ABOARD THE PAPAL FLIGHT FROM SLOVAKIA (CNS) — Pope Francis condemned abortion as “murder” during a press conference on his plane while returning from his visit to Slovakia on Sept. 15.
“Whoever commits an abortion, murders,” he said. “Take any book on embryology, those books on medicine. At the third week of conception, many times before a mother even realizes it, all the organs are there. All of them, even their DNA.
“It is a human life. Period,” the pope added. “And this human life must be respected. This principle is very clear.”
Pope Francis said that those “who don’t understand” this principle must ask themselves whether it is “right to kill a human life to solve a problem.”
While there is no question that “abortion is homicide,” the pope said, the Church must take a pastoral approach to those who have abortions as well as Catholic politicians who support abortion rights rather than making public condemnations that seek to “excommunicate” those who are not in line with Church teaching.
“If we look at the history of the Church, we can see that every time the bishops did not act like shepherds when dealing with a problem, they aligned themselves with political life, on political problems,” he said.
The pope told journalists that when defending a principle, some bishops act in a way “that is not pastoral” and “enter the political sphere.”
“And what should a shepherd do? Be a shepherd. Not going around condemning,” the pope added. “They must be a shepherd, in God’s style, which is closeness, compassion and tenderness.”
“A shepherd that doesn’t know how to act in God’s style slips and enters into many things that are not of a shepherd.”
The pope said that he preferred not to comment directly on the issue of denying Communion to Catholic politicians in the United States who support abortion rights “because I do not know the details; I am speaking of the principle” of the matter.
During their virtual spring general assembly in June, 75 percent of U.S. bishops approved the drafting of a document, addressed to all Catholic faithful, on eucharistic coherence. During long discussions on the document before the vote, several bishops specifically pointed to President Joe Biden and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., who are Catholic, for not actively seeking to end legal abortion, and they said such politicians should be denied Communion.