The Soapbox: Thanks For The Slut-Shaming, Francis!

GOOD NEWS, LADIES! If you’re Catholic and have the stain of abortion on your medical history, Pope Francis is giving you 355 WHOLE DAYS (Dec. 8 to Nov. 26) to confess without being banished from your faith community!

Probably, anyway. Though, it may be a one time offer and it may or may not take excommunication off the table; we’re waiting for the fine print to be issued and analyzed. Francis did, however, pick a Leap Year to give us an extra day in case the line is long — which is super considerate. He totes knows how our designed-for-submission brains can get overwhelmed keeping track of housework and the timer on the stove.

WOW! The good news never ends!

Either way — banished or unbanished, you can definitely now ask forgiveness from anyordained man with the proper headwear for a sin previously deemed so egregious that only designated higher ups in The Church could wash you clean. Despite “blasphemy against the Holy Spirit” — essentially refusing to accept forgiveness from God — being the only unforgivable sin mentioned in the Gospels, abortion had been assigned its own subcategory of pseudo-forgiveness before now. Because women, obvi.

Catholic women, who, by a massive margin of 72 percent to 28 percent, don’t prioritize abortion as a public policy issue, may have been momentarily excited — who wouldn’t be? Unfortunately, before they could visualize the Progressive Pope handing over the keys to their chastity belts and begin to entertain any sexytime ideas, the Vatican issued clarification on just how much grace the now empowered lowered clergy are allowed to bestow.

“This is by no means an attempt to minimize the gravity of this sin, but to widen the possibility of showing mercy,” Vatican chief spokesman Father Federico Lombardi told reporters.

Oh. So, we’re still slutty and irresponsible and/or shunning our broodmare duties if we terminate a pregnancy we didn’t want, can’t carry to term, prioritize the care of our already born children, or any of the myriad of reasons individuals choose abortion. Got it. We can have some compassion, but not too much, lest we get any ideas about asserting other rights or demanding full participation in our own lives.

You’re forgiven (by me, anyway) if this mixed message crap has left you as unsure about what might be motivating Francis as you are about whether you’ll be tossed out on your ass if you step up to the confession closet this fall. His Holiness has definitely declared a theme of “mercy” for the upcoming “Jubilee” — aka the “Holy Year” — which includes a number of issues. That inner liberal everyone gets all weak in the knees over is decidedly absent when it comes to any bedroom type behavior, though. I’ll believe the Pope is a closet full-on liberal when he walks out on that balcony and screams: “I can’t take it anymore! I’m right about compassion and science and I’m THE POPE, so deal with it because THIS IS HAPPENING!”

The reason any of this matters, of course, is that Congress is 30 percent Catholic. Of course I care about my irritated beyond belief Catholic friends, but there are only a handful of them and there are 319 million or so total human beings living in this country whose rights are legislated by the bros running the House and Senate. They’re poised to shut down the government AGAIN to strip Planned Parenthood of any federal funding because phantom federal money for abortion and they’re motivated by Rick Santorum-quality logic. (Fun Fact: shutting down the government wouldn’t even stop Planned Parenthood from getting their funding for preventative care because that’s not how the federal budget or programs like Title X work.)

It’s practically a guarantee that the conservative contingent in Congress caught their own case of the vapors reading words that could encourage clergy to see female parishioners as nearly human. Francis offered a scrap of compassion describing the decision to terminate a pregnancy as an “existential and moral ordeal.” He offered that he has “met so many women who bear in their heart the scar of this agonizing and painful decision.”

I’m going to concede his personal experience because likely anyone interested in talking to The Pope about their abortion is in the 5 prcent of women who regret their decision. I’ll even concede that there are those of us in the 95 percent “definitely did the right thing” column who would take the opportunity to advise our pre-unintended pregnancy selves to do something differently. Accessing abortion in this country is a nightmare and being pregnant when you don’t want to be is all kinds of awful — trust me. No one would go through that on purpose. That doesn’t change that the majority of people who choose abortion are regret-free about their decision.

And, frankly, we resent the hell out of being painted as troubled, pained, haunted, or any other such stigmatizing word for requesting a safe, legal medical procedure that has been a basic part of health care since the dawn of time. There’s even abortion in the Bible. Like right near the front in the fourth book: Numbers 5:12-31.

Only one thing is more harmful than the Pope’s thinly veiled slut-shaming: praising him for it. Your legislators listen to that guy; what comes out of his mouth affects you, so no partial credit just for being slightly less awful than his predecessor. #HeyPopeFrancis: I’ll be ready to listen when you proclaim me to be fully human with rights and needs and inherent value all the way down to the contents of my uterus.