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Erik Burgess, Published January 22 2013

Former Fargo bishop says his experiences with abortion strengthened Catholic faith

On the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, a former bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Fargo is lambasting the nation for its tolerance of abortion, which has created what he calls a “culture of death.”

In a letter to his parishioners made public Tuesday, Samuel Aquila argues that the landmark Supreme Court decision on abortion has created a tolerance of “sanctioned killing” in the United States. Aquila is now an archbishop in Denver.

“Tolerating abortion for 40 years has coarsened us. We’ve learned to see people as objects,” he said. “Today we must recognize that 40 years of sanctioned killing has given the culture of death a firm footing and foundation in our nation.”

He continues, “Today is the day to repent.”

Aquila begins the letter noting that he first began thinking about abortion while attending college in 1968. He was working as an orderly and emergency room assistant in a few different hospitals in hopes of becoming a doctor, and during that time he witnessed two abortions that forever shaped his opinion on the matter.

In graphic detail, Aquila recalls both instances in which he watched the aftermath of abortions in the hospital.

In the first instance, he says, he was working in the surgical unit when he came upon an unattended, aborted fetus in a sink.

“I remember being stunned. I remember thinking that I had to baptize the child,” he wrote.

In the second instance, Aquila said a young woman came screaming into the emergency room. She said she had already had an abortion, but she was bleeding abnormally. Aquilla assisted a doctor in helping the woman pass the remains of the fetus.

“The memory haunts me,” he wrote. “I will never forget that I stood witness to acts of unspeakable brutality. In the abortions I witnessed, powerful people made decisions that ended the lives of small, powerless children.”

He says during his first years at college, he never imagined he would become a bishop and that his faith was weak at the time.

“When I worked in college, I didn’t know or understand what the Church taught about human life,” he said. “I learned by experience that human life is destroyed in every abortion.”

Those traumatic experiences witnessing abortions in a hospital strengthened his faith, Aquila wrote.

“I witnessed the death of two small people who never had the chance to take a breath. I can never forget that,” he said. “And I have never been the same.”

He ends the letter by asking his parishioners to join in building a “culture of life” and to end the practice of abortion.

“There is no greater task we can undertake,” he said.

To read the full letter, go to www.inforum.com.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Erik Burgess at (701) 241-5518