Pope Francis is a skilled diplomat. And he knows he’s got a problem in the Church — that there are many Catholics who don’t understand the Church’s teachings on abortion. He also understands that if you come out too strongly on this to a group of people who care more about popular culture than their faith, you risk alienating quite a bit of your flock.
For example, look at this exchange between the Holy Father and a reporter named Patricia Zorzan in 2013:
Zorzan: Speaking on behalf of the Brazilians: society has changed, young people have changed, and in Brazil we have seen a great many young people. You did not speak about abortion… In Brazil a law has been approved which widens the right to abortion… Why did you not speak about this?
Pope Francis: The Church has already spoken quite clearly on this. It was unnecessary to return to it, just as I didn’t speak about cheating, lying, or other matters on which the Church has a clear teaching!
Zorzan: But the young are interested in this …
Pope Francis: Yes, though it wasn’t necessary to speak of it, but rather of the positive things that open up the path to young people. Isn’t that right! Besides, young people know perfectly well what the Church’s position is.
Zorzan: What is Your Holiness’ position, if we may ask?
Pope Francis: The position of the Church. I am a son of the Church.
Clearly the Roman Pontiff will not be lured into becoming the arch-nemesis of the secular world. Rather, by considering his audience, he exercises the virtue of prudence. You don’t always have to agree with how he decides when is the right time to tackle a difficult topic, but we have to at least acknowledge that being tactful is necessary.
Furthermore, Pope Francis has come out many times to explicitly condemn abortion, not just for Catholics, but for all humans. In 2019, when reporter Valentina Alazrak asked, “Is it fair to eliminate a human life in order to solve a problem?” the Pope answered, “No.”
“Abortion is not a religious problem in the sense that just because I am Catholic I must not seek an abortion. It is a human problem”, Pope Francis added. “It is a problem of eliminating a human life. Period.”
Not only that, but in May of 2019 he explicitly spoke-out at a Vatican conference against all forms of abortion, particularly for selective purposes:
“Abortion”, said Pope Francis, “is never the answer”. “Human life is sacred and inviolable and the use of prenatal diagnosis for selective purposes must be strongly discouraged, because it is the expression of an inhuman eugenic mentality, which deprives families of the possibility of welcoming, embracing and loving their weakest children,” he said.
The New York Times also reported on the event, writing: “Pope Francis said Saturday that abortion was always unacceptable, regardless of whether a fetus is fatally ill or has pathological disorders. He also urged doctors to help women bring to term even pregnancies likely to end in the death of a child at birth or soon after.”
Then in January of 2020, the Pope met with the chairman of the USCCB bishops’ committee, Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City, Kansas, and agreed with “identifying the protection of the unborn as a preeminent priority.”
And in September of this year, Pope Franics rebuked the United Nations for including abortion access in their COVID-19 resolutions, saying, “It is troubling to see how simple and convenient it has become for some to deny the existence of a human life as a solution to problems that can and must be solved for both the mother and her unborn child.”
Is he the same caliber of anti-abortion as Pope John Paul II? Many would argue not (granted, those are very big shoes to fill). JPII prioritized preborn life like no other pope. But clearly Pope Francis is against any and all abortions and he’s on record voicing this. It’s important not to make assumptions about his positions without first taking a close look at his track record. Many Catholics may not even know this list of anti-abortion actions and sentiments. But learning about it may help bring the church some much-needed unity – especially during a political time in which many Catholics are trying to justify voting for a pro-abortion candidate.