Pope Francis has conferred the title of “Commander of the Pontifical Equestrian Order of St. Gregory the Great” on Lilianne Ploumen, a Dutch politician and vocal agitator for abortion rights.
Last year, Ploumen founded a pro-abortion organization called She Decides, which offers funding and support for international NGOs that provide, facilitate or campaign for abortion.
In an email to the Catholic Herald, Ms. Ploumen said that she was “very honoured” by the pontifical medal, which was sent via the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs last month.
In an interview with Dutch radio, Ploumen said she views the honor as a sign of the pope’s progressivism, as well as acknowledgement for her work in supporting abortion rights.
Ms. Ploumen said that the award came after much personal investment in contacts with the Vatican, which she defined as “lobbying.”
“Yes, because you know, the Vatican, especially under prior popes, had a rather rigid attitude when it came to the rights of girls and women,” she said.
The Order of St Gregory the Great was founded by Pope Gregory XVI in 1831, under the patronage of Pope St Gregory I. It is bestowed on those who have distinguished themselves in public service or given support to the Church.
During the investiture ceremony, the prelate sponsoring the candidate recites a formula noting that membership in the Pontifical Order of St Gregory the Great “is conferred as a reward for services to the Holy See and the Church on gentlemen/ladies of proved loyalty who must maintain unswerving fidelity to God, the Supreme Pontiff, the Holy See and the Church.”
“Becoming a Knight/Dame does not merely mean receiving a title of honour—even though it is well deserved—but fighting evil, promoting good and defending the weak and oppressed against injustice,” the rite continues.
The approval of candidates for this high honor must be given by the pope himself.
The Vatican press office has confirmed that the honor was indeed awarded to Lilianne Ploumen, but insists that it was not meant to signal approval of her pro-abortion activities.
On Monday, Paloma García Ovejero, deputy spokesperson of the Holy See Press Office, said the medal was part of an exchange of honors between delegations after she took part in an official state visit to the Vatican last year of Dutch King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima.
“The honor of the Pontifical Order of St. Gregory the Great received by Mrs. Lilianne Ploumen, former Minister of Development, in June 2017 during the visit of the Dutch Royals to the Holy Father, responds to the diplomatic practice of the exchange of honors between delegations on the occasion of official visits by Heads of State or Government in the Vatican,” García said.
“Therefore, it is not in the slightest a placet [a mark of approval] to the politics in favor of abortion and of birth control that Mrs. Ploumen promotes,” she added.
According to the National Catholic Register, abortion is just one area where Ploumen’s public advocacy departs from Catholic moral teaching.
As “a radical supporter of homosexual rights,” Register correspondent Edward Pentin states, Ploumen “urged homosexuals to disrupt Mass in a Dutch cathedral after an openly homosexual man was denied Holy Communion” in 2010.
Last September, Ploumen also gave a prominent address at the LGBT’s Core Group at the United Nations.
For his part, Pope Francis has been an outspoken critic of abortion, calling it a “very grave sin” and a “horrendous crime.”