One of the most common complaints I read about Pope Francis is that he has somehow abandoned committed pro-life Catholics. If the word from the Chair of Peter is that a lack of hope among youth and the isolation of the elderly are somehow more important, that sure gets my notice.
I want to see hope among the students whom I serve. And they have good reason to hope. They are mostly all middle-class or higher. They attend a school that trains a lot of engineers and agricultural people. They are getting into a boatload of debt, but for most, the job prospects are decent. Especially if they are motivated and have distinguished themselves with high grades, internships, and other distinctive qualities.
For the twenty-somethings that live in Iowa trailer parks, shabby apartment buildings, and sometimes even on the street–perhaps hope is harder to come by than meth or crack.
The average church-going, Catechism-reading Catholic is more likely not to ever have an abortion decision confront them in the face. Something they don’t do: have multiple sexual partners or engage in risky behavior. While they might have problems, they generally don’t try to solve or medicate them in ways that promise they will slide deeper into the pits of despair.
My sense is that Pope Francis has some deeper discernment in mind.
A recent episode I encountered involved something as innocuous as putting some extra Girl Scout cookies on the students’ snack bar here. A few on Facebook protested, citing the boycott because of the supposed Planned Parenthood connection to the Girl Scouts. I suggested to someone that perhaps a consistent approach would involve boycotting Chinese imports, since that nation enforces a draconian child policy and forces citizens to have abortions. The protest came back that it’s almost impossible to boycott China. And besides, poor Chinese workers benefit from our consumer acquisitions.
But don’t the local girls selling cookies benefit, too?
My sense is that some aspects of the political pro-life movement have run off the rails. Supporting the scout down the street, at the church, or in the family is not the same as financing a PP abortion clinic. Or are boycotts like this a convenient gesture because China’s a whole lot more powerful than little girls in brown and green uniforms?
If Pope Francis is urging us to get beyond such silliness, then maybe having him as a problem is a good step.