From the October issue of Vine and Branches, the e-newsletter of Rachel's Vineyard.
By Rev. John Madigan
This past weekend I was the chaplain on a Rachel's Vineyard healing retreat. This is a retreat that ministers to those who have taken the step of aborting a baby in life and have discovered to their cost what a destructive decision that can be for them. I have now worked on several of these weekend retreats over the past few years and I continue to be profoundly touched and saddened by the heart rending stories I get to hear. I am also profoundly uplifted by the action of God's saving and healing grace in their lives when they ask for forgiveness and healing. The participants are mostly women, though a few men have recognized their responsibility and come to participate, and their stories have provided a variety of reasons why they have made such a drastic decision in life. Most all of them never thought their decision would have such devastating consequences for their lives and have deeply regretted the choice.
Most of the weekends inevitably get to the discussion of how hard it is for them to sit in the pew at church and listen to a condemnation of those who have had abortions or read church bulletins containing such condemnations. I asked how we as a church might state our abhorrence for the act and not seem to soft peddle the seriousness of it. Most all could accept the strong stance, but complained of rarely hearing the compassion of Jesus for the sinner that could have helped them to turn back to God through the church. Most of them never wanted to do it and I heard a variety of reasons why they did that made me aware yet again of several factors:
Family lifestyle and values play a big part.
Communication in families needs lots of help.
Loving interaction in family life needs development.
Providing support for an alternative choice is paramount.
Welcoming back an abortionist to healing and forgiveness so that they can speak to the devastation in their lives may be a very effective way forward.
They especially spoke of the anguish they continue to feel when they sit in church listening to condemnations by people who have never made such a terrible decision and consequently show no trace of compassion for those who are living with the consequences. It was a lesson for me to always balance what I say in such situations and measure words carefully so that why the moral unacceptability of abortion is stressed yet the one who has done it can approach the speaker with confidence of being received with the mercy of Christ.
Rev. John Madigan writes from his parish St. Stephen the Martyr Church in Seattle, Washington.