Pope Francis welcomed actress and activist Whoopi Goldberg to a private audience recently, and he told her she was “really important.”

I used to have a really hard time with news stories like this one.

The pre-COVID, self-righteous version of me would have lost it.

You can’t get more pro-life than I am, and that is the truth. I am adopted. I came very close to never having seen the light of day. This is the raw, painful truth of my life and I really, really hate abortion. So the knowledge that an openly pro-choice public figure had been invited to the Vatican would have triggered me.

My four beautiful kids are all adopted. I am beyond thankful for the brave women who chose to give life at immense personal sacrifice. However, my journey to motherhood was not the norm. No one gave me a baby shower. I didn’t get to experience pregnancy. I had to be picked over, fill out paperwork, and fingerprinted by the FBI to be a mom.

Then I got to join mom groups and do playdates for years and hear birthing stories I couldn’t be a part of and wait for my kids to come home from school and answer the uncomfortable questions of why they didn’t “grow in my stomach” and it just goes on and on.

The pre-COVID me would have been all up in arms over this encounter, much like the LifeSiteNews article about the meeting. But something changed for me in 2020, and it can be summed up in just a word: conversion.

As Pope Francis details in his bestseller Let Us Dream, we all experience a series of personal “Covids” throughout our lifetimes, and my most recent one involved a great cleansing of self-righteousness and healing of deep wounds.

Prior to this experience, I had bought into the anger and antagonism that many in the pro-life crowd feel toward abortion-minded women, since it has wounded me so deeply. But this is not Christ’s way. This condemning attitude only serves to divide, not unite, and our Holy Father has shown us repeatedly that he is more interested in healing wounds and prompting conversions than condemning.

During his meeting with Whoopi Goldberg, known for her fun and entertaining work in movies like Sister Act and Sister Act 2, Pope Francis praised her for helping people laugh and feel joy, telling her, “You are very important,” to which she responded, “Not as important as you!”

Goldberg shared details of the meeting on the television program The View, saying, “He was quite amazing. He is exactly what I hoped he would be, which is a pope for all people regardless of religion, which I really appreciated.”

Goldberg shared that the Holy Father made her feel that God loves people “no matter what” and wants them to “come back to the church.” She said she believes that inclusion is the path to healing: that saying, “no, not you” fuels hate in the world and that the “real answer is ‘Yes, them! And you, and you, and you …”

Pope Francis speaks often of the “God of surprises” and he continues to be the “Pope of surprises,” traveling to the most remote of places to visit the smallest groups of Christians and inviting the most unlikely of people to the Vatican.

Isn’t that what Jesus would do?

Goldberg said after her visit, “ I don’t know that it’s gonna jump me back into the church, but what it did was it gave me a good reason to not abandon the church. I feel better because I feel like somebody up there likes me.”

That sounds like a seed of conversion has been planted.

The Pope Who Sees All People

I certainly cannot speak for all adoptive families, but as for myself I can say that I am tired of feeling invisible and that this Pope makes me feel seen. He is the very first Pope (that I know of) who has mentioned adoption at all.

In Amoris Laetitia, instead of a “sorry-about-your-luck” attitude toward couples facing the devastating reality of infertility, Pope Francis says to them: Adopt. It’s a generous display of God’s love. It’s a valid way of forming a family. In a word, it’s real. And that is what we adoptive families want more than anything: to feel like we are real.

“Adoption is a very generous way to become parents,” Pope Francis says. “I encourage those who cannot have children to expand their marital love to embrace those who lack a proper family situation. They will never regret having been generous. Adopting a child is an act of love, offering the gift of a family to someone who has none. It is important to insist that legislation help facilitate the adoption process, above all in the case of unwanted children, in order to prevent their abortion or abandonment.”(AL 179 )

I remember my youngest daughter’s baptism day. She was nearly a victim of abortion. Her birthmom told me she had considered abortion at 20 weeks but just couldn’t go through with it. Another couple from our parish had adopted a baby around the same time, so she was baptized the same day. Our priest said during the homily at both girls’ baptisms that it was such a special day since both babies were adopted and demonstrated “a special display of God’s generous love.”

I will always remember those words. There is nothing haphazard about any of our families, nor are our children unwanted or accidental. Similarly, there is nothing erroneous about the election of Pope Francis as the Successor of Peter during these times; as Mother Theresa said, the Lord “knows what He is about.”

So while I understand the pro-life crowd’s confusion with Pope Francis’s invitation of Whoopi Goldberg to meet with him, I hope they will try and embrace his understanding of Christ’s mercy and desire for the conversion of all.

“For true charity is always unmerited, unconditional, and gratuitous. Consequently, there is a need to ‘avoid judgments which do not take into account the complexity of various situations’ and ‘to be attentive, by necessity, to how people experience distress because of their condition.” (AL 296)

The Pope for all people reminds us that Jesus came for everyone.

Image: Vatican News.

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Kristi McCabe is an award-winning freelance writer, Catechist, a former teacher and editor who lives with her family in Owensboro, Kentucky.  As an adoptive mother of four and an adoptee herself, Kristi is an avid supporter of pro-life ministries.  She is active in her local parish and has served as Eucharistic minister and in various children's ministries.

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