Valerie Tarico (with whom I'm becoming more and more impressed as time goes by) has provided an excellent commentary on the Pope's recent move on temporary "forgiveness" for abortion. On the surface the Pope's move has seemed to most people to be a transparently hypocritical ploy in the interest of PR value. In her column Valerie takes it to a deeper level and discusses it as a part of a wider scheme religions continually engage in, a scheme through which they graciously and magnanimously offer absolution from guilt over issues that only have guilt associated with them because of the religions.
[To my mind this is a perfect example of ways in which people should be analyzing religions.]
Papal Decree on Abortion Shows How Religion Hooks People By Inducing then Absolving Guilt
(I've added the emphases.)
John Stewart famously said, “Religion. It’s given people hope in a world torn apart by religion.”
The painful irony of Stewart’s words is obvious to us all. What may be less obvious is the underlying pattern: Offering solutions to problems that religion itself has created is one of the key means by which religion propagates. The Pope’s recent limited-time offer of confession and forgiveness for women who have aborted pregnancies perfectly illustrates this pattern.
. . . The reason the Pope’s announcement so perfectly illustrates the Church’s broader pattern of inducing problems and then solving them is that (unlike the sectarian conflict cited by John Stewart) most of these problems are psychological in nature. They come from ways in which religious teachings create fear, guilt, helplessness, self-doubt, and even self-loathing that wouldn’t otherwise exist.
. . . Christians are taught not to trust their own moral core, their own strength, or even their own intellect. . . . This attitude undermines autonomy and agency to the point that one Episcopal theologian, John Shelby Spong, commented in frustration that “Christians don’t need to be born again, they need to grow up.
. . . In his attempted kindness and mercy, Francis offers women the means to be forgiven for prudent, responsible, courageous, compassionate actions that the Church has twisted into sins. The offer extends only for those who accept the burden of theologically-induced guilt in order to be relieved of it, and only for a limited time. In exchange, women are granted protection from after-life horrors conceived in minds of Iron Age men and elaborated in the Dark Ages, when the Church’s inquisitors sought to foreshadow here on earth the tortures God had in waiting for those who fail to repent.
But perhaps the greatest twist is this. Women are expected to be grateful and to see this as an act of conciliation—which, ironically, it is.