The abortion debate today tends to focus on the mother and the unborn child, and rightly so, because the mother bears the full burden of pregnancy and the child is the one whose life is at stake. However, we must not forget the third person involved:the father. The life thatbegins to exist at the moment of conception is the result of both the father’s and the mother’s biological contribution. Although it’s easier for the father to walk away, there’s always an unbreakable bond of paternity and responsibility.
For this reason, fathers are also affected by abortion. They may not always be aware of how it affects them at the time, butdepending on the role they played in ending their child’s life—if they abandoned the mother, or pushed her to abort, or were opposed to the abortion but unable to stop it from happening—not only will they have to answer before God, but it will also affect them spiritually, emotionally, and psychologically.
Paolo Antônio Briguet is a Brazilian journalist who, more than two dozen years ago, convinced his wife to overcome her doubts and abort their unborn child. Today, nearly three decades later, he profoundly regrets that decision. On March 16, which would have been his son’s 27th birthday, he wrote an open letter on Facebook to his aborted son. We want to share the text with you (slightly abridged), because it opens a window on the suffering soul of a father wounded by what seemed like a convenient decision at the time, but which he now recognizes as a terrible mistake.
Today, you would be turning 27 years old, if I had allowed you to be born. Each day is born, flowers are born, the morning star is born […] but you were not born, through my fault, my most grievous fault.
Your mother, who today lives in far-off lands, really hesitated. A doctor that we knew tried to dissuade us from that fateful idea—now I see clearly he was an angel of God—but we refused to be moved. I even got angry at that friend, for saying “no” to the crime that I was about to commit. Oh, how I would like to go back in time and say to him, “Thank you, doctor! Thank you! You are going to be this baby’s godfather.”
But time machines don’t exist; they aren’t part of the structure of our reality. The only way we have to travel in time […] is our own soul. In those days, however, I didn’t believe in the existence of the soul. I was crazy, crazy with egoism and vanity.
You were just waiting to see the light, my son; however, what came was darkness. I denied you the morning, the afternoon, the night, the dawn, water, heat, cold, books, symphonies, poems, friendship, the bridge in our city, the smell of rain falling on the earth, lullabies, bread and wine. I denied you smiles and tears. I denied you eyes, hands, a heart. I denied you the right to cry out in the darkness, “Mom!” I denied you the right to be born. The only thing I didn’t deny you, was that which I could not:The Passion of the Resurrection. That already belonged to you.
If only I had known. If only I had known that it hurts. If only I had known that it hurts so much, son. I was your Herod.
I write these words at the distance of a quarter of a century, but it seems as if my sin (my crime)had been committed yesterday. Your goodbye is omnipresent, your presence is an eternal goodbye in my life. Yes, the wound was cured by the hands of the merciful doctor, but the scar is so great that it fills my whole soul. I am the scar of my sin. Look: everything I do is an act of reparation.
One day I hope to meet you, son. According to St. Thomas Aquinas, all of us will be reborn at the age of Christ. Today, somewhere in the universe, you exist at the age of 33. You have a name, a face, and a voice that are unknown to me.
Sometimes I wonder who you would have been: a doctor, an engineer, a musician, a mathematician, a philosopher, a professor, a priest, a worker, a carpenter? How you would love your youngest half-brother, born so many years later! It doesn’t matter now, son. Your profession will always be to be born.
On the day we meet, my son, after leaving behind the sorrow of this life, I will hold your hands in mine, and hug you with all my strength. Andyou already know what my first words will be: Forgive me.
Son, sometimes I think that you exist to forgive me. That’s the only way I would be able to contemplate the face of God. And so, every day for me is the day of the unborn child. Every day is the day.
St. John Paul II’s prayer for the protection of all human life
Why it can be so hard to ask for forgiveness