The puffs of white smoke have arisen. Habemus Papam and all that. Pope Benedict is out, and Pope Francis is in. And although Francis’s proclaimed concern for issues of social justice, poverty, and economic inequality is certainly admirable, in various articles and stories lauding these traits, many commentators and media outlets have constructed a narrative that is far from complete. Rarely mentioned is Francis’s history of vehemently opposing the free distribution of contraceptives in Argentina or his extreme (even by Papal standards) opposition to a woman’s right to an abortion, even in cases of rape.
My argument is this: Francis’s opinions on and actions taken against contraceptive use and access to abortion cancel out his proclaimed desire to remedy poverty and economic inequality. One of the simplest and most efficient ways to help the economic status of women (and, by extension, their families) is by providing access to effective methods of contraception (as the linked study illustrates, women who live in places where extreme poverty coexists with hardline Catholicism are the least likely to have access to effective means of contraception. And here’s the clincher: the study’s authors found that poor women in Latin America (Pope Francis’s domain) suffer the most from this lack of access).
So, no, I’m not buying the argument that “Pope Francis cares for the poor” or “Pope Francis has a deep concern for social justice issues and human rights”. Far from it. Pope Francis is, I’d argue, indirectly (and perhaps even directly, in some cases) responsible for the economic inequality, poverty, and social injustice he so disingenuously claims to oppose. His culpability in these matters must not be swept under the rug. Please expose it and shine a light on it wherever and however you can.