VATICAN CITY – Pope Francis offered an olive branch of sorts to the doctrine-minded, conservative wing of the Catholic Church on Friday as he denounced abortions as a symptom of todays throw-away culture and encouraged Catholic doctors to refuse to perform them.
Francis issued a strong anti-abortion message and cited Vatican teaching on the need to defend the unborn during an audience with Catholic gynecologists.
It came a day after he was quoted as blasting the churchs obsession with small-minded rules that are driving the faithful away. In an interview that has sent shockwaves through the church, Francis urged its pastors to focus on being merciful and welcoming rather than insisting only on such divisive, hot-button issues as abortion, gay marriage and contraception.
Even before the interview was published, some conservatives had voiced disappointment that Francis had shied away from restating such church rules. Francis explained his reason for doing so in the interview with the Jesuit journal La Civilta Cattolica, saying church teaching on such issues is well-known, he supports it, but that he doesnt feel it necessary to repeat it constantly.
He did repeat it on Friday, however. In his comments, Francis denounced todays throw-away culture that justifies disposing of lives and said doctors in particular had been forced into situations where they are called to not respect life.
Every child that isnt born, but is unjustly condemned to be aborted, has the face of Jesus Christ, has the face of the Lord, he said.
He urged the gynecologists to abide by their consciences and help bring lives into the world.
Things have a price and can be for sale, but people have a dignity that is priceless and worth far more than things, he said.