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Abortion Stories, the Vatican, and Catholics for Choice’s “Mission Impossible”

October 20, 2023

The Synod on Synodality offers the most significant chance to reform the Catholic church in decades. Monumental in its engagement with LGBTQIA+ rights, ordaining women as deacons, and other progressive causes, the synod’s agenda lacked one major topic: abortion. That’s why Catholics for Choice President Jamie L. Manson stopped at nothing to make our pro-choice Catholic voices heard.

The banner, hanging from the Ponte Sant’Angelo, reads “Faithful Catholics Have Abortions.”

To mark the start of the synod, Catholics for Choice advocates risked arrest by unfurling a massive banner from the Ponte Sant’Angelo — with St. Peter’s Basilica in the background — boldly proclaiming that “Faithful Catholics have abortions.” 

(More photos available online here.)

Immediately after the banner drop, Jamie ceremonially processed to the synod office with a booklet of stories collected from faithful Catholics who’ve had abortions. The New York Times called the action “mission impossible,” and said that despite all the social justice issues vying for attention from the Vatican, “perhaps no advocate on the synod sidelines has a tougher row to hoe than Jamie Manson, who identifies as queer, feels called to the priesthood and leads the abortion-rights group Catholics for Choice.”

Jamie’s call to discuss abortion didn’t preclude her from bringing queer rights to the forefront either. In an interview on CBS News, she said that “affirming and embracing everyone only makes the church stronger.” That includes LGBTQIA+ and people who have had abortions alike.

Before returning to the United States, Jamie joined the Spirit Unbounded conference alongside speakers such as Sister Joan Chittister, OSB, and former President of Ireland Mary McAleese. In a profound speech just outside the Vatican’s walls, Jamie described the “unspoken pastoral crisis” of patriarchy in the church. Behind a podium inscribed with the Vatican’s insignia, Jamie boldly challenged that bringing abortion stories to the synod meant taking “Pope Francis at his word that he wants a church of encounter that goes out to the peripheries, listens deeply, and shows humility.”

Jamie Manson with Sister Joan Chittister, OSB

Honoring this call to encounter would mean recognizing that women and queer people belong in the church — which means that their abortion stories are “woven into the fabric of our community.” Jamie closed her speech, and her time in Rome, with a prayer: that next year’s synod will deem Catholics’ abortion stories “worthy of encounter.”

Tagged Abortion