Dear Parish Family,
A couple came out of Mass last weekend with tears in their eyes. They said, “We need your help.” I assumed they were going to tell me about bad news someone in their family received in a doctor’s office, but they didn’t. Through tears, they asked “Are you going to say anything about the Supreme Court decision? We really need help.” In talking with them for awhile, I found out that, like many of us, they had prayed for years for Roe vs. Wade to be overturned. They had not dared to hope it would happen in their lifetime, but they always anticipated that if it did, they would be overjoyed. Now that it has happened, they are not feeling as they expected. A family party over the weekend turned sour when the topic came up and some other family members – people they love – told them that they share the blame as Catholics for a decision that, in the view of these family members, is taking away the rights that Americans have had for 50 years. The historic level of division in our nation just got significantly wider and deeper. It’s straining and even ruining many important relationships. Can you relate to their angst over this?
My life story began the year after Roe vs. Wade was decided. My biological mother, a teenager, became pregnant unexpectedly in the summer of 1974. She had the legal right to an abortion, but her conscience told her not to do it. She was a student at Mercy Catholic High School. I can’t imagine the looks she must have gotten in 1970s Rochester. I can’t imagine how emotional those months must have been before I was born – during the birth – and in the weeks, months and years that followed. Being that woman’s child gives me an interesting perspective because, although I have yet to meet her (and perhaps won’t until heaven), I feel tremendous respect and devotion for her. I’ll always praise her and love her in a very special way. I also know that my 47 years (so far) have been tremendously meaningful. I wouldn’t know you and I wouldn’t be your priest had I not been born. It’s a long story, but my biological father didn’t know that my mother had conceived a child until I was already adopted for over a year. He always wanted to know me and, all these years later, he now watches the livestream of our 4:00 Mass every week at his home five hours away from Glens Falls.
Only in heaven will we understand why things in life happen as they do. Only after we’ve lived our full lives will we know why that teenage boy and that teenage girl brought their unique combination of history and biology and personality and soul together to make me. But being who I am, living my life as an adopted child all these years, tells me deeply – at the level of my soul – that abortion is not health care. Nor is it a choice that can be on the table for humanity. As a child of a crisis pregnancy, I am grateful anytime abortion is rejected.
And, at the same time, as a priest who has counseled many women and men through pregnancy and abortion trauma… as a friend to women who have had abortions, some who have regretted it, some who have perhaps not… I understand the cry of those who are hurting. It’s clear for me to see that when people feel that their rights are being taken away against their wills, they respond with grief, shock, rage and horror.
I’m grateful anytime abortion is rejected for the same reason I rejoice whenever the death penalty is rejected… anytime euthanasia is rejected… anytime funding is restored to the poor or to education… anytime immigrants are regarded as people instead of just a blanket crisis. A Catholic is someone who lets God alone decide when life begins and ends and respects and upholds life in all its stages.
I’ve heard some men say that abortion has nothing to do with them because “it’s a women’s issue.” But I’m a man; I was conceived, as we all were, without my permission, and it’s my issue. And as long as men are involved in pregnancies, it’s everyone’s issue. There can be no cop out for any of us.
But to speak about this issue as if it is not complicated, as if there are not loving, sincere people all over the opinion spectrum of this debate, is unwise and untrue and harmful. Now that the Supreme Court has changed the federal law, it’s up to all Catholics to make it clear by our words and actions that we are absolutely committed to the mothers and fathers in crisis pregnancy situations. We have to show them that their lives matter to us as much as their unborn children’s lives. And that those who disagree, those who call themselves Pro-Choice, they matter… deeply matter… to us, as well.