Women who had abortions and regret their decisions can find forgiveness from Catholic priests when they attend the World Youth Day festivities this week in Madrid, Spain. The event will provide an opportunity for women to reconnect with God after making such a decision.
Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi told the London Guardian newspaper, “Normally, only certain priests have the power to lift such an excommunication, but the local diocese has decided to give all the priests taking confession at the event this power. With so many young people attending there may be those who have had problems of this kind and it makes sense to reach out to them.”
Two hundred white, wooden confessional booths will be set up for attendees of the event, and priests will be on hand to help women facing the destructive spiritual problems women frequently face when hounded by the guilt and shame of an abortion decision.
The newspaper indicates Antonio María Rouco Varela, the Archbishop of Madrid, helped persuade Vatican officials to offer the chance for women who had abortions to find spiritual help and healing.
“This (concession) is to make it easier for the faithful who attend the World Youth Day celebrations to obtain the fruits of divine grace,” the Madrid archdiocese said in a statement on its website.
With as many as 112,000 women having abortions annually, the opportunity to reconnect with the Catholic Church in one of the world’s most populated Catholic nations is important. More than 1.5 million people are expected to be on hand at the event, meaning many women who have had abortions will likely attend.
Georgette Forney, an abortion survivor who is the co-founder of the Silent No More Awareness Campaign, a group that urges women who regret their abortions to speak out, says women who have abortions often suffer from significant spiritual guilt.
“My experience is that women who miscarry are usually given a small window of sympathy, but women who have abortions often resort to using drugs and alcohol to cover up the pain because the people who told us it was ok to abort our babies, don’t want to listen to our crying afterwards,” Forney explained.
Project Rachel, the organization that has helped thousands of women rebuild their lives following the problems and pain of an abortion, has helped many women find reconciliation and forgiveness. Vicki Thorn founded the ministry, which started as a project out of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, and she has seen the physical and emotional scars of an abortion in the bodies and hearts of countless women.
Thorn emphasizes that women who have an abortion go through a normal grieving process and spurns the idea that there is something wrong with them.
“This is a woman who lost her child in a traumatic and unnatural fashion. She’s grieving, hello! I mean, that’s normal,” Thorn said.
“And the process is one of helping her to process the anger toward the other people involved, to move to forgiveness, to be reconciled then with God, with her baby and with herself and forgive herself in that, that’s it,” Thorn added. “That’s not high-tech psychotherapy, you know, that’s spiritual healing and it works.”
Since the founding of Project Rachel, post-abortion research has come a long way and people wanting to help women know much more than they did then.
Thorn and her colleagues better understand the mental health problems women face — ranging from suicide, addictions and problems in relationships — than they did. Those tools better prepare them to meet women at the point of their need.