As Pope Francis prepares to speak to members of Congress in a historic joint session today, pro-life advocates are encouraged by the words the leader of the Catholic Church imparted yesterday to the nation’s Catholic bishops. Pope Francis said the primary reason for his visit to the United States is standing up for human life.
“I appreciate the unfailing commitment of the Church in America to the cause of life and that of the family, which is the primary reason for my present visit,” he said at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle.
While he spoke to the bishops, he pressed the cause of the “innocent victims” of abortion.
Pope Francis encouraged them to remain vigilant in their opposition to abortion and he listed unborn children among those innocent people who the bishops must keep at the top of the priority list of people who deserve protection.
The pontiff lists “the innocent victim of abortion, children who die of hunger or from bombings, immigrants who drown in the search for a better tomorrow, the elderly or the sick who are considered a burden, the victims of terrorism, wars, violence and drug trafficking, the environment devastated by man’s predatory relationship with nature – at stake in all of this is the gift of God, of which we are noble stewards but not masters.”
“It is wrong, then, to look the other way or to remain silent,” he says.
“Ever present within each of them is life as gift and responsibility. The future freedom and dignity of our societies depends on how we face these challenges,” the Pope continued.
Some pro-life advocates have hoped that Pope Francis would do more to challenge pro-abortion President Barack Obama — but a Vatican spokesman says that kind of direct confrontation should not be expected. Such a confrontation would be surprising and out of character for a Pope who has made a reputation of actions speaking louder than words.
‘‘There are differences [on abortion],” Ambassador Ken Hackett, the president’s envoy to the Vatican, told Bloomberg Business. “I don’t think that’s where they are going to put all their energies when they sit down one-on-one.”
Jim Geraghty of National Review pointed to that actions-speak-louder-than-words mindset when he talked about how Pope Francis made an unscheduled stop to visit with the Little Sisters of the Poor, who have been persecuted by the Obama administration over the HS mandate compelling them to pay for abortion-causing drugs.
Pope Francis made an unscheduled stop to visit the Little Sisters of the Poor Wednesday, a move that Vatican officials said was intended to send a message of support in the nuns’ battle against Obamacare.
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The religious order of Catholic sisters is suing the Obama administration over a provision of the Affordable Care Act that the administration has interpreted as requiring the sisters to purchase health insurance with birth control coverage.
Catholic teaching opposes the use of birth control. The sisters can request a waiver, but their lawsuit argues that requiring that paperwork infringes on their religious freedom. The sisters are suing under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, a Clinton-era law that prohibits the government from placing a “substantial burden” on the free exercise of religion.
Last August, an appeals court sided with the government, but an unusual dissent by five judges this month called that decision “clearly and gravely wrong — on an issue that has little to do with contraception and a great deal to do with religious liberty.” The question now goes to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Francis met with the sisters at their Washington convent next door to the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, where he celebrated a canonization Mass for St. Junipero Serra. The private meeting was not on the pope’s public schedule and was only disclosed afterward.
“This is a sign, obviously, of support for them,” said the Vatican Press Secretary, Rev. Federico Lombardi.
“Are we allowed to like this guy at all yet, or are we supposed to conclude his views on climate change make him (pun intended) irredeemable?” Geraghty said. “I’m just surprised that so many American conservatives are acting like this is the first time they’ve strongly disagreed with a pope.”
“This is the favorite of most American Catholics and the favorite of most American Catholic conservatives. If the American Right could survive disagreements with that pope with admiration intact, there’s no reason to think the relationship with this one will be perpetually sour,” he added.
While some people point to climate change as a point of disagreement with Pope Francis, pro-life Americans can surely agree that he has consistently stood up for human life with both words and deeds.