There is mercy after abortion. And a woman who had an abortion in her youth extends a hand of hope in her new book, A Journey to Healing Through Divine Mercy, written for Catholic publisher Marian Press by Teresa Bonapartis.
This mercy is particularly relevant this Sunday, one week after Easter, as it marks Divine Mercy Sunday, a day designated by Pope John Paul II in 2000 under the inspiration of a Polish nun, Saint Faustina Kowalska.
Bonapartis works in post-abortion-healing ministry – she developed Entering Canaan with the Sisters of Life and directs Lumina for Good Counsel Homes in New York. She talks about abortion and the mercy of God, as well as how healing happens and why it’s so necessary.
Kathryn Jean Lopez: You begin the book with a quote from Pope Francis: “Now is the time for mercy.” Isn’t it always? Why do he and others — including you, in this book — talk so much about mercy?
Theresa Bonopartis: Yes, to me “now” means right now, in this moment, which then transfers to every moment. His mercy is always there for us, moment to moment. Right now. He is waiting for us with His Mercy.
Mercy is the attribute that heals, forgives, restores, and converts. To be loved and accepted no matter what our sin . . . it is the realization of what He has done for us in dying on the cross and resurrecting.
Lopez: What about truth and justice and conversion?
Bonopartis: Justice is there, but it belongs to Him to decide culpability. As you know, many women are coerced into abortion . . . that does not make it alright — abortion is always wrong and terrible — but it does alter the degree of responsibility. It’s that mercy that brings you to be able to look at the truth and experience conversion.
Lopez: You also quote, on the same page, Pope John Paul II, addressing women who have had abortions. He pleads with them not to “give in to discouragement and do not lose hope.” Why is this so important?
Bonopartis: Healing from an abortion is a spiritual battle as well as a psychological one. The last thing Satan wants is for people to convert and be saved, and so temptations to despair are often both from the person themselves and from him. They are thrown into fierce battles, which tell them that they can never be forgiven or that they are the most terrible people on earth, evil people, etc.
These “battles” can be so intense and cause major despair. I believe John Paul II was addressing these battles in this quote. He’s reassuring these women and encouraging them not to give in to this temptation to despair that assails them in the search for healing — whether those temptations come from inside themselves or from Satan — but to turn to God and His mercy.
Lopez: And maybe that process needs to be repeated over and over and over again?
Bonopartis: Yes, to keep fixed on the mercy of God no matter how you are “feeling.” To trust, in spite of our feelings, in the mercy of God.
Lopez: Are there more post-abortive women in our midst than we realize?
Bonopartis: With over 58 million abortions in our country we know these women are everywhere. People may not know who they are, but millions of families, I would even dare to say, just about every family has an abortion in it. Many women live in silence and suffering because they truly feel unforgivable, or that people would withdraw their love if they knew, so they live in this fear of being found out all their lives.
I hear this all the time, “My husband does not know”; “My parents do not know”; “my children do not know.” Imagine the terror of living with this all your life. It is sad because, as we said before, the time for mercy is now! That is why it is so important to let them know: Christ came to earth to save souls. He is waiting for them and longs to forgive them.
Lopez: How is Divine Mercy in your soul, and why has it been crucial for you to share your testimony about it?
Bonopartis: For years, I lived in that despair and discouragement that Pope John Paul II spoke of. When I finally found the right help and experienced His mercy, I felt I had to tell those who were out there suffering alone that this mercy was there for them too. They did not have to live in despair: It was okay to go to God, His promises were true, and He longed to bring them to Himself in peace and joy.
After over 20 years of working in ministry, I can tell you I have witnessed countless miracles of His mercy. If you are freed from living in the hell of abortion how can you keep that to yourself and not inform others who you know are suffering like you did? We are called to proclaim the good news of God’s mercy.
Lopez:: Can this book be for people other than post-abortive women?
Bonopartis: I have been told by many priests and other readers who are not post-abortive that it can be applied and used by anyone. Certainly this same mercy is there for any sin someone may be struggling with, so although it was written specifically for those healing from abortion, it would be helpful to anyone struggling in life. And isn’t that all of us at one time or another?
Lopez: You write about how you sought out a counselor at one point and he told you to “just forget about” your abortion and you “could not make him understand that the abortion was very much in the present because [you were] living with the consequences every day.” How important is it to find help from a professional who understands? Where do you find it?
Bonopartis: Critically important! Going to the wrong person who does not legitimize the truth of your experience can really mess women up by telling them abortion is common, that millions of women do it, that the guilt is from religion or the stigma from society, as if abortion itself would not do this. This happens so often to people seeking help. Thank God many ministries have counselors they work with and more and more are getting trained in helping others heal from abortion. I have a group of therapists I refer to and feel confident in because I know they understand. People can certainly contact me, but many ministries have good resources.
Lopez: How can people who have never been involved in an abortion relate to or reach out to or love those who have been?
Bonopartis: I think a lot has to do with the language. Be aware of how you speak. Calling people murderers is not going to make them comfortable in reaching out for help. Also, I think we often have people who have experienced an abortion tell the horror of their stories but not enough about the healing and restoration. Many in pro-life circles are afraid that if we do this, people will think it is okay to abort because you can be healed, but those who have abortions know it is not okay, and they certainly are not healed without much suffering. We cannot speak of the cross without the resurrection. If there is not resurrection there is no faith.
Lopez: In a chapter on loving your neighbor you explain how “people who come forward for healing from abortion . . . cannot even begin to look at their abortion experience until they first being to know and experience the love of God for them.” How to get them there?
Bonopartis: First and foremost by our example, right? That they may see we have what they want. We have all experienced the peace from someone that you know in your heart really has it. It opens them to listen and to begin to trust Him a little at a time. I always tell them, because it is often so hard for them to trust because they have been hurt by those who were supposed to love them, “Trust Him a little at a time . . . you will come to see you can trust Him more and more because He will never let you down.” As they experience this and grow in His love, they do trust more and more. It is a process. It is also very helpful for them to hear from others who have walked this path and reached healing. That is why at our retreats we have conferences where women share their struggles in healing and how they worked through them.
Lopez: How can Mother Teresa help anyone fight despair — and especially a woman who has had an abortion? We all know how opposed she was to it, after all!
Bonopartis: Yes, but she also knew God’s mercy and certainly had a love for sinners. If a saint would not help a sinner fight despair and trust in God’s mercy she would not be a saint because she would not really know God!
Faith is a blessing. Divine Mercy at the heart of Christianity acknowledges we are all sinners in need of His mercy, that we are all capable of any sin but for His grace. I am grateful to know this. It proves even more deeply the depths of His love and mercy for us . . . a love and mercy that suffered, died, and rose again to conquer death and bring us to His life!
— Kathryn Jean Lopez is a senior fellow at the National Review Institute and an editor-at-large of National Review. Sign up for her weekly NRI newsletter here.