Is Pope Francis asking Catholics to bow out of the culture war?
The liberal elite and Catholic Left want us to think the Pope opposes the pro-life and pro-family movement. But, while he’s certainly made some confusing remarks, his own words and actions make it clear that he firmly supports our cause.
On Saturday, Pope Francis received the Dignitatis Humanae Institute and praised their efforts. DHI is a think tank that advances respect for human dignity in the public square.
The Pope’s support for DHI is significant because of the organization’s staunch stand on the life issue. In particular, they take a position that is oddly controversial in the Church today: namely, that Her ministers ought to deny Communion to openly pro-abortion Catholic politicians in accordance with canon law. To do any less would be “false charity,” the organization stated in October.
Pope Francis made his stance on abortion abundantly clear in his recent apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, in which he condemns abortion as a violation that “cries out in vengeance to God” and insists Church teaching can never change. The unborn today, he says, are “the most defenceless and innocent among us” and are deserving of “particular love and concern.”
Pope Francis here singles out abortion, I would suggest, in a manner comparable to Bl. John Paul II in Evangelium Vitae. In that 1995 encyclical, the late Pope said that while attacks on life such as war, violence, and poverty are grave, abortion is “more sinister” and represents “another category of attack.”
We oughtn’t forget too that Pope Francis was the first Pope to join a March for Life.
Of course, as I mentioned, some of the Pope’s comments have caused a lot of confusion, particularly his suggestion that we shouldn’t be “obsessed” with issues like abortion, contraception, or same-sex “marriage”. These comments – which seem divorced, at least, from the experience in much of North America and Europe, where these issues are raised shockingly little – have given fodder to liberals outside the Church who oppose Her voice in the public square, and to those within the Church who want to wield that voice for their own pet causes.
I’m sure we’ve all heard the stories by now: A Catholic organization ends its annual fundraiser for the local pro-life group. A priest defends his praise for a pro-abortion politician. A bishop proclaims it’s necessary for a Catholic agency to fund pro-abortion groups, so long as the money goes to other projects. All justified by appealing to the Pope.
Across the Western world, Pope Francis has become the Great Vindication for Catholics who want to cave in to the demands of the world.
Michael Sean Winters, a blogger at the National Catholic Reporter, for one, has been wielding Pope Francis like a weapon against strong cultural voices like Cardinal Raymond Burke, Archbishop Charles Chaput, and Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone.
Bishop Blase Cupich of Spokane, Wash., cited the Pope as an indictment of “culture warriors” in an interview with the New York Times at the USCCB meeting last month. “Pope Francis doesn’t want cultural warriors, he doesn’t want ideologues,” the bishop claimed. “That’s the new paradigm for us, and it’s making many of us think.”
Bishop Cupich has taken the Pope’s words as a call for retreat from the most crucial moral, cultural, and political battles of the day. But there’s just no evidence indicating that that’s what the Pope is asking us to do.
To suggest otherwise just makes no sense. If he truly believes that abortion “cries out in vengeance to God,” then how could he possibly ask us to stand by idly while such an act is committed tens of millions of times across the globe every year?
He simply isn’t. In fact, in 2005, while he was a Cardinal in Buenos Aires, the future Pope urged his congregants to promote the Gospel of life even if they “set traps to deliver you to the courts and to have you killed.”
So, while he tells us not to become “obsessed” in our cultural battles, keep in mind that the Pope himself has said we should fight the culture war vigorously, even to the point of death.