I was recently at a Holiday party where the topic of religion and abortion came up. A local Christian minister overheard the discussion and abruptly interjected:
“Abortion is a private and sensitive issue. Whatever your position on abortion, Sunday services are not the place to talk about the subject. We can’t let contentious and divisive politics to enter our worship space.”
There have been 60 million abortions since 1973.
If we take the advice of this minister and keep silent on the subject, what does the silence of the church communicate to those who may be suffering from a past abortion?
Years of experience in abortion recovery ministry with those hurting after abortion reveals that this silence sends the following very clear messages to the congregation:
– This church is not able to help you reconcile and come to peace with this very painful part of your past.
– This congregation cannot acknowledge how your participation in the death of an unborn child (as mother/father/grandparent/other family or friend) may be an obstacle to a closer relationship with God.
– This faith community wants to reinforce the self-destructive denial and repression of any painful and troubling feelings and memories about your abortion losses.
The Price of Silence and Denial
Leslie suffered for many years with periods of depression, anxiety and nightmares connected to her two abortions at age 16 and 19. She medicated her pain with alcohol, and later when she married, she was involved in a number of shameful and secret extramarital affairs.
Later Leslie was given prescription drugs prescribed by her family doctor to treat depression, anxiety and insomnia. None of the therapist or medical professionals she went to for help asked if there were any abortions in her history.
But what really hurt and angered Leslie was the failure of her spiritual leaders to recognize this hidden pain:
“If I had heard a compassionate and hope-filled message from my minister…if I heard after my first abortion that there were healing programs available for people like me…I may have been able to prevent the death of my second child and get the help I needed much earlier in my life. I may have been able to save my husband and my children from living for years with the symptoms of this wound that was festering in my heart and soul…”
Compassion and Truth
To be fair, our church leaders struggle with the same thing many of us do in our families, workplaces and churches.
How do we address this sensitive topic in a way that does not hurt or alienate those that have participated in the death of the unborn?
Fr. Pat Scanlan P.P. has been serving in Parish ministry since his ordination in 1977 for the Diocese of Cloyne, Ireland and has been a member of the Rachel’s Vineyard Retreat team in Cork since 2003.
Fr Pat shares:
“Prior to my involvement in Rachel’s Vineyard… I was never sure how to effectively proclaim the truth while at the same time witnessing to compassion. The truth without compassion is a lethal weapon particularly for wounded souls. Compassion without the truth is a cruel deception.
I know from my experience of Rachel’s Vineyard that the Gospel is truly Good News… I share in a gentle compassionate way that abortion wounds the lives of mothers and fathers. I know that if there are women and men present who have had abortion they will realize that the church wants to help them.”
Please share this article with the pastor or a minister at your church. Let us know if we can be of any assistance with information and resources for your faith community.