Like many of my fellow Catholics, I watched with rapt attention for every bit of coverage of Pope Francis’ visit to the United States. When I couldn’t watch, I went online to download and print out his speeches to his bishops, to Congress, and to the United Nations. Seeing the crowds, particularly so many young people, in Philadelphia, New York and Washington D.C. gave me hope for our church and for our country. Catholic or not, it seemed the entire nation was enchanted by the Pontiff. Even the skies were sunny and clear for a majority of his visit.
Just prior to his visit, the Pope issued a statement emphasizing mercy and forgiveness, particularly for women who have had abortions. These statements were especially timely, coming shortly before the US Conference of Catholic Bishops Respect Life Month, marked every October. The Pope reflected on the fact that many times, women choose abortion because they feel it is their only choice, and that they are faced with too many obstacles to overcome.
He chose his words very carefully. In fact, I don’t think he used the word ‘abortion’ once he arrived in the United States. He did talk about protecting life from conception until natural death, and considering all life to be sacred and worth of protection.
As we Catholics mark observe Respect Life month, we, too must remember to choose our words carefully when talking about abortion. Being someone who works at a pregnancy resource center, I have to carefully consider the language I use when answering the phone or speaking with a client in person.
If we truly want to bring people into the church, whether they are fallen away Catholics, other Christians, or have no faith at all, how we speak about our faith, particularly on the subject of abortion, is something we need to consider.
Many times I am asked to give presentations to groups or churches, sometimes at the end of Mass. As a development director at a nonprofit pregnancy center, I need to talk not only about our services, but also about why people should support our work.
When preparing, I always try to remember two things:
1) Someone listening to this presentation may have had an abortion or know someone who has.
2) Someone listening to this presentation may be considering an abortion.
After 42 years of Roe v. Wade, there are many women, probably women you know, in your midst who have had an abortion. Or perhaps there are family members, friends, etc. who have helped women to get an abortion, ten, twenty, or more years ago. It could be the person sitting in the pew in front of you.
Would the way we talk about this issue make these people feel like seeking forgiveness? Would it make them feel like there is a place for them in the church? Pope Francis challenges the church (which is all of us) to focus on the love Jesus has for each one of us, and to share that love with everyone we meet. While the Church is unequivocal in its teaching on abortion, the Church is also a place of mercy and forgiveness. May the Holy Spirit guide our hearts and minds and give us the words of hope and healing as we work to protect the sanctity and dignity of all life.
If you have had an abortion or someone comes to you and shares with you that she has had an abortion, contact Project Rachel for help. Remember that God’s love and mercy are bigger than any sin.
If someone you know confides in you that they are facing an unplanned pregnancy, here is a site with some helpful tips on how to respond.
Bernadette Boguski has been a Pauline Cooperator for over 20 years. She is a member of St. Columbkille Parish in Parma, OH, where she serves as a Eucharistic Minister, cantor, and member of the music ministry. Bernadette holds a degree in journalism from Bowling Green State University and currently serves as the development director for Womankind, a nonprofit agency providing free prenatal care and support services for pregnant women in need.