By Stephanie To | Respect Life Apostolate
“Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.” Matt. 5:6
Tuesday, September 1, brought us the ninth video from Center for Medical Progress, this time revealing a decade-long relationship between some Planned Parenthood affiliates with tissue procurement companies and more revelations about how Planned Parenthood received financial benefits from these arrangements. Most of us are probably sickened every time new revelations are made, and rightly so, when we consider the callousness with which people are discussing pregnant women and babies in the womb.
For some individuals, however, these videos may bring forth even greater angst because they touch on something very personal – a poignant reminder of their abortion. Imagine having to wonder if your baby ended up being dissected and sold or was discarded in a dumpster. It can be easy to be consumed by feelings of regret, shame, anger, and sadness.
Hope exists, however. It comes in the merciful forgiveness of God. There is no sin so great that God cannot forgive if we but ask. In the Sacrament of Reconciliation, the priest, acting with the authority of Christ and the Church, is able to forgive sins, washing us clean. The Sacrament allows us to be reconciled with God and with the Church, offering peace and consolation.
On September 1, Pope Francis issued a letter granting all priests the faculties to absolve the sin of abortion for all who seek forgiveness for it during the Jubilee Year of Mercy. By doing so, Pope Francis has made it easier for men and women to be reconciled with the Church. The Archdiocese of St. Louis clarified the matter in a statement on Wednesday:
The priests of the Archdiocese of St. Louis have had the faculty not only to absolve the sin of abortion, but also to remove any other obstacles such as an ecclesiastical censure so that an individual may be fully reconciled to God and to the Church…Women who have received valid absolution for the grave sin of abortion in the archdiocese should be assured of the mercy previously extended to them in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
Mercy, in a Christian understanding, should not be merely a passive reception; rather, we are called to be merciful to others. Think of the parable of the unmerciful debtor who, after having his debt forgiven in full, treated his own servant in the opposite manner. (cf. Matt. 18:21-35) As we have been shown great mercy by God who forgives us our sins, whatever they may be, so too should we treat others.
Statistics indicate that one in three women will have an abortion by age 45. For every child lost to abortion, there is also a father involved. Chances are that you will at some point encounter someone who has been directly impacted by an abortion. We should always be mindful of speaking about abortion and those involved in the abortion industry with charity as Christ would. Our ultimate goal should always be the salvation of souls. Our actions and words should reflect that. While we should not condone or participate in sinful action, we must always be compassionate to the people involved.
This is particularly true when we consider the issue of abortion. Statements like “I would never have an abortion” said in a moment of haste can do much to keep someone from seeking forgiveness and healing. Instead of talking about ourselves, we should focus what others need; particularly, compassion, love, and forgiveness. We don’t need to deny the truth of what abortion is, but we should be sensitive and charitable. We should offer resources to men and women who may have been affected by abortion.
Besides the Sacrament of Reconciliation, there are so many free resources available in our Archdiocese for those who have been impacted by an abortion. Project Rachel (for women) and Project Joseph (for men) both offer free, confidential, and professional counseling sessions. Monthly support groups provide a safe place to share your struggles with others who are in a similar situation. Day-long and weekend retreats are offered for a deeper, prayerful healing experience. These resources are available to anyone, regardless of their faith tradition or how long it has been since the abortion occurred. Hope, healing, and forgiveness are available. Simply call 314-792-7565 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
As we approach the Jubilee Year of Mercy beginning on December 8, let us pray that all men and women who have been affected by an abortion may have the courage to confidently turn to the Lord for mercy and healing now, and for many years in the future.
Click the logos below for more information about Project Rachel and Project Joseph