Thursday, September 10, 2015

Deciding Who Is Deserving Of Mercy

Regular Crooks And Liars contributor LeftOfCenter uses the occasion of an interview by Alan B. Colmes of the Catholic League's Bill Donohue to criticize Donohue, which always is a good thing. He observes

In summary, the Church is really no more accepting of the reality of being homosexual, but the judgement seems less harsh, and the faith is not overtly condemning them to eternal damnation, anymore. The current Pope is slowly changing hearts and minds with slightly less harsh proclamations, but when it comes down to brass tacks, the Catholic Church really hasn't changed all that much. But a more liberal leader of the church can make the faith seem far more welcoming and tolerant than it appeared, under Pope Benedict.

Fair enough. But LOC asserts also "The Pope doesn't believe man is fit to judge other men, especially since Jesus did specify in the Bible that there are men who are born eunuchs, inferring homosexuality, and was tolerant of these children of God."

I don't know much about eunuchs but I do know this: the Pope (with Raul Castro, below) does believe man is fit to judge other men, a position contrary (ironically) to both women's rights and biblical Christianity.  No theology lesson here, so leave aside that inconvenient notion of Jesus Christ being the propitiation for sins. His Holiness believes a mortal man, a priest, may forgive sins, reflected even in the positive step he took earlier this month

by announcing that priests around the world will be authorized to forgive the "sin of abortion" when the church begins a "Year of Mercy" this December.

"The forgiveness of God cannot be denied to one who has repented," the Pope said, adding that he has met "many women" scarred by the "agonizing and painful" decision to have an abortion.

Francis' announcement will give all priests full authority to absolve Catholics contrite about their role in a procedure that the church considers a grave "moral evil." In the United States, many priests already have that power, but Vatican officials portrayed Tuesday's announcement as "a widening of the church's mercy."

Forget that crazy idea about God alone granting mercy.  Rather, as The New York Times' Jill Filipovic argues,

Instead of treating women as adults who make their own decisions, the pope condescends to “all the women who have resorted to abortion,” saying he is “well aware of the pressure that has led them to this decision.” The threat of excommunication, at the very least, makes the church’s views on women’s rights clear. Offering forgiveness is a softer version of the same judgment: that the millions of women around the world who have abortions every year are sinners. Inviting women to feel shame and guilt for their abortions isn’t a mercy; it’s cruelty.

Though noting "the idea that a woman who chooses to have an abortion needs absolution in the first place" is "pretty damned patronizing and paternalistic all on its own," Charlie Pierce commends the Pope for having

taken this decision away from the bishops- including those American wingnuts who want politicians who support a woman's right to choose refused communion and/or excommunicated- and placed  it in the privacy of the confessional, where it is between a woman and her parish priest.

Pierce writes from the branch of Christianity in which replacing the bishops with the parish priest, offering the woman the opportunity to confess and thereby receive mercy, is a big deal.. It is, if it proves to be a slippery slope to allowing the woman, any woman (or man), to approach God directly. That might include abortion, for which I believe an apology rarely is necessary, or for anything else. Otherwise, as Digby notes,

now local priests can forgive the dizzy broads who made this horrible error without really knowing any better without be designated by a bishop to have the power to do it. That's literally the only thing that has changed. Women who make the evil choice to have an abortion need to prove to a celibate male priest that she didn't know what she was doing and then perhaps she won't be excommunicated. So that's nice. 

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