Why Pope Francis gave an award to Lilianne Ploumen

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.

Ronald L. Conte Jr.
Roman Catholic theologian and translator of the Catholic Public Domain Version of the Bible.

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8 Responses to Why Pope Francis gave an award to Lilianne Ploumen

  1. Tom Mazanec says:

    Is this like the Vatican issuing a stamp of Martin Luther and Philipp Melanchthon?

    • Ron Conte says:

      Sure. Why can’t we see the good in those who disagree with us, and use their insights. The theologian, Avery Dulles, S.J., writing in 1966, in his book, The Dimensions of the Church, used a number of sources in seeking the truth about the extent and limits of the Church. Dulles draws on the work of a Jewish philosopher, Henri Bergson; he finds his work useful in discerning truths about the Catholic Christian Church. Dulles does not reject Bergson’s work on the basis that he is Jewish, or on the basis that he is more a philosopher than a theologian. Dulles also finds truths pertaining to the nature of the Church in the work of the controversial Catholic theologian E. Schillebeeckx, O.P., as well as in a private revelation (a vision) to the early Christian writer Hermas, in a work called ‘The Shepherd’. And he devotes an entire chapter to drawing useful insights from the work of the Protestant theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer; he does not dismiss the work of Bonhoeffer on the basis that he is a Protestant. Dulles also cites and disagrees with certain points in the works of Saint Robert Bellarmine, who is a Doctor of the Church.

      Notice, in this good example from Avery Dulles, S.J., that he searches for truth wherever it may be found, regardless of the reputation of the individual. He disagrees on some points with a Saint and Doctor of the Church, but he agrees on some points with a Jewish philosopher, a Protestant theologian, a private revelation, and a controversial Catholic theologian. Sacred Scripture teaches us that God is no respecter of persons: “I have concluded in truth that God is not a respecter of persons.” (St. Peter, the first Pope, speaking in Acts 10:34). This teaches us that we, too, should not be respecters of persons, and that we should not judge based on reputation or appearances, but based on justice and truth. The work of Avery Dulles is a good example of this teaching.

  2. Bob says:

    Plouman’s direct involvement in and support for abortion (and LGBT rights) means that she supports evil in a direct manner. Those who support evil like this cannot belong to the Kingdom of God. How can anyone have compassion and love when they support the direct intentional taking of human life? You will argue that she may suffer from invincible ignorance. That may be but she still is guilty as abortion kills a human life – this is a fact. Each child that is aborted has a soul and is known and loved by God. She will have to account for every soul that is lost because of her direct involvement in promoting abortion.

    I would also suggest that her stance against arranged marriages comes from her political feminist bias rather than for any genuine charity on her part. Child marriage is and of itself is not an evil. In the 19th century in Ireland for example girls marrying in early teens was common practice among Catholics in my native land.

    Giving her any award is a grave scandal and an insult to the innocent lives that have been directly lost because of her behavior. One can judge the tree by the fruits it produces. As Christ says ‘if you cause one of these little ones who trusts in me to fall into sin, it would be better for you to have a large millstone tied around your neck and be drowned in the depths of the sea’.

    You cannot accuse me of being a conservative.

    I am a conservative on some issues and a liberal on other issues – in fact I would describe myself as a libertarian. But there no one has the right to do evil in the name of freedom including Ploumen.

    • Ron Conte says:

      I think that child marriage is intrinsically evil before puberty (when it is certainly a type of child rape). Forced marriage at any age is a type of rape, but the forced marriage of a child is a combination of rape and slavery, as the child-bride is deprived of all rights, decision-making, and is forced to have sex with someone who is not really a husband. So all of that is intrinsically evil.

      On the other hand, an older teen boy or girl who marry at that age, willingly, are not committing an intrinsically evil act. However, it may be wrong due to intention or circumstances.

  3. Mark P. says:

    I think the Holy Father gives these awards as challenges to the faithful. There are many Catholics who may not commit mortal sins, who attend Mass regularly, pray many rosaries and novenas, but really don’t do any concrete work for their neighbor.

    • Bob says:

      That is a very simplistic analogy.

      St Therese of Liseux never left her convent so one could accuse her of doing nothing concrete for her neighbour.

      In loving God and praying for the salvation of souls you love your neighbour.

      St Therese’s “When I die, I will send down a shower of roses from the heavens, I will spend my heaven by doing good on earth”.

      How can she spend her time in heaven by doing good on earth?

      Something for you to pray about Mark.

  4. Bob says:

    Our Blessed Lady was probably 14 or 15 years old when betrothed and married to Joseph and gave birth to the Saviour of the World at a very young age.

    • Ann Mullins says:

      Totally agree Bob. I have mental issues that keeps me from “doing” things yet my favorite thing to do is pray for the souls in Purgatory. I don’t think they have any objection to my doing that. We all serve in different ways.

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