Tag Archive for: forgiveness

I had an entirely different post in mind for today, but I can’t let this one go.

Pope Allows Priests to Forgive Abortion if Women are ‘Contrite’

Being a long-lapsed Catholic, I am not really worried about this for myself. And I admit to having watched this Pope with a significant degree of awe because I feel like he really is being true to his Jesuit roots with regard to many of the decisions he makes and the things he says. I admire his commitment to being a voice for those in poverty and his courage when speaking about climate change. But this, well, perhaps there is something lost in translation, but this makes my blood begin to boil.

“I am well aware of the pressure that has led [women] to this decision. I know that it is an existential and moral ordeal.”

I call bullshit.

With all due respect, you don’t know. You have no idea what a woman who is trying to make a decision like this goes through. And you have no right to assume that you know, especially as the head of the organization that puts many of the roadblocks in her way in the first place (what’s your church’s official position on birth control, again?)

I think that the Pope is trying to do the right thing here, and I can appreciate the sentiment. But the notion that a woman, any woman, needs a man to absolve her for making a private medical decision makes me sick to my stomach. Some folks have commented that priests have no business ‘forgiving’ anyone, that that is God’s job. Others have praised the Pope for his liberal stance on this issue. In the context of the Catholic Church, a horrifyingly patriarchal system in and of itself, I suppose this seemed like a noble thing to offer.  Indeed, devout Catholics can be forgiven for a whole host of sins if they just ask with contrition, regardless of whether they are male or female, but to ask a woman to be contrite for a choice she made that is entirely private is utterly ridiculous. What’s next, you can have birth control if every time you go to pick up your prescription you go straight to confessional afterward and ask for forgiveness?

Asking a woman to be ‘contrite’ is whitewashing the entire set of cultural pressures that Catholic women live under daily. The Pope’s slight nod to the church’s anti-birth control stance (if that is what it was) doesn’t erase the reality for many women around the globe that basically tells them their highest purpose is to get married and procreate and be subservient to their husbands. It ignores the reality that women are the main caregivers of these children and yet are powerless to determine how many of them they are willing to risk their health and life having and give up their careers to raise. It ignores the reality that the only alternative to birth control or abortion is to refuse their husbands, often at their own peril. It ignores the reality that women often have very little control over whether or not they will engage in sex, especially in areas of the world where sexual assault is used as a weapon of war, but that these women are the ones left behind to deal with the consequences of that violation. Are these women to feel ‘contrite?’ Are they to come to the church and beg a powerful male figure for forgiveness because they made a decision that that powerful man who has taken a vow of celibacy could not possibly understand or have the right to judge?

I call bullshit.

Nice try, but it’s time to move along. Perpetuating the idea that a woman’s sexuality either belongs to the church or to her husband is so last-Pope. Don’t even get me started on the fact that abortion isn’t mentioned in the Bible even once…. The bible is a religious text, not a medical one. It has no authority to tell a woman how to make a medical choice, nor to forgive her for making it.

Big doin’s around here. At least in my head. I’m back to working on forgiveness. And this time it is a little closer to home. This person is someone who is still in my life and is likely to be for a good, long time. And, while I knew somewhere deep in my ugly innards that I hadn’t forgiven her, I didn’t honestly think about it much, or acknowledge that this might be a problem. But I’ve bumped up against it hard lately and it is causing a swirling ball of heartburn in my gut.

**Same issue of Tricycle Magazine. The article is The Seventh Zen Precept: Not Elevating Oneself and Blaming Others, written by Nancy Baker

I have a little more work to do. For all my excavating and enlightening and understanding, there is still one little rip left to heal in regards to my experience of being molested as a child. Forgiveness. I need to forgive myself and I need to forgive him and until I do, I won’t be free. I love the idea, the notion of pure compassion for my abuser and most of me truly wants that, but all of me has to want it and I have to give it freely and purely.

I just might be ready. But first, I have to go to the grocery store. Tonight I am going to a book club gathering at the invitation of a woman that I haven’t seen in probably three or more years. Her idea for the meal was to make a “mashed potato bar” and have each of us bring toppings to add. I’ve decided to mash some yams and bring crispy prosciutto as my offering.
I walk into Whole Foods, thinking that yams ought to be easy to find this time of year, the morning sun rising despite the fog and pushing it away to clear, blue skies and a crisp scent of woodsmoke and cider in the air. I am confronted by rows and rows of potatoes – Yukon Gold, russet, nearly irresistible fingerlings, baby red potatoes nestled together in their red mesh bags – but I can’t seem to find yams. Finally, at the very end of the row my eyes fall on a few softball-sized, knobby red garnet yams, four of them that fell to the bottom of the display ramp with a yard of black shelf liner showing above them, and two tiny, white-skinned sweet potatoes up at the top. I grab them all and shove them into the plastic produce bag and one of the red garnets pokes its pencil-sized end through the plastic as I drop it in my basket.
At home, I hurry through lunch, pushing small sushi rolls in my mouth as I mentally prepare for the remainder of my day, all the time wondering when I will sit and meditate on the work I have yet to do in my heart. The potatoes have to get cooked soon if they will be ready for tonight. I smile as I picture the creamy orange puree in a transparent glass bowl, all of these new women swirling the colorful mash into their bland, white potatoes to give them some pizzazz.
It is a glorious autumn day and I am craving sunshine so I grab my stockpot, cutting board, paring knife and peeler and head out to the deck. Starting with the largest red garnet yam, I rake the peeler (my least favorite one in the house, but the only clean one for now) across the contours of the skin, listening for the satisfying cchcchcchcch sound that comes with the thin slice of skin peeling away. Inside, it is white. No bright orange flesh. Not what I expected. I continue to work away, peels releasing and falling to the cutting board in a mound, and I go back in a few places to get in the crevices and valleys where the peeler doesn’t move smoothly.
By the time I get to the second red garnet I realize that what I’m doing is my work. These paper-thin peels are all the hold my abuser still has on me. They look so solid and impenetrable from the outside. They are banged up and pocked with knots and dings, but they cover the whole of this potato and they are so simple to peel away. Four big, dark, solid ones – they are the men in my life whom I have allowed to hurt me and take my power away. I peel and peel and soon all I have is four smooth, pure objects. As I peeled, I wished for love and peace and hope and was so surprised not to find what I expected inside these potatoes.
I move to the two small, white sweet potatoes and know that they are my sister and me. Our skin is much thinner, but inside we are the same, substantial, dense grouping of cells that made those larger red-skinned ones potatoes. When all six of them are in the pot of boiling water, they will all cook at the same rate. I will drain them, mash them, mix them with butter and fresh cream and be thankful for the notion that I can make something good and nourishing of this. We are not so different, my abuser and me. We are imperfect humans. I don’t have to know why he is who he is or why he did what he did to my sister and me. That is not for me to know. I can acknowledge that I have allowed him to have power over me for far too long and thank the Universe for letting me learn to be strong and compassionate in the face of that.
I wonder what other culinary marvels await me on this journey.