This past week brought news of the death of Dr. Bernard Nathanson, well-known former abortionist turned pro-life convert and convert to the Catholic faith.
I remember when his video the Silent Scream was first released. It was a foreshadowing of the power of imagery via ultra-sound technology to turn the hearts of men toward life. His story was a powerful one, in 1985, as well as today. I remember seeing his name as a speaker at various pro-life events, but never heard him speak in person.
He seemed to me a quiet but powerful witness to life.
I’ve often wondered what it is like for an abortionist to stand before the Throne of God in judgment. Are the children that were aborted by his or her hands there too? Witnesses? And what of their mothers that have gone on to eternity? Does the abortionist have to face all of them?
“There is nothing concealed that will not be revealed, nor secret that will not be known. Therefore whatever you have said in the darkness will be heard in the light, and what you have whispered behind closed doors will be proclaimed on the housetops. I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body but after can do no more. I will show you whom to fear. Be afraid of the one who after killing has the power to cast into Gehenna; yes, I tell you, be afraid of that one.” (Luke 12: 3-6)
In the case of Dr. Nathanson, Canonist Dr. Ed Peters makes the following points, in a most moving way:
I’ve seen some ridiculous questions out there about what happens to Nathanson’s soul now. We don’t know, of course, but we do know this: Nathanson’s baptism at the hands of Cdl. John O’Connor in 1996 completely forgave him all his sins up to that point (all of his 75,000 supervised or directly-performed abortions, including one of his own children, his multiple divorces, and God knows what else) and totally paid all of the punishments due for such sins. CCC 1263. Everything, everything, Nathanson did up to the day of his baptism is buried forever in Christ.
What great mercy can be found in the Church and her sacraments. I pray that Dr. Nathanson sees not eyes of sorrow at his judgment, but eyes of mercy.
Dr. Nathanson’s funeral mass will be celebrated by New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan on Monday, February 28. The readings for the mass of the day are most fitting. This is what the rest of the church will be praying on the day Dr. Nathanson is laid to rest.:
To the penitent God provides a way back
He encourages those who are losing hope
And has chosen for them the lot of truth.
Return to the Lord and give up sin….
Blessed is he whose fault is taken away,
Whose sin is covered…
You know the commandments: You shall not kill….
Read them in full.
Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him….