by Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann
By the time you read this column, I will be on my way to the Holy Land, accompanying a pilgrimage organized by Mike Scherschligt and the School of Faith.
With another 100 pilgrims, most from our Archdiocese, I will have the opportunity to pray at the places made holy by the conception, birth, childhood, ministry, passion, crucifixion, resurrection and ascension of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
Among the pilgrims will be five priests, one permanent deacon, and three of the Sisters of the Apostles of the Interior Life. Our group makes up a beautiful microcosm of the church. I will carry all of you in my prayers during these special days of pilgrimage.
I regret that my time in the Holy Land will prevent me from participating in the annual Marches for Life in Washington, D.C., and Topeka. I will pray for all of our March for Life pilgrims as they make this extraordinary effort to witness to the sanctity of each and every human life as our nation observes the tragic 39th anniversary of the Supreme Court decisions legalizing abortion. If you have never participated in the March for Life in Washington, I encourage you to make plans to attend next year. It is truly a powerful and inspiring experience.
This past October (Respect Life Month), I received the following letter. The author, while desiring to remain anonymous, invited me to share her experience with Leaven readers.
Dear Archbishop Naumann,
It has been 22 years since the day we made that fateful decision to abort my daughter’s unborn child. She was 17. It was not a family decision based on God’s will, but one based on fear. The doctor she saw planted the seed for abortion; he gave her that option. Our family was in panic, utter chaos and fear and it seemed to be the only choice at the time. How wrong I was. I was present for the procedure but in a split second it was over and I knew immediately that we had made the wrong decision.
Over the past 22 years, I have watched my daughter change from a carefree teenager into someone I barely recognize. She suffers daily from pain, guilt, and torment due to the experience. It has caused innumerable arguments between us over the years, practically making us enemies instead of mother and daughter. I watched her lose her faith in the church. After the abortion, she attempted to confess her sin, but the priest was brutal to her in the confessional and she is not sure he even gave her absolution. She was devastated. I did not question my own faith at the time, but even after having confessed my sin several times over the years, I still do not feel vindicated.
Our marriage was shaky at best, and our family did not pull together to help our daughter. As a result, I have not only lost a grandchild but the love and respect of my daughter. It created a wedge between my husband and me and destroyed what was left of our failing marriage. I had lost everything. Abortion is a life-altering decision and one you live with the rest of your life. There is NO PEACE and it is NEVER over. I know we will carry this heinous act with us to the grave. I hope God will be merciful.
If this testimonial can help at least one person caught in this horrible situation, I will feel I have helped save a life. I couldn’t help my own daughter but maybe someone else can learn from this experience. Unlike other bad things that happen to people, you cannot talk about this to anyone or commiserate as you would if you had lost a family member through an accident or death for fear of being found out. You must carry the secret in shame with you all alone when you know your heart is broken and your life is shattered. I have carried this burden with me all these years and my husband took it with him to his grave. When you think of lives destroyed, this certainly is an example. I know what it has done to our family.
We do not know what happens to souls when they leave this earthly world, but I most sincerely hope that God has made a place for these lost babies and the mothers who must carry the burden of guilt with them every single day of their lives. I am so sorry for failing my daughter and not being strong enough to do the right thing. I only hope that God in his mercy will remember that any sin we have committed on this earth we have surely paid for with our sadness and tears, hopelessness and even our sanity.
People do judge you by your acts. So be kind to those who have done the unspeakable. There but for the grace of God go I.
Yours in Christ,
I am very grateful for this woman writing to me and allowing me to share her tragic experience with you. In her cover letter, she indicated that she was aware of Project Rachel and Project Joseph — our post-abortive ministries for women and men, but she felt that most post-abortive mothers are too embarrassed and too afraid of their sin becoming known by others to take advantage of these resources.
This letter saddens me in so many ways. I was particularly distraught to learn that her daughter had such a horrible experience with the sacrament of reconciliation. Knowing the compassion of our priests and their desire to be truly caring confessors, it grieves me that her experience was so different from what is usual. Actually, the author’s (the grandmother’s) experience is quite common for individuals involved in abortion, who go to confession but do not feel forgiven, because they find it so difficult to forgive themselves.
This is why Project Rachel is such a necessary ministry, as it helps individuals remove the obstacles they place between themselves and the experience of God’s mercy. I truly hope that anyone who is suffering because of a past involvement with abortion will take advantage of Project Rachel or Project Joseph. (Call (913) 621-2199 or visit the website at: projectrachelkc @archkck.org.) I assure you that your confidentiality will be protected. I have known so many women and men who have found healing and peace after many years of heartache like that described in this poignant letter.
God’s mercy is greater than any of our sins. His desire is not for us to be mired in guilt and shame for the rest of our lives. The whole reason Jesus came into our world was to bring to all of us the mercy of God. The Jan. 15 edition of Our Sunday Visitor contained a wonderful series of articles about postabortion ministries in the church and the healing they have brought to the lives of so many.
I ask all our Leaven readers this week to pray for this woman and her daughter that the Lord will give them the strength to seek the help that is available to them. Pray also that this woman’s courage in relating her story will prevent another woman, another family, from knowing the tragic pain that abortion has caused in so many lives. These intentions will be included in my daily prayers in the Holy Land.