The Centurion who stood at the foot of the cross of Christ suddenly became horrified at the crucifixion he was ordered to carry out. When Christ died, this Centurion dropped his sword and fell to his knees exclaiming, 'Surely, this was an innocent man!'
"Those of us who have participated in the killing of unborn children are the Centurions of today. We have dropped our swords against the unborn child. Now we must recognize the depth of our guilt and deal with the ramifications…To revitalize our humanity we need to forgive and be forgiven, to reconcile and be healed."
These words come from a brochure of the “Society of Centurions,” an organization for former abortion providers. These words convey in a beautiful and moving way what is happening across the nation as hundreds of abortionists and their staff experience repentance, conversion, and healing.
In my past seven columns, I have reflected on the lives and souls of abortionists. I have quoted their words so that you can glimpse their pain. In this column, I rejoice to tell you yet again that the former abortionists you may already know – like Bernard Nathanson, Carol Everett, and Tony Levatino – are only the “tip of the iceberg.” There are so many others, and more continue to come to the light of Christ each day.
Our Priests for Life ministry, which operates the world’s largest abortion recovery program, Rachel’s Vineyard, likewise assists former abortionists in their journey of repentance. I will never forget sitting with a group of these men and women for a period of several days one Holy Week, and listening to them resolve that when they got back home, they would attempt to contact every woman on whom they had ever performed an abortion, and apologize to her. I also heard them tell of how, after their conversion, they would dedicate each passing day to another of the children they had killed. They would name those children, write them letters, and pray a profound prayer of apology.
How does this conversion begin? My experience confirms what Dr. Philip Ney has also found. He writes, “The factors that changed their opinion on performing abortions, in the following order of frequency, were: evidence of the infant’s humanity, a spiritual experience, personal distress, evidence of the mother’s distress, scientific articles, being accepted as a person, a personal relationship with a pro-lifer, pro-life pickets. For most…there was more than one factor” (The Centurion’s Pathway, p. 77).
The journey is not easy. There is so much pain and guilt to deal with and so many rationalizations to undo that the Centurion will be tempted to say, “Everything is OK now; Jesus has healed me, and I’m just going to forget the past.” But the Jesus who heals us calls us to face the truth of what we’ve done, make restitution where possible, and engage in the hard work of mending relationships. Priests for Life is ready to help.
Let’s pray for the Centurions, and may their numbers increase!