Abortion is the death penalty for the unborn. – Pope Francis
Like most of the world, I don’t know that much about Pope Francis, the Holy Father formerly known as Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio of Argentina.
I know he is one of five children born to an Italian immigrant railway worker. I know he is a Jesuit. I know he is the first pope born outside Europe since, like, a really long time ago. I know he is the first pope from the Americas. I know he speaks Italian really well.
I know he bowed his head for the prayers of those gathered to see him in Rome, and it made me cry.
I know he is staunchly pro-life and has urged Catholics to oppose abortion and euthanasia.
I know he said this:
In our ecclesiastical region there are priests who don’t baptize the children of single mothers because they weren’t conceived in the sanctity of marriage. These are today’s hypocrites. Those who clericalize the Church. Those who separate the people of God from salvation. And this poor girl who, rather than returning the child to sender, had the courage to carry it into the world, must wander from parish to parish so that it’s baptized!
I know I could never have said it better.
I know he is orthodox on social issues and opposes same-sex marriage. I know he said allowing same-gender couples to adopt is unfair to children. I also know he washed the feet of twelve people who were dying of AIDS in a hospice.
I know that this simple act says more about the difference between leniency and mercy than I could say in a thousand blog posts.
I know that reading about that simple act made me cry some more – I cried a lot today – because it made me think of what I’ve seen on Facebook recently: a lot of supposedly pro-life people calling people like Jennifer Morbelli murderers who deserve to burn in Hell. Jennifer Morbelli is the woman who died, along with her 33-week daughter Madison, as a result of a disastrous abortion attempt.
I know that as a Christian, it is imperative that I not rejoice at the idea of Jennifer Morbelli burning in Hell. After talking to hundreds of people and reading thousands of accounts, the picture that has emerged – for me – of the average abortion patient is a scared, ill-informed young woman. Are there those who know full well what they are going to have done to their children? Probably, but I’d argue they are extremely rare. Was Jennifer Morbelli misguided and wrong? Yes. Does she “deserve” to burn in Hell for all eternity? Well, do I? Do you? Does anyone? Is it up to us to decide? It’s not.
I know it’s not.
I know it doesn’t matter how Jennifer Morbelli sinned, or how those twelve people in the hospice got AIDS. I know only that they are human beings, and as a Christian, I firmly believe that Christ died for them, as surely as He did for me. Who am I to deny them love?
I know I got a lot of e-mails when I published my open letter to post-abortive women. Some were from women seeking healing. Some were from pro-lifers happy to see a message of love, since lately there has been a lot of hatred bandied about. I have seen it. It upsets me.
I know that if I were going into an abortion clinic, scared and confused and desperate, I would not run for help to anyone who was yelling at me about Hell and calling me a whore of Babylon. So why do it on Facebook?
I know that as a Catholic, I look to the Holy Father as an example. Pope Francis gave up his limousine to ride the bus. He chose to live in a small apartment instead of the luxurious accommodations to which he was entitled. From the balcony at the Sistine Chapel, having just been announced the new Pope, he bowed his head for our prayers. He knelt to wash the feet of the dying and outcast. “Go out,” he told Argentine priests last year. “Go out and share your testimony, go out and interact with your brothers, go out and share, go out and ask. Become the Word in body as well as spirit.”
I don’t know a whole lot yet about Pope Francis. Like the rest of the world, I’ll have to learn, and wait, and watch as he embarks on his pontificate. But meanwhile, I know that his message of humility, love, and the dignity of the human person strengthens my resolve to be a pro-life Catholic committed to help, to understand, and not to condemn.