Thoughts of a Catholic convert

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Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Links, and Pope forgives abortion

- Reading about the Magritte Museum in Belgium :)

- What does Paul mean by 'wives, submit to your husbands'? by Nicholas King SJ

- Who Won Science Fiction’s Hugo Awards, and Why It Matters

- Vatican’s No. 1 Pervert Priest Dies Suddenly in Vatican City

- Catholic writer Kaya Oakes has some thoughts on the news that the Pope has decided to allow for one year priests (instead of only bishops) to forgive a woman's abortion (deactivating the abortion auto-destruct system) ...

It's barely 7AM in California (this is why East Coast religion writers have the edge) and already a few people have asked me what this story means. Still working on drinking my coffee but a few thoughts.

One, a lot of priests were already in the business of forgiving women who confessed to having had abortions. This is just a fact. They understand that mercy is not about shuffling someone off to a bishop. Two, in his most recent book, Garry Wills talks about how the sacrament of confession changed after Vatican II. Many people came to understand that forgiveness is both internal (the individual forgives themselves for what they perceive to be sinful... and not every Catholic sees abortion as a sin). They also came to see reconciliation as a communal experience: the body of the Church forgives one another during the Mass ("I confess to Almighty God, and to you, my brothers and sisters"), not an individual priest. This is one reason why fewer and fewer Catholics go to confession. And the majority of women who've had abortions and are still alive did so after Roe, which means those women are post Vatican II Catholics with a different understanding of confession and reconciliation.

Finally, and this is important: already there is talk that this will bring women back to the church. I highly doubt that. A one-year period of mercy for women who go through a difficult and incredibly personal decision that they have likely considered in their own consciences at great length are not going to come running back to confession en masse. That's not how these things work. Note that the pope also reached out to ultra-conservative schismatic members of the SSPX at the same time, a group that has little to no overlap with most Catholic women.

Nonetheless, I welcome the change in tone and the idea of mercy is always a good one.

Let me add as a postscript: this is not a diss of people who go to confession or people who perform the sacrament. I've had some truly great experiences of confession (thank you, Jesuits and Paulist Fathers) and some truly rotten ones (no comment on who this was). For a lot of people confession is an important part of their faith life and total respect to that. I bet the Pope is awesome at taking confessions. But a lot of people prefer to grapple with sin and forgiveness on their own or in their chosen communities. So to each their own.


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