Published January 21, 2010
We all have secrets. We all harbor memories of embarrassing moments or shameful events that we would rather forget. Maybe we share these secrets with very close friends, but we tend to keep them hidden when it comes to, say, the people at work, or the neighbors down the street.
When I wrote “Confessions of an Ex-Feminist,” there were many secrets that came traipsing out of my consciousness onto the pages of the book. I didn’t necessarily want to share the terribly stupid and sinful things I had done back in my college days when I hated Christianity. But something deep inside prompted me to bare my soul.
And with Jan. 22 approaching, one secret is rearing its ugly head, reminding me of my sorrowful past. The Church has declared this a day of penance for violations to the dignity of the human person committed through acts of abortion. It is also a time to pray that the legal guarantee of the right to life will be restored.
This date marks the 37th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the court case that legalized abortion in our country. It would seem that once an action is legalized, it would become more socially acceptable because it has the government’s stamp of approval on it. However, this hasn’t been true with abortion. Even if millions have occurred, the people having abortions largely keep them a secret.
Abortion involves ignoring the deep-seated human impulse to take care of innocents. The motives may include economics (“We can’t afford another child”); personal liberty (“I’m just starting college”); achievement (“I’m up for promotion”); shame (“I’m not married”); or fear (“I’m all alone”).
People who’ve never faced these circumstances may be tempted to condemn those who have. They may not realize that, as with any great sin, we sometimes submit to the dark voice in our heads. This demonic voice assures us “It’s alright, since others are doing it” and “It’s alright, since it’s legal” and “It’s alright, since it will be over quickly—and no one will ever know.”
As someone who succumbed to this voice long ago, I can attest that abortion is never really over. True, I kept mine a well-guarded secret, even from those who agreed with me that it should be a legal right. You see, something deep in my heart—the voice of conscience that I could not squelch—kept whispering the truth: killing a completely innocent and defenseless person can never be morally right.
When I returned to Catholicism, I clung tightly to my belief that the Church was wrong on abortion. My moment of awakening came when I realized that the Church is more than a secular body of people casting votes on various ideas. The Catholic Church is a spiritual entity, and her teachings on moral issues like abortion are guided by Christ Himself.
It was with great trepidation that I approached the sacrament of confession after more than 20 years away. It was with fear and trembling that I revealed my sin to the priest, who, I was sure, had never heard anything quite so terrible. What a beautiful surprise when he gently conveyed Christ’s love and mercy, assuring me of the Lord’s forgiveness.
Before long, I felt that I was being called to tell my tale to others, and did so when I wrote my life story in “Confessions of an Ex-Feminist.” Still, once the book was actually published and was out there in the world, I began to have misgivings.
You see, I felt that people would see me as a terrible sinner. I even expected people at church to shun me. This never happened, but the apprehension has never quite gone away. To my surprise, some people quietly revealed that they too are harboring the same secret. Some, like me, have been to confession, while others are afraid to take the step.
I know that on Jan. 22 many women and men who wrestle with the guilt of an abortion will be fasting, praying the rosary, attending Mass, and spending time before the Blessed Sacrament.
My special prayer is that these men and women will tell their story in the one place where forgiveness and mercy definitely will be found. This, of course, is the confessional, where God’s grace and love begins the process of spiritual healing.
And if the secret I’ve revealed inspires even one person to seek reconciliation with the Lord, then I would say that baring my soul was the right thing to do.
Lorraine’s latest books are “The Abbess of Andalusia: Flannery O’Connor’s Spiritual Journey” and “Death in the Choir,” available at www.lorrainevmurray.com. Artwork for the column is by Jef Murray. The Murrays attend St. Thomas More Church in Decatur. Readers may e-mail them at email@example.com.