The following essay by Bishop Robert Vasa was posted on the diocese of Santa Rosa site on January 22.
There is not a single adult Catholic for whom this date should lack significance. It is a day of grief and sorrow for some and a day of triumph and rejoicing for others. It is, as we all know, the infamous date of the Supreme Court decision known as Roe vs. Wade.
On this day in 1973 personal freedom and liberty and ‘privacy’ were established as ‘rights’ in our country which even surpassed another individual’s right to life. In that decision the Court discovered the ‘right to privacy’ in the Constitution. At the same time the Court failed to find in that same Constitution the right of an unborn child to continue to live. Forty years later the Court still has not found in our Constitution a most basic ‘right to life’ for our pre-born citizens. Somehow, infants in the womb are judged to lack some essential quality of humanity which, in the opinion of the Court, excludes them from the protection of the law. Clearly, it is not the infants in the womb who lack some essential feature of humanity, it is rather that those passing sentence upon these innocent pre-born persons must have lost a part of their humanity. It is most distressing to know that I have a recognized right to privacy while others, far more vulnerable, do not even have a right to life.
It would appear that American culture has arrived at the point of believing that the legality of abortion affirms its morality as well; its harmlessness. Unfortunately many Catholics, who would have to be described as nominal Catholics, seem to hold to this position. The socalled ‘pro-choice’ Catholics seem to have been duped into believing that the legality of abortion makes it a legitimate moral choice for those who seek it and that even Catholics have a moral obligation to protect that legally established right. For the sake of the salvation of their souls I hope they have been duped. The alternative is that they really have no regard for the life and well-being of the pre-born child. Perhaps it is kinder to say that they manifest a deeper compassion for the woman’s constitutionally discovered right to privacy than for the child’s God given right to life. Pro-choice is not a legitimate Catholic position. Not for Catholics in private life; not for Catholics in public life.
Each January I am starkly reminded of the failed efforts in our country to protect children adequately. The date of January 22 is such a bleak reminder for me of the prevalence of the taking of the lives of pre-born children that I literally find myself going, again and again, through the stages of genuine grief. Those stages in very broad terms start with denial, move to bargaining, then anger, through sadness and even depression and hopefully through to acceptance. I find myself often bouncing back and forth between anger and sadness, between anger and helplessness, between anger and disgust, between anger and fear. I suspect you note there is a good deal of anger, I have noticed that too. In most grief situations I find it relatively easy to move rather quickly through the stages of grief and come quite peacefully to an acceptance of whatever the loss may be – – not so with January 22.
A program known as the Rachel’s Vineyard Retreat, which I have had the opportunity and the privilege to attend a number of years ago, confirmed for me the reality and the necessity of my continued and unresolved grief. The Retreat is one part of the ministry of the Church known as Project Rachel — a ministry that helps women find healing, peace and forgiveness following an abortion. The Rachel’s Vineyard Retreat is specifically designed to help postabortive women come to terms with the destructive nature of unresolved and sometimes even unrecognized grief in their lives. You see, the ‘abortion mentality America’ in which we live relies on continuing the denial of post-abortive grief. Just as big tobacco relied on a continued denial of the habituating nature of nicotine and their knowledge of it; just as they denied the potentially harmful impact of cigarette smoke on the lungs and their knowledge of these harmful effects; so also the abortion industry (and it is an enormously lucrative ‘business’) thrives on the denial of the reality of the child and the reality of a mother’s grief. Thus the first stage of grief, denial, becomes the only stage experienced because this stage, and this stage alone, is the accepted and ‘politically correct’ response to post-abortive grief.
The denials of the abortion industry are seriously malicious. Initially the denial centered on the reality of the baby; just a ‘mass’ of undifferentiated cells. When this ’denial’ could be sustained no longer the rhetoric moved to a different tactic. Then it was admitted, yes, there is a vague human form but humanity – – real, living, breathing, thinking, emotionally responsive humanity – – is not immediately perceptible and therefore, in a twisted logic, not really present. When scientific evidence began to reveal that children actually experience pain in the course of being aborted, that they even exhibit some rudimentary flight response, then the verbiage, with claims of care and compassion, turned to a concern for the well-being of the mother. Yes, they would say, abortion is a terrible thing, it is taking the life of the child, we may need to anesthetize the child to keep ‘it’ pain-free, but it is still best for the mother. Just as the other ‘denials’ of the abortion industry have proven to be outright lies so this ultimate lie, this ultimate denial, the denial of the reality of a mother’s grief must likewise be exposed.
The women who come to a Project Rachel Retreat did not necessarily connect their various continued life traumas to their respective abortions but they had tried every other kind of therapy and yet something in their lives was still ‘not right’. The book Forbidden Grief talks about the various manifestations of this unresolved grief. Many of the signs were clearly evident in the small group of women gathered at the Retreat which I attended; disrupted marital relationships, alcoholism, drug addiction, eating disorders, sleeplessness, nightmares, flashbacks, depression, suicidal ideation, anxiety, compulsive shopping, hopelessness, extreme shame and guilt. The ‘lie’ of the abortion industry that these problems could not possibly be connected to a past abortion keeps many women from probing and understanding the root of their various debilities.
The pro-life sign: ‘Abortion hurts women’ is judged and discarded by the pro-abortion and the extreme feminist crowd as so much religious claptrap but the women on this Retreat and those who walked a short distance with them know without a hint of doubt that it is absolutely true. Abortion hurts women and our societal denial of this truth allows an unsympathetic industry to continue to wreak its havoc on the lives of thousands of unsuspecting women every day.
The absolute silence of the abortion industry about the harm done to women is unconscionable. Worse, it is infuriating! Any legislative attempts to allow for a proper period of genuinely informed consent are shouted down as an infringement on a woman’s right to choose. What about her right to know? What about her right to make a properly informed choice? Knowing what they know now, I seriously doubt that any of the women who come to a Project Rachel Retreat would make the same self and other destructive choice! I am extremely sad for them. I pray for them. I pray for all those women, millions of them, who have believed the lie and now live in denial, still trying to believe the lie while their lives crumble around them. Their whole psyche cries out in grief, an unrecognized grief, a societally unacceptable grief, a forbidden grief and they are denied the possibility of facing that grief because, according to the abortion providers, there is nothing to grieve; there is nothing about which to be upset.
Any legislator or public person who protects or defends abortion, particularly those who claim to be Catholic, should first read Forbidden Grief and attend a Rachel’s Vineyard Retreat and then see if they could still be so glib about this right of a woman to make a largely uninformed choice of such grave consequences.
Men, who are truly men in the best sense of that word, could not ever allow their beloved, or even a casual friend, to risk suffering this grief or to side with the heartless abortion industry which simply says, “Get over it! Imagine what your life would have been like if you had not had the abortion”. Believe me; these women do imagine precisely that! They wonder what the child would be like, who he or she would look like, the voice, the smile, the joy in the eyes, and the beautiful ring of the word: “Mommy”. They imagine it all!
That is their grief; they do imagine what their lives would be like if they had not had the abortion. What a singular grief, a horrific grief, a forbidden grief, a hidden grief and it is suffered by millions and denied a million times over. I grieve with them and for them and sometimes that grief takes me to anger. Thank you to all who work to protect life and to protect women, not with the admixture of a conflicted interest in a tremendously lucrative industry, but selflessly and generously and with genuine compassion.
Thank you. Persevere. By your work you do give hope to those who grieve alone and in darkness. You assure them that you do recognize their very human grief for a genuine great loss; the loss of a child. These mothers suffer a mother’s grief but the reality and the necessity of that grief is denied to them.
God bless all who show genuine compassion to those who have been hurt by abortion.
+Robert F. Vasa
Bishop of Santa Rosa
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