Monday, October 4, 2010

A New Pro-Life Language

Homily from the 27th Sunday of Ordinary Time - Year C
"Respect Life Sunday"

This past Thursday, the Church celebrated the Feast of St. Jerome.  Next to Matthew, Mark, Luke, John and St. Paul, St. Jerome may be the most important Saint with regards to Sacred Scripture.  He dedicated his entire life to the study of the scriptures.  He wrote numerous commentaries on them.  But he is most well known for translating the New Testament from its original Greek into Latin, the more common language of his day in 4th & 5th century Rome.  He gave the world the Gospel in a new language.

This past Thursday marked another significant event.  About one hundred of our eighth graders joined hundreds of other eighth graders from St. Jude’s and St. Charles and they marched from St. Charles Borromeo parish to the abortion clinic on Inwood Drive.  We prayed the Stations of the Cross along the way and prayed a rosary in front of the clinic upon our arrival.

It is significant that our eighth graders did this on the Feast of St. Jerome because in this action: the march from St. Charles to the clinic, like St. Jerome, our eighth graders took the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the streets of Fort Wayne.  And they made the decision to speak the pro-life message in a new language.

I’ve been to the clinic before on other Thursdays which is the day on which abortions are performed there.  And I’ve been to the March For Life in Washington D.C.  And in front of these clinics and on the March For Life, you will frequently see some good people with good intentions who are trying to put an end to the tragedy that goes on there.

One of the methods some of them will sometimes use is the display of graphic images showing the horrific results of what goes on inside those clinic walls.  We’ve seen the pictures before and we know them well.

Another method sometimes used is that a person, oftentimes a man, will shout out to the women and men who are going into the clinic.  Often, the man will cry out, “Don’t do this to your baby.  The baby didn’t do anything wrong!  You’ll regret this for the rest of your life!  Why are you doing this?”

Now, in reality, none of these statements are incorrect in themselves.  However, I doubt their effectiveness at changing the heart of a person.

I don’t understand how a man, yelling at a woman, thrusting guilt and shame onto her, will convince her not to have an abortion.  One of the reasons why so many women choose to have an abortion is because they have been abandoned, yelled at and rejected by the men in their lives.

Anyone who is in the business of vilifying women because of an abortion, needs to stop. Rejection, abandonment and the shunning of women who are pregnant, or who are contemplating an abortion, or who have had an abortion is an antiquated, ineffective, offensive and foreign language that is indiscernible to tortured ears.

You and I need to speak a new, authentic, Catholic pro-life language that is a language of love, compassion, mercy and forgiveness.

Our eighth graders and many others spoke that new language this past Thursday.  Several people carried signs that said, “We pray because we love you.”  There were two large tents across the street from the clinic with banners that read, “We are here to help.”

And the new pro-life language of love that our eighth graders spoke had a definite, transforming effect; because once we turned the corner, the graphic images that were being held up by others who were not part of our Catholic group were put away.

Women, and men, who go into these clinics already feel that no one is on their side and that no one cares for them.  You and I need to speak a new language that lets them know we care.

A few years ago, while I was in the seminary in Columbus, Ohio, I had the pleasure of working with an amazing organization called Bethesda Healing MinistryBethesda Healing Ministry is a Catholic group of lay women, men, priests and seminarians who meet twice a month to minister to women and men who are suffering the wound of an abortion.  We spent time talking with these women and men, helping them through not only the wounds of their abortion, but all the many wounds which affect them.  We spent time in conversation, in prayer, in meals and at Mass.  And a priest was always available for private confession.

One day, Bethesda Healing Ministry offered a one-day training day for any seminarians who wished to come.  And I asked a man, who years before helped a girlfriend get an abortion, “What should be the first thing I say to someone who says, ‘I’ve had an abortion?’”  He said, “Tell them God still loves them.”  Because many of them feel that, because of what they’ve done, they are no longer loved by God and that their sin is unforgiveable.

And so I say to anyone who is suffering from the wound of an abortion: God loves you… and He wants to show you his mercy.  There is no sin that God’s love and mercy cannot overcome.  Forgiveness and healing are available to you.  And they are found here in this Church, in the confessional.  And they are found in ministries such as Project Rachel here in Fort Wayne, a healing ministry for those who have had abortions and the Women's Care Center of Fort Wayne which provides free ultrasounds, pregnancy tests and helps women with food and clothing for their children.

This is our new, authentic, Catholic pro-life language.  And in that new language we also need to say that, should any of our sisters in Christ find themselves unexpectedly with a child, we will do everything within our power to help them give their child life in the world.

Furthermore, we also need to speak the entire vocabulary of the new pro-life language.  Every election year, we Catholics are accused of being “single issue voters” because of our non-negotiable position against abortion.  However, the pro-life message must articulate every aspect of our mission.

To truly be pro-life means not only opposition to abortion, but also opposition to the destruction of human beings which happens in embryonic stem cell research.  It means opposition to euthanasia, the deliberate termination of the life of our aged brothers and sisters.  It means opposition to capital punishment.  It means care for the aged, the mentally and physically challenged, the poor.  And it means embracing Natural Family Planning.

Being pro-life is not being a single issue voter; it's being a multi-issue voter.

When we see crimes against life, we must feel like the prophet Habakkuk who cries out to God in our first reading, “Why do you let me see ruin; why must I look at misery? Destruction and violence are before me.”  So we look for inspiration in our second reading: Paul’s letter to Timothy which states,  “Stir into flame, the gift of God that you have… God did not give us a spirit of cowardice but rather of power and love and self-control… bear your share of hardship for the gospel with the strength that comes from God.”

In my last week at Bethesda Healing Ministry, the women who come there for healing asked to give me a gift.  They asked if they could pray over me.  And so I was surrounded by over a dozen women who had had abortions who put their hands on my shoulders and they prayed for me. 

Months earlier, before they had walked through the doors of Bethesda; they were filled with fear, shame and guilt; and thought they could not say a word to a priest.  Months later, as they prayed over me, they were filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke not to me, but to God Himself on behalf of me, and they prayed for me and my priesthood and they prayed for you too.

They learned, and spoke with conviction and eloquence, a new pro-life language because they received God’s forgiveness and love.  Let us do the same.


  1. Fr. Andrew, you continue to touch me with your insight, wisdom, and eloquence--perfect! I was on the CRHP retreat so I missed hearing this live--thank you so much for taking the time to blog your homilies! See you soon--Mary Lynn

  2. Interesting how the shame, guilt and fear in the women you "assist" was placed there by the judgment and condemnation of your religious beliefs. Since no one can know absolutely the intention of God, seeking to intervene in the choice women make is an act of disempowerment.

  3. Judith, is your comment not judgmental and condemning? I will pray for you. Keep speaking the truth Fr. Andrew.

  4. Fr. Andy- so glad i found your blog! Had some guys over from the Jo for another dinner get together and they told me about it. fabulous idea and wonderfully done. looking forward to reading more!

    Mackenzie Eckert

  5. fr andy
    i am new to the parish and this was the most refreshing homily i have ever heard on abortion. did not know you had a blog or i would have responded sooner. we love your homilies. they are very thought provoking and stay with me for the week. blessings, jlb