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For a Limited Time Only

September 6, 2015

“And when you feel like this try to imagine
That we’re all like frail boats on the sea
Just scanning the night for that great guiding light
Announcing the jubilee”

– Mary Chapin Carpenter, from Jubilee

There is a great divide in our country. On just about everything, it seems. It starts in Washington and spreads across the country. Or is it the other way around? Either way, the cable news stations are right in the middle creating the messages and noise that will do nothing other than harden the impasse.

Take guns. After the murder of innocent people in the shopping malls, schools or even churches, people cry out for stronger gun controls and the NRA reaches into its $1.8 billion budget to firm up support for firearms. They spend a few bucks to prevent any substantive discussion. A few news cycles pass and the entire matter is set aside, long before the victims’ families grieving ends. The cable companies get back on the beat to create the next hit story and the politicians, with their public relations and media teams in gear, march along in tow.

National elections won’t do much to bring the country together, especially with the hate that many of the Republican presidential candidates spew to attract voters. I cannot imagine any circumstance in which Hillary Clinton or Jeb Bush could unite this country. Is this not a priori knowledge for anyone looking at this objectively based on the last twenty-five years in the nation’s capitol?

Any discussion about the climate and ideas about what’s behind it is a sure-fire way to stiffen American’s spines. I have a hunch that this issue will be with us for a long time. After all, we’re still quarreling about evolution.

We’re also still arguing about abortion. More than forty years ago, in Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court ruled that states could not restrict abortion to women carrying babies unable to live outside the womb. Many Americans have still not accepted this law and want it changed. Some, such as cable TV personality Mike Huckabee, would like to find a way to remove this authority from the legal system and back into the hands of his church. He’s been in the news lately weighing in on the heart-breaking story of a ten-year old child in South America who gave birth to a baby after she was sexually assault by her father. Huckabee’s familiar with the issue. When he was Governor of Arkansas, he denied $430 from the state’s Medicaid fund to pay for an abortion for a fifteen-year old girl, who had been raped by her step-father.

Huckabee’s not an outlier in his party’s group of presidential hopefuls. Some of his opponents also claim that the sanctity of life outweighs any concerns about a woman faced with the decision to carry or abort the fetus.

Hillary Clinton doesn’t want the government to decide if an abortion is right for a woman. However, the storyline this past week was more about her comparison of the Republicans who do want the government to be in charge of that decision to the Muslim religious fundamentalists who would also like to impose their ways on this and any number of other moral issues.

Polls that show that the Americans are evenly split over abortion generally ask about whether abortion should be legal. In a recent poll by PerryUndem Research, people were asked about how they identified themselves as to “pro-life” or “pro-choice.” Four in ten said either “both” or “neither.” “How could this be,” you might ask? This sounds like a problem with the poll. Just tighten up the questions and force these people to declare one way or the other. It’s black or white. Isn’t it?

vox poll

Graphic from an excellent article by Sarah Kliff:

Perhaps you are inclined to dismiss this as just another case of Americans’ general confusion or propensity towards moral relativism. I think the response simply cuts to the fundamental pain and difficulty inherent with abortion. Nobody, but a sociopath, could deny the distress and heartache that these women experience.

Chances are most of us are not that far removed from abortion. It’s more common than you might think. By age forty-five, nearly one-half of American women will have an uninteded pregnancy and a third of them will have an abortion. These women are from all socio-economic, race and education level groups.  Almost two-thirds of these women have a religious affiliation, mostly Protestant (37%) and Roman Catholic (28%).

The Roman Catholic church automatically excommunicates a woman from the church once she’s aborted the birth of her child. The only way back in is to repent with all the church’s applied formalities and restrictions in full force.

Earlier this year, Pope Francis announced the Jubilee of Mercy, scheduled to start December 8 and will run through November 20, 2016. The Pope’s emphasis is on mercy. Last week, he wrote that his church must extend a hand to parishioners who have had an abortion.

For a limited time only, he will streamline things for women who want forgiveness for an abortion by giving authority to parish priests to man the Sacrament of Confession. Sinners who want to be in good standing with the church will be able to confide to their local holy man without the normal additional involvement from bishops or others from upper management.

Many others, on the other hand, although experiencing this moment as a defeat, believe they they have no other option. I think in particular of all the women who have resorted to abortion. I am well aware of the pressure that has led them to this decision. I know that it is an existential and moral ordeal. I have met so many women who bear in their heart the scar of this agonizing and painful decision. What has happened is profoundly unjust; yet only understanding the truth of it can enable one not to lose hope. The forgiveness of God cannot be denied to one who has repented, especially when that person approaches the Sacrament of Confession with a sincere heart in order to obtain reconciliation with the Father. For this reason too, I have decided, notwithstanding anything to the contrary, to concede to all priests for the Jubilee Year the discretion to absolve of the sin of abortion those who have procured it and who, with contrite heart, seek forgiveness for it. May priests fulfil this great task by expressing words of genuine welcome combined with a reflection that explains the gravity of the sin committed, besides indicating a path of authentic conversion by which to obtain the true and generous forgiveness of the Father who renews all with his presence.

– Pope Francis

The whole issue is pretty grim. Full of sorrow, desolation and distress. If this jubilee brings any relief to any of the women who have been through this ordeal, let the Catholics open their holy door.

  1. Political unity across America? LOL … fat chance … well, only in terms of tragic events. 9-11 brought unity – at least until Washington decided to politicize national security. Interestingly, one could take this post, change the issue, and it still fits … that’s sad. In terms of abortion, I keep saying it’s a personal issue … and a moral one that the person has to decided … and no Congress can legislate true morality.


    • Some of them back there have a shifty point of view on liberty and big government. While there’s always been a division between the parties, it only seems to get worse. Expectations are very low.


      • Getting worse because the parties don’t overlap any more. (Conservative Democrats and Liberal Republicans are history) … and yes, the politicians do shift based on what is convenient to/for them.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Everyone run to your corners.


          • Oh yes … part of the reason is that the corners pull them to keep them in line. If one crosses the party too many times, the party rebels and candidate could easily be replaced.


            • They won’t make it out of the next primary if they vote their conscience. They’re under control. Just one more reason to change the district rules and get rid of gerrymandering.


            • There 2 problems in Washington …. Democrats and Republicans … all other stuff is minor.


  2. Bruce, you don’t post often, but when you do you carry a wallop!

    There are issues that I haven’t ever personally had to deal with, but that I think are vitally important. Abortion is one of them. I’ve known women who have had to make that “choice” — and it has never been an easy one. In fact, I was talking the other day with a woman who had to terminate a pregnancy she dearly wanted — because the fetus was not viable and would die in her womb. She, a non catholic, took great comfort from Pope Francis’s most recently action.


    • Of course, I can’t be in any position to truly know (or perhaps even imagine) the tribulation a woman goes through with this matter.

      It’s interesting how powerful this new pope has been on Catholics and others, as well. He’s saying things differently and saying different things altogether.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Yes. I love this pope. He is showing what I believe is the true face of Christianity.


  3. There was a time when the members of the political parties had their disagreements, but there seemed to be some core values that still kept the political class and the country moving somewhat in the same direction. I think the real divide began with Reagan, but that could be that his Presidency was when I became an adult. The divide deepened with the Clinton presidency — after 12 years in the White House, Republicans had come to believe it was their birth right to hold the office. The nature of the debate changed then. The attacks built frequently on lies, misrepresentations, and nothing more than the worst of rumors, and ultimately, the unfortunate truth of Clinton’s personal weaknesses, turned into a successful strategy for the Republicans. And it has only got worse since then as a result. There is an us and a them in this country and no longer a we. I have thought for years that to unite this country again, we need a national emergency. I thought 9/11 could have done that, but Bush showed us then that we could have a national emergency and nobody would have to suffer for it and that emergency could be used to push an agenda rather than to heal.

    The Obama Presidency — you know, the ultimate “other” as President — has only piled on and made it even worse. As you do, I don’t see anything in any of the candidates for 2016 that suggests the ability to heal and bring together. It’s a shame.


  4. Well said, my friend. This Pope continues to amaze in showing an openness to many “weaknesses” in his flock…and in the human condition in general from the Church’s *historical* perspective. Summed up perfectly in five words: “Who am I to judge.”

    I wish him a long and humble reign.


    • Described frequently as a “pastoral” approach. It seems he has high empathy and understanding. He knows how to start a discussion, that’s for sure. Now, if he would just leave science to the scientists. 🙂


  5. An excellent post, Bruce. Thanks.


  6. As always, when you write, I appreciate the work you do. This one hits home as I was raised Catholic – as you probably know – and one of my close female relatives had an unintended pregnancy and chose abortion. It was and is hard. Thanks so much for articulating an issue.


    • Thank you, Mat. I can only imagine the pain of your family’s predicament. I do not doubt that it was and is still, a difficult matter.


  7. I get depressed and angry and melancholic when I read the statistics – and when I think of how entrenched people are in their beliefs, without allowing others their beliefs. Bottom line is: if we put ourselves in the mind and souls of another, we’ll be more understanding and perhaps more compassionate and caring in our policies. Here’s a question – do we teach empathy and compassion in our classrooms? We all know the answer. So how can we expect any changes in our national occupation with OUR (own individual) way, and only ‘our’ own way?


    • Pamela – are those qualities part of the standardized tests – No Child Left Benind, Race to the Top and all that? If so, then they are part of the curriculum.


    • Yes, many of us do teach empathy and compassion in the classroom.


  8. What’s sad about the political situation is that sometimes the “liberals” are bigger fascists than any Republican candidate could ever think to be. Since I would consider myself “far left,” I find this too much too take at times and have since given up on the political process. Instead, I try too concentrate on making my own community a better place.


  9. Excellent article again, Bruce. All this spectacle is painful to watch, and the political divide is mirrored by the economical and social divide that is getting bigger by the day.


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