Pope Francis has won accolades for combining compassion and concern for unborn children killed in abortions and women who face grief and anguish after an abortion.
The leader of the Catholic Church has urged Christians to do more to reconnect women who have had abortions with God and the church and he continued that admonition of grace and mercy today in a meeting with Catholic bishops from South Africa.
“Abortion compounds the grief of many women who now carry with them deep physical and spiritual wounds after succumbing to the pressures of a secular culture which devalues God’s gift of sexuality and the right to life of the unborn,” he said. “The sacrament of reconciliation, in particular, must be rediscovered as a fundamental dimension of the life of grace.”
“You have spoken to me of some of the serious pastoral challenges facing your communities. Catholic families have fewer children, with repercussions on the number of vocations to the priesthood and religious life. Some Catholics turn away from the Church to other groups who seem to promise something better,” he said.
Last year, 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.
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.
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“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.
The Pope has been consistent in promoting the pro-life message since he was elected to replace Pope Benedict XVI.
In August, he told Catholics they should help teach that human life begins in the womb.