Pope Francis has received much attention with his Evangelii Gaudium. For those who are concerned with Francis’ devotion to the Church’s pro-life position, he has made his stance abundantly clear. The Holy Father stated that, “[t]his is not something subject to alleged reforms or ‘modernizations'”. This has been a position which has always been, and will always be.
As Francis informed us when warning against “adolescent progressivsm,” which I have already commented on in a recent post, the Church cannot negotiate her strongly held teachings in order to be right with the world. And, as Francis himself states, “[i]t is not ‘progressive’ to try to resolve problems by eliminating a human life.”
The Holy Father does have a point about progressives. Yet there are those who clearly misunderstand the infallible pro-life teachings of the Church when they suggest that female inclusion must involve abortion.
Eric W. Dolan in writing for The Raw Story titled his piece “Pope Francis calls for female inclusion but rejects ‘progressive’ reforms to abortion doctrine.” Just as it is more backwards to advocate for abortion, so would it be to suggest the pro-abortion viewpoint could actually be regarded as a “reform,” or that it would ever be one the Church would consider adopting.
Now, Pope Francis is not just congratulating conservatives or pro-lifers. He does challenge us, and rightly so, to do more for women who face unplanned, crisis pregnancies. And he says that “…attempts are made to present her position as ideological, obscurantist and conservative[,]” when it comes to defending the pro-life position. A lesson is to be learned from the Holy Father’s guiding words. Defending life need not be “ideological” or “conservative.” It should be done because it is what is right by God and right for the world.
In referencing Francis’ pro-life statements, many will mention these sections of the Evangelii Gaudium:
213. Among the vulnerable for whom the Church wishes to care with particular love and concern are unborn children, the most defenceless and innocent among us. Nowadays efforts are made to deny them their human dignity and to do with them whatever one pleases, taking their lives and passing laws preventing anyone from standing in the way of this. Frequently, as a way of ridiculing the Church’s effort to defend their lives, attempts are made to present her position as ideological, obscurantist and conservative. Yet this defence of unborn life is closely linked to the defence of each and every other human right. It involves the conviction that a human being is always sacred and inviolable, in any situation and at every stage of development. Human beings are ends in themselves and never a means of resolving other problems. Once this conviction disappears, so do solid and lasting foundations for the defence of human rights, which would always be subject to the passing whims of the powers that be. Reason alone is sufficient to recognize the inviolable value of each single human life, but if we also look at the issue from the standpoint of faith, “every violation of the personal dignity of the human being cries out in vengeance to God and is an offence against the creator of the individual”.
214. Precisely because this involves the internal consistency of our message about the value of the human person, the Church cannot be expected to change her position on this question. I want to be completely honest in this regard. This is not something subject to alleged reforms or “modernizations”. It is not “progressive” to try to resolve problems by eliminating a human life. On the other hand, it is also true that we have done little to adequately accompany women in very difficult situations, where abortion appears as a quick solution to their profound anguish, especially when the life developing within them is the result of rape or a situation of extreme poverty. Who can remain unmoved before such painful situations?
Despite the above excerpts of the text, the Christian Left doesn’t seem to have gotten the memo. They are a group which claims to be dedicated to the teachings of Jesus and say this: “Do you know why we can say what we say every day with undaunted confidence? Because it’s based on the words and actions of Jesus…”
The group has an active Facebook page. And there is a post which suggests that because Jesus didn’t talk about abortion, he must have advocated for it. This so-called Christian group is not only pro-choice, but they make it a point, almost their focus, to be staunchly anti-Republican, anti-Religious Right and anti-pro-life.
The other aspect of Francis’ Evangelii Gaudium which has received considerable attention, is his statements on economics. If you were to ask the Christian Left, they would tell you that this was all you needed to take from what the Holy Father said. In a Facebook post from November 27, the group said:
Progressives across the U.S. applauded Pope Francis’ first major written statement of his papacy, Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel), for denouncing trickle-down economics, runaway inequality, and the idolatry of money while devoting comparatively little space to the Church’s retrograde attitudes on women and staunch opposition to abortion.
Well, progressives may have “applauded” Francis. But, by doing so, they must not have noticed that he used their own term against them. And Pope Francis may “…want to be completely honest in this regard,” when speaking bluntly on abortion, but sadly there are still those who are going to completely miss the mark, all while claiming it is their opposition which doing so. Yes, conservatives do have much to learn and think about from what Francis says. Considering that one can be a truly faithful Catholic and disagree about economic policy, but not abortion, it seems that leftist individuals and groups like the Christian Left may have more to reflect on, however.
The group referenced Francis in a few more instances, including with regards to conservatives, and even with “stopping the election of conservatives[,]” as they mention with the caption of a Timeline photo.
And again the Christian Left references conservatives, taking joy in dismissing their opponents:
Conservatives are freaking out about this Pope. We find it rather amusing. Conservatives have been using the Lord’s name in vain for decades. Now comes a Pope who tells them they’re pretty much wrong about everything. Gotta love it.
It as if the Pope never spoke out against abortion at all. But, E.J. Dionne so tellingly titles his piece for The Anchorage Daily News, “Pope challenges left and right – but he’s a tougher case for conservatives.” And, Peter Weber says, for The Week, “Pope Francis hates trickle-down economics, but he isn’t a liberal.” Such aptly titled articles recognize that both liberals and conservatives may take issue with what Francis is calling us to do. He is indeed challenging us to be better Christians though. The Christian Left does not seem to have understood that we may all have room for improvement. For they take pleasure in agreeing with the Holy Father in one regard and completely ignore the other.
Ross Douthat, in his Op-Ed piece simply titled “The Pope and the Right,” perhaps presents the best case and the most readable argument:
But the church’s social teaching is no less an official teaching for allowing room for disagreement on its policy implications. And for Catholics who pride themselves on fidelity to Rome, the burden is on them — on us — to explain why a worldview that inspires left-leaning papal rhetoric also allows for right-of-center conclusions.
Douthat then outlines his three ideas:
That explanation rests, I think, on three ideas. First, that when it comes to lifting the poor out of poverty, global capitalism, faults and all, has a better track record by far than any other system or approach.
Second, that Catholic social teaching, properly understood, emphasizes both solidarity and subsidiarity — that is, a small-c conservative preference for local efforts over national ones, voluntarism over bureaucracy.
Third, that on recent evidence, the most expansive welfare states can crowd out what Christianity considers the most basic human goods — by lowering birthrates, discouraging private charity and restricting the church’s freedom to minister in subtle but increasingly consequential ways.
This Catholic case for limited government, however, is not a case for the Ayn Randian temptation inherent to a capitalism-friendly politics. There is no Catholic warrant for valorizing entrepreneurs at the expense of ordinary workers, or for dismissing all regulation as unnecessary and all redistribution as immoral.
Ross also so eloquently gets Roman Catholic conservatives who usually elect Republicans to office to think and to question as well. And to think, he is able to successfully do so without offending them:
And this is where Francis’s vision should matter to American Catholics who usually cast ballots for Republican politicians. The pope’s words shouldn’t inspire them to convert en masse to liberalism, or to worry that the throne of Peter has been seized by a Marxist anti-pope. But they should encourage a much greater integration of Catholic and conservative ideas than we’ve seen since “compassionate conservatism” collapsed, and inspire Catholics to ask more — often much more — of the Republican Party, on a range of policy issues.
The Christian Left and others should not celebrate the perceived defeat of their opposition so gleefully. It is likely that Francis would perhaps ask them, “[w]hy do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?” (Matt. 7:3)