Thursday, September 24, 2015

The Pope Speaks. Echidne Whines.

If you didn't watch Pope Francis' speech to the US Congress you can read it here.  It looks like* the lefties and liberals liked it, the righties and conservatives, not so much.  There wasn't enough on the control of the vaginas or the defense of traditional marriage (with male dominance) for the latter, while the former liked the references to caring for the poor, accepting immigrants,  and the need to fight climate change.

I liked the caring tone of the speech (perhaps because that was missing in the speeches of the last few Popes and because religions in my view should be caring), and you must be a brand new reader here if you don't know that my views on income inequality, wars and climate change agree with what Francis said.

On the other hand, my eagle eye did not miss the quick references to what the conservatives wanted to hear, about the sanctity of human life (to be read as opposition to abortion though Francis segued from that to urging a global ban on capital punishment) and the  reference to the importance of "family" (a word which means very different things to different ears in the audience, one of those meanings being opposition to same-sex marriages**).

Still, the Pope honored three men and one woman as examples of great Americans!  Girls got included!

That reference was to Dorothy Day, the founder of the Catholic Worker Movement.

One aspect of the speech looks problematic to me.  That is Francis' plea for people to combat climate change, when it is combined with his church's anti-contraception stance.

That's because all people on earth ultimately want the western standards of living.  To achieve those without destroying the planet in the process requires global commitment to smaller family sizes.***

It's a bizarre feeling to write about the three big Guy Religions (Christianity, Islam and, to a lesser extent,  Judaism) for someone like me, because once you have seen the missing women in many religious hierarchies (which decide religious women's proper roles, their right to use contraception etc) you can't stop seeing them.

But if you point out that omission you sound whiny, right?  Why can't Echidne rejoice over this Pope?  Why can't she be content with all the good words that come out of his mouth? ****

My answer to that one I have learned from women's history:  If you don't demand your rights you won't get them, ever.  So someone needs to keep up the whining.


*  Based on surfing in various places, not on proper research.

** And the link between women's roles and the family.  The Catholic Church is as big on motherhood as the American fundamentalists and much of Islam (check the Iranian constitution, for example).  Those references to "motherhood" mean more than urging women to give birth.  They also mean that women should focus on the family and that when women's rights and their family duties clash it is the latter which should win. ---  As an aside, it is almost always family vs. women's rights in these religious debates, not family vs. men's rights, because the traditional view of family places women firmly and almost entirely in only that context.

***  The alternative ways to save the environment are simply not practical:  Most people will not accept a minimal lifestyle just so that there could be both a healthy globe and more people.  The idea that rich countries should cut back their consumption to much lower levels will not fly politically, the idea that poor countries should just stay consuming little will not fly politically, either, not to even mention the ethical problems in that.

The only realistic approach to me seems to be to cut back on the overall global population.  If we don't do it through birth control, then it will happen through resource wars (Syria began that way).  And yes, I'm aware that the global population growth rate may have slowed down.  But the population numbers which can be sustained in a world where everyone has a good standard of living and where the environment is also taken care of is probably lower than whatever the current numbers might be.

The Catholic Church's anti-contraception stance makes keeping the planet healthy much harder.

**** Or I guess I could just pack up my bags and surrender to the view that the Guy Religions just don't believe that women and men should have equal rights.