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During the recent meeting of all Catholic Bishops in the United States, Cardinals Daniel DiNardo, Seán O'Malley, and Donald Wuerl made an historic presentation calling for increased outreach in the Church's post-abortion healing ministry, known as Project Rachel. Never before have three cardinals taken the podium together to deliver such a message to their brother bishops.
Cardinal DiNardo reminded his brothers that: "We know that God's mercy and his healing grace are freely available to every repentant heart. Yet those who have been involved in abortion bear such awful wounds that many despair of ever being forgiven by God. How often we hear it said, regarding a past abortion: 'I have committed an unforgivable sin'?"
Cardinal DiNardo also pointed out that: "Many in our culture wrongly claim that, just as the Church condemns the act of abortion, it also condemns individuals who have been involved in abortion. Such mischaracterizations are not only false, they are dangerous, because they discourage women and men in need of God's forgiveness from seeking Sacramental Reconciliation and pastoral care."
Cardinal O'Malley described the Church's long history of reaching out to mothers, fathers, and families of aborted children, and the Church's open invitation to "Come back to God who is Love and Mercy."
Cardinal Wuerl emphasized the commitment of the bishops' Conference to expand its efforts to draw all to reconciliation and healing through the many new materials developed by the Conference for diocesan use.
Why this message at this time? As we approach the 40th anniversary of the Supreme Court's fateful decisions in Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton, the death toll from abortion is over 53 million children in the United States alone. Taking repeat abortions into account, the number of women who have lost one or more children in abortions could be 35 million or more.
Twenty-eight percent of women who have abortions identify themselves as Catholic. This means that perhaps 10 million Catholic women have been involved in abortion in the past 40 years, along with a roughly equal number of men who fathered an aborted child. Many other family members and friends are seriously affected as well.Not only the broader culture but the members of our Church are gravely wounded by abortion.
Yet out of this suffering, our Lord can bring great healing. As we reflect on nearly 40 years of legalized abortion in our country, let us acknowledge our woundedness and dedicate ourselves to efforts of prayer, reparation, and evangelization to usher in a new Culture of Life.
In his concluding remarks, Cardinal DiNardo stated that the Project Rachel Ministry of the Church should be at the center of our efforts in the New Evangelization.Each of us is uniquely called to participate in this evangelization. If you know of anyone, Catholic or non-Catholic, who is suffering from a past abortion, you can be of tremendous assistance by lovingly encouraging them to seek non-judgmental and confidential help at 888-456-HOPE or HopeAfterAbortion.org.
Video of the cardinals' presentation can be seen here: http://www.usccb.org/about/leadership/usccb-general-assembly/video-on-demand.cfm by viewing the Monday, November 14 Morning Session II at minute 46:00.
Tom Grenchik is Executive Director of the Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Go to www.usccb.org/prolife to learn more about the bishops' pro-life activities.
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