Pope Francis on Abortion
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.
"Interrupting a pregnancy is like eliminating someone," Francis said. "Is it fair to hire a hit man to solve a problem? It is not fair. We cannot take out a human being, even if it is small."
The pontiff's address was dedicated to the commandment exhorting the faithful not to kill. He also denounced war, exploitation and a culture of wastefulness. Francis said some people justify abortion as respecting other rights, but asked "How can an act that suppresses innocent and defenseless life as it blossoms be therapeutic, civil or simply human?" It was the second time within recent months that Francis has expressed the church's longstanding opposition to abortion in violent, stark terms.
Official church teaching opposing abortion is absolute, providing for no exceptions. That said, Francis has acknowledged that women sometimes are driven by circumstance to abortion and he has extended the ability of ordinary priests to absolve them of the sin of abortion if they repent.
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."
"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."
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George W. Bush (R,2001-2009)
Bill Clinton (D,1993-2001)
George Bush Sr. (R,1989-1993)
Ronald Reagan (R,1981-1989)
Jimmy Carter (D,1977-1981)
Gerald Ford (R,1974-1977)
Richard Nixon (R,1969-1974)
Lyndon Johnson (D,1963-1969)
John F. Kennedy (D,1961-1963)
Dwight Eisenhower (R,1953-1961)
Harry_S_TrumanHarry S Truman(D,1945-1953)