Francis Addresses Those Who Have Suffered Abortions

Francis Addresses Those Who  Have Suffered Abortions

September 1, 2015, Mary E. Latela

The Guardian carries a story today about Pope Francis’ most recent pronouncement. The title reads: “Pope Francis Tells Priests to Pardon Women Who Have Abortions.”
Stephanie Kirchgaesser writes that Francis has stated that women who have received abortions – an act considered a grave sin by the Catholic Church [and others]–to be absolved if they express contrition and ask forgiveness from their priest. The Pontiff’s letter released today explained that he understands the difficulty for these women and the moral and existential difficulties. He reminds that ANYONE who has repented may ask for forgiveness.

The immediate response – in the current news system where every announcement is met with criticism – was concern that abortion will not be taken seriously, that excommunication will not be taken seriously.  No, there is an affirmation that the topic is the women and the needs of their souls over the condemnation of the action. This fits beautifully with Francis’ preparation of the Year of Mercy (Dec. 8 2015-November 20 2016).  (http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/sep/01/pope-francis-tells-priests-to-pardon-women-who-have-abortions?CMP=ema_565)

Already, those who use the confessional as it was meant to be used – to seek forgiveness for offenses against God, neighbor, self – continue to do so. Now, their heartfelt regret may be acknowledged. This is one of those “What Would Jesus Do?” Moments. When Jesus forgave the “woman at the well” – a story recounted in the Gospel of John – Jesus approached, talked with, confronted a woman who was – well, a pariah  – married several times, living with a man not her husband, alone at the water well, because “good people” did not want to be seen with her.  Jesus accepted her “confession” of regret, and sent her out as a kind of ambassador, to tell others what had happened between her and this teacher. Some say she was a new apostle… and, like the other, imperfect, but driven to share the “good news” of what had happened to her. And you know people listened, for this rare story of a woman’s redemption is in the canon of the Bible.

According to Sr. Paula Vandegaer, “The Church has a Project Rachel ministry as a way of healing. Simply giving people information like this can help. Pray that they will eventually talk to someone. In a ‘special message to women who have had an abortion’ in the Gospel of Life, Pope John Paul II explains how their lives can be transformed by the Church’s healing ministry:

“You will come to understand that nothing in definitively lost and you will also be able to ask forgiveness from your child, who is now living in the Lord. With the friendly and expert help and advice of other people, and as a result of your own painful experience, you can be among the most eloquent defenders of everyone’s right to life. Through your commitment to life, whether by accepting the birth of other children or by welcoming and caring for those most in need of someone to be close to them, you will become promoters of a new way of looking at human life.
The Gospel of Life, sec. 
http://hopeafterabortion.com/?p=109 Note: Sr. Paula Vandegaer is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, Executive Director of International Life Services and Editor of Living World magazine.

Before a “conservative backlash” takes root, let us remember the specific words of Saint John Paul II.  The beloved Pope reached out to those who have suffered abortions – with mercy and compassion, while keeping the perspective that abortion is wrong. In the Encyclical Evangelium Vitae,  on the Value and Inviolability of Human Life, i.e., The Gospel of Life” he writes:
             Concerning the causes of abortion: “It is true that the decision to have an abortion is often tragic    and painful for the mother, insofar as the decision to rid herself of the fruit of conception is not made for purely selfish reasons or out of convenience, but out of a desire to protect certain important values such as her own health or a decent standard of living for the other members of the family. Sometimes it is feared that the child to be born would live in such conditions that it would be better if the birth did not take place. Nevertheless, these reasons and others like them, however serious and tragic, can never justify the deliberate killing of an innocent human being.

“59. As well as the mother, there are often other people too who decide upon the death of the child in the womb. In the first place, the father of the child may be to blame, not only when he directly pressures the woman to have an abortion, but also when he indirectly encourages such a decision on her part by leaving her alone to face the problems of pregnancy: 55 in this way the family is thus mortally wounded and profaned in its nature as a community of love and in its vocation to be the “sanctuary of life”. Nor can one overlook the pressures which sometimes come from the wider family circle and from friends. Sometimes the woman is subjected to such strong pressure that she feels psychologically forced to have an abortion: certainly in this case moral responsibility lies particularly with those who have directly or indirectly obliged her to have an abortion. Doctors and nurses are also responsible, when they place at the service of death skills which were acquired for promoting life.”

He concludes with the following pastoral advice: “I would now like to say a special word to women who have had an abortion. The Church is aware of the many factors which may have influenced your decision, and she does not doubt that in many cases it was a painful and even shattering decision. The wound in your heart may not yet have healed. Certainly what happened was and remains terribly wrong. But do not give in to discouragement and do not lose hope. Try rather to understand what happened and face it honestly. If you have not already done so, give yourselves over with humility and trust to repentance. The Father of mercies is ready to give you his forgiveness and his peace in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. To the same Father and his mercy you can with sure hope entrust your child. With the friendly and expert help and advice of other people, and as a result of your own painful experience, you can be among the most eloquent defenders of everyone’s right to life. Through your commitment to life, whether by accepting the birth of other children or by welcoming and caring for those most in need of someone to be close to them, you will become promoters of a new way of looking at human life.”  http://w2.vatican.va/content/john-paul-ii/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_jp-ii_enc_25031995_evangelium-vitae.html

This is Good News.

@LatelaMary; mlatela@outlook.com; mlatelablog.wordpress.com

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