Wednesday, June 1, 2022
Ana Rodriguez Soto - Florida Catholic newspaper
MIAMI | As the nation awaits a Supreme Court decision that could overturn Roe v. Wade, Archbishop Thomas Wenski is urging archdiocesan priests to be prepared, and let women know that the Catholic Church is ready to help them deal with a crisis pregnancy.
“Anticipating increased calls for help, we must redouble our efforts to accompany women and couples who are facing unexpected or difficult pregnancies, as well as to offer mercy to those suffering from abortion,” the archbishop wrote in a letter dated May 26, 2022.
“And we must certainly better communicate the Church’s pastoral response that already exists,” he added. “It is sobering that recent communications research tells us that many Catholics do not see this compassionate response, and many are unaware of the Church’s help for those in need. Sadly, they often see the Church as harsh and rigid rather than compassionate and merciful. The parish is a wonderful place to give witness to what is true compassion and mercy.”
The archbishop’s letter references the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, a decision that is expected to be announced before the court’s term ends in late June. Dobbs is a case regarding a Mississippi law that would ban most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy.
A leaked draft of an opinion written by Justice Samuel Alito would indicate that the court is prepared to rule in favor of that Mississippi law, rolling back the nearly unlimited right to abortion first outlined in its 1973 Roe v. Wade decision; or go even further and overturn Roe v. Wade entirely, finding there is no constitutional right to abortion.
Should either of those happen, each state would decide what restrictions to place on abortion. According to the U.S. bishops’ Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities, 20 states have pro-life laws that will take effect immediately, or soon after a favorable Supreme Court decision; 19 states have enacted laws explicitly permitting abortion on demand; and nine states are likely to pass restrictive abortion laws although in some of these, among them Florida, those laws would have to overcome challenges based on state constitutions that specifically enshrine the right to abortion.
The bishops are urging Catholics to join a national, interfaith “Pray for Dobbs” campaign (www.prayfordobbs.com), which involves prayer, fasting and education. Participants can find resources at www.prayfordobbs.com/resources to help churches, schools, ministries and faith communities pray for a just decision in the Dobbs case.
But the bishops also are stressing their Walking with Moms in Need initiative, which highlights the Catholic Church’s decades-long outreach to women in crisis pregnancies and women (as well as men) trying to heal emotionally after an abortion.
“It’s just information that people didn’t know,” said Rebecca Brady, archdiocesan director of the Respect Life Office. “They need to know there are loving people out there who care for them. They need to know there are people who will support them.”
Her office encompasses three Pregnancy Help Centers — in Central Broward, South Broward and South Dade — where women can get pregnancy tests, ultrasounds, counseling, and material assistance (diapers, formula, clothes and more), referrals to community resources and parenting classes until their child reaches the age of two.
The Respect Life Office also ministers to men through Project Joseph classes and mentoring for fathers. And it offers post-abortion healing, commonly known as Project Rachel, which will soon expand to include Entering Canaan ministry, which involves days of prayer and healing, monthly group gatherings, and weekend retreats.
All the services are provided free of charge. The centers rely on donations from parishes, schools, community groups, and individual donors.
“[Women] deserve real help, support, information and resources,” said Brady. “We’re here to empower men and women to make the best decision for themselves. The Church is here to let people know that they are loved and cared for.”