Lilianne Ploumen, in her role as Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation in the Netherlands, has worked to oppose the forced marriages of minors: “Forcing teenagers to marriage is an abuse.” [Vatican.va]. She was part of a panel on ending child marriage in Africa [U.N. Women]. While in Ghana on an official visit, she pledged her nation’s support for these efforts:
” ‘The stories I have heard here are heartbreaking. These girls are often exposed to exploitation, sexual abuse, domestic violence, exclusion from education, and health risks due to early pregnancy.’ Child brides are usually daughters of disadvantaged mothers who married young themselves. ‘We need to break this cycle,’ the minister said.”
Partly at the Netherlands’ urging, the UN has adopted a number of resolutions condemning the practice of child marriage as a violation of basic human rights. [Government.nl]
The above described work appears to be the reason (as far as we now know) why Pope Francis gave Lilianne Plouman an award: “the title of Commander in the Pontifical Equestrian Order of St. Gregory the Great” [OnePeterFive]. However, some Catholics have objected to the award, because Ms. Plouman has also founded an organization, SheDecides, which seeks to make abortion more widely available in developing nations. She also promotes LGBT rights around the world.
Should the Pope give an award to someone who does beneficial work in one area, and harmful work in another? Conservative Catholics have a bias in this regard. It is a not uncommon fault among conservatives to tend to discard the entire body of work of anyone who offends them by an opinion or an endeavor with which they disagree. For example, Teilhard de Chardin is often maligned by conservatives, even though his work has found praise from the Holy See. Liberal theologians Edward Schillebeckx and Karl Rahner are also condemned wholesale by conservatives, despite having had much influence over Vatican II.
Everything Pope Francis does seems designed to point out the faults of conservatives and the conservative Catholic subculture. This is clearly the work of God’s providence and grace, rebuking conservatives and prompting them to self-examination and change. Unfortunately, two more common faults are the opposition to self-examination and change. Many conservatives think that, merely by being conservative, they are being faithful. So they are dismayed or even angered when the Pope criticizes them.
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