Vicki Thorn, a Wisconsin-based mother of six and recently appointed member of the Pontifical Academy for Life, says that the Church must defend the sanctity of life and bring healing to those who have experienced the trauma of an abortion.
“Millions of men and women have experienced abortion loss across the world,” she said. “When they are ready to heal the wound, the Church needs to be there.”
The faith community, she said in a May 25 interview with CNA, needs to be a “prophetic voice” heralding the sanctity of life, as well as a source of comfort for those effected by the trauma of abortion.
Thorn has reached international recognition for founding Project Rachel from her hometown of Milwaukee in 1984. Project Rachel specializes in post-abortion ministry for men and women and is now available in 140 dioceses across the U.S.
An author and researcher, she's delivered speeches around the world and been decorated with numerous awards, including one from the Vatican.
But despite her impressive resume, Thorn views her family as her greatest accomplishment.
“My husband and I will be married 40 years on July 3,” she said. “We have six children, ranging in age from 34 to 23,” some of whom are educators, writers, military officers and parents themselves. Thorn's husband William is a professor at Marquette University and has taught at the Gregorian University and the Pontifical Salesian University in Rome.
Thorn said as she surveyed the challenges confronting the Church that she hopes it will “continue to be a prophetic voice, proclaiming the sanctity of all life: unborn, handicapped or uniquely challenged, those facing life-threatening health issues, those who are in the end stages of life, that they will be treated with dignity and supported in their last days.”
She also stressed the importance of the Church continuing to address “the very serious bioethical issues that are presenting themselves” such as genetic testing, stem cell research, reproductive technologies such as in vitro fertilization and surrogacy, as well as the environmental impact of chemical contraceptives.
“The question of man and science playing God looms larger and larger,” she said. “It is my hope that the Church will be able to use the incredible advances that are being made in science to speak to the issues facing the world.”
Thorn said another pressing issue is the need for the Church to continue to provide “practical pastoral care“ to heal women, men and families after abortion.
She observed that as a culture, “we do not speak of men and abortion much,” yet from “the beginning of Project Rachel in 1984, men have sought help.”
“The myth is that men are unaffected by pregnancy and so why would he be bothered by an abortion,” she said, but “the reality is that the father of the child is also biologically changed by the pregnancy if he is with the mother.”
Thorn explained that shortly before the baby is born, a father undergoes hormonal changes that help him to bond with and protect the mother and child.
“When his hormones return to normal, his testosterone never goes as high as it was before becoming a father. He is forever changed by becoming a father,” she said.
Thorn cited multiple writings from both Bl. Pope John Paul and Pope Benedict to say that the “Catholic Church has been the leader in identifying this problem and offering compassionate care from the beginning.
“Clearly, this movement of mercy is part of the Church's critical message.”
“Those who are healed after abortion become eloquent defenders and builders of the Culture of Life,” she said. “It is they who know the lived truth of abortion and it is that truth that will set us all free.”
Thorn also said that in her experience “the encounter with God's mercy in post-abortion healing changes lives in ways beyond description and is indeed, a powerful tool of evangelization.”
“When we speak about the horrors of abortion, I believe we have a moral obligation to also tell people about the healing ministry of the Church in the same sentence.”
Thorn said that the abortion debate “is so emotionally charged, not because it is a moral and philosophical debate, but because it is a heart experience. I believe that everyone knows someone who has had an abortion.”
“We must always speak with gentleness and not condemnation, because it is our charge, as laid out by Pope Benedict XVI to bring the wounded to the Church for healing.”