It is being widely reported that Pope Francis has bestowed the title of Commander in the Pontifical Equestrian Order of St. Gregory the Great upon pro-abortion activist Lilianne Ploumen, sometime Trade and Development Minister in the Netherlands. The reporting of this honour is now so widespread that it is more incredible to think this is an example of #FakeNews than to doubt the occasion of the investiture: it really does seem that the Vicar of Christ and supposed apostolic successor to Saint Peter, to whom Jesus is said to have given the Keys of Heaven, has bestowed a papal honour upon a devout advocate of abortion “in recognition of (her) personal service to the Holy See and to the Roman Catholic Church, through (her) unusual labors, (her) support of the Holy See, and (her) excellent examples set forth in (her) community and (her) country”.
Unusual labours they may certainly be, but in what sense is Lilianne Plouman an excellent example to the faithful?
According to the website One Peter 5 (“Rebuilding Catholic Culture. Restoring Catholic Tradition”), Lilianne Plouman is not merely a pro-abortion activist, but a rather militant anti-Catholic who appears to have abandoned all pretence at adherence to papal moral teaching – infallible dogma, definitive doctrine and prudential judgments – in the areas of gender, sexuality and procreation. When President Trump signed an executive order barring US aid to those countries which provide abortion counselling as part of family planning, Lilianne Plouman established ‘She Decides’, which has raised $300million “to continue support for existing programs being run by organizations such as the United Nations Population Fund (UNPFA), the International Planned Parenthood Federation and Marie Stopes International.” She said, “These are successful and effective programs: direct support, distributing condoms, making sure women are accompanied at the birth, and making sure abortion is safe if they have no other choice.”
That isn’t the half of it: “from 2004-2007, Ploumen was the Director of Programs and on the Board of Directors for CORDAID, the Dutch Catholic aid relief agency that was caught funding Planned Parenthood and dispensing contraception.”
You may recall that Planned Parenthood harvests baby parts and aborts babies in a “less crunchy” way; practise after-birth abortion (ie infanticide); murder living, breathing babies to harvest brains; and brand their critics ‘extremists’.
How can Pope Francis consider anyone who supports the funding of this barbarism to be worthy of any kind of honour, let alone one which is held to be of exemplary excellence to Christians everywhere?
It is, of course, a very Anglican thing to do: to nudge theology incrementally with Christian praxis; to profess faithfulness to a certain dogma but to honour those challenge it in their teaching or lifestyle. But there are many millions of Anglicans who have (hitherto) looked to the Pope of Rome to defend the unborn, and now it appears that even he has swallowed the bitter pill of moral relativism in this regard.
It’s difficult to know where the logic of this papal praxis may stop. If a pro-abortion activist is considered worthy of a papal honour, why not a distributor of condoms?
If both the pro-abortion activist and distributor of condoms are considered worthy of a papal honour, why not the celebrants of same-sex blessings (/marriage)?
Pope Francis is manifestly reflecting upon the nature of being and doing church in a context of moral confusion and rapid social change. He is doing what all pastorally-minded bishops have done for two millennia – responding to cultural influences and seeking to be practical and compassionate, rather than limiting or being restrictive in his ministry. He is not overly concerned with keeping traditional Roman Catholics cosy and comfortable, but is apparently zealous in the mission to make his church seem more relevant in an age dominated by issues of gender, sex and sexuality.
It is entirely possible in a typically Anglican via media kind of way to advance queer theologies or advance gender-specific christologies as we explore the mystery of God together, wrapped in our emotional security blankets and sucking on our spiritually-diverse lollipops. But abortion? What place does the murder of the unborn have in the Body of Christ? What is the job of the Church in the context of a feminist revolution which negates the personhood of those whom God is knitting together in the womb? What is God asking the Church to do and be and say to those who believe that killing a baby in utero is a holy and righteous pursuit of human liberty?
God can cope with our real-life questions. He can go on loving through our doctrinal contradictions and irreconcilable hypocrisies. But what does the world see and understand?
The Archbishop of Canterbury bestows his Lambeth Awards annually: this year’s are due in a couple of months. It is inconceivable (literally.. literally..) that he would bestow The Langton Award for Community Service upon any pro-abortion advocate of mass slaughter, no matter how many hundreds of millions of pounds they may have raised for women’s welfare in the process.