Pope Francis has sidestepped a question on whether President Joe Biden and other Catholic politicians who support abortion rights should be denied Holy Communion, but he called for priests to show compassion to such leaders.
Priests must use the “style of God” in ministering to elected officials, showing their flocks “closeness, compassion and tenderness,” Francis told reporters on Wednesday, on a flight back to Rome from Slovakia.
And what should pastors do? Be pastors, and not go condemning, condemning.
The Pope stopped short of giving a direct answer as to whether politicians such as Biden and US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi should be allowed to take Communion, a bread-sharing ceremony central to Catholicism’s Mass, saying he didn’t know the American case well enough. But his comments hinted at an erring on the side of permissiveness, even as he stated his view that abortion is “homicide.”
Francis has previously warned against Communion being used as a political weapon. He said on Wednesday that the church has wrongly stood on political principles in the past, such as in its condemnation of philosopher Giordano Bruno for alleged heresy during the Inquisition, an era of persecution in Europe by the church. Bruno was tortured and burned at the stake.
“Whenever the church, in order to defend a principle, didn’t do it pastorally, it has taken political sides,” Francis said. “If a pastor leaves the pastorality of the church, he immediately becomes a politician.”
The US Conference of Catholic Bishops voted in June to draft a statement on the meaning of Communion, including a statement on whether abortion-supporting politicians should be able to partake of the sacrament. Two-thirds of bishops would need to support the statement for it to be formally adopted.
Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco earlier this month said politicians such as Biden and Pelosi had violated core church teachings and argued that “everyone who advocates for abortion, in public or private life, who funds it or who presents it as a legitimate choice, participates in a great moral evil.”
Cordileone said bishops have a duty to respond when prominent laymen “openly oppose” church teachings. He likened looking the other way on abortion, which he called “the most pressing human-rights challenge of our time,” to ignoring public advocacy for racism in the church in the 20th century.
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