Interview With Kevin Burke of Rachel’s Vineyard
KING of PRUSSIA, Pennsylvania, 29 AUG. 2007 (ZENIT)
One man's sharing
gives other men permission to examine their own role in abortion and the
impact it has had on their lives, said counselor Kevin Burke.
Burke, the associate director of Rachel's Vineyard Ministries, and
pastoral associate at Priests For Life, has co-edited a new book,
"Redeeming a Father's Heart," along with David Wemhoff and Marvin
Stockwell, about healing the wounds of post-abortive men.
In this interview with ZENIT, Burke discusses the type of wounds men
experience when they have been involved in an abortion, avenues for
healing, and how to help the women they love also find healing after an
Q: Your new book, "Redeeming a Father's Heart," addresses the suffering
men experience from abortion. Why do you think this issue has gotten so
little attention until now?
Burke: We have all heard the exhausted phrase repeated over the years
that "abortion is a private personal decision between a woman, her
health care provider and her God."
Men were seen to be peripheral figures in the process, detached and
unaffected by the woman's "choice."
The reality is that men are involved in 95% of all abortion decisions,
and they are profoundly impacted by their participation in the abortion
of their child.
In our work as counseling professionals, my wife Theresa and I have
worked with many individuals and couples who came to us for healing
In the last eight years we have seen a steady increase in men who
attended our Rachel's Vineyard Retreats seeking healing.
Many came with their wives or after their partner had attended. As they
shared their experiences of abortion we quickly recognized the
devastating impact it had on their lives.
Similar to women, when men experience deep healing of post abortion
pain, they are freed from the shame and guilt that feeds silence and
There is a willingness to share their experience with others because
they finally recognize that their feelings are normal, they are not
Abortion hurts, and it impacts relationships in the home and workplace.
When one man shares his experience with close friends and family, it
gives other men permission to examine their own role in abortion and the
impact it has had on their lives and come forward to find healing.
Q: Aside from the absence of the physical suffering caused by the actual
abortion, how does the psychological pain and healing process in
post-abortive men differ from the experience of women?
Burke: The majority of men encourage, manipulate and even force their
girlfriends, partners or wives to abort.
Many other men physically and/or emotionally abandon the mother of their
child when they learn she is pregnant.
She is left alone to carry the full burden of the decision and the
physical and emotional aftermath of the abortion.
Often the man may rationalize that abortion is in the best interest of
the mother and deny her post-abortion grief.
An important part of healing for many men begins with an agonizing
repentance of their role in the abortion procedure and the failure to
protect mother and baby from harm.
This act of humility opens the door for them to acknowledge that they
have also lost a son or a daughter.
This recognition gives them permission to examine how this loss has
impacted their lives, how it has injured their father's heart, and
encourages them to reach out for reconciliation with God and their child
on the journey to healing, peace and restoration in Christ.
On the other end of the spectrum, there are those men who have an
instinctive desire to prevent the mother of their child from having an
abortion. They do everything they can to offer support to care for both
mother and baby.
If they are powerless to prevent the death of their son or daughter,
they typically experience serious depression, rage and grief following
an unwanted abortion that can be turned inward in self destruction or
acted out in numerous unhealthy ways including the abuse of
drugs/alcohol/gambling addictions, anger management issues, pornography,
Such men need immediate counseling and an effective emotional and
spiritual healing process like the Rachel's Vineyard Retreat.
Keep in mind that men who participate in and support the abortion
decision will also experience post abortion symptoms such as shame,
guilt, complicated grief, anxiety, depression and relational problems.
Other men suffer from sexual dysfunctions, addictions to pornography and
The place of the wound is typically where symptoms emerge
and those symptoms then are likely to occur in future relational
difficulties or obsessions and compulsions surrounding sexuality.
Jonathan Flora's story in Redeeming A Father’s Heart reveals that
symptoms can be hidden beneath a very successful businessman who is
emotionally detached and involved in transitional physical relationships
for many years ... yet whose heart is wounded, closed off from deeper
intimacy and love that we all hunger for.
Men often do not connect these symptoms with an abortion loss unless
they are guided to explore this with a counselor, clergy, friend,
through a post-abortion Web site, or a book like "Redeeming a Father's
Q: One of the chapters, “I Married A Post Abortive Woman,” looks at a
man who married a woman who had an abortion before they met. The woman,
knowing her husband was not involved in the abortion, was reluctant to
share with him her suffering. In what ways can men who find themselves
in this situation help the women they love?
Burke: This is a powerful account of a husband growing in his marital
promise to love his wife as Christ loves the Church.
However, you can see how tenuous the relationship is in the early stages
of their marriage as she struggles with depression, feeling unworthy to
embrace motherhood and thoughts of cutting herself
commonly diagnosed symptom of Borderline Personality Disorder which is
not uncommon among those traumatized by abortion.
The wife exhibits another symptom of post-abortion trauma: marital
infidelity. This symptom is rooted in the common experience after
abortion of struggling to fully trust and bond with one's spouse.
She feels unworthy of her spouse's love and she is fearful of embracing
motherhood. Sadly, she acts out by having an extramarital affair. Many
other relationships would have ended by this point.
Fortunately, the couple attended a marriage encounter weekend and later
a Rachel's Vineyard Retreat, which led this couple to embrace the
healing journey together.
What a blessing this was for their marriage! You see in this couple the
redemption of their marriage as they grow to fully live the moral
teachings of the Church, which are experienced not as a legalistic
burden, but as a gift that offers healing, liberation and freedom.
This husband learned to grow in his role as Christ to his spouse. It is
a beautiful example for all men.
It is important to note that this couple would likely have come to
healing sooner if they had been gently introduced to a healing program
like Rachel's Vineyard and had received information on how abortion
might impact their relationship.
So many couples and families are wounded by misuse of the gift of
sexuality and abortion loss.
They desperately need the healing found in the Church, and the gift of
the Church's teachings on marriage and family life and the good news of
Q: In your book, most of the relationships involving abortions end in
divorce, or breaking up. Is this common, and if so, how can couples who
have had abortions save their relationships?
Burke: Yes, this is the most common outcome.
Tragically, a person will abort with the hope of salvaging their
relationship, but the toxic aftereffects of abortion are like a
radioactive seed planted in the heart of the relationship that will, at
varying speeds, kill the relationship.
Keep in mind that the relational pain, the damage to trust and intimacy
will continue to be present in future relationships and lead to further
dysfunction and divorce.
That is why a trauma-sensitive healing process like Rachel's Vineyard is
so important to treat the complicated grief, shame, guilt of abortion,
so an individual is healed and free to fully trust and embrace the love
Q: What resources are available to help men deal with post-abortion pain
both at Project Rachel and elsewhere?
Burke: I am the co-founder with my wife Theresa of Rachel's Vineyard, an
international post abortion healing ministry of Priests For Life.
We are blessed to be partnered with Father Frank Pavone, who serves as
the pastoral director of Rachel's Vineyard, as we work together to build
a culture of life. Over 500 healing retreats were offered around the
world in the last year alone.
Men and couples do beautifully on the retreats and provide a special
blessing to all participants. It is a special gift for many women to see
a man grieving his role in an abortion decision, and the loss of his
It's also a great joy to see a man embrace his child with love as the
Project Rachel, or other diocesan ministries, such as family life
offices, sponsor about one-third of our weekend retreats in the United
We provide training and treatment models and work cooperatively with
Project Rachel, parish-based ministries, retreat houses and all the
other groups who reach out with the compassion and mercy of Christ to
those suffering after abortion.
Another resource for post-abortive men is The Fatherhood Forever
Foundation, founded by Jason Baier, also a contributing author to
"Redeeming a Father's Heart."