Some Catholic (and other) liberals, to their delight, and some Catholic (and other) conservatives, to their horror, seem to believe that Pope Francis is weakening or downplaying the teaching of the Catholic Church on abortion and the imperative to protect unborn children. But the Pope is firmly and, it seems to me, unambiguously advancing a teaching fully in line with his predecessors and the historic witness of the Church.
For example, in August he stated that “human life must always be defended from its beginning in the womb.” What is it that people don’t understand about “always” and “from its beginning”? Yes, there are also other important issues, and the Pope reminds us that these cannot be neglected. But Benedict XVI and John Paul II by their words and actions taught the same thing. It is no derogation of the pro-life imperative to recognize the need to speak of and work for the entire range of human values in the cultural, economic, political, and religious domains—-fighting against poverty, exploitation, human degradation, corruption, and oppression, and for the dignity of the human person. And recognizing the need to speak and work in these areas does not exempt any of us from the obligation always to defend human life “from its beginning in the womb.”