Well, Pope Francis has confounded the media again. One day after he was reported to have told Catholics not to talk about abortion, the Pope himself talked about abortion in what Lifesitenews rather ridiculously called his “strongest pro-life comments to date.” But, as Mark Shea clearly sees, the only reason groups like Lifesite are forced into making such statements is because they themselves buy the New York Times party line about what the Pope had actually said the day before.
The simple fact is that, in his landmark interview, Francis did not say not to talk about abortion, but he told us how to talk about abortion so that our message may be heard. In particular, he highlighted the essential nature of discussing abortion in context, which, as Charlie Camosy has pointed out, is more or less the angle taken by Benedict in Caritas in Veritate. The day after the interview was released, Francis followed his own prescription to the letter by speaking about abortion within a larger context, particularly that of a “throwaway culture.”
Of course, Lifesitenews sees this as a kind of rescue mission and the debate in the comboxes is whether Francis managed to avert disaster or not, and the secular press has to presuppose that Francis was bowing to some kind of pressure from conservatives in the Curia. But does anyone actually think that the man who has been governing the Church since March is someone who bows to curial pressure?
In this rather bizarre situation one of the more troubling misunderstandings of what Francis is about comes from those who think he has somehow appeased the abortion lobby. They point to this NARAL meme:
As one LSN commenter put it, in defending LSN’s earlier negative coverage of Francis’s interview, “When the devil’s henchmen cheer you on, you know we’re all in trouble!” But is NARAL really cheering Francis on? I doubt it. Here’s my translation of the NARAL meme:
Dear Pope Francis, = Dear Gullible Catholics Everywhere,
Thank You. = Some of you have serious questions about your Church’s teaching about abortion. Do we ever have good news for you! You no longer have to struggle with that teaching and its implications. Your conscience can rest easy now, knowing that you have permission from the highest spiritual authority on earth to ignore everything the Church has said about abortion in the last 2000 years. The Church is finally catching up with the times.
Some of you oppose abortion but have very serious concerns about voting for the political party in this country that says it opposes abortion and you struggle very deeply every time you need to cast a vote in our political system. Worry no more! You have permission to vote for NARAL-endorsed candidates from the Pope himself.
Some of you believe abortion is the greatest human rights violation of our era and that it must be fought tooth and nail. To you we say, “Despair!” You are on your own. You have been forsaken by the very Chair of Peter, the last great opposition to our agenda in the world. This is game over people. If you insist on continuing this fight, you do it alone and you will dwindle to insignificance. Even the Pope is on our side.
Signed, Pro-Choice women everywhere = Please try to forget that there are pro-choice men and pro-life women. Otherwise you will see right through the phony pretense that abortion is a male vs. female question with men as oppressors and women as victims. To oppose abortion is to use and victimize women and has nothing whatsoever to do with the taking of an innocent human life. Anyone who suggests as much is merely a misogynist trying to cover his misogyny. And it gets awkward if we acknowledge that a very significant number of such mysogynists are women.
NARAL may just be bad at reading. But I doubt it (while agreeing with the Bad Catholic’s more basic point). They know exactly what they’re doing here. This is a divide and conquer move. Pro-life Catholics, I beg you: don’t take the bait!
Brett Salkeld is Archdiocesan Theologian for the Catholic Archdiocese of Regina, Saskatchewan. He is a father of four (so far) and husband of one.