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Official Statement by Italian Group Donne per la Chiesa along with the Interfaith Observatory on Violence Against Women

Link to the original statement written in Italian : A proposito delle dichiarazioni di Papa Francesco sull’aborto


Turning the victim into the accused

Regarding Pope Francis’ statements on abortion

read Pope Francis’ statements on his return trip from Bratislava and feel called as women of faith to make a public pronouncement about his description of abortion as murder: Abortion is murder […] is it right to hire a hitman to solve a problem?”

On this and on similar occasions, he makes no mention of women. This omission represents a significant silence since it cannot be denied that it is precisely these ‘unnamed’ women who are the privileged recipients of this ‘allocution’, given that it is they who – alas – resort to the voluntary interruption of pregnancy.

So, we are claiming a public platform to comment on the Pope’s speech, a platform that has no place in the synods and councils of Holy Mother Church. We cannot accept that, on such an important matter, absolute sovereignty and unchallengeable moral judgement are accorded to those – males – who for millennia have arrogated to themselves the power to control the strictly female territories of pregnancy and childbearing.

The Pope insists on the importance of open and honest dialogue, of listening to others, and he has shown in many areas that he knows how to argue holistically (for example, in the integral ecology of the Encyclical Laudato si’ and on the insistence on case-by-case discernment in Amoris Laetitia). But if the topic is abortion, the words become stones thrown

at women, and the dialogical reasoning that takes into account the many factors involved and accommodates the other’s point of view is absent – culpably absent.

Why such hardness of heart? Why does reasoning here become asphyxiated and monolithic?

Why is it not taken into account that the embryo, on its own, could not exist and the needs of women and the responsibilities of men are erased? The embryo needs its mother’s uterus in order to develop, and the mother is not reducible to a container. The woman is a life, a person. Why should she be annulled or subordinated, which is what happens when it is said that ‘the foetus is sacred’ without also mentioning that the woman too is sacred?

Wouldn’t the complexity of the matter at least require us to take account of the fact that it is mainly women in poverty and/or poor countries who are most likely to have to resort to the termination of pregnancy? And that they often die or are maimed as a result? How can the Church fail to mention the difficulty African women have in gaining access to oral contraception – because they are prevented by their partners from using other methods of contraception – not least because of the opposition they encounter in Catholic health care facilities, which are, often, the most accessible in their context.

And how can we fail to mention that the sphere of sexuality tout-court is dominated by male desires and needs? And that the Catholic Church, with its teachings on the ‘matrimonial debt’, is an integral part of this model of sexual privileging of the male over the female? What educational challenge does the Catholic Church undertake to overcome the patriarchal culture, which portrays male desire as a ‘right’ impulse, a sign of ‘natural and healthy’ virility, while neglecting the consequences to which male behaviour can lead, both with regard to female desire and to a possible pregnancy?

And, finally, the main question: why does the Church not engage in a systematic analysis of the phenomena associated with predatory male sexuality? Feminicides (in the last ten days alone, in Italy, 8 women have been killed; 86 since the beginning of the year, 72 of them by husbands, partners, etc.), rape, sex tourism, pornography, prostitution, offensive advertising… And, as we know, some of the Catholic clergy are not exceptions.

In conclusion, we hope for an integral approach when it comes to abortion, an active commitment to promote a radical change in male mentality and a realistic engagement with women, their work and their personal security. Last but not least, we hope to see the conscience of women recognised and regarded with infinite respect, even when they choose

or are forced to terminate a pregnancy.

Turning the victim into the accused is a reversal that has been going on for millennia, but which does not do credit to the Pope, because the wisdom that holds the golden deposit that is the divine does not speak this language! Each of us, in fact, has her own dialogue – a free dialogue – with God or the divine that accompanies her. We know this and we continue to proclaim it.


25 september 2021

Osservatorio interreligioso sulle violenze contro le donne

Associazione Donne per la Chiesa


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