When Father Stephen Imbarrato counsels those who have had or encouraged an abortion, he has a unique insight to share. That’s because he himself has children who lost their lives through abortion. Long before he entered the seminary, Imbarrato had a girlfriend who he got pregnant. What ensued next the priest now refers to as the “sin of Adam.” Standing beside his “Eve,” (as Genesis says Adam was when the snake engaged her in conversation), he failed to support her , to confront the evil, or to remove her from danger. Thus, she decided to end the pregnancy. Years later, when Imbarrato was in seminary, he asked forgiveness from this woman. It was then that he found out that he had not just one child in heaven, but two, because they were expecting twins.
On this 43rd anniversary of Roe vs Wade, Father Imbarrato shares his story with ZENIT.
ZENIT: Can you briefly tell readers your story.
Father Imbarrato: Within a few years after Roe vs. Wade legalized abortion in our country, I was away from the sacraments and the Catholic faith, living with a woman outside of marriage. It wasn’t long before she let me know that she was pregnant with my child. … I did not tell her that I would stand by her and our child and that she should have the baby. On the contrary, I told her that I would support her in whatever decision she made and then I preceded to tell her all the reasons why the timing of the pregnancy was not good.
I reminded her that we just started living together, that we had expenses such as car payments, rent, and the such, and that I was still going to school…all the worldly reasons why it was not a good time to be responsible. Of course, I concluded, though, with, “But it is your decision and I will support you in whatever decision you make.”
Clearly I told her it was her responsibility; not mine. In hindsight, years later I realized that she had the abortion for me. After all, women are intuitive and I am sure she thought, “well, if he wants me to have the baby, he would just say, ‘have the baby and we will work it out regardless of the difficulties.’ Since he didn’t say that and gave me all the reasons to not have the baby, he must not want to have the baby.”
So she aborted the baby…for me. She never said then it was for me, but it was for me. I didn’t even go with her. Of course back then, there was no real pro-life movement. It was a simple medical procedure in my mind. Again in hindsight, I realize that I was just exhibiting more cowardly behavior and rationalizing later on that maybe if I went with her, I would have stopped her or rescued her at the last minute, taking her out of the abortion center. Maybe, but in hindsight, I doubt it. Maybe I really didn’t even want to be in that position of responsibility. After all, a lack of responsibility seemed to be my character at the time.
(Read more of Father’s story here: http://priestsforlife.org/frstephen/blog/index.php/2016/01/19/my-full-post-abortion-testimony-silent-no-more/)
ZENIT: What is it like for you to march in the March for Life?
Father Imbarrato: My first March for Life was 1992 and I went for 13 consecutive years until I was ordained in New Mexico in 2005. This year, I am excited about returning for the first time in 10 years. In 2007 I began a march in Santa Fe called the Sanctity of Life Awareness and Unity Day, which draws thousands each year.
This year I return to the DC march and it brings back memories because the last time I was in DC for the March I gave my post-abortion testimony at the steps of the Supreme Court — the first man to do so.
The other significant memory of the March for Life is that it was my attending the March that motivated me to become more of a pro-life activist. Once I became more of an activist and involved in pro-life ministry (Lifenet in New Jersey), it was only matter of a few years until I entered the seminary (2000).
ZENIT: As a priest, you have an insider’s view of God’s mercy whenever you hear confessions. What has the experience of God’s mercy been like for you personally?
Father Imbarrato: How merciful Jesus has been that in spite of my sin of abortion, He has deemed me worthy of His priesthood. Of course my story has given me the opportunity to give spiritual counsel to hundreds of women and men who have been affected directly or indirectly by abortion. People truly are more open to confessing their deepest sins to a priest that has had similar experiences and has been the beneficiary of Christ’s mercy. The other important aspect is understanding and being able to preach on the issue of abortion in all dimensions without coming across as judgmental, but loving and compassionate.
ZENIT: In this Year of Mercy, what message would you give to the pro-life movement? And to other parents like you?
Father Imbarrato: I do not have any new messages but a reinforcement of what we already know. We love both the babies and the moms and we also love those who have been victimized by abortion because we have all been affected by the scourge of abortion.
I think it also important that we continue to understand that love is truth and truth is love.
We show our love for the babies, the moms, the wounded, and the culture by telling them and showing them the truth about abortion…that these are babies who desire life and that abortion kills these innocent babies; that abortion wounds women and men, affecting all of use because our human family cannot be fulfilled as long as we are killing our unborn children.
To parents like me… Bring your children to an abortion mill as soon as possible after they reach the age of reason and let them witness firsthand these poor women. Teach the truth about what abortion really is and how it affects all of us. Do this and your children will always be pro-life, will never directly experience an abortion and will always stand up for the moms and the babies.
This is my short story focused on Christ’s mercy. http://priestsforlife.org/frstephen/blog/index.php/2015/11/05/a-priest-forgiven/