14ymedio, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 4 September 2015 – Pope Francis has just taken an extraordinary step: he has arranged for the Catholic Church to grant forgiveness to women who had abortions during the Holy Year (December 8, 2015 to December 20, 2016) provided they are sincerely repentant of it. This is a temporary authorization for the clergy to exercise love and the infinite mercy of God.
Only time will tell if such a decision, included in the changes launched by Bergoglio since his ascension to the Papal throne, will turn out to be temporary or more permanent in character. However, we must recognize that the step taken by the pontiff is, at minimum, bold. It could not be otherwise, if he really intends to carry out a process that places the Catholic Church — essentially backward — on track to assimilate the dynamics of the twenty-first century, when religious scholastic pruderies are being relegated in the presence of new realities that pose real challenges to old moral orders, such as this and other controversial issues, including the recognition of gay rights and gay marriage.
Two thousand years of successful existence suggest that Catholicism has sufficient resources and intellect to adapt to changes
Two thousand years of successful existence suggest that Catholicism has sufficient resources and wisdom to adapt to changes. In fact, no other religion has a political structure as organized as to form a State, and one of the oldest in Europe at that. Let’s hope that it will finally start moving towards this globalized world without any major setbacks.
Good for Francis, who has chosen to stick his neck out for issues so difficult to reconcile, such as the right to life that those condemning abortion proclaim, and the right of women to make decisions over motherhood and their own wombs, a battle that millions of women and Western society feminist movements emphatically defend.
As usually happens with controversial issues, the Pope’s stance is provoking mixed reactions. Those who consider this a cosmetic measure have criticized the move. Others hold that the Church has finally begun to delve into issues that are being discussed at the global level on which there is no consensus.
We females are much more than mere uterine containers over which male arrogance may decide
In fairness, it is needless to say that the Catholic Church could not do any more, especially when it is an institution so hampered by machismo throwbacks, such as the myth of virginity, celibacy, the exclusion of ordination of women to address parishioners as priests, subordination of nuns to the male clergy and other equally discriminatory practices. But the Church’s truly revolutionary position in this case means a step back in feminine objectives. What political power can claim the right to decide about motherhood?
In any case, the debate on abortion falls, first and foremost, to women, and they should be the ones who ultimately decide on their bodies and the consequences arising from their nature as receptacles for the reproduction of human life. Women are much more than mere uterine containers over which male arrogance may decide. So, the position of “forgiveness” of the stiff Catholic Church is appreciated, but it would be necessary to establish the “guilt” beforehand. It is not clear how the lords of the Church, so far removed from sexual matters and procreation of children in their celibate world could discern this particular point. By the way, perhaps ending celibacy would be a good starting place for the updating of the Catholic Church.
Meanwhile, the merciful ecclesiastical forgiveness will be barely a good gesture for the faithful who submit themselves to punishment and remorse for ever having the ability to have decided over their fertility. It will have, above all, symbolic value as a point of departure from the old dogmas. No more.
The mere word “forgiveness” contains a world of arrogance under a cloak of apparent generosity
It is not that abortion, legal or not, is good. Radical measures never are. But it is undeniable that women’s freedom of choice about motherhood is, as is the choice to terminate an unwanted pregnancy safely and with the greatest assurance for her own life. This has cost centuries of struggle and countless women’s deaths in clandestine clinics, or as a result of malpractice, often carried out without a modicum of the requirements of health and hygiene. Because there has always been and will always be women who, for countless reasons, opt for abortion in given circumstances that no one, other than they, should judge.
I think the mere word “forgiveness” contains a world of arrogance under a cloak of apparent generosity. Forgiveness presupposes the existence of a morally superior entity fully entitled to label the actions and lives of others, and so arrogant in his own narcissism that he attributes himself the virtue to absolve the supposed sins of others. If indeed there is a God in heaven, He should punish such a great vanity.
Although, on second thought, we women should be generous with the Catholic Church. Let us thank the good intentions of having had, for the first time in centuries, the delicacy of directing its eyes toward us, those eyes usually focused up on high sacred and mundane grounds. Those who have faith in God should pray, pray lots, to save the souls of those men who, with or without cassocks, continue to use our status as fertile females to carry out their politicking. Amen.