bloodthirst about them that is most off-putting. Their arguments will certainly fortify those who are pro-abortion, but I suspect they will persuade few if any who are not already pro-abortion. It is next to impossible to make the killing of babies in their mothers’ wombs attractive.

The pro-life movement, on the other hand, has been posting extraordinary pictures of fetal human beings in the womb. Women who considered abortion and didn’t have one are posting pictures of their adorable children with delight and pride. Men and women who were nearly aborted laud their mothers and lavishly express their gratitude that they received the gift of life. And women who have come to regret their abortions give heart-wrenching testimonies of the lifelong ache they have felt, as well as anger about the lies they were told about what abortion entails. 

Some people, if not many, may be seeing such pictures and hearing such stories for the first time; if they are at all open-minded, the pro-life side has a decent chance.  

Several have observed that the anger, fear, and vitriol expressed by those who advocate killing babies in the womb is likely often linked to having had an abortion or having supported a woman having an abortion. Few deny that deciding to have an abortion is an agonizing choice—and it is, since it is the choice to snuff out the life of one’s own child. That decision should never be, and can never be, easy and without psychological, relational, and spiritual consequences. 

The millions of women who have had abortions, the men who impregnated them, the family members, friends, and co-workers who have supported their decision, and those who performed abortions, are all in need of healing, the true healing that only Our Savior Jesus can bring. The Catholic Church is truly the only resource for completely relieving the worst pain—regret for having made a very sinful choice.

All priests should be preaching on abortion in the coming weeks more pointedly and emphatically than ever before because passions are at perhaps an all-time high. While it is legitimate to address questions of legality, the key concern needs to be with souls. In every congregation, there are those who carry the burden, the crippling guilt of abortion.  Now is the time to call them to repentance, a time to relieve them of their guilt and anger and help them achieve peace.

The best homily I have ever heard about abortion did not attempt to make a scientific or philosophic case that abortion is wrong; it began simply by saying that God did not want women who had abortions to suffer as they were most likely suffering and that God wanted to take away the painful burden they carried. The homilist made the observation that it was likely that there were women in the congregation who had had abortions and others who had helped them, and they had likely been suffering for years.

Yes, the women may have been pressured to have an abortion, and they may have been largely ignorant of what an abortion does, although others knew exactly what was happening during that abortion—a new, precious, vulnerable person had been deprived of life. 

The priest then explained that God wants them to sleep better at night, approach life with joy, and, most importantly, be with Him for an eternity of bliss.

He then invited anyone who had had an abortion or who had been involved in helping a woman get an abortion to come to confession. He noted that they were certainly welcome to come at any regularly scheduled time; but if they wanted an opportunity to discuss the matter more, he invited them to call to make an appointment to meet with him, anonymously in the confessional if they preferred. Indeed, he was going to be in his office that afternoon for several hours to meet with them or take phone calls or make future appointments.  

The priest highly recommended that anyone who had been involved with abortion attend one of the several excellent post-abortion retreats, such as Project Rachel, Rachel’s Vineyard, Raphael’s Way, or Grief to Grace. He spoke of the local pregnancy help center, which provided assistance of all kinds for women with challenging pregnancies. And he also assured single parents struggling in any way that the parish had resources to help them.

And to put the matter into some kind of perspective, he also noted that many in the congregation may have other serious sins of their past or present life, such as promiscuity, use of pornography, infidelity, greed, laziness, envy, theft, and so forth, to confess and invited them to experience the healing grace of confession. 

Such homilies would do well to point out that some of the most important figures of the Bible and some of the greatest saints committed very serious sins, such as St. Augustine, who lived with a concubine and had a child with her.  

It is a wonderful practice to call people’s attention to Psalm 51. It is so apt, I need to post nearly the whole (1-17) of it here:

Prayer for Cleansing and Pardon
A Psalm of David, when the prophet Nathan came to him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba.
Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your steadfast love;
according to your abundant mercy
blot out my transgressions.
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
and cleanse me from my sin.
For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is ever before me.
Against you, you alone, have I sinned,
and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you are justified in your sentence
and blameless when you pass judgment.
Indeed, I was born guilty,
a sinner when my mother conceived me.
You desire truth in the inward being;
therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart.
Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones that you have crushed rejoice.
Hide your face from my sins,
and blot out all my iniquities.
Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and put a new and right spirit within me.
Do not cast me away from your presence,
and do not take your holy spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and sustain in me a willing spirit.
Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
and sinners will return to you.
Deliver me from bloodshed, O God,
O God of my salvation,
and my tongue will sing aloud of your deliverance.
O Lord, open my lips,
and my mouth will declare your praise.
For you have no delight in sacrifice;
if I were to give a burnt offering, you would not be pleased.
The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

This psalm pulls no punches; the author is a terrible sinner, but he knows God will forgive him. As noted above, the author is King David, God’s chosen one, beloved and much blessed, who nonetheless committed adultery with Bathsheba and then arranged to have her husband killed in battle. Now there is some serious sin! The praying of psalm 51, should, in my view, much more often be given as a penance than “Three Hail Mary’s.” Those who commit serious sins know they deserve punishment and often feel they will never be worthy of forgiveness. Psalm 51 shows us how to repent and also how to be confident of forgiveness.

The number of lives that have been lost through abortion is enormous—a common figure is 63 million. We need to grieve that loss of life; we need to beg God for pardon that we have allowed bloodshed in our time. All of us should be praying not only that our legislators will pass laws that protect the lives of unborn children but also that God’s healing graces will wash over this land. He wants to heal; let us invite those in need of healing to enjoy His loving embrace.

[Photo Credit: Unsplash]

Janet Smith

By

Janet E. Smith, Ph.D., is a retired professor of moral theology.

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