(VATICAN CITY) 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.
Read the rest here.
So the other shoe drops, not that I'm horribly surprised. For all his apparent open-mindedness, Francis is still obviously very catholic and very doctrine-oriented if not totally doctrinaire. Reporters want to call this a concession to the conservative wing of the church. I would tend to call it: "business as usual." In a way, it reminds me a bit of Timothy Cardinal Dolan, a superficially jovial and convivial man who seeks to glad-hand his way to influence while remaining utterly inflexible as regards church dogma. Believe me, as regards the issue of abortion itself, I'd be sorely tempted to remind Francis about the rape victim in Ireland who died because the hospital wouldn't perform an abortion to save her life, or the young child in Brazil who was excommunicated because she had one, etc, etc, but I doubt he even cares about those stories, any more than anyone else does in the Holy See.
So ... which is it, Francis? Do you want to work for genuine change within the RC church ... or are you going to pretend to be a welcoming pontiff who can't challenge church teachings because of your own people?
Gang, just between you, me, and the lamppost, I get the feeling we're in for a bit of tennis-match neck here.
As a reminder of just how utterly screwed up the RC church is about abortion, allow me to remind you of a story out of Phoenix, Arizona which I posted here two years ago which deals with the same damned business and the church's irrational insistence on life über alles.