Pope Francis touched on a wide range of issues during his address to Congress on Thursday. But some who eagerly anticipated the Pope’s speech were disappointed that it did not more directly address abortion.
A Breitbart headline said that the pope’s speech to Congress contained “no real mention” of abortion; John-Henry Westen of LifeSiteNews released a statement saying that the pope “just missed perhaps his greatest opportunity to make a difference on life,” and expressed disappointment that he did not mention abortion by name.
David Daleiden, project lead for the Center for Medical Progress and the man behind the Planned Parenthood videos released in the summer, said it was “unfortunate that the diplomacy corps overseeing the historic papal visit prevented the Holy Father from reiterating his strong comments against aborted baby parts trafficking from a year ago.”
Although Pope Francis did allude to abortion during his speech, the references were brief and indirect for many American listeners.
“The Golden Rule also reminds us of our responsibility to protect and defend human life at every stage of its development,” Pope Francis said, in his perhaps most direct reference to the church’s teaching on this issue.
When asked about those concerns from some antiabortion groups at a Thursday evening news conference, Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi referred to Pope Francis’s line about the Golden Rule, along with a previous reference to protecting life during his speech at the White House.
Lombardi said that when provided with the occasion, Pope Francis is “very clear and concrete in defending…the early stage of life.”
Live Action President Lila Rose, an antiabortion activist who has released Planned Parenthood videos in the past, had a different reaction to the pope’s speech.
“There is absolutely no question about the Church’s teaching on the sanctity of every life and the grave evil of abortion–something Pope Francis has spoken about many times,” she said in a short e-mailed statement, adding, “Anyone who tries to imply otherwise is merely pushing a cynical political agenda.”
The Catholic Church strongly opposes abortion. But the way in which Pope Francis discusses the issue has sometimes led to debate over how he approaches controversial social issues. Earlier this month, he announced that the upcoming Year of Mercy would be a window of time, during which women who have had abortions will have an easier time seeking forgiveness for the church. That announcement almost immediately set off complicated debates about Catholic canon law, and Pope Francis’s true intentions.
Pope Francis has said in an interview with America magazine that he feels the Catholic Church has in the past focused too much on issues like abortion, said the Rev. James Martin, a Jesuit priest, editor at large at America. “And like a good teacher, he understands that the church has, in teaching about that issue, that it was time to look at other issues that are as equally important,” he said.
He added: “When you speak about the dignity of the human being, you are implicitly speaking about the human dignity of the human being from life to death.”
During his United Nations address on Friday, the pope mentioned “the sacredness of every human life,” noting “the unborn.”
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