“And recently we held a flash sale and gave all the proceeds to Planned Parenthood,” my interviewee recounted proudly. “Because I support women’s rights.”

The old familiar sadness welled up in my heart, paired with professional restraint, and I carefully chose my words. As a local freelance writer for a city life magazine asked to profile a local tattoo artist, I am well aware that I’m not permitted to “force” religious beliefs on interviewees.

However, how can I — an adult adoptee, an adoptive mother of four, a devout Catholic and lifelong pro-life advocate — remain silent? It is very difficult.

I replied, “Oh, that makes me sad. Let me tell you why.”

I shared with her my life story, how I could have easily been aborted, as could any of my children. I told her how I understand that those in difficult situations feel forced to choose abortion and that while I sympathize with them, I always try to offer life-affirming help and support.

I gently tried to guide her to see that there are other options, trying to come across as non-judgmental and non-imposing. I also realized how very easily I could have been in a similar life situation had I not been adopted.

While I was raised very comfortably as an adopted child in a stable, two-parent household, she told me she had been raised by a single mother, struggled through her teen years, and was told by her mother, “Just don’t get pregnant!” Consequently, as an adult she had adopted the mindset that Planned Parenthood was the true pro-woman organization, offering women in crisis situations the compassionate solution to untimely pregnancies because they were “friends in need” when it came time for health care, birth control, and education.

How easy it would have been for me to end that phone call with a judgmental “blowing off” of the young woman on the other end, assuming that she was a lost soul, firmly placing her in the category of “other,” which some in the pro-life crowd are so quick to do. The us vs. them mindset that has pervaded the movement for so long begs the question, “Have we lost sight of who we should be serving?”

If we fail to lend a listening ear to the very women in these most vulnerable situations, instead relegating them to the category of the condemned and lost causes, we run the very real risk of failing altogether. Empty words mean absolutely nothing to young women in crisis situations.

Rosewater Christians

In a 2019 homily at Mass at the Casa Santa Marta, Pope Francis spoke of the attitudes of lukewarm Christians — putting God in a corner and “washing their hands of Him.”

When we refuse to “get our hands dirty” and choose not to become directly involved with the sufferings of our brothers and sisters, we become detached from our faith. During his homily, Pope Francis made the following exhortation:

It was not only Pilate who washed his hands of Jesus; these men do so too: ‘We do not know.’ Not entering into relationships with others; not getting involved in their problems, not fighting for their rights, not fighting to heal the many people who are in need, saying, ‘It’s best not to. Let’s not dirty our hands with this.’

The Holy Father went on to say that these are the attitudes of what his grandmother called “rosewater Christians,” Christians without substance. One puts God in a corner: Either you do this for me or I won’t go to Church any more. And how does Jesus respond? Okay, go. Deal with it yourself.”

Particularly when confronted with real-life situations where we encounter people who are in need of tangible help, it is essential that we abandon judgmental attitudes and adopt an approachable, empathetic, and compassionate demeanor.

Leaving our Comfort Zones

My birthmother came to visit me with two of my sisters this past Christmas. She gave me a photo of herself when she was pregnant with me on her 16th birthday in December 1974. Her parents didn’t know yet; I suppose it was her secret and mine at that point. I don’t know why it took her 47 years to give me that photo. Perhaps it took that long to come to grips with the pain of it all. It has taken nearly a lifetime for both of us to fully cope with it.

As we sat laughing and talking and watching my kids play with their cousins, I thought, “This is truly amazing. Because her parents believed my life was worth saving all those years ago, here we all sit together enjoying this day.”

If her parents had taken her to an abortion clinic, I would not be here. For those reading this who cannot fathom what that feels like, allow me to say only this:

Count your blessings.

We as Catholic Christians can not afford to sit idly by while our brothers and sisters suffer, spouting empty words when the Gospel of our Lord is a blazing fire that ignites in the souls of those who hear Him. We are called to bring His love and mercy to those who struggle in darkness without hope and offer solutions to real-life problems.

At his weekly general audience on April 12, 2023, Pope Francis continued his series of talks about evangelization, emphasizing the need for Christians to meet others where they are and be creative when spreading the Gospel. The Holy Father admonished so-called “keyboard warriors,” who argue online, echoing others’ ideas and engaging in attention-seeking behaviors.

Pope Francis encouraged his listeners to “be evangelizers who move, without fear, who go forward to share the beauty of Jesus, the newness of Jesus, who changes everything.”

“Are you willing to let Jesus change your heart?” he asked those in the crowd. “Or are you a lukewarm Christian, who doesn’t move? Think about it a bit. Are you enthusiastic about Jesus and go forward? Think about it.”

All of us, everywhere, right now, know someone who has been touched by adoption, foster care, unplanned pregnancy, or brokenness in families. Ask Jesus to show you how to help — and then act.

Image: Adobe Stock. By juripozzi.

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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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