Pope Francis’ first year as the leader of the Catholic Church has been one that has seen him promote a compassionate but uncompromising pro-life perspective. Pope Francis’ first anniversary gives the world an occasion to look back on how he has advanced the teachings of the Catholic Church and, on the issue of abortion, it has been impressive.
Maureen Ferguson, Senior Policy Advisor with The Catholic Association, looked back on this day one year ago when the former bishop from Argentina was named the new pontiff.
She said: “Standing in St. Peter’s square one year ago amidst the euphoria at the installation mass of Pope Francis, an NBC News microphone was suddenly in my face, with the reporter asking my thoughts on our new pope. My response was, based on the little I knew about Jorge Bergoglio’s days leading the flock in Argentina, ‘I think he is going to challenge all of us to live a deeper life of faith.’”
Pope Francis has not only challenged the Catholic Church but the world.
While not compromising the pro-life teachings of the Catholic Church or watering them down by saying they should be emphasized any less, Pope Francis said the Catholic Church must do more to minister to women who have had abortions. Not surprisingly, the mainstream media misrepresented the Pope’s abortion views in a wide-ranging new interview, suggesting he is saying the Catholic Church should downplay it’s pro-life teachings.
What Pope Francis did say is that the Catholic Church should simultaneously speak out against abortion while providing hope and healing for women who have them and see their lives destroyed by their abortions.
“I also consider the situation of a woman with a failed marriage in her past and who also had an abortion. Then this woman remarries, and she is now happy and has five children. That abortion in her past weighs heavily on her conscience and she sincerely regrets it. She would like to move forward in her Christian life. What is the confessor to do?” he asked about the role of the church.
“We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods. This is not possible. I have not spoken much about these things, and I was reprimanded for that. But when we speak about these issues, we have to talk about them in a context. The teaching of the church, for that matter, is clear and I am a son of the church, but it is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time,” the Pope continued.
“The dogmatic and moral teachings of the church are not all equivalent. The church’s pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently. Proclamation in a missionary style focuses on the essentials, on the necessary things: this is also what fascinates and attracts more, what makes the heart burn, as it did for the disciples at Emmaus. We have to find a new balance; otherwise even the moral edifice of the church is likely to fall like a house of cards, losing the freshness and fragrance of the Gospel. The proposal of the Gospel must be more simple, profound, radiant. It is from this proposition that the moral consequences then flow,” he continued.
In other words, the Pope said the Catholic Church must not solely focus on condemning abortion, but must offer the kind of mercy and forgiveness for women having abortions that Jesus offers Christians who seek forgiveness from God — that that Gospel is a companion to the pro-life teachings.
That is consistent when the pledge he made to baptize a baby of a single mother who rejected abortion.
After the media twisted his words, Pope Francis made an even stronger defense of the pro-life teachings.
“Every unborn child, though unjustly condemned to be aborted, has the face of the Lord, who even before his birth, and then as soon as he was born, experienced the rejection of the world,” he said.
Pope Francis condemned the “throwaway culture” abortion promotes, saying, “Our response to this mentality is a ‘yes’ to life, decisive and without hesitation. ‘The first right of the human person is his life. He has other goods and some are precious, but this one is fundamental –- the condition for all the others’”.
The leader of the Catholic Church described a contradiction whereby scientists pursue cures for diseases but snuff out human life in abortion.
“On the one hand we see progress in the field of medicine, thanks to the work of scientists who passionately and unreservedly dedicate themselves to the search for new cures,” he said. “On the other hand, however, we also encounter the risk that doctors lose sight of their identity in the service of life.”
“While new rights are attributed to or indeed almost presumed by the individual, life is not always protected as the primary value and the primordial right of every human being,” he continued. “The ultimate aim of medicine remains the defense and promotion of life.”
Last August, he told Catholics they should help teach that human life begins in the womb.
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He articulated a defense of human life from abortion: restating the Catholic Church’s longstanding opposition to the snuffing out of human life before birth and explaining that it must be protected from conception.
“Human life must always be defended from its beginning in the womb and must be recognised as a gift of God that guarantees the future of humanity,” Vatican Radio cited Francis as saying in a message to mark Brazil’s National Family week.
In December, the same day that he was chosen as TIME magazine’s Person of the Year – Pope Francis exhorted North and South America to “accept human life at every stage, from the mother’s womb to old age.”
The Pope also showed a loving touch for the disabled.
Pope Francis blessed a disabled man who suffered from growths all over his head and body, the leader of the Catholic Church took the time to bless a severely disfigured man without a face.
The disabled man who made international headlines after Pope Francis blessed him was greatly appreciative of the Pope taking his time to bless him. Now, Pope Francis paused during his weekly audience to greet another disfigured person, showing his sensitivity to the dignity and worth of human life no matter what physical conditions they face.