Anyone paying attention to the news lately can't be blamed for thinking that those who defend the lives of the unborn by opposing legal abortion are not the most loving bunch, and perhaps not the most sane. But undue focus on the aberrant acts of a crazed few can overshadow the goodness of the many. The morning after abortion doctor George Tiller was murdered, shot in his own church, allegedly by an anti-abortion activist, the first thing I saw once inside the doors at Saint Patrick's Cathedral, the spiritual headquarters of the Catholic Church in New York City, involved abortion. And, no, it wasn't one of those gory placards you inevitably see on the news. In calming colors, I read, beside a picture of a young woman in obvious, but not overly emphasized pain: "We made the decision together. But I've never felt so alone. Abortion changes you."
That display sits on a table that also holds Mass and confession schedules, conveniently placed near the spot where security checks your bags. It's there for worshippers, haven-seekers and tourists alike to see. It directs you not only to think with compassion about the evil of abortion, but to a Web site -- abortionchangesyou.com -- that offers an anonymous haven for those who have lived with the consequences of choosing an abortion. The site is not sectarian or pedantic. It's a loving resource for those who otherwise feel bereft.
It's no surprise to anyone familiar with Saint Patrick's recent history that compassion would be the focus here. The cathedral used to be home to one of the foremost defenders of the lives of the innocent unborn, John Cardinal O'Connor, former cardinal of the archdiocese of New York.
O'Connor's most enduring legacy may be a religious community he established, the Sisters of Life, who spend their days praying for the protection of human life, but also doing the hard, physical work of protection--helping mothers have and raise their children, educating and loving those who made decisions they deeply regret.