Note: This is part 3 of a 3-part series; Click here for part 1 and here for part 2
In part 1 of this series I have spoken about Francis’ actions in the name of the pro-life cause as a pope . In part 2, I have fleshed out his pro-life teachings on his encyclicals and apostolic exhortations. I would like now to talk about the wealth of speeches and letters where the Holy Father has advocated for the rights of the unborn child. I don’t vouch to have exhausted here all of Pope Francis’ references to abortion or euthanasia, since it would be a herculean task to peruse every single one of his talks and writings… but I think I have gathered a representative sample that may allow my readers to have an informed opinion.
Now, it is important to note that in many of those interventions (though not all, as we shall see later), Francis likes to tie abortion to other injustices and attacks against human dignity. This usually displeases the pro-life crowd, but it is consistent with what Pope Francis has advocated on Gaudete et Exsultate (GE) #101-102. I have dealt with that in part 2.
What matters now is that Pope Francis is accused of spending a disproportionate amount of time rallying in favor of the immigrant and the poor, but here he places the unborn child as someone who also needs to be defended, besides just the immigrant or the poor. The problem is for those who pit the defense of the unborn against the defense of other people who suffer injustice (or vice-versa), not for those who defend the unborn per se. The pontiff wishes to illustrate this by consistently putting the unborn on the list of human lives who need to be protected. Let’s have a look at them (the emphases are mine):
«However, the world economy will only develop if it allows a dignified way of life for all human beings, from the eldest to the unborn child»
— Letter to President of Russian Federation Vladimir Putin on the occasion of the G20 St. Petersburg Summit, Sept 4th 2013
«In fidelity to the Gospel, and in response to the urgent needs of the present time, we are called to reach out to those who find themselves in the existential peripheries of our societies and to show particular solidarity with the most vulnerable of our brothers and sisters: the poor, the disabled, the unborn and the sick, migrants and refugees, the elderly and the young who lack employment.»
— Message to Cardinal Kurt Koch on the Occasion of the 10th General Assembly of the World Council of the Churches, Oct 30th – Nov 8th 2013
«The victims of this culture are precisely the weakest and most fragile human beings — the unborn, the poorest, the sick and elderly, the seriously handicapped, et. al. — who are in danger of being “thrown away”, expelled from a system that must be efficient at all costs. In fact, this false model of man and society implements a practical atheism by rejecting the Word of God, which says: “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness” (cf. Gen 1:26).»
— Address to a delegation from the Dignitatis Humanae Institute, Dec 7th 2013
«You, adherents of the Pro-Life Movement, have sought, in forty years of activity, to imitate the Good Samaritan. In face of various forms of menaces to human life (…) I thank you for the good you have done and do with so much love, and I encourage you to continue with confidence on this path, continuing to be Good Samaritans! Do not tire of working for the protection of the most vulnerable persons, who have the right to be born to life, as well as of all those that ask for a healthier and more fitting existence.»
— Address to participants in the 35th Italian National Congress of Centers of Aid to Life, Nov 6th 2015
«If we look closely at the world around us, it seems that, in many places, selfishness and indifference are spreading. How many of our brothers and sisters are victims of today’s throwaway culture, which breeds contempt above all towards the unborn, the young and the elderly!»
— Visit to the House of Charity of Nalukolongo, Nov 28th 2015
«Mother Teresa, in all aspects of her life, was a generous dispenser of divine mercy, making herself available for everyone through her welcome and defence of human life, those unborn and those abandoned and discarded.»
— Homily for the Canonization of Mother Teresa of Calcutta, Sept 4th 2016
However, many pro-lifers will despair from these speeches, just like they will despair from GE #101-102, because they will object that tying abortion to all other issues will water down the importance of fighting abortion in present day culture. Anticipating those objections, I have gathered some quotes which address abortion without mentioning it on a list of societal problems, but as an issue to be focused on his own right.
«It is therefore necessary to express the strongest possible opposition to every direct attack on life, especially against the innocent and defenseless, and the unborn in a mother’s womb is the example of innocence par excellence. Let us remember the words of the Second Vatican Council: “Life must be protected with the utmost care from the moment of conception: abortion and infanticide are abominable crimes” (Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes, n. 51). I remember once, a long time ago, I had a conference with medical doctors. After the conference I greeted the doctors — this happened a long, long time ago. I was greeting the doctors, speaking to them, and one called me aside. He was holding a parcel and said to me: “Father, I want to leave this with you. These are the instruments that I used to perform abortions. I have met the Lord, I have repented and now I fight for life”. He handed me all these instruments. Pray for this good man!
Anyone who is Christian has a duty to bear witness to the Gospel: to protect life courageously and lovingly in all its phases. I encourage you to do this always with closeness, proximity: so that every woman may feel respected as a person, heard, accepted and supported.»
— Address to the Italian Pro-Life Movement, Apr 11th 2014
«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.»
— Address to the Bishops of the Episcopal Conference of South Africa on their Ad Limina Visit, Apr 25th 2014
«She [Mother Teresa] was committed to defending life, ceaselessly proclaiming that “the unborn are the weakest, the smallest, the most vulnerable”»
— Homily for the Canonization of Mother Teresa of Calcutta, Sept 4th 2016
«An often narcissistic and utilitarian vision, unfortunately, leads not a few to consider persons with disabilities as marginal, without grasping their manifold human and spiritual richness. In the common mind-set, there is still too strong an attitude of rejection of this condition, as if it prevents one from achieving happiness and self-fulfilment. It is demonstrated by the eugenic trend of ending the lives of the unborn who show some form of imperfection. In reality, we all know many people who, despite even serious fragility, have found, albeit with difficulty, the path of a good life, rich with meaning. »
— Address to participants in the Conference organized by the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization, Oct 21st 2017
In short, Pope Francis maintains his strong commitment to the pro-life cause. It remains therefore inexplicable, why some pro-life media like LifeSiteNews have focused so much of their attacks on a potential ally, when there are so many radical pro-choice activists out there who could deserve more attention. And why they keep the spotlight on the issue of Communion for the divorced and remarried instead of highlighting more frequently these papal teachings which could boost their moral ground.
So, if I may be so bold, I would suggest that LifeSiteNews has been shown to be completely unreliable as a news source for the pro-life movement in general, and orthodox Catholics in particular. For pro-life news, I’d recommend Lifenews.com (note, do not confuse with LifeSiteNews). For Catholic news, I’d recommend Vatican News or, in the case of some official papal document, a consultation to the actual Vatican site. This is not an exhaustive list of pro-life resources. Of course, there are other news sites that are worth following, as long as adequate discernment and caution is always exercised.
I then urge people from the pro-life movement to make amends with Pope Francis and start using his teachings and actions to help the defense of the unborn, instead of scattering their activism between the secular world and the Vicar of Christ himself.
[Photo credits: REUTERS/Max Rossi]
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Pedro Gabriel, MD, is a Catholic layman and physician, born and residing in Portugal. He is a medical oncologist, currently employed in a Portuguese public hospital. A published writer of Catholic novels with a Tolkienite flavor, he is also a parish reader and a former catechist. He seeks to better understand the relationship of God and Man by putting the lens on the frailty of the human condition, be it physical and spiritual. He also wishes to provide a fresh perspective of current Church and World affairs from the point of view of a small western European country, highly secularized but also highly Catholic by tradition.