The Pope and Abortion

For the next year, the pope will permit priests to offer forgiveness to women who have had abortions during a year of jubilee.

This is not a completely radical change. Certain confessors could already offer absolution. But this does signify a different sort of approach, one Pope Francis has been known for, prioritizing the pastoral to the doctrinal. It also lifts the other crucial part of Catholicism: the virtue of staying connected.

I’m not sure how many Catholics women will take advantage of this option: as Catholics for Choice remarked, Catholic women have been making alternative arrangements for some years now. After all, in some historically catholic countries, women do get abortions.

One may believe abortion is morally repugnant but should be safe and legal. A Catholic in a secular nation state might fall into such category (as might black Jewish, philosophers in the preceding link). I think such a view, while apparently contradictory, is practical and realistic. I am not of that school, but that is where I seek some mutual understanding with more devout Catholic or others who find the procedure itself signals something, in our culture at least, is wrong.

Unlike the liberal tradition, the Catholic one does not elevate choice as the highest moral good. Instead, in its deeply communitarian ethos, it understands persons as relational. It comes to it’s anti-abortion position not as the evangelcals do, but because the fundamental moral unit is never just a single person.

It is not a view that is particularly appealing in this age.

But it explains why the church holds both views that are anti-commerce and anti-abortion. Bodies, and their lives, should not be abandoned or sold, and abortion is one choice along many others that diminishes our shared life. They note also, that being pro-choice does not make one a feminist: patriarchy itself can elevate the abortion of fetuses, especially those of girls. That said, although these are arguments can sharpen the issues, in our broken world such decisions must remain medical decisions that women make with their doctors.

The pope’s move should be understood not as a change in the church’s view toward abortion, but a clarification of a pastor’s role. In this way it seems very Anglican. The benefit is that it seeks to diminish the shame and acknowledge the reality of women who make such choices.

This instruction should not, of course, be anything new to Anglicans. Our theology already tends to arise from the pastoral, the practical, and the liturgical. We can give thanks that the Pope has decided to take a cue from the Anglican playbook.

Roe v Wade: 40 years

It’s the 40th anniversary of Roe V. Wade, and I’m glad for this.    

But even if I were not, I would still support Planned Parenthood.  

For I would still want to have laws that trust women, and implement practices that care for them.

The main reason is simple:  criminalizing abortion does not reduce abortions.   It results in more unsafe abortions.  If we compare the evidence, countries with strong anti-abortion laws do not have their intended effect.    An Anti-Abortion person should recognize the inefficacy of such laws.

Policies that do reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies, however, include greater prosperity for women, better schooling, and access to different options, and good, high quality medical care.   When women have greater access to consistent family planning and contraception, there will be fewer medical procedures that result in terminating pregnancy.  Most likely, Obamacare will be the single greatest force that will reduce abortions.   Thos who are anti- abortion should fight for an economy that promoted greater health care and more jobs with benefits.

That’s not the current political climate, however.

Churches should also stop shaming women for having sex outside of marriage.  The shame puts religious women in a double bind.   It inhibits the women from coming to the church for help; and it implicitly makes children a punishment.

I’m not the first to say such things.  I’m fortunate that I’ve been trusted to give counsel to women who want to know all their options.  It was important that I was non-judgmental.  I encouraged them to get medical help.  I encouraged them to think of their lives many years down the road; to examine their support systems.  It was their choice; and I was free.  We did not have the heavy hand of the state coming in between our understanding of God’s wish for us.

So today is a good day.  It could be better – too many women are finding their practices restricted for political purposes.  But I am celebrating this day as one that now offers all sorts of families greater options for their prosperity and freedom.