Three cheers for Pope Francis

Dove peace
Dove peace (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Pope with the good name is all over the news these days with his remarks about the church being too obsessed with social issues, notably including abortion and birth control. And I say hooray for Pope Francis.

Not because I have any insight into his intentions, or any links with Catholicism beyond a bunch of good friends and an MFA from that fine Jesuit institution, the University of San Francisco. But because the Pope seems to be espousing peace and justice and inclusiveness, even going so far as to put them above dogma.

In case you missed it, Pope Francis told a fellow Jesuit interviewer, “It is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time. The dogmatic and moral teachings of the church are not all equivalent. The church’s pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently. We have to find a new balance.”

Subsequent reports and commentaries and punditries have hastened to clarify that nothing has changed. Contraception is still forbidden, abortion is still a sin, and the remarkable folks of Catholics for Choice are presumably still in limbo. But compared to his predecessors, Benedict XVI and John Paul II, who were never noted for liberalism, this pope has a real heart.  His tone throughout the interview is conciliatory, and the message is all about mercy and compassion, love over dogma.

Dogma hasn’t been working very well. It’s an invitation to I’m-right-and-you’re-wrong conversations that end as fast as they begin: My Church Knows Best. My Religion Is The Only Religion. I’m Right And You’re Wrong. Let The Government Default.

If there are answers to the challenging issues of today, they are not being found in these sorts of exchanges. But if we were to start substituting kindness for meanness, conciliation for rigidity, collaboration for obstinacy, imagine what might happen. World peace.

You go, Pope Francis. Even if you spell it with a different vowel, I’m proud to share your good name.

Polish anti-abortionists invoke Hitler

It gets worse. After yesterday’s post, in which the linking of abortion to “Black Genocide” by Georgia Right to Life was reported with sadness and a little rage, I received a link to a story in the European edition of Telegraph U.K. It concerns a newly launched campaign to link abortion in Poland with Hitler’s extermination of Polish Jews. It reaches a brand new low.

Accompanying the article is a large, color photo of the poster which is at the centerpiece of this campaign. A leering Hitler, two horrific pictures. You may or may not want to read the Telegraph story or view the nightmare-producing poster. You are probably not old enough to remember Adolph Hitler, but I am. His images were all over the newsreels of my childhood. My father woke my sister and me in the middle of the night one night to hear his voice over the short wave radio so we would know the voice of a madman. Some of my most cherished and admired friends are Holocaust survivors or children of Holocaust survivors. Now, because I believe in a woman’s right to control her own body, to be equated with Hitler is a little much.

The provocative images, which appeared in the western city of Poznan as a part of a promised nationwide campaign, also carry the slogan “Abortion for Poles: introduced by Hitler, March 9, 1943.”

Fundacja Pro, the organisation behind the billboard, said that it wanted to remind Poles that abortion was first introduced to Poland during the Second World War by the country’s Nazi occupiers as a means of limiting the population of a people they deemed inferior.

One of Europe’s most devoutly Catholic countries, Poland now has some of the strictest abortion laws in the EU, and any attempt to have them liberalised arouses furious and passionate debate.

“It was Hitler who first introduced abortion to Poland, and in several days it will be the anniversary of that event.

“In this context it is worth recalling the words of Pope John Paul II: ‘History teaches us that democracy without values easily turns into open or thinly disguised totalitarianism’,” Fundacja Pro said in a statement.

Values? Whose values? Does the value of a woman count? Does a woman still have a right, any right, to determine what happens to her own body? Or are only a few pontificating men allowed to decide what our ‘values’ should be?

(T)he use of Hitler, along with the torn foetus pictures, has already incurred the wrath of critics. Nazi Germany inflicted horrific levels of death and destruction on Poland, so any perceived attempt to hijack that suffering for the sake of a political or ethical agenda can be viewed with distaste.

“I understand that this campaign is designed to shock but there are limits to the use of shock,” said Elzbieta Streker-Dembinska, an MP and member of the Polish parliament’s health committee. A foetus and Adolf Hitler is unjustified comparison. The design of the billboard is unacceptable and crosses the boundaries of decency.”

Well, yes. One wonders if decency is a word the creators of this campaign can even begin to comprehend.

March 8 is International Women’s Day.

Hitler abortion poster sparks anger in Poland – Telegraph.