As a rule, I do not suggest that you look at the Patheos Catholic Facebook page’s comment threads. Do the same thing you do with your favorite news outlet: follow them for great articles, but never scroll down to see what people are saying. It becomes an open sewer rather quickly. Normally I don’t read most comments I receive and I don’t interact with them most of the places my work is shared. I’ll banter in a few forums if I think it’s fun, I’ll block or ban a troll if I please, but I usually let things run to seed. Today, however, I’m going to have to put on my hip boots and go wading. I have been visited by another notorious pro-life celebrity.
Yesterday, my post from last week was shared by the Patheos Catholic Facebook page. I was especially careful not to look at comments on that one because I knew it was a can of worms. My position on abortion is controversial. I believe that abortion is gravely wrong. I believe it’s tragic that women are being hurt in that way and children are being dehumanized and killed all over our country, and I want to do what I can to help. I want to do things proven to reduce the number of abortions like providing adequate healthcare to women. I want to work to help individual moms with whatever they need so that they will feel safe to have babies. I am furious with pretenders who claim they’re pro-life and actually make matters worse, which is one of the main reasons I’m so against the Republican Party: notice how abortion rates rose for at least three of the four years Trump was in power. Those babies didn’t have to die. Lip service to abortion and draconian scattershot legislation to restrict it legally without changing the culture to make sure women have good viable pro-life options in the first place are not the answer. That doesn’t save lives. And I insist on ethics and accountability from the pro-life movement because I believe we have the moral high ground. We ought to be as charitable and helpful as we possibly can, which is why I always call out pro-life figureheads who are bullies and bigots. My views on abortion make me a target for a lot of harassment and foul comments from pro-lifers and pro-choice alike, and I know this ahead of time, so I don’t often play along. They can say what they wish without me for an audience.
This time, though, I got tagged in a reply by a friend. Of course I went and took a look.
Some of the comments were so ridiculous I wish I had the time to dissect them point by point. This gentleman, for example, besides thinking I’m a moron, can’t spell my name, doesn’t believe I’m really a woman, believes I’m in mortal sin, and is so deluded he actually thinks that the notorious Reaganesque capitalist moderate Democrat Joe Biden is a socialist:
But he’s not the one I’m concerned with. The real shock was that someone had tagged the pro-life “Protest Priest” Father Stephen Imbarrato in the thread, mentioning that he had said many of the same things I said about the big name pro-life celebrities. And he responded. He doesn’t like me much:
” the corporate mainstream prolife collective is to a large extent about money (revenues), celebrity, marketing, and lots of serious compensation packages w a strategy of overly cautious incrementalism. The true activists can be found locally and regionally. That is where your money should go. Local PRCs, post abortion healing ministries, local sidewalk activists and local student groups. That being said, this author has no credibility whatsoever ever. Do not trust her. Not really anti abortion.” writes the Protest Priest.
He agrees with me but wants the world to know I’m not really against abortion, I’m untrustworthy and not credible.
I was confused as to why Father Imbarrato was libeling me in such a public way. I didn’t remember being in a quarrel with him. I looked back over my writing and as far as I can tell I mentioned him once, in connection with Frank Pavone’s apparent shameful and abusive treatment of corpses. And in that post I name him as the only person who did a charitable thing for Baby Choice, if that’s indeed what happened. Was he mad at me for saying he’d done a good thing?
I still don’t know why Father doesn’t like me and wants to smear my reputation. But in googling him, I discovered a little about who he is.
Father Imbarrato is himself responsible for an abortion. He readily admits this; it’s all part of his shtick. He even calls himself a “post-abortive man.” Many years ago he pressured his girlfriend into aborting their twins. Again, “pressure” is his word, a direct quote from his testimony. He reports that he did not support the woman he knocked up and then he put pressure on her to get an abortion. In other words, he committed fornication and then bullied her into making the problem go away. I think that both pro-life and pro-choice people can agree that a man who pushes his girlfriend to get an abortion because he’s afraid to be a father is a monster. That’s not a woman’s free choice. I’m certainly glad he’s repentant. He ought to be living a life of penance.
But is he really living a life of penance? Because as far as I can tell, he’s not repentant of being a bully. His whole facebook page is full of nasty, abusive, bullying remarks about just about everyone:
Of course this man is connected to Frank Pavone, who likes to surround himself with dubious “converts” like Abby Johnson and Norma McCorvey. Like Johnson, Imbarrato claims to have learned his lesson and repented of being a bad person; indeed he made a career out of publicly saying “sorry” for what a bad person he used to be. He’s retired from active ministry as a priest so he can be sorry full time. And, like Johnson, all the while he’s bullying and attacking anyone he can get his hands on, and liking it, and assuming the pushback he got was because he was imitating Christ, when in fact he’s yet another example of an anti-Christ lack of charity. He hasn’t changed at all. He’s just taking out his trauma from having pushed his girlfriend into an abortion on other people, without ceasing to be abusive.
Now he’s set his sights on me and libeled me in public, and I don’t know the reason for that. I don’t particularly care. What I know is, one of us is responsible for the cold-blooded killing of two infants, and it’s not me.
One of us bullied a woman into an abortion that, reportedly, she deeply regrets, and only repented after the babies were conveniently gone. It isn’t me.
I have written very publicly about my longing for another baby and my struggles with poly-cystic ovary syndrome. Father Imbarrato has never had the traumatic experience of sitting in the bathtub sobbing, trying desperately to catch clots as if that could undo what your body just did, and then the horror of finding out there was no baby in the first place but a torturous hormonal false alarm. I have. Many women have. He doesn’t know what it’s like to pray to God for another baby and live with the loneliness and stigma of not having one, as you watch other women around you get pregnant as easily as breathing; even women who don’t want to be pregnant manage to get pregnant and it feels like a slap in the face. I know that feeling. Many women do. Many women have had the experience of a pregnancy they deeply wanted, which went wrong and left them in shock, bereaved, sometimes without a body to bury or anyone to acknowledge their grief. I can’t imagine their pain and neither can Father Stephen. He never will. Many women suffer deeply from being coerced or bullied into obtaining the abortion of a baby they wish they could have kept. I can’t imagine the grief they suffer. Father Stephen can call himself a “post-abortive man” all he likes, but he can’t possible know the half of it. I’m sorry he’s traumatized by his bad behavior, but he doesn’t know the half of it.
If Father Stephen Imbarrato is truly sorry he abused the mother of his children like that, maybe he’d better act like he learned a lesson about abusing mothers. I do not tolerate bullies.
And now I’ll go back to not reading the comments.
Mary Pezzulo is the author of Meditations on the Way of the Cross and Stumbling into Grace: How We Meet God in Tiny Works of Mercy.
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