PRO-LIFE BASICS: How do we reach out to Catholics who have had abortions?

Many Catholics have, themselves, had abortions. They suffer from self-loathing, and deep down, they probably feel that they can never be forgiven. How do we reach them?

Given the fact that, for nearly 50 years, abortion has been treated as acceptable in law, in our society, and sadly by many ordained to the priesthood, we struggle with this question now more than ever. 

The pulpits are silent. So where are women—especially young women—supposed to hear the truth about what abortion does and what it really is? How are they supposed to know it’s an act of murder?

How can a homily be delivered on Christ’s merciful love when such a homily would first have to outline the reasons why aborting a baby is a grave sin against God? You see, that is the real problem, and it is why St. John Paul II’s words to mothers who have aborted their children are not repeated as they should be. Let me share part of what the Holy Father said to them in Evangelium Vitae: 

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.1

The Church provides this truth, which includes a reminder of Christ’s merciful love for all of us. Not one of us is without sin, and while abortion is a grave sin, it is not unforgivable, even when the mother of an aborted child has not forgiven herself.

Let us pray in earnest for these mothers. Let us also ask God to give priests and bishops the desire and wisdom to speak truth in love, not only for the benefit of these mothers, but for every Catholic. God knows we need that more now than ever before.

An excellent way to reach suffering Catholics is to tell them about Rachel’s Vineyard, a Catholic ministry created to help heal the broken hearts of women who have had abortions and men who have participated. For more information, visit rachelsvineyard.org.

1. Pope John Paul II, Evangelium Vitae, Vatican.va, 1995, vatican.va/content/john-paul-ii/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_jp-ii_enc_25031995_evangelium-vitae.html. 

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About the author

Judie Brown

Judie Brown is president of American Life League and served 15 years as a member of the Pontifical Academy for Life.