The Pope said some things on a plane. That’s not what this post is about.
In the days following those things being said on a plane and the “clarification,” a lot of us Catholics here in the US got, well, angry. And confused and we narrowed the lens of what was said and what was meant into the confines of our own lives. We focused on how what the Pope said hurt us personally because we were being witnesses to Church teaching on the subjects of openness to life and nfp and whatnot. And then we spent a lot of time focusing on a) how this would schism the Church, b) how to respond and c) how we still love Papa Francesco and we are definitely NOT bashing him. I know because I did it too.
And so, here we are.
From the comfort of our First World homes with air-conditioning and wi-fi, we’ve gotten upset (and rightfully so) and some of us are having trouble shaking that upset. Well, allow me to please shake you out of it.
While the mainstream US media has made Zika and microcephaly fates worse than death itself and while we’ve fretted about whether what the Pope said on a plane is a change to Church teaching…in Brazil, mothers of babies with microcephaly live their lives.
Maybe you’ve see a picture as you’ve scrolled past major news sites of a baby boy with microcephaly in Brazil who is in a bucket. Surely this is the story of despair. But, strangely, it is not.
In fact, the BBC went to meet this baby and his mother. Would you be surprised to know he has a name? It’s Jose Wesley. And his mother, Solange, thinks of him as a normal baby. And she is proud the story has gotten out because she knows that there are other families out there who can be helped by seeing and hearing it. She talks about what it was like to have Zika. And what the doctors have told her the future holds for her and Wesley but how she believes it might not happen like that. This profile (which you should watch and not just read) is not a story of difficulty and sadness, it’s a story of hope and a mother simply loving her son. Does she really look all that different from you caring for your own baby or a friend caring for hers?
The point she made by allowing her son to be photographed by the AP and later by being interviewed by the BBC without ever saying it? His life matters. His life has value. Microcephaly surely means life will be different for him than for his brothers, but that doesn’t make it less than. She doesn’t see him as the face of microcephaly and this condition does not change the fact that he is Wesley.
And what about that hope and optimism about his future?
Allow me to introduce you to Ana Carolina Cáceres. Once again, thanks to the BBC, we have her testimony:
“When I was born, the doctor told my parents: ‘She will not walk, she will not talk and, over time, she will enter into a vegetative state until she dies.’ He was wrong.”
Ana is twenty-four now and has graduated from college with a degree in journalism which she hopes will help her to give voice to others like her, who are voiceless.
Through an American-Catholic lens, we want to focus our pro-life attentions on the aspect of birth control to avoid these children possibly being born with microcephaly or stopping abortions of children showing signs of the condition in utero. We are playing into the hands of our mainstream media and secular culture by focusing solely on those aspects.
How many times, as a pro-life Catholic have you heard, “These people only care about the babies before they are born and then do nothing once they are here,” or some variation of that. Should we ignore abortion and birth control as they pertain to Zika/microcephaly or any other condition? Of course not. But we should also not talk about them to the exclusion of the issue of children born to mothers who contracted Zika (whether through sexual contact or mosquitos) and developed microcephaly as a result. The issue of their lives is also a pro-life issue; a very big and serious one that is being lost in light of the focus of disease prevention and the Pope’s statement and it’s fallout.
It is fine if you were upset or angry or confused by what Pope Francis said, but let’s take that most American of stereotypes and put it to good use by pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps and sharing the stories of Wesley and Ana Carolina. Let’s make those stories go as viral as any Papal pronouncement because their lives are witness to what we profess when we follow Church teaching on life…they matter. They were created by God who never, ever makes mistakes. Don’t allow the secularists or the anti-life movement control this narrative with scare tactics and confusion. Counter with life in all its glory.