Catholic Transcript Magazine of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford Connecticut

Thursday, April 26, 2018

hinkley_halfI had no idea what my article would be about this month. With the start of Lent and so many pulls from various ministries lately, I haven’t been focused on what would make a good message. Then the phone rang.

 

It was a typical full day in the parish office, what with attending various meetings, checking on who was sick and who was in the hospital, and going in and out of the office and over to the school for a quick visit. As crazy as it can get, I enjoy the diversity of a parish priest’s pastoral work.

I was moving through the office hallway while looking through some papers when Linda, the parish secretary and coordinator for religious education, called to me about taking a phone call. I leaned into her office and she informed me that on line two was a parishioner who was on her way to have an abortion and needed to speak to me. To say my heart raced is an understatement.

Sitting down in the conference room, I pressed line two and offered my usual greeting, "Hello, Father Hinkley." The woman’s voice sounded hurried and scared. She announced, "They said you would speak with me."

"Yes, of course," I said.

Her speech was fast and emotional. I could feel the enormity of her pain in each halting word as she said, "I’m married to a bigamist and I can’t have this baby like this. I don’t know what to do anymore. I’m going to have to commit murder. I know it’s murder. I’m going to murder my own baby!"

As she hung up the phone I was in the middle of saying, "I will help you…"

My mind raced. What could be done? How could I get her back on the phone? Would she let me meet her somewhere?

My heart was filled with a great desire to let her know it will all work out. I’ll help make it work. For me, it was a very real desire to do whatever I could for this poor mother and her baby. I just kept mulling over the fact that this abortion wouldn’t have to happen. Things could be different. However, I was also moved by the pain this poor woman was in. Life was so painful that she would rather take her own baby’s life than face seeing the hard life the baby would have to endure.

I slumped in the chair and felt overwhelmed by this poor mother’s sorrow and burden. I tried to think of how I could reach this labored soul. She had left no name or number with the secretary, nor was it possible to trace her call.

As I returned to my office, I felt a great call to prayer. There was nothing for me to do but pray. For a good hour, I sat at my desk in front of the phone, begging the Lord to be with this troubled mother. Perhaps the Lord’s presence could give her the courage to change the course of her life. Just in case she called back, I wanted to be near the phone, so I remained there at my desk.

As busy as I may have thought the morning was, there was nothing more important on my calendar than for me to pray for this mother and baby. She was lost and called out of her desperation. She knew that she was in the midst of evil and was tortured by the choice before her. Life for this poor woman was so sad and confused. If life is this unhappy, why bring a baby into it?

Theologically, one could point out that this woman’s conscience was malformed and in error, but that would be to miss the enormity of her suffering and pain. In her own words, murder was wrong, but seemingly the only way out. She couldn’t see beyond her own pain.

No mother wants to take her own child’s life. This is a clear experience of the evil and the bad circumstance surrounding her, making her feel so trapped that abortion seems like a valid way out of all the mess of her life.

This is how the evil of abortion carries on so insidiously. The choice to have an abortion develops so gradually that it is well established as a viable option before the woman fully appreciates what she is even considering, the taking of her own baby’s life. According to St. Irenaeus, the insidious nature of evil is exactly why the Lord’s Prayer petitions the Father to "deliver us from evil."

Evil leads to death and moral ruin. In this case, I found in the words of the Psalmist the prayer I addressed to this poor mother: "I put before you life and death, choose life!" I don’t know if the mother on the phone ever proceeded with the abortion. I don’t know if her child will ever see his or her birthday. I don’t know if she will continue to be a nameless face in the congregation. What I do know is that she and her baby are still in my most heartfelt prayers.

Father Michael Hinkley is a parish priest of the Archdiocese of Hartford with degrees in spiritual theology and marriage and family, and a doctorate in healthcare ethics.