Abortion is a “grave sin” in the eyes of the Catholic Church, but it is not beyond forgiveness.
Theresa Shively, of Alexandria, Ohio learned that 15 years ago after struggling for decades with the weight of her abortion, The Columbus Dispatch reports.
Now 65, Shively said she had an abortion when she was in college. For years, she struggled with what she had done, avoiding church and thinking that God never would forgive her for aborting her child, she said.
That changed about 15 years ago. According to the report:
Then, one day 15 years ago, doctors diagnosed a serious illness in her boyfriend. That’s when she promised God that if her boyfriend was cured, she’d return to the church.
She returned and read a story in the Catholic Times about Bethesda Healing Ministry on the East Side, which helps women heal after an abortion. Tears came to her eyes as she read an article about a retreat where women could seek reconciliation from a priest.
It was then that Shively realized that God could forgive her.
“It was something I didn’t expect to ever, ever receive forgiveness for,” she said. “I didn’t realize at the time how merciful our God is. God met me where I was.”
Shively shared her story with the Ohio newspaper in response to Pope Francis’s announcement last week allowing Catholic priests to forgive the grave sin of abortion. She said she hopes the news will encourage other women like herself to seek forgiveness and healing.
The Catholic Church teaches that abortion is wrong because it destroys the life of an innocent unborn baby who is created in the image of God, but it also emphasizes compassion and mercy for women and men who are seeking forgiveness because of their involvement in an abortion.
On Nov. 21, Pope Francis wrote in a letter: “I wish to restate as firmly as I can that abortion is a grave sin, since it puts an end to an innocent life. In the same way, however, I can and must state that there is no sin that God’s mercy cannot reach and wipe away when it finds a repentant heart seeking to be reconciled with the Father. May every priest, therefore, be a guide, support and comfort to penitents on this journey of special reconciliation.”
When it comes to abortion, millions of women across the world are silently grieving after regretting aborting their child. Regardless of spiritual views or denominational affiliation, millions of women struggle with the spiritual ramifications of abortion and feel a strong disconnect with God.
For Catholic women, the pope’s letter provides a new ability for hope and healing and the chance to reconnect with God.
Father Frank Pavone of Priests for Life, which facilitates Rachel’s Vineyard, the world’s largest ministry of healing after abortion, welcomed the pope’s letter.
“We who oppose abortion do not oppose those who have abortions. Rather, we embrace them with mercy and forgiveness. We have ministered to people who have had as many as 25 abortions, and we see that it impacts the entire family: parents, grandparents, siblings, and beyond,” Pavone said.
Kristan Gray has a similar story. A teenager with a bright future ahead, Gray said her life took a very different turn when she discovered that she was pregnant. She chose to abort her unborn child, and soon began to suffer from the effects: post-traumatic stress disorder, eating disorders, depression and self-loathing.
Eventually, she found forgiveness and healing through her Christian faith in God. Now, Gray tells her story publicly to encourage other women in their struggles.
“I want the other 56 million post-abortive women to know the same gentle and compassionate healing God brought to my heart when I trusted in Him,” Gray wrote, “and to possibly prevent anyone else from experiencing what I did.”