Congratulations to Bernard Nathanson, MD, who joined the Catholic Church on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. Best known as “the abortionist who changed his mind,” Nathanson was baptized privately by John Cardinal O’Connor in a chapel below the main altar of Saint Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City on December 9, 1996.
Preceding the sacraments, Cardinal O’Connor remarked that the lack of respect for life is rooted in a lack of self respect, and that a lack of self respect is a consequence of sin. How fitting it was, the Cardinal continued, that Dr. Nathanson should enter the Church on the feast of the new Eve.
Then Dr. Nathanson made his way to the baptismal font accompanied by his godparents Joan Andrews Bell (renowned pro-life activist), and John Downing (friend of twenty-six years). Upon confirming the doctor, His Eminence proclaimed “Now you’re as Catholic as I am!”
Concelebrating Mass with His Eminence and a young priest of the diocese were Nathanson’s friends Father Paul Marx, founder of Human Life International; Msgr. William Smith, moral theologian of Saint Joseph’s Seminary; Father Richard John Neuhaus, editor of First Things; and Father John McCloskey.
Also attending the celebration were Dr. John Haas; Chuck Colson and his wife Nancy; Alfred Regnery, publisher of Nathanson’s The Hand of God; and Anita Crane for Crisis.
Excerpt from Crisis June 1996: Julia Duin, “Bernard Nathanson’s Conversion”
Along came the fateful January morning at a Planned Parenthood Clinic on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, where Nathanson witnessed 1,200 Operation Rescue demonstrators wrapping their arms around each other, singing hymns, smiling at the police and the media….
“It was only then,” he writes in his new book, The Hand of God, “that I apprehended the exaltation, the pure love on the faces of that shivering mass of people, surrounded as they were by hundreds of New York City policemen.” He listened as they prayed for the unborn, the women seeking abortions, the doctors and nurses in the clinic, the police, and the reporters covering the event.
“They prayed for each other but never for themselves,” he writes. “And I wondered: How can these people give of themselves for a constituency that is (and always will be) mute, invisible and unable to thank them?
“It was only then,” he adds, “that I began seriously to question what indescribable Force generated them to this activity. Why, too, was I there? What had led me to this time and place? Was it the same Force that allowed them to sit serene and unafraid at the epicenter of legal, physical, ethical and moral chaos?”