In 2013, when Pope Francis’s papacy began, he was hailed as transformative. He was lauded by CNN as a “pope of firsts,” and the Atlantic called him “The first global pontiff.” He even graced the cover of Time Magazine as Person of the Year with the caption, “The People’s Pope.” This was, of course, before he compared abortion to contract killing.
The initial reception of Pope Francis has begun to sour, giving way to a much darker picture of the Church:
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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.
The 266th Vicar of Jesus Christ continued with a rhetorical question: “Is it legitimate to take out a human life to solve a problem?” However, it’s worth noting that, as with injured deer or coma patients, being on the side of life is not always synonymous with being on the side of empathy.
Prolonging the life of a fetus with an impossibly bleak prognosis, while on the side of life, may not be on the side of empathy.
The Holy Father’s words reaffirm the Roman Catholic Church’s categorical abortion ban, at a time when “heartbeat bills” are popping up all across America. The bills are so restrictive that states like Georgia, Alabama, and Missouri almost seem locked into a competition over harshness.
The pope’s abortion ban comments are not the only thing damaging the Church’s reputation as of late, with many decisions or admissions appearing to uphold the status quo, like:
- Ordering that sex abuse be reported to Church officials rather than law enforcement
- Acknowledging that the Church has separate rules for priests who break their vows of celibacy
- Acknowledging that nuns were held as sex slaves
Those hoping that one pope would turn the tide of centuries of Catholic orthodoxy in a few years may have better luck elsewhere. And those who thought Pope Francis the one to break that orthodoxy may re-examine their thoughts after hearing the leader of 1.2 billion Catholics worldwide implore medical professionals to knowingly deliver stillborn children.
Combined, these various positions underscore obvious truth about the pontiff — he is the head of the Church, and did not come to break it.