Sunday, March 22, 2009

A More Useful Papal Message

Why the abortion issue must preface every Papal message to the masses is a question only he can answer. It appears all too often to be the only message. Certainly one of over-riding concern to the Vatican, taking precedence over all others. But the Roman Catholic Church is adamant and will not retreat from its stand that its ban on abortion is absolute, not to be countenanced even to save a mother's life.

Pope Benedict, in Angola, took grave issue with a part of the African Union's charter enacted to protect women's rights, referred to as the Maputo Protocol. Women in Africa have little enough protection in their strife-riven continent at the best of times, inclusive of the continent's generally accepted social attitudes that lead to both peace-time and war-time rapes.

The charter in question guarantees that women have a right to an abortion in instances of rape, incest or major health risks to the mother. "How disconcerting the claim that the termination of life is a matter of reproductive health", the Pope lamented. "How bitter the irony of those who promote abortion as a form of 'maternal' health care."

He speaks as one who knows nothing of human sexuality, of the duress of women's safety, utterly lacking human empathy, unwilling to extend compassion toward young girls raped and having no choice but to submit to an abortion to save their own frail lives. This, following hard on his condom-AIDS statements, condemning condom use as undermining morality.

But in Angola also, the Pope took courage in hand and addressed the issue of two-thirds of the country's population living in dire poverty, while the country's economy is in a boom-cycle as a result of oil exports. The government of Angola is ranked among the most corrupt in the world. Calling on his hosts to fight poverty and improve governance, is a welcome diversion from abortion and condoms.

During the televised speech in Angola, the Pope addressed all governments in Africa to display "a determination born from the conversion of hearts to excise corruption once and for all. Armed with integrity, magnanimity and compassion, you can transform this continent, freeing your people from the scourges of greed, violence and unrest."

He spoke of the need for "respect and promotion of human rights, transparent governance, an independent judiciary, a free press, a civil service of integrity, a properly functioning network of schools and hospitals. Particularly disturbing is the crushing yoke of discrimination that women and girls so often endure, not to mention the unspeakable practise of sexual violence and exploitation which causes such humiliation and trauma."

And that is a message well worth delivering. Neatly encompassing the full spectrum of ills continually afflicting the continent and its people.

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