Sunday, October 28, 2012

Forbidden Grief of Abortion: Fr. Andersen Homily

A homily by Fr. Eric M. Andersen, Sacred Heart-St. Louis in Gervais, Oregon, for Sunday, October 28th, 2012 (my emphases)

Dominica XXX Per Annum, Anno B

In 1972, Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas ruled the following in the famous Sierra Club vs. Morton case: “Inanimate objects are sometimes parties in litigation. A ship has a legal personality…The ordinary corporation is a "person" for purposes of the adjudicatory processes…So it should be as respects valleys, alpine meadows, rivers, lakes, estuaries, beaches, ridges, groves of trees, swampland, or even air…The voice of the inanimate object, therefore, should not be stilled” (Sierra Club vs. Morton). Douglas “asserted that natural resources ought to have standing to sue for their own protection” ( Oct 25, 2012). He said “the problem is to make certain that the inanimate objects…have spokesmen before they are destroyed.” Eight months later, the very same justice ruled with the majority in Roe vs. Wade that “the word person does not include the unborn.” So an inanimate object is a person, according to the government, but a child in the womb is not a person, according to the government. That is precisely what it means to be blind.

Details here.
So if that baby in the womb is destroyed by abortion, what happens to the woman or man who grieves this loss? They experience something called “forbidden grief.” If you are suffering from forbidden grief, then you will find that nobody wants to talk to you about it. Nobody will give you any sympathy. Nobody will even acknowledge that there could possibly be a reason to grieve such a thing. Therefore, it should not be discussed. Period. End of conversation. 

And so, the one who is suffering deeply from forbidden grief finds herself alone, despairing, thinking that maybe she is crazy, possibly even considering suicide. She cries out in her soul, “Who will save me?” But at the same time, this person believes the lie that she has no right to grieve such a thing because she has been told that there is nothing to grieve. How can one grieve over something that was not even a person? Their experience of grief is sometimes dismissed by doctors, women’s rights groups, and unfortunately even by some clergy. How can one heal if she is told that there is nothing to heal from? We need to validate that grief. Those who suffer this grief go from parish to parish, from priest to priest, just looking to find someone who will say the word and acknowledge that this “forbidden grief” even exists. Because if it really does exist, then the women who suffer from this forbidden grief are not crazy like others tell them they are. If this “forbidden grief” exists and can be talked about then maybe a loving God really does exist. “Take courage; get up, Jesus is calling you” (Mk 10:49).

If you are hurting because of abortion, you are not alone. If you have hurt another person through abortion, you are not alone. I do not condemn you. I give you permission to grieve. If you are grieving, you are not crazy. You have a reason to grieve. I give you permission to talk about it. We do need to talk about this. Women regret their abortions. Men suffer from abortion too.

Details here.
When a woman or a man is able to identify and talk about this forbidden grief then the work of healing can begin. The “process of repair begins by recognizing that the hurt you are feeling, sometimes for years, is real. You are not overreacting. You are not exaggerating. You are not silly or crazy or weak or hysterical if you feel deep in your soul that something terribly wrong happened” to you when your abortion occurred (Jennifer O’Neill, You’re Not Alone).

Abortion is devastating to both women and men who are involved in it. Women who have had abortions, even multiple ones, need their grief validated. They need someone to listen and to acknowledge that their grief is real and that the children in their wombs were really children and not just pieces of tissue or clumps of cells.

When we experience loss, we grieve. Our Lord said, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” Can we not say, “Blessed are those who grieve, for they shall be comforted?” What happens when we do not allow ourselves to grieve? We may push God away. When that happens, we often fall into habits of sin that compound the grief and heap shame on top of it. Shame hides in the darkness. It is secret; it is hidden and makes us want to hide. As long as shame is kept hidden and secret, it continues to grow. The devil will lie to us and tell us that we will be sorry if we tell. But not telling keeps us in bondage. Getting out of bondage and deception means breaking the secret (cf. Anfuso, Shame, 11-12).

We break the secret by talking about it and allowing ourselves to feel the grief. We might feel forbidden to talk about it, or even to feel any emotions over our grief, because it is attached to sin. But as soon as we begin to talk and feel, our healing begins (cf. Anfuso, 20-21). We break the secret by confessing our sins to God. “Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me.” Then we have to praise God. Praise God and give Him thanks for all that He has given you. The more we give thanks to God for what He has done, the less prone we are to worry about what He has not yet done. There is something healing about praise and thanksgiving that lifts us out of the muck and mire of shame (cf. Anfuso, 32). God gives us that healing as a free gift of love. We do not need to be worthy. God gives it to us because He loves us. Nobody is worthy. But God need only say the word, and our souls shall be healed. He says to us in the sacrament of Penance, “I absolve you.” He says to us in the sacrament of the Eucharist, “This is my Body.” By these words, we are healed.

But we also need the help of others. There is nothing so painful as to suffer alone. A few years ago, a group of women decided to come together and tell their stories about how they had been hurt by their abortions. They formed the Silent-No-More awareness campaign. They gathered to tell their stories and to publicly say that they regretted their abortions. Many of these women have experienced healing through Project Rachel and the Rachel’s Vineyard retreats that are sponsored by Catholic Charities. On Thursday evening, I spoke at a Silent No More event at St. Mary’s in Eugene. Two courageous women and two courageous men got up to tell the stories of how abortion had devastated them. The room was filled with love from all who were there to support them, and the love of God who had tenderly reached down and changed their lives, turning them around and giving them His healing and grace.
Several years ago, as a seminarian, I attended my first Rachel’s Vineyard retreat and later became a team member. What amazed me so much was that the women who entered the retreat on Friday afternoon, the ones who were living under a cloud of darkness and gloom, were transformed by Saturday night. They were different people. They could smile and laugh and they felt loved and forgiven. They reconciled with God, and even reconciled with their children whom they had lost; naming those children and even writing them letters. By Sunday, as we all departed to go back to our everyday lives, these women and men had a new outlook and they had tools to help them to start over again. They knew that they were beloved sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father. They knew that Jesus Christ had died for them and that He offered them the grace of the Sacraments to begin to heal from their grief that was no longer forbidden.

What about us? As Catholics, we are pro-life. There is no choice about that issue. And being pro-life means embracing those who grieve over abortion with friendship and forgiveness and God’s love. We must stand up to speak out and protect those who are most innocent: children in the womb. We must stand with those who have been wounded by forbidden grief and speak out with our votes. Let us stand together for a culture of life. Let us stand with those who grieve over abortion. God can and does heal the wound of abortion, but it is not easy and it does not happen overnight. It takes time but there is hope and abundant mercy from God through Jesus Christ. 

For more homilies by Fr. Andersen, click on the tab at the top of the page.

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