His words are surprisingly harsh: “I would like to strew these parents with the ashes of their destroyed fetuses” “Those ashes should be thrown in the brazen faces of murderous parents.” “Those who practice abortion and who turn to subterfuge and sophisms in order to remain within the limits of the Catholic Church, are poor people who are deceiving themselves, and are very similar to the remains of Pompeii . . . I pity nobody more than these.”
From the memoirs of Padre Pellegrino, who lived with the saint from 1950 and was present at his death in 1968.
Padre Pio and Padre Pellegrino entered into a discussion of abortion one day, with Padre Pellegrino playing a sort of “devil's advocate” as if to somehow justify his rather shaky stance at that time on the issue. That very morning, in fact, a woman had gone into the “booking” office where Pellegrino was assigned, in order to secure a slot for her confession to Padre Pio. She was pregnant, and the mother of two children. She desired to have an abortion, and for more than an hour she unloaded all of her problems and her reasons for procuring it on the poor friar. He wrote, “With her calm words and obstinate proposals, she made me weak-minded. I became irritated to such a point that she obliged me to say: 'Oh do whatever you like!” Exasperated, he left her in the office and went for a breath of air.
Unknown to Padre Pellegrino, Padre Pio had found out about the incident, which is why that afternoon he invited his confrere to his cell. He made him take a seat, saying: “Sit down and tell me how you behave as a confessor where abortion is concerned.” Beginning to feel ill at ease, in an attempt to turn the tables Pellegrino directed a quick question at Padre Pio: “Padre, this morning you refused a lady absolution because of an abortion she obtained. Why were you so harsh with that poor unfortunate person?” Padre Pio did not hesitate to give an explanation.
“I am harsh when I must be, not when I find it opportune and convenient for myself. . . it will be a terrible day for humanity when men, frightened by – how do you say – the demographic boom, the damage of physics and economic sacrifices, lose their horror of abortion, because it is precisely that day when they should reveal their horror of it.” Continuing, he said: “Abortion is not only murder, but it is also suicide. We should have the courage to show our faith to those whom we see on the threshold of committing, with one blow, both these crimes. Do we want to win them back? Yes, or no?”
|Padre Pio with Padre Pellegrino
Padre Pellegrino responded by asking, “Why suicide?” His opinion at that time was that by eliminating a fetus, a woman saved and didn't kill herself. Padre Pio, assailed by one of those divine furies, replied: “You would understand this suicide of the race if, with the eye of reason, you could see the 'beauty and joy' of the earth populated by dribbling and toothless old people, devoid of children and burnt like a desert. If you reflected, you then would surely understand the double gravity of abortion. By limiting our offspring, the lives of the parents are also mutilated.”
Gathering momentum, Padre Pio continued: “I would like to strew these parents with the ashes of their destroyed fetuses; to nail them to their responsibilities and to deny them the possibility of appealing because of ignorance. The remains of a procured abortion cannot be buried with false care and piety; it would be an abominable hypocrisy. Those ashes should be thrown in the brazen faces of murderous parents. If I were to leave them be, I myself would feel involved in their crimes. Look, I am not a saint, but even so, I never feel so close to holiness as I do when I use words which are perhaps a little harsh, but just and necessary, to those criminals.”
Shaken by nervous agitation at the liberty he was about to take, Padre Pellegrino responded: “Now look Padre. You flee from sympathizing with criminals. But at the same time, whilst admitting the existence of a collective madness in the world, you don't flee from recognizing the legitimacy of compassion, if not respect, for those poor unfortunates.” Padre Pio answered: “And you know well you can discuss things with the enemies of God, our neighbors, in the vague hope of obtaining the goal, but you cannot find any point of contact with those who are their own enemies, like those who obtain abortion. What a pity! Desiring to force the exact concept of procreation into men's brains is like wanting to give a piece of Paradise as a gift to beasts. These are poor, impaired people; victims of an obsession which obliges them to damage themselves even more for eternity.”
Pellegrino was not used to talking about abortion, and tried to end the discussion hastily with some evasive words. “But if we realize we cannot uproot these obsessive fixations from the minds of those who procure an abortion, to whom we attribute a certain irresponsibility and above all the incapacity to act reasonably, why then do we want to morally qualify these actions and therefore treat them badly with our useless harshness?” But Padre Pio knew how to defend his convictions: “As I am not able to expel certain obsessions from the hearts of men, this harshness of mine might even appear to be completely useless and out of place. But it is not useless, on the contrary it is our duty, to point out and carry out our responsibilities.”
|Padre Pelligrino Funicelli, OFM Cap.
“Furthermore,” he continued, “in so far as it defends the arrival of babies in the world, my harshness is always an act of faith and hope in our encounters with God on earth. Unfortunately, as time goes on, the battle becomes greater than our strength but it must equally be fought, because, from the certainty of failure 'on paper,” our battle draws the guarantee of true victory: that of the new Earth and new Heavens. Brotherly harshness is of greater value than all the sentiment in the world put together.”
“Unfortunately, these 'half-men,' apostles of mud who want to justify abortion, are filling the world. They themselves are 'abortions' made of base actions and ignorance. And when, in order to excuse themselves, they say: 'But in the long run, we don't desire these children,' they show themselves to be inept, incapable; contemptible before God and society.” Later in the discussion with his fellow friar, Padre Pio added: “ The race that does not accept respect for man from the time of his conception, is destined to an ignominious end, because it distorts the concept of love of neighbor, mistakes it with egoism and cannot conceive the love of God at all. Those who practice abortion and who turn to subterfuge and sophisms in order to remain within the limits of the Catholic Church, are poor people who are deceiving themselves, and are very similar to the remains of Pompeii . . . I pity nobody more than these.”
These are only a few excerpts from the long conversation of that afternoon as reported in Padre Pellegrino's book of memoirs. With their talk ended, Padre Pio opened the door of his cell, and as Pellegrino exited, Padre Pio said to him in a sudden outburst: “Now go. Run to that lady whom you know very well and tell her you take back the words you pronounced in the booking office with regard to abortion.”
Pellegrino writes: “I immediately ran to the hotel and begged the lady's pardon for the words I had used that morning, confessing that I had been been reprimanded by Padre Pio. She had been taken slightly ill. When she felt better, she also confessed to me that, shaken by my ill manners, she had already made arrangements to have an abortion. She immediately changed her mind and promised Padre Pio she would save her child. And she did! A few months later, she gave birth to a beautiful baby girl. . . Seven or eight years passed and the flower of a little baby girl, saved by the tempestuous intervention of Padre Pio, came to receive Jesus for the first time, from the hand of the holy and venerable old man, who was, by this time, on the point of death. Like all children on the day of their First Holy Communion, she had a heavenly smile on her lips.”
These slightly-edited excerpts are from Padre Pio's Jack of All Trades, by Padre Pellegrino Funicelli, pp. 204–229, Our Lady of Grace Capuchin Friary, 1991.
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