Millennial writer Meghan Clark has a new article at America responding to a NY Times op-ed that accuses Pope Francis of cruelty because he affirmed the Church’s opposition to abortion as he announced that all priests would be able to grant sacramental forgiveness to those who have procured an abortion during the Jubilee Year of Mercy:
Over the last four years, Pope Francis has developed a strong cultural critique of a throwaway culture that values profits and status over people and excludes those who are not considered useful. This tyranny of money, he recently said, is holding the family hostage and he has praised single mothers who bravely struggle to raise their children. The United States does not have guaranteed paid maternity leave, still has a significant problem with pregnancy discrimination, a serious lack of access to affordable childcare—it is not a society that is welcoming and supportive of women and children. I suspect if Pope Francis was showing compassion to single mothers constrained by the minimum wage, lack of paid sick leave and the inability to find affordable housing, Filipovic would be cheering his recognition of the way social structures constrain the full flourishing of women.
Why not here? Because, Pope Francis still believes that abortion is morally wrong and Ms. Filipovic doesn’t. It is ironic that in an effort to insist that the real guilt and stigma comes because people don’t support a woman’s choice to have an abortion, she minimizes the experience of women for whom abortion is experienced as tragic and complex. She falls into the trap of which she accuses Francis—reducing women’s experience to fit her ideological position….
Yes, Roman Catholicism makes a clear and unequivocal judgment that abortion is morally wrong. There is no sugar coating that for someone unapologetic in her insistence that abortion is a perfectly fine choice. Pope Francis is not going to come out and say that abortion is anything other than a grave tragedy and moral evil. But sin does not have the last word for Francis. Nothing is more powerful than the love of God and the experience of this is the clear mission of the Jubilee of Mercy. It takes some serious twisting of terms to turn that message into cruelty.
MSW also responds, contrasting Catholic thinking and the left-wing libertarian mindset that drives these types of attacks on Pope Francis:
My third objection is that both op-eds maintain an essentially libertarian stance, to which no Catholic can adhere. I could do this. I did it. End of discussion. “And that’s the thing about Francis’s forgiveness: It may sound nice, but there are strings attached,” writes Barbato. Ah, yes, those pesky strings. We call them solidarity in the Catholic tradition. Filipovic states, “Instead of treating women as adults who make their own decisions, the pope condescends to ‘all the women who have resorted to abortion,’ saying he is ‘well aware of the pressure that has led them to this decision.’ The threat of excommunication, at the very least, makes the church’s views on women’s rights clear.” Our society tells men and women what they can and cannot do with their bodies all the time: No one can ingest certain illegal substances, no one can drink too much and then drive, no one can sell one’s body for sex, etc. These laws are designed to help people from harming themselves and one another. We used to have such laws against abortion in this country – remember, there was even a time when feminists believed abortion was anti-female, but those were the days before libertarian ways of thinking took root and autonomy became a thing, the only thing, to celebrate….
What is most horrific about these essays in the sheer lack of human empathy, akin to what we witnessed from Doctor Deborah Nucatola in the first Planned Parenthood video, breezily eating her lunch while discussing the dismemberment of unborn children. The sheer lack of human empathy is what astounds. It has astounded some of my most pro-choice friends. And, that is why I am hopeful. This amoral language, so lacking in any shred of human empathy for anyone but oneself, shows the pro-choice movement to be isolated and desperate. Contrasted with the human sympathy that seems to come forth from every pore of Pope Francis, I think most people will chose his message, the biblical message, of sin and mercy, over this truly horrible language of no remorse, no regrets. The libertarianism of the left is as ugly as the libertarianism of the right. God bless Pope Francis for calling it out. And, God bless Barbato and Filipovic for demonstrating it in all its ugliness.