I’m a big fan of Pope Francis, particularly because he seems like a good man. No offense to his predecessor Pope Benedict XVI but Francis is almost always smiling, at least in official photos and interviews, something that makes him seem more personable.
The other reason I like him is that in his short tenure, he has attempted to reform the Catholic Church, his latest effort being the proposed pardoning of Catholic women who have had abortions. For the next 12 months, the “culprits” will have a chance to come clean to priests and possibly be absolved.
Reports of this proposal irked the feminist in me. Abortion is terrible and I would never advise anyone to do it. But for anyone to ask women to confess and ask for forgiveness from other mortals is a bit condescending and overreaching. Don’t get me wrong. I know and respect the practice of having regular confessions as many Catholics do and I in fact think it’s a good idea to encourage people to be accountable.
Many faiths encourage that and ultimately, people think twice before doing certain things because they know that down the road, they will have to talk to someone about their actions.
But to tell women that they should walk up to a confession box and spill the dark details of an abortion or abortions they had to a male priest is not only unrealistic but unnecessary.
The Pope probably doesn’t know how difficult it is for women to talk about these very personal things. Many women feel uncomfortable just talking about their periods. How do you expect them to open up about an abortion, especially to a man?
There’s also the aspect of the circumstances that led to the abortion. Some girls and women may have been taken advantage of or raped, or simply didn’t know better only to end up pregnant. As appalling as an abortion is, since it is basically destroying life, it may have been the only choice for the victims. Asking them to confess and ask for forgiveness is like asking them to relive the painful experience.
From what I’ve read, the abortion itself is excruciating and not something many women just wake up and do.
There are usually reasons and heartbreaking decisions to make. In all this, the partners in crime get the easy way out. When a girl gets pregnant, she will mostly likely drop out of school while life more or less goes on for the boy or man who impregnated her. Even for women well into their twenties or thirties, your career takes a hit when you’re expecting. Some women have high-risk pregnancies and may need bed rest and not many employers are going to grant you sick leave and keep your position till you recover.
Even after you have the baby, your life changes forever. You are the one who has to dash out of meetings to attend to a sick child or be penalized for showing up late for work nearly all the time because of never ending emergencies with your children. Men’s lives are not disrupted at the same level.
Pope Francis’ proposal would have sounded a lot better if he encouraged women to attend confession along with their partners so that the “blame” is shared. Also, women should have an option to confess before nuns. It would be less intimidating in my opinion. Ultimately though, confessions should be before God, not humans.