Homily by Fr. John De Celles
St. Raymond of Peñafort, Springfield, Va.
38 years ago today/yesterday1 the Supreme Court of the United States ruled
1 January 22, 1973
that women have a fundamental right to abort their babies
—the infamous Roe v. Wade decision.
Since then pro-life advocates, including the Catholic Church,
have been waging a peaceful war to mitigate and eventually overturn
that barbaric decision.
The war continues.
Over the last 16 years or so I have preached on the evil of abortion,
and the need to fight that evil at every turn,
including in the public square and in the political arena,
especially in the voting booth.
Some people have objected to these homilies,
some arguing that I am unnecessarily political,
some that I’m often too partisan,
and some that there were, in fact, more important issues to worry about.
I could understand many of those objections:
they are absolutely wrong, but not unreasonable.
But the one objection I have never understood is when people say
that my position on abortion
—or rather, the Church’s doctrine on abortion—
is fundamentally unjust
since it ignores the rights of women to make choices
based on their own good.
The problem is, anyone who argues
that abortion is about protecting women and their rights
is ignoring the fact that in every abortion there are at least two victims:
while it is clear that every abortion
stops the naturally beating heart of a baby,
what many refuse to recognize is that it also
breaks the naturally loving heart of a mommy.
For the last 4 decades doctors of the body
have overwhelmingly defended the medical choice of abortion,
while at the same time doctors of the mind
—psychiatrists and psychologists—
have also defended that choice as often being necessary
for the psychological health of the mother.
But any one who argues
that an abortion can ever be psychologically good for a woman
is ignoring the facts.
Think about it.
You don’t have to teach women to love their children without reserve:
what mother do you know that if she had to nurse her baby
through the suffering of some terrible disease
like leukemia or kidney disease
wouldn’t gladly trade places with her baby?
Mom’s are just like that.
How could such an amazing creature as a mom
ever benefit emotionally from doing something
so radically opposed to her nature.
Still, in spite of scientific study after study
that proves this common sense observation,
and in spite of the millions of emotionally crippled women
that come to them,
the mental health establishment refuses to open its eyes to see the truth.
Sometimes when I speak to people about abortion, someone will say:
“what do you want to do, put these women in jail?”
The answer is not only “no” but “are you crazy?”:
the very fact that they do something
so obviously contrary to their own basic nature
leads me to want to assume that something extraordinary intervened
to confuse or impair their judgment.
And that “something” includes the systematic brainwashing they receive
in school, in the media and from health care workers.
And more importantly it includes the incredible pressure brought to bear on them by
doctors and nurses grown callous to their patients,
parents ashamed of their little girl
or boyfriends or husbands unwilling to shoulder responsibility
for their sexual conduct.
If anyone should be punished, it should be these people
who should know better,
and to whom the distraught woman or frightened girl comes to for help.
In the words of the great advocate of women’s rights of the 19th century,
the famous suffragette Susan B. Anthony, speaking on the evil of abortion:
“thrice guilty is he who drove her to the desperation
which impelled her to the crime!”
And yet it is the woman who does bear the punishment
—whether the laws of society recognize the crime or not.
The fact is that it doesn’t matter how many times
doctors, lawyers, feminists or boyfriends say,
“honey, you didn’t do anything wrong”
–every woman who aborts knows in her heart what she did,
and there is no punishment conceived by man or woman
that could compare to the hell
that they heap upon themselves.
These women know.
Some don’t always admit it, but they know.
I’ve seen the terribly tortured look on the faces
and heard the tormented voices
of too many women who come to me in the confessional.
Especially in the last few years as the group called Project Rachel
has become more and more active in our diocese.
Because Project Rachel, and other groups and individuals like it
recognize the distress of these women, and offer them a helping hand.
It’s interesting that Project Rachel phone counselors
say that although they always offer women a choice between a referral
either to a priest or to a psychologist,
the women overwhelmingly ask for a priest.
I didn’t understood that, until a few years ago
when a woman sat in my office telling me
that for 10 years she had very clearly seen the connection
between her severe emotional problems and the abortion she had had
just a few weeks before her problems began.
And yet counselor after counselor for 10 years
kept telling her that she hadn’t done anything wrong
—abortion was okay:
the only problem she had was her unreasonable guilt,
and so they tried to cure her guilt.
She was fed up with her problems, and she was fed up with their lies.
She came to a priest—even though she was not even Catholic
—because she knew that a priest would believe her when she said
she had been wrong in aborting her baby,
and that a priest might help her to deal with
the terrible thing she had done.
The truth hurts, but lies hurt more
—especially when you’re dealing with the life and death of babies,
and the love and guilt of mothers.
It’s time to end the lies
—time to end the silencing of these women who cry out in pain,
and instead to silence those who tell them to be silent.
How do we do this?
Of course, must fundamentally we change people’s attitude toward abortion…
society must admit that killing unborn babies,
and encouraging mothers to do so, is simply grossly wrong.
We need to stop confusing women in crisis pregnancies
and denying proper treatment to those who bear long standing guilt.
To do this we must have good men and women in public office
who will deal with abortion with honesty, and true compassion.
That’s what we can do publicly and for long term results.
But more immediately, we can help that poor devastated woman in our midst
–perhaps our sister, mother, wife or friend–
who needs more than anything else
to admit her guilt, receive forgiveness
and begin to heal the open emotional and spiritual wounds
of a bleeding womb.
In the end, there is only one person who has the power to make this happen.
In today’s Gospel St Matthew quotes the prophet Isaiah:
“the people who sit in darkness have seen a great light, on those dwelling in a land overshadowed by death light has arisen…” And then St. Matthew goes on to say,
“Jesus began to preach and say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” And finally he says:
“He went around all of Galilee…proclaiming he gospel
…and curing every disease and illness among the people.
Jesus alone can shine the light on these women
living in the dark shadow cast by our society’s culture of death,
made all too personal in the death of their own babies.
And he begins by telling them the truth about their sin
—calling them, in love, to “repent.”
But most wonderfully he completes his work
by healing the wounds abortion has left them with. Jesus is the only answer for these women.
But today’s gospel also tells us that Jesus called Peter,
and the first apostles, saying:
“Come after me,” or “Come, follow me,”
“and I will make you fishers of men.”
And he says to you and I today in a particular way,
in a voice echoing over 2000 years:
“Come follow me, and I will make you fishers of”
these women who are in pain.
We must follow him, proclaiming his gospel
of repentance, forgiveness and healing
especially to the living victims of abortion.
And we must tell these women that Jesus longs to help them,
if only they will also respond to his invitation: “Come follow me.”
If they do come to him, He will fulfill, in them,
the prophesy of Isaiah we read in today’s first reading:
“Anguish has taken wing,
…for there is no gloom where but now there was distress. You have brought them abundant joy… For the yoke that burdened them,… you have smashed.” Jesus Christ will smash the yolk of guilt and sin of the abortive mother
with his forgiveness.
He will drive out her anguish and gloom and replace it with his joy.
He will lead her out of the darkness of death
and lead her into the glorious light of His life.
If only she will come and follow him.
Jesus calls you and I to remain silent no longer.
To our fellow Americans who believe the lies and manipulations of
pro-abortion advocates, radical feminists and politicians
we must proclaim the Gospel of Life,
and shine the light of Christ on the dark shadows cast by their deceit.
To those young girls and older women who face crisis pregnancies
we must love them enough to tell them the truth
that even if husbands, or boyfriends or parents abandon them,
Christ will never abandon them.
And to those women who suffer the pains of guilt of past abortions
we must remind them that Christ longs to
dry their tears, take away their grief, and forgive their sin.
If only they will ignore those who try to silence their cries of pain,
and instead listen to voice of Jesus who calls out to them, “Come follow me.”