A major theme of The Joy of the Gospel is the call to focus on God’s love and forgiveness rather than dwelling only on where we see people falling short. In other interviews and writings, and even in the Joy of the Gospel, Francis bemoans the fact that the Church is more often known for what it’s against than it’s for. Even so, the abortion issue comes up, and in the context of today’s March for Life, I thought it was worth pointing out what he says, because it illustrates why the Church maintains it’s position and what Francis thinks we could be doing differently about it.
Francis runs through a long list of the populations that are poor and vulnerable, to whom he is calling Christians to devote extra care and attention. In 212, he singles out “women who endure situations of exclusion, mistreatment and violence,” for instance.
“Among the vulnerable for whom the Church wishes to care with particular love and concern are unborn children…this defence of unborn life is closely linked to the defence of each and every other human right. It involves the conviction that a human being is always sacred and inviolable, in any situation and at every stage of development. Human beings are end in themselves and never a means of resolving other problems.” (213)
He recognizes that some hope that the new pope might change the Church’s position, so he devotes an extra paragraph to explain why that’s not going to happen, while also showing that he has empathy for those faced with heart-wracking choices. “Precisely because this involves the internal consistency of our message about the value of the human person, the Church cannot be expected to change her position on this question. I want to be completely honest in this regard. This is not something subject to alleged reforms or “modernizations.” It is not “progressive” to try to resolve problems by eliminating a human life. On the other hand, it is also true that we have done little to adequately accompany women in very difficult situations, where abortion appears as a quick solution to their profound anguish, especially when the life developing within them is the result of rape or a situation of extreme poverty. Who can remain unmoved before such painful situations?” (214)
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