Populist Pope?

Pope Francis has become the darling of liberal media with his populist positions on climate change and economic inequality. This has caused some discomfiture among Right Wingers who would normally embrace anything the Pope says because of the Catholic Church’s adamant opposition to abortion and contraception. Now they are saying that the Pope should stay out of scientific and political affairs…except when they agree with him, of course.

While his support on these issues is welcome, he is certainly no populist as long he and his church oppose the rights of half of the world’s population to control what happens inside their own bodies. Their position is that abortion is murder at any stage of pregnancy and that contraception is “unnatural.”

Instead of contraception they promote the primitive and ineffective “rhythm system” which requires strict discipline and abstinence for about half of the menstrual cycle. The idea that abstinence is “normal” or somehow ennobling is nonsense. The sex act is a natural and pleasurable part of human life, like eating, sleeping and bowel movements. Going without food, sex or sleep is unnatural and unhealthy. Going without bowel movements is unthinkable!

The Church takes the idea of abstinence to the ultimate extreme with their clergy, requiring them to be celibate for their entire lives. Here is a quote from Canon law:

“Clerics are obliged to observe perfect and perpetual continence for the sake of the kingdom of heaven and therefore are bound to celibacy which is a special gift of God by which sacred ministers can adhere more easily to Christ with an undivided heart and are able to dedicate themselves more freely to the service of God and humanity.”

Besides being a terrible run-on sentence, this asserts that celibacy promotes pure and godly thoughts, but…well, we all know what has happened instead. It should be pretty clear that insisting on such profoundly unnatural behavior has caused serious problems for some of their priests.

Moving to the abortion issue, if the Catholic Church eliminated its opposition to modern, highly-effective contraception methods, the need for abortions would be greatly reduced. Many Catholics now accept the need for contraception and even first-trimester abortions. There is a growing consensus that the consequences of unwanted pregnancies and births far outweigh the consequences of abortion. Anti-abortionists call themselves “Pro-life.” A more descriptive euphemism would be “Pro-birth.” Nobody denies that a fetus is alive. The question is, when does it become a human being. That is a matter of opinion. The notion that a fertilized egg, or even a blastocyst of a hundred cells is a human being is not supported by biology or medical science. At some point in the final stages of fetal development, it can be argued that the fetus is a human being, but there is no consensus on this. Even doctors do not agree, and it probably varies among individual fetuses.

If the Pope were truly a populist, he would address the overriding crisis facing humanity. Our planet is overpopulated, and the human population is still increasing rapidly. While the Pope’s criticism of the lack of concern for the environment and the poor is laudable, he fails to mention that a root cause of both of those problems is overpopulation. He is addressing the symptoms of the problem, not the primary cause. Despite his pleas for government action, his church’s intransigent opposition to efforts to limit population growth invalidates any claim that he is a populist Pope.

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