The pope reaffirmed his opposition to abortion following the controversial US decision to cancel Roe vs. Wadedescribing the medical procedure as akin to “hiring a hitman”.
The pontiff made the comments during a 90-minute interview at the Vatican with Reuters news agency on Saturday, although the article was only published on Monday morning. The interview took place just a week after the United States Supreme Court on June 24 overturned the 1973 ruling that upheld the rights of women to medical abortion nationwide.
Pope Francis was asked about the court’s decision, but said he didn’t have enough information to comment on it from a legal standpoint. Instead, he reiterated the teachings of the Catholic Church that life begins at conception.
He reportedly likened abortion to “hiring a hitman” and said, “I ask: is it legitimate, is it fair to take a human life to solve a problem?”
This is not the first time the pope has made this controversial comparison. In May 2019, while speaking at a Vatican-sponsored anti-abortion conference, he said, “Is it lawful to sacrifice a life to solve a problem? Is it legal to hire a contract killer to solve a problem?
But he also said his opposition to abortion was not a religious issue but a human one, at the same event. And despite his strong words condemning abortion, he has also previously expressed sympathy for the women who choose them. He also made it easier for them to be absolved from what Catholics consider the sin of abortion.
Earlier in the Reuters interview this weekend, the pope was asked about a debate in the United States over whether a Catholic politician who supports the right of others to choose abortion should be allowed to receive the communion.
Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi, for example, was banned from receiving communion in churches in her diocese of San Francisco in May.
Asked about the issue, the pope replied: “When the Church loses its pastoral nature, when a bishop loses his pastoral nature, this causes a political problem. That’s all I can say.
When Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone publicly announced that the California Democrat was no longer allowed to receive Communion in San Francisco, he said the decision was due to his stance on abortion and was “purely pastoral, not political”.
In a letter shared with the public, Cordileone wrote, “After numerous attempts to speak to him [Pelosi] to help her understand the grave harm she is committing, the scandal she is causing and the danger she is risking to her own soul, I have decided that the time has come when I must publicly declare that she does not shall not be admitted to Holy Communion unless and until she publicly repudiates her support for abortion “rights” and confesses and receives absolution for her cooperation in this evil in the Sacrament of Penance.”
However, Pelosi regularly receives communion at a parish in Washington, DC and last week she received the sacrament during a papal mass at the Vatican.
In October 2021, Pelosi and the pope met at the Vatican. No details were given of their meeting, but Pelosi later described it as a “spiritual, personal and official honor”.
A month before they met that year, The National Catholic Journalist asked Pope Francis how the Church should respond to parishioners who support abortion rights. The pope reportedly said he would “never” refuse communion to anyone. “No, I have never refused the Eucharist to anyone, to anyone! I don’t know if someone came to me under these conditions, but I have never refused him the Eucharist since I was priest.”
Newsweek asked the Holy See’s press office, which represents the pope and the Vatican, and Pelosi’s office for comment.
Pope Francis dismissed rumors that he was planning to step down and laughed off claims that he was suffering from poor health. However, he repeated his position that he might resign one day if it became impossible for him to lead the Church. Asked when that day might come, he replied: “We don’t know. God will tell.
Bookmakers are already betting on who will replace the pontiff if he decides to retire.
Update 7/4/22 10:17 AM ET: This article has been updated throughout.