Pope Francis on Abortion



Women who had abortions can be forgiven in Holy Year

Pope Francis will give all priests discretion to formally forgive women who have had abortions during the Roman Catholic Church's upcoming Holy Year, in the Argentine pontiff's latest move towards a more open and inclusive church.

In Church teaching, abortion is such a grave sin that those who procure or perform it incur an automatic excommunication. Usually only designated clergy & missionaries can formally forgive abortions. But from Dec.8 to Nov. 26, during an extraordinary Holy Year or "Jubilee" on the theme of mercy announced by Pope Francis in March, all priests will be able to do so, he said in a letter published by the Vatican.

In the letter, Francis described the "existential & moral ordeal" faced by women who have terminated pregnancies and said he had "met so many women who bear in their heart the scar of this agonizing and painful decision". He has shown no intention of retracting the Church's opposition to abortion, but has alarmed conservatives by taking a less forceful tone.

Source: Thomson-Reuters coverage of Pope Francis' 2015 U.S. visit , Sep 1, 2015

Quiet commitment to the defense of unborn life

Pope Francis' decision to talk less than his predecessors about abortion has puzzled and distressed some supporters of the pro-life movement. Yet the pope has made clear his commitment to the defense of unborn life and, thanks to his colossal popularity and gift for communicating across cultural divides, his pontificate could prove a boon to the pro-life cause in enormous and unprecedented ways.

The pope's comparative reticence on abortion became evident to many observers a few months into his pontificate. At a June Vatican Mass dedicated to pro-life causes, an event that had been planned under Pope Benedict, Pope Francis surprised many when delivered a homily without any reference to abortion, euthanasia or any other specific threat to life. The pope explained afterward to reporters that the "church has already expressed itself perfectly on that."

Source: Catholic News Service, "Few Words on Abortion" , Jan 10, 2014

Protecting the unborn is a form of social justice

A key element in the pope's words on abortion is the link he makes between protection of the unborn and the wider cause of social justice.

"Defense of unborn life is closely linked to the defense of each and every other human right," Pope Francis wrote in the apostolic exhortation. "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 ends in themselves and never a means of resolving other problems. Once this conviction disappears, so do solid and lasting foundations for the defense of human rights, which would always be subject to the passing whims of the powers that be."

It is nothing new for a pope to draw such connections, as Pope Francis knows, since he made a similar point in September by quoting Pope Benedict: "If personal and social sensitivity in welcoming a new life is lost, other forms of welcome useful to social life will dry up."

Source: Catholic News Service, "Few Words on Abortion" , Jan 10, 2014

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Page last updated: Jan 13, 2018