Life Matters —The Newsletter of the Respect Life Office of the Diocese of Rockford
By Patricia Pitkus Bainbridge
Associate Director, Respect Life Office
It is not unusual for the Respect Life Office to be involved in guiding women of various ages to make the right decision when they are facing what they consider to be an untimely pregnancy. With the exception of praying and calling for prayers from the faithful, our involvement is usually indirect—making referrals for practical assistance, recommending morally correct courses of action, and providing emotional support in an attempt to help others who are directly and personally involved with the troubled women in question.
On one occasion, a priest in our Diocese actually traveled over an hour to reach the hospital where an abortion was to be committed on a young woman from a family that he knew. He was able to counsel the woman to choose life for her baby and eventually had the privilege of baptizing that baby. Had he not done the right thing, the baby would not be alive today.
There are a number of other instances where priests, sidewalk counselors, Catholic Charities, and other laity in the Rockford Diocese have been instrumental in saving the lives of unborn babies simply by bolding standing for the truth, praying, and offering practical assistance to women—young and not so young—who had planned on abortion.
Some Still Choose Death
Sometimes, however, no matter how many prayers are offered; no matter how much information is given; no matter how much practical help is presented; no matter how much love and compassion are conveyed, women choose death for their unborn children.
Let us never forget that this happens every day to at least seven tiny human beings whose mothers live in this Diocese. This number does not include other babies—whose mothers do not live in the eleven counties of Northern Illinois—who are killed at the hands of abortionists in Aurora, Elgin, McHenry, and Rockford.
This number also does not include the very tiny humans who are destroyed by the sometime abortifacient action of so-called “Emergency Contraception,” “the pill,” the IUD, Depo-Provera, Norplant, as well as many other chemical “contraceptives” which have as one of their mechanisms the prevention of implantation. And, of course, this number does not include the young humans destroyed through In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) procedures.
Hearts are Hardened
There was a time when all an abortion minded woman had to learn was that her baby’s heart was beating or that he or she had fingers and toes and that would be enough information for her to choose life for her baby. A simple referral to Catholic Charities for practical assistance was also enough for many to choose life.
Now, however, sidewalk counselors report that most young women know full well that their babies’ hearts are beating and they simply do not care. Sometimes when approached by a sidewalk counselor, they will say, “I know it’s a baby, but it’s my choice.” Some of these girls are not even ashamed to be seen at the abortuaries wearing Catholic school uniforms or jackets. Many are there with the full support of their parents. Many will be repeat customers. Many will suffer serious emotional and spiritual consequences from their “choice” for abortion.
Let’s be clear. Choosing abortion is a very serious matter—obviously for the baby, but also for the woman and for anyone who formally cooperates with her “choice.” The Catechism #2272 states, “Formal cooperation in an abortion constitutes a grave offense. The Church attaches the canonical penalty of excommunication to this crime against human life. ‘A person who procures a completed abortion incurs excommunication latae sententiae [automatic], “by the very commission of the offense,” and subject to the conditions provided by Canon Law. The Church does not thereby intend to restrict the scope of mercy. Rather, she makes clear the gravity of the crime committed, the irreparable harm done to the innocent who is put to death, as well as to the parents and the whole of society.”
Excommunication is the most severe spiritual sanction the Church can render. Excommunication “impedes the reception of the sacraments and the exercise of certain ecclesiastical acts, and for which absolution consequently cannot be granted, according to canon law, except by the Pope, the bishop of the place or priests authorized by them. In danger of death any priest, even if deprived of faculties for hearing confessions, can absolve from every sin and excommunication.” (Catechism #1463)
Procuring an abortion—or formally cooperating in the procurement of abortion—automatically bars one from receiving Holy Communion as well as most of the other sacraments. These are serious consequences.
We’ve Said It Before And We’ll Say It Again
Gone are the days where a young woman felt that she had no other option than abortion for what she considered an untimely or crisis pregnancy. Today, more than ever, there are a myriad of agencies and individuals who will help. The Church always has and will continue to offer spiritual, emotional, and practical assistance to any girl or woman who is pregnant and troubled.
Counselors at Catholic Charities have been instrumental in helping women to choose life for their babies as have a number of priests, deacons, sisters, and laity. We have the resources to provide what is needed for any woman to carry her baby to term. There is simply no reason for any woman to choose to end the life of her baby. But, these women need to understand that the resources are available to them and this is where we need your help.
When Catholics do not speak out against abortion and other crimes against the dignity of human life, they send a message of acceptance. It’s no wonder that a survey of women by the Alan Guttmacher Institute (an affiliate of Planned Parenthood—the largest single committer of abortions in this country) reported that “Catholic women are 29% more likely than Protestants to have an abortion, but are about as likely as all women nationally to do so.” This is heartbreaking and this is scandalous.
It is time to stop sugar-coating the teachings of the Church. It is time to stand up and speak the truth. Human life must be respected and protected from the moment of fertilization. Abortion is an unspeakable crime with grave consequences! Unborn babies deserve better and women deserve better.