Silence from the Pulpit: Is It Possible to Steer Clear of Politics, Not Offend Parishioners, and Still Get to the Heart of the Abortion Issue at Our Sunday Services?
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I have been in abortion healing ministry and prolife advocacy for over 20 years. One of the common frustrations you will hear expressed by prolife Catholics is, "I never hear my priest preach about the issue of abortion."
Why do so many clergy steer clear of the abortion issue? There are different reasons for this silence from the pulpit.
Some clergy feel abortion is too much of a hot-button political topic and avoid the subject in their preaching. Others consider abortion a private, sensitive and volatile emotional issue; best not to go there.
Other deacons and priests are ambivalent about the abortion issue, perhaps seeing it as part of a right-wing, conservative agenda. When the Gospel account provides an opportunity, they prefer to focus on social justice concerns like immigration, health care, poverty and economic justice.
That's unfortunate given the number of abortions since 1973, 60 million in the U.S. alone, and the number of men and women in the pews spiritually and emotionally wounded by this loss.
There is another way.
Churches can address the issue of abortion, avoid any contentious politics, and yet get to the heart of the matter with a Gospel-oriented invitation to reconciliation and healing.
Ann Rave is co-chair of the Respect Life Committee at Immaculate Heart of Mary Church in Wilmington, Delaware. Ann arranged with her pastor to have me speak after communion to each of their five Sunday Masses earlier this month.
Ann shares some feedback on the weekend:
"Kevin received warm applause from parishioners at the close of each of his talks, and was very well received with a number of people staying afterwards to talk to him. Kevin shared a brief personal testimony of his role in an unplanned pregnancy, and how abortion loss can touch fathers, grandparents and other family and friends. It was a gentle, but powerful invitation to experience the mercy and healing of Christ and His Church, found in programs like Rachel's Vineyard."
The congregation was very attentive when I was speaking. In the first Mass a large group of eighth-grade students preparing for confirmation were in attendance, and I was so pleased they were able to hear the message.
I had a few confidential conversations after mass with folks who were also, like me, accomplices in some way in the death of an unborn child. They shared how this hurt their relationship with a family member or friend, and I was able to encourage them to consider a Rachel's Vineyard weekend. I shared how this would open the door to grace and healing in their lives, and in the relationships damaged by abortion. A number of people commented on appreciating this different and broader perspective on the issue.
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It is natural given the topic that many parishioners will not feel comfortable talking directly after such a presentation. I made sure in my talk to provide them with my private email address, and the website of Rachel's Vineyard, and included my contact information in the Church bulletin so they could reach me confidentially. A few parishioners emailed me privately after the weekend to share their story, thank me for the presentation, or ask advice about a loved one.
I hope this will inspire you to speak with your parish prolife committee or share this article with your pastor. I would be honored to travel to your parish, and share my message of hope and healing with your parishioners. You can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Kevin Burke, LSW
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