Wednesday, September 02, 2015

When the Pope hits the Headlines

So it happened again between yesterday and today. The Pope made the headlines, and that means...a lot of people got the story wrong (or at least mixed up). Here's the official statement.

Many reliable sources clarified just what yesterday's announcement concerning the Jubilee of Mercy, the Sacrament of Penance (confession) and the sin of abortion:

Here in Boston, the Globe gave full-page coverage to the story, but bewilderingly chose to quote a Planned Parenthood representative (really?! Now?!) in two of the three articles. As much as we are told by the dominant culture that we must always respect other people's feelings, even to the point of using opposite-sex pronouns when referring to a person who doesn't "feel" like their biological sex, there is one feeling that is verboten, forbidden, the never-to-be-named Voldemort of feelings:
While calling the pontiff’s announcement “a step in the right direction,” Eric Ferrero, vice president of communications for Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said abortion is not something a woman should be ashamed of or have to seek forgiveness for. (The Boston Globe)
This denying of women their right to their own sacred feelings  makes the Pope's invitation to confession all the more pastoral. He didn't deny women's feelings, he affirmed them, and refers to his own personal encounters with women as his reason for making a dramatic (if, strictly speaking, unnecessary) overture:
[There are women who] believe that they have no other option.... I am well aware of the pressure that has led them to this decision. I know that it is an existential and moral ordeal. I have met so many women who bear in their heart the scar of this agonizing and painful decision. 
If large numbers of women (and men) did not feel regret or remorse over abortion, groups like Silent No More and ministries like Project Rachel and Rachel's Vineyard would not have survived or spread the way they have. No, Pope Francis recognizes a pain that women are not allowed to express publicly. By making this pastoral announcement, effectively advertising a forgiveness that has long been available (most, if not all, US bishops gave priests full authorization to absolve the sin of abortion), Pope Francis is letting women know that they don't have to deny their own experience. But they don't have to keep reliving it in secret, either.

Come to think about it, isn't that a helpful invitation for all of us, no matter what our secret, buried-down-deep, unacknowledged area of sinfulness is?

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