Jon O’Brien, president of Catholics for Choice, released the following statement about Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium.
“Pope Francis reassured Catholics today that some groundbreaking reforms in the church are on the way. The reform of the curia, the emphasis on economic justice and moves toward improving interfaith relations will receive considerable support from the laity.
“When it comes to women, we certainly agree that ‘demands that the legitimate rights of women be respected, based on the firm conviction that men and women are equal in dignity, present the Church with profound and challenging questions which cannot be lightly evaded.’ But evasion is exactly what Pope Francis does when he asserts that abortion and women’s ordination can be isolated from the economic and social justice issues that he purports to champion.
“From this perspective, it is not a stretch to say that when it comes to women, this pope, like others before him, has a blind spot. He rules out any reform in the Vatican’s teachings on abortion and the role of women in the church. In this respect, Francis has shown himself to be like many other men from many different backgrounds. In liberal Catholic circles, for instance, there is an easy consensus over the importance of poverty, war and injustice. But there is little compassion for the unique problems faced by women, especially when it comes to accessing safe and affordable abortion services. And so it is with Francis.
“We know, for example, that Catholic women have abortions at rates similar to other women around the world. Despite this, Pope Francis has declined to address the hierarchy’s complete rejection of abortion as a moral choice, and its inability to see the possibility for change. However, we know that there is ample room in Catholic teaching to have a more equitable approach to women who access abortion care and support reform in the laws worldwide. One wonders if he needs to travel more among those who are most affected—the poor for whom services are too expensive or those who live in countries where abortion is illegal. The death of thousands of women from unsafe abortion each year is an ongoing tragedy of monumental proportions and a key social justice issue of our times. Catholics can, and do, in good conscience support access to abortion services. Pope Francis should listen to them and reconsider his approach.”
“Finally, judging from the content of this document, it is clear that the pope will pay little attention to the much-heralded Vatican survey of the laity. Many of the issues that the survey raises appear in the ‘settled’ column in this document. That is especially disappointing, as many people thought that the survey represented another phase of aggiornamento from the Vatican.”