Pope Francis calls abortion a product of a ‘throwaway culture’

Pope Francis arrives for his weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican.
(Riccardo De Luca / Associated Press)

ROME -- After expressing frustration with the Roman Catholic Church’s focus on hot-button doctrinal issues, Pope Francis launched a stinging attack on abortion Friday, calling it the product of a “throwaway culture.”

“Every baby who is not born, but is unjustly condemned to be aborted, has the face of Jesus Christ,” he told an audience of Catholic gynecologists at the Vatican.

The comments came the day after an Italian Jesuit magazine published a lengthy interview with the pope in which he said the church had become “obsessed” with controversial issues such as abortion, and called instead for a focus on healing and mercy.

“We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods,” he said in the interview with La Civilta Cattolica, which sent shock waves through the church.


“We have to find a new balance; otherwise even the moral edifice of the church is likely to fall like a house of cards.”

While the interview showed that the pope has a different focus than his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, Francis took pains to say that he did not oppose church teachings on abortion, homosexuality and the use of contraception.

“I have not spoken much about these things, and I was reprimanded for that,” he said.
“The teaching of the church, for that matter, is clear and I am a son of the church,” he continued, “but it is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time.”

Maria Antonietta Calabro, a Vatican expert at Italy’s Corriere della Sera newspaper, said there had been “no U-turn.”

“In his interview he put the accent on the church’s core business, which is pastoral duties, but that does not change his doctrinal positions,” she said.

She didn’t think that Friday’s speech was intended to counter suggestions that the interview revealed a liberal streak.

“I don’t believe he changed his tone today, after seeing the reaction to the interview. Today he was addressing gynecologists – that is a rather different audience.”

Calling hospitals places of “evangelization,” Francis asked his audience to “remind everyone, with words and deeds,” that human life is “sacred.”


“Even though they are, by nature, in the service of life, medical professionals are sometimes called on to not respect life,” he said.


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Kington is a special correspondent.