Wednesday, 04 January 2017 00:00

The Reverend's Reflections - December 2016 Featured

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The world looks a little different than it did the last time I wrote this column. Not only did the Donald win the election but also Pope Francis announced that the Roman Catholic Church will permanently allow priests to grant forgiveness for abortion.

As we prepare for a conservative administration in Washington D.C., the question of women’s issues is top of mind and the Pope’s announcement is a source of hope. The election of the Republicans with an unknown president-elect who has spoken disrespectfully of women and minorities, and a vice-president well-known as one of the most extreme anti-abortion legislators in the country and who as governor of Indiana, gutted Planned Parenthood’s funding, has raised the fears and anger of many, especially women.

Although the Pope’s announcement has nothing to do with the future administration, it inscribes nuance into a pro-life doctrine of the world’s largest and most powerful religious organization. While he opposes abortion as a “grave sin,” the Pope believes “there is no sin that God’s mercy cannot reach and wipe away when it finds a repentant heart...” The decision normalizes forgiveness by making it widely accessible as all priests can now give absolution and at anytime. While few in our UU circles may appreciate such religious formality and accountability, there are many in the world whose lives are grounded in the morality of their faith, be they Muslim, Jewish, Hindu or Catholic. For Catholic women (and men), this surely is a signal of welcome and compassion.

Here in the United States, this decision separates the Catholic Church from uncompromising and powerful influences of many evangelical traditions that threaten women’s health and rights. The election of Donald Trump has been personally devastating for many women. The campaign has diminished trust and awakened memories of oppressions of decades past. It has created an atmosphere of tension and emboldened some to deplorable actions. The Pope’s announcement crowned a jubilee year that began last December. Traditionally a jubilee year is called every 25 years as a reminder of God’s providence and mercy, and a time for forgiveness. This was an Extraordinary Jubilee, called because Pope Francis felt the time was urgent for mercy, for healing wounds, to persevere in helping people find hope and faith, a time to offer everyone the way of forgiveness and reconciliation; to celebrate mercy. In bringing the jubilee to a close last week, he called on the faithful to

“promote a culture of mercy based on the rediscovery of encounter with others, a culture in which no one looks at another with indifference or turns away from the suffering of our brothers and sisters.”

As the Christmas and holiday season is upon us, may we dig deep within to know the need for radical compassion in our world. During the holy days and weeks ahead, may we ground ourselves in our values, principles and morals to find guidance and wisdom in our words and choices. May we find strength with one another,
courage in containing the virus of polarization and animosity, and may our fires of hope and commitment be renewed.

I wish you and yours a nourishing and soulful holiday season,

Rev. Antonia

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