Because of my full-time position as National Director of Priests for Life, I have preached on abortion every day since 1993 in every state of the country. I have carefully watched the reaction of God's people, and have attentively listened to their comments.
The two remarks that best summarize the response of the people to a clear and compassionate homily on abortion are "Thank you" and "We need to hear more of this." I cannot count the letters and emails that come into our Priests for Life office from people who want to hear their priest preach more about this topic. These letters come from attorneys, doctors, police officers, judges--in fact, from people of every profession and walk of life. They even come from children.
Priests for Life conducts training seminars for clergy to help them discover their own fears and hesitations about preaching on abortion. One of our publications is Fathers, Let's Face our Fears about Abortion, and identifies twenty-two of the most common fears.
One of them is the fear of hurting those in the congregation who have had abortions. Yet this fear overlooks the fact that silence hurts them more. Silence, though well-intentioned, does not interpret itself. If one is in denial about her abortion, silence allows the denial to continue. If one is painfully aware of the mistake she has made, silence can be taken to mean that the Church either doesn't know her pain, or doesn't care--or even worse, that there is no hope. Breaking the silence, on the other hand, gives the post-abortion woman an opportunity to begin breaking out of denial, and to know that the Church's rejection of abortion is not a rejection of those who have had one. After a pro-life homily, one woman told me, "Father, I had an abortion, and when I hear about it, it sometimes hurts" But please just keep preaching about it, because when I think that this homily can prevent another woman from ever going through what I went through, then I endure the pain gladly. Thank you for caring enough to speak out."
Indeed, the Church offers the perfect message for those who have had abortions.
Part of the pain of those someone who has had an abortion is that society tells her that the death of her own child is no big deal. Part of the consolation, therefore, is that someone speaks up about what a monumental wrong this action is. Such a message validates the grief that the post-abortion woman already feels, and tells her that she should not feel silly for feeling sad.
At the same time, the Church's message condemning abortion offers welcome, forgiveness, and healing for those who have sinned. This saves those who have had abortions from the despair to which they are easily tempted.
All of this applies to the father of the aborted child, as well as the others who may have been involved in the abortion.
For resources on pro-life preaching, and for suggestions on how you can encourage your priest, contact Priests for Life.