The Pope announced that the Catholic Church will 'forgive' those women who have had abortions - a grave sin in Catholic dogma - if they show themselves truly 'wholeheartedly repentant'. The news has made world headlines but does little to alter the fundamentally reactionary and mysoginist stance of the Church.
September 16, 2015
This article is an adaptation from an article published on September 2nd in La Izquierda Diario
As we mentioned before in La Izquierda Diario, the Vatican’s order to priests around the world to pardon “grave sins” has been met with mixed reactions. The debate is between conservative groups alarmed by Bergoglio’s demagogic decisions, such as the Tea Party in the U.S. who view him as a “Marxist,” and those who claim the millenary ecclesiastical institution is undergoing positive radical changes.
Are we actually witnessing a change in how the Church addresses the “unforgivable sin of abortion”? Not really. According to the current Code of Canon Law that was implemented in 1983, the penalty for abortion is excommunication — the Church does not take this issue lightly.
Bergoglio’s document states that priests must “prepare themselves to welcome those who have sinned and guide them towards conversion.” He also mentioned that repentant women will have to embark on a pilgrimage to the Holy Door, which is open in every cathedral or in churches established by the diocesan bishop and in the four papal Basilicas in Rome, in order to achieve an “authentic conversion.”
Is this new?
The ability for priests to pardon women who aborted required the consent of their diocese’ bishop, but already existed within ecclesiastical doctrine. In some countries like Argentina, some priests are even exempt from consulting higher church authorities thanks to former Archbishop of Buenos Aires Antonio Quarracino.
What is new is that priests around the world will be able to pardon abortions without having to seek permission from bishops. As part of the “Year of Mercy,” the Church is planning to issue pardons from December 8, 2015 to November 20, 2016.
However, these actions do not represent a real change in church policy. The catholic church’s visceral opposition to abortion is maintained and the Pope has been consistent in his uncompromising opposition to a woman’s right to choose. It was not too long ago in 2012 when as Archbishop of Buenos Aires he strongly opposed a Supreme Court case that was discussing the possibility of abortion for a 15-year-old girl that had been raped. Bergoglio declared that rape cases do not justify abortion and since “laws shape culture, legislation seeking to legitimize abortion does not protect life and encourages a culture of death.”
The Costs of Secrecy
Throughout the duration of “Year of Mercy,” 42 million abortions will take place according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Half of them will be clandestine and unsafe, causing 70 thousand women to die from infections, injuries, internal bleeding, and cervical and vaginal tears.
The Church will not get to “pardon” those 70 thousand women on time because they will die and have no chance to ’’express genuine repentance’’ on time.
The Church, which is closely allied with state governments that are against legalizing abortion — as is the case with Argentina — is not at all concerned with the widespread discrimination clandestine abortions bring since those who die are the ones that cannot pay to go to an elite private doctor’s office where safety standards are guaranteed. It is working class women who die because of infections, internal bleeding, and cervical and vaginal tears.
The separation of church and state does not only arise from a basic democratic demand, but it also comes from a need to prevent religious dogma from ruling our lives and sending thousands of women around the world to unnecessary deaths.