Pope blasts abortion after decrying focus on rules

Pontiff breaks relative silence on hot-button issues, calling abortion a symptom of today's "throw-away culture"
Associated Press
Sep 21, 2013


Pope Francis offered an olive branch of sorts to the doctrine-minded, conservative wing of the Catholic Church on Friday as he denounced abortions as a symptom of today's "throw-away culture" and encouraged Catholic doctors to refuse to perform them.

Francis issued a strong anti-abortion message and cited Vatican teaching on the need to defend the unborn during an audience with Catholic gynecologists.

It came a day after he was quoted as blasting the church's obsession with "small-minded rules" that are driving the faithful away. In an interview that has sent shockwaves through the church, Francis urged its pastors to focus on being merciful and welcoming rather than insisting only on such divisive, hot-button issues as abortion, gay marriage and contraception.

Even before the interview was published, some conservatives had voiced disappointment that Francis had shied away from restating such church rules. Francis explained his reason for doing so in the interview with the Jesuit journal La Civilta Cattolica, saying church teaching on such issues is well-known, he supports it, but that he doesn't feel it necessary to repeat it constantly.

He did repeat it on Friday, however. In his comments, Francis denounced today's "throw-away culture" that justifies disposing of lives, and said doctors in particular had been forced into situations where they are called to "not respect life."

"Every child that isn't born, but is unjustly condemned to be aborted, has the face of Jesus Christ, has the face of the Lord," he said.

He urged the gynecologists to abide by their consciences and help bring lives into the world. "Things have a price and can be for sale, but people have a dignity that is priceless and worth far more than things," he said.

Francis' comments to Civilta Cattolica contained no change in church teaching, but they represented a radical shift in tone and stood in stark contrast to the priorities of his two immediate predecessors.

John Paul II and Benedict XVI were both intellectuals for whom doctrine was paramount, an orientation that guided the selection of a generation of bishops and cardinals who, in countries like the United States, have put themselves on the front lines in opposing abortion and gay marriage. They now find themselves being asked to preach more to those who have fallen away from the church and offer them a compassionate welcome home.

Greg Burke, the Vatican's senior communications adviser, insisted Friday that Francis was by no means calling into question the papacies and priorities of his predecessors.

"The pope is not condemning his predecessors," Burke told The Associated Press. "What he is saying is 'We've spent a lot of time talking about the boundaries. We've spent a lot of time talking about what is sin and what's not. Now let's move on. Let's talk about mercy. Let's talk about love.'"

Dublin Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, Ireland's most reform-minded Catholic leader, said Francis' comments will be tough for the church to put into action because there is a tendency to get "trapped" into the right and wrong, white and black of Catholic teaching.

"It's a way of thinking that will actually be very hard for the right and the left of the church, either of them, to accept," he told RTE radio. But he said Francis wasn't dismissing everything that has been taught to date.

"He's saying let's move in a different direction."

Bishop Thomas Tobin of Providence, Rhode Island, just last week had said in an interview with his diocesan newspaper that he was "a little bit disappointed" that Francis hadn't spoken out about abortion. On Friday, in an official statement responding to the La Civilta Cattolica article, Tobin said he admired Francis' leadership.

"Being a Catholic doesn't mean having to choose between doctrine and charity, between truth and love. It includes both. We are grateful to Pope Francis for reminding us of that vision," he said.

U.S. Cardinal Timothy Dolan, who as head of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has taken a lead role in voicing the U.S. church's opposition to contraception and gay marriage, said the church isn't the only one obsessed with such issues — today's culture is.

"Every pope has a different strategy," Dolan told "CBS This Morning." ''What I think he's saying is, 'Those are important issues and the church has got to keep talking about them, but we need to talk about them in a fresh new way. If we keep kind of a negative finger-wagging tone, it's counterproductive. "

He said that while Francis had sent shockwaves throughout the church, clearly it was necessary.

"Every day I think, 'Thank God he was elected.' ... Every day I say, 'This man is batting a thousand.'"


From the Grave

Okay, but we also don't need to go forth and multiply anymore.

Señor Clown

Yet sadly they're sending missionaries to the 'developing' countries where the population growth has far outpaced the rate at which quality of living has improved, and they're telling dirt-poor malnourished illiterates that birth control is bad, and half a dozen kids are a blessing from Jesus.

Of course the Catholic church is going to condemn our throw-away culture: They hesitate to throw out priests even after decades of credible accusations of abuse, instead shuffling them from one parish to another.


They need to throw away some of those priests!


Not unlike the message that Islam also preaches. Unfortunately, Muslim bashing is non-PC.

Many in developing countries tend to see developed countries ideas of birth control as racial and ethnic genocide.

Economically advanced developed countries tend to have lower birth rates.

Perhaps assisting to improve the economies in developing countries will produce the intended outcomes of lower birth rates?


The decision to terminate a pregnancy should be the Mother's decision alone. Nobody else should be able to make that decision for her. It is not the place of a Doctor, Pope or Priest to step in and reverse her decision once made. Unwanted pregnancies are certainly not by immaculate conception. There has only ever been one immaculate conception, there will never be another.

The Big Dog's back



While I agree with your general point, you are mistaken about the definition of Immaculate Conception, as are most people, including Catholics. The actual meaning deals with Mary's mother's (St. Anne's) conception of Mary, and that from the moment of that conception, Mary was free of original sin. It is not the same as Mary's virgin conception/virgin birth.


Thank you. So many times people who have no concept of the Catholic religion bring their uninformed point of view into the converstation.


Sorry , Informed ...but you've been misinformed about Mary.


That may be your opinion, but I am referring to the Catholic faith and what their definition is of Immaculate Conception. About that I am not misinformed and am correct.


It's not an opinion , it's just not biblical. Study your Catholic bible for yourself .
I was born and raised Catholic. I know what the Catholic faith says.


Finn Finn

Informed, you are absolutely correct regarding the dogma of the Immaculate Conception.


Yes , you are absolutely correct about what Catholicism teaches about the Immaculate Conception.

But what does the Bible teach?


WTF EVER! She got pregnant just like you did if you are a mother!


Yes dear Pope, tell your people about the sins of abortion. Praise those that have the unwanted only to kill or abuse them later. Condemn those who elect otherwise.

According to NCANDS whose latest statistics are for 2005 an estimated 3.3 million referrals of child abuse or neglect were received by public social service or CPS agencies. Of these referrals, 899,000 children were confirmed to be victims of abuse or neglect (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2007). That means about 12 out of every 1,000 children up to age 18 in the United States were found to be victims of maltreatment in 2005 (USDHHS, 2007).

thinkagain's picture

There are people in every "Christian" denomination who have not experienced the new birth and don't have a personal relationship with Him.

Being a member of a particular religion doesn't determine whether a person is a Christian.

Having been raised in the Catholic mythology, it wasn’t until God reached down in grace and revealed Himself to me, through His free gift of the Holy Spirit, that I became a Christian.

Yes, it is possible to personally know God.


I personally find abortion horrifying and never considered it as an option. However, to make it illegal again would open a can of worms with much more horrifying results. Like Meowmix's stats about the abused and neglected. If someone truly does not want that child, for whatever reason, they are likely to abuse it, neglect it, toss it in a trash can, or pay an under the table guy to take care of things. Not to mention who is going to feed and take care of that child and pick up the tab. I don't think that any religious leader, especially the Pope, is going to be a fan of abortion. As they shouldn't be. And we shouldn't mix religion and government. Abortion should remain legal, but early education about sex, birth control, and the consequences of behaviors should be mandatory.

Ned Mandingo

who cares what this old fool thinks. His religion is a massive pedophile ring.


I agree that abortion is a terrible thing, and I'm frankly right there with those who consider it infanticide, mostly because that's what it is. But if you're going to condemn abortion, shouldn't you be ENCOURAGING contraception? After all, whether you think abortion is okay or you think abortion is evil, the entire debate would go away if unwanted pregnancies weren't a factor!

The Catholic doctrine has always preached against abortion, against contraception, and against most sex education (because you mustn't have sex before marriage, you don't need to be educated, right?). This isn't a case where you can have all three. Me? I'd opt for the latter two, but then I tend to think things through rationally rather than based on more nebulous things like "faith" or "it makes me feel good."

The Big Dog's back

A rational statement.


Maybe they should be preaching to the men about more masturbation and stop having sex with every woman they come across. Although, the number rapes of in these countries are pretty high.

Good luck with that.