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23 January 2008

Abortion and Reconciliation

Yesterday was the anniversary of Roe v. Wade. Normally this day passes like any other but this year I was in my RCIA class and had listened to a special on NPR earlier in the day, so the wheels were turning in my head. As the people in my class talked about all of the evil people who have/provide/support abortion, I considered my position on the issue. It was the first time in a long time that I had done so.

I've always supported abortion. I think there is a deeply buried and well hidden feminist urge inside of me that is opposed to the idea that a legal move (created, for the most part, by stodgy old men) can place restrictions upon my body. There are no such laws for men, and you can guarantee that there never will be. That being said, I could never have an abortion. I believe that, for myself, it is wrong. It does violate my ideas on the sacredness of life and personal responsibility. But I also say this as a 27-year-old woman with the education and potential means to support myself and a child should a pregnancy ever surprise me. Ten years ago, my answer may have been different (and it probably was). If my 12-year-old niece came to me and told me that she was pregnant, I'm not at all sure what I would tell her. But I do know that it is a PERSONAL and PRIVATE choice, not a public and legally controlled one. While I may be morally opposed to abortion, I support it legally. We, despite what you may have heard, are not a Christian nation. It completely violates the Constitution to create laws that are based on the morality of religion. It is not the government's place to create laws that impose the moral code of a select group upon the lives of all others. It is unjust and inexcusable. That seems like such a simply concept, but so many people throughout this country fully expect their governmental representatives to create laws based on the tenets of Christianity. Could you imagine the uproar and outcry that would be heard if any other group of people tried to do the same thing? If the Jews tried to get legislation passed honoring the Sabbath on Saturday rather than Sunday (meaning all the blue laws and closing would happen on Saturday rather than their current day), there would be a revolt. I cannot see why it is so hard to morally support/oppose an issue and leave it at that. Why must your views be pushed upon everyone around you? I am well aware that one of the responsibilities of a Christian is to bring others into the fold, but doing so by forcing laws upon them is not the right way to do things. What about education and counseling and compassion and understanding? Would these not be more effective? Abortion is not what is wrong with this nation, and making it illegal will not change anything. If we teach people to make wise choices and instill compassionate morals (that may or may not be tied to organized religion and are taught in the homes), people will view abortion and the death penalty and all those other hot-button topics in a very different light. I'm not sure exactly how to do this, but it will require a massive restructuring of the media and the government but it doesn't necessarily require laws that affect individual rights.

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Last night we also discussed the sacrament of Reconciliation. This is the whole confession thing that the Church encourages and emphasizes. As a Protestant, the whole idea of confession bothered me a bit. I was raised to believe that a conversation between you and God was all that was needed and that true remorse and desire for forgiveness would lead to absolution. I still believe these things, but last night's discussion was rather interesting and has shifted my perception of confession.

The Church bases the rite of reconciliation in the Bible when Jesus told the Apostles to go out and forgive the sins of those who told of their sins and sought forgiveness. Because some of the Apostles were the first popes and all were the first priests, this began the tradition of confessing to a priest and asking for absolution. Christ gave the Apostles authority to absolve and ask for penance. Makes complete sense. I really do appreciate how this RCIA program provides biblical sources for many of the traditions and parallels in the Church. It helps someone with a Proti background to come to see how so many of the stereotypes about the Church are baseless.

After talking about from where the tradition came, we talked about WHY the Catholics practice confession. Two reasons really stuck out to me and made total sense. The first is the need to humble yourself to another person. As a person who can be incredibly proud and stubborn, I think that going before a priest to tell him the things that I have done will help me to work on my humility. Just think about how you feel when you have to tell your friend that you've sinned against them. That feeling is horrible, but you feel so much better afterwards because you came clean. The second part that appealed to me is the idea that actually hearing words of forgiveness from a human mouth soothes the human spirit and reassures us. To hear a priest tell me that I am forgiven for the sins that I seek absolution for will make it seem more certain and concrete. While I hope that God forgives my sins when I ask him directly, it is comforting to know that a priest, with Jesus speaking through him, has given me absolution. It is very human for us to need to hear those words. Again, think about when you have sinned against someone you care about. Don't you feel better after hearing them tell you that they forgive you?

Another reason for confession, which I think is funny and clever, is that you are less likely (hopefully) to commit egregious sins if you know that you have to go to a priest and confess, yet again, that you have committed the same sin. That's just smart. Unless, of course, you lie to the priest. Then you're in for more trouble anyway!

Of course, the whole concept of confession brings about the nature of sin and what makes a sin. But, I'll save that for another time.
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