Dear Mr Bergoglio,
I see you are warming up to the job and tackling 2 of your thorniest issues in one week, namely abortion and paedophile priests.
It can’t be easy working amidst a whirlwind of controversies, but that’s what you’re paid for!
My view of abortion is that – in the words of the feminist slogan – the church should “Keep its rosaries off our ovaries.” Or, as they said to your predecessor “Keep your hands off our eggs, Benedict”. Though that was in reference to other attempted Catholic interferences in reproductive technology.
I first debated abortion in 1965 as a postgraduate student, when I spoke to a packed hall at the Student Union. I had never addressed so many people before and I was very nervous. It didn’t help that I started with the words “I have come here tonight to clear up some misconceptions…” The rest of the sentence was drowned in ribald laughter! The worst part was I didn’t realise for a few seconds what they were laughing at!
In the UK at that time abortion was generally illegal, so tens of thousands of women were forced to go for illegal and very risky ‘back-street’ abortions. Several women I knew had been down this road. There was great stigma at that time to giving birth to an illegitimate child and becoming a single mum. How quickly things have changed!
Some of the arguments used by campaigners for a change in British law at that time still stand.
- ‘A woman’s right to choose’; means that ultimately it’s the person carrying the foetus who should make the decision for or against a termination, not old males in the judiciary, parliament or the church. Nor, come to that, the father either.
- Every child should be a wanted child. Every child should be able to grow up in a loving household. If the mother’s circumstances are such that such an environment cannot be provided then that should be acknowledged.
- By accepting the Catholic line that life begins at conception (rather than at birth) even the Morning After Pill was not allowed. This had to be changed.
- Pregnancy was not, as some maintained, a kind of divinely ordained punishment for promiscuous misbehaviour, along with STD’s and a reputation for being a slut. There was no 100% safe form of contraception in 1965, and accidents did happen. It was a risk that sexually active people took; at that time intercourse was more a form of recreation than procreation; and missing a period was a girl’s worst nightmare. It could certainly nip a promising career in the bud, not to mention having your parents cutting you off as a disgrace to the family.
In the Global South a mother who has several children whom she can hardly afford to feed and clothe, may prefer a termination to adding to their number. It should be her guaranteed right. Of course it would be better if the family’s income was increased so a decision could be reached on grounds other than economic ones.
Demonstrators outside UK abortion clinics harass the sometimes distraught and desperate patients they see going in and give them leaflets illustrated with misleading ugly photos. Having an abortion is a difficult decision for any woman to make and often it’s an action of last resort. They don’t need partisan propaganda (which the Pope is encouraging) but tea and sympathy.
Mr Bergoglio, if you hadn’t banned contraception for your billions of followers this issue of abortion would not arise so often. As by definition none of your priests or nuns can be parents – you are the last people on earth who should be giving orders to those who take on family responsibilities: that one area of life in which none of you can have first hand experience at all!
The thought haunts many of us that your hostility to abortion and contraception is all a cynical ploy by the Church. It’s nothing to do with morality – you simply want to boost the numbers of Catholics in the world and will go to any lengths to ensure you win the numbers game.
My next letter to you will be about your paedo’s. Defrocking 400 just isn’t good enough!