Updated Sun 22 Sep 2013, 12:07pm AEST
Pope Francis denounces abortion as George Pell clarifies church stance on social issues
Pope Francis has denounced abortions as a symptom of a modern “throwaway culture”, a day after criticising the Catholic Church’s “obsession” with social issues, such as contraception and homosexuality.
Speaking to a group of Catholic doctors, the Pope said that they should refuse to perform abortions because he says the first right of a person is to life.
“Dear friends, doctors, those of you who are called to deal with human life in its initial phase, remind everybody, with facts and words, that this is always, in all its phases and at every age, sacred and always quality life, and not for a reason of faith, but for a reason of science,” he said.
The comments seem to contradict those he made in a landmark interview on Thursday, where he said the church must shake off an obsession with teachings on abortion, contraception and homosexuality.
In the interview Francis called on priests to be more welcoming and not cold, dogmatic bureaucrats.
“Otherwise even the moral edifice of the church is likely to fall like a house of cards,” he said.
Some Church commentators have suggested the Pope’s comments represent a shift in the church’s approach to social issues.
But the Archbishop of Sydney, George Pell, released a statement seeking to clarify the Pope’s remarks, saying the church’s position on the issues has not changed.
“Two paragraphs in Pope Francis’ important 12,000-word interview have been the focus of particular attention. He also emphasised the importance of not taking issues out of context,” Cardinal Pell said.
“Questions like abortion and homosexual practice involve very important human and scriptural values, and they need to be articulated clearly, sensitively and with a compassionate understanding of our weaknesses and struggles.
“Important moral issues as they are, they are not central issues of faith, like the resurrection of Jesus or the love and mercy of God.”
Melbourne priest excommunicated for ‘support of women, homosexuals’
During the interview, the 76-year-old pontiff said he also envisioned a greater role for women in the 1.2 billion-member church but stopped short of advocating women priests.
His comments come as a Melbourne priest claims he has been defrocked and excommunicated for what he believes is his stance on the ordination of women and support for gay people.
Father Greg Reynolds says the order came from the Vatican in May. He resigned as a parish priest two years ago.
“People think it’s a bit of an overkill, a bit of an over-dramatic reaction,” he said.
“Obviously church authorities don’t appreciate someone publicly, being myself – a minor official of the church – directly opposing or disagreeing with an official teaching of the church.”
Father Reynolds says the Dean of St Patrick’s Cathedral told him he is the first person to be excommunicated in Melbourne.
“He assured me that was the case, so he and the church hierarchy were fairly surprised and gobsmacked by it as well. There is no explanation or reason given, and I have had no communication or correspondence from them at all about this.”