St. Joseph Catholic Church - Toledo, OH

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October 2, 2016 - Catholic Social Teaching #5 - Life and Dignity of the Human Person; Reflecting Mercy to the Post Abortive

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The Catholic Church proclaims that human life is sacred and that the dignity of the human person is the foundation of a moral vision for society. This belief is the foundation of all the principles of our social teaching. In our society, human life is under direct attack from abortion and euthanasia. The value of human life is being threatened by cloning,embryonic stem cell research, and the use of the death penalty. The intentional targeting of civilians in war or terrorist attacks is always wrong. Catholic teaching also calls on us to work to avoid war. Nations must protect the right to life by finding increasingly effective ways to prevent conflicts and resolve them by peaceful means. We believe that every person is precious, that people are more important than things, and that the measure of every institution is whether it threatens or enhances the life and dignity of the human person.[1]

What does it mean to enhance the life and dignity of the human person?  In short it means to bring about life where there is death, respect where there is disrespect, hope where there is despair.  There is no greater need to enhance the life and dignity of the human person than in the area of Abortion.

As we begin Respect Life month this weekend, with the 40 Days for Life campaign having started on Wednesday, certainly our thoughts are directed toward the protection of life in the womb.  However, this year’s USCCB message, motivated by the Jubilee of Mercy is: “Moved by Mercy”.  To be Moved by Mercy is to recall the words of Pope Francis: “We are called to show mercy, because mercy has first been shown to us.”

For so many women and men, the words of the Prophet Habakuk are there own: “How long, O Lord? I cry for help but you do not listen!  I cry out to you, “Violence!” by you do not intervene.”[2]  Unfortunately, many suffer silently such as Jennifer:

Jennifer comes from a large, pro-life family that is active in their parish. At the funeral of her devout, beloved mother, Jennifer was despondent beyond the grief of her loss. Jennifer couldn't stop thinking that her mother in heaven would now discover the secret she had kept for thirty years: the existence of a granddaughter, whom Jennifer had aborted in college because she was too ashamed to tell her parents about her pregnancy.[3]

Or at least this is their experience following an abortion.  The following is one such experience drawn from the Project Rachael Website[4]

I had an abortion my senior year in high school. I found out I was pregnant and was petrified to tell my family, so I didn’t. My boyfriend at the time said maybe I should have an abortion.

I was so scared and felt so alone in my decision. I called an abortion clinic and skipped school to meet with them. They assured me that I would be alright, and that I had bright future ahead of me, this was just not the right time to have a baby. I trusted them because they were older than me, I really even thought they cared about my well being.

They told me I didn’t have to tell my parents even though I was a minor, as long as I could get it approved through the court system. I skipped even more school and went in front of a judge with my case. He granted that I could have my abortion without my parent’s consent, and I had it the next week.

I was in the recovery room after they finished the abortion and I remember feeling like I was dead inside. I felt lost, suicidal, and not like me anymore. I lost my self esteem, my confidence, I lost Molly!

The adults at the clinic told me I would have a bright future, when in reality I did not want to live at all.

When I couldn’t bare the pain anymore I screamed out to God to forgive me for what I did, and soon after God converted me to Catholicism. Through the ministry of the church I had found hope, guidance, and strength.

Soon I found out about Project Rachel and joined them on a retreat. Here I was surrounded by other women that had gone through an abortion. I was not alone anymore. I left the retreat with a new outlook on myself and the world around me. I loved myself again.

I still have sad times concerning my abortion, but I learned that my baby was with God, and I asked my child to forgive me for what I had done. I named my baby and began praying for him.

Today I am still healing, I still cry, but I can honestly say I love life.

I am driven to be pro life, and I can only hope to make a difference in the world. Abortion not only took my baby’s life, but it almost took mine. I am thankful for the Church and Her ministry, for teaching me to love myself, and to live for God.[5]

If you or someone you know are like either of these two women, please hear and know these words: You are loved!  Though we may for a time cry out, and consider that God is not listening; he is listening and desires to respond with his Mercy.  Take courage from these examples that though we may suffer in silence it need not be so. “Be assured that it is never too late to seek God's forgiveness in the Sacrament of Reconciliation and that "you can with sure hope entrust your child" to the Father and his mercy.”[6]

While many Catholics want to help women and men heal from past abortions, most don't know how to begin. There are a many ways that Catholics of different backgrounds can assist friends, family members, fellow parishioners, clients—or perhaps even themselves.  On the Bishop’s website there are many such examples that I encourage you to take a look at.  But in the meantime, 2 tasks for each of us.

  1. Pray: Pray for those who are post-abortive.  Pray that all may come to know, believe and live out the love and mercy God has in store.
  2. Pray: Pray for ourselves, that as we have received and encountered the mercy of God, we may be moved by mercy, to reach out in mercy to others.


[2] Habakuk 1:2, Ordinary Form 1st Reading for the 27th Sunday of Ordinary Time C 

[6] John Paul II, Evangelium Vitae, 99.


Iustus germinabit sicut lilium: et florebit in aeternum ante Dominum.
-- Gospel Acclamation, Solemnity of St. Joseph, March 19

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