This is the cathedral in Panama City, in the old section Casca Viejo, that was renovated over the course of several years and at a cost of millions of dollars in time for the Pope to say Mass there.
In the foreground are Ana and Miley, who took in all of the events while the Pope was here.
I asked Gloria, who is an every Sunday mass-goer, whether the Pope’s visit will help anchor the young people in faithful attendance at church.
“No, Tia Pamela” she replied. “Having the Pope here was a great honor for our country. But it’s hard getting the young people to go to church. The Pope came, and he went, and it was all very exciting. But this Sunday in Rio Hato you will see a lot of old people, and people like me, and a lot of empty places in the pews.”
I also wondered about the effect of the Pope’s visit on the incidence of pregnancy among the very young teenage girls, and the related incidence of sexually transmitted diseases. There is reproductive health care here, and clinics where birth control can be obtained for free if a girl can’t pay. Such clinics are found even up in the mountains. The sticking point is that the girl and her family have to acknowledge that she is sexually active. One of Miley’s classmates at her private high school had a baby last semester, concealing the pregnancy until near the end, and the baby died. Even poor girls in somewhat privileged circumstances are being foolish when it comes to birth control.
“No Tia Pamela. The Pope is the Pope, and the needs of the body are a different thing. No one is telling a girl she can’t have a boyfriend, or can’t have sex. The body needs sex, and it’s a good thing. But a girl has to be smart about this, and the young ones are not.”
The pregnancy crisis is among the 11-14 year olds. It’s a terrible thing to see a little girl walking around with a big belly, knowing as we do that many of her life choices are now dramatically constrained.
Ana is much more progressive in firmly guiding Miley around sexual matters than many younger parents of adolescents — and indeed that some of Minga’s other offspring with their daughters.