A faction of anti-abortion conservatives is one week from shutting down the government over the funding of Planned Parenthood. Yet they got no words of encouragement from Pope Francis, leader of the biggest anti-abortion institution in the world.
In fact, Pope Francis did the opposite. Instead of encouraging them to fight Planned Parenthood to the bitter end, he counseled them to embrace “dialogue,” “cooperation” and “pragmatism.”
His counsel was implicit. He didn’t utter the word “abortion.” While at one point he said “the Golden Rule also reminds us of our responsibility to protect and defend human life at every stage of its development,” his next sentence was not about abortion; it was about abolishing the death penalty.
But in a passage about the value of diplomacy, he made clear that he rejected “irresponsibility” cloaked as principle:
When countries which have been at odds resume the path of dialogue—a dialogue which may have been interrupted for the most legitimate of reasons—new opportunities open up for all. This has required, and requires, courage and daring, which is not the same as irresponsibility. A good political leader is one who, with the interests of all in mind, seizes the moment in a spirit of openness and pragmatism. A good political leader always opts to initiate processes rather than possessing spaces.
“Courage and daring” does not equal “irresponsibility.”
“A good political leader” possesses the “spirit of openness and pragmatism” and “opts to initiate processes rather than possessing spaces.”
Furthermore, the Pope stressed the value of “cooperation” and “cooperating” four times in his remarks.
Ted Cruz, he ain’t.
Which raises the question: if the anti-abortion congressional conservatives can’t even get an indirect pat on the back from the leader of a 1.2 billion-strong institution that coined the phrase “culture of life,” then just who is supportive of their destructive political games?
Pope Francis has already shown the modern Republican Party another path.
Without renouncing the Catholic Church’s opposition to abortion, he has sought to defuse the culture war: announcing that women who have received abortions will, instead of being excommunicated, be absolved from sin during the upcoming “jubilee year.” He went out of his way to sympathize with the plight of those facing an unwanted pregnancy: “I am well aware of the pressure that has led them to this decision. I know that it is an existential and moral ordeal.”
The Republicans tried the Ted Cruz path two years ago, and it failed miserably. The Pope has given them the political cover to go in a new direction. They should take it.