In numerous posts I have slammed Pope Francis for his anti-gay batshitery while praising his pronouncements on wealth disparity and climate change. The man, in short, confounds me, and it seems many others. A piece in Religion Dispatches voices the same frustrations that I have and continue to experience. Here are highlights:
Pope Francis confounds me. How can a man who is so eloquent and obviously heartfelt when he talks about global poverty and injustice and income inequality start spouting such a collection of reheated papal clichés and utter nonsense when he starts talking about women and sex?
His just-concluded trip to the Philippines was a virtual festival of such comments, some planned and some obviously off-the-cuff–and some even directly contradictory–but most just downright confounding.
In one of the impromptu inflight press conferences for which he has become famous, Francis told reporters in one breath that “[s]ome think that … in order to be good Catholics we have to be like rabbits” but that Catholics should practice “responsible parenthood.”
Some saw this as a breath of fresh air or a major breakthrough for the Vatican. But who in the twenty-first century thinks Catholics “breed like rabbits”? That’s an offensive stereotype of Catholics that went out of date in the 1950s, when most Catholic women got on board with contraception—which the Catholic Church bans.
And he made his comments after saying Catholics shouldn’t use birth control and while criticizing a woman who was pregnant for the eighth time and facing a cesarean section: “Does she want to leave the seven orphans?,” he said, adding, “That is an irresponsibility."
So she’s irresponsible for getting pregnant eight times because she not using the contraception that you say she can’t use? . . . . Francis doesn’t seem to have the foggiest notion that the reason most people don’t use natural family planning is that it’s not reliable. It’s how you end up pregnant eight times.
In case this sounds familiar, it was a favorite theme of Pope John Paul II, who blasted efforts to expand access to family planning for women in the developing world as “contraceptive imperialism.” During the run-up to the historic 1994 Cairo Conference on Population and Development, which John Paul bitterly objected to for its emphasis on reproductive health care, all the Catholic cardinals met at the Vatican to denounce the conference as “cultural imperialism.”
The irony here is that the Philippines recently liberalized access to contraception that had been blocked by the Catholic bishops of the country in concert with the Aquino administration for more than a decade. The Reproductive Health law that restored government-financed family planning services was popularly supported by Filipinos but stymied for years by the politically powerful Catholic bishops. Who exactly was doing the colonizing here?
Women do have a lot of things to say in today’s society–like they want to use birth control to plan their families responsibly. To bad Pope Francis can’t hear them.