SAN ANTONIO — A message of healing and compassion should always be at the center of the abortion debate and is the basis of Church teaching on the issue, according to the founder of the post-abortion apostolate Project Rachel.
“We always need to speak the healing message,” Vicki Thorn, founder of Project Rachel, told EWTN News, because “this question of God’s mercy and love: It really is the message of the Church.”
Thornʼs comments came a day after Cardinal Seán OʼMalley of Boston delivered an address at the Knights of Columbus' annual convention in which he said Pope Francis “speaks of love and mercy to give people the context for the Churchʼs teaching on abortion.”
Some news outlets cast those comments as saying that Pope Francis “prefers to talk love, not abortion,” as though the Boston archbishop had set up a division between the two.
But in his San Antonio address, Cardinal OʼMalley united the love and mercy shown to women who have had abortions with the truth of abortionʼs intrinsic immorality.
“Mercy without truth would be consolation without honesty,” he said.
Cardinal OʼMalley said that Project Rachel is “just that kind of a combination of mercy and truth that the Churchʼs pro-life efforts need to be about.”
No Worries About Pope Francis
Thorn indicated that Pope Francisʼ refraining from often mentioning abortion does not mean he prefers talking about love to abortion. She said she is “not concerned” that the Pope has said little directly about abortion since his election as Bishop of Rome.
“We’d like him to say all things to all people right away, and I don’t think that’s going to happen,” she said, adding that many people think “he’s coming in on his white horse, and that he’s going to change everything tomorrow, but that isn’t feasible.”
Thorn stated that it did not happen that way with either Blessed John Paul II or Benedict XVI, saying that, instead, it was “step by step.”
Thorn quoted Pope Francis while he was yet the cardinal archbishop of Buenos Aires, saying, “If we want to maintain a solid and enviable basis for human rights, we absolutely must recognize that human life must always be defended from the very moment of conception.”
She went on to speak about how the Church’s teaching on abortion is a way of loving women, saying, “The Church loves the woman because we have spoken the truth of the aftermath of abortion from the beginning.”
Bishops Follow Christ's Personal Compassion
Emphasizing the Church’s compassionate approach to the issue, she recalled that, in the U.S. bishopsʼ first pastoral plan for pro-life activities in 1975, they had called for “a ministry of healing for women.”
Although the topic of abortion was not widely spoken about at that time, Thorn said the bishops knew about the need for a healing apostolate because they “had heard confessions, and they had heard pain in a woman’s heart.”
“It’s a hard issue,” she said, and “it can take many years” before women who have had abortions are ready to process their experience. She said that they will often seek to justify the act.
The thing to remember, Thorn said, is that “the woman who’s had an abortion is always a mother who has lost a child in a traumatic and un-natural fashion” and that “the Church is there to walk with women and men” who are suffering from abortionʼs aftermath.
Reiterating the importance of compassion for women suffering the effects of an abortion, Thorn said, “Sometimes people get so upset about abortion — they’re so angry — that they really believe that God shouldn’t be offering forgiveness.”
Sharing from her own experience, she said that “when women and men are healed, they always become pro-life, always,” stressing that men also need to go through a process of healing after an abortion.
“It’s one heart at a time. That’s how Jesus dealt with people when he was dealing with the wounded women in Scripture: It was one at a time,” she said.
To those who might complain that Pope Francis has not talked enough about abortion, Thorn responded that he “hasn’t been Pope long enough for us to know what he’s going to say.”
She said, “When the time is right, this is going to be spoken about.”